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Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 7

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 7


Beethoven:

String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 18 No. 2

String Quartet No. 9 in C major, Op. 59 No. 3 'Rasumovsky No. 3'


The Quartetto di Cremona have completed another stage in their adventurous journey through the cosmos of Beethoven's String Quartets, visiting the Quartet in G major from the Op. 18 set and the last of the Op. 59 Quartets.

The performance culture and market for the string quartet in the late eighteenth century was markedly different to that of later times: the young Beethoven wrote his Quartets Op. 18 for amateurs. The G major Quartet, the second in the collection, was one such work that could bemastered by talented aristocrats and bourgeois connoisseurs - which is not to say that its complexities or musical challenges are in any way diminished.

With the so-called "Razumovsky" Quartets,the string quartet reached adulthood. And one only needs to compare the technical and intellectual demands of Op. 59 to contemporary works (such as the quartets of the young Franz Schubert) in order to recognise that Beethoven no longer composed for able amateurs, but for highly professional specialists.This becomes particularly obvious in the finale, an extended and extremely virtuosic fugue.

The Quartetto di Cremona have combined these two works from Beethoven's early and middle periods for the seventh volume in their Complete Beethoven String Quartets recording series. Both works end with an "earworm" - one in the classical spirit and one in the form of a rapid fugue - finale furioso!

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Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 6

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 6


Beethoven:

String Quartet No. 5 in A major, Op. 18 No. 5

String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op. 130


Once more, an early and a late work provide insight into Beethoven’s startling development. Both pieces reveal how Beethoven incorporated folk music into his own works – in all other aspects, the styles of these two string quartets could not be more different.

Early and late - with Beethoven this always implies developing questions and expanding compositional ideas. In the case of the works recorded here, the A major Quartet from the Op. 18 set and the B-flat major Quartet, Op. 130, the focus is on folk music and its integration into art music: a recurring, central subject for the composers of "Viennese Classicism" which also guaranteed general accessibility to their music. The variations on a simple theme in the Andante of the Quartet Op. 18 No. 5 represent such a case of looking towards popular music, as also does the "Alla danza tedesca" from the late Quartet Op. 130, where the rhythm and character of the good old German dance is alienated to such an extent that it seems to appear as a damaged recollection, more than as an actual dance.

In all other aspects, however, the styles of these two string quartets could not be more different. "Who would not remember the enthusiasm created by his first symphonies, his sonatas, his quartets", a contemporary wrote not long after Beethoven's death. "All music lovers were delighted to find, so soon after

Mozart's death, a man emerge who promised to replace the sorely missed. But alas, albeit gradually,though increasingly, he departed from his initial path, insisted on cutting a new one, and finally went astray." This "going astray" is today considered the most fascinating late oeuvre in musical history, to be experienced here in passionate and painstaking interpretations by the Quartetto di Cremona as part of their recording of the complete Beethoven Quartets.

“[The Cremona] are well up to their usual standard in the exhilarating performance for the A major Quartet Op. 18 No. 5, with its wonderfully peremptory opening and its general air of a youthful genius in confident possessions of his unique powers” BBC Music Magazine, January 2017 **

“Op 130 is a masterpiece — tough, poignant, charming, even a touch sentimental. It’s played with freshness and immediacy.” Sunday Times, 14th August 2016

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Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 5

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 5


Beethoven:

String Quintet in C major, Op. 29

Lawrence Dutton (viola)

String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132


Audite’s fifth volume of the Complete Beethoven String Quartets presents not only the Op. 132 String Quartet but also Beethoven’s only original String Quintet. Lawrence Dutton, the viola player of the Emerson String Quartet, joins the Quartetto di Cremona.

Mozart left six string quintets to the music world, Louis Spohr’s work catalogue contains seven, whilst Luigi Boccherini completed around 120. Beethoven had three quintets published; however, only one of these was originally conceived for string quintet. However, his opus 29 of 1801 is a true masterwork on the brink between the Classical style of his teacher, Joseph Haydn, and the revolutionary idiom of Beethoven’s middle and late periods. The Adagio (with its adjunct of “molto espressivo”) in particular heralds an evocative intensity which was still foreign in Beethoven’s earlier works. However, by his late oeuvre of the 1820s – the Ninth Symphony, 'Missa solemnis', late piano sonatas and quartets – Beethoven had developed such a distinctive language that the label of 'Early Romanticism' no longer applies. His String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, with its five movements and exceptional degree of difficulty also stands apart from contemporary works; then as now, only professional ensembles could tackle this grandly conceived colossus. As in the quintet, the Molto adagio represents the core of the piece. Its title – “Holy song of thanksgiving of a convalescent to the Deity” – refers to an illness from which the composer had recovered, and adapts a chant inspired by the Renaissance composer Palestrina. In so doing, Beethoven includes a musical ancestor in his quartet whilst making a religious avowal.

