Presto News - 4th August 2014
Russian Orchestral Music from the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic
On Tuesday evening I had the great pleasure of attending the Proms debut of the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic (the first performance at the festival, in fact, by any Turkish orchestra) under their livewire Austrian conductor Sascha Goetzel in a programme dominated by visions of the East by Western composers; several of these works also feature on their new disc for Onyx Classics, released last Monday and recorded earlier this year in the garage of a Turkish shopping mall!
Founded in 1999, the orchestra has 90% Turkish membership (its non-Turkish members include Goetzel’s father, in the violin section!). I was initially a bit circumspect about focusing too much on ethnicity (much ink has been spilled over the past half-century about ‘Orientalism’ in music and elsewhere, and whether orchestras can be said to have a distinctively ‘national’ sound has also been the subject of recent discussions in the classical music media), but the Borusan forces seem to cheerfully embrace the idea of ‘Otherness’ and to capitalise on Istanbul’s unique situation between East and West, both in terms of repertoire choices and the special sound-world which they create: their percussion section, for instance, is particularly vivid and forthright, and the string section has an especially wide tonal palette, veering excitingly from raw and muscular to lithe and silky.
The centrepiece of their new disc offers a refreshing twist on one of the most familiar ‘Oriental’ orchestral works, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, performed here with short improvised interludes on stringed instruments such as the oud and qanun, and also integrating traditional Turkish and Middle Eastern percussion such as the def and the bendir into the tutti sections.
For me, the interludes work beautifully as palate-cleansers and serve to throw the music which surrounds them into sharper relief – I could swear I picked up on more of the ‘exotic’ elements of the rest of the work as a result, though we probably also have Goetzel’s imaginative conducting to thank for that! The performance as a whole is mesmerising - the violin solos depicting Scheherazade herself, as she spins the sultan his nightly bedtime stories that save her life, are especially beguiling and sinuous (and, most crucially, just a touch vulnerable) in the hands of Pelin Halkaci Alkin.
One of the most memorable aspects of the live performance was the flamboyant podium persona of Goetzel, who combines authority with an abandoned physicality that might break into dance at any moment! But somehow none of this comes across as superficial showmanship - the energy and almost balletic grace which he transmits to his players comes across so very strongly on this recording, even without the visuals to remind us.
The encore for Tuesday night’s prom was perhaps the highlight of an already distinguished evening (the last item on the official programme, the orchestral suite from Respighi’s opulently sensual ballet Belkis, Queen of Sheba, appears on the orchestra’s first disc for Onyx, released in 2010). Following a short but impassioned speech about music’s potential to break down geographical and cultural boundaries, Goetzel announced that the orchestra ‘couldn’t come here from the Bosphorus without bringing us the music of the Bosphorus!’, and they proceeded in truly breathtaking style with Ulvi Erkin’s rip-roaring Kocecke, a ten-minute whistle-stop tour through Turkish dances which also features on the new disc and which I’ll certainly be revisiting again (probably when the neighbours are out, as it’s very much music that demands to be heard at full throttle!)
The Borusan forces offer some of the most vital, vivid orchestral playing I’ve heard in a long time, whether throwing new light on an established warhorse or introducing us to relative rarities – I urge you to give them a whirl, and here’s hoping that there’s more to come in their survey of East meets West (Ravel’s Sheherazade, please?!)
Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Sascha Goetzel
Gramophone Awards 2014 – Shortlist
The shortlist for this year's Gramophone Classical Music Awards has been announced - with a strong field of 72 discs in 12 categories, it's going to be a tougher call than ever! The top three discs in each category will be announced on 20th August, with the overall winners following one week later. We've put together a list of the nominees - and this year, we've also got together with Gramophone to produce a special digital magazine with full reviews of all 72! You can read it for free here.
Presto Recommends – Music to commemorate the First World War
Although the "official" date of the beginning of the First World War varies by country - as the various declarations of war were not simultaneous - today is the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of war between the United Kingdom and Germany, which was announced at 11pm.
