MEGA has deleted a lot of my files and it's hard for me to know which ones that need to be re-uploaded.
So, if you find an expired link and want a re-up, please leave a comment. Just not too many requests at once.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Carl Maria von Weber - Sonatas for Piano and Violin; Piano Quartet (Alexander Melnikov; Isabelle Faust)


Information

Composer: Carl Maria von Weber
  • (01-03) 6 Sonates progressives, for piano & violin obbligato, Op. 10 - No. 6 in C major
  • (04-05) 6 Sonates progressives, for piano & violin obbligato, Op. 10 - No. 3 in D mino
  • (06-07) 6 Sonates progressives, for piano & violin obbligato, Op. 10 - No. 4 in E flat major
  • (08-11) Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op. 8
  • (12-14) 6 Sonates progressives, for piano & violin obbligato, Op. 10 - No. 2 in G major
  • (15-16) 6 Sonates progressives, for piano & violin obbligato, Op. 10 - No. 5 in A major
  • (17-19) 6 Sonates progressives, for piano & violin obbligato, Op. 10 - No. 1 in F major

Alexander Melnikov, piano
Isabelle Faust, violin
Boris Faust, viola (08-11)
Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt, cello (08-11)
Date: 2011
Label: Harmonia Mundi

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Review

Regular duo partners Faust and Melnikov record the sonatas

In the terminology of the time, these six Weber ‘progressive’ sonatas of 1810 are ‘for piano with violin obbligato’, but, if the piano does tend to take the upper hand, there would be some strange lacunae if the violin stopped playing. Here we are a long way from Der Freischütz and even further from Euryanthe and Oberon, all completed in the 1820s, but Weber’s originality and Romantic leanings are already in evidence. This is all the more true of the B flat Piano Quartet of 1809, harking back to Classical models in certain respects but, in the slow movement particularly, striving for a mode of expression that would come to fruition in the operas.

The piano-writing in the sonatas is already prescient of the effervescent fun that Weber would have in the F minor Konzertstück of 1821. The publisher who commissioned the sonatas rejected them because they were insufficiently dull, according to Weber; and when they eventually saw the light of day they were still described as being for amateurs. These would need to be advanced, agile amateurs, given the dazzle of some of the passagework, but – perhaps even more important – they would also need to have a developed aptitude for interpretation to bring out the music’s diverse characteristics and spirit in a way that the performers on this disc so entertainingly and perceptively do. Alexander Melnikov, with exuberance and sensitivity, plays a fortepiano of about 1815, and Isabelle Faust (on a Stradivarius) is his lithe, discerning and thoroughly engaging companion.

-- Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2013/Feb13/Weber_Faust_HMC902108.htm
http://classicalsource.com/db_control/db_cd_review.php?id=10797
http://www.thestrad.com/cpt-reviews/weber-six-sonatas-op-10-piano-quartet-in-b-flat-major-op-81/
http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/Review/345049,weber-violin-sonatas-piano-quartet-faust-melnikov.aspx
http://audaud.com/2012/12/weber-piano-quartet-in-b-flat-major-6-sonatas-isabelle-faust-violinboris-faust-viola-wolfgang-emanuel-schmidt-cello-alexander-melnikov-fortepiano-harmonia-mundi/
http://www.amazon.com/Weber-Violin-Sonatas-Nos-1-6-Quartet/dp/B009SCVJ6K

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Carl Maria von Weber (18 or 19 November 1786 – 5 June 1826) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school. His operas greatly influenced the development of the Romantic opera in Germany. His composition for piano influenced composers such as Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn. His compositions for woodwind instruments occupy an important place in the musical repertoire. His orchestration has also been highly praised and emulated by later generations of composers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Maria_von_Weber

***

Alexander Melnikov (born 1973) is a Russian pianist. Known for his often-unusual musical and programmatic decisions, Alexander Melnikov discovered a career-long interest in historically-informed performance practice at an early age. Melnikov’s association with the label Harmonia Mundi arose through his regular recital partner, violinist Isabelle Faust.

***

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. Faust has won multiple awards for her recordings, mostly on Harmonia Mundi.

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Carl Maria von Weber; Gioachino Rossini - Clarinet Concertos (Charles Neidich)


Composer: Carl Maria von Weber; Gioachino Rossini
  1. Weber - Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73: 1. Allegro
  2. Weber - Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73: 2. Adagio ma non troppo
  3. Weber - Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73: 3. Rondo (Allegretto)
  4. Weber - Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra in E flat major, Op. 26: Adagio ma non troppo
  5. Weber - Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra in E flat major, Op. 26: Andante
  6. Weber - Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra in E flat major, Op. 26: Allegro
  7. Rossini - Introduction, Theme and Variations in E flat major: Introduzione (Andante sostenuto)
  8. Rossini - Introduction, Theme and Variations in E flat major: Tema (Allegretto)
  9. Rossini - Introduction, Theme and Variations in E flat major: Var. I (Più mosso)
  10. Rossini - Introduction, Theme and Variations in E flat major: Var. II
  11. Rossini - Introduction, Theme and Variations in E flat major: Var. III
  12. Rossini - Introduction, Theme and Variations in E flat major: Var. IV (Largo minore - Più mosso - A tempo)
  13. Rossini - Introduction, Theme and Variations in E flat major: Var. V (Maggiore)
  14. Weber - Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 74: 1. Allegro
  15. Weber - Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 74: 2. Romanza (Andante)
  16. Weber - Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 74: 3. Alla Polacca

Charles Neidich, clarinet
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Date: 1991
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4358752

More info & reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Clarinet-Concerti-1-2-Concertino/dp/B000001GH6


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Carl Maria von Weber (18 or 19 November 1786 – 5 June 1826) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school. His operas greatly influenced the development of the Romantic opera in Germany. His composition for piano influenced composers such as Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn. His compositions for woodwind instruments occupy an important place in the musical repertoire. His orchestration has also been highly praised and emulated by later generations of composers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Maria_von_Weber

***

Gioachino Rossini (29 February 1792 – 13 November 1868) was an Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces. His best-known operas include the Italian comedies Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) and La Cenerentola (Cinderella), and the French-language epics Moïse et Pharaon and Guillaume Tell (William Tell). A tendency for inspired, song-like melodies is evident throughout his scores, which led to the nickname "The Italian Mozart" Until his retirement in 1829, Rossini had been the most popular opera composer in history.

