BRITISH VIOLIN CONCERTOS NAXOS 8.573791
The earliest violin concertos date from the Baroque era, when Johann Sebastian Bach (including his wonderful double concerto) and Antonio Vivaldi (the ubiquitous Four Seasons) were masters of the form. Alongside the piano concerto, the violin concerto remains one of the most popular types of music played in concert halls and on recordings today. Classical period composers such as Haydn and Mozart also wrote violin concertos, often lighthearted in character. Beethoven transformed the violin concerto with his grand orchestral masterpiece in the nineteenth century, reaching emotional depths left untouched by his predecessors. The Romantic Period saw saw composers writing violin concerto that called for pyrotechnic displays of skill by the soloist and revealed great emotions. The violin concertos of Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Dvorak and Sibelius are still among the most popular and loved classical compositions, along with those of Samuel Barber, Edward Elgar and William Walton. In contrast to such opulent concertos, the three British violin concertos featured on this CD, produced in association with BBC Radio 3, adopt a more concise approach using chamber forces. Though not shunning elements of bravura display anticipated in concertante works, they cast the solo violinist as first among equals. Born in Chesterfield in 1947, Paul Patterson’s output includes orchestral and choral works as well as music for brass and organ. Subtitled ‘Serenade’, his Second Violin Concerto was written for soloist Clare Howick, who plays it brilliantly here with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Grant Llewellyn. Though offering technical challenges, the overall mood of the piece is bright and high-spirited with relaxed and goodhumoured interplay between the soloist and an orchestra consisting of double woodwind, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, harp and strings. Kenneth Leighton (1929–1988) was a distinguished academic who became the University of Edinburgh’s Reid Professor of Music. He also wrote over a hundred compositions, including symphonies, concertos, church music and a wide variety of vocal, chamber and instrumental works, notably for organ. His Concerto for Violin and Small Orchestra was written at white heat in a few weeks in the Spring of 1952, in Italy. The concerto is prefaced by some verses by the Italian poet Ada Negri, which translate as ‘Today I seek you, and do not find you; you are neither in me nor near me, nor do I know what fault I have committed that you have punished me in the light of your presence.’ While these verses characterise the essence of the concerto, they are most sensed in the emotional Epilogo. Gordon Jacob (1895–1984) was born in London and studied composition at the Royal College of Music with Charles Villiers Stanford, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells, and conducting with Adrian Boult. He taught at Birkbeck and Morley colleges before joining the staff of the RCM where he instructed composers such as Elizabeth Maconchy, Malcolm Arnold and Joseph Horovitz. Noted for his chamber music and pieces for wind band, Jacob also wrote many concertos, including his Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra which was completed in February 1953.
SHOSTAKOVICH & GLAZUNOV – VIOLIN CONCERTOS DECCA 4788758
Nicola Benedetti, from West Kilbride in Ayrshire, began playing the violin at the age of four and later started attending the Yehudi Menuhin School. By the age of eight she was leading the National Children’s Orchestra of Scotland and played before the Queen at the opening of the Holyrood parliament building. She won the title of BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004 when she was only 16 years old, giving a remarkably mature performance of the first violin concerto by Szymanowski, and went on to sign a £1m deal with Universal Classics. Many acclaimed recordings and concert performances have followed, and this latest album features Benedetti playing Glazunov’s glittering 1904 Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s dark, introspective First Violin Concerto, which was written in 1947 but suppressed until the 1950s;. The 40 years between these two Russian masterpieces saw such landmark historical events in Russia as the Revolution, Stalin’s Terror and the Second World War. Benedetti’s encounter with Russian music-making began in her childhood, the seriousness and intensity making a powerful impact on the young violinist: ‘I was thrust into a different world, a little terrifying, extremely demanding but so loving, so warm.’. She brings the grand Shostakovich Concerto to life in a powerful, mesmerising performance and follows this with Glazunov’s bold, colourful Violin Concerto, a late-Romantic work notable for its lyricism. The excellent Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Ukrainian Kirill Karabits. ‘This might just be Nicola Benedetti’s best recording yet.’ – Guardian.
