Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Violinist, Adam Kostecki, directs the Polish Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra in brilliantly played performances of two violin concertos by Jacques Loussier on a new release from Naxos

The French pianist and composer, Jacques Loussier (b.1934) www.loussier.com started piano lessons aged ten, soon discovering the music of Bach for whom he developed a lifelong passion. He began composing music while studying at the Conservatoire National de Musique, under Professor Yves Nat.

After six years' study, he left to travel the world, where he experienced sounds of the Middle East, Latin America, and Cuba, where he spent one year. In 1959 he formed the Jacques Loussier Trio with legendary string bass player Pierre Michelot and percussionist Christian Garros. They used Bach's compositions as the basis for jazz improvisations, making many concerts, tours and recordings.

Loussier continued to compose, writing over sixty soundtracks for films and television series. In 1978, the trio was dissolved with Loussier setting up his own recording studio in Provence, where he worked on compositions for acoustic and electric instruments. He also worked with musicians like Pink Floyd, Elton John, Sting, and Yes. In 1985, Loussier reformed the Jacques Loussier Trio for the 300 anniversary of Bach’s birth this time with new members, double bassist Vincent Charbonnier and percussionist André Arpino, with the bassist Benoit Dunoyer De Segonzac sometimes replacing Charbonnier. More recent recordings have included interpretations of compositions by Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Antonio Vivaldi, and Robert Schumann. A 2005 recording entitled Take Bach, made by the trio along with the Pekinel sisters, features adaptations of Bach's concertos for two and three pianos.

Loussier’s compositions include a Mass Lumières (1986), a suite for strings Tableaux vénetiéns, a ballet Trois Coulers (1989) a trumpet concerto and two violin concertos.

It is world premiere recordings of the two violin concertos that appear on a new release from Naxos www.naxos.com , in time for Loussier’s 80th birthday this year. 


Violinist Adam Kostecki www.adamkostecki.de directs the Polish Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra www.konzertdirektion.de/en/orchestras/polish-chamber-philharmonic-orchestra.html  with percussionist, Piotr Iwicki in the two concertos and is joined by pianist, Gunther Hauer for the coupling on this disc, Paderewski’s Sonata in A minor for Violin and Piano, op.13.

The first question that might arise is whether there are any hints of Bach to be found in this music. The answer is no but there are plenty of jazz inspired moments.

Loussier’s Concerto No.1 for Violin and percussion (1987-88) is in four movements and is scored for groups of woodwind, brass, strings and partially improvised percussion.

At the opening of the first movement, Prague the orchestra jumps straight in with a syncopated rhythm, which the soloist soon joins. The solo violin soon broadens the theme and allows it to flow whilst the orchestra and percussion provide a rhythmic base. Loussier never lets the momentum drop providing some terrific moments for the soloist, freely expressive and becoming ever more jazz influenced as the soloist plays against a variety of percussion, with both sounding improvised. Adam Kostecki plays brilliantly whilst directing the orchestra.

Shimmering strings open L’homme nu against which the soloist enters in a lovely melody in which the orchestra soon joins. There is quite an outpouring of feeling before the sudden close.

Buenos Aires Tango opens with the orchestra playing a tango rhythm which the solo violin joins, flowing around, sometimes joining the rhythm, sometimes soaring above before concluding with a short high note.

The orchestra opens with percussion in the quiet, atmospheric opening of Tokyo. Soon the soloist plays a number of chords that slowly lead to a rhythmic theme to which the orchestra respond. The soloist brings a jazz style to his playing, again sounding as though improvised, with the orchestra and percussion providing a rhythmic backdrop and almost giving the sound of a small jazz group. The music drops to drumming out of which the orchestra rises and the violin joins. There is a short section for the soloist and percussionist before a decisive coda.

This concerto will appeal to many for its directness of utterance and jazz influenced style brilliantly played by Kostecki, Iwicki and the Polish Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra.

The much more recent Concerto No.2 for Violin and Tabla (2006) was commissioned by the Menuhin Festival and, perhaps as an acknowledgement of Menuhin’s interest in Indian music, features a tabla (small Indian hand drum).

There is an incisive orchestral opening to Movement I soon joined by the tabla, then violin, in a decidedly rhythmic theme with little upward swoops in the orchestra. There is also something of a Latin American feel. Soon the violin brings a real swing to the theme with the tabla and orchestra joining in.

Movement II brings a hushed orchestral opening as the orchestra washes around. Soon the orchestra brings a rhythmic orchestral motif, joined by the soloist who plays a flowing, wistful melody over the rhythmic pulse of the orchestra. Eventually the soloist develops a more rhythmic element as jazz inflections appear with the orchestra providing some interesting textures before they move off with the soloist in a more flowing section.

The Cadenza starts tentatively, working over the material before developing with some upward flourishes before the orchestra joins to lead straight into Movement III a frantic movement, much in the style of Hungarian gypsy music with Kostecki displaying some breathtaking playing.

This concerto is a definite showpiece for the soloist played here with terrific panache and with a fine contribution from the Polish Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra as well as Piotr Iwicki (tabla).

Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s (1860-1941) Violin Sonata makes an unusual but interesting coupling from a composer known for his virtuoso skills as a pianist as well as being Prime Minister of Poland in 1919.

In the Sonata in A minor for Violin and Piano, op.13 (1882) violinist Adam Kostecki is joined by pianist Gunther Hauer.

The piano opens the Allegro con fantasia in a rippling, fast moving theme to which the violin soon joins with a more flowing melody that soon builds in passion and texture. Soon a slower, gentler section arrives before a rhythmic second subject makes an appearance. The opening theme returns for the soloist over the fast moving, rippling piano motif and, after a repeat of the rhythmic second subject, both themes are freely developed in a section often rhapsodic in character. Kostecki provides some fine playing, often with exquisite sensitivity. Gunther Hauer provides adept accompaniment, often virtuosic in his own right, before the subdued coda.

The violin opens the Intermezzo: Andantino with a melancholy theme where the two instrumentalists respond to each other. Soon a more extended melody appears with some longer piano phrases and some beautifully passionate violin passages before leading to a lovely coda.

The Finale: Allegro molto quasi presto opens full of energy but soon falls to a gentler, flowing section. Soon the energetic theme returns, alternating with the gentler theme. Paderewski develops his material, allowing the piano to take the main theme against a pizzicato violin as the music heads forward, full of energy, with some extremely fine playing form Kostecki and Hauer, concluding with an energetic coda.

This is an attractive rarity that receives a very fine performance.

The recordings, from two venues, are very fine and there are informative booklet notes.

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