Monday, April 24, 2017
‘Volodos plays Brahms’ is the title of a recent CD by Arcadi Volodos in which we hear the following selections: Brahms: Capriccio in F sharp minor, Op. 76 No. 1 Capriccio in B minor, Op. 76 No. 2 Intermezzo in A flat, Op. 76 No. 3 Intermezzo in B flat major, Op. 76 No. 4 Intermezzi (3), Op. 117 Klavierstücke (6), Op. 118 All performed by Arcadi Volodos (piano) Volodos has played the Brahms solo pieces over the past years in places all over the world and received highest critical acclaim for his interpretation. The Brahms solo works are perfect to show Volodos unique ability to create a special and magic sound, a sound “which lifts us, the listener, into the air and which makes us believe that the world is floating” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). Recorded in the famous Teldex Studios Berlin in three sessions (2015 – 2017) on a great Steinway Grand Piano specially tuned by Michel Brandjes, one of the best tuners in the world. There is no editing in this recording. Volodos played every piece over and over again to develop his idea of structure and sound and chose the best version of each piece after the end of the recording. Here is a beautiful performance of the Intermezzo Op. 117, number 2:
The second and third concerts of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic´s subscription series at the Colón coincided in two factors: maestros that had never conducted the Phil and innovative programming. One is old, Finnish, talented and excentric; the other is middle-aged, Italian, very effective and enthusiastic. Leif Segerstam has been here before, Claudio Vandelli made his debut, and both had soloists from the orchestra in premières. Segerstam has changed enormously since his debut here in 1973 conducting Mozart´s "Le Nozze di Figaro". Then he was slim, 32 and almost at the start of his brilliant career; decades passed until he visited us at the helm of the Helsinki Philharmonic some years ago in programmes that stressed Sibelius and one of the conductor´s myriad symphonies. He was transformed into a Nordic overweight patriarch with a huge beard, but his command and musical sensitivity were quite evident. I also had the good luck of appreciating him as a Wagnerian in Vienna (February 2009) with a splendid "Lohengrin". Now in his late seventies, he has serious locomotion trouble and barely manages to climb the two steps to the podium, but his arms respond well and his capacity remains. He started and ended with Sibelius: the iconic "Finlandia" in a rousing performance, and the very welcome second time at the Phil for the Third Symphony, premièred by Pedro Calderón in 1973. Anecdote: at the time the programming was in the joint hands of Calderón (then Principal Conductor) and myself, and curiously he wanted to do Third symphonies and so did I; so he exhumed Mahler´s Third after forty years of its Fitelberg première and I programmed the première of Dvorák´s Third (Smetácek), played complete (not with cuts as happened in Diemecke´s integral of Dvorák symphonies). The Sibelius Third also had a performance (rather good) at the Facultad de Derecho by the Lanús Symphony three years ago and I was there, attracted by the chance to hear it live, for this is a neglected symphony in BA (as is the Sixth) and it doesn´t merit such negligence. Of course the first two are longer and richer but there is much beauty in the Third within its smaller scale. It was finished in 1907 and the composer´s stamp is everywhere, particularly in the attractive melodies of the first movement and the growing tension and density of the final minutes. It had a detailed and impressive reading. The first of two premières was an interesting arrangement by Luciano Berio of Brahms´ Sonata Op.120 Nº1 for clarinet and piano, converting it into a Concerto for clarinet and orchestra. Berio added apposite small introductions to the first and second movements. This is nocturnal, intimate, late Brahms composed in 1894; Berio´s orchestration is at times too loud (the music needs more matte colors, less trumpets) but considering the dearth of clarinet concertos, it is a useful addition to that repertoire. It was premièred in 1986 as a commission of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for its first desk Michele Zukovsky. Probably the execution by Mariano Rey, his counterpart at our Phil, was fully as good, for he is a virtuoso of international standing. I had the curious experience of following the music with the original Brahms score, and I found the interpretation (both soloistic and orchestral) cogent with the marked speeds and articulations. As an encore Rey offered an expressive clarinet adaptation of Piazzolla´s slow, melodic "Oblivion". Can you imagine a composer-conductor presenting his