ASHKENAZY ‘I want to keep performing!’ Read our full interview with the piano legend on p36
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THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION How w Shostakovich Shostak koviich h and his circle dared to defy the Soviet regime
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Mik Mikhail khail Glinka The father of Russian music
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Welcome If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have noticed by now that things seem a little different here in BBC Music Magazine. But not too different, we hope you’ll agree. We’ve given a spring (autumn) clean to the front end of the magazine, adding new features, including a monthly column by Radio 3’s Tom Service. And we’ve taken our regular features, such as Composer of the Month and Building a Library, y and freshened them up. We’d love to know what you think: whether we’ve achieved the right balance of substance and style, and if you enjoy our new fonts – you may notice that they’re slightly larger than the old set. Of course, you may be new to BBC Music Magazine… In which case, we’d love to hear your first impressions of us! It seems apt to change things round in an issue commemorating the centenary of the Russian Revolution. Under the Soviets, music moved in many directions, both in support of the regime and, covertly, in defiance. Daniel Jaffé’s insightful piece throws new light on the machinations of Stalin and his underlings to use music to their political ends – and how often that backfired. We also talk to one of the Soviet regime’s greatest exports, pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy. At 80, he seems to be in the prime of his life. Mind you, he’s a veritable teenager compared to composer and organist Francis Jackson, celebrating his 100th on 2 October…
Oliver C Oli Condy dy Editor Edi
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‘What better time than the centenary of the Russian Revolution to reassess what the Soviet Union did for music? It was fascinating to read the latest research, as well as some surprising discoveries…’ Page 24
‘Interviewing Ashkenazy was a joy. In person as on stage he exudes grace, generosity and self-possession. To hear him talk with such frankness about his extraordinary life and career felt like a real privilege.’ Page 36
‘Birmingham’s never stood still, musically, but nothing says renewal like a brand-new music college. The new Birmingham Conservatoire looks stunning – and I’m impatient to hear my ﬁrst concert there!’ Page 40
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Contents NOVEMBER 2017
FEATURES 24 Cover story: Music of the Revolution How did the Soviet regime control and shape classical music? Daniel Jaffé delves into Stalin’s murky dealings
34 The Revolution on air and on stage A run-down of the live events and Radio 3 broadcasts commemorating the Revolution’s centenary
36 The BBC Music Magazine interview Clemency Burton-Hill meets Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy on his 80th birthday
40 Birmingham Conservatoire Richard Bratby takes a trip to the UK’s second city to marvel at its state-of-art music college
44 Francis Jackson at 100 Roger Nichols visits the organist, composer and choirmaster at home in Yorkshire
EVERY MONTH 6
Letters The curse of the encore; your thoughts on our 20 Greatest Operas poll; a date with Tannhäuser
10 The Full Score
Shostakovich, Sollertinsky and the Russian Revolution
Kiri Te Kanawa retires from singing; plus new regulars including a look back at this month in musical history
23 Richard Morrison 52 Musical Destinations Nick Shave at the Sani Festival, Greece
54 Composer of the Month Erik Levi on the father of Russian music, Glinka
58 Building a Library The best recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto
92 Live Events The best opera and concerts across the land
94 Radio & TV listings Full Radio 3 listings plus television highlights
98 Crossword and Quiz 100 Music that Changed Me Welsh National Opera music director Tomáš Hanus 4
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COVER IMAGE: AKG THIS PAGE: LEBRECHT, ROB WHITROW, JOHN MILLAR, MARCO BORGGREVE
How classical music operates in today’s Russia
MAGAZINE Subscriptions rates £64.87 (UK); £65 (Eire, Europe); £74 (Rest of World) ABC Reg No. 3122 EDITORIAL Plus our favourite Soviet masterpieces Editor Oliver Condy (Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8) Deputy editor Jeremy Pound (Khachaturian Symphony No. 2) Reviews editor Rebecca Franks (Shostakovich Symphony No. 10) Production editor Neil McKim (Prokofiev Lieutenant Kijé) Cover CD editor Alice Pearson (Myaskovsky Symphony No. 10)
Editorial assistant Elinor Cooper (Shostakovich Symphony No. 8) Listings editor Paul Riley (Shostakovich Piano Quintet) Art editor Dav Ludford (Weinberg String Quartet No. 5) Designer Liam McAuley (Prokofiev Romeo & Juliet) Picture editor Sarah Kennett (Kabalevsky Violin Concerto) Thanks to Daniel Jaffé, Amelia Parker MARKETING Subscriptions director Jacky Perales-Morris Direct marketing executive Craig Ramsey ADVERTISING Group advertisement manager Laura Jones +44 (0)117 314 8760
Full BBC Radio 3 listings and the best broadcast highlights
Your guide to the best new recordings, DVDs and books
62 Pavel Haas Quartet, with Boris Giltburg and Pavel Nikl
36 Vladimir Ashkenazy
62 Recording of the Month Dvořák Quintets Op. 81 & 97
44 Francis Jackson
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For their magnificent disc, the Pavel Haas Quartet are joined by pianist Boris Giltburg and violist Pavel Nikl
65 Orchestral 68 Concerto 71 Opera 73 Choral & Song 77 Chamber 80 Instrumental 84 Brief Notes 87 World 88 Jazz 90 Books 91 Audio
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Have your say… Write to: The editor, BBC Music Magazine, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol, BS1 3BN Email: email@example.com L ET TE R
I was so much in agreement with Stephen Johnson (Discovering Music, October) I was almost in danger of shouting ‘encore’ myself – I’ve been bursting to tell the world how annoying perpetual, and totally expected, encores are. They are far too common. All but one of this year’s BBC Proms concerts have finished with my radio being switched off before the presenter’s inevitable ‘You know there will be an encore, don’t you?’ My one exception, and an encore I did agree with, was Prom 37 with Alexander Gavrylyuk performing Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto. The choice of encore here [Rachmaninov’s Vocalise] was perfect, a tiny reflection of the events so majestically gone before. A truly outstanding performance. Vanessa Richards, Beverley
E Every month the editor will aaward a Geneva Lab Touring S rradio (retail value £170 – see w www.genevalab.com) to the writer of the best letter received. w T The editor reserves the right to sshorten letters for publication.
Worth a recall: Alexander Gavrylyuk performs at this year’s BBC Proms
CHRIS CHRISTODOULOU, GETTY
The wrong operas How can you compare opera buffa with grand opera, music drama with opera seria, 12-note opera with Baroque opera (20 Greatest Operas, October)? I have long enjoyed all 20 operas that your professional artists have, by some arithmetical formula, generated as the top, but they would not be my top 20, and Figaro would not even be my favourite comic opera. Being inevitably subjective, if I am asked to choose operas for which I would drop everything and rush to the opera house 6
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with only five minutes to curtain up, then they are Così, Don Carlos, Electra, Parsifal, Pique Dame and Wozzeck (in alphabetical order!). Brian P Price, Milford on Sea
Sullivan joy The consensus choice of your voters as to the 20 greatest operatic masterpieces was perhaps predictable, but none the less valid for that. What intrigued more were the less predictable choices of some of your participants. None was more exhilarating than Mhairi
Lawson’s choice of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe. A light opera and British! A masterpiece indeed, and wonderful to see it mentioned in this company. Martin Haldane, Gleneagles
Fluteless endeavour I am amazed that in your list of what are supposed to be the greatest operas of all time you have not included Mozart’s Magic Flute. First of all, it has a supremely silly story which manages, in spite of itself, to bring out great universal
themes of love, bravery and faithfulness. Although predominantly a serious opera, Papageno and Papagena are great comic creations. Then, the crunch is that it has so many wonderful tunes, some of which, such as Papageno’s aria ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’, you end up singing for the rest of the day. David SherwoodW, Hastings The editor replies: We’ve enjoyed reading your various responses to our 20 Greatest Operas poll. Do keep your thoughts coming.
Top teacher Your article on Felicity Palmer (Music That Changed Me, October) brought back happy memories. Although he may have gone into teaching to make a living, her father was an outstanding teacher – knowledgeable, enthusiastic, a great sense of humour and the ability to engage with his pupils, of which I was one. I remember H Marshall Palmer with that mixture of respect and affection which surely marks out a great teacher. I do hope that underneath it all he wasn’t a frustrated cathedral organist – I feel his influence has been much more widespread than he would ever have achieved in the organ loft. I too remember that production of Trial by Jury she mentions, as I was one of the jurymen. How wonderful that I once performed with Dame Felicity Palmer! Peter Hodges, Canterbury
Welcome return While I am largely in agreement with Stephen Johnson (see also Letter of the Month, left) – sometimes an encore feels like sacrilege, sometimes a tender farewell – there are also notable exceptions. One such was the closing concert of the Music in Old Kraków festival in 2010 (Chopin’s bicentenary year), in which Grigory Sokolov had been at his most inspired with Bach, Schumann and Brahms… but no n Chopin. Ch pi At the end, thee rapturous audience wasn n’t going g g anywhere, and d finallyy Sokolov sat do own and gave us wh hat was essentiallyy a second recital of six big Chopin pieces. I
hesitate to call them encores; more a sense of ‘yes, we all know who’s been missing this evening’. It’s an experience I treasure, as much for its generosity as for the sublime playing. Ruth Windle, Frome
Summer of love Over the summer you have been inviting BBC Proms recollections. Many years ago, my best friend gave me two arena tickets because the overture to Tannhäuser was on the menu and he knew I liked it. The deal included chaperoning his date, thereby freeing him up to approach her sister on whom he had designs. The sister rejected his advances; I have been married to the chaperonee for 47 years. On another occasion, I stood with others to acclaim a moving performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony conducted by Sir Adrian Boult (below). As the applause intensified he stepped forward, reached over to his lectern and tilted his conducting score towards the audience. You’re applauding the wrong man, he modestly seemed to be saying. David Barnes, Twickenham
Sea journeys I enjoyed Terry Blain’s Building a Library survey on Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony (October). In the following ‘So, Where Next...?’ feature, in dditi tto tthe British works addition d, I’d strongly mentioned nd the Swedish recommen composer Gosta Nystroem’s i SSinfonia del Mare poetic (194 48) which, like A Sea S Symphony, features fe a moving vvocal section. JJeffrey Davis, Rotherfield R
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Thefull score Our pick of the month’s news, views and interviews Dame Kiri Te Kanawa A career in brief 1965: After forging an early career as a pop star in New Zealand, she wins the Mobil Song Quest with the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen. 1966: Enrolling at the London Opera Centre, she sings minor roles in London opera venues. 1971: Makes her big break at the Royal Opera House, singing the Countess in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. 1981: At the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, she sings Handel’s ‘Let the bright seraphim’. 1982: She is appointed a Dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Where it all began: Kiri Te Kanawa at the Royal Opera House in 1971
1991: For the Rugby World Cup, she records the new ‘World in Union’ anthem, based on Holst’s ‘Jupiter’. 2004: She founds the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation to assist outstanding young musicians with their international careers.
Kiri Te Kanawa calls it a day
2010: Her last sung opera performance, in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier.
Soprano reveals she has sung in public for the last time
2016: She sings for the last time in public, at Her Majesty’s, Ballarat, Australia.
After more than ﬁve decades appearing on the world’s greatest stages, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has brought the curtain down on her singing career. In an interview on BBC Radio 4, the New Zealand soprano, 73, revealed that, while she has not announced her decision formally, she will not be performing in public again, preferring to leave the stage free for the next generation. ‘I have stopped singing,’ she told the Today programme. ‘I don’t want to hear my voice when I’m teaching young singers and hearing beautiful young, fresh voices – I don’t want to put my voice next to theirs. I’ll leave my voice out of it now. It is in the “was”; it is in the past.’ 10
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Dame Kiri’s decision to quit means her recital in the Australian city of Ballarat last October was her last ever public performance. She had previously waved goodbye to the opera stage – one speaking part notwithstanding – when she played the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier in Cologne in 2010. ‘Before I’d gone on, I said, right this is it,’ she says about her Ballarat appearance. ‘And that was the end.’ Since dramatically rising to fame as the Countess in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro at the Royal Opera House in 1971, Te Kanawa has enjoyed many high-proﬁle moments, making her a familiar ﬁgure well beyond
the opera house. Most notable of these was when she sang Handel’s ‘Let the bright Seraphim’ at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 in front of a global TV audience of millions. But, explained Dame Kiri on Today, despite the acclaim from others she has enjoyed over ﬁve decades, she herself has never felt completely satisﬁed with a performance. ‘I never came off stage thinking I’ve really nailed it,’ she said. She did, however, express no regrets over the timing of her retirement: ‘I decided when it was going to be the last note, and I always wanted it to be like that. Look at what I had. Look at the memories.’
Thefull score RisingStars Three to look out for… Ilker Arcayürek Tenor Born: Istanbul, Turkey Career highlight: Participating in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition was a huge opportunity. I was able to present myself to a broad new audience and it was my first time ever in the UK. It’s opened lots of doors for me. Musical hero: My real musical heroes are amateur musicians, because of their love and passion for music. They remind me why I started singing at all – to make music as part of a group which shares the same passion. Dream concert: I dream of bringing the entire audience to tears (including me), then leaving the stage without applause, in silence.
One for the record The British Library is putting its sound archive centre stage this autumn with an exhibition entitled Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound running 6 Oct – 11 March. Exploring how sound has shaped our lives since Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 (above), the British Library will showcase its recordings and put records, players and early sound recorders on display. There will also be a variety of events, which are still to be conﬁrmed… See bl.uk/whats-on
Maria Marchant Pianist
THE MONTH IN NUMBERS
…sets of cello lessons. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has donated £3,000 to his old school in Nottingham so that others can aspire to follow his lead.
GETTY, JANINA LASZLO, STEVEN PESKE
…arias, led by robot. YuMi, an automaton, made his debut in Italy recently, conducting Verdi and Puccini. One to watch?
…foot tall. That’s the height of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s new octobass (above), a rare threestringed, lower-pitched version of a double bass. Now they just need to recruit a 12-foot tall person to play it.
…pounds raised for Grenfell Tower families, thanks to a beneﬁt concert at London’s Cadogan Hall. Soprano Ailish Tynan and tenor Stuart Skelton were among those who performed.
Born: Brighton, UK Career highlight: Premiering Goodwood by the Sea composed by Roderick Williams in the stunning Goodwood Ballroom in Sussex last year for the opening concert of the Shipley Arts Festival was a real high point. There were amazing historic cars in the grounds, perfect for getting in the zone! Musical hero: It’s so hard to pick one, but I’ve always loved pianist Martha Argerich – hearing her play live is breathtaking. Dream concert: A programme of British and Australian piano works at Sydney Opera House with some Grainger on the menu. That and playing in a certain circular building in the summertime, of course…
Alix Boivert Violinist Born: Bordeaux, France Career highlight: My ensemble The Curious Bards was selected in 2015 by the Cité de la Voix in Vézelay to be a part of their rising ensemble programme. But most importantly, making a disc with them for Harmonia Mundi was fantastic. Musical hero: The figure that changed my perspective as a musician, and without whom The Curious Bards would not have existed, is the violinist Gilles Apap. His love of all music and his spirit of sharing is a model for musicians. Dream concert: By candlelight, in a Scottish castle in front of less than a 100 people. Or at an altitude of 1,500m looking at Mont Blanc (although we did that in July!). I also dream of performing outdoors in an ancient theatre.
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TIMEPIECE This month in history
Song sensation: Wigmore Hall winner Julien Van Mellaerts
Wigmore winner Congratulations to baritone Julien Van Mellaerts, who has won the prestigious 2017 Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation International Song Competition. The New Zealander pockets £10,000 for his efforts, which were judged by a panel including baritone Christian Gerhaher and soprano Dame Felicity Lott.
A tenner at the opera For the first time in over 30 years, the Royal Opera House is planning to reintroduce ‘Proms’ tickets in the stalls for some productions, allowing people to pay on the day and sit on the floor or stand for just £10. The idea, which would involve taking out all the seats in the stalls area, has been proposed by Covent Garden’s new artistic director Oliver Mears, who hopes to see it in place by 2020.
No ifs or Barts Alf Clausen, whose orchestral music has provided the distinctive soundtrack to The Simpsons for 27 years, has been told his services are no longer needed. Although the composer has won an Emmy on two occasions for his work on the hit cartoon show, its production company says that it is now looking for ‘a different kind of music’ to accompany the animated antics of Bart, Lisa, Homer and co.
Roll out the carol BBC Radio 3’s popular annual Breakfast Carol Competition is now up and running. This year, amateur composers are invited to set the words of the 15th-century poem Sir Christèmas for a four-part choir – six shortlisted entries will be performed on air, and the winner chosen by public vote. The completed carols should be no longer than four minutes and can be written with or without piano. The deadline for entries is 1 November. For details see bbc.co.uk/radio3.
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‘Dominating power’: conductor Arturo Toscanini in 1908
Toscanini takes New York Metropolitan by storm
hen, on 16 November 1908, New York’s Metropolitan Opera House opened its season with Verdi’s Aida, there was a buzz about the place. The demand to see the performance had been unprecedented, with The Sun reporting how, the evening before, the venue had been ‘practically in a state of siege until… the last of the unfortunates who hadn’t got tickets in advance reluctantly abandoned their efforts to obtain admission.’ Playing the title role that evening was the acclaimed Czech
soprano Emmy Destinn, with tenor Enrico Caruso, no less, as Radamès. But the real draw was the appearance for the ﬁrst time at The Met of Arturo Toscanini, the star maestro recently brought over from La Scala in Milan. Ever since he’d ﬁrst conducted his ﬁrst opera as a 19 year-old – when, as a cellist with a touring company in Brazil, he stood in at the last minute for a performance of, coincidentally, Aida – the Italian had created waves in his home country. Prior to Milan, he had been a major success at Turin’s Teatro
I fought the law: bank robber Butch Cassidy
ROBERT PIWKO, ALAMY, LANDE/NEW YORK METROPOLITAN ARCHIVE
City attractions: the cover and an inside page from the Met’s 1908/09 season programme; (right) soprano Emmy Destinn as Aida; (below) a caricature of Toscanini by Enrico Caruso
Carignano and, by the turn of the 20th century, could count Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and Puccini’s La bohème among his world premieres. However, despite such a glowing CV, his arrival in the Big Apple as the Met’s new musical director was not welcomed by all. Some, wary of his reputation as an aggressive and demanding character, worried about his means of achieving results – upon his appointment, the revered soprano Emma Eames declared that Toscanini’s ﬁrst season at the Met would be her last. And then there were the inevitable questions over how he would share repertoire and performances with the venue’s other musical director, one Gustav Mahler. But all such doubts were seemingly cast aside as the crowds squeezed their way in for Aida’s ﬁrst night. ‘There were 4,000 persons inside the opera house by the time the curtain fell on the ﬁrst act,’ reported The Sun. ‘Long before that, every seat had been sold and every standee had been admitted whom safety would allow to squeeze his way inside the swinging doors.’ Those 4,000 were not disappointed, it would seem. ‘The ovations began when Miss Emmy Destinn, the new Aida, was called before the curtain after the ﬁrst tableau,’ wrote The Globe. ‘There were wreaths and bouquets in embarrassing profusion. The season could scarcely have opened with testimony of livelier approval.’
Also in November 1908
Destinn, making her ﬁrst appearance at the Met, and Caruso, an old favourite, received their fair share of plaudits in the next day’s papers. The greatest praise, however, was reserved for Toscanini who, famed for his prodigious memory, had conducted the performance from memory. ‘He is a
‘Toscanini is a boon to Italian opera as great as anything since Verdi laid down his pen’ strenuous force, a dominating power, a man of potent authority, a musician of inﬁnite resource,’ wrote The New York Times. ‘He had the performance… ﬁrmly and directly under his hand.’ ‘Of the new conductor it must be said that he is a boon to Italian opera as great and as welcome as anything that has come out of Italy since Verdi laid down his pen,’ was The Tribune’s verdict. ‘In the best sense he is an artist, as interpreter, a re-creator. Without such men music is as lifeless to the ear as it is on the printed page.’
3rd: Having served as US President since the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt decides not to run for a third term. Instead, he throws his weight behind his fellow Republican and old friend, William Howard Taft, who wins the election. 7th: Butch Cassidy, (above) the iconic outlaw of the Wild West, and his accomplice ‘the Sundance Kid’, are discovered on the run from the law in Bolivia. After stealing a mule, they are reportedly shot by soldiers in an overnight standoff, and buried in unmarked graves. Cassidy’s sister, however, later claims that he survived and lived in America until 1937. 10th: The Gideons, an evangelical association of travelling Christian salesmen, leave their ﬁrst Bibles in rooms of the Superior Hotel, Montana. Over the next 100 years, the group distributes over 1.7 billion worldwide. 15th: Empress Dowager Cixi of China dies of acute arsenic poisoning, just 22 hours after her fellow ruler the Guangxu Emperor dies of the very same cause. Many historians are inclined to believe that domineering Cixi poisoned Guangxu, knowing her health was deteriorating, and afraid that he would reverse her policies after her death. 17th: The silent ﬁlm The Assassination of the Duke de Guise is premiered in Paris. The 18-minute ﬁlm is the ﬁrst to feature an original score, composed by SaintSaëns, as well as an eminent scriptwriter and actors of the Comédie Française. It receives considerable press attention and its success inspires the ﬁlm d’art movement, characterised by elaborate theatricality. 28th: A newly excavated coalmine explodes in Marianna, Pennsylvania, killing 154 workers, and leaving only one survivor, Fred Elinger, who describes the event to the press.
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Roderick Williams | BBC Philharmonic | Sir Andrew Davis Sir Andrew Davis takes his multi-award-winning Elgar discography to the next level with breathtaking interpretations of Falstaff, Elgarâ€™s most accomplished and characteristic work, and several orchestral songs, with exemplary support from the BBC Philharmonic and Roderick Williams, all recorded in surround-sound. CHSA 5188
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James Ehnes Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra Edward Gardner Four years after a highly successful BartĂłk recording with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner here returns to the composer on this SACD, with his Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and James Ehnes, for outstanding accounts of four major orchestral works.
This is a new series, devoted to the brilliant orchestral works of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and its Associate Guest Conductor, John Wilson, recording for the ďŹ rst time together on Chandos. It especially features the Third Symphony, as well as the virtuosic Marimba Concerto, tackled here by the percussionist Colin Currie.
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Katherine Bryan | Orchestra of Opera North | Bramwell Tovey With her ďŹ rst Chandos recording, the scintillating ďŹ‚autist Katherine Bryan explores the relationship between her instrument and the human voice by providing a new take on some of the worldâ€™s most famous opera arias, from Mozartâ€™s Le nozze di Figaro and Pucciniâ€™s Madama ButterďŹ‚y to Gershwinâ€™s Porgy and Bess.
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Hannah Kendall Raising voices: ‘It’s important for composers to challenge issues’
Fluting in space A ‘Flute Feast’ weekend to be held in Château la Chenevière, Normandy, this month will be welcoming a special guest with a rare boast: namely, she has played her instrument in space. As a NASA astronaut from 1995 to 2011, Cady Coleman regularly practised her ﬂute on the International
Space Station, pre-empting the guitar-playing antics of colleague Chris Hadﬁeld, whose rendition of Bowie’s Space Oddity hit the headlines in 2013. At the Chateau, Coleman will be taking part in more down-to-earth activities such as masterclasses, recitals and group sessions – or ‘tutti ﬂuteys’, as we sincerely hope they are called.
DÉJÀ VU History just keeps on repeating itself…
SOUTH WEST NEWS SERVICE ILLUSTRATION: JONTY CLARK
Heartbroken Luke Howard hit the headlines recently when he sat at a ‘Play Me, I’m Yours’ piano on Bristol’s College Green for hours on end in a desperate bid to win back his exgirlfriend’s affections. His attempts ended in failure – she didn’t return, and he got thumped by a hacked-off passer-by – but he was by no means the ﬁrst person to turn to music in a bid to win back a would-be loved one. When Mahler, for instance, learnt of his wife Alma’s liaisons with Walter Gropius, he was quick to react. Surely, he reckoned, dedicating his epic Eighth Symphony to her would remind her of their former wedded bliss? Alas no, and by the time he began his Tenth Symphony in 1910, the feelings of desperation had, if anything, increased – his scrawled ‘To live for you! To die for you!’ and ‘Almschi!’ on the ﬁnal page of the score tells its own sad tale. Twenty years later, Berlioz found a similar lack of success when he wrote his orchestral work Lélio, this time directed at Marie Moke, who had broken off their engagement in favour of Camille Pleyel. But here, there’s a twist. It was on hearing Lélio that Harriet Smithson, the beautiful actress who had previously inspired Berlioz’s lovelorn Symphonie fantastique, decided to get back in touch. Soon after, she decided that the composer was, indeed, the man for her.
Hannah Kendall was born in London in 1984 and studied at the University of Exeter. Her work has been performed by major ensembles and at events including the Cheltenham Music Festival and, this summer, the BBC Proms. In 2015, she featured on Radio 3’s Composer of the Week programme. I am currently writing a piece for cellist Natalie Clein, using a Schubert Trout Quintet formation of instruments. I’ve been given a fairly free rein and I’d quite like to base it on work by the poet Kate Tempest, who I think is superb at encapsulating societal issues – I’m presently reading her Let Them Eat Chaos. It’s important for composers to challenge issues. If there is something that particularly bothers a composer, they are perfectly in their rights to say ‘I’m not that happy about that’. I’m starting to do that more and, speciﬁcally, am asking how my commissions will reach wider audiences. I no longer want to write pieces just for the sake of writing them. Getting commissions can be really hard work. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a fairly steady stream of them since graduating. A lot of it is about knowing how to work the process, using the opportunities that certain commissions give you to spur you on to the next thing and actively
looking for occasions for your works to be performed again. One thing I’ve done to help get more commissions was to write and produce my own opera, The Knife of Dawn, last year. From an artistic point of view, I wanted to write a substantial piece drawing on subject matter from my own Guyanese heritage – in this case it was about Martin Carter, the political activist and poet. But I also wanted to challenge this recurring theme that black and minority ethnic (BME) singers aren’t getting major roles in opera. The best way to do that was to write an opera myself. I don’t think I’d found my voice before I wrote my chamber orchestra piece Kanashibari. But when I showed it to composer Julian Anderson, he looked at the third movement and said ‘This is your music!’. And he was right, as it is just the sort of music I want to write: it’s got rhythmic energy, drive, intricacies and layers. Since then, I haven’t looked back, and every work I’ve written is exactly how I have wanted it to be.
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Thefullscore StudioSecrets I predict a riot: Matt Haimovitz explores punk rock
We reveal who’s recording what, and where… What does Dan Brown’s new thriller have to do with classical music? It turns out that Origin was inspired by his brother Gregory W Brown’s Missa Charles Darwin, a work whose music is drawn from DNA sequences and whose texts are by Darwin. The piece has been recorded by New York Polyphony and a special edition of the disc is out now on Navona Records. British composer Toby Young, meanwhile, has taken his cue from the Old English epic Beowulf. Working with writer Danny Coleman-Cooke, Young has created a setting of the poem for adults and children to perform. It’s being recorded by the Armonico Consort, soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and harpist Catrin Finch for Signum Classics. The unlikely combination of punk rock band Pussy Riot and Romantic pianistcomposer Rachmaninov appears on Troika, the latest Pentatone album from cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley. ‘Our cover of Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer celebrates the band’s courage and the spirit of protest,’ says Haimovitz. The CD also includes cello sonatas by Shostakovich and Prokoﬁev. There’s also a Soviet theme behind a new recording series from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Kirill Karabits on Chandos. They’ll be exploring composers from former Soviet Union countries. First up is Kara Karayev, a leading Azerbaijani postwar composer. The programme includes the Seven Beauties ballet suite and Don Quixote. Elisabeth Leonskaja was born in Georgia, a former Soviet state that will presumably pop up in Karabits’s list at some point. But the acclaimed pianist has Beethoven on her mind: she’s set to record the Third and Fifth Piano Concertos this autumn for eaSonus, and the First, Second and Fourth next spring, with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse and conductor Tugan Sokhiev.
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Great artists talk about their past recordings This month: ANGELA GHEORGHIU Soprano MY FINEST MOMENT Puccini Tosca With Roberto Alagna, Ruggero Raimondi; Royal Opera House Chorus & Orchestra/ Antonio Pappano Axiom Films AXM637 (2001)
This movie was made thanks to a wonderful French producer, Toscan du Plantier. He saw me in La traviata in Paris, and in the second Act I wore a red dress. Afterwards he came to my dressing room and he said ‘Angela, I was dreaming all my life of my Tosca – here you are, ﬁnally! We must do a
movie – a real movie.’ And I said OK! From that moment we started to plan, starting with recording the soundtrack. They wanted a well-known conductor like Zubin Mehta or Lorin Maazel, because they were going to ﬁlm all two weeks of the recording sessions at Abbey Road as well, and include some of this in the movie. But Roberto [Alagna] and I fought for Tony Pappano, saying ‘you will love him – he will be ideal for the ﬁlm!’. And I told everybody ‘Tony is our next great opera conductor, and in Puccini il est formidable, magniﬁque!’ And really I was right. I was very proud to have Tony Pappano and Ruggero Raimondi. We worked like crazy for that
Thefull score with Tony Pappano: I had ﬁrst met him in 1993 in Brussels, when he was music director at La Monnaie. I had also performed with Roberto in 1992 and ’93, and in my mind I said ‘I swear for my CD I will have this tenor and that conductor!’ And I did! It was my ﬁrst recording at Abbey Road, and I was so excited, thinking of The Beatles and everything. It was also where I ﬁrst met the recording producer David Groves, who came to mean so much to me. He was a beautiful man, like Cary Grant: so very handsome, very clever, a real gentleman. And he is everything – a friend, a father, a coach, a musician. Everyone trusts him completely. He always knew if I was at my best in a take, or if I needed to do it again – he never made me work like crazy just for the sake of it. Puccini memories: Angela Gheorghiu with bassbaritone Ruggero Raimondi in Tosca in 2001; (above) with ex-husband tenor Roberto Alagna at the film’s screening in Venice
movie! For those Abbey Road sessions we wanted everything to be authentic – a real recording session with no acting for the ﬁlm; we’d simply be ourselves, so the audience can see how hard it is to record, and how sincerely we are doing the recording sessions.
MY FONDEST MEMORY Puccini La Rondine With Roberto Alagna, William Matteuzzi; London Voices; LSO/Antonio Pappano Warner 640 7482 (1997)
For my ﬁrst studio opera recording I chose La Rondine because it was almost unknown: there was just one previous recording with Kiri Te Kanawa and Plácido Domingo. With recordings, I was so lucky that even then I could choose the repertoire, the conductor, the partners, the hall, the orchestra – everything! That’s how I came to record
I’D LIKE ANOTHER GO AT… Verdi Per Due With Roberto Alagna; Berlin Philharmonic/Claudio Abbado EMI (currently unavailable) (1998)
This is a very good recording with the Berlin Philharmonic and Claudio Abbado; but it is the only CD I’ve made where I was a little bit inﬂuenced by Roberto, because he had this idea that we shouldn’t sing Verdi with portamenti. I actually think that was a bad idea, because in Verdi’s music the portamenti is part of the line, of the style. But Roberto is an autodidact – he never studied music – and he thought we should somehow do grande legato: a smooth line without any portamenti. And because he didn’t, in a way I felt obliged to do the same, otherwise we wouldn’t be singing in the same style. It’s not really a big fault and maybe nobody thinks it very important – it doesn’t affect the entire CD. But, for instance, I have just re-recorded Otello this year with tenor Joseph Calleja and it was – ah! – so beautiful, with all the portamenti and appropriate style. Gheorghiu’s latest Warner Classics album ‘Eternamente’ is reviewed on p72
BuriedTreasure Pianist Stephen Hough raves about three musical rarities from his collection Rubinstein Piano Concerto No. 4 Vai Music 1020-2 Rubinstein’s Fourth Piano Concerto is a piece that was in the repertoire of so many pianists at the turn of the 20th century. In many ways it marks the beginning of the era of the Romantic piano concerto. Rubinstein’s harmonies are ‘very meat and potatoes’ and he doesn’t go in for chromaticism. It’s also muscular – ‘Mendelssohn on steroids’ is the best way I can think of describing it. It has to be played with real energy and passion to make it work, and Josef Hofmann’s 1937 recording is the greatest one out there.
Dvořák Mass in D minor Argo ZRG 781 I ﬁrst came across Dvorˇák’s Mass when I got hold of the recording by Christ Church Choir under Simon Preston several years ago. It doesn’t get performed often, but to me the Kyrie is every bit as beautiful, haunting and memorable as, say, the Pie Jesu from the Fauré Requiem or any number of things that you hear all the time on the radio. Dvorˇák did write a version for orchestra, but I love this one with organ just for its simplicity and for the sound of the boys' voices. It’s absolutely glorious.
Poulenc Les chemins de l’amour Warner 9721652 I was introduced to Poulenc’s Les chemins de l’amour by the pianist Graham Johnson. This song is an interesting example of when classical and popular music were not different genres, and I love the fact that it’s one of the last stops on the journey where the two divide – Bernstein's West Side Story is probably the ﬁnal stop. It’s a kind of chanson that could have been sung by Edith Piaf, and yet it’s written by Poulenc, who was a venerable classical composer. Yvonne Printemps sings it in a style that you couldn’t sing anymore, with portamenti in every single bar. She also has the most exquisite phrasing.
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Thefull score THE LISTENING SERVICE
The sound of silence In the first of his new regular series, Radio 3’s Tom Service explores how the absence of sound is essential for music, and can even be as powerful as the notes on the stave ILLUSTRATION: MARIA CORTE MAIDAGAN
hat is the most prevalent sound in the concert hall, the one sonic essential without which every performance you have ever experienced could not take place? Here it is visualised for you…:
Silence: the concentrated quiet of our attention as listeners. The music we hear is projected onto a screen of silence, and if our quiet listening weren’t there, musical culture couldn’t exist. Behind all of the music you have ever heard, from Hildegard of Bingen to Harrison Birtwistle, is an ocean of silence out of which every piece of music begins and where they all must end. But silence isn’t just an existential frame for musical experience. Composers have always used silence as material. The opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony starts not with a sound, but a rest, a propulsive quaver of quiet in which the energy for the whole symphony is distilled, the downbeat is given, instruments and bows are prepared, and a fraction of a second later, those hammerblows begin. For Schubert, silences and rests are places that confront us with visions of the sublime, as in the slow movements of his Symphony No. 9 and his String Quintet. And Bruckner takes us to the edge of the abyss in the gigantic dissonance at the climax of the Adagio of his Ninth, and in the pause that follows this seven-note scream of pain, we are plunged into a silent oblivion. Silences, all of them, yet none are the same: they are all conditioned by 18
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the musical and expressive contexts that each composer creates for them. Which means that these silences aren’t ‘silent’ at all. They are full of powerful, resonating musical meaning. Or as the American composer John Cage said, ‘There is no such thing as
For Schubert, silences and rests are places that confront us with visions of the sublime silence’, as his piece 4'33" – 4 minutes and 33 seconds of non-silence! – proves. There is always some kind of vibrational energy in any environment; Cage’s piece makes us attune to the sounds around us and to the concentration of our listening. 4'33" has inspired composers who are conjurors of quiet ever since, from Morton Feldman to the Wandelweiser group, like Jürg Frey and
Eva-Maria Houben, who write all of their music at the edges of the audible, forcing us to listen, and listen quietly. That might seem extreme, but it’s something we all do after great performances in the concert hall. In the silence at the end of Claudio Abbado’s performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra a few years ago, there was a collective communion of quiet that everyone in the audience composed together. And in that heightened state of silent revelation, what we heard was a region beyond the score. It was the sound of our listening ampliﬁed into a transcendent experience. We’re doing it all the time: all we need to do is listen to the secrets of silence. Tom Service explores how music works in The Listening Service on Sundays at 5pm
FAREWELL TO… Sounds of the sea: Scottish composer John Maxwell Geddes
John Maxwell Geddes Born 1941 Composer Ever inventive, John Maxwell Geddes’s various inspirations ranged from the dramatic mountains and seascapes of his native Scotland to the altogether more compact charms of his cat Leo. The result was an extensive output that included three symphonies, many chamber and choral works, plus a number of film scores. His work was heard regularly at major events such as the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh and St Magnus festivals, and he enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, which commissioned him on several occasions. After graduating from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he went on to further his learning at the Royal Danish Conservatoire. Music education remained important to him and he wrote several works to be performed by children, often conducting them himself. These included, in 1996, the bitingly acerbic Postlude for Strings, which made its point against cuts in music education by requiring the players to leave the stage one-byone during the performance.
Derek Bourgeois Born 1941 Composer In 1961, at the age of 19, Derek Bourgeois sat down to write his first symphony. Over the next 56 years, a further 115 would follow, some with exotic and enticing names such as ‘A Wine Symphony’ (No. 4) and ‘Life, the Universe and Everything’ (No. 42). Despite their abundance, however, it was not Bourgeois’s symphonies that he became best known for but his music for brass instruments. These included a Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (1988) that was recorded by Christian Lindberg, chamber-scale works and a wealth of highly distinctive brass band music. Melody was his forte – he had little time for atonalism – though, in his brass band music especially, he did push boundaries with works such as 1981’s Blitz. Born in London and educated at Cambridge University, he later studied conducting with Adrian Boult and composition with Herbert Howells. Away from composing, he was also a lecturer at Bristol University and director of the National Youth Orchestra, for whom he himself had played the tuba.
Also remembered… Though also acclaimed as a soprano, Elisabeth Parry (born 1922) will be best remembered for setting up London Opera Players in 1950, aimed at presenting opera to those who might not otherwise have the chance to see it. She ran the company for 50 years. The US film director and producer Murray Lerner (born 1927) was particularly well known to many for his music documentaries. These included 1979’s Oscar-winning From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China covering the great violinist on tour.
Thefullscore Making an impression: French pianist Anne Lovett inspires Alistair McGowan
my home town of Evesham called Marcel Zidani who I believe deserves a bigger audience. He recently wrote a piece called The Clock which won second prize in the European Piano Teachers Composer Competition. It’s a solo piano work and is quite tricky – you need fast, sharp fingers to be able to play it. It’s tonal and quite Romantic, very fluid and yet still quite modern-sounding. Alistair McGowan’s ‘The Piano Album’ is out now on Sony
Sasha Cooke Mezzo-soprano
Music to my ears What the classical world has been listening to this month Alistair McGowan Impressionist and comedian
The pianist Anthony Hewitt, who has been helping me with my own disc, recently gave me his recording of the complete Scriabin Preludes. I’ve also heard him play some of them in concert. I was amazed by the breadth of them – some are very romantic, and others are loud and incredibly busy. Anthony plays them beautifully and he also brings out the line of a piece very well, which is something he has been teaching me to do. When I played in a performance of Satie’s Vexations at the Cheltenham Music Festival last year, I met the pianist Anne Lovett, who I was really taken with as a character. I’ve been listening to her album Beyond (and 20
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READER CHOICE Benjamin Jackson Leeds I’m working through Mahler and Bruckner’s complete symphonies. The Mahler is because I know I love his music – his orchestration and sense of emotion just has such an incredible impact. As for Bruckner, after being very bored by his First Symphony a few years ago, I decided to give him another go. I am blown away by his grand sense of musical resonance and the subtleties that come with it, as well as the slowly developing emotional journeys his music takes you on.
