martes, 30 de septiembre de 2014

Nino Gvetadze DEBUSSY

I have been waiting for the moment to record Debussy’s music for some time. While playing his pieces I had the urge to keep playing, to keep discovering the colours, the touch, almost trying to reach for a perfection, which of course is not possible; and the further I went, the deeper I looked, I kept discovering endless possibilities for fantasy, and the images flew one after another into my head.
I did not want my next CD to be just the next CD; I wanted to do something useful and as we are often discussing the lack of classical music education among children and young people, I decided to do something about it from my side and organized workshops mostly for children, but also for adults.
I decided that the best way for me to awaken musical interest in children, to really lead them through music, was via drawings, so I asked them to close their eyes, to listen to the sound, rhythm, harmony, melody and imagine what would it look like if this piece was a drawing or a painting. Debussy’s music was perfect for this project, as he gives you endless space for imagination. The result was unexpected even for me, the enthusiasm that I saw in my young public’s eyes and the range of fantasy was truly amazing.
I worked with more than 200 children and received more than 200 beautiful drawings. I may not have changed the world, but at least I opened the doors to music to some children and I hope they will follow the route to this beautiful Muse throughout the years. (Nino Gvetadze 29.10.2013)

lunes, 29 de septiembre de 2014

Matt Haimovitz / Dennis Russell Davies PHILIP GLASS Cello Concerto No. 2 "Naqoyqatsi"

As the subtitle indicates, the music in the Cello Concerto No. 2 ("Naqoyqatsi") of Philip Glass is not new but is drawn from the score to the film of that title composed by Glass in 2002. Though the term is drawn from Hopi cosmology, the film used a good deal of computer-assisted imagery to address the theme of the relationship between technology and the natural world. Glass' music, as usual, is entirely performed on conventional orchestral instruments. The original score had a prominent cello part, performed on the soundtrack recording by Yo-Yo Ma, and Glass has here boiled the original score, with perhaps a dozen cuts, down to seven movements that seem to make a vaguely linear sequence. The music is a good example of Glass' mature film scores, which may endure as his most lasting works; it combines the composer's characteristic minimal textures with more elaborate cello lines, some involving lightly extended techniques, that seem to evoke the metaphysical concept under examination ("Massman," "Intensive Time," "Point Blank," etc.). Although there's nothing new here, the version makes an attractively sized package of Glass, and listeners without access to the film may well prefer it as more coherent in this form. The realization is very strong. Cellist Matt Haimovitz, who has specialized in experimental mixtures of concert and vernacular traditions, acquits himself in such a way that no one will be thinking about Yo-Yo Ma; Glass' solo parts, although not virtuosic in a fancy way, aren't easy, for they require the composer's ensemble concepts to be sustained over long periods. Haimovitz soars. Another attraction is the superlative live recording in Cincinnati's venerable Music Hall; it would be hard to think of a venue that would be better in providing the resonant yet clean acoustic Glass' music demands. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies, who has conducted a lot of Glass in his time, catches the grander moments of the score without giving them the pounding quality they take in inferior Glass performances. (James Manheim)

viernes, 26 de septiembre de 2014

Nino Gvetadze MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition and 10 other piano pieces

The Georgian pianist Nino Gvetadze was born in 1981 and studied at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. Since winning the YPF National Piano Competition in 2004, she has appeared with many leading orchestras and performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Modest Mussorgsky’s turbulent and muddled life somehow enabled him to become one of the most visionary and innovative composers in Russia in the 19th century. ‘Art is not an end in itself, but a means of conversing with one’s fellow creatures’ he wrote in his autobiography. This view may in some way explain the inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies in his music. He had been called a ‘barbarian’ by some of his colleagues, and even his friend and fellow member of ‘The Mighty Handful’ (the group of five leading Russian nationalist composers) Rimsky-Korsakov thought he lacked refinement.
His vivid tonal pallette was to become an important influence on composers such as Debussy and Ravel, the latter famously orchestrating Mussorgksy’s piano masterpiece Pictures at an Exhibition. The original is the main work on this disc which includes all his extant works for solo piano. Much of his output for piano dates from his early years as a composer, and two piano sonatas, in E flat major and F minor, have sadly been lost.
New recording, containing pieces that are rarely recorded
One of a series of releases highlighting the winners of the principal prizes at the prestigious YPF Young Pianist Foundation’s National Piano Competition in Holland.
‘A musician to be reckoned with.’ De Telegraaf

jueves, 25 de septiembre de 2014

Gidon Kremer / Kremerata Baltica VICTOR KISSINE Between Two Waves

Issued in time for the 60th birthday of the composer from St Petersburg, “Between Two Waves” is the first ECM disc devoted entirely to Victor Kissine’s music. It follows on, chronologically and conceptually, from two earlier New Series recordings (ECM 1883 and ECM 2202), both of which featured Gidon Kremer and his associates.
It was while working with Kremer and friends on the realization of his luminous orchestration of Schubert’s Quartet in G Major in 2003 that Kissine began to consider the creative possibilities of a new piece that would be “orchestral but intimate - a kind of ‘concerto in watercolour’.” This was the conceptual idea that set in motion the composition “Barcarola”, for violin solo, string orchestra and percussion.
All three pieces on the present disc of premiere recordings are dedicated to their respective interpreters, and all draw inspiration from the poetry of Osip Mandelstam and Joseph Brodsky. The three compositions were recorded at the Lockenhuas Festival 2011 and form “a kind of cycle” in the words of the composer. A unifying factor is “a flavour of the sea”. The topography of St Petersburg, city of canals (“the Venice of the North”) may also be reflected in the project, Kissine says: “Right bank, left bank and the two open arms of the bridge in between. The “Duo After Osip Mandelstam” [for viola and violoncello] begins and ends with a see breeze, while the waves in “Between Two Waves” [concerto for piano and string orchestra] unfurl right up to ‘Barcarola’.” The pieces are also linked by references to Bach, explicit in the Duo and implied in “Between Two Waves” and “Barcarola”.
The music’s signature, however is unmistakably Kissine’s. “Many experiences and emotions – friendship, admiration and affinity – lie beneath the surface of this reticent musical language,” Belgian critc Frans C. Lemaire has noted. “[It] prefers soft murmurings to loud pronouncements, and closely restricts the development of the melodic material. [Kissine’s] music does not celebrate vain and noisy human activity, but seeks to recapture a kind of lost harmony which – far removed from the world – is borne up by the mysterious voices of silence.“

martes, 23 de septiembre de 2014

Isabelle Faust / Claudio Abbado / Orchestra Mozart BEETHOVEN - BERG Violin Concertos

 The Beethoven and Berg violin concertos aren’t commonly paired on disc. However, in this case it seems like an inspired piece of programme planning, with an account of the Berg that plumbs its depths of melancholy, setting off a radiant, life-affirming performance of the Beethoven.
Berg could be accused of giving too many instructions to his performers, of not allowing enough room for individual interpretation. He certainly presents them with plenty to think about; in the waltz-like second section of the concerto’s second movement, Isabelle Faust is required, within a few bars, to characterise her part as scherzando, wienerisch and rustico. She succeeds brilliantly; one feels, in this and other places, that such precision actually helps her to convey the intensity of feeling that lies behind this concerto dedicated ‘to the memory of an angel’.
Faust’s stylish way with the waltz episodes brings a suggestion of gaiety that renders more poignant the effect of the dark, complex harmony – a bright memory rendered sad and bitter. In the second movement, after the fierce virtuosity she brings to the declamatory opening section, she chooses the alternative version of the canonic cadenza (suggested by the composer) where she is joined by a solo viola, rather than realising unaided the four-part counterpoint. This passage sounds truly beautiful, like an uneasy oasis of calm in the middle of turbulent conflict, and I’ve become convinced it’s the best way to hear the music.
Abbado and the Orchestra Mozart also take careful notice of the score’s myriad directions, and the effect is similarly to liberate the intensity and beauty of the music. After the harrowing climax at the end of the first part of the second movement, where the Bach chorale (whose melody is related to Berg’s 12-note row) makes its appearance, the effect of having the grieving voice of the solo violin answered by the clarinet choir more quietly, but also slightly faster, and so less weighed down, is perfectly realised – we immediately appreciate why Berg wrote it so.
Few recordings of the Berg have achieved this level of detailed commitment from soloist and orchestra. One that does so is Josef Suk’s, made in 1968 with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under Karel Ančerl, and they manage to stay closer to Berg’s metronome markings – some passages in Faust’s recording are on the slow side, though I can’t see that it spoils the performance in any way. And this new account enjoys more mellifluous recorded sound, with far superior definition.
Beethoven may not give as many directions as Berg, but from the very first bars the Orchestra Mozart’s woodwind choir show the same care over detail, the instruments perfectly balanced and with a commitment to bringing out the music’s soulful, expressive character. This sets the tone for the performance, Abbado encouraging his players to maximise the expressive quality of each theme, while keeping a firm hand on the unfolding of the larger design. He and Faust see eye to eye in wishing to preserve a proper Allegro ma non troppo for the first movement and not to be awed by the work’s reputation into presenting it as a grand, Olympian utterance with little vitality (as on the Maxim Vengerov/Rostropovich recording). It’s not just a matter of tempo, either; to all the running passages in the first movement and finale, Isabelle Faust brings a spirited style that at moments becomes positively fiery. A notable example is her cadenza in the finale (track 5, 6'20"). Faust bases her cadenzas and lead-ins on those Beethoven wrote for his adaptation of the work as a piano concerto. This is often an uncomfortable option: Beethoven’s cadenzas (that in the first movement includes an important role for timpani) take the music in surprising directions – more extrovert and playful – and it’s quite difficult to arrange some passages idiomatically for the violin.  However, by judicious omission, brilliant playing and sheer conviction, Faust finds a solution that’s both authentically Beethovenian and violinistically convincing.
The Larghetto’s initial theme is most sensitively shaped by the Orchestra Mozart strings and, at Faust’s entry, she is accompanied by especially beautiful solo clarinet and bassoon lines. In this movement, Faust finds a particularly wide range of tone colour, twice receding to the merest whisper and in several places practically omitting vibrato, relying for expression on changes in bow speed and pressure, so creating a powerful sense of concentration in the melodic line. It’s entirely characteristic of this performance that the sudden orchestral outburst at the end of the Larghetto, heralding the cadenza that leads to the finale, which so often seems inappropriately formal, here comes as a shocking surprise, a rude awakening from an exquisite dream.
In recent years, there have been several fine recordings of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Faust’s performance has a grandeur that Christian Tetzlaff’s sweeter, more intimate account doesn’t attempt to match. Janine Jansen has the grandeur but doesn’t quite rival Faust’s expressive range or emotional intensity. Outstanding performances of both concertos, then; I’ll want to return to them often. (Duncan Druce / Gramophone)

