viernes, 30 de octubre de 2015

Anna Maria Friman / Ariel Abramovich / Jacob Heringman / John Potter AMORES PASADOS

“A hundred years ago, a song was just a song – it belonged to whoever sang it while they were singing it. Any music could be ‘popular’ music, with barrow boys whistling Verdi arias in the street,” writes vocalist John Potter in the liner notes to his newest ECM recording, Amores Pasados. Yet, as he points out, there eventually became a category of “art song,” as distinct from popular and folk song; the advent of radio and recordings brought professional interpreters of those art songs, superseding amateur singers gathered around a piano with Schubert sheet music in hand. As the 20th century wore on, the opposite of art song became known as the “pop song,” with purveyors of the latter often singing the songs themselves, blending original lyrics with their music. With Amores Pasados, Potter aims to refract the concepts of art song and popular song through a double prism. Along with interpreting folk-inflected songs by composers from the Renaissance to the 20th century, he performs art songs written by English artists known for their feats in popular music: John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin fame), Genesis keyboardist Tony Banks and Sting.
Potter – an ECM veteran from his decades as a tenor with the Hilliard Ensemble and, more recently, with his Dowland Project recordings – arranged the songs of Amores Pasados with lutenists Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Heringman. Adding her pure voice and hardanger fiddle to the session at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio was Anna Maria Friman of ‘Trio Mediaeval’ (the vocal group that Potter has mentored, supervising its ECM recordings). Reflecting on the material of Amores Pasados, Potter writes: “We asked John Paul Jones, Tony Banks and Sting to write us lute songs. Asking a rock-music composer to set existing poetry within a genre we knew well meant that we singers wouldn’t need to pretend to be pop singers – we were still ‘interpreting’ a text in a way that we’re familiar with…
None of these songs found their final form until we reached the studio, where Manfred Eicher, as ever, sculpted their final shape.” (ECM Records)

miércoles, 28 de octubre de 2015


It is important to judge every disc on its individual merits. That can sometimes be difficult with the recordings of violinist Rachel Podger, who tends to record a disc and receive immediate praise without exception. But is easy with her new recording of Biber’s Rosary, or 'Mystery', Sonatas
She may have recorded Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, one of the pinnacles of solo violin repertoire, over 20 years ago, but to wait to record this Biber was a sensible decision. What has come out of that wait is a performance of such variety, insight and instinctive musicianship that it could, and should, define her talents as a performer.
The 'scordatura' (re-tuning) of certain strings on the violin to create different – and often challenging – harmonies, is a particular singularity of these pieces, but is only one element of the array of techniques on which Podger draws. The transformation of sound between the sonatas entitled 'Crucifixion' and 'Resurrection', for instance, makes it difficult to believe she is playing the same instrument from sonata to sonata.  That comes as much from the beauty of her playing, as well as that of the radiantly contrasting continuo parts, as the leg-up Biber gives the performer with the different colours naturally provided by the various tunings.
In the end, though, if this disc shows anything, it is that however established they are, the greatest performers are those that still have the power to surprise and gladden, whatever you previously thought you knew of them. (Caroline Gil)

Viktoria Mullova PROKOFIEV

Viktoria Mullova's ONYX album is an all Prokofiev affair recorded live, with the lyrical 2nd violin concerto joined with the solo violin sonata and the sonata for two violins. Robert Soetens premiered the Duo Sonata in Paris in December 1932, partnered by Samuel Dushkin, for whom Stravinsky had recently composed a Violin Concerto. Knowing of Prokofiev's rivalry with Stravinsky, Soetens persuaded Prokofiev to write him a concerto. Composed in 1935 just before Prokofiev resettled in Soviet Russia, the Second Violin Concerto includes in its central movement one of his most celebrated long-arching melodies. The Solo Sonata was an official commission towards the end of Prokofiev's life. Originally intended for an ensemble of talented child violinists, Prokofiev so wrote the work that it could equally be played by a soloist. Paavo Jarvi and Viktoria Mullova have been close musical collaborators for many years. (Arkiv Music)

martes, 27 de octubre de 2015

Kim Kashkashian / Sarah Rothenberg / Steven Schick MORTON FELDMAN - ERIK SATIE - JOHN CAGE Rothko Chapel

The album ‘Rothko Chapel’ addresses a network of musical relationships and inspirations, taking as its main focus Morton Feldman’s work named for the Houston, Texas multi-faith chapel built to house Mark Rothko’s site-specific paintings.
Feldman considered that his ‘Rothko Chapel’ lay “between categories, between time and space, between painting and music”, and described the score as his “canvas”. Amongst his most important influences were abstract painters, his friend Mark Rothko prominent amongst them. (Rothko, for his part, yearned to “raise painting to the level of music and poetry”.) Feldman was also liberated by the freewheeling example of John Cage’s work. “The main influence from Cage was a green light,'' Feldman said. ''It was permission, the freedom to do what I wanted.'' Cage, the most relentless of 20th century experimentalists, didn’t acknowledge what he called an “ABC model of ‘influence’” but always had a special fondness for Satie, a musical inventor of good-humoured originality with whom he could identify.
Feldman’s piece was first played in the chapel in 1972. On the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Rothko Chapel in 2011, a concert was held there bringing together works of Feldman, Cage and Satie. This programme was reprised for the present CD with recordings made at other Houston locations - Rice University (Cage, Satie) and the Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater (Feldman).
Leading viola player Kim Kashkashian negotiates the subtle, glowing textures of Feldman’s planes of sound, joined by Sarah Rothenberg on celeste, and supported by percussion and choir. Rothenberg, on piano, plays Satie’s Gnossiennes and Cage’s Inner Landscape, and the Houston Chamber Choir sings Cage’s Four, Five and more, illuminating this rarely heard choral music. (Presto Classical)

lunes, 26 de octubre de 2015

Johannes Stecher / Wiltener Sängerknaben ARVO PÄRT Babel

The origins of the Innsbruck-based Wilten Boys’ Choir stretch back to the 13th century. Their director since 1991 has been Johannes Stecher. He has nourished a carefully moulded – though distinctive – choral sound, notable for its vibrato-laden top treble line (which imparts just enough of a hint of fragility to be refreshing) coupled with super-smooth and firm tenor and bass registers. This 80th-birthday tribute to Arvo Pärt claims to be the first-ever disc of his vocal music performed by a boys’ choir, and includes two premiere recordings.
For some listeners, 57 minutes’ worth of Pärt may be too much to take in one sitting. Although much of the programme matches Philip Borg-Wheeler’s description of Pärt’s style as ‘unruffled tranquillity’, there are a few moments of unbuttoned ecstasy, for example in the Littlemore Tractus and the light-hearted, almost folksy Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima, composed as recently as 2014. The highlight of the disc is the affecting setting of By the Waters of Babylon. Its soaring phrases perfectly match the acoustics of the Tyrolean churches where these tracks were taped in 2013-14. The final outburst is truly spine-tingling.
On the other hand, The Deer’s Cry (sung in English) becomes rather wearisome. Another bonus is Stecher’s splendid organ-playing, for example in the ‘mashed-up’ distortion of elements fom Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor which concludes the 2011 version ofThe Beatitudes. As a curious appendix, the short Vater unser is sung by an uncredited treble soloist with a remarkably fruity quasi-contralto voice. A mixed result, therefore, which Pärt completists will, though, surely relish. (Gramophone)

