viernes, 29 de julio de 2016


German tenor Jonas Kaufmann came on the scene in the mid-1990s and has gradually risen to the top rank of the operatic world. His is a remarkable voice in many ways. Like Plácido Domingo, to whom he is a sort of German opposite number, he excels in both Italian and German opera and also sings well in French and English (in an odd performance of a piece from Weber's Oberon, track 17). He adds freely dramatic shaping to lines of the big Verdi and Puccini tunes, almost always defamiliarizing them in ways that seem personal and passionate, with a bit of vocal gravel applied at just the right moment. Kaufmann has done his part to rediscover a languishing repertory, in his case verismo opera from around the turn of the century, and this Best of Jonas Kaufmann collection may be worth the price simply for the little-heard Ombra di nube of Licinio Refice (track 15). The collection represents a good mix of standards and innovative thinking. And, through it all, there's the kind of power that just doesn't come along often. It took a while for general listeners to wake up to the fact that Kaufmann is close to the best out there. This collection draws on recordings made between 2002 and 2010, with a variety of orchestras that are all completely overshadowed by Kaufmann's vocal artistry. It's a fine place to start with a singer well on his way to becoming a household name like the great voices of the past. (James Manheim)

Elizabeth Farnum / Margaret Kampmeier KAIKHOSRU SHAPURJI SORABJI The Complete Songs for Soprano

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988) may remain an outwardly formidable and eccentric figure, but his music, with its heady transformation of past exotic idioms into a bewildering alternation of excess and economy, is a marvel of inventiveness, appealing notably to those whose taste runs to music at once serious and exotic. 
Son of a Spanish-Sicilian mother and a Parsee father, Sorabji was celebrated for his polemical outbursts and opinions. Yet beneath the mask of his extravagance (‘Ravel, like Alexander Pope, is full of cocktail cretinisms’) he possessed a penetrating, witty, if frequently mischief-making, mind. Musical aphorisms (the final Arabesque on this delectable disc) alternate with works lasting several hours and his writing can be so intricate that it spreads its tendrils over as many as seven staves. Small wonder that it is only recently that Sorabji’s mysterious star has started to shine. 
Remarkably, Elizabeth Farnum and Margaret Kampmeier’s disc of the complete songs for soprano and piano is a world première recording and it would be hard to imagine a more persuasive case made for music too often dismissed as a specialist taste. The majority of the songs are in French – some are in English – and both artists declare their labour of love in every spine-tingling bar. The influence of Debussy is paramount in the earliest songs. ‘Crepuscule de soir mystique’ from Trois poèmes, for example, remembers the Etude ‘Pour les quatres’, while ‘Pantomime’ from the same set recalls the same composer’s magical setting of Verlaine’s Green. Chrysilla plunges from assurance to despair while L’heure exquise lovingly reworks ‘La lune blanche’ from Fauré’s La bonne chanson.
Poems that take a Swinburnian excess to extremes (‘the wild rose covers itself in the perfumed blood of its dye/And that the virgin, blushing with happiness,/Brings her crown and her heart to the arms of her beloved’), and the darkness of L’étang, are somehow magically cleansed of self-indulgence by both artists, such is their style and refinement. 
Elizabeth Farnum is a richly versatile singer who offers heartfelt thanks to all who made this very demanding and elusive project possible and it is no surprise to find that Margaret Kampmeier won the 1995 Naumberg Chamber Music Award. Both artists sing and play as one and they have been beautifully balanced and recorded. It would have been good to have the original French poems printed alongside Charles Hopkins’ more than helpful translations but any possible complaint in that department is balanced by an outstanding essay by Alistair Hinton, curator of The Sorabji Archive. (Bryce Morrison / Gramophone)


The tenor Jonas Kaufmann has taken the unusual step of telling his Facebook followers not to buy an upcoming release on Decca Classics called Jonas Kaufmann - The Age of Puccini
The message reads:
Dear Friends, 
Please do not let yourselves be deceived by the Decca release 'Jonas Kaufmann - The Age of Puccini'. This compilation contains only three Puccini arias - my recordings of 'Che Gelida Manina' and 'E lucevan le stelle' from 2007 and a scene from La Rondine, that I recorded with Renée Fleming in 2008 for the album 'Verismo'. The remaining 18 tracks are essentially my old recording 'Verismo Arias' from 2010. THEREFORE familiar recordings - in new packaging. I was not consulted in its making, this has been done without my knowledge and approval. 
The 'real' Puccini album, which I recorded with Antonio Pappano in Rome in Autumn last year is titled 'Nessun dorma' and will be released on Sony in the middle of September. It exclusively contains arias and scenes from Puccini's operas Including highlights from Manon Lescaut, La bohème, Tosca, La Fanciulla del West and Turandot. 
Jonas Kaufmann

jueves, 28 de julio de 2016

Peter Eötvös / Etienne Siebens / Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra / Claron McFadden MICHEL VAN DER AA Here Trilogy

A branch snaps with icy confidence. It seems like an everyday occurrence, an everyday sound. But within the oeuvre of Michel van der Aa (1970), the snap of a branch means more than just that. In a musical context removed from the ‘everyday’, the gesture suddenly suggests loneliness, insanity, anger. And while the crisp noise a breaking branch makes is indeed pure nature, with closed eyes it also carries an electric charge. The gesture and the sound carry more layers and more weight than one might think. That breaking branch is a symbol for Michel van der Aa’s oeuvre in general and the Here trilogy in particular.
The interaction between natural and electric sounds and a visual-theatrical component are recurring themes in the Here trilogy, composed between 2001 and 2003. The cycle is thematically related to the chamber opera One (2002). In One an anonymous female character (soprano) undertakes an obsessive search for herself, and enters into a dialogue with her alter ego on film. In the second and third sections of the Here trilogy the soprano returns in the same vain quest for herself and for a connection with the world around her.
One and – in a more abstract, purely musical way – the Here trilogy both owe their confrontational dramatic effect to the theme of loneliness verging on insanity. The drama is not an imposed extramusical idea, but rather a product of the musical structure. It is not surprising that Michel van de Aa’s oeuvre is often referred to as the musical equivalent of the work of M.C. Escher. Escher’s perspectivist suggestions and spatial manipulation find a musical parallel in Van der Aa’s equally intriguing play of acoustic distortion.
‘I am fascinated by the contradiction between what is and what seems,’ says the composer. ‘The sculpture When I am Pregnant (1992) by the English sculptor Anish Kapoor appears, seen from the front, to be a solid wall. You only see the belly by looking at it sideways. In all its simplicity, this is an extremely dramatic effect. I strive to create a similar kind of drama in my music.’
In the Here trilogy as well, the dramatic content is an organic consequence of the poetics in Van der Aa’s music. Tension is aroused by the audible failure of the music itself, in which the musical present (live chamber orchestra or ensemble) clashes with the past (soundtrack). As a whole, that failure of the musical progress leads to the sensation of chilling, detachment and disunity that, after the purely instrumental first movement Here [enclosed], is given a voice in Here [in circles] and Here [to be found]. (Mischa Spel)

