Browsing: Lebrecht Weekly

Ever since Samuel Barber’s Adagio and Gustav Mahler’s Adagietto became the standard works of public mourning and consolation, the first in the 1940s, the second in the 1970s, the search has been on for an alternative orchestral offering of sombre yet hopeful contemplation. When the Pittsburgh Symphony commissioned the Scottish composer James MacMIllan to mark the tenth anniversary of its Austrian music director, Manfred Honeck, his thoughts turned inward to their shared Roman Catholic faith. The Larghetto, based on MacMillan’s choral setting of Psalm 51, moves from a Miserere starting point to something altogether more encouraging, an organic optimism that transcends…

Share:

At the start of the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, the violinist Renaud Capucon asked his son Elliott to film a short Dvorak piece he was playing on a tablet. What arose from this moment was a ritual in which, for 56 days, Capucon would play each morning with the pianist Guillaume Bellom and post the results online. ‘It would give me a goal every morning, at a time when one could easily come adrift,’ he says. Twenty-two of those tracks have now been released on record, at the very moment that parts of Europe are heading back into…

Share:

****/*** Hindemith is a house without a door. The immensity of his output – 11 operas, 5 ballets, a dozen concertos, countless works for orchestra, lots of chamber music – is not just daunting but superficially impenetrable. The consistency is high and the differentiation difficult. A German who fought in the First War and was exiled by Hitler, Hindemith concerned himself with performance high and low, writing for major stages and domestic living rooms. When asked ‘which Hindemith should I try first?’ I’m lost for an answer. The American conductor Marin Alsop is embracing Hindemith with great enthusiasm with her…

Share:

In my 20s, on a spare afternoon, I would stroll down the Thames from Westminster to the City marvelling at how little had changed in the essential topography since the days of Shakespeare and Pepys. Yesterday, I had cause to wander through Leadenhall and Lombard and was struck at how little I recognised. Glass and steel skyscrapers have created a humanoid alienation, an impermeable wall between eternal London and the 21st century version. I felt a similar regret listening to Franziska Lee’s album of Londonoid piano pieces, intelligent and well played though it is. Lee, a German-trained Korean, plays Michael…

Share:

Most debut vocal albums consist of familiar arias sung in much the same way as all the big divas and stuffed with agent-approved hype. Not this one. I have never heard any of the songs on this Canadian mezzo’s first outing and know no more about her except that I tipped her for stardom six years ago and now discover that my first impression was a woeful underestimate of her tremendous promise. O, Canada! The songs first. They are all by women – Missy Mazzoli, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Hildur Guðnadóttir, with two modern arrangements of medieval devotions by the…

Share:

Every now and then a record arrives that I have been waiting for all my life. As any Marcel Proust reader knows, the author’s search for lost time involves a tremendous amount of musical reminiscence and quotation, drawn from the salons of fin-de-siècle Paris. There must be a record of them, I used to think. There is now. Expect no masterpieces in this album. Although Proust once attended eleven consecutive performances of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, his musical tastes were as trivial as the idle conversations he so languidly eavesdropped. The album opens with a piano concerto in E by…

Share:

I should have been on my way to Warsaw for the Chopin Competition but circumstances intervened and I find myself listening to unknown Poles of a different kind. The English violinist Jennifer Pike has Polish ancestry on her mother’s side. While rummaging a music shop in Krakow, she came away with unknown scores and turned them into a pair of fascinating releases. The familiar composers presented here are Karol Szymanowski and Grazyna Bacewicz, but not as we know them. Szymanowski’s 1904 violin sonata has yet to develop his trademark asperity, while his three Paganini Caprices of 1918 would make perfect…

Share:

With the fadeout of two landmark string quartets – Germany’s Artemis in disarray and America’s Emersons to retirement – France’s Quatuor Ebène probably head the current list of the world’s best. Four crack musicians who play standing up and are forever pushing out boundaries, their album releases are always an event and often a surprise. This new recording pairs two nocturnal masterpieces – Henri Dutilleux’s Ainsi la Nuit and Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. Dutilleux goes down the Bartok path of things that go squeak in the night. Schoenberg listens in to illicit lovers in the woods. Both works arouse fear…

Share:

England’s most adventurous living composer never bothered much with the piano. Harrison Birtwistle started out on the clarinet, composed operas in his head and wrote one without strings. Asked for a piano concerto, he delivered something called Antiphonies, which is more street fight than conversation between piano and orchestra. You get the impression he’s not that keen on anything in an instrument but percussive coloration. Now 87, Birtwistle has a unique sound imagination and an approach to music that misses out many of the building bricks. He once told me that the only symphony of Mahler he knew was the…

Share:

Voice of Nature: The Anthropocene Songs by Fauré, Grieg, Hahn, Liszt, Nico Muhly, Kevin Puts, Caroline Shaw Renée Fleming, soprano. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, piano Decca 4852089 ★★★★✩ / ★★✩✩✩ Good to hear that America’s prime diva is not going gentle into that good night. Past 60 and no longer taking operatic roles, she sings out full and flamboyant in this set of nature-themed songs that came together during her daily walks in the COVID lockdown. Everything you’d expect from a Fleming recital is here – the effortless highs, the velvety lows, the flawless intonation, the jumbled syllables in several tongues. Her…

Share:
1 2 3 37