sábado, 30 de mayo de 2015

Avi Avital VIVALDI

If Avi Avital’s intention is to do for the mandolin what Andrés Segovia did for the classical guitar, he’s already well on the way. Appropriate then that this, his third and possibly best release to date, should feature three Vivaldi concertos popular with guitarists. This homage to Venice’s favourite musical son in many ways picks up where Avital’s terrific debut recording of JS Bach concertos left off. This time, the mandolin’s on home turf, not only returning to its Italian roots but in one case rejoicing in a concerto actually written for it.
Avital and the superb Venice Baroque Orchestra make the C major Mandolin Concerto, RV425, their own, the pizzicato strings and organ continuo the rich clay into which Avital carves his crisp, fluid lines. But even better is the utterly thrilling account of ‘Summer’ from The Four Seasons. Here, as throughout, Avital’s astonishingly smooth legato playing is broken up by rapid détaché passages and propulsive strums that sweep through the music like electrical storms, perfectly complementing the orchestra’s crisp, light string-playing and spooky sul ponticello effects in the slow movement.
As a respite from the concertos’ high drama, there’s an exquisite account of the C major Trio Sonata, originally for violin and lute with continuo. Avital again takes the violin’s part, while harpsichord duties fall to the brilliant Mahan Esfahani, recently signed to DG. The gentle final track, where Avital and friends accompany tenor Juan Diego Flórez in the charming gondolier’s song ‘La biondina in gondoleta’, feels just right. (Gramophone)

miércoles, 27 de mayo de 2015

Marc-André Hamelin IN A STATE OF JAZZ

Marc-André Hamelin's Hyperion disc in a state of jazz is not an example of a classical pianist letting his hair down, nor attempting to fuse jazz with classical music, or to create something a tad more commercial than, say, an album of Tausig transcriptions. This collection features works by four classical pianist/composers -- Friedrich Gulda, Nikolai Kapustin, Alexis Weissenberg, and George Antheil -- that fashioned piano music "in a state of jazz," though in fully notated form. The one exception to the rule is Alexis Weissenberg's Six arrangements of songs sung by Charles Trenet, which first appeared on a 45rpm record in the 1950s credited to "Mr. Nobody." This was Weissenberg, who was attempting to protect his career as a classical piano virtuoso through hiding under this made-up name; he did not write down these arrangements, and Hamelin has transcribed them from the record himself. Weissenberg's impulses were correct; had he released his jazz music under his own name it very well could have wrecked his career; Viennese composer Friedrich Gulda made major strides toward breaking down such barriers, and his work is represented through three exercises from his pedagogical collection Play Piano Play (1971) and a Prelude and Fugue (1965).
Kapustin is a name unknown in the West until the turn of the twenty first century, and this in itself is none too surprising, as Kapustin has stated that he "does not want to become famous." A one-time student of Moscow Conservatory pedagogue Alexander Goldenweiser, since the late '50s Kapustin has been turning out an impressive portfolio of jazz-inspired compositions, including six piano concertos, a fantasy of piano and orchestra, and numerous solo sonatas and preludes. Kapustin does not like to improvise and disdains live performances -- both prerequisites in conducting a career as a jazz pianist -- so his solution was simply to write everything out. His works were published one after another even in the Soviet period, and Kapustin claims that he has made a good living from it. The emergence of interest in his work outside Russia is something that seems a little befuddling to him. Hamelin -- and Steven Osborne, who first recorded Kapustin's music for Hyperion -- has served as an ardent champion for Kapustin's music in the West, and here interprets Kapustin's Piano Sonata No. 2, a work that, for Hamelin, "became an obsession." The Jazz Sonata (1922-1923) of George Antheil is a work that is short even for a composer who produced dozens of short piano works: it lasts only 90 seconds. Nevertheless, its dense and bumpy trajectory properly reflects the influence of early jazz on composers of the earlier generation of the 1920s, and certainly belongs here. 
Hamelin's playing is zippy and enthusiastic in fast movements and deeply felt in slower ones; with Hamelin, technical considerations of playing are generally irrelevant, what matters is expression and pacing. There is no tradition in such music of a need to swing the rhythm, though one wonders if a little added sense of flexibility might not have served him here. Hamelin is so forthright in fast movements that it is a little difficult to take it all in and repeat listening is encouraged. Apart from that admittedly minor reservation, this is terrific disc from start to finish; Hamelin's pianism is dazzling as usual, and the program of works is made of impressive entries into this "Third Stream" genre, taken from the more classical side of the tracks than from jazz. The Weissenberg transcriptions from Charles Trenet are a particular highlight. (

lunes, 25 de mayo de 2015

Maria João Pires / Sir John Eliot Gardiner / London Symphony Orchestra MENDELSSOHN Symphony no. 3 - Overture: The Hebrides SCHUMANN Piano Concerto

