April 2019

April 2019
The best new classical albums: April 2019

Friday, October 26, 2018

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No.5 in E flat major, & Lemminkäinen's Return | Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor – Víkingur Ólafsson, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Santtu-Matias Rouvali – Saturday, October 27, 08:00 PM EDT (GMT-4) – Livestream

Vikingur Ólafsson (Photo by Enno Kapitza)

Icelandic keyboard master Víkingur Ólafsson "proved as a time-bending soloist in Grieg's Piano Concerto. Ólafsson plays as if every tone matters", says Norway's Daily News. Also, rising Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali (a Gustavo Dudamel protégé) leads music from his homeland – Sibelius' Lemminkäinen's Return and the bracing Fifth Symphony.

Saturday, October 27
Los Angeles: 05:00 PM
Lima: 07:00 PM
Detroit, New York, Toronto: 08:00 PM
Brasília: 09:00 PM

Sunday, October 28
London: 01:00 AM
Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw, Stockholm, Oslo, Cape Town: 02:00 AM
Athens, Kiev, Jerusalem, Beirut, Moscow, Ankara: 03:00 AM
Abu Dhabi: 04:00 AM
New Delhi: 05:30 AM
Beijing, Manila, Hong Kong: 08:00 AM
Tokyo, Seoul: 09:00 AM

Live on Livestream

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

♪ Lemminkäinen's Return, tone poem for orchestra, Op.22 No.4 (1895, rev.1897, 1900)

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

♪ Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.16 (1868) *

i. Allegro molto moderato
ii. Adagio
iii. Allegro moderato molto e marcato

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

♪ Symphony No.5 in E flat major, Op.82 (1914-1915, rev. 1919)

i. Tempo molto moderato – Allegro moderato – Presto – Più presto
ii. Andante mosso, quasi allegretto – Tranquillo – Poco a poco stretto – Tempo primo
iii. Allegro molto – Misterioso – Largamente assai – Un pochettino stretto

Víkingur Ólafsson, piano *

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Santtu-Matias Rouvali

(HD 720p)

Live from Orchestra Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit

Saturday, October 27, 08:00 PM EDT (GMT-4) / Sunday, October 28, 03:00 AM EEST (GMT+3)

Live on Livestream

Photo by Enno Kapitza
Possessing a rare combination of passionate musicality, explosive virtuosity and intellectual curiosity, pianist Víkingur Ólafsson has been heralded "Iceland's Glenn Gould" by the New York Times (Anthony Tommasini, August 2017). Before lighting up the international scene in 2016, Ólafsson won all the major prizes in his native country, including four Musician of the Year prizes at the Icelandic Music Awards, and the Icelandic Optimism Prize.

In September 2018 Víkingur Ólafsson released his new album on Deutsche Grammophon, Johann Sebastian Bach, featuring an eclectic selection of the composer's keyboard works. In an ingeniously woven tapestry of diverse original compositions as well as transcriptions from different eras, Ólafsson's "inspired playing makes Bach more human than we've heard in a long time" (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2018). The Bach album follows on from the global success ("Breathtakingly brilliant pianist" (Gramophone) of the Philip Glass Etudes, Ólafsson's debut recording for the label after signing as an exclusive recording artist in 2016.

Ólafsson's 2018-2019 season commenced with a return to the LA Philharmonic for Beethoven's Second Concerto with Thomas Adès at the Hollywood Bowl, and the opening of the new season of Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra with Santtu Matias-Rouvali in a double bill of Stravinsky and Mozart. The season includes performances with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (Alan Gilbert), Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Gustavo Gimeno), Minnesota Orchestra (Osmo Vänskä), and Orchestre National de Lille (Jean-Claude Casadesus). Víkingur rejoins Santtu Matias-Rouvali for performances with Detroit Symphony Orchestra, plays Bach's F minor concerto with London's Philharmonia Orchestra in Cartagena, Colombia, and reunites with composer Philip Glass for performances of his works at the Philharmonie de Paris in May 2019. Furthermore, Ólafsson will give recitals across Japan, the USA and in Europe in halls including the Berlin Philharmonie, London's Royal Albert Hall, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Philharmonie de Paris, Laeiszhalle in Hamburg, Palau de la Música in Barcelona, Flagey in Brussels.

Víkingur Ólafsson has premiered six piano concertos to date, most recently Haukur Tómasson's new piano concerto with NDR Elbphilhamonie Orchester and Los Angeles Philharmonic under Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2017. Ólafsson is lauded for his ability to approach music from a fresh and original angle, whether through interpretation – ("Like Gould, Ólafsson possesses that rare gift of illuminating a familiar work in unexpected ways, revealing hidden depths and drawing out its best qualities", Gramophone); or original programming ("Few musicians match Ólafsson for creative flair", BBC Music Magazine). Ólafsson is also Artistic Director of Vinterfest in Sweden and the award-winning Reykjavík Midsummer Music, of which he is also the founder.