Sharon Kam / Gregor Bühl / London Symphony Orchestra AMERICAN CLASSICS

This is a unique collection of American works involving the clarinet‚ brilliantly performed‚ but sadly‚ it is a disc very hard to enjoy because of the unrelentingly aggressive quality of the recording. Most of this music is jazz­influenced‚ which may account for the balance of a recording‚ made in the Olympic Studios in London‚ which makes it feel as though you are shut up in a matchbox with very loud and persistent performers. Maybe that is the way some jazz­lovers want to hear their music‚ but these are works that‚ for all their brash qualities‚ demand the subtlety of light and shade‚ of dynamics less than fortissimo‚ and they hardly get that here. For all the virtuosity and feeling for idiom in Sharon Kam’s solo work‚ it sometimes feels as though one is actually inside the clarinet.
I remember feeling how unnecessarily dry and aggressive the recording was for Simon Rattle’s ‘Jazz Album’ – listed in selected comparisons above – which includes Bernstein’s Prelude‚ Fugue and Riffs in a superb performance with Michael Collins as soloist. But going back to that makes me realise how‚ close as the sound is‚ it has more air round it than this one‚ and reveals far greater subtlety of shading in Collins’s solo work than is revealed in Sharon Kam’s. As for Sabine Meyer’s performance on her ‘A Tribute to Benny Goodman’ album‚ it masterfully reveals the work as having far more qualities than surface brilliance.
When it comes to Copland’s Clarinet Concerto‚ the contrast between Meyer and Kam is even more marked. The wonderfully smoochy melody of the long opening section‚ which is so seductive with Meyer‚ is here made to sound sour and unpleasant‚ and for that I am not inclined to blame the soloist‚ but simply the recording. From their scrawny sound you would never recognise string­players from the LSO either. The second of the four movements of Morton Gould’s Derivations is a ‘slowly moving contrapuntal blues’‚ but it comes across as depressingly arid. Rhythmic control in the fast music here and throughout the disc cannot be faulted‚ but how wearing it all is.
The Gershwin songs are performed in free‚ jazz­elaborated arrangements by the conductor John Cameron and Gregor Bühl (Summertime)‚ and there you might argue that the close­up sound is more appropriate‚ but even in Artie Shaw’s Clarinet Concerto – by far the least adventurous music on the disc‚ yet a skilful mix of classical and jazz procedures – one craves for more subtlety in the sound. And how odd that no hint is given in the booklet of Kam’s background or achievements. (Gramophone)

Sharon Kam / Gregor Bühl / Sinfonia Varsovia THE ROMANTIC CLARINET

The clarinet made its bow in the eighteenth century and was the immediate beneficiary of Mozart's attention, but the instrument came into its own in the nineteenth century. Inasmuch as major clarinet literature from the nineteenth century is concerned, works of Carl Maria von Weber dominate the field, but there was more to it than that, and clarinet virtuoso Sharon Kam helps widen the perspective in her Berlin Classics effort The Romantic Clarinet. She starts out with a concerto -- and what a concerto -- by Julius Rietz, a close contemporary of Felix Mendelssohn. It is a superb work; stormy, intense, and involving and probably is to the clarinet what the E minor violin concerto of Mendelssohn is to the violin. On Max Bruch's Concerto for clarinet, viola, and orchestra in E minor, Op. 88 (1911), Kam is joined her brother, violist Ori Kam. To be fair, the work is perhaps friendlier to the viola than it is to the clarinet; much of the time the clarinet holds down the fort while the viola goes gallivanting about. With the Weber Quintet in B flat, Op. 34, we are entering more familiar territory, but it is heard in the arrangement for clarinet and string orchestra, recorded with some frequency, but not nearly as often as the chamber version. In this piece, the Sinfonia Varsovia plays a stronger and more assertive role than in the others, which is definitely a plus for the music.
Sharon Kam's tone is even, controlled, and cool, though it is appropriately explosive in the few passages where such effects are called for; she effortlessly leaps around registers, and her passagework is clean and light as a feather. The Sinfonia Varsovia is led by Gregor Bühl who, overall, contributes a sensitive and well-balanced accompaniment that never overpowers the soloist and provides support where it is needed. Berlin Classics' recording is clear and attractively resonant, though there is some transience in the signal during loud passages where the clarinet register is bright and silvery. (Uncle Dave Lewis)

martes, 26 de julio de 2016

Sharon Kam PORTRAIT - Virtuose Klarinettenmusik

Sharon Kam is one of the world’s leading clarinet soloists and has been working with renowned orchestras in the United States, Europe, and Japan for over 20 years.
Mozart’s clarinet masterpieces have been an object of artistic focus for Ms. Kam since the beginning of her career. At the age of 16, she performed the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in her orchestral debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Zubin Mehta. A short time later, she performed the Clarinet Quintet with the Guarneri String Quartet in Carnegie Hall, New York.
As part of Mozart’s 250th birthday celebrations at the National Theatre in Prague, her interpretation of the Mozart concerto was televised live in 33 countries and is available on DVD. In the same year, she was able to realize her longtime dream of recording the Concerto and the Clarinet Quintet using the basset clarinet. Contributing to the widely praised disk were eminent string players Isabelle van Keulen, Ulrike-Anima Mathé, Volker Jacobsen and Gustav Rivinus, as well as the Haydn Philharmonie.
As a passionate chamber musician, Sharon Kam regularly works with artists such as Lars Vogt, Christian Tetzlaff, Enrico Pace, Daniel Müller-Schott, Leif Ove Andsnes, Caroline Widmann and the Jerusalem Quartet. She is a frequent guest at festivals in Schleswig-Holstein, Heimbach, Rheingau, Risør, Cork, Verbier, and Delft, as well as the Schubertiade festival. She is also an active performer of contemporary music music and has premiered works by Krzysztof Penderecki (the Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quartet), Herbert Willi (the Clarinet Concerto, at the Salzburg Festival), Iván Erőd and Peter Ruzicka (at Donaueschingen).
Sharon Kam feels at home in a variety of musical genres – from classical to modern music and jazz – a fact reflected in her diverse discography. She received the ECHO “Instrumentalist of the Year” award two times: in 1998, for her Weber recording with the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig and Kurt Masur, and in 2006, for her CD with the Leipzig Radio Orchestra featuring works by Spohr, Weber, Rossini and Mendelssohn. Her “American Classics” disc with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by her husband Gregor Bühl, was awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenkritik Prize.

James Ehnes / Andrew Armstrong ELGAR - DEBUSSY - RESPIGHI Violin Sonatas

After a rapturous critical reception for their Franck & Strauss Violin Sonatas, James and Andrew turn their attention to three violin sonatas all composed around the years of World War I. The Sibelius 'Berceuse' also dates from the war years when Finland was isolated from the rest of Europe. Sibelius was short of money and busy writing the 6th and 7th symphonies, and planning his 8th: the six short pieces of Op. 79 were attractive to publishers who were wary of large scale works with little chance of commercial return during the hostilities. Debussy would die in 1918 and had, like Elgar, composed very little during the conflict. 'I want to work,' he wrote to his publisher Durand, 'not so much for myself, as to provide a proof, however small, that thirty million Boches can t destroy French thought'. Elgar told a friend 'I cannot do any real work with the awful shadow hanging over us' he said. Suffering from ill health, Elgar wrote the sonata in Sussex where a copse of gnarled lightning-ravaged trees, near his house on the South Downs, inspired him to embark on three late great chamber works. Respighi s sonata inhabits a heroic late romantic almost Brahmsian world, seemingly unscathed by the devastation of the War to end all wars . (Presto Classical)

sábado, 23 de julio de 2016

Pygmalion / Raphaël Pichon JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH Köthener Trauermusik BWV 244a

The Ensemble Pygmalion directed by Raphaël Pichon commences its collaboration with Harmonia Mundi with this new recording of J.S. Bach’s lost music to the Köthener Trauermusik (Cöthen funeral music), BWV 244a.
Founded in 2006 at the European Bach Festival, Ensemble Pygmalion is a combination of choir and orchestra - all young performers with experience of authentic instruments and period-informed performance. Its repertoire concentrates primarily on Johann Sebastian Bach and Jean-Philippe Rameau. It does however play baroque music and also contemporary works. For this recording there are four vocal soloists. Pygmalion numbers seventeen singers and twenty-four orchestral players.
The work
Köthener Trauermusik (Cöthen funeral music), BWV 244a also known as the Klagt, Kinder, klagt es aller Welt (Cry, children, cry to all the world) was composed in 1729 for the state funeral of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Cöthen who had died a few days prior to his thirty-four birthday. Almost five years earlier Bach served as Kapellmeister to the Prince at the Cöthen court between 1717/23. Two works were performed at the funeral service at the St. Jakobskirche, Cöthen but the music has not survived. First was mourning music heard on the evening of 23 March 1729 for the arrival at the church of the funeral cortège for entombment. The details of this music are not known but it is documented that “the mourning music was heard for some time.” It has been put forward by leading Bach scholar Peter Wollny in the booklet essay that the music is likely to have been instrumental but augmented by congregational singing.
The music for the next morning’s funeral service on 24 March was a large-scale cantata the Köthener Trauermusik (Cöthen funeral music), BWV 244a. Those participating were Bach, his wife Anna Magdalena and his son Wilhelm Friedemann plus musicians from neighbouring towns and cities. No music has survived, only the libretto to the four-part cantata in twenty-four sections prepared by Leipzig poet and librettist Christian Friedrich Henrici, known as Picander. Thanks to the work of musicologist Wilhelm Rust in 1873 it is now thought probable that Bach reused ten movements (nine arias and the final chorus) from his St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244 designed as part of the Good Friday Vespers for Thomaskirche, Leipzig. Another musicologist Friedrich Smend concluded in 1951 that for sections 1 and 7 Bach reused the opening and closing choruses from his Trauerode, BWV 198, a work composed for the funeral of Princess Christiane Eberhardine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, Queen of Poland and Electress of Saxony. (Arkiv Music)

