miércoles, 28 de septiembre de 2016

Andreas Staier / Freiburger Barockorchester JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH Harpsichord Concertos

J.S. Bach wrote, or rewrote, seven solo harpsichord concertos. Most of them began life as showpieces for other instruments – violin, oboe d’amore – and occasionally their potted history makes for an awkward conversation between harpsichord and the rest of the band. Not here. Andreas Staier’s grit, flair and expressive freedom, plus Freiburger Barockorchester’s athletic ensemble playing, makes these performances bounce and swing.
Staier embraces the chunky chordal textures gained over the single-line originals and gives them a thick, meaty attack that is great fun: try the last movement of BWV 1058 – better known as the A-minor violin concerto – to see what I mean. His harpsichord is a 10-year-old Parisian instrument modelled on a Hass of 1734, almost exactly the date of the concertos themselves. The sound is brawny and dark-hewn, with melodies that sing every bit as much as a bowed or blown instrument. (Kate Molleson / The Guardian)

Nowadays, J.S. Bach's seven harpsichord concertos are most often performed on a grand piano with modern orchestral accompaniment, largely for the sake of striking a proper balance of dynamics and instrumentation. In light of this preference, it has become a little difficult to find historically informed versions that sound close to what Bach would have heard. These period style performances by Andreas Staier and the Freiburger Barockorchester provide a welcome alternative to the standard modern releases, and listeners with a taste for authenticity can be assured that Staier's scholarship and interpretations are impeccable. Staier plays a replica of a 1734 harpsichord, and the small ensemble of recorders, strings, and continuo is appropriately scaled to the music's textures and the balance of soloist and orchestra. Harmonia Mundi's recording is elaborate, involving spot and omnidirectional microphones that capture the players with remarkable subtlety and presence, so all the nuances and details of these exciting performances can be heard clearly without sacrificing the full-bodied sound.

martes, 27 de septiembre de 2016

ORA REFUGE FROM THE FLAMES

Following the stunning success of their best-selling debut, Suzi Digby’s crack vocal ensemble ORA presents their new album: ‘Refuge from the Flames’. Dedicated to the legacy of Girolamo Savonarola, 15th century Dominican and religious reformer, this new CD further showcases ORA's commitment to bringing together Renaissance choral masterpieces and commissioned reflections from contemporary composers. ORA bring a wealth of experience that gilds these pieces, both new and old, into the lustrous works of art they truly are.
“We begin and end this second ORA album with two contrasting settings of the Miserere mei (Psalm 50, Vulgate). Over the centuries this text has inspired reflections by many Christian writers, none more influential than those by Girolamo Savonarola, and we have devoted much of this album to his extraordinary legacy. Central to the recording is Savonarola’s meditation on the psalm, 'Infelix Ego', written shortly before his execution. We present it here in William Byrd’s justly famous setting, and in a newly commissioned masterpiece by the Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds.” (Suzi Digby OBE, artistic director & conductor)

Christiane Karg / Malcom Martineau SCHUMANN & BRAHMS

Bavarian soprano Christiane Karg made her Wigmore Hall debut in 2012 with a beautiful song recital which also became her first release on Wigmore Hall Live; four years on we are excited to present her second release. A regular guest at the world’s leading opera houses, singing roles from Musetta (La bohème) to Amor (Orfeo ed Euridice), she is also revered for her enchanting performances on the concert platform alongside conductors such as Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Christiane is joined by Malcolm Martineau celebrated as one of his generations greatest accompanists.
This recital explores the unique relationship between the Schumanns and Brahms. After Robert’s death Brahms’s passion for Clara grew but it was reciprocated only with a protective motherly care. They remained close friends but Brahms never truly recovered. This programme presents love in many different guises from the stirring ‘Widmung’, to the heartfelt ‘Liebst du um Schönheit’ and the love-drunk passion of ‘Meine Liebe ist grün’. (Wigmore Hall)

lunes, 26 de septiembre de 2016

Andreas Staier / Daniel Sepec / Roel Dieltiens FRANZ SCHUBERT Piano Trios Op. 99 & 100

"One glance at Schubert's trio, and the miserable hustle and bustle of human existence vanishes, the world takes on fresh lustre", wrote Robert Schumann in 1836 of Schubert's Piano Trio D898. He was equally admiring of the Viennese composer's other great trio, D929, notably its funeral march-like Andante con moto, later to achieve cinematic fame in Kubrick's 'Barry Lyndon'.
Here three peerless interpreters bring out every nuance of these endlessly fascinating works on their 'period instruments', including a splendid copy of an 1827 Viennese fortepiano.

domingo, 25 de septiembre de 2016

Le Concert de la Loge / Julien Chauvin / Sandrine Piau HAYDN La Reine

It was in 2015 that Julien Chauvin decided to bring back to life one of the most famous orchestras of the late 18th century, Le Concert de la Loge Olympique. Founded in 1783 and owing its lasting famous for having commissioned Joseph Haydn’s ‘Paris’ Symphonies, it gave its first concerts under the high patronage of Marie-Antoinette, hence the subtitle of the fourth ‘Paris’ Symphony: ‘La Reine’. 
Although the name has been slightly changed today, now called Le Concert de la Loge, this ensemble of a variable number of musicians perpetuates the same tradition of excellence as its illustrious namesake. On the programme, of course, the recording of the cycle of these ‘Paris’ Symphonies and, to get the series off to a start, the recording of this famous ‘Reine‘. Taking up the purest tradition of concerts of the ensemble at the time, for each programme, Julien Chauvin combines not only instrumental works by various composers but also vocal pieces (in general, opera arias). 
Thus the fabulous Sandrine Piau, a distinguished guest of this first recording, ideally portrays the gentle Sélène in the world premiere recording of an aria from Giuseppe Sarti’s Didone abbandonata (1762) and offers dazzling virtuosity in Diane’s spectacular aria from Johann Christian Bach’s serenade Endimione. The listener will also (re)discover a little gem by Henri-Joseph Rigel, violist in Le Concert de la Loge Olympique: the Symphony Op. 12 no.4 (1774). With this first release, Julien Chauvin already proves that his orchestra will quickly establish itself and regain its past glory. 
A stunningly beautiful disc, enhanced by the famous recording quality of the Aparté label and accompanied by a richly informed booklet. We’re already asking for more!

