domingo, 29 de noviembre de 2015

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

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

miércoles, 25 de noviembre de 2015

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

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

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

martes, 24 de noviembre de 2015

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

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

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

domingo, 22 de noviembre de 2015

Carolin Widmann REFLECTIONS

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

Emmanuelle Swiercz CHOPIN Nocturnes

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

Blandine Staskiewicz / Les Ambassadeurs / Alexis Kossenko TEMPESTA

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

Audrey Vigoureux BACH - BEETHOVEN Quasi una Fantasia

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

sábado, 21 de noviembre de 2015

Cecilia String Quartet MENDELSSOHN op. 44 Nos 1, 2

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

Olga Scheps VOCALISE

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

Martha Argerich RACHMANINOV Music for Two Pianos

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

viernes, 20 de noviembre de 2015

Alina Ibragimova YSAŸE Sonatas for Solo Violin

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

jueves, 19 de noviembre de 2015

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

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

martes, 17 de noviembre de 2015

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

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

jueves, 12 de noviembre de 2015

Julia Lezhneva / Il Giardino Armonico / Giovanni Antonini HANDEL

The young Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva has been described as possessing an “angelic voice” (The New York Times) with “pure tone” (Opernwelt) and “flawless technique” (The Guardian). They are big claims, and she has been living up to them ever since she created a sensation at the Classical Brit awards at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2010, singing Rossini’s Fra il padre at the invitation of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. 
Born into a family of geophysicists on Sakhalin Island in 1989, she began playing the piano and singing at the age of five. She graduated from the Gretchaninov Music School and continued her vocal and piano studies at the Moscow Conservatory. At 17 she came to international attention winning the Elena Obraztsova International Competition, and at 18 shared the concert stage with Juan Diego Flórez at the opening of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. In 2008 she began studying with tenor Dennis O’Neill in Cardiff, completing her training under Yvonne Kenny at London’s Guildhall School. She has also attended masterclasses with Elena Obraztsova in St. Petersburg, Alberto Zedda in Pesaro and Thomas Quasthoff in Verbier. In 2009 she won first prize at the Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition in Helsinki and the following year she took first prize at the Paris International Opera Competition, the youngest entrant in each competition’s history. 
The emphasis for this album is very much on youth and prodigious talent: at 25, Julia Lezhneva is ideally suited to the soprano arias of the young Handel, who arrived in Italy from Germany as a 21 year old at the beginning of the 18th century.
She has the perfect partners in Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini whose recordings of music from the Italian baroque are celebrated for their “fizzing virtuosity” and “exquisite cushion of sound” (The Independent). For some tracks the orchestra is led by Dmitry Sinkovsky, the extraordinary Russian violinist and one of today’s most versatile Baroque musicians.
The music encompasses the best of Handel’s operatic and religious works from his years in Florence and Rome: the operas Rodrigo and Agrippina and the oratorios Il Trionfo and La Resurrezione as well as the complete Salve Regina and soprano solo from Dixit Dominus. Best known is the radiant “Lascia la spina” from Il Trionfo and its later incarnation as “Lascia ch'io pianga” from the opera Rinaldo.
The recording was made in the famously musical and historic Italian city of Cremona in the beautiful auditorium of the Museo del Violino.

Pietro Longhi (1701 - 1785)

En este lienzo, Pietro Longhi (1701 - 1785) muestra a unos curiosos que han acudido a ver el espectáculo sobre una tribuna de madera, delante de la cual se encuentra el rinoceronte que come con tranquilidad el forraje. Sin embargo, ninguno de los espectadores observa al animal. La elegante dama con el tricornio y la capucha de encaje mira al espectador del cuadro; su enigmático acompañante enmascarado, al igual que el lacayo a su derecha, tiene la mirada puesta en el vacío; el hombre de la pipa de barro, en el borde derecho del cuadro, medita absorto en sus pensamientos; la mujer de la pañoleta verde mira al otro lado y su vecina observa inmóvil a través de un antifaz negro. Ni siquiera la niña muestra interés. Todos están rígidos en su aparente viveza, irreales tras la máscara o la fisonomía. Parecen como citas de una vida que ya no tienen en sí, sino que únicamente exhiben. Delante de esta indiferencia silenciosa, el rinoceronte: pesado, apático, simple, pintado con una cierta ingenuidad; el cartel lo identifica como "Vero Ritratto di un Rinocerotto", el verdadero retrato de un animal que, en su exotismo, es lo único real. Por el contrario, el mundo cotidiano veneciano se ha convertido en lo realmente extraño, pues no es más que máscara, disfraz, antifaz, sombras de la realidad, a la que no puede devolver ni siquiera la sorpresa.

miércoles, 11 de noviembre de 2015

Christiane Karg SCENE!