jueves, 21 de julio de 2016

Yannick Nézet-Séguin / Chamber Orchestra of Europe MOZART Le Nozze di Figaro

. . . [from the first chords of the "Figaro" overture, Nézet-Séguin] establishes a bold, fully crystallized concept of Mozartean sonority and the psychological implications behind it . . . [Christiane Karg as the wily servant Susanna and Sonya Yoncheva as the Countess] are just wonderful . . . [Luca Pisaroni's Figaro] makes dramatic points not with his usual word articulation but with more microphone-friendly use of tone Color . . . Even small roles are cast with stars: Anne Sofie von Otter as Marcellina and Rolando Villazón as Basilio help sustain Act 4 . . . [the 50-plus "Figaro" recordings on CD and DVD] show how the opera showcases each generation of Mozart performers . . . Nézet-Séguin's recording takes its place among these touchstones. A great musical mediator . . .

miércoles, 20 de julio de 2016

Rachel Barton Pine TESTAMENT Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin J.S. BACH

Rachel Barton Pine has often performed the Sonatas and Partitas of Johann Sebastian Bach in recital, but her 2016 release on Avie is her first studio recording of this essential masterwork for violinists. Using a Baroque bow on a modernized 1742 Guarneri de Gesù violin, Pine plays the Sonatas and Partitas with crisp accentuation, transparent voicing, and a warm tone, much as she does in her concert performances. Her interpretation, which is influenced by period practices but not limited by them, offers clear counterpoint in the sonatas and buoyant dance rhythms in the partitas, and there is little scratchiness in her stopped chords to disrupt the smoothness and transparency of her elegant lines. Pine's depth of feeling and expressive insights into the music keep it from seeming like dry, technical exercises, yet there is none of the overly rhetorical Romantic approach here, either, so this reading does justice to Bach's likely intentions while communicating emotion in a subtle and tasteful manner. Highly recommended. (

martes, 19 de julio de 2016

Scherzi Musicali / Nicolas Achten ANTONIO BERTALI La Maddalena

Baritone, harpsichordist, lutenist, harpist and artistic director, Nicolas Achten is a rising figure in the world of early music. Prizewinner at the VIIth International Baroque Singing Competition of Chimay in 2006, he was voted Classical Artist of 2009 at the Octaves of Music Prize, and Young Musician of the Year 2009 by the Union of the Belgian Musical Press.
Born in Brussels in 1985, he studied singing, lute, harpsichord and triple harp at the Royal Conservatories of Brussels and the Hague, and completed his training at various masterclasses, including the Académie baroque d’Ambronay and the Centre de la Voix de Royaumont.
Since 2004, Nicolas has performed with some of the most prestigious early music ensembles including l’Arpeggiata, La Fenice, La Petite Bande, Ausonia, Les Agrémens, Akadêmia, Les Talens Lyriques, il Fondamento, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Il Seminario Musicale, Le Poeme Harmonique, and the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, and under the direction of conductors such as Jean Tubéry, Sigiswald Kuijken, Marc Minkowski, Christophe Rousset and René Jacobs.
He is one of the few classical singers to accompany himself on various instruments, reviving this historical practice. With the intention of furthering this practice and research, he founded the ensemble Scherzi Musicali, whose concerts and recordings have been received with unanimous enthusiasm from the public and the international press.
Nicolas Achten is professor of Lute at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, and professor of baroque Harp and baroque singing at the Académie de Woluwé-Saint-Lambert. He is musical director for Muziektheater Transparant’s summer courses, and is a regular guest professor at the University of East Anglia, at the Operastudio Vlaanderen, and the Yorke Trust (Norfolk). 
Through the combination of sacred and profane that she embodies, the profoundly human personality of Mary Magdalene greatly inspired artists of the Baroque era, whether painters, poets or composers. It was in the sphere of influence of Italian oratorios, highly prized at the court of Vienna, that Antonio Bertali devoted a most moving sepolcro to her in 1663, a genre traditionally played during Holy Week. In 1617, in Mantua, it was in the form of theatrical interludes that she was honoured by court composers such as Salomone Rossi, Muzio Effrem and Claudio Monteverdi, who wrote the prologue for this other Maddalena. Scherzi Musicali propose the first World recording of these works.

Giulio Prandi / Ghislieri Choir & Consort HANDEL In Rome 1707

At the very end of 1706, not yet 22 years of age, George Frideric Handel arrived in Rome. “Having shown off his skills to the amazement of everyone” on the organ of St John Lateran on 14 January 1707, the young talent from beyond the Alps immediately established himself in the lively cultural fabric of the city, causing a disruptive reaction, an alchemy that was to transform the traveller as much as his hosts. The compositions recorded here testify to this meeting: a dialogue between two musical cultures that shared an illustrious history and an extremely dynamic modernity; a dialogue captured in the first annus mirabilis of the crucial Italian tour that gave rise to the earliest masterpieces by the Saxon, as German musicians were often called in Italy. By the first weeks of the year, Handel was already caught up in a dense network of aristocratic patronage, both secular (the Marquis Ruspoli) and ecclesiastical (the Cardinals Ottoboni, Colonna and Pamphili), and that saw him play the dual roles of composer and performer at the keyboard in a plethora of occasions, from religious functions (even if Handel was Lutheran) to accademie or conversazioni, namely concerts held at the luxurious homes of patrons, and open to diplomats, aristocrats, travellers and musicians; occasions on which he worked alongside such established colleagues as Arcangelo Corelli, Bernardo Pasquini and Alessandro Scarlatti.
Giulio Prandi is the founder and conductor of the Ghislieri Choir & Consort. He is also artistic and musical director of Ghislierimusica, set in the historic Ghislieri College of Pavia. Prandi and the Ghislieri Choir and Consort are regularly invited to perform at prestigious music festivals and in major concert halls all over Europe. After the debut album for Amadeus magazine, Prandi started recording for Sony - Deutsche Harmonia Mundi in 2010. In 2015/2016, he formed part of the jury of the Göttingen Handel Competition and of the International Van Wassenaer Competition 2016 in Utrecht. Giulio Prandi’s engagements with Ghislieri Choir & Consort will take him to Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Malta.

