Monday, 11 May 2020

CD Reviews - May 2020

Brazilian pianist Clélia Iruzun has been joined by the Coull Quartet for a wonderful selection of ‘Treasures from the New World’ – chamber music by American composer Amy Beach (1867-1944) and Brazilian composers Henrique Oswald (1852-1931) and Marlos Nobre (b.1939). Amy Beach was an accomplished pianist, but curtailed her highly successful performing career at the request of her husband, who preferred that she concentrate only on composition. His death in 1910 allowed her to resume performing as well as composing. Her Piano Quintet dates from 1908, and is dramatic and richly Romantic. There is a clear debt to Brahms, and she even quotes from the finale of his Piano Quintet in the first movement. But there is a distinctive sound too, with dark harmonies contrasting with rhapsodic writing for the piano. The piano is centre stage in the lush, passionate central slow movement, whereas the finale has a forward drive from the opening, although once again there are dark clouds here too. Iruzun plays with suitable passion and the strings match with rich-toned energy. Henrique Oswald left Brazil to study in Italy, and stayed there for 30 years, but returned to teach in Brazil for the rest of his life. His Piano Quintet, from 1895, has a mixture of European influences, with Brahms again showing through, as well as a more French tinge, reminiscent of Fauré. The opening movement has instant propulsion, with a busy piano part alongside lyrical string writing. The Scherzo that follows is equally busy, with running, trilling figures throughout. The slow movement is much more introspective than Beach’s, with somewhat repressed darkness, and a gently lyrical central section, and the finale is emphatically decisive. Again, Iruzun and the quartet play with passion, but also bring out the more inward mood of this contrasting work. A short piece follows by contemporary Brazilian composer Marlos Nobre (b.1939), Poema XI, with its sombre swirling melody performed here with elegant warmth. Iruzun is joined by the quartet’s lead violinist, Roger Coull to end the disc with Amy Beach’s Romance for violin and piano, Op. 23 – a beautifully heartfelt miniature, with a touching simplicity, concluding this highly enjoyable programme. 

A couple of years ago I had the privilege to take part in a project with contemporary local composers, commissioned by New Music Brighton to write works drawing on or inspired by traditional folk songs, for a combination of classical and folk musicians. Brighton-based Barry Mills (b.1949) was one of the composers, and went on to record the work from that project – you can find it on his CD Interbeing Volume 6 (Claudio Records CC6044-2). Barry kindly also sent me a copy of another of his CDs, entitled Elan Valley, after the orchestral work that opens the disc. This is an atmospheric, pastoral evocation of the Welsh landscape, drawing on a Welsh folksong at its heart. The orchestration is highly effective, with shimmering, watery strings and gentle harp and woodwind writing. The orchestra here, the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra under Petr Vronsky, bring out the detail with great warmth here. They also excel in the other orchestral work here, ‘Evening Rain – Sunset’, composed for the Sussex Symphony Orchestra’s 20thanniversary in 2013. Insistent repeated rising phrases build through the first half of the piece, before a calmer second section, with overlapping chords and
successive use of the sections of the orchestra, leading to a highly atmospheric conclusion. There are three Concertos on this disc, one for Mandolin, one for Guitar and one for Mandolin and Guitar together. Mills obviously has an affinity for both instruments, and he makes good use of their melodic, rhythmic and subtle textural qualities. The double concerto is performed here by Daniel Ahlert (mandolin) and Birgit Schwab (guitar), for whom it was composed, and in its four movements, Mills contrasts the lightness of touch of the soloists with relatively simple orchestral textures, to avoid drowning out the two quiet solo instruments. The first movement has a persistent, running rhythm over built up string chords, whilst in the second movement the soloists take it in turns with solo passages, supported by the orchestra more in the background here. The ‘piercing wind’ whistles through the third movement, with racing scale passages, and the gentler final movement uses repeated rising and descending patterns passed around the orchestra and soloists. The Guitar Concerto, titled ‘The Travels of Turlough O’Carolan’, places Mills’ arrangements of folk melodies by Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738) alongside his own musical episodes evoking wind, sea, rivers, mountains and night. So sometimes the guitar (here played by Sam Brown) has the folk tune, sometimes it accompanies and in the fifth of the six movements, Under the Stars, it is totally unaccompanied. This gives Brown the chance to show a great range of the instrument’s abilities, and he is particularly impressive in that solo movement, with its harmonics and subtle strumming effects. Folksong appears again in the Mandolin Concerto, this time an Irish folk song, ‘My Singing Bird’, and evocations of bird song are abundant here, as well as shimmering strings and dark whole tone scales. 