That indefatigable one-man libretto factory Pietro Metastasio is the linking thread in these scenas of damsels in extremis, complemented in Ch’io mi scordi di te by the pseudo-Metastasio of Idomeneo librettist Gianbattista Varesco. With Beethoven’s Ah, perfido!, Christiane Karg’s expressive lyric soprano edges towards Leonore territory in a bid, as she puts it in the booklet interview, ‘to push boundaries, and to test my voice in other registers’. If you’ve heard Nilsson and Callas in this music, Karg might initially seem underpowered. But we are, after all, still in the 18th century. In close collusion with Jonathan Cohen’s crack period band, Karg lives each nuance of the abandoned heroine’s fluctuating emotions, from vengeful outrage to morbid pathos. She burns into the Italian consonants in the recitative, spins a tender legato in the aria’s slow opening section, then flares thrillingly into accusatory fury in the Allegro. Throughout, Karg holds vocal finesse and expressive intensity in near-ideal equipoise.
Haydn noted in his quaint English that the Italian diva Brigida Banti ‘song very scanty’ in the 1795 premiere of his Scena di Berenice. He would surely have had no qualms about Karg’s performance, whether in the gravely sculpted line of the Adagio aria or the passionate abandon of the F minor close, where she unfurls a surprisingly powerful chest register. In Miseri noi, Haydn’s music is too serenely dignified for such a grim text, but Karg brings it alive in a way I have never heard before, making the coloratura sound desperate, in the right sense, rather than merely brilliant.
In Mozart’s ravishing Ch’io mi scordi di te, Karg complements the delicate tones of Malcolm Martineau’s fortepiano in an unusually intimate performance, softening her naturally bright timbre and ornamenting with taste and discretion. The relative oddball here is the rare Mendelssohn scena in its original London version of 1834: an entertaining piece of near-pastiche, with a slow aria with violin obbligato – silkily expounded by Alina Pogostkina – that sounds like Mozart grown faintly decadent, and a seething Allegro that seems to cross Beethoven and Rossini. Karg spits contempt for her faithless lover in the opening recitative, then matches the violin in yearning eloquence before surging with controlled delirium through Mendelssohn’s long lines in the Allegro. Looking for trouble, I wanted a slightly closer balancing of the fortepiano in Ch’io mi scordi di te. But this is nit-picking. Singing with style, grace and fiery temperament, Karg brings each of these distraught heroines excitingly, individually alive, while the superb players of Arcangelo – not least the dulcet clarinets – are true dramatic partners rather than mere accompanists. (Richard Wigmore / Gramophone)

Amandine Beyer / Gli Incogniti ANTONIO VIVALDI Teatro alla Moda

Since 2006 Gli Incogniti is a reference in the early music interpretation. Convinced that one should share what one loves and enjoys, GI performances (live or recording) try to transmit the passion of the music they are executing. Public and critics have recognized with insistence the « pleasure » of its members when shearing their interpretations. Gli Incogniti is interested in repertoire not so much explored achieving premiere recordings of works of N.Matteis, J. Rosenmuller or even A. Vivaldi. They also enjoy more « clasical » works like the recording of the Concerti Grossi of Corelli or the Four Seasons of Vivaldi, both recordings awarded by many international critics (Diapason d’or, Choc de Clasica, Gramophone Editor’s choise, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik..). Gli Incongiti has performed concerts in Europe, Asia and America, playing in the most prestigious music halls and Festivals in the world (Utrecht, Sablé, Bruge, Theatre de la Ville, Bozar, Haut-Jura, Inssbruck, Boston, Regensburg, Urbino, Via Stellae, Povoa de Varzim...)

