lunes, 29 de febrero de 2016

Klangforum Wien / Sylvain Cambreling OLGA NEUWIRTH Vampyrotheone - Instrumental-Inseln aus "Bählamms Fest" - Hooloomooloo

Music lives in the opera, at times rather dis- agreeably, since the house is too small. It will not leave of its own accord, since those who feel and think must be given a text and plot and there are people who sorely disturb our contentedness, as when Isolde dies her Liebestod. Olga Neuwirth’s opera Bählamms Fest observed the figures it sent onto stage for a while and then threw them out although the text prison attempted desperately to hold on to them with bars to the final moment. So this opera had to let go some of its parts, which were then permitted to drift away as islands. How far do the ice/snow islands jut into space and what remains submerged under water to hold the islands upright and, if necessary, to tear ships apart? Olga Neuwirth’s islands have much to tow along underneath as the centreboard of these ships, which can be dimly descried in contours rather than recognised, but it is often difficult to say what is more important, what you see/hear or the other. This music has submusics (subtexts) it trails along as a ghost the tatters of its sheets. Usually it then becomes unhomely, and one is filled with dread. The opera Bählamms Fest stands in the tradition of gothic romance (and the surrealists’ dreamlike unlogic), plays with it, alludes to it in irony, and similarly plays with the time that passes by, the homely plays with the unhomely (in this case the home with the outside, and both flow into each other incessantly), and when you are supposed to be afraid, then you must release that which threatens you from beyond the bounds of reason, and you must let in that which in future might beco- me a threat, so as to recognise it, before being able to fear it at all. Otherwise, there would be nothing unhomely. he ironical in music and the unhomely. 

sábado, 27 de febrero de 2016

András Schiff LEOS JANÁCEK A Recollection

The third ECM New Series release by András Schiff is his long-awaited recital recording of the piano music of Leoš Janácek  (1854-1928). He has been playing this music, to spell-binding effect, for many years. The Budapest-born pianist has long been interested in parallels between Janácek and Béla Bartok, and by the way in which Janácek drew upon Moravian folk roots, much as Bartók drew upon Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak and Transylvanian music. Each of these composers contributed to the national culture of his homeland by making evident what was already there, as well as by channelling it for differentiated artistic purpose. "These are healthy roots," Schiff told German arts magazine Ibykus, "from which one can take sustenance, and build upon."
Robert Cowan, writing in the CD booklet for the present release, also emphasises the life-affirming qualities of Janácek's piano music: "No matter how many times you listen to these gems, the sum effect of emotional engagement, wonderment and love of life is as lasting as one’s admiration for the music’s miniaturist construction. They are truly ‘the world in a grain of sand’. Trawling the repertory for piano masterpieces from roughly the same period, only Bartók’s gnomic ‘ethno-narratives’ (Out of Doors, Bagatelles, selected pieces from Mikrokosmos, etc) can claim anything like equal musical status. Janácek’s piano music anticipates the compressed keyboard tone poetry of such feted modern masters as György Kurtág and Arvo Pärt. They are, for the most part, honest fragments of personal biography, utterly uncompromising and securely grounded in the land of their birth. There is nothing contrived about them, absolutely no empty striving for effect, and yet their force of utterance is formidable. They confirm the mastery of a creative force who was, by turns, afflicted or infatuated by life." And definitively Czech: "His was an unlikely voice to represent a cultural identity for Czechoslovakia", the BBC Music Magazine remarked recently, "but it was an unlikely nation. The accent of Janácek's music is peculiar, the distinctive sound is somewhere deep in the provinces of the provinces..." (ECM Records)

viernes, 26 de febrero de 2016

Anna Vinnitskaya RAVEL

Russian pianist Anna Vinnitskaya came to public attention with a couple of major prizes late in the 2000s decade and has since made several recordings of technically fearsome repertory from the early 20th century. If you're the type who likes to skip straight to the action scenes, sample the fireworks of "Scarbo," from the suite Gaspard de la nuit, where it becomes clear that Vinnitskaya has all the technical equipment that could be desired. But she has also developed interpretive charisma to go along with the technical mastery. Hear how artfully the pedal is used in the opening phrases of "Scarbo" to deepen the response of the low piano utterances to the difficult repeated-note figures. In Miroirs, composed several years earlier, Vinnitskaya never bogs down in technical detail and achieves a real sense of the mystery contemporary listeners must have heard in these pieces: the insistent tonal stasis of "Oiseaux tristes," the transfigured Spanish style of Alborada del gracioso, the slightly surreal La Vallée des cloches. Naïve's engineers, working at the Jesus Christus Kirche in Berlin, capture the full range of a recording with a remarkable dynamic spectrum, as compelling in its quiet moments as it is in the fireworks. Highly recommended. (

miércoles, 24 de febrero de 2016

Andreas Brantelid / Marianna Shirinyan / Vilde Frang CHOPIN Cello Sonata - Piano Trio - Grand Duo

