Archive for February, 2013

Martinu: Symphonies Nos. 1-6 | BBC Symphony Orchestra | Jiří Bělohlávek, conductor

Posted in Orchestral, symphony with tags , , , on February 23, 2013 by orinococds

Martinu Symphonies | BBC Symph Orch | Belohlavek | Onyx 4061 | 3 cds | $NZ 49

John Button review for this cd in the Dominion Post in Feb 2012:

“The Onyx set of all six of Martinu’s symphonies is self-recommending. These splendid works were composed between 1942 and 1953, and each has a distinctive character that makes it a mystery why they appear so rarely in concert.

However, it was from concerts in 2009 and 2010 in the Barbican that these disks were taken, superbly spontaneous performances from the end of Jiří Bělohlávek’s reign at the BBC Symphony, and testimony to the quality of playing under his baton. An additional bonus is the very competetive price … so don’t hesitate – there is enjoyment aplenty in this well-recorded set.”

Recorded live at the Barbican in London, these recordings represent the first complete CD cycle of Martinu’s symphonies conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek. The critically acclaimed concerts were given to mark the 50th anniversary of Martinu’s death in 1959.

Martinu’s six symphonies are a major contribution to 20th-century symphonic literature, and yet are still undervalued. Spanning the years before, during and after the Second World War, they capture the turmoil, hopes and fears of the composer and his homeland – a homeland that suffered unimaginable cruelties under the Nazis. At the end of the war, Martinu was the only major Czech composer of his generation to have survived.

Yet through the underlying currents of menace in the later works, the irrepressible Czech spirit survives, and the country’s folk music is never far from the surface in these powerful and sincere works. As conductor Jiří Bělohlávek says ‘I personally love all of Martinu’s symphonies for the rich, colourful orchestration and undeniable Czech flair which always prevail in them, despite the fact that they also reflect the musical developments of their time.’

“Magic always happens when Belohlávek conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Czech works…this set of Martinu’s six symphonies, taken from Barbican concerts last season, overflows with the same qualities that make the music so endearing: heart-warming ebullience, visionary fantasy, soaring passion, the most piquant orchestral colours.” The Times, 15th July 2011 ****

**** Sunday Times, 10th July 2011

“You won’t find a more persuasive champion than Belohlávek, who has the music in his blood. His skill at unravelling Martinu’s rhythmic and textural knots – evidenced time and again in these live performances by the BBC Symphony Orchestra – is such that you immediately sense the stature of the music.” Financial Times, 30th July 2011 ****

“Martin˚u’s symphonies tend to divide opinion and have not enjoyed anything like the same exposure as those of his Czech predecessor, Dvorak. But if anyone can find the key to their language, it is Jiří Bělohlávek…there is plenty of freshness, verve and expressive wisdom on this set.” The Telegraph, 4th August 2011

“The BBC Symphony Orchestra sounds consistently alert, nimble and alive to Martinu’s distinct musical moods…Bělohlávek demonstrates total commitment and concentration and his players are with him at every turn, captured in sharp sound that reveals the workings of the music. And since when did the BBC SO’s strings have such a chameleonic ability to twist and shade their collective mood? Impressive and charming.” Classic FM Magazine, October 2011 ****

“Belohlavek and the orchestra are superb in the first three symphonies. He captures Martinu’s shimmering, luminous orchestral textures and invests the pervasive ‘sprung’ rhythms of the faster movements with an infectious bounce. Belohlavek’s emotional engagement is always complete…and throughout the set, Belohlavek’s grasp of the trajectory of the symphonic argument is at all times apparent.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2011 *****

“Play them back to back and the inevitable risk is that they may all begin to sound too much alike, but such is Jiri Belohlavek’s skill as a Martinu interpreter that the effect is still of impressive stylistic variety…In short, Belohlavek and the BBC SO are now my top recommendation for the Martinu symphonies” Gramophone Magazine, October 2011


Solo | Santiago Canon Valencia (cello)

Posted in Chamber music, Instrumental with tags , , , on February 17, 2013 by orinococds

“A new cd from Atoll brings to wider attention the extraordinary talent of Santiago Canon Valencia, a young Colombian cellist who has been the star student at Waikato University School of Music since 2006. Solo, his first cd (Atoll ACD 884), is devoted to twentieth century music for solo cello by Cassado, Ginastera, Ligeti and Kodaly. The music chosen displays a rare talent possessed by an artist who is surely destined for an international career.

From a musical family, Valencia began cello studies at the age of four and made his first concerto appearance in Bogota at age six. He eventually became a pupil of James Tennant at Waikato University (his mother had earlier studied with the same teacher).

