jueves, 30 de abril de 2015

Roberta Invernizzi / Salvo Vitale / Giulio Prandi / Ghislieri Choir & Consort DAVIDE PEREZ Mattutino de' Morti

There are some interpreters’ albums in which a certain vision stirs our admiration. There are complete works , famous composers , different generations,  schools and conceptions that outline the landmark  of certain  parts of  this kind of literature. It is argued whether the musician was good or not. It is then compared with other versions. Or, as it is the case of this album, Davide Perez, it gets discovered – a name, a work, an age – of transition in this case, as the Italian born in Naples, in Pergolesi’s generation, was part of a particular longevity line, by dying in Lisbon in the year when Mozart composed  Symphony no. 31, Paris.
An album released in 2014 – Mattutino de' Morti by Davide Perez, in a fundamental interpretation – Ghislieri Choir and Consort, conducted by Giulio Prandi along with the soprano Roberta Invernizzi and the bass Salvo Vitale, as soloists. It is an album through which one of the 18th  century’ masterpieces is returned to us alongwith this name enlisted in the  gallery of the creators of Opera Seria and sacred music, that is brought back to our attention.
Dedicated to those gone, Mattutinode' Morti is an oratorio for soloists, choir and orchestra – luxuriant, like the royal ceremonies. It symbolizes, even in this case, the ideas of greatness and brilliance; just like other similar pages signed by Davide Perez, it creates a bridge between the Baroque and the Classicism; it brings here the concertato style and some features borrowed from the operatic works. It was kept in the repertory  since 1770, the year of its first appearance, until the end of the 19th century. After a break longer than a century, it was interpreted in 2013, by the Ghislieri Choir and Consort in France, Italy, Holland and at the "George Enescu" International Festival in Bucharest, during the nightly concerts at the Romanian Athenaeum. (Marina Nedelcu) 

miércoles, 29 de abril de 2015

STEPHEN SCOTT New Music For Bowed piano

You have to look inside the booklet to discover this, but it appears that the material on this CD is about 17 years old. Stephen Scott's prior New Albion CDs (Minerva's Web and Tears of Niobe on NA026, Vikings of the Sunrise on NA084) must have found an audience and created demand for new material faster than the composer could supply it. I have no problem with this, but I think New Albion could have been more forthcoming with this information. The title of this disc certainly implies something else.
Stephen Scott's interest in bowed piano dates from 1976 when he heard the striking effect created by drawing a nylon fishing line across piano strings. He quickly began to imagine what the effect might be if several players did this at the same time. Within a year, he had completed Music One for Bowed Strings, which appears on this CD.
Ten players perform each piece. They bend over the instrument's exposed innards like surgeons performing open-heart surgery. They use small "bows" made from Popsicle sticks and rosined horsehair and draw them back and forth across the piano's strings to produce melodies, drones, and staccato rhythmic figures. The keyboard itself is infrequently struck. The resulting tone is pleasantly metallic, not unlike that produced by certain organ pipes. The number of performers makes it possible for Scott to include effects such as hocketing, in which a single melodic line in divided between more than one musician. The spatial interruptions create an effect which at times resembles hiccuping.
Resonant Resources is the exception. The composer performs it as a solo work from the keyboard. The piano has already been prepared with bowing devices and electromagnets. This produces a smoother sound and allows for the manipulable sympathetic vibration of multiple strings within the same harmonic structure.
The music on this CD is relatively simple, once one understands the basic concepts. The other two New Albion CDs are more sophisticated and less minimalistic. Think of New Music for Bowed Piano as a disc of ethereal études, or as a support to meditation, and you'll be fine. The performances recreate the inspiration and excitement of the moment, and the engineering is good.( Raymond Tuttle)

martes, 28 de abril de 2015

Gustavo Dudamel / Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela BEETHOVEN 3 "Eroica"