It is grand to hear novice players so successfully take on three of Chopin's chamber pieces, the Cello Sonata, Piano Trio, and Grand Duo for cello and piano. There have certainly been great recordings of these works in the past -- one thinks immediately of those by Mstislav Rostropovich and Jacqueline du Pré -- but the energy, enthusiasm, and sincerity that cellist Andreas Brantelid, pianist Marianna Shirinyan, and violinist Vilde Frang bring to this music more than justifies preserving their performances. Brantelid has a big but nuanced tone, an elegant but impressive technique, and an obvious affinity for the music, and he is well-matched by Shirinyan's polished technique and empathic accompaniments and Frang's easy virtuosity and lyrical interpretation. The ensemble is poised but comfortable and the interpretations are cogent and compelling. Captured in close but smooth digital sound, these performances deserve to be heard by anyone who loves this music, or great chamber music playing. (James Leonard)

Vilde Frang NIELSEN - TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concertos

Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang made her debut in 2010 with a pairing of concertos by Sibelius and Prokofiev. She repeats the formula here with works by Nielsen and Tchaikovsky, a somewhat risky move. But the fact is that she's exceptionally good in these repertories. Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, is in a way a work constrained by its tremendous virtuosity and the long performing tradition of which it is a part. It's hard to come up with something really new to say to it, but Frang makes a strong contribution with a graceful reading that avoids the tendency to push the big passages of the outer movement to a point just short of (or, in concert, just past) where a string breaks from the effort to get maximum volume out of it. Instead she favors detailed shaping of complicated stretches of passagework. It's quite distinctive, but the real news here is the Nielsen Violin Concerto, Op. 33, which had its premiere in 1912 and is not terribly often performed. It's a complex work in a mixture of idioms, from what annotator David Fanning calls neo-Baroque (actually much of it anticipates the sparkling neo-Mozartian language of the opera Maskarade), to developing figuration that anticipates the structures of Nielsen's symphonic works, to Tchaikovskian passages. These last help tie the program together in a novel way: how did Nielsen, a generation after Sibelius, react to the sounds of Tchaikovsky in his head? The Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Eivind Gullberg Jensen is not much more than workmanlike, but this is overall a fresh treatment of some highly familiar music and some that is less so.  (James Manheim)

Vilde Frang / Michail Lifits BARTÓK - GRIEG - R. STRAUSS Violin Sonatas

Following her successful debut album of violin concertos by Jean Sibelius and Sergey Prokofiev, Vilde Frang turns to chamber music for her second release on EMI, in a program of violin sonatas by Edvard Grieg, Béla Bartók, and Richard Strauss. These are not obscure works, but they are infrequently played and less often recorded, so Frang's choices make the disc interesting, as well as a bit of a gamble. Grieg's Violin Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 8, is characteristically lyrical and melancholy, despite the piece's predominantly major tonality, and the tunefulness of this youthful work makes it immediately accessible. The Sonata for Solo Violin by Bartók is austere, angular, and harmonically bracing, so listeners who expect a relaxing experience should instead prepare for a challenging modernist work that requires considerable concentration. Strauss' Violin Sonata in E flat major, Op. 18, returns to the sweet melodious strains of Romanticism, yet because it is an early work, it will surprise listeners who don't know that it bears more resemblance to the music of Schumann than to that of the mature Strauss. In the two sonatas for violin and piano, Frang and her accompanist Michail Lifits are completely in accord, and their interpretations of the music are fully realized in robust rhythms, sympathetic exchanges, and long-breathed lines. In the Bartók, Frang carries the music alone, and is thus exposed to the bête noire of solo violin playing, the apparent scratchiness of double and triple stops. These, along with Bartók's strident dissonances and dry expressions, may make this sonata difficult to appreciate on first hearing. But because the sonata places demands on both performer and listener, Frang was bold to include it and deserves credit for an exceptional performance. (

Vilde Frang BRITTEN - KORNGOLD Violin Concertos

Vilde Frang has long dreamed of recording the violin concertos of Erich Korngold and Benjamin Britten – two highly contrasted pieces, both written in the USA around the time of World War II, and a unique pairing. As The Strad magazine has said: “Vilde Frang … weaves an emotional narrative that is utterly spellbinding … it feels as though the music’s inner soul is being revealed for the very first time.”

Gramophone Recording of the Month: "These are urgently communicative, potentially transformative accounts of scores which, if no longer confined to the fringes of the repertoire, have yet to command universal admiration...Vilde Frang writes that it has long been her wish to bring together two of her favourite concertos. If you’ve been impressed by her previous releases you’ll already have this one marked down as a compulsory purchase and likely Awards contender."