Fuyuko Nakamura MY FAVORITES

Fuyuko Nakamura graduated from Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin High School. She attended Ayaha Piano Performance Study and Piano Art Academy Attached to Showa Music University. In 2011, she earned full scholarship at Showa Music University Piano Course, where she studied for four years, graduating at the top of her class with Special Award, performing at the 85th annual Debutant Concert.
Currently, she is studying with Mi-Joo Lee at Berlin Art University.
She has studied with Fumiko Eguchi, Seiko Ohtomo, Tomoko Tami, and Kie Nara. She has taken master class by Seigei Drensky , John O’corner , Anri Valda, Andrzej Jasinski, Piotr Paleczny,Jacques Rouvier,Alexander Kobrin, and Paul Badura-Skoda.
She attended at New York Keyboard Festival and Kawai Russian Piano School, and performed at Belgium Musica Mundi Music Festival, Russia Kreml Music Festival, and Soeul Music Festival. She has performed with Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Taiwan National Orchestra, Polish Kakau Orchestra and Silesia Philharmonic Orchestra as well as A. SKokocic, for which she has been highly acclaimed.

Olivier Cavé / Divertissement / Rinaldo Alessandrini MOZART Piano Concertos K. 415, 175, 503

Having studied under Nelson Goerner, Maria Tipo and Aldo Ciccolini, Olivier Cavé gave his first concert with the Camerata Lysy under the direction of Yehudi Menuhin in September of 1991. He performed as a soloist in recitals and with orchestra throughout Europe.
His career took a turn in September 2008 upon the release of a first recording for Aeon, which features sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. Critics across Europe praised the Swiss pianist with Neapolitan roots for having returned to the source. Dedicated to Muzio Clementi, Cavé’s second recording is even more striking than his first. Released in the autumn of 2010, the CD was given a 5 Diapason rating, 4 Stars from Classica and the highest award from the Japanese magazine Geijutsu Records. This success also led to invitations to perform at prestigious locations throughout the world, such as the Teatro Olimpico in Rome, the Tonhalle in Zurich, and the Phillips Collection in Washington.
His tour along the American eastern seaboard, during which he presented a program entitled “Il Pianoforte Italiano” and gave master classes at Duke and West Virginia Universities, was a success and preceded his debut with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in February 2012 under the direction of Rinaldo Alessandrini, where the pianist was praised as a “model of refinement behind the keyboard”. The performances drew wide attention from both public and press.
In August 2012, Olivier Cavé made a remarkable debut at La Roque d’Anthéron International Piano Festival in France. He released his third disc with Aeon in May 2013, dedicated the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and entitled, ‘Concerti, Capriccio e Aria - Nel gusto italiano,’ a program which the pianist interpreted this year at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice. Cavé made a second appearance at La Roque d’Anthéron International Piano Festival this summer where he was hailed as “a revelation of the 33rd edition”, after which he debuted with the Menuhin Festival Gstaad in August.

sábado, 24 de septiembre de 2016

MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra / Kristjan Järvi STEVE REICH Duet

A new double album, honouring the 80th Birthday of the minimal music pioneer. Includes 2 world premiere recordings. Steve Reich, one of the most influential composers of our time and key founder of the minimalist school of music, is celebrating his 80th birthday on 3 October 2016. The album is not only a celebration of his birthday but also a result of a 3-year-project that started with Reich's residency as "composer in residence" at the MDR Radio Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra-choirs versions of "Daniel" and "You Are Variations" are therefore world premiere recordings. "Duet" was dedicated to and written for Sir Yehudi Menuhin for his 80th birthday. "Clapping Music" is performed on this album by Steve Reich himself and Kristjan Järvi. CD 1 includes Live performances at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig / CD 2 includes studio recordings. (Presto Classical)

Lucas Debargue BACH - BEETHOVEN - MEDTNER

In 2015 the French pianist Lucas Debargue became the most talked-about artist of the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition. 
Despite being placed 4th, his muscular and intellectual playing, combined with an intensely poetic and lyrical gift for phrasing, earned him the coveted Moscow Music Critics’ Award as ”the pianist whose incredible gift, artistic vision and creative freedom have impressed the critics as well as the audience”. He was the only musician across all disciplines to do so. Soon after the competition Debargue was signed by Sony Classical, and recorded a live recital for his debut release with music by Ravel, Liszt, Chopin and Scarlatti in his native city of Paris.
Debargue was born in 1990 in a non-musical family. In 1999 he settled in Compiègne, about 90km north of Paris and began his initial piano studies at the local music school at the age of 11. 
At 15 Debargue ceased piano studies having found no musical mentor to help him share his passion with others and having become frustrated at playing solely for himself. He began to work, successfully for his Baccalaureate at a local college and joined a rock band. At 17 he relocated to the capital to study for a degree in Arts and Literature at Paris Diderot University and, remarkably, ceased playing the piano altogether for three years. 
In 2010 he was asked to play at the Fête de la Musique festival in Compiègne, and this marked his return to the keyboard. Shortly after he was put in touch with his current mentor and guide, the celebrated Russian professor Rena Shereshevskaya, who is based at both the Rueil-Malmaison Conservatory and the École Normale de Musique de Paris ‘Alfred Cortot’. Seeing in Debargue a future as a great interpreter, Professor Shereshevskaya admitted him into her class at the Cortot School to prepare him for grand international competitions. It was at the age of 20 when Debargue started formal piano training. 
Only four years later he entered the Tchaikovsky Competition in 2015, and the world instantly took note of a startling and original new talent. “There hasn’t been a foreign pianist who has caused such a stir since Glenn Gould’s arrival in Moscow, or Van Cliburn’s victory at the Tchaikovsky Competition,” said The Huffington Post. 
A performer of fierce integrity and dazzling communicative power, Debargue draws inspiration for his playing from many disciplines, including literature, painting, cinema and jazz. The core piano repertoire is central to his career, but he is also keen to present works by lesser-known composers such as Nikolai Medtner, Samuel Maykapar and Nikolai Roslavets.

viernes, 23 de septiembre de 2016

Amandine Beyer / Giuliano Carmignola / Gli Incogniti ANTONIO VIVALDI Concerti per Due Violini

