Monday, August 31, 2015

Joseph Haydn - Piano Trios Vol. 2 (Florestan Trio)


Information

Composer: Joseph Haydn
  1. Piano Trio in E major, Hob. XV/28: 1. Allegro moderato
  2. Piano Trio in E major, Hob. XV/28: 2. Allegretto
  3. Piano Trio in E major, Hob. XV/28: 3. Finale: Allegro
  4. Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV/29: 1. Poco allegretto
  5. Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV/29: 2. Andantino ed innocentemente
  6. Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV/29: 3. Finale: Presto assai
  7. Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV/30: 1. Allegro moderato
  8. Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV/30: 2. Andante con moto
  9. Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV/30: 3. Presto
  10. Piano Trio in E flat minor, Hob. XV/31: 1. Andante
  11. Piano Trio in E flat minor, Hob. XV/31: 2. Allegro "Jacob's Dream"

Florestan Trio
Susan Tomes, piano
Anthony Marwood, violin
Richard Lester, cello
Date: 2009
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67757

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Review

These are the very last works Haydn wrote for piano trio. All were penned during his second sojourn in London during the years 1794–95, and with a specific pianist in mind, a certain Therese Jansen, who had come from Aachen to London with her father some years before to study with Clementi. At the time of Haydn’s second London trip, she was engaged to an art dealer named Bartolozzi—in fact, Haydn stood witness at their wedding—but this didn’t stop Haydn from engaging in one of his famous dalliances. Now I ask you, wouldn’t a film about Haydn and his London visits be in order? Especially if a good screenwriter could be found to work all of Haydn’s love affairs into the story line. Think Amadeus for the over-60 crowd. It’s a movie that’s long overdue—something for discerning adults who are tired of all the end-of-the-world disaster movies of late. 

In the opening movement of the E-Major Trio, with its delicate texture and fluffy arpeggios, Haydn’s infatuation is unmistakable—a musical love letter, if there ever was one. It certainly helped matters that Mrs. Jansen-Bartolozzi was an accomplished player—the liner notes call her a virtuoso—causing Haydn to write some rather demanding music for the piano. In the second movement of the E?-Minor Trio (six flats!), the pianist is subjected to many challenges, but also the violinist. It seems that neither Haydn nor Mrs. Jansen-Bartolozzi could stand the German violinist (name unknown) who premiered the work. As a practical joke, Haydn wrote numerous 16th-note passages for the violin that echo the piano part, in an attempt to “show off his poor technique in the upper register.” Reminds me of Mozart and the practical jokes he played on his horn player Leutgeb. 

Note that the cello part in these works is still rather rudimentary; the cello plays the same music as the left hand of the piano for the most part. It remained for Beethoven and Schubert, just a few years later, to liberate the cello from its basso-continuo role in chamber music. 

I look forward to further releases in this series. Recommended. 

-- Christopher Brodersen, FANFARE

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/haydn-piano-trios-vol-2
http://audaud.com/2010/03/haydn-piano-trios-volume-2-4-the-florestan-trio-hyperion/
http://www.allmusic.com/album/haydn-piano-trios-vol-2-mw0001871346

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Joseph Haydn (31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809) was a prominent and prolific Austrian composer of the Classical period. He was known as "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet". At the time of his death, aged 77, he was one of the most celebrated composers in Europe. Haydn was the brother of composer Michael Haydn and a teacher of Beethoven.

***

The Florestan Trio was formed in 1995 in London. In its first decade, the group has made 14 recordings on the Hyperion label, all of which received Gramophone nominations. In 1995, the piano quartet Domus disbanded, and that group's pianist Susan Tomes and its cellist Richard Lester, together with violinist Anthony Marwood, formed the Florestan Trio.

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Johannes Brahms - String Quartet No. 2; Piano Quintet(Takács Quartet; Stephen Hough)


Information

Composer: Johannes Brahms
  1. Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34: I. Allegro non troppo
  2. Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34: II. Andante, un poco adagio
  3. Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34: III. Scherzo. Allegro
  4. Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34: IV. Poco sostenuto - Allegro non troppo - Presto non troppo
  5. String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2: I. Allegro non troppo
  6. String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2: II. Andante moderato
  7. String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2: III. Quasi menuetto, moderato - Allegro vivace
  8. String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 51 No. 2: IV. Allegro non assai

Stephen Hough, piano (1-4)
Takács Quartet
Edward Dusinberre, violin
Károly Schranz, violin
Geraldine Walther, viola
András Fejér, cello
Date: 2007
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67551

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Review

A first-rate Brahms coupling finding both delicacy and fire in this music

In the Brahms Second Quartet the Takacs find a most appealing lightness of touch. They reveal anew the extraordinarily imaginative way in which the work begins, and breathe air into the intricate textures which precede the vacillating second theme. There’s an absolute unanimity to their playing, as there was in the Emerson’s recent set, but here I find a greater liveliness of approach. Compared to such groups as the Alban Berg, who revel in the lushness of Brahms’s writing, the Takacs are more febrile and transparent. Their third movement creeps in, skittering, but there’s no lack of sweetness of tone when required (such as in the glorious slow movement). And the fugal section has a spring in its step. Brahms isn’t all seriousness, they remind us.

The other major selling-point of this disc is the Piano Quintet, for which the Tak·cs are joined by Stephen Hough. This was also included in the Emerson’s set, with the distinguished American Leon Fleisher. I found that reading, though unquestionably beautifully wrought, a touch cosier than my benchmark – Maurizio Pollini’s Gramophone Award-winning reading with the Quartetto Italiano. But there’s nothing cosy about this latest reading, which has fire and passion aplenty, and the recording places Hough pleasingly within the overall texture rather than unduly spotlighting him. There’s a feeling of coming together of ideas, with these artists – masters of colour all of them – sparking off one another in a very unstudio-ish way. And throughout, Hough’s virtuosity makes light of Brahms’s unforgiving textures. If I still find Pollini and the Italianos (who offer no coupling) unrivalled in their soul-baring start to the finale, that’s not to say this new recording doesn’t deserve a place on the shelf alongside that classic reading.

-- Harriet Smith, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Dec07/Brahms_Takacs_CDA67551.htm
http://www.musicalcriticism.com/recordings/cd-brahms-takacs-1107.shtml
http://www.allmusic.com/album/brahms-string-quartet-piano-quintet-mw0001874394
http://www.amazon.com/Brahms-String-Quartet-Piano-Quintet/dp/B000WE5G62

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Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist. In his lifetime, Brahms's popularity and influence were considerable. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters.

