miércoles, 31 de agosto de 2016

Jessica Lee / Reiko Uchida COLORS

Themed recitals seem to be in fashion at the moment. Sales may support them, but it appears counter-intuitive in this computer age of digitised music where you can compile your own mix from different tracks in the twinkling of an eye. Then again, a ready-made recital of ‘related’ works that can be played now or uploaded to your favourite listening device may have its own attraction.
The other issue with these recitals, as I inferred in a recent review, is whether they should be judged just in their own right, or whether each work’s performance should stand comparison with the best on the market. That particularly applies when mainstream pieces are programmed; in the case of Vitali’s Chaconne which opens this recital, I counted a good dozen alternatives on this site alone, including those by the likes of Milstein, Heifetz, Oistrakh and Francescatti. There is a middle path, though, and that is whether the chosen programme, and its delivery, works well enough to exceed the sum of its parts.
Violinist Jessica Lee, according to the liner notes, has followed a dream path from child prodigy to fully mature artist, with the cream of America’s music institutions behind her. The same could be said of her associate, pianist Reiko Uchida. I must say I’ve seen so many bios like these that it all becomes noise, reminding me of countless job applicants I’ve assessed, with glowing CVs all alike. So let me cut to the chase then based on results: Jessica Lee’s musical heart is in the right place, her taste is impeccable, and her judgement spot-on.
Naturally, the ‘colors’ here are tonal. Lee and Uchida play the Vitali Chaconne that has been through several arrangers’ hands, with its polychromatic mix of Baroque and Romantic harmonies. From the outset, the parameters of their recital are established: a warm, wide and welcoming piano introduction to a radiantly lyrical violin line – the tone is smallish, delicate and slightly brittle, but always intensely musical. This impression may be partly through the recording, which places Lee in a more sharply defined focus. Her style is also well suited to the rhapsodic Janáček sonata that follows, empathising with the work’s emotive nature. This is typical Janáček, with its broad spectrum of effects tapping into his Czech homeland, with hints of French impressionism and early twentieth century Russia, in a patchwork of strongly contrasting episodes, violent outbursts alternating with sweetly lyrical fragments. Lee and Uchida deliver it persuasively, underscoring the tonal richness of the piece.
Prokofiev’s Five Melodies are transcriptions for violin of songs for voice, but for vocal lines quite different from the harsh and angular kind he wrote, say, for The Love for Three Oranges. There is now a soaring lyricism which transfers so naturally to the violin that Prokofiev felt they came out better as such. These miniatures fit closely with Lee’s aesthetic, as she gives ‘voice' to them through a wonderfully broad palette of tonal range and expression. With Uchida in deft support, this is Prokofiev at his most charming and whimsical. It’s then something of a shock to jump back in time to Beethoven’s sixth violin sonata, but Lee acclimatises us quickly to it, making her case that this is a ‘sleeper’ among these sonatas, as a work of great poise and classical grace, but with emerging awareness of a new musical age. In a way it is atypical Beethoven, for once at peace with his world, uncommon in its “tenderness and gentility, humour and compassion”, as the liner notes say. Lee and Uchida perform it with apt sensitivity and, where demanded, sonorous brilliance. To finish the recital, they caress the ear with a sumptuous Heifetz arrangement of Debussy’s Beau Soir.
You might have guessed by now I’ve taken this CD on its merits, avoiding any work-by-work comparisons. I was soon beguiled by the unanimity with which Lee and Uchida have approached and delivered their programme, deciding it was a rather superior job lot. So to answer my earlier implied question of whether this recital exceeds the sum of its parts – yes, I certainly believe it does. (Des Hutchinson)