Mills. B. 2019. Interbeing, Volume 6. Julian Broughton, Katrin Heyman, Steve Dummer, Adam Bushell, Nancy Cooley, Andrew Thurgood, Anna Cooper, Matthew Quenby, Sarah Carvalho-Dubost, Charlotte Spong, Antonia Hyatt, Sarah Newington, Nick Boston, Clive Whitburn, Ellie Blackshaw, Seána Davey, Jon Rattenbury, Brian Ashworth. Compact Disc. Claudio Records CC6044-2.

(Edited versions of these reviews first appeared in GScene, May 2020)

Thursday, 23 April 2020

CD Reviews - March & April 2020

Michael Butten presents a delightful selection of music by John Dowland (1563-1626), the master English composer of lute music and songs. Butten uses well the richer, warmer tones of the classical guitar, whilst still preserving the simplicity of the original instrument’s lighter style, and avoiding too much weighty expression. His Pavan is a good example of this – Butten plays with a simple soulfulness, all the more touching for its restraint. The Fantasies and Fancies, of which there are six here, allow for more display of virtuosity, yet Butten keeps a lid on this, never allowing them to be become overly showy. The delightful galliard,‘Can She Excuse?’ has a joyful bounce, whereas his ‘Forlorn Hope Fancy’ has a desolate, insular intimacy. The lute can bring a greater sense of fragility, but Butten’s guitar compensates with a steady warmth of tone and cleanness of line throughout. The rapid-fire passage at the end of the ‘Tremolo’ Fancy is so unexpected and unlike anything else in Dowland’s music, and Butten relishes the challenge of its brief virtuosic spotlight. Order is restored in the stately and mournful ‘Loth to Depart’, although this too develops into an expressively intricate gem. There are lighter moments, such as the short and sweet jig, ‘Mrs Winter’s Jump' and the humorous 'Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe’, delivered with lightness and subtle with by Butten. The wonderfully chromatic fantasia, ‘Farewell’, that concludes Butten’s selection allows him to demonstrate further his control and skill, at the same time as bringing out the depths of expression in this fabulous music. For Dowland played on guitar, you can’t go far wrong with this.

