Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) conducting his oratorio "Seven Gates of Jerusalem" at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, in 2001. Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending – William Hagen, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Accompanied by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, the American violinist William Hagen performs Ralph Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending. The concert was recorded at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, on February 19, 2017.

The Lark Ascending is a relatively simple piece – its musical discourse is plainly and easily perceived; yet at its heart is an emotional profundity that links it with other works by Vaughan Williams from the same period, in which a calm, almost detached pastoral approach is used to convey great feeling. Vaughan Williams completed The Lark Ascending in 1914 for violinist Marie Hall, with whom he consulted on the solo part. After a thorough revision in 1920, she first played it in a violin-piano arrangement in Shirehampton Public Hall in December 1920. The first performance of the orchestral version was in London, at a Queen's Hall concert in June, 1921, during the second Congress of British Music Society.

Verses from George Meredith's poem "The Lark Ascending" precede this evocative tone painting, describing the unique circling ascent of the lark, accompanied by its long-breathed, rhapsodic song. The writing for the violin mimics the "silver chain of sound... In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake" described by Meredith, though of course it also carries the main melodic argument. A brief cadence of soft chords from winds and strings discreetly usher in the first flight of the soloist, who rhapsodizes without accompaniment on a folk-like theme of considerable plasticity. The orchestra then quietly enters, and the first theme is developed organically until the section closes with a reprise of the solo cadenza.

A more straightforward folk theme on woodwinds begins the middle section, which has been likened to the pastoral countryside over which the lark soars; the violin's free descant over the orchestra certainly underscores that impression. A magical moment ensues when solo woodwinds evoke a panoply of birdsong under the busy rustling of the violin; the effect is like a choir of birds led by the virtuoso lark. Vaughan Williams would achieve a similar effect in Jane Scroop: Her Lament for Philip Sparrow from his 1935 choral suite Five Tudor Portraits. A note of sadness and nostalgia informs the reprise of the first section, and the piece ends with one more cadenza from the violin, whose song circles ever higher into the upper reaches of the instrument until it more disappears than ends; as quoted from Meredith, "Till lost on his aerial rings / In light, and then the fancy sings."

Source: Mark Satola (

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

♪ The Lark Ascending, romance for violin & orchestra (1914, rev. 1920)

William Hagen, violin

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

Concertmaster: Benjamin Hoffman, violin

First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, February 19, 2017

(HD 1080p)

American violinist William Hagen (b. 1992) has performed as soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician across the United States, Europe, and Asia. This season, William performs with orchestras all over the United States, including his debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and appears at the Louvre in Paris and other venues around Europe.

Summer of 2018 featured debuts with the San Francisco Symphony and Alexander Prior, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Brett Mitchell, and an appearance at the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago with Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra.

His 2017-2018 season featured debuts with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (hr-Sinfonieorchester) conducted by Christoph Eschenbach and the Seattle Symphony directed by Pablo Rus Broseta, and return engagements with the Utah Symphony under the direction of Matthias Pintscher and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra led by Andrew Gourlay. He performed recitals with pianist Albert Cano Smit in Chicago, Aspen, Darmstadt, and at the University of Florida.

In the 2016-2017 season, William performed with conductor Nicolas McGegan both at the Aspen Music Festival and with the Pasadena Symphony, made his debut with the Oregon Symphony under Carlos Kalmar, performed with the Brussels Chamber Orchestra in Beijing, and played recitals in Paris, Brussels, Virginia and at the Ravinia Festival. He played chamber music concerts with Steven Isserlis at Wigmore Hall in London, with Tabea Zimmermann at the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, and in New York City with the Jupiter Chamber Players.

William's 2015-2016 season included his Tokyo recital debut, his debut at the Colmar Festival in France, and recitals in Los Angeles, Brussels, and several cities in Florida. He returned to the Utah Symphony at Deer Valley Music Festival and to the Aspen Music Festival, both as chamber musician and as soloist with conductor Ludovic Morlot, and appeared with the Sofia Philharmonic in Bulgaria and the Shreveport Symphony, among others. He also played chamber music with Gidon Kremer, Steven Isserlis, and Christian Tetzlaff at the "Chamber Music Connects the World" festival in Kronberg, Germany.

Since his debut with the Utah Symphony at age nine, William has performed with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Christian Arming, Placido Domingo, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Michel Tabachnik and Hugh Wolff, and with the symphony orchestras of Albany, Buffalo, Fort Worth, Jacksonville, St Louis, Oregon, Utah, and others. Abroad, he has performed with the Brussels Philharmonic, the National Orchestra of Belgium, the ORF Radio-Sinfonieorchester in Vienna, the Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, and in Japan with the Yokohama Sinfonietta and the Sendai Philharmonic.

A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, William first heard the violin when he was 3 and began taking lessons at age 4 with Natalie Reed, followed by Deborah Moench. At age 10, he began studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where he studied until the age of 17. After studying at the Juilliard School for two years with Itzhak Perlman, William returned to Los Angeles to continue studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn Conservatory. He is currently enrolled at the Kronberg Academy in Germany, where he is a student of Christian Tetzlaff. William is an alumnus of the Verbier Academy in Switzerland, the Perlman Music Program, and the Aspen Music Festival, where he spent many summers.

William performs on the 1732 "Arkwright Lady Rebecca Sylvan" Antonio Stradivari, on generous loan from the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation.