Playing and recording Vivaldi’s concertos for two violins, I came to realise how much deeper my love for this repertory and this composer becomes with each new experience. 
Beyond the notes and the formal stereotype, Vivaldi seems to me to be a composer endowed with humanity and a profound sense of the harmony of beings with nature. Whether he is composing for orchestra, for voice, for different solo instruments or, as here, for two violins, he always takes care to bring out the beauty of colours (of both timbres and harmonies), the wealth of combinations, and the versatility of the instruments which he puts through infinite transformations. 
Here, in the interplay between the two violins and their partners in the orchestra, we witness all kinds of metamorphoses, and it’s a pleasure that I find hard to explain in words. The pleasure of dialoguing with Giuliano Carmignola, the enchanter who can give each note a diamantine reflection and each rhythm an infinite, joyous suppleness; the pleasure of turning into a bird into a bird that plays with others in its flock or sings in echo, of melting into a river like a drop of water tossed by the raging current, of feeling like a blade of grass in the breeze, like a splinter of glass illuminating a fleeting moment, a stone tumbling down a steep slope after its predecessor or a particle of the cascade that shoots forth like the ‘wasserfall’ in Rimbaud’s poem.1 Vivaldi has a gift for letting flowers say their name. And for letting us hear them. (Amandine Beyer)

Alisa Weilerstein / Pablo Heras-Casado / Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks SHOSTAKOVICH Cello Concertos 1 & 2

Alisa Weilerstein signed an exclusive contract with Decca Classics in 2011. Her first recording under the agreement, a coupling of the concertos by Elgar and Elliott Carter, with Barenboim conducting the Berlin Staatskapelle, was released in January 2013. At the 2014 BBC Music Magazine Awards it scooped the Recording of the Year Award as well as the Concerto Award. The New York Times acclaimed “the soloist’s superb control keenly matched by the conductor’s insightful support”. In April 2014 Decca issued her new recording of the Dvořák Cello Concerto, with Jiří Bělohlávek conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Huffington Post reviewed it is “…as if Dvořák were sending her the still-wet-inked score, straight from his head to her heart and hands”, and the Daily Telegraph described it as “spine-tingling” and “irresistible”.
Alisa is very excited to announce the upcoming release of Shostakovich: Cello Concertos 1 & 2, coming from Decca Classics on September 23. Alisa worked on both cornerstones of the cello repertory with the legendary cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, for whom both concertos were written, and who was a great friend of the composer. Here, she performs the intense but emotionally suppressed first concerto, in contrast with the sarcasm and isolation of the second, with conductor Pablo Heras-Casado and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

martes, 20 de septiembre de 2016

Vox Clamantis ARVO PÄRT The Deer's Cry

The second ECM New Series album to fully showcase pure-toned Estonian vocal group Vox Clamantis and its artistic director/conductor Jaan-Eik Tulve is devoted to compositions by their great countryman, Arvo Pärt – whose music has been the most performed globally of any living composer over the past five years. This album – titled The Deer’s Cry after its first track, an incantatory work for a cappella mixed choir – is also the latest in an illustrious line of ECM New Series releases to feature Pärt’s compositions, the very music that inspired Manfred Eicher to establish the New Series imprint in 1984. Along with such classic works as Da pacem Domine the new album includes first-time recordings of the a cappella pieces Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima and Habitare Fratres. There is also an a cappella version of Alleluia-Tropus, which Vox Clamantis previously recorded alongside instruments for the acclaimed New Series album Adam’s Lament. Rarely recorded material makes up nearly half of this new release, including three pieces with instrumental accompaniment: Von Angesicht zu Angesicht, Sei gelobt, du Baum and Veni Creator. (ECM Records)

lunes, 19 de septiembre de 2016

The Hilliard Ensemble GESUALDO Quinto Libro di Madrigali

An aristocrat who forged an idiosyncratic style of musical expression, Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, was one of those composers in music history who can truly be described as being ahead of his time. Gesualdo was a highly expressive composer and a virtuoso performer on the bass lute. Yet his chromatic progressions baffled his contemporaries and had to wait until the 19th-century era to find resonance in artistic parallels. Among his most important compositions are six books of five-part madrigals dating from between 1594 and 1611. The last two books in particular – this recording by the Hilliard Ensemble brings new performances of Book 5 – displays his dissonant musical language with its extreme harmonic disruptions, striking tempo contrasts and a distinctly modern feel for drama. The Hilliard Ensemble’s expressive singing, here also featuring soprano Monika Mauch and countertenor David Gould, conjures up that sound described by the great music historian Hans Redlich as growing out of “the antithesis between extravagant/debauched eroticism and self-castigating longing for death”. (ECM Records)

Gidon Kremer GIYA KANCHELI Lament

ECM offers some of Giya Kancheli’s most compelling music in Lament (Music of Mourning in Memory of Luigi Nono). This 1994 outpouring for violin, soprano, and orchestra is a requiem, a postlude, a concerto, and homage. It is also more than these, spreading its heavy wings wide across an ever-changing landscape. Kancheli revisits the words of Hans Sahl, whose verses appeared upon the same lips in EXIL, this time through his poem “Stanzas.”
I go slowly hence from the world
Into a domain beyond all distance,
Gidon Kremer’s violin seems to arise from a shadow within a shadow. Soon joined by flute, which acts like a hooded guide through the wilderness, Kremer flirts with his surroundings. The orchestra responds provocatively to these agitations, only to blend back into the woodwork from which its sounds are born. As strings wander toward the horizon, every bowed step seems only to bring them closer to me, as if I were but a projection of a faraway self.
And what I was and am and shall remain
Goes with me hasteless and forbearing
Into a country ’til yet untrod
The wind continues its gentle flight, weaving through orchestral punctuations like a suture through flesh. These satoric bursts never last. Their clarity is brief, their catharsis even briefer. Kremer brings a raw, rustic tone, and with it a certain terrestrial quality to this otherwise stratospheric music. Unfamiliar skies and the mud-stained roads beneath them temper any possible thrill of discovery. And yet, the closer I walk to death, the brighter my surroundings seem to become.
I go slowly hence from time
Into a future beyond the stars,
Kremer’s lilting highs mesh beautifully with Maacha Deubner’s own as both pull the orchestra to a high summit. I leap without hesitation, floating ever so gently back to solid ground. Deubner seems to sing from somewhere not of this world. Her voice becomes a memory, something heard when I let down my mental guard. Kremer gets an equally magical sound from his instrument, leading the orchestra with utter determination.
And what I was and am and ever shall remain
Goes with me hasteless and forbearing,
Deubner sets aloft a high-pitched violin before oboe and orchestra spin their own guiding light out of ether. Familiar material works its way into my mental window: a rare comfort in these tattered vestiges, far enough removed from Kancheli’s motivic staples while also weeping in their shadows. I can only sit on the edge of music like this, never knowing whether to lie back or lean forward. And so I am resigned to the margin, left to wander
As though I’d not, or scarcely, ever been.
(ECM Reviews)