lunes, 22 de septiembre de 2014

HEINER GOEBBELS Surrogate Cities

Commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary of the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie and the 1200th anni-versary of the city of Frankfurt. “Surrogate Cities” is one of German composer and music-theatre innovator Heiner Goebbels’ most far-reaching projects. The work is an examination of the “concrete jungle” in all its complexity, its positive and negative ramifications, its past and present. It is about the dynamic power and the power dynamics of the city. Heiner Goebbels: “Surrogate Cities“ is an attempt to approach the phenomenon of the city from various sides, to tell stories of cities, expose oneself to them, observe them; it is material about metropolises that has accumulated over the course of time. The work was inspired partly by texts, but also by drawings, structures and sounds, the jux-taposition of orchestra and sampler playing a considerable role because of the latter’s ability to store sounds and noises occasionally alien to orchestral sonorities... My intention was not to produce a close-up but to try and read the city as a text and to translate something of its mechanics and archi-tecture into music.
“When it comes to the power dynamics of the city, the individual is always the more vulnerable party. Art rebels against this overpowering structure by strengthening the subjective element. Composers usually justify what they write by saying that they need to get it out of their system. This is only partly true for me. I try to gain a bit more distance: I construct something that confronts the audience, and the audience reacts to it, discovering in the music a space they can enter complete with their associations and ideas.”

sábado, 20 de septiembre de 2014

Andrew Carwood / St. Paul's Mozart Orchestra MOZART Missa Solemnis - Vesperae de Dominica - Regina Caeli

Conductor Andrew Carwood, better known for his association with the Renaissance vocal ensemble the Cardinall's Musick, here steps to the helm of the all-male men and boys St. Paul's Cathedral Choir and St. Paul's Mozart Orchestra for a program of early- and middle-period Mozart works that lie somewhere in between chestnut and obscurity status. What you get might be called English-cathedral-style Mozart, and how you'll feel about it may depend on how you feel about the classic boychoir sound in general. The album was recorded not at St. Paul's Cathedral but at the smaller St. Giles Cripplegate, and its engineering is one of its best features. The soloists and the organ, which is interpolated into the performance of the "Mass in C major, K. 337 Missa Solemnis," are a bit too distant, but the choir sounds like a million bucks or pounds, with Hyperion's engineers having scored the rare hat trick of generating a spacious sound from a small group and keeping everything clear. The singing is delicate, sober, and rather quick, with little chance to luxuriate in Mozart's melodic invention. The soloists, wanly hanging out on the sharp side of the pitch, are a weak point, but the choir grows on you as you listen; for those who like a "just the notes" approach, they execute cleanly and consistently, and despite their restraint they are clearly not uninvolved in the music. Sample the little "Laudate pueri" fugue track 15 from the "Vesperae solennes de Dominca, K. 321," a polyphonic piece that benefits greatly from this kind of performance. And the use of boys on the upper parts would probably have been considered optimal by Mozart in his Salzburg years. Recommended for lovers of Mozart the English way. (James Manheim)

viernes, 19 de septiembre de 2014

Elina Garanča MEDITATION

On September 16, Elina Garanca will be releasing "Meditation," her most beautiful selection of spiritual music dedicated to the eternal search and longing for inner peace. It's perhaps one of her most personal albums ever which connects the listener with Elina's Latvian roots.
Elina's parents were involved with choral music, she grew up listening to this music and sang herself in choirs as a young musician, so it is a very important album to her personally, celebrating the origins of her own singing career  She studied at the Latvian Academy of Music with her mother. She won the Mirjam Helin Singing Competition in 1999 and was a finalist in the 2001 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.
She began her professional career as a resident artist with the Südthüringischer Staatstheater in Meiningen where she appeared in a number of leading roles and she appeared as a resident artist with the Frankfurt Opera. In September 2005 Ms Garanča became an exclusive recording artist with Deutsche Grammophon. Her first solo recording 'Aria Cantilena' was released in March 2007 to great popular and critical acclaim and she was awarded the prestigious ECHO KLASSIK award for 'Singer of the Year 2007.' Her second solo record, 'Bel Canto' was received with similar enthusiasm.
Ms Garanča has since, quickly established herself as one of the music world's major stars through her performances with leading opera theaters and symphony orchestras around the world. She has captured critical and popular acclaim for her beautiful voice, intelligent musicianship, and compelling stage portrayals.
The album includes a couple of real discoveries like Praulinš' Dievaines, but also some hit repertoire like the Cantique de Noel d'Adam. This is probably her most commercial album to date, the careful selected variety of the repertoire will attract a lot of new fans. Latvian choirs are extremely famous worldwide, so it was natural for her to want a Latvian choir with her for this recording. Two Latvian composers have been involved in the music for this recording - Ugis Praulinš for his work Dievaines, and Eriks Esenvalds who has written an a cappella arrangement (Allegri Miserere) especially for this recording.
Elina is joined on this recording by her husband, the well-known Gibraltan conductor Karel Mark Chichon OBE. This is their second collaboration on disc for DG following the success of Habanera.
(Timothy Yap / Sep 01, 2014)

jueves, 18 de septiembre de 2014

GUSTAVO DUDAMEL The Liberator (Original Soundtrack)

World renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel’s first-ever original musical composition for the screen, The Liberator – Libertador brings immediacy and passion to the life story of one of history’s great men. The timeless story of a people’s struggle for independence is brought to sumptuous life in The Liberator. Dudamel, who consulted with film score master John Williams in the preparations for writing the music, describes his score as “atmospheric, post-Mahlerian music, full of tension, hope and struggle.”
The Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and guests from the world of Venezuelan folk music lend the score a distinctive Latin American flavor.  On July 31st. The Suite from Libertador will have its world premiere at the Hollywood Bowl, under the baton of Dudamel himself with the LA Philharmonic.
Directed by Alberto Arvelo, The Liberator – Libertador is billed as one of the largest independent film productions ever to come out of South America, and stars Édgar Ramírez (Carlos, Zero Dark Thirty). Ramírez plays iconic South American hero, Simón Bolívar. Bolívar fought over one hundred battles against the Spanish Empire in South America and rode over seventy thousand miles on horseback. His military campaigns covered twice the territory of Alexander the Great. His army never conquered – it liberated.
“Gustavo originally arrived to this project as musical advisor. Sometime later, he said he had come up with a melody that could work for the start of the film. He went to the piano and began playing the melody. When he finished playing, I think both of us realized that he had begun composing our soundtrack,” commented Arvelo, explaining the evolution of the score.
Early press buzz is building for the film.  Variety said it’s “Impressively scaled” and “makes history seem alive!”  The Hollywood Reporter called it “epic and absorbing.” (07/23/2014)

lunes, 15 de septiembre de 2014

Gustavo Dudamel /Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela RITE Stravinsky - Revueltas

“There is inside me a very peculiar understanding of nature", the Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas once wrote. “Everything is rhythm. That's what music is to me. My rhythms are booming, dynamic, tactile, visual. I think in images that move dynamically." There could hardly be a better description of Revueltas's La noche de los Mayas or of Stravinsky's Sacre du printemps, the two works in Gustavo Dudamel's new recording with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela.
“All these dances have a youthful energy", says Gustavo Dudamel. “Spring reflects a new beginning, something important to young people. I've known the Sacre since my first concert as a thirteen-year-old violinist in my hometown orchestra. Now it's also an important piece for the SBYOV. We first played it in 2009 in London, Madrid, Lisbon and, of course, several times in Venezuela. This orchestra simply have these rhythms in their blood - they even make one passage sound like heavy metal."
Powerful dance rhythms also dominate Revueltas's music for a 1939 film about the cultural clash between a tribe of Mayans and the modern world. Like Stravinsky's great ballet, the symphonic suite La noche de los Mayas is evocative, ritualistic music, and it ends with a wild sacrificial dance calling for elevenpercussionists. “It makes a perfect coupling for the Sacre", exclaims Gustavo Dudamel. And this explosive, mysteriously atmospheric coupling makes aperfect program for the most dynamic conductor and young musicians in the world today. (Deutsche Grammophon / 2010)

