Saturday, December 29, 2007

Best Classical recording 2007 Time Out New York

December 28, 2007
Best of 2007.
As published in the December 27 edition of Time Out New York, here is my annual list of the top ten events, happenings and developments in New York City's classical music scene for 2007 (in alphabetical order), followed by lists of my top ten classical and non-classical recordings.
"Berlin in Lights" Carnegie Hall's ambitious salute to Germany's cultural capital offered context for incandescent performances by Gustavo Dudamel, Simon Rattle and many more.
Concrete Robert Ashley's latest multimedia opera took us someplace we'd never been before: deep inside the composer's most personal memories.
Sasha Cooke After an arresting summer cameo at the Bard Music Festival,
this young mezzo served notice of a major talent on the rise at Zankel Hall in October. [New note: Cooke is currently appearing as the Sandman in the Met's Hansel and Gretel, and will present a concert titled "The Eternal Feminine" at Ico Gallery (formerly Gallerie Icosahedron) on Thursday, January 10 at 7pm.]
Delusion of the Fury Japan Society's sharp production of Harry Partch's quirky magnum opus was the year's most moving revival.
DG Web Shop The venerable Deutsche Grammophon label unveiled the first
download store guaranteed to please the pickiest classical audiophile.
ICE Burg The International Contemporary Ensemble set up shop in Brooklyn in spring, and promptly mounted its biggest, most diverse New York season to date.
Il Barbiere di Siviglia How could the Metropolitan Opera improve Bartlett Sher's winning new production? By adding spunky mezzo
Joyce DiDonato to the mix.
Iphigénie en Tauride Susan Graham and Plácido Domingo were riveting in this profound Gluck drama, while director Stephen Wadsworth deftly balanced the mythic and the intimate.
Nico Muhly In his debut Zankel Hall showcase, wildly inventive composer
Muhly stacked his quirky postclassical pieces up against the Tudor church music that first fired his imagination.
What Next? Elliott Carter marked his 99th birthday with a sold-out run of his cryptic opera at Miller Theatre.
Top Ten Classical Recordings
1. J.S. Bach Goldberg Variations (Telarc) Simone Dinnerstein's intensely personal take on this keyboard cornerstone polarized critics... and became a runaway hit.
2. Steve Reich Music for 18 Musicians (Innova) Michigan's Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble made a disc of the minimalist masterpiece that won the composer's approval.
3. Osvaldo Golijov Oceana (Deutsche Grammophon) Dawn Upshaw, the Kronos Quartet, Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony demonstrated the infinite variety of the Argentine composer's music.
4. Robert Ashley Now Eleanor's Idea (Lovely Music) More than a decade after the last performance of Ashley's freewheeling lowrider exegesis, recording technology has finally caught up.
5. Tristan Murail Winter Fragments (Aeon) Michel Galante's excellent Argento Chamber Ensemble made its CD debut with crystalline landscapes from a modern French master.
6. Sibelius and Lindberg Violin Concertos (Sony Classical) Lisa Batiashvili reveled in the cool fire of Sibelius's familiar showpiece, and introduced a new classic by Lindberg.
7. Bridget Kibbey Love Is Come Again (self-released) With playing, production and packaging as gorgeous as local harpist Kibbey provided on her first CD, who needs a record label?
8. Mark Padmore As Steals the Morn... (Harmonia Mundi) Handel recitals arrive more often than crosstown buses, but British tenor Padmore commanded respect for his poise and precise diction.
9. Ludwig van Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 3 and 8 (RCA Red Seal) Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie turned two well-worn standards into brisk, bracing voyages of discovery.
10. Michael Harrison Revelation (Cantaloupe) Pianist-composer Harrison documented his just-intonation solo manifesto, and the results were completely absorbing.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Zauber in jedem Ton



December 26, 2007


VON OLAF WEIDEN

Eine Festgabe in der voll besetzten Philharmonie präsentierten die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen und ihr künstlerischer Leiter Paavo Järvi. Das momentan Beethoven-fixierte Orchester hatte Viktoria Mullova für das Violinkonzert des Bonner Meisters gewinnen können.
Und sie zauberte jeden Ton glühend und glanzvoll, aber ohne jedes romantische Expressivo aus den Saiten ihres kostbaren Instruments. Dieser Beethoven machte tatsächlich Lust auf den letzten Clou der russischen Geigerin, die mit Sir John Eliot Gardiner eine erste Interpretation von Brahms Violinkonzert auf der Darmsaite eingespielt hat.
Ein so satter Klang und so viel Wärme bei sparsam blühendem Vibrato, bei unaufgeregt fließenden virtuosen Figuren und einer unglaublichen, fein abgestimmten Intonation - das wird selbst in der Weihnachtszeit selten beschert.
Orchester, Dirigent und Solistin haben bereits eine erfolgreiche USA-Tournee bestritten, auf der der estnische Dirigent sein Orchester in seiner zweiten Heimat erstmals präsentierte. Und im Violinkonzert erfreuten die Kammermusiker aus Bremen mit ungewohnter Trennschärfe bei fließendem Übergang zwischen Solo und Begleitung.
Mullova strich die letzten Tutti-Takte der Einleitung mit, wuchs sodann aus dem Ton der Streichergruppe als Solistin heraus, das Orchester fiel in ein glühendes Pianissimo, hellwach. Jedes Orchester-Crescendo geriet zum Sonnenaufgang, verschaffte der Solostimme Nachdruck. Das war Kammermusik pur - fantastisch gelenkt von Järvi, überragend gestaltet von Viktoria Mullova.
Mystische Liebesgrüße entbietet das kleine Sibelius-Werk „Rakastava“ op. 14 für Streichorchester, entstanden aus einem Männerchor-Werk. Satt gefärbte traurige Melodien wechseln mit tänzerischen Rhythmen, das wenig eindrucksvolle Musikstück wurde edel aufgeführt.
Alle Sinfonien von Beethoven spielen Järvi und seine Bremer zur Zeit auf CDs ein. In Köln gab es die Pastorale - auf hohem Niveau, aber ohne revolutionäre Neuigkeiten.