***

Charles Neidich (born 1953, New York City) is an American classical clarinetist, composer, and conductor. Neidich has gained worldwide recognition as one of the most mesmerizing virtuosos on his instrument. With a tone of hypnotic beauty and a dazzling technique, Mr. Neidich has received unanimous accolades from critics and fellow musicians both in the United States and abroad. He has been influential in restoring original versions of clarinet works and bringing them before the public.

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Carl Maria von Weber - Symphonies; Bassoon Concerto (Jean-Jacques Kantorow; Jaakko Luoma)


Information

Composer: Carl Maria von Weber
  1. Symphony No. 2 in C major, J. 51: I. Allegro
  2. Symphony No. 2 in C major, J. 51: II. Adagio, ma non troppo
  3. Symphony No. 2 in C major, J. 51: III. Menuetto - Trio. Allegro
  4. Symphony No. 2 in C major, J. 51: IV. Finale. Scherzo Presto
  5. Andante e Rondo Ungarese, for bassoon and orchestra, J. 158: Andante
  6. Andante e Rondo Ungarese, for bassoon and orchestra, J. 158: Allegretto ungarese
  7. Concerto in F major, for bassoon and orchestra, J. 127: I. Allegro ma non troppo
  8. Concerto in F major, for bassoon and orchestra, J. 127: II. Adagio
  9. Concerto in F major, for bassoon and orchestra, J. 127: III. Rondo. Allegro
  10. Symphony No. 1 in C major, J. 50: I. Allegro con fuoco
  11. Symphony No. 1 in C major, J. 50: II. Andante
  12. Symphony No. 1 in C major, J. 50: III. Scherzo - Trio. Presto
  13. Symphony No. 1 in C major, J. 50: IV. Finale. Presto

Jaakko Luoma, bassoon (5-9)
Tapiola Sinfonietta
Jean-Jacques Kantorow, conductor
Date: 2009
Label: BIS
http://bis.se/composer/weber-carl-maria-von/weber-the-symphonies

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Review

There is little that can be done for Weber’s gauche, mindless early symphonies, written when he was 21. They are all sparks and bombast, with colorful surfaces but virtually no content. Single woodwinds (there are no clarinets) generally carry the tunes, passing them around the section, while strings offer some relief; brass join in for consistently loud, fanfare-like tutti. The general consensus has been to play the symphonies as fast as possible (to get them over with?). Kantorow does that too, and his 40-piece orchestra, playing modern instruments with all the snap, sparkle, and tonal panache of period practice—more so than Roy Goodman’s period-instrument Hanover Band—makes the most of the symphonies, aided by BIS ’s usual sensational recorded sound. Luoma’s bassoon stands out among the winds; Roger Norrington’s London Classical Players have better-balanced wind soloists, but the overall performances are not as precise. The Second Symphony opens this disc, beginning with a stunning two-bar fanfare; unfortunately, it never does anything with it, making the 10-minute Allegro seem endless. As if the composer immediately recognized the problem, the following three movements whiz by in a mere eight minutes. After the “final” coda and a pause, two brief pp notes from bassoon and low strings bring the proceedings to a close. Haydn did everything better, including jokes and false endings.

Concerted pieces always inspired the best from Weber: three for clarinet, three more for piano, one each for oboe and French horn. These two for bassoon are the cream of that instrument’s repertoire (there also was a kid named Mozart). Playing a bassoon built in 2000 by Wilhelm Heckel—I don’t know if he is related to the creator of the heckelphone—Luoma sails through both works with the greatest of ease, producing consistently lovely tones. Whatever happened to that grumpy old instrument that was so difficult to play?

The First Symphony comes last, probably so that its Presto finale, the most successful movement of the eight, can wind up the disc with a bang. As fine as the CD is, SACD opens up the sound, giving it more life. Trumpets and strings gain clarity and presence, which makes the winds recede slightly from the spotlight. Surround sound adds an airy feeling, but doesn’t alter the basic sound. If you must have Weber’s symphonies, this is certainly the disc to get, especially so given the bonus bassoon works. But the others mentioned also include marvelous bonuses: Melvyn Tan plays the fortepiano Konzertstück with Norrington, and Anthony Halstead plays a natural horn in the Horn Concertino with Goodman.

-- James H. North, FANFARE

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2010/Apr10/Weber_symphonies_bissacd1620.htm
http://www.allmusic.com/album/weber-the-symphonies-bassoon-concerto-andante-e-rondo-ungarese-mw0001406063
https://www.amazon.com/Symphonies-C-M-Von-Weber/dp/B002AS45R4

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Carl Maria von Weber (18 or 19 November 1786 – 5 June 1826) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school. His operas greatly influenced the development of the Romantic opera in Germany. His composition for piano influenced composers such as Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn. His compositions for woodwind instruments occupy an important place in the musical repertoire. His orchestration has also been highly praised and emulated by later generations of composers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Maria_von_Weber

***

Jean-Jacques Kantorow (born 3 October 1945 in Cannes) is a French violin virtuoso and conductor. Since the 1970s he has been noted for his solo performances in a very wide range of repertoire and as a chamber music performer. His recordings have won many awards. He plays a Stradivarius attributed violin, the ‘ex-Leopold Auer’, dated 1699. In the 1980s he began a separate career as conductor.

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Carl Maria von Weber - Overtures (Wolfgang Sawallisch)


Information

Composer: Carl Maria von Weber
  1. Euryanthe, opera, Op. 81: Overture
  2. Der Beherrscher der Geister (The Ruler of the Spirits), Op. 27
  3. Abu Hassan, opera, J. 106: Overture
  4. Jubel-Ouvertüre, Op. 59
  5. Der Freischütz, opera, Op. 77: Overture
  6. Preciosa, incidental music, Op. 78: Overture
  7. Oberon, opera, J. 306: Overture

Philharmonia Orchestra
Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor
Date: 1958
Label: EMI


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Review

This album, recorded in 1958, has held up well over the years. True, the stereo sound is somewhat dated, but the performances are wonderful and more than compensate for the slightly tubby bass. Not all of Weber’s overtures are included, for that Chandos (Järvi) gets the nod, but the most popular ones are here. Among the many merits found on this recording is the way Sawallisch has found the unique personality of each piece, the way he has illuminated Weber’s mastery of orchestration. What a pity the overtures to Peter Schmoll, Silvana, and Turandot were not included. Recorded in the days of LP, time constraints may have been a deciding factor for their exclusion.

