Friday, 29 January 2016

No enthusiast of the great pianist Sviatoslav Richter will want to be without Svetik - A Family Memoir of Sviatoslav Richter, a new publication from Toccata Press

ISBN: 9780907689935
Pages: 464
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Toccata Press

If any artist has achieved legendary status then surely it is the great pianist Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997). Toccata Press have just published Svetik - A Family Memoir of Sviatoslav Richter, edited and translated by Anthony Phillips.

This new publication provides unique insights into the childhood and formative years of 'Svetik' as he was always known within the large and unusually creative family circle. It covers the years in a provincial Ukrainian city during the traumatic years of revolution, civil war, famine and wartime occupation by German and Romanian forces. Walter Moskalew, Richter's much younger cousin, is guardian of a rich collection of photographs, reminiscences, drawings and letters of family members, notably the memoirs of Richter's mother Anna and his twenty-year-long correspondence with his beloved Aunt Meri. Walter Moskalew has collaborated with editor and translator Anthony Phillips to produce an indispensable account of the influences that shaped the artistry and world-view of the phenomenon that was Sviatoslav Richter.

There is a Forward by Vladimir Ashkenazy, fascinating in itself, as well as an Introduction by Bruno Monsaingeon the French filmmaker, writer and violinist who has made a number of documentary films about famous twentieth-century musicians.

In his preface to this book editor and translator, Anthony Phillips, tells us how the book came about, from his first meeting with Richter in London in 1961, his accompanying the pianist on his second USA tour in 1965 where he met some of Richter’s relatives including Walter Moskalew and Aunt Meri (Tamara Pavolovna Moskalewa) to the ten year collaboration that brought this volume to fruition.

Lavishly illustrated (the List of Illustrations takes up seven pages), the Memoir opens with a Genealogy of the Moskalew Family. This is an essential part of the book in enabling an understanding of the family history and family connections as well as the diminutives of names and name changes. Notes on Names, Transliterations, Dates, Russian Forms of Address and Other Conventions is equally useful.

Part I: Three Sisters – A Family History is Walter Moskalewa’s own account of Sviatoslav Richter’s family history. In seven sections, 1. Zhitomir, Odessa and the War traces the family history from Richter’s grandparents, Pavel Moskalev and Elizabeth von Reincke to Richter’s parents, father Theofil Richter (1872-1941) and mother Anna Richter (nee Moskalewa) (1892-1963). Richter’s beloved Aunt Tamara Pavlovna Moskalewa (known as Meri) (1898-1984) was as strong willed as her sister Anna ( known as Nyuta) and they often clashed but when later separated, they carried on a large and affectionate correspondence.

Aunt Meri was a gifted artist, studying art in Kiev. Her drawings often appear throughout the book. The story takes us through Sviatoslav Richter’s birth in Zhitomir in 1915, the outbreak of World War I with Nyuta’s absence in Odessa nursing the sick Theo. Unable to return due to the war and travel difficulties it brought about the first extended absence from her son.  Meri returned from Kiev to look after Svetik and, with idyllic times in Zhitomir, cemented a close relationship with the young pianist. Later we follow the family through Richter’s entry into the Moscow Conservatory, the family evacuation from Zhitomir in 1943 and their subsequent scattering, Nyuta to Stuttgart and Walter’s family to Poland.

1.    Anna Richter’s troubled marriage to Theo is covered as well as her second
marriage to Sergei Kontratiev (1883-1973). Theo was eventually shot in 1941 as an alleged German spy.

2. Schwäbisch Gmünd brings Walter’s memories of Nyuta and Sergei Kontratiev, the history of Sergei and Sviatoslav Richter’s dislike of him.

3. Nyuta, Svetik and Meri takes us to 1960 when Nyuta, now separated from Svetik, manages to get a letter smuggled to him in the USSR. Nyuta and Sergei fly to New York for Richter’s tour and Carnegie Hall debut, collected by Meri and her husband Fritz who take them to Boston where they all meet with Sevtik and his wife Nina. There is much written here about Richter’s tour, the music and photographs, many informal. There is a further meeting with his mother in Bayreuth in 1961 but relations were poor, Richter later writing ‘My mother died for me a long time ago…’

4. More Tours of America covers Aunt Meri’s trip to Salzburg and her meeting with Svetik and Nina as well as the pianist’s concerts in Canada and US tour. There is fascinating information about Richter’s technique and practice methods as well as 1970’s photos of the pianist with fellow pianist Misha Dichter and Nina with violinist David Oistrakh.

5. Sorrow and Joy brings the death of Sviatoslav Richter’s godfather, his Uncle Kolya (Nikolai Reincke) (1891-1975), Richter’s European tours and his alleged financial problems, something that his wife Nina spoke of but Svetik denied. Aunt Meri accompanied her nephew on these Europe tours.

6. Reginald and Dora covers correspondence between Meri and Svetik where she writes on Svetik’s life as an artist and all the travelling and touring. In her diary she is even more critical of her nephew’s lifestyle writing ‘…he is exceedingly capricious, wilful and does things that are obviously bad for his health. He only considers his own wishes…’  Yet there are photographs of a very relaxed Richter, taken on tour.  

Drawings by Richter show him to have been a very competent artist and an exhibition of his paintings arranged by Yelina, aunt of Richter and mother of Walter, in Tbilisi in 1975 is mentioned.

7. Holding on to Imagination with Both Hands brings more about Aunt Meri including a poem by her as well as further criticism of Richter’s lifestyle. He responds with a drawing showing mountain peaks and valleys representing an interesting life and comparing that with a straight line showing a boring life.  This section covers Aunt Meri’s decline and death in 1984.

Part II: My Life – The Memoirs of Anna Moskalewa-Richter is more of a conventional, though personal account of the family history with old family photographs, including family wedding photographs and accounts of life in pre-revolutionary Russia and Ukraine.

The story runs through World War I and the birth of Svetik as well as revolution and the family change of circumstances. There is an account of Svetik’s early musical life and many photos of the young pianist.

Part III: Sviatoslav Richter as a Young Boy is Aunt Meri’s (Tamata Moskalewa/Dagmar von Reincke) written account in the aftermath of her sister’s illness and death in Zhitomir in 1919. It is in the form of a letter to her friend in Odessa. Sixty years later she sent a typed version to Svetik with an accompanying explanation. This section of the book finishes with The Four Generations Table: A Memoir for Svetik –following ‘grandfather’s table through its history as it is passed through the family.

There is a Glossary of Names and Places and a comprehensive Index. 

No Richter enthusiast will want to be without this fascinating book. Anthony Phillips has done a remarkable job in his editing of what must have been an overwhelming amount of family history. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Beth Levin brings a rather fine Schumann Davidsbündlertänze and an impressive Chopin Second Sonata all topped off by a very fine piece by Anders Eliason on her new recital disc for Navona Records

Beth Levin made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 12. She was subsequently taught and guided by legendary pianists such as Rudolf Serkin, Leonard Shure, Dorothy Taubman and Paul Badura-Skoda who praised her as ‘a pianist of rare qualities and the highest professional calibre.’