sábado, 24 de octubre de 2015

L'Arpeggiata / Christina Pluhar FRANCESCO CAVALLI L'Amore Innamorato

With L’Amore innamorato – ‘Love in love’ – Christina Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata return to their own first great love, Italian music of the 17th century, and specifically to composer Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676).
A luminary of the glamorous and innovative world of Venetian opera, Cavalli was a protégé of Claudio Monteverdi – the composer around whom L’Arpeggiata built Il teatro d’amore, the ensemble’s first Warner Classics album, which was released in early 2009. “Cavalli’s music excites my passions”, says Christina Pluhar. He composed some 40 operas, some of which have achieved new currency since the 1960s, such as La Calisto, Il Giasone, L’Egisto and L’Ormindo and La Didone. Arias and instrumental numbers from six of his operas feature in L’Amore innamorato. The instrumentalists of L’Arpeggiata are joined for the album – which also includes pieces by two of Cavalli’s contemporaries, Girolamo Kapsperger and Andrea Falconieri – by two sopranos, the Catalan Núria Rial and the Czech Hana Blažíková.
While L’Arpeggiata’s recent Warner Classics CDs – Music for a While, Mediterraneo, Los Pájaros perdidos and Via Crucis – have explored fusions of cultures and musical styles, L’Amore innamorato adheres to the conventions of historically informed performance of Baroque music. The members of the ensemble use stringed, keyboard, wind and percussion instruments to flesh out Cavalli’s score, which comprises only a vocal line, basso continuo and indications for the ritornello (a recurring instrumental section). As Christina Pluhar points out, the line-up of instruments is unusually lavish: she herself performs on theorbo and harp and is joined by the other players who create a sumptuous soundworld, accompanying arias for goddesses and nymphs with a fascinating array of instruments: cornetto, violin, archlute, guitar, harp, psaltery, viola da gamba, lirone, cello, violone, double bass, organ, harpsichord and percussion.
In April 2015, after L’Arpeggiata performed L’Amore innamorato at Carnegie Hall, The New York Times wrote:
“In some ways, L’Arpeggiata represents the state of the art in early-music practice … The most compelling performers today have come to realize how much was left unsaid by composers in scores prepared on the run for use by performing colleagues who were, if not immediately at hand, at least immersed in the style of the period and locale. These performers see conjecture not as a worrisome chore but as an opportunity; improvisation as a matter of course; invention as a necessity.
L’Arpeggiata showed those traits in abundance in a delightful program on Tuesday, L’Amore innamorato: Arias by Francesco Cavalli … Núria Rial, a splendid Spanish soprano, sang numbers from operas including Calisto, Didone and Ormindo beautifully, and the ensemble filled out the 75-minute program with instrumental ditties by Cavalli and others.
The selections tended toward works with variations above repeating bass figures, which come as catnip to these players, inviting, as they do, the extemporization of new variations. Such forms are widespread in the Italian Baroque literature.
Cavalli’s operas have been gaining fitful exposure in recent years … Still, his music is not well known, and it was good to hear these delicious samples in something like their original form. Christina Pluhar, L’Arpeggiata’s artistic director, played theorbo throughout, giving a wonderful, firm basis to the sound.” (Presto Classical)

jueves, 22 de octubre de 2015

Continuum / The Western Wind TANIA LEÓN Indígena

This recording features five works by one of the most powerful and imaginative composers of her generation. Tania León, educated in the Western European tradition, was born and raised in Cuba and is of French, Spanish, Chinese and African ancestry. Her music clearly reflects the extraordinary mixture of cultural influences to which she was exposed. As León has said, "My upbringing facilitated an open ear for everything. I had never had anybody to teach me how to dislike something because it was not appropriate. So I enjoyed everything from the music of the peasants to music from other countries to music of tremendous complexity, like Boulez and Stockhausen." This wonderful recording reveals her to be equally at home in the musical languages of her Afro-Cuban heritage and of the mainstream new music community.
 The centerpiece of the recording, and the most unusual of the five works, is Batéy, a nearly half-hour piece for vocal ensemble and percussion, "co-composed" with Dominican-born composer/pianist Michel Camilo. Written in 1989, it calls for six singers and five percussionists who play a battery of traditional and non-traditional instruments including batá drums, claves, chékeres, tom-toms, congas, crotales, marimba, caxixi, rain stick and a variety of bells. Batéy refers to the villages built for the West African slaves brought to the New World to labor on the sugar cane plantations; the composition celebrates the survival of a people torn from their homeland and forced to toil in physically and spiritually demeaning servitude. 
This is an extraordinary work teeming with the languages, rhythms and harmonies of Africa and the Caribbean but also showing the angular melodic writing and dissonances of American contemporary music. The text is mostly in Spanish, but parts are also in English, a Cuban dialect which León says "imitates the dialect of Africanos," Yoruban, nonsense syllables and even jazz "scat" syllables. Somehow, it all works, and the result is a large-scale composition of haunting effect and great emotional power. León and Camilo composed various sections of Batéy individually and then bridged them together afterwards. Their styles can be distinguished-Camilo's is more tonal and springs out of native folk traditions while León's is more dissonant, more polyrhythmic and denser in texture-but I will leave it to interested listeners to ponder who wrote which sections. (Myrna Nachman)

miércoles, 21 de octubre de 2015

Gidon Kremer / Patricia Kopatchinskaja / Kremerata Baltica GIYA KANCHELI Chiaroscuro

Georgian composer Giya Kancheli’s latest ECM New Series album, issued shortly after his 80th birthday, features first recordings of two major works: Chiaroscuro for violin and chamber orchestra, and Twilight for two violins and chamber orchestra. Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica have had a long and close association with Giya Kancheli. On Twilight, the coming together of Kremer and Patricia Kopatchinskaja, two of the most powerfully expressive violinists of our era, makes for fascinating listening. The piece is a touching meditation on mortality, written at a time when Giya Kancheli was recovering from illness and seeing in the leaves and branches of poplar trees outside his window a metaphor for change and transformation. 
Twilight, Kancheli’s first piece composed for two solo violins and strings was written on Gidon Kremer’s initiative for the annual Mozart Week in Salzburg. “In my professional life various superb performers have appeared at different periods,” Giya Kancheli writes in the liner notes.
“I am very happy that for the ECM production of Twilight Gidon Kremer joined forces with Patricia Kopatchinskaja. At the rehearsal I realized from the first bars that Patricia has all the attributes of a distinguished musical personality.” Kopatchinskaja, for her part, much enjoyed the encounter with fellow violinist Kremer: “This was one of my strongest and most moving experiences….I grew up and educated myself with the sounds and visions of Gidon Kremer. He is the musician and thinker who always captures me with all senses and trust, when listening to anything he does.”
The title composition Chiaroscuro borrows its name from the painting technique of the renaissance and baroque whose concern with dramatic contrasts of light and shade corresponds quite directly to the characteristically stark dynamics of the composer’s writing, vigorously conveyed by Kremerata Baltica. The piece was originally written for Julian Rachlin, to be performed by him on both violin and viola.
After its premiere both Yuri Bashmet and Gidon Kremer asked Kancheli for independent versions, and these were subsequently developed and performed. As Kancheli remarks, “Profound personalities always discover in the music something that cannot be expressed in notes and signs … They effectively become co-authors of the works they perform.”
In this sense, Gidon Kremer – as masterful interpreter – has been ‘co-authoring’ Giya Kancheli’s work since 1998 and his riveting performance of Lament – Music In Mourning Of Luigi Nono. Other Kremer/Kancheli collaborations on ECM include Time…and Again and V & V (on the album In L’istesso tempo, recorded in 2000 and 2003), Silent Prayer (on Hymns and Prayers, recorded 2008) and Themes from the Songbook (recorded 2010). Kremerata Baltica, too, has been programming Kancheli’s music from the beginning of its history. Gidon Kremer: “Giya’s music has become an inseparable part of the Kremerata Baltica orchestra’s repertoire: each year, each season we have studied and played one or two of his pieces. Despite our previous acquaintance, each piece reveals something new and special.” (ECM Records)