The same seven overtures are presented on a Capriccio disc with Gustav Kuhn leading the Staatskapelle Dresden. Surprisingly, the 1985 digital sound isn’t as revealing or as immediate as EMI’s 1958 analog, although the bass on the Capriccio is more naturally rendered. Kuhn’s performances have their moments, but they seem more restrained than Sawallisch’s. A better bet is Karajan’s (DG) of Weber’s overtures preceded by Berlioz’s orchestration of Invitation to the Dance. The 1972 sound is warmer than EMI’s, although there is more resonance. Only six of the overtures are included (five are duplicates of Sawallisch’s choices) and the overture to Peter Schmoll is included. The most striking difference between the EMI and the DG discs is the smooth and elegant playing by the Berlin Philharmonic under Karajan; Sawallisch’s performances are exuberant and very often exciting. Which to choose? If you want Invitation to the Dance and Peter Schmoll, go with Karajan. If you want Jubel and Preciosa and exciting performances, pick the Sawallisch. I wouldn’t want to be without either one.

-- David L. Kirk, FANFARE

More reviews:

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Carl Maria von Weber (18 or 19 November 1786 – 5 June 1826) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school. His operas greatly influenced the development of the Romantic opera in Germany. His composition for piano influenced composers such as Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn. His compositions for woodwind instruments occupy an important place in the musical repertoire. His orchestration has also been highly praised and emulated by later generations of composers.

***

Wolfgang Sawallisch (26 August 1923 – 22 February 2013) was a German conductor and pianist. Sawallisch has been acclaimed as an interpreter of the music of Richard Strauss. As a pianist, he accompanied a number of prominent singers in lieder, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dame Margaret Price. He has also been acclaimed for his interpretations of the symphonies of Anton Bruckner.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Carl Maria von Weber - Piano Concertos; Konzertstück (Nikolai Demidenko)


Information

Composer: Carl Maria von Weber
  1. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 11: I. Allegro
  2. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 11: II. Adagio
  3. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 11: III. Presto
  4. Piano Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 32: I. Allegro maestoso
  5. Piano Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 32: II. Adagio
  6. Piano Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 32: III. Rondeau. Presto
  7. Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79: I. Larghetto affettuoso - attacca:
  8. Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79: II. Allegro passionato - attacca:
  9. Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79: III. Tempo di Marcia - attacca:
  10. Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79: IV. Più mosso - Presto giojoso

Nikolai Demidenko, piano
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Charles Mackerras, conductor

Date: 1994
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA66729

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Review

This trilogy represents a breath of fresh air and a delight to hear amongst the repertoire of romantic piano concertos generally. Only over the last decade has an interest been shown in recording these works. One good early (1993) recording has appeared in turn on a number of budget labels from ZYX Classics to VOX with Hamburger Symphoniker under Köhler and can be used as a benchmark for this Hyperion version. It is understandable that someone like Mackerras with a deep interest in the romantic masters would find the recording of these sumptuous works irresistible.

Weber was only basically educated in music by his father before sending him to Michael Haydn in Salzburg for more serious study. Weber became an excellent pianist and undertook tours throughout Germany, His own piano music was of a standard comparable with that of the great Beethoven and although he could have followed Mozart as a model, he explored new directions and was equally imaginative in his compositions such as the ones found here. As the CD notes state, he took advantage of his gift for pearling runs and athletic leaps, thirds and sixths, octaves and glissandi. He exploited to the full his enormous long-fingered hand-stretch of around a twelfth. Thus as the composer Julius Benedict remembers,"Weber produced the most startling effects of sonority and possessed the power to elicit an almost vocal quality of tone."

The First Concerto opens with a bouncy and uplifting theme that yields interesting elements of surprise. The flow is melodic and Schubertian in parts yet more progressive. A chamber orchestral scoring is provided to carry the romantic Adagio, and a lovely dancing cross-rhythm runs through the Presto finale. One is aware of Mozartian and Beethovenian characteristics in some of the passages.

The Second Concerto pays homage to Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. An admirer of Beethoven, Weber bought a copy of the score in 1811 and wrote this concerto in the same key a year later. He likewise includes a partially muted string Adagio in B major plus a lively galloping closing rondo in 6/8 time. Called‘a gem’by Benedict I find this work with its stately opening equally impressive as Beethoven’s concerto with interesting dialogue between soloist and orchestra. In the first movement a hint of Invitation to the Dance appears and as does a passage he must have remembered later when composing Der Freischütz. The beautifully composed and lovely Rondo: Presto is played by Demidenko and Mackerras with much panache (tk6).

The Konzertstück is a structured concerto with four seamless movements. It contains emotive ideas – parting, lament, misery, consolation, reunion and jubilation. A slow introduction is followed by a brilliant Allegro passionato (with Adagio bridge), a heavy-beat march and a lively Presto finale.

Nikolai Demidenko is first rate with his interpretation and certainly has the edge over Maria Littauer. (I cannot speak in relation to any other recordings.) His subtle phrasing and enjoyable glissandos are charming. Both soloist and conductor are well matched and sense each other’s subtleties. The recording is not as crisp as the spectacular recently released Saint-Saëns concerto set but the balance is good.

This Hyperion disc was first released in 1994.

The adequate notes are provided in English, French and German with a focus more on the pieces than the composer’s background.

-- Raymond J Walker, MusicWeb International

More reviews:

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Carl Maria von Weber (18 or 19 November 1786 – 5 June 1826) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school. His operas greatly influenced the development of the Romantic opera in Germany. His composition for piano influenced composers such as Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn. His compositions for woodwind instruments occupy an important place in the musical repertoire. His orchestration has also been highly praised and emulated by later generations of composers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Maria_von_Weber

***

Nikolai Demidenko (born July 1, 1955, Aniskino) is a Soviet-Russian-born classical pianist. Demidenko studied at the Moscow Gnessin School with Anna Kantor and at the Moscow Conservatoire under Dmitri Bashkirov. In addition to a vast amount of the standard Germanic and Russian repertory, he is a specialist of Frédéric Chopin and a noted champion of the works of neglected composers, such as Carl Maria von Weber and Nikolai Medtner, as well as neglected works of well-known composers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Demidenko

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Carl Maria von Weber - Piano Sonatas (Garrick Ohlsson)


Information

Composer:

