Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Franz Berwald - Chamber Music (Gaudier Ensemble)


Information

Composer: Franz Berwald

CD1:
  1. Quartet for piano & wind in E flat minor: 1. Adagio - Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Quartet for piano & wind in E flat minor: 2. Adagio
  3. Quartet for piano & wind in E flat minor: 3. Finale: Allegro
  4. Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor: 1. Allegro molto
  5. Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor: 2. Larghetto
  6. Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor: 3. Scherzo. Molto allegro
  7. Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor: 4. Allegro molto
  8. Grand Septet in B flat major: 1. Adagio - allegro molto
  9. Grand Septet in B flat major: 2. Poco adagio
  10. Grand Septet in B flat major: 3. Finale: Allegro con spirito

CD2:
  1. Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor: 1. Allegro molto
  2. Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor: 2. Adagio quasi andante
  3. Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor: 3. Allegro assai e con spirito
  4. Duo for piano & violin in D minor: 1. Allegro
  5. Duo for piano & violin in D minor: 2. Romance. Andante
  6. Duo for piano & violin in D minor: 3. Allegro giocoso
  7. Piano Trio No. 4 in C major: 1. Allegro
  8. Piano Trio No. 4 in C major: 2. Adagio
  9. Piano Trio No. 4 in C major: 3. Finale. Quasi presto

Gaudier Ensemble
Lesley Hatfield, violin
Marieke Blankestijn, violin
Iris Juda, viola
Christoph Marks, cello
Stephen Williams, double bass
Douglas Boyd, oboe
Jaime Martin, flute
Richard Hosford, clarinet
Jonathan Williams, horn
Robin O'Neill, bassoon
Susan Tomes, piano
Date: 1995 (CD1), 1996 (CD2)
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDD22053

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Review

I think it’s fair to say that Berwald is still best known for his excellent symphonies, which now boast a number of different versions. The chamber music has made slower headway into the repertoire, though Hyperion, as usual, has been right at the forefront of recorded interest in the composer. This excellent pair of discs were, I gather, quite a success first time round and now, at the twofer Dyad price, are set to be all over again

The works included here span nearly forty years of Berwald’s life and even liner-note writer and Scandinavian expert Robert Layton admits they are not all on the same level of inspiration. That said, even the weaker pieces are never less than enjoyable. It certainly helps that the playing throughout is so warmly sympathetic and captured in such beautifully balanced sound.

The earliest work is the Piano Quartet in E flat, written when the composer was only 23 but already with a number of chamber pieces under his belt. It’s laid out in a conventional three-movement structure and is indebted to Hummel and Spohr among others. It’s not wildly original but boasts some attractive melodic invention, particularly the short central adagio and sparkling finale, with its interesting modulations and glittering, Weber-like piano writing.

The Grand Septet is much more mature, modelled on Beethoven’s ever-popular Septet and delightfully inventive. Layton tells us that formally it anticipated the Sinfonie singulière by incorporating the scherzo into the slow movement, thus having a weighty central movement that doubles as both. The invention is definitely more inspired, with touches that remind one of Schubert; something I thought more than once throughout this set.

The pianist Hilda Thegerström seems to have been the inspiration behind a number of his chamber works with piano, and his Piano Trio in F minor is an interesting work. It is ostensibly in four movements but these are played without a break, with a seamless flow of memorable ideas. Some tunes recall Mendelssohn in their grace and sparkle, and there is real rhythmic vitality here with some original harmonic touches – witness the piano flurries in track 6, 0:38 on.

The second disc includes the later Piano Trio in C major, which is also an attractive work, though listening for a few weeks has given me more of a soft spot for that earlier F minor piece. The best work on this companion disc seems to me to be the Piano Quintet of 1853, another Thegerström inspiration. She played it in private but the first public performance did not take place for another forty years. It’s a bold, muscular piece that again incorporates a scherzo into another movement, this time the opening allegro, and is brimful of melodic and harmonic invention, something the players exploit to the full.

The Duo for piano and violin is another neglected piece, a shame as it also has much to commend it, including an attractive folk-like central andante. The high jinx of the finale show pianist Susan Tomes to be at her best, virtuosic but never showy or empty.

Indeed, this could go for the whole team, who work together to produce a blend that is pure, natural and always at the service of the music. This is delightful, urbane music that any lover of 19th Century chamber music will revel in.

-- Tony Haywood, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.allmusic.com/album/franz-berwald-chamber-music-mw0001402811
CD1:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/berwald-chamber-works
http://www.classical-music.com/review/berwald-13
CD2:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/berwald-chamber-music-volume-2
http://www.classical.net/~music/recs/reviews/n/nxs53970a.php

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Franz Berwald (23 July 1796 – 3 April 1868) was a Swedish Romantic composer. His music was generally ignored during his lifetime. Among four symphonies, his best known works, the first was the only one that was performed in his lifetime.

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Gaudier Ensemble is a chamber group which was formed in 1989 in London. The group performs music for winds, strings, and piano, typically from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. Beside works by well known composers such as Beethoven and Mozart, the musicians often delve into the less familiar repertoire like Berwald and Spohr.

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Frank Bridge - Orchestral Works Vol. 5 (Richard Hickox)


Information

Composer: Frank Bridge
  1. Suite for Strings: I. Prelude
  2. Suite for Strings: II. Intermezzo
  3. Suite for Strings: III. Nocturne
  4. Suite for Strings: IV. Finale
  5. The Hag, song for baritone & orchestra
  6. 2 Songs of Robert Bridges: 1. I praise the tender flower
  7. 2 Songs of Robert Bridges: 2. Thou didst delight my eyes
  8. 2 Intermezzi from "Threads": I. Andante molto moderato e tranquillo
  9. 2 Intermezzi from "Threads": II. Tempo di valse - Animato
  10. 2 Old English Songs, for string orchestra: 1. Sally in Our Alley
  11. 2 Old English Songs, for string orchestra: 2.. Cherry ripe
  12. 2 Entr'actes: I. Rosemary
  13. 2 Entr'actes: II. Canzonetta
  14. Valse Intermezzo à cordes
  15. Todessehnsucht, for string orchestra (after J.S. Bach's "Komm, süßer Tod", BWV 478)
  16. Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas Dance), for strings

Roderick Williams, baritone (5-7)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Richard Hickox, conductor
Date: 2003
Label: Chandos
https://www.chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%2010246

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Review

Five down and one to go in this enterprising series, the main item here being the engaging Suite for Strings that Bridge penned in 1909-10. Hickox and his alert band do it proud, imparting all the wistful suppleness and twilit rapture one could wish to the first and third movements respectively. At the same time, these performers quarry every ounce of charm from the Intermezzo, and the finale twinkles as it should. Returning to Nicholas Cleobury’s outstanding performance (now restored on an Artistes et Répertoires twofer from RCA), I was deeply touched again by its freshness of new discovery, though Hickox has the benefit of an even more lustrous (if slightly less agile) body of strings. I could quite happily live with either; better still, acquire both! 