One listens to this young artist’ skill in amazement at his dexterity, beauty of tone and musicianship. beautifully recorded in the University’s Gallagher Concert Chamber … this recital will prove to be a landmark in the career of a musician of whom we will hear much more.” Peter Shaw, North and South magazine (March issue)

Link to:

Atoll website:

Bartok: works for violin and piano Vol 2 | James Ehnes | Andrew Armstrong (piano)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 17, 2013 by orinococds

Bartok violin works Vol 2: James Ehnes | Andrew Armstrong | CHAN 10752 | $NZ 33

James Ehnes has previously explored Béla Bartók’s concertos for violin and for viola, to great acclaim. This disc is the second in his equally successful survey of Bartók’s chamber music for the violin. His accompanist, once more, is Andrew Armstrong, a pianist praised by critics for his passionate expression and dazzling technique.

The folk-inspired Sonata for Solo Violin was the last work that Bartók wrote for the instrument, not to mention the most challenging. In a departure from his usual practice, this work was written not for a fellow Hungarian, but rather for an artist born in New York where Bartók was now living: Yehudi Menuhin. Suitably impressed by a recital performance by Menuhin of his first Violin Sonata as well as Bach’s Sonata in C, he had no hesitation in accepting the violinist’s commission for a sonata that, like Bach’s, would be unaccompanied.

Almost half a century earlier, Bartók had written his Sonata for Violin and Piano in E minor. It was included in a concert given by graduating students of the Liszt Academy in June 1903, when a critic, most likely not realising just how right he would prove, hailed Bartók as ‘a phenomenal young genius, whose name today is known only to a few, but who is destined to play a great and brilliant role in the history of Hungarian music’.

Additionally on this disc we have three groups of Bartók’s Romanian and Hungarian folk dances, folksongs, and folk tunes, arranged for violin variously by Zoltán Székely, Tivadar Országh, and Joseph Szigeti, often with direct involvement by the composer himself who helped fine-tune the new arrangements. James Ehnes also highlights the Romanian influences in Bartók’s Sonatina for piano, transcribed for violin by André Gertler, a student of Bartók’s.

“The eagerly awaited second volume of Canadian James Ehnes’ series devoted to Bartok includes the challenging 1944 Sonata for solo violin and the earlier E minor sonata with  piano from 1903. The rest of the cd is filled with two sets of Hungarian folk songs, and the famous Romanian Folk Dances, … Ehnes, in great demand internationally, has already recorded the Bartok concertos to huge acclaim and is clearly making his name as a specialist in the composer’s music. He’s making a third visit to New Zealand later this year (playing Elgar with the Auckland Philharmonia)  … his [Bartok interpretation] is currently unrivalled.” Peter Shaw, North and South magazine (March 2013 issue)

Ehnes gives a stunning account of the Solo Sonata. The impression is that he’s simply following all Bartok’s meticulous direction…and adding nothing extra. If this seems boring, the effect is anything but: clarity of articulation, beauty of sound, the ease with which he surmounts the technical challenges, and deep understanding of the work’s structure and character; all these combine to make a performance that’s exciting and enthralling. Gramophone Magazine, January 2013

Debussy: String Quartet; Piano Trio | Brodsky Qt | Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (pno)

Posted in Chamber music, Instrumental with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by orinococds
Debussy String Quartet | Piano Trio | Bavouzet |  CHAN10717 | 1 cd | $NZ33

Debussy String Quartet | Piano Trio | Bavouzet | Brodsky Qt | Gianandera CHAN10717 | 1 cd | $NZ33

The Brodsky Quartet celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. Formed in 1972, the Quartet quickly emerged at the forefront of the international chamber music scene. It has performed more than 2000 concerts and made more than fifty highly acclaimed recordings. Now exclusive Chandos artists, the Brodsky players are releasing their second disc on Chandos with guest soloists Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and the harpist Sioned Williams.

The Trio for piano, violin, and cello is an early work, written before Debussy established his own very distinctive musical language heard in pieces such as La Mer. Another early piece, Rêverie, for piano, was written by the young, struggling composer at a time when he was trying to make a living in Paris. The easiest market to break into for a composer was the salon, where songs and not-too-taxing piano music were in demand. Rêverie was one of several charming and tuneful works that Debussy wrote for this scene.

In a somewhat different league, the String Quartet is considered a defining work in the history of chamber music. Sensual and impressionistic, it employs a cyclic structure that constituted a split from the rules of classical form and pointed the way forward. In the words of Pierre Boulez, Debussy freed chamber music from ‘rigid structure, frozen rhetoric, and rigid aesthetics’.

The Deux Danses, made up of the ‘Danse sacrée’ and ‘Danse profane’, complete the disc. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Parisian instrument makers Pleyel invented a ‘chromatic harp’ which dispensed with pedals and achieved the full chromatic compass from two rows of strings that slanted across one another. Debussy was approached to write two pieces intended for a final examination of the Pleyel model. ‘Danse sacrée’ makes use of Church modes, while ‘Danse profane’ is a kind of sarabande. The ‘competition’ aspect of the pieces is highlighted by the fact that, after the opening introduction, the harpist has no more than six bars’ rest. As it happened, the Pleyel model never caught on, and the works are now always performed on a pedal harp.