More photos

See also

Yuan-Chen Li: “Wandering Viewpoint”, Concerto for Solo Cello and Two Ensembles – Michael Kaufman, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Samuel Barber: Knoxville, Summer of 1915 – Maria Valdes, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Leoš Janáček: Mládí (Youth), suite for wind sextet – Members of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Olivier Messiaen: L'Ascension, 4 meditations for orchestra – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.6 in F major "Pastoral" – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No.1 in D major "Classical" – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.4 in G major – Janai Brugger, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.7 in A major – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No.39 in E flat major – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 in C major – Irene Kim, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.5 in C minor – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Kaleidoscope: Meet a different, colorful orchestra

Monday, June 24, 2019

The best new classical albums: June 2019

Recording of the Month

Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs / Richard Wagner: Arias from Tannhäuser

Lise Davidsen, soprano

Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen

Recorded 28 & 29 September and 6 & 7 October 2018 at Henry Wood Hall, London
Released on May 31, 2019, by Decca Classics

On her self-titled album, Lise Davidsen opens with two highly vivid arias from Wagner's "Tannhäuser". One is immediately plunged into a sound-world of highly charged and evocative emotion, which Davidsen depicts with effortless ease. The first, "Dich, teure Halle brims", is presented with boundless energy and vigor. In this first aria she demonstrates all the dramatic qualities and colors of her remarkable voice, but what is more exceptional here is the dexterity with which she can change the hues. This technically challenging aria is an impressive opener to a magnificent release.

In the second aria, "Allmächt'ge Jungfrau!", Davidsen shows another, more lyrical aspect of her remarkable voice. Here she shapes phrases with a sense of architecture, drawing out long melodic lines expressively and expansively. In both arias, the woodwind players of the Philharmonia Orchestra produce sonorous richness which serves to enhance the luminosity of Davidsen's sound.

The remainder of the album is dedicated to Richard Strauss. "Es gibt ein Reich" from "Ariadne Auf Naxos" (track 3) is a captivating aria, Davidsen taking the listener on a journey to view the afterlife, awarding us with an enchanting perspective to "Im Abendrot" which comes later in the album. Strauss' Four Songs Op.27 are presented at the heart of the program. The beauty and richness of Davidsen's voice draw all the sentiment out of these songs. "Morgen!", the most widely known of all the Strauss' songs other than his final set, is given a remarkably crisp and visionary rendition. Davidsen's tone takes on a very different shade, almost whispered at times, imperceptibly creating moments of peace.

The famous "Four Last Songs" closes this album. There are charm and sincerity to Davidsen's approach here, but it's the final song which makes this set stand out from others in the catalog. She treats each of the four songs as an individual entity, giving each one a different tone, emphasizing the contrasting characters and meanings of the texts. "Im Abendrot" is taken slower than many famed interpretations, including Renée Fleming and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, but not as expansive as Jesse Norman. The balance Davidsen strikes creates a gentle sense of motion with a level of transcendence. Salonen takes Davidsen's lead and phrases the orchestral passages with the same level of naturalness, avoiding making the textures of Strauss' orchestration sound too dense. The final bars have a tremendous sense of authority as the listener leaves this musical world for another.

It is not often that musical chemistry comes together like this; The natural bond between conductor, singer and orchestra is one of the many highlights which makes this recording so special. Every phrase of every piece is carefully considered, shaped impeccably with an intense musical understanding of where the music is heading. Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra are the perfect accompanists to Davidsen; The conductor knows exactly how to control the orchestra, allowing it to come to the fore in their passages and to drop back when required, giving Davidsen ample opportunities to shine. Decca's engineers have captured the sound with clarity and precision, allowing this exceptional music-making to be savored.

Davidsen has considered this program thoroughly, and the result is a convincing musical journey. The transitions between pieces are seamless as the soprano takes the listener from the earthly and grounded to the spiritual and celestial. She understands the heart and soul of this repertoire and is able to perform it with masterful command and authority, extraordinarily giving insight on the passage of time. For those who are new to Wagner or Strauss, this recording would be an excellent introduction to the music. It would also be a welcome addition to any established library. Highly recommended.

Source: Leighton Jones (

Colin Currie & Steve Reich – Live at Fondation Louis Vuitton

Colin Currie, percussion
Steve Reich, percussion
Colin Currie Group
Synergy vocals

Recorded December 2 & 3, 2017 at Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
Released on April 12, 2019 by Colin Currie Records

With performances by Steve Reich and Musicians – Reich's own group – becoming a far less regular occurrence these days, it has been left largely to others to record and perform his music. The list now includes several important ensembles, ranging from Paul Hillier and Theatre of Voices, Alan Pierson and Alarm Will Sound, Brad Lubman and Signal Ensemble, Ictus Ensemble, Third Coast Percussion and Powerplant to soloists such as Kuniko Kato.

Among the most important to make their mark on Reich's music is the Colin Currie Group. The virtuoso percussionist's ensemble team up again with Synergy Vocals for this recording, which captures two performances given in the opulent surroundings of Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, in December 2017.

As is often the case these days when the composer himself is present, Currie and Reich kick off with a punchy performance of Clapping Music. A strong rhythmic focus is maintained for Music for Pieces of Wood and the more recent Mallet Quartet, where two marimbas provide a rock-steady rhythmic pedal against which two vibraphones overlay a series of complex interlocking patterns. A powerful rhythmic incisiveness and assertiveness that marked the group's excellent recording of Drumming (5/18) is again apparent throughout.

The two remaining compositions present Reich's music in a more reflective light. The opening of the most recent work featured here, Pulse, is taken at a steadier pace than on the recent recording by the International Contemporary Ensemble (Nonesuch, 4/18). This enables Currie, now directing, to impart a slightly more dramatic curve to the work's gently undulating trajectory.