Similarly, I find little to choose between Hickox and Cleobury in the two intermezzi from Bridge’s 1921 incidental music for Frank Stayton’s three-act comedy Threads, an effective diptych comprising a wistful Andante and gorgeously Ravelian Tempo di valse. It was David Lloyd-Jones who introduced us to the melodious sway of the prentice Valse Intermezzo (Naxos, 7/02), while the entrancing ‘Christmas Dance’ Sir Roger de Coverley will be familiar to many from Britten’s classic Decca account (which Hickox all but matches in stylish aplomb). Other highlights include those delectably sophisticated reworkings of ‘Salley in our Alley’ and ‘Cherry Ripe’ (published as the Two Old English Songs in 1916) and the picture-postcard ‘Canzonetta’ (the second of the Two Entr’actes, inspired by a Mediterranean holiday in 1926). 

There are also three première recordings. Baritone Roderick Williams is a sympathetic exponent of the Two Songs of Robert Bridges of 1905-06 (‘I praise the tender flower’ and ‘Thou didst delight my eyes’ – lovely discoveries, both) and the dashingly colourful broomstick-ride that is The Hag, a setting of Robert Herrick from June 1902 that seems to nod towards Liadov’s Baba-Yaga. Responding to an invitation from Oxford University Press to contribute to A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen, Bridge produced Todessehnsucht, a piano transcription of the funeral chorale Komm, süsser Tod; four years later, in 1936, Bridge made this immaculate and moving arrangement for string orchestra. 

Another valuable survey, then, glowingly engineered by Ralph Couzens and expertly annotated by Paul Hindmarsh.

-- Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=90554
http://www.classical-music.com/review/bridge-10
Whole series:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2010/Nov10/Bridge_Hickox.htm
http://www.allmusic.com/album/frank-bridge-orchestral-works-mw0002385088

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Frank Bridge (26 February 1879 – 10 January 1941) was an English composer, perhaps most highly regarded today for his chamber music. His early works are in a late-Romantic idiom, but later pieces showing the influence of the Second Viennese School, Maurice Ravel and Alexander Scriabin.

***

Richard Hickox (5 March 1948 – 23 November 2008) was an English conductor. His recording repertoire concentrated on British music, in which he made a number of recording premieres for Chandos Records (he made over 280 recordings for this company) and won five Gramophone Awards.

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Francis Poulenc - Piano Works (Gabriel Tacchino)


Composer: Francis Poulenc

CD1:
  • (01-03) Trois mouvements perpétuels, FP 14
  • (04-11) 8 Nocturnes, FP 56
  • (12) Presto in B minor
  • (13-19) Suite française (d'après Claude Gervaise), FP 80
  • (20, 21) 2 Novelettes, FP 47
  • (22) Novelette sur un thème de Manuel de Falla in E minor, FP 173
  • (23) Pastourelle, for "L'éventail de Jeanne", FP 45
  • (24) Valse (pour Micheline Soulé) in C major, for "Album de Six", FP 17
  • (24-34) 10 Improvisations, FP 63
  • (35, 36) 2 Improvisations, FP 113
  • (37, 38) 2 Improvisations, FP 170
  • (39) Improvisation No. 15 in C minor, FP 176 (Hommage à Édith Piaf)
  • (40) Pièce brève sur le nom d'Albert Roussel, for "Hommage à Albert Roussel", FP 50
  • (41) Valse-improvisation sur le nom de Bach, for "Hommage à Bach", FP 62

CD2:
  • (1) Française, FP 103
  • (02-09) Les soirées de Nazelles, FP 84
  • (10-15) Villageoises, petites pièces infantines, FP 65
  • (16-27) Thème varié, FP 151
  • (28-29) 2 Intermezzi, FP 71
  • (30) Intermezzo No. 3 in A flat major, FP 118
  • (31-33) Suite for piano in C major, FP 19
  • (34) Mélancolie, FP 105
  • (35) Humoresque, FP 72
  • (36-38) Trois pièces, FP 48
  • (39-41) Napoli, FP 40
  • (42) Bourrée au pavillon d'Auvergne (A l'exposition), FP 87

Gabriel Tacchino, piano
Date: 1966-1983
Label: EMI

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Francis Poulenc (7 January 1899 – 30 January 1963) was a French composer and pianist. He was a member of group Les Six. Poulenc had a reputation, particularly in his native country, as a humorous, lightweight composer, and his religious music was often overlooked. During the 21st century more attention has been given to his serious works. Poulenc's music is essentially diatonic.

***

Gabriel Tacchino (born August 4, 1934 in Cannes) is a French classical pianist. He studied with Francis Poulenc, the only pianist ever to do so. His interpretation of Poulenc's piano music reveals a special insight into the composer's intentions.

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Florent Schmitt - Piano Quintet (Werner Bärtschi)


Composer: Florent Schmitt
  1. Piano Quintet in B minor, Op. 51: I. Lent et grave - Animé
  2. Piano Quintet in B minor, Op. 51: II. Lent
  3. Piano Quintet in B minor, Op. 51: III. Animé

Werner Bärtschi, piano
Quatuor de Berne
Alexander van Wijnkoop, violin
Christine Ragaz, violin
Henrik Crafoord, viola
Walter Grimmer, cello
Date: 1981
Label: Accord

Read more:
http://florentschmitt.com/2013/03/31/florent-schmitts-intense-monumental-piano-quintet-1908/

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Florent Schmitt (28 September 1870 – 17 August 1958) was a French composer. Schmitt wrote 138 works with opus numbers. He was part of the group known as Les Apaches. His own style, recognizably impressionistic, owed something to the example of Debussy, though it had distinct traces of Wagner and Richard Strauss also.

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Werner Bärtschi (1 January 1950 in Zurich ) is a Swiss composer and pianist.

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Ferruccio Busoni; Alfredo Casella; Giuseppe Martucci - Orchestral Works (Riccardo Muti)


Information

Composer: Ferruccio Busoni; Alfredo Casella; Giuseppe Martucci
  1. Casella - Paganiniana, Op. 65: I. Allegro agitato
  2. Casella - Paganiniana, Op. 65: II. Polacchetta.  Allegretto moderato
  3. Casella - Paganiniana, Op. 65: III. Romanza. Larghetto cantabile, amoroso
  4. Casella - Paganiniana, Op. 65: IV. Tarantella. Presto molto
  5. Martucci - Notturno, Op. 70 No. 1
  6. Martucci - Novelletta, Op. 82
  7. Martucci - Giga, Op. 61 No. 3
  8. Busoni - Turandot Suite, Op. 41: I.  Die Hinrichtung, das Stadttor, der Abschied
  9. Busoni - Turandot Suite, Op. 41: II.Truffaldino (Introduzione e marcia grotesca)
  10. Busoni - Turandot Suite, Op. 41: III. Altoum. Marsch
  11. Busoni - Turandot Suite, Op. 41: V. Das Frauengemach
  12. Busoni - Turandot Suite, Op. 41: VII. Nächtlicher Walzer
  13. Busoni - Turandot Suite, Op. 41: VIII. In modo di marcia funebre e Finale alla Turca

Orchestra Filharmonia della Scala
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Date: 1992
Label: Sony Classical

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Review

Riccardo Muti takes time out here to present some of the lesser known, rarely heard orchestral scores of his fellow countrymen, and a superbly played, enjoyable concert it is too. Proceedings commence with a fine and spirited performance of Alfredo Casella's divertimento Paganiniana—not a great piece by any means but a work possessing plenty of charm and humour nevertheless; the outer movements are a bit of a romp (very opera buffa) and must have been as much fun to write as they clearly are for the La Scala Philharmonic to play. The tone and temperature rise a few degrees in Martucci's gorgeously lyrical Nocturne, Op. 70 No. 1—a sort of Mahler-meets-Puccini-meets-Respighi love song—and this is nicely contrasted with the affable if somewhat lightweight musings of his Novelletta and Giga. The high point of the disc, though, must surely be Muti's account of Busoni's Turandot Suite, Op. 41, the work that, after several tinkerings, finally ended up forming the basis of his 1917 opera. Muti opts for the first version of the suite dating from 1905—that is, the omission of the movements Verzweiflung und Ergebund and Altoums Warnung which Busoni added as appendices to the suite in 1911 and 1917 respectively. A pity, since what we have here is a fine and sensitively conducted performance that would have been greatly enhanced by their inclusion. The recording, made in the Teatro Abanella, Milan, is exceptionally clear and well focused, if at times a little dry.

