Presto News - 17th May 2010
The multi-talented Julia Fischer
Julia Fischer and Martin Helmchen’s first volume of Schubert Violin Sonatas released last year achieved fantastic reviews and sold in significant numbers. I imagine there are quite a few people like me therefore who have been eagerly awaiting the release of the second and concluding volume. Well, I’m pleased to say that the wait is finally over as it is released today, and it is not only as good as volume 1, but actually even better!
None of Schubert’s violin sonatas is particularly well known, but probably the most famous (and in my view the best) is his last one in A major, D574, which he wrote in 1817 and was nicknamed over thirty years later by the publisher ‘Duo’ (as compared to his earlier sonatas the piano becomes more of an equal partner). It is an immediately attractive work, full of fun and spirit. Fischer and Helmchen bring out this aspect superbly and sound like they’re enjoying themselves hugely. Phrasing is always natural and the way they match each other in the frequent motivic exchanges is typical of their complete unanimity throughout the disc.
The Fantasia in C major, D934 which follows is a much later work, written in 1827, just a year before Schubert died. It is brilliant, full of the sort of brooding intensity which is common in many of Schubert’s late works. It traverses a number of different emotions, with at least two of the movements based on Schubert’s songs. It has a lovely Andantino which Fischer and Helmchen successfully resist the urge to over-indulge, before the hushed tremolos of the opening movement return at the beginning of the finale to give the work a cyclic unity.
And that concludes the survey of Schubert’s works for violin and piano. Like the first disc Fischer brings a beautiful sweet tone with immaculate articulation and wonderful singing line, while Helmchen offers a remarkably sensitive and responsive pianism, with complete technical control and a deep understanding of the music. They could have ended the disc there, but at only 45 minutes it would have been a bit short, so as a remarkable bonus we’re treated to Julia Fischer’s recording debut as a pianist in one of the truly great works of the piano duet repertoire: Schubert’s Fantasie in F minor, D940.
It is a work full of drama and with a real richness and variety of textures. Fischer and Helmchen portray the different moods here with real characterisation – the dramatic passages are exciting are powerful, while the tender ones are beautiful and moving. Like in the violin sonatas they play with one voice throughout and it is actually very hard to tell them apart. Helmchen made a superb recording of Schubert’s penultimate Piano Sonata last year (D959) so you expect brilliance from him, but Julia Fischer’s playing is right up there, and it is very hard to believe that you are listening to someone playing their ‘second’ instrument. If you’re impressed as I am then you might want to keep an eye out for a DVD of her performing the Grieg Piano Concerto which is due out on Decca later in the year, but in the mean time I’ve put on a couple of samples below to help whet your appetite.
Schubert - Complete Works for Violin and Piano, Volume 2
Julia Fischer (violin/piano) & Martin Helmchen (piano)
Chris O'Reilly - email@example.com
17th May 2010
Pergolesi - Stabat Mater
Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano) & Robin Blaze (countertenor), Florilegium, Ashley Solomon
As a composer Pergolesi’s productive career began at the age of twenty, and by twenty-six (March 1736) he had died of tuberculosis. During his lifetime Pergolesi’s fame was restricted, in the main, to Rome and Naples, yet after his death his reputation eclipsed most other composers in the second half of the eighteenth century.
The whole of Europe developed an increasing curiosity for his compositions. His posthumous celebrity status was such a magnet in the music world that, hoping to reap large financial profits, publishers and opera directors alike attributed his name to hundreds of vocal and instrumental works by lesser-known composers. Following Pergolesi’s death the Stabat Mater became one of the most celebrated and frequently printed works of the 18th century.
Yuja Wang (piano)
On the heels of her impressive Deutsche Grammophon debut recital album, pianist Yuja Wang’s return recording for the label – Transformation – categorically demonstrates that she is a young master of the Steinway.
Her new album excites with a demanding recital that includes some of the most electrifying pieces of piano literature – Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka, Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Scarlatti’s Sonatas in E and B minor, and Ravel’s La Valse.
Copland & Finzi - Clarinet Concertos
Sarah Williamson (clarinet), Orchestra of the Swan, David Curtis
Sarah Williamson was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician competition in 2002 and gave a highly individual performance of the Copland Clarinet Concerto.
“Williamson is infectious in the jazzy passages in the lively finale [of the Copland]...In the cadenza-like passages in both concertos Williamson is wonderfully persuasive, giving the impression of improvising the music, and the Allegro giocoso finale is a delight.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2010
Katarina Dalayman (Brünnhilde), Lars Cleveman (Siegfried), Peter Coleman-Wright (Gunther), Attila Jun (Hagen), Nancy Gustafson (Gutrune), Susan Bickley (Waltraute), Andrew Shore (Alberich), The Hallé, Hallé Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus, Sir Mark Elder
(May 2010 Hallé releases the live recording of their universally acclaimed performance of Wagner's Götterdämmerung.
“the splendour of the playing...and Elder’s measured but always momentous conducting, are the main reasons for acquiring this five-disc set - Sunday Times, 9th May 2010
The performance is also being released on MP3 format, which is ideal for those who want to listen to it only on a computer or transfer it to an iPod. But please be careful as the MP3 version will not work on a standard CD player.)
Foerster - Complete Symphonies Volume 3
Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra, Hermann Bäumer
Hermann Bäumer and his Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra present Foerster’s fifth symphony and one of his early orchestral works as the crowning conclusion of this series. The Echo jury has not been alone in its enchantment with the fascinating recordings of Foerster’s orchestral works. International critics have likewise praised this orchestra and conductor.
Stravinsky - Monumentum, Mass, Symphony of Psalms & Choral Variations
Collegium Vocale Gent & Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Philippe Herreweghe
Collegium Vocale Gent is considered to be one of the best vocal ensembles in the world. The most important work on the album is the Symphony of Psalms. Stravinsky said “it is not a symphony in which I have included to be sung. On the contrary, it is the singing of Psalms that I am symphonizing."
Purcell - Love Songs
Dorothee Mields (soprano), Lautten Compagney Berlin, Wolfgang Katschner
Dorothee Mields has specialized in 17th and 18th century music from early on in her career and performs with the Collegium Vocale Ghent and the Bach Collegium Japan. Her artistic work and her repertoire extend from Monteverdi and Bach to Grisey and Furrer. The Lautten Compagney Berlin is one of the most renowned German baroque ensembles.
11 New re-issues
Budget label Alto continues to re-issue some great recordings from the catalogues at fantastic prices. This month amongst other things you can enjoy Alfred Brendel playing Mozart, Felicity Lott singing Schubert, Rudolf Barshai conducting Prokofiev, Sviatoslav Richter playing Schubert and the Talich Quartet playing Smetana.
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