(1913-1976) first met the brilliant Russian cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007)www.rostropovich.orgin 1960. The
cellist was visiting Britain with the composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)www.shostakovich.organd was due to give
the first British performance of Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto at the
Royal Festival Hall. Britten accepted an invitation to sit in the Russian
composer’s box. The opening item on the programme was Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.At the end of the concert Shostakovich
introduced Britten to Rostropovich who, there and then, asked Britten for
something for the cello. This was to be the Sonata in C for Cello and Piano
Britten went on to write his Cello Symphony Op.68 and three
unaccompanied Cello Suites Opp. 72, 80 and 87 for Rostropovich, as well as a
set of cadenzas for Haydn’s C major Cello Concerto.All of these were premiered at Aldeburgh
except for the Cello Symphony, which had its first performance whilst Britten
was visiting Moscow.
From the beginning of the Introduzione: Lento of Britten’s Third Suite for Cello Op.87, with the first pizzicato notes and
passionate melody, Matthew Barley makes it obvious that he is going to bring
every last ounce of feeling to this work. Barley produces some lovely
sonorities and the feeling of anticipation in the opening section is palpable. What
a release when the Marcia: allegro
arrives and the emotion is, at last, partially released. In the canto: con moto, when the music settles
to a mournful song, Barley is marvellous, so sensitive to the music. The barcerola: lento, with the feel of Bach,
has some lovely rich sounds whilst the dialogo:
allegretto, with its strummed pizzicato phrases suddenly let go in the passionate
There is a gloriously played andante espressivo as the cello opens out in a lovely outpouring of
feeling and a wonderful Recitativo: Fantastico
with Barley producing so many lovely effects. After a frenetic Moto perpetou: Presto, in the searching,
wonderfully passionate, Passacaglia:
lento solenne, Barley extracts every last ounce of feeling and emotion yet
still allows the music to speak so naturally, every little nuance bringing
forth something new. This leads naturally into the Mournful Song where even this little piece provides such feeling. Autumn flits by naturally into the Street song before the final Depart in Peace, with the Saints brings
darkly telling phrases from Matthew Barley before the melody is repeated wistfully
in the upper register both combining to lead into the final hushed coda.
This is a really terrific performance of this work, full of
passion and understanding.
Britten’s own arrangements of Greensleeves and Salley Gardens are performed in Matthew Barley’s
own arrangement for cello, in multi-tracked performance recorded at Barley’s
home studio. Both receive affecting performances, with Salley Gardens
Gavin Bryars’ (b. 1943)
Tre Laude Dolce werewritten in
2007 and are based on religious songs from 13th century Cortona in
Tuscany, Italy. There is a lovely opening laude
dolce that has an ancient feel, providing some lovely cello sounds in this
telling performance. The second laude
dolce brings a lightened, yet thoughtful mood full of long drawn, double
stopped phrases from the soloist, rising in passion at times. The third and
last of the tre laude dolce opens
slowly and cautiously before a lonely melody appears. There are pizzicato notes
that slowly propel the melody and, later, there appears a wistful sound to the
music as pizzicato ascending notes lead to the end.
Since She Whom I
Loved is another Matthew Barley arrangement, this time of a song from
Britten’s Holy Sonnets of John Donne. Another multi-tracked, this is a lovely
Sir John Tavener
(b.1944) is represented on this disc by two works Threnos and Chant. Both
commemorate the death of friends, Threnos
having a Greek liturgical and folk significance, the Threnos of the Mother of
God being sung on Good Friday and the Threnos of Mourning chanted over the
deceased in the house of a close friend. Threnos
is a quiet and gently shifting piece, contemplative, with Barley providing some
concentrated and touching playing and Chant
is a wistful little piece made slightly Eastern in flavour by Barley’s slides
on the strings, made according to the composer’s wishes.
Another Matthew Barley arrangement for solo cello, is Concord, the Second Choral Dance from Britten’s opera Gloriana, with the stately theme full of feeling.
Matthew Barley’s Improvisation
is exactly that. Whilst recording many of these works in Canterbury
Cathedral around 2.30am on a summer night, Barley asked the recording engineers
to leave the recording running whilst he improvised. Here is the lovely result,
at turns wistful, passionate and thoughtful, displaying many aspects of the
cello, sometimes rich sonorities, pizzicato or harmonics. It is heartening to
see that the art of improvisation is so alive and well within classical music.
Britten’s arrangement of the traditional song Oliver Cromwell receives another
multi-tracked arrangement from Matthew Barley, full of fun over its mere forty
Whilst some collectors will want Rostropovich’s performances
of the cello suites or, indeed, a recording that gives all three suites on a
single disc, this attractive recital should not be missed by those who admire
fine cello playing and are looking for something different. The Canterbury
Cathedral recording is excellent showing no signs of the large acoustic.
Pergolesi (or Pergolese) (1710-1736)
was born in Jesi, near Ancona, Italy. The original name of the family appears
to have been Draghi but, according to custom, those members that settled at
Jesi were known as Pergolesi or Pergola, a town of which they were natives. He
signed his name both as Pergolese and as Pergolesi. He studied music there
under a local musician, Francesco Santini, before going to Naples where he
studied under Gaetano Greco (c.1657- c.1728) and Francesco Feo (1691-1761). He
spent most of his short life working for aristocratic patrons like the Prince
of Stigliano and the Duke of Maddaloni.
Pergolesi was one of the most important early composers of
opera buffa (comic opera). He also wrote sacred music, including a Mass in F
and his Magnificat in C major and instrumental music, including a violin sonata
and a violin concerto. It is his Stabat Mater (1736), however, which is his
best known sacred work. Pergolesi died at the age of 26 in Pozzuoli, apparently
Whilst there are many recordings of Pergolesi’s Stabat
Mater, many of his other works are less well known. In the case of his Septem verba a Christo (Seven words from
Christ) it wasn’t until 1936 that, following the discovery by Bertha Antonia
Wallner of a complete set of manuscript parts made in the monastery of Metten
in 1760, that it was discovered that the work must be, as it indicated on the
flyleaf, an early work by Sig. Pergolese attributed to Pergolesi.