-- Michael Stewart, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/busonicasellamartucci
http://www.amazon.com/Turandot-Suite-Alfredo-Casella/dp/B0000028XN

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Ferruccio Busoni (1 April 1866 – 27 July 1924) was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, editor, writer, and piano teacher. Busoni was a virtuoso pianist, and his works for piano are difficult to perform. His compositions were largely neglected for many years after his death, but he was remembered as a great virtuoso and arranger of Bach for the piano.

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Riccardo Muti (born 28 July 1941) is an Italian conductor. He has been music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 2010. Previously, Muti held posts at orchestras such as Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. He has been a prolific recording artist and has received dozens of honors, titles, awards and prizes. Muti is considered one of the world's greatest conductors of the operas of Verdi.

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Frank Bridge - Orchestral Works Vol. 4 (Richard Hickox)


Information

Composer: Frank Bridge
  1. Rebus, overture
  2. Oration (Concerto elegiaco), for cello & orchestra
  3. Allegro moderato, fragment of a symphony for string orchestra
  4. Lament, for string orchestra
  5. A Prayer, for chorus & orchestra

Alban Gerhardt, cello (2)
BBC National Chorus of Wales (5)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Richard Hickox, conductor
Date: 2003
Label: Chandos
https://www.chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%2010188

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Review

Over the last few years, Frank Bridge’s music has been enjoying a major resurgence. Even with his increased presence in the catalog, however, this disc (the fourth volume in Chandos’s continuing series devoted to his orchestral works) deserves special attention. The main offering, in both size and substance, is Oration (1930), a concerto for cello and orchestra in a single, freewheeling movement lasting around half an hour. If the title and the general description lead you to expect something in the nature of Bloch’s Schelomo, you won’t have trouble finding resemblances. But Bridge’s work covers a wider terrain, and its railing against the violence of war offers a far tougher and more disturbing emotional experience, as weighty proclamations and soaring climaxes give way to moments of dark brooding and to terrifying nightmare marches, both aggressive (similar in their cold insensitivity to the most brutal passages of the Ravel Left-Hand Concerto) and funereal. The work finally resolves into a peaceful epilogue, but it’s hardly an uplifting one, the repeated gestures in the background giving the music a desolate Holstian chill. It’s a deeply evocative piece, and it would make a good substitute for the overplayed Prokofiev and Shostakovich staples favored by so many cellists seeking virtuoso cello-and-orchestra fare from the mid-20th century.

The anguish of Oration is mirrored, at a lesser level of intensity, in the paradoxically lean and dissonant lyricism of the unfinished Allegro moderato (all that exists of a symphony for strings that Bridge was working on when he died) and in the grieving of the 1915 Lament (a poignant memorial to a nine-year-old girl who died on the Lusitania). On the surface, the disc’s opener, Rebus, is more upbeat—but even this vital concert overture is shot through with a darkness that keeps its fantasy from turning whimsical. Indeed, it’s only in the final work, A Prayer, that you find anything like unclouded affirmation. Composed in 1916–18, it’s Bridge’s only work for chorus and orchestra—and it’s marked by an uncharacteristically stalwart sturdiness. Not an especially ear-opening piece; but as a glimpse of a path not taken, it too is well worth knowing. Bridge’s admirers may have fond memories of excellent older performances of this music (Nicholas Braithwaite’s pungent Rebus and the Julian Lloyd Weber/Braithwaite Oration were among the gems of the old Lyrita catalog). But many of them are out of print; and except for the slightly stiff performance of the Allegro moderato (it sounds as if the orchestra needed more time to get comfortable with the austerity of the writing), Hickox more than holds his own. Chandos’s sound is as rich and full as expected. All in all, enthusiastically endorsed.

-- Peter J. Rabinowitz, FANFARE

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/bridge-orchestral-works-vol-4
http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_cd_review.php?id=1891
Whole series:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2010/Nov10/Bridge_Hickox.htm
http://www.allmusic.com/album/frank-bridge-orchestral-works-mw0002385088

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Frank Bridge (26 February 1879 – 10 January 1941) was an English composer, perhaps most highly regarded today for his chamber music. His early works are in a late-Romantic idiom, but later pieces showing the influence of the Second Viennese School, Maurice Ravel and Alexander Scriabin.

***

Richard Hickox (5 March 1948 – 23 November 2008) was an English conductor. His recording repertoire concentrated on British music, in which he made a number of recording premieres for Chandos Records (he made over 280 recordings for this company) and won five Gramophone Awards.

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François Couperin - Royal Concerts (Jordi Savall)


Information

Composer: François Couperin
  • (01-06) Les Concerts royaux, Premier concert
  • (07-11) Les Concerts royaux, Deuxième concert
  • (12-18) Les Concerts royaux, Troisième concert
  • (19-25) Les Concerts royaux, Quatrième concert

Le Concert des Nations
Jordi Savall, conductor
Date: 2004
Label: Alia Vox


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Review

Back in the 1980s Jordi Savall received well-deserved international acclaim for his stylish, if not idiomatically unique, recordings of François Couperin’s Les Nations, Les Apothéoses, and Pièces de Violes (all originally on Astrée, though now reissued by Naïve). Well, he’s back with a stunning performance of Couperin’s Les Concerts Royaux, and the wait certainly has been worth it. From the opening prelude Gravement of the Premier Concert to the concluding Forlane Rondeau Gayement of the fourth and final Quatrieme Concert Savall and his distinguished colleagues aurally evoke the opulence, grandeur, sophistication, and at times the frivolity and caprice of Louis XIV’s court.

Expertly crafted performances and knowing period practice certainly are par for the course here, though Savall’s auspicious achievement ultimately rests with one simple, brilliant, though strangely rarely acknowledged fact–that like Louis, Savall understands that often more is indeed more and that size, especially here, really does matter. Unlike the vast majority of the many previous recordings of these pieces, where the ensembles typically vary in number between two to four members (Couperin rarely was specific about instrumentation), Savall is joined by seven players–all among the crème de la crème of the current European period-performance scene.

Alia Vox’s sound leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. The ensemble balances are ideal and the timbre and presence of each instrument is remarkably transparent and convincing. The lavish digipac presentation and 63-page multi-lingual booklet featuring inspirational notes by Savall, a brief movement-by-movement appreciation by Philippe Beaussant, as well as a facsimile of Couperin’s original letter discussing Les Concerts Royaux’s raison d’être, equally complement the first-rate production. This is big, fat, decadent, ostentatiously French Couperin guaranteed to satisfy the heartiest music lover’s appetite.