The Guardian:
"Her sound is superb – icy, fiery, whispered, ultra-rich – and her phrases pour out fearlessly, urgently. It’s a fresh and convincing performance."

lunes, 22 de febrero de 2016

Jean Rondeau BACH Imagine

The fashionable French harpsichordist Jean Rondeau, who has studied jazz as well as classical music, here offers a Bach recital that's something of a mixed bag. Only two of the pieces, the Italian Concerto, BWV 971, and the Suite in C minor, BWV 997, appear in their original forms; the rest are transcriptions, and one, Johannes Brahms' one-hand piano version of the Chaconne from the Partita in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004, is a daring choice on the harpsichord. In that work there are perhaps hints of Rondeau's jazz training, and the implacable build of the variations is perhaps lost. Rondeau's name surely brings to mind the French Baroque, and his opening movements, with ornaments powerful and glittering, suggest Couperin. He has a lot of power and drive, and he brings out the antiphonal structure of the Italian Concerto, significantly the only work on the program not in the French style, clearly and brilliantly. The result is an exciting program, even if one that's a bit unorthodox, and Rondeau is clearly a talent whose future directions and harnessing will be fascinating to watch. His power and intensity can speak for themselves and did not need help from the engineers, who produce a rather harsh sound from the old Notre-Dame du Bon Secours hospital in Paris. (James Manheim)

Anna Vinnitskaya BRAHMS Bach-Brahms

Anna Vinnitskaya’s discography to date has been Franco-Russian. Here she tackles Brahms, whom she has frequently played in concert, notably this summer at the Festival of La Roque d’Anthéron. Here is what ResMusica had to say about that recital: ‘True to her reputation, the Russian pianist genuinely illuminated the scene, impressing us with the control and depth of her artistry . . . Each piece obeyed a flawless architectural rigour, focusing on melodic line and diversity of tone. Right from the first bars of Bach’s Chaconne transcribed by Brahms for the left hand, she produced a sound so full and nuanced as to make us forget that we were listening to just one hand. . . . There is always a great temptation to slide into Romantic emphasis, but the Russian artist achieved emotion with sobriety, using very little pedal. In the Klavierstücke of Brahms, this ability to penetrate the score down to its slightest inflections resulted in a version at the opposite pole from what one so often hears. Only the great Brahms interpreters possess the gift of not overloading a text already sufficiently dense in sentiments.’ This recording was made some weeks later, at the famous, indeed legendary concert hall of Neumarkt near Nuremberg. (Presto Classical)

domingo, 21 de febrero de 2016

Jean Rondeau VERTIGO

France’s leading young harpsichordist performs works by two masters of the French Baroque. No surprises there, perhaps … but the harpsichordist in question is Jean Rondeau and the album is called Vertigo. It conceives the harpsichord in vividly theatrical terms.
In November 2015, Rondeau was named Solo Classical Instrumentalist of the Year by the Académie Charles Cros when he received its Grand Prix, France’s most prestigious award for classical recordings. That was for his first Warner Classics album, Imagine, which he described as “an exploration of all the possibilities that lie in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and in the harpsichord.” BBC Music Magazine clearly enjoyed the discovery, saying: “Rondeau is a natural communicator, unimpeded by the imperative to score academic points ... Make no mistake – this is an auspicious debut.”
Vertigo takes its name from a dramatic, rhapsodic piece by Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer, who, along with Jean-Philippe Rameau, forms the focus of this album. If Rameau (1683–1764) is the better-known composer today, especially admired for such operatic masterpieces as Hippolyte et Aricie and Platée, the younger Royer (1705–1755) was also a major figure in his time, rising to become master of music at the court of Louis XV. Both Rameau and Royer excelled in keyboard music and in works for the stage. As Jean Rondeau says: “These two illustrious composers battled for the top spot at the Opéra.” He describes them as “two magicians, two master architects, amongst the most wildly imaginative and brilliant of their era … Two composers who also tried to capture echoes of grand theatre with the palette offered by their keyboard.”
This is the 24-year-old harpsichordist’s starting point for the album: the relationship between the spectacle and extravagance of French Baroque opera – with its myths, magic, ballets and elaborate stage machinery – and the imaginative worlds evoked by ten fingers on a keyboard. Rondeau is keen to point out that the harpsichord, as a popular domestic instrument, could bring the thrill of the opera into people’s homes – much as Liszt’s piano transcriptions of Wagner did in the 19th century. Equally, he is an eloquent advocate – in both words and music – of the extraordinary descriptive, narrative and expressive scope of these two composers’ keyboard writing.
In the 16 tracks on Vertigo he creates a dramatic structure, paying homage to the form of the opéra-ballet with a prelude (which includes an ouverture à la française) and three entrées (acts): the first honours Poetry, the second Music and the third Dance. Beyond such legendary figures as the Greek Muses, it introduces characters like the Simpletons of Sologne, a gruff band of sailors, surging Scythians and Zaïde, the beautiful Queen of Granada.
And what of Vertigo itself, which features in the second entrée? This is what Rondeau has to say: “According to the encyclopedia it is a fantaisie – but it is a fantaisie to the power of ten! … It concentrates a CinemaScope movie into five short minutes; Royer gives us an opera in three hundred seconds. It is all there – with nothing borrowed from his stage music; there is even a dizzying cascade at the cadence, my personal homage to Alfred Hitchcock [a cultural idol in France and a key influence on such nouvelle vague directors as François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol], even though he has nothing to do with the matter in hand … just for the fun of it.” (Presto Classical)

