Sunday, August 30, 2015

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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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Jón Leifs - Visions and Images (Paul Zukofsky)


Information

Composer: Jón Leifs
  1. Geysir, Op. 51
  2. Landsýn, Op. 41
  3. Three Images, Op. 44: I. The Beauty of the Sky - II. Zigzag - III. Rocky Cliffs
  4. Hekla, Op. 52

Reykjavík Male Choir
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Paul Zukofsky, conductor
Date: 1989
Label: ITM

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Review

All the works on this rather short-duration disc are from the post-1945 period. In 1945 he returned to Iceland after spending many years in Germany. Nazi Germany might have warmed to his music in its relationship to the Eddas and the flow towards the great Nordic myths. Of equal attraction should have been Leifs' appropriation of the tonal structure of Icelandic folksong into his music. Hjalmar H Ragnarsson points out that the music on this disc relies to an extent on the 'homophonic motion of parallel perfect fifths, as in the old tvísöngur'. However it was all very well being inspired by Aryan-acceptable materials but if your music was as stony as Leifs' your prospects were limited. If German audiences were expecting garrulous heroic tone poems they would not find them from Leifs. His Saga Symphony, for example, is not at all a lush celebration of blonde-haired heroism but a much more angular work though not at all atonal. His progress was also 'trammelled' by his having married a Jewish concert pianist. Others, with Jewish connections, did not suffer to the same degree so that cannot have been the only reason.

Landsýn was written in 1955 ten years after his return. The other three works are products of 1960-61. Geysir and Hekla pair together naturally. Both are derived from elemental landmarks. Hekla is a volcano and Geysir is also concerned with volcanic activity. Geysir not so much celebrates but seems to be driven by the great uncontrollable forces of nature. Forceful, violent, rumpled and shaken by off-beat slamming rhythms this is tense, eager, edgy and unruly music. Small rhythmic cells run riot. Those rhythmic patterns recall, in eccentricity, the hammer-blows at the end of Sibelius 5. Both Hekla and Geysir, though hardly dreamy evocations, suggest the Schopenhauer-like absorption of the composer in forces that make him feel small. Mieczyslaw Karlowicz, Viteszlav Novak and Frederick Delius were all drawn to the ecstatic sublimation of self in the inexorable forces of nature. Whereas Delius and his contemporaries found this in great lyrical melt-downs Leifs takes a more onomatopoeic route. The explosions, slams, rams-horn braying and eruptions are an extrapolation of a pictorial line which I trace from Sibelius's prelude to The Tempest; forward to Gösta Nystroem's Tempest Overture and backwards to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Beyond that we can look at the works of a whole generation of composers who took their green light from Edgard Varèse. In Geysir Leifs specifies striking stones of various sizes, bulky steel chains to be shaken, cannons, sirens, bull-roarer and in Hekla the wailing and moaning howl of a choir. This panoply of sound first book-marked Leifs in my memory back in the late 1970s when I bought an LP of the Saga Symphony (ITM2 - again an IMIC production). This had Jussi Jalas conducting the Iceland SO in a Sept 1975 recording - a work which in the BIS version (BIS-CD-730) I hope to review here before too long. Jalas conducted the premiere of the work in 1950. It had been written in 1943 while Leifs and his family were stuck in Germany only to escape to Sweden in 1944.

Landsyn grumbles threateningly like the essence of the terror that stalks through the Grendel passages in the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf tale. The landmarks along the way include a further offbeat stomping and at 6.28 a brass fanfare that sounds remarkably like American symphonist, Roy Harris. The Three Images are variously gently primitivistic, like an unflowing, haltingly-stepped Tallis Fantasia, a cheeky string serenade, austere and reverent and a gawky goblin dance.

A most rewarding disc that has been all but neglected everywhere. Geysir and Hekla have been recorded respectively on BIS CD 830 and 1030. The other two works have not otherwise been recorded.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

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Jón Leifs (1 May 1899 – 30 July 1968), was an Icelandic composer, pianist, and conductor. Born in Iceland, he left for Germany in 1916 to study at the Leipzig Conservatory and graduated in 1921. During this period he also studied composition with Ferruccio Busoni. Most of his works is inspired by Icelandic natural phenomena and sagas.