-- John Greene, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/couperin-22
http://audaud.com/2005/07/francois-couperin-les-concerts-royaux-1-4-le-concert-des-nations-jordi-savall-bass-viol-direction-alia-vox-sacd/
http://www.allmusic.com/album/fran%C3%A7ois-couperin-les-concerts-royaux-mw0001382746
http://www.amazon.com/Concerts-Royaux-F-Couperin/dp/B0007Y8A9W

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François Couperin (10 November 1668 – 11 September 1733) was a French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist. He was known as Couperin le Grand ("Couperin the Great") to distinguish him from other members of the musically talented Couperin family. Couperin's four volumes of harpsichord music, contain over 230 individual pieces, was loved by composers such as J.S. Bach, Brahms, R. Strauss and Ravel.

***

Jordi Savall (born August 1, 1941) is a Catalan conductor, viol player, and composer. He has been one of the major figures in the field of Western early music since the 1970s, largely responsible for reviving the use of viol family instruments (notably the viola da gamba) in contemporary performance and recording. His characteristic repertoire features Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music, although he has occasionally ventured into the Classical and even the Romantic periods. Savall's discography includes more than 100 recordings. He recorded for EMI Classics, then from 1975 for Michel Bernstein's Astrée label, and since 1998 for his own label, Alia Vox.

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Francis Poulenc - Orchestral Works (Georges Prêtre)


Information

Composer: Francis Poulenc

CD1:
  • (01-09) Les biches (The Does), ballet, FP 36
  • (10) Bucolique, for "Variations sur le nom de Marguerite Long", FP 160
  • (11) Pastourelle, for "L'éventail de Jeanne", FP 45
  • (12) Matelote provençale, for "La guirlande de Campra", FP 153
  • (13) La baigneuse de Trouville (carte postale en couleurs), for "Les mariés de la Tour Eiffel", FP 23
  • (14) Discours du général, polka pour deux cornets à pistons, for "Les mariés de la Tour Eiffel", FP 23
  • (15-20) Suite française (d'après Claude Gervaise), FP 80
  • (21-26) Les animaux modèles, FP 111

CD2:
  • (01-04) Sinfonietta, FP 141
  • (05-07) Deux marches et un intermède, FP 88
  • (08-10) Concert champêtre, for harpsichord & orchestra, FP 49
  • (11-13) Concerto for 2 pianos & orchestra in D minor, FP 61

Aimée van de Wiele, harpsichord (CD2 8-10)
Jacques Février, piano (CD2 11-13)
Francis Poulenc, piano (CD2 11-13)
Ambrosian Singers (CD1 1-9)
Philharmonia Orchestra (CD1 1-12)
Orchestre de Paris (CD1 13-20, CD2 1-7)
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire (CD1 21-26, CD2 8-13)
Georges Prêtre, conductor
Date: 1962, 1965, 1968, 1980
Label: EMI

You may see this collection has some duplicates with previous Poulenc post http://classicalmjourney.blogspot.com/2015/06/francis-poulenc-concertos-maurice.html. The ballet "Les biches" is the same recording, different (may be older) master. Concert champêtre and Concerto for 2 pianos are entirely different recordings, remade in stereo by the same soloists in 1962 (the older recordings are mono and made in 1957)

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Review

These recordings of Les biches and Pastourelle derive from 1981, while the Aubade and Les animaux modèles were recorded in 1966. Dates and sound aside, there’s little difference between the two sets of performances. Prêtre put his individual stamp on everything he conducted, for better or worse. He always emphasized precision and energy. Sometimes, as in his Les pêcheurs de perles and La traviata, this unfailingly no-nonsense approach was greatly to the detriment of the music. At other times, as in this release, Prêtre found exactly the right style. His Poulenc had hard edges and sharp corners. It never avoided the glaring emotional dissonances that swept quickly from flowering gardens to jazz cabarets, with melodies and harmonies snatched and transformed from other composers past and present.

The strongest competition for these selections comes from Dutoit/Orchestre National de France (London/Decca 2LH 452937). Aided by digital engineering, Dutoit brings out far more of the color in this rich music. Prêtre’s Les biches is by comparison slightly distant in its engineering, while the Aubade and Les animaux modèles are a bit constricted and airless, with minor signs of distortion during very loud passages. But Dutoit’s Poulenc has a smoothed-over sound that could very well pass for any of several composers from the early part of the century. The Poulenc of Prêtre is distinctly brasher and more vivid, in a series that bore the composer’s imprimatur. Some of this may be due to changes over recent years in the timbre of French orchestras, which tends more recently towards an international norm (for better and worse). However, Prêtre gets that pungent sound in Les biches from the Philharmonia, so a good case can be made for the conductor recreating an aural environment that he recognized as true to its source.

The liner notes feature a new, lengthy article dedicated almost entirely to Prêtre, who, we are told, is a very humble man who venerates the composers whose works he conducts. What a shame EMI didn’t share that viewpoint and give us an article about Poulenc and his music, instead.

For all the wealth of colorful detail in Dutoit, this release remains for me a touchstone of how to conduct Poulenc. In all its vulgarity, humor, sentimentality, and sensitivity, it’s well worth your acquaintance.

-- Barry Brenesal, FANFARE

More reviews:

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Francis Poulenc (7 January 1899 – 30 January 1963) was a French composer and pianist. He was a member of group Les Six. Poulenc had a reputation, particularly in his native country, as a humorous, lightweight composer, and his religious music was often overlooked. During the 21st century more attention has been given to his serious works. Poulenc's music is essentially diatonic.

***

Georges Prêtre (born 14 August 1924) is a French orchestral and opera conductor. He studied with Maurice Duruflé and André Cluytens at Conservatoire de Paris. Prêtre is best known for performances of French music and especially associated with Francis Poulenc.

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Florent Schmitt - Oriane et le Prince d'amour; In Memoriam; Ronde burlesque (Pierre Stoll)


Information

Composer: Florent Schmitt
  1. Oriane et le Prince d'amour, Op. 83
  2. In Memoriam, Op. 72
  3. Ronde burlesque, Op. 78
  4. Légende, Op. 66 (for viola & orchestra)

Eckart Schloifer, viola
Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz
Pierre Stoll, conductor
Date: 1987
Label: Cybelia

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Review

The name of Florent Schmitt surfaces but infrequently on records issued in this country: when it has done so, it has nearly always been with one of his early works. (The only exceptions have been the string Janiana and the vivacious sextet for clarinets composed at the age of 82.) Ignorance of his output after his famous dance-drama La tragedie de Salome (1907) is widespread; so we should thank Pierre Stoll for his enterprise in recording—for the first time, unless I am mistaken—three works Schmitt wrote in his late fifties and middle sixties.