Below), in which all the tracks are written and played by her. The performances are exhilarating. There’s a great sense of passion, and Anne has that sort of watery quality to her playing that pianists of my level simply can’t achieve. Lucy Parham is another pianist I admire, and I’ve been lucky to work with her on one of her words and music recitals, in which I read Rachmaninov’s writings in between her playing his music. Standing next to Lucy as she plays, and hearing the music waft over me before it reaches the audience is incredible. Hearing the chords of the C sharp minor Prelude ring out with their church bell-like sound is an exceptional experience. There’s a pianist and composer in
I’ve been listening to tenor Philip Langridge’s recordings of Britten’s folksong arrangements on a Naxos recording. To me, Langridge was one of the most sublime recitalists. He was one of those singers who had some sort of power of raising what is on the page to a new level – they bring out the best of what Britten intended. His diction is utterly exquisite, as is that of soprano Felicity Lott, who is on the same disc. I recently had the good fortune to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton in San Francisco. It blew my mind and has been the soundtrack of the summer in our house – it’s one of those things that gets into you and just stays there! It’s the combination of everything that sets it apart: the lyrics, the intensity, the performances and the content itself. It has also redefined what a musical is, which I find quite thrilling. The piano is the instrumental medium that I enjoy above all others, and Martha Argerich’s recording of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto is something I have listened to for most of my life – Argerich has that hippy vibe to her, and I was something of a wannabe hippy as a teenager. Whenever you hear her play, you find yourself completely hooked and feel as though you daren’t breathe, as you don’t know which way she’s going to go next.
Thefull score When I was listening to the radio in the car the other day, Renata Scotto singing Puccini’s Madam Butterfly came on. I was so transfixed by it I almost couldn’t keep on driving. I’m not the sort of person who says they only like one particular performance of an opera, but hearing Scotto made me wonder who else I would ever want to hear again in that role. She puts all of her being into that performance, even to the point that her voice is almost breaking. Sasha Cooke sings the title role in the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s ‘Marnie’ at English National Opera, 18 November – 3 December
Joseph Middleton Pianist On baritone Sir Thomas Allen’s Wigmore Live disc, he reads poems by AE Housman wrapped around settings of A Shropshire Lad, accompanied by pianist Malcolm Martineau. He reads in such an unaffected way in that instantly recognisable voice of his, which I find deeply touching. I’ve learnt a huge amount from Tom, who is my go-to singer for English song – he
has an encyclopaedic knowledge of poetry and loves reading it for its own sake. I have spent a lot of the summer listening to Schubert songs and dipping in and out of the pianist Graham Johnson’s 40-disc box-set of them, recorded with various singers. I love Graham’s way of being academically informed but always at the service of imagination, colour and storytelling. Putting the set together
Ł,ZDVVRWUDQVğ[HG by Renata Scotto that ,DOPRVWFRXOGQłW NHHSRQGULYLQJł is an achievement in itself, but a particular highlight is Die schöne Müllerin, which is sung with real freshness by Ian Bostridge. Krystian Zimerman is one of my favourite pianists because of the huge variety of sounds he can draw out of one instrument. He’s able to draw on a huge range of dynamic control and can also play in a transparent way that is still somehow very full. I love the palate of colour he displays in his recording of the Debussy
Meryl Davies West Hagbourne I’m listening to vOx Chamber Choir’s debut album of works by the neglected Italian Renaissance composer Lodovico Grossi da Viadana (15601627). A Franciscan friar, Viadana is credited with being the originator of figured bass and was very successful in his lifetime. This album showcases motets, responsories and a mass – mostly homophonic but with a powerful simplicity. vOx is an a cappella choir from Oxford, founded and conducted by David Crown, and they are gaining a great reputation both in their home city and beyond with their blend and great sound.
Preludes. If I had to pick out one Prelude, I’d go for ‘Feux d’artifice’. I love listening to Thomas Adès playing his own Darknesse Visible for solo piano. When you look at the written score, it seems incredibly complex, but on hearing him playing it there’s this otherworldly lightness – a sort of Benjamin Britten-esque touch. The work itself goes back to early British music, but also finds a contact with something from the past and then brings it to life in a very modern way. Middleton’s new disc, ‘Voyages’ with soprano Mary Bevan, will be reviewed in a future issue
Pure poetry: baritone Sir Thomas Allen
Our Choices The BBC Music Magazine team’s current favourites Oliver Condy Editor
Rebecca Franks Reviews editor
I made a trip to the Italian town of Lerici recently (where the poet Shelley lived and died) to visit its first music festival. The stars of the show were the members of the festival orchestra recruited entirely from Facebook. Orchestra Excellence, made up of players from all over the world, gave a scintillating performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony under the inspiring baton of conductor Gianluca Marcianò.
I adore Vaughan Williams but, for some reason, it’s only recently that I’ve discovered his Sancta Civitas. What astonishing music! The British composer wrote this oratorio in 1926, and later said it was the favourite of his choral works. It has a wonderful mystical quality, and I was particularly bowled over by the choral writing in its final stretches. It’s all beautifully performed by The Bach Choir, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and David Hill on their Naxos recording.
GETTY, RICHARD CANNON
Jeremy Pound Deputy editor As the BBC Proms rolled into its final week, a family trip to Isabelle Faust and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra’s all-Mendelssohn concert proved my highlight of the season. Faust’s performance of the E minor Violin Concerto was exemplary in its precision and full-toned clarity, yet also full of excitement and sheer joie de vivre. Three generations of Pounds – ranging from son, 9, to granny, 77 – were hugely impressed.
Alice Pearson Cover CD editor Having a clear-out of my shelves, I dusted down a CD of music by a member of a distinguished Viennese musical family, the Hellmesbergers. While not as famous as his contemporary in
the Strauss family, Joseph ‘Pepi’ Hellmesberger (below) is interesting both for the colourful life he led and for his equally lively and characterful music. His charming waltzes and quadrilles have made a welcome return to my player.
Elinor Cooper Editorial assistant I adore Heinrich Schütz’s choral music. It is full of incredible harmonies and wonderful melodic lines, and I’m always surprised by how modern it sounds even to modern ears. My favourite CD is a 1996 Harmonia Mundi recording by Collegium Vocale Gent and Philippe Herreweghe, called Geistliche Chormusik. It includes two of my favourite motets, Die Mitt Tränen Säen and Selig Sind Die Toten – beautiful examples of his complex, polychoral style.
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Richard Morrison Russian music dances to the tune of its president, and is all the poorer for it
ne hundred years after the Russian Revolution, and 30 years after the no-lessfundamental ‘perestroika’ reforms of the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev, how is music faring in Russia today? That’s a vast question about a vast country, so let’s start not with generalisations but with an encounter. It was a flight I made 13 years ago in a private jet (I never found out whose) from Vilnius to St Petersburg with none other than Valery Gergiev, the most powerful figure in Russian musical life. Naturally we talked about music, but it was when we talked about football that my eyes were opened. Germany was about to host the World Cup. I asked Gergiev which team he thought would win. ‘Germany,’ he replied. That’s very likely, I agreed, because the Germans have home advantage. ‘No,’ Gergiev replied. ‘It’s because a German win will be most profitable for the sponsors and TV companies, so it will happen.’ I was staggered by that answer, and still am. Not by his predictive skills (in fact, Italy won) but by his cynical world view. He seemed to think that everything important could be ‘fixed’ behind closed doors by vested interests. Perhaps it can. Perhaps he’s the realist and I’m the naïve idiot for believing in fair play. But whether he’s right or not, it was an extraordinary insight into his core philosophy. And that core philosophy matters, because Gergiev has set the agenda for all 21st-century Russian musicians, arts administrators and cultural organisations with his ruthlessly successful leadership of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. In short, he believes that in order to get things done, it is necessary to sup
with the devil. He may or may not be godfather to Putin’s children – but he surely has a closer relationship with the Russian president than any musician has ever had with any political leader. That has brought big rewards to the Mariinsky, which has been able to build incredible new facilities in St Petersburg, as well as a grandiose new theatre in Vladivostok, a mere 4,000 miles east. But there is a price. Its musicians have been corralled into performing for what are, in effect, political or even military events. And Gergiev has been unable or unwilling to distance himself from
In many respects, the state has as much power over the arts as in the days of Stalin a growing official intolerance of social attitudes that don’t conform to what Putin’s government expects. Where Gergiev goes, other ambitious Russian arts leaders follow. So there is a paradox. Unlike in the days of the Soviet Union, the Russian state no longer pays for culture. In fact much of the money for the expansion of companies such as the Mariinsky has come from wealthy private donors. Whether the billionaire oligarchs fork out money because they love the arts, or because it is politically expedient for them to do so, I cannot say. Yet the strange thing is that, in many respects, the state has as much power over the arts as in the days of Stalin. True, Russian musicians now have the freedom to travel abroad. But the reality
is curiously similar to the bad old days of Soviet restrictions. The orchestras, opera and ballet companies are still flown round the world to churn out Pathétiques and Swan Lakes for vital shedloads of cash. But few conductors or soloists are brave enough to disengage themselves from their comfortable niches in the Russian musical world and try their luck in the West. Those that do often find it hard to get bookings back at home. Yes, magnificent voices and instrumentalists are still coming out of Russia, though the intensive training methods of its conservatories are now being matched and sometimes eclipsed by even more ferociously focused talentfarms in Korea and China. What’s worrying, however, is that the great repertoire of Russian music isn’t being renewed to the same extent. The nation that produced Musorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich within just seven decades hasn’t produced another worldclass composer for over a century. One reason is money. Nearly all Russian performing institutions are geared up to give punters what they know and expect – especially if those punters are Western tourists paying huge ticket prices. Another reason is the sense of isolation and introspection long ingrained in Russian culture, but particularly prevalent under a government so distrustful of Western influences. The third reason is that the avant-garde is so little regarded in official Russian music circles. It’s a pity. Russians are among the most cultured people on the planet, but their musical life is stuck in a rut. Richard Morrison is chief music critic and a columnist of The Times BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
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THE AGE REVOLUTION Approaching the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, few would deny the event and its aftermath changed the political and social map for ever. But what exactly, asks Daniel JaffĂŠ, did the Soviet regime mean for Russian music?
Soviet support: Shostakovich and polymath Ivan Sollertinsky; (main image) Lenin aboard an agitprop train in Petrograd
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ow important was music to the Soviet Union? An obvious question, perhaps, but consider the extraordinary number of outstanding musicians trained under the regime – among them the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianists Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter, violinist David Oistrakh and conductor Kirill Kondrashin, to name just the best-known of those educated during even Stalin’s reign. Then there are such Stalin Prize-winning yet indisputable masterpieces as Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet or Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 1 – neither of them exemplary works of Socialist Realism. Consider, too, the significance of the International Tchaikovsky Competition, founded in 1958, its first prize winner among pianists not a Soviet musician but the American Van Cliburn. Clearly, music was not simply tolerated, but positively encouraged. That’s not to deny that the ‘Soviet system’ often policed musicians and composers, especially during Stalin’s reign when on two occasions the Central Committee publicly rattled their chains: in 1936 when Shostakovich, their foremost genius, received the brunt of official opprobrium; and in 1948 when the greatest blow fell upon Prokofiev. Yet Soviet musicians enjoyed more latitude and autonomy than the other arts. Because the Stalin Prize Committee numbered several distinguished composers – Glière, Myaskovsky and eventually (in 1947, then resuming in 1951) Shostakovich himself – genuine masterpieces were awarded lucrative prizes, albeit alongside works of political expediency. 26
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As the authorities undoubtedly recognised, music did a great deal to bolster pride in the Soviet Union and its achievements; hence the state’s substantial and effective investment in musicians and what might be called its music industry. Yet that outcome was far from obvious when the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917. Many revolutionaries wanted to replace the decadent strains of Tchaikovsky and Scriabin with a (theoretically) vital new proletarian culture, whether in the form of mass songs or music inspired by modern industrialisation. For a long while it even looked as if those champions of proletarian culture would triumph during the cultural revolution of 1928-32. Yet two of the most bourgeois artistic forms they opposed – the symphony and ballet – became unassailable pinnacles of Soviet art, admired not only within the Soviet Union but worldwide. How this happened challenges the usual assumption that nothing ever happened by chance within the Soviet Union; Soviet culture, rather than being imposed from above, was significantly moulded in the first decade or so of its existence by some remarkable and independent-minded individuals.
Spreading the word In the October Revolution (25 October 1917, according to the Old-Style Russian calendar), it was the muscle power of the Red Guard rather than any grass-root support that enabled Lenin to overthrow the provisional government. Facing armed and determined opposition, Lenin and his colleagues saw the urgent need to spread their revolutionary message throughout Russia. To that end, agitprop railway trains were created – among the first passengers Hymns to the people: Joseph Stalin exercises his vocal cords; (top) a piece of Soviet agitation art from 1931 by Gustav Klutsis entitled ‘The USSR is the crack brigade of the world proletariat’
Meeting of minds: Shostakovich awards the Tchaikovsky Competition prize to Van Cliburn in 1958
were musicians, sent to the front lines during the Civil War (1918-21) and into rural regions to help propagate the message of the revolution (the Armenian Aram Khachaturian worked on one as a pianist). Even after the Civil War, the trains continued to do their work – in the summer of 1922 Lev Termen, endorsed by Lenin, toured around Russia to introduce people to the advances of ‘Soviet Power’ as demonstrated by his futuristic musical instrument – the so-called etherphone, now better known as the Theremin. Lenin, for all his hatred of the bourgeoisie, recognised that he needed support from artists and the intelligentsia if the Revolution was to survive the Civil War. The job of winning them over largely fell to his first cultural minister, Anatoly Lunacharsky. Himself an arts journalist and a keen amateur actor, Lunacharsky was unique among his colleagues for having a profound interest in Russian culture, as well as being approachable, good natured and, in striking contrast
Lenin quickly recognised that he needed support from artists and the intelligentsia to Lenin and his eventual successor Stalin, open-minded in his dealings with intellectuals. Yet when on 1 December 1917 Lunacharsky published an appeal to ‘all comrades – painters, musicians, and artists – who wish to work towards a rapprochement of the broad popular masses with art in all its aspects… to report to the office of the Commissar of Public Enlightenment in the Winter Palace’, most of them, suspicious of the Bolsheviks, kept their distance. Hence the haphazard manner in which Lunacharsky appointed the first minister in charge of music. Late in 1917 Arthur Lourié, accompanied by the artist Nikolai Punin, visited Lunacharsky’s office to ask permission to stage a play in the Winter Palace. With his appointments diary looking empty, Lunacharsky
was only too happy to welcome the young visitors, and some hours later Lourié emerged from the Winter Palace appointed head of the ministry’s newly formed music department. Lourié oversaw the nationalisation of all theatres and conservatories, followed by all publishing houses and music shops. Most musicians, though, regarded him as an outsider: his high-handed manner made him several enemies, and he was thought to have abused his position by promoting his own modernistic music at the expense of works by his colleagues. Lourié was given the sack in 1921. A more successful appointment was of the wellrespected musicologist and educational theorist, Boleslav Yavorsky, as head of the professional education authority. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Winds of change Music’s ups and downs in the early Soviet period 1917 The October Revolution sees the Bolsheviks’ Red Guard seize key buildings in Petrograd and arrest the Provisional Government in the Winter Palace. ■ Anatoly Lunacharsky (above) is appointed Commissar for Enlightenment. 1918 The Russian Civil War begins, a conflict that will last the next three years. ■ The Commissariat’s Music Department (MUZO) is set up, with Arthur Lourié appointed as its head. ■ The Bolsheviks transfer government from Petrograd to Moscow. ■ Lenin and Lunacharsky sign the decree of the Soviet of People’s Commissars, nationalising the Petrograd and Moscow Conservatories. 1919 In November, a concert celebrating the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution includes French Revolutionary Songs ‘unearthed’, translated and arranged on MUZO’s initiative – these include the Carmagnole and ‘Ça ira’, both later used in Myaskovsky’s Sixth Symphony. 1920 The Great Famine, which will continue well into the next year, holds the country in its grip. 1921 Philharmonias in Petrogradd and Moscow are founded – effectively Philharmonic Societiess that organise and sponsor music lectures and concerts and invite artists from abroad. ■ Arthur Lourié (right) is sacked as head of MUZO. ■ Myaskovsky is appointed professor of composition at Moscow Conservatory. 1922 Joseph Stalin is elected general secretary. 28
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A pupil of Sergey Taneyev at the Moscow Conservatory, Yavorsky had assisted his former teacher in founding a People’s Conservatory in 1906. After Taneyev’s death in 1915, Yavorsky became the leading proponent of mass music education, arguing that every student should not simply be trained by some ‘mor- or-less gifted and experienced pedagogue’, but should graduate from an institution dedicated to making them ‘artistic public figures’, serving the wider community from where they had been drawn. Such was Yavorsky’s ability that very soon his responsibilities were increased (including negotiating Prokofiev’s first return visit to the Soviet Union in 1927) and he became Lunacharsky’s right hand, often ghost-writing his statements on education. Yavorsky was sometimes implacable, in 1923 closing the People’s Choral Academy, formerly the Synodal School and therefore a suspected hotbed for banned religious activity. More often, though, he was collegial in his dealings with institutions of higher education, using persuasion rather than the executive power he held over them. In consultation with the conservatories, he prepared and implemented the establishment of new departments for teacher training and musicology, and the introduction of post-graduate studies. Yavorsky also established in 1922 the principle of a threestage system of education, including an elementary school for musically gifted children between the ages of eight and 14 (ultimately fulfilled by the respective founding of Moscow’s Central School foun Music in 1932; and St Petersburg’s of M msky-Korsakov Music School in 1936). Rim urther reformations of 1925-26 Fu inteegrated the conservatories into the Sovviet educational system – one result beeing that all students were trained and eexamined in Marxist methodology. One young student from the Leningrad O Conservatory was bold enough to write complaining to Yavorsky about hiss imminent exam in this subject. They
had met in 1925 when the budding composer visited Moscow to make his public debut as a performer: such was the mutual admiration between the distinguished musicologist and the talented young musician, the student felt safe enough to name the dreaded topic ‘Scriptures’ before crossing it out and writing the correct title. The student was Dmitri Shostakovich, whose gratitude Yavorsky had earned by encouraging the young composer to complete his First Symphony. Indeed, Yavorsky went further and encouraged the distinguished conductor Nikolai Malko to take a look at the work.
The Soviet Symphony is born When Malko conducted its premiere in Leningrad on 12 May 1926, Shostakovich’s Symphony was a runaway success and secured his international reputation. Yet the ‘first Soviet symphony’ was not Shostakovich’s, but by a different composer, one for whom Shostakovich
music teacher and by whom he had been brought up from the age of nine after his own mother had died. The scherzo of his Sixth Symphony supposedly recalls the emptiness of the family home he revisited in Petrograd, and the dispiriting effect of the night wind whistling through the stove. When premiered in 1924, Myakovsky’s Sixth was hailed as a masterpiece, worthy to rank alongside Tchaikovsky’s Sixth. This was something of a mixed blessing, as Tchaikovsky was widely seen as representative of the forlorn, self-obsessed bourgeoisie left behind by the Revolution. Beethoven, a favourite of Lenin’s, was more widely respected, his Ninth Symphony with its joyous choral finale considered worthy of emulation (hence the choral finales of Shostakovich’s Second
Soviet suffering: composer Myaskovsky’s father was shot by the Bolsheviks; (left) educationalist Boleslav Yavorsky
had considered leaving Leningrad to study under. Almost a full year before meeting Yavorsky, Shostakovich had auditioned before the Moscow Conservatory’s wellbeloved composition teacher, Nikolay Myaskovsky, rating this gently spoken yet candid and musically perceptive man as ‘100,000 times better’ than his Leningrad teacher, Maximilian Steinberg. Myaskovsky had served at the front during the First World War, and late in 1915 suffered what has variously been described as ‘shell shock’ or a ‘breakdown’. Yet while posted in Revel, he composed two major symphonies – his Fourth and Fifth. His most celebrated work, though, was his Sixth Symphony, composed through the trauma of the Civil War. While the Bolsheviks fought the ‘Whites’, Lenin saw his opportunity to destroy the middle and upper classes. Myaskovsky’s family, having served in the Tsar’s army for generations, inevitably suffered. His father was gunned down by a Bolshevik soldier while awaiting a train at a railway station. Almost as disturbing for Myaskovsky was the death of his aunt Yelikonida, his first
Shostakovich’s First Symphony UHĠHFWVWKHYLEUDQW spirit of Leningrad in the mid-1920s and Third symphonies). Myaskovsky’s Sixth also has a choral finale, but instead of a joyous hymn, it sets a mournful Russian peasant song, ‘The parting of Soul and Body’. Even Myaskovsky’s most loyal supporters admitted that ‘the tragic motif of death, weeping for the victims… somewhat lowered the revolutionary optimism of the work’. It was therefore put about that Myaskovsky’s Sixth reflected the anguish yet ultimate joy of an intellectual caught up by the Revolution. Shostakovich’s First Symphony presents a striking contrast to Myaskovsky’s Sixth: brilliantly orchestrated, it reflects the vibrant spirit of Leningrad in the mid-1920s. Under the New Economic Policy – Lenin’s concession in the face of the deprivations and famine caused by the Civil War – the arts enjoyed a period of liberty, reflected in an explosion of innovative design, radical re-stagings by the revolutionary director Vsevolod Meyerhold of such classic plays as
Winds of change (continued) ■ Valentin Parnakh brings jazz to Russia; his First Eccentric Orchestra of the Russian Federated Socialist Republic is directed by Vsevolod Meyerhold (below). 1923 Myaskovsky co-founds the Association for Contemporary Music (ACM), which soon clashes with the Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians (RAPM). 1924 Lenin dies in January; Petrograd is renamed Leningrad. ■ The premiere of Myaskovsky’s Sixth Symphony takes place in Moscow. 1925 Lunacharsky reorganises conservatories into three faculties: composition and musicology; performance; ‘instructorial-pedagogical’. 1926 Shostakovich’s First Symphony is premiered in Leningrad, conducted by Nikolai Malko (below). 1928 The start of the Cultural Revolution which sees bourgeois intelligentsia values attacked by communist cultural militants. ■ Rosfil (Moscow Philharmonia) founds its first symphony orchestra, known as Sofila, of which Nikolai Golovanov is chief conductor. It disbands after a year. 1929 Boleslav Pshibyshevsky, an orthodox party man, is appointed head of the Moscow Conservatory and expels nonproletarian students. Composers thought iniquitous to Soviet art, including Bach, are banned. ■ Pianist Maria Yudina is dismissed from the Leningrad Conservatory for her espousal of religion. 1930 Aleksei Mashirov, a proletarian writer and non-musician, is named director of the Leningrad Conservatory. 1931 The Moscow Conservatoire is renamed the Felix Kon Higher Music School after the head of the Narkompros arts administration 1932 Under pressure from one of his politically active students, Myaskovsky composes a ‘Collective Farm’ Symphony. ■ The Central Committee Resolution orders that the RAPM and other proletarian arts organisations are to be dissolved and replaced by unions of art workers. ■ Moscow’s Central School of Music opens. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
K I R K E R MU S IC HOLID AYS F O R D I S C E R N I N G T R AV E L L E R S
Kirker Holidays offers an extensive range of holidays for music lovers. These include tours to leading festivals in Europe such as the Schubertiade and the Puccini Opera Festival, and opera weekends in Verona, Venice, Milan, Rome, Vienna & New York. We also host a series of exclusive chamber music festivals throughout Europe & the UK, featuring highly acclaimed musicians in elegant surroundings – from Mallorca and the Bay of Naples, to Eastbourne, Suffolk and Cornwall.
THE KIRKER SPRING MUSIC FESTIVAL AT THE HOTEL TRESANTON A THREE NIGHT HOLIDAY | 12 MARCH 2018 Our annual visit to Olga Polizzi’s fabled Hotel Tresanton in St Mawes combines a relaxing spring escape with a series of world-class chamber music recitals, at a time of year when Cornwall is looking its best. Performances in 2018 will be given by the Carducci String Quartet in the Old Methodist Hall, a short walk from the hotel, and include works by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Haydn and Beethoven. There will also be a series of musical talks and a visit to the private garden at Lamorran, inspired by Lady Walton’s garden on the island of Ischia. Dinner is included each evening at the excellent Tresanton restaurant which overlooks the sea and is lit by candles in the evening. Price from £1,190 per person for three nights including accommodation with breakfast and dinner, three concerts each preceded by a musically illustrated talk, a visit to Lamorran Gardens and the services of the Kirker Tour Leader and a Tour Escort.
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Russian Revolution French fire: Asaf and Sulamith Messerer of the Moscow Opera Ballet in Asafiev’s The Flames of Paris, 1936
What was ‘Persimfans’? A guide to the Marxist ensemble
Gogol’s The Government Inspector, and an influx of the latest music from abroad. Foreign conductors such as Oskar Fried, Pierre Monteux and Otto Klemperer toured new works by Stravinsky, Honegger and Respighi, while the Mariinsky, now renamed the Petrograd State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet – Akopera for short – enjoyed a golden age as the imaginative stage director Sergey Radlov joined forces with conductor Vladimir Dranishnikov to stage the Soviet premieres of Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges (1926), Berg’s Wozzeck (1927) and Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (1928).
The triumph of ballet In Moscow, though, experimental repertoire had a harder time gaining a foothold – possibly due to the city being elevated to capital status in 1918, so falling directly under the eye of the Bolshevik government. One bold and successful experiment was the founding of a conductorless symphony orchestra, Persimfans (right), its players largely
recruited from the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. Yet the Bolshoi itself had fallen on hard times, its right to exist questionned by Lenin. ‘It is awkward to spend big money on such a luxurious theatre,’ he protested, ‘when we lack simple schools in the villages.’ Yet Lunacharsky championed the Bolshoi, giving it support until in 1927 it enjoyed a breakthrough success with, of all things, a full-length ballet: The Red Poppy, with music by Glière. Ballet was then widely considered a decadent entertainment for aristocrats with little relevance to the Soviet order. As the much-respected polymath Ivan Sollertinsky put it: ‘Classical ballet is not born from imitations of the movements of labour (court circles, of course, did not participate in the production process), but from making elements of court etiquette dancerly.’ Sollertinsky nonetheless thought ballet could evolve away from the ‘fairytale land’ of classical ballet into a more modern art. He admired an attempt by the choreographer Fyodor Lopukhov (teacher of George Balanchine) to
An abbreviation of Pervïy Simfonicheskiy Ansambl’ bez dirizhyora – First Conductorless Symphony Ensemble – the Persimfans ensemble (top) was founded in 1922 by violinist Lev Tseitlin (above), a former leader of Serge Koussevitzky’s orchestra. Inspired by the Marxist ideal of collective endeavour and responsibility, its players rehearsed in the manner of an oversized chamber group, resolving questions of interpretation through discussion. Tseitlin recruited most of his players from Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and the Moscow Conservatory where he taught. Persimfans’s repertoire ranged from Bach through Beethoven to such contemporary composers as Myaskovsky (giving premieres of several of his works), Prokofiev, Strauss, Stravinsky and Hindemith. The orchestra gave weekly concerts at the Moscow Conservatory, and performed in factories, mills, workers’ clubs and military camps. But the dedication of its players, already tested by the low pay for long hours of rehearsal, was further undermined during the first Five Year Plan: in order to improve productivity, the standard week was replaced by five- and six-day units, workers’ days of rest staggered to ensure uninterrupted production. The Bolshoi imposed this working schedule, its players now unable to commit to rehearsals and performances with Persimfans. In 1932, the ensemble closed down.
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American dreams: Prokofiev in Chicago in 1918
A look to the West The composers who left Russia For all of the achievements of Myaskovsky, Shostakovich et al, a number of Russia’s best-known composers were plying their trade away from the Soviet Union. By the October Revolution, Stravinsky had made his name with the success of ballets such the Firebird (1910) and the Rite of Spring (1913) in Europe. After a stay in neutral Switzerland during WWI, the Revolution convinced him not to return to his homeland and he would not visit it again until 1962. Rachmaninov, meanwhile, as a member of the bourgeoisie, was aware that his future lay away from Russia. Leaving the country via Finland in Dec 1917, he went on to ply his trade as a composer and performer in Europe and the US, while his estate at home was seized by the Leninist regime. Prokofiev, too, decided that the US would be more receptive than postRevolutionary Russia to his talents, making his way there in 1918. He, however, returned to what was now the Soviet Union, firstly for concert tours in the late 1920s, and then permanently in 1936. 32
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create a new genre, ‘tantssimfonia’ (dance symphony) – Lopukhov’s Grandeur of the Universe, created in 1916, choreographed Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony as an abstract dance. However, when staged at Akopera in 1922, the audience met the ballet with ‘deathly silence’. It was never staged again. Now convinced that ballet could only be saved if it could depict flesh and blood characters and reflect the ‘actuality’ of daily Soviet life, Sollertinsky was appalled by The Red Poppy – notwithstanding its ‘contemporary’ Chinese setting involving Red sailors thwarting evil English imperialists, to all intents and purposes it was a traditional ballet including the usual divertissements to show off the dancers’ technique. It was all the more
Stalin and his successors played a game of cat and mouse with all Soviet artists galling that The Red Poppy proved a huge hit: by March 1928 all performances were sold out through to the 1930 season (there being no Stalinist Pravda editorial to stop it in its tracks, as befell Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth in 1936). The Red Poppy was subsequently staged in every major town and city throughout the Soviet Union. Sollertinsky, though, was not a lone voice, and his ideas on how ballet might be reformed were eventually realised by Sergey Radlov. Having built a reputation as an innovative and exciting opera director at Leningrad’s Akopera, Radlov pioneered a genre known as drambalet. His two earliest drambalets featured music by Boris Asafiev (a musicologist noted for his championship of modern music and of Stravinsky in particular): The Flames of Paris (1932); and the Pushkin-based The Fountain of Bakhchisarai (1934). For the latter, the choreographer Rostislav Zakharov, in the face of some resistance, made his dancers learn Stanislavsky’s
Man the barricades!: Yelena Kuzmina in the 1929 silent film The New Babylon; (below right) Shostakovich in the late 1930s
method as well as study Pushkin’s original poem. Sollertinsky was delighted with the result, recognising Bakhchisarai as ‘a happy step forward’ in ballet’s evolution. Radlov’s next and most celebrated step was to approach Prokofiev and propose a fulllength ballet on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The rest, as they say, is history.
Dramatic developments Shostakovich, meanwhile, was building a reputation as a stage and screen composer. While a student at the Leningrad Conservatory, he had earned extra income for his family (his father died in 1922) as a cinema pianist. It paid well, but also seems to have inspired the filmic quality of his First Symphony with its concertante piano part. It also prepared him for his future career as a film composer, an activity which – it seems – endeared him to Stalin. Most decisive to Shostakovich’s development, though, was meeting Sollertinsky in 1927. Sollertinsky encouraged Shostakovich to read Gogol and Dostoyevsky, and introduced him
GETTY, REX FEATURES
Opera pick: Shostakovich’s The Nose at Covent Garden, 2016
to a concept of ‘polyphony’ as exemplified by Dostoyevsky’s characters’ contradictory emotions, thoughts and actions. From the late 1920s, Shostakovich began to experiment with different styles and paradoxes in his works. His opera The Nose (1927-28) paradoxically sets Gogol’s absurdist drama with scrupulous, Musorgsky-like attention to its text. In Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1930-32), Katerina is given lifelike contradictory complexity, in stark contrast to the unsympathetic, caricaturestyle people whom she murders. Conflicting cross-currents are also to be found in his instrumental music, such as in his Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings (1933), which uses the kind of musical cross-referencing he had used in his first full-length film score, New Babylon (1929). Before the advent of the soundtrack, films tended to be accompanied by patchworks of suitable ‘moods’ culled from works by Liszt, Tchaikovsky and other late-Romantic composers. New Babylon was a brave
experiment in writing an original 90-minute score, unprecedented in Russian film, yet echoes something of the usual patchwork accompaniments, including several pertinent references from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, Offenbach’s ‘Can-Can’ and other classics. In his later instrumental works, Shostakovich would make increasingly subtle and thought-provoking references, as in his Fifth Symphony (1937) and his Eighth String Quartet (1960).
Stalinist strategies Stalin certainly noticed when in 1922 Lenin, no longer distracted by the Civil War, quashed the high-profile proletarian cultural association, Proletkult. Though its members included such luminaries as Maxim Gorky, Lenin saw Proletkult as a threat against the Bolsheviks’ authority since it preached freedom from political interference; also, not least, one of its chief spokesmen, Alexander Bogdanov, had been Lenin’s rival early in the party’s history. Similarly Stalin, following the ravages of the Cultural Revolution, imposed a total ban on proletarian arts organisations in 1932. This was not because he disagreed with their aesthetic
aims (though he preferred to have a wellfunctioning industry for creating talented musicians and composers – something which the cultural revolution’s purge of bourgeois elements had severely undermined); rather, he objected to their growing autonomy and increasingly open criticism of his government’s increased centralisation and bureaucracy. After the Central Committee’s Resolution of 23 April 1932, Stalin, and to a degree his successors, played an unnerving game of cat and mouse with all Soviet artists, managed and controlled through centralised creative unions. Shostakovich became a high-profile target in this game, one which he was fortunate enough to survive (unlike other musicians, such as the musicologist Nikolai Zhilyayev, arrested in 1937 and shot months later). In a world where at any moment a composer’s work might suddenly come under hostile scrutiny, Shostakovich’s practice of apparently revealing all yet nothing in his music through the use of a complex ‘polyphony’ of meaning stood him in good stead in that increasingly troubled decade. Soviet music would never quite regain the creative freedom of the mid-1920s, yet that decade’s spirit of innovation and adventure planted a seed in many of its greatest artists and composers, and provided a map for survival that enabled them to flourish even through the stony ground of Stalin and his successors. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Sounds of the Revolution Your guide to UK concerts and broadcasts marking 100 years since the Russian Revolution LONDON Trio Wanderer LSO St Luke’s, 3 November Tel: +44 (0)20 7638 8891 Web: www.lso.co.uk A series of lunchtime concerts entitled Shostakovich Plus delves into his chamber works, as well as those he inspired. In a programme centred around elegies and Jewish themes, Trio Wanderer plays his Piano Trio No. 2 – a lament for a close friend and for the victims of the Holocaust. Also featured are Suk’s Elegie and Copland’s Vitebsk, depicting the brutality of Jewish life in Russia.
The Prince Regent’s Band St John’s, Smith Square, 5 Nov Tel: +44 (0)20 7222 1061 Web: www.sjss.co.uk The period ensemble performs repertoire by Ewald, Böhme and Glazunov, composers associated with Tsar Alexander III, who was himself a brass player. The group will be playing early 20th-century instruments including Russianstyle alto and tenor horns.
Cédric Tiberghien Wigmore Hall, 5 November Tel: +44 (0)20 7835 2141 Web: www.wigmore-hall.org.uk The terrific French pianist presents a programme of Russian and contemporary works. Philippe Hersant’s In Black, of which Tiberghien is the dedicatee, is bookended by Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Prokofiev’s piano cycle Visions Fugitives.
Orion Orchestra Royal Festival Hall, 7 November Tel: +44 (0)203 8799 5555 Web: www.southbankcentre.co.uk Orion Orchestra, conducted by Toby Purser, is joined by Streetwise Opera and Westminster Choral Society for an evening of Russian favourites including Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances plus extracts from Tchaikovsky and Musorgsky operas.
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R17 – Russia! Art! Revolution! This autumn, arts organisations across Wales will be taking part in R17, a season of Russiainspired events marking the creative outpouring of the Revolution and paying tribute to its connection with the South Wales valleys’ radical past. News of the Revolution arrived amid the valleys’ own industrial unrest, and workers forged links with the Soviet Union – even corresponding with Lenin – which promoted cultural exchange and gave rise to the UK’s first Communist Party.
Chords in Cardiff: pianist Ivan Ili´c plays Rachmaniniov
Welsh National Opera Touring nationwide, October and November Tel: +44 (0)29 2063 6464 Web: www.wno.org.uk WNO presents three Russian-themed works this season: Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina, and Janáˇcek’s From the House of the Dead. The Musorgsky and Janáˇcek are directed by David Pountney and conducted by music director Tomáš Hanus. See the WNO website for details of performances in Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Llandudno, Southampton, Liverpool and Oxford.
Ivan Ilić St David’s Hall, Cardiff, 7 November Tel: +44 (0)29 2087 8444 Web: www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk A pay-what-you-will lunchtime recital of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme by Corelli.
Mid Wales Opera Ceredigion Museum, Aberystwyth, 11 November, touring Wales until 3 December
Royal College of Music Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, RCM, 13 November Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 4314 Web: www.rcm.ac.uk In a lunchtime concert, pianists from the Royal College of Music perform early 20thcentury pieces inspired by and inspiring revolutionary poetry. The concert includes rebellious works such as Prokofiev’s Sarcasms plus sonatas by Shostakovich and Medtner, and the music is interspersed with contemporaneous readings.
Tel: +44 (0)1686 614 563 Web: www.midwalesopera.co.uk Mid Wales Opera marks the 50th anniversary of Walton’s one-act Chekhov-inspired opera, The Bear, with an intimate new production featuring just three singers and five musicians.
Welsh National Opera Orchestra St David’s Hall, Cardiff, 23 November Tel: +44 (0)29 2087 8444 Web: www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk Tomáš Hanus conducts Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, composed as the Germans laid siege to the city. Also on the programme is Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen featuring mezzo Tara Erraught.
Red Star over Russia: a revolution in visual culture 1905-55 Tate Modern, 8 November – 18 February 2018 Tel: +44 (0)20 7887 8888 Web: www.tate.org.uk This centenary exhibition provides a visual perspective on the momentous development of Russia and the Soviet Union from 1905 to Stalin’s death. Seen through the eyes of artists, designers and photographers, Red Star Over Russia explores the nation’s nascent visual
culture – an opportunity to see an array of rare propaganda, documents and imagery that captured the revolutionary fervour of the Russian people.
NORTH Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Philharmonic Hall, 5 November Tel: + 44 (0)151 709 3789 Web: www.liverpoolphil.com Boris Giltburg performs Rachmaninov’s evocative Piano Concerto No. 3. Ravel’s bold orchestration of Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition follows.
