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Birds on Fire
17th century Jewish Music for Viols
Pavan and Gailiard
Fantasia à 5 No. 1
Duarte, J W:
Two Sinfonias in 5 parts (No. 5 & No. 6)
Octave toni (sopra Sol mi fa la sol)
Birds on Fire
Pavin & Gallyard of Albarti
Pavana a 5
Fantasia in 6 parts No.1
Pavan in 3 parts No. 26
Fantasia [Air] in 4 parts No. 5
Fantasia in 6 parts No. 9
Fantasia in 6 parts Nos. 4 & 11
Pieces from the Lumley Part Books - Desperada, Pavana, Gallyard & Seconda Desperada
Shir hamma'alót [Psalm 128]
Fantasia con pause e senza pause
Although the unconverted Jews had been banished from the Kingdom since 1290, England's musical life between 1550 and 1650 was virtually monopolised by the crypto-Jewish dynasties of the Bassano and Lupo families of composers and performers.Adding a contemporary echo, the programme includes the first recording of Birds on Fire by Orlando Gough (born 1953). One of UK's most important composers for ballet, dance and theatre projects, here Gough found his inspiration in the work of klezmer musicians and in part based his piece on traditional tunes known as 'Kandel's Hora' and 'Odessa Bulgarish'. Performing on Renaissance and Elizabethan instruments, the members of Fretwork are joined by cantor Jeremy Avis for a pair of Hebrew liturgical settings penned by Salvatore Rossi (d. 1630).
Orlando Gough (b.1953) was a founder member of the bands The Lost Jockey and Man Jumping. He writes music mostly for the theatre - operas, plays, dance pieces, music-theatre and directs The Shout, an extraordinary choir of diverse soloists.
“Always the unusual from the viol consort Fretwork. Not content with assembling a programme featuring covertly Jewish composers at the Tudor and Stuart courts, they thread through the tracks 24 klezmer-influenced minutes by the contemporary composer Orlando Gough.
They’re pleasant, but for music with real meat you need the six selections by Thomas Lupo – sophisticated consort pieces teased out by Fretwork’s agile fingers.” The Times, 27th June 2008 ****
“compelling and convincing, it's to the credit of Fretwork that they chose to bring this previously lost bit of 16th-century music history into the light. Fretwork is particularly adept at this sort of thing,
leaving us towonder and eagerly await their next project.” Classics Today 10/10
“Birds on Fire… is by Orlando Gough (b1953), a British composer… The music is hauntingly coloured by reference to klezmer tunes, while the second movement grows over a hypnotic ostinato. A memorable disc.” BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2008 *****
“Orlando Gough, best known for his theatre music, composed Birds on Fire in 1997. This is demanding, wonderfully offbeat music inspired by Ashkenazi Klezmers… which Fretwork brings off with a panache that astonishes and delights.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
“The title of this recording is a quotation from Aaron Appelfeld's 1939 novel Badenheim. The subtitle, 'Jewish Music for Viols', more accurately describes the contents: Fretwork have also recorded consort music by some of the Jewish composers at the Tudor court – the Bassanos and Lupos – along with two contemporaries in Holland, Philip van Wilder and Leonara Duarte, illustrating the extent to which they set aside the declamatory music of their forefathers in favour of the imitative polyphonic style prevailing in Northern Europe. Even the Venetian 'Ebreo' Salamone Rossi borrowed from the Latin motet for his 1622 Songs of Solomon, stilo antico settings with Hebrew texts sung here by Jeremy Avis.
If you're seeking the exotic, listen to tracks 1, 13 and 24. Orlando Gough, best known for his theatre music, composed Birds on Fire in 1997.