CD1:
  1. Piano Sonata No. 1 in C major, Op. 24: 1. Allegro
  2. Piano Sonata No. 1 in C major, Op. 24: 2. Adagio
  3. Piano Sonata No. 1 in C major, Op. 24: 3. Menuetto: Allegro - Trio: Poco ritenuto
  4. Piano Sonata No. 1 in C major, Op. 24: 4. Rondo: Presto
  5. Piano Sonata No. 2 in A flat major, Op. 39: 1. Allegro moderato con spirito ed assai legato
  6. Piano Sonata No. 2 in A flat major, Op. 39: 2. Andante: Ben tenuto
  7. Piano Sonata No. 2 in A flat major, Op. 39: 3. Menuetto capriccioso: Presto assai
  8. Piano Sonata No. 2 in A flat major, Op. 39: 4. Rondo: Moderato e molto grazioso
  9. Aufforderung zum Tanz (Invitation to the Dance), Op. 65
CD2:
  1. Piano Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 49: 1. Allegro feroce
  2. Piano Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 49: 2. Andante con moto
  3. Piano Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 49: 3. Rondo: Presto
  4. Piano Sonata No. 4 in E minor, Op. 70: 1. Moderato
  5. Piano Sonata No. 4 in E minor, Op. 70: 2. Menuetto: Presto vivace ed energico
  6. Piano Sonata No. 4 in E minor, Op. 70: 3. Andante (quasi allegretto) consolante
  7. Piano Sonata No. 4 in E minor, Op. 70: 4. Prestissimo
  8. Rondo brillante, Op. 62
  9. Momento capriccioso, Op. 12

Garrick Ohlsson, piano
Date: 1988
Label: Hyperion (original on Arabesque)
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDD22076

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Review

Weber's four sonatas were overdue for a new CD recording, and they have found a fine and sensitive interpreter in Garrick Ohlsson. He is a pianist who can touch extremes, which suits Weber's dramatic temperament; he is also thoughtful, with an elegant sense of form. The latter quality is important, since Weber, never really at home in sonata form, likes to make his own structures, and asks of his performers that they shall understand the point of them—which is sometimes overtly or covertly dramatic—and not try to force them into conventional forms. He also, perhaps paradoxically for one of the great pianists of the age, reminds listeners from time to time that he was the father figure of romantic orchestration. A true Weber pianist needs to keep his antennae a-quiver.

Ohlsson is first rate. In the First Sonata, he has the sense of fantasy which the opening movement demands (though why does he clip the even semiquaver phrasing so drily?). He opens not with a great crash of tone on the diminished sevenths that so uncannily anticipate Chopin's Revolutionary Study, but almost coolly: it works in the context of his quite light but well-conceived reading of the movement (I wish he had taken the repeat). In the Adagio he opens with beautifully lucent tone, turning to the second subject (which is in much the manner of some of Weber's guitar songs) with nice rubato and sensuous warmth of tone. He takes the Minuet slower than its Allegro marking would warrant, but justifies this by bringing out a latently sinister feeling: I doubt if Weber would have complained. The finale is taken at breakneck speed, with a beautifully even, pearly sound. Ohlsson uses a modern Bosendorfer, and who is to object?

This intelligent variety of manner and of approach distinguishes the other three sonatas. The Second Sonata opens not with the grandiose sweep of many performances—and it can take that approach, too—but with a reflective quality that is actually implied by much else in the movement, including some of the markings (passionato, leggiermente, con molt' affetto and so on). It is a reading that prepares well for the contrasts of the Andante, a solemn, considered reading here, and the Minuet, which goes at scherzo pace. The finale returns to a more plaintive, gentle manner. The tempo is only moderato, and this balances beautifully the opening movement, and the two central movements between them.

The Third Sonata opens, as Weber asks, Allegro feroce: this is a tense, urgent piece of playing (and again, it is good to have the repeat). The Andante con moto requires of the pianist a real range of keyboard sonorities, implying as it does such a variety of instrumental, even orchestral textures: Ohlsson handles this with great sensitivity and intelligence. The recording engineers, quick to catch what he is doing, only let him down in the Chopinesque trio in the scherzo of the last of the four sonatas. This work Ohlsson plays, with, I think, something less than the desperate, death-haunted urgency which the music surely implies. He is sensitive with it, and responds to the work's almost monothematic nature (the obsessive descending scale), but I have heard performances which bring out more affectingly the music's possessed quality.

However, these are distinguished performances, by a pianist of true romantic temper, of four works that have had more than their share of misunderstanding from performers and critics alike. Ohlsson also gives nimble accounts of two little jeux d'esprits, and of the famous Invitation to the dance. For all the charm and elegance of Berlioz's indispensable orchestration (a pity that Glinka's is lost), I continue to prefer the original. It has a point, in its solo virtuosity, and is a fascinating harbinger of much that was to be explored by Schumann and Liszt, among many other of the great romantics. Ohlsson plays it most winningly.

-- John Warrack, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/weber-complete-piano-sonatas
http://www.amazon.com/Weber-Complete-Sonatas-Garrick-Ohlsson/dp/B004K4T6DE
http://www.amazon.com/Weber-Complete-Carl-Maria-von/dp/B000000T72

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Carl Maria von Weber (18 or 19 November 1786 – 5 June 1826) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school. His operas greatly influenced the development of the Romantic opera in Germany. His composition for piano influenced composers such as Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn. His compositions for woodwind instruments occupy an important place in the musical repertoire. His orchestration has also been highly praised and emulated by later generations of composers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Maria_von_Weber

***

Garrick Ohlsson (born April 3, 1948 in New York) is an American classical pianist. Ohlsson was the first American to win first prize in the International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition, in 1970. Ohlsson is an avid chamber musician and has collaborated with the Cleveland, Emerson, Takács and Tokyo string quartets, among other ensembles. Ohlsson possesses an unusually vast repertoire that ranges over some eighty concertos. He is also known for his exceptional keyboard stretch (a 12th in the left hand and an 11th in the right).

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Camille Saint-Saëns - String Quartets (Fine Arts Quartet)


Information

Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
  1. String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, Op. 112: I. Allegro
  2. String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, Op. 112: II. Molto allegro quasi presto
  3. String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, Op. 112: III. Molto adagio
  4. String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, Op. 112: IV. Allegro non troppo
  5. String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 153: I. Allegro animato
  6. String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 153: II. Molto adagio - Andantino
  7. String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 153: III. Interlude et finale. Andantino - Allegretto con moto

Fine Arts Quartet
Ralph Evans, violin
Efim Boico, violin
Nicolò Eugelmi, viola
Wolfgang Laufer, cello

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Review

The Fine Arts Quartet continue their admirable series (Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Bruckner, Franck and Fauré) with Saint-Saëns’s two string quartets. And here they make a persuasive case for music that is not only “brilliantly crafted” but “serious and intellectual” (their leader Ralph Evans). Certainly the First Quartet in E minor in particular is a reminder of music beyond the elegant facility with which Saint-Saëns is habitually credited. He may have “produced music as an apple tree produces apples” (his own words) but later in his life the string quartet provided him with a special challenge.