The brothers Carl Heinrich Graun (1704-1759) and Johann Gottlieb Graun (1703-1771), whilst largely forgotten today were well known in their respective fields during their lifetimes. The younger brother, Carl Heinrich, was closely associated with Frederick the Great of Prussia and his court, as well as being an accomplished tenor and opera composer, achieving fame as Berlin’s Opera Kapellmeister. Johann Gottlieb on the other hand was a virtuoso violinist, and studied with Pisendel and Tartini, working as Frederick’s chamber musician, as well as leading Berlin’s Opera orchestra. But the Portuguese Early Music group, Ludovice EnsembleJoana Amorim on traverso (Baroque flute) and Fernando Miguel Jalôto on harpsichord – draw attention away from their grander compositions. In a 2 disc set, ‘Del Signor Graun’, the offer a selection from the vast number of Trio Sonatas that the pair composed. A trio sonata consists of two melodic lines along with a continuo accompaniment – but confusingly, one of the melodic lines can be taken by the continuo player (described as ‘obbligato’), resulting in effect in a duet. So here we have six such sonatas, with one melodic line on flute, and the harpsichord taking the second melodic line as well as providing the accompaniment. The brothers wrote around 130 trio sonatas between them, although it is hard to be sure which brother wrote many of them, with ambiguous ascriptions such as ‘Graun’ or ‘Signr. Graun’. Nevertheless, these are delightful pieces, showing a great deal of invention, and nicely transitioning the late Baroque into early Classical styles. Nearly all in three movements, the formula is generally a slow, stately opening movement, ending with an improvisatory passage followed by two faster movements, the finale often a 3-time dance-like movement. Amorim and Jalôto match their melodic lines well, taking over from each other in the frequent exchanges of ideas, as well as enjoying the moments when the two parts align more in a duet. There are beautiful moments of more Bachian counterpoint in the additional slow movement of No. 56, whilst delicate trilling features in the sprightly Allegretto of No. 110. The players give the gentle slow movements graceful poise, and inject welcome energy into the faster movements, such as No. 56’s Allegro. There are no fireworks here, but plenty of subtle delicacy and invention, making for a highly enjoyable listen. 

Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) was active in the woman’s suffrage movement, and her composition career was very successful (Clara Schumann was in fact one of her greatest supporters), although she faced much prejudice during her life, her music being either deemed ‘too masculine’ or ‘too feminine’, depending on whether it was dramatic, rhythmic and powerful, or lyrical and melodic. However, she achieved success with a number of larger scale works – but her smaller-scale repertoire, including a significant number of songs, is largely unknown. Lucy Stevens (contralto), along with pianist Elizabeth Marcus, aims to put that right with a collection of Songs and Ballads, including two sets from early in her career and two from much later. The Op. 3 ‘Lieder und Balladen’ are recorded for the first time here in Smyth’s own English translation, written in pencil on the original manuscript. Smyth had settled in Leipzig to study, and it was there she became known to Clara Schumann, as well as Brahms, Dvořák and Grieg. Apparently, when composer George Henschel presented a couple of Smyth’s songs to Brahms, he wouldn't believe they were hers, stating that Henschel himself must have composed them – it just wasn’t conceivable that a ‘young lady’ had composed them! The Op. 3 set combine images of nature with themes of lost love, and range from the tender ‘On the Hill’, through darker sadness and grief in ‘It changes what we’re seeing’, to the folksy story-telling of ‘Fair Rohtraut’. Stevens’ contralto voice is bright and pure, and she excels in the more tender, gentle moments of Smyth’s lyrical writing. The Op. 4 set of Lieder features themes of motherhood (Smyth dedicated the set to her own mother) and sleep, even nightmares. Stevens brings out the sense of struggle in ‘Night Thoughts’, and Marcus enjoys the most harmonically adventurous accompaniment of the set in ‘Midday Rest’. Shifting forward some thirty years brings us to the wonderful Four Songs for voice and chamber orchestra, here recorded with the Berkeley Ensemble, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez. Martinez was the first woman to conduct a BBC Prom (shockingly as late as 1984), and conducted an historic performance of Smyth’s opera The Wreckers at the Proms in 1994. The songs are scored for single strings, flute, harp and percussion, and Smyth’s orchestration here is exquisite. The harp/flute combination figures highly, but she adds sensuously lyrical strings and accents of imaginative percussion, such as tambourine in ‘The Dance’ and a drum in the dramatic ‘Anacreontic Ode’. Debussy described the set as ‘tout à fait remarquables’. Stevens’ bright tone is clear as a bell, although occasionally a little more variety of tone would bring out the contrasts, such as the gentle sadness of Chrysilla. Finally, Three Songs, from 1913, pick up on Smyth’s commitment to and involvement with the suffragette movement. She met (and fell in love with) Emmeline Pankhurst, and the second of these songs, Possession, is dedicated to her. The words are by the suffragette writer Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, as is the text of the final song, On the Road: A Marching Tune, dedicated to Emmeline’s daughter, Christabel. Possession picks up on ideas of captivity – Smyth was herself imprisoned for two months for throwing a stone through a cabinet minister’s window. The relentless march of the third song builds to an emphatically triumphant climax, with a quotation from Smyth’s own The March of the Women, which became the Women’s Social and Political Union’s official anthem. Stevens communicates the passion of these songs, and the final battle cry has a powerful impact.