She has appeared as a concerto soloist with numerous symphony orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Boston Civic Symphony and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. She has worked with noted conductors such as Arthur Fiedler, Tonu Kalam, Milton Katims, Joseph Silverstein and Benjamin Zander. Chamber music festival collaborations have brought her to the Marlboro Festival, Casals Festival, Harvard, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Ankara Music Festival and the Blue Hill Festival, collaborating with such groups such as the Gramercy Trio (founding member), the Audubon Quartet, the Vermeer Quartet and the Trio Borealis, with which she has toured extensively.

Beth Levin’s latest recording for Navona Records , entitled Personae, features works by Schumann, Anders Eliason and Chopin.

Beth Levin brings a lovely rhythmic lift and delicacy to the opening Lebhaft of Robert Schumann’s (1810-1856) Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6 providing much variation and colour. She brings a gently flowing Innig with a subtle, gentle rubato, so effective, before a rhythmically light and buoyant Mit Humor, so full of life.

This pianist brings a lovely rubato and freedom of tempo, full of character in Ungeduldig and some wonderful phrasing with a gentle rise and fall for Einfach. The fast moving Sehr rasch brings a fine clarity with well-judged flexible tempi before Levin brings a lovely touch to Nicht schnell with much sensitivity, rather fine.

After a rhythmically well pointed Frisch, Lebhaft flows perfectly, Levin bringing a sense of carefree enjoyment. She brings a tremendous clarity to the volatile, stormy Balladenmäßig - Sehr rasch before a well-developed Einfach, thoughtfully laid out with fine tempo and dynamics. There is crisp, rhythmic phrasing and more fine rubato in Mit Humor, a real weight to Wild und lustig, with a carefully controlled, flowing central section and a beautifully gentle, flowing Zart und singend with some most lovely phrasing.

Frisch brings more of Levin’s fine rubato and rhythmically free playing with a restrained stormy character, especially fine. In Mit gutem Humor she allows a freedom as the music surges and pulls back before a gentle, perfectly judged Wie aus der Ferne where this pianist brings some most lovely moments before racing to a terrific coda. Nicht schnell is beautifully paced with a gentle rhythmic lift and a gentle coda.

All round, this is a rather fine Davidsbündlertänze.

Anders Eliason (1947-2013) was one of Sweden’s finest composers. His Disegno 2 for piano rises slowly and gently from a simple opening motif through some quite lovely passages. Levin brings a fine command of this ever developing piece, often dissonant but always retaining a cool beauty. There are passages of increased volatility with a descending bell like motif before reaching a gentle coda that completed this arch like structure.

Beth Levin brings a weighty opening Grave in Frédéric Chopin’s (1810-1849) Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 35 before launching into a turbulent Doppio movimento. Again this pianist brings a very fine clarity that, combined with a fine rubato and flexible tempo, makes for an impressive performance. She provides passages of great passion and volatility giving, at times, the feel of a live performance.

The same volatility lurks behind every bar of the Scherzo in a performance of great weight with a Trio section that is the perfect, graceful counterbalance.

Levin takes a slow dignified pace for the Marche funèbre: Lento, underlined by a great feeling of despair, rising through passages of increased intensity and passion with some impressive playing. She brings a slightly withdrawn central section, slowly revealing a restrained emotion. When the main theme returns, Levin adds to the angst and power with powerful chords and trills before arriving at a restrained coda.

She concludes with a rippling, finely controlled Finale: Presto. 

Beth Levin receives a close but nicely done recording revealing a fine piano tone, made at the Peter Karl Studios in New York City and there are useful sleeve notes.

The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble bring great musicianship and terrific flair to a varied program for MSR Classics

The name alone is enough to attract interest in the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble . However, it is fine musicianship that holds the attention on their new release for MSR Classics entitled Flourishes, Tales and Symphonies.

The Chicago Gargoyle Brass Quintet began in 1992 as a chamber group of faculty and students at the University of Chicago, whose campus architecture boasts a variety of the gargoyles that gave the ensemble its name. By 2006 the ensemble had slowly become professional with a full-time professional church and concert organist. Over the next five years, the group transformed itself into a specialised brass and organ concert ensemble.

They perform a wide variety of repertoire in an equally diverse range of settings. The group has toured Minnesota, performed major liturgical works, commissioned and recorded exciting new works and given concerts for chapters of the American Guild of Organists.

Under Founder and Artistic Director Rodney Holmes, the Ensemble has recorded here a wide variety of works at two locations, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, Wheaton, Illinois and the First Untied Church, Oak Park, Illinois.

Prize winning composer Carlyle Sharpe (b.1965)  is professor of music theory and composition at Drury University. Flourishes (2005, 2010) was commissioned by Drury University with an added timpani part at the request of this Ensemble. There are bright, light textures as this joyful piece flows ahead, overlaid with flourishes from the brass, with many fine individual contributions from the brass players and a very fine organ part.

Sharpe’s Prelude, Elegy and Scherzo (2012) was commissioned by the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble for the 2012 Organ Historical Society National Convention in Chicago. There is a fine Prelude where the organ rises up confidently before taking the theme forward, soon joined by the brass ensemble as they slowly add textures and colours. They achieve a fine balance between brass and organ in the more dynamic passages.  The organ brings a lovely, reflective Elegy most beautifully played by Jared Stellmacher with a fine choice of registration. As the brass gently enter, they add a really fine texture before weaving some lovely instrumental lines. The movement rises midway to a peak before the organ takes the music on alone through some lovely passages to a long held, peaceful coda. Organ and brass sound out triumphantly for the Scherzo with some incisive and finely blended brass chords before swirling through some fine passages to the coda.

These are two very attractive and brilliantly played works.

The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble next play an arrangement by Craig Garner of Giuseppe Verdi’s (1813-1901) Libiamo ne’ lieti calici from La Traviata (1853, 2013). The organ opens this arrangement soon taken over by the brass ensemble as both organ and brass share the theme with varied brass textures. Eventually both organ and brass combine to race to the end of this fun piece.  

Composer William White (b.1983) also holds the post of assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The Dwarf Planets (2012), inspired by Holst’s famous Planets Suite, was commissioned by and dedicated to Rodney Holmes and the Gargoyle Brass Quintet. The brass ensemble and organ bring a dynamic opening to Haumea pointing up by timpani. They move through more diffuse passages where White conjures some fine textures. There is a wilder section as the brass are scattered around against the organ before the opening theme leads to the coda.

With Pluto the organ gently brings a cool, distant atmosphere before various brass enter to add a melancholy theme. Pedal notes are set against the opening theme before trumpets repeat the opening and the music falls to a deep pedal note to end. Brass open Ceres with a jolly dancing theme to which further brass and organ join, each having a say, including timpani. Later there is a quaint fairground style tune before the music rises with the opening motif to speed to the coda.

