lunes, 31 de agosto de 2015

Itzhak Perlman / Emanuel Ax FAURÉ & STRAUSS Violin Sonatas

Itzhak Perlman and Emanuel Ax – each winners of multiple Grammy Awards among a myriad of other honors – have teamed up for the exquisite album of Romantic-era masterpieces: the Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Major by Gabriel Fauré and the lone Violin Sonata by Richard Strauss.  In addition to this being Perlman’s first new solo recording in over a decade, it is also the first recording by this violin-piano team after years of performing together on stage, and the first time Perlman has recorded these two major sonatas.  Perlman and Ax will also kick-off a series of concert dates later this year.
Describing the Fauré sonata, Perlman says: “It smells like ambrosia – the essence of French music, a lovely piece. For a violinist, its phrases are a real satisfaction to play, as they’re so rich.” As for the Strauss sonata, Perlman says, “It’s by the young Strauss – emotionally heroic, very appassionato. I like to write stories in my mind about the music I play, to help me with the phrasing. This is a dramatic story – although in the slow movement, I imagine it in a coffeehouse, intimate and warm.”
Born in 1945 in Tel Aviv, Itzhak Perlman began playing the violin when he was so small that all he could hold was a toy fiddle. Although he was disabled by polio at age 4, he played his first recital by age 10. He studied at the Juilliard School with Dorothy DeLay and Ivan Galamian and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963. He was introduced to a wider American public via multiple appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, including a 1964 episode that also featured the Rolling Stones. After winning the prestigious Leventritt Competition the same year, Perlman went on to a career as a soloist that has seen him appear to acclaim on all the world’s great stages and make hundreds of recordings. 
His prize-winning discography not only covers the width and breadth of the great classical violin repertoire; he has also made ventures into Klezmer music and film soundtracks, including the Oscar-winning score to Schindler’s List. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Perlman has won four Emmy Awards, including for the 1998 PBS documentary Fiddling for the Future, about the Perlman Music Program and his work as a teacher. Having collaborated with all the world’s major orchestras as a soloist, Perlman has for years performed with many of them as a conductor. A rarity for a classical artist, he has appeared everywhere from Sesame Street to the White House including a performance for the first inaugural of President Obama. In 2000, he was awarded a National Medal of Arts, and in 2003, Perlman earned a Kennedy Center Honor celebrating his distinguished achievements and contributions to the country’s cultural and educational life. He currently holds the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation Chair at the Juilliard School. (Universal Music)

domingo, 30 de agosto de 2015

International Contemporary Ensemble ANNA THORVALDSDOTTIR In The Light Of Air

You could say composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir is a bit of an ice sculptor. No, not the frozen water type of ice—the musical type of ICE. The Icelandic composer recently collaborated with ICE, the International Contemporary Ensemble, to create a new four-movement chamber work titled “In the Light of Air.” 
And while we’re on the topic of ICE, let it be known that they are not your average ensemble. With a modular makeup of 35 leading instrumentalists, the group performs contemporary classical music in forces ranging from solos to large ensembles. In fact, they make it their mission to advance the music of the 21th century by pioneering new musical works and multimedia strategies for audience engagement. 
 In 2011 they created ICElab, an innovative new musical project which places teams of ICE musicians in collaboration with emerging composers to develop works that push the boundaries of the classical genre. 
 ICE’s latest album, titled “In the Light of Air: ICE Performs Anna Thorvaldsdottir,” is just a single product of that collaborative project. The album features two gorgeously enigmatic pieces: “In the Light of Air” for viola, cello, harp, piano, percussion, and electronics, and “Transitions” for solo cello. The performers on the album are ICE members Kyle Armbrust on viola, Michael Nicolas on cello, Nuiko Wadden on harp, Cory Smythe on piano, and Nathan Davis on percussion.
The title track is a tetralogy of works that together form a unified structure—the four main movements are connected by texturally fascinating transitions and framed by a prologue and epilogue. The first movement is an airy, delicate sound world aptly titled “Luminance.” The percussion and electronics provide a slowly rumbling bass part beneath a gradually shifting texture of sound materials, melodic fragments, and harmonies.
The second movement, titled “Serenity,” is an entire ocean of sound: infinitely varied yet beautifully unified in its ever-changing timbres and textures. The translucent calm sparkles with gorgeous harp details and gentle piano echoes, the vast and limitless soundscape punctuated with delicate, misty whispers of simple melodies.
The third movement is much shorter than the rest. Clocking in at less than four minutes, “Existence” is a slow and pensive journey, each bow stroke in the strings a deliberate, measured step through an atmospheric sound mass of deep drones and rumbling echoes.
The piece ends with “Remembrance,” a movement which delicately balances the lyrical, long-breathed melodies of the strings with the harmonic depth of piano and the textural interest of percussion. In fact, the percussion part features an installation of metallic ornaments which Thorvaldsdottir designed specifically for use in this particular movement. The ornaments, called Klakabönd (which is Icelandic for “a bind of ice”), were created by artist Svana Jósepsdóttir.
 The other piece on the album is “Transitions,” which was commissioned by cellist Michael Nicolas in 2014. The single movement work explores the theme of man and machine, both of which are represented through contrasting cello parts. Nicolas soars through the organic lyricism and expressive melodies of man while also excelling at the metallic timbres and technical accuracy of machine. Through his sensitive balance and imaginative interpretation of each role, he showcases the cello’s rich tone, wide pitch range, and stunning timbral depth. (Maggie Molloy)

