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

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The best new classical albums: July 2019

Recording of the Month

1939 – William Walton: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in B minor | Karl Amadeus Hartmann: Concerto funèbre (Funereal Concerto) for Violin and String Orchestra | Béla Bartók: Violin Concerto No.2 in B major

Fabiola Kim, violin

Münchner Symphoniker

Conductor: Kevin John Edusei

Recorded November 5-8, 2018 (Walton, Bartók) and January 23-24, 2019 (Hartmann) at Bavaria Musikstudios Munich
Released on June 21, 2019 by Solo Musica

The Korean-American violinist Fabiola Kim has earned herself an excellent reputation far beyond her native regions. While she has long been regarded as one of the strongest talents of her young generation in the United States with appearances at Carnegie Hall and the Aspen Festival – the New York Times celebrates her as "a brilliant soloist... with extraordinary precision and luminosity" – she has also been able to amaze critics and audiences on numerous European concert stages.

With 1939 now her impressive debut appears, whose program not only demands tremendous musicality, but also historical awareness and sensitivity. Under the baton of Kevin John Edusei, she has recorded with the Munich Symphony Orchestra violin concertos by Walton, Hartmann and Bartók, all of which were written in the year that provides the title – works by composers with very different styles and musical spheres of their own. The concerts reveal in the music and their spiritual attitude both closeness and distance to the historical turning point of 1939 – before the great global conflagration.

Béla Bartók, who with his folkloristic music strived for nothing less than a "brotherhood of peoples", had already suffered under the rapprochements of the Hungarian right-wing government to the Nazi regime and was also directly affected by the political development at the latest with the annexation of Austria, where his publishing house Universal Edition was located. Torn between emigration and remaining in his homeland, Bartók initially escaped into work. He wrote his 2nd Violin Concerto for his befriended violinist Zoltán Székely. It represents a wonderful compromise between Bartók's modern imagination and the client's desire for a "classical" concert.

Karl Amadeus Hartmann, a native of Munich, was most directly affected by the political darkening in Germany: "The standstill in creative activity was accompanied by the fear of what was to come, the unimaginable, the rule of the demon had come to pass, seemingly established for the duration". Hartmann remained in Germany and chose inner emigration. The events of 1939 represent the starting point of his Concerto funèbre, which he conceived as funeral music and accusation against the tyranny of the National Socialists: "This period indicates the fundamental character of my piece and the background to it. The dire outlook at that time for all that war spiritual was to be challenged by an expression of confidence in the two chorales at the beginning and at the end".

The situation was quite different with the creation of Walton's Violin Concerto, which was composed at that time in Italy and the USA far from the threat of war. After Walton had flirted with modern trends in the 1920s and had risen to become the "enfant terrible" of the English avant-garde, he followed in later works a more subtle tone a more subtle tone of lyrical quality in the neo-Romantic style, as he does in the Violin Concerto. He had received the commission for the composition from none other than Jascha Heifetz, who premiered the work in Cleveland in December 1939 with great success – thus Walton was now also affected by the political events, unable to attend the premiere of his work after the outbreak of World War II.


Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonatas for Cello and Piano

Leonard Elschenbroich, cello
Alexei Grynyuk, piano

Recorded January 7, 8, 10 & 11, and April 18 & 20, 2017 at Deutschlandfunk
Released on May 3, 2019 by Onyx Classics

There's little in Beethoven's output that’s undervalued but I have the sense that the cello sonatas don't quite get the respect they deserve. The pair of Op.5 show the young composer flexing his creative muscles in vast sonata structures that teem with ideas and incident; Op.69 is a veritable melodic feast; and Op.102's two are wondrously weird.

In Leonard Elschenbroich and Alexei Grynyuk's hands, these sonatas' staggering invention is impossible to ignore. The musicians' success comes, at least in part, from scrupulous attention to the composer's markings in matters of dynamics and articulation. Listen to the expectant hush with which they play the beginning of Op.5 No.1 – and note, too, how Elschenbroich sneaks into a crescendo so it seems to come out of nowhere. Or turn to the opening Andante of Op.102 No.1, rendered with such rapt yearning that it sounds as if it's being dreamily improvised.

Dynamic contrasts are starkly defined throughout, further sharpening musical characterisations. They wring every last ounce of drama from the central Allegro molto of Op.5 No.2, for example, and although they play both repeats, there's no slackening of tension or feeling of protraction. I was particularly riveted by the cellist's fervid phrasing in the repeat of the development section (at 9'05"), where he digs in even deeper than the first time around. His sound isn't especially plummy – there's a slight (and, I think, endearing) nasal quality to it – but his legato is seamless and he's not shy about roughing up his tone when called for, as in the two Trios of Op.69's Scherzo.

Indeed, Elschenbroich and Grynyuk find a wealth of textural variety in these sonatas. Grynyuk's touch can be astonishingly delicate and is unfailingly articulate. I love the rhythmic buoyancy both musicians bring to the rondos of Op.5 No.2 and Op.69 – whose ebullience borders on the giddy – and by Op.102 No.2's concluding Allegro fugato, where they step lightly and with unfailing grace through exceptionally intricate polyphony.

They can drive the music hard in fast movements, although their playing always breathes naturally. In a few places, I feel the breaths between thematic sections are held a hair too long. And in the slender slow introduction to Op.69's finale their phrasing feels a bit fussy when heard alongside, say, Rostropovich and Richter (Philips, 4/95).

