Thursday 31 March 2016

A very fine selection of Nielsen’s often neglected songs brings together Denmark’s finest national choirs on a new release from Dacapo

Amongst Carl Nielsen’s 1865-1931) range of compositions that include operas, orchestral works including the six symphonies, chamber works, instrumental and piano works, he wrote around 300 songs.

Dacapo Records  have just released a recording of twenty five choral versions of the most popular of these songs performed by the Danish National Vocal Ensemble  and the Danish National Concert Choir  conducted by Michael Schønwandt , the Danish National Girls Choir conducted by Phillip Faber  and the Danish National Junior Choir  and Danish National Children's Choir  conducted by Susanne Wendt


Entitled simply Carl Nielsen sung by the Danish National Choirs, this new disc brings some of Nielsen’s best known songs alongside rare and unknown works, setting a wide range of texts.

The Danish National Vocal Ensemble conducted by Michael Schønwandt brings  a finely blended texture to Der er et yndigt land (A fair and lovely land), CNW 351 (1924) in the version for mixed choir, a direct and finely shaped piece intended as a new national anthem.
In Hjemve (Underlige aftenlufte!) (Homesickness: ‘Odd and unknown evening breezes’), CNW 205 (1924) (version for mixed choir) they bring a wonderful sense of nostalgia finding some beautifully controlled moments with just the right blend of intensity and quieter calm.

From To skolesange (Two School Songs) (1929) we hear Blomsterstøv fra blomsterbæger (Flower pollen from profusion), CNW 343 (for mixed choir) which moves ahead with a lovely rhythm, this fine choir bringing a really good blend of vocal textures.

Sidskensang (Du er, min tro, en underlig pog) (Siskin Song: ’You are, in truth, a curious pet’), CNW 348 (1906) (for choir SSAT) brings some especially fine part writing to which these singers give the most impressive performance, finding their way around some fast moving intricacies. Superbly sung.  
There is a lovely gentle flow in the Serenade (Gerne vi lytter, når strængene bringer) (Serenade: ’Gladly we listen when music may carry’), CNW 349 (1907) (for mixed choir) with a very fine layering of voices and contrasting faster passages that recall the preceding song. A most fine song indeed.

Jeg bærer med smil min byrde (I take with a smile my burden), CNW 212 (1924)
(version for mixed choir) has a fine rhythmic buoyancy that carries it along, nicely pointed up the Danish National Vocal Ensemble,  with a lovely coda.

Kom, Gudsengel, stille død (Come, God’s angel, silent Death), CNW 350 (1907)
(for choir ATB) opens on the upper voices bringing an exquisite effect as the song weaves its way forward, the lower voices adding a fine texture. This is a wonderful setting with quite lovely harmonies, beautifully sung.   

The second of the To skolesange (Two School Songs) (1929) is a fast, rhythmically pointed Nu er for stakket tid forbi (It’s over for a short respite), CNW 344 (for mixed choir) to which this choir bring a real lightness of touch with a lovely slower central section.

The male voices of the Danish National Vocal Ensemble bring Det bødes der for i lange år (You suffer throughout an age of pain), CNW 357 (1887) providing a fine blend of timbres in this more sombre setting that these singers, nevertheless, keep moving at a fine pace.

Aftenstemning (Alt skoven sig fordunkler) (Evening: The woods are dimly listening), CNW 359 is heard here in a quite beautiful setting for male voices, finely controlled and shaped, extracting the full feeling from the texts.

The male voices bring a beautifully nuanced performance of Påskeliljen (Påskeblomst! en dråbe stærk) (The Daffodil: ‘Easter bloom! A potent drink’), CNW 361 (1910) with a hymn like feel, often with a lovely restraint.
It is the Danish National Children's Choir conducted by Susanne Wendt that bring us Barnets sang (Kom, i dag må alle synge) (Children’s Song: ‘Come today and join the chorus’), CNW 301 (1905) (for children’s choir), a joyful song with some very fine sonorities and harmonies.

Susanne Wendt also directs the Danish National Junior Choir in Grøn er vårens hæk (Springtime hedge is green), CNW 268 (for children’s choir) where these young singers expertly weave some lovely vocal lines.

Jeg ved en lærkerede (Two larks in love have nested), CNW 262 (1924) (for children’s choir) brings back the Danish National Children's Choir in a slow moving setting, achieving fine accuracy and a lovely harmony.

The Junior Choir bring a lovely gentle flow to Solen er så rød, mor (Look! the sun is red, mum), CNW 263 (1924) (for children’s choir) with these young singers bringing a lovely lilt.

Michael Schønwandt directs the Danish National Concert Choir for Sangen til Danmark (Som en rejselysten flåde) (The Song to Denmark: ’There’s a fleet of floating islands’), CNW 237 (1920) (version for mixed choir) who rise up with a very fine choral texture, finely controlled, finding many fine nuances.

There are two pieces from an Arrangement of Kantate ved Aarhus Landsudstillings åbningshøjtidelighed 1909 (Cantata for the Opening Ceremony of the National Exhibition in Aarhus 1909) (1913) for mixed choir. Danmark, du kornblonde datter (Denmark, ye corn-golden daughter), CNW 342 the National Concert Choir bringing some fine harmonies and textures, rising to some powerful moments and Skummende lå havet (Foaming high, the waters rushed heavily ashore), CNW 341 where the choir bring much fine energy and agility as well as finely controlled dynamics.

The male voices of the Danish National Concert Choir bring a lovely rich blend of textures to the often stirring Fædrelandssang (Du danske mand! af al din magt) (Danish Patriotic Song: ’Sing, Danish man! With all your might’), CNW 288 (1906). These male voices also bring great character to the light hearted Til snapsen i ‘Bel Canto’ (Endskønt jeg ganske sikkert ved) (To the Schnapps in ‘Bel Canto’: Although I’m more convinced than not’), CNW 360 (1909) before bringing fine sonorities to the patriotic Den danske sang er en ung, blond pige (The Danish song is a fair young maiden), CNW 271 (1926/27).

The Danish National Girls’ Choir is conducted by Phillip Faber in the quite lovely Nu sol i øst oprinder mild (Now sun arises in the East), CNW 186 (1914) (version for girls’ choir), finding a lovely clear tone and fine harmonies. They are quite exquisite in Jeg lægger mig så trygt til ro (In peace, I lay me down to sleep), CNW 269 (1924) a slower gentler setting.  
Hjemve (Underlige aftenlufte!) (Homesickness: ‘Odd and unknown evening breezes’), CNW 205 (1924) for girls’ choir is equally lovely with this impressive choir finding just the right restraint and, indeed, nuances.
The Danish National Girls’ Choir bring a lovely flow to the final song, Der er et yndigt land (A fair and lovely land), CNW 351 (1924) (version for girls’ choir) again with fine sonorities and harmonies and a real transparency of tone, a beautifully shaped performance. 

