jueves, 30 de enero de 2014

Esa-Pekka Salonen / Barbara Hannigan / Anssi Karttunen / Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France DUTILLEUX Correspondances

The initial idea of the work consisted in making a choice of some letters from various authors and susceptible of engendering different forms of lyrical expression conveyed by the soprano voice and the large symphonic orchestra.
Short interludes are sometimes used as bindings between these letters, the first of them is preceded by a poem by the Indian author Prithwindra Mukherjee, "Cosmic dance", poem which may itself appear as a kind of address (ode), of message to Shiva…
The following episode is based upon the main passages of a letter from Soljenitsyne to Mstislav and Galina Rostropovitch (1984, February 9th), evoking his trials, the one in the camps, ten years before, and overcame thanks to the heroic support of his friends Slava and Galina, and to his own faith as well.
It is from the letters of Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo that excerpts such as: "I have a great need of religion, so I go out at night to paint the stars…" are drawn out. This episode is preceded by the evocation of a very short poem by Rainer Maria Rilke named Gong.
So different are these texts, in their form and in their content, in common they reflect an equal inclination toward the mystical thinking by their authors. Together with the idea of the Cosmos, this is what seemed a unifying element to the composer.
The work's general title, "Correspondances", beyond the different meanings which could be given to this word, refers to Baudelaire's famous poem, "Correspondances" and to the synaesthesias he himself evoked. On another hand, the "baudelairian" idea that in our world, the divine finds inevitably its image in a devilish world, catches up Van Gogh's thought when, from Arles, he wrote to his brother that "next to the sun (the good Lord), unfortunately there is the Devil Mistral".
Each of these episodes is object of a slightly peculiar orchestration privileging such or such family of instruments. So, the evocated images, colours in Vincent Van Gogh's letter will mainly find their echo in the wood timbres and in the brass section as well. Soljenitsyne's letter to Slava and Galina will be backed in a dominative way by the strings, especially by the celli, often in a celli quartet. As for "Danse Cosmique", it's the whole orchestra which will surround the singer. On the contrary, the piece III Gong, sort of interlude hardly includes half of the large orchestra.
Finally, a remark: at the very end of Soljenitsyne's letter, as a watermark, as in a mist is a quotation from "Boris Goudounov" when is heard the Holy Fool (Innocent or Simpleton)'s grief about the misfortunes of the Russia.
In the same way, in the centre of the pages devoted to Van Gogh's letter, the composer used, as a quotation, the main motive of his own score "Timbres, Espace, Mouvement ou la Nuit étoilée " written in 1978 under the influence of the famous painting "The starry Night". (Henri Dutilleux)

miércoles, 29 de enero de 2014

Claudio Abbado / Orchestra Mozart PERGOLESI Dixit Dominus

These discs complete Claudio Abbado’s three-part tribute to Pergolesi, born 200 years ago.They are most revealing, showing Pergolesi’s sureness of touch as a craftsman, melding together the old-style contrapuntal skill learnt as a student at a Conservatoire in Naples with the elegant tunefulness of contemporary Neapolitan opera. The resulting blend is a remarkably early foretaste of the Galant style. Abbado’s choice of programme emphasises Pergolesi’s versatility and inventive genius, and at such an early age. All this music dates from 1731/36 – he died aged only 26. Not otherwise available on disc is the Missa S Emidio, written after the earthquakes which hit Naples in 1731/2. It’s most attractive and, in the ‘Qui tollis’, highly charged; slow, searing harmonies from the chorus and anguished violin appoggiaturas, lead to a positively perky soloist framing the hushed pleading ‘hear our prayer’. Veronica Cangemi has a bright edge to her tone, a quality rather lacking in the choir, due in part to the spaciousness of the Bolgna church in which they’re recorded, rather distantly. Sara Mingardo is superb, her long first note of ‘Domine Deus’ an object lesson in the subtle manipulation of vocal colour. The high point is Laudate Pueri, a thrilling setting of the Psalm text. Added horns and trumpets add a punchiness to the sound which in turn, inspires the choir. Rachel Harnisch is an exuberant soprano soloist, with an effortless top D. It’s striking that, despite the constantly-changing nuances of the text, Pergolesi’s setting retains a strong sense of structural integrity. and sometimes rather obscured by, lively counterpoint. For the second movement, the choir’s remoteness is beautifully judged, a gentle assurance of the Lord, ‘gracious and full of compassion’ recurring in Julia Kleiter’s radiant soprano solo. Dixit Dominus stretches the forces with double choir and contrasting wind and string groupings in the orchestra. In the secular cantata, Chi non ode…, Pergolesi is at his most Galant as lyrical melody unfolds above reassuringly predictable harmony. Harnisch is superb here, floating into the top register with glorious ease. After a recitative Largo stentato (laboured) as the rejected lover bewails ‘his’ fate, death is welcomed with a sparkling final presto ending with a no-less-sparkling top E flat. A fine tribute to an extraordinary genius. (George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine)

martes, 28 de enero de 2014

Claudio Abbado / Orchestra Mozart PERGOLESI Stabat Mater - Violin Concerto - Salve Regina in C minor