SIBELIUS & GLAZUNOV - VIOLIN CONCERTOS DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DG 4812157
Jean Sibelius was one of the most popular and prolific composers of his time. His music played an important role in forming the Finnish national identity, although he was born into a Swedish-speaking family in Hämeenlinna in the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland. Named Johan Julius Christian Sibelius, he began using the French form of his name, Jean, during his student days. The core of Sibelius’s music is his collection of seven symphonies, with other famous compositions including Finlandia, Valse Triste, the Karelia Suite and Lemminkäinen Suite, as well as his brilliant, virtuosic Violin Concerto. The Russian composer and music teacher Alexander Glazunov was born in St Petersburg in 1865 (the same year as Sibelius) and the first of his symphonies premiered when he was just 16 years old. He studied music under Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and went on to write three ballets, nine symphonies and many other orchestral works, including his delightful Violin Concerto in A Minor. Korean-American Esther Yoo first came to international attention in 2010 when, aged 16, she became the youngest ever winner of the International Sibelius Violin Competition. She made her London debut in 2014 and was a soloist on the Philharmonia Orchestra’s South America tour under Vladimir Ashkenazy. With the Philharmonia here conducted by Sibelius specialist Ashekenazy, Esther Yoo gives stylish and impassioned performances of the Glazunov and Sibelius Concertos as well as Sibelius’s Suite For Violin And Strings (composed in 1929 but not published until 1995) and the lush Grand Adagio from Glazunov’s popular ballet Raymonda.
BEETHOVEN – COMPLETE PIANO CONCERTOS HUNGAROTON HCD32757-59
Ludwig van Beethoven is perhaps the greatest composer of classical music, rivalled only by Mozart. He was born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany, and by the time he was 13 he was supporting his family as a court musician, having already written his first symphony. His father, an obscure tenor singer, was apparently a violent man, who would drag young Ludwig from his bed in order to ‘beat’ music lessons into his head. Despite such abuses, Beethoven developed a sensitivity and love for music, going on to study with Mozart, Haydn, Johann Schenk, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger and Antonio Salieri. He began slowly to lose his hearing from the age of 30 yet increasing deafness did not end his career. He died in 1827, appropriately during a violent storm, but his music continues to be held in high regard, forming the core of orchestral and chamber music repertoires around the world. This three-disc box set features all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos, written from when he was around 19 or 20 to when he was just 38. He started a sixth six years later but had to abandon it because of his increasing deafness. Dénes Várjon, the soloist here, detects a high degree of interconnectivity between the concertos but says that each has a markedly unique identity, a distinctive character that pianists have to recognise and convey. ‘Beethoven is extremely fastidious from the first bar to the last one. This is a kind of musical material that will not surrender to the pianist easily and therefore should not be oversimplified. If a musical interpretation does not involve any risks, it will not make a lasting impression on the audience.’ Várjon’s lyrical and dynamic performances are accompanied by the Concerto Budapest conducted by András Keller. All are excellent, especially of the joyful First, the dazzlingly beautiful Fourth and, of course, the sublime Fifth (The Emperor).
RAVEL – PIANO CONCERTOS DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DG 4794954
The Basque French composer and pianist Joseph-Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major was composed between 1929 and 1931 and is heavily influenced by jazz, which the composer had recently heard on a concert tour of the United States. Speaking of this work, he said that the opening theme came to him on a train between Oxford and London. ‘But the initial idea is nothing. The work of chiseling then began. We’ve gone past the days when the composer was thought of as being struck by inspiration, feverishly scribbling down his thoughts on a scrap of paper. Writing music is seventy-five percent an intellectual activity.’ Ravel wanted to give the first public performance of the work himself but health issues prevented this and the premiere in 1932 was given by the concerto’s dedicatee, Marguerite Long, with Ravel conducting the Orchestre Lamoureux. After this highly successful premiere, Ravel and Long started a tour of twenty cities in Europe, where the work was received with great enthusiasm. The composer wrote his equally brilliant Piano Concerto for the Left Hand concurrently with the Piano Concerto in G. It was commissioned by the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm during World War I, and Wittgenstein gave the premiere with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in 1932. Both these irresistible masterpieces are played on this CD by the glamorous young Chinese pianist Yuja Wang, with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich conducted by Lionel Bringuier. She also plays Fauré’s charming early Ballade In F Sharp major, written in 1879 and dedicated to Camille Saint-Saens. Yuja Wang has established herself as an international sensation playing with many of with the world’s leading orchestras, including those of New York and London. The melding of her remarkable technical skills and interpretative intelligence transforms this album into a profound musical experience with a haunting and jazzy sound.