My dislike for Gardiner runs so deep that a voice in my head says, “Give it a rest.” He has won every battle I wish he’d lost, from Bach devoid of spirituality to Beethoven without depth. But win the battles Gardiner did, and in England he’s a cultural eminence. This is the second release under his direction from LSO Live in a short period, the other one being of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Apollo (the latter in a very good performance). At 71, Gardiner has been on the musical scene for a remarkable 50 years, and one can only admire the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique founded by him—they raised period performance to an unprecedented level. But I never felt that Gardiner possessed the requirements of a good general conductor, a bias reinforced here by his rackety, amateurish Hebrides Overture . The London Symphony would play it better without Gardiner’s arbitrary tempo changes, bumpy accents, and mundane phrasing. It’s helpful for a conductor not to be an impediment.
Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony is harder to manage thanks to its tricky transitions, but what stands out here are the vibratoless strings—what else?—and occasionally scrawny sonority. The brass tend to be raw and punchy. This, at least, isn’t a battle Gardiner and the HIPsters have won, although they’ve had their influence, as witness mainstream conductors like Vladimir Jurowski and Simon Rattle adopting period gestures in Beethoven and elsewhere. To his credit, Gardiner leads a robust if unsophisticated account of the “Scottish.” The fast music is buoyant without running away with itself; the slow movement flows nicely, although I get little feeling from it. (Expressive vibrato and rubato exist for a reason.) A general air of rambunctiousness energizes the whole performance, if that’s what you want in place of musical finesse.
Gardiner’s contribution to the Schumann Piano Concerto exists on much the same level, which isn’t that of the acclaimed Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires. Pires is especially good in Schumann, as her highly praised DG recordings attest. When she is able to, she ignores Gardiner to inject her own cultivated style. I don’t mean to imply a shotgun wedding; the orchestral part blends well with the soloist, and in the best parts of the performance, especially the Andantino grazioso , Pires successfully leads the way. The few rocky passages—her awkward first entry in both the opening movement and finale—pass quickly. Pires’s delightful touch in the piano’s beguiling passagework makes the reading.
There’s a Leipzig connection between Mendelssohn and Schumann, and this may also account for why Gardiner has the LSO violins and violas stand for the “Scottish” Symphony. That was common practice in the past, in particular with Mendelssohn’s Gewandhaus when he was the city’s Kapellmeister. The violins and violas weren’t allowed to sit in chairs until the first decade of the 20th century. Today it’s a charming anachronism in limited doses. This CD has been announced as the first in a projected Mendelssohn symphony cycle from Gardiner and the LSO. I don’t shudder at the prospect. The concert was enjoyable, and the voice in my head is right about my Gardiner phobia. I should give it a rest (when warranted). (Huntley Dent)

viernes, 22 de mayo de 2015


It's hard to describe Heiner Goebbels' homage to the Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter (1805-1868), whose descriptions of the natural world have been admired by generations of writers – from Rainer Maria Rilke and Thomas Mann to WH Auden and Marianne Moore. When it was first presented in Lausanne in 2007 Goebbels categorised Stifters Dinge (Stifter's Things) as a "performative installation"; it came to London the following year. The "performance" comes from five grand pianos, all played in different mechanical ways and forming part of a set that, in the course of an hour, inches menacingly towards the audience across tanks of inky black liquid only to retreat again. The pianos stumble out repeated morse-like signals, Nancarrow-style cascades of notes and the slow movement from Bach's Italian Concerto, while samples of industrial noise, ethnographic recordings, interviews with Claude Lévi-Strauss and Malcolm X, and readings from William S Burroughs and Stifter himself play in the background. It's a typical Goebbels collage and typically, too, all the elements somehow cohere. Even on disc it's mysterious and compelling.

jueves, 21 de mayo de 2015


 "I consider this one of my most richly lyrical and consistently inspired works," wrote Keith Jarrett of Arbour Zena. "Jan Garbarek's contribution is irreplaceable and ecstatic." It is easy to agree that Arbour Zena is one of Jarrett's most exceptional albums.
In some ways a follow-up to Jarrett's first recorded collaboration with Jan Garbarek, the previous year's Luminessence for saxophone and string orchestra, Arbour Zena adds Keith himself and bassist Charlie Haden to the mix. Evocative writing for strings, beautiful playing by Jan, Keith, and Haden at his most soulful, and a glowing panoramic production make this 1975 recording one of the finest of ECM's first decade albums.

