Saturday 31 August 2013

A beautifully produced disc from Vivat Music with much fine artistry from The Kings Consort directed by Robert King

Claudio Giovanni Antonio Monteverdi (c.1567-1643) was born in Cremona, Italy and was one of the most important composers in the development of the new musical genre of opera with works such as L'Orfeo, L'Arianna, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria and L'Incoronazione di Poppea. But at the heart of Monteverdi’s music are his madrigals, of which there are nine published books between 1587 and 1651.

Vivat Music brought together fourteen pieces of Monteverdi’s finest secular music drawn from L'Orfeo and L'Incoronazione di Poppea as well as many of his books of madrigals.

This new release features the Kings Consort directed by Robert King with sopranos Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram and Julie Cooper, mezzo sopranos Sarah Connolly and Diana Moore, tenors Charles Daniels, John Bowen and James Gilchrist  and basses Robert Evans and Michael George. I fine line up if ever there was one.


The Kings Consort has a fine instrumental line-up that includes three violins, two violas, a bass violin, a violone, two chitarrrone, two guitars, a double harp, two cornets, three sackbuts and organ and harpsichord that produce a terrific sound under the direction of Robert King.

The toccata from L’Orfeo makes a grand opening with the lovely sounds of the Kings Consort, before the Ritornello and Dal mio permesso from that same opera, with further glorious sounds from the consort in the opening that precedes the entry of that fine soprano, Carolyn Sampson, in exquisitely fine voice, flexible, musical and with rich timbres. Tenors Charles Daniels and James Gilchrist blend and play off each other brilliantly in Zefiro torna from Scherzi musicali of 1632, with such fine Italian feeling.

Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben is from the Seventh Book of Madrigals with Carolyn Sampson and Rebecca Outram providing some fabulous singing in ‘Alas, where is my love? Where is my heart?’, with these two fine sopranos making a perfect blend of voices, full of feeling. What lovely control at the end. Again from the Seventh Book of Madrigals comes Chiome d’oro where, after a buoyant opening from the Kings Consort, Carolyn Sampson and Rebecca Outram enter together, perfectly balanced and with such a light touch.

A Dio, Roma, the Lament of Ottaria from L’Incoronazione di Poppea opens with gloriously rich notes from the chitarrone before mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly sings an intense ‘Farewell, Rome, my Fatherland, my friends, Farewell’ in another stunning performance from another fine artist. As the aria continues, the drama and intensity increase with some beautiful accompaniment from the instrumentalists of the Kings Consort. A Dio, Florida bella, from the Sixth Book of Madrigals features Carolyn Sampson, Diana Moore, Charles Daniels, John Bowen and Michael George. Charles Daniels enters as Floro singing ‘Farewell, Florida, my aching heart’ before Carolyn Sampson as Florida sings ‘Dearest Floro, farewell: may Love console.’ When the solo voices come together, they complete a fine performance, with each voice so fine yet making a lovely ensemble.

Charles Daniels and James Gilchrist provide another strong duet with Interrotte speranze from the Seventh Book of Madrigals, finely built in drama, slowly rising with terrific support from the Kings Consort, particularly those amazing chitarrone who make some lovely sounds. Lamento d’Arianna “Lasciatemi morire” from the Sixth Book of Madrigals, again has Carolyn Sampson, Diana Moore, Charles Daniels, John Bowen and Michael George providing a perfectly blended and controlled ensemble to open this lament ‘Let me die, let me die. How can I console myself?’ This is fine artistry.

Passente spirto from L’Orfeo brings the strong voice of  Charles Daniels, beautiful in the decorations and very much conjuring up the feeling of which he sings in the words ‘Powerful spirit, awesome deity’ with a palpable sense of awe. The cornettes of the Kings Consort provide a melancholy sound with the double harp adding a further striking sound. This is a wonderful performance from Daniels. Carolyn Sampson and Rebecca Outram again bring a lovely blend of voices in O come sei gentile from the Seventh Book of Madrigals. It is the way they achieve such finesse and balance that marks out this duet.

Charles Daniels, John Bowen and Michael George bring a slightly satirical manner to their richly blended Lamento della Ninfa from the Eighth Book of Madrigals. When Carolyn Sampson arrives she brings a sense of loss, responded to in a serious vein by the male singers, who sound exquisite as they sing ‘Miserella. Cruda Amarilli from the Fifth Book of Madrigals brings Carolyn Sampson, Julie Cooper, Charles Daniels, John Bowen and Michael George again showing how the solo voices blend as an ensemble, yet with distinctive vocal sounds, as they sing ‘Cruel Amaryllis, who with your name to love, alas, bitterly you teach.’

Finally there is the incomparable Hor che ‘I ciel, e la terra from the Eighth Book of Madrigals with Carolyn Sampson, Diana Moore, Charles Daniels, John Bowen, Robert Evans and Michael George. From the quiet, tentative opening, ‘Now that the heavens, earth and wind are silent’ a tremendously expectant atmosphere is built. ‘Wakeful, I think, burn, weep’ is wonderfully sung, dramatic, and thoughtful, with so many great contributions from individual voices in the faster, dramatic sections. There are some lovely parts where the voices slowly rise and, at the end, a stunningly performed part when the upper voices rise into the heights and the lower voices to the depths. This is terrific and a fine end to this disc.

This is a beautifully produced disc, finely recorded, with first rate notes. If I were only able to have one disc of works by Monteverdi this would have to be the one.

Friday 30 August 2013

BBC Proms – Anika Vavic’s Prom debut with Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO in works by Bantock, Prokoviev, Sibelius and Richard Strauss

This year’s BBC Proms  feature no less than five works by Sir Granville Bantock. Tonight’s Prom (30th August 2013) concentrated on tone poems by Bantock, Sibelius and Richard Strauss inspired by writing as diverse as Shelley,  the Finnish Kalevala and Nietzsche interspersed by Prokoviev’s Third Piano Concerto.