Yet still no edition was produced. In the absence of an original
manuscript in Pegolesi’s hand, it was not until 2009, when Reinhard Fehling
discovered anonymous performing materials at Kremsmünster Abbey in Lower Austria,
that a direct connection with the origins of the work could be established. After
the assembling of all the manuscripts, extensive comparisons were made that
tend to corroborate the works authenticity. Septem verba is now published by Breitkopf
and Härtelwww.breitkopf.com .
Septem verba forms a cycle of seven cantatas, each
consisting of two arias. The first is sung by Jesus on the Cross and the second
by the anima(or soul). The part of
Jesus is sung by the bass, except in the second cantata when the part is taken
by the tenor. It can only be speculated on as to why the tenor is used instead
of the bass in the second verbum. René Jacobs, in his excellent booklet notes
suggests that, perhaps, it symbolises the opening of heaven, given that the
text includes ‘In a single instant He rose to Heaven.’
Verbum I: Pater,
dimitte illis: non enim sciunt qui facium (Father, forgive them, for they
know not what they do).
In the recitativo Huc,
o delecti filii (Come hither my dear sons) and aria En doceo diligere (Behold, I teach you to love), Konstantin Wolff (bass)
has a lovely rich yet extremely flexible voice, bringing just the right amount
of emotion to the text. René Jacobs and his excellent instrumental ensemble
point up the phrases beautifully. Christophe Dumaux (countertenor) (the soul) joins
for the aria Quod iubes, magne Domine (What
you command, almighty Lord). He has a rich voice with just sufficient vibrato
to add texture. This is a lovely aria, beautifully sung.
dico tibi: hodie mecum eris in Paradiso (Verily I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise).
Julien Behr (tenor) joins for the one occasion that he takes
the part of Jesus in the recitative Venite,
currite (Come, hurry) and aria Latronem
hunc aspicite. (Behold this thief). Behr’s voice is just right in this
music, controlled, full voiced and flexible. He brings a really Italian sound
to the music. Sophie Karthäuser (soprano) has a lovely voice as she sings the aria
Ah! Peccatoris supplicis, (Ah, Lord,
remember the sinner who entreats you) bringing passion and feeling in her
ecce filius tuus (Woman, behold
Again Konstantin Wolff (bass) shows terrific control, depth
and feeling in the recitativo Quo me,
amore? (Where, Love)and the aria
Dilecta Genitrix (Beloved Mother) bringing
so much to the text. Sophie Karthäuser provides
some lovely, long drawn, vocal lines in the recitativo Servator optime (O, matchless Saviour) and in Quod iubes, Domine (What you command, Lord) such flexibility in
this lovely aria. The Akademie Für Alte Musik, and, in particular the horns,
make a lovely contribution to this aria. As the music slows in the central
section, there is such deep pathos in this beautiful piece.
meus, deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me? (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)
The instrumentalists bring a feeling of uncertainly as
Konstantin Wolff sings the aria Huc
oculos, (Turn hither, your eyes) the tension building at the words Dolentum contemplamini (Look upon one
who suffers).There is a lovely opening
from the lute before the other instrumentalists join and Christophe Dumaux
(countertenor) sings the aria Afflicte,
derelicte, dum Jesu (O Afflicted, O forsaken Jesus) so full of emotion.
Verbum V:Sitio (I thirst).
The aria O vos omnes,
qui transitis (All you that pass by) is so well written in the way it
illuminates the text. Konstantin Wolff reflects this very much in his singing, with
some lovely touches from Akademie Für Alte Musik. Non nectar, non vinum, non undas (It is not for nectar, wine or
water) brings the return of tenor Julien Behr in this faster aria to which he
brings just the right amount of forward drive, beautifully controlled with some
terrific singing at the word Celerrime
est (It is finished).
At the words It is
finished Konstantin Wolff shows so much bereft feeling as does he in the aria
Huc advolate, mortales (Hasten
hither, mortals) The aria Sic consummasti
omnia (thus you have accomplished all) brings more optimism until a sudden
point of anguish at the words Sed heu
(But alas) when Sophie Karthäuser shows how to bring such feeling to the words.
in manus tuas commendo spritum meum
(Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit).
Konstantin Wolff brings a really intimate sound to the recitativo
Quotquot coram cruce statis (All of
you who stand at the foot of the cross) beautifully supported by the instrumentalists.
In the aria In tuum, Pater, gremium (Into
your bosom, O Father) the horns of the Akademie Für Alte Musik sound
through as the bass sings Into your bosom, O Father.’Julien Behr sings the final aria Quid ultra peto vivere (Why should I seek
to live any longer) providing a lovely contrast between the varying tempi
before the final cantata ends quietly.
This important new release is to be welcomed
enthusiastically. It is exceptionally well recorded and has first rate notes by
René Jacobs. There are notes from the publisher, Breitkopf and Härtel, giving
the history of the discovery and attribution of the work as well as full texts
The Second World War brought some appalling difficulties for
European composers. Whilst many, such as Hindemith, left their country, some,
like Richard Strauss, controversially, stayed. Others tried to continue their
work but were either banned or lost their lives in concentration camps.
Many of these composers suffered the final indignity of
their works becoming unknown to the general public. Austria was the home of
many of Hitler’s most important musical victims who still await re-discovery. Exil.arte
is a centre for research into such composers and exists in order to try to
redress the imbalance and restore important composers to their rightful place
in musical history.
A new release fromGramolawww.gramola.atbringsus works by Erwin Schulhoff
(1894-1942), Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944) and Vilem Tausky (1910-2004).
Erwin Schulhoff was born in Prague into a family of
Jewish-German origin. http://orelfoundation.org/index.php/composers/article/erwin_schulhoff. Dvořák, who was never very enthusiastic about child
prodigies, encouraged the ten year old Schulhoff's earliest musical studies at
the Prague Conservatory. Schulhoff later studied with Claude Debussy 1862-1918),
Max Reger (1873-1916) www.max-reger-institut.de/en/bio.php,
Fritz Steinbach (1855-1916), and Willi Thern (1847-1911). He won the
Mendelssohn Prize twice and, after the First World War, lived in Germany until
returning to Prague in 1923 where he taught at the conservatory.
In the 1930s, Schulhoff’s work was blacklisted as "degenerate"
by the Nazi regime and, when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, he had
to resort to performing under a pseudonym. In 1941, the Soviet Union approved
his petition for citizenship, but he was arrested and imprisoned before he
could leave Czechoslovakia. Schulhoff was deported to the Würzburg
concentration camp, near Weißenburg, Bavaria where he died from tuberculosis on
18 August 1942.
Schulhoff’s early works show the influence of Debussy,
Scriabin, and Richard Strauss but during his later, Dadaist phase, he composed
a number of pieces with absurdist elements. His works include choral and vocal
works, eight symphonies, orchestral works, concertos, chamber works,
instrumental works and works for piano.
Concerto for Flute, Piano and String Orchestra with Two Horns Op.63 was
written in 1927. The soloists are Ulrike
Anton (flute) and Russell Ryan (piano) with the strings of the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by David
The concerto has a striking opening for strings, in full
flow, in the allegro moderato before the
piano and flute enter in a light and airy theme. The music slows but soon takes
off again with intricate patterns for piano and flute. Eventually the strings play
the opening theme, full of forward momentum and energy. As the strings quieten
the piano and flute return. A quieter section follows with the piano and flute
combining together before they start off again in the lively tune. A passage for
solo piano leads into a languid melody with the flute that speeds up to a
livelier pace. Eventually the orchestra returns to join in the same theme only
to take over from the soloists until the end.
The strings enter in a nostalgic theme for the andante. The piano then enters alone
before the flute joins in the theme. Eventually the strings enter alone before
the piano and flute join to further develop the theme. As the movement draws to
a close the piano, flute and strings lead to a gentle conclusion with a single
chord on piano.
Pizzicato strings open the allegro con spirito (rondo) with, almost immediately, the piano and
flute entering in a slightly repetitious theme. The orchestra soon takes over
the theme before the soloists enter, more animated. There is some lovely flute
playing from Ulrike Anton in this section and some delightful playing from
Russell Ryan. A slower, languid trio section for flute and piano has some
lovely descending phrases. The orchestra joins in the melody before taking over
the theme. The flute and piano return to take over in a livelier section before
the orchestra re-joins, leading to the coda.
Viktor Ullmannwww.viktorullmannfoundation.org.ukwas born in Teschen, now Cieszyn, Poland, an Austrian of Jewish descent. In
1909, the Ullmann family moved to Vienna, where Viktor Ullmann studied music
theory with Josef Polnauer. After the First World War he studied to be a lawyer
like his father, whilst still continuing as a student of piano under Edward
Steuermann (1892-1964), a student of Schoenberg. He then continued his musical
education under the guidance of Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)www.schoenberg.atwho in turn recommended
him to Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942) http://orelfoundation.org/index.php/composers/article/alexander_zemlinskywho, in 1920, appointed him repetiteur at
the German Theatre in Prague.
Ullmann subsequently became musical director at Usti nad
Labem (Aussig) but left his post after a year. After the Nazi’s came to power
he returned to Prague where he studied composition with Alois Haba (1893-1973).
In 1942 he was transported to Theresienstadt www.bterezin.org.ilwhere he was soon
given the task of co-organising with the Czech composer Hans Krasa (1899-1944),
the so called 'permitted ' leisure activities within the ghetto. Here he
produced some of the works for which he is best remembered. Ullmann died in Auschwitz-Birkenauhttp://en.auschwitz.orgon 18 October
His compositions up until 1942 include choral and vocal
works, orchestral works including a piano concerto, chamber works and
instrumental works. After his transportation to Theresienstadt his compositions
included songs, his fifth, sixth and seventh piano sonatas, a third string
quartet and Die Weise der Liebe und des
Todes. (The Manner of Love and Death),
a setting of Rilke for spoken voice and orchestra or piano.
Symphony Op.46a is an arrangement for string orchestra, by Kenneth Woods,
of the String Quartet No.3, Op.46, that he wrote in 1943 whilst at Theresienstadt.
This alone brings a certain frisson to
the work yet the opening allegro moderato
has a somewhat pastoral feel, which soon develops more passionately before
returning to the opening mood. It rises again, passionately, but then develops
into a wistful section with cascading strings before falling to a quiet ruminative
ending that goes straight into the Presto.
Scherzo and trio.
Here the music changes with incisive outbursts from the
violins, to which the lower strings reply before settling to a modified version
of the opening theme. The outbursts and replies occur again as the movement
progresses and the theme is developed, giving a wonderful demonstration of the virtuoso
ECO strings. The trio opens on solo cello which is then joined by the orchestra
in a lovely rich melody that leads to the Largo.
This is a thoughtful, introspective, sometimes desolate largo and, such is the tonality that one
can’t tell if the music is rising or falling, lightening or darkening. It seems
to be struggling with itself. In the firm opening of the Rondo-Finale the music fairly gallops along until slowing slightly in
a no less compelling theme. The opening theme returns, only this time it
broadens out for the coda.
The performance of this compelling work, from David Parry
and the English Chamber Orchestra strings, is excellent.
for flute and pianoOp.61 was
composed in 1927, just before the Double Concerto for Flute, Piano and String
Orchestra. The allegro moderato opens
with a flowing theme from the piano, soon joined by flute. A slower section follows
that is rather thoughtful with some lovely passages for flute. The opening
tempo returns with a lovely flowing piano part, with the flute taking the main
tune. The music soars to a short climax before falling to a quiet, meditative
section. The livelier theme returns and speeds up with some lovely timbres from
the flute. The music soon slows again with the flute playing a lovely theme to
The short Scherzo.
Allegro giocoso has a lively animated theme that is most attractive and
delightfully played by both artists. The Aria.
Andante has a long breathedmelody
for flute with a simple accompaniment from the piano. This is such a beautiful
creation, beautifully played, full of sensitivity and poise. The Rondo-Finale. Allegro molto gajo is a
great little movement that skips along, full of fun. Ulrike Anton (flute) and
Russell Ryan (piano) give a terrific performance of this delightful work.
