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Lutosławski: Orchestral Works 2
This is the third volume in the Chandos series devoted to the music of the Polish composer Witold Lutosławski. It brings together his first surviving orchestral piece (The Symphonic Variations) and his last symphony, as well as two works for piano and orchestra – an early work originally written for two pianos (The ‘Paganini’ Variations), and his very last concerto. The works are performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Edward Gardner, described by Gramophone as a veritable ‘Dream Team’ in Vol. 1. They are joined in this recording by Louis Lortie, the award-winning pianist and exclusive Chandos artist.
Lutosławski composed his Symphonic Variations while he was studying with Witold Maliszewski at the Warsaw Conservatory. When he showed the work to his teacher, he was told in no uncertain terms: ‘For me your work is ugly.’ A rather disheartening response to be sure, but perhaps also proof that here was a work that was well ahead of its time. Today it fits in easily with the European tradition of variation form, and is considered a prime example of the lush, but edgy harmonies of the composer, and of his vivid ear for instrumental colour and virtuosity.
Less than three years later, Poland was invaded by Germany, and normal music life disappeared. In its place, musical cafés emerged as places where light music as well as mainstream repertoire was performed. Lutosławski made his living in these cafés by playing a repertoire of light music, arranged by himself and his piano-duet partner, Andrzej Panufnik. All but one of these works were destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The sole survivor was the Variations on a Theme of Paganini. The version recorded here is Lutosławski’s orchestration for piano and orchestra, of the original version for two pianos.
Also on this disc is the Piano Concerto, the last of Lutosławski’s concertante works, as well as Symphony No. 4, which Lutosławski composed over four years (1988 – 92), conducting its premiere in Los Angeles, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in 1993, just a year before his death.
The Polish series is supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
“[the Symphony Variations] now sound lush and exuberant...Louis Lortie makes the most of the slightly underwhelming Piano Concerto (1987-88). The jaunty Variations on a Theme of Paganini (1978) – written within a year of Andrew Lloyd Webber's better-known version – and the Fourth Symphony (1988-92) give far more sense of this discreetly quixotic composer.” The Observer, 8th January 2012
“Gardner and the BBC Symphony, backed up by glittering sound, do [the Symphonic Variations] proud, from the folk-like opening flute theme, through its varied treatments...Lortie is an ideal soloist [in the Concerto], with a clarity of touch familiar from his recordings of the French repertoire, but also the power for the bigger gestures...Again, Gardner leads a detailed, musically sure-paced orchestral contribution.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2012 ****
“in a performance as vivacious and committed as this one, [the Symphonic Variations] comprises a veritable treat...Gardner's conception of the riveting Fourth Symphony (1988-92)...has both infectious involvement and considerable expressive ardour to commend it...Throughout, Gardner secures some first-class playing from the BBC SO; Ralph Couzens's engineering is, needless to say, state of the art.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2012
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Leif Ove Andsnes - Shadows of Silence
“His enviably natural, unforced clarity and musicianship shine through every bar.” Gramophone
Leif Ove Andsnes’s new CD for EMI Classics features performances of some of his favourite contemporary repertoire including world premiere recordings of two 21st century compositions written for him: Bent Sørensen’s The Shadows of Silence for solo piano, and the Piano Concerto by Marc-André Dalbavie. Andsnes also performs Witold Lutoslawski’s Piano Concerto and selections from Játékok (Games) by Gyorgy Kurtág. The Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Franz Welser-Möst join Andsnes in the two piano concertos, both recorded live.
The Piano Concerto by Marc-André Dalbavie (b. 1961, France) was a co-commission of the BBC Proms, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Andsnes performed the world premiere with the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jukka-Pekka Saraste at the 2005 Proms and subsequently performed the concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony/David Robertson and the Tokyo Philharmonic/Marc-André Dalbavie.
