Saturday, July 30, 2016

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


Information

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

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

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Reviews

The epic romantic piano sonata of a contemporary of York Bowen

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

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

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

-- Bryce MorrisonGramophone

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

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

***

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

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Béla Bartók - Violin Concertos (Isabelle Faust)


Information

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

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

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Review

ARTISTIC QUALITY: 10 / SOUND QUALITY: 10

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

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

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

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

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

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

***

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

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Béla Bartók - Violin Concertos (Arabella Steinbacher)


Information

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

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

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Review

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

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

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

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

-- Robert Maxham, FANFARE

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

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

***

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

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

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


Information

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

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

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Review

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

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

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

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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Béla Bartók - Piano Concertos (Géza Anda)


Information

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

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


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Reviews

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

-- David Hurwitz

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

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

-- Charles Timbrell, FANFARE


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

***

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

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Béla Bartók - Piano Works (Zoltán Kocsis)


Information

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

Zoltán Kocsis, piano
Date: 1975
Label: Denon

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


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

***

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

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


Information

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

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

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Review

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

***

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

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


Information

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

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


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Review


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

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

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

-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone

More reviews:

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

***

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

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


Information

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

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


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Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Colin ClarkeMusicWeb International

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

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

***

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

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Joachim Raff - Orchestral Works (Henrik Schaefer)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff

CD1:
  1. Overture to Prometheus Unbound (comp. Liszt, orch. Raff), WoO. 14a
  2. Incidental Music to the Drama "Bernhard von Weimar", WoO. 17: I. Overture
  3. Incidental Music to the Drama "Bernhard von Weimar", WoO. 17: II. March for Act III
  4. Incidental Music to the Drama "Bernhard von Weimar", WoO. 17: III. March for Act IV
CD2:
  1. World's End - Judgement - New World, oratorio, Op. 212: Part I. World's End: No. 5. Pestilence
  2. World's End - Judgement - New World, oratorio, Op. 212: Part I. World's End: No. 7. War
  3. World's End - Judgement - New World, oratorio, Op. 212: Part I. World's End: No. 9. Famine
  4. World's End - Judgement - New World, oratorio, Op. 212: Part I. World's End: No. 11. Death and Hell
  5. World's End - Judgement - New World, oratorio, Op. 212: Part I. World's End: No. 18. The Last Signs
  6. World's End - Judgement - New World, oratorio, Op. 212: Part II. Judgement: No. 22. The Last Trump
  7. World's End - Judgement - New World, oratorio, Op. 212: Part II. Judgement: No. 24. The Resurrection
  8. World's End - Judgement - New World, oratorio, Op. 212: Part II. Judgement: No. 28. The Judgement
  9. World's End - Judgement - New World, oratorio, Op. 212: Part III. New World: No. 30

Gothenburg Opera Orchestra
Henrik Schaefer, conductor

Date: 2012
Label: Sterling
http://www.sterlingcd.com/catalogue/cds1099.html


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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.
http://raff.org/

***

Henrik Schaefer (born 1968 in Bochum) is a German conductor and violist. He became the youngest member (playing viola) of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 22. In May 2000 he was chosen to become Claudio Abbado’s assistant with the BPO. As a guest conductor he works regularly with the Tokyo Symphony, the Holland Symfonia, the Prague Symphony, the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, ...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_Schaefer
http://www.henrikschaefer.com/

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Joachim Raff - Works for Choir and Orchestra (Henrik Schaefer; Bo Aurehl)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  1. Te Deum, WoO 16: I. Te Deum Laudamus
  2. Te Deum, WoO 16: II. Te ergo quaesumus
  3. Te Deum, WoO 16: III. In te Domine speravi, non confundar in aeternum!
  4. De Profundis 130.Psalm, Op. 141: I. Orchestral Introduction: Andante
  5. De Profundis 130.Psalm, Op. 141: II. De Profundis: Andante con moto
  6. De Profundis 130.Psalm, Op. 141: III. Si iniquitates: Andante
  7. De Profundis 130.Psalm, Op. 141: IV. Quia apud te: Allegretto
  8. De Profundis 130.Psalm, Op. 141: V. A custodia: Andante con moto
  9. De Profundis 130.Psalm, Op. 141: VI. Et ipse rediment: Allegro
  10. Pater Noster, WoO 32
  11. Ave Maria, WoO 33
  12. Vier Marianischen Antiphonen, WoO 27: I. Alma Redemptoris Mater
  13. Vier Marianischen Antiphonen, WoO 27: II. Ave Regina Coelorum
  14. Vier Marianischen Antiphonen, WoO 27: III. Regina Coeli
  15. Vier Marianischen Antiphonen, WoO 27: IV. Salve Regina

