Friday, April 29, 2016

Albéric Magnard - Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4 (Thomas Sanderling)


Information

Composer: Albéric Magnard

CD1:
  1. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 6: I. Ouverture. Assez animé
  2. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 6: II. Danses. Vif
  3. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 6: III. Chant varié. Andante con moto
  4. Symphony No. 2 in E major, Op. 6: IV. Final. Vif et gai
CD2:
  1. Symphony No. 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 21: I. Modéré - Allegro
  2. Symphony No. 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 21: II. Vif
  3. Symphony No. 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 21: III. Sans lenteur et nuancé -
  4. Symphony No. 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 21: IV. Animé

Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Sanderling, conductor
Date: 2000
Label: BIS
http://www.bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-CD-928

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Review




Major Discoveries: Sanderling’s Transcendent Magnard Fourth

This is without question a truly great orchestral recording. French composer Albéric Magnard's Fourth Symphony has long been regarded by connoisseurs as a neglected masterwork, but this is the first performance that proves it conclusively, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Comparing Thomas Sanderling's performance to the pallid Plasson on EMI, or the recent Hyperion recording featuring Jean-Yves Ossance and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (a performance that I enthusiastically welcomed on initial release) is like comparing a color photo to a black and white of the same object. In Sanderling's hands, everything is more vivid, emphatic, and sharply contrasted. The very opening sounds far more dramatic as shaped by Sanderling, the deep brass richer, the piccolo (which announces the symphony's "motto" theme) brighter, and those arching string phrases infinitely more yearning and passionate. The same holds true for the Scherzo: Ossance is light and tripping, Sanderling's rougher accents and trenchant rhythms move the music into the orbit of Roussel and other French masters yet to come.

The heart of the symphony is its slow movement, one of the very greatest in the literature and a masterpiece of superbly sustained symphonic tension. Sanderling takes a little more time than Ossance, and it's all to the good, really letting the music breathe and building each paragraph inexorably to the recurring, climactic statements of the "motto" theme. But it's the finale that really sets the seal on this magnificent performance. Nowhere is Magnard's formal control so tight and so perfectly matched in expressive intensity. Ossance's swift, light approach sectionalizes the music, offering superficial excitement but little cumulative power. Sanderling's slower tempo actually sounds faster because he maintains a firm rhythmic basis over which he builds the music in large arcs of sound. Just listen to the way the strings phrase the central fugue, and notice the perfect clarity of its development! Ossance minces through the contrapuntal thicket as if he might break something, while Sanderling proves that Magnard's music is made of much sturdier stuff.

At the triumphant return of the symphony's "motto" theme in the movement's recapitulation, Sanderling and his band create a climax of unsurpassed radiance, the kind of thing found in such other transcendental works as Vaughan Williams' Fifth Symphony, or the finale of Mahler's Ninth. Magnard's music, we now discover to our delight, is in the same class. And once the music has ebbed away, the final appearance of the "motto" simply perfect in its quiet poetry, we realize that Sanderling, his world class Malmö players, and BIS' extraordinary team of sound engineers have achieved that all too rare phenomenon: a genuine classic recording. At two discs for the price of one, with the early, appealing, and by no means negligible Second Symphony tossed in as well (in a performance every bit as fine as that of the Fourth), this set belongs in the collection of, well, everyone.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday


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Albéric Magnard (9 June 1865 – 3 September 1914) was a French composer, who became a national hero in 1914 when he refused to surrender his property to German invaders and died defending it. His use of cyclic form and occasional incorporation of chorale earned him the nickname of "French Bruckner", although Magnard's handling of cyclical form is more Franckian than Brucknerian.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alb%C3%A9ric_Magnard

***

Thomas Sanderling (born October 2, 1942, in Novosibirsk) is a German conductor. He is the eldest son of famous conductor Kurt Sanderling. He studied with Hans Swarowsky, and worked as assistant to Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. During his career he conducted all important orchestras as well as at many international opera houses. Thomas Sanderling is one of the most important conductors of Russian repertoire nowadays.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Sanderling

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Albéric Magnard - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3 (Thomas Sanderling)


Information

Composer: Albéric Magnard
  1. Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 4: I. Strepitoso - Andante - Allegro marcato - Andante
  2. Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 4: II. Religioso. (Largo) - Andante - Largo
  3. Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 4: III. Presto
  4. Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 4: IV. Molto energico - Meno mosso - 1-er Tempo - Largo
  5. Symphony No. 3 in B flat minor, Op. 11: I. Introduction et ouverture. Modéré - Vif - Mouvement de l'introduction
  6. Symphony No. 3 in B flat minor, Op. 11: II. Danses. Très vif - Dédoublez - 1er mouvement
  7. Symphony No. 3 in B flat minor, Op. 11: III. Pastorale. Modéré
  8. Symphony No. 3 in B flat minor, Op. 11: IV. Finale. Vif

Malmö Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Sanderling, conductor
Date: 1998
Label: BIS
http://bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-CD-927

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There’s been a small flurry of recent interest in the music of Albéric Magnard, the finest French symphonist before Tournemire and Roussel. EMI reissued Plasson’s pioneering recordings of all four symphonies (there was one earlier version of the Third conducted by Ansermet that is not available on CD in the U.S., though it may still exist in France), and Hyperion recorded the complete set concurrently with BIS’s project. This means that fans of the composer already may have acquired the Hyperion recordings and therefore aren’t interested in this more slowly progressing series, which would be a pity because Thomas Sanderling’s recordings inarguably are the best ever in this music. His approach is serious, unremittingly intense, and trenchant in a way that is markedly more “Germanic” than either Plasson or Ossance (Hyperion). But then again, these are very Germanic symphonies–being somewhat conservative in idiom, tightly written, and keenly balanced between passion and intellect–so Sanderling’s approach is just what the music demands. His majestic tempos and firm control of rhythm in places such as the slow movement and finale of the Third Symphony really give this music a stature and command only hinted at in other performances. He also has by far the best orchestra and overwhelmingly the finest recorded sound, so even if you own any of the other versions, you simply have to hear Sanderling.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

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Albéric Magnard (9 June 1865 – 3 September 1914) was a French composer, who became a national hero in 1914 when he refused to surrender his property to German invaders and died defending it. His use of cyclic form and occasional incorporation of chorale earned him the nickname of "French Bruckner", although Magnard's handling of cyclical form is more Franckian than Brucknerian.