Unlike many other recordings of the complete sonatas, Elschenbroich and Grynyuk eschew the sets of variations, offering instead a delightful account of the Horn Sonata in an arrangement likely made by the composer himself. The balance between the instruments ever so slightly favours the piano, and in some forte passages I wish the cello had greater presence. But this is a very minor complaint in the face of such superb music-making.

Source: Andrew Farach-Colton (

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Histoires Sacrées

Ensemble Correspondances
Conductor: Sébastien Daucé

Recorded October & December 2016 at MC2: Grenoble et Maison de la Culture, Amiens, France
Released on April 12, 2019 by Harmonia mundi

This is superb. Here is a generous selection of sacred pieces by Charpentier, impeccably performed by Ensemble Correspondances under Sébastien Daucé. Most were composed at the behest of the Duchess de Guise, Charpentier's deeply religious employer, whose household included a substantial complement of singers and instrumentalists. The CDs include three substantial histoires sacrées, each one lasting between 30 and 40 minutes. All have named characters, the story entrusted to one or more narrators. The first is Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, probably composed in 1677. Cecilia's husband and his brother Tiburtius, having converted to Christianity, are executed by Almachius. Cecilia then suffers the same fate. The drama proceeds swiftly, with a touch of Monteverdian stile concitato; the final chorus celebrates Cecilia as the patron saint of music, reeling off the "well-tuned cymbals" and other instruments familiar from Psalm 150. Nicolas Brooymans's forceful Almachius has a true match in the robustly defiant Cecilia of Judith Fa.

Next comes the grim tale, familiar from many an Old Master, of Judith, who saved the city of Bethulia from capture by gaining admission to the tent of Holofernes, the Assyrian commander, and cutting off his head as he slept. Composed in 1675, the piece starts suddenly with a chorus of Assyrians. Perhaps a prelude is missing; but the effect is of Charpentier bursting to tell the story. Caroline Weynants is by turns challenging, faux-submissive and triumphant; and one can't help but feel sorry for Renaud Bres's eminently reasonable Holofernes. The two parts are separated by "Night", ravishingly played by three bass viols: a picture in sound that looks forward to Orpheus's "Cessez, cessez, fameux coupables" in La descente d'Orphée aux enfers. As in Caecilia, there's a final chorus of jubilation.

The third of these concert mini-dramas is The Death of Saul and Jonathan, composed around 1682. The latter doesn't appear but Saul does, starting with his visit to the Witch of Endor. The mezzo Lucile Richardot is very fine as the witch, raising Samuel in what is virtually a scena in itself. Nicolas Brooymans, a very palpable ghost, is accompanied by the buzzing sound of a regal. The chorus has striking harmonic clashes at "acerba" (grievous) and "amara" (bitter) when lamenting the deaths; David's own lament for Jonathan, beautifully sung by David Cornillot, is underpinned by violins, recorders and those plangent viols. The whole work is on a par with an equally dramatic piece, Purcell's magnificent "In guilty night", which appeared some 10 years later.

The shorter numbers include Dialogues: Christ and Mary Magdalene, Christ and sinners, Christ and mankind. The last of all is the most unusual. The Plague at Milan, which dates from 1679, was written in honour of Cardinal Charles Borromeo, star of the Council of Trent and a character in Pfitzner's opera Palestrina. He is praised for the piety, humility and charity which led him to tend the sick during an outbreak of a "horrenda pestis" in 1576. According to Thomas Leconte's booklet note, these exemplary characters all reflect the ideals and aspirations of the Counter-Reformation.

A splendid anthology; and what makes the set even more desirable is the so-called DVD bonus. The performance is not the same as on the CDs. Filmed in 2016 in the Chapelle Royale at Versailles, it consists of a dramatisation of two of the substantial histoires sacrées and four shorter pieces, one of which – the antiphon In odorem unguentorum, H51 – is not listed in the booklet. Aurélie Maestre's set design is simplicity itself: a rocky outcrop which can be split in two, a flight of steps, a tree. Vincent Huguet bases his production around Mary Magdalene, Judith and Cecilia. During the viol-infused "Night" interlude, Judith is dressed by her maid. As she lies on the bed with Holofernes, the camera focuses on their entwined hands; the maid, when describing the murder, holds the bag containing the severed head. But why, at the end, does Davy Cornillot's Ozias present Judith with a cloth of honour and then contemptuously veil her? Not surprisingly, she throws it in his face and storms off.

In Caecilia, Étienne Bazola's Valerian shows a distinct lack of enthusiasm when Cecilia insists on preserving her virginity, but they get married all the same. The chorus of believers celebrate the conversion of the two men with simple gesturing. In Part 2 Almachius physically attacks Cecilia while threatening her, a shocking moment. The last piece is another antiphon, Sub tuum praesidium, H28, for three voices unaccompanied, Cecilia holding Judith and Mary Magdalene in a tender embrace. It's a sublime ending. Do not miss these wonderful performances.

Source: Richard Lawrence (

Franz Schubert: Late Piano Works, Vol. I – Piano Sonatas No.20 (D.959), No.4 (D.537), & Allegretto in C minor (D.915)

Andrea Lucchesini, piano

Recorded November 10-13, 2018 at Leibniz Saal, Hannover Congress Centrum
Released on June 7, 2019 by audite Musikproduktion

Andrea Lucchesini has called Franz Schubert's late piano works his "recent great love". Now he acts out this love in three albums for audite – masterful performances by the renowned Italian pianist whose interpretations are informed by his expertise in Beethoven as well as musical modernism.

