Friday, January 15, 2016

Louise Farrenc - Violin Sonata No. 2; Cello Sonata (Nancy Oliveros; Kirsten Whitson; Mary Ellen Haupert)


Information

Composer: Louise Farrenc
  1. Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 39: I. Allegro grazioso
  2. Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 39: II. Scherzo: Allegro
  3. Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 39: III. Adagio
  4. Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 39: IV. Finale: Allegro
  5. Cello Sonata in B major, Op. 46: I. Allegro moderato
  6. Cello Sonata in B major, Op. 46: II. Andante sostenuto
  7. Cello Sonata in B major, Op. 46: III. Finale: Allegro

Nancy Oliveros, violin
Kirsten Whitson, cello
Mary Ellen Haupert, piano
Date: 2012
Label: Centaur

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Louise Farrenc (31 May 1804 – 15 September 1875) was a French composer, virtuosa pianist and teacher who enjoyed a considerable reputation during her own lifetime. Farrenc wrote exclusively for the piano from 1820 to 1830, expanding her range to include works for orchestra beginning in 1834. Her work includes 49 compositions with opus numbers.

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Nancy Oliveros is the founding second violinist of the celebrated Artaria String Quartet, with whom she concertizes, records, and teaches the art of chamber music. She records for Centaur records with the Artaria String Quartet and with her long time piano collaborator, Mary Ellen Haupert. Oliveros owns and plays on a Neapolitan violin by Tomaso Eberle, made in 1781.
http://www.stringwood.com/Faculty-Nancy.htm

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Cellist Kirsten Whitson performs extensively as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician. She has played and toured with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Florida Orchestra and Norway's Bergen Philharmonic. Kirsten has performed solo cello concerts at many venues throughout the Twin Cities and has been featured on programs broadcast by KFAI and Minnesota Public Radio.
https://content.thespco.org/people/kirsten-whitson/

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Mary Ellen Haupert has studied piano with LeAnn House, Seth Carlin, and Sona Haydon. Her performing interests are almost exclusively in the realm of chamber music. In the four-hand world, her collaborations with Timothy Schorr. She enjoys an ongoing relationship with violinist Nancy Oliveros and the ARTARIA STRING QUARTET.  Their frequent duo and piano quintet collaborations have become a staple of Viterbo University’s ONE-of-a KIND CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES (for which Haupert is both founder and artistic director)
http://www.maryellenhaupert.com/

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Louise Farrenc - Piano Trios; Sextet (Linos Ensemble)


Information

Composer: Louise Farrenc
  1. Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 33: I. Allegro
  2. Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 33: II. Adagio sostenuto
  3. Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 33: III. Minuetto: Allegro
  4. Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 33: IV. Finale: Vivace
  5. Sextet in C minor, Op. 40: I. Allegro
  6. Sextet in C minor, Op. 40: II. Andante sostenuto
  7. Sextet in C minor, Op. 40: III. Allegro vivace
  8. Piano Trio No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 44: I. Andante - Allegro moderato
  9. Piano Trio No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 44: II. Adagio
  10. Piano Trio No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 44: III. Minuetto: Allegro
  11. Piano Trio No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 44: IV. Finale: Allegro

Linos Ensemble
Konstanze Eickhorst, piano (1-11)
Rainer Müller-van Recum, clarinet (5-11)
Winfried Rademacher, violin (1-4)
Mario Blaumer, cello (1-4, 8-11)
Kersten McCall, flute (5-7)
Klaus Becker, oboe (5-7)
Paul van Zelm, horn (5-7)
Georg Klütsch, bassoon (5-7)

Date: 2006
Label: CPO
https://www.jpc.de/jpcng/cpo/detail/-/art/Louise-Farrenc-1804-1875-Sextett-op-40-f%FCr-Klavier-Bl%E4serquintett/hnum/5662346


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Review

Here is a disc I’ve been waiting for—not necessarily this one specifically, but any CD containing works by Louise Farrenc (1804–1875) that I would be able to review so that I could share with you my admiration and affection for this mid-19th-century French Romantic composer. Among women composers of the Romantic era, Clara Schumann usually emerges as the most noteworthy. But is that assessment based on empirical evidence of her output, or is it largely an artifact of her life story? Aside from a well-regarded piano trio, a piano sonata, and a piano concerto she wrote at the age of 14 with help from husband-to-be Robert, almost everything else from Clara’s hand are songs and solo piano pieces. There are no symphonies, no large orchestral works, and no significant body of chamber-music compositions. Clara was in some ways an extension of her husband (there is now strong evidence that she wrote some of Robert’s pieces and signed his name to them), and later the subject of a Hollywood film ( Song of Love ) that took certain liberties, shall we say, in portraying her relationship with Brahms. Clara Schumann was not a great composer, and neither, for that matter, was Fanny Mendelssohn.