Vilem Tausky survived
the war, dying in London in 2004 and will be fondly remembered by older
followers for his regular contributions, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, to
Friday Night is Music Night on the BBC Light Programme (now BBC Radio 2). Vilém
Tauský was from a musical family, his Viennese mother had sung Mozart at the
Vienna State Opera under Gustav Mahler, and her cousin was the operetta
composer Leo Fall. Tauský studied with Leoš Janáček and later became a
repetiteur at the Brno Opera. The rise of the Nazis forced him to move to
France. He later volunteered for service with the Free Czech Army and
eventually reached the Britain after the fall of France. He was later awarded a
Czech Military Cross, followed by the Czech Order of Merit.
From 1945 to 1949, Tauský was musical director of the Carl
Rosa Opera Company and, from 1951 to 1956, was music director of Welsh National
Opera. He was principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra from 1956 to
1966 and regularly appeared with this orchestra on the BBC Light Programme's
(now BBC Radio 2) long-running weekly show Friday Night is Music Night. Between
1966 and 1992, he was the director of opera and head of the conducting course
at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Tauský was appointed a Commander of
the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Tauský's compositions include a Sinfonietta for orchestra, a
Ballade for cello and piano, the Fantasia da Burlesca for violin and orchestra,
an oboe concerto (written for Evelyn Rothwell), a harmonica concerto (for Tommy
Reilly), a Serenade for Strings and Coventry:
A Meditation for Strings.
It is Tauský's Coventry
– Meditation for String Orchestra that is included on this disc. Written in
1941, it reflects the horror of the destruction of that city the previous year
and is an impassioned mediation with some gloriously rich string passages set
against quieter, more meditative sections. There is a lovely hushed middle
section, with the glorious sound of the ECO strings. The music could easily have
been by an English composer, with at times some of the string sonorities reminding
me of those of Vaughan Williams’ in his Tallis Fantasia. This is a lovely
piece, really worth hearing.
We return to Erwin Schulhoff
for the last work on this disc, his Three
Pieces for String Orchestra Op.6, written in 1910 when the composer was
only 16 years of age. This short Grieg inspired piece has an Elegie im Stile Edward Griegs. Allegretto,
a dancing theme in a beautifully poised performance, with just a hint of Grieg,
a delightful and rather rustic sounding Menuetto
im alten Stil. Tempo di Menuetto menuetto and Pipa tanzt, an attractive allegro
moderato, so simply constructed yet so effective.
These are excellent performances by all concerned. Though
recorded at quiet a high level, the recording is exceptionally fine and clear. This
worthwhile release brings some attractive works from composers who certainly
deserve a higher profile than they currently have.
‘I think I have always written very personal music. I have
never concerned myself with what was just fashionable…’ So said Krzystof Penderecki (b. 1933) in 1993. Penderecki
became very much a part of the musical avant-garde in the 1960s with such works
as Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima
(1960) and his first opera The Devils
of Loudon (1968/69) but, from his First
Violin Concerto (1976-77, revised 1987), he made, in his own words, what
was a ‘synthesis’ of his earlier more radical style with traditional forms. Focusing
on two melodic intervals, the semitone and the triton, this shift in musical
style brought criticism from many quarters.
The son of a lawyer, Penderecki was born in Debica, in south
eastern Poland. He studied composition with Artur Malewski and Stanislas
Wiechowicz (1893-1963) at the Krakow Academy of Music where, in 1958, he was
appointed as a professor. It was his Threnody
to the Victims of Hiroshima (1960) that brought him world-wide fame but it
was his St. Luke Passion (1963–66) that
was central to his work, combining as it does intense expressive force with
archaic elements alluding to Bach.
Penderecki has, to date, written four operas, eight
symphonies (the sixth of which is still incomplete), many choral works
including a Stabat Mater, a Polish Requiem, and, of course, the St Luke Passion, numerous orchestral
works, chamber works including two string quartets, instrumental works and concertos
for violin (two), viola, cello (two), flute, clarinet, horn and piano
Penderecki’s Piano Concerto
‘Resurrection’ is a colossal work in ten movements played without a break.
The opening allegro molto sosentuto
has an incisive theme on the lower strings that is soon joined by percussion
before the piano enters, echoing the theme. The full orchestra joins in an
energetic theme with piano, the orchestra making swirls in a descending motif. The
music begins to ease but still there are occasional outbursts. The momentum
increases again, leading to a climax, with runs up the piano, until the music
suddenly quietens into the adagio
with dark sounds in the orchestra and a solo cor anglais, beautiful but stark.
When the piano enters again it is in a simple upward motif with the orchestra
reflecting on the theme. There are some lovely piano phrases as this movement
progresses. A kind of trio section emerges, light and gentle, before the more
animated allegro arrives.
Percussion becomes more dominant in the allegro moderatomolto
third movement, with muted brass and woodwind, leading to the adagio, full of delicate piano
arabesques. The allegretto capriccioso
brings shrill outbursts from the orchestra with the piano playing a rapid theme
as the music bounces forward, full of action. The sixth movement, marked grave, opens with a short piano solo before
the full orchestra enters in massive short bursts. A hushed section follows where
the piano gently plays over the theme. The orchestra is hushed, but, as it
joins the piano theme, it grows more animated, with tubular bells, before a
kind of brass chorale is heard with dissonant piano chords. There is another
short section for solo piano before the orchestra enters, followed by the piano,
in a lovely melody before leading to a loud climax which is cut short as the allegro sostenuto molto appears.
There are rapid piano phrases interspersed with percussion
before the lower strings enter in short, insistent phrases, followed by the upper
strings, woodwind and brass, steadily driving forward in Prokofiev like rhythms.
This builds to a tremendously powerful climax with a fiendishly difficult part
for the piano, phenomenally played by Barry Douglas, ever more driving ahead
into the andante maestoso. The music
peaks in an enormous climax with cascading piano phrases until percussion
loudly sounds an end and the music falls hushed with the piano playing quietly
over dark orchestral sounds. A brief cadenza leads to a magisterial, loud
climax for full orchestra with the piano playing vast chords over the top,
leading to the arrival of a huge array of percussion before the allegro molto sostenuto. There are insistent
piano phrases before the orchestra enters with the piano playing the Prokofiev
like phrases. Eventually all quietens as the final movement opens with heavy
sounding orchestra that heaves along behind the cascading chords of the piano.