viernes, 19 de febrero de 2016

Magdalena Kožená / La Cetra / Andrea Marcon MONTEVERDI

In 2000 Magdalena Kožená took over from an ailing Anne Sofie von Otter as Nero in the Vienna Festival production of L’incoronazione di Poppea, not only saving the day but also scoring a great personal success. And yet a deeper connection to Monteverdi and his music can be traced to a far earlier date, as the singer herself recalls: “I was sixteen when I met a lutenist with whom I formed an ensemble for Baroque and Renaissance music. It was a very important experience for me, for not only did I learn the Italian language through these pieces, but I discovered a great deal about the style of the music of this period and about the way in which it is ornamented.” Since then Magdalena Kožená has explored the world of opera in far greater depth. Not only has she sung Mozart, she has also appeared in productions of Carmen, Pelléas et Mélisande and Der Rosen- kavalier. “So it’s more of a romantic repertory,” the singer explains. “But this doesn’t mean that I have banished Monteverdi from my life. I return to him again and again and I feel at home with him.” In short, the present recording marks the singer’s return to her original repertory. She is accompanied here by Andrea Marcon, with whom she has already recorded Vivaldi and Handel recitals. For Magdalena Kožená this artistic partnership represents a great gain: “Andrea has a lot of experience in this repertory, and he is also a very spontaneous sort of person: his music-making is always highly charged and full of surprises. Of course we rehearse before a concert or in advance of a recording and agree on the basic interpretation. But we know each other so well that we can then allow ourselves the freedom to improvise. This works only with certain people and only in Baroque music – for me it’s a bit like jazz, where musicians react spontaneously to the spirit of the moment.”

lunes, 15 de febrero de 2016

Emperor Quartet BRITTEN String Quartet in F - Simple Symphony - Rhapsody - Phantasy - Quartettino

For this final disc in the series, the Emperor Quartet have gathered five works from the composer's earliest period, from the String Quartet in F, by a fourteen-year old schoolboy, to the Simple Symphony, composed six years later and the work which may be regarded as his breakthrough.
As discussed in the insightful liner notes by the musicologist Arnold Whittall, these compositions demonstrate how the young Britten developed a personal style of his own. (Presto Classical)

“With the Emperor Quartet's quick reactions, the [Simple Symphony] takes on a new guise in this intimate form, at once spikily alive in the outer movements and confiding of private secrets at the heart of the 'Sentimental Sarabande'...these youthful pieces repay one's attention.” (Gramophone)

Emperor Quartet BRITTEN String Quartet No. 2 - 3 Divertimenti - Miniature Suite - String Quartet in D

The Emperor Quartet follows the most substantial of Britten's three numbered quartets with three of the quartet works that preceded them. Both the Three Divertimenti of 1936 and the D major Quartet are relatively well known, but this is the first recording of the Miniature Suite, composed in 1929 when Britten was 16. It's a succession of genre pieces – novelette, minuet, romanza and gavotte – but apart from a precocious fluency, none of them reveals much of the future composer. The Emperor Quartet play all three with the right mix of witty insouciance and technical accomplishment, but the group reveals its true colours in the Second Quartet. (The Guardian)

Emperor Quartet BRITTEN String Quartets Nos. 1 & 3 - Alla Marcia

This release by Britain's Emperor Quartet (nothing like dreams of empire) follows on an earlier Benjamin Britten album containing the composer's String Quartet No. 2 and a group of early works. If anything, the present release places even greater demands on the ensemble, which responds in fine style. The String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 25, and the String Quartet No. 3, Op. 94, are separated by three decades and a major chunk of stylistic development in Britten's career. The first quartet, written in the U.S. and premiered in Los Angeles in 1941, features a limpid songlike slow movement and a complex opening movement that seems deftly to balance tempos and tonalities. Especially in its Shostakovich-like Allegretto con slancio ("with enthusiasm"), the work has a fair amount of humor, considering the world-historical situation of the time and its direct effect on Britten's career: he had determined for professional reasons to return to Britain, and a trans-Atlantic crossing in 1941 took a good deal of nerve. The String Quartet No. 3, from 1975, was one of Britten's last works, and it inhabits a stylistic world different from almost all the rest of his music: that of Mahler and his closest successor, Zemlinsky. The transcendent slow Passacaglia that closes the work makes a beautiful capstone to Britten's chamber music career, and the soaring lines of its dissonant counterpoint are rendered in sterling detail by BIS' engineers, working in the ideal space of Britain's Potton Hall. Britten's quartets do not have the immediately accessible quality of his larger choral and operatic works, but they are cut from the same cloth, and this British release and its companion make an excellent place to start with them. (James Manheim)

Amar Quartet HINDEMITH String Quartets Nos. 5, 6 and 7

As an elite string player, whose Amar Quartet was one of Europe’s most exploratory chamber groups, Hindemith was perfectly placed to write his powerful sequence of string quartets. One of the greatest quartets of its time, the technically sophisticated No 5, Op 32 reveals Hindemith as a master of the medium. Twenty years were to pass before No 6 in E flat, written in America, which reveals similar qualities of control, whilst No 7 in E flat was written for himself to play in a domestic setting with female students from Yale University and his wife, an amateur cellist. It concludes one of the twentieth century’s greatest cycles of quartets. (NAXOS)