Eris for solo organ opens on a repeated note to which chords are added and developed, gently and quietly, creating a fine atmosphere. A sudden sequence of organ notes clashes across the calm over the repeated gentle note before a hushed coda. Brass open Makemake, slowly rising up and increasing in dynamics before the organ enters with swirling phrases and timpani rolls. Soon the organ sets a fast pace to which timpani and brass respond with much virtuosity in this exciting movement.

David Marlatt (b.1973) is an Ontario music educator, composer and performing musician. Earthscape (2011) was inspired by the view of our planet from space. There is a rich, gentle organ opening to which brass add a mellifluous sonority, various brass instruments weaving a lovely sound, all underpinned by an organ layer. The music rises later in a fine passage pointed up by timpani before finding its gentle opening stance to lead to the coda. This is a lovely work, expertly played.

The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble follow up with another arrangement by Craig Garner, this time the Polka and Fugue from Schwanda, the Bagpiper (1926, 2013) by Jaromír Weinberger (1896-1967). The Polka rises up quickly with organ and brass, before finding its forward flowing rhythmic tune, a very fine and entertaining performance in a fine arrangement. The organ plays the lively opening to the Fugue with the brass creating an exhilarating fugue. Brilliantly done.

Adagio and Maestoso from Camille Saint-Saëns’ (1835-1921) Symphony No.3 ‘Organ’ (1886, 2012) is also arranged here by Craig Garner. The Adagio brings a fine arrangement, with brass providing wonderful sonorities and textures in place of the orchestral part, finely balanced between organ and brass. There is some really fine playing here from all concerned.

Jared Stellmacher provides a fine organ flourish in the opening of the Maestoso before the brass join. When pianist Mark Sudeith joins there is a remarkably lighter sound but the music soon rises through some fine passages, full of terrific textures and sonorities to a spectacular coda.

This program concludes with Peter Meechan’s (b.1980) Velvet Blue (2012). Commissioned by the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble, it opens with a flourish from the organ before a trumpet takes over with a theme. The organ brings a variation of the flourish, more florid before the brass lead on with the slower theme. There is a more extended version of the flourish from the organ before brass bring a sultry, bluesy, jazz inspired passage complete with drum kit. The organ is heard again as the music builds in intensity with even the king of instruments bringing a jazz inspired touch as they all move forward in a syncopated passage. This is a wildly inventive piece, ideal to round of this programme.

The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble bring great musicianship and terrific flair to this varied program that gives much enjoyment.

All the recordings are clear, spacious and first rate, as well as ideally balanced. 

The booklet is nicely illustrated with colour photos and basic information on the two organs used. There are notes about each work.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Unmissable LSO Live recordings by Valery Gergiev and the LSO of Ravel’s complete ballet score for Daphnis et Chloé, which comes with a bonus DVD

Maurice Ravel’s (1875-1937) ballet Daphnis et Chloé opened at the Théâtre du Châtelet on the 8th June 1912 with choreography by Fokin, sets and costumes by Bakst, Nijinsky and Karsavina in the title roles and Pierre Monteux conducting. One can only envy those present at this premiere.

The scenario was adapted by Michel Fokine from a romance by the Greek writer Longus, thought to date from around the 2nd century AD and concerns the love between the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé.

Ravel extracted music from the ballet to make two orchestral suites but on a new release from LSO Live Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra give a live performance of the complete ballet music, coupled with Ravel’s  Pavane pour une infante défunte and Boléro.

plus bonus DVD
There is a remarkably hushed and atmospheric opening Introduction to Daphnis et Chloé enhanced by the wide ranging SACD recording. The music slowly rises in dynamics until orchestra and chorus sound out in all their glory. There is a beautifully swaying ebb and flow with Gergiev finding a controlled steady pulse for some impressive climaxes in the Danse Religieuse.

Jes jeunes filles attirent Daphnis - Danse Générale brings some very fine rhythmically crisp phrases and a fine sway to the dance passages that look forward to La Valse.  Danse grotesque de Dorcon is wonderfully pointed up with, surely, some Stravinskian touches and some terrific braying brass.

Danse légère et gracieuse de Daphnis has an enchanting mystery and elusiveness that is really appealing with lovely phrasing and shaping, surging to a lovely peak with chorus. The Lycenion danse brings fine woodwind passages with such light and fleet instrumental detail as well as much drama in the later Les pirates.

Gergiev draws some especially fine, hushed orchestral playing as Une lumière irréelle enveloppe le paysage arrives out of which a solitary flute emerges. There are some quite exquisite sounds before the music picks up rhythmically for the Danse lente et mystérieuse where Gergiev shows a real balletic sympathy where one can imagine the dancers, something one would expect from the artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre.

Gergiev brings a real sense of restrained power before leading into
Daphnis se prosterne suppliant, where the fine LSO chorus bring a lovely texture to the opening with finely controlled climaxes, brass sounding out over the choir as the music rises to a terrific peak. The orchestra take the music quickly ahead through Voix, très lontaines - Animé et très rude - Bryaxis ordonne d'amener la captive with such intoxicatingly accurate playing, building some terrific dynamic textures, lovely lightness of texture in the woodwind passages and a wonderful display of swirling woodwind as the music builds to a fine pitch, the choir entering, adding magnificently to the tension and pulse.

Danse suppliante de Chloé brings a sultry dance, leisurely and free, again with Gergiev’s sudden little surges finely done. We move through Bryaxis veit l'entraîner - L'ombre de Pân apparaît where this conductor creates a lovely lilt, later full of mystery and lovely detail. There is crisp percussion towards the end, which achieves an impressive gravitas and weight.

With Lever du jour - Daphnis cherche pour Chloé et il rêve d'elle - Daphnis et Chloé miment l'aventure de Pan et de Syrinx, perhaps the best known sections of this ballet score, Gergiev achieves a quite spectacularly fine orchestral texture and detail as the sun rises with woodwind chirruping. The orchestra weave some quite lovely passages through which woodwind appear, the chorus subtly blended within the orchestral tapestry. Gergiev’s approach, gently controlling and pacing the rise of the music, allows for some fine climaxes before achieving a most wonderful climax for orchestra and choir.

Chloé réapparaît brings a beautifully played flute solo over a hushed orchestra. Later flute, harp and orchestra bring some terrific passages with finely judged surges.

There are more fine rhythmic passages as the music speeds forward in Animé - Danse Générale. The music fairly bubbles and sparkles as it bounds along. As we move through Danse De Daphnis et Chloé - Danse de Dorcon - Danse finale (Bacchanale) there are some meaty dynamic outbursts with Gergiev revealing all of Ravel’s wonderful orchestral texture and detail. He develops a real sense of forward moving intensity as the music increases in speed to those choral and orchestral surges of drama with a truly exciting, swirling coda.

This is a very balletic performance full of swirling atmosphere and finely pointed up rhythms and colours. Applause is excised and the recording made live in September 2009 is extremely good, though with a wide dynamic range in the SACD layer one has to find the right volume.
Recorded with Boléro in December 2009,  Pavane pour une infante défunte
makes an ideal contrast to Daphnis et Chloé with Gergiev revealing a strangely antiquarian feel to this piece. Various woodwind again bring some fine moments with the LSO strings providing some particularly lovely gentle passages, full of regret and nostalgia. Later flute and strings bring a quite lovely central section, shot through with gentle brass and harp. A wonderful performance.