This is a very fine selection of Nielsen’s often neglected songs bringing together Denmark’s finest national choirs. They are beautifully recorded in the fine acoustic of the Garnisons Church, Copenhagen, Denmark and there are informative booklet notes together with full Danish texts and English translations. 

Wednesday 30 March 2016

The Dallas Opera are accepting applications for The Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors

The Classical Reviewer is pleased to support The Dallas Opera who are accepting applications for The Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera.

Female conductors, as well as accomplished women singers, opera coaches and accompanists, and instrumentalists with established careers seeking a new career at the podium are encouraged to apply for their next Institute for Women Conductors.

The application deadline is April 22nd 2016.

Expanded 2016 Program: Nov. 26 – Dec. 11, 2016

The Dallas Opera seeks to create new opportunities for talented young women conductors making their mark in the field of opera.

Additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,
TACA Bowden & Embrey Family Foundations Artist Residency Fund and the Richard and Enika Schulze Foundation 

For more information and to apply please go to:

An attractive release from Metier that brings some impressive contemporary Irish piano trios played by The Fidelio Trio

A new release from Metier  entitled Dancing in Daylight brings together piano trios from four contemporary Irish composers, John Buckley, Fergus Johnston, Rhona Clarke and Seóirse Bodley all played by The Fidelio Trio

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John Buckley (b. 1951) was born in Templeglantine, Co. Limerick and studied flute with Doris Keogh and composition with James Wilson at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. His subsequent composition studies were in Cardiff with the Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott and with John Cage.

He has written a diverse range of music extending to almost 100 works to date ranging from works for solo instruments to full orchestra. Buckley's works have been performed and broadcast in more than fifty countries worldwide and have been recorded on the Anew, Altarus, Black Box, Marco Polo, Lyric FM, Atoll and Celestial Harmonies labels. He has made numerous broadcasts on music and music education for RTÉ and Lyric FM.

He has been awarded both a PhD and a DMus by the National University of Ireland and is active as a lecturer on composition and music in education. He is on the staff of St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin.

In three movements, his Piano Trio (2013) opens with Shadows and Echoes that commences with a long held low cello note before violin and piano join, expanding a motif which they all then develop. This is certainly music that reflects fleeting and elusive images with translucent textures from the piano and violin through which the cello brings richer melodic material. The music grows more animated before finding a beautifully textured quite coda.
In Kaleidoscope the piano opens with a fast moving animated theme to which the strings join, full of energy and buoyant pulsating rhythms. This is a brilliantly conceived movement.

It is the piano that opens the final movement Music Box, this time with a gently expansive motif. The strings join to take the theme forward, adding richer textures and bringing more of a focus. There are passages of passionate expression as the music develops. Soon there is a pause before an opening motif for piano returns to which the cello adds a rich deep tone. The violin joins as they weave the theme over the piano motif, building again in passion. There is another brief pause before the strings gently take the theme forward with the piano adding its gentle motif.  The strings bring the most lovely, exquisitely played passages around which the expansive piano motif is trickled before a lovely coda.

Fergus Johnston (b. 1959)  was born in Dublin and is a music graduate of Trinity College Dublin. He studied composition with James Wilson at the Royal Irish Academy of Music and later privately with the English composer Robert Hanson. While his output is mostly instrumental, he has recently ventured into the area of computer-assisted music having taken a Masters in Music and Media Technology in Trinity College Dublin. He is a recipient of the 1989 New Music for Sligo Composition Prize and the 1989 Macaulay Fellowship. He is a member of Aosdána, Ireland's state-sponsored academy of creative artists.

In three movements his Piano Trio (2011) is opened by the piano, immediately joined by the strings in a dark, questioning motif. The music slowly rises only for the piano to bring back the opening motif which the strings develop through some tremendous passages full of drama and fine textures, with the piano’s opening motif never far away.  There are some lovely hushed harmonics in the coda.

The Fidelio Trio open the following movement dynamically with a fast moving rhythmic theme full of blues inflected ideas to which these players bring a terrific style and panache. The music moves through passages of great energy before finding a tango rhythm, the strings adding some terrific wayward textures. The boogie rhythm of earlier returns in the piano line, taken forward by the whole trio with the strings weaving some terrific lines around the piano. But the tango suddenly returns to bring about the coda.

In the finale the piano picks out a theme accompanied by a pizzicato cello theme. The violin joins the pizzicato theme before the cello brings a poignant melody over the piano and pizzicato violin. The violin then takes the theme around the cello in a quite lovely passage, the piano all the while adding chords before slowly joining the melody. This movement achieves moments of intense feeling with, later, a lovely passage where the strings bring a questioning, hesitant motif reflecting the opening movement as the coda is reached.

Rhona Clarke (b.1958) studied music at University College, Dublin before completing a Ph.D at Queen’s University, Belfast. Her output includes choral, chamber, orchestral and electronic works. She has received commissions from RTÉ, the Cork International Choral Festival, Concorde, Music Network and the National Concert Hall, among others and her work has been performed and broadcast throughout Ireland and worldwide. She is a lecturer in the music department at St. Patrick's College in Drumcondra (Dublin) and is a member of Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored academy of creative artists.

Her two movement Piano Trio No.2 (2001 rev. 2015) opens with slow, broadly spaced phrases for the piano to which the violin adds a plaintive theme, later joined by the cello to weave the beautiful theme. There are some lovely harmonies and sonorities with, all the while, the piano’s broad spaced chords underpinning. The music rises through some passionate moments before the hushed coda.

The cello brings a rhythmically sprung theme low in its register to open the concluding movement to which the violin, then piano joins.  These players realise some terrific rhythms, weaving some fine passages before the music drops to a slower quieter passage as a broader, more leisurely section arrives. These players weave some very fine textures and harmonies whilst revealing some lovely little details before the music finds the opening rhythm to bound ahead again, arriving with pizzicato strings at a slower quieter coda.

Seóirse Bodley (b.1933) was born in Dublin in 1933 and studied in Ireland and Germany before teaching at University College Dublin where he was awarded the degree of D. Mus. He is currently Emeritus Professor at University College’s music department.

Influences on his compositions include a range of musical styles from the European avant-garde to Irish traditional music. He has received many commissions and his works include five symphonies for full orchestra, two chamber symphonies and numerous orchestral, choral, vocal and chamber pieces. In 2008 he was elected a Saoi of Aosdána, Ireland’s state-sponsored academy of creative artists.

In three movements his Piano Trio Dancing in Daylight (2014) opens with a dynamic motif for piano before the strings add incisive phrases leading into some lovely little ideas before the opening is repeated. We are taken through a kaleidoscope of instrumental ideas and textures. There is a joyful, dancing character to this music, with an outdoors feel. The music moves through some more thoughtful passages where these players find much beauty. There are lovely textures and harmonies before the gentle, hushed coda.

In the shorter second movement the trio bring a light, buoyant theme that is passed around the players – a real delight.

The final movement opens slowly as the violin brings an Irish lilt to a melody played over a cello ‘drone.’  The violin weaves some fine Irish tunes before the music springs into a sparkling dance for all three players. There are some broader moments as the theme develops, finding again the outdoor flavour of earlier before the piano introduces a slower variation of the theme around which the strings scatter little phrases. The lively dance returns to lead to the coda. 

These players deliver the most impressive performances of these fine works. The recording made at the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast is excellent and there are informative booklet notes.

This is an attractive release that brings some impressive contemporary piano trios. 

Tuesday 29 March 2016

A very desirable Bruckner Ninth on RCO Live from Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, one of the finest partnerships around today

During the last years of his life Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) struggled to complete his Symphony No. 9 in D minor. He was not in good health and had spent a good deal of time revising earlier works. He wrote to the conductor Hermann Levi on 10th February 1891 that he was resuming work on his new symphony. A calendar entry for 24th May 1895 records that he commenced work on the finale. A bout of pneumonia slowed progress but the composer worked on the finale right up to the morning of the day that he died. He left 200 folios containing anything from fragmentary sketches to fully orchestrated passages.

During his last days Bruckner stated that, if he was not allowed time to finish the symphony then his Te Deum should be substituted for the finale. In recent times there have been performing versions prepared of the finale resulting in performances of a ‘complete’ symphony, most notably the recording by Simon Rattle and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for EMI in 2012.

However, since Ferdinand Löwe’s premiere of the first three movements of the symphony in Vienna in 1903 it has always been performed without a finale, standing just as it is, as a fine testament to this composer.

A recording of a live performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No.9 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  under their Chief Conductor, Mariss Jansons has just been released by RCO Live

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Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra bring a wonderfully hushed, pensive opening to the first movement Feierlich: Misterioso before rising in the brass over quivering strings. Jansons takes tremendous care as he slowly develops the music with fine phrasing and control of dynamics, building to the first climax that receives a terrific weight and authority, the tempi always held in check. There is a lovely light touch to the pizzicato strings and flowing string passages that retain a pensive quality. This conductor provides the most exquisite control of dynamics, shaping this music so well. He can certainly push the music forward when needed, though retaining a great subtlety. There are some beautifully phrased moments that lead to grand peaks and later the music races forward to some spectacularly fine outbursts with terrific playing from the orchestra. Jansons knows just how to build to these moments. Later there are passages that bring such a depth of feeling after the climaxes have passed. The music builds naturally again to a fine climax topped off by the brass of the RCO before the most finely textured lead up to the coda, full of the most impressive of Bruckner’s harmonies and a coda full of weight and grandeur.

Jansons’ lightness of touch is revealed again in the fleet, beautifully paced Scherzo: Bewegt, lebhaft – Trio. Schnell, with all due weight given to the striding chords that follow. He exposes the dramatic rhythms and fine harmonies beautifully and is not afraid to let go whilst always maintaining a finely control. There is a wonderfully fleet and clear textured Trio section with some beautifully shaped phrases. When the main theme returns, the pizzicato strings contrast wonderfully with the dramatic striding passages that follow. Jansons brings a really Austrian rustic feel to some of the fleet dancing passages with a jollity that is often missed, providing a real contrast with the drama elsewhere.

There is an exquisitely shaped opening to the Adagio. Langsam feierlich as Jansons increases the emotion by subtly holding back. The music rises to peaks of luminous grandeur through the most finely paced passages, always holding a fine tempo. The strings of the RCO are really very fine in the flowing passages and there are many fine woodwind and brass passages. Jansons reveals moments of the most exquisite detail and when the music suddenly pushes ahead the effect is stunning. He builds the rising passages with a fine drama and control, highlighting some of Bruckner’s lovely little details, to a magnificent final climax hitting a subtle discord, before quietening for a gently glowing coda, and what a coda to end on.

Mariss Jansons very much takes the long view, building architecturally throughout. He reveals many fine harmonies, rhythms and details in this terrific performance.

Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra receive an excellent live recording from the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, full of depth. Applause is excised. There are informative booklet notes. 

This is a very desirable release from one of the finest partnerships around today.  

Naxos’ World Premiere Recordings of Francis Chagrin’s two symphonies performed by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra reveal a composer with distinctive ideas and fine orchestration

British composer Francis Chagrin (1905-1972) was born Alexander Paucker in Bucharest, Rumania. He left his country to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Paul Dukas. It was in Paris that he adopted the name Francis Chagrin (translating as grief, sorrow or unhappiness) reflecting his sadness over his failed marriage and disinheritance by his family for pursuing a career in music.

Chagrin arrived in Britain in 1936 where he married again and had two children. He founded the Society for the Promotion of New Music. His own compositions include some 200 film scores as well as songs and orchestral works.

Of his orchestral works there are two symphonies that range across his working life in Britain. These two works now receive their World Premiere Recordings on a new release form Naxos featuring the BBC Symphony Orchestra  conducted by Martyn Brabbins

Symphony No.1 (1946-59, rev. 1965) opens ponderously with a Largo in the lower orchestra before rising up into the energetic Allegro, striding forward in broad strokes with a colourful use of brass. Full of breadth and power, it finds its way through passages of varying tempo and drama, later falling to a wistful passage for woodwind over pulsating strings before picking up momentum to lead energetically to the coda that just seems to stop.

The second movement Largo emerges from the basses to reveal a slow, dark theme, full of broad shifting harmonies. There are some lovely woodwind passages before the music suddenly rises in a dramatic, passionate section. There is a brief moment where a solo violin weaves a plaintive theme as well as many individual instrumental details as the music finds its way slowly ahead. Often there is the feel of a heavy burden behind the music. Later, brass raise the music up through a glorious passage, before woodwind take the theme forward, finding a quite affecting sense of grief.