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi had a tragically short career, living just 26 years, and producing most of his mature works over a period of about five years. This album includes three of the composer's most representative pieces. The most familiar is the 40-minute Stabat mater for soprano, alto, and orchestra, which was the most frequently published composition of the 18th century. This version, featuring soprano Rachel Harnisch and contralto Sara Mingardo, makes a splendid introduction to the work and should be of interest to anyone who loves this poignant music. Both soloists have expressive voices of exceptional purity and intensity, beautifully suited to this alternately serene and wrenching score. Mingardo is particularly striking in the aria, "Fac, ut portem Christi mortem," in which she descends into a baritonal range with startlingly solid, oaken timbre. The cheery, playful tone of the Violin Concerto reveals the composer's versatility and Giuliano Carmignola nails its technical demands with lovely tone and disarming grace. The album includes one of Pergolesi's four settings of Salve regina, with soprano Julia Kleiter. It's a largely somber work, similar in emotional tone to the Stabat mater. In spite of its name, the Bologna-based Orchestra Mozart plays music of all eras, and under Claudio Abbado's leadership it brings just the right fleet agility to this music, which is balanced between the Baroque and Classical eras. The sound of the live performances is clean and well balanced, with a warm ambience. (Stephen Eddins)

lunes, 27 de enero de 2014

Claudio Abbado / Orchestra Mozart PERGOLESI Missa S. Emidio

One could weep to think what great works Giovanni Battista Pergolesi might have composed had he not died from tuberculosis aged just 26. That’s the cup-half-empty view, anyway. The cup-half-full view is that, despite his early death, this 18th century Italian left us a collection of musical masterpieces whose beauty, compositional skill and often-spine-tingling passion discount his youth. 2010 marks the 300th anniversary of Pergolesi’s birth, and Claudio Abbado is marking it with his Pergolesi Project: a year-long, three-album undertaking of Pergolesi’s works, conducting the Orchestra Mozart. The first disc in the series featured the Stabat Mater, the Violin Concerto and the Salve Regina in C minor, and was superb. His second disc, this time all sacred works, is just as good.
In terms of overall musical interpretation, this CD neatly dovetails into the first in terms of overall sound: a cleanly executed period style, rendered luxuriously beautiful thanks to the warmth and easy fluidity of the playing. However, there’s a marked difference in the musical forces. Whilst the previous recording required only solo singers, this second requires a choir, thanks to the inclusion of two large choral works, the Missa S. Emilio and the Laudate pueri Dominum. The Swiss Radio Choir’s performance is a delight: bright yet substantial tone, clean-as-a-whistle delivery of the tricky passagework, and highly expressive reading of the musical lines and the texts. The soloists are also going for gold; the Salve Regina is sung with heartfelt yearning here by Sara Mingardo in its later version F minor for alto. Then, altogether different is the dramatic and little-heard aria, “Manca la guida al piè” from the religious opera that the 21-year-old Pergolesi wrote as a graduation piece. Veronica Cangemi’s honeyed, pure-toned performance plays on every emotional nuance, with wonderfully controlled ornamentation.
All in all, another Pergolesi disc from Abbado that feels like musical perfection. Just go listen, and enjoy. (Charlotte Gardner 2010)

domingo, 26 de enero de 2014

Viktoria Mullova / Claudio Abbado / Berliner Philharmoniker BRAHMS Violin Concerto

A CD offering less than 40 minutes of music these days is very short measure, but Mullova's is a commanding performance, pure and true throughout, made the more compelling by the spontaneous expressiveness that goes with a live performance. Her admirers need not hesitate, for with one minor reservation the recording is first-rate, and Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic here match the Brahmsian achievement of their DG symphony cycle.
The surprise is that the recording, made at a concert in Japan in January 1992, has taken so long to arrive. Maybe they were waiting for a coupling, but in any case this is a one-off recording, supervised not by Philips's own engineers but by those at NHK, Japan. The reservation I mentioned is that
though the sound in generally warm, well-balanced and well-detailed with a pleasant hall-atmosphere, the prominent placing of the timpani means that the many tremolos in the outer movements, notable at first, tend to cloud the texture. The effect is distracting enough to bring home afresh just how many such tremolos there are. Happily, the audience is extremely quiet, except in the brief gap between slow movement and finale.
The first obvious comparison is with Itzhak Perlman's live Berlin recording for EMI with Barenboim conducting this same orchestra. That was made two months after the present one but in the Schauspielhaus, Berlin with a sound-balance typical of Perlman's recordings, with the solo violin in close-up set against full-bodied orchestral sound. The immediate impact of the bravura double-stopping passages is obviously greater, but Mullova consistently compensates in the extra dynamic range that she can convey, with the many reflective passages in the first movement as well as the central Adagio given a rapt intensity. The combination of purity and warmth go with a clear purposefulness, heightened by the degree of freedom Mullova allows herself in linking the different sections of each movement. Similarly, instead of storming through the thorny technical problems of the Joachim cadenza (curiously not identified in the booklet), she again allows herself a degree of elbow-room, giving it more than usual the feeling of a spontaneous improvisation, culminating in an exceptionally sweet and pure account of the coda, bringing the most inward meditation of all.
The violin entry in the Adagio is then open and songful, with full meditative intensity reserved for later in the movement. The clarity of Mullova's articulation in the finale is phenomenal, the bravura most compelling. . . . Mullova's new disc makes an excellent recommendation . . . . (Edward Greenfield, Gramophone)