The earliest here, and perhaps the best, is the Ronde burlesque (1927), which may indeed be, by its title and the composer's own comment on it, a Satie-esque legpull, but sounds more like Vuillermoz's suggestion (quoted in the score) of the medieval Dance of Death. Grotesque rather than burlesque, in fact: its febrile gaiety, grimacing gestures and sardonic mockery are, to my ear, distinctly sinister. In memoriam is a somewhat unbalanced justaposition of a long, often beautiful, threnody (Cippus feralis), evoking an austere antique atmosphere, which rises to a powerful climax, and a short, noisy and dissonant scherzo on the 'musical letters' of his former teacher Faure's name, which is in fact a rather awkward orchestration of a piano piece composed 15 years earlier. The most substantial work here is the ''suite'' (can one movement constitute a suite?) from the 'choreographic tragedy' Oriane and the prince of love (originally Oriane the peerless), written in 1934 for Ida Rubinstein. The story, centring on a sixteenth-century insatiable and cruel beauty in Avignon and her eventual violent end, offered Schmitt plentiful opportunities to indulge his taste for mysterious atmosphere, voluptuous orchestral colour and barbaric splendour. Like much of his music, its texture is somewhat over-ripe, and the 20-minute movement does seem on the long side through lack of sufficiently memorable themes, but the workmanship and orchestral mastery are not to be denied. The Rhineland orchestra, if not of the first rank, puts up spirited and colourful performances, and the recording (originally made for the SWF radio) is very acceptable.

-- Lionel Salter, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Florent-Schmitt-Memorium-Burlesque-Orchestra/dp/B000R6VELG

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Florent Schmitt (28 September 1870 – 17 August 1958) was a French composer. Schmitt wrote 138 works with opus numbers. He was part of the group known as Les Apaches. His own style, recognizably impressionistic, owed something to the example of Debussy, though it had distinct traces of Wagner and Richard Strauss also.

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Ferruccio Busoni - Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata No. 2 (Frank Peter Zimmermann)


Information

Composer: Ferruccio Busoni
  1. Violin Concerto D major, Op. 35a, KiV 243: I. Allegro moderato
  2. Violin Concerto D major, Op. 35a, KiV 243: II. Quasi andante
  3. Violin Concerto D major, Op. 35a, KiV 243: III. Allegro impetuoso
  4. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: I. Langsam
  5. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIa. Presto, attacca
  6. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIb. Andante, piuttosto grave
  7. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIa. Andante con moto
  8. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIb. Poco più andante
  9. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIc. Alla marcia, vivace
  10. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIId. Lo stesso movimento
  11. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIe. Andante
  12. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIf. Tranquillo assai
  13. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 36a, KiV 244: IIIg. Allegro deciso, un poco maestoso - Più lento

Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin
Enrico Pace, piano (4-13)
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI
John Storgårds, conductor
Date: 2003 (1-3), 2004
Label: Sony Classical

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Review

Frank Peter Zimmermann performs an inestimable service by coupling two of the most approachable works by a master too often sidelined as excessively prolix. Prior to hearing this assured and musically persuasive account of the Violin Concerto, only Joseph Szigeti (CBS, long unavailable) and Adolf Busch recorded live at the Concertgebouw in the late 1930s (Q-Disc) have really made it work.

It’s an early piece, premiered in Berlin in 1897, a three-movement structure that plays without a break. Busoni himself called the Concerto ‘good…if unpretentious’, quietly original, too, though beam up 1’39” and you’ll hear a short passage that replicates almost to the note the transition from first to second subjects in the first movement of Brahms’s Violin Concerto. Busoni’s Concerto is at its darkest in the Quasi andante where solo and orchestral voices are beautifully integrated, at 4’25” for example, where the violin plays a two-note phrase that speeds by phases into a trill, and the woodwinds take up the phrase beneath him. The bustling finale is filled with typically Busonian playfulness, felicitously scored music that’s stylishly played by Zimmermann – his tonal polish and technical mastery reminding me at times of both Milstein and David Oistrakh.

The half-hour Violin Sonata, a seminal piece from 1900, opens more like the Busoni we know and love (or not, as the case may be) and owes an obvious debt to both Beethoven and Schubert. My previous favourite digital version, by Gidon Kremer and Valery Afanassiev (DG, 12/88 – nla), slows the journey by some eight minutes but Zimmermann’s faster speeds in no way compromise the work’s profound impact.

The first movement is mostly sombre and austere, the Scherzo a manic tarantella, then after a brief slow movement there’s a set of variations based on a chorale-like theme, a world on its own that incorporates elements of dance, fugue and virtuoso display. The transition to the closing Allegro unmistakably echoes Schubert’s great C major Fantasy. Again Zimmermann comes up trumps with a modern benchmark, matched in spirit and expertise by his pianist Enrico Pace. A marvellous disc, this, not to be missed on any count.

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Feb07/Busoni_Violin_Concerto_sk94497.htm
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2006/mar/31/classicalmusicandopera.shopping3

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Ferruccio Busoni (1 April 1866 – 27 July 1924) was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, editor, writer, and piano teacher. Busoni was a virtuoso pianist, and his works for piano are difficult to perform. His compositions were largely neglected for many years after his death, but he was remembered as a great virtuoso and arranger of Bach for the piano.

***

Frank Peter Zimmermann (born 27 February 1965 in Duisburg) is a German violinist. He studied with Valery Gradov, Saschko Gawriloff, and Herman Krebbers. Frank Peter Zimmermann plays a Stradivarius known as the Lady Inchiquin, from 1711, which once belonged to Fritz Kreisler.

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Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 13 "Babi Yar" (Kirill Kondrashin; BRSO - 1980)


Composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
  1. Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor, Op. 113 - "Babi Yar": 1. Babi Yar (Adagio)
  2. Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor, Op. 113 - "Babi Yar": 2. Humour (Allegretto)
  3. Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor, Op. 113 - "Babi Yar": 3. In the Store (Adagio)
  4. Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor, Op. 113 - "Babi Yar": 4. Fears (Largo)
  5. Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor, Op. 113 - "Babi Yar": 5. Career (Allegretto)

John Shirley-Quirk, bass
Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus' Men
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Kirill Kondrashin, conductor

Date: 1980
Label: Philips

Kirill Kondrashin is the conductor who conducted the premier of Shostakovich's 13th symphony on 18 December 1962 with the Moscow Philharmonic and bass soloist Vitaly Gromadsky, after Evgeny Mravinsky refused to conduct the work.

John Shirley-Quirk is the bass soloist in the Western premier of this symphony on 14 September 1971 with Charles Groves conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

This recording, which is made in 1980, has some text lines that censored in Kondrashin's previous Melodiya performances.

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Frank Bridge - Orchestral Works Vol. 3 (Richard Hickox)


Information

Composer: Frank Bridge
  1. Coronation March
  2. Summer, tone poem
  3. Phantasm, rhapsody for piano & orchestra
  4. There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook, impression for small orchestra
  5. Vignettes de danse: I. Nicolette
  6. Vignettes de danse: II. Zoraida
  7. Vignettes de danse: III. Carmelita
  8. Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas Dance)

Howard Shelley, piano (3)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Richard Hickox, conductor
Date: 2002
Label: Chandos
https://www.chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%2010112

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Review

MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL'S RECORDING OF THE MONTH

I’ve begun to lose track of how many times in these columns (and elsewhere) reviewers have acknowledged the debt music lovers owe to Chandos and Richard Hickox. This ongoing Bridge series is just the latest in a long line of recording ventures that has garnered universal critical praise. Although many of the works have been recorded before, Chandos’s standards in terms of performances and sound quality virtually ensure they become benchmarks immediately.