Russian Revolution Royal Northern Sinfonia Sage Gateshead, 17 November Tel: +44 (0)191 443 4661 Web: www.sagegateshead.com Olli Mustonen plays and conducts in this almost allRussian affair. Mozart’s ‘Coronation’ Piano Concerto is programmed alongside Shostakovich’s ironic, neoclassical Symphony No. 9, censured by Stalin for its ‘failure to reflect the Soviet people’. The orchestra also presents one of Borodin’s most famous melodies, the Nocturne from his String Quartet No. 2, plus Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture.
Revolution on Radio 3
Poetic justice: the life of Vladimir Mayakovsky is explored, 5 Nov
In November, BBC Radio 3 will be marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution with a series of programmes under the banner of Breaking Free: A Century of Russian Culture. The series will explore the relationships in Russia between music, culture and politics.
Free Thinking Radio 3’s festival of ideas will be broadcast from Pushkin House – the UK’s oldest Russian cultural centre.
CBSO Symphony Hall, 8 November Tel: +44 (0)121 780 3333 Web: www.cbso.co.uk Under the baton of Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla, this concert of Russian classics includes Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead and highlights from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. Sheku KannehMason will play Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, the work with which he won BBC Young Musician in 2016.
Sunday Feature: To Resurrect Mayakovsky 5 November 2017 Writer Ian Sansom explores the work of Vladimir Mayakovsky, who ‘proclaimed’ the Russian Revolution. Featuring readings from his poems, the documentary asks to what degree we should admire and read the work of artists who were once dictators’ mouthpieces.
Drama on 3: Fathers & Sons Philharmonia Orchestra Bedford Corn Exchange, 22 Nov; Royal Festival Hall, 23 Nov Tel: +44 (0)20 7921 3907 Web: www.philharmonia.co.uk An all-Russian programme, conducted by Long Yu features Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and the overture from Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila, the first opera written in Russian. In the second half, Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, written under Stalin and one of the century’s most dramatic works.
SCOTLAND BBCSO and Denis Kozhukhin City Halls, Glasgow, 30 November Tel: +44 (0)141 353 8000 Web: www.glasgowconcerthalls.com Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, performed by Denis Kozhukhin, precedes Shostakovich’s Eleventh Symphony, often dubbed ‘a film score without a film’ for its startling immediacy. Subtitled ‘The Year 1905’ (referring to the Bloody Sunday that sparked the first Russian Revolution), bells, trumpets and revolutionary songs are woven into the score.
5 November, 9pm Brian Friel’s acclaimed dramatisation of Turgenev’s 1860 novel tells the story of generational strife against the backdrop of the restless political environment which would eventually lead to the Russian Revolution. Featuring an all-star cast including actors Charles Dance and George Blagden.
Composer of the Week: 100 Years of the Russian Revolution 6-10, 13-17 November, 12pm Donald Macleod is joined by music historian Marina Frovola-Walker to discuss the lives of Russian composers against the backdrop of the Revolution. Each programme will focus on two composers, and will shine the spotlight on lesser-known figures, including Nikolai Roslavets and Alexander Mosolov.
In Tune: From Russia with Love 6-10, 14-17 November, 4.30pm Tom Service tells the story of the Russian century through
ten works of art, broadcast each weekday as part of In Tune. Recorded in Moscow and St Petersburg, Service will shine a light on the diverse range of Russian art, including everything from Anna Akhamatova’s epic poem ‘Requiem’ to Pussy Riot’s ‘Punk Prayer’ and Malevich’s ‘Black Square’.
Revolution day on Radio 3 7 November, all day A day of Russian-themed programmes to mark the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Winter Palace.
Late Junction: 100 Years of Russian Experimentalism 7 November, 11pm Nick Luscombe presents a range of Russian experimental music from across the century, ranging from today’s Moscow ‘noise music’, sound art forged in utopian Soviet sound studios, to contemporary classical work from upand-coming composers. The programme will also survey some unique musical revolutions which emerged east of the Iron Curtain.
Private Passions: Simon Sebag Montefiore 12 November, 12pm Russian historian and bestselling author Simon Sebag Montefiore shares his musical
passions with presenter Michael Berkeley.
The Essay Date to be confirmed, 10.45pm Exploring the spirit and ideas of the Russian Revolution through the stories and artists of the time, plus essays by our own cultural figures. Contributors include Sir Richard Eyre discussing the theatre director and actor Vsevolod Meyerhold, former ballerina Deborah Bull on celebrated dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, and writer Elaine Feinstein on the poetry of Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvestaeva. The series culminates with a personal essay written by the awardwinning journalist Martin Sixsmith on the general impact of the revolution on the arts as a whole.
Between the Ears: The Plot for Karl Marx 18 November, 9.30pm For almost 60 years, the tomb of Karl Marx in Highgate cemetery, London, has been a spot for international pilgrimage. The giant bronze head mounted on a huge stone was inaugurated in 1956. The documentary explores the legacy of Marx through the eyes of both pilgrims to his tomb and naysayers alike. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
If you are a serious musician, a serious artist, your life will have an imprint on what you do in your art. That’s how it is
THE BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE INTERVIEW
tells me on the eve of the release by Decca, his label for more than 50 years, of the complete piano concerto recordings. ‘I am always thinking: what am I doing, what is not quite right, how can I do it better?’ For all Ashkenazy wants to look forward, his has been a remarkable life, so it is PHOTOGRAPHY: JOHN MILLAR perhaps inevitable that the past remains close to the surface when he talks. It was ladimir Ashkenazy recently Ashkenazy’s mother who first spotted celebrated his 80th birthday, but he that her son, then aged six, ‘belonged in is in no mood to look back. ‘I don’t music’. His father had been a light-music think it’s important to do so,’ he says with pianist but ‘I didn’t like what he played,’ a smile. ‘I look at the present, at whatever Ashkenazy recalls. ‘And then every so future there is, and I try to do my best.’ often he would play something classical The humility is signature Ashkenazy. He and I responded deeply to it.’ He started is, of course, the award-winning pianist lessons with a local teacher, but his whose recordings of everyone from Bach to preternatural gifts were soon noticed by a teacher from Moscow’s legendary Central Bartók have set a gold standard. He is the School of Music, where he studied from accidental maestro who became principal the age of eight to 18. (‘I felt I belonged.’) conductor of the Royal Philharmonic There his professors included Lev Oborin Orchestra and who now enjoys laureate (‘wonderful person, wonderful pianist’) positions at orchestras from Iceland to and Oborin’s assistant, the ‘exceptional’ Japan. But he is also the man who says he Boris Zemliansky. ‘I was lucky. Thanks feels ‘lucky’ to have a musical career and to my teachers and some of my natural admits to being relentlessly self-critical. ‘I abilities I was able to win a couple of wouldn’t do what I’m doing if I didn’t feel I could do it on a high enough level,’ he important competitions’ – including Radio 3 and BBC TV presenter Clemency Burton-Hill talks to the great Russian pianist about his life in music, from early days in Moscow to his career today as an acclaimed conductor
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Benchmark pianist: 'I am always thinking, how can I do it better?'
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Ashkenazy on disc Vladimir Ashkenazy’s discography, which spans 39 composers over 55 years, amounts to over 100 hours. In 1962, thanks to his joint victory at the International Tchaikovsky Competition (with John Ogdon), he was immediately signed to Decca, and is their longest-serving artist. His debut disc was Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3; since then he has left few Russian piano works untouched, bringing particular attention to Scriabin. His catalogue boasts the entire works of Rachmaninov and Chopin, all 32 Beethoven sonatas and the complete concertos of Beethoven and Mozart. He is also known for his interpretations of Bach and Shostakovich’s preludes and fugues – the latter earned him one of his seven Grammys. His 30 years as a conductor have also reflected his interest in Russian music. Recordings include Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Sibelius symphonies, and 14 discs of orchestral works by Shostakovich. For his 80th birthday, Decca has reissued his legendary concerto recordings and a new album of Bach’s French Suites, continuing his lifelong affinity with the composer. 38
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the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels in 1955 and the International Tchaikovsky Competition, shared with British pianist John Ogdon, in 1962 – ‘but winning competitions and becoming world famous is not sufficient for being an important artist and doing something worthwhile in the art of music,’ he insists. ‘There are many competitions won by people who later disappeared. My teachers knew I was talented but that I had so much still to learn. They told me: you have to work hard and show that you are worth the attention. So I worked like crazy, I learned new repertoire, I played many concerts. In the end, amazingly enough, I succeeded – right until now. So I can’t complain!’ Ashkenazy was 15 when Stalin died and can still describe the day with vivid precision. What sort of pressures did he feel, growing up under a totalitarian regime? ‘You feel the pressure when you have to make life decisions that are connected with your profession, with your existence, with who you are as human being,’ he says. ‘In a dictatorial country, that is an important moment, when you realise what you can and can’t do, because if you do something that is unacceptable to the authorities you’ll have a problem for the rest of your life. My parents, my friends, my teachers always told me: don’t say that, don’t do that, be careful. So I learned, and basically, I survived.’ For a while, Ashkenazy did more than just survive: he thrived. ‘In music at least you don’t have to talk too much: you just play. I started winning prizes internationally and I was supported by the authorities. But then I fell in love. With a foreigner - can you imagine? That is almost a crime in the Soviet Union.’ The foreigner in question was Þórunn ‘Dódy’ Jóhannsdóttir, a talented Icelandic pianist and fellow student from Oborin’s class. ‘We got married after a year, but to marry a capitalist was considered very negative!’ he laughs. ‘The authorities said to me, quite officially: unless your wife becomes Soviet you will have no career. I was already world famous by then but it didn’t matter: they could stop everything.’ Jóhannsdóttir duly gave up her Icelandic nationality. ‘And when they gave her a Soviet passport do you know what they said? “Congratulations, now
you are a citizen of the freest country in the world.” I was there. Can you imagine, the Communist propaganda and brainwashing? That’s what they said!’ In 1963, after surmounting various bureaucratic hurdles, the couple (and their infant son Vladimir, the first of five children) defected while taking an official trip to England, where Jóhannsdóttir’s parents lived. It would be 26 years before Ashkenazy would again set foot in his homeland. ‘It’s difficult to say if I knew I’d never go back to Russia,’ he muses, ‘but the feeling inside as we got on that plane was: now we decide what we are going to do with our lives.’ Ashkenazy’s music-making is often hailed for its seemingly intuitive approach. ‘Intuition goes hand in hand with an intellectual process,’ he demurs. ‘It’s inseparable. The intuitive response is very important – that feeling when a piece appeals to your whole being, as if to everything in existence – but you have to be able to decide how to construct it, to organise it, otherwise what is the point?’ Still, he speaks with awed reverence of the essential, ineffable mystery that lies at the heart of all great music – and musicmaking. ‘Who knows where this all comes from?’ he ponders, staring at his hands – which, being famously small, are unlikely purveyors of such pianistic delicacy and power. He glances heavenward, as if he
Hat’s showbusiness: Ashkenazy poses in London, 1963
Full score: at the piano in the 1980s
On the record: Burton-Hill interviews the pianist at Decca HQ
cannot help himself. ‘Nature? But why does nature give you what it gives you? I’m not particularly religious. I know it comes from an unknown entity but I don’t think of it coming from God. But there are some things you cannot teach or understand. Just as we’ll never know why Beethoven was Beethoven or Mozart was Mozart. They were people just like you or I, and yet in their music they created something that is such a gift for us all. Incredible. It’s a mystery. We must be grateful for that.’ Dressed in his signature white turtleneck and a camel jacket, the octogenarian Ashkenazy cuts as elegant a figure as ever. A certain wit and mischief has long characterised his artistry, and in person he has lost none of his impish charm. He takes a drink from the glass of clear liquid on the table. ‘Make sure in the photo they know that this is not vodka,’ he jokes, eyes twinkling. ‘You promise?’ How does he think his relationship to music has evolved over time, I wonder? ‘It changes because we acquire the experience of life, of our relationship to the world, to other human beings and that influences our attitude to the work,’ he says. ‘Inevitably if you are a serious musician, a serious artist, your life will have an imprint on what you do in your art. It’s a philosophical question. You look in the mirror now; are you the same person you were at 25?’
‘You never feel at home on the podium – what you feel is a huge responsibility’ It was at around the age of 25 that Ashkenazy first picked up a baton. He had ‘fallen in love’ with orchestral music in childhood, he says, but never considered conducting. ‘I went to orchestral concerts all the time, sometimes every night. In my class, one boy’s father played in the USSR state orchestra. The first time I went with him it was a Tchaikovsky symphony, in the main hall of the Moscow Conservatory. I was overwhelmed. The sound, the music, everything – I was finished. I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was an incredible emotional event that I will never forget. I wanted to go again and again and again. But then I became a pianist so I never thought I’d stand in front of an orchestra and conduct: it did not occur to me.’ We have Gennady Rozhdestvensky to thank for identifying a maestro in waiting. ‘I used to go to many of his concerts,’ says Ashkenazy. ‘At some point he noticed how emotionally involved I was in orchestral music and he said, why don’t you conduct?
I said, don’t be silly. Well come, he said, I’ll give you a lesson in how to conduct. I went to his apartment, he played something for me and said: now you conduct it. He told me, that’s what you do. I said, it’s too complicated. He said, no, you could do it.’ Despite never having a day’s formal conducting training, Ashkenazy has gone on to conduct some of the world’s greatest ensembles. I mention that he has been quoted as saying: ‘When I come on to the podium I feel at home’. He looks horrified. ‘You never feel at home!’ he cries. ‘You feel a huge responsibility – lucky to be there making music. And you are nervous. Not the sort of nerves where you are shaking, but nervous with that duty of trying to identify what the composer wanted and communicate that to the listener. That’s what your calling is, as a musician.’ And now, at 80? He is as determined as ever to ‘identify the mentality of the composer’ and convey their meaning to us. Although arthritis has ravaged his fingers, he practises a couple of hours a day – ‘depending on the piece’ – and gives around 100 concerts a year. He remains, he says, energised by performing and recording, as in love with making music as ever. ‘What do I want to do next?’ he ponders. ‘The same as always. I want to keep performing, to keep learning repertoire.’ He smiles. ‘I want to continue to be of use.’ BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
A marvel in the Midlands Birmingham Conservatoire is at last moving into its much-needed new home. When it opens next year, it’ll be a jewel in the UK’s music crown. Cheers!, says Richard Bratby
t’s May 2017, and in barely four months, Birmingham Conservatoire will be starting to settle into its new abode – the newest and most technologically advanced purpose-built music college in Europe. But the Conservatoire’s principal, Julian Lloyd Webber, is talking about beer. ‘Yes, I’ve got it!’ he exclaims, lighting up with enthusiasm. ‘I’ve succeeded in getting a real ale for the bar. It’s being produced by Wye Valley Brewery, and the working name is Conservatoire Ale. Really, though, I’d like two – I want a stronger one, too, and we’ll call that Principal’s Ale.’ These aren’t exactly the priorities you might expect from the man in charge of the single biggest transformation in the Conservatoire’s 47-year history. The sheer logistics of the process are eye-popping: a staff member has just tweeted pipe-by-pipe coverage as their in-house organ is dismantled ready for transportation to its new home. True, everything’s on track and the new building at Birmingham’s redeveloped Eastside looks hugely imposing – from the outside, at any rate. But a lot of the interior is still, at the time of writing, a construction site and, unless you’re a professional builder, seems alarmingly unfinished. Meanwhile, we’re in the summer term, and the daily life of the Conservatoire rushes on even while the 1970s concrete of its old building at Paradise Circus (there’s been a lot of Brummie black humour 40
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Birmingham Conservatoire will be the most technologically advanced music college in Europe
Of good cheer: principal Julian Lloyd Webber shows off the Conservatoire
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about that name over the years) gradually vanishes around it. The Conservatoire’s old concert hall, the Adrian Boult Hall, has already been demolished, but the work of a music college can’t stop. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason is giving a recital later in the week, and Sir James Galway will be in residence at the end of the month. Yet the principal’s contemplating the perfect pint. ‘I think these things are important,’ he laughs. ‘There’s no reason why we should only drink wine – let’s have some good old-fashioned beer! Especially after concerts, musicians like to have a nice long drink.’ Of course, he’s dead right. This is a project on a heroic scale, but every musician knows that the smallest things can make the biggest difference. The lack of proper bar areas to mingle after a show was a problem in the old building. The bar is where musicians and public meet and chat; where professional friendships are forged and experiences shared. It’s worth getting it right. Every detail of the new building has been conceived with one overriding intention: that of providing the best environment to train today’s musicians. Make no mistake, though – these are some seriously impressive facilities. Designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley, the architects behind the current transformation of London’s Southbank, the new building straddles a hillside, with a central staircase pulling you from a grand sunlit foyer into and up through the building. Stacked high inside its angular footprint are two new concert halls – a wood-panelled 500-seater, with a platform big enough to take a symphony orchestra and chorus, and beneath it, but separated by some nifty acoustic design, a 150seat recital hall. It’s like a friendlier, less flashy Elbphilharmonie, but on schedule and on budget. There’s also a cabaret-style jazz club – Birmingham’s only dedicated jazz venue – and what’s already known as the ‘Black Box’, a studio space designed for electronic and experimental music, and to serve as the building’s digital nerve centre. Its five performance venues, seven industry-standard recording studios and 100odd soundproofed practice rooms are all linked by a network of digital interconnections that mean that anything being performed anywhere in the building can, with little fuss, be recorded, edited and even broadcast. It makes other music colleges look Victorian. ‘There really aren’t many new purpose-built buildings like this,’ agrees Lloyd Webber. ‘It’s very different from the older music colleges. I remember when practising at college, there’d be a soprano in one room and a trombonist next 42
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Rooms with a pew: the Conservatoire’s jazz club; (above) Lloyd Webber in the main hall
Top of the hops Bespoke beers, as installed by Birmingham Conservatoire in its bar, are a sign of any selfrespecting outfit – witness Mad Hatter’s Petrenko Ale, brewed for the RLPO’s principal conductor, and Wye Valley Brewery’s Podium, a hoppy bitter produced for the CBSO. We’re rather hoping others will follow their lead…
door – it was almost a waste of time. Now, I’ve never seen so much soundproofing as we’ve had going into our new building. And there’s the whole digital thing, of course, which will help us a lot, internationally – to be able to broadcast live events, exchanging and sharing what we do in a way we could never have done before.’ That’s aside from the miraculous fact that this new Conservatoire exists in the first place. Since 1970, Birmingham Conservatoire has, unlike other UK music colleges, been a faculty of a larger university. But as Birmingham Polytechnic has evolved into today’s Birmingham City University, it’s faced all the financial challenges and changing priorities of any university. And money talks like never before. So when a business on the scale of BCU makes a hard-headed decision to invest £56 million in a music college, those gloomy headlines we keep reading about the future of classical music seem less credible. ‘It’s a huge boost for music education,’ says Lloyd Webber. ‘For a city and a university to put their money into a new classical conservatoire, at this point in time, is quite something.’ The official opening event is planned for March 2018, when the music director of the
‘We need to put ourselves on the map so that people get used to coming here’ opposite the new Conservatoire. Canalside areas are being spruced up, a tramline’s coming, and new buildings are sprouting on all sides. Lloyd Webber, though, isn’t prepared to wait that long. ‘We want to be for the community; we want to be for the city. I want to involve the local schools more, involve the music hubs – we need to be an engine room. We just need to put ourselves on the map so that people get used to coming here. There’s already a huge student population at Eastside, so the jazz club will be a great way to engage with them – it’ll be open every night.
Starting the season: Nigel Kennedy will play in Birmingham
Also, there aren’t really many places to eat round there yet, so we’re planning something a bit more elaborate than just a café. I’d like to make it a high-end place, serving really good food.’ That’ll be another reason why the beer matters so much, then. Still, it’s the musical life of the new Conservatoire that’ll really generate the necessary buzz, and a major project with Nitin Sawhney plus a Polish festival led by Nigel Kennedy are among the highlights of the Conservatoire’s first season in its new home. They’re intended to make a splash, though with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the CBSO currently selling out Symphony Hall, Lloyd Webber also sees the new building as a chance to reaffirm one of the Conservatoire’s greatest historic strengths – its uniquely close relationship with Birmingham’s professional musical scene: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the chamber choir Ex Cathedra and, of course, Gražinytė-Tyla and the CBSO. ‘The CBSO has really been getting it right with its conductors, and I think our students will love working with her. She promised to do this a long time ago and she’s kept her word. It’s such a nice feeling, that she’s so keen to get involved – though actually it’d be hard for us get much closer to the CBSO than we already are. Our students are very fortunate – they play alongside CBSO players on our joint training scheme, our musicians give showcase performances before CBSO concerts, and lots of the CBSO’s principal players are teaching regularly at the Conservatoire.’ And if, amid all the dazzling architecture and artistic possibilities of the new Conservatoire, the subject keeps coming back round to people – musicians, audiences, and above all students – that’s surely got to be the single most encouraging thing about this transformative moment. The Conservatoire’s priorities are in the right place. ‘We’re a tight-knit organisation – only 600 students – and I’d say that that’s our most recognisable trait. The staff and students love the place, and we’re determined to keep that spirit of togetherness going. We’ve got a wonderful new building with a vast new sense of space but we still want to keep that friendly, collaborative feeling,’ says Lloyd Webber. In other words, people, not buildings, are what make institutions. Still, a building this exciting definitely helps. ‘There’s a positive feeling of tension at the moment. We know we’ll all have to step up and get it right – it’s no good having a great building without a great team. But we’re ready; in fact, we can’t wait. We’ve got the best building in the UK. So, what follows on from that?’
Best of Birmingham A flavour of the second city’s classical music scene With arguably the finest concert hall acoustic in the UK, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, which opened in 1991, is just one of the city’s many classical music attractions. Just a couple of hundred yards away, the Town Hall (pictured above) has not only witnessed significant world premieres by Elgar and Mendelssohn, but has, since 1834, been home to weekly organ recitals given by the City Organist on the hall’s Hill organ, which boasts the largest organ case in Europe. Venture south-west to the university, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts hosts some impressive classical music series in its art deco hall, including lunchtime, evening and family concerts, Barber Opera and the Birmingham International Piano Festival. Back in the centre of town, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group has its home in the CBSO Centre on Berkley Street. This brilliant new music ensemble was set up in 1987 with Simon Rattle as its first patron; composers John Woolrich and Oliver Knussen are its artistsin-association. And from time to time, Birmingham’s 2,000-seat Hippodrome includes opera in its offerings, including the touring WNO.
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City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, will conduct the Conservatoire’s own symphony orchestra in a gala concert, to include a new commission and almost certainly a concerto with one of the Conservatoire’s own students. But Lloyd Webber’s main objective is to make sure that Birmingham, and the wider musical world, realises just how much the new building has to offer. He takes the challenge seriously. The Conservatoire is moving from a city centre location near the historic Town Hall, where Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius were premiered, to a redevelopment site that’s perceived as being out on a limb. Not for long, of course: by 2026, the spectacular northern terminus of HS2 will be directly
Study case: Francis Jacksonâ€™s house organ dates from the 18th century
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Sounding in a century Organist, choirmaster and composer Francis Jackson, who marks his 100th birthday this month, is one of our most respected, influential and cherished musicians. Roger Nichols meets a church music legend PHOTOGRAPHY: ROB WHITROW
York recruit: Jackson in 1929
Edward Bairstow spotted WDOHQWRIDbKLJK order and enrolled Jackson as a chorister
oodness,’ said my friend, ‘you organists, you do go on and on.’ Oh dear, had I been boring him? Happily not: his remark referred merely to the longevity of the species. André Marchal and Marie-Claire Alain living to 86, George Thalben-Ball to 90, Fernando Germani and Charles-Marie Widor to 92 – he might have a point. But in any case, England holds the record in the person of Dr Francis Jackson CBE, organist and choirmaster of York Minster for over 35 years, who has just celebrated his 100th birthday. Francis Jackson was born in Malton near York and at the age of eleven came to the notice of the Minster organist, Sir Edward Bairstow, who spotted talent of a high order in his piano playing and enrolled him as a chorister without having to serve a probationary year. Francis went on to have harmony, counterpoint and organ lessons with him and still regards him as ‘my example and inspiration’. Others did not see him quite in the same light – rather as ‘the rudest man in Yorkshire’ – but Jackson puts this down to an extreme sensitivity, especially against pretension in any shape or form, and is still quick to support his teacher. When I said how impressed I am by Bairstow’s Five Poems of the Spirit, and why aren’t they better known, back comes the retort: ‘Because they weren’t written by Elgar!’ Between 1933 and his call-up in 1940 he was organist of two parish churches in Malton while continuing his studies with Bairstow. Then army service in North Africa gave him an opportunity to widen his musical experience. While he was still organ-minded enough to track down a
Cavaillé-Coll instrument in Tunis, the interests of his fellow soldiers obviously ran on different lines and he soon picked up passable techniques on both accordion and saxophone, to the point that he began to wonder whether light music might be where his future lay. In 1945 he wrote to his mother saying ‘I feel there are more ways of getting a living at music than burying yourself in a church or playing hymns all the year round’. He still loved the organ, but regretted that it had ‘only Bach’s fugues in its repertoire in the line of really great music’. In the event, the lure of the Minster put paid to the formation of Frank Jackson and the Malton Melodists – not something for which I think we need feel much regret. While he was in Tripoli, his brother Paul, who was also out there as a sergeant in the Royal Air Force, came looking for him. He tried various appellations – Jackson? Francis? Frank? without success. Then he mentioned that his brother played the piano. ‘Oh, you mean Fingers!’ Among the celebrities who came out to North Africa to entertain the troops was Marlene Dietrich. Jackson remembers that at an officers’ dance ‘they fell over one another in wanting to dance with her’, and after Captain Jackson had had his turn, she turned to him and said, ‘Tank you. Dat vas vunderful!’ I asked him whether she was very glamorous. ‘No,’ he says, ‘she was very nice.’ With the return of peace, Jackson found that the Minster now needed an assistant organist. No need for a curriculum vitae or a competition – Bairstow’s say-so, and that of the Dean, Eric Milner-White, who had introduced the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols at BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
The music of Francis Jackson Six works and performances to explore Toccata, Chorale and Fugue As a composer for organ, Francis Jackson has amassed a large catalogue – this 1955 Vierne-influenced suite is particularly noteworthy, employing the organ’s full spectrum of stop colours and demanding a formidable technique from the player. Simon Nieminski (organ) (Lammas Records LAMM127D)
Sonata No. 3 for organ Jackson’s six organ sonatas contain delightful moments, but for an all-round satisfying musical experience, No. 3 is the one to go for. French influences combine with harmonies and ideas reminiscent of Herbert Howells. The Toccata finale is glorious. Graham Barber (organ) (Priory PRCD373)
Royal approval: with the Queen and Prince Philip in 1971
East Acklam King’s, Cambridge, were enough. Then, in 1946, Bairstow fell terminally ill. Again, Jackson was offered the post without competition; only some 30 years later did he discover that various noses had been put out of joint... Over the next 66 years he gave over 2,000 organ recitals, only two of which were at his own request, the remainder all asked for by others. Quite apart from Jackson’s habit of spreading cheerfulness wherever he goes, an organist friend, now retired from cathedral service, suggested to me that one reason was simply that Jackson, together with Thalben-Ball, was technically way ahead of other British organists in those post-war years. As an example, I make a brief diversion to note that one of the first pieces to be played on Jackson’s newly bought gramophone in 1933 had been the Ravel String Quartet, recorded by the Galimir Quartet in the composer’s presence. ‘I couldn’t have enough of it,’ says Jackson; ‘what I considered the weird, spooky harmonies gripped and fascinated me.’ Ravel’s music has continued to absorb him, both as listener and performer, to the point that he is one of the handful (pun intended) of British keyboard players to have tackled the daunting Left Hand Concerto in public. If you, reader, require further proof of his mastery, do find his rendition of Dubois’s Toccata on YouTube: a sparkling performance, bringing an alchemist’s touch to base metal – and done at the age of 92. As well as introducing a new way of playing Bach, in which fugues did not always begin on an 8-foot stop with additions on every subsequent arrival of the subject, but allowed for greater variety in colour and dynamics, Jackson can claim at least two particular organ pieces for which his promotion has been vital and continuing. In 1964 EMI brought out a recording of him playing the Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue by the Canadian composer Healey Willan, which instantly brought this majestic piece into the main organ repertoire: Jackson’s 46
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Jackson’s significant contribution to the world of hymnody includes this Elgarian tune written in 1957 and today sung widely in churches and cathedrals as the harvest hymn ‘For the fruits of his creation’. Rupert Gough (organ), Wells Cathedral Choir/Malcolm Archer (Hyperion CDP12101)
Alleluia, laudate pueri Dominum Poulenc is very much in evidence in Jackson’s unaccompanied anthem for double choir. Packed full of fanfare effects, this exciting, energetic work, written in 1971, features dramatic changes of key and bustling counterpoint. St Paul’s Cathedral Choir/John Scott (Hyperion CDA66678)
Widor’s Toccata One of our finest organists, Jackson has made dozens of recordings. His performances of French music are note-worthy including, naturally, the Toccata from Widor’s Fifth Symphony, which he plays at a measured tempo, not, as so many organists erroneously do, at break-neck speed. Francis Jackson (organ) (Griffin GCCD4067)
Moonrise For a taste of Jackson’s gift for pastoral writing and ear for both harmony and orchestration, try this charming miniature for recorder and string orchestra, with its clear debt to the music of Gerald Finzi. John Turner (recorder) Manchester Camerata Ensemble/ Philip Mackenzie (Dutton CDLX7191)
Jackson was way ahead of other British organists in the post-war years
performance remains a touchstone not only in its superb command of the Minster organ, but in its shapely phrasing and imaginative use of colour, including some stunning contributions from his favourite tuba stop. The second piece, admittedly not quite so much in need of publicity, was the Toccata from Widor’s Fifth Symphony which Jackson chose as the recessional voluntary for the wedding in the Minster on 8 June 1961 of the Duke of Kent and Miss Katharine Worsley. But while the Toccata had long been a popular warhorse among organists, and had also featured at Princess Margaret’s wedding the year before, after this broadcast of the wedding ceremonies it suddenly became famous on an astonishing scale. Suddenly those organists among us who, on wedding duty, had for years automatically reached for our well-thumbed copies of Mendelssohn or Wagner, were receiving requests
Fine impressions: Jackson’s studio is named after the village in which Ravel lived
(demands even) for ‘the Widor’ and had to put ourselves through some serious practice, faced with fast right-hand semiquavers that go on almost relentlessly for some six minutes. I suspect that, as well as happy couples and congregations, osteopaths and chiropractors may also have benefited. By all accounts, choir rehearsals under Jackson were at once relaxed and utterly professional, even if it took a little time to come to grips with his rather florid terminal beat. In the late 1960s there was great concern over the serious cracks that had been found in the Minster’s structure. Jackson’s typically light-hearted determination to make the best of things is recalled by one of the lay clerks. The problem had been traced to the ancient foundations which were little more than earth, so a programme of excavation and cementing began that went on for several years. The organ, for which dust was a lethal danger, was duly encased in what Jackson calls ‘the largest polythene bag in the world’, although he claims he made no changes in his usual stop registrations as a result. In order to move the excavated debris out of the church, a small railway had been laid to the west door. At evensong one afternoon, the lay clerk received a green light on the system communicating him with the organ loft. Expecting to hear perhaps
Edward Bairstow The man who discovered Francis Jackson was one of this country’s greatest organists and church music composers. Although he wrote some fine organ music, including the fine E-flat Sonata, his reputation today rests on a handful of beautifully crafted anthems, including the unaccompanied gems I sat down under his shadow and Let all mortal flesh keep silence, plus the stately Blessed City, Heavenly Salem with organ.
some final, nuanced instruction for the Nunc dimittis, he was treated instead to Jackson’s solemn announcement that ‘the 4.21 from the west door is now approaching the central tower.’ Jackson is still composing, and on the day my wife and I arrived he’d just finished his Op. 168, a commission like so much of his music. Probably his best known work is his Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in G (known familiarly as ‘Me in G’), undoubtedly one of the finest settings made since the war. Dating from 1952, it briefly predates the arrival of Jackson and his, fairly new, wife Priscilla in his present house, complete with separate studio in the garden. He calls this his ‘Montfort l’Amaury’ after the village where Ravel spent his last years, and where the happy couple made their first foreign visit. It contains not only a grand piano and a two-manual, late 18th-century chamber organ, but a lifetime’s collection of cards, plaques, medals, citations, record covers etc. An enchanted cave. And so, dear Francis, on behalf of the thousands of your friends and admirers all over the world, I wish you a happy centenary year, with our profound gratitude for the fine music you have given us as both composer and player over so many years, and in the belief that, if ever there is a competition for ‘the politest man in Yorkshire’, the prize will be yours by acclamation. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
in partnership with
Joining forces The World Federation of International Music Competitions now has over 120 competitions on its roster. We take a look behind the scenes of the latest to become members he very best competitions are those that place talent right at their heart – those that help discover and, ultimately, nurture brilliant young musicians. The World Federation of International Music Competitions (WFIMC) counts the very best competitions as its members. Here we introduce six of the newest.
Princess Astrid International Music Competition Trondheim, Norway, 27 November – 2 December 2018 Pilgrims once travelled the rocky road to Trondheim to visit the tomb of St Olav. The city’s modern, more secular attractions include a competition that connects Norway’s far north with the wider world of classical music. Trondheim’s biennial Princess Astrid International Music Competition, supported by the Norwegian Department of Culture, increased its reach in 2010 by converting from a national prize to become a global event. Norway’s oldest music competition was founded in 1952 and thereafter presented under the patronage of Princess Astrid, daughter of Norway’s late King Olaf V. The princess remains a close follower. In its present form, the Princess Astrid invites musicians under the age of 30 to compete for a prize of 160,000 Norwegian krone (£15,600) and a solo engagement with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. Each competition is devoted to a different instrument or performance category. For much of its history, the Princess
Arctic role: Roar Leinan, managing director of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra
Astrid Competition was open solely to Nordic musicians. It now draws contestants from the around the world. JapaneseAmerican violinist Mayumi Kanagawa won the most recent edition, held last December, while the Swiss-Australian conductor Elena Schwarz took the top prize in 2014. Other laureates include violinist Arve Tellefsen and pianist Kjell Bækkelund. Roar Leinan, managing director of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, notes that the competition may have changed but its purpose has remained constant. ‘It exists to give a platform for young
musicians to show what they can do and help them in their careers,’ he says. ‘It’s also an important way for our orchestra to work with these young talents. We see it as a very significant part of our programme, one that attracts a loyal audience and creates a wonderful atmosphere.’ Next year’s competition is in late autumn. It offers contestants the opportunity to visit one of Norway’s most beautiful regions, a place of mountains and fjords close to the Arctic Circle. ‘The standard of the violinists who came here last year and of the conductors at the 2014 competition was very high,’ recalls Leinan. ‘We want to spread the news about the Princess Astrid Competition, and want people to know about us and come, even though we are in the far north.’
Primrose International Viola Competition Los Angeles, US, 10-16 June 2018 William Primrose, arguably the greatest viola player of all, left a legacy of recordings, repertoire and legend that has inspired generations of violists to promote the viola’s virtues as a solo star turn. The Primrose International Viola Competition, founded in 1979 by the American Viola Society, has played a big part in promoting the instrument and launching careers. The list of past Primrose prize-winners includes a healthy share of today’s top viola soloists, Lawrence Power, Antoine Tamestit and Nils Mönkemeyer among them. Chinese violist Zhanbo Zheng
Bridge to success: the third prize-winner of the 2011 Primrose Viola Competition, Vicki Powell; (right) the Schoenfeld sisters with Suli Xue
Alice & Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition Harbin, China, 18-29 July 2018
secured the top prize of $5,000 (£3,800) three years ago to become one of the competition’s youngest winners. The next edition is set to run from 10-16 June 2018 at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. Sel Kardan, President and CEO of the Colburn School, notes how the competition is determined to raise the viola’s profile. ‘Joining the World Federation of International Music Competitions is one of the ways in which that can happen,’ he says. ‘The level of visibility and the network that the Federation provides is so helpful. It also represents a seal of approval for prospective competitors.’ The Colburn School, which doubles as community school and conservatoire, decided to co-present the Primrose after first hosting the competition in 2014. ‘We sensed that the American Viola Society, a long-standing volunteer organisation, could benefit from more support and a permanent location for the competition,’ comments Kardan. ‘Given the fact that William Primrose taught in Los Angeles and
recorded here with Heifetz and Piatigorsky, we felt it was an appropriate connection to make.’ Primrose finalists can look forward to performing either the Bartók or Walton viola concertos with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Aspiring winners will
‘The level of visibility and the network that the Federation provides is so helpful’ need to navigate a far broader repertoire range in the earlier rounds, including new works and transcriptions. ‘We’ve given contestants tremendous freedom in their repertoire selection,’ says Sel Kardan. ‘We’re hoping to discover a personality as well as a great performer, with repertoire selection an important part of spotting unique individuals.’
Europe supplied the World Federation of International Music Competitions with its founding members 60 years ago. The organisation’s scope has since widened to embrace competitions from Sydney to Sendai, a reflection of the many highlevel contests for young musicians beyond western music’s historic heartlands. The Federation’s membership list has extended to China in recent years, open to everything from opera and art song in Ningbo to piano concertos in Shenzhen. Its latest addition, the Alice & Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition, grew from a pioneering collaboration between a non-profit organisation from the US and the Chinese government. The biennial competition has become an important part of the cultural life of Harbin in China’s northeast corner. Its most recent edition was staged at the spectacular new Harbin Grand Theatre. The Harbin competition is named after the Schoenfeld sisters, violinist Alice and cellist Eleonore, California-based performers, pedagogues and duo partners, who often worked in China. Following Eleonore’s death in 2007, Alice honoured her sister’s memory with a competition for violin, cello and string quartet. She was encouraged by her former pupil, the Chinese-American violinist Suli Xue, who helped bring the competition to Harbin. Suli Xue presided over its launch in 2013 and remains its artistic director. ‘Our competition’s main feature is its comprehensiveness,’ notes Schoenfeld Competition director of operations
in partnership with
Northern lights: the 2016 winners of the International Edvard Grieg Piano Competition
Yeung-ping Chen. ‘Each competition covers violin, cello and chamber music. And we also have a co-chair system, with an outstanding violinist and cellist leading the jury. Participants are judged not just by an expert on their own instrument but by an expert on another instrument. I think this is attractive to competitors and gives a meaningful result for them.’ Last year the Israeli violinist Shlomo Mintz and American cellist Lynn Harrell chaired a jury comprising members from China, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Russia, the UK and the US. ‘We really care about the jury’s international range,’ comments Chen. ‘We believe that, compared with other Asian competitions, we have the most international jury. We are also fortunate that the Chinese government trusts us. It’s because we share the same goal, to promote young talent, create an international platform for them and let the Harbin people enjoy the music.’
