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.

***

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/

***

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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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Joachim Raff - Piano Works Vol. 6 (Tra Nguyen)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  • (01-06) Erinnerung an Venedig, Op. 187
  • (07) Barcarolle, Op. 143
  • (08-13) 6 Poemes, Op. 15
  • (14) Fantaisie, Op. 142
  • (15) 2 Pieces, Op. 169: No. 1. Romance: Quasi adagio
  • (16) 2 Pieces, Op. 169: No. 2. Valse brillante: Allegro

Tra Nguyen, piano
Date: 2013
Label: Grand Piano
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=GP655
http://www.naxos.com/ecard/grandpiano/gp655

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Joachim Raff - Piano Works Vol. 5 (Tra Nguyen)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  • (01-04) Grande Sonate, Op. 14
  • (05-16) Blätter und Blüten, Op. 135a

Tra Nguyen, piano
Date: 2013
Label: Grand Piano
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=GP654
http://www.naxos.com/ecard/grandpiano/GP654

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Joachim Raff - Piano Works Vol. 4 (Tra Nguyen)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  • (01-13) La cicerenella, Op. 165
  • (14-25) 12 romances en forme d'etudes, Op. 8
  • (26) 2 pieces, Op. 166: No. 1. Idylle: Andante
  • (27) 2 pieces, Op. 166: No. 2. Valse champêtre: Allegro
  • (28) Allegro agitato, Op. 151

Tra Nguyen, piano
Date: 2013
Label: Grand Piano
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=GP653
http://www.naxos.com/ecard/grandpiano/GP653/

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Joachim Raff - Piano Works Vol. 3 (Tra Nguyen)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  • (01-09) Album lyrique, Op. 17
  • (10-14) Cinq Eglogues, Op. 105
  • (15) Impromptu-valse, Op. 94
  • (16) Fantaisie-polonaise, Op. 106

Tra Nguyen, piano
Date: 2012
Label: Grand Piano
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=GP634
http://www.naxos.com/ecard/grandpiano/GP634/

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Joachim Raff - Piano Works Vol. 2 (Tra Nguyen)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  • (01-03) Fantasie-Sonate, Op. 168
  • (04-26) Variationen über ein originalthema, Op. 179
  • (27-30) Vier Klavierstücke, Op. 196

Tra Nguyen, piano
Date: 2012
Label: Grand Piano
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=GP612

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Joachim Raff - Piano Works Vol. 1 (Tra Nguyen)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  • (01-12) Frühlingsboten, Op. 55: Nos. 1-12
  • (13-15) Drei Klavier-Soli, Op. 74
  • (16) Fantasie in B major, WoO. 15A: Andante

Tra Nguyen, piano
Date: 2011
Label: Grand Piano
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=GP602

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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Joachim Raff - Works for Choir, Piano and Orchestra (Tra Nguyen; Andrea Quinn)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  1. Die Tageszeiten, Konzertante in vier Satzen, Op. 209: I. A capriccio - Largo - Allegro
  2. Die Tageszeiten, Konzertante in vier Satzen, Op. 209: II. Andante
  3. Die Tageszeiten, Konzertante in vier Satzen, Op. 209: III. Allegro
  4. Die Tageszeiten, Konzertante in vier Satzen, Op. 209: IV. Allegro
  5. Morgenlied, Op. 186a
  6. Einer Entschlafenen, Op. 186b
  7. Die Sterne, WoO 53: I. Vom Firmament blinkt Sternglanz
  8. Die Sterne, WoO 53: II. Es schaut der Lotse auf der See
  9. Die Sterne, WoO 53: III. Heil und freundlich lacht der Gestirne Pracht
  10. Die Sterne, WoO 53: IV. Ein Stern der Höhen fällt
  11. Die Sterne, WoO 53: V. Wenn das Aug' in nächt' ger Stille

