Category Archives: Classical

J.S. Bach – Transcriptions – Ensemble Contraste (2013) [Qobuz 24-88.2]

J.S. Bach: Transcriptions – Ensemble Contraste (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88.2 kHz | Digital Booklet | 930 MB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz

Moving from the harpsichord to the clavichord or the organ was probably easy enough for Johann Sebastian Bach. The source of the sound didn’t matter, because for the master of Leipzig, what counted were thought and intellect: the form, tonality and melodic contours ere more important than the instrument itself. And indeed, through this work of musical thought, Bach used different keyboards, prefiguring the instruments to come: the piano as a synthesis of the harpsichord, the organ and the clavichord.

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble: Ensemble Contraste

Reviews: Bach was aware of exchanges between the different European schools, which allowed musicians to copy, transcribe and adapt the work of contemporaries. Bach did this with his own scores, as well as those of his colleagues. Over the centuries, Busoni, Siloti, Kempff and Kurtàg amongst other have transformed the magic of the organ, orchestra and choruses of the cantatas to the piano.

And now, Ensemble Contraste presents its own vision of the Cantor: a school of freedom that never betrays his conception and allows the beauty, rigorous construction and triumphant polyphonies to shine through.

“La Dolce Volta, a new French classical music label whose outstanding production values include big, bold sound and cerebral liner notes laid out in cerebral, hip typography” Strings

Tracklisting:
1 Choral pour orgue « Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland » BWV 659 4’21
(transcription pour quatuor avec piano)
2 Choral pour orgue « Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ » BWV 639 2’35
(transcription pour trio à cordes)
3 Cantate « Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen » BWV 12, sinfonia et coro 7’29
(transcription pour quatuor avec piano)
4 Motet « Singet Dem Herrn » BWV 225 4’20
(transcription pour quatuor avec piano)
5 Livre I – Prélude et fugue n°9 BWV 854 (Clavier Bien Tempéré ) 2’56
(transcription pour trio à cordes)
6 Ricercare à 6 BWV 1079 (L’Offrande musicale) 6’43
(transcription pour quatuor avec piano)
7 Partita en ut mineur pour clavier, 1ère partie BWV 826 5’04
(transcription pour trio à cordes)
8 Aria « Erbarme dich » BWV 244 (La Passion selon Saint Matthieu) 6’23
(transcription pour piano seul)*
9 Passacaille et fugue en ut mineur pour orgue BWV 582 11’25
(transcription pour quatuor avec piano)
10 Bist du bei mir BWV 508 2’27
(transcription pour alto et piano)
Transcriptions réalisées par :
Johan Farjot (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 et 9), Karol Beffa (8) et Arnaud Thorette (10)

Continue reading J.S. Bach – Transcriptions – Ensemble Contraste (2013) [Qobuz 24-88.2]

Janina Fialkowska – Chopin Recital 2 (2012) [LINN 24-96]

Janina Fialkowska – Chopin Recital 2 (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96 kHz | Time – 76:01 minutes | 1,16 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: LinnRecords.com | Front Cover
Genre: Classical

Very few composers exist whose piano music can fill an entire evening without straining the attention or good will of an audience of non-professional musicians. But all-Chopin recitals have been popular throughout the 20th and now the 21st centuries. For this reason Janina Fialkowska offers, without qualms, her second all-Chopin recital album.

Loved and admired by virtually all of his contemporaries, Chopin cast a magical spell on his generation as well as on all future generations of musicians. His music remains as fresh, as enchanting and as powerful as the day it was first penned. Janina Fialkowska has chosen a very personal program of Chopin’s most delightful piano music including Waltz, Preludes, Ballade and Mazurkas.

Tracklist:
01 – Polonaise No. 2 in E flat minor, Op. 26, No. 2
02 – Waltz No. 14 in E minor, Op. posth.
03 – Waltz No. 3 in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2, ‘Valse brillante’
04 – Waltz No. 8 in A flat major, Op. 64, No. 3
05 – Ballade No. 2 in F Major, Op. 38
06 – 24 Preludes, Op. 28 – No. 10 in C sharp minor
07 – 24 Preludes, Op. 28 – No. 11 in B Major
08 – 24 Preludes, Op. 28 – No. 13 in F sharp Major
09 – Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49
10 – Nocturne No. 16 in E flat Major, Op. 55, No. 2
11 – Mazurka No. 5 in B flat Major, Op. 7, No. 1
12 – Mazurka No. 50 in A minor, Op. posth., ‘Notre temps’
13 – Mazurka No. 32 in C sharp minor, Op. 50, No. 3
14 – Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31

Continue reading Janina Fialkowska – Chopin Recital 2 (2012) [LINN 24-96]

Jan Rokyta, Milos Valent – Telemann & 18th-Century Dance Manuscripts: Barbaric Beauty (2011) [Qobuz 24-192]

Jan Rokyta, Milos Valent – Telemann & 18th-Century Dance Manuscripts: Barbaric Beauty (2011)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Front Cover | 2.38 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz

It goes without saying that Telemann had a thorough command of the French and Italian styles. Countless ensembles, including ours, have played such pieces. In ‘Barbaric Beauty’ we follow a completely different path by focussing on Telemann’s Polish style. At least, this is how he described the pieces he wrote after discovering the music played along the Polish-Hungarian border. It was at the beginning of his career, when he was just 25 years old, that he heard sounds that were to inspire him throughout his life.

On this recording Holland Baroque Society meets Miloš Valent – specialist both in Baroque music and 18th-century Central- European folk music. They play folk music from the heart of Europe, and Baroque music influenced by folk music from Telemann, among others. This program demonstrates the centuries-old influence of ‘popular’ music on ‘art’ music: a kind of world-music avant la lettre. Supported by cimbalon-player and flautist Jan Rokyta, Holland Baroque Society and Valent show the influence of folk music on baroque art-music, and highlight two important aspects shared by both styles: ‘groove’ and improvisation. Alongside the Concerto ‘Polonois’, they present dance music from the folk-music collection Melodarium/ Szirmay-Keczer, melodies and dances from the Uhrovec Collection (1730), collections from which Telemann chose his favourite folk tunes. Beyond this, you never quite know what’ll happen when Miloš arrives…

Composer: Anonymous, Georg Philipp Telemann
Performer: Jan Rokyta, Milos Valent
Orchestra/Ensemble: Holland Baroque Society

Reviews: Books on music history usually concentrate on the development of what we call ‘art music’ in Western Europe. The traditional or ‘folk’ music remains under the radar. That is understandable. Traditional music was usually not written down; it is possible that many musicians couldn’t read or write. Their repertoire was handed down orally and through a process of listening and imitation. This is also the reason traditional music has no fixed form: it could differ from one generation to the next, and from one region to another. Moreover, improvisation was an organic part of performances of traditional music. Several manuscripts from the 18th century with songs and dances have been preserved, but even these can only give a rudimentary idea of how the music actually sounded.

The study of such manuscripts and of traditional music in general is important, though, especially because this kind of music has found its way into the works of ‘classical’ composers. The English virginalists used popular songs for variations, and so did Italian composers. In the first half of the 18th century the audiences in London were intrigued by Scottish and Irish folksongs, and composers responded by integrating them in their own compositions. At about the same time Georg Philipp Telemann also became acquainted with traditional music. He is one of the few composers who was very outspoken about his fascination with this repertoire. In 1704 he became Kapellmeister in Sorau (today: Zary in Poland). “When the court resided for six months in Plesse and Krakow I became acquainted with both Polish music and the music of the Hanaks. This in all its barbaric beauty. (…) One can hardly imagine the brilliant ideas the wind players and violinists brought forth during the improvisations at moments when the dancers were allowed to rest”. He was clearly strongly impressed by what he heard: “If you were to write down all that was played there, after a week you would have enough ideas for the rest of your life. If you know to turn it to your own advantage, there is so much good to be had from this music”.

Telemann obviously knew very well how to turn this traditional music to his advantage. It turns up regularly in his own compositions, for instance in various orchestral suites. In modern performances these influences are not always clearly traceable. It is the merit of this disc that it approaches these elements in Telemann’s compositions from the angle of traditional music. As a result the performance of some movements from two concertos which are known as concerto polonois is quite different from what we mostly hear. Telemann himself has written down a number of dances which are collected in a manuscript known as Danse d’Polonie, and it is quite possible that this is the result of what he had heard. In the programme recorded by the Holland Baroque Society several manuscripts with traditional music are used. The result is a mixture of traditional and ‘art’ music which shows that the line between the two is fluid.

Programmes like this can easily go terribly wrong. That is the case when musicians which have enjoyed a classical education try to perform traditional music without having a real feeling for it. On the other hand, if musicians from the world of ‘folk’ music are going to play ‘art’ music the result is often just as disastrous. What we have here is a happy marriage of traditional and ‘art’ music, mainly thanks to Milos Valent who is rooted in both. As a violinist he plays in many early music ensembles, like Tragicomedia, Teatro Lirico, Concerto Copenhagen and the Netherlands Bach Society. But he has also a vast experience in playing folk music. He seems to be a very inspiring musician as he is able to pass on his knowledge and enthusiasm to the members of the Holland Baroque Society.

This ensemble chooses not to have a conductor and regularly work with guest directors. Among them have been the likes of Alexis Kossenko, Matthew Halls, Sergio Azzolini and Dorothee Oberlinger. A precondition is a spirit of openness towards the ideas of those artists. In this case that has led to a way of performing they are probably not used to. The performance of traditional music is to some extent speculative, because there are no treatises on performance practice. So whether we hear the dances from the various manuscripts as they were played at the time is impossible to say. But the programme as a whole makes a very convincing impression and the folk music sounds authentic.

The booklet includes informative liner-notes by Judith Steenbrink. Although the sources of the pieces of folk music are given, I would have liked more details, like when and where they were assembled and where they are preserved now. The programme includes movements from larger compositions by Telemann, but they are not indentified and there are no catalogue numbers.

In many ways this disc is an ear-opener. Never before I have been so much aware of the connection between the ‘classical’ and the ‘traditional’. This is definitely a subject which needs to be more thoroughly explored. This disc is an excellent contribution.

Tracklisting:
1 – Perpetuum Mobile / Concerto Polonois in G: Dolce / Polonaise in D / Dance 90 / Polonesie / Pode Dworem D 79 / Polonesie I, II / Melodiarium / Concerto Polonois in B: Largo / Melodiurium G 11 / Concert
2 – Les Janissaires / Nota Kurucz I + II / Zela Trovke
3 – Mourky / Alkmaerder Hout, Murky, Overgaan Van Door-Nik / Les Moscovites / Dance 298 / Hungaricus 22
4 – Dance 322 / Dopschensis / Adagio / Ach Ma Myla Co Myslis / Dance 325 / Melodiarium B-14 / Hungaricus 35
5 – Hanaquoise / Songs: Dalat Mu Dala, Dobras Bila Kdy Te Milovali / Hanac I-II-III, Vivement
6 – Two Dances / En Kitzvo / Two Dances
7 – Marche / Verbung per il violino / Ungarici No. 2,3,5 Hungarice / Hungaricus 34
8 – Mezzetin en Turc / Dance 277 / Les Turcs

Continue reading Jan Rokyta, Milos Valent – Telemann & 18th-Century Dance Manuscripts: Barbaric Beauty (2011) [Qobuz 24-192]

Igor Levit – Beethoven The Late Piano Sonatas (2013) [HDTracks 24-96]

Igor Levit – Beethoven: The Late Piano Sonatas (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Digital Booklet | 1.87 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: HD Tracks

Igor Levit has recently given highly acclaimed debuts in major musical centres across Europe and is being hailed by international critics as one of the most outstanding pianists of our time. Levit is a BBC Young Generation Artist and currently features in the “ECHO Rising Star” program of the European Concert House Organization. Not just another young aspiring pianist releasing his debut album, he is an outstanding artist who meets the exceptionally high technical and interpretative demands of this extraordinary repertoire. Despite his young age, Levit’s interpretations display a rare depth and maturity, making for extremely well-balanced renderings on an artistic level of the great piano masters of our age. The Russian-German pianist performs one of the largest chunks of piano repertoire – Beethoven much-revered five late sonatas opp. 101, 106 and 109–111. Here, Beethoven’s late piano sonatas can be discovered in a most natural & tonally beautiful way. Written between 1816 – 1822 when the composer was completely deaf, Beethoven’s last sonatas are highly subjective artistic and personal confessions. The sonatas constitute one of the cornerstones of Beethoven’s mysterious late style next to the five last quartets.

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer: Igor Levit

Reviews: This is a notable debut recording. Thanks to Igor Levit’s remarkably even touch and precise rhythmic control, the scores’ details, minutely realized, are fashioned into lucid, structurally sound interpretations. This isn’t a pianist trying to outdo others with speed, volume, or extreme interpretations, but a musician whose tasteful instincts produce Beethoven performances with purity of expression and a certain reserve.

Most striking is the gentle songfulness that Levit brings to lyrical movements, such as the brief Allegretto —an endless melody in four-part texture, singled out by more than a few people, Glenn Gould included, as their favorite movement in all of Beethoven’s sonatas—that opens the 28th Sonata, op. 101. In it, Levit succeeds at creating natural phrase divisions without breaking long lines, something that sounds easy when it’s done this well. (Anyone who has tried to play it knows how extremely difficult this is, and how disjointed the movement can sound.) The Sonata’s technically punishing second movement’s dotted rhythms and rests are perfectly executed at an unrushed tempo, and in the final movement, Levit’s comic timing and articulation rivals the very best versions of the Sonata, such as Richard Goode’s.

A generation ago, one often made allowances in performances of the “Hammerklavier,” except perhaps for Pollini, for broader than ideal tempos in the first movement to accommodate technical difficulties, or moments of stressful scrambling to get through the fugue. Judging by some recent recordings of the work—by the excellent Van Cliburn Competition medalist Sean Chen, Mari Kodama (see Jerry Dubins’s review in Fanfare 37:3), and now Igor Levit—there are clear signs that pianists’ technique in the 21st century has caught up with the Sonata’s demands. Levit’s Apollonian reading is more fluent and less heaven-storming than most. This is a young man’s “Hammerklavier,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to infuse the first and third movements with more drama, through the taking of time, later in his life. He plays the first movement at 132 to the quarter in a tempo that sounds just right—Beethoven’s metronome marking, once considered impossible to realize, is 138— achieving a kind of ecstatic swing whose confident steadiness and occasional lightness doesn’t diminish the music’s profundity. The slow movement, taken exactly at Beethoven’s metronome marking of 92, is gentler than many performances, less grandly soul-searching, but serious and intimate.

In the last three sonatas, I find Levit even better than Paul Lewis, whose well-considered performances sound merely like good piano playing compared to the poised, unearthly effect—I’m thinking here of the final movements of Nos. 30 and 32, in particular—that Levit achieves with his finer technical control. The highlights here are, once again, the lyrical movements, though op. 109’s Presstissimo second movement goes like quicksilver, and op. 110’s Allegro molto is a suitably brusque interruption of the work’s otherwise exalted proceedings. In the final pages of op. 110—the triumphant return of a fugue that has been interrupted and turned around by a grief-stricken lament—I find Levit’s tempo too fast, its fluency too easily achieved. I prefer Mitsuko Uchida’s more measured realization of these tricky tempo relationships.

In the Maestoso introduction to the 32nd Sonata, op. 111, Levit’s strict dotted rhythms reveal the music’s kinship to a French overture and provide continuity, unlike Andrew Rangell’s, whose freer concept of the rhythm bogs the music down. Unlike Barenboim in his 1980s DG recording, Levit doesn’t make the slow Arietta a static dirge. His pacing allows the second movement’s sublime variations to unfold with great logic and inevitability. His interpretation of op. 111 is close to Richter’s (a 1975 performance) in its straightforward pacing, but Levit’s voicing doesn’t have Richter’s laser-like exaggeration of top lines. His right hand comes out as needed in all of these performances, but with an appealingly unforced sonority.

The Richter comparison came to mind as I watched Igor Levit on YouTube, not because the two pianists’ playing is particularly similar, but because of their shared Russian-German background, and Levit’s eclectic, rather austere repertoire choices. Both pianists’ quiet concentration conveys the sense that whatever they’re playing is of life-and-death importance, though the grim, aggressive aura that Richter sometimes projected isn’t part of Levit’s image. Levit’s videos of music by Hindemith, Reger, Beethoven (the Third Concerto), and the Bach-Brahms Chaconne arranged for left hand, show that the intensity and refinement of his Beethoven sonatas is no fluke.

Thanks are due to Sony for taking on a serious young pianist in repertoire of his choice, and providing him with sensitive engineering that showcases his full range of dynamics. There’s every indication that this recording introduces one of the 21st century’s important pianists.

Tracklisting:
CD 01
1. I. Etwas lebhaft, mit der innigsten Empfindung (Allegretto, ma non troppo)
2. II. Lebhaft, marschmäßig (Vivace alla marcia)
3. III. Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll (Adagio, ma non troppo, con affetto)
4. IV. Geschwind, doch nicht zu sehr und mit Entschlossenheit (Allegro)
5. I. Allegro
6. II. Scherzo. Assai vivace
7. III. Adagio sostenuto
8. IV. Largo Allegro risoluto

CD 02
1. I. Vivace ma non troppo
2. II. Prestissimo
3. III. Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung (Andante molto cantabile ed espressivo)
4. I. Moderato cantabile molto espressivo
5. II. Allegro molto
6. III. Adagio ma non troppo – Fuga: Allegro ma non troppo
7. I. Maestoso – Allegro con brio ed appassionato
8. II. Arietta. Adagio molto semplice e cantabile

Continue reading Igor Levit – Beethoven The Late Piano Sonatas (2013) [HDTracks 24-96]

Haydn: The London Sonatas – Gottlieb Wallisch (2014) [LINN 24-192]

Haydn: The London Sonatas – Gottlieb Wallisch (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Digital Booklet | 2.45 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Linn Records

Famed for his clarity of line and purity of tone, Gottlieb Wallisch moves from Mozart to his contemporary Haydn for his fourth recording with Linn. Wallisch launched his international career by winning the ‘Joseph Haydn Prize’ as well as first prize at the prestigious Stravinsky Awards at the age of just sixteen.

He celebrated Haydn’s anniversary year in 2009 by giving a critically acclaimed cycle of concerts in the Musikverein, Vienna dedicated to the composer.

Haydn’s famous London Sonatas can be viewed as the distillation of the composer’s entire sonata-writing experience; Gottlieb perfectly captures his characteristic humour, energy and spiritedness.

Sonata No. 60 was written for an instrument of greater tonal range than the Viennese instruments of the day, with a wider palette of specified dynamic possibilities and pedal effects.

With a striking two-movement format, asymmetrical phrases and unusual accents Sonata No. 61 was ahead of its time, breaking the limits of traditional sonata form.

Often described as a symphony for the piano, Sonata No. 62 has frequently been praised as Haydn’s ‘opus summum’ due to its large-scale form, diversity of expression and its virtuoso requirements. Named a Steinway Artist in 2012, Gottlieb Wallisch is a respected artist in the Viennese piano tradition. Gottlieb Wallisch has performed with many leading orchestras including Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. He has performed at prestigious London venues Wigmore Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Composer: Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer: Gottlieb Wallisch

Tracklisting:

1. Sonata for Keyboard no 60 in C major, H 16 no 50 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer: Gottlieb Wallisch (Piano)
Period: Classical
Written: c1794-95
Venue: Historischer Reitstadel zu Neumarkt in d
Length: 16 Minutes 7 Secs.

2. Sonata for Keyboard no 61 in D major, H 16 no 51 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer: Gottlieb Wallisch (Piano)
Period: Classical
Written: circa 1794-1795; London, England
Venue: Historischer Reitstadel zu Neumarkt in d
Length: 5 Minutes 0 Secs.

3. Sonata for Keyboard no 62 in E flat major, H 16 no 52 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer: Gottlieb Wallisch (Piano)
Period: Classical
Written: 1794; London, England
Venue: Historischer Reitstadel zu Neumarkt in d
Length: 19 Minutes 19 Secs.

4. Sonata for Keyboard in F minor, H 17 no 6 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer: Gottlieb Wallisch (Piano)
Period: Classical
Written: 1793; Vienna, Austria
Venue: Historischer Reitstadel zu Neumarkt in d
Length: 13 Minutes 44 Secs.

5. Sonata for Keyboard no 59 in E flat major, H 16 no 49 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Performer: Gottlieb Wallisch (Piano)
Period: Classical
Written: 1789; Eszterhazá, Hungary
Venue: Historischer Reitstadel zu Neumarkt in d
Length: 18 Minutes 47 Secs.

Continue reading Haydn: The London Sonatas – Gottlieb Wallisch (2014) [LINN 24-192]

Friedrich der Grosse – Graun, Nichelmann, C.P.E Bach, Friedrich II: Music for the Berlin court (2012) [Qobuz 24-96]

Friedrich der Grosse – Graun, Nichelmann, C.P.E Bach, Friedrich II: Music for the Berlin court (2012)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Digital Booklet | 1.32 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz

The year 2012 marks the tercentenary of the birth of Frederick the Great, whose political and military glory has often relegated his musical talent to the status of a mere hobby. But Frederick II was not only the key personality of Berlin musical life for the whole of the 18th century – as is shown by the works of the composers presented on this CD, all of whom worked at his court at some point in their careers – but also an excellent flautist who left posterity a number of fine flute sonatas from his own pen.

The Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012. Formed in East Berlin in 1982, Akamus can pride itself on an outstanding reputation and an exceptional career: it has been a welcome guest in all thegreat musical institutions of Europe, Asia and North and South America. In 2011, the ensemble took in its stride operatic productions in nine European countries, an extended tour of the USA and its first tour to China.

The group gives around one hundred concerts a year, with varied forces, under the direction of its different Konzertmeisters: Midori Seiler, Stephan Mai, Bernhard Forck, Georg Kallweit; or guest conductors such as Marcus Creed, Daniel Reuss and Hans-Christoph Rademann. The Akademie’s collaboration with René Jacobs, which started almost 25 years ago, has turned into a genuine artistic partnership. The productions resulting from their work together have been enthusiastically acclaimed both on stage and on record: their recording of ‘Die Zauberflöte’ was distinguished with an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone and BBC Music Choice. More recently ‘Agrippina’ has been shortlisted for a BBC Music Award in April 2012.

Since 1994, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin has recorded exclusively for harmonia mundi.

Composer: Johann Gottlieb Graun, Christoph Nichelmann, Frederick the Great, Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble: Academy for Ancient Music Berlin

Reviews: Released to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the birth of Frederick the Great, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin’s album of music from the Potsdam court is a strong-willed tribute to the strong-willed monarch’s musical achievements, both as a composer himself—he studied with the composer and pedagog Quantz—and as impresario, surrounding himself with some of his age’s finest performers and composers.

Johann Gottlieb Graun (1703–71) is represented here by two works. Sometimes overshadowed by the achievements of his brother Carl Heinrich (1704–59), one of the most important German mid-century composers of Italian opera, Johann Gottlieb worked at Frederick’s court as a violinist and composer. His Overture and Allegro in D Minor are fine examples of a composer who deserves more recognition than he is currently receiving. The overture in the French style receives a stylish and rivetingly precise treatment at the hands of Stephan Mai (directing from the violin) and the orchestra. This is a group that is not afraid to explore contrast in dynamic, articulation, and color, including experimenting with scoring; the repeat of the allegro in the overture opens with winds and no strings, highlighting the rich and reedy sound of oboists Xenia Löffler and Michael Bosch and bassoonist Christian Beuse.

Graun’s A-Minor Gamba Concerto is a real monster. One of five concerti that Graun wrote for Frederick’s court gambist, the virtuoso Ludwig Christian Hesse, the piece clocks in at nearly 25 minutes. The first movement is tempestuous, with sudden silences and dramatic ebbs and flows, demanding virtuosity and precision from not only the soloist but the orchestra as well. A tender Arioso in C Major provides a respite from the drama, but does not let up on the technical demands, while the closing Allegro blends fireworks with elegant restraint. Gambist Jan Freiheit handles the demanding solo part with grace and power. However, the recording’s engineering does not do him any favors, creating a thunderously booming bass while leaving the gamba’s highest register sounding waifish and whiny at times. It simply cannot compare to the depth, power, and sparkle of Vittorio Ghielmi’s 1998 recording of the same concerto with Limoges Baroque Ensemble (Astrée 8617).

Christoph Nichelmann (1717–62) studied with both Johann Sebastian and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, and served as second harpsichordist at Frederick’s court from 1745 to 1756. The Concerto in C Minor on this album, one of at least 20 concerti for harpsichord and orchestra Nichelmann composed, shows the stylistic influence of both the elder Bach and the newer empfindsamer , or sensitive style, championed by C. P. E. Bach and the Grauns, and even points toward early Classicism. On this recording, keyboardist Raphael Alpermann plays the solo on fortepiano, but delivers a puzzling interpretation. While his articulation is searingly crisp and perfectly executed, he does not fully take advantage of the fortepiano’s expressive capabilities through techniques carried over from expressive harpsichord playing, such as rolling chords for greater emphasis or slightly dislocating a melody note as an accent. The result is disconcertingly reminiscent of Glenn Gould’s Bach recordings, and odd, considering Alpermann’s stylish, rhythmic, and expressive harpsichord playing on the Graun and Bach works and his fortepiano continuo on Frederick the Great’s Flute Sonata in C Minor, a pleasant work with its most interesting feature being its dramatic opening recitative.

The album closes with C. P. E. Bach’s quirky and fun Symphony in D, once again demonstrating the orchestra’s ability to turn on a dime, bringing out the striking tempo and affect changes that define the younger Bach’s style. The second movement is a tender accompanied duet between flute and viola da gamba, elegant and refined, and beautifully played by gambist Freiheit and flutist Christoph Huntgeburth. As on the rest of the album, the soundstage is close, yet wide enough to capture the space between instruments. Except for the unfortunate EQ problems with the gamba concerto, it makes for a delightful if idealized listening experience, with every instrumental color coming through clearly and independently without sacrificing blend and a sense of space, important conditions necessary for this capricious, witty, and highly expressive music to come alive.

Tracklisting:
1. Ouvertüre und Allegro in A Minor, GraunWV A:XI:2: I. Ouvertüre (Lento – Allegro) 8:22
2. Ouvertüre und Allegro in A Minor, GraunWV A:XI:2: II. Allegro 3:25
3. Concerto per il Cembalo Concertante in D Minor, D-B M. TH. 169: I. Allegro 7:26
4. Concerto per il Cembalo Concertante in D Minor, D-B M. TH. 169: II. Adagio sempre piano 6:13
5. Concerto per il Cembalo Concertante in D Minor, D-B M. TH. 169: III. Presto 3:46
6. Sonata, per il Flauto Traverso Solo e Basso in C Minor, “pour Potsdam No. 190″: I. Recitativo 2:09
7. Sonata, per il Flauto Traverso Solo e Basso in C Minor, “pour Potsdam No. 190″: II. Andante et Cantabile 5:09
8. Sonata, per il Flauto Traverso Solo e Basso in C Minor, “pour Potsdam No. 190″: III. III. 1:29
9. Concerto Per Il Viola Da Gamba Concertata In A Minor, Graunwv A:XIII:14: I. Allegro Moderato 10:14
10. Concerto Per Il Viola Da Gamba Concertata In A Minor, Graunwv A:XIII:14: II. Adagio (Arioso) 6:56
11. Concerto Per Il Viola Da Gamba Concertata In A Minor, Graunwv A:XIII:14: III. Allegro 7:14
12. Sinfonie No. 1 in D Major, Wq. 183, 1: I. Allegro di molto 5:47
13. Sinfonie No. 1 in D Major, Wq. 183, 1: II. Largo 1:34
14. Sinfonie No. 1 in D Major, Wq. 183, 1: III. Presto 2:51

Continue reading Friedrich der Grosse – Graun, Nichelmann, C.P.E Bach, Friedrich II: Music for the Berlin court (2012) [Qobuz 24-96]

Fontana: Sonate A Violino ed altri strumenti – Daniel Cuiller, Stradivaria (2014) [Qobuz 24-88.2]

Fontana: Sonate A Violino ed altri strumenti – Daniel Cuiller, Stradivaria (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/88.2 kHz | 1 CD | Digital Booklet | 940 MB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz

Born in Brescia around 1571, Giovanni Battista Fontana lived in Venice, Rome and Padua, where he died during the plague of 1630. His music surprises by the mastery of counterpoint, the simplicity and the expression of its slow movements, the complexity of its ornamentation and the elegant vivacity of its short dance sections. Nicknamed ‘dal Violino’ and described as “one of the most singular virtuosos the age has seen”. Fontana has left us an outstanding example of early Baroque instrumental music. On this release, Daniel Cuiller leads the ensemble Stradivaria in a selection of sonatas.

Tracklisting:
1. Sonata undecima a due violini col basso (7:36)
2. Sonata 4 a violino solo e basso (5:19)
3. Sonata 1 a flauto solo col basso (3:56)
4. Sonata 5 a violino sol e basso (5:42)
5. Sonata ottava a due violini col basso (5:52)
6. Sonata 2 a violino solo e basso (6:40)
7. Sonata 3 a flauto solo col basso (4:57)
8. Sonata 6 a violino solo e basso (6:19)
9. Sonata settima a due violini col basso (4:59)

Continue reading Fontana: Sonate A Violino ed altri strumenti – Daniel Cuiller, Stradivaria (2014) [Qobuz 24-88.2]

J.F. Fasch – Quartets and Concertos (2014) [LINN 24-192]

J.F. Fasch – Quartets and Concertos (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Digital Booklet | 2.88 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Linn Records

Ensemble Marsyas’ recording of Johann Fasch’s finest chamber music demonstrates why the man and his music were so appreciated in his own lifetime. Founding member Peter Whelan and ‘the queen of the recorder’ (BBC Radio 3) Pamela Thorby are the soloists challenged with meeting the virtuoso demands of this engaging music. The four-movement Quartet in B-flat Major for recorder, oboe, violin and continuo is among one of Fasch’s most popular works; full of catchy tunes and contrapuntal ingenuity in equal measure, virtuosity is demanded from all concerned.

The Concerto in F Major for recorder and strings was only recently attributed to Fasch. It is full of characteristic Fasch-isms and of the same dramatic quasi-recitative style as his Bassoon Concerto. Ensemble Marsyas’ debut ‘Zelenka: Sonatas’, featuring some of the most spectacularly challenging music ever written for wind instruments, was named ‘Chamber Choice’ by BBC Music Magazine.

Ensemble Marsyas was awarded both first prize and the audience prize at the 2007 Brugge International Competition. Each member has since established themselves at the forefront of their profession and individually they have been awarded accolades by both critics and the recording industry alike. The Edinburgh based chamber group comprises the best of a new generation of musicians specialising in early music from across Europe.

Tracklisting:

Quartet in B flat major FWV N:B2 [10’18]
Peter Whelan (bassoon)
1 Andante [2’17]
2 Allegro [2’22]
3 Largo [1’51]
4 Allegro [3’48]

Horn Quartet in F major FWV N:F3 [6’59]
Alec Frank-Gemmill (horn)
5 Andante [0’57]
6 Allegro [2’15]
7 Andante [1’39]
8 Allegro [2’08]

Quartet in G minor FWV N:g2 [9’31]
Peter Whelan (bassoon)
9 Largo [2’13]
10 Allegro [2’41]
11 Largo [2’00]
12 Allegro [2’37]

Bassoon Concerto in C major FWV L:C2 [9’06]
Peter Whelan (bassoon)
13 Allegro [3’27]
14 Largo e staccato [2’14]
15 Allegro [3’25]

Recorder Concerto in F major FWV L:F6 [8’16]
Pamela Thorby (recorder)
16 Allegro [3’03]
17 Largo [2’14]
18 Allegro [2’59]

Quartet in F major FWV N:F2 [9’55]
Peter Whelan (bassoon)
19 Largo [2’08]
20 Allegro [2’59]
21 Largo [2’10]
22 Allegro [2’38]

Recorder Quartet in B flat major FWV N:B1 [9’28]
Pamela Thorby (recorder)
23 Largo [2’29]
24 Allegro [1’45]
25 Largo [2’36]
26 Allegro [2’38]

Quintet in D minor FWV N:d2 [7’45]
Peter Whelan (bassoon)
27 Largo [2’05]
28 Allegro [2’06]
29 Largo [1’44]
30 Allegro [1’50]

Recording information:

Recorded at Wigmore Hall, London, UK, 9-11 August 2013
Produced and engineered by Philip Hobbs
Post-production by Julia Thomas
Design by gmtoucari.com
Cover image Ikebana by Colm Mac Athlaoich, © 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Continue reading J.F. Fasch – Quartets and Concertos (2014) [LINN 24-192]

Florilegium – Haydn: London Symphonies Vol.1 (2003) [Channel Classics 24-192]

Florilegium – Haydn: London Symphonies Vol.1 (2003)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/192 kHz | Time – 72:26 minutes | 2,38 GB
Official Digital Download – Source: Channel Classics | Front cover
Genre: Classical

Regular performances in some of the world’s most prestigious venues have confirmed Florilegium’s status as one of Britain’s most outstanding period instrument ensembles. Florilegium has established a reputation for stylish and exciting interpretations of music from the Baroque era to the early Romantic revolution and since its formation, Florilegium’s performances have received outstanding critical acclaim around the world.

Tracklist:
01 – Symphony No. 93 in D major, H. 1/93: I. Adagio – Allegro assai
02 – Symphony No. 93 in D major, H. 1/93: II. Largo cantabile
03 – Symphony No. 93 in D major, H. 1/93: III. Menuetto e trio: Allegro
04 – Symphony No. 93 in D major, H. 1/93: IV. Finale: Presto ma non troppo
05 – Symphony No. 94 in G major “Surprise”: I. Adagio – Vivace assai
06 – Symphony No. 94 in G major “Surprise”: II. Andante
07 – Symphony No. 94 in G major “Surprise”: III. Menuetto e Trio: Allegro molto
08 – Symphony No. 94 in G major “Surprise”: IV. Finale: Allegro di molto
09 – Symphony No. 101 in D major “The Clock”: I. Adagio – Presto
10 – Symphony No. 101 in D major “The Clock”: II. Andante
11 – Symphony No. 101 in D major “The Clock”: III. Menuetto e Trio: Allegretto
12 – Symphony No. 101 in D major “The Clock”: IV. Finale: Vivace

Musicians:
Ashley Solomon – flute
Kati Debretzeni – violin
Rodolfo Richter – violin
Jane Rogers – viola
Jennifer Morsches – cello
James Johnstone – fortepiano

Continue reading Florilegium – Haydn: London Symphonies Vol.1 (2003) [Channel Classics 24-192]

István Kertész, LSO – Dvorak Symphony No.8 "Scherzo Capriccioso" (1963/2014) [24-192]

István Kertész, LSO – Dvorak Symphony No.8 “Scherzo Capriccioso” (1963/2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Digital Booklet | 1.82 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Highdeftapetransfers

Istvan Kertesz (1929-1973) was born into a Hungarian-Jewish, and he grew up taking violin lessons at a time “when terrible things were happening in Europe.” By the time Istvan was twelve, he had been mastering the piano as well. But Hungarian Jews were persecuted relentlessly, and many of his extended family members were sent to Auschwitz to be murdered. After the war, he resumed his studies in what is now the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, taking composition lessons with Kodaly and Leo Weiner. An interest in conducting led to studies with Laszlo Samogyi and Janos Ferencsik. Kertesz openly admired Bruno Walter as well as Otto Klemperer, the latter fo whom had led the Budapest Opera. Kertesz married soprano Edith Gabry, with whom he had three children, Gabor, Peter, and Katarin. Between 1953 to 1957, Kertesz conducted in Gyor, moving from 1955 to 1957 to the Budapest Opera.

With the Hungarian uprising Kertesz left for studies in Italy, at the St. Cecilia National Academy in Rome, with Fernando Previtali. Germany soon called for Kertesz’s talent, and he appeared at Hamburg Symphony and State Opera, Wiesbaden and Hanover, leading performances of La Boheme and Fidelio that guaranteed his reputation. In March 1960 he was appointed Music Director of the Augsburg Opera, adding Mozart, Verdi, and Richard Strauss to an expanding repertory. Guest appearances came, by way of Spoleto, Berlin, Israel, London, Paris, and San Francisco, with several major artists’ requests for his collaboration: Rubinstein, Curzon, Tuckwell, and Katchen. Kertesz debuted in Liverpool in 1960. He then assumed work with the Israel Philharmonic, where he performed 378 works over eleven years. The premier of Britten’s Billy Budd brought some distance between Kertesz and German ensembles, who had complained of his fast tempos.

From 1965 to 1968 Kertesz led the responsive London Symphony Orchestra, also appearing with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Kertesz’s performances of the complete Dvorak symphonies took recorded form with Decca, 1963-1966. In 1973 Kertesz was appointed to lead the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. Cleveland courted him as conductor to succeed George Szell, but the Board refused him. Instead, Kertesz led the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, 1970-1972.
It was in Israel, off the coast of Herzliya, that Kertesz drowned (16 April 1973) under mysterious circumstances. He was forty-two, a much-beloved figure in music. Kertesz rejected authoritarian means to lead orchestras, and he would not lead scores he disliked, particularly modernists he felt “could be left to the specialists.” His repertory in opera included some 60 full scores, and his mastery in works by Schubert, Brahms, Mozart, Dvorak, Bartok – especially his recording of Bluebeard’s Castle – and all fellow Hungarians still reigns as a model for all to admire. A contemporary review of the Dvorak G Major Symphony and Scherzo Caprriccioso for Decca wrote:
Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony and Scherzo capriccioso inhabit an urbane and genial world, but István Kertész’s approach to them is direct. Thankfully, he did not see the first movement’s second subject (or any new theme or episode) as an excuse to grind to a halt, which means there is never any lack of impetus or momentum, nor is the structure of either work compromised. Kertész does mould the line, use rubato, strictly controlled tempo and dynamic variation, and pays close attention to detail and balance, and the results are marvellously idiomatic, expressive, and invigorating. As with Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic, Kertész’s relationship with the LSO was very close, and it plays magnificently.

The sound in both performances is outstanding. Anyone wanting to hear what is wrong with digital sound need only listen to the end of the Scherzo capriccioso. There is depth and width, huge presence, every section of the orchestra is clearly audible (the final timpani role is startlingly realistic) the timbre of each instrument can be heard, and the ersatz quality found in even the best quality 24bit high-resolution recordings is completely absent.

Personnel:
István Kertész conductor
London Symphony Orchestra

Tracklisting:
Symphony No.8
1. I. Allegro con brio (G major) 10:08
2. II. Adagio (C minor) 10:02
3. III. Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace (G minor) 6:01
4, IV. Allegro ma non troppo (G major) 9:00
5. Scherzo Capriccioso 11:55

Continue reading István Kertész, LSO – Dvorak Symphony No.8 "Scherzo Capriccioso" (1963/2014) [24-192]