Presto News - 31st March 2014
Jack Liebeck plays violin music by Kreisler
The Austrian-born violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) must be one of the finest musical hoaxers in history. His meteoric solo career was marked not just by the flamboyance of his playing, but by the historical curiosities which he programmed in recital: virtuosic baroque show-stoppers by unsung geniuses like ‘Gaetano Pugnani’ and delightfully sugary Viennese encores apparently penned by early nineteenth-century masters of the waltz enchanted and intrigued audiences, and won Kreisler acclaim for his romantic tales of discovering entire libraries of neglected manuscripts in isolated European monasteries.
It was only in 1935, in a telegram interview for his sixtieth birthday, that Kreisler confessed all to the New York Times: the pieces had in fact been his own work all along, a revelation which provoked outrage and amused admiration in roughly equal measure!
It’s difficult not to suspect that there was an element of good-natured mischief-making at work, but Kreisler’s musical joke seems to have been born at least partially out of modesty: after eventually coming clean about the situation he opined that he felt it would have been ‘impudent and tactless’ to plaster his name all over concert-programmes, particularly in his early career.
Initially I had my doubts about whether an entire disc of his showpieces and encores might create the aural equivalent of sugar-rush, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much stylistic variety there is here. This is due in part to clever programming (the Viennese bonbons are interspersed with the faux-baroque pieces and transcriptions of Romantic works), in part to Kreisler’s magpie-like ability to borrow from different genres and in part to the young British violinist Jack Liebeck’s own responsiveness to these shifts in style.
In his lifetime, Kreisler was at least as well known for his expansive, then rather idiosyncratic performance style as he was for his musical ‘discoveries’ (his pronounced vibrato cost him an orchestral job in Vienna when he was first starting out); his playing had a profound influence on subsequent generations of players but can – dare I say it? – seem a little mannered or indulgent to modern ears.
It’s interesting to see which of Kreisler’s stylistic trademarks Liebeck embraces and which he uses more sparingly. The first thing which grabbed my attention was the fluidity of the Praeludium and Allegro (perhaps Kreisler’s best-known work, originally passed off as the work of Pugnani) which in lesser hands can sound like a technically impressive but rather four-square etude. Liebeck is deliciously liberal with the rubato here, pulling around the tempo and teasing out the underlying melodies with panache: this rhythmic licence is very much a feature of the disc, and entirely in keeping with The Master’s own playing style.
Liebeck is rather more reserved when it comes to the portamenti (slides and ‘swoops’ between notes) which became such a hallmark of Kreisler’s own playing – his account of the famous Liebesleid is far ‘cleaner’-sounding in this respect than Kreisler’s recording of the piece, though little touches in the articulation pay homage to the composer’s interpretation. His vibrato, too, is far less extravagant than Kreisler’s own, though the way he varies it from piece to piece and phrase to phrase again shows the influence of the original recordings.
An hour in the company of Messrs. Liebeck and Kreisler is very definitely time well spent, and it struck me as I listened that in a sense the relationship between Liebeck’s playing and Kreisler’s interpretations is a nice reflection of that between Kreisler and his ‘Old Masters’: underpinned by an obvious affection and understanding of the earlier style, yet always infused with freshness and individuality.
Kreisler: Violin Music
Jack Liebeck (violin) & Katya Apekisheva (piano)
Katherine Cooper - email@example.com
31st March 2014
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83
Maurizio Pollini (piano), Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann
Recorded live at the Semperoper, Dresden, in January 2013, this performance of Brahms's Piano Concerto No.2 reunited Maurizio Pollini with the Staatskapelle orchestra under Christian Thielemann. Pollini and Thielemann had already won a prestigious ECHO award for their DG recording of the first concerto, released in 2012.
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Bach, J S: St John Passion, BWV245
James Gilchrist (Evangelist), Matthew Rose (Jesus), Ashley Riches (Pilatus), Elizabeth Watts (soprano), Sarah Connolly (alto), Andrew Kennedy (tenor), Christopher Purves (bass), Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr
This is the Academy of Ancient Music's first-ever recording of the St John Passion. With a superlative cast including James Gilchrist, Sarah Connolly, Andrew Kennedy, Elizabeth Watts, Christopher Purves and Matthew Rose, and directed by Richard Egarr, this is a landmark project.
Pierné: Piano Quintet & Vierne: String Quartet
Goldner String Quartet, Piers Lane (piano)
The Goldner String Quartet presents two little-known examples of French chamber music by contemporaneous composers Pierné and Vierne. Pierné’s Piano Quintet shows the influences of Massenet and Franck. The Intermezzo of Vierne's String Quartet has been described as 'quite simply one of the most delicious movements in all French chamber music'.
Gerald Finley (baritone), Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Thomas Sanderling
Thomas Sanderling enjoys a close relationship with the Shostakovich family; it was Irina Shostakovich who provided the manuscript for the orchestral version of the Romances on Verses by British Poets, and expressly wished Sanderling to make the first ever recording of this version.
The Art of Melancholy
Iestyn Davies (countertenor), Thomas Dunford (lute)
The preeminent marriage of music and poetry, the nuanced shades of wit and melancholy and the extraordinary writing for both lute and voice all combine to proclaim Dowland as the father of English song. Hearing countertenor Iestyn Davies in this intimate musical setting is a revelation—as is the playing of the young lutenist Thomas Dunford.
A Tribute to Oscar Peterson
Andrew Litton (piano)
On his 16th birthday, receiving an LP of Oscar Peterson playing solo, Andrew Litton was hooked. When he started to come across transcriptions of Peterson’s improvisations, Litton began collecting and learning them himself. This selection includes twelve classic songs spanning four decades, from Thelonius Monk’s ‘Round Midnight and Billy Strayhorn’s Take the ‘A’ Train to Thad Jones’ A Child is Born.
Plácido Domingo At The Met
Plácido Domingo (tenor), Metropolitan Opera
Sony Classical is proud to announce the release of this anniversary boxed set, celebrating Plácido Domingo's 45th season at the Metropolitan Opera. Covering forty pieces of work across three CDs, including arias by Verdi, Puccini, Bellini, Mozart, Cilea, Wagner, Bizet, Giordano & Berlioz.
Rossini: Otello (DVD)
John Osborn (Otello), Cecilia Bartoli (Desdemona), Peter Kálmán (Elmiro), Javier Camarena (Rodrigo/Lucio), Edgardo Rocha (Iago) & Liliana Nikiteanu (Emilia), Chorus of the Opernhaus Zürich & Orchestra La Scintilla, Muhai Tang
Cecilia Bartoli makes her long-anticipated debut in the role of Desdemona in Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s new production of Rossini’s Otello for the Zurich Opera House. Rossini’s unusual scoring of the drama calls for three tenor supporting roles – here sung by long-standing Bartoli collaborators John Osborn and Javier Camarena and newcomer Edgardo Rocha.
Blu-ray version also available here.
BBC Radio 3 CD Review
Saturday 29th March 2014
Building a Library - Copland: Appalachian Spring
San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas
Disc of the Week
Daniela Dolci (organ, harpsichord & direction), Musica Fiorita
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