Tianwa Yang Performs Brahms in London

Tianwa Yang’s profile is rapidly growing on the international concert circuit, aided by her discography on the Naxos label. Earlier this year, she completed her acclaimed cycle of Sarasate’s violin music for orchestra and piano and her recent album of Ysaÿe’s Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27 (8.572995) showcases Tianwa’s skill, dexterity, and artistry. Tianwa will be making her much anticipated UK début on 23rd September with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Cadogan Hall performing Brahms’s Violin Concerto. /

 

KARAJAN: THE MASTER REMASTERED

WARNER CLASSICS  HONOURS HERBERT VON KARAJAN WITH  NEW DIGITAL-ONLY; 20 ALBUMS IN THEIR ORIGINAL COUPLING AND WITH THE ORIGINAL COVER ART  Taking Karajan’s unparalleled recorded legacy into the 21st century, today Warner Classics pays tribute to the maestro on the 25th anniversary of his death (July 16th 1989), with 20 of his most beloved albums remastered in high-definition quality for exclusive digital release. Herbert von Karajan was closely associated with EMI for the majority of his recording career (specifically from 1946 to 1960 and then again from 1969 to 1984). The legendary EMI producer Walter Legge sought him out in Vienna just after World War II and the long relationship that ensued embraced recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Philharmonia (the orchestra founded by Legge), the Berlin Philharmonic (of which Karajan became ‘conductor for life’ in 1955), the forces of La Scala, Milan, and the Orchestre de Paris. Karajan’s output for EMI was wide-ranging and forward-looking. Among the 20 remastered releases now available online are a sumptuous Respighi Pines of Rome and richly detailed Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition; modern masterpieces like Bartok‘s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and Stravinsky‘s Jeu de Cartes show another side to Karajan than his classic Finlandia , From the New World symphony and his powerful Bruckner 7th. This treasure trove has been painstakingly remastered at London’s Abbey Road Studios in 24-bit/96kHz from the original tapes, available for the first time as digital, high-definition releases via iTunes and on all streaming platforms including Spotify. Unlike many remastered classics, however, the Karajan collection has preserved the original vintage album artwork. Continue reading

New from LSO Live and Channel Classics: Graham Williams’ Choice

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TCHAIKOVSKY: PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1, Un poco di Chopin, Chopin: Bacarolle, Schubert / Liszt: Erlkönig, Frühlingsglaube, Die Forelle, Auf dem Wasser zu Singen, Die Stadt (Schwanengesang), Schumann / Liszt: Liebeslied (Widmung)/Daniil Trifonov (piano)/Mariinsky Orchestra, Valéry Gergiev/Mariinsky Live SACD Mar 0530  The 21 year-old Russian pianist Daniel Trifonov is the latest young piano virtuoso to be hailed by the musical press, not only for his prodigious technique – something that these days is almost taken for granted – but also for the maturity of his performances. During the last couple of years he has won medals at three of the most prestigious competitions in the music world: the Chopin Competition in Warsaw (Third Prize), the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv (First Prize) and the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow (First Prize and Grand Prix). No less a pianist than Martha Argerich has heaped fulsome praise on Trifonov for the tenderness and demonic elements of his playing, both of which are clearly evident on this disc. The performances given here were recorded between October 2011 and April 2012 in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg. Sadly the recorded sound In the Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto does not do justice to Trifonov’s exhilarating pianism. Vladimir Ryabenko is listed as producer, engineer, editor and mixer with the mastering done by Classic Sound’s Jonathan Stokes. What emerged from my speaker’s was so disappointing that I could not believe that this was actually SACD. The upper strings of the Mariinsky Orchestra sound thin and nasal, the piano hard and clangorous with the balance very much in favour of that instrument. The surround channels add little to the rather faceless acoustic. Trifonov gives a powerful account of the concerto’s outer movements – incandescent virtuosity and confidence rather than subtlety being the order of the day. The middle ‘Andantino semplice’ shows the pianist at his most sensitive. He plays the song-like main theme with a restrained delicacy while the fast central section is delivered with a mercurial brilliance. Gergiev’s accompaniment is dutiful rather than especially illuminating. Things improve considerably in the somewhat disparate choice of eight solo piano pieces that Daniil Trifonov has chosen to fill the rest of this disc. Though the piano can still sound a little hard above forte it is much more than acceptable. Tchaikovsky’s brief ‘Un poco di Chopin’ – one of his 18 Morceaux Op.72 – is a delightful trifle performed with wit and grace and Daniil Trifonov follows that with a mesmerising account of Chopin’s Barcarolle in which he marvellously captures the rapidly changing moods of this masterpiece. The Liszt arrangements of five of  Schubert’s most well-known songs suit both the eagerness and also the panache of Trifanov’s performances as does the lovely account of Schumann’s ‘Liebeslied’  (Widmung) also in the Liszt arrangement that completes his programme. Inexplicably the liner notes accompanying this disc are only concerned with the Tchaikovsky concerto – nothing whatsoever is written about the solo piano music that occupies half the disc. Shortly after completing this review I attended Trifonov’s stunning recital at the Edinburgh International Festival – a programme of Scriabin, Medtner, Debussy and Chopin delivered with a seemingly effortless combination of panache and subtle musicianship. That Daniil Trifanov is a pianist of stupendous talent and huge potential is in no doubt, and it is to be hoped that his gift will continue to be nurtured to full maturity in the coming years. This disc certainly gives a taste of what he has already achieved.