The Presto scherzando opens purposefully with a rising motif that swirls around the orchestra, finding moments of lighter mood in between the drama. The rising theme continually returns before the music reaches a climax. Later there is a slow, delicate woodwind passage that precedes a slower romantic string section, but it is the predominate rising motif that takes the music to the coda.

The Allegro brings a fast moving, dancing staccato theme for woodwind and strings that rises through some striding passages before another rising motif is heard. The woodwind and brass take the dancing theme forward bringing a passage of tremendous forward movement. Soon there is a dark rather menacing passage that slowly expands, leading to the return of the opening theme. The music reaches a peak before falling to a rather reflective moment soon overtaken by percussion and timpani. A harp plays a descending figuration as the strings find the more settled coda.

This is an attractive work that brings a great sense of breadth and freedom.

Symphony No.2 (1965-1971) opens with an aggressive, strident Allegro that soon reduces in thrust as various instrumental ideas are introduced. Chagrin creates some rather magical colours and textures before the music rises again, moving through many varying ideas as the theme is taken forward with further fine orchestral textures. Later the opening stridency returns as drums enter to add to the drama, yet the music has a heavy weight that seems to drag the strident theme down. After reaching a peak of dynamics the music quietens, yet the faster strident theme can be heard in the distance. There are more colourful orchestral textures before the music finds a huge climax after which the music strides to the thundering coda – a moment of tremendous power and drive, offset by moments of beautiful textures.

After the increasingly powerful allegro, the Molto lento opens slowly with orchestral instruments slowly blossoming, first the woodwind, then strings, then brass and then strings again before the woodwind move the music ahead a little. The orchestral blossomings return but again the orchestra tries to lead the music forward in a little theme. There is always a sense of underlying tension in this really distinctive movement. Later the music finds a forward movement as it rises in passion but the opening motif always returns, though now with increased drama. Towards the end there are moments of beautifully translucent orchestration before finding the quieter coda.

Scherzo (Presto) brings a light, good natured theme for woodwind to which brass join, bringing a slight dissonance. Chagrin brings more of his distinctive and finely coloured orchestration and fine textures before the music darts ahead in some more strident passages echoed by gentler responses.

The Andante opens with a repeated rhythmic motif for orchestra before a lighter textured variation arrives. The music moves through a chordal passage of increasing fervour and dynamics before more of Chagrin’s by now familiar little rising sequences. This composer brings many subtleties as he slowly develops his theme, rising to a climax before regaining the original rhythmic motif. There are moments of lighter, less intense music before reaching a broader climatic section before the main rhythmic theme brings about a terrific climax to conclude.  

This is a terrific symphony from a composer with distinctive ideas and fine orchestration. 

Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra provide first rate performances. They receive an excellent recording from the BBC’s Maida Vale Studio 1, London and there are useful and informative booklet notes.

Monday 28 March 2016

Playing of astounding brilliance from Piers Adams and David Wright on their new disc for Red Priest Recordings, Wild Men of the Seicento

Red Priest Recordings  have just released a terrific new recording featuring recorder player, Piers Adams and harpsichordist/organist, David Wright of works by a diverse collection of 17th century composers who often pushed the boundaries of musical ideas.

Entitled Wild Men of the Seicento – or the sixteen hundreds – this new disc opens with the Bohemian virtuoso violinist and arch innovator, Heinrich Biber’s (1644-1704) Sonata No.3. David Wright provides a wonderfully florid opening for harpsichord to which Piers Adams adds some sumptuous recorder sounds, weaving beautifully and freely around the harpsichord line in the most virtuosic style with which we have come to expect from him. There are moments of terrific rhythmic bounce as well as the most brilliant fast, intricate passages of astounding brilliance in this ever changing sonata. Wright brings playing of terrific panache with passages of fine breadth as well as restrained poise.  Adams achieves some lovely sonorities in the longer, slower phrases before a fast and furious, mad rush to the coda.  

The Italian maestro di cappella at Modena Cathedral, Marco Uccellini (1603-1680) is a much lesser known figure. David Wright brings a rather dark and solemn opening to his Sonata Nona with Adams soon adding a slow, mellifluous dark hued theme weaving beautifully around the organ part with some terrific decorations.

The Italian composer and lutenist Andrea Falconieri (c. 1585-1656) also worked in Modena as well as Parma and Genoa. In four movements, Wright brings a well sprung harpsichord opening to the Brando Dicho El Melo of his Dance Suite before Adams joins to dance forward in this joyous section, the two creating some lovely harmonies. Both players lead forward in the slower Corrente Dicha La Cuella, a most lovely piece that, although not English, has a kind of Elizabethan charm. Il Spiritillo Brando has a stomping good tune, rhythmically pointed as it races quickly ahead with fabulous playing from both these artists. Brando Dicho El Melo (reprise) gains in tempo as it moves into a return of the opening.

The French composer, Jean-Henri d'Anglebert (1629-1691) was harpsichordist to King Louis XIV. David Wright brings us his Prelude in G minor for harpsichord with a slow, broad opening beautifully laid out, finding some wonderful sonorities and harmonies as the piece develops.

The Italian composer and violinist Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi Mealli (c.1630-1670) was employed in the Spanish Chapel Royale.  Piers Adams brings a lovely wavering theme to open his Sonata 'La Cesta' over David Wright’s broad rippling textures. The music rises through some terrific passages before increasing, with Adams bringing more finely fluent and agile playing. Midway there is a slow moment for harpsichord that introduces a melancholy theme that is taken up by the recorder – quite beautiful – before soon gaining momentum to race forward with some fabulously intricate playing to a florid coda.

Jacob van Eyck (1590-1657) was a Dutch carillonist and composer working in Utrecht. His Boffons brings a nicely pointed, staccato recorder line over an organ drone that develops its own rhythm. Adams develops the theme with intricate decorations, quite wonderfully played, with incredible dexterity and fluency.

The English composer John Bull (c.1563-1628) was one of the leading keyboard virtuosos of his time. His Fantasia in D minor for harpsichord opens with a series of three note motifs that seem to predict the opening of Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor but immediately develops its own way through some richly built sonorities. It develops some fine passages, full of freely developed invention with Wright building some terrific passages with supreme fluency and panache – wonderfully done.

The Spanish composer Bartolomeo de Selma y Salaverde (1570-1638) is represented by his Canzona Seconda opened by Wright who is very soon joined by Adams in a perky theme that occasionally finds a more reflective moment. It develops some incredibly fluent, intricate passages for recorder that are nothing short of remarkable in the hands of Adams.