***

Paul Zukofsky (b. Brooklyn, New York, October 22, 1943) is an American violinist and conductor. He is the son of poet Louis Zukofsky. Zukofsky specializes in contemporary music and has worked with, performed, and recorded the works of such 20th-century composers.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

John Ireland - The Forgotten Rite; etc. (Richard Hickox)


Information

Composer: John Ireland
  1. Scherzo and Cortège on themes from "Julius Caesar" (arr. Geoffrey Bush): I. Boldly but not too fast - Vivo
  2. Scherzo and Cortège on themes from "Julius Caesar" (arr. Geoffrey Bush): II. Serioso
  3. Tritons, symphonic prelude: Allegro
  4. The Forgotten Rite, prelude for orchestra: Lento e mistico
  5. Satyricon, overture: Allegro marcato
  6. The Overlanders, suite from film music (arr. Charles Mackerras): I. March. Scorched Earth
  7. The Overlanders, suite from film music (arr. Charles Mackerras): II. Romance. Mary and the Sailor
  8. The Overlanders, suite from film music (arr. Charles Mackerras): III. Intermezzo. Open Country
  9. The Overlanders, suite from film music (arr. Charles Mackerras): IV. Scherzo. The Brumpies
  10. The Overlanders, suite from film music (arr. Charles Mackerras): V. Finale. Night Stampede

London Symphony Orchestra
Richard Hickox, conductor

Date: 1990
Label: Chandos
https://www.chandos.net/products/catalogue/CHAN%208994

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John Ireland - A Downland Suite; etc. (Richard Hickox)


Information

Composer: John Ireland
  1. Downland Suite (arr. Ireland & Geoffrey Bush): I. Prelude. Allegro energico
  2. Downland Suite (arr. Ireland & Geoffrey Bush): II. Elegy. Lento espressivo
  3. Downland Suite (arr. Ireland & Geoffrey Bush): III. Minuet. Allegretto grazioso
  4. Downland Suite (arr. Ireland & Geoffrey Bush): IV. Rondo. Poco allegro
  5. Orchestral Poem: Andante - Andante molto moderato - Allegro giusto
  6. Concertino Pastorale: I. Eclogue. Sostenuto
  7. Concertino Pastorale: II. Threnody. Lento espressivo
  8. Concertino Pastorale: III. Toccata. Allegro molto ma non troppo presto
  9. Two Symphonic Studies (music from "The Overlanders", arr. Geoffrey Bush): I. Fugue. Pesante
  10. Two Symphonic Studies (music from "The Overlanders", arr. Geoffrey Bush): II. Toccata. Lento

City of London Sinfonia
Richard Hickox, conductor

Date: 1994
Label: Chandos
https://www.chandos.net/products/catalogue/CHAN%209376

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Friday, August 21, 2015

John Field - Piano Sonatas; Nocturnes Nos. 3, 7 & 17 (John O'Conor)


Information

Composer: John Field
  1. Piano Sonata No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 1 (H. 8), No. 1: I. Allegro moderato
  2. Piano Sonata No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 1 (H. 8), No. 1: II. Rondo. Allegretto
  3. Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 1 (H. 8), No. 2: I. Allegro moderato
  4. Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 1 (H. 8), No. 2: II. Allegro vivace
  5. Piano Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 1 (H. 8), No. 3: I. Non troppo allegro, ma con fuoco e con espressione
  6. Piano Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 1 (H. 8), No. 3: II. Rondo. Allegretto scherzando
  7. Piano Sonata No. 4 in B major, H. 17: I. Moderato
  8. Piano Sonata No. 4 in B major, H. 17: II. Rondo. Moderato
  9. Nocturne No. 3 in A flat major, H. 26 (Un poco allegretto)
  10. Nocturne No. 7 in C major "Reverie", H. 45 (Moderato)
  11. Nocturne No. 17 in E major "Nocturne pastorale", H. 65 (Lento)

John O'Conor, piano
Date: 1991
Label: Telarc

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

John Field - Nocturnes (John O'Conor)