sábado, 17 de septiembre de 2016

Pretty Yende A JOURNEY

What’s not to love about Pretty Yende? Her voice is delightful, her personality sparkles, and her story is inspiring.
Just 31, Yende has gone from life in a South African township to stardom on the world’s opera stages. Now her first album, titled “A Journey,” documents her impressive lyric abilities, her lustrous tone and especially her mastery of coloratura. Runs and trills are tossed off with seeming ease, and she can soar to a high E natural without sounding strained.
The seven selections, mostly bel canto arias by Rossini, Donizetti or Bellini, reflect stages of her story, triumphs in vocal competitions or important debuts. She sounds lovely, with one reservation: There’s a slightly generic quality to her singing, a lack of interpretive depth beyond mastery of the notes.
In keeping with her personal narrative, she includes the “Flower Duet” from Delibes’ ”Lakme,” with mezzo Kate Aldrich as partner. It’s by now part of Pretty Yende lore that her interest in opera was sparked by hearing the tune in a British Airways TV commercial when she was 16.
The most interesting choice in the album is the “Poison Aria” from Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette,” which requires a heavier lyric voice than bel canto. Yende does a good job of capturing Juliette’s fearfulness and determination, and her voice is surprisingly robust in the climaxes.
Marco Armiliato conducts the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI. (

Anja Lechner / Kadri Voorand TONU KORVITS Mirror


Mirror is the first ECM New Series album from Estonian composer Tõnu Kõrvitz (born 1969), who emphasizes his links to his homeland’s music at several levels. The album begins with a fantasy on a song by Veljo Tormis. Like the older composer,   Kõrvitz has been influenced by folk song and archaic musical tradition, which find their echo in the refined and texturally-rich spectrum of his own, labyrinthine pieces.  His music is well served here by the Tallin Chamber Orchestra and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber under  Tõnu Kaljuste’s assured direction and by soloist Anja Lechner.  Lechner’s cello is foregrounded in Peegeldused Tasaset Maast (2013),  Laul (2012, rev. 2013) and the album’s largest piece Seitsme  Linnu Seitse Und (2009, rev. 2012), a collaboration with the poet Maarja Kangro, which is both choral suite and cello concerto. In these “seven dreams of seven birds” the choir sings in Estonian and English and the cello conjures both birdsong and swooping flight.  Tasase Maa (“Song of the Plainland”), a fresh arrangement of a Tormis melody has Kadri Voorand as vocal soloist, supported by strings and by Tõnu Kõrvitz on kannel, the Estonian psaltery. (ECM Records)

Sophie Pacini BEETHOVEN - LISZT Solo Piano

Sophie Pacini is a protégée of Martha Argerich and it shows…There’s a similar air of in-the-moment rhapsodising and no fear of giving the performance a boot up the backside.” - Gramophone 

Born in Munich in 1991, Pacini began her studies at the age of ten as a pupil of Karl-Heinz Kämmerling at the Salzburg Mozarteum, where she was accepted two years later by the newly founded Institute for Highly Gifted Students. From 2007 she continued her studies in master classes given by Pavel Gililov, completing her diploma in 2011 with honours. In 2010 she became acquainted with Martha Argerich, who invited her the following year to give a recital as part of the Martha Argerich Project in Lugano, and who has since become an important figure in the young pianist’s career.
“Our first project combines works by Beethoven and Liszt, two composers who have influenced me a great deal musically. They embody what has fascinated and captivated me about the piano from the beginning: the ability to transpose an entire orchestra onto the keyboard and trace the complexity of a score in fine detail, as well as the idea of the instrument as a powerhouse of musical evolution." – Sophie Pacini

viernes, 16 de septiembre de 2016

JÓHANN JÓHANNSSON Orphée

Orphée traces a path from darkness into light, inspired by the various re-tellings of the ancient tale of the poet Orpheus, from Ovid’s to Jean Cocteau’s. A many-layered story about death, rebirth, change and the ephemeral nature of memory, the myth can also be read as a metaphor for artistic creation, dealing with the elusive nature of beauty and its relationship to the artist, as well as the idea that art is created through transgression – by the poet defying the gods who have forbidden him to turn back towards his beloved as he leaves the Underworld.
Orphée’s sonic palette is varied, combining acoustic instruments both solo and in ensemble with electronics and the mesmeric sounds of shortwave radio “numbers stations”. It draws on many facets of his previous albums, incorporating music for solo cello, organ, string quartet, string orchestra and unaccompanied voices.
Orphée shows the full range of the Icelandic composer’s remarkable invention and uncanny feeling for atmosphere. The music of the entire album is tied together structurally by recurring harmonic and melodic elements, yet each track sounds fresh, evocative and unique. Orphée reconciles ambitious orchestral and vocal writing with influences ranging from the Baroque to minimalism and electronic music. Also influenced by film composers Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone and Michael Nyman (all prolific writers, like Jóhann himself, of concert music as well as film scores), Jóhannsson is a contemporary exponent of a tradition that was shaped by composers such as Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Walton or Korngold.
Orphée is for me about changes: about moving to a new city, leaving behind an old life in Copenhagen and building a new one in Berlin – about the death of old relationships and the birth of new ones,” explains Jóhann. “Perhaps this is one of the reasons I was drawn to the Orpheus myth, which is fundamentally about change, mutability, death, rebirth, the elusive nature of beauty and its sometimes thorny relation to the artist. This album, my first solo record for six years, is an oblique reflection on personal change.”
Orphée is a haunting and atmospheric musical journey, crowned by the sublime Orphic Hymn – a setting of Ovid’s text performed by Paul Hillier’s Theatre of Voices. The album is a reflection on change, memory, beauty and art, and ultimately celebrates the latter’s power of renewal, while acknowledging the dark paths along which it can lead the artist. “Making Orphée has been a true labour of love, one that has been a part of my life for six years, and yet the music always remained fresh – it was constantly in a state of flux and renewal,” its composer concludes. (Deutsche Grammophon)

martes, 13 de septiembre de 2016

Maria João Pires / Sinfonia Varsovia / Christopher Warren-Green CHOPIN Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 21 - Nocturnes