Gustavo Dudamel has always had a special relationship with the music of Beethoven, as have many Venezuelan musicians. In 2006, Dudamel and what was then the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela recorded the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies for DGG. It was a remarkable disc. “Since 2006,” Dudamel noted “we’ve taken out the word ‘youth’ from our name but the young soul remains. It’s the same orchestra, you can still see very young people, but it’s a step in a new direction. Our commitment to the core repertoire, and also to the great genius of Beethoven, remains, as well.”
Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the “Eroica”, which Dudamel and his orchestra have been touring of late, was completed in 1803. The previous autumn the 31-year-old Beethoven had drawn up his so-called Heiligenstadt Testament, the confessional statement in which he confronted the trauma of his growing deafness, contemplated suicide, and stoically rejected it. It was against this background that he began work on the “Eroica”, a symphony whose scale, emotional power and narrative reach transformed the medium.
The symphony’s informing idea can be traced back to 1801 and the music Beethoven wrote for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. The subject was a lofty one. Prometheus, the heroic benefactor of mankind, drives “ignorance from the people of his age” and gives them “manners, customs, and morals”. In stealing fire from the gods, he acquires that divine spark which man-kind itself can harness only through suffering and struggle. This Promethean ideal fed into Beethoven’s own determination to outface suffering and despair. To which he added what at the time was his admiration for the heroic deeds of Napoleon Bonaparte. (An admiration that turned to ashes when Napoleon declared himself Emperor in May 1804.) 
It is clear when we hear the opening notes of the“Eroica” that we are dealing with music on a titanic scale. If we examine Beethoven’s sketchbooks for the work, we see the sweep of his imaginative vision; how, at a quite early stage in the planning, the melody’s dissonant C sharp in bar 7 is already linked to the D flat [= C sharp] in a visionary bridge passage which will somehow usher in the movement’s recapitulation. At the time of those first sketches, Beethoven had no more idea how to cross the 400-bar space between than a mountaineer who first glimpses a distant peak from the valley beneath.
Some of Beethoven’s most powerful effects seem bewilderingly simple. The two opening chords act both as gesture and as rhythmic markers, allowing the E flat major theme in bar 3 an ease and impulsion it would not possess without them. The sonic ferocity of the symphony is signalled at the end of the exposition in a mass of misplaced accents and dissonant tonic-plus-dominant chords as shocking as anything in Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps. The dissonant climax of the devel- opment section is even more ferocious, after which an entirely new melody sings out in the remote key of E minor. (“A song of pain after the holocaust”, as Leonard Bernstein once memorably expressed it.)

lunes, 27 de abril de 2015

Aisha Orazbayeva THE HAND GALLERY

As time passes, achieving true originality and distinction in the field of music becomes an increasingly difficult task as musical boundaries become eroded, genres overlap and merge and techniques grow ever more experimental. Finding space to genuinely stand out is something that evades many artists.
Yet, it is something that Kazakh violinist Aisha Orazbayeva has shown is still possible. Her name may not be particularly well known outside the circles of contemporary classical music but her career to date has seen her accumulate a range of impressive achievements. She’s performed at some of the world’s most acclaimed classical and experimental venues (Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Cafe OTO), worked with some of the most respected composers of modern, leftfield classical music (Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Helmut Lachenmann and Pierre Boulez) and is also a co-director of the London Contemporary Music Festival (which this year focuses on the works of pioneering electroacoustic composer Bernard Parmegiani).
She has a refreshingly relaxed approach to and view of music, having spoken of her distrust of musical categorisation and stylistic segregation, something noticeable on The Hand Gallery. Her debut album Outside set the bar high, incorporating traditional classical repertoire such as Ravel’s Violin Sonata in G Minor, alongside more defiantly avant-garde material such as Salvatore Sciarrino‘s Six Caprices and a collaboration with electronic musician Peter Zinovieff. Her second album The Hand Gallery is released on PRAH Recordings, the experimental offshoot set up by Moshi Moshi’s Stephen Bass, and sees her maintain an uncompromising and radical direction.
Much of the music on The Hand Gallery will undoubtedly be a challenge to the unaccustomed, causal listener. Her version of Violin Phase by Steve Reich has a discipline and rigidity while she plays For Aaron Copland by Morton Feldman with a lamenting faithfulness. A second piece dedicated to Aaron Copland follows later, the hushed, minimal caresses of the strings here evoking distant winds.
It is possibly the two tracks that feature her vocals that surprise the most. Her interpretation of Harbour Lights by Elvis Presley reveals her voice to be soft and gentle alongside the comparative austerity of much of the sound derived from her instrument. Here, the plucked violin conveys sounds from a different era in a similar way to that of someone like Josephine Foster. Later, her cover of John Cale’s Baby You Know has a sharp sensuousness to it and the album is closed by a version of the same track arranged for solo violin, arguably the most accessible and successful moment on The Hand Gallery.
Two Sounds Two and Aloise meanwhile offer the two of the more defiantly avant-garde moments of the album, the former unearthing strange, unsettling timbres and emissions from deep inside the body of the instrument while the latter striking a far more inflammatory, destructive tone, recalling last year’s similarly visceral Ghil 3 by Korean cellist Okkyung Lee.
The Hand Gallery shows Orazbayeva to be a musician deeply immersed in her instrument, striving for newness and musical freedom. For those who like their music to operate at the outer limits and be served with moments of enjoyable difficulty, it will be viewed as a fearless and innovative piece of work.

sábado, 25 de abril de 2015

Claire-Marie Le Guay BACH

Claire-Marie Le Guay is established as a major international soloist. She recently performed in venues like Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Atheneum in Bucarest, Avery Fisher Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center for the Mostly Mozart Festival, toured with Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Civic Orchestra in the United-States, the Tonhalle in Zurich, the Montreux Festival, Luxemburg’s Philharmonie and major festivals including La Roque d’Anthéron, la Folle Journée, Klavier festival Rühr, Festival Enescu..
Claire-Marie  has performed as a soloist with a great number of major orchestras throughout the world such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Japan Philharmonic, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, the Bayerische Rundfunk Orchester, the Orchestre de Paris, the Orchestre National de Lyon, The Orchestre Philharmonqiue du Luxembourg, the Residentie Orkest in the Hague, the Rheinland-Pfalz Philharmonie, the Kölner Kammerorchester, the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne,  the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège, the Sao Paulo State Symphony, with conductors like Daniel Barenboim, Louis Langrée, Gerd Albrecht, Emmanuel Krivine, Yuri Temirkano. 
In 2013 and 2014, concerts at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with Louis Langrée and the Salzburg Camerata for the Mozartwoche, at the Enescu Festival in Bucarest, the Schwetzingen Festival, the Festival International de la Roque d’Anthéron, La Folle Journée, Opéra de Dijon, Salle Gaveau in Paris, Freiburg Konzerthaus, etc.
Intended to ‘instruct us and elevate our souls’, the œuvre for keyboard of Bach allows us to travel to concertante Italy and invites us to dance or improvisation. From the moving 'Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother' to the 'Italian Concerto' by way of 'Partita no.1', the pianist Claire-Marie Le Guay offers a portrait of Bach that reveals the multiple facets of his genius: the virtuoso improviser, the pedagogue, the builder of cathedrals in sound.

viernes, 24 de abril de 2015

Simone Dinnerstein / Kristjan Järvi / MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra BROADWAY - LAFAYETTE

Sony Classical released pianist Simone Dinnerstein’s newest album, Broadway-Lafayette, in February 2015. The music on this album celebrates the time-honored transatlantic link between France and America through the music of George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue), Maurice Ravel (Piano Concerto in G Major), and Philip Lasser (The Circle and the Child: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, written for Dinnerstein). The album was recorded with conductor Kristjan Järvi and the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra, by Grammy-winning producer Adam Abeshouse.
Of Broadway-Lafayette, Simone says, “Over the centuries, France and America have influenced and supported each other in many ways, and this music explores the link between the two cultures. George Gerswhin is the quintessential American composer. He immortalized his own trip to France in American in Paris and his music broaches aesthetic boundaries in a way that few other composers have managed – he combines the tunefulness and syncopation of jazz and popular music with the rich harmonies and rhythmic creativity of high art. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is particularly present in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, written in 1929, the year after Ravel met Gershwin while on tour in the U.S. Philip Lasser, this album’s living composer, is the son of a French mother and an American father, and grew up in a bilingual household. His musical voice is an amalgam of both worlds, circling around Bach’s sun. His piano concerto, written for me in 2012, incorporates the Bach Chorale “Ihr Gestirn, ihr hohen Lüfte.” The work explores ideas of travel and discovery, and of memory and return.”

jueves, 23 de abril de 2015

Le Concert Spirituel / Hervé Niquet JEAN -PHILIPPE RAMEAU Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour

The latest in Hervé Niquet's 'reinvigorations' of French operatic music from the Baroque and beyond for Glossa is Rameau’s 1747 'Les Fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour'. A ballet heroïque in a prologue and three entrées, the whole work was designed to comprise a complete theatrical spectacle. Music for dancing – as befits a ballet – is given a prominent role and Rameau is able to create especially expressive symphonies and to give the choruses – even a double-chorus – an integral role in the action. Added to this are supernatural effects, and plots for the entrées which explored the then uncommon world of Egyptian mythology (including a musical depiction of the flooding of the River Nile). In his vocal music Rameau deftly switches between Italianate style and the French mode, current in the mid-18th century, allowing the distinguished team of vocal soloists to demonstrate their accomplished talents. Overseen by the Centre de musique baroque de Versailles, and with booklet notes from Thomas Soury, this new recording is an important addition to the Rameau catalogue – the more so in the 250th anniversary year of the composer’s death. It brings to life one of Rameau’s finer, if underrated, compositions, and a dramatic work written on the cusp of important reforms in opera. (Presto Classical) 

Jean-Philippe Rameau originally conceived Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour as a ballet héroïque on the subject of the Egyptian gods. Pragmatically, he later adapted it to celebrate the royal marriage of Louis, Dauphin of France to Maria Josepha of Saxony. This 2014 Glossa release marks the 250th anniversary of Rameau's death, though the music is far from gloomy. Le Concert Spirituel, under the direction of Hervé Niquet, performs the ballet in delightful Baroque style, with rhythmic precision, scintillating ornamentation, and fresh sonorities, and the re-creation of Rameau's score has all the elegance and panache one would expect of a courtly entertainment. The vocal writing is quite florid and fanciful, but the French cast is a joy to hear, even though the mythological libretto is quite stilted and almost nonsensical by modern standards. Recorded in Versailles, the sound is extraordinarily clear, vibrant, and detailed, so audiophiles are in for a treat, even though the format is standard CD. Highly recommended for fans of Baroque theater works. (Blair Sanderson)

miércoles, 22 de abril de 2015

Dominik Susteck ADRIANA HÖLSZKY Wie ein gläsernes meer, mit feuer gemischt...

Adriana Hölszky’s own comments concerning her music reveal her fascinating use of parameters such as “space” and “time”. She prefers to describe her works as individually structured “sound spaces”. There are “expanding and shrinking spaces”, and there are shifts from one sound area to another, which she compares to film editing with its sharp cuts or gentle fades. There are sudden “intrusions” of one sound area into another, and sometimes two or more sound areas are superimposed. Also, the concept of time does not exist for her as a single entity: Temporal processes appear in multiple strands in her music: cosmic time, terrestrial time, and an endless variety of experiential times that permeate one another and are superimposed.
The title of Hölszky’s “apocalyptic” work for organ “... und ich sah wie ein gläsernes Meer, mit Feuer gemischt” [And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire] describes extremely contrasting realities: "sea of glass" and "fire". They interact in clear-cut succession; sounds and expressive characters alternate constantly: “From one instant to the next, vivid pictures of light and color alternate with calm and mysterious moments that seem like narrow openings into other dimensions”, explains the composer.
Her work “Efeu und Lichtfeld” [Ivy and Field of Light] also contains a stark contrast within itself. “The worlds of the violin and organ appear to exist independently of one another. The violin figures move like pin pricks in a disconnected and restless fashion, primarily in the extreme upper register of the instrument. The organ sounds are like pulsating sources of light. The multiple meanings of the contrasting sounds arise finally as a consequence of the interaction between gradual transformations of color and discontinuous changes in pulse.” (Hölszky)
In the large four-movement composition “... und wieder Dunkel I” [… And Again Darkness 1] each movement is associated with a fragment from Gottfried Benn’s poem “Ein Wort” [A Word]: The wording of the second verse has been subdivided by Hölszky, and the fragments have each been placed in front of part of her composition.

martes, 21 de abril de 2015

Valentina Álvarez PIRAMIDAL Barroco Hispanoamericano

To call the music on this album "barroco hispanoamericano" is to stretch the truth. A few of these Spanish Baroque composers worked in the New World; a few are represented in Spanish American archives stretching from California to Montevideo; and some do not even have that tenuous connection. The Mexican Urtext label's presentation is beautiful, with an epigraph from Sor Juana Inès de la Cruz supplying the album's title. But what we have here is essentially a century's worth of Spanish Baroque music, showing the gradual ascendancy of the Italian styles that conquered Spain and its American dominions as surely as they did France. Many of them are unfamiliar to listeners outside the Spanish-speaking world, so this recording of mostly sacred soprano arias (as the liner notes nicely put it, "the very life of composers during this time is often a game of mirrors between the sacred and the mundane") is a welcome addition to the literature. 
The question mark for the potential buyer is the voice of soprano Valentina Álvarez. It's quite unusual, a delicate yet throaty thing that plays fast and loose with the pitch but is attractively involved with the clearly enunciated text, and you'll either love it or hate it. Fortunately, the advent of Internet samples makes it easy to determine which one; she is perhaps at her best in the six small arias by Vicente Martín y Soler (who, for goodness' sake, moved to Italy, Austria, and finally Russia, heading away from the New World all the while) that conclude the disc. (James Manheim)

martes, 14 de abril de 2015

Lisa Batiashvili BACH

For her first Bach recording, Lisa Batiashvili has chosen not to run through all the concertos or the solo violin works but to be selective, choosing the E major Concerto, the A minor Sonata and the Violin and Oboe Concerto (with husband François Leleux), and adding in a concerto movement from a cantata and an arrangement of ‘Erbarme dich’ in which Leleux’s oboe d’amore takes the contralto’s place. For good measure there is a trio sonata for flute and violin by CPE Bach in his 300th anniversary year. No one could call it a lazily made programme, though whether it is one that really hangs together is a little questionable.
What it does do is allow Batiashvili to demonstrate her refined musicianship and technical skills in a range of contexts, as well as her good taste. In the concertos’ quick movements she offers a sweet, light tone and clearly but gently detailed articulation, using vibrato only when there seems good reason to. You sense a self-effacing and meticulous politeness between the performers here, as if no one wants to stand on anyone else’s toes, but slow movements are more openly expressive, with Batiashvili at one moment playing out with controlled gorgeousness, the next retreating into rapt and intimate pianissimo. The sonata really shows her at her best, with effortless mastery lending an unusual sense of easeful calm to the music while still contributing towards a fiery Fuga and a delicate and loving Andante. This is fine playing indeed.
The CPE Bach is an odd choice, more at the JS end of his style and not among his most interesting works, though more varied articulation from Pahud might have made it more so. Never mind – this is still a disc full of classy music-making.

lunes, 13 de abril de 2015

Collegium Terpsichore / Ulsamer Collegium DOWLAND - GESUALDO - MOLINARO - PRAETORIUS Dances of the Renaissance

Unfortunately, Deutsche Grammophon may be striking an all-too-effective blow against its own catalog with this two-disc compilation of Renaissance dances. With just one inexpensive purchase we can acquire some great background music and get a mostly delightful and generous sampling of works “representative” enough of the period to satisfy the most casual listener’s needs or desires. There’s plenty of period instrument color and courtly elegance here, and anyone who has even the slightest notion of Renaissance (and early Baroque) instrumental music will feel in familiar territory. Among the selections are six dances from Michael Praetorius’ famous collection known as Terpsichore and three suites from Johann Schein’s Banchetto musicale. A large portion of the program features works by anonymous composers, and many others may as well be–few listeners will know anything of Hans Neusidler, Joan Dalza, Erasmus Widmann, or Luis der Milán. But in this two-hour-plus program, we do get to hear all of one minute and fifty-two seconds from one of the period’s more illustrious composers, John Dowland, as well as fifty-seven seconds of Orlando Gibbons, and slightly more than two minutes of Gesualdo (even though he’s billed on the disc’s cover).
Although this set may appear ideal for the novice–and for anyone who just wants a little “courtly elegance” in his collection for those occasions when unobtrusive refinement and civility are called for–in actuality it’s more like a musical version of a trip through those international exhibits at Disney World. There, in one authentically inspired but undeniably artificial package we are supposed to experience the true flavor of a time and place hitherto unvisited. And for many, this experience will remain their only encounter–woefully incomplete, somewhat distorted, and misleading, as this sometimes odd array of pieces certainly is. One of the beauties of listening to music of this period is to discover the multitude of ways it can be interpreted and performed–and the multitude of influences on its form and style from country to country. Indeed, we get to hear performances by some fine practitioners of Renaissance-period instrumental music, although even these don’t represent the top drawer artists in the DG/Archiv catalog. The sound, dating back to the 1960s and ’70s, varies from constricted to warm to bright. I’m not sure exactly who this collection is for, but I’d recommend it only as a tiny beginning step in discovering the fascinating, vast, and varied world of 16th/early-17th century dance music. (Classics Today)

domingo, 12 de abril de 2015

Oleg Malov/ Keller Quartett, Tatiana Melentieva / Andrei Siegle ALEXANDER KNAIFEL Svete Tikhiy

If I were a betting man, I'd use my money to back the success of an ECM disc of music by the Russian composer Alexander Knaifel - the Piano Quintet "In Air Clear and Unseen" but more particularly a work for soprano and sampler, "Svete Tikhiy". It's music that's steeped in the spirit of the Russian Orthodox liturgy ... wonderfully evocative... Simplicity itself, but ethereal and haunting.
(Rob Cowan, BBC Radio 3)

ECM's documentation of outstanding music from the former Soviet Union continues with Svete Tikhiy, the first of several albums from the Uzbekistan-born and St Petersburg-based composer, Alexander Knaifel. This recording - featuring the distinguished Keller Quartett with pianist Oleg Malov, and the voice of Tatiana Melentieva processed by Andrei Siegle - brings together important new developments and impulses in Knaifel's music. The Keller Quartet play with the conviction and imagination they also brought to their prize-winning and critically acclaimed New Series recordings of the string music of György Kurtág ("Musik für Streichinstrumente") and Bach's "Die Kunst der Fuge". (ECM Records)

viernes, 10 de abril de 2015

Kronos Quartet DEREK CHARKE Tundra Songs

On Tuesday, March 10, Centrediscs, the label of the Canadian Music Centre, releases Tundra Songs, featuring Kronos Quartet in a trio of works by Canadian composer Derek Charke. Guest artist Tanya Tagaq, the charismatic Polaris Prize-winning Inuit throat singer, appears on the 30-minute title track, which David Harrington, Artistic Director of Kronos, describes as “really one of the major, spectacular pieces that has ever been written for Kronos.” The disc also includes Cercle du Nord III which, like Tundra Songs, incorporates environmental sounds from northern Canada; and four of Charke’s series of Inuit Throat Song Games. All of these pieces were commissioned and premiered by the Kronos Quartet to critical acclaim in North America and Europe.
 Born in 1974, Charke is noted for works that address current environmental issues, including climate change and the impact of oil exploration in the tar sands. Tundra Songs and Cercle du Nord III both feature field recordings he made on trips to Canada’s far North.
 For Tundra Songs, Charke traveled with his gear to the Nunavut capital of Iqaluit on Baffin Island, proceeding to a two-day trip out on the ice by dog sled. There he recorded sounds of cracking and grinding ice sheets, shrimp, krill, and other marine life (via hydrophone), the shrieks of ravens, and various sounds of daily life in the region’s communities. Tundra Songs weaves these environmental samples into an often propulsive texture that also incorporates vocal sounds from Tanya Tagaq, who has developed the ability to sing call-and-response Inuit throat song games (also known as Katajak) on her own, and from the quartet itself, which employs circular bowing techniques that evoke throat singing. The work’s five movements move through the region’s cycle of seasons, focusing in turn on ice, water sounds, a folk tale with an unexpected twist, the howls of dogs, and the airborne sounds of ravens and insects. Wrote Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times, “[Charke] has a command of likable post-Minimalist techniques. He creates grooves. He matches string textures, through devices such as circular bowing, with atmospheric sounds…. Tundra Songs is the 600-and-somethingth piece written for Kronos over more than three decades – and another keeper.
 Cercle du Nord III draws on sounds recorded in Canada’s Northwest Territories, including birds, dogs and dog sledding, walking and running in the snow and wind. Says Charke, “As I was trying to capture these sounds I found the sounds of modern life infiltrating the pristine environment. Snowmobiles, trucks driving on the ice roads, and a pervasive hum of the Inuvik power plant.” As in Tundra Songs, the string writing is inspired by the hocket-like technique of the Katajak games played between two singers. As the piece progresses, synthesizer sounds are added into the texture. The ancient and the new collide as they do in the region itself: “As the younger generation returns to their cultural roots they do so with a twist; bringing with them influences of popular culture… World globalization is taking hold and the north is not excluded.” Allan Kozinn of The New York Times called Cercle du Nord III “inventive, richly textured.”
 The Inuit Throat Song Games represent Charke’s earliest use of the circular bowing techniques featured in the other pieces. Notes Charke, “Working with violinist Carter Williams I stumbled on a technique that emulated guttural sounds I had heard in the Katajak. To produce the desired effect players grip the bow with a fist-like grip and bow in circular or vertical movements. The performer also uses an unusual amount of pressure resulting in a sound that is coarse and grinding. To enhance the effect the instruments can be prepared with miniature clothespins. These are placed near the bridge and on the string. Similar to a prepared piano the notes played on these strings have a different, grittier sound.”

jueves, 9 de abril de 2015

Jan Garbarek / The Hilliard Ensemble OFFICIUM NOVUM

The inspired bringing together of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble has resulted in consistently inventive music making since 1993. It was the groundbreaking “Officium” album, with Garbarek’s saxophone as a free-ranging ‘fifth voice’ with the Ensemble, which gave the first indications of the musical scope and emotional power of this combination. “Mnemosyne”, 1998’s double album, took the story further, expanding the repertoire beyond ‘early music’ to embrace works both ancient and modern.
Now, after another decade of shared experiences, comes a third album from Garbarek/Hilliard, recorded, like its distinguished predecessors, in the Austrian monastery of St Gerold, with Manfred Eicher producing. Aptly titled, there is continuity in the music of “Officium Novum” and also some new departures. In ‘Occident/Orient’ spirit the album looks eastward, with Armenia as its vantage point and with the compositions and adaptations of Komitas as a central focus. The Hilliards have studied Komitas’s pieces, which draw upon both medieval sacred music and the bardic tradition of the Caucasus in the course of their visits to Armenia, and the modes of the music encourage some of Garbarek’s most impassioned playing. Works from many sources are drawn together as the musicians embark on their travels through time and over many lands. “Officium Novum” journeys from Yerevan to Byzantium, to Russia, France and Spain: all voyages embraced by the album’s dramaturgical flow, as the individual works are situated in a larger ‘compositional’ frame. (ECM Records)

miércoles, 8 de abril de 2015

Raquel Maldonado / Ensamble Moxos CHANTS ET DANSES DE L'AMAZONIE

With the order for the expulsion of the Society of Jesus issued by the King of Spain in 1767, the utopia of the Jesuit missionary villages of the Southern Cone of Latin America vanished forever. The breaking of the agreement governing the ‘reductions’ or missions – under the terms of which the indigenous peoples surrendered their souls to the God imported from Europe, and in exchange saved their lives, henceforth protected by express provision of the Spanish crown – opened the way to a long night of oppression for the converted peoples of the Moxos plains. First of all they fell under the yoke of the priests of unhappy memory who replaced the Jesuits in the administration of the missions; later they suffered from the greed of the republican period, which found among the native peoples slave labour to oil the wheels of the capitalist system that took possession of Bolivia.
But the Jesuits left an indelible mark, because the indigenous peoples, without any obligation to do so, continued to embrace the Catholic faith and grasped, of their own free will, the cultural expressions they had inherited from the missionaries, the most important of which was music.
The powerful cultural influence exercised in the music schools of the missions, whose members added to the splendour of religious celebrations, did not guarantee that European art music would sound as it did on its continent of origin. This was chiefly because the indigenous peoples of Moxos already had music and dance imprinted on their genes. A number of Jesuit sources of the time refer to their natural inclination towards festive celebration as an authentic form of communal expression, a practice predating the arrival of the missionaries, although the symbiosis that occurred between indigenous creativity and the elements imported from the Old World enriched their cultural patrimony. Their harmonious relationship with nature, their way of life and their worldview were always reflected in their artistic manifestations. If the native populations of Bolivian Amazonia accepted a foreign religion – voluntarily or under persuasion – and adapted with relative meekness to the structures set up by the Jesuits, perhaps it was because they already knew this God of whom the good fathers had come to speak to them, even though their cultural heritage had made them imagine differently. The adaptation was mutual and the Jesuits consented to it, perhaps to serve their strategic interests, or perhaps because the indigenous peoples were not passive subjects and thus left their stamp on the functioning of the reductions, subtly remodelling the European innovations to incorporate them into local traditions and realities.

martes, 7 de abril de 2015

Véronique Gens BERLIOZ Les Nuits d'Été

Berlioz's ecstatic Les nuits d'été has been recorded many times. It is curious, however, that so few of the work's prominent recordings feature French sopranos. After the great Régine Crespin, I draw a blank.
Gens is French (I assume), attractive, and still quite young. Until now, I've encountered her only on period instruments recordings, where she made a positive and characterful impression. Predictably, she and Langrée embody the French virtues of charm, grace, and evenness in these works. It would be hard to find performances less gauche and obvious than these.
Langrée's tempos throughout this CD are unusually fast. His Nuits d'été requires 26 minutes, in contrast to Crespin/ansermet (just under 31 minutes) and Janet Baker/Barbirolli (well over 31 minutes). His "Villanelle" is breathless, and several of the movements are more than a minute faster than ansermet's. As a result, the music gains freshness but loses some of its dark colors and melancholy. Also, compared to Crespin and Baker (a genuine mezzo-soprano), to say nothing of Jessye Norman and Leontyne Price (who also recorded memorable versions of Les nuits d'été in their time), Gens lacks richness in lower registers of her voice. Her characters are less grande dame, more jeune fille, and innocence overshadows experience. Gens reminds me of a romantic young girl reciting love poetry on the hillside, but not necessarily experiencing its subject first-hand. Her naturalistic readings of the French texts preclude the interpretive emphases that make performances such as Crespin's and Baker's so memorable. On the other hand, if you find Baker or Crespin forced, then Gens might satisfy you perfectly.
La mort de Cléopâtre, an early work for Berlioz, but one that displays considerable creativity and innovation, is difficult to pull off on disc, perhaps because it is so episodic. Gens/Langrée are only a minute faster than Baker/Gibson, but they find a tautness here missing from competitive recordings.
Two of the three remaining songs were included – unforgettably – on the Nuits d'été LP recorded by Eleanor Steber in 1954. Gens is a very different singer than Steber, whose big gestures and full tone are answered by Gens's complete lack of anything resembling affectation.
All in all, this is not a perfect CD, but the performances rise and fall on their own merit, not on the pale imitation of their predecessors. Anyone who loves this music will get something new out of Gens and Langrée. (Raymond Tuttle)

lunes, 6 de abril de 2015

Hilary Hahn / Valentina Lisitsa CHARLES IVES Four Sonatas

In addition to fine program notes by our former colleague Robert Kirzinger, Hillary Hahn writes about her and her duo partner’s experiences learning and playing Ives sonatas. In two pages, Hahn says more about learning and performing Ives, and about performing music in general, than I have seen in any book. I would quote her entire essay, except that you are going to buy this disc and so can read it yourself. “A piece of music eventually has to get onstage, in front of audiences, for its performers to see its true colors.” After taking the Third Sonata around the world: “The more we played it for various audiences, the more the details and refinements Ives wrote into his score became ingrained into our musical consciousness, and the freer we became to explore additional expressive possibilities.”
I think of Hahn as a very “classical” artist, although she plays and has recorded everything from J. S. Bach to Jennifer Higdon. Her tone here is very clean and a touch dry, without a drop of romantic syrup—which would not be out of place in Ives’s sonatas. Her playing suggests the word “honesty,” fully appropriate for Ives, the Yankee traditionalist/iconoclast. Kirzinger this time: “Combining the classical tradition of Brahms and Beethoven with the vibrant, self-reliant spirit of an optimistic, growing, still-young United States …” Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa lean toward the masters but do not shortchange the Americanisms; they just make sure that the popular elements do not take over. At first hearing, these performances sound a bit conservative, but they wear well, no doubt for just that reason.
Returning to a favorite set by Gregory Fulkerson and Robert Shannon, we find more emotion, more heart-on-sleeve playing, and it works very well. But Fulkerson’s intonation is inconsistent and his tone runs to edginess. It is Shannon who provides the depth and clarity on that Bridge set; he emerges as more than a full partner. Lisitsa is by no means a cipher; she and Hahn have obviously come to full agreement—they play as one, each taking the lead as the music requires. Fulkerson’s tempi sound just right (well, I am used to them); Hahn is considerably faster in all but one of the 12 movements (a total timing of 66:24 to Fulkerson’s 79:52), and yet her performances never seem rushed. Deutsche Grammophon provides fine sound from Clubhouse, a recording studio in Rhinebeck, New York. While I won’t discard Fulkerson/Shannon, I have no hesitation recommending Hahn/Lisitsa as a first choice for this wonderful music. (Arkiv Music)