martes, 20 de octubre de 2015

The Hilliard Ensemble HEINZ HOLLIGER Machaut-Transkriptionen

Swiss composer Heinz Holliger's Machaut-Transkriptionen comprises a spacious cycle of pieces written over a ten year period beginning in 2001. An imaginative re-investigation of the work of the great 14th century French composer-poet Guillaume de Machaut, it is scored for four voices and three violas.
Note-for-note transcriptions of Machaut give way to Holliger's increasingly creative refractions of the music. In Heinz Holliger's works, the succinct term 'transcriptions' conceals multi-layered variants of the enigmatic source material and the most subtle diversification of sound, using the technical possibilities of the 21st century. In the complete, almost one-hour cycle, Machaut's original compositions, performed a cappella, have been interwoven with Holliger's variations. Four of the transcriptions have been arranged for three violas alone. The traditional monophonic Lay VII, Amours doucement me tente, however, appears in a new four-part vocal setting, and in the concluding Complainte from 'Remede de Fortune' the singing voices join the violas.
As Holliger notes, his in-depth study of Machaut opened up new vistas for his compositional activity and his admiration for the source material is mirrored in the outstanding performances of the violists and singers. The Machaut-Transkriptionen proves a perfect vehicle for the Hilliard Ensemble's set skills as interpreters of both old and new music, and this recording, made in 2010 in Zurich, captures the vocal group at the heights of its powers. Their own affinity for Machaut is also documented on their album of his Motets. 

lunes, 19 de octubre de 2015

Emerson String Quartet SHOSTAKOVICH String Quartets

If you like your Shostakovich quartets big, brawny, and a bit brutal, you'll like the Emerson Quartet's Shostakovich quartets. The Allegros are muscular, with sharp attacks, strong sforzandos, and relentless rhythms. The Passacaglias are powerful, with massive sonorities, monumental structures, and inexorable tempos. And the Allegrettos are aggressive, with ironic accents, sarcastic tones, and mordent tempos. Emerso
If you like your Shostakovich quartets smooth, suave, and very soulful, you'll probably like the Emerson Quartet's Shostakovich quartets. The Andantes are tuneful, with long lines, supple harmonies, and warm colors. The Adagios are soaring, with arching themes, aching harmonies, and brilliant colors. And the Largos are penetrating, with expressive counterpoint, weighty sonorities, and burnished colors. 
If, however, you like your Shostakovich quartets straight, no ice, no chaser, you'll probably not like the Emerson Quartet's Shostakovich quartets. The Emerson seems unable to restrain itself and too often adds too much of itself to the scores. The rawness of the chords in the Fourth Quartet's opening movement? The Emerson's idea. The nostalgia of the tone in the Ninth Quartet's slow movement? The Emerson's notion. The sentimentality of the closing bars in the Fourteenth Quartet's finale? The Emerson's interpolation. For Shostakovich straight, try the Beethoven Quartet. It premiered almost all the quartets and learned their meaning from the composer. For Shostakovich plus, try the Emerson Quartet. DG's live sound is crisp, clean, deep, and detailed with the audience intruding only with energetic applause. (James Leonard)

domingo, 18 de octubre de 2015

Pablo Márquez GUSTAVO LEGUIZAMÓN El Cuchi Bien Temperado

Guitarist Pablo Márquez celebrates the work of a remarkable figure in Argentinean music: Gustavo “Cuchi” Leguizamón. Leguizamón (1917-2000) was a composer, pianist, guitarist, poet – and also a lawyer and teacher in the city of Salta where Márquez grew up. It was in his teaching capacity that Márquez first encountered him in person: “He was my history teacher at the Collegio Nacional when I was thirteen years old. When I saw Dr. Gustavo Leguizamón come into the classroom for the first time, I had no idea that I was in the presence of one of Argentina’s greatest musicians, the composer of famous zambas I’d known and sung since early childhood. Cuchi liked to say that ‘the ultimate accolade for an artist is that people think his work is anonymous.’”
As a composer, Leguizamón was an exceptional melodist and an adventurous traditionalist. The majority of his work consists of zambas, which Márquez considers Salta’s quintessential musical form.
Leguizamón brought a sense of harmonic freedom to these dance pieces, incorporating his melodic and harmonic ideas in Argentine traditional music, “without ever losing its essence or strong sense of rootedness.” A builder of bridges between art music and oral traditions, he was inspired by classical music and by 20th century composers including Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and Schoenberg; his “Zamba del carnival”, comprised of twelve notes, references Schoenberg’s dodecaphonic series.
For his guitar arrangements of Cuchi, Pablo Marquez alludes to the formal design of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, and its rigorous exploration of all the key signatures. “To provide a wealth of colours I set myself the challenge of never repeating any key. In view of the small number of keys commonly used in solo guitar music it was my way of enriching folk practice.”
The ‘bridge-building’ which Leguizamón proposed is extended in Márquez’s work, although the bridge is perhaps approached from a different direction. Leguizamón was a traditionalist and a popular artist who examined new music “with an autodidact’s passion”. Márquez on the other hand reflects upon his classical background in this encounter with traditional music. “Although I approach it as a ‘visitor’, this music is nevertheless in my blood.” (ECM Records)

viernes, 16 de octubre de 2015

Anthony de Mare LIAISONS Re-Imagining SONDHEIM From The Piano

Conceived by acclaimed concert pianist Anthony de Mare, LIAISONS is a landmark commissioning and concert project based on the songs of legendary musical theater composer Stephen Sondheim. The Project invited 36 of the world’s foremost contemporary composers to choose a song by Sondheim and re-imagine it as a solo piano piece.
Both an homage and a celebration, LIAISONS makes the case for Sondheim as one of the 20th century's most influential composers - as at home in the concert hall as on the Broadway stage. It is also an expression of de Mare’s versatility and renowned commitment to contemporary composers: the Project’s roster spans the worlds of classical, jazz, opera, pop, musical theater and film. Composers hail from seven different countries and range in age from 30 to 75, representing more than 34 Pulitzers, Grammys, Tonys and Academy Awards.
 Since 2011 de Mare has performed over 30 different LIAISONS concerts to full houses across the U.S. and Canada, including San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago and Minneapolis among others. The first 32 pieces received their New York premieres over a series of two sold-out concerts at Symphony Space in 2012 and 2013, which also featured special onstage interviews of Mr. Sondheim by Mark Horowitz.
This fall, in celebration of the release of LIAISONS on the prestigious ECM New Series label, de Mare will play the entire collection across a three-concert series at Birdland, the Sheen Center and Symphony Space, where the project will come full circle with the final four NY premieres. We hope you will join us!

