I Saw Eternity the Other Night by Timothy Day; Chopin’s Piano by Paul Kildea

I Saw Eternity the Other Night: King’s College, Cambridge and an English Singing Style by Timothy Day Allen Lane, £25

When a German critic (not Brahms, as often erroneously attributed) described England as ‘Das Land ohne Music’ (‘the land without music’),’ it wasn’t true then, and it is even less true when the legacy of such composers as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten began to be known throughout the world. And certainly one area in which the UK has excelled is in an indigenous choral singing style, best exemplified by the nonpareil work of King’s College, Cambridge. Timothy Day’s fascinating study could not be more timely, as this year is the hundredth anniversary of the College’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. In a style which is fastidiously intelligent but always accessible, Day (for many years curator of Western art music in the British Library’s Sound Archive) traces the King’s College style from its Victorian origin (noted initially for its rough and ready approach, with the singers only having the barest essentials of musical knowledge), to the high level of professional endeavour that is the norm today. Day is also an authority on recorded music, and notes how the advent of the longplaying record in the 1950s and 1960s that disseminated the sound of the choir. Under the direction of the much-respected David Willcocks, the choir perfected the celebrated King’s sound which — with its clarity and feeling — quickly established itself as the status quo for English choral singing. I Saw Eternity the Other Night also addresses such issues as the background of the societies and communities that typified the approach described in the book – mostly, of course, middle-class, but stretching in appeal beyond what might be perceived as the natural fiefdom of such music. The author’s earlier books include A Century of Recorded Music as well as a study of Hereford Choral Society, which makes him the natural chronicler of this subject. Such is the authority of the book that it’s hard to imagine another study doing the kind of justice to the King’s College sound that Day accords it here.

 

Chopin’s Piano: A Journey through Romanticism by Paul Kildea Allen Lane, £20

When in November 1838 Chopin and Georges Sand took a trip to Majorca to escape from the rigours of the Parisian winter, they stayed in an abandoned monastery in the Palma mountains where the composer finished the creation of one of the key works of the piano repertoire: his 24 Preludes. This fascinating document – quite unlike anything that Chopin aficionados will have encountered before – looks at the history of the composer’s masterpiece and the various instruments on which it has been played, along with its many gifted interpreters. Kildea’s unorthodox book makes for a fascinating study, and the subtitle, ‘A Journey through Romanticism’, shows that by concentrating on one particular topic, the author has — inter alia — opened a window on to a whole musical field.

Marina Rebeka’s new label Prima Classic launches with Spirito

Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka, very much a rising star in the opera world, releases an album of dramatic Bel Canto scenes and arias by Bellini, Donizetti and Spontini – carefully researched from original manuscripts – as the first recording on her new independent label, Prima Classic. ‘Spirito’, with Jader Bignamini conducting the Teatro Massimo di Palermo Orchestra and Chorus, is released by Proper Music Distribution on Friday 9 November.  Prima Classic plans to release up to four recordings annually, a mixture of full operas and operatic recitals with world-class singers, largely recorded with orchestras in different opera houses and concert halls across Europe. For mixing and mastering these projects, a new studio has been built in Latvia.

Naxos completes Wagner Ring Cycle with Götterdämmerung

On 9th November 2018, Naxos releases Götterdämmerung, the fourth and final opera of Wagner’s mighty Ring Cycle, on CD, audio Blu-ray and digital formats. The release of this album concludes a three-year journey started in January 2015 which has seen the Hong Kong Philharmonic, under their dynamic Music Director Jaap van Zweden, record Der Ring des Nibelungen over four successive seasons. The highly acclaimed project features an all-star international Wagner cast, led by soprano Gun-Brit Barkmin in her debut as Brünnhilde, tenor Daniel Brenna as Siegfried, bass-baritone Shenyang as Gunther, bass Eric Halfvarson as Hagen, soprano Amanda Majeski as Gutrune and mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung as Waltraute, with the Bamberg Symphony Chorus, Latvian State Choir and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Chorus. Simultaneously, Naxos releases the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen, as a special boxed set. Containing 14 CDs, the box also features a USB card loaded with extra content, including the libretti to all four operas, concert photos and behind-the-scenes video.