Composed in 1995, the aphoristic Proverb sees Reich pay homage to Pérotin via an epigram from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein ("How small a thought it takes to build a whole life!"). Live performances of Proverb have been quite rare, partly because of its unusual instrumentation (a combination of three female and two male voices, two MIDI electric organs and two vibraphones), but also because of the technical demands it places on the singers, who have to navigate a quite treacherous tonal tightrope. The original recording, featuring Paul Hillier and Theatre of Voices, was probably pieced together from a patchwork of edits. Other than a little wobble in the middle section, where the music suddenly shifts downwards semitonally from B minor to a kind of E flat minor over a pedal B flat, Synergy Vocals impart a beautiful, haunting performance, whose quiescence quietly defuses the energy and explosiveness of the rhythmic pieces.

Source: Pwyll ap Siôn (

John Tavener: The Protecting Veil

Matthew Barley, cello
Sinfonietta Riga

Recorded July 2 & 3, 2018 at The Anglican Church, Riga, Latvia
Released on June14, 2019 by Signum Records

This disc begins with a beautiful reading by Olwyn Fouéré of Yeats's heartbreaking "The Cloths of Heaven", a poem Tavener set as part of his remarkable and rarely performed song-cycle To a Child Dancing in the Wind (1983), and then suddenly we are in the breathtaking rhapsody that is The Protecting Veil. Matthew Barley has gone to considerable trouble to construct this programme, centred on his own magnificent performance of a work whose premiere at the 1989 Proms brought Tavener back to worldwide fame, and it is an approach that brings ample rewards.

Remarkably, Barley directs the Sinfonietta Riga himself, from the cello, and the sense of complicity is very much a hallmark of this performance. When I first saw the score of this work, when the composer showed it to me in 1988, worrying that it was "too romantic", I could never have imagined that it would be possible to arrive at a performance of comparable intimacy, so grand did its gestures seem. But Barley has absolutely understood that intimacy is what underlies this piece: it is certainly on a large scale but it is also a kind of personal dialogue between the composer and the life of the Mother of God. Barley's cello sings and the orchestra functions perfectly as the "cosmic echo chamber" the composer desired.

After another reading by Fouéré, of Yeats's "The Mother of God", an arrangement by Barley (including some improvised solo cello music) of Tavener's Mother and Child is heard, which I have come to prefer to the original version for choir, organ and gong. A poem by Fritjof Schuon, whose work meant so much to Tavener later in his life, follows, read by Julie Christie, and the disc closes with Barley's arrangement for cello and tabla of a work by Sultan Khan, an appropriate acknowledgement of Tavener's lifelong interest in the music of India.

Even if you have other recordings of The Protecting Veil, I recommend this utterly beautiful and originally framed version unreservedly.

Source: Ivan Moody (

Clairs de Lune – Berlioz & Fauré

Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, tenor

Quatuor Manfred:
Marie Béreau, violin
Luigi Vecchioni, violin
Emmanuel Haratyk, viola
Christian Wolff, cello

Recorded May 2018 at Église de Bon Secours, Paris
Released on May 31, 2019 by Paraty

After more than 30 years of intense activity, the repertoire that our quartet has enjoyed, explored and championed is particularly vast. Several characteristics are expressed in it, and one of them is highlighted in this recording: our passion for the repertoire with voice.

The truly rich histories of string quartets, of the French mélodie and of the German Lied offer parallels, but curiously, they only rarely intersected (Schoeck, Wellesz, Schoenberg, Eisler, Hindemith, Milhaud wrote for voice and the quartet, but are not among the most sought-after composers). We often approach certain cycles through transcriptions that we commission or create for ourselves (Haydn, Schumann, Dvořák, Brahms, Mahler).

In response to the rich harmonic colours of Berlioz, Gabriel Fauré's string quartet makes its presence felt through its entirely symbolist intimacy, its finely chiselled harmony, and "its thought purified up to the threshold of abstraction and evanescence".

With regard to the Summer Nights and in order to pursue our singular poetic path with Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, our dear quintet partner proposed to us the Fauréan vision of Gautier's Lamento (Fauré kept the original title La chanson du pêcheur whereas Berlioz chose Sur les lagunes). In order to develop this long-distance dialogue between the two composers, we were tempted to compare the Clair de lune of Paul Verlaine by Fauré with that of Gautier by Berlioz.

This is how Clairs de lune was born, an album more poetic – more dreamlike – than musical, a truly personal album by our quartet, an amorous programme of mélodies for voice and string quartet.

Source: Emmanuel Haratyk, violist fot the Manfred Quartet (

Jean Sibelius: Lemminkäinen Suite, Spring Song, Suite from "Belshazzar's Feast"

BBC Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Sakari Oramo

Recorded May 22-23, 2018 at Watford Colosseum
Released on May 31, 2019 by Chandos Records

Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra since 2013, Sakari Oramo has a special affinity with the music of his compatriot the Finnish composer Sibelius, which this recording admirably demonstrates.

Sibelius's ever-popular Lemminkäinen Suite is complemented here with the early Spring Song and the lesser-known Suite from Belshazzar's Feast.

Sibelius composed the Lemminkäinen Suite (also called the Four Legends, or Four Legends from the Kalevala), Op.22 in the 1890s. Drawing on material originally conceived for a mythological opera, Veneen luominen (The Building of the Boat), the suite focuses on the character Lemminkäinen from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.

In 1906 Sibelius composed ten numbers of incidental music for the play Belshazzar's Feast (by Hjalmar Procopé), which was first performed in the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki in November of that year, the composer conducting. The following year, Sibelius extracted four of the movements to form the more widely known orchestral suite that we hear in this recording.


Antonio Vivaldi: Arie e cantate per contralto

Delphine Galou, contralto

Accademia Bizantina
Conductor: Ottavio Dantone

Recorded February 2018 at Sala Oriani, Convent San Francesco, Bagnacavallo, Italy
Released on May 31, 2019 by Naïve

When it comes to prosperity, Vivaldi got pretty lucky. Thanks to a succession of happy accidents, his personal collection of manuscripts has survived through the centuries, allowing his music to be preserved, then later played and recorded. The contralto Delphine Galou and Ottavio Dantone, the director of the Accademia Bizantina, drew from this priceless batch of nearly 450 compositions to develop the program for this album of sacred music pieces dedicated to the alto voice. This new recording of the Vivaldi Edition, begun by Naïve many years ago, offers cantatas and arias for viola, functioning as perfect companions for the album of works sung by the same Delphine Galou. The lyrics, often by unknown authors, do not have a strong literary interest. Here, we find a pastoral world populated by shepherds in need of love as well as cruel and fickle nymphs, obeying the cannon of the time. Vivaldi takes advantage of these stereotypical characters to vary his expressive palette in a very subtle way and introduce the operatic style into works primarily intended for living rooms. The exceptional quality of his music generally transcends the commissioned work he is obliged to do, both in Mantua and Venice. These cantatas are accompanied here by some arias from his many operas. They allow Delphine Galou to fully express the variety and range of her singing through the pathetism of "Liquore ingrato" (Tito Manlio), the sweetness of "Andrò fida e sconsolata" of the same opera or the innocent grace of a childish song in the aria "È pure dolce ad un'anima amante" (Il Giustino).

Source: François Hudry (

Antonio Vivaldi: Musica sacra per alto

Delphine Galou, contralto

Accademia Bizantina
Conductor: Ottavio Dantone

Recorded February 2018 at Sala Oriani, Convent San Francesco, Bagnacavallo, Italy
Released on May 31, 2019 by Naïve

Vivaldi, the Venetian, master of the whole palette of human emotions. From the church to the opera house, from tragedy to joy, the immediately-recognisable sensibility, the expressiveness, the inimitable colours and an unbeatable talent to say so much in just a few notes.

The contralto Delphine Galou (who recently won a Gramophone Award, one of the most prestigious awards in the classical music world) and Ottavio Dantone's Accademia Bizantina have created two recitals of sacred music and of opera that illustrate the incomparable richness of Vivaldi's body of work and establish the emotional connections between the two repertoires.

For the first time, two volumes of the Vivaldi Edition (in this case the 59th and 60th) will be released at the same time, with their synergy also reflected in the albums' artwork.

The recital "Musica sacra" consists of six works of very diverse themes and styles, symbolising the richness of the religious fervour of Antonio Vivaldi's sacred music.


There's so much more to Vivaldi than The Four Seasons and, here, in the company of the award-winning contralto Delphine Galou and her husband, Ottavio Dantone, a light is shone on his sacred music. With her rich, flexible, and wonderfully expressive voice, Galou is a glorious companion for this short journey that reveals Vivaldi's genius in the vocal arena. She is gifted at finding the still core of a piece like "O clemens, o pia" from the Salve Regina, making time stand still, while in a number like the duet "Hymnus Deus tuorum militum" (with Alessandro Giangrande) the music dances and sparkles.


Sergei Rachmaninov: Trio élégiaques & Vocalise (transcribed by Julius Conus)

Hermitage Piano Trio:
Misha Keylin, violin
Sergey Antonov, cello
Ilya Kazantsev, piano

Recorded September 3-7, 2017 at Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts
Released on June 7, 2019 by Reference Recordings

Electrifying Piano Trio Performances in the great Russian musical tradition!

The Hermitage Piano Trio is distinguished by its exuberant musicality, interpretative range, and sumptuous sound – attributes that Reference Recordings expects to be highly appealing to music lovers and audiophiles worldwide. Following a recent performance, The Washington Post raved that "more striking even than the individual virtuosity was the profound level of integration among the players, who showed a rare degree of ensemble from beginning to end". Based in the United States, the Trio excels at performing an enormous variety of music and has a wide repertoire ranging from Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Arensky, Glinka, and Tchaikovsky to Schubert, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Dvořák, and Brahms.

This is their debut album as a trio. More albums with Reference Recordings are planned. Sessions were held at famed Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, and were recorded by RR's engineering team, comprised of GRAMMY®-­winning engineer and Technical Director Keith O. Johnson, and multi­-GRAMMY® nominated engineer Sean Royce Martin. The album was produced by the multi­-GRAMMY® nominated team, Marina and Victor Ledin.

A rarity in the chamber music world, this elite trio is comprised of three musicians who are noted soloists in their own right. In a career already spanning fifty countries on five continents, violinist Misha Keylin is attracting particular attention with his world­ premiere CD series of the seven Henri Vieuxtemps violin concertos. These best­selling recordings have garnered numerous press accolades and awards, including "Critic's Choice" by The New York Times, Gramophone, and The Strad. Hailed as "a brilliant cellist" by the legendary Mstislav Rostropovich, Sergey Antonov went on to prove his mentor's proclamation when he became one of the youngest cellists ever awarded the gold medal at the world's premier musical contest, the quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Competition. Antonov's entry into this elite stratum of sought­after classical artists has already placed him on stages at world­renowned venues from Russia's Great Hall at the Moscow Conservatory to Suntory Hall in Tokyo. Pianist Ilya Kazantsev, a fresh and exciting presence on the international music scene and a passionate interpreter of his native Russian repertoire – hailed by The Washington Post as "virtually flawless" – has performed as recitalist and soloist with orchestras in Russia, Canada, Europe, and the United States. Among his many awards and honors, Mr Kazantsev received first prize at the Nikolai Rubinstein International Competition (Paris) and a won the International Chopin Competition (Moscow) and the 2007 & 2008 World Piano Competitions (Cincinnati).