This is demanding, wonderfully offbeat music inspired by Ashkenazi Klezmers (more cabaret than camera), which Fretwork brings off with a panache that astonishes and delights. Importantly, it demonstrates the extent to which the viol consort has been circumscribed by its historic – largely amateur – repertoire and suggests that it is capable of far more. Each of the three Gough pieces begins with eerie sounds and is characterised by a kaleidoscope of syncopated ostinati, droll pizzicato asides and sinewy, modal themes conveyed in parallel octaves. You'll swear you can hear an organ, accordion, clarinet and a saxophone, but you don't. Fascinating, liberating music!” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
BBC Music Magazine
Chamber Choice - August 2008
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Godowsky - Strauss transcriptions and other waltzes
Marc-André Hamelin’s programme is mostly devoted to Godowsky’s works based on themes by—or directly inspired by—Johann Strauss II. It is not intended to be a comprehensive survey but is, nevertheless, fully representative of Godowsky’s finest reflections on the Waltz King. In the three great Strauss transcriptions, Godowsky elevated the art of the piano paraphrase to a higher musical and pianistic plane; however their extreme technical difficulty remains a striking feature and places them out of the reach of ordinary pianists. And Marc-André Hamelin is, of course, no ordinary pianist—in fact his playing on a recent disc (see below) was compared to that of Alkan and Liszt.
Triakontameron and Walzermasken are rarely performed examples of Godowsky’s original work, and continue the composer’s love-affair with the waltz—they are written entirely in 3/4 time. The last work on this dazzling disc is an oddity—indeed, a rarity. Sometime prior to 1925, Godowsky made a piano roll of his arrangement of The Last Waltz by Oscar Straus (1870–1954), the Vienna-born composer. The eponymous Waltz is heard throughout the 1920 operetta. The music of Godowsky’s transcription was never published for some unknown reason—it is a uniquely appealing arrangement. In the early 1970s, Gilles Hamelin, the pianophile father of Marc-André, notated, arranged and edited The Last Waltz from Godowsky’s piano roll, which was then published in 1975. Shortly afterwards, a copy of the negative of Godowsky’s manuscript was sent to Gilles Hamelin. It was all but illegible, so Hamelin Snr. Made a fair copy in his own hand: in almost every respect it tallied with the version he had transcribed from the piano roll.
“There's no need for analogies about a surfeit of Viennese cream-cakes with this excellent CD: the musical inventions is so brilliant and varied, and the performance so coruscating, that one's attention is firmly held.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2008 *****
“How many fingers does Hamelin have? Thirty would be a conservative estimate, though the magic of his piano playing lies in his subtlety and flow, never in any shallow brilliance. Manner matches matter perfectly in this lilting CD of three “symphonic metamorphoses” of Johann Strauss’s waltzes by the piano virtuoso Leopold Godowsky. They sound symphonic too, deftly worked, complex in structure and emotion. The succulent recording is the cherry on the cake.” The Times, 15th August 2008 ****
“Whatever you think of the music, Hamelin's playing is infinitely seductive and flawlessly judged in its mixture of panache, grace and charm.” The Guardian, 15th August 2008 ***
“Countless inner voices and contrapuntal rejoinders abound in these works, and Hamelin makes them audible and clear… All told, a stellar achievement…” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
“[The symphonic metamorphoses] are more than just for show, and Hamelin brings out their poetic intent as much as their panache and vivid energy.” The Telegraph, 23rd August 2008
“Here's another release that testifies to Marc- André Hamelin's cultured musicianship, extraordinary keyboard proficiency and unflappable tonal control. His key assets include the most together, impeccably voiced chords in the business, plus octaves, trills and rapid leaps that remain effortlessly even and focused, regardless of tempo.
All of this comes into delightful play over the course of the three big Strauss Symphonic Metamorphoses.
Countless inner voices and contrapuntal rejoinders abound in these works, and Hamelin makes them audible and clear without resorting to the pianistic equivalent of red-ink underlining or pop-up windows. Furthermore, Hamelin is a seasoned and subtle orchestrator at the piano; notice how he achieves such eloquent shading of simultaneous legato and detached phrases with no more help from the sustain pedal than is necessary.
