Presto News - 21st July 2014
Dussek Piano Concertos and Romantic Violin Concertos on Hyperion
One of the more interesting recording projects recently has been Hyperion's series entitled The Romantic Piano Concerto, currently on its 63rd volume. Next week sees the launch of the first volume in a new companion series, The Classical Piano Concerto.
As its name suggests, the series will focus on the period that saw the beginning of the genre of the piano concerto itself, roughly between 1770 and 1820. This first release contains three concertos by the Czech composer, Jan Ladislav Dussek. Known as a virtuoso pianist himself, Dussek composed several piano concertos, eighteen of which survive. This disc picks three of them, from various stages of his career, and each one in its way shows how Dussek was attempting to play with the conventions of the genre.
The earliest of these is the G major concerto, opus 1/3, and was probably written while Dussek was in his early twenties. It's a very attractive work, clearly indebted to Mozart, although it departs from the usual Classical model in that it has no slow movement but instead goes straight from the initial Allegro movement to a closing Rondo.
The second concerto presented here (C major, op. 29), is even more unusual in that, rather than launching straight into an opening Allegro, it starts instead with a 22-bar Larghetto in which the piano does not play at all (in fact it's almost three minutes into the concerto before we first hear the piano!), perhaps modelling itself on late Haydn symphonies, which similarly tend to begin with a slow introduction.
The final concerto dates from 1810 (op. 70 in E flat major), and is perhaps the most Beethovenian of the three - indeed it dates from around the same time as Beethoven's Emperor concerto, and is in the same key. It's a delightful work that deserves to be heard more often than it is, especially its graceful slow movement.
The soloist for all three concertos is Howard Shelley, who also conducts the Ulster Orchestra from the piano. Shelley has been a stalwart of the Romantic series of concertos, and so it seems fitting that he has been chosen to do the honours here. He brings his customary elegance to every bar, and it's a delight to listen to him, with immaculate passagework and tender playing in the slow movements. I look forward to hearing further volumes in this series!
Another ongoing series on Hyperion is that of The Romantic Violin Concerto, and next week also sees the release of its sixteenth instalment, featuring violin concertos by close contemporaries Richard Strauss and Ferruccio Busoni.
Strauss's concerto, written when he was seventeen, is by no means his most familiar work, and indeed I would not have guessed it was by Strauss at all, as it sounds to me reminiscent of Brahms. However, it contains much pleasing music, and this performance by German violinist Tanja Becker-Bender (supported by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Garry Walker) is very persuasive indeed. The end of the second movement is extremely expressive, with Becker-Bender's beautiful tone fading to nothing, after which she treats us to some impressively nimble playing in the final Rondo.
The real discovery of the disc for me, however, was definitely the Busoni concerto. This piece was completely new to me, but it's full of fantastic music and such imaginative touches of orchestration that I was instantly hooked. The slow movement is just sublime, with some very beautiful moments, especially the very end, with some heavenly passages aided in no small measure by Becker-Bender's impassioned playing.
Much like the Strauss, the last movement requires virtuoso playing from the soloist, and Becker-Bender never disappoints. It's a wonderful performance, and has definitely converted me to the Busoni cause!
The Classical Piano Concerto 1: Dussek
Howard Shelley (piano & conductor), Ulster Orchestra
The Romantic Violin Concerto 16 - Busoni & Strauss
Tanja Becker-Bender (violin), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Garry Walker
Presto Recommends – Anton Bruckner
The Austrian symphonist Anton Bruckner often seems to sit in Wagner's shadow, compared unfavourably with him on many fronts. Yet he had a distinctive voice of his own - at once Romantically radical and deeply conservative - which is expressed on the large scale in his mighty symphonies and on the small scale in his exquisite motets. David picks out some recordings that showcase Bruckner's unique genius.
You can read through David's Bruckner selections here.
James Longstaffe - firstname.lastname@example.org
21st July 2014
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4
Maria João Pires (piano), Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding
Maria João Pires's first release for the label Onyx is of two Beethoven concertos she has played often, but never before recorded. After giving concerts in Stockholm last October, she went directly into the studio with Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. This remarkable recording is the result.
Bach, J S: Cello Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV1007-1012
Nina Kotova (cello)
Russian-born cellist Nina Kotova has been hailed “passionate and inspiring”. According to Newsweek magazine, “she‘s a fantastically gifted cellist.” “Very expressive, imaginative, and she has a powerful stage presence.” Time magazine states: “She is a musician of high seriousness and real talent”.
Weir: The Vanishing Bridegroom
Ailish Tynan (soprano), Anna Stéphany (mezzo), Andrew Tortise (tenor), Owen Gilhooly (baritone) & Jonathan Lemalu (bass baritone), BBC Singers & BBC Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins
Judith Weir's opera, commissioned by Glasgow District Council for the 1990 City of Culture celebrations, takes three Scottish folktales, all concerned with disappearance. Weir's writing combines lush descriptive soundscapes with ethereal choruses and Gaelic folk melodies; the romanticism of the three tales is offset by the sardonic humour of the protagonists.
Albéniz - Complete Piano Music, Volume 8
Miguel Baselga (piano)
Folk music, especially that of Andalusia, and the characteristic idiom of Spanish guitar music make themselves felt in compositions such as Zaragoza and Sevilla, the two pieces published in 1890 as Seconde Suite espagnole. Also included is the transcription, published in 2009, of one of the three improvisations that Albéniz recorded on a phonograph roll in 1903, permitting us a unique peek into the composer’s creative mind.
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 'Choral'
Kathleen Kim (soprano), Songmi Yang (mezzo-soprano), Yosep Kang (tenor) & Samuel Youn (bass-baritone), Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, The National Chorus of Korea, Seoul Motet Choir, Anyang Civic Chorale, Myung-Whun Chung
The second Beethoven recording of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and Myung-Whun Chung after Beethoven Concerto & Symphony No.5 released in 2013. This is the live recording from the completely sold out concert in 2012 in Seoul.
Strauss, R: Elektra
Regina Resnik (Klytämnestra), Birgit Nilsson (Elektra), Leonie Rysanek (Chrysothemis), Wolfgang Windgassen (Aegisth), Eberhard Waechter (Orest), Chorus & Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, Karl Böhm
This live recording from the Vienna State Opera in 1965, in a production by Wieland Wagner, was conducted by the great Karl Böhm. Birgit Nilsson gives full rein to the eruptive violence of Strauss’s setting, whilst Leonie Rysanek sang the wistful Chrysothemis. As their adversary, their inscrutable mother Klytämnestra, the dusky-timbred Regina Resnik gave a superb performance.
Carlos Kleiber: Complete Orchestral Recordings (Deluxe Edition)
With a deluxe four-disc set of newly remastered recordings, Deutsche Grammophon celebrates the unique, iconic art of Carlos Kleiber, who died on 13 July 2004. He made few recordings of symphonic music – just one CD each of Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms. Now, in commemoration of Kleiber’s death in 2004, DG offers this deluxe, limited-edition set with newly remastered versions of these recordings at 24 bit / 96 kHz.
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie (DVD)
Ed Lyon (Hippolytus), Christiane Karg (Aricia), Sarah Connolly (Phaedre) & Stéphane Degout (Theseus), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment & The Glyndebourne Chorus, William Christie (conductor) & Jonathan Kent (director)
In Glyndebourne’s first-ever staging of an opera by Rameau, director Jonathan Kent presents a production which, in his own words, ‘strives to appeal to every sense and show audiences how engrossing and musically ravishing French Baroque opera can be’. Ed Lyon and Christiane Karg give captivating performances as the titular young lovers.
Blu-ray version also available here.
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