The late Vernon ‘Tod’ Handley almost single handedly brought about a renewal of interest in the music of Granville Bantock through his recordings. Bantock’s The Witch of Atlas (Tone Poem No. 5) (1902) was inspired by Shelley’s poem of the same name. Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra brought some evocative instrumental sounds to Bantock’s distinctive orchestration before the mellow romantic melody, beautifully played by the LPO. The lively central passage was wonderfully caught by Jurowski and the orchestra, who knew just how to bring out the drama hidden in this largely sensuous work, highlighting the cyclical form of the work.

Jurowski and the orchestra were joined by the Serbian pianist Anika Vavic in Prokoviev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Opus 26 (1917–1921). For all Prokoviev’s acerbic wit, this is also a sublimely lyrical concerto, something which Anika Vavic’s light touch helped to draw out in the Andante – Allegro. Jurowski’s accompaniment, with a broad sweep, helped to reinforce this view, providing much poetry. Vavic’s unassuming virtuosity was a delight. Prokoviev’s rhythmic phrases were finely caught and she gave us a whirlwind of a coda, full of clarity. In the Theme et Variations, Vavic responded to the mood changes brilliantly, showing fine clarity of articulation, something of a keynote for the performance as a whole. Both pianist and orchestra provided some beautifully languid moments, full of atmosphere. The Allegro ma non Troppo was slowly built from its steady opening through moments of finely wrought tension to an inevitable coda, with Jurowski and the LPO revealing some of the beauties of Prokoviev’s orchestration.

Sibelius’ Pohjola’s Daughter began the second half of the night’s Prom with Jurowski and the LPO bringing out all the darkness of the opening, with some fine playing from the principal cellist of the LPO. As the music developed, I would have liked a little more long drawn tension, but in the lighter Largamente section, Jurowski produced some lovely moments with a most affecting coda. If this performance gave fleeting, quicksilver moments of beauty at the expense of some of the drama it, nevertheless, revealed new aspects to the work.

Richard Strauss’ Nietzschean inspired Also sprach Zarathustra saw Jurowski in his element with the Albert Hall organ in full flight in the impressive opening, an imposing sunrise. Jurowski allowed an organic development from the Introduction right through to the lovely hushed coda, by way of moments full of ardour, mystery, swagger and dance, magnificently built to exploit all the drama of this work. A fine Zarathustra.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

A fabulous recording of Bartok’s two violin concertos with Isabelle Faust and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding on a new release from Harmonia Mundi

The German violinist, Isabelle Faust won first prize at the 1987 Leopold Mozart Competition, when she was just 15. She went on to win the 1993 Paganini Competition thus giving her the ultimate opportunity to become a virtuoso soloist. However, Faust has always maintained an interest in chamber music and her fine debut disc for Harmonia Mundi in 1996 featured Bartok’s two sonatas for violin with pianist Ewa Kuppiec . This interest in chamber music stems from her teacher, Christoph Poppen, the long-time first violinist of the Cherubini Quartet.

Since then she has gone on to record both chamber and concerto repertoire as varied as Dvorák, Berg, Beethoven, Weber, Satie, Martinu, Shostakovich, Schubert, Fauré, Bach, Brahms, Jolivet and Janacek.

Faust’s recording of the complete Beethoven sonatas with pianist Alexander Melnikov received the ECHO Klassik Award  and the Gramophone Award  among others. The recording was nominated for a Grammy . Her solo recording of Bach’s Partitas and Sonatas was awarded the Diapason d’or de l’année 2010 .

Now on a new release from Harmonia Mundi  she returns to Bartok  to record the two violin concertos with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra  conducted by Daniel Harding . Isabelle Faust has a particular link to Bartok through her teacher the Hungarian violinist Dénes Zsigmondy who knew the composer.

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Bartok’s Violin Concerto No.1 Sz36 op.posth. was for a long time a forgotten work that the composer recycled as part of his Two Portraits. Written for an early love, the violinist Stefi Geyer, it was not performed until after the composer’s death, Geyer having declined to perform it. Isabelle Faust has gone back to a number of sources in order to clarify markings of phrasing and articulation.

As played by Isabelle Faust, this concerto takes on a new substance with this violinist drawing so much in the way of textures, colours, timbres and feeling in the opening of the Andante Sostenuto, with much of an improvisatory feeling. Faust is remarkable in the way that she works up the theme to the short climaxes. Daniel Harding and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra provide a lovely central orchestral section extracting so much of the melancholic beauty. When Faust and the orchestra combine again they bring such a natural development as the music rises to a full climax. The hushed coda is beautifully done.

There is terrific playing from Faust in the skittish Allegro giocoso and some lovely long held notes before the more thoughtful subject section, the gentle rocking passage that leads to a neo romantic orchestral passage. More terrific playing ensues with Faust seemingly having great fun in the many varying moods of this music. What a superb technique Faust has. The tremendous fast section for orchestra leads to a wistful violin section, so finely drawn by Faust, and a spectacularly fine lead up to the coda.

The far better known Violin Concerto No.2 Sz112 has a gorgeous opening to the Allegro non troppo with Faust so rhapsodic when she enters. As the movement progresses she is brilliant in the subtle shifts of mood and colour. The reflective moments hinting at Bartok’s night music contrast with terrific outbursts of energy, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra on great form under Daniel Harding. During this movement there is some thrillingly light textured playing with Faust and the Swedish RSO bringing this music to life as few have done before. As the cadenza arrives there is superb playing from Faust as, indeed, there is in the dramatic coda.

How Isabelle Faust allows the Andante tranquillo to unfold is magical; the flow is always allowed to continue naturally with little outbursts of dynamics from the orchestra. An underlying drama is often evident, creating a tension as the violin quietly plays. In the central section, Faust is no less virtuosic with some fabulous playing right up to the quiet coda.

Built on material from the first movement, the allegro molto has many varying moods, tempi and dynamics which Faust brilliantly draws on. Slowly one can hear the music developing logically towards its destination. There is a lovely rhapsodic moment with lovely arpeggios on the violin. What a tremendous coda Faust and the orchestra give us in its original version. The violin plays a lilting melody, before the fast section leading to the coda which is then played by the orchestra alone with brass re-enforcing at the end. Apparently this ending was considered a problem by Zoltán Székely, who gave the first performance in 1939 and was the works dedicatee. He wanted more of a crowd pleaser, a request to which Bartok responded. However, this original ending is really special, particularly as played here.