sábado, 25 de enero de 2014

Yuja Wang / Claudio Abbado / Mahler Chamber Orchestra RACHMANINOV

Recording these piano concertos by Rachmaninov came as a surprise and delight to Yuja Wang, and was a choice spurred on by Claudio Abbado: “I'd worked with him before, but not in these concertos. He plays with very few soloists these days, so it was a particular honour - I'd happily have played anything he wanted me to play."
“I like really to grasp the flow of the Russian soul through Russian literature and understand the emotional ideals, and to touch on that during a live concert is quite difficult. In the Second Piano Concerto the big challenge is projecting myself: the writing is fairly transparent but the melody is overpowering, and cutting through the texture in order to be heard isn't easy. It's a challenge to bring out the harmonies, and the legatos are very special. At many points in this concerto, the piano is almost an accompaniment to the orchestra. The Mahler Chamber Orchestra were wonderful to work with: they listen to each other so well, and they're all really young, about my age. I think the excitement of the live concert is truly present in the recording."
The genesis of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 is almost as legendary as the music itself. Severely depressed after his Symphony No. 1 had been panned at its premiere in 1897, the young Rachmaninov found himself unable to set pen to manuscript paper for two years. On the advice of his cousins, he consulted Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a specialist in neuropsychotherapy who used hypnosis to build up Rachmaninov's confidence towards beginning a new concerto that would be “excellent". The composer indeed emerged ready to set to work with renewed energy, sketching out the piece during visits to the Crimea and Italy in 1900; he gave the world premiere himself in Moscow on 9 November 1901. The piece's immediate acclaim duly established him as one of the most exciting composers of his day.
Yuja Wang has drawn considerable inspiration from Rachmaninov's own interpretation of the concerto, which is controlled and classical as others can be extrovert and passionate: “Instead of sounding very broad in what you might expect to be huge lyrical moments, his sound remains amazingly transparent," she says.
By the time Rachmaninov began his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini his fame was universal, but his life had changed radically. In 1917 he and his wife fled the Russian Revolution, travelling first to Sweden and then to the USA. In Russia he had pursued a vocation primarily as a composer; in the West, though, the need for income propelled him into an international career as a concert pianist. His time for composition was consequently reduced, but the works he did produce showed increasing sophistication and originality and the Rhapsody is no exception.
It dates from 1934 when Rachmaninov was living in Switzerland, near Lake Lucerne. The theme is from No. 24 from Paganini's Caprices for violin, a set of virtuoso variations so difficult that it contributed to Paganini's being associated in the public imagination with the devil himself. Rachmaninov used the theme as the basis for a series of twenty-four variations plus introduction and coda, ingeniously combining the format with that of a three-movement concerto.
The first movement is the substantial, dizzyingly varied section from the start to Variation 15. First, only the barest outline is heard; Paganini's theme comes into focus with the entry of the piano, which soon carries matters away into the fantastical skitterings of the first few variations. The “second subject" appears with the sixth, more reflective variation, and in the seventh Rachmaninov introduces the plainchant “Dies irae" - a reference that appears in many of his works almost as a signature motif.
After a concluding climax in Variation 15, the “slow movement" ensues, building through the expectant No. 16 and nocturnal perambulations of No. 17 to the work's most celebrated transformation of the Paganini melody in No. 18, progressing to a soaring grandeur on full orchestra. No. 19 plunges into a scherzo finale replete with wit, jazziness and a bedazzlement of virtuosity, though the “Dies irae" is never far away. Finally the music evaporates as if in a puff of smoke.
Yuja Wang is full of enthusiasm for this lithe and athletic work. “It's my favourite of the Rachmaninov works for piano and orchestra," she declares. “It's a red-hot work - it suits young people my age because it's so emotional. It's very cleverly written and shows all the different sides of Rachmaninov. There's so much variety in it, so many colours: I think that's where his genius lies, in the invention of all these characteristics that explore everything the piano can do." (Jessica Duchen)

viernes, 24 de enero de 2014

Claudio Abbado / Wiener Philharmoniker ALBAN BERG Wozzeck

Wozzeck, Alban Berg's first opera, is the ultimate representation of German Expressionism. The lurid libretto, based on a fragmentary play by Georg Büchner, tells the tragic tale of impoverished soldier Franz Wozzeck, his unfaithful girlfriend Marie, and their illegitimate child. Each scene is extremely concise and the story progresses with the sure swiftness of a nightmare. Berg's music is gnarled, acrid, and sometimes violent, expressing the ghastliness of Wozzeck's pathetic existence. But shock value isn't the only thing on the composer's mind. For one thing, every scene is written in a different strict classical form (passacaglia, sonata, rondo, invention), so there's a strong sense of structure as well as plenty of musical variety. For another, Berg adds glimmers of tonality and abundant lyricism to the dissonant and knotted score, emphasizing the story's pathos. Despite its horrific aspects, Wozzeck is a very moving, very human tragedy. This electrifying performance led by Claudio Abbado -- recorded during live performances at the Vienna State Opera in 1987 -- conveys the music's brutality and poignancy with equal force. Hildegard Behrens is an unusually sympathetic Marie, and Franz Grundheber makes Wozzeck's strange neuroses seem almost ordinary, a portrayal that's all the more harrowing for its believability. There's a bit of audience noise, but the up-close-and-personal recording has tremendous impact. (Andrew Farach-Colton)

jueves, 23 de enero de 2014

Claudio Abbado / London Symphony Orchestra GEORGES BIZET Carmen

Prosper Mérimée who wrote the original story Carmen, placed Don José at the centre of its action. Mérimée's novel is a narration whitin a narration. His storyteller is a scholarly French archaeologist who has his repeater watch stolen from him - shades of Die Fledermaus! - while he is on his travels in Spain. He is asked to testify against the thief, demurs in a gentlemany fashion, but after being assured that the villian, Don José, is going to be hanged anyway for other crimes, goes off to see him in the interest of research into the Spanish character. The archaeologist takes along in his hand a number of good cigars. Encouraged by this act of generosity, José obliges with an account of the events which led up to his imprisonment and his execution on the morrow.
José's narration is brief - little more than 40 pages - but it is direct and totally unsentimental. It is a soldier's tale of a man who has lost everything, his rank, his livelihood and now his life itself, because of a sudden infatuation with a woman. José asks for no sympathy but simply requests the archaeologist to make a detour to Pamplona on his return journey to France and give a small silver medallion to a good woman in that town. She is to be told that José is dead, but not how he died ("... vous la ferez remettre à une bonne femme dont je vous dirai l'adresse. Vouz direz que je suis mort, vous ne direz pas comment.") It was from these two sentences that Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy were to invent the character of Micaëla when they came to construct the libretto for Bizet's opera.
Mérimée's Carmen may be more of a liar and a cheat, but the fascination she exerts in the novel and the opera are identical. The José who sings about the way he has been struck and overcome by a sudden passion for a gypsy girl is the same man - or almost the same man - as the one who tells a passing archaeologist just why the gallows await him in the morning. (WOLFGANG DÖMLING.- Translation: ADELE POINDEXTER)

This is a super performance, slightly outside the common mold. In 1977, when this was recorded, Claudio Abbado was a great opera conductor, filled with sharp insights and a nice sense of the architecture of whole operas. He always seemed to know where he was going, and his ability to build to climaxes was second to none. Abbado has a rather elegant Carmen here in the smallish-voiced, introspective Teresa Berganza, a gorgeous singer who patently refuses to force her voice or her character into vulgarity. It's a fine reading. Placido Domingo is at his best in both intimate and maniacal moments, and Ileana Cotrubas's Micaela almost makes us care about this happy little gal. Sherrill Milnes's Escamillo has plenty of swagger and voice. Berganza's subtlety combined with the wild passions of those around her make this a very good Carmen indeed. (Robert Levine )

miércoles, 22 de enero de 2014

Claudio Abbado / London Symphony Orchestra GIOACCHINO ROSSINI Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Among the operas in the modern repertoire The Barber of Seville has undoubtedly been the one most in need of careful critical revision. Written within a few days by a composer who, although young, had already made his name, Rossini's opera was soon immensely successful. However, as a result of its success, the work was subjected to a great many unwarrantable changes, which have unfortunately been perpetuated ever since in published editions.
The music publishers Ricordi have therefore brought out a new and scrupulously revised edition. This recording based on the new edition corresponds to the composer's intentons un every respect - as regards the original arias, tonalities and instrumentation.

This is a nicely entertaining Barber, with just the right sense of fun running through it to avoid slapstick and still bring a sophisticated smile to one's lips. Teresa Berganza is so right, so unexaggerated, so pyrotechnically capable yet filled with good taste, that it's impossible to find fault with her Rosina. Luigi Alva's Count is classy and honey-toned up to the top of the staff, where the voice simply stops blooming; he's also not as good as one might wish with Rossini's difficult fast music. Hermann Prey's Figaro is similarly impaired - the coloratura is just not pristine - but his style, attitude, and intelligence are pure gold; he's vastly entertaining. The other low-voiced men are ideal Rossinians. Abbado holds the whole thing together - this is a very satisfying performance. (Robert Levine)

Of the many recordings of the Barber, this is one of the very best. Abbado’s 1972 performance scraped away layers of traditional performing practice, revealing the sparkling colours beneath – the whole work was sung in the original keys. The LSO played superlatively well, with an unmatched blend of finesse and panache. The cast was the A-team of the day, performing together regularly on stage with great gain to their work in the recording studio... All in all a vocal fiesta... highly recommendable...  (Patrick Carnegy, BBC Music Magazine)

martes, 21 de enero de 2014

Maria João Pires / Claudio Abbado / Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Wiener Philharmoniker MOZART Piano Concertos Nos. 14 - 17 - 21