Source: vikingurolafsson.com

Photo by Jan Ahlstedt
Hailed by The Guardian as ​"the latest sit-up-and-listen talent to emerge from the great Finnish conducting tradition", the 2018-2019 season will see Santtu-Matias Rouvali (b. 1985) continuing his positions as Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, alongside his longstanding Chief Conductor-ship with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra close to his home in Finland.

Rouvali has regular relationships with several orchestras across Europe, including the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Bamberger Symphoniker and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. As well as making his debut with the Münchner Philharmoniker this season, he also returns to North America for concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Following a very successful Nordic tour with Hélène Grimaud last season, the Gothenburg Symphony is back on the road in February 2019 for a tour hitting major centres in Germany and Austria with pianist Alice Sara Ott, and percussionist Martin Grubinger who premieres a new percussion concert by Daníel Bjarnason. Rouvali looks forward to other ambitious touring projects with his orchestras in the future, including appearances in North America and Japan.

In addition to the extensive tour, Rouvali's season in Gothenburg opens with Strauss' Alpine Symphony accompanied by Víkingur Ólafsson Mozart Piano Concerto No.24, and he looks forward to collaborations with Janine Jansen, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Baiba Skride throughout the rest of the season.

As another cornerstone to his tenure in Gothenburg, he is adding his mark to the Orchestra's impressive recording legacy. In partnership with Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and violinist Baiba Skride, a recording featuring concertos from Bernstein, Korngold and Rozsa is released in autumn 2018. This continues his great collaboration with Baiba Skride following their hugely successful recording of Nielsen and Sibelius' violin concertos with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in summer 2015.

Rouvali has been Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra since 2013. Highlights of the tenure so far include a Sibelius symphony cycle in autumn 2015, and the Orchestra's first tour to Japan in spring 2017 where they were accompanied by an exhibition of original Moomin drawings by Tove Jansson to mark the opening of the new museum at the Tampere Hall. He opens the 2018-2019 season with a Beethoven programme with pianist Javier Perianes.

Alongside an extremely busy symphonic conducting career, as Chief Conductor in Tampere he has conducted Verdi's La Forza del Destino and most recently world premiere of Olli Kortekangas's My Brother's Keeper (Veljeni vartija) with Tampere Opera in spring 2018.

Source: harrisonparrott.com

Jean Sibelius: Lemminkäinen's Return, tone poem for orchestra

The Kalevala became very popular in nineteenth century Finland and eventually inspired Sibelius to compose the symphonic poem Kullervo, Op.7, as well as the Lemminkäinen Suite. Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884) compiled the Kalevala, a collection of Finnish and Karelian folk poetry originally consisting of 32 cantos, later expanded to 50. Lemminkäinen's Return is the fourth and final of the Four Legends of the Kalevala that make up Sibelius' Lemminkäinen Suite. Although it is the shortest of the four, typically lasting about six or seven minutes, it is undoubtedly the most buoyant and colorful.

It opens with a bold chord, after which the orchestra begins to seethe with energy and a sense of expectation, building toward eruption, but glorious eruption. Soon the main theme for this movement, heretofore heard in fragments, begins to take shape, imparting an energetic and joyful spirit in varied instrumentation: winds, strings mainly in their lower ranges, and brass all spray the sonic landscape with vivid, rich colors to depict the triumphant return of Lemminkäinen, a sort of Superman / Don Juan character who had abandoned his wife for adventure and womanizing. Throughout the work the music is lively and effervescent, imbued with a folkish sense and the kind of energy one encounters in the Scherzo of Sibelius' Symphony No.2 (1900-1902). But Lemminkäinen's music here is happier and more fantasy-like, and ends triumphantly.

Source: Robert Cummings (allmusic.com)

Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor

Grieg was born on Norway's fjord-coast in the same year that Leipzig's storied Konservatorium opened under the direction of Felix Mendelssohn. By the time Ole Bull, the Norse Paganini, persuaded Grieg's parents to send their gifted 15-year old there for instruction, Mendelssohn was already dead 11 years. His successors were solid, German-schooled academicians whom Edvard hated, and against whom he rebelled. Ever after, he made five years in Leipzig sound like a prison sentence. That he learned so much from allegedly hidebound and uncaring teachers validates the soundness of their instruction. Most notably, Grieg absorbed the salient stylistic traits of Mendelssohn and Schumann (who taught there briefly before moving to Dresden). Indeed, his Piano Concerto could be called Schumannesque (likewise in A minor) without invalidating its Scandinavian character or Lisztian flourishes. Despite posthumous scorn for Grieg's large solo oeuvre during much of the twentieth century, his natural habitat was the keyboard. Grieg composed this music in 1868 for himself to play; however, Edmund Neupert played the first public performance in Copenhagen on April 3, 1869.

