FELIX DRAESEKE – CHAMBER MUSIC CPO 555 107-2
Felix Draeseke was born in Germany in 1835 and was attracted to music early in life, compoing his first work at the age of 8. After studying at the Leipzig conservatory and the New German School centered on Franz Liszt at Weimar, he taught in Switzerland before returning to Germany, where he was appointed to the Dresden conservatory. During his career Draeseke worked in a wide range of compositional genres, including symphonies, virtuoso concertos, opera, sacred music, chamber music and works for solo piano, winning Liszt’s unreserved admiration. Draeseke’s music continued to be held in high regard following his death in 1913, but after the Second World War his name and music began to fade into obscurity. More recently, new recordings have revived interest in a composer much admired by Brahms but who conductor Hans von Bülow called ‘a hard nut to crack’. On this CD the excellent Breuninger Quartett and Solistenensemble Berlin, with guests Andreas Grünkorn (cello) and Felix Schwartz (viola), perform three of Draeseke’s finest chamber works. The special appeal of his Quintet for Piano, String Trio and Horn op. 48, composed in 1888, lies in its combination of instruments in which the horn joining the strings and the piano is employed with a reserve respecting the resonance and power of this instrument. Despite its major tonic key, his String Quintet op. 77 is of an entirely different character. More than ever all the themes are invented primarily in view of their potential for multifaceted contrapuntal use. The other work here is a lively recording of Scene op. 69 for violin and piano, published in 1899, when Draeseke was around 64. This is an ideal introduction for those unfamiliar with the music of a gifted and unjustly neglected composer.
BRAHMS - TONES OF ROMANTIC EXTRAVAGANCE ABC CLASSICS 481 4686
Brahms’s Piano Quartet in G minor Op 25, with its combines his troubled Romantic vocabulary with an assured, almost symphonic mastery of musical architecture, with a wonderful orchestral sense of colour, expression and development. The sombre first movement is followed by a poignant Intermezzo, a colourful slow movement, and an exhilarating final rondo in duple time (the subtitle ‘Rondo alla zingarese’ giving it the nickname ‘Gypsy Rondo’). When Brahms arrived at his favorite Viennese café one evening, a friend is said to have asked him how he had spent his day. ‘I was working on my symphony,’ he said. ‘In the morning I added an eighth note. In the afternoon I took it out.’ The possibly apocryphal tale reflects the composer’s painstaking process of creation, which is well represented in his F minor Piano Quintet and its electrifying scherzo. On this double CD release the Australian period-instrument Ironwood shines new light on both these popular chamber works of the Romantic era, revealing the passion, power and intimate beauty of Brahms as they perform on the instruments the composer knew and loved. Performing on gut-string instruments and a replica of Brahms’s much-favoured JB Streicher and Sons Viennese-action grand piano (parallel strung and with leather-coated hammers) dating from 1868, Brahms’s music is imbued with the spirit, expressivity, rhythmic and temporal flexibility and soundscape that the composer undoubtedly expected to hear in performance. Superbly played and painstakingly researched, these are unique and brilliant recordings that bring Brahms’s music vividly to life.
PAUL HINDEMITH – COMPLETE STRING QUARTETS NAXOS 8503290
Born in 1895 in Hanau, near Frankfurt am Main, Paul Hindemith was a music theorist, teacher, violist and conductor, as well as the finest avant-garde German composer of his generation. He was taught the violin as a child and later entered Frankfurt’s Hoch’sche Konservatorium, where he studied violin as well as conducting and compositions. Early in his career he supported himself by playing in dance bands and musical-comedy groups, before becoming leader of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra at the age of 19. He also played second violin in the Rebner String Quartet and in 1921 he founded the successful Amar Quartet, playing viola. At the height of his career, Hindemith came into conflict with the Nazi party, which began a campaign to discredit him, culminating in a boycott of his work. He subsequently emigrated to Switzerland in 1938 before settling in the USA, where he became an American citizen and taught composition at Yale University. After retiring from Yale in 1953, took up permanent residence in Switzerland and became more active as a conductor. This three-disc set brings together the single CD releases of the Amar Quartet’s critically acclaimed and popular set of Hindemith’s complete String Quartets - a milestone in the recorded history of theis music. Volume 1 was given five stars by BBC Music Magazine and the Amar Quartet gives an excellent account of the Second and Third Quartets, dating from 1918 and 1920. Volumes 1 and 2 were both given a 10/10 score by ClassicsToday.com and remarked that ‘connoisseurs of chamber music will find this disc an endless source of pleasure’. The Amar Quartet, named after Hindemith’s own quartet, has made these works something of a specialism alongside a vibrant program of commissioning new works and making a name for itself in Switzerland and beyond with events such as Homage to Hindemith and Tonwort, a project combining music and literature with readings by poets and other writers. This is an invaluable set of recordings of these callenging, intricate and rewarding works - a must-have cycle for all lovers of 20th century music.