Benjamin Britten: Cello Suites

Cameron Crozman, cello

Recorded January 2019 at the Philharmonie de Paris
Released on March 15, 2019 by Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo

At twenty-three years of age, Canadian cellist Cameron Crozman has chosen the Suites of Benjamin Britten for his first solo disc. Broad and expressive, his playing is characterized both by a formidable technique and a highly personal approach to the repertoire. A natural explorer, Crozman is passionate about the music of our time and often works with contemporary composers. His interpretation of the English composer's three Cello Suites thus succeeds in harmonizing echoes of Bach's masterpieces for the instrument and the various other sources of inspiration that nourished these three scores – from the playing of Mstislav Rostropovich to the sarcastic gestures of Dmitri Shostakovich, taking in references to the traditional music of various European and Asiatic countries.


Anton Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 9 | Wagner: Siegfried Idyll & Parsifal Prelude

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Conductor: Andris Nelsons

Recorded December 9 & 22, 2018 at Gewandhaus, Leipzig
Released on May 3, 2019 by Deutsche Grammophon

Andris Nelsons has emerged as one of the top conductors of big late Romantic repertory, and his cycle of Bruckner symphonies has contained some gems. Here, he pairs the Symphony No.6 in A major, with the gigantic Symphony No.9 in D minor, where the composer strove for the heights of Beethoven's Ninth, but didn't quite make it: he died before completing the work. Many completions have been offered, but Nelsons here performs only the first three movements, as completed by the composer before his death. In this case, the Adagio lives up to its "feierlich" (ceremonial, festive) marking despite its 24-plus minutes of slow movement, making for a satisfying finale. Nelsons' Symphony No.9 in general is quite a strong one, and a good deal of the pleasure is down to the expertise of the venerable Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, which all around ranks among Europe's best. The brass execute flawlessly in the mighty fanfares of the Symphony No.9, and they're matched by the strings in Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, and the Prelude to Parsifal. Sample the Siegfried Idyll for an example of central European orchestral playing at its absolute best. The Symphony No.6 in A major is not quite as successful, although the orchestra's talents are undimmed. It's hard to get "feierlich" out of his slower-than-normal, rather lugubrious Adagio (the corresponding movement in the Symphony No.9 is not so slow), and a sense of the larger line so crucial to Bruckner is lost. In general, however, this is a major release for Brucknerites, with Deutsche Grammophon, as with other releases in this series, furnishing excellent sound from the Gewandhaus.

Source: James Manheim (

Camille Saint-Saëns: Piano Concertos Nos. 3, 4 & 5

Alexandre Kantorow, piano

Tapiola Sinfonietta
Conductor: Jean-Jacques Kantorow

Recorded September 2016 (Nos. 4 & 5) and January/February 2018 (No.3) at the Tapiola Concert Hall, Finland
Released on May 3, 2019 by BIS

It is no hardship to review yet another Saint-Saëns piano concerto recording when it is as good as this, and one which, moreover, has managed to accommodate these three on a single disc lasting a generous 80'37", a first for these particular works, so far as I know.

The soloist is the young (b. 1997) son of the distinguished violinist-conductor and, believe me, he is the real deal – a fire-breathing virtuoso with a poetic charm and innate stylistic mastery, as anyone will confirm who has heard his Liszt concertos (A/15) and, on his "À la Russe" disc (7/17), an Islamey which is among the finest ever recorded.

One hardly needs to be told, listening to the opening of Op.29, that it was inspired by an Alpine torrent, so beautifully conjured is it by Kantorow père et fils and the Tapiola players, a passage which also immediately establishes the ideal balance between piano and orchestra – a further plus for this recording (tip of the hat to producer Jens Braun and sound engineer Martin Nagorni). "Prodigiously uneven" though the Third Concerto may be (in the opinion of Alfred Cortot), this team papers over the cracks and the exuberant high spirits of the finale, as bracing as a splash of cold mountain water, are hard to resist.

Arguably the greatest of the five concertos, No.4 sets out on an uncertain journey, improvisatory, discursive, as if trying out and then discarding certain themes and ideas before pulling them all together in the second half. It begins, like the famous Organ Symphony (No.3), written a decade later, in C minor and ends in a triumphant C major. I had forgotten just how demanding is some of the piano-writing (for example, several passages of rapid sixths or thirds played simultaneously in both hands) but I have rarely heard it delivered with such commanding ease and infectious delight.

For further evidence of Kantorow's skill, listen to the first few minutes of the Fifth Concerto and you'll hear soufflé-light leggierissimo scale passages contrasted with fortissimo octaves of penetrating depth and weight. Yes, they are in the score but you will rarely hear them delineated as well as this. The exotic second movement, with its references to various musical genres – a Nubian love song, a gamelan, a Spanish guitar – is, again, among the best on disc and in fact my only quibble about the whole recording is the unmarked accelerando through the coda which renders the peroration inappropriately lightweight, a concern which does not disqualify it from sitting beside Hough (Hyperion, 11/01) and Darré (in all three), Cortot (in No.4) and Chamayou (in No.5 – Erato, 10/18).

Source: Jeremy Nicholas (

Longing for Paradise – Richard Strauss: Oboe Concerto | Edward Elgar: Soliloquy | Maurice Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin | Eugene Goossens: Oboe Concerto in One Movement

Albrecht Mayer, oboe

Bamberger Symphoniker
Conductor: Jakub Hrůša

Recorded September 23, 2016 at Konzert- und Kongresshalle Bamberg
Released on May 17, 2019 by Deutsche Grammophon

"Longing for Paradise", oboe concertos by Richard Strauss, Elgar, Ravel and Goosens with Albrecht Mayer, and Jakub Hrůša conducting the Bamberger Symphoniker, new from Deutsche Grammophon.  "How does an emotional, sensitive and romantic composer react when faced with the reality of war and a destroyed homeland?" writes Mayer, describing the choices on this eclectic programme – Richard Strauss's Oboe Concerto, Elgar's Soliliquy for oboe and orchestra, Eugene Goossens Concerto in One Movement and Ravel's Le tombeau de Couperin. An intelligently planned programme, executed extremely well, makes this disc a top recommendation. It soothes my soul and stretches my mind!