Carolyn Sampson records Handel Italian Cantatas

Acclaimed soprano Carolyn Sampson, partnered by Robert King and The King’s Consort, with whom she has been strongly associated throughout her professional career, turns her talents to Handel’s two most dramatic cantatas, linked by the theme of abandoned women (relesed October). During his stay in Italy from 1706-10 the young Handel’s eyes and ears were opened wide. Hearing Italian music played by Italian musicians in Italian palazzos, churches and theatres must have been jawdropping. Nowhere are those influences more vividly demonstrated than in his early Italian cantatas.

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New Death & the Maiden from the Chiaroscuro Quartet

Following the Chiaroscuro Quartet’s acclaimed debut recordings on BIS Records, the ensemble announces the release of Schubert’s seminal String Quartet No.14 in D minor ‘Death & the Maiden’ and String Quartet No.9 in G minor, in November 2018. The Chiaroscuro Quartet – with Russian-born Alina Ibragimova, Spanish violinist Pablo Hernán Benedí, French cellist Claire Thirion and Swedish violist Emilie Hörnlund – continues to forge its path as one of the most dynamic young ensembles of today. As one of the few groups performing exclusively on gut-stringed instruments, they are wholly committed to an authentic, historical approach.

2018 sees the Quartet give a number of high profile UK performances with highlights including Aldeburgh Festival on 19 June with pianist Cedric Tiberghien and Wigmore Hall on 1 October with period clarinettist Annelien Van Wauwe.

 

 

This recording marks a return to the Quartet’s roots, following its debut disc in 2011 featuring Schubert’s String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, and a continuation of the ensemble’s exploration of Schubert’s works. 

 

Composed in 1824, after Schubert had suffered a serious illness and realised he was dying, ‘Death & the Maiden’ is considered by many as one of the pillars of the chamber music repertoire. The work, in four movements, is a testament to death, exuding fragility and pain. The Quartet’s use of gut-stringed instruments serves to heighten the colour and contrasts of the music and allows a certain sense of freedom when performing the work, “Each time we play this piece we discover something new about it, it’s never the same twice. Playing with gut strings allow us to explore the extremes of both the fragility of the work but also the unbearable pain, it’s not always beautiful and as a musician, you have to be ready emotionally to play Schubert,” comments the Quartet’s cellist Claire Thirion, “This piece has become a staple of quartet repertoire and it’s one that we have been wanting to record for a while so we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to do so.”

 

 “Every unexpected twist and turn is as fresh as the day it was written” [Financial Times, 2017]

 

The ensemble’s recording of Beethoven and Mozart on Aparté led it to become the first quartet to be awarded the Förderpreis by German radio Deutschlandfunk and Musikfest Bremen.

Recent performance highlights include a debut concert tour to Japan, performances at Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Edinburgh International Festival, London’s Wigmore Hall, the Auditorium du Louvre Paris and the Aldeburgh Festival. Last season the ensemble performed at Sage Gateshead, London’s Kings Place, Konzerthaus Dortmund and Cheltenham, among many others.