Tra Nguyen, piano (1-4)
Josefin Wolving, soprano; Lena Nordlund, soprano; Lena Palmquist, mezzo-soprano (6)
Sångkraft Chamber Choir
Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra
Andrea Quinn, conductor
Date: 2009
Label: Sterling
http://www.sterlingcd.com/catalogue/cds1089.html


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Review

From the time when Raff was known on record only for the Cavatina and the Fifth Symphony to now when pretty well all his orchestral works have been recorded has been about 35 years. Sterling's three CDs, of which this is the last, have moved to fill the lacunae with great style (see review; see review). Although German his sensibility is rather Gallic or perhaps Italian. His music can be decorative and surprisingly - at least to me - leans towards the glitter and filigree of Saint-Säens and Stojowski.

The forty minute Tageszeiten (Times of Day) was premiered in Wiesbaden in 1880. It is a poetic extravaganza for a florid and immanent solo piano, choir and orchestra. It draws deep on the German pastoral romantic vein and with delicate Chopin-like decoration constantly on flow. The superbly sung choral writing is in the winning innocent manner of Brahms’ Volkslieder. The effect is rather like a hybrid of Haydn's Jahreszeiten, Arensky’s Piano Concerto and Beethoven's Choral Fantasy also for solo piano, choir and orchestra. The finale reminded me briefly of Bruckner's Fourth The Romantic. It's all broadly the same stylistic territory. The sung words are poems by Raff's daughter Hélène. These are printed in full in the booklet with translation into English.

The recording is great. It captures detail with fidelity down to picking up the tick of a paper snag at 00.06 in the finale of Tageszeiten. At the same time Sterling’s team do bring out a satisfyingly sensitive atmospheric nimbus.

Two short pieces are placed between Tageszeiten and Die Sterne. The rapturous celebratory Morgenlied, to words by J G Jacobi, is both regal and ecstatic all in the space of just over six minutes. It’s something of an admixture of Schumann and Delius but it’s the dynamic Delius of the first section of A Mass of Life. The second brevity is Einer Entschlafenen. This is seraphic and honeyed with placid woodwind solos, part describing and part invoking the blessed rise of a departed woman's soul to divine heavenly heights.

Die Sterne is for choir and orchestra and is in five movements. It again sets words by Raff's daughter under the pseudonym of Helge Heldt. It too is a most melodious and mellifluous work in the most exalted German romantic tradition. It’s along the same axis as Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Kuhlau, Lange-Muller and Gade.

Choral societies in the know will make it their business to hear these radiant pieces and the general listener who enjoys the Brahms’ Volkslieder, Schumann's Rosepilgerfahrt or Kuhlau’s Elverhoj should lose no time in acquiring this outstanding disc.

There are a couple of typos (something of which I am also guilty): Leizig for Leipzig and the solecism, sadly not that uncommon these days, of comprised of - the 'of' is unnecessary; composed of, yes; comprised of, never. Apart from these trivia this and its two companion discs are the very model of artistic, technical and musical endeavour and generosity.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.raff.org/records/reviews/vocal/02.htm
http://www.amazon.com/Works-Choir-Piano-Orhcestra-Raff/dp/B003VB5DRU

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

***

Tra Nguyen is a British-Vietnamese pianist. Tra made her first solo performance at the Hanoi Grand Opera House when she was ten and has continued to engage audiences in other prestigious venues worldwide. Tra Nguyen studied with Lev Naumov in Moscow Conservatory and with Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Tra's imaginative programming balances core repertoire and lesser-known music.

***

Andrea Quinn studied conducting at The Royal Academy of Music. She was Music Director The Royal Ballet, London (1998-2001), New York City Ballet, USA (2001-2006) and Norrlands Operan, Sweden (2005-2009).
http://www.andreaquinn.com/

