Saturday, December 10, 2016
Classical Music For Mindfulness Music is a perfect opportunity to practise mindfulness: to become fully aware of the present moment, opening ourselves to the physical and emotional experience of listening, here and now. ABC Classics has collaborated with mindfulness experts Smiling Mind to develop this collection of calming classical music: perfect both for experienced practitioners of meditation and for those simply looking for a moment of tranquillity to escape from the pressures of the day. Bach, J S: Adagio from Sonata No. 1 for solo violin Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV1007: Prelude Prelude in C major (from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I) Britten: Down by the Salley Gardens Debussy: Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque) Einaudi: I Giorni Glass, P: Opening Grieg: Peer Gynt: Morning Kats-Chernin: Butterflying The Rain Puzzle Marcello, A: Adagio from Oboe Concerto in D minor Nyman: Glooomy Winter (from The Piano) Pärt: Spiegel im Spiegel Pari intervallo Price, Jonathan: Rustin Saint-Saëns: Le carnaval des animaux: Le Cygne Satie: Gymnopédie No. 1 Schubert: Ständchen ‘Leise flehen meine Lieder’, D957 No. 4 Skinner, J S: The Cradle Song From the intricate clarity of Bach to the pure stillness of Arvo Pärt and Erik Satie, this album offers a musical journey into the spirit of sound itself. Enjoy!
Hugo Wolf's Das Fest auf Solhaug (1890-91) was written for a Vienna production of Henrik Ibsen's Gildet paa Solhuog (1856). Wolf didn't take kindly to working on commission. "I like the Ibsen play less each day... It is right honestly botched with damned little poetry. I don't know where I shall get the plaster from, with which to clothe in music this home-made carpentry". Admittedly, Wolf was working from a German translation which may not have captured Ibsen's unique idiom. Shorn of the inherent music in Ibsen's syntax, the plot may well be awkward. Margit is unhappily married to rich old Bengt. Margit's really in love with Gudmund, now an exiled outlaw, but returns to Solhaug. Margit plans to poison Bengt so she can marry Gudmund, whom she does not realize has fallen in love with her gentle sister Signe, who has been promised by the King to Knut, a brute. Knut kills Bengt. The King learns that Gudmund wasn't a villain at all and lets him marry Signe. Margit becomes a nun. Wolf's Das Fest auf Solhaug languished in negativity until the original score was edited and published by Kalmus in 1987. The first, and only, recording,released in 2006, with Helmuth Froschauer conducting the WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln,with Günther Lamprecht as speaker. He's wonderful, and acts so well with his voice that he makes the work come alive, in the tradition of German spoken theatre. There are only two solo songs, for Margit and Gudmund, the rest scored for chorus and orchestra. This "new" version of Das Fest auf Solhaug shows that it is much more than the set of three songs from the piece published in 1897. I've long loved the lyrical "Gesang Margits" for piano and soprano. Did Wolf know Grieg's Solvieg's Song (1876)? He despised copying, as true artists do, but perhaps it had a subliminal effect on his sensibilities. The orchestral version we hear here is something else, though. Wolf set the scene for the play ambitiously. The orchestral prelude is grand, even panoramic, rising to a sudden crescendo then suddenly breaking off. On this recording there is descriptive narration, but not dialogue, a good idea since the emphasis here is the music. . Margit's song "Bergkönig ritt durch die Lande weit" is intoned heroically, heralded by trumpets and horns, taking up the challenging thrust of the Prelude. The voice lowers with menacing portent,as if Margrit were a character in The Ring. Perhaps Wolf did intuit the background to the tale,where an anonymous King pulls strings, trading his subjects off as if they were chattels. "Bei Sang und Speil sind wir vereint" sing the chorus: Solhaug is celebrating the anniversary of Margit's marriage to Bengt, but the mood is ferocious,more hunt than party,with large, pounding ostinato and the clash of cymbals,and trumpet calls. Now it is night, and the narrator tells us about Margit mixing poison. Gudmund sings , "Ich führ wohl ber Wasser" The mood remains truculent and upbeat, with a vigorous orchestral interlude, haunted by solo clarinet, perhaps symbolizing sinister intent. Swirling figures,interrupted by savage,sharp chords, then a madly merry dance. The horns blast, and morning comes. And so ends the Fest at Solhaug. Bengt's dead, Knut's in trouble with the King and Margit ends up in a convent. The choir sings in hushed tones, while the orchestra blasts forth in grand coda. Wolf's Das Fest auf Solhaug isn't half bad. We can imagine Wolf gnashing his teeth in exasperation. Perhaps we can feel his impatience. He'd rather be getting on with The Spanish Liederbook than writing mock medieval slush, which may come from the Vienna translation, which fortunately isn't easy to track down.. Which is more than can be said for Hans Pfitzner, whose own Drei Vorspeil zu Henrik Ibsens Das Fest auf Solhaug completes this disc. The first and last Vorspeils are ponderous, taking nearly 20 minutes to say very little. At least Hugo Wolf gives us a merry jape ! The middle Vorspeil, only 5 minutes, is livelier. Perhaps he's depicting a party of sorts. But Ibsen and Wolf had a pretty good idea that the festivities at Solhaug were bluff. Well played, though, even if the music isn't so good. I've been revisiting Das Fest auf Solhaug as another musical version is released, Wilhelm Stenhammer's Gillet på Solhaug). Watch this space!
