Monday, August 18, 2014

Tai Murrai plays Bruch and Berg

Not one but two concertos performed by the American violinist Tai Murray. 

What can I say? I still remember discovering the Bruch first concerto at the age of twelve, and being in love with it for months. And, like many works of my teenage years, I think I listened to it to the point where I couldn't hear it any more. Aside from Kreisler's lovely recording, I don't remember actually listening to it by choice for many years.

All that changed when I heard it anew under the hands of Tai Murray. What is it about a player that grabs your attention and will not let go? I don't know, but I know when I hear it! It's not just the beauty of the sound she makes. It has something to do with a vocal quality to her playing. What I always loved about Kreisler was that each note seemed to have a consonant as well as a vowel, if you know what I mean : that the attack and release of each note was as unerring as the actual tone quality. Notes didn't just make phrases, they made sentences. Well, I sense that quality too in this playing. And she gets extra points for not trying to make the Bruch into something it isn't. You can lean too heavily on this score and make it sound trite, like a second-rate film score. She plays it for what it is. 

The Berg, too, benefits from that lack of hysteria and ability to maintain a focus on the overall plan of the music beyond the moment-by-moment gestures. Indeed, listening to the concertos side-by-side, I am amused by the thought of the Berg as potential first-rate music dragged down by overstatement and portentiousness, while the Bruch is second-rate music exalted by honesty.

But the important thing is to listen to this young violinist, and then go and buy her recordings – she has two now: a brilliant recording of the Ysaÿe solo sonatas, and a recording of American pieces that I have yet to hear. 


Bruch : Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26
Howard Shelley, Ulster Orchestra, Tai Murray
Berg : Violin Concerto
Tai Murray, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Kristjan Järvi

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Victoria Poleva - Choral and orchestral works

Victoria Poleva - Choral and orchestral works

Opinions vary on Arvo Pärt and his influence. I've greatly enjoyed singing his choral pieces, and playing his solitary piano work. But I recognise that many people find the sparse writing of his "sacred minimalism" simply dull.

Victoria Poleva, a Ukranian composer born in 1962, has been classed with the sacred minimalist movement, but that's really too simple. For a start, these works reveal a delight in sonority and scale of sound. There's also a very sensual, ecstatic quality to the writing, and a strong sense of rootedness in the orthodox religious choral tradition. These are pretty vast works - "Слово" fields enormous choral and orchestral sounds, and a taxing solo line sung by the anonymous soprano.

And here's where I have to admit I don't know where these recordings originated. Two of them have appeared on Russian bulletin boards not famed for their vigilance in copyright protection. They came my way from a colleague in Germany who in turn got them from someone else. They sound like radio recordings, but have occasional imperfections that suggest that somewhere along the way someone re-encoded them. The orchestra is identified, but not the choir or soloists. And the choral conducting in "Credo" is credited to Bogdan/Bohdan Plish with a question mark. This may be because Plish conducts a choir called "Credo", and had nothing to do with the present recording.

Anyone who has any more information on the artists, recording etc, please comment.

And this doesn't matter as much as the music, which I think deserves a listen. Put it on loudspeakers and terrify your children and pets.


Credo (2009) for mixed choir and symphony orchestra
Symphony No. 3 ("White interment")
National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine, Volodymyr Sirenko (conductor)
Слово "Word" 2002  (on the text by Symeon the New Theologian for soprano, mixed choir and symphony orchestra)
"ONO" for symphony orchestra 2004
National symphony orchestra of Ukraine, conductor Volodymyr Sirenko
Choir possibly conducted by Bohdan Plish

Download from Mediafire

Poleva's page on Wikipedia

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Gabriela Montero – Brahms Piano Concerto No 1

I am constantly astonished by Gabriela Montero's musical mind. It's not just the fertility of her ideas as she improvises, but the instant realisation of these ideas as complex piano music. All happening in real time. 

(I used to sneer at the idea of real time. What kind of time is unreal time? Then I developed a teenager, so I can answer that question. Time spent by teenagers in the bathroom is unreal time.)

The only danger of her powerful genius at extemporisation is that it has tended to overshadow her stature as an interpreter. So I am pleased to be able to redress the balance just a little, with an upload of the first Brahms concerto. 

It is followed, you will be glad to know, by a piece of Montero.

I've had a funny relationship with Brahms. The first funny thing is that Brahms has been unaware of it. In my twenties I became a passionate Brahmsian (having spent my teenage years playing Mozart endlessly). But as I got older I began to find Brahms self-conscious of his role as a Great Composer, and, frankly, self-pitying in an entirely unlikeable way. 

I think a turning point arrived when I read an anecdote told by one of the Schumanns' children. Brahms used to visit their house and entertain the children (and terrify everyone else) by doing handstands on the upstairs bannisters. Now there, suddenly, is a vision of a muscular daredevil that is at odds with the stuffy grumpy bollox we thought we knew. And I realised that for all its faults, the earlier works have a genuine sense of muscular energy and vitality that are more than enough to make me forgive their excesses. 

Throughout all of this, the work I have never tired of is the first concerto. There is something deeply physically satisfying about the piano writing – those opening bars from the piano cause me instantly to forgive the bombast of the orchestral opening, and that lovely bucolic moment when the last movement turns to D major always makes me smile. 

