Christian Tetzlaff

Christian Tetzlaff
Christian Tetzlaff. Photo by Giorgia Bertazzi

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 29, “Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir” – Maria Keohane, Damien Guillon, Valerio Contaldo, Lionel Meunier, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven (HD 1080p)














Under Jos van Veldhoven's baton, the Netherlands Bach Society, the oldest ensemble for Baroque music in the Netherlands, and possibly in the world, and the soloists Maria Keohane (soprano), Damien Guillon (alto), Valerio Contaldo (tenor) and Lionel Meunier (bass) perform the church cantata of Johann Sebastian Bach "Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir", BWV 29. Recorded for the project All of Bach, at the St Martin's Church, Groningen, Netherlands, on March 15, 2014.



BWV 29 ("We thank thee, O God, we thank thee") is one of a number of cantatas J.S. Bach composed for the ceremonies attending the installation of new members of the Leipzig city council (other examples are cantatas Nos. 119 and 120). An important part of these ceremonies, which traditionally took place at the end of August, was the church service held at St Nicholas'.

The present work was composed for the event in 1731, the service taking place on August 27 that year. In keeping with the festive and ceremonial pomp of the occasion, Bach's cantata is lavishly scored for an orchestra including three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, strings, and continuo bass, and vocal forces including the usual four-part chorus, and soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists. An unknown librettist provided the text glorifying the power of God and extolling him to protect "town and palaces".

This cantata opens with a sinfonia in the form of a remarkable arrangement of the Prelude from the Violin Partita in E major, BWV 1006. The violin part is given to obbligato organ, the material largely imitated in the orchestral parts to produce a concerto-like structure. Many listeners will recognize the fugal opening chorus, since it is a reworking of what would eventually become the "Gratias agimus tibi" and "Dona nobis pacem" sections of the monumental Mass in B minor, BWV 232. The text is drawn from Psalm 75:1. Three arias interspersed by recitatives follow. The first aria, for tenor, has a violin obbligato, and Bach returns to its A section, a setting of the words "Hallelujah, strength and might", for the alto aria that forms the penultimate number. In between comes a soprano aria in gentle siciliano rhythm with an obbligato part for oboe. The final number is a four-part setting of the fifth stanza of Johann Gramann's hymn "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" (1549), the trumpets and drums adding their magnificence and splendor to this jubilant work.

Source: Brian Robins (allmusic.com)



Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

♪ Cantata BWV 29, "Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir" (1731, Leipzig)


i. Sinfonia [00:06]*
ii. Chorus: Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir [04:00]
iii. Aria (tenor): Hallelja, Stärk und Macht [07:06]
iv. Recitativo (bass): Gottlob! es geht uns wohl! [13:17]
v. Aria (soprano): Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe [14:32]
vi. Recitativo (alto, chorus): Vergiß es ferner nicht [20:25]
vii. Aria (alto): Hallelja, Stärk und Macht [20:53]
viii. Chorale: Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren [22:42]

Maria Keohane, soprano
Damien Guillon, alto
Valerio Contaldo, tenor
Lionel Meunier, bass

Leo van Doeselaar, organ

Netherlands Bach Society
Conductor: Jos van Veldhoven

Film directors: Lucas van Woerkum, Joost Honselaar

St Martin's Church, Groningen, Netherlands, March 15, 2014

(HD 1080p)

* Start time of each movement















Around a quarter of cantata BWV 29 consists of notes Bach had written earlier. The festive sinfonia comes from a wedding cantata presumed to have been written in 1729. The organ "tune", nowadays better known as the "Nokia tune", is much older. Bach composed this melody in Köthen in 1720, as a piece for solo violin.

The opening chorus "Wir danken dir, Gott" is also better known in another guise, namely as the "Gratias" and the "Dona nobis pacem" from the Mass in B minor. The version in this cantata is older, and because the melody does not really seem to be designed for the words of psalm 75, it is thought there was an even earlier version with different text. However, the old-style setting does make a perfect match for the message of the psalm text. More and more people lend their support, and the gratitude swells. At the end, three trumpets and drums join in with four choir voices, creating a seven-voice whole – the number of fullness.

There is a big contrast between the "Wir danken dir, Gott" in old style and the baroque, concertante opening piece. Yet Bach creates a strong unity with the parts he added. Around the soprano aria "Gedenk an uns in deiner Liebe" in the middle of the cantata, he put two recitatives and two arias. The arias have the same text, "Halleluja, Stärk und Macht", and the second one for alto is a sort of concentrated version of the first one for tenor. The cantata then ends with a solemn chorale setting that – partly through the trumpets and drums – links up again with the "Wir danken dir, Gott". 

Source: bachvereniging.nl


Jos van Veldhoven














Maria Keohane














Damien Guillon














Valerio Contaldo














Lionel Meunier














Leo van Doeselaar







































More photos


See also


Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 78, “Jesu, der du meine Seele” – Maria Keohane, Tim Mead, Daniel Johannsen, Matthew Brook, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven (HD 1080p)

Johann Sebastian Bach: St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 – Benjamin Hulett, Griet De Geyter, Lore Binon, Tim Mead, Alex Potter, Thomas Hobbs, Charles Daniels, Andreas Wolf, Sebastian Noack – Kampen Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major – Christian Tetzlaff, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi (HD 1080p)














German violinist Christian Tetzlaff performs Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, Op.61, with the NHK Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi. The concert was recorded at NHK Hall, Tokyo, Japan, on May 12, 2018.



Beethoven wrote his Violin Concerto in D major, Op.61 (1806), at the height of his so-called "second" period, one of the most fecund phases of his creativity. In the few years leading up to the Violin Concerto, Beethoven had produced such masterpieces as the Symphony No.3, Op.55 (1803), the Piano Concerto No.4, Op.58 (1805-1806), and two of his most important piano sonatas, No.21 in C major, Op.53 ("Waldstein", 1803-1804), and No.23 in F minor, Op.57 ("Appassionata", 1804-1805). The Violin Concerto represents a continuation – indeed, one of the crowning achievements – of Beethoven's exploration of the concerto, a form he would essay only once more, in the Piano Concerto No.5 (1809).


By the time of the Violin Concerto, Beethoven had employed the violin in concertante roles in a more limited context. Around the time of the first two symphonies, he produced two romances for violin and orchestra; a few years later, he used the violin as a member of the solo trio in the Triple Concerto (1803-1804). These works, despite their musical effectiveness, must still be regarded as studies and workings-out in relation to the Violin Concerto, which more clearly demonstrates Beethoven's mastery in marshalling the distinctive formal and dramatic forces of the concerto form.

Characteristic of Beethoven's music, the dramatic and structural implications of the concerto emerge at the outset, in a series of quiet timpani strokes that led some early detractors to dismiss the work as the "Kettledrum Concerto". Striking as it is, this fleeting, throbbing motive is more than just an attention-getter; indeed, it provides the very basis for the melodic and rhythmic material that is to follow. At over 25 minutes in length, the first movement is notable as one of the most extended in any of Beethoven's works, including the symphonies. Its breadth arises from Beethoven's adoption of the Classical ritornello form – here manifested in the extended tutti that precedes the entrance of the violin – and from the composer's expansive treatment of the melodic material throughout. The second movement takes a place among the most serene music Beethoven ever produced. Free from the dramatic unrest of the first movement, the second is marked by a tranquil, organic lyricism. Toward the end, an abrupt orchestral outburst leads into a cadenza, which in turn takes the work directly into the final movement. The genial Rondo, marked by a folk-like robustness and dancelike energy, makes some of the work's more virtuosic demands on the soloist.

At the prompting of Muzio Clementi 
 one of the greatest piano virtuosi of the day aside from Beethoven himself  Beethoven later made a surprisingly effective transcription of the Violin Concerto as the unnumbered Piano Concerto in D major, Op.61a, famously adding to the first movement an extended cadenza that employs tympani in addition to the piano.

Source: Michael Rodman (allmusic.com)




Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

♪ 
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.61 (1806)

i. Allegro ma non troppo
ii. Larghetto
iii. Rondo. Allegro


Encore:

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

♪ Violin Partita No.3 in E major, BWV 1006 (1720): iii. Gavotte en Rondeau


Christian Tetzlaff, violin

NHK Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Paavo Järvi

NHK Hall, Tokyo, Japan, May 12, 2018

(HD 1080p)















Christian Tetzlaff has been one of the most sought-after violinists and most exciting musicians on the classical music scene for many years. "The greatest performance of the work I’ve ever heard", wrote Tim Ashley (The Guardian, May 2015) of his interpretation of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra and conductor Daniel Harding.

Concerts with Christian Tetzlaff often turn into an existential experience for both the interpreter and the audience; suddenly old familiar works appear in a completely new light. In addition, he frequently turns his attention to forgotten masterpieces such as Joseph Joachim's Violin Concerto which he successfully championed, and he also attempts to bring important new works into the repertoire such as Jörg Widmann's Violin Concerto, which he premiered in 2013. He has an unusually extensive repertoire and performs approximately 100 concerts every year.