martes, 30 de agosto de 2016

Münchener Kammerorchester / Alexander Liebreich TOSHIO HOSOKAWA Landscapes

ECM’s ongoing series of recordings with the Munich Chamber Orchestra continues with an intriguing album of new and recent pieces by Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa. Amongst the featured compositions are “Sakura für Otto Tomek” and “Cloud and Light”, both written in 2008, and “Ceremonial Dance”, written in 2000. These 21st century pieces are brought together with “Landscape V” (originally from 1993 and for string quartet, and subsequently expanded into an orchestral version). Mayumi Miyata, perhaps contemporary music’s best-known shô player, is heard here with the MKO in a recording made at Munich’s Himmelfahrtskirche (Church of the Ascension) in October 2009.
Paul Griffiths describes the internal processes of Hosokawa’s music in the liner notes: “The interplay of shô and strings, and in particular their mutual imitation, is the driving force – or perhaps one should say ‘drifting force’, given that the music carries itself so lightly. 
These two central components moving in tandem suggest the confluence of vapour and light of which clouds are made. (…) Almost everything is centred in the shô and its world of far-off harmonies, soft yet scintillating – harmonies as impalpable and ever-changing as clouds. Like clouds, Hosokawa’s music is constantly in motion yet constantly the same. As the piece continues, its effect is of observing clouds in a largely peaceful sky, clouds that are mostly white but occasionally show shadows and briefly stir into more turbulent action.”
Landscapes is ECM’s second reckoning with Hosowaka: his music was previously featured on the critically acclaimed Yun/Bach/Hosokawa album of Thomas Demenga (ECM 1782), issued a decade ago. Since then, the composer’s music has been heard with increasing frequency in Europe. In July of this year, Hosakawa’s opera “Matsukaze”, with choreography by Sascha Waltz, was premiered at the Berlin Staatsoper and received much positive media attention including a full page in the NY Times. (ECM Records)

jueves, 25 de agosto de 2016

Renaud Capuçon / Paavo Järvi / Orchestre de Paris LALO Symphonie Espagnole SARASATE Zigeunerweisen BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1

Renaud Capuçon exudes a youthful air, but, now firmly established as one of the world’s leading violinists, he celebrates his 40th birthday on January 27th 2016. This release of the best-known works of three composers – Edouard Lalo, Pablo de Sarasate and Max Bruch – marks this important personal occasion in a suitably festive fashion. Capuçon made the recordings with Paavo Järvi and the Orchestre de Paris at the orchestra’s new home, the French capital’s Philharmonie, which opened in early 2015 and was immediately hailed for its superb acoustics. The Bruch concerto became the first piece to be recorded there, in May 2015.
As it happens, Capuçon shares a birthday with Edouard Lalo, born in 1823 – and with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart too! Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, first performed in Paris in 1874, inhabits the same Franco-Spanish musical world as Bizet’s Carmen, which received its premiere the following year. The piece also has a special connection with both Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen [Gypsy Airs] and Bruch’s Concerto No1, as Renaud Capuçon explains:
“These three works, first heard between 1868 and 1878, are among the most famous in the history of the violin, and there are links of friendship and respect between their three composers – Lalo, Sarasate and Bruch: Lalo dedicated his Symphonie espagnole to Sarasate [born in northern Spain and one of the most celebrated violinists of his time]. Bruch dedicated his Scottish Fantasy to Sarasate some years later, but it was the great Joseph Joachim who gave the first performance of Bruch’s Concerto No 1.”
All three pieces also have a special significance for Capuçon: “I first approached these works when I was 12 years old and studying at the Paris Conservatoire with Veda Reynolds [a celebrated American violin teacher]. I played the Bruch in my first competitions; the Lalo was the first piece I played to Gerard Poulet [Capuçon’s other teacher at the Paris Conservatoire] and the Sarasate featured in my first proper recital."
The personal nature of this album is further emphasised by Renaud Capuçon’s wish to dedicate it to the memories of two people who meant a great deal to him: the broadcaster Jacques Chancel, who died in December 2014, and his father-in-law Gratien Ferrari, who died in October 2015.
Capuçon’s credentials in this kind of Romantic music are made clear in reviews of past performances and recordings. When he played the Lalo in London in 2012, the Guardian praised him for capturing “the full measure of the seriousness behind its grace and wit. Capuçon played with virile agility and tremendous nobility of tone,” while The Times extolled a “gorgeous performance from violin soloist Renaud Capuçon, laidback in manner, but so nimble, so fiery.” The Bruch concerto – with its rhapsodic first movement and energetic, dancing finale is close in spirit to the Brahms Violin Concerto, composed in 1878 and also dedicated to Joseph Joachim. Capuçon’s recording of the Brahms was released in 2012. Reviewing the CD, the Telegraph wrote that: “Capuçon has an impressive grasp of the concerto’s expressive contours, using his technical arsenal with finesse and tracing the music’s breadth of line and its arching shapes while maintaining its inner momentum. The rhythmic punch and energy of the finale are echoed by the orchestra’s powerful attack and buoyancy ... This is altogether a remarkable disc.” (Presto Classical)


