chamber music

RAVEL - TZIGANE     MELBA MR 301115 

tziganeFrench composer Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane is a rhapsodic composition originally written for violin with accompaniment by luthéal (a comparatively new piano-like instrument) in 1924, and dedicated to the Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi. Later versions replaced the luthéal by piano or orchestra. The name of the piece is derived from the generic European term for ‘gypsy’ (in French: gitan, tsigane or tzigane rather than the Hungarian cigány) although it does not use any authentic Gypsy melodies. In Ravel’s days in Paris gypsy/gitan/tsigane/tzigane referred not so much to the Roma (Gypsy) people and the ‘gypsy’ style of the work was more a kind of popular musical exoticism. The luthéal never really became a fashionable music instrument and by the end of the 20th century the chamber music version of the piece relied on the piano as accompanying instrument, though it’s also often performed as an arrangement (made by Ravel) for solo violin and orchestra. The Impressionistic Tzigane demonstrates Ravel’s ability to imitate the Romantic style of violin showmanship promoted by such composer-virtuosi as Paganini and Sarasate, and the formidable demands of this music provide the perfect showcase for the excellent young Australian violinist, Kristian Winther. His auspicious debut recording is in the company of two of Australia’s finest chamber musicians, pianist Anthony Romaniuk and cellist Michelle Wood. All three bring exuberant and fresh artistry to the celebrated pieces Deux mélodies hébraïques, Pièce en forme de Habañera, Sonata for violin and piano No. 2, the rarely performed Sonata for violin and cello and the title work, Tzigane. These world-class performances of Ravel’s exciting and colourful music are recorded in superb SACD sound and the elegant packaging, including a 34-page illustrated booklet, is of Melba’s usual high standard.

DIM SUM – YING QUARTET     TELARC CD-80690

The Cantonese phrase ‘Dim Sum’ literally translates as ‘touch the heart’ or ‘order to your heart's content’. It also refers to a traditional Chinese meal consisting of a wide variety of foods, and this new release features a collection of short, tasty works by Chinese-American composers. All are impeccably served up by the Ying Quartet – Chinese-American siblings Timothy Ying, violin, Janet Ying, violin, Phillip Ying, viola and David Ying, cello. This award-winning ensemble began their career in 1992 in the farm town of Jesup, Iowa, and has earned a growing reputation for making creative connections between chamber music and the other arts. Recently, the Quartet has pursued a particular interest in the music of living Chinese-American composers through a non-traditional programming concept they call musical ‘Dim Sum’. This project has been motivated by an exploration of the Yings’ own cultural heritage as well as by the growing number, visibility, and excellence of composers of Chinese-American backgrounds. The works included here are Chou Wen-chung’s Larghetto Nostalgico and Leggierezza; Tan Dun’s Drum and Gong, Cloudiness, and Red Sona; Bright Sheng’s Silent Temple II and IV; Zhou Long’s Song of the Ch’in; Chen Yi’s Shuo; Ge Gan-ru’s Fu; Lei Liang’s Gobi Gloria and Vivian Fung’s Pizzicato for String Quartet. All of the selections reveal a conscious blending of sounds, techniques and ideas from traditional Chinese music with the string quartet of the Western classical tradition. This delightful and innovative music brings a fresh perspective, suggesting intriguing possibilities for the future of the string quartet.

BRAHMS / DESSOFF – STRING QUARTETS      AUDITE 97505

The German conductor and composer Felix Otto Dessoff (1835-1892) was born in Leipzig, where he studied composition (with Moritz Hauptmann and Julius Rietz), piano (with Ignaz Moscheles) and conducting. By age of nineteen, he was a theatre director in Düsseldorf and five years later was offered a guest position with the Vienna Court Opera. In Vienna, he became friends with Johannes Brahms and later was to premiere several of the great composer’s orchestral works, including his Symphony No. 1 in 1876. Although he had wrote music during the 1850s and early 1860s, Dessoff gave up composing when his career as a conductor blossomed and he made a name for himself as director of the Frankfurt Opera House. His close friendship with Brahms can be seen in an exchange of letters between the two in 1878 when Dessoff wished to dedicate his best known work, his String Quartet Op. 7 in F. Though it met with success in its premiere, Dessoff was still not sure it was worth publishing and sent the score to Brahms asking for his candid opinion and offering to dedicate to him. Brahms wrote back praising the work and said, ‘...you would do me a great honour by writing my name over the quartet title - if need be then, we’ll take the blows together should the public find it not to their liking.’ The quartet contains rhythmic, harmonic and performing idiosyncrasies reminiscent of Brahms in places; it is full of wit and playful joy, convincing the listener through its original, direct charm. The work is exuberantly performed on this third CD of the series ‘Brahms and his Contemporaries’ by the prize-winning Mandelring Quartett, together with Brahms’s innovative string quartet in A minor (Op. 51, No. 2). The excellent Mandelring Quartett will give a concert next week on May 10th at St Mary’s Church in Painswick (Painswick Music Society), performing three string quartets by Haydn, Schubert and Brahms.

SONATE E CONCERTI - LUDWIG GUTTLER     CARUS 83.415

Ludwig Güttler was born in 1943 in Sosa, Erzgebirge region of Saxony, Germany. In 1965, after completing his studies and passing the state examination at the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Conservatoire in Leipzig, Güttler became solo trumpeter with the Händel Festival Orchestra in Halle and later with the Dresden Philharmonia. Teaching posts took him to the International Music Seminar in Weimar and the Carl Maria von Weber Conservatoire in Dresden, where he was professor for the trumpet until 1990. He has won many awards during his career and his prowess on both the trumpet and the corno da caccia has made him one of the most successful virtuosos in the world. As head of the friend’s society of the Dresdner Frauenkirche, he also promoted the reconstruction of this famous baroque church which was destroyed during the Second World War and has subsequently been reconstructed. As well as being a hugely successful trumpet virtuos, his wide-ranging activities have also earned him world-wide acclaim as a conductor, scholar, concert promoter and sponsor. He performs as a soloist and conductor at major concert venues at home and abroad and recordings feature him as a chamber music player, soloist and conductor. On this impressive CD, he and the Leipziger Bach-Collegium play works from Bach to Vivaldi, offering insight into the fascinating diversity of 18th century chamber music. The wide-ranging repertoire includes works by William Corbett (Sonata in C major op. 1 Nr. 12), Johann Sebastian Bach (Sonata in G major BWV 1038), Gottfried Finger (Sonata in C major), Antonio Vivaldi (Concerto in G minor RV 107), Johann Joachim Quantz (Concert E flat major), Johann Christian Bach (Quintett in G major) and Tommaso Albinoni (Concerto in C major).