THE STANFORD LEGACY NIMBUS NI6334
Charles Villiers Stanford Stanford was born in Dublin in 1852, the only son of John Stanford, a prominent lawyer and an accomplished amateur musician. The precocious Charles learned violin, piano, composition and organ before winning a scholarship to Cambridge University at the age of 18. He was appointed organist of Trinity College while still an undergraduate and held the post until 1892. His appointment as conductor of the Cambridge University Musical Society gave him great opportunities, and he completed his studies in Germany, where he learnt from Reinecke and Kiel. After graduation, he began his career as a composer with several operas and went on to excel in choral works, including two oratorios, his Requiem, a Stabat Mater and many secular works. He also wrote seven symphonies and other orchestral works as well as many unjustly neglected chamber compositions, including his beautifully lyrical Clarinet Sonata, arranged here for viola and piano by Henry Waldo Warner and played by Martin Outram (viola) and Julian Rolton (piano). The famously irascible Stanford was appointed Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music in 1883 and became Professor of Music at Cambridge University in 1888, where he taught many of British composers of the day, including Frank Bridge, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells and Arthur Bliss. John Ireland and Rebecca Clarke were also among his students and this CD features recordings of works by both of them - Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata for Viola and Piano and Ireland’s Violin Sonata No.1, arranged by Martin Outram for viola and piano. Since studying at Cambridge University and the Royal Academy, Martin Outram has enjoyed a wide ranging career as quartet player, soloist and teacher; often championing works by modern British composers. Julian Rolton is an accomplished concerto soloist, chamber musician and accompanist, performing with Outram as a member of the Chagall Trio.
LUNARIS - JONATHAN OSTLUND DIVINE ART DDA 21226
Jonathan Östlund is a young Swedish composer who is winning acclaim for his attractive, imaginative and accessible music. He is being championed by some of Europe’s best musicians, several of whom have come together to perform on this album of chamber music and solo instrumental pieces inspired by nature. Evoking the magic of night in all its guises from the dark to the whimsical this lyrical new music has an individual sound and is in turn picturesque and witty. Highlights on this double-CD collection of timeless and sophisticated music include the magical title piece (for voice and piano), Lumière d’étoiles (piano solo), Rêverie - Jeux de pluie (string quartet), Rêve et Lune, The Frog Pond (for bassoon and piano) and Music at Moonrise. The talented young performers are the excellent Romanian-born soprano Ruxandra Ibric Cioranu, cellists Lydia Hillerudh and Alexander Zagorinsky, pianists Yoana Karemova, Blandine Waldmann and Einar Steen-Nøkleberg, Ariel Jacob Lang (violin), Ursula Leveaux (bassoon), Eleonore Pameijer (flute) and The Cellini Quartet.
THE SOVIET EXPERIENCE - SHOSTAKOVICH STRING QUARTETS CEDILLE BOX 1003
Dmitri Shostakovich’s fifteen String Quartets are among the 20th century’s most profound chamber works, outstanding both in their craftsmanship and spirituality. This highly decorated Soviet ‘model composer’ composed chamber music increasingly in his later years as he sought to maintain his inner non-conformism. The Quartets are consequently very personal and poignant works. Influenced by Ludwig van Beethoven’s legacy, Shostakovich experimented with a suite-like variety of forms and extended his musical spectrum considerably. His Fifth Quartet, written in 1952, is a masterpiece and was the first to have a direct connection with one of his symphonies (the Tenth). The Seventh Quartet, completed in 1960, is his shortest and is dedicated to the memory of his first wife, Nina, who had died in 1954. The work moves between passion and tension and draws largely on fugal writing to make the distinctions apparent. The Ninth Quartet (1964) is another highly personal work, dedicated to Irina Antonovna Shostakovich, the wife he married two years before. The Soviet Experience is a great value box set of eight CDs from Cedille that includes the complete Shostakovich String Quartets as well as quartets by Miaskovsky, Prokofiev, Weinberg and Schnittke. The acclaimed Pacifica Quartet give impressive and emotional performances of this technically demanding yet compelling music. BBC Music Magazine’s review of Volume III said the series ‘is turning out to be one of the most riveting of recent years. . . . Pacifica’s Shostakovich cycle is already shaping up as definitive.’ The Pacifica Quartet can also be heard with the brilliant clarinetist Anthony McGill in another new CD of some of the greatest chamber works for this combination of instruments - MOZART & BRAHMS: CLARINET QUINTETS (CEDILLE CDR 90000 147). Mozart’s radiant Clarinet Quintet in A major features aria-like melodies, and Brahms’s expansive Clarinet Quintet in B minor has a haunting, sunset glow. Formerly principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Anthony McGill is currently the superstar principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic.
THE RIAS AMADEUS QUARTET RECORDINGS, VOL. 4 - MODERNISM AUDITE 21.429
Celebrated for their performances of the Viennese Classics, the Amadeus Quartet dominated the British chamber music scene for over 40 years and was one of the most respected ensembles of the twentieth century. The Quartet championed the music of their contemporaries, and for the radio they recorded string quartets written by the major English composers of their time, Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett. The Hungarian composer Mátyás Seiber introduced the Amadeus Quartet to the works of his fellow countryman Béla Bartók. By recording Henry Purcell’s string fantasias, they followed references between Britten and the cradle of English chamber music. For volume IV in the RIAS Amadeus Quartet Recordings series the ensemble plays twentieth century Hungarian andd English works. The Baroque composer Henry Purcell is also represented - as a reference point for Benjamin Britten’s Second String Quartet. This edition substantially broadens the view of the Amadeus Quartet and demonstrates the inquisitiveness and assuredness with which Norbert Brainin and his three colleagues explored the music of their contemporaries. Under the direction of Michael Tippett, a group of young composers, including Mátyás Seiber and Peter Racine Fricker, wrote new string quartets for the Amadeus Quartet. Apart from Michael Tippett, it was first and foremost Benjamin Britten who, around 1950, established his reputation as Britain’s most renowned composer. His Second String Quartet was conceived as a reminiscence of Henry Purcell, a progenitor of English music, for the 250th anniversary of his death. Two of Purcell’s string fantasias and a chaconne, on which Britten had based his work, have therefore been included in this edition, and are released for the first time in the Amadeus Quartet’s interpretation. The Hungarian composer Mátyás Seiber - who, like the members of the Amadeus Quartet, had to emigrate to Britain after the Nazis had seized power in Germany - wrote his Quartetto lirico in the spirit of the Viennese School, particularly that of Alban Berg. He also championed the string quartets of Béla Bartók, whose Fourth and Sixth Quartets are also available for the first time as performances by the Amadeus Quartet. Audite’s excellent series of RIAS Amadeus Quartet Recordings is scheduled to include six volumes, exclusively presenting performances released for the first time on CD. As always, the ensemble’s performances on this two-disc set of recordings from 1950-1956 demonstrate superb musicianship as well as the Amadeus Quartet’s customary warmth and exuberance.
BEETHOVEN - STRING QUARTETS BELLA MUSICA THOROFON CTH2614
The string quartet form was first used in the later part of the eighteenth century. Joseph Haydn’s first string quartets had five movements but he soon adopted the standard four movements form: a fast movement, a slow movement, a minuet and trio and a fast finale. Haydn, often called ‘the father of the string quartet’, sometimes played his quartets in an impromptu ensemble that included Mozart, who went on to write 26 string quartets of his own. Mozart never quite reached Haydn’s achievement in this difficult musical genre but Ludwig van Beethoven composed brilliantly in the form throughout his career, publishing his first set (op. 18) in the year 1801 and eventually writing eighteen in all. This splendid eight-CD box set features the all Beethoven’s String Quartets performed by the outstanding Philharmonia Quartet Berlin, founded in 1985 and long established world-wide as an ensemble famous for its homogenous sound and flawless interplay. Beethoven’s ‘late quartets’ in particular brought the string quartet to a sublime level that has never been surpassed. By the time he wrote them he was almost totally deaf, which makes these works profoundly personal and gives the music great intensity. They often take the listener by surprise as they explore strangely rarefied harmonies, moving from prayer-like tranquillity to profanity, from sweet melody to forthright debate. These complex, humane and spiritual masterpieces are performed here by Philharmonia Quartet Berlin with fine musicianship, clarity and spiritual depth. All four musicians are members of the acclaimed Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the quartet has won the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis (German disk award) twice as well as the coveted Echo Klassik Prize three times.
CONNECTIONS: MUSIC FOR VIOLA & PIANO GUILD GMCD 7414
This unique album couples two of the greatest works for viola and piano by two of the twentieth-century’s greatest composers, Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten, contemporaries who were also staunch musical colleagues. Britten’s ‘Lachrymae’ dates from 1950 and is a fantasy on a song by John Dowland; Shostakovich’s Sonata is his very last work, completed in hospital just four days before his death. It is one of the composer’s darkest, most moving masterpieces, full of subtle allusions and self-quotations. The recent three-movement work by the Canadian composer Karim Al-Zand, written for Ivo-Jan van der Werff, and receiving its world premiere here, also reflects on earlier music, making this unique coupling one of the most intriguing and suitable in the entire international catalogue. Throughout 28 years and over 2000 concerts as violist with the Medici String Quartet, Ivo-Jan van der Werff has toured the world, playing in major venues and cities in more than 50 countries as well as on over 40 recordings. With the quartet he has held residencies and taught viola and chamber music at the Universities of Kingston, Lancaster and Surrey in the UK, the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden and the Nan Yang University in Singapore. For ten years he was a professor at the Royal College of Music, London and is now a full time professor of viola and chamber music at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Houston. He has written ‘A Notebook for Viola Players’, a series of technical exercises and explanations of viola technique. He is joined on this CD by British pianist Simon Marlow, a chamber musician, soloist and accompanist who has built an outstanding working partnership with Ivo-Jan van der Werff, recording music by Max Reger and Arnold Bax.
FROM THE BRITISH ISLES - MUSIC FOR FLUTE AND PIANO DIVINE ART DDA 21223
Kenneth Smith, principal flute of the Philharmonia for over 30 years, and his long standing duo partner Paul Rhodes, have established themselves at the forefront of the Romantic and Classical flute music arena. Their many recordings first for ASV and then for Divine Art have received glowing reviews and this double CD set includes a host of major works for flute and piano by some of the most influential composers of the 20th century (as well as a couple from earlier), all from Britain and Ireland. As well as the world premiere recording of Peter Lamb’s Sonatina, there is music by Malcolm Arnold, Granville Bantock, Cyril Scott (The Ecstatic Shepherd), Kenneth Leighton, John Ranish, Richard Rodney Bennett (the delightful Summer Music), William Mathias, Eugene Goossens, Thomas Dunhill, Howard Blake (Elegy) and Edwin York Bowen. These sonatas, sonatinas and suites demonstrate Smith and Rhodes’ usual panache, musicality and virtuosity on their seventh CD for Divine Art. The label has also released NICHOLAS MARSHALL: SONGS AND CHAMBER MUSIC (MSV 28552). West country born Nicholas Marshall is one of the many contemporary British composers who can write in traditional harmonies and tonality and yet produce music of freshness and which is of today. This album of premiere recordings showcases several song cycles with celebrated tenor James Gilchrist as well as the Concerto for Recorder and String Quartet and is a fine addition to the Metier series of modern lyrical music. As well as Gilchrist, John Turner who is the UK’s foremost recorder virtuoso features and the ensemble is led by Richard Howarth.
AROUND DVORAK MUSIC@MENLO
Music@Menlo is an internationally acclaimed chamber music festival and institute in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded by David Finckel and Wu Han as a program of Menlo School, Music@Menlo features unique immersive programming, a roster of world-class artists, and a Chamber Music Institute for emerging and pre-professional musicians. Intimate performance venues and signature offerings such as AudioNotes CDs, Café Conversations, and the Encounter lecture series offer a wide range of opportunities for aficionados and newcomers of all ages to connect with chamber music in new and innovative ways. Music@Menlo was inaugurated in 2003 with concerts, lectures, a training program for aspiring professional musicians, Young Performers Concerts, open-to-the-public master classes, and a daylong Open House offering behind-the-scenes access for the entire community. Following the course charted by the inaugural season, and spurred by its great success, all festival seasons have been constructed around well-defined themes in chamber music history. Around Dvorák is an outstanding nine-CD box set of live recordings from the ambitious chamber music festival’s twelfth season celebrating the timeless work of the Czech Romantic master Antonín Dvorák, one of the most universally loved musical voices of his generation. The recordings feature works by Dvorák alongside those by composers including Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Bartók, Janácek, Kodály, and more. Masterminded by Grammy Award-winning producer Da-Hong Seetoo, these superbly engineered recordings feature a wide range of performers including David Finckel and Wu Han, the Danish and Escher String Quartets, pianists Gloria Chien and Gilbert Kalish, violinists Benjamin Beilman and Nicolas Dautricourt, cellists Dmitri Atapine and Keith Robinson, clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein and baritone Randall Scarlata. Find out more about Around Dvorák and the Music@Menlo festival.
TOMAS MARCO - CHAMBER WORKS FOR GUITAR DYNAMIC CDS7664
Spanish composer Tomás Marco Aragón was born in 1942 in Madrid. He studied violin and composition simultaneously with his secondary and law studies in which he graduated 1963 at the University of Madrid, where he also took courses in Psychology and Sociology. He continued his musical studies in Germany and France with Boulez, Maderna, Ligeti, Adorno and Stockhausen, with whom he became an assistant. His compositions include six operas, one ballet and nine symphonies, as well as chamber and choral music. In addition to is prodigious compositional output, Marco has had a strong influence on Spanish musical life through his work as a critic, broadcaster, writer, editor, educator, and administrator. This album of chamber Works features guitarist Marcello Fantoni and the Quartetto Archimia in music not yet recorded and is seldom performed - like the wonderful Tapices y Disparates, inspired by a pictorial masterpiece by Francisco Goya. Fantoni has already recorded a CD of Marco’s works (Dynamic CDS708) that included some of his most important 1990s pieces for solo guitar. All the works on this new release are from the same creative period and some take their inspiration from the poems of Garcia Lorca or from works the composer had previously written for different instruments. All works make free use of the tonal language and of its elements, in which Marco inserts elements of improvisation, as well as polytonal and atonal ones. The overall effect is that of a modal, somewhat traditional style, which is highly imaginative and evocative.
BACH CHAMBER CONCERTOS CHAMPS HILL CHRCD 014
Johann Sebastian Bach composed remarkably few instrumental orchestral works. The most famous of these are his six Brandenburg Concertos, which were written in Baroque Italian Concerto style. No two of the Brandenburgs (self titled ‘Six Concerts Avec Plusieurs Instruments’) are alike in their instrumentation, but each a masterpiece in its own right. This double CD set features recordings of three of these concertos. The Second Concerto contains an interesting quartet of solo instruments - the trumpet, recorder, oboe and violin - which Bach combines to create harmonious and exuberant music. The light and witty Fourth Concerto suggests the urbane court of the Parisian salon. Concerto No.5, thought to be the last of the six in order of composition, is perhaps the most interesting of them all and is sometimes regarded as the precursor of the piano concerto. Recorded in the intimate Music Room at Champs Hill, these inspiring works are performed here by the excellent London Conchord Ensemble on modern instruments and with piano. Daniel Pailthorpe has also arranged two of Bach’s best known chorales - Sheep may safely graze, and Jesu, joy of Man’s desiring. The other works here are Bach’s Suite No. 2 in B minor for flute & strings, Concerto in A major for oboe d’amore, Concerto in C minor for violin & oboe, and Concerto in D minor for two violins.
I SAW THREE SHIPS MANOR HOUSE MUSIC 002
The Manor House Music ensemble features some of the UK’s finest classical musicians who play and record with many other chamber ensembles, individually touring across the globe and appearing in many classical and film soundtrack recordings. Founder Vaughan Jones, a skilled violinist and prolific arranger, is joined on this delightful recording of 23 famous Christmas carols by Louise Bevan (violin), Adrian Smith (viola) and Julia Graham (cello). ‘The idea behind arranging the carols on this disc was to capture the spirit of these memorable melodies whilst unlocking their musical potential. In each case (with the exception of the two Charpentier Noels), I have taken the single line melody as the starting point. All harmonisations and variations have been approached from scratch with many original counter melodies and other such material written as an extension to the original source. In this way, they are more ‘re-creations’ than ‘arrangements’ in the traditional sense. - Vaughan Jones. As well as the mysterious title track, the carols here include We Three Kings of Orient Are, While Shepherds Watched, The Holly and the Ivy (which probably has its roots in Pagan usage), God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Here We Come A-Wassailing, the lovely In the Bleak Midwinter written Gustav Holst to words by Christina Rossetti, Once in Royal David’s City, O Come, All Ye Faithful (also known as ‘Adeste Fidelis’) and the traditional Wexford Carol from Ireland. The Manor House Quartet play with elegance and skill and the sprightly arrangements give a fresh charm to some of the season’s best-loved music - the perfect accompaniment to present wrapping or to wake up to on Christmas morning. For more details visit the Manor House Music website
SPOHR, ROLLA & KALLIWODA - WORKS FOR VIOLIN/VIOLA MANOR HOUSE MUSIC 001
This invaluable recording features works by three composers who were much admired in their day but have since fallen our of the standard chamber music repertoire. There are some strong similarities between the three men. Ludwig Spohr (usually known as Louis Spohr outside his native Germany), Alessandro Rolla (technical innovator and ‘teacher of the great Niccolo Paganini’) and Prague-born Johan Wenzel Kalliwoda were all highly prolific composers as well as violinists who conducted and held senior orchestral posts. Spohr was an eminent violinist whose sweetness of tone was admired throughout Europe and whose career as a perfomer was only eclipsed by the dazzling innovations of Paganini. Rolla wrote over 500 works, including many pieces that were important in the development of Violin and Viola technique, using rapid chromatic passages as well as flying staccato and left hand pizzicato. Kalliwoda composed over 250 works or series of works, including an opera, seven symphonies, concertos, sacred music, and a commission for the inaugural concert of the New York Philharmonic Society in 1842. All three composers toured extensively as celebrated violinists, performing to large audiences throughout Europe. They shared a mastery of counterpoint, often using surprising harmonies which guide their works into interesting realms. Three delightful duos for violin and viola, one from each composer, are stylishly played on this recording by the excellent Vaughan Jones and Reiad Chibah.
FELIX DRAESKE - CHAMBER MUSIC TYXART TXA16077
Felix Draeseke worked in a wide range of compositional genres, including symphonies, virtuoso concertos, opera, sacred music, chamber music and works for solo piano, winning Liszt’s unreserved admiration. Draeseke’s music continued to be held in high regard following his death in 1913, but after the Second World War his name and music began to fade into obscurity. More recently, new recordings have revived interest in a composer much admired by Brahms but who conductor Hans von Bülow called ‘a hard nut to crack’. This CD features some of Draeseke’s finest chamber music with a dazzling horn quintet, his delightful clarinet sonata (radiantly played by Pascal Moragues), and two works for horn and piano (Romance in F major and Adagio in A minor). The artists on these recordings, including violinist Lisa Schatzman, cellist David Pia and pianist Oliver Trendl, are internationally renowned soloists as well as chamber and orchestra musicians, and contribute to an album of music that is both intense and sensitive.
RUSSIAN MUSIC FOR CELLO AND PIANO CEDILLE CDR 90000 120
The WarnerNuzova duo cellist Wendy Warner and pianist Irina Nuzova makes its recording debut with five late-Romantic Russian works on an album dedicated to the memory of one of Warner’s mentors, the illustrious Russian cellist, composer, and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich. Fittingly, two of the pieces were originally written for Rostropovich: Nikolai Miaskovsky’s lovely though rarely heard Sonata No. 2 in A Minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 81; and Alfred Schnittke’ s brief, Baroque-inspired Musica nostalgica, for violoncello and piano. This is the first American recording of Miaskovsky’ s mellifluous Sonata No. 2, a work that’s rarely performed outside Russia and so will be a discovery for most listeners. Alexander Scriabin’ s Etude Op. 8, No. 11, originally written for solo piano, is a beautiful encore piece brimming with chromatic harmonies; Sergei Prokofiev’ s charming Adagio from Ten Pieces from Cinderella, Op. 97b, is based on a duet from his ballet; and Sergei Rachmaninov’s Sonata in G Minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 19, is a riveting four-movement work from the same period as his Second Piano Concerto. The recording quality is commendably natural and this recently formed duo perform this emotional Russian music with warmth, clarity and elegance.
ANTON REICHA - WOODWIND QUINTETS, VOL. 3 CRYSTAL CD263
Anton Reicha was born in Prague in 1770 into the family of a town piper. His father died when Anton was only ten months old and his mother was uninterested in his education. From the age of ten the young composer was raised and educated in music by his uncle, Josef Reicha. When the family moved to Bonn, Josef secured for his nephew a place at the Hofkapelle. He also studied composition secretly at the University of Bonn until the city was captured by the French in 1794, when he had to flee to Hamburg, where he made his living by teaching harmony and composition. Between 1799 and 1801 he lived in Paris, trying unsuccessfully to become an opera composer. He then lived in Vienna for a while, producing large semi-didactic cycles of works such as 36 Fugues for piano, but it was during the later Paris period that he wrote a series of wind quintets, some of the earliest important music for wind ensembles. Ideas he advocated in his music and writings include polyrhythm, polytonality and microtonal music, none of which were accepted by the composers of the time. A contemporary and lifelong friend of Beethoven, Reicha is now best remembered for this substantial early contribution to these quintets and for his teaching of illustrious pupils such as Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz. This release is part of the Westwood Wind Quintet’s outstanding series featuring all Reicha’s 24 woodwind quintets, which resemble mini-symphonies and are masterpieces of the highest order. ‘The Westwood Wind Quintet has a standard of ensemble playing that is nothing short of breathtaking’ - International Record Review.
DVORAK - STRING QUARTETS NIMBUS NI6114
Dvořák was strongly drawn towards chamber music for he was a viola player and greatly admired the work of the Classical masters - in particular Beethoven. The String Quartet in C major is the most significant of Dvořák’s fourteen quartets before the final two examples completed in 1895 after his return from America. Premiered in 1882, it presents a greater challenge to performers, which may explain its relatively infrequent performance these days, as well as a most satisfying reward to the listener receptive to its mastery of composition. Quartet No. 12 (American) - composed in 1893 - is probably the best known of Dvořák’s quartets and has a popularity which almost rivals that of the 9th Symphony. It draws upon influences of Dvořák’s fellow countryman, Smetana, as well as negro spirituals and native America birdsong. Both these works are performed here by the outstanding Wihan Quartet (Leos Cepicky-violin; Jan Schulmeister-violin; Jiri Zigmund-viola; Ales Kasprik (cello). Formed in 1985, they are heirs to the great Czech musical tradition and have a growing international reputation for interpreting their native musical heritage. In October, the Quartet gave performances in Shrewsbury of Beethoven’s Quartet Op 18 No 1, Quartet Op 14 No 1 and the superlative Quartet Op 59 No 1 ‘Rasumovsky’. This was the first in a series of six concerts in Shrewsbury lasting until May 2010, featuring the Quartet playing some of Beethoven’s finest music. Their latest concert at the Lion Hotel received an enthusiastic ovation from the full house. This new CD reveals a true empathy with their compatriot Dvořák’s music and enhances the Wihan Quartet’s reputation for fine musicianship and expressive energy.
BELOVED OF THE GODS: MOZART & MENDELSSOHN MELBA MR 301121
This beautifully produced 5.1channel SACD recording features masterpieces by two divinely inspired composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Felix Mendelssohn.The excellent Dean-Emmerson-Dean trio (clarinettist Paul Dean, his brother violist and composer Brett Dean, and pianist Stephen Emmerson) perform Mozart’s unusual and delightful Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano in E flat major, K498 ‘Kegelstatt’ written by Mozart to be played with his close friends. The piece’s title ‘Kegelstatt’ refers to the ‘bowling alley’ where Mozart spent happy hours playing skittles and composing in the days immediately prior to writing this Trio. The ebullient performance and high spirits of Emmerson and the Dean brothers during the making of this recording echoes Mozart’s joy in making music with close friends and congenial musicians. The Dean-Emmerson-Dean trio follows this with Stephen Emmerson’s five-movement Papamina Suite, an effervescent arrangement of music from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Emmerson’s arrangement presents the ensemble with unique opportunities to break new ground in Mozart’s music - from sublime arias to buffo duets to superbly re-imagined orchestral textures. The brilliant young Tinalley String Quartet completes this release with the Mendelssohn String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op.13, ‘Ist es wahr’ one of the central pieces in their winning performance at the Banff International Chamber Music Competition in 2007. Their performance of the Mendelssohn quartet, written astonishingly when composer was a mere eighteen, reveals remarkable sonorities and articulation with at one point the ensemble sounding like an accordion behind the solo fiddle, at another like a symphony orchestra accompanying a sotto-voce recitative. From lyrical moments to thundering climaxes, Tinalley offers persuasive support for the proposition that the string quartet is the perfect ensemble. Beloved of the Gods is an elegantly presented and enjoyable selection of marvelous music played by some of Australia’s most gifted musicians. Highly recommended.
ANDREAE - STRING QUARTETS GUILD GMCD 7328
The distinguished Swiss musician Volkmar Andreae was born in Bern in 1879. His musical gifts were clear from early age and he began his serious music studies at the Berne Conservatoire under Karl Munzinger, then was a pupil of Franz Wüllner at the Cologne Conservatoire, where he excelled both as composer and conductor and published his first mature composition, the Piano Trio in F minor Opus 1. In 1902 he settled in Zürich, where he was conductor of the Tonhalle Orchestra (1906-49) and director of the conservatory (1914-41). He was also guest conductor with many leading European orchestras and was an advocate of both Bruckner and contemporary music. His works, written in the German Romantic tradition, include operas, orchestral and chamber music and many male choruses. The music of this fine though neglected composer has recently come to the attention of a wider international public, where it has increasingly been recognised as of the highest quality. Andreae’s work as a composer was completely overshadowed by his career as a conductor, but this outstanding new CD, the second from Guild to feature his chamber music (GMCD 7307 - Piano Trios), contains his two string quartets and a delightful late Divertimento for flute and string trio. The performances by The Loncrian Ensemble of London and Anna Noakes (flute) are wonderful and the music reveals influences from Richard Strauss to the later French Impressionists. Highly recommended.