Born in Hamburg in 1966 and now living in Berlin with his family, there are three things that make this musician unique, aside from his astounding skill on the violin. He interprets the musical manuscript in a literal fashion, perceives music as a language, and views great works as narratives which reflect existential experiences. As obvious as it may sound, he brings an unusual approach in his daily concert routine.

Christian Tetzlaff tries to follow the manuscript as closely as possible – without regard for "performance tradition" and without indulging in the usual technical short-cuts on the violin – often allowing a renewed clarity and richness to arise in well-known works. As a violinist Tetzlaff tries to disappear from the music – paradoxically this makes his interpretations very personal.

Secondly, Christian Tetzlaff "speaks" through his violin. Like human speech, his playing comprises a wide range of expressive means and is not aimed solely at achieving harmoniousness or virtuosic brilliance.

Above all, however, he interprets the masterpieces of musical history as stories about first-hand experiences. The great composers have focused on intense feelings, great happiness and deep crises in their music; as a musician Christian Tetzlaff also explores the limits of feelings and musical expression. Many pieces deal with none other than life and death. Christian Tetzlaff's aim is to convey this to his audience.

Christian Tetzlaff played in various youth orchestras for many years. His teacher at the Lübeck University of Music was Uwe-Martin Haiberg, for whom musical interpretation was the key to mastering violin technique, rather than the other way round.

Christian Tetzlaff founded his own string quartet in 1994, and until now chamber music is still as important to him as his work as a soloist with and without the orchestra.

The Tetzlaff Quartett received the Diapason d'or in 2015, and the trio with sister Tanja Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt was nominated for a Grammy award. Christian Tetzlaff has also received numerous awards for his CD recordings, including the "Jahrespreis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik" in 2018, the "Diapason d'or" in July 2018 and the Midem Classical Award in 2017. The new  Ondine recording of Beethoven and Sibelius violin concertos with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Robin Ticciati is highly anticipated in autumn 2019.

Of special significance is his solo recording of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas, which he has recorded for the third time and was released in September 2017. The Strad magazine praised this recording as "an attentive and lively answer to the beauty of Bach's solos".

Christian Tetzlaff plays a violin made by the German violin maker Peter Greiner and teaches regularly at the Kronberg Academy.

Source: christian-tetzlaff.de































































More photos


See also


György Ligeti: Violin Concerto – Christian Tetzlaff, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, François-Xavier Roth (HD 1080p)

Christian Tetzlaff: “I think Sibelius did for his century what Beethoven did for his”


Monday, February 10, 2020

György Ligeti: Violin Concerto – Christian Tetzlaff, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, François-Xavier Roth (HD 1080p)














German violinist Christian Tetzlaff performs György Ligeti's Violin Concerto with the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln under the baton of the French conductor François-Xavier Roth. The concert was recorded at Cologne Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany, on October 3, 2017.



In the canon of great composer-portraits (Opmeer's Josquin, Delacroix's Chopin, Picasso's Stravinsky), there's a lesser-known but absolutely brilliant painting of György Ligeti by Aliute Meèys. In it Ligeti is falling apart, many times in many ways: there's actually about five impeccably illustrated Ligetis, all cardboard placard-peers clad in ruffled green suits, with gray hair and worried looks, each about to topple over or crack in half – and each barely being held in place by one another amidst rocky ruins. Meèys' portrait would just be a joke – "Ligeti split" – if it didn't look so much like Ligeti's music sounds: both have that same polyrhythmic track of hysteria and precision, humor and disaster, webbed into a kind of recognizable, exact chaos.

Ligeti's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra from 1992 is a relatively late work, but in many ways it's the brother of Meèys' portrait: its five movements have the same quality of falling apart into fantastic ruin, and each also gleams with the immaculate shimmer of carefully crafted illusions. Like the painting, this concerto is a desperate but tragic essay in keeping it together. At the compositional stage, Ligeti eventually conceived a walloping eight-movement scheme, but half in fragments. The final solution yielded a rhetorical stroke of genius: violinist Gawriloff collaged the scraps of the unwritten movements into a wild finale-cadenza; coming after waves of seriocomic catastrophes, it suggests a tramp scrambling from the mouth of banal death – old-style Paganinian virtuosity wearing musical hand-me-downs.

But this schizoid flavor also constitutes the sound of the concerto as well, which radiates layered skins like a sonic onion. The polymeters so characteristic of Ligeti's music from the 1980s onwards are brazenly present, especially in the concerto's first and final movements. Here the soloist is often lost in an illuminated mirrored hall, surrounded by musical doppelgangers moving at different speeds. Ligeti adds to the rhythmic and timbral layeredness an extraordinary mis-tuning of the ensemble; among other examples, a violin and viola must de-tune their strings to the natural harmonics of the double bass. The effect, amidst a harmony calculated to sound neither tonal nor atonal, manifests Ligeti's wish for a "glassy shimmering character" emanating "fragility and danger".

The second movement is another of Ligeti's mock-folk pieces, thirsting after the anonymous sincerity of Eastern European peasant song, but continually splintering into weird ironic homelessness; interspersed with botched variations of a modal melody Ligeti inserts delusional passages for ocarinas. The fourth movement's passacaglia is a terrifying tightening of the screw, its "Lento intenso" witnessing the slow rise of a chromatic scale through the entire ensemble; a procession of fearful quiet and violent outburst force a gravity on the whole work, turning surreal play into a sincere anxiety. The final movement's caustic, ruinous humor barely alleviates this new darkness, and by the time of the violinist's histrionic soliloquy, one gets the pervasive sensation that all is lost. But the effect is far more provocative than depressing, basking in paradox: how can something so radiant also be so black?

Source: Seth Brodsky (allmusic.com)



György Ligeti (1923-2006)

♪ Violin Concerto (1993)

i. Praeludium: Vivacissimo luminoso – attacca
ii. Aria, Hoquetus, Choral: Andante con moto – attacca
iii. Intermezzo: Presto fluido
iv. Passacaglia: Lento intenso
v. Appassionato: Agitato molto

Christian Tetzlaff, violin

Gürzenich-Orchester Köln
Conductor: François-Xavier Roth

Cologne Philharmonie, Cologne, Germany, October 3, 2017

(HD 1080p)















Christian Tetzlaff has been one of the most sought-after violinists and most exciting musicians on the classical music scene for many years. "The greatest performance of the work I’ve ever heard", wrote Tim Ashley (The Guardian, May 2015) of his interpretation of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra and conductor Daniel Harding.

Concerts with Christian Tetzlaff often turn into an existential experience for both the interpreter and the audience; suddenly old familiar works appear in a completely new light. In addition, he frequently turns his attention to forgotten masterpieces such as Joseph Joachim's Violin Concerto which he successfully championed, and he also attempts to bring important new works into the repertoire such as Jörg Widmann's Violin Concerto, which he premiered in 2013. He has an unusually extensive repertoire and performs approximately 100 concerts every year.

Born in Hamburg in 1966 and now living in Berlin with his family, there are three things that make this musician unique, aside from his astounding skill on the violin. He interprets the musical manuscript in a literal fashion, perceives music as a language, and views great works as narratives which reflect existential experiences. As obvious as it may sound, he brings an unusual approach in his daily concert routine.

Christian Tetzlaff tries to follow the manuscript as closely as possible – without regard for "performance tradition" and without indulging in the usual technical short-cuts on the violin – often allowing a renewed clarity and richness to arise in well-known works. As a violinist Tetzlaff tries to disappear from the music – paradoxically this makes his interpretations very personal.

Secondly, Christian Tetzlaff "speaks" through his violin. Like human speech, his playing comprises a wide range of expressive means and is not aimed solely at achieving harmoniousness or virtuosic brilliance.

Above all, however, he interprets the masterpieces of musical history as stories about first-hand experiences. The great composers have focused on intense feelings, great happiness and deep crises in their music; as a musician Christian Tetzlaff also explores the limits of feelings and musical expression. Many pieces deal with none other than life and death. Christian Tetzlaff's aim is to convey this to his audience.

Christian Tetzlaff played in various youth orchestras for many years. His teacher at the Lübeck University of Music was Uwe-Martin Haiberg, for whom musical interpretation was the key to mastering violin technique, rather than the other way round.

Christian Tetzlaff founded his own string quartet in 1994, and until now chamber music is still as important to him as his work as a soloist with and without the orchestra.

The Tetzlaff Quartett received the Diapason d'or in 2015, and the trio with sister Tanja Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt was nominated for a Grammy award. Christian Tetzlaff has also received numerous awards for his CD recordings, including the "Jahrespreis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik" in 2018, the "Diapason d'or" in July 2018 and the Midem Classical Award in 2017. The new  Ondine recording of Beethoven and Sibelius violin concertos with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Robin Ticciati is highly anticipated in autumn 2019.

