Presto News - 19th January 2015
Grigory Sokolov performs Mozart and Chopin
Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov is perhaps something of an enigmatic, reclusive figure, both on the concert platform and even more so on disc. Although he was awarded first prize at the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Competition at the age of 16, he was relatively little-known outside Russia until the late 1980s.
While of course all artists have their lists of requests and requirements, Sokolov is known for being particularly demanding in this area. For instance, he will not enter the recording studio, instead allowing only live, entirely unedited and unpatched recordings of his concerts to appear on disc. Furthermore, he is extremely fastidious in his rehearsal and performance conditions: he will not perform concertos, as rehearsal time with orchestras is too limited, he refuses to play on a piano that is more than five years old, and insists on almost double the rehearsal time that most pianists are granted, working at great length with his technicians (who are apparently not allowed to touch his piano stool!)
While one might be tempted to view these conditions as somewhat excessive, when you hear his performances, it's almost impossible to disagree with the results. Last year Sokolov signed a contract with Deutsche Grammophon, allowing them to release his recordings on disc, and the first fruit of that agreement has appeared today, with a recital from the Salzburg Festival, given on 30th July 2008.
The recital comprised two Mozart Piano Sonatas, both in F major (K280 and K332), as well as the 24 Preludes, op. 28 by Chopin. For me, the Mozart sonatas exemplify the essence of Sokolov's playing: he can do things with a melody that are just amazing. The way he phrases Mozart's slow movements is a joy to hear: thoughtful and individual without being fussy, he makes those melodies sing in a way that is incomparable.
This gift for lyricism is equally present in the Chopin: the F sharp major prelude is the epitome of beauty; it's so extraordinarily played, and as dazzled as I was elsewhere in the set by Sokolov's stupefyingly fast passagework and clarity of touch even in the most blisteringly rapid pieces, it was this one out of the twenty-four that I kept coming back to.
Similarly, in the famous D flat major prelude (commonly known as the Raindrop), although I must have heard this piece countless times, Sokolov managed to make it sound so fresh. His tempo here is relatively slow (clocking in at just over seven minutes), but at no stage did I tire of it or think “Oh yes, this one again”: the way he shapes every phrase and draws new colours from the piano in almost every bar is really astonishing. Even the shortest of the pieces, such as the sixteen-bar A major prelude, are sculpted into complete statements with something to say, rather than being despatched as mere throwaway items within the set.
Also included on the disc is Sokolov's generous selection of encores (six in all), ranging from Bach to Scriabin by way of Rameau and two Chopin mazurkas. Sokolov ends with the Bach (Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639), and after all of the fireworks from the Chopin, it's an inspired, serene way to end his recital, again demonstrating perfectly his extraordinary facility with a melody. There must be many more recordings in Sokolov's archive waiting to be released, and on the strength of this first offering I simply cannot wait to hear more from this stunning artist.
Grigory Sokolov: The Salzburg Recital 2008
Grigory Sokolov (piano)
BBC Music Magazine Awards 2015 – Shortlist
Chris introduces the nominations for this year's BBC Music Magazine Awards - seven categories with three contenders each. Voting has now opened, so you can cast your vote for your favourites (and, if you're a UK resident, you'll be in with a chance of winning the BBC Music Magazine's prizes!)
You can browse through the full list of nominees, and listen to samples of each recording, here.
Presto Interview – Live Beethoven from the Elias Quartet
David talks to members of the Elias String Quartet about their major new project – a complete set of Beethoven's string quartets, recorded live at their concert series in the Wigmore Hall and released on the Hall's own record label (the first volume has just been released).
You can read the full interview here.
Presto Interview – A trip to the gallery with Paul Lewis
In the wake of his extremely successful Beethoven and Schubert recordings of recent years, pianist Paul Lewis now turns to vividly pictorial masterpieces by Mussorgsky and Schumann, the Pictures at an Exhibition and Fantasie respectively.