miércoles, 20 de mayo de 2015


Repentance and Sotto voce are the downbeat titles of two recent compositions by Sofia Gubaidulina but there’s nothing apologetic or retiring about the music. Now in her early eighties, Gubaidulina is exploring ever more unusual instrumental combinations: viola, double bass and two guitars in Sotto voce, cello, double bass and three guitars in Repentance. In both there are dramatic confrontations involving moods that shift between heartfelt lament and forceful defiance by way of textures that relish the full spectrum of possibilities available when such disparate string instruments are brought together; Repentance is particularly imaginative in the way – without electronics – it evokes a mixture of acoustic and what sound like electro-acoustic sonorities.
Gubaidulina’s strength has always been to rhapsodise without rambling: even on the tiny scale of the two-and-a-half-minute Serenade for solo guitar from 1960 she creates an intriguing soundscape with a disconcertingly traditional final chord. The Piano Sonata (1965) is even bolder, reflecting awareness of the Western European and American avant-gardes in its use of percussive effects alongside jazz-inspired riffs to create a remarkably convincing rethinking of time-honoured sonata principles.
With Alfred Schnittke and Galina Ustvolskaya no longer on the scene, Gubaidulina shows how viable the post Shostakovich explosion of Russian compositional activity has remained. It’s a pity that this admirable disc couldn’t have included her still more recent So sei es for violin, double bass and percussion (2013). But even without that, this release is a must for its substantial additions to the still-expanding Gubaidulina discography. (Gramophone)

martes, 19 de mayo de 2015

Keith Jarrett / Dennis Russell Davies MOZART Piano Concertos K. 467, 488, 595 - Masonic Funeral Music K. 477 - Symphony in G minor K. 550

Keith Jarrett evidently has carte blanche to do anything he wants at Manfred Eicher's ECM label -- and thus encouraged, he takes ample risks in a field that is swamped with able and formidable competitors. Mozart's piano concertos may be relatively easy to play but they are notoriously hard to interpret -- that's where the true music-making comes in -- and brave intentions aside, Jarrett cannot do very much with this music beyond playing the notes accurately and cleanly. He brings nearly nothing of his own to the "Concerto No. 23"; much of it is precious and monochromatic, though he finally does generate some animation in the "Finale." Jarrett's tempo for the opening movement of the "Concerto No. 27" isn't out of line, it just seems much slower than it actually is due to his stolid, doggedly literal playing; the larghetto is actually a bit fast, and the rondo lacks point and wit. The adagio movement of the "Concerto No. 21" has the tune that became famous after being used in the film Elvira Madigan yet Jarrett resists poetry of any kind, pounding out the chords in the left hand stiffly. Next to Artur Schnabel's old yet still-treasurable recordings of pointed, imaginative eloquence -- or Daniel Barenboim's renderings of expression and depth -- Jarrett is simply a non-starter in numbers 21 and 27. Another problem is the way Jarrett's piano is miked; it sounds distant, with little in the way of dynamic contrast, surrounded with a slight halo of reverb. One wonders if the engineering is actually fighting Jarrett's sporadic attempts to characterize the music. Dennis Russell Davies and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra come off somewhat better in the deal, with streamlined, flowing, somewhat soft-focused introductions influenced ever so slightly by period-instrument bowing practices that became prevalent in the late 20th century. But at least they use modern instruments, for which many now turned off by grating period-instrument recordings should be thankful. The two-CD set is filled out by Davies leading sturdy, moderately paced, very well-played performances of Mozart's magnificent "Symphony No. 40" and the dolorous "Masonic Funeral Music." (Richard S. Ginell)

lunes, 18 de mayo de 2015

Keith Jarret SAMUEL BARBER Piano Concerto Op. 38 - BÉLA BARTÓK Piano Concerto No. 3 - KEITH JARRETT Tokyo Encore