This is a fabulous disc of concertos by one of the great composers. The recording is excellent and there are first class notes by Isabelle Faust.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Dazzling playing from Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima and some glorious singing from Sally Bruce-Payne on a new release of Vivaldi from Avie

La Serenissima , directed by Adrian Chandler, specializes in the music of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), and his contemporaries. They have performed worldwide and in 2010 won a Gramophone Award. Their eleventh CD for Avie Records , Venice by Night, released in June 2012, included world premiere recordings of music by Lotti, Pollarolo, Porta and Veracini alongside better known composers such as Vivaldi and Albinoni and reached the top ten of the UK classical charts. 

Their latest recording for Avie focuses on two Venetian operatic seasons of 1717 and 1733, in a program that juxtaposes the work of the younger Vivaldi with that of the older, more experienced composer who had adapted his music to that of the fashionable Neapolitan style. Including arias from each year with instrumental works certainly makes an attractive format for this new CD.
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La Serenissima open with Vivaldi’s Sinfonia to L’Incoronazione di Dario RV719 for strings and continuo in C premiered in the winter season of 1717 at the Teatro Sant'Angelo, Venice. The Allegro is at times crisp, rumbustious and dramatic, providing a fine opening. There is a leisurely Andante, with the ensemble showing lovely transparency with so much detail clearly showing through and some first rate ensemble and phrasing in the concluding Presto.

Three arias from Arsilda RV700, first performed at the Teatro Sant'Angelo, Venice in the autumn season of 1716, and revised for the following season and L’Incoronazione di Dario RV719 for mezzo soprano, strings and continuo follow, with Sally Bruce-Payne (mezzo-soprano) joining La Serenissima.  

What a great voice she has in Ferri, ceppi, sangue, morte (Chains, shackles, blood, death) (L’Incoronazione di Dario) perfect in the intricate decorative passages, full of strength and power in the dramatic moments; a truly operatic voice for these arias. Io sento in questo seno (I feel within this breast) (Arsilda) highlights her control and sensitivity in this gloriously sung aria, beautifully accompanied by La Serenissima. In Sentiro fra ramo,e ramo (I will hear among the branches) (L’Incoronazione di Dario) with its typically Vivaldian opening, full of repeated phrases and rhythms, Sally Bruce-Payne brings a youthful gaiety, full of life and joy.

Vivaldi’s Concerto Gross Mogul for violin, strings and continuo in D RV208 has had an interesting history. The Il gran mogul (The Grand Moghul) is thought by some to have been part of a set of four national concertos now lost but its meaning is unclear. What is unusual for the time is the written out cadenzas that would usually have been improvised.

The Allegro is terrifically played, crisp and vibrant in the opening with superb phrasing from Adrian Chandler who provides some lovely timbres and not a little virtuosity. The cadenza just before the end is terrific. In the second movement, marked Grave – Recitativo, again the transparency of playing and, indeed, the recording allows every detail of the instruments to sound through, with Chandler weaving some lovely sounds. More Vivaldian rhythms open the Allegro, precise, crisp and bold. The playing from Chandler and La Serenissima is absolutely brilliant with the lengthy extended cadenza dazzlingly played.

The Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in B flat RV367 opens with a work that may have formed part of the 1733 season. This is light and fresh Vivaldi, with a dramatic string opening to the Allegro ma poco before the lighter theme on solo violin with such fine accompaniment from La Serenissima. There is a stately Andante ma poco with beautifully flowing playing from Chandler and a lovely Allegro full of fine playing from the whole ensemble.

Sally Bruce-Payne returns in the two arias from Motezuma RV723 for mezzo-soprano, strings and continuo, Vivaldi’s opera first performed during the autumn season of 1733 at the Teatro Sant'Angelo, Venice.

In Quel rossor, ch’in volto miri (That blush you see upon my face), Sally Bruce-Payne has such a musical voice, full and rich, yet not lacking sparkle in this fine aria.  She makes the most of the final dramatic aria on this disc In mezzo alla procella (In the midst of the storm) with singing of tremendous skill and control, full of drama. A stunning performance.

Chandler brings more fine playing to Vivaldi’s Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in C RV191 with crystal clear, vibrant playing with tremendous technical skill in the more intricate passages of the Allegro ma poco. At the opening of the Largo, Eligio Quinteiro’s eleven course theorbo provides some lovely sounds and, when he joins, Chandler brings out the melancholy beauty of this movement, something so often ignored in Vivaldi. There is a vibrant Allegro ma poco with Adrian Chandler providing light, sprung rhythms and such fine playing from La Serenissima to end this terrific disc – one that can equally be played right through or one that can be dipped into with equal enjoyment.

The recording from the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, couldn’t be better. There are informative notes by Adrian Chandler and full texts and English translations. A terrific disc.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Orchestra and Conspirare directed by Craig Hella Johnson give outstanding performances of works by Kevin Puts on a new release from Harmonia Mundi

The American composer, Kevin Puts (b.1972),  studied composition and piano at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University with Samuel Adler, Jacob Druckman, David Lang, Christopher Rouse, Joseph Schwantner, Martin Bresnick, and Nelita True. He later studied at the Tanglewood Music Festival with William Bolcom and Bernard Rands.

Puts was the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his opera, Silent Night and has had works commissioned and performed by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists throughout North America, Europe and the Far East. His Cello Concerto ‘Vision’, commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival in honour of David Zinman’s 70th Birthday, was premiered by Yo-Yo Ma at the 2006 Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, USA.

In addition to his opera Silent Night, Puts’ impressive list of compositions includes many orchestral works, including four symphonies, nine concerted works, works for wind ensemble, numerous chamber works and solo instrumental works.

After being Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Texas from 1997 to 2005, Kevin Puts now teaches composition at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University and is composer-in-residence at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Harmonia Mundi has just released a recording of works by Kevin Puts with the choir Conspirare directed by Craig Hella Johnson  and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop . This new disc gives a fine overview of Puts’ work and includes his cycle of nine songs To Touch the Sky as well as his Symphony No.4 ‘From Mission San Juan’.