sábado, 29 de agosto de 2015

Laurence Equilbey / Insula Orchestra / Accentus MOZART Requiem

Laurence Equilbey's 2014 Naïve release of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's unfinished Requiem in D minor belongs to the category of historically informed performances, both in the actual execution and in the intentions of the performance. Obviously, presenting the Requiem with her hand-picked choir Accentus, and Insula, a small orchestra that uses original 18th century instruments, defines it as a period interpretation, and all the stylistic norms are observed. From the glossy senza vibrato of the strings to the crisp drum strokes of the timpani, and from the pure, fluid counterpoint of the small choir to the tasteful embellishments of the vocal soloists, everything sounds correct and polished to perfection. Yet Equilbey goes beyond the latest ideas of period practice to something more germane to the historical context, because she uses the oldest performing version that exists, the much-disparaged completion by Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Hearing this version played in authentic Classical style (with only the slightest modifications for better voice-leading and orchestration), it is actually more convincing than several modern revisions, not merely because of the established provenance -- we know that Mozart gave instructions to Süssmayr, and presumably, they were followed closely -- but because no hypothetical sections or cleverly refashioned movements have been added. Ultimately, Süssmayr's completion works brilliantly when played well in period style, and the idea that Mozart communicated the essential music to his student seems to be validated in this extraordinary reading. Equilbey has complete control over the performance, and her gradations of dynamics and sectional balance prove that the Süssmayr version can be wonderful when the right artists perform it. Naïve's sound is a little variable at times, but over all, the balance between the singers and the orchestra is carefully maintained. (Blair Sanderson)

viernes, 28 de agosto de 2015

Beatrice Berrut ROBERT SCHUMANN The Three Sonatas for Piano

"This is a mostly impressive debut recording by the Swiss pianist Beatrice Berrut. Berrut brings coherence to its structure with the clarity and control of her playing (...) she has the work's considerable technical difficulties entirely under control (...) She plays the second movement of the Third Sonata as expressively as Horowitz." (Fanfare, Paul Orgel)

 “Here is another excellent recording of all three of the Schumann sonatas. The pianist has contributed her own perceptive notes and plays the music with full understanding of the composer's many tempo quirks and mandatory free use of rubato..." (American Record Guide, Becker)

 “…Beatrice Berrut isn’t afraid of challenges. And what a challenge, indeed, to play three Schumann piano sonatas after great names such as Pollini, Argerich or Horowitz. At 26 years old, the pianist puts all her determination and spirit into these three little-recorded pieces. Breathtakingly beautiful sound, winged virtuosity, refined sensitivity: Beatrice Berrut plunges deeply into the whimsical universe of Schumann, embracing the tiniest bit of expression with astonishing, natural flow. Superb Romantic piano pieces performed by a pianist we should follow carefully…” (Tribunes de Genève, Luca Sabbatini)

miércoles, 26 de agosto de 2015

Beatrice Berrut LUX AETERNA Visions of Bach

Described by the international press as "a revelation, an exceptional pianist", whose "transcendent playing revels in multiple layers of genius and beauty", Beatrice is considered one of the most talented artists of her generation.
She has played numerous concerts throughout Europe and America at prestigious venues (the Berlin Philharmony, the Preston Bradley Hall of Chicago, the Wigmore Hall in London, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Victoria Hall in Geneva, Teatro Coliseo of Buenos Aires, the Cleveland Museum of Arts...) in recital as well as a soloist with orchestras such as the Orchestra della Svizerra Italiana, the North Czech Philharmonic, the Camerata Menuhin, the Berliner Kammerphilharmonie, the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, the United Nations Orchestra… 
Beatrice was born in the Swiss canton of Valais in 1985, and and after studying at the Conservatoire de Lausanne and at the Heinrich Neuhaus Foundation in Zurich she graduated from the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" in Berlin, where she studied with Galina Iwanzowa. She was awarded an Artist Diploma in John O’Conor’s class at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. 
She also appears regularly on television (ARTE, France 3, RTS, Sat3, ZDF, Tv Berlin, Canal9) and on Swiss, German, US, French, Belgian and Canadian radios (BBC3, WFMT Chicago, CWKR, France Musique, Espace 2, RTBF…).
Her discography is internationally acclaimed, and whereas Fanfare Record Magazine compares her playing to Horowitz, French magazine Diapason praises her “silvery sound, her warm and charming playing”.
In 2005 Beatrice was personally invited by Gidon Kremer to play several concerts at his festival in Basel, and she regulary appears with first class partners such as Shlomo Mintz, Itzhak Perlman, Frans Helmerson and Mihaela Martin. She has been as well collaborating with French-Belgian cellist Camille Thomas since years now.
Her career has been granted numerous awards - the “Revelacion” prize 2011 of the Argentinian Critics’ Association, Geneva’s Arts Society’s Prize in 2006, The Förderpreis of the State of Valais, as well as the Griffon culturel of the Association du Chablais (CH).

martes, 25 de agosto de 2015

Lee Santana BACH - SANTANA - WEISS A Song Of Divine Love

Lee Santana was born into a musicians family in Florida at the end of the baby-boomer era. Into his youth he played a lot of jazz-rock music, and a little classical on the side, from the age of 16 on, classical music grew on him. As a boomer-anything is possible- youth, his role models went from fusion composer-players to classical composer-players. As a guitarist-lutenist these role models became earlier and earlier and has rested in a life long dynamic discussion with player-composers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. 
    In order to better ,follow his star‘, Santana moved to Europe in 1984. There he met the gamba virtuose  Hille Perl, and an intense creative process began which continues to evolve thirty years later. 
    After many journeyman‘s years, working for many of the best ensembles, conductors and soloists, Lee has become the projector of his own concepts and plans, working as soloist or with Hille, or with their groups The Age of Passions, Los Otros or Sirius Viols. As a team, Hille and Lee also enjoy working with their friends Dorothee Mields and Maurice Steger.
 As a composer, Lee is presently concerned with a large Requiem for the Nuclear Age, as well as music for a video/performance "Love’s Beginnings" which will be shown in Feldkirch Austria next year. Stylistically, he has taken his own path, refusing to bog down in the expectations and clichés of the post modern „new“ music movement.
    His forthcoming solo CD is entitled "A Song of Divine Love" and is a kind of extended light-meditation, with works from J.S.Bach,Lee Santana und S.L.Weiß. His present work reflects a growing conviction in the fundamental goodness and interconnectedness of just about everything, and a deep gratitude for the privilege of music making, and for the love and support of family and friends.