One could argue that Godowsky's pinpoint tempo modifications throughout Wein, Weibund Gesang might benefit from stronger characterisation, in the manner of Shura Cherkassky's admittedly more capricious Decca recording, although Hamelin eschews the older pianist's cuts; in fact, Hamelin plays all three Metamorphoses complete, as written. As it happens, the less demanding shorter selections from Walzermasken, Triakontameron and The Last Waltz inspire some of Hamelin's most poetic, lyrically inspired playing on disc.
All told, a stellar achievement, graced by Hyperion's close-up yet ample engineering, plus Godowsky biographer Jeremy Nicholas's thoroughly informative and penetrating annotations.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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DSD recording, live at the Barbican December 2007
“Colin Davis's revival of A Child of Our Time at the Barbican last December, ranked, unquestionably, among his most formidable achievements. That its transfer to LSO Live is less than ideal is due to the actual recording, which persistently emphasises clarity at the expense of weight...Davis conducts like one possessed, and the playing is exemplary, though the LSO Chorus, matchlessly intense in this work, sometimes sounds distant. The recording also does the soloists few favours - but if you're not moved to tears by Indra Thomas in the spirituals and Steve Davislim singing I Have No Money for My Bread, I suspect you of lacking soul and conscience. Awesome, but also very flawed.” The Guardian, 11th July 2008 ****
“Davis’s latest recording, taken from two live performances with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, has its own flaws, and the team of soloists is uneven, with the rich-voiced, impassioned bass, Matthew Rose, by far the most convincing. The tenor, Steve Davislim, is also good, but the two women, Indra Thomas and Mihoko Fujimura, lack the right sort of intensity. The orchestral playing is superb, the choral singing gutsy and confident.” Sunday Times, 13th July 2008 ***
“From just about every point of view this is an improvement on Colin Davis's recent Dresden Staatskapelle A Child of Our Time… The soloists are more roundly convincing… and yet they still aren't quite distinctive enough to stand up against the magnificent team on Davis's 1975 version (now on Decca).” BBC Music Magazine, August 2008 ***
“There are emotional depths here which turn this recording into something very special.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
“Four years after his Dresden version of A Childof Our Time, recorded live in the Semperoper (Profil, 3/08), Sir Colin Davis returned to the work in the very different environment of London's Barbican Hall. On this occasion the Classic Sound engineers and editors have managed a good blend of the intimate and the intense. Now and again a soloist may seem unduly reticent – perhaps a vocal problem on the day rather than a matter of recorded balance. But is there another recording that surpasses this one in the expressive power with which choral singing and orchestral playing combine to reinforce the timeless message of this most history-conscious work, rooted as it is in events just prior to the years of its composition (1939-41)? The formidable discipline and sensitivity of the London Symphony Chorus are immediately clear in the well defined dynamic contrasts of Part 1's first movement. While an imposing weight of sonority, as in the Spiritual 'Go Down Moses', can be guaranteed, there is a rare lightness of articulation in the passage beginning 'We are as seed before the wind', which returns in 'Nobody knows the trouble I see'.
Of the soloists, soprano Indra Thomas struggles with foggy vibrato while still managing to float some beautifully unstrained high notes in the final ensemble. Mihoko Fujimura, Steve Davislim and Matthew Rose are all excellent, and it's especially good to have a tenor who sounds young enough to embody the character of Herschel Grynszpan convincingly. Of course, some collectors will not be persuaded that Sir Colin could ever match, let alone outdo, his first, 1975 Philips recording of the work. Nevertheless, the enduring significance of the piece for him is palpable right through to the superbly shaped account of the final Spiritual, 'Deep River'. There are emotional depths here which turn this recording into something very special.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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The Britten-Pears Collection
Peter Glossop (Billy Budd), Peter Pears (Captain Vere), Michael Langdon (Claggart), John Shirley-Quirk (Mr Redburn), Bryan Drake (Mr Flint), David Kelly (Mr Ratcliffe), Kenneth MacDonald (Red Whiskers), David Bowman (Donald), Dennis Wicks (Dansker), Robert Tear (Novice), Robert Bowman (Squeak), Benjamin Luxon (Novice's Friend)
London Symphony Orchestra, Charles Mackerras
This DVD is part of the Britten-Pears DVD Collection. This collection features four historically and musically significant films from the BBC archives of works and performances by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, one of the greatest English tenors and Britten’s long-term partner and artistic inspiration.
