Presto News - 17th December 2012
Wispelwey and Schiff re-visit Bach
Two recent Bach releases to tell you about this week – and both of them examples of musicians coming back to re-record repertoire which they’ve recorded before.
Firstly Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey celebrating his fiftieth birthday by re-recording for the third time one of the great cornerstones of the cello repertoire – Bach’s six Suites for unaccompanied cello. These suites are full of mysteries, ranging from why Bach wrote them in the first place, what instrument(s) and tuning to use, to all sorts of stylistic and interpretative questions. The fact that there is no manuscript in Bach’s own hand just adds to the uncertainties, and that there is nothing else like them in the repertoire, perhaps all helps explain why Wispelwey feels his ideas and interpretations have changed sufficiently to justify re-visiting these works again on disc.
The most unusual aspect of the new recording is the pitch, where Wispelwey uses what is believed to have been common in Cöthen, Germany – where Bach was working when he wrote the Suites. To do this Wispelwey tunes his cello down a whole tone from what is common today and the result is much more grainy, rustic sound, which at times resembles more a viol or even a double bass than a cello. But combined with Wispelwey’s dancing, light articulation it produces a thoroughly persuasive account.
This release comes complete with an intriguing bonus DVD featuring discussion and debate between Wispelwey and pre-eminent Bach scholars Laurence Dreyfus and John Butt about the mysteries of the Suites and the decisions to be made when performing them. It is a fascinating set and essential listening for all lovers of the cello and Bach in general.
The other musician going back into the studio this year to re-record Bach was Hungarian-born British pianist András Schiff, who earned wide esteem for his 1980s recordings of the composers’ major keyboard works on Decca. Over the last few years his second recordings of the Goldberg Variations and the six Partitas have drawn a whole new wave of appreciation, and his latest release – a four disc set of the complete 48 preludes and fugues of ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ – has been one of the highlights of the autumn.
Using virtually no sustaining pedal, Schiff brings great rhythmic and melodic clarity that reveals much of the wonders of this music. Less sentimental than his earlier recording there is a directness and intelligence which combined with careful tempo considerations between preludes and fugues sound on the whole somehow ‘right’. Just occasionally I longed for an extra tenderness or special something, but that may be more due to growing up with other recordings rather than because the music actually demands it.
In summary it is ultimately a credit to Bach that performers go back and re-record his music perhaps more than any other composer. As Schiff stated in the booklet note to his second Partitas recording, “Great music is far greater than its performers”. Musicians spend their whole lives striving for greater insights into things like the structure and the magic of this great music, and it is therefore not surprising that as they get older (and wiser) they feel they have something new to say and want the focus and discipline of a recording to make that new statement.
Sound samples as usual via the links below, plus a short video trailer for the Wispelwey. Enjoy!
Pieter Wispelwey 392: 50th Anniversary Recording
Pieter Wispelwey (cello)
Bach, J S: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2
Andras Schiff (piano)
Chris O'Reilly - firstname.lastname@example.org
17th December 2012
Schubert: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6
Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, David Zinman
"There is, within the symphonies, so much music I wouldn’t want to be without; a wonderful melodic and harmonic treasure trove that is memorable and irreplaceable, and which influenced generations of composers who came after him. - David Zinman on Schubert
Schumann: Symphonische Etuden, Arabesque & Waldszenen
Martin Helmchen (piano)
Martin Helmchen continues his successful series of recordings for Pentatone with his first disc of Schumann's solo piano music, including the Waldszenen, Op. 82 and the Études symphoniques, Op. 13. With freshness and Helmchen's now trademark beauty of tone this is very fine playing indeed.
Dowland: Tunes of Sad Despaire
Dominique Visse (countertenor), Fretwork, Renaud Delaigue & Eric Bellocq
This disc is a wonderful collection of his melancholic works (difficult to achieve as the composer himself never made a ‘collection’ as such), performed here by the fantastic Fretwork ensemble with countertenor Dominque Visse singing.
Martinu: Complete Piano Trios
Arbor Piano Trio: Dmitri Vorobiev (piano), Stephen Shipps (violin) & Richard Aaron (cello)
Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů excelled in chamber music and made a substantial contribution to the piano trio repertoire of the twentieth century, his keen ear for balance and sonority finding here a perfect medium for his music.
Anne Sofie von Otter (Carmen), Marcus Haddock (Don José), Laurent Naouri (Escamillo), Lisa Milne (Micaëla), London Philharmonic Orchestra & The Glyndebourne Chorus, Philippe Jordan
This 2002 production provides Anne-Sofie von Otter with her, to date, only Carmen, and young Swiss conductor Phillippe Jordan, currently music director of the Opéra national de Paris, with his UK debut. Anne-Sofie von Otter’s gypsy femme fatale is immediate from the moment she first appears onstage to deliver her character-defining Habanera.
Carl Vine: String Quartets
Goldner String Quartet
Carl Vine has emerged as one of Australia’s foremost and popular composers, his music performed and heard regularly in concert halls. His 5 string quartets – 3 of them recorded here for the first time – are alive with beauty, wit and humour. Vine’s first string quartet – Knips Suite, was written in London for choreographer Ian Spink to accompany a dance for the Basic Space Dance Group for performances in Edinburgh in 1979.
Glass: Einstein on the Beach & The Changing Image of Opera
Bruckner Orchester Linz, Dennis Russell Davies
In celebration of the 2012 revival of Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Orange Mountain Music and BAM present Einstein on the Beach.
It is a one CD highlight collection of the entire opera, with a companion DVD of the film The Changing Image of Opera affordably priced and available for the first time.
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71 - DVD
Mariinsky Ballet & Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
Mariinsky Theatre Musical Director, Valery Gergiev, conducts Tchaikovsky’s glorious score in this enchanting, traditional, Russian production of The Nutcracker. Vainonen’s stunning choreography is complemented by Simon Virsaladze’s wonderfully colourful designs, and the roles of Masha and her Nutcracker Prince are danced by two of the Mariinsky’s award-winning, international soloists, all of which make this as magical and memorable a Christmas treat as ever.
Blu-ray version also available here
BBC Radio 3 CD Review
Saturday 15th December 2012
Building a Library - Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Op. 84
(as part of a 9-disc set 'Sviatoslav Richter - Complete Solo Piano Recordings')
Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
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