There is urgency as well as charm, and an expressive range that makes Fauré’s lifelong admiration understandable. The first-movement development is intricate and dramatic, and the second movement’s syncopation is again urgent rather than lightweight. There is major-key relief in the Second Quartet, composed in the spirit of Mozart and with the first movement’s celebration of youth clouded by an awareness of old age in the Molto adagio – Andantino (with his typically dry humour, Saint-Saëns dismissed it as “deadly dull”). But there is nothing dull about the Fine Arts’ playing. Excellently balanced and recorded, they bring fervour and commitment to music which will cause many listeners to reconsider Saint-Saëns’s musical standing.

-- Bruce Morrison, Gramophone

More reviews:

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Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. His best-known works include his concertos for violin, piano and cello, his 3rd symphony, Danse macabre and The Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy, making his concert debut at the age of ten. He held only one teaching post for less than five years. His students included Gabriel Fauré.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns

***

The Fine Arts Quartet is a chamber music ensemble founded in Chicago, United States in 1946 by Leonard Sorkin and George Sopkin. Since 1963, the Quartet has recorded and toured internationally for over half a century, making it one of the longest enduring major string quartets. In its history, the Quartet has had two leaders: Sorkin, from 1946 to 1981, and Ralph Evans, from 1982 to the present.

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Camille Saint-Saëns - Piano Trios (Florestan Trio)


Information

Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
  1. Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Op. 18: 1. Allegro vivace
  2. Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Op. 18: 2. Andante
  3. Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Op. 18: 3. Scherzo. Presto
  4. Piano Trio No. 1 in F major, Op. 18: 4. Allegro
  5. Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 92: 1. Allegro ma non troppo
  6. Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 92: 2. Allegretto
  7. Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 92: 3. Andante con moto
  8. Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 92: 4. Grazioso, poco allegro
  9. Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 92: 5. Allegro

Florestan Trio
Anthony Marwood, violin
Richard Leste, cello
Susan Tomes, piano


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Review

Well, the Florestan Trio have done it again – if this disc doesn’t at least win a Gramophone Award nomination, I’ll eat my hat. Indeed, such is the cumulative emotional impact of these performances that, I don’t mind admitting, I wept during the wonderful fortissimo climax of the E minor trio’s first movement – that even before the astonishing intensity of the final, precipitous Allegro.

I say cumulative because most of the time the Florestan prefer stealth and suggestion; they don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves – unlike the equally brilliant but more high-octane accounts by Trio Wanderer (Harmonia Mundi, 10/05). That’s not to say that the Florestan lack thrills or the Wanderer refinement. With this new recording all is, like Saint-Saëns’s art, a filigree lightness and clarity that somehow twists itself into an ever-deepening pattern of turmoil.

Listen to the underlying wistfulness in the F major Trio: how the élan of the first movement’s final chords provides a springboard into a cheerful bucolic landscape that is nevertheless crossed with clouds – this brought about by a web of delicate rhythmic and tonal shading in the string-playing stretched over Susan Tomes’s dancing, pellucid framework.

Or the maturity and self-confidence in the E minor: nothing is forced, everything flows – from the stormy first movement through the lighter central movements (and here the languid descending phrases of the Andante con moto are beautifully sculpted by both Marwood and Lester) to the complex yet never turgid imitative writing of the last. Recorded sound and accompanying notes are, of course, impeccable. No argument: just buy it.

-- William Yeoman, Gramophone

More reviews:
ClassicsToday ARTISTIC: 10 / SOUND: 10
MusicWeb International RECORDING OF THE MONTH

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Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. His best-known works include his concertos for violin, piano and cello, his 3rd symphony, Danse macabre and The Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy, making his concert debut at the age of ten. He held only one teaching post for less than five years. His students included Gabriel Fauré.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns

***

The Florestan Trio was formed in 1995 in London. That year 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. The Trio has established a reputation as one of the finest piano trios in the world. In its first decade, the group has made 14 recordings on the Hyperion label, all of which received Gramophone nominations.
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/florestan-trio-mn0001398686

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Camille Saint-Saëns - Piano Quartet; Piano Quintet; Septet; Sonatas (The Nash Ensemble)


Information

Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns

CD1:
  1. Septet in E flat major, for trumpet, piano, string quartet & double bass, Op. 65: 1. Préambule
  2. Septet in E flat major, for trumpet, piano, string quartet & double bass, Op. 65: 2. Menuet
  3. Septet in E flat major, for trumpet, piano, string quartet & double bass, Op. 65: 3. Intermède
  4. Septet in E flat major, for trumpet, piano, string quartet & double bass, Op. 65: 4. Gavotte et Final
  5. Tarentelle in A minor, for flute, clarinet & orchestra, Op. 6
  6. Bassoon Sonata in G major, Op. 168: 1. Allegretto moderato
  7. Bassoon Sonata in G major, Op. 168: 2. Allegro scherzando
  8. Bassoon Sonata in G major, Op. 168: 3. Molto adagio - Allegro moderato
  9. Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op. 4: 1. Allegretto
  10. Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op. 4: 2. Andante maestoso ma con moto
  11. Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op. 4: 3. Poco allegro più tosto moderato
  12. Piano Quartet in B flat major, Op. 4: 4. Allegro
CD2:
  1. Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 14: 1. Allegro moderato e maestoso
  2. Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 14: 2. Andante sostenuto
  3. Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 14: 3. Presto
  4. Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 14: 4. Allegro assai, ma tranquillo
  5. Oboe Sonata in D major, Op. 166: 1. Andantino
  6. Oboe Sonata in D major, Op. 166: 2. Allegretto
  7. Oboe Sonata in D major, Op. 166: 3. Molto allegretto
  8. Clarinet Sonata in E flat major, Op. 167: 1. Allegretto
  9. Clarinet Sonata in E flat major, Op. 167: 2. Allegro animato
  10. Clarinet Sonata in E flat major, Op. 167: 3. Lento
  11. Clarinet Sonata in E flat major, Op. 167: 4. Molto allegro - Allegretto
  12. Caprice sur des airs Danois et Russes, for flute, oboe, clarinet & piano, Op. 79