This latest instalment gets off to a thoroughly rousing, if relatively uncharacteristic, start with the one item billed as ‘premiere recording’, the Coronation March. I have certainly never thought of the pacifist Bridge in terms of Elgarian pomp and jingoism, and the failure of the march to win the competition it was composed for is no real surprise. It’s not that it is badly written or lacking swagger and exuberance – far from it – but as Paul Hindmarsh’s excellent note reminds us, ‘…Bridge’s penchant for irregular phrase lengths, […] for modal inflexions and for harmonic excursions to remote keys are not the stuff of popular marches’. Quite so, but that’s just what makes this piece interesting and subtly different. The sumptuous orchestral palette and warm lyricism, especially in the trio section, are most winning and it is no surprise to learn that as Bridge started work on this march, he was in the process of orchestrating what has become his best known piece, The Sea.

Summer is one of a trio of orchestral idylls written whilst Europe was in turmoil and the composer had ‘escaped’ to a country retreat to brood on his own inner turmoil. This probably explains why any hint of English pastoralism is balanced out by a wistful, haunting quality in much of the piece. The gloriously full melody that emerges from the shadows at 4’56 is ravishingly memorable, but I still sense amid the playfulness a mood of anxiety that is never far below the surface.

That sense of foreboding and unease are very much to the fore in the disc’s longest work, Phantasm. Bridge calls this a rhapsody because of the single movement form, but it is clearly and rigorously organised. The opening piano flourishes are based around quite dissonant tritonic harmony, perhaps suggesting the ghostly apparitions of long-dead friends and colleagues. This feeling is heightened as the work progresses, particularly from 4’44 onwards, where a weird danse macabre gets underway. From here the piano winds its way around squealing woodwind and a crunching ostinato figure. There is sun and light let in here and there, but more often than not they are snuffed out, usually by brass or the percussive soloist, who make sure the piece ends as darkly as it started. Hickox’s grasp of the mood swings is masterly and the orchestra is with him every step of the way, relishing the many featured solo passages. Howard Shelley plays, as always, with complete technical and intellectual assurance, and the whole work, far from being depressing, has an intense, sombre magic of the Rachmaninov kind, brooding but ultimately exhilarating.

The impression for small orchestra, There is a Willow Grows aslant a Brook could well be the most well-known piece on the disc; it is certainly the most recorded. Hickox is again exemplary in his control of the subtle detail, the tiny shifts of chromatic harmony that give the piece its melancholy flavour. I grew up with the old Neville Dilkes version on EMI, but this Hickox performance is easily as good as any I’ve heard in recent years, beautifully gauged in its mood and intensity.

The two lighter pieces that end the disc lift the gloom and provide perfect contrast to what has gone before. The three delightful Vignettes de danse are described by Hindmarsh as ‘…light-hearted musical postcards from a motoring holiday of the Alps and Mediterranean coast’. The orchestral colour and exoticism are seductive, particularly the third, ‘Carmelita’, an extrovert depiction of Spain.

The miniature dance poem, Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas Dance), was popular from the word go, receiving prolonged applause after its premiere (in orchestral form) at the last night of the proms in 1922. It makes a rumbustious, jovial end to the disc.

It may seem a little tiresome to recommend yet another Chandos/Hickox collaboration wholeheartedly, but I’m going to anyway. Hardened Bridge fans may have their own particular favourites from over the years, and Hickox certainly doesn’t have the field to himself. But standards of musicianship, recording and presentation are incredibly high here, and whether you are collecting the whole series or not, if you invest in this disc you will not be disappointed.

-- Tony Haywood, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/Dec03/Bridge3.htm
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Feb04/Bridge3.htm
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/bridge-orchestral-works-vol-3
Reviews for whole series:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2010/Nov10/Bridge_Hickox.htm
http://www.allmusic.com/album/frank-bridge-orchestral-works-mw0002385088

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Frank Bridge (26 February 1879 – 10 January 1941) was an English composer, perhaps most highly regarded today for his chamber music. His early works are in a late-Romantic idiom, but later pieces showing the influence of the Second Viennese School, Maurice Ravel and Alexander Scriabin.

***

Richard Hickox (5 March 1948 – 23 November 2008) was an English conductor. His recording repertoire concentrated on British music, in which he made a number of recording premieres for Chandos Records (he made over 280 recordings for this company) and won five Gramophone Awards.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

François Couperin - Keyboard Music Vol. III (Angela Hewitt)


Information

Composer: François Couperin
  • (01) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 13e. Ordre: 1. Les Lis naissans
  • (02) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 13e. Ordre: 2. Les Rozeaux
  • (03) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 13e. Ordre: 3. L'engageante
  • (04-15) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 13e. Ordre: 4. Les Folies françoises, ou les Dominos
  • (16) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 13e. Ordre: 5. L'âme en peine
  • (17) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 14e. Ordre: 1. Le Rossignol en amour
  • (18) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 14e. Ordre: 2. La Linote éfarouchée
  • (19) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 14e. Ordre: 3. Les Fauvétes Plaintives
  • (20) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 14e. Ordre: 4. Le Petit-Rien
  • (21) Pièces de clavecin, Book 1 - 2e. Ordre: 18. Les Idées heureuses
  • (22) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 15e. Ordre: 2. Le Dodo, ou l'amour au Berçeau
  • (23) Pièces de clavecin, Book 2 - 10e. Ordre: 2. La Mézangére
  • (24) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 19e. Ordre: 6. La Muse-Plantine
  • (25) Pièces de clavecin, Book 1 - 4e. Ordre: 4. Le Réveil-matin
  • (26) Pièces de clavecin, Book 1 - 3e. Ordre: 12. La Favorite
  • (27) Pièces de clavecin, Book 1 - 3e. Ordre: 13. La Lutine
  • (28) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 16e. Ordre: 6. La Distraite
  • (29) Pièces de clavecin, Book 3 - 16e. Ordre: 2. L'Himen-Amour
  • (30) Pièces de clavecin, Book 2 - 7e. Ordre: 1. La Ménetou

Angela Hewitt, piano
Date: 2004
Label: Hyperion

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Review

Till Angela Hewitt decided to give her attention to these works, the pieces recorded on this disc were either neglected or forgotten altogether. With this third volume of excerpts from the harpsichord music of François Couperin, Hewitt concludes her personal and far reaching survey of the French master's keyboard works, and being the baroque expert that she is, music which was previously considered the exclusive reign of the harpsichord can be winningly transferred to the modern piano. Her mammoth J.S. Bach undertaking is ample testimony to this. Contrary to her programming on the previous two volumes, Hewitt here only performs one complete 'Ordre' (Suite) – the widely entertaining 13th with its wicked parody of a perverse masked ball. She also tackles 4 pieces from the 14th and as if to celebrate her joy at having successfully ended her task, she performs a wide selection of her favourite pieces taken from Suites not previously featured.

Couperin once said; 'I love much better the things which touch me than those which surprise me'. He wanted music to affect people and these pieces do just that. Full of grace, joy, light heartedness and at times even melancholy and tender sadness. These hidden miniatures also possess a hidden power that arrests the mind and touches the heart.