Susanna Anderson, soprano (7)
Karlstads Kammarkör
Stockholm Singers
Anders Horngren, chorus master
Gothenburg Opera Orchestra (1-9)
Henrik Schaefer, conductor (1-9)
Bo Aurehl, conductor (10-15)

Date: 2011 (10-15), 2012 (1-9)
Label: Sterling
http://www.sterlingcd.com/catalogue/cds1098.html


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Review

Despite the explosion of Raff recordings in the last decade, his sizeable catalogue of vocal music has been neglected. So it is a very welcome development that Sterling has followed up its ground breaking issue of secular works for chorus and orchestra (CDS 1089 - review) with a CD packed with his devotional music, all of it receiving its recording premiere. It's very much a disc of two halves, though, with two works for chorus and orchestra taking 50 minutes, followed by six a capella pieces in the remaining half hour.

Raff's setting of the Te deum laudamus is an early piece from 1851, lasting 10 minutes. It was a Church commission, to be sung at the investiture of a Grand Duke. Whilst not top-notch Raff, it's a very attractive piece; the outer, appropriately celebratory, sections sandwich a more reflective and lyrical central passage. Recording works for choir and orchestra is notoriously difficult and, whilst the balance between the two forces is fine in the central Te ergo quaesumus section, the orchestra is very much to the fore in the outer sections, and Raff's forceful writing for it at the beginning almost drowns out the choir's entry, giving an unrepresentatively poor impression at the very start of this disc. That issue aside, Henrik Schaefer delivers a robust, well-paced and contrasted performance of this straightforward music. The Gothenburg Opera Orchestra have the weight and assurance to carry it off with aplomb, and the combined choir sings with gusto and enthusiasm.

The setting of Psalm 130, De Profundis, comes next in the programme and is a completely different animal. Composed 16 years later, it is work of Raff's maturity. It was written as a peace offering to Liszt, to patch up the sniping ill-feeling between them which had lasted for 10 years. It's a substantial piece lasting 40 minutes which, in Schaefer's magisterial and carefully judged interpretation, comes across as a work of real stature, the solemn tone of which is set by the short orchestral introduction. The opening choral section, De Profundis, is a heartfelt, mournfully lyrical Andante con moto which gradually builds to a magnificently despairing climax on "ad te" (to You). Schaefer's pacing and control of dynamics here is very satisfying, aided throughout by the choirs' nicely graded and carefully phrased contribution. Si iniquitates is another Andante, this time for two men's choruses. Raff combines their separate melodies into a canon and the section builds to a succession of impassioned climaxes before quickly collapsing back into despairing silence. Once again, Shaefer's subtlety in marshalling his forces is matched by the superb responsiveness of singers and players. It's impressive music, impressively performed. Quia apud te, the fourth section, relieves the previous gloom. One glimpses Raff the opera composer in Susanna Andersson's intensely lyrical aria, sung with just the right amount of consoling warmth. She is supported by the women alone this time, while the orchestra provides low-key decorative accompaniment.

The choir unites for the fifth section, A custodia, which begins with an arresting slow crescendo as Raff indulges in a depiction of dawn (the opening words are "From the morning watch"). Leaving the spare bleakness of the work's opening pages firmly behind, the music is best described as dramatically ecstatic. Perhaps inevitably, Raff concludes with a fugue. For the most part he sets Et ipse rediment as a double fugue in eight voices! After a call to action from the orchestra, Schaefer builds Raff's tour de force into a grandly impressive finale to the work, ending with a series of Amens, at first reverential and then joyful. In Schaefer's hands, De Profundis, is a magnificent piece. His thoughtful control of phrasing, tempi and dynamics and, above all, sensitivity to the musical and emotional arc which Raff built into this large-scale work, make for deeply satisfying listening. The balance issues of the Te Deum are absent here, allowing both the subtleties and the power of the choral and orchestral contributions to come through. This is a great addition to the Raff discography.

The CD contains one second short of 80 minutes of music, but this generosity comes with a minor disadvantage: it is very closely tracked. This isn't really a problem except in the transition from the blazing end of De Profundis to the start of the a cappella Pater Noster, recorded in a very different acoustic, and the effect is unfortunately rather jarring the first time one experiences it. Gothenburg's Concert Hall was the recording venue for the orchestral pieces, but a Stockholm church was used for the purely vocal recordings.