Minimalism and modernism have thrived here, but look a little deeper for some wonderful curiosities, while the city’s key role in period performance practice, and its world famous orchestra ensure its place as one of Europe’s great musical centresOK, my friends, I accept I may have made an error of judgment by making a musical stopover in Amsterdam. @abkquan puts it very nicely: “Here the problem is the opposite to Vienna: what to include instead of what to exclude.” The Netherlands is a nation of performers – and painters of course – but composers are thin on the ground. It doesn’t have its equivalent of Sibelius, Nielsen or Grieg, a composer who came to symbolise 19th-century nationhood. I feel there is probably a good PhD thesis to be written explaining why. Continue reading...
Ott/Bavarian Radio SO/Salonen (Deutsche Grammophon)“Wonderland” to Alice Sara Ott is the trolls-and-forests world of Grieg, whose Piano Concerto is presented in a live performance alongside studio recordings of 12 miniatures. The concerto may sound small-scale to anyone who thinks of this as a big romantic warhorse; it is elegantly phrased by Ott and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, but the first movement barely catches fire until the solo cadenza, so the grand ending of the finale sounds like the resolution to a more dramatic story than the one we’ve just heard. For a disc exploring a “magical and imaginary world”, in the miniatures there’s a very present quality to both Ott’s playing and the recorded sound; yet she does create a mistier atmosphere in the Nocturne, and Solveig’s Song sounds haunting, even if the Elves’ Dance that follows is a bit stompy. Wedding Day at Troldhaugen comes with a witty scramble to get to the church on time. Continue reading...
Skride/Skride (Orfeo)There will be something new and intriguing for most chamber-music fans in this recital by Latvian violinist Baiba Skride and her pianist sister Lauma, which brings together relatively little-known violin pieces by the leading Nordic composers of the early 20th century. The most envelope-pushing work – and the one that makes the most of Baiba’s characteristic intensity of tone and muscular yet seamless phrasing – is the 1912 Sonata No 2 by Nielsen, its first movement a seething, searching bundle of mood-swings, its finale a deceptively relaxed waltz that in one striking passage anticipates the climbdown from one of the climaxes in the Fourth Symphony, begun two years later. The sisters are ideally matched, too, in four miniatures, Op 78, which find Sibelius in effortlessly lyrical mode, plus Grieg’s folk-inspired 1867 Sonata No 2 and the long, wistful lines of Stenhammar’s Sonata from 1900. Why are these works not played more often? Continue reading...