For much of the 1980s, Keith Jarrett balanced his improvisational activities with performances of classical music and contemporary composition. On this disc, with concert recordings from 1984 and 1985, he is heard playing Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto op. 38 and Béla Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and rising to the challenges of these major works. The New York Times praised Jarrett’s playing of the Barber with Dennis Russell Davies in this period (“a sinewy, vigorously lyrical performance … both sensitive and strong”), and the Bartók with Kazuyoshi Akiyama was most enthusiastically received in Japan. After the Tokyo Bartók performance Jarrett returned alone to the stage of the Kan-i Hoken Hall to play a touching improvised encore, also documented on this recording. The album includes liner notes by Keith Jarrett and Paul Griffiths. (This historical album of music by Barber, Bartók and Jarrett is one of two albums issued on May 8th, Keith Jarrett’s 70th birthday, the other album being Creation with new recordings of improvised solo piano.)

sábado, 16 de mayo de 2015

Hille Perl / Lee Santana / Marthe Perl BORN TO BE MILD

Hille Perl is widely regarded as one of the leading viola da gambists in the world. Because of the prominence of her instrument in the Baroque era, her repertory is rich in works from that period, with the names, J.S. Bach, Telemann, Marin Marais, Sainte-Colombe, and other 17th and 18th century composers headlining her concert programs and recordings. Perl also plays the treble viol, the seven-string bass viol, Baroque guitar, Lirone, and Xarana. She often performs with her husband, lutenist Lee Santana, in duo repertory, and together the pair have formed two other ensembles: Los Otros, with guitarist Steve Player, and the Age of Passions, with violinist/conductor Petra Müllejans and flutist Karl Kaiser. Perl has also appeared with some of the leading Baroque ensembles in Europe, like the Freiburger Barockorchester and the Harp Consort. She has made numerous recordings, many of them available from Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (DHM).
 Hille Perl was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1965. Her father Helmuth was a harpsichordist, organist, and musicologist. Hille began playing the viola da gamba at five. She had studies with Niklas Trüstedt (Berlin) and with Pere Ros and Ingrid Stampa (Hamburg). Perl earned a degree in 1990 at Bremen's Academy for Early Music, where she studied with Sarah Cunningham and Jaap ter Linden.
Perl steadily built her career, and soon began appearing on recordings. Among the earliest was a 1997 Deutsche Harmonia Mundi CD, Spanish Gypsies, with Santana, Player, Andrew Lawrence-King, and other notables. Perl and Santana formed Los Otros (The Others) in 2001 and their first recording, Tinto, a collection of works by Kapsberger, Corbetta, and others, appeared on RCA Special Imports in 2003. From 2002, Perl has taught viola da gamba at the University of the Arts in Bremen, while remaining busy both in the concert hall and recording studio. (Robert Cummings)

jueves, 14 de mayo de 2015

Tim Fain plays PHILIP GLASS Partita for Solo Violin

World première recording. In 2007, Philip Glass began a collaboration with violinist Tim Fain when Fain played on Glass' piece 'Book of Longing', a song-cycle set to poems by Leonard Cohen. 'Book of Longing' features instrumental solos by each member of the mixed ensemble. Since that time Glass became interested in Fain's interpretations and Fain was one of the soloists who performed with the Glass Chamber Players. Fain has been an advocate of Glass' music as a soloist for both Glass violin concertos, performed and recorded Glass' Double Concerto for Violin & Cello, and for the past couple of years has toured extensively with Glass in chamber music performances. All this activity culminated with Glass composing 'Partita for Solo Violin' specifically for Fain which is featured here in its world-premiere recording. This piece is the central work around which their duo performances are based, and Fain has incorporated the Partita into his multimedia project 'Portals'. This recital also features solo violin music from 'Einstein on the Beach', the interludes from the Second Violin Concerto, and the solo violin music from 'Book of Longing', the piece in which the Glass/Fain collaboration began.  (Amazon)

miércoles, 13 de mayo de 2015

Nuria Rial / Margot Oitzinger HAYDN Arie per un'Amante

The title of this album comes from the fact that Haydn wrote most of these insertion arias (arias written to show off the special talents of a singer in a particular production, and substituted for the arias by the opera's composer) for his lover, Italian soprano Luigia Polzelli. Thank goodness these delightful arias have survived, although the operas into which they were originally inserted, by composers like Pasquale Anfossi, Alessandro Guglielmi, and Francesco Bianchi, are forgotten. Haydn's inventiveness and benevolence overflow in this charming music. If there is any criticism of this assortment of arias, it's that they are all relentlessly cheerful and sprightly, and all in major keys, even those with texts like, "Unhappy and unfortunate I am…." While not all these arias reveal Haydn at his most dramatically astute, they find him at his most genial. One of the arias, La moglie quando è buona, is in fact laugh-out-loud funny. Spanish soprano Núria Rial and Austrian mezzo-soprano Margot Oitzinger divide the arias. Their voices are well matched: exceptionally pure, supple, and focused, with an unmannered, effortless sounding delivery and immaculate technique. In only one aria, Infelice sventurata, in an unmercifully low passage, does Rial show any strain. Michi Gaigg leads L'Orfeo Barockorchester in a sparkling, beautifully blended accompaniment. The sound is warm and spacious, but always clear and clean. (Stephen Eddins)

