Presto News - 2nd February 2015
Brahms Serenades from Riccardo Chailly
Back in October 2013, I wrote about a new set of Brahms’s symphonies from Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester, and I remember the fresh approach that Chailly brought to this music, with brisk tempos, a firm lack of stodginess, and some excellent playing. I clearly wasn’t the only person to be impressed with the performances, as the set ended up being awarded Record of the Year at the 2014 Gramophone Awards!
Chailly and his Leipzig players have now followed up this impressive set with a new disc of the two Serenades. Both pieces are relatively youthful works, written when Brahms was in his twenties, and are some of his earliest attempts at orchestral writing. Far from being mere trifles, though, the works contain some passages that are technically very demanding (indeed, the second Serenade was almost the cause of the disintegration of the Vienna Philharmonic, as many of the players attempted a mutiny, initially refusing to perform the score, complaining about having to spend so much effort on such a difficult piece by a then-unknown composer!)
Furthermore, they are completely fascinating to listen to, as I think you can already hear the beginnings of Brahms's distinctive compositional voice, and there are some interesting choices in terms of orchestration (for instance, there are no violins in the second Serenade).
Chailly brings a completely charming rustic swagger to the very opening of the first Serenade, with a kind of peasant-dance lilt, accentuated by some characterful playing from the horns in particular, as well as the bucolic clarinets and bassoon in the series of minuets later on in the piece.
That's not to say there's any lack of refinement: there's some beautifully expressive playing from the violins in the second of the minuets, with a searching theme that Chailly shapes wonderfully. Similarly the Adagio non troppo movements of both this and the second Serenade show off the players' capabilities to the full: eloquently tender one moment, and stormily dramatic the next.
I think these pieces also contain some of Brahms's most joyous music, and the players seem to revel in this; in the last movement of the A major Serenade especially there's an infectious liveliness that puts a smile on one's face, aided in no small measure by a delightfully chirpy contribution from the piccolo.
While I haven’t actually totted up the number of available recordings of these pieces, it seems to me that they are perhaps not as frequently recorded or performed as Brahms’s other orchestral works, and so I was especially pleased to hear this disc. As I listened, I kept thinking that it's such a shame that they aren't heard more often, as it's clear what wonderful music they contain, especially in such convincing performances as these. It's difficult to think of performers who are more at home in this kind of music than Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester: enchanting from start to finish!
Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Riccardo Chailly
Presto Recommends – Sergei Rachmaninov
David listens to recordings by the Twentieth-Century Russian giant, Sergei Rachmaninov – a colossus among pianists and composers, whose symphonies and concertos (in particular their luscious slow movements) have won him worldwide fame even among those with no particular interest in classical music.
Quite apart from these beloved favourites, he also wrote a large amount of vocal and choral music in addition to three operas; and his solo piano writing, typified in the two sets of Preludes, shows that deep and intuitive understanding of the instrument that can only come from a masterful command of it as a performer.
You can browse through all David’s choices here.
Presto CD – DG Originals
Chris introduces the latest batch of Presto CDs, a mixed bag from the DG Originals series, featuring some real corkers - Rachmaninov's Second Symphony from the Leningrad Philharmonic under Kurt Sanderling, Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde with Nan Merrima and Ernst Haefliger under Eugen Jochum, and many more great performances and recitals.
Obituary – Aldo Ciccolini (1925-2015)
The sad news reached us this morning of the death of the Italian-French pianist Aldo Ciccolini, at the age of 89. His long and illustrious career, kick-started by a prize-winning performance of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto at the age of 25, was marked by a tireless championing of French composers. He was a devoted advocate both of the well-loved and well-established masters Debussy, Saint-Saëns and Ravel and of those such as Satie, Severac and Alkan whose names he felt were not as well-known as they deserved to be.
In the course of an extensive collaboration with EMI he recorded the complete piano works of Debussy, Massenet, Satie and Severac - a palpable testament to his devotion to French music. Yet Ciccolini himself felt the greatest legacy a musician could leave would be to inspire another generation to come after them, commenting that “There is nothing more moving than to see the talent of a young girl or a young boy blossom like a flower.”
You can browse through all his recordings here.
James Longstaffe - email@example.com
2nd February 2015
Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6
New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert
This recording concludes the acclaimed cycle of Carl Nielsen symphonies by the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert. Recorded live in Avery Fisher Hall in October 2014, this CD presents the composer’s last two symphonies, the latter of which has never previously been performed by the Philharmonic.
Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 8
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski and Ryan Wigglesworth (conductors)
Vaughan Williams was one of the 20th century’s most important symphonic voices; within his nine symphonies he encompassed a wide range of styles, sound-worlds and formal approaches. These performances were recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall on 24 September 2008 (Symphony No. 8) and 1 May 2013 (Symphony No. 4).
The Romantic Cello Concerto Vol. 6: Ysaye & Vieuxtemps
Alban Gerhardt (cello), Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Josep Caballé-Domenech
Henri Vieuxtemps and Eugène Ysaÿe are best known for their blistering pyrotechnics on the violin, but they each wrote two works for cello and orchestra. Alban Gerhardt rises to the formidable challenges presented by these composers, with sympathetic support from the Royal Flemish Philharmonic and Josep Caballé-Domenech.
Scriabin: Complete Poèmes
Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
The inspirations for Scriabin's Poèmes are as varied as their titles—from black magic to cosmic aspiration—and they offer a key into their composer’s inner world. American pianist Garrick Ohlsson is an acknowledged master of the genre, and this new recording will only enhance an admirable reputation.
Guillaume de Machaut : The dart of love
The Orlando Consort
Western music as we know it today - many individual lines combining into a single whole - has its roots in the fourteenth century, and most famously in the pioneering works of Guillaume de Machaut. This is the second volume in the Orlando Consort's Machaut Edition for Hyperion.
Road Trip: Aurora Orchestra
Aurora Orchestra, Nicholas Collon
The Aurora Orchestra takes listeners on a journey across America with a programme that juxtaposes core American compositions by John Adams, Charles Ives and Aaron Copland with specially commissioned arrangements by American composer Nico Muhly and short new works by Aurora Orchestra member Max Baillie.
Pierre Boulez: Complete 20th-Century Recordings
Orchestras including: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, & Ensemble Intercontemporain
For the occasion of Pierre Boulez's 90th birthday DG have assembled a 44-CD set that charts the course of 20th century music, starting chronologically with Debussy and ending with works by Boulez himself. Bartok and Stravinsky recordings stand out along with modern classics by Varèse, concertos by Ligeti, and landmarks of the Second Viennese School, including Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron and the first complete recording of Berg’s Lulu.
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala, Daniel Barenboim
Richard Wagner’s Ring at La Scala in Milan is a first-class musical experience featuring one of the greatest conductors of our time at the podium: Daniel Barenboim. In his stage production, Guy Cassiers conveys the aesthetic quality and musical brilliance of this work in dazzling imagery, and the challenges of the music are admirably mastered by renowned singers including René Pape, Waltraud Meier, Lance Ryan, Nina Stemme, Simon O’Neill, Iréne Theorin, Anna Larsson, John Tomlinson and many others.
Blu-ray version also available here.
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