Zlata Cochieva RACHMANINOFF Études-Tableaux

Zlata about her new album: For my third album for Piano Classics I chose the complete Etudes-tableaux by Rachmaninoff, music close to my heart. I always feel immensely fortunate to perform these masterpieces of a composer whom I wholeheartedly adore. Rachmaninoff composed most of his works, including the Etudestableaux, at his family estate in Ivanovka, 600 km south of Moscow he returned there each summer for more than twenty years, a habit only put to an end by his emigration in 1917. I visited his house there this August to absorb its special atmosphere, and to experience the inspiration and magical spirit which must have made this incredibly peaceful land such a joy and place of refuge for him. It is a great privilege to be able to experience these worlds that the Tableaux present, full of emotional poetry, romantic beauty, painful tragedy, darkness and light, and a boundless love for Russia. Zlata Chochievas discography includes two CDs with ""Piano Classics"" Label. Her recording of Rachmaninovs Variation on a Theme of Chopin and First Sonata received outstanding reviews in several prestigious classical music magazines including ""Gramophone"", ""Fono Forum"" (5 star review) and ""Piano News"". Her recent disc of the complete Chopin Etudes with the same label has been nominated for the ""The German Record Critics Award"" (Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik) and was selected as Editors Choice in Gramophone.

domingo, 14 de febrero de 2016

Amar Quartet HINDEMITH String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3

Somewhat surprisingly, the first volume of Naxos' collection of Paul Hindemith's seven string quartets doesn't begin with the String Quartet No. 1 in C major, Op. 2, presumably because of the series' space requirements, but skips ahead to the String Quartet No. 2 in F minor, Op. 10, and the String Quartet No. 3 in C major, Op. 16. These youthful works reflect the composer's ingenuity and love of parody, particularly of Romantic clichés, though his humor is still respectful of the conventions of the genre and never slapstick. The second quartet at times veers off into wildly chromatic modulations worthy of Max Reger, and some dissonant counterpoint that is fairly experimental, though these excursions are balanced with episodes of unclouded tonality and playful repartée. The third quartet is even more sophisticated, offering a mix of serious thematic argumentation and lively exchanges between the players, and revealing a more consistent and organic approach to developing material. The Amar Quartet, named after the quartet Hindemith founded in 1922, is outstanding in its interpretation of Hindemith's changeable and often enigmatic music, and the musicians play with exceptional vigor, sensitivity, and presence. While Hindemith's reputation has suffered in recent years, due to a perception that his music is too cerebral, this album will give listeners an opportunity to reassess his work, and to appreciate his considerable wit and inventiveness. The recording is clear and close up to the players, though the acoustics are fairly dry and limited in resonance. (Blair Sanderson)

viernes, 12 de febrero de 2016

Daniel Hope MY TRIBUTE TO YEHUDI MENUHIN

Yehudi Menuhin is the reason I became a violinist. As he used to say, I fell into his lap as a baby of two.
For my parents, life in 1970s South Africa had become intolerable, marked as it was by that tragedy mingled with farce, so characteristic of the appalling apartheid regime. We lived in Durban, where my father co-founded the literary magazine Bolt, publishing poems by writers of many races. From that moment on, his phone was tapped and my parents were placed under permanent surveillance. They had no option but to leave the country, but my father was only offered a so-called exit permit. This meant you could leave but never return.
My parents settled in London, where very soon their money ran out. We had nowhere to go.
At the eleventh hour, facing a calamity, we had some incredible luck: an employment agency offered my mother a compelling choice of jobs: secretary to either the Archbishop of Canterbury or to the violinist, Yehudi Menuhin. She chose Menuhin, and their association lasted 24 years until his death.
Our life changed immediately and forever. For the next years, I grew up in Menuhin’s house in Highgate, London, where my mother would take me every day to play, while she worked. Menuhin was a wonderfully spontaneous man. He’d leave his Guarneri del Gesù in an open violin case on the table, he never put it away. He picked it up and played it, almost as if he were drinking a glass of water. He once told me: “One has to play every day. One is like a bird, and can you imagine a bird saying ‘I’m tired today, I don’t feel like flying’?” The violin was a part of him. To this day, his sound remains in my ear, so unique and so fascinatingly beautiful.
Where does one even begin to summarize a unique career spanning seventy-five years by one of the greatest musicians in history? Perhaps Menuhin’s debut in 1924 in San Francisco at the age of seven; or his debut in Berlin in 1929, after which Albert Einstein exclaimed “Now I know there is a God in heaven!” Or his performance and legendary recording of the Elgar concerto under the composer’s baton in 1932; perhaps his visit to the liberated concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen with the composer Benjamin Britten in 1945; or his highly controversial decision to return to Germany in 1947 and to perform with Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic, the first Jewish artist after the war to do so. Only seven of Menuhin’s 82 years were not spent on the road.
Early on in my life, I had the chance to study and perform some of Bartok’s Duos with Menuhin. It was an incredible experience for me, and an introduction to Bartok’s extraordinary music. Many years later, with Menuhin in his role as conductor, we performed over 60 concerts around the world, including almost all of the standard violin concerti, as well as several contemporary works.
These included Mendelssohn’s early D minor Concerto, which he famously discovered in 1951, and also many works for two violins, such as the A minor Double Concerto by Vivaldi.
On 7th March 1999, I played Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto in Düsseldorf, conducted by Lord Menuhin. It was to be Yehudi’s final concert. After the Schnittke, Menuhin encouraged me to play an encore. I spontaneously chose Kaddish, Ravel’s musical version of the Jewish prayer for the dead. I had grown up on Menuhin’s interpretation of this work and wanted to dedicate it to him. Menuhin pushed me out onto the stage and sat amongst the orchestra listening to it. Perhaps it may have been in some way prophetic. Five days later, he passed away.
There’s hardly a passage in all of these great works where I don’t stop for a minute and think of Menuhin.
Yehudi called himself my “musical grandfather”. Now, in celebration of what would have been his centenary, my friends and I can finally pay our respects to this great man, in a manner I feel certain he would have loved. (Daniel Hope)