Information

Composer: John Field
  1. Nocturne No. 1 in E-flat major, H. 24 (Molto moderato)
  2. Nocturne No. 2 in C minor, H. 25 (Moderato e molto espressivo)
  3. Nocturne No. 4 in A major, H. 36 (Poco Adagio)
  4. Nocturne No. 5 in B-flat major, H. 37 (Andantino)
  5. Nocturne No. 6 in F major "Berceuse" (Andante)
  6. Pastorale in A major, H. 14 (Andante)
  7. Romance in E-flat major, H. 30 (Andantino)
  8. Nocturne No. 10 in E minor, H. 54 (Adagio)
  9. Nocturne No. 11 in E-flat major, H. 56 (Moderato)
  10. Nocturne No. 12 in G major, H. 58 (Lento)
  11. Nocturne No. 13 in D minor "Lied ohne Worte", H. 59 (Lento)
  12. Nocturne No. 14 in C major, H. 60 (Molto moderato)
  13. Nocturne No. 15 in C major, H. 61 (Molto moderato)
  14. Nocturne No. 16 in F major, H. 62 (Molto moderato)
  15. Nocturne No. 18 in E major "Midi", H. 13 (Allegretto)

John O'Conor, piano
Date: 1990
Label: Telarc


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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Johann Strauss I; Johann Strauss II; Josef Strauss - The Best of Vienna


Information

Composer: Johann Strauss I; Johann Strauss II; Josef Strauss

CD1:
  1. An der schönen, blauen Donau, Op. 314
  2. Annen-Polka, Op. 117
  3. Morgenblätter, Op. 279
  4. Auf der Jagd, Op. 373
  5. Leichtes Blut, Op. 319
  6. Wein, Weib und Gesang, Op. 333
  7. Vergnügungszug, Op. 281
  8. Wiener Bonbons, Op. 307
  9. Perpetuum Mobile, Op. 257
  10. Accelerationen, Op. 234
  11. Pizzicato-Polka (Josef Strauss)
  12. G'schichten aus dem Wienerwald, Op. 325
CD2:
  1. Kaiser-Walzer, Op. 437
  2. Unter Donner und Blitz, Op. 324
  3. Die Fledermaus, opera: Ouvertüre
  4. Frühlingsstimmen, Op. 410
  5. Banditen-Galopp (aus "Prinz Methusalem"), Op. 378
  6. Künstlerleben, Op. 316
  7. Persischer Marsch, Op. 289
  8. Rosen aus dem Süden, Op. 388
  9. Eljen a Magyar!, Op. 332
  10. Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka, Op. 214
  11. Wiener Blut, Op. 354
  12. Radetzky-Marsch, Op. 228 (Johann Strauss I)

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Lorin Maazel, conductor
Claudio Abbado, conductor
Willi Boskovsky, conductor
Karl Böhm, conductor
Date: 1959-1988


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Johann Strauss I (March 14, 1804 – September 25, 1849) was an Austrian Romantic composer. He was famous for his waltzes, and he popularized them alongside Joseph Lanner, thereby setting the foundations for his sons to carry on his musical dynasty. His most famous piece is the Radetzky March (named after Joseph Radetzky von Radetz).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Strauss_I

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Johann Strauss II (October 25, 1825 – June 3, 1899) was an Austrian composer of light music, particularly dance music and operettas. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other types of dance music, as well as several operettas and a ballet. In his lifetime, he was known as "The Waltz King", and was largely then responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Strauss_II

***

Josef Strauss (August 20, 1827 – July 22, 1870) was an Austrian composer. He was born in Vienna, the son of Johann Strauss I and Maria Anna Streim, and brother of Johann Strauss II and Eduard Strauss. Strauss had talents as an artist, painter, poet, dramatist, singer, composer and inventor.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Strauss

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Johann Peter Pixis; Sigismond Thalberg - Piano Concertos (Howard Shelley)


Information

Composer: Johann Peter Pixis; Sigismond Thalberg
  1. Pixis - Piano Concerto in C major, Op. 100: I. Allegro moderato
  2. Pixis - Piano Concerto in C major, Op. 100: II. Adagio cantabile
  3. Pixis - Piano Concerto in C major, Op. 100: III. Rondo. Allegretto scherzando
  4. Pixis - Piano Concertino in E flat major, Op. 68: I. Allegro moderato
  5. Pixis - Piano Concertino in E flat major, Op. 68: II. Adagio sostenuto
  6. Pixis - Piano Concertino in E flat major, Op. 68: III. Rondo. Allegretto
  7. Thalberg - Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 5: I. Allegro maestoso
  8. Thalberg - Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 5: II. Adagio
  9. Thalberg - Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 5: III. Rondo. Allegro