Not surprisingly, this unprecedentedly devastating conflict had a profound impact on musicians and composers across Europe and beyond; some lost relatives and friends, suffered traumatic physical or psychological injuries, or indeed never returned at all. David has been listening to recordings of works that have a particularly significant link to the War.
You can read through David's thoughts here.
Katherine Cooper - email@example.com
4th August 2014
Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 18 & 19
Mitsuko Uchida (piano & conductor), The Cleveland Orchestra
Another instalment in Uchida’s much-admired and Grammy-Award-winning Mozart piano concerto series with the Cleveland Orchestra. Like the composer at the premieres, Uchida directs from the keyboard. This new live recording combines the B flat Major Concerto, No. 18, K456 and the F Major Concerto, No. 19, K459, both part of the great series of piano concertos Mozart wrote in Vienna in the mid-1780s.
Øystein Baadsvik plays Tuba Concertos
Øystein Baadsvik (tuba), Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra, Christian Lindberg
One of today’s foremost exponents of his instrument, the Norwegian tubist Øystein Baadsvik is also an untiring champion when it comes to expanding the tuba repertoire. Himself a composer/arranger, Baadsvik opens this new release with his own Tuba Concerto from 2012. Christian Lindberg, chief conductor of the Arctic Philharmonic, has also composed the final work on the disc, dedicating it to Baadsvik, ‘a great tuba player and my good friend’.
Leon Fleisher: All the Things You Are
Leon Fleisher (piano)
Leon Fleisher’s first solo disc in nearly a decade is released in time to celebrate the great American pianist’s 86th birthday, consisting largely of works for left hand, including one of the pianist’s specialities—Bach’s Chaconne, arranged for left hand by Brahms. The album also features works composed for Leon Fleisher by George Perle, Leon Kirchner, and Dina Koston as well as gorgeous renditions of favorites by George Gershwin and Jerome Kern.
La Nuova Musica, David Bates
David Bates leads La Nuova Musica in three tales of denial and sacrifice: St Peter's denial of Christ; Abraham's [narrowly averted] sacrifice of his son Isaac; and the story of Jepthe, who, before leading the Israelites into battle, vows to God that if he is victorious, he will sacrifice the first living thing he meets upon his return. Unfortunately it is his daughter, who dances out to greet him with cymbals and flutes. Jepthe must honour his vow...
Medtner Plays Medtner Volume 1
Nicolai Medtner (piano)
The first volume of the anthology of Medtner’s recordings includes his smaller pieces – Novellas, the cycle Forgotten Melodies and the genre of piano fairy tale invented by the composer. The recordings were made in 1930 to 1947 in Paris and London.
Mancini, H: Peter Gunn
Harmonie Ensemble New York, Steven Richman
Peter Gunn, the classic TV detective series (1958-61), is probably best remembered today for Henry Mancini's trend-setting jazz score inspired by the West Coast Cool School. In 'Music for Peter Gunn' Grammy-nominated Steven Richman and the sensational Harmonie Ensemble / New York with ace old-school improvisers Lew Soloff [trumpet] and Lew Tabackin [sax], place their own stamp on Mancini's iconic orchestrations.
Lorin Maazel in Vienna
Wiener Philharmoniker, Lorin Maazel
A 9-CD set of recordings made with the Vienna Philharmonic by conductor Lorin Maazel, who died last month. The repertoire includes the complete symphonies of Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, as well as tone poems by Richard Strauss.
Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (DVD)
Michael Volle (Hans Sachs), Roberto Sacca (Walther Von Stolzing), Anna Gabler (Eva), Peter Sonn (David), Markus Werba (Sixtus Beckmesser), Wiener Philharmoniker, Daniele Gatti
Stefan Herheim's lavish production from the 2013 Salzburg Festival radiates youthful charm and conjures up a flood of incomparable images. Roberto Sacca is a Walther von Stolzing who shows effortless control in his superb realisation of the part; Michael Volle has both the voice and the acting ability to flesh out a fascinatingly multi-layered portrait of the masterful Hans Sachs.
Blu-ray version also available here.
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