CHOPIN - PIANO CONCERTOS 1 & 2 FRYDERYCK CHOPIN INSTITUTE NFCCD 042
Frédéric Chopin was born 1810 in the village of Żelazowa Wola, in the Duchy of Warsaw, to a Polish mother and French-expatriate father, who played the flute and violin. Frédéric’s mother played the piano and gave lessons to boys in the elite boarding house that the Chopins ran so he became conversant with music in its various forms from an early age. He received his first piano lessons from his older sister, Ludwika, and professional lessons from the age of six. His skills soon surpassed those of his teachers, and seven-year old ‘little Chopin’ began giving public concerts that prompted comparisons with Mozart as a child as well as with Chopin’s older contemporary, Beethoven. He composed two Polonaises when still only seven years old and continued to write primarily for the piano as a solo instrument throughout his short life (he died in 1849). Though technically demanding, Chopin’s style emphasises nuance and expressive depth rather than virtuosity. He invented musical forms such as the ballade and was responsible for major innovations in the piano sonata, waltz, nocturne, étude, impromptu and prelude, and his works are now a standard part of the 19th-century Romantic classical music repertoire. Written by a young and ambitious Chopin to demonstrate his performance capabilities and compositional skills, the two piano concertos have remained as an important part of the instrument’s repertoire. These beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable works have now been released in the critically acclaimed series from the Fryderyk Chopin Institute label celebrating conductor Frans Bruggen’s relationship with the excellent Orchestra of the 19th Century. The soloist in the First Concerto is Japanese pianist Akiko Ebi, who launched her international career as the winner of the Grand Prix in the 1975 International Marguerite Long Competition in Paris, where she was also awarded four special prizes by Arthur Rubinstein. In 1980, she won Fifth Prize in the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, where jury member Martha Argerich took note of her artistry and became her mentor. Polish classical pianist and actor Janusz Olejniczak is the soloist in the Second Concerto. ‘After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed.’ - Oscar Wilde.
JAPANESE GUITAR CONCERTOS MDG 901 1901-6
Cosmopolitan guitar virtuoso Masao Tanibe is soloist with the Erzgebirgische Philharmonie Aue, conducted by Naoshi Takahashi, for these recordings of enchanting music by Japanese composers Toru Takemitsu, Toshio Hosokawa and Hikaru Hayashi. The blending of Japanese composition and European orchestral tradition is exhilarating and MFG’s finely attuned SACD in 2+2+2 sound makes for a mesmerising experience. Toru Takemitsu is a magician of instrumentation and a gigantic orchestra accompanies the tender tones of the solo guitar in his ‘To the Edge of a Dream’. Exotic harmony contributes its special glow to the rich color in Takemitsu’s score. Discords melt into pure colour and Masao Tanibe’s superb guitar playing harmonizes with highly imaginative sound collages reminiscent of Ravel or Debussy. Toshio Hosokawa was born in 1955 and his ‘Voyage IX – Awakening’ for guitar and strings with percussion is a captivating audio depiction of today’s leading generation of Japanese composers. He deals much more economically with the orchestra and also is reflects Far Eastern musical tradition: Japanese wind chimes functioning as springtime harbingers emit an exquisite Asian colour. And then, when the solo guitar is to be played like a koto, the Japanese illusion is complete. Hikaru Hayashi’s ‘Northern Sail’ concerto for guitar and string instruments - the longest work here - is delicately mesmerising and shows the influence of American masters of string orchestra composition. Other recent SACD releases from MDG include GERALD FINZI: CHAMBER MUSIC (MDG 903 1894-6) on which the Cologne Chamber Soloists play Five Bagatelles for clarinet and string quartet, Diabelleries: Variations on a theme ‘Oh! where’s my lovely basket gone’, Romance for String Quartet, Elegy for Violin and Piano and Prelude & Fugue for String Trio. Finzi’s career was cut short by illness but his music continues to be much admired, embracing a rich variety of moods, from elegiac lyricism, through spiritual reflection, to make him one of the most popular 20th Century British composers. VIVALDI: LA STRAVAGANZA (MDG9011885) is a double SACD box set featuring Francesco Cerrato and the Armoniosa baroque ensemble playing on period instruments. Twelve violin concertos are included in Antonio Vivaldi’s remarkably inventive La Stravaganza, first published in 1716 and dedicated to Venetian nobleman Signor Vettor Delfino. All of the concertos are scored for solo violin, strings, and basso continuo; though some movements require extra soloists (such as a second violin and/or cello solo).
7 WITH ONE STROKE! - CONCERTOS BY VIVALDI TACET B 205
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678. He became a priest in 1703 and was nicknamed Il Prete Rosso, ‘The Red Priest’, because of his red hair. Ill-health (apparently asthma) caused him to leave the priesthood to become a violin teacher at an orphanage for girls called the Pio Ospedale della Pietà. Vivaldi wrote most of his concertos, cantatas, and sacred music for them, and in 1713 he became responsible for the musical activity of the institute. His talents were soon recognised beyond Venice and he was one of the composers who enabled Baroque music to evolve into an impressionist style as a precursor to the Romantic style. After years of neglect, Vivaldi’s works were resurrected in the 20th century, thanks largely to the efforts of Alfredo Casella, and more of his music continues to be rediscovered. German label TACET’s unusual CD, ‘7 with One Stroke’, has now been released as a Blu-ray disc with stereo and 5.1 channel Real Surround Sound. The multi-channel version applies the concept of equality of all players in an original way, with each member of the orchestra playing a solo as the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, conducted here by guest concertmistress Ariadne Daskalakis, take on the roles of the orphan girls taught by Vivaldi. Founded by Karl Münchinger in 1945, this outstanding orchestra plays on modern instruments but pays due regard to authentic performing style. Asked to describe her impressions when hearing the multi-channel version for the first time, Ariadne Daskalakis named three things: she could hear herself better than ever before on a recording, she detected far more interaction between the musicians and she was able to recognise all the details of the score. Vivaldi’s music has never sounded more vibrant.
FRITZ BRUN – PIANO CONCERTO GUILD GMCD 7409
The Swiss composer, conductor and pianist Fritz Brun was born in Lucerne in 1878. His father, a secondary school teacher, died when Fritz was eight years old. After early piano lessons, which enabled him to contribute to the family income with an engagement as a harmonium player at the Lucerne penitentiary church, he continued studied theory under the organist Joseph Breitenbach, and subsequent piano teachers included Peter Fassbänder and Willem Mengelberg. Brun was granted a scholarship to complete his musical studies at the Cologne Conservatory, where he studied composition and conducting under Franz Wüllner and perfected his piano technique under Max van de Sandt. His First String Quartet was composed in 1898 and he settled in Berlin to work as a private ‘music maker’ and teacher of Prince George of Prussia. It was during this period that he composed the first of his symphonies. After the Prince’s death the following year, Brun travelled to London, where he earned a living as a private piano teacher and arranger of music-hall songs, before returning eventually to Switzerland to settle in Bern, where he became chief conductor of the Bern Municipal Orchestra and leader of the two choral societies, the Cäcilienverein and Berner Liedertafel. Brun later resigned from his post, but returned to Bern for occasional guest conducting and as a chamber music player. He retired to his villa on the shores of Lake Lugano to concentrate on writing music, completing ten symphonies in all, and died in 1959. Guild’s recent releases of music by Fritz Brun have been highly praised and helped raise the profile of an underrated composer who deserves to wider recognition. This beautifully produced CD features three of Brun’s works for piano and orchestra - his impressive Piano Concerto of 1946, alongside two shorter works for piano and string orchestra (Divertimento and Variations). The gifted Slovak pianist Tomáš Nemec is joined by the excellent Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Swiss-born conductor-composer Adriano. Highly recommended.
MALCOLM WILLIAMSON - THE COMPLETE PIANO CONCERTOS HYPERION CDA68011/2
Malcolm Williamson, born in Australia in 1931, was a musical prodigy, entering the Sydney Conservatorium at the age of 11 to study French horn and piano, and composition with Sir Eugene Goossens. In 1950 he moved to London where he worked as an organist, a proof-reader and a nightclub pianist. He was also a prolific composer, influenced by Messiaen and Britten as well as by jazz and popular music, and controversially became Master of the Queen’s Music in 1975 - the first non-Briton to receive this honour. He wrote four numbered piano concertos as well as a lusciously orchestrated Concerto for Two Pianos and Strings, and a striking Sinfonia Concertante for piano, three trumpets and string orchestra. All six of these works are included on this double-CD from Hyperion featuring the London-based Australian pianist Piers Lane and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Howard Shelley. Charming, eccentric and outspoken, Williamson died in 2003. His music is now unjustly neglected so this new album set of his piano concertos is an important document as well as a compendium of deeply appealing music written in a forward-looking idiom. The music is by turns energetic, mysterious and romantic, and Williamson wrote with a generosity of emotion as well as melodic flair that was rare in the mid-twentieth century. His expansive, aggressively modernist third concerto is particularly impressive - a huge and complex work with a wonderfully lyrical third movement. The fourth concerto was written in 1993/4 and appears here as its world premiere performance and recording.
LYAPUNOV - PIANO CONCERTOS 1 & 2 NAXOS 8.570783
Sergey Mikhaylovich Lyapunov was a talented Russian composer of the late 19th and early 20th century. He was also a fine pianist and many of his best works are for solo piano, showing his mastery of the instrument and understanding of its technical capabilities. His piano music displays a considerable melodic gift and bears comparison with that of Rachmaninov, Scriabin and Mily Balakirev, leader of Russia’s ‘Mighty Handful’ of composers. Lyapunov was strongly influenced by Balakirev, to whom he dedicated his Glinka Prize-winning Piano Concerto No. 1. This compelling piece of music is by turns heroic, tranquil and convincingly Russian. His noble Piano Concerto No. 2, with its majestic, Borodin-inspired finale, deserves a place among the great Romantic piano concertos and would surely be heard more often if written by a more famous composer. Both concertos are excellently played on this recording by the young Georgian pianist Shorena Tsintsabadze with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dmitry Yablonsky. The CD also includes Lyapunov’s Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes, often reminiscent of Liszt’s virtuosic pianistic style. Liapunov’s well-crafted music, with its colourful and imaginative orchestration, shows him to be one of the most talented nationalist composers of his time. Highly recommended.
OLE BULL - VIOLIN CONCERTOS 2L 2L-067-SABD
The Norwegian adventurer, violin virtuoso, composer and international star Ole Bull was born the eldest of ten children in Bergen in 1810. At the age of four or five, he could play all of the songs he had heard his mother play on the violin. At age nine, he played first violin in the orchestra of Bergen’s theatre and was a soloist with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. He was sent to the University of Christiania, but failed his examinations and joined the Musical Lyceum, a musical society, becoming its director in 1828. Within music and drama he was a pioneer in the development of a national identity, and on the concert stage his fabulous playing skills and intense charisma won him the sobriquet ‘the Scandinavian Paganini’. Some of his most attractive tunes, as well as the rural potpourri Et Sæterbesøg (A Mountain Vision) and Sæterjensens Søntag (The Herdgirl’s Sunday) have remained part of Norway’s cultural heritage; on this recording they can be heard alongside his two exciting virtuosic violin concertos and the fiery Spanish fantasia La Verbena de San Juan, dedicated to Queen Isabella. The concertos and the fantasia were rediscovered only a few years ago, and this is the first recording ever made of these attractive works. The A major Concerto was written in Italy in 1834 and boasts everything one could ever dream of when it comes to attractive tunes and giddy virtuosity. No. 2, Concerto Fantastico, lives indisputably up to its name and confirms what Franz Liszt wrote in 1840: ‘He is a sort of savage’s genius, possessing an abundance of original, enchanting ideas. In brief, he has moved me; it is a long time since that has happened to me.’ Bull visited the United States several times and was a great success. In 1853, he obtained a large tract of land in Pennsylvania and founded a colony, which was called New Norway but which is commonly referred to as Ole Bull Colony. The land consisted of four communities and Bull called the highest point Nordjenskald, which became the location of his unfinished castle. This venture was soon given up, as there was scarcely any land to till, and Bull went back to giving concerts. Annar Follesø is the violin soloist on this recording with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Ole Kristian Ruud, providing a perfect introduction to the greatest Scandinavian violin virtuoso of his time. This excellent two disc set includes both a Hybrid SACD and a Pure Audio Blu-ray disc.
RÓZSA, SERLY & BARTÓK - VIOLA CONCERTOS HYPERION CDA67687
The acclaimed young British viola player Lawrence Power continues his recording all of the seminal twentieth-century works for the viola with three Hungarian works for viola and orchestra. The best-known of these is Béla Bartok’s viola concerto, completed after the composer’s death by Tibor Serly, who was Bartók’s most trusted friend and pupil in his last years in the USA. Stylistically, the work is similar to Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto which was written at the same time and has a similar elegiac quality. The great Scottish viola player William Primrose (who edited the solo part himself) was able to premiere Serly’s realisation of the concerto in 1949, with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati. Almost immediately it was recognised as one of the major contributions to the small literature of concertos for the viola and has been a cornerstone of the instrument’s repertoire ever since. Serly’s own Rhapsody for Viola and Orchestra is charming, essentially folkloric music, though it dwells somewhat within Bartok’s shadow. Nevertheless it’s a skilful and elaborate work with a rousing finale. The disc is completed by a modern viola concerto by the film composer Miklós Rósza - a late workcomposed for Pinchas Zukerman who give its premiere performance in 1984. The overall impression of the work is individual, tense, darkly Romantic and authentically Hungarian in inspiration. Lawrence Power is a fine advocate for the viola and his playing highlights the rich, autumnal tones of this unfairly neglected instrument.
HYPERION IS 30!
October 1980 saw the foundation of a new classical independent record label that has gone on to be an enormous success with critics and public alike. A revolutionary release, Hildegard of Bingen’s A Feather on the breath of God, put the company firmly on the map in 1982, since when it has become a byword for excellence in all aspects of the recording process: repertoire, performances by the greatest musicians of the day, scholarship, sound recording and production. This reputation has remained unchanged and unchallenged, and to mark the label’s 30th birthday, Hyperion re-releasing 30 seminal discs from its catalogue at mid-price. The discs include benchmark recordings of great music, performed by some of the outstanding artists of the last 30 years including, among others, Steven Isserlis, Matthias Goerne, Angela Hewitt, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Takács Quartet, Stephen Hough and The Choir of Westminster Cathedral. Many of these recordings are Gramophone Award winners and Records of the Year, including SAINT-SAENS - PIANO CONCERTOS 3, 4 & 5 (CDA30018), marvelously played by Stephen Hough with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo. There is also a CD of SHOSTAKOVICH & SHCHEDRIN PIANO CONCERTOS (CDA30023) performed by brilliant French-Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton. ‘Marc-André Hamelin is a superb advocate for all three pieces - the zip and zest of much of the writing presenting no difficulty to this extraordinary virtuoso.’ - Gramophone. See here for more details of all 30 birthday re-releases available from Hyperion.
SZYMANOWSKI - VIOLIN CONCERTO NO. 1 & SYMPHONY NO. 3 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4778771, DG
The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski was born in 1882 to a wealthy land-owning family in Tymoszówka, then part of the Russian Empire and now in the Ukraine. He studied music privately with his father then continued at Gustav Neuhaus’s school in Elisavetgrad and had private lessons with Zawirski for harmony and with Zygmunt Noskowski for counterpoint and composition. The years 1907-19 were particularly eventful as he travelled in Germany, Italy, France and England before returning to Tymoszówka to study and compose. In 1917, Szymanowski’s house was destroyed in the civil war and the family moved to Elisavetgrad where he wrote poetry and a long novel, Efebos, before settling in Warsaw, where he campaigned to re-invigorate Polish music education. His own music influenced by the work of Wagner, Richard Strauss, Reger, Scriabin, Debussy and Ravel, as well as Arabic and Persian culture, Polish folk songs and the music of his countryman Chopin. Pierre Boulez’s first ever Szymanowski recording features his Violin Concerto No. 1 and the Symphony No. 3. Violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff and the Wiener Philharmoniker are in great form in these two orchestral works that represent the high-water mark of Szymanowski’s impressionism, an idiom mingling the refined sonorities of Debussy, Ravel and late Scriabin with the impassioned Romanticism of the New German School. Inspired by Persian poet Rumi, Szymanowski subtitled his Third Symphony ‘Song of the Night’ after a poem by the 13th-century mystic. Emotional, even ecstatic music conveys the poem’s supernatural vision of night’s unravelling of the mystery of God. The CD comes with an in-depth essay on the Polish composer as well as background on Boulez’s approach to his music, original illustrations and photo material. An additional CD with this edition has excerpts from the rehearsal of the symphony as well as audio interviews with Boulez in French, English and German.
BEETHOVEN - PIANO CONCERTO NO. 5 BIS BISSACD1793
For the final instalment of his recordings of Beethoven’s works for piano and orchestra, Ronald Brautigam has saved ‘the final crowning glory of his concerto output’, as Beethoven specialist Barry Cooper describes the Fifth Piano Concerto in his liner notes. The ‘Emperor’ is coupled on this SACD release with the Choral Fantasia – an intriguing work scored for piano, orchestra and chorus with vocal soloists. Ronald Brautigam is one of Holland’s leading musicians, remarkable not only for his virtuosity and musicality but also for the eclectic nature of his musical interests. In 1984 he was awarded the Nederlandse Muziekprijs, the highest Dutch musical award, and he performs regularly with leading European orchestras. His highly successful association with the Swedish label BIS has resulted in more than 30 titles so far and the individual discs in Brautigam’s Beethoven series have received numerous distinctions, including a MIDEM Classical Award in 2010, with his engaging performances ranked alongside classic recordings by legendary pianists. Ronald Brautigam, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Parrott are in their usual top form, with the brief but crucial appearance of the eminent Eric Ericson Chamber Choir in the Choral Fantasia. Soloists include Hannah Holgersson (soprano), Marie Olhans (mezzo-soprano), Maria Sanner (alto), Mikael Stenbaek (tenor), Gunnar Birgersson (baritone) and Ove Pettersson (bass). ‘One feels almost as if one were a contemporary of Beethoven’s, one of the first, immensely astonished – not to say agitated – individuals to hear this music.’ - Süddeutsche Zeitung.
JAQUES-DALCROZE - CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA GUILD GMCD 7336
Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865 - 1950), was a Swiss musician and an inspiring music educator. He studied composition with Anton Bruckner, Gabriel Fauré and Léo Delibes, and in 1892 he became professor of harmony at the Geneva Conservatory. In the early twentieth century he invented eurhythmics, an experimental and highly successful method of learning that involves teaching musical concepts through movement to develop an integrated and natural feel for musica_Casanova__70.jpgal expression. Turning the body into a well-tuned musical instrument, Dalcroze thought, was the best way to provide a solid musical foundation. As well as being an outstanding teacher - eventually founding his own Institut in Geneva in 1915 - Jaques-Dalcroze was an accomplished composer, writing operas such as Le Violon maudit, Sancho Panza and Les Jumeaux de Bergame, as well as songs, choral and chamber works, and music for orchestra. This outstanding CD features his two beautiful Violin Concertos, which show him to be a master of his craft. These committed, vibrant performances were recorded recently in Moscow by the gifted young Russian violinist Rodion Zamuruev with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Anissimov. Highly recommended.
GRIEG - PIANO CONCERTO 2L 2L60SABD
The Piano Concerto in A minor, Edvard Grieg’s only completed concerto, was among his earliest important works. It was written by the 24 year old composer in 1868 in Denmark, where he found the climate warmer than in his native Norway. He revised the concerto at least seven times and the final version was completed only a few weeks before his death 1907. It was the first piano concerto ever to be recorded, by pianist Wilhelm Backhaus in 1909, though due to the technology of the time it was drastically abridged to only six minutes. In 2007, conductor Rolf Gupta gave the first Norwegian performance of the concerto with the legendary Australian pianist Percy Grainger as the posthumous soloist. On this recording, the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra accompanies Grainger’s original and controversial interpretation of the concerto. In addition, the violinist Øyvind Bjorå and pianolist Rex Lawson perform Grieg’s Violin Sonata in C minor. The recording also includes a handful of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, performed by the composer himself. Astonishingly, these performances have not been available to the public until now. Two different instruments have facilitated Grainger’s and Grieg’s encounters with the KSO/Gupta. Grainger plays on a form of musical time machine, the Duo-Art reproducing piano, which is something like an analogue predecessor of the computer, powered by an electric suction pump, and controlled automatically by perforated rolls of paper. Grieg, on the other hand, has been restored to life by means of a foot-pedalled pianola, played by Rex Lawson. For this recording, both instruments were fitted in front of a Steinway concert grand piano and re-performed the playing of Grainger in 1921 and Grieg in 1906. These fascinating Hybrid SACD + Pure Audio Blu-ray recordings bring new insights to one of the most popular piano concertos ever written.
COPLAND & FINZI - CLARINET CONCERTOS SOMM 244
Sarah Williamson was Concerto finalist in the BBC Young Musician competition in 2002, when she gave an acclaimed performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra of Aaron Copland’s sparkling, jazz-influenced Clarinet Concerto, originally commissioned in 1947 by American virtuoso clarinettist Benny Goodman. Sarah Williamson went on to win second prize in the Eurovision Competition for Young Musicians in Berlin, again playing the Copland Concerto, and has subsequently toured many countries, including USA, and played at festivals across the UK. Fresh from her virtuoso performance at Classic FM Live earlier this year, this outstanding young musician has now released her debut album of twentieth century music. As well as the popular clarinet concertos of Copland and Gerald Finzi, she also includes British composer Finzi’s mellow Romance for Strings and an unusual chamber ensemble version of Copland’s celebratory Appalachian Spring suite, where the Orchestra of the Swan, conducted by David Curtis, have a chance to shine.
TCHAIKOVSKY - PIANO CONCERTOS 1, 2 & 3 HYPERION CDA67711/2
This is the 50th volume in Hyperion’s ambitious Romantic Piano Concerto series, which has been described as one of the glories of the recording industry. The first volume, featuring concertos by Moszkowski and Paderewski, was recorded in 1991 and the series now includes 131 works for piano and orchestra, fifty-nine of them being premiere recordings and many others are works that have only been recorded once before. The performers include some of the greatest pianists, orchestras and conductors in the world, and each disc is a miracle of virtuosity, scholarship and musicianship. This new release features Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1, played by the acclaimed British-born pianist, composer and writer Stephen Hough with the Minnesota Orchestra under their Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä. Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto combines great virtuosity in the piano part with the equally masterful orchestration, making it one of the most popular works in the repertoire. The Second Concerto is dedicated to Nikolai Rubinstein, who had insisted that he be allowed to perform it at the premiere as a way of making up for his harsh criticism of the composer’s First Piano Concerto. Rubinstein never played it, however, as he died before the premiere took place in New York in 1881. The music of the short Third Concerto began life as a symphony before Tchaikovsky decided to recast it, resulting in a work that is more austere than its companions. As well as the three concertos, this two-disc set also includes less well known music by Tchaikovsky written for piano and orchestra - his flamboyant Concert Fantasia in G and two alternative versions of the second movement of his Concerto No 2 - as well as two delightful short pieces for solo piano. The result is a set of unique importance: a winning combination of a pianist at the height of his powers, a world-class orchestra and director and an intriguing repertoire, outstandingly recorded and packaged in a slipcase with comprehensive notes and a series catalogue. ‘Anyone who heard Stephen Hough’s barnstorming performances of all the Tchaikovsky piano concertos at last year’s Proms will want to own these CDs’ - The Observer.