The Nash Ensemble
Ian Brown, piano
Mark David, trumpet
Marianne Thorsen, violin
David Adams, violin
Benjamin Nabarro, violin
Lawrence Power, viola
Paul Watkins, cello
Duncan McTier, double bass
Philippa Davies, flute
Gareth Hulse, oboe
Richard Hosford, clarinet
Ursula Levaux, bassoon

Date: 2004
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67431/2

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Review

Saint-Saëns’s chamber music fares better in the concert hall than the recording studio, perhaps because musicians tend to listen less to academic name-calling (‘conservative’, ‘too prolific’) than to the music itself. The three late wind sonatas in particular have received far fewer recordings than their status as repertoire staples deserves. Try the kinky-Baroque first movement of the Oboe Sonata, jauntily phrased by Gareth Hulse, or theanimato second of the Clarinet Sonata, garbed in rich Mozartian cloth by Richard Hosford. My own favourite is the Bassoon Sonata, for its fresh and gentle wit and skirting of cliché: Ursula Leveaux does it proud, with especially luscious tone in the opening Allegretto.

Surprises are thinner on the ground in the earlier works but none is less than, to echo Ravel’s assessment, ‘finely put together’. Hummability quotient is high in the Piano Quartet and Quintet, and off the scale in the Septet. The late Lionel Salter used to complain in these pages that recordings of the Septet tend to sound like a trumpet concerto; not this one. If you employ hit artists like Maurice André they will tend to hog the microphone but, happily, Mark David is a more sensitive soul who has fully imbibed the Nash’s joyous spirit of corporate music-making, and Hyperion’s engineers have placed him at a respectable distance. If anything it is Ian Brown’s piano that takes centre-stage, and that’s no bad thing except in the extensive fugal finales to the Piano Quartet and Quintet where Saint-Saëns, most unusually, seems to over-run himself.

I might return less frequently to the Caprice and Tarantelle for all Philippa Davies’s sparkling contributions, but really, this is a set of sheer delight: let’s hear it for imaginative conservatism.

-- Peter Quantrill, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****
MusicWeb International RECORDING OF THE MONTH

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Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. His best-known works include his concertos for violin, piano and cello, his 3rd symphony, Danse macabre and The Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy, making his concert debut at the age of ten. He held only one teaching post for less than five years. His students included Gabriel Fauré.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns

***

London-based Nash Ensemble is a chamber orchestra consisting of 11 regular members, though their number can vary widely according to the work performed. The group's repertory is broad, but favors modern works by English composers. Founded in 1964 by Amelia Freedman, its longtime artistic director, the Nash Ensemble took its name from the famous Nash terraces in London, designed by architect John Nash.
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/nash-ensemble-mn0001914151

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Camille Saint-Saëns - Violin Sonatas (Philippe Graffin; Pascal Devoyon)


Information

Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
  1. Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75: I. Allegro agitato
  2. Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75: II. Adagio
  3. Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75: III. Allegro moderato
  4. Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor, Op. 75: IV. Allegro molto
  5. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 102: I. Poco allegro
  6. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 102: II. Scherzo
  7. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 102: III. Andante
  8. Violin Sonata No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 102: IV. Allegro grazioso
  9. Triptyque, Op. 136: I. Premice
  10. Triptyque, Op. 136: II. Vision congolaise
  11. Triptyque, Op. 136: III. Joyeusete
  12. Élégie, Op. 143
  13. Élégie, Op. 160
  14. Berceuse in B flat major, Op. 38

Philippe Graffin, violin
Pascal Devoyon, piano
Date: 1999
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67100

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 9 / SOUND QUALITY: 9

The neglect of the vast majority of Saint-Saëns' chamber and orchestral output is a loss to music lovers everywhere. Even worse is the condescending attitude of musical academia toward a composer who not only was fantastically gifted in his own right, but a true scholar and student of the classics. And if his own works sometimes reflect the result of this knowledge, then what's the harm? The composer himself once said something along these lines: "He who does not get absolute pleasure from a series of well-constructed chords, beautiful only in their arrangement, is not really fond of music." The two violin sonatas, Triptyque, and shorter works contain more than an adequate share of well-constructed chords, and much else besides. They standwith the similar works of Dvorák, Fauré, and Brahms at the pinnacle of Romantic achievement in this medium, and their comparative neglect is wholly underserved, as these winsome, musicianly performances clearly demonstrate. Philippe Graffin has already demonstrated his talents in the same composer's three violin concertos. His playing marries classical refinement to a passionate urgency of expression, especially in the turbulent D minor Sonata's Beethovenian outer movements. His partner handles the busy piano parts with equal intelligence. There's a lot more muscle and substance to this music than conventional wisdom recognizes. They deserve and will reward your attention.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

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

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Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. His best-known works include his concertos for violin, piano and cello, his 3rd symphony, Danse macabre and The Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy, making his concert debut at the age of ten. He held only one teaching post for less than five years. His students included Gabriel Fauré.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns

***

Philippe Graffin (born 1964 in Romilly-sur-Seine, France) is a French violinist. Graffin was a student of the late Joseph Gingold and Philippe Hirschhorn. He has made numerous landmark recordings for labels such as Hyperion, Avie, ASV and Onyx. Graffin plays a Domenico Busano violin, made in Venice, 1730. He is currently professor at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique and guest professor at the Brussels Conservatoire Royal.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Graffin

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Camille Saint-Saëns - Cello Sonatas (Mats Lidström; Bengt Forsberg)


Information

Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
  1. Cello Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Op. 32: 1. Allegro
  2. Cello Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Op. 32: 2. Andante tranquillo sostenuto
  3. Cello Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Op. 32: 3. Allegro moderato
  4. Le carnaval des animaux: 13. Le cygne
  5. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 1. Maestoso, largamente
  6. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 2a. Scherzo con variazioni. Allegro animato
  7. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 2b. Variation 1. Poco meno allegro
  8. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 2c. Variation 2
  9. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 2d. Variation 3. Tranquille, sans lenteur
  10. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 2e. Variation 4. Molto allegro
  11. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 2f. Variation 5. Sempre allegro
  12. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 2g. Variation 6. Molto moderato e marcato
  13. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 2h. Variation 7. Poco allegretto, tranquillo
  14. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 2i. Variation 8. Presto
  15. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 3. Romanza. Poco adagio
  16. Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major, Op. 123: 4. Allegro non troppo, grazioso
  17. Le carnaval des animaux: 13. Le cygne (arr. Leopold Godowsky)