FRANCOIS COUPERIN: LES NATIONS – Premiere Ordre (La Françoise) & Deuxième Ordre (L’Espagnole) Rebel: Les Caractères de la Danse Florilegium: Ashley Solomon (Director), flute 1 Andrew Crawford, flute 2 Bojan Cicic, violin 1 Tuomi Suni, violin 2 Reiko Ichise, viola da gamba David Miller/Channel Classics SACD CCSA33213  That Florilegium is one of Britain’s finest period instrument groups is something to which their many award-winning recordings bear witness. Their repertoire is extensive and adventurous –  ranging from Vivaldi and Bach to three marvellous discs of Bolivian Baroque – so each new release is likely to be something for lovers of period performances to savour. On this latest recording Florilegium perform music by two composers active at the Court of Louis XIV in Versailles. François Couperin entered the service of the King as organist of the Chapelle du Roi in 1693 whilst Jean-Féry  Rebel, once a student of Jean Baptiste Lully, worked as a violinist and harpsichordist at the Académie Royale de Musique gradually rising through the musical hierarchy and securing a post as violinist in the Chapelle du Roi and eventually that of chamber composer for the King. In 1726 Couperin published ‘Les Nations’, a collection that juxtaposed some of his earlier sonatas from the 1690s – composed in the Italianate style of Corelli  –  alongside groups of dances written in the French style. The titles of the four sections of ‘Les Nations’ are La Françoise, L’Espagnole, L’impériale and La Piemontoise. On this disc  Florilegium perform the first two of these ‘Ordres’ (presumably the remainder will appear on a later release). As Ashley Solomon points out in his detailed and informative liner notes, although these pieces were almost certainly intended for two violins, bass viol and continuo, Couperin left no precise instructions as to the instrumentation of ‘Les Nations’. However, like many chamber works of the period, they are suitable for different combinations such as flutes or oboes or, as here, featuring the violin and flute. The pitch of the instruments on this recording is A392, a full tone below modern concert pitch (A440), and often considered to be the performing pitch at the Court of Louis XIV in the early part of the 18th century. This certainly seems to add  a burnished richness and depth to what we hear on this SACD. The final work is Jean-Féry Rebel’s ‘Les Caractères de la danse,’ and it makes a delightful contrast with Couperin’s more refined and sophisticated compositions that occupy the bulk of this disc. Rebel’s collaboration with the leading ballerina of the day, Françoise Prévost (1680–1741) led to the production of this highly successful ‘choreographed symphony’ in 1715. Two of Prévost’s most celebrated pupils, Marie Sallé  and Marie-Anne Cupis de Camargo retained this work in their repertory and Sallé even danced it in London under Handel’s musical direction in 1727. The graceful Prelude, with which the work begins, leads to a succession of eleven contrasting popular dances of the time played with wit and elegance by Florilegium’s talented members. It almost goes without saying that Florilegium’s performances are accorded a state-of-the-art recording by Channel, and as always Jared Sack’s judicious choice of venue is of vital importance to the overall sound quality. Here All Saints Church, East Finchley, London provides a most appropriate acoustic to enhance the almost tactile sound produced by  Florilegium’s  seven accomplished players. Those listening to this 5.0 DSD recording in multi-channel will notice a more than usual amount of information from the surround speakers. Another fine addition to Florilegium’s extensive discography that can be recommended without reservation.