“…dazzling delicacy…the interpretation of No. 5 that blind-sided me on a first listening.” [BBC Music Magazine, 2017] 

 

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY PARTNERSHIP WITH WARNER CLASSICS

SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY LAUNCHES DISTRIBUTION PARTNERSHIP WITH WARNER CLASSICS LABEL SERVICES FOR SFS MEDIA  San Francisco Symphony launches a new global distribution collaboration with Warner Classics Label Services this month, for the orchestra’s in-house record label and production company, SFS Media. At the helm of the recordings on SFS Media is Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), the longest-tenured music director at any major American orchestra, celebrating his 23rd season as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony during the 2017–18 season. He is an international classical music spokesperson, acclaimed composer and a passionate educator. Global distribution of SFS Media will be managed by Warner Classics Label Services, in collaboration with Alternative Distribution Alliance Worldwide (ADA), across physical, download and streaming platforms with immediate effect. SFS Media joins the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Munich Philharmonic on Warner Classics Label Services’ roster. The first release from this partnership will be Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s passionate and emotionally triggering Symphony No. 6, Pathétique, available in studio master-quality for download and streaming on Friday 29th June. 

DECCA CLASSICS TRIPLE SIGNING

Decca Classics has announced the signing of three extraordinary artists to the label: saxophonist Jess Gillam, lyric dramatic soprano Lise Davidsen and composer Rebecca Dale. All three were unveiled at a special event in London’s St Pancras Renaissance Hotel last night, where invited guests were treated to superb performances from Lise and Jess, as well as a taster of Rebecca’s newly-recorded Requiem. Each of the three young artists are making great strides in their growing careers. 19-year old Jess, who rose to fame on BBC Young Musician 2016, becomes the first saxophonist to sign exclusively to Decca Classics, while Rebecca Dale becomes the label’s first female composer, and Norwegian Lise Davidsen – winner of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition – takes her place among the great voices to record for the historic label.

CHANDOS BECOMES AN APPLE CURATOR

Following its recent move to make new releases available on Apple Music from street date, on 20 April 2018, Chandos became the latest independent classical music label to join the ranks of Apple Music Curators. Chandos’ Curator’s page has been launched with three main strands of playlists, including one dynamic playlist, expertly curated to showcase Chandos’ extensive catalogue range in its usual high sound quality. As a pioneer of the album ‘series’, Chandos will as Apple Music Curator be curating three playlist series. ‘The Sound of’, ‘Introducing’, and ‘Rediscovering’ will encapsulate what Chandos does best, bringing less
well-known composers and compositions to the forefront of classical music. Of course, music that has been loved by generation after generation will play a part in the playlists, too. ‘The Sound of’ will be a series of themed playlists based around certain moods, activities, or situations: perfect accompaniments to everyday life. Exclusive to Apple, the dynamic playlist ‘The Sound of Classical’ will take centre stage in this series, regularly updated with Chandos’ newest and most exciting recordings as well as the best of Chandos recordings from the last three decades. Other playlists within this series will include ‘The Sound of Piano’, ‘The Sound of Nature’, ‘The Sound of Relaxation’, and more. ‘The Sound of’ series will not only make it easier for regular Chandos listeners to discover new music but also easier
for Chandos to introduce classical music to budding listeners. Chandos’ ‘Introducing’ playlists will centre round Chandos’ artists to bring their recordings into the spotlight. Beginning with Chandos’ most popular artists, such as Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, and Tasmin Little, playlists covering a range of their music will make it easier for listeners to discover, in one place, new repertoire played by their favourite musicians. The ‘Rediscovering’ series will be an exploration of Chandos’ extensive catalogue, the playlists curated
around recordings of the more neglected areas of classical music, on which Chandos prides itself. Examples of this series will be ‘Rediscovering British Composers’ and ‘Rediscovering Chaconne’, this last a playlist based around Chandos’ early music label. New playlists will be added to all three series
throughout the year, and current playlists will be regularly updated.
Whether you are already a lover of classical music or you think you could be, Chandos Apple Music Curator will have a playlist for you.
You can find the Chandos Curator profile here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/curator/chandos/1358876178

Ticciati and the SCO: “Our hearts beat at the same speed”

As Robin Ticciati enters his final season with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Linn celebrates his memorable tenure as Principal Conductor with a recording of four of the most sublime orchestral masterpieces ever written. The Brahms Symphonies are to be released on 23rd March. Ticciati, talking about  this landmark recording, extolled his partnership with the SCO: “Our hearts beat at the same speed”.