The Danish String Quartet, one of the most widely-acclaimed chamber groups of the present moment, makes its first recording for ECM, with a programme of Danish and British music. The pieces featured here, all written when the respective composers were each barely into their 20s, have retained a freshness and intensity vividly conveyed in the Danish String Quartet’s energetic and assured interpretations.
Per Nørgård’s Quartetto Breve (1952), Hans Abrahamsen’s 10 Preludes (1973), and Thomas Adès’s Arcadiana (1994), represent first forays, for each of the composers, into the world of the string quartet. The Nørgård quartet appears to reflect the influence of Bartók, as well as the lean tonality of Nørgård’s teacher, Vagn Holmboe. Nørgård would become an influential teacher in his own right, and Hans Abrahamsen, one of his most talented pupils, was inspired by the minimalism which the older composer had drawn into his music. In his 10 Preludes, Abrahamsen gives to his pulse patterns a modal colour deriving from folk song, a musical resource with which the Danish String Quartet can readily identify.
“We may feel,” writes Paul Griffiths in the liner notes, “that the precision of nuance, the warm and intelligent closeness of voices and the command of form these musicians bring to Abrahamsen as to Nørgård comes from some common heritage or sympathy, and yet the same fine qualities shine through their performance of the Adès piece, Arcadiana. They even have very effective ideas of their own here, such as the expressive tremulation they bring to the ensemble glissando early in the middle movement.” Adès’s Arcadiana is a kaleidoscopic fantasy in which “metres are prone to slip and slide, chords to mutate in meaning, disintegrate or dissolve, all within a scintillant harmonic world that, though partly shared with traditional forces, is the composer’s own.” (ECM Records)

lunes, 22 de agosto de 2016

Daniel Röhn / Paul Rivinius THE KREISLER STORY

When talent is passed on from generation to generation, it often happens in an unpresuming way. Such is the case with Daniel Röhn – one of the most remarkable and talented violinists of the present day. What is so fascinating about him and his playing is his natural approach to great traditions and his clear perspective on them. Over a number of decades, both his grandfather and father were renowned concertmasters on the universally unique German orchestral scene; now the new generation has joined those ranks as a soloist and chamber musician, who will no doubt contribute significantly to the world of violin. His first two CD releases featuring Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and virtuoso 19th-century works for violin and piano earned him several international awards. When describing his playing, it is hardly sufficient to simply mention his seemingly effortless, brilliant virtuosity. Daniel Röhn’s heart-meltingly warm tone and his almost narrative gestures are what endear audiences to him – he has a way of expressing himself through music that we might almost have thought had been lost. (Berlin Classics)

sábado, 20 de agosto de 2016

Busch Trio DVORÁK Piano Trios Op. 65 & 90 "Dumky"

This young trio that takes its name from the legendary violinist Adolf Busch (1891-1952) has already made its name on the international scene as one of the most talented of the new generation, picking up on its travels enthusiastic reactions from public and press – as well as several prizes at the major competitions. ‘... what impressed most was the group’s effortless musicianship and unity of thought and attack. The threesome even seemed to be breathing in synch’, wrote The Times after one of their concerts at the Wigmore Hall.
Under the auspices of Alpha Classics and the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, the ensemble has set itself a challenge: to record the complete chamber music with piano of Antonín Dvořák. With the monumental Trios no.3 op.65 and no.4 op.90, these London based musicians get the saga off to a flying start, in deeply felt interpretations that penetrate to the heart of the great Czech composer’s poetic universe.