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This new recording opens with a choral setting of a poem by the American poet Fleda Brown , If I were a Swan (2012) that opens most effectively with the choir absolutely superb as they continue in the weaving and blending of Puts’ musical textures in this lovely setting. The rhythmic repeats of texts by the female voices, combined with longer phrases from the rest of the choir, keep an impulse, with the choir moulding the words to great effect. It is Puts’ ability to gauge, exactly, the right tempi, colouring and texture to illuminate the words that makes this such an exquisite setting.

To touch the sky (2012) 9 songs for unaccompanied chorus takes texts by women as diverse as Emily Bronte and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Annunciation (Magnificat) sets verses by Marie Howe where the higher voices of the choir and solo soprano, Mela Dailey , contrast with lower voices in a tense, expectant setting. It is the male voices alone that give a lovely performance of Unbreakable, full of shifting harmonies in this setting of a poem by Mirabai. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is the source for the setting of The Fruit of Silence with repeated wordless rhythmic chanting against the rest of the choir.  Falling Snow, a setting of a poem by Amy Lowell, returns us to a meditative setting where Puts creates a wonderful atmosphere of stillness and cold with such simple yet effective choral means. At the Castle Wood follows in a similar vein with words by Emily Bronte that bring a feeling of winter and despair, becoming slowly richer as the lower voices join and more anguished as it progresses, before ending on a rather sad note. This is a masterly setting of these texts, superbly sung.

At just over one minute Puts delivers another gem, Epitaph, to words by Edna St. Vincent Millay in another perfectly nuanced setting.  Who has seen the Wind is a fast setting of Christina Rossetti, again very short, but very evocative. With my two arms, a setting of Sappho, has Puts weaving the two line text to create far more than the words would be expected to provide. Most noble evergreen brings a lighter uplifting mood where Puts creates an opening full of transparency and sunshine. As the music is enriched by deep basses, we find this to be another beautifully coloured and textured piece creating a feeling of ecstasy that is most appropriate to a text by Hildegard von Bingen. This is another memorable and inspired setting.

To conclude, this cycle returns briefly to the opening Magnificat in the words ‘Magnificat! Even if I don’t see it again’ A lovely touch.

Kevin Puts’ Symphony No. 4 ‘From Mission San Juan’ (2007) was commissioned by the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music  and premiered by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop in 2007.

Puts was commissioned to write a symphony inspired by the Mission at San Juan Bautista that nestles in the heart of the San Juan Valley between the Gabilan Mountains and Flint Hills and is the location for a concert each year. The founding friars baptised thousands of Mutsun Indians and taught them to sing church music. Working with Victoria Levine, a specialist in Native American music at the University of Colorado, Puts distilled the essence of San Juan Bautista into his fourth symphony.

The first movement, Prelude: Mission Sanguan Bautista, circa 1800, opens quietly with a simple motif that slowly moves around before the woodwind join in a plangent melody with the orchestra weaving around, quite freely tonal. The orchestra develops this motif, with string sounds becoming occasionally more dramatic. A clarinet leads to the hushed coda, ending a calm and atmospheric movement that, nevertheless, has an underlying passion.

Arriquetpon (Diary of Francisco Arroyo de la Cuesta, 1818) is a kind of scherzo where the trio section doesn’t quite surface. Woodwind give a native American feel to the music in the opening and, as the movement develops, the rhythms continue to give an ethnic feel before the strings herald a longer breathed melody that is not allowed to develop. The faster music returns, now swirling and becoming louder before, again, the longer breathed melody tries to intervene against swirling woodwind but slowly fades. A slower version of the fast rhythmic music commences, eventually building in tempo and volume in the most dramatic music so far, with drums strokes as the music reaches a peak. It subsides before the opening theme on woodwind returns. The music slowly quietens to end on a drum stroke.

Interlude opens slowly on strings before woodwind join in, alternating with strings which slowly become richer and fuller, moving the music forwards. The woodwind return as the strings and the rest of the orchestra become slightly hesitant and more dramatic, pulling in some of the native American sounds of the second movement. The music rises up dramatically to a peak as though two worlds are colliding but drops back to quieter music with woodwind, bells and mysterious orchestral sounds before running into  the finale, Healing Song , where a plaintive little tune appears, melancholy and reflective, still with an ethnic feel. The orchestra joins more fully in the most beautiful of themes, still full of native American flavour, that slowly rises up and combines with a counter melody. This is glorious melody, beautifully controlled and built by Alsop and the Baltimore Orchestra. Native American sounds return as the orchestra falls away before rising to a conclusive end.

Puts has an ability to shape colour and mould his material to create just the right atmosphere and feeling. Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Orchestra give an outstanding performance of this fine symphony.

With such fine performances, a first rate recording, excellent notes and full texts and translations this is a terrific new release from Harmonia Mundi. I should also make a special mention of the quality of the booklet production with numerous illustrations that are appropriate to the printed texts.

Monday 19 August 2013

Clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer in works by Gershwin, Copeland, Debussy, Cimarosa, Beach and Spohr on his debut disc for Mercury Classics/Deutsche Grammophon

The Austrian clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer is Principal clarinettist of the Berliner Philharmoniker. After studying cello at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, he changed to studying the clarinet under Johann Hindler in 2003. He has been a member of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and deputised with the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic. In 2009 he became a scholar of the Orchestra Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker, and from July 2010 to February 2011 was principal clarinettist with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.

Ottensamer has won first prize in competitions for clarinet, cello and piano, and performs as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the world. His artistic partnerships include work with Murray Perahia, Leif Ove Andsnes, Leonidas Kavakos, Janine Jansen, Clemens Hagen and Yo-Yo Ma. In 2005 Andreas Ottensamer founded the clarinet trio The Clarinotts with his father Ernst and brother Daniel, both solo clarinettists in the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic.

His Viennese instrument, with a wider bore than the closely related German-system clarinet, produces a particularly dark, expansive and warm tone, which he exploits to full advantage.