***

Stephen Hough (born 22 November 1961) is a British-born classical pianist, composer and writer. He has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras, as recitalist on the major stages, and as chamber musician with top musicians. His recordings received multiple awards. As a writer, he has a blog at the Telegraph newspaper's website.

***

Takács Quartet is a string quartet, founded in Hungary, and now based in Boulder, Colorado, United States. Current members include: Edward Dusinberre & Károly Schranz, violins; Geraldine Walther, viola; András Fejér, cello.

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Johann Sebastian Bach - Orchestral Suites (Trevor Pinnock)


Information

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • (01-07) Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major, BWV 1066
  • (08-14) Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067
  • (15-19) Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068
  • (20-24) Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D major, BWV 1069

The English Concert
Trevor Pinnock, conductor
Date: 1978 (1-19), 1979 (20-24)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4630132

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 9

These recordings, from the late-1970s flowering of the period-performance movement, remain among the finest renditions of Bach's four Orchestral Suites. The crisp articulation, lively dance-rhythms, vibrant, richly-colored instrumental timbres, and overall unmannered style proved a refreshing take on works that tended to suffer a lot under the weighty batons of many modern-day symphony orchestra conductors. Trevor Pinnock was not one of those, indeed his expert and enlightened performances of Baroque music with the English Concert were among the more convincing and informed models of historically "authentic" interpretation at a time when it seemed almost everyone--qualified or not--was getting into the act. If you're looking for a solid, time-tested set of Bach Suites--and offered at an attractive mid-price--you won't go wrong here. The sound from the analog original is as clear and vibrant as today's better digital productions, showing no sign of its provenance except for some apparent and occasional balance-tinkering relative to solo instruments--typical for some production teams during that era. No big deal. 

-- David Vernier, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Bach-Brandenburg-Concertos-Orchestral-Suites/dp/B0000057D8

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Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and over three hundred cantatas of which around two hundred survive. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

***

Trevor Pinnock (born 16 December 1946) is an English harpsichordist and conductor. He is best known for his association with the period-performance orchestra The English Concert which he helped found and directed from the keyboard for over 30 years in baroque and early classical music. Since his resignation from The English Concert in 2003, Pinnock has continued his career as a conductor, appearing with major orchestras and opera companies around the world.

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Joachim Raff; Ferruccio Busoni - Works for Piano & Orchestra (Jean-François Antonioli)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff; Ferruccio Busoni
  1. Busoni - Konzertstück, Op. 31a
  2. Raff - Konzertstück in G major "Ode au printemps", Op. 76
  3. Raff - Piano Concerto in C minor, Op. 185: I. Allegro
  4. Raff - Piano Concerto in C minor, Op. 185: II. Andante, quasi Larghetto
  5. Raff - Piano Concerto in C minor, Op. 185: III. Finale Allegro

Jean-François Antonioli, piano
Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne
Lawrence Foster, conductor
Date: 1988
Label: Claves

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Review

Here is a fascinating and rewarding coupling of two composers whose works perhaps deserve more acknowledgement than they actually receive. The programming works remarkably well, a fact due in no small measure to the commitment of the performers. The recording is fairly detailed and close, but the orchestra is somewhat boxy when at its loudest. The sound is a little low on depth overall (this is particularly significant in the Andante slow movement to the Raff Piano Concerto).

The Busoni 'Konzertstück' (dedicated to Anton Rubinstein) is very obviously of late-Romantic origins. When Busoni concentrates on the piano's lower registers, the influence of Liszt springs to mind (try the piano's ominous initial entry). Antonioli plays with intensity, a definite plus in music which can so easily seem melodramatic in the wrong hands. Both Antonioli and Foster present the piece unapologetically and with real vigour, so that the contrasts inherent in Busoni's composition are laid bare to the listener (including the rather severe counterpoint starting at 18'04).

Joseph Joachim Raff makes rather fewer demands on his audience. His music is superbly crafted, harmonically safe and unfailingly (often delightfully) inventive. There are distinct nods towards Mendelssohn in the Konzertstück in G (originally titled, 'Ode to Spring'), both in the orchestral lightness and in the sparkling piano writing. The opening Larghetto finds Raff at his most eloquent: notice also the entry of the solo cello, reminiscent of Liszt .

The Piano Concerto is a substantial work of some 35 minutes duration. The opening, for woodwind and brass, is arresting. Antonioli possesses a singing right hand and one can hear this at its best in the first movement : note also the glittering right-hand piano figurations. The slow movement (Andante quasi larghetto) is on the light side, expressive without being overly emotive. Perhaps more flights of the imagination would have bettered this movement, but there is nevertheless much touching writing here. A pity, then, that the finale seems rather empty. Despite the best efforts of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, the march-like themes do not quite work.

Despite this last caveat, the concerto remains a fascinating work and the disc as a whole is worth hearing. Try Trio opus 8's recordings of Raff Piano Trios on CPO 999 616-2 and 999 800-2 to experience committed accounts of some of this composer's chamber music.

-- Colin Clarke, MusicWeb International

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Joachim Raff (May 27, 1822 – June 24 or June 25, 1882) was a German-Swiss composer, teacher and pianist. He worked as Liszt's assistant at Weimar from 1850 to 1853, helping in the orchestration of several of Liszt's works. Raff was very prolific, and by the end of his life was one of the best known German composers, though his work is largely forgotten today.