Valery Gergiev / London Symphony Orchestra BERLIOZ Roméo et Juliette

Released in the year of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, Valery Gergiev and London Symphony Orchestra are joined by soloists Olga Borodina, Kenneth Tarver and Evgeny Nikitin for Berlioz Roméo et Juliette, recorded live at the Barbican Hall in November 2013. Part of a major series of eight concerts, this work toured to venues in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and France.
A large-scale ‘symphonie dramatique’, Roméo et Juliette was the fruit of the composer’s dual fascination with Shakespeare and with the actress Harriet Smithson, whom he was later to marry. Using the story of the star-crossed lovers as a starting point, Shakespeare’s passion and drama is deftly portrayed through his music, as well as through the abundance of lyrical poetry, written by French poet Émile Deschamps.
Grammy-award winning mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina is a star of the Mariinsky Theatre, regularly appearing at major opera houses and with great orchestras around the world. A winner of the Rosa Ponselle and Barcelona competitions, Borodina made her highly acclaimed European debut at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1992, sharing the stage with Plácido Domingo in Samson et Dalila – a performance that launched her international solo career as one of the most sought-after mezzos for her repertoire.
Kenneth Tarver is considered one of the outstanding tenore-di-grazia of his time. He has appeared at the most prestigious opera houses and concert halls around the world specialising in Mozart and challenging, skilled oratorio repertoire. He is a graduate of prestigious institutions including Interlochen Arts Academy, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, Yale University School of Music, and was also a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artist Development Program. He has appeared on previous LSO Live recordings, notably the double Grammy Award winner Les Troyens, conducted by Sir Colin Davis. 
Bass-baritone Evgeny Nikitin trained at the St Petersburg State Conservatory, graduating in 1997. He has been described as ‘physically, vocally, a complete star’ by The Independent. His premiere solo performance was with the Mariinsky Orchestra and was followed by invitations to perform at major theatres and festivals across the world. His discography includes other recordings with Valery Gergiev, including Wagner Parsifal on the Mariinsky Label.

lunes, 18 de julio de 2016

Trio Wanderer / Christophe Gaugué JOHANNES BRAHMS Piano Quartet Op. 60 - Piano Trio Op. 8

A decade has passed since Trio Wanderer gave us a superb set of Brahms’ Piano Trios with the first Piano Quartet as filler. That recording set a benchmark thanks to the ensemble’s ideal balance of elegance and expressive intensity, so this sequel is long overdue.
The rarely heard first version of the Op. 8 Trio is a fascinating adjunct to that set and the Wanderers tackle the work with a different mindset, helping to delineate the self-critical composer’s maturing concision. They don’t linger as they did during the lengthy first movement, which Brahms initially over-egged with five themes, several of which were replaced by the lovely secondary subject.
Hanslick thought the fugato passage as inappropriate as a schoolboy Latin quotation in a love poem and the composer took note and cut it. The marvellous Scherzo he left well alone but for a few nips and tucks, however he wisely remodelled the middle of the slow movement; the mood swings of the original are superfluous with such animated flanking movements.
The last movement meanders through some tortured passages with a good third of the movement later excised and the clunky conclusion scrapped. While it’s an interesting example of a composer’s distillation I suspect most who love the familiar revision will only listen to this version once or twice as the younger man’s gaucheries wear thin.
The Piano Quartet, Op. 60 is another matter; a composer at the peak of his powers, a masterwork carefully crafted over 20 years with extraordinary cogency and thematic unity. This is a carefully judged performance of subtlety and discretion, a slow burn reading that lets the thematic development carry the narrative.
The Wanderers’ coolness at the opening soon thaws out but they keep a firm grip on the argument; they don’t overstate the sighing “Clara” figure in line with their classically poised view of the movement. The Scherzo has plenty of drive but the light touch avoids the overbearing. For the Andante they take the composer’s marking literally so it is a flowing interlude rather than a dirge while the Finale is more pensive than tragic.
If this implies a Brahms-lite quality rest assured that the Wanderers’ effortless panache and rhythmic energy compensates. It’s a valid alternative to the Capuçon/Angelich/Caussé reading on Virgin; an elegant cabernet rather than a big boofy shiraz. Sound is superbly present if a little opaque compared to the stunning transparency of the earlier set. (Warwick Arnold)

Gli Incogniti / Amandine Beyer PACHELBEL Un orage d'avril

The title of this release and the glowering skyscape on its cover are pure marketing – the piece from which the title comes is not about April weather at all – but I don’t think anyone lured by it into buying a disc of 17th-century chamber music need feel aggrieved. We don’t get enough reminders that Pachelbel was a real composer of quality chamber music, yet here is his complete Musikalische Ergötzung of 1695, consisting of six ‘Parthien’ (or suites) for two violins and continuo. Add in a seventh, unpublished suite, six secular songs and the Canon and Gigue, and these are ‘musical pleasures’ indeed.
If April is a red herring, the presence elsewhere in the artwork of Brueghel is more apt, for Pachelbel’s music has a strong sense of connection with the world. The songs deal feelingly with death, the perfidy of princes (that’s the April showers one), ‘Good Councillor Walther’ and a nameless patron, while the suites, for all their restless counterpoint, never lose touch with their grounded choreographic roots. Fine music, then, but not rarefied.
In Gli Incogniti it finds itself in expert hands. There is depth and sweetness to their sound, clarity and busyness to their counterpoint, and buoyancy to their expression of rhythm and line. They are as able to inhabit serious melancholy (in Partie IV for instance) as to access a sense of fun for dances such as the Aria of the ‘Partie a 4’ (to which they add a rat-a-tat finger-on-wood accompaniment) or in the occasional playful burst of pizzicato. Likewise, in the unassumingly strophic songs, they can quickly summon a mood, most movingly when viola-comforted death is the subject; Hans Jörg Mammel’s clear but plangent tenor helps, though I wish he had more ease of movement. The Canon is intelligently done, its slowly changing countenance subtly observed, and closing not in grandiose climax but gentle farewell. Less chiselled than London Baroque’s muscly 1994 recording, and more in tune than that of Les Cyclopes (7/95), this release is well worth your time. (Lindsay Kemp / Gramophone)

viernes, 15 de julio de 2016

Australian Chamber Orchestra / Richard Tognetti MOZART'S Last Symphonies

Australian violinist, conductor and composer, Richard Tognetti has established an international reputation for his compelling performances and artistic individualism. He studied at the Sydney Conservatorium with Alice Waten, in his home town of Wollongong with William Primrose, and at the Berne Conservatory (Switzerland) with Igor Ozim, where he was awarded the Tschumi Prize as the top graduate soloist in 1989. Later that year he was appointed Leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and subsequently became Artistic Director. He is also Artistic Director of the Maribor Festival in Slovenia and Creative Associate of Classical Music for Melbourne Festival.
Tognetti performs on period, modern and electric instruments. His numerous arrangements, compositions and transcriptions have expanded the chamber orchestra repertoire and been performed throughout the world.
As director or soloist, Tognetti has appeared with the Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), Hong Kong Philharmonic, Camerata Salzburg,Tapiola Sinfonietta, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Nordic Chamber Orchestra and the Australian symphony orchestras. He conducted Mozart's Mitridate for the Sydney Festival and gave the Australian premiere of Ligeti’s Violin Concerto with the Sydney Symphony.
Tognetti has collaborated with colleagues from across various art forms and artistic styles, including Joseph Tawadros, Dawn Upshaw, James Crabb, Emmanuel Pahud, Jack Thompson, Katie Noonan, Neil Finn,Tim Freedman, Paul Capsis, Bill Henson and Michael Leunig.
In 2003, Tognetti was co-composer of the score for Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; violin tutor for its star, Russell Crowe; and can also be heard performing on the award-winning soundtrack. In 2005, he co-composed the soundtrack to Tom Carroll’s surf film Horrorscopes and, in 2008, created The Red Tree, inspired by illustrator Shaun Tan’s book. He co-created and starred in the 2008 documentary film Musica Surfica, which has won best film awards at surf film festivals in the USA, Brazil, France and South Africa.
As well as directing numerous recordings by the ACO, Tognetti has recorded Bach’s solo violin repertoire for ABC Classics, winning three consecutive ARIA awards, and the Dvorak and Mozart Violin Concertos for BIS.
A passionate advocate for music education,Tognetti established the ACO’s Education and Emerging Artists programs in 2005.
Richard Tognetti was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2010. He holds honorary doctorates from three Australian universities and was made a National Living Treasure in 1999. He performs on a 1743 Guarneri del Gesù violin, lent to him by an anonymous Australian private benefactor. (ACO)

