Presto News - 27th January 2014
20th-Century Wind Quintets from Les Vents Français
The late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries saw an explosion of compositions for wind quintet, especially in France. A selection of such pieces is featured in a new two-disc set from Les Vents Français, founded by clarinettist Paul Meyer and including players such as Emmanuel Pahud, co-principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic. With such esteemed performers you would expect great things, and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed at all.
Les Vents Français
We get off to a great start with Trois Pièces brèves by Jacques Ibert, where the group lays its cards on the table with a spirited rendition full of characterful playing and virtuosic flourishes. Most of the music was new to me, including a delightfully charming suite by Darius Milhaud entitled La cheminée du roi René, written for a 1939 film by Raymond Bernard, Cavalcade d’amour. This music is exquisite, and the players bring such grace and poise to it that it’s been a pleasure to get to know this piece.
Perhaps my favourite item of the set, though, is the Wind Quintet by Paul Taffanel, which closes the first disc. The last movement, an energetic tarantella, is fiendishly difficult for every instrument, but all five players here despatch their lines with such panache that it all sounds so effortless. There’s extremely classy articulation, dynamics, and phrasing from everyone, although I can’t avoid singling out Gilbert Audin for some very fine bassoon playing!
Opening the second disc are the 6 Bagatelles by György Ligeti, where again virtuosity is on display in every bar. Apparently the final Capriccioso movement was censored at the premiere by the authorities, who refused to allow it to be played as it was ‘too dangerous’. Whatever they might have meant by that, in terms of pushing each instrument to the limit, dangerous is certainly the word! You wouldn’t know it from these performances, though, which are flawlessly executed.
Along with the Ligeti , probably the best-known piece here is Samuel Barber’s Summer Music, which again was just such a joy to listen to, containing some beautifully burnished oboe playing from François Leleux in the opening section.
Of course, because the wind quintet is made up of five such distinct timbres (one each of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn), it takes great skill to be able to balance these disparate voices successfully, and throughout this recording I was very impressed by this aspect of the quintet’s performance. Individual players come out of the texture where necessary, but all five are perfectly able to blend and sound as one unit – in particular I was constantly amazed at the ability of Radovan Vlatkovic to vary his horn tone according to the needs of the music. Witness his superbly smooth solo in the second movement of the Taffanel quintet, and compare it with the wonderfully robust sound he provides for the Ostinato movement of the Milhaud suite.
So, there’s much to enjoy here. I don’t think you could ask for five more accomplished players; every single one of them is at the top of his game, and for me at least there were several pleasing discoveries in terms of new repertoire. Highly entertaining!
Les Vents Français: French Music for Winds & 20th Century Wind Quintets
Les Vents Français (Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Paul Meyer (clarinet), Francois Leleux (oboe), Gilbert Audin (bassoon), Radovan Vlatkovic (horn))
James Longstaffe - email@example.com
27th January 2014
Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-10 (Complete)
Daishin Kashimoto (violin) & Konstantin Lifschitz (piano)
As well as his position as first concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Daishin Kashimoto is also an outstanding and passionate performer of chamber music. In this set of the complete Sonatas for Piano and Violin he is partnered by the distinguished Russian pianist Konstantin Lifschitz with whom he has performed over many years.
Schubert: Impromptus D899 & Sonata D960
Rudolf Buchbinder (piano)
For decades, pianist Rudolf Buchbinder has been researching Schubert’s original scores and early printed editions. With his new disc, recorded live at the famed Goldener Saal of the Musikverein in Vienna, he offers an unequivocal interpretation of Schubert’s much loved Impromptus, D. 899 and his last Sonata, D. 960.
R. Strauss: Metamorphosen
NDR Radio Philharmonic, Kristjan Järvi
At the centre of this CD is Richard Strauss’s late masterpiece, Metamorphosen for twenty-three solo strings, flanked by two works by the Swiss-born American composer and saxophonist Daniel Schnyder. The programme reflects the conflicts raging around us today and mankind’s optimism for a better future.
Hindemith: Viola Works
Antoine Tamestit (viola), Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi
One of today’s leading violists, Antoine Tamestit has dedicated his new recording to German composer Paul Hindemith. Hindemith was a brilliant viola player whose compositions widened the repertoire for this instrument, ranging from solo pieces to concertos. This recording features the Frankfurt Radio Symphony conducted by Paavo Järvi.
Aho: Symphony No. 15
Lahti Symphony Orchestra; Osmo Vänskä, Jaako Kuusisto, Dima Slobodeniouk (conductors)
Kalevi Aho explains that the aim with his Symphony No. 15 (which calls for non-Western percussion instruments such as bongos, darbuka, djembe and the riqq, an Arabian tambourine) was to expand his own sound world with elements of other classical music cultures, and to try to view the Western musical tradition from other perspectives.
Tonight: Welthits von Berlin bis Broadway
Renée Fleming (soprano), Klaus Florian Vogt (tenor), Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann
The Staatskapelle Dresden’s New Year’s Eve concert has become a much-loved fixture in the musical calendar. This concert, broadcast live on 31st December 2013, is a dazzling journey from Berlin to Broadway, showcasing all the dynamism of 20th-century musical theatre: from kings of operetta Paul Abraham, Robert Stolz and Paul Lincke to masters of the musical Frederick Loewe, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.
The concert is also available on DVD here.
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The Other Richard Strauss (Symphonic, Vocal and Chamber Music)
Artists including Boris Berezovsky, Renaud Capuçon, Michel Plasson, Vadim Repin, & Wolfgang Sawallisch
The lyric gift that makes Strauss’s operatic writing so memorable still bathes these lesser-known works in a Romantic glow, whether impassioned (the early Violin Sonata), celebratory (Taillefer, the choral ballad on the battle of Hastings) or elegiac (the monumental and haunting Deutsche Motette). Four instrumental arrangements from the operas themselves round out a stimulating companion to the 150th celebrations of the composer’s birth.
Pavarotti: A Voice for the Ages (DVD)
Luciano Pavarotti (tenor)
Created for American network PBS in 2013, this brand-new documentary brings together interview and concert footage from the entirety of Pavarotti’s career, including clips from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and a multitude of full, unedited performances, such as Celeste Aida from the Lincoln Centre with James Levine, the famous account of Donna non vidi mai from Hyde Park, and Panis Angelicus with Sting.
The bonus feature is a complete recital from Barcelona’s Gran Teatre Del Liceu, recorded in 1989, and accompanied at the piano by Leone Magiera.
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