viernes, 30 de mayo de 2014

Maya Beiser / Michael Harrison TIME LOOPS

The mysterious power of music has intrigued thinkers across the centuries. Plato described a universe in which Sirens situated atop the rings of the cosmic whorl each sing a single note from a great scale, together producing concords that can transport mortals to the heavenly regions. In our own time we tend to use other metaphors to explain the phenomenon -- with terms like "brain scan" and "beta-endorphins" -- but when listening to an exquisite piece of music, who could deny the emotional truth of Plato's vision?
Perhaps we respond so forcefully because, as Clement of Alexandria put it, the human body is itself a musical instrument. That was the view not only of the ancient Greeks but also of the Indian masters who strongly influenced Michael Harrison's musical development. Both proposed deep connections between the arrangements of tones and the human condition, and pointed to the most fundamental musical relationships -- those defined by Pythagoras in "whole number" proportions, as when strings vibrate in the ratio of 2:1, or 3:2, or 4:3 -- as being endowed with special qualities.
These comprise the tuning known as "just intonation," and generate the musical alchemy found throughout this intoxicatingly beautiful recording. In Just Ancient Loops, says cellist Maya Beiser, these unique musical relationships allow the sound of the cello to shimmer and bounce. "It's as if you are turning all the artificial lights off and just letting the rays of sunlight into your space," she says. In her recording and concert collaborations, Ms. Beiser has sought to redefine the traditional boundaries of the cello, opening new sonic possibilities for human expression. In this collaboration, Beiser and Harrison's musical and spiritual worlds converge.
"Michael's music is perfect for our times," Beiser observes. "It's architectural and precise, yet exhilarating and beautiful. It draws on music from ancient Greece and the Renaissance, Indian ragas and minimalism." This project is just the latest example of Michael Harrison's remarkable path, which has wound its way through compositional possibilities outside the modern Western canon and the denatured sounds of its modern tuning system. In his landmark piano work Revelation, he used "very small but perfectly tuned microtonal intervals to create a sound world of sustaining, pulsing" and kaleidoscopic effects. "With Time Loops, I'm demonstrating the simpler and more harmonious aspects of just intonation," he says. "As a result the tunings on the CD don't push the boundaries, but rather they sound clearer and more direct than the normal equal tempered scale that is used in most Western music."

miércoles, 28 de mayo de 2014

Annette Dasch / Deutsche Barocklieder GERMAN BAROQUE SONGS

On Deutsche Barocklieder, Harmonia Mundi's outstanding imprint Les Nouveaux Musiciens introduces German soprano Annette Dasch in a recital of German Baroque songs. Not one of these 18 selections is familiar, and that is good; it is an overlooked area of the repertory consisting of a monumental amount of material. The tunes are divided into five intelligently arranged programs by subject -- Love, Precariousness, Peace, Nature, and Luck. Dasch is partnered by members of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, who dive into this music with the aplomb and enthusiasm that is usually the Akademie's calling card. Dasch is responsive, as well, soaking up some of the euphoria created by the swinging, ebullient ensemble and projecting it through her voice. As a whole, Deutsche Barocklieder offers a nice balance of spirited, extroverted songs one would typify as of the German Baroque along with some other pieces that are more introspective and moving. There is a wonderful sense of tenuousness in Dasch's voice at the start of Heinrich Albert's Letze Rede einer vormals stoltzen und sterbenden Jungfer (Last Speech of a Once-Proud, and Now Dying Spinster), demonstrating that Dasch, who frequently performs in European opera productions, is no stranger to vocal characterization. At one point during Johann Krieger's strophic Abend-Andacht, the continuo instruments drop out, leaving Dasch's voice alone for a verse, and the instrument is heard in all its purity and beauty. It is a breathtaking moment in a collection already well stocked in musical glories. Not to be outdone by the star performer here, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin is allowed a couple of turns in the spotlight, once in a sprightly Canzona by Andreas Hammerschmidt and in the other with a rare Sonata in G by Johann Krieger. The notes to Deutsche Barocklieder are German, French, and English, but the song texts are in German only. Although the total program is 63 minutes in length, the time spent with Dasch und ihre musikfreunde seems to pass by quickly. If one's interest is in the German Baroque, early lieder, or even just great singing, this should move to the top of one's want list. (Uncle Dave Lewis)

martes, 27 de mayo de 2014

Roberto Alagna PASIÓN

 . . . he's channeled his immense musical charisma into an authentic Latino sound, with plenty of sexy swing for a new recital disc . . . Alagna turns to some of Mariano's Spanish specialties in a revelatory tour of Central and South America, with enough Brazilian bossa novas, Cuban boleros and Argentine tangos to set your hips swaying and feet tapping faster than you can say "Salsa Class" . . . he brings a loose rhythmic ease and a variety of colors to each number. Open-throated power, supported tone and long breath provide vocal class without distancing him emotionally, and he throws in a few high notes with good-natured bravura . . . even in its tearful moments the entire disc exudes a sunny charm . . . Yvan Cassar's inventive and beautiful arrangements keep a straightforward nightclub feel. The mix of intimate accompaniments with exuberant big-band numbers always keeps the focus on the voice, and Cassar's instrumental choices and the versatility of the band highlight Alagna's musical urgency . . . One of the best numbers is the traditional Mexican song "La Llorona," in which Alagna's soft, plangent sobs paint the chorus effectively. The guitar improvisation in double time is especially witty, and the spare instrumentation highlights the song's expressive simplicity. Another superb understated performance is "El día que me quieras," in which Alagna's old-fashioned sound, replete with quick vibrato and little vocal turns, pays homage to the song's creator, Carlos Gardel . . . There are thrills aplenty in Alagna's full-throated "Piensa en mí," which opens the recital, and in his smoky-to-blazing delivery of "Bésame mucho" . . . [a] bold and spicy concierto.