Italy tends not to be considered as a cradle of pianism in the same way as are Russia, Austria or, more recently, China. Since 1945 only a small number of Italian pianists have reached top international standards – they include Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and his pupil Maurizio Pollini, or Maria Tipo and her pupil Andrea Lucchesini who was born in 1965 in Tuscany and caused a sensation at an early age. Even then, he mastered the great repertoire. But because, for Lucchesini, music knows no limits, he has always promoted the revolutionaries around Arnold Schoenberg as well as his compatriot Luciano Berio. And studying musical modernism has, naturally, informed Lucchesini's approach to his favourite composers of the past, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert.

Audite have now managed to win over the Florentine master pianist for a three-part recording series dedicated to his impressive interpretations of late Schubert works. The series opens with two sonatas that are closely linked to one another, alongside the atmospheric Allegretto in C minor, D.915 of 1827. The Sonata in A minor, D.537, written when Schubert was twenty years old, features a dance-like melody to which he would return eleven years later when he worked on his mature Sonata in A major, D.959. The reworking of the theme highlights the distance between Schubert's middle and late creative periods. What is initially a rousing, though slightly traditional tune, later appears embedded in a richer harmonic framework, but also in a more virtuosic form, at times almost transfigured.

It is this compositional and emotional range in Schubert's music that is especially fascinating to Andrea Lucchesini. "One recognises the difference between the artist who entertained his friends at social gatherings, and the composer working in solitude – without any prospect of publishing or performing his works, completely confined to his internal world where he felt many precipices. One has to take a plunge into his emotional labyrinth, not only to become intoxicated with his fabulous themes, but also to recognise their infinite variations that take one's breath away. This is how the work of a performer became a complete immersion for me."

Vol. II, featuring Piano Sonata No.21 and Drei Klavierstücke, D.946, will be released in spring 2020. Vol. III, presenting Piano Sonata No.18 & Sonata No.19, is scheduled for release in autumn 2020 and will complete the recording series of Schubert's late piano works.


Johann Sebastian Bach: Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (Performing version by Trio Zimmermann)

Trio Zimmermann:
Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin (Antonio Stradivarius, Cremona 1711, "Lady Inchiquin")
Antoine Tamestit, viola (Antonio Stradivarius, Cremona 1672, "Mahler")
Christian Poltéra, cello (Antonio Stradivarius, Cremona 1711, "Mara")

Recorded August & September 2017 and June 2018 at St.-Osdag-Kirche, Neustadt-Mandelsloh, Germany
Released on June 7, 2019 by BIS

For close to 300 years Bach's Goldberg Variations have awed performers as well as listeners, through an unparalleled combination of a dazzling variety of expression and breath-taking virtuosity with stupendous polyphonic mastery. No wonder then that other musicians than harpsichordists have wanted to make it their own  pianists, first and foremost, but also accordion players and guitarists, flautists and harpists.

Having performed and recorded much of the classical as well as the modern string trio repertoire, Trio Zimmermann began working on the Goldberg Variations several years ago, playing an existing arrangement. But in their own words, the three members – among the leading string players of our time  "soon became captivated by the original score and its innumerable beauties and details". As a result they have jointly prepared a performing version which here receives its first recording. Playing an important part on this disc are also the Trio's instruments  all by Antonio Stradivarius, and featured in close-up on the cover.


Lieder – Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler

Renée Fleming, soprano
Hartmut Höll, piano

Münchner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Christian Thielemann

Recorded January 17, 19 & 20, 2017 at Italian Institute of Culture, Budapest (tracks 1-16) and October 21, 22 & 24, 2010 at Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich (tracks 17-21)
Released on June 14, 2019 by Decca

Four-time Grammy winning soprano Renée Fleming releases her first full-length lieder album for almost two decades on 14 June. The release date coincides with her London musical theatre debut, performing the role of Margaret Johnson in the Tony-winning musical The Light In The Piazza at the Royal Festival Hall.

Renée Fleming's new album Lieder, spanning six decades of German song, features songs by Brahms, Schumann, and Mahler, each of whom bring Romantic poetry to life. Fleming is partnered by her long-standing artistic collaborator Hartmut Höll on piano for songs by Brahms, including the beloved Brahms' "Lullaby", and also for Schumann's "Frauenliebe Und-Leben". She is joined by Christian Thielemann and the Munich Philharmonic for a performance of Mahler's "Rückert Lieder".

"I love lieder for the marriage of poetry and music that allows both profound emotion and the most intimate, nuanced expression", said Renée Fleming. "The German lied is, for me, both the foundation and the pinnacle of song literature. I am especially excited to have been able to collaborate with some of the greatest interpreters in the world for this repertoire."

Renée Fleming, the world's most beloved soprano, appears on the world's leading opera stages and concert halls. Winner of the U.S. National Medal of Arts and Female Artist of the Year at the 2018 Classic Brit Awards, the "people's diva" has been sought after for numerous distinguished occasions, from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to the Diamond Jubilee Concert for HM Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

"Song has come alive for her." (Financial Times)

"Tonal beauty was allied to honestly affecting interpretation." (Daily Telegraph)


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 20 & 21, and Overture to "Don Giovanni"

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano

Manchester Camerata
Conductor: Gábor Takács-Nagy

Recorded September 7-8, 2018 at The Stoller Hall, Hunts Bank, Manchester
Released on May 31, 2019 by Chandos

These miraculous works from the Lenten season of 1785 may be the two Mozart concertos most commonly paired on disc. Listeners who have heard and enjoyed the previous three volumes in this series (11/16, 10/17, 12/18), however, might have come to expect something a little special from these musicians. They won't be disappointed, either.