MOZART - GRAN PARTITA/STRAUSS - SONATINA NO. 1 K & K ISBN 9783930643257

Thaous EnsembleMozart’s so-called Gran Partita (Serenade No.10, K. 361) is the most ambitious and greatest of his works written for wind instruments (two oboes, two clarinets, two mellow-sounding bassett horns, four hunting horns, two bassoons and double bass). He composed the piece in 1780 for the Munich Court, where it was performed by some of the best virtuosi of his day, including his friend Anton Stadler. The serenade octet normally used until then was expanded what was more or less an orchestra, allowing Mozart to create a divertimento on the grand scale. Richard Strauss was great admirer of Mozart’s sonatinas and the influence of the Gran Partita can be heard in his Sonatina No 1 for sixteen wind instruments, even though it was written a century and a half later when the composer was nearly 80 years old. This beautifully produced CD in K & K’s Authentic Classical Concerts series features sparkling performances of both these masterpieces, splendidly recorded at the church of Bad Homburg Castle and featuring the outstanding Thaous Ensemble. By his endowment to the town church in Bad Homburg, Kaiser Wilhelm II unwittingly did the little church in the palace a favour and helped turn it into one of the most beautiful and intimate concert halls in Europe. The Palace Church fell into disuse and was forgotten, remaining untouched until the Bad Homburg Palace Church Trust stepped in and saved this architectural gem. Both church and organ have been lovingly restored to create an outstanding concert hall.

MORTON FELDMAN – VIOLIN AND STRING QUARTET   OGREOGRESS OG002 

Morton FeldmanAmerican composer Morton Feldman, born in New York City in 1926, was a key figure in modern music. He first studied piano and then composition, although he often disagreed with his teachers and spent much of his time arguing with them. Feldman was composing at this time, but in a style very different from that with which he would later be associated. In 1950, he heard the New York Philharmonic perform Anton Webern’s Symphony and met John Cage at the concert. The two became friends and under Cage’s influence, Feldman began to write pieces which had no relation to compositional systems of the past, such as the constraints of traditional harmony or the serial technique. He experimented with non-standard systems of musical notation, often using grids in his scores, and specifying how many notes should be played at a certain time, but not which ones. His experiments with the use of chance in his composition in turn inspired John Cage to write pieces like the Music of Changes, where the notes to be played are determined by consulting the I Ching. Through Cage, Feldman also met other prominent figures in the New York arts scene, among them Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Frank O’Hara and Samuel Beckett, and found inspiration in the paintings of the abstract expressionists. Later in life, he began to write very long works, including his coolly reflective and intimate Violin and String Quartet (1985). Feldman is sometimes regarded as the father of ‘meditative minimalism’ and this piece, with its beautiful, angst-ridden lyricism, is typical of his later work. On this premiere recording, violinist Christina Fong and the Rangzen Quartet brilliantly capture Feldman’s profound introspection in this technically demanding composition.

GRAHAM WHETTAM – QUARTETS   CARDUCCI CLASSICS CSQ5847

Swindon-born Graham Whettam had no formal education in music but began composing when he was 16 years old. Illness forced him to spend much of his time resting but conductor Sir Adrian Boult, among others, persuaded him to pursue his vocation in music. He went on to write a wide range of music for symphony orchestra, chamber orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo instruments and vocal music, including both liturgical and secular works. Sadly, Graham Whettam died in August this year, a few weeks before his 80th birthday, but he leaves behind a considerable musical legacy. His last public appearance was at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester when the accomplished Carducci String Quartet gave a performance of his String Quartet No. 1. This new album this first Quartet (originally commissioned by a wind player, Jack Brymer) as well as Whettam’s String Quartet No 4 and his Oboe Quartet No. 2 (with Jennie-Lee Keetley). This Oboe Quartet is also known as ‘The Bagpiper (‘der Dudelsackpfeifer’), being inspired by the drone-like sounds of the Scottish bagpipe. Altogether, this CD is a fitting tribute to a remarkable composer, teacher and campaigner for contemporary music.

FRONTIERS AND BRIDGES – EDINBURGH QUARTET  CIRCULAR RECORDS CR1014

This new album from Scotland’s leading string quartet features contemporary works in the classical tradition by three contemporary Edinburgh-based composers: Kim-Ho Ip from China, Julian Wagstaff from Scotland, and Anothai Nitibhon from Thailand. As composition students at Edinburgh University, these composers were founder members of the Intercultural Ensemble led by the English composer Nigel Osborne, sharing an inclusive and collaborative approach to the music of disparate cultures and nations. The Frontiers and Bridges recording project was set up to capture some of the work resulting from this musical meeting of minds and cultures. On a first listen, the three pieces featured on the album may appear to have little to connect them. However, what they share is an urgent need to scrutinise the nature of cultural frontiers - be they between east and west, music and language, ‘high’ and ‘low’ art, the ancient and the modern - and to challenge and subvert them wherever necessary. Hong Kong-born Kim-Ho Ip is a composer, conductor, cellist and yang-chin (Chinese dulcimer) player. His ‘In Contact…’ for string quartet and flute (Matthew Studdert-Kennedy) is a modernist work that explores relationships between Chinese and western music. Julian Wagstaff lives and works in his native Edinburgh, and his compositions include the string orchestra piece Treptow, his acclaimed opera Turing Test, and the musical John Paul Jones. This CD features his imaginative and accessible Piano Quintet (with Alina Kolonitskaya, piano), Anothai Nitibhon is originally from Thailand and her works explore the concept of ‘interculturality’ in music. Dukkha (with Paul Speirs, double bass), is a trans-cultural adventure that grapples with Buddhist spirituality and and the frontier between life and re-birth. The Edinburgh Quartet is in fine form throughout and the music on this album is exciting, challenging and highly rewarding.

SCHUBERT – COMPLETE STRING QUARTETS     CASCAVELLE VEL3115

Although many admired his work (including his teacher, Antonio Salieri) Austrian composer Franz Peter Schubert’s music was rarely performed during his lifetime. Without secure employment he had to rely on the support of friends and family, but since his death in 1828 interest in his work increased dramatically. Schubert’s output was prolific - he wrote about 600 songs, eight completed symphonies (as well as his famous ‘Unfinished Symphony’, liturgical music, operas, and much piano and chamber music. His fifteen string quartets include No. 15, was composed in eight days in June 1826 and published posthumously in 1851. Although far less often recorded than its famous predecessor the Quartet in D minor ‘Death and the Maiden’, the G major is perhaps even more remarkable and forward-looking. No. 15 is given a suitably exuberant performance by the excellent Sine Nomine Quartet on this five-CD box set from Cascavelle, which includes all fifteen of Schubert’s quartets. The Lausanne-based musicians - Patrick Genet and François Gottraux (violins), Hans Egidi (viola) and Marc Jaermann (cello) – play this sublime music with great skill as well as passion.

PAUL RICHARDS – FABLES, FORMS & FEARS   MEYER-MEDIA MM07008

Composer Paul Richards was born in New York City in 1969 to a musical family, and has been engaged with music since childhood, exploring various popular styles, the Western canon, and Jewish sacred and secular music through his father, a cantor. All of these experiences inform his creative activities, which have included numerous orchestral, vocal, chamber and theatrical works as Richards has collaborated with choreographers and theatre companies throughout the world. Hailed as a composer with ‘a strong, pure melodic gift, an ear for color and an appreciation for contrast and variety’, and praised for his ‘fresh approach to movement and beautiful orchestral coloration’, his music has been performed throughout the United States and internationally on six continents.Meyer-Media has just released Fables, Forms & Fears, featuring chamber music by Paul Richards performed by the acclaimed violin and guitar of Duo46 (Beth Ilana Schneider-Gould and Matthew Albert Gould) as well as Paul Basler (horn), Kenneth Broadway (percussion), David Waybright (conductor), Nathanael May (piano), Kevin Robert Orr (piano) and the University of Florida Clarinet Choir (Richards is associate professor of composition at this university).Highlights include ‘Falling on Lobsters in the Dark’, dealing with music often associated with fears, Cypriot Structures, which was composed in response to three sites visited during a residency at Eastern Mediterranean University in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus while working with the performers who commissioned this work. The musical structure of each movement and the character of the music are meant to reflect something of the grandeur and mystery of these striking locations: The Walls of Famagusta, The Ruins at Salamis and The Castle at Kyrenia.

BEETHOVEN – VIOLIN SONATAS     CLAVES CD 50-2610/12

Beethoven Violin Sonatas02By the time the Beethoven wrote the first of his ten sonatas for piano and violin he was already 27 years old, so even his earliest violin sonatas are confident and original works. The first nine were composed within six years and the final one almost a decade later, making for a satisfyingly coherent body of music on this splendidly produced three-CD box set. The recordings were made at the Salle de Musique in La Chaux-de-Fonds, with the formidable violin virtuoso Corey Cerovsek performing on the ‘Milanollo’ Stradivarius of 1728, an instrument played by, among others, Christian Ferras, Giovanni Battista Viotti and Nicolò Paganini. He is accompanied by outstanding Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen, and together they reveal both the lyricism and drama in Beethoven’ complete violin sonata cycle. Corey Cerovsek was born in Vancouver, Canada, and studied violin from the age of five - four years later winning the grand prize above 3,000 musicians in the Canadian Music Competition. Aged 12, he enrolled as student at Indiana University, receiving degrees in mathematics and music at 15, and masters in both at 16, completing his doctoral course in mathematics and music aged 18. As a musician, he has performed in recitals and with many orchestras internationally. On these recordings he plays with great expressiveness, precision and authority, fluently accompanied by Paavali Jumppanen. An informative 96-page booklet is included with the CD set.

BRAHMS – VIOLA SONATAS       HYPERION CDA67584

Johannes Brahms’ many chamber works include three string quartets, two string quintets, two string sextets, a clarinet quintet, a clarinet trio, a horn trio, a piano quintet, three piano quartets and three piano trios. He also composed several instrumental sonatas with piano, including three for violin and two for cello. His final completed chamber works were two sonatas for viola and piano that had originally been written for the clarinet. They were also arranged for violin by the composer but the violin versions have been mostly neglected whereas the viola versions have become as popular as the clarinet ones. The first sonata (Opus 120, No. 1 in f-minor) is wonderfully dramatic and has moments of tender melancholy. The second (Opus 120, No. 2 in E-flat major) is more relaxed yet filled with marvellous melodic invention. The viola’s unique timbre instils a greater sense of intimacy to these works, where the clarinet is more obviously soloistic, and Brahms’s pioneering treatment of his chamber instruments as equal contributors makes the possibility of alternative instrumentations all the more reasonable. Both these sublime pieces are played here by the acclaimed Lawrence Power (viola) with Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano). This CD also includes a fine recording of Brahms’ Trio in A minor for viola, cello and piano, with the excellent Tim Hugh on cello.

BY PURLING STREAMS – BAROQUE PASTORAL MUSIC    OXRECS OXCD-98

This delightful collection of Baroque pastoral music from England, France and Italy features works by Giovanni Bononcini, John Blow, Henry Purcell, Jacques Hotteterre, William Croft, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Francois Couperin and George Frideric Handel, as well as ‘Anonymous’ (the charming ‘Bird Fancyer’s Delight’ for sopranino recorder: Woodlark - Bullfinch - Nightingale - East India Nightingale).The excellent Borromini Ensemble takes its name appropriately from one of the great architects of the Italian Baroque era, Francesco Boromini, whose buildings include the oratory of St Philip Neri in Rome. The Ensemble specialises in music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially from Italy. The musicians - Alan Davies (recorder), Sarah Westwood (a captivating soprano) Jean Gubbins (violoncello) and Richard Silk (harpsichord) – give stylish and assured performances thoughout. Highlights include Purcell’s ‘If music be the food of love’ and ‘Sweeter than roses’ (from “Pausanius”), William Croft’s ‘Celladon’ and ‘Greensleeves’, and Purcell’s ‘Suite for harpsichord No. 1 in G major’ (from “A Choice Collection of Lessons”). Highly recommended.

ALAN HOVHANESS – VIOLIN/VIOLA & KEYBOARD WORKS   OGREOGRESS

Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) was an intriguing American composer of Armenian and Scottish descent. His accessible music often evokes a mood of mystery or contemplation, which The Boston Globe music critic Richard Buell described as ‘hushed, reverential, mystical, nostalgic’. Hovhaness was among the most prolific composers of the 20th century, writing 67 symphonies and more than 500 works in all. During the 1940s and 50s he was one of a maverick group of composers that also included Henry Cowell, John Cage and Lou Harrison, pioneering one of the great shifts in twentieth century American music by looking to non-Western cultures for creative renewal. Alan Hovhaness became one of the most recorded and acclaimed American composers in the 1950s and 60s but although his work has enjoyed a revival in recent years many of his works are still little known to audiences or performers. This fascinating CD is the third in an invaluable series from OgreOgress featuring previously unreleased works for violin/viola by well-known composers, and it contains several world premiere recordings. All of Alan Hovhaness’s published works for violin/viola and keyboard are included, immaculately played by Christina Fong and Arved Ashby. This passionate, exotic and hauntingly beautiful music deserves to be much better known. more information about OgreOgress releases.

KRAUS - STRING QUARTETS       CARUS 83.194

Joseph Martin Kraus was one of the most musically innovative contemporaries of Mozart, born in the same year (1756) as the more famous composer and surviving him by one year in 1792. Born in Miltenberg am Main, Joseph Kraus studied law with the aim of becoming a civil servant but had already begun composing while at the grammar school in Mannheim. As a twenty-year-old he wrote church music at Buchen in the Odenwald, where his father had been transferred soon after he was born. In 1778 a fellow student from Sweden persuaded him in to move to Stockholm, where his first opera, ‘Proserpin’ led King Gustav III to appoint him as Royal Music Director of the Swedish Court. Among his tasks were to reorganise music and theatre at the Court and to compose and perform his own works. Gustav III was assassinated in March 1792 (Verdi used this incident as the plot of his opera ‘The Masked Ball’) and a few months later Kraus died of tuberculosis at the height of his creative powers. As well as his early sacred works, ‘the Swedish Mozart’ wrote operas, stage and ballet music, Lieder, arias and cantatas with German, Swedish, Italian and French texts, symphonies and chamber music. On this invaluable CD the Salagon Quartet perform three works from the ‘Six Quatuors Concertants’ op. 1, published in 1784 These quartets appeared in two separate editions: One was printed with the customary French title, while the other contained a title page printed in Swedish, with a dedication to Kraus’s royal patron and employer The other two quartets here have survived only as autographs. The excellent Salagon Quartet, playing instruments appropriate to the historical period, perform with great expressiveness, bringing to life the music of a composer who Haydn called ‘one of the greatest geniuses I have met’.

LIDERMAN - AIRES DE SEFARAD    ALBANY TROY829

Born in Buenos Aires, Jorge Liderman began his musical studies at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem under Mark Kopitman. In 1988 he received his doctorate in composition from the University of Chicago and a year later joined the composition faculty at the University of California, Berkeley. His works have been commissioned and performed by many leading ensembles around the world, including the London Sinfonietta, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Radio France, the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the Nieuw Ensemble, the Arditti String Quartet and, as here, Duo 46. Liderman’s music has been featured at, among others, Darmstadt, Nuova Consonanza, Stuttgart’s Neue Musik, Semaines Musicales Internationales d’Orleans, Mexico’s Foro Internacional and London’s Viva. His music is experimental and extremely colourful, with a strong nationalistic undercurrent. Aires de Sefarad (Airs from Spain) is a cycle of 46 songs without words for violin and guitar. Many are love songs, varying in character and musical nature. They feature unchanged original melodies that were sung in Ladino by the Spanish, or by the Hebrew, Sephardic Jews. After the Spanish Inquisition, a large number of Jews emigrated to Portugal, Tunis, Morocco, Turkey and Israel among other countries. After a 2003 visit to Spain, walking through the Jewish quarter in Cordoba and experiencing the vibrant life of the region, Liderman was inspired to write Aires de Sefarad. The settings is remarkably concise, averaging not much more than a minute, yet include an introduction, full exposition and a coda. This is compelling music, played with great skill and passion by the excellent Duo 46: guitarist Dr Matt Gould and violinist Beth Ilana Schneider. Highly recommended.

QUARTETTI ITALIANI - QUARTETTO DI VENEZIA     DYNAMIC CDS 486/1-10

The acclaimed Quartetto di Venezia consists of four excellent Venetian musicians: Andrea Vio and Alberto Battiston (violins), Luca Morassutti (viola) and Angelo Zanin (cello). The quartet has maintained its original formation for over ten years, during which time it has played at major international festivals in Italy (including Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence and Bologna) as well as in many countries around the world. They have performed for Pope Giovanni Paolo II and for the President of the Italian Republic, and have recorded extensively for television, radio and on CD. Like most of the musical forms that blossomed in the 18th century (the sonata for solo and continuo, trio sonata, concerto and symphony), the string quartet began its glorious parabola in Italy but bore its ripest fruits beyond the Alps, reaching an apex in the production of the great Austro-German classical composers, especially Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Several Italian composers, however, also made original and important contributions to the genre. This stylish 10-CD box set from Dynamic provides a panoramic view of quartet music in Italy, ranging from Boccherini’s elegant classical writing to Malipiero’s controversial stance against Romanticism. Other composers featured include Bazzini, Verdi, Puccini and Respighi.