The majority of these performances will be very familiar to Heifetz collectors and so will the transfers. Discs one and two were remastered in 2006 whilst the bulk of the remaining pieces date to work carried out in 1992-93. The selection certainly meets with my approval ranging across the repertoire as it does and I particularly commend the selection of the smaller pieces which occupies discs five and six and the 1935 Bach recordings enshrined in disc four. The sole item from the 1920s is also here; the Menuet I and II from the Partita in E which was recorded on an early electric in 1925 in Camden, New Jersey.  
Heifetz had recorded the Sibelius with Stokowski at the end of 1934 but it remained unissued at the time and didn’t materialise until it was issued in the multi-volume set devoted to the ‘Philadelphia Orchestra Centennial Collection - Historic Broadcasts and Recordings 1917-1998.’ His first commercially issued recording was with Beecham and this justly famous traversal kicks off this set. I’d just note that its ethos is vividly at a remove from the performances of Anja Ignatius and Georg Kulenkampff to cite two near contemporaneous performances. The subtly sustained expressivity exemplified by Heifetz can be heard at full tilt here. For the Tchaikovsky and Glazunov Concertos he was partnered by Barbirolli, who had earlier recorded the Tchaikovsky with a very different Russian player, Mischa Elman. This represents probably Heifetz’s best playing in the Tchaikovsky – at thirty-six he was at his peak. The Glazunov is virile, taut, expressive, full of shading, very different from Milstein’s more aristocratic approach. On this evidence it’s a pity Barbirolli didn’t explore the Glazunov symphonies.
CD 1 - CD 2
CD 3 - CD 4
CD 5 - CD 6

lunes, 15 de agosto de 2016

Barenboim / Staatskapelle Berlin ELGAR Symphony No. 2

This is a superb, in fact I feel justified in calling it unequivocally a great, Elgar Two. It's difficult to know where to start in listing its excellences -- the playing of the Berlin Staatskapelle, without one ounce of unnecessary emotion yet performing as if they've had the music in their blood all their lives? The warmth and yet crystal clarity of the recording, in which every counterpoint, every subsidiary voice in Elgar's hugely complex score is perfectly audible and ideally balanced? But one must start and finish with Barenboim's interpretation, his first in this work for 40 years, with which he burnishes his already impressive and long-established credentials as an Elgarian . . . this is a marvellously full-blooded reading of the Symphony, full of drama and passion and rich-hued colour . . . [Barenboim] also understands perfectly Elgar's inwardness, the moment where the dynamic drops to "ppp" and he seems almost to lose himself in the hush of his own thought. Barenboim certainly makes the most of the haunted quality of the first movement's development section. The celebrated oboe counter-melody in the "Larghetto" has seldom sounded so plangent, while Barenboim's "scherzo" is demonic in its remorseless forward drive, preparing for a complex and exciting finale in which those slashing off-beat chords at the return of the theme have all the necessary impulsiveness and confidence. This must be one of the finest performances currently on offer, and a wonderful follow-up to Barenboim's Elgar Cello Concerto with Alisa Weilerstein, winner of this year's BBC Music Magazine Recording of the Year.

András Schiff ROBERT SCHUMANN Geistervariationen

“Pianist András Schiff has made a specialty of the music of Schumann for years, and his readings continue to get richer and more incisive. What's remarkable about Schiff's playing is his mastery of touch and texture, the way he carves out sculptures in sound that are at once delicate and sharply defined. Just as in his performances of Bach on the modern piano, Schiff gives Schumann's music a crystalline textural clarity that still allows for a range of highly expressive moods and tonal colours.” - Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle 

András Schiff, one of the great pianists of our era, traces the development of Schumann’s piano music, from the youthful “Papillons”, to the C Major Fantasy op. 17 – in which the composer sought new routes for the sonata after Beethoven – , and onwards to the final (and seldom-performed) “Geistervariationen”, the “Ghost variations”. By this time, Schumann’s genius was in thrall to escalating illness, and he believed the variations to the original theme were dictated to him by angels.
Work on the “Thema mit Variationen” was disrupted by a suicide attempt on February 27, 1854; the following day, however, Schumann finished it, his last completed piano work.
Amongst the other highlights in the programme here are the thirteen “Kinderszenen”, the pieces which helped establish Schumann’s reputation as a composer of unique insights. In the liner notes Wolf-Dieter Seiffert writes that with this “first significant work in the history of music to put the child at centre stage, the composer set off a genuine spring tide of romanticised children’s music. The pieces only seem to be easy to play: they demand strongly differentiated nuances of attack.” The spirit of high romanticism is extended in the “Waldszenen” (“Forest scenes”) op. 82, which “draws us into the highly intense emotions of the traveller in the woods, for in addition to their sounds of idyll and longing, the secret darkness of the forest and of the soul makes its effect in every piece.” (ECM Records)