The six a capella pieces on this disc were all written in the late 1860s and none were published, or probably even performed, in Raff's lifetime. There's no surprise in this because they would have seemed anachronistic in the extreme to Raff's contemporaries. In them Raff, always a student of music's past, returned to the ecclesiastical music of the Italian renaissance, exploring Palestrina's world without, unlike in his various piano, instrumental and orchestral suites, attempting to bring the medium into the 19th century by incorporating romantic ideas of melody or harmony. Ever the autodidact, he probably wrote them for his own enjoyment, as intellectual exercises.

The two longer pieces, the Pater Noster, and the Ave Maria which follows it, are motets for eight voices in which Raff closely imitates Palestrina's style, only occasionally employing harmonic shifts which the 16th century would have avoided. Raff's usual strong melodic line is largely submerged in lushly overlapping layers of rolling polyphony. The final set of short Marian Antiphons (works which praise the Virgin Mary) lasts around 14 minutes and the four pieces themselves, written for five, six or eight voices, tend to employ more austere, sparer textures than the first two motets. Despite all this music probably being written as a series of academic exercises, and in a style three centuries out of date, these are works of great beauty which could not have a better showcase than they receive in these sonorous, many-layered performances from the Karlstad and Stockholm choirs. Bo Aurehl, who takes over the conductor's baton for the a capella works, takes them at a moderate, but never dragging, pace and the effect is of music which unfolds naturally, in it's own good time. The vocal lines are clearly delineated, but coalesce into a serenely satisfying overall sound which is in dramatic contrast to the passionate romanticism of the Te Deum and De Profundis. A CD of two halves certainly, but the sum is greater than the parts.

Avrohom Leichtling's 23 page essay in the booklet is, as one has come to expect from this most insightful of Raff scholars, invaluable; especially so, for those unfamiliar with the idiom, in his discussion of the background to the a capella pieces. This CD only falls short of five stars because of the balance problems at the start of the Te Deum, but is otherwise a thoroughly recommendable exploration of Raff's fascinatingly varied religious music

-- Mark Thomas, Joachim Raff Society

More reviews:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2013/Apr13/Raff_choral_CDS10982.htm
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2013/July13/Raff_choral_CDS10982.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.
http://raff.org/

***

Henrik Schaefer (born 1968 in Bochum) is a German conductor and violist. He became the youngest member (playing viola) of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 22. In May 2000 he was chosen to become Claudio Abbado’s assistant with the BPO. As a guest conductor he works regularly with the Tokyo Symphony, the Holland Symfonia, the Prague Symphony, the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, ...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_Schaefer
http://www.henrikschaefer.com/

***

Bo Aurehl (born 4 september 1954) is a Swedish music producer, conductor, music educator, writer and concert manager. Aurehl is the founder of Stockholms ungdomskör (1981), Kammarkören Svenska Röster (1988) and the Stockholm Singers (2005). With Stockholm Singers, Aurehl won first prize in the International Choir Competition in Pécs, Hungary (May 2013) and the Grand Prix in the International Choir Competition in Venice and Caorle, Italy (May 2015).
https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_Aurehl

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Joachim Raff - Works for Violin and Orchestra (Tobias Ringborg; Andrea Quinn)


Information

Composer: Joachim Raff
  1. La fée d’amour, morceau caractéristique de concert, Op. 67: Allegro e delicamente -
  2. La fée d’amour, morceau caractéristique de concert, Op. 67: Un poco meno mosso ma pochettino -
  3. La fée d’amour, morceau caractéristique de concert, Op. 67: Vivace
  4. Suite for Solo Violin and Orchestra, Op. 180: I. Preludio. Allegro
  5. Suite for Solo Violin and Orchestra, Op. 180: II. Minuetto. Largamente
  6. Suite for Solo Violin and Orchestra, Op. 180: III. Corrente. Allegro
  7. Suite for Solo Violin and Orchestra, Op. 180: IV. Aria. Larghetto
  8. Suite for Solo Violin and Orchestra, Op. 180: V. Il mono perpetuo - Finale. Allegro vivo
  9. Violin Concerto No. 1 in B minor, Op. 161 (ed. Nordstern): I. Allegro patetico -
  10. Violin Concerto No. 1 in B minor, Op. 161 (ed. Nordstern): II. Andante non troppo -
  11. Violin Concerto No. 1 in B minor, Op. 161 (ed. Nordstern): III. Allegro trionfale

Tobias Ringborg, violin
Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra
Andrea Quinn, conductor

Date: 2007
Label: Sterling
http://www.sterlingcd.com/catalogue/cds1075.html


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Review

Raff’s 1st Violin Concerto: a Major New Discovery

Never underestimate Raff! That is the message of this review. Just as you thought you had got a handle on Raff’s best orchestral music, along comes a new CD which adds yet another masterpiece to the list. The CD, from the indefatigable Bo Hyttner and his Sterling label, contains three pieces for violin and orchestra, all of them first recordings: La fée d’amour op.67 (1854), the Suite for Violin & Orchestra op.180 (1873) and the Violin Concerto No.1 in B minor op.161 (original version – 1870). Soloist is the Swedish violinist Tobias Ringborg and the Orchestra of Norrlands Opera, Umeå in Sweden is conducted by Englishwoman, Andrea Quinn.