***

Thomas Sanderling (born October 2, 1942, in Novosibirsk) is a German conductor. He is the eldest son of famous conductor Kurt Sanderling. He studied with Hans Swarowsky, and worked as assistant to Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. During his career he conducted all important orchestras as well as at many international opera houses. Thomas Sanderling is one of the most important conductors of Russian repertoire nowadays.

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Albéric Magnard - Chamber Music (Laurent Wagschal; Solenne Païdassi; Camille Thomas)


Information

Composer: Albéric Magnard

CD1:
  • (01-04) Violin Sonata in G major, Op. 13
  • (05-08) Cello Sonata in A major, Op. 20
CD2:
  • (01-04) Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 18
  • (05-08) Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon & piano in D minor, Op. 8
CD3:
  • (01-04) String Quartet in E minor, Op. 16
CD4:
  • Interview with Harry Halbreich

Solenne Païdassi, violin (Op. 13 & Op. 18)
Camille Thomas, cello (Op. 20 & Op. 18)
Laurent Wagschal (Op. 13, Op. 20, Op. 18 & Op. 8)
Ensemble Initium (Op. 8)
Édouard Sabo, flute
Hélène Gueuret, oboe
François Tissot, clarinet
Batiste Arcaix, bassoon
Quatuor Elysée (Op. 16)
Lev Maslovsky, violin
Laurent Le Flécher, violin
Adeliya Chamrina, viola
Igor Kiritchenko, cello
Date: 2014
Label: Timpani

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Review

This Timpani release marks the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Albéric Magnard. A Parisian by birth, Magnard was born into a wealthy family and had a privileged upbringing. As a pupil at the Conservatoire de Paris he studied under Jules Massenet and Vincent D’Indy. Magnard became a national hero shot and burnt to death defending his house from the invading Germans in the Great War. A number of his scores were destroyed leaving only a limited legacy behind. Belgian musicologist and Magnard biographer Harry Halbreich was responsible for saving around fifteen scores during his researches in 1960. Magnard left only five chamber music scores all contained here.

The first CD opens with the four movement Violin Sonata in G major, Op. 13 which I believe to be one of the greatest of the French romantic violin sonatas. Composed in 1901 after his opera Guercœur the G major Sonata was written for Eugène Ysaÿe who gave the première. The imperturbable partnership of Solenne Païdassi and Laurent Wagschal play beautifully. The first movement Large - Animé is mainly warm and tender in mood with episodes of real passion. Marked Calme the predominantly affectionate second movement is reflective and yearning with an undertow of disquiet contrasted with stormy episodes. Short, at under four minutes, the Scherzo marked Très vif is ebullient and often fiery. The Finale: Large - Animé is the longest movement at twelve and a half minutes. A slow introduction charged with high anxiety gives way to stormy and emotional music dense with intense longing.

Written in 1909/10 the compact Cello Sonata in A major, Op. 20 is cast in four movements and lasts just under half an hour. Written after his opera Bérénice this is amongst the finest of French cello sonatas. It is a highly attractive and compelling work and has been recorded several times. Cellist Camille Thomas with Wagschal, a dedicated partnership, shine in this score, communicating passion and vitality from start to finish. Marked Sans lenteur the starkly beautiful opening movement is played with proficiency and determination. The short second movement Sans faiblir is blustery and restlessly percussive with a central passage of relative calm although an unsettling undercurrent is discernible. Prominently serious in character yet with a conspicuously pining quality the lengthy Funèbre has a middle section of unsettling tension that borders on the aggressive. The Finale: Rondement is stormy and passionate on the surface revealing itself as a veneer over an undertow of solemn yearning.

The second CD begins with the Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 18 from 1904/05. This is conventionally scored for piano, violin and cello. A considerable work in four movements, the booklet notes describe it as less complex than its close predecessor the String Quartet, Op. 16. The trio of Wagschal, Païdassi and Thomas play with impeccable ensemble and eloquence throughout. The dense and unsettling opening movement is marked Sombre. With an overall positive outlook the second movement Chantant is lyrical and summery while the light Scherzo marked Vif, Tempo de valse is appealing and undemanding. The Finale: Largement - Vif is substantial at thirteen and a half minutes and complex too. It's crammed with varied ideas and rewards for the listener. There is a beautifully calm and dreamlike ending.

Next the Piano Quintet, Op. 8 scored for piano, flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. Composed in 1894 it is Magnard’s first chamber work. Each of the four descriptively titled movements features one of the woodwind instruments: first the clarinet, then the flute, oboe and finally the bassoon. Wagschal and Ensemble Initium are on marvellous form and their direct expressiveness makes for compelling listening. There is a fresh outdoor feel to the opening Sombre with the bold and muted tones giving has an autumnal feel. Warm and relaxing, the slow movement Tendre gives the impression being tucked up indoors on a cold blustery day. By contrast the appealing movement Léger is full of autumnal colours has a fresh and gusty outdoor feel. Fast-moving and breezy the Finale: Joyeux is variegated with writing of a calmer temperament.

The third CD is given over to the String Quartet in E minor, Op. 16 — a substantial work in four movements. A challenging score Magnard was at the peak of his compositional powers when he wrote the work in 1903. In the booklet notes Harry Halbreich makes a bold statement when he considers the String Quartet as “one of the very great string quartets since Beethoven’s late quartets… the most intimidating and the most difficult of his works.” Given impressive advocacy by Quatuor Élysée it is certainly well constructed and, for a late-romantic score, suffers from a certain lack of memorable invention. Commencing with Sonata (Animé) this is bold writing full of emotional tension and unsettling dissonance. Next the Scherzo - Sérénade (Vif) is high spirited and contented in feel. The slow Chant funèbre (Largement sans lenteur Danses) is intensely serious and full of unrelenting emotional tension. Concluding the work, the bold and upbeat Finale: Danses (Vif, populaire) positively shouts with exuberance and energy.

The fourth CD comprises a recent interview with biographer Harry Halbreich by Timpani's founder Stéphane Topakian. It is in French complete with musical excerpts. In the booklet Timpani has provided an English translation of the text of the interview.

On the front cover of the set there is a fascinating picture titled Zeppelins by English artist Charles Spencelayh. This suggested to me Magnard looking out of his house for the advancing German troops. Recorded earlier this year at Cœur de Ville, Vincennes the sound quality is excellent, vividly clear with the piano being especially well balanced with the woodwind and strings.

In 2014 the centenary year of his death the chamber music of Albéric Magnard is wonderfully served by this new release on Timpani.

-- Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International

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Albéric Magnard (9 June 1865 – 3 September 1914) was a French composer, who became a national hero in 1914 when he refused to surrender his property to German invaders and died defending it. His use of cyclic form and occasional incorporation of chorale earned him the nickname of "French Bruckner", although Magnard's handling of cyclical form is more Franckian than Brucknerian.  

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Alban Berg; Wolfgang Rihm - Violin Concerto; Time Chant (Anne-Sophie Mutter)


Information

Composer: Alban Berg; Wolfgang Rihm
  1. Berg - Violin Concerto "To the Memory of an Angel": 1. Andante - Allegretto
  2. Berg - Violin Concerto "To the Memory of an Angel": 2. Allegro - Adagio
  3. Rihm - "Gesungene Zeit": 1. Beginning: quasi senza
  4. Rihm - "Gesungene Zeit": 2. Takt 179: meno mosso

Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
James Levine, conductor
Date: 1992
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4370932

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Mutter’s expressive, impassioned account of this concerto, recorded in 1992, is one of her greatest achievements on disc, a triumph both technically and interpretively. The concentration she brings to the task, the telling way she characterizes the kaleidoscopic moods through which the concerto passes, is something to marvel at—she grasps this extraordinary, complex piece whole, at the same time revealing its most minute details with unprecedented clarity. Levine and the Chicago Symphony rise to the occasion with playing of immense power and brilliance, and the recording is first-rate.

 -- Ted Libbey

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Berg's Violin Concerto (1935) is considered by many the most accessible and emotionally engaging piece of music in the atonal idiom. His last completed work, the concerto was written as a memorial "to an angel" upon the premature death of Alma Mahler's daughter Manon Gropius. But as with all of Berg's oeuvre, an autobiography of the composer's inner life is also thoroughly woven into the score. From the deeply reflective nuances of its quiet opening, Anne-Sophie Mutter takes the listener into the heart of Berg's ambiguous lyricism. There's a keen grasp, both by soloist and conductor James Levine, of the work's intricate structure and progression, but never at the price of a coldly disengaged intellectualism. Mutter summons a marvellous array of shadings and colours, effecting a truly haunting impression as tonality makes its ghostlike apparition, first in the guise of a folk song and, in the final part--following a violent cataclysm rendered with fiery power--in the variations on a quote from a chorale by Bach. Throughout, Mutter's intuitive realisation of the psychic journey traced by Berg reveals the work's significance as closer in spirit to a requiem of farewell than a traditional concerto. Mutter's command of an animated tone that pulsates with expressive purpose inspired the contemporary German composer Wolfgang Rihm to write the other work on this disc, Gesungene Zeit ("Time Chant"). It's a mesmerising neo-expressionist poem of shimmering, elongated string lines--later punctuated with dire eruptions from full orchestra--that seem to form an ether over which the soloist floats. Any sense of time measured in bars becomes negated as Mutter intones Siren-like threads of sound in the highest register. As with the Penderecki Violin Concerto No. 2 and other contemporary works she champions, Mutter plays with a gripping immediacy that indeed makes Rihm's imaginative novelty seem tailor-made for her.

-- Thomas May
Alban Berg (February 9, 1885 – December 24, 1935) was an Austrian composer. He was a member of the Second Viennese School with Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern, and produced compositions that combined Mahlerian Romanticism with a personal adaptation of Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alban_Berg

***

Anne-Sophie Mutter (born 29 June 1963) is a German violinist. Supported early in her career by Herbert von Karajan, she has built a strong reputation for championing contemporary music with several works being composed specially for her. She owns two Stradivarius violins (The Emiliani of 1703, and the Lord Dunn-Raven Stradivarius of 1710), a Finnigan-Klaembt dated 1999 and a Regazzi, dated 2005.

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Alan Hovhaness; Igor Stravinsky; Sergei Prokofiev - Orchestral Works (Fritz Reiner)


Information

Composer: Alan Hovhaness; Igor Stravinsky; Sergei Prokofiev
  1. Hovhaness - Symphony No. 2 "Mysterious Mountain", Op. 132: I. Andante
  2. Hovhaness - Symphony No. 2 "Mysterious Mountain", Op. 132: II. Double Fugue: Moderato moestoso
  3. Hovhaness - Symphony No. 2 "Mysterious Mountain", Op. 132: II. Double Fugue: Allegro vivo
  4. Hovhaness - Symphony No. 2 "Mysterious Mountain", Op. 132: III. Andante espressivo
  5. Stravinsky - Divertimento from "Le baiser de la fée": I.Sinfonia
  6. Stravinsky - Divertimento from "Le baiser de la fée": II.Dances suisses
  7. Stravinsky - Divertimento from "Le baiser de la fée": III.Scherzo
  8. Stravinsky - Divertimento from "Le baiser de la fée": IV.Pas de deux: Adagio - Variations - Coda
  9. Prokofiev - Lieutenant Kijé, Op. 60: I. The Birth of Kijé
  10. Prokofiev - Lieutenant Kijé, Op. 60: II. Romance
  11. Prokofiev - Lieutenant Kijé, Op. 60: III. Kijé's Wedding
  12. Prokofiev - Lieutenant Kijé, Op. 60: IV. Troika
  13. Prokofiev - Lieutenant Kijé, Op. 60: V. The Burial of Kijé

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Fritz Reiner, conductor
Date: 1957 (9-13), 1958 (1-8)
Label: RCA

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PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: ****

In a past review, I referred to Reiner’s ‘clarity, precision and flexible phrasing’, and all are conspicuous on this disc, as is his perfect control of balance and colour. Alan Hovhaness’s music is intensely individual though in no sense avant-garde, and it calls for the most subtle tonal shading. This it receives abundantly in Reiner’s engrossing account. The 24-minute Divertimento which Stravinsky drew from his full-length Tchaikovsky-based ballet The Fairy’s Kiss is recreated with equal finesse. The 1957 recording of Kijé has been reissued before.

-- Wadham SuttonBBC Music Magazine

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Most people became acquainted with Hovhaness's greatest symphony, Mysterious Mountain (Symphony 2), through this recording when it appeared on vinyl during the Stone Age. It plays like an extended prayer and is oddly structured. It was an immediate hit when it appeared in 1955. Stravinsky's The Fairy's Kiss is a 1928 ballet commission that, quite intentionally, recalls Tchaikovsky and was written to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his death. Last here is a bang-up reading of Serge Prokofiev's classic Lieutenant Kije Suite. If you want to turn a young person onto classical music, play this disc. Worked with me.

-- Paul Cook

More info and reviews:

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Alan Hovhaness (March 8, 1911 – June 21, 2000) was one of the most prolific composers of 20th century. His official catalog comprising 67 numbered symphonies and 434 opus numbers, with well over 500 works. Hovhaness' music is described "assimilates the music of many cultures" and "hushed, reverential, mystical, nostalgic".

***

Fritz Reiner (December 19, 1888 – November 15, 1963) was a prominent Hungarian-born conductor of opera and symphonic music in the twentieth century. He emigrated to the United States in 1922 and reached the pinnacle of his career as the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s and early 1960s.

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Alan Hovhaness - Collection Vol. 2 (Gerard Schwarz; Keith Brion; Shanghai Quartet)


Information

Composer: Alan Hovhaness

CD1:
  • (01-03) Symphony No. 50 "Mount St. Helens", Op. 360
  • (04) Prelude and Quadruple Fugue, Op. 128
  • (05-06) String Quartet No. 3 "Reflections on my Childhood", Op. 208, No. 1
  • (07) And God Created Great Whales, Op. 229, No. 1
CD2:
  • (01-03) Symphony No. 2 "Mysterious Mountain", Op. 132
  • (04-05) Symphony No. 53 "Star Dawn", Op. 377
  • (06) Alleluia and Fugue, Op. 40b
  • (07-09) String Quartet No. 2 "Adanad Suite", Op. 147
  • (10) Celestial Fantasy, Op. 44
  • (11) Meditation on Orpheus, Op. 155

Seatle Symphony Orchestra, cond. Gerard Schwarz (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10)
Ohio State University Concert Band, cond. Keith Brion (6)
Shanghai Quartet (3, 8)

More info and reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Hovhaness-Collection-Vol-2/dp/B00000JSAT

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Alan Hovhaness (March 8, 1911 – June 21, 2000) was one of the most prolific composers of 20th century. His official catalog comprising 67 numbered symphonies and 434 opus numbers, with well over 500 works. Hovhaness' music is described "assimilates the music of many cultures" and "hushed, reverential, mystical, nostalgic".

***

Gerard Schwarz (born August 19, 1947) is an American conductor. He was music director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 2011 and also served as music director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra from 2001 to 2006. Schwarz is noted for championing American composers, past and present. He made over 100 recordings with the Seattle Symphony.

***

The Shanghai Quartet a string quartet that formed in 1983 at the Shanghai Conservatory in China. They studied with the Vermeer Quartet from 1985 to 1987. The quartet is made up of four members: first violinist Weigang Li, second violinist Yi-Wen Jiang, violist Honggang Li, and cellist Nicholas Tzavaras.
http://shanghaiquartet.com/

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Alan Hovhaness - Collection Vol. 1 (Gerard Schwarz; Keith Brion; Shanghai Quartet)


Information

Composer: Alan Hovhaness

CD1:
  • (1) Prayer of St. Gregory, Op. 62b
  • (02-05) Symphony No. 22 "City of Light", Op. 236
  • (06-09) 4 Bagatelles, Op. 30
  • (10) Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints "Hanga Genso", Op. 211
CD2:
  • (01-08) The Flowering Peach, incidental music, Op. 125
  • (09-11) Symphony No. 1 "Exile Symphony", Op. 17 No. 2
  • (12) A Rose Tree Blossoms, motet, Op. 246 No. 4
  • (13-15) String Quartet No. 4 "The Ancient Tree", Op. 208 No. 2

Seatle Symphony Orchestra, cond. Gerard Schwarz, conductor (Op. 62b, Op. 211, Op. 17 No. 2)
Seatle Symphony Orchestra, cond. Alan Hovhaness, conductor (Op. 236)
Ohio State University Concert Band, cond. Keith Brion (Op. 125)
St. John's Episcopal Cathedral Choir, cond. Donald Pearson (Op. 246 No. 4)
Shanghai Quartet (Op. 30, Op. 208 No. 2)

More info & reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Hovhaness-Collection-Essential/dp/B00000071K

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Alan Hovhaness (March 8, 1911 – June 21, 2000) was one of the most prolific composers of 20th century. His official catalog comprising 67 numbered symphonies and 434 opus numbers, with well over 500 works. Hovhaness' music is described "assimilates the music of many cultures" and "hushed, reverential, mystical, nostalgic".

***

Gerard Schwarz (born August 19, 1947) is an American conductor. He was music director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 2011 and also served as music director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra from 2001 to 2006. Schwarz is noted for championing American composers, past and present. He made over 100 recordings with the Seattle Symphony.

***

The Shanghai Quartet a string quartet that formed in 1983 at the Shanghai Conservatory in China. They studied with the Vermeer Quartet from 1985 to 1987. The quartet is made up of four members: first violinist Weigang Li, second violinist Yi-Wen Jiang, violist Honggang Li, and cellist Nicholas Tzavaras.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Adolf von Henselt - Etudes (Piers Lane)


Information

Composer: Adolf von Henselt
  • (01-12) 12 Études caractéristiques de concert, Op. 2
  • (13) Andante et étude concertante, Op. 3
  • (14-25) 12 Études de salon, Op. 5

Piers Lane, piano
Date: 2004
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67495

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 9 / SOUND QUALITY: 9

Combine Chopin’s scinitllating virtuoso piano writing with the lush textural doublings and orchestrally inspired chord deployment Schumann favored, and you’ll get an inkling of what Adolf von Henselt’s 24 piano etudes sound like–and for that matter, what they feel like under the fingers. They cover all the major and minor keys while leaving few technical difficulties unaddressed. In fact, some of the composer’s broken chords and rolling bass-register figurations anticipate Brahms (the B-flat minor Etude from Op. 2, for example). Although Henselt’s etudes may not always be the most harmonically interesting works in this genre, their pianistic substance and seriousness of intent hold your attention. So do his best lyrical inspirations: the Mendelssohnian E-flat major from Op. 2, the B major “Liebeslied” (Op. 5 No. 11), or “Ave Maria” (Op. 5 No. 4), with its flowing accompaniment and surprising chromatic twists.

Michael Ponti’s energetic though choppy and brittle-toned Vox recordings of Op. 2 can be safely retired in light of Piers Lane’s impressive technical finish and near transcendent mastery. You may wish for greater color and delicacy at times, or more sustaining power in long-lined melodies (such as “Danklied nach Sturm” Op. 5 No. 6); and Lane also plays coy in the famous F-sharp major etude “Si oiseau j’etais” compared to the brusque pride with which Rachmaninov dispatched the double notes in his bygone acoustic recording. But these are tiny quibbles. If you’re attracted to forgotten Romantic piano music of a high order, this release recommends itself. [2/18/2005]

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/henselt-piano-etudes
http://www.classical-music.com/review/henselt-0
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2005/June05/Henselt_CDA67495.htm
http://www.allmusic.com/album/henselt-%C3tudes-opus-2-opus-5-mw0001412626
http://www.amazon.com/Henselt-Etudes-Poeme-Damour-Douze/dp/B0006OR15W

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Adolf von Henselt (12 May 1814 – 10 October 1889) was a German composer and pianist. To some ears, Henselt's playing combined Franz Liszt's sonority with Hummel's smoothness. He excelled in his own works and in those of Carl Maria von Weber and Frédéric Chopin. Despite his relatively long life, Henselt ceased nearly all composition by the age of thirty

***

Piers Lane (born 8 January 1958) is an Australian classical pianist. His performance career has taken him to more than 40 countries. His concerto repertoire exceeds 75 works. Lane has an extensive discography on the Hyperion label and has also recorded for EMI, Decca, BMG, Lyrita and Unicorn-Kanchana.

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Aaron Copland - Symphony No. 3; Quiet City (Leonard Bernstein)


Information

Composer: Aaron Copland
  1. Symphony No. 3: 1. Molto Moderato
  2. Symphony No. 3: 2. Allegro molto
  3. Symphony No. 3: 3. Andantino quasi allegretto
  4. Symphony No. 3: 4. Molto deliberator (Fanfare) - Allegro risoluto
  5. Quiet City, for trumpet, cor anglais & strings

Philip Smith, trumpet
Thomas Stacy, cor anglais
New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein, conductor
Date: 1985
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4191702

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Review

Copland intended this symphony as a 'grand gesture' and there is no doubt at any point in Bernstein's performance that a big statement is being made: there is passionate earnestness in the opening movement and tremendous impact to the brass and drums at the beginning of the scherzo, the central mood of the andantino is one of vibrant intensity, while the finale is a public address of great splendour. Even the innocent simplicity, rather Appalachian Spring-like with which the trio section opens soon gives way to heartfelt rather than intimately confiding strings, and full-voiced vehemence follows hard upon the bright glitter of the scherzo's return. All the more effective, then, the chill pallor of the violins ushering in the slow movement and the lovely, quiet solemnity of the finale's long-delayed 'third subject', but I could have done with more such moments, and suspect that they could readily be found in a symphony that is not all confidence and majestic optimism.

It is not that Bernstein ignores ambiguities, shadows and uncertainties, but that he projects them, too, as public, slightly histrionic gestures.

However, it is undoubtedly the 'positive' aspects of the work that have made its reputation, and they could hardly be more eloquently stated: the dance-like rhythms are crisp and springy, the Fanfare for the common man, quoted in its entirety as an earnest of the grandeur of the finale's gestures, is magnificently sonorous and the noble conclusion of the work is vastly impressive. Quiet City is given a no less deeply felt reading; again, the vibrato of the solo trumpet and the soft richness of the strings in their fuller pages struck me as very slightly over-acted.

The symphony was recorded at a public concert (before an exceptionally well-trained or uncommonly healthy audience: not a cough is to be heard) and the sound has plenty of power and edge but not quite enough richness to the bass; high strings sometimes take on a dazzling glare. The much more reticently scored Quiet City, made in the studio, has no such problems.

-- Michael Oliver, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.allmusic.com/album/copland-symphony-no-3-quiet-city-mw0001353642
http://www.amazon.com/Copland-Symphony-No-Quiet-City/dp/B000001G7A

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Aaron Copland (November 14, 1900 – December 2, 1990) was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor. His works are consider by many to be the sound of American music. In addition to his famous ballets and orchestral works, he produced music in many other genres including chamber music, vocal works, opera and film scores.

***

Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world's leading orchestras, and from his composition. He was also the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music.

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Aaron Copland - Appalachian Spring; Rodeo; Billy the Kid; Fanfare for Common Man (Leonard Bernstein)


Information

Composer: Aaron Copland
  • (01-08) Appalachian Spring
  • (09-12) Rodeo (Four Dance Episodes)
  • (13-20) Billy the Kid
  • (21) Fanfare for the Common Man

New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein, conductor
Date: 1960, 1961, 1966
Label: Sony Classical

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Review

"With the possible exception of Sergey Koussevitsky, who introduced his music to the world, Aaron Copland had no greater supporter than Leonard Bernstein. More than any other conductor, Bernsteinstrenuously campaigned for Copland's work and generously helped secure the composer's enormous and lasting popularity. One may still find Bernstein's bravura interpretations less than satisfying, for they are brusque and a little hurried, and the New York Philharmonic is at times too scrappy and pugnacious, even for these rugged pieces of Americana. Yet the four dances from Rodeo, the suite from Billy the Kid, and Fanfare for the Common Man (extracted from the Symphony No. 3) are hard to imagine without some populist roughness around the edges, and any lack of subtlety is compensated by the performers' abundant enthusiasm. Nowhere is their gusto more apparent than in "Hoe-Down," one of the highlights of this disc. However, Appalachian Spring, a tender and evocative work, is rather hard-edged, and some listeners may prefer Copland's 1970 recording on CBS as a gentler alternative. These performances, recorded from 1960 to 1967, have been remixed to improve Columbia's original sound. While the results are uneven, the listening experience is not disrupted by too many volume adjustments."

-- Blair Sanderson, AllMusic

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Bernstein-Century-Copland-Appalachian-Spring/dp/B0000029XG

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Aaron Copland (November 14, 1900 – December 2, 1990) was an American composer, composition teacher, writer, and later in his career a conductor. His works are consider by many to be the sound of American music. In addition to his famous ballets and orchestral works, he produced music in many other genres including chamber music, vocal works, opera and film scores.