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Joachim Raff - Suite for Piano & Orchestra; Overtures & Preludes (Tra Nguyen; Roland Kluttig)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  1. Suite for piano & orchestra, Op. 200: 1. Introduction und Fuge
  2. Suite for piano & orchestra, Op. 200: 2. Menuett
  3. Suite for piano & orchestra, Op. 200: 3. Gavotte und Musette
  4. Suite for piano & orchestra, Op. 200: 4. Cavatina
  5. Suite for piano & orchestra, Op. 200: 5. Finale
  6. Die Eifersüchtigen, comic opera, WoO 54: Overture
  7. König Alfred, opera, WoO 14: Overture
  8. Dornröschen, fairy tale, WoO 19: 1. Vorspiel
  9. Dornröschen, fairy tale, WoO 19: 2. Die Dornhecke
  10. Samson, musical tragedy, WoO 20: Vorspiel dritter Akt

Tra Nguyen, piano (1-5)
Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra
Roland Kluttig, conductor
Date: 2010
Label: Sterling
http://www.sterlingcd.com/catalogue/cds1085.html


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Review

"... Though in five movements which adopt baroque titles the large-scale Suite for piano and orchestra op. 200 lacks any hint of the precious or pastiche-contrivance. Raff instead adopts his accustomed super-romantic manner. It’s pretty melodramatic and could – especially in the outer movements - pass itself off as a concerto. Indeed it would fit snugly in the Hyperion romantic piano concerto series. There is a fugue in the first movement but its grand swirling manner reminded me of a fusion of the Schumann Piano Concerto and Brahms Second Concerto. The Menuett is stately with a touch of Purcell jostling with mid-European courtliness. The shade of Mozart fences lightly with early Beethoven. The Gavotte and Musette are balletic and glintingly emphatic with a forehint of Tchaikovsky. There's a sentimental, slender and touching Cavatina which really does look to Tchaikovsky as does the Finale which bows to the model of the Rococo Variations and the Mozartiana suite. Also to be heard amid its stately grandeur are traces of Schumann and Brahms from the first movement. It all works rather well and ends in a triumphant sparkling landslide of notes.

The Ouverture to Eifersuchtigen has a pretty strong Mendelssohnian ‘cut’ to its supernatural jib and has some lovely woodwind solos along the way. It would go well alongside Mendelssohn's Fair Melusine and Athalie. König Alfred is memorable for its Weberian horns and its sable softly glowing string lines. The antiphonal dialogue of violins and violas at 2:10 is nicely done by players and engineers. The ascent of the music to what sounds like a paean is well accomplished by Kluttig.

The overture to Dornroschen inhabits the same realm as Eifersuchtigen with fairy enchantment of a yet more delicate yet durable cloth. The music is gently Tchaikovskian and remnded me at time of Bantock's fairy overture Pierrot of the Minute - all glow-worms, gauzy wings and glimmering moth-lights floating by. The solo violin decorates the line in Straussian indulgence. This is a meditative Vorspiel and no mistake. It relies on slow enchantment rather than Beethovenian tempest. Die Dornhecke from the same piece is a sort of mood-cousin to Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night scherzo with delightful dialogues and complementary flights across the soundstage. Per Oman's solo violin again plays a sweetly intoned role in the prelude to the third act of Samson. The music seems almost Gallic in its contented lulling - at times one thinks of Tchaikovsky – a twilit ‘valse triste’. Beehcham would have loved this music. The brass shade in one or two distant storm rumbles but that part this music has the sort of contented sheeny warmth associated with Saint-Saens in Havanaise.

The repertoire is well chosen to fill the gaps in our recorded knowledge of Raff. As for the performances and the artists: these give what convinces me as a faithful evangelisation for this totally neglected and very attractive music.

The truly encyclopaedic liner-notes are by Dr Avrohom Leichtling.

I am grateful to Mark Thomas for much of the background used shamelessly in this review. More of that in my impending review of the excellent Raff symphonies box (Tudor)."

