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Mr Abel’s Fine Airs

Mr Abel’s Fine Airs

Music for solo viola da gamba


Abel, C F:

Adagio WKO189

Vivace WKO190

Allegro

Tempo minuetto WKO154

Adagio WKO209

[Arpeggio] WKO205

[Tempo di menuet con variazioni] WKO203 & WKO204

[Moderato] WKO208

[Adagio] WKO187

Fuga WKO196

Sonata in G major for viola da gamba

Allegro WKO198

Tempo di menuet WKO202

Andante WKO191

[Arpeggio] WKO194

Allegro WKO207

Tempo di menuet WKO188

[Andante] WKO199

[Allegro] WKO195

Allegretto WKO211

Allegro WKO212


Susanne Heinrich (viola da gamba)

Carl Friedrich Abel (1723–1787) was a contemporary of J C Bach, and a fashionable performer and promoter in London in the eighteenth century. By that time the viola da gamba was a rarity, but Abel’s performances sparked a revival of interest among performers and audiences. The works recorded on this disc (six of which have never been previously recorded) can be seen as musical expositions of sensibility, inhabiting the same tragic world as the gamba solos in J S Bach’s Passions. Abel’s contemporary Charles Burney commented on the musician’s ability to ‘breathe’ the notes as he played them, and this extraordinary sensitivity is present too in the beautiful playing of Susanne Heinrich.

“Susanne Heinrich rises ably to the challenge of understanding this 18th-century Jekyll-and-Hyde figure, heightening to fine effect the music's light and shade, energy and indolence. Her readings are effortlessly poised and imbued with an almost vocal lyricism...” BBC Music Magazine, February 2008 ****

“Heinrich brings… exactly the right blend of emotional involvement and earnest good taste, and find pleasing resonance and smoothness in her instrument… An unsuspected and atmospheric gem…” Gramophone Magazine, Janurary 2008

“The first time I put this disc in my player, I  wasn’t in the mood. I  tried again a few days later and was absolutely entranced. Carl Friedrich Abel was a pupil of Bach’s and the influence shows, but the younger composer’s own breadth of invention is breathtaking. As are the dark, velvety colours that viola da gamba player Susanne Heinrich finds in his long lines. A  really special album, this.” Gramophone Magazine

“Until the release of this new recording the fascinating world of Abel’s gamba music has been pretty much a closed book … Abel inclined towards simplicity and elegance, and Heinrich is always at pains to bring out the singing quality of the melodic lines … from the outset Heinrich confidently masters the multiple stopping and the wide range of the music … throughout, Heinrich succeeds triumphantly in crafting each piece individually— creating a special atmosphere for each work” International Record Review

“Carl Friedrich Abel is usually thought of as a genial symphonist much in the mould of his London concert-promoting business partner JC Bach, but this delightful release shows that anyone considering on that basis not to delve further into Abel's output is missing not only an important side of the man, but indeed his very core. Abel was one of the last masters of the viola da gamba, and in these unaccompanied pieces he reveals an intimate art which instantly makes sense of the affection and reverence in which he was held by his friends, they being the ones who got to hear him improvising at home in front of the fire and left touching accounts of his power to stir their emotions. 'He was the Sterne of music' is how one described him, which is saying something.
Susanne Heinrich has chosen 24 solo gamba pieces from the 30 contained in a manuscript in the New York Public Library which surely represent the kind of music Abel played in those domestic musical occasions. Unencumbered by showy virtuosity, they are never less than supremely elegant, yet at their best exhibit profound sentiment in the word's exquisite 18thcentury sense. Four of the pieces are grouped together to make a sonata, but the others are free-standing and range from deeply felt adagios to lightly arpeggiated preludes, and from suave minuets to the occasional faintly rustic dance. Heinrich brings to them exactly the right blend of emotional involvement and earnest good taste, and finds pleasing resonance and smoothness in her instrument, such that even nearly 80 minutes of solo gamba never tires the ear. An unsuspected and atmospheric gem.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“Abel’s pieces are reminiscent of J S Bach’s solo cello suites, so if you like them then you’ll like these...Sensibility, or the practise of articulating direct and strong emotions, was all the rage in the arts world at the time, and Suzanne Heinrich beautifully draws this out of Abel’s writing.” Charlotte Gardner, bbc.co.uk, 5th October 2007

GGramophone Awards 2008

Editor's Choice

GGramophone Awards 2008

Finalist - Baroque Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - January 2008

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Joseph Achron: Complete Suites for Violin & Piano

Joseph Achron: Complete Suites for Violin & Piano


Achron, J:

Hebrew Melody, Op. 33

Hebrew Pieces (2), Op. 35

Eli Zion

Prelude, Op. 13

Souvenir de Varsovie, Op. 14

Coquetterie, Op. 15

Serenade, Op. 17

Les sylphides, Op. 18

Berceuse, Op. 20

Dance Improvisation, Op. 37

Scher, Op. 42

Marchen, Op. 46

Liebeswidmung, Op. 51

Canzonetta , Op. 52 No. 2

Stimmungen (2), Op. 32

Stimmungen (2), Op. 36

Pastels (2), Op. 44

Stempenyu Suite

Suite No. 1 'en style ancien', Op. 21

Suite No. 2, Op. 22

Tableaux fantastiques (4) 'Suite No. 3', Op. 23

Suite bizarre 'Cycles des rythmes, Suite No. 4', Op. 41

Children's Suite, Op. 57

arr. Jascha Heifetz

Pensée de Leopold Auer

La romanesca


Hagai Shaham (violin) & Arnon Erez (piano)

Admired by Schoenberg (who described him as ‘one of the most underestimated of modern composers’), Joseph Achron was a boundary defying violinist-composer of extraordinary gifts. He drew on his Jewish faith to profound effect, from the early influence of his cantor father to his enthusiastic championing of the Society for Jewish Folk Music (which did for Jewish music what Bartók did for Eastern European folk culture). It’s hardly surprising that much of Achron’s music is for violin—he was a consummate player himself and a prolific recitalist. But what’s striking is how varied and exploratory his output is, delighting in experimentation, as the wonderfully named Suite bizarre demonstrates, just as much as the direct emotionalism of his transcriptions of Hebraic melodies. Who better to present this music than two artists steeped in similar traditions to Achron: Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez.

“Shaham and Erez deliver outstandingly committed performances, revelling in the music's virtuosity, fantasy and heightened intensity of expression.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2012 *****

“Arnon Erez's highly expressive, colourful playing brings out all their harmonic and textural subtleties. I'm sure this experienced team's sensitive collaboration would have delighted the composer. If you know Achron's music, you'll want to acquire this set; if he's new to you, I can assure you he's well worth investigating.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2012

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Albéniz - Iberia

Albéniz - Iberia


Albéniz:

Iberia, books 1-4 (complete)

La Vega from the suite Alhambra

Yvonne en visite!

Espagne

Navarra

(completed by William Bolcom)


“Simply put, this is now the recording of choice.” International Record Review

“...technically nonchalant and textually astute...Hamelin's crisp, witty turn of phrase conjures up castanets and rioja” Gramophone Magazine, June 2010

“Here's the most immaculate, effortless and refined of all Iberias. Where others fight to stay afloat, Marc-André Hamelin rides the crest of every formidable wave with nonchalant ease and poetry. Did Albéniz, as Rubinstein once claimed, need a helping hand in Iberia, simplifying textures for greater clarity, brilliance and accessibility? Hamelin's musical grace mocks the very question. His 'Evocación', audaciously free and perfumed, makes you hang on every note, and although characteristically cool, elegant and supple, he's true to the heart of Albéniz's incomparable tapestry of southern Spain. Try 'Almeria' and you'll hear playing of jewelled perfection, a mesmerising dreamworld rudely interrupted by 'Lavapiés', where every one of the composer's torrents of notes is made crystal clear.
Again, when has 'Málaga' been played with greater fluency and imaginative delicacy? Perhaps such playing is a compensation for Rubinstein's legendary but never recorded performance.
Certainly in its suppleness and transparency it has a Chopinesque rather than Lisztian bias, but Hamelin gives us all the notes and he's recorded in sound as natural and refined as his playing.
After Iberia there's La Vega, inspired by the plains surrounding Granada, by a 'land of flowers and sapphire skies'. This surely ranks among the greatest recordings of a Spanish piano work.
Limpid, haunting and evocative, it resolves every complexity in rapt poetry. For added measure he gives us 'Yvonne en visite', a hilarious imitation of a pianist who stumbles from note to note, tenacious but incompetent. Finally, there is 'Navarra', complete with William Bolcom's coda, a lengthy and witty résumé and cadenza rather than de Sévérac's brief conclu- Alain Instrumental 15 sion. Comparison with Larrocha's benchmark Albéniz is inevitable. But Hamelin's is radically different in both execution and character, and she, for all her magisterial command, is no match for him in musical grace and fluency.
Hamelin's Albéniz proudly but nonchalantly raises a new and astonishing standard.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“the over-riding impression you're left with is not of breathtaking virtuosity, but of extraordinary subtlety, a range of colours and delicately deployed effects that heightens the introspective imagination of the writing...I can't imagine how this two disc set could be improved, unless it came with two free plane tickets to Seville…” Andrew McGregor, bbc.co.uk, 4th July 2005

“Hamelin again achieves the almost physically impossible with seeming ease. Albéniz's multiple layers are finely balanced, and apparently awkward textures come to life in a lucid acoustic with pace, grace and a constant sense of dance.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2005 ****

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2005

BBC Music Magazine

Instrumental Choice - May 2005

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The Romantic Piano Concerto 65 - Albéniz & Granados

The Romantic Piano Concerto 65 - Albéniz & Granados


Albéniz:

Piano Concerto No. 1 (Concerto fantastico), Op. 78

orchestrated with Tomás Bretón

Spanish Rhapsody, Op. 70

Granados:

Piano Concerto in C minor 'Patético'

adapted & reconstructed for piano and orchestra by Melani Mestre


Volume 65 (have you got them all?) of Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series journeys to Spain and the heart-on-sleeve world there to be found. The Albéniz Concierto fantástico owes much to Schumann and Chopin, albeit with an added drizzle of the Iberian peninsula; the perennially popular Rapsodia española, on the other hand, throws all such classical models to the wind.

Granados never actually got round to writing his piano concerto, so our pianist here—Hyperion debutant Melani Mestre—has done it for him. And it’s a romp. The first movement is pretty much ‘echt’, from Granados’ sketches for a putative piano concerto, but thereafter it’s a hugely enjoyable what-if …

“The ebullience of [the Rapsodia española] is infectious in the playing of Melani Mestre, who has also done the speculative reconstruction of Granados’s C minor Concerto...A sombre start, underlining Granados’s adjective patético, has the stamp of originality and its romantic sweep breathes Spanish air.” The Telegraph, 10th May 2015 *****

“The chief interest lies in the Granados, solemn and declamatory in the first movement before leaving its C minor sense of elegy to recall two earlier 'Spanish Dances' and the composer's one unabashed showpiece, the 'Allegro de concierto'. Musical adventure could hardly go further. Impeccably recorded, all the performances by Melani Mestre and the BBC Scottish Orchestra [sic] under Martyn Brabbins are of an unfaltering fluency and stylistic command.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2015

“Mestre plays [the Granados] with flair and the conviction of an evangelist, and is beguiling in the central allegretto. If neither of these works is a “great” piano concerto, both fall attractively within the rubric of Hyperion’s successful Romantic Piano Concertos series, of which this is a remarkable 65th volume.” Sunday Times, 19th July 2015

“Mestre's playing is limpid and convincing, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra giving discreet support.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2015

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Eugen d’Albert: Solo Piano Music

Eugen d’Albert: Solo Piano Music


Albert, E:

Sonata in F sharp minor Op. 10

Klavierstücke Op. 16 (nos 2 & 3)

Acht Klavierstücke Op. 5

Serenata

Capriolen Fünf schlichte Klavierstücke, Op. 32


Piers Lane (piano)

The oblivion which has overtaken d’Albert in the second half of the twentieth century would have surprised anyone who saw his prodigious rise to fame in the 1880s and ’90s. He was known then as one of the world’s greatest pianists, had studied with Liszt, and knew Brahms. From his teens there began to emerge a body of composition which showed a maturity well beyond his years and seemed to produce a fusion of the then-incompatible schools of the ‘moderns’ (Liszt and Wagner) and the ‘traditionalists’ (Brahms and his followers).

For the latter part of his life d’Albert devoted himself to opera so almost all his instrumental works are products of his earlier years. His piano concertos have been recorded to much acclaim by Piers Lane and here he turns to the solo works. The opus 5 pieces could seem to follow on directly from Brahms’s late Intermezzi, but the latter had not yet been written!

The Sonata, a grand late-Romantic drama, concludes with a triple fugue modelled very much on Bach. The recital concludes with the Capriolen, Op 32, coming, unusually, from much later in d’Albert’s career. These pieces are predominantly light in character and show a composer almost unrecognizable from his earlier self; there are hints of Debussy and atonality in one piece, and jazz in another. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the arrangement of ‘Dixie’ to be found in the oddly-named ‘Missie-Massa’.

“Piers Lane surpasses himself, and the recorded sound is delicious” BBC Music Magazine

“A total triumph. Another important addition to the piano discography from enterprising Hyperion” Classic CD

“A superb recital … provoking astonishment that music of such quality could have lain neglected for so long. No praise could be high enough for Piers Lane whose playing throughout is of a superb musical intelligence, sensitivity and scintillating brilliance” Gramophone Magazine

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Albinoni: 6 Sonata da chiesa Op. 4

Albinoni: 6 Sonata da chiesa Op. 4


Albinoni:

Sonate da chiesa (6), Op. 4

12 Trattenimenti armonici per camera Op. 6


Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin), Richard Tunnicliffe (cello) & Paul Nicholson (harpsichord)

The Locatelli Trio

2 discs for the price of one

“In terms of poise and feeling, Albinoni's chamber music surpasses his more celebrated Venetian contemporary, Vivaldi. Mellifluous performances, warmly engineered.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2006 ****

“Graceful in character... melodically appealing. An enjoyable and very worthwhile release, illuminating less familiar aspects of Albinoni's music” Gramophone Magazine

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Alkan - Concerto for Solo Piano

Alkan - Concerto for Solo Piano


Alkan:

Concerto for Solo Piano Op. 39

Alkan’s Concerto for solo piano is one of the great pianistic high-wire acts—an epic work which demands unprecedented levels of technical ability and physical stamina. It is conceived on a breathtakingly grand scale and is rich with both orchestral sonorities and lyrical pianistic passages.

Troisième recueil de chants, Op. 65

The Troisième recueil de chants is a delightful rarity, rescued here from oblivion by the wonderful Marc-André Hamelin, who with his transcendent technique is simply one of the greatest living performers of this intoxicating music.