Camilla Hoitenga / Da Camera of Houston KAIJA SAARIAHO Let the Wind Speak

"Let the Wind Speak" is as much an exploration of Kaija Saariaho’s flute writing as her long-time collaboration with soloist Camilla Hoitenga, who plays everything from piccolo to bass flute, vocalizing and executing multiphonics with organic ease.
The oldest and most widely performed work, Laconisme de l’aile (track 10), which the Finnish composer first presented her in 1982, moves from a short poetry recitation into fitful, rapidly fluctuating lyricism, only to end with a series of rising scales before the sound vanishes into thin air. In Couleurs du Vent, performed on alto flute, Hoitenga seamlessly blends speech with extended techniques.
Works such as these reveal Saariaho’s ability to combine melodic invention with a relentless push toward new technical frontiers. The opening track, Tocar, reorchestrated for flute and harp (Héloîse Dautry), has the feeling of a recitative as the flute sings above rivulets of archaic sound. Faultless audio engineering preserves the fine balance between two instruments more often noted for their timbral contrast.
A similar principle applies to Mirrors, here performed in three different versions together with cellist Anssi Karttunen. Mirrors II draws upon furious melodies and wide range of color, while Mirrors III is more reticent and slow-moving, Karttunen’s trembling and scraping textures adding to the sense of unease.
The album’s centerpiece, Sombre I-III, was commissioned from the chamber ensemble Da Camera of Houston and premiered at the Rothko Chapel in 2013. In keeping with the tone of the painted walls, Saariaho opted for dark colors such as bass flute and baritone (Daniel Belcher) as she set three fragments of Ezra Pound’s last Cantos. Intricate percussion intermingles with hovering, unearthly atmospheres to create a soundscape as spiritually vast as it is intimate. “Do not move/Let the wind speak/that is paradise,” declares the speaker after surmounting a thick instrumental haze in the inner movement. But it may be Hoitenga, and not Belcher, who holds center ground as an insidious stream of bass flute colors the third and final poem. (Rebecca Schmid)


Karlheinz Stockhausen is a composer who has never been prone to self-doubt; otherwise he couldn't have persevered through the process of creating his monumental seven-opera cycle LICHT (Light), a project that occupied him from 1977 until 2003. At just about twice the length of Wagner's Ring cycle, and requiring extraordinary performing forces (including four helicopters flying over the theater in one opera) it's probably safe to call LICHT the largest musical piece ever executed. The cycle follows the interactions of three archetypes -- Eve, Lucifer, and the archangel Michael -- and each opera is devoted to one day of the week. "DIENSTAG" (Tuesday), the shortest, lasts a mere two and a half hours; "SONTAG" (Sunday), the longest, clocks in at just under five hours.
The music for all the operas is derived from a single "super-formula," which gives the works a unity not immediately aurally apparent, but which must have been hugely helpful to the composer in organizing over 29 hours of music. "DIENSTAG" is scored for conventional solo instruments, some of which have dramatic as well as musical roles, vocal soloists, actors, dancer-mimes, orchestra, chorus, and electronic tapes. The music is very broadly eclectic, incorporating solo chant, extended instrumental solos, massed choral and instrumental sections, long silences, interpolations of jazz, and very prominent electronics. "DIENSTAG," like the other operas in the cycle, conveys an undeniable gravity and monumentality that would make it difficult to dismiss, even by listeners for whom Stockhausen's modernism is not exactly their cup of tea. The aural experience of the music can be so overwhelming that one wonders whether its effectiveness might be trivialized or diluted by any kind of stage action. Stockhausen's operas are by no means easy listening, but their inventiveness, variety, and sense of dramatic inevitably offer much to engage the adventurous listener. For the listener who wants a fuller understanding of the technical compositional processes used in developing the music, the composer's minutely detailed notes in the sumptuously produced program booklet should answer just about any question. (

Anderson & Roe Piano Duo THE ART OF BACH

The U.S. branch of the Steinway piano firm has issued a series of piano recordings that is carefully curated so as to reflect the company's roots in the music scene of a century ago, or a bit more. This gives the label's output a satisfying coherence as well as bringing forth some intriguing individual concepts. This release by the Anderson & Roe piano duo is a representative example that might appeal to those who've had their fill of severe historical-performance approaches to Bach. It wouldn't have been strange in the 19th century to present an evening of Bach's music on two pianos, for that medium was a common one for bringing music of large dimensions into the home or a small community venue. Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe thus capture a slice of the American musical past, but they also expand upon it creatively, which is what brings projects like this to life. They employ the talents of a variety of arrangers, including themselves, and they cover such unexpected items as the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244, in a suite of their own devising. The result is a program that views the range of Bach's creativity under a different lens from those anybody else has used. As the graphics have it, "Where else can one find the apex of scholarly composition, The Art of Fugue, featured alongside one of the monuments of sacred music, the St. Matthew Passion?" Throw some chorales into the mix, and there will be an idea of the considerable appeal of this release, recorded at the ideally sized Concert Hall of the Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, the State University of New York. (

jueves, 14 de julio de 2016

Barry Douglas BRAHMS Works for Solo Piano Volume Six

This is the sixth and final volume in Barry Douglas’s survey of Brahms’s output for solo piano, which started four years ago. The recital completes a project that over 441 minutes has represented a ‘triumph of Brahmsian thoughts’ and in which ‘every sound is resonantly Brahmsian’. According to BBC Music, ‘Douglas’s tone is a deep velvet cushion, the legatos full of affection and the rhythms galvanised with great energy’. 
The music recorded here spans the entirety of the composer’s creative career, from March 1852 (the Study after Weber) – eighteen months before the life-changing meeting between Brahms and Robert and Clara Schumann – to August 1893 (the Intermezzo, Op. 118 No. 6) – less than four years before his death, on 3 April 1897. 
The selection of works offered here invites us to consider Brahms under many aspects – arranger, virtuoso, pedagogue, historicist, and above all pianist – which Barry Douglas embraces perfectly.

Barry Douglas BRAHMS Works for Solo Piano Volume Five

This album is the penultimate in what BBC Music has described as a ‘triumph of Brahmsian thought’, namely the survey by Barry Douglas of the composer’s complete works for solo piano.
Three years after the release of Volume 1, the winner of the 1986 Tchaikovsky Competition is now performing this repertoire in the finest international venues, such as the Wigmore Hall in July 2015 and Concertgebouw in 2016, when the series will come to a highly anticipated climax with the final volume. Taking a big step further in his career with this achievement, Barry Douglas is gaining a reputation of one of the few accomplished world-class piano virtuosi of the romantic repertoire.
This fifth volume is probably the most
virtuosic to date, as it includes the transcendent Scherzo in E flat minor (among Brahms’s earliest surviving compositions), technically demanding variations (especially Book II of the famous Op. 35; see Volume 4 for Book I), as well as several intermezzi, strongly marked by Brahms’s love of metrical complications.
The album also features three tuneful Hungarian Dances, arranged by the composer for solo piano, repertoire new to Barry Douglas’s Brahms exploration. (Chandos)

Barry Douglas BRAHMS Works for Solo Piano Volume Four

Barry Douglas’s critically acclaimed series continues into its fourth volume. A celebration of Brahms’s solo piano works, each disc has been praised for its artistry and integrity. From Volume 1, heralded from the outset by BBC Music as “a triumph of Brahmsian thought, with playing that gets right to the heart of the composer”, to Volume 3, of which The Guardian described Douglas’s performances as “first-rate, with a real Brahmsian mix of toughness and slightly gruff charm about them”, the discs explore Brahms’s works in unexpected and creative ways. 
Programmed as a stand-alone recital, Volume 4 begins with the monumental C Major Sonata; a work that Brahms published as his first opus despite the objection of Robert Schumann, who was in the process of recommending Brahms’s works to Breitkopf & Härtel for publishing. Schumann’s works also feature on the disc in Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 9, and the structure is repeated in Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35, Book I. 
Shorter character pieces intersperse these larger works, including the dramatic Ballade Op. 10 No. 1, composed after the Scottish ballad “Edward” from Herder’s “Voices of the Peoples”; two contrasting capriccios, Op. 76 No. 1 & 2; and three Intermezzi from Op. 76, 117 and 119.