sábado, 13 de agosto de 2016

Rolf Lislevand DIMINUITO

This recording is all about the Italian renaissance, how it understood itself, how we understand it today and how we would have understood it if we had been contemporary with it, because no other period in European music’s history was as contemporary with itself as was the renaissance. During the 16th century, humanistic inspiration had led to the most equilibristic levels in all arts and had stretched the human mind to the highest achievements and skills flourishing in a landscape of youth, spring and rebirth of all of mother earth’s beings.
Diminutions, divisions, or glosas were one of the renaissance’s unique inventions. Technically it means embellishing a melody into a much more flavored and elaborated melody in faster movement and shorter rhythmical values, presuming that the simple melody still remains in the listener’s mind. This supreme discipline of ornamentation became a new work of art in itself.
The original composition on the other hand was reduced to a humble servant of this invention – an object of abuse for an instrumental protagonist without further empathies neither consideration of its origin.
It is like the game of drawing lines through numbered points on the last page of newspapers: creating shapes and figures making lines from a number to another. Melodies are like these shapes and contours of a drawing, and each numbered point is the plucked sound, drawing lines from one attacked sound to another one, believing that a figure eventually occurs in our imagination!
The art of diminution almost completely denaturalized the plucked instruments in the same way it has done to the electric plucked instruments in our own days. The distorted sound of an electric guitar made it a bowed string instrument and changed all its musical logic. The diminutions allowed the plucked string instrument to regain some of the qualities of the human voice, the phrasing, coloring and dynamics. By means of fast and small melodic figures which make bridges and reinforce the shape of the simple melody, the lute suddenly appears as protagonist, soloist and conductor, wowing a patchwork of colors, shadows and lights and in a unique way adding value to the simple and beloved, but all to well known melody. (ECM Records)

viernes, 12 de agosto de 2016

Danish National Symphony Orchestra / Danish National Vocal Ensemble / Danish National Choir / Thomas Dausgaard PER NORGARD Symphonies 3 and 7

Per Norgard is a major force among Danish composers, and no wonder. His music has exuberance, brilliance, and the freedom from inhibition or routine that we expect of a true symphonist in this post-Mahlerian age. His Third Symphony, in two big movements, features in its finale a chorus that among other things sings the Latin hymn Ave maris stella as well as a poem by Rilke. The words are completely unintelligible, what with all the other stuff going on at the same time, but it hardly matters because the music is stunningly colorful, atmospheric (cosmic even), and often very beautiful. There are tunes here, triadic harmonies, as well as wild dissonance, but it's all controlled so as to create an impressively intense pattern of tension and release, and to keep the ear engaged. You won't take in all of it the first time through, but you will want to come back for more, which is the first indication that we're dealing with a serious contender for "classic" status.
The SeventhSymphony, which just had its premiere a few months ago, is a bit tougher in its harmonic acerbity, but it's also easy to hear the same creative voice at work. In three short movements, it features prominent solos for 14 tuned tom-toms, and this highlights the driving force of rhythm that plays a major role here. The piece is over before you know it, and leaves you wanting more.
The performances under Thomas Dausgaard, recorded in the composer's presence, are presumably authoritative and sound just splendid. The orchestral playing has plenty of the necessary bravura, and in the Third Symphony the singers are very well integrated within the complex instrumental textures. If you're looking for some really good contemporary music, challenging but rewarding, full of personality and integrity, then this powerfully engineered production offers a perfect opportunity to satisfy your craving. (David Hurwitz / Classics Today)

jueves, 11 de agosto de 2016

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra / John Storgårds PER NORGARD Symphonies 2 & 6