Of special significance is his solo recording of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas, which he has recorded for the third time and was released in September 2017. The Strad magazine praised this recording as "an attentive and lively answer to the beauty of Bach's solos".

Christian Tetzlaff plays a violin made by the German violin maker Peter Greiner and teaches regularly at the Kronberg Academy.

Source: christian-tetzlaff.de



















































More photos


See also


Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major – Christian Tetzlaff, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi (HD 1080p)

Christian Tetzlaff: “I think Sibelius did for his century what Beethoven did for his”

Friday, February 07, 2020

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 78, “Jesu, der du meine Seele” – Maria Keohane, Tim Mead, Daniel Johannsen, Matthew Brook, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven (HD 1080p)














Under Jos van Veldhoven's baton, the Netherlands Bach Society, the oldest ensemble for Baroque music in the Netherlands, and possibly in the world, and the soloists Maria Keohane (soprano), Tim Mead (alto), Daniel Johannsen (tenor) and Matthew Brook (bass) perform the church cantata of Johann Sebastian Bach "Jesu, der du meine Seele", BWV 78. Recorded for the project All of Bach, at the Walloon Church, Amsterdam, on February 10, 2018.



"Jesu, der du meine Seele", BWV 78, belongs to a group of chorale cantatas composed during Bach's second year in Leipzig. Composed for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity in the Lutheran liturgical calendar, it probably received its first performance on September 10, 1724. The text is based upon a 1641 hymn by Johann Rist and also contains some material from the Gospel of St Luke. The author of the text in its present form is unknown.

As is the case in most of Bach's chorale cantatas, the first and last movements are choral and feature the hymn tune. The inner movements take a variety of different forms. The first movement is by far the most elaborate, and is in the form of a G minor passacaglia, a form defined by recurrence of a basic four-measure theme. The theme in this case is a chromatically descending lamento figure, so named because musical phrases of this ilk were often used in the Baroque era as bass lines to vocal laments. The inner movements of the cantata are strikingly different settings of text, with a duet for soprano and alto in B flat Major, a tenor recitative and aria in G minor, followed by a bass recitative and aria in C minor. Jesu, der du meine Seele concludes with a chorale setting of the hymn tune in G minor, ultimately cadencing in G Major with a Picardy third.

In this cantata, through his use of the chromatic lamento figure, Bach's concept of death comes with impassioned anticipation. This essence of spiritual reflection, central to all of Bach's church cantatas, is manifested throughout Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78.

Source: Sean Burton (bach-cantatas.com)



Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

♪ Cantata BWV 78, "Jesu, der du meine Seele" (1724, Leipzig)

i. Chorus: Jesu, der du meine Seele [0:08]*
ii. Aria (soprano, alto): Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten [6:41]
iii. Recitativo (tenor): Ach! ich bin ein Kind der Sünden [11:50]
iv. Aria (tenor): Das Blut, so meine Schuld durchstreicht [14:00]
v. Recitativo (bass): Die Wunden, Nägel, Kron und Grab [17:22]
vi. Aria (bass): Nur du wirst mein Gewissen stillen [20:04]
vii. Chorale: Herr, ich glaube, hilf mir Schwachen [22:57]

Maria Keohane, soprano
Tim Mead, alto
Daniel Johannsen, tenor
Matthew Brook, bass

Netherlands Bach Society
Conductor: Jos van Veldhoven

Walloon Church, Amsterdam, February 10, 2018

(HD 1080p)

* Start time of each movement
















The opening chorus of this cantata resembles a chaconne. Actually, we should listen more often to the underside of Bach's music. In 1756, Johann Daube wrote in his tract on basso continuo (the constant bass in Baroque music) that Bach had mastered this art "to the highest degree", and that his accompaniment could bring life to an upper voice even if it had none of its own. The opening chorus of this cantata invites you to train your ear more towards the lower orchestral voices: the cello and double bass, and also the organ and harpsichord, as their part in this first movement is constructed on a single chromatically descending line. This means it resembles a chaconne; a musical form in which a short bass line is continually repeated, serving as a foundation for a string of new variations in the upper voices. In this case, Bach takes a slightly freer approach. The bass line recurs very often at various pitches, not only in the bass instruments, but also in the oboes, the singers, and subsequently in the violins. In fact, this whole movement is an ode to the bass.

Afterwards, the lower voices suddenly attract attention in all sorts of ways. In the duet for soprano and alto, Bach has separated the cello and keyboard instruments, for example, from the double bass. The first group is more active, while the double bass plays a calmer, plucked variation. This creates a many-hued bass sound. In the despairing recitative for the tenor, the basso continuo sounds like a harmonic labyrinth. After the tenor aria (once again with a plucked bass part!), Bach actually turns the whole string orchestra in the recitative for bass into a direct derivative of the basso continuo. After all this, our attention in the final aria and the chorale is probably more evenly distributed between the melody and the bass part. And for those who can't get enough of the bass – take a look at the background report, in which singer and bass soloist Matthew Brook talks about his part in this cantata.

Source: bachvereniging.nl


Jos van Veldhoven













Maria Keohane













Tim Mead













Daniel Johannsen













Matthew Brook


























More photos


See also


Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 29, “Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir” – Maria Keohane, Damien Guillon, Valerio Contaldo, Lionel Meunier, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven (HD 1080p)

Johann Sebastian Bach: St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 – Benjamin Hulett, Griet De Geyter, Lore Binon, Tim Mead, Alex Potter, Thomas Hobbs, Charles Daniels, Andreas Wolf, Sebastian Noack – Kampen Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor – Sheku Kanneh-Mason, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (HD 1080p)














Sheku Kanneh-Mason performs Elgar's Cello Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla (b. 1986 in Vilnius). The concert was recorded at Royal Albert Hall, London, on August 22, 2019.



Edward Elgar's Concerto for cello and orchestra in E minor, from the year 1919, is the last major work the composer penned (a Third Symphony remained in draft form at his death in 1934). While the instrumental forces remain basically equivalent to those used in the Violin Concerto, Elgar has amplified the tender, searching intimacy of that earlier work to such a degree that one might call the Cello Concerto not just introspective but searing and almost ascetic. It is an exceedingly complex but immediately touching work that makes a fitting epilogue to Elgar's lifetime in music.

The Concerto is poured into a four-movement mold, yet still takes only about half an hour to perform – far less than any of Elgar's other large instrumental works. This restraint is mirrored by remarkably transparent orchestration. The work begins with four bars of solo cello recitative that firmly outline the home key of E minor. The subsequent Moderato entrance of the orchestra offers little immediate support for that key, really winding down to the tonic only after six bars of restless 9/8 melody built on a single rhythmic cell. During the 12/8 middle section Elgar makes good use of the contrast between E minor and E major. A recapitulation of the opening is made, but soon enough the movement has dissolved into a handful of uncertain pizzicati.

Elgar brings back the opening recitative, much altered (and buoyantly beginning where the first movement's pizzicati left off), to begin the following Scherzo. After twice pleading with the orchestra to join its cause, the cello finally rouses the group into an eighth note driven perpetual motion (Allegro molto). Elgar paints a miniature portrait of his own very characteristic lyric style in the relatively brief E flat major second theme.

A wonderful melody in B flat major is sung by the soloist throughout the Adagio third movement. Here Elgar's indebtedness to Schumann, the slow movement of whose own cello concerto also employs this song without words approach, is clearly evident. The life span of this one melodic strand is a bare 60 bars, yet it conveys deeper passion than do five times that many bars of the composer's earlier music. The movement ends on the dominant, paving the way for an attacca opening of the Finale.

After initially falling in with the B flat major of the Adagio, the Finale makes an eight-bar move back to its rightful E minor tonal center. The main idea of the movement (marked, like so many of the composer's favorite thoughts, "nobilmente") is given out first by the soloist in half-recitative and then, after a rude tutti interruption and a brief pause, by the entire ensemble, Allegro non troppo. A second theme recalls both the G major tonality and the impish sentiment of the Scherzo movement. As the Finale draws near its finish, Elgar undertakes an extended and very moving reminiscence: first on the melody of the Adagio movement and then reaching back to the recitative that began the entire half-hour journey. Two terse chords re-energize the movement's fast-twitch muscle fiber, and 16 bars later the curtain comes down.

Source: Blair Johnston (allmusic.com)



Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

♪ Cello Concerto in E minor, Op.85 (1919)


i. Adagio – Moderato [00:00]*

ii. Lento – Allegro molto [07:54]
iii.. Adagio [12:42]
iv. Allegro – Moderato – Allegro, ma non troppo – Poco più lento – Adagio [17:17]


Encore:

Mieczysław Weinberg (1919-1996)

♪ Prélude No.18, Sarabande (from Twenty-Four Preludes, Op.100) (1969) [30:54]


Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

Royal Albert Hall, London, August 22, 2019

(HD 1080p)

* Start time of each movement















British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason (b. 1999) won the prestigious BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2016 when he was just 17 years old, performing Shostakovich's fiendish Cello Concerto No.1. The first black musician to win the competition in its 38-year history, Kanneh-Mason was born and raised in a suburb of Nottingham, England.