This grande dame of the piano world, possessed of an extraordinarily modest, charming personality – focused on the music, devoted to deeply understanding it – has performed three times during the Chopin and His Europe Festival at the invitation of The Fryderyk Chopin Institute. The recordings on this album come from her concerts in 2010 (when she performed the Piano Concerto in F minor op. 21 with the Sinfonia Varsovia orchestra under the baton of Christopher Warren-Green) and 2014 (when she performed a recital including, among other items, the Nocturnes presented here).
A presentation of – by nature – completely different interpretations, which nonetheless form an extraordinarily coherent artistic whole. Superb creations displaying the most beautiful side of pianistic art. (Presto Classical)

lunes, 12 de septiembre de 2016

Matthias Goerne / BBC Symphony Orchestra / Josep Pons BERIO Sinfonia MAHLER / BERIO 10 Frühe Lieder

"Since it was first performed in 1969, Luciano Berio's Sinfonia has become a classic, certainly the most widely known of all his works and arguably the most successful concert piece by a composer of his generation." The Guardian

This release is dedicated to the pioneer of Italian modernism Luciano Berio. His 5-movement 'Sinfonia', is undoubtedly his most well-known work, written for the New York Philharmonic and dedicated to Leonard Bernstein. It has become one of the key works and principle musical manifestations of the 1960s bringing together collage technique and modernism.
A few years later, Berio went on to orchestrate a number of songs on texts from 'Des Knaben Wunderhorn', which Mahler had scored for piano and voice, as if they had been written at the time of the later 'Kindertotenlieder'. A symphonic backcloth tailor-made for the great baritone voice of Matthias Goerne [whose 'Knaben Wunderhorn' songs are already available on DVD, with Andris Nelsons, from Lucerne]. His warm, dark voice allows him to capture the sombre and tragic atmosphere of this music like no one else. (Presto Classical)

domingo, 11 de septiembre de 2016

Mahan Esfahani BACH Goldberg Variations

”Count Kayserling, formerly Russian Ambassador at the Court of the Elector of Saxony, who frequently resided in Leipzig…once said t Bach that he should like to have some clavier pieces for his [court harpsichordist] Goldberg, which should be of such a soft and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights. Bach thought he could best fulfil this wish by variations, which, on account of the constant sameness of the fundamental harmony, he had hitherto considered as an ungrateful task. But as at this time all his works were models of art, these variations also became such under his hand…Bach was, perhaps, never so well rewarded for any work as for this: the Count made him a present of a golden goblet, filled with a hundred Louis d’or. But their worth as a work of art would not have been paid if the present had been a thousand times as great.”
So wrote Sebastian Bach’s first biographer J.N. Forkel in his brief account of the master’s life (1802). Whether a story with such fantastic overtones (the hundred gold coins, an insomniac Count) is true is, however, irrelevant when compared to the very legendary quality of this music itself. Even when compared to the whole of Bach’s considerable and varied output, the ‘Goldberg’ Variations stand out as an example of their creator’s total compositional originality. In conceiving such a work, Bach had no discernible models as regards the Goldbergs’ larger-scale architectonics or the exploitation of innovations in keyboard technique and figuration. Desirous as every listener and melamine is of surrendering oneself to the sheer aural beauty of this music – after all, Bach’s own title page specifically states his work to be ”prepared for the soul’s delight” (Gemueths-Ergetzung) – any listener of Bach’s music has a responsibility to familiarise himself with the constructs and aims that drove Bach to commit this music to posterity. We must not forget that while Bach was no academic, he was certainly a thinking man. He confronted his spiritual and intellectual questions, stated his vision of the universe, and perhaps even grappled with the joys and disappointments of his life through the medium of the written note.
The Goldberg Variations are amongst the mere handful of works written in any time or place that truly require a sort of road-map for the listener. Unlike, say, Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Handel (op. 31), the successive movements of Bach’s work are not considered solely in terms of ”musical-emotional cause and effect” (e.g., textural variety for its own sake, meant to inspire solely visceral responses). Rather, our Bach constructed these variations on a pre-conceived plan: most obviously, the thirty variations are made up of ten groups of three, in which a movement of what the scholar Peter Williams has called a ”clear-genre piece” (a dance, a fugue, an overture, an arioso, et al.) is followed by a virtuoso piece featuring the crossing of the hands and then by a canon. In turn, each successive canon is composed with reference to successively rising intervals: Therefore, variation 3 is a canon at the unison, whereas variation 6 is at the second, and so on and so forth until variation 27, a canon at the ninth. As I will further argue below, Bach’s plan may even have a narrative intent, which is perhaps why variation 30 breaks the cycle of canons. Aesthetically speaking, some of the variations seem even to be used as dramatic foils to one another – hence, the bittersweet cantilena of variation 13 is answered with the schizophrenic exuberance of variation 14, and the question posed by the inconclusive ending of variation 15 is followed by a stately overture in variation 16.
To say a brief word or two on matters of keyboard technique in Bach’s work, it may the case – in spite of the usual tones of orthodox Bach scholarship! – that Bach did not always work in a total inspirational vacuum. Interestingly, only three years before Bach engraved and printed his variations, 1738 saw the publication of a set of pieces famous for introducing the world to hand-crossings and devilish keyboard acrobatics: Domenico Scarlatti’s Essercizi. There are further interesting parallels – for one, Scarlatti’s volume also contains thirty movements. Who is to say that Bach would not have known of these pieces? After all, he knew many a publication of music from the libraries of his erudite friends and kinsmen, and even a subscription list for the Paris printing of quartets by Telemann lists a ”M[onsieur] Bach, de Leipsic.”
After considering but a few structural aspects of Bach’s work, we may ask one final question. What drove Bach to compose such a work? Even if the story of the insomniac Count is true, such legends can never really explain a composer’s compulsion to actually say something as an artist and creator. Personally, I venture to guess that the answer may be found in Bach’s own life. What was happening around and perhaps a few years before 1741?
Bach’s letters from the late 1730s show a man who felt persecuted and misunderstood and who also suffered a great deal of personal pain. In a series of letters from 1738, we see that Bach’s troubled son Johann Gottfried Bernhard had skipped town from an important position as an organist in Muehlhausen due to having accrued considerable debts. For almost two years, J.S. Bach lost track of his son, who eventually died, away from home, in Jena (of what? and how?) at the age of 24. He wrote in one letter, desperate in trying to find his son: ”I must bear my cross in patience, and leave my unruly son to God’s patience alone….” Equally significant, I think, is a letter from the Leipzig Town Council, dated 17 March 1739, pointing out to Bach that the performance of the St. John Passion is to be cancelled because of not having been officially approved by the Council. Bach’s understated and obviously hurt reply cannot but inspire sadness in even the most hard-hearted reader: ”he [Bach] answered:…he did not care, for he got nothing out of it anyway, and it was only a burden.”
The effect of these and other tribulations was considerable – recent scholarship on the Bach cantatas shows that by the late 1730s the composer stopped regularly writing new cantatas and mostly resigned himself to performances of works by other composers. Rather, in his last decade, he turned inward and wrote his finest music in genres that had mostly gone out of fashion or were musically and intellectually far above the heads of his contemporaries: the Goldberg Variations (1741), the Musical Offering (1747), and the Art of Fugue (1749-1750). No one noticed – the Art of Fugue, for example, didn’t even sell enough copies to pay for the copper plates used to engrave them – and he didn’t care. As far as Bach was concerned, to paraphrase a remark made by Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s unforgettable ‘A Man for All Seasons,’ his audience was himself and God – ”a pretty good public, that.”
The thirtieth variation – the ”Quodlibet” – may have something to do with this. According to various eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writers, the quodlibet was a genre defined by the simultaneous singing of various popular tunes. According to Bach’s sons, Bach family members would meet and sing quodlibets and ”laugh heartily” (Forkel). Being variation 30, however, this piece should instead be a canon according to the pattern set out in the rest of the work. But Bach decides to conclude on a different note altogether, with the combination of these tunes:
(a) Ich bin so lang nicht bei dir gewest
”I have been so long away from you”
(b) Kraut und Rüben haben mich vertrieben
”Cabbage and beets have driven me away”
Perhaps these songs are allusion to jokes within the family. Or, in considering Bach’s own life, could the first song in particular allude to something deeper? Again, back to Bach and where he was in life in the early 1740s: by this point, several of his children were dead, as were his first wife, his parents (who both had died by the time he was ten years of age), and his brothers; he lived in a town in which a group of faceless councillors desultorily insulted or ignored his work, and in most of Germany the name ”Bach” generally referred to one of his sons. He probably still felt the stung of his being hired as the Cantor of the Thomaskirche in 1723, when a councillor wrote that ”since a first or second-rate candidate cannot be procured, we must settle for a mediocre one.”
So what is the quodlibet about, then? In nine canons, we have climbed the steps to perfection (9 = 3×3, 3 being the ”perfect” number of the Trinity), and what is our reward in Heaven? We get to see our family. Maybe Bach remembered a song from his childhood, or a joke told by his brothers, or imagined – as adults – his children who died in infancy. And the repetition of the aria at the end? Briefly allowed to see his family in Paradise, our Bach wakes up. It was all a dream after all. In this variation, I am forever reminded of an unforgettable song from the great Johnny Cash:
“Daddy sang bass (Mama sang tenor)
Me and little brother would join right in there
Singin’ seems to help a troubled soul
One of these days and it won’t be long
I’ll rejoin them in a song
I’m gonna join the family circle at the throne….”
Academically, there is no proof of this narrative intent, but in my mind, Bach’s music itself leaves no doubt of something deeper. We can explain his music with all the charts and tables and numbers we want, but that only explains how. If we are going to listen to Bach, play his music, and love him, then we have to answer this: why.
(Mahan Esfahani)

