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)
Passacaglia.

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.
Amazing.



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.



Second reruns played 21/22/23-6-2017. Gliere-Fasch and Nixon.









Børresen, Hakon. (1876-1954) Orchestral Works.

From my collection.
Bought in 2007.
First listen: 14/15-11-2007.
Second listen: 23-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates:  May 1995 & October 1997.
Recording venue: Studio 1 Hessischer Rundfunk, Germany.
Recording engineer: Rüdiger Orth.
Running time: 69:19
Relevance to me: Essential.


Works performed:
Symphony No. 2 in A major, opus 7, "The Sea". (1904)
Symphony No. 3 in C major, opus 21. (1927)

Works performed by:
Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester-Frankfurt, Ole Schmidt.


We all underestimate this pupil from Johan Svendsen, with whom he took 4 years of tuition to learn the trade of composing. And listening to both Symphonies I come to the conclusion, that he is one who can stand with perfect justification amongst the ranks of Svendsen, Stenhammar, Grieg, Sibelius and Nielsen. I have heard enough from Scandinavian composers to say this with confidence.
The Second symphony "The Sea", has as an inspiration The Skagen, a large sea, at the Northernmost tip of Denmark. It was dedicated to Johan Svendsen.
A complex and extremely beautiful work, that delivers what he wanted to describe.  This guy is a super romantic composer, who was not fazed by modernity, and he ignored it, much to my joy. I would have been perfectly happy if modernity would stop with the music Borresen composed. He shows me, how much there was and still is to say in terms of romantic music. I got the constant impression that every movement of this Symphony is a Tone Poem, with a beginning, middle part, and a firm closing. His aptitude in scoring is quite remarkable, and the way the music is constructed has me in constant awe....
The Third symphony was the last major Symphony he wrote. He dedicated it to the orchestra of the Royal Theatre, this work brings all the best features of Børresen orchestral works together, it is in my ears a masterwork. The instrumentation is sublime, and the many dazzling melodies, has me again listening in awe. He stays true to his Nordic tradition and his romantic ideals, and you could also say that this work is the crowning of all his orchestral works. Why this composer is overlooked and forgotten, is a mystery to me, he should be revered for his huge contribution in classical music. 
The recording is top notch, and the performance can hardly be bettered. 
*
I have listened on 24-4-2017 to a different recording on the label Dacapo from which I took this review. The performers in this case were Aalborg SO, under Owain Arwel Hughes. As an interpretation they are both good, but what clinched the deal for me in favour of the Ole Schmidt performance were the tempi. Especially in the second symphony it is considerably faster, as is the third, be it less so. It adds this extra cutting edge feeling to the music. Rhythmically it is simply delivering the message in a more concise way, coupled with a better recording. But both are worthwhile to have.


Bruckner, Anton. (1824-1896) Symphony No. 2 in C minor. (1877)

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 23-6-2017.
Label: CPO
CD 3 from 11.
Recording dates: November 2011.
Recording venue: Hall One, The Sage Gateshead, England.
Recording engineer: Jacob Händel.
Running time: 56:30.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Northern Sinfonia, Mario Venzago.

For most people who will listen to this symphony the tempi might be the deal breaker, nothing else will is my opinion. But if you embrace Venzago's take on Bruckner's symphonies, it has to be unconditional, anything else will not do. Otherwise it will be a purely academic exercise without any intrinsic value. And that again would lower the interest into a mere one play time ever.
The first movement has a tempo marking "Moderato", but in Venzago's hands it is at most times a brisk "Allegro". At first I had to adjust that it's outlook normally perceived as "majestic", gets now the title "elated serenity", swiftly executed and clearheaded. Its downsizing in orchestral forces revealed so many details that my head still boggles from the experience. So undone of all the ballast of 50 years of recording tradition, the tighter tempi, makes for a more organic interpretation and fit in its melodic context much more comfortably. There are really so many melody lines, never heard before that grabs your attention, that I perceive this symphony as a new work. Take the second movement, "Andante. Feierlich, etwas bewegt". It has such an attractive lilt in its tempi, and thereby revealed an astonishing piece of restless energy and burning spiritual aspirations. Magical, depicting subtlety, gorgeous intonation, and unknown colours and nuance. So sincere, yet passionate and without any added intellectualism. On every level emotionally as well as musically, the music's drama and poetry are in perfect alignment. There is absolutely nothing cliche, predictable or routine. And in this light I might recommend the absolutely stunning third movement. Sensationally conceived, it ticks every one of my senses. One of the many genius movements Bruckner wrote. There is a victory and freedom in Venzago's take that blew me away in thinking it a unbelievable triumph. All the searching and suffering combined in a single expression. This is the kind of thing a genius can do! 
The orchestra respond really well to its conductor, and the recording is top notch.