Already some years ago, Amandine Beyer is recognized as a reference in the interpretation baroque violin repertoire. Her recording of the Sonatas & Partitas by J. S. Bach in 2012, has been awarded the best international critics (Diapason d’or de l’année, Choc de Classica de l’année, Editor’s choice de Gramophone, Prix Academie Charles Cros, Excepcional de Scherzo....). The work in this masterpiece is being continued with the performance "Partita 2", choreographed and danced by Anne Theresa de Keersmaeker and Boris Charmatz. She plays regularly in the most important halls and festivals worldwide (Théatre du Chatelet, Festival de Sablé, Innsbruck Festwochen Konzerthaus de Viena...). She shares her time between between different music ensembles were she takes part off : les Cornets Noirs, the duos with Pierre Hantai, Kristian Bezuidenhout or Laurance Beyer and her own ensemble: Gli Incogniti (their CD's devoted to Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Corelli's Concerti Grossi have been welcomed by the international critic as new highlights in the performance of this repertoire). Her other passion is teaching, giving lessons at the ESMAE of Porto (Portugal), as well as masterclasses worldwide (France, Taiwan, Brasil, USA, Canada). Since 2010 she teachs baroque violin at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland.

martes, 10 de noviembre de 2015

Francesco Piemontesi DEBUSSY Préludes

Though widely renowned for his interpretations of Mozart works, Francesco’s pianism and sensibility has close affinity with the Préludes, which he has included regularly and to great acclaim in recital programmes. Talking about the music, he commented: “[Debussy]’s works challenge the performer in myriad ways: they are technically demanding, but in addition to virtuosic pianism, Debussy requires an equally virtuosic handling of colours, shading and character. In 20th century music, this is not always a matter of course.”
In the press, Francesco’s performances of the Préludes have often been mentioned as the evening’s highlights: “his playing took the breath away. He combined the black and white notes of Brouillards to create soft grey tonalities, and went on to dazzle us with a wonderful range of effects in which a flawless technique was put to the service of some very original interpretations” (Michael Church, Independent), while another review wrote “Francesco Piemontesi, at 30 a fully fledged master, played four Debussy Préludes in a manner to rival Pollini’s” (International Piano)
Francesco’s recording is based on a new edition of the Préludes by Durand-Salabert-Eschig, co-directed by renowned French piano music scholar Roy Howat, who also wrote the liner notes for the CD. The recording is dedicated to Francesco’s teacher and mentor, pianist Cécile Ousset, who first introduced him to the music and advised during the recording process.

HOROWITZ Return to Chicago

On November 13th Deutsche Grammophon will release, for the very first time, a recording that Horowitz made for Chicago radio station WFMT in 1986. Vladimir Horowitz was unquestionably one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. He elevated the art of piano playing to new levels as Liszt had done some 100 years before him. 
Horowitz was popular in Chicago – between 1928 and 1986 he played there thirty seven times, having to repeat most of his performances in order to reach as many of his admirers as possible. By 1986 he’d come up with perhaps a better plan: a concert that would be broadcast as a gift to the city of Chicago. It was broadcast locally over Chicago’s premiere classical radio station WFMT. It was broadcast only once more and has not been heard since that time, lying all but forgotten in WFMT’s vaults until producer Jon M. Samuels discovered its existence in October 2013.
The recording presents late-period Horowitz, starting with two Scarlatti sonatas before revisiting favourites Mozart and Scriabin. The second half brings new repertoire to the Deutsche Grammophon discography, namely, the Schumann Arabesque in C major, op. 18 and a Chopin Mazurka in C sharp minor, op. 63 no. 3.
Also included are two interviews with Horowitz that were used as intermission features during the broadcast. The first, with host Norman Pellegrini, was recorded the day before the concert. The second, conducted by Thomas Willis (Senior Music Critic of the Chicago Tribune), was recorded on October 30, 1974 on the occasion of Horowitz’s return to Chicago after a six-year absence. (Deutsche Grammophon)

Daniil Trifonov plays FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN

Following his successful 2012 release of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov tries on the more intimate role of recitalist for this live Decca album of solo piano pieces by Frédéric Chopin. Trifonov is a powerhouse in the Lisztian mold, and his incredible technique seems better suited to fast, flashy fingerwork than to more subdued music. Certain pieces, such as the Rondo in F major, Op. 5, "À la Mazur," the Étude in F major, Op. 10/8, and the Grande Valse Brillante, Op. 18, allow feats of prestidigitation, and there's no denying that he can perform with dazzling virtuosity. However, Chopin should not be played to set land speed records, and Trifonov is required to show greater variety of tempos, dynamics, and expressions in the Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, the set of three Mazurkas, Op. 56, and above all in the Sonata No. 3 in B minor, where more is at stake emotionally and artistically. (It is perhaps of interest to note that the first four tracks were recorded in Venice, while the rest of the album was recorded in Sacile, Italy, so changes in playing style may reflect the different venues.) Trifonov is obviously more comfortable in glittering showpieces, and this CD confirms that can always entertain with his brilliance. But it is inconclusive about his capacity for emotional growth and ability to play slower and more private music with grace and depth. (Blair Sanderson)