SHOSTAKOVICH - THE COMPLETE STRING QUARTETS   HYPERION CDS44091/6

Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich (1906-1975) was a Russian composer of the Soviet period who had a troubled relationship with the government, including two official denunciations of his music in 1936 and 1948. Since his death, his life and work have been under much scrutiny, with debate over the extent to which he was secretly a dissident. After an initial avant-garde period, Shostakovich wrote mainly in the romantic idiom, heavily influenced by Mahler. He wrote operas, concertos and a large quantity of film music, but his greatest works are probably his symphonies and string quartets. He composed fifteen of each and it is in the quartets, mostly written in the latter part of his career, that he was most free to compose with maximum seriousness and minimum external pressure. Shostakovich adapted modern elements to his personal style and emotionally connected to the plight of the Russian and Jewish people under Soviet tyranny. His first string quartet was written after he had already composed five symphonies and it was only with mounting tragedy in his life that Shostakovich’s music began to reflect a profound melancholy and despair. The excellent St Petersburg String Quartet play this dark and intense music with passion and dazzling technique. As well as all of the string quartets, this six-CD box set (with over seven hours of music) also includes Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 and his Piano Quintet in G minor. ‘These are among the great interpretations that have been placed on disc’ - Fanfare.

TRAVELING WEST       NORTH SOUTH N/S R 1038

This album has the first recordings of five inspiring scores by living American composers selected from among the many compositions performed as part of a unique New York City concert series. The works exhibit diverse but complimentary aesthetic outlooks and a post-modern thread runs through all of them. The longest work here, Traveling West, is an ambitious song cycle written by Randall Snyder, Professor of Composition and Composer-in-Residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Inspired by the poetry of four women writers from Nebraska (Susan Strayer Deal, Marjorie Saiser, Hilda Raz and Kathleene West), the songs are wonderfully evocative of the Nebraska landscape. The other composers featured are Marilyn Jane Ziffrin (her lively Piano Concertino), William Mayer (Messages, an impressionistic work for virtuoso flute and instrumental accompaniment - violin, viola, cello and percussion instruments), Harry Bulow (Syntax 1) and Joseph Koykkar (Out Front, for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and one percussionist playing both marimba and vibraphone). Max Lifchitz conducts the excellent North/South Consonance Ensemble and the soloists are Helen Lin (piano), Lisa Hansen (flute) and Margaret O’Connell (mezzo-soprano). Marilyn Ziffrin was born in 1926 in Moline, Illinois, and has devoted her life to creating brilliant and intense music that deserves to be much better known. More of her accomplished compositions can be heard on Songs & Arias (North/South N/S R 1041).

MAX KUHN - INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC AND SONGS   GUILD GMCD 7284

The prolific Swiss composer, conductor, organist and pianist Max Kuhn was born in Zurich in 1896. He studied at the Zurich Conservatory, as well as in Vienna with Richard Stöhr and Joseph Hofmann, and became organist and choir director at the Catholic church in Küsnacht near Zurich. He also founded the Choir for modern Music, which later became the Zurich Chamber Choir, and was a teacher for piano and music theory. As a composer, his early music followed in tradition of Bach, Schubert and Wolf, but Hindemith influenced his later work in matters of harmony and technique, enabling him to go his own way. Kuhn was was attracted to the music of Spain - especially the Canary Islands - so his compositions form a link between the Protestant North and the Mediterranean warmth of the South. He wrote in many genres, from operas to small piano pieces, and this CD features some of his imaginative instrumental music as well as 11 elegant songs (eight of them set to words by the Zurich-born lyric poet Albert Ehrismann). The singer is the mezzo-soprano, Jeanette Ager. The instrumental works include a performance by John Anderson of Kuhn’s expressive Suite for Oboe Solo, written in 1965 and dedicated to the singer Elisabeth Salzmann. The Three Preludes for piano, played here by Sophia Rahman, reveal the influences of both Scriabin and Busoni.

STANFORD - PIANO QUINTET & STRING QUINTET NO. 1   HYPERION CDA67505

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 chamber compositions, including this richly scored String Quintet No 1, much admired by Parry, and the lively Piano Quintet dating from 1886. Piers Lane is the pianist with the excellent RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet and Garth Knox (viola). The famously irascible Stanford is perhaps best remembered today as the teacher of composers such as Holst, Vaughan Williams, Frank Bridge and Herbert Howells, but he was also a notable and inventive composer himself. This recording should help bring his unjustly neglected work to a new audience. ‘A performance of white-hot intensity…an outstanding release’ - BBC Music Magazine.

MATTHEW TAYLOR - PIANO TRIO    TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0015

Matthew Taylor was born in London in 1964 and studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge with Hugh Wood and Robin Holloway, and later at the Royal Academy of Music. In addition to his work as a composer he has a busy conducting schedule, especially with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, English Chamber Orchestra and European Community Chamber Orchestra. He has completed two symphonies, concertos for piano (1992), clarinet (1996) and horn (1999), four string quartets, other chamber works, solo piano music and songs. His work has been played and broadcast regularly throughout the UK and performed in Germany, Denmark, Italy, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States. The three works on this album were composed between 1993 and 1996 and show the influence of Sibelius, Nielsen and Robert Simpson on Taylor’s music. They are his Piano trio (played by the Lowbury Piano Trio), the energetic String Quartet No. 3 (The Schidlof Quartet) and Conflict and Consolation (with members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabyns) This album is one of the first on the ambitious new CD label, Toccata Classics, which admirably specialises in neglected music that has not previously been recorded. Among the label’s other initial releases can be found music by Havergal Brian, the remarkable Norwegian composer Georg von Bertouch, and Mozart (three Cello Sonatas, brilliantly transcribed and played by Alexander Kniazev). Future CDs will include the complete symphonies, string quartets and piano music of Antonín Rejcha, the symphonies of Richard Arnell, and works by Latvian and Lithuanian composers, as well as string symphonies by Mozart’s friend, the Czech composer Josef Mysliveček.

SANCTUARY - THE HEART HAS ITS REASONS  WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62019-2

The Canadian trio Sanctuary is a classical ensemble that defies categorisation. For the past five years, Peter Togni, Jeff Reilly and Christoph Both’s adventurous partnership of organ, bass clarinet and cello has celebrated the mesmerising acoustics of St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax, Nova Scotia, performing contemplative improvisations based on Gregorian Chant. Sanctuary fuses the melodic simplicity of traditional sounds with jazz and contemporary music to create unique compositions that lead the heart and mind towards inner reflection and stillness. On this debut album for Warner Classics the trio has expanded to feature a string orchestra, conducted by Alain Trudel. The title is taken from a quotation by the seventeenth century French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal - ‘The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing’ - and the graceful lyricism of the music (all compositions are by members Sanctuary) inspires profound thought and meditation. As well as the beautiful title piece there are eight others: Antiphon (two versions), Refuge, Vigil, Illuminations, Lament, Vigils And Stone, Passio and Adoro Te. ‘A completely addictive, achingly melancholy suite of compositions...perfect chill-out music whose subtle atmospherics and unashamed quest for beauty make it far more compelling than such a description normally implies’ - The Independent.

PAGANINI - COMPLETE WORKS FOR VIOLIN AND GUITAR  DYNAMIC CDS 466/1-9

Nicolò Paganini was born in Genoa, Italy in 1782 and was taught to play the violin from a very young age. He gave his first public concert at the age of 11 and went on to become the greatest violinist of his time, profoundly influencing the technique of violin-playing and, through his phenomenal virtuosity, the ambitions of performers on other instruments. During a two and half year period from August 1828 to February, 1831 he visited 40 cities in Germany, Bohemia and Poland, and his performances in Vienna, Paris and London were sensational. His concert tour of England and Scotland in 1832 made him rich. Paganini’s genius as a player overshadows his work as a composer but he wrote a number of accomplished works for violin and orchestra for his own use, including five concertos and several sets of variations for violin and orchestra. He also sometimes played guitar and wrote a number of works for that instrument and the violin, including groups of intimate sonatas and a set of quartets for guitar and string trio. This impressive 9 CD box-set includes all Paganini’s compositions for violin and guitar, including brilliant performances of the Lucca Sonatas by Luigi Alberto Bianchi (violin) and Maurizio Preda (guitar). Highly recommended.

LAURIE CONRAD - VISIONS    FIGARO RECORDINGS 

This cycle of nine ‘Visions’ for flute and harp was written in July 2001 in Ithaca, New York, by the author, pianist and composer Laurie Conrad. Ithaca has many large and small waterfalls, two only a block away from the composer’s house, and much of the music here is a kind of meditation inspired by these natural features. Laurie Conrad writes: ‘I have been to the Falls nearby in the heat and sun of summer and in the cold and frost of winter, when massive icicles hung from the cliffs. A small waterfall is near the entrance to the Falls, to the right of a footpath. One then walks through a small forest to reach the large falls, which one can hear from the house on some summer nights.’ The cycle was written, for the most part, in a loose 12-tone technique. They are in almost a French Impressionist style, and the composer has made ample use of the whole tone scale, especially in the harp. The talented performers are Laura Campbell (flute) and Myra Kovary (harp), and highlights include an evocative Sunlight on the Falls, Winter Birds, Music of the Spheres and The Lighthouse.

FRENCH TRIOS - DEBUSSY, FAURE, RAVEL  CLAVES 50-2405

The harp virtuoso Xavier de Maistre, an acclaimed soloist with the renowned Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, here performs a delightful collection of trios by five French composers. He is joined on these recordings by the flutist Gaby Pas-Van Riet and and viola player Gunter Teuffel. There are works by Claude Debussy (Sonata in F Major for Flute, Viola and Harp), Gabriel Faure (Fantaisie in C Major for Flute and Harp, arranged by Xavier de Maistre), Marcel Tournler (Sonatine for Harp), Ernest Chausson (Piece in C Major for Viola and Harp, arranged by Xavier de Maistre), Maurice Ravel (Sonatina en Trio in F-sharp Minor for Flute, Viola and Harp, arranged by Carlos Salzedo). Xavier de Maistre was born in 1973 and began studying the harp at the age of nine, winning his first international competition in Paris at the age of sixteen. In 1998 he was awarded first prize and two interpretation prizes at the prestigious International Harp Competition in Bloomington, USA. He also recently became a professor at the Hamburg Musik Hochschule.

TELEMANN/BODINUS - QUARTETS     MERIDIAN CDE 84523

The acclaimed Musicians of the Old Post Road ensemble perform three quartets each by Telemann and Bodinus. This American group specialises in period instrument performance of music from the Baroque, Classical and early Romantic periods, and has a diverse repertory that includes many works that have been unheard for centuries. Georg Philipp Telemann was a prolific, self-taught German composer who was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach. He travelled widely and absorbed many musical styles, incorporating them into his compositions. Sebastian Bodinus, also born in Germany, was a violinist and composer at the courts of Baden, Württemburg, and Karlsruhe. Among his surviving chamber works are six quartets published in 1726 that show him to be an accomplished and original composer, often using unusual combinations of flutes, violin and continuo instead of the normal pairing of violins. All the works on this disc are played with exemplary freshness and style, and the Bodinus quartets in particular should be heard by anyone interested in exploring lesser-known music from the Baroque era.

