lunes, 30 de junio de 2014

SVEN HELBIG Pocket Symphonies



Sven Helbig is a young German composer equally drawn to classical, pop and hip-hop modes, probably most famous for his orchestrations on Pet Shop Boys' Battleship Potemkin and The Most Incredible Thing. That populist spirit informs this debut release, with emotionally expansive pieces restricted to pop-song length.
The unnatural compression works in some cases like film music, bringing an evocative potency to the likes of “Gone” and “Eisenhüttenstadt. Elsewhere, ”Am Abend“ is a reflective piano piece akin to Einaudi, the weightless rising triplets of ”Autumn Song“ are like leaves borne on breeze, while the chugging strings and urgent double-time piano of ”Frost“ reflect the industrious rhythmic drive of minimalism.



domingo, 29 de junio de 2014

Heinz Holliger / Erich Höbarth / Camerata Bern JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis


Heinz Holliger soars through Bach’s music for oboe in his first ECM recital of core classical repertoire since his 1997 account of Zelenka’s Trio Sonatas. Recorded at Radio Studio Zürich in December 2010, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis”, draws upon Holliger’s long artistic relationship with Camerata Bern and leader Eric Höbarth, the production rendering every detail in the music, the elegance of Holliger’s phrasing, the tactile sound of baroque bows on gut strings, crystal clear. Holliger dedicates this very special recording to the memory of his brother, theatre director Erich Holliger, and Gabriel Bürgin, pianist, friend and colleague.
Johann Sebastian Bach relied on the oboe to voice some of the most exquisite instrumental passages in his cantatas and orchestral works, these solo parts adding up to what Heinz Holliger terms a "miraculous wealth" of music for the oboe. Holliger, one of the world's consummate oboists for five decades now, as well as a prize-winning composer and conductor –presents a collection of this music drawn from the sinfonia introductions to several sacred cantatas, the sinfonia from the Easter Oratorio and versions of three Bach concertos made for oboe, strings and continuo. These include the sublime Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe, with the solo violin part played by Erich Höbarth, who also directs the Camerata Bern throughout the album. Also included is Alessandro Marcello's Oboe Concerto in D minor, a piece Bach appreciated enough to rework for solo harpsichord.

sábado, 28 de junio de 2014

Esa-Pekka Salonen / Los Angeles Philharmonic LUTOSLAWSKI The Symphonies


This complete set of Witold Lutoslawski's symphonies is a mixture of old and new. The second, third, and fourth symphonies are reissues of recordings made in the 1980s and 1990s during Esa-Pekka Salonen's tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; all were acclaimed readings, and the 1985 version of the sizzlingly orchestrated Symphony No. 3, by now Lutoslawski's most commonly programmed and recorded work, has held up well against newer recordings. What's new is the Symphony No. 1, recorded in the new Walt Disney Hall to round out the set in commemoration of the composer's 100th birthday. (The entire recording of the symphony is new, although the bizarre numbering of the tracks makes this difficult to figure out.) This work is not often played. Lutoslawski wrote it in occupied Warsaw and managed to physically carry the score out of the city during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and hide with it in an attic for eight months. Later he expressed a negative attitude toward the piece, but it's well worth hearing. It might be described as overgrown neo-classicism, with short sonata-form movements and strong traces of Prokofiev and Albert Roussel, but with harmonic density, Lutoslawski's complex orchestration, and his characteristic bristly counterpoint breaking out everywhere. Salonen still ranks as Lutoslawski's foremost champion, and these four symphonies, evenly distributed over 50 years of the composer's career, form an arresting portrait of the figure in whose work modernism and the traditional symphonic medium seem most closely reconciled. If there's a complaint here, it's that the remastering, although quite good, cannot compensate for the sonic differences between Walt Disney Hall and the earlier recordings in a studio and in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The set makes you want to hear all four symphonies conducted by Salonen in the new hall, which seems tailor-made for Lutoslawski. (James Manheim)

viernes, 27 de junio de 2014

Michael Riesman PHILIP GLASS Dracula


In 2004 Orange Mountain Music released an album of solo piano transcriptions of Philip Glass’ Oscar and Golden Globe nominated score to The Hours.  These transcriptions were done by Glass’ longtime Music Director and pianist Michael Riesman.
Mr Riesman’s solo piano transcription of The Hours score proved so successful that Orange  Mountain Music was inspired to approach Riesman again to make an arrangement of Glass’ haunting score to Todd Browning’s 1931 classic Dracula which starred Bela Lugosi.
Glass’ original score was written for string quartet and was recorded and toured by the Kronos Quartet. This new arrangement of the score is treated to a truly virtuosic performance by Michael Riesman and includes a previously unrecorded track which was composed by Glass but was left out of the soundtrack recording.
Riesman’s extraordinary playing brings life and phenomenal craftsmanship to a seemingly timeless musical score.