Les dix disques classiques de l'année 2007 - Quatre grandes tendances décortiquées



December 27, 2007


Quatre tendances ont marqué l'année du disque classique en 2007. Tout d'abord, la volonté de nombreux éditeurs de «revisiter Beethoven» avec plusieurs nouvelles intégrales des sonates (Oppitz, Schiff, Lewis, Pollini) et des symphonies (Jarvi, Vanska, Pletnev, Skrowaczewski, Dausgaard, Nelson). Ensuite, la publication de récitals vocaux fort intéressants (Bartoli, Kozena, Jaroussky, Royal, Florez... ). Puis, la prédominance artistique persistante de l'étiquette Harmonia Mundi, qui propose la constante de qualité la plus grande, avec des artistes comme Alexandre Tharaud, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Paul van Nevel, René Jacobs, etc.
Finalement, le début des publications réservées à la vente par Internet, notamment de la part d'orchestres américains, comme le Philharmonique de New York et celui de Los Angeles. On ajoutera à cela la poursuite de la lente érosion des ventes et de l'offre en magasin, que la vente sur Internet n'arrive pas encore à contrebalancer. Au Québec, le phénomène le plus notable est évidemment le succès commercial des coffrets ornés du faciès d'Edgar Fruitier (voir Le Devoir du samedi 22 décembre). Voici notre choix, évidemment on ne peut plus subjectif...


1. Beethoven - Symphonies nos 3 et 8. Paavo Jarvi. RCA (SACD). Quand l'événement disque et l'événement concert se rencontrent... La vision beethovénienne tranchante de Paavo Jarvi et de la Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, son indissociable partenaire, a «sonné» les spectateurs réunis à l'amphithéâtre de Lanaudière cet été. Nous avons assez reproché par le passé à Paavo Jarvi que ses disques ne reflétaient pas totalement l'atmosphère électrique de ses concerts pour ne pas reconnaître ici la préservation intégrale de cet influx ravageur.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Last-minute culture-vulture gifts


December 23, 2007
The Cincinnati Enquirer


CINCINNATI SYMPHONY AND POPS RECORDINGS


For a last-minute gift with class, you only have to look as far as the two latest releases from the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops orchestras.One of the most enchanting CDs out this season is an album of selections from "The Nutcracker," recorded in Music Hall by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops for Telarc. Best-loved tunes include "Waltz of the Snowflakes" (featuring the Cincinnati Children's Choir) and of course, "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," played by Julie Spangler on celesta.
Also recently released - and one of the most electrifying and deeply emotional albums to come from Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony - is a Tchaikovsky disc pairing the "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture" with Symphony No. 6, "Pathetique."
Both albums are on Telarc (CD: $15.99; Super audio CD: $19.99). Some stores are running low; so consider calling ahead. (The orchestra's box office is closed until Dec. 26.)
You can also download CSO and Pops CDs and individual tracks from iTunes onto your own disc.


By Janelle Gelfand

CD REVIEW: Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 "Pathetique"


The Cincinnati Enquirer
December 23, 2007

Järvi sets romantic mood
By Janelle Gelfand


The newest album from Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra includes some of the most romantic music ever written. The all-Tchaikovsky disc pairs the composer's youthful "Romeo and Juliet" Overture-Fantasy with his last and perhaps greatest work, Symphony No. 6, "Pathetique."
These thrilling performances from the Cincinnati Symphony were recorded with excellent sound quality by Telarc last year in Music Hall.
The Overture-Fantasy vividly evokes scenes from Shakespeare's famous story of the doomed lovers, from the feuding Capulets and Montagues to the tender love theme, with a dark undercurrent always present. Järvi's reading is well-paced, beautifully phrased and full of atmosphere. When the love theme blossoms into a sweeping climax in strings and horns, the effect is deeply emotional.
The composer's Symphony No. 6, his final work, is also his most romantic, ending with a mournful finale that some say was a premonition of his early death. He died a week after its premiere.
Järvi's view of the "Pathetique" is an exhilarating mix of drama, intensity and drive, balanced by Tchaikovsky's hauntingly beautiful themes. The famous second theme glows warmly and with unexaggerated emotion, before the intimate moment gives way to an exuberant burst in timpani and brass. The waltz is graceful and sweