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This monumental work of French Romanticism is one of the essential landmarks in the career of any conductor. The quality of Berlioz’s orchestration and questions of timbre and the ideal instrumental forces lie at the core of the approach of Jos van Immerseel and Anima Eterna Brugge, who are increasingly drawn to French composers and especially to their precise, shimmering orchestral textures.
Surprisingly enough, it was the influence of the master orchestrator Rimsky-Korsakov on Ravel that made Jos van Immerseel want to tackle such pieces as Bolero and La Valse in a recording singled out by the press in 2006 for its hypnotic power and the quality of the timbres and phrasing.
Over long months of preparation, the musicians steeped themselves in Berlioz’s music, his Treatise on instrumentation and his Memoirs, and gradually formed an image of the construction of this masterpiece in which poetry, imagination, lyricism, rhythmic invention and evocative power form the basis of a purely Romantic language of great subtlety.
The choice of period instruments (double basses from the period just after the instrument was modernised, French ‘omnitonic’ clarinets by Müller, ‘ordinary’ flutes from before the invention of the Boehm system, valved horns with crooks to avoid transposition, an ophicleide, an Érard harp, timpani with a central screw played with the sticks specifically called for by Berlioz, two Érard pianos to provide low harmonics in imitation of bells in the Dies irae of the Songe d’une nuit de sabbat), familiarity with Berlioz’s Treatise on instrumentation and Pierre Baillot’s L’Art de jouer du violon (notably with respect to vibrato), and respect for the composer’s dynamics constitute the principal bases for the sound world of this interpretation, which is at once refined in its Classical style and haunted by the pungent timbres of the brass and of those diabolical clarinets, abyssal bells, and rattling death-march timpani.
‘The result may be regarded as surprising and unexpected. Every moment of the performance testifies to the musical and technical mastery of the interpreters and their understanding of the grammar of this music, but also reflects their passion for and fascination with it.’ Jos van Immerseel
Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
I. Reveries: Largo - Passions: Allegro agitato e appassionato assai
II. Un Bal (Valse): Allegro non troppo
III. Scene aux Champs: Adagio
IV. Marche au Supplice: Allegretto non troppo
V. Songe d'une Nuit du Sabbat: Larghetto - Allegro
Hector Berlioz: Le carnaval romain, Op. 9
Le carnaval romain (Roman Carnaval), Op. 9
The Independent on Sunday
24th January 2010
“The forces are small, the sound translucent in Rêveries/Passions and Un Bal, brittle and dusty in the Marche au Supplice. Two Erard pianos replace the bells in Songe d'une Nuit du Sabbat, an odd, alluring sound. Scène aux Champs is particularly poetic”
24th January 2010
“...it is the sheer raw clarity of every line and colour in these Flemish players’ performance, and its effect on the rhythms, that strikes you, especially in their revelatory account of the opening movement.”
28th January 2010
“Immerseel's approach, his choice of tempi and phrasing, are relatively conservative...but the raw edge that the period instruments bring to Berlioz's soundworld is often viscerally exciting, with a pair of ophicleides adding a feral growl to the brass bass lines”
13th March 2010
“Wiry strings, characterful woodwinds, an original Erard harp and pianos tolling instead of bells — all reasons for pinning the ears back as you listen to the Symphonie Fantastique from Jos van Immerseel’s esteemed period instrument orchestra.”
“For its combination of unique orchestral size and recording quality, and overall Werktreu-ness, this new performance sits easily alongside, maybe even slightly ahead of, the other authentic contenders.”
“'Fantastique' indeed as the symphony has all its original colours via the stunning period instruments of Anima Eterna”
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Susanne Heinrich’s first solo release for Hyperion was a deliciously atmsopheric award-winning disc of music by Abel. She continues her exploration of the world of the viol with this fascinating selection of works by the English composer Tobias Hume. Hume is a paradoxical figure: sometime mercenary solider and popularly described as a dilettante, the suggestive titles of some of these pieces reinforce that picture—a picture that is belied by the music itself. Many of these works show a deep understanding of pure, translucent emotion, as if to take a magnifying glass straight to the core of one’s feelings. A sense of melancholy and sadness, enhanced by Heinrich’s sympathetic playing, entices the listener into a world of dark enchantment.
“Ah, but the music! The melancholy of the opening and closing tracks is bewitching. Here, and elsewhere on the disc, Heinrich dramatically - often poetically - conveys Hume's deeply personal, seemingly reflective musical utterances...Bravo!” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
“Every now and then, a CD is released that knocks one’s reviewing socks off with its combined originality of repertoire and quality of musical performance...the music dances, muses and mourns within her warm tone. The ornamentation is clean and elegant, rubatos are beautifully judged, and technical challenges are carried off with a sense of effortlessness.” Charlotte Gardner, bbc.co.uk, 28th April 2010
Few composers can have boasted quite such a colourful existence as the medieval poet and sometime diplomat Oswald von Wolkenstein. Having grown up in a Tyrolean castle, in a world recently ripped apart by the Black Death and immersed in religious and territorial conflict, Wolkenstein became something of a wandering knight with a complicated private life. If his travels greatly embellished the subject matter of his works they also enriched the musical form, as he incorporated French songs into the German style. A singer of warm humanity, Andreas Scholl's creamy and communicative countertenor voice has greatly endeared him to critics and public alike. This programme, the result of new research into von Wolkenstein, will feature previously unrecorded songs and instrumental arrangements.
“Scholl seems fully at ease in this, his own musical heritage, which he delivers with a keen awareness of poetic shape and nuance, and of the fine line between speech and song in the nascent Lied.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2010 ****
“This is a winner...Scholl projects [Oswald's] texts magnificently, drawing on an inexhaustible range of colours and moods. His instrumental ensemble...are deployed with imagination as well as with a restraint that reflects the very latest position of musicological research...The result is an absolute ear-opener.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
“Even if you think you know the work intimately, Järvi's interpretation will likely render it afresh in many ways, a precious gift from a major talent.” The Independent, 15th January 2010 *****
“The Bremen Chamber Philharmonic plays superlatively as in earlier releases in this series, and delivers plenty of surprises...There is intensity, disruptiveness and excitement here, and it is well worth listening to.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2010 ***
“With any good Ninth the prospect of an imminent onslaught should posit itself right from the opening bars, and Järvi's certainly does that...Without doubt a worthy climax to a very fine cycle.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
This is the latest Mahler recording from the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Roger Norrington. This recording marks the crowning achievement of Norrington’s exploration of the Romantic Symphony masterpieces.
“it is fascinating to set aside sensationalism in favour of re-evaluation and to hear this remarkable piece stripped, as it were, of its veneer and laid bare before us in all its unsettling majesty and humility...Refresh your ears and your perceptions and prepare to be surprised again.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
“This vivid live recording is a total vindication of Roger Norrington's belief that orchestral string sound acquires power and eloquence when played without any vibrato...it is especially in the last movement that Norrington's momentum and the pure, clear sound of the strings come together” The Observer, 13th June 2010
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s complete Debussy cycle has proven to be a real winner with the critics and the record buying public. He now embarks on the Haydn Piano Sonatas, and confirms that he should in no way be pigeon-holed in French repertoire.
Few leading pianists have recorded these virtuosic Classical sonatas but Maestro Bavouzet felt he had something new to contribute. He plays a Yamaha grand, imported from France which he felt best suited the timbre that he wanted to achieve.
The programme for Volume 1 contains the experimental and ambitious Sonata in A flat major, No.31; the elegantly virtuosic Sonata in D major, No.39l, expressive Sonata in B minor, No.47 and the almost Schubertian Sonatas in C sharp minor, No.49. Volume Two will be released this autumn.
Bavouzet launches this new series with the support of a number of concerts across Europe.
“This first release in a long-term series offers four sonatas, dispatched with scintillating brightness and many ornamental trills...It’s impossible not to be impressed...by the panache of No 39 in D or the grand carnival of the relatively lengthy No 31 in A-flat.” The Times, 12th March 2010
“nothing, either in expression or tone, is ever forced. It helps that [Bavouzet's] modern grand (maker unspecified) has a relatively crisp lower register, and that the recorded sound rightly achieves spaciousness and intimacy...a wonderfully promising series.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2010 ****
“however extensive his survey turns out to be, the results should be well worth hearing...Though he exploits all the tonal possibilities of the modern concert grand, Bavouzet also makes full use of the latest ideas on performance practice...It's the best kind of historically alert piano playing.” The Guardian, 25th March 2010 ****
“The scherzando middle movement of the C sharp minor sonata (No 49) made me want to dance around the room to Bavouzet’s joyous playing. Unadulterated bliss.” Sunday Times, 28th March 2010 *****
“[Haydn's sonatas] still have a Baroque feel which Bavouzet doesn’t seek to play down, and he conveys Haydn’s impish spirit with the utmost clarity.” The Telegraph, 26th March 2010 ****
“The French pianist renowned for Debussy has now turned his attention to Haydn, and the results are effervescent and dazzling” The Observer, 4th April 2010
“Clarity of line is paramount in this music and that is what Bavouzet delivers: he views the sonatas with sobriety but by no means dispassionately...Discreet ornamentation adds allure to music that offers both majesty and sweetness, and ranges from the grand gesture to Haydn's trademark high jinks” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
“This beautifully recorded disc promises well for another classic Bavouzet set to complement his Debussy recordings.” Classic FM Magazine, April 2010
Recorded live at the Bayreuth Festival in July & August 2009, this production marks the beginning of an exciting new long-term partnership between the Bayreuth Festival and Opus Arte. The prestigious music festival takes place each year in northern Germany in a theatre that Wagner himself personally supervised the design and construction of. The festival has become a pilgrimage destination for Wagner enthusiasts, who often have to wait up to ten years to obtain a ticket! Katarina Wagner, the great-grand daughter of Richard Wagner, is currently codirector of the festival together with her sister Eva Wagner-Pasquier.
Tristan und Isolde was first performed in 1865 and provided inspiration to many composers including Mahler, Strauss, Szymanowski and Berg. It is widely acknowledged as one of the peaks of the operatic repertoire, and has been performed regularly since is premiere. This production, by renowned director Christoph Marthaler, stars leading Wagner exponents Robert Dean Smith and Irene Theorin in the title roles, supported by the Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Peter Schneider.
‘Peter Schneider conducted with real feeling for the score and the prelude to the first act stole upon the ear with the magic of Bayreuth’s amazing acoustics. Robert Dean Smith is now a fine Tristan with a really beautiful voice. …Robert Holl made a moving King Marke, his magnificent bass nobly used. Some of the most beautiful singing came from Clemens Bieber's Young Seaman at the beginning.’ The Stage
‘In Tristan the standard of conducting and singing is high. Peter Schneider draws seamless playing from the orchestra, contouring Wagner’s long arcs of sound as only someone of his experience can do. Iréne Theorin and Robert Dean Smith make a well-balanced couple – she all temperament and sound, he emotionally neutral but vocally flawless.’ The Financial Times
“As in all great stagings - and I have no doubt that this is one - a list of unforgettable links between text, music and action soon accumulates. It's hard to know where to point the awards finger first in such a complete ensemble performance...Despite the ferocious competition, absolutely unmissable.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
Liszt’s Transcendental Études bear the dedication “To Carl Czerny with the deep respect of a grateful pupil”. In its ultimate form, these Romantic poems were incredibly far from Czerny’s études, with which young pianists are terrorised at school. The title of ‘transcendental’ points at the exceptional, superhuman technical difficulties which Boris Berezovsky masters with seeming ease. The cycle Years of Pilgrimage was written during travels to Switzerland and Italy when the 24-year-old Franz Liszt had romantically fled Paris with the Countess Marie d’Agoult. The pieces Venezia e Napoli – Gondoliera, Canzone and Tarantella – appeared as an addition to the second, Italian year of L’Années. The dazzling piano score serves not for a demonstration of virtuosity but rather to create coloratura, or rather a fantastical aura of sound around Italian melodies.
“Here, surely, we have the truest successor to the great Russian pianists.” Gramophone
“Can you imagine the famous "Revolutionary" Etude played by left hand alone? Hard to believe. But there it was. And, as with everything else in this concert, it was beautifully shaped. That ability to transcend the physical challenges of such preposterously difficult music was part of Berezovsky's secret. And he sustained it throughout five of Liszt's Transcendental Studies. Virtuosity was more a tool rather than an end. And at the close, after a few impeccably shaped miniatures as encores, one was left thinking that Berezovsky is one of the greatest pianists of our time.” Irish Times
“in the outer sections of Mephisto Waltz No. 1 he finds a remarkable balance between driving velocity and allowing the notes to speak...Venezia e Napoli's three pieces are here a happy experience, with Berezovsky's wonderful dexterity allowing the music to flow with the improvisatory suppleness that it needs” BBC Music Magazine, April 2010 ***
“The palpable enjoyment Boris Berezovsky conveys of playing this demanding music is not the least attraction of his outstanding performance. The technical challenges are tossed off with aplomb and exhilarating tempi, every detail clearly articulated within huge, sweeping paragraphs” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
“The use of an instrument which is lighter and smaller than a modern classical instrument...results in a delicate yet surprisingly broad range of tones and colours…This, together with Carter's refined musicianship and trademark dynamic shading shows the selection of Sor's minuets to be so much more than merely well-crafted salon music. Superb.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
“In these charming menuets and studies...William Carter follows the composer's directions, playing with his fingerpads. The sound is intimate and nostalgic, even in the Opus 14 Grand Solo, with the closing harmonics of the Opus 3 Menuet in G acting as a chaste farewell kiss.” The Independent on Sunday, 14th February 2010
“It is quite possibly the first attempt to recreate an authentic performance by the celebrated guitar virtuoso and composer, Fernando Sor...Carter has done scholarly service to the study of the early guitar in this fascinating collection of minuets, variations and studies.” The Observer, 14th February 2010
Freddy Kempf’s 2003 Prokofiev solo recital was described as ‘a superb disc’ in Gramophone, whose critic went on to write: ‘Kempf is joyfully exuberant, flashing through every savage challenge with the assurance and instinct of a born virtuoso.’
Kempf, Litton and the Bergen PO now join forces in an all-Prokofiev programme that includes the most popular of his five piano concertos, namely the Third, a spontaneous work, vigorous and melodic in turns and full of striking material presented in a typical Prokofiev manner. This is coupled with the Second Piano Concerto, which Prokofiev himself premièred in 1913, shocking the audience with its modernistic sounds and jagged rhythms.
“[In the G minor concerto] Kempf is less flamboyant than some, perhaps seeking to make musical sense of the argument. The second movement is as lithe and scintillating as one might wish.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010
“With this disc, Freddy Kempf shoots straight into the top ten of Prokofiev interpreters...[He] keeps it all spruce and plays it relatively straight...The big Rachmaninov tune in the finale [of the Third Concerto] is appropriately grand in the soloist's hands and orchestrally lush.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2010 *****
Classically trained composer and keyboard player Jon Lord is best known for his 40-year involvement in the rock group Deep Purple. In 2002 he decided to devote his time to classical composing and five years later achieved great acclaim for his ‘Durham Concerto’ which made the top 10 in the UK’s Classical Artist Chart and was the highest new entry (number 75) in Classic FM’s 2009 Hall of Fame.
‘To Notice Such Things’ is a collection of four newly-recorded orchestral works featuring the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Jon himself on piano. The title work – which takes its name from the last line of the Thomas Hardy poem “Afterwards” – is scored for flute, piano and strings and is a poignant tribute to Jon’s long time friend, the late John Mortimer, CBE, QC. Each of the suite’s six movements recalls some aspect of Mortimer’s illustrious life and career, from literature, liberalism and legalese, to days in the country and musings on life itself. This recording serves as the lasting memento of a great, beloved English eccentric. Also on the album is a gorgeous instrumental arrangement of Jon’s “Evening Song” (the original appears on the best-selling album ‘Pictured Within’); For Example, a double homage to one of Jon’s early piano teacher and an early favourite composer, Edvard Grieg; and “Air on a Blue String”, a blues-meets-Bach fusion. The album ends with Jeremy Irons reading of the poem “Afterwards”, accompanied by Jon on the piano.
“In the small but growing field of pop stars who write classical music, Lord is a clear leader.” The Times
“An avid and accomplished composer” Fanfare
“Lord's writing is consistently warm and melodically strong, and while the music is more loosely impressionistic and illustrative than symphonic in structure, it easily and touchingly sustains listener interest in its half-hour duration.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2010 ****
“Familiar from Lord's previous concert-hall works is his fluent enjoyable reimagining of later-19th- and earlier-20th-century symphonic writing and the subject matter of friends pictured within...Performance and recording are both first-class.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2010