If any woman deserves to be recognized as the greatest female composer of the 19th century, it’s Louise Farrenc. But I will go even a step further and say that during the period in which she was active as a composer—roughly the mid 1820s through the late 1850s—few composers of any gender persuasion, save for Felix Mendelssohn—could hold a candle to her when it came to writing symphonies and large chamber-ensemble works. A side note here: the back of the jewel case inexplicably gives Farrenc’s dates as 1789–1826. The booklet note gives her correct dates as they are given above.

Jeanne-Louise Dumont was born in Paris; her father was well-known sculptor Jacques-Edme Dumont. Her musical talent was recognized early, and she was sent to study piano with Moscheles and Hummel. She also studied composition in private with Reicha, since his classes at the Paris Conservatoire were not open to women. In 1821, Louise married Aristide Farrenc, a flute student she had met at the Sorbonne; for a time she interrupted her own career to travel and concertize with him throughout France. Tiring of life on the road, the couple returned to Paris, where Aristide opened a publishing house, Éditions Farrenc, destined to become one of the country’s leading music publishing companies for the next 40 years. Louise, meanwhile, was appointed professor of piano at the Paris Conservatory, a position in which she remained for the next 30 years.

Among Farrenc’s extensive and impressive catalog are large orchestral works—three symphonies, two concert overtures, and two sets of grand variations—vocal, choral, and solo piano pieces, and her special forte, chamber works ranging from duo sonatas, piano trios, and piano quintets, to a nonet for strings and winds that was played and praised by Joseph Joachim. On two occasions—1861 and 1869—her chamber-music compositions won the Prix Chartier awarded by the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

The enterprising cpo label has already recorded and released Farrenc’s three symphonies and some of her chamber works. But cpo is not alone; other labels have also been cashing in on this extraordinary talent. And, being the chamber-music maven I am, I believe I’ve managed to collect every Farrenc release that has come out, including one or two that are not listed. No excuses or rationalizations need be made for the fact that she was a woman. Her music has more testosterone going for it than does the music of some biologically male composers.

So what does it sound like? Others who have answered this question compare Farrenc most often to Mendelssohn, and with a caveat or two I would agree. Mendelssohn’s musical vision was more far-reaching, his imagination bolder, more fanciful, and more innovative. There is nothing in Farrenc’s symphonic output, for example, that is as strikingly original as Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony. Nor is there anything in Farrenc’s chamber-music output quite as novel as the elves, faeries, and sprites that scamper and scurry through the Scherzo in Mendelssohn’s D-Minor Piano Trio. Farrenc was more firmly rooted in the Classical tradition of her teachers, Moscheles and Hummel. What you will notice immediately in Farrenc’s music, however, besides its exquisite craftsmanship and adherence to Classical form, is one of the most innate gifts for melody and harmony of any composer of this period. Melodic pearls pour forth with such grace and in such abundance that the ear hardly has time to absorb one of them before another comes rolling out. And each is encased in an oyster shell of such poignant harmony it hurts the heart to hear it. The invention is nonstop, a flow of musical ideas so fertile that any one of them could serve as the basis for an entire composition. The three works on this disc are proof that Louise Farrenc, if nothing else, was consistent, for each of these gems furnishes further substantiation of the description of her music given above. It’s hard to believe that this is the only recording currently listed of her famous C-Minor Sextet that won her great acclaim in her lifetime. By anyone’s definition, it should qualify as a masterpiece in the genre.

The Linos Ensemble was founded in 1977 by oboist Klaus Becker. Similar to Britain’s Nash Ensemble, the Linos is a modern-instrument group that performs a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Bach to Stockhausen, and shrinks or expands as called for by the instrumentation of the work at hand. Of the three works on the present disc, only one, the E?-Major Trio for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, appears to have any recorded competition; and it’s on a Naïve disc that couples it with Farrenc’s equally beguiling E?-Major Nonet (she sure seemed to like keys with three flats—E? Major and its relative C Minor—a common-sense choice, no doubt, when writing for wind instruments). As noted above, I’ve probably acquired every available recording of Farrenc’s music, so yes, I do have the aforementioned Naïve CD; and in a one-on-one contest, I’d be hard-pressed to choose a winner. Performance-wise, I really like the slightly smoother, more polished sound of the Linos Ensemble on this new cpo, but I wouldn’t want to be without the nonet on the Naïve, or the two trios on the cpo. So the only solution is to have them both.

If ever there was a composer whose praises I’ve wanted to shout from the mountaintop, Louise Farrenc is it. This is sure to be on my Want List in this same volume. And it should be on yours as well. But please don’t stop there. Get her symphonies too. You won’t regret it.

