Browsing: Lebrecht Weekly

Fridrich Bruk: Symphonies 17 and 18 (Toccata) Some 15 years ago I was asked by one of the London orchestras to curate a series titled Other Russia, looking at the composers who fell or were pushed off the wayside under the Soviet Union. We were going to focus on the likes of Karamanov, Kancheli, Knaifel, Roslavets, Tishchenko, Ustvolskaya, Firsova and more. The scheme hit a brick wall when prominent conductors balked at unfamiliar repertoire and the orchestra feared a box-office frost, but it was a worthwhile exercise and one that some braver spirits should still take up. Among the names…

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Deux (Alpha-Classics) I can’t remember when I last heard a violin-piano recital that was as ingenious and exhilarating as this. On the sleeve, the Franco-Hungarian programme looks a bit odd – the Poulenc sonata written for Ginette Neveu in 1943, a Dohnanyi setting of a waltz from Delibes’ Coppélia, the full-on Bartok sonata of 1922 and Ravel’s Tzigane to close. What do these pieces have in common? Check this: On April 8, 1922, Bela Bartok gave a recital in Paris with his compatriot Jelly d’Aranyi. Ravel was the page turner for Bartok and Poulenc for d’Aranyi. In the audience were…

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Schubert: Winterreise (Harmonia Mundi) Mark Padmore, tenor Kristian Bezuidenhout, piano At the 15th song of the Winter’s Journey, a piano melody that seems to come from the nursery turns into a bleak anticipation of death. ‘The crow has come with me…. Flying ceaselessly above my head.’ Anyone listening will know that Franz Schubert will be dead within a year. But Schubert does not know he is going to die. He is thirty years old and feeling a bit low from various ailments, but he has no idea that he is writing his own requiem. Our knowing against his unknowing heightens the…

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Haydn: Symphonies No. 26 & 86 Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 3 Coro Harry Christophers, conductor Handel and Haydn Society Aisslinn Nosky, violin The British conductor Harry Christophers has his own record label, Coro, which turns out a stream of fine performances, mostly with his own group The Sixteen, and mostly unnoticed outside the shrinking pages of record magazines. Which is a pity, since some of them are very fine performances indeed. The latest release is with Christophers’ other group, the venerable Handel and Haydn Society of Boston, America’s oldest performing arts organization. It presents two Haydn works written 20 years…

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Tribute to Telemann (Lukos Records) Never sampled Georg Philipp Telemann? It’s like Vivaldi with added carbs, or Bach at a gentle walking pace. That Telemann (1681-1767) was a significant composer is indisputable. Handel held him in high esteem and Bach named his son Carl Philipp Emanuel after his good friend. Both were happy to receive his scores and both expressed concern for his irregular personal life. Telemann’s music is well written, sits easily beneath the fingers and does not last too long. So why do I find it so hard to thrill to? Perhaps because the others had so much…

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Stravinsky: Chant funèbre &c (Decca) Beware the lost leavings of great composers. Time and again we get hyped up about a long-forsaken missing score, only to be cruelly awakened by the reality of its insignificance. In some case, the composer mislaid the score with good reason. In others, it adds nothing to the sum of our knowledge. Anyone care to remember a few bars of Beethoven’s 10th symphony? Or Schubert’s? The present premiere release is an exception to that ignominious rule. Here’s the back story. In 1908 Igor Stravinsky, unknown and in his mid-20s, wrote a funeral ode for his…

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It just got a whole load tougher out there for young cellists. The first release batch of the New Year contains no fewer than four cello-piano recitals, all of them estimable. In a shrinking media environment, none will get the full-length attention they deserve. The best I can do here is short Schrift. A performance of the Brahms cello sonatas by Jean-Guihen Qeueyras and Alexandre Tharaud (Erato **) is rather too Aimez-vous Brahms for my liking. The French accent is extremely pronounced. The Swiss cellist Lionel Cottet, principal with Bavarian Radio SO, has what appears to be a debut album…

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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel (Chandos) James Gilchrist, tenor; Anna Tilbrook, piano; Philip Dukes, viola At the turn of the 20th century, the world was wide open to young men of means. Ships were getting faster, trains more frequent and motor cars were appearing on the roads. Faced with these exciting possibilities, the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams decided to stay home, collecting the remains of a musical civilisation that was being trampled by the march of technology. Together with his pal Gustav Holst, Vaughan Williams recorded people singing in pubs and fields. Then he wrote Songs of Travel. The…

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Shostakovich, Auerbach: Piano Trios Delta Piano Trio As the last releases of the year drop through the door, this is an instant ear grabber. Debate has raged for three decades as to whether Dmitri Shostakovich was a limp Soviet puppet or a secret resistant. The first view was advanced by US musicologists, who would not be satisfied until they had a signed document saying ‘I hate Stalin.’ Russian friends and fans of the composer heard his dissidence expressed in the music. Thankfully, the dispute is being resolved by a new generation of musicians who come fresh to the music. The…

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In these diminished times, any year that yields a couple of releases that can rank with, and perhaps displace, the legends of recording history must be counted a good one. On these terms, 2017 was a pretty good vintage. There was an impressive Berlioz Requiem from Erato, a Hänssler retrieval of the last known recital of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the first in a promising Chandos series of the orchestral works of Richard Rodney Bennett and, at the opposite end of the scale, a Jonas Kaufmann assault on both tenor and mezzo parts of Das Lied von der Erde – a Sony…

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