Clarinettist Dimitri Ashkenazy is joined by friends Robin Sharp and Mechthild Karkow (violins), Jennifer Anschel (viola) and Gundula Leitner (cello) for a recording of Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115. It is one of the works of Brahms’ Indian summer of composition, after he had decided to stop composing, but had fallen in love with the clarinet, inspired by Richard Mühlfield of the Meiningen Court Orchestra. It is a masterpiece of nostalgia, sadness and exquisite beauty. Ashkenazy and friends choose sound tempi, and the finale is definitely con moto – not always the case. This is a warm rendition, and Askenazy’s tone is tender and rounded, matched with strong ensemble from the string players. There is passion in the turbulent second movement here, however, with appropriate shrillness at the high end. The return of the first movement’s theme at the end of the finale is particularly touching and sensitive. Lebanese composer Houtaf Khoury’s (b.1967) quintet, Gardens of Love, was written for Joan Enric Lluna and the Brodsky Quartet in 2009. It is a contemplative piece, opening with a beautifully lyrical melody for the clarinet, backed with simple, gentle strings. The harmonies occasionally darken, and then proceedings halt on quiet string chords, as the clarinet’s ornamented lines become more insistent. Intensity builds, and there are moments where the string players break through briefly, but the clarinet essentially takes centre stage here in this highly effective single movement work. 

A highlight of the 2018 Brighton Festival was Cuckmere: A Portrait, Cesca Eaton’s film depicting a year in the life of the River Cuckmere and Haven with live score by Ed Hughes (b.1968), performed by the Orchestra of Sound and Light. The recording of that performance has now been released as part of Time, Space and Change, bringing together three works by Hughes spread over nearly 30 years of his career. Hughes is Professor of Composition at the University of Sussex, and has a wide-ranging repertoire of compositions to his name, including music for silent films by Sergei Eisenstein and Yasujiro Ozu, opera, orchestral and chamber works. Eaton’s film of the river Cuckmere is incredibly beautiful and even moving, as it pans in and out from the journey down the river’s course to the close up detail of the flora and fauna along the way. Hughes captures this in music that equally contrasts fine detail (stuttering shivers in Winter, and birdlike ripples in Spring, for example), with an overall relentless trajectory, using running scales, and gently chugging rhythms in Autumn, leading through to the final rhythmic energy of Summer, with rapid movement over a slowly rising bass line leading to a satisfying arrival at the conclusion. Having seen the film performance, the images of the beautiful landscape remain in my mind, and Hughes’ music brings them straight back in this incredibly effective piece. You can see the video with the music here. Media Vita comes from much earlier in Hughes’ composition career (1991), but was also performed first at the Brighton Festival. A piano trio, it is performed here by members of the New Music Players, founded by Hughes in 1990. The harmonic language here is dense and Hughes launches straight into motion, with intense, independently moving lines from the three instruments shifting and clashing. There is a sense of urgency, even frenzy, and an uneasy shifting of sands as the piano winds chromatically beneath slowly moving string lines. The inspiration here was the motet of the same name by John Sheppard (1515-1558), and that influence of English fifteenth and sixteenth century composers is picked up once again in the larger scale Sinfonia (2018). Here, the six movements variously draw on English folk song, as well as works by Cooke, Dunstaple, Tallis and Gibbons. Elements of the sources are used in highly imaginative ways, such as the basic chromaticisms of Cooke’s motet Stella Celi Extirpavit spaced out in time, and the diatonic harmonies of Dunstaple’s Veni Sancte Spiritus surrounded by swirling chromatic movement. There’s even a hint of car horns blaring through the urban landscape in the bouncing rhythms of In Nomine. In these six short movements, Hughes creates a fascinating soundworld with hints of earlier musical traditions within a complex tapestry of modern orchestral colours. The New Music Players, under Nicholas Smith, bring this to life with great precision and energy. 