***

Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world's leading orchestras, and from his composition. He was also the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Bernstein

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Various Composers - Russian Works for Cello and Piano (Michal Kaňka; Marek Jerie)


Information

Composer: Anton Rubinstein; Sergei Rachmaninov; Nikolai Myaskovsky; Alexander Borodin; Igor Stravinsky; Sergei Prokofiev; Dmitri Shostakovich

CD1:
  • (01-03) Rubinstein - Cello Sonata No. 1 in D major, Op. 18
  • (04-07) Rubinstein - Cello Sonata No. 2 in G major, Op. 39
CD2:
  • (01-04) Rachmaninov - Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19
  • (05-06) Myaskovsky - Cello Sonata No. 1 in D major, Op. 12
  • (07-09) Myaskovsky - Cello Sonata No. 2 in A minor, Op. 81
CD3:
  • (01-03) Borodin - Cello Sonata in B minor
  • (04-08) Stravinsky - Suite Italienne for cello & piano
  • (09-11) Prokofiev - Cello Sonata in C major, Op. 119
CD4:
  • (01-04) Shostakovich - Cello Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 40
  • (05-07) Rubinstein - 3 Pieces for cello & piano, Op. 11/3
  • (08) Prokofiev - Ballade in C minor, for cello & piano, Op.15
  • (09) Prokofiev - Adagio Op. 97b, from "Cinderella", for cello & piano

Michal Kaňka, cello; Jaromír Klepáč, piano
Marek Jerie, cello; Ivan Klánský, piano (Shostakovich Op. 40)
Date: 1999-2003
Label: Praga
http://www.pragadigitals.com/RUSSIAN-WORKS-FOR-CELLO-PIANO-M-KANKA-M-JERIE-cello-J-Klepac-I-Klansky-p-4CD-Box

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Review

For the casual fan of cello music, this four-disc set of Russian works for cello and piano may seem like far too much of a good thing. After all, the cello sonatas of Rubinstein, Myaskovsky, and Borodin are anything but standard repertoire. For the dedicated fan of cello music, this set may not seem up to the level of the great performances of the past. After all, Rostropovich has already recorded Prokofiev's Cello Sonata accompanied by Richter in the presence of the composer and Shostakovich's Cello Sonata accompanied by the composer and these performances are understandably hard to top for expressivity and authenticity. But for the deeply dedicated fan of Russian music, this set will be just the thing to fill out the corners in their collection. For them, the performances by cellist Michal Kanka and pianist Jaromir Klepác (and cellist Marek Jerie and pianist Ivan Klánsky for the Shostakovich) may not scale the same heights as Rostropovich, but by virtue of having recorded works Rostropovich never recorded, they are still in a class of their own. For them, the opportunity to hear superbly played and deeply committed performances of rarely recorded works by accomplished Czech artists will be inducement enough to pick up this set and discover the bravura excitement of Rubinstein's sonatas, the anguished romanticism of Myaskovsky's sonatas, and, best of all, the loving lyricism of Borodin's sonata for themselves. Praga's sound is crisp, clean, and deep.

-- James Leonard, AllMusic

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Michal Kaňka (born 1960, Prague) is a Czech cellist. He is a member of the Pražák string quartet (since 1986) and the Beethoven string trio he has appeared on major concert stages in the whole world and recorded many pieces above all for the CD company Praga digitals. He plays a contemporary instrument made by French violin-maker Christian Bayon 2006 and the bow made by French bow-maker Nicole Descloux 2000.

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Anton Rubinstein - Piano Quartets (Leslie Howard)


Information

Composer: Anton Rubinstein
  1. Piano Quartet in F major, Op. 55bis: 1. Allegro non troppo
  2. Piano Quartet in F major, Op. 55bis: 2. Scherzo: Allegro assai
  3. Piano Quartet in F major, Op. 55bis: 3. Andante con moto
  4. Piano Quartet in F major, Op. 55bis: 4. Allegro appassionato
  5. Piano Quartet in C major, Op. 66: 1. Allegro moderato
  6. Piano Quartet in C major, Op. 66: 2. Allegro vivace
  7. Piano Quartet in C major, Op. 66: 3. Andante assai
  8. Piano Quartet in C major, Op. 66: 4. Allegro non troppo ma con fuoco

Leslie Howard, piano
Rita Manning, violin
Morgan Goff, viola
Justin Pearson, cello
Date: 2013
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA68018

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Reviews

Having dealt comprehensively with Liszt (99 CDs for Hyperion), the indefatigable Leslie Howard has been espousing Anton Rubinstein, one of the few pianists whose energy and dash even Liszt admired: he once encouraged a timid student, ‘Play it more like Rubinstein’. Howard has this sense of warmth and energy that characterises Rubinstein even when, as can happen with a composer who wrote so much and so effortlessly, these qualities sometimes overtake actual quality and originality of invention. But though there are passages where this could be said of the F major Quartet, Op 55, Howard brings it all off enthusiastically; and Rubinstein does not disappoint with his melodic gift when it comes to the fruity tune in the Trio of the Scherzo. This is, incidentally, the first recording of the string version which Rubinstein made from the original Quintet with wind instruments.

The recording of the later C major Piano Quartet, Op 66, also appears to be the first, – surprisingly, as Rubinstein himself often played it. It is certainly the more accomplished work and contains much of Rubinstein’s character – the emotional energy, but also the keyboard virtuosity, the melodic charm, and the capacity for the entertainingly unexpected. Howard, who contributes a helpful booklet essay, understands the music and is excellently supported by the strings in a recording that gives the soloist some precedence but does not obscure the old lion’s understanding of string textures.