martes, 12 de mayo de 2015


A native of Würzburg, Germany, Theresa Kronthaler grew up in Rome. Already in her early youth she was enthusiastic about singers and actors. She took lessons with Elio Battaglia in Torino. After studying theatre science in London, she moved to Berlin in 2002 and continues vocal studies at the Acadamy of Music Hanns Eisler with Prof. Renate Faltin and Prof. Julia Varady. She participated in master classes of Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, Christa Ludwig and Thomas Quasthoff.
She was prize-winner of the Federal Competition "Jugend musiziert", and in 2006, she was finalist of the "Bundeswettbewerb Gesang". In 2007, she won the first prize of the "Anneliese Rothenberger Competition" on the Isle of Mainau.
Her activities as a soloist in concerts and musical theatre productions led her to numerous places, with performances e.g. at St. Petersburg’s and Berlin Philharmonics’ Halls, at Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt Berlin, Tonhalle Düsseldorf, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Komische Oper Berlin, Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin, Sophiensäle Berlin, Kampnagel Hamburg and Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin as well as on concert tours in Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Switzerland and Egypt.
Among her radio and television appearances were in January 2008 her participation in „Musikdebüt“, a documentary series of the SWR (Südwestrundfunk) about young artists, in a live recording of the gala concert on the occasion of the "Emmerich Smola Förderpreis" as well as in the recording of Richard Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder for Radio Berlin-Brandenburg.
In December 2008, she made her debut with Geneva Opera in the role of Prince Orlofsky/Die Fledermaus. From 2009 to 2012, she was a firm member of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Strassburg, where she has sung e.g. Hänsel (Hänsel und Gretel), Annio (La Clemenza di Tito) and Dorabella (Così fan tutte). She gave her debut at Frankfurt Opera with Sesto in Giulio Cesare.
Since the beginning of the season 2012/13 she is a member of the ensemble at the Komische Oper Berlin, appearing in the Monteverdi trilogy, Hänsel and Gretel as well as the Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte and Tales of Hoffmann. Furthermore, various concerts are scheduled as well as her first CD recording.

lunes, 11 de mayo de 2015

Isabelle Faust / Daniel Harding BRAHMS Violin Concerto - String Sextet No. 2

The booklet of Isabelle Faust’s new recording includes an essay written by her regarding the performing editions used and the significance of the violinist Joseph Joachim in the string works of Johannes Brahms, as seen from a performer’s point of view. Since Brahms did not belong to a generation of composers who mastered several different instruments – as had Bach or Mozart – and composed from the perspective of a pianist, his exchange of ideas with Joachim, which in the case of the Violin Concerto lasted almost a year, was of decisive importance for the final form of the piece, one of the most difficult in the repertoire. Isabelle uses the rarely played cadenza by Ferruccio Busoni, which dates from 1913. Brahms got to know Busoni as a child prodigy and recommended the young pianist in a number of artistic circles: ‘What Schumann did for me, I will do for Busoni.’ The spirit of Joseph Joachim also hovers over the second work on this recording, for the composer regarded the violinist as his most important adviser in the realm of chamber music too. In the case of his Sextet, however, the most perceptible influence is that of the doomed love affair between the composer and the soprano Agathe von Siebold. That Brahms was unable to overcome their separation with a light heart is clear from the monument in sound to his lost romance in the lyrical second theme of the first movement. ‘A-GA- D/H-E’1 proclaims the sequence of notes making up the motif (bars 162 ff). Isabelle generously credits Christopher Hogwood, Robert Pascall, Stefan Weymar and Douglas Woodfull-Harris for their active support in all questions relating to the manuscript and the first edition of Op.36 and for generously making available a prepublication copy of the new Bärenreiter edition. Gramophone Magazine gave Isabelle Faust its Young Artist of the Year Award for her first recording of sonatas by Béla Bartók, in 1997 [now reissued on hm gold with volume 2].
The year 2010 marked a new stage in her recording career: Diapason voted her CD of Bach Partitas and Sonatas a Diapason d’Or of the Year, while her complete set of the Beethoven Sonatas with Alexander Melnikov, received the Gramophone Award for Best Chamber Recording. Composed of around 40 musicians from 20 different nations, and independent of external sponsorship, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1997 by the players themselves and Claudio Abbado. In 1998, at the age of 22, Daniel Harding became Principal Guest Conductor; in 2003 he was named Music Director and he has served as Principal Conductor since 2008, conducting around a quarter of the orchestra’s projects each season. He is also Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the LSO and Music Partner of the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. (Presto Classical)