lunes, 9 de noviembre de 2015

Janine Jansen BRAHMS - BARTOK 1

Two landmark concertos receive sensational performances in Janine Jansen’s latest recording for Decca, set for international release in November 2015. The Dutch violinist, described by The Times as “a player you follow wherever she leads”, presents her profound insights into Johannes Brahms’s monumental Violin Concerto and youthful Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 1. She recorded the Brahms with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and the Bartók with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano. Jansen’s past Decca releases have achieved astonishing success in the digital music charts, earning her the title of “Queen of the Download” (Independent) and No. 1 positions in the iTunes pop and classical charts.
Janine Jansen first performed Brahms’s Violin Concerto with Antonio Pappano in 2012, developing a visionary interpretation of the work over the course of eight concerts.
“I remember feeling very excited to be working with him, but nothing had prepared me for the sheer passion and energy that he generates from an orchestra,” she recalls. “Most especially he encourages a singing, radiant cantabile.”
The violinist and conductor returned to the score in February 2015, expressing its magical blend of lyrical beauty and symphonic power in three performances recorded live in vibrant high-definition sound by Decca.
Jansen is the first major artist to couple the two works on the same album. “To me they seem a natural pairing,” she observes.
Janine Jansen’s Decca recording of the Brahms concerto can be heard in the soundtrack of Public Works (Publieke werken), a major new Dutch feature film scheduled for release on 10 December 2015. Public Works is based on Thomas Rosenboom’s eponymous novel, set in the 1880s, about an Amsterdam violin maker, his nephew, a country pharmacist, and simmering tensions within late nineteenth-century society.
Brahms was inspired to create his only violin concerto in the summer of 1878 by his old friend, the violinist and composer Joseph Joachim. The work includes fiendishly difficult passages written to suit Joachim’s long fingers and a finale filled with the energy and spice of Hungarian gypsy music. Bartók’s first violin concerto, written in 1907-08 but not published until the late 1950s, also includes elements of traditional music from the composer’s native Hungary. Its strongest influence, however, proved to Steffi Geyer, the strikingly beautiful young Hungarian violinist with whom Bartók was deeply in love. (Decca Classics)

Sabine Devieilhe MOZART The Weber Sisters

The Weber Sisters is rooted in Mozart’s life story and includes music inspired by Aloysia, Konstanze and Josepha Weber, three soprano sisters whom Mozart first met in the German city of Mannheim in 1777, when he was 21. Though he initially fell in love with Aloysia, who went on to become a celebrated diva, it was Konstanze who became his wife; she outlived him by nearly 50 years and did much to sustain and build his reputation after his death. The programme comprises songs, operatic and concert arias and orchestral numbers, and Sabine Devieilhe’s interpretations are typified by beauty of tone, a penetrating sense of drama and a scrupulous respect for the score and the text. Three of the highlights are: the concert aria ‘Popoli di Tessaglia’ – written for Aloysia – which rises to spectacular heights (specifically, the G two-and-a-half octaves above middle C); the sublime ‘Et incarnatus est’ from the C minor Mass – premiered in Salzburg by Konstanze, and ‘Der Hölle Rache’, written for Josepha as the second fireworks-filled aria of the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte, a role that has brought triumphs for Sabine Devieilhe at the opera houses of Lyon and Paris. Her colleagues on this album are the Ensemble Pygmalion, the keyboard player Arnaud de Pasquale and the conductor Raphaël Pichon. (Warner Classics)