Howard Shelley, piano & conductor
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
Date: 2011
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67915

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Review

Shelley in Tasmania with Germanic Romantic concertos

Hyperion’s ‘The Romantic Piano Concerto’ celebrates is 58th issue with these concertos including a first recording of Pixis’s Concertino in E flat, Op 68. And here, surely, is the ultimate in chandelier music, perfectly geared towards what one eminent literary critic once called ‘the extant social world’. One can almost see aristocratic heads nodding and feet tapping as one virtuoso charm follows another. Of the two composers, Thalberg is the more opulent, with enough double notes, octaves and skips to remind us that he was once considered a rival pianist to Liszt (Liszt later dismissed such presumption with characteristic 19th-century invective: for him, Thalberg’s playing was as profound as the diamond studs he wore on his shirts). And if the material remains unmemorable, the treatment is coruscating in its tireless elaboration.

Pixis is a more modest voice, though with a second movement in his Concertino where something more original cautiously peeps out. But what is surely unarguable is that neither Pixis nor Thalberg could have rivalled Howard Shelley’s immaculate taste and dexterity. Time and again he makes it difficult to imagine another pianist with such nonchalant ease and elegance. Hyperion’s recording is beyond criticism and this is a disc very much for those who like music that is easy on the ear, enriched with lavish sparkle and acrobatics.

-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/nov/15/pixis-thalberg-shelley-tasmanian-review
http://audaud.com/2012/11/the-romantic-piano-concerto-vol-58-pixis-piano-concerto-in-c-major-concertino-in-e-flat-major-thalberg-piano-concerto-in-f-minor-tasmanian-sym-orch-howard-shelley-p-and-cond-hyperio/
http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-romantic-piano-concerto-vol-58-pixis-thalberg-mw0002436153
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Romantic-Concerto-Tazmanian-Symphony-Orchestra/dp/B0097LP16G
http://www.amazon.com/Romantic-Piano-Concerto-Vol-58-Johann/dp/B0097LP16G

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Johann Peter Pixis (10 February 1788 – 22 December 1874) was a German pianist and composer born in Mannheim, Germany. He lived in Paris between 1825 and 1845, where he worked as a concert pianist. In 1845 he moved to Baden-Baden where he taught piano until his death. Frédéric Chopin dedicated to Pixis his Fantasy on Polish Airs for piano and orchestra, Op. 13 on its publication in 1834.

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Sigismond Thalberg (January 8, 1812 – April 27, 1871) was a composer and one of the most famous virtuoso pianists of the 19th century. During the 1830s and the 1840s his style was a major force in European piano-playing, greatly in fashion and imitated by others.

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Howard Shelley (born 9 March 1950) is a British pianist and conductor. He made many recordings for Chandos, Hyperion and EMI, including Rachmaninov's complete piano music and concertos. In 1985 Howard Shelley made his professional debut as a conductor. 

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Isaac Albéniz; Enrique Granados - Piano Concertos (Melani Mestre)


Information

Composer: Isaac Albéniz; Enrique Granados
  1. Albéniz - Concierto fantástico in A minor, Op. 78: 1. Allegro ma non troppo
  2. Albéniz - Concierto fantástico in A minor, Op. 78: 2. Rêverie et Scherzo: Andante - Presto
  3. Albéniz - Concierto fantástico in A minor, Op. 78: 3. Allegro
  4. Albéniz - Rapsodia española, Op. 70
  5. Granados - Piano Concerto in C minor "Patético" (arr. Mestre): 1. Lento grave e quasi recitativo - Allegro grave non molto lento (sketches)
  6. Granados - Piano Concerto in C minor "Patético" (arr. Mestre): 2. Allegretto (Orientale, Op. 37 No. 2 & Capricho español, Op. 39)
  7. Granados - Piano Concerto in C minor "Patético" (arr. Mestre): 3. Molto Allegro (Allegro de concierto, Op. 46)