(Edited versions of these reviews first appeared in GScene, March & April 2020)

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Worbey and Farrell dazzle & entertain with virtuosic piano-playing & quick-fire comedy

(Stephen Worbey & Kevin Farrell)

Sunday 1 March 2020

An interesting departure for the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra – a concert without the orchestra! They’ve already taken steps in that direction this season, with a concert performed by just their brass section, but this was a step further, to bring back Worbey & Farrell, the piano duo who performed with the orchestra back in 2018 to great acclaim. Knowing they’ve been struggling somewhat financially, it’s clear that they’ve had to think outside the box a little. On this occasion, they definitely pulled off a deft move – something different, that no doubt brought in a much needed new audience, but that in no way could have left the BPO regulars feeling short changed. 

Stephen Worbey and Kevin Farrell met at the Royal College of Music, and have established a highly successful career playing together over many years now – today’s concert also marked Kevin’s 50thbirthday. They pull off the tricky challenge of combining humour and classical music virtuosity, the key being that they excel at both. It is a tricky mix – often classical music comedy is either just not very funny, or it relies so much on in-jokes and knowledge that it’s exclusive and smugly self-congratulatory. Neither could be said about Worbey & Farrell in any way. Their onstage patter comes across as natural, whilst their anecdotes and asides never stray too far from the music itself. And they are genuinely funny, with well-constructed gags and jokes throughout. They of course owe a debt to the likes of Victor Borge, Liberace and even Les Dawson – and these all get affection name checks. We were even treated to a smattering of Dawson’s ‘wrong notes’ playing, as well as their own arrangement of Liberace’s classic showpiece, Boogie Woogie. Here they brought in an element of audience participation, and it was noticeable that when it was the turn of the under 20s to shout out, their ‘hey’ was impressively loud, the audience containing a refreshingly high percentage of children and younger people. 

Having announced their goal, to ‘cheer up piano recitals’, early proceedings included their impressive rendition of Khachaturian’s weighty Masquerade Waltz (which they jokingly said was on their new ‘Meditation’ album), and a delicately romantic arrangement of Ennio Morricone’s Chi Mai (which listeners of a certain age will remember as the theme tune to TVs The Life and Times of Lloyd George). After this, they switched on a camera positioned to pick up the keyboard, and more importantly, their hands, projected onto a large screen behind them. This remained for the rest of the concert, and made for a mesmerising insight into the technical complication of their arrangements. They share the one piano stool, and play with their arms mostly interlinked – so not the straightforward bass/treble split of standard four hands piano duets. As they explained, and deftly illustrated with some deconstructed explanation in their arrangement of John Williams’ Superman love theme and Jurassic Park, they aim to replicate as far as possible the full orchestral colours of the pieces they arrange. So Farrell often plays percussively at the bass of the keyboard, whilst brass and bassoon textures are brought out in the baritonal ranges. Strings feature in the mid-range, and the bright woodwind at the top end. Frequently, you could see their hands intertwined as they pass the melody lines around the ‘orchestra’.

And they demonstrated their true musical expertise, both in terms of virtuosity and understanding of orchestration and arranging in the two ‘big’ pieces of their programme – their own arrangements of Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. In both, their ability to combine the lush orchestral textures and detail of instrumentation with the virtuosity of the piano ‘solo’ part is astonishing. Their choice of other main work for the second half of the concert, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf was also a masterstroke. Again, they could show off their skill in replicating orchestral colour, as well as adding their own humorous take on the tale (including a bizarrely northern duck) – and spoiler alert, they add their own happy ending!