sábado, 22 de agosto de 2015


Anna Thorvaldsdottir is a composer who frequently works with large sonic structures that tend to reveal the presence of a vast variety of sustained sound materials, reflecting her sense of imaginative listening to landscapes and nature. Her music tends to portray a flowing world of sounds with an enigmatic lyrical atmosphere.
Anna’s music is frequently performed internationally, and has been featured at several major venues and music festivals such as Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival in NYC, the Composer Portraits Series at NYC's Miller Theatre, ISCM World Music Days, Nordic Music Days, Ultima Festival, Klangspuren Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Tectonics, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Her works have been nominated and awarded on many occasions - most notably, Anna is the recipient of the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize 2012 for her work Dreaming, and The New York Philharmonic's Kravis Emerging Composer Award.
Some of the orchestras and ensembles that Anna has worked with include International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), BIT20, Musiques Nouvelles, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Yarn/Wire, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the CAPUT Ensemble, the Oslo Philharmonic, and Either/Or Ensemble.
Anna holds a PhD from the University of California in San Diego.
Anna’s debut portrait album - Rhízōma - was released in October 2011 through Innova Recordings and was very well received and appeared on a number of “Best of 2011” lists, e.g. at TimeOut New York and TimeOut Chicago.
Anna's new portrait album - Aerial - was released by Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Classics in November 2014 and appeared on a number of year end lists, e.g. at New Yorker Magazine, Boston Globe, iTunes Classical, and WQXR's Q2.

lunes, 17 de agosto de 2015


“The Uniko composition was commissioned from us for the Kronos Quartet. It was composed over an eighteen-month period before the Uniko world premiere in Helsinki in September 2004.  Uniko is comprised of seven sections, connected thematically to the Uniko concept, the title of which is loosely connected to the concept of dreams. There are several ideas behind the creation of Uniko.
“First, we wanted to explore further the new and many possible sounds from the combination of accordion, accordion samples, strings, string samples and surround sound. This was virgin territory as far as we knew, and we were excited about what could be achieved with these combined elements.
“Second, we as a duo had many ideas for new pieces, melodies we wanted to develop in a new format such as this. The arrangements for these melodies were something we also very much wanted to do as an extension of our Kluster duo work, which involves accordion and accordion samples.
“Third, we wanted to ‘electrify’ the sound of the string quartet and explore the possibilities of manipulating it electronically with live looping, etc, expanding the scope of the quartet sound.
“Fourth, we wanted to further explore the visual part of our performances with light and video directors. The visual images are always a very important part of our concerts and we wanted to take them several steps further.
“Finally, we also wanted to try and reach a new level of emotional content with Uniko as a work of music. It was very important for us to create something stimulating and emotionally charged, to take the listener, as well as ourselves on an adventure. I hope we have succeeded in our goals. At least it has been great fun putting it together and performing it with the Kronos Quartet.” (Pohjonen and Kosminen)

