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Volume 20 Issue 6 - March 2015

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est connection in spirit

est connection in spirit to the unmeasuredpréludes of Couperin’s time; you can almostsee Couperin listening curiously from thedoorframe. The recorded sound is beautiful,and Karttunen’s notes offer much food forthought. The combining of old and new musiccan be tricky alchemy, but this experiment isa happy success.Alison MelvilleCLASSICAL AND BEYONDBeethoven Explored – The Chamber EroicaAaron Short; Peter Sheppard Skǽrved;Dov Scheindlin; Neil HeydeMetier msvcd 2008(!!It may come asa surprise to thoseof us accustomed tohearing a symphonyperformed by afull orchestra thatduring the early 19thcentury, an adaptationfor a muchsmaller ensemble would have been a perfectlyacceptable means of presenting large-scaleworks, particularly in domestic settings.Indeed, there was an enormous demandfor arrangements during the days beforerecorded music, and this is the idea behindThe Chamber Eroica. It’s the sixth in a seriestitled Beethoven Explored on the Britishlabel Metier, and features pianist AaronShorr, violinist Peter Sheppard Skǽrved,violist Dov Scheindlin and cellist Neil Heydein a piano quartet version of Beethoven’sSymphony No.3.The groundbreaking third symphony wascompleted in 1804, while this anonymousarrangement – requested by Beethovenhimself – was published just three yearslater. Hence, this recording (the first ever)provides the modern-day listener with akeen insight as to what the composer had inmind with respect to chamber arrangementsof his orchestral works. And without the useof period instruments, the four performersadmirably evoke a rightful sense of grandeurin this majestic symphony. The openingmovement, marked Allegro Moderato,contains a wonderful sense of momentumwith the central theme continually beingpassed among the piano and the strings. Thesecond movement is suitably sombre andmysterious and the third movement scherzo,all lightness and grace. While it would bechallenging to duplicate the grandeur of thefinale with a four-piece ensemble, the playersably capture its optimistic buoyancy.In all fairness, there are instances when thearrangement seems not as performer-friendlyas it might be. At times, the violist’s rangeseems uncomfortably high and the stringsare sometimes required to perform melodiclines ordinarily given to the woodwinds. Butthe group remains undaunted and produces amost satisfying sound very much in keepingwith the robust spirit of the original work.The disc is to be commended on two levels:exemplary performances by the four musicians;and for providing the present-daylistener with a glimpse into a particularfacet of music-making during the early 19thcentury. Highly recommended.Richard HaskellSokolov – The Salzburg RecitalGrigory SokolovDeutsche Grammophon 4794342!!New recordings ofGrigory Sokolov arefew and far between,so any addition to thecatalogue is an event.His playing is alwayscompelling, not leastbecause of his uniqueapproach. He is a link to the golden age ofRussian pianists and his distinctive playingstyle is easily identified by his admirers.Sokolov began piano studies at the age offive and gave his first major recital in Moscowat 12 playing, so it is reported, works by Bach,Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn,Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Liszt, Debussy andShostakovich. He was unanimously awardedthe Gold Medal in the 1965 InternationalTchaikovsky Piano Competition.Now aged 64 and “a legend in his own lifetime,”he is in a position to announce that “Iplay only what I want to play.” His Mozart,though slow, is never laboured or ponderous,being extremely controlled; the long phrasesare felt out with utmost certainty in spiteof an almost dry approach and containeddynamics. This is utterly compelling Mozart,a perfect example of restraint yielding deeplysatisfying results. A dissenting opinion fromthat of other artists but Mozart’s mercurialgenius allows for this.This recital of Chopin’s 24 Preludes wouldbe one of my desert island discs. In keepingwith his way, each of the 24 has an individualcharacter and taken together theyare a marvel of authority and subtlety. Icompared these to his June 17, 1990 Parisrecording (Naïve CD, OP30336) finding that itlacked the deeply introspective and mesmerizingintensity of this astonishing Salzburgperformance.The six encores (Chopin, Scriabin, Rameauand Bach) are no less considered. This is thefirst release from DG which has contracted torecord his live concerts.Bruce SurteesLiszt – Piano Sonata; Dante Sonata;Petrarch SonnetsAngela HewittHyperion CDA68067!!The name Franz Liszt conjures up pianisticshowmanship of devilishly difficultbravura pieces thathave enthralled audiencesfor nearly 200years. Many pianistsfall easily underthis spell, but AngelaHewitt is certainly notone of them. Her newrecording and her first brave foray into Lisztterritory is the most unforgiving, immenselydifficult B Minor Sonata, 30 minutes long inone single movement that can easily lapseinto aimless banging on the piano, sound andfury signifying nothing from a lesser hand.Technical brilliance almost taken for granted,her approach is essentially analytical, fullyunderstanding the structure, the relationshipsof parts to the whole, the thematic, harmonicand rhythmical subtleties, avoiding excessesso the work feels an integral whole and shinesin all its majesty.The essence of Liszt in Hewitt’s words,“Nobility of spirit and depth of expression,” isalso manifest in the second major item here,written during his Années de pèlerinage inItaly, the Dante Sonata, its program muchinspired by the Inferno, giving ample roomfor the pianist’s unbridled imagination indepicting the horrors of hell and the exquisitetenderness of “Nessun maggior dolore/Chericordarsi nel tempo felice” (Dante’s Inferno),of recalling past happiness in time of pain.The wonderful tremolo at the high end of thekeyboard representing unattainable Paradisois especially poignant and moving.In between these two mountain peaksthere is a valley of heavenly peace, the threeSonetti del Petrarca , whose love poems Lisztset into music for his beloved Countess Marie,played with languid gentleness and throbs ofpassion. All this adds up to another triumphin Ottawa-born Hewitt’s extraordinary career.Janos GardonyiBrahms – SerenadesLeipzig Gewandhausorchester;Riccardo ChaillyDecca 4786775! ! Following Chailly’ssensational performancesof the BrahmsSymphonies andthe usual orchestralworks that earneduniversal rave reviews(Decca 4785344,3 CDs) we have allwaited with great expectations to hear hisSerenades.It is an absolute joy to have these ratherbrisk, smiling performances of the twoneglected early orchestral gems that Brahmswrote on the way to the symphonies.The 25-year-old composer already had anuncanny sense of what he wanted to do withan orchestra; as clearly present are whatwould become his characteristic orchestralcolour and deployment of instruments.68 | March 1 - April 7, 2015

The first Serenade was composed in 1857-58,some three years after the first piano concertoof 1854. That concerto was first conceived asa symphony but Brahms re-thought it as aconcerto. Similarly, these lyrical Serenadesare Brahms’ second and third symphonicventures wherein he stepped back a little toproduce two youthful and breezy works forreduced orchestra. Reduced size does nothowever mean reduced invention; merelya less ponderous symphonic argument.The First Symphony was conceived duringthis time and had a gestation period of 20years until 1875 when “Beethoven’s TenthSymphony” was delivered.Compared to other recorded versions, thebreezy youthfulness of the present performanceshas a charming alfresco quality withvivacious tempi that neither undersell noroversell the orchestral weight. Chailly andhis vibrant orchestra, particularly the windsand horns, are flawlessly attuned to thesescores, making this recording the very bestversion to own.Bruce SurteesGounod – Symphonies 1-3Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana; OlegCaetaniCPO 777 863-2!!Glancing at thetitle there are anumber of personaldiscoveries here,including Gounodas a symphonist,the orchestra andthe conductor andeven the recordingThe complete cycleof BeethovenString Quartetswith which theQuatuor Alcan is celebratingtheir 25thanniversary continueswith Volume 2, a3-CD set featuring the five works that havecome to be known as the middle quartets: theRazumovsky quartets Op.59, Nos.1-3; Op.74,The Harp; and Op.95, Quartetto serioso(ATMA Classique ACD2 2492).The high standard set by Volume 1,reviewed in this column last issue, continueshere. As with that set, these works wererecorded several years ago, between May 2008and December 2011, but the fact that all therecordings were made at the excellent SalleFrançoys-Bernier at Le Domaine Forget inSaint-Irénée in Quebec means that there is nodiscernable difference in the recorded sound.Given the quality of the first two sets, Ican’t wait to hear what the ensemble doeswith the late quartets in the final volume,scheduled for release in April.There’s yet anotherbeautiful CD of thethree Brahms ViolinSonatas, this timefeaturing the Frenchviolinist AugustinDumay and Canadianpianist Louis Lortie(Onyx 4133).The playing here is perfectly judged.Nothing is ever rushed, but nothing everseems to drag either; there is plenty offorward impetus when needed and anatural flow to the music that is helped bythe expansive phrasing and the beautifullyjudged dynamics.Dumay plays with his heart on his sleeveto some degree, with a big tone and a judicialuse of portamento, but his playing – andLortie’s too, for that matter – is always underpinnedby great thought, intelligence andTERRY ROBBINSperception.The Scherzo in C Minor, Brahms’ contributionto the collaborative F-A-E Sonata that he,Robert Schumann and Albert Dietrich wrotefor Joseph Joachim, rounds out a simplylovely CD.Hyperion’soutstanding seriesThe Romantic ViolinConcerto reachesVolume 18 with majorworks by the Belgiancomposer JosephJongen (1873-1953), interrific performancesby Philippe Graffin and the Royal FlemishPhilharmonic under Martyn Brabbins(CDA68005).The three works here – the Fantasia in EMajor Op.12, the Adagio symphonique inB Major Op.20 and the Violin Concerto inB Minor Op.17 – were all written within athree-year period around the turn of the lastcentury, when Jongen was still in his 20s. Allare beautifully crafted Romantic works, withthe concerto in particular a major compositionwith a quite beautiful slow movement.Also included is the Rapsodie in E Minor byJongen’s contemporary Sylvio Lazzari (1857-1944). Although born in Italy, Lazzari lived inFrance for most of his life and was influencedby Gounod, Franck and Chausson as well asby Wagner. His music has remained mostlyunperformed since his death, but if thisbeautiful Rapsodie is anything to go by, thenwe’ve all been really missing something.Graffin is, as usual, superb in every respectthroughout the CD, with a luscious tone,expansive and nuanced phrasing, and sensitivityand passion to burn. He is given terrificsupport by Brabbins and the orchestra.The outstanding Chinese violinist TianwaYang adds to her already highly impressiveNaxos discography with a new CD of thetwo Violin Concertos by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (8.573135). Pieter-Jelle de Boerconducts the SWR Sinfonieorchester BadenBaden und Freiburg.It’s always interestingto hearrarely performed20th-century violinconcertos, and it’s apretty safe bet thatyou won’t know theConcerto ItalianoOp.31 at all – it’s aworld premiere recording. Written in 1924,it looks back to the violin styles of the 17thand 18th centuries, and was considered bythe composer to be his first truly symphonicwork. Jascha Heifetz really liked it and afterperforming it in Paris in 1927 and in New Yorkin 1931 he asked Castelnuovo-Tedesco to writea new concerto for him.The resulting work, the Violin ConcertoNo.2 ‘The Prophets,’ Op.66, is certainlycompletely different. In 1925 the composerhad discovered a notebook in which hisgrandfather had notated the music for someHebrew prayers; the discovery had a deepemotional effect on him and led to his writingseveral works that celebrated his Jewishheritage. The concerto is one of these anduses traditional Jewish melodies in an orchestralsetting that has more than a hint of theHollywood movie scores that Castelnuovo-Tedesco would produce after moving toCalifornia some ten years later.Heifetz, who gave the premiere in 1933 andalso recorded the concerto, really liked it,but commented that apparently “no-one elsedid.” I’m with Heifetz.Strings Attached continues at thewholenote.comwith guitar concertos by Torroba(Pepe Romero and Vicente Coves), stringquartets by Ruperto Chapí (CuartetoLatinamericano) and works by Piazzollaarranged for violin and harp (Ann HopsonPilot and Lucia Lin) March 1 - April 7, 2015 | 69

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