Concertos Nos. 20 and 21 represent the ultimate synthesis in Mozart's mature style, with peaks of technique, inspiration and creative personality conspiring to create works of unprecedented individuality and expressive depth. They form an ideal pair, contrasting the majesty of trumpet-laden C major with the anguished Sturm und Drang of dark D minor. The playfulness of No 21's outer movements encloses one of Mozart's most sublime creations – the inimitable slow movement that once linked the work with a Swedish B movie. Bavouzet and the Manchester Camerata are ideally poised in the fast music, with the conversational interplay between piano and woodwinds displaying the naturalness that is an evident hallmark of this cycle. In performance the Andante is often either dragged out and overburdened with an ersatz "expression" that it can't bear, or trotted through in an effort to avoid doing just that. Here, Gábor Takács-Nagy sets the ideal tempo – a touch slower than Zacharias for Jan Lisiecki (DG, 9/12) and faster than Marriner for Yeol Eum Son (Onyx, 6/18), to take two recent ish recordings – while Bavouzet doesn't so much sing the cantabile melody as croon it, delaying the down-beats like a nightclub singer and ornamenting liberally. It's a highly personal take on this all-too-familiar piece, to be sure, and I love it.

The Don Giovanni Overture makes you catch your breath as it bursts in after the effervescent close of K.467, making the Camerata sound like a far bigger band than their numbers suggest. The ground is thus prepared for the D minor of K.466, played with the same acuity and charisma as the C major Concerto, even if the central Romance is sung straighter, without the lubricious liberties of the C major's Andante.

This series of discs is shaping up to be a serious front-runner in a cycle of works that has never wanted for fine recordings. Cadenzas are by Beethoven (K.466) and, less predictably, Friedrich Gulda (K.467). For this concerto pairing, there are few recordings as fine.

Source: David Threasher (

Dmitri Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke, Sergei Prokofiev: Cello Sonatas

Santiago Cañón Valencia, cello
Katherine Austin, piano

Recorded July 1-5, 2014 at Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand
Released on May 17, 2019 by Atoll

Born in Bogotá in 1995, Santiago Cañón Valencia has been praised as one of the most promising young cellists of his generation. His major musical mentors have been Henrik Zarzycki in Colombia and James Tennant in New Zealand. He began winning major prizes in International competitions from the age of 11 including the Carlos Prieto (2006), Adams (2009), Beijing (2010), Gisborne and Johansen (2012), and the Lynn Harrell and Pablo Casals (2014). He has performed as soloist and in recital throughout Australasia, the USA, South America, South Africa, Europe and Russia and has previously recorded a highly praised debut CD of solo 20th century works in 2012.

Currently Head of Piano at the Conservatorium of Music, University of Waikato, in Hamilton NZ, Katherine Austin was the winner of the inaugural New Zealand Young Musician of the Year competition and the NZ National Piano Award, both in 1982. Her principal mentors included Janetta McStay, Bryan Sayer and Irina Zaritskaya. She has performed as soloist in NZ with all the major orchestras including the NZSO and Auckland Philharmonia, and performs regularly in Europe, Australasia, China and the Americas as the pianist of the New Zealand Chamber Soloists and the Tennant-Austin Duo. Between 2008 and 2016 Katherine and Santiago have performed in over 100 concerts together.

Shostakovich composed the Sonata Op.40 in 1934, a few months after the original version of his controversial Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was produced in Leningrad. Stung by the cruel official disapproval of his "decadent" opera, Shostakovich practically abandoned stage and film composition, devoting himself to instrumental music. On Christmas day of that year he gave the first performance of the Sonata with his friend Viktor Kubatsky, cellist of the Stradivarius Quartet and Bolshoi Theatre, to whom the score is dedicated. The Sonata consists of four movements. The first movement places the cello in a lyric role with a primarily secondary piano accompaniment. This movement is in sonata-allegro form; Shostakovich spends much time establishing each theme individually to create a clearer contrast between moods. The second movement's foot-stomping dance, with its ethereal glissandi in the cello's upper register, suggests a manic perpetual motion machine. The third movement, almost bordering in stasis, is perhaps one of the most introspective works in the cello repertoire. In the fourth movement, there is a return to the irony and sarcasm, focusing on music that is grotesque and irreverent.

Alfred Schnittke dedicated this sonata to the famous cellist Natalia Gutman. The three movements are set in a somewhat non-conventional form: Largo - Presto - Largo. The opening Largo is melancholic in character, rotating around C minor but always evading a resolution. Schnittke continues to explore major/minor changes in the furious Presto. Meticulously constructed on contrapuntal lines, this movement shows many different characters: wild chromatic thirds, threatening bass quavers on the piano, glissando fifths on the cello and the climatic arm cluster on the piano. The last movement uses much of the material of the previous movements manipulated through imaginative processes of augmentation and repetition.

Prokofiev composed his Cello Sonata for Mstislav Rostropovich, who gave the first performance in 1950, with no less than Sviatoslav Richter at the piano. The pianist tells the story of performing the newly written work for two different judging panels, apparently for authorisation to perform it in public. Even though much of Prokofiev's music was banned because of accusations of formalism as defined by the Zhdanov Decree only a year before the cello sonata was written, there was relatively little official opposition to this sonata, as it is principally a lyrical work with little of the harmonic daring associated with the younger Prokofiev. The first movement is a fine example of Prokofiev's gift for melody, with an amusing passage where the two instruments imitate each other, and a poignant, chiming close. The wittily ironic second movement scherzo has an even more lyrical interlude and the energetic finale has an extremely dramatic finish all very much set in the key of C major, some might say as a form of mockery directed at the traditionalist government.