sábado, 15 de agosto de 2015


Naples has always been one of the musical metropolises of Italy, but it became especially important in the first half of the 18th century. Many composers were active in the city, in particular in the realm of opera, and a number of them were also teachers at the various conservatoires. In particular in the 1730s the Neapolitan style began to disseminate across Italy, and even beyond the Italian borders. Some of the best castratos were pupils of one of Naples' most famous composers, Nicola Porpora. One of them was Farinelli, who scored triumphs all over Europe.
This disc brings a programme of music by composers from Naples, although probably not every single piece was composed in Naples. Nicola Porpora and Francesco Mancini
were mainly known as composers of music for the theatre, but are represented here with instrumental pieces. It can hardly surprise that these show the traces of their activities in the theatre. In Mancini's Sonata IV this is somewhat limited, especially because of the relatively small dynamic range of the recorder. The opening movement is the most dramatic, consisting of two contrasting sections: a lively spiritoso suddenly shifting into a largo. It doesn't quite come off here. Otherwise the playing is fine, in particular rhythmically. The closing movement is an allegro spiccato - in the baroque era the term 'spiccato' is synonymous with 'staccato'.
In comparison Porpora's Sonata in F is more dramatic, and the cello's wider dynamic range is fully explored. The first allegro is particularly well played, with strong dynamic accents. The following adagio shows a great amount of expression, and the sonata ends with a more relaxed allegro non presto, in a nice dancing rhythm. Domenico Scarlatti hasn't written many pieces for an instrumental ensemble. Here his Sonata for violin and bc in G is played, strangely enough catalogued by Kirkpatrick among the keyboard sonatas. It comprises two expressive graves, which are beautifully played by Mervi Kinnarinen. The two allegros have an infectious rhythmic pulse which is underlined by dynamic accents on the good notes.
Domenico Scarlatti also composed many chamber cantatas, and this part of his oeuvre gets little attention. I wasn't able to find out when No, non fuggire o Nice was written. In the liner-notes for another disc it is suggested that the cantata could have been written for the above-mentioned Farinelli who was in Spain when Domenico was also working there. The cantata consists of two recitative-aria pairs. The second aria in particular has a dramatic character, which Tuuli Lindeberg explores well. She colours her voice nicely, and her lower register is remarkably strong. The delivery is also good, and she takes some liberties in the recitatives. Some words could have been given a little more weight, though. That is also the case in the cantata by Domenico's father Alessandro. It is bad fortune that only last year another disc was released with this same cantata. This was by Clara Rottsolk and the Tempesta di Mare Chamber Players. Ms Rottsolk gives more expression to the text in the recitatives, but the instrumentalists accompanying her are sometimes a little too restrained. That is certainly not the case here: the instrumental parts are executed with theatrical flair. The scoring is rather unusual: recorder, violin, cello and bc. The cantata opens with a sinfonia with two andante sections in which the ensemble is divided: recorder and bc versus violin and cello. There is some good text expression in the first aria, and the lyricism of the second comes off well in Ms Lindeberg's performance.
Lastly the only unknown composer of the programme: Giuseppe Porsile. His first appointment was as vicemaestro di cappella of the Spanish chapel in Naples, but in 1695 he was asked by Charles II to organise the music chapel in Barcelona. He served Charles' successor Charles III, and followed him to Vienna in 1711, when he was crowned emperor. There Porsile remained, composing many operas and oratorios. It is not very likely that Porsile's cantata performed here was composed in Naples. E già tre volte is scored for soprano, recorder and bc, and the two soloists blend perfectly. The first aria is especially expressive, with some chromaticism in the vocal part and the basso continuo, inspired by the text: "My harsh fate seems to pity me for my unhappiness".
Baccano is a Finnish early music ensemble which was founded in 2003. As far as I know this is their first commercial recording, and it is a very fine one. I am impressed by both the technical skills of the individual artists as well as their approach to the music. Their performances are lively and energetic, and the interpretation is well-considered. This is definitely a group to follow and I look forward to their next recordings. (Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International)

viernes, 14 de agosto de 2015

Susanna Mälkki / Ensemble Intercontemporain LUCA FRANCESCONI Etymo - Da Capo - A fuoco - Animus

Luca Francesconi, born in 1956, has emerged as one of the leading Italian composers of the generation after Berio and Nono. A pupil of Berio and Stockhausen, Francesconi is less well known in the UK than, for instance, Salvatore Sciarrino, who is nine years older, but as this collection of ensemble pieces shows, he has a genuinely distinctive musical personality, and the knack of creating sonorities of real immediacy and dramatic power. With the exception of Da Capo, for nine instruments, from 1986, the pieces here date from the mid-1990s. The biggest, most ambitious and most memorable of those is Etymo, which takes a collection of fragments from Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal, sets and atomises them for a soprano soloist and enmeshes the voice in teeming, febrile textures spun from an instrumental ensemble with real-time digital processing. Animus is an electronics-based piece too, with a solo trombone caught in a sound web of its reflections, while A Fuoco pits a solo guitar against an ensemble in a study of musical memory. The sounds are haunting, seductive, intensely vivid; it's a shame that the accompanying notes don't match the clarity of the music. (The Guardian)

jueves, 13 de agosto de 2015

Mischa Maisky / Martha Argerich J.S. BACH Sonates pour Violoncelle BWV 1027-1029

Bach wrote these sonatas, some of whose music presents a reworking of earlier trio compositions, for a partnership of viola da gamba and harpsichord. The G major and D major works adopt the four-movement sonata da chiesa scheme, whilst the G minor, organized more along the lines of a concerto, is in three movements. The harpsichord is treated as a concertante instrument almost throughout, whilst the viola da gamba writing reflects the virtuoso position which the instrument had reached in late-baroque German music. These are absorbingly interesting and emotionally satisfying works which reach their high-water mark in the expansive and very beautiful Sonata in G minor, BWV1029.
Most of the recordings on the market are performances on the instruments which Bach specifically asked for, but intelligent and expressive readings recently came from Yo-Yo Ma and Kenneth Cooper on CBS. Here is another which takes us a step, but a big step further from Bach's own sound-picture. Let me say at once that the playing of both artists is highly accomplished and is a true partnership throughout. The DG engineers have been careful not to give either instrument undue prominence over the other and that ensures both textural clarity and musical sense. Mischa Maisky is a fine a technician with an unerring ear for intonation and a good sense of phrase. Martha Argerich's Bach playing probably needs little in the way of introduction from me—her recording of the C minor Partita, BWV826, is one of the finest by a pianist that I am acquainted with (DG 2531 088, 3/80—nla). In this new release there is a comparable stylistic assurance, clarity in articulation and liveliness of temperament though I find the result less satisfying and less convincing. The fault is not entirely hers for my chief reservation rests with the character of the piano itself. It's too plummy for my ear and that quality is emphasized by a somewhat hollow acoustic too far removed from a chamber ambience; but I found, also, that chords are apt to sound heavy in the slow movements and that the way they are broken up at cadences is stylistically unconvincing. My feeling is that, in the end, these sonatas do not work well on a piano but there will be many, perhaps, who disagree and they will not be disappointed by the Maisky/Argerich partnership.
As I said earlier, there is some splendid music-making here, but I hope prospective investors hitherto unacquainted with these pieces will not be deterred from hearing them played on the instruments for which Bach wrote them. There is a world of difference between the end results of two such disparate sonorities.' (Nicholas Anderson)

miércoles, 12 de agosto de 2015

Alexej Gorlatch / Alondra de la Parra / Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin STRAVINSKY Works For Piano and Orchestra