“Uncompromising; there’s a real muscular energy and biting attack there, almost gritty, grainy sound; very powerful, very impressive … I think this series is a very interesting series, and if you haven’t heard any of the volumes from it you should go back and listen because it’s all very impressive, it’s just building up to be a series to have and to hear … an overwhelming performance.” CD Review, 16th January 2016

“Recording the Beethoven strings quartets is a rite of passage for any quartet. The Italian Quartetto di Cremona, still young but together a good decade, has reached that point...the reason to choose this disc is for the other work: the rarely heard String Quintet in C Op 29...The group’s Italianate grace comes into its own in this radiant music” The Guardian, 24th January 2016 ***

“They play with fervour and flair. If at times in the monumental Op 132 in A minor you long for a degree more weight, more digging into the soil than skittering in the air, the reason to choose this disc is for the other work: the rarely heard String Quintet in C Op 29, with a second viola, Lawrence Dutton, as fifth player. The group’s Italianate grace comes into its own in this radiant music, with its lyrical opening, heartfelt Adagio, blithe Scherzo and fly-away Presto.” The Observer, 24th January 2016

“This is the most exciting new disc of string quartet playing that I have come across for a long time” BBC Music Magazine, March 2016

“This fifth volume of one of the most impressive cycles to emerge in recent years showcases bold, powerful playing … the entire disc displays unanimity and depth of playing of the very highest order” Classical Music, March 2016

BBC Music Magazine

Chamber Choice - March 2016

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Grieg: Complete Symphonic Works, Vol. 5

Grieg: Complete Symphonic Works, Vol. 5


Grieg:

Peer Gynt (highlights)

Six Songs for voice & orchestra

Lyric Pieces Op. 68: No. 4 - Evening in the mountains

Lyric Pieces Op. 68: No. 5 - At the cradle

Den Bergtekne, Op. 32

Norwegian Dances (4), Op. 35


This recording gathers several important examples of the less familiar Edvard Grieg as composer of songs with orchestra. Soprano Camilla Tilling plays a leading part in this fifth and final volume of Audite’s complete recording of Grieg’s orchestral works: although Grieg drew on his own songs with orchestra or piano for the 'Six Orchestral Songs', this set forms an independent, elegiacally-hued cycle reflecting the core of Grieg’s personality. It includes not only two songs from the incidental music to 'Peer Gynt' (Solveig’s Song and Solveig’s Lullaby) but also transcriptions of solemn piano songs such as the Roman ballad 'From Monte Pincio', or the memory of the short-lived Norwegian patriot Henrik Wergeland, to whom the final song (sung by Tom Erik Lie) is dedicated. Cities such as Oslo and Bergen, where Grieg worked as a conductor, did not provide inspiration for his compositions: in order to be able to write, he travelled to the countryside. He particularly loved the wild region of Hardanger in West Norway, where he found the most original folk music and where he spent several summers. Here, he composed not only his 'Norwegian Dances', but also the short orchestral ballad 'Den Bergtekne' (The Mountain Thrall), in which Grieg portrays himself as a restless poet, at odds with love.

“The delights come thick and fast on this, the fifth and final instalment in Eivind Aadland's treasurable Grieg series for Audite. Soprano Camilla Tilling is on radiant form…Aadland and his exemplary Cologne band tender meltingly lovely support…Audite's ideally airy, superbly realistic SACD sonics set the seal on another unmissable treat. Hats off to all involved in this superlative enterprise!” Classical Ear, 17/03/2016 *****

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Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 4

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 4


Beethoven:

String Quartet No. 1 in F major, Op. 18 No. 1

String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 131


For their fourth volume of Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartets, the Quartetto di Cremona have chosen two works forming a portal within his quartet writing.

Beethoven had opened his Op. 18 set with the Quartet in F major, written in 1798/99 at the behest of his patron and friend, Prince Lobkowicz. Despite the mellifluous, pastoral key, the music draws a long line from the brilliantly crafted first and last movements to the dark hues of the Adagio, apparently inspired by the tomb scene from Shakespeare’s 'Romeo and Juliet'. Even within the framework of the traditional form, Beethoven’s quartet début achieves a maximum of moods and stylistic variety.

Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 131 of 1826, generally perceived as a peak within his chamber music, is entirely different. It was written in the shadows of the Ninth Symphony and the 'Missa solemnis', but appears much more eccentric and experimental than these two large-scale works. Seven sections of diverse tone and character are played without breaks in between; a brooding fugue stands alongside a sensitive adagio, a folk tune presto is next to a restless finale. The work was written for the Viennese violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh, whose quartet set the professional playing standard for the following 100 years. Schuppanzigh rehearsed Beethoven’s Op. 131 painstakingly – without him this music, which was deemed not only unplayable but also 'unhearable' by contemporaries, would not exist.

“Beethoven's most experimental in the medium. The playing, as ever, is blisteringly detailed and right in your face: you can feel the grain of the music and actually hear the fierce tension of concentration through the players' breathing (part of it; not a distraction) … This gripping Cremona cycle goes from strength to strength.” The Herald (Glasgow), April 2015

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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 'Choral'


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Grieg: Complete Symphonic Works Volume 4

Grieg: Complete Symphonic Works Volume 4


Grieg:

Symphony in C minor

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16

Herbert Schuch (piano)


The fourth volume of Audite’s complete recording of Edvard Grieg’s orchestral works with the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln and Eivind Aadland combines the most popular work by the Norwegian national composer with his least known. The Piano Concerto in A minor, performed here by Herbert Schuch, represented the 25-year-old Grieg’s break through to international fame and is one of a handful of great piano concertos on which every pianist is judged. In the concerto, the influence of Schumann, his great model (Grieg had, after all, studied in Leipzig), is combined with that of Norwegian folk music – for the first time in a work by Grieg these national elements can be detected, which enthused not only his compatriots but also his wider European audience. In his Symphony in C minor, completed in 1864, however, hardly any Norwegian inflections can be traced: besides Schumann, Grieg emulated the Danish symphonic composer Niels Wilhelm Gade, who had pressed his young colleague to adopt the genre. Although it was a remarkable proof of the 21-year-old’s talent, Grieg was not entirely satisfied with his symphony and forbade any further performance. The work was not revived until 1980, when it was performed under adventurous conditions in the Soviet Union, upon which it was immediately recognised as an important milestone in the Scandinavian orchestral culture of the 19th century.

“Grieg's most popular piece alongside his most forgotten, the amiable Symphony he withdrew soon after it was written. The Concerto performance lacks fire, but it's an agreeable combination.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2014 ***

“a fresh, lightly sprung performance that avoids any inappropriate feelings of portentousness and highlights the mazurka-style third movement as the most characteristic in terms of its thematic material....[in the Piano Concerto] again Aadland and his Cologne players provide an excellent account of the orchestral score, supportive of Schuch and distinctive on its own terms.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2014

“Schuch, with the full support of the orchestra and conductor, gives a fresh and flowing, feisty even, account of music easy to take for granted. There is much here that is gentle and tender, too, and the slow movement is especially soulful, beautifully brought off, and the finale has an invigorating impetuousness as well as idyllic romance and final triumph. Throughout, a positive collaboration informs this honest outing for such a familiar concerto.” International Record Review, December 2014

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American Recital: Ulrich Roman Murtfeld

American Recital: Ulrich Roman Murtfeld


Barber:

Nocturne, Op. 33

Piano Sonata, Op. 26

Gershwin:

Preludes (3)

Glass, P:

Opening from 'Glassworks'

Gottschalk, L:

Pasquinade, caprice, Op. 59

Ricordati Nocturne, méditation, romance RO227 (Op 26)

The Last Hope Religious meditation RO133 (Op 16) 1854

Berceuse, RO27 (Op 47) 1860

Le banjo - fantaisie grotesque, Op. 15 (RO22)

Rzewski:

Piano Pieces (4): No. 4


Ulrich Roman Murtfeld (piano)

This SACD presents a cross-section of North American piano music from 1850 to 1980: a fascinating musical cosmos which is, above all, notable for its stylistic variety. This is characteristic of American music‘s search for its identity from the very beginning of its history: a lack of historical references is replaced by a plethora of ethnic-social phenomena and the principle of permanent cultural exchange. Gottschalk became an early pioneer of 'crossover' and Gershwin merged jazz and art music to form a unique entity.

With his monumental 'Piano Sonata' and 'Nocturne', Samuel Barber delivered brilliant examples of a tonally and formally conservative yet powerful and compellingly individual language. In contrast, Philip Glass and Frederic Rzewski represent contemporary positions, with extremes of minimalism and the avant-garde of an advanced American modernism.