Balanescu Quartet MICHAEL NYMAN String Quartets 1-3


Dedicated to the memory of musicologist Thurston Dart (or “Thruston Brat” as one of my university lecturers fondly referred to him), Nyman’s First Quartet takes as its basis a piece by the English composer John Bull (a set of variations on the tune Wallsingham ). Yet it is also influenced by the tendency of some quartet music to struggle against the boundaries of its instrumentation (specifically, the point of inspiration was a performance of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge by the Arditti Quartet). Other quotations, including from Schoenberg’s Second Quartet, litter the score in an attempt to make the piece a summation of the string quartet medium this far, all within a minimalist aesthetic. So, huge ambitions for a work that lasts shy of 26 minutes. The movements all have titles, along the lines of “John Bull I,” “Arnold Schoenberg 2,” “Michael Nyman I,” and even “John Bull meets Arnold Schoenberg.” All this is fascinating, and what comes across is a delight in the musical cryptography from the composer, and a reciprocal excitement from the Balanescu Quartet.
The First Quartet is heard third; the Second is heard first. The Second is based on a dance piece, Miniatures . The performer of that dance piece, Shobana Jeyasingh, put down the rhythmic elements. It begins in an expansive, lyric mode. As with much of Nyman, he will present his musical ideas early on, if not immediately, in a movement, and then stick to his trajectory. The music is heartfelt, although the innocent ear might be hard pressed to find Indian influences.
The Third Quartet (1990) centers on beauty. The easeful accents that open it present the musical ideas for what is to come. The control of the performers in the slower second movement is beyond reproach, and they bring about the gradual crescendos with consummate ease. Based on music for a BBC documentary called Out of the Rains , it too owes something to Dart, as it was Dart who had sent Nyman to Romania on a music-finding expedition. Material from that trip is heard layered onto music form the documentary: the composite result is never less than fascinating, aurally.
These quartet recordings were recorded in 1991 and first released on the Argo label. Both discs under review here are impressive in the extreme and fully worthy of investigation.
(FANFARE: Colin Clark)

jueves, 26 de junio de 2014

Fidelio Trio MICHAEL NYMAN Piano Trios 1992 - 2010

MN Records is aiming to record the complete chamber works of Michael Nyman. Here are the first fruits, two volumes that help provide a portrait of this fascinating figure. The first is subtitled, “Piano Trios 1992–2010.” Originally written for the Michael Nyman Band and the film of the title’s name in 2000, this 2010 version of Poczatek is given here in a version prepared specially for the Fidelio Trio. The film was commissioned by the Polish Cultural Institute to accompany the composer’s own choice of excerpts from Polish film. The performance here positively sparkles. Rhythmically skipping unison lines are full of vitality. An objectivized element to the performance only serves to make the listening experience of this sequence of vignettes all the more refreshing. The piece is beautifully varied, and finds Nyman painting in principally primary colors.
The Photography of Chance (2004) was commissioned to celebrate the landscape of Utah and is dedicated to the British disc jockey John Peel. As in the case of Poczatek , this disc presents the premiere recording. There are some tremendously poignant long lines, contrasted with more active, gestural sections that seem to link to Messiaen. It is a tremendously interesting, involving score whose inner vitality is supremely rendered here by the Fidelio Trio. Nyman plays on the contrast of the two planes of expression effectively. It sustains its 20 minute duration with ease. The 2002 piece Yellow Beach is described by the composer as a “transfigured version of Come Unto Thee Yellow Sands performed by the Michael Nyman Band in Prospero’s Books. ” Engaging and yet at times massively expressive, Yellow Beach emerges as a masterpiece of concise writing (it lasts 6:23). Finally for this disc, the 20-minute Time Will Pronounce , its title taken from lines of a poem by Joseph Brodsky that concerns the deaths in Bosnia in 1992. Nyman divides the instrumental group into piano as one unit and strings acting together as another unit. It sounds like there is some sort of rhythmic powerhouse generator enlivening the performance, such is the intensity of the players. There is much beauty here also (try the section around nine minutes in), and instrumental effects are used tastefully. This piece also holds the most purely minimalist music, and it seems perfectly placed. The sense of timelessness of the work’s closing section is quite mesmerically done here.
(FANFARE: Colin Clark)

miércoles, 25 de junio de 2014

ARVO PÄRT Adam's Lament


I’ve always been an admirer of Arvo Pärt’s music, and certain works I love. But also, at times I’ve started to feel a little burnout with successive releases, which recycle a certain sober, austere, mystical mood. Thus it’s with great pleasure that I can recommend this disc unqualifiedly. It is a complete success, and has some of the composer’s most satisfying music that I’ve heard in quite some time. The reasons for this are:
First, the pieces are quite varied, despite all being clearly from the hand of the same creator. The largest work (over 20 minutes) Adam’s Lament , was a joint 2010 commission of the cities of Istanbul and Tallinn, setting a text by the monk Staretz Silouan (1866-1938), and in keeping with its circumstances, seems to use melodic Middle Eastern modes more than I’m accustomed to in Pärt. But then the disc ends with two lullabies that in their gentle folksiness seem almost like Ländler. At times we hear austere chant, which may suddenly erupt in choral tutti (as Statuit ei Dominus ). At other times there is the bare-boned counterpoint of neomedievalism ( Alleluia-Tropus ). In Salve regina I hear a fullness of harmony and texture that reminds me of Brahms. So the expressive and technical range is satisfyingly broad.
Second, the pacing of all these works has a rightness, no matter how long or short they are. Pärt has truly mastered the control of how any given sound or ensemble fits its proper temporal space, and the rate at which it unfolds. This is one thing that gives the work a quality for which we use words like “natural” and “inevitable”.
Third, the orchestration is masterful. It never stands out unduly, the sound is very full and blended, even when scored for chamber orchestra (again, a Brahmsian virtue). And yet there are also very special touches; examples being more string harmonics and pizzicato than I remember from earlier works, subtle chime tolls in Beatus Petronius , and an accompaniment of cellos that is like a viol consort in L’Abbé Agathon.
Finally, it’s gorgeously performed and recorded. This release has the best possible balance between ECM’s emphasis on highly reverberant acoustics and a clarity that serves the music in its detail. Early in the season, but a Want List contender. (FANFARE: Robert Carl)

martes, 24 de junio de 2014

Keith Jarrett J.S. BACH Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Buch II


If, as I do, you enjoy Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues played on a variety of keyboard instruments, then Keith Jarrett's choice of a piano for Book 1 and a harpsichord for Book 2 may well appeal to you. I have been listening to his performances, especially of Book 1—which has been available for some time ((CD) 835 246-2, 10/88)—many times over and find much both to admire and enjoy. Jarrett seems to me to have successfully bridged the jazz world with the classical, proving himself in the process to be quite a formidable Bach player. There is nothing gimmicky or shallow in his playing; indeed, his fine rhythmic sense allied to a lively feeling for gesture, his grasp of ornament and his sheer spontaneity are aspects of the jazz musician's craft as much as the classical player's and they serve Bach's music extremely well.
If I have a criticism to make of Jarrett's Bach playing, it is that rhythmically he errs on the side of caution, seldom if ever allowing himself that degree of latitude—an effective and important aspect of style—favoured by more seasoned harpsichordists. On the other hand, there is no lack of vitality in his pulse and some readers I know will appreciate his keeping to the straight and narrow. The poetic C sharp major and the D minor Preludes (Book 2) provide good examples.
Listening to Book 2, one cannot but be impressed by Jarrett's fluency and seemingly effortless grasp of a technique which is, after all, quite different from that demanded by the piano. His is gentle, clearly articulated, unfussy and unpretentious playing which reaches the heart of the music without distraction or detour. This is demonstrated in the lovely E flat Prelude, where I distinctly hear Jarrett doing a Glenn Gould and humming along—a good sign rather than a bad one, I always feel.
I part company with him in a mild way over his execution of the grace-note in the three places where it occurs in this same Prelude; but he is in the best company, with players like Davitt Moroney (Harmonia Mundi) offering the same solution. My preference though, is for Kenneth Gilbert (Archiv Produktion) who, along with Wanda Landowska (RCA), Gustav Leonhardt (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi/BMG) and Colin Tilney (Hyperion), fit the passing note more comfortably into the prevailing motion. But, as I implied earlier on, these are performances which are likely to give enduring pleasure, above all, perhaps, for Jarrett's awareness of the music's poetic content. There is a serenity and a sensibility in his playing of the E major Prelude and Fugue, for example, which convey variously the grandeur, the delicate tracery and the poetry of Bach's music while also underlining its timelessness.
In short, an impressive and mainly satisfying release which stands up to comparison with the many fine performances currently available. My first choices remain Moroney (harpsichord), Tilney (clavichord, Book 1; harpsichord, Book 2), Gilbert (harpsichord) and Edwin Fischer (piano—EMI), but Jarrett's interpretation is not far behind in my affection and esteem. The instrument sounds well, but is described rather in the manner of a cheap and probably undrinkable EC wine as Italian/German style. A fine release. (Nicholas Anderson, Gramophone 9/1991)

lunes, 23 de junio de 2014

Keith Jarrett J.S. BACH Das Wohltemperierte Klavier Buch I


Keith Jarrett is not the first pianist to establish himself as a jazz musician and fluent improviser before seeking public recognition as a scaler of 'classical' peaks, as my old 78s of the Andre Previn Trio testify, but to attempt the Eiger by the north face at such an early stage might be regarded as an act of veritable foolhardiness. Maybe so, but here you will find no dead or maimed body at the foot of the mountain. The annotation assumes that the reader does not need to be told the what and the why of the work, and focuses instead on Jarrest's approach to the music, beginning with his statement that ''This music does not need my assistance''. Well of course any music needs the performer's help to bring it to audible life but the leading question is: 'what kind of help is needed?'. Jarrett's answer is that the per former's duty is to understand the structure of this music, to grasp the expressive meaning of the lines without exaggeration and to allow the notes to speak for themselves without imposing extraneous notions. In my review of Schiff's recording (Decca) I commented that: ''If clarity is truly in the mind it will emerge through the fingers'', a view that Jarrett overtly shares and puts into practice; his lines emerge clearly, without the help of pianistic coloration, as does structure without the aid of bloated dynamics. He believes also that, in presenting music written for the harpsichord: ''the piano should not go beyond a certain limit of expression. And a piano version should not be played with the intention: 'Look here what the piano can do for this piece'. The piece is better than the piano.''
These are, then, performances in which tempos, phrasing, articulation and the execution of ornaments are convincing, and in which both instrument and performer serve as unobtrusive media through which the music emerges without 'enhancement'. They may seem too 'cool' for those accustomed to the variously 'personal' utterances of most pianists, even the respectful Schiff, but they accord with Bloch's (quoted) observation that: ''Bach's yearning was not outwardly burning fire, but a deep spirituality remaining within'', and as such I find them deeply rewarding. The piano sound is warmly 'neutral', neither hard nor supersoft, and it is finely recorded. May we have Book 2 please? (John Duarte, Gramophone 10/1988)

domingo, 22 de junio de 2014

FRIEDRICH CERHA / FRANZ SCHREKER


As Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich points out in his liner notes, Friedrich Cerha (born 1926 in Vienna) is a musician who has stood above the “schismatic rivalries” of musical modernism, being one of very few composers associated with both streams of Viennese dodecaphony: J.M. Hauer’s on one side, and Schoenberg’s on the other. The post-Schoenberg school is especially indebted to him for his completion of Act 3 of Alban Berg’s “Lulu”. Around the world, the work continues to be performed in Cerha’s version. In 1958 Friedrich Cerha co-founded the ensemble ‘die reihe’ which remained under his direction until 1983 and continues to be a committed force in the cause of contemporary music. Cerha’s orchestral cycle “Spiegel” and his operas “Baal” and “Der Rattenfänger” are amongst his major works.
In 1989 the Wien Modern Festival commissioned a cello concerto from Cerha. The result was “Phantasiestück in C’s Manier”, now the 2nd movement of the present three-movement concerto completed in 1996, in response to a commission from the Berlin Festival. It is a powerful work of concentrated energy and textural density. Cerha notes that “Intricacy and multi-layeredness are characteristic elements of my recent essays in concerto form.” Cerha sets Heinrich Schiff some tough challenges in his journey through the ever-changing symphonic fabric, and brings the solo cello into arresting timbral combinations with unorthodox instrumentation that includes organ, soprano sax and conga drums, as well as more conventional orchestral forces. Jungheinrich: “The point is not so much colouristic effects as rather, in Cerha’s words, the ‘integration of fundamental modes of musical cognition.’”
Friedrich Cerha has been awarded a number of composition prizes, including the Prize of the City of Vienna (1974) and the Great Austrian State prize (1986) - which he donated for performances of works by young composers. In 2006 he was given the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (leone doro alla carriera) of the Biennale di Venezia.
Franz Schreker’s Chamber Symphony in one movement is a richly inventive work in glowing timbres written in the middle of World War I, in 1916, to celebrate the centenary of the Vienna Academy of Music. Schreker (1878-1934) loved sound above all, dreamed of new instruments, and tried to substitute for their absence with compound blendings. “I often hear sounds that can scarcely be realized with existing means”, he admitted. His visions were timbral, biographer Christopher Hailey has noted, “his complex emotional insights captured in the iridescence of his orchestra.” He sought “a dematerialized array of ever-changing colours. No work better captures this sonic ideal than his Chamber Symphony…Its shimmering opening, in which first the flute, then the violins float above the aural mists of celesta, harmonium, piano and harp, is music of otherworldly magic.”

viernes, 20 de junio de 2014

RICHARD REED PARRY Music for Heart and Breath


Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Richard Reed Parry will issue his new solo album, Music for Heart and Breath, on June 9th through Deutsche Grammophon. It’s his first piece of solo material since 2009′s From Here On Out and follows collaborations with The National, Islands, The Unicorns, and Belle Orchestre, where he plays alongside Arcade Fire violinist Sarah Neufeld. Parry had previously debuted the work live, but this marks the first time it’s been properly released. While the LP’s title might imply it’s a record about love and relationships, it’s actually quite literal: “very soft, very quiet music, played utterly in sych with the heart rates and breathing rates of the musicians performing it”, Parry explained in a statement. “Every note you hear is either in synch with the heartbeat of the person playing it, the breathing of the person (or one of the surrounding persons) playing it,” Parry added. “So what you hear when this music plays is played precisely in time with someone’s quiet, internal rhythms. Brought to musical life by a handful of different ensembles. And now, at last, recorded in full, and coming out on Deutsche Grammophon in a few weeks from now. It has been a joy to create this work, and even more of a joy to have it brought to life by such a fantastic cast of musical minds.”
(Michelle Geslani)

jueves, 19 de junio de 2014

Ralph van Ratt PÄRT Piano Music


Pärt Piano Music by Naxos features pianist Ralph van Raat interpreting the Estonian composer’s music spanning over four decades. This retrospective takes us on a stylistic journey that is truly millennial in scope, while remaining reverent in spirit.
Ralph van Raat plays the allegro passages with a digital precision characteristic of post-war piano music. He imbues the largo passages…with a touching impressionistic quality.
[In] The movements the Partita, Op. 2…the musical language is decidedly modern…making full use of pitch material while not being constricted by serial techniques. The third movement is a study of chords, growing in complexity and dynamics and adhering to a touching…
The guileless simplicity of these diatonic tone-studies enables a very close identification between composer, performer, instrument, and audience, the very essence of effective music.
Van Raat is joined here by JoAnn Falletta leading the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, and I was struck by the similarity between this piano-orchestra pairing and that of other eastern European composers. As Ralph van Raat points out in the liner notes, Pärt believed that the essence of truth “is translated in music by the connection and silence between just two notes.” In these hesitant and vulnerable moments, the orchestra intones the very essence of sorrowful resignation, while the piano dutifully spins out a liturgy of mourning. This is all done not with long, balanced musical phrases or distinct melodic contour, but just a micro-focus on the event of one note being replaced by another in the most unhurried fashion. Lamentabile holds perhaps one of the most arresting English horn solos I have ever heard, fragments of middle-eastern scales appearing and disappearing over an ominous pedal; there is no resolution, but there is no urge, only the last utterances before life is extinguished and returned to the infinite.
There are many contemporary composers who receive coveted commissions, only to see their creations shelved after one performance. Arvo Pärt is that rare living artist who has managed to penetrate the finicky audiences of today and present them with something unmistakably universal. (2012 I Care If You Listen)

lunes, 16 de junio de 2014

Emmanuelle Bertrand LE VIOLONCELLE PARLE


The Harmonia Mundi album Le Violoncelle Parle (The Cello Speaks) takes its name notably from the Pascal Amoyel work for solo cello entitled Itinérance, a slow but evocative work in which the cellist must supplement the cello's own voice with vocalizations from the player him/herself. Beyond that, though, cellist Emmanuelle Bertrand selected her program of well-known works for solo cello as a way of demonstrating her instrument's ability to "speak" and transcend national borders. Her program includes the Russian folk-imbued Third Suite of Benjamin Britten, the Spanish panache and fieriness of Gaspar Cassadó's suite, and finally with the technically taxing and rhythmically exciting Hungarian writing of Zoltan Kodály's Op. 8 Solo Sonata. From start to finish, one thing is abundantly clear: Bertrand is a master of her instrument. Her copious, nearly flawless technique allows her to toss off even the most devilish passages in the Britten and Kodály with seeming ease. Her energies can then be spent on conveying the unique musical styles and languages of each composer, truly allowing her instrument to speak to her listeners. Her sound is magnificently rich and voluminous, and Harmonia Mundi's recorded sound gives listeners a dynamic front-row seat filled with vigorous finger-falls and punctuated breathing. (

sábado, 14 de junio de 2014

Maya Beiser WORLD TO COME

Over the course of her career, cellist Maya Beiser has continued to transcend the traditional boundaries of her instrument, reaching far beyond mere interpretation of the classical repertoire, indeed beyond classical music altogether, to become a creative performer drawing on a variety of genres and influences: Eastern, Western, and South American folk music, jazz, even rock & roll.
"World To Come" finds cellist Maya Beiser at the height of her risk-taking and boundary-crossing ambition. She defies not only cultural differences but also conventional oppositions of artist and medium, music and visual art, live performance and recorded material.
David Lang's "World To Come" is written for solo cello, the title piece incorporates pre-recorded cello tracks, theatrical lighting and video projection. A cellist and her voice are separated from the outset and struggle through out to reunite. As Lang describes it, "World To Come" is an introspective and highly personal prayer, a meditation on hope and hopelessness, and an elegy about the life and death of the soul."
Osvaldo Golijov's "Mariel" contains haunting melodies based on the native music of Northern Brazil this new version is for solo cello, drones and vocals.
World To Come also features Arvo Part's "Fratres," which was written for the eight-cello ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic. Beiser plays the piece herself through multi-tracking.

viernes, 13 de junio de 2014

Duo Gazzana POULENC - WALTON - DALLAPICCOLA - SCHNITTKE - SILVESTROV

Duo Gazzana's second album for ECM New Series unites works from the 20th and 21st centuries with striking narrative character and retrospective glance at music history. Composers from France, Great Britain, Italy, Russia and Ukraine present earlier musical forms - toccata, suite, canons, variations - in the light of new developmental techniques, thereby revealing similarities and relations across centuries, geographical boundaries and contrasting forms of expression.
Alfred Schnittke's “Suite in the Old Style” is indeed a playful if unconventional allusion to compositional style of the past. “Hommage à J.S.B.”, by the Ukrainian living composer Valentin Silvestrov, evokes variations on themes of the Leipzig master. Similarly Luigi Dallapiccola, in his divertissement “Tartiniana seconda”, responds with contrapuntal mastery to the music of the Baroque composer Giuseppe Tartini. William Walton's rarely heard “Toccata”, written when he had just turned 20 years old, virtually overflows with structural ideas related to the virtuosic demands of traditional toccata form. The cadenzas for both the violin and the piano call for quasi-improvisational skills that draw rhythmic impetus from jazz. Vitality and vehemence inform also Francis Poulenc's dramatic “Sonate”, here representing the evolution, on a structural and formal basis, of the simplest and earliest musical forms (toccata, suites, divertissement and variations) used in the compositions of this album. Written in 1942-43 it is dedicated to the memory of the Andalusian poet Federico García Lorca.