The music settles to a repeat of the beautiful melody heard earlier. Suddenly
the orchestra bursts out, joined by the piano in ascending scales before a
wonderful climax ensues, leading to a resolute ending.
This is a wonderful concerto full of beauty, power and
forward momentum. Barry Douglas is absolutely phenomenal, giving the work a
tremendous performance, as does the Warsaw Philharmonic under Antoni Wit. Surely
this is one of Penderecki’s finest works.
After the Piano Concerto, Penderecki’s Concerto for Flute
and Chamber Orchestra is the absolute antithesis. The andante opens with a playful little clarinet solo before the other
woodwind join in a flurry of playing. The flute enters in a solo passage before
the orchestra enters, echoing the theme. After the orchestra develops the
material the flute again enters in another solo passage with some lovely flights
of fancy. Eventually drums accompany the flute melody before strings join with
the flute in a descending motif dropping to the lower strings before the flute
then ascends again with the orchestra leading straight into the second movement
più animato, signalled by a solo
The trumpet is soon joined by the orchestra in this lighter
section before the flute joins in as the theme is bounced around. The sound darkens
a little in the orchestra, before the flute re-appears briefly, the orchestra then
working over the material leading to the andante
where the flute re-joins to re-iterate a descending motif with orchestra. This
sad, mournful descending theme is passed around the woodwind. Suddenly the
flute and orchestra sound out as the music becomes more agitated but soon the
music drops back to the mournful sound, fading until the allegro con brio opens with insistent drum stokes and short phrases
from the orchestra.
The music settles as the flute enters with some lovely
tongued sounds with the percussion still providing texture. This leads to the
appearance of a solo clarinet soon joined by the flute. Scurrying orchestral
and flute phrases lead to a cadenza for the flute. The fifth movement vivo leads straight from the cadenza, to
a dialogue between flute, percussion and orchestra. There is some terrific
flute playing here from Lukasz Dlugosz. Soon the music quietens with a lovely
flute melody before the cor anglais joins with flute and orchestra in a
strikingly beautiful melody full of haunting emotion; surely one of
Penderecki’s most beautiful creations. Finally, tubular bells sound for the last
orchestral chord to end.
This is a very attractive work with many very beautiful
passages. The performance from Lukasz Dlugosz, with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
under Antoni Wit, is wonderful. The recordings made at Warsaw Philharmonic
Hall, Warsaw are first rate and, with excellent notes from Richard Whitehouse,
this new release is highly recommended.
Audite Recordswww.audite.deseem to have an uncanny knack of recording some of the best chamber music
players in Europe. In April 2012 I reviewed the wonderful Swiss Piano Trio’s
recording of Mendelssohn’s Op.49 and Op.66 piano trios then, in January this
year, came their terrific recording of Clara Schumann’s Op.17 Piano Trio coupled
with coupled with Robert Schumann’s Op.110 Piano Trio and Fantasiestücke Op.88.
In July 2012 came the Mandelring Quartet’s first volume of
their projected complete Mendelssohn chamber music for strings, followed in
January this year by volume two. Such are the performances that both of these
recordings look set to make this the Mendelssohn quartet cycle to have.
Now Auditehave signed up the Quartetto di Cremonawww.quartettodicremona.com to
record the complete Beethoven String Quartets. This will be no mean undertaking
given the competition already out there. Nevertheless, on the evidence of the
first release in this series, the Quartetto di Cremona look set to bring much
to this new project.
The Quartetto di Cremona formed in 2000 at the Stauffer
Academy in Cremona and continued their studies with Hatto Beyerle. In 2005 the
Quartetto di Cremona received a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship.
Building on their early successes, the Quartetto di Cremona
has played to critical acclaim at the most important venues and festivals in
Europe including numerous performances at the Wigmore Hall, London. The
Quartetto di Cremona has toured extensively in Australia and performed at the
renowned Perth International Art Festival Australia. In the USA, they recently
won the eleventh Web Concert Hall Competition. The Quartet was nominated
"Artist in Residence" at the Societa' del Quartetto of Milan and will
be involved in various projects culminating in 2014 for the 150th anniversary
of the Societa' del Quartetto when they will perform the complete cycle of the Beethoven
Recent and forthcoming tours include engagements in the USA,
Japan, Mexico and China and in Europe the Quartetto di Cremona will tour the
UK, Italy, Scandinavia, Germany, and make a debut tour of Austria. Their debut
recording for Decca encompassed the complete string quartets by Fabio Vacchi,
released in April 2011.
The first release in
this projected cycle gives us the String Quartets Op.18, No.6, Op.95 and
In the allegro con
brio of the String Quartet in B flat
major, Op.18, No.6, the Cremonas bring light and vibrant playing, with
plenty of verve and, at times, gritty playing. There are some beautifully
phrased passages where they bring a special something to this Haydnesque work.
The adagio brings some really
expressive playing and it is lovely the way the individual players respond to
each other. Towards the middle there is some lovely hushed playing and, before
the reprise, the sharp little fortissimo is beautifully done. The Cremonas
playing, in the syncopated scherzo, is
full of passion, with ensemble spot on. These players are so alive to the
music. They fairly throw themselves into some passages in some stunning
playing. When the finale arrives moving between adagio, allegretto quasi allegretto andprestisimmo, the Cremonas play off the varied moods beautifully.
When the movement finally settles on the allegretto
they have a lovely bounce to their playing. The fiery prestissimo sounds so
There is a really fiery start, with plenty of grit in the allegro con brio of the String Quartet in F minor, op.95. The
Cremonas handle the emotional changes superbly. The allegretto ma non troppo slow movement opens a feeling of great anticipation
with some lovely quiet string sounds as the movement develops. As ever more
complex harmonies are added, these players bring some lovely sonorities,
particularly in the final fugal passage. In the Scherzo the quartet are magnificent, with playing of such spirit,
precision and understanding. The trio section brings out again their lyrical
nature with playing of sensitivity and some lovely interplay. After the short larghetto introduction that leads to the
allegretto agitato, the Cremonas
lovely textures again appear. The playing is so full of feeling and their
terrific ensemble is again apparent. The Cremonas dynamics have such an elastic
feel and the odd little coda runs away delightfully.