‘As if God the Father had thrown down pieces of a mosaic from the floor of heaven and asked me to work out the pattern.’ Not Per Nørgård’s words, of course, but those of his 1950s confidant Jean Sibelius in relation to his own Fifth Symphony. Nørgård’s Fifth was premiered in 1990 in a concert that included Sibelius’s; both are post-crisis, breakthrough scores and both represent a maturing of that concept of symphonic ‘flow’ that is so important to the two composers - the idea that once you get the symphonic river moving, the material will emerge readily enough.
Nørgård lets the listener decide how many movements the Fifth has but the material clearly springs from its opening gesture, as tectonic plates judder into a new position, allowing ideas to pour forth. The ensuing process is tight and controlled, even if the impression is of music that is entirely out of the composer’s control in its impulse and liquidity. Nørgård often uses ostinatos, chaconnes or even single-note anchors to pin the discourse down, but they never curtail its freewheeling spirit. Even when textures are at their most fragmentary, the thread remains; the river keeps flowing. The detail in the writing - articulation bestowed upon single instruments in the tiniest of gestures - is beguiling.
So are these performances. Listening across the orchestra is vital in this music, just as in Sibelius. The Oslo Philharmonic sound settled at the foundations while suggesting spontaneity on the surface. Storgårds offers a touch more nimbleness and translucence than Sakari Oramo, who started this Dacapo cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic. The brass and percussion offer extreme restraint and delicacy. The Oslo string sound is tight but can be wholly embracing too.
Never more so than when it appears to wrap the rest of the ensemble in a fog in the Fourth Symphony’s chilling second movement. In this piece we sense the disintegration of the tonal principles that were prominent in the earlier works towards something that, in Nørgård’s hands, is harmonically even more beautiful - the music getting more complex while getting less complicated. In that, the Fourth looks forward to the Fifth; in its slipping into grooves - the truest of them both unsettled and unsettling - it points towards the Sixth and Seventh. The symphony’s game of opposites is expertly realised by Storgårds, as when the dark second movement ‘Chinese Witch Lake’ glances in the direction of the light first movement ‘Indian Rose Garden’ in a fleeting gesture at the symphony’s close.
On a second disc, we have the chance to hear where those two pieces came from and what they led to. Nørgård’s Second Symphony is that most rooted in the ‘infinity series’, the integer sequence discovered by the composer in the 1960s that controlled a number of his works of the period. As Frank Lehman suggests in a lucid explanation of Nørgård’s exact algorithm on his Unsung Symphonies blog, the result is music that is ‘locally unstable but globally secure’.
For ‘globally secure’ read exceptionally well-formed: a spinning out of the first 4096 notes of the infinity series across a single movement span where bells herald each of the 16 phases and every fourth phase is capped by an exquisite brass ‘screen’. To begin, a delicate unison slides gradually into a semitone, and then the symphony is off on its way - cumulatively beautiful, structurally tangible and deliciously pure. The Oslo Philharmonic’s ability to collectively recede as if into a minimalist canvas, parts emerging thereafter with brightness and intent without distorting the contours, makes this performance. In music that’s deceptively tricky to pace, Storgårds delivers - again.
The Sixth Symphony is less cosmic and more rooted, but the river is still flowing: through rapids in the first movement into dark volcanic rock in the low-brass passacaglia of the Lentissimo and eventually towards the serene waterfalls of the finale. There’s intense joy in the music’s foibles; the slow movement’s wah-wah trumpet almost sees it sidle into that nightclub dance that comes to fruition in the Seventh Symphony. After the spasmodic Fifth, the Sixth feels like a work of new beginnings, despite a title that playfully suggests the opposite; you best hear what annotator Jens Cornelius describes as a ‘humorous game with the infinite’ in the symphony’s pregnant ending.
In this piece, Storgårds paints a more even, subtler picture than Thomas Dausgaard with the DNSO. In the Fifth, Storgårds offers more colour and character than Leif Segsterstam with those same Danish forces while also avoiding his fellow Finn’s histrionics. The rootedness Storgårds finds in the Second and Fourth Symphonies also puts him in pole position after Segerstam’s pioneering recordings; there is a Brendel-like eloquence and inevitability here.
It was about time we had new recordings of these symphonies, works that are absolutely worthy of reappraisal by new generations even in their relative youth. These are magnificent performances, presented with comprehensive booklet-notes by Cornelius and an introduction by Storgårds himself. That I fully expect new recordings to take their place in 30 years or less is a testament to the music’s relevance and strength.  (Andrew Mellor / Gramophone)