-- Jerry Dubins, FANFARE

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2009/Dec09/farrenc_7772562.htm
http://www.amazon.com/Louise-Farrenc-Piano-Trios-Sextet/dp/B001UWOIXM

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Louise Farrenc (31 May 1804 – 15 September 1875) was a French composer, virtuosa pianist and teacher who enjoyed a considerable reputation during her own lifetime. Farrenc wrote exclusively for the piano from 1820 to 1830, expanding her range to include works for orchestra beginning in 1834. Her work includes 49 compositions with opus numbers.

***

The Linos Ensemble was founded in 1977 by the oboist Klaus Becker. Pianist Konstanze Eickhorst (red dress in above picture) is a member of the ensemble.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Miklós Rózsa - Orchestral Works Vol. 1 (Rumon Gamba)


Information

Composer: Miklós Rózsa
  1. Overture to a Symphony Concert, Op. 26a
  2. Three Hungarian Sketches, Op. 14: I. Capriccio. Allegro capriccioso
  3. Three Hungarian Sketches, Op. 14: II. Pastorale. Andante semplice e pastorale
  4. Three Hungarian Sketches, Op. 14: III. Danza. Allegro giocoso
  5. Tripartita, Op. 33: I. Intrada. Con moto
  6. Tripartita, Op. 33: II. Intermezzo arioso. Lento
  7. Tripartita, Op. 33: III. Finale. Allegro con brio
  8. Hungarian Serenade, Op. 25: I. Marcia. Tempo di marcia
  9. Hungarian Serenade, Op. 25: II. Serenata. Andante con moto e semplice
  10. Hungarian Serenade, Op. 25: III. Scherzo. Allegretto scherzando
  11. Hungarian Serenade, Op. 25: IV. Notturno. Lento con espressione
  12. Hungarian Serenade, Op. 25: V. Danza. Vivace e molto giusto

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Rumon Gamba, conductor
Date: 2008
Label: Chandos
http://chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%2010488

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Review

Rózsa’s exuberant off-screen music played with gusto by the BBC Phil

Rózsa’s list of concert works (those bearing opus numbers) amounts to under half his 95 film scores. Although Rózsa maintained a divide between his two compositional careers, Andrew Knowles’s assertion in the booklet that the composer “never incorporated music from his film scores into his concert works” needs qualification in light of the Spellbound Concerto’s popularity, even if this was never dignified with an opus number. And, of course, he reworked his Violin Concerto as the music to The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Tadlow, 7/07).

None of the four works here has connections with the cinema although Rózsa’s Kodály-esque concert platform and silver-screen styles did not differ much. The earliest item is the Three Hungarian Sketches, a vibrant Capriccio, Pastorale and Danza which constituted the official Hungarian entry for the 1938 ISCM Festival. A major offering, it is more substantial than the slightly longer Hungarian Serenade, a post-war reworking of the Op 10 Serenade and some early piano pieces, which is essentially superior light music.

Rózsa’s Hungarian roots, which never dimmed during his long exile, were rarely expressed with as much pathos as in the Overture to a Symphony Concert, conceived during the hopeful days of the abortive 1956 Hungarian revolution. Revised in 1963, this is a bright and positive score which would grace any concert programme. Most impressive of all is the Tripartita (1971, rev 1972), its constituent Intrada, Intermezzo and rather Waltonian Finale showing Rózsa developing in a new direction late in his career. Excellent performances and superlative sound make this a most enjoyable overture to what should prove a most worthwhile enterprise.

-- Guy Rickards, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-14792/
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/2009/Apr09/Rozsa_CHAN10488.htm
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mikl%C3%B3s-R%C3%B3zsa-Orchestral-Works-Vol/dp/B001FENY7G

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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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Rumon Gamba (born 24 November 1972), is an English conductor. He studied conducting with Colin Metters, George Hurst and Sir Colin Davis at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Gamba was Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra from 2002 to 2010. He is currently chief conductor and music director of NorrlandsOperan and the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra.