A GERMAN BOUQUET - TRIO SETTECENTO CEDILLE CDR 90000 114
The excellent Chicago-based period-instrument ensemble Trio Settecento (1700s Trio) performs a colourful cluster of Baroque sonatas on this release, the second in a planned series of four CDs illustrating the character and complexion of the era’s music as it developed in various regions of Europe. On A German Bouquet, the trio of violinist Rachel Barton Pine, viola da gamba player and ‘cellist John Mark Rozendaal, and harpsichordist and organist David Schrader presents a programme that goes beyond Bach and Buxtehude. While the CD includes works by those two giants of the German Baroque, it also offers rarely heard repertoire by Johann Schop, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Georg Muffat, Johann Philipp Krieger, Philipp Heinrich Erlebach, and Johann Georg Pisendel, some of whom were also among the greatest German violinists of the era. The composers represented here worked at churches and courts in Hamburg, Lübeck, Leipzig, Vienna, Rudolstadt, Dresden, and Weissenfels, to name only a few of the German musical centres they embellished with their compositions. Each of these places had its own peculiar indigenous qualities, and the cultural productions of each were shaped by different ways of assimilating the various cross-currents of Italian, French, and English cultures, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Pietism. Therefore, each of the works on this program has its own distinct terroir, every one delicious and as different from the next as Gewürztraminer is from Riesling. Trio Settecento play with great verve and clearly have a profound understanding and love for the music of this period. Highly recommended.
HANDEL - CANTATAS & TRIO SONATAS MDG MDG3090399
Handel’s cantatas are mostly chamber works, written for a solo singer accompanied by harpsichord, a few solo strings and sometimes an obbligato instrument. With Handel himself at the keyboard, they were written to show off the talents of singers at entertainments in the houses of the nobility. During his early Italian stay (1706 to 1710), he wrote a remarkable number of these works for use in the Palaces of his Italian patrons. Often a cantata can be taken as a single dramatic scene and Handel can be seen experimenting with techniques that he would use in operas. This music was written for some of the finest singers of the age and when performed today requires a singer able to encompass all of the composer’s technical demands and use them for dramatic and expressive purposes. On this beautifully-produced disc, the German soprano Johanna Koslowsky sings with purity, elegance and fine tone, paying due homage to one of the greatest of all composers. She is joined by the excellent Musica Alta Ripa ensemble, which was established in 1984 in Hanover. As well as two cantatas they perform three brilliant and melodic trio sonatas, including one for recorder and violin.
MUSIC OF EDWARD JOSEPH COLLINS, VOL. 8 ALBANY TROY 1086
Edward Joseph Collins (1886-1951) was an American pianist, conductor and composer of romantic classical music. Born in Joliet, Illinois, he studied with Rudolf Ganz in Chicago and in 1906 went with Ganz to Berlin, where he enrolled in the Hochschule für Musik in performance and composition under Max Bruch and Humperdinck. After graduating, he became a successful concert pianist and toured with the contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink. After serving as an assistant conductor at the Century Opera Company in New York, he travelled again to Europe, becoming an assistant conductor at the Bayreuth Festival. This position was cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War, during which Collins rose from Private to Lieutenant, served as an interpreter, entertained the troops as pianist, and received a citation for bravery. After the war he returned to Chicago, joined the faculty of Chicago Musical College and married Frieda Mayer, daughter of the meat-packing magnate, Oscar Mayer. Collins composed 12 major orchestral works (including a symphony, two overtures and three suites), three piano concertos, Hymn to the Earth (for orchestra, choir, and solo voices), several chamber works, more than 20 songs for voice and piano, and more than a dozen piano solo and duo scores. This eighth volume in Albany’s exemplary series features a varied selection of his distinctive and beautifully crafted chamber music, including first recordings of songs, piano solo works and his Piano Trio, Op. 1. The performers are Anna Polonsky (piano), Patrice Michaels (soprano), the Sussman/Albers/Poonsky Trio, and Jeffrey Sykes (piano).
SUPPLEMENTS D’AME OPUS MILLESIME GCK 20091
Three young French composers, each with their own original poetic universe, present here a selection of recent chamber music pieces. Each composer demonstrates his admirable concern to re-establish a link between the public and contemporary music, adding both ivory-tower academicism and artistic concession. The excellent Prima Vista Quartet, based in Clermont-Ferrand, France play Gréco Casadesus’s Suppléments d’âme for soprano and string quintet (with soprano Lys Nordet and Daniel Grimonprez, double bass), Pierre-André Athané’s String Quartet No. 1 and Baudime Jam’s Les Horizons perdus for mezzo-soprano and string quartet (with Hermine Hugunel, mezzo). Beautifully performed and recorded, this is an album of beguiling, stylish and wonderfully accessible music. Highly recommended.