martes, 9 de agosto de 2016

Barenboim / Staatskapelle Berlin ELGAR Symphony No. 1

It is almost two years since the release of Daniel Barenboim’s exceptional recording of Elgar’s Second Symphony with the Berlin Staatskapelle.
The finest version of the work to appear on disc in many years, it signalled Barenboim’s return to the music of a composer he had conducted and recorded extensively more than 30 years earlier, but which he was now revisiting with an orchestra possessing its own very distinct tradition and soundworld.
Now, we have the First Symphony, recorded at concerts in the Berlin Philharmonie last September. If it’s not quite as overwhelmingly impressive as his account of the Second, it’s still a remarkable achievement. In its voicings and especially in its gradations of string tone, the performance seems to fix Elgar’s orchestral writing even more firmly into the context of post-Wagnerian romanticism than before; the veiled sound for the opening motto theme immediately evokes memories of Parsifal, while the slow movements sometimes acquire a Brucknerian spaciousness.
At 51 minutes, Barenboim’s recording isn’t as slow as several others – John Barbirolli, Colin Davis and Giuseppe Sinopoli all take significantly longer – but is still a thing of extremes. The first movement is allowed to unfold at its own pace, lasting almost 20 minutes, but that is followed by a lightning-quick scherzo, with Barenboim putting enormous faith in the fabulous articulation of the Staatskapelle strings. The finale, too, is immensely purposeful, and only the closing minutes of the symphony disappoint. The crowning return of the motto theme in the finale doesn’t quite sweep everything before it, as it can in some interpretations. There’s no unambiguously optimistic resolution, no real sense of what Elgar called “a great charity and a massive hope in the future”. For Barenboim, it seems, there has to be a compromise. (

lunes, 8 de agosto de 2016


This album contains nearly 3 hours of music and includes all Pavarotti's opera hits - including Nessun Dorma, used as the 1990 World Cup theme tune and the track that made him a household name as well as all his famous popular songs: O sole mio, Caruso, Santa Lucia, Volare and many more.
In a thrilling first, the album also contains the first official release of the first known recording of his voice, the aria Che gelida manina recorded on his Italian professional debut in 1961.
Other highlights include great duet collaborations with superstar friends Frank Sinatra, Bono, Eric Clapton and Sting plus fellow tenors Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras in the live Three Tenors version of Nessun Dorma.
For the first time all material is fully remastered at 24bit for the best sound ever.
Pavarotti The 50 Greatest Tracks - truly the definitive collection of the music of a great man and true legend.

sábado, 6 de agosto de 2016

Tetzlaff Quartett MENDELSSOHN Quartet Op. 13 BERG Lyric Suite

The Tetzlaff Quartet is unusual in consisting of four busy soloists who get together only intermittently. The upside is that what they do has the tension and imagination of four big personalities, and that certainly pays off here.
Their combined sound is highly refined and honed, resulting in a tautness of approach that gives Mendelssohn’s A minor Quartet real potency and drive. Even in the most driven passages, textures always have a sparkling clarity. Just dip into the first movement (beginning at 2'30"), where viola player Hanna Weinmeister takes over the melody with eloquence. The Elias are more refulgent in tone, generally more open-hearted in the touching Adagio non lento, but the Tetzlaff’s greater austerity is also very moving. And their finale is particularly searing, bringing out the contrast between the melodramatic tremolos and the leader’s impassioned recitatives, the light-as-air passages of the upper three players and the pungent pizzicatos of the cellist. The Elias are equally zesty but with a wilder edge here, as if chaos is a hair’s breadth away. Both, in their different ways, are riveting.
The Berg makes a compelling if unusual coupling and the Tetzlaff reveal its extraordinary beauties. They are alive to every nuance, every emotional change of this highly charged music, yet never lose sight of the music’s architecture. Just sample the way they move from an otherworldly quiet to the most impassioned playing (tr 6, from 2'37") with a sense of inevitability and they convey the mournful desperation of the finale more potently than the Cecilia Quartet. I’d rate this new reading of the Lyric Suite alongside that treasurable performance of the Tetzlaff/Uchida/Boulez Chamber Concerto (Decca, 12/08). (Harriet Smith / Gramophone)

martes, 2 de agosto de 2016

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Ed Spanjaard / Christianne Stotijn MICHEL VAN DER AA Spaces of Blank - Mask - Imprint