jueves, 11 de septiembre de 2014

Benjamin Grosvenor DANCES

Benjamin Grosvenor’s selection, simply entitled ‘Dances’, is lovingly planned rather than random. Ranging from Bach to Morton Gould, there are subtle reminders that, even if Chopin does not follow Bach ‘as the night the day’, you still recall Chopin’s love of Bach. Early Scriabin remembers Chopin, his Mazurkas written long before he developed or regressed into an obsessive mysticism. Chopin, too, was central to Granados’s inspiration (his Escenas románticas end with a graceful bow and tribute to Chopin called ‘Spianato’). Finally, the Schulz-Evler Arabesques on The Blue Danube, the Albeniz-Godowsky Tango and Morton Gould’s Boogie Woogie Etude – a free blossoming into a glorious liberation.
Having recently celebrated a disc largely devoted to one of Janáček’s darkest utterances, it is with a spirit of uplift that I now find myself listening to performances that are carried forwards on an irresistible tide of youthful exuberance. With no need of the international competition circuit to lift or lower his career, Grosvenor bypasses that ever-controversial arena to give performance after performance of a surpassing brilliance and character. However hard the slog in the practice room (such dazzle and re creation result from intense discipline), there is a sense of joyful release, of music-making free from all constraint.
Grosvenor’s Bach (the Fourth Partita, the most substantial item on the disc) is a vivid contradiction of a quaint, long-held view that Bach was essentially an academic, once unaffectionately known as ‘the old wig’, who provided useful contrapuntal fodder for exams. Such views long ago toppled into absurdity and like, say, Schiff and Perahia (though with an entirely fresh stance of his own), Grosvenor gives us Bach, our timeless contemporary. What drama and vitality he finds as he launches the Overture, what a spring – even swagger – in his step in the Courante, what unflagging but unforced brio in the final Gigue. And then you remember his Sarabande, where his pace and energy are resolved in a ‘still small voice of calm’. Dry-as-dusts may rattle their sabres but, like Horowitz, who confounded the pundits with his crystalline Scarlatti, Grosvenor creates his own authenticity, revelling in music of an eternal ebullience and inwardness, and erasing all notion of faceless sobriety.
This is followed by a wide but relevant leap to Chopin. The Op 22 Grande Polonaise may pay tribute to Chopin’s early concert-hall glitter (his opening salvo in the Etudes, Op 10, is a reworking of Bach’s first Prelude, also in C major, from his ‘48’) but even here Chopin can reflect his cherished memories. Grosvenor keeps everything smartly on the move (he is the least sentimental of pianists), spinning the composer’s vocal line in the introductory Andante spianato with rare translucency and with decorations cascading like stardust. There is never a question of attention-seeking, of ‘what can I do with this?’. Such things have no place in Grosvenor’s lexicon and everything is as natural as breathing. Textures, too, are as light as air, after a commanding summons to the dance floor, and both here and in the more mature Op 44 Polonaise there is an almost skittish erasing of all possible opacity. Again, detail is as acute as ever, with flashing octaves complemented by a magically sensitive central Mazurka and a sinister close, suggesting a dark undertow to Chopin’s all-Polish defiance (for Schumann the Polonaises were ‘cannons buried in flowers’).
Three Scriabin Mazurkas from his Op 3 remember Chopin with their characteristic major-minor alternations, the Sixth with its gazelle-like leaps followed by the Fourth and Ninth, alive with an already distinctive voice. In Grosvenor’s hands the A flat Valse becomes one of Scriabin’s most intoxicating creations and so, too, do Granados’s Valses poéticos. And while there is nothing so specific as the above-mentioned term ‘spianato’, there is still a sense of a distant relation to Chopin.
Finally, the Schulz-Evler Arabesques on The Blue Danube, once described as ‘sending fabulous spangles of sound spinning through the air’ in its introduction, followed by Grosvenor’s seemingly inborn elegance and sophistication in the waltz proper. The Albeniz-Godowsky Tango may be less sultry and insinuating than some (I have Cherkassky’s winking and teasing magic in mind) but Grosvenor’s cooler view is exquisite in its own entirely personal way. Then on to a fizzing finish in Morton Gould’s Boogie-Woogie Etude, and a headlong charge with still enough colour and variety to bring even the most staid audience to its feet.
Benjamin Grosvenor may well be the most remarkable young pianist of our time. And for him, choosing from his already extensive repertoire music for future recordings will surely be a labour of love. Decca’s sound is excellent and this is a disc to prompt wonder and delight in equal measure.(Gramophone)

martes, 9 de septiembre de 2014

Gerald Finley / Thomas Sanderling SHOSTAKOVICH Six Romances on Verses by English Poets - Scottish Ballade - Suite on Poems by Michelangelo

Shostakovich’s songs continue to lag behind the rest of his output in terms of their representation on recordings and in concert, and the language barrier is clearly a prime reason. Getting over that barrier is fraught with complications, however, starting with the fact that Shostakovich himself was always more interested in the ethical content of his texts than in their poetic quality. No linguist or literary scholar himself, he was also far from a purist when it came to performances in non-Russian-speaking countries.
So there is much to be said for Gerald Finley’s reinstating of the original English-language texts of Six Romances on verses by Raleigh, Burns and Shakespeare, and his going back to the original Italian for the Michelangelo sonnets. That entails a few – though remarkably few – necessary adjustments to the composer’s rhythms. For the Suite the idea is not new. Fischer-Dieskau recorded the sonnets that way in 1987 (in the piano version with Aribert Reimann); hence Ondine’s description, ‘world premiere recording of the Italian version’, is not strictly speaking accurate. I’m not sure anyone can claim precedence for the Op 62 cycle but here again Ondine’s claim to world premiere status for the ‘orchestral version’ is shaky, given that Safiulin and Rozhdestvensky were there in 1986 (the two-CD reissue has admittedly eluded my searches but a reliable owner-friend has confirmed that it contains the Op 62a full orchestral version rather than the more commonly heard rescoring for chamber orchestra, Op 140).
With the performances themselves, things are much more straightforward. Finley and Sanderling are compelling advocates, and their subtlety makes for a refreshing change from the more stentorian delivery of certain old Soviet counterparts. For the Russian texts and vocal timbres, Sulejmanov on Capriccio and Leiferkus on DG are reliable back-ups. But this new disc has to be applauded for its initiative, as also for its top-notch sound quality; and given that the Safiulin and Fischer-Dieskau alternatives are practically unobtainable, anyone interested in acquiring it should not hesitate.(Gramophone)

domingo, 7 de septiembre de 2014

Gustavo Dudamel / Berliner Philharmoniker RICHARD STRAUSS Also Sprach Zarathustra (reuploaded)

Richard Strauss’s association with the Berlin Philharmonic lasted for over half a century.
The orchestra was formed in 1882 by an independent group of musicians and first played one of Strauss’s works in 1887, when Karl Klindworth conducted the 23-year-old composer’s F minor Symphony, a work which, dark and resplendent in its colouring, lacks the individuality of the Munich composer’s later output. If the performance proved only tolerably successful, the fact that it took place at all at such an early stage of Strauss’s career is remarkable. During the first three years of the orchestra’s existence, when its subscription concerts were conducted by Franz Wüllner, there were still no works by Strauss that the orchestra could have performed; and, by the time that such works did exist, Wüllner was already in Cologne, where he gave the world premieres of Till Eulenspiegel and Don Quixote with his Gürzenich Orchestra. In Berlin, meanwhile, Hans von Bülow had taken charge of the orchestra’s fortunes. He knew Strauss from Meiningen, acknowledging him as a “first-rate” conductor and an “exceptional musician” who had it in him “to assume the highest position of command with immediate effect”. And so Strauss was invited to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic. The concert agent Hermann Wolff, who was the orchestra’s éminence grise, even helped to sponsor Strauss’s appearance with the aid of an exceptional travel allowance – even as a young composer Strauss already enjoyed a certain cachet.
At his first concert with the Berlin Philharmonic on 23 January 1888 Strauss conducted his own symphonic fantasy Aus Italien. Press and public and, not least, Bülow were impressed by the atmospheric work, and Strauss was no less enthusiastic about the orchestra, describing the players in a letter to his father as “the most intelligent, fantastic and alert orchestra I know”. But there were also disagreements: in 1890, for example, Bülow refused to allow Strauss to conduct the local premiere of Don Juan and insisted on conducting it himself, comprehensively ruining it in the eyes of the mortified composer. Even so, this did not discourage Strauss, who, having fallen in love with the city, was determined to find a permanent position there, either with the Berlin Philharmonic or at the Lindenoper.
An opportunity arose in March 1894 after Bülow, already terminally ill, gave his final concert with the orchestra. Since Wolff was unable to find an eminent successor, he turned to the 30-year-old Strauss, who took over the orchestra’s ten subscription concerts during the 1894–95 season and suffered the worst fiasco of his career.
The devastating reviews took issue not only with his uninspiring appearance on the podium but also with his programmes: as was later to be the case with his own Berlin Tonkünstler Orchestra and the Lindenoper’s Königliche Hofkapelle, he conducted an above-average number of contemporary works that proved indigestible fare for the capital’s conservative middle-class audiences.
The contract was torn up prematurely, although contact between the two parties was not lost altogether. In 1908 they even undertook a triumphant concert tour of France, Spain and Portugal together. But by then Germany’s greatest living composer no longer needed to prove himself in Berlin, for he was now an internationally sought-after conductor and his symphonic poems were a regular part of the repertory. The Berlin Philharmonic’s principal conductors during this time – Arthur Nikisch and, from 1922, Wilhelm Furtwängler – were both important advocates of his work. (Furtwängler made his debut with the orchestra in 1917 conducting Don Juan.)
When Strauss moved to Vienna in 1919, his Berlin appearances became increasingly infrequent. Even so, the 1920s witnessed the premieres of two of his works in Berlin: his Hölderlin Hymns in 1921 and his symphonic studies Panathenäenzug in 1928. He himself returned to the Philharmonie podium in March 1933, and in the November of that year he shared the conducting duties with Furtwängler at a gala concert marking the launch of the Reich Culture Chamber. His dubious association with the Nazis culminated in 1936 with the first performance of his Olympic Hymn. His final concert with the orchestra took
place in April 1939, when the programme comprised Don Juan, the Symphonia domestica and the Burlesque for piano and orchestra.
The Strauss Memorial Concert in September
1949 was conducted by Sergiu Celibidache. During the decades that followed, Berlin’s Strauss tradition was shaped by Herbert von Karajan, whose recordings of this repertory continue to be regarded as benchmark performances.
But many of the visiting conductors who have had particularly close links to the Berlin Philharmonic have also privileged Strauss’s works in their programmes, most recently Gustavo Dudamel.
Dudamel was 22 when he first conducted
the music of Richard Strauss: Don Juan
with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London.
Since then, he has championed many of
Strauss’s songs, symphonic poems and concertos, including the Oboe Concerto
with the Berlin Philharmonic’s principal oboist, Albrecht Mayer. With the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, he has toured South and North America, as well as Europe, with Don Juan,
Till Eulenspiegel and the Alpine Symphony, taking the entire Venezuelan orchestra up into the Swiss mountains before the latter’s performance so that they could collectively experience the atmosphere and majesty of nature which Strauss had rendered into music.
In April and May 2012 Gustavo Dudamel conducted three performances of Also sprach Zarathustra in the Berlin Philharmonie, followed by four Berlin performances of Don Juan and 
Till Eulenspiegel in early 2013. The present release is his first audio recording with the orchestra.

sábado, 6 de septiembre de 2014

Anja Lechner / François Couturier KOMITAS - GURDJIEFF - MOMPOU Moderato Cantabile