domingo, 8 de noviembre de 2015

Anne Gastinel AMERICAS

Born in 1971 Anne Gastinel began playing the cello at the age of four while studying simultaneously the piano and the oboe. She gave her television début at the age of 10 as concert soloist. Five years later Anne Gastinel finished first place at the Music Conservatory in Lyon went on to complete her brilliant studies at the National Music Conservatory in Paris. In 1989, she met Yo Yo Ma, Janos Starker and Paul Tortelier who later became her masters and profoundly marked her personal musical evolution. By the age of 18, Anne Gastinel had performed in over fifty cities throughout Europe, won the 1st prize of the International Competition of Scheveningen and became the first French artist in forty years to reach the finals of the International Competition of Prague. Revealed to the vast public by the 1990 televised Eurovision Tournament in Vienna and shortly thereafter at the Rostropovich Competition in Paris, Anne Gastinel pursued an impressive solo career which took her on annual worldwide tours around Europe, Africa, Asia and America performing in prestigious halls among which the Salle Pleyel, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Théâtre Châtelet, Schauspielhaus, Musikverein, Santori Hall, Victoria Hall. For the past 12 years she has equally been performing with internationally renown orchestras and distinguished artists such as Kurt Sanderling, Emmanuel Krivine, Louis Langrée, Semyon Bychkov, Vladimir Spivakov, Pinchas Steinberg, Yuri Bashmet, Max Rabinovitsj, Lord Yehudi Menuhin… Her recording career both in chamber and orchestral music won acclaimed success from the international press and resulted in great distinctions such as the Victoires “Young Talent 1994”, Victoires “Best Recording of the year” 1995, “Discothèque idéale”, Prix “Fnac” in 1995 and 2000 the Prix de l’Académie du disque et Classique d’Or by French Radio RTL in 1996 and 1998 – the “Choc” du Monde de la Musique, Télérama¦¦¦¦ 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002. Designated unanimously in 1997 as ambassador of French cello, Anne Gastinel was nominated in New York by Marta Casals-Istomin to receive the mythical Matteo Gofriller cello belonging to Pablo Casals. Presently Miss Gastinel performs on a Testore made in 1690 (association “Fonds Instrumental Français”). She has received several distinctions among which the “Femme en Or 2002” for the Perfoming Arts. Anne Gastinel has also held the honory position of Patron for the “Festival des Rencontres de Musique de Chambre de Lyon” since 2000. Anne Gastinel continues to charm her audience wherever she performs - striving to privilege the art of sharing – the very essence of music to her eyes.

sábado, 7 de noviembre de 2015

Sol Gabetta / Amsterdam Sinfonietta VASKS Presence

Cellist Sol Gabetta has long wanted Pēteris Vasks to compose a concerto for her and on 25 October 2012, Gabetta, in collaboration with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and its Artistic Director Candida Thompson, presented the new work at last. Klātbūtne (‘Presence’), for cello and string orchestra, was premiered at the music centre De Bijloke in Gent.
Latvian composer Vasks stands out among his contemporaries as an especially versatile composer, writing in different timbres and tunings to create hugely varied sound worlds. This can be heard in his eight works for string orchestra and three concertos for violin and strings. Klātbūtne is the first of Vasks’ works for the combination of solo cello and strings, and the three movement work was commissioned by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, the Amsterdam Cello Biennale, Eduard van Beinum Foundation and the International Istanbul Music Festival.
Gabetta and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta gave the German premiere of Klātbūtne on 26 October at the Forum am Schlosspark, Ludwigsburg, and two further performances took place on 27 October at the Tonhalle Düsseldorf and on 29 October at the Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam.

viernes, 6 de noviembre de 2015

Dorothea Röschmann / Daniel Harding / Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra MOZART Arias

20 years after her critically acclaimed début at the Salzburg Festival as Susanna In Mozart’s Le Nozze Di Figaro, Dorothea Röschmann releases her first solo Mozart album, including famous arias from Don Giovanni and Le Nozze Di Figaro. Dorothea Röschmann is in the prime of her voice and referred to "as one of the leading Mozart sopranos today“ (Der Tagesspiegel). The CD track list not only reflects her at her glorious best, but is also a dream come true for Dorothea: “Mozart is the reason I wanted to do opera,” she says. “To be able to embody Mozart figures on stage, that was my dream. His characters are real human beings, with sadness and joy and wit. It’s the whole picture that you get. It sounds strange, but signing Mozart really is a dream come true.” (Dorothea Röschmann in interview with the Guardian). The album is recorded with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by their music director Daniel Harding. (Presto Classical)