The three works on this first CD by Disquiet Media, composer, film-maker and director Michel van der Aa’s own multimedia label, together constitute a stylistic cross-section of a genre that, with its refined musical expression of conceptual first principles, has quickly gained ground both nationally and internationally. They demonstrate the scope of a vision of ‘music about music’, in which as an object of study the human being, musician or not, is just as important as musical ideas. When Van der Aa says he is not a composer of notes, he means he is not only concerned with the creative dialogue with forms and musical languages but also with the theatrical aspects of music-making, perceived with the detachment of the principled outsider who constantly asks himself what and how he sees and hears.
His attention is directed primarily to the physical and social facets of music-making: producing sound, the musician as a recreative individual, relationships between musicians, ensemble structure and the interpretative ritual per se, which in his case consistently assumes theatrical forms because human beings form the active centre point. No less essential are the aural and visual perceptions of the listener, with whom the composer plays a peculiarly serious cat-and-mouse game. Van der Aa imperceptibly transforms acoustic sounds into electronic ones, or manipulates them beyond recognition by electronic means, thus creating a sound universe that arouses a permanent state of wonder: what am I hearing, what is meant by this?
As in One, the opera After Life and The Book of Disquiet centre on characters that, thrown upon themselves, are faced with the question who they are and how they relate to their world. It is probably clear by now that only a blurred distinction exists between Van der Aa’s concert and theatre music. The solitary soprano in Here [in circles] and Here [to be found] struggles on the concert podium with the same issues as the protagonist in One: whither, wherefore? Despite their thematic material, the same holds true for the three works on this CD. Imprint, for Baroque orchestra, is seemingly the most musicianly, the ensemble piece Mask as an essay about the relationship between form and sound the most conceptual, and the song cycle Space of Blank the most dramatic, but the common denominators stand out. They deal with the lone wolf and his relationship – or absence of it – to his biotope. (Bas van Putten)

lunes, 1 de agosto de 2016

Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg / Emmanuel Krivine VINCENT D'INDY Poème des rivages - Istar - Diptyque méditerranéen

Vincent d’Indy is another late-19th/early-20th-century composer who is all but forgotten. A Franck and Wagner disciple, he reacted obstinately against “modern” contemporaries, even Ravel, although he admired the Debussy of L’après-midi and the Nocturnes.
The widowed D’Indy fell ardently in love, which was reciprocated, with a student 36 years his junior and the straitlaced Roman Catholic musician suddenly acknowledged the underlying sensuality of his nature. He was already working on the Poème des rivages but the music’s pantheistic feeling blossomed when he and his young bride went to live at Agay on the Mediterranean. The rich orchestral colours of these four seascapes develop an expressive radiance in his luminous scoring. It is not another La mer, for the third-movment Scherzo wittily evokes a country train journey. But the final scene, “Le mystère de l’océan”, depicts the sea’s unpredictability and violence. The Diptyque méditerranéen followed, a mellow view of two landscapes seen from his home. But the impressionism is less potent than in the sea evocations. 
Istar tells of the Assyrian godess who (like Orpheus and Eurydice in reverse) seeks to retrieve her lover from the realm of the dead. She must pass through six doors, at each removing a garment, until, naked, she reaches her destination. The work is a set of variations using a simple three-note motif as a basis and Krivine makes the most of its sensuous feeling. All three performances are of a high order: the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra are at home in these scores and their conductor finds moments of genuine rapture. (Ivan March / Gramophone)

Patricia Kopatchinskaja / MusicAeterna / Teodor Currentzis TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto STRAVINSKY Les Noces

Testament to the versatility and musical command that Teodor Currentzis and his unique orchestra and choir possess, this new album brings together two diverse masterworks from two titans of Russian music. Although they have been acquainted for a long time prior, this recording represents the first musical collaboration between Teodor Currentzis and the exceptional violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. The instant artistic rapport (an “artistic wedding” of sorts) between these two maverick musicians can be heard in this dynamic new recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin concerto – one of the most popular works in the violin repertory. Currentzis’ authentic approach to the folk influences in Stravinsky’s music (as revealed in Le Sacre du Printemps) is again very present in his interpretation of Les Noces. This work for percussion, pianists, chorus, and vocal soloists – originally composed as ballet music – is probably one of Stravinsky’s most rarely recorded works. The work is based on a Russian peasant wedding, which the cover artwork references. Exceptional to this new recording is that the MusicAeterna choir members are all native-Russian speakers who bring another level of understanding and authenticity to the work. After her prominent participation in the “Rameau – The Sound of Light” recording, Nadine Koutcher – freshly crowned “2015 Cardiff Singer of the Year” – returns to sing the leading soprano solo part in Les Noces.