In 2013 this schedule includes performances of the Busoni Clarinet Concertino and Copland Clarinet Concerto at the Seoul Arts Center in Korea (March), concerts with the Brahms Ensemble Berlin in Baden-Baden and Japan, appearances with his own Clarinotts at the Musikverein in Vienna (April), and commitments throughout the year as principal clarinettist with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

In February 2013 Andreas Ottensamer entered an exclusive recording partnership with Mercury Classics/Deutsche Grammophon , making him the first ever solo clarinettist to sign an exclusive agreement with the Yellow Label. His first album, Portraits – The Clarinet Album, was recently released and features concertos by Copland, Spohr and Cimarosa, plus arrangements of short pieces by Gershwin, Debussy and Amy Beach. His partners are the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra  under Yannick Nézet-Séguin .

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George Gershwin’s (1898-1937) Prelude No. 1 arranged from Three Preludes for piano solo by Stephan Koncz is played with flair in this short, jazz inspired piece, where Ottensamer does not ignore the occasional quiet, poetic moments.

Poetry abounds in the beautiful first movement of Aaron Copland’s (1900-1990) Clarinet Concerto, marked Slowly and expressively – cadenza, with Ottensamer providing some lovely long drawn sounds, rich, mellow and beautifully controlled. The cadenza is brilliantly done. I love how Ottensamer carefully moulds every little detail. There is sensitive accompaniment from Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. In the rhythmic second movement, marked Rather fast, Ottensamer and the Rotterdam Orchestra are completely inside Copland’s writing. Ottensamer at times plays almost a chamber role with the harp and piano. He certainly knows how to have fun in the jazzier moments with some tremendous articulation and phrasing.

Claude Debussy 1862-1918) wrote his La fille aux cheveux de lin as part of Book 1 of his Preludes for Piano. They are arranged here for clarinet and orchestra by Stephan Koncz. In this well known little piece, Ottensamer again shows his beautiful sense of poetry. His superb control and expressivity brings so much to this little gem particularly with the larger bore Viennese clarinet that he plays, which gives a particularly warm tone.

Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801) is more known for his numerous operas but here his Concerto for Clarinet and Strings is ‘freely arranged’ by Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960). There is a lovely little Introduzione, a buoyant Allegro, full of joy, with lovely rapid phrasing, an attractive Siciliana, nicely paced and a flowing Allegro giusto to end, with more fine, intricate playing.

The American composer Amy Beach (1867-1944) wrote her Berceuse as part of her Three Compositions for violin and piano Op.40. Here it played in another arrangement by Stephan Koncz. It is a lightweight, but attractive work given a lovely performance by Ottensamer.

I have on my shelves a recording of Louis Spohr’s (1784-1859) Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 1 in C Minor Op. 26 played by a certain Ernst Ottensamer. This I have discovered is the father of Andreas Ottensamer who performs that same work on this new disc.  Andreas Ottensamer gives a lively performance with his richness of tone often showing in the opening Adagio – Allegro movement, with some terrific articulation in the faster passages. Richness and warmth of tone are applied even more to the Adagio, where Ottensamer adds so much to the lyrical impulse of this movement. Despite its upbeat tempo, there is a gentle quality to the opening of the Rondo Vivace where Ottensamer applies so much care and sensitivity. As the movement progresses, there is some terrific playing, so articulate and full of panache. Séguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic give terrific support.

Ottensamer is a superb clarinettist with not only a wonderful tone, but a rather special way in which he articulates and moulds phrases. This new disc works well not only as an example of Ottensamer’s musicianship, but as a concert in its own right.

Friday 16 August 2013

Vladimir Feltsman brings all his musicality, experience and wisdom to Haydn’s keyboard sonatas on a new release from Nimbus

Unlike Mozart and Beethoven, Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)  is not remembered for writing piano sonatas yet he wrote over sixty keyboard sonatas. His works for keyboard span almost his entire compositional life.

A new release from Nimbus  featuring that fine pianist, Vladimir Feltsman , has eight of Haydn’s keyboard sonatas dating from around 1771 to 1790. Whilst Haydn’s earlier keyboard works were intended for the harpsichord it is recorded that Haydn was playing a fortepiano as early as 1773.

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Vladimir Feltsman opens the first of the discs on this 2 CD set with Haydn’s Sonata in A flat H.XVI:46 (c.1767). The Allegro moderato is crisp and nicely pointed with an almost Mozartian forward flow and some lovely thoughtful touches. Haydn’s beautiful Adagio is played with a lovely free, improvisatory feel by with superb care and sensitivity, building to a fuller, more dramatic section part way through. The Finale: Presto gives a fine example of Feltsman’s apparently easy virtuosity with a sparkling rondo based on the material from the first movement, superbly played.

In the Presto of the Sonata in E minor H.XVI:34 (c.1778) there is some lovely playing in the offset rhythm of the opening. The music broadens beautifully as it develops with some lovely harmonic modulations. Haydn again seems to echo Mozart in the elaborate adagio, full of ornamentation and flowing over the keyboard. The Vivace molto ‘innocentemente’ is played with an appropriate directness and playfulness in one of Haydn’s most memorable tunes.

Feltsman brings a fullness and drama to the allegro of Haydn’s Sonata in E flat major H.XVI:49 (c.1790) that contrasts so much with the vivace molto of the preceding sonata on this disc. There are passages that remind one of Beethoven particularly a series of repeated notes, then again Mozart appears, reminding one of the later stages of that composer’s C minor Piano Concerto K.491. This is terrific playing with Feltsman revealing all these influences. Feltsman’s pacing of the Adagio e cantabile is beautifully done bringing out so much from this adagio with, again, so many lovely details highlighted. The dramatic middle section, with its rich chords, provides a great contrast. The lovely Finale: Tempo di Minuet is full of rhythmic bounce and provides another direct, simple melody with some gorgeous playing to end this sonata.

In the Moderato (Allegro Moderato) of the Sonata in C minor H.XVI: 20 (c.1771) Feltsman again brings a feeling of improvisation to this, one of Haydn’s better known sonatas. There is a real sense of re-discovery with a wonderful florid, tempestuous central section. The flowing Andante con moto is taken at a moderate flowing pace followed by a terrific Finale: Allegro, brilliantly played by Feltsman with such forward momentum, belying the simple melody that introduces the movement which develops so much with terrific descending passages towards the end.