Mats Lidström, cello
Bengt Forsberg, piano
Date: 1999
Label: Hyperion

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

The low esteem that all but a tiny minority of Saint-Saëns' large and varied output enjoys today is incomprehensible to me. His chamber music in particular stands with the finest works of the 19th and early 20th century, and these two cello sonatas belong in very elite company. Cello sonatas are extremely difficult to write. The problems of dynamic balance between the piano and the stringed instrument, the low mean tone of the cello, and complex relationships between the principal melodic line and accompaniment all require musicianship of the highest order to resolve in terms of music that sounds natural, effortlessly integrated, and ingratiating. That Saint-Saëns does so is an understatement: these two sonatas rank with Beethoven's and the second of them surpasses both of Brahms' for this same combination.

The First Sonata is a passionate, three-movement work, the high point of which is a slow movement of exceptional charm and delicacy. The Second Sonata, a late piece, is astounding: huge in scope (36 minutes long), confident in expression, and executed with a true master's skill. The four large movements include a marvelous Scherzo in the form of a theme and variations that imbues the whole work with an emotional depth and intellectual consistency that completely belies this composer's reputation as a musical "lightweight."

These two Swedish performers clearly believe in this music, and they play as if every moment matters. Mats Lidström deserves special credit for his strength of tone and willingness to attack the music with the passion it requires, and pianist Bengt Forsberg (already distinguished as a Lieder accompanist, principally with Anne Sophie von Otter) manages to play at full power without ever covering his partner. The two transcribed versions of "The Swan", from The Carnival of the Animals, make charming fillers. An exceptional, important release, very well recorded and intelligently annotated. Buy it. [1/7/2000]

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:

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Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. His best-known works include his concertos for violin, piano and cello, his 3rd symphony, Danse macabre and The Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy, making his concert debut at the age of ten. He held only one teaching post for less than five years. His students included Gabriel Fauré.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns

***

Mats Lidström (born 1959, Stockholm) is a Swedish solo cellist, recording artist, chamber musician, composer, teacher and publisher. He studied music at Gothenburg University with Maja Vogl and at Juilliard with Leonard Rose and Channing Robbins. Lidstrom served as principal cellist with several orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic, London Symphony, the Philharmonia, etc. He is currently living in London. Lidström plays the "Grützmacher" Rocca (Giuseppe Rocca 1857).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mats_Lidstr%C3%B6m
http://www.allmusic.com/artist/mats-lidstr%C3%B6m-mn0002311114/biography

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Camille Saint-Saëns - Violin Concertos (Philippe Graffin)


Information

Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
  1. Violin Concerto No. 1 in A major, Op. 20: Allegro -
  2. Violin Concerto No. 1 in A major, Op. 20: Andante espressivo -
  3. Violin Concerto No. 1 in A major, Op. 20: (Reprise)
  4. Violin Concerto No. 2 in C major, Op. 58: I. Allegro moderato e maestoso
  5. Violin Concerto No. 2 in C major, Op. 58: II. Andante espressivo
  6. Violin Concerto No. 2 in C major, Op. 58: III. Allegro scherzando quasi allegretto
  7. Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61: I. Allegro non troppo
  8. Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61: II. Andantino quasi allegretto
  9. Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61: III. Molto moderato e maestoso - Allegro non troppo

Philippe Graffin, violin
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins, conductor
Date: 1998
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67074

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Review

Hyperion could hardly have launched its Romantic Violin Concerto series with a happier programme. Like Beethoven’s and Chopin’s First and Second Piano Concertos, the first two violin concertos of Saint-Saens were composed in reverse order. The Second is the longer and lesser-known of the two (though Ivry Gitlis made a stunning record of it for Philips in the late 1960s), but the First Concerto more resembles the thematic charm and concise design of the First Cello Concerto. Cast in a single short movement that falls into three distinct sections, it launches the soloist on his way right from the start (six emphatic chords) and features a delightful central section with some felicitous woodwind writing. Hyperion holds a trump card in Philippe Graffin, whose elegant, emotionally charged playing is strongly reminiscent of the young Menuhin (he has a similar sort of sound) and whose understanding of the idiom seems to me second to none – certainly among modern players.

Saint-Saens’s First Violin Concerto was composed in 1859, whereas his Second preceded it by a year. Unexpectedly, the first movement’s thematic material has an almost Weberian slant. The orchestration is heavier than in the First (trombones in the second movement are reminiscent of Berlioz), and the musical arguments are both more formal and more forcefully stated. It is a more overtly virtuoso work than the First Concerto, and to my mind rather less memorable, but again Graffin weaves a winsome solo line and Martyn Brabbins directs a strong account of the orchestral score, with prominently projected woodwinds.

The relatively well-known Third Concerto (1880) is roughly the same length as the Second (around half-an-hour), but is more consistently interesting. The basic material is of higher quality, the key relations more telling and orchestration infinitely more delicate. I can honestly say that I have never heard a recording that liberates so much of the score’s instrumental detail, probably because most of Graffin’s predecessors have invariably been balanced way in front of the orchestra. The closing moments of the slow movement, where violin harmonics are doubled by a clarinet, are pure magic.

As to comparisons, a handful of good Firsts are currently available, though none ‘speaks’ quite so beguilingly as Graffin does here. I would personally court alternatives only in the Third: Milstein’s aristocratic reading with the Philharmonia is in a class of its own, and so is Aaron Rosand’s full-blooded version for Vox. Neither is currently listed but Graffin compares favourably with both (his is a gentler, more introverted view of the score) and is of course far better recorded. This is the only domestically released CD that includes all three concertos on a single disc.

Incidentally, there is also an ‘uncompleted’ Fourth Concerto (1880) known as Morceau de concert which Gitlis coupled with his version of the Second Concerto (it’s out on the Continent on Philips (CD) 446 188-2, just in case you fancy browsing the internet) and which Hyperion might profitably programme alongside other shorter Saint-Saens works for violin and orchestra.

Altogether an excellent production and an auspicious start to a series which, like its piano predecessor, seems set to bring a wealth of musical delights to our attention. DD provides excellent annotation and I can hardly wait for the next instalment.


