Browsing: Lebrecht Weekly

What small labels do best is backing the owner’s hunches. BIS in Stockholm produced symphonies by Alfred Schnittke when he was unheard outside Russia. Hyperion in south London resurrected 19th century piano concertos. Cedille in Chicago backs off-beat US composers. Manfred Eicher’s ECM in Munich is the engine behind Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli and Chick Corea. These labels are often thelion kings of classical recording. We owe the rediscovery of Mieczyslaw Weinberg, a Polish refugee in Soviet Russia, to a father-son team in Colchester, England, operating from a mobile recording unit. Their company, Chandos, released its first Weinberg recording around…

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I have no problems with impressionism. It’s what French artists do off the cuff when they can’t be bothered with sketches, what French composers do in a wishy-washy mood. So Debussy, so easily recognised. Expressionism is another matter. A parallel 1900s movement of poets and painters who liked to let it all hang out, it was associated in music chiefly with Schoenberg and his disciples, three of the most buttoned-up composers you could ever wish to avoid. It is supposed to convey ‘powerful feelings’, as if Bach and Handel hadn’t done it better. Schoenberg’s paintings were also deemed ‘expressionist’. The…

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Lukas Foss was a classmate of Leonard Bernstein’s at the Curtis Institute and a lifelong friend, though never an equal. While Bernstein blazed to national glory in his annus mirabilis of 1944, Foss was quietly composing his first symphony in the bucolic tranquility of the MacDowell Colony. His Curtis teacher Fritz Reiner premiered the symphony in Pittsburgh a year later but without wider acclaim. Foss’s Americana style sounded both dated and derivative. Aaron Copland did this stuff so much better, and a decade sooner. Foss also composed three ballets that year, but he lacked Bernstein’s On the Town recklessness and…

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