Kim Kashkashian / Dennis Russell Davies GIYA KANCHELI Vom Winde beweint ALFRED SCHNITTKE Konzert für Viola und Orchester

This powerful record brings together two of the most seminal works for viola and orchestra of the twentieth century. Although these pieces are as different as they are similar, together they form a distinct balance of sentiment and execution.
Giya Kancheli: Vom Winde beweint (Mourned by the Wind)
Kancheli’s self-styled “liturgy” is an exercise in patience and surrender. Its opening slam of piano chords is a big bang in and of itself, and sets the stage for the soloist’s epic journey. Wilfred Mellers, in his liner notes, posits the viola’s emergence from such chaos as the “birth of consciousness.” And indeed, one can extrapolate from its startling abruptness the inklings of a life yet lived, fresh and devoid of self-awareness in the greater void of silence. The orchestra skirts the periphery, gradually uniting with the soloist. This contrast mimics the arbitrary stability of human values—at once sacred and mutable—so that moments of resolution always tread a downward slope. Luminous winds, a cosmic harpsichord, and trails of harmonics characterize the first movement. Brief horn blasts introduce the second, throughout which the viola wanders without fortitude into a minefield of piano and timpani, singing without carrying a tune. The harpsichord again works its galactic magic, feeding stardust into the viola’s arterial core. A passage of intense and sustained volume leads into an epic swan song. The third movement is brought forth on the strings of the harpsichord, the viola a mere flit of wings in the surrounding air. An oboe threads the hesitation like the beginning of an incomplete statement. The fourth movement is a violent implosion and balances out the first with its selfish gaze. As with seemingly every Kancheli composition, it ends as quietly as an evening breeze. One hears the rustling of leaves in the distance, only to find that it was a trick of the ears all along. Vom Winde beweint is rich with sharp dynamic peaks that are short-lived and sporadic, the hallmarks of an ode to process over progress.
Alfred Schnittke: Konzert für Viola und Orchester
For this monumental work, Schnittke has chosen to invert the standard concerto form, sandwiching an Allegro Molto between two Largos. The piece opens with a viola solo held aloft by shimmering orchestral waves. Every melodic line is like the root of an ever-growing tree of voices. In the second movement, the viola skips across a landscape of consonances and dissonances at the behest of a passively insistent harpsichord. Schnittke maintains the fascinating sense of rhythm and energy that distinguishes his faster turns, scratching at the surface of a larger unfathomable world. Harpsichord, flute, and viola congregate in a Mozartean danse macabre at the movement’s center. The strangely wooden pizzicato toward the end haunts as the piano jumps impatiently on its lower notes. The last movement gives the viola a demanding solo, which is eventually overtaken by horns and winds. A deep pause marks a change in intent. The harpsichord once again comes to the fore, the final cameo of a strong orchestral cast, before bowing to a beautifully dissonant double stop from the viola.
Schnittke would suffer a stroke just ten days after completing the score for his concerto.* Said the composer: “Like a premonition of what was to come, the music took on the character of a restless chase through life (in the second movement) and that of a slow and sad overview of life on the threshold of death (in the third movement).” Such narrative approaches to one’s own work speak of a pragmatic mind that seeks order in the flow of a creative life. Yet rather than a premonition, I experience the concerto as an affirmation of what one already knows. If Kancheli’s is an unanswered question, Schnittke’s is an unquestioned answer.
This is a profoundly emotional album, by turns confrontational and mournfully resplendent. Kashkashian brings her usual heartrending strength to even the subtlest gestures and is never afraid to betray the fragility of her pitch. The orchestras, under the direction of Dennis Russell Davies, are forces to be reckoned with that scintillate in a slightly distanced mix. A benchmark recording in all respects. (Tyran Grillo)