“a poetic player with an irresistibly warm sound, a tightly controlled vibrato and an athletic technique." BBC Music Magazine

viernes, 8 de mayo de 2015

Tamsin Waley-Cohen SOLI Works for Solo Violin by BARTÓK, PENDERECKI, BENJAMIN, CARTER & KURTÁG

There is nothing like the experience of being completely alone on stage, just with my violin. It is the ultimate soul-baring communion both with myself and with the audience. And it is no coincidence that many of the works written for solo violin explore the depths of our shared human experience through this intense medium.
For musicians, composers and performers alike, sound is our medium. Through sound we must express everything we wish to communicate. The works on this disc take the violin to its expressive limits. The technical demands on the performer are always in the service of heightened expression, whether of ecstasy, pain, doubt, loneliness, desperation, or acceptance and peace. For me, this is at the heart of why I play the violin, and why I play music, to explore our inner life through the language of sound.
Each composer on this disc displays a great depth of knowledge and understanding of the instrument, not only how it can be played, but of how natural resonances interact, uniting or jarring or distorting, often using the open strings as building blocks. Although there are moments when the writing is at the edge of what is playable, it is always possible, and the struggle can even add to the content.
The recording process was extraordinarily intense, not only because I was alone in the hall. The emotional rawness of the material took its toll each day, so in the evening, to play a Kurtag miniature was a wonderful balm.I would like to say an enormous thank you to Nick Parker and Mike Hatch who produced and engineered this disc, and for the invaluable support they gave during the recording sessions. (Tamsin Waley-Cohen)

jueves, 7 de mayo de 2015

Huelgas Ensemble / Minguet Quartett WOLFGANG RHIM Et Lux

'Et Lux' is an alluring and timeless work for vocal ensemble and string quartet by leading German composer Wolfgang Rihm, here receiving its first recording.
The hour-long piece is dedicated to The Hilliard Ensemble and the Arditti Quartet who gave the world premiere in Cologne in November 2009 and its UK premiere later that month at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. This pairing of a vocal group and a string quartet specializing in early music and contemporary music respectively is replicated by the artists on this ECM disc - the Cologne-based Minguet Quartett and the Belgian early music group, the Huelgas Ensemble whose founder, Paul van Nevel, conducts the recording.
'Et Lux' emerges as if from centuries ago, and reflects upon the musical processes that have shaped it, including the ritual of the requiem: "What we have is not music remembered but music remembering." It incorporates text fragments of the Latin Requiem Mass, which appear as components of a progressively realized whole. "Great significance is displayed by the reappearance of specific groups of words, for example 'et lux perpetua luceat' (and let perpetual light shine upon them). Through circling reflection the comforting yet disturbing meaning of the words may become perceptible."
Reviewing the premiere performance the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung praised the work's interwoven musical and linguistic elements while the Daily Telegraph said of its UK premiere: "Beautifully paced and very moving". 'Et Lux' was recorded in February 2014 in Antwerp. The CD booklet includes an introductory statement by Wolfgang Rihm, and liner notes by Paul Griffiths and Wolfgang Schreiber.

martes, 5 de mayo de 2015

The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine VALENTIN SILVESTROV Requiem for Larissa