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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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Jean-François Antonioli (b. Lausanne, February 25, 1959) is a Swiss pianist, conductor and piano pedagogue. He has recorded more than 20 CDs. His most famous recording are those of Debussy's 24 Preludes, works of Ferruccio Busoni, Joachim Raff and Arthur Honegger. He holds position of the Head of the Piano department at the Conservatoire de Lausanne – Haute Ecole de Musique.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Joseph Haydn - Piano Trios Vol. 1 (Florestan Trio)


Information

Composer: Joseph Haydn
  1. Piano Trio in D major, Hob. XV/24: 1. Allegro
  2. Piano Trio in D major, Hob. XV/24: 2. Andante
  3. Piano Trio in D major, Hob. XV/24: 3. Allegro, ma non dolce
  4. Piano Trio in G major "Gypsy Rondo", Hob. XV/25: 1. Andante
  5. Piano Trio in G major "Gypsy Rondo", Hob. XV/25: 2. Poco adagio
  6. Piano Trio in G major "Gypsy Rondo", Hob. XV/25: 3. Finale"'Rondo all' Ongarese": Presto
  7. Piano Trio in F sharp minor, Hob. XV/26: 1. Allegro
  8. Piano Trio in F sharp minor, Hob. XV/26: 2. Adagio cantabile
  9. Piano Trio in F sharp minor, Hob. XV/26: 3. Finale: Tempo di menuetto
  10. Piano Trio in C major, Hob. XV/27: 1. Allegro
  11. Piano Trio in C major, Hob. XV/27: 2. Andante
  12. Piano Trio in C major, Hob. XV/27: 3. Presto

Florestan Trio
Susan Tomes, piano
Anthony Marwood, violin
Richard Lester, cello
Date: 2008
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67719

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Review

GRAMOPHONE RECOMMENDS

Playing to stop you in your tracks with its unimpeachable interpretative acumen

Over a decade ago, Susan Tomes said, “I don’t think recording is compatible with being musically profound”. Might it have contributed to a degree of detachment that surfaced intermittently? Perhaps; but here Tomes and her partners identify themselves fully with the emotional scale of these works, ostensibly meant for domestic use on small pianos. But their scope suggests that Haydn structured them for the powerful English Broadwood instruments suited to the concert hall. The noise-quelling opening chord of No 24 would have stopped rowdy audiences of the day in their tracks.

There is so much from the Florestan to stop us in our tracks too, not least in their feel for expressing the content of these sparsely marked scores, as in the finale of No 24 when Allegro ma dolce in D major changes to a stabbing D minor before returning to the original key. The musicians intuitively recreate the return even more sweetly. Their interpretative acumen is unimpeachable. The continuous triplets in the Adagio of No 26, tiresome if badly played, are instead profoundly yielding. And the Presto finale of No 27 isn’t driven on cruise control. A thought: Mary Hunter (Bowdoin College) argues that while “the quartets highlight the wit of the composer, the trios highlight the comic or capricious potential of the act of performance” – that is, they offer performers opportunities to decorate fermatas elaborately and create an improvisatory feel at ornamental cadences. The Florestan don’t fully concur. Nonetheless, this is a very special disc, recorded in detailed, front-row sound.

-- Nalen Anthoni, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/2bzf
http://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-14762/
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2009/Mar09/Haydn_trios_cda67719.htm
http://classicalsource.com/db_control/db_cd_review.php?id=6719
http://audaud.com/2009/06/haydn-piano-trios-vol-1-4-the-florestan-trio-hyperion/
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Haydn-Piano-Trios-Vol-1/dp/B001NG3PYI

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Joseph Haydn (31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809) was a prominent and prolific Austrian composer of the Classical period. He was known as "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet". At the time of his death, aged 77, he was one of the most celebrated composers in Europe. Haydn was the brother of composer Michael Haydn and a teacher of Beethoven.

***

The Florestan Trio was formed in 1995 in London. In its first decade, the group has made 14 recordings on the Hyperion label, all of which received Gramophone nominations. In 1995, the piano quartet Domus disbanded, and that group's pianist Susan Tomes and its cellist Richard Lester, together with violinist Anthony Marwood, formed the Florestan Trio.

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Johannes Brahms - Serenades (István Kertész)


Information

Composer: Johannes Brahms
  1. Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11: 1. Allegro molto
  2. Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11: 2. Scherzo (Allegro non troppo) - Trio (Poco più moto)
  3. Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11: 3. Adagio non troppo
  4. Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11: 4. Menuetto I-II
  5. Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11: 5. Scherzo (Allegro)
  6. Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11: 6. Rondo (Allegro)
  7. Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16: 1. Allegro moderato
  8. Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16: 2. Scherzo (Vivace)
  9. Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16: 3. Adagio non troppo
  10. Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16: 4. Quasi menuetto - Trio
  11. Serenade No. 2 in A major, Op. 16: 5. Rondo (Allegro)

London Symphony Orchestra
István Kertész, conductor
Date: 1967
Label: Decca
Out of print, still available as 2nd disc of this collection:
http://www.deccaclassics.com/us/cat/4786420

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Review

"... Dating – and not sounding it – from 1968 these warm and memorable traversals are pretty much ideal; the recording is vivid but not over bright and the interpretations still seem unmatched. There is a generosity of spirit to Kertesz’s music making, a warm-heartedness without flabbiness, a lyrical ardour without affectation that is immediately appealing and winning and explains why he was also such a good Dvorak conductor. Sectionally the recording is excellently balanced enabling one to appreciate the LSO in one of its periodic heydays. Listen for example to the rustic horns in the opening of the first Serenade or the deepening mood of the adagio non troppo, whose amplitude is never out of scale with the other movements, never vested with such intensity that it formally unbalances the work. Or listen to the swirling violins in the same Serenade’s Scherzo and the resolute horn passage, robust and alive. All these qualities amply apply to the Second Serenade in which orchestral finesse and virtuosity are subsumed to a higher, more generous function. Violin-less the op 16 Serenade has at its centre an adagio of melting beauty surrounded by bustling and exciting material, delineated with treasurable elegance by Kertesz.

There aren’t that many unambiguously recommendable versions of these two Serenades coupled as here; thirty years on this is still an essential purchase."

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/brahms-serenades
http://www.amazon.com/Brahms-Serenades-Nos-1-2/dp/B000009LKE

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Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist. In his lifetime, Brahms's popularity and influence were considerable. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters.

***

István Kertész (28 August 1929 – 16 April 1973) was an internationally acclaimed Jewish Hungarian orchestral and operatic conductor who, throughout his brief but distinguished career led many of the world's greatest orchestras. His orchestral repertoire numbered over 450 works from all periods, and was matched by a repertoire of some sixty operas.