Melani Mestre, piano
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins, conductor

Date: 2012
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67918

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Review

This absorbing disc, the 65th in Hyperion’s endlessly enterprising ‘Romantic Piano Concerto’ series, juxtaposes the Albéniz Concerto with two first recordings: his Rapsodia española in the San Sebastián version, and Granados’s C minor Concerto patético in a reconstruction of fragments by the pianist Melani Mestre. Oddly subtitled Fantástico, the Concerto shows little trace of either Albéniz’s early picture-postcard Spain or the later marvels of his masterpiece, Iberia.

Very much for those who like music that makes few demands, it was elegantly described on its first London performance as ‘pleasing though not lofty in design’. Certainly the second movement’s breezy seaside tune will set heads nodding and feet tapping, and it is remarkable that the authentically Spanish Rapsodia española was completed at the same time as the Concerto. Sultry and Moorish before bursting out into all the fun of the feria, the Rapsodia is hard to resist and will appeal to those in love with all things southern and Spanish.

Yet the chief interest lies in the Granados, solemn and declamatory in the first movement before leaving its C minor sense of elegy to recall two earlier Spanish Dances and the composer’s one unabashed showpiece, the Allegro de concierto. Musical adventure could hardly go further. Impeccably recorded, all the performances by Melani Mestre and the BBC Scottish Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins are of an unfaltering fluency and stylistic command.

-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone

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Isaac Albéniz (29 May 1860 – 18 May 1909) was a Spanish pianist and composer best known for his piano works based on folk music idioms. His activities as conductor, performer and composer significantly raised the profile of Spanish music abroad and encouraged Spanish music and musicians in his own country. Transcriptions of many of his pieces, such as Asturias (Leyenda), Granada, Sevilla, Cádiz, Córdoba, Cataluña, and the Tango in D, are important pieces for classical guitar, though he never composed for the guitar.

***

Enrique Granados Campiña (27 July 1867 – 24 March 1916) was a Spanish pianist and composer of classical music, best known for his compositions for piano such as 12 Spanish Dances and Goyesca, a suite based on Franciso Goya's painting. Granados was an important influence on at least two other important Spanish composers and musicians, Manuel de Falla and Pablo Casals.

***

Melani Mestre (born 1976 in Barcelona) is an Catalonia pianist and conductor.  He studied with José A Calvo and Alicia de Larrocha, themselves disciples of Frank Marshall, thereby directly inheriting the cherished Catalan piano tradition of Enrique Granados. Melani Mestre has a repertoire of over forty concertos, champions little-known repertoire as both pianist and conductor. Mestre was appointed chief conductor of the Lviv Symphony Orchestra in Ukraine in 2007. He is also principal conductor of the Orquesta Filarmonía Ibérica.

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Ignacy Jan Paderewski - Piano Works (Karol Radziwonowicz)


Composer: Ignacy Jan Paderewski

CD1:
  1. (01-06) Humoresques de concert, Op. 14
  2. (07-10) Old suite for 3 voices, Op. 3
  3. (11) Impromptu in F major
  4. (12) Elegia in B-flat minor, Op. 4
  5. (13) Intermezzi No. 1 in G minor
  6. (14) Intermezzi No. 2 in C minor
  7. (15-17) Danses polonaises, Op. 5
  8. (18) Two canons. From student files: Kanon I in G minor
  9. (19) Two canons. From student files: Kanon II in A major
  10. (20) Powódz in A minor
  11. (21) Canzone. Chant sans paroles, Op. 16 No. 7
  12. (22) Miniatura in E-flat major
  13. (23) Dans le désert. Tableau musical en forme d'une toccata in E-flat major, Op. 15
CD2:
  1. (01-06) Tatra Album. Polish folk dances and songs from Zakopane
  2. (07-09) Trois morceaux, Op. 2
  3. (10) Introduction et toccata, Op. 6
  4. (11-15) Chants du voyageur, Op. 8
  5. (16) Variations et fugue sur un theme original in E-flat minor, Op. 23

Karol Radziwonowicz, piano
Date: 1991
Label: Selene


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