"The first disc of sonatas features the mighty Russian troika of Shostakovich, Schnittke and Prokofiev and how well Valencia and Austin ignite those very Slavic passions, never far below the surface in these works. With Shostakovich's 1934 Sonata, the pair extracts extraordinary colours from a compulsively dancing Allegro and, in a soul-searching Largo, find the stoic melancholy that the politically harassed composer portrayed so well. A gripping 1949 Sonata by Prokofiev, balancing acerbic wit with lyrical poignancy, reveals yet another composer doomed to play cat-and-mouse games with intransigent Soviet authorities. Schnittke could be more daring. Valencia teases us into his 1978 sonata with a long, beautifully sustained solo, caught to the last rustle of bow by the expert studio team of producer Wayne Laird and engineer Steve Garden." (William Dart, NZ Herald, April 2016.)


Gateways – Qigang Chen (The Five Elements, & The Joy of Suffering), Fritz Kreisler (Tambourin chinois), and Sergei Rachmaninov (Symphonic Dances)

Maxim Vengerov, violin
Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Long Yu

Recorded September 2018 at Shanghai Symphony Hall
Released on June 28, 2019 by Deutsche Grammophon

The second Deutsche Grammophon release “"Gateways" by the newly signed Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Long Yu features Chinese and Russian works. This is the first in a series of SSO albums featuring works by important Chinese composers. This 2019 release celebrates the orchestra's 140th anniversary – it is China's oldest orchestra. Star soloist Maxim Vengerov is the dedicatee and first performer of Qigang Chen's violin concerto "The Joy of Suffering". "Long Yu [is] a superpower of China's burgeoning music world" (Washington Post).


The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1879, has a rich heritage, and here presents an East-meets-West program of great appeal. Qigang Chen left China in 1984 and moved to Paris, becoming Messiaen's last pupil. His musical language is ravishingly beautiful, atmospheric, and perfumed. The violin concerto "The Joy of Suffering", written as a competition piece, is gloriously brought to life by Maxim Vengerov. Like the orchestral Wu Xing, it manages to sound both French and Chinese. Rachmaninov's vibrant "Symphonic Dances" demonstrates what a superb ensemble this is and Long Yu directs with terrific authority. Kreisler's sparkling "Tambourin chinois" makes a cheeky encore.


Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Trios, Vol. III – Trio in C minor Op.1 No.3, & Trio in E flat major Op.97 "Archduke"

Trio con Brio Copenhagen:
Soo-Jin Hong, violin
Soo-Kyung Hong, cello
Jens Elvekjaer, piano

Recorded January 7-10, 2019 at the DR Koncerthuset, Studio 2, Copenhagen
Released on June 21, 2019 by Orchid Classics

Beethoven's temperament was legendary. He often ended up quarrelling bitterly with his closest friends and with people who wished him well. Particularly the relation between Beethoven and Haydn would appear to have been especially complex. When Beethoven leaves his native city of Bonn in favour of Vienna in autumn 1792, his intention is to study under Haydn, who is now 60 and the most highly recognised composer of his age. But even though Haydn agreed to teach the young, talented Beethoven, the two never established a harmonious relationship. Beethoven was impatient and frustrated at having to spend time on elementary counterpoint assignments, and Haydn became irritated at Beethoven's obstinacy, referring to him as, among other things, "the great mogul".

One of their greatest musical disagreements would seem to have been about the Piano Trio in C minor, Op.1 No.3. According to Beethoven's later pupil Ferdinand Ries, Haydn did not think that it would be understood and received sufficiently positively by an audience. Throughout his life, Haydn had developed a sophisticated flair for composing original music which at the same time also satisfied the expectations of his musical employers. Beethoven, on the other hand, had revolutionary blood in his veins. Apart from his fractious temperament, he was an exponent of a new age, one in which personal liberty played an increasingly important role.

In the first two piano trios, with the binding designation opus 1, Beethoven had admittedly not only created a perfect springboard for excelling as a pianist but also kept within the norms that applied to Viennese salons. But in the third and last trio from the opus Beethoven shows his musical hand. Here for the first time we experience the germination of the radical Beethoven who is subsequently to change musical history. The darkly coloured main theme of the first movement, which is heard from the very beginning, smoulders with unreleased tension and is in C minor, which will later prove to be Beethoven's preferred key signature when he wants to express something stormy and heroic. This particularly applies to Symphony No.5 "Fate" and as an omen of this there is the fateful ta-ta-ta-taaaa knocking leitmotif in the form of a descending scale in the trio. At first, only softly in the piano after the pulse of the music has been suspended twice in a pause, and then loudly in the two strings.

Towards the end of the movement the fateful theme occurs once more. After Beethoven has thinned out the music to its softest nuances, he creates with an inserted Adagio a quiet moment of eternity which only dissolves when the piano comes in with the theme. This has the character of a life-giving impulse and leads on to a violent conclusion where the initial C minor, full of presentiment, now shows itself in its most unrelenting form. It is music that carries its head erect, blindly convinced of its own greatness.

In the following two movements, Beethoven leads the listener into milder zones. In Andante cantabile con variazioni the classical balance is regained. With delicate composition that offers plenty of scope for brilliance, the musical material is broken down into ever smaller constituents until an entrancingly beautiful minor variation causes the music to rise above time and place. Beethoven the man's dream of divine beauty can be glimpsed on the horizon. And even though the following Menuetto, with its ingenious play of rhythms, is beyond the regular pattern of the baroque, everything is done with elegance and humour.

This only serves to increase the effect of the final movement Finale, which is charged with volcanic force and where the music at no point calms down. One of Beethoven's artistic effects is the pause, which causes the intensity to increase, as the music subsequently changes track when the rocket-like thematics of the beginning are replaced by hectically repeated notes. Towards the conclusion the movement thins out, but the unrest continues, for although the music becomes softer, the feverish pulse remains intact until the very end. So that even after the last note, the musical fervour can still be sensed. The extent to which the music is over or not is something Beethoven leaves the individual listener to decide.

Beethoven's last Piano Trio in B flat major, Op.97 "The Archduke" marks Beethoven's farewell as a pianist. At the first performance in April 1814 in Vienna, where Beethoven sat at the piano, he played for the last time in public. His fellow composer Louis Spohr was present at the rehearsals for the concert: "As a result of his deafness, Beethoven had lost most of the virtuosity for which he had earlier been admired. In the forte passages the poor deaf man hammered away so the strings rattled, and in the piano he played so softly that whole clusters of notes were missing, so one lost the thread unless one was able to see the piano part at the same time. I was seized with great sorrow at such a tragic fate. Even if it is a great misfortune for anyone to become deaf, how can a musician bear this without falling into utter despair? Beethoven's almost constant melancholy was no longer a mystery to me".

But at the same time as Beethoven bids farewell as a performing musician, he opens the door to a different, greater world. In The Archduke Trio Beethoven's art – when it comes to chamber music – is at its zenith. The three instruments are treated more equally, since the cello plays a more prominent role and the violin is in a slightly lower register than formerly, which results in a specially warm and full-bodied sound. And with the opening singing theme, which develops with calmness and dignity in the piano, the opening movement, epic in length, is intoned. The struggle and eternal striving for change, which otherwise is a strong characteristic of Beethoven's music, is here laid aside. Instead, we meet a Beethoven who is capable of giving himself peace and simply being present in enjoying the moments of music.

Even in a long pizzicato section, where all three musicians must tiptoe through a distant harmonious twilight landscape, Beethoven underplays rather than the opposite. And the path out to a recalling of the golden harmonies of the opening passes through a no man's land closely ornamented by ghostlike trills in all three instruments. The effect is tremendous, despite the subdued style, and the feeling of being in the presence of a mature artist is striking.

In the following Scherzo we meet Beethoven's former musician-like ego. The theme that is flung out by the cello and wittily commented on by the violin is dancing and playful. But the form is complex, as in Beethoven's symphonic scherzos. The first part of the trio, which breaks with the light feel of the opening, is particularly striking. With a slowly advancing theme, first heard in the cello, we move into a devious musical landscape where we have lost our footing, both rhythmically and harmonically. The usual feeling of a musical centre of gravity has been suspended, and we are drawing near to an aesthetics developed by the composers of the Second Viennese School a century later.

The third movement is a hymn that points the way to a metaphysical world. This is partly due to the choice of the key of D major, which exists in a different sphere of the harmonic system than the main key of B flat major, and partly to the floating-free feel of the music. The tranquil triple time is reminiscent of the old stately court dance the Sarabande, which here assumes a solemn, ceremonial nature. Ably assisted by the mild major sounds, it is the love-filled humanist Beethoven who is speaking to us. After a total of four richly developed variations, we return to the opening theme, although this time in a more porous form, and after a few bars the music starts to dissolve. But out of the last dying notes Beethoven creates a musical transformation. The notes that have just perished are reborn in a murmuring, romantically coloured music that wells up before the movement comes to rest in pure harmony.

It turns out, nevertheless, to be an illusion, for with a slight shift of a few notes Beethoven punctures the elevated mood and we find ourselves once more in the more down-to-earth B flat major, where a primitive and boldly dancing theme reminds one of the street urchins Beethoven used to meet daily in the metropolis of Vienna. Now the finale is in full swing, and with a virtuoso movement that towards the end culminates in a Più presto – even faster – Beethoven the pianist sends us a final greeting, and allows a joie de vivre to triumph even so.


Erika Fox: Paths

Goldfield Ensemble:
Nicola Goldscheider, violin
Bridget Carey, viola
Sophie Harris, cello
Elena Hull, double bass
Hugh Webb, harp
Carla Rees, flutes
Anna Durance, oboe/cor anglais
George Barton, percussion
Kate Romano, clarinets
Ben Goldscheider, horn
Richard Uttley, piano

Conductor: Richard Baker 

Recorded November 24, 25 & 27, 2018 at Stapleford Granary, Cambridge, England
Released on June 28, 2019 by NMC Recordings

"It is incredibly rare to stumble across a virtually unknown or forgotten composer whose music genuinely excites and delivers, piece after piece. Erika Fox's language is bold, feisty, uncompromising and astonishingly fresh. A highly distinctive style has emerged from a childhood suffused with music of Eastern European origin. Hasidic music, liturgical chant embellished with heterophony mingle with modal ancient melodic lines reminiscent of Eastern European folk music. She is a composer who is constantly energised by sound and its inexhaustible possibilities." — Kate Romano (Artistic Director of Goldfield Ensemble)

In the 1970s, Erika was actively involved with the Fires of London, the Nash Ensemble, Dartington, and the Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM). Between 1974 and 1994 her works were regularly performed at London's South Bank Centre, at major festivals and were regularly broadcast in the UK and abroad, but then it all stopped...