miércoles, 10 de febrero de 2016

Khatia Buniatishvili KALEIDOSCOPE

Khatia Buniatishvili's new recording Kaleidoscope, a unique combination of masterful and challenging pieces, shows her true virtuosic playing and features the well-loved Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky, Ravel's La Valse and Stravinsky's Petruschka.
Given that these pieces all have an orchestral version, the pianist must bring out this larger palette of colours on a single instrument. Khatia does just that, painting her own picture of the pieces, how they are interwoven and the special characters she wants to emphasize.
There is a strong sense of character about the programme - it is music to be seen as well as heard, and it takes in other art forms as well: dance, puppetry and painting. The movement and colours of these other art forms are encapsulated in Khatia’s playing and the album’s title, Kaleidoscope. (Presto Classical)

jueves, 4 de febrero de 2016

Aurelia Shimkus BACH - BUSONI - LISZT B-A-C-H Ich Ruf Zu Dir

Aurelia Shimkus was born on November 2nd, 1997 in Riga (Latvia) and became a Latvian national sensation at age of 11, after her debut performance in the concert of the 90th anniversary of the independence of Latvia, performing a world-premiere of a Latvian traditional folk-song project alongside with some of the greatest Latvian-born musicians such as Gidon Kremer, Elina Garanca and Andris Nelsons. Aurelia Shimkus began to play the piano at age of 4 and gave her first public per- formance at age of 7. She was just 9 years old when she won the 1st prize of the Latvian National Young Pianists Competition and she won the 1st prize at same competition at the age of 15 again as well as at several other national chamber music competitions. She gave her first recital at age of 11 at the Kaunas International Chamber Music Festival (Lithuania) and, since then, has performed as a soloist with Latvian Na- tional Symphony Orchestra, Kaunas Philharmonic Orchestra and State Academic Choir “Latvija“. She has also performed a solo programme of music by Frederic Chopin at the International Festival “Summertime“ in Jurmala (Latvia) in a marathon-concert alongside with such pianists as Dang Thai Shon, Stanislav Igolinsky and David Gazarov. On April 2013, Aurelia had her debut recital in Herdecke, Germany, organized by the agency “Beckerkonzert”. Aurelia Shimkus has participated in masterclasses of the renown French professor Dominique Merlet and, currently, she continues to study at Emils Darzinš Music School in Riga and her teacher is Sergei Osokin, a highly respected teacher of some of the best Latvian pianists.