Finally on this disc we come to Beethoven’s last String Quartet in F major, Op.135. In
the allegretto there is a lovely
little questioning opening. The Cremonas bring such beautiful little phrases to
this constantly changing movement, with the players taking advantage of every
little phrase and nuance, at times sunny, then anxious and questioning, finding
every little subtlety. The scherzo,
vivace has a lovely bouncing, syncopated rhythm played with fluency,
precision and sparkle, full of passion and joy. From the start of the lento assai e cantante tranquillo glorious
textures emerge with these players subtlely adding layers of emotional depth as
the variations ensue. This is a quite beautiful movement. The questioning of
the first movement is reflected in the opening of the finale, grave, ma non troppo tratto – allegro with
the question taken in the bass register and the upper strings replying quietly.
The allegro section has some nicely incisive playing and, when the grave returns, the Cremonas excel
themselves in playing of power and depth and, as we are led to the allegro
again, the recapitulation is fresh and confident.
It is the individual voices of these players that are so
beautiful as well as the way that they interact so naturally. Listening to the
CD layer, they are extremely well recorded with every instrument well balanced
in a wide soundstage.
I look forward immensely to the next instalment of this
In recent years there has been a resurgent of interest in neglected
British piano music mainly through recordings. Nevertheless, this is still an
area that has needed further insight which is where Lisa Hardy’s excellent
volume The British Piano Sonata
1870-1945 is immensely useful.
First published by
Boydell Presswww.boydellandbrewer.comin 2001, it has recently been published
in paperback with a fully updated discography.
There is an excellent introduction: The English Musical Renaissance that gives the background to piano
music in England in the early 19th century, from the influences of
such figures as Clementi, Dussek and Cramer, to John Field, George Frederick
Pinto, Cipriani Potter and Samuel Wesley. The role of the piano in British life
is explored in terms of both the concert hall and the home.
The main body of the book is divided into six chapters. The Piano Sonatas 1870-1890 covers
William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875), whose friendships included Mendelssohn
and Schumann, George Alexander Macfarren (1813-1887), C Hubert H Parry
(1848-1918), Charles V Stanford (1852-1924), Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) and Edward
German (1862-1936). Their contributions to the genre are discussed with many
musical examples. Not only didn’t I know of Ethel Smyth’s three piano sonatas,
but the discography has tracked down a 1992/3 recording of them on the obscure
Classic Production Osnabruck label, played by Liana Serbescu.
1890-1910 looks at the Piano Sonatas by Algernon Ashton (1859-1937), John
McEwen (1868-1948), William Yeates Hurlstone (1876-1906), Benjamin Dale
(1885-1943), York Bowen (1884-1961), Dorothy Howell (1898-1982), Leo Livens
(c.1896-c.1961) and Cyril Scott (1879-1970), whose first piano sonata not only
has musical examples but has a full and detailed list of changes made to the
work by the composer. Within this chapter a brief section is devoted to the two
London music institutions, the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of
Music. Their influence on British music during the period 1890 to 1910 is
discussed with a brief mention of the most significant teaching staff.
The next chapter covers the piano sonatas by Arnold Bax
(1883-1953), discussing his four sonatas with a summary of the main themes of
the second sonata as well as musical comparisons with Scriabin’s seventh sonata,
John Ireland (1879-1962), William Baines (1899-1922), Alan Bush (1900-1995) and
even Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) whose contribution to the British piano
sonata was twelve very early sonatas all written before 1928.
There is a chapter dedicated to the piano sonatas by
Kaikhosru Sorabji (1892-1988) and Frank Bridge (1879-1941) in order to compare
the influence of Scriabin on their musical language, something I had not
considered in relation to Bridge. Again there are numerous musical examples,
not just of the sonatas but of other related works, and a detailed analysis of
the melodic motifs in Sorabji’s first sonata.
Influence looks at the influence of spirituals, blues, ragtime, dance music
and jazz by comparing Constant Lambert’s(1905-1951) music and, in particular,
his sole sonata of 1928/9 and the music of Sir Michael Tippett (1905-1998)
whose four piano sonatas cover a period of nearly fifty years, from 1936-1984.
from Selected Sonatas 1930-1945 concentrates on composers such as Joseph
Holbrooke (1878-1958), Howard Ferguson (1908-1999), Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006),
Antony Hopkins (b.1921), whose third sonata and rondo from his second sonata
have recently been released by Divine Art Records, Arnold Cooke (1906-2005) and
Sir Lennox Berkeley (1903-1990).
Hardy very much puts these composers and their sonatas
within the wider context of European music, pulling together influences from a
wide range of sources.
includes transcriptions of interviews, by the author, with Alan Bush, Geoffrey
Bush, Howard Ferguson, Alan Frank, Antony Hopkins and Sir Michael Tippett, all
undertaken in 1993.
There is a Catalogue
of Piano Sonatas 1870-1945, a very inclusive discography, a list of other
recordings referred to in the text, a large comprehensive bibliography and index and list of musical
examples and acknowledgments. Given the rarity of public performances of so
many of the works featured in this engrossing book, it is of great interest to
see just how many of these sonatas have been recorded.
Lisa Hardy’s book, full of a huge amount of meticulous research,
is an enormous achievement .This book will be of great interest to both
professional musicians and the general music loving public. Whilst it deals in
depth with many of the works featured, it is also immensely readable. I shall
be returning to this book again and again.
But who exactly was this Lady? Lady Margaret Wemyss (1630-c.1649) was the third of the eleven
children of David, second Earl of Wemyss (1610-1679) and his first wife Anna
Balfour, daughter of Robert, Lord Burley. Her name is particularly known for
the Lute Book that was discovered in the 1980s amongst the Sutherland family’s
papers. This book is now on loan to the National Library of Scotland.