Hewitt's mini literary masterpiece is not only cause for exaltation, but also a source of encouragement to all those who are not familiar with such a refined style of music. An inspirational issue to complete a memorable mini-cycle which should delight and entertain those who are prepared to let themselves be regaled by these French delicacies.

-- Gerald Fenech © 2005, Classical Net

More reviews:
http://audaud.com/2006/01/couperin-keyboard-music-volume-3-angela-hewitt-piano-hyperion/
http://www.allmusic.com/album/fran%C3%A7ois-couperin-keyboard-music-vol-3-mw0001844141
http://www.amazon.com/Keyboard-Music-3-F-Couperin/dp/B000B8656Y

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François Couperin (10 November 1668 – 11 September 1733) was a French Baroque composer, organist and harpsichordist. He was known as Couperin le Grand ("Couperin the Great") to distinguish him from other members of the musically talented Couperin family. Couperin's four volumes of harpsichord music, contain over 230 individual pieces, was loved by composers such as J.S. Bach, Brahms, R. Strauss and Ravel.

***

Angela Hewitt, OC OBE (born July 26, 1958) is a British/Canadian classical pianist. She is best known for her Bach interpretations, although his repertoire also included works by Couperin, Rameau, Messiaen, Chabrier, Ravel, Schumann, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy and Fauré. In recent years, she records using her own piano, a Fazioli F308 grand.

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Francis Poulenc - Music for 2 pianos; Violin Sonata; Elégie for horn (Pascal Rogé; Jean-Philippe Collard)


Composer: Francis Poulenc
  1. Capriccio (d'après le Bal Masqué) for 2 pianos, FP 155
  2. Sonata for 2 pianos, FP 156: 1. Prologue
  3. Sonata for 2 pianos, FP 156: 2. Allegro molto
  4. Sonata for 2 pianos, FP 156: 3. Andante lyrico
  5. Sonata for 2 pianos, FP 156: 4. Epilogue
  6. Elégie (en accords alternés) for 2 pianos, FP 175
  7. Sonata for piano 4 hands, FP 8: 1. Prélude (Modéré)
  8. Sonata for piano 4 hands, FP 8: 2. Rustique (Naïf et lent)
  9. Sonata for piano 4 hands, FP 8: 3. Final (Très vite)
  10. L'embarquement pour Cythère, valse-musette for 2 pianos, FP 150
  11. Sonata for violin & piano, FP 12: 1. Allegro con fuoco
  12. Sonata for violin & piano, FP 12: 2. Intermezzo (Très lent et calme)
  13. Sonata for violin & piano, FP 12: 3. Presto tragico
  14. Elégie for horn & piano, in memory of Dennis Brain, FP 168

Pascal Rogé, piano
Jean-Philippe Collard, piano
Chantal Juillet, violin
André Cazalet, horn
Date: 1994
Label: Decca

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Francis Poulenc (7 January 1899 – 30 January 1963) was a French composer and pianist. He was a member of group Les Six. Poulenc had a reputation, particularly in his native country, as a humorous, lightweight composer, and his religious music was often overlooked. During the 21st century more attention has been given to his serious works. Poulenc's music is essentially diatonic.

***

Pascal Rogé (born 6 April 1951) is a French pianist. A third-generation French musician, Rogé is famous for his interpretations of compatriot composers such as Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, Satie, and Poulenc, among others. His repertoire also covers the German masters Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, and Beethoven.

***

Jean-Philippe Collard (born 27 January 1948) is a renowned French pianist who is known for his interpretations of the works of Gabriel Fauré and Camille Saint-Saëns. He is considered one of the greatest exponents of the French school.

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Florent Schmitt - La Tragédie de Salomé; Le palais hanté; Psaume XLVII (Yan Pascal Tortelier)


Information

Composer: Florent Schmitt
  1. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): I. Prélude -
  2. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): I. Danse des perles
  3. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): II. Lent - Les Enchantements sur la mer -
  4. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): II. Danse des éclairs -
  5. La Tragédie de Salomé, ballet, Op. 50 (d'après un poéme de Robert d'Humières): II. Danse de l'effroi
  6. Le palais hanté, Op. 49 (d'après Edgar Allan Poë)
  7. Psaume XLVII, Op. 38: Animé -
  8. Psaume XLVII, Op. 38: Un peu moins vite -
  9. Psaume XLVII, Op. 38: Calme -
  10. Psaume XLVII, Op. 38: Même mouvement

Susan Bullock (7-10)
Sao Paulo Symphony Choir
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra
Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor
Date: 2010
Label: Chandos
https://www.chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHSA%205090

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Review

PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****

It’s just a year since Sascha Goetzel’s combustible Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic version of the suite from Florent Schmitt’s sensuously exotic ballet La tragédie de Salomé, and here is another to challenge it. There are clear differences between the two recordings: where Goetzel’s account is sharp and angular in attack, Yan Pascal Tortelier is more supple and caressing, emphasising the score’s Gallic progeniture.

Both approaches work, but it’s the Chandos engineering that really makes the difference, with much more transparency in the rich orchestration, and a palpably bigger soundstage, especially on the sumptuous multichannel SACD layer. The glimmering palpitations of Salomé’s ‘Danse des perles’ are more erotically present in the São Paulo orchestra’s version, the climaxes in ‘Les enchantements sur la mer’ more visceral.

Going from the lurid sex and violence of Salomé to Schmitt’s setting of Psalm 47 should be a major wrench stylistically, but isn’t: the orgiastic volleys of brass and percussion in its opening paragraph have a distinctly pagan feel about them, and are a long way from conventional religiosity. Tortelier again excels in the untrammelled sensuality of the middle section, where solo violin and soprano exchange indecently lavish rhapsodies – from sound alone, you would never guess it’s based on a Biblical text.

Thierry Fischer’s rival Hyperion release offers both the Psalm and Salomé, also in highly persuasive performances. But for me the extra sensory charge of Tortelier and the heady swirl of this music-making  has the edge. This is a superb CD, and an ideal introduction to the perilously seductive sound-world of this composer.

-- Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine

More reviews:

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Florent Schmitt (28 September 1870 – 17 August 1958) was a French composer. Schmitt wrote 138 works with opus numbers. He was part of the group known as Les Apaches. His own style, recognizably impressionistic, owed something to the example of Debussy, though it had distinct traces of Wagner and Richard Strauss also.

***

Yan Pascal Tortelier (born 19 April 1947) is a French conductor and violinist, and is the son of the cellist Paul Tortelier. He is a French music specialist and records exclusively for Chandos Records.

