Saturday, July 30, 2016

Benjamin Dale; York Bowen - Piano Sonata; Miniature Suite (Danny Driver)


Information

Composer: Benjamin Dale; York Bowen
  1. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 1. Allegro deciso
  2. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2a. Molto adagio
  3. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2b. Var 1
  4. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2c. Var 2. Molto adagio
  5. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2d. Var 3. Allegretto con grazia
  6. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2e. Var 4. Adagio maestoso
  7. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2f. Var 5. Scherzo. Presto
  8. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2g. Var 6. Tempo di mazurka
  9. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2h. Var 7. Prestissimo
  10. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2i. Andante
  11. Dale - Piano Sonata in D minor: 2j. Finale: Molto allegro - Lento
  12. Dale - Prunella
  13. Dale - Night Fancies
  14. Bowen - Miniature Suite in C major, Op. 14: 1. Humoresque
  15. Bowen - Miniature Suite in C major, Op. 14: 2. Nocturne
  16. Bowen - Miniature Suite in C major, Op. 14: 3. Scherzo. Finale

Danny Driver, piano
Date: 2011
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67827

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Reviews

The epic romantic piano sonata of a contemporary of York Bowen

Here is a disc to warm the hearts and minds of those who treasure romantic nostalgia, a love “for old, unhappy, far-off things, / And battles long ago”. Benjamin Dale’s hugely ambitious and unwieldy Piano Sonata (its first complete performance given by York Bowen) is assuredly not for lovers of economy, for the steely, prickly and uningratiating. And while it is hard to imagine its survival in today’s musical climate, that is, as Danny Driver so eloquently shows, surely our loss. Dedicated to Bowen (whose work suffered a similarly swift demise before its recent glamorous revival), the sonata’s early champions included Moiseiwitsch, Myra Hess, Irene Scharrer and Moura Lympany (all three ladies students of Tobias Matthay).

Yet, even given such celebrity, it is doubtful that it has ever been played with a more shining commitment than by Danny Driver. His performance ranges from thundering rhetoric to a whispering poetic delicacy and when you hear him in, say, Var 2 from Dale’s slow movement, you become enthralled by a pianist of such magical warmth and finesse. Prunella takes us from romantic epic to endearing miniature and, in a further tribute to York Bowen, Driver ends his recital with the Miniature Suite in C, Op 14, its scherzo an exit of whirling virtuoso gaiety.

Hyperion’s sound and presentation are as immaculate as ever and Francis Pott’s notes, where he tell us of Dale’s outward similarity but subtle difference to Bowen, is a mine of information. This issue is as moving as it is superlative.

-- Bryce MorrisonGramophone

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/dale-piano-sonata
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2011/Aug11/Dale_Sonata_CDA67827.htm
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalmusic/8595158/Dale-Piano-Sonata-CD-review.html
http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=565081

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Benjamin Dale (17 July 1885 – 30 July 1943) was an English composer and academic who had a long association with the Royal Academy of Music. Dale wrote a small but notable corpus of works. His best-known composition is probably the large-scale Piano Sonata in D minor he started while still a student at the Royal Academy of Music, which communicates in a potent late romantic style.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Dale

***

Danny Driver (born 1977 in London) is a British classical pianist, who has a special interest in unusual or neglected works, alongside the mainstream repertoire. Driver gave the United States premiere of York Bowen's Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in New Orleans on 29 April 2009. The conductor was his wife Rebecca Miller.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Driver

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Béla Bartók - Violin Concertos (Isabelle Faust)


Information

Composer: Béla Bartók
  1. Violin Concerto No. 1, Sz 36 Op. Posth.: I. Andante sostenuto
  2. Violin Concerto No. 1, Sz 36 Op. Posth.: II. Allegro giocoso
  3. Violin Concerto No. 2, Sz 112: I. Allegro non troppo
  4. Violin Concerto No. 2, Sz 112: II. Andante tranquillo
  5. Violin Concerto No. 2, Sz 112: III. Allegro molto

Isabelle Faust, violin
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Harding, conductor
Date: 2012
Label: Harmonia Mundi

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

Bartók’s music seems to be less popular than it was a few decades ago; at least it has been a while since major new recordings of these iconic works have seen a new release. That wait has been worth it. Bartók’s First violin concerto never will enjoy the popularity of the second, not just because it sat unperformed until after his death, but because its thematic material suffers from what might charitably be called “chromatic drift”. In other words, it can sound pretty ugly, at least until you get to know it well. Happily, Isabelle Faust really knows her Bartók, as her very sympathetic and intelligent booklet notes demonstrate. She plays the dreamy opening movement with a pure tone and sure sense of direction, while the second movement exudes just the right kind of purposeful energy, even in the music’s most gnarly passages.

The epic Second concerto is even better. This is surely one of the great recordings of the piece. The long first movement flies by without a single dead spot, despite (or because of) huge contrasts in tempo between sections. Bartók’s suggested timing for this movement—12 minutes—never has been followed slavishly, and Faust’s 15 minutes exactly match the reference recording of Zehetmair/Fischer, as do the remaining movements for that matter. Perhaps the most telling evidence of Faust’s mastery occurs around measure 304, the passage in quarter-tones that leads into the big cadenza. Her purity of intonation makes sense of a moment that often sounds queasily out of tune, while the cadenza itself emerges naturally from what has come before, and leads inevitably to the orchestra’s return.