The third of seven siblings who all turned out to be exceptionally musically talented, he was inspired initially by his eldest sister Isata, who showed an early aptitude for the piano and was accepted at the age of eight into the Royal Academy of Music's junior department. Following in her footsteps, Sheku took up the cello at the age of six, and, aged nine, won a scholarship to also attend the Royal Academy.

He joined Chineke, Europe's first BAME (black and minority ethnic) classical orchestra, and, together with Isata and his violinist brother Braimah, formed the Kanneh-Mason Trio, appearing in 2015 on Britain's Got Talent. His experience on the show prepared him for Young Musician's relatively sedate televised segments.

After winning Young Musician, where his playing immediately drew comparisons with Jacqueline du Pré, he was signed by Decca. His 2018 debut album Inspiration featured the Shostakovich concerto along with other classical pieces and his own versions of songs by Bob Marley and Leonard Cohen. It became the first debut album by a Young Musician winner to chart, entering the U.K. pop rankings at number 18. That same spring, he and an orchestra performed for guests at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle while the couple signed the register.

Source: John D. Buchanan (allmusic.com)






























































More photos


See also


Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor – Truls Mørk, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Edward Gardner (HD 1080p)

Sunday, February 02, 2020

The best new classical albums: January 2020























Recording of the Month

Elgar (Edward Elgar: Nimrod, from Enigma Variations, Cello Concerto in E minor, Op.85, & Romance, Op.62 | Frank Bridge: 4 Short Pieces | Ernest Bloch: Prélude, B.63, & Prayer, from Jewish Life | Gabriel Fauré: Élégie in C minor, Op.24 | Julius Klengel: Hymnus for 12 Cellos, Op.57)

Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello

London Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle

Recorded at LSO St Lukes (September 3 & 7, 2019), Studio No.1, Abbey Road, London (June 6, 2019)
Released on January 10, 2020 by Decca Classics

Winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason's career was launched with a fanfare, resulting in a prompt signing to Decca Classics. His premiere album entitled "Inspiration" featured at its core the Cello Concerto he won the competition with – Shostakovich No.1. It gave promising insight into a performer encasing the main work with a potpourri of encores and highly personal pieces, a model Decca and Kanneh-Mason have tried to emulate in this latest release, "Elgar".

When Kanneh-Mason toured with Elgar's Cello Concerto, I was sitting five rows back, directly in front of him in Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. The presence he brought with Andrew Manze was remarkable, and being so close enhanced the overall experience. Despite the broader tempos, seeing his emergence was impressive, captivated my imagination and interest in the release of this work.

Kanneh-Mason's Elgar begins impressively, with a narrower vibrato than many cellists. The first movement has all the peaks in the appropriate places, but lacks the subtleties of phrasing the concerto needs as a recording. The first climax lacks the emotional punch needed to draw the listener completely in, and the subsequent peaks are surprisingly similar, with tailing off at the ends of phrases. When the modulation to the major comes, the colors are too similar and miss a section that should temporarily break the seriousness of the movement. The second movement, whilst expressive, reveals a lightness of tone at the extreme registers of the cello, and Kanneh-Mason struggles to produce sufficient sound in the boldest passages.

The third movement is overly reserved, swells have insufficient rise and the tenderness many interpreters find is not fully realized. The opening phrases can be exquisite, but are too evenly tempered in this altogether relaxed movement. On reaching the last movement, Kanneh-Mason's subtleties of emotion and color are too discrete to make this finale completely convincing. Jaqueline du Pré's communicative prowess is the benchmark in which all performances, rightly or wrongly, are measured against. One cannot fault Kanneh-Mason's attention to rhythmic detail or his security of intonation. But while his live performances have an energy and sense of spontaneity, the delicacies and intricacies of Elgar need finer tuning for a successful studio recording.

Simon Rattle – the ever sympathetic accompanist, helps Kanneh-Mason to fulfill his vision, as he does with Truls Mørk in his City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra recording. There is similar orchestral shaping in both performances though Mørk, even slower than Kanneh-Mason, gives Rattle a wider spectrum of expressive material – grandeur at times, more restrained at others, in an overall highly commendable performance. Paul Watkins with Sir Andrew Davis and the BBC Philharmonic are emotionally intense. Watkins' tempi are brisk, but always controlled. He finds the intensity in the melodic lines and with Davis' understanding of Elgar, the orchestral accompaniment is as intrinsically Elgarian as one could hope for. Alisa Weilerstein's rendition is one to equal du Pré's famed performance with Sir John Barbirolli. Working with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, Weilerstein doesn't imitate du Pré, but is a formidable contender for the top spot. With an uncompromising tone and a sense of authority, Weilerstein is unwavering from the first note to the last.

The remainder of Kanneh-Mason's album is a miscellany of "fillers" and encores. Opening the album is a pastiche of Kathleen Ferrier's legendary take on the traditional tune, "Blow The Wind Southerly". Without lyrics or knowledge of them, the performance lacks meaning. Forming the link between this and the concerto is Simon Parkin's arrangement of "Nimrod" for 6 cellos. Insufficient variety in the timbres results in very dense textures. Programming it before Elgar’s own orchestrations emphasizes the unsympathetic arrangement; furthermore, Kanneh-Mason is not given ample opportunity to shine. More successful is Parkin's arrangement of Elgar's "Romance Op.62", in which the Heath Quartet provide a beautiful accompaniment. Fauré's "Elégie", again arranged by Parkin, lacks the impact of the composer's original version for cello and piano. Whilst an admirable performance in this arrangement, it falls short of du Pré's highly distinguished performance with Gerald Moore.

The carbon-copy approach of recreating Kanneh-Mason's "Inspiration" album is disappointing. The programming overall is emotionally unvaried and the arrangements do little to enhance the composer's originals. The concerto is uniform in color and temperament, lacking the insight many soloists and orchestras find in it.

Source: Leighton Jones (theclassicreview.com)



Despite the blunt title, "Elgar" this is evidently designed as an opportunity to demonstrate Sheku Kanneh-Mason's formidable skills and to appeal to the many fans of his musicianship. For buyers, the selling point may well be the performance of Elgar's Cello Concerto. Over the last year or so the cellist has given many performances of the work. I heard him live at the Proms, accompanied by the CBSO and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, and many will have listened this performance via television and radio.

To tackle the work brings immediate comparison with Jacqueline Du Pré's classic recording with John Barbirolli (Warner 2564607600), coupled with Janet Baker's superlative Sea Pictures. More recently there have been different but deeply insightful recordings by Stephen Isserlis (Hyperion CDA68077), Natalie Clein (Warner 2564607600), Alisa Weilerstein (Decca 4782735) and Paul Watkins (CHAN10709) – so no competition then! Part of the problem for any cellist is that this astonishing work, from Elgar's Fittleworth Indian Summer, exposes the player to demonstrate a kaleidoscope of emotion, poetry, dignity yet also restraint. No performance can do all of this – Du Pré captures so much emotion and passion, and there is a depth to her performances (I heard her play this with Barbirolli and the Hallé: the memory remains vivid) which is unique. Clein, by contrast, emphasised the restraint and nobility, and was accompanied by another great Elgar conductor in Vernon Handley. Despite his admiration for Du Pré, Kanneh-Mason does not attempt a copy. His account is more restrained, technically secure and with a lovely rich tone. He and Rattle attempt an almost symphonic approach, with a strong sense of structure, to produce a genuinely interesting performance, rich in detail. But I was not as moved as by others: some passages were a little polite, some of the poetry a little too generalised. Isserlis remains my first choice, but I am glad to make the acquaintance of this new one. Make no mistake: this is a fine performance in the making by a musician of real substance. It will be interesting to hear how his insights develop over the years.

Just as Du Pré looms over memories of the Cello Concerto, so one cannot listen to "Blow the Wind Southerly" without hearing Kathleen Ferrier. Kanneh-Mason approaches it as a warm, dignified piece, eloquent in restraint, to form a natural prelude to the Elgar to follow. I'm not sure "Nimrod" needed to make an appearance, but it is neatly done, and the Romance has an Elgarian spirit, with a moving dignity. This piece could be an excuse for self-indulgence, but there is a classical restraint.

It is good to hear Bridge rather than a more "marketable" composer. It really is a "short piece" with a jolly opening and instant charm. It needs a certain lightness of touch as the melody develops – this performance is delightful throughout, and a real highlight of the disc.

Kanneh-Mason captures the poetry and something of the melancholy of Bloch, especially in the Prélude, which has an intense seriousness, sensitive to subtle shifts in mood. The arrangement of From Jewish Life: Prayer (No.1) has similar qualities – both technically secure and attentive to very subtle changes in mood and poetry.

Fauré was a great miniaturist and this performance of Élégie reveals those qualities of understated emotion and the ability to hold a long-breathed phrase without lapsing into the sentimental or indulgent. The result is very touching.

Outside cello circles, Julius Klengel is not well-known, despite a large output including four concertos for cello and two for double cello. His family was musical – his brother, Paul, was arguably even more versatile, and a fine composer. Julius joined the Leipzig Gewandhaus at 15, remaining for over 50 years (he became principal cellist at 22). His Hymnus has been several times recorded, notably by the Cellists of the Berlin Phiharmonic and by Steven Isserlis and the Cello Classics Ensemble (Cello Classics CC1024). As the name implies, this a serious, even melancholic piece, with a very atmospheric opening – almost a breaking dawn – leading to an expressive but dignified main theme, lovingly captured here.

Source: Michael Wilkinson (musicweb-international.com)


Arianna – Alessandro Scarlatti, George Frideric Handel, Joseph Haydn

Kate Lindsey, mezzo-soprano

Arcangelo
Conductor: Jonathan Cohen

Recorded at St Augustine's Church, London, in August 2019
Released on January 24, 2020 by Alpha Classics

Kate Lindsey's second solo album, like her first (9/17), takes her away from the classic lyric repertoire with which she has been making her name on stage and into the Baroque – a field she has only really entered so far as Nerone in Monteverdi's Poppea for Christie in Salzburg in 2018 and, this very month, the same character in Handel's Agrippina in New York. It looks like the idea of a single character seen through different eyes appeals to her, for here she brings together three cantatas dealing with the abandonment of Ariadne by Thetis on the island of Naxos, the thanks she got for helping him slay the Minotaur and giving him all her loving. Perhaps Lindsey got the idea during her numerous appearances as the Composer in Strauss' opera.

Whatever the case, her strong and assured voice slips easily into this music. While she offers up a little more vibrato than some baroque singers might, beauty and clarity of line are certainly not affected, and throughout she shows impressive technical control and agility. More strikingly, though, she brings her stage experience to bear in dramatic readings whose intelligent responses to the differing nuances of these three pieces are what really make the project spark. For the Scarlatti –which, unusually, begins before Thetis has quit the scene and ends with Ariadne being assumed into the heavens – the mood is dreamy and erotic; Lindsey sings here with delicious intimacy, at times as if she were whispering into our ears. In Handel's superb piece, which starts at the "crudel!" stage, her voice hardens and darkens, before lightening up at the end when Ariadne decides that by continuing to love Thetis she will bring him back. Poor deluded thing. Then in the more fluidly emotional music of the Haydn Lindsey brings out the Mozartian mix of subtle emotion and musical poise – how love-drowsy she sounds at her first entry!

The playing of Arcangelo under Jonathan Cohen is typically high-quality, and often heartbreakingly attendant to the drama. This is a lovely programme, expertly performed and full of touching feeling and imagination.

Source: Lindsay Kemp (gramophone.co.uk)


Johannes Brahms: The Final Piano Pieces – Fantasias Op.116, Intermezzos Op.117, Clavierstücke Op.118, Clavierstücke Op.119

Stephen Hough, piano

Recorded in St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London, on December 10-14, 2018 (Opp.117-119), and St George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol, on May 14, 2014 (Op.116) 
Released on January 3, 2020 by Hyperion

Blend imaginative yet learned interpretation, profound sensitivity and poetry, and personal charisma, and you have here one of the finest accounts of Brahms's late piano works on record, one that stands head and shoulders above most contenders in an ever-growing catalogue. I always revel in the prospect of a new disc by Stephen Hough. The superlative piano-playing aside, the whole presentation is so thoughtful: the choice of cover illustration, the imaginative programming (remember his Janáček and Scriabin pairing) and his essays or booklet contributions. In this case the booklet notes are largely a reprint of Misha Donat's text for Hyperion's previous recording with Garrick Ohlsson but they are crowned by a short yet highly charged note from Hough. And the quietly evocative atmosphere of Vilhelm Hammershøi's painting on the cover sets the scene for what is inside. So much to enjoy, even before hearing a note.

The picture and Hough's words are key to understanding his approach to these so often played works, though admittedly his ravishing colouristic palette has no analogy in the shades of grey of Hammershøi's masterpiece. In much more eloquent words than mine, Hough comments on late style in general and how Brahms fits, or rather refuses to fit, with the clichés of mortality and decay, of a return to simplicity, transparency of texture and so on. Brahms transcends all these. His are intimate, even lonely creations, with autumnal but multicoloured emotional shades, ranging from the stirring outbursts of the three Capriccios of Op.116 to perhaps the closest music has come to depicting sunset, in the first Intermezzo of Op.119. Hough is supremely sensitive to the passage of time between these two opuses. What a journey he takes us on from the stormy, surging quality of much of Op.116, to the nostalgia that predominates in Op.119; it's as if the shadow of Schumann is gradually effaced as we travel between these works.

Hough reveals each miniature as a compact piece of theatre, putting an array of timbres and varied accentuation at its service. For him late Brahms is evidently not so much Prospero hanging up his magic garments as a compilation of many characters and soliloquys, and certainly much more than "lullabies of his grief". I wonder if Brahms would have regretted those words about his Op.117 Intermezzos (if indeed he ever actually said them) had he heard the self-indulgent sentimentality that bedevils so many modern recordings. Hough takes his cue rather from the often ignored moderato and con moto that qualify the Andante markings in the first and third of this set. As well-intentioned as some of the more conventional rival readings may be – Plowright (too plodding), Ohlsson (remarkably flat and two-dimensional) and even, dare I say, Volodos – Hough's noble and cleansing version (closer to the tempos of Kempff in 1963 than anyone else) makes it hard to go back to hearing these pieces that way.

Take the final Intermezzo of Op.118, for instance. How persuasively it grows out of the resignation of the preceding F major Romance, via its own solitary opening gesture, into a full-blown tragedy, culminating in an earth-shattering outcry of protest. Remembering this as the last piece I ever heard my own teacher play before her death, I have cried to many interpretations; but for me none has reached the profundity of Hough's. Naturalness, nobility and simplicity in the face of apparent complexity are his main weapons. Compared to him, Volodos, for all the equal mastery of his pianism, feels theatrical and impersonal. You feel you are somehow sitting beside Hough's Brahms at the piano, being taken right inside the music; whereas Volodos is on a big stage where you can only marvel from afar.

The steely brightness of Hough's Yamaha in the more explosive numbers may raise some eyebrows. But hear how he turns it to his advantage in the G minor Ballade of Op.118, for instance, to create a three-dimensional soundscape. And hear how subtly his pedalling works with the acoustics of the room and the resonance of the instrument to make the richest of textures as lean and suggestively meaningful as Hammershøi's painting. In his natural, unmannered freedom, Hough can be ranged alongside Radu Lupu (though the 1982 Decca recording quality cannot compare). Both join hands with the treasurable few Brahms recordings that have survived from Ilona Eibenschütz, friend of the composer who gave the private premieres of Op.118 and Op.119.

Source: Michelle Assay (gramophone.co.uk)


Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.8 "Symphony of a Thousand"

Simone Schneider, soprano
Jacquelyn Wagner, soprano
Regula Mühlemann, soprano
Katharina Magiera, contralto
Claudia Mahnke, mezzo-soprano
Simon O'Neill, tenor
Michael Nagy, baritone
Evgeny Nikitin, bass

Philharmonischer Chor München
(Chorus Master: Andreas Herrmann)

Orfeón Donostiarra
(Chorus Master: José Antonio Sainz Alfaro)

Augsburger Domsingknaben

(Chorus Master: Reinhard Kammler)

Münchner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Valery Gergiev

Recorded at the Philharmonie de Paris on February 17, 2019
Released on January 17, 2020 by Münchner Philharmoniker

Hardly any other concert marks the city of Munich's musical history as strikingly as the premiere of Gustav Mahler's 8th symphony, the Symphony of a Thousand, which struck real waves of enthusiasm within the city's cultural scene, and beyond. It marked a memorable triumph for the composer, whose works had regularly been performed in Munich since 1896. Mahler felt his art form was understood by the people of Munich.

Moreover, Gustav Mahler and the Münchner Philharmoniker share a very special connection. As a composer he sustainably linked the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. The just discussed monumental world premiere of his Symphony No.8 took place under his baton on 12 September 1910 in Munich with the present day Münchner Philharmoniker. His works have been a substantial part of the Münchner Philharmoniker's core repertoire ever since and the orchestra has excelled on many occasions.

It therefore comes as no surprise that the Münchner Philharmoniker brought this very repertoire to performance on numerous occasions during their 2018/2019 125 years anniversary season, one of which marks this recording: a concert at the Philharmonie de Paris in February 2019.

