Presto News - 6th February 2012
There isn’t a huge amount of repertoire for solo trumpet so, after acclaimed recordings of the Haydn and Hummel Concertos as well as a couple of Baroque discs and a disc of popular arrangements, it was inevitable that Alison Balsom would soon be looking towards more contemporary repertoire. Her new recording ‘Seraph’ is named after the new concerto written for her by James MacMillan which opens the disc but, coupled with the popular and romantically inclined Arutiunian Concerto and the masterpiece which is Bernd Alois Zimmerman’s Concerto from 1954, this isn’t only perfectly approachable, but core repertoire for the instrument.
The MacMillan Concerto, scored for trumpet and strings, was premiered last year at the Wigmore Hall accompanied by the Scottish Ensemble, and it is indeed that performance which is heard here. MacMillan clearly understands the varied and subtle colours and emotions that the instrument can express as, while the outer movements have plenty of punchy character and no shortage of notes, the central movement is much more haunting in feeling, with the trumpet and solo violin soaring and intertwining beautifully. Balsom’s remarkable breath control across long quiet notes is astonishing, and I think it is one of the most moving movements MacMillan has ever written.
Before the Arutiunian Concerto we get to hear the short solo trumpet work by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu called Paths, written in the early 1990s. It is a beautiful piece, with extensive use of the Harmon mute (plunger removed), and superbly shows off the subtleties of the instrument and its range of colours.
Completed in 1950, the Armenian composer Alexander Arutiunian’s concerto quickly entered the mainstream repertoire for the instrument. Immediately attractive, it contains both soulful beautiful melodies as well as flashy dancing rhythms. Accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Lawrence Renes, this is a polished and spirited performance which Balsom makes sound effortless.
Prior to the concluding Zimmermann Concerto Balsom plays an evocative arrangement of the black American spiritual Nobody knows de trouble I see which she arranged herself with the pianist Tom Poster. It is really simple, with subtle changes as the piece evolves and a very sparse texture throughout. She accompanies herself with a multi-tracked very quiet trumpet backing and just odd piano notes. It sets the mood for the ensuing concerto (which uses the same spiritual as its basis) beautifully.
The Bernd Alois Zimmerman Concerto which concludes the disc was written in 1954 and is widely considered the finest of all latter-day trumpet concertos. As Balsom points out:
“It was very ahead of its time in the way it successfully blends jazz and humorous elements with dark elements, songlike elements and absurd, crazy elements.”
Set a bit like a series of variations with moods ranging from threatening to ironic, there is a lot to take in and with Zimmermann’s very original language and a wide range of techniques (including extensive use of jazz), this is a work of substantial scale. The orchestration includes big band brass, an array of percussion and a Hammond organ, but with unstinting commitment from Balsom, who plays with real passion and belief throughout, this is a memorable performance and well worth returning to.
Much to enjoy here. Sound samples as usual are available via the links below.
Alison Balsom: Seraph
Alison Balsom (trumpet), Scottish Ensemble, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Lawrence Renes
Chris O'Reilly - email@example.com
6th February 2012
Beethoven & Berg: Violin Concertos
Isabelle Faust (violin), Orchestra Mozart, Claudio Abbado
“My first collaboration with Claudio Abbado – with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in 2008 – opened my eyes to a new way of understanding and experiencing the Beethoven Violin Concerto. He then expressed the wish to perform Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto, this time with the Orchestra Mozart. It seemed to him to be an obvious and natural continuation of the project to record these two works in further rehearsals and in concert and to produce a CD of them.” - Isabelle Faust
Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande
Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez, renowned for championing the most daring music of the 20th century, leads this 2003 Tokyo concert, played in the presence of Japan’s Emperor and Empress. Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande could have received no treatment more royal than Boulez gives it at Suntory Hall with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra.
Debussy: Clair de lune
Natalie Dessay (soprano) & Philippe Cassard (piano)
Two leading French performers – soprano Natalie Dessay and pianist Philippe Cassard – come together in vocal works from the early career of Claude Debussy, whose 150th anniversary falls in 2012. Their recital includes four unpublished songs reflecting the young composer’s love for the soprano wife of one of his patrons. In Cassard’s words, Dessay informs these works with “her charisma as an actress, her energy, her temperament and her virtuosity, with its joyous sense of fun”.
Watch - Video trailers available for this item (in French, but with some beautiful musical examples!)
Rafał Blechacz plays Debussy & Szymanowski
Rafał Blechacz (piano)
Rafał Blechacz is one of DG’s best-selling young artists – his stunning albums have sold more than 160,000 units worldwide. Blechacz is by talent, proclivity, and nationality the perfect choice to record works by his fellow Pole, Szymanowski, and therefore to record Debussy, too – whose presence in Szymanowski’s musical DNA looms large.
Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6
London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis
The second release in Sir Colin Davis’s acclaimed Nielsen Symphony cycle features Symphonies Nos 1 & 6. The first title in the series, Symphonies Nos 4 & 5, was an Editor’s Choice in Gramophone and Orchestral Choice of the Month in BBC Music Magazine. The final release in the cycle, Symphonies 2 & 3, will be released at the end of 2012.
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Volume 1
Hj Lim (piano)
The brilliant 24-year-old Korean pianist HJ Lim, who signed an exclusive contract with EMI Classics in September 2011, has recorded her first project for the label, an ambitious traversal of the Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas.
Lim, a Yamaha exclusive artist, recorded the sonatas on a Yamaha CFX concert grand piano in July and August 2011, grouping them into eight themes. The recordings will be released as four 2-CD sets over the course of 2012 with a complete deluxe box set to be available at the conclusion of the project.
Vivaldi: Orlando Furioso, RV728 - DVD
Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Jennifer Larmore, Verónica Cangemi, Philippe Jaroussky, Ensemble Matheus & Choeur du Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Jean-Christophe Spinosi (conductor) & Pierre Audi (director)
Based on the most famous episode from Ludicovo Ariosto's epic poem, Vivaldi’s opera Orlando Furioso (first performed in Venice in the autumn of 1727) depicts a set of astoundingly lively and very individual characters in a plot that moves at a breathless pace. This unforgettable gallery features not only Orlando himself – here a female contralto, sung by Marie-Nicole Lemieux, much acclaimed for her sumptuous voice and dramatic commitment, who is given a series of astounding virtuoso arias – but also the tragic figure of the sorceress Alcina (Jennifer Larmore), the voluptuous Angelica (Verónica Cangemi), the valiant Ruggiero (a stunning Philippe Jaroussky), and the proud female warrior Bradamante (Kristina Hammarström).
Mercury Living Presence Collector’s Edition
Mercury Living Presence is special in many ways – an American company, from the heyday of classical recording in the U.S. that reproduced some of the most sonically realistic recordings at the dawn of the stereo era. Precious few stereo LPs were pressed when these recordings were issued, and they became some of the rarest, most collectible classical discs ever.
Mercury Living Presence continues to enjoy a special reputation as one of the most enterprising, prestigious and sonically-spectacular labels in the history of classical recording.
Some of these recordings have previously been available on CD and on SACD; however, many are now deleted and only available second-hand or through auction-sellers at premium prices. This 50-album boxed set (plus bonus interview CD with Wilma Cozart Fine, Mercury’s producer) affords collectors an opportunity to acquire 50 classic recordings at a terrific price, in a box which may well become collectible itself.
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