Barry Douglas BRAHMS Works for Solo Piano Volume Three

Barry Douglas returns for the highly anticipated third volume in his series devoted to Brahms’s solo piano music, the first two volumes having been met with widespread critical acclaim. Of Vol. 2, International Record Review wrote, ‘this is indeed Brahms playing of the utmost integrity and authority… this cycle looks set to become a benchmark’.
The selected Intermezzi performed here come from the collections of short piano pieces which Brahms published in 1892 – 93, his last works for piano. A sense of wistful, melancholic reflection pervades these exquisitely crafted masterpieces of Brahms’s late maturity. Composed at the other end of his life, at the age of twenty, the Piano Sonata in F sharp minor is full of a youthful, strident energy. It was among the pieces that, when he heard them privately, convinced Robert Schumann of Brahms’s genius. It was dedicated to Robert’s wife, Clara, who was to remain a key figure in Brahms’s life. Indeed it was Clara who, having heard the movement, begged Brahms for a piano transcription of the noble Andante from the String Sextet in B flat major, the Theme with Variations in D minor heard here.
Brahms’s set of sixteen Waltzes, Op. 39 were originally conceived for piano four hands and were arranged, by popular demand, for solo piano soon after, in 1867. They capture the sense of joyful abandon often associated with the genre but their romanticism and nostalgia are uniquely Brahmsian.

Barry Douglas BRAHMS Works for Solo Piano Volume Two

Following the varied programming of Johannes Brahms: Works for Solo Piano, Vol. 1, Barry Douglas presents a mix of early and late pieces to give the second volume emotional balance, and sets a series of short pieces against a monumental masterpiece. Douglas is a thoughtful and eloquent performer, and his Brahms has the hallmarks of serious consideration and introspection; nothing here is superfluous or simply offered for show. The sensitive selection of three Ballades and three Intermezzi to frame the muscular Rhapsody Op. 119/4, gives the first part of the program an internal unity and feeling of logical organization, even though the shifting moods feel as effortless and unplanned as clouds passing on a sunny afternoon. The Sonata No. 3 is placed at the end of the recital, as befits its stature, and Douglas' interpretation gives it the feeling of gravitas and inevitability. Yet it also partakes of the fleeting moods that were carefully prepared in the early part of the program, so Douglas' shaping of this album shows great care in preparation. Chandos provides a pleasant recorded sound that makes the piano sound close enough for intimate passages but big and spacious enough for the grand statements. (Blair Sanderson)

Barry Douglas BRAHMS Works for Solo Piano Volume One

The first thing to say about the first instalment in Barry Douglas’ new Brahms series for Chandos is that the programming alone makes it one the most engaging Complete Works piano discs you could hope to own. Douglas, rather than grouping pieces in their entire published sets as is the recording norm, has instead chosen to mix things up. So, an intermezzo from one book might sit next to a capriccio from another. Where pieces from the same set do make it onto this disc, such as the two Opus 79 Rhapsodies, they're split apart. The result is a massively engaging running order.
Topped and tailed with concert platform panache by the Rhapsody Op.79 No.1 and the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel (Op.24), the middle meat of the disc contains more reflective representations ranging from Opus 10, composed as a 21-year-old, through to three of the mature sets, Opuses 116, 117, 118, published near the end of his life. The ear is naturally led to compare and contrast the enormous breath of musical thought and style that spans Brahms' career.
Getting down to the playing itself, these are interpretations that feel as if they get right to the heart of Brahms the man and the musician with the impression they weave of Romantic expression melded with deference to classical form and sensibilities. From the introspection of Intermezzo Op.118 No.2 with its gorgeous washes of sound, to the crisp, virtuosic homage to past masters that is the ‘Handel Variations’, his articulation is deft and colourful, and his overall style expansive. The multifarious strands of Brahms' dense, complex and contrapuntal writing are beautifully balanced, with a sure structural grasp that carries the ear and sustains the musical argument equally convincingly across individual phrases and long, multi-sectioned pieces. (Charlotte Gardner / BBC Music)

martes, 12 de julio de 2016


Two earlier discs by Boris Giltburg got slightly lukewarm reviews in Fanfare . Reviewing a recital back in 2006, Colin Clarke concluded that, despite the pianist’s “tonal resources,” Mussorgsky’s Pictures just didn’t “all add up,” while his Prokofiev Eighth, intelligent as it was, needed to be more diabolic in the finale (30:2). Reviewing a more recent disc of Prokofiev’s three so-called “War Sonatas” (including a reprise of the Eighth), Raymond Beegle was even more neutral: “Boris Giltburg has many of the qualities of his predecessors, but gives us no particular virtue that stands above them” (36:4). This new disc offers repertoire of similar grandeur—but I hear playing of a distinctly higher order.  
Giltburg is, without a doubt, a hard-hitting pianist with an old-fashioned, heart-on-the-sleeve Romantic temperament. Although he’s capable of caressing the instrument (he miraculously captures the distilled beauty of the chordal section that begins seven bars from the end of the second movement of the Grieg), you’re more likely to be struck by his bass-centered tone and his huge sonority (try, for instance, the weighty left-hand octaves toward the end of the Grieg’s first movement or the first appearance of the Grandioso theme of the Liszt) and by his emphatic persona (he’s certainly not a pianist to tear through Liszt’s fugue). And while he’s capable of reflective simplicity (he’s especially sensitive to Rachmaninoff’s aching regret), you’re more likely to be struck by the moments of extreme passion. His tempos tend to be on the slow side of the spectrum, and he’s always ready to knead them in a way that increases our sense of anticipation. As a result, the climaxes always explode with a tremendous sense of arrival. Textures can be slightly thick (certainly, he seems to have little sympathy for the neoclassical side of Rachmaninoff’s aesthetic), but his tonal bear-hug is sufficiently compelling that, as you’re listening, you’re unlikely to complain.  
To some, I suppose, his approach might seem too high-pressure or overwrought—especially if you listen to all three of these sonatas in a single sitting. Still, Giltburg is a player with a strong and compelling personality; and while none of these performances trumps the very considerable competition (although it’s pretty near the top in the Grieg), pianophiles who decide to supplement their favorites with these new recordings will find themselves well rewarded. The sound is good, and the pianist provides exceptionally lucid and informative notes, which include a compelling case for the revised version of the Rachmaninoff.  (FANFARE / Peter J. Rabinowitz)

Magnificat / Philip Cave SCATTERED ASHES Josquin's Miserere and the Savonarolan Legacy

To celebrate their 25th anniversary, vocal ensemble Magnificat directed by Philip Cave have created a programme of Renaissance polyphonic works inspired by Girolamo Savonarola's (1452-98) famous meditations written while awaiting execution. One contemplates Psalm 50, Miserere mei, Deus, and another Psalm 30, In te, Domine, speravi. Savonarola was a Dominican friar burnt at the stake for his reformist preaching, his ashes scattered in a river to prevent supporters preserving them as relics.
This disc opens with Josquin's extraordinarily vast setting of the Miserere. Weighing in at just over 17 minutes, it is a motet of grandiose proportions characterised by repetition of the words ‘Miserere mei, Deus' (Have mercy on me, God). This functions like a refrain with five voices framing what is mostly a two- or three-voiced texture. Added to this, Cave employs his full complement of singers for each refrain and uses just solo voices in between, further emphasising the variations of texture. The overall tempo is quite slow if compared, say, to La Chapelle Royale under Philippe Herreweghe, but solo voices allow for a suppleness of phrasing that enhances forward momentum, often with arrestingly beautiful segues between textures such as at ‘et impii ad te convertentur' (‘and the unholy will turn back to you'), where a solo soprano soars over the dying echo of Savonarola's repeated plea.
In Lhéritier's more dense polyphonic setting of In te, Domine, speravi, Magnificat's velvety sound is at its most luxurious. This sonorous ensemble, combined with Cave's unhurried tempi, create a wonderfully melancholic sound world. Their interpretations of the post-Josquin generation of continental composers, Gombert and Clemens specifically, are among the finest on disc.
The programme ends with Byrd's Infelix ego. It's a tender performance; phrases roll pleasingly forwards under Cave's direction and his interpretation nudges Byrd closer to his continental counterparts. My own preference lies with a more demonstrative madrigalian approach such as The Cardinall's Musick under Andrew Carwood, leading to a dramatic final plea ‘Miserere mei, Deus' scorching the texture with emphatic chords. Here, instead, Cave strikes a prayerful note to end his programme. (Edward Breen / Gramophone)