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Johann Sebastian Bach - Musical Offering (Jordi Savall)


Information

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  1. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Thema Regium
  2. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Ricercar a 3
  3. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon perpetuus super Thema Regium
  4. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon 1 a 2 (cancrizans)
  5. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon 2 a 2 Violini in unisono
  6. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon 3 a 2 per Motum contrarium
  7. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon 4 (A) Augmentationem, contrario Motu
  8. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Ricercar a 6
  9. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Sonata sopr'Il Soggetto Reale: I. Largo
  10. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Sonata sopr'Il Soggetto Reale: II. Allegro
  11. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Sonata sopr'Il Soggetto Reale: III. Andante
  12. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Sonata sopr'Il Soggetto Reale: IV. Allegro
  13. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon 1 a 2 Quaerendo inventietis (9A)
  14. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon 1 a 2 Quaerendo inventietis (9B)
  15. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon 5 a 2 per Tonos [Acsendenteque Modulatione ascendat Gloria Regis]
  16. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Fuga canonica in Epidiapente (6)
  17. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon 4 (B) Augmentationem, contrario Motu
  18. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon perpetuus [per just intervali] (8)
  19. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Canon a 4 (10)
  20. Musikalisches Opfer, BWV 1079: Ricercar a 6

Le Concert des Nations
Jordi Savall, conductor
Date: 2000
Label: Alia Vox
http://www.alia-vox.com/cataleg.php?id=8

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 9 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

Just about everything Jordi Savall does is worth hearing, and often winds up at the top of the competitive pack. His new Musical Offering is definitely worth hearing, and it’s certainly among the finer versions available. Part of its appeal lies in the up-front sonics that almost put you in the players’ laps, providing an immediacy that’s thrilling in and of itself; part lies in the sound of the instruments, beautifully played by the early music stalwarts of Le Concert des Nations, including harpsichordist Pierre Hantaï; and part lies in the decisions Savall has made regarding the layout of a work without specific performance indications, thus inviting movement-juggling.

The placement of the Canons (as well as Savall’s various other tweaks) is explained in the excellent booklet notes. Specifically, Savall opts for an arch structure, with the curve of the piece rising from the Ricercar a 6 for harpsichord heard early on, peaking at the centrally-placed Trio Sonata and then down again to the repeat of the Ricercar a 6 played by the full ensemble. If his intention was to create a more unified, more accessible work, then Savall has succeeded. But what appeals most in this performance is Savall’s personal approach to a piece that’s often straitjacketed by obsessive adherence to “authentic performance” orthodoxy. So there is an abundance of “affect” here–with instrumentalists leaning into a phrase or using rubato where strict ideology calls for equally strict rhythm. The very opening announces this, as flutist Marc Hantaï’s languid statement of the theme is almost startling in its slowness and in its very presence, since most Musical Offerings begin with the Ricercar a 3 that here follows Hantai’s flute.

What appeals least is the lugubrious cast to many of the movements, aggravated by Savall’s choice of a string continuo. For example, in the series of Canons featuring violins, the dark-hued string continuo adds bleaker colors than, say, the unadorned bright-toned harpsichord continuo of the Kuijken version on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. Savall also misses opportunities to inject liveliness, if not sprightliness, in such movements as the Canon for two violins in unison, where Kuijken finds more of a dance-like quality, or in the Canon 5 a 2 per tonos, where Savall’s timing of 3:30 adds 40 seconds to the interpretation of the Accademia Bizantina (Denon), which also shaves more than a full minute off Savall’s in the Cantus Perpetuus. Ultimately such exercises as comparative timings and tempo choices matter less than the answers to two questions: 1) Do those choices stay within the parameters of valid options or do they veer off into mannerism? and 2) Do they make sense in the listening, providing enjoyment and enlightenment? My answers to both of those questions is a resounding “Yes!”

-- Dan Davis, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/bach-31
http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/a/ali09817a.php
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NonVocal/MO-Savall-Kirk.htm
http://www.amazon.com/Bach-Musical-Offering-Musikalisches-Opfer/dp/B00005B84O

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Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and over three hundred cantatas of which around two hundred survive. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

***

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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Joachim Raff; Felix Mendelssohn - String Octets (Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff; Felix Mendelssohn
  1. Mendelssohn - String Octet in E flat major, Op. 20: I. Allegro moderato ma con fuoco
  2. Mendelssohn - String Octet in E flat major, Op. 20: II. Andante
  3. Mendelssohn - String Octet in E flat major, Op. 20: III. Scherzo. Allegro leggierissimo
  4. Mendelssohn - String Octet in E flat major, Op. 20: IV. Presto
  5. Raff - String Octet in C major, Op. 176: I. Allegro
  6. Raff - String Octet in C major, Op. 176: II. Allegro molto
  7. Raff - String Octet in C major, Op. 176: III. Andante moderato
  8. Raff - String Octet in C major, Op. 176: IV. Vivace

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble
Date: 1989
Label: Chandos
http://chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%208790

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Review

When the ASMF Chamber Ensemble recorded Mendelssohn's Octet last year only one player remained who could have had memories of the 1978 ASMF/Philips recording listed above. The almost complete change of personnel has brought a very different new performance. In the first movement there is a slightly reserved quality in the playing: the music is performed in straightforward, uncomplicated fashion but with a slight lack of feeling and personality, so that Mendelssohn's youthful inspiration is not given its due. In the slow movement the tempo is a little on the fast side, and the players move the music on in 2 slightly nervous, hurried manner, as if they are too concerned to prevent a feeling of sluggishness. Their somewhat distant, uninvolved approach continues in the nimbly played Scherzo, and a feeling of busyness, but not much else, pervades the finale. Chandos have provided a good, quite spacious recording, but I'm afraid that this new ASMF version is not nearly so successful as the Philips, which brings out the fresh, eager, yet tender qualities in Mendelssohn's music much more vividly. The coupling there is a very good version of Mendelssohn's String Quintet, Op. 87. Decca's mid-price Vienna Octet release dates from 1972. There is a slight edge in the remastered sound, but the playing is attractively alert and affectionate. This disc also contains a delightful performance of Beethoven's Septet.

Collectors of unusual repertoire will welcome the appearance of Raff's Octet. This is a pleasant accomplished, but somewhat meandering work whose ideas tend to show promise and then burn out rather quickly. Here the ASMF players seem more stimulated by the unusual repertoire and provide a very sympathetic, attractive Performance.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Octet-Mendelssohn/dp/B000000AJP

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Joachim Raff (May 27, 1822 – June 24 or June 25, 1882) was a German-Swiss composer, teacher and pianist. He worked as Liszt's assistant at Weimar from 1850 to 1853, helping in the orchestration of several of Liszt's works. Raff was very prolific, and by the end of his life was one of the best known German composers, though his work is largely forgotten today.