The International Edvard Grieg Piano Competition Bergen, Norway, 1-9 September 2018 Founded in 2000 by Norwegian pianists and pedagogue Einar Steen-Nøkleberg, the International Edvard Grieg Piano
Competition began life at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. It transferred in 2012 to Troldhaugen on the edge of Bergen, the site of Grieg’s former home and the museum dedicated to his life. The competition’s move was marked by an increase in its prize pot and a final round tie-in with the Bergen Philharmonic. Sasha Grynyuk, tipped as a Rising Star by BBC Music Magazine, won in 2012, followed two years later by Bergen-born Joachim Carr and in 2016 by South Korea’s Ah Ruem Ahn. The biennial competition’s first three rounds are held at Troldhaugen’s chamber music hall, overlooking Lake Nordås. Its final, in which each competitor must perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto and one other concerto, is contested at the Grieghallen in Bergen. Its next edition takes place in September.
Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, US, 18-22 June 2019 Open to organists aged 18 to 30 from around the world, Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition promotes young talent and a special instrument. The inaugural event took place in 2013, two years after the completion
of a painstaking restoration of the world’s largest Aeolian organ. Longwood Gardens, just outside Philadelphia, and among the finest horticultural wonders of the United States, gained its 10,010-pipe leviathan thanks to the vision of former Longwood owner Pierre du Pont. The organ’s scale is matched by the generosity of the competition’s $40,000 (£30,350) first prize, the largest for any organ contest.
Concours International de Piano – Istanbul Orchestra’Sion Istanbul, Turkey, 13-19 November 2017 Downtown Istanbul’s Lycée Notre Dame de Sion, the French private high school founded in 1856, is blessed not only with a fine concert hall but also an international piano competition. The latter was launched in 2013 as a contest for professional or aspiring professional pianists up to the age of 30. It offers a top prize of $10,000 (£7,500) together with a series of concert engagements at Notre Dame de Sion, and in France, Spain and Turkey. The competition jury also awards a scholarship to cover tuition and accommodation expenses to attend masterclasses at the Cap Ferret Music Festival Academy in France.
Leading voice: Academy director Stephen McHolm
Making music: students from the Verbier Festival Academy
Manage your success The World Federation of International Music Competitions ensures that competition winners have the best chance of a great career by partnering with world-class organisations usic competitions are about more than picking winners. Musicians need to know how to develop their career afterwards. The WFIMC has granted Associate status to ten organisations who cultivate future generations of classical artists, and its four latest Associates understand the importance of nurturing young musicians. Verbier Festival Academy, 25 years old next summer, offers ideal conditions for outstanding young musicians to learn from leading artists. The Swiss institution’s learning opportunities includes the Verbier Festival Orchestra; masterclass and workshop sessions for instrumentalists and singers; chamber music coaching, and time for networking and career development. Before arriving in the post last December, Academy director Stephen McHolm served as artistic and administrative leader of the Honens International Piano Competition. He helped develop the Canadian competition’s package of career support for laureates and reinforced its commitment to promoting all-round
ALINE PALEY, CHRIS DAEPPEN
artistry. The Honens vision, he observes, complements that of the Verbier Festival Academy. McHolm spotlights the role of the WFIMC in broadening the Academy’s reach. ‘It’s important that we’re connected to the Federation. They’re a clearing house for the world’s best young musicians.’ Making connections is key to Young Concert Artists, Inc. The New York
‘The Federation is a clearing house for the world’s best young musicians’ organisation, founded by pianist Susan Wadsworth in 1961, bridges the gap separating conservatoire graduates from careers and presents concert series in New York at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The organisation selects fresh artists every
year by audition. The latest preliminary round took place in September in Leipzig. Its three winners will travel to New York in November for YCA’s final auditions. ‘Way back I realised that if an artist could play a concert, they could also play for schoolchildren or care home residents,’ recalls Susan Wadsworth. ‘When the pianist Emanuel Ax was with Young Concert Artists in the 1970s, he said that the chance to do residencies was among the most important things he gained from us.’ Wadsworth’s pioneering work in New York has done much to inspire the Young Concert Artists Trust (YCAT). The London-based charitable organisation, founded in 1984, aims to spot the finest artists of the future. Its mission, endorsed in 2017 by WFIMC’s Associate membership, involves nurturing and supporting those on its books. The value of helping young musicians is shared by WFIMC’s fourth new Associate. Established in the late 1990s by the pianist Martha Argerich and Gustav Alink, the world’s leading authority on piano competitions, the Alink-Argerich Foundation casts light on competitions, to see whether the claims they make and the prizes they offer match competitors’ expectations, and to help young talents avoid common competition pitfalls. It also provides a service to competition organisers from the recruitment of juries and contestants to securing press coverage and international publicity. ‘To run a competition is one project,’ says Susan Wadsworth. ‘To take on a managerial role, is a different project. Bringing the two together, as is the case with more and more WFMIC competitions, is a very important development.’
Sani Greece An annual music festival at a plush seaside resort provides a muchneeded outlet for the area’s classical musicians, as Nick Shave discovers
A luxury hideaway: with its medieval tower, Sani Hill is a venue for concerts
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oss Stone has a look of wide-eyed disbelief. ‘You just look at these kids and you can see that, yes, they have water and somewhere to sleep, but they have nothing more than the basics: no books, nothing to write on, no way of learning,’ says the singer-songwriter. ‘They’re stuck in limbo and nobody is doing anything about it.’ Most visitors leave reality at the door when they check in to the five-star Sani beach resort, just an hour outside Thessaloniki. But for Stone, when we meet in the hotel bar, the troubles of a hard-hit Greece – knocked down by economic recession and now facing a migration crisis as Syrian refugees are held in a camp in the suburbs outside the city – live fresh in the mind. Having visited the camp as part of her on-going charity work, she is hoping for change. ‘The good thing is we can supply these kids with what they need – others are not so lucky,’ she says. The conversation with the singing star injects a dose of reality into a cocktail night at this luxury Halkidiki hideaway. The resort, with the sea on one side and the pine forests of the Kassandra Peninsula on the other, comprises hotels and luxury apartments, with swimming pools and white sandy beaches where holidaymakers relax beneath crisp white parasols and cool off in the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Aegean. Temperatures during August are in the mid-30s. With its manicured lawns, tennis courts and marina, Sani is northern Greece’s plushest resort, and in the summer months offers live music to its list of attractions: every year its music festival features jazz, classical and Greek themes, with concerts taking place each weekend on a hill-top stage in the ruins of a medieval tower looking out over the sea.
Hellenic melodies: the Thessaloniki State Orchestra plays at Sani; (below) King Otto, who introduced classical music to Greece
Thessaloniki’s leading classical songwriter While the resort is more than 40 years old, the music festival was founded 25 years ago with an all-jazz programme to attract newcomers during the summer months. Since then, it has evolved to include not just jazz concerts, but classical repertoire too. Last year, virtuoso violinist Daniel Hope performed his Baroque programme, Air, with a small ensemble of players. But it also marked the festival’s move into mainstream territory, with Stone drawing around 2,000 visitors to the hilltop to hear her distinctive brand of soul and reggae. The concert – a sell-out, in which Stone had the audience singing a cappella accompaniments and out of their seats and dancing – was a success. ‘But artistically, it’s a fine balancing act,’ says festival artistic director Olga Tabouris-Babalis. ‘When I started it was about introducing Greek audiences to jazz. Traditional Greek music is still hugely popular across the country, and so was classical music, so I wanted to bring in new jazz acts.’ Bringing an international al festival to this remote venue in Greeece has its challenges. Tabouris-Baabalis recalls with chills the year in which jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara had to be coaxed on g n stage to give a last-minute solo co oncert after the other members off her trio,, bassist Anthony Jackson an nd drummer Simon Phillips, were suddenly taken ill. ‘There are some things you just can’t prepare for,’ she reflects. Meanwhile,
the Thessaloniki State Orchestra’s lead violinist, Simos Papanas, who performed in Hope’s Air ensemble, explains that the outdoor setting, while dreamily idyllic, makes unique demands on its performers. ‘Our concert took place on a windy night, which meant we had to take extra care to get the right nuance of sound,’ he says. But, he reminds me, classical music has a long history of performance near Greek
It was through the Ionian Islands that western music entered Greece sandy shores. It was through the Ionian Islands – under Venetian rule – that western European music journeyed, in the 19th century, into mainland Greece, Italian bel canto bringing with it the Ita style. For a longg timee, classical music g to Greek k ears – the sound was foreign as associated assoc ated with th both the Italians was and the court of Kiing Otto, who g his Bavarian musicians with brought wing 400 years of him when, follow Ottoman rule, he became king of 832. In the early Greece in 18 ntury, under Manolis 20th cen miris, a Greek Kalom ational school of music nati fformed. The state music conservatory
Born in 1885, Emilios Riadis was Thessaloniki’s first classical composer, and an important representative of the Greek National School. His first teacher was Dimitrios Lalas, who had studied and worked with Wagner; but it was from the French school, under the tutelage of Charpentier and Ravel in Paris, that Riadis learned about harmony. Famously lacking in focus – he would turn his hand, mid-composition, to poetry or writing fiction – he rarely finished his musical works. But his deft command of songwriting, and his legacy as a teacher at the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki, established his place in history.
was founded in Thessaloniki in 1915, and its symphony orchestra only established relatively recently, in 1959. Now, says Papanas, at a time of cuts the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra is fighting to keep that tradition alive. As fewer big-name artists are invited to visit the Thessaloniki concert hall, it’s the Sani festival that is offering a chance for local musicians to team up with international soloists on home turf, and to attract a wider audience. ‘We play with Daniel Hope around the world – in Britain, Switzerland, Austria and Spain – but this was the first time we played at home,’ he says. ‘We need festivals like Sani to keep going.’ Further information: Sani Festival www.sanifestival.gr Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra www.tsso.gr BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Composer of the month
Composer of the Week is broadcast on Radio 3 at 12pm, Mon to Fri. Upcoming programmes are: 1-3 Nov Elgar 6-10 Nov The Russian Revolution 13-17 Nov The Russian Revolution 20-24 Nov Thelonious Monk 27 Nov – 1 Dec Koechlin
It was the experience of absorbing music from around Europe that prepared Glinka to become the ﬁrst great ‘Russian’ composer, says Erik Levi ILLUSTRATION: MATT HERRING
n the basis of a mere handful of works, Glinka is regarded as a composer of immense historical significance. Indeed, there are many things about the so-called ‘father of Russian music’ that are surprising, not least the fact that in his youth he never received a formal musical education. Indeed, as he made his way in the world, Glinka initially appeared little more than a musical dilettante. A portrait of the composer painted by Ilya Repin some 30 years after his death provides some insight into his character. It presents Glinka, clad in an elegant dressing gown, lying on a sofa, his head propped up by a cushion, staring pensively at a musical
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The remarkable transformation of Glinka’s style was mainly generated by his travelling
Exoticism: His early contact with Russian peasant music followed by the more exotic folk music in the Caucasus widened Glinka’s harmonic vocabulary. He was one of the first composers to employ the whole-tone scale, used in Ruslan and Lyudmila to depict the evil sorcerer Chernomor (pictured above). Orchestration: Glinka’s early practical experience taught him the orchestra’s sonic capabilities. He was able to dazzle audiences with strikingly novel textures that were acknowledged by his friend Berlioz. Motivic development: Glinka’s Kamarinskaya eschews the standard Western symphonic method of developing and transforming themes in favour of a more static conception where a motive is repeated whilst its accompaniment is varied. Eclecticism: Despite the strongly Russian element in some of his music, Glinka in fact drew upon all Western European musical styles of his day. His success was due to his ingenious integration of all these features, particularly in his operas.
the specific capabilities of individual instruments and the ways in which they could be combined with each other. Glinka moved to St Petersburg at the age of 14 to broaden his education. His natural skills as a pianist must have benefited from the three lessons he took as a teenager with the Irish virtuoso John Field. Equally inspiring was the opportunity to study symphonies by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, as well as popular opera overtures. Somewhat later in 1824, he studied singing with an Italian resident in St Petersburg, thereby developing an understanding of the capabilities of the human voice which would stand him
manuscript with a slightly chewed pencil near to his mouth. An empty glass with a silver spoon sits on his bedside table reminding us of his frail constitution and constant hypochondria. Repin brilliantly captures the atmosphere of languor surrounding a composer who came from a sufficiently wealthy background that he never needed to seek regular employment. Born in 1804, the eldest son of a retired army captain, Glinka spent a privileged childhood on an estate in the Smolensk district. Contact with peasants singing folksongs, as well as a fascination for the unique sounds of Russian choirs and church bells, developed his musical sensibilities at a young age. More practically, Glinka learnt to play the piano and violin, and occasionally conducted his uncle’s serf orchestra, an experience that gave him invaluable insight into
in particularly good stead for his future output of operas and songs. His earliest attempts at composition in the early 1820s include attempts at orchestral and chamber music. But he was best known for writing flashy sets of variations and drawing-room dances for piano of little individuality. In fact, the remarkable transformation in his style was mainly generated by the experience of travel. In 1823 he visited the Caucasus, relishing its wild landscape, and became intrigued by the region’s exotic folk music, elements of which were to be recalled in his second opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila. Seven years later, he embarked on a much more extensive journey to Italy where he encountered Bellini and Donizetti, and became intimately acquainted with their latest operas. Glinka paid tribute to his fellow Italian
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Voyages of the imagination: Glinka reclines in Ilya Repin’s portrait; (right) Anna Netrebko as Lyudmila
composers with several sets of piano variations and chamber works drawing upon themes from their works. Yet he soon grew tired of writing imitative Italianate music, feeling that he should really be ploughing the rich furrow of musical traditions of his homeland. In his Memoirs, Glinka argued that ‘as inhabitants of the North, we Russians feel differently from the Italians’, and that he felt ‘a longing for my own country led me gradually to the idea of writing in a Russian manner.’ Glinka’s decisive turning point came in 1833 after he left Italy for Berlin, where he studied for six months with Siegfried Dehn. The distinguished German pedagogue subjected him to a rigorous course of instruction in fugal counterpoint and harmonising chorales, while also encouraging him to think more independently. One can see the results in the unfinished Symphony on Two Russian Themes composed the following year, in which Glinka demonstrates considerable ingenuity and inventiveness in the way he subjects original Russian folksongs to extended development. But the real breakthrough came two years after his return to St Petersburg in 1834. Having long harboured an ambition to write an opera, Glinka eventually chose A Life for the Tsar as an ideal topic with 56
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a strongly patriotic appeal. An instant success at its premiere at the Imperial Theatre, the opera draws upon the story of the 17th-century Russian peasant hero Ivan Susanin who became a martyr in the cause of protecting the Tsar from marauding Polish invaders. This subject had already been turned into a fairly successful opera in 1815 by the Italian-Russian composer
Ruslan and Lyudmila’s languorous oriental music points forward to Rimsky-Korsakov Catterino Cavos. But whereas Cavos’s work followed accepted convention by juxtaposing musical numbers with spoken dialogue and altering the plot so that there could be a happy ending, Glinka’s opera is serious and tragic with continuous music. Some of the writing in A life for the Tsar still reflects Glinka’s indebtedness to Italian and French opera, but there are also significant innovations, particularly the central focus on exploring Russian peasant song, the stirring use of chorus, the resourceful treatment of the orchestra
and the entirely convincing way in which Glinka links the Russian peasants and nobility through the employment of a distinctive musical motif that recurs frequently throughout the opera. Six years after completing A life for the Tsar Glinka composed his second opera Ruslan and Lyudmila, loosely based on a poem by Pushkin. This fairy tale depicts the chivalrous exploits of a heroic warrior, Ruslan, who rescues his bride Lyudmila from the evil sorcerer-dwarf Chernomor. Its fantastic subject-matter enabled Glinka to add many new colours to his musical armoury. Although Russian folk material continues to play a central role, the opera’s languorous oriental music accompanying the seductive exploits of the sorceress Naina, as well as its daringly chromatic harmonies that portray supernatural characters such as Chernomor, both point forward to Rimsky-Korsakov. Unlike A life for the Tsar, Ruslan found little favour with the Russian public who had become enamoured by Italian opera. Today, the sparkling Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila remains by some distance Glinka’s most frequently played work, but the opera as a whole suffers from a convoluted plot, and is rarely if ever staged outside Russia. Its relative failure severely disappointed Glinka, prompting him to leave Russia for Paris in 1844. There he met Berlioz, who encouraged Glinka to focus his future creative energies on writing picturesque orchestral music, some of which would be based on national themes. The first fruits of these endeavours came as a result of a two-year stay in Spain with
COMPOSER OF THE MONTH
GLINKA Life&Times the brilliantt Jota aragonesa (1845) and Souvenir d’une nuit d’été à Madrid d (1848), both orchestral showpieces that uncannily anticipate Rimsky-Korsakov’s similarly conceived Capriccio espagnolee composed almost 40 years later. Just as prophetic is the elegant Valse-Fantaisie, e originally a piano piece that was orchestrated one year before Glinka’s death. It is the earliest of those extended waltz pieces that were later so elegantly cultivated by Tchaikovsky, Glazunov and Prokofiev. Most important of all is Kamarinskaya (1848), the first significant orchestral work whose musical material is based entirely on two contrasting Russian folk-tunes. What is particularly notable is Glinka’s capacity to create maximum variety of colour and texture in the accompaniment to a simple melodic line that is repeated some 75 times. It’s a technique that inspired Tchaikovsky
LIFE: Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka is born into a noble family in Yelnya, Russia. Servants’ folk songs provide his first contact with music. TIMES: Tsar Alexander I declares one of history’s many Russo-Persian wars, a ten-year territorial dispute over modern-day Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
LIFE: Glinka joins the civil service. By night he frequents the e salons and cultural gatherings of the city and composes songs and piano pieces. TIMES: St Petersburg floods kill hundreds, an event that inspires s Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman.
Glinka’s Kamarinskaya inspired Tchaikovsky to write the ﬁnale of his Second Symphony
LIFE: The success of his first opera, A life for the Tsar, r motivates Glinka to set Pushkin’s Ruslan and Lyudmila, but the poet’s sudden death delays its completion. TIMES: Pushkin, Russia’s national poet, is fatally wounded in a secret duel with his brother-in-law, shot from just ten paces.
LIFE: After years travelling in Europe, meeting such musicians as Berlioz, Donize etti and Liszt, he rea alises he must return home and writte music ‘in Ru ussian’. TIM MES: Amid the Ru ussian cultural aw wakening, Biblioteka Dlya Ch hteniya is fou unded, the first artts magazine to appeal to the middle-classes, not just the elite. n
LIFE: Dejected by Ruslan’s poor reception, Glinka seeks inspiration in Berlin, Paris and Spain, a country whose music influences his own. TIMES: Brunel’s SS Great Britain is launched from Bristol, the first iron-hulled, propeller-driven ship to cross c oss tthe e Atlantic. ta tc
LIFE: Weakened by a cold, Glinka dies in Berlin at the age of 52. His body is buried there but later re-interred in St Petersburg. TIMES: Anger against the East India Company leads Indian soldiers and civilians to revolt against colonial British authorities – seen as the country’s first struggle for independence.
nearly 25 years later in the construction of the Finale to his Little Russian Symphony. It says something for the high esteem with which Glinka was regarded by later generations of Russian musicians that composers as diametrically opposed in terms of stylistic orientation as Tchaikovsky and Musorgsky could each claim him as their spiritual forefather. Even more touching is the response from Stravinsky, whose opera Mavra of 1922 was dedicated to the memory of Pushkin, Glinka and Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky paid further homage to Glinka in his Chroniques de ma viee when describing his first experience of hearing A Life for the Tsarr in the theatre. He wrote: ‘The impression was indelible… To this day, not only Glinka’s music in itself, but his orchestration as well, remains a perfect monument of musical art – so intelligent is his balance of tone, so distinguished and delicate his instrumentation… That is why my attitude towards Glinka has always been one of unbounded gratitude.’
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Building a library
Violin Concerto in D major Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Julian Haylock assesses the ﬁnest recordings of this virtuoso showpiece which combines high-octane good spirits with gorgeous lyricism The work
Building a Library is broadcast on Radio 3 at 9.30am each Saturday as part of Record Review. A highlights podcast is available at bbc.co.uk/radio3
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Born in the small Russian town of Votkinsk in 1840 and initially employed as a civil servant, Tchaikovsky’s musical career began when he enrolled as one of the first students at the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1862. His first major work, Symphony No. 1, was completed in 1866, after which his exceptional output included five further symphonies, violin and piano concertos, and operas including Eugene Onegin. Though bedevilled both by unhappy personal liaisons and harsh criticism of his work, and prone to bouts of depression, it remains unclear whether his death in 1893 was by his own hand.
Tchaikovsky’s dazzling Violin Concerto captures the exhilaration of being alive – and in love – with an incandescent surge. The recent catastrophic failure of the composer’s marriage to a psychologically unstable ex-pupil had resulted in a halfhearted attempt at suicide – he tried (unsuccessfully) to induce pneumonia by standing waist-high in the freezing waters of the Moskva River. Additionally, during the early spring of 1878, Tchaikovsky hit a creative lull after recently completing his opera Eugene Onegin and the Fourth Symphony. His spirits were lifted, however, by the scenery around Clarens, an idyllic resort on the eastern fringes of Lake Geneva, Switzerland, where Stravinsky would later find inspiration for The Rite of Spring. Having lost patience with an ongoing set of 12 piano pieces (Op. 40), Tchaikovsky attempted to get his creative juices flowing again by starting work on his G major Piano Sonata (Op. 37). This was also on the point of floundering, when in response to a telegram from the composer, his former composition pupil, violinist Iosif Kotek, arrived hotfoot from Berlin, where he was having lessons with Joseph Joachim. Kotek brought with him a satchel bulging with piano-duet arrangements: among these were several recent works, including Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole which they played through with relish, and which Tchaikovsky reported enthusiastically to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck ‘has so much freshness, lightness, piquant rhythms and beautiful, superbly harmonised melodies.’ This, combined
with the presence of Kotek – the two men had almost certainly been lovers – lit the touchpaper of Tchaikovsky’s genius with pyrotechnical force. The composer laid the piano sonata aside and started on a new violin concerto. Within a fortnight, the short score of the Violin Concerto was complete. Tchaikovsky excitedly informed his publisher Pyotr Jürgenson that he had ‘hit upon an idea quite by chance, was carried away and in no time my sketch was nearly finished.’ The devoted Kotek played everything through as the composer went along, smoothing over any rough edges and extracting the maximum virtuoso impact from his various ideas. The original slow movement was quickly discarded (it re-emerged as the opening Méditation of
Inspiring friendship: the violinist Iosif Kotek (left) with Tchaikovsky
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Inspiring views: Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva, where Tchaikovsky wrote his Violin Concerto; (below) Adolf Brodsky, who gave the work’s premiere
Souvenir d’un lieu cher Op. 42), and replaced with a canzonetta of Mendelssohnian serenity. The day Tchaikovsky completed it, he informed his brother Anatoly that Kotek was ‘lovingly busying himself with my concerto. It goes without saying that I would have been able to do nothing without him. He plays it marvellously.’ Under normal circumstances, the dedication would have gone to Kotek, but fearful of the gossip such a gesture would have generated, Tchaikovsky dedicated it instead to Russia’s leading violin pedagogue, Leopold Auer, for whom he had already composed his Sérénade mélancolique (Op. 26) – but without first gaining his permission. Auer tried to explain as diplomatically as possible that he felt the concerto fell short of Tchaikovsky’s high standards and that the violin part needed thoroughly overhauling. The composer took umbrage, cancelled the intended March
Tchaikovsky’s spirits were lifted by the lakeside scenery around Clarens 1879 premiere and nothing further was heard of the concerto until, two years later, 30-year-old Russian virtuoso Adolf Brodsky offered to take it on and gave the world premiere in Vienna under legendary conductor Hans Richter on 4 December 1881. In grateful appreciation, Tchaikovsky re-dedicated the Concerto to Brodsky, ‘the recreator of the concerto deemed impossible’. The premiere was a somewhat lively affair. Such was the powerful Russian potency of Tchaikovsky’s writing that a dispute broke out between those who found the score’s ‘modernism’ bracing and those making a beeline for the exit, their sensibilities in tatters. The notorious pro-Brahms critic Eduard Hanslick
had a field-day, dismissing the concerto as ‘bringing us face to face for the first time with music that we can actually hear stink.’ Although from our modern perspective it is difficult to hear quite what all the fuss was about, it is the very qualities that we now cherish so highly – the Concerto’s sense of free-flowing spontaneity, unbridled melodic inspiration, colourful orchestration, scintillating virtuosity, unbuttoned emotional intensity, choreographic pacing and Cossackdance, whirlwind repetitions – that left so many in the first-night audience feeling bewildered. Compared to the profound gravitas of Brahms’s Violin Concerto, premiered in Vienna only three years before by Joachim (Kotek’s teacher), Tchaikovsky composes without a safety net, driving his music (and soloist) on with a scintillating passion that celebrates not only the spectacular return of his creative facility but also the overwhelming confirmation of his sexual identity.
Turn overleaf to find out the best recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major
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Three other great recordings Isaac Stern (violin) Like most of his generation, Isaac Stern used Leopold Auer’s edition which cuts nine bars from the first movement and 44 from the finale. This excision of (mostly) repetitious material undeniably tightens the structure; and for a musical adrenaline rush of charismatic fervency, Stern, accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, sweeps the board, culminating in an electrifying coda. Sony Classical (download only)
Vadim Repin (violin)
Note-perfect feats: Julia Fischer outplays even illustrious names
Full-toned Fischer thrills throughout
The best recording
soloist and orchestra riding the surging tide of Tchaikovsky’s excited imagination. Listened to in isolation, many versions of this much-recorded piece would happily pass muster, yet placed in close proximity it is surprising how few successfully combine seductive tonal lustre with quick-fire precision and virtuoso daring.
Repin had already established his credentials as an outstanding exponent of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in his 1994 recording with the LSO and conductor Emmanuel Krivine. Here, in this live 2002 version for Philips with the Kirov Orchestra and Valery Gergiev (coupled with the Myaskovsky Concerto), complemented by high-impact engineering, Repin takes centre-stage with an espressivo force to have one hanging onto every phrase. Here, the Concerto appears a metaphor for Tchaikovsky’s elated state of recovery, so that the performance becomes an act of celebration. Repin’s narrow-fast
Julia Fischer (violin) Russian National Orchestra/Yakov Kreizberg (2006) Pentatone PTC 5186 610 (hybrid CD/SACD)
There are bomb-proof pieces that can withstand almost any amount of interpretative tinkering and revisionism, but Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is not one of them. Turn to almost any page in the score and its place in the work’s emotional narrative is semantically unmistakable – hardly a bar goes by that isn’t either dancing for joy, exalting in hearttugging melody or surging ahead with uncontainable exuberance. Crucial to any performance’s success is a sense of both 60
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Julia Fischer plays the ﬁnale with both precision and abandonment For a winning combination of these, with all the once-traditional cuts opened out, complemented by first-rate engineering (especially in SACD surround-sound) and unbeatable couplings – the Sérénade mélancolique, Valse-Scherzo and Souvenir d’un lieu cher – Julia Fischer’s 2006 recording (made, remarkably, when she was only 22) with the late Yakov Kreizberg and the Russian National Orchestra
quickly establishes itself as a front-runner. More than any other violinist, Fischer retains the tonal core of her sound both at speed and under even the most relentless technical pressure. There are passages in the finale – not least the last mad dash to the finishing line – in which even some of the most illustrious names in the violin firmament sound under pressure: the tone thins slightly, bow contact and intonation become a little sketchy, rapid string-crossing and position-changing lose their absolute poise. Yet Fischer, taking flight with the best of them, retains her composure with apparently nonchalant
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vibrato and ravishing tone are mesmerising in the slow movement. Philips 473 3432
Lisa Batiashvili (violin) This majestic 2016 account with Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Staatskapelle offers a more dignified and thoughtful approach. Taking nothing for granted, Batiashvili invests Tchaikovsky’s heart-felt inspiration with an enhanced range of dynamics, tonal colours and expressive inflections. She also takes a little extra time to relish passages of derring-do bravado – as witness the first movement cadenza – where others tend to surge excitedly ahead. Not a performance to set the pulse racing, yet it possesses a noble sincerity, enhanced by Barenboim’s devoted support. Deutsche Grammophon 479 6038
And one to avoid… Gidon Kremer (violin) Technically
speaking, this 1979 recording is exemplary; yet, under conductor Lorin Maazel, the Berlin Philharmonic sounds curiously disengaged at times, and although Kremer should be applauded for his exploratory interpretative zeal, on this occasion his maverick unpredictability feels at odds with the music’s grand sweep.
ease, tossing off the notorious rapid descent from a super-top D (and back again) with stunning precision and, conversely, abandonment. Kreizberg and his crack Russian band stick with her all the way, creating the thrilling sensation on occasion of soloist and orchestra jostling for position. All of which might have gone for nothing but for the captivating, open-air freshness Fischer brings to the score’s many passages of melodic enchantment. Where others ramp up the bow pressure and apply cloyingly vibratoed portamento, Fischer removes layers of interpretative accretion to reveal pristine musical surfaces.
Pre-eminent violinist: Leopold Auer inspired several major concertos
Continue the journey… We suggest works to explore after Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto
chaikovksy’s beautiful Sérénade mélancolique was written two years before the Violin Concerto and was his first piece for solo violin and orchestra. The composer originally dedicated it to the violinist Leopold Auer, but removed his name from the title page after Auer subsequently refused to play the Concerto. The Sérénade is a heart-rending miniature, full of the sort of wistful lyricism and melodic richness that dominates the opening two movements of the Violin Concerto (Pentatone PTC 5186 610). Staying in Russia, Arensky’s singlemovement A minor Concerto contains quite a few Tchaikovskian touches, particularly in his scoring for woodwind and horns, a beautiful, restrained middle-section waltz and a helterskelter closing few minutes (Hyperion CDA 67642). Glazunov’s 1904 Violin Concerto, also scored in A minor, goes as far as to reference Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in the soloist’s tiny melodic inflections; meanwhile, his orchestral scoring, with its triplet rhythms and off-beat emphases, is straight out of the Tchaikovsky lexicon (RCA 74321874542). The Glazunov was yet another work written with Leopold Auer in mind – and so too was Taneyev’s Suite de Concert: Auer and Taneyev were friends for more than 30 years
and went on tour together in the 1870s. Composed in 1909, Taneyev’s fivemovement Concerto takes the form of a Baroque suite, with an opening Praludium, a second movement March and a concluding Tarantella as a Romantic replacement for the Gigue. It’s in the fourth movement Theme and Variations that the music heads closest to Tchaikovsky territory, with several solo passages seemingly lifted wholesale from the Violin Concerto (Hyperion CDA 67642). Finally, we exit Russia, and Auer’s gravitational pull, with a journey to Paris and SaintSaëns’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Though not the finest of the Frenchman’s three violin concertos, his violin writing shows remarkable similarities to Tchaikovsky. Given that the Russian’s concerto was completed almost a full 20 years after Saint-Saëns’s, it appears that Tchaikovsky had rather more than Lalo on his mind when he composed his work, betraying yet again his love of French music. Compare and contrast the opening to the SaintSaëns’s second movement with the first movement of the Tchaikovsky, and the connections are clear. Saint-Saëns dedicated his Concerto to the then 15-year-old virtuoso Pablo Sarasate who used it as a vehicle for his virtuosic prowess (Hyperion CDA 67074).
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Reviews 110 CDs, Books & DVDs rated by expert critics Welcome With the centenary of the 1917 Revolution falling this November, there’s no better time to explore Russia’s rich musical heritage. And happily there are some wonderful CDs reviewed this month that showcase a few of the country’s finest composers. Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony is our Orchestral Choice (p65) in a fine performance by the Czech Philharmonic. His music also appears on a cracking new four-hand piano disc from Peter Hill and Benjamin Frith, along with Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Rachmaninov’s Six Morceaux (p79). Why not wallow in Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil (p75) or relish Rustem Hayroudinoff’s take on his two piano sonatas (p81)? Or for more bracing fare, try Ustvolskaya’s six piano sonatas, played by Antonii Baryshevskyi (p82). Rebecca Franks Reviews Editor
This month’s critics John Allison, Nicholas Anderson, Terry Blain, Kate Bolton-Porciatti, Garry Booth, Anthony Burton, Michael Church, Christopher Cook, Elinor Cooper, Christopher Dingle, Misha Donat, Jessica Duchen, Rebecca Franks, Hannah French, George Hall, Malcolm Hayes, Julian Haylock, Claire Jackson, Daniel Jaffé, Stephen Johnson, Berta Joncus, Erik Levi, Natasha Loges, Max Loppert, Jon Lusk, Andrew McGregor, David Nice, Roger Nichols, Bayan Northcott, Anna Picard, Steph Power, Anthony Pryer, Paul Riley, Michael Scott Rohan, Jan Smaczny, Geoffrey Smith, Michael Tanner, Kate Wakeling, Helen Wallace KEY TO STAR RATINGS
★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★ ★★ ★ 62
Outstanding Excellent Good Disappointing Poor
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RECORDING OF THE MONTH
A triumph for the Pavel Haas Quartet Even with an abundant harvest of Dvořák recordings, these superlative performances should not be missed, says Jan Smaczny
Dvořák Piano Quintet in A, Op. 81; String Quintet No. 3 in E flat, Op. 97 Pavel Haas Quartet; Pavel Nikl (viola), Boris Giltburg (piano) Supraphon SU 41952 73:93 mins
Hard on the heels of the Skampa Quartet’s excellent recording of Dvořák’s E flat major String Quintet (reviewed p97) comes one from the Pavel Haas Quartet, this time coupled to the ever-popular Second Piano Quintet. When he wrote the String Quintet on holiday in Spillville, Iowa, Dvořák relaxed with his family after many months in New York where teaching duties and social obligations had
hung heavily. The impression from the American Quartet, written in a matter of days, is one of enormous creative energy erupting after a period of being bottled up. The String Quintet composed shortly afterwards is, in many ways, a more considered work. Dvořák’s emotional response to the great plains of the Midwest was one of reflection and sadness, although in his Spillville music it is tempered with a great deal of infectious ebullience. The Pavel Haas Quartet, joined by violist Pavel Nikl, certainly capture his reflective mood in the introduction to the first movement, but they also secure a sure-footed balance between tenderness and giddy celebration. Equally impressive is the scherzo in which the exuberant ‘hoedown’ of the main section contrasts with a magically beautiful performance of the trio. Throughout the slow movement, the playing of the solo lines is captivating and the finale is both sophisticated in delivery while communicating irrepressible energy.
Recording of the month Reviews B6<6O
Extended family: the Pavel Haas with Boris Giltburg and Pavel Nikl
Dvořák’s Piano Quintet No. 2 shares the spontaneous qualities of the American works. The lengthy consideration he gave to the much earlier Piano Quintet No. 1 with a view to revision and publication seems to have unleashed huge creative forces and the new Quintet was completed in barely six weeks. The measure of the best performances of the first movement is the balance achieved between the relaxed lyricism of the opening and the more earnest passages of development; over-emphasising either can lead to a feeling of breathlessness and selfindulgence. The Haas Quartet with Boris Giltburg provide both
relaxation and a strong sense of purposeful energy; throughout every ‘espressivo’ marking is given full weight without the ensemble losing their grip on the structure or driving the lyricism
The Haas Quartet with Boris Giltburg provide both relaxation and a strong sense of energy too hard. The detail in the slow movement is also compelling especially where the piano doubles other instruments; the brisker sections might perhaps have been more playful, but the scherzo is full of fun with an intense, almost radiant
treatment of the chorale-like trio. Their reading of the finale, which is often treated merely as a concluding romp, as it can often seem, has a rewarding dimension of seriousness, and the finale pages with their blend of stillness and celebration are superbly judged. Excellently recorded, these performances are among the most memorable I have encountered in recent years. PERFORMANCE RECORDING
Hear excerpts and a discussion of this recording on the BBC Music Magazine podcast available free on iTunes or at www.classical-music.com
A quick chat with… Peter Jarůšek Cellist, Pavel Haas Quartet
What made you decide to couple these two works? To us, they seem to belong quite naturally together. Both are great works, which Dvorˇák composed during happy periods of his life. And obviously they are both quintets, so both require an extra musician; what is more, that musician needs to feel as if they’re part of the regular quartet. For the E flat String Quintet we naturally called upon our friend Pavel Nikl: he was a co-founder of the Pavel Haas Quartet, but was forced by personal circumstances to leave us early in 2016. We will always want to involve him in any work involving an extra viola. And what about Boris Giltburg for the Piano Quintet, Op. 81? We first met Boris about three years ago when we were at a festival in Holland, and had been asked to play the Piano Quintet with him. We really felt so comfortable with Boris – he is such an exceptional personality, and not just as a pianist. Did Giltburg, as your ‘guest’, offer insights of his own? Before making the recording, we spent four days in his house near Prague. Our aim was to make the music sound as natural as possible, otherwise if you add rubato or try to make it more ‘expressive’ it can sound clichéd. Boris has a wonderful sense of sound and colour, but his playing is very straightforward, which is appropriate as the music is already very beautiful – it doesn’t need anything added to it. I have to say it was also very special recording these works in the Dvorˇák Hall of the Rudolfinum; the composer conducted one of the first concerts there, so we really felt we were with him there. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
SPITALFIELDS MUSIC FESTIVAL
MONEVERDI SCHUMANN MARK TITCHNER ANNA THORVLDSDOTIR JOSEPHINE STEPHNSON BACH REICH KUJAM DANIEL BRANDT NIK COLK VOID QASIM NAQVI MAX RICHTER 2–10 December
IN COLLA IN LLA AB BORA ORAT TION WIT TION WI H MUSIC C BEYO BEYOND BEY ND D FRONT RO IERS RON ERS CHOE S ECHO ECHO HO OE ES S FES ESTIVAL AL PRE PRES P RESENTS NTS NTS
JETTE PARKER YOUNG ARTISTS PROGRAMME
The Jette Parker Young Artists Programme discovers exceptionally gifted young artists, and nurtures them to become world-class professionals. This recording provides a unique opportunity to hear current members and alumni of the Programme in recital, in wide-ranging repertory that encompasses composers from Beethoven to the present day.