lunes, 26 de mayo de 2014

Jeroen van Veen SIMEON TEN HOLT Solo Piano Music Volume I - V

Very recently passed away at age 89 Simeon ten Holt was the Icon of Dutch minimalism. His works for multiple pianos include his most famous work, ‘Canto Ostinato’, which gained cult status with a large audience not necessarily familiar with traditional classical music.
The slowly shifting repeated patterns in Ten Holt’s music have a hypnotic and hallucinatory effect on listeners, during concerts which may take several hours.
Dutch pianist Jeroen van Veen is “the leading exponent of minimalism in Holland” (Alan Swanson in Fanfare), a close acquaintance of Ten Holt, the ideal interpreter of his music.
Born in 1923, Simeon ten Holt was a leading Dutch composer who came to attention following studies in Paris with Honegger and Milhaud. His music is best described as minimalist, and draws on the principles of Western harmony as well as those of aleatoricism.
This 5CD compilation is dedicated to Ten Holt’s music for piano, an instrument that dominates his output and which for him contained all the possibilities he needed as a composer. Undoubtedly the most famous work featured is Canto Ostinato – a piece of stretched tones and fixed parts which, depending on the amount of repetition_/_phrasing_/_emphasis and volume as determined by the individual performer, provides for an almost endless range of performances.

sábado, 24 de mayo de 2014

Batiashvili / Bezaly / Pesola / Leleux NICOLAS BACRI Sturm und Drang

Concerto nostalgico “L’automne” and Concerto amoroso “Le printemps” are the first two panels of Bacri’s work-in-progress Les quatre saisons Op.80, a series of four concertos for oboe and other instruments. The third panel Concerto tenebroso “L’hiver” for oboe, violin and strings was first performed in January 2010. The first performance of the fourth panel Concerto luminoso “L’été” for oboe, violin, cello and strings is to take place in spring 2011.
Concerto amoroso “Le
printemps” for oboe, violin and strings is in a single movement in which a long central Notturno is framed by two lively, rhythmically alert outer sections (Mosaïca and Mosaïca II). The outer sections display Neo-classical characteristics whereas the central Nocturne is at times quite intense. The scoring for oboe and cello imbues Concerto nostalgico “L’automne” for oboe, cello and strings with an appropriately autumnal colour. This, too, is in one single movement falling into four sections played without a break. The music unfolds seamlessly from the dark mood of the opening through various contrasting sections (Scherzo alla Fuga and Romanza) before reaching the beautiful, appeased epilogue.
Nicolas Bacri has composed quite a number of concertos or concertante works -some thirty of them up to now (2010). The Concerto for Flute and Orchestra is scored for fairly small orchestral forces (double woodwind, two horns, percussion and strings) and is in three movements. The first movement opens with a slow introduction leading into the main part of the movement Allegro moderato that nevertheless allows for a variety of moods. The second movement Estatico is a Nocturne of sorts - one with some very dark corners. The final movement opens with some energy, but moods vary again until the music reaches its conclusion in a night music à la Bartók in which it eventually thins away calmly.
The short Nocturne Op.90 for cello and strings is in a fairly straightforward arch-form with slow outer sections framing a more animated and tense central one. This compact work is - to my mind - a good example of Bacri’s music-making in that the music says all it has to say with not a single note wasted.
Nicolas Bacri has composed six symphonies so far and his Seventh Symphony will be premiered in autumn 2011. The Symphony No.4 “Sturm und Drang” Op.49 was written for the Orchestre de Picardie of which Bacri was composer-in-residence. The orchestra and its conductor Louis Langrée had dedicated a concert-cycle to “Sturm und Drang” compositions of the late-Classical era and wanted a new work in the same aesthetic. Bacri, however, wanted to write his own music while paying homage to some older beloved composers. The four movements of the Fourth Symphony are thus meant as homage to composers of the early 20th century (Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Weill respectively) although the music never directly quotes from or alludes to their music. The work as a whole is also a tribute to a number of other 20th century composers such as Ravel, Prokofiev and Walton. The Fourth Symphony is Bacri’s Classical Symphony paying homage to the musical past without a single hint of pastiche or parody.
One of the more endearing characteristics of Nicolas Bacri’s music is that he never outstretches or overworks his material thus achieving some remarkable concision. This is never at the expense of expression and communication. As early as 1983, when his music was still fairly adventurous, Bacri inscribed a phrase from Tristan Tzara on one of his scores: “I know that I carry melody within me and I am not afraid of it”. The works recorded here - as so much else in Bacri’s output - clearly “carry melody and are not afraid of it”.
All these performances are excellent and superbly recorded, and the whole - Martin Anderson’s detailed and well-informed insert notes included - is up to BIS’ best standards. This is a very fine release by any count. (Hubert Culot, MusicWeb International)