Symphony Nº 302? Surely a Guinness record, that´s what Segerstam did in this work dedicated to the Colón and called "A fundamental and universal musical conscience". Carlos Singer says in his programme notes (and I agree): "he created a gigantic meta-universe irresistible and labyrinthic, cosmic and chaotic". He uses what he calls "free pulsation", "leaving rhythmic decisions to the players". He certainly is "nonconformist, excentric and non-repeatable". He didn´t conduct his 24-minute symphony, of very full orchestration; instead, some players got up and led a particular section from time to time; I suppose rehearsals must have been fascinating to watch, and apparently the Phil coped well. I found it intense, dissonant though tonal-based, and strange; I was left imagining the workings of Segerstam´s psyche and comparing it to other excentric and prolific symphonists such as Havergal Brian and Alan Hovhaness, both quite unknown here. It would be intriguing to have a chance to compare them live. Back to relative normalcy in the following concert. The announced conductor was Alexander Vedernikov, but he fell ill and was replaced by Claudio Vandelli. What impressed me was that the programme was unchanged although it was made up of rarely played Russian music and a première. Reading his biography I understood it: he has been invited for the last ten years by the Moscow State Symphony New Russia and is the second conductor of the Russian Youth Symphony, so he is well versed in the Russian repertoire, although he has plenty of activity elsewhere (he has conducted orchestras of great caliber). He started with an umistakeably Tchaikovskian score, the fantasy overture "Hamlet" (one of his three Shakespearian tone poems, for that´s what they are: the others being "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Tempest"). Written when he was occupied by his Fifth Symphony in 1888, all the hallmarks of his style are there in this unfairly ignored creation: the dark, ominous textures; the melodies charged with sorrow; the vigorous climaxes; the sense of drama. I enjoyed Vandelli´s sanguine interpretation, played by a committed Phil. Johann Baptist Vanhal (Bohemian) had a rather long life (1739-1813) and was staggeringly prolific: 73 symphonies, about 30 concertos, around a hundred string quartets, and 95 sacred works. Very popular and well considered in his own time, but quite forgotten as the Nineteenth Century advanced, the vinyl catalogue after WWII and later the CD rush provoked a thirst for the expansion of the repertoire beyond the greatest names, and thus slowly Vanhal was explored at least partially. There are few concerts for the bass, and so the two by Vanhal, purely classicist, began to be played again. The cumbersome instrument is habitually used in orchestras as the basis for rich string textures, but rarely gets solos to play, let alone concertos. So Osvaldo Dragún, first desk of our Phil, welcomed the chance of premièring Vanhal´s Concerto in D major, a pleasant twenty minutes that allowed the player to show the melodic and the virtuosic aspects of the bass. Dragún also played some of Bottesini´s Variations on the Carnival of Venice tune. A good player of charismatic appearance, he got strong applause. And Vandelli accompanied well. Now to another excentric composer: Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915). He started as a Late Romantic but gradually he went on to an audacious mystical avantgardism. His three symphonies are steps in that sense, crowned by his two great poems: "of ecstacy" and "of fire" ("Prometheus"). The Second Symphony (1901) was marvelously done here by Svetlanov and the USSR State Symphony, decades ago. In five movements (the first two and the last two joined), the music is exalted, turbulent and ample (48 minutes). Vandelli led with enthusiasm and command, getting a big sound out of an attentive Phil.For Buenos Aires Herald
Sometimes winners of piano competitions are not true messengers of great musical artistry. They might succeed in pleasing a panel of judges who often reward interpretive conformity and convention bundled in pyrotechnical displays, bestowing the Gold medal upon the least offending contender. Yet such a career launch may be short-lived once the round-by-round environment is no longer a convenient safety net. A truly creative musician must ultimately emancipate himself from a competitive framing and develop an unbridled, form of individual expression. Alessandro Deljavan is one of the few young pianists of his generation whose participation in the renowned Cliburn Competition brought singular adulation from audiences far and wide, but did not attach a Gold, Silver or Bronze Medal. His BIGGER THAN LIFE talent, LIVE-STREAMED from Fort Worth, Texas, in 2009 and 2013, drew a chorus of praise from pianists, teachers, and listeners around the world who enthusiastically mouse-clicked their way to his scheduled offerings. Yet, when the Italian pianist did not make the Finals, global sighs of outrage were funneled into Discretionary honors that would not soften international waves of disappointment. Fort Worth arts critic, Gregory Sullivan and others summed up the reaction to Deljavan’s playing during the course of the Cliburn rounds: “Deljavan’s performance was revelatory in every respect. Everyone in the hall knew that they were hearing something special-something wonderful from the very first notes. At the end, the spontaneous eruption of cheers was so different from the perfunctory ovation that any decent performance is awarded, that being part of the thrilled crowd was a unique experience in itself.” *** It’s no surprise that Deljavan is a virtuoso and poet of the piano without needing the rubber stamp of Competition juries. (Yet, he’s amassed a generous serving of first place awards at International concours) With a mellifluous singing tone, deft technique, and immaculate phrasing, his deeply probing art serves the music and composer. (I must admit to having shed tears listening to this Concerto excerpt) Deljavan’s riveting emotional connection to a score comes through in all style periods. *** *** I had a rare opportunity to converse with Alessandro who was in the Silicon Valley area (CA) performing chamber music with violinist, Daniela Cammarano, and cellist, Eugene Lifschitz. The group will showcase the works of Beethoven and Brahms at the School of Music and Arts at Finn Center, 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View, CA. Sunday, April 16th, 2017 at 3 p.m. Otherwise Deljavan is jet-setting around the world giving concerts to appreciative audiences. *** Alessandro shared his thoughts about the role of chamber music in the development of a pianist, along with providing a profile of his earliest exposure to the piano, journeying into the present. LINKS: Deljavan’s OFFICIAL WEBSITE: (Click “MEDIA” for more performance samples) http://alessandrodeljavan.welltempered.com Discography: http://alessandrodeljavan.welltempered.com/#discography https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/alessandro-deljavan-is-a-cliburn-winner-for-me/
I want to tell you about a new recording that I came across today: Brahms: String Quartet No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 67 Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115 Performed by James Campbell (clarinet), with the New Zealand String Quartet. Johannes Brahms wrote his String Quartet in B flat major, Op. 67 in 1876 and its largely cheerful qualities culminate in a theme and variations finale of exceptional imagination and mastery of form. Brahms’ last chamber music was inspired by a great exponent of the clarinet, Richard Mühlfeld, for whom he wrote four works including the Clarinet Quintet. This dazzling masterpiece is notable not only for its underlying elegiac mood, but also for its thematic interrelation and the wide expressive range of the solo instrument. Here is the beautiful Clarinet Quintet:
By Jacob Stockinger A friend and reviewer for this blog – his specialty is opera but he also is very experienced with the symphonic repertoire — sent in the following opinion piece. It is being posted in the wake of the announcement by the Madison Symphony Orchestra of its 2017-18 season. For reference, here is a link to the lineup of the next season’s concerts that was posted yesterday: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/classical-music-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-announces-its-2017-2018-season-of-nine-concerts-of-favorites-combined-with-firsts/ By Larry Wells I received my subscription renewal package for the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below, in a photo by Greg Anderson) a couple of weeks ago, and I was struck then by how conservative and prosaic most of the offerings are. I’ve mentioned my feelings to acquaintances, and one of the prevailing arguments is that they have to fill the seats. The assumption seems to be that the patrons will only tolerate music written before 1850. I’m 70 and I grew up with Stravinsky. I can recall the world premieres of Shostakovich’s final three symphonies. I once eagerly awaited recordings of Britten’s latest works. And I heard the first performances of several works by John Adams (below) while living in San Francisco in the 1980s. If the assumption is that most reliable patrons are in their 70s and 80s, this seems like a dead-end (pardon the pun). There will be no audience in 20 years. I believe that audiences can tolerate music of the 20th century — look at the glowing