Alexej Gorlatch was born in 1988 in Kiev and has been living in Germany since 1991. He began his piano studies at the age of seven with Eduard-Georg Georgiew in Passau, before becoming a junior student of Martin Hughes at the Berlin University of Arts at the age of twelve, continuing his music studies two years later with Karl-Heinz Kämmerling at the University of Music and Drama Hanover and subsequently with Bernd Goetzke.
His victory at the International ARD Music Competition, where Alexej Gorlatch additionally received the audience prize and several further special awards, was preceded by a remarkable musical career – within just six years, he received first prize at nine renowned international piano competitions, including those in Hamamatsu, Japan (2006), the German Music Competition (2008), the International Anton G. Rubinstein Competition (2009), and in Dublin (2009), as well as the Silver Medal in

Conductor Alondra de la Parra has gained widespread attention for her spellbinding and vibrant performances, making her one of the most compelling conductors of her generation. She holds the distinction of being the first Mexican woman to conduct in New York City, and is an official Cultural Ambassador of Mexico. She has been heralded by Plácido Domingo as “an extraordinary conductor” and the French newspaper Le Monde states that “there is no doubt that, with Alondra de la Parra classical music has arrived into the XXI Century”.
Frequently in demand as guest conductor, Alondra de la Parra has led some of the most prestigious orchestras of France, Germany, USA, Japan, Brazil, Sweden and Russia including the Orchestre de Paris, RSB Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and Milan’s Cameristi della Scala. She also undertook a tour across China with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Tolouse.
In Latin America, De la Parra works frequently Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra and with the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra, from whom she received their highest award. She has also conducted Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, the Buenos Aires Philharmonic in Argentina, Montevideo’s Philharmonic in Uruguay and in Mexico, the orchestras of Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Sinaloa, Xalapa, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Estado de México and the National Symphony.

martes, 11 de agosto de 2015

Daniel Barenboim / Gustavo Dudamel / Staatskapelle Berlin BRAHMS The Piano Concertos

This alliance of marquee names proves to be a resounding success, thanks partly to the robust personalities of Barenboim and Dudamel, and partly to the choice of material, showcasing the early and late Brahms. 
The Piano Concerto No 1 in D minor was the composer’s first performed orchestral work, and not initially welcomed. 
It’s subsequently been reassessed as a youthful masterpiece, especially the haunting Adagio, to which Barenboim here brings a muscular tenderness, while the Staatskapelle Berlin is robust and responsive in the dashing Rondo 22 years later, the Piano Concerto No 2 in B flat major” was an instant success, the closing section’s parade of memorable themes, and the unusual prominence of the cello in the third movement both reflecting Brahms’ increased confidence in his abilities. (Andy Gill)

Nathalie Stutzmann / Orfeo 55 BACH Une Cantate Imaginaire

The title of this disc is misleading. Nathalie Stutzmann has compiled a collection of sinfonias and arias from Bach’s cantatas and passions. The title led me to believe that she might try to link them into some sort of sequence that aspired to coherence. She hasn’t: instead, the disc is more of a selection of “greatest hits” with little in the way of thread to bind them. That’s not a bad thing in itself, though it does make me question the marketing strategy.  
Stutzmann has a unique voice, one which hasn’t always appealed to me. However, she uses it to good effect here. Her fruity, sometimes throaty contralto has a unique colour that sets it apart. In a world where proper contraltos are becoming an endangered species, it’s good to have a singer of her artistry who embraces the register. She is at her best in the lower writing, though, and some of the high notes in the third track (from BWV 133) don’t flatter her at all. The mellow textures of Bist du bei mir find her at her best, though, even though the notes admit that this aria isn’t by Bach at all. She brings excellent command of coloratura to many of the arias, most notably BWV 74, and she shows that the skill can be just as thrilling in a low voice as in a high one. She uses her vocal tone to particularly haunting effect in the famous Erbarme dich from the St Matthew Passion, and I enjoyed the supplicatory tone of Vergiss mein nicht, which is sung to the accompaniment of only a solo lute.
 Another interesting point about the disc is that Stutzmann directs her own chamber ensemble while singing. Orfeo 55 make a lovely sound, lithe and flexible with great rhythmic bounce, and they’re shown off to their finest effect in the Sinfonia that opens the disc. The bass can be a little heavy at times, though, and this damages the famous “Air on a G string” in particular. They bring a tremendous sense of swing to BWV 174, otherwise known as the first movement of Brandenburg 3 with added winds, though not everyone will love the occasional rhythmic distortion inserted for added effect. The wind textures are a particular delight in BWV 18, though the strings show up Christ lag in Todesbanden as a Sinfonia of daring harmonic invention. The various instrumental solos, all of which are credited in the liner notes, are fantastic, the highlight for me being the cello in Jesus ist ein guter Hirt. The Mikaeli Kammarkör make a clean, if somewhat underwhelming contribution to two tracks, and they take Jesus bleibet at a much slower tempo than we have become used to hearing nowadays. (MusicWeb International)

lunes, 10 de agosto de 2015


"Sprechgesänge" – "Speech Songs" run throughout the program of the first CD in the new “edition musikFabrik” on WERGO: Voices try out their instrumental possibilities, and instruments savor their vocal potential.
In his “meditation on the nature of language as sound,” Jonathan Harvey alludes directly to the “inventor” of the Sprechgesang, Arnold Schönberg. Beat Furrer provides the protagonist of Arthur Schnitzler’s "Fräulein Else" with several different “language spaces” – like an encephalogram, he records the oscillations of an interior monologue. Georges Aperghis teaches a clarinet to “babble,” and Unsuk Chin gives an answer to a question from Georges Perec: What might it sound like to throw rotten tomatoes at singers of the species "cantatrix sopranica"? In dreamlike fashion, Chin causes multiple musics of various styles and periods to swirl through one another in a furious piece.
The live recordings document highlights from the concert series "musikFabrik im WDR", with noted soloists such as David Cordier, Salome Kammer and Anu and Piia Komsi, and the conductors Stefan Asbury, Sian Edwards, Beat Furrer and Peter Rundel. Two members of Ensemble musikFabrik, Carl Rosman and Peter Veale, provide evidence of the ensemble’s soloistic qualities. (

sábado, 8 de agosto de 2015

Neeme Järvi / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra TCHAIKOVSKY The Sleeping Beauty