A government grant enabled Grieg to visit Italy in 1869, where he showed the work to Liszt at his residence near Rome. The kindly Abbé played it at sight with unconcealed pleasure (brilliantly, too, although for Grieg "rather too quickly" during the opening part). Liszt encouraged him to "go on, and don't let anything scare you", but tastelessly suggested that the second subject of the first movement be played by a trumpet instead of cellos. Grieg didn't restore it to the strings until his revision of 1905-1906.

The concerto opens with a drum-roll and solo flourish, after which the winds play a simple, unsophisticated main theme that the piano preempts, and embroiders at length, Allegro, molto moderato. The cello subject (più lento – a little slower) is contrastingly "soulful". Trumpets usher in the development, and later on the reprise. A solo cadenza comes just before the end. In the second movement, the key shifts from A minor to D flat major. This structurally uncomplicated Adagio in 3/8 time begins introspectively with muted strings. The piano rhapsodizes until a dramatically angular version of the main theme shatters the mood.

Eventually, calm is restored, and a quiet ending leads without pause to the third movement another quick-but-not-too-quick movement in A minor, additionally marked marcato, whose structure combines sonata and rondo. The piano introduces a main theme based on the 2/4 rhythm of a Norwegian folk dance, the halling. The second subject is quirkier and more elaborate but no less folk-like. The solo flute initiates a tranquil episode, after which the main theme returns for extended development. A short solo cadenza precedes Grieg's long-delayed transition from minor to major for yet another dance, this one in 3/4 time at an accelerated tempo. During a final cadenza, Lisztian bravura blows away any lingering traces of Schumann.

Source: Roger Dettmer (allmusic.com)

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No.5 in E flat major

Sibelius composed three versions of this work between 1915 and 1919, and led the premiere of the last one on October 21, 1921, in Helsinki. It is abstemiously scored: double winds, brass without tuba, tympani, strings. In time for his 50th birthday, which was celebrated as a national holiday in Finland, Sibelius completed and conducted a first version of his Fifth Symphony, in four movements – startlingly longer than the final version and comparatively inchoate. Only string bass parts have survived a revision begun immediately after the premiere. Still not satisfied, Sibelius rethought and reworked it over two years. What eventuated has become the most popular of his seven symphonies: a triumph of structural ingenuity, and a validation of non-programmatic music when Lisztians of every stripe – most notably Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler – were deconstructing "absolute" art.

What finally evolved in the first movement is a structure that begins with the double exposition of two theme-groups, the second of them in G (where the strings enter). Sibelius didn't just restate his basic materials; his range of mood extended to a passage marked lugubre for bassoons. Through a variety of keys he reaches a long development section, which builds toward recapitulation whereupon 12/8 time, after a slow acceleration, suddenly switches to 3/4, E flat changes to B major, and Allegro moderato becomes the new basic tempo. What follows was salvaged from a separate Scherzo movement in the 1915 version – complete with Trio – but one that segues into the tonic recap of theme-groups one and two, followed by a coda that quickens to Presto.

The Andante mosso, quasi allegretto is as simple, structurally, as the first movement is complex, but hardly simplistic: in effect, there are several variations on a rhythm – two groups of five quarter notes separated by a quarter note rest. This "theme" is played first by violas and cellos after a motif for clarinets, bassoons, and horns that returns as a countermelody. Sibelius creates "six tunes" (Michael Steinberg's diction), more or less tranquil on the surface but underneath mysterious, even briefly turbulent, with a translucent passage (violins divided into eight parts) that bespeaks pure genius. Also beneath the surface is a first statement (by low strings) of the proclamative theme that will dominate the finale.

Strings play the first theme in what some Sibelians have called a rondo, but others insist is sonata-structure, a whirring, buzzing business that culminates in the heroic second theme for pairs of horns, playing whole notes, in thirds. Momentum is sustained while the two subjects pursue a complex course through various keys and mass dissonances that only the horn theme, reassigned to trumpets, can finally cut through, like a machete through jungle growth. Trombones and horns join in, until Sibelius decrees silence, followed by six chords that bring his odyssey into a safe and happy harbor.

Source: Roger Dettmer (allmusic.com)

Photo by Enno Kapitza

More photos

See also

Igor Stravinsky: Movements for Piano and Orchestra | Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No.24 in C minor – Víkingur Ólafsson, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Santtu-Matias Rouvali (HD 1080p)

Santtu-Matias Rouvali – All the posts

Live on Livestream: All Past Events

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