The central slow movement is again impressively cogent, its scherzando section deftly integrated, and the finale is really exciting. Faust and conductor Daniel Harding opt for the work’s original (and superior) ending, without the solo violin in the final bars, giving Harding and the excellent Swedish Radio Symphony a moment to shine. Apropos Harding, I have to say that this strikes me as some of his best work on disc: precise, attentive to matters of color and texture, considerate of his soloist but also nicely detailed. He’s very much an equal partner in these proceedings, and just as fine a one. Harmonia Mundi provides ideally balanced sonics that flatter Faust’s sweet tone without sticking a microphone inside the instrument. This is a wonderful recording in every respect.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/bart%C3%B3k-violin-concertos-nos-1-2
http://www.classical-music.com/review/bartok-concertos-faust-sept-13
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2013/Sept13/Bartok_VCs_HMC902146.htm
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/aug/08/bartok-violin-concertos-isabelle-faust-review
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalcdreviews/10217343/Bartok-Violin-Concertos-Nos-1-and-2-review.html
http://audaud.com/2013/07/bartok-violin-concertos-nos-1-2-isabelle-faust-violin-swedish-radio-sym-orch-daniel-harding-harmonia-mundi/
http://www.allmusic.com/album/b%C3%A9la-bart%C3%B3k-violin-concertos-nos-1-2-mw0002558490
http://www.amazon.com/Bartok-Violin-Concertos-Nos-1-2/dp/B00COU07DO

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Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Two main characteristic of Bartók music is: 1. His collection and analytical study of folk music and 2. His changing attitude toward (and use of) tonality, but without the use of the traditional harmonic functions associated with major and minor scales.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9la_Bart%C3%B3k

***

Isabelle Faust (born 1972 in Esslingen) is a German violinist. She won First Prize in the 1993 Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy. Since 1996, she has performed on the "Sleeping Beauty" Stradivarius violin of 1704, on loan from Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, and also with Baroque-style violins and bows. Faust has won multiple awards for her recordings, mostly on Harmonia Mundi.

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Béla Bartók - Violin Concertos (Arabella Steinbacher)


Information

Composer: Béla Bartók
  1. Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117: I. Allegro non troppo
  2. Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117: II. Andante tranquillo
  3. Violin Concerto No. 2, BB 117: III. Allegro molto
  4. Violin Concerto No. 1, BB 48a: I. Andante sostenuto
  5. Violin Concerto No. 1, BB 48a: II. Allegro giocoso

Arabella Steinbacher, violin
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Marek Janowski, conductor
Recording: 2009
Label: Pentatone
http://www.pentatonemusic.com/bartok-violin-concertos-steinbacher-janowski

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Review

Arabella Steinbacher’s program of Béla Bartók’s two violin concertos begins with the second from 1938, and the violin’s entry makes it seem as though she will favor muscular strength over romantic lushness; whether or not the two qualities find a perfect balance in the work itself, performances themselves often tilt in one direction or another. Still, Marek Janowski and the orchestra create plenty of atmosphere in the first movement, in which soloist and orchestra juggle, respectively, feverish passagework and bracing orchestral outbursts. Anne-Sophie Mutter (who has supported Steinbacher’s career) and Gil Shaham both recorded the work for Deutsche Grammophon (Deutsche Grammophon 289 459 639-2, which I reviewed in Fanfare 22:6), and their performances, like Isaac Stern’s, perhaps shifted the balance point slightly in the direction of warm sonorousness from Ivry Gitlis’s “steelier, harder-driving modernity” with Harold Byrnes and the Concerts Colonne Orchestra from 1955, reissued from Vox PL 10760 and on The Strad 10. PentaTone’s detailed recorded sound places Steinbacher in a balance with orchestra more suggestive of partnership than spotlighted solo (in 1958, Columbia’s engineers set Stern front and center in his recording with Leonard Bernstein—now available on Sony SMK 64 502), but at times, as in the first movement’s coda and the thematic statement by the violin at the opening of the second movement, that balance may seem slightly recessive. In any case, the 1716 Booth Stradivari sounds mercurial in the upper registers, if taut in the lower ones.

However gritty Steinbacher may seem in the concerto’s opening, she waxes insinuating in the slow movement’s first two variations, and Janowski and the orchestra spread a magic cloak of sound under her. But neither the grinding double-stops of one of the central variations nor the fiercely declamatory opening of the finale sound so dryly aggressive as I considered Yehudi Menuhin’s recording with Doráti when I first heard it in the early 1960s, though I may have taken that impression more from Mercury’s recorded sound than from Menuhin. As a result of PentaTone’s careful engineering, the brasses bite impudently in the finale, while the woodwinds sound bright and the strings, warm.

In the posthumously published First Concerto, dedicated to Stefi Geyer (who stowed it away in a trunk, where it appeared after her death), the violin’s voice soars above the strings, drawing them together at climactic moments as it does in the chorale movement of Berg’s concerto. Again, PentaTone’s engineers place Steinbacher closer to the midst of the orchestra than to its front. Stern and David Oistrakh recorded this concerto, which looks less far into the future than would the later one, and Steinbacher endows its first movement with nostalgic poetry rather than Stern’s lush intensity—or Oistrakh’s dark mystery. In the second movement, however, she plays with a cat-like mixture of skittishness and sharp-clawed aggression that brings the movement closer, at least in spirit, to the finale of the later concerto, though it stretches harmonic boundaries less far than the work from 1938 would—some passages in double-stops might, in fact, be drawn from a concerto by Kodály or by a Hungarian counterpart of Sibelius or Nielsen.

With the many recordings of both works available, Steinbacher’s, with its strong-minded solo playing, insightful orchestral accompaniment, and detailed recorded sound, could—and should—still be a candidate for the collections of Bartók’s music or of 20th-century violin concertos.

-- Robert Maxham, FANFARE

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/bart%C3%B3k-violin-concertos-nos-1-and-2

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Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Two main characteristic of Bartók music is: 1. His collection and analytical study of folk music and 2. His changing attitude toward (and use of) tonality, but without the use of the traditional harmonic functions associated with major and minor scales.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9la_Bart%C3%B3k

***

Arabella Steinbacher (born 14 November 1981) is a German classical violinist. She won several important prizes and a grant from the Free State of Bavaria in 2001, then became a student of Anne-Sophie Mutter's Freundeskreis ("Circle of friends"). Since starting to record exclusively for Pentatone in 2009, she published a number of albums demonstrating her musical variety. She currently plays the Booth Stradivarius (1716) provided by the Nippon Music Foundation.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabella_Steinbacher

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Miklós Rózsa; Béla Bartók; Tibor Serly - Viola Concertos (Lawrence Power)