The combination of Abbado and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe has to be my dream ticket for modern-instrument Mozart. The qualities are irresistible: cultured, characterful woodwind playing (so important in Mozart piano concertos), an expert string section which carries no passengers, and an alertness of response to a conductor who, with years of experience in this repertoire, nevertheless shows no sign of going stale. Maria João Pires is an excellent partner in all this: her stylistic approach is similar, in that she also favours a light touch, but there is no danger of over-preciousness. The expressive Andante in K453 – one of the first of Mozart’s slow movements to make a major feature of the woodwind section – is done especially well, as is the bustling Haydnesque finale; indeed, the orchestra’s articulation of the Presto coda is quite breathtaking. The C major Concerto, K467, is, of course, among Mozart’s best-known works in any form. Abbado and Pires take the work at face value: clipped and martial in the first movement, perfectly poised in the central Andante, and fast but clean in the good-natured finale. Both works were recorded in the Teatro Comunale in Ferrara, though only K453 was recorded live. But there is no perceptible difference in sound; indeed the production values throughout are well up to DG’s high standards. (BBC Music Magazine)

sábado, 18 de enero de 2014

Miloš LATINO Gold

One of the hottest properties in classical music, MILOŠ came to international attention in 2011 with his debut album The Guitar/ Mediterráneo which, in the space of just a few months, topped classical charts around the world, sold over 150,000 copies and won him Gramophone’s Young Artist of the Year Award.
Miloš Karadaglić, an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon/Mercury Classics recording artist, released his second album Latino in 2012 and went on to receive both Classic Brit (UK) and Echo Klassik (Germany) awards. Reviewing the album Gramophone commented “Karadaglić is a guitarist of superior musical and technical gifts who allows his personality to sing through the music with taste and intelligence” and The Daily Telegraph added “this new Latin American programme is outstanding in its finesse, warm sensuality and sheer beauty.”
In March 2012 Deutsche Grammophon/Mercury Classics released Latino GOLD – a special CD/DVD edition that includes new recordings of works by Piazzola, Villa-Lobos and some of the most popular South American composers. HEARTSTRINGS, a one hour documentary film has been released simultaneously and will be aired on TV throughout the year.

jueves, 16 de enero de 2014

Boulez / The Cleveland Orchestra / Chicago Symphony Orchestra STRAVINSKY Le Sacre Du Printemps - The Firebird

Between 1910 and 1913 Igor Stravinsky made his mark with three great ballet scores, The Firebird (L'Oiseau de Feu), Petrushka and The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps), all written for the pioneering company put together and guided for 20 years by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev.
The fairy-tale plot of L'Oiseau de Feu tells of how Prince Ivan follows the Firebird into the enchanted garden of the immortal ogre Kashchei, and with the Firebird's help destroys him and frees those who have been placed under his spell. While Stravinsky may have intended to dissociate himself from the sound-world of Rimsky-Korsakov, the subject found him, perhaps inevitably, evoking the style of his teacher, as well as that of Tchaikovsky in the "Princesses' Game with the Golden Apples". In terms of orchestral extravagance, Stravinsky even outdid Rimsky-Korsakov, celebrated as the wizard of musical colour, in such magical effects as the gossamer flutters and bird-like movements in the "Firebird's Dance", or the pealing "Magic Carrillon". But there are pointers to the future too, such as the rhythmic vitality of the "Infernal Dance" and the unstable metre of the ringing Finale.
When he was finishing the score of The Firebird, Stravinsky had a vision of a pagan rite in which a young girl danced herself to death. This fleeting image became the inspiration for the composer's third original score for the Ballets Russes, The Rite of Spring, which burst on to the stage in Paris in 1913 and causedone of the great scandals in the history of music history (to Diaghilev's satisfaction, as Stravinsky later recorded). Stravinsky's individual style had come into focus in the intervening score for Petrushka; now in The Rite of Spring he pushed his grasp of the physical potential of music to the limit. (Kenneth Chalmers)

martes, 14 de enero de 2014

Florilegium / Elin Manahan Thomas / Robin Blaze PERGOLESI Stabat Mater

As a composer Pergolesi’s productive career began at the age of twenty, and by twenty-six (March 1736) he had died of tuberculosis. During his lifetime Pergolesi’s fame was restricted, in the main, to Rome and Naples, yet after his death, his reputation eclipsed most other composers in the second half of the eighteenth century. The whole of Europe developed an increasing curiosity for his compositions. His posthumous celebrity status was such a magnet in the music world that, hoping to reap large financial profits, publishers and opera directors alike attributed his name to hundreds of vocal and instrumental works by lesser-known composers. Following Pergolesi’s death the Stabat Mater became one of the most celebrated and frequently printed works of the 18th century.

Welsh soprano Elin Manahan Thomas has a lovely, clear, pleasingly bright tone and all the right stuff for Pergolesi's most lyrical and lively lines; countertenor Robin Blaze never has sounded better, his timbre warmly resonant, his technique fluid and effortless, his intelligence and thoughtful interpretive manner on impressive display-and proving a perfect match for Thomas. And speaking of instruments, also to be commended are the Florilegium instrumental players, who include the group's director, flutist Ashley Solomon, and cellist Jennifer Morsches, both of whom offer excellent additions to the program-the delightful (if doubtfully by Pergolesi!) Flute Concerto in G major and the (authentic) Sinfonia in F major for cello and continuo. (…)
(…) Highly recommended (even if you already have one or two others!).
(Classics Today)