Katherine talks to him about his relationship with these works, and the challenges of performing the original piano versions of pieces that have become popular in orchestral arrangements.
You can read the full interview here.
James Longstaffe - firstname.lastname@example.org
19th January 2015
Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets Volume 1
Elias String Quartet
Since 2012, the Elias String Quartet has been immersed in its Beethoven Project, performing all Beethoven’s string quartets at venues throughout the UK. With this live recording, the ensemble is delighted to release the first volume of its complete Beethoven cycle to be recorded live at Wigmore Hall over the coming Seasons.
Michael Collins plays clarinet sonatas
Michael Collins (clarinet) & Michael McHale (piano)
Michael Collins performs clarinet sonatas by Brahms and Reinecke with pianist Michael McHale. Brahms’s works were devotedly promoted by the composer, conductor, pianist, and teacher Carl Reinecke, whose prodigious output has not fared as well as the music of Brahms, though the chamber music has perhaps proved relatively more durable.
Dutilleux: Symphonie No. 1, Métaboles & Sur un Même Accord
Christian Tetzlaff (violin), Orchestre de Paris, Paavo Järvi
This recording is the first in a series featuring the Orchestre de Paris and its Music Director Paavo Järvi. The programme offers three works by Henri Dutilleux, widely considered the most important French composer of the second half of the 20th century. The release coincides with the inauguration of the Philharmonie de Paris in January 2015, when Järvi and the Orchestra will perform the gala opening concerts.
Mozart: Don Giovanni, K527
Ruggero Raimondi (Don Giovanni), Margaret Price (Donna Anna), Julia Varady (Donna Elvira), Lucia Popp (Zerlina), Kurt Moll (Il Commendatore), Stafford Dean (Leporello), Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Wolfgang Sawallisch
In this live recording of opening night at the 1973 Munich Opera Festival, Ruggero Raimondi's Don Giovanni, as well as Margaret Price as Donna Anna, Julia Varady as Donna Elvira and Lucia Popp as Zerlina, turned the evening into a musical feast. It was made doubly gripping by the dark bass of Kurt Moll’s Commendatore and by Wolfgang Sawallisch at the helm.
Bruckner: Symphony No. 6 in A major
Hamburg Philharmonic, Simone Young
The 6th Symphony of Anton Bruckner was recorded live for SACD in December 2013 at two concerts in the Hamburg Laeiszhalle. Simone Young showed tempi of an organic effect, bonding with her musicians in a convincingly dosed mixture of fire and soul.
Schubert Lieder: Ian Bostridge
Ian Bostridge (tenor), with pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Leif Ove Andsnes, and Antonio Pappano
Tenor Ian Bostridge is on fine form in this collection of Schubert song cycles. Alongside his affecting interpretation of Die schöne Müllerin and deeply felt Winterreise is his celebrated recording of Schwanengesang. The set includes a bonus DVD of Winterreise with pianist Julius Drake, as well as the documentary film Over the Top with Franz.
Martha Argerich & Claudio Abbado: The Complete Concerto Recordings
Martha Argerich (piano), Claudio Abbado (conductor)
This 5-CD set pays tribute to an extraordinary musical partnership, collecting all the concerto recordings made by Martha Argerich with Claudio Abbado over more than 45 years. Their final meeting on stage took place at the Lucerne Festival at Easter 2013, where they performed two Mozart concertos. Their close collaboration in the studio began in 1967 with Argerich’s brilliant concerto-debut release of the Prokofiev Third and Ravel G major.
Memorial Concert for Claudio Abbado
Isabelle Faust (violin), Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Andris Nelsons
With this deeply moving concert, the members of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra under conductor Andris Nelsons paid tribute to an extraordinary man and friend: Claudio Abbado, who died in January 2014. Friends and associates look back fondly on Claudio Abbado and speak of how they experienced these moments of grief and farewell.
Blu-ray version also available here.
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