We are delighted to bring her music to a new audience on this first commercial album and have selected six chamber pieces spanning a 25 year period (1980-2005). They represent the depth and scope of Fox's music and are a fine introduction to her extraordinary musical imagination. Erika says "I have always been interested in theatre and ritual, as a means of containing human drama within boundaries. Since my music owes almost nothing to Western musical tradition, and almost everything to my childhood memories of Jewish Liturgical chant and fragments of Hasidic melody, there is no harmonic development as such, rather single melodic lines, often in heterophony, held together by dint of varied repetition, and moulded, sometimes by use of percussion, to provide a ritualistic and perhaps theatrical whole".

"Refreshingly unusual... a ritual of untethered lines." (Sunday Times)

"Full of both kinds of extremes, emotionally and musically... the music sings of traditions old and new and is utterly Erika Fox's own." (BBC Radio 3)

"Fox's music is really fascinating and different... this album is a gem." (Art Music Lounge)

"Distinctive, uncompromising, theatrical... the performances are exemplary, bringing vivid colour and vibrancy to Erika Fox's striking aural world." (Planet Hugill)


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Sonatas, Vol. II – Sonatas No.7 (K.309), No.9 (K.311), No.8 (K.310), & Rondo in A minor (K.511)

Peter Donohoe, piano

Recorded March 3-4, 2019 at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Released on June 21, 2019 by SOMM Recordings

The much anticipated second volume of Peter Donohoe's complete survey of Mozart's Piano Sonatas for SOMM Recordings focuses on three sonatas produced during the composer's ill-fated journey to Paris in 1777.

This new release follows remarkable critical acclaim for Volume 1 including the accolade of BBC Music Magazine's Recording of the Month which declared: "It was high time someone blew the cobwebs off this still under-appreciated repertoire, and Donohoe is clearly the person to do it".

Volume 2 promises more revealing performances from Donohoe, applauded in Gramophone's review of Volume 1 for demonstrating "a personal involvement that is as touching as it is fascinating and finely considered".

As if anticipating the mighty Jupiter Symphony, with uncharacteristically detailed tempo indications and an improvisatory quality in places, the Piano Sonata in C major (No.7, K.309) may have been composed with Rosa Cannabich in mind, Mozart's 15-year-old student giving its first performance in late 1777.

In a relatively rare key signature for Mozart, the A minor Piano Sonata (No.8, K.310) was composed in 1778 immediately after the death of the composer's mother. Intense and expressive, it shows, Christopher Morley succinctly suggests in his informative notes, "Mozart at his most grim". Spacious, full of grand gestures and animated display, the Piano Sonata in D major (No.9, K.311) is "a big, spectacular Sonata, full of effect and colour" that explores the full range of the keyboard with winning exuberance.

The A minor Rondo (K.511) was composed in March 1787 and, notes Christopher Morley, "unfettered by the obligations of orchestral constraints, [it] builds in chromatic intensity and melodic urgency to emerge as one of the most profound movements ever penned by the composer".

Volume 2 of Peter Donohoe's Mozart Piano Sonatas delivers on the hope expressed by The Classical Review of its predecessor to "surely make listeners eager to hear the next volumes".


Johannes Brahms: Cello Sonatas

Asier Polo, cello
Eldar Nebolsin, piano

Recorded July 2-4, 2018 at Auditorio Manuel De Falla, Granada, Spain
Released on July 5, 2019 by IBS Classical

 The music of Brahms, regardless of tastes, trends or aesthetic currents, is already part of the whisper of history. It does not need defenders, it does not concern detractors. It just stays. This recording that is presented here breathes nobility. Nobility in the message of Brahms's work and nobility in an interpretation that also starts from an absolute devotion to the music of two performers in a moment of full artistic maturity. There are no hesitations here either, the ideas are clearly and emphatically exposed, everything emerges and develops as if there were no other possibility of interpretation. Pure music that demands a total surrender and that parts from the deep knowledge of the Brahmsian language that the interpreters display at all times.


Cello Solo Journey – Paul Tortelier, Sergei Prokofiev, Mstislav Rostropovich, Alexander Nikolayevich Tcherepnin, Miklós Rózsa, Giovanni Sollima, Isaac Albéniz, Astor Piazzolla, Rogerio y Taguell, Carter Brey, Ilse de Ziah, Sebastien Diezig

Luciano Tarantino, cello

Recorded March 2-4, 2018 at Music Suite, Comune di Sammichele di Bari, Italy
Released on July 26, 2019 by Brilliant Classics

A voyage across a century of solo cello repertoire from Europe and America.

When the Catalan cellist Pablo Casals revived the solo suites of Bach in the first decades of the last century, he reminded both audiences and composers of the huge potential of his instrument to hold the stage in its own right, no less than a violin or a piano. Inspired by his charisma, and that of his successors such as Tortelier and Rostropovich, many modern composers have followed Bach’s example. The Italian cellist presents music by ten of them on this exciting debut album for Brilliant Classics.

Tortelier and Rostropovich are represented by their own, little-known but highly imaginative works – a Circus Suite and an innocently titled but fearsomely challenging study respectively. Carter Brey, the principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, has also written for the instrument with inside knowledge, in a tango of big, seductive gestures preceded on Tarantino's album by Latin-themed showpieces from Albéniz, Piazzolla and Rogerio y Taguell.

