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Mind Meld: Works for One Piano, Four Hands
Musical compatriots. Collaborators. Teachers. Friends. Pianists. These are the links that bound the four remarkable 20th century composers, whose one-piano-four-hands works are brought together by Sono Luminus on this first CD from the dynamic ZOFO duet. Whether performing public duet concerts together or using the piano four-hands form to explore their symphonic visions, Bernstein, Shapero, Debussy and Stravinsky all understood the musical power of sharing the bench.
When internationally acclaimed solo pianists Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi joined forces to form ZOFO duet in the spring of 2009, their goal was to explore and enrich the one-piano-four-hands repertoire by performing and recording existing and new works at the highest level of musical excellence. The pieces they chose for their first public performance as a professional ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory in the fall of 2009 were by Leonard Bernstein, Harold Shapero, Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky – four highly influential composers of the 20th century who knew each other, learned from each other, sometimes performed together, and embraced the piano four - hands form. Since their concert debut in 2009 ZOFO has performed dozens of concerts with repertoire ranging from Johannes Brahms to Tomohiro Moriyama, and in venues from San Francisco to Carnegie Hall to Osaka Japan. But for this, their first CD, Eva-Maria and Keisuke return to the four composers and magnificent pieces that launched them on their career as ZOFO duet.
“[The Rite] is less colorful than the “customary” orchestral version, but the effect is no less profound. The intrinsic rhythmic details are more starkly exposed in the more percussive piano presentation...there is no danger of the percussive keyboard impacts getting on your nerves. Overall, this is a very good disc.” MusicWeb International, April 2013
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Jonathan Darlington conducts Debussy & Stravinsky
Jonathan Darlington and the Duisburger Philhamoniker create a most exciting live recording of two key works of the twentieth century. This is part of the Living Concert Series.
“The playing is good throughout both performances...Darlington conducts both scores with understanding and conviction. He brings lots of energy and a sense of ebb and flow to the second movement of La Mer and there’s admirable vigour to his reading of the third movement.” MusicWeb International, 20th February 2014
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Stravinsky: The Firebird, The Rite of Spring & Petrushka
Pierre Boulez’s name has always been closely linked with the three great early Russian ballets of Stravinsky – The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. Here are all three, in outstanding performances with the premier orchestras of Chicago and Cleveland.
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University of Houston at the Meyerson, Vol. 2
University of Houston Wind Ensemble, Eddie Green
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
This release is the final installment in a trio of discs that celebrate the music of Stravinsky in Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Thierry Fischer.
This live orchestral recording brings together two contrasting works both composed for the famed ballet company: Stravinsky’s infamous The Rite of Spring – full of dark, rhythmic menace and dissonance – and Poulenc’s Les biches (most aptly translated as ‘the does’) – which captures the heady atmosphere and risqué thrills of young women in the 1920s' party scene.
“this is a no-nonsense, hard-driven account of the Rite, sure to raise the pulse rate. Both the 'Dance of the earth' and 'Sacrificial Dance' combine searing energy and precision. At times it is a little emotionless, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, Fischer avoiding the mannerisms that beset some versions....[Les Biches] bounces along as genially as the Rite is menacing.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2011 ****
“Fischer's French sensibility is evident from the very start of this brightly lit and articulate Rite: a provocative and teasing rubato in the opening bassoon solo immediately hints at the sexual and the chic...The precision of the Welsh orchestra is impressive, the clarity and vitality of the sound throwing up detail that one thought had long since stopped being surprising. But here it is - freshly minted” Gramophone Magazine, September 2011
“There’s so much to enjoy in the sheer sound of this performance – the gorgeous, Impressionistic textures conjured up in the slow opening to the ballet’s second half, or the swift traipse through "The Augurs of Spring", with the offbeat chords sonorous and weighty. And the "Dance of the Earth" is terrific..You can almost feel the delight on the players’ faces” Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk, 11th June 2011
“Helped by state-of-the-art sound, Fischer's refinement speaks volumes in the Rite's quieter passages, where the string clusters and gurgling woodwind have a lucid beauty that contrasts finely with the weight of the rest...The real treat, though, is Les Biches.... There is a dark undertow in the performance, with echoes of Offenbach and 18th-century elegance... The tricky choral writing is expertly negotiated, and the playing poised in the extreme.” The Guardian, 12th May 2011 ****
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Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring & Petrushka
On the face of it, it seems strange that a worldly-wise, successful composer like Stravinsky should lock himself away for hours in a small studio and arrange his own music for the pianola. Everyone knows, don't they, that pianolas (a somewhat less than generic term for player pianos) sound like beat-up old honky-tonks, drowning any musical inspiration with the squeaking of their gears and the wheezing of their pedals!
Well, have we got news for you! Pianolas don't always play with an inexorable tempo and at triple forte; they can and should sound as musically sensitive as any other instrument, and Stravinsky himself enjoyed playing them. Over the past forty years there have been so many false descriptions and loud recordings of the pianola that public perception of the instrument is a travesty of what was originally intended. To be sure, there were cheap pianolas to be had, but the majority of instruments were installed in high-class pianos and often cost as much as luxury automobiles. As you listen to Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, we hope that this program note may help to change your mind about a frequently and unjustly maligned musical instrument.
“Unlike the fully automated rolls created by Rachmaninov, Stravinsky's require a player to control the mechanism, in this case Rex Lawson who works wonders in bringing these paper rolls fully to life.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2011 ****
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One Piano Four Hands
Fiona York & John York (piano)
Throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th, it was standard practice to publish symphonies, overtures, whole operas, quartets, ballets – almost everything – in piano duet form alongside the full scores. But why take on the challenge of actually giving concert performances of great orchestral works in versions for four hands on one piano? There are several reasons why we do it; if the duet version is a composer-original, as is the case with all the works presented here, it has per se a genuine validity, deserving of our attention; in some cases the duet version actually predates the full orchestral score; the piano version can clarify the denser orchestral textures and rhythms; and it is both a huge challenge to the pianist and huge fun to play, and to watch. The three duet works on this CD all find on the piano a life as valid and intoxicating as they have in the more usual orchestral performances.
York2 has a fine reputation as the 'duo with a difference', gained through John and Fiona's exploration of larger scale and contemporary scores alongside the rich and familiar duet repertoire. They have given concerts for societies and festivals in the UK and Australia, on BBC Radio 3, CBC TV, at the Salzburg Festival, concertos at the Barbican Centre and South Bank in London. Fiona has taught in the junior departments of the Royal College, Trinity and Guildhall, she is at present at St. Paul’s Girls’ School and Eltham College, both in London. John was Professor at Guildhall for 33 years and is Senior Music Head of Department at St. Paul's Girls' School. Independently and together Fiona and John have rounded, versatile careers that combine concerts (John working in particular with celebrated cellist Raphael Wallfisch), editing and reviewing, composing for major publishers, adjudicating, teaching and coaching.
“Recital discs of four-hand music don't come much finer than this: the playing of the highest order and the programme brings together some of the most inportant scores of the early years of the last century, demonstrating in abundance just how vital and eclectic was the Parisian musical scene in the pre-war years. Highly recommended.” International Record Review, December 2010
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