Information

Composer: Miklós Rózsa; Béla Bartók; Tibor Serly
  1. Rózsa - Viola Concerto, Op. 37: 1. Moderato assai
  2. Rózsa - Viola Concerto, Op. 37: 2. Allegro giocoso
  3. Rózsa - Viola Concerto, Op. 37: 3. Adagio -
  4. Rózsa - Viola Concerto, Op. 37: 4. Allegro con spirito
  5. Bartók - Viola Concerto, Sz 120 (completed by Tibor Serly): 1. Moderato -
  6. Bartók - Viola Concerto, Sz 120 (completed by Tibor Serly): 2. Adagio religioso -
  7. Bartók - Viola Concerto, Sz 120 (completed by Tibor Serly): 3. Allegro vivace
  8. Serly - Rhapsody for viola & orchestra

Lawrence Power, viola
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Andrew Litton, conductor
Date: 2009
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67687

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Review

Commanding performances of Bartók’s well known concerto and a Rózsa rarity

Fans of Jascha Heifetz may well be familiar with Miklós Rózsa’s 1954 Violin Concerto, a tuneful, Bartók-Kodály synthesis that wears its influences very close to its sleeve. The Viola Concerto programmed here is a much later piece, more distinctive too in my view, its orchestration darker and subtler (try the very opening), its mood rugged and impulsive, and with thematic material that makes a deeper impression. Although Rózsa’s Hungarian groundsprings are nearly always audible, the Viola Concerto more reminded me of Walton in its alternation of frisky high spirits (the playful, offbeat scherzo) and melancholy. Bartók is still a strong presence though, especially in the finale, where the finale of Bartók’s Second Violin Concerto most readily springs to mind (try from around 4'41" into track 4). As for Lawrence Power’s performance, everything comes across with maximum impact – his agility at speed, his warm “walnut” tone (the superb recording makes plain he’s playing a fine instrument, ie a c1610 Antonio Brensi viola), and the innate musicality of his phrasing. Andrew Litton is in total command of every aspect of the score, inspiring his Bergen players to a performance that’s dramatic, incisive and atmospheric.

The Bartók Viola Concerto is presented in Tibor Serly’s familiar completion and again, there’s an urgency about the playing that is offset by a profoundly poetic response to the work’s many lyrical episodes, especially the central Adagio religioso. Litton has a keen ear for detail and Andrew Keener’s engineering team supports him with sound that is both transparent and full-bodied. There’s an “encore”, too, in Serly’s enjoyable Rhapsody based on “Hungarian Folk Tunes harmonised by Bartók”, tunes that dedicated Bartókians will surely recognise, much as Gershwin fans would recognise the show tunes in one of his theatre overtures. Again, both performance and recording are exemplary. An exceptional release in every way, with Calum MacDonald’s highly informative notes serving as a welcome bonus.

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2011/Jan11/rozsa_viola_CDA67687.htm
http://www.classical-music.com/review/bart%C3%B3k-rozsa-viola-concertos
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalcdreviews/8000821/Rozsa-Viola-Concerto.-Bartok-Viola-Concerto.-Serly-Rhapsody-CD-review.html
http://www.amazon.com/Viola-Concertos-Bartok-Rosza-Serly/dp/B003XWFLW4

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Miklós Rózsa (18 April 1907 – 27 July 1995) was a Hungarian composer. Best known for his nearly one hundred film scores, he nevertheless maintained a steadfast allegiance to absolute concert music throughout what he called his "double life". His notable Hollywood career earned him considerable fame, including Academy Awards for Spellbound (1945), A Double Life (1947), and Ben-Hur (1959), while his concert works were championed by such major artists as Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, and János Starker.

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Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Two main characteristic of Bartók music is: 1. His collection and analytical study of folk music and 2. His changing attitude toward (and use of) tonality, but without the use of the traditional harmonic functions associated with major and minor scales.

***

Tibor Serly (Losonc, Kingdom of Hungary, 25 November 1901 – London, 8 October 1978) was a Hungarian violist, violinist and composer. He made great efforts to make Bartók's music more accessible, by arranging selected works for combinations of instruments, but this brought him more attention than did his own compositions.

***

Lawrence Power (born 1977) is a British violist. Since his London solo debut with The Philharmonia, he has performed in the UK and abroad, appearing as soloist with many orchestras. Power also has a prominent career as a chamber musician, as violist in the Nash Ensemble and the Leopold String Trio. He plays an instrument by Antonio Brensi of Bologna from c.1610.

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Béla Bartók - Piano Concertos (Géza Anda)


Information

Composer: Béla Bartók
  1. Piano Concerto No. 1, BB 91, Sz. 83: 1. Allegro moderato - Allegro
  2. Piano Concerto No. 1, BB 91, Sz. 83: 2. Andante
  3. Piano Concerto No. 1, BB 91, Sz. 83: 3. Allegro molto
  4. Piano Concerto No. 2, BB 101, Sz. 95: 1. Allegro
  5. Piano Concerto No. 2, BB 101, Sz. 95: 2. Adagio - Più adagio - Presto
  6. Piano Concerto No. 2, BB 101, Sz. 95: 3. Allegro molto
  7. Piano Concerto No. 3, BB 127, Sz. 119: 1. Allegretto
  8. Piano Concerto No. 3, BB 127, Sz. 119: 2. Adagio religioso
  9. Piano Concerto No. 3, BB 127, Sz. 119: 3. Allegro vivace

Géza Anda, piano
Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Ferenc Fricsay, conductor
Date: 1959 (4-9), 1960 (1-3)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4473992


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Reviews

These classic performances were probably the first recordings of the Bartók Piano Concertos that many of us owned, and they probably put the music on the international map once and for all. Both Ferenc Fricsay and Géza Anda, compatriots of the composer, spared no effort in bringing this music to the widest possible public; and their recordings are not only important for this reason, but they have also withstood the test of time very well indeed. They treat these pieces as straightforward, Romantic piano concertos of the Lisztian "bravura" school, which in many respects they are. Later performances have explored the music's modernity more probingly, but that lessens neither the validity of this approach nor the pleasure of the result.

-- David Hurwitz

---------------------------------

Anda's recordings of the Bartók concertos, made in 1959-60, have remained the preferred versions for nearly 40 years. His variations of touch and range of sound are still extraordinary, and he is equally at home in the brilliant and demanding percussive writing in the first two concertos and the hushed lyricism of the third. He is aided and abetted throughout by the knowing partnership of Fricsay, always an admirable Bartók exponent, and the alert Berlin Radio Orchestra. The sound remains bright and natural after all these years, with no perceptible modifications. Although there have been fine modern accounts of these concertos, notably by Peter Donohoe and Vladimir Ashkenazy, Anda's continue to hold their own... A highly recommended set.

-- Charles Timbrell, FANFARE


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Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Two main characteristic of Bartók music is: 1. His collection and analytical study of folk music and 2. His changing attitude toward (and use of) tonality, but without the use of the traditional harmonic functions associated with major and minor scales.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9la_Bart%C3%B3k

***

Géza Anda (19 November 1921 – 14 June 1976) was a Swiss-Hungarian pianist. A celebrated interpreter of classical and romantic repertoire, particularly noted for his performances and recordings of Mozart, he was also a tremendous interpreter of Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Bartók.  In his heyday he was regarded as an amazing artist, possessed of a beautiful, natural and flawless technique that gave his concerts a unique quality.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%A9za_Anda

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Béla Bartók - Piano Works (Zoltán Kocsis)


Information

Composer: Béla Bartók
  • (01) Allegro Barbaro, Sz. 49
  • (02-04) 3 Rondos on Folk Tunes, Sz. 84
  • (05-07) 3 Hungarian Folk Tunes, Sz. 66
  • (08-11) Suite, Op. 14, Sz. 62
  • (12-14) Piano Sonata, Sz. 80
  • (15-20) Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56
  • (21-29) Old Dance Songs from "15 Hungarian Peasant Songs", Sz. 71

Zoltán Kocsis, piano
Date: 1975
Label: Denon

More info & reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Kocsis-Plays-Bartok-Bela/dp/B0000034N1


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Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Two main characteristic of Bartók music is: 1. His collection and analytical study of folk music and 2. His changing attitude toward (and use of) tonality, but without the use of the traditional harmonic functions associated with major and minor scales.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9la_Bart%C3%B3k

***

Zoltán Kocsis (born May 30, 1952) is a Hungarian pianist, conductor, and composer. In 1970, he gave his first important debuts both at home and abroad. During the following 25 years he toured all over the world. In recent years, Kocsis has taken the role of conductor, especially with the Budapest Festival Orchestra (of which he was a founder) and the Hungarian National Philharmonic, where he is the current musical director.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Béla Bartók - The Miraculous Mandarin; Songs & Dances (Iván Fischer)


Information

Composer: Béla Bartók
  • (01-02) Hungarian Peasant Songs, Sz. 100
  • (03-07) Hungarian Sketches, Sz. 97
  • (08-14) Roumanian Folk Dances, Sz. 68
  • (15-17) Transylvanian Dances, Sz. 96
  • (18) Romanian Dance, Sz. 47a
  • (19-29) The Miraculous Mandarin, Sz. 73 (Op. 19)

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Iván Fischer, conductor
Date: 1996
Label: Philips
http://www.deccaclassics.com/us/cat/4544302

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Review

This recording received the 1998 Gramophone magazine award for Best Orchestral recording.

As Mandarins go, they don’t come more miraculous than this – a vivid, no-holds-barred performance that henceforth tops my list of current recommendations. Everything tells – the flavour is right, the pacing too and the sound has a toughened, raw-edged quality that is an essential constituent of Bartok’s tonal language. Although lurid – even seedy – in narrative detail, The Miraculous Mandarin is ultimately a tale of compassion, and Fischer never forgets that fact. His conducting charts a huge dynamic curve from the tensed pp cellos at the start of the first “Decoy Game” (track 20) to a “Chase” (track 24) that knows no sonic bounds: the principal climax is ear-splitting and the savage fugal string entries, truly arco ruvido (“roughly bowed”).

Observable detail – all of it musically significant – occurs virtually by the minute, from the jabbing horns 3'00'' into the first “Decoy Game”, to the usually obscured piano glissandos that help texture the third (track 22). The Mandarin’s appearance at the doorway is shocking yet majestic (Maestoso), the swirling waltz (at 6'25'', track 23) that leads to “The Chase” sports seductive violin portamentos, the choral entry as his body begins to “glow with a greenish light” properly pianissimo and the expressionist-style gestures that accompany his death-throes, judiciously timed. Delicacy trails bullish aggression, forcefulness alternates with an almost graphic suggestiveness – and it’s all there in the full score. Fischer never vulgarizes, brutalizes or overstates the case and, what is most important, he underlines those quickly flickering, folkish elements in Bartok’s musical language (they are everywhere in evidence) that other, less intuitive conductors barely acknowledge.

Which brings me to the happiest aspect of this marvellous disc, namely the strongly individual character of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. How delightful to encounter a group of players who sound as if they have sprung from native soil rather than from some amorphous pool where all orchestras are alike (an increasingly common phenomenon, I’m afraid to say), and never mind about the odd minor imprecision. The strings have a biting edge, the woodwinds, a gipsy-style reediness, while brass and percussion are forceful and incisive but never raucous. All these qualities come into their own in the five folk-music-inspired works included. The Hungarian Peasant Songs are puckish and sonorous by turns, the Hungarian Sketches imaginative tales in sound (Fischer makes dreamy music of “An Evening at the Village” and wholesome good fun of “Slightly Tipsy”) and the popular Romanian Folkdances, lyrical and earthy. The Transylvanian Dances (an ingenious orchestration of the Sonatina for piano) has some village-band style woodwind writing in the first ‘movement’, and the fiery Romanian Dance (one of two) bounces into earshot on timpani, bass-drum and bassoon.

I listened to this disc pacing the room, utterly engrossed and grateful that I was at last hearing Hungarian-grown Bartok that actually sounds Hungarian. Would that other European symphony orchestras would reclaim parallel levels of individuality; but no matter. Fischer’s Budapesters mark an auspicious first step in that particular direction and this superb CD is their finest achievement to date.