You may remember that last year I reviewed a film called "La calle de los pianistas" ("The pianists´ street") about the particular relationship of a family of pianists who live in Brussels next door to Martha Argerich´s house. It centered on the dialogues of a mother, Karin Lechner, and her daughter, Natasha Binder, plus interventions of the teenager´s uncle, Sergio Tiempo, and of Argerich. All of them are inhabited by music and the piano, and have been so since they were almost babies. Let me introduce some personal notes, for their past mingled with mine in two periods. This is the dynasty founded by Antonio De Raco, one of our best pianists, and Elizabeth Westerkamp, pianist and teacher and still alive at 102. They had two children and one of them was Lyl De Raco, a talented pianist who oriented her life to teaching of a special kind: children, including her own. When she was eighteen she had a friendship with my sister and played at our Pleyel. Afterwards she married Jorge Lechner, an admirable pianist who was an important repetiteur at the Colón, and their daughter was Karin. Antonio De Raco then lived at the same Palermo building of my mother, and Karin was about seven when she became inseparable with my niece, who lived with my mother; forty years later they are still close friends. Lechner had an untimely death, and Lyl remarried, with the diplomat Martín Tiempo (son of the writer César Tiempo). He was posted to Venezuela, and it was there that Sergio Tiempo was born. And of course, he too was a pianist. And then Karin grew and married; Natasha Binder was born and followed the same road as her mother, grandmother and uncle. And Lyl took Natasha as a special pupil. Karin and Sergio, either separately or together, made frequent tours to BA. And then came the surprise: Natasha Binder, nine years old, inaugurated seven seasons ago the BA Phil´s subscription series with Grieg´s Concerto, amazing the audience. Now she is sixteen and her career is launched. Enrique Arturo Diemecke, in his twelfth year as Principal Conductor of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, had the idea of giving all five Beethoven piano concerti with different pianists. Two veterans played Nº 1 (Philippe Entremont) and Nº4 (Bruno Gelber). And in the Colón concert of August 25 we heard Nº2 with Binder, Nº3 with Tiempo and Nº5 with Lechner. For some reason the half-brothers interchanged concerti, for Sergio was supposed to play Nº5 and Karin Nº3 ; Diemecke announced it. This concert was an interesting experience, for it allowed the public to appreciate three Beethovenian compositional styles, but also because three players of formidable technical ability and of the same family gave very diverse readings. As the aforementioned film makes clear, there´s great love between mother and daughter, but Natasha has strong temperament and in the final analysis, although she hears the wise counsel of Lyl and Karin, she plays what she feels. By the way, Nº 2 is a favorite of Argerich and she played it last year with Barenboim. Contrary to what many say, it has little influence of Mozart and is already unmistakeably Beethoven, although it was written when he was in his late teens (the big cadenza was certainly added much later; it is in the dramatic style of the "Pathetic Sonata"). Natasha was firmly in charge fron the very beginning, with clean strong playing, perhaps too assertive but always musical. She managed the cadenza with bravura. The slow movement was sensitive, with delicacy of touch. But I differ with her very fast tempo for the final Rondo, marked Molto Allegro, not Presto as she played it. With so much speed the music lacks air and the orchestra has a hard time. Sergio Tiempo has immense technical ease and shines with authors like Liszt, Ravel or Prokofiev, but his very modern and idiosyncratic ways go against the grain of Beethoven´s requirements. Yes, Nº3 is dramatic and powerful, but not willful, and that´s what we heard: a constant adding of extemporaneous accents, rushing, disregarding the score. He calmed down in the slow movement, where he showed his fine toucher. It was an oasis before the final Rondo; after leaving no space between second and third movements (ugly harmonic clash), a headlong run, dazzling but empty. It remained for Karin to put things right and she did, in a beautifully balanced and played Nº5 ("Emperor"), scrupulously faithful to the score and immaculate. She even gave a perfect reading of the strange galloping rhythm of the final Rondo. In fact, her Fifth has my vote as the best performance of the whole cycle. Diemecke adapted himself to the contrasting styles of the performers and conducted solidly the extensive orchestral introductions, notwithstanding some poor solo playing (e.g., the bassoon). It is a curious thing that Karin and Sergio have very different styles playing separately, but are completely unanimous when they give two-piano programmes. Both look much younger and have a playful disposition. It was a nice idea to give us as an encore, along with Natasha, four-hand Ravel: "Les entretiens de la belle et la bête" ("The conversations of beauty and beast") from "Ma Mère l´Oye" ("Mother Goose"), displacing each other from the stool in a funny way, for all three played in turns, and beautifully. For Buenos Aires Herald
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