lunes, 11 de julio de 2016

Asasello-Quartett / Eva Resch INSIGHTS The String Quartets by ARNOLD SCHÖNBERG

The Asasello Quartet is a European ensemble. Founded in the year 2000 by students in Walter Levin’s chamber music class at the Basel conservatory, the musicians have gone on to make a name for themselves as outstanding interpreters of the classical/Romantic repertoire, modern classical music and more. The founding four completed their formal studies with the Alban Berg Quartett and David Smeyers at the Cologne Hochschule für Musik und Tanz. Numerous accolades and awards as well as project funding grants have allowed the group to realize original concepts and to put new ideas, recording techniques and forms of concertizing into practice. Asasello programs are intelligent and sophisticated; never mainstream. If need be, “the Asasellos” will gladly jump from their chairs or out of their tuxes.
A new GENUIN CD with the thrilling Asasello Quartet! It’s the third disc released by the ensemble, known for its unconventional concert ideas, and it has now also made a name for itself as a prizewinner at international competitions. The program features Schoenberg’s amazingly diverse oeuvre for string quartet, and we can’t imagine a more eloquent advocate for these too-rarely performed milestones of the repertoire. From the fringes of tonality in the first quartet to the free-flowing twelve-tone language of the fourth – an electrifying quartet sound played at a staggering level. Experience these soaring peaks of the repertoire! (Genuin Records)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Andrew Manze VAUGHAN WILLIAMS A London Symphony - Symphony No. 8

Andrew Manze is familiar to classical listeners as a violinist and as a specialist in early music, but he has also pursued conducting, performing orchestral music of a more modern vintage. His concert performances have increasingly featured the symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams, and this 2016 release on Onyx of the Symphony No. 2 in G major, "A London Symphony" and the Symphony No. 8 in D minor gives a clear idea of his approach to this music. The impassioned reading of "A London Symphony" with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra reveals that Manze has an affinity for expansive melodic lines, poignant harmonies, and rich, atmospheric orchestration, and the sounds the orchestra produces are quite lush and luxuriant, wholly appropriate for Vaughan Williams' post-Romantic phase. The Symphony No. 8, dating from 1955, is Vaughan Williams' shortest symphony, and his use of pitched percussion creates a wonderful atmosphere that is unique in the cycle. Manze draws out marvelous sonorities from the orchestra, and the musicians respond with great warmth and a level of enthusiasm that is easy to perceive. Onyx has produced an exceptional recording with vivid tone colors and a resonant acoustic that gives the music a spacious feeling.

sábado, 9 de julio de 2016

Kim Kashkashian / Robert Levin ELEGIES

Kim Kashkashian is easily one of the finest violists to ever place her bow on the instrument. She shines just as effervescently in the company of an orchestra as she does solo or here alongside Robert Levin, a trusty accompanist with whom she shares a palpable musical bond, and puts the range of her talents on full display in this fine chamber program of mostly rarities.
On the whole, this album is very warmly recorded. Levin pulls from the piano an almost gamelan-like quality, while Kashkashian luxuriates in the plurivocity afforded to her. She interacts with her instrument as would fingers upon a spine and her tonal depth often breaches cello territory. For anyone who is curious to discover what her playing is all about but who is wary of her penchant for the contemporary, this is an ideal place to start. (ECM Reviews)

Emmanuelle Bertrand / BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Pascal Rophé DMITRY SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concerto No. 1 - Sonata for Cello and Piano Op. 40

This is one hell of a performance of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto. Emmanuelle Bertrand and conductor Pascal Raphé team up to produce one of the most intense and neurotic versions yet of this intense and neurotic piece. In the outer movements, they adopt fleet tempos that emphasize the music’s twitchy edge, and the engineers daringly balance Bertrand a touch less forward then usual, comfortably within the ensemble. This highlights every mocking grunt and snort of the wind section – listen to the contrabassoon in the first movement’s second subject. It’s unforgettably vivid and to the point. 
The slow movement and ensuing cadenza, by contrast, are intense in a different way: slow, hushed, and grave (save at the anguished climax of the former). I was particularly pleased that Bertrand was able to keep her usually adenoidal breathing in check at the start of the cadenza. Indeed, although a certain amount of huffing and puffing seems to come with the territory in this concerto, Bertrand is no worse than many of her colleagues, and she at least has the excuse of being nakedly expressive to a degree that makes you fear for her mental health. The horn, clarinet, and timpani soloists also are all excellent.
The couplings are interesting and apt, and no less well done. Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata still isn’t all that well known. It dates from the time of the First Piano Concerto, before the Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk debacle, and so represents his mature early style. It’s a big, serious, very beautiful piece that both Bertrand and pianist Pascal Amoyel play with the attention to detail that it deserves. The Moderato for cello and piano is a recently discovered fragment that presumably dates from about the same time as the Sonata, and makes an apt encore. Still, it’s the concerto that most lingers in the mind here – it’s just sensational, and may well become your “go to” version of the piece. (David Hurwitz)

viernes, 8 de julio de 2016

Barbara Hannigan / Reinbert De Leeuw ERIK SATIE Socrate

Raise your bowler hat. If you are to buy just one Satie disc in this year celebrating the 150th anniversary of his birth, this should be it. Eschewing the temptation to throw in a few popular favourites, such as Je te veux or La diva de l’Empire, soprano Barbara Hannigan and pianist Reinbert de Leeuw have created a recital that goes much deeper into the refined essence of the composer.
The focus is Satie’s often overlooked masterpiece, the cantata Socrate. Started in 1916, but not heard until 1919, it sets portions of Plato’s dialogues in a manner that Satie himself described as lucid, transparent, even fragile. In order to be in an appropriate frame of mind during its composition, the composer even restricted himself to eating only white food. The result is a hypnotic work that gives every impression of having neither beginning nor end and is vital to understanding key works by Les Six or Stravinsky in the 1920s, not least the latter’s ballet Apollo. Drawing on a long association with Satie’s music, Hannigan and De Leeuw perfectly capture the elusive, emotionally detached nature of the work in a manner that paradoxically makes it more affecting. Alcibiades’s declaration in the first part that ‘I speak not in jest; nothing could be more serious’ may or may not be pointing to Dadaist irony, but their poker-faced performance of Socrate ensures that it is quixotically charming and demands rapt attention.
It is prefaced by two much earlier sets of mélodies and the meditative Hymne; helpfully, all the lyrics are available in French, English and German on the Winter & Winter website. The Hymne was written in 1891 for Sar Peladan’s Ordre de la Rose-Croix Catholique du Temple et du Graal, of which Satie was official composer and chapel-master. The Trois mélodies are earlier works, from 1886; their first words, ‘dressed in white’ could not be more apposite for this disc. They may be youthful love songs, yet the essence of Satie’s character is already apparent in the Spartan accompaniments and deceptively undemonstrative vocal lines. De Leeuw’s placing of the simple, though far from simplistic, sequences of piano chords is perfectly judged, while Hannigan somehow manages to convey vulnerability within the exceptional control required for the sustained restraint of Satie’s vocal lines. 
The most energetic the music gets in this recital is the relaxed stroll of the Trois autres mélodies of 1886-1906, but the repertoire feels neither constricted nor dull. Hannigan and De Leeuw are mesmerising, casting a spell from the very first notes of the opening ‘Les Anges’ that remains unbroken until the characteristically unexpected end of Socrate. It feels all- too-brief, yet would seem the same if it were two or three times as long, for this is a timeless recital. (Christopher Dingle / BBC Music)

jueves, 7 de julio de 2016

Kim Kashkashian / Robert Levin PAUL HINDEMITH Sonatas for Viola/Piano and Viola Alone