miércoles, 11 de junio de 2014

Leila Josefowicz ESA-PEKKA SALONEN Violin Concerto


The initial impulse for writing a concerto for violin was a very inspiring and enjoyable collaboration with Leila Josefowicz on a number of contemporary works in Los Angeles and Chicago. She plays new music with the same kind of dedication and panache others reserve for Brahms, Beethoven and the rest of the gang.
My long and very happy tenure as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic was coming to an end. After 17 years I had decided it was time to move on and try to devote more time for composing. It felt like a seismic shift in my life, and during the composing process of “Violin Concerto” I felt that I was somehow trying to sum up everything I had learned and experienced up to that point in my life as a musician. This sense of having reached a watershed was heightened by the fact that I turned 50, the kind of number that brutally wipes out any hallucinations of still being young.
There is a strong internal, private narrative in my concerto, and it is not a coincidence that the last movement is called "Adieu.” For myself, the strongest symbol of what I was going through is the very last chord of the piece; a new harmonic idea never heard before in the concerto. I saw it as a door to the next part of my life of which I didn't know so much yet, a departure with all the thrills and fears of the unknown. (Esa-Pekka Salonen)

martes, 10 de junio de 2014

Carole Cerasi THOMAS TOMKINS Barafostus Dreame

Many of the keyboard works of Thomas Tomkins were written during the troubled years of the Civil War and following the execution of Charles I, though stylistically they bring to mind music of an earlier generation – of Byrd or Dowland, both of whom Tomkins greatly admired. Several pieces were prompted by the ‘distracted times’ of the mid-17th century and their acidulous chromaticisms, static harmonies and wistful turns of phrase create a sense of melancholy nostalgia, as if the composer were looking back to the rarefied atmosphere of Charles’s court. Despite the limitations of a disc devoted to one genre and one composer (and Tomkins’s keyboard works are not his most inspired music), Carole Cerasi achieves variety through a carefully planned programme, including dances, plainsong settings, variations and fancies, and by using two instruments – a harpsichord and a muselaar virginals. This is playing of high refinement: Cerasi combines meticulous keyboard technique with a sense of restrained spontaneity, fully in keeping with the spirit of Tomkins’s age. The repertoire might be rather too recherché for many tastes, but those interested in early keyboard music will surely be impressed by the playing of this talented artist. (Kate Bolton)

lunes, 9 de junio de 2014

Kenneth Gilbert J.S. BACH Suites pour les Anglois

The English Suites (BWV 806–811) refer to a set of six suites written by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach for harpsichord and generally thought to be the earliest of Bach's 18 suites for keyboard, the others being the 6 French Suites (BWV 812–817) and the 6 Partitas (BWV 825–830). Originally, their date of composition was thought to have been between 1718 and 1720, but more recent research suggests that they are likely to have been composited earlier, around 1715, while the composer was living in Weimar. Bach was obliged to write a new cantata every week during his time at the Weimar court, and the English Suites he composed at this time express Bach's longing for new, instrumental music and held therefore a very special place in Bach's life and work. Later in Köthen and Leipzig he worked on a full-time basis with professional orchestras, providing him an ideal context in which to create orchestral and purely instrumental compositions. Like the French Suites, the use of the term English to describe the Suites was a later addition. The name is thought to date back to a claim made by the nineteenth-century Bach biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel that they were composed for an English nobleman, although no evidence has emerged to substantiate this claim. There are several striking characteristics about the English Suites. Bach includes a highly virtuosic prelude for each, in a departure from the prevailing tradition dictating a strict progression of the dance movements (Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue). By comparison, the later French Suites and Partitas are less strict in form. The Sarabande and Gigue movements in each of the English Suites is never separated by more than a single (twinned) Menuet or Menuet-like movement. Finally, the English Suites are predominantly in the minor key.

domingo, 8 de junio de 2014

Andrew Zolinsky DAVID LANG this was written by hand

On his new album from Cantaloupe Music, this was written by hand, David Lang treats the piano alternately as a eulogizer and as a medium to commune with the departed. Pianist Andrew Zolinsky’s technique is well suited to tastefully render these finely wrought improvisatory pieces, to sound out the meditative character of Lang’s postminimalism. The range of piano articulation presented here stretches from use of the instrument as pitched percussion all the way to liquid, dulcet burbles. Piano music in the contemporary classical world often embraces jazz tropes, or world music idioms, or past stylistic genres. Lang’s piano voice sometimes recalls the phase music of Reich but is for the most part quite original in its complete metrical flexibility (or complete lack of meter in some cases, it seems), and in the way it exhaustively explores all the possibilities of a spare musical form. The tracks here are all character pieces in my opinion. There are no grand statements; on the contrary, the prevailing voice is one of personal introspection, without a hint of sentimentality.
“this was written by hand” opens with a rising white-note motif, bubbling up and echoed upon itself to create a lush texture. Simple modal recitatives sound in the piano’s upper register. Eventually a voice in the tenor range takes tentative steps toward more chromatic territory, fleshing out austere impressions of tone. The piece was the composer’s attempt to revisit the act of writing without the convenience of a computer. It certainly flaunts its agogic freedom. The succession of notes seems to fold back upon itself before having a chance to establish any kind of conventional melody, so bashful are the various voices. The overall impression is of a blinded creature, resigned to slowly feeling about in the dark to find its way. The composition, whose subject is the artistic process itself, has a cunning metatextuality in spite of its chaste tonal garb. The piano is an old soul; it predates automobiles, let alone computers. It is thus fitting that the piano should eulogize that lost time, before the banality of comfort and connectivity in the digital age. (Rob Wendt)

sábado, 7 de junio de 2014

Keith Jarrett HÄNDEL Suites for Keyboard


Having paid tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach in a sequence of New Series recordings of the Well-tempered Clavier, the Goldberg Variations and the French Suites, Keith Jarrett now turns his attention to Bach's near contemporary, Georg Friedrich Händel. The project, in fact, has been in preparation for a long time; Jarrett's liner note informs us that he first began to record Händel's keyboard suites some 20 years ago. The present recording is of particular interest for a number of reasons and not least because it is the first of his albums of baroque music to feature the piano - as opposed to harpsichord - since Book One of the Well-tempered Clavier was issued in 1988. Where, in his Bach recordings, Keith Jarrett has striven to obliterate his musical personality ("This music does not need my assistance"), he feels Händel's "basically unknown" solo keyboard music needs a measure of special pleading. And, though he has gone to "the least tampered with editions" of the suites in the interests of "correctness both musicological and musical", in making the case for their reassessment he permits himself some interpretive leeway in matters of tempi and phrasing. The result is an extremely attractive reading of seven of the Suites for Keyboard that can perhaps be more readily related - particularly in the adagio movements, where Jarrett takes full advantage of the lyrical warmth and textural richness of the material - to aspects of the pianist's improvised recordings than can his Bach interpretations. (Or, to put it another way, these pieces, in the right hands, retain the freshness of improvisation). "Händel was a keyboardist, " Jarrett notes, "and his keyboard works should occupy a higher position in our awareness than they do." Keith Jarrett's playing on this recording invites comparison with his interpretation of Dmitri Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues Op. 87 (a work that creates a bridge, via Bachian inspirational sources, from the baroque to the "modern"). Jarrett's Shostakovich prompted John Rockwell to declare, in the pages of the New York Times: "With this recording, Mr. Jarrett has finally staked an indisputable claim to distinction in the realm of classical music. Even in our multicultural, multistylistic age, it is extremely difficult to cross over from one field to another. Mr. Jarrett, having long since established himself in jazz, can now be called a classical pianist of the first rank."

viernes, 6 de junio de 2014

Simone Dinnerstein BACH Inventions & Sinfonias BWV 772 - 801


Brooklyn-born pianist Simone Dinnerstein made her mark with Bach, diverging from time to time into modern crossover experiments. This recording of Bach's well-worn Inventions and Sinfonias, BWV 772-801, follows in the path blazed by her earlier Bach releases and even extends it a bit, for the Inventions and Sinfonias are easier to treat as individual character pieces than, say, the Goldberg Variations. And that's just what Dinnerstein does here. Each piece has a specific atmosphere teased out of its simple counterpoint, and it's a bit hard to imagine Bach's reaction to a few of these. But really Dinnerstein is no Glenn Gould, and her interpretations are personal rather than radical. Mostly they're on the quiet side, and even if you couldn't play them like this on the harpsichord the dynamic range and the variety of tempi are not unduly wide. The trouble with such a subjective reading of Bach is that its reception depends pretty heavily on the individual, but unless you're a confirmed follower of the historical approach you should try this set of Inventions and Sinfonias that turns them into Albumblätter. A point in the album's favor is warm, clear sound from perhaps the premier American recital hall, the Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. (James Manheim)