OUT NOW ON CD
A Concert of Musical Border Crossings Through tthe Americas hee A mericas
PanA meri cana The Latin Classical Chamber Orchestra featuring special guests, Portuguesee tenor Luis Gomes & Duo Diez performing
Copland, Bernstein, Gershwin, Piazzolla & Ginastera
29 Oct 2017, 7.00pm 00 Barbican (Milton Court Concert Hall) 1 Milton Street, London, EC2Y 9BH
Orchestral ORCHESTRAL CHOICE
Tchaikovsky’s devil in the detail Semyon Bychkov’s meticulous Manfred produces fiery results, says Erik Levi setting up the oppressive atmosphere from the first bars as bass clarinet and three bassoons intone the work’s Tchaikovsky doom-laden idée fixe supported by fatefully trudging lower strings. Manfred Symphony Czech Philharmonic/Semyon Bychkov Even the delicate string textures Decca 483 2320 58:19 mins at the hesitant introduction of the theme associated with Astarte hardly Few of Tchaikovsky’s works are provides relief, particularly when this more controversial than the Manfred new material gathers momentum Symphony. Detractors find it longand finally collapses after a climax winded and structurally diffuse, of utter despair. The Finale, too, taking particular issue with the benefits from finale’s somewhat stop-go trajectory. The fugue has a kind Bychkov’s cogent interpretation Semyon Bychkov of hell-for-leather which welds totally repudiates drive akin to Berlioz the seemingly this view, arguing disparate sequence that such objections of thematic reminiscences and tempo to the Symphony disappear if the changes into a much more credible interpreter follows Tchaikovsky’s entity than is usual. Particularly extremely precise performing illuminating is his approach to the instructions and careful balancing much-maligned fugue which is shorn of orchestral textures to the letter. In this performance, magnificently of its customary academic propriety, delivered by the Czech Philharmonic and instead manifests a kind of hell-for-leather drive akin to Berlioz. Orchestra and captured in clear yet The only snag is the rather tame opulent sound, Bychkov’s attention apotheosis, with the organ pushed to inner detail effectively enhances too far into the background to make the work’s emotional intensity. its entry sound sufficiently dramatic. Its opening movement, depicting PERFORMANCE ★★★★ Manfred alone wandering the Alps, RECORDING ★★★★★ is particularly compelling, Bychkov
Beethoven • Brahms • Weber Brahms: Symphony No. 1; Weber: Overture to Oberon; Beethoven: Violin Concerto Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin); Staatskapelle Dresden/ Bernard Haitink
Profil PH09036 96:34 mins (2 discs)
When Giuseppe Sinopoli, the Staatskapelle’s chief conductor, died suddenly while conducting Aida in 2001, Bernard Haitink volunteered to take over until the orchestra found another permanent conductor. The next year Dresden suffered a severe flood, with much
damage to the centre of the city, and it was to raise money to help the unhoused that Haitink conducted this concert, of absolutely central Staatskapelle fare. And, being Haitink, these performances are absolutely central. The only sign that a performance is under Haitink is that it contains no idiosyncrasies and that it is as detailed and as cogent as one might hope. It is possible to feel that he is too reliable, that one would welcome some idiosyncrasy; but listening to these three performances I could find nothing but satisfaction. The opening Oberon Overture, by the arch-Dresdener Weber, is so enchanting that one only wishes the whole opera lived up to its level, and
Carefully balanced: Semyon Bychkov pays attention to detail
Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine website at www.classical-music.com
got performed. Beethoven’s Violin Concerto is interesting because the basic sound of the Staatskapelle is warm and rich, while that of the soloist Frank Peter Zimmermann is lean, so that the interplay between them is more complex than it would normally be. It’s a long time since I listened to Brahms’s First Symphony, but this vigorous and exciting account enthused me anew. This must have been a heartening occasion, and this set is yet another reason to be grateful to Profil Hänssler’s Staatskapelle Dresden Edition, which now runs to 40 releases. Michael Tanner PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
David Christophe Colomb; Symphony No. 3; Piano Trio No. 1, etc Chantal Santon-Jeffrey (soprano), Julien Behr (tenor), Josef Wagner (baritone), Jean-Marie Winling (narrator), Jonas Vitaud (piano), Duo Contraste, Flemish Radio Choir, Brussels Philharmonic/ Hervé Niquet; Les Siècles/FrançoisXavier Roth Ediciones singulares ES 1028 234:35 mins (3 discs)
The liner notes ask us to appreciate the ‘sparkling and varied colours’ of David’s music for their own sake and not ‘to measure that glow BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Orchestral Reviews against that of his contemporaries, such as Berlioz, Auber, Gounod, Meyerbeer and the young Bizet’. This is easier said than done. No doubt, in his own time David’s music was important for making popular the exotic Eastern and Middle Eastern sounds that were to figure so largely in French music from the 1840s on, most notably through his first odesymphonie Le désert, premiered in 1844. In that work, and in the opera Herculanum (which I reviewed in the Christmas 2015 issue), there is a freshness and a considerable command of the orchestra which is enjoyable to hear. In his second ode-symphonie, Columbus does not inspire him to the same extent and, shorn of any orchestral garb, his vocal and piano music and E flat Trio really don’t amount to much. Good tunes are wanting, and much of the music strikes me as composing by numbers, using a limited harmonic vocabulary. This is broached only once, in an extraordinary passage at the end of the first movement of the Third
Symphony, but as it has no links with the rest of the movement it fails to convince. Quite likely Columbus was not a man much enamoured of nuances, but for Josef Wagner in the title role to limit his exploration of dynamics to the patch between mezzo forte and forte becomes wearing over time. Roger Nichols PERFORMANCE ★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Debussy Jeux; Khamma; La boîte à joujoux Singapore Symphony Orchestra/ Lan Shui BIS BIS-2162 (hybrid CD/SACD) 75:18 mins
This CD gathers the trio of diverse ballet projects that dominated, plagued even, Debussy’s life from around 1911 until his death in 1918. While other pieces, notably Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune, became associated with ballet, these are the only works conceived
Reissues Reviewed by Michael Tanner Bruckner Symphony No. 3 Wagner Tristan und Isolde – Prelude & Liebestod, etc Hans Knappertsbusch was an unregenerate inauthenticist in Bruckner, but this 1950s recording of the ‘Wagner’ Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic is nonetheless impressive in this SACD remastering. In the Wagner opera excerpts, Flagstad’s singing of Kundry is maturely lovely, Nilsson cold in the Liebestod. Praga Digitals PRD 350 140 ★★★★ Bruckner Symphony No. 5 I assumed that Philippe Herreweghe would give a lightweight account, with the Orchestre des Champs Elysées, of this huge symphony. It is less weighty than usual but still impressive and lacks only the last ounce of grandeur. Harmonia Mundi HMA 1902011 ★★★★ Wagner • Weber • Wolf Orchestral works This useful pair of discs, conducted by Horst Stein in the 1970s, has L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Wolf’s Penthesilea and a charming suite from his opera Der Corregidor; delightful Weber, and a routine selection of Wagner excerpts routinely played by the Vienna Phil. Eloquence 482 5207 ★★★★ Wagner Overtures and Preludes While the Dresden Staatskapelle is as always noble, Hiroshi Wakasugi shows no special insights into these pieces, so it’s hard to see why this stock selection of Wagner orchestral pieces from the 1980s was reissued. Berlin Classics 0300923BC ★★★
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for dance from the outset. After endless disputes, and ill-health, Debussy asked Koechlin to finish the orchestration for the Egyptianthemed Khamma. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra under Lan Shui play this all-too-rarely heard work with the assurance of a repertoire piece. Jeux was also not without its bumps, but Diaghilev knew how to shepherd a ballet to the stage and the result is an undoubted musical masterpiece. Even more than Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Jeux tends to be approached as an abstract work, but knowledge of the ballet itself is revelatory and Shui’s otherwise exemplary performance does not always convey its flirtatious whimsicality. Nonetheless, he brings out a remarkable level of detail in the filigree textures of this luminescent score, despite the otherwise wonderful recorded sound occasionally having a slight woolliness. As with his other child-oriented projects, Debussy approached La boîte à joujoux with tremendous enthusiasm, not quite completing the orchestration before his death. It is an impishly playful work, with periodic moments of profundity though, more so than Jeux or Khamma, a detailed synopsis would be beneficial. Shui and his Singaporeans delight in the fun of this rollicking score, the magical Epilogue magnificently rounding off a splendid disc. Christopher Dingle PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Mahler Symphony No. 5 Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mariss Jansons BR Klassik 900150 73:30 mins
If you’re going to release a recording of a veteran conductor in yet more Mahler live in concert, make sure he has something new to say. The 86-year-old Bernard Haitink, it seems, absolutely did in his latest interpretation of the Third Symphony; Mariss Jansons seems to have got a bit stuck. He does, of course, have the same magnificent orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony, to help him out in what is likewise a live performance; from the first hefty trumpet solo this is assured, top-notch playing,
with some cheeky yet luminous woodwind solos and ideal centralEuropean violins. But it all moves rather stiffly and deliberately, which is a drawback in a lumbering second movement crowned by an overdeliberate emergence of the chorale. That’s over-signposted, too, towards the end of the finale: don’t slow down until you’ve actually got there! The scherzo suffers most from a stilted, inflexible style at odds with its lopsided, waltz-gone-crazy phrasing; only the twilight zone in the middle really catches the imagination, with some magical lower colours and amusing guitarlike pizzicatos. On the other hand the Adagietto is ideal: inward, singing string playing and exactly the right pace for what the movement really is – an unaffected but impassioned song without words. Unfortunately that’s not enough to save this from being a notch below the best Mahler Fives in interpretative terms – something altogether more volatile would be necessary. The rather forward recording, though brilliant, tends to overdo things, too. David Nice PERFORMANCE ★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Mahler Symphony No. 5 Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä BIS BIS-2226 (hybrid CD/SACD) 75:30 mins
If it’s true that much can be told about a Mahler 5 from the way the trumpeter tackles the opening fanfare, then the signal of intent at the beginning of what’s planned as a welcome complete cycle from Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesotans holds good: rhythmically very taut, clean and just a little unusual. That’s true of everything that follows, aided by superb clarity both from Vänskä the master texturer and a dynamically wide-ranging, truthful BIS recording (you strain to hear the pianissimos, and why not?). The conductor holds focus in what can sometimes be a turgid sequel to the opening funeral march; the scherzo flies, and even when there’s idiosyncrasy – as in the marked slowing before the horn blasts ushering in a paler cast of thought – it works for me. The coda of this central ‘world without gravity’, as Mahler called it, sounds magnificent.
‘Superb clarity’: Osmo Vänskä’s Mahler raises expectations
Serebrier conducts Granados Granados: Danzas españolas Nos 2 & 5; Pequeña romanza; El Himno de los Muertos; Goyescas – Intermezzo; Albéniz: Tango, Op. 165/2; Chapí: El rey que rabió – ‘Nocturno’; Morera: Desolació; Mallorca, Op. 202; Toldrà: Vistas al Mar – ‘Nocturno’; De Grignon: Lento expresivo; Malats: Impresiones de España – ‘Serenata española’; Monasterio: Andante religioso; Andantino expresivo; Tárrega: Recuerdos de la Alhambra Concerto Málaga/José Serebrier
Somm SOMMCD 0171 62:21 mins
This amiable disc celebrates the 150th anniversary of Granados’s birth by placing five of his pieces in the context of his Spanish (mostly Catalan) contemporaries. The
william christie paul agnew © Oscar Ortega
result is a fascinating exploration of some of the highways and byways of his musical context played with passion and melancholic charm as appropriate by the dozen strings of the Concerto Málaga. The works by the better-known composers are mostly arrangements, but all sound thoroughly idiomatic, Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra being especially enchanting. The Granados pieces are well chosen, though spreading them across the disc would have highlighted some striking relationships. Crucially, they convey something of the breadth of aesthetic, the Pequeña romanza and El Himno de los Muertos confirming how lazy it is to label Granados a Spanish nationalist. Some of the pieces bob along insouciantly, such as the beguiling Serenata española by Malats or Albéniz’s nonchalant Tango. There is a preponderance, though, of doleful beauty, typified by the wistful reflections of Toldrà’s Nocturno or the more uplifting and utterly exquisite piece of the same name by Chapí. The Andante religioso and Andantino expresivo by Monasterio are both attractive, as is De Grignon’s Lento expresivo, but one or two more lively pieces would be welcome. Morera’s Desolacióó has a bit of bite, but a little more fiesta alongside the siesta would turn a thoroughly engaging disc into an essential one. Christopher Dingle PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Some listeners may well object to the Adagietto becoming an Adagio (12 and a half minutes to the golden mean, handed down from Mahler via Willem Mengelberg, of around eight). Still, the suspensions at the heart of the lovesong still have a special kind of magic. And the finale is just perfect: not a lazy phrase in all that welter, an emphatic trumping of all that’s gone before as the chorale blazes out in full might and a thrilling final rush. David Nice PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Un jardin à l’italienne
Le Jardin des voix#2 AIRS, CANTATES & MADRIGAUX
Les Arts Florissants The six young singers of the Academy of Le Jardin des Voix, selected from several hundred candidates, oﬀer us a musical journey through some of the ﬁnest pieces in the Italian repertory, from a Banchieri madrigal to Haydn’s Orlando paladino. Thanks to an outstanding training programme and the musical values transmitted by William Christie and Paul Agnew, here is a chance to discover both some splendid vocal gems and a group of new performers who honour them with talent, grace and humour. Sheer delight!
Concerto CONCERTO CHOICE
The art of sorrow and joy in Strauss David Nice admires the consummate artistry of oboist Alexei Ogrintchouk Appropriately, the cadenzas lend themselves to a meatier spotlight. Something of the focus in string R Strauss phrases is diffused in the main Concertgebouw Hall – this is a work Oboe Concerto*; Serenade for a chamber auditorium – but the in E flat for Winds, Op. 7; engineers’ handling of Amsterdam’s Sonatina No. 2 in E flat Singelkirk acoustics for the two other (Fröhliche Werkstatt) *Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/ works is impeccable. Andris Nelsons; Winds of the Indeed, just as I’d adjusted my Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/ views on the 16-piece E-flat Sonatina Alexei Ogrintchouk (oboe) of 1944-45 to embrace the passing BIS BIS-2163 (hybrid CD/SACD) 74:12 mins profundities the Aldeburgh Wind Ensemble revealed What a subtle and fascinating artist Nuance is matched in their recent Linn recording, along is oboist Alexei to phrasing of comes another of Ogrintchouk – a impressive breadth exactly the same team player as well subtle ilk. The as a born soloist, clarinet family here, too, graces the whose ideas on the Strauss Wind first-movement development with Serenade and Second Sonatina a sublime wind-down, and lends are as distinctive in their supple limpid beauty to the trio sections of tempo-changes as Andris Nelson’s the middle movements. Ogrintchouk contrasts-writ-large (but never too is here in the ensemble, but Strauss large) in the Oboe Concerto. Nuance seems less interested in his oboes is of the essence here, matched to than in the clarinets and flutes. And phrasing of impressive breadth, it’s all of a piece, the sorrow and the with circular breathing presumably joy, held in gorgeous balance in the involved in the soloist’s first finale before happiness wins the day. uninterrupted 50-plus bars of the PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ Concerto as well as the pure arches RECORDING ★★★★ of its heavenly slow movement.
CPE Bach • Mozart • Boccherini • Haydn Haydn: Cello Concertos Nos 1 & 2; CPE Bach: Cello Concerto No. 3; Boccherini: Cello Concerto No. 7; Mozart: ‘Geme la tortorella’ Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Steven Isserlis (cello) Hyperion CDA68162 77:47 mins
It’s nearly twenty years since Steven Isserlis’s still fresh-sounding accounts of Haydn’s Cello Concertos with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Roger Norrington were recorded. This new set has the advantages of CPE Bach’s striking A major Concerto, Bremen’s
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excellent Kammerphilharmonie and superb recorded sound, darker in colour than the bright-ringing 1998 version. His interpretations, graceful and finely-etched before, now have a more rugged depth, and the new variants on his own cadenzas speak of experience. In the first Moderato of Haydn’s C major he’s more boldly exuberant, yet more deftly selfeffacing in the Adagio compared with his surprising, exploratory earlier version. As Isserlis points out, the D major Second Concerto reflects its dedicatee Anton Kraft’s technique in the highest registers. Here passagework is wonderfully supple, always shaped by his inimitable
Uninterrupted bliss: Alexei Ogrintchouk revels in Strauss’s long melodies
Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine website at www.classical-music.com
expressive urgency. There’s sufficient bite and sinew from both Isserlis and the DK players to the swinging Rondo not to let it pall. His own arrangement of Mozart’s heavenly ‘Geme la tortorella’ from La finta giardiniera, is a masterclass in radiant, unshowy legato. Their take on CPE Bach’s A major Concerto makes an interesting comparison with the recent awardwinning recording by Nicolas Altstaedt and Arcangelo. The latter offer a lower pitch, swifter fast movements, a slower Adagio with more daring glissandos and highly characterful interplay between violins and solo cello. While Isserlis’s refined but lively reading places CPE Bach nearer to his
Classical successors, the mercurial Altstaedt’s belongs in a Baroque world of extremity. Helen Wallace PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Chisholm Violin Concerto; From the True Edge of the Great World – Preludes 1, 8 & 9; Dance Suite* Matthew Trusler (violin), *Danny Driver (piano); BBC Scottish Symphony Orch/Martyn Brabbins Hyperion CDA 68208 62:32 mins
Erik Chisholm was a mildly modernist Scottish composer who found, in Cape Town in
Concerto Reviews South Africa, a teaching position that also gave due scope to his remarkable talents as a conductor and pianist. Wartime service in India and encounters with the musical tradition there influenced Chisholm’s idiom in relation to structure as well as style. The processing of Indian rāg material through a Bartók-to-Prokofiev filter generates powerfully written, but rather anonymous results in much of the four-movement Violin Concerto (1950). Much of the most striking music is in the slow ‘Aria in modo Sohani’, with its hauntingly sustained opening for solo violin, solo flute and low pizzicato strings. The Dance Suite, premiered in 1933 by Chisholm himself, shows what a fine pianist he must have been; again by far the most memorable movement here is the slow ‘Piobaireachd’ (pibroch), whose interplay between piano and orchestra impressively reworks an idiom supposedly unique to the highland bagpipe. Perhaps the outstanding listening experience, however, occurs in From the True Edge of the Great World – Chisholm’s remarkable orchestral arrangements of three of his set of 24 piano preludes, each based on a traditional Scottish tune. The approach here is free fantasy rather than straight transcription; and the results, in ‘Ossianic Lay’ especially, show a truly rare musical imagination at work, with a Bax-like flair for mesmerising orchestral effects. All three works are graced with excellent performances and recordings, with Matthew Trusler and Danny Driver each delivering solo playing of panache. Malcolm Hayes PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
album features two such concertos, with Hardenberger joined by fellow Swedes in the Gothenburg Symphony, and Finnish conductor John Storgårds. Together they deliver exceptional performances of Brett Dean’s Dramatis Personae (2013) and Luca Francesconi’s Hard Pace (2007). Hamlet is one of several flawed heroes to have inspired Dramatis Personae, composed alongside Dean’s recently acclaimed opera on Shakespeare’s play. Others include the mythic Lemminkäinen – while Charlie Chaplin is ‘The Accidental Revolutionary’ of the Ives-like third movement, tripping over its brassy, blaring marches. The trumpet itself is the true protagonist, doubling herald as Hardenberger gives uncannily voice-like expression to Dean’s majestically witty score. Before its final, rowdy and ironic absorption by the collective, the trumpet suffers defeat by the orchestra; the first movement, ‘Fall of a Superhero’, charts its demise in downward swoops and wounded bird flutterings which give way to a lament-filled second movement, ‘Soliloquy’. Francesconi’s Hard Pace is far more than just that, and the recording captures its thrillingly subtle range of dynamic and colour – including electronics. The title predominantly describes ‘a difficult trek – the story of a journey,’ with climactic surging and ghostly echoes which captivate the senses. Most bewitching is the soulfulness of Hardenberger’s response as Francesconi pays poetic tribute to that real-life hero of the trumpet and more, Miles Davis. Steph Power PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Dean • Francesconi
Karłowicz • Szymanowski
Dean: Dramatis Personae; Francesconi: Hard Pace
Szymanowski: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Karłowicz: Violin Concerto
Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet); Gothenburg Symphony/ John Storgårds
Tasmin Little (violin); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner
BIS-2067 (CD/SACD hybrid) 58:30 mins
Chandos CHSA 5185 (hybrid CD/SACD) 73:18 mins
There is no finer advocate of contemporary trumpet music than Håkan Hardenberger, whose astonishing prowess on the instrument has invigorated its solo appeal – including for composers, thanks to his frequent commissioning of new works. This
Whether viewed as a continuation of Edward Gardner’s Szymanowski series for Chandos, or a postscript to the label’s own Karłowicz recordings, this programme makes undeniable sense. All three works were written in the space of around 30 years, and
Reissues Reviewed by Claire Jackson Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 Ravel Piano Concerto for the Left Hand Pianists Ellen Ballon and Jacqueline Blancard are part of a remarkable – but lesser-known – group of musicians who rose to prominence early in the 20th century. Both featured recordings were made when the soloists were well established (Chopin, 1950; Ravel, 1949) and are worthy of greater attention. Eloquence 482 5193; 46:15 mins ★★★★ Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3 Khachaturian Piano Concerto The second album of Decca reissues features Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha at the height of her powers in the 1970s; the Khachaturian concerto is notable for its delicious inclusion of the flexatone. Eloquence 482 0725; 81:48 mins ★★★ Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2 Grieg Lyric Pieces Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies; Polonaise No. 2 Nostalgia is a heady temptation, but newly released historic recordings such as Nelson Freire’s brilliant concert performance of Saint-Saëns’s Second Concerto invoke a certain longing. Audite 95.742; 55:14 mins ★★★★ Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Theme and Variations Ditto Emil Gilels’s sumptuous – yet very fuzzy (the remastering is based on live radio recordings) – Tchaikovsky concertos. Praga PRD 250388; 76:37 mins ★★★
their composers shared a love of the Tatra Mountains. Yet beyond that there is a slight feeling of congestion: it might have been better to substitute one of the Szymanowskis for either of Wieniawski’s concertos, or to include Lutosławski, thus giving a wider picture of Poland’s contribution to the genre of the violin concerto. No CD, so far as I know, combines all these composers. For all her versatility, Tasmin Little is perhaps not equally suited to both the Szymanowskis, which reveal different facets of the composer. In the Concerto No. 1, the work that sums up his heady Mediterranean style, she doesn’t initially let herself go. Yet working closely with Edward Gardner and the BBC SO, eventually she enters the music’s seductive web, especially from the arrival of the slowly rocking harmonics, one of the work’s most magical moments. The Concerto No. 2, a late work which shows the composer abandoning such overt hedonism for the pantheistic call of the mountains,
has a more unbridled directness, which Little seizes gratefully. The Karłowicz, though not a masterpiece to match the contemporaneous Sibelius and Elgar concertos, nor indeed on the level the composer himself achieved a little later in his career cut tragically short by a Tatra avalanche, is nevertheless invigorating in such a fine performance as this. John Allison PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor; The Hebrides; Symphony No. 5 (Reformation) Isabelle Faust (violin); Freiburger Barockorchester/ Pablo Heras-Casado Harmonia Mundi HMM 902325 61:39 mins
For Joachim, Mendelssohn’s was ‘the most intimate’ of all the great German violin concertos, BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Concerto Reviews and intimacy is what Isabelle Faust and Freiburg Baroque offer here. That bewitching opening is spun on a silver thread so fine you strain to hear it, but the guttural power that follows reveals Faust’s expressive range. Some may find her use of portamento a challenge (the result of research into contemporary marked scores, and Joachim’s 1905 Violinschule). In the Andante, particularly, there’s a sourness to her subtle sliding between notes, but her elastic rubato compels. She finds insouciant comedy in the Allegro, playing both Puck and Ariel, matched by Freiburg’s quick-witted winds. Faust is the Wise Child of the violin world, combining the innocent exuberance of a prodigy with a commanding intellectual depth that carries all before it. If the Reformation is harder to love than its predecessors (and decisively rejected by its composer), it’s in part due to the heavy piety that clings to its Lutheran programme. Heras-Casado strips off its Sunday best: all is fiery warmth and immediacy, with brindled horns and bristlingly articulate strings; they even manage a ‘Dresden Amen’ that isn’t unbearably portentous, and their Allegro vivace is a miracle of light and colour. I missed some weight in a wistful, but rather naked Andante, but it’s a nakedness that makes the transition into ‘Ein feste burg’ so effective. Mendelssohn’s occasionally gawky tribute to Bach has a rustic, town-band feel here, with dry timpani and nasal winds, but it’s a joyously heartfelt finale. A brilliantly storm-tossed Hebrides is, perhaps, the highlight of the disc. Helen Wallace PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Mozart Piano Concertos, Vol. 2: No. 14 in E flat; No. 19 in F; Divertimentos, K 136 & 138 Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano), Manchester Camerata/ Gábor Takács-Nagy Chandos CHAN 10958 69:34 mins
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and the Manchester Camerata under Gábor TakácsNagy have here designed a programme similar to their first volume: two concertos from 1784, that annus mirabilis of Mozart keyboard-concerto production, interspersed with divertimentos from 12 years earlier. One might have preferred the middle space occupied by a third concerto, above all because in the two on offer Bavouzet reveals himself a Mozartian every bit as mercurially imaginative and technically audacious as he already has been in the piano music of Haydn. But the lighter charms of the string pieces, especially those of the D major, offer appealing contrast, the more so given the combination of strength and delicacy in playing and interpretation. The collaborative vigour of the concerto readings proves still more attractive. Particularly in the finales, buoyancy and moments of relaxation are balanced in a way that brought smiles of pleasure to this listener’s face. The F major Concerto, one of Mozart’s most purely delightful, seems to me the disc’s high point: tempos expertly chosen (the second movement a true Allegretto), the underlying boldness and subtlety of structural design vibrantly communicated.
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (b1962) Bavouzet studied piano at the Paris Conservattoire underr Pierre Sancan (whose pupils include Michel Bééroff and Jean-Philippe Collard). He impressed Georg Soolti when they met in 1995, and the Hungarian-boorn conductor invited him to perform Bartók’s Pianno Concerto No. 3, but died before that plan could be realised. Bavouzet has since made criticallyy acclaimed recordings of all Bartók’s concertoss, Joseph Haydn’s complete piano sonatas, and Debussy’s complete piano works of which Vol. 3 won a 2009 BBC Music Magazine Award.
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For my taste the more daringly original K449 doesn’t quite attain the same level of completeness: the middle movement feels slightly slower and more laboured than the Andantino marking suggests it should. Still, the CD as a whole offers Mozart music-making of altogether superior quality. Max Loppert PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Ullmann Piano Concerto, Op. 25; Piano Sonata No. 7; Variations and Double Fugue, Op. 3a Moritz Ernst (piano); Dortmund Philharmonic/Gabriel Feltz Capriccio C5294 56:32 mins
Viktor Ullmann’s Piano Concerto was composed in Prague 1939 during the dark days of the German occupation. It is curiously proportioned with the opening Allegro con fuoco and Andante tranquillo lasting twice as long as the two pithy fast movements that follow. Perhaps the frenzied energy of that first movement and the almost Bartókian percussiveness of the final two reflect Ullmann’s underlying anxiety at the external political situation. Yet this is counteracted by the serenity and sensuality of the Andante tranquillo with its ravishing almost French orchestral timbres. Moritz Ernst makes the best possible case for wider exposure of this work, and the orchestral playing of the Dortmund Philharmonic under Gabriel Feltz is sharp and incisive. By the time Ullmann composed his Piano Sonata No. 7 in 1944, he had been incarcerated in Terezín for two years, and was soon to be sent to Auschwitz. The bright and breezy first movement hardly betrays the desper d p rate circumstances in which he was living, though one may detect d a strong element of defiance in the final f movement, a set of Variati V ions on a Hebrew Song which in the concluding c Fugue ingeniously combin c nes the Hebrew melody with a Proteestant chorale and the Hussite melodyy ‘You warriors of God’ previou usly used by Smetana and Dvořák D oř k. Once again, Ernst presents author a itative accounts of the Sonataa and the earlier Schoenberg Variati Va ations. Erik Levi PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECO ORDING ★★★★
Edinburgh 1742 Barsanti: Concerto grosso Nos 1-5; A Collection of Old Scots Tunes; Handel: Sta nell’Ircana pietrosa tana; Concerto for French horns in F Emilie Renard (mezzo-soprano), Alec Franck-Gemmill, James Walters (horn), Alan Emslie (timpani); Ensemble Marsyas/Peter Whelan Linn CKD 567 67:36 mins
Handel’s Six French Horn Songs in Seven Parts? After hearing this recording, I wager you’ll lament the loss of that manuscript. For Ensemble Marsyas, the archives of the Edinburgh Musical Society (1728-1797) that noted this lost repertoire certainly provide a fruitful and fascinating lens into 18th-century Scottish taste. Under the incisive direction of Peter Whelan, the group is on ebullient form as it explores the vogue for the French horn in Scotland, though works by Handel and Edinburgh-based Italian, Francesco Barsanti. Handel’s Water Music features a good deal here. His Concerto for Two French Horns in F is an adaptation of the Allegro – Alla Hornpipe, brilliantly and effortlessly delivered by Alec Frank-Gemmill and Joseph Walters. The Water Music also indirectly steers the vim and vigour of the horn and timpani concertino in Barsanti’s five Op. 3 Italian-style concerti grossi. The first concertos to be published in Scotland by the well-travelled and unjustly-neglected Barsanti, they are the mainstay of the programme. Ensemble Marsyas afford all due splendour to ravishing largos, martial pomp to rousing allegros, and high-spirited dance steps to Menuets as Barsanti emerges as a worthy rival to Handel’s festive verve. But his varied output is also beautifully captured in four Old Scots Tunes: Colin Scobie’s fiddle perfectly fusing the soul and lilt of these traditional melodies with an 18th-century aesthetic. In a fleeting snapshot of the opera house beloved of both composers, mezzo-soprano Emilie Renard’s fiery performance of Handel’s aria ‘Sta nell’Ircana’ from Alcina completes an assured disc of horn-infused Baroque finery. Hannah French PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Opera OPERA CHOICE
Orpheus as intimate drama Jan Smaczny welcomes this revival of Charpentier’s pastoral opera Charpentier. The overture passes by rather too quickly, though, and the opening scenes of pastoral M-A Charpentier indulgence which, while charming, do not generate much dramatic La descente d’Orphée Robert Getchell, Caroline Weynants, heat until the dolorous snake bite; Nicolas Brooymans; Ensemble even then, Orphée’s reaction is Correspondances/Sébastien Daucé more dignified than impassioned. Harmonia Mundi HMM 902279 54:52 mins Once he descends to Hades there is considerably more musical fibre. With Lully’s ruthless domination The string textures become richer, of large-scale opera in France, the characterisation, in particular Charpentier had to confine his Pluton (superbly dramatic abilities sung by Nicolas to smaller works. Robert Getchell is Brooymans), more His numerous an appropriately boldly drawn and pastoral comedies sweet-voiced Orphée Orphée’s pleas to show a sure hand be reunited with even if they rarely Eurydice are genuinely moving. gave opportunity to explore great Robert Getchell is an appropriately depths. La descente d’Orphée presents sweet-voiced Orphée and Caroline the familiar tale of Orpheus’s attempt Weynants a delightful Eurydice to retrieve his beloved Eurydice from although neither make very much the underworld. Though the opera of the admittedly rather slender is almost certainly unfinished – it dramatic opportunities offered ends with the inhabitants of Hades lamenting the departure of the sweet- by their roles. The recorded sound captures faithfully this small-scale voiced Orpheus – it is an attractive ensemble performance that is a nearpiece with much ravishing music. ideal realisation of this delightful, if In this unfailingly beautiful modest, entertainment. performance, Ensemble PERFORMANCE ★★★★ Correspondances reflects the RECORDING ★★★★★ relatively modest forces available to
Gounod Faust (DVD) Piotr Beczala, Ildar Abdrazakov, Maria Agresta; Philharmonia Chor Vienna; Vienna Philharmonic/Alejo Pérez; dir. Reinhard von der Thannen (Salzburg, 2016)
EuroArts DVD: 8024297038; Blu-ray: 8024297034 180 mins
The Vienna Phiharmonic treats Gounod’s smooth lines and rich harmonies with the love and respect they deserve – none of which bears any apparent relation with what is happening onstage. Of course, the days are long gone
when an opera production could simply tell the story as librettist and composer intended. Nowadays every production has to have a ‘concept’. In this Salzburg Festival staging the concept is spelt out, literally, at the start, with the word ‘RIEN’ firmly placed centre stage. This is taken from Faust’s opening monologue in which he cries out, ‘I see nothing, I know nothing, nothing, nothing!’ But as a motto for the whole opera it leaves a lot to be desired, and its reappearance at the very end denies the work’s Christian claim that repentance, in this case Marguerite’s, can lead to forgiveness. Realism is applied inconsistently. Marguerite is allowed flowers, and even to pick off petals as she sings,
Sensitive role: Robert Getchell movingly pleads for Eurydice’s life
Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine website at www.classical-music.com
‘He loves me, he loves me not.’ But a casket, jewels, a hand mirror for her Mirror Aria? No way. There is a real bed, much used, but the house and church are miniaturised copies on wheels, carted to and fro. Marguerite is terrified by Mephistopheles ‘lurking in the shadows’ even as he appears centre stage, garishly illuminated like everybody else. Maria Agresta has problems portraying an ingénue and, like most of the cast, coping with the French language, and the performances, Mephistopheles apart, lack style or true character. Still, the Salzburg audience appears to have loved it. Roger Nichols PERFORMANCE ★★ PICTURE & SOUND ★★★★
Wagner Lohengrin (DVD) Piotr Beczala, Anna Netrebko, Evelyn Herlitzius, Georg Zeppenfeld, Tomasz Konieczny, Derek Welton; Sachsischer Staatsopernchor; Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann; dir. Christine Mielitz (Dresden, 2016) DG 073 5319 215 mins (2 discs)
This production, including Anna Netrebko’s first Wagner role, aroused considerable expectations, but it isn’t exactly the Holy Grail. Christian Thielemann’s tempo in the prologue recalls the jibe BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Opera Reviews Reissues Reviewed by Erik Levi Bartók Bluebeard’s Castle This early 1950s release sounds amazingly vivid. Walter Susskind delivers a powerfully committed interpretation, and is well served by the New Symphony Orchestra’s playing and fine soloists. Praga Digitals PRD 250 349; 81:55 mins ★★★★★ Ligeti Le grand macabre Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen inspires a similarly high level of adrenalin in Ligeti’s opera with the Philharmonia, performed in English and captured in crystal clear sound. A pity that no libretto is provided. Sony S2K 62312; 102:27 mins ★★★★★ Rachmaninov Aleko Brilliant, if somewhat forwardly-placed singing from bass Evgeni Nesterenko and febrile conducting from Dmitri Kitajenko of his USSR forces bring Rachmaninov’s youthful and melodic score from 1892 to life. Alto ALC 1342; 59:14 mins ★★★★ Krása Brundibár A charming, humorous and poignant reconstruction of the version the composer made for prisoners in Theresienstadt is captivatingly performed by schoolchildren from Freiburg. Christophorus CHE 0211-2; 43:53 mins ★★★★
about Wagner’s music keeping time with a fat Kapellmeister’s breathing. He gathers momentum as the drama develops, and points some details effectively, but never generates the proper excitement in passages like the Grail revelation and Lohengrin’s arrival, or – despite the luminous Dresden playing – the mystical atmosphere of classic recordings like Kempe’s and Kubelík’s. Nor is Christine Mielitz’s 1983 staging very impressive, older than the rebuilt Semperoper. In those East German days, the vaguely 19th-century kaiserlich-undköniglich costumes and functional fixed set were perhaps meant to look sinister but now they’re somewhat prosaic – except the vast petrified pterodactyl of a swan which blights Lohengrin’s entrance. Piotr Beczala looks well, his basically lyrical tenor assumes adequate power and ring, but he never achieves the vital otherworldly aura of great Swan-Knights like Sándor Kónya and Plácido Domingo. Georg Zeppenfeld’s basso cantante King Henry looks and sounds noble but slightly underpowered, Derek Welton’s Herald likewise. The dark side is stronger, Evelyn Herlitzius’s experienced if squally Ortrud and Tomasz Konieczny’s blustery but
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compelling Telramund. Netrebko, no ingénue now, sings a passionate, even frantic heroine, but with unwieldy German, missing the flow of Elsa’s lines. Her voice has filled out since Mariinsky days, still creamily Italianate but without much ‘float’, and occasional hints of strain. Altogether this isn’t a bad performance, and Netrebko fans will snap it up. But there are other more involving DVD Lohengrins – notably Kent Nagano’s (on Decca), with Jonas Kaufmann, and Claudio Abbado’s (on Arthaus), with Domingo and Cheryl Studer, if you can bear stagings weirdly deconstructed or dourly traditional, respectively. Michael Scott Rohan PERFORMANCE ★★★★ PICTURE & SOUND ★★★★
Angela Gheorghiu Eternamente – The Verismo Album: Arias by Mascagni, Donaudy, Puccini, Boito, Giordano, Leoncavallo, Mascheroni, Ponchielli and Refice Angela Gheorghiu (soprano), Joseph Calleja (tenor), Richard Novak (bass); Prague Philharmonic Choir, PKF - Prague Philharmonia/ Emmanuel Villaume Warner 9029578024 60:02 mins
It’s been six years, apparently, since Angela Gheorghiu’s last studio recording and the Romanian diva is now in her early 50s. While a lot of the distinctive vocal qualities that have made her an international star are still in evidence, at times there’s a noticeable loss of lustre in her singing compared with past achievements. In the opening Easter Hymn from Cavalleria rusticana, for instance, the voice remains vibrant and there’s the odd lovely moment of refined tone, but her soprano is neither as steady nor as substantial as of yore. Duetting with the excellent Joseph Calleja in the same opera, there are further signs of vocal wear and tear and her intonation is patchy. Yet she brings out the lightness and humour of an aria from Leoncavallo’s La bohème and both she and Calleja are at their best in the stirring final duet from Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. In a chunk from Boito’s Mefistofele, though, the brief addition to their duo of veteran bass Richard Novák to sing the title role seems bizarre. Though this kind of repertoire has suited Gheorghiu well over the years, here the overall impression is worryingly uneven. Emmanuel Villaume and the Prague Philharmonia provide discreet accompaniments. George Hall PERFORMANCE ★★★ RECORDING ★★★
Joyce El-Khoury Écho: arias by Donizetti, Meyerbeer, Weber, Berlioz, Rossini, Halévy Joyce El-Khoury (soprano); The Hallé/Carlo Rizzi Opera Rara ORR 252 79:15 mins
Who can know what the soprano Julie Dorus-Gras sounded like in the theatre of the 1830s and ’40s. At least we know the roles she sang, and one of the most appealing things about Joyce El-Khoury’s Écho is to hear Dorus-Gras’s often forgotten repertoire. There are a pair of arias from Meyerbeer’s Robert Le Diable, an opera which laid out the ground rules for Parisian Grand opera, an elegant number from La juive and a rarity from Hérold’s Le pré aux clercs with a melody that would charm birds from the trees and sung with
sinuous elegance by El-Khoury. Indeed El-Khoury is never less than stylish with precisely the vocal agility that this repertoire requires. So there’s nimble and accurate coloratura and a full complement of brightly burnished top notes. The final bars of ‘Regnava nel silenzio’, Donizetti’s Act I cavatina for Lucia di Lammermoor, are resplendent. And the vocal fireworks at the top of the voice are supported by a velvety middle range. There’s characterisation too: Lucia is emotionally unstable from her first phrase. El-Khoury is splendidly supported by The Hallé on their very best behaviour for Carlo Rizzi. Christopher Cook PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Michael Spyres Espoir: Arias by Rossini, Donizetti, Halévy, Verdi, Auber and Berlioz Michael Spyres (tenor); The Hallé/ Carlo Rizzi Opera Rara ORR 251 78:25 mins
If Joyce El-Khoury honours Julie Dorus-Gras on her new CD (reviewed above), then Michael Spyres salutes the French tenor Gilbert Duprez, her regular stage partner in the 1830 and ’40s. Two sides of the same musical coin, so if you’ve a deep pocket then you should treat yourself to both of these admirable releases from Opera Rara. Duprez is credited with having reinvented the tenor voice in the early 19th century by producing top notes from the chest rather than the head. Listening to the music composed for him by a generation of French composers, you can understand the excitement he caused in long forgotten operas like Guido et Ginevra – with two numbers by Halévy recorded here for the very first time – and Auber’s Le lac des fées. However, this CD is much more than musical archaeology. Spyres is a magnificent addition to that rare band of bel canto tenors who willingly sacrifice vocal heft for supple phrasing. It’s all there in Edgardo’s last act aria in Lucia di Lammermoor. Fine singing, and all the more so when Spyres partners Joyce El-Khouri in a duet from Halevy’s Guido et Ginevra. Christopher Cook PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Choral & Song CHORAL & SONG CHOICE
Dvořák Stabat Mater
Rapt rediscoveries of English choral gems
Eri Nakamura (soprano), Elisabeth Kulman (mezzo-soprano), Michael Spyres (tenor), Jongmin Park (bass); Prague Philhramonic Choir; Czech Philharmonic/Jiří Bĕlohlávek
Terry Blain delights in hearing choral favourites made new by the superlative Gabrieli Consort
Czech conductor Jiří Bĕlohlávek’s recording – his second of this mighty choral work with this orchestra – now forms a worthy memorial to a master musician lost to us all too soon. Czech music, of course, was one of his specialities both internationally and – as here – in his work with the finest of Czech orchestras, whose chief conductor he was for two periods, the second up to the time of his death. In this collaboration they bring a depth and richness of warm colours to a score still insufficiently appreciated: the longest setting of the text by any major composer, Dvořák’s version remains a major challenge to choir, orchestra and soloists, as well as to the conductor. Partially inspired by the deaths in close succession of Dvořák’s three children, the work was composed in 1876-77 and given its premiere in Prague in 1880: a performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1883 helped establish Dvořák’s popularity in the UK. Unsurprisingly, given the circumstances of its composition and the subject – founded on Mary’s contemplation of her son Jesus on the Cross – sombre colours predominate in a score whose textures are sturdy and whose musical language takes in Czech inflections, the odd moment of plainsong, a funeral march and touches of Italian opera. Bĕlohlávek is the authoritative interpreter leading his forces through the piece with confidence and, crucially, keeping it moving (Dvořák marks no fewer than five of the ten movements Andante con moto). The Czech Philharmonic Choir is tonally grand scale and is consistently fluent throughout the intricacy of the writing, while the quartet of soloists has no weak links. George Hall PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Consummate assurance: the Gabrieli Consort excel in evocative English music
Silence & Music
sensitive singers distil a gripping sense of mysterious nocturnal rustlings. At the recital’s heart is a breath-catching performance of James MacMillan’s Burns setting The Gallant Weaver. Here the Gabrieli’s easeful ability to blend and balance MacMillan’s multiple division of the four voice parts conjures a rapt ethereality as pleasure and plangency mingle musingly together. Gabrielli Consort/Paul McCreesh A different type of virtuosity – Signum SIGCD 490 67:41 mins dashing, cajoling, cackling – turns The Gabrieli sings Jonathan Dove’s Who killed Cock Sometimes the best discoveries Dove’s mini-drama Robin? into an edgy mini-drama in music aren’t pieces that you’ve with virtuosity flecked by gallows humour, with a never heard before, but those you startlingly poignant coda. Warlock’s have, made new by remarkable All the flowers of the spring seeps with an uneasy interpretations. That’s certainly the case with melancholy, while among a clutch of folk settings Stanford’s The Blue Bird, long a staple of the English Grainger’s The Three Ravens is especially haunting. choral repertoire, as sung by the Gabrieli Consort on This is a beautifully constructed programme, sung this new recording. The feeling of partial, hovering with consummate assurance and self-effacing artistry. detachment conductor Paul McCreesh creates between the gently lapping four-part underlay, and PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ the five sopranos gliding ‘across the waters’ in unison, RECORDING ★★★★★ is magical, creating the special frisson intended by Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of Stanford as he translated a fleetingly wonderful scene this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine from nature into music. Something similar happens website at www.classical-music.com in Elgar’s Owls, where McCreesh and his super-
Choral partsongs: Vaughan Williams: Silence and Music; Bushes and Briars; The Winter is gone; The Turtle Dove; Rest; Dove: Who killed Cock Robin?; Elgar: There is sweet music, Op. 53 No. 1; Owls; Grainger: The Three Ravens; Brigg Fair; MacMillan: The Gallant Weaver; Stanford: The Blue Bird; plus works by Howells, Warlock and Britten
Decca 483 1510 83:06 mins (2 discs)
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Isaac In the Time of Lorenzo de’Medici and Maximilian I: Motets – Sustinuimus pacem; Parce, Domine; Sancti spiritus assit nobis gratia; Angeli, Archangeli; Optime Divino date munere pastor ovili, etc. Plus instrumental works, songs, etc La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall
BEN EALOVEGA, GETTY
Alia Vox AVSA 9922 (hybrid CD/SACD) 76:06 mins
One of the less-remarked anniversaries of 2017 is the quincentenary of the death of Heinrich Isaac (c1450-1517), which has yet provided Jordi Savall with the impetus for a handsome tribute. Discs of the church music flourish, and Isaac is often included in Renaissance anthologies; but Savall meshes life and work, sacred and secular, in a richly imagined tapestry that illuminates the end of the Hundred Years War, the rise and fall of the Medicis, the Diet of Worms, and even – since Isaac died in the year Luther published his inflammatory theses – the birth of Protestantism. The last allows two bites at a cherry that is arguably Isaac’s most enduring song: ‘Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen’. It’s first presented with a touching simplicity (though the German could be a little more characterfully articulated), signalling Isaac’s departure from the city in the mid 1480s; and finally emerges (re-texted) as ‘O Welt, ich muss dich lassen’, a Lutheran touchstone enshrined in chorale preludes by JS Bach and Brahms. The large scale motets and Lament for Lorenzo de’Medici impress with the unforced ingenuity of the polyphony (Webern was a huge admirer of the Choralis Constantinus). Yet Isaac speaks even more eloquently in concise examples such as the four-voice motet Sustinuimus pacem, a glowing, mellifluous plea for peace. Bells are sprinkled throughout the disc like gold leaf highlighting letters in a manuscript, while flutey twitterings ensure that the Carnival song ‘Hora e di maggio’ is audibly full of the joys of spring. In all, this is an absorbing window on an absorbing world. Paul Riley PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
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Dark colouring: Alice Coote proves a strong Mahlerian
Mahler Kindertotenlieder; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Rückert-Lieder Alice Coote (mezzo-soprano); Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra/Marc Albrecht PentaTone PTC 5186 576 (hybrid CD/ SACD) 61:35 mins
First stop for these spellbinding song-cycles (in the RückertLieder’s case, song set) with the most hyper-refined of orchestration should usually be a baritone, as Mahler originally intended, and that means in CD terms Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. But a mezzo can bring so many more colours to the expression, and in that respect Alice Coote matches the previously unsurpassable challenge of Janet Baker with John Barbirolli. There’s even a plus: the height, depth and naturalness of the typically superb Pentatone engineering highlight like no analogue recording could the perfect tonal match between the singer and the many vocal woodwind solos with which she has to mesh. Marc Albrecht is clearly a master of support and flexibility, and the sounds he gets the Netherlands Philharmonic to make in the two stormy outbursts (tracks 3 and 14) go beyond anything I’ve ever heard live or on disc. At first Coote sounds like the warmest of sopranos – because she’s conjuring up for us a ‘happy wedding’. But the colour soon
darkens, and remains inward for much of the disc. The exceptions being those two batterings, when the chest-voice comes into fullest play, and ‘Um Mitternacht’, where the most heroic of operatic voices comes into play with superb brass at the end. The other extreme has to be the most inward of all songs, ‘Ich bin der Welt’, and Coote is a match for Baker here. Pretty much the ideal, then, in everything but presentation: no song texts in the booklet, and why only Albrecht on the cover? David Nice PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Monteverdi Vespro della Beata Vergine La Compagnia del Madrigale; Cantica Symphonia; La Pifarescha/ Giuseppe Maletto Glossa GCD 922807 123:04 mins (2 discs)
This year is the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth, but there have been few new recordings of his music. Happily La Compagnia is very experienced in early Baroque music (the group’s Gesualdo recordings have been groundbreaking) and contains some fine singers. For this recording they are joined by 19 voices of the Cantica Symphonia, and so we get a full choral sound for the psalms and Magnificat settings, with the upper parts sung by women rather than boys. There is no attempt to provide plainsongs or the semblance of a liturgical service.