In the symphony's two highly contrasting parts in text as well as composition, Mahler brings the setting of the Latin 9th century Christian hymn for Pentecost "Veni, creator spiritus" in conjunction with the closing scene of Goethe's "Faust II": creating a syncretism of two different understandings of the world as it is, with the common theme of redemption through love.

Source: warnerclassics.com


Lines Written during a Sleepless Night: The Russian Connection – Sergei Rachmaninov, Jean Sibelius, Edvard Grieg, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Nikolai Medtner, Benjamin Britten

Louise Alder, soprano
Joseph Middleton, piano

Recorded at Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, England, on August 7-9, 2019
Released on January 3, 2020 by Chandos

As temperatures remain stubbornly in single figures, my musical year's got off to a most apposite start with a journey through chilly climes in the company of Louise Alder: Lines Written During a Sleepless Night: The Russian Connection sees the young British soprano exploring her family history with a programme of songs by Rachmaninov, Sibelius, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Medtner and Britten. As she explains in a thoughtful booklet-note, several generations of her mother's family lived in Odessa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the album traces their path back to England via Finland and Norway during the First World War.

A recital of big-boned Romantic repertoire wasn't exactly what I'd expected just now from Alder, whose lithe, bright soprano and perky stage-presence have won her considerable acclaim in the lighter Mozart and Handel roles: many of the songs here (including Britten's The Poet's Echo, dedicated to powerhouse Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, and the Sibelius songs, popularised by the great Wagnerian Kirsten Flagstad) are associated with darker, heavier voices, but she rises to their challenges quite superbly and the programme as a whole reveals an array of intriguing new colours and textures in the voice which look set to take her into pastures new in terms of operatic roles over the coming years. The cool, occasionally even steely timbre that's emerging suggests that her future lies in Northern and Eastern European repertoire rather than French and Italian heroines: she'd surely make a wonderful Governess in Britten's The Turn of the Screw, and the febrile sensuality on display in songs like Sibelius' Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings mote made me wonder if Janáček's Katya Kabanova might be on the horizon a few years down the line.

Alder's easy facility with the various languages encompassed by the programme was another slightly unexpected delight for me, having heard her mainly in Italian-language roles until now: her incisive German was already a known quantity thanks to a mettlesome Sophie in Glyndebourne's Der Rosenkavalier a few years ago, but she's equally responsive and idiomatic in Russian, French and Swedish (listen to her expressive use of consonants to evoke the rustling reeds in Sibelius' Säv, säv, susa whilst maintaining immaculate legato and you'll see what I mean). She's especially delicious in the Reynaldo Hahn-ish French settings which Tchaikovsky wrote for the flamboyant Ukrainian-born Nina Koshetz, with just a hint of Edith Piaf creeping into her delivery in the two Sérénades. And on a purely technical level, the evenness and steadiness of Alder's voice is a constant pleasure: she negotiates the lower reaches of the Britten and Tchaikovsky songs without any ungainly register-shifts, high notes are integrated and secure, and on the rare occasions when a hint of breathiness is apparent (for instance in the first two Sibelius songs, and at the end of Medtner's Meeresstille) it's always in service of the text and atmosphere.

As on her widely praised debut solo album of Strauss Lieder on Orchid a couple of years ago, Alder's partnered by the superb young song pianist Joseph Middleton, who seems to have a special affinity with light lyric sopranos (he's recorded several wonderful albums with Carolyn Sampson, who shares many of Alder's vocal qualities, and knows exactly how to draw maximum colour from the instrument without overwhelming relatively slight voices). There's certainly plenty for Middleton to get his teeth into here, especially in the Rachmaninov songs, where the intricate filigree of Daisies sparkles with beguiling clarity and the postludes of Dream and A-u had me longing to hear him in something like the Op.39 Études-tableaux, composed around the same time. He's also a born story-teller, anticipating shifts in atmosphere before it's spelled out in the texts when required, and conjuring up whole aviaries of birdsong worthy of Messiaen in Grieg's and Britten's depictions of nightingales.

Shot through with glimpses of spring around the corner, this imaginatively-programmed and gloriously performed recital is the perfect companion for a long winter’s evening: if it gave me one or two "sleepless nights" of my own, it was only because its many beauties continued to run through my mind well after lights-out.

Source: Katherine Cooper (prestomusic.com)


Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Oboe Concertos Wq.164 & 165, Symphonies Wq.180 & 181

Xenia Löffler, oboe

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
Concertmaster: Georg Kallweit

Recorded at Teldex Studio Berlin, Germany, in March 2018
Released on January 17, 2020 by Ηarmonia mundi

The oboe concertos – CPE Bach at his most amenable – get prime billing on the jewel case. Yet it's the two capriciously inventive symphonies from the mid-1750s that really grip the imagination here. These are far less familiar than CPE's later sets of Hamburg symphonies, but hardly less subversive in their violently compacted opening movements. Mingling athletic precision and devil-may-care abandon, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin relish the music's seething energy and harmonic and dynamic shocks. Violins surge and spit frenetically against the glinting high-pitched horns. With discreetly balanced harpsichord support, CPE's characteristic repeated-note bass lines are lithe and propulsive, always enhancing the music's nervous vitality. The players are equally attuned to the soulful Empfindsamkeit of the slow movements, whether in the gently lilting Andante of the F major Symphony (Wq.181) or the more disturbed Largo of the G major (Wq.180).

With her mellow, rounded tone and subtle rhythmic sense, Xenia Löffler excels in the more gracious, "normal" world of the oboe concertos, though as ever CPE cannot resist the odd disorientating hiatus or alien harmony. Löffler is all you could ask in this repertoire, phrasing and colouring with spontaneous flair, bringing a twinkling sense of fun (not a word readily associated with CPE) to the finales and a singing eloquence to the slow movements. The plaintive Largo e mesto of the B flat Concerto (Wq.164) has a touching, fragile intimacy I've never heard equalled, with the strings matching Löffler all the way in sensitivity. I would have ideally liked the oboe less forwardly balanced vis-à-vis the orchestra. But that's a trifling reservation. The CD competition, especially in the symphonies, is sparse. Even if it weren't, I'd confidently recommend this disc to anyone attracted to CPE's quirkily fascinating art.

Source: Richard Wigmore (gramophone.co.uk)


Virtuoso Piano Transcriptions – Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss II, George Gershwin

Alessandro Taverna, piano

Recorded at Turner Sims, Southampton, England, on January 19, 2019
Released on January 3, 2020 by SOMM Recordings

SOMM Recordings is pleased to announce a sparkling recital of Virtuoso Piano Transcriptions spanning two centuries from Bach to Gershwin by pianist Alessandro Taverna.

During its peak popularity in the century from 1820, the art of transcription provided access in both the home and the concert hall to the riches of the symphonic and operatic repertoires through the conduit of the piano.

Recorded as part of the 2018-2019 Piano Series at Turner Sims, Southampton, Alessandro Taverna celebrates a lost art that made great music available to the widest audience in an era before the first recordings and radio.

Treated to a masterly re-imagining by Rachmaninov, Bach's Third Violin Partita opens a recital that also showcases Taverna elegant virtuosity at the keyboard.

A characteristically combustible re-working of themes from Mozart's Don Giovanni, Liszt's Réminiscences de Don Juan takes full advantage of the piano's full orchestral range and sounds all the more remarkable in Taverna's by turns poetic and powerful performance.

Liszt's transcriptions of three Schubert songs reveal his sensitivity to the originals and his appreciation of the piano's ability to conjure fantasy to mesmeric effect, his "paraphrase" of Verdi's Rigoletto a miniature marvel for the piano.

Echoes of Liszt can be heard in Ernst von Dohnányi's delightfully dancing re-working of Johann Strauss the Younger's Schatz Walzer and in George Gershwin's electric, effervescent arrangement of his own Rhapsody in Blue, a thrilling display of pianistic fireworks brilliantly realised by Taverna.

Alessandro Taverna's previous recordings for SOMM include Sonatas by Nicolai Medtner (SOMMCD 0142) and music by Debussy and Ravel (SOMMCD 0168), of which Fanfare magazine said: "Boldness and refinement keeps the playing interesting at every moment... Taverna distinguishes every textural strand with clarity... this superb release will add lustre to his reputation".

Source: somm-recordings.com


Paul Ben-Haim, Ernest Bloch, Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Cello Concertos

Raphael Wallfisch, cello

BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Conductor: Łukasz Borowicz

Recorded at BBC Hoddinott Hall, on October 31 - November 2, 2018
Released on January 3, 2020 by CPO

Back in 2017, CPO launched their series "Voices in the Wilderness – Cello Concertos by Exiled Jewish Composers" with a release featuring concertos by Hans Gál and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.  The guiding force behind this project was the cellist Raphael Wallfisch, and the aim – to champion Jewish composers who were silenced by the Third Reich and fled their country of origin to survive. We've arrived at the fourth volume now. I've had the pleasure of reviewing that opening venture, in addition to the second volume, where the Austrian composer Karl Weigl was in the spotlight. Unfortunately, Volume 3 – concertos by Franz Reizenstein and Berthold Goldschmidt – passed me by. Up until now, Wallfisch has collaborated with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin under Nicholas Minton. For this latest release he joins forces with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Polish conductor Łukasz Borowicz.