MOZART/BEETHOVEN - STRING QUARTETS BERLIN CLASSICS 0002732/0002742CCC

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 of which Mozart was a member. Mozart himself went on to write 26 string quartets but never quite reached Haydn’s achievement in this difficult musical genre. Beethoven composed brilliantly in this form throughout his career and his ‘late quartets’ brought the string quartet to a sublime level that has never been surpassed. These two great value boxed sets of music by Mozart (6 CDs) and Beethoven (10 CDs) feature recordings made my the acclaimed Suske Quartet in the 1970s. Karl Suske played in the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig before becoming leader of the Staatskapelle in Berlin. In 1965 he founded the Suske Quartet with other musicians from the Berlin Staatskapelle and they made many tours in the West as ambassadors of culture. These fine recordings show a deep understanding of the music and the excellent digital remastering allows us to appreciate the quartet’s musicianship as never before. The performances are articulate, they have a beautiful tone and are highly transparent in their execution’ - Fono Forum.

ACCORDO PERFETTO - DRESDNER STREICH TRIO     QUERSTAND VKJK 0409

The excellent Dresdner Streich Trio was formed in 1995 when its three musicians decided, apart from obligations to the Saxonian state State of Dresden and MDR Sinfonieorchester, to dedicate themselves intensively to chamber music. Invitations followed to perform at the Munich Philharmonic Concert Halls and at many famous music Festivals, such as the Rhine gau music Festival. Accordo Perfetto, volume1, includes works by the Austrian pianist and composer Heinrich von Herzogenberg (Trio op. 27 in F major) and Max Reger (Streichtrio op. 77b. Reger was born in 1873 and during a composing life of little more than 20 years (he died in Leipzig, in 1916) he produced a great deal of music for organ and orchestra as well as these chamber music trios that revela his characteristic energy and complexity.

ROMANTIC MUSIC FOR CELLO - SHAPIRA DUO    IRC 202 USA      

Acclaimed Israeli cellist Benjamin Shapira and pianist Shulamith Shapira have collaborated as a duo for many years. Among their recent performances are concerts at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall as well as tours to Chicago, Los Angeles and Nashville. Benjamin Shapira is the winner of numerous competitions and is in constant demand as a soloist with orchestras and in recitals throughout the United States and abroad. Shulamith Shapira was only sixteen when she graduated from the State Conservatory of Music in Bucharest under the supervision of Florica Musicescu, teacher of major pianists such as Dino Lipatti. On this enjoyable and accomplished CD the mother and son Shapira Duo perform Mendelssohn’s Song WithoutWords, Rondo (Dvorak), Elegy and Sicilienne (Faure), Polonaise Brilliant (Chopin), Three fantasy pieces (Schumann), The Swan (Saint Saens) and Hungarian Rhapsody (Popper). ‘Deeply felt expressiveness’ - String Magazine.

SONG OF THE BLACK SWAN - CAROLYN MILLS & DAWN HARMS  ATOLL ACD199

Dawn Harris (a first violinist with the San Francisco Opera) and Carolyn Mills (principal harp player with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) perform a charming collection of mainly French, Spanish and traditional music. Much of it has been sympathetically arranged by Kenneth Young, including such timeless tunes as Barb’ra Ellen, O Waly Waly and the Last Rose of Summer. The other pieces featured are En Priere (composed by Gabriel Faure), Latvian Prayer (Anonymous, arr. Harms), Song of the Black Swan (Heitor Villa-Lobos, ed. Owens), Nocturne (Gabriel Faure), Habanera (Maurice Ravel, arr. Salzedo), Nana, Astoriana, Cancion (Manuel de Falla), Pavane for a dead princess (Maurice Ravel, arr. Maganini/Lawrence), Fantasia for Violin and Harp (Camille Saint-Saens) and the hauntingly beautiful Meditation from Thais (Jules Massenet, arr. Salzedo).

MOZART/SCHUMANN - PIANO TRIOS   BERLIN CLASSICS 0017662BC

The brilliant Vienna Mozart Trio consists of Irina Auner (piano), Leonid Sorokov (violin) and Diethard Auner (cello). Since the ensemble was formed in 1991 it has achieved a steadily increasing reputation for musical excellence on the chamber music scene. Not being associated with any orchestra or other ensemble gives these musicians their true artistic independence to develop a free and unconventional sound. They are not three soloists who thrust themselves into the limelight, but a harmonized and flexible ensemble which enjoys making music together. This sparkling CD is the forst of a series featuring recordings of the piano trios of W. A. Mozart, in each case combined with a work by another composer. The first disc features an early and late work by Mozart (Trios K254 and K542) along with Robert Schumann's cheerfully exuberant Trio No. 2 op. 80.

STRINGS ATTACHED - NICHOLLS/HONORE      MERIDIAN CDE 84456

The harp and violin have a natural empathy and many composers have discovered this to be an inspiring combination. A wide range of styles and periods are represented on this album of music performed by the internationally renowned Alison Nicholls (harp) and French-born Philippe Honoré (violin). There are works by Donizetti (Sonata for Violin and Harp), Louis Spohr (Potpourri from Mozart's ‘Magic Flute’), Saint-Saëns (Swan from ‘Carnival of the Animals’ and Berceuse, Fantaisie Op. 124), Alec Roth (a world premiere recording Nocturne, written specially for the performers here), the precocious Debussy (Beau soir), Massenet (a sublime Méditation from Thaïs), Jacques Ibert (his Spanish-influenced Entr'acte), Paganini (Cantabile), Ravel (Pièce en forme de habanera) and Astor Piazzola (the 'tango nuevo' style Café 1930). Delightful music thoughout, elegantly played by an outstanding duo.

SCHUBERT SONATAS - DAVID FINCKEL & WU HAN   ARTISTLED 10401-2

This disc features definitive performances of two late Schubert works: the majestic Sonata for Piano in A Major, completed a short time before the composer’s death, and the quintessentially Romantic Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano. This thoughtful and poignant performance of the Sonata for Piano marks Wu Han's solo recording debut on ArtistLed and was expertly produced at the Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City, a landmark building renowned for its superb acoustics. David Finckel and Wu Han are acclaimed performers, frequently appearing in concerts worldwide either as soloists or as a duo and, in David Finckel’s case, as cellist of the renowned Emerson String Quartet. They have become widely recognized for their initiatives in expanding audiences for classical music, and for guiding the careers of countless young musicians.

LE JARDIN FEERIQUE           CLARINET CLASSICS CC0036

Le Jardin Féerique is an irresistible collection of French music, imaginatively arranged for clarinet sextet by Alan Andrews and Tim Payne, who also play on these recordings. The other performers are Victoria Loram, Ian Scott, Victoria Medcalf and Steve Morris. By using the complete clarinet family, from the Ab sopranino to the contra-bass, the sextet give these clever and entertaining arrangements added depth and colour. The disc features well-known works by Debussy (Petite Suite, Deux Arabesques, Six Epigraphes Antiques, Clair de Lune and La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin) and Maurice Ravel (Menuet sur le Nom de Haydn and Ma mère l’Oye).

POULENC - COMPLETE WORKS FOR PIANO AND WINDS   KLEOS KL5125

This engaging CD includes the complete `Music for Piano and Winds,` by Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963), a composer of elegance and humour whose compositions feature music of great vivacity and tunefulness. He had his first successes as an 18-year-old and remained largely self-taught throughout his life, giving his music a wonderfully eccentric and individual flavour. As well as being one of the greatest religious and choral composers of the twentieth century hw wrote a magnificent organ concerto and a great deal of fine chamber music, including the pieces on this album. these are his Sextet for Piano, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn; Sonata for Flute and Piano; Sonata for Oboe and Piano; Sonata for Clarinet and Piano; Trio for Oboe Bassoon and Piano; Elegie for Horn and Piano. They are admirably performed here by Sergio de los Cobos, Hunju Sohnn (piano), and the EnSemble 5 +.

BACH - SIX SONATAS FOR VIOLIN & HARPSICHORD   CARUS 83.164

On this impressive double-CD recording, Christine Busch (violin) and Kay Johannsen (harpsichord) play Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Sonatas for violin with obbligato harpsichord, composed during his time at Cöthen. This was the most carefree period of creativity in his life, when Bach transformed the trio sonata to create a new genre by freeing the harpsichord from the role of a continuo instrument. He made it carry two equally important voices and gave it anew role as a true partner in dialogue with the violin. Performing here on historical instruments, Christine Busch and Kay Johannsen bring to life these elegantly expressive movements in an intimate, almost contemplative manner. Highly recommended.

TRIO FONTENAY - PIANO TRIOS    K&K ISBN 3-930643-84-7

The internationally-reowned German piano ensemble, Trio Fontenay, always perform with impressive intensity and faithfulness to the composer’s intentions. This exceptional trio were awarded the annual prize by Deutsche Schallplattenkritik for their complete recording of the Beethoven Trios, as well as being given the French ‘Diapason d’Or’. On this latest album Trio Fontenay play the Piano Trio No. 1, by the Spanish pianist and composer Joaquin Turina, a composer who’s work was influenced both by French Impressionism and by the folk music of Andalusia. The second part of the concert features Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, written soon after his Sixth Symphony. These intense, elegant performances are another triumph in the excellent Maulbronn concert series from K&K.

FAURE - THE PIANO QUARTETS       OTTAVO OTR C120282

Gabriel Faure wrote two piano quartets, the first and most poular of which was composed when he was in his early forties. Its sweeping first movement is followed by a witty scherzo embracing a mellifluous trio, then a soothingly elegiac and lyrical slow movement leading to a brilliantly vigorous finale. Faure’s less well-known second piano quartet has an identical sequence of movements and closely related keys but is much more dramatic in character. The final movement’s waltz may well have inspired his pupil Ravel in the latter’s famous Valse Nobles et Sentimentales. Faure himself played an Erard grand piano on the second quartet’s premiere performance and on this authentic recording Jet Röling plays an 1861 Erard,.with the excellent Aldebaran Quartet.

LEIPZIGER BAROCKSOLISTEN       QUERSTAND  VKJK 0227

Leipziger Barocksolisten give fresh and joyful performances of baroque music by Arcangelo Corelli (Sonate D major for trumpet, oboe, violin and B.C.), Johann Friedrich Fasch (Sonate for violin, oboe, bassoon and B.C.), Joseph Bodin de Boismotier (Sonate for violin, bassoon and B.C.), Gottfried finger (Sonate C major for trumpet, oboe and B.C.), George Philipp Telemann (Quartet for violin, oboe, bassoon and B.C.) and Johann William Hertel (Concerto A cinque for trumpet, violin, oboe, bassoon and B.C.). The excellent on this recording are musicians are Stefan Arzberger (violin), Thomas Hipper (oboe), John Roderick MacDonald (trumpet), Thomas Reinhardt (bassoon), Tobias Martin (retort bass) and Michael Schönheit (Cembalo).

MODERN AMERICAN CHAMBER MUSIC    VIENNA MODERN MASTERS VMM 2008.

This collection of ground-breaking chamber music written by modern American music includes fascinating works by Harold Fortuin (Untitled #3: A Transcendental Etude for Computer-controlled Keyboard), David Loeb (Yuukuu ‘The Elegant Sky’ for five shakuhachi), Aaron Rabushka (Ballade, Toccata, Madrigale ‘E la Virtute un Raggio’) and Mark Polishook (The Tribute).

THOINET ARBEAU - ORCHESOGRAPHIE     SYMPHONIA SY 02196

Thoinet Arbeau, a scholarly canon of Langres in France, published his Orchesographie in 1588. Without this treatise on the dances practiced in his time and social environment we would know little of this aspect of the French Renaissance. This fascinating album contains interpretations (mostly premiere recordings) of 21 of the 50 works Arbeau included in Orchesographie. The lively performances of this evocative music are by Florigelo Ensemble with Alta Cappella, directed by Marcello Serafini..

 

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