viernes, 23 de mayo de 2014

Alisa Weilerstein / Staatskapelle Berlin ELGAR - CARTER Cello Concerto

In 1972, Virgil Thomson wrote that Elliott Carter was America’s “most admired composer of learned music and the one most solidly esteemed internationally,” an appreciation that was still accurate when Carter died, last month, at the age of a hundred and three. It is in the realm of chamber music that Carter’s work will most likely endure, not only because of its inherent excellence—his cycle of five string quartets is perhaps the finest since Bartók’s—but because his orchestral pieces are expensive to rehearse and challenging for an audience to digest: the complexity of his musical language is best experienced on an intimate scale. But the Cello Concerto (2000), a fabulously inventive product of Carter’s astonishing Indian summer, may be an exception, an impression confirmed by the rapidly rising cellist Alisa Weilerstein’s new album, “Elgar / Carter: Cello Concertos” (Decca), recorded with the Staatskapelle Berlin orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
For many listeners, the entry point will be the Elgar, and, while this is a dramatic, big-boned performance, connoisseurs won’t be tossing away their copies of the work’s greatest recording, which the phenomenal Jacqueline du Pré and the conductor John Barbirolli laid down for EMI in 1965. Barbirolli came at the piece through the prism of Italian opera and the English pastoral tradition, and the result shivers with life. Barenboim—who once recorded the piece with du Pré, to whom he was married—approaches the concerto by way of his beloved German classics: any passage that hints at Wagner is boldfaced and underlined, with sometimes leaden results.
Weilerstein is an exuberant performer in public, but she seems muted here; not so in the Carter, where she relishes the composer’s bristling passagework and insistent personal voice. The work’s first recording (on Bridge), by Fred Sherry, with Oliver Knussen conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, will always be the reference version; Sherry worked intimately with Carter for decades, and the crystalline purity of his interpretation seems incised for the ages. But Weilerstein and Barenboim’s generously expressive alternative makes this craggy and mysteriously compelling piece seem vulnerably human. Thomson, going out on a limb, once linked Carter’s working method to that of Poe, a comparison that, in a recording like this, seems apt: the piece is a clearheaded exploration of the “grotesque and arabesque,” the warring spaces of the human soul. (Russell Platt / The New Yorker)

jueves, 22 de mayo de 2014

Alisa Weilerstein / Czech Philharmonic Orchestra DVORAK

American cellist Alisa Weilerstein, described by BBC Music Magazine as “one of the most extraordinary” soloists of her generation, follows her critically acclaimed Decca debut recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto with a vital new interpretation of Dvorák's Cello Concerto, coupled with some of his best- known melodies.
This Dvorák recording casts visionary light on the Czech composer’s epic concerto, connecting directly with its passionate heart. Alisa Weilerstein’s all-Dvorák program includes the haunting melody from his “New World” Symphony, popularly known as Going Home; his song Lasst mich allein, the beautiful Silent Woods and more... This album captures the essential spirit of one of the greatest of
all Romantic composers, reflecting Dvorák’s deep-rooted love for his homeland.
Alisa Weilerstein joins forces with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and its Czech Music Director, Jirí Belohlávek in a terrific and deeply authentic musical partnership. This radiant performance of the Cello Concerto was recorded in Prague’s Rudolfinum, where Dvorák himself conducted the Czech Philharmonic’s inaugural concert in 1896. Other works on the album recorded in the USA – Dvorák’s adopted second homeland – include Rondo in G minor, Songs My Mother Taught Me and Slavonic Dance No. 8.
“[Weilerstein] played her parts with exquisite tone, agile fingering, graded filigree and layer upon layer of nuance, at the same time, she entwined her phrases around various instrumental solos, joining them, weaving in and over them, clinging to the orchestral fabric, yet standing distinct – as if Dvorák were sending her the still-wet-inked score, straight from his head to her heart and hands .” – Huffington Post, reviewing a concert performance of the Dvorák concerto. (Arkiv Music)

miércoles, 21 de mayo de 2014

Anne Gastinel / Claire Désert SCHUBERT Arpeggione

Cellists love Schubert for the wonderful things he gives them in the String Quintet, but he wrote nothing for solo cello. Anne Gastinel gives a charming apologia for this programme of transcriptions, in the form of a letter to Schubert, but the best justification lies in the appropriateness of the material and the standard of performance. The Arpeggione Sonata, indeed, sounds better on the cello than on any other conventional instrument, and the fact that some passages lie uncomfortably high is no problem for someone with Gastinel's technique. This is a suave performance; there's a wide range of expression and the more lively sections are played brilliantly, with plenty of spirit. At the other end of the scale, Gastinel and Desert create a beautiful atmosphere, sad yet tranquil, in those places (the end of the first movement, the latter stages of the Adagio) where Schubert allows the energy of his musical discourse to drain away.
The little D major Violin Sonata transcribes well, apart from a few places where a low cello accompaniment muddies the harmonic waters. The outer movements aren't taken too fast, so that the cantabile themes have space to breathe. But I wish Gastinel had played certain slurred passages, like the counterpoint in the Andante's final section, more smoothly.
The song transcriptions are well chosen and faithful (the original keys are retained), and Gastinel compensates for the absence of words with inspired changes of tone colour. For example, the heartbroken Miller's lament has a stark sound, without vibrato, to contrast with the softer tone of the consoling brook. Claire Desert reveals herself as a most accomplished, lively accompanist. (Duncan Druce, Gramophone 12/2005)