domingo, 12 de enero de 2014

Nuria Rial / La Floridiana MARIANNA MARTINES Il Primo Amore

Nuria Rial & La Floridiana present world premiere recordings by Marianna Martines - a famous female composer in the time of Mozart and Haydn.
Marianna Martines was one of the most accomplished and highly honoured female musicians of the eighteenth century. She studied with the young Joseph Haydn and was known in Vienna to be a gifted singer and keyboard player, who performed duets with Mozart himself. Despite the fact that many of her compositions appeared in print during her own lifetime many of her works are still missing, among them a total of probably 28 sonatas and eight concertos for harpsichord. The album includes four world premiere recordings, and is released to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Marianna Martines who died on March 11th 1812. The 28 page booklet is complete with elaborate liner notes and full libretti in German, English and French.
Spanish Catalan soprano Nuria Rial is famous for her shining, cristal clear and beautiful voice and is one of the most fitting voices for baroque arias. She was described as "a silvery sounding voice, as clear as a bell." (Opernglas)
Nicoleta Paraschivescu is a dedicated harpsichord player and musical director of "La Floridiana". Concerts have taken her across Europe and to major festivals such as the Davos Festival, Bach Dies Cremona, the Rheinland-Pfalz Organ Festival, Culturescapes Basel and the L'Aquila Festival in Rome. La Floridiana is a Swiss based, period instrument ensemble that performs unknown works in the main that have been unearthed in libraries and private collections with the aim of expanding the current repertoire of the Early Music scene.

sábado, 11 de enero de 2014

Nuria Rial / Lawrence Zazzo G.F. HÄNDEL Duetti Amorosi

Spanish soprano Núria Rial and American counter tenor Lawrence Zazzo join forces in an outstanding selection of duets and scenes from Handel operas. For most of the operas, they have included recitatives, arias, and even overtures and instrumental interludes to provide the context for the duets. The result is wonderfully effective in giving the listener a deeper understanding of the drama and the characters, as well as marvelous additional music. Rial's and Zazzo's voices are ideally matched -- absolutely secure, natural, and unforced and tonally pure with flawless intonation and brilliant coloratura. Their voices are also powerful; there's no sweet sentimentality here, but genuine passion. With conductor Lawrence Cummings, they emphasize the varieties of emotions expressed in the duets, from the flashing anger of a lovers' quarrel in the scene from Serse to the melting tenderness of "Io t'abbracio," from Rodelinda, and, especially, "Addio! Mio caro bene" from Teseo. They are fully persuasive in conveying the varieties of passion the characters are experiencing, and the Kammerorchester Basel provides a nuanced accompaniment that matches the singers' expressiveness. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi's sound is vibrant, clean, and intimate. Strongly recommended for fans of Baroque opera, or any fans of opera who are susceptible to the beauty of the commingled sound of soprano and counter tenor. (Stephen Eddins)

'Duetti amorosi' is an imaginative and thoughtfully chosen programme of operatic duets (although the singers also get two arias each).
Nothing predictable is included here, except perhaps the two items from Rodelinda, but the lovely performance of 'Ritorna, o cara' and the pathos-laden 'Io t'abbraccio' more than justify their presence. Picking a diverse selection of repertoire that skilfully conveys the expressive and stylistic breath of Handel's writing is certainly one of the often-ignored secrets of planning a successful Handel recital programme, and the performers' enthusiasm for reviving numbers from Arminio (including its fine overture), Teseo, Muzio Scevola, Poro (the gorgeous 'Caro amico amplesso') and Admeto deserves high praise.
Rial and Zazzo sing well, both individually and together: in the duets they are obviously listening sympathetically to each other; they seem to know when to emphasise vocal contrasts or blend closely. Laurence Cummings provides expert musical direction from the harpsichord, ensuring that everything is paced to perfection, and that the musico-dramatic characteristics presented in each piece speak with transparency to the listener; none of these performances would feel out of place in context of their parent works. (The Gramophone Classical Music Guide / 2010)

viernes, 10 de enero de 2014

Pierre Boulez / Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester SCHOENBERG Pelleas and Melisande

Maestro Pierre Boulez’s renowned lucidity makes him an extraordinary conductor of this emotionally luxuriant music.
Celebrated for championing the most daring music of the 20th century, Boulez leads this 2003 Tokyo concert, played in the presence of Japan’s Emperor and Empress. Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande and Wagner’s Prelude to “Tristan und Isolde” could have received no treatment more royal than he gives it at Suntory Hall with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra.
The Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra was founded by Claudio Abbado to provide young musicians the chance to work with established conductors and soloists. Based in Vienna, they tour during the Easter and summer seasons.
The Gustav
Mahler Youth Orchestra, with which Pierre Boulez has toured four times, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011. The present recording is testimony to Boulez’s esteem for this band.
The Guardian observed, “For a quarter of a century now Boulez’s performances of all the modernists have set benchmarks ... he remains unrivalled in the works of the Second Viennese School, and in Schoenberg in particular.”

jueves, 9 de enero de 2014

René Pape / Katharina Thalbach / Dresdner Sinfoniker / John Carewe TORSTEN RASCH Mein Herz Brennt