Giovanni Battista Fontana (d. 1630) was an Italian composer and violinist who left an important collection of sonatas. There is a slow opening for recorder and organ to his Sonata Seconda with Adams adding lovely embellishments and bringing lovely sonorities. There is some fine accompaniment from Wright occasionally echoing the recorder line as the music moves through some varying passages often faster and rhythmic to a beautifully turned coda.

David Wright brings another Fantasia by John Bul, this time his Fantasia in A minor for harpsichord that has a slow, broad opening, gently and slowly revealing the theme with some lovely harmonies.  

The Italian composer and wind player, Dario Castello (c.1590 - c.1658) is believed to have worked in Venice in the early part of the 17th century. His Sonata Seconda opens with a quizzical little theme for harpsichord before the recorder joins and the music moves ahead with some faster bursts played with fine dexterity by both these players. Their ensemble is quite superb as the music moves through some fast and intricate passages full of joy and energy. Part way the harpsichord heralds a slower, broader section with these two creating fine textures before building through some elaborate passages to the coda.

The Italian composer and violinist Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) is probably one of the best known names here. His Sonata in C major Op.5 No.3 opens with a finely shaped Adagio that slowly builds through some wonderfully fluent passages to the lovely coda. There is razor sharp phrasing in the energetic Allegro, superbly handled by both these players with some fine flourishes from Adams - superbly done. The broad and flowing Adagio brings more fine decorations with little touches from Adams that lifts the music. There is terrific fast intricate phrasing from Adams in the brief Allegro that leaves one quite breathless before a Giga that has a fine rhythmic bounce, moving through some terrific passages to the slower coda.

Make no mistake, for all the fun and good humour in these terrific performances there is musicianship of a high order. With a first rate recording this is a stunning disc.

See also:

Thursday 24 March 2016

Osmosis is an enterprising new release from Tafahum Records of music by Benjamin Ellin and Louai Alhenawi that brings a seamless and intuitive blending of Western and Arabic traditions

Tafahum  is a new, vibrant and first class fusion group bringing together a core of outstanding, classically trained Eastern and Western musicians led by both critically acclaimed British conductor and composer Benjamin Ellin alongside Syrian born Ney (Middle Eastern flute) soloist Louai Alhenawi .

Tafahum unites composers, performers and audiences in repertoire that features new works, adaptations of traditional folk music and cross genre collaborations between other musical groups as well as other art forms.

The birth of Tafahum (Arabic for ‘understanding’) came from a chance meeting between Ellin and Alhenawi. An invitation to initially present Middle Eastern music workshops at Pembroke Academy of Music in Walworth, London has developed into an expansive collaborative artistic vision. Tafahum mirrors the desire of both Alhenawi and Ellin to learn about each other’s musical traditions, backgrounds and heritage in order to create imaginative, bold and exciting projects that unite under the auspices of art and people.

The members of Tafahum are Benjamin Ellin (composer and conductor), Louai Alhenawi (composer, ney and percussion), Murat Yildirim (saz), Hend Zouari (qanun), Tadasuke Iijima and Jemima Clarke (violins), Brooke Day (viola), Adam Higgs (bass), Heidi Parsons (cello), Gareth McLearnon (flutes and pipes), Charly Jolly (clarinets), Mark Bennett (French horn), Christopher Mundy (piano) and Catherine Ring (percussion).

Now from Tafahum Records comes a new release of works by Benjamin Ellin and Louai Alhenawi entitled Osmosis all performed by Tafahum.

Benjamin Ellin’s Wiladah springs into life with some wonderfully exotic sounds and harmonies yet with a grounding in the Western tradition. There are some great individual sounds from the various instruments particularly the Qanun (a kind of zither). The music moves through mellower, more gently flowing passages where these players create very fine colours and textures, always retaining an underlying rhythmic pulse. Part way there is a striking passage for piano and percussion before the ensemble build the music through some very finely woven passages to the conclusion.

Loulou is another composition by Benjamin Ellin that opens with a lovely theme, delicately harmonised before an Arabic flute emerges. This simple little passage is soon pointed up by drums as the strings join to bring a rich harmony with a subtly Arabic flavour. They move through some gloriously textured passages sometimes quite delicately phrased before picking up a rhythm with the French horn adding its sonority to lead to a gentle coda.

Louai Alhenawi’s Samai Chromatic opens with pizzicato strings before a curiously flowing blend of Western and Arabic styles moves ahead, bringing some ideas that are most engaging, often entertaining in the rhythmically phrased passages. There is a very fine blend of textures and sonorities as well as some lovely little wind phrases before the music finds a syncopated rhythm as the music speeds to the coda.

Drums open Benjamin Ellin’s Tim’s Fair before a riot of instrumental ideas arrives, full of energy. Soon the strings bring a rather folksy theme underneath to which the drums keep a rhythm before the entire ensemble join to add a fuller texture. An Arabic string theme appears, as does a flute idea. When the whole ensemble returns to take the music ahead, the horn comes in over them in as terrific passage. The music quietens to a slow gently shifting passage that reduces at times to just piano and gentle percussion. The slower shifting harmonies continue, with Ellin giving us the most lovely Arabic touches before the music fades in the coda.

Louai Alhenawi’s Sufi Mood opens slowly with an Arabic string motif over a held string chord. Soon a rhythmic motif appears over which a longer breathed theme for horn flows. As the ensemble come together Alhenawi develops a terrific blend of sounds, quite beguiling, building through some particularly strong passages full of fine Arabic influenced ideas.

Benjamin Ellin’s Three Fishes Laughing opens on a long held violin note that rises and falls over which the piano soon adds a motif. Eventually all the ensemble joins in the theme with the strings continuing to bring surges of the longer held line. Drums and percussion add a rhythm as a flute idea emerges and we are led through passages of the most exquisite sonorities and colours, effused with subtle melodic Arabic themes. It is a gentle long held string phrase that leads to the coda.

The piano opens Benjamin Ellin’s Crossing Green in a jaunty repeated idea to which abrasive textures are added by the strings. The music slowly increases in tempo and dynamics as the whole ensemble take the repeated theme forward, adding new textures and ideas on the way. Soon the music quietens as a flute appears with a theme. We are taken through some very fine passages with the most attractive blends of instrumental sounds. Offset rhythms develop as slowly an Arabic inflection arrives. The music drops to a little string motif against various instrumental details creating a lovely passage before the piano’s repeated motif returns, interrupted by other instrumental ideas, around which the wind sounds swirl to the coda.

This disc concludes with Benjamin Ellin’s Sketching Jeffrey which opens with a very fine sonorous theme for strings and winds, the horn sounding over the ensemble. Soon the sound of the Qanun brings a rather timeless feel. Here we have the perfect fusion of East and West as the horn, strings and Qanun blend in the most lovely passages. The music suddenly rises up in a fast moving realisation of the theme, full of exotic instrumental ideas and some particularly deep string textures. Later there is a long breathed, flowing passage where Ellin brings the most lovely sonorities. There are some particularly fine moments for wind instruments as the music progresses with the Qanun bringing an evocative version of the theme over a pulsating instrumental backdrop, soon taken by the horn with exotic percussion ideas. Eventually the piano alone slowly picks out the theme before a simple chord for strings ends the work. 

This is an enterprising new release that brings seamless and intuitive blending of traditions played by this terrific ensemble. They are finely recorded at the Eastcote Studios, London. There are brief notes on the concept of this recording.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

A remarkable new release from the Royal Flemish Philharmonic’s own label of Wim Henderickx’s Symphony No.1, Oboe Concerto, Groove! for Percussion and Orchestra and Empty Mind I for oboe and electronics should find a whole new following for this composer

Wim Henderickx  studied composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Music in Antwerp, where he also studied percussion. He took part in the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt and attended sonology classes at Ircam in Paris and at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague.

Since 1996 Henderickx has been Composer in Residence at the Muziektheater Transparant and in 2013 he joined the Royal Flemish Philharmonic (deFilharmonie) as Artist in Residence. He teaches composition and musical analysis at the Conservatories of Music in Antwerp and Amsterdam and is also the main teacher of the Summer Composition Course for young composers in Neerpelt, Belgium. 

Royal Flemish Philharmonic label has just released a two CD set of recordings of Wim Henderickx’s Symphony No.1, Oboe Concerto, Groove! for Percussion and Orchestra and Empty Mind I for oboe and electronics performed by the Royal Flemish Philharmonic conducted by Edo de Waart  and Martyn Brabbins with oboist Piet Van Bockstal , percussionist Pieterjan Vranckx  and electronics by Jorrit Tamminga

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Symphony No. 1, At the Edge of the World relates to Wim Henderickx’s fascination with the works of art by Anish Kapoor. The composer wanted to be loyal to the tradition of the symphony but allows a link with Eastern cultures trying to let East and West dialogue and find each other in the search for the interpretation of the concept 'symphony'. At the same time he wanted to go to extremes with At the Edge of the World, exploring contrasts.

In fine movements, Marsyas is described as a three part scherzo and based on a sculpture that has three trumpet-like orifices. It brings an exceptional brilliance, a fast swirling, glittering theme that moves through passages of shimmering detail, an ever evolving texture out of which many individual instrumental details emerge.

Melancholia relates to a relatively small and introspective sculpture, opening with hushed strings through which glittering percussion sounds are heard, slowly emerging through dissonant chords in this beautifully conceived section. Later a cor anglais appears in a lovely sequence, around which orchestra and percussion gently move. Later there is a section where strings slowly and gently shift the theme around with woodwind and brass appearing subtly through the texture as the percussion add to the texture and the coda is reached.

Svayambh means ‘the self-generated’ in Sanskrit and relates to a sculpture made for London’s Royal Academy of Arts. Shimmering strings lead to more dynamic orchestral ideas as the music rushes ahead, again achieving a brilliance with percussion again adding to the texture with the use of a variety of percussion instruments. Brass and lower strings add to the weight of sound, though never losing the earlier transparency in the upper orchestra, eventually gaining a subtle rhythm before suddenly ending.

At the Edge of the World is a gigantic rust red dome that inspired the composer to bring a timeless quality, building layers of chords. It opens with little orchestral blossomings as instrumental ideas emerge. Delicate percussion touches add a slightly Eastern feel. There are chattering woodwind sounds and the feel of a large acoustic conjured by Henderickx’s subtle and quite wonderfully brilliant orchestration. Here he has created strange and beautiful textures that glitter and expand in this quite magical movement. Distant, remote sounds are heard and later little wavering orchestral sounds.  A flourish of woodwind appears in the ever changing texture with percussion adding to a shimmering woodwind section, adding strange sounds as the music continues its hushed gentle way until fading at the end.

Leviathan is described here as a monstrous inflatable object designed by Kapoor for the Grand Palais in Paris. The music brings a sudden change as the orchestra opens on a dramatic chord moving forward in a rather menacing fashion before swirling strings and woodwind lead on. Tubular bells are heard before the dramatic orchestra returns, beefed up by bass drum and timpani rolls. Later the music suddenly rushes forward in a rhythmic passage around which the orchestra create a fine rich texture. The music soon falls to a quieter, slower, more mysterious passage but the dramatic outbursts return with rasping brass and scurrying strings as the music builds to a pitch underpinned by percussion to a sudden end.

This is a tremendous symphony that brings many wonderful textures and colours in Henderickx’s fine orchestration.  Edo de Waart and the Royal Flemish Philharmonic provide an impressive performance.

Wim Henderickx wrote his Empty Mind I as a piece for oboe and electronics with electronic manipulation of the oboe in order to produce what the composer calls a ‘superoboe.’ This original work appears at the end of the second disc of this set. It is Henderickx’s expansion of the work into his Oboe concerto, Empty Mind I for oboe, orchestra and electronics that follows. In six movements the electronics are interspersed with and complemented by orchestral instruments arranged in small groups.

The first movement, Awakening has a hushed opening as though faint sounds are heard through a breeze out of which dissonant woodwinds cry. The solo oboe brings a melancholy theme with a drooping woodwind accompaniment, soon surrounded by gentle strings and percussion. Soloist, Piet Van Bockstal delivers the most wonderful sounds as the piece develops, drifting in and out of the orchestral texture in this rather ear catching, intoxicating movement. The music moves through a gentler moment before the oboe brings its anxious cry with some of the most subtle use of percussion and electronics creating a wonderful backdrop before a haunting coda.

In Without Desires the soloist continues to weave some stunningly beautiful, strange harmonies over a glistening orchestral backdrop. A solo violin appears with strange yet beautiful electronic sounds, the soloist weaving some terrific passages, achieving some terrific sounds high in the oboe’s register as well as some distinctive lower textures. At times, the oboe and electronics seem to create the sound of a Redgate oboe , an instrument designed to expand the scope of the ordinary instrument.   Later there is a particularly beautiful hushed moment as the oboe gently sounds within a hushed orchestral texture before the coda is reached, disappearing into the silence of the opening.

