Friday, October 28, 2016
New to me, but certainly not new to the catalogue are recordings by the Pratum Integrum Orchestra on the Caro Mitis label. Caro Mitis is the premium classical label of the Russian Essential Music record company, and their catalogue ranges from early music to Britten, Prokofiev, Hindemith and Schnittke. The Pratum Integrum Orchestra is Russia's only early music ensemble with the forces to tackle the orchestral repertoire. Their award-winning recordings of the Telemann orchestral suites have provided me with much rewarding listening. Spirited and persuasive playing is coupled with excellent if slightly dry SACD sound captured in Studio 5 of RTR in Moscow. Recording and post-production is outsourced to Polyhymnia International, an independent Dutch production facility specialising in SACD format recordings that rose from the ashes of the Philips Classics recording centre in Baarn. All the hardware in the recording chain is configured to Polyhymnia International's specification, and the equipment is detailed in the recording documentation. As well as being notable for their outstanding musical and technical standards, the Caro Mitis CDs are noteworthy for their high standard of presentation. As well as an erudite essay on the music, there is detailed information on the performers, their instruments and the provenance of the scores. Caro Mitis translates from the Latin as 'succulent fruit'. These CDs from an enterprising Russian label are indeed succulent fruit compared with the desiccated offerings that have become the norm in the era of digital accessibility. No review samples used in this post. Also on Facebook and Twitter. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).
As a teenage virtuoso pianist from Odessa, Gilels was thrust forward as a propaganda torchbearer for Soviet ideals. A hundred years after the great musician’s birth, though, many believe the association wasn’t so straightforwardTake care if you refer to Emil Gilels, whose centenary falls this week, as a “Soviet” pianist. How dare you, a fellow pianophile will say, pointing out that Gilels’s authoritative and inspired readings of Beethoven, Brahms and Prokofiev, immortalised on the most prestigious western recording labels, represent the acme of Russian spirit and European culture and that tainting him by association with Stalin’s murderous regime is the ultimate injustice. “Soviet” is a dirty word for what remains of Russian intelligentsia for a very good reason. Gilels is undoubtedly a timeless genius, but few artists are as inextricably and fascinatingly entwined with political history as the pianist of whom Stalin said in the late 1930s that “Hitler has his Goebbels, I have my Gilels.” Continue reading...
I want to tell you about Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64, as performed by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vasily Petrenko: This amazing recording presents Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, recorded here in its entirety – which is a first for the orchestra as well as its conductor. The Oslo Philharmonic recorded Suites Nos. 1 and 2 under Mariss Jansons in 1989, but never the complete ballet up until this point. Prokofiev’s imaginative orchestration has made the ballet Romeo and Juliet world-famous, primarily through the orchestral suites as opposed to the ballet as a whole. Unmistakably a child of the Rimsky-Korsakov school of orchestration, Prokofiev’s orchestra arsenal for the ballet includes tenor saxophone, four mandolins, cornet, celesta, organ, piano and a number of percussion instruments. The Sunday Times wrote: “Petrenko’s Norwegian band yield nothing in virtuosity — the strings are staggering in the fight — to Russian peers. The dramatic episodes sizzle, but there is poignancy in the balcony scene and Juliet’s death. One listens with refreshed ears.” Here is a section of Petrenko’s performance:
I am just beginning to get acquainted with the Neave Trio. From the tiny bit of research I have done, I read that their violinist Anna Williams studied at the Manhattan School of Music, which is also where I studied violin many years ago. On their new CD, the Trio performs an early work by Leonard Bernstein, his Trio Op. 2 Listen to a sample: Most composers were inspired by their predecessors. And I recall a talk by Bernstein in which he recalled that Aaron Copland encouraged him to be more original. Copland said to Bernstein about his music: “This section is warmed over Scriabin. This one is like Mahler. But these two bars are pure Lenny. Write more like that…” I hear some Prokofiev coming through Bernstein’s Opus 2. I still enjoy this piece a lot… i hope that you will enjoy it, too.
Misha Maisky is a special personality among the great cellists of our time. Born in Latvia and now in his middle sixties, he is the only one that had instruction both from Gregor Piatigorsky and Mstislav Rostropovich, leading figures of yore. Great friend of Martha Argerich, he has given many concerts and made a recording of the complete Beethoven cello-piano sonatas with her. He has made 35 CDs, including three times the Bach cello suites. He visited us a long time ago, and now he returned at the height of his fame. Not for a recital but with a chamber orchestra, the Tel Aviv Soloists under their founder Barak Tal. It was a presentation of Nuova Harmonia at the Colón. The fact that it´s a chamber, not a symphony orchestra, limits the choices to works that can be played with 29 instruments, thus eliminating all the famous Concerti. The choices were: a short Tchaikovsky Nocturne, adapted by the composer from the fourth of his Six pieces op.19 for piano; "Kol Nidrei" by Max Bruch, which in the original is for cello and full orchestra, was played with less instruments (two horns, three trombones and harp were absent); and Haydn´s Concerto Nº1, Hob VIIb:1, in C. The Nocturne is a lovely melody and Maisky showed that he can really sing with his cello. With his disheveled mane of grey hair and informal dress code,. Maisky doesn´t look like a classical artist, but he most certainly is. "Kol Nidrei" means "all vows", an Aramaic prayer sung on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and is an 188l score defined as an Adagio on Hebrew melodies. It´s a beautiful piece that lasts ten minutes and Maisky phrased it with great expression. In the First Part, however, there were no fireworks and the music was slow. The splendid Haydn Concerto provided Allegro music and difficulties in the first and third movements, whilst leaving the middle Adagio for sensitive molding of melody. In the Allegros Maisky showed his flashy side, attacking wirth gusto and exaggerating the intensity in certain fragments, even risking some harshness, but never losing control. The audience, which had been friendly but contained before, exploded with ovations and got three encores. The two final variations (slow and very fast) of Tchaikovsky´s "Rococo Variations" (with less orchestra than the original) again let us hear the contrast between his plangent and subtle slow playing and the exciting, almost frantic playing of the virtuosic bits. Again Tchaikovsky, his arrangement of the Andante cantabile from the First Quartet, one of his most memorable melodies, was another proof of Maisky´s empathy with the composer. And the slow middle movement of Haydn´s Concerto for violin in C, transcribed for cello, played with exquisite control of pianissimo. By the way, the artist suffered from heat, and often wiped dry his face. Now to the Orchestra. Although the appellation "Soloists" hardly applies to an orchestra, some ensembles call themselves so, meaning that they play with great quality. The Zagreb Soloists did, but I feel that the Tel Aviv group doesn´t quite make the grade. Founded in 2001 by Tal, it is a good, decent group of young musicians, with particularly proficient oboes and flutes, but, either because it is the taste of the director or that there is a lack of impulse in themselves, the strings are relegated, especially the first violins; and one bass isn´t enough, you need at least two. There are 16 strings plus 8 woodwinds, 4 brass, and tympani. The purely orchestral scores on the programme were Mozart´s Symphony Nº 41, "Jupiter", and Prokofiev´s Symphony Nº 1, "Classical". Curiously in both cases I felt the same: low energy in the first two movements and a pickup in the last two. Surely there´s plenty of interesting content in the first movement of the "Jupiter" but it had no more than a lackluster reading this time; the Menuet was better, and the tour de force of counterpoint of the Finale emerged clean and positive. In the delightful Prokofiev opus, the Allegro start should be joyful and fresh, not tentative; the slow movement was correct. However, the Gavotte was rhythmically alive, and the exhilarating Finale took fire. In their accompanying role, Tal and the players were closely attuned to Maisky´s phrasing and did a good job. For Buenos Aires Herald
Emil Gilels (Deutsche Grammophon)Emil Gilels was one of the first Soviet musicians to be allowed to perform regularly in the west after the second world war, and made the first of 15 tours of the US in 1955. This recital was given in the Seattle Opera House in December 1964. It was recorded privately and is now released in full on disc for the first time, marking the centenary of the pianist’s birth later this month. The programme is a typical cross-section of Gilels’ vast repertoire, moving from Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata, Op 53, to Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso via Chopin, Prokofiev and Debussy, with party pieces by Stravinsky and Bach (in a Siloti arrangement) added as encores.The performances take a while to settle down. Anyone who knows Gilels’ later studio recording of the Waldstein might find this one rather stiff and driven, while the early Chopin that follows – the Variations on La Ci Darem la Mano from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro – is a bit perfunctory. It’s with a fiercely concentrated performance of Prokofiev’s Third Sonata that the intensity begins to rise; after that, the first set of Debussy’s Images has real backbone and rhythmic focus, and more Prokofiev, a selection of the Visions Fugitives, become searingly vivid snapshots. The recording is decent enough, and the sense of occasion palpable, although the piano is beginning to sound a bit the worse for wear by the end. Continue reading...
Great composers of classical music