Torsten Rasch - Mein Herz brennt Lightning is regularly followed by thunder, but whereas the former is visible only for a second, the latter may be heard for five, ten or twenty seconds at a time. Sometimes it takes the form of a sudden crash that dies away in the distance, while on other occasions it swells in volume, rumbling and gathering strength, before unleashing all its fury and then gently fading away again. Thunder unsettles us even though lightning conductors exist to protect our lives. In much the same way, music allows the ear to explore worlds that the eye later thinks it has captured. The spectrum of perceptible colours is snatched away too quickly to withstand even an approximate comparison with the rich variety of sounds. And yet we tend to think in terms of visual analogies in our attempt to fathom the mystery of sounds. If we still store away our memories in photograph albums, it is because we prefer to put our trust in shadows rather than echoes. Its literal sense not withstanding, the term déjà vu does not mean something that we have already seen but something suspected, imagined, dreamt and feared, something already heard or aurally anticipated. Fate, presentiment and fear can hardly be grasped by colours, forms and outlines. In the ground-breaking agelessness of their works, leading painters and sculptors have at best described the depths of the human soul or made it intelligible by means of analogy but they have never penetrated their audiences’ hearts with the sheer force that great music can muster. To be swept away by an all-embracing wave of sounds that are as old as the very first musical vibration but which in their consuming immediacy repeatedly recreate the ageless act of destruction and creation must place all images in doubt. The classical song cycle is a genre that is threatened with extinction. In Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and even Mahler, Strauss and Schoenberg we pay tribute to tradition, but however much we may be moved by their songs, we do not rediscover in them the fears and cares that characterise our hectic daily lives. Their music affords us a refuge, constituting a kind of flight into the past and allowing us to feel secure within ourselves, even if for its creators it was often the expression of the profoundest inner turmoil. How anachronistic, then, to enter upon the third millennium with a song cycle that neither flirts with post-modernism nor treats the inevitability of constantly repeated micro-structures as a basic model for a detached assimilation of the world that provides the soul with a layer of chrome-like protection. Such music is deceptive because it is so bewitchingly beautiful. The alchemy of musical sounds transcends all sense of hopelessness. In the beginning was the Word. Even Dante knew that he had to decide whether to conjure up images with his words or to associate them with sounds. It took several centuries for music to achieve the power inherent in the language of the poet of the Divine Comedy. As a result, Dante has been illustrated for more often than he has been set to music. The words that make up the cycle Mein herz brennt are barely ten years old and in many cases much less than that. And yet they convey the urgency that has been used from time immemorial to express our primeval fears and needs. Spoken or sung, whispered or shouted, they transcend the limits of place and time. In their shattering universality they forge a link with the elements that represent the circulating and pulsating universe, just like the speck of dust that may be raised when we open a newspaper, triggering whirlwinds and earthquakes as well as minute emotions from yearning to jealousy that are re-enacted a million times over. Violins, timpani and horns gather like a cyclone around scraps of ideas that are as fragmentary as they are logical, as random as they are sublime while they sweep across the ages. When the Apocalypse is synonymous with Genesis, then I feel my heart on fire. The sound dies away, the word falls silent, but all that has been heard and experienced in all its emphatic beauty lies like a patina upon its creations. Yet it is not in the creator’s power to say whether a winged redeemer will arise from the ashes of our emotions. Formed six years ago by the percussionist Sven Helbig and the horn player Marus Rindt, the Dresden Symphony Orchestra was in many respects predestined to give the first performance of Mein Herz brennt. It is the only symphony orchestra in the world to devote itself exclusively to contemporary music and is made up of players drawn from nearly all the major German orchestras as well as from many leading European orchestras. All its members share a desire for collective music making and an unblinkered passion for music. Mein Herz Brennt represents a logical and at the same time provocative expansion of the repertory of an orchestra that is playing an increasingly important role on the international stage.

miércoles, 8 de enero de 2014

Angela Hewitt BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Op 10 No 2 - Op 26 - Op 27 No 2 "Moonlight" - Op 90

Sometimes an unusual interpretive approach or seldom noticed details signify that the performer in question is following the composer's score rather than adhering to interpretive tradition. That's certainly true regarding Angela Hewitt and Beethoven's so-called "Funeral March" sonata. The first-movement variations stand out for the pianist's seamless tempo relationships, timbral diversity, and characterful distinctions between legato and detached phrases. Her dynamism and razor-sharp linear interplay fuse equal doses of excitement and control in the Scherzo, which leaves Paul Lewis' dainty deliberation back at the starting gate. The Funeral March is steady and stern, while by contrast Hewitt's agogic stresses in the Allegro finale help clarify the busy textures' part-writing and cross-rhythmic grammar.
Hewitt allows similar leeway in the F major Op. 10 No. 2 first-movement exposition, animating the music with stinging yet never obtrusive accents and thrusting left-hand accompaniments. Hewitt's subtle balances in the Allegretto evoke the give and take of a seasoned string quartet, although she's a little too cool and careful in the Presto finale compared to, say, Richard Goode's tauter, more playful abandon.
I've no qualms about Hewitt's sensitive, technically impressive Op. 90, except that the tiny expressive holdbacks in the first movement's soft-echoed phrases pull focus from the main theme's implicit alla breve continuity (Moravec is right on the money here). On the other hand, her flexibility and lyrical warmth give shape and dimension to the "Moonlight" sonata's hackneyed Adagio sostenuto. If only I could morph her superb articulation and dynamic scaling in the second and third movements with her label-mate Steven Osborne's brisker, more incisive tempos. As always, Hewitt provides her own informative and well-written annotations. (Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com)

martes, 7 de enero de 2014

Angela Hewitt BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Op 13 "Pathétique" - Op 28 "Pastoral" - Op 2 No 3