Hushed side drum and pizzicato violins bring the opening of Boléro before a flute weaves its way forward, Gergiev developing and adding to the orchestral textures with the most pure clarity. So many LSO members bring fine individual instrumental textures that are needed to lift this work. As expected, Gergiev paces this music to perfection. He develops a really inexorable momentum with great rhythmic control. One can delight in the sheer beauty of the instrumentation which receives a really light touch from these players who really excel as they add subtle bluesy elements. Gergiev highlights some unusual textures that I hadn’t appreciated before. Soon there are wonderful whooping trombone phrases before all is topped off with a brilliant climax.

In the right hands this can be a truly impressive and captivating exercise in orchestration.

Again these live Barbican performances are extremely well recorded. Applause is excised. There are excellent booklet notes.

As a bonus, LSO Live provide a DVD of Gergiev and the orchestra’s performance of
Boléro which is finely produced with many close ups of the players. There is excellent picture quality and very good audio. 

If you’re looking for this repertoire then this is unmissable 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

A remarkably fine Liszt recital from Maria Razumovskaya, a debut disc that brings new insights and pleasures at every turn

Maria Razumovskaya studied in the class of Rustem Hayroudinoff at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating from the Master of Music in Performance and Research degree with Distinction with several performance prizes.  She furthered her piano studies with Professor Dmitri Alexeev as an AHRC and RCM scholar at the Royal College of Music.

She has performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician across the United Kingdom in venues including St John’s Smith Square, Cadogan Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St James’ Piccadilly, South Bank Centre, Steinway Hall, Wyastone Hall, Jacqueline du Pre Concert Hall and the Holywell Rooms. Abroad her performances have included large international festivals in Germany and Switzerland including a solo recital at the coveted ‘Cully Classique’ in a programme line-up which included recitals by Nikolai Lugansky, Piotr Anderszewski and Marc Andre Hamelin. 

Razumovskaya has recently released her debut album of Ferenc Liszt's (1811-1886) Piano Sonata in B minor, Petrarch Sonnets and Variations on a Theme of Bach for the Malachite/LMI label

Maria Razumovskaya brings a real authority to the opening of Variations on a Theme by Bach ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’ , S. 180 with the following passages bringing a wonderfully withdrawn poetic vision. She provided a lovely long flowing line, beautifully phrased with a fine ebb and flow, rising through some finely conceived dynamic passages, full of unrestrained power. What stands out is this pianist’s fine clarity of line and phrasing. Her technique is quite superb and this is a powerful, thrilling and deeply felt account

Of the Three Petrarch Sonnets Sonetto 47 del Petrarca ‘Benedetto sia il giorno’, S. 161/4 brings some beautifully controlled playing. Razumovskaya seems to have an instinctive insight into Liszt’s sound world with beautiful phrasing that reveals so much. She brings a finely controlled rhythmic lift to the opening of the Sonetto 104 del Petrarca ‘Pace non trovo’ , S. 161/5 with some finely shaped phrases and such a fine touch. This is an exquisite performance, her fine rubato occasionally bringing a rather Chopinesque feel. The music is developed wonderfully, rising to some fine peaks – and what a really fine coda, so sensitively done.  This pianist allows the Sonetto 123 del Petrarca ‘I’ vidi in terra angelici costumi’, S. 161/6 to develop so naturally, perfectly poised with some beautifully hushed, delicate playing, revealing what a gem this Sonetto is.

Right from the opening few notes of the Sonata in B minor, S. 178 Razumovskaya creates an intense feeling of tension, rising with a bell like clarity.  She brings a very fine flexible tempo as the sonata develops, wonderfully built and controlled. This is no barnstorming performance but a carefully conceived reading. Again this pianist reveals her exquisite touch as she carefully builds the music to moments of finely controlled passion. There is an authoritative grandeur, a kaleidoscope of ever changing emotions, tempi and dynamics as well as moments of intense power set against much poetry and thoughtfulness. This carefully considered performance takes longer than many others but when the rising theme appears half way it is all the more impressive for the carefully built development. She moves through some beautifully tender, crystalline passages before picking up a fleet and rhythmically buoyant tempo. Later there are moments of fine grandeur as well as more intensely powerful passages before a finely done coda that brings a real sense of completion.

This is an impressive, often personal, poetic, wonderfully conceived performance that should be heard. It is a real journey of discovery, a Liszt recital to return to over and over again with enormous pleasure. 

As a debut recording this is a remarkably fine recital, a disc that brings new insights and pleasures at every turn. The recording from Tony Faulkner is tip top and there are notes on Liszt and his piano music by the pianist. 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

December 2015 saw four original films directed by composer Flint Juventino Beppe available worldwide from The FJB Fingerprint

Flint Juventino Beppe (formerly known as Fred Jonny Berg)  started creating music in his childhood with songs, instrumental works, electronic music and orchestral works. Having no political preferences, Beppe has nevertheless always felt powerful liberalistic undertones valuing an individual freedom that permeates all his art, dreaming of a world without religions and violating politics.

To date, Beppe's catalogue of compositions numbers around 200 works, many of which are commissions, and include works for piano, flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, double bass, string orchestra and orchestral works, including flute concertos, piano concertos and symphonic poems. Beppe has also written ballet music, electro acoustic works, film soundtracks and songs.

Beppe's works have been performed around the world including the USA (The Kennedy Center), Russia, England (St. John's, Smith Square), Finland and Japan. He has collaborated with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, Emily Beynon, Mark van de Wiel, Sir James Galway, Ralph Rousseau, Leonard Slatkin and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Beppe is also a scriptwriter, director and producer for an on-going art film production labelled Symbiophonies™. Flint Juventino Beppe works are published by The FJB Fingerprint™.

Four films featuring music by composer Flint Juventino Beppe have been released on Video On Demand . More information about the concept of the films can be found at

Exhaling music is an award-winning documentary featuring Flint Juventino Beppe who has captured the heart and minds of the international music scene. This 56 minute documentary made in 2009, in Norwegian and English with English subtitles, was produced by News on Request AS and directed by Trond Eliassen. It features such internationally renowned artists as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Emily Beynon and James Galway and charts Beppe’s career from the first piano solos that he sent to Ashkenazy through to the rehearsals with the great conductor.

There are many insights into the composer and his connection with nature. ‘I never compose music’, Beppe says, ‘the tones just float around inside my head. When they get too loud, I have to breathe them out.’ This insightful, often compelling film tells of Beppe’s traumatic loss of Christian faith at the age of seventeen and his fight to express himself, which he achieved through music. His breakthrough came with Flute Mystery, the subject of the recording sessions featured on this film. Emily Beynon talks of her enjoyment working with the composer and the Chairman of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Alistair McKay, speaks of Beppe’s unique voice.  Ashkenazy talks of the development of Beppe’s music from the early works that he received from the composer and of the honesty of his music.

This documentary also reveals some of the creative process between Ashkenazy and Beppe during recording sessions and the stresses of recording, particularly when Ashkenazy falls sick and the composer, who has never conducted an orchestra before, successfully takes over.

Above all it is Flint Juventino Beppe’s innate modesty and sheer natural musicianship that shines through.

Flint Juventino Beppe is both composer and director of Montagna con Forza (duration 56 minutes) an art film that has no commentary, just the wonderful music of Beppe and stunning images of the Norwegian landscape. In this film we follow a wooden boat’s venture across a lake and, in the composer’s words ‘we will be exposed to the vast array of temperate sensations, sensitive harmonies and visions – freed from the conventions of time…also the brutality and mercilessness of life are the central elements, in combination with eleven closely connected parts and originally written music…this production is respectfully dedicated to the fragile world we all live in.’

The film takes us soaring over mountains and snow covered peaks, the little wooden boat is shown drifting alone. There are wonderful colours and images, swirling mists, close ups of natural world, snowscapes, colourful rock features and some exquisite underwater photography revealing the real beauty of nature and always returning to the little boat, all with Beppe’s unique and atmospheric music.

The ideas behind Vicino alla Montagna (duration 54 minutes) are described by Beppe with the following words ‘Nature is constantly present…music perpetually sounds from beyond the mountains…humankind arises from the earth…while Music is directing the cycle of life Nature is the impartial arena. What happens when Humankind cannot relate to this unified energy of Nature and Music.’

Again with no commentary this art film brings more beautifully filmed and directed scenes from nature. Female forms appear out of the natural landscape as humankind arises from the earth. Beppe uses some black and white images to add effect.  There are some quite stunning visual images particularly of a snow swept landscape with a large moon above and of ice flows. This film is much about the human relationship with nature with, towards the end, the female figures walking into the water to be submerged before the conclusion arrives with a glorious sunset and with the equally glorious music of Flint Juventino Beppe. Please note that although the film contains nudity for artistic purposes, the Norwegian Media Authority has awarded it a general certificate, which means that it is suitable for all ages.

Captured in a Gaze is a short film directed by Flint Juventino Beppe of around nine minutes duration from ideas by the composer which shows a gathering of young people talking and going about their usual activities. One of the girls looks at a photograph on the wall of an old man. She starts drawing and finds herself caught between dream and reality as she starts to communicate with a portrait on the wall. This brings some most inventive and unusual animations against an original and quite captivating Flint Juventino Beppe electronic soundtrack.

There is much more to Montagna con Forza and Vicino alla Montagna than the beautiful images that are captured, immensely enjoyable though they are. There is a narrative running through these films that holds the attention. In the director and composer’s own words ‘This is not music set to film. This is film set to music.’
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Sunday, 17 January 2016

A recent release from ECM New Series brings together lute songs ranging from the 16th century to contemporary with remarkable success

ECM New Series have recently released a recording that attempts to bridge the gap between art song and pop song. This is not just another attempt at crossover but a genuine wish to bring together examples of early music with modern song on the basis that at one time a song was just a song, not an art song or pop song.

Such modern composers as John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin fame) , Sting  and Genesis-keyboardist Tony Banks  were commissioned to write new lute songs. Entitled Amores Pasados this new disc features Ex-Hilliard Ensemble tenor, John Potter (voice) , Anna Maria Friman (voice and Hardanger fiddle)  and lutenists,  Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Heringman

ECM New Series
2441 4811555
John Potter remarks in his booklet notes that ‘asking a rock music composer to set existing poetry within a genre we knew well meant that we singers wouldn’t need to pretend to be pop singers – we were still ‘interpreting’ a text in a way that we’re familiar with.’

John Paul Jones (b. 1946), in his group of three songs, Amores Pasados sets texts from the three great ages of Spanish literature. Al son de los arroyuelos takes a text by the Spanish playwright, poet and novelist Félix Lope de Vega y Carpio (1562-1613) and certainly avoids the distinction between art song and popular song. There is a definite Iberian lilt to the song with the voices of John Potter and Anna Maria Friman keeping an ideal balance between purity and naturalness, ably accompanied by the lutes of Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Heringman.

A long held fiddle note with lute gently strumming a chord opens No dormía before Anna Maria Friman, then John Potter, introduce the text by Spanish post-romanticist poet and writer Gustavo Adolfo Claudio Domínguez Bastida, better known as Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870). A wonderful atmosphere is created, at times having the nature of an ecclesiastical chant, at others a lament. These singers bring much feeling to the text before it expands texturally. Later the theme is played by the lute over a held fiddle note before the singers return and the voices rise up, concluding with brief spoken text from Potter.

We are led straight into So ell encina where the two lutes of Abramovich and Heringman lead forward. Potter takes the text, a setting of a 15th c. anonymous text, in this faster, more buoyant song before Friman enters to share text. There is a gently flowing, rhythmic lilt with some fine, fluent playing from the two lutenists, well harmonised at the coda.

Peter Warlock’s (1884-1930) setting of Sleep by John Fletcher (1579-1625) fits perfectly after the John Paul Jones songs. John Potter brings a naturalness allied to a traditional lute song style with fine lute accompaniment.

Two Thomas Campion (1567-1620) songs follow; first Follow thy fair sun which brings the voice of Anna Maria Friman accompanied by the two lutes, affectingly sung with such a musical voice, unstrained and natural. Friman giving a beautifully phrased and shaped performance of Campion’s Oft have I sighed bringing the best of both worlds, purity, great feeling yet an unstrained natural voice. There is some exquisite accompaniment from the two lutenists.

The two lutenists bring a finely blended In nomine I by the 16th c. Mr Picforth (fl 1580's) of whom little is known.  It is well paced by these fine musicians who dovetail the musical lines beautifully.

It is John Potter that brings Thomas Campion’s: The cypress curtain of the night. He has a slight catch in his voice that adds to the expression and emotion of this text. He is finely accompanied by the two lutenists with all bringing a real Elizabethan melancholy.

Tony Banks (b. 1950) has taken Campion’s own poem, Follow thy fair sun that he set himself, as the text for his own song. A single lute opens, soon joined by the second before John Potter enters. Again this song is not the slightest out of place. It is neither pastiche nor modern in feel. A lute song takes its place perfectly here, full of feeling.

E. J. Moeran’s (1894-1950) A. E. Housman setting of Oh Fair enough are sky and plain takes on a different feel in this performance for male singer and two lutes. It is entirely convincingly thought the shifts in key come as quite a surprise in this arrangement.  

Tony Banks’ second Thomas Campion setting, The cypress curtain of the night is equally impressive. John Potter and the two lutenists bring much sensitivity and feeling. Potter brings an affectingly emotional and natural quality.

Ariel Abramovich & Jacob Heringman provide another lute piece by Picforth, In nomine II in another fine performance with a natural, gentle flow.