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/raff-piano-and-orchestra-suite-overtures
http://audaud.com/2010/02/joachim-raff-suite-for-piano-and-orchestra-op-200-die-eifersuchtigen-%E2%80%93-overture-konig-alfred-%E2%80%93-overture-dornroschen-%E2%80%93-vorspiel-samson-%E2%80%93-vorspiel-3-act-tra-nguye/
http://www.allmusic.com/album/joachin-raff-suite-for-piano-and-orchestra-op-200-overtures-preludes-mw0001962536
http://www.raff.org/records/reviews/orch/08a.htm
http://www.raff.org/records/reviews/orch/08b.htm
http://www.raff.org/records/reviews/orch/08c.htm
http://www.raff.org/records/reviews/orch/08d.htm

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

***

Tra Nguyen is a British-Vietnamese pianist. Tra made her first solo performance at the Hanoi Grand Opera House when she was ten and has continued to engage audiences in other prestigious venues worldwide. Tra Nguyen studied with Lev Naumov in Moscow Conservatory and with Christopher Elton at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Tra's imaginative programming balances core repertoire and lesser-known music.

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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.

***

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

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

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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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Jón Leifs - Hekla (En Shao)


Information

Composer: Jón Leifs
  1. Iceland Ouverture (Minni Íslands), Op. 9
  2. Requiem, for mixed choir a cappella, Op. 33b
  3. Loftr-Suite, Op. 6a: I. Preludium
  4. Loftr-Suite, Op. 6a: II. Mimodrama
  5. Loftr-Suite, Op. 6a: III. Invocation (Saeringar)
  6. Loftr-Suite, Op. 6a: IV. Marcia funèbre
  7. Loftr-Suite, Op. 6a: V. Finale
  8. Réminiscence du Nord, Op. 40
  9. Hekla, Op. 52
  10. Elegy (Hinsta kveðja), Op. 53 (In memoriam 30.9.1961)

Kór Hallgrímskirkju (Motet Choir of the Hallgrím's Church) (1, 2)
Schola Cantorum (9)
Hördur Áskelsson, chorus master
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
En Shao, conductor
Date: 1999
Label: BIS
http://bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-CD-1030

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Review

Leifs is nothing if not idiosyncratic. After hearing all these BIS discs and ones furnished by the Icelandic Music Information Centre I am sure I could recognise his orchestral style 'blindfold.' It is tonal, rough-hewn, original, only intermittently engaged by melody and much taken with rhythmic interest.

The Overture manages to bring off the oxymoronic combination of icy gauntness and encouragement. This piece moves into dance (another Leifs hallmark) but this is dance which is as much about impact as about rhythm. The melodic meat delivered by the violins is part relaxed regret and part frenetic. The choral peroration combines sharp rhythmic snap with hints of Dies Irae.

Contrast this with the Requiem whose language is distant .... remote and very much of a piece with Herbert Howells' Take Him Earth for Cherishing. This music seems tuned to the slowed tolling of bells.

The Loftr Suite (the Loftr overture is on another disc in the BIS series) deploys bells and chains amid a flow of music akin to Frankel's symphonies. Leifs' parataxical style is not completely successful leaving the impress of a work of unfinished odds and ends. Along the way there are some arresting moments in which a voyage through mist is suggested. The Invocation (track 5) is neither meek nor mild; rather is it defiant - more of an imperative summons than a plea. The Funèbre movement is not a march executed by any biped but rather the crippled shamble of some Yeatsian creature. The finale is furious with petulant quietly sprouting fanfares for the trumpets.

The Réminiscence du Nord was first recorded by the Iceland SO conducted by Antolisch in 1960. Paul Zukofsky (a long-time champion of Leifs who recorded the epic Baldr for CP²) included it in an all-Leifs concert in 1969. It is more emotionally engaged than Dettifoss and includes dance-like elements comparable with Copland or perhaps with Hovhaness - though chillier. The lovely Elegy serenely wanders the same world.