-- John Warrack, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.classical-music.com/review/rubinstein-oct-14
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2014/Sep14/Rubinstein_quartets_CDA68018.htm
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/may/01/rubinstein-piano-quartets-review
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalcdreviews/10803764/Rubinstein-Piano-Quartets-review-passion-and-bravura.html
http://www.audaud.com/anton-rubinstein-piano-quartet-in-f-major-piano-quartet-in-c-major-leslie-howard-p-rita-manning-v-morgan-goff-viola-justin-pearson-cello-hyperion/
http://www.allmusic.com/album/rubinstein-piano-quartets-mw0002645404
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rubinstein-Piano-Quartet-Major-Op/dp/B00ITYHC46
http://www.amazon.com/Rubinstein-Piano-Quartets-Rita-Manning/dp/B00ITYHC46

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Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein (November 28 [O.S.November 16] 1829 – November 20 [O.S. November 8] 1894) was a Russian pianist, composer and conductor who became a pivotal figure in Russian culture when he founded the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. He was the elder brother of Nikolai Rubinstein who founded the Moscow Conservatory. As a pianist, Rubinstein ranks amongst the great 19th-century keyboard virtuosos. Rubinstein was also a prolific composer throughout much of his life.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Rubinstein

***

Leslie Howard (born 29 April 1948) is an Australian pianist and composer. He is best known for being the only pianist to have recorded the complete solo piano works of Franz Liszt, a project which included more than 300 premiere recordings. In addition to his Liszt project, Leslie Howard's recordings include works by many other composers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Howard_(musician)

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Anton Rubinstein - Piano Works (Leslie Howard)


Information

Composer: Anton Rubinstein

CD1
  1. Deux Mélodies, Op. 3: No. 1 in F major
  2. Deux Mélodies, Op. 3: No. 2 in B major
  3. Deux Morceaux, Op. 30: No. 1 in F minor
  4. Deux Morceaux, Op. 30: No. 2 in D minor
  5. Barcarolle No. 2 in A minor, Op. 45b
  6. Barcarolle No. 3 in G minor, Op. 50 No. 3
  7. Barcarolle No. 4 in G major
  8. Fantaisie in E minor, Op. 77: 1. Adagio - Allegro con fuoco
  9. Fantaisie in E minor, Op. 77: 2. Moderato assai
  10. Fantaisie in E minor, Op. 77: 3. Allegro molto - Moderato - Allegro molto - Poco meno mosso - Presto
  11. Fantaisie in E minor, Op. 77: 4. Molto lento - Vivace assai - Tempo rubato - Quasi presto
CD2
  1. Trois Caprices, Op. 21: No. 1 in F sharp major
  2. Trois Caprices, Op. 21: No. 2 in D minor
  3. Trois Caprices, Op. 21: No. 3 in E flat major
  4. Trois Serenades, Op. 22: No. 1 in F major
  5. Trois Serenades, Op. 22: No. 2 in G minor
  6. Trois Serenades, Op. 22: No. 3 in E flat major
  7. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Theme. Lento - Allegro moderato
  8. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var I. Allegro
  9. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var II. Andante con moto
  10. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var III. Moderato con moto
  11. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var IV. Moderato
  12. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var V. Moderato
  13. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var VI. Allegro non troppo
  14. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var VII. Moderato assai
  15. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var VIII. Moderato asai
  16. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var IX. Moderato
  17. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var X. Moderato
  18. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var XI. Allegro
  19. Thème et Variations, Op. 88: Var XII. Allegro moderato

Leslie Howard, piano
Release Date: 1997
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDD22023

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Reviews

PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: *****

‘Beethoven’s bastard’ he was sometimes called, due to the supposedly striking physical resemblance between Anton Rubinstein and posthumous mentor. If true, it would have betokened the longest human pregnancy on record: Rubinstein was born two years after Beethoven’s death. Remembered nowadays (if only by pianophiles) as one of history’s greatest virtuosos, there was a time when his music ranked with the most popular ever written. Today, despite Howard’s committed and immensely accomplished advocacy here, that seems hard to believe. Ironically and sadly, a two-disc recital like this, with its saturation effect, lessens rather than strengthens the case for a revival of Rubinstein’s music in our own time. From an archival and historical point of view, on the other hand, it can be warmly recommended.

-- Jeremy Siepmann, BBC Music Magazine

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Anton-Rubinstein-Solo-Piano-Music/dp/B000002ZEQ

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Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein (November 28 [O.S.November 16] 1829 – November 20 [O.S. November 8] 1894) was a Russian pianist, composer and conductor who became a pivotal figure in Russian culture when he founded the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. He was the elder brother of Nikolai Rubinstein who founded the Moscow Conservatory. As a pianist, Rubinstein ranks amongst the great 19th-century keyboard virtuosos. Rubinstein was also a prolific composer throughout much of his life.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Rubinstein

***

Leslie Howard (born 29 April 1948) is an Australian pianist and composer. He is best known for being the only pianist to have recorded the complete solo piano works of Franz Liszt, a project which included more than 300 premiere recordings. In addition to his Liszt project, Leslie Howard's recordings include works by many other composers.

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Anton Rubinstein - Piano Sonatas (Leslie Howard)


Information

Composer: Anton Rubinstein

CD1:
  • (01-04) Piano Sonata No. 1 in E minor, Op. 12
  • (05-08) Piano Sonata No. 2 in C minor, Op. 20
CD2:
  • (01-04) Piano Sonata No. 3 in F major, Op. 41
  • (05-07) Piano Sonata No. 4 in A minor, Op. 100

Leslie Howard, piano
Recording Date: 1980 (Nos. 1 & 3), 1981 (Nos. 2 & 4)
Release Date: 1996
Label: Hyperion
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDD22007

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Reviews

It is hard to understand why this music never found a place in the repertoire; the Third and Fourth Sonatas, in particular, contain some highly effective, if eccentric, piano writing. Edward Garden in Grove intimates that it was Rubinstein's carelessness that barred him from achieving greater quality as a composer—certainly there are many awkward elements in these large-scale works, but these do not really obscure the strength of purpose behind the writing. Leslie Howard understands Rubinstein's range of temperament very well indeed and I cannot think of another pianist whose advocacy could have been more persuasive.

Anton Rubinstein was born in the Ukraine; he was of Judaeo-German extraction. Together with his younger-brother, Nikolay, he was taken around Europe as a child prodigy. Between 1844 and 1846, whilst living in Berlin, he came to know Mendelssohn. It was the latter who most influenced his style, as can be heard right from the beginning of the First Sonata. In certain respects one might say that it is the imprint of Mendelssohn's orchestral works, rather than those for piano, that is evident in the 18-year-old composer's writing. Alkan comes to mind as well—the left hand interjections and the interspersed accents in the Scherzo from the First Sonata are reminiscent of the Frenchman—although this may be coincidence. In this work the finale is much the longest movement, but there is quite a bit of writing here that sounded to me like a good reduction of an orchestral score.