With a few other gems thrown in for measure – Albeniz’s Asturias (Leyenda),complete with Kevin dampening the strings in the piano to replicate a guitar, as well as hammering chords from a standing position to great effect, and Piazzolla’s Libertango equally percussive – this was a hugely entertaining and action-packed programme from two highly consummate musicians as well as very funny showmen.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

CD Reviews - January & February 2020

Pianist Ivana Gavrić’s new disc begins with a sprightly performance of Haydn’s Piano Concerto No. 11, in which she is joined by the Southbank Sinfonia, conducted by Karin Hendrickson. Her opening Vivace is full of energy, and the central slow movement has delightful grace and a sensitive touch. In both movements, Gavrić uses fitting cadenzas composed by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, one drawing on a Bosnian theme – more of that later. The finale is lively, and Gavrić plays with great poise and wit. Gavrić was inspired by the possibility that the concerto’s finale might have been based on a Bosnian folk melody. The melody’s origins may in fact be less authentic than we might hope, but nevertheless this led Gavrić to approach friend and collaborator Cheryl Frances-Hoad (b.1980) to write a piano concerto using a Bosnian folk song as one of its themes, this time definitely an authentic tune, the unofficial anthem of Sarajevo (where Gavrić was born), Kad ja pođoh na Bentbašu’ (a rendition of which concludes the disc).  But first, Gavrić includes six French pieces written in 1909 to mark the 100th anniversary of Haydn’s death, as well as Frances-Hoad’s Stolen Rhythm, written using the motif of Haydn’s name a further 100 years later, in 2009. Claude Debussy’s (1862-1918) Hommage à Haydn is beautifully rich, essentially a short set of variations, whereas Paul Dukas’ (1865-1935) Prelude élégiaque is sensuously liquid, and Gavrić’s touch is delicate and warm in both, and in the brief but delightful Menuet sur le nom d’Haydn by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) which follows. Frances-Hoad’s sparky Stolen Rhythm follows, and although again brief, it has an energetic drive, exploiting the extremes of the keyboard in its continuous rhythmic pulse. Gavrić returns to the French set, with Vincent d’Indy’s (1851-1931) relatively straightforward Menuet sur le nom d’Haydn followed by Reynaldo Hahn’s (1874-1947) Thème varié sur le nom de Haydn, a typically deft miniature, and Charles-Marie Widor’s (1844-1937) lively Fugue sur le nom d’Haydn to finish the set. Gavrić brings out the varied character of these pieces with great attention to detail, and the placing of Frances-Hoad’s contribution in the middle of the set creates a great set up for ‘Between the Skies, the River and the Hills’, a three movement piano concerto by Frances-Hoad. Frances-Hoad draws on inspiration from the Haydn Concerto, the aforementioned folk tune, and the Nobel Prize-winning historical novel The Bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andrić. The opening movement has great swirls of watery running scales from the piano under slow moving, lumbering strings and slippery woodwind, creating a very striking atmosphere from the outset. The pace quickens, as the floodwaters rise, before the sun breaks through at the end. The central scherzando has great quirky energy, with more than a whiff of Shostakovich in its dancing forward propulsion. The slow finale presents that Bosnian theme in moving simplicity, passed around the orchestra, with the piano’s interjections building in intensity and urgency, ending with an impassioned candenza, performed with incredible intensity here by Gavrić. The Bosnian theme’s poignant simplicity brings this beautifully constructed programme to a suitably sensitive conclusion. Highly recommended.