Paul Ben-Haim's three-movement Cello Concerto was written in 1962. It is both virtuosic, yet expressive and draws upon Eastern Mediterranean elements, juxtaposed within a European framework. There are even some Judeo-Spanish love songs hinted at in movements two and three. The declamatory gestures which open the first movement act as a call to arms, with the soloist making a dramatic entry. Interest lies in the undertows created by dance rhythms, Bartókian cross-accents and lyrical episodes, topped off with Mediterranean light adding luminescence. The cello's plaintive utterance in the slow movement confers an elegiac quality to the music. Exotic Mediterranean songs and a cantorial episode lead into a moment of tranquillity in the closing measures. Buoyant rhythms usher in the finale. The mood is festive, and there’s plenty of swagger. The cello's double-stops bring emphasis and intensity. A dreamy episode opens out and Borowicz shows a deft hand at pointing up the dashes of colour from the woodwinds.

Ernest Bloch's Symphony began life as a work for trombone and orchestra in 1954, a commission from Davis Shuman, a professor at Juilliard. In three movements, the structure is a cyclical arc of dynamic extremes. The two outer movements are short, and frame a more substantial central movement. The descending melodic lines of the opener have a doleful character. In the Agitato middle movement, ostinato triplets give the music momentum and thrust, with fanfares, cascades and climaxes adding pizzazz. In the finale, Bloch not only introduces new material, but recalls themes from the preceding movements. Raging turbulence and heavy accents add to the visceral impact. The composer's piano reduction was published in 1956, with the option for cello as protagonist. This is the first recording of the work in this form and, I can assure you, it works very well indeed.

Vidui and Nigun are the first two movements of the Baal Shem Suite of 1923. They were originally for violin and piano. Here they've been arranged for cello and orchestra. Vidui is a meditation or wordless prayer of repentance. Nigun, more well-known, means improvisation, where melancholy and ecstasy exist side by side.

As a way of making money, Korngold wasn't averse to recycling music from his film scores, thus preserving the finest and best, in reworkings for orchestra. In the case of the 1946 film score for Deception, starring Bette Davis, we have the thirteen minute Concerto in D in one movement for Cello and Orchestra. Tonally seductive, the work contrasts jagged rhythms with moments of lush nostalgia. Wallfisch captures its very essence with fervid and ardent playing and beautifully sculpted lines.

Similar sentiments imbue his reading of the famous Pierrot's Tanzlied from Die tote Stadt. The glorious melody lends itself well to this treatment.

This latest release reveals yet more riches, and constitutes an excellent addition to this increasingly impressive series. Wallfisch's enthusiasm and commitment to these scores is exemplary. Borowicz is fully attuned to this repertoire and, together with Wallfisch, is an inspiring collaborator. The warmth and ambience of the Cardiff venue add positively to the experience. I must also add that the liner notes, in German and English, are first rate. 

Source: Stephen Greenbank (musicweb-international.com)


Paul Moravec: Sanctuary Road (An oratorio based on the writings of William Still)

Libretto by Mark Campbell

Laquita Mitchell, soprano
Raehann Bryce-Davis, mezzo-soprano
Joshua Blue, tenor
Malcolm J. Merriweather, baritone
Dashon Burton, bass-baritone

Oratorio Society of New York Chorus and Orchestra
Conductor: Kent Tritle

Recorded live at Carnegie Hall, New York, on May 7, 2018
Released on January 10, 2020 by Naxos

The beginnings of this new work, here receiving its world premiere recording, can be traced to a conversation between Jody Spellun, a singer in the Oratorio Society of New York, and its conductor, Kent Tritle. Ms. Spellun asked Tritle if the choir might perform a piece addressing the issue of racial disparity in America. Impressed by Moravec's "The Blizzard Voices", which she has recently sung with the Oratorio Society, Spellun decided to commission a work on the subject from Moravec, resulting in "Sanctuary Road", a 50-minute large scale oratorio for five soloists, chorus and orchestra.

In 1872, William Still published "The Underground Railroad", a book chronicling the harrowing stories of slavery and escape he collected while serving as a conductor on the railroad. His book serves as the primary source for Mark Campbell's masterful libretto, in which soloists and choir are asked to be both commentators and real-life characters.

The work opens with a gentle thrumming on the harp; the soloists, overlapping one another, list the names of slaves who escaped using the Underground Railroad – a particularly heartbreaking opening. Bass-baritone Dashon Burton, personifying William Still, answers with his intent to create a book of their stories, as the chorus cries "Our testimony, our stories cannot be forgotten". The second movement, Quietly, introduces what Moravec describes as a "freedom theme", which reappears at several key dramatic moments, building an impressive structural unity across the work. This is quickly followed by Reward! (track 3), strings and xylophone anxiously propelling the music forward as the chorus of slave hunters spits out the names, descriptions, costs and special skills of escaped slaves.

The arrival of the fourth movement brings a shift to personalized stories: The Same Train tells the story of Ellen Craft (beautifully sung by mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis), who escaped on a train, all the while fearfully sitting across from her owner's brother, who never recognizes her. This Side Up (track 7) recounts the story of Henry Brown, who traveled over 26 hours in a crate from Richmond to Philadelphia with breathing holes "no bigger than a button". His aria is answered by the choir (track 8) singing words from Psalm 40 – the same words Brown spoke when the crate was finally opened. Tenor Joshua Blue is compelling in the three movements entitled Run (tracks. 6, 9 & 12), that depict the panic of being constantly chased as you escape to the North. In movements 5, 10 & 13, William Still, movingly portrayed by Dashon Burton, interviews slaves to document their life in bondage and to share what they might expect to experience now as free people. The Finale (track 16) opens with the soloists singing words of gratitude and good news sent to Still from former slaves, answered by all voices joyfully singing, "Shout from every rooftop, loud as can be: Free!".

Moravec's writing is largely tonal (though certainly dissonance is used to paint the horrifying parts of the stories) and intensely dramatic. Tritle leads a moving performance and his musicians sound completely at home in this new score. The soloists inhabit their various characters with complete conviction. The recorded sound is a touch too dry, but it allows us to hear every strand of the music-making and the choir is balanced forward enough to ensure they are also an integral part of the unfolding drama.

I cannot write that Moravec's composition proved overwhelmingly affecting to me in the same way that Britten's War Requiem did the first time I heard that work. Yet each time I returned to Moravec's new composition my admiration for his work grew, and the music stayed with me long after I stopped listening. There is surely no better indicator of how successfully the work expresses its profound and still timely message.

This is a significant and moving release of a contemporary work that needs to be heard – urgently recommended.

Source: David A. McConnell (theclassicreview.com)


Charles Villiers Stanford: String Quartets Nos. 1, 2 & 6

Dante Quartet:
Krysia Osostowicz, violin
Oscar Perks, violin
Yuko Inoue, viola
Richard Jenkinson, cello

Recorded at St Nicholas Parish Church, Thames Ditton, England, on March 5 & 6, 2019
Released on January 17, 2020 by SOMM Recordings

SOMM's historic complete survey of Charles Villiers Stanford's String Quartets by the Dante Quartet reaches its end with a third volume focusing on Nos. 1 and 2, and the first recording of No.6.

Already acclaimed as a composer of choral music, Stanford came relatively late to the string quartet form, composing his first two at the age of 39 in 1891. Six more followed over the next three decades, including the Op.122 String Quartet, No.6 in 1910.

This final volume features the early String Quartets, Opp. 44 (No.1) and 45 (No.2) which share a concern for meticulous use of individual instrument voices and a leaning towards lyricism. Allusions to Beethoven and Mozart are contained within Stanford's own beautifully crafted music.

Heard here in its premiere recording, the Sixth String Quartet is a work of rich contrasts, restless energy and some of Stanford's most expressive writing for the medium.

Authoritative booklet notes are provided by Stanford expert, Jeremy Dibble.

Volume I (SOMMCD 0160) was admired as "an excellent disc in every respect" (MusicWeb International), applauded as "most enterprising and thoroughly likeable" (Classical Ear) and acclaimed "a really worthwhile release" (Gramophone).

Volume II (SOMMCD 0185) was described as "essential listening... SOMM and the Dantes have broken important new ground with impressive commitment" by Gramophone and by Limelight as being "played with great élan and sensitivity by the excellent Dante Quartet".

SOMM's championing of Stanford's chamber music will be completed by new recordings of his String Quintets Nos. 1 and 2 which are scheduled for release in late 2020.