More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: ****

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Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Two main characteristic of Bartók music is: 1. His collection and analytical study of folk music and 2. His changing attitude toward (and use of) tonality, but without the use of the traditional harmonic functions associated with major and minor scales.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9la_Bart%C3%B3k

***

Iván Fischer (born 20 January 1951) is a Hungarian conductor and composer. He studied conducting with Hans Swarowsky, and also studied and worked as assistant to Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Fischer found the Budapest Festival Orchestra in 1983 and with them he recorded for Philips and Channel Classics, received multiple awards. He is also a founder of the Hungarian Mahler Society, and Patron of the British Kodály Academy.

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Béla Bartók - The Wooden Prince; Cantata Profana (Pierre Boulez)


Information

Composer: Béla Bartók
  1. Cantata Profana, BB. 100, Sz. 94 - "The Nine Splendid Stags": 1. Molto moderato
  2. Cantata Profana, BB. 100, Sz. 94 - "The Nine Splendid Stags": 2. Andante
  3. Cantata Profana, BB. 100, Sz. 94 - "The Nine Splendid Stags": 3. Moderato
  4. The Wooden Prince, Sz. 60 (Op. 13): Introduction
  5. The Wooden Prince, Sz. 60 (Op. 13): 1st Dance. Dance of the Princess in the Forest
  6. The Wooden Prince, Sz. 60 (Op. 13): 2nd Dance. Dance of the Trees
  7. The Wooden Prince, Sz. 60 (Op. 13): 3rd Dance. Dance of the Waves
  8. The Wooden Prince, Sz. 60 (Op. 13): 4th Dance. Dance of the Princess with the Wooden Doll
  9. The Wooden Prince, Sz. 60 (Op. 13): 5th Dance. The Princess pulls and tugs at the Wooden Prince and tries to make him dance
  10. The Wooden Prince, Sz. 60 (Op. 13): 6th Dance. She tries to attract the real Prince with her seductive dancing
  11. The Wooden Prince, Sz. 60 (Op. 13): 7th Dance. Dismayed, the Princess attempts to hurry after the Prince, but the Forest bars her way

John Aler, tenor (1-3)
John Tomlinson, baritone (1-3)
Chicago Symphony Chorus (1-3)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Pierre Boulez, conductor
Date: 1991
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4358632


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Review


A disc to rank alongside other Chicago Bartok classics, such as Dorati's mono The miraculous mandarin Suite (Mercury, 2/55—nla) and Reiner's Concerto for Orchestra and Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (RCA, 1/90). The reasons? Partly performance and recording, partly repertoire. The repertoire hook is Bartok's parable of fathers, sons and fleeing the nest, his 1930 Cantata profana, a mesmerizing, symmetrically designed masterpiece, where words and music are forged into an action-packed 18 minutes. Boulez provides what is by far the best studio recording the work has ever had (it's also the first in digital sound), more poetic, pungent and forceful than either Ferencsik (Hungaroton) or the old, English-language Susskind LP version (Bartok Recording Studio—nla), and truly state-of-the-art in terms of sound. Boulez is able to command a shimmering hushed pp (try the tenors' first entry, 1'04'' into the opening), yet the battle-hardy Allegro molto (3'30'' in) with its hectoring syncopations and warlike percussion, is full of grit and muscle. John Aler is wonderfully adroit with Bartok's high-flying solo tenor line (although he can't quite match the sweet yet disquieting Jozsef Reti for Ferencsik); John Tomlinson sounds like an authentic Magyar, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus egg the proceedings on with tireless zeal.

Turn then to The wooden prince and you confront the final flowering of Bartok's post-romantic phase, it's an effulgent, exotic piece, full of wistful, melancholy wind solos (clarinet and saxophone figure prominently) and billowing, heavily-scored climaxes. How astonishing to reflect that it was written after the composer's trail-blazing opera, Bluebeard's Castle. Here Boulez prompts memories of his younger self (from 1975, to be exact—an CBS, 3/89—nla) with the New York Philharmonic, but the newer version is both more genial and vastly better recorded. Again, the soft music is wonderfully atmospheric: the ppp muted violins in the Prelude have a ghostly pallor that is so typical of this orchestra's quiet string playing, yet when all are engaged at full throttle, the effect is shattering. Detail is legion throughout: the basses, brass and drums have immense presence (the ''Dance of the Trees'' issues an ominous growl), there's plenty of percussion glitter in the chirpy ''Dance of the Princess with the wooden prince'' and work's lyrical close is beautifully blended. Jarvi and the Philharmonia (Chandos) are also very good, if rather more reverberantly recorded, perhaps Jarvi is the more unbuttoned in the livelier dances, the less minutely observant of the waves and trees. However, it is Boulez who achieves the greater precision overall, and whose work receives the more impressive (and resonant) sound.

Jarvi's Wooden prince is coupled with the pleasant if comparatively inconsequential Hungarian Sketches, a fair choice given his friendlier view of the main work. But Boulez's coupling is, as I have suggested, the best reason for rushing out and purchasing his disc: it is an indisputable masterpiece, and one that should be in every self-respecting collection of twentieth-century musical landmarks. Why isn't it played and recorded more often?

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone

More reviews:

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Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Two main characteristic of Bartók music is: 1. His collection and analytical study of folk music and 2. His changing attitude toward (and use of) tonality, but without the use of the traditional harmonic functions associated with major and minor scales.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9la_Bart%C3%B3k

***

Pierre Boulez (26 March 1925 – 5 January 2016) was a French composer, conductor, writer and organiser of institutions. In a long conducting career Boulez held the positions of Chief Conductor of the New York Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestras, Principal Guest Conductor of the Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestras and Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain. He was particularly known for his performances of the music of the first half of the twentieth-century.