jueves, 5 de junio de 2014

Anonymous 4 DAVID LANG Love Fail


Composed by David Lang, love fail is a meditation on the timelessness of love that weaves together details from the story of Tristan and Isolde with more modern sources. The recording also spotlights the singular and magical sound of the vocal quartet Anonymous 4, whose longstanding commitment to medieval music and historical scholarship has been acclaimed worldwide. The music and libretto pull together narratives of love from such sources as Lydia Davis, Marie de France, Gottfried von Strassburg, Béroul, Thomas of Britain and Richard Wagner. love fail was commissioned by The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2012 Next Wave Festival, The International Festival of Arts & Ideas, The John F. Kennedy Center Abe Fortas Memorial Fund, The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, The Wake Forest University/Secrest Artists Series, and Hancher Performances at the University of Iowa.
Reviewing the BAM performance for the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini wrote: “It was Mr. Lang’s music, and the ethereal, pure-toned singing of Anonymous 4, that claimed me in the first section of the piece, which begins with the line ‘he was a blessed man.’”
In his liner notes, David Lang poses the question: “It’s ‘the greatest love story ever!’ But why? Of course, there is excitement, drama, love, lust, shame, death, dragons. I think the real reason is because the love of Tristan and Isolde begins by accident—they drink a love potion. They didn’t mean to drink it, and they didn’t mean to fall in love. They drink and—BAM!—it starts. It’s almost a laboratory experiment into what love might be like without any of the complications of how real love begins or works—without the excitement, embarrassment, frustration, guilt or competition present in the courtships of ordinary people.”
The recording of love fail was supported by New Music USA, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and the Doris Duke Performing Artists Awards, and was made possible by annual program support and / or endowment gifts from Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust.

miércoles, 4 de junio de 2014

ANTON BATAGOV Selected Letters Of Sergei Rachmaninoff

In October 2012 I visited Rachmaninoff's grave. He is buried at Kensico Cemetery in the hamlet of Valhalla, half an hour’s ride from New York City. The cemetery is surrounded by picturesque mountains, well-tended houses, manicured lawns, and idyllic lakes and streams. Rachmaninoff is buried among actors, writers, politicians, military personnel, and business people, together with "ordinary mortals" from all over the world – Americans, Russians, Estonians, Chinese people... A great musician who heard the universe as a powerful, boundless space resounding with the sounds of bells at once both tragic and triumphant, Rachmaninoff left Russia and became a part of a completely different world…
As I stood at his grave, I found this space resonating within me. When I returned home, I began writing a piano cycle.
In this cycle, Rachmaninoff writes letters to postmodern composers. Rachmaninoff himself was an anti-modernist. He was not a revolutionary, was never "ahead of his time," and was unafraid of looking old-fashioned. At first glance, it would seem that he bore no influence on late 20th/early 21st century composers. Nonetheless, his invisible, magical presence can in fact be heard in the music of some composers, including so-called "contemporary classical" composers and rock musicians. Likewise, when I hear Rachmaninoff's endless melodies that evolve from a very short motive of literally two or three notes, the word "minimalism" all but rolls off my tongue… However, these connections are so subtle and not readily apparent that I wouldn't want to deaden them by invoking musicological terms.
Rachmaninoff thus speaks to the composers that would come after him. Among composers of his time, he did not find a receptive audience – unsurprising, perhaps, given the avant-garde experiments consuming the musical world at the time. The generation that followed Rachmaninoff essentially continued along the avant-garde path. However, Rachmaninoff looked even further ahead, taking sight of those with whom he desired to speak heart-to-heart.
We have long been accustomed to the fact that both early music and classical music are used as the building materials for new compositions. Time runs quickly, and we are already at the next turn of the spiral. Music written only a short while ago becomes itself material for today’s meditation. In this process, there are no quotations; there are only stylistic journeys in a time machine. The turns of this spiral resonate with one another, and we listen to the sounds they make. (Anton Batagov)

martes, 3 de junio de 2014

ANTON BATAGOV Post Production


Post production is the stage in making movies, television shows and other sorts of audiovisual "productions" in which music, special effects, and various other “miracles” are added to the picture. The music you hear on this CD was written for films and television. It formed part of the story, part of life on screen. Someone made love or killed someone to the accompaniment of this music. Somebody did something; someone walked, drove, or flew somewhere; someone talked, laughed or suffered… The mood was lighthearted or sad. Everything was just like in a movie. I then made one more post production intervention: I turned these soundtracks into solo piano pieces, retaining only the titles of the films and TV shows from which they derive. It does not matter if you have seen them or not. Let this music be a soundtrack for your imagination – for all that you see right now, or wish to see. (Anton Batagov)

lunes, 2 de junio de 2014

Nico Muhly / Owen Pallett / Bryce Dessner / Shara Worden DAVID LANG Death Speaks


Death is present in so many of Schubert's lieder, and those appearances provide the starting point for the five songs that make up David Lang's Death Speaks. Lang went through the 600-plus texts that Schubert set, extracting all the lines that are either attributed explicitly to death, or to characters representing him, translating them "roughly" into English and creating lovesong-like lyrics. The settings are wonderfully spare and insistent, with accompaniments from guitar, piano and violin. Shara Worden, lead singer of My Brightest Diamond, is the vocalist, recorded in a close perspective, while the other work on the disc, Depart, offers a very different kind meditation on death. It was commissioned to be played in a French morgue, a peaceful setting in which the bereaved could see their loved ones for the last time. A sequence of slowly changing drones for wordless women's voices and cello, makes the perfect foil for Lang's naggingly memorable songs. (Andrew Clements / The Guardian)