The second disc of this set commences with Haydn’s two movement Sonata in C major H.XVI:48 (c.1789). The Andante con espressione is a series of variations nicely paced by Feltsman, allowing the music to unfold with a real naturalness and developing some lovely richer passages with some lovely playful touches. What a terrific second movement Rondo: Presto Feltsman gives us, so full of good humour and wonderfully played.

A joyous Allegro con brio opens Haydn’s Sonata in G major H.XVI: 39 (c.1780), again a set of variations, full of fun and perfectly caught by Feltsman. The Adagio has a lovely irregular flow with Feltsman providing some lovely rippling arpeggios and scales whilst there is a fleet Prestissimo where Feltsman, nevertheless, provides such clarity despite the tempo.

In his Sonata in D major H.XVI: 33 (c.1778) Haydn seems to look back to earlier models such as Scarlatti. There is a beautifully lithe Allegro with lovely crisp playing and a more serious Adagio, a little sombre in mood, well caught by Feltsman with playing of such melancholic feel. A bright, flowing finale marked Tempi di Menuetto rounds off this work.

The final sonata on this set is Haydn’s Sonata in G minor H.XVI: 44 (c.1771- 1788), another two movement work with a Moderato, again in a melancholy mood, with Feltsman giving a beautifully thoughtful performance and an Allegretto which doesn’t lift the mood to any great extent, Feltsman giving an exquisite performance balanced between a desire for the music to break out and its melancholy mood.

Following these eight fine sonatas, Feltsman gives us Haydn’s 12 Variations in E flat major H.XVII: 3 (c. 1766-1771). These are believed to have been originally written for harpsichord. A quiet melody (from his String Quartet Op.9 No.2) opens the variations which develop so naturally in Feltsman’s hands, at turns thoughtful, then sparkling and full of energy. All repeats are included in this lovely performance and, as the final part is reached, one feels that one has completed a particularly wonderful journey.

Vladimir Feltsman brings all his musicality, experience and wisdom to these remarkable works showing them to be the equal of Mozart. At the end one is left totally entranced and wanting more.

The recording is extremely good with quite a full acoustic around the piano but not to the detriment of detail. There are first rate notes by Vladimir Feltsman.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

BBC Proms – Daniil Trifonov’s Prom debut with Valery Gergiev and the LSO in an all Russian concert

Valery Gergiev brought an all Russian concert to Tuesday night’s Prom (13th August 2013) works by Borodin, Glazunov, Gubaidulina and Mussorgsky.

Gergiev provided a very incisive opening to the Allegro of Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 in B Minor before the expansive second subject, always managing to bring surprises by varying tempi and dynamics. There followed a lovely, light dancing prestissimo with a flowing central section where the brooding moments were well caught and with some terrific playing from the LSO. The andante brought a beautifully detailed opening with a very Russian sounding LSO horn in, surely, one of Borodin’s most beautiful creations, given a new feel with Gergiev’s longer drawn, brooding, darker atmosphere, revealing much more drama than usual.  A brilliant Allegro, with the LSO responding to every detail, brought to an end this wonderful performance.

Glazunov is still only known for his attractive violin concerto but his Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Major Op. 100 has much to recommend it, not least the memorable tune that opens the work and permeates right through it. Daniil Trifonov , winner of the 2011Tchaikovsky Competition, opened with some beautifully pure crystalline playing and, as the Andante Sostenuto section developed, this pianist demonstrated his lovely rubato and shaping of phrases. There were some lovely poetic passages from Trifonov at the heart of the concerto where it slowly builds in romantic expression. Both Trifonov and Gergiev handled the fleeting moods perfectly before some virtuosic playing from Trifonov when the concerto neared its coda.

As an encore Daniil Trifonov gave the Prom audience an intoxicatingly brilliant performance of an piano arrangement of Stravinsky’s Infernal Dance from The Firebird, leaving us in no doubt as to his technique.

After the interval Gergiev returned to give the first UK performance of Sophia Gubaidulina’s, The Ride on the White Horse, inspired by the story of the First Horseman of the Apocalypse. Remote tinkling sounds from  bells and harpsichord and ethereal string sounds opened this work before leading to fuller orchestral sounds that rushed in as though a torrent. Great swirls of sound, complete with organ chords, followed before thunderous drums sounded out, alone, in a kind of rhythmic dance or pattern. This subsided to a quiet brooding orchestral sequence that tried to rise up which it eventually did, with more massive organ chords. A scurrying orchestral passage, with brass chords cutting through, led to a fanfare for brass, violent drums and organ chords in a furious section. A hushed section with chiming bells interspersed with orchestral outbursts before the orchestra rose up again with more brass fanfares and organ chords. Finally the music quietened with the hushed sound of bells as this remarkably atmospheric work drew to a close.

This is another of Gubaidulina’s works that I would very much like to hear again. Gergiev is superb in this music with which he appears to have a close affinity.

Gergiev showed again just how well he can conjure up atmosphere and changing moods in the concluding work in this Prom, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as orchestrated by Ravel.  There was an atmospheric Gnomus, a beautifully blended Il vecchio castello where the LSO woodwinds really excelled themselves and a beautifully characterised Samuel Goldberg und Schmuyle. Bydlo had a really Russian feel, heavy and massive in its force, whilst there was a melancholy, dark and dramatic Catacombs with a very Russian sounding trumpet, a spectral and eerie Cum mortuis in lingua morta and a manic depiction of the witch Baba Yaga before La Grande porte de Kiev where Gergiev concluded the work in a gloriously majestic manner. 

Monday 12 August 2013

A release from Glossa with Le Concert Spirituel and a strong line-up of soloists surely provides one of the finest recordings of Dido and Aeneas available.

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)  was born the year before the restoration of the monarchy which brought much social change. The Puritanism of Oliver Cromwell lost its momentum and theatres reopened after having been closed during the Commonwealth. Perhaps the most successful of operas produced during the reign of Charles II was John Blow’s (c.1649-1708) Venus and Adonis. Purcell was extremely prolific in writing incidental music for the theatre but Dido and Aeneas (c.1689) was his first opera, as well as his only all-sung dramatic work. It vies with Blow’s Venus and Adonis, to which it owes much, as one of the earliest English operas.