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Ferruccio Busoni - Piano Works (Geoffrey Douglas Madge)


Information

Composer: Ferruccio Busoni

CD1:
  • (01-24) 24 Preludes, Op. 37, BV 181
  • (25-26) 2 Tanzstücke, Op. 30a, BV 235a
  • (27) Vierte Ballettszene, Op. 33a, BV 238

CD2:
  • (01-03) Racconti fantastici, Op. 12, BV 100
  • (04-05) Variationen und Fuge in freier Form über Fr. Chopin's C-moll Präludium (Op. 28 No. 20), Op. 22, BV 213
  • (06-11) Macchiette Medioevali, Op. 33, BV 194
  • (12-17) 6 Stücke, Op. 33b, BV 241

CD3:
  • (01-07) Elegien, BV 249
  • (08-12) Suite Campestre, Op. 18, BV 81
  • (13) Variationen und Fuge in freier Form über Fr. Chopin's C-moll Präludium (Op. 28 No. 20), Op. 22, BV 213 (2nd Version)

CD4:
  • (01) Fantasia contrappuntistica, BV 256
  • (02) Choral-Vorspiel und Fuge über ein Bachsches Fragment, BV 256a
  • (03) Nuit de Noël, BV 251
  • (04-07) Indianisches Tagebuch I, BV 267
  • (08) Fantasia nach J.S. Bach, BV 253

CD5:
  • (01) Sonatina, BV 257
  • (02) Sonatina seconda, BV 259
  • (03-07) Sonatina ad usum Infantis, BV 268
  • (08) Sonatina in diem nativitatis Christi MCMXVII, BV 274
  • (09) Sonatina brevis. In signo Joannis Sebastiani Magni, BV 280
  • (10) Sonatina super Carmen (Kammer-Fantasie über Bizets "Carmen"), BV 284
  • (11-13) 3 Albumblätter, BV 289
  • (14) Notturni. Prologo, BV 279
  • (15) Perpetuum mobile, BV 293

CD6:
  • (01-04) An die Jugend, BV 254
  • (05-11) 5 Kurze Stücke zur Pflege des Polyphonen Spiels, BV 29
  • (12-13) Prélude et étude en arpèges, BV 297
  • (14-16) Toccata, BV 287

Geoffrey Douglas Madge, piano
Date: 1987
Label: Philips

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Review

Away with moderation: Busoni is the most misunderstood and misrepresented of the twentieth century's great composers, and this massive six-and-a-half-hour set may prove to be the biggest boost to his reputation since Antony Beaumont's completion of the final scene of Doktor Faust and his admirable book on the composer.

Busoni needs listening to in extenso, troughs (not deep ones) as well as peaks. He was the first to acknowledge that his mature style was late in developing, but he was no late starter: the earliest music here, and pretty accomplished it is too, was written at 12 years old and by the age of 18 he had written the remarkable Variations and Fugue on Chopin's C minor Prelude, a tour de force of late nineteenth-century pianism and sonorous inventiveness. Busoni's problem, or rather the dilemma that his work strives to solve, was that he had the virtuoso performer's deep committedness to the music of the past as well as the creator's preoccupation with the present and the future. Hence, in a way, all those 'creative transcriptions' of earlier music, of Bach above all, and hence the attempt in Busoni's 'original' music to find a modern style that would not deny the past but embrace it. On casual acquaintance this can seem like unoriginality: using other men's music or styles to make up for a lack of personal identity. Busoni's frequent re-use of his own music might be seen to reinforce this view: a creative personality that could only run to a few ideas, which then perforce had to be repeatedly recycled.

If one work had to be chosen to refute this idea it might well be the suite An die Jugend of 1909. Its three central movements are all 'after' other composers, Bach, Paganini and Mozart respectively, but the exuberant contrapuntal virtuosity with which Busoni develops a Bach prelude and its succeeding fugue simultaneously, the wit of his embellishments of Mozart (and his demonstration that 'post-Wagnerian' tonal ambiguity goes back at least as far as 1786) and his total recasting of Paganini in terms of advanced piano technique, go a long way beyond mere transcription. And the outer movements are pure Busoni, and could not be by anyone else: the first a tripartite demonstration that extreme simplicity and experimental complexity can be unified by a wide-ranging creative imagination and by their common rootedness in Bach, the brief epilogue an astonishing territorial claim: all musical language, from Bach's day to his own, will from now on be his resource and he announces this by 'modulating' from a Bachian flourish to the furthest reaches of tonality and back to a perfect chord of C major.

All Busoni's major original works for solo keyboard are here, plus a generous selection from the huge output of his youth and a cross-section of those didactic pieces that have an interest beyond the technical. Inevitably, there are inequalities: Busoni was a pianist and a composer from his very earliest years and in the works prior to about 1909–10 (and in some passages after then, even) one is sometimes more aware of him indulging his love for Bach, Beethoven and Liszt, and his love of piano sonority (particularly the richer, deeper left-hand end of the keyboard) than of a developing individual voice. But even in the earliest pieces the masks that he wears (the Schumann mask especially) are uncommonly convincing, the keyboard technique is commanding, and as early as the 24 Preludes (completed just after Busoni's fifteenth birthday) a pleasure in unexpected harmonies and darkly angular themes that we will eventually recognize as 'Faustian' begins to assert itself alongside the displays of rather forceful pianism. Faust and Mephistopheles as well are glimpsed in the E. T. A. Hoffmannesque world of the Racconti fantastici, written a year later than the Preludes, and from there on there is scarcely a work without at least a hint of genius.

Busoni's invention was generous: hugely effective though they are, those early Chopin variations play for nearly half an hour of unremitting ingenuity; Busoni acknowledged this when he produced a much shorter revised edition (both versions are included here). It is perhaps significant that there also exists an abbreviated edizione minore even of the colossal and legendarily taxing Fantasia contrappuntistica (Madge only plays the edizione definitiva; real Busonians will want the late recasting for two pianos as well, perhaps also the preliminary sketch known as the Grosse Fuge) and it is true that in certain of his moods Busoni can seem a bit too much: too much virtuosity, too much sonorous richness, too much florid contrapuntal elaboration. But in page after page of the six Sonatinas, several of the Elegien, much of the Fantasia and of the Indianisches Tagebuch Busoni does achieve the fusion of old and new, the inclusiveness that he sought, and in the magnificent and moving Fantasia nach Johann Sebastian Bach (a very free fantasy on three themes by Bach, written in memory of the composer's father), the highly impressive Sieben kurze Stucke (which incorporate the most beautiful of Busoni's homages to Mozart) and the Mephistophelian late Toccata he achieves, I believe, greatness.

Madge plays with quite stunning technical control and an evident love of rich and complex piano sonorities that matches Busoni's own (and if he pounds with his left hand rather in some of the earlier music, it is no doubt what the composer would have done himself). He has all the necessary stamina that the bigger pieces demand, but is no less sensitive to more mysterious and poetic pages. The performances were recorded live (though there is not the slightest sign of an audience or of a large concert-hall acoustic), so there are a few minor fluffs of no real consequence. The recorded sound is very good indeed: impressively big but not noisy. The presentation of the set is rather curious. The discs are packed in twos, each with two bilingual booklets, identical in content save for the languages involved: 12 copies of the same text, in short, and 12 sets of identical illustrations (one of which gets Busoni's age seriously wrong: he had given up Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits by the age of 21). The set is a major achievement and an eloquently compelling act of advocacy.

-- Michael Oliver, Gramophone

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Ferruccio Busoni (1 April 1866 – 27 July 1924) was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, editor, writer, and piano teacher. Busoni was a virtuoso pianist, and his works for piano are difficult to perform. His compositions were largely neglected for many years after his death, but he was remembered as a great virtuoso and arranger of Bach for the piano.

***

Geoffrey Douglas Madge (born 3 October 1941 in Adelaide) is an Australian classical virtuoso pianist and composer. At an early stage he developed an interest in unjustifiably neglected composers and this became one of his main enterprises.

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