Musical settings of the requiem may be very public (Berlioz's, for example), or almost painfully private. Valentin Silvestrov's Requiem for Larissa falls into the latter category. "Larissa" was the composer's wife, the musicologist Larissa Bondarenko, who died unexpectedly in 1996. Silvestrov responded to her death with this requiem, believing (like Mozart) that it would be the last music he would write. Fortunately for us, Silvestrov was able to go on living, and he completed his most recent symphony in 2003.
Silvestrov has received acclaim in the West for his Symphony #5, a work that seems to exist in a place and time after all music has come to an end. While some composers have excelled at writing preludes, Silvestrov has become the master of the postlude. These are not the crystal-clear codas of Romantic symphonies, however. Silvestrov's music is usually in the process of fading into nothing, but never quite getting there. Clarity and purpose are replaced with obscurity and a sense of wandering. Romantic music is alluded to, but never achieved. It is as if Silvestrov is using the expected words, but not stringing them together in the expected sequence. In this music, purpose and direction are tenuous, at best. In Silvestrov's Requiem, composers as disparate as Mozart and Webern flit in and out of the textures… not as musical quotations, though, but as feelings, or as ghosts unable to find their final rest.
In Requiem for Larissa, Silvestrov disorients the listener even more by fragmenting the familiar Latin texts. The choir stops in the middle of a phrase as if it has forgotten what it is trying to say, or as if what it is trying to say is too painful to complete. Perhaps it is telling that the most coherent setting is that of the Lacrimosa. In the score's fourth section, the composer interpolates a text from a poem called "The Dream," written by the 19th-century Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. Both of these sections feature solo voices – a soprano in the Lacrimosa and a tenor in the Shevchenko setting. Elsewhere, the chorus bears the brunt of the vocal demands.
Most of the Requiem for Larissa is quiet, even pretty, but there are thundering climaxes which appear and disappear with little preparation or warning. At the end, there is no salvation, let alone comfort or resolution. Silvestrov's goal, it seems, is not to resolve matters, but to let us know that closure, if it is possible at all, is painfully elusive. Although Requiem for Larissa was written at a time of crisis in the composer's life, it seems very typical of his work, and it is a good recommendation for those coming to this composer for the first time, and for those who are beguiled by his Symphony #5.
The recording sessions took place in Kiev in 2001, and the performance probably is definitive. The singing of the National Choir of Ukraine, called "Dumka," is outstanding. It is unfortunate that the soloists are not identified; it seems likely that they are members of the choir. ( Raymond Tuttle)

lunes, 4 de mayo de 2015

Thomas Zehetmair / Camerata Bern SCHÖNBERG - VERESS - BARTÓK Verklärte Nacht

It’s difficult to believe that the first performance of Arnold Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) in 1901 incited a riot, prompting one critic to report, “It sounds as if someone had smudged the score of Tristan while it was still wet.” Structured as it is around the eponymous poem by Richard Dehmel, in which two lovers test their resolve while wandering in moonlight, the gossamer threads of night are its makeup. Along with The Book of the Hanging Gardens, it is one of the composer’s most visceral works. Not easy listening, to be sure, but nothing worth coming to blows over, either. Its lyrical chromaticism is lush yet opaque and descriptive to the core. Its contours slowly come into focus like a whale from a dark sea, Zehetmair’s violin waiting along with the seagulls for any morsels to escape from its yawning food trap. The Camerata Bern pays strictest attention to rhythm, caressing the physiognomy of every beat with its strings. Though branded as a nocturnal affair, the piece also resounds with light. Certain sections sound like a magnified string quartet, while others breathe with the lung capacity of a full orchestra, but always with characteristic insulation. Like Wagner at his most self-effacing, Schönberg emotes with high narrative volume, as though a ballet and an opera had been stripped of words and collapsed into this one glorious whole.
After a glassy stillness that leaves us transfigured ourselves, the Four Transylvanian Dances of Sándor Veress pull us to our marionetted feet with spirited urgency. The second of these, with its finely wrought pizzicato beads, is notably heartwarming, while the fourth contrasts processional ceremony with outright exuberance. I can hardly imagine a better segue into Béla Bartók’s famed Divertimento (1939), of which the opening is perhaps the Hungarian’s most recognizable motif. Lower strings emerge as a major consonant force against the more adventurous uppers, which dance their way into the Adagio with infectious verve. The musicians’ dynamic control is on full alert here, as quiet restraint carries over into a cyclical swell of emotive power. The third and final movement is played to perfection. Its accentuating fingerboard slaps, solo cello, and open-stringed double stops stand out with scintillating clarity, all wrung through an imitative filter before ending with a pizzicato-friendly “micro-ballet.” The Divertimento, a more precise rendering of which I cannot recall, was the result of a commission by patron Paul Sacher, whose importance one can gauge further in ECM’s kaleidoscopic tribute album. (ECM Reviews)