Hekla refers to the Icelandic volcano. Leifs witnessed the momentous eruption that took place in the 1950s and its etched impact expresses itself through this tone poem. Rather like Dettifoss it has an objective air about it. The music does not suggest to me any human observer. The notes seem to emerge from the hot rocks, fumeroles and chiroplastic floes. Lava and magma erupt, stones are heaved like great mortar shells high into the super-heated air. The percussion specification for the work reads like a shopping list from a demonic orchestra. In fact hearing the music and seeing the list I wondered if Bernard Herrmann saw the score before writing his fantasy film music for Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Sirens, great bells, tuned stones, giant ship chains and synthesised cannon and shotgun reports all slam and shudder through this extraordinary score. It is eventful music and as skilled in the conjuring of suspenseful tension as it is in the Varèse-like breaking of that tension. The notes by the orchestra's percussionist add greatly to the awesome pleasure of this piece. This version includes the ad libitum choral contribution. The choir was not included on the Zukofsky ITIM disc. This would make a wonderful DVD project.

Both Shao-conducted CDs have liner notes by Árni Heimir Ingólfsson.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hekla-Other-Orchestral-Works-Leifs/dp/B00001QEEW
http://www.amazon.com/Jon-Leifs-Hekla-Other-Orchestral/dp/B00001QEEW

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

***


En Shao (born 3 October 1954 in Tianjin) is a Chinese conductor. Shao is currently the Chief Conductor of the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra, the Principal Guest Conductor of the China National Symphony Orchestra and the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Taipei Chinese Orchestra.

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Jón Leifs - Hafís (Anne Manson)


Information

Composer: Jón Leifs
  1. Hafís (Drift Ice), Op. 63
  2. Tveir söngvar, Op. 14a: 1. Máninn Líður (Moon Song)
  3. Tveir söngvar, Op. 14a: 2. Vögguvísa (Lullaby)
  4. Gudrúnarkvida (The Lay of Gudrun), Op. 22
  5. Nótt (Night), Op. 59
  6. Fine I (Farewell to Earthly Life), Op. 55
  7. Vögguvísa (Lullaby), Op. 14a No. 2

Ingveldur Ýr Jónsdottir, mezzo-soprano (2-4, 7)
Gunnar Gudbjörnsson, tenor (4, 5)
Loftur Erlingsson, bass (4)
Ólafur Kjartan Sigurdarson, baritone (5)
Schola Cantorum (1)
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Anne Manson, conductor
Date: 2000
Label: BIS
http://www.bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-CD-1050

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Review




Jón Leifs’ music tends to extremes: of volume, ensemble size, harmony, and rhythm. As such, people either love it or hate it. I love it. True, it’s a comparatively hermetic, or “closed” style, with a limited range of expressive devices. Harmonic motion follows the parallel fourths and fifths of Icelandic folk music, and rhythms are slow moving but relentlessly asymmetrical. Still, no one expresses the primal qualities of nature better, and this disc perfectly illustrates the fact that Leifs could achieve a wide emotional range by drawing selectively on the various tools in his musical storehouse.

The principal work here is Hafís (Drift Ice), the fourth in a series of vast tone poems illustrating the more violent natural forces shaping the craggy terrain of Iceland. The others in the series, all of which have been recorded for BIS, are Hekla (the volcano), Geysír (which depicts exactly what you think it does; the English word comes from the Icelandic), and Dettifoss (a huge waterfall). All four employ large orchestral forces, and three (the exception is Geysír) ask for a chorus as well. Leifs pulls out all the stops in these pieces, asking for massive percussion in Hekla (20-plus players including pistol shots, cannon, sirens, chains, and steel plates), and in Hafís, a huge ratchet to simulate the sound of cracking ice. The music is thrilling, the choral writing all but impossible yet very effective, the slow crescendos to those huge climaxes unforgettable, and if you haven’t heard these works, you’re missing something very special.

At the opposite extreme from Hafís lie the two songs: short settings of evocative poems by Jóhann Jónsson the last of which, “Lullabye”, has such an extraordinary, haunting simplicity that it’s programmed on the disc twice, once in tandem with its companion, “Moon Song”, and once at the very end. Both The Lay of Guthrun and Nótt (Night) are basically concert arias or cantatas for soloists and orchestra, neither impractically scored, which would make an interesting change of pace in any symphony program. Fine I was conceived, along with Fine II, as a possible conclusion to Leifs’ monumental oratorio Edda III in the event he did not live to complete this last work in a projected trilogy. In the event, he did die with the work unfinished, and the two “Fine” pieces have since acquired a life of their own among the composer’s more attractive short works. Fine I begins with a bang and works its way back up to an angry, fist-shaking ending, all in about three and a half minutes.

