Presto News - 19th November 2012
Belcea Quartet launch their Beethoven cycle
Beethoven’s String quartets are generally regarded as the cornerstone of the whole quartet repertoire. Having only really been established as a form in the late 18th century by Joseph Haydn, over the course of his life Beethoven developed and extended the form from its Classical Viennese origins into one of the most personal and profound mediums at a composer’s disposal.
His quartets divide neatly into the three generally adopted periods of his life – from the early period the opus 18 set of six quartets (1799-1800) where you can clearly hear his Classical Viennese origins, but enhanced with frequent and often sudden changes of dynamics and mood, plus extensions and deviations from the standard quartet form and structure.
Then the from the middle period, the three opus 59 quartets (known as the ‘Rasumovsky’ quartets) from 1806, plus the opus 74 (the ‘Harp’) and opus 95 (the ‘Serioso’) from 1809 and 1810, which are generally much richer, more dramatic, and with greater extremes of tempo, character and expression.
And finally from the late period, the opuses 127, 130 (and its original ‘Große Fuge’ ending now known as opus 133), 131, 132 and 135. Dating from 1823-26 these were some of the last works Beethoven composed and without doubt some of his greatest achievements. Highly personal, at times tender, at other times shocking, intense, beautiful, sometimes very long, and not at all easy to understand – in fact almost as if from another world. As viola player Krzysztof Chorzelski wrote last year on the Belcea Quartet’s blog “They hark back to the Gregorian Chant, Palestrina and look ahead to Stravinsky, Bartok and beyond.”
The Belcea Quartet have been performing these quartets extensively over the last couple of years and have recently finished recording the complete cycle. The first of three volumes has just been released and I’ve been enjoying it immensely. It contains eight quartets from across the three periods described above, which means you can also hear the way Beethoven’s compositional style developed and changed throughout his life.
This is really very fine quartet playing, with excellent ensemble and complete sympathy and understanding between the players. They’re not afraid to change their sound frequently and sometimes violently to best express the nature of the music, and the sweetest, most singing and beautiful tone is made all the more so when contrasted against the earthy, grainy sonority at other moments.
Tempos are well thought out (generally with his metronome marks at least in mind), and climaxes calculated and powerful whilst resisting the urge to drive too aggressively towards them. The recorded sound (live in concert) is excellent – wonderfully alive, and captures the quartet’s bold, fearless interpretations wonderfully.
So much to enjoy here, there are sound samples and a short video available via the links below. Whether you are already familiar with Beethoven’s quartets or not, this comes highly recommended. I’m told the remaining two volumes are planned for 2013. I for one can’t wait!
Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets Vol. 1
Chris O'Reilly - firstname.lastname@example.org
19th November 2012
Yevgeny Sudbin plays Liszt, Ravel & Saint-Saëns
Yevgeny Sudbin (piano)
BIS is proud to present a new disc from star pianist Yevgeny Sudbin who here combines works by Liszt, Ravel and Saint-Saëns under the themes of Love, Delirium and Death.
Lutoslawski: Orchestral Works 3
Paul Watkins (cello), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner
This is the fourth volume in Chandos’ series devoted to the music of the Polish composer Witold Lutosławski. Paul Watkins is the soloist in the Cello Concerto, one of the most original works of recent times.
Weinberg: Symphony No. 19 ‘Bright May’ & The Banners of Peace
St Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Lande
Mieczysław Weinberg’s 26 symphonies are seen today as a substantial continuation of the Russian tradition. Symphony No. 19 marks ‘Bright May’ as the month in which the Great Patriotic War came to an end, but expressed with ominous apprehension as well as celebration.
JS Bach: Une Cantate Imaginaire
Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto/conductor), Orfeo 55
After attracting attention at the French "Victoires de la Musique Classique" Awards in 2012, the contralto and conductor Nathalie Stutzmann is back with her Orfeo 55 ensemble.
For her new album, Nathalie Stutzmann has imagined an "ideal" cantata based on the most beautiful music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach: her imaginary cantata includes vocal arias of course, but also instrumental pieces and even chorales.
Villazon sings Verdi
Rolando Villazon (tenor), Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Torino, Gianandrea Noseda
Released to coincide with Verdi’s anniversary year (1813 to 2013.) A unique and carefully-crafted personal selection of Verdi arias and songs that takes us on a musical journey from Verdi's earliest compositions 1838 to the very last he wrote for the tenor voice: the beautiful aria from Falstaff "Dal labbro il canto estasiato vola" 1893
My Beloved Spake - Anthems by Henry Purcell & Pelham Humfrey
Iestyn Davies (counter-tenor), James Gilchrist (tenor), David Stout (baritone) & Neal Davies (bass), Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge & St John’s Sinfonia, Andrew Nethsingha
The works by Purcell recorded here range from works written when the composer was in his teenage years (Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei being a masterly example) to the crowning glory of the recording, O sing unto the Lord, which Purcell wrote when he was in his thirties, and compositionally on fire.
Brahms: The Complete Piano Trios
Following on from the recording of the complete trios of Antonin Dvořak (Supraphon), the renowned and critically acclaimed Smetana Trio have taken the logical step of recording a Johannes Brahms album of the same ilk. As a pianist, Brahms earned admiration back in his childhood and later on many occasions even premiered his own pieces. Almost four decades span the first trio Brahms wrote, at the age of twenty, and the last. Besides piano trios in the traditional configuration, he composed a trio for horn and a trio for clarinet.
Sally Matthews, Veronica Cangemi, Olga Pasichnyk, Silvia Tro Santafé, Andrew Foster-Williams, Umberto Chiummo & Jan-Willem Schaafsma, Concerto Köln, Ivor Bolton (conductor) & David Alden (director)
De Nederlandse Opera presents a new production of Händel's last Italian opera, Deidamia, staged by the American David Alden. No known literary source has been linked directly to this opera, which is set at the time of the Trojan War. Premiere of this opera on DVD & Blu-ray, performed by Concerto Köln, a period instrument orchestra, and starring, amongst others Sally Matthews and Olga Pasichnyk.
Blu-ray version also available here
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