***

Felix Mendelssohn (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor, one of the most popular of the Romantic era. He was recognized early as a musical prodigy, like Mozart. Mendelssohn revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach in Germany, and was particularly well received in Britain, visited there ten times.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Joseph Haydn - Piano Sonatas; Fantasia; Andante; Adagio (Alfred Brendel)


Information

Composer: Joseph Haydn

CD1:
  • (01-03) Piano Sonata No. 20 in C minor, Hob. XVI/20
  • (04-06) Piano Sonata No. 49 in E flat major, Hob. XVI/49
CD2:
  • (01-02) Piano Sonata No. 48 in C major, Hob. XVI/48
  • (03-04) Piano Sonata No. 51 in D major, Hob. XVI/51
  • (05-07) Piano Sonata No. 50 in C major, Hob. XVI/50
CD3:
  • (01-03) Piano Sonata No. 34 in E minor, Hob. XVI/34
  • (04-06) Piano Sonata No. 32 in B minor, Hob. XVI/32
  • (07-08) Piano Sonata No. 42 in D major, Hob. XVI/42
  • (09) Fantasia in C major, Hob. XVII/4
  • (10) Adagio in F major, Hob. XVII/9
CD4:
  • (01-03) Piano Sonata No. 52 in E-flat major, Hob. XVI/52
  • (04-05) Piano Sonata No. 40 in G major, Hob. XVI/40
  • (06-08) Piano Sonata No. 37 in D major, Hob. XVI/37
  • (09) Andante con variazioni in F minor, Hob. XVII/6

Alfred Brendel, piano
Date: 1979-1985
Label: Philips
http://www.deccaclassics.com/us/cat/4166432

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Review

"Last December, when writing about the fourth of these recordings, I suggested they were to be counted among the best Alfred Brendel has given us in the last five years. Listening to all four on CD has been a treat. The presentation of the collection is good too, if your eyesight is up to the demands a CD booklet imposes, and Monika Mollering's essay ( ''Images of Haydn'') and notes on the individual sonatas and pieces are a stimulus to enhanced enjoyment of the remarkable qualities of the music. It takes a great player to do justice to its variety, its richness of expression, its wit and its sophistication of form and structure, as Mollering says. Brendel's steady illumination of Haydn is a delight. He is at once a scrupulous and a robust interpreter, setting out from a careful reading of the text to seek the most vivid projection of Haydn's ideas—and I admire especially the way he allows boldness, even daring, to play a part in the search. The playing is alive with a feeling of spontaneity and the capricious side of Haydn is served as generously as the rest of him. ''The perceptiveness and musicality of his playing may well be a revelation even to those who know that Haydn's keyboard sonatas, still shamefully neglected, are every bit as good as Mozart's'', was a comment of RG's about the third disc (11/83). On the second (8/85), RF thought Brendel revealed the E minor as ''one of Haydn's very greatest sonatas''. And about the last sonata, the E flat, on the most recent issue (12/86), I said I could imagine Beethoven relishing this performance of it. In sum, marvellous music, its marvels made brilliantly manifest. ..."

-- Stephen Plaistow, Gramophone

***

"There is probably no finer Haydn pianist around today than Alfred Brendel. He has lived with this music for years, and understands so well not only the quirky turn of harmonic phrase, the little jokes with which Haydn likes to pepper the pages, but also the emotional depths to be found not far beneath apparently jovial surfaces. Brendel sets the scene with one of Haydn's greatest and grandest keyboard sonatas--the C minor--and within the four discs explores the many sides of this irresistible music. The Presto finale of the E flat Sonata, HobXVI:52, for example, presents Haydn the comedian, pulling out of his hat one novel effect after another. Contrast this with the slow movement of the D major XVI:37 which has a gravely "ancient" feel about it. The set ends on a high too, with an immensely moving performance of the sublime F minor Variations. The recordings, which date from the late 1970s and early 1980s, are perfectly acceptable. If you want to acquaint yourself with Haydn's keyboard music, you couldn't have a more entertaining or erudite guide than Brendel."

-- Harriet Smith


***

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Haydn-11-Piano-Sonatas-Joseph/dp/B00000E36W
http://www.amazon.com/Haydn-Piano-Sonatas-Joseph/dp/B001JJX7ME
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Haydn-Piano-Sonatas-DECCA-Originals/dp/B001JJX7ME


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Joseph Haydn (31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809) was a prominent and prolific Austrian composer of the Classical period. He was known as "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet". At the time of his death, aged 77, he was one of the most celebrated composers in Europe. Haydn was the brother of composer Michael Haydn and a teacher of Beethoven.

***

Alfred Brendel (born 5 January 1931 in Wiesenberg, now Loučná nad Desnou, Czech Republic) is an Austrian pianist, poet and author. He is considered by some to be one of the greatest pianists of all time. Brendel is regarded as one of the major interpreters of Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Mozart.

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Johannes Brahms - Piano Works (Murray Perahia)


Information

Composer: Johannes Brahms
  1. Variations & Fugue on a theme by Handel, Op. 24
  2. 2 Rhapsodies, Op. 79: No. 1 in B minor (Agitato)
  3. 2 Rhapsodies, Op. 79: No. 2 in G minor (Molto passionato, ma non troppo allegro)
  4. 6 Piano Pieces, Op. 118: 1. Intermezzo in A minor (Allegro non assai, ma molto appassionato)
  5. 6 Piano Pieces, Op. 118: 2. Intermezzo in A major (Andante teneramente)
  6. 6 Piano Pieces, Op. 118: 3. Ballade in G minor (Allegro energico)
  7. 6 Piano Pieces, Op. 118: 4. Intermezzo in F minor (Allegretto un poco agitato)
  8. 6 Piano Pieces, Op. 118: 5. Romance in F major (Andante)
  9. 6 Piano Pieces, Op. 118: 6. Intermezzo in E flat minor (Andante, largo e mesto)
  10. 4 Piano Pieces, Op. 119: 1. Intermezzo in B minor (Adagio)
  11. 4 Piano Pieces, Op. 119: 2. Intermezzo in E minor (Andantino un poco agitato)
  12. 4 Piano Pieces, Op. 119: 3. Intermezzo in C major (Grazioso e giocoso)
  13. 4 Piano Pieces, Op. 119: 4. Rhapsody in E flat major (Allegro risoluto)

Murray Perahia, piano
Date: 2010
Label: Sony Classical

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Review

A belated return to Brahms has been well worth the wait

It may be 20 years since Murray Perahia’s last Brahms release but the wait has been gloriously worthwhile. For here, once more, is a pianist who achieves the highest musical quality with the most economical means. Time and again Brahms’s potential for strenuousness and opacity is clarified with a superfine musical intelligence and technique. The opening Aria from the Handel Variations is unusually thoughtful and considered, and in the sciolto of Var 14 he conveys all of Brahms’s riotous brilliance while characteristically remaining in superb control. Hear his hushed withdrawal at the start of Var 22, as if the music’s magical chime was heard from a great distance; and, per contra, I doubt whether the concluding and exultant fugue has often been given with a more formidably yet lightly worn articulacy in its entire history. This is a performance for those poor souls who, amazingly, take a dim view of Brahms’s keyboard variations.