Source: somm-recordings.com


Stanislaw Moniuszko: Cantatas – Milda / Nijola

Wioletta Chodowicz, soprano
Maria Jaskulska-Chrenowicz, soprano
Ewa Wolak, mezzo-soprano
Sylwester Smulczyński, tenor
Robert Gierlach, baritone
Szymon Kobyliński, bass

Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Choir

Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Łukasz Borowicz

Recorded at Adam Mickiewicz University Auditorium, Concert Hall of the Poznań Philharmonic, Poland, August 26-30, 2019
Released on January 4, 2020 by Dux

The Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko studied in Berlin with Carl Friedrich Rungenhagen, the director of the Singakademie, and thus developed a great love for choral music. Although in 1840 Vilnius was no longer part of the Polish but of the Russian Empire, Moniuszko settled there and held the position of organist in St John's Church. In Vilnius Moniuszko worked on several great choral works.

The cantata Milda is about the Lithuanian goddess of love, who has a relationship with a man and is cursed by God the Father. The Lithuanian people ask Milda to come down to earth, where she finds redemption.

The music of the work, first performed in Vilnius in 1848, surprised the contemporaries with its individuality, its innovative harmonies and its rich melodies. Milda is written for soloists, mixed choir and orchestra. The cantata is very operatic and contains arias that would sound good in any Italian opera.

Nijola is also borrowed from Lithuanian mythology: Nijola listens to the singing of the nymphs and jumps into the water to rob the flower of happiness. She is kidnapped by Poklus, the god of the underworld. This story is very similar to that of Perséphone in Greek and Proserpina in Roman mythologies. The cantata lasts only half an hour and does not contain such characteristic melodies like Milda, but it is still very pleasant to listen to.

Lukasz Borowicz's contrasting and intensive conducting in both works leads to well differentiated and thoroughly exciting performances. The slow passages, played with great sensitivity, alternate with the faster passages, full of dramatic vitality. This results in one exciting performance with an optimal balance between orchestra and choir. Both ensembles prove their qualities and the soloist parts are satisfactorily cast as well.

Source: Remy Franck (pizzicato.lu)


A Schubertiade with Arpeggione

L'Amoroso
Guido Balestracci, arpeggione & direction
Caroline Pelon, soprano
Massimo Moscardo, terz guitar
Éric Bellocq, guitar & archlute
Maude Gratton, fortepiano

Recorded at Abbaye de Noirlac, Centre culturel de rencontre, Cher, France, in March 2019
Released on January 17, 2020 by Ricercar

The arpeggione, invented in 1823 by the Viennese luthier Johann Georg Stauffer, had a curious destiny. As its alternative names "guitar violoncello" and "guitare d'amour" suggest, it is in fact a guitar fitted with a bridge, held between the knees like a cello and played with a bow. The instrument enjoyed some success for around a decade, but, oddly enough, almost nothing has survived from its specific repertory except one supreme masterpiece: the sonata Franz Schubert wrote for it in 1824. The guitar was very popular in Vienna at that time, and Schubert was also fond of it; the original version of Die schöne Müllerin was published with guitar accompaniment! Guido Balestracci and the musicians of L'Amoroso have built a delightful Schubertiad around this famous sonata, combining the arpeggione and the piano with voice and guitars to appropriate a rich selection of the Viennese composer's lieder.

Source: outhere-music.com


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Sonata No.8 in A minor K.310, Rondo in D major K.485, Rondo in A minor K.511, and Piano Sonata No.15 in F major K.533/494

Takahiro Yoshikawa, piano

Recorded at Studio Pianoforte, Penang Island, in 2015-2016
Released on January 17, 2020 by Ypsilon International

Takahiro Yoshikawa, a Japanese pianist who has settled in Milan, presents this new release, which is a double date with Mozart. The concert took place in November 2019 at La Scala alongside the ballet Petite Mort by choreographer Jiri Kylian, which was written in honor of the bicentenary of Mozart's death. After highly acclaimed romantic and modern recordings dedicated to composers like Beethoven and Liszt, this is Yoshikawa's first recording dedicated to Mozart. Alan Becker of American Record Guide wrote of this album: "I'm impressed. This Japanese artist storms through the music as if a born Lisztian. There is an abandon here that keeps you on the edge of your seat – and a larger-than-life technique to wow you with his digital gifts. Still, he is also attuned to moments of reflection, and there is nothing shallow about his interpretations..."

Source: naxosdirect.com


Memory – Chen Yi, Kai-Young Chan, Yao Chen, Austin Yip, Michael-Thomas Foumai

Patrick Yim, violin

Recorded at the Laboratory for Immersive Arts and Technology at Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, on February 28 and May 29-30, 2019
Released on January 10, 2020 by Navona Records

The music on MEMORY, the Navona Records debut by acclaimed violinist Patrick Yim, is linked together by the themes of memory, culture, and identity. The albums title track was composed by the Chinese-born composer Chen Yi who searched for a harmonious marriage of centuries-old Western and Chinese musical traditions as she remembered her beloved violin teacher, Lin Yaoji. In the liner notes for this bittersweet and poignant piece, the composer addresses her mentor directly, saying I expressed my deep sorrow in the music, to remember your fatherly mentorship. Away, Alone, Aloft, written by Kai-Young Chan, is a touching and penetrating work which draws upon an ancient Chinese tale about the loneliness and regret of the legendary Moon Lady. The melodic materials and overall character of the piece are based on a poem by Tang Dynasty poet Li Shangyin, who expressed with his words the Moon Ladys deep emotions. Miles upon Miles is composer Yao Chen's personal meditation on three of the myriad facets of the Silk Road, which unleashed the free flow across borders of sound.

The compositions first movement, Silk Road, makes strong use of tremolos and trills to evoke a specific atmosphere, a rhythmic momentum that heightens the degree of expression before ultimately fading into a more peaceful environment. Buddhist Mantra is marked by the use of open strings, built on a cascade of restless three-note patterns that are always striving forward until a moment when the mantra takes effect and sustained harmonics rise to the fore. Pizzicato is the dominant trait of Kung Fu, the closing movement, which is sprightly but sophisticated, exciting and endearing. Miles upon Miles, composed for amplified violin and electronics by Austin Yip, is in three movements entitled I. Gilt Bronze, II. Cameleer, and III. Sancai, referring to the features of artifacts in the Hong Kong Museum of Historys special exhibit, Miles upon Miles: World Heritage along the Silk Road. Gilt Bronze refers to the materials used for a silkworm of the Han dynasty; Cameleer refers to a painting of a Tang dynasty cameleer, and Sancai refers to the colors that were used during the Tang Dynasty. In the work, field recordings of the Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam, taken in Xinjiang 2015, are operated through granular synthesis and serve as an extra dimension to the work. Miles Upon Miles was commissioned by violinist Patrick Yim in 2018. The albums final selection, Relics, composed by Michael-Thomas Foumai, was commissioned by Yim as a suite of companion pieces to be performed at the Hong Kong Museum of Historys special exhibit. The work is a suite of eight movements inspired by artifacts featured at the exhibition.

Source: patrickyimviolin.com


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Divertimenti & Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Archi di Santa Cecilia
Conductor: Luigi Piovano

Recorded at Auditorium Parco della Musica, Sala Coro, Rome, on February 15-17, 2019
Released on January 17, 2020 by Arcana

The Arcana label continues its fruitful collaboration with the Archi di Santa Cecilia, the Rome-based ensemble formed from members of the famous Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. The ensemble is conducted by Luigi Piovano, the orchestra's principal cellist and since 2007 a regular partner in a cello-piano duo with Sir Antonio Pappano, its chief conductor (their recording of the Brahms cello sonatas will be released later this year). The Archi di Santa Cecilia now offer us a brand new recording devoted to Mozart: the famous Serenade Eine kleine Nachtmusik K.525 and the less familiar but equally brilliant Divertimenti K.136, K.137 and K.138. The combination of such luminous music and the virtuoso skill of the players is bound to elicit enormous enthusiasm. Their previous recording of the Tchaikovsky and Dvořák Serenades met with outstanding acclaim, leading Janos Gardonyi in the Canadian magazine The Whole Note to describe the relationship between Piovano and his group in the following terms: "I imagine the orchestra moves with him and his every gesture. A tremendous rapport, like hypnosis, that only a Gergiev, Ozawa, Solti or the great Karajan could muster".

Source: outhere-music.com


The albums were chosen by the owner and blog editor of "Faces of Classical Music", Alexandros Arvanitakis.














More photos


See also


The best new classical albums: December 2019

The best new classical albums: November 2019


The best new classical albums: October 2019


The best new classical albums: September 2019


The best new classical albums: August 2019


The best new classical albums: July 2019


The best new classical albums: June 2019


The best new classical albums: May 2019


The best new classical albums: April 2019


The best new classical albums: March 2019


The best new classical albums: February 2019


The best new classical albums: January 2019


The Faces of Classical Music Choose the 20 Best Albums of 2019


The Faces of Classical Music Choose the 20 Best Albums of 2018