More reviews:

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Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. His best-known works include his concertos for violin, piano and cello, his 3rd symphony, Danse macabre and The Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy, making his concert debut at the age of ten. He held only one teaching post for less than five years. His students included Gabriel Fauré.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns

***

Philippe Graffin (born 1964 in Romilly-sur-Seine, France) is a French violinist. Graffin was a student of the late Joseph Gingold and Philippe Hirschhorn. He has made numerous landmark recordings for labels such as Hyperion, Avie, ASV and Onyx. Graffin plays a Domenico Busano violin, made in Venice, 1730. He is currently professor at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique and guest professor at the Brussels Conservatoire Royal.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Graffin

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Camille Saint-Saëns - Cello Concertos; La Muse et le Poète; Suite (Steven Isserlis)


Information

Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
  1. Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33: 1. Allegro non troppo
  2. Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33: 2. Menuet. Allegretto
  3. Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33: 3. Finale. Allegro
  4. Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 119: 1. Allegro moderato e maestoso - Andante sostenuto
  5. Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 119: 2. Allegro non troppo - Cadenza - Tempo I - Molto Allegro
  6. La Muse et le Poète, for violin, cello & orchestra, Op. 132
  7. Suite for cello & orchestra, Op. 16: 1. Prélude
  8. Suite for cello & orchestra, Op. 16: 2. Sérénade
  9. Suite for cello & orchestra, Op. 16: 3. Gavotte
  10. Suite for cello & orchestra, Op. 16: 4. Romance
  11. Suite for cello & orchestra, Op. 16: 5. Tarantelle
  12. Prière, for cello & organ, Op. 158

Steven Isserlis, cello
Joshua Bell, violin (6)
Francis Grier, organ (12)
London Symphony Orchestra, cond. Michael Tilson Thomas (1-3)
NDR Symphony Orchestra, cond. Christoph Eschenbach (4-11)

Dates: 1992 (1-3), 1993 (12), 1999 (4-11)
Label: RCA


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Review

The two concertos, the meat-and-potatoes of this programme fail to meet expectations. It assembles much, though not quite all, of Saint-Saëns' concerted music for cello. Steven Isserlis's rhapsodic approach to the A minor's opening theme sounds beautiful and avoids overplaying its turbulence, allowing time and space for a dramatic build-up. He also produces a deep, vibrant tone as he descends on the C string. But the more inward second theme (track 1, 1:35) feels limp and inert; similarly, while Isserlis is properly light in the Menuet, he doesn't maintain tension in his long sustained tones. Nor is there any grace or elegance in the busier passages of the Finale. At 2:34 of track 3 the cellist scrubs away aimlessly at the accompanying figures, while the woodwind motifs are deadpan and uninvolved. Indeed Michael Tilson Thomas fails to rouse his capable forces to much enthusiasm. The engineering is clear and pleasing, but can't ameliorate passing balance problems. The violins at 0:50 (track 1) are unduly reticent for starters and that should easily have been correctable from the podium. The sound, at least, is clear and vivid, especially with a mild volume boost.

In the D minor, one gets the feeling that the piece itself is the problem. It certainly sounds impressive, more "important" than the earlier score. The themes are more substantial, and their development ventures into expressive territory previously unexplored by this composer but the music tends to ramble. In several quiet passages, at least, cello and woodwinds achieve a pleasing chamber-like parity. At the podium, Christoph Eschenbach takes more pains over detail than Thomas - note the squared-off woodwind tenutos at the start of the concerto. Here the orchestral performance is most persuasive.

If the main course doesn't quite satisfy, the extras demand attention nonetheless. In the booklet, Michael Kennedy informs us that the composer didn't conceive La muse et le poète, a fifteen-minute, quasi-improvisatory tone poem, as program music. It was his publisher who dreamed up the title, which aptly fits this piece with its two solo protagonists. Isserlis's rich cello tones, as the eponymous poet, anchor the violin's searching, impulsive flights as the muse - impersonated by Joshua Bell, no less. Both soloists inflect their lines expressively without losing the overall flow. In the accompaniment, Eschenbach underlines a textural contrast between soft-edged, slightly grainy strings and crisp, focused woodwinds. The Hamburg venue's resonance obscures some orchestral detail, noticeably the whirling woodwinds at 14:02 just before the final climactic tutti. Still, this reading easily outclasses Laurence Petitgirard's crude account (ADDA), the only other performance I've heard, on both musical and technical grounds.

The Op. 10 Suite, one of Saint-Saëns' earliest works, will similarly interest collectors. Its five brief movements pay homage to earlier dance models. Kennedy makes the obvious, and logical, comparison to Grieg's Holberg Suite. In the opening Prelude, Isserlis's solo line - a sort of moderately paced moto perpetuo, if you'll pardon the oxymoron - could be more tightly bound: it wanders. But the middle movements - especially the Sérénade, a waltz with achingly beautiful cello lines - are all fetching, capped by a spirited closing Tarantelle. Eschenbach once again keeps his forces in good musical order. The long ambience militates somewhat against the intended "Old Musicke" effect - blunting, for example, the Gavotte's rhythmic point - but otherwise doesn't interfere with this lightly scored music.

In the Prière for cello and organ, a closing bonne-bouche, Francis Grier's tasteful registrations provide Isserlis with full-toned support. On the other hand the Blackheath acoustic's long overhang makes the organ chords overlap with their successors, making the composer's harmonic language sound rather more adventurous than it really is!

At mid-price, this remains recommendable for the tone-poem and the Suite. If you're primarily interested in getting the two concertos together, go for Torlief Thedéen's Bis coupling: he plays the first with full-toned panache and actually manages to get the second airborne. That programme, too, offers uncommon makeweights: the Romance for cello and orchestra, and the early A major symphony.

-- Stephen Francis Vasta, MusicWeb International

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Camille Saint-Saëns (9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. His best-known works include his concertos for violin, piano and cello, his 3rd symphony, Danse macabre and The Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy, making his concert debut at the age of ten. He held only one teaching post for less than five years. His students included Gabriel Fauré.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Saint-Sa%C3%ABns

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Steven Isserlis (born 19 December 1958 in London) is a British cellist. He is distinguished for his diverse repertoire, distinctive sound deployed with his use of gut strings and command of phrasing. He is a staunch advocate of lesser-known composers and of greater access to music for younger audiences. Isserlis plays the De Munck Stradivarius, on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation. He also part-owns a Montagnana cello from 1740 and a Guadagnini cello of 1745.

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