"I love working with him. I love his imagination." says Andsnes of Dalbavie. "He has such a colourful mind and always comes up with interesting thoughts and ideas which are very much reflected in his music. I love how one sound transforms itself into another through a musical chain of events. When he was resident composer in Risør in 2003, it was impressive how Dalbavie had it clear in his mind exactly what he wanted to hear." Preparing for the composition, Dalbavie met with Andsnes several times and heard him in concert often. “I've had a great experience with this pianist, his musicality, and powerful sound. He's both very strong and very soft, which is important to me. His sound is very lyrical, which I wanted to integrate into the concerto, and the lyrical sound of his playing is brought forth through the different materials. When he plays pianissimo, he doesn't make the sound low, but changes its colour. I was very surprised to find a pianist who could play so closely what I thought the music should sound like."
Following the performances with the Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchestra, the Abendzeitung wrote, “Pianist Leif Ove Andsnes convincingly played with energy and lyrical sensitivity. (...) the applause was just like after a Tchaikovsky (concerto), with great cheers for the soloist.”
The CD’s title work, The Shadows of Silence by the Danish composer Bent Sørensen (b. 1958), was commissioned by Carnegie Hall for performance by Leif Ove Andsnes in his prestigious 2004-2005 “Perspectives” series. "The Shadows of Silence is an engaging and unusually textured piece, filled with hushed, trembling sonorities drawn from the extremes of pitch at both ends of the keyboard. … evocative of an arctic landscape, with glistening watery surfaces stretching across vast spaces. Jagged chords slice through the calm, but there are also impressionistic washes of colour, infinite shades of white. … The music grows ruminative and halting as it drifts into the distance, blurring into silence. Mr. Andsnes played it with immense subtlety.” (The New York Times) Leif Ove Andsnes has said, “I play Shadows of Silence a lot in recitals because I love it so much. … It is very difficult … because [Sørensen] demands that you play the same notes many times, very fast but very soft. … there’s a kind of dreamlike landscape to it, which I really love being in. … There is one thing I have to do which is quite unusual: I have to hum along at the end of the piece. … When I played it in Carnegie Hall for the first time, the artistic administrator … offered me a vocal recital the next time…. which I’m not sure I will accept.”
Witold Lutoslawski’s Piano Concerto, composed in 1987-88, is considered the great piano concerto of the second half of the 20th century. In four connected movements, it combines twelve-tone techniques, tonal and polytonal harmonies with hints of Chopin, Ravel, Bach and Eastern European folk music. “With its large, sweeping gestures and dramatic interplay between the soloist and the orchestra, the piano concerto pays homage to this most popular of concert music genres. Yet even while writing a public piece hardly less accessible than the concertos of Prokofiev, Lutoslawski finds ingenious ways to make the music fresh, original and intellectually challenging.” (The New York Times, reviewing a performance by Leif Ove Andsnes with the New York Philharmonic) The Times went on to describe Andsnes’s playing as “commanding, elegant, incisive, rich with wondrous colours and full of imagination.”
György Kurtág began his Játékok series (Játékok means Games in Hungarian) in 1973. When he had completed his Opus 7 in 1968, Kurtág had a case of ”writer’s block” and decided to set himself the task of analysing works by other composers such as Beethoven, Bartók, Schubert and Debussy. One result was his ongoing series Játékok, short works for piano solo or piano four hands in which Kurtag comments on the works of these aforementioned composers and on questions that he feels they left behind. The Játékok are witty, understated, informal works in which the composer plays with ideas and familiar sounds in unfamiliar ways. Andsnes has often included the works on his recital programmes and has chosen eight of them for this recording.
Leif Ove Andsnes is one of today’s most sought-after performers. During the first half of 2009, he performs the Dalbavie Piano Concerto in Paris and Amsterdam, gives recitals with Heinrich Schiff in Italy and solo recitals in Austria, France, Germany and Luxembourg. He is also preparing an exciting new project entitled Pictures at an Exhibition Reframed, in which he performs the Mussorgsky work alongside the South African visual artist Robin Rhode, who simultaneously creates an onstage installation. The Pictures at an Exhibition Reframed project will be unveiled in November 2009 in New York and will subsequently tour the major European cities before continuing to Beijing and Abu Dhabi in 2010. The development and realisation of the project will be captured on a film made by Norwegian television (commissioning sponsor StatoilHydro) and issued as a CD and DVD by EMI Classics.