The most substantial work on a new release of works by British composer Howard Skempton (b.1947) is Man and Bat, a setting of a poem by D. H. Lawrence. Here, baritone Roderick Williams is joined by members of Ensemble 360, who feature throughout the recording. For this work, piano, string quartet and double bass provide a whirling, lilting background to the intriguing text about a man’s lengthy battle with a trapped bat. Skempton achieves a sense of insistent fluttering in the largely incessant rhythmic accompaniment, and Williams communicates the drama and understated dark humour of the text with great intensity. The collection includes another setting of a Lawrence poem, this time for tenor, within a three-movement cycle, The Moon is Flashing. The first two brief movements set poems by Skempton himself and Chris Newman, as introductions to the more substantial Lawrence poem, Snake. Originally written for full orchestra, Skempton has arranged the work for chamber ensemble, with Ensemble 360 providing clarinet, violin, cello and piano, along with tenor James Gilchrist. The titular opening movement is subtle and sensuous, whilst A Day in 3 Wipes that follows has a musical theatre flavour as Gilchrist communicates its contemporary story with directness. Snake meanwhile has dark menace, and Gilchrist shows considerable command of the depth of his range, which Skempton exploits to great effect. This is preceded by Skempton’s Piano Concerto, in a version for piano and string quartet. Set over five short movements, there is a stillness and ethereal atmosphere in the opening two, followed by a gently bouncing central movement. Ethereal mystery returns for the fourth movement, before a lightly jazzy finale. Pianist Tim Horton plays with lightness of touch and is matched with clarity of ensemble from the string quartet. The string quartet is joined by flute, clarinet and harp for the final work on the recording, Eternity’s Sunrise. Here calmness reigns, bringing the collection to a serene conclusion. If Skempton is new to you, this is a great place to start, and the performances from Williams, Gilchrist and Ensemble 360 could not provide a better advert for his atmospheric, accessible and consistently inventive music.

(Edited versions of these reviews first appeared in GScene, January & February 2020)

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

No nonsense joy in Kissin's Beethoven at the Barbican

Evgeny Kissin
© Felix Broede

Evgeny Kissin (piano)

Thursday 6 February 2020

Barbican Hall, London

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827):
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 'Pathétique'
15 Variations and a Fugue, Op. 35 'Eroica'
Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Op. 31 No. 2 'Tempest'
Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 'Waldstein'
Bagatelle for piano, Op.126 No.6 in E flat major
Six variations on an original theme for piano in D major, Op.76
Bagatelle for piano, Op.33 no. 5 in C major
Six Écossaises for piano, WoO 83

Evgeny Kissin
© Nick Boston
'Kissin took no prisoners – definitely not Beethoven for the fainthearted, yet performances full of urgent energy and evident joy in the music'.

The 'Pathétique' Sonata:
'It is a testament to Kissin’s unquestionably phenomenal technical prowess that nothing ever disrupted the momentum here'.

The Eroica Variations:
'Kissin carried us through their journey with a great sense of the overall architecture'.

'The Tempest was impatient and full of breathless energy ... The Waldstein was uncluttered and surprisingly smooth'.

Read my full review on Bachtrack here.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Thrilling Shostakovich with a heart of desperation from the LSO and Noseda

Gianandrea Noseda
© Mark Allan
Christian Tetzlaff (violin)
Gianandrea Noseda (conductor)

Thursday 30 January 2020

Barbican Hall, London

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953): Symphony No. 1 in D major, 'Classical', Op. 25
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, 'Strassburg', K216
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750: Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006, Gigue
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881): Khovanshchina: Prelude 'Dawn on the Moscow River'
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975): Symphony No. 9 in E flat major, Op. 70

'Noseda and the LSO achieved a good balance here between accentuating the wit and edge, whilst maintaining “classical” precision and simplicity'.

'Christian Tetzlaff’s Mozart was warm and expressive, performing with a lively bounce in his step'.

'Noseda shaped the dynamics and brought out the detail of this brief but striking miniature'.

'Noseda notched up the tension, driving on to a scream before the grotesque march, and then the final sudden switch into the breathless conclusion'.

Read my full review on Bachtrack here.

Christian Tetzlaff/Gianandrea Noseda/London Symphony Orchestra
© Nick Boston

Gianandrea Noseda/London Symphony Orchestra
© Nick Boston