miércoles, 27 de agosto de 2014

Christophe Rousset J.S. BACH BWV 988 - BWV 971 - BWV 831 - BWV 903 - BWV 825-830

In the United States, Christophe Rousset's Decca recordings of Bach keyboard works have had a spotty history – here today, gone tomorrow. Fortunately, Decca has now repackaged these recordings into a four-disc set that sells for only $7.00 per disc. However, it's best not to assume that the set will indefinitely be on the U.S. market; in other words, snap it up before it's yanked.
Rousset's Decca/Bach recordings are essential for the Bach serious record collector and anyone else who prizes idiomatic interpretations of some of Bach's most compelling and glorious keyboard works. Rousset's style is generally informed by sharp contours, buoyant rhythms, brilliant phrasing, excellent detail of musical lines, poignant slow movements and very speedy and even wild fast movements. Overall, his interpretations crackle with energy. Another trait I love is that Rousset is often youthful and exuberant while at the same time expressing a full life's experience of regret and disappointment. In this regard, his performances remind me of excellent interpretations of Schumann's Kinderszenen where each note displays the maturity of adulthood as well the wonder of a child.
Disc 1 contains a very aggressive Goldberg Variations, and I love every minute of it. The performance is brash and never dawdles; it has great rhythmic bounce and a compelling musical flow. Although youthful exuberance is in abundance, there is a hardened element that creates a gripping aesthetic contrast. I think of this version as "Bach The Bounty Hunter". He busts through all obstacles and always quickly gets his man.
Rousset plays most of the variations with great rhythmic vitality and exhilaration, making this reviewer want to bounce off the walls. Although Rousset's tempos are significantly faster than the norm, he never allows them to diminish emotional content. In the Aria and those variations not conducive to an exhilarating presentation, Rousset is equally compelling. Listen to the pristine beauty and longing of the Aria, the strong contrast between remorse and salvation in Variation 9, the subtle negativity of Variation 11, the bitter/sweet nature of Variation 13, the pathos in Variation 15, the stunning rays of light in Variation 21, the spiritual side of Variation 24 and the bleak terrains of Variation 25 referred to as the "Black Pearl". Yes, Rousset connects on all cylinders, and I have no problem considering his Goldbergs one of the elite versions on the market.
Disc 2 covers four masterful Bach works, and Rousset applies the same magnificent qualities found in his Goldberg Variations. Each performance is in the top echelon with special notice going to the Italian Concerto's exquisite dialogue in the Andante and the visceral excitement of the Presto. Rousset delivers the most propulsive French Overture on record, his 1st Duet is the most austere and commanding I've ever heard, and his interpretation of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue revels in the work's macabre elements.
Discs 3 and 4 contain Bach's 6 Partitas for Keyboard, a rich vein of architectural and emotional variety. In these works I feel that Rousset places greater priority on structural clarity with some dampening of interest in visceral thrills (although there are still many instances of exhilaration). The advantages of clarity reveal that Rousset is both youthful/exuberant and experienced/melancholy in each note and chord he plays. I find the contrasts illuminating and riveting, the result being one of the most rewarding sets on either piano or harpsichord.
As for sound considerations, I am quite pleased that these Decca recordings are much less reverberant than Rousset's recent outings on the Ambroisie label. The Decca sound has plenty of body and depth, and it allows Rousset's sharp phrasing and pin-point articulation to grab hold of the listener.
Except for those allergic to the harpsichord, the Rousset set is an indispensable part of the Bach keyboard enthusiast's music library. These are tremendously vibrant interpretations full of contrast and enlightening detail, so sit yourself down and listen to five wonderful hours of Bach. (Copyright © 2007, Don Satz)

martes, 26 de agosto de 2014

Sergey Khachatryan BACH Sonatas & Partitas

Sergey Khachatryan's unaccompanied Bach is decidedly "old school" in its tapered phrasings and dynamics, with an emphasis on nuance and tone color rather than linear shape. You immediately glean this from the subito pianos, tenutos, and oozing legatos of the C major sonata Fugue. Yet if this particular style of Bach playing holds appeal, then Khachatryan's attractive, sweetly singing timbre and generally spot-on choice of tempos will satisfy on their own terms, to say nothing of the violinist's brisk yet relaxed delivery in fast, virtuosic movements like the G minor sonata's Presto, the B minor partita's second Double, and the E major partita's opening Prelude. However, for an ideal fusion of tonal allure and contrapuntal cogency, James Ehnes remains first choice, notably in the fugues and the stronger architectural unity that distinguishes his pacing of the great D minor Chaconne. Excellent annotations and sound. (Jed Distler)

lunes, 25 de agosto de 2014

Sergey, Lusine & Vladimir Khachatryan BRAHMS - BACH - RAVEL - CHAUSSON - WAXMAN Music for Violin and Piano

This wide-ranging programme in EMI's Debut series is like a musical calling-card for Sergey Khachatryan (born in Armenia in 1985), who submits himself to daunting tests of virtuosity (triumphantly surmounted in Ravel and Waxman) and musicianship. And it's his musical abilities that make the biggest impact, along with his fine, rich, malleable tone.
In the Waxman it's the dark, fatalistic side of Carmen that predominates. The Brahms springs no interpretive surprises--the second and fourth movements are particularly successful, the Adagio splendidly expressive at a flowing tempo, the finale played with driving energy.
In Brahms and Ravel, Khachatryan is partnered by his sister (she, too, looks very young in the
photos, but her age isn't stated). Her contribution is very positive, especially in the Brahms finale and the later stages of Tzigane, when both violin and piano revel in the music's kaleidoscopic textures while having fun with idiomatic rubato and tempo variation.
The Bach 'Chaconne' is impressive, too, for its polish and fine rhythmic control, but Khachatiyan does have something to learn about playing 18th-century music — in particular, to use the slurs to add light and shade to the phrasing, rather than ironing out the difference between slurred and separate notes. His father provides a very sensitive accompaniment in the Chausson. This is another beautiful performance, though ideally I'd have liked more tonal variety and sense of culmination as the Poenze progresses.
Sergey Khachatryan will, I'm sure, further extend his range and capabilities, but meanwhile it's a great pleasure to make the acquaintance of such a talented artist. (Duncan Druce, Gramophone)

miércoles, 20 de agosto de 2014

Pierre-Laurent Aimard J.S. BACH The Well-Tempered Clavier I

As so often with Bach, the plain-sounding title of the Well-Tempered Clavier gives little hint of the riches within. The composer may have intended it as an aid to students out to improve their playing, but the 48 preludes and fugues it contains range from the technically simple to eye-watering five-part fugues, from the insouciant to the dramatic, from the most introverted to the ebullient. 
Pierre-Laurent Aimard has the kind of musical brain that can untangle the music of Ligeti and Elliott Carter, so it's no surprise that he brings to the fugues of Bach an unfailing sense of clarity and purpose. This is music whose overwhelming humanity can be brought vivaciously to life on the piano, as artists as varied as Edwin Fischer, Samuel Feinberg, Glenn Gould, Daniel-Ben Pienaar and Angela Hewitt have shown, offering as it does a wide variety of colour, timbre and dynamic shadings. 
Aimard is on the cooler end of the spectrum, emotionally speaking; while this can work well in the famous C major Prelude or the toccata-like B flat major Prelude, sometimes he seems to underplay Bach's dance impulses (the A major Fugue) while the grief-stricken tread of the Prelude in the blackest of keys, B flat minor, is oddly unmoving. (Harriet Smit)

domingo, 17 de agosto de 2014

Carlos Prieto IBARRA Concerto for Cello & Orchestra - ZYMAN Concerto for Cello & Orchestra - PIAZZOLLA The Grand Tango

Carlos Prieto, Mexican-born and MIT-educated, is one of the most respected cellists in the world, regularly premiering works composed especially for him by Latin American, North American and European composers.
Mr. Prieto began playing the cello at age four, studying with the Hungarian cellist Imre Hartman and later with Pierre Fournier in Geneva and Leonard Rose in New York.
Mr. Prieto´s playing has inspired such rare critical acclaim as “impeccable” (The New York Times), “in true bravura fashion, unafraid, secure, zestful” (The Boston Globe), “distinguished music-making” (San Francisco Chronicle), “remarkable, razor-sharp” (The Star-Ledger), and “impeccable...absolutely gorgeous...breathtaking” (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch), “stunning performance” (The Globe and Mail, Toronto).
He has played with orchestras from all over the world: the Royal Philharmonic in London, the Chamber Orchestra of the European Union, the American Symphony Orchestra in New York, the Boston Pops in Boston, the Louisiana Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of the European Union, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Chamber Orchestra, the Spanish National Orchestra, the Spanish Radio and Television Orchestra, the Irish National Orchestra, the MAV Budapest Orchestra, the Simón Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela and many others.
Remarkable is Carlos Prieto’s contribution to the cello repertoire. Since 1980 he has played the world premieres of over 100 compositions, most of which were written for him by the main composers from Mexico, Latin America, Spain and other countries.

sábado, 16 de agosto de 2014

Ailyn Pérez / Stephen Costello LOVE DUETS

The U.S. duo of soprano Ailyn Pérez and tenor Stephen Costello has garnered considerable publicity in its home country, and now with this new collaboration with the venerable BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, they seem poised to gain a round of admirers across the Atlantic as well. Opera cognoscenti may conclude that their success is due in large part to having the field to themselves right now: opera companies and symphonic programmers, like those in the folk field who roll over and put their hands in the air for the Swell Season and the Civil Wars, can't resist the spectacle of a husband-and-wife team who seem to be experiencing the emotions they sing about. Pérez's voice for many will have a rather plummy quality, while Costello's tenor at times plows ahead with little regard to pitch. But the duo is canny in picking their music, and it's easy to see the appeal in spite of such objections. The album is dedicated to the memory of Richard Tucker, and the duo exploits the musical mix characteristic of that great American crowd-pleaser, combining verismo and semipopular material with musicals standing in for Tucker's beloved operetta. The whole thing seems to work, in spite of individual moments that don't stand up to scrutiny, and the BBC Philharmonic under Patrick Summers takes this kind of basic emotional appeal on its own terms. It's worth watching Pérez and Costello to see where they go next. (James Manheim)

viernes, 15 de agosto de 2014

Isabelle Faust / Ewa Kupiec JANÁCEK Sonate pour violon et piano - LUTOSLAWSKI Partita - SZYMANOWSKI Mythes

Here's a really terrific recital, both enterprising and intelligent, that winds up being much more than the sum of its very considerable parts. Isabelle Faust and Ewa Kupiec play Janácek's quirky Violin Sonata with uninhibited passion, making no attempt to smooth over the music's rough edges but at the same time (as in the gorgeous second-movement Ballada) offering playing of bewitching beauty and fantasy. Kupiec in this respect proves herself a more than worthy partner to her gifted colleague. For example, her approach to La Fontaine d'Aréthuse, the first of Szymanowski's Mythes, points the music's rhythms with unusual care. No impressionistic fog here! The result, when combined with Faust's exquisitely poised tracery in her upper register, must be the most characterful interpretation of this music since the celebrated Danczowska/Zimerman version on DG, and it couldn't be more different--sharply focused and precise where the DG offers dreamy washes of sound.
The two Lutoslawski pieces--the brief, eruptive Subito and the Partita--find a natural home in this highly individual company of composers and performers. Partita is best known in its orchestral guise, but there's a very good case to be made for hearing it as originally written for violin and piano, particularly when played as here. Kupiec's notably keen attention to harmonic detail provides a much firmer launching pad than does the orchestral version for the violin's evocative, often microtonal explorations. Curiously, although you might think this harder edge makes the music more difficult listening, it's actually easier to hear both its neo-Baroque patterning and beautifully shaped melodic contours, particularly when phrased with the sensitivity Faust routinely displays (witness the poignant Largo central section). Perfectly balanced recorded sound completes as fine a chamber music recital as anyone could hope for. Stunning! (David Hurwitz)

jueves, 14 de agosto de 2014

Gerald Finley / Julius Drake SCHUBERT Winterreise

'A Winterreise of vision and searching intensity … Finley’s rich and beautifully modulated baritone voice is also one that nurtures words and can encapsulate the musical images with which Schubert clothes them … for instance in his veiled, hushed and then anguished interpretation of 'Auf dem Flusse’, again with Drake establishing an undercurrent of desolation. Finley can exercise his lyrical powers in such songs as ‘Der Lindenbaum’, ‘Die Krähe’, ‘Letzte Hoffnung’ or ‘Täuschung’ but it is not a lyrical talent alone: more to the point, it is the spectrum of tonal colouring, inflection and instinctive phrasing which lend this performance of Winterreise such an absorbing sense of inner communion with the soul. Nothing is exaggerated; but on an intimate scale Finley and Drake find the nub of the dramatic psychological substance of these songs' (Gramophone) 

The affecting, chilling bleakness of ‘Gute Nacht’ immediately suggests that this is going to be a Winterreise of vision and searching intensity. And so it proves, with the journey described in dark, dramatic terms, which at the same time subtly point up the shifting emotional aspects of the songs. Finley’s rich and beautifully modulated baritone voice is also one that nurtures words and can encapsulate the musical images with which Schubert clothes them, no more so than in the icy despair of 'Gefror’ne Tränen’ (enhanced by Julius Drake’s stark accompaniment) and in his veiled, hushed and then anguished interpretation of 'Auf dem Flusse’, again with Drake establishing an undercurrent of desolation.
Finley can exercise his lyrical powers in such songs as ‘Der Lindenbaum’, ‘Die Krähe’, ‘Letzte Hoffnung’ or ‘Täuschung’ but it is not a lyrical talent alone: more to the point, it is the spectrum of tonal colouring, inflection and instinctive phrasing which lend this performance of Winterreise such an absorbing sense of inner communion with the soul. Nothing is exaggerated; but on an intimate scale Finley and Drake find the nub of the dramatic psychological substance of these songs. As the cycle progresses, the sense of disillusion and aching despondency becomes all the more unsettling, Finley and Drake finding a still hopelessness in ‘Das Wirtshaus’, the traveller ‘weary to the point of collapse’. With each song shrewdly characterised, this is also a Winterreise in which the long-term narrative is eloquently, poignantly sustained. (Geoffrey Norris / Gramophone)

martes, 12 de agosto de 2014

Polyphony / Stephen Layton KARL JENKINS Motets

 Following the huge success of over 2 million records sold with critically acclaimed albums such as Adiemus, The Armed Man, The Peacemakers and Requiem, Karl Jenkins presents his brand new album!
Motets is an intimate a capella album that features stunning new choral adaptions of Jenkins’ previous hit compositions and marks the year of his 70th birthday and fifty years of his career in music.
As a composer and a brand – a brand that stands for an epic sound that connects with people from all different age groups on a spiritual level - Karl Jenkins remains one of the most performed living composers in the world today. The concept Motets goes back in time and celebrates his hits from the past in a newly arranged intimate sound – accessible, performable, emotional.
Recent reviews declare Polyphony “one of the best small choirs now before the public” (Telegraph) and “possibly the best small professional chorus in the world” (Encore Magazine, USA)

lunes, 11 de agosto de 2014

San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus JOHN ADAMS Harmonium

Music emerges from a dark tunnel, a smooth and liquid train with a large chorus as passengers. The accelerated evolution of Harmonium is brought forth in what Adams calls a “preverbal creation scene,” an inescapable feeling of solitary light tinted with the weight of retrospection as the voices intercede. Harmonium seems to revel in self-awareness, building as it does through a series of dynamic swings from the threshold of audibility to ringing pronouncements of verse. It is a convoluted world where density and transparency coexist in equal measure.
At times this piece sounds like Adams’s popular Shaker Loops with words, at others like a Philip Glass tribute with characteristic pulses of flute and strings, at still others like a ritual of its own kind. It is a pastiche of poetry (John Donne and Emily Dickinson provide the texts), a bridge of intentions, a house with only two windows.
The recording quality here may polarize listeners somewhat. While on the one hand it captures the overall mood of the piece in a rather heterogeneous mix, on the other it loses detail in the quieter moments. I would imagine, however, that engineering choices in this case were dictated by Adams’s vision for the piece as a whole. It is meant to be a single “fabric of sound,” thereby necessitating a more distanced recording. It is like a lake: deceptively uniform from a distance, but promising new life and environments if only we can plunge into its depths. Yet somehow we are unable to take that plunge. The recording engineer, like the listener, is an observer here rather than an intruder. We do not approach this music; it approaches us, and it can only come so far before receding into its womb. (ecmreviews.com)

jueves, 7 de agosto de 2014

Sol Gabetta / Lorin Maazel / Olga Kern SHOSTAKOVICH - RACHMANINOV

With this recording Argentine-Swiss cellist Sol Gabetta completes her pair of Shostakovich's cello concertos, recorded in reverse order. Perhaps she has simply been aware of Shostakovich's still growing popularity, or perhaps she felt it was a unique challenge to apply her somewhat impetuous style to Shostakovich, who could certainly be called sober and perhaps even dour. This is a strong reading of the Cello Concerto No. 1, Op. 107, which was composed in 1959 and dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich. It's probably preferable to Gabetta's recording of the second concerto, which doesn't quite catch Shostakovich's expansive late manner. Here she is in her element, with plenty of facility in the spectacular cadenza that introduces the finale, and an interpretation that stands out in comparison with Russian ones. As is her way, Gabetta plays fast and loose with tempi, but what she finds here is one of the Shostakovich works that seem to be rather angry assertions of identity, underlined by the dense repetitions of the D-S-C-H motif (in the German note-naming system, "Es" is E flat), which is, unusually, transposed and manipulated through the eventful opening movement. Another attractive feature of the release is the sympathy between the young and charismatic Gabetta, who seems to be getting the full star treatment from Sony Classical, and conductor Lorin Maazel, leading the Munich Philharmonic and turning the orchestra's percussion section loose in some loud noises that fit very well with what Gabetta is trying to do. There are some reservations to be had: the Rachmaninov Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19, with pianist Olga Kern, makes an unconvincing conclusion. And it's not quite clear in what sense the Shostakovich was a "live" recording if it was recorded over three days in Munich. But this is in the main a strong outing by an exciting developing artist. (James Manheim)

martes, 5 de agosto de 2014


Award-winning composer Kaija Saariaho frequently draws inspiration from extra-musical sources, be they the night sky, the natural environment or literature. Saariaho studied music and fine arts in parallel before taking up composition, the latter at the graphic arts department of the University of Art and Design Helsinki. She studied composition with Paavo Heininen at the Sibelius Academy from 1976 to 1981 and continued with Brian Ferneyhough at the Freiburg Music Academy, completing her diploma in 1983.
This album is devoted to chamber music which exhibits the same rich sense of instrumental colors and feeling of dramatic contrast as her celebrated orchestral works.

In 2008, Saariaho was named 'Composer of
the Year' by Musical America. In addition, she has received several internationally distinguished awards, including the Grawemeyer Composition Award for her opera L'Amour de loin in 2003. In 1997, she was awarded one of France's highest cultural honours, the title 'Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres'.
Kaija Saariaho has been commissioned by the BBC, Ircam, the New York Philharmonic, the Lincoln Center in New York, the Salzburg Music Festival, the Théâtre de Châtelet in Paris and the Finnish National Opera, among others. (Ondine)