Each half of the album is brought to a reflective close with a soliloquy by the modern Italian composer Giovanni Sollima. The cello's melancholy moods are further explored by Ilse de Ziah and Sebastian Diezig, but Tarantino has chosen and ordered his repertoire to display the cello's expressive range to its fullest. Mixing familiar and little-known composers, it's a perfect introduction to the ever-expanding universe of solo cello music beyond Bach.

Born in 1977, Luciano Tarantino is a performer and teacher with his origins in Puglia, in the far south of Italy. He has played with many of today's greatest conductors and founded a music festival in the region of his birth. On this recording he plays a fine 1736 cello by Antonio Testore.

This stimulating program takes the listener on a journey of discovery, a musical universe captured in 20th century original music for cello solo, by such diverse composers as Sergei Prokofiev, Mstslav Rostropovich, Paul Tortelier, Giovanni Sollima, Astor Piazzolla, Alexander Tcherepnin, Isaac Albéniz and others. The music exploits the instrumental and musical possibilities of the cello to the utmost, and sometimes even beyond.

Italian cellist Luciano Tarantino is an enterprising and versatile musician, active as orchestral player, chamber music player and soloist. With the present program he embarked on an extensive international tour.


Reissue / archive

Ginette Neveu: The Complete Recordings

Ginette Neveu, violin
Jean Neveu, piano
Bruno Seidler-Winkler, piano

Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductors: Walter Susskind, Issay Dobrowen

Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47
Johannes Brahms: Violin Concerto in D major, Op.77
Ernest Chausson: Poème for Violin & Orchestra, Op.25
Maurice Ravel: Tzigane
Maurice Ravel: Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera
Ion Scărlătescu: Bagatelle
Manuel de Falla: Danza Española No.1
Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne No.20 in C sharp minor, B.49 (piano: Jean Neveu)
Grigoraș Dinicu: Hora Staccato
Josef Suk: Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op.17
Claude Debussy: Violin Sonata in G minor
Fritz Kreisler: Grave in C minor in the Style of W.F. Bach
Fritz Kreisler: Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op.17 (excerpt)
Frédéric Chopin: Nocturne No.20 in C sharp minor, B.49 (piano: Bruno Seidler-Winkler)
Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice, Wq.30, Act II: Melody (Dance of the Blessed Spirits)
Maria Theresia von Paradis: Sicilienne in E flat major
Fritz Kreisler: Variations on a Theme of Corelli
Richard Strauss: Violin Sonata in E flat major, Op.18

Released on June 21, 2019 by Warner Classics

The French violinist Ginette Neveu was just 30 when her plane crashed in the Azores in October 1949. She had studied with George Enescu and Carl Flesch, and as The Observer wrote in 1945, "Her playing was superbly vigorous and passionate, and made the impression that its great qualities, such as eloquent phrasing and an apparently limitless range and variety of tone, came from the only true source – an identity with the music and with her instrument". Her complete recordings, specially remastered from the best sources available, are gathered on these four CDs, with her incandescent Sibelius Concerto taking pride of place.

— 2019 marks the centenary of Ginette Neveu's birth.
— Newly remastered in 96kHz/24bit from the best sources available by Studio Art & Son, Annecy.
— All recording details are presented in the booklet in a table with date, matrix number, take number (where known), original catalogue number, date, venue and source used for the present box.
— French violinist Ginette Neveu studied with George Enescu and Carl Flesch and rapidly built an international carrier and reputation. She died aged just 30 with her brother Jean Neveu in a plane which tragically crashed in the Azores in October 1949.
— "Her playing was superbly vigorous and passionate, and made the impression that its great qualities, such as eloquent phrasing and an apparently limitless range and variety of tone, came from the only true source – an identity with the music and with her instrument." (The Observer, 1945)
— The present box gathers the complete studio recordings done by Ginette Neveu and contains the first CD reissue in the West of Ion Scărlătescu's Bagatelle.


Ginette Neveu (August 11, 1919 – October 27, 1949) was a French violinist.

Born in Paris into a very musical family, Ginette Neveu became a violinist and her brother Jean-Paul Neveu a classical pianist. She was also the grandniece of composer Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937). A child prodigy, Ginette Neveu took lessons from her mother and made her solo debut at the age of seven with the Colonne Orchestra in Paris. Her parents then decided to send her to study under Line Talluel, and after further studies with Jules Boucherit at the Paris Conservatory, she completed her training with instruction from George Enescu, Nadia Boulanger, and Carl Flesch.

At age 15, Ginette Neveu achieved worldwide celebrity status when she won the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition over 180 contestants, including the future virtuoso David Oistrakh, who finished second. Neveu was immediately signed to an extensive touring contract that, over the next two years, saw her give solo performances at the leading concert halls of Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, the United States, and Canada.

Neveu's international career was interrupted by World War II, but she finally was able to make her London debut in 1945. Her brother Jean-Paul accompanied her on piano, and the two toured post-war Europe extensively (appearing at the Prague Spring International Music Festival), as well as visiting Australia and South America. They also made return engagements at major venues in the United States. Noted for her intensity, power, and impeccable sonority, Ginette Neveu is recognized as one of the world's great violinists, despite a career that ended at a very young age.

Ginette Neveu gave her last concert on October 20, 1949. A week later, on October 27, she and her brother boarded an Air France flight en route to another series of concert engagements. All 48 passengers on board the flight, including the famous French boxing champion Marcel Cerdan, died when the plane flew into a mountain after two failed attempts to make a landing at the São Miguel Island airport in the Azores.

It is said that Ginette Neveu's body was found still clutching her Stradivarius in her arms.


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

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