Purcell’s other works in an operatic vein are Prophetess or The History of Dioclesian or Dioclesian, opera with dialogue (1690), King Arthur or The British Worthy, opera with dialogue (1691), The Fairy-Queen, opera with dialogue (1692), The Indian Queen, opera with dialogue (1695) and The Tempest or The Enchanted Island, opera with dialogue (c. 1695) though in these "dramatick operas" or semi-operas the principal characters do not generally sing.

Dido and Aeneas was written to a libretto by Nahum Tate (1652-1715) who was to become Poet Laureate in 1692 and performed in 1689 in co-operation with Josias Priest, a dancing-master who ran a boarding school for gentlewomen in Leicester Fields and, in 1680, started a similar school in Chelsea, London where he hosted operas, including John Blow's Venus and Adonis. Whether this was the first performance is open to doubt given the minor venue involved.

Dido and Aeneas tells the story of the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her despair when he abandons her. It comprises a prologue and three acts.

Glossa Music  have just issued a recording by Le Concert Sprituel conducted by Hervé Niquet  with a strong cast consisting of Laura Pudwell (Dido and Sorceress) , Peter Harvey (Aeneas) , Salomé Heller (Belinda and First Witch) , Marie-Louise Duthoit (Second Woman and Second Witch) , Nicolas Maire (Sailor) and Matthew White (The Spirit).

GCD C81601

I must admit to a particular admiration for the work that Hervé Niquet and his fine band have achieved in the past and this release is no exception.

The Overture to Act I is transparent and vibrant before Salome Huller enters as a fine Belinda in Shake the cloud from off your brow. Ah! Belinda brings Laura Pudwell as Dido with a striking voice with lovely timbres right across the range, particularly in the lower register where she is quite wonderful in this lovely aria. Throughout there are lovely sounds from Le Concert Sprituel. As she continues with Whence could so much virtue spring she has such a natural way with all the little decorations, so flexible. Salome Huller and Marie-Louise Duthoit as the Second Woman blend well as do the splendid choir of La Concert Spiritual.

There is a particularly strong Aeneas in Peter Harvey as he sings When royal fair, shall I be blessed. In To the Hills and the vales there is some terrific singing and playing from the choir and band, vibrant and full of panache.

Act II opens with a really theatrical Scene 1, Scene The Cave Laura Pudwell returns as the Sorceress with a strong characterful, theatrical performance using her voice to the full to characterise the part. This is real operatic acting, no bland period piece. Just as characterful are the witches, Salomé Heller and Marie-Louise Duthoit singing But ere we this perform, terrifically done. The chorus of Le Concert Sprituel are equally effective with In our deep vaulted cell with some great ‘echo’ effects.

In Scene II, The Grove when Salomé Heller Haller returns as Belinda in Thanks to these lonesome vales she is in lovely voice, with the blend of choir and band beautifully done. Marie-Louise Duthoit as the second woman has a strong, youthful, attractive voice. When Peter Harvey again appears as Aeneas in Behold, upon my bending spear he is again firm and full voiced. Laura Pudwell as Dido is superb, flexible and rich with a great choral contribution from the chorus.

When he sings Stay, Prince, and hear great Jove’s command, Nicolas Maire as The Spirit is another fine voice, ideally placed with Aeneas’ full rich tones, always giving due attention to every emotional turn.

Act III Scene I, The Ships has a natural sounding Nicolas Mair as the Sailor in Come away, fellow sailors, your anchors be weighing followed by Le Concert Spirituel giving a terrific sailors’ dance. What a gloriously beautiful band Le Concert Sprituel is. The Sorceress, two witches and chorus of witches are theatrical and musical, full of character when they return with a terrific The Witches Dance with the lovely timbres of Le Concert Spirituel. There is a lovely passage with some terrific playing from the recorder.

Dido, Belinda and Aeneas all giving lovely dark, passionate performances after Dido sings Your consul all is urg’d in vain where Dido is particularly wonderful. There is a lovely choral Great minds against themselves conspire leading so well into Thy Hand Belinda darkness shades me (Dido’s Lament), a rich, heart rending performance, nothing of the overly pure, ethereal but real human passion, beautifully finding the heart of this lovely piece. Really quiet affecting. The choir have a lovely controlled sonorous sound in the final With drooping wings ye Cupid’s come, superbly done, bringing this fine Dido to a close.

With a first rate recording made in May, 2000 in Notre Dame du Liban, Paris, excellent notes and full English texts, surely this is one of the finest Dido’s currently available. 

Friday 9 August 2013

Terrific playing from Frank Peter Zimmermann and the Frankfurt RSO under Paavo Järvi in a new release of Hindemith’s works for violin from BIS

The German composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) was born at Hanau, near Frankfurt am Main. Whilst there is no shortage of recordings of his music, he still does not seem to enjoy the profile that he deserves. He studied the violin and composition with Adolf Rebner (1876-1967), Arnold Mendelssohn (1855-1933) son of a second cousin of Felix Mendelssohn; and Bernhard Sekles (1872-1934) at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main.  He earned his living at an early age playing the violin in cafes, dance bands and, at the age of only twenty, was appointed as the leader of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra.

After the end of the First World War, he returned to Frankfurt and founded the Amar-Hindemith Quartet in which he played the viola from 1922 to 1929. He began building a reputation when his String Quartet Op.16 was performed at the Donaueschingen Music Festival of which he was a committee member. In 1927, he was appointed as professor for composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin.

Early works included chamber music composed for the Amar-Hindemith Quartet; the song cycles Die junge Magd (The Young Maid) (1922), and Das Marienleben (The Life of Mary) (1924 rev. 1948)  and the opera Cardillac (1926). By the late 1920s Hindemith was regarded as the foremost German composer of his generation.

He sought to revitalize tonality—the traditional harmonic system that was being challenged by many other composers—and also pioneered in the writing of Gebrauchsmusik, or “utility music,” compositions for everyday occasions. An opponent of the 12-tone school of composer Arnold Schoenberg, Hindemith formulated the principles of a harmonic system that was based on an enlargement of traditional tonality.