In the large choral items such as Nisi Dominus we are met with a magisterial and uplifting wall of sound, amply supported by a jamboree of instruments from the group La Pifarescha. The solo voiced items are very accomplished, though sometimes (Magnificat II, Deposuit) the middle or lower voices are overwhelmed by the fulsome accompaniments and the warm but echoey acoustic. This recording excludes any vocal decoration not notated by Monteverdi, which leaves some solo sections (‘Nigra sum’) sounding plain. The triple time sections here are performed more slowly than usual which does create a curiously languid affect in the opening ‘Domine ad adiuvandum’ and elsewhere. This is a decent Vespers, but for a liturgical version with fine instrumental playing try Paul McCreesh on Archiv, for a zany, dancing version Jeannette Sorrell on Avie, and for intelligent grammatical declamation of the words, The Orchestra and Choir of the Age of Enlightenment with Robert Howarth on Signum. Anthony Pryer PERFORMANCE ★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Palestrina Choral works, Vol. 7: Song of Songs 19-21; Missa Ave Regina Caelorum, etc The Sixteen/Harry Christophers Coro COR 16155 72:01 mins
This is the seventh volume of works by Palestrina produced by The Sixteen since 2011. Each recording brings his vast output into focus by concentrating on a particular liturgical season or religious theme. Here the subject is pious women – the Virgin, Susanna, St Barbara, and others. Moreover, as with the other volumes we get a rare or unique performance of one of Palestrina’s numerous masses, in this case the Ave Regina Caelorum Mass. As many performers realise, the polished, seamless style of Palestrina’s music is something of a trap. It encourages brisk performances with neutral colouring rather than nuanced understanding. Moreover, the texts of works such as Beata Barbara simply consist of long lists of attributes of a person with neither
Choral & Song Reviews dialogue nor events to shape the musical narrative. Of course, these are experienced and accomplished performers, and they employ devices such as dynamic shading either to reflect the character of a piece (subdued tones in the petition to Beata Maria Magdalenas), or to make a contrast between sections (as in the Mass). That said, even they struggle with the perfunctory anonymity of a piece such as Caput eius. In the dramatic works, such as the wonderful account of the three Mary’s at the tomb (Angelus Domini), or the harrowing story of Susanna and the Elders (Susanna ab improbis), the musical sense is clearer – though a pointed but subtle contrast between the narrative and dialogue sections would help further. As always with The Sixteen we get a warm, confident, and atmospheric sound. Anthony Pryer PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Purcell Royal Welcome Songs for King James II: Chacony in G minor, Z730; When on my sick bed I languish; True Englishmen drink a good health; Ye tuneful Muses; A New Irish tune; God is gone up with a merry noise; A New Scotch tune; Save me, O God; Sound the trumpet, beat the drum The Sixteen/Harry Christophers Coro COR16151 64:02 mins
The Sixteen here embarks on a multidisc journey through Purcell’s Welcome Songs (lavish works written to praise
and entertain sundry English monarchs), lingering en route to explore some of his smaller-scale vocal and instrumental pieces. This first disc couples ‘Ye tuneful Muses, raise your heads’ of 1686 and ‘Sound the Trumpet, beat the drum’ of a year later (not to be confused with the famous duet of similar name from the Ode, Come ye Sons of Art). Both works set aptly sycophantic texts to celebrate the return of King James II and his Court to London after their Summer hols at Windsor Castle. Purcell responds with music of unceasing variety, drama and energy; but – disillusioned as he was with pro-Catholic, autocratic James – one senses more than a dash of sarcasm, too (as Andrew Pinnock elaborates in his informative liner notes). Harry Christophers is in his element here, and though his string ensemble is half the size of Purcell’s Twenty-Four Violins, he coaxes a robust, fullbodied sound from his players. The detailed recording puts the octet of singers up-front, so the words seem to chisel the musical line. The account of ‘Ye tuneful Muses’ is muscular and incisive, with strongly accented rhythms (compare it with The King’s Consort on Hyperion, an altogether more intimate and liquid reading of the piece). In ‘Sound the Trumpet’, the singers highlight Purcell’s tongue-incheek response to the fawning text, with similarly playful exaggerations and mannerisms. In short, these joyful accounts shed light on some surprisingly seldomheard works. Kate Bolton-Porciatti PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-94) Palestrina spent most of his career in Rome, aand his work was largely formed by the Catholic Counter-Reformation, when, in response to the challenge of Protesttantism, the Church tried to purge itself of worldly excessess. Accordingg to the Council of Trent (1545-63), church mussic was to be restored to a pure vocal style, banishing all innstruments apart from the organ from services, and to baan sacred works based on popular songs. Sacred texts were not to alestrina be obscured by over-elaborate polyphony. Pal worked within these restrictions, creating a polyphony widely admired ever since.
Robust Purcell: Harry Christophers directs joyful accounts
Rachmaninov All-Night Vigil Mariya Berezovska (mezzo-soprano), Dmitry Ivanchenko (tenor); Gloriae Dei Cantores/Peter Jermihov Gloriae Dei Cantores GDCD 063 (hybrid CD/SACD) 66:34 mins
Gloriae Dei Cantores, an American Christian choir, allies – the lushly illustrated booklet tells us – ‘compelling spirituality’ with a devotion to ‘authentic performance’. Even with extra voices from Saint Romanos Cappella, Patriarch Tikhon Choir and the Washington Master Chorale, the choir is a bit smaller than what Rachmaninov wrote for; yet the sopranos’ and altos’ adult voices (as opposed to the boys’ voices available to the composer) easily balance the superb male complement, including seven basso profundos. The performance’s Slavic flavour is enhanced by Vadim Gan’s impressive bass, singing the Deacon’s part (including optional incantations prefacing Nos 4 and 11), join by two National Opera 11) joined off Ukraaine soloists, mezzo Mariya Berezovvska and tenor Dmitry Ivancheenko (who also sings an introdu uctory incantation for No. 12). The g T generous resonance off Orleaans’ Church of the Transfi T figuration enriches the choir’s tone, bu ut presumably also prompted some sttately tempos (notably the joyous ‘ j y ‘Praise the Name of the Lord’, albeit a its bell-like accents are a th hus heightened), and some
diminishing of Rachmaninov’s dynamic contrasts, such as in the Paschal Hymn (No. 10). There is some suspect tuning by the female voices at the Adagio e cantabile section of the dramatic No. 9, exposed by the solo tenor’s entry. Altogether, though, this is an engaging and uplifting performance. Daniel Jaffé PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Rachmaninov All-Night Vigil Klaudia Zeiner (mezzo-soprano), Falk Hoffmann (tenor); MDR Rundfunkchor/Risto Joost Genuin GEN 17476 58:11 mins
This is highly polished singing, as one would expect from a leading professional choir. Leipzig’s MDR Radio Choir, under Risto Joost, scrupulously follows Rachmaninov’s score and never makes anything less than a beautiful sound. But the smooth and dispassionate singing in the opening ‘Come, let us worship’, and the following dozen movements, made me fear that this would be a performance faithful to the letter but utterly missing the fervour and spirit of Rachmaninov’s choral masterpiece. The performance suddenly comes to life with the joyous ‘Praise the name of the Lord’: not only are rhythms dance-like and infectiously pointed, but one also senses the choir at last truly enjoying BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Choral & Song Reviews Reissues Reviewed by Paul Riley JS Bach Motets Sigiswald Kuijken’s later recording of the Bach motets subscribes to the one-to-a-part ethos, but this 1992 concert performance, thoughtfully crafted, spaciously executed, prefers more well-upholstered vocal and instrumental forces. Accent ACC 24331; 1992; 64:51 mins ★★★ JS Bach Motets René Jacobs’ similarly-scaled, equally adroit account from just a few years later enjoys the luxury of a stylish solo vocal quartet to supplement the always-stylish RIAS choir. Harmonia Mundi HMA 1901589; 72:35 mins ★★★★ JS Bach St John Passion With no notes or texts included, Georg Christoph Biller’s St John Passion with Bach’s erstwhile choir starts off on the back foot. The performance is inspiring at its best, but inconsistent. Rondeau ROP 405051; 107:55 mins ★★★ Sweelinck Sacred Music Predating Bach’s St John Passion by just over a century, Sweelinck’s French and Latin sacred music cultivates a sobriety manifest in Daniel Reuss’s restrained and appropriately intimate approach. Harmonia Mundi HMG 902033; 61:39 mins ★★★★
the music, with that elusive ‘smile’ choral directors so desire in this music. I don’t think it is just my fancy that this commitment to the music’s spirit carries through into the subsequent movements, married to thoughtful engagement with Rachmaninov’s instructions: so when the full choir sings Con tutta forza e risoluto in ‘Christ is risen’ it really tells. And there is a clear sense of how one movement prepares for the next, not least the awestruck quality of the penultimate ‘Resurrection-Tropar II’ before the final celebratory ‘Hymn to the Virgin Mary’. Daniel Jaffé PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Schubert Winterreise Florian Boesch (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano) Hyperion CDA 68197 70:55 mins
Schubert’s late, great song-cycle Winterreise is available in over 175 recordings. New interpretations involve dance, film, painting, puppets and theatre, and
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they keep on coming. So it takes a brave pair of artists to offer a fresh reading. The 24 songs are sung from the perspective of a man whose sweetheart has rejected him for a rich husband. Late at night, he leaves his village to embark upon a winter journey. As he tramps on, his beloved fades from his mind, leaving only loneliness, exhaustion and longing for death. Schubert himself called it a ‘cycle of terrifying songs’. This is music of landscape. Schubert’s setting of Wilhelm Müller’s poetry offers matchless evocations of howling winds, crackling ice, cawing crows, barking dogs, posthorns, and the hurdy-gurdy’s relentless drone. But with no further ‘plot’, Winterreise relies on the careful unfolding of emotional narrative, a balance of vigour and lassitude. Even despair has its peaks and troughs, otherwise it’s just dull self-pity. This grief should attain magnificence. Unfortunately, Florian Boesch’s protagonist seems to be defeated from the outset. The melody feels undernourished, rarely sung as more than a murmur. There are exceptions, of course, such as No. 9 ‘Rückblick’ and No. 22 ‘Mut!’.
But I struggled repeatedly to hear the consonants which convey the snap and crunch of twigs and snow; a rebalancing of sound between the musicians might have helped here. At the piano, Roger Vignoles’s natural and psychological panorama is immersive and threedimensional, but it overwhelms this limp hero. Natasha Loges PERFORMANCE ★★★ RECORDING ★★★
Many are the Wonders Works by Tallis, Stucky, Ferko, Allain, K Burton, Escott, A Roth and Andrew ORA/Suzi Digby Harmonia Mundi HMM 905284 70:25 mins
Under Suzi Digby’s direction, the ORA Singers are fast building a glittering reputation for inventive discs which twin Renaissance choral music with contemporary works. This fine new release places the music of Thomas Tallis alongside eight contemporary choral pieces, including six new commissions by ORA. The disc is structured around Tallis’s nine tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter, interspersed with various freestanding motets and anthems, including the everpopular If Ye Love Me. The Tallis is performed with a suitably gorgeous sound by ORA, even if this listener yearned for some more sonic bite at times, but the choir soars in the disc’s new commissions. Alongside richly atmospheric works by Richard Allain and Frank Ferko, two pieces on the disc draw particularly bold, vivid colours from the choir: Kerry Andrew’s Archbishop Parker’s psalme 150 is a fiery celebration of music that the composer imagines ‘being sung by slightly drunken 16th-century peasants’ and conjures real energy and verve in the ensemble; and Ken Burton’s Many are the Wonders offers a gospel-inflected response to Tallis’s Loquebantur variis linguis which is warmly satisfying in its unbridled joy, yielding more gutsy, vibrant timbres from the choir. With a flurry of discs planned over the next three years, ORA and Digby must be commended for their celebration of new music and for their clever programming that here so effortlessly renders contemporary
works enticing, enriching and wholly accessible. Kate Wakeling PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Reformation Bach: Cantatas BWV 79 & 80; plus works by Mendelssohn, Brahms and Vaughan Williams Choir of Clare College, Cambridge; Clare Baroque/Graham Ross Harmonia Mundi HMM 902265 73:25 mins
Clare College Choir’s quincentennial celebration of the Reformation begins – how else? – with Luther: a jauntily sung a cappella account of his great chorale Ein feste Burg. And Luther’s ‘Fortress sure’ segues neatly into JS Bach’s mighty cantata elaboration of its ramparts – with added exhilaration as Graham Ross includes the three trumpets and timpani with which Wilhelm Friedemann Bach later gilded two of the movements. For good measure Ross also includes another ‘Reformation’ cantata, exuberantly nailing the martial grandeur and swagger of BWV 79’s blazing opening. From there the timeline continues through the young Mendelssohn’s elegantly-turned Bachian homage and the tortured chromaticism of Brahms’s Warum ist das Licht gegeben?, before the unexpected journey’s end of Vaughan Williams. But based (like all the other works) on a hymn tune, Lord, thou hast been our refuge nonetheless sounds surprisingly ‘at home’ in an otherwise impeccably Lutheran disc. For afficionados the fact that the first section of William Croft’s tune and Bach’s organ fugue BWV 552 share a striking DNA only serves to lend a certain circularity to the project. Thanks to the instrumental incisiveness of Clare Baroque, a splendid quartet of soloists, and Ross’s well-chosen tempos, the Bach has plenty of bite. And the choir’s well-drilled precision makes for exemplary clarity throughout the disc. Occasionally, fussily nuanced shaping flirts with preciousness, and the misery-evoking opening of the Brahms risks sounding laboured in places, but all in all, an astutely conceived, rewarding addition to Luther year. Paul Riley PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Chamber CHAMBER CHOICE
Making light of Reger’s challenges Erik Levi admires the musical insights of Michael Collins and Michael McHale particularly strong feature in the restless opening movement of Op. 49 No. 1. But there is also much that is Reger entirely characteristic of Reger, from the constantly chromatic harmonies Clarinet Sonatas: in A flat, that occasionally skirt the edge of Op. 49/1; in F sharp minor, tonality to the somewhat brusque, Op. 49/2; in B flat, Op. 107 Michael Collins (clarinet), but immensely attractive dance Michael McHale (piano) movements dispatched here with Chandos CHAN 10970 71:49 mins great verve. Michael Collins and Michael Hearing a performance of one of McHale negotiate the turbulent Brahms’s late Clarinet Sonatas in waters of Op. 49 1900 inspired Max No. 1 and its Reger to write his Michael Collins’s reflective Op. 49 set for the performance of Reger more companion with same combination. is mesmerising great musical But the composer insight. Their went one better performance of the first movement than his predecessor some eight of Op. 107 is mesmerising, years later by completing another beautifully sculpted lyrical moments four-movement Sonata (Op. 107) juxtaposed with passages that are that is conceived on an even grander more impulsive. Throughout all scale than his earlier efforts. the performances, Collins shapes It’s perhaps hardly surprising Reger’s long-breathed melodic that Brahms should remain a strong lines with great sensitivity, while influence on all three works. The McHale is particularly impressive mellifluous way Reger interweaves in bringing lightness and clarity the dialogue between clarinet and to Reger’s often thickly textured piano is typically Brahmsian, as is piano parts. the complex contrapuntal musical PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ argument and frequent delight in RECORDING ★★★★ rhythmic ambiguity, the latter a
Bloch Music for cello and piano Raphael Wallfisch (cello), John York (piano)
Nimbus NI5943 70:14 mins
From a relatively early age, Ernest Bloch seems to have enjoyed a special affinity for the cello. The Cello Sonata, which was composed at the time he was a student in Brussels, is idiomatically written for the instrument, the cello’s soaring melodies matched by an equally extravagant quasi-orchestral piano part. At this stage, Bloch seems to have been particularly enamoured by the emotionally charged music
of César Franck and was also undoubtedly influenced by his teacher Ysaÿe. Much more characteristic are the three works inspired by Jewish folklore that include the well-known Nigun for violin, performed here in a very effective transcription by Joseph Schuster, the three miniatures From Jewish Life and the more extended Méditation hébraïque, composed for Casals, which is closest in idiom to his cello masterpiece, Schelomo. But the most interesting discovery on this enterprising release is undoubtedly the Suite, originally conceived for viola and orchestra. There are undoubtedly echoes of Bloch’s Jewish style in the wild modal dance
Character and verve: Michael Collins plays Reger with sensitivity
that appears mid-way through the large-scale first movement. Elsewhere, however, Bloch turns to the exoticism of music of the Far East, in particular Bali, for inspiration. In this respect, the slow and mysterious third movement is especially hypnotic. Raphael Wallfisch and John York work hand in glove to deliver an expressive account of the Sonata, and are careful not to overdo the histrionics in Nigun. They are particularly impressive in negotiating the rhapsodic changes of mood and timbre in the Suite, and the recording balance is admirable. Erik Levi PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Dvořák String Quartet No. 12 in F (American); String Quintet No. 3 in E flat Krzysztof Chorzelski (viola); Skampa Quartet Champs Hill Records CHRCD 110 61:19 mins
Rocketing to prominence in the early 1990s and notwithstanding some changes of personnel, the Skampa Quartet remains at the forefront of Czech chamber ensembles. Many of their recordings of classics of the Czech repertoire, notably Janáček and Smetana, are standard recommendations. Their BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Reissues Reviewed by Kate Bolton-Porciatti Le Berger Poète This picturesque selection of French Baroque chamber music paints a series of exquisite, faux pastoral landscapes in airy pastel hues. François Lazarevitch and his musicians offer supple, irresistibly seductive accounts. Alpha 332; 72:07 mins ★★★★★ CPE Bach Violin Sonatas Playing Baroque violin and fortepiano, Amandine Beyer and Edna Stern offer superbly idiomatic readings, by turns flamboyant and wistful, conveying the edgy drama, rhetoric and ‘heightened sensitivity’ of CPE Bach’s style. Alpha 329; 61:46 mins ★★★★★ Barrière Sonatas for Cello and Basso Continuo French Baroque cellist Jean Barrière was the Pablo Casals of this day, and his sonatas meld beguiling melodies with virtuosic display. Bruno Cocset and his ensemble are persuasive advocates. Alpha 330; 62:31 mins ★★★★★ Haydn Flute Sonatas Haydn’s ‘flute sonatas’ are, in fact, skilful transcriptions by his contemporaries of three of his string quartets. Juliette Hurel and Hélène Couvert’s affectionate performances on modern instruments capture all their wit, lyricism and joie de vivre. Alpha 335; 62:07 mins ★★★★
soundworld threads through several of the works, from the taut fiddle melodies of the String Trio (2008) to The Last Island (2009) for string sextet. The latter conjures the everchanging character of an island just off the coast of Sanday, the score duly slipping from ferocious turbulence to passages of fragile, transfixing beauty, created by plane upon plane of shimmering sound (with notably exquisite playing here from first violinist Zoë Beyers). Two Nocturnes (2010) for piano quartet presents a wonderfully strange tribute to Chopin, while the magnificent Sonata for Violin and Piano (2008) traces an imaginary journey on foot through Rome and swerves between delicate lyricism and forceful dissonance, performed here with great poise and vitality. The disc closes with the composer’s very last work, a brief movement from an unfinished string quartet, its radiant finish a touching finale to this powerful disc. Kate Wakeling PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Mozart Violin Sonatas Nos 3, 8, 11, 13, 20, 25, 26 & 30; Variations in G minor, K360
performance of Dvořák’s American Quartet – the product of a joyous outpouring of creativity in the summer of 1893 – is both considered and highly polished. The opening of the first movement has a persuasive freshness while the lovely second main melody is tinged by melancholy. The Skampa Quartet’s attention to the detail of the score is a joy throughout, not least in the slow movement where they manage a sweet intensity without any overstatement; and both the scherzo and finale, which can rattle along too easily, never tip over into triviality. The same qualities are brought to bear on the Quintet which Dvořák composed immediately after the American Quartet. Often performances, understandably, concentrate on the outgoing qualities of these two works, but the Skampa Quartet is alive to their underlying soulfulness. Nor do they neglect the powerful sense of structure that underpins these seemingly spontaneous works; indeed, the symphonic breadth they bring to first movement of the Quintet is something of a revelation. Presented in a magnificently sonorous recording, these two
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performances are a match for the finest in the catalogue. Jan Smaczny PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Maxwell Davies The Last Island; A Postcard from Sanday; String Trio; Two Nocturnes; Lullaby; Oboe Quartet; A Birthday Card for Jennifer; Violin Sonata; String Quartet Movement Hebrides Ensemble Delphian DCD34178 76:51 mins
The music of Peter Maxwell Davies is perhaps best known for its epic scale, fierce drama and sweeping evocations of the ocean. The wild waters off Orkney and their constant oscillation between peace and tumult feature in this excellent disc, but Maxwell Davies’s intensity of expression is here distilled into chamber music, by turns simple and complex, furious and tender. The works featured were mostly completed during the last decade of the composer’s life, and all date from after his move to the furthest reaches of Northern Scotland. Orkney’s
Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano) Hyperion CDA68164 119:17 mins (2 discs)
Such was Mozart’s creative genius that even when, as here, sonatas composed 17 years apart are juxtaposed against one another, one barely experiences a creative jolt. It also underlines how successfully Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien immerse themselves in Mozart’s earliest published boyhood works as compared to the bracing genius of the music that poured forth during his midtwenties. Those listeners used to the air of ‘greatness’ and expressive high-projection brought to the later works by Henryk Szeryng (Philips/ Decca) and Itzhak Perlman (DG), in their very different ways, may initially feel a shade short-changed. Yet it is the Hyperion team who time and again demonstrate that a more intimate approach works wonders in capturing the essence of these exquisitely melodious and immaculately structured scores. In the earliest work featured here, K8 in B flat, it feels as though
centuries of interpretative accretion has been removed as Ibragimova and Tiberghien take flight in the opening Allegro with a bracing sense of forward momentum that creates the uncanny impression of floating on air. The tricky Minuet finale also goes like a dream, with no self-conscious pointing of the dance rhythms or furrowed-brow introspection when the music turns towards the minor key. By the time he composed the C major Sonata, K403, Mozart was interspersing major and minor modes with infinite more subtlety, and here the exquisite finesse of this cherishable team put them in a class apart. Julian Haylock PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Riley • Scodanibbio Riley: Dark Queen Mantra; The Wheel and Mythic Birds Waltz; Scodanibbio: Mas Lugares (su Madrigali di Monteverdi) Gyan Riley (guitar); Del Sol String Quartet Sono Luminus DSL-92215 62:20 mins
I’ve never been to Riley’s legendary Californian ranch Sri Moonshine, but his music brings it so close you can smell the pine resin. This collection transports you into a pool of sunlit, easeful peace, a space for improvisation. Riley himself has said, ‘my pieces never really come to an end, they just reach intermission’. And yet, there’s nothing random about his composing: Riley’s leading inspirations, the cycles of Indian music and the canons of Bach, underpin each work. The enterprising Del Sol Quartet commissioned Dark Queen Mantra (2015) to perform with Riley’s guitarist son, Gyan. The combination of electric guitar and quartet offers Riley a rich textural resource: the quartet provide multi-layered accompaniment to an array of guitar styles, from the elaborate, flamenco-like flourishes of ‘Vizcaino’ to resonant washes and sitar-like bending of long-decaying notes in ‘Goya with Wings’, where strings float dreamy melodies (occasionally seeping into MOR territory), to the harder-edged guitar grooves of Dark Queen Mantra’s finale. Stefano Scondanibbio’s Mas Lugares (2003), a glassy, ghostly memory of Monteverdi madrigals,
Chamber Reviews heard in harmonics, makes for a meditative interlude. The Wheel and Mythic Birds Waltz (1983), in which Riley takes an Indian tabla rhythm on a kaleidoscopic journey, is apt to sprawl, but has a raw, dancing immediacy in the hands of these high-level players. Helen Wallace PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Tye Complete Consort Music Phantasm Linn CKD 571 67:00 mins
‘Sing ye trew & care not, for I am trew, feare not.’ So wrote the quixotic Christopher Tye, counselling his performers to trust that the sometime implausible dots on the page were correct. His consort music is indeed visionary, and the myriad false relations, shocking theatrical turns, and anarchic metrical effects, amount to a glorious portrait of the ‘peevish and humoursome’ Protestant
daring his musicians to push musical boundaries. Phantasm is an inspired fit for this repertoire. The musicians’ distinctive sound – immediately warm but spiced with an edgy kick – is as assured as ever, ideal for Tye’s oft-madcap In nomines. Bridging the vocal motet and instrumental fantasia, many questions remain unanswered about the mystical genre that captured the imaginations of 16th-century consort composers, and over whom Tye ruled as the radical ground breaker. Director Laurence Dreyfus’s insightful notes not only contextualise and hypothesise, but helpfully guide listening too. Tye’s complete consort music is far from abstract and ranges from depictions of Rachel weeping for her children to righteous warnings. Phantasm delight in the eccentricities of his writing – climaxing in the extraordinary Sit Fast, Tye’s longest, breathtakingly complex, barline-free escapade (which bore, and warranted, the composer’s advice ‘…feare not’). If the dynamic range of this disc is sometimes a little limited, the
consort’s percussive energy brings a contemporary feel to proceedings and the result, beautifully recorded in Boxgrove Priory, turns out to be very convincing. Hannah French PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Russian works for piano four hands Rachmaninov: Six Morceaux; Tchaikovsky: Fifty Russian Folk Songs – excerpts; Stravinsky: Petrushka Peter Hill, Benjamin Frith (piano) Delphian DCD 34191 68:27 mins
Benjamin Frith and Peter Hill have been working together as a duo since 1986: a longterm partnership that has led to a highly developed understanding of four-hand repertoire, as revealed in this selection of works by Russian composers. Rachmaninov’s deeply expressive Six morceaux, Op. 11, are tinged with a melancholy that manifests in moments of intense lyricism. Frith and Hill balance the
virtuosity with explosive melodies (in the Scherzo, for example); both have the necessary dexterity to chase notes and fingers – the overlapping twists and turns of ‘Slava’ demand a balletic performance. The 21 pieces from Fifty Russian Folk Songs begin with deceptive simplicity: there are hidden depths to these sparse tunes. Many of these short melodic strands do not finish on a perfect cadence, yet perseverance reveals the beauty of these traditional transcriptions, performed with clarity and warmth by Frith and Hill. The sound would have benefited from a cleaner acoustic – there is a marginally fuzzy quality to this recording. Stravinsky is a composer well known to both pianists (Hill has published a book on the Rite of Spring and the duo has recorded the same work, as well as the Concerto for two pianos), and their Petrushka is gloriously colourful. The twosome perform with variety, sensitivity – and just enough theatrics. Claire Jackson PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★
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Instrumental INSTRUMENTAL CHOICE
Arcadi Volodos enters Brahms’s heart of darkness Jessica Duchen admires the Russian pianist’s empathy with this hauntingly melancholic music
Refinement and beauty: Arcadi Volodos matches the mood of Brahms’s late works
slow-billowing crescendo that opens Op. 76 No. 1, and the concentrated atmosphere and careful balance of voicing is consistent throughout. Volodos is a Arcadi Volodos (piano) master of soft and silken tone and has the steadiest Sony 88875130192 51:68 mins of rhythms: he makes the ‘lullaby of my sorrows’ (Brahms’s term) in Op. 117 hypnotic and hushed, For a pianist as versatile as Arcadi Volodos, the while the more rugged pieces, such as the G minor introverted world of late Brahms can hold no terrors. Ballade of Op. 118, are suitably solid yet never heavyThe composer, having planned to retire in 1890, soon handed. There’s a certain sense found himself doing anything but. Inspired to the creation of his late Volodos is hypnotic of ‘rightness’ to the tempos and note feels weighed in the masterpieces on the one hand by the in Brahms’s ‘lullaby every balance. The disc’s sound quality clarinettist Richard Mühlfeld (for of my sorrows’ complements these cushioned whom he wrote several sonatas and subtleties with warmth and clarity. a clarinet quintet) and on the other Even if some listeners might want more brightness hand by Clara Schumann, he enjoyed a profoundly and contrast, if and when opportunity allows, rewarding Indian summer. The Op. 117 and Op. 118 Volodos’s playing remains remarkable for its pieces, written after the deaths of both his sister refinement and beauty. In the final E flat minor and his close friend Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, Op. 118 No. 6, I dare you to breathe. nevertheless include some of his most introspective, melancholy music. In Volodos’s hands, this heart of PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ darkness becomes at times all-encompassing. RECORDING ★★★★★ Volodos, rather like the music, can seem to inhabit Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of a world of his own – removed, remote, yet in steely this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine control of the expression of that remoteness. This website at www.classical-music.com capability is clear at once in the expert pacing of the
Klavierstücke, Op. 76 Nos 1-4; 3 Intermezzi, Op. 117; 6 Klavierstücke, Op. 118
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Chopin Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35; Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60; Trois Nouvelles Etudes; Polonaises in C minor Op. 40 No. 2 and in F sharp minor, Op. 44; Nocturne in G minor, Op. 15 No. 3 Dinara Klinton (piano) Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina NIFCCD 2018 66:34 mins
The young Ukrainian pianist Dinara Klinton, trained in Moscow and in London’s Royal College of Music, has been making her mark as a prizewinner at numerous competitions recently, and with an impressive roster of concert debuts. Her Chopin programme for the Frédéric Chopin Institute’s series sets off with the B flat minor ‘Funeral March’ Sonata, asserting at once a highly dramatic and often lyrical take on this visionary work. Her shaping of melodic lines is as singerly as Chopin demands – this extends also to the wind-across-thegraves unison finale, in which her perpetuum mobile always remains primarily melodic, a quality that I’d certainly applaud. Rubato in the earlier movements is satisfying: plentiful, yet unaffected. The Sonata is possibly the most successful part of the disc, as Klinton’s touch in the Barcarolle and the two hefty polonaises occasionally inclines towards the over-solid: occasionally textures could have been handled with more lightness in the middle to better offset the melodies, countermelodies and bass-line. This is particularly true of the ethereal Barcarolle – the waters beneath the gondola sometimes feel rather muddy – and the range of dynamics in the Polonaises could at times be better mapped (for a pertinent comparison try Benjamin Grosvenor’s pacing of the grand-scale crescendo in the F sharp minor Op. 44 in his album Dances). The recorded sound, which seems a bit overbearing, may have contributed to this impression. There seems fervent mysticism aplenty, though, in the G minor Nocturne and its strange shift from lamenting minor to mysterious, devotional major; and the Trois
Piano Music: Scottish Folksongs, Nos 1, 2 & 5; Two Tone-pictures; Suite for Piano; Iona Memories; Romance in A minor; Serenade in F sharp; Sundown; Serenata Suite; Waltz in F sharp; Shadows; Robin Good-Fellow Gary Steigerwalt (piano) Toccata Classics TOCC 0430 58:06 mins
Toccata Classics has a happy knack for rediscovery, and its CD devoted to the piano music of Helen Hopekirk (1856-1945) is a shining example of that. This Scottish composer may have been long forgotten, but in her day she was a bright star in the pianistic firmament for both Europe and America. She studied in Leipzig under Carl Reinecke and then under Theodor Leschetizky, specialised in playing Debussy, and gave the American premieres of a number of major works including Fauré’s Piano Quintet; as time went on she devoted ever more of her programmes to her own compositions. The m di in ive men in her music derived from her Scottish heritage. She investigated the music of Highland and Island Scots on summer trips to Oban and Iona, listening to Gaelic songs accompanied on the harp – hence the Iona Memoriess which begin this CD. The first has hints of Schumann, Janáček and Grieg, while the modal chords and rolling arpeggiations of the third hint at Debussy; all have a transparent charm. The Romance in A minor evokes memories of Mendelssohn, while the Serenade in F sharp major is exuberantly virtuosic. Her passion for Bach – whose music, like most pianists of her period, she seldom played in public – was fed by Arnold Dolmetsch’s book Interpretation of the Music of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, and indeed the most attractive works in this collection are in neo-Baroque style: the Suite for piano, and the Serenata Suite. Gary Steigerwalt plays these and everything else with refined expressiveness, but one is left feeling
Rachmaninov Rachmaninov: Piano Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Tchaikovsky: Lullaby (arr. Rachmaninov) Rustem Hayroudinoff (piano) Onyx ONYX 4181 66:38 mins
‘Too many notes’, you might have thought if you’ve encountered a less than magisterial performance of Rachmaninov’s First Piano Sonata. So did I before hearing this crystalclear interpretation by Rustem Hayroudinoff, too long absent on CD since his superb Chandos recording of the Etudes-Tableaux (his Op. 39 was my first choice in BBC Radio 3’s Building a Library). The composer himself proclaimed around the time of composition (1907) that ‘no one will ever play this composition because of its difficulty and length’. Well, Hayroudinoff not only does but as a master of textural details knows what to highlight and where to give space. Certainly his full explanation of the work, regrettably only available online, highlights an epic three-way drama between Goethe’s Faust, Gretchen and Mephistopheles. The long firstmovement development’s climaxes are properly terraced; there’s pure poetry in the Lento’s feminine portrait; and the demonic dash of the finale never blusters. Figurative links with the Second Sonata of 1913 abound. I still think I prefer its 1931 revision, an artistic truncation, but I can see why Hayroudinoff, like Horowitz and Sudbin before him, favours his own composite; the original first-movement billowings are too exciting to ignore. Again there’s an impressive grip on structure, if rather more use of the sustaining pedal. Rachmaninov’s last work, a poignant transcription of y makes the Tchaikovsky’s Lullaby, perfect, soulful intermezzo. My only reservation is the recorded sound, on the dryish side and lacking upper-register brilliance (or is that the piano?) But there’s no better way to get to know these two masterpieces. David Nice PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ RECORDING ★★★
Gli incogniti Amandine Beyer
that Hopekirk’s music, though pleasurable, never transcends its own riv iveness. Michael Church PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
© Laurent Becotruiz
Nouvelles Etudes are broodingly atmospheric. Jessica Duchen PERFORMANCE ★★★ RECORDING ★★★
BWV… or not? Hide-and-seek with Bach A programme of works attributed to – or transcribed by – Johann Sebastian Bach, whose common denominator is musical excellence. Amandine Beyer and Gli Incogniti pay fervent tribute to a period when copyright was unknown, but whose spirit testiﬁes to a dazzling creative freedom that inspires the artists from beginning to end of this recording.
Instrumental Reviews D Scarlatti Sonatas, Vol. 2: K 24, 58, 63-4, 82, 146, 206, 377, 426, 428-9, 474, 481, 491-2, 513 & 547 Angela Hewitt (piano) Hyperion CDA68184 79:14 mins
An enthralling display: Walter Gieseking at Carnegie Hall in 1949
From the archives Andrew McGregor listens to the Bach playing of Walter Gieseking, a pianist way ahead of his time For the JS Bach bicentenary in 1950, Radio Saarbrücken decided to record and broadcast most of the composer’s solo keyboard works. They chose the French-born Walter Gieseking, who would become almost a house pianist for them. Gieseking had lived with Bach’s music all his life, and over just seven or eight sessions from January to June 1950, Gieseking worked his way through the Partitas, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Two- and Three-Part Inventions and various other pieces. This is not ‘old-fashioned’ Bach. There’s a brilliance and fleetness, sparkling fingerwork and articulation that’s surprisingly modern. The Partitas whip by swiftly, thanks to a cavalier attitude to repeats, and he uses the full resources of the instrument. It’s unashamedly pianistic. When you turn to Gieseking’s 1941 essay on playing Bach on the grand piano, some of the opinions could have been written by one of our contemporary Bach specialists: he’s a purist on pedalling, avoiding emotional display and employing dynamic restraint. But there are rushes and lurches in tempo, the sound is clear but distinctly period, the piano sounds as though it’s taken quite a beating over the years. Gieseking had a prodigious memory, and was able to learn a concerto in a day away from the piano. There’s a distinct sense at times that he’s sight-reading, given some of the edge-of-the-seat speeds and rocky moments, when the fingers barely keep up with the ambition. But there’s a refreshing spontaneity, an immediacy to the communication, and real clarity in the voicing. One of Gieseking’s former students wrote in the notes for the Heliodor LPs of his Bach that these recordings were a living testament to his superhuman ability to play without practice, and in truth you pay a penalty in the Inventions; he sounds disengaged. But in the Partitas and the 48, a marvellous sense of rhetoric and dramatic shape emerges. This is Bach from the eve of the age of historically informed performance – flawed, but fascinating and often compelling. (Deutsche Grammophon DG 479 7362; 7 CDs) Andrew McGregor is the presenter of Radio 3’s Record Review, broadcast each Saturday morning from 9am until 12.15pm
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Angela Hewitt here laces together 17 of Scarlatti’s jewel-like sonatas, playing them with the grace and finesse that recalls Gabriele D’Annunzio’s description of them as ‘a soft hail of pearls that rush, gleam, resonate, bounce’. Each of these gems conjures up its own distinctive world, and Hewitt paints an entire gallery of scenes and portraits with a palette of vibrant colours and effects. There are evocations of festive processions, fairs and dances in Scarlatti’s adopted Spain, complete with flamenco guitars and percussive castanets; and there are recollections of Italy in his laments and toccatas, capriccios, and lilting pastorales imitating Italian shepherd bagpipes. Thanks to her long immersion in Bach, Hewitt plays with cut-glass clarity: witness her lucid account of the fugal C minor Sonata, Kk58, one of Scarlatti’s more Bachian works. Her gossamer touch makes Scarlatti’s rapid passagework and figurations sound light as summer rain, while his fiddly embellishments sparkle and shimmer – no mean feat on a concert grand piano. Hewitt’s instrument of choice is a Fazioli, its sound clean and alert, even in the rather open acoustic of Hanover’s Beethovensaal. My main cavils are with her use of rubato and Romantically-inspired expressive devices, more appropriate for Chopin than Scarlatti: tempos can lurch unsettlingly, and her dynamic nuances and exquisitely tapered lines can feel a shade too self-conscious. Otherwise, she’s on fine form. Kate Bolton-Porciatti PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Ustvolskaya Piano Sonatas Nos 1-6 Antonii Baryshevskyi (piano) Avi 8553357 76:13 mins
‘Don’t say I was influenced by Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Bartók, Musorgsky or Russian folk songs!’ You don’t have
to be a particularly attentive listener to realise that Ustvolskaya, a pupil of Shostakovich’s who deliberately removed herself from the Soviet mainstream, was protesting too much; indeed, she named precisely her formative influences as she disavowed them. Which is only to point out that her music, for all its hard-hitting and flinty style, is not quite as unfamiliar or alien as its avant garde reputation might suggest – though it’s certainly bracing stuff and it would be inadvisable to try to listen to all six sonatas in one go. Antonii Baryshevskyi’s sensitivity to colour and atmosphere is on a level with – though quite distinct from – such leading interpreters as Ivan Sokolov (on Piano Classics). With a fine instrument recorded in an attractively warm acoustic, he is able to do full justice both to Ustvolskaya’s demands for extreme levels of loudness and percussive attack – the piano transformed into a baleful, crashing collection of bells – and to the music’s rare moments of numbed lyricism or use of soft numinous harmonies, revealing all the more the ghosts that haunt the sonatas – most obviously Bartók (those major key melodies transformed into bleak counterpoint by being separated by an augmented fourth) and indeed Prokofiev (the Fifth Sonata, composed in 1986, including, to my ears, a pertinent reference to Prokofiev’s opera Fiery Angel). Daniel Jaffé PERFORMANCE ★★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★
Piano Music of Palestinian Composers Works by Arnita, Odeh-Tamimi, Nasser, Anastas, Hassan Touma, Lama, Gibran and Fernando Dueri Fadi Deeb (piano) GideonBoss Gb009 74:23 mins
In Cairo the conservatoires of Western and Oriental music sit side by side, but the gap between the two traditions is very wide. The Edward Said Conservatory and Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra may have broadcast the fact that music is alive and well in the Palestinian regions, but the purpose of this CD is to bring to light the unknown world of ‘Western’ music by Palestinian composers whose roots lie in the culture
established at the start of the 20th century by European colonisers. In Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Nazareth, Christian churches were the focus for instrumental and choral music; performing musicians gravitated not only to the Palestinian Radio and Orchestra and the YMCA concert hall, but in particular to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was where Salvador Arnita, the first composer on this disc, became assistant organist aged 13. Composed in 1942, his Introduction and Oriental Dance No. 1 may evoke the atmosphere of Dvořák’s dances, but the modality of its improvised sections is entirely Oriental, and a similar contrast can be found in other pieces here. Several, most notably Petite Etude pour la paix by Mounir Anastas, reflect the driven intellectualism of mid-century Modernism – Anastas studied with Boulez at IRCAM – and they pursue their goal of an East-West amalgam with relentless rigour. Habib Hassan Touma, whose Suite Arabe is constructed from unison octave melodies with melismatic ornamentation, saw himself as the first Arab musician in Israel who chose ‘to learn the technique of Western music in order to create a good oriental music’. Fadi Deeb is the best possible advocate of these works, for one of which he adds in the sound of bamboo chimes. His playing reflects both rigour and charm, the latter most persuasively in the case of Patrick Lama’s Huit variations sur un theme Palestinien. Unfolding with serene poise, this lovely work would make an ideal encore in any recital. Michael Church PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★
Versus: The Garnier Organ Bach: Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C, BWV 564; Toccata in C; Bruhns: Chorale Fantasia on ‘Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland’; Lauvig: Via Crucis; Danksagmüller: Versus; Schumann: Four Sketches, Op. 58 Henry Fairs (organ) Regent REGCD 516 74:35 mins
The new Garnier organ at the University of Birmingham’s Elgar Concert Hall is something to celebrate. Henry Fairs, the resident head of organ studies, starts and finishes with JS Bach, and everything about the organ – based on German Baroque principles but with the added expressive possibilities of later instruments – supports his choice. Yet it is hard to derive much pleasure from the playing, as Fairs seems to confuse rhetorical gesture with rhythmic instability in the first two movements of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue. Nor do the chorale-based works of Bruhns or Danksagmüller (after whose work Versus, commissioned for the organ’s opening, the album is named) raise the spirits. Danksagmüller, a 40-something Austrian composer, recycles tricks (from clusters to modified wind supply) that Ligeti explored to much more thrilling effect over half a century ago. At least Schumann’s Four Sketches for Pedal Piano show off the organ’s warmth. And if the Norwegian Jon Laukvik’s Via Crucis (1979) is a none too subtle homage to Messiaen, it brings some sorely-needed excitement to this disc. John Allison PERFORMANCE ★★★ RECORDING ★★★
Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) Born in Petrograd, Ustvolskaya studied at the Leningrad Conservatory’s Music School (established to train musically gifted children), before attending the Conservatory where she studied under Shostakovich. She subsequently taught composition at the Music School where her pupils included Boris Tishchenko. Though Ustvolskaya composed in a tough and uncompromising style, Shostakovich hugely admired her music and used several of her themes in his own work: a theme from her Trio for clarinet, violin and piano, for instance, appears in his Fifth String Quartet.
Sir Simon Rattle
Sir Simon Rattle is joined by an all-star cast for his ﬁrst release as Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra Available 6 October 3 SACD + Pure Audio | Digital Discover playlists hand-picked by Sir Simon at applemusic.com/thisisrattle
Magdalena Kožená Christian Gerhaher Gerald Finley
Brief notes Our collection of 24 further reviews, from John Luther Adams to Tchaikovsky John Luther Adams Canticles of the Holy Wind The Crossing/Donald Nally Cantaloupe CA21131
Birds sing and the wind blows in this beautiful and atmospheric 2013 wordless choral work. Adams is a master of turning nature into notes. (RF) ★★★★ Beethoven String Quartets Nos 9 & 14 Aris Quartet Genuin GEN17478
These are vibrant, energetic Beethoven performances. The Aris Quartet often pushes the composer’s dynamics and tempos to extremes. (EC) ★★★★ Bigham Staffa; Archipelago Dances; Two Nightscapes
Portland State Chamber Choir/Ethan Sperry Naxos 8.579008
Mozart & Michael Haydn Bassoon Concerto; Serenade Sergio Azzolini; Streicherakademie Bozen Sony 88985369912
Crunchy chords, ambient soundscapes and some clever effects make for an enticing listen. But over an hour of it tests the patience – the Esenvalds effect has a tendency to tire. (JP) ★★★
This is a joyful CD of Classical era concertos and assorted orchestral pieces. Azzolini is the nimble, warm soloist in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto. (RF) ★★★★
Hindemith Works for saxophones
Nietzsche Piano music
Barbara Buntrock (viola), Robert Kolinsky (piano), Florian von Radowitz (piano); Clair-Obscur Saxophone Quartet Wergo 73532
Jeroen van Veen (piano)
This saxophone quartet digs out some rare Hindemith for this curious collection. It’s all played with mellow, polished tone and an even blend . (RF) ★★★
Rossini Stabat Mater Soloists; Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Opera Vlaanderen/Zedda
These are vivacious and atmospheric performances of Iberian Renaissance works that deserve to be better known. When the trebles are divided, though, they can sound a tad threadbare. (JP) ★★★
Polski Chór Kameralny/Lukaszewski
Brilliant Classics 95282
Full of chord clusters and unprepared dissonances, the overall effect of Lukaszewski’s motets is interesting if not that ground-breaking. (EC) ★★★
The agile Klisowska weaves elegantly around CastelNuovo’s chromatic writing. Sadly, what she is singing about is devilishly difficult to pick out. (JP) ★★★ Durufle Requiem Respighi Concerto gregoriano Henry Raudales (violin); Bavarian Radio Choir; Munich Radio Orchestra/ Ivan Repusic BR Klassik 900320
Quite a woolly approach to the Requiem pays dividends in atmosphere but denies us of some lovely details. The Respighi fares better. (OC) ★★
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Warner Classics 9029583639
Medtner • Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Jayson Gillham (piano); Melbourne Symphony/Northey ABC 481 5564
The young Gillham is a master of articulation and clarity in these exciting performances of Rachmaninvo’s Second Concerto and Medtner’s First. Beautiful sound, too. (OC) ★★★★
Here’s Swann without Flanders, in settings of texts ranging from witty Betjeman to wistful Pushkin. The performances by this star cast of singers are impeccable. Great stuff. (JP) ★★★★★
Nicola Meecham (piano)
Truro Cathedral Choir/Christopher Gray Regent REGCD491
Hyperion CDA 68172
Tchaikovsky Piano music
Lobo Missa Vox Clamantis
Joanna Klisowska (soprano), Giulio Tampalini (guitar)
Felicity Lott , Kathryn Rudge, John Mark Ainsley, Roderick Williams (singers), Christopher Glynn (piano)
The fleetness of mind that brought us philosophical masterworks such as Also sprach Zarathustra evidently took time off whenever Nietzsche sat down to compose. Van Veen does his best, but it’s ponderous stuff. (JP) ★★★
Aruna Records ARUNACD002
Castelnuovo-Tedesco The Divan of Moses in Ibn Ezra
Brilliant Classics 95492
Ned Bigham’s music ambles pleasantly from one style to another without ever really taxing the listener’s imagination. The Archipelago Dances are the most engaging works here. (JP) ★★★
Esenvalds The Doors of Heaven
A gutsy performance of Rossini’s operatic setting of Mary’s words at the foot of the cross. Fine solo turns, but the choir could enunciate more clearly. (OC) ★★★
Tchaikovsky’s Grand Sonata in G and Sonata No. 2 aren’t the most graceful works ever written for piano, but Meecham makes a good case for them. (RF) ★★★ Arde El Furor 18th-century Andalusian Music Maria Espada, Jose Hernandez Pastor; Orquesta Barroca de Sevilla/Diego Fasolis Passacaille 1031
The fun here lies in the discovery of radiant works to put a smile on one’s face. If only the two singers sounded a little more in their comfort zone. (JP) ★★
Silvestrov Moments of Memory II; Serenade for String Orchestra; Silent Music; The Messenger
British Music for Violin and Piano Bridge, Delius, Elgar, Scott et al
Iryna Starodub (piano); Kiev Virtuosi/ Dmitri Yablonsky Naxos 8.573598
Clare Howick (violin), John Paul Ekins (piano) Naxos 8.573790
This is like looking at the history of music through frosted glass – hints of composers and works come and go within a subdued style. Beautiful and melancholic. (OC) ★★★★
This is a substantial programme of British music, and includes the premiere of Scott’s Vesperale and Bridge’s Con moto. Sensitively played. (RF) ★★★★
Stravinsky Le Rossignol
The Ear of the Huguenots Works by Goudimel, Le Jeune, Mauduit et al
Mojca Erdmann (soprano); WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Jukka-Pekka Saraste Orfeo C 919 171 A
Mojca Erdmann beguiles effortlessly as the title character of Stravinsky’s short opera while the cast and orchestra display just the right spikiness. (JP) ★★★★
Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88985411762
This cleverly programmed disc of late 16th-century music places austere Huguenot psalms either side of the more florid style of
Catholics celebrating their demise. A fascinating historical snapshot, well performed. (JP) ★★★★
The month in box-sets
Funeralissimo Works by Bach, Calderon, Glière, Stradella et al Matthias Well (violin); Maria Well (cello); Zdravko Zivković (accordion) Genuin GEN 17486
Matthias Well and his players’ captivating programme of funeral music through the ages takes us to Turkey, England, South America, Russia and more. Curiously, it’s all so wonderfully affirming. (OC) ★★★★ Like as the hart Choral works by Ockeghem, Palestrina, Tallis, Howells, Handel et al Choir of New College Oxford/Robert Quinney Novum NCR 1392
This lovely collection of choral settings of Psalm 42 treats us to music ancient and modern and all in between, from 15th-century Ockeghem to a sumptuous new work by Alexander L’Estrange, commissioned for the disc. (OC) ★★★★ Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss von Husum Works by Chaminade, Faure, Casadeus, Alexandrov, Reubke, Liszt et al Pianists including Joseph Moog, Florian Noack, Johann Blanchard Danacord DACOCD 789
It’s perhaps inevitable that there’s a strange eclectisim on this disc of piano rarities from the Husum Festival. But the playing is very good throughout. (RF) ★★★★ Stolen Roses Works by Biber, Bach, Telemann, Von Westhoff and Weiss Xavier Diaz-Latorre (lute) Passacaille 1030
Bach’s own transcription of his Cello Suite No. 5 for lute brings out an altogether more ethereal side of the famous work. An interesting and less-often heard perspective. (EC) ★★★★ Reviewers : Oliver Condy (OC), Elinor Cooper (EC), Rebecca Franks (RF), Jeremy Pound (JP)
Pieces of history: pianist Glenn Gould recording in 1955
Milestones and memories Tributes to two iconic pianists plus the complete works of Hildegard of Bingen surface (‘this is the worst piano for repeated Once you’ve read Clemency Burton-Hill’s notes I have ever seen!’, Gould says at one splendid interview with pianist-turned-conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy on p36, you’re going to want point). As you might expect from Sony, the packaging is glorious – alongside the ﬁve discs to explore his legacy, wonderfully compiled in a of outtakes is a CD of Gould discussing the 56-disc set on Decca, including his acclaimed sessions with music critic Tim Page, a book of explorations of Scriabin. In among the Chopin, fascinating essays and 45 newly discovered Mozart and Schubert are also Rachmaninov’s photographs, plus the ﬁnished two brilliantly ﬁery suites for two pianos, performed with André Vladimir Ashkenazy recording itself on CD and vinyl. A very handsome release Previn, who also happens to be is Decca’s longest(Sony 88843014882). on magniﬁcent form. Original serving artist If Gould’s Bach represents LP designs are reproduced timeless beauty, so too does as CD covers, and full track the music of the German 12th-century writer listings, a lovely selection of photographs and and composer Hildegard of Bingen. One of some touching memories can be found in the her music’s greatest champions is the vocal accompanying booklet. Ashkenazy is Decca’s and instrumental ensemble Sequentia, and longest-serving artist, having been signed up 55 to celebrate the ggroup’s 40th anniversary, years ago. (Decca 483 2182) Deutsche Harmonia Mundi is releasing a Talking of 55, an intriguing set comes our way la lavish s nine-dis e d sc set of over 12 hours of ease of from Sony Classical: the ﬁrst rele m music, inclu uding the Symphoniae, the all surviving session tapes from C Canticless of Ecstasy and Hildegard’s Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of a allego g rical morality play Ordo JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Vi Virttutum. The leather-boundWhat emerges in the brief tracks s b book effect box makes (there are dozens on each disc) iis for a splendidly grand a fascinating insight into Gould a and presentation. (Deutsche his producers’ relentless pursuit of H Harmonia Mundi 88725431682) excellence, their single-minded a approach h and the odd frustration that bubb bles to the BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Supported by Beethoven-Haus Bonn.
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World Jon Lusk presents our occasional round-up of the very best world music releases November round-up Sirom is a unique trio of Slovenian oddballs who have come up with the wonderfully strange, sonically adventurous I Can Be a Clay Snapper. It’s mostly ‘imagined’ folk music[s] using handmade – they are given to inventing things – and global instruments like lyre, violin, viola, balafons, frame drums, ribab and others. The bizarre album title, their fondness for typically Balkan asymmetrical rhythms, and non-verbal vocals make Sirom sound much like part of Frank Zappa’s The Mothers of Invention convening in some damp grotto for a playfully potty musical pact. Almost certainly this will be unlike anything else you’ve heard this year (Glitterbeat Records GBCD 051 – sirom.bandcamp.com; ★★★★★). If Leveret (see World Choice) may have a certain thing about squeezeboxes, then Finnish baritone mouth organ quartet Sväng could be dismissed as a novelty act. Aside from various grunts, wheezes and moans, vocals are limited to just one Gospel song. But you’ll hardly even notice the lack of other sounds, on Hauptbahnhof, which revisits and reforms 16 audience favourites from 14 years of literally breathtaking shows around the world. They blast their way through numerous genres, including waltz, tango and others (Galileo Music GMC 073 – www. svang.fi/hauptbahnhof; ★★★★★). You’ll hear several other Latin styles, including cha cha cha, guaracha, bolero, son and danzon – most notably, the epic ‘Almendra’ on the exemplary reissue of Introducing Rubén González. This mixture of charming originals and Afro-Cuban classics is played with mindboggling panache by an impeccably
tight, small ensemble arranged, conducted and drilled to distraction by Juan de Marcos González, surely the hardest working man in Cuban music when he helped mastermind this album (recorded in just two days). He also ropes in Rubén González – the most enduring keyboards champion for both the Afro Cuban all Stars, and Buena Vista Social Club, whose debut became the biggest-selling world music album ever, so far. González’s rigorous classical training honed him into an Olympic gymnast of the scales, unleashing one spectacular move after another. (World Circuit Records WCD 049 – www. worldcircuit.co.uk; ★★★★★) Brazilian singer Sabrina Malheiros’s Clareia is a peppy, quite danceable evocation/ recollection of the ‘golden era of Brazilian soul music’ she heard while growing up. That means plenty of disco grooves mixed in with samba roots, and a starring role from her father Alex Malheiros, electric bassist for samba jazz-funk legends Azymuth. So yes, there is lots of ‘slap bass’. From time to time Malheiros’s Portuguese vocals give way to a jazzy scat (Far Out Recordings FARO 199 – www. faroutrecordings.com; ★★★★). Another artist who has been revisiting her jazz roots is Vietnamese singer Huong Thanh, whose refreshingly magical, misty Sài Gòn, Saïgon shows her equally at home in French or Vietnamese as she gives new airings to songs of her youth. Versatile vibraphonist Frank Tortiller, whose group includes sterling pianist Bertrand Lajudie, the often blissfully woozy trumpeter Alexandre Herichon and luminous guest apparitions by Xan Vĩnh Phuóc on the dan bau monochord often found in more traditional Vietnamese recordings (Buda musique 5722684 www.budamusique.com; ★★★★★).
New airs and graces Leveret, a young English folk trio, has penned an album of wonderfully hummable tunes All new material: Leveret play their own dances and airs
Leveret Inventions Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion/ melodeon), Sam Sweeney (fiddle, viola), Rob Harbron (English concertina) RootBeat Records RCRCD 38 (www.rootbeatrecords.com)
The English acoustic folk ensemble Leveret won huge acclaim for its ravishing 2016 debut, In The Round, for which they created new arrangements of traditional material in the tried and tested folk way And a real beauty it was, too. Now, having cut their collective incisors on tunes composed by others during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, all three of these seasoned British folk music veterans – Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion/melodeon), Sam Sweeney (fiddle and viola), plus Rob Harbron (English concertina) – have started writing glorious tunes and medleys on their second album, Inventions, which truly proves their mettle. Those not familiar with English dance styles or more relaxed pieces like airs will surely revel in the richly woven descants and other harmonies as their improvisational chemistry shoots out sparks. Most satisfying of all is the way you’ll soon find yourself humming the pieces to yourself; surely the holy grail for folk musicians. To my ears, Leveret seem to be barely a hop, skip and a jump away from major prominence. ★★★★★ BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Jazz Garry Booth casts his ears over six of the best jazz releases available this month November round-up
Big band Monk John Beasley’s bold refashionings of Thelonious Monk once again hit the jackpot Colourful reinventions: John Beasley recruits a fine band of players
John Beasley MONK’estra, Vol. 2 John Beasley (arranger, conductor, piano) with big band; guests include Kamasi Washington (saxophone), Regina Carter (violin) and Dianne Reeves (vocals)
LAWRENCE SUMULONG, GETTY
Mack Avenue MAC1125 58:22 mins
Thelonious Monk took a great interest in the way people interpreted his tunes, and didn’t always approve. But it’s a fair bet that he would have done one of his trademark jigs to John Beasley’s rip-roaring MONK’estra project. Like the critically acclaimed Vol. 1, this is not a subtle approach to Monk’s pungent music, and this second helping has the 16-piece big band augmented by guest stars, re-imagining ten classic songs in a confection of highly rhythmic styles. Rarely recorded ‘Brake’s Sake’ has hip-hop artist Dontae Winslow rapping over a prowling funk backbeat, while a re-working of the early classic ‘Evidence’ is authentically startling with the wailing tenor sax of nu-jazz star Kamasi Washington. The kaleidoscopic segue of ‘Ugly Beauty’ into ‘Pannonica’, with muted reeds giving way to a swaying bossa nova backdrop, is ingenious. Beasley’s not just breathing new life into Monk’s repertoire – he’s firing up the big band scene. ★★★★★
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Is it possible to use the term easy listening and for it not to be pejorative? Aussie horn virtuoso James Morrison effortlessly transcends the genre on his new album The Great American Songbook by giving a good roasting to an assortment of old chestnuts from Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers, Ellington et al. Accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra (conducted by Keith Lockhart and recorded in the fabled Abbey Road studio) Morrison delivers a characteristically soaring masterclass in horn play, the ensemble flowing strongly beneath him. A clever move to keep the programme from curdling was to employ a number of different arrangers to bring their own colours and lyric touch to the tunes. (ABC Music 481 5433 ★★★★) The Christian McBride Big Band has form: it won a Grammy for the 2011 debut The Good Feeling. In the follow-up, Bringin’ It, the bassist leader pulls out the entertainment stops, meanwhile keeping his wellsprung ensemble on fast moving cruise control. Slick, pimped up arrangements fuel classic burners like Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Thermo’ and Wes Montgomery’s ‘Full House’. The brass chorus, anchored by baritone sax, is gorgeous and gives huge uplift to a procession of top shelf soloists. It’s not all show time polish, however, and McBride’s treatment of the ballad ‘I Thought About You’, featuring trumpeter Brandon Lee, is poised and considered. (Mack Avenue 1115 ★★★★) Bassist Gary Peacock is perhaps best known for his peerless work with pianist Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio, alongside drummer Jack DeJohnette. Fronting a trio on Tangents, Peacock delivers his own take on pared back modernism, across
a programme of mostly original compositions. It sounds like pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron are all ears for Peacock, as he pulls these deliciously lean tunes in and out of focus, sometimes leaving the accompanists hanging until his bass stalks back in. Peacock famously played alongside the late, great Bill Evans, too, and his covers of two tunes associated with the pianist, ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Blue In Green’, are tender and true. (ECM 574 1910 ★★★★) Another player who made his mark as a super sideman is drummer Louis Hayes. He started as a 19 year-old with the late Blue Note pianist Horace Silver. To celebrate his own 80th birthday, Hayes is making his debut as leader on the famous label with Serenade for Horace. The years fall away as Hayes’s sextet reprises a string of Silver’s hard bop classics like ‘Sen˜or Blues’, ‘Room 608’ and ‘The St. Vitus Dance’. Guest star Gregory Porter graces the album with a perfectly retrofitted version of ‘Song for My Father’. Sixty years on, Hayes continues to swing with the insouciance of a teenager. (Blue Note 576 1782 ★★★★) Fred Hersch might not be a household name, despite having 40 albums to his credit, but for connoisseurs of solo improvised pianism he’s somewhat special. The title of his 2017 memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly, is a clue to Hersch’s art. Open Book was recorded in Seoul, Korea and includes six lightly structured pieces plus a 20-minute recital conceived in the moment on stage. It’s a delightful programme brimming with with graceful, dancing lines and dramatic diversions. (Palmetto PM 2186 ★★★★)
A passionate virtuoso: Charles Mingus was a creative force
From the archives
We meet the BBC Young Musicianwinning cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason; with Schumann’s Piano Trio in F on the CD.
Join us to welcome conductor Sir Simon Rattle as he takes up his new position at the LSO; plus a CD of Sibelius’s Kullervo
Which opera did 172 singers vote as the greatest of all time? Find out in our opera issue, along with a CD of beautiful arias
Geoffrey Smith welcomes a new box set which offers a chance to assess bassist Charles Mingus’s great legacy
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One of the highlights of the alternative strand in this summer’s BBC Proms was Beneath the Underdog: Charles Mingus Revisited, a tribute to the larger-than-life jazz bassist, composer and leader. Featuring Jules Buckley’s Metropole Orkest and star soloists, the evening’s roofraising success made it clear that, despite a career marked by controversy and turmoil, Mingus has become a bona fide immortal, a creative force celebrated across the musical spectrum from jazz and classical to rock and pop. Accordingly, his legacy rates the same kind of in-depth attention as that of such giants as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington, a need handsomely met by the Properbox compilation Mingus Moods (Properbox 188) surveying some of his greatest achievements. Already a virtuoso bassist, in 1956 Mingus created a landmark in jazz composition with his album Pithecanthropus Eructus, its title track nothing less than a tone poem on the rise and fall of primitive man, combining modality, swing and free improvisation in a four-part structure which itself felt improvised, since Mingus dictated his complex score to his quintet instead of writing it down. The result is a kind of tumultuous coherence, happening on the spot like jazz itself, a remarkably rich and complex feat for just five instruments. That mixture of intensity, ambition and innovation became Mingus’s trademark, driven along by his obsession to express his feelings at all times. Though this could make his personal relationships precarious, it made his music passionate, thrilling and diverse. The four CDs of the Properbox set include such masterworks as the rampaging ‘Haitian Fight Song’, launched by a stunning bass solo, several pulsating Tijuana Moods and Better Git It In Your Soul, Mingus’s tribute to his ecstatic gospel roots. That remains one of his greatest hits, along with his heartfelt elegy for saxophonist Lester Young, ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’, and his searing condemnation of racism, ‘Original Faubus Fables’, with its satiric, chanting vocal. It’s all Mingus, and all amazing.
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BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Books Our critics cast their eyes over this month’s selection of books on classical music Hear Me Out – All my Music Armando Iannucci
revived his creativity, but Tennant doesn’t really assess her influence on his actual music; few of his settings of her verses are especially significant. Nevertheless this remains an extensive, frank but urbanely unsensational account of a vivid character, much more than a pendant to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s own biographies. Michael Scott Rohan ★★★★
Little Brown ISBN 978-1-4087-0988-7 278pp £14.99
‘Classical music is there for us all, inviting us to reach out and touch it.’ So saying, Armando Iannucci lays out his musical stall with a series of personal reflections on a wide range of topics, composers and pieces, deftly articulating what makes them so special (or not). Without recourse to technical jargon or analytical discourse, he zones in on music’s nexus points, celebrating some of the finest music ever composed and those special moments that can induce a state of nirvana in a matter of seconds. Iannucci’s bright and breezy style makes this a book one can happily dip into or read straight through at a single sitting. Along the way you’ll encounter entertaining nuggets about (among other things) modernism, the scherzo, arrangements, completism, repetition and mobile phones. He summarises his fascination with Mahler’s music as being more about the questions it raises than any answers it may attempt to provide, and touching on Mozart’s tantalising fusion of innocence and experience, reflects that ‘it’s going to take a lifetime to work out what I make of him.’ Julian Haylock ★★★★
Opera: Passion, Power and Politics Ed. Kate Bailey
V&A Pub., ISBN 978-1-8517-7928-4 (hardback); ISBN 978-1-8517-7946-8 (paperback) 153pp hb £35; pb £25
This is a handsome, beautifully illustrated tome produced to document and support the upcoming V&A and Royal Opera House (ROH) exhibition of the same name (V&A: 30 September – 25 February). Edited by curator Kate Bailey, the book includes insights from a variety of opera stalwarts, such as Plácido Domingo and Danielle de Niese. Like its museum
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Bartolomeo Cristofori and the Invention of the Piano Stewart Pollens Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-1107-09657-8 384pp £74
Vivid characters: Ursula and Ralph Vaughan Williams
counterpart, Opera: Passion, Power and Politics comprises seven sections that each focus on a single city and opera – ‘the soundtrack to the history of Europe’ writes outgoing ROH director Kasper Holten – and considers the social fabric into which the music was woven. While it’s regrettable that this highprofile project neglects to include a contemporary opera, the chosen works are not intended to be a prescriptive ‘Top Seven’. There’s enough here to pique the interest of the general reader, although the primary audience will surely be attendees of the exhibition in search of further reading – and a charming coffee-table souvenir. Claire Jackson ★★★★
Mistress and Muse: Ursula – the Second Mrs Vaughan Williams Janet Tennant Albion Music ISBN 978-0-9956284-0-3 394pp £30
It’s remarkable how many male composers leave much younger widows to bear the torch – sometimes, like Cosima Wagner, with pernicious effect. Ursula Vaughan Williams, as this welcome new biography emphasises, wisely decided the torch ‘can look after itself’ and spent her remaining five decades at the heart of British music and arts, maintaining her own individuality as a minor poet and novelist. She met Ralph, already 64, in 1938, his wife Adeline long crippled by arthritis. Their immediate attraction launched not just an affair, but a civilised ménage à trois, with Adeline’s evident approval; another, with a mutual friend, apparently followed. Tennant’s assertion that Ursula was Ralph’s first affair is unlikely; a charmer with a roguish delight in silk-stockinged legs, his many ‘flirtations’ included pianist and serial amorist Harriet Cohen. The happiness Ursula brought
Stewart Pollens fell in love with the sound of a Bartolomeo Cristofori piano when, as an apprentice harpsichord maker, he chanced to overhear it being played; this book is his encyclopaedic tribute. Almost nothing is known of Cristofori’s early years in Padua, but Pollens gives us the full works on his career at the Medici court in Florence, Italy, where in 1688 he was hired to tune harpsichords, and where he began to make his own keyboard instruments, including harpsichords, clavichords, and spinets (one of which reportedly had gold strings). Pollens quibbles about Cristofori being the original ‘inventor’ of the piano, then concedes that his pivoted-hammer plus escapement mechanism, and his capitalising on the potential of increased string tension, have earned him that title. Readers should be warned that half of this expensive book is devoted to minutely detailed descriptions of the innards of specific instruments, including such arcana as tables of string-lengths and strikingpoints measured in millimetres. Cristofori’s posthumous influence – indirectly on JS Bach, and even on the revolutionary Sébastien Erard a century later – makes a fascinating thread, but you have to dig for it in this mountain of erudition. Michael Church ★★★
Audio choice Every issue our audio expert Chris Haslam tests the best products on the market THIS MONTH: MULTI-ROOM AUDIO HIGH END CHOICE
Naim Mu-so £995 Mu-so Qb £650 Naim is synonymous with high-end audio, and here it gives audiophiles the chance to embrace hi-res wireless streaming in two flawlessly made and beautiful-to-use systems. Connect up to five Mu-so speakers via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi ((usingg A Apple AirPlay or the Naim app) and, with Spotify, Tidal and many other streaming services built in, you can play a wide selection of file types including 24-bit/192kHz hi-resolution audio. Sonos (see right) is more intuitive, but for sound quality, the Mu-So and more compact Mu-so Qb can’t be beaten. www.naimaudio.com Room fillers: Naim’s Mu-so Qb and (below) Mu-so speakers
BUDGET PRICE CHOICE
Chromecast Audio £30 A ludicrously cheap way to upgrade your existing hi-fi, this tiny dongle (right) plugs in via a 3.5mm port, connects to your home’s Wi-Fi and allows you to stream around the house (if you have other speakers/ dongles) from Google Play Music, Deezer, TuneIn, Sondcloud and Spotify (Apple Music and Amazon Music miss out). Wi-Fi streaming sounds far better (up to 24-bit/96kHz) than Bluetooth can, and while performance won’t knock your socks off, the ease of use and value for money will transform how you listen. www.google.com
MULTI-ROOM JARGON BUSTER While you won’t get the same performance as a dedicated hi-fi and a good pair of wired speakers, multi-room solutions provide instant access to a huge amount of online music, streamed via your smartphone or tablet throughout the house.