“To hear composers take my work and take it seriously... it’s a thrill.”
Stephen Sondheim

jueves, 15 de octubre de 2015

Tallinn Chamber Orchestra / Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir / Tõnu Kaljuste GESUALDO

The music of Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa (1566-1613) has exerted a powerful influence on composers down the ages. His highly-charged, mannerist, idiosyncratic vocal music constitutes “a gallery of dramatically-lit portraits of human emotions with a heavy emphasis on the extremes of joy and despair” (to quote former Hilliard Ensemble singer Gordon Jones). Amongst the most experimental and expressive music of its period, it continues to invite reinterpretation and modern responses. 
On this album, recorded in Estonia at Tallinn’s Methodist Church, we hear contemporary composition inspired by Gesualdo, as well as new arrangements of his work. The album opens with a radiant version of Moro Lasso from the Sixth Book of Madrigals (1611) in a transcription for string orchestra by Tõnu Kaljuste. This serves to set the scene for Carlo, a major ‘biographical’ piece based on the life and music of Gesualdo, written by Australian composer Brett Dean in 1997. Dean writes, “With Carlo Gesualdo one should not try to separate his music from his life and times. The texts of his later madrigals, thought to be written by Gesualdo himself, abound with references to love, death, guilt and self-pity. Combine this with the fact that I have always found his vocal works to be one of music’s most fascinating listening experiences and you have the premise for my piece.” Carlo takes up the opening chorale from Moro lasso. Then a vocal collage unfolds, and quotes from the madrigal are also taken up and developed further by the orchestra – until we arrive at the sound-world of 20th century music. By “moving between two time-zones” musically, Dean conveys a sense of Gesualdo’s troubled psyche. Carlo was originally scored for fifteen solo strings, sampler and pre-recorded tape, but conductor Tõnu Kaljuste suggested presenting it with live singers. Successful experiments with this in 2002 in Stockholm paved the way for the present recording. 
Kaljuste also encouraged the writing of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s string arrangement of O crux benedicta. The initial motive of this 1603 Gesualdo piece provides the compositional underpinning for Tüür’s L’ombra della croce (2015) for string orchestra. Tüür dedicates the piece to producer Manfred Eicher, “in honour of how he has encompassed both early and contemporary music in the remarkable adventure that is the ECM New Series.”
Psalmody is without a Gesualdo-inspired subtext but it too cross-references older and newer music, within the narrower time-frame of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s own oeuvre. When Tüür wrote Psalmody for the early music ensemble Hortus Musicus in 1993 he was looking back at the music he had composed for his experimental “chamber rock” group ‘In Spe’ in the period 1979-82, so the piece already incorporated a retrospective element.
Tüür revised the work in 2005 and, after hearing a version by Hortus Musicus with the Collegium Musicale choir, revised it again in 2011. Tüür: “I re-orchestrated the entire score – or rather, I recomposed it, brought balance to the form and made additions to the choral element. This is a unique piece for me…The musical idea behind the composition dates back over thirty years. The latest version essentially represents a sort of minimalism derived from rhythmic patterns and intonations characteristic of various traditions of the European Renaissance and Baroque.” (ECM Records)

miércoles, 14 de octubre de 2015

Yundi CHOPIN Preludes

"This year is actually the 15th anniversary to celebrate when I won the Chopin Competition in Warsaw," says Chinese pianist Yundi Li, "so I started this Chopin project as a tribute to Chopin."
At the age of 18, Yundi became the youngest performer ever to win the International Chopin Competition. He celebrates his 15th anniversary of earning that award by launching a series of recordings honoring Chopin, starting with the complete Chopin Preludes.
When performing these preludes Yundi says his attention is focused on the melody and on creating a beautiful musical phrase.
"For Chopin's music, especially for the preludes, the most important is the character of the tone color, so that is the most difficult," Yundi says. "You need to play with a singing tone, but a high-quality tone. So it's not about fast or slow or loud or something. It's really about detail and about the sensitivity of tone color.
"So, that's about attack on the keyboard. When your fingers feel the weight of the key. Sometimes you need the finger to play fast. Sometimes you don't use the finger, but you use your arm or your body. It's how deep you press the key or the keyboard. But that's the most difficult part, because you need to try for hours and hours to find out the tone quality — ah, this tone is what you wanted."

martes, 13 de octubre de 2015

The Maia Quartet / The Dunsmuir Piano Quartet INGRAM MARSHALL Evensongs

"Mixing of styles, borrowing from other historical periods and other cultures - these are certainly hallmarks of our current pluralistic times, but I don't think the nail has been hit squarely on the head with that word which indicates, after all, simply the opposite of singular. The fact that many people are doing many different things at once does not constitute a style or trend. The one factor I see clearly evident in much of the new music is that of intense personality. The composer now has the opportunity, to develop a personal art without regard to tradition or anti- tradition." More than twenty years ago, composer Ingram Marshall wrote the above paragraph regarding the problem of language and style in musical composition. Marshall has been one of the most outstanding voices of his generation, building a very personal work developed under the influences of electronic music, minimalism and sounds from different cultures. His early works are mostly based on electronic treatments of voices and, after a travel to Indonesia in early seventies, he has deeply involved in a kind of works using tonal materials in a cloudish textures mixing instrumental, electronic and acoustic resources. During seventies and eighties, Marshall gave us a very consistent body of work in which beauty and construction are not opposite terms. From this period, "Fog Tropes," "Gradual Requiem," "Gambuh I," "Hidden Voices" and "Alcatraz" gained wide recognition as works in which tonal materials are combined with electronic tapestries in a very personal way. Remarkably, he is a composer who is interested and committed with a deep sense of music expressiveness, a very special area of creation particularly neglected for many experimental artists. His attention to these concerns has driven to him to the study of several traditions, technical to spiritual, dating from ancient times. In other words, in Marshall's hands, experimental music can be related to different traditions in many forms. (Daniel Varela)

lunes, 12 de octubre de 2015

Arthur Jussen / Lucas Jussen BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas

At the start of it all Arthur and Lucas Jussen talking about Beethoven.
   With looks that could make many a young lady’s heart go pitty-pat, the two Jussen brothers, Arthur and Lucas, could easily be confused with two heartbreakers from a British boy band. And, having said that ‘we also like listening to something else sometimes,’ the iPods of these young pianists contain not a single note of classical music. The name of their big MP3 hero isn’t Beethoven but Stevie Wonder, and both are crazy about Marvin Gaye and Frank Sinatra. But when sitting down to talk with them about the repertoire for their debut CD, you can’t help but see a metamorphosis take place. Suddenly glowing in the eyes of what you thought were pop stars is the burning ambition of the classical musician bound and determined to follow his mission. Beethoven! Mozart! Chopin! They never run out of things to say about these old masters, and their enthusiasm is definitely infectious.
   In a restaurant on the banks of the IJ in Amsterdam, they don’t mind talking about how they selected their repertoire: Beethoven and only Beethoven! First, however, it’s time to wash down some snacks with a Coke. Then, after his last sip, Arthur wants to emphasise that, ‘first of all, they’re all wonderful pieces.’ What’s more, they’re also pieces that are related to one another. ‘I play Sonata Number 13, Opus 27, Number 1. Lucas plays Sonata Number 14, Opus 27, Number 2 – the Moonlight Sonata. These two alone are a beautiful pair. I also play Sonata Number 5, Opus 10, Number 1, also known as the “Little Pathétique”, and Lucas plays Sonata Number 8, Opus 13, or the actual Pathétique. So here we have another natural pair. And they’re all Beethoven, of course. What we wanted was a relationship among the pieces, not just any old programme. To achieve this, we really thought hard about it with Maria João Pires.’
  Arthur and Lucas flatly reject the idea that a programme made up entirely of Beethoven might be rather heavy for two young guys living in the 21st century. ‘None of these are Beethoven’s later pieces,’ says Arthur. ‘He wrote Opus 10 when he was still young. So that means we can play that music at our age, too. On the other hand, we wouldn’t have risked playing the much later sonatas, Opus 110 or 111.’
   Beethoven’s first work was published in 1782 when he was just 12 years old. And he was only 14 when he was appointed court organist. Can you two living in the 21st century imagine yourselves in the shoes of the gifted Ludwig when he was your age?
  Arthur: ‘Not as a composer. I can’t compose at all. I’ve tried it sometimes but never succeeded. So as far as that’s concerned, it’s difficult for me to put myself in his place. For me, it’s mostly a question of practising and trying over and over to understand why he wrote certain parts as he did.’
  Lucas: ‘But what you try to do is include what you know about Beethoven in the way you play. Take his earliest sonata that Arthur plays – the one he composed around 1796. Here, you can hear that he’s still heavily influenced by Mozart. He may insert his own ideas into the music, but he’s still modelling his composition closely to the pattern that then applied to composing classical music. But in the Pathétique – Opus 13 – that he wrote two years later if I remember rightly, you immediately hear the real Beethoven starting to come through. And that’s an awareness you have to have to play that sonata.’
   Do you see the fact that you are so young as being a handicap?
  Arthur: ‘Sometimes. With Jan Wijn I started playing Opus 118, six pieces for piano, by Johannes Brahms, for example, because I thought it was so beautiful. Technically, it’s not at all difficult to play – but that’s not all. It’s actually a piece I can’t really play yet because it’s a piece in which so many emotions come together – feelings you can’t really understand until you’ve experienced a lot more of life. But at our age, we’re at the start of it all. I don’t feel this when I’m playing – at that time, I’m simply concentrated on playing my best. But afterward, when I hear Maria João Pires play it, that’s when I hear the difference. That’s why you have to understand everything to play a piece like that, out of respect for the music. After all, those emotions are so much a part of that music.’
   Do you catch yourself thinking, ‘Oh, Pires does it that way!’ So next you try to play a piece just like she demonstrated…’
  Lucas: ‘Yes, but that’s just it: great pianists don’t need a model in order to rehearse a piece. I rehearsed the Pathétique almost entirely on my own; even the first time I played it for Pires, there was already a kind of goodness in it. But that’s just not possible with certain pieces. OK, if she says, “Do it exactly this way,” it’s no problem. But that’s not what it’s about, of course. That’s not how it works. Six months later, you’ve forgotten the kind of emotion associated with it.’
  Arthur: ‘You shouldn’t be an imitator. It has to come from within yourself. Otherwise, you’re just playing without personality, and that’s not what’s intended, of course.’
   What made you decide that you actually were ready for the recording of this album?
  We were offered the opportunity to record a CD-album before. At that time we declined as we considered ourselves too young. But now it’s different. Maria João Pires has lots of experience with recording CDs: she wouldn’t let us do something if we weren’t ready for it. Our teachers support us, and that support is what makes us feel confident enough to take this big step. That and the fact that these are pieces that we have made entirely our own.’
   On the album cover, you already look a little like pop stars. How much chance is there that you’ll start a rock band in a couple of years?
  Lucas: ‘A big chance!’
  Arthur: L’ucas also plays electric and bass guitar.’
  Lucas: ‘And Arthur’s going to buy a set of drums.’
  Arthur: ‘We think that would be so much fun to do. It’s not a question of limiting ourselves to one thing or another. We both think that playing the piano is the greatest thing in the world. But we also like to play tennis or football. And we’ll just keep on doing so, too. After all, if we didn’t, what kind of a life would we have?’
   (Ruud Meijer)

domingo, 11 de octubre de 2015

Lucas & Arthur Jussen MOZART Double Piano Concertos

‘It is like driving a pair of BMWs’ remarked conductor Michael Schønwandt, after directing the Dutch brothers Lucas and Arthur Jussen. Despite their young age, they have been taking part in the international concert world for years. Whether they perform as a duo or as soloists, Lucas and Arthur are praised by both the press and audience. 
Lucas and Arthur received their first piano lessons from Leny Bettman in their native town of Hilversum. In 2001, Lucas (1993) reached the finale of the Three-day Rotterdam Piano Festival and in 2004, Arthur (1996) was chosen as ‘Young Musical Talent of the Year’ at the National Contest of the Young Musical Talent Foundation. In 2005, the brothers studied in Portugal and Brazil for nearly a year at the invitation of Portuguese master pianist Maria João Pires. In the following years they took lessons from both Pires and two renowned Dutch teachers: Piano pedagogue Jan Wijn took them under his wing, and with Ton Hartsuiker they broadened their knowledge of 20th-century music. In 2011, Lucas and Arthur received the first ever Concertgebouw Young Talent Award, and in 2013 they won the Audience Award of the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Lucas and Arthur have performed with nearly all Dutch orchestras, among which the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Rotterdam and The Hague Philharmonic orchestras, and the Radio Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra. They have also performed with acclaimed international orchestras, among others the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, London Chamber Orchestra, MDR Sinfonie Orchester and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. They have worked with conductors for example Jaap van Zweden, Claus Peter Flor, Elihu Inbal, Jan Willem de Vriend, Stéphane Denève, James Gaffigan, Sir Neville Marriner and Frans Brüggen. Moreover, they have collaborated with several renowned musicians such as Chinese star pianist Lang Lang, with whom Lucas shared the stage during the Prinsengracht Concert in Amsterdam in 2006. In October 2013, Lucas and Arthur performed the world première of Together, a work for two pianos written for them especially by Theo Loevendie.
Besides their orchestral concerts, the brothers are also known and celebrated for their recitals. They performed in both the Master Pianists and Robeco series of the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam) and have performed for the former Dutch queen Beatrix on several occasions. In 2014, Lucas and Arthur accompanied Dutch king Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima on their first official visit to Poland. They have performed in most concert halls in the Netherlands and have given recitals in concert halls and festivals across Europe, such as the Herkulessaal (Munich), Schloss Elmau, Rheingau Music Festival and the famous Festival de Piano de La Roque d'Anthéron. International tours also brought them beyond Europe to Japan (2012), China (2013) and South Korea (2014).
In 2010, Lucas and Arthur signed a record deal with Deutsche Grammophon. Their debut CD with works by Beethoven received platinum status and was awarded the Edison Klassiek Publieksprijs (audience award). After a successful Schubert recording (gold status), they dedicated their third CD Jeux to French piano music, with works by Fauré, Ravel and Poulenc. In October 2015, their fourth CD will be released on which they perform Mozart’s piano concertos KV365 and KV242, together with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, under the baton of Sir Neville Marriner. 
In the 2015/2016 season, Lucas and Arthur will perform several concerts in the Netherlands, as well as recitals in Germany, Japan, Korea, Russia and Mexico. Moreover, they will return to The Hague Philharmonic Orchestra, Düsseldorfer Symphoniker and the South Netherlands Philharmonic. This season, Arthur will also undertake a tour through the Netherlands and Europe with the Netherlands Student Orchestra, conducted by Bas Wiegers. Lucas is artist-in-residence at the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. 
Lucas studied with Menahem Pressler in the US and Dmitri Bashkirov at the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía in Madrid, where he was presented with the prize for ‘Best piano trio school year 2013/2014’ by the Spanish queen Sofia. Arthur studies with Jan Wijn at the Amsterdam Conservatory.