Ulrich Roman Murtfeld was born in 1970 in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, into a family with a strong musical tradition. He has found major inspiration in the Lieder classes of Hartmut Höll and Mitsuko Shirai, and on master courses with Sergei Dorensky and with François-René Duchâble in Paris. In 2002 he was awarded first prize in the Blüttner piano competition, Karlsruhe; in 2003 he was the "Brahmshaus" Scholar of the Brahms Society in Baden-Baden. As a soloist, Murtfeld has performed in numerous European countries besides Germany, with repertoire centred on the classical-romantic heritage and also on contemporary works. His concert programmes of modern music comprise works ranging from Dutilleux and Ligeti to Stockhausen, Rihm and Hölszky, as well as to the younger generation of composers such as Jorg Widmann and Moritz Eggert. He has completed recordings for radio and television on many occasions (Radio Bremen, Hessischer Rundfunk, SWR, Radio Cultura São Paulo). Performances of works by Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, Farrenc, Debussy, Dutilleux and Rihm are available on CD.

“Suave New York sophistication … In terms of piano playing, the aura of shimmering beauty created by means of a seemingly infinite variety of touch is the disc’s summit achievement … Murtfield is a pianist to reckon with. He has a point of view and a vivid imagination. His playing is both a pleasure to listen to and (speaking as an American) downright refreshing. Heartily recommended.” International Record Review, November 2014

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Rachmaninov & Tchaikovsky: Piano Trios

Rachmaninov & Tchaikovsky: Piano Trios


Rachmaninov:

Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor, Op. post.

Tchaikovsky:

Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50 'In Memory of a Great Artist'


Trio Testore: Franziska Pietsch (violin), Hans-Christian Schweiker (cello) & Hyun-Jung Kim-Schweiker (piano)

After a successful release of Brahms Piano Trios, Audite present a second SACD with the Trio Testore. It sheds light on a moving concept in Russian chamber music as both Tchaikovsky‘s and Rachmaninov‘s works are conceived as dedications and memorials.

Tchaikovsky composed his only Piano Trio in memory of Nikolai Rubinstein, his mentor and friend. He paid tribute to Rubinstein’s pianistic brilliance with the work’s demanding piano part, but integrated it also into the communicative context with two equal partners: symbolically, the virtuoso receives support and stimulation from them. Rachmaninov took this two-movement work and its fundamentally elegiac character as a model when he composed his First Piano Trio. Even at the tender age of 17 he was able to mould essential elements of his style and melodic invention. The history of the dedications of the works determines their individual form and their personal, passionate message.

“Trio Testore tackle the earlier of the Rachmaninov trios, cast in a single movement, with a mix of tenderness and raw emotion; it is not a masterwork; but with the sensibility that these players reveal, it comes across with touching sincerity.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2014

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Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 3

Beethoven: Complete String Quartets Volume 3


Beethoven:

String Quartet No. 4 in C minor, Op. 18 No. 4

Grosse Fuge in B flat major, Op. 133

String Quartet No. 7 in F major, Op. 59 No. 1 'Rasumovsky No. 1'


In the Quartetto di Cremona’s third volume of the Complete Beethoven String Quartets, enthusiastically received by press and audience alike, the ensemble undertakes a bold triple jump through Beethoven’s different stages of musical development. Presented here are the C minor work from the first, ingenious set of quartets Op. 18, the first of the highly virtuosic ‘Razumovsky’ Quartets Op. 59, as well as the Große Fuge [Great Fugue], a pinnacle of musical artistry.

“Miss this one at your peril...The Quartetto di Cremona is absolutely the full Mediterranean Monty with their big, open, attacking sound, robust and muscular projection, hyper-confidence of comprehension and delivery. All of their strengths are enshrined in this sensational set of performances.” The Herald (Glasgow), 18th May 2014

“I particularly like the way they combine early, middle and late Beethoven: it sets up fascinating tensions and counterpoints. Their opening of the Grosse Fuge is a reminder that this is one of the greatest of all gauntlet-throwing-down gestures in music. It's immensely ballsy playing, sweaty, almost anarchic.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2014

“Beethoven with drive that barely lets up…There’s no shortage of bite or energy…The instruments speak with crisp articulation, and the players don’t hold back in terms of vigour…Plenty of agility as well as heft...there’s no doubting the impeccable balance of the ensemble, nor their poise in the playful allegretto… a thought provoking release.” The Strad, August 2014

“Early, middle and late Beethoven is projected with visceral excitement and pulsating energy by this gifted quartet. Occasionally I missed a more lyrical approach, especially in Op. 59 No. 1” BBC Music Magazine, October 2014 ****

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