miércoles, 3 de febrero de 2016

Saskia Lankhoorn KATE MORE Dances and Canons

The music of composer Kate Moore is a hybrid of hybrids. It channels the inner fire of things that must someday turn to ash, and coaxes from this realization one intensely melodic conflagration after another. Born in England but raised in Australia, Moore cites the latter’s open landscapes as having permanently hued her artistic paintbrush. Moore’s longtime interpreter is pianist Saskia Lankhoorn, who debuts both herself and the composer to ECM’s hallowed New Series family.
Even though Moore professes no allegiance to minimalism—and rightly so, for her politics could hardly be more different—fans of the genre’s stalwarts are sure to take distinct pleasure in this program. Furthermore, taking the opening solo piano piece Spin Bird as an example, we find a natural wonderment present in, say, the seminal Philip Glass. Yet where Glass might attend to the overarching philosophical questions of a Koyaanisqatsi or a Satyagraha, Moore is more interested in the under-arching gesture, a cupping of water in all its microscopic glory. In this respect, Stories For Ocean Shells, also for solo piano, is like two hands interlocking: despite being of the same organism, each has characteristics that distinguish it from the other, with whom it only partners occasionally in a world designed to separate them through material engagement. Only through immaterial actions do they come together in a temporarily unbroken circuit of meditation and profound thinking. Every microtonal harmony is a puff of spore, every melodic spiral singing as if sung in the manner of a falling leaf. The result is a music that gazes on its own reflection and sees insight into the self as insight into all selves. And so, what might seem a mere chain of arpeggios in theory is in practice a downright sacred unfolding of time signatures, which can only be notated through the act of speech and bodily interpretation. Lankhoorn is fully adapted to bringing all of this out, and more.
But if The Body Is An Ear takes its inspiration from the writings of Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan (as it does), then it also takes inspiration from that which cannot be written (as it should). The rhizomatic pulse of its two pianos is so translucent that the instruments bleed through one another until there is but one between them. The transitions are resolutely beautiful—from smoothness to pointillism, from connectivity to individuality, from river to ocean—but hearing them as we do from the level of the molecule, we recognize that even beauty needs emptiness to survive. In this light, Canon is the intermediary between coalescence and dissolution. Magnified now to four pianos, Moore’s forces begin with a rounded dance of solitude and finish in a thought spiral. As the newest piece of the program, brought to the studio as it was in still-raw form, its gradualness begs a contemplative spirit and rewards the patient listener with presence of mind.
From the above descriptions, it would seem as if Moore’s is an ephemeral realm. This it might very well be, though no more than anything in this world already is. It’s also physical. The spine of Zomer (for solo piano) is glass-boned, its nerves of light sending their messages in occasional, quiet bursts, while Joy (also solo) grows heavier with every iterative cycle of its unfolding. Like the emotion itself, it is sometimes messy, at other times supremely ordered, and prone to exhaustion. The ultimate (for being fundamental) distillation of all this is Sensitive Spot for “multiple pianos,” meaning the musician must play against recordings of herself, trying to match them as closely as possible. Quick and almost nervous, it reinforces itself like a flower becoming lost in its own fragrance.
The closing reprise of Spin Bird, then, feels less like such. Rather, it is a leap farther inward to a place where only you, dear listener, and I may travel, untethered and free to roam. (ECM Records)

martes, 2 de febrero de 2016

Paul Crossley / Peter Serkin / London Sinfonietta / Oliver Knussen TORU TAKEMITSU Quotation Of Dream

These are bountiful times for Takemitsu’s admirers. For those with bottomless pockets or unlimited overdraft facilities, endless shelf-space and an infinite amount of time and stamina, the Shogakukan label is issuing a complete edition: the last tranche consisted of two volumes of film scores, comprising 21 CDs. For everyone else these DG reissues should hit the spot. Between them they provide a pretty representative overview of Takemitsu’s work and feature a stellar gathering of performers who are among the finest Takemitsu interpreters.
Quotation of Dream (now issued as part of the Gramophone Awards collection) was recorded in
December 1996 and March 1997, shortly after the composer’s death. It showcases late-period works from 1985 (Dream/Window) to 1993 (Archipelago S), an attractive and cohesive sequence, bracketed by two antiphonal brass fanfares, put together by Oliver Knussen. That last decade of Takemitsu’s life revealed more clearly than ever his fundamental Romanticism but he always avoided the overripe, self-obsessed excesses to which the Romantics were susceptible. Most of the late works eschewed the hard-edged purity of the compositions that made his reputation but they were certainly not soft-centred. Knussen, the Sinfonietta and the celebrity soloists do full justice to the gorgeous textures and colours while keeping the stark beauty of the structures in sharp focus.
A Flock Descends… and Garden Rain are nicely packaged from the 20th Century Classics series. The earliest recordings (Stanza I, Sacrifice, Ring and Valeria) were made in September 1969 but the earliest compositions date back further, to 1958-60 (Le son calligraphié). Each album takes us through to the mid-1970s, documenting the considerable development in Takemitsu’s style, yet demonstrating equally vividly that the essential inspirations for his music – gardens, the elements, dreams, the cycles of the natural world, Impressionism – never really changed. Some early works carry evidence of the influence of the Darmstadt circle in their surgical examinations of timbre (eg Valeria) or in the licence granted performers to choose the order in which to play the movements (Ring). Even to the end, I always felt that the legacy of Takemitsu’s early electronic experiments was discernible in the way he made mysterious sounds blossom out of nowhere, drifting in and out of the listener’s field of perception. It’s as if the music is always there, just waiting for us to tune in.
These are classic performances of riveting works by one of the most mesmerising composers of the 20th century. (Barry Witherden, Gramophone)