“The viola is commonly (with rare exceptions indeed) played by infirm violinists, or by decrepit players of wind instruments who happen to have been acquainted with a stringed instrument once upon a time.”
–Richard Wager
If ever a recording could put Wagner’s infamous statement to rest, this would be it. Simply overflowing with musical brilliance, it remains one of the finest examples of what the viola is capable of. Kim Kashkashian’s technique and passion are almost palpable and one can only marvel at the humble respect she brings to both. The viola doesn’t simply exist somewhere between violin and cello, forever doomed to be second rate to both. It is, rather, an utterly dynamic and rich musical object, and the ways in which Hindemith unravels its subtler intonations in these sonatas is nothing short of monumental. Every chapter tells us something new, until the linguistic possibilities of the music represented in this eclectic set are exhausted.  
Of the many solo sonatas for various instruments composed since the time of Bach, it is Hindemith’s that most concretely capture a likeminded spirit. While Paganini’s caprices, for example, model Bach on the surface, they are essentially showstoppers meant to test the technical limits of whoever dares perform them. The solo violin works of Ysaÿe are also closely allied with Bach. Ysaÿe draws more specifically and overtly, and in doing so pushes away from Bach in the process. By contrast, Hindemith chose colors from his own palette. In the same way that Bach revitalized the violin and the cello, Hindemith forged a space for the viola. I hear no evidence in these sonatas to suggest that Hindemith was in any way attempting an imitation. He was, rather, exploring his own territory with unbridled honesty. Thankfully, Kashkashian has given us this landmark performance to enjoy to our hearts’ content. Her playing is by turns robust and delicate, her tone impeccable, her technique assured and minimally adorned.
It has been said that, as a performer, one develops a certain appreciation for a given piece of music that the listener can never access, for the performer learns a piece from the inside out. What separates Kashkashian from the rest is her willingness to let the listener in on the performer’s appreciation, and on the different levels of which such an engagement is comprised. We feel every detail as we would feel our own. (ECM Reviews)

Carmine Miranda / Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra / Petr Vronský SCHUMANN - DVOŘÁK Concerti for Cello & Orchestra

Composed almost 50 years apart, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B Minor (1895) and Schumann’s Cello Concerto (1850) are closely linked in the pantheon of Romantic concerto literature. Cellists of many generations have long looked at both of these pieces as essential components in their artistic development, and each has been recorded many times over by the titans of the instrument to showcase their technical mastery.
At age 26 international soloist Carmine Miranda bases his interpretations of these masterworks from several years of historic research and performance experience, which have led him to discover new secrets to be found in the scores of the Navona Records release SCHUMANN | DVOŘÁK: CONCERTI FOR CELLO & ORCHESTRA. Miranda, whose playing has been described as “remarkable” (Gramophone), “a fiery presence” (Limelight) and “spectacular” (Sonograma Magazine), seeks to balance concepts of classical traditions, multinational folklore, and technical prowess combined with a state-of-the-art high-definition audio engineering in order to create the most realistic sound and reliable version of these works.
Composed in a period of two weeks and lasting over a two year revision by the composer, Schumann’s Cello Concerto is considered to be one of his most enigmatic works due to its structure. Originally titled “Concertpiece,” it differs from other instances of its genre, with its fully connected structure from beginning to end and by including more fragmented passages.
Miranda’s take is decidedly diverse from other contemporary interpretations, and deliberately follows historical traditions in terms of tempi, dynamics, and phrasing. In the soloist’s reading, Schumann’s “variations on a theme” musical intentions are interpreted as a series of internal conflicts and conversations between the solo cello and the orchestra. In his recent article “Decoding the Schumann Cello Concerto” (The Musical Times Journal of Music), Miranda makes a compelling case that Schumann’s work is brimming with embedded codes and underlying meanings, which, when taken together, point to a very different vision than the norm.
Dvořák’s explosive concerto in many ways marks the coalescence and arrival of the cello concerto, which matured at the end of the nineteenth century, with other cello concertos coming from Camille Saint-Saens, Édouard Lalo, Edgar Elgar, and many others. Here too Miranda seeks to ramp up the emotionally-charged content, creating new and striking contrasts that have not been heard in any other recorded interpretations. Harmonies splash like dollops of brightly colored paint on a white canvas, and Miranda’s elegant playing transforms this already demanding concerto into a virtuosic piece of the highest order.
Both works were recorded over two days in June 2015 in the Czech Republic with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Petr Vronský. (Naxos)

Robert Kwiatkowski / Radosław Kurek MOZART Pearls from Paris

Robert Kwiatkowski – a remarkable Polish chamber music player, the laureate of many important music chamber contests in Austria, France and Poland. He is a great figure of music life in our seaside region. Educated by professor Krystyn a Jurecka and professor Anna Prabucka-Firlej as a violinist and a chamber music player. He has also developed his artistry under the guidance of many Polish and foreign artists like Henry Meyer from „LaSalle Quartet”, Miro String Quartet, Joseph Kalichstein, Sebastian Hamann, Marina Jaszwili, Jadwiga Kaliszewska or Stefan Kamasa. Robert Kwiatkowski is regularly engaged by many different orchestras for example by Beethoven Academy Orchestra and Orquesta Sinfónica de Chile where he performs as a soloist as well as a guest concertmaster. He is present on many prestigious stages conducted by remarkable conductors like Sir Neville Marriner. 

Since winning The Bridget Doolan Prize for the best performance of W. A. Mozart’s work at The International Piano Competition in Dublin and the top award at The Johannes Brahms International Competition in Pörtschach (with the cellist Georgiy Lomakov), Radosław Kurek is working intensively to increase his repertoire. He continuously improves his chamber music skills and presents his sensibility to the audience by performing well-thought-out piano recitals with repertoire ranging from classical period to contemporary music of the present day. His strength as an artist lies in the extraordinary flexibility in co-operation with other musicians, he is highly valued as a partner in chamber music. The result of the meetings with various artists has been recorded with leading music producers such as GENUIN Classics, Bayerischer Rundfunk, ANAGRAM, DUX, Soliton and BeArTon. Radosław Kurek graduated with honours from the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk, where he studied towards his MA degree in piano under the supervision of Prof. Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń. Following his graduation in 2008, he worked as a teaching assistant at the Academy of Music in Gdańsk. Since 2009, he has been a teaching assistant at the Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz, where in 2014 he was awarded his doctoral degree.

miércoles, 6 de julio de 2016

Claudio Abbado / Berliner Philharmoniker THE LAST CONCERT

Claudio Abbado (1933–2014) was one of the outstanding personalities in the history of the Berliner Philharmoniker. In May 2013, their unique partnership ended with Abbado’s last concert with the orchestra. The programme included two of the most important works of musical Romanticism: Hector Berlioz’s visionary Symphonie fantastique and Felix Mendelssohn’s magical, shimmering music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. To mark the second anniversary of Claudio Abbado’s death on 20 January 2016, audio and video recordings of this memorable evening have been released in a hardcover luxury edition. With comprehensive articles, bonus videos and previously unpublished photographs, it documents Abbado’s work with the orchestra whose chief conductor he was from 1990 to 2002.
The recordings impressively convey the special atmosphere of the evening: the great affection the orchestra and the audience had for Claudio Abbado – and of course the enthusiasm for the musical performances. Renowned not least for his clever concert programming, Abbado combined two works here that deal with the theme of dreams in music in very different ways: Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream conveys the multifaceted magical atmosphere of Shakespeare’s original, while Berlioz uses modern means to tell his delirious tale of fateful love and drug-induced hallucinations. Abbado’s performance brings out the full splendour of these scores. It is – as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote – a “wonder, the freedom and youthful-like spirit with which the soon to be octogenarian expends himself, which he radiates and which he presents to his audience from the conductor’s stand.” (Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings)