lunes, 28 de diciembre de 2015

Los Angeles Master Chorale / Grant Gershon / Maya Beiser STEVE REICH You Are ( Variations)

Urban activity: buses moving; keypads clicking; bikers cutting off cabs; window washers scaling up a half completed skyscraper; the distant wail of an ambulance siren, and its sudden pitch modulation as it zooms past, carrying a rush of wind and a trail of receipts, wrappers, or the rare leaf; the clang of the subway; cash registers opening, closing, opening; everyone is counting something: time, money, appointments, each other; the whistle of a traffic cop and hundreds of half-heard conversations in the street. The flurry of the city isn't something best described as "beautiful" so much as alive, unstoppable, cruel, and complex.
American composer (and native New Yorker) Steve Reich has been writing the definitive city soundtrack for 40 years. From his early tape pieces "Come Out" and "It's Gonna Rain", to his now classic minimalist works-- though Reich would certainly scoff at the term-- Drumming and Music For 18 Musicians, to more recent works bother greater in scope and somehow conventionally attractive (Tehillim, Different Trains, The Desert Music), he's invented a sound that nails both the intricate detail and speed-ridden blur of some abstract "downtown." Where Philip Glass's music from the 1960s and 70s is vaguely futuristic and precise, Reich's is warm. Where Terry Riley, who never felt a particularly strong allegiance to the minimal aesthetic in the first place, is boundless and organic, Reich is brainy, propulsive, and hardened to the interiors of a metallic landscape. I read someone call him the "greatest living American composer," and though any all-encompassing title is debatable, you'd be hard pressed to find a more fitting example of individualism and stubborn will so often identified with this place.
You Are (Variations). is Reich's first CD of new material since the not altogether warmly received Three Tales (2002). If the composer has suffered complaints from critics of lacking ambition in recent years, he hasn't let that affect his writing: You Are is prime Reich, using choral and orchestral elements similarly to older pieces like Tehillim and The Desert Music, but seeming as rhythmically driven as anything he's done in years. Harmonically, he sticks to majors and relative minors (that is, a minor key that utilizes the same notes as a major one, but starts from a different point in the scale)-- a common Reich device-- thereby blurring the line between different tonalities. He uses a choir to impart text translated from Hasidic mystical verse: "You are wherever your thoughts are", "Explanations come to an end somewhere," and the idea of saying "little and do much". Words are repeated and spread out over great lengths, so the end effect is not one of narrative but of words as purely musical ingredients.
The "variations" in You Are take up most of the CD, but the closing track is Reich's Cello Counterpoint, featuring cellist Maya Beiser (Bang On a Can) overdubbed eight times to create a surprisingly dense string ensemble. As Reich points out in the CD insert, the cello is great because its capable of resonating clearly in a very wide range-- this piece was actually written for a full string octet, but its marked accents and interweaving melodies sound great all performed by one person. There is a slight similarity to Different Trains for string quartet, though Cello Counterpoint is nowhere near as "industrial," sounding more conventional, perhaps less confrontational, yet still unmistakably Reich. As with the You Are tracks, the constant rumble of motion fills up whatever mental space I have to drift away from the music. (Dominique Leone)

viernes, 25 de diciembre de 2015

Valentina Lisitsa SCRIABIN Nuances

Valentina Lisitsa is a remarkable pianist, with consistent YouTube video views reaching over 90 million total and with almost 200,000 subscribers.
Following her recent, well-received recordings of Glass, Nyman, and the Études of Chopin and Schumann, she now turns to the piano works of Scriabin.
For Scriabin’s 100th anniversary in 2015 – Valentina delves into his lesser-known works and finds some beautiful gems. Across a carefully selected range of works for piano, this album showcases Scriabin’s compositions through his lifetime.
Consistently a favourite composer among many legendary pianists, Scriabin has in recent years become admired as one of the early 20th century’s most innovative and influential composers. With a highly lyrical and idiosyncratic tonal language inspired by the music of Frédéric Chopin. Scriabin may be considered to be the primary figure among the Russian Symbolist composers.
All the works included are recorded for Decca for the very first time - these are revelatory performances from YouTube sensation, pianist Valentina Lisitsa; a wonderful artist with exceptional musicality and a stunning technique.
The digital version includes four extra tracks: three beautiful short piano pieces, and Scriabin’s Duet in d minor for two sopranos and piano in possibly its first recording.
Valentina Lisitsa’s web presence firmly establishes her as a classical musician of the modern age, with her videos – consistently viewed over 1m times - covering a vast number of works including the Beethoven Piano Sonatas and well-loved Lizst & Rachmaninov pieces though to music by Glass and Nyman.
An established musician, she has debuted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, WDR Cologne and many other orchestras. In an innovative and exciting move, her London debut at the Royal Albert Hall (19th June 2012) was recorded & filmed by Decca. Broadcast live online, and released immediately after the event with a following DVD, this ground-breaking release was a bold statement of Valentina’s musical aims, and of Decca’s commitment to enhancing its digital presence worldwide. (Presto Classical)

miércoles, 23 de diciembre de 2015

Elisso Bolkvadze PROKOFIEV Piano Sonata No. 2 - SCHUBERT Impromptus D 899

Until now, the Georgian pianist Elisso Bolkvadze has recorded primarily for the Sony Classical Infinity Digital and Cascavelle labels. On her latest release, for Audite, she makes a number of highly original interpretative choices. Her approach to the opening of Prokofiev’s 1912 Second Sonata is redolent of Scriabin – plush, full - sounding and rife with detail. The rhythmic vitality of the Scherzo becomes waylaid by explorations of colouristic ornament and the misty haze enveloping the slow movement feels more French than Russian. The moto perpetuo of the finale rattles along at a splendid clip until it too is bogged down in an expressively overgrown contrasting section. In place of Prokofiev’s brightly unambiguous colours and rhythmic élan vital , we encounter over - stuffed decor and aching expressivity. The Schubert Impromptus are prevailingly lyrical, though the rhetorical eloquence and emotional urgency of each is diminished by indecisive rhythmic underpinning. For all its admirably vivid contrasts, the C minor Impromptu seems to wander, uncertain of its ultimate goal. The E flat Impromptu comes off as more notey than fleet, while the abandon of its contrasting section is impeded by undue focus on inner voices. The golden melody of the beloved G flat major threatens to come untethered and float into the ether for lack of an adequately anchoring bass. Throughout the disc, Bolkvadze’s undeniably sensitive playing moves note to note. We are invited to admire each tree, if not each individual leaf, heedless of the magnificent forest surrounding us. Combined with a certain stylistic ambiguity with regard to both composers, the result lacks a strong personal stamp, prompting the question of just how fully Bolkvadze inhabits the music she plays. (Gramophone)

martes, 22 de diciembre de 2015

Artemis Quartet BRAHMS String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3

The Artemis Quartet pairs Brahms’ intense first quartet with his lighter-spirited third quartet, both works that the Artemis’ cellist, Eckart Runge, describes as “remarkable and multi-faceted”. He says that “Brahms marries a Romantic spirit with the structure and forms of Classicism. There is an almost symphonic approach in the writing, but at the same time the quartets are imbued with a sense of warmth, immediacy, friendship and love that is interwoven with a more spiritual, timeless beauty”.
Ever aware of the shadow of Beethoven, Brahms was 40 years old by the time he completed the first of his three published string quartets (op 51, No 1) in 1873; he is thought to have destroyed the 20 or so quartets that he had written previously. The third quartet (op 67) followed in 1875, the year before the premiere of the composer’s Symphony No 1, and a decade after the publication of his piano quintet, which the Artemis Quartet has recorded with Leif Ove Andsnes.
“Brahms wrote three remarkable, multi-faceted quartets and we have recorded the first and third here,” continues Runge. “They were long considered to be quite conservative because their structure and thematic workings are in the tradition of Beethoven, but no less an innovator than Schoenberg called Brahms a ‘revolutionary traditionalist’ and saw these quartets as modern in their conception.
“These quartets are fantastic – full of ideas, contrasts and emotion. They are challenging to play – especially No 1 – because there is so much thematic material ... there is nothing in there that is not important. As players, you have to work out all the material, and the musical structure is deep and complex, while the textures can become dense with Brahms’ characteristic use of polyrhythms ... But at the same time you need to maintain transparency so that the audience can readily appreciate what it is hearing. This might be intellectual music, but its beauty should still give you goose bumps!
“The quartet No 3 doesn’t have the same dramatic weight as No 1 – it is characterised by a certain lightness and playfulness and is perhaps less ambitiously conceived than quartets No 1 and No 2 ... maybe, by this point, Brahms was less preoccupied with showing the world that he could cope with Beethoven! It’s gentler and more easy-going. Perhaps you could say that it feels more like a late composition. But there are some astonishing things going on ... the Mozartian opening theme; the way the first movement is quoted in the last movement; the prominence given to the viola in the third movement. The work’s basic character is friendly, but it has lots of interesting, audacious ideas.
“In all this, Brahms marries a Romantic spirit with the structure and forms of Classicism. There is an almost symphonic approach in the writing, but at the same time the quartets remain concise ... and imbued with a sense of warmth, immediacy, friendship and love – a feeling of Gemütlichkeit – that is interwoven and combined with a more spiritual, timeless beauty. There’s an eternity of line in the slow movements. It is music that embraces you, but it also music that has a higher perspective and which feels very complete.” (Presto Classical)

lunes, 21 de diciembre de 2015

Dresdner Philharmonie / Dennis Russell Davies ALFRED SCHNITTKE Symphony No. 9 - ALEXANDER RASKATOV Nunc dimittis

Composed shortly before his death in 1998, Schnittke’s ultimate symphony – actually his very last work – is a “Ninth” in a most unusual sense: Put down with a shaky left hand by an artist who had survived four strokes and was laterally debilitated, it is an impressive triumph of spiritual energy over physical constraints.
The composer’s widow Irina treated the barely-legible manuscript as a testament and was long doubtful whom to entrust with the difficult task of deciphering and reconstructing the highly expressive three movements for large orchestra (some 38 minutes of music). She finally settled on Moscow-born Alexander Raskatov, who not only provided a thorough score but, convinced that Schnittke had intended to write a fourth movement, also developed the idea to add an independent epilogue, the “Nunc Dimitis” (“Lord, let thy servant now depart into thy promis'd rest”) for mezzo soprano, vocal quartet and orchestra. 
It is based on the famous text by orthodox monk Starets Siluan and on verses by Joseph Brodsky, Schnittke’s favourite poet. Both pieces were given their first performances in the Dresden Frauenkirche in summer 2007 by the musicians of this world première recording which feautures long-standing ECM protagonists the Hilliard Ensemble and conductor Dennis Russell Davies. (ECM Records)

viernes, 18 de diciembre de 2015

Stephanie D'Oustrac / Amarillis / Héloïse Gaillard / Violaine Cochard FERVEUR & EXTASE

Stéphanie d'Oustrac (born 1974 in Rennes) in is a French mezzo-soprano. Before she had even won a prize a the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Lyon, William Christie offered her the leading role - Medea - in ‘Lully's Thésée’, at the Académie d'Ambronay in 1998. Her carrier leads her to the Opéra Bastille were she performs ‘Carmen, Bizet’. In 2012, Stéphanie d’Oustrac sung in ‘Roméo & Juliette, Berlioz’ at the Opéra Bastille.Her talent leads her to many great mezzo roles of baroque and classical opera. She also worked with great directors such Laurent Pelly , Robert Carsen , Vincent Vittoz , and famous conductors as Myung Wung Chung, John Eliot Gardiner and René Jacobs.
raised for her sensitivity as a musician and for her talents as a virtuoso, Héloïse Gaillard soon made a name for herself as a soloist. She plays with several excellent ensembles: first oboe with Le Concert Spirituel (Hervé Niquet), first recorder with Les Talens Lyriques (Christophe Rousset), recorder and oboe with Le Concert d'Astrée (Emmanuelle Haïm), as well as regular appearances with Les Arts florissants (William Christie).

Héloïse Gaillard studied at the Conservatoire (CNR) in Tours, where she was awarded first prizes for recorder and modern oboe, before going on to the Rotterdam academy, where she gained her soloist's diploma (recorder) with distinction, the Lemmensinstitut in Louvain, where she obtained a first-prize with distinction, and the Paris Conservatoire (CNSM), where she was awarded her higher diploma (Baroque oboe). She has worked with Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Han Tol, Paul Dombrecht and Marcel Ponseele. And she also has a degree in musicology from the Sorbonne and was awarded in 2005 the Certificate d'Aptitude to be a director of an early music department. She teaches baroque oboe at the Aix en Provence academy in the baroque department since 2009.
Baroque music is a passion in which she indulges above all as a member of Amarillis, with which she performs the solo recorder and oboe repertoires, as well as chamber works. The international press has praised the precision, dynamism and subtlety of her playing. France Musiques, the BBC and Mezzo have broadcast several of her concerts.
Héloïse Gaillard appears as a soloist or with orchestras in France and other countries: in Paris (Salle Gaveau, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Cité de la musique), Metz (Arsenal), Nantes (Palais des Congrès), at numerous festivals (including Folle journée in Nantes, Sablé-sur-Sarthe, Beaune and Ambronay...), London (Barbican), Madrid, Seville, Granada, Amsterdam (Opera House, Concertgebouw), Dresden and Leipzig (Opera), Berlin (Philharmonic hall), Stockholm (Konzerthuis), Boston, New York (Lincoln Center), Latin America, Russia, India, China, Japan...

Alisa Weilerstein / Inon Barnatan RACHMANINOV - CHOPIN Cello Sonatas

There is no shortage of recordings of Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19, and Chopin's Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65, but there aren't so many that put the two works together. Doing so reveals the degree to which Rachmaninov took Chopin as his model in his 1901 work: the big, contrapuntal opening movement with fascinating harmonic tipping points, the brisk scherzo and relatively short, songful slow movement, followed only by a more sweeping finale from Rachmaninov. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan offer something other than the rafter-ringing approach that is so often brought to Rachmaninov: the power is held in reserve for the climaxes. These two artists are not an ad hoc team, but are closely attuned to one another, and their restrained way with these works is especially effective in the Chopin: they tease out the contrapuntal details and respect the intricacy and relative intimacy of this work in a way that few other pairs do. The virtuoso display is left for the two Chopin encores that are often paired with the Cello Sonata: the arrangement of the Etude in C sharp minor, Op. 25, No. 7, by the sonata's original player, August Franchomme, and the early Introduction et Polonaise brillante for cello and piano. Op. 3. With superb sound from Berlin's Teldex studio, this is a Chopin recording that will reward many listens. (James Manheim)

sábado, 12 de diciembre de 2015

Keller Quartett J.S. BACH Die Kunst der Fuge

In the end, we self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages are little miracles of self-reference.
–Douglas R. Hofstadter, I Am a Strange Loop

One is tempted, perhaps, to experience the fugue as a puzzle. In that puzzle are strings of numbers unraveling from a central rope, even as they spin into one. Yet when listening to Bach’s Art thereof, and especially in the Keller Quartett’s sensitive hands, we find that even our best similes are weak and arbitrary, for this music, this expression of internal power, is alive. By no means universal, it takes a different form every time to every listener. We in turn can take comfort in knowing that the final triple fugue was never finished, for into it the composer wove his signature B-A-C-H (B-flat-A-C-B) theme, as if signing off on a lifelong document. Thus is The Art of Fugue an “emancipatory work” in the estimation of Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich, who in his accompanying essay goes to great lengths to demythologize the unrealistic pedestals upon which the work has been placed. The instrumentation was never resolutely determined, though it was likely intended for the nascent pianoforte. The string quartet presents a compelling solution. In this respect the Kellers push the envelope, varying tempi considerably and in doing so point us to a humbling truth: namely, that if this was to be Bach’s most lasting statement, it had to be invisible.
One with a deeper background may train a musicological magnifying glass to every weaving line, but these ears are more interested in the effect than the cause. And of that effect, I am at pains to say anything worthwhile. Although its movements comprise a moving target of speeds and densities, a constant hum runs through them. It is something we feel rather than hear. Cellist Ottó Kertész is particularly well suited, evoking the slightly metallic continuo of yore with a tinge of intangibility. (This, I think, explains the curious production, which favors distance and cavernousness—it is not historically informed, but seeks to inform history.) That being said, the music is nothing if not expressible. It might very well be Bach’s swan song, and therefore the culmination of his craft, but I prefer to hear it as a homecoming, a clearing of clouds to let fall the darkness that nourishes all artists, paling into the light that embraces them once they’re gone.
One day, we encounter this music and it sings to us. But then the voices stop mid-phrase, as the Kellers have preserved them, and suddenly the galaxy unravels, leaving us floating in the stagnant pool of all silence. Listen, and you know there is truth in the number:
One. (ECM Reviews)

jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2015

Sarah Nemtanu GYPSIC

"Purist friends, please don't read the following" is the defiant opening salvo in Romanian-French violinist Sarah Nemtanu's notes for this release, and she might have added that purists should avoid listening to the album as well. The remainder of the listening public, however, should be very intrigued. Buyers coming to the album online might guess that the program is a conventional set of Eastern European and gypsy-oriented pieces that might have been played half a century ago. But sample well, focusing especially on tracks 3 and 8, so that you know what you're getting into. Nemtanu's album also attempts to add modern crossover elements to the traditional, not to say hoary, form, of the gypsy-classical concert, and she makes several unusual moves and one radical one. Some of the album, however, is played straight, and there's an unusual continuum from traditional to experimental at work. In the former category is the Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 25, "On Popular Romanian Themes," of Georges Enescu, played by Nemtanu and pianist Romain Descharmes in a straightforward way that doesn't exaggerate the gypsy elements; Ravel's Tzigane is also done as written. Then the fun starts; Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20, has an added part for cimbalom. Moving into left field, you come to four performances that employ the talents of Canadian-born French keyboardist Chilly Gonzales, who adds elements of electronica to Vittorio Monti's well-worn Czárdás, Ravel's Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré, Georges Boulanger's Avant de mourir, track 9, is given its more familiar U.S. title of My Prayer, and, most unusually, the "Blues" movement from Ravel's Sonata for violin and piano of 1927. This piece gets from Gonzales what Nemtanu rather unfortunately terms "ethno-percussion"; the melody is recast as a piece of Ethiopian pop. This is a risky move, for it seems not to go with the rest of the music on the album, but Nemtanu swings for the fences and succeeds; the piece in this form is a natural expansion on the basic energies radiating from the meeting point between France and Romania that has animated all the music up to that point. Nemtanu here hatches and works out in some detail an absolutely original concept of how classical music and internationally flavored electronics might cross-fertilize, and her efforts are well worth hearing.  (James Manheim)

martes, 8 de diciembre de 2015

Anna Christiane Neumann BACH WITHOUT WORDS Transcriptions of Bach Chorales and Chorale Preludes

Anna Christiane Neumann is a freelance pianist, répétiteur and music teacher. Her musical career began at the Music School in Berlin-Köpenick. After working for several years with Manfred Schmitz, she developed a passion for piano accompaniment which is still keenly felt today. At the University of Music and Theatre “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig she studied piano with Ulrich Urban and instrumental accompaniment with Hanns-Martin Schreiber. After additional studies in chamber music with Karl-Peter Kammerlander and Philipp Moll, she passed her music performance examination “with distinction” in 2005. In addition to concert appearances as a soloist, she performs as an accompanist in chamber music recitals and at international competitions. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Music and Theatre “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” Leipzig. In 2011 she took part in Das Liederprojekt (The Song Project) of German broadcaster SWR2 as a piano accompanist for children’s songs.

Soft, warm, full: this is the sound of the piano in the hands of Christiane Neumann, who dedicated her debut GENUIN CD to transcriptions of Bach chorales, choruses and arias. Through the modern grand piano, lines, colors and counterpoints that one has never heard before all merge together, giving a rounded character to the timeless pieces of the cantor of the Thomas Church in Leipzig. An unprecedented compilation for a new listening experience – absolutely worth listening to!

Angela Hewitt BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Op. 2 No. 2 - Op. 10 No. 1 - Op. 78 - Op. 110

Angela Hewitt has been much praised in her earlier recordings of Beethoven’s piano sonatas—displaying ‘exquisite taste’—and now turns her ‘uncluttered clarity of thought and inspired structural pacing’ to four more works spanning the composer’s career. As ever, Angela’s accompanying notes provide fascinating insights into both the music and her performances.

As with previous instalments in Angela Hewitt’s near-complete Beethoven cycle, this fifth volume, for the most part, offers interpretations characterised by intelligent virtuosity and cultivated artistry. No detail in Op 2 No 2’s Allegro vivace transpires unnoticed. The broken octaves and rapid up beat flourishes couldn’t be clearer, although the movement’s brash undercurrents best reveal themselves when Hewitt points up the development section’s witty motivic repartee. Her elegantly unfolding Scherzo and grazioso Rondo movements (the latter contains just a hint of the ‘traditional’ swan-dive most pianists impose upon the opening measure’s three high E naturals) splits the difference between Pollini’s stylish understatement and Kovacevich’s genial inflections. The Largo appassionato stands out for Hewitt’s superb clarification of Beethoven’s part-writing and her ability to differentiate the composer’s tenuto and staccato markings while consistently maintaining a full-bodied sonority with little help from the sustain pedal—obviously her long experience with Bach is an asset here!
Similar qualities distinguish Hewitt’s eloquently sustained Op 10 No 1 Adagio molto, while her astute (if ever-so-slightly studied) observance of the first movement’s sharp dynamic contrasts and rarely heeded rests illuminates the music’s intense profile. As much as I admire pianists who grab on to the finale’s Prestissimo directive and run away with it (Glenn Gould, for example), Hewitt’s relatively reined-in yet resolutely steady pace allows for shapely fast scales and dynamic shading of the repeated notes. In the little Op 78, Hewitt doesn’t quite catch fire in the opening movement, mainly because she tends to telegraph the subito pianos with small pauses, while the Allegro vivace ambles rather than sprints, and the fast major/minor shifts lack a sense of surprise.
Happily, everything comes together for Hewitt in a most inspired Op 110. It abounds with long-lined breadth, careful dynamic scaling, assiduously worked-out tempo relationships and heartfelt poetry. In particular, the finale’s fugal textures convey uncommon vocal distinction and a sense of air between the notes (thanks, again, to Hewitt’s Bachian expertise). I’d go so far as to say that Hewitt’s Op 110 alone is worth the price of this disc, and easily takes its place alongside great versions by Hess, Arrau, Petri, Hungerford and a curiously underrated EMI release with Awadagin Pratt. (Gramophone)

Angela Hewitt BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Op. 22 -Op. 31 No. 3 - Op. 101

Angela Hewitt presents a fourth volume in her acclaimed series of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, which has delighted her fans worldwide.
The little-known Sonata in B flat major, Op 22, the last of Beethoven’s ‘early’ sonatas, is recorded alongside Op 31 No 3 (sometimes known as ‘La chasse’, or ‘The Hunt’, because of its tumultuous Presto con fuoco finale). The album is concluded with Op 101, of which the journalist for the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung in Leipzig wrote: ‘Truly, here in his 101st composition admiration and renewed respect take hold of us, when we wander along strange, never trodden paths with the great painter of the soul’, going on to enthuse about the most beautiful colours and pictures in Beethoven’s new Piano Sonata.

Hewitt’s uncluttered clarity of thought and inspired structural pacing pay even greater dividends in the glorious A major Sonata Op 101 (No 28). Hewitt captures its mood of glowing contentment to perfection, climaxing in a fugally inflected finale of exultant profundity. Hewitt’s approach recaptures the sense of wonderment experienced by the composer’s contemporaries. Not since the great Hans Richter-Haaser has a pianist produced Beethoven playing of such trance-like purity and vision. It’s been three years since we had the last instalment in this series (this is volume four)—let's hope we don’t have to wait as long for the next' (

lunes, 7 de diciembre de 2015

Apkalna BACH - GLASS

For her 2015 double-CD release on Oehms Classics, organist Iveta Apkalna has selected works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Philip Glass that make an interesting, if not wholly successful, pairing. Superficially, Bach's motoric polyphony and Glass' cycling patterns share a mechanical quality that might make them seem well-matched, especially on the organ. Yet Bach's works were composed specifically for the organ, with its differentiated voicings giving clarity to his counterpoint, while the Glass transcriptions were written for ensembles with rather uniform instrumental textures, creating an altogther different effect. That said, Apkalna demonstrates a technical brilliance in the Glass pieces that is comparable in speed and precision to the original versions, but she shows a deeper affinity for Bach, and her playing in this part of the program is dynamic, energetic, and personally expressive. While one may listen to the Glass CD once to see how well his music sounds on the organ, the Bach disc shows Apkalna at her best and invites repeated listening. The recording in the Himmerod Abbey captures the full resonance of the church acoustics, which seem to be well-suited to the bright sonorities of the Klais Organ. (

domingo, 6 de diciembre de 2015


The Piano Quintet of Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) begins where many chamber works might end: with the closing of eyes. It is behind these lids, the shadowy backdrops of which form the projection screen of our deepest mortalities, that the music remains. Even the Waltz of the second movement is a doppelgänger, its higher strings haunting the periphery like an epidemic. Such profound banalities are what make this a harrowing, if somnambulate, work. The piano’s role is very much subdued, providing regularity where there is none to be had. Rarely proclamatory, it reveals its deepest secrets when, at the end of the Andante, the sustain pedal is depressed merely for its metronomic effect in want of note value. The album takes its title from the fourth movement, a viscous, writhing creature that never shows its face. After enduring so many scars, the final Moderato tiptoes ever so gracefully around the fallen shards, gathering from each a snatch of light—just enough for a handful.
Schnittke very much admired the late works of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), of which the String Quartet No. 15, op. 144 cuts deepest. Completed in 1974, two years before Schnittke’s quintet, Shostakovich’s last quartet of a planned 24 consists of six almost seamless Adagios. At 37 minutes, it is the longest of his quartets, if not also the most ponderous. A few shocks interrupt us, as the forced pizzicati of the Serenade, but otherwise we are lulled in the deepening shade of a wilted tree that sways as it ever did at the hands of an unseen breeze. Ironically, the Nocturne provides the earliest intimations of sunrise, throughout which the cello smiles through its tears. A bitter smile, to be sure, but an unforgettable change of expression in the music’s otherwise tense physiognomy. We are allowed a single breath before the Funeral March that follows. A tough lyricism pervades, as in cello’s repeat soliloquies, all of which primes us for the cathartic Epilogue, in which is to be had a forgotten treasure, a time capsule buried in childhood and only now unearthed.
Although this is an album drawn in morbidity—Schnittke’s quintet finds its genesis in the death of the composer’s mother, while Shostakovich’s quartet premiered months before his own—it is supremely life-affirming, each work a breathing testament to indomitable creativities. The Keller Quartett, joined by Alexei Lubimov for the Schnittke, lay themselves bare at every turn, wrenching out by far the most selfless performances thus far recorded of this complementary pair.