lunes, 1 de febrero de 2016

Ex Cathedra / Jeffrey Skidmore ALEC ROTH A Time to Dance & other choral works

A Time to Dance was first performed in Sherborne Abbey on 9 June 2012 by Ex Cathedra, conducted by Jeffrey Skidmore. The work was commissioned to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer Music Society of Dorset, founded by its President and Artistic Director, Dione Digby, in 1963. The brief was to provide a large-scale, celebratory work, reflecting the passage of time and fifty years of music-making. The seed that set my creative juices flowing was the text which Lady Digby suggested as a possible starting point—the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes which I have used for the opening Processional. This lovely, profoundly human text provided the four key themes which permeate the whole work: times; seasons; love; dance.
The diurnal cycle of the hours and the annual cycle of the seasons are firm favourites with poets, offering as they do rich possibilities for metaphor. I decided to conflate the two cycles to make a four-part structure: Spring Morning; Summer Noon; Autumn Evening; Winter Night, and to characterize each with a different solo voice: soprano; tenor; alto; bass. The overall design is completed by a Prologue and an Epilogue, with different texts but in which the underlying depiction of sunrise by the orchestra and largely wordless choir is identical, so bringing us musically full circle. There are also two additional/optional ‘movements’—‘Times and Seasons’ which the choir sings at the start while entering in procession through the audience, and an After-dance, ‘Proper Exercise’ (more of which below).
I spent a considerable time researching and assembling the text, whittling down over one hundred poems to the final choice of twenty-nine, drawn from a wide variety of sources ranging from Ovid to Aphra Behn. The choice was made not just by the suitability of the texts, but also by how they speak to each other. I followed my usual practice of taking the poems for a walk, listening to their melodies and rhythms, and learning how they might dance. Apart from the text, however, the main influences on the music of A Time to Dance were Shakespeare, Bach and Skidmore.
This work is a culmination of seven years close association with Jeffrey Skidmore and his choir Ex Cathedra, during which they have given many premieres and recorded a double-album of my music (‘Shared Ground’). But just as valuable to me has been the time I have spent sitting in on rehearsals. Their wonderful sound is now deeply ingrained in my mind, so that the music I compose for the choir and for the vocal soloists drawn from its ranks is very much of them and for them. I have learned a great deal from Jeffrey’s inspired and brilliantly accomplished music-making. For example, it was his use of spatial effects in a concert of Vivaldi that gave me the idea for similar deployment of my trumpeters in A Time to Dance—left and right for the cock-crow fanfares cued by Edward Thomas’s words in No 2; distantly spaced for the echo effects of No 5; and all three together offstage in No 19 to represent the radiance of the Evening Star.
The influence of Bach arose from the simple fact that the new work was to be premiered alongside a performance of Bach’s Magnificat, and so it was a given that I would compose for the same forces: soloists, choir, and an orchestra of two flutes, two oboes (each doubling on oboe d’amore), bassoon, three trumpets, timpani, strings and a small ‘continuo’ organ. The only change I made was for the percussionist to put aside Bach’s timpani in favour of a pair of handbells to toll the passing hours, and an array of unpitched instruments to add a dash of colour where appropriate (such as the obbligato parts for desk bell, washboard and dinner gong in No 16). Composing for ‘period instruments’ was a fascinating challenge (most noticeable in the valveless trumpets with their limited range of notes), and I am most grateful to the members of the Ex Cathedra Baroque Ensemble for their advice.
The music of A Time to Dance is designed so that it can be played either on modern instruments or (as in this recording) on period instruments. But apart from the instrumentation I have not made any borrowings from Bach, although I have done something to which he himself was partial—borrowing from Vivaldi, as you may hear on four pertinent (not to say seasonable) occasions, some more obvious than others. I love how Bach’s music dances and I hope that mine does too, although where Bach might move to the rhythms of the gavotte, minuet or bourée, mine are more likely to be milonga, kuda lumping or disco.
One of the things I most enjoy about performances at Shakespeare’s Globe on London’s Bankside is that when the play is over, the actors and musicians cap it with a celebratory after-dance or ‘jig’ in the Shakespearean tradition—a wonderful way of bringing performers and audience together in a communal letting-down-of-the-hair. After spending fifty minutes singing about dance, I thought it would be fun to have my singers lay down their music scores (I ensure they have to do this by giving them some hand-clapping to do), and actually dance. My After-dance sets words by Shakespeare’s contemporary John Davies, in which the very creation of the world itself is accomplished through dance (and, of course music). (Alec Roth)

Christian Tetzlaff / Daniel Harding / Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra JÖRG WIDMANN Violin Concerto - Insel der Sirenen - Antiphon

For this 2013 release from Ondine, violinist Christian Tetzlaff, conductor Daniel Harding, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra present three exciting works by Jörg Widmann, a German composer who possesses an impressive talent for orchestration. The Violin Concerto is the most imposing piece on the program, at nearly a half hour in duration and of an exceptionally wide range of techniques and sonorities, and it serves as a powerfully expressive vehicle for Tetzlaff. Long lines predominate, and the tonal inflections of the chromatic writing make it quite accessible to listeners who don't normally listen to contemporary works. Antiphon is a vivid display of the orchestra's sections in call and response, and the interplay of these groups is transparent to the attentive listener and fascinating on repeated listening. The closing work, Insel der Sirenen (Island of the Sirens), was inspired by Homer's Odyssey, and Tetzlaff's violin is pitted against 19 strings, often grouped in cluster formations, in an extraordinary competition of sounds. Because Widmann's music is uncompromising and decidedly adventurous, audiences may find it a bit challenging, though the coherence of his compositions and the freshness of his orchestral colors go a long way toward making this music appealing. (Blair Sanderson)