martes, 20 de mayo de 2014

Khatia Buniatishvili MOTHERLAND

Khatia Buniatishvili has been described by The Independent as “the young Georgian firebrand”. At the age of only 26 years, this Tblisi-born pianist has already achieved an exceptional maturity of interpretation and a distinctive artistic approach that make her playing unmistakable. Khatia’s warm, sometimes sorrowful playing may reflect a close proximity to Georgian folk-music, which, she attests, has greatly influenced her musicality. Critics emphasize that her playing has an aura of elegant solitude and even melancholy, which she does not feel to be a negative attribute. “The piano is the blackest instrument,” she says, a “symbol of musical solitude… I have to be psychologically strong and forget the hall if I want to share it with the audience.” Khatia Buniatishvili speaks five languages and lives in Paris.
The CD is an intimate quest encompassing solo piano works from Bach to Pärt and from Brahms to Kancheli, in which the themes of longing for home, the merriment of a folk dance and the eternal cycle of growth and decay are apparent. Spanning a broad stylistic and historical range, the album celebrates the works that have accompanied Khatia Buniatschvili’s personal path in life, including pieces from her Georgian homeland. Motherland juxtaposes the happy lightness of a ‘Slavonic Dance’ by Dvorak and the melancholy of Grieg’s lyrical ‘Homesickness’, and contrasts the elegant gaiety of Mendelssohn’s ‘Song without Words’ (op. 67/2) with the graceful introspection of Liszt’s ‘Lullaby’. Classics of the Romantic piano repertoire such as Chopin’s Étude in C-sharp minor (op. 25/7) and Brahms ‘Intermezzo’ (op. 117/2) are embedded between Bach’s cantata ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ and Arvo Pärt’s musical dedication ‘For Alina’. 

lunes, 19 de mayo de 2014

Cuarteto Casals JOSEPH HAYDN Die sieben letzten Worte

Haydn wrote his 'Seven Last Words' in 1786/87 for Good Friday devotions in Cádiz. Although the custom in Cádiz was to perform an oratorio, Haydn's brief was in fact to write seven movements for orchestra alone, each creating a mood inspired by one of the sayings attributed to the dying Christ. He chose to frame them with a further slow movement called ‘Introduzione’ and a concluding Presto entitled ‘Il Terremoto’, intended to depict the earthquake that occurred after Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51).
This purely instrumental ‘oratorio’ consisting of seven contemplative slow movements was by no means an easy task; but the outcome was a work of sublime nobility, which in Haydn’s own transcription for string quartet has enjoyed unfailing popularity ever since.
It is entirely appropriate that this recording of Haydn’s 'Seven Last Words of Christ' should be performed by the Cuarteto Casals, for the work represents one of the few surviving traces of the composer’s flourishing relationship with Spain, where his music seems quickly to have become as popular as it was in France and Britain.

domingo, 18 de mayo de 2014

Ophélie Gaillard / Pulcinella Orchestra CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH

This programme presents a portrait, on the tercentenary of the composer's birth, of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), who was probably the most gifted of the sons of the famous Johann Sebastian Bach. Highly admired in his own century by Haydn, Gluck and Mozart, he stands out today as a brilliant and highly original composer.
'A musician cannot move others unless he is himself moved: it is essential for him to experience all the moods he wishes to arouse in his listeners. [...] In languid, sad places, he will become languid and sad; this must be both audible and visible.'
For Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, music had to be an expression of personal feelings. To achieve his aim, he did not hesitate to revolutionise the established principles of form, harmony and rhythm. His compositions are very personal and very free, with sudden changes of key, uneven phrase lengths and strong and unexpected contrasts, so that his music constantly holds the listener's attention.
The Trio Sonata 'Sanguineus und Melancholicus' is a rarity in the composer's output in that it is a quasi-programmatic work. It presents a conversation between two persons, the one sanguine (first violin) and the other melancholic (second violin). The same duality is found throughout the recordings presented here, from the well-known Sinfonia no. 5 to the two brilliant cello concertos.
With this revolutionary music, we find ourselves a whirl of emotions! Under the bow of cellist Ophélie Gaillard, at the head of the virtuosic Pulcinella Orchestra, these pieces come as a revelation!

jueves, 15 de mayo de 2014

Danny Driver HANDEL The Eight Great Suites

John Cluer published Handel’s 'Suites de pieces pour le clavecin' in November 1720. Hyperion’s set by harpsichordist Paul Nicholson (6/95) is one of the finest recordings of Handel’s ‘Eight Great Suites’ ever made, so it seems fair enough that now the label allows pianist Danny Driver a crack of the whip using a Steinway.
The scalic flourishes of the First Suite’s Prelude instantly reveal Driver’s nimble fingerwork, meticulous control over dynamic accentuation on key harmonic features and judicious use of the sustain pedal. The rippling D minor arpeggios of the Prelude to Suite No 3 transfer to the piano thrillingly; I’m not entirely sold on some dynamic exaggerations and smudginess in the same suite’s enormous penultimate set of variations but the theatrical Presto finale is enunciated crisply. Driver’s softly shaded Prelude to Suite No 6 in F sharp minor is a clear instance where the French overture style would function entirely differently on a harpsichord, and some listeners might miss the explosive dramatic tension of a double-manual harpsichord’s sonorous plucked strings in the Ouverture and Chaconne that open and close Suite No 7 in G minor; if one was to try for that impact on a piano it would probably bury the music, so Driver’s pragmatic solution of textural transparency is an effective alternative treatment of the material. However, the Italianate Adagio that opens Suite No 2 in F major seems naturally suited to a legato Steinway approach.
Most of Handel’s French-style intricate dance movements are played with dignified tenderness: the consecutive allemandes and courantes always have a delicate balance between cantabile warmth in the elegant upper melody, softly precise inner details and a lightly flowing bass-line. The quick Fugue that launches Suite No 4 in E minor has a sparkling clarity that any eminent Baroque specialist keyboardist would be pleased with. If you want to hear these pieces played on a sleek grand piano using an engagingly post-historical approach, with flawlessly stylish ornamentation (eg the embellished vocalising line in the Sarabande from No 7) and a variety of dynamic nuances (the Chaconne in G major), then look no further. (Gramophone / May 2014)