MENDELSSOHN - VIOLIN CONCERTO DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4778575
Over 25 years after her first recording of the Mendelssohn Concerto with Herbert von Karajan, Anne-Sophie Mutter here presents a fresh and stunning new take on one of the most popular concertos in the violin repertoire. This unique DVD/CD project was produced in Mendelssohn’s home town of Leipzig to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2009 and offers not only a state-of-the-art audio recording, but also a separate full-length DVD with an exclusive documentary. The extremely popular Violin Concerto was recorded live in concert at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig under the direction of the Kurt Masur, one of the most knowledgeable and experienced Mendelssohn interpreters alive. As the long-time chief conductor of Mendelssohn’s own orchestra, Masur stands for a great tradition and sound which is happily distinguished on these recordings. The chamber music featured on the disc was recorded at the beautiful Brahms-Saal in the Vienna Musikverein and with the Piano Trio No. 1 and the demanding Sonata in F major, Mutter has chosen masterpieces from Mendelssohn’s chamber music repertoire to broaden the picture. Here too she collaborates with long-term chamber music partners André Previn and Lynn Harrell.Anne-Sophie Mutter’s superb technique is always at the service of the music, in this superb recordings of Mendelssohn’s concerto. Her sensuous playing elicits all the moods of this wondrous music, by turns passionate, reflective, gentle, impulsive and joyful. The DVD performance finds her in a stunning long blue dress that adds to the eroticism inherent in this great music. ‘Intense, rapturous, poised, exquisite.’ - FT.
KORNGOLD, ROZSA - HOLLYWOOD ORCHID ORC100005
Violinist Matthew Trusler’s first concerto recording features two pieces premièred by Jascha Heifetz – the violin concertos of Erich Korngold and Miklós Rózsa, together with three short pieces that Heifetz popularised - Ponce/Heifetz: Estrellita; Benjamin/Primrose: Jamaican Rumba; Foster/Heifetz: Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair. At the end of the Second World War, Korngold retired from films to concentrate on music for the concert hall. His lush Violin Concerto lyrical idiom reminiscent of fin de siècle Vienna was the first such work and it quickly became the composer’s most popular piece. It was premiered in 1947 by Heifetz and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, receiving an enthusiastic ovation. Rózsa’s passionate, Hungarian-inspired Violin Concerto was written in 1953-54 for Heifetz, who collaborated with the composer in fine-tuning it. Rózsa later adapted parts of the concerto for the score of Billy Wilder’s 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, the plot of which, Wilder has said, was inspired by Rózsa’s music. Matthew Trusler is a passionate lover of the style and approach to violin playing during the Heifetz era, and he (Trusler) has a particular affinity for the composers of that period, receiving much acclaim for his performances of concertos by Walton, Berg, Britten, Prokofiev and Korngold. Yasuo Shinozaki conducts the excellent Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra. ‘Trusler assumes the Heifetz (and Perlman) mantle with ease’ - Daily Telegraph. Orchid Classics has also released SCHUBERT: DIE SCHONE MULLERIN (ORC100006), the composer’s masterly setting of poems by Wilhelm Müller. The acclaimed British tenor, James Gilchrist, has performed this cycle many times in concert, usually in partnership with the exciting young pianist Anna Tilbrook, but this is the first time that they have recorded the work. The CD booklet contains full German text with English translation, and an essay by Richard Morrison of The Times providing fascinating insights into both Schubert and Die Schöne Müllerin.
MACKENZIE - VIOLIN CONCERTO/PIBROCH SUITE HELIOS CDH55343
Sir Alexander Campbell Mackenzie (1847–1935) was the son of an eminent Edinburgh violinist and conductor. On the advice of a member of Gungls band who had taken up his residence in Edinburgh, Mackenzie was sent for his musical education to Sondershausen, Germany, where he entered the conservatorium under Ulrich and Stein, remaining there from 1857 to 1861, when he entered the ducal orchestra as second violin. At this time he made Liszt’s acquaintance. On his return, he won the King’s Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, London, where he studied violin, composition and piano. before establishing himself as a teacher of the piano in Edinburgh. He also performed as a violinist and was appointed precentor of St. George’s Church in 1870. On the advice of von Bülow, Mackenzie settled in Florence, Tuscany, in 1879 to concentrate on composing, writing the cantatas The Bride and Jason as well as his first opera, Colomba. The violin always played a major role in his life and his Violin Concerto was written in 1884 while he was resident at the castle of Borgo alla Collina, Casentino. The work was conducted by the composer, with Pablo de Sarasate as soloist, at its Birmingham Festival premiere in 1885 and acclaimed by the critics. The Pibroche Suite for violin and orchestra was composed four years later, written at the request of Sarasate for inclusion in the Leeds Festival programme of 1889. The composer completed the score during a summer vacation in Braemar and the work premiered under the baton of the composer at the Victoria (Town) Hall, Leeds. Inspired by traditional Scottish melodies, the piece is musically related to the idea of a theme and variations. Like Parry and Stanford, Mackenzie was part of the renaissance of ‘English’ music in the late nineteenth century. The melodic and attractive works of this late-Romantic composer are inexplicably rarely performed today so this is a welcome release featuring bold and persuasive performances by the excellent Malcolm Stewart, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Vernon Handley and David Davies. Highly recommended.