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Miklós Rózsa - Orchestral Works Vol. 3 (Jennifer Pike; Rumon Gamba)


Information

Composer: Miklós Rózsa
  • (01-03) Violin Concerto, Op. 24
  • (04-06) Concerto for String Orchestra, Op. 17
  • (07-16) Theme, Variations and Finale, Op. 13

Jennifer Pike, violin (1-3)
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Rumon Gamba, conductor
Date: 2011-2012
Label: Chandos
http://chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%2010738

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Review

Pike plays Rózsa in Heifetz’s footsteps

Though Miklós Rózsa had a cosmopolitan career, studying in Leipzig and living in Paris and London before becoming one of the most famous Hollywood movie composers, he never left behind the modal inflections and melodic character of the music of his native Hungary. The pre-war Variations are based on what sounds like a genuine folk melody, announced by a solo oboe. The work is a brilliantly scored orchestral showpiece, forceful, energetic variations alternating with episodes of lyrical expansion. The Concerto for string orchestra of 1943 is an altogether darker, more intense piece – even the folk-style finale has sinister episodes and the stark, declamatory themes of the first movement give it the character of a desperate lament. Whatever Rózsa’s intentions may have been, the music appears like a commemoration of an Eastern European culture in the process of destruction.

The Violin Concerto written for Heifetz has a traditional form and a fine balance of lyrical and virtuoso elements. On this spacious new recording I was particularly impressed by the wide landscapes of the slow movement and the dream-like episode in the middle of the finale. Comparing Jennifer Pike’s performance with the original Heifetz recording, hers appears cooler and more contemplative. Though she plays the brilliant passages extremely well, she lacks something of Heifetz’s manic energy and his ability to make of each movement a single passionate utterance. There’s much to be said for this calmer performance, highlighting the beauty of Rózsa’s intricate interplay between violin and orchestra.

-- DuncanDruce, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/r%C3%B3zsa-orchestral-works-vol-3
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2013/Jan13/Rozsa_orchestral_v3_CHAN10738.htm
http://audaud.com/2013/01/miklos-rozsa-violin-concerto-concerto-for-string-orchestra-theme-variations-and-finale-jennifer-pike-violin-bbc-philharmonic-rumon-gamba-chandos/

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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.

***

Rumon Gamba (born 24 November 1972), is an English conductor. He studied conducting with Colin Metters, George Hurst and Sir Colin Davis at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Gamba was Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra from 2002 to 2010. He is currently chief conductor and music director of NorrlandsOperan and the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra.

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Miklós Rózsa - Orchestral Works Vol. 2 (Paul Watkins; Jennifer Pike; Rumon Gamba)


Information

Composer: Miklós Rózsa
  1. Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song, for violin & orchestra, Op. 4
  2. The Vintner's Daughter - Variations on a French Folk Song, Op. 23a
  3. Notturno Ungherese, Op. 28
  4. Cello Concerto, Op. 32: I. Moderato - Allegro non troppo
  5. Cello Concerto, Op. 32: II. Lento con grande espressione
  6. Cello Concerto, Op. 32: III. Allegro vivo

Jennifer Pike, violin (1)
Paul Watkins, cello (4-6)
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
Rumon Gamba, conductor
Date: 2009 (1-3), 2010 (4-6)
Label: Chandos
https://www.chandos.net/details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%2010674

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Review

Miklós Rózsa, born in Budapest, was one of the most gifted of all the composers who moved from his homeland to Hollywood to write music for films (95 of them!). He was a natural melodist and scored for orchestra with great flair, and the Hungarian flavour of his music gave it a special edge and character.

Rózsa was especially impressive in variations, as the diverse and colourful Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song demonstrates. It features a concertante solo violin – the seductive Jennifer Pike, who is equally impressive in both the virtuosity and sweet lyricism of her solo role. The Vintner’s Daughter (12 variations on a French folksong) was originally written for solo piano and it was Eugene Ormandy who commissioned the orchestral version, with its imaginative and highly contrasted instrumental colouring and tempi. The Notturno ungherese again features a gentle solo clarinet at its opening but, spiced with a pair of passionate climaxes, it is a truly volatile Hungarian rhapsody.

The disquieting Cello Concerto was inspired by the composer’s meeting with his compatriot, János Starker, who aided its composition. The work is comparatively austere but emotionally gripping. The first movement demands (and receives) passionate virtuosity; the darkly coloured central Lento broods intensely and hauntingly; the dancing, moto perpetuo finale is dissonantly aggressive, with frenzied writing for soloist and orchestra alike, framing a hauntingly mysterious yet tranquil centrepiece. These are four first-rate works by a still neglected composer, marvellously played and recorded.

-- Ivan March, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/r%C3%B3zsa-orchestral-works-vol-2
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2011/Sept11/Rosza_cello_concerto_chan10674.htm
http://www.allmusic.com/album/mikl%C3%B3s-r%C3%B3zsa-variations-on-a-hungarian-peasant-song-the-vintners-daughter-notturno-ungharese-cello-concerto-mw0002164885

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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.

***

Rumon Gamba (born 24 November 1972), is an English conductor. He studied conducting with Colin Metters, George Hurst and Sir Colin Davis at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Gamba was Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra from 2002 to 2010. He is currently chief conductor and music director of NorrlandsOperan and the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra.

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