Richard Strauss's Concerto for Oboe and small orchestra in D major (AV 144), receives an outstanding performance, Mayer navigating the technical complexities with finesse. The Allegro moderato begins with a tour de force section of 57 bars which focus attention on the oboe. Gradually, orchestral textures build up around the oboe. If Metamorphosen was written in response to the destruction of war, the Oboe Concerto might represent a reflection on the past and future, the strings in Metamorphosen replaced by the deeper sounds of winds, the oboe supported by flutes, cor anglais, clarinets and bassoons. The serenity of Mayer's playing has purpose, evoking the balance of an idealised past. As he notes these beauties are "perhaps an intimation of Paradise". There are no hints of Strauss's typically ambivalent waltzes, no ironic fractures. Instead interpretation requires "maximum effortlessness. Perhaps Strauss himself soared in something like the pure riches oif its euphony when he wrote it". The Andante is exqusite, enhanced by a sense of melancholy, the oboe singing gracefully. The Vivace-Allegro is lively. With extended solo passages the oboe leads the orchestra in full flow towards the confident conclusion.

Edward Elgar's Soliloquy is also a late work, written in 1930 for oboe and piano for Léon Goossens, though only the second movement was completed. The arrangement for oboe and small orchestra heard here was made in 1967 by Gordon Jacobs. The oboe line stretches expansively, the orchestra responding with hushed tones, before fading elusively away. Also originally conceived for oboe and piano, is Eugene Goossens's Concerto in One Movement for oboe and orchestra  (Op.45, 1927). The  piece traverses different styles – pastoral, energetic, and exotic – the oboe part redolent of Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faun or even The Firebird, though with a touch of wry humour.

Maurice Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin, is as much an hommage to French style as a a series of memorials to Ravel's friends who died in the 1914-1918 war. A vivacious Prélude, with the oboe as lithe and athletic as a creature of the forest. The dance origins of the Forlane are sprightly, every "step" in the music vivid. The more formal Minuet and the Rigaudon are vigorous, but beneath this lies sorrow, Oboe and strings interact, two voices entwining like partners in a dance, an allusion that connects the living and the dead.


Antón García Abril: 6 Partitas for Solo Violin

Hilary Hahn, violin

Recorded June 28-30, 2017 at Gore Recital Hall, Roselle Center for the Arts, and University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, U.S.A.
Released on May 17, 2019 by Decca

Hilary Hahn never stops pushing the boundaries of classical music. An accomplished virtuoso and talented chamber musician, the American violinist plays the entire violin repertoire from Bach all the way up to the present day, including the classical and romantic period. Most of all, she likes to excite interest around new works and already commissioned a series of small pieces from twenty-seven composers. Then she went a step further and asked the Spanish composer Antón García Abril to compose a sequence of 6 Partitas for solo violin inspired loosely by J.S. Bach's Six Sonatas and Partitas. Already feeling very confident about García Abril's work, the violinist was surprised to find that the music completely exceeded her expectations. She found this new body of work "inspiring" as the phrases resonated with her and the notes flowed naturally from her fingers, "His writing for violin is compelling" says Hilary Hahn, "Fluid, emotional, clever and expressively rich". The polyphonic writing of the Spanish composer born in 1933 is indeed marvellous in these unaccompanied pieces. García Abril has turned his back resolutely on the typical avant-garde that emerged in the post-war years and the composer's music is tonal and full of melody, using his own rhythms. Despite the suggestion from their title, the 6 Partitas are not dance suites but rather a succession of six independent states of mind, "Heart", "Immensity", "Love", "Art", "Reflexive", "You", (an acronym for Hilary herself). This is more than enough to fuel the imagination and the musical repertoire of violinists from all over the world who play their "Bach", rather predictably, for the encore of each concert.

Source: François Hudry (

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 (K.280), 3 (K.281), 8 (K.310), & 13 (K.333)

Lars Vogt, piano

Recorded May 2-3, 2016 (K.280 & K.281); January 18, 2019 (K.333); and January 19, 2019 (K.310), at Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln, Germany
Released on May 10, 2019 by Ondine

Mozart poses formidable challenges for modern pianists. Late 18th-century Viennese pianos resemble our contemporary instruments only on the most basic mechanical level. The way the hammers are triggered to strike the string has evolved almost beyond recognition, as have the hammers and strings themselves. Mozart's instrument had already undergone half a century of rapid technological development and its hegemony over other keyboards was well under way. But many of its celebrated attributes – among them clarity of sound, rich overtones, light touch and distinctive registers – would eventually disappear as pianos evolved towards greater power and stability. Today the pianist seeking to deliver some plausible representation of Mozart's musical imagination on a modern instrument must do so with a fearless blend of compromise, adjustment and conjury.

Lars Vogt certainly possesses these qualities, all presumably enriched by his recent experiences as a conductor. He has recorded two pairs of Mozart piano concertos (Oehms, 9/09; AVI, 3/14) and a selection of violin sonatas with Christian Tetzlaff (Ondine, 2/13), and this new release is a welcome return to the solo works after his early set for EMI (8/06).