Translucent voicing and texture characterise Perahia’s way with the Op 79 Rhapsodies and most of all the Opp 118 and 119 Intermezzos. Perahia achieves a burning clarity (even when the music is marked piano and sotto voce) at the start of Op 118’s concluding Intermezzo, bringing a wealth of concentrated detail and an impeccable line and impetus to this heart-stopping epic in miniature (if the paradox be allowed), a mirror of the inner desolation that afflicted Brahms both early and late in his life. Try Op 119 No 1 for a poetic intensity and subtlety uniquely Perahia’s and you may well wonder when you last heard a pianist with a more patrician disregard for all forms of bloated excess or exaggeration.

There are, of course, other approaches to these works – Katchen’s stunning opulence and theatricality in the Handel Variations (Decca, 2/91), Lupu’s crepuscular magic in the late Intermezzos (Decca, 8/87) or Argerich’s early and inflammatory genius in the Rhapsodies (DG, 2/93, 6/95) – yet I doubt whether a pianist more finely attuned to every harmonic and rhythmic subtlety has existed since Lipatti. This disc, finely recorded, forms a vital part of Perahia’s crowning return after several years of debilitating illness.

-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2011/Jan11/Brahms_Perahia_88679794692.htm
http://www.classical-music.com/review/perahia-brahms
http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/s/sny79469a.php
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/nov/28/brahms-handel-variations-perahia-review
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalcdreviews/8260427/Brahms-Handel-Variations-Op24-Rhapsodies-Op-79-Piano-Pieces-Opp-118-and-119-CD-review.html
http://www.musicalcriticism.com/recordings/cd-perahia-brahms-0111.shtml
http://www.amazon.com/Brahms-Handel-Variations-Rhapsodies-Pieces/dp/B00454U1NI

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Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist. In his lifetime, Brahms's popularity and influence were considerable. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters.

***

Murray Perahia (born April 19, 1947 in New York to a family of Sephardi Jewish origin) is an American concert pianist and conductor. Since 1973, Perahia has recorded exclusively for Columbia Masterworks, now Sony Classical. He is loved for his warm, gentle, smooth and lyrical qualities of playing.

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Johann Sebastian Bach - Mass in B minor (Otto Klemperer)


Information

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

CD1:
  • (01-03) Mass in B minor, BWV 232: I. Kyrie
  • (04-11) Mass in B minor, BWV 232: II. Gloria
CD2:
  • (01-09) Mass in B minor, BWV 232: III. Credo
  • (10-15) Mass in B minor, BWV 232: IV. Sanctus

Agnes Giebel, soprano
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano
Nikolai Gedda, tenor
Hermann Prey, baritone
Franz Crass, bass
BBC Chorus
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Otto Klemperer, conductor
Date: 1967
Label: EMI

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Review

In 1962, Walter Legge invited Klemperer to make a recording of Bach's Mass in B minor for EMI. Although the Mass was a work that Klemperer was strongly drawn to, he nonetheless declined the offer. He was reluctant to conduct the work using the vast forces that were typically employed for performances as he believed it should be performed with numbers similar to those that Bach would have envisaged. Several years later he proposed a recording of the piece using "authentic" forces of a choir of 48 and under 50 instrumentalists - hence this recording.

The Mass is an extremely important work. Bach originally composed a short version in 1733 as an offering to the new Elector of Saxony. The great composer then spent a decade studying Mass settings by composers both living and dead and only in 1748-9 did he complete the full version of the B minor Mass, recycling some of his best music thus far. To this day it remains a mystery why he composed the work, given the fact that it wasn't commissioned. It is suggested that he saw it as the highest musical form, setting the greatest of Christian rites and therefore both a personal statement of belief and the pinnacle of his life's work.

The Mass clearly meant a great deal to Klemperer, also, who stated that "for me Bach's B minor Mass is the greatest and most unique music ever written". On top of his "authentic forces" condition, Klemperer was very picky about way it was recorded and the choice of soloists. He worked hard to ensure that he captured the musical and dramatic effects he wanted - for example, making the choir sit down for Et Incarnatus Est to create a disembodied, ethereal sound - which works brilliantly.

The outcome is a wonderful recording. The Mass opens with the Kyrie, taken at a steady pace, which unfolds nicely and is appropriately full of pathos. The soloists are all excellent - Baker with her rich, mature voice outstanding in Laudamus Te, the tenor Nicolai Gedda quite - but not too -  dramatic with just the right amount of vibrato, and baritone Hermann Prey and bass Franz Crass both lyrical and dexterous. Baker, meanwhile sings the stunningly beautiful Agnus Dei with an incredibly deeply-felt searing intensity.  The singers work well together in the duets - particularly Baker and Giebel in a gorgeous rendition of Et In Unum Dominum.

The BBC Chorus are excellent, producing a gloriously full sound in Gratias Agimus Tibi, in an incredibly passionate Cum Sancto Spiritu, and in the exultant Sanctus, full of joy and glory - they are also wonderfully otherworldly and eerie in Et exspecto resurrectionem Mortuorum. Nor does the New Philharmonia Orchestra let the side down - listen, for example, to the beautifully gossamer instrumental introduction to Domine Deus or the tender, melting strings in Agnus Dei.

Klemperer has the balance just right in this performance - it is neither soupy and sentimental nor cold and clinical, but retains a wonderful dramatic quality without ever going overboard. The individual lines are allowed to sing out with clarity, and Klemperer's respectful approach does justice to the spirit of the piece as well as to the written music itself. Overall, this performance is full of  a sense of radiance, beauty and nobility and is one I can heartily recommend.