Leif Ove Andsnes, an exclusive EMI artist for over a dozen years, has won four Gramophone Awards and the 2006 and 2007 Classical Brit Awards. His discography includes a wide variety of repertoire ranging from solo sonatas by Haydn, Chopin, Schubert and Schumann to piano concertos by Grieg, Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Schumann, Shostakovich, Bartók and Britten. He has recorded Schubert Lieder with Ian Bostridge, Bartók Sonatas with Christian Tetzlaff and Brahms and Schumann Piano Quintets with the Artemis Quartet (for Virgin Classics). The Brahms and Schumann Piano Quintets CD won a 2008 Gramophone Award. Also released in 2008 were a CD and DVD, each titled Ballad for Edvard Grieg, commemorating the centenary of the composer’s death (The DVD won the Golden Prague “Grand Prix”) and a second Mozart concertos disc featuring Piano Concertos Nos. 17 & 20 (K453 and K466) in which Leif Ove also conducts the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra.
“…this is a notable addition to Andsnes's discography. All his virtues are in display here, from the bravura of his flourishes and crispness of his chordal delivery in the two concertos to the intimacy and sensitivity to the tiniest resonances in the solo pieces.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2009 *****
“Sørensen's music is refined even at its most aggressive, and as such it beautifully complements the eight miniatures from Kurtág's Játékok ("Games") which need only a few seconds to create complex worlds of starkly delineated yet imaginative allusion. ...Andsnes and Welser-Möst give it their all, and in well engineered sound this is a disc which, for the most part, can be cherished for being on the side of the angels, where contemporary repertoire is concerned.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2009
*** The Times, 14th March 2009
“This substantial demonstration of Leif Ove Andsnes's commitment to contemporary composers is framed by two fine Bent Sørensen pieces which underline the programme's governing concern with music that echoes, or shadows, other music. Lullabies is brief but its spirit of troubled nostalgia carries over into The Shadows ofSilence itself. The title may be paradoxical – surely it is sound, not silence, that is being shadowed? – but the music is superbly crafted and powerfully expressive, ranging in mood between fluttering, melancholy reticence and tolling menace.
Sørensen's music is refined even at its most aggressive, and as such it beautifully complements the eight miniatures from Kurtág's Játékok (“Games”) which need only a few seconds to create complex worlds of starkly delineated yet imaginative allusion. But the meat of Andsnes's double-decker sandwich is provided by two sizeable concertos, both of which acknowledge the apparent impossibility of escaping from the aura of romantic warhorses that, from Beethoven to Rachmaninov, still provide a staple diet for concert audiences (and record buyers).
The Lutoslawski – written for Krystian Zimerman and recorded by him with the composer conducting soon after the premiere – is an intricate tapestry referencing virtuoso and poetic concerto traditions in an ironic yet never cynically exploitative fashion, and Andsnes manages to avoid po-faced downplaying of its parodic aspects while not exaggerating them either.
After this, Marc-André Dalbavie's concerto is a disappointment, taking far too long to turn time-honoured pianistic conventions into clichés.