sábado, 5 de diciembre de 2015

London Philharmonic Orchestra RAVI SHANKAR Symphony

This is one of those CDs you almost feel lucky to have in existence, as it preserves a moment in time and a work that may be a game-changer for future composers wishing to coalesce Western and Indian music. Ravi Shankar, one of the world’s music legends—partly for the right reasons, and partly for the wrong reasons—composed this work in which he united his two lifelong passions, Western classical music (his early idols included Enescu, Toscanini, Heifetz, Paderewski, Casals, Kreisler, and Chaliapin) and Indian ragas. What’s significant about this work is that he waited until he was 90 years old to write it.
One might think that an Eastern classical musician schooled in a different discipline would have difficulty, at 90 or any age, in fusing the two types of music, but Shankar has always been able to understand and intellectualize the differences between them. He has known for decades that the Western ear is attuned to harmony, modulation, and counterpoint, thus when he gave his sitar concerts—even way back in the 1960s—he patiently explained the differences to his Western audiences before playing.
This recording is the actual premiere, given at London’s Royal Festival Hall in July 2010. The demanding and highly virtuosic sitar solos are played by his daughter, Anoushka, who by contrast with her father had celebrated her 29th birthday less than a month earlier.
“This was conceived entirely for the Western symphony orchestra, so I had to eliminate the traditional Indian instruments but transfer some of their spirit onto the Western instruments,” Shankar told BBC radio on the day of the premiere. “I wrote it in Indian notation, which David Murphy, who is a student of mine and a wonderful conductor, has interpreted very well.” (Lynn René Bayley)

jueves, 3 de diciembre de 2015

Michel Dalberto CLAUDE DEBUSSY

A disciple of Vlado Perlemuter and Jean Hubeau, Michel Dalberto distinguished himself at a very early age as the great heir of French piano music, becoming a master and ardent defender of it, from recital to master class, over the course of a career spanning thirty years.
Although his recordings had heretofore been devoted in particular to the Viennese Classical and German Romantic eras (to the present day, he remains the only living pianist to have recorded Schubert's complete piano works), his much-awaited return to disc will leave Michel Dalberto's mark on the French music discography.
In the documentary Michel Dalberto: images…, he confided, regarding Debussy: 'I always thought I had time and that the longer I waited, the more my approach to the French repertoire would be enriched'.
And it is the Aparté label that Michel Dalberto at last chose to record, in an ideal balance between heritage and transmission, a series of discs devoted to Debussy, Fauré, Ravel, and Franck. This collection of the greatest French composers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries is the embodiment of French musical elegance, that unique combination of grace, mastery and high standards that are synonymous with the pianist's genius.
Each 'episode' of the collection will be recorded and filmed live in a different hall and on a different piano, which Michel Dalberto will have chosen to conform as closely as possible to the colours that he wishes for the composer in question.
This first volume, honouring Claude Debussy, was recorded on 30 May 2015 on a Fazioli piano at the Teatro Bibiena, in the framework of the Mantua chamber music festival.
‘Two years ago, near Venice, I played pieces by Debussy on a Fazioli piano, and it seemed obvious to me that this piano provided the ideal sonority for this music made of light and shadow. The idea of recording a recital in a beautiful Italian theatre came as a logical continuation. The « Bibiena » (from the name of its architect, Antonio Bibiena) in Mantua was inaugurated in December 1769 – Mozart gave a concert there a month later. It is, with the San Carlo in Naples, my finest memory of an Italian theatre where I played.’

Frederieke Saeijs EUGÈNE YSAŸE Six Sonatas For Solo Violin, Op. 27

The magical world of sound created by Eugène Ysaÿe draws me like an irresistible magnet. In these solo sonatas, inspired by a broad palette of colours and an infinite imagination, Ysaÿe challenges the violinist to transcend technical boundaries. I have attempted, in the light of the numerous instructions in the score, to translate Ysaÿe’s abstract language into a natural and coherent story for the listener.
Each sonata reflects the playing of the great violin master to whom it is dedicated. I feel blessed to have received lessons from a living violin legend: Mauricio Fuks. He tirelessly encouraged me to reach into the deepest corners of my soul in order to connect to my inner voice, and to use the timelessly beautiful sounds of the earlier masters as a source of inspiration. I therefore dedicate this album to him, with great love and gratitude.
The violin I play was once played by the renowned Belgian violinist Carlo Van Neste. In friendship and appreciation, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium provided him with the financial means to buy the instrument, whence the sobriquet ‘Ex Reine Elisabeth’. (In due course the violin passed to the Dutch National Foundation for Musical Instruments and thence, on loan, to me.) Queen Elisabeth was herself an accomplished violinist and received lessons from Ysaÿe: things have come full circle.
Furthermore, there is a coincidental resonance between my name, (Frederieke) Eugenie Saeijs, and that of Eugène Ysaÿe; and in fact my late uncle was called Eugène Saeijs. The interwovenness of our names surely – even tongue in cheek – draws me yet further towards Ysaÿe’s music. And there is a parallel of place: Ysaÿe composed these sonatas at his seaside house in Knokke-le-Zoute, a popular Belgian bathing resort near the Dutch border; I grew up in The Hague, very near the popular bathing resort of Scheveningen. How well I can imagine the inspiration that must have visited Ysaÿe as he surveyed the surrounding dunes and breathed in the fresh wind of the North Sea.
I have worked on this project with all my heart and, though the quest for the perfect interpretation is without end, I am very happy to share the results with you. I wish you an inspiring and adventurous journey through the extraordinary landscapes of ‘Mount Ysaÿe’. (Frederieke Saeijs)

miércoles, 2 de diciembre de 2015

Matthias Pintscher / Ensemble Intercontemporain BARTÓK - LIGETI

Matthias Pintscher is the Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, entering his third season in 2015/16. Beginning in 2016/17 he also takes up post as Principal Conductor of the Lucerne Festival Academy. He continues his partnerships with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as its Artist-in-Association, and with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra as Artist-in-Residence. Equally accomplished as conductor and composer, Pintscher sees his two main spheres of activity as entirely complementary; he has created significant works for the world’s leading orchestras, and his intrinsic understanding of the score from the composer’s perspective informs his ability to communicate on the podium. 

Alpha is launching a collaboration with the Ensemble Intercontemporain and its new artistic director, composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher.
This new series will alternate 20th-century landmarks and new works, providing an opportunity to show to advantage the great quality of the EIC musicians in the major masterpieces of the last century and to discover scores by composers of the 21st century.

martes, 1 de diciembre de 2015

Marija Vidovic ANMUT My Favorite Arias

“I am especially pleased to introduce to you a young singer, Marija Vidovic. In describing her voice, the words that come spontaneously to me are qualities like grace, sweetness and mellowness, and when it comes to her personality, I think of authenticity, charisma and above all elegance. All of those qualities amount to something special, something which anyone who loves music and the vocal art is always looking for but seldom finds: magic. I have often been witness to the spell she casts on her audience when performing. Allow yourself to be enchanted!” Francisco Araiza 

Marija Vidovic has performed regularly in concerts and song recitals in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, China and Mexico. Her Opera Arias CD will premiere in September 2015, with the Baden-Baden Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Francisco Araiza.

Sarah & Deborah Nemtanu BACH / SCHNITTKE

French sisters Sarah and Deborah Nemtanu are leaders of the Orchestre National de France and the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, respectively.
And they are also characterful soloists who play Bach’s three violin concertos with what sounds like intuitive freedom – just sample the flicked-in embellishments.
These recordings also combine period- instruments style spareness of vibrato with moments of almost old-style fullness of orchestral sound.
The couplings are fascinating, two of Bach’s Two-Part Inventions played on violin and gutteral viola, and Schnittke’s Third Concerto Grosso of 1985, a work that moves from faux Bach into pure Schnittke as if by way of musical hallucination.

domingo, 29 de noviembre de 2015

Beatrice Rana / Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Antonio Pappano PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2 - TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No. 2

Maestro Antonio Pappano insisted he wanted to record with Beatrice Rana, the 22-year-old Italian pianist championed by Martha Argerich who shot to stardom when she claimed the Silver Medal and the coveted Audience Award in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. On that occasion, Huffington Post described the seasoned competition winner’s performance as ‘an endlessly fascinating piece of humanity that had the orchestra riveted on every note’. Warner Classics signed this young piano sensation in mid-2015; the Italian virtuoso now makes her label debut with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under the baton of Sir Antonio Pappano. Recorded in Rome, the formidable programme pairs two Russian masterpieces: a thrillingly fresh take on the warhorse of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat minor – an indispensable repertoire benchmark and calling card for concert pianists all over the world – and Prokofiev’s stormy, emotionally charged Piano Concerto No.2. This coupling is a bold statement for a musician who ‘possesses an old soul that belies her twenty years, and more than a touch of genius’ (Gramophone), but the soloist believes she has ‘the right character’ for this kind of music: ‘People say that South Italians are very dramatic!’

miércoles, 25 de noviembre de 2015

Dorothea Röschmann / Mitsuko Uchida SCHUMANN Liederkreis Frauenliebe und Leben BERG Sieben frühe Lieder

For all their radical stylistic differences, Schumann and Berg were composers whose creative personas had much in common. In particular, both were steeped in literature, and both had a lifelong fascination with cryptograms and numerical symbolism of all kinds. But while Berg’s formative years were spent composing virtually nothing other than Lieder, Schumann turned seriously to song only after a decade spent writing almost exclusively music for solo piano. Not by chance, Schumann’s change of direction in 1840 coincided with his long- postponed marriage to Clara Wieck. In that one year alone, as though in rapturous greeting to his bride, he composed around 130 Lieder — a body of work that is sufficient in itself to place him as second only to Schubert in the pantheon of song composers. One of the cycles of that time, Frauenliebe und -leben, to poems by the French-born Adelbert von Chamisso, itself encapsulates the life of a married woman. “I have lived and loved”, she sings in the last of the eight songs, and the cycle traces her journey from first love, through betrothal, marriage and childbirth, to bereavement. Not only does the final number of the cycle end with an almost exact recollection of the piano part of the first song, but Schumann adopts a “closed” form in the majority of the intervening numbers by repeating the opening line (or lines) at the end. The exceptions are those songs whose narrative progression makes such a reversion unfeasible. In the fifth song, for instance, as the bride-to-be bids her sisters farewell, the melody of the opening bars is transformed into a miniature wedding march; and the accelerating pace of the cycle’s penultimate song culminates in a moment of reverie, after which the piano is left on its own to express the exultation of love in a new melody whose flowing quality enhances the dramatic effectiveness of the bleak closing song. That final song, as the loss of the woman’s husband causes a veil to descend over her future, leaves the music open- ended, and a short dissolve leads to the piano’s long reminiscence of the cycle’s opening number. The concluding moments present the piano part exactly as it was in the second verse of the original song. At first, that part had doubled the vocal line; but at the point where the two had diverged, and the piano had assumed a purely accompanimental role, the listener now becomes acutely aware of the missing voice. It is an ending of infinite tenderness, and an overwhelming expression of loss. . .

We'll take for granted the lovely, limpid, not-too-close sound provided by Decca. The singing is exquisite; Röschmann has a silvery, soaring soprano in the Lucia Popp/Margaret Price category, light, bright, pure and shimmering with easy top notes and real intensity without a hint of wobble or scratch. Her diction is ideal and she sings with real passion. Perhaps the most beautiful thing here is her rendering of "Mondnacht", where the delicacy of Uchida's pianism matches Röschmann's poise. Hear, too, the skill with which Röschmann manages the tricky intervals and sustains perfect intonation in "Auf einer Burg" . . . [Uchida's] style suits perfectly both the singer's vocal layout and the mood of the songs, especially the tenderness of "Frauenliebe und Leben", which is given an account to match the best predecessors . . . The haunting Berg songs are creamily sung and make an apt interlude between the two Schumann cycles . . . I cannot imagine any aficionado being disappointed by such musically flawless singing and playing. (Ralph Moore, MusicWeb International / 01. November 2015)

martes, 24 de noviembre de 2015

Annie Fischer SCHUMANN Piano Concerto - Leon Fleisher BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 2

Two pearls of pianism: Annie Fischer in a sensitive, chamber-like and exceptionally poetic reading of the Schumann Piano Concerto – one of her favourite pieces. Leon Fleisher, a few months before he was to lose the use of his right hand (recovering it only in old age), with Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto in an inspirationally bright and crystal clear tone.

The eighth disc in the series "LUCERNE FESTIVAL Historic Performances" is dedicated to two piano icons: in 1960 and 1962, with two years between them, Hungarian-born Annie Fischer and the American Leon Fleisher made their debuts at LUCERNE FESTIVAL. Released here for the first time in their entirety, these live recordings document them at the peak of their art.
Sviatoslav Richter called her a "brilliant musician", accrediting her with "great breath and true depth". András Schiff acknowledged: "I have never heard more poetic playing in my life." Annie Fischer, born in Budapest in 1914, gave public performances even as a child, winning the International Liszt Competition in 1930 and after that, except during the war, touring worldwide. Nonetheless, she tends to be rated as an insider's tip, not least because she left behind only a handful of studio recordings. That makes live recordings such as this, released for the first time, all the more precious: at her only performance in Lucerne in summer 1960, Annie Fischer realised a sensitive, chamber-like and exceptionally poetic reading of the Schumann Piano Concerto with which she "garnered unusually fervent success", according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. She found congenial musical partners in Carlo Maria Giulini and the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Leon Fleisher made his Lucerne debut in 1962 at the age of thirty-four: on the peak of his rapid career which had - as had been the case with Annie Fischer - catapulted him into musical life while he was still a child. However, only a few months after his Lucerne performance - released for the first time in its entirety - he developed "focal dystonia", making the use of his right hand impossible. During the following decades, Fleisher became a specialist of the left-handed repertoire until, in his old age, he was once again able to play with both hands, thanks to new medical treatments. In Lucerne, he presented himself with one of his party pieces - Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto, which he played with an elegant and transparent tone. The Swiss Festival Orchestra was conducted by George Szell, with whom he had made a studio recording of the concerto one year previously - an interesting comparison. The second half of this concert, Brahms' First Symphony, is already available in this series of "LUCERNE FESTIVAL Historic Performances" and has been awarded the "Diapason d'Or" as well as a nomination for the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA)