6061 from £199-£499
Sonos is now so far ahead in the multi-room system race that, like Hoover and Sellotape, it has virtually become the trademark for the whole genre. While its speakers are not the most dynamic looking or sounding, it remains the best thanks to the quality of its app, ease of set up – press the synch button, enter Wi-Fi password – and range of compatible streaming services and CD-quality streaming. Connect up to 32 speakers and you can enjoy your favourite symphony reaching every corner of the house. I can’t recommend the Play:1 (£199) highly enough – it’s the perfect bedroom/kitchen speaker, with substance and clarity unmatched for its size. The larger Play:3 (£299) and Play:5 (£499) are also worth exploring, and you can even upgrade your existing hi-fi with the Connect (£350). Admittedly, multi-room can still feel like a solution waiting for a problem, but there’s something spectacular about being woken by the sprightly opening to Shostakovich’s First Symphony (you can set up to 32 alarms), hopping in the shower for the second movement and be buttering toast by the finale. www.sonos.com
Bluetooth or Wi-Fi?: Bluetooth speakers are simple to use, but don’t offer the same sound quality or connection reliability as Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi also means you don’t have to stay within a few metres of the speaker. Sound quality: As technology improves, you can now stream CD-level quality through
many multi-room speakers. That said, if you’re pernickety about bit-rates you’re probably better with a dedicated wired hi-fi. Apps: All systems come with a dedicated app to keep set-up simple, but Spotify Premium users should ensure their system has Spotify Connect compatibility. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Each issue we provide details of the must-hear events around the UK LONDON
Lenny memory: Marin Alsop pays tribute to Bernstein
London Symphony Orchestra Northern star: the silvery Sage
Venue of the month The UK’s best concert halls
1. Sage Gateshead
GETTY, MARCO BORGGREVE
Where: Gateshead, Tyne and Wear Opened: 2004 Seats: 1,700
You really can’t miss the Sage Gateshead. Arguably the UK’s most eye-catching concert venue, it adorns the south bank of the River Tyne, a short walk from the Tyne Bridge in one direction and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, a former mill, in the other. Its sumptuous Norman Foster-designed glass curves embrace a veritable wealth of performance spaces plus activity and education areas – as well as the 1,700-seat Sage One and 400-seat Sage Two auditoriums, there is also a large glass-fronted rehearsal hall, lecture studios and, below ground level, smaller practice rooms galore. The ‘home’ team here is the Royal Northern Sinfonia which, under the direction of pianist-conductor Lars Vogt, both rehearses and performs at the Sage on a regular basis, while visiting ensembles over the next few months will include the Hallé, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Brussels Philharmonic. The Sage Gateshead, which cost around £70 million to build, opened its doors to the public with a weekend of celebratory events in December 2004 including visits from the London Symphony Orchestra, composer and conductor Thomas Adès and soprano Lesley Garrett.
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Barbican, 4, 5 & 8 Nov Tel: +44 (0)20 7638 8891 Web: www.barbican.org.uk Leonard Bernstein protégé Marin Alsop conducts three concerts as part of the LSO’s centenary salute to its sometime president. After a family concert, she turns her attention to the symphonies, setting No. 3 (Kaddish) alongside the Adagio from Mahler’s Tenth. The young Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony opens the final evening where it partners another symphonic debut: Mahler’s Titan Symphony No. 1.
Wimbledon Music Festival Wimbledon, 11-26 Nov Tel: 0333 666 3366 Web: wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk Southwest London is set for a series of capital city adventures. Wimbledon Music Festival embarks on a metropolishopping global journey that takes violinist Viktoria Mullova to Rio; vocal ensemble Tenebrae to Rome (and Westminster); and the Schubert Ensemble to Vienna where Hummel, Brahms, Beethoven and Mahler sustain a two-pronged concert.
Muhly’s Marnie London Coliseum, 18 Nov – 3 Dec Tel: +44 (0)20 7845 9300 Web: www.eno.org English National Opera premiered Nico Muhly’s Two Boys in 2011 and is host again to the world premiere of Marnie, his new opera based on the novel by Winston Graham (subsequently reworked for the big screen by Hitchcock). Martyn Brabbins conducts a production by Michael Mayer with mezzo Sasha Cooke in the title role, and bassbaritone Daniel Okulitch as the controlling Mark Rutland.
City Of London Sinfonia Village Underground EC2, 22 Nov Tel: +44 (0)20 7621 2800 Web: cityoflondonsinfonia.co.uk The second concert of City of London Sinfonia’s trilogy
devoted to ‘Modern Mystics’ swaps Southwark Cathedral’s Arvo Pärt (on 9 Nov) for edgy Village Underground. Jessica Cottis conducts a programme stretching from Machaut to Julian Anderson’s medievalinspired Book of Hours.
pianist Noam Greenberg’s chamberfest in the former Methodist Chapel of St Mawes. Among the performers are the Ardeo Quartet and bandoneonplayer Marcelo Nisinman.
Cadogan Hall, 23 Nov Tel: +44 (0)20 7730 4500 Web: www.cadoganhall.com Schütz’s sumptuous Musikalische Exequien and JS Bach’s Jesu, meine Freude anchor Stile Antico’s ‘Choral at Cadogan’ contribution. Their survey of Lutheran funeral music also straddles Hassler, Daser, Knöfel and Handl.
The Anvil, Basingstoke, 4 Nov Tel: +44 (0)1256 844244 Web: www.anvilarts.org.uk With a repeat at London’s Royal Festival Hall the following night, Mark van de Wiel premieres the new Clarinet Concerto by Joseph Phibbs. Edward Gardner conducts, and sets the concerto between two examples of prime Elgar: his vivid Italian postcard, In the South (Alassio), and the mighty First Symphony.
Music At Tresanton
Bath, 10-18 Nov Tel: +44 (0)1225 463362 Web: www.bathmozartfest.org.uk What with the Takács, Escher, and Chiaroscuro quartets in attendance, string quartet enthusiasts are spoilt for choice in a Bath Mozartfest not short
Methodist Chapel, St Mawes, 3-5 Nov Tel: +44 (0)1872 262466 Web: www.musicattresanton.co.uk From Copland to Cage and from George Crumb’s Black Angels to a tango night, America inspires
November Live of fine pianists too – notably András Schiff, Imogen Cooper, Steven Osborne and fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout (see box). In Bath Abbey, La Nuova Musica dusts down the Great C minor Mass together with some Mozart arrangements of Handel.
EAST Britten Sinfonia St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, 8 Nov Tel: +44 (0)1603 630000 Web: www.brittensinfonia.com Sir Mark Elder conducts an inspired pairing of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder (sung by mezzosoprano Elisabeth Kulman) and Brahms’s First Symphony. There’s more Mahler too with Britten’s arrangement of the second movement of the Third Symphony.
Gabrieli Consort Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge, 14 Nov Tel: +44 (0)1223 357851 Web: cambridgemusicfestival.co.uk Revisiting its exuberant recreation of Doge Marino Grimani’s 1595 coronation in St Mark’s Venice, the Gabrieli Consort launches an eclectic Cambridge Music Festival line-up boasting violinist Joshua Bell and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Bach’s Goldberg Variations from Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and the Bach-meetsSteve-Reich of harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani.
MIDLANDS & NORTH & WALES Brussels Philharmonic Sage Gateshead, 9 Nov Tel: +44 (0)191 443 4661 Web: www.sagegateshead.com Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Passchendaele puts in a timely appearance when conductor Stéphane Denève returns the Brussels Philharmonic to the UK for a four-date London to Edinburgh tour. Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2, and excerpts from Prokofiev’s Cinderella add a balletic postscript to Nikolaj Znaider’s account of the Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor.
Ensemble Cymru Pontio, Bangor, 12 Nov Tel: +44 (0)1248 382828 Web: www.pontio.co.uk The Bangor-based chamber ensemble marks its 15th birthday with Martinu˚’s Chamber Music No. 1, Mahler’s single-
movement Piano Quartet in A minor, and works by Jongen, John Metcalf and Claire Roberts.
Making a splash: Kristian Bezuidenhout plays Mozart in Bath
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Huddersfield, 17-26 Nov Tel: +44 (0)1484 430528 Web: www.hcmf.co.uk The opening weekend of Huddersfield’s 40th edition hits the ground running with world premieres spotlighting James Dillon and Rolf Hind as well as the UK premiere of a Suite by Brian Ferneyhough, uniting the Arditti Quartet and leading German contemporary group Ensemble Modern. The 60th anniversary of Polish Experimental Radio Studio is variously celebrated, and the London Sinfonietta is immersed in Xenakis, Birtwistle, Paredes and Colin Matthews.
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 19, 24 & 26 Nov Tel: +44 (0)151 709 3789 Web: www.liverpoolphil.com Bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s artist-in-residence, salutes Verdi twice over in concerts sacred and uproariously profane. A performance of the mighty Requiem is followed by two ventures into the Italian’s comic operatic swansong, Falstaff. All are conducted by the RLPO’s principal conductor Vasily Petrenko, and Terfel’s wellupholstered knight meets his match at the hands of the always one-step-ahead Alice of soprano Rebecca Evans.
SCOTLAND & N IRELAND
BACKSTAGE WITH… Fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout You’re appearing at Bath’s Mozartfest in November – what are the benefits of a festival devoted to this one composer? Mozart was caught in a time when he had to write so many different kinds of music – for public and private consumption, but also revolutionary, ground-breaking music. I’m always astonished by the variety of genres Mozart wrote in, and the ease in which he moves between string quartets, piano concertos, sonatas, opera... It means that his music suits that sort of immersive programming really well. How do you programme a Mozart recital? When you juxtapose works from across his career in a programme, it sheds light on his varied talents as a composer, as a pianist, as a publisher, as a businessman! Audiences always come away having really experienced how varied, unbelievably colourful and exploratory his keyboard writing is. Why play Mozart’s music on the fortepiano? Mozart was the keyboard superstar of his day. He wrote 18 piano sonatas, almost 30 piano concertos, violin sonatas, piano trios, piano quartets and a quintet for piano and wind, all of it essentially for one instrument: the fortepiano of the late 18th century. That says a huge amount about his character, and when you hear his music played on the fortepiano it can feel like an incredibly personal interaction with Mozart himself. Bezuidenhout performs at Bath’s Mozartfest on 15 November
Soundfestival Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, 26 Oct – 11 Nov Tel: +44 (0)1224 641122 Web: www.sound-scotland.co.uk Quatuor Bozzini, Red Note Ensemble and violinist Tamsin Little are among the artists heading to north-east Scotland for Sound’s annual contemporary music tryst. A focus on the bassoon includes a new work by composer Benedict Mason; ‘Sounding the North’ ponders notions of northernness; while a concluding weekend of popup opera is on the right lines with a performance on the Euston to Aberdeen Caledonian Sleeper train.
Northern Ireland Opera
Grand Opera House, Belfast, 17-19 Nov Tel: +44 (0)28 9024 1919 Web: www.niopera.com Ushering in Northern Ireland Opera’s autumn season are performances of Così fan tutte, Mozart’s comic, bittersweet opera buffa exploring the boundaries of fidelity. Australian baritone Samuel Dale Johnson is the wily string-pulling Don Alfonso, and Adele Thomas’s new production is conducted by Nicholas Chalmers.
St Andrew’s & St George’s West, Edinburgh, 18 Nov Tel: +44 (0)131 668 2019 Web: www.gcs.org.uk The deserved winners of this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society award for chamber music, viol consort Fretwork returns to its early roots in an exploration of the English 16thand 17th-century polyphonic In Nomine, with examples of this beguiling genre by William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and Christopher Tye. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Your complete guide to what’s on Radio 3 this month, plus TV highlights
Double or quits: Prokofiev’s The Gambler ups the stakes on 18 Nov; (below) the 1920 re-enactment of the Storming of the Winter Palace
NOVEMBER’S RADIO 3 LISTINGS Schedules may be subject to alteration. For up-to-date listings see Radio Times
Three to look out for Alan Davey, the controller of BBC Radio 3, picks out three great moments to tune into this November
Breaking Free: A Century of Russian Culture One hundred years since Bolshevik forces stormed the Winter Palace, we look at the extraordinary cultural developments that followed the Russian Revolution, from 1917 to the present day. As, over two weeks, we explore the relationship between Russian music, culture and politics, we will be devoting a whole day of programming to the event on 7 November, the anniversary day itself. 6-17 November
Cherubini’s Medea Few operatic heroines induce feelings of horror and sympathy in equal measure to quite the same extent as Medea, the eponymous sorceress of Cherubini’s 1797 opera. The exceptional Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen is Medea herself, as we take in this performance from Wexford Festival Opera. Opera on 3; 25 November, 7.30pm
London Jazz Festival As London’s great annual celebration of all things jazz rolls into action, join us as we cover the highlights, including the opening night gala. From 10 November
1 WEDNESDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Elgar 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-3.30pm Afternoon Concert 3.30-4.30pm Choral Evensong From Salisbury Cathedral 4.30-5pm New Generation Artists 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert. Vaughan Williams Incidental Music to the Mayor
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of Casterbridge, Britten Piano Concerto No. 1, Recitative and Aria for Piano and Orchestra, Copland Quiet City, Britten Suite from King Arthur. Sunwook Kim (piano), BBC Concert Orchestra/Andrew Gourlay 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
2 THURSDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Elgar
1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from Milton Court, London. Dowland Lachrimae pavan, In darkness let me dwell, Lawes Fantasy in six parts, Blow and Purcell Songs, Purcell Suite from The Fairy Queen, Chacony in G minor, Handel Arias, Concerto for Organ No. 13 in F, ‘The Cuckoo and the Nightingale’, Arne Songs. Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
3 FRIDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Elgar 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from The Barbican, London. Lili Boulanger D’un matin de printemps, D’un soir triste, Betsy Jolas Histoires vraies, Mahler Symphony No. 4. Susanna Hurrell (soprano), Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet), Roger Muraro (piano), BBC Symphony Orchestra/John Storgårds 10-10.45pm The Verb 10.45-11pm The Essay 11pm-1am World on 3
4 SATURDAY 7-9am Breakfast 9am-12.15pm Record Review – Building a Library: Vivaldi Concertos, Op. 4 La Stravaganza, reviewed by Simon Heighes 12.15-1pm Music Matters 1-3pm Saturday Classics 3-4pm Sound of Cinema 4-5pm Jazz Record Requests 5-6.30pm Jazz Line-Up
6.30-10.10pm Opera on 3 from Welsh National Opera. Musorgsky Khovanshchina. Robert Hayward (Prince Ivan Khovansky), Adrian Dwyer (Prince Andrei Khovansky), Mark Le Brocq (Prince Vasily Golitsyn) et al. Orchestra of Welsh National Opera/Tomáš Hanus 10.10-10.30pm Between the Ears Clash of the Ash 10.30pm-12.30am Hear and Now 12.30-1.30am Geoffrey Smith’s Jazz
5 SUNDAY 7-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Sunday Morning 12 noon-1pm Private Passions 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert (rpt from Wigmore Hall) 2-3pm The Early Music Show 3-4pm Choral Evensong From Salisbury Cathedral (rpt) 4-5pm Choir and Organ 5-5.30pm The Listening Service 5.30-6.45pm Words and Music 6.45-7.30pm Sunday Feature Emigrante – 1917 Revisited 7.30-9pm Radio 3 in Concert from the European Broadcasting Union (exact programme to be confirmed) 9-11.10pm Drama on 3 Fathers and Sons. Brian Friel’s acclaimed dramatisation of Turgenev’s 1860 novel 11.30pm-12.30am Early Music Late
6 MONDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics CHOICE 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week 100 Years of the Russian Revolution, from 1917 to 2017. Over two weeks, presenter Donald Macleod is joined by musicologist Marina FrolovaWalker to discuss the lives of Russian composers against the backdrop the Revolution. Each programme in the series focuses
on two composers, including Roslavets and Mosolov 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert live from Wigmore Hall. Schumann Märchenbilder Op. 113, Hindemith Sonata for viola and piano in F, Op. 11 No. 4, Ysaÿe Sonata D minor Op. 27 No. 3 ‘Ballade’ (arr. for viola), Paganini Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7 MS48 ‘La campanella’ (arr. Primrose). Eivind Holtsmark Ringstad (viola), David Meier (piano) 2-5pm Afternoon Concert CHOICE 5-7pm In Tune From Russia with Love. Over two weeks, Tom Service tells the story of the Russian century through ten works of art, broadcast each weekday as part of In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape
November TV&Radio Artists that Shook the World 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
10 FRIDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week The Russian Revolution 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape CHOICE 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from Royal Festival Hall, London. The opening gala of the London Jazz Festival. Alongside Guy Barker’s 42-piece orchestra, artists include Seal, Liane Carroll, Mica Paris, Miles Mosley, Tony Momrelle and Vanessa Haynes 10-10.45pm The Verb 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten Artists that Shook the World CHOICE 11pm-1am Jazz Now. Live from the London Jazz Festival at Ronnie Scott’s, London.
Jazz centenarian: Thelonious Monk is Composer of the Week, 20 Nov
7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert. Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat, Op. 107, Peteris Vasks Dona nobis pacem, Gregorian Chant Dies Irae, Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances. István Várdai (cello), London Philharmonic Choir, The Lay Vicars of Westminster Abbey, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrés OrozcoEstrada 10-10.45pm Music Matters (rpt) 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten Artists that Shook the World 11pm-12.30am Jazz Now
100th anniversary of the storming of the Winter Palace 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week The Russian Revolution 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert (details tbc) 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten Artists that Shook the World 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
CHOICE Radio 3 fills a day’s schedule with Russian-themed programmes to mark the
6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the
Week The Russian Revolution 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-3.30pm Afternoon Concert 3.30-4.30pm Choral Evensong from the Chapel of Royal Holloway, University of London 4.30-5pm New Generation Artists 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape CHOICE 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert. Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3, Gabriela Ortiz Suite from Hominum (UK premiere), Shostakovich Symphony No. 6. Boris Giltburg (piano), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlos Miguel Prieto 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten Artists that Shook the World
11pm-12.30am Late Junction
9 THURSDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week The Russian Revolution 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from City Hall, Hull. Tchaikovsky Sleeping Beauty Suite, Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33, Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade. Leonard Elschenbroich (cello), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/ Alexander Shelley 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten
7-9am Breakfast 9am-12.15pm Record Review – Building a Library: Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 ‘The Year 1905’, reviewed by Gerard McBurney 12.15-1pm Music Matters 1-3pm Saturday Classics 3-4pm Sound of Cinema 4-5pm Jazz Record Requests 5-6pm Jazz Line-Up 6-9.30pm Opera on 3 from the European Broadcast Union. Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. Nina Stemme (Katerina Lvovna Izmailova), Maxim Paster (Zinoviy Borisovich Izmailov) et al. Vienna Philharmonic/Mariss Jansons 9.30-10pm Between the Ears The Shanty Boat 10pm-12 midnight Hear and Now 12 midnight-1am Geoffrey Smith’s Jazz
12 SUNDAY 7-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Sunday Morning 12 noon-1pm Private Passions 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert (rpt from Wigmore Hall) 2-3pm The Early Music Show 3-4pm Choral Evensong Recorded in the Chapel of Royal Holloway, University of London (rpt) 4-5pm Choir and Organ 5-5.30pm The Listening Service 5.30-6.45pm Words and Music 6.45-7.30pm Sunday Feature A column for infinity BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
7.30-9pm Radio 3 in Concert from the European Broadcasting Union. (Programme details to be confirmed) 9-10.30pm Drama on 3 Russian new writing 10.30pm-11.30pm Early Music Late
13 MONDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week The Russian Revolution 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert live from Wigmore Hall, London. Schumann Kinderszenen, Op. 15, Shostakovich Piano Sonata No. 2 in B minor, Op. 61, Gabriela Montero Improvisations. Gabriela Montero (piano) 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert from Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden. Finzi The Fall of the Leaf: Elegy for Orchestra, Mahler (arr. Britten) What the Wild Flowers tell me, Mahler RückertLieder, Brahms Symphony No. 1. Elisabeth Kulman (mezzosoprano), Britten Sinfonia/Sir Mark Elder 10-10.45pm Music Matters (rpt) 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten Artists that Shook the World 11pm-12.30am Jazz Now
MARCO BORGGREVE, RICHARD HUBERT SMITH
14 TUESDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week The Russian Revolution 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert. Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time, Shostakovich Symphony No. 14. John Bradbury (clarinet), Peter Dixon (cello), Martin Roscoe (piano), Soile Isokoski (soprano), Stephen Richardson (bass-baritone), BBC Philharmonic/John Storgårds (conductor/violin) 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten Artists that Shook the World 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
Rachmaninov St John Chrysostom Liturgy sung by St Petersburg Chamber Choir 4.30-5pm New Generation Artists 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from the Lighthouse, Poole. Brahms Tragic Overture, Op. 81, Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37, Rachmaninov The Bells, Op. 35. David Fray (piano), Olga Mykytenko (soprano), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/ Kirill Karabits 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten Artists that Shook the World 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week The Russian Revolution 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert from Victoria Hall, Hanley. Rossini Semiramide Overture, Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5. Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1. Jennifer Pike (violin); BBC Philharmonic/Diego Matheuz 10-10.45pm The Verb 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten Artists that Shook the World 11pm-1am World on 3
7-9am Breakfast 9am-12.15pm Record Review – Building a Library: Rodgers Oklahoma!, reviewed by Richard Sissons 12.15-1pm Music Matters 1-3pm Saturday Classics 3-4pm Sound of Cinema 4-5pm Jazz Record Requests 5-6.30pm Jazz Line-Up 6.30-9.30pm Opera on 3 from the Royal Opera House. Prokofiev The Gambler. Roberto Saccà (Alexey Ivanovitch), Angela Denoke (Polina), John Tomlinson (General), Jurgita Adamonyte (Blanche), Kurt Streit (Marquis) et al. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/ Antonio Pappano 9.30-10pm Between the Ears The Plot for Karl Marx (see p39). 10pm-12 midnight Hear and Now 12 midnight-1am Geoffrey Smith’s Jazz
6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week The Russian Revolution 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. Wagner Tannhäuser – Overture and Venusberg music, Richard Strauss Don Juan, Verdi Four Sacred Pieces. Hallé & Hallé Choir/Sir Mark Elder 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Ten Artists that Shook the World 11pm-12.30am Exposure
17 FRIDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast
19 SUNDAY 7-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Sunday Morning 12 noon-1pm Private Passions 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert (rpt from Wigmore Hall) 2-3pm The Early Music Show 3-4pm Choral Evensong Rachmaninov St John Chrysostom Liturgy sung by St Petersburg Chamber Choir (rpt) 4-5pm Choir and Organ 5-5.30pm The Listening Service 5.30-6.45pm Words and Music 6.45-7.30pm Sunday Feature To Resurrect Mayakovsky. Writer Ian Sansom will explore the life and work of Vladimir Mayakovsky, the poet who ‘proclaimed’ the Russian Revolution 7.30-9pm Radio 3 in Concert from the European Broadcasting Union 9-10.30pm Drama on 3 10.30pm-11.30pm Early Music Late
20 MONDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12noon-1pm Composer of the Week Thelonious Monk, on the centenary of his birth 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert live from Wigmore Hall. Szymanowski String Quartet No. 1 in C, Op. 37, Sibelius String Quartet in D minor, Op. 56 ‘Voces intimae’. Meccore Quartet 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert
15 WEDNESDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week The Russian Revolution 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-3.30pm Afternoon Concert 3.30-4.30pm Choral Evensong
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Weekly TV & radio highlights On our website each week we pick the best of the classical music programmes on radio, TV and iPlayer. To plan your weekly listening and viewing, go to classical-music. com or sign up to our weekly newsletter to be sent information about the week’s classical programmes directly to your inbox.
from King’s College, Cambridge. BBC Singers 10-10.45pm Music Matters (rpt) 10.45-11pm The Essay Ghosts 11pm-12.30am Jazz Now
21 TUESDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Thelonious Monk 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert from Bath Mozart Festival. New Generation Artist Showcase. Bruch Nos 2, 5 & 6 from Eight pieces for clarinet, viola and piano, Chopin Impromptu No.1, Fantasie Impromptu, Brahms Sonata in E flat for viola and piano, Schumann Fairy Tales for clarinet, viola & piano, Mozart Kleiner Trauermarsch in C, K453a, Two Minuets from K176, D minor Fantasy, Mozart Clarinet Trio in E flat, K498 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Ghosts 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
22 WEDNESDAY Multi-tasking: John Storgårds plays and conducts, 14 Nov
6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the
Great Dane: Allan Clayton plays Hamlet at Glyndebourne
NOVEMBER TV CHOICE Brett Dean’s Hamlet Something may well be rotten in the state of Denmark, to paraphrase Marcellus in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but there is very little rotten in the state of Brett Dean’s new opera based on the famous play. Premiered at Glyndebourne this summer, the Neil Armfield-directed production was unanimously applauded by the critics, not just for the composer’s bewitchingly intense score but also for Matthew Jocelyn’s fast-paced, pareddown libretto. And then, of course, there was the exceptional cast. Mezzo Sarah Connolly (Gertrude), soprano Barbara Hannigan (Ophelia) and bass John Tomlinson (in various roles) all caught the eye, but it was tenor Allan Clayton, as the eponymous prince, for whom the reviewers reserved their most lavish praise. ‘Clayton takes his tenor to its limits in expressing his desperation,’ wrote The Guardian, ‘and his slow-burning intensity carries the tragedy to the bitter, grisly end.’ Here is your chance to see one of the opera highlights of 2017, as BBC Four screens Brett Dean’s Hamlet in full this month. BBC Four: date and time tbc
Week Thelonious Monk 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-3.30pm Afternoon Concert 3.30-4.30pm Choral Evensong 1996 archive recording of choral evensong from York Minster, featuring the music of Francis Jackson (see p44) and Edward Bairstow 4.30-5pm New Generation Artists 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from the Royal Festival Hall, London. Frank Bridge Summer, Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3,
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 1. Beatrice Rana (piano), London Philharmonic Orchestra/Michail Jurowski 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Ghosts 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
23 THURSDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Thelonious Monk 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune
6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Thelonious Monk 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert from Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. Mozart Aria for soprano, piano & orchestra: Ch’io mi scordi di te, Symphony No. 34, Mahler Symphony No. 4. Elizabeth Watts (soprano), Hallé Orchestra/Ryan Wigglesworth 10-10.45pm The Verb 10.45-11pm The Essay Ghosts 11pm-1am World on 3
25 SATURDAY 7-9am Breakfast 9am-12.15pm Record Review – Building a Library Brahms String Quartet No. 3 in B flat, Op. 67, reviewed by Katy Hamilton 12.15-1pm Music Matters 1-3pm Saturday Classics 3-4pm Sound of Cinema 4-5pm Jazz Record Requests 5-6.30pm Jazz Line-Up CHOICE 6.30-10pm Opera on 3 from Wexford Festival Opera. Cherubini Medea. Lise Davidsen (Medea), Ruth Iniesta (Glauce), Raffaella Lupinacci (Neris), Sergey Romanovsky (Jason), Adam Lau (King Creon) et al, Wexford Festival Opera Orchestra/Stephen Barlow 10pm-12 midnight Hear and Now 12 midnight-1am Geoffrey Smith’s Jazz
26 SUNDAY 7-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Sunday Morning 12 noon-1pm Private Passions 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert (rpt, from Wigmore Hall) 2-3pm The Early Music Show 3-4pm Choral Evensong 1996 archive recording of choral evensong from York Minster, featuring the music of Francis
27 MONDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Charles Koechlin 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert live from Wigmore Hall, London. JS Bach Cello Suite No. 1 in G, BWV1007, Shostakovich Cello Sonata in D minor, Op. 40. Andrei Ioni (cello), Itamar Golan (piano) 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from LSO St Luke’s, London. European Union 50th anniversary concert. Monteverdi Orfeo – Overture (European Broadcasting Union fanfare), Tabakova Fanfare, Britten Suite on English Folk Tunes, Op. 90 ‘A Time There Was’, Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, K364, Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 ‘Emperor’, Monteverdi Orfeo – Overture (EBU fanfare) 10-10.45pm Music Matters (rpt) 10.45-11pm The Essay Letters to Writers 11pm-12.30am Jazz Now
28 TUESDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Charles Koechlin 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert from Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London. Elgar Overture, In the South (Alassio), Op. 50, Joseph Phibbs Clarinet Concerto, Walton Belshazzar’s Feast. Mark van de Wiel (clarinet), Roland Wood (baritone), Philharmonia Chorus, Philharmonia/ Edward Gardner
10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Letters to Writers 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
29 WEDNESDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Charles Koechlin 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-3.30pm Afternoon Concerts 3.30-4.30pm Choral Evensong live from the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, sung by Trinity Laban Chapel Choir 4.30-5pm New Generation Artists 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from The Barbican, London. Sibelius Symphony No. 6, Hillborg Violin Concerto No. 2, Sibelius Symphony No. 4. Lisa Batiashvili (violin), BBC Symphony Orchestra/ Sakari Oramo 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Letters to Writers 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
30 THURSDAY 6.30-9am Breakfast 9am-12 noon Essential Classics 12 noon-1pm Composer of the Week Charles Koechlin 1-2pm Lunchtime Concert 2-5pm Afternoon Concert 5-7pm In Tune 7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert live from City Halls, Glasgow. Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 ‘The Year 1905’. Denis Kozhukhin (piano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Vedernikov 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Letters to Writers 11pm-12.30am Exposure
QUIZ ANSWERS from p98
Jackson and Edward Bairstow (rpt) 4-5pm Choir and Organ 5-5.30pm The Listening Service 5.30-6.45pm Words and Music 6.45-7.30pm Sunday Feature 7.30-9pm Radio 3 in Concert from the European Broadcasting Union (tbc) 9-11.15pm Drama on 3 (rpt) Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman 11.15-12.30pm Early Music Late
1. Mozart’s Don Giovanni 2. Sir Henry Wood 3. Elgar; a bicycle 4. Sibelius 5. Molly Malone 6. a) Conductor Sir John Barbirolli; b) soprano Kirsten Flagstad; c) tenor Jussi Björling; 7. Felix Mendelssohn 8. Bartók 9. Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari 10. The Winter’s Tale
7-7.30pm In Tune Mixtape 7.30-10pm Radio 3 in Concert from St David’s Hall, Cardiff. Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Shostakovich Symphony No. 7 ‘Leningrad’. Soloists (tbc), Orchestra of Welsh National Opera/Tomáš Hanus 10-10.45pm Free Thinking 10.45-11pm The Essay Ghosts 11pm-12.30am Late Junction
FOR WEEKLY TV & RADIO CHOICES GO TO WWW.CLASSICAL-MUSIC.COM BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
The BBC Music Magazine PRIZE CROSSWORD NO. 313 The first correct solution of our monthly crossword to be picked at random will win a copy of The Oxford Companion to Music worth £40 (available at book stores or www.oup.co.uk). Send your answers to: BBC Music Magazine, Crossword 313, PO Box 501, Leicester, LE94 0AA to arrive by 2 Nov 2017 (solution in our January 2018 issue). Crossword set by Paul Henderson
THE QUIZ Time to chip away at these finely sculpted questions 1. In the final act of which 1787 opera does the statue of the Commendatore come to dinner, then invite the title character to repent before he is sent to Hell? 2. Whose bust is put in place at the Royal Albert Hall at the beginning of each BBC Proms season? 3. Worcester and Hereford cathedrals are admired by statues of which composer? What is he leaning against in the latter city? 4. ‘Never pay any attention to what critics say. Remember, a statue has never been set up in honour of a critic!’ Which composer said this?
7. Whose statue was ordered to be removed from the Rudolfinum concert hall by the Nazis due to its subject’s non-Aryan origins? 8. The statue of which composer greets visitors as they exit South Kensington Underground station?
GETTY, ALESSANDRA TINOZZI
9. Which Italian composer wrote the 1911 opera The Jewels of the Madonna, in which Gennaro steals from the statue of the Virgin Mary? 10. Setting the plot of a Shakespeare play, which 2017 Ryan Wigglesworth opera ends with the statue of Leontes’s wife Hermione coming to life? See p97 for answers
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
1 A quick drink when taking in a piece of Indian music (5) 4 Performs ballet involving first Birtwistle pieces? (9) 9 Each tune’s reinterpreted by French singer (9) 10 Dance company no good with finale in Raymonda (5) 11 Red dragons excited by BBC 17 (Welsh) (10) 12 Hard lines about one BBC 17 (4) 14 Violinist filling historic cinema (5) 16 Stressed a recording capturing most of core of Copland (8) 19 Excellent, moving under early counterpoint (8) 20 BBC 17 running rings round music academy? (5) 22 Expression of disagreement upset harpist initially – then again (2-2) 23 Preparation for passacaglia? (10) 27 Long note rebounding in reverberation (5) 28 Contralto leaving unhappily in a recital, amongst other things (5,4) 29 French pedagogue curtailed British conductor’s rage(9) 30 Chamber group unable to access website? (5)
5. The eponymous subject of which popular 18th-century folksong is commemorated by a statue on Grafton Street in Dublin (above)? 6. The statues or busts of which musical heroes can be seen outside a) Bridgewater Hall, Manchester; b) Oslo Opera House; c) The Royal Opera House, Stockholm?
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1 Predecessors in ballets dismissing first attempt (8) 2 French organ composer, one clear to forgo piano (5) 3 Newsreel supplier game to include question: ‘What is Tchaikovsky’s Sixth called?’ (10) 4 BBC 17’s father absorbing American version of raga (9) 5 What 17 will do in haste, erroneously (5) 6 A Dutch orchestra using the bow (4) 7 Vocal melody can entail changes (9) 8 English composer some fastidious ear learned (6) 13 Old popular song for the undiscerning golfer? (3,3,4) 15 Hesitation in resolution of clue – aha! ‘Low register of clarinet’ is the definition (9) 17 Leading musician to study Duke’s busy court (9) 18 BBC 17 to secure enthusiasm, we hear (8) 21 United two basses in central area for activity (6) 24 Regretting sound of bell being interrupted by you at last (5) 25 Tenor longs to hold on to this material (5) 26 Fellows taking on a BBC 17 (4)
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Jan-Dec 2016 35,734 BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Music that changed me
Tomáš Hanus Music director of Welsh National Opera Born in Janáček’s home city of Brno, Tomás Hanus studied conducting with Jiří Bĕlohlávek before winning the 1999 Katowice International Competition for Conductors. He made his Prague National Theatre debut in 2001, and among several European opera houses has forged strong ties with the Munich Staatsoper. For two years from 2007 he was music director of the National Theatre Brno and currently holds the same position with WNO for whose Russian-themed autumn season he conducts Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina and Janáček’s From the House of the Dead. Deep feelings: ‘Bruckner is rooted in profound spirituality’
remember hearing a JANÁČEK string quartet at the age of four and being rather bored, but his house was only two blocks from our apartment and it was a real magnet. Only a few years later I saved my pocket money and bought LPs of The Cunning Little Vixen. A revelation. I’d never heard anything as beautiful as that last scene. Even as a child I thought this a piece that must be played at my funeral! It’s so optimistic, melancholic, joyful, funny, dramatic. Everything is there. The conductor was Břetislav Bakala who’d been a student of Janáček. Orchestral standards might be more developed now than in the 1950s when the recording was made, but it trusts the music and you can feel the personal link to the composer. Something was drawing me to conducting from early on, but what confirmed my intuition was playing violin in Claudio Abbado’s Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra. We were tackling MAHLER’s Symphony No. 1 (which I have to say is a great piece and not a ‘beginner’s symphony’), and Abbado was so inspiring. He could create great depth and warmth without saying a single word, and the musicians immediately started listening to each other. It was just the same with Mahler’s Third the following year. His way was mesmerising and a valuable lesson 100
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
The choices Janáček The Cunning Little Vixen Vienna Philharmonic/Charles Mackerras Decca 475 8670
Mahler Symphony No.1 Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado EuroArts 2057968
Bruckner Symphony No. 8 Munich Philharmonic/Sergiu Celibidache Warner Classics 556 6962 (download only)
Mozart Don Giovanni Cesare Siepi (Don Giovanni) et al, Vienna Phil/Wilhelm Furtwängler Orfeo C624043D
Dvořák Symphony No. 9 Czech Phiharmonic/Jiří Bĕhlolávek Decca 478 6757
because it wasn’t about him and us; we were all ‘Abbado’ living in the moment. BRUCKNER opened up a new world to me. It’s music rooted in a profound spirituality. Yet even so the Eighth Symphony doesn’t turn its back on the everyday struggle. I think both Mahler and Bruckner found a special way to speak about what it is to be human – as Mahler
said of his Eighth symphony: ‘the whole universe is sounding’. But the Bruckner is sometimes done as if it lives in a museum. It should be alive. I remember attending a dress rehearsal and concert given by Sergiu Celibidache in Vienna. The rehearsal was full of energy; in the evening he had another inspiration and the symphony was altogether different. Tragic even. It taught me that while rehearsals are all about great preparation, we should never be afraid to be spontaneous on the night. Don Giovanni is a work of special genius of course, but maybe I was also influenced by the fact that MOZART first succeeded with the piece in Prague so it’s something about which Czech musicians are instinctively proprietorial. The tradition is still very alive. It’s a landmark that demonstrates what opera can be: a living drama. Claudio Abbado was always talking about Wilhelm Furtwängler, and a DVD of Furtwängler’s 1953 Salzburg Festival performance is a revelation. Like Claudio, Furtwängler never ‘presents’ himself; he just conducts in the simplest way possible, yet the meaning of every note is there like diamonds glinting in the light. Everything he did was about the music. It was never about proving himself. Speaking of Prague, it would be impossible not to mention DVOŘÁK. And as a Czech musician the Symphony No. 9 has always had a special place in my affections because it told the world that our music could be international without losing its own identity. But there’s something personal too. I’ve just been listening to the last recording by my friend and teacher Jiří Bĕlohlávek who died in May – it’s possibly the greatest Dvořák recording ever. He didn’t teach me the grammar of conducting, though if something wasn’t working he’d show me how to put it right; but he helped me to discover what my own way should be, and for that I’m endlessly thankful to him. Interview by Paul Riley