miércoles, 14 de mayo de 2014

Ursula Oppens / Bruce Brubaker MEREDITH MONK Piano Songs

Celebrating Meredith Monk as composer, this album of Piano Songs presents a sonic world at once playful and earnest, familiar to those who know the one-of-a-kind universe created in her groundbreaking works for voice. Drawn from music composed between 1971 and 2006, these pieces for piano duet and piano solo are performed by two of today’s most distinguished interpreters of new music: Ursula Oppens and Bruce Brubaker. These works are “songs” because they have roots in Monk’s pieces for voice and because they are direct, specific and imagistic. The composer on writing for two pianos: “I delved into different relationships and the possibilities between them; material passed back and forth, dialogues, interlocking phrases, shifts of figure and ground. In some pieces, I emphasized the individuality of each piano, writing for one player as the ‘singer,’ the other as the ‘accompaniment’; in other pieces, I wanted the two pianos to make one large sound.”
As a creator of new opera and music theater pieces, Monk has been hailed for her pioneering work with extended vocal technique and interdisciplinary performance; over a career of nearly 50 years, she has explored the voice as an instrument unto itself. Yet long before she began composing music for the voice, Monk wrote short piano studies as a music student inspired by the examples of Mompou, Satie and Bartók. She returned to composing for piano in the early ’70s, producing pieces that had their “own topography, texture and mood,” as she writes in the liner notes to Piano Songs. In her piano music, “directness, purity, asymmetry and, above all, transparency have always been important to me. The surface of the music is seemingly simple but the intricacy of detail and the combination of restraint and expressivity challenge the performer. Every gesture is exposed and clear.” 
Reflecting Piano Songs, Brubaker says: “There’s an intriguing balance in Meredith’s piano music between simplicity and a kind of music you’ve never really heard before. It feels familiar and strange at the same time. Some elements can sound almost like folk music, but they can be challenging in the way they fit together. Meredith’s music has a wonderful inevitability to it, as if she discovered it as much as composed it.”

martes, 13 de mayo de 2014

Anne Gastinel BACH Cello Suites

Anne Gastinel is one of France's most frequently recorded and highly regarded cellists. Having performed the bulk of the instrument's standard repertoire, she has made a name for herself through her powerful, clean, technically proficient, and musically fulfilling recordings. Her foray into the Bach cello suites, by and large, is similarly pleasing. Although she was once allowed to play on Casals' legendary Goffriller cello, for this album she must "settle" for a magnificently deep and projecting 1690 Testore instrument. Gastinel tends to favor swift tempos throughout the Six Suites, never quite stepping over the line of being too fast or rushed, but definitely pushing the envelope. Her technical prowess cannot be faulted as she executes even the most nimble of passages with apparent ease and cleanliness. Intonation is solid, tone color is delightfully varied, and Naïve's recorded sound quality is present but still warm and inviting. The only area some listeners may find questionable is rhythm, which Gastinel almost continuously morphs. Sometimes, like in most of the dance movements, the rhythmic alterations are more slight, elongating notes here and there to outline form. However, these are dances, and listeners may find their lack of rhythmic integrity off-putting. Some of the preludes, however, are greatly altered rhythmically. The Prelude from the C major Suite, for example, is so altered that someone taking rhythmic dictation from Gastinel's playing would never in a million years come up with what is actually printed in the score. Listeners who appreciate this kind of fluidity will no doubt find her playing quite enjoyable; those who prefer a bit more formality may not be as satisfied. (Mike D. Brownell)