“… compelling account, forthright and dramatic, rather than hazily impressionistic, of the [Debussy]” Sunday Times, 1st April 2012

The Quartet tops the running order in a confident, vital, lyrical reading. Beautifully nuanced, there’s acerbic edge, gentle Gallic playfulness, aching romance and every emotional and tonal shade in-between…Cassidy’s scoring [of Reverie] is so similar to that of the quartet that the work has taken on a new identity…its new gravitas makes it a fitting bookend to the programme, a partner to the Quartet, and an unexpected delight.” Charlotte Gardner,, 18th April 2012

In the Piano Trio Bavouzet enjoys the spotlight with some memorable pearliness of tone, and here violinist Daniel Rowland is joined by cellist Jacqueline Thomas in a performance notable for its warmth and luminosity…the natural-sounding acoustic does much to enhance the listener’s experience.” International Record Review, May 2012

Altogether a satisfying and unique Debussy coupling, superbly played…What is so striking about the playing of the Brodsky Quartet throughout is their brimming love for the music, with some ravishing shading down to the most hushed pianissimos. All this is caught in wonderfully rich and transparent sound, a credit to the Chandos engineers.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2012

This is a marvellously inventive collection…There has been a tendency towards more red-blooded performances of Debussy’s String Quartet in recent years…The Brodsky Quartet partially fit that mould…Their playing is tempered, both in the Quartet and the Reverie, by a quivering texture in more hushed moments” BBC Music Magazine, June 2012 ****

The Brodsky Quartet makes its intentions clear from the first bars of Debussy’s Opus 10 String Quartet: this is by no means going to be an atmospheric echo of impressionism, but an interpretation in which every single stress and emotive extreme is going to be exploited and laid bare. The Brodsky players do plenty in terms of colour” MusicWeb International, June 2012

Bartók: Complete Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 & 3 | Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) | BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda (cond.)

Posted in Concerto, Orchestral with tags , , , , on February 6, 2013 by orinococds

Bartók: Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 2 & 3 | Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano) | BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda

This is the first concerto recording by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet for Chandos. Following the tremendous success of his complete Debussy piano music edition (‘This could well be the finest and most challenging of all Debussy piano cycles’ – Bryce Morrison, Gramophone) – which scooped awards from both Gramophone and BBC Music – and the launch of his ambitious Haydn Piano Sonatas series, the pianist now turns his attention to some of the mightiest concertos of the twentieth century. The three Bartók Piano Concertos on a single CD represents superb value for money.

Bartók wrote his First Concerto, one of his most challenging works, in 1926. The percussive piano writing ads much bite to the textures. The first movement is striking in its rhythmic vigour and dramatic character. The central Andante is essentially a dialogue between the soloist and four percussion players and features much atmospheric ‘Night Music’. In the finale, following without a break, the brilliant motoric rhythms of the first movement return, as does the dramatic use of percussion in a thrilling mêlée of sound.

The Second Concerto was first performed in 1933. The music is more melodically appealing and in the first movement, which is notably contrapuntal, the strings are silent throughout. The hushed slow movement on strings is interrupted half way through by a brilliant and startling scherzo, with a striking sequence of tremolos and note-clusters, before the haunting quiet mood of the opening returns. The finale, again with brilliant use of percussion (as well as brass), ends the work in virtuoso fashion.

The Third Concerto was written at the end of the composer’s life, in 1945, and is much more restrained than the previous piano concertos. The work is lighter, airy, and almost neo-classical compared to much of his earlier music. Unlike much of Bartók’s output, the piece was not composed on commission, but was rather created as a surprise birthday gift for Bartók’s second wife, Ditta Pásztory, who was, like Bartók, a skilled concert pianist. The two lively outer movements, full of the composer’s distinctive rhythmic drive, are separated by a slow movement of great beauty and serenity, with, again, a striking, contrasting middle section. The final seventeen bars were orchestrated by the composer’s pupil, Tibor Serly, after the composer’s death, based on Bartók’s notes.