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Reruns 21-6-2017.





Irgen Jensen, Ludvig. (1894-1969) Symphonic Works.

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 21-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
CD 1 from 2.
Recording dates: August 2009.
Recording venue: Olavshallen, Trondheim, Norway.
Recording engineer: Stephan Reh.
Running time: 59:04.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Tema con Variazioni.
Partita Sinfonica.
Suite, "Kong Bladvines Armring".

Works performed by:
Trondheim SO, Eivind Aadland.

On the 24 of April 2017 I played for the first time music by this composer. On this CD recorded by Naxos, were the following compositions, namely the Symphony in D minor in the original version, the Air composed in 1959, and the Passacaglia. It was recorded on May 2009, so 3 months earlier as the present disc, and they could claim, World premiere recordings. All works on the Naxos disc, apart from the Air, are on the second CPO disc which I will play in due time. 
I am new to 3 compositions on this disc, and only the air I know. A work of 3:06 duration, there is no big difference between both versions. It is a well crafted work, very effectively scored.
Tema con Variazione has 17 movements in which Jensen shows his orchestral skills in full flight. Colouristically and stylistically it is a contrasting programme whose differences absolutely sing together as a unit. There is a shapely kind of virtuosity with rich textures and a confident kind of energy.
The Partita Sinfonica is a powerful but concise work, very economically scored. There is a sense of expectation that is duly rewarded by an intriguing and introspective orchestral colouring. Especially the second movement "Lento", that has a magical ring to it.
The Suite is an adorable piece, a musical representation of a children's comedy on stage. In its time it was very successful. Again you are met by unexpected moods, melodically rewarding, and pittoresque. Tonal and romantic in its demeanor, it is a great privilege to listen to Jensen's music. The recording is very good. Aadland is a conductor that shuns too much sentimentality or sweetness, so the moments of warmth are rare. His mind is more attuned to rationality, therefore his emotional involvement suffers a bit, something I already noticed in his complete survey of Edvard Grieg's Orchestral music. But is something I take for granted, for he presents a clear picture of the music.




Bruckner, Anton. (1824-1896) Symphony No. 1 in C minor. First version, "Linzer" 1866, WAB 101.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 21-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
CD 2 from 11.
Recording dates: November 2010.
Recording venue: Tapiola Hall, Kulttuurikeskus, Espoo, Finland.
Recording engineer: Jacob Händel.
Running time: 44:32.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
See heading.

Performed by:
Tapiola Sinfonietta, Mario Venzago.

I admired a certain picture for its beauty colours and expression, in which the effect of light and shade were extraordinary fine, yet when it was restored and cleaned after 250 years, I was utterly flabbergasted, for what I perceived as a complete and true image turned out to be something totally different. This is how I perceive Venzago's interpretations of the Bruckner symphonies. The only thing which I feel you can argue about are the tempi, but even those make perfect sense, once you adapted to what is on offer. He argues quite rightly that the Bruckner of today is not the Bruckner he originally was, hence the analogy with which I started my thoughts. Sure the first movement "Allegro" is fast, as is the Scherzo, but the clarity and pinpoint detail you get, make a good case for this approach. For this is what you get, all desks are audible, every melody line in front of you, timpani as clear as a bell. There is unity, as if all melodies are internally connected, and this is exactly why it feels right. Nothing is lost in a wash of sound, or blown away by an excess of brass, all is cleanly delineated. The harmony and balance is gorgeous, and all the added sentimentality is gone, and a pure romanticism is emerging like a phoenix from the ashes. Articulation is razor sharp, and the remarkable bursts of speed are exhilarating. A cultured sound it is! And still, there is a lot of intensity to those notes Bruckner penned down, and his personal sense of melancholy is deeply felt. Breathless energy and a scintillating finale crowns this symphony. This is essential listening.
The sound is top notch.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Reruns this week 1-20 June 2017.




