Presto News - 19th August 2016
Roderick Williams and Iain Burnside perform Schubert Lieder
A glorious all-Schubert recital from one of our local heroes is my Disc of the Week (and almost certainly one of my Discs of the Year, to be honest): I’ve been playing Roderick Williams’s Der Wanderer so much of late that if it were a cassette-tape it’d have worn out weeks ago. The charismatic English baritone’s a regular visitor to our shop in Leamington Spa, as well as a firm favourite on the recital scene in the area, and I’m happy to report that the warmth and immediacy which so endear him to audiences in live performance are in no way diminished by the recording studio. To hark back to one of my other discs of the summer and quote Josephine in HMS Pinafore, ‘his simple eloquence goes to my heart’: there’s a wonderfully unfussy openness and sincerity to Williams’s delivery that I’ve only ever heard rivalled by Christian Gerhaher, whose Nachtviolen (which has several songs in common with this new disc) would definitely represent Schubert on my hypothetical desert island.
Hugely acclaimed for his many recordings of English song in particular (check out his Finzi, Quilter and Vaughan Williams on Naxos to discover why), Williams has come to Schubert relatively late in his career: though the freshness and fervour of both voice and interpretation on show here make it difficult to believe, he’s just entered his sixth decade, and the recording marked the beginning of a three-year Schubertian odyssey which will see him exploring the great song-cycles for the first time in the public eye, inviting audiences to observe his work in progress through open rehearsals, masterclasses, book-groups and workshops in schools as well as ‘conventional’ recitals (you can read more about the project on his engaging and candid blog).
Rather than kick off his journey with the twin peaks of Winterreise or Die schöne Müllerin (Delphian’s founder Paul Baxter was uncharacteristically coy when I tried to probe him about plans in this department!), Williams’s beginning lies in Schubert’s end: the disc centres on the seven settings of poems by Rellstab from Schwanengesang, composed in the final year of Schubert’s short life. They’re flanked by two groups of songs which explore the idea of the wanderer and the seafarer respectively: I heard Williams give the premiere of Howard Skempton’s setting of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (soon to be recorded on NMC) just before he made this disc, and his ongoing immersion in briny romantic alienation is palpable. (Recent and upcoming operatic engagements include his debuts in the title-roles in Eugene Onegin and Billy Budd, and I don’t think it’s fanciful to hear shades of both in his Schubert: his anhedonic, disconnected Wanderer has all the repressed passion of Tchaikovsky’s anti-hero, whilst the lusty vigour and radiance of ‘Der Schiffer’ whetted my appetite to hear him as Britten’s guileless foretopman at Opera North in a few months’ time).
Williams’s baritone has acquired additional darkness and depth since those English song discs from the 2000s, which pay expressive dividends in the ‘Wanderer’ songs - yet even in the darkest nights of the soul there’s always a flicker of hope which asserts itself more tangibly than in rival interpretations. But for me it’s the exuberance and ardour of songs like ‘Willkommen und Abschied’ (the arresting opening track), ‘Liebesbotschaft’ and above all ‘Frühlingssehnsucht’ which make this a disc to conjure with: little miracles from Iain Burnside here, too, who plays with such clarity that details which are often glossed over make their presence felt, and such variety of touch that it often sounds like he’s got an entire showroom of different pianos at his disposal (I checked the booklet - he hasn’t).
Anyway, enough with the comparisons and analysis: this is just one of those recordings that never fails to make my world seem a slightly better place for having listened to it - ‘Du holde Kunst’ indeed.
Der Wanderer: Schubert Lieder
Roderick Williams (baritone) & Iain Burnside (piano)
Presto Interview – Florilegium at 25
Florilegium are one of Britain's leading early-music ensembles, and this year marks their quarter-century anniversary. To celebrate, they've not only released an album of lively Telemann concertos, but they've also tacked on a bonus disc featuring some highlights of their last twenty-five years.
David caught up with their founder and artistic director Ashley Solomon to look back over the ensemble's story so far, as well as talking about the items on this new disc.
Presto Interview – Henning Kraggerud on Mozart
Violinist Henning Kraggerud treads a fine line between composer and performer. His previous release, Equinox, was firmly in the former camp; his latest leans very much back toward the latter, featuring three Mozart concertos with new cadenzas freshly composed by Kraggerud.
David spoke to him earlier in the week about how he approached writing these cadenzas - and about his views on the complex and often controversial relationship between the composer's role and the performer's role in the creative process.
Gramophone Awards 2016 – The Finalists
The top three discs in each of the twelve categories have now been selected from the longlist - a broad spread ranging from early to contemporary music, with categories focusing on opera, choral, solo instrumental albums and much more besides.
Here are the 12 finalists for this year - the category winners will be announced on Monday (22nd August) and the overall record of the year and other special awards at the ceremony on 15th September.
August 2016 Hi-Res Roundup
David introduces the second in our new series of articles picking out the very best of our Hi-Res downloads - now numbering over six thousand albums and growing all the time.
Read on for new releases, recent reissues of the great performances of the last century, and recordings of the core repertoire without which no library would be complete - all in glorious Hi-Res sound!
Katherine Cooper - firstname.lastname@example.org
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