Lady Margaret was born in Scotland at Falkland, the
residence of Lord Burley, on 24th September 1630 and died around 1648. Margaret
probably lived for the first part of her life at the Chapel of Wemyss, a manor
near Wemyss Castle, in Fife, Scotland and from 1639 at Wemyss Castle itself,
where her parents moved after the death of the first Earl.
Margaret's older sister Jean’s (1629-1717) second husband
was George Gordon, Lord Strathnaver, afterwards fourteenth Earl of Sutherland. Lady Margaret Wemyss's songbook probably came
into the possession of the Sutherland family through this sister. Jean appears
to have also been a lutenist and at the bottom of a piece of solo lute music,
Margaret has written, ‘all the Lesons behind this are learned out of my
sisteres book’. Jean's account book of
1650-54 lists musical instruments such as lutes and virginals.
The second folio of the book contains the inscription ‘A
booke Containing some pleasant ayres of Two, Three or fowre voices Collected
out of diverse Authors Begunne june 5 1643 Mris Margaret Weemys.’ The book
seems to have been started as a collection of songs, containing seventeen
English lute songs by Thomas Campion (1567-1620) and Thomas Morley (c.1557/58-1602).
The book continues with eight poems and a further nineteen poems at the end of
the book. Some of the poems are by well-known Scottish and English poets but
some are anonymous and possibly by Margaret herself.
The book also contains ninety one solo pieces for lute, some
of which are native Scottish tunes but there is also a substantial number that
are of French origin. Margaret is believed to have copied these works herself
but such is the poor notation that they pose serious problems for the
performer. Other sources have been used to correct the notation but others have
required serious editorial intervention.
Martin Eastwellwww.martineastwell.com studied the
lute with Diana Poulton, and with Jakob Lindberg at the Royal College of Music.
His first solo recording, The Royal Lute,
appeared in 1991, and he has since played on recordings for BIS, EMI, Thames
Television and numerous other companies. In recent years he has performed as a
continuo player with many of the country's leading early music groups and
orchestras, including The Taverner Players, the English Baroque Soloists, the
Scottish Early Music Consort, and Red Campion. In 2001 he formed his own
ensemble, Lyra which has performed widely throughout the UK, and also performs
regularly with the mezzo soprano Deborah Catterall.
The disc opens with a captivating The day dawes in the morning played with such finesse and lovely
phrasing. Sinkapace has some lovely
runs over a stately theme in this very attractive piece, terrifically played.
Other highlights are the strange Almond
Goutier with its odd phrases (attributed to the French composer and
lutenist, Jaques Gaultier (c.1600-1652)), an attractive Current Lysabelle (attributed to Charles de Lespine (fl. c.1610)) with
rich harmonies, a bold General Lesly’s
Goodnight, a great piece with lovely sounds from the lute, and the quietly
attractive Lady Binnis Lilt. Tom of Bedlam is a great piece, full of
life with strong playing and terrific rhythms. The Spanish Pavin has a flowing melody with nicely pointed playing, a
lovely dancing Arie Curant, so
infectious, as is the playing and Almond
Goutier (again attributed to Jaques Gaultier) with beautiful sonorities
from the lute in this attractive piece.
I have to mention another piece, Almond Goutier (Old Gaultier’s Nightingale –attributed to Ennemond Gaultier (c.1575-1651)), an atmospheric piece
full of quiet charm with some lovely phrases from the lute, a gloriously played,
if brief sarabande (attributed to the
French singer, lutenist and composer Francois de Chancy (1600-1656)) and a
faltering love song I Never Knew I Loved
Thee with a decidedly Scottish folk music feel – quite captivating. Ruthven’s Lilt is lovely, a little gem
and the concluding The Flowers of the
Forest, a beautiful Scottish Ballade not from the Wemyss Lute Book but from
the earlier Rowallen Lute Book. It is a lament for the dead at the Battle of
Flodden Field amongst whose number was Lady Margaret’s ancestor, Sir David
Martin Eastwell has added Preludes of his own to seven of
the groups of pieces on this disc. This seems to have been the practice in the
17th century though none appear in the Wemyss Lute Book. These
little preludes are so simple yet so right, seeming to pick out the essence of
There are so many finely played pieces on this disc that it
has been difficult to pick out those that are particularly attractive. Martin
Eastwell plays all these works with such style, panache and sensitivity.
A handful of these pieces have been recorded by Jakob
Lindberg on a BIS CD www.bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-CD-201of Lute Music from Scotland and France that pulls together extracts from a
number of lute books. Lindberg is a first rate lutenist but for all the merits
of his disc this new one, containing as it does forty five pieces from the Lute
Book of Lady Margaret Wemyss is a must for all enthusiasts of the lute.
Martin Eastwell is a mesmerising lutenist who brings out every
little nuance and detail from these often elusive works. The recording is
excellent and the notes, that include details of the instruments, are extremely
Interestingly Martin Eastwell will be performing live at The
Moot Hall, Hexham, Northumberland on 19th May 2013, Holywell Music
Room, Oxford on 16th June 2013 and Burgh House, Hampstead on 7th
July 2013 www.martineastwell.com/news
Most people will be aware of the name Kirill Karabitswww.kirillkarabits.com/welcome.html as the young, dynamic, Ukrainian Principal Conductor
of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Few people, I suspect, will have heard
of his father, the composer and conductor Ivan
Fedorovych Karabits (1945- 2002).
He was born in Yalta, in southern Ukraine, and graduated
from the Kiev Conservatory in 1971 having studied with Boris Lyatoshinsky (1895-1968)
and Myroslav Skoryk (b.1938). He conducted the Dance Ensemble of the Kiev
Military District and the Kiev Camerata, taught at the Kiev Conservatory and
was a People's Artist of Ukraine.
Ivan Karabits’ music followed the tradition of Mahler and
Shostakovich as well as that of Ukrainian folk music. His works include three
symphonies, three piano concertos, three concertos for orchestra, chamber
music, piano works and vocal works, as well as film music. He died in Kiev,
Karabits’ Concerto for
Orchestra No. 1 (1980-81) is in two movements andopens with a grand maestoso
for full orchestra with tubular bells sounding out. The music falls quieter as
the theme is shared between various parts of the orchestra, first woodwind, followed
by strings and then brass adding to the texture. After some lovely woodwind
arabesques, the music rises to a romantic sounding orchestral passage,
interspersed with brass and percussion that leads to a climax, cut off to harp
and celeste. Violins quietly give an impassioned theme with tubular bells adding
atmosphere, before the strings quietly speed up as the music leads into the
second movement presto.