viernes, 9 de octubre de 2015

Yuja Wang RAVEL

Ravel’s music is, quite simply, unique – and pianist Yuja Wang knows why. “In my opinion,” she says, “it has the exactness of a Swiss clock mechanism, but layered on top of that, it is about pleasure, pure and simple!” 
With their combination of jazz rhythms, sensual beauty and spiky vitality, Ravel’s two piano concertos illustrate her point to perfection, as will be heard on her new album – to be released in October. It also features the original piano solo version of Fauré’s Ballade in F sharp major op. 19. Wang recorded all three works in the spring of this year – in the concertos she was accompanied by the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, the ensemble with which she made her European debut in 2003, aged just 15, and with which she has just spent a season as Artist-in-Residence. On the podium for this new recording was stellar young French conductor Lionel Bringuier, who was unanimously awarded first prize and the Prix du Public at the 49th Besançon Young Conductors Competition in 2005, and went on to be named Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Tonhalle in 2012, at the age of 26. He has now set out to record all of Ravel’s orchestral music with the Tonhalle for Deutsche Grammophon.
Wang and Bringuier have worked together often since she played Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under his direction in Stockholm in 2008. After their Ravel project – Wang’s first venture into French repertoire on disc – they will be joining forces again in November this year to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, “Jeunehomme”, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in LA.
Ravel’s celebrated Piano Concerto in G major and the less familiar Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major are both heavily influenced by jazz – the composer had undertaken a four-month concert tour of North America in 1928, during which he took in the jazz clubs of both Harlem (in the company of George Gershwin) and New Orleans. He then worked on the two concertos concurrently, between 1929 and 1931, and originally planned to give the first performance of the G major work himself. In the event, however, it was Marguerite Long who gave the premiere, under the baton of Ravel, in part because the composer was focused on completing the Concerto for the Left Hand, commissioned by Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm during World War I. The two works are very different in character, the D major Concerto often dark and brooding, the G major more playful, offering a Mozartian clarity and drawing on the translucent style of Saint-Saëns – as, incidentally, does Fauré’s Ballade. The latter is a work for which Yuja Wang has a particular affection because, in its orchestral version, it was the first work she ever played with an orchestra.
Ever since her sensational debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in March 2007, Yuja Wang has been building an extraordinary career, giving concerts with the world’s leading orchestras and regularly joining them on tours of the Americas, Asia and Europe. Since 2009 Deutsche Grammophon has released six recordings with her, most recently an album of concertos by Rachmaninov and Prokofiev (“Wang is a force of nature” – South Florida Classical Review.)
Yuja Wang will soon be appearing with the San Francisco Symphony in its home city before travelling with the orchestra to the Edinburgh Festival and the BBC Proms in London, as well as to festivals in Wiesbaden, Bucharest, Lucerne, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and Paris. In February she makes her debut with the Vienna Philharmonic, performing Mozart’s “Jeunehomme” under Valery Gergiev in both Munich and Paris. Other highlights of the upcoming season include a tour of Asia with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Gustavo Gimeno (in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2), a solo recital at Carnegie Hall in May and, in June, another reunion with Bringuier, for performances of both Ravel concertos with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
With her singular musicality and stylish appearance on stage, Yuja Wang has been fêted not just in the music world but in the pages of international fashion magazines. She is a Steinway Artist and a brand ambassador for Rolex. A video of her playing The Flight of the Bumblebee on YouTube has been viewed almost four million times. As an internet sensation with an immense following, she will bring the vibrant music of Ravel to a whole new audience. (Deutsche Grammophon)

Maxim Rysanov plays MARTINU

It makes perfect sense that Bohuslav Martinu was a fan of the viola; the instrument’s generous, conversational voice is exactly right for his music, and this recording from Ukrainian violist Maxim Rysanov is easy proof of why. Martinu grew up in a church tower in small-town Moravia, watching the sporadic stream of townspeople down below. Those organic real-life rhythms are everywhere in his music — listen to the second movement of the Rhapsody-Concerto (1952) to hear fleeting modal shifts, folk melodies laced with trepidation and motoric outbursts jostling against lush pastoralism. Rysanov clinches the shifting characters and always makes his lines sing; conductor Jiri Belohlavek draws warmth and brawn from the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In the sunny Three Madrigals (1947) and restive Duo No. 2 (1950) Rysanov soars and spars with violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky; the Sonata for Viola and Piano (1955) sounds like it’s been recorded from far away, but I love the stately breadth that Katya Apekisheva brings to the piano lines. (The Guardian)

jueves, 8 de octubre de 2015

Thomas Demenga / Thomas Larcher / Teodoro Anzellotti CHONGURI

Cellist Thomas Demenga offers up a colorful program of encores in Chonguri. From the pizzicato tour de force of the title piece by Sulkhan Tsintsadze, which imitates the selfsame four-stringed instrument of the composer’s native Georgia, it’s clear we’re in for a lively and eclectic treat. Pianist Thomas Larcher accompanies Demenga for most of the program, which includes nods to the familiar and not so. Of the latter, Catalonian composer Gaspar Cassadó’s Danse du diable vert is among the more spirited pins in the album’s geographic and chronographic spread. Two Chopin nocturnes give us a taste of home, in a manner of speaking, with the c-sharp minor presented to us in one of the more beautiful arrangements one is likely to find (though I’ll always be partial to Bela Banfalvi’s). The balance here is superb. A dash of Webern keeps us on our toes, his three Little Pieces sparkling with a charm that is, I daresay, romantic. Of romance we get plenty more in the three Fauré selections sprinkled throughout, of which Après un rêve is a highlight, and in Liszt’s evocative La lugubre gondola.
Four Bach chorales, in Demenga’s arrangements, for which he is joined by accordionist Teodoro Anzellotti form the album’s roof.Sounding somewhere between an organ and a hurdy-gurdy, the sheer depth of tone from Demenga’s cello in these is inspiring.He also offers two pieces of his own, of which the programmatic New York Honk is a delightful end.
Demenga’s playing is such that one can feel the lineage that binds all of this music together into a masterful patchwork as idiosyncratic as it is (seemingly) inevitable. Such programming epitomizes the ECM New Series spirit insofar as it charts the contemporary while paying due respect to the antique in what amounts to one of Demenga’s finest recordings to date and a label landmark. (ECM Reviews)

miércoles, 7 de octubre de 2015

Emmanuel Pahud REVOLUTION

Flutist Emmanuel Pahud has a knack for bringing the 18th century alive, and with this quartet of flute concertos he attempts to follow up his successful earlier release The Flute King, which included flute concertos from the orbit of Prussia's King Frederick the Great. Even allowing for the fact that musical-social correspondences aren't always as easy to detect as when Beethoven dedicated his Symphony No. 3 to Napoleon and then retracted the dedication, this program is a bit more diffuse in its concept than the last one. Only two of the concertos, by Devienne and Gianella, actually date from the revolutionary period, and none of the four shows much impact of the big operatic style of Spontini that influenced Beethoven and other composers. Pahud in a note sets out the Flute Concerto in G major by (probably) Gluck as a representative of the ancien régime, but if anything with its sensuous slow movement it seems strikingly modern. None of this is to say that the individual pieces, all (even the disputed Gluck work) pretty much unknown, aren't a lot of fun. Jean-Pierre Rampal used to play several of these works in concert, and Pahud seems to have set his mind on being Rampal's successor. That's a worthy aim, and with the confident virtuosity and fine breath control in big lines he seems well on his way to achieving the goal. Check out especially the Flute Concerto No. 7 in E minor by François Devienne, known in his time as the French Mozart; the lively, alert accompaniment by the Kammerorchester Basel under Giovanni Antonini is a major enhancement to Pahud's work here. A worthwhile flute release reminiscent of the Rampal classics. (


Since they deserve to be named, the Mirage Quintet is: Robert Aitken, flute; Erica Goodman, harp; Jacques Israelivitch, violin; Teng Li, viola, and Winona Zelenka, cello. All of these players have the Toronto Symphony as their common denominator at some point in time. This superb disc explores the music of the early 20th-century French school, a cast of remarkably unified yet simultaneously divergent composers who all felt the influences of Debussy and Ravel, though I think it a mistake to overdue that consideration.
While the two aforementioned giants did of course exercise a profound influence, each of the composers listed are in no way carbon-copy “impressionist” clones by any stretch of the imagination. The closest to that category in my listening is Tournier, whose Suite is quite Ravel-like in substance and linear melody, reminding me of hisString Quartet. Florent Schmitt will be known to most people, studying under Faure and Debussy, and his Suite also shows some connections to Debussy’s aesthetic, but only just—he was still his own man and at least in this work was more classically concerned than his mentor.
Gabriel Pierne is familiar to many who play wind instruments, a typically Gallic composer with a great concern for clarity, wit, and stylistic congruity. These Variations are a perfect example of his art, succinct, clear as a bell, and rather rambunctious. Speaking of wit, no French composer had more of it than Jean Francaix, perhaps the quintessentially urbane classicist with a penchant for the madcap. Though he has been criticized, not without some justification, of “sameness” in his music, there are many pieces that completely avoid this appellation and demonstrate a profound sense of irony, drollness, sentimentality, and wistfulness, and this Quintet is one of them. Albert Roussel is the neoclassical composer par excellence, and this Serenade shows him in fine fashion, orderly and always looking back with a language that is distinctly modern—at least it was then.
The Mirage Quintet plays just beautifully, rich, warm tone, and with a quietly finessed sense of ensemble unanimity. The rather cavernous acoustics of St Anne’s Anglican Church in Toronto are captured brilliantly on this recording, truly a marvel of elegance and a testament to Engineer Norbert Craft’s expertise. Highest recommendation then, an album that is guaranteed to bring much pleasure. (Steven Ritter)

martes, 6 de octubre de 2015

Steven Osborne SCHUBERT Impromptus D935 - Piano Pieces D946 - Hüttenbrenner Variations D576

Steven Osborne chooses the second set of Schubert’s Impromptus and opens the sequence with the flourish of the F-minor, played crisply and dramatically, and nicely modulated in terms of expression and dynamics. It’s a subtly searching reading that is very affecting. So too the limpid beauty of the A-flat, phrased sublimely by Osborne with no need for artifice; his sensitivity unfolds a special reading, not least in the middle section where the pianist’s ear for volume and tonal variance pays many dividends. Such artlessness informs the expansive B-flat Impromptu, based on the same-key ‘Entr’acte’ from Schubert’s music for Rosamunde, given with due gravitas but without undue distension; there is also a delightful sparkle, as there is too in the F-minor ‘finale’ that here scampers along, Osborne’s clarity ensuring shapeliness, and the coda is resolute, as if a grand Sonata has been ended.
If Three Piano Pieces (prepared for posthumous publication by Brahms) seems bland as a title then each one contains remarkable music, written in the final year of Schubert’s life, and with the triptych of Piano Sonatas (D958-960) still to come. The first Piece is of drive and consolation – and Osborne gives a near-perfect account of it. He goes on to also dig deep into its E-flat successor, its heavenly (if watery) melody beautifully shaped, contrasts through the two ‘trio’ sections ideally made while retaining a wholeness of vision. The final Piece, restless then remote, eventually comes to a forceful conclusion, and is brilliantly played.
Anselm Hüttenbrenner and Schubert became close comrades in 1815 when they were pupils of Salieri. Of course, Schubert would die young, in 1828 aged 31, whereas his friend survived him by forty years. The Theme, a measured march, is from the slow movement of Hüttenbrenner’s String Quartet in E, Opus 12. The Variations that follow are attractive in their initial effortlessness, the source kept in view, and becoming more complex and imaginative, with some ear-tickling adaptations. The whole is played with sympathy and superb musicianship by Osborne, as throughout the recital, and the recording is a model of warmth and lucidity.
If you would like a one word summing up: outstanding! (Classical Source)

lunes, 5 de octubre de 2015

Anna Netrebko / Elina Garanča / Ramón Vargas / Ludovic Tézier THE OPERA GALA Live from Baden-Baden

. . . their voices blending beautifully . . . all done with spirited fervor and admirable vocalism. Tenor Ramón Vargas is a positive presence, giving us the bel canto gem "Una furtive lagrima" from Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore" in a flawlessly idiomatic interpretation that includes stunning diminuendos and a melting mezza-voce. Ludovic Tézier's rich baritone scores with a subtle rendition of Riccardo's death scene from Verdi's "Don Carlo" and, in yet another highlight in an evening full of them, joins Vargas in the great duet "Dio, che nell'alma infondere" from that opera . . . her [Garanca's] showpiece aria from Rossini's "La Cenerentola" sparkles, with impressive coloratura fireworks. Netrebko is among the most brilliant stars of today's operatic firmament . . . She brings the house down with the first of the concert's many encores, a performance of Lehar's "Meine Lippen" from the operetta, "Giuditta", that includes seductive singing and acting, sexual flirtations, and energetic dancing. Her enthusiasm is infectious, sparking her colleagues as well as the audience. All four singers join in the quartet from "Rigoletto" that ends the formal portion of the concert, and in the final encore, they trade verses in an arrangement of the "Drinking Song" from "La Traviata". Conductor Marco Armiliato, whose supportive accompaniments help make the concert a rousing success, directs the capable orchestra. So this two-hour singfest provides joys for vocal buffs . . . (Record Review / Dan Davis)

Barokksolistene / Bjarte Eike / Tuva Semmingsen LONDON CALLING!

In spite of a misleading title, borrowed from the Clash's iconic 1979 album, and cover artwork possibly suggesting music of the '60s mod scene, London Calling!: Handel and His Contemporaries seems inappropriately packaged for what it really is, a sampler of Baroque opera arias and concertos, mostly Italian music that was popular in early 18th century London. This terrific-sounding hybrid SACD by the Norwegian period ensemble Barokksolistene should stand on its own as a delightful survey of vocal and instrumental music by George Frederick Handel, Arcangelo Corelli, Francesco Maria Veracini, and Francesco Geminiani, all well-known composers who don't deserve (and likely won't benefit from) the album's condescending tagline, "It's just old pop music." The vibrant singing by mezzo-soprano Tuva Semmingsen is an attractive feature of this 2012 release, and her flexibility and rich tone are well-suited to Handel's florid settings of Italian and English texts. The virtuoso ensemble, dominated by strings, plays without vibrato and yields the shining sonorities of a Baroque orchestra, and the inclusion of trumpet, oboe, theorbo, and harpsichord adds spice to their polished blend. Under the leadership of violinist Bjarte Eike, the performances are carefully executed and appropriately interpreted, so fans of early music will find much to enjoy here, notwithstanding the misguided attempt to market this collection to a pop audience. (Blair Sanderson)

sábado, 3 de octubre de 2015

Ingolf Wunder / Vladimir Ashkenazy / St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra TCHAIKOVSKY & CHOPIN

To describe Ingolf Wunder's performances as couched in a kind of neo-Mozartian aesthetic isn't to criticise but to applaud them . . . These are warm-blooded, big-boned, panoramic accounts, richly and subtly expressive without displaying a hint of bombast or manipulative self-indulgence. They are remarkably alike in their natural balance and their "symphonic" demonstration of unity achieved through diversity . . . Vladimir Ashkenazy is very much more than an accomplished and insightful accompanist. He is a fully fledged, generous partner, weaving the variegated orchestral strands into a polyphonic tapestry of timbres, perfectly suited to offset and enhance the very different sounds of the piano. Wunder, meanwhile, easily distracts us, when it's appropriate, from the essentially percussive nature of his instrument, not least when he uses his power, depth of sound and breadth of phrasing to meet the orchestra on its own terms -- as in the first movement of the Tchaikovsky. Indeed this is one of the most subtly and illuminatingly coloured accounts of this work I've encountered . . . these are both outstanding performances. (Jeremy Siepmann, BBC Music Magazine)

The orchestra is superlative, the conductor an elder statesman, the young prize-winning pianist a model of cultivated style . . . The recorded sound is the single best thing, since it blends the orchestra and piano together so beautifully -- there's no highlighting of the soloist, making this the only recording of the Tchaikovsky First in my experience where the pianist's opening chords don't crash and bang. Second best is the gorgeous playing from the St. Petersburg Philharmonic . . . Ashkenazy's contribution from the podium is expert . . . This leaves only Wunder to consider, and I'd say he fits into the package perfectly. His touch is exquisite in its lightness. Passagework is amazingly even; he never indulges in a vulgar gesture . . . Wunder is a sterling soloist in both works. (Huntley Dent, Fanfare)

viernes, 2 de octubre de 2015

Gustavo Dudamel / Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 9

Paris, December 2nd , 1804. In a grand ceremony at Notre-Dame-Cathedral, Napoleon Bonaparte crowns himself Emperor of France. Among the thousands in attendance at the coronation that day was a young man named Simon Bolivar. At once impressed and reviled, the young South American’s mind was gripped by a new vision for the future of his homeland. Meanwhile, as news of Napoleon’s coronation reached Vienna, an enraged Ludwig van Beethoven dashed the hand-written dedication to Bonaparte from the manuscript of his latest symphony. The work would be known as the “Eroica”, and the history of music would never be the same.
With this recording project, my brothers and sisters of the Simon Bolviar Symphony Orchestra and I pay homage to two of our greatest inspirations: Beethoven and Bolivar. Two bold, passionate visionaries whose parallel lives straddled the transition from the Enlightenment to the revolutionary Romantic eras, who came of age in the shadow of Napoleon, and went on to dominate the cultural consciousness of their time. Bolivar led millions of South Americans to freedom and became the spiritual father of nations; Beethoven championed the emancipation of art from the sphere of the aristocracy and, in his symphonies, established the compositional and philosophical vocabulary for all music thereafter.
To realise their goals, both Bolivar and Beethoven overcame tremendous challenges. Bolivar faced colonial armies, survived political intrigues, and suffered personal tragedy, but never lost faith in his vision. Beethoven lost his hearing – perhaps the most cruel fate to befall a musician. And yet, he was able to compose music of such extraordinary humanity and compassion, he is living proof of the ability of musical expression to transcend circumstance.
This belief, in the transcendent, transformative power of music, is fundamental to the philosophy of El Sistema. As Venezuelans, we feel the living spirit of Bolivar all around us every day. And for us, especially in the Simon Bolivar orchestra, we identify with Beethoven’s spirit and with his music because the two contemporaries, Beethoven and Bolivar, shared the same ideals of freedom and sacrifice.
We stand on the shoulders of giants. Just as Bolivar’s words and deeds inspired his countrymen and women to strive for greater causes, Beethoven’s symphonies lead us on a journey to discover our deepest human emotions – and aspire to our highest ideals. It is our great honour and pleasure to share in this journey with you. (Gustavo Dudamel)

jueves, 1 de octubre de 2015

Krystian Zimerman / Simon Rattle / Berliner Philharmoniker LUTOSLAWSKI Piano Concerto - Symphony No. 2

. . . [Piano Concerto]: the hall's acoustics respond beautifully to the mellow, floating textures. Lutoslawski often writes quiet music, but with such detail that every nuance needs to be heard. Every nuance is heard here, and the effect is spectacular. The piano is always apparent across the orchestra, even when their respective textures call its dominance into question. Of course, Lutoslawski knows what he is doing, and no doubt he is relying on Zimerman's always clear articulation and touch to project the piano's lines . . . The Berlin Philharmonic sound is ideal here, not only for the sheer elegance the orchestra displays, but also for the details that it is able to project, again aided by the excellent audio . . . this Zimerman/Rattle collaboration comes highly recommended. Whatever this mercurial pianist's motivations for returning to the concerto, we should all be glad he did.