La fée d’amour (The Fairy of Love), to which Raff gave the subtitle morceau caractéristique de concert (literally: "characteristic concert piece" or "concert piece with a distinctive character") is in fact virtually a concerto for violin and orchestra, albeit of moderate length and ambition (18+ minutes). (We should remember here, though, that Liszt’s two numbered piano concertos, written some five years earlier, are themselves of similar length.) Furthermore, although it does not employ Lisztian chromaticism, La fée d’amour is Lisztian in form, consisting as it does of three movements laid out in one continuous span. Musically, one is often reminded of Mendelssohn in Midsummer Night’s Dream mode – after all, this is explicitly "fairy" music. Thus woodwind chirpings and violin scurryings characterise the opening movement with its catchy main theme and the soloist is hard at work virtually throughout. The central slow section follows attacca with a beautiful cantilena typical of the composer and with further woodwind chirpings and shimmering strings suggesting a continuation of the fairy theme, the movement later rising to appropriately amorous climaxes. The finale, also following attacca, develops the opening allegro’s material, the mood being bright and cheerful almost throughout, although with a hint of mystery. An extended and very brilliant cadenza precedes the coda which scurries breathlessly to a quiet close on a high solo violin harmonic.

The performance of La fée d’amour is superb, as such a virtuoso piece demands. Ringborg alternates brilliant passagework with a soaring, singing line, lending the piece a wonderful brightness and sparkle entirely appropriate to its material. Quinn accompanies sensitively, never overburdening the work with undue heaviness and bringing out the Mendelssohnian innocence of Raff’s writing throughout. The work, although not in the first rank of Raff’s compositions, thus comes across as a thoroughly worthwhile and entertaining discovery.

Raff’s Suite is a quite different conception. This is no concerto, not even one in disguise: rather, it comprises five separate movements of baroque-style dances in romantic-era dress - an early example, in fact, of neo-classicism. The work begins with a Prelude, a lively movement in semi-moto perpetuo style; there then follow a stately Minuet which alternates courtly grandeur with more lyrical interludes and a Corrente which is a swift gallop for the soloist featuring a broader theme in the orchestra. The fourth movement Aria is a soulful, but dignified slow movement which rises to more passionate climaxes: for this reviewer the best music of the work is to be found here. The concluding movement, Il Moto Perpetuo, is just that – a breathless moto perpetuo with further exacting, rapid passagework for the soloist over a more flowing theme in the orchestra. Here one is reminded perhaps of the finale of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Once again Ringborg steps fearlessly up to the mark. His playing is simply heroic in what must be unforgiving writing for the soloist over a 29-minute span and Quinn keeps her tireless orchestra on its toes, contributing to the exhilarating effect of the whole. This is great playing, but it is hard to avoid the impression that this is not actually Raff’s greatest music. True, the music is deliberately limited in style and range, but there is surely a want of truly memorable material here. Nevertheless, the Aria would make a superior encore for any jaded virtuoso.

The masterpiece on this CD, however, is Raff’s Violin Concerto No.1, performed here in its original version without the changes perpetrated by its dedicatee, August Wilhelmj. The latter’s "version" – actually a wholesale recomposition of the piece – involved transforming the solo part into one of "showy, outrageous virtuosity" (liner notes – see below), working in additional counterpoint, new harmonic procedures and heavier orchestration, and yet also making cuts amounting to approx. 7% of the score. What we now have in place of Wihelmj’s bloated, yet butchered travesty is Raff’s original conception in all its pristine beauty. And stunningly beautiful this concerto is. The first movement Allegro patetico (12:30) opens with a robust theme in the orchestra which is followed by a wonderfully lyrical inspiration for the soloist – one that will stay with you long after you have finished listening to the piece. There is also much lively passagework for the solo violin accompanied by the woodwind and the strings, as well as exciting tutti which give the movement true dynamism and momentum. Tension increases towards the end of the movement, culminating in a re-statement of the bold opening theme which, however, then dies away and leads attacca into the slow movement Andante non troppo (9:22). This begins with luminous orchestral string writing soon taken up by the solo violin in an inspired rhapsody. Eventually a tutti introduces a livelier section after which we return to the calmer mood of the beginning. The finale Allegro trionfale (7:03) also follows attacca with a memorable march theme pounded out by the orchestra and then taken up by the soloist. The pace is unrelenting: even chordal work from the solo violin cannot halt the movement’s momentum and both soloist and orchestra combine to bring the work to an appropriately triumphant conclusion.