STRAVINSKY:OEDIPUS REX/APOLLON MUSAGÈTE, Soloists, London Symphony Orchestra, John Eliot Gardiner/LSO Live SACD LSO0751   The pairing of two of Stravinsky’s finest neoclassical works, one instrumental and one vocal, makes for a most satisfying programme on disc when performed as splendidly as on this LSO Live SACD. This recording made in April 2013, was taken from one of the many concerts organised to celebrate the 70th birthday of the conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner. For Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio ‘Oedipus Rex’ Gardiner has assembled a superb group of soloists . In addition, he has his matchless Monteverdi Choir as the male voiced chorus and the LSO in blistering form. Stuart Skelton gives a wonderfully nuanced performance of the title role, his portrayal most effectively characterising Oedipus’s journey from hubris to anguish. Jennifer Johnson, a voice new to me, is a magnificent Jocasta, who, with her secure and authoritative delivery, brings an almost Verdian line to her Act 2 aria whilst Gidon Saks is a forthright Creon. The three smaller roles of Tiresias, Shepherd and Messenger are taken by members of the Monteverdi Choir, amongst whom the fine bass of David Shipley (Tiresias) is especially noteworthy. The French actress Fanny Ardant, familiar to many from her performances in the films of such distinguished directors as Truffaut, Resnais and Lelouch, to name but three, is a riveting narrator, who delivers Cocteau’s line’s with conviction and absolute clarity. From her opening words “Spectateurs, vous allez entendre une version latine d’Oedipe-roi” one’s attention is grabbed and held. Gardiner captures to the full the searing drama underlying the work’s stylized exterior, and from the thrilling attack of the opening chorus the listener is gripped by the power of his interpretation of this masterpiece. The LSO are in magnificent form – their incisive brass, skeltering woodwind and weighty percussion thrillingly captured by the recording. The liner notes include the full Latin text and English translation. This SACD is completed by an equally fine rendition of Stravinsky’s 1928 ballet ‘Apollon musagète’   – or ‘Apollo’ as the composer later preferred to call it  – performed in its revised version of 1947.The music of this ballet has a calm, delicate and transparent beauty to which the strings of the LSO do full justice. The sound is exceptionally well balanced with every instrumental line sharply delineated yet at the same time beautifully integrated in the tuttis. In both works the engineers (Jonathan Stokes and Nicholas Parker) have used the usually difficult Barbican acoustic to the music’s advantage. The multi-channel 5.0 recording (no mention anywhere of DSD) has the clarity and impact one might expect, but also a modicum of warmth and bloom that makes ‘Apollo’ especially easy on the ear. A most recommendable release.