“The sheer keyboard brilliance of Hamelin’s playing is exceptional. The breathtaking clarity with which he articulates even the most ferocious passages, while unerringly projecting melodic shapes that are often obscured under welters of notes, never fails to dazzle, and the way in which he sustains the huge first movement of the Concerto so that each discursive paragraph seems a natural consequence of what precedes it is a triumph of pure musical will” The Guardian *****

“Hamelin’s playing here is as breathtaking as ever—it is hard to believe that a lot of it is humanly possible—but, more than simply a dazzling panoply of notes, it conveys a deep musical and expressive range” The Telegraph

“A performance of the Concerto of such brilliance and lucidity that one can only listen in awe and amazement. Scaling even the most ferocious hurdles with yards to spare, he is blessedly free to explore the very heart of Alkan’s bewildering interplay of austerity and monstrous elaboration … You can only marvel at such a unique mix of blazing if nonchalantly deployed virtuosity and poetic conviction … All of this is superly recorded and presented, prompting some not unreasonable conjecture: if Liszt feared Alkan’s mastery as a pianist he may well have feared Hamelin’s” Gramophone Magazine

“If you are yet to be convinced by Valentin Alkan's music, this intelligent and magnificently played programme, displaying contrasting sides of the composer's personality, is for you. As for the performance, if anyone can play it better, expect to see the devil as their agent. It is not simply that Hamelin can negotiate the ferocious technical challenges. Like a great ballet dancer, he maintains a clarity and beauty of line, so that the shape of the music is always clear and seems natural, however unnatural the demands made by Alkan. ...this is playing of the highest order in music that should be at the heart of the Romantic repertoire.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2007 *****

“This is Marc-André Hamelin's second recording of the Alkan Concerto for Solo Piano (the first for Music & Arts dates from 1992) and he now trumps his previous ace with a performance of the Concerto of such brilliance and lucidity that one can only listen in awe and amazement.
Scaling even the most ferocious hurdles with yards to spare, he is blessedly free to explore the very heart of Alkan's bewildering interplay of austerity and monstrous elaboration. In the gigantic first movement you can hear avalanches of notes given with the rarest focus and trenchancy.
And whether you turn to the finale's helter-skelter pages (with their curious Eastern underpinnings) or the baleful central Adagio, you can only marvel at such a unique mix of blazing if nonchalantly deployed virtuosity and poetic conviction.
For his substantial encore Hamelin gives us Alkan's Troisième recueil de chants where outward convention vies with that sinister and pervasive oddity so central to this composer's nature. No 3 is a near bitonal canon, No 4 a polonaise with memories of the Etudes from which the Concerto is drawn and a crazy, race-away coda, while the concluding Barcarolle contains ironic echoes of Liszt's Au lac de Wallenstadt.
All this is superbly recorded and presented, prompting some not unreasonable conjecture: if Liszt feared Alkan's mastery as a pianist he may well have feared Hamelin's.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Awards 2008

Finalist - Instrumental

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - Awards Issue 2007

BBC Music Magazine

Disc of the month - September 2007

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Alkan: Esquisses (48), Op. 63

Alkan: Esquisses (48), Op. 63


‘A sensitivity, radiance and finesse rarely encountered from even the finest pianists … an invaluable disc’ (Gramophone)

“Here's a superlative record of music to confound the sceptics, including the soloist himself, who, in a witty, concentrated essay, expresses his surprise at discovering Alkan's Esquisses and their journey into intimacy rather than gargantuan bravura. Not that these 48 fragments, many of them of a teasing and enigmatic brevity, could be by any other composer. Gnomic, introspective, full of odd twists and turns of phrase and expression, they invariably catch you unawares.
In 'Confidence', a Field-like innocence is countered by enough surprises to declare the composer's identity. 'Les soupirs' is so much more than a foretaste of Debussyan impressionism.
'Inflexibilité' holds the listener in a vicelike grip and the change from charm ('Petite marche villageoise') to grimness ('Morituri te salutant') is typical of Alkan's volatile yet rigorous command of the widest variety of ideas and pastiches. 'Le frisson', 'Pseudo-naïveté', 'Délire', 'Fais Dodo', 'L'homme aux sabots' – the titles predict an eccentricity that's nonetheless qualified by a formidable intellectual focus.
Osborne's performances are of a sensitivity, radiance and finesse rarely encountered from even the finest pianists. He floats the opening of 'La vision' in a magical haze or nimbus of sound, peppers the keyboard with an immaculate virtuosity in 'La staccatissimo', relishes the Norwegien tang of 'Début de quatuor' and brings a wicked frisson to 'Les diablotins', where Alkan's little devils are hustled from the field almost as if the composer had lost patience with his own grotesque creation.
Misha Donat's notes are as affectionate as they are perceptive, and Hyperion's sound is of demonstration quality. An invaluable disc, particularly for those drawn to music's byways.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2003