With a violinist of less ability than Ringborg, Raff’s concerto might not make the impression it does here. His familiar virtues of extraordinary agility, secure intonation and a bright, shining tone are here allied to a level of interpretive ability fully up to the demands of the work. Raff requires a romantic, but not heavy approach; there is sentiment a-plenty, but not sentimentality. These are matters which Ringborg clearly understands well, and the result is more than a merely good performance – it is one which is thoroughly attuned to Raff’s aesthetic, the essence of which is "making more out of less". Quinn again proves herself a sympathetic accompanist: she imparts plenty of momentum to the outer movements while never overpowering Ringborg and provides a near-ideal backdrop to the soloist’s rhapsodising in the central section. The acoustic of the Umeå Concert Hall is generous, if rather on the resonant side for ideal clarity, but this is a minor point in such a convincing presentation of Raff’s masterwork.

Make no mistake: this is a major unknown Romantic-era violin concerto. Burnett R. Toskey, in his indispensable reference work Concertos for Violin and Viola: a Comprehensive Encyclopedia, writes as follows: "This music is of dynamic dramatic character. It is a work of major proportions, and is exceptionally melodious and pleasing, yet highly original in style. It is a brilliant showpiece for the performer." Tobias Ringborg himself has said of the recording under review: "I am very happy and grateful to have recorded these pieces. It was extremely hard work (I have never practiced that much in my life...), but really and truly worthwhile!"

We are now therefore beginning to see more clearly the wider context of the development of the violin concerto in the broad German tradition in this period. Up until recently little thought was given to repertoire beyond the well-known violin concertos of Mendelssohn (1844), Bruch (No.1, 1868) and Brahms (1878); even Bruch’s Second (1878) and Third (1891) concertos have remained relatively neglected. Although some attention has been given to those by Schumann (1853), Goldmark (1877) and Richard Strauss (1881-2), a number of other very fine, clearly repertoire-worthy violin concertos have now emerged. Examples include those by Joseph Joachim (No.2 in D minor "Hungarian", 1857, and No.3 in G major, 1864), Hermann Goetz (G major, 1868), Johan Svendsen (A major, 1868-70 – a Norwegian composer whose concerto was completed and first performed in Leipzig), Albert Dietrich (D minor, 1873), Reinhold Becker (No.1 in A minor, 1876, as yet unrecorded), Carl Reinecke (G minor, 1876), Emil Hartmann (G minor, 1876 – a Danish composer, but just as much part of the German musical scene), Friedrich Gernsheim (No.1 in D major, 1879, unrecorded), Niels Gade (D minor, 1880 – another Danish composer, but very much of the Leipzig school) and Ignaz Brüll (A minor, 1882, also unrecorded). The fine concerto in G major (1857) by the Russian, Anton Rubinstein, also belongs to this tradition. And now, to add to his Second Violin Concerto (A minor, 1877), we have Raff’s First in its original version, which may just be the most important rediscovery of them all. Never have the world’s great violinists had such riches from which to choose…      

In short, the new CD is a triumph. Add to all this scholarly and perceptive liner-notes by US composer and Raff-expert, Dr Avrohom Leichtling – to whose insights this writer is greatly indebted – and we have not only a musical feast, but a musicological one as well.

Finally, but most importantly, we owe an immense debt of gratitude to Mark Thomas for his part in establishing the whereabouts of the original score of the 1st Violin Concerto and to the forum poster who first alerted him. Mark’s efforts have been suitably rewarded with this magnificent recording.

-- Alan HoweJoachim Raff Society

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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.

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Tobias Ringborg (born 2 November 1973) is a Swedish violinist and conductor. His discography includes about twenty CDs with chamber music and violin concertos, mostly by Swedish composers. In between operatic and orchestra engagements, Tobias Ringborg maintains an active career as a chamber musician. He plays a Niccolò Gagliano violin, on loan from the Järnåker foundation of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

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Andrea Quinn studied conducting at The Royal Academy of Music. She was Music Director of The Royal Ballet, London (1998-2001), New York City Ballet, USA (2001-2006) and Norrlands Operan, Sweden (2005-2009). Quinn has worked with several of Great Britain’s leading orchestras, numerous orchestras abroad.

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