‘BASSO BAILANDO’ Piazzolla: Four Seasons Rota: Divertimento Concertanto de Falla: 7 Canciones Rick Stotijn, double bass Malin Broman, violin Lavinia Meijer, harp Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Channel Classics SACD CCSA 33613  The evocatively witty cover photograph on Rick Stotijn’s wonderful new SACD ‘Basso Bailando’ gives an immediate flavour of the many delights contained on this disc. Who could fail to be captivated by the excitement and seductive tango rhythms of Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Cuatro Estaciones Portenas’, also known as ‘The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires’, performed here in an arrangement, made by Marijn van Prooijen, a former colleague of Rick Stotijn in the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, for double bass, violin and string orchestra ?  His excellent partner is the violinist Malin Broman, and the absolute rapport between these two performers is palpable in their fiery performance of this work; the strings of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simon Crawford Phillips providing incisive support. In recent years the music of Nino Rota for the concert hall has come into prominence, and its high-quality has become to be appreciated by many of those perhaps more familiar with his superb film scores such as those for the great Italian film directors Fellini, Visconti and Francis Ford Coppola. Rota’s ‘Divertimento Concertante for Double Bass and Orchestra’, composed between 1967 and 1971, is a neo-classical work. It was written for the Italian virtuoso Franco Petracchi a colleague of Rota when they both worked at the Liceo Musicale in the Bari Conservatory . The piece is full of beguiling melodies and with its captivating orchestration is reminiscent of the music of Rossini whose style it emulates. Its four contrasting movements – Allegro, Aria, Marcia and Finale (a minor proofing error on the liner notes transposes the order of the two middle movements) – employ the full four octave range of the double bass, and set challenges for the soloist that are easily met by Rick Stoijn whose stunning playing and warm tone are a delight. Mats Rondin conducts the Swedish RSO in this work. The final work in this imaginative programme are arrangements, again made by Marijn van Prooijen,  of six of Manuel de Falla’s Seven Popular songs ( Seguidilla Murciana is omitted)  for the unlikely combination of double bass and harp – yet they work brilliantly. Rick Stotijn’s partner here is the exceptionally talented young Korean harpist Lavinia Meijer who has already made  a number of highly rated solo recordings for Channel Classics. With Stotijn’s double bass emulating the vocal line and Meijer the sound of a guitar this arrangement offers a new slant on the many vocal versions of these songs. The Piazzolla and Rota works are both live recordings, made (October and March 2012 respectively) in the lively and generous acoustic of the Berwaldhallen, Stockholm. Channel’s 5.0 DSD sound has great presence and clarity. It also retains the best qualities of live recordings that include spontaneity freshness and immediacy, but without the disadvantages of any audience noise or applause. The De Falla was made in the intimate and ideal church acoustic of Westvest, Schiedam. This is a more than worthy successor to Rick Stotijn’s marvellous Bottesini disc, so if this programme appeals, do not hesitate – you will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

The Cambridge Wagner and Verdi Encyclopaedias

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The Cambridge Wagner Encyclopaedia/The Cambridgeshire Verdi Encyclopaedia, Nicholas Vazsonyi, Roberta Montemorra Marvin, editors  There is absolutely no question that more books have been written about Wagner than any other composer (Verdi, though popular, does not even come close), and it is hardly surprising, given the range of the genius of the creator of Der Ring des Nibelungen. There are also two key factors which make Wagner a source of endless fascination today, and not just for opera aficionados: his forging of the most ambitious operatic project in the history of the genre and the concomitant seriousness with which audiences were to approach such work. Until recently, that is; this seriousness (darkened auditoriums, intense concentration, a total commitment by the listener to the work of art) had become the norm, although recent attempts to encourage audiences to respond as if they were at a rock concert would have been anathema to Wagner (and it is unlikely that there will ever be spontaneous applause during Parsifal at Bayreuth). The other much-discussed aspect of the composer is (of course) his deeply unlikeable personality: his feuds, his almost vampiric approach to those he felt might be useful to him (such as Ludwig of Bavaria) and, most notoriously, his virulent anti-Semitism, which means that performances of his work in Israel are still problematical — and the great advocates of his music who are Jewish (such as the conductor Daniel Barenboim) are obliged to remind people: listen to the music, forget his views. All of these elements are covered with immense thoroughness and readability in the first ever Wagner Encyclopaedia from CUP, and it is a testament to Nicolas Vazsonyi’s dedication that there is not an iota of the composer’s life and achievement which is not addressed in the nearly 900 pages of this compendious volume. The pleasures of the book are many, but perhaps its most signal achievement is to address the question of what readership the book should be pitched at: the academic the general reader? It’s a measure of the editor’s skill that there is absolutely no shifting of gears between these two approaches, which the contributors appear to have negotiated with the utmost skill. If your shelves already groaning under books about Wagner, I’m sorry to have to tell you there is another one which demands pride of place.

As does, in fact, Roberta Montemorra Marvin’s slimmer Verdi volume, coming in at a more economical 600 or so pages but still commanding in its reach. As perhaps befits the greater approachability of the Italian composer’s music, the tone here is slightly lighter but nevertheless possessing the authority of its stablemate. Once again, the composer’s character is a fascinating and multifaceted one without, of course, many of the deeply controversial aspects of his German rival’s. A good test of any book on Verdi is how much sense the writer can make of the frequently confusing libretti (something accomplished here with great aplomb). Readers worried about finding space for these volumes should console themselves with the fact that both books together measure a mere 3 inches across – and any music lover can find space for that.

Barry Forshaw

The Cambridge Wagner Encyclopaedia/The Cambridgeshire Verdi Encyclopaedia, Nicholas Vazsonyi, Roberta Montemorra Marvin, editors