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Alkan - Symphony for solo piano

Alkan - Symphony for solo piano


Alkan:

Symphony (from Twelve Études in the Minor Keys), Op. 39 No. 4 - 7

Alleluia, Op. 25

Trois Morceaux dans la Genre Pathétique, Op. 15

Salut, Cendre du Pauvre!, Op. 45

Super flumina Babylonis - Paraphrase, Op. 52


“Marc-André Hamelin puts us further in his debt with another superbly played disc of Alkan … [the Symphony’s] big-boned, exorbitantly taxing writing draws appropriately stunning pianism from Hamelin” BBC Music Magazine, September 2007

“Hamelin makes light of their many difficulties. Superb playing and very good recording - and noteworthy not only for its virtuosity but for its refined music-making.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

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Chopin & Alkan - Cello Sonatas

Chopin & Alkan - Cello Sonatas


Alkan:

Cello Sonata, Op. 47

Chopin:

Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 65


Alban Gerhardt (cello) & Steven Osborne (piano)

This recording of two great Romantic cello sonatas features the mercurial duo of cellist Alban Gerhardt and pianist Steven Osborne, both musicians of dazzling technical and interpretative abilities. Gerhardt is known for his passionate commitment to lesser-known nineteenth-century repertoire through his coruscating performances in Hyperion’s Romantic Cello Concerto series, and in this chamber disc he reaches an even higher level of thrilling intensity.

There are relatively few nineteenth-century cello sonatas. Even fewer have managed steadfastly to maintain a place in the current concert repertoire. Alkan’s splendid Sonata is a little-known work, but an immediately attractive one: ambitious, original, and replete with good tunes. Chopin’s Op 65 Sonata is a dense, complex work which baffled his contemporaries: it is revealed in this performance as a sophisticated example of two-part counterpoint, in which neither player consistently holds the centre-stage, and in which the interchange of voices is ever unpredictable.

Both works were written for the great French cellist Auguste-Joseph Franchomme who gave their premieres, with the composer at the piano in each case, in 1848 and 1857 respectively.

“Both performances from this outstanding partnership are out of the top drawer, fresh, spontaneous and beautifully recorded.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2008

“Alkan's Sonata has been recorded several times before, yet it has remained obstinately in the wings of the cello repertoire. This new version must surely drag it centre-stage. It is a masterpiece: meaty, melodic and, as with most of Alkan's music, extremely demanding to play – Mendelssohn with balls. The Allegretto second movement with its sly, pungent harmonies and the mystical, almost impressionistic slow movement especially are further proof, if it were needed, of Alkan's genius.
Chopin's Cello Sonata, his final major work and the last published in his lifetime, has never lacked champions, despite the notorious problems of balance in the first movement. Here the musical line is focused and unambiguous, though the da capo repeat turns what is by far the longest movement (usually about 10 minutes) into one approaching 15, making it quite disproportionate to the scale of the other three.
However, it offers the chance to hear twice the heart-catching little motif at 2 mins 42 secs which has rarely been played so affectingly. Both performances from this outstanding partnership are out of the top drawer, fresh, spontaneous and beautifully recorded.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“The Chopin sonata is everything that Alkan's isn't: dark, searching and puzzling; Alkan, on the other hand, produced an immediately accessible though technically demanding piece...Alban Gerhardt and Steven Osborne rise to the challenge with ease, giving us a real sense of Alkan's character while dispatching the more familiar Chopin with aplomb.” The Guardian, 12th October 2008

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