Hindemith’s career as a composer reached a high point at the beginning of the 1930s, but with the seizure of power by the National Socialists, his works were declared as “culturally bolshevist” and disappeared from concert programmes.

Perhaps his greatest work was the opera Mathis der Maler, concerning the artist Matthias Grünewald and his struggles with society. The Nazi cultural authorities, led by Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, banned the opera, denouncing the composer as a ‘cultural Bolshevist’ and ‘spiritual non-Aryan.’

During this time Hindemith travelled to Turkey where he taught at the conservatory in Ankara and to the USA but, in 1936, a final ban was issued for the performance of his works which led to Hindemith emigrating, initially to Switzerland but subsequently to the USA where he acquired American citizenship.  As a professor, he taught at Yale University from 1940 to 1953 and from 1951 to 1957, he was a professor of musicology at Zurich University, settling in Blonay near Lake Geneva.

Other notable works by Hindemith include his Kammermusik series for small, unconventional groups of instruments the Violin Concerto (1939), the Cello Concerto (1940), the Symphonic Metamorphoses After Themes by Carl Maria von Weber (1946), and the opera Die Harmonie der Welt (The Harmony of the World) (1957).

He died on 28 December 1963 in Frankfurt am Main.

BIS Records have just released a very attractive recording of Hindemith’s works for violin. With Frank Peter Zimmermann and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi performing the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1939). Frank Peter Zimmermann also plays the Sonata for solo Violin, Op. 31 No.2 (1924) and in the Sonata in E flat for Violin and Piano op.11 No.1, the Sonata in E for Violin and Piano (1935) and the Sonata in C for Violin and piano (1939) Zimmermann is joined by pianist Enrico Pace

BIS 2024
Quiet timpani open the Mäßig bewegte Halbe of the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra before the violin quickly joins with Frank Peter Zimmermann demonstrating an assured manner as he drives the music forward. In the slower second subject there is playing of great finesse. As the music picks up there are some terrific passages from Zimmermann, full of bravura with Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt RSO on top form. What a lovely tone Zimmermann has as later in the movement he alternates with various woodwind instruments before leading to a brilliant coda.

The soulful Langsam unfolds beautifully in Zimmermann’s hands, with intricate little trills and delicate motifs before becoming increasingly intense. The music eventually returns to a quiet thoughtful nature with some lovely playing from Zimmermann who holds the extended line of the violin with a tense, slow, steady concentration.

Zimmermann and the orchestra bring a lighter feel to the Lebhaft, as though trying to cast off all gloomy thoughts.  This movement is positively skittish at times in its unstoppable forward momentum. The Frankfurt RSO is terrific in the livelier sections for orchestra. The violin returns in a more lyrical section, a lovely moment as the violin rises with the orchestra in a typically Hindemithian sound. The theme is picked over quietly by the violin with various woodwind instruments accompanying. The following cadenza is brilliantly done by Zimmermann, not just virtuosic, which it most certainly is, but thoughtful and delicate as well. The orchestra re-joins leading to a brilliant coda, a real presto, with terrific playing from Zimmermann and the Frankfurt RSO under Jarvi.

Hindemith’s little Sonata for Solo Violin, Op.31, No.2 has a lovely opening Leicht bewegte Viertel with the soloist sounding as though he is merely improvising a little tune. At one point I thought I could even hear Debussy in the music which ends with odd little pizzicato notes. The second movement Ruhig bewegte Achtel is more dramatic, full of harmonic angst with superb playing from Zimmermann, controlled yet virtuosic. The following Gemächliche Viertel is terrific, a fragile little movement played pizzicato throughout. The final Fünf Variationen über das Lied ‘Komm lieber Mai’ von Mozart. Leicht bewegt has a lilting theme from a song by Mozart that is subjected to a series of variations, very much like a study for violin with many virtuosic passages brilliantly played. There are some rhapsodic episodes before the music returns gently to the opening theme.

There is a bold opening from the piano in the Erster Teil. Frisch of the two movement Sonata in E flat for Violin and Piano, Op.11, No. 1 before the violin soon enters, with both performers frantically playing off each other. A longer melody soon follows but despite the lighter aspect of this movement there is occasionally a darker mood, certainly an instability well captured by Zimmermann and Enrico Pace. The opening theme returns at the end.

The second dance like movement Zweiter Teil. Im Zeitmaß eines langsamen, feierlichen Tanzes concentrates on this more sombre atmosphere, Enrico Pace often playing in the lower register to add to the gloom. Harmonically the music is very free. What a fine performance this is.

The Sonata in E for Violin and Piano has a lovely flowing melody in the Ruhig bewegt that rolls along, with the piano taking a fairly equal role. There are lovely resonant chords from Zimmermann and, at times, it is as though there is a conversation between the soloists. The second movement Langsam reveals a more passion melody, with Zimmermann displaying some fine textures. Part way through the music suddenly moves to a faster tempo, hurtling along, with Zimmermann and Pace a brilliant partnership. The music slows again towards the end before a decisive coda.

Hindemith’s Sonata in C for Violin and Piano (1939) that preceded his Violin Concerto by a few months, is one of his finest works. The lively Lebhaft opening moves ahead with great drive before the nostalgic flowing second movement Langsam – Lebhaft – Langsam, wie zuerst, which eventually gives way to the livelier Lebhaft section that really dances along. Zimmermann controls his dynamics so wonderfully and imperceptibly. The music finally returns to a slower tempo, beautifully controlled, where the faster theme blends with the slower theme to bring this movement to an end. The Fuge. Ruhig bewegt has a terrific fugal melody where both artists brilliantly weave around each other rising to a passionate central point before slowing and quietening again. The music eventually rises to a decisive, rousing coda to end this masterly sonata.

It is entrancing how much Hindemith is able to say in these relatively short sonatas. I still retain an affection for David Oistrakh’s 1962 recording of the Violin Concerto with the USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra under Gennady Rozhdestvensky but with these fine performances recorded in such excellent sound this new release is a must for those who wish to get to know this still somewhat overlooked composer.