In the A minor Sonata, K.310, tragic power is wed to fragile grace in a thoughtful and disturbing performance. The insistent drive of the Allegro maestoso never loses sight of the telling detail. Juxtaposition of fortissimo and pianissimo in the development, so rare in Mozart, is given its full due. The Andante cantabile presents a bouquet of detailed articulation, all of it supporting an inherent rhetorical logic. The concluding Presto is as harrowing a flight from the furies as one is likely to encounter, evoking panic only scarcely controlled.

Contrasts are also prevalent in the happier climes of the B flat Sonata, K.281. From the elaborately embellished staking out of the principal tonality in the opening Allegro, ingratiating humour is always eager to assert itself. One could call the tenderness of the leisurely Andante amoroso childlike were it not so sophisticated, while the Rondo seems to burst any remaining constraints from indulgence in unalloyed joy.

This is richly communicative Mozart-playing, capturing a youthfulness touched with wisdom and undergirded by one of the most sensitive left hands around today. Experiencing it is akin to having made a new friend.

Source: Patrick Rucker (

Georg Philipp Telemann: Missa & Cantatas for countertenor

Alex Potter, countertenor

La dolcezza:
Veronika Skuplik, violin
Catherine Aglibut, violin
Felix Knecht, cello
Michael Fuerst, organ & harpsichord

Recorded June 23-25, 2017 at Kirche Grasberg, Germany
Released on June 7, 2019 by CPO

Alex Potter – praised by the press as "a rising star in the world of countertenors" – interprets sacred works by Telemann for cpo on this album. The setting of Psalm 6 continues to be thoroughly obliged to the tone of the sacred concertos of the seventeenth century associated with names such as Dietrich Buxtehude, Johann Rosenmüller, and Johann Schelle. However, even though this psalm setting entitled "Ach, Herr strafe mich nicht" very much resembles similar works by older authors, it nevertheless displays a very special aura. Accompanied by two violins and basso continuo, an affectively nuanced narrative of a soul plagued by fear and hoping for the end of its torments is heard. The Missa in B minor is similar in style to the music of the psalm; it is what is known as a Lutheran "short mass", which with its Kyrie and Gloria merely consists of two compositional complexes. All the numbers comprising "Me miserum" concern the faithful soul, which tells its story, is aware of its insufficiency but does not yield to despair, and therefore is able to register its experience of faith. A sonata and two fugues round off the album.


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: January 2020

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: 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

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

The Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra performs Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. The concert was recorded at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, on November 23, 2014.

Aaron Copland has long held a secure position in the cultural pantheon of America. Yet it took him some time to arrive at the style of directness and simplicity that sounds so "right"-as if he'd started out writing that way without having to struggle toward it. One of Copland's most inspiring quotes speaks to a belief in the resilient power of art that many have discovered in his own music: "So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning".

Copland composed Appalachian Spring as a ballet for Martha Graham's company in 1943-1944; in 1945 he arranged and reorchestrated the score into the familiar concert suite we hear. The full ballet was first performed on October 30, 1944 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., while the orchestral suite was premiered on October 4, 1945 by the New York Philharmonic.

Appalachian Spring marked an important turning point not only in the composer's career but in the history of American music and has retained its bracing freshness despite close to seven decades of familiarity. This music conveys an unselfconscious beauty, as if Copland were merely transcribing something already there-"a home-spun musical idiom", as the composer himself termed it. Yet Copland also pointed out that this idiom represents "a kind of musical naturalness that we have badly needed" – an idiom that, in other words, had to be crafted afresh.

Appalachian Spring has come to epitomize Copland (even if it represents only one stage in a long career); it has even come to epitomize the "American voice" in classical music. In fact Copland, who was the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, had tried out several styles before deciding to cultivate a more straightforwardly popular language. He had previously spent time studying in Paris and experimented with modernist ideas that he never entirely discarded. After the premiere of his Organ Symphony in 1925 caused a stir, writes Copland's biographer Howard Pollack, the conductor Walter Damrosch melodramatically turned to the audience and declared: "Ladies and gentlemen, when the gifted young American who wrote this symphony can compose, at the age of twenty-three, a work like this one, it seems evident that in five years more he will be ready to commit murder!"

But the Great Depression sharpened Copland's desire to communicate with a wider audience. During the 1930s he began to gain greater prominence through his music for ballet, theater, and film. In 1943, he was commissioned by the eminent art patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge to create a ballet on American themes for choreographer and dancer Martha Graham (1894-1991), a trailblazer in modern dance. The familiar title came later; Copland's working title was "Ballet for Martha" (now the subtitle), and he composed the music without any particular notions of Appalachia or springtime in mind. It was actually Graham who chose the title, derived from a section of Hart Crane's epic poem The Bridge. It's also worth noting that Copland composed this undiluted, classic evocation of a simple, folk-like America while living in Hollywood and Mexico.

Copland originally scored the ballet for a small chamber ensemble of 13 instruments. For the concert suite he cut out some of the original material, reducing the story to eight numbers. At the same time, Copland rescored the music for a fuller orchestra. "The larger palette", observes Pollack, "provided a new grandeur and brilliance to the work", while "some of the episodes acquired a whole new richness with full strings and brass".

Copland immediately establishes the pastoral scene in his idyllic, dreamy opening, expanding a simple three-note idea. (A more-assertive variant of this theme appears in the contemporaneous Fanfare for the Common Man.) That simplicity, though, is deceptive, and Copland unfurls a striking range of emotions from his basic material. As each of the characters is introduced, the music layers into bright, warm chords, like a dawn mist that slowly evaporates. The promise here of a fresh beginning is as bright and enveloping as the sunny textures of a Georgia O'Keefe canvas.