Ophélie Gaillard / Edna Stern CHOPIN

This is a very satisfying album, pairing two highly attuned artists. Ophélie Gaillard is a beautiful cellist. She plays with a lovely, somewhat tangy tone that is expressively produced in every register. She, like Edna Stern, is a somewhat reticent player. Gaillard never tries to bowl you over with high volume, unlike Yo Yo Ma. One hears in her tone and phrasing, perhaps, the influence of Casals. Gaillard plays a 1737 Goffriller cello, here with an 1840 bow. There is no reference to the type of strings used. I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Edna Stern’s solo Chopin recital on Naïve. After studying the modern piano with Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman, and Leon Fleisher, Stern in 2003 began work on the fortepiano under the guidance of Patrick Cohen. The 1843 Pleyel piano she plays on this CD features leather covered hammers; one rarely is aware of its being a percussive instrument. The Pleyel was Chopin’s favorite piano. In it one hears on this album Chopin’s preference for subtlety and singing phrasing. It is an instrument with warmth and decorum.
From the beginning of the Cello Sonata, you are particularly aware of the special balance between the instruments. This piano cannot overpower the cello. Rather, the two instruments speak with equal voices. Chopin appropriately premiered the sonata at a private concert for a few friends, including Delacroix. The cellist on that occasion also played part of it for the composer two days before his death. One of the features of the first movement in Gaillard and Stern’s hands is the exquisitely blended soft playing. In structure, the movement has elements of a fantasy. The cello seems to depict the part of a wanderer in a romantic dramatic scene. For Chopin, the cello here performs almost as an instrumental surrogate for the human voice.
The remaining three movements of the sonata are shorter altogether than the whole first movement is. The A section of the Scherzo sounds like a Schumannesque folk dance, sort of a character piece. The B section here is played lushly and passionately, truly con brio . In the Largo, Gaillard and Stern trade the melody between them with great sensitivity, creating an intimate dialogue. In the finale, both players avoid the temptation to become overindulgent in phrasing or dynamics. Their performance here has a pleasing sobriety, rendering the movement of a piece with the rest of the sonata. I think that, as sound, this recording is an ideal representation of how the sonata would come across on these instruments in a modest-sized room. If you must have the power of a modern piano, I am very fond of the recording by Ofra Harnoy and Cyprien Katsaris, but I suspect I will be returning more often to Gaillard and Stern.
The other original work for cello and piano on this album, the Introduction and Polonaise brillante , receives a reading that is both elegant and spirited. The virtuosity of the two players sounds so easy as to be taken for granted. Edna Stern also performs the two nocturnes of op. 37. In No. 1, the A section is pensive, while the B section has a gravitas that the drone-like bass of the Pleyel enhances. No. 2 features soft, luminous playing; the voicing of the chords has warmth. Gaillard and Stern also have arranged four solo piano pieces for cello and piano. The two preludes are not completely successful transcriptions. Although the cello here is well showcased, the restriction of the piano part to the harmony alone seems uncharacteristic of the composer. The transcriptions of the op. 72 Nocturne and the Waltz No. 11 succeed beautifully, as the two instrumentalists play off the melody between them. This performance of the waltz invites a reference to Schumann’s critical judgment that it is “a waltz more for the soul than for the body.” If you like transcriptions of this sort, I strongly recommend Ruggiero Ricci’s CD of Chopin nocturnes transcribed for violin and piano.
The recorded sound, from IRCAM in Paris, is natural, and the instruments are placed in a realistic relationship to each other. This CD is my first opportunity to hear Chopin’s chamber music on period instruments. It has enriched my view of the composer, making him seem altogether more companionable and a little less formidable. One tends to think of Schubert as being lovable, but not Chopin. This album redresses that balance. (Dave Saemann)

sábado, 10 de septiembre de 2016

Alice Sara Ott WONDERLAND

On her new album Alice Sara Ott takes us into the world of mountain trolls and elves, hills and fjords through a selection of Grieg’s works – his Lyric Pieces, as well as through selected piano versions of pieces from the Peer Gynt Suites, and one of the most famous works of piano literature: Grieg’s piano concerto in A minor, for which she teams up with one of the top orchestras, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, under star conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen at a live recording. Alice has always been fascinated by the fantasy world Grieg has created and the fairy tale like characters that lend the title to Grieg’s musical miniatures: “This album represents my own very personal journey through Grieg’s ‘wonderland’. I should like to take this opportunity to invite you to leave behind your everyday lives for a moment and enter Edvard Grieg’s magical and imaginary world with me. Without our really noticing it, we are taken on a journey into a daydream, a ‘wonderland’ from which we return only reluctantly to our own everyday reality.” (Deutsche Grammophon)

GIYA KANCHELI Exil

Exil is dedicated to Manfred Eicher, the founder of the ECM label, to whom Kancheli paid such glowing tribute in his interview with SJ in last April's Gramophone. And this five-movement, 48-minute song-cycle is in many ways a true ECM piece – wholly contemporary in spirit, yet not excluding any listener with ears to hear and a soul to suffer. 
I suppose I should not be giving a puff for a recording company. Indeed some might counter by saying that music like Kancheli's, which increasingly wears its spirituality on its sleeve, is in danger of creating its own clique of New Age compassion-obsessed fellow-travellers. Certainly there is a danger that a concept such as that of Exil, so resonant in a world of multiple ethnic conflagrations, emotionally blackmails us into uncritical approval. But that would only be so if the music itself were deficient. All I can say is that I am immediately drawn in by the hovering, flute-timbred lines which make up the very discreet taped background to the first movement, a setting of Psalm 23. They are like melancholy calls over bleak mountains, and they return to punctuate and haunt the rest of the cycle. The very first chord which joins in, so familiar yet so elusive, has Kancheli's signature all over it. I love the way his microtonally divergent tape part can never quite be grasped by or reconciled to the 12 semitones (or more usually just plain diatonic triads) of the live instruments. I love the way the soprano and flutes shadow one another, diverge and coalesce. I love the uncanny balance Kancheli manages to strike between profound consolation and, as I hear it, even more profound inconsolability. Exemplary performances and recording make this a valuable addition to the discography of one of the precious voices in the music of our time. (Gramophone)

lunes, 5 de septiembre de 2016

Gustavo Dudamel / Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela MAHLER 5