“Basil Coleman… created massive, painstakingly authentic settings on a 1770s man-o'-war. …its fluency and shifting viewpoints are still striking today.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2008 *****
“Peter Pears's patrician features, with the high forehead and aquiline nose, so perfectly suit Edward Fairfax Vere that this, of all roles, is the one with which is most inseparably identified. Opposite him are the burly Billy of Peter Glossop and the black-toned Claggart of Michael Langdon, heading a devoted and well cast company…” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
“...immediately this black and white film starts there is a compelling intensity to this performance which is almost unsettling. Peter Pears was a definitive Edward Fairfax Vere, a role to which he is inextricably linked...The performance crackles with intensity with superb direction and an excellent production” Penguin Guide, 2010 ***
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The Red Violin Caprices
Philippe Quint (violin) & William Wolfram (piano)
John Corigliano has revisited his score for the 1997 film The Red Violin several times. In The Red Violin Caprices, content is allied to a technique making strenuous demands on the performer. The pensive Theme is identical in substance to that heard in the earlier Chaconne (Naxos 8.559306), and its five variations range in style from the Paganinian virtuosity of the first, to the restrained ‘folk’ tinge of the third. Corigliano’s Violin Sonata is among his earliest acknowledged works, its final ‘Allegro’ enhanced by some scintillating instrumental interplay. Coming from a very different musical background, and representing a very different musical aesthetic, Virgil Thomson’s music displays a skilful assimilation of Gallic clarity and an American-derived nostalgia, with hymn tunes and traditional songs often being evident.
“I just heard Philippe Quint’s new recording of my Red Violin Caprices and he was absolutely amazing.” John Corigliano
“This is another incarnation of John Corigliano's Red Violin music. First the film and the Chaconne for violin and orchestra derived from it (1997); then the Concerto (2003); and now the composer has extracted a set of caprices for solo violin.
These were originally written as studies and the actors, filmed playing the instrument, had to mime to them. Because of the demands of the film, reflecting the life of a violin at various times and places, the writing has a wider stylistic range than most contemporary works for solo violin.
Corigliano's Sonata for Violin and Piano (1963) is an early piece with ingenious Stravinskian panache in the rapid writing and lyrical charm elsewhere of the kind which led to TheRed Violin 35 years later. Quint and Wolfram make it sound just as impressive as Bell and Denk (Sony).
Most of Virgil Thomson's Portraits were for piano so it's unusual to have three groups for violin, with and without piano. Thomson began with seven of the Eight Portraits for solo violin in 1928 and went on to produce about 150. He actually composed in front of the sitter like an artist sketching, and the results are delightfully spontaneous. There's a 'Tango Lullaby' for Mlle Alvarez de Toledo, who must have been quite a character; sketches of Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas, both so important in Thomson's life; and composer colleagues like Henri Sauguet.
Philippe Quint's panache is stunning and this CD offers some of the most attractive music for solo violin in the entire repertoire.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Grieg - Holberg Suite
This recording is the solo debut disc from Katya Apekisheva for Quartz. Katya has recorded previously for Quartz with Jack Liebeck. Katya has also performed throughout Russia, Italy, Germany, Holland, Israel, Turkey, USA, South Korea, Phillipinnes and in the UK with the following orchestras, London Philharmonic, CBSO, Philharmonia, Halle, Moscow, Philharmonic, and with the following conductors, Alexander Lazarev, David Shallon, Alexander Rudin, and Sir Simon Rattle. Katya will also be playing recitals with Natalie Klein this summer.
“Katya Apekisheva is a young pianist who has already achieved artistic greatness. A sonority of beguiling warmth and refinement and a rare poetic empathy make you… listen mesmerised as Apekisheva captures the very essence of Grieg's genius.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
“Apekisheva has fabulous technique, with lovely rounded sound and deeply wrought legato…” BBC Music Magazine, October 2008 ***
“Cards on the table: Katya Apekisheva is a young pianist who has already achieved artistic greatness. Not even Emil Gilels, in his legendary DG Grieg recital, played more magically or, astonishingly, with greater finesse. How thrilled Irina Zaritskaya, Apekisheva's teacher, would have been if she had lived to hear the fruit of her work with this profoundly gifted artist. A sonority of beguiling warmth and refinement and a rare poetic empathy quickly make you listen mesmerised as Apekisheva captures the very essence of Grieg's genius.
Here, in her mixed programme, she tells you with an often painfully beautiful and unforced eloquence of how Grieg's romantic temperament was easily clouded by depression and unease, of the way, for example in 'Homesickness' and 'Vanished Days', a heartbreaking state of mind is only temporarily modified by memories of happier times. The sense of the LyricPieces as Grieg's confessional diary is everywhere in Apekisheva's recital. In the Aria from the Holberg Suite she is deeply sensitive to the way Grieg's love and respect for the 18th century is coloured by a near-Franckian chromaticism and dark introspection. These works and everything else on this beautifully recorded album suggest an artistic fervour and commitment given to very few in any generation.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Following the success of his recent performance of the opera at London’s Cadagon Hall, the seasoned Britten performer Richard Hickox has committed the composer’s rarely recorded Owen Wingrave to disc. Only one rival CD recording is available at present. Commissioned by BBC television in 1966, the work is something of a Cinderella among Britten’s operas, despite its imaginative, closely knit score. One possible reason is that it was composed for television rather than the theatre. Like its 1954 predecessor, The Turn of the Screw, Owen Wingrave is based on a ghost story by Henry James. Britten read the story while he was working on The Turn of the Screw, and even then conceived the idea of setting it as an opera. The music employs the relatively spare textures that Britten adopted in his later years.
“Richard Hickox's command of the score...banishes once and for all the idea that the work was a mere appendix to the composer's operatic career: its pacifist theme was a central one to Britten's creative being, and he invested the opera with all the musical richness and textural originality of an unrivalled master of the medium, best expressed here in the playing of the City of London Sinfonia, which is wonderfully alive.” The Telegraph, 14th June 2008
“This excellent recording by Hickox and the City of London Sinfonia conjures shimmering life into oft-ignored episodes of brilliant musical characterisation. The stand-out in a first-class cast is James Gilchrist's Lechmere, full of eager innocence, loyalty and vim.” The Times, 14th June 2008 ****
“Hickox and his cast make the strongest possible case for the opera: Peter Coleman-Wright’s eloquent, idealistic Owen might seem mature casting, but there are fine cameos from Alan Opie (Owen’s tutor), Robin Leggate (the General) and James Gilchrist (Lechmere). Pamela Helen Stephen’s Kate is not as bitchy as Janet Baker’s, Elizabeth Connell’s Miss Wingrave not quite as formidable as Sylvia Fisher’s strident, domineering portrait, but both sing well.” Sunday Times, 8th June 2008
“Hickox's excellent cast boasts some supreme exponents. Hickox draws haunting colours and chordings from his City of London Sinfonia, and the recording is flawlessly presented.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2008 ****
“The new set… becomes the first recording in any medium to do the work full musical and dramatic justice. It should also satisfy the curiosity of those who wonder why its devotees hail Wingrave as Britten's greatest completed opera.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
“After experimenting with smaller-scale forms of musical theatre throughout the 1960s, Britten returned to 'grand' opera in Owen Wingrave, based on Henry James's pacifist debate about following the flag or one's conscience. Premiered as a TV commission, Wingrave enjoyed unmerited Cinderella status among Britten's stage works until the recent TV film conducted by Kent Nagano (with Gerald Finley in the title- role – see below) and an innovative stage production by Tim Hopkins at Covent Garden's Linbury Studio in 2007.
Over the years Richard Hickox has used his studio skills to telling effect in the vocal works of Britten. In this new recording following concert performances, Peter Coleman-Wright is most adept at conveying Owen's pain and troubled conscience, the while never giving way to an over-emotionalism untrue to anyone brought up in a soldier's family. Alan Opie, in what is in many ways the beau role of the military tutor Spencer Coyle, achieves both a superb neutrality and an evident empathy with Owen's decision to quit the military life. Robin Leggate avoids caricature (or simple Peter Pears homage) in the small but essential role of the family termagant, General Sir Philip Wingrave. The women are no less characterful, with an especially sympathetic reading of Coyle's wife from Janice Watson.
Throughout Wingrave, Britten's cunning reworking of rhythmic structures and harmonic devices pioneered as early as Peter Grimes reaches a new level of plasticity and sophistication.
The shimmer of orchestral sound – sometimes impressionistic, sometimes Gamelaninfluenced, sometimes wholly percussive – is a still insufficiently appreciated wonder of 1970s operatic writing. The core duets of Coyle/Wingrave, Wingrave/Lechmere and Wingrave/Kate (in which she sets the reluctant soldier the challenge of spending a night alone in the haunted room) are anchored on a sophisticated version of the tonal atonal structures on which Britten had once based The Turn of the Screw. It lends the drama an amazing tensile strength, closely parallel to the Berg operas which Britten wanted to get to know better in the 1930s but was discouraged by his teachers from approaching too closely.
The new set, in Chandos's customary natural comfortable sound, becomes the first recording in any medium to do the work full musical and dramatic justice. It should also satisfy the curiosity of those who wonder why its devotees hail Wingrave as Britten's greatest completed opera.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“this recording advances as a good a case for the opera as anyone could reasonably expect. The cast, headed by Peter Coleman-Wright as the haunted, compromised Owen Wingrave, is strong, and the gallery of English eccentrics/grotesques that make up the extended Wingrave family is vividly depicted.” The Guardian, 6th June 2008 ***
“First-rate atmospheric sound, apt in a ghost story” Penguin Guide, 2010 edition ***
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My Heart Alone
Favorite Operetta Arias and Duets
My Heart Alone is the new recording from Austrian mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager and British baritone Simon Keenlyside, and proves that Operetta is still alive. Both singers are highly respected in the fields of opera and Lieder recital, and have appeared several times as a partnership, notably in the title roles in Pelléas et Mélisande at the Salzburg Easter Festival and at Covent Garden, where they have been feted as the dream couple of the opera world.
This is the duo’s first Operetta recording, following in the great tradition of famous opera singers like Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Fritz Wunderlich and Hermann Prey, whose careers blossomed beyond the opera stage. The choice of repertoire for this programme ranges widely from the golden age to the silver age, and includes gems from Die Fledermaus and Die Tänzerin Fanny Elssler by the father of Viennese operetta and waltz king Johann Strauss, as well as titles from popular works such as Franz von Suppé's masterwork Boccaccio and Franz Léhar's Merry Widow. The duet Nur die Liebe macht uns jung from Franz Léhar's Zigeunerliebe however, is an absolute rarity.
“Keenlyside sings operetta like a student, learning the ropes, too quick to pitch volume and intensity at a level fit for Verdi, but not the sweetmeats of Vienna...Best to concentrate on Kirchschlager, who is frequently marvellous. As an Austrian, the operetta lilt lives in Kirchschlager’s blood; she’s a natural at pausing and easing the speeds, and she sings with that indefinable glow.” The Times, 4th July 2008 ***
“Kirchschlager tries too hard as the dissolute Orlofsky ( Die Fledermaus ) but makes amends with a tenderly phrased "Vilja" and a sinuous, seductive "Meine Lippen, die küssen so heiss" from Lehár's Giuditta. Simon Keenlyside, in glorious voice, is by turns dulcet and virile, even if he doesn't quite muster the insouciant charm of a Nicolai Gedda for Danilo's "Da geh' ich zu Maxim". Drawbacks include some distinctly schmaltzy accompaniments and a booklet long on pretentious waffle but criminally short on texts and translations.” The Telegraph, 2nd August 2008
“What impresses is not only the natural brilliance of the singers' vocal production but also the way in which pure display is subordinated to expression of true feeling.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
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Mozart, Britten & Dohnànyi - Chamber Music
Their performance of Mozart's Oboe Quartet, a highly virtuosic and original work shows a different side to these musicians, highlighting their subtlety and lightness of touch. The arrangement for oboe and violins of three arias from ‘The Magic Flute’ was originally set for two violins, while only the cor anglais part has survived from the Adagio, K580. In addition to the seldom-heard 1902 Serenade by the Hungarian composer Ernst von Dohnányi, Benjamin Britten's ‘Phantasy Quartet’ presents a rhapsodically-toned masterwork for the combination of oboe, violin, viola and cello
“These four outstanding musicians come together in two works by Mozart and one by Britten. The Mozart is his Oboe Quartet in F, K370, a work whose compactness and exquisiteness go hand in hand, although one really does wish it could be longer. Mozart’s C minor Adagio for Cor Anglais, violin, viola and cello, K580A, is of lesser interest, but three arias from The Magic Flute in oboe and violin versions are delightful.” Sunday Times, 6th July 2008
“As you'd expect from instrumentalists of this pedigree, much of the playing on this disc is of the highest class, yet the final impression is one of slight disappointment. François Leleux's playing in the Oboe Quartet is marvellously supple and fluent, but it's almost too elegant and relaxed for the character of this intensely attractive three-movement work to come across, despite the equally suave contributions from [the other players]. Britten's early Phantasy Quartet fares better, perhaps because its pungency is hard to underplay...but the disc ends on a bit of a downer, with Dohnanyi's Serenade for string trio. Like everything else, it's beautifully shaped, but its intrinsic superficiality can't be disguised.” The Guardian, 25th July 2008 ***
“Mozart's mini-concerto is lit up by Leleux's bright but flexible tone… The teenage Britten's single-movement Phantasy is played with well-observed detail…” BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2008 ****
“Distinguished soloists do not always make distinguished chamber musicians. Here they do; and unsuspected depths in the music are plumbed.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
“Distinguished soloists do not always make distinguished chamber musicians. Here they do; and unsuspected depths in the music are plumbed. A measure of daring seems implicit in their control of fine pianissimi and tonal halflights at the beginning of Britten's PhantasyQuartet. The initial notes marked to be played on the fingerboard of a muted cello emanate from an inky nothingness, to be gradually joined by the viola and violin playing in a similar fashion.
And there is no rude awakening from oboist François Leleux; his softly reedy tone steals in to reinforce the delicate texture.
This is no flash in the pan. Technique, both individual and corporate, is consummate, a vehicle for a penetrating intelligence that reaches beyond the limitations of musical notation.
Leleux avoids a narrow dynamic range and blunt attack, instead producing within the scope of his instrument a ductile expressiveness of the sort that is usually heard from strings. The interpretation of Mozart's Oboe Quartet is sure to meet the expectations of many a dream, as will the C minor Adagio where an eloquent case is made for a piece not often heard. Ditto Dohnányi's Trio, Lisa Batiashvili as unobtrusively cogent a leader here as she is the duo partner in the arias from Die Zauberflöte.
Bewitching performances!” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Freddy Kempf plays Mussorgsky, Ravel & Balakirev
Two years since his last release on BIS, Freddy Kempf returns to present a programme featuring three central works in the great virtuoso repertoire for solo piano. Each piece has the qualities in terms of characterisation and timbre that have resulted in well-known orchestral arrangements. Pictures from an Exhibition was composed following the death of Mussorgsky’s friend, the painter and architect Viktor Hartmann. Balakirev’s Islamey was composed five years earlier and was long regarded as the most difficult work in the entire piano repertory, and in fact, when Ravel 1908 composed Scarbo, the third movement of Gaspard de la Nuit, he specifically wanted to write something that would be even more difficult.
“The pianist Freddy Kempf looks poetic and serious on the cover photo. He’s also straining for effect in these performances. In the Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition he settles too quickly for the brilliance that screams and thumps. There’s some of that, too, in the finale to Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, though the hanged man in Le Gibet is barely sensed. Still, he can be subtle, and Balakirev’s Islamey, the virtuoso’s nightmare, comes off well” The Times, 20th June 2008 ***
“Freddy Kempf's forthright performances of all three [works] contain some impressive moments, and his mastery of the technical challenges in the works is formidable, but in each case individuality and character are in short supply. There's plenty of colour in Pictures, and a high degree of characterisation, but little of the physicality and teetering excitement that Richter's famous live recording has in bucketfuls, while the subtly shifting textures of Ravel's three fantasy portraits are too prosaic for music that should glimmer and glitter in an almost intangible and indefinable way.” The Guardian, 18th July 2008 ***
“Freddy Kempf here tackles three giants of the piano repertoire and conquers them with spirit and imagination. Armed with all the necessary technical resources, he is able to bring colour and well-defined character to Pictures from an Exhibition, revealing how ingeniously Mussorgsky exploited the piano's palette of sound without the aid of all those later arrangers who chose to embellish it with orchestral timbres.
One of those was Ravel, whose Gaspard de la nuit here glows, ripples and, in "Scarbo", bristles with malevolence. The bravura of Balakirev's Islamey is brilliant.” The Telegraph, 12th July 2008
“For fans of the contemporary virtuoso, this disc is not only stupendously recorded, but a sign that standards these days are extraordinarily high in this area.” BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2008 ****
“…a formidable programme formidably played. This is "live" virtuosity with a vengeance, with absolutely no hint of a safety net, of playing within studio confines.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008
“After a perhaps necessary break Freddy Kempf returns to the studio armed with a formidable programme formidably played. In the Mussorgsky his immense energy and facility allows him an unusual degree of freedom with a brisk opening Promenade followed by an unleashing of his virtuoso credentials in 'Gnomus'. He takes a uniformly forte view of 'Bydlo' (though his final fading of the vision is masterly). And so, too, is his enviable verve in both 'Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks' and 'Limoges'. 'Baba Yaga' is boldly characterised, and there is a dramatic splash of colour, a sudden pedal haze at 1'12” in 'The Great Gate of Kiev'.
In Ravel's Gaspard every teeming complexity is resolved with the coolest of mind and hands.
You may query a lack of rhetoric or broadening at the climax of 'Ondine' (it is marked un peu pluslent) and a less than fully sympathetic way with the many piano and pianissimo markings in 'Scarbo'. Yet this is among the finer recordings of this much-recorded masterpiece. In Balakirev's Islamey Kempf relishes everything the composer throws at him. This is 'live' virtuosity with a vengeance, with absolutely no hint of a safety net, of playing within studio confines.
A superb, brilliant-toned Steinway has been captured in admirable sound, and this recital is among the finest of Freddy Kempf's offerings to date.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Tchaikovsky - Francesca Da Rimini & Hamlet
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