-- Em Marshall, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.allmusic.com/album/release/bach-mass-in-b-minor-mr0002714273
http://www.amazon.com/Bach-minor-Great-Recordings-Century/dp/B000AQACUW

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Johann Sebastian Bach (31 March [O.S. 21 March] 1685 – 28 July 1750) was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and over three hundred cantatas of which around two hundred survive. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

***

Otto Klemperer (14 May 1885 – 6 July 1973) was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the leading conductors of the 20th century. He was the first principal conductor of the Philharmonia. While adopting slower tempi as he aged, Klemperer's performances often maintain great intensity, and are richly detailed.

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Joachim Raff - Violin Sonatas Nos. 2 & 5 (Ariadne Daskalakis; Roglit Ishay)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  1. Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 78: I. Rasch, mit Wärme und Bewegung
  2. Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 78: II. Nicht zu langsam
  3. Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 78: III. In raschem Zeitmaasse, doch nicht zu bewegt
  4. Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 78: IV. Rasch und feurig
  5. Violin Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 145: I. Allegro patetico
  6. Violin Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 145: II. Andante
  7. Violin Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 145: III. Presto
  8. Violin Sonata No. 5 in C minor, Op. 145: IV. Allegro agitato

Ariadne Daskalakis, violin
Roglit Ishay, piano
Date: 2006
Label: Tudor
http://tudor.ch/produktinfo.php?id=468&sid=8awAl0yfyf88bxlQdN@fdN8a88


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Review

We've had to wait eighteen months for Tudor to complete Daskalakis and Ishay's survey of Raff's violin sonatas. The first disk (Tudor 7022 - review) was well received, revealing a warmer and more lyrical side to these works than had been displayed by the pairing of Ingolf Turban and Jascha Nemtsov with their edgy but impressive performances of the first three sonatas for cpo. The cpo project of recording all the music for violin and piano seemingly having stalled for the time being, this second disk has another Raff recording first, the emotionally charged Violin Sonata No.5. The coupling is the sunny Second Sonata, a work already available from cpo.

On their earlier disk, Daskalakis and Ishay demonstrated that in the two sonatas which they had in common with Turban and Nemtsov, they were their equals in the virtuoso stakes. They brought warmth and overt lyricism to the music, which was sometimes missing from the altogether more nervous and driven interpretations of the cpo pair. Raff's violin sonatas are amongst his most rewarding works and we have been lucky to have such high quality but different approaches to them.

The Violin Sonata No.2 in the hands of the cpo duo (cpo 999 768 - review) is a genial and relaxed piece and it is something of a surprise to hear what Daskalakis and Ishay make of it. Their often brisker tempi characterise its expansive opening movement, and the greater sense of pace and direction that is introduced into the overall structure enhances its drama. There is plenty of the "warmth" required by Raff and rather more of the "animation" than Turban and Nemtsov demonstrated. Although there are some episodes of languid repose, it's altogether a less relaxed and more purposeful start to the piece, so it comes as a surprise that they take almost a minute longer over it. The second movement variations follow the same pattern. Taking Raff's "Nicht zu langsam" indication seriously, it is generally taken at a moderate pace once the slow introductory dialogue is out of the way. Perhaps shaving 20% off their rival's timing means that some of the engaging lyricism of their performance is lost, but this sprightly interpretation has a charm all its own and it isn't without its profundities; the build up to the climax which starts at 6:15 is powerful stuff.

The faster third movement on the whole is more convincing from Turban and Nemtsov, who take it at a moderate speed emphasising its dance character. The Tudor pair adopt a sprightlier tempo which bounces along nicely, but even at just over six minutes the movement in their hands seems more bland and conventional, despite a nicely judged close. The delightful finale is one of Raff's most effective conclusions and there's little to choose here between the two performances. Perhaps Daskalakis relaxes more effectively into the lyrical interludes, possibly Nemtsov's contribution is more prominently effective, but in truth you'd be hard pressed not to love either interpretation. And that's the verdict on the two performances overall. They present this fine work in different lights but both are very satisfying. I wouldn't want to be without either.

For the time being Daskalakis and Ishay have the Fifth Sonata of 1868 to themselves. Despite being on an smaller scale than the Second, it is a powerfully romantic work, showing all the hallmarks of a composer who had reached the high point of his career. Ishay imbues the opening bars with a portentousness appropriate to the restless and yearning character of the first movement, with its generally busy, ascending motifs and lack of repose. There is little that is genial or comfortable here and Daskalakis' customary warmth is appropriately lacking. She brings an edge to her playing which is well complemented by Ishay's turbulent piano.

Ishay again begins the second movement, this time with a solemn chorale-like theme. The sweet tone adopted by Daskalakis on her entry is in marked and very effective contrast to what went before, but the Andante soon shows that it is no mere comfortable release from the first movement's angst. The central section is troubled, and the pair are particularly affecting in the passage around 4:50 where the climax collapses back into the opening chorale, taken at a faster pace. The grief conveyed by the movement's close is palpable. Woldemar Bargiel once wrote that Raff "produces ideas and melodies that appear as if they should tear the should from the body, but one is left with the conviction that their inventor felt absolutely nothing for them." If there was ever a refutation of Bargiel's jibe, this is it.

The Presto third movement comes as a blessed release and it is dashed off with aplomb. Throughout this fine work, the piano is the equal of the violin and this is nowhere better heard than in this flightily exuberant scherzo, where Ishay perfectly matches Daskalakis' lightness of touch before sounding a slightly more serious note to bring this flibbertigibbet of a movement to a close. The finale is played with all the restless energy which the duo brought to the opening Allegro, but although there's a certain nervousness to the movement, they manage to couple it with a more positive feeling. The reflective passage which begins around 2:30 is especially effective and the transition from this to the main body of the movement about a minute later is very finely graded. The sunny closing pages are a fitting close to an impressive work which is played here with all the intelligence and virtuosity it merits.

The recording is typical of Tudor's high quality sound although it could have been improved, particularly in the Fifth Sonata, had the violin not been placed forward at the expense of the piano. Eckhardt van den Hoogen's insert notes are interesting, if elliptical and inaccurate in places. Largely dispensing with an unnecessary biography, he concentrates instead on a welcome discussion of Raff's development as a composer.

This is a fine addition to the canon of Raff recordings and these performances are thoroughly recommendable. If you own the Turban and Nemtsov interpretation of the Second Sonata, do add this disk to your collection too. You won't regret it.