This disc concludes with Sting’s (b.1951) Bury me deep in the greenwood. Sting has become well known in recent times for his interest in singing lute songs. He wrote this one for a Robin Hood film and incorporates his own lyrics. It has a particularly fine lute opening before John Potter enters, rising to moments of intense feeling. This is an impressive song, sung with much feeling and finely accompanied.

This project works remarkably well, bringing together a collection of songs that sit well alongside each other. Surprisingly it is the Moeran setting that perhaps is the only one that doesn’t quite fit as well here. 

John Potter in his useful booklet notes mentions that the aim was to try to make the recording as live as possible, any glitches providing a human touch. It is that natural, human element that shines through here. 

There are no texts which is a pity with the first three songs sung in Spanish. The recording, though close, is excellent. 

A remarkably fine performance of Beethoven’s String Quintet in C major Op.29, with violist Lawrence Dutton, is coupled with a terrific performance of the String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132 making a fine addition to the Quartetto di Cremona’s Beethoven Quartet cycle for Audite

When I reviewed the Quartetto di Cremona’s  first issue in their series of complete Beethoven String Quartets for Audite  I was impressed by their fluency, sparkle and passion.

This fine Quartet has now reached Volume Five in their cycle where, with violist Lawrence Dutton  from the Emerson String Quartet, they bring us the String Quintet in C major, Op.29 coupled with the late String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132

SACD and HD Download
They bring a real intensity and character to the opening of the Allegro moderato of String Quintet in C major, Op.29, soon developing a fine forward momentum. They are alive to every nuance and sudden change in tempo and dynamics whilst achieving some fine textures and sonorities. There is always an underlying sense of urgency and tension with some tremendous passages developed later in the movement.  

In the Adagio molto espressivo these players bring an exquisite flowing melody over the pulse of the pizzicato cello. They weave the theme beautifully with some wonderfully sensitive hushed passages as well as some quietly powerful moments.  They always seem to know where they’re going with a fine sense of overall structure. Towards the end they bring a startlingly emotional outburst before leading slowly and gently to the coda.

These players bring a fine rhythmic bounce to the Scherzo. Allegro with some terrific interplay.  There is a finely shaped trio section with this Quintet bringing a real swagger as we are led forward to the coda.

There is such fine, lightly bowed playing in the frenetic opening of the Presto. This is remarkably fine playing by any standards as they follow every twist and turn, every dynamic, continuing with the intensity that has run through so much of this performance. There is some very fine control of dynamics before a crisp and decisive coda.

This is a remarkably fine performance.

The Quartetto di Cremona achieve some glorious textures in the opening of the Assai sostenuto – Allegro of the String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, bringing intense emotion as the music rises up. They provide a very fine rubato as they retain an emotional tension behind the intense lyricism, bringing ever changing textures and sonorities as the music develops with a terrific weaving of musical lines. They bring such finely controlled dynamics whilst revealing exquisite details.  

This control of dynamics is to the fore in the opening of the Allegro ma non tanto with wonderful phrasing and a fine tautness to their playing. Yet for all the tautness they bring a real sense of spontaneity as they bring out so many of Beethoven’s often unusual ideas. There is fast lithe flow before the finely done coda.

What can one say of the wonderful, intense slow movement marked Molto Adagio – Neue Kraft fühlend. Andante – Molto adagio – Andante – Molto adagio. Mit innigster Empfindung  with the added caption Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart (Holy song of thanksgiving of a convalescent to the Deity). In the hands of this fine Quartet there are the most wonderful sonorities in the opening long drawn phrases. Each player adds something special to the exquisite hushed moments and just the right amount of rhythmic lift when the music rises, bringing an emotionally charged, fragile jollity. There is always a strong, if gentle, forward flow with beautifully drawn, long phrases as the music rises and falls. Part way they bring a brighter, taut section yet always with a sense of urgency and tension. There are more of those sustained, long drawn phrases throughout which so many threads are woven before the music rises to an intense climax before slowly finding a peace in the coda.

The Alla marcia, assai vivace opens with a well sprung sense of joy and some wonderfully crisp playing. There is a further array of fine textures and sonorities – before leading into the concluding Allegro appassionato where this Quartet bring a lilting, dance like feel before developing through some really incisive passages. They provide some wonderfully controlled and developed passages, often full of strength, precision and passion, before a beautifully sprung coda.

This is a terrific performance that reveals further the remarkable qualities of this Quartet and makes fine addition to the Quartetto di Cremona’s Beethoven Quartet cycle.

The SACD recording is first class and there are useful booklet notes.

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Saturday, 16 January 2016

Volume 3 of The Lendvai String Trio’s complete cycle of String Trios by Julius Röntgen for Champs Hill Records brings immensely rewarding performances that will bring delight to listeners

The composer, Julius Röntgen (1855-1932)  was born in Leipzig, Germany to a family of musicians. His Dutch born father was first violinist in the Gewandhaus orchestra and his mother was a pianist. He studied composition in Leipzig with Franz Lachner (1803-1890) and piano with Louis Plaidy (1810-1874) and Carl Reinecke (1824-1910). He returned to his native Holland to become a piano teacher and help to found the Amsterdamsch Conservatorium as well as being active as a recitalist and conductor.

Röntgen’s wrote over 600 compositions including symphonies, concertos, chamber music in various settings, songs, works for choir and operas.

It is Röntgen’s sixteen works for String Trio that the Lendvai String Trio (Dutch violinist Nadia Wijzenbeek, Swedish violist Ylvali Zilliacus and British cellist Marie Macleod) are recording for Champs Hill Records . Their third volume in this series, that features String Trios, No’s 9 to 12, has just been released. 

The String Trios date from between 1915 and 1930 and are, therefore, mature works. The Trio No. 9 in A flat major was written in the spring of 1923 and opens with a light and good natured Un poco animato that is developed most beautifully by the Lendvai String Trio. They bring a real sense of joy to this beguiling music with a finely blended texture of instrumental sounds, adding a brief moment of intensity before the coda is reached.

In the Moderato con sentimento the violin brings a flowing melody over pizzicato viola and cello before the instrumentalists weave the melody together. There is a livelier, more incisive central Intermezzo before the music winds its way to its gently wistful conclusion.

This trio bring a fine swirl of string sound to the more turbulent Allegro energico adding much to the dynamic contrasts in wonderfully rich playing, finding all the little changes in rhythm.

Röntgen’s Trio No. 10 in F minor was written in the summer of 1923 whilst the composer was staying at his favourite holiday destination of Fuglsang in Denmark. A sudden string motif is sounded and reflected across the trio as the Allegro molto opens. The idea is developed through some fine flowing passages which are still interrupted by more incisive, dynamic phrases. The music rises through some wonderfully distinctive passages, played with warmth and richness with these players bringing such fine variety of texture and sonorities. There are lovely little pizzicato details as well as some finely played faster sections that lead to the coda.

With the Andante, a sonorous unison opening statement is gently developed through passages of shimmering string luminosity before a thoughtful passage with a rising motif arrives. Later there is a lovely passage where the violin rises passionately over the viola and cello before a gentle coda.