“Both Bavouzet and the BBC Philharmonic with Gianandrea Noseda are outstanding in the First Concerto, capturing its epic scale and mixture of formality and barbarism…[These performances] generally have all the sweep, intensity and precision that these works demand.” The Guardian, 26th August 2010 ****

“In league with the finely honed BBC Philharmonic, these are performances vibrant in colour, vital in rhythm and detail and viscerally exciting in impact.” The Telegraph, 2nd September 2010 *****

“Bavouzet relishes the high-octane energy of the outer movements of the first two concertos but through his imaginatively varied use of colour manages to avoid the trap of making Bartók’s percussive writing seem too relentless.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2010 *****

“Bavouzet’s own energy and lightness make the most of the jubilant, rhythmic writing.. It’s a beautifully nuanced performance, brimming over with variety of touch and dynamic…The orchestra match him in their deft lightness, brightness and virtuosity.” Charlotte Gardner,, 16/09/2010

“Bavouzet’s interpretations are masculine, intelligent and direct. In most of the nine movements, he opts for unusually brisk tempos, though quick as they are, the music never sounds rushed or precipitous. Clarity invariably prevails and Noseda and the orchestra are equal partners at every turn…the overall effect is viscerally exhilarating.” International Record Review, October 2010

“If you’re after a disc of Bartok’s piano concertos that maximises on the music’s drive, elegance and sparring potential, then you could hardly to better than his ear-catching new production…Bavouzet doesn’t play down the music’s earth-derived grandeur…or its drama.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2010

“From the paranoid wranglings of the First Concerto to the helter-skelter glamour of the Second and the burlesque of the Third, the playing is first rate. Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet delivers coruscating cadenza and locates an almost Beethovenian limpidity for the Adagio Religioso.” The Independent on Sunday, 17th October 2010

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1-3 | LSO | Valery Gergiev cond.- mid budget price

Posted in Orchestral, symphony with tags , , , on February 3, 2013 by orinococds

Tchaikovsky’s early trio of symphonies have long lived in the shadow of the three that followed. Valery Gergiev conducts outstanding performances of these earlier works with the LSO.

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1-3 | LSO

Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1-3 | LSO | Valery Gergiev | LSOLive0710 | $NZ35 | 2 cds

Tchaikovsky’s symphonies 1,  2 & 3 are full of the rich expressive melodies, for which he had a natural talent, with influences of Russian nationalism and folk tunes, particularly in the ‘Little Russian’, No. 2. The choreographer George Balanchine exploited the dance-like nature of the Third Symphony by using it as the basis for the final part of his ballet masterpiece, ‘Jewels’.

“Gergiev can transform works that often seem problematic into something compelling and totally coherent. In this set, he does exactly that with the Third…which he not only reveals as a totally convincing reworking of traditional symphonic form…but links it dramatically with Tchaikovsky’s operas… both [the First & Second] are full of wonderful touches, of sharply etched detail, vivid colours and tremendous focused energy.” The Guardian, 6th September 2012 *****

“what lovely and characteristic things are to be found in them, how full of Tchaikovskian panache, melodic richness and rhythmic vitality they are, and how brightly they shine in these vivid performances” Sunday Times, 16th September 2012

“This budget-price, immaculately recorded double album is a revelation; Valery Gergiev’s pin-sharp attention to detail and rhythmic zest making each work seem much bigger and bolder than usual, far more than sequences of balletic interludes…Essential listening.” The Arts Desk, 30th September 2012

“Gergiev’s handling of dynamic is expert…the orchestra is at its best here” International Record Review, November 2012

“Gergiev’s frequent use of striking contrasts of tempos between themes, or even dramatic pauses, as in the slow movement, often makes Tchaikovsky’s First sound like a close relation to a Bruckner symphony. Yet, such is the affection with which Gergiev shapes this work that it never descends to bathos.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2013 *****

¡España! | Orquestra Ciudad De Granada | Montserrat Pi, Josep Pons, conductors

Posted in Ballet score, Choral, Concerto, Orchestral with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2013 by orinococds

espana | Various artists | 5 cds 165 min | HMC 2908530.34

On the Harmonia Mundi label, a collection of best-loved masterpieces with Spanish inflences, on state of the art recordings, in a 5 cd set.
From the late 19th century onwards, following in the wake of Goya, Spain experienced a creative explosion that was to manifest itself in all the arts, including music. This set is an invitation to discover these composers who transcribed the innermost depths of their country’s soul in works that were nonetheless closely related to developments elsewhere in Europe hence the presence here of Ravel, the most Spanish of French musicians, alongside de Falla, Albéniz, Rodrigo, and Mompou.
Various soloists, including:-
Susan Chilcott, soprano | Francesc Garrigosa, tenor | Javier Perianes, piano | Marco Socías, guitar | Régis Pasquier, violin | Brigitte Engerer, piano | Ginesa Ortega, “cantaora” | Joan Martin, soprano | Iñaki  Fresán, baritone | Joan Cabero, tenor

CD1: ALBENIZ Pepita Jiménez [HMC901537]

CD2: FALLA El amor brujo [HMC905213]

CD3: RAVEL Oeuvres pour violon et piano [HMC901364]

CD4: MOMPOU Música callada [HMI987070]

CD5: RODRIGO Concierto de Aranjuez [HMC901764]