Oboe and orchestra move off quickly in Ecstacy, a bubbling lively theme, before slowing as the oboe and orchestra bring some delicate textures. The oboe develops the theme bringing more fine timbres and textures from his instrument before the music picks up to move quickly ahead. Eventually there is a haunting hushed section full of delicate sounds that brings about the coda.

Contemplation opens with the most amazing dynamic sounds from oboe and brass, full of raucous textures but soon finding the melancholy of the earlier movement with instrumental drooping motifs as the soloist weaves around. The opening statement, for oboe and brass, returns to lead into a louder version of the melancholy theme with more raucous outbursts occurring. Here they bring rather Eastern sounding textures. The oboe and strange orchestral/electronic accompaniment continue with, later the most wonderful hushed section for orchestra, electronics and oboe, quite miraculous in its sound before the hushed end.

Secret Glance brings a lighter, flowing buoyant theme as the oboe and orchestra quickly flow ahead. Soon there is a slower passage that picks up on the melancholy earlier moments but the flow is quickly regained with Henderickx finding a lovely light glittering texture. There is a further hushed, melancholy passage with the most exquisite instrumental sounds before we are led to the hushed coda.

Epilogue seems to rise out of the coda of the preceding movement, the oboe slowly taking its theme forward over a slow orchestra and electronic backdrop of remarkable invention, before slowly fading through some wonderfully shifting harmonies to the coda.

Wim Henderickx brings some astonishing textures, colour and harmonies. The performance by Piet Van Bockstal is remarkable as is the orchestral contribution from the Royal Flemish Philharmonic under Martyn Brabbins and the electronics by Jorrit Tamminga.

The second disc opens with Groove! for percussion and orchestra. In five movements the first, I 1001 Nights is a meditation on Persian music using percussion instruments from the Middle East. It has a rattling good start from percussionist Pieterjan Vranckx that soon leads to a swirling orchestral passage. The music drops to a slower rhythmic passage for drums and orchestra with Henderickx bringing an exotic Eastern sound for the orchestra with some terrific rhythms for the drums. Various individual instruments shine through, including a flute, as a terrific texture is woven. The music develops quite a forward driving rhythm. The scoring is colourful as it moves through passages with terrific percussion rhythms and textures, moments of tremendous rhythmic drive, always coloured by fine textures before swirling to a fantastic wild dance in the coda.

Interlude 1 brings a hushed moment where the most delicate percussion sounds are heard picking out a little theme.

The orchestra plods falteringly forward in II Into a Mystical World, surrounded by percussion that brings a light textured, ethereal sound, aided by the shifting strings. Here Henderickx creates the most marvellous sounds, wonderful colours and textures, using orchestral winds, strings and percussion. The music moves through passages of gentle flowing calm, tinged with Eastern percussion textures. A saxophone later adds a deep rich texture that leads into a section that builds in tempo with a rhythmic drum line over an increasingly dense orchestral texture. Later the music falls suddenly to a quiet mysterious section where the solo percussion develops some exquisite sounds over gentle subtle orchestral accompaniment. Here again Henderickx’s ear for colour and texture is superb. Percussion add moments of drama before the orchestra sounds out dramatically to intense drum strokes creating a forceful onward drive. The texture lightens with a woodwind motif but the drums continue their rhythmic force to the sudden end on a drum stroke.

Interlude 2 is another quiet and gentle interlude from percussion with more wonderfully delicate sounds.

III Black Magic quickly arrives to drive ahead in a terrific rhythm with soloist and orchestra achieving some terrific ensemble as the varying rhythms bound forward. There are some very fine woodwind contributions before the soloist has a real moment to let rip on the drums bringing an intense rhythm and drive. The music quietens as the soloist slowly works the rhythm theme through some subtly conceived ideas before picking up the tempo and thundering out before the orchestra rejoins. A low saxophone joins to duet with the drums, other brass join in a tremendous moment before the whole orchestra join to rhythmically drive inexorably forward to a sudden end.

This is a percussion concerto that deserves attention. Here it receives a terrific performance from percussionist Pieterjan Vranckx with very fine support from Martyn Brabbins and the Royal Flemish Philharmonic.

Finally we come to the original version of Empty Mind I for oboe and electronics. As with the Oboe concerto, Empty Mind I, there are six movements. I Awakening develops out of a hush more quickly as the solo oboe brings its melancholy theme against a finely woven electronic layer.  The combining of solo oboe and subtle electronic sounds is wonderfully done with oboist, Piet Van Bockstal’s control against the electronics of Jorrit Tamminga superbly judged. As the music moves into II Without Desires the soloist perfectly complements the shifting electronic accompaniment, weaving some wonderful tones and textures, finding, as in the concerto, many textures from various registers of his instrument. Both soloist and electronics create some wonderful textures and harmonies.  

The electronics echo the soloist’s phrases in III Ecstacy, a wonderful combining of musical lines, textures and harmonies. The soloist brings a melancholy theme over hushed electronics as well as some brilliant faster passages for oboe, remarkably echoed by the electronics. There are many fine timbres that seem to echo and fade into the electronics.

A rich oboe texture alternates with lighter electronic and oboe phrases in IV Contemplation before some very fine, fluent oboe passages alternate with richer textured passages with the electronics supporting the richer passages. V Secret Glance brings a flowing oboe theme supported by a shifting, glittering electronic layer that quite remarkably reflects and complements the solo line before hushed electronic sounds lead into the Epilogue where the oboe picks up the sad theme. The soloist finds some fine dissonant harmonies over the electronic accompaniment with the combination of oboe and electronics creating some spellbinding harmonies, colours and textures before fading to silence.

If anything this is more remarkable than the concerto. Oboist Piet Van Bockstal delivers a superb performance with the most outstanding electronics by Jorrit Tamminga.

This remarkable release should find a whole new following for this composer. The recording is first class and there are excellent booklet notes.

See also: 

Monday 21 March 2016

On a new release from Deutsche Grammophon, Daniel Hope gives us a carefully thought out and often surprising selection of works that connect with Yehudi Menuhin in a fitting tribute to this great musician on the centenary of his birth

Yehudi Menuhin was born on 22nd April 1916 in New York City taking violin instruction at the age of four from Sigmund Anker. His first public appearance at the age of only seven was as soloist with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Louis Persinger (1887-1966) agreed to teach him before Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu took over his tuition.

His first concerto recording, of Max Bruch's G minor  concerto, was made in 1931but it was his recording of Edward Elgar's Violin Concerto in B minor made in 1932, at the age of just 16 years, with the composer himself conducting that has become a classic. He went on to make many recordings both as violinist and conductor.