The viola brings a wistful opening statement in the Allegretto affettuoso, soon joined by the other players. Despite its outwardly sunny disposition there is a more intense edge revealed by the Lendvai String Trio. They lift the music with a fine, light rhythmic touch before speeding towards the coda which arrives full of light-hearted joy.

Trio No. 11 in G minor was written within the same ten day period at the beginning of 1925 that also saw the composition of Trio No. 12 in A major. The Lendvai String Trio brings an attractive flow to the opening of the Moderato before pointing up the dynamic contrasts. These players have a fine way of bringing an unstoppable flow of invention to this music as they move through passages of deeper, more intense, richer sonorities, finding every little dynamic, rhythmic and textural detail. There are passages with a gentler dancing sonority before the lovely coda.

The lithe, rhythmic Vivace e giocoso fairly sparkles with good humour, with its staccato phrases. This Trio bring such fine, intuitive accuracy and a lovely crispness to their playing before a bright and breezy coda.

The Andante con moto achieves a fine contrast with its broad, flowing, richly toned sonority, bringing a great sense of freedom and spontaneity as these players move through Röntgen’s ever changing, whimsical ideas, full of endless invention to the decisive coda.

The Allegro assai of the Trio No. 12 in A major opens with a decisive statement before finding a forward flow with these players weaving a lovely theme. Again Röntgen brings rather whimsical ideas, to which this Trio responds brilliantly before pizzicato strings bring about the coda.

A gentle little theme opens the Pastorale. Andante tranquillo with the Lendvai String Trio bringing lovely textures and a real lift to this short movement – quite lovely. They bring a fine forward flow to the Menuetto affettuoso with a fine blending of textures, rising to moments of joyousness before finding the way to a gentle coda on a simple chord.

The Allegro non troppo leaps up, full of energy and fast moving phrases, with this Trio bringing brilliantly intense and accurate playing. There is a fine overlay of musical strands as the music develops through some vibrant passages that positively glow before arriving at a joyous coda. 

These are immensely rewarding works and performances that will bring delight to listeners. Such are the attractions that I intend to seek out previous releases in this fine series. The Lendvai String Trio brings much understanding to this unjustly neglected music. They receive an excellent, spacious recording from the Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK and there are excellent booklet notes. 

Friday, 15 January 2016

An impressive and worthwhile release from Sorel Music of Judith Lang Zaimont’s Fourth Symphony and First Piano Trio in very fine performances

The American composer Judith Lang Zaimont (b. 1945) began piano lessons with her mother at the age of five and by the age of twelve was studying piano and theory at the Juilliard School.  

Zaimont’s music is frequently played in the United States and abroad and has been recorded by such labels as Naxos, Albany, Arabesque, Koch, Leonarda and 4-Tay and has been commissioned by ensembles and solo performers world-wide. Her orchestral music has been repeatedly recognized with the First Prize - Gold Medal in the Gottschalk Centenary International Composition Competition, First Prize in the Chamber Orchestra Composition and First Prize in the International 1995 McCollin Competition for Composers.

Her works have been performed by orchestras such as the Baltimore, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Greenville (SC), Rockford (IL), Mississippi, Madison (WI), Harrisburg (PA), East Texas and Nassau (NY) symphonies, the Women's Philharmonic (CA), the Berlin Radio Orchestra (Germany), Czech Radio Orchestra (Prague), the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra (Moscow, Russia), Kharkov Philharmonic (Ukraine), Pro Arte Chamber Orchestras (NY and Boston) as well as wind ensembles at Florida State University, University of Minnesota, Georgia State and University of Virginia.

Many of her 100 works are prize-winning compositions, including four symphonies, chamber opera, oratorios and cantatas, music for wind ensemble, vocal-chamber pieces with varying accompanying ensembles, a wide variety of chamber works and solo music for string and wind instruments, piano, organ, and voice.

Judith Lang Zaimont is a distinguished teacher, formerly a member of the faculties of Queens College and Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory of Music, she was Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department at Adelphi University from 1989 to 1991 and from 1992 to 2005 served as Professor of Composition at the University of Minnesota School of Music, as well as division chair and Scholar of the College of Liberal Arts.

It is Zaimont’s Pure, Cool (Water) - Symphony No.4 and her Piano Trio No.1 ‘Russian Summer’  that are on a new release from Sorel Music featuring the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra  conducted by Niels Muus and Peter Winograd (violin) , Peter Wyrick (cello)  and Joanne Polk (piano)

SC CD 003
A single rhythmic motif runs right through Pure, Cool (Water) - Symphony No. 4 (2013), a work that ‘draws attention to the world’s chronic water shortage.’ Indeed the composer’s own father was a New York City Water Commissioner and her own home is in a dry region of the USA, Arizona.

The first movement, in a current. (The River) opens in the basses with a feeling of expectation. Woodwind and brass instruments gently weave through this opening sequence bringing a forward flow. The music rises up the orchestra briefly before continuing the opening flow. Soon the music rises in drama and power but there are quieter, more still, reflective passage before the orchestra rises again, ever changing and flowing.  Zaimont achieves some subtle orchestral sounds that bring delicate textures. Midway the pace picks up as the music adopts a brighter sound, moving through more varying passages, finding moments of drama pointed up by percussion before achieving a peak in a passage of ever surging forward drive, before moving to a gentle coda.

as a solid (Ice) has a beautifully conceived opening that soon finds a sharper edge as the music develops through passages of remote, glacial tone and more violent moments. There are passages of static icy sound through which sharper textures cut, before a sudden swirl brings the conclusion.

Short drops of sound from woodblock, triangle and bow taps create the opening of falling drops (Rainshower) before the orchestra suddenly moves ahead, full of dynamism and energy. The orchestra retains the opening rhythmic pulses and percussive sounds revealing the rain shower to be quite a dramatic downpour. Later the music moves through a quieter, fast moving section with a myriad of instrumental details before quietening in the coda.

still (The Tarn) brings a lovely mellifluous, gently flowing opening through which various woodwind are heard. This music often creates a feeling of restrained power even before the timpani and cymbals bring a more dramatic section. Soon we arrive at a passage for cello which brings a more restrained nature, but timpani bring the dramatic music back despite the lovely cello line restraining the music. Pizzicato basses add a subtle rhythmic touch before the whole orchestra moves forward with a fine sweep, rising to a passage of great grandeur. It is the wistful cello that again brings about a gentler passage before we are led by woodwind to a gentle coda, the cello having a last say.

In the fifth and final movement, in waves and torrents (Ocean) we reach the ocean with a hushed opening where a flute leads the melody over tremolo strings. Suddenly the tempo and dynamics pick up with brass, timpani and side drums pointing up the drama, bringing many individual details as the music moves ahead and swirls around. There is a slower moment when the brass seems to hover menacingly under the gentler orchestra before moving through passages where there is much going on in the orchestra. Indeed, this whole work is finely and distinctively orchestrated. Later there is the most exquisite evocation of the movement of the sea before rising forcefully, led by brass with timpani strokes to a tremendous climax. The music falls away but the peace is set against an underlying shifting motif over which woodwind weave a theme. The underlying theme in the basses continues to surge as we are led to a peaceful coda.