Ries, Ferdinand. (1784-1838) Piano sonatas.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 20-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: March 2004.
Recording venue: SWR Stuttgart, Germany.
Recording engineer: Burkhard Pitzer-Landeck.
Running time: 60:23.
Relevance to me: Worthwhile.

Works performed: 
Grande sonate opus 9 in D major.
Grande sonate Fantaisie L'infortuné opus 26 in f sharp minor.
Andantino from Sonatina opus 5,1 and 5,2.

Performed by:
Alexandra Oehler, piano.

I have quite some CD'S filled with music by Ferdinand Ries. Collected them over the years, and this CPO recording with piano sonatas escaped my notice until I finally saw it in the budget bin. And since I have already a very favourable impression of Alexandra Oehler, I quickly ordered it.
No only does Ries write fine orchestral music, but his piano sonatas are wonderfully evocative too. There is a poetic flow in the music and its expression, intimate yet passionate too. Ries has quite a range of emotions on display here,  be it very classical and straightforward. There are some deep dives into a more complex world of thought, and this is in itself a fine contrast, the opus 9 being a good example. Oehler exudes quite some confidence revelling in contrast of dynamics, thus the music has an infectious lilt to it. The compositions are not a dazzling affair at all, so Oehler's sheer control over the textures and quiet dynamics is to be admired. The readings are quite subtle and all is unerringly paced. Ries is an imaginative composer who rather shies away from big or muscular expressions, but rather finds a elegant eloquence which I find refreshing. 
The recording is top notch as is Oehler's interpretation.


Graener, Paul. (1872-1944) Complete Piano Trios.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 20-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: January 2010.
Recording venue: Kleiner Sendesaal des NDR Hannover, Germany.
Recording engineer: Bernhard Hanke.
Running time: 62:42.
Relevance to me: Worthwhile.

Works performed:
Suite opus 19.
Kammermusikdichtung opus 20.
Piano Trio opus 61.
Theodor Storm Musik opus 93. for piano trio and Bariton.

Performed by:
Hyperion Trio.

I have collected much of Graener's music over the years, mainly on the CPO label. A pleasant surprise are his chamber works. Not that I expected less as it being well composed, and it is. His music is extremely melodious, a well balance harmony, and sprightly in expression in many places. The music has an aura of magic, presented in warm fluid readings, and a clear toned sound. Elegant ornamentations and a perfectly judged ebb and flow. Faster passagework sounds at ease with this ensemble. The dialogue between the ensemble members is near perfect, and they accentuate the music's intimate side. Never overlooking the moments of delicacy.  I am quite taken by this music with a clear emotional expression and tenderness.
The recording is excellent, and the performance first rate.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Andriessen, Hendrik. (1892-1981) Symphonic Works, Volume III.

New acquisition.
Bought in 2017.
First listen: 16-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: June 2012.
Recording venue: Enschede, Muziekcentrum, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Holger Urbach.
Running time: 52:57.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 3. (1946)
Symphonie Concertante. (1962)
Chantecler, Overture.

Works performed by:
Netherlands SO, David Porcelijn.

For me Andriessen is one of the best composers the Netherlands ever had. I consider almost all his compositions as masterworks, and the three works on this disc are no exception from this rule. He never disappoints me. His creativity knows almost no bounds, and his oeuvre is always life affirming. Just sample the gorgeous Sarabande from the Third symphony, conveying an emotional intensity that almost hurts, so beautiful it is. Or the Tema con Variazione, from the Symphonie concertante, with a strong philosophical basis and a contrapuntal virtuosity that makes me gasp almost every 30 seconds. How wonderfully he shades all the dynamics, in which the intricate harmony is so delicately veiled, and were are so many moments of introspection. The instrumental dialogue, with many solo contributions opens up a plethora of brilliance. The insight one gets through this movement into the genius of Andriessen is not to be missed.
The overture is a short bundle of intimate and personal excellence. A sumptuous array of melodic textures with a tinge of melancholy. Porcelijn drilled this orchestra into a high level of performance, and Holger Urbach made a top notch recording. All is well........
Highly recommended.



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

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 16-6-2017.
Label: Toccata Classics.
Recording dates: December 2014 and February 2015.
Recording venue: Liepāja Latvian Society House, Liepāja, Latvia.
Recording engineer: Normunds Slava.
Running time: 65:24.
Relevance to me: Worthwhile.

Works performed:
To Spring, Concert Overture, opus 4. (1906)
The Minstrel's Curse, Concert Overture, opus 7. (1905)
Mazurka and Berceuse. (1898)
Scottish Scenes opus 17. (1915, orchestrated 1929)

Performed by:
Liepāja SO, Paul Mann.

After the first instalment of this series it tasted distinctly for more, so off I go with the second volume. It is every bit as good as the first volume. The works on this disc are recorded for the first time, and some of the works were forgotten after a first public performance. The only work that was very popular in O'Brien's time was "To Spring" a overture with distinct leanings towards Robert Schumann, be it in a very original way. {There is already so much promise in this youthful work, with a bright tonality, flashes of spontaneity and sudden flourishes of fantasy.} The rhythmical dynamism is exhilarating, crisp and incisive. A very likable work.
The Minstrel's Curse, has a problematic history, the score ( not a fair copy) being found in such a disarray, full of errors of pitch and imprecisions of detail, and barely a hint in terms of dynamics, accents or other details of articulations. Paul Mann found it to be a minefield to negotiate a new edition. I have to say that he did a great job in constructing a very worthwhile score. It may not be what O'Brien would have opted for in the end, but it is certainly a very original composition. For it's bearings one has to look at Franz Liszt, and Peter Tchaikovsky. In a sense it's a dark work, but highly approachable. Mann writes that the music outstays it's welcome, but I rather disagree with him on this point. It ended too soon for me! {The wild abundance and florid melodies} do a great job in entertaining me. The closing is full of joy. 
The Mazurka and Berceuse are works of his early youth, and are probably orchestrated by  a fellow Watsonian, called Cecil Coles, who was killed in WW I. The orchestration turned out problematic so Mann did re-structure both works. Nice music of not much consequence.
The Scottish Scenes were originally scored for piano solo, and orchestrated them in 1929. I think them to be the best offering on this disc. Its full of Scottish tunes and perfectly scored for a maximum of effect. He is less formal and freer in creating gorgeous melodies and free flowing dynamism. {It depicts a country full of ruggedly beautiful sometimes inhospitable landscapes, as if it is roughly hewn from the mountainsides.}
The performance is very good as is the recording, although the first two works suffer a bit from too much reverb. Detail however is excellent with a good front to back image.




Bruckner, Anton. (1824-1896) Symphony No. O in D minor.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 16-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
CD 1 from 10.
Recording dates: November 2010.
Recording venue: Tapiola Hall, Kulttuurikeskus, Espoo, Finland.
Recording engineer: Jacob Händel.
Running time: 44:00.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No. O in D minor.
(Second version 1869, WAB 100)

Performed by: 
Tapiola Sinfonietta, Mario Venzago.

Before I started this project I first watched the DVD that is part of this box, and it gave me a pretty good insight where Venzago came from. Together with the interview in the booklet, and the extensive explanation of every symphony in this set, convinced me that this is how Bruckner's music should be played. We are all used to the beefed up versions, we heard after the WW II, and although I like them too, especially the Karajan recordings from the seventies, there is no doubt in my mind now, that Bruckner would have hardly recognized his symphonies were he be able to hear them again. For all the massed strings and brass throughout the orchestra tend to obscure all details underlying the main melody, and diffuses and compromises the structural coherence of the work. For instance the vibrato on every note, was something Bruckner would not have known. That was not possible with gut stringed instruments. And there are many more things to tell, but you can all find them on Venzago's internet site, booklet and the many reviews.
The first thing with this set is, that it is not comparable to any set already on the market, so one has to like it for its own merit. Did not cause any problems to me, for it is a revelation to hear all the details throughout the desks, and even in the loudest passages one keeps track with what is going on. And that leads to a better understanding of what Bruckner actually wanted to express. The tempi are fast but not too fast, the accents are spot on, and the dynamics are big enough, even with the sinfonietta. You never have the feeling that it is an undernourished affair. Bold gestures are bold,  brass is glorious, timpani are hitting home, and the string are supersweet. For me this interpretation is a true revelation. The amount of reflection and introspection is a welcome balm, after so many versions I have listened to. This composition is so economically scored and intimately projected, that it is for me a completely new work, hearing it for the first time as Bruckner must have meant it to sound. Its brisker, and more classically orientated, as I ever heard it before. You can actually connect it to its time with other composers, so he is not a entity as such, but an organically integrated part of the musical scene. That is indeed a novelty. It may be less grander as we are used to, but the work "an sich" is better sustained. The orchestra has a high standard  with a dynamic architecture that is amazing and distinguishing.  Venzago did a good job in opening the real Bruckner to us. I look so much forward with was in still in store for me.
The sound is top notch and revelatory.
Strongly recommended. 

Bose, Fritz von. (1865-1945) Piano works solo.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 15-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: July & November 2001.
Recording venue: MDR Leipzig, Springerstraße, Germany.
Recording engineer: Evelyn Rühlemann.
Running time: 78:20.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Suite No. 2 opus 20.
Drei Klavierstücke opus 10.
Elegie opus 21/1.
Thema und Variationen opus 17.
Suite No. 1 opus 9.

Performed by:
Alexandra Oehler, Piano.

This is the very first time that I heard this composer. Never saw anything on CD before, neither did I read anything about him, nor any reference to his existence. Thus on the basis of what I heard this is undeserved. He studied under, Carl Reinecke, and Salomon Jadassohn, to name a few.  He was part of this rare piano culture of classical and romantic tradition in Leipzig. His roots are firmly embedded in Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy but also Ferdinand Ries, Heinrich von Herzogenberg, Georg Schumann, etc. So what I am actually trying to say is that his compositions are on the same intrinsic level as all the mentioned composers. His music has an undeniable authority that demands attention and rewards with a rich tonal palette.  There is a stillness in his music, a perfect balance of light and shade, soulful, in which every note sings and breathes freely. There is an elegance in expression, well articulated and unleashing many a memory of bygone times, a tradition that is very much alive in Bose's music. A fusion of mind and heart, intimately wrought, and a deep seated understanding of what was before him, connected to what was prevalent in his lifetime. Subtle, reflective, and carefully composed, these works surprised me, and more than delighted my senses. I concluded that  all the compositions on this disc, are worthy in content, which brings them on the same level as say Johannes Brahms, or Robert Schumann's works. And I very much recognized Georg Schumann in Bose's works, which is a huge compliment too, for I admire that composer on an equal footing.
Alexandra Oehler was unknown to me too, but on the basis of what I hear, I would say she is an excellent pianist. Her interpretation shows a comprehensive insight, and she navigates through the music in a clear sighted way, emulating the deep rooted romanticism of Bose's compositions. 
The recording is top notch.





Sunday, June 11, 2017

Valentini, Giovanni. (1582-1649) Musiche Concertate 1619. Vocal and instrumental music.

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 11-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: April 2009.
Recording venue: Deutschlandfunk, Kammermusiksaal, Germany. (place unknown)
Recording engineer: Christoph Rieseberg.
Running time: 58:38.
Relevance to me: Important.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
La Capella Ducale-Musica Fiata, Roland Wilson.

Soloists:
Susanne Rydén & Constanze Backes, Sopranos.
Alex Potter, Countertenor.
Hermann Oswald & Markus Brutscher Tenors.
Harry van der Kamp, Bass.

This is a delightful disc. All is perfectly sung and played and recorded. Valentini is a find. It is easy to hear Monteverdi in his compositions, though Valentini's music is perfectly original in it's conception.  The soloists get very nuanced support by the instrumentalists from Musica Fiata, and well sounds the blend of all participants. There is a lovely sort of conversational interplay, with a reflective character. The crisp articulation of the singers, and the clarity thereof, makes for a very easy to follow "chain of flowing excellence". There is poetic beauty and headlong passion, but all very delicately done. Many tantalizing hints of hidden emotions and also dramatic fierceness. Dynamic miniatures with maximum punch. I think it's flawless and very impressive, certainly a disc you should have if you like the times of Monteverdi. The music is forever spiralling upwards, and so is my satisfaction with it.
Recommended.



Buchholtz, Helen. (1877-1953) Piano Works.

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 11-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: April 2009.
Recording venue: Großer Sendesaal des Saarländischen Rundfunks, Saarbrücken, Germany.
Recording engineer: Thomas Becher. 
Running time: 55:46.
Relevance to me: Worthwhile.

Works performed:
Barcarolle.
Vier Menuette.
Vier Tänze.
Nocturno.
Sonate in C sharp minor.

Performed by:
Marco Kraus.

I never heard of Helen Buchholtz. Not even mentioned anywhere. She was a self taught composer and did a pretty good job at it. A woman devoting herself to composing in solitary isolation without establishing contacts to the outer world or other composers. She composed about 138 works, the scores of which were almost burned by a disinterested family after she died. Luckily a nephew of her saved them in the nick of time. And he should be praised for this,.... just imagine your lives work being thrown away by the family.  Nothing was ever performed or recorded, apart from a few lieder on a label called Cid-femmes. CPO took the challenge and produced this wonderful CD with Pianoworks. That it did not sell is obvious for it landed in the super bargain bin. The music however is well worth your attention and the modest outlay should be an incentive to get it. Late romantic music, it never strays from the tonal path, and all kind of modernities are kept at bay. Which is very much okay with me. It is simply a continuation of a heritage of beautiful music from the 19th century and not at all outmoded. Do not expect great contrasts in expression or huge dynamics. It is wonderfully confiding music, unerringly paced. Soulful and deeply intimate, there is a deep seated understanding of the music of her past. Many reflective moods, through which she is carefully navigating. There is a suppleness and flexibility of phrase, and many tints and shades of tone. Subtle with a distinctive imagination, she brings in the lightness of Schumann, and the playfulness of Chopin. Marco Kraus is perfectly articulating all what is on offer, with a communicative flair. No exaggeration in expression, but the skill to apply colour and blend at the same time. All this said, I am ready to admit that I am quite taken by Helen Buchholtz music, and I hope more of her work will be recorded.
Very much recommended.



Works for Viola da Gamba Consort. "Felix Austria". (16-17th and early 18 century)

New acquisition.
Bought in June 2017.
First listen: 11-6-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: January 2009.
Recording venue: Refektorium Münster Heilsbronn, Germany.
Recording engineer: Peter Collmann.
Running time: 66:02.
Relevance to me: Worthwhile.

Composers on this disc:
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer.
Giovanni Legrenzi.
Giovanni Valentini.
Leopold 1.
Johann Jacob Froberger.
Kaiser Ferdinand III.
And a lot of Anonymous works.

Works performed by:
Klaus Mertens, Bass.
Hamburger Ratsmusik, Simone Eckert.

This is really a fine and well balanced mix of Gamba music. Music was an important part of courtly life in the 17th century, and not only as a means to pass the time, but also as a way to glorify the ruler. The Habsburg Emperors of the 17th century loved music, and out of that love the works on this CD were born. The Hamburger Ratsmusik breaths life into them in a truly invigorating way, helped by Klaus Mertens in 3 pieces on this disc, two of them written by royalty.
The quality of the music is beyond approach. It is well articulated and imbued with vivid soft keyed contrasts. Its light and shade just at the right moments. Eckart is unfailingly imaginative in her approach, which proves very effective in bringing the music about. This ensemble lets the music sing and breathe. The embellishments are carefully applied and all goes at a relaxed low energy trot, which is fine by me. I would say it is carefully navigated and reflective. My palate today seems ideally prepared for this meal. The recording is very intimate and detailed.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Vasks, Pēteris. (1946-) Vox Amoris, Works for Violin and String orchestra.

New acquisition.
Bought in 2016.
First listen: 8-6-2017.
Label: Wergo.
Recording dates: June 2011.
Recording venue: Reformation Church, Riga/Latvia.
Recording engineer: Normunds Šnē.
Running time: 68:42.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Vox Amoris, Fantasia per Violino ed Archi (2008/09)
Tālā gaisma-Distant Light. Concerto for Violin and String orchestra. (1996/97)
Vientuļais Eņģelis-Lonely Angel. Meditation for Violin and String orchestra. (1999/2006)

Performed by:
Alina Pogostkina, Violin.
Sinfonietta Rīga, Juha Kangas.

I am a long time admirer of this composer, and the present CD only strengthens my alliance. You can say a lot about his music, but the thing is that you should actually listening to this highly spiritual religious music. In all pieces there are vivid contrasts, tonal beauty, often diatonic, with a high melodic input. And although his works are modern, they are easily approachable for most. But to understand this music you must listen to it, and if you need a reference, the meditation would be the piece I would go to firstly. For in this work is all what Vasks defines. From a deep meditation to an upwards lifting surge into the realms of religious spirituality. After all that is the very essence of his compositions. The booklet writes in  an eloquent manner, and very well informed, how to understand the music and where the roots are. As a side note I must mention that the first piece is somewhat unevenly recorded. The loudness between the orchestra and violin is a bit of axis. when you turn the volume up because you want to hear the softer passages, the violin comes in much louder. That is painful for your ears, so you must adjust the volume. This is corrected by the engineer in the other works. Sound should be considered as extremely good. As to the performance I have no complains. But you might want to know that Pogostkina's emotional intensity is constantly at a very high peak. No relenting, safe when you land in the Meditation. Her tone is involving and strong in expression. So you may want to listen at one work at a time. The orchestra is a constant joy.



Nixon, Henry Cotter. (1842-1907) Complete Orchestral Music, Volume 1. First recordings.

New acquisition.
Bought in March 2017.
First listen: 8-6-2017.
Label: Toccata Classics.
Recording dates: June 2016.
Recording venue: Pásti Synagogue Debrecen, Hungary.
Recording engineer: Zoltán Osváth.
Producer: Paul Mann.
Running time:71:23.
Relevance to me: Mildly interesting.

Works performed:
Concert overture No. 3 "Jacta est Alea" (after 1880)
Romance for Violin and orchestra. (c. 1889, reconstructed 2016 by Paul Mann.
Palamon and Arcite, Symphonic Poem. (1882)

Performed by:
Ana Török, Violin.
Kodály PO, Paul Mann.

Nixon is one of those composer that is really totally forgotten, and since I am always curious after why and how, I decided to invest money time and effort into this project. They are planning to record all his extant orchestral music plus symphonic poems. Quite a daunting project I would say! Today I put it through its paces, and am quite devastated about the quality of music, interpretation and recording. This is not a good start. On the basis of what I hear I must conclude that apart from some nice parts, but not the whole sum, he is justly forgotten. His music sounds like a watered down Brahms, with some Schumann into the bargain, And although there are some good episodes and ideas, the music is not able to hold your attention for long. The best and most substantial work on this disc must be "Palamon and Arcite". So Brahmsian in character that one almost thinks it is a study piece by Johannes. It has some quirky ideas and nice string writing but it is boring. Why settle for this if you can have the real bargain. Of course it is painful to come to this conclusion, but I have to be honest. The truth is that he is not helped by either performance and recording. The orchestra sounds under rehearsed,  and I hear a lack of involvement and motivation, as if they do not understand the essence of Nixon's music. I have issue with the tempi too, which ruins part of the symphonic poem. The pastoral character of the performance is making the not so interesting music even less interesting. There are some inconsistencies throughout different desks, notably the brass and the first strings. And then the recording. The engineer had a difficult time adjusting his ears to the acoustics of the Synagogue. The concert overture sounds good enough, but the timpani has a boomy character with no reverb. That is unpleasant, when it works its way through the lower strings to my ears.  The romance for Violin and orchestra is an engineers affront to the listener. This is really badly judged, and should have been re-recorded. The Violin is so forwardly positioned that she is almost in eye distance, with the orchestra close behind. Really unpleasant. The playing is square and rough, without  any nuance in expression. Too much stress on the strings, so it sounds laborious and uncomfortable. The recording is not well balanced and rather confrontational. No sensitivity, and it sounds badly rehearsed. The lightness and romantic luminosity it should have, is wholly absent.
Palamon is the best of the recordings. The boomy character of the timpani is gone, and a certain airiness is making it sound more at ease. The balance is almost good. The woodwinds and brass tend to sound a bit hooty at times and gives an unpleasant pressure on the ear, but as a whole it is quite acceptable.
The music is lacking in body and substance, doesn't conjure spellbinding moments or a romantic atmosphere, and has no intensity in emotional expression to tell of.  No real potency in it. It all falls short on rhythm, harmony, shape, tension....... well at times it's alluring, but not fertile enough to build further volumes on. I realize this is my personal opinion and you might think otherwise, but for me this is a huge disappointment.




Pizzetti, Ildebrando. (1880-1968) Symphony in A & Harp concerto.

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 8=6=2017.
Label: Naxos.
Recording dates: September 2015.
Recording venue: Auditorium Rai, Arturo Toscanini, Turin, Italy.
Recording engineer: Paolo Masiero.
Running time: 65:14.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony in A. (1940)
Harp Concerto in E flat major, (1958-1960)

Works performed by:
Margherita Bassani, Harp.
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai, Damian Iorio.

The provenance of this Symphony in A is interesting to say the least. The booklet written by David Gallagher is replete with details and is written in a coherent style. A must read before listening.
I merely give my opinion in regards to the music, and it is most favourably. I did not expect anything else knowing already quite some works of his hands, like the SQ, and some orchestral works. Despite the troubled times in which this Symphony was written, it does not give me a feel of drama nor fear of war, and its atrocities. His orchestral colours are painted in images of emotional intensity but not of desperation. Melodious brilliantly put together, the music rather hoovers on an serene altitude quite in the style I recognize being his particular penchant. No vivid contrast of texture, but almost nebulous and sometimes featherlight themes of natural beauty. The clarity of that texture is amazing and magical, and it all has a quiet sense of forward motion but never rushed in any way. There are many moments of introspection, caught exquisitely and imaginative, beautifully shaped into delicately veiled music. Almost hushed at all times, it has a secretive air of hidden premonitions. Beautiful late romantic music, essential to have and to replay many times.
*
At first I thought, O, well a Harp concerto, a work of pleasure but of no consequence. I was very much mistaken in this. It has vitality but no inward message. Instead there is orchestral excellence, and some unexpected turns and twists in the orchestral parts rather than in the contribution of the Harp, that has in my view not a role of much importance, or it is underplayed, that could be an option too. It has nothing of the mystic qualities of the symphony, but has more intensity, be it with less personality as I expected. The music is taken very briskly, and has agility and brilliance, and is on an interpretative high standard. Many a time there is a rhythmic snap that will tickle your ear, which sort of creates minor conflicts in the equilibrium of the musical flow, and that is a fine aspect of the scoring. This needs to be heard more as a few times, but I like it very much.
As to the interpretation I have a few things to add. Firstly I think that a bit more punch in the orchestral parts would have been welcome, there is a touch of sameness in volume and expression. Not all the characteristics of Pizzetti's music are portrayed in the best possible way. But there is a close watch on all the details and overall the music comes off quite nicely. Secondly the soloist in the Harp concerto is a bit anonymous and is too much integrated in the orchestral blend, sometimes you hardly notice her. Which is a pity for her part is interesting, and worthwhile to hear a bit more to the fore.
The recording is a bit soft, yet detailed enough, with a reasonable depth. Not a disc to be without.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

I ordered some CPO titles today for the furtherance of my pleasure.

Always wanted this box, and since it will quickly go OOP I bought it today.

Very entertaining Gamba music  with a lot of different interesting composers

I had nothing of this composer, so it looked like a good starting point.

I am collecting Ferdinand Ries his music slowly but surely, He is an important composer to me.

I have a double CD with his orchestral works, and this CD with chamber music is a good addition.

I can safely say that I never heard of this female composer.. The music however appealed to me.



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...