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Béla Bartók - Concerto for Orchestra; Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta; Hungarian Sketches (Fritz Reiner)


Information

Composer: Béla Bartók
  1. Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 127: I. Introduzione. Andante non troppo - Allegro vivace
  2. Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 127: II. Giuoco delle coppie. Allegretto scherzando
  3. Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 127: III. Elegia. Andante non troppo
  4. Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 127: IV. Intermezzo interrotto. Allegretto
  5. Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116, BB 127: V. Finale. Pesante - Presto
  6. Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, Sz. 106, BB 114: I. Andante tranquillo
  7. Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, Sz. 106, BB 114: II. Allegro
  8. Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, Sz. 106, BB 114: III. Adagio
  9. Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta, Sz. 106, BB 114: IV. Allegro molto
  10. Hungarian Sketches (Magyar képek), for orchestra, Sz. 97, BB 103: I. An Evening in the Village
  11. Hungarian Sketches (Magyar képek), for orchestra, Sz. 97, BB 103: II. Bear Dance
  12. Hungarian Sketches (Magyar képek), for orchestra, Sz. 97, BB 103: III. Melody
  13. Hungarian Sketches (Magyar képek), for orchestra, Sz. 97, BB 103: IV. Slightly Tipsy
  14. Hungarian Sketches (Magyar képek), for orchestra, Sz. 97, BB 103: V. Swineherd's Dance

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Date: 1955 (1-5), 1958 (6-14)
Label: RCA


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Review

A marvellous reminder of the virtuosity of the Chicagoans under Fritz Reiner. This disc consists of two full LPs, offering superb value for money (with a playing time of over 76 minutes) as well as carefully-chosen repertoire (the ‘filler’ of Hungarian Sketches is pure delight).

Firstly, the Concerto for Orchestra. Fritz Reiner was a personal friend and confidant of the composer, so this reading carries a special authority. Not only this, Reiner’s orchestra is intensively drilled – rarely will you hear a performance so well-prepared as this. The very opening is tremendously hushed (and what clarity thanks to the SACD format!). Reiner’s understanding of Bartók’s emotional vocabulary is outstanding, as is his control of his orchestra (the accelerando is surely without parallel), all this held within a beautifully warm recorded sound.

The second movement (the famous ‘Giuoco delle coppie’) is full of charm, but is also rhythmically totally on-the-ball. Fellow Hungarian Solti in his Chicago recording also found real affinity with this movement (now available on Double Decca 470 516-2), but it is Reiner who is more human. Reiner’s ‘Elegia’ is carefully sculpted, working to an excruciating (in the best sense of the word) climax. Similarly Reiner does not play down the more vulgar elements of the ‘Intermezzo interotto’ (the Shostakovich quote is blatant).

If there is any excerpt from this disc that proves the technical excellence of the Chicagoans, it is the swirling opening of the finale. Trumpets cut through the texture impressively. If there are more jubilant accounts of this finale, the interpretation is entirely in keeping with Reiner’s overall vision, with the final emergence of blazing trumpets seeming all the more victorious. It would be worth the outlay for this performance alone.

That said, there are two other claims to the record collector’s purse here. The Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, perhaps surprisingly, triumphs because of Reiner’s affinity with the more interior moments. Thus the first movement (andante tranquillo) is a peaceful unravelling where Reiner’s control of dynamics is all; the Adagio third movement gives off a miraculous stillness; some conductors get lost in the harmonic maze here. If the second movement allegro is not as punchy as, say, Karajan’s Berlin EMI performance, it still makes its effect and the spatial element works remarkably well.

Finally, the five Hungarian Sketches reveal, in the ‘Swineherd’s Dance’ at least, that Reiner could do unbuttoned as well. These are arrangements of piano pieces (Nos. 5 and 10 of Ten Easy Pieces, no. 2 of Four Dirges, no. 2 of Three Burlesques, and no. 40 of For Children, Book 1) that the composer made in an attempt to court popularity. The most memorable aspect of the present performances comes in the form of the outstanding solo clarinettist (in both the first and third movements). The Hungarian Sketches make for an interesting close to a disc that shows Reiner and his orchestra at the height of their powers, all presented in exemplary sound. Strongly recommended.

-- Colin ClarkeMusicWeb International

More reviews:
ClassicsToday ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 9
AllMusic RATING: *****

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Béla Bartók (March 25, 1881 – September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer, considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Two main characteristic of Bartók music is: 1. His collection and analytical study of folk music and 2. His changing attitude toward (and use of) tonality, but without the use of the traditional harmonic functions associated with major and minor scales.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9la_Bart%C3%B3k

***

Fritz Reiner (December 19, 1888 – November 15, 1963) was a prominent conductor of opera and symphonic music in the twentieth century. Hungarian born and trained, he emigrated to the United States in 1922, where he rose to prominence as a conductor with several orchestras. He reached the pinnacle of his career while music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s and early 1960s.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Reiner

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bedřich Smetana; Franz Liszt - Piano Trio; Elegies (Trio Wanderer)


Information

Composer: Bedřich Smetana; Franz Liszt
  1. Liszt - Tristia, transcription of La Vallée d'Obermann, for violin, cello & piano, S. 723c
  2. Liszt - Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth for violin & piano, S. 382
  3. Liszt - Romance oubliée for violin & piano, S. 132
  4. Smetana - Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15: 1. Moderato assai
  5. Smetana - Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15: 2. Allegro ma non agitato
  6. Smetana - Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15: 3. Finale. Presto
  7. Liszt - Elegie No. 1 for cello & piano, S. 130
  8. Liszt - Elegie No. 2 for violin & piano, S. 131
  9. Liszt - La Lugubre Gondole (Elegie No. 3) for cello & piano, S. 134

Trio Wanderer
Vincent Coq, piano
Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabedian, violin
Raphaël Pidoux, cello

Date: 2009
Label: Harmonia Mundi
http://www.harmoniamundi.com/#!/albums/1593

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Review

Another winner to add to the Trio Wanderer’s list of great recordings for this label. Their performance of the Smetana G Minor is quite simply stunning, both in technical accomplishment and in their total identification with the music’s extreme emotional world, improvisatory spirit, nationalistic idioms, and Brahmsian richness of musical invention. Their response to the extraordinary opening paragraph is astonishing in its sheer sustained vehemence, piling layer upon layer of grief. No less impressive is their entrance into the second theme’s world of tender reverie, with its gradual animation to galloping exaltation by the end of the exposition. In the central Scherzo (or scherzo-substitute—there’s nothing very playful about this dark, pensive affair) they are equally effective in projecting the eerie nocturnal unease of the recurring refrain and the powerful reflective atmosphere of the two contrasting Trios: wistful nostalgia in the harmonically rich, complex first one; saturated nobility in the second. The final Presto has a vise-like grip, taking off as if pursued by the hounds of hell. But they also project with equal intensity the almost unbearable aching beauty of the contrasting theme’s elegiac falling sequences (violin and cello, against the piano’s Lisztian improvisatory flourishes). I’m not familiar with any other recent recordings, but the classic Beaux Arts (Philips, 1970) is more self-contained, urbane, with an aristocratic reserve; the old Oistrakh Trio (Westminster/DG, 1950s) slower, heavier, more soloistic (violin-dominated) in treatment. The Trio Wanderer is now easily my preferred version.

Liszt’s Tristia has a complex genesis, as the composer’s own expanded reworking of another composer (the Dane Edward Lassen)’s piano trio arrangement of his Vallée d’Obermann . It’s very effective in this guise, and the performance has superb atmosphere, concentration, and total idiomatic command. The improvisatory interchanges of the recitative-style middle section are hurled back and forth with tremendous panache, and the final ecstatic E-Major buildup really ignites. The shorter pieces are all original Liszt arrangements, solo string-instrument-and-piano incarnations of pieces existing in multiple versions. They’re all musically very substantial and harmonically adventurous (I’m no Liszt specialist, and the only one that was really familiar to me is the often-played Lugubre Gondole ). The performances sound ideal, sinuous and powerfully atmospheric.

The recording is forwardly balanced, outstanding in its solidity and immediacy. This is a tremendous disc, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

-- Boyd Pomeroy, FANFARE

More reviews:

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Bedřich Smetana (2 March 1824 – 12 May 1884) was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country's aspirations to independent statehood. He is thus widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music. Internationally he is best known for his opera The Bartered Bride and for the symphonic cycle Má vlast ("My Homeland").
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed%C5%99ich_Smetana

***

The Trio Wanderer was formed at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in 1987. The members of the Trio were students there: Vincent Coq (piano), Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (violin), and Raphaël Pidoux (cello). They studied under Jean-Claude Pennetier, Janos Starker, and Menahem Pressler.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bedřich Smetana; Leoš Janáček - Symphonic Poems; Sinfonietta (Rafael Kubelík)


Information

Composer: Bedřich Smetana; Leoš Janáček
  1. Smetana - Richard III, symphonic poem, JB 1/70, Op. 11
  2. Smetana - Valdštýnův tábor (Wallenstein's Camp), symphonic poem, JB 1/72, Op. 14
  3. Smetana - Hakon Jarl, symphonic poem, JB 1/79, Op. 16
  4. Smetana - Pražský karneval (Prague Carnival), introduction and polonaise in A minor, JB 1/126
  5. Janáček - Sinfonietta ("Military", "Sokol Festival"), JW 6/18: I. Allegretto - Allegro maestoso (Fanfare)
  6. Janáček - Sinfonietta ("Military", "Sokol Festival"), JW 6/18: II. Andante - Allegretto (The Castle, Brno)
  7. Janáček - Sinfonietta ("Military", "Sokol Festival"), JW 6/18: III. Moderato (The Queen's Monastery, Brno)
  8. Janáček - Sinfonietta ("Military", "Sokol Festival"), JW 6/18: IV. Allegretto (The Street Leading to the Castle)
  9. Janáček - Sinfonietta ("Military", "Sokol Festival"), JW 6/18: V. Andante con moto (The Town Hall, Brno)

Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Rafael Kubelík, conductor
Date: 1970 (5-9), 1971 (1-4)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

More info & reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Smetana-Richard-Wallensteins-Carnival-Sinfonietta/dp/B00000E55Y


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Bedřich Smetana (2 March 1824 – 12 May 1884) was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country's aspirations to independent statehood. He is thus widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music. Internationally he is best known for his opera The Bartered Bride and for the symphonic cycle Má vlast ("My Homeland").
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bed%C5%99ich_Smetana

***

Leoš Janáček (3 July 1854 – 12 August 1928) was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and other Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style. Much of Janáček's work displays great originality and individuality. Janáček is considered one of the most important Czech composers, along with Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo%C5%A1_Jan%C3%A1%C4%8Dek

***

Rafael Kubelík (29 June 1914 – 11 August 1996) was a Czech-born conductor, famously known for his interpretation of Czech music and Mahler's symphonies. He was the music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1961 to 1979 and was a frequent guest conductor for leading orchestras in Europe and America. As a composer, Kubelík wrote in a neo-romantic idiom.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafael_Kubel%C3%ADk

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Bedřich Smetana - Má vlast (Rafael Kubelik)


Information

Composer: Bedřich Smetana
  1. Má vlast (My country): Vyšehrad (Prague's historical fort)
  2. Má vlast (My country): Vltava (Czech's longest river)
  3. Má vlast (My country): Sárka (Bohemia's mythical warrior-maiden)
  4. Má vlast (My country): Z českých luhů a hájů (From Bohemia's woods and fields)
  5. Má vlast (My country): Tábor (Czech's city in South Bohemia)
  6. Má vlast (My country): Blaník (A Czech's mountain)

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Rafael Kubelík, conductor
Date: 1990
Label: Supraphon
http://www.supraphon.com/en/catalogue/on-line-database/detail/&idtitulu=617


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Review

Má Vlast is one of those pieces we may think we know, but which (in truth, for most of us at least) we know only in part. Vltava has long had a life of its own, of course. And rightly so: with its delectable programme and evocative descriptive effects, it’s high up on the list of everyone’s ‘classical’ favourites. But the other five pieces are hardly less memorable, being rich in atmosphere and patriotic fervour, and full of drama and event. This already-celebrated recording of the complete cycle was made at a very special concert in which a great orchestra and conductor made history: CDs of Má Vlast don’t come better than this.

