Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Koechlin, Charles. (1867-1950) Piano Works Volume I. ....des Jardins enchantés.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 27-6-2017.
Label: Hanssler Classics.
Recording dates: December 2007.
Recording venus: Kammermusikstudio Stuttgart, Germany.
Recording engineer: Karlheinz Runde.
Running time: 76:27.
Relevance to me: It's an ongoing learning process.

Works performed:
Andante quasi adagio.
Sonatine opus 87 No. 1,3 & 4.
L'Album de Lilian, opus 39 & opus 149. Extracts. 
Paysages et marines, opus 63.

Performed by: 
Michael Korstick, Piano.

As I said earlier when I reviewed some chamber music for Flute form this composer, that I have a sort of a hate-love relation with this music, and this comes more to the fore in the piano music. There are some disconcerting harmonies that irk me the wrong way. But on the other side there are also beautiful moments, serenely magical with a sense of relaxation. It can lure you quite quickly into melancholy reminiscences, more so as lifting your spirits. There is delight but also a touch of sameness in this music. The music breathes freely and is uncluttered by dazzling or unnerving moments. It's demeanor turns into a sombre and inward lament of some kind. Very effective but a little soulless. But I like the reflective harmonies, so I will get used to the music, but maybe not all. Korstick is a fine piano player, but a touch to slow.
The recording is quite good.

Irgens Jensen, Ludvig. (1894-1969) Symphonic Works. Top recommendation.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 27-6-2017.
Label: CPO
CD 2 from 2.
Recording dates: August 2009.
Recording venue: Olavshallen, Trondheim, Norway.
Recording engineer: Stephan Reh.
Running time: 64:32.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Sinfonia in d.
Rondo Marziale (third movement of the Symphony)

Works performed by:
Trondheim SO, Eivind Aadland.

The performances on the second disc are as impressive as the first disc. As an interpretation and recording this release goes further in all points as the Naxos disc, of which I spoke in an earlier review. And while the Bournemouth SO under Bjarte Engeset give a good account of the Sinfonie and Passacaglia, Aadland finds more passion and drive in these works, and has the bonus of the Rondo Marziale, which is a very impressive movement. As a added bonus it is better recorded too. Irgen-Jensen is a recent discovery for me, and I am still amazed what a fine composer he is. The intricate textures Jensen weaves has a luminosity beyond what I ever expected. I find it to be spellbounding in every aspect. He conjures and maintains an atmosphere of a magical spectral quality, with an intense expressivity and quite an emotional directness that grabs you immediately. There is an passionate vitality creating a tonal bloom which gives you a feeling of oneness with the music, highly engaging. Especially the Passacaglia is a powerhouse of forceful emotion which has its dark sides, but is outreaching to communicate. This considerable intensity makes for a deeply felt experience.  The Rondo marziale came as a welcome surprise, so well it is composed, that it remains a mystery why he took it out of the context of the Symphony. There is a visionary and daunting quality, disquieting even with its unnerving shifts of perspective. The Sinfonia in d minor is in every aspect a masterwork in two movements. It deploys a huge range of colours with many spiritualized elements. There is always a quiet sustained tension, but also bold gestures in both movements. The energy and variety is almost palpable. Illuminative, fascinating, superbly responsive music. 
The recording and performance are superb.

Bruckner, Anton. (1824-1896) Symphony No. 3 in D minor. Third version of 1889.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 27-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
CD 4 from 11.
Recording dates: April/May 2012.
Recording venue: Kultur Casino, Bern, Switzerland.
Recording engineer: Gerald Hahnefeld.
Running time: 54:35.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Berner Symphonieorchester, Mario Venzago.