This two-album set marks the beginning of a new project devoted to Tchaikovsky’s ballet scores. We start the survey with the complete score of The Sleeping Beauty, recorded on SACD. Swan Lake and The Nutcracker will follow in 2013 and 2014, respectively. 
Tchaikovsky was approached by the Director of the Imperial Theatres in St Petersburg, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, in 1888 about a possible ballet adaptation of Charles Perrault’s La Belle au bois dormant (The Sleeping Beauty). The vision was to stage the production in the style of Louis XIV, allowing the musical fantasy to run high and melodies to be written in the spirit of Lully, Bach, and Rameau. This proposal for a fairy-tale ballet rooted firmly in both the rococo and baroque periods appealed to Tchaikovsky, and The Sleeping Beauty was premiered in 1890, with choreography by Petipa, the principal choreographer of his day.
Elaborately constructed, the ballet places its focus undeniably on the two main conflicting forces of good (the Lilac Fairy) and evil (Carabosse). Each has a representative leitmotif, which runs through the entire ballet, serving as an important thread to the underlying plot. Tchaikovsky’s use of what, at the time, were considered new and unorthodox instrumental combinations went on to inspire a new generation of composers, among them Stravinsky, who declared The Sleeping Beauty to be Tchaikovsky’s chef d’œuvre. 
The Sleeping Beauty is here performed by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Neeme Järvi, who is celebrating two major milestones this year: a thirty-year recording career with Chandos Records, and his own seventy-fifth birthday. Orchestra and conductor are joined by the pre-eminent violinist James Ehnes, one of the most dynamic and exciting performers in classical music today. (CHANDOS)

viernes, 7 de agosto de 2015

Neeme Järvi / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra TCHAIKOVSKY Swan Lake

This is the second instalment in our series devoted to Tchaikovsky’s three great ballets. Neeme Järvi and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra initiated the project last year with the complete score of The Sleeping Beauty. Here they present another, equally well-loved work: Swan Lake. Once again they bring us the complete uncut version of the score, with the pre-eminent James Ehnes lending his magic to the violin solos. The complete score of The Nutcracker will follow in 2014.
In Swan Lake, the Swan Queen takes her melancholy, oboe-led place among the composer’s many heroes and heroines destined never to know lasting fulfilment in love. The story tells of Odette, a princess turned by an evil sorcerer’s curse into a swan, and thus caught between the human and supernatural worlds, until she is finally released from the spell, and united in death with her true love.
This was Tchaikovsky’s first full-length ballet, but its premiere in 1875, staged at Moscow’s Bolshoy Theatre, was by no means a resounding success. According to most accounts, the choreography was inept, the shabby sets and costumes were borrowed from other productions, and the orchestral playing was poor.
As such, most ballet companies today base their productions on the 1895 revival by the pre-eminent choreographer Marius Petipa, staged for the Imperial Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. For this revival, Tchaikovsky’s score was revised by the composer Riccardo Drigo, also the chief conductor of the St Petersburg Imperial Theatre. Although these amendments may have served the conventional 1890s notion of ‘danceability’, one may argue that the overall cuts and reordering ultimately destroyed Tchaikovsky’s ground-plan of drama and tonality.
In this recording, we present Tchaikovsky’s original score of twenty-nine numbers and four acts, written for the Bolshoy Theatre, along with several supplementary numbers provided not long after the initial 1875 premiere. (CHANDOS)

jueves, 6 de agosto de 2015

Neeme Järvi / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra TCHAIKOVSKY The Nutcracker

This is the concluding recording in Neeme Järvi’s series with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra devoted to Tchaikovsky’s three great ballets. This complete, uncut version of The Nutcracker follows The Sleeping Beauty (CHSA 5113(2)) and Swan Lake (CHSA 5124 (2)), both of which have been much awarded.
The Nutcracker draws its influences from both Hoffmann’s and Dumas’s tales of the same name, and makes delightful use of ‘le joli’, i.e. ‘the pretty’, in music – vivacious themes decked out in ingenious orchestration – already mastered by Léo Delibes in Coppélia.
The Nutcracker relates the dreams of Clara Silberhaus on Christmas Eve, aroused by the nutcracker which her mysterious godfather has given her. Then the guests’ lulling and languishing waltzes take her on a fantastic journey from a mystical snowy forest to the princely kingdom of Confiturembourg. Tchaikovsky illustrates this journey with various musical themes, such as confectionary, flowers, and Mirlitons, as well as Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian dances.
Commissioned by the director of the Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, The Nutcracker was premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg in 1892. It came in a double-bill with the opera Iolanta, also commissioned by Vsevolozhsky. For this recording, Neeme Järvi and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra have re-explored Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece together, in order to offer a completely new experience of one of the most-performed ballets in musical history. (CHANDOS)

miércoles, 5 de agosto de 2015

Andris Nelsons / Boston Symphony Orchestra SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No. 10