lunes, 12 de mayo de 2014

HELENA TULVE Arboles lloran por lluvia

Recorded in churches in Tallinn as well as the Estonian Concert Hall, the five compositions heard on “Arboles lloran por lluvia” (Trees cry for rain) give deeper insight into the unique sound-world of Helena Tulve, into music which is nourished by both contemporary and ancient currents. Tulve draws upon a wide-range of inspirational sources. She explores the raw fabric of sound and the nature of timbre in both analytical and instinctive ways, in compositions that are unmistakably her own, yet her work is inclusive – here incorporating aspects of Gregorian chant, melody from Yemenite Jewish tradition, and texts from Sufi, Sephardic and Christian mystic poetry. Strong performances by the soloists, above all Arianna Savall – featured on “silences/larmes”, “L’Équinoxe de l’âme” and the title track – and the choral, chamber and orchestral forces marshalled by Jaan-Eik Tulve and Olari Elts make Helena Tulve’s second ECM New Series recording a most impressive successor to the critically-acclaimed “Lijnen”.
The five compositions heard on Arboles lloran por lluvia give deeper insight into the unique sound-world of Helena Tulve, into music nourished by both contemporary and ancient currents. The Estonian composer draws upon a wide-range of inspirational sources. She explores the raw fabric of sound and the nature of timbre in both analytical and instinctive ways, in compositions that are unmistakably her own, yet her work is inclusive – here incorporating aspects of Gregorian chant, melody from Yemenite Jewish tradition, and texts from Sufi, Sephardic and Christian mystic poetry. Strong performances by the soloists, above all soprano and harpist Arianna Savall – featured on “silences/larmes”, “L’Équinoxe de l’âme” and the title track – and the choral, chamber and orchestral forces marshalled by Jaan-Eik Tulve and Olari Elts make Helena Tulve’s second ECM New Series recording a powerful successor to the critically-acclaimed Lijnen. The compositions, all receiving their recorded premieres here, are “Reyah hadas 'ala”(written in 2005), “silences/larmes”” (2006), “Arboles lloran por lluvia” (2006), “Extinction des choses vues” (2007), and “L'Équinoxe de l'âme”(2008).

domingo, 11 de mayo de 2014

Ensemble Modern ZAPPA The Yellow Shark

During his last years, Frank Zappa concentrated on his "serious music," trying to impose himself as a composer and relegating the rock personality to the closet. His last two completed projects topped everything he had done before in this particular field. The Yellow Shark, an album of orchestral music, was released only a few weeks before he succumbed to cancer (the computer music/sound collage album Civilization Phaze III was released 14 months later). This CD, named for a plexiglas fish given to Zappa in 1988, culls live recordings from the Ensemble Modern's 1992 program of the composer's music. The range of pieces goes from string quartets ("None of the Above") to ensemble works, from very challenging contemporary classical to old Zappa favorites. The latter category includes a medley of "Dog Breath Variations" and "Uncle Meat," "Pound for a Brown," "Be-Bop Tango," and the Synclavier compositions "The Girl in the Magnesium Dress" and "G-Spot Tornado" transcribed for orchestra. Being more familiar, these bring a lighter touch, but the real interest of the CD resides in the premiere recordings. "Outrage at Valdez," the piano duet "Ruth Is Sleeping," and "Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America, 1992" are all the gripping works of a mature composer, strongly influenced by Varèse and Stravinsky but overwhelmed by them. But the crowning achievement is "Welcome to the United States," a more freeform piece based on the U.S. visa form. Zappa shined when ridiculing stupidity. The average fan of the man's rock music will most probably feel lost in The Yellow Shark, but for those with interests in his serious music it is an essential item, more so than the London Symphony Orchestra and Orchestral Favorites albums. (

sábado, 10 de mayo de 2014

Dunedin Consort / John Butt WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Requiem

Purely on grounds of performance alone, this is one of the finest Mozart Requiems of recent years. John Butt brings to Mozart the microscopic care and musicological acumen that have made his Bach and Handel recordings so thought-provoking and satisfying. As with all of Butt’s recordings, however, this Mozart Requiem is something of an event. The occasion is the publication of a new edition – by David Black, a senior research fellow at Homerton College, Cambridge – of the ‘traditional’ completion of this tantalisingly unfinished work,of which this is the first recording. Süssmayr’s much-maligned filling-in of the Requiem torso has lately enjoyed a resurgence in its acceptance by the scholarly community – not that it has ever been supplanted in the hearts and repertoires of choral societies and music lovers around the world. The vogue for stripped-back and reimagined modern completions is on the wane and Süssmayr’s attempt, for all its perceived inconsistencies and inaccuracies, is once again in favourin the crucible of musicological criticism.
After all, as Black points out in the preface to his score, ‘Whatever the shortcomings of Süssmayr’s completion, it is the only document that may transmit otherwise lost directions or written material
from Mozart’.
Black has returned to the earliest sources of the work: Mozart’s incomplete ‘working’ score, Süssmayr’s ‘delivery’ score and the first printed edition of 1800, which even so soon after the work’s genesis was already manifesting accretions and errors that place us at a further remove from Mozart’s
intentions. For all the textual emendations this engenders, the actual difference as far as the general listener is concerned is likely to be minimal; while we Requiemophiles quiver with delight at
each clarified marking, to all intents and purposes what is presented here is the Mozart Requiem as it has been known and loved for more than two centuries.
It is Butt’s minute attention to these details, though, that makes this such a thrilling performance. He fields a choir and band of dimensions similar to the forces at the fi rst performance of the complete work on January 2, 1793, little over a year after Mozart’s death, and the effect is, not unexpectedly, to wipe away the impression of a ‘thick, grey crust’ that was felt so palpably by earlier commentators on the work. Listen, for example, to Mozart’s miraculous counterpoint at ‘Te decet hymnus’ in the Introit or Süssmayr’s rather more clumsy imitation in the ‘Recordare’, and hear how refreshingly the air circulates around these potentially stifl ing textures.
Butt’s outlook on the work is apparent from the very beginning: the gait of the string quavers is more deliberate than limping in the fi rst bar, and this purposefulness returns in movements such as the ‘Recordare’ and ‘Hostias’.
The extremes of monumentality and meditativeness in the Requiem are represented perhaps by Bernstein and Herreweghe respectively; Butt steers a course equidistant between the two without compromising the work in its many moments of austerity or repose.
Paradoxically, Butt’s fidelity to the minutiae of the score allows him the freedom to shape a performance of remarkable cumulative intensity, so that the drama initiated in the driving ‘Dies irae’ reaches a climax and catharsis in the ‘Lacrimosa’ and is recalled in the turbulent Agnus Dei.
The choir is of only 16 voices, from which the four soloists step out as required. Blend and tuning are of an accuracy all too rarely heard, even in this golden age of British choral singing. Soprano Joanne Lunn’s tone is well nourished, with vibrato deployed judiciously to colour selected notes or phrases; of the other soloists, Matthew Brook’s bass responds sonorously to the sounding of the last trumpet (in German ‘die letzte Posaune’ – the last trombone) in the ‘Tuba mirum’. Instrumental sonority, too, is meticulously judged: hear especially the voicing of the brass-and-wind chords during bridge passages in the ‘Benedictus’ or the shifting orchestral perspectives of the ‘Confutatis’.
The couplings are also carefully considered. The first is Misericordias Domini, an offertory composed in 1775 of which Mozart had a set of parts copied in 1791.
Sharing with the Requiem its key and a gleeful exploitation of contrapuntal techniques, it piquantly demonstrates the advance in Mozart’s church style during the last 16 years of his life.
The disc closes with what purports to be a re-enactment of an even earlier ‘first performance’ of the Requiem. While the 1793 Vienna concert is well documented, recent research has suggested that the
Requiem (or at least some of it) was performed in a memorial to Mozart on December 10, 1791 – only five days after his death. Given the partial state of the work (only the Introit was complete in Mozart’s hand), it is supposed that this performance consisted of the Introit and the ensuing Kyrie fugue, for which an amanuensis filled in the doubling woodwind parts.
That performance is hypothesised here with slimmed-down vocal and string parts, and with trumpets and drums missing from the Kyrie (on the presumption that the parts hadn’t been provided by that time). Starker still than the larger performance, this telling appendix offers a tantalising glimpse of the music that might have been played by Mozart’s friends and students as they struggled to come to terms with their loss. (Recording of the Month /Gramophone, May 2014)