domingo, 3 de mayo de 2015

The King's Consort / Robert King HANDEL Acis and Galatea

After his early visits to Italy, Handel’s desire to experience music in all the main European countries was great enough for him to insist that, on his appointment as Kapellmeister in Hanover in 1710, he should have an immediate twelve months leave of absence to visit England. The Elector’s apparent generosity in so readily agreeing to this has to be seen in its wider context, for as heir to the British throne he was in effect simply allowing the transfer of his employee from one court to his next. Handel was favourably received at Queen Anne’s court, and certainly performed there once, but his eyes were already on Vanbrugh’s new opera house, the Queen’s Theatre in the Haymarket. With his introduction to the publisher John Walsh, numerous society contacts and the sensational success of the first Italian opera especially composed for London, Rinaldo, which opened on 24 February 1711, his reputation seems already to have been partly made.
Handel left for Germany in June 1711, but remained in contact with people in London, including the poet John Hughes. In the Autumn of 1712 he returned to London (on his employer’s condition that he remained only ‘a reasonable time’), staying first in Barnes, and then for three years (1713–16) with the young Lord Burlington in Piccadilly. A great patron of the arts, Burlington’s circle included the poets Pope, Gay and Arbuthnott: Arbuthnott in particular became a supporter of Handel’s music. The Queen also commissioned works including the ‘Utrecht’ Te Deum and the ‘Ode for Queen Anne’s Birthday’ and provided Handel with a pension of £200 a year. In 1714 the Queen died, and was succeeded by Handel’s German employer, now King George I. Handel had far exceeded the ‘reasonable’ conditions of his stay, but some diplomatic work on the part of Baron Kielmansegge mended any damage, and there appears to have been no real royal disfavour. Indeed, George doubled Handel’s pension. But, royal favour apart, the greatest attraction for Handel was still the theatre, and Silla, Teseo, Il pastor fido and Amadigi were all produced, though without the wild success of Rinaldo, which was revived four times in five years.
During the summer of 1717 Handel entered the service of the Earl of Carnarvon (who became Duke of Chandos in 1719) at Cannons, his palatial new residence in Edgware, just north of London. The Duke maintained a resident group of musicians, instrumentalists and singers and, with Pepusch already installed as master of music, Handel’s job was that of court composer.

Acis and Galatea was one of Handel’s most popular works, revived no fewer than eight times and performed at least seventy times by the middle of the century. It was also one of the few large scale-works to remain popular after his death: Mozart re-orchestrated it in 1788 for the celebrated concerts of music organized by van Swieten, Mendelssohn performed it in 1828, and Meyerbeer even planned a staged performance of it in 1857. It was in fact Handel’s second setting of the myth, for the first, a serenata entitled Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, had been composed in Naples in 1708, probably for the wedding of the Duke of Alvito. We know little of the first performance of the Masque, which was a private affair at Cannons, other than a letter from Sir David Dalrymple to the Earl of London in May 1718 which mentions Handel being at work on a ‘little opera’. A manuscript of the score was included in a catalogue of the Duke’s music library made in 1720, and although Handel’s ‘conducting score’ of 1718 does not survive, several contemporary manuscripts do, including one in the British Library.
Acis and Galatea is first mentioned as being a ‘Masque’ in the Duke’s catalogue of 1720. The heyday of the form had been nearly a century before when mime, music, dancing, spoken dialogue and lavish spectacle had been combined by figures such as Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones to make court entertainments of great splendour. The Masque never again recaptured the full glory of its Elizabethan form, but it did continue to serve as entr’actes in plays and operas for many years. In early eighteenth-century London the form recurred, partly as a home-grown reaction against the increasing popularity of Italian opera. Mostly these masques were short operas on pastoral or mythological subjects, usually divided into two ‘interludes’ or ‘entertainments’, and Handel would certainly have had first-hand experience of the work of two principal providers, the composer Pepusch and the poet John Hughes.

sábado, 2 de mayo de 2015


Called “the world’s reigning male chorus” by The New Yorker magazine, the San Francisco based GRAMMY award winning ensemble Chanticleer celebrates its 37th season in 2014-15, performing in 25 of the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden. Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for their “tonal luxuriance and crisply etched clarity,” Chanticleer is known around the world as “an orchestra of voices” for the seamless blend of its twelve male voices ranging from soprano to bass and its original interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz and popular genres, as well as contemporary compositions.
This extraordinary album reflects the musical sophistication of Ignacio de Jerusalem and Manuel de Zumaya, two significant composers in Mexico during the 18th century. This glorious music was widely performed throughout "New Spain," from Guatemala in the south to California missions in the north. Chanticleer is joined by the Chanticleer Sinfonia, conducted by Joseph Jennings.