After a decade of shared work in the Tarkovsky Quartet and an ongoing alliance in the Pergolesi Project (with singer Maria Pia De Vito), German cellist Anja Lechner and French pianist François Couturier unveil their new duo. The players approach the music from different vantage points: Lechner is a classical soloist with an uncommon interest in improvisation, Couturier a jazz musician travelling ever further from jazz. On Moderato cantabile they present their own arrangements of works by three fascinating outsiders from the margins of music history – G.I. Gurdjieff, Komitas, and Federico Mompou. To differing degree their music reveals influences from the east, both in terms of relationship to folk traditions and religious music, and philosophically. A contemplative air pervades the session. The programme has connections to Anja Lechner’s acclaimed account of Gurdjieff’s music on the earlier Chants, Hymns and Dances (with Vassilis Tsabropoulos), but the new duo has its own identity, and time spent in Armenia has deepened Lechner’s understanding of the contexts from which the music emerged: her cello assumes almost a singer’s role in these pieces, exploring the strong melodies. François Couturier’s compositions function as both contrasting and complementary elements. As a player, François has a long history of working with Mompou’s music. He has been influenced, furthermore, by his association with Anouar Brahem, and the sonorities of the Middle East are part of his palette. Moderato cantabile, a striking and unusual album, was recorded in the rich acoustics of the Lugano studio in November 2013 and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Franҫois Couturier is featured here both as player and composer and his pieces function as both contrasting and complementary elements. As the liner notes point out, “Years spent in the company of Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem seem to have reinforced a contemplative element in Couturier’s own idiom as player, composer, arranger. A reflective patience is characteristic of much of his work. In his music, with or without a score, themes tend to be slowly unfolded and developed. His compositions are ‘evolutionary’, open to change in the moment, and his improvisations maintain a lyrical awareness and sense of form. Unlike many improvising contemporaries he is unafraid to broach the brink of silence – making him perhaps a natural interpreter for Mompou’s Música Callada.” Couturier has previously played arrangements of Mompou in jazz piano trio contexts, and the Catalan composer has been an important reference for him, just as the Transcaucasian Gurdjieff and the Armenian Komitas Vardapet have been important references for Lechner. The cellist first came to understand Komitas’s role in bridging Armenian secular and sacred music though her work with Tigran Mansurian. Her interpretations of Gurdjieff, meanwhile, had a powerful impact in Armenia, and inspired the foundation of the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble. Once again on Moderato cantabile Lechner and Couturier, with their new arrangements of Komitas, Gurdjieff and Mompou, show us that this music responds to a freely interpretative approach. Moderato cantabile was recorded in the rich acoustics of Lugano’s Auditorio Radiotelevisione svizzera in November 2013, and produced by Manfred Eicher. Anja Lechner, born in Kassel, Germany, studied with Heinrich Schiff and Janos Starker. She has performed as soloist with orchestras including the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Slowakische Philharmonie, and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, and plays chamber music with partners including pianists Alexei Lubimov, Silke Avenhaus and Kirill Gerstein, cellist Agnès Vesterman, violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and clarinetist Reto Bieri. Lechner has premiered compositions by Tigran Mansurian, Valentin Silvestrov, Tõnu Kõrvits and Annette Focks amongst others. For 18 years she was the cellist of the Rosamunde Quartet, whose acclaimed ECM New Series albums embraced a scope of music from Joseph Haydn to Thomas Larcher. Her most recent recordings include Mansurian’s Quasi Parlando and Double Concerto with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta. In preparation is an album of solos and duos with Agnès Vesterman, playing compositions of Silvestrov. At home in all aspects of classical music, she is also fluent in diverse improvisational traditions, and has a long-running collaboration with bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi – documented in the film El Encuentro and on albums including Ojos Negros and Navidad de Los Andes. François Couturier began playing piano at the age of six. After completing studies in classical music and musicology in the early 1970s, he began improvising in earnest, initially taking his cue from Paul Bley, Chick Corea and Joachim Kühn. In 1980 he won France’s Prix Django Reinhardt which raised his international profile, and shortly thereafter joined John McLaughlin’s group, touring and recording with the English guitarist. Couturier’s first appearance on ECM was on Anouar Brahem’s Khomsa in 1994. From 2001, he toured widely with the oud player in trio with accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier, and is featured on the albums Le pas du chat noir and Voyage de Sahar. He also appears on Brahem’s forthcoming album Souvenance: Music for oud, quartet and string orchestra. His recordings with Anja Lechner include Nostalghia – Song for Tarkovsky and Tarkovsky Quartet which incorporate his compositions as well as group improvising. Il Pergolese features his arrangements of music of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. Other Couturier recordings on ECM are Poros, duets with violinist Dominique Pifarély, and the solo piano album Un jour si blanc.

viernes, 5 de septiembre de 2014

Cuarteto Casals WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART String Quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn

No one could accuse the Cuarteto Casals of being reticent in these three of the six quartets that Mozart dedicated to Haydn, the works in G: K387, E flat K428 and C K465. They launch into every movement with tremendous relish, on such a tide of rich, deep string tone that they could be playing Brahms or Dvořák, and it comes with equally full-blooded, expressive inflections. It is very involving to begin with, as such musical generosity draws you into the performance – welcomes you almost. But after a while it all seems a bit too obvious and generalised. The habit of shaping every phrase the same way, so that each of them is turned into a crescendo, which can be heard right from the outset in the opening movement of K387, starts to be fussy, while the scoops and touches of portamento seem to belong to a different style of performance altogether. The musicality and warmth of the playing are never in doubt; it's just that the Casals' approach perhaps doesn't suit Mozart as well as it might later composers.(Andrew Clements)