Talking to the Pavel Haas Quartet

‘They seem always immersed in all they play, both in terms of their rapport but their instinctive understanding of the score too.’ Said The Gramophone of the new Pavel Haas Quartet album Antonín Dvořák – Quintets, Op. 81 & Op. 97 (SU 4195-2), that the ensemble recorded with excellent Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg and former member violist Pavel Nikl. We spoke to members of the Pavel Haas Quartet…

How did you arrive at the idea of recording Dvořák’s quintets Opp. 81 and 97?

Veronika Jarůšková: We decided to make a recording of the two works out of friendship. Boris Giltburg is a kindred soul to us, as a musician and a human. We first got together three years ago in the Netherlands, where we performed Dvořák’s Piano Quintet. And we could immediately feel that we understood one another completely.

Peter Jarůšek: We are not only connected as musicians; we also feel a personal affinity. I would say these aspects are like communicating vessels. We are close friends, and in the future we would like to perform together other quintets too.

Veronika Jarůšková: Pavel Nikl, our former colleague and founding member, had no doubts as to the project. I personally would call the album a friendly encounter with beautiful music.

How often have you given performances with musicians outside your ensemble?

Peter Jarůšek: We have naturally most frequently played in the basic configuration, as a string quartet. Now and then, we have been afforded the opportunity to perform with a guest, mainly in the second half of our concerts, and we then play as a quintet. Of late, we have often been joined by Boris Giltburg or Denis Kozhukin, another top-notch pianist. We have always really enjoyed our performances together, even though the two musicians are different.

Veronika Jarůšková: In February 2018, we are scheduled to perform sextets, and we will again be joined by the violist Pavel Nikl, and the cellist Tomáš Jamník. Sextets require superlative and seasoned chamber players, possessing an extraordinary sense for chamber music. The concerts are part of the “Czech It Out” project, within which we and several other Czech soloists and ensembles will be appearing at the new hall of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.

When a renowned and well-coordinated quartet and a superb solo pianist get together, who determines the character of the music? How did it go during your recording sessions?

Veronika Jarůšková: I don’t think anyone was the boss. The music itself was paramount. So we simply strove to honour the music. Given that Boris Giltburg is a soloist of global calibre, he is a fantastic chamber player, possessing an incredible sense for musical colour.

Peter Jarůšek: What was of major significance was that we had played the two Dvořák quintets at numerous concerts. Hence, we had the feeling that the time was ripe. We did consider another option – quintets by Brahms and Dvořák – but we really wanted to record the two Dvořák pieces at the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum in Prague.

Did you make the album with the usual recording team?

Peter Jarůšek: Yes, we did. We are happy to work with Jiří Gemrot and Karel Soukeník. They are outstanding professionals and we would like to record all our albums with them.

What repertoire will you be performing in the new concert season?

Marek Zwiebel: We have always thought over our repertoire approximately two years in advance. Subsequently, the agency would present our ideas to the promoters and organisers of concerts. Our repertoire during the current season includes Schubert’s String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, “Rosamunde”; Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 7; and Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 14 within our first programme; and Stravinsky’s Concertino and Ravel’s String Quartet in F major within another concert programme.

And what about performances abroad? Which of them are you looking forward to the most?

Veronika Jarůšková: We are really excited about returning to Wigmore Hall, and are looking forward to the concert at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. We will also be making our debut in Bern, Switzerland. Furthermore, we are scheduled to tour North America, within which we will perform in Houston, Vancouver, Atlanta, Kansas City and other places. In 2018, we will give our very first concerts at two new halls – the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, and at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Afterwards, we will visit Geneva, Copenhagen and the Benelux region. We feel honoured to have been invited to debut at the Musikverein in Vienna. At the end of the season, we will be flying off to tour South Korea, China and Taiwan.

For further details, please visit: www.pavelhaasquartet.com