viernes, 1 de agosto de 2014

Anne Sofie von Otter BACH

It was with Bach that Anne Sofie von Otter made her very first solo appearances when she performed the alto arias in the St. John Passion in Stockholm. But by then, as she has explained, the experience gained as a chorister in the Stockholm Bach Choir had already had a fundamental and enduring influence on her approach to the composer. “The conductor of the Bach Choir at that time was very dynamic: he was on fire for this music, and I became on fire for it as well. Then Nikolaus Harnoncourt came up to conduct the Bach motets, and that was also a marvellous experience. Harnoncourt was revolutionizing the performance of Baroque and Viennese Classical works - spring-cleaning tempos and phrasing and using original instruments to shed the old woolly sounds of a Romantic orchestra and make the music vibrant again. It was an exciting time for young people like me who gathered around the gramophone and listened eagerly to his new recordings of Monteverdi, Bach and Mozart. Harnoncourt really was my main influence in Bach."
“In the first ten years of my career I sang a lot of Bach," the singer adds, “but after that I purposely put his music and oratorio aside, because there was so much else to explore, especially opera. So this disc is like coming back full circle." Her concept for the recording and the repertoire she has chosen for it date back to the autumn of 2007. “I borrowed discs of every single Bach cantata, listened to them all, and made notes. It was wonderful to discover new arias, but rather than have a solo vocal recital I decided to break it up with purely instrumental movements. I'd known Lars Ulrik Mortensen for a long time, though we hadn't seen a lot of each other recently, and suddenly this name 'Concerto Copenhagen' appeared on the horizon; I heard them on the radio, and I thought: 'What a wonderful ensemble!' Sure enough, Lars Ulrik was the leader of this great ensemble, so when the idea of the Bach recording came up I thought: 'Why don't I ask Concerto Copenhagen?' I cut down the original list, Lars Ulrik added new ideas, and we had a fantastic time making this recording." As for instrumentation: “Bach often puts the alto voice together with the oboe, so that choice was given, and the sound of the Baroque oboe is one I love."
There is a strong showing in the programme of works from the latter part of the young Bach's years in Weimar, from 1714, when he composed Widerstehe doch der Sünde BWV 54, for alto, strings and continuo, and the more elaborately scored Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen BWV 12, with its plangent Sinfonia. After his subsequent spell at the court of the music-loving prince of Anhalt-Cöthen, where most of his secular orchestral works were written, Bach returned to composing cantatas when he was appointed Kantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig in 1723. At the end of May he began the production of what would, in a relatively short time, turn out to be a staggering quantity of work for the Lutheran liturgical year - some 300 sacred cantatas for Leipzig in five annual cycles, not to mention the great Passions and oratorios. For Christmas that year he wrote the first version of his Magnificat, originally in E flat major and with four insertions specific to Christmas Day; the pastoral siciliano of the lilting alto and tenor duet “Et misericordia", with its two flutes, is heard here in the more familiar D major version, made toward the end of the decade.
The two sacred works that tower over that period, however, are the St Matthew Passion and the B minor Mass, both represented here. From the St Matthew Passion, first performed on Good Friday 1729, Anne Sofie von Otter sings the profoundly moving aria “Erbarme dich", which occurs at the point in the Easter narrative when Peter has fulfilled Christ's prediction that he will deny him three times before the cock crows, and follows the words “And he went out, and wept bitterly." The B minor Mass was initiated in 1733 with the Kyrie and Gloria and expanded with music composed both previously and later before reaching its final form at the end of the 1740s. The great alto aria “Agnus Dei" was written in 1735.
Historical considerations aside, for von Otter the music remains the starting point, and then the way it relates to the text. Bach poses specific problems for any singer: “Bach is tricky as far as breathing is concerned. There are these wonderful lines, and you want not to breathe so as not to break them up. But more and more the text has increased in meaning for me. Bach really does something with the words, and I enjoy using the text, getting it across. It's not by chance that Bach will really squeeze everything he can out of certain vowels or consonants - this symbolism is something I learned about in the Bach Choir. One has to paint the picture in Bach's mind with one's voice. 'Erbarme dich', for instance, has great sadness, in the pleading of the minor sixths, while in 'Widerstehe doch der Sünde' we decided on a particular approach to convey the image of the poison in the text."
“I dived into this project with great excitement. Lars Ulrik really has what I always like in a conductor, particularly in a Baroque conductor: very clear ideas and a lot of energy. He leads from the organ, so he's part of the music-making himself in a very active way. It was a creative collaboration, and the time was spent with great love." (Kenneth Chalmers)