But Andsnes and Welser-Möst give it their all, and in well-engineered sound this is a disc which, for the most part, can be cherished for being on the side of the angels, where contemporary repertoire is concerned.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Volume 7 - (2000-2010)
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 'Choral'
Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano), Marianne Cornetti (mezzo), Robert Dean Smith (tenor), Franz-Josef Selig (bass)
Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98
Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20
Symphony No. 8 in C minor
Berceuse élégiaque, Op. 42
Elektra - symphonic suite
Waltraud Meier (mezzo), Robert Dean Smith (tenor), Marcel Reijans (tenor), Juha Uusitalo (bass-baritone), Jan-Hendrik Rootering (bass-baritone), Johan Leysen (speaker)
Claus Peter Flor
Tout un monde lointain (Concerto for cello and orchestra)
Godfried Hoogeveen (cello)
Yan Pascal Tortelier
Musique pour l’esprit en deuil
Symphony No. 97 in C major
Konzertmusik, Op. 50 for strings & brass
Jealousy (original prelude to Jenufa)
Sir Mark Elder
Sir Mark Elder
Fünf tragische Lieder
Detlef Roth (baritone)
Lars Vogt (piano)
Das Lied von der Erde
Anna Larsson (contralto), Robert Dean Smith (tenor)
Les Fresques de Piero della Francesca, H. 352
Les Offrandes oubliées (1930)
Symphony No. 41 in C major, K551 'Jupiter'
No reason to panic
Autumnal sketch, Op. 8
Daphnis et Chloé - Suite No. 2
Marsyas, rhapsody for trumpet with percussion & orchestra
Reinhold Friedrich (trumpet), Gustavo Gimeno (percussion)
Symphony No. 3, Op.45 'Gamelan'
Symphony No. 3 in D major, D200
Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61
Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor, Op. 113 'Babi Yar'
Sergei Leiferkus (baritone)
Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49
Sir Colin Davis
Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82
Sinfonia Domestica, Op. 53
Der Rosenkavalier - Suite
Violin Concerto in D
Alexander Kerr (violin)
Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 35
Vesko Eschkenazy (violin)
Sir Mark Elder
Lied for trombone and orchestra
Jorgen van Rijen (trombone)
Six Pieces for Orchestra Op. 6
This seventh installment of the Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (2000- 2010) covers a period in the orchestra's history largely characterised by changing perspectives in a new century. Indeed, it was in 2004 that Riccardo Chailly relinquished his position as chief conductor after a 16-year-long tenure, whereupon the orchestra managed to forge what would be a long-term relationship with the renowned maestro Mariss Jansons. A specialist in Romantic, and particularly Italian, opera repertoire, Chailly was also an advocate of the modern classics and of contemporary music. His collaboration with the RCO resulted in internationally acclaimed recordings of works by such composers as Varese, Stravinsky and Berio.
The Latvian maestro Jansons, a passionate orchestral conductor particularly of the late Romantic repertoire, shifted the orchestra's focus more towards Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss and Shostakovich, invariably endeavouring to strike a careful balance between clarity of form and aesthetics. In addition, Jansons successfully continued the tradition of high-profile co-productions between the RCO and De Nederlandse Opera with performances of Shostakovich's 'Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District' and Tchaikovsky's 'Yevgeny Onegin'. The orchestra itself also underwent changes. A generation of orchestral players, including the illustrious principal wind instrumentalists who had laid the foundations for the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, retired and were succeeded by a group of outstanding young musicians, most of them hailing from outside the Netherlands, resulting in a growing internationalisation of the RCO. There were also changes in the orchestra's business and artistic management and its concert programming policy also saw a shift in direction. The 'Picasso/Rembrandt formula' was retired to make way for the new A Series, featuring more firmly embedded contemporary, often Dutch, repertoire. The launch of the orchestra's own in-house record label, RCO Live, breathed new life into its rich recording tradition. The identity of a modern, 21st-century orchestra would be further bolstered by the RCO's active online presence, its own Web channel, effective use of social media, and the successful digital platform RCO Universe, a novelty in the orchestral world. This CD box set constitutes the final volume of the Anthology of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, a musical journey through time in seven installments, each made up of fourteen CDs of live concert recordings. Drawing on the wealth of recordings in the Dutch public broadcasting network archives, the compilers set out to create a colourful historical overview and sound mosaic whilst doing justice to the unique history of the orchestra from 1935, the year from which its oldest surviving radio recording dates. Repertoire, performance, conductors, soloists and recording quality were the criteria which, in the proper interrelationships, proved to be decisive. Working to document such a vast musical legacy has been a privilege, the compilers having been aware that the making of choices brings with it the duty to showcase as many aspects of this rich history as possible.
The compilers wish to dedicate this series to all the musicians who have been part of the orchestra over the past 125 years. It is hoped that all seven volumes will be re-released as a 'superbox' to celebrate the RCO's anniversary.
“Anyone who has been collecting this series will certainly want this latest addition, for the unusual repertoire as much as for the performances … the live sound is tremendous.” International Record Review, February 2013
“throughout this set it's the astonishing consistency of the orchestral playing that is most vivid...regardless of the conductor or the repertoire, the depth and eloquence of the strings, the quick-witted brilliance of the woodwind and the rounded security of the brass are unfailing.” The Guardian, 3rd January 2013 *****
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