Violinist Daniel Hope  was born in Durban, South Africa but grew up in London where his mother Eleanor was engaged by Yehudi Menuhin to be his secretary, later becoming his long-time manager.

As a child, Hope used to play with Menuhin’s grandchildren and, in 1978, took up violin lessons with a neighbour, Sheila Nelson, a renowned teacher. Six years later, he entered London’s Royal College of Music, where he was tutored by Russian masters Itzhak Rashkovsky, Felix Andrievsky and Grigory Zhislin. He finished his studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where he worked with Zakhar Bron.  

In 1985 he had been invited by Menuhin to join him in a programme of Bartók duos for German television. This launched a long association between the two violinists that would eventually take in more than 60 concerts. In 1999 Hope performed a Schnittke Concerto in Düsseldorf as part of what was to be Menuhin’s final concert.

Daniel Hope has, of course, gone on to forge his own impressive career, appearing all over the globe with the world’s most renowned orchestras and conductors and winning numerous prizes for his recordings.

To celebrate the centenary of Yehudi Menuhin’s birth Daniel Hope has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon  a disc of works associated with the great violinist and conductor entitled Daniel Hope - My Tribute to Yehudi Menuhin.

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Menuhin owned the manuscript score of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D minor which he bought in 1951. The Kammerorchester Basel , directed by Daniel Hope from the violin, brings a crisp, purposeful opening to the Allegro with some beautifully shaped phrases. Hope brings a lovely singing tone to the solo part finding some fine timbres as he moves through passages of fast flowing, glowing passages with some wonderful moments, not least in the fine cadenza.  

Hope builds the orchestral opening of the Andante beautifully. When the violin enters he brings some exquisitely controlled phrases, delivering some quite lovely violin sonorities and harmonies.  

There is an infectious, dancing Allegro with some especially fleet playing from both soloist and orchestra and a finely shaped cadenza.

This is a very fine D minor concerto full of tremendous spirit.

Bechara El-Khoury’s Unfinished Journey for violin and strings was written after Menuhin’s death in 1999, commissioned by Hope and the Gstaad Menuhin Festival to mark the 10th anniversary of his passing. With Hope directing the Kammerorchester, Basel from the violin, there are some lovely exotic harmonies and textures as the piece slowly unfolds, Hope bringing a lovely subtle passion to this music with moments of exquisite hushed control – quite wonderful.

Steve Reich seems initially an odd choice for this disc but apparently Menuhin loved his Duet for two violins and strings which the composer had dedicated to him.  Daniel Hope is joined by violinist Simos Papanas and the Kammerorchester Basel where they bring some very fine harmonies and textures to Reich’s minimalist piece. There is a fine blending and weaving of strings, slowly gaining a rhythm with constantly evolving ideas.

Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 violins and strings in A minor was another favourite of Menuhin’s in that it gave the opportunity for him to give his pupils concert experience alongside him. Daniel Hope and Simos Papanas are again joined by the Kammerorchester Basel with Emanuele Forni (baroque guitar and lute) and Naoki Kitaya (harpsichord). There is a light footed, light-hearted Allegro delivered with such an exquisite light touch, beautifully shaped before a plaintive Larghetto e spiritoso with some finely controlled hushed passages. The Allegro brings some fine incisive playing with these soloists weaving some beautifully controlled phrases, finely shaped.

Menuhin also had a great affection for John Tavener’s Song Of The Angel for soprano, violin and strings, written in 1994 for the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations. Here Daniel Hope is joined by soprano Chen Reiss  and the Kammerorchester Basel. As the soprano sings ‘Alleluia’ the solo violin and strings provide a fine frame, adding subtle dissonances in this beautifully done performance of this remarkable work.

Hans Werner Henze had met Menuhin on a number of occasions and his Adagio adagio for violin, cello and piano finds Daniel Hope, cellist Christiane Starke and pianist Jacques Ammon  bringing a gently rolling Serenade with much of a romantic feel. These players find many lovely nuances before the piano develops some more forward looking harmonies that are picked up by the other players.

Given Menuhin’s close connection with Edward Elgar no tribute disc would be complete without a work form this composer. We are told that Menuhin had an especially soft spot for Salut d'amour, Op. 12 here given in an arrangement for violin, piano and strings by Christian Badzura.  Daniel Hope and Jacques Ammon are joined by members of the Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin  bringing a rather different and entirely enjoyable version which is finely played with much sensitivity.

As mentioned above, Daniel Hope has a special connection with Menuhin and Béla Bartók’s 44 Duos for 2 violins. For this recording the young talented violinist Daniel Lozakovitj is the partner for Hope in three of the Duos. There is a crisp, vibrant, idiomatic performance of No. 35. Rutén Kolomejka, a highlight of this disc. A finely shaped No. 28. Bánkódás  builds through some very fine sonorities in a quite beautiful performance. In No. 36. Szól A Duda – Változata, these two players bring more fine harmonies and sonorities as they hurtle through this piece with some really light textures.

Menuhin’s teacher, George Enescu is represented by his Hora Unirii for violin and piano.  Jacques Ammon brings a finely sprung piano part to which Hope adds a lovely, equally well sprung melody as these two develop this little piece.

Menuhin apparently very much admired gypsy fiddlers, an aspect of which is brought out in Jo Knümann’s Rumänisch for violin, mandolin, piano and strings with Daniel Hope, Avi Avital (mandolin) , Jacques Ammon and members of the Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin really throwing themselves into the music. After a fleeting orchestral opening, Hope, Ammon and Avital slowly develop the music through some wonderfully shaped Rumanian folk inspired ideas before finding a fast and furious dance with some absolutely terrific playing, great fun.

Maurice Ravel: Kaddisch from Deux mélodies hébraïques for violin and piano was chosen by Hope when, at Menuhin’s last concert he was encouraged to play an encore. Daniel Hope weaves a lovely melody in the opening with pianist Jacques Ammon adding a sensitive accompaniment. Hope brings a real emotional edge to his playing with some exquisite control towards the coda. Perhaps he is remembering the occasion when Menuhin sat amongst the orchestra at his last concert listening to Daniel Hope playing this encore. 

This is a carefully thought out and often surprising selection of works that connect with Yehudi Menuhin in a fitting tribute to this great musician. The recordings are excellent and there are booklet notes by Humphrey Burton on The Man, The Master and his Music as well as facsimiles of personal notes, documents and photographs relating to Daniel Hope and Yehudi Menuhin.