jueves, 4 de septiembre de 2014

Michala Petri / Chen Yue DIALOGUE East Meets West

Our Recordings' Dialogue: East Meets West features an unusual collaboration on a unique combination of instruments as Danish recorder virtuoso Michala Petri joins Chen Yue, a Chinese virtuoso on the Chinese xiao and dizi, both flutes, although the xiao is end-blown, whereas the dizi is more like a transverse flute; they are likewise made of different kinds of bamboo. As literature for this particular instrumental combination has been heretofore nonexistent, Petri and Chen have commissioned 10 pieces for the album, 5 each from Danish composers and Chinese composers. They have obtained a very interesting slate of results; in some cases the Chinese composers have turned up pieces, such as in Ruomei Chen's Jue, that are a tad more readily recognizable with avant-garde styles than the Danish ones, making clear that in China experimental composition has a bit more cachet and perceived freshness than in the West, where it is seen in some circles as being a little played out. Not so Mette Nielsen, whose lovely Stream incorporates well-adjudged elements of improvisation, whereas Chinese composer Li Rui's Peng Zhuang and Siqin Chaoketu's Yan Gui are strongly rooted in traditional Chinese folk idioms; Butterfly-Rain by Pernille Louise Sejlund is a beautiful wash of flute texture that has a programmatic sense of organization and belongs to neither side of the divide; this and the Chaoketu are obvious highlights. 
There are no other instruments used than those played by Petri and Chen; no piano accompaniment, traditional Chinese instrumental group, use of percussion, or anything else. As a result, Dialogue: East Meets West is a bit of a tightrope walk -- the high-pitched instrument players are on their own in putting across the entire 68-minute disc. And for that it never gets boring, although one may want to listen to Dialogue: East Meets West in two halves in order to ingest it more easily. One thing that is striking about the music of Harry Partch is that he built his own instruments and devised his own harmonic building blocks, and therefore created a kind of music from scratch that has no easy reference to other kinds of music. Petri and Chen have done much the same thing here; after awhile one moves away from the idea that these instruments are members of the flute family and into an area of listening that is of its own character and consisting of relatively light, distinctly feminine qualities. Dialogue: East Meets West is a disc that definitely rewards repeated exposure as details gradually reveal themselves, and while the composer commissions provide variety, there is no one piece that dominates the whole puzzle; it is a singular and pleasant, but by no means altogether unchallenging, musical journey that is an ideal offering for taking in the season of spring. (Uncle Dave Lewis)

martes, 2 de septiembre de 2014

Sergey Khachatryan / Kurt Masur / Orchestre National de France SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concertos

It's probably unfair to compare Sergey Khachatryan's 2006 recording of Shostakovich's violin concertos accompanied by Kurt Masur leading the Orchestre National de France with David Oistrakh's classic recordings of the works: the 1956 Mitropoulos/New York Philharmonic First and the 1967 Kondrashin/ Moscow Philharmonic Second. Not only was Oistrakh the dedicatee for both works, he was far and away the greatest of Soviet violinists, and his virile, soulful, impassioned, and supremely virtuosic interpretations have an authenticity and immediacy that no subsequent violinist has yet touched. But although Khachatryan, like every other violinist who's ever played the works, can't really compare with Oistrakh, how does he compare with the other mere mortals who've taken on the works? In a word: okay -- not great, certainly, but okay. It's not his technique -- as his First Concerto cadenza amply demonstrates, the young Armenian is surely in the same league as the best of his contemporaries in sheer bravura virtuosity -- and it's not entirely his interpretations -- he seems to grasp the First's heart of darkness and expresses it with sympathy and compassion. It's that Khachatryan's interpretation of the Second has nowhere near the same depth of understanding as his First. Admittedly, the Second is a much more enigmatic work than the First, but Khachatryan seems unable to fathom its tone and the result is a performance that stands back too far from the piece to make a persuasive case for it. Masur's proficient but not especially insightful conducting and the Orchestre National de France's professional but inspired playing aren't much help to Khachatryan. In the end, they're are performances worth hearing from a violinist worth listening to -- but they're no match for Oistrakh's. Naïve's sound, while close and clean, lacks warmth and presence.
(James Leonard)

lunes, 1 de septiembre de 2014

Florian Boesch / Roger Vignoles SCHUBERT Der Wanderer

Florian Boesch is the kind of baritone who, once heard, makes you want to hear him in any and all repertoire appropriate to his voice. A more alluringly rich voice than Christian Gerhaher’s is hard to imagine until hearing Boesch, who has a greater capacity for soft singing, maintaining an interpretatively interesting tone even in pianissimos. However, that very quality is what tests one’s loyalties in this conceptually attractive tour of the less-travelled areas of Schubert’s vast song output, with much quiet-and-slow sameness that doesn’t wear easily a full CD.
The song choices are partly to blame. Exploring this kind of Romantic-era archetype involves solitary figures, whether hermits or people who have been rejected by society and left to contemplate the nature of their being. Several songs have the same titles: the composer isn’t heard in multiple settings of the same text but definitely revisits similar poetic territory. The slow-and-soft approach is laudable in theory for mining these often modest creations for hidden depths of expressivity, though there is a point at which their musical examination brings songs to a near standstill. Cohesion and shape are lost. You wonder at times if the music is taking more time to perform than Schubert spent composing it. In all fairness, though, ‘Abschied’ D475, which clocks in at 5’07", has been known to last two minutes longer in performances by Matthias Goerne. ‘Meeres Stille’ D216, a song about the calm sea, is sometimes a shade above audibility. One stretch of the CD has four such songs consecutively. So does Winterreise, you might argue, but in a cycle with a clear emotional and architectural trajectory.
Of course, there’s plenty of artistry here. For all the conceptual orientation of the disc, Boesch isn’t the sort of singer who tells you what to think or feel in this music. He lays it out with hugely attractive (and protracted) clarity and then lets you enter the music a fuller participant. And in many ways, the repertoire shows the roads that led to the well-known Schubert cycles. Maybe all of that means that this disc’s main appeal is to the most serious students of Schubert. (Gramophone)