viernes, 9 de mayo de 2014


Originally conceived as a Royal Ballet-commissioned collaboration between composer Max Richter, choreographer Wayne McGregor and artist Julian Opie, Max Richter’s gorgeous score to ‘infra’ is deservedly given life of its own in this album-length release from FatCat’s instrumental/orchestral imprint 130701 Records.
The initial setting for ‘infra’ was as a ballet - written in autumn 2008 and premiered in November of the same year at The Royal Opera House in London – although here Richter’s score is given the full scope of a standalone new album. Expanded and extended from the original piece, ‘infra’ comprises music written for piano, electronics and string quintet, including the full performance score as well as material that has subsequently developed from the construction of the album – more a continued reference to the ballet than as a “studio album” in the strictest sense. The composition resonates with Max’s characteristic musical voice – majestic, involved textures; fluent and sweeping melodies; an enigmatic and inherently intellectual understanding of harmonic complexities that compels and mesmerizes.
Richter’s work on the ballet came initially from McGregor’s invitiation, a request for 25 minutes of music for his piece, inspired by T.S. Elliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ and named after the Latin term for ‘below’. This eventually became more collaborative as the project developed – Wayne would ask for Max to extend or alter certain passages of music in accordance with his own amendments to his choreography and concept, whilst logging the whole process for a BBC documentary (broadcast, along with the ballet in full, on BBC2 in November 2008). The dance performance was backed with digital images created by Julian Opie – observational scenes of street life, haunting and curiously balletic despite being of the everyday – and Max’s score is an appropriately close reference to the traveling theme:
“I started thinking about making a piece on the theme of journeys. Like a road movie. Or a traveler’s notebook. Or like the second unit in a film - when the scene has been played, and the image cuts away to the landscape going by. This started me thinking about Schubert's devastating and haunting "Winterreise" (Winter Journey), so I used some melodic material from Schubert as a found object in parts of my new piece.“

jueves, 8 de mayo de 2014

Kronos Quartet NIGHT PRAYERS

To a Cold War generation reared to believe that only official arts could flourish in the harsh cultural climate of the Soviet Union, the discovery of a vast and fantastically varied world of music came as not just one surprise, but many. Even during the dark Brezhnev years, the part-Tatar, part Russian Sofia Gubaidulina was improvising with a group of unapproved folk musicians and developing a musical language for her even more strenuously unauthorized Russian Orthodox faith. In Georgia, Giya Kancheli was producing music of quiet theatricality, and explosive reverence. In Azerbaijan, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh was charging down two simultaneously un-Soviet paths: Viennese modernism in the spirit of Arnold Schoenberg, and mugham, the classical folk music of her homeland. In the 1990s, after the Soviet empire collapsed, the Kronos Quartet was quick to capitalize on the newly popular rubric of Eastern European mysticism, which included, somewhat awkwardly, composers who had little more in common than a spirit of non-materialistic transcendence. Night Prayers is not so much a collection of religious music as a mood album, a document of a time when composers found refuge from their historical era in an elaborately constructed sense of timelessness. (Justin Davidson)

miércoles, 7 de mayo de 2014


A Thousand Thoughts, whose title comes from the traditional Swedish melody that opens the program, is not a release of new material but a compilation of prior Kronos Quartet performances that draw on international materials. They go back as far as 1989, but the majority come from after 2000, when this aspect of the group's repertoire has become more important. As such, reactions to them may well depend on whether listeners think this kind of experiment represents laudable curiosity or a drive-by approach to world music. Even the detractors, though, would do well to note the following positives. The Kronos Quartet has been highly influential in this regard, as it has in so many others, and it's due to their efforts that it's commonplace nowadays to hear tango music (as heard here) or something similar on a string quartet recital. The group does not simply rely on standards that fit the quartet medium but often feature representatives of the ethnic traditions involved, pushing themselves a bit to enter into exotic sound worlds. (Especially successful in this regard is the concluding version of Danny Boy, sung by the late Texas country singer and yodeler Don Walser, the so-called Pavarotti of the Plains; this version was available on one of Walser's albums but is not exactly a common item.) The sound engineering associated with the Kronos has always been high-class, and this collection of live and studio tracks recorded over almost a 25-year period holds together as a unit quite well. Likewise, the quartet itself has maintained a consistent sound over the several changes in personnel represented here. This has the potential to serve as a good sampler for those interested in the ethnomusicological side of contemporary chamber music. (James Manheim)

martes, 6 de mayo de 2014

Kim Kashkashian TIGRAN MANSURIAN Monodia

Tigran Mansurian connects through his work to cultural and emotional groundsprings that are important to him, particularly hints of indigenous Armenian music. He also takes note of his current musical environment, and this sense of inner and outer elements combining informs both the music on these discs and the way it is played – especially by fellow-Armenian Kim Kashkashian. … The Viola Concerto is both moving and mercurial, sometimes grounded in faith or earth, at other times clouded and troubled, even close to defiance… The economically scored Violin Concerto is again rich in unaccompanied material and Leonidas Kavakos seems to relish every note, especially in the many higher-reaching passages. … “Lachrymae” for soprano saxophone and viola finds Kashkashian and Garbarek intertwined in an embrace of pitches and textures, each adapting to, or mirroring, the other’s soundworld. “Confessing Faith” for viola and voices sets prayers by the 12th-century Armenian poet and musician St Nerses Shnorhali, its bold incantations scaling peaks of expressive intensity, especially whenever the countertenor David James enters. The viola’s warm and occasionally abrasive contribution acts as a sort of humanising presence.
Monodia set me thinking along various fronts. Firstly, about the strength and innate soulfulness of Kashkashian’s musicianship, so profoundly suited to the viola. Then the creative excitement of combining unlikely instrumental timbres, and the question of music bridging different faiths, or at the very least different branches of the same faith. … Balancing and sound quality are immaculate.
(Rob Cowan, Gramophone)

viernes, 2 de mayo de 2014

Arcangelo / Jonathan Cohen MONTEVERDI Love and Loss

Gramophone Award-winning ensemble Arcangelo (in their first recording as a vocal and instrumental group) presents a selection from Monteverdi’s last three books of madrigals. These ardent and passionate works are microcosms of Monteverdi’s great operas, and among his most celebrated music.
Most of the madrigals of Book 6 (1614) are songs of parting and loss. Book 7 (1619) is entitled Concerto, meaning that all the works it contains require instrumental accompaniment. And Book 8 (1638) introduces the genere concitato—the ‘agitated’ manner that Monteverdi devised to convey the emotions of war, whether physical or psychological. Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda sets an extended passage from Tasso’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata. Tasso’s text, set in the time of the first crusade, tells of the combat between the Christian knight Tancredi and the Saracen maiden Clorinda. Most of the action of the Combattimento is conveyed by a narrator (Testo—the text), sung here by celebrated tenor James Gilchrist.

The latest disc from Jonathan Cohen’s virtuoso ensemble Arcangelo is a musical love story, complete with lovers’ quarrel (a sword-battle to the death, no less), tearful partings and tragic endings. Bringing together the Sestinas from Books 6-8 of Monteverdi’s madrigals, the programme explores the gamut of the composer’s mature style, evolving from the crystallised 'prima prattica' perfection of Book 6 to the 'genere concitato' (agitated style) of Book 8. All of Cohen’s singers come from the world of opera, and it shows in performances that place the drama of 'le parole' to the fore. The astonishing harmonic flexibility and melodic narrative of Monteverdi’s writing translates here into urgent drama. You can’t turn away from the musical convulsions of Clorinda’s death (Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Book 8), nor doubt the simple agony of the lover in Book 6’s Sestina Lagrime d'amante al sepolcro dell'amata. If occasionally voices over-exert, strive a little too earnestly to make their case (tenors and sopranos both push hard through the chorus ‘Ei l’armi cinse’ from Volgendo il ciel) then it seems a fair trade for so vivid an aural staging. But among so much vocal athleticism, it’s still the instrumentalists of the ensemble that dominate, setting the disc apart from the excellent I Fagiolini recordings that come closest vocally to this kind of abandon. Sitting midway between the nervous energy of Alessandrini’s Concerto Italiano and the more measured intensity of Jordi Savall for the Book 8 works, Arcangelo’s musicians deploy rough-edged expressive risk-taking within a framework of complete stylistic control. The result is so exciting that Merula’s throwaway Ciaccona for violins and continuo—all quasi-improvisatory brilliance and fire—risks being the best thing here. (Gramophone)