Browsing: Lebrecht Weekly

Just how much we miss Mariss Jansons is manifest in this Munich concert of three sacred works. Jansons, who died in November 2019, aged 76, was not principally noted for religiosity or choral masterpieces, but his shaping of this triptych is so masterful that one can hardly imagine them presentled with greater coherence or sincerity. Arvo Pärt’s Berlin Mass, composed in 1990 for the city’s reunification, is a five part setting of the Roman Catholic service in an idiom that is, at once, respectful of traditional sonority and, at the same time, pushing gently to a minimal modernism that is…

Share:

Sweden, unlike its neighbours, has no great composer. Norway has Grieg, Finland Sibelius, Denmark Nielsen and Sweden – blank. The one composer who might have filled the role was treated with such disdain by polite society that he lived all his life in grim poverty, never able to afford a piano. Allan Pettersson died aged 68 in 1980, leaving 17 symphonies that are still being slowly discovered. Although the government granted him a lifelong pension in his 50s, the Stockholm Philharmonic banned his music ‘for all time’ after a dispute over touring. Pettersson was working-class and dirt-poor. Sweden did not…

Share:

The record industry never makes the fuss about a Sibelius cycle that it does with Beethoven and Mahler. Not sure why not. Maybe Sibelius sells less, or Finns are shy. Or past sets by the likes of Colin Davis, Neeme Järvi and Herbert Blomstedt failed to get the suits excited. The new set from young Finn wizz Klaus Mäkelä comes accompanied by exceptional hype from Decca, always a strong Sibelius label. The conductor’s promise is incontestable. At 26, he is chief of the Oslo Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris, and hotly tipped to succeed in Chicago or New York. So…

Share:

Four vital traditions inform this recording, the first in a planned cycle by the Czech Philharmonic and its Russian-Jewish chief conductor Semyon Bychkov. Mahler grew up in Czech countryside, in a Jewish family that spoke Yiddish and German. The Czech Philharmonic gave the world premiere of his seventh symphony and keeps scores with Mahler’s markings in its archive, where I have studied them. Mahler twice visited St Petersburg where he had cousins, fostering an empathy with his music that feeds audibly into the symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich and into Bychkov’s personal upbringing. All four of these streams inform his interpretation,…

Share:

Lyrita: **** CPO: *** A Times obituary this week for Joseph Horovitz reckons that he could not decide if he was a composer of serious or light music. The same could be said of most of his contemporaries. An unexpected album of mid-century piano concertos delivers a prawn cocktail of exceptionally competent music without much by way of intellectual nutrients. The film composer John Addison wrote a jolly Wellington Suite for his old public school. Arthur Benjamin’s Concertino is a British Rhapsody in Blue – and rather good, too, as is Elizabeth Maconchy’s, pitched in a Hindemith or Martinu mode.…

Share:

Why, people have been asking for about 120 years, is Rachmaninov so popular? The music is morbid to miserable, the melodies are unhummable and mere finger virtuosity does not explain the infallible and inexhaustible attraction. Rachmaninov remains a frontline bestseller. What does he have that Scriabin, say, lacks? We ask the questions (as they say in war films); don’t look for instant answers. But a new release by the introspective Scottish pianist Steven Osborne has set me thinking hard about the hidden irresistibility of the first piano sonata and the shameless populism of the Moments Musicaux. The sonata, dated…

Share:

Evil Penguin: ***** Polskie Radio: **** When I first came across Weinberg 30 years ago, he was listed as Vainberg in western dictionary and the only music one could hear was on grainy Soviet Melodiya. These days, you’ll find him on major labels in the most impressive orchestral sound, if not always the most penetrative interpretation. When people ask me, ‘where do I start with Weinberg?’, I’ve had no easy answer – until now. Weinberg’s first three piano sonatas were written soon after his escape into Russia from German-occupied Warsaw. I find them altogether fascinating – a ragbag of reminscences of…

Share:

In mid-March 1945 Richard Strauss set about writing a suite for string orchestra that would reflect his feelings at the surrounding devastation. The eighty year-old composer had seen his home town Munich bombed to ruins, but he was comfortably situated in Alpine Garmisch and at no immediate personal risk. His suite, Metamorphosen, was bitter-sweet: a reflection on his country’s defeat and his own early complicity with its fallen Nazi regime. The music of Metamorphosenis usually performed as lament. Here, John Wilson and the Sinfonia of London reinterpret it chillingly as elegy – an old man looking back not in anger…

Share:

One should never let too much time pass without hearing some Ligeti. The Hungarian has such an ethereal turn of ear that any chorus he writes becomes instantly disembodied, the human voices floating like butterflies at the edge of consciousness. He is best known for Lux Aeterna, which Stanley Kubrick purloined for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It receives an exemplary liftoff here from the Danish National Vocal Ensemble (conductor Marcus Creed), opening up uncharted worlds of imagination. Other Ligeti songs, some folk-based others atonal are delivered with comparable immersion in a soundworld like no other. The fillers on…

Share:

Into every musical life, a little Birtwistle must fall. Do not read anything pejorative into that statement. I have been smitten by the British composer’s major works for half my life and if some of them can test one’s patience on first hearing they usually deliver rewards on repetition. Birtwistle is an acquired taste. He works hard at complex textures and does not readily produce long lyrical lines. He is a one-off, a loner, an original, a man on an unmarked path in an untrodden field. Truth to tell, I was a little deterred by a full-length compilation album of…

Share:
1 2 3 39