reviews of and enthusiastic ovations for last week’s performances of Witold Lutoslawski ’s “Concerto for Orchestra’’ — and attracting younger patrons with bolder musical choices seems an economic necessity. How can the MSO not be commemorating the centenary of Leonard Bernstein (below, in a photo by Jack Mitchell)? The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is performing several of his pieces in its upcoming season. Why do we have to endure another Brahms symphony when we could hear Dmitri Shostakovich ’s 11th or 15th or Jean Sibelius’ Fourth or Fifth or even Anton Bruckner ’s 8th? On a positive note, I was heartened to see that Benjamin Britten ’s “Sinfonia da Requiem ” is scheduled next season since that has been on my wish list for years. Likewise, Leos Janacek’s “Glagolitic Mass ” is a nice surprise. However, when will we hear Britten’s “War Requiem,” Bernstein’s “Mass” or “‘Songfest,” a symphony by Walter Piston (below top) or William Schuman (below middle) or Alan Hovhannes (below bottom)? I’m really tired of going to concerts where only one of the works is of interest to me and the others are historic artifacts. I’d like to see a reversal wherein Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven are brought out occasionally, but the bulk of the music performed comes from the rich source of the 20th century. What do you think? Leave word in the COMMENT section. Tagged: 20th-century , 20th-century music , Alan Hovhaness , Anton Bruckner , Arts , Beethoven , Benjamin Britten , centenary , century , choral music , Classical music , concerto , Concerto for Orchestra , conservative , Dmitri Shostkovich , Jean Sibelius , Johannes Brahms , John Adams , John DeMain , Leonard Bernstein , Ludwig van Beethoven , Madison , Madison Symphony Orchestra , mass , Milwaukee , Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra , Mozart , Music , opera , Orchestra , premiere , Requiem , San Francisco , Season , Songfest , Stravinsky , symphony , Twentieth Century , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , vocal music , Walter Piston , war , War Requiem , William Schuman , Wisconsin , Witold Lutoslawski , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , world premiere
Perspectives: Hélène Grimaud Bach, J S: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier I, BWV846-869 (excerpts) Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances for piano, Sz. 56, BB 68 Brahms: Waltz, Op. 39 No. 15 in A flat major Chopin: Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57 Prelude Op. 28 No. 15 in D flat major ‘Raindrop’ Debussy: Préludes – Book 1: No. 10, La cathédrale engloutie Liszt: Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este (Années de pèlerinage III, S. 163 No. 4) Prelude and Fugue in a minor, BWV 543 (J.S. Bach), S. 462/1 Sgambati: Melodie from Gluck’s ‘Orfeo ed Euridice’ Ms. Grimaud also plays individual movements from solo works and concertos by JS Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninov and Schumann. All performed by Hélène Grimaud (piano) For each successive Deutsche Grammophon release to date, pianist Helene Grimaud has created carefully considered (and occasionally provocative) contexts. For Hélène, this collection is a retrospective offering new perspectives through a very personal choice of repertoire which creates enlightening new echoes between works. From Bach to Rachmaninov, Mozart to Chopin, Hélène Grimaud’s own selection of highlights from her albums reflects her artistic journey through the piano’s most famous solo and concerto repertoire in a series of interpretations that never fail to offer new perspectives on even the most familiar music.
Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 - 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms' popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the Three Bs. Brahms composed for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he premiered many of his own works; he also worked with some of the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed many of his works and left some of them unpublished. Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined method of composition for which Bach is famous, and also of development, a compositional ethos pioneered by J. Haydn, W.A. Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Brahms aimed to honour the "purity" of these venerable "German" structures and advance them into a Romantic idiom, in the process creating bold new approaches to harmony and melody. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as the progressive Arnold Schoenberg and the conservative Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms's works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers.
Great composers of classical music