For the first instalment of a Shostakovich series titled  Under Stalin’s Shadow, Andris Nelsons has chosen the composer’s monumental Tenth Symphony, prefaced with the startling “Passacaglia” from  Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. 
 It’s a programme that effectively bookends Shostakovich’s relationship with Stalin: at the dictator’s behest, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District was denounced in 1936  as a “deliberately dissonant, confused stream of sound”  – yet there’s no confusion discernible here, as lowering horns, brooding strings and dramatic percussion combine to drive home the air of looming menace. 
 But Shostakovich struggled to rehabilitate his reputation through his wartime symphonies, culminating in  1953 with Symphony No 10, which shares the mood of  menace in “Passacaglia”. (Andy Gill)

Kronos Quartet plays TERRY RILEY Salome Dances for Peace

There is no string quartet that has ever been written that can compare length and diversity with Terry Riley's Salome Dances for Peace. Morton Feldman has written a longer one, but it is confined to his brilliant field of notational relationships and open tonal spaces. Riley's magnum opus, which dwarfs Beethoven's longest quartet by three, is a collection of so many different kinds of music, many of which had never been in string quartet form before and even more of which would -- or should -- never be rubbing up against one another in the same construct. Riley is a musical polymath, interested in music from all periods and cultures: there are trace elements of jazz and blues up against Indian classical music, North African Berber folk melodies, Native American ceremonial music, South American shamanistic power melodies -- and many more. The reason they are brought together in this way is for the telling of an allegorical story. In Riley's re-examining Salome's place in history, he finds a way to redeem both her and the world through her talent. Two thousand years after her original infamous dance she is summoned by the Great Spirit who sees her as the epitome of the feminine force and needs her talent to win back peace for the world, which has been stolen by dark forces. The quartet that Kronos takes on here has five movements, but within each movement are sections where the music changes to illustrate certain themes in Salome's journey to dance for peace. In the first two movements alone there are a total of 15 such sections. Some of them move through Middle Eastern desert themes and others through the Old West as portrayed by Aaron Copland. The genius in such a work is not so much in having so many ideas and putting them into one pot, but in writing transitions for a group of musicians to make them believable and seamless. In Riley's quartet, the journeying from summoning to the recessional at the end, movement is constant: action, contemplation, and meditation all take place on the move. Kronos' sense of drama and pace is inherent in everything they do and so the theater involved here (this was originally conceived of as a ballet) is not a stretch for them. But the emotional changes involved in the solemnity of the cause -- which Riley's mythical undertaking takes absolutely seriously -- that move from great seriousness to righteous anger to being in awe of the Divine and the urge to give in to various temptations are all illustrated by rhythmic, tonal, and timbral changes within the score. Modes shift from interval to interval without seam, hesitation, or mindless transition. Riley takes all of the musical ideas he holds dear, places them in the context of all the world's musical styles he holds sacred, and then creates for them an allegory that has lasting implications for how people view not only history and their role in the present, but how they conduct their view of the world around them forever more. That this is done without a lyric or being autodidactic is a small miracle. That he and the Kronos Quartet have produced a string quartet at the end of the twentieth century that stands as one of the most sophisticated and musically challenging in the history of Western music is an enigma. (Thom Jurek)

martes, 4 de agosto de 2015

Anne Gastinel / Yuri Bashmet JOSEPH HAYDN Concertos pour Violoncelle 1 & 2

With the CD catalogue now awash with recordings of these concertos featuring every conceivable interpretative standpoint, any new version has to make a pretty strong case for its existence. Anne Gastinel is a technically adroit soloist, with an attractive, resinous tone, and certainly gives pleasure in her eloquently shaped accounts of the slow movements. Elsewhere, though, her playing can be a shade routine and undifferentiated, short on spontaneity and rhythmic imagination: listen to both the rival versions in, say, the finale of the C major work, and you’ll hear a wit, fantasy and lightness of touch that elude the efficient but slightly stolid Gastinel. And both Steven Isserlis and, especially, Truls Mork, find altogether more grace and allure in the outer movements of the D major Concerto, where Gastinel sounds dutiful rather than delighted in the bravura passagework. In fairness, she is done few favours by the prosaic, overemphatic orchestral accompaniments or by an ultra-close recorded balance which picks up every tiny sniff and hiss. And it is miserly of Auvidis to offer just 49 minutes of music at full price.' (Richard Wigmore/Gramophone)

lunes, 3 de agosto de 2015

Elina Vähälä / Virtuosi di Kuhmo JOSEPH HAYDN Violin Concertos

Haydn's three surviving violin concertos (a fourth is lost but might still resurface) were probably composed between 1765 and 1770. The music from this portion of Haydn's career has lately been subjected to a major re-evalution that's all to the good, rescuing many works from the limbo of halfhearted performances. It's especially helpful in the case of these concertos, which were composed for Haydn's lead virtuoso at Esterháza, Luigi Tomasini (one of the manuscripts even bears the note "fatto per il Luigi," "done for Luigi"). Haydn was not a skilled violinist himself, and the works are not virtuosically conceived. But he likely had input from Tomasini, and the sizable Violin Concerto in A major, Hob. 7a/3, especially benefits from the gutsy approach adopted here by Finland's Virtuosi di Kuhmo and violinist Elina Vähälä, whose playful flair makes an attractive contrast with the rather hard-edged orchestral playing (made even harder-edged by church sound whose lack of naturalness can't be disguised by the high-tech super audio multichannel recording). Vähälä, who is nothing if not photogenic, is a fine Haydn interpreter with a strong sense of the composer's humor. Sample her confident playing in the finale of the Violin Concerto in G major, Hob. 7a/4, where the violin extracts a jolly line from the orchestra's mock-weighty quasi-fugal texture at the beginning. The booklet notes, in English and Finnish, are informative despite a few gaffes -- "empfindsam" is a misleading word for these works, which are sunny and bear no traces of the gloomy, dramatic music of C.P.E. Bach. On balance a strong outing that makes one eager to hear more of what will emerge as Finland's cadre of vigorous young performers take up more music of the Classical era. (