This is a symphony that is evocative, full of variety, power, subtlety and forward movement. The Janacek Philharmonic under Niels Muus provides a fine performance.

Peter Winograd (violin), Peter Wyrick (cello) and Joanne Polk (piano) bring us Zaimont’s Piano Trio No.1 ‘Russian Summer’ (1989). This was commissioned for the 10th anniversary of the Skaneateles Summer Chamber Music Festival (NY) in 1989. The composer tells us that ‘This Trio is Russian because it’s flavored by my own middle-European lineage – Russian, Polish and Hungarian roots; and the Summer portion of the title is because it was written primarily during the warm months.’

Nocturne opens with a wistful little theme, beautifully developed by these players with Zaimont creating some lovely moments, fine sonorities and textures and some quite unusual harmonies. The music rises to a more dramatic section leading to some firm gritty textures but soon falls back to its more thoughtful nature. Later the music suddenly leaps into a fast rolling passage before again slowing with some most lovely playing from these players, especially as we are led to the gentle, hushed coda.

The violin and piano gently open Romp, soon joined by the cello as the music adopts a skittish, fast moving theme. Here, these players provide terrific ensemble as they hurtle forward through the ever developing music, eventually finding a terrific ebb and flow. Later the cello, violin, then piano take the theme in turns before weaving ahead. The music falls to a slower, quizzical passage where the three players ruminate on the theme before slowly gaining in tempo to race to the coda.

This is a terrific Trio brilliantly played here by these artists.  

This is an impressive and worthwhile release that brings excellent recordings and informative booklet notes. 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

An enticing new release from Somm features the fine partnership of Valerie Tryon and Jac van Steen in works by Debussy, Fauré and Ravel

Before she was twelve, pianist Valerie Tryon had broadcast for the BBC and was appearing regularly on the concert platform. She was one of the youngest students ever to be admitted to the Royal Academy of Music where she received the highest award in piano playing and a bursary which took her to Paris for study with Jacques Février.

Since then she has played in most of the major concert halls and appeared with many of the leading orchestras and conductors in Britain. Her career has taken her to North America where she has appeared in such cities as Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. She now lives in Canada where she is the Artist-in-Residence at McMaster University whilst spending a part of each year in her native Britain.

She was an early recipient of the Harriet Cohen Medal and more recently the Liszt Memorial Plaque was bestowed on her by the Hungarian Minister of Culture in recognition of her lifelong promotion of Franz Liszt's music. Her repertoire includes more than sixty concertos and a vast amount of chamber music ranging from Bach to contemporary composers.

Valerie Tryon’s latest recording from Somm Recordings is again with Jac van Steen  and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in works by Debussy, Fauré and Ravel.


An early work, Claude Debussy’s (1862-1918) Fantaisie for piano and orchestra was to have been his fourth and final entry for the Prix de Rome in 1888 but was never submitted and was not performed until after his death. Jac van Steen and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra bring a beautifully phrased, atmospheric opening to the Andante ma non troppo - Allegro giusto. When Valerie Tryon enters she lights up the music with playing of tremendous rhythmic panache combined with finely controlled dynamics as well as moments of limpid, crystalline beauty. The RPO also bring some fine sweeping dynamics as the music rises to some quite wonderful peaks.

As the Lento e molto espressivo opens, the orchestra surround the piano with some exquisite, silky, hushed textures. Tryon carefully controls the ebb and flow with wonderful rubato and phrasing, beautifully done with, towards the coda, some lovely rippling piano phases before we are led straight into a rhythmically buoyant Allegro molto. There is some wonderfully spirited playing from the RPO as Tryon bring a fine rhythmic touch. There is much taut playing as the dynamics rise, as well as sensitivity in the poetic passages. The faster passages are full of panache before a glittering coda.

It is Tryon’s ability to bring sudden, almost surprising changes in tempi and dynamics that impresses. This is certainly as fine a performance of Debussy’s Fantaisie as you could wish for.

Gabriel Fauré’s (1845-1924) Ballade for piano and orchestra, Op. 19 started life as a work for solo piano in 1879. It was Franz Liszt (1811-1886) who suggested that Fauré add a few touches of orchestra to highlight certain details, that led to the composer arranging the work for piano and orchestra in 1879-81.

Valerie Tryon brings a disarming simplicity to the opening of the Ballade, sensitively accompanied by Jac van Steen and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra through passages of finely flowing development.  Tryon brings a most beautiful touch, a purity and clarity and, as the music rises through passages of faster, more dynamic playing; she finds much beauty, carrying the listener with her all the way.  Van Steen and the RPO provide an ideal accompaniment subtly enhancing the quieter moments, right through to the quizzical coda.

In 1929, despite concerns over his health Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was contemplating a world tour for which he needed a piano concerto. The problem was that he had already accepted a commission from pianist Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961) for a concerto for left hand. The effect of working on the two concertos more or less simultaneously led to a further decline in his health. Nevertheless, in the later part of 1938, Ravel delivered the Concerto for Left Hand and by the end of November 1931 he had completed the Concerto in G. Both concertos were performed in January 1932, the one for left hand in Vienna and the other in Paris. Ravel was ordered to completely rest; therefore, the premiere of the Piano Concerto in G was undertaken by Marguerite Long.

Jac van Steen and the Royal Philharmonic bring a bright pinpoint clarity to accompany Valerie Tryon’s crystalline piano opening to the Allegramente, full of life and energy. They soon bring a slower, more sultry feel with this pianist bringing a more serious stance against a freer and racier orchestral accompaniment. There are many little subtleties here before the piano picks up a pace, seemingly drawn along by the orchestra. Tryon has a terrific rhythmic bounce to her playing as she takes us through some terrific runs on the piano. She brings a fine rubato with the orchestra providing moments of quite special subtlety to contrast magnificently with the raucous outbursts. Tryon’s dissonant, quivering piano phrases are beautifully done before a coda full of sprung rhythms.

The hushed moments of the Allegramente hinted at the likely beauties of the Adagio assai. One is not disappointed.  Here again this pianist brings a beautifully direct simplicity. When the RPO enter they bring a lovely, smooth, silken texture with Tryon and Van Steen making a fine partnership. They maintain a finely controlled tempo with this pianist bringing her beautifully pure, limpid touch to the later stages where the cor anglais joins.

Neither Valerie Tryon or Jac van Steen and the orchestra hold back in the Presto, bringing a humour that can often be lacking. There are some wonderful quieter, tense moments as both build the music up, Tryon bringing some very fine, free and fresh moments. The orchestra add some fine instrumental contributions before the sudden coda.

In a heavily laden catalogue of the Ravel Concerto in G this performance brings much to delight and with the Debussy and Fauré makes for an enticing new release. 

These artists are well recorded at the Henry Wood Hall, London, UK with the piano nicely balanced against the orchestra. There are informative booklet notes.