Kubelík’s fifth recording of the complete Má Vlast cycle marked not only his recovery from a long and serious illness (indeed from virtual retirement) but also his return to his native Czechoslovakia after an absence of more than 40 years. Everything about this supremely involving and spontaneously idiomatic performance confirms the uniqueness of that event.

As so often with live performances, the freedom of pulse and moments of pointed emphasis are hallmarks of a great occasion, and the sort of thing one seldom finds (or which seldom work) in studio recordings. Subtlety is the order of the day: there’s drama in plenty, but no bombast! So the weaker moments (and let’s not pretend that there aren’t any) often emerge with real strength, and the patriotic shouting (at the end of Blaník, say) is never marred by noisy over-statement.

As I commented in my review of the Ančerl recording (11 1925-2011: same label, same orchestra), our familiarity with the timbre of the great ‘Western’ orchestras often leads us to question the sonorities of the great East European and Russian orchestras. And yet the extraordinarily distinctive colours of the Czech Philharmonic are precisely what Smetana would have heard and wanted. Their range of colour (from the moonlight scene of Vltava to the dark introduction to Tábor) is to be wondered at. And throughout, the playing is wonderfully secure and committed, with distinguished and characterful solos far too numerous to mention.

The recording is digital, but you may nevertheless find that it lacks the bloom, warmth and depth that this music of all music needs and deserves, and which Supraphon have commonly been able to deliver in other issues of similar vintage – such as the Mackerras recording of Má Vlaston Supraphon 3465-2 031. Regrettably, both audience and ambience are intrusive, sometimes when least welcome (such as in the delicate opening of Vltava, where coughing and shuffling mask all the musical detail), and applause – which is (unsurprisingly) rapturous! – is not edited out.

The booklet notes are unhelpfully brief, including as they do nothing about the music itself. Black marks here, I’m afraid.

At the end of the proverbial day, no recording of music so varied and so vital as this deserves to be singled out as a ‘winner’. So I hope no one’s wanting me to declare this the ‘best recording’, or not, as the case may be. But it is, literally, incomparable. Buy it, whether or not you have a Má Vlast already on your shelves!

-- Peter J Lawson, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Ma-Vlast-Bedrich-Smetana/dp/B00000DFMX

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Bedřich Smetana (2 March 1824 – 12 May 1884) was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country's aspirations to independent statehood. He is thus widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music. Internationally he is best known for his opera The Bartered Bride and for the symphonic cycle Má vlast ("My Homeland").

***

Rafael Kubelík (29 June 1914 – 11 August 1996) was a Czech-born conductor, famously known for his interpretation of Czech music and Mahler's symphonies. He was the music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1961 to 1979 and was a frequent guest conductor for leading orchestras in Europe and America. As a composer, Kubelík wrote in a neo-romantic idiom.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafael_Kubel%C3%ADk

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Arthur Honegger - Symphony No. 4; Summer Pastoral; A Christmas Cantata (Vladimir Jurowski)


Information

Composer: Arthur Honegger
  1. Pastorale d'été (Summer Pastoral)
  2. Symphony No. 4 "Deliciae Basilienses": Lento e misterioso - Allegro
  3. Symphony No. 4 "Deliciae Basilienses": Larghetto
  4. Symphony No. 4 "Deliciae Basilienses": Allegro
  5. Une Cantate de Noël (A Christmas Cantata): De profundis clamavi
  6. Une Cantate de Noël (A Christmas Cantata): Ne craignez point
  7. Une Cantate de Noël (A Christmas Cantata): Laudate Dominum omnes gentes

Christopher Maltman, baritone
London Philharmonic Choir; Neville Creed, chorus master
New London Children's Choir; Ronald Corp, choir master
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vladimir Jurowski, conductor
Date: 2007 (1-4), 2009 (5-7)
Label: LPO

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Review

While there is strength to some of Honegger’s works, not least his oratorio Le roi David and the orchestral Pacific 231 and Symphonie liturgique (his Symphony No 3), this curious disc seems intent, for the most part, on suggesting that he possessed an uncommon ability to induce catalepsy in his listeners. The Fourth Symphony of 1946, written to a commission from his Swiss compatriot Paul Sacher, is subtitled Deliciae basiliensis – the Delights of Basle – and is crafted with impeccable, watchmaker precision in terms of some interesting rhythmic syncopations and, in general, a bristling command of instrumental timbre. However, the moments that catch the ear are interspersed with others where Honegger seems to be treading water, or where he seems to be flexing his contrapuntal muscles in a clever-clever way or making a stab at humour.

What a strange conundrum the symphony is, but the LPO play it as though they meant every note. It was recorded live at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall (while the Festival Hall was still closed for renovation) in March 2007, along with the Pastoral d’été of 1920. That was the year in which the iconoclastic group of Les Six, in which Honegger was included, really came into being, but Pastorale d’été shows him clinging on to sounds of the 19th century, not without some skill but with little to identify him as a distinctive voice. The well-made, heartfelt and ultimately jubilant Une cantate de Noël of 1953, recorded at the RFH in 2009, is altogether more uplifting.

-- Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2012/Feb12/HoneggerPastorale_LPO0058.htm
http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_cd_review.php?id=9829
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/nov/10/honegger-pastorale-ete-cantate-review
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Honegger-Pastorale-Symphony-Cantate-LPO-0058/dp/B005OZDXY6
https://www.amazon.com/Honegger-Pastoral-Symphony-Christmas-Cantata/dp/B005OZDXY6

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Arthur Honegger (10 March 1892 – 27 November 1955) was a Swiss composer, who was born in France and lived a large part of his life in Paris. He was a member of Les Six. His most frequently performed work is probably the orchestral work Pacific 231, which was inspired by the sound of a steam locomotive. His style is weightier and more solemn than that of his colleagues in Les Six.

***

Vladimir Jurowski (born 4 April 1972 in Moscow, Russia) is a Russian conductor. In May 2006, Jurowski was announced as the 11th Principal Conductor of the LPO. His contract was furthered through 2018. In September 2015, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Jurowski as its next chief conductor, effective with the 2017-2018 season.

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