About Venzago approach I already said a lot in my earlier reviews of Symphony No. 0/1/2. That he is without doubt authentic in his approach of the Bruckner symphonies is crystal clear to me, whatever the criticasters may say or write. No. 3 sounds so uncluttered and has such free flowing virility that is is hard to imagine this work could be done in a different way. For every one of us it is quite an ordeal to be confronted with a slimmed down Bruckner, but in the end in pays huge dividends. Clarity in orchestral matters, coherent in its structure, easy to follow melody lines, and above all you are not blown away by massed brass, or drowned in massed strings. And in the case of the third we get the best orchestra until now. The strings are super sweet, and the brass is a balm for you ears. The Berners have Bruckner in their blood. Especially the finale has all the elements in it, what makes Venzago's approach so special.  This will be for me the final Bruckner, unless someone will record it on authentic instruments. That should be quite a treat. Maybe Jos van Immerseel  with his orchestra could make a success of it.


Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich. (1840-1893) Symphony No. 1, Winter Daydreams, opus 13, and other works. Top recommendation.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 27-6-2017.
Label: BIS.
Recording dates: June & December 2002. August 2003.
Recording venue: Gothenburg Hall, Sweden.
Recording engineer: Michael Bergek.
Running time: 77:10.
Relevance for me: Essential.
Reference performance.
Top recommendation.
State of the Art sound.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, "Winter Daydreams". (1866/74).
The Snow Maiden, opus 12. (1873) Orchestral excerpts from the incidental music to Ostrovsky's play.
Romeo and Juliet. (1869/70/80. Fantasy overture after Shakespeare.

Works performed by:
Gothenburg SO, Neeme Järvi.

Tchaikovsky is number one in my collection as a composer. It was always so, and will stay put. This set was for a long time on my list to purchase, but somehow it was always kept in the waiting queue. I ended this misery this month and ordered the whole set. And by what I hear I should have done that much earlier, for I find it in all respects one of the best sets I have, and in the case of the first symphony I am convinced that it is in the top 3 of best recorded and performed interpretations. What a joy this recording is. You can walk through the desks, not a detail is missed, whether in the woodwinds or strings and for that matter the brass. Furthermore, Järvi is a master in applying dynamics and accents. He keeps the whole orchestral image crystal clear, with a amazing lucidity, and a razor sharp control on the total sound. The fact that you literally hear all the details, no matter how loud or soft the orchestra plays, is an exceptional feat. The engineer understood Järvi's technical skills and recorded it most faithfully. The front to back image is stunning no less. The first symphony opens this disc. It is just oozing with virility, and it's visceral quality is immediately noticeable. Soft grained when the music needs it, blazing with rhythmical precision and pounding passion, as if his dear life depended on it. He squeezes the last ounce of grandeur and weight out of this score with plenty of swagger. The clarity and control, and this really impeccable orchestral discipline, makes this performance a top recommendation. How beautiful the Finale is, thrillingly precise like a swiss clockwork. Or the finely pointed Scherzo, with an infectious lilt so well known in Tchaikovsky's musical context. No undue sentimentality here, but a pure and clean romantic approach, rubato and legato sparingly applied.
But nothing prepares you really for the Snow Maiden and Romeo and Juliet. Both works have so much to tell, that your ears at times get an overload of melodies and harmonies, every one of them filling my heart with joy. The expressive statement of both works is one of enduring excellence. Unexpected moods, flowing without interruption and full of expectations, it all gives you a sense of how great this composer actually was. His emotional trajectory is always clear and stated with authority. Expansive and sometimes hypnotic fiestas, this is high end music with deep roots in the very soul of Tchaikovsky.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hiller, Ferdinand. (1811-1885) Piano Works.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 26-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: March 2010.
Recording venue: Kammermusikstudio SWR Stuttgart, Germany.
Recording engineer:  Not mentioned.
Running time: 52:48.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Piano Sonata No 2 in A major opus 59.
No 3 in G minor opus 78.
Trois Ghasèles, opus 54.
Six piano pieces, opus 130.
From: : Vermischte Klavierstücke opus 81, No. 1-3.

Performed by:
Alexandra Oehler, Piano.

For no reason at all really, I kept away from this composer, but as it proves by this CD that was not justified. I am duly impressed by what I hear. Alexandra Oehler exudes confidence and is revelling in the many contrast and dynamics Hiller has in his sleeve. Some of his music is a dazzling affair, and the sheer control Oehler has over the textures is amazing and exhilarating at the same time. 
Hiller is a regular powerhouse of emotions, and a fervent painter of musical images full of reflective musings. Whatever Hiller throws at you it is always refreshingly animated and splendidly articulated. The music unleashes imaginatively wrought embellishments with a controlled freedom that has me gasping at times. Especially both sonatas are a expression of 
Hiller's deep understanding of the piano's possibilities and he knows exactly how to express himself. People tend to forget what a talented composer he was, and not only a writer of countless difficult pieces to irritate scholars aspiring to become pianists. 
Oehler is amazing in this repertoire, really amazing. The sound is a match to Oehler's excellence.

Koechlin, Charles. (1867-1950) Chamber Music with Flute. World Premiere Recording.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 26-6-2017.
Label: Hanssler Classics.
Recording dates: February 2004.
Recording venue: Not mentioned.
Recording engineer: Burkhard Pitzner Landeck.
Running time: 55:16.
Relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works performed: 
Épitaphe de Jean Harlow, opus 164.
Trio (Divertissement) opus 91.
Suite en quatuor, opus 55.
Trio opus 92.
Sonate pour deux flûtes, opus 75.
Deux Nocturnes, opus 32.
Sonatine modale opus 152a.
Pièce de Flûte pour lecture à vue opus 128.

Performed by: 
Members of the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart.
Tatjana Ruhland, Flute.
Yaara Tal, Piano.

Long did I hold back on this composer. I always thought that this dreamlike music was not for me, having already troubles with the likes of Claude Debussy, or Scriabin, etc. Finally though I took the plunge, for 3 of the Hanssler releases were on sale. So my thought was, if it does not work, no man overboard.  But it did work, hesitantly but it worked. Koechlin is more firm in his expression as say Debussy. Rhythmically there is much more going on, and although it has a dreamlike character I found a way in. There is no struggle in this music, it blossoms easily. Late romantic lushness is very much in its genes. There are at times unexpected depths of melancholy in a few of his works, but also countless little touches of imaginative colour and a certain grace. There is contrast but no tension, pure beauty and shimmering waves of almost elusive harmonies. His ingenuity of writing is always at the front of things. Immensely likable music.
I found the performances and recording top notch.

Friday, June 23, 2017

O'Brien, Charles. (1882-1968) Complete Orchestral Works, volume III. First Recordings.

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 23-6-2017.
Label: Toccata Classics.
Recording dates: December 2014 and February 2015.
Recording venue: Liepāja Latvian Society House, Liepāja, Latvia.
Recording engineer: Normunds Slava.
Running time: 61:00
Relevance to me: Worthwhile.

Works performed:
Ellangowan, Concert overture, opus 10, second version. (1909)
Waltz Suite opus 26. (1928)
Suite Humoristique, opus 8. (1904)

Performed by:
Liepāja SO, Paul Mann.

The third and the last volume in this series with orchestral music by Charles O'Brien. On the whole that was a very worthwhile ride into unknown musical territory. The second version of opus 10 is as good as the first one, be it shorter. As I said in my earlier review of the first version "For starters we get the overture Ellangowan, music with a lot of Scottish folk influences, not of the Scottish granite type, but more the glowing hills and dales, a tad more harmonious as the rugged Scottish mentality". That is also true of the second version. Both are worthwhile to have.
With the Waltz suite we get the lighter side of O'Brien. It is not a very memorable piece of music, but made for the folks in his time that wanted easy to please music. And he gave that to them.
The Suite Humoristique is a far better composition with some nice melodic surprises in it. Still, not the best that he could deliver but very pleasing on the ear. The music has plenty of swagger, but especially in the last two pieces one gets the impression of unripe fruit.  Light music in the literal sense of the word, charmingly played, and decently recorded.

Koechlin, Charles. (1867-1950) Piano Works Volume I. ....des Jardins enchantés.

New acquisition. Bought in June 2017. First listen: 27-6-2017. Label: Hanssler Classics. Recording dates: December 2007. Recording venu...