Angela Hewitt is widely acknowledged as one of the great pianists of the age. Gramophone Artist of the Year in 2006 and the recent subject of a week-long artist focus on BBC Radio 3, her frenetic concert schedule and expanding discography bear testimony to her extraordinary talent and energy.
Hewitt’s legion of fans will be delighted at this eagerly awaited second volume of Beethoven sonatas. Her first release in this series was fulsomely praised for its ‘clarity, intelligence and elegance’ … ‘fusing poetry and passion’, and all these trademark qualities of her playing are fully present in this second disc.
Angela presents three very different works here, written within a period of seven years: the enchanting ‘Pastoral’ Sonata Op 28, the monumental ‘Pathétique’ Op 13 and the dazzling early masterpiece Op 2 No 3. Her interpretations are vividly personal, yet the voice of the composer speaks clearly throughout.

domingo, 5 de enero de 2014

Angela Hewitt BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Op 57 "Appassionata" - Op 10 No 3 - Op 7

Angela Hewitt's first instalment in a projected Beethoven sonata cycle for Hyperion offers intelligent, stylish and often illuminating interpretations. The contrapuntal acumen she regularly brings to Bach suits Beethoven's linear trajectory, as borne out by Hewitt's astute (yet never fussy) care over inner voices and bass-lines. She takes Beethoven's characteristic dynamic contrasts on faith but not to extreme, discontinuous ends, while her ear for uncovering melodic outlines of rapid arpeggios ensures that these figurations don't sound "notey". In addition, Hewitt's strong left hand lends uncommon clarity and direction to passages such as the double notes in Op 10 No 3's first movement, or the motoric sequences 208" into Op 7's Rondo. Occasional telltale signs of pre-planning include Hewitt's tendency to hesitate a split second before Beethoven's trademark subito pianos, thereby softening one's sense of surprise. I also think her protracted treatment of Op 10 No 3's Largo would have benefited from Claudio Arrau's gravitas and sustaining power. Fusing poetry and passion, Hewitt lets her long hair down and her fingers run wild in the Appassionata's first movement. She continues with a brisk and well unified account of the central variations, and suffuses her powerful, headlong finale with cutting accents and perceptive modifications of the basic pulse. The Fazioli piano's lean bass and bright treble characterise the kind of timbral differentiation one often associates with instruments of Beethoven's time. (Jed Distler / Gramophone, November 2006)

sábado, 4 de enero de 2014

Christine Schäfer / Ensemble Intercontemporain BOULEZ Pli Selon Pli

This recording of Pli selon Pli may be considered definitive. Pierre Boulez worked on this massive composition from 1957 to 1989, and over those years issued different versions and recordings of the work in progress. "Don" and "Improvisation sur Mallarmé III" have been extensively rewritten and are heard here in their final form. Compared to a more concentrated work, such as Le marteau sans maitre, Pli selon Pli is airy and open, more expansive in its pointillism, and more accommodating to silences. Boulez has simplified many of his procedures and has given the intricacies of his gestures and textures ample time for the listener's comprehension and appreciation. Soprano Christine Schäfer's expertise with avant-garde vocal techniques holds her in good stead. Her performance -- at times the center of attention, at others an embellishment on the instrumental proceedings -- is flexible and well-suited to the music's changing demands. The Ensemble InterContemporain, under the composer's direction, runs the gamut of Boulez's expression. Whether playing delicate figurations in stark isolation or executing complex chains of shifting colors, the orchestra is tight. The recording is remarkable for covering the full audio range, from softly plucked guitar notes to the shocking sforzando chords that open and close the work.

jueves, 2 de enero de 2014

Pierre Boulez / Jean-Guihen Queyras BOULEZ Sur Incises - Messagesquisse - Anthèmes 2

Virtual infinity, music apparently without beginning or end or, in the wider context of the history of ideas, the open-endedness of the modern work of art; this is the radical conclusion that Pierre Boulez has drawn from atonality and from static and asymmetrical rhythm and metre in the wake of Webern, Stravinsky and Messiaen. In order to illustrate this fundamental change of attitude, he has suggested the image of a labyrinth - a structure involving ideas and experiences which, unlike the traditionally unambiguous Euclidean language of forms, acknowledges new convolutions and directions whose feasibility demands to be discovered and patiently explored. The consequences of this voyage of discovery embrace every aspect of composition and music-making and find expression not only in the notorious revisions to which Boulez subjects virtually all his works as a matter of principle, but also within each individual piece. The three works included in the present recording may serve to demonstrate the validity of this remark.
Each of this works is notable for its distinctive instrumental design: Anthèmes 2, for example, is scored for a solo violin whose playing is electronically split, up in performance, with the result that the soloist not only communes with himself but also with the ambient space. In Messagesquisse a solo cello is pitted against six other cellos that replicate its part in various ways. At the beginning, the tutti cellos enter in a kind of fugato, creating the impression of a flight of stairs, with each new entry imitating the main part in the manner of an echo and sustaining the notes in question. In this way the music unfolds like a prism. Sur Incises, finally, is scored for three pianos, three harps and three percussion instruments and is based on Incises for piano solo. In other words, all three works deal with the transformation of an essentially solo idea to produce completely different forms of musical interaction, forms that are novel, contemporary expressions of musical communication.