I had the good fortune to attend the concert at which this music was performed, an occasion commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth in 1899. It was a moving and extraordinary event, especially when you consider the fact that many of Leifs’ works had never been played, including several of these. American conductor Anne Manson led a clearly energized Iceland Symphony Orchestra in spectacular performances of the larger scores, and while not all of the vocal soloists made an equally strong impression, they delivered the sense and spirit of the text as only native singers can. Happily, the electricity of that occasion has carried over to this excellent recording, which boasts stunning recorded sound to boot. If you don’t yet know Leifs, here’s a perfect place to start.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2001/Jan01/leifs.htm
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/leifs-works-for-solo-voices-and-orchestra

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

***

Anne Manson (born 1961, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) is an American orchestral and opera conductor. She was music director of the Kansas City Symphony from 1999-2003, and is currently music director of the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. In 1994, she became the first woman to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival.

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Jón Leifs - Dettifoss (En Shao)


Information

Composer: Jón Leifs
  1. Organ Concerto, Op. 7: I. Introduction
  2. Organ Concerto, Op. 7: II. Passacaglia
  3. Organ Concerto, Op. 7: III. Finale
  4. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: I. Thema
  5. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: II. Variation I
  6. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: III. Variation II
  7. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: IV. Variation III
  8. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: V. Variation IV
  9. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: VI. Variation V
  10. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: VII. Variation VI
  11. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: VIII. Variation VII
  12. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: IX. Variation VIII
  13. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: X. Variation IX
  14. Variations on a Theme by Beethoven (Variazioni pastorale), Op. 8: XI. Variation X. Finale
  15. Fine II (Farewell to earthly life), Op. 56
  16. Dettifoss, Op. 57

Björn Steinar Sólbergsson, organ (1-3)
Reynir Sigurdsson, vibraphone (15)
Loftur Erlingsson, baritone (16)
Kór Hallgrímskirkju, choir (16)
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
En Shao, conductor
Date: 1999
Label: BIS
http://www.bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-CD-930

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Review

Leifs is no wheedler or cajoler of audiences and concert promoters. He belongs in the same select cohort as Nikos Skalkottas, Havergal Brian, Allan Pettersson and Khaikhosru Sorabji. All to various extents affected indifference to the neglect of their music by bureaucrats and executants and all have benefited from the CD age.

This is not to say that Leifs wrote music without intrinsic attraction. In fact hearing the four BIS CDs of the orchestral music I was surprised to note so many instantly captivating works.

The Organ Concerto is not one of those works. It is sullen and Gothic - shorn of any audience ingratiation factor. It can easily sound like music for a dismal hopeless trek across limitless snow fields - like Vaughan Williams' music from Sinfonia Antartica. The aural equivalent of maze-marching can be heard in clashing hymns rather like Liszt's Hunnenschlacht and echoing Nielsen 4 and 5 in its suggestion of chaos clashing with harmony. Yet again the listener is struck by the extremes of dynamic range as well as by the Stygian baritonal blare of the brass section and the howls and squeals of the woodwind against emphatic drum punctuation. This is not dodecaphonic but surfaces are unadorned and brutal. Some of this would make glorious music for an adaptation of Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'. It remains to be seen how Howard Shore will fare in the film trilogy due to appear in cinemas over the next two years - starting Christmas 2001. In any event Leifs would have made an ideal composer for the onslaught of nightmare Orcish armies.