Gustavo Dudamel's rise to fame has been rapid, and his exceptional abilities have been extolled by musicians and critics alike; figures as prominent as Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, and Claudio Abbado have praised his conducting, and he has been the subject of numerous glowing articles in the media, notably Time Magazine and The New York Times. So how does this youthful Venezuelan conductor fare in his 2006 recording of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor? Due to its phenomenal popularity, this piece has become an acid test for conductors everywhere, and recording it has practically become de rigueur, so Dudamel faces a great deal of competition from the myriad recordings on the market. Yet he makes his version with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela noticeable in three important ways. First, he freely shapes the music with an elastic sense of phrasing, using a great deal of rubato in the service of Mahler's wide mood swings, apparently in an attempt to stay true to the spirit of the music, if not necessarily its letter. Secondly, Dudamel's approach is quite dramatic and sweeping, and his prolongations of gestures for dramatic effect and distinctive scene-painting make the symphony feel cinematic, almost as if Mahler had composed it to accompany a film. Third, the orchestra shows high energy and volatility, signs that Dudamel has inspired it to a high level of enthusiasm and bravura playing. All this is good to an extent, as far as flexibility, theatricality, and excitement always work in performances of Mahler's Fifth. However, there are perhaps too many distinctively shaped moments, as if Dudamel has played with moods and effects too much, and not paid sufficient attention to ensemble cohesion, pacing, and significant details in the orchestration that must be drawn out. One may get the feeling that he tried too hard to make this performance stand out from all the rest, and in the process delivered a Fifth that doesn't really hold together through its internal logic, but depends far too much on the conductor's whims and personality. This CD may appeal to some uncritical Mahler fans, but since there are many better recordings, don't let it be the only one you hear. (

viernes, 2 de septiembre de 2016

Anna Netrebko / Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Antonio Pappano VERISMO

. . . ["Verismo"] reveals she is more than just a star; her performances of arias and scenes from Italian opera highlight an artistry that is both subtle and thrilling . . . Netrebko's rich lyric soprano is a natural match for the lush vocals demanded by these operas, not least because her voice is at its most powerful and complex in the transitional "passaggio" points at the top and bottom of the treble staff . . . [she] flaunts a fascinating low register in the very first cut on the album, "Io son l'umile ancella" . . . The hallmark of this collection is Netrebko's taking offbeat approaches to pieces opera fans have heard a hundred times before . . . Netrebko's originality of approach can color an entire aria . . . among the most striking performances on this disc are arias from operas associated with full dramatic sopranos. In "Suicidio!" from "La Gioconda", Netrebko evokes a mood of doom with lurching high phrases and plunges into her eerie lower range . . . in the showpiece from "Turandot" "In questa reggia," Netrebko works the many phrases pounding at the higher passaggio like an expert warrior wielding a sword. It's hard to imagine this killer aria sung more beautifully . . . [Eyvazov's] bright, almost metallic tenor provides as well an effective foil in the highlight of this disc, the final act of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" . . . [Manon]: her onstage experience is immediately apparent in the wealth of detail she brings to this 20-minute scene. Pain, desperation, terror, fatigue -- even momentary bliss when Manon nestles in the arms of her lover -- these conflicting emotions shimmer through Netrebko's voice so seamlessly that at moments it's easy to forget that you're just listening to a recording of an opera. On this CD, Anna Netrebko makes verismo seem realer than life itself. (Record Review / James Jorden, New York Observer / 30. August 2016)

jueves, 1 de septiembre de 2016

Arianna Savall / Petter Udland Johansen HIRUNDO MARIS

Arianna Savall’s leader debut for the New Series follows her distinguished contributions to Rolf Lislevand’s “Nuove Musiche” and to Helena Tulve’s “Lijnen”, – sensuous early music on the one hand, bracingly contemporary composition on the other. In both genres she has proven to be a charismatic singer. Now comes “Hirundo Maris” which, with its very fresh instrumental textures, follows another trajectory.
Savall and band co-leader Petter Udland Johansen describe their project as a journey linking the Mediterranean and the North Sea. Hirundo Maris is Latin for “sea swallow” and, like that bird’s flight, the quintet – part early music ensemble, part folk group – drifts on musical currents between Norway and Catalonia, adds its own songs, created on the wing, and swoops down to dive beneath the surface of things. Near the centre of the sound are Arianna’s sparkling harps and the drones of Johansen’s Hardanger fiddle; when the colours of the mandolin and more unexpectedly the Dobro (not often heard outside bluegrass contexts) are added, a message is sent about the universality of song as well as of the transatlantic travels of old ballads…  
Savall and Johansen have shaped a band with a bright, glistening timbral blend, capped by Arianna’s ice-clear voice, eminently well-equipped to address songs of the north and the south. It is a voice already familiar to many who have followed the outstanding work of her parents, Catalan viol master Jordi Savall and singer Montserrat Figueras: until 2008 Arianna played and sang as a member of her father’s ensembles, including Hespèrion XXI. Since then, she has been devoting much of her time to the Hirundo Maris project.
Of their “Chants du Sud et du Nord” Arianna and Petter Udland Johansen write: “From remote times, north and south have been linked by waterways navigated by the Vikings of Norway. Catalans and the Sephardic Jews have also shared this love of the sea, which through a common melancholy at some deep level connects peoples seemingly poles apart. 
We discover subtle bridges of song, where a Catalan song and a Norwegian tune are linked by common rhythms and modes, or a Norwegian ballad and a Sephardic song share the same key... The origin of this project is the emblematic Catalan song ‘El Mariner’, which is very popular in the coastal regions of Catalonia and recounts the story of the love between a Mediterranean maiden and a knight from northern lands. This typical European sea shanty in the form of a dialogue is also sung to a very similar tune on the coast of Scotland. Could these intangible bridges have been forged by the numerous voyages of Vikings, Catalans, Scots and Sephardic Jews?” “Hirundo Maris” sets off in search of the answer.
“Hirundo Maris: Chants du Sud et du Nord” was recorded in January 2011 in the Austrian monastery of St Gerold, with Manfred Eicher producing. Arianna has dedicated the recording to the memory of her mother, Montserrat Figueras. (ECM Records)