domingo, 2 de agosto de 2015

Vanessa Benelli Mosell [R] EVOLUTION Stockhausen / Beffa / Stravinsky

Between 1952 and 1961, Stockhausen composed a series of 11 piano pieces, mostly quite brief, which he later referred to as his “drawings”. In them he tested out the techniques that he used to such spectacular effect in his large-scale works of that period, and which took him stylistically on a rapid development from the pointillism of total serialism, through the concepts of musical groups and moments to his exploration of mobile forms that left many organisational decisions to the performer.
Much later in his career he would produce another eight piano pieces, all either conceived as part of his week-long opera cycle Licht or derived from music in it. But it’s the ground-breaking Klavierstücke from the 1950s that Vanessa Benelli Mosell, who studied with Stockhausen in the final years of his life, concentrates on here. She plays eight of them – omitting the two longest, the sixth and the monumental 10th, as well as the 11th, with its maze of alternative musical paths for the pianist to take – and ends with what’s perhaps the most notorious of all of them, Klavierstück IX, in which the opening chord is repeated obsessively 139 times, which seems like an early exercise in minimalism, though the music’s subsequent journey through a forest of trills is anything but minimalist.
Mosell confronts this music fearlessly, shaping the smaller-scale pieces (the shortest, Klavierstück III, lasts just 38 seconds) as elegantly as she can, taking their technical challenges in her stride and above all conveying the sense of cutting-edge invention and innovation that is so characteristic of Stockhausen’s early music.
The rest of her debut disc for Decca, though, is disappointing. It carries the title [R]evolution, though in piano terms there’s nothing particularly iconoclastic about the two works that follow the Stockhausen. The three-movement Suite by the French composer Karol Beffa (born 1973) is anodyne and utterly unremarkable, even though Mosell doesn’t seem to make as much of the music’s colouristic potential as she might, while her account of Stravinsky’s Petrushka Movements sometimes seems less of a performance than an assault, and a rough-edged and rhythmically slapdash one at that. The energy and enthusiasm that make her Stockhausen playing so arresting seem to be applied much less precisely elsewhere. (The Guardian)

sábado, 1 de agosto de 2015

Alina Ibragimova / Cédric Tiberghien BEETHOVEN Violin Sonatas - 3

Ibragimova and Tiberghien have already received universally positive praise for the first two instalments of their Beethoven sonata cycle, so expectations run high for this third and final disc. Although I haven't heard the previous two, listening to this one I can well understand what the fuss was all about, for this is seriously accomplished Beethoven interpretation. The players have an extraordinary rapport, yet both put their individual stamp on the work, essential for any great Beethoven performance. 
The three discs each record a single Wigmore Hall recital, hence the jumping around the chronology of the sonatas. The absence of any late period works in the cycle makes this a practical arrangement. It is not like the string quartets, where serious thought has to be given to which early works to pair with the late quartets. Instead, the slightly less Titanic Opp. 47 and 96 can each close a concert with appropriate gravitas and without completely stealing the show. 
Ibragimova and Tiberghien are at their best in the earlier sonatas anyway. The young(ish) Beethoven was working at a time when the duo sonata was in a state of transition, with the balance gradually shifting in favour of the melody instrument over the keyboard. The genius of these performances is in the way that the players are able to keep that question of balance open. They are often equal partners, but just as often, one or other will take the lead, initiating elaborate semiquaver runs or suddenly dominating the texture with some florid decorative figure. But everything here is fluid, and none of these power imbalances lasts for long. 
I'm particularly struck by the way that both players are able to change their volume and timbre instantaneously mid-phrase, and to change the course of that phrase as a result, a quiet conclusion, for example, retrospectively taking all the bravura out of an imposing opening statement. 
Ibragimova has a fairly light tone. It is certainly attractive, and there is plenty of variety too, but if there is anything to say against this recording it is that the narrowness of that violin sound may not be to everybody's taste. She has a surprising ability to create airy, floating textures despite this reedy sound. In the second movement of Op.30 No.1, for example, the violin breezes across the piano textures with wonderful delicacy, but still with that slight edge to the sound. 
It works well there, but for me the Kreutzer needs something else. It needs a sense of weight from the violin that only comes from a big, round sound. The playfulness that brings the violin parts of the earlier sonatas to life seems almost to trivialise the Kreutzer's sterner textures. And Tiberghien holds back a little too much in some of the louder passages. That complex power balance between the keyboard and the violin becomes an outright paradox in the Kreutzer, with the piano line often looking like a solo part, but forced into the role of an accompaniment by the equally arresting violin part. There are a number of places where the violin and piano right hand ought to be working as equal partners, but what we always hear is the violin with the piano's figurations subsumed. No matter, Beethoven asks for the impossible, and this is one legitimate way to square the circle. 
 Wigmore Hall Live manage their usual high standard of audio recording here. I love the way that they are always able to capture the ambience of the hall's warm acoustic, making it almost the third player in the mix. All round an impressive recording, then, not the last word in Beethoven sonatas, but then how could it be? If anything that is a virtue; the subjectivity of these readings brings the players themselves, and their own attitudes to the music, clearly into focus. The interpretations are coherent and mature, and the teamwork between the players is what makes the recording something special. (Gavin Dixon, MusicWeb International)