The music becomes more frantic as woodwind and brass enter in
a riotous section, followed by a rising woodwind motif signalling a quiet
interlude. As the orchestra moves along quickly, there are some louder
outbursts, percussion playing an important role. There are rapidly changing
moods as music quietens to a lovely flute and harp passage with strings and
woodwind arabesques, somewhat reminiscent of Rautavaara. The music moves to a livelier section with
timpani and rapidly moving strings and brass with great forward momentum. Bells
peel as the music slows slightly with brass interjections before a section for
drums and brass with orchestra leads forward to what seems to be a loud
conclusion, before suddenly falling to a hush with the music petering out
The allegro of thethree movement Concerto for Orchestra No. 2 (1986) opens excitingly with the
orchestra in full flight before subsiding to strings, scurrying ahead in this
frantic music, pointed up by xylophone. The
music slows to a longer breathed section where strings, shift around tonally. Before
long the opening tempo returns complete with xylophone. When the music slows
again it becomes more light-hearted, moving around the orchestra in attractive
little phrases. Again the opening tempo returns, scurrying along, before a
brief, rather romantic section with woodwind and strings. The opening tempo
returns yet again before the movement ends quietly.
The andante molto expressivo
opens with bells and side drums leading quickly into a crash of percussion. As
the tumult dies, a rippling harp plays against a lovely little tune on the piccolo,
with a solo cello occasionally joining in. Then a harpsichord strums some
chords whilst a clarinet plays a melody, the orchestra then joining in this
slow, gently flowing, beautiful melody. A harpsichord and bass clarinet intone
the tune before strings signal a more agitated section, with side drums that
leads to the last movement moderato
that begins with an orchestral outburst.
The music soon quietens with rapid piano notes against a
little flute motif before violins and pizzicato lower strings enter. The strings
come together in a more expressive theme leading to full orchestra as the tune
is given to different instruments in a section full of action.Timpani herald a light hearted passage for
harpsichord, celeste, then flute, before a jazzy violin makes an appearance.
The harpsichord returns with brass featuring prominently before the xylophone
and timpani enter. There is even clapping from orchestra members as drums are
played. The theme is thrown around the orchestra until quietening with strings
and xylophone. Drums lead to a hushed section before a last outburst of the main
theme. This is a thoroughly entertaining and at times beautiful piece.
In his Concerto for
Orchestra No. 3 (1989) Karabits returns to the two movement format of his
first concerto with a largo rubato
opening with what must be the unique sound of ‘little bells woven into tresses
of hair’, something conceived by the composer with help from the then thirteen
year old Kirill, and symbolising ‘the voices that we hear from the past.’
Eventually a horn joins with a little tune before a cello enters. All is hushed
with strange noises appearing, including natural harmonics on the upper strings
and a rustling sound made by the brass players blowing into their instruments
without any pitch. When the strings
enter there is a rich, if slightly tragic sound, moving the music forward as
full orchestra and timpani appear. As the orchestra quietens there is a lovely
clarinet solo. There are so many things going on in this amazing, constantly
changing music. When a romantic melody emerges it rises to a climax before the
haunting sound of the flexatone sounds out, followed by timpani leading to the
commences quietly at first but almost immediately a melody on strings emerges
with woodwind and timpani interspersions, before the full orchestra in a
dramatic section. Eventually the music drops to a brass passage with tubular
bells joining in. As the orchestra leads on there are sections for woodwind, before
brass, and strings join. Percussion have a prominent role as the orchestra
slowly shifts along followed by a passage for brass and timpani as the music
becomes increasingly agitated. As the music peaks and subsides, there is a
brass motif against the orchestra. The music quietens with the hushed sound of
the little bells again. The piano enters alone except for hushed bells in a
rhapsodic theme. As the lower strings enter, tubular bells chime, the rustling
sound from the brass players enters and there are humming voices as a flute
plays a folksy little tune in a feeling of utmost sadness. A solo violin enters
in this magical moment that just fades with upward piano phrases.
Silvestrov (b. 1937)www.schott-music.com/shop/persons/az/51048
was born in Kiev, Ukraine. Silvestrov
began private music lessons at age of fifteen and later studied piano at the
Kiev Evening Music School from 1955 to 1958. From 1958–1964 he studied composition
under Boris Lyatoshinsky (1895-1968) and harmony and counterpoint under Levko
Revutsky (1889-1977) at the Kiev Conservatory.
His works to date include eight symphonies, works for violin
and orchestra and piano and orchestra, chamber works including two string
quartets and vocal works. After his early avant-garde style of composition he
later discovered a style comparable to western "post-modernism."
After the early death of his friend Ivan Karabits, Silvestrov
borrowed the sketches Karabits had made for a work that would have set the
texts of the eighteenth century philosopher Grigory Skovorda (1722-1794). From
this he wrote Elegy (2002) using his
own and Karabits’ ideas. It is dedicated to Karabits’ widow, the musicologist Marianna
The work is introduced with a hesitant string motif, full of
sorrow and melancholy. The music hints at a sad theme but seems only to be able
deliver short phrases that nevertheless are very affecting, perhaps because of
their very reticence.
2003 for string orchestra is dedicated to the memory of Ivan Karabits and
was first performed on 3rd October 2003. In two movements, the adagio opens with a descending phrase that
is then developed. Again there is a reticence here, as if unable to fully
express such deep feelings. The second movement marked moderato, follows without a break with a lovely melody that, at
last, is able to appear, a wistful little tune with harp accompaniment and a pulse
that is reminiscent of adagietto from Mahler’s fifth symphony.
The works on this new disc, three of which are billed as
World Premiere Recordings, are extremely attractive in performances that, as
you would expect, are authoritative and commanding. The recording from the
Lighthouse, Poole is excellent as are Andrew Burns’ notes.