domingo, 22 de noviembre de 2015

Carolin Widmann REFLECTIONS

Music for solo violin is still mainly associated with Bach in the eighteenth century and Paganini in the nineteenth. Carolin Widmann, the distinguished German violinist, here provides a varied and vivid survey of such music from the twentieth century, from Ysaÿe in the 1920s to Jörg Widmann (her composer brother) at the turn of the millennium. There is nothing at all in the CD booklet about any of these pieces, though they are unlikely to be at all familiar to most collectors. I describe them below, partly because you need this information for a proper appreciation of the range of what is on offer on this disc, and partly in hope that it might pique your curiosity. 
Ysaÿe’s Six sonatas for solo violin, Op. 27, were written in 1923. Each one is dedicated to one of his contemporary violinists, No. 2 to Jacques Thibaud, and No. 4 to Fritz Kreisler. If that was a shrewd way to encourage world-class performances, one hopes it worked, for they are fine works and by no means unworthy of their Bachian inheritance. Indeed No. 2 actually opens with some Bach, the famously arresting first phrase of the E minor partita, no less. However, it is the plainchant Dies Irae that informs much of the work, including the noble variations of the Sarabande. Sonata No. 4 is hardly less compelling, and both are very well played indeed. 
If those sonatas are a homage to Bach, then another set of six, the Sei Capricci (1976) of Salvatore Sciarrino, pay homage to the 24 Caprices of his compatriot and forbear Niccolo Paganini. Each capriccio uses almost entirely the least substantial of all string sounds - harmonics. This includes some harmonics that – apparently – do not exist, since they do not lie on any of the nodes along the string that produce the overtones. They are notated and attempted nonetheless, and the sonic result is part of the soundscape. This near exclusive use of harmonics – normally an occasional coloristic effect – means every piece is filled with ethereal, whistling wisps of sound, evoking a world of shadows, as if some revenant from the great days of Ysaÿe and his dedicatees was playing for us, but his spectral status meant he could produce only a disembodied sound. Eerie it might be, but Widmann’s performance again makes us forget the incredible technical demands this music must make on the performer. 
Pierre Boulez’s Anthèmes was commissioned for the 1991 Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition. The title is a hybrid of the French thèmes (themes) and the English "anthem". The four pages of score (free to download) employ a formidable-looking range of tempi (lent to rapide), expression marks (calme, agité, brusque), dynamics (pppp -fff) and very frequent metrical changes, all punctuated by frequent long trills and glissandi. Widmann manages to observe all this scrupulously, and in so doing, show us that it is a fine piece, by no means as challenging to listen to as it must be to play. Small wonder it is one of those pieces Boulez - as so often - expanded and developed further, as Anthèmes 2 for violin and live electronics. 
Jörg Widmann's solo violin Études I-III are autonomous concert pieces — premiered separately in 1995, 2001 and 2003. The composer wrote of them: “‘Étude' is taken literally here as a compositional exercise … but also as a violinistic study on a certain playing technique: for example, I is some sort of 'sounding out' of the instrument's resonance possibilities, II goes on a journey from a three-part chorale to spirited, unbridled virtuosity, and III is mainly a left-hand étude.' He, perhaps mischievously, does not remark on the element that will strike most listeners to Etude II – one line of the three-part chorale he mentions is for the violinist’s wordless voice. One would like to know what Isabelle Faust — dedicatee and first performer — made of that when she first encountered it, let alone its first audience at the 1995 Cheltenham Festival. The effect is certainly evocative here. Presumably we can take for granted the authenticity of the performance by the composer’s sister and dedicatee and first performer of Étude III, who even contributed the recommended fingering to the score. By the way, Schott’s website has this helpful note for prospective purchasers of the score “Difficulty: Very Difficult”. The only possible criticism of the performer on this CD is that she never makes it sound like that. 
Ysaÿe once wrote that a performer on his instrument "must be a violinist, a thinker, a poet, a human being, he must have known hope, love, passion and despair, he must have run the gamut of the emotions in order to express them all in his playing." I have no idea if Carolin Widmann has experienced all that in her life to date, but surely Ysaÿe would have applauded such virtuosity and expressive range – the playing is often frankly sensational. This recording was first published in 2006 on Telos, and won an award in Germany. It was Widmann’s debut disc, and as a solo violin calling card from a young player it recalls Perlman’s EMI Paganini Caprices from 1972. Its reissue is greatly to be celebrated. (Roy Westbrook)

Emmanuelle Swiercz CHOPIN Nocturnes

Emmanuelle Swiercz started the piano at 9. Two years later she gave her first performance with an orchestra. At the age of 16 she was unanimously accepted by the jury of the National Superior Conservatory of music and dance in Paris into the classes of Michel Béroff, Denis Pascal and Marie-Françoise Bucquet. In 1999, after graduating with distinction, she took part in proficiency courses and simultaneously attended master-classes with György Sebök, György Kurtág, Dmitri Bashkirov, Leon Fleisher and Murray Perahia. 
Emmanuelle was sponsored by the Foundation of the French Group Banques Populaires, by the Cziffra Foundation, by the Musical Forum of Normandy, and by the Musical Patronage of SocGen. She won the second prize at the Ricardo Viñes International Competition and the International Music Tournament in Rome, the third Prize at the Città di Camaiore International Competition; she was awarded “Prix Spécial” at the Maria-Canals International Competition. In addition, with the backing of the Musical Patronage of SocGen, Emmanuelle and four other pianists recorded all the piano sonatas by Alexander Scriabin.

Blandine Staskiewicz / Les Ambassadeurs / Alexis Kossenko TEMPESTA

Never judge a book by its cover. Mind you, the faux tattoos on Blandine Staskiewicz’s bare shoulders proclaiming ‘Tempesta – Handel & Vivaldi’ make one of the cringeworthiest album covers I’ve seen in a long while (perhaps the lack of available skin explains why Pergolesi and Porpora aren’t mentioned). Quite apart from that, does the world really need yet another ‘Ombra mai fù’? Once past the outward impression, you hear Alexis Kossenko and his orchestra Les Ambassadeurs offering superb value as always. ‘Spesso di nubi cinto’ from Porpora’s Carlo il Calvo launches proceedings thrillingly, with imaginative orchestral phrasing allied to Staskiewicz’s impressively precise and limpidly shaped coloratura, and there’s more virtuoso volatility in ‘Torbido in volto’ from Pergolesi’s Adriano in Siria.
Staskiewicz sensibly alternates these stormy arias with a judicious assortment of slow ones; there is gentler melodic sensitivity during Vivaldi’s ‘Sovvente il sole’ from the pasticcio Andromeda liberata, in which vocal serenity is complemented sympathetically by solo violinist Zefira Valova (who applies a few surprising chromatic embellishments fleetingly). A self-indulgently luxuriant ‘Ombra mai fù’ almost justifies its existence between the charismatic liveliness of ‘Brilla nell’alma’ from Handel’s Alessandro and the lively rustic wittiness of ‘Io son fra l’onde’ from Vivaldi’s La verità in cimento (which features Kossenko’s vivacious piccolo obbligato). The tormented soliloquy ‘Pensieri’ from Handel’s Agrippina and the lovely cavatina ‘Quando mai spietata sorte’ from Radamisto both feature Gilles Vanssons’s poignant oboe-playing. I do not always sense tangible engagement with dramatic characterisations, but the nuanced vibrancy from Staskiewicz and Les Ambassadeurs in the tempestuous ‘Siam navi all’onde algenti’ from Vivaldi’s Olimpiade is irresistible. (Gramophone)

Audrey Vigoureux BACH - BEETHOVEN Quasi una Fantasia

Audrey Vigoureux started to play the piano at the age of 8, at the Academy of Aix-en-Provence, France. She studied both in Paris and Geneva, graduating with the first piano prize with distinction in Paris and a soloist diploma with distinction in Geneva. She has also been rewarded Geneva's Adolph Neumann Prize, the Dumont Prize, and the Filipinetti Prize. Audrey had benefitted from advice from great masters including Andreas Schiff, Charles Rosen, Bella Davidovitch, Jospeh Kalinschtein, Dominique Merlet, and Jean-Claude Pennetier. 
Since a very young age, she has been invited to play alone or with orchestras in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Audrey now plays with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and with various orchestras in France and Venezuela. She teaches piano at the Haute Ecole de Musique de Genève. In Frebruary 2014, she recorded a solo disc with music of Bach and Beethoven, under the direction of Nicolas Bartholomée, Little Tribecca/Aparté, which will be released at the beginning of 2015. 
This recording features 'Fantasias' by Bach and Beethoven. Beethoven subtitled two Piano Sonatas Quasi una Fantasia - Op.27 No.1 and Op.110. These works are paired with two Fantaisies and Fugues by Bach, in performances that focus on the music's lyrical properties. 