-- Mark Thomas, Raff Society

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Joachim Raff (May 27, 1822 – June 24 or June 25, 1882) was a German-Swiss composer, teacher and pianist. He worked as Liszt's assistant at Weimar from 1850 to 1853, helping in the orchestration of several of Liszt's works. Raff was very prolific, and by the end of his life was one of the best known German composers, though his work is largely forgotten today.

***

Ariadne Daskalakis is a Greek-American violinist. Born in Boston, Daskalakis is now based in Cologne and plays a violin by G.B. Guadagnini.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Joseph Haydn - Piano Concertos Nos. 3, 4 & 11 (Marc-André Hamelin)


Information

Composer: Joseph Haydn
  1. Piano Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII/11: 1. Vivace
  2. Piano Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII/11: 2. Un poco adagio
  3. Piano Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII/11: 3. Rondo all'ungarese: Allegro assai
  4. Piano Concerto in F major, Hob. XVIII/3: 1. Allegro
  5. Piano Concerto in F major, Hob. XVIII/3: 2. Largo cantabile
  6. Piano Concerto in F major, Hob. XVIII/3: 3. Presto
  7. Piano Concerto in G major, Hob. XVIII/4: 1. Allegro
  8. Piano Concerto in G major, Hob. XVIII/4: 2. Adagio
  9. Piano Concerto in G major, Hob. XVIII/4: 3. Rondo: Presto

Marc-André Hamelin, piano
Les Violons du Roy
Bernard Labadie, conductor
Date: 2012
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67925

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Review

GRAMOPHONE RECORDING OF THE MONTH

Delight in a new recording of Haydn’s three keyboard concertos

Hard to believe it’s as long ago as spring 2000 that Leif Ove Andsnes released his benchmark disc of these works. That recording superseded the previous front-runner by Emanuel Ax and the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra (still nevertheless a worthwhile proposition); it won a Gramophone Award later that year and has barely been challenged since for supremacy in this repertoire. Now, though, here comes Marc-André Hamelin with a recording that does just that.

These are the three indubitably authentic keyboard concertos of Joseph Haydn: No 3 in F, the earliest, possibly even dating from before Haydn’s employment with the Esterházy family; No 4 in G, audibly a later, harmonically richer work and one which was performed by the blind pianist Maria Theresia von Paradis (also the recipient of Mozart’s K456) in Paris in 1784; and No 11 in D, the best-known and most advanced of the three, composed some time between 1779 and 1783. Comparison is often made (not in Haydn’s favour) with the piano concertos of Mozart; and while it’s true that they don’t display the melodic generosity or orchestral richness of Mozart’s miraculous string of Vienna piano concertos of the 1780s, Haydn could not have heard those works before writing even the latest of his three, the D major. That’s not to say, however, that Haydn’s keyboard concertos are primitive or suffer from paucity of imagination, either thematically or orchestrally. Enjoy these works on their own terms and they’re every bit as rewarding in their own way as, say, Mozart’s K414 (1782).

Andsnes’s Award-winning disc was notable, among many other fine attributes, for the crystalline clarity of his fingerwork, especially in all those stretches of almost minimalistic patterning and the runs and scalic passages that are such a feature of this music. Naturally Hamelin is no slouch either – hardly surprising, given that the sort of virtuosity called for here is no more difficult than rolling over in bed for players of this exalted calibre. Listen, though, to the way Hamelin almost ‘falls into’ the runs towards the end of the first movement of the G major Concerto (No 4), then picks up on them for his (own) cadenza.

In fact, the cadenzas are among the special joys of this new disc. Hamelin’s reference points range, I’d say, from Bach up to Beethoven or thereabouts in the two earlier concertos – with perhaps a light dusting of Saint-Saëns in the F major’s slow movement – while Andsnes’s cadenzas (also his own) are in every case shorter and perhaps a touch less individual. (In every movement but one – see below – Hamelin’s tempi are near enough on a par with Andsnes’s, so it is largely through the cadenzas alone that he adds a little over eight minutes to Andsnes’s playing time across the disc.) In the D major Concerto, however, both pianists opt for earlier cadenzas: in Andsnes’s case, a pair composed by Haydn (although the primary source for Haydn’s cadenzas is considered less than trustworthy); in Hamelin’s case, two by Wanda Landowska, which range wider stylistically – perhaps as far as Debussy or Ravel. Richard Wigmore’s notes give no details about these Landowska cadenzas: presumably they were composed for the piano rather than the harpsichord. Whichever, they are a delightful discovery and so ear-tweaking and unusual (especially the one in the slow movement) that they alone are almost worth the price of the disc.

Hamelin and his Québécois band (the strings of Les Violons du Roy are joined by the subtle but telling presence of les hautbois et cors du roy in the D major) are recorded with a touch more presence than Andsnes and his Norwegian players, imparting a welcome earthiness to the sound – listen especially to the more muscular approach Hamelin takes in the opening movement of the G major Concerto. Other minor differences between the two discs include the use of tutti strings at the opening of the Largo cantabile of the F major (No 3), as opposed to Andsnes’s solo violin; at a rather slower tempo (7'49" against the Norwegian’s 4'59"), Hamelin here weaves an enchanting spell, approaching an almost Mozartian pathos. And where Andsnes, in the finale of the D major Concerto, holds back the tempo into the all’ungherese episode in the finale (the section referred to in official musicological circles as ‘the one that sounds like “Three Blind Mice” with trills’), Hamelin pushes forwards without dropping the tempo, heightening the delirium of this whirling gypsy dance. Add to that some unmarked col legno earlier in the same movement for an authentic touch of Hungarian paprika and the result cannot fail to raise a smile.

If one were to bring it down to the level of national stereotypes, one might say that Andsnes et al impart Haydn’s wit and wisdom with a Nordic coolness, Hamelin and friends with a Gallic shrug. Both bring different, valuable and irresistibly delicious attributes to Haydn’s music. So I’m left like a child having to choose between sweets or chocolate – and in this case, it’s hardly piggy to want both.

-- David Threasher, Gramophone

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Joseph Haydn (31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809) was a prominent and prolific Austrian composer of the Classical period. He was known as "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet". At the time of his death, aged 77, he was one of the most celebrated composers in Europe. Haydn was the brother of composer Michael Haydn and a teacher of Beethoven.

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Marc-André Hamelin (born September 5, 1961) is a Canadian pianist and composer. He is admired for his virtuoso technique and the ability to make extremely difficult music sound effortless. He has made recordings of a wide variety of composers with the Hyperion label and well known for his attention to lesser-known composers.

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