The Second Sonata dates from about five years later. In the first movement the contrapuntal writing is rather didactic, but Howard plays with such authority and enthusiasm that one is willingly caught up in the music. The second movement is a Theme and Variations. The first two numbers are curiously unambitious as piano writing, whereas the third, which is more light-hearted, is individual and fresh. A near-quote from Schumann's Kreisleriana finds its way into this item. The work ends with a predictably stormy minor key movement.
Apparently, the Third Sonata of 1853–4 was Rubinstein's own favourite and he included it complete in his legendary ''Historical Recitals'' of the 1880s. A noticeable feature in his compositions is that the second subjects of movements usually contain the most memorable material and this is the case here. The virtuoso writing has developed somewhat from the earlier two pieces, quite possibly under the influence of Henselt's playing and compositions. The Scherzo in march rhythm—terse in mood and economical in notation—is one of the best things the composer ever wrote. There is an Alkanesque starkness that is highly effective, although again devices deriving from orchestral style are apparent. In the slow movement one hears music that must have had a strong impact on the young Tchaikovsky. The coda of the fourth has some very taxing passages, which Howard negotiates with terrific elan.

The last Sonata contains elements from Schumann's Fantasy and G minor Sonata, as well as Chopin's ''Funeral March'' Sonata, and an amazing energy abounds. The Scherzo has a most peculiar mixture of whimsy and bombast. It is perhaps an impression of the composer's vehemence that is the strongest feeling left by the music. Considerably later than the other three, the Fourth Sonata was composed around 1880, when Rubinstein was at the height of his powers as a pianist.

Considering that both Rubinstein's style as a composer and Howard's as a performer are rather on the large side, it is remarkable how successful the actual recording is. The piano sound is wholly acceptable and in the Second and Fourth Sonatas, recorded nearly a year after the other two, the piano tone is especially vivid.

-- James Methuen-Campbell, Gramophone

More reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Piano-Sonatas-A-Rubinstein/dp/B000002ZED

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Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein (November 28 [O.S.November 16] 1829 – November 20 [O.S. November 8] 1894) was a Russian pianist, composer and conductor who became a pivotal figure in Russian culture when he founded the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. He was the elder brother of Nikolai Rubinstein who founded the Moscow Conservatory. As a pianist, Rubinstein ranks amongst the great 19th-century keyboard virtuosos. Rubinstein was also a prolific composer throughout much of his life.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Rubinstein

***

Leslie Howard (born 29 April 1948) is an Australian pianist and composer. He is best known for being the only pianist to have recorded the complete solo piano works of Franz Liszt, a project which included more than 300 premiere recordings. In addition to his Liszt project, Leslie Howard's recordings include works by many other composers.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Howard_(musician)

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Anton Rubinstein - Symphony No. 5; Dmitry Donskoy; Faust (Horia Andreescu)


Information

Composer: Anton Rubinstein
  1. Symphony No. 5 in G minor "Russian", Op. 107: 1. Moderato assai
  2. Symphony No. 5 in G minor "Russian", Op. 107: 2. Allegro no troppo - Moderato assai
  3. Symphony No. 5 in G minor "Russian", Op. 107: 3. Andante
  4. Symphony No. 5 in G minor "Russian", Op. 107: 4. Allegro vivace
  5. Dmitry Donskoy, opera: Overture
  6. Faust, musical picture after Goethe, Op. 68

George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra
Horia Andreescu, conductor
Date: 1988
Label: Naxos
http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.223320

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Review

The neglect of Rubinstein's symphonies and the general view that this is deserved did not seem very encouraging when this CD arrived for review. There is only one other recording and this current disc is a reissue from Marco Polo and 26 years old; the orchestra too is not regarded as top rank. The criticism of this work is that Rubinstein was looking back to the mid nineteenth century German composers rather than forward like Tchaikovsky. Without suggesting that this is an unfairly discarded masterpiece it is an agreeable piece and I'm surprised it hasn't been taken up by a major conductor and orchestra.

The first movement has a certain nod towards Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov but I felt it also sounded a bit like a Russian Dvorak. The second movement Allegro non troppo which seems to owe something to Schumann starts off enthusiastically and is quite exciting but one has to admit there is something missing to make it top class. The third movement perhaps exemplifies the ultimate problem with Rubinstein. The Andante begins with a stirring melody with a certain hymn-like quality but whereas Tchaikovsky in his Fifth Symphony produces a real belter of emotion in the second movement Rubinstein simply seems to run out of ideas. It was here that I felt a better orchestra might make more of the music but there remains a suspicion that there are fundamental flaws in the composition and orchestration. The finale Allegro vivace threatens to raise a storm but again drifts at times. The ending is really not impressive enough to leave a strong impact. That having been said I must say that it was good to hear this piece and notwithstanding certain minor shortcomings the performance and recording are more than adequate and on occasion more than this.

The surprise with Rubinstein's music on this disc is its anonymous nature and a failure to be full-blooded. Russian music, at least in my experience stirs the listener's emotions; with the best will in the world this is not the case here. The overture Dmitry Donskoy is to Rubinstein's first opera premiered in 1852 and also known as The Battle of Kulikovo - the opera itself is lost. Sadly despite some stirring themes this doesn't rise above the derivative and seems overlong for its ideas. Faustwas originally written as a movement of a symphony but this movement is all that was written. The music certainly conveys Goethe's work and has some well developed ideas. The problem is that it sounds like a torso, devoid of its other movements. The playing of the orchestra is committed which is commendable given the obscurity of the music.

At upper bargain price this disc may well be a good introduction to Rubinstein. It has to be said that it's not top-drawer music or performance but certainly of interest.

-- David R Dunsmore, MusicWeb International

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Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein (November 28 [O.S.November 16] 1829 – November 20 [O.S. November 8] 1894) was a Russian pianist, composer and conductor who became a pivotal figure in Russian culture when he founded the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. He was the elder brother of Nikolai Rubinstein who founded the Moscow Conservatory. As a pianist, Rubinstein ranks amongst the great 19th-century keyboard virtuosos. Rubinstein was also a prolific composer throughout much of his life.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anton_Rubinstein

***

Horia Andreeescu (born 18 October 1946, Brașov) is a Romanian conductor. Principal conductor of the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra, and founder and conductor of the Virtuosi of Bucharest Chamber Orchestra, Horia Andreescu has led the Bucharest National Radio Orchestra as artistic director for 18 years. Andreescu has recorded over nine hundred works for broadcast in Romania and abroad, and has made over sixty commercial recordings for various companies.

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