A less thorny approach is encountered in the Beethoven Variations (Theme and ten variants) which date from the same year as the Concerto. The theme is from the LvB String Trio Op. 8. The Variations are strong and gentle music, melodious to the point of sounding, at times, like a French operatic interlude. At Var. 4 the serenading character begins to decay into something sallow. Var. 6 is in the form of a jerky military march of injured automata lurching towards negation and chaos. The quasi grave (Var 9) yet again sounds very much like Roy Harris with its sombre brass and drums. It is worth noting that in 1930 Roy Harris had no international reputation and a modest standing so far as the USA is concerned so this 'echo' is purely coincidental. Var 10 and the reprise lead us back to operatic intermezzi, to Gounod and to Bizet.

Fine II is from that cloudburst of productivity in the early 1960s. It is a work for vibraphone and string orchestra. The vibraphone is played by Reynir Sigurdsson. The music conjures the movement of marine ice floes, gigantic not grinding or bitter. The work has a slow drawling power and with the striking presence of that vibraphone (try 5.40) Roy Harris seems not far away yet again. A wonderful introduction to the music of this composer.

Intriguingly Fine I and Fine II (both subtitled 'Farewell to Earthly Life') were written to provide a finale to any orchestral work left incomplete at its death. They are associated with Leifs' most ambitious works: the three Edda oratorios. These are The Creation of the World (1936-39), The Life of the Gods (1951-66) and the incomplete Twilight of the Gods - all unrecorded. Are they next on your list BIS?

Dettifoss (the great Icelandic waterfall) begins in and ultimately retreats into stony Tallis-like arcana. Unlike some composers where you are aware of the human observer in the foreground, Leifs has you believing that the music is the scenery. In some strange way this music embodies the objective; it is the rock and the waters itself. You are alien to it and it is alien to you. The music is implacable, careless of you and your troubles - outside temporal limitations. It came as a surprise, after hearing the music, to read that this is one of Leifs' nature pieces that, in fact, has the observer (the poet) walking towards the waterfall, observing it and then walking away. The vehemence of the more furious music in Dettifoss can be compared with the awesome thrashing of some fearsome engine with con-rod buckled, crippled yet horrifically driven.

All the recordings in this orchestral series of CDs (4 to date, 2001) were recorded in the roomy stone acoustic of Hallgrím's Church, Reykjavik.

All but Fine II are world première recordings.

There are of course some other Leifs recordings including ones from Chandos and from the Icelandic Music Information Centre. None however competes directly with this disc work for work. Everything here is done with burning or smouldering conviction.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Leifs-Dettifoss-Other-Orchestral-Works/dp/B00000J2RS

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Jón Leifs (1 May 1899 – 30 July 1968), was an Icelandic composer, pianist, and conductor. Born in Iceland, he left for Germany in 1916 to study at the Leipzig Conservatory and graduated in 1921. During this period he also studied composition with Ferruccio Busoni. Most of his works is inspired by Icelandic natural phenomena and sagas.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B3n_Leifs

***

En Shao (born 3 October 1954 in Tianjin) is a Chinese conductor. Shao is currently the Chief Conductor of the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra, the Principal Guest Conductor of the China National Symphony Orchestra and the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Taipei Chinese Orchestra.
http://imgartists.com/artist/en_shao

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Jón Leifs - Geysir (Osmo Vänskä)


Information

Composer: Jón Leifs
  1. Geysir, Op. 51
  2. Trilogia piccola, Op. 1: I. Praeludium
  3. Trilogia piccola, Op. 1: II. Intermezzo
  4. Trilogia piccola, Op. 1: III. Finale
  5. Trois peintures abstraites, Op. 44: I. Fegurd himinsins. Moderato
  6. Trois peintures abstraites, Op. 44: II. Vixlspor. Allegro vivace
  7. Trois peintures abstraites, Op. 44: III. Klettar. Maestoso e moderato
  8. Icelandic Folk Dances, Op. 11: I. Allegretto
  9. Icelandic Folk Dances, Op. 11: II. Tempo Giusto
  10. Icelandic Folk Dances, Op. 11: III. Allegro moderato energico
  11. Icelandic Folk Dances, Op. 11: IV. Allegro vivace
  12. Overture to "Loftr", Op. 10
  13. Consolation, intermezzo for strings, Op. 66

Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Date: 1997
Label: BIS
http://www.bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-CD-830

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Review

Geysir is part of the cycle of nature sound-images which also includes Dettifoss and Hekla. It is designated a 'Prelude for orchestra' and is heavy with portentous bass pedal points. These 'brew' tension ready for the explosion of energy - the superheated spout of water gasping and shreiking skywards. It is a most vivid piece - not at all rich in themes. Instead we hear a series of effects sustained at climax for longer than the phenomenon itself. It is as if Leifs holds, slows and magnifies the experience of the great uprush of steam and water. This would prove an arresting concert opener and although the bass pedal might suggest to the innocent the start of Also Sprach Zarathustra the remainder is a closer relative to Nystroem's and Sibelius's preludes to The Tempest - stormy onomatopoeia - rather than storms of the human psyche. Once again if one must find parallels (and I always try to no matter how strained) I would point to Roy Harris's string writing.

The early Trilogia Piccola is in three sections and its title should not mislead you into expecting a light repast. The Praeludium is pregnant with doom-laden tension as if Leifs strode out from the drums of Brahms' First Symphony into an alien landscape. At this stage in his career Leifs betrays the influence of Nielsen. The Bergian coolness of the Intermezzo soon gives place to the tension of the Praeludium while the 2 minute finale is in the character of a wild and woolly fugue predicting the unleashing of Hekla and Geysir but crossed with the urbanity and sardonic manner of Weill.

Thirty years onwards and safe in Iceland, Leifs, still licking his wounds from allegations of Nazi sympathies, while in Germany, come the Three Abstract Paintings. These fan the early kindling provided by the terse springy expressivity of the 1960s; fusion, explosive and flickering, rattling and shock spattered - a Nordic Ruggles perhaps! Roy Harris is surely, yet once more, an influence in the Klettar movement.

After all this irony and sparseness the Icelandic Folk Dances are a relaxation. This is not quite Malcolm Arnold but is not far off, at moments. As an illustration take the dainty allegretto which later collects itself for a steel-shod clog dance. Daintiness and a quasi-Hispanic courtly air are to be found in the Tempo Giusto; almost Tippett arranging Dowland. The slam-hammer Allegro moderato crashes and galumphs, but never losing sight of courtly gallantry. Much the same applies to the Allegro vivace. Leopold Weninger collaborated with Leifs in these orchestral arrangements.

The Loftr Overture shows signs of the stern individuality of his later years but impresses for its humanity as well as its effects. This psychological portrait is as accomplished at dissectng motivation, vanity, weakness and fury as Walton's Hamlet and Prokofiev's Ivan the Terrible.

Any piece called Consolation for string orchestra prepares us for Griegian regret. This is undoubtedly cool and its subtle turns dream dreams from Sibelius's Fourth Symphony. Leifs' trademark wandering string themes are fully engaged and they are as much of a genetic fingerprint as Martinu's plangent lyricism and Vaughan Williams' transcendental string writing. This six minute reflection would make an easy entré to the world of Leifs.

It will not be long before you come to recognise Leifs' stock in trade. Here is a composer in no danger of being lost in the crowd once his music is heard.

Congratulations to BIS for banding long silences between the pieces. So few companies take this trouble.

Surely it is not mere coincidence but both Vänskä-conducted Leifs discs have notes by Hjälmar H Ragnarsson

This is highly recommendable in its own right but also as a Leifs taster for the wee timorous ones - as are most of us when exploring this far afield.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/leifs-0
http://www.amazon.com/Leifs-Geysir-Other-Orchestral-Works/dp/B0000016OY

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

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Osmo Vänskä (born 28 February 1953, Sääminki, Finland) is a Finnish conductor, clarinetist and composer. Vänskä was particular know for his recording of complete Sibelius symphonies with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (he was principal conductor from 1988 to 2008) and complete Beethoven symphonies with the Minnesota Orchestra (he has been music director since 2004).

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