I grew up on the Arrau/Giulini recording, in which Arrau's poetry constantly challenges Giulini's high-voltage conducting, right from the first bars of the piano entry, where Arrau seems to float timelessly. Montero lays her cards on the table here: there is a sense of improvisation, of exploring the possibilities of an idea, but with a sense that this is no mere meandering – she has a very clear idea of where the music is going.

I do find her tempo for the first movement sometimes too heavy-footed, especially those rather bombastic octaves that build up to climaxes, but her handling of the lyrical elements is warm and generous – think Katchen.

Enough. Download and listen to a player who matches the devilry of Brahms very well indeed! 

Gabriela Montero, NDR Philharmonic, Hannover, Eivind Gullberg Jensen
Brahms : Piano Concerto No 1
Encore : Montero
Studio Concert, NDR, Hannover, 13 Feb 2014

320kbs radio recording
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Monday, June 2, 2014

Noriko Ogawa plays the Debussy Etudes




Debussy is a composer that I have enjoyed playing far more than listening to. But then, you have to have a serious mood disorder not to relish practising something like Jardins sous la pluie

Recently, though, I find myself listening to the later works – the violin and cello sonatas, and the études. I'm struck by the degree to which Debussy has left behind the world of romantic music and is forging a whole new idiom. This new appreciation was fuelled in no small measure by the playing of Monique Haas, a pianist born and steeped in the gallic idiom, but also by Noriko Ogawa, who seems to come to the music unhindered by the accumulated 'lore' of Debussy playing. Like Haas, she plays clean and cool rather than smudgy and schmaltzy. 

This is a live recording of the études, taken at a concert in Wigmore Hall, London, in 2012. I appreciate the degree to which the individual pieces seem to knit together here, resonating back and forth, revealing a broader picture, a sense of the whole.

And you get an encore: Takemitsu's last piano piece, which he wrote in memory of Olivier Messiaen: the second rain tree sketch. Almost too perfect a choice.

256 kbs, tracked and tagged losslessly
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Friday, May 30, 2014

Jen Lisiecki playing Chopin Preludes and loving it


























It's that accomplished young pianist again. A whole Chopin recital, including the Préludes, played with the wisdom and clarity that lives, I think, inside every teenager, if they would only relax and let it happen. 

There's a funny moment during the préludes where the audience gets an attack of premature applause. Lisiecki pulls their leg about it, then sets off again with only a few seconds needed to recover his focus.

He was interviewed during the interval and asked by the interviewer why he seemed so relaxed as he played. "I'm doing something I love doing" was his reply. 

But make no mistake: the relaxation is in no way linked with a lack of engagement – just have a listen!

Grande Valse Brillante Op 18
24 Préludes, op 28
3 Nocturnes Op 9
3 Waltzes Op 64
Andante spianato et grande polonaise, op.2
Encore - Norturne in C sharp minor Op Posth

Live from the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, 26th May 2014

A wonderful recital from this very gifted pianist. The audience applauds prematurely, and I have left in place his amiable quip. 

Radio 4, 192 kbs, mp3, tracked and tagged losslessly

And I've given up on Rapidshare. I'll transfer the other files over time.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Alina Ibragimova plays Bernd Alois Zimmermann's violin concerto (1950)

I am always apprehensive when performers start to become famous. It seems that their room for manoeuvre in terms of repertoire is inevitably constricted. I groan inwardly every time I see another Hélène Grimaud concert – same couple of concertos more or less endlessly. I suppose that when you start playing big venues, they have to sell a lot of tickets to people who don't want to hear a new piece of music unless they've heard it before. 

Well, Alina Ibragimova is still not quite embedded in the Mozart/Mendelssohn/Beethoven/Brahms circuit. Here she is playing the violin concerto by Bernd Alois Zimmerman (1918-1970), a gritty, hard-driven work that nevertheless rewards the soloist by alternating grittiness with a  sort of bleak lyricism. Kind of like trying to have a romance in Berlin. Indeed, in comparison with any of his works I know, this is the sweet side of Zimmermann. 

mp3 256 kbs
https://www.rapidshare.com/files/212359325/ZimmermannIbragimova.zip

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tomoko Mukaiyama - Première of Raskatov's new piano concerto












Tomoko Mukaiyama is a maverick - pianist, performance artist, composer and generally interesting person. Her 1990s work often featured her in states of undress which may have distracted from the fact that she was performing really interesting contemporary repertoire and that she was an excellent pianist. I am glad to see that she hasn't faded away, of even become dull, but is still active and inventive. And, as you can see, still has a taste in clothes that is far more interesting than the cutesy neoteny of Yuja Wang








And so to the upload. Raskatov hadn't made much of a blip on my radar until now, but I do like this concerto. Its half-hour length consists of 12 episodes (the butterflies of the title). The overall result is, I am glad to say, pianistic, engaging and diverse. 

Raskatov, Alexander Mikhailovich (1953)
- Piano Concerto "Night Butterflies" (2013) - World Premiere
Residentie Orkest, Reinbert de Leeuw, 
Tomoko Mukaiyama, Piano

Recorded live 11-May-2013 in the Dr. Anton Philipszaal, Den Haag


Radio 4 internet stream, live
192kbs mp3, tagged losslessly