sábado, 21 de noviembre de 2015

Cecilia String Quartet MENDELSSOHN op. 44 Nos 1, 2

The three quartets of opus 44 are the centrepiece of Felix Mendelssohn’s mature string quartets. He wrote them in the years 1837-38, starting composition at the age of 28, when his fame in the international musical community was rapidly growing. The oratorio St. Paul had recently brought international success. He had directed the renowned Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig since 1835. Now, he travelled constantly between the important musical centres of Europe – conducting, advising major cultural and educational committees, composing commissioned works to order for the major festivals and performing as a pianist, organist and chamber musician for the public and royalty of Europe. Family matters similarly came fast and furious with his wedding to Cécile Jeanrenaud, the daughter of a French Protestant clergyman, in March 1837 and the establishment of a new home in Leipzig.
He began composition of the opus 44 quartets during his honeymoon in the Black Forest and completed the earliest of them, in E minor, on June 18, 1837. The E-flat major quartet followed on February 6 of the following year, the day before the birth of his first son, Carl Wolfgang Paul. The last to be completed, in D major, followed on July 24, 1838. With all three complete, Mendelssohn re-ordered them, giving them the numbering we know today and published the set as Trois Grands Quatuors, with a dedication to the Crown Prince of Sweden.
Mendelssohn held the Quartet in D major, Op. 44, No. 1 in high regard. It was the first of the three to be published but the last to be written. “I have just finished my Quartet in D,” he wrote to the violinist Ferdinand David, a close friend and concertmaster of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. “I like it very much. I hope it may please you as well. I rather think it will, since it is more spirited and seems to me likely to be more grateful to the players than the others.” David and his quartet had already premièred the two earlier opus 44 quartets and now gave the first performance of the D major at one of the quartet’s regular matinées, on February 16, 1839.
The opening movement is an exuberant and high spirited conversation between the four instruments, confidently written and carefully polished. After a period without writing chamber music in the early 1830s, Mendelssohn is now more classically oriented than he was in the earlier, structurally experimental and Beethoven-influenced opus 12 and 13 quartets. The two central movements provide contrast to the quartet’s exuberant start. First comes a gentle, smooth-as-silk Menuetto, somewhat rococo in flavour and in the even structure of its phrases. It is the only minuet in any of Mendelssohn’s quartets. A wistful slow movement follows in which the composer keeps a firm hand on the sentiment. The brilliant finale is a driving saltarello, a whirlwind version of a 16th century dance form that Mendelssohn had already mastered in the final movement of his Italian symphony.
The Quartet in E minor, Op. 44, No. 2, the earliest of the three to be written, opens with a sense of urgency, in Mendelssohn’s favoured key of E minor. Through the agitation, there is a touch of melancholy to the first violin theme. Its arching shape and syncopated accompaniment bear a strong resemblance to the opening of the violin concerto that Mendelssohn was to write in the same key and for the same violinist the following year. (Its opening arching arpeggio phrase also mirrors the opening of the finale of Mozart’s late G minor symphony, but there the similarity ends.) The tautly woven musical ideas of the movement balance the tension of the opening theme with the repose of its second theme. The fertility of invention carries over into the sparkling Scherzo. This is propelled by rhythmic vitality and constantly surprises us with the unexpected. At the same time, everything lies comfortably on the fingerboard – as in the Octet, this is music that is written for those who play as well as for the instruments they play upon. Mendelssohn brings a violinist’s (and viola player’s) inside knowledge to the interplay between the four instruments. “He never touched a string instrument the whole year round,” the composer Ferdinand Hiller once said, “but, when he wanted to play, as with most things in life, he could do it.” The slow movement is a bittersweet song-without words, whose main melody sounds especially eloquent when it reappears on the cello. Any hint of sentimentality – a concern in some of Mendelssohn’s music – is avoided with the composer’s caution not to drag out (nicht schleppend) the movement. The finale again reveals great sophistication in the intricate way Mendelssohn handles bravura material, marrying musical craft with technical virtuosity. (Keith Horner)

Olga Scheps VOCALISE

ECHO Klassik award winner Olga Scheps has quickly earned her standing among the established and sought-after pianists of her generation with her individual and characteristic musicality, her captivating stage presence, her scintillating sound and her warm touch. What especially sets her apart from others is her remarkable ability to enthrall her audiences by recounting musical narratives in her interpretations.
Olga Scheps was born in Moscow in 1986 and came to Germany at the age of six. She lives in Cologne and studies with Pavel Gililov at Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln. Further studies have led her to Arie Vardi and Dmitrij Bashkirov. Moreover, for nearly ten years now, she has received significant artistic impulses from Alfred Brendel.
An exclusive artist of SONYClassical/RCA, Olga Scheps’ debut CD “Chopin” was released in January 2010; she received the ECHO Klassik award as “Newcomer of the Year” in October 2010. She released her second album with works by Russian composers in the autumn of 2010. In September 2012, Olga Scheps presented her most recent album “Schubert”.
Olga Scheps frequently performs recitals in venues such as the Berlin Philharmonie, the Great Hall of the Laeiszhalle Hamburg, Munich’s Prinzregententheater, Alte Oper Frankfurt, Liederhalle Stuttgart, Musikverein Wien, and Cologne’s Philharmonie.
She has worked with renowned orchestras, such as the NDR Sinfonieorchester, the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, the Münchner Symphoniker, the Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra. Her 2012/13 concert season includes tours with the Staatskapelle Weimar as well as the State Symphony Capella of Russia.
Since her debut at the Ruhr Piano Festival in 2007, Olga Scheps has been a regular guest at various prominent festivals, such as the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Kissinger Sommer, Heidelberger Frühling, Klavier-Festival Ruhr, Rheingau Musik Festival, and the Hitzacker Summer Music Festival. Her recital at the Ruhr Piano Festival in May 2009 was recorded and published in the “Edition Piano Festival Ruhr” in cooperation with the Fono Forum magazine.
Olga Scheps also is an ardent chamber musician. She regularly collaborates with colleagues such as the violinists Daniel Hope and Erik Schumann, the cellists Adrian Brendel, Alban Gerhardt and Jan Vogler, as well as with the violist Nils Mönkemeyer.
TV reports in the German newscast “heute journal“ (ZDF), “Capriccio“ (BR Bavarian Public Radio & Television), Arte, 3Sat, and NDR North German Public Radio & Television have quickly fostered her publicity among a broader audience. As an ambassador for classical music, she is especially passionate about addressing a younger audience.
Olga Scheps is a fellowship holder at the “Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben” and the “German National Merit Foundation ”.

Martha Argerich RACHMANINOV Music for Two Pianos

This excellent collection comes with a minor caveat, since almost all of these recordings have appeared previously as part of Martha Argerich’s ‘Live at Lugano’ series. Having such a collection of such glorious recordings of Rachmaninov’s multiple-piano/multiple-pianist works together in one place may appeal even if you do have all or some of these desirable Lugano box sets lying around. However, you may want to check the contents before acquiring this set. Argerich has also recorded some of this repertoire elsewhere, for instance in a magnificent recording with Alexandre Rabinovich on Teldec, the Symphonic Dances and Second Suite in particular, but I find myself preferring the spontaneity of the live versions in this collection. Further self-competition in this work comes in the form of a Deutsche Grammophon recording in which Martha Argerich is joined by Nicolas Economou, but even with its many qualities this again lacks the excitement, drive and electric synergy of the live version.
Michael Cookson’s comments on this release are a very good summary of the content and qualities of this compilation. The unique ‘heft’ of two pianos and the musical synergy between players is an inspiration throughout, and if you relish Rachmaninov’s way of creating colour and sonority with the piano as well as his harmonic and melodic idiom then this is a place to bathe in a seascape of marvels. The freshly-minted feel to the performances adds a sheen of uniqueness which is hard to beat in any context. The Symphonic Dances is, as mentioned, a work with which Argerich has been associated before, and her performance here – one of the works which is a new release – with Nelson Goerner is both dramatic and full of subtleties. You can sense the synergy of the two musicians, echoing each other’s little variations and inflections and relishing rhythmic oneness. The same is true of both Suites, and if you don’t sit entranced at the Romance in the Second Suite or agape at the daring repetitions and Russian clamour of bells in the Pâques of the First Suite then alas I fear we may have to part company.
CD 2 is also a source of tremendous pleasures. The 6 Duets have some of Rachmaninov’s best music, and Argerich’s work with Lilya Zilberstein is terrific, here as it is in the First Suite. Just listen to that final Slava (Gloria), and dry your eyes with the Romance and Waltz in A, played by Zilberstein and the Gerzenbergs with magnificent élan. The final Russian Rhapsody doesn’t have Martha Argerich as a player, but Lilya Zilberstein and Alexander Mogilevsky are however very much worth hearing in their virtuoso clarity and sense of heady Russian movement and style. (Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International)

viernes, 20 de noviembre de 2015

Alina Ibragimova YSAŸE Sonatas for Solo Violin

Alina Ibragimova has made many fine recordings in recent years, but this solo Ysaÿe disc must count as one of her most memorable achievements. She gives full value to the sonatas’ varied expressive character, their virtuosity, and the imaginative and poetic way Ysaÿe wrote for his instrument. And she makes the music sound quite beautiful: we never feel the medium of unaccompanied violin is at all limiting; the sonatas speak to us unimpeded, without any sense of strain.
Ysaÿe composed the set in 1924, when his illustrious performing career was almost over. He dedicated each of the six to a different colleague among the fraternity of violinists, and we can follow their characteristics through the set—the First Sonata for Joseph Szigeti substantial and serious, and reflecting his prowess as a Bach interpreter; the Third Sonata commemorating the free, romantic style of Enescu, the Sixth Manuel Quiroga’s Spanish heritage, and so on. Ysaÿe sought in all six works to merge the Baroque tradition of solo violin-writing exemplified by Bach with the virtuoso styles of Paganini and Ernst, plus newer ways of writing of his own, leaning towards Impressionism.
At the start of the First Sonata (track 1) we notice Ibragimova’s deliberate, serious approach, characterised by strong dynamic contrasts and a powerful sense of line. The playing here communicates deep emotional involvement; and she’s equally successful in putting over the graceful, amabile character of the contrasting third movement (tr 3).
The Second Sonata, dedicated to Ysaÿe’s close friend Jacques Thibaud, might appear to contradict what we know of the latter’s easy-going nature and graceful playing, suggesting a darker side. The initial skittish quotation from Bach’s Third Partita for Solo Violin is set against obsessive repetitions of the ‘Dies irae’ chant, which continue throughout the sonata. Ibragimova is equally at home in the gentle, muted, melancholic second movement (tr 6) and the finale, ‘Les Furies’, which she attacks with extraordinary gusto (tr 8). Especially memorable here is the reintroduction of ‘Dies irae’ as a barely audible sul ponticello whisper (1'10"), contrasting with fiercely dissonant arpeggios.
With the single-movement Third Sonata, she draws a convincing distinction between the opening in recitative style, done very freely and as though improvised, and the main theme, held at a firm tempo. As the sonata nears its final climax (tr 9, 7'01"), there’s a sense of throwing caution to the wind, accomplished without any loss of tonal quality.
The Fourth Sonata is dedicated to Fritz Kreisler, with more Bachian echoes, as well as a nod to Kreisler’s interest in reviving—or composing in imitation of—more obscure 18th-century composers, with movements entitled Allemande and Sarabande. The first of these has an extremely slow tempo marking, which Ibragimova treats with freedom, allowing the movement’s different facets to come together to make a satisfying narrative. And in the moto perpetuo finale she makes full use of the varied bow strokes indicated (a tribute to Kreisler?), building up once more a cumulative sense of excitement towards the conclusion.
The Fifth Sonata is dedicated to Ysaÿe’s longtime friend and colleague Mathieu Crickboom. Its opening movement, ‘L’aurore’, is an Impressionistic depiction of dawn breaking, which allows Ibragimova to display a fantastic array of the quietest tone colours. She brings infectious rhythmic vitality to the ‘Danse rustique’ that follows.
As well as its Spanish idiom, the Sixth Sonata most clearly shows Ysaÿe as the heir to the great 19th-century virtuoso tradition—he had, after all, been a pupil of Wieniawski and Vieuxtemps. If we think of Ibragimova as a thoughtful, even scholarly player, here she proves herself adept at all the frequent showy tricks. Ysaÿe had a deeper purpose, of course: this piece’s sparkling surface is designed to portray an ardent character, full of extravagant gestures. And not only do the difficulties hold no terrors for Ibragimova, she also, as throughout the disc, gives a strong impression of having fun playing the music.
It seems very sad that none of the dedicatees of the Ysaÿe Sonatas made recordings of them. It may be that though Ysaÿe the great performer and teacher was revered, his compositions were not considered to be significant – it’s only in recent years that a handful of remarkable late chamber works have been unearthed and played. Whatever the reason, the Op 27 sonatas were virtually ignored until the LP era, and then it was individual works, most commonly No 3, that appeared on disc—with fine accounts by Oistrakh, Grumiaux, Rabin and Odnoposoff. Then came the first recordings of the whole set, by Ruggiero Ricci and Oscar Shumsky (whose 1982 performance is particularly commanding).
Since then, dozens of versions have appeared, giving the works the status of classics. Among them, I’ve always admired Leonidas Kavakos’s exceptionally clear, poised account from 1999. Then there’s Thomas Zehetmair, in 2004, playing with magnificent energy and commitment, and a feeling for the music and sense of fantasy that are different from Ibragimova’s but in no way inferior. However, she takes her place now as one of the most distinguished exponents of these fascinating works. (Gramophone)

jueves, 19 de noviembre de 2015

Mariss Jansons / Chor und Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks TSCHAIKOWSKY Pique Dame

While Eugene Onegin is Tchaikovsky’s most popular opera, there’s a fair argument that The Queen of Spades is his best. A gripping drama, it requires performances where you believe in Herman’s psychological descent as the desire to learn the secret of the three cards from the old Countess consumes everything, including his love for Lisa.
The opera has been lucky on disc, dominated in recent decades by recordings from Valery Gergiev and Seiji Ozawa, both from the early 1990s. They are joined by this resplendent account from Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded in concert. Jansons has a fine pedigree in Tchaikovsky (his cycle of the symphonies for Chandos still holds strong) and he paces the opera unerringly well, building tension superbly. His Bavarians respond with atmospheric playing, burnished strings and dark woodwind coloration to the fore.
Alexandra Maria Dielitz’s excellent booklet essay explains how the Mariinsky director tried to persuade Tchaikovsky to set Pushkin’s story as an opera, ‘a Russian Carmen’. Parallels are drawn in deciphering fate from cards, but Tchaikovsky also channels Bizet in his children’s mock-soldier chorus. The Bavarian State Opera children’s choir offer characterful singing, if not as earthily Russian as Gergiev’s urchins. Jansons keeps the Mozartian pastiche light and fleet-footed, and even employs a fortepiano for Lisa and Polina’s duet to give a period feel.
Tatiana Serjan is a vibrant, fearless Lisa, as one might expect from a soprano who tackles the roles of Abigaille and Lady Macbeth. Hers is a voice with plenty of ‘blade’ when required, yet she can shade it beautifully. Her aria by the River Neva, as she awaits her final confrontation with Herman, is heartfelt. I prefer her to Mirella Freni, past her best when recording the role for Ozawa, while she matches Maria Guleghina (Gergiev) for drama. Misha Didyk, a less than convincing Manrico at La Monnaie (Bel Air, 2/15), surprises with his baritonal depths here as Herman, as well as a ringing top. There’s vivid characterisation too, thrilling in his encounters with Serjan’s Lisa, without the occasional spills of Vladimir Atlantov (Ozawa) or Gegam Grigorian (Gergiev).
Larissa Diadkova’s Countess happily relies more on secure vocal technique than scary histrionics and Oksana Volkova is a rich-voiced Polina. When it comes to the baritones, Jansons can’t quite compete with Ozawa. Alexey Markov is less refulgent of tone than Dmitri Hvorostovsky but sings a noble account of ‘Ya vas lyublyu’. Similarly, Alexey Shishlyaev lacks Sergei Leiferkus’s sardonic bite as Tomsky, but his narration of the legend of the three cards is effective, despite his upper notes being pushed.
With an excellent recording – despite applause and some stage noise – this is a highly recommendable version of Tchaikovsky’s opera which pulls the listener into the drama. (Gramophone)

martes, 17 de noviembre de 2015

Antje Weithaas / Camerata Bern JOHANNES BRAHMS Violin Concerto - String Quintet op. 111

Founded in 1962, the CAMERATA BERN is a highly-acclaimed chamber orchestra uniting top level musicians inspired by the idea of performing within a flexible, self-conducted ensemble.
Its members are gifted soloists and chamber musicians. Under its artistic director, the violinist ANTJE WEITHAAS, as well as guest concertmasters Erich Höbarth, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Pekka Kuusisto, Amandine Beyer, Enrico Onofri and others, CAMERATA BERN performs a broad repertoire ranging from early Baroque to today’s composers. The orchestra stands out for its subtle and perfectly homogeneous sound, its freshness and mastery of style. With charisma and spontaneity adding to its ability to thrill its public, CAMERATA BERN is now renowned as one of the prime ensembles among chamber orchestras in Europe.
The ensemble’s outstanding qualities has led it to perform with such eminent artists as Heinz Holliger, András Schiff, Vadim Repin, Alexander Lonquich, Jörg Widmann, Sabine Meyer, Tabea Zimmermann, Vessilina Kasarova, Bernd Glemser, Christian Gerhaher, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Maurice André, Bruno Canino, Radu Lupu, Peter Serkin, Gidon Kremer, Nathan Milstein, Boris Pergamenshikov, Narciso Yepes, Pepe Romero, Barbara Hendricks, Peter Schreier, Jan Vogler, Reinhold Friedrich, Leonidas Kavakos, Angelika Kirchschlager and others.
The ensemble has toured extensively in Europe, South- and North-America, as well as in South-East Asia, the Far East, Australia and Japan. Its recordings on Sony, Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv, Decca, Denon, ERATO, Berlin Classics, Novalis, ECM, Claves and Philips have won several international awards, such as the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, the Grand Prix International du Disque, the International Record Critics Award, the Record Academy Prize, and the Prize Echo Klassik ‘97 of the Deutsche Phono-Akademie. The latest CD-releases feature Antje Weithaas in a Beethoven programme (CAVI, September 2012). The next CD will be released in September 2015 with Antje Weithaas as soloist in Brahms’ Violin Concerto.
Lately, CAMERATA BERN has performed at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova, Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato/Mexico, Morelia Festival in Mexico, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, in the Sala Sao Paulo, at the Teatro Solis in Montevideo, at Geneva’s Victoria Hall, at deSingel in Antwerp.
Within its large scale educational project for children since 2010, the CAMERATA BERN performs concerts in schools across the Canton of Bern. The project developed in the frame of the Education Department’s “Education and culture” programme has reached over 10’000 children up to now, mainly in the canton’s rural areas.
The CAMERATA BERN also focuses on historically informed performance and performs an early music concert series in Bern. (Squire Artists)