Natacha Kudritskaya NOCTURNES

Natacha was born in Perm in the Urals in 1983.  Her parents, both musicians, encouraged her to play the piano. She studied in Kiev, first at the Lysenko School and then at the Tchaikovsky National Academy of Music.  From 2003 she worked with the pianist Alain Planès at the Conservatoire de Paris and in 2007 she was admitted to the Conservatoire’s advanced course to study with Jacques Rouvier  She continues to work with pianists Ferenc Rados and Elisabeth Leonskaja.
Natacha feels ‘very comfortable’ playing French music.  In 2009 she was awarded the Grand Prix by the Safran Foundation for Music and featured on the Génération Spedidam programme. She won first prize at the Vibrarté International Music Competition and the Robert Casadesus Prize for her performance of French music.
She is particularly fond of baroque music, of Bach, Rameau and Couperin, and of the romantic repertoire. She has record works by Rameau, Berio and Ravel.  Her CD of suites by Rameau on a modern Yamaha piano has been greatly praised.
At present her thoughts are with the people in Ukraine where ‘times are difficult, but I have never seen those people so united and determined in the feeling that change is possible.  The Maidan revolution was the most powerful and dramatic and hopeful time I have ever experienced.’

Diego Ares ANTONIO SOLER Harpsichord Sonatas from the Morgan Library

Diego Ares (Vigo 1983) studied piano with Alis Jurgelionis and Aldona Dvarionaitė. He obtained the first prize at Primer Concurso de piano RCN de Vigo when he was only fourteen years old, and also the first prize at the International Piano Contest N. Rubinstein, in Paris, when he was fifteen.
He started studying harpsichord in 1998, in Vigo, with Pilar Cancio. When he was eighteen years old he moved to the Netherlands in order to study at the Royal Conservatoir of Den Haag, and also to Amsterdam to study with Richard Egarr. There he would meet Joel Katzman, from whom he received several advices. In those years he received the second prize in harpsichord playing at Concurso Permanente Juventudes Musicales de España. He moved to Switzerland in 2004 to study at Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and follow his studies with Jörg-Andreas Bötticher and Jesper B. Christensen. There he obtained his harpsichord degree in 2007, with the highest honours and congratulations from the board of professors. Since that year on, he has been studying Continuous with Jesper B. Christensen and at the same time he has been furthering his education with pianist Laszlo Gyimesi.
He has performed many concerts as a soloist in Spain (Festival Extensión de Granada, Festival Internacional de Música y Danza de Santander, Festival de Música Antigua de Barcelona, Festival de Músicas Religiosas y del Mundo de Girona, Ciclo Cinco generaciones de pianistas españoles (+ un clavecinista) at Teatro Villamarta in Jerez, Concerts during the summer courses of Universidad Complutense de Madrid at el Escorial, concerts at Fundación Juan March in Madrid, etc.), France (Festival Cordes Sensibles), Switzerland (together with the Chamber Orchestra of Orquesta Geneve interpreting the harpsichord concerts by Manuel de Falla and Frank Martin at Victoria Hall, etc.), Germany (Opening Concert for Die Dame mit dem Cembalo about Wanda Landowska in Berlín, concerts with the ensemble Madrid-Berlín, etc.), The Netherlands (Utrecht Ancient Music Festival, together with a tour playing Goldberg Variations by J. S. Bach) and Japan (Tokyo Opera City Hall).

Alina Ibragimova / Cédric Tiberghien SCHUBERT Complete Works for Violin and Piano

The luminous partnership of Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien returns to Hyperion for this double album containing Schubert’s complete music for violin and piano. Their intelligence and technical prowess, their seamless and intimate connection as performers and their profound understanding of the music combine in magical performances.
While still in his teens, Schubert wrote four works for violin and piano that could have been given the label ‘sonata’, yet none of the four was published with that title. The first three, completed in 1816, bear instead the designation of ‘Sonatina’, perhaps to appeal to the amateur market. But these are highly accomplished works by the teenage composer and there is little ‘domestic’ feeling in the extended, mysterious unravellings of D385 which hint at compositions yet to come.
The later Violin Sonata in A major, D574 (now described as a ‘Duo’), urges the violinist on to greater virtuosic feats, and the Rondo in B minor even more so, with the piano sometimes treated as a surrogate orchestra. The extensive Fantasy in C major, written in the last year of Schubert’s life, is a masterpiece: the composer’s greatest achievement in this genre, which combines poignancy with sheer joy in life itself.