The action then begins with a sudden charge of energy. Copland indicates that "a sentiment both elated and religious gives the keynote to this scene". A gentle duo dance for the Bride and her Groom follows, and the tempo then quickens-with "suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers" – for the scene with the Revivalist preacher and his flock. The Bride's solo introduces even faster music and exciting rhythmic accents to reflect the "extremes of joy and fear and wonder" as she thinks of future motherhood.

A brief transition recalling the introductory music leads to the ballet's best-known sequence: a set of five variations on a Shaker melody which had been published in a mid-nineteenth-century collection under the title "Simple Gifts". Interestingly, this tune – first heard on solo clarinet, with decorative comments from the woodwinds – is the only pre-existing folk melody used in the score. Other sections of the music which sound folk-like only emphasize the composer's skill in fashioning an aura of spontaneity through his music. The ballet concludes with a moving coda beginning with muted strings: the music of the opening now rendered as a quiet, inward hymn. Copland distills his material to an even more lucid simplicity that is indeed, in his words, "quiet and strong".

Source: Thomas May (

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

♪ Appalachian Spring – Suite (1944)

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra

First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, November 23, 2014

(HD 1080p)

Aaron Copland was one of the most respected American classical composers of the twentieth century. By incorporating popular forms of American music such as jazz and folk into his compositions, he created pieces both exceptional and innovative. As a spokesman for the advancement of indigenous American music, Copland made great strides in liberating it from European influence. Today Copland's life and work continue to inspire many of America's young composers.

Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 14, 1900. The child of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, he first learned to play the piano from his older sister. At the age of sixteen he went to Manhattan to study with Rubin Goldmark, a respected private music instructor who taught Copland the fundamentals of counterpoint and composition. During these early years he immersed himself in contemporary classical music by attending performances at the New York Symphony and Brooklyn Academy of Music. He found, however, that like many other young musicians, he was attracted to the classical history and musicians of Europe. So, at the age of twenty, he left New York for the Summer School of Music for American Students at Fountainebleau, France.

In France, Copland found a musical community unlike any he had known. It was at this time that he sold his first composition to Durand and Sons, the most respected music publisher in France. While in Europe Copland met many of the important artists of the time, including the famous composer Serge Koussevitsky. Koussevitsky requested that Copland write a piece for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The piece "Symphony for Organ and Orchestra" (1925) was Copland's entry into the life of professional American music. He followed this with "Music for the Theater" (1925) and "Piano Concerto" (1926), both of which relied heavily on the jazz idioms of the time. For Copland, jazz was the first genuinely American major musical movement. From jazz he hoped to draw the inspiration for a new type of symphonic music, one that could distinguish itself from the music of Europe.

In the late 1920s Copland's attention turned to popular music of other countries. He had moved away from his interest in jazz and began to concern himself with expanding the audience for American classical music. He believed that classical music could eventually be as popular as jazz in America or folk music in Mexico. He worked toward this goal with both his music and a firm commitment to organizing and producing. He was an active member of many organizations, including both the American Composers' Alliance and the League of Composers. Along with his friend Roger Sessions, he began the Copland-Sessions concerts, dedicated to presenting the works of young composers. It was around this same time that his plans for an American music festival (similar to ones in Europe) materialized as the Yaddo Festival of American Music (1932). By the mid-'30s Copland had become not only one of the most popular composers in the country, but a leader of the community of American classical musicians.

It was in 1935 with "El Salón México" that Copland began his most productive and popular years. The piece presented a new sound that had its roots in Mexican folk music. Copland believed that through this music, he could find his way to a more popular symphonic music. In his search for the widest audience, Copland began composing for the movies and ballet. Among his most popular compositions for film are those for "Of Mice and Men" (1939), "Our Town" (1940), and "The Heiress" (1949), which won him an Academy Award for best score. He composed scores for a number of ballets, including two of the most popular of the time: "Agnes DeMille's Rodeo" (1942) and Martha Graham's "Appalachian Spring" (1944), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. Both ballets presented views of American country life that corresponded to the folk traditions Copland was interested in. Probably the most important and successful composition from this time was his patriotic "A Lincoln Portrait" (1942). The piece for voice and orchestra presents quotes from Lincoln's writings narrated over Copland's musical composition.

Throughout the '50s, Copland slowed his work as a composer, and began to try his hand at conducting. He began to tour with his own work as well as the works of other great American musicians. Conducting was a synthesis of the work he had done as a composer and as an organizer. Over the next twenty years he traveled throughout the world, conducting live performances and creating an important collection of recorded work. By the early '70s, Copland had, with few exceptions, completely stopped writing original music. Most of his time was spent conducting and reworking older compositions. In 1983 Copland conducted his last symphony. His generous work as a teacher at Tanglewood, Harvard, and the New School for Social Research gained him a following of devoted musicians. As a scholar, he wrote more than sixty articles and essays on music, as well as five books. He traveled the world in an attempt to elevate the status of American music abroad, and to increase its popularity at home. Through these various commitments to music and to his country, Aaron Copland became one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American music. On December 2, 1990, Aaron Copland died in North Tarrytown, New York.


More photos

See also

Yuan-Chen Li: “Wandering Viewpoint”, Concerto for Solo Cello and Two Ensembles – Michael Kaufman, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Samuel Barber: Knoxville, Summer of 1915 – Maria Valdes, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Leoš Janáček: Mládí (Youth), suite for wind sextet – Members of the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Olivier Messiaen: L'Ascension, 4 meditations for orchestra – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.6 in F major "Pastoral" – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No.1 in D major "Classical" – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.4 in G major – Janai Brugger, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.7 in A major – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending – William Hagen, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No.39 in E flat major – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3 in C major – Irene Kim, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No.5 in C minor – Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra (HD 1080p)

Kaleidoscope: Meet a different, colorful orchestra