Beautiful and touching … the performances of the virtuoso Rondo brillant and Fantasie are exhilarating; the Rondo combining lively momentum with a sense of poise and the Fantasie beautifully characterised in all its varied aspects. Especially fine are the episodes in Hungarian style, full of energy and grace, and the barnstorming finale, rivalling the famous 1931 recording of Busch and Serkin' (Gramophone)

jueves, 5 de noviembre de 2015

Alina Ibragimova BACH Violin Concertos

Bach's violin concertos boast a recording history of over 80 years. Yehudi Menuhin's classic 1932-6 recordings are still available, superbly remastered, from Naxos. Since then, most distinguished violinists have thrown their hats into the ring with the fastest, leanest, jauntiest …
Among these benchmarks, Alina Ibragimova makes a strikingly distinctive contribution, albeit subtle and restrained.
In the opening of the A minor BWV1041, she introduces minute expressive emphases and nuances into her solo line, sustaining the hypnotic motoric pulse but relieving it of any relentless 'sewing-machine' quality. In contrast, in the E major's opening movement, her solo line flows uninterrupted by the orchestra quietly working the opening rising notes into their accompaniment.
Jonathan Cohen's choice of flute as well as harpsichord among the continuo forces invites another distinctive feature. In slow movements, the lutenist (Thomas Dunford) gently animates the underlying slow, meditative orchestral blocks which frame the solo episodes. In BWV1042, the combination of persistent repeated bass, lute, almost inaudible violin entry, and quietly pulsing middle orchestral strings, add up to quite breath-taking effect.
Final movements are spectacular. In Bach's 'very fast' gigue ending to BWV1041, Arcangelo strings and Ibragimova are fearless, she is consumed with manic energy as her solo builds the tension around a ringing, dissonant E string—Bach at his wildest. BWV1042's finale is an exuberant dance, almost weightless between the forceful first-beats.
The violin repertoire has been enriched over the years by the realisation that other concertos were almost certainly derived from lost violin originals. In the Largo of BWV1056 Ibragimova ornaments the solo line with Bach's oboe version, simpler and more pensive than his keyboard arrangement—and very beautiful.
BWV1055 in A began life as an oboe d'amore concerto, reflected in the generally lower pitch of the solo line—at the start, Ibragimova produces a fine 'd'amore'-sounding crunch on the violin's bottom string. The slow movement is perfectly balanced between soloist and accompanying strings, both in tone and in spatial positioning, the violin's gentle arabesques pirouetting over the unfolding harmony below.
The D minor violin restoration from the surviving keyboard BWV1052 is the most hypnotic of all. After the severe Vivaldian unison opening, Ibragimova's flashing figurations, six bars on a single harmony, create a ferment of excitement sustained throughout the opening movement.
The scale of the period instrument forces is ideal: orchestral violins in threes making for a warm and perfectly tuned contrast to the soloist. Outstanding. (BBC Music Magazine)

domingo, 1 de noviembre de 2015

Anne Akiko Meyers / André-Michel Schub THE AMERICAN ALBUM

RCA Victor's The American Album is the most daring and ambitious program undertaken by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers for RCA Victor and features some of the most challenging and invigorating music to be found among her early playing. The showpiece here is Meyers' rendering of Charles Ives' Sonata No. 4 "Children's Day at the Camp Meeting," in which she transits seamlessly from the elementary, student-like playing at the opening through the fierce transcendentalism in the middle section to the whimsical, scherzo-like final movement. Meyers' playing matches Ives' rub-your-head-while-you-pat-your-tummy requirements without losing her sense of line or even tonal beauty. Both of these elements are very much in play in Aaron Copland's Nocturne, an early piece combined in a set of two along with Copland's quaint Ukulele Lullaby, but held out separately here; Meyers exercises supreme poise and control over the whole movement. Her reading of Copland's Sonata for violin and piano likewise emphasizes continuity and tonal beauty, but when she needs to throw off fireworks, such as in the Allegro section of the first movement, you can practically see them sparkle. Walter Piston's neo-classic Sonatina for violin & piano -- intended for, but interchangeable with a harpsichord accompaniment -- is equal parts rugged Americana and puff pastry, and Meyers interlocks with accompanist André-Michel Schub and pulls it off with aplomb. Blues, composed by respected Indiana University professor and jazz musician David Baker, provides Meyers a chance to show off some soulfulness in material in more of a let-your-hair-down mode than the more serious and rigorous fare found elsewhere on the disc. 
The packaging of this CD should not deter the listener from enjoying what was an extraordinarily brave program for a young, major-label artist want to say something about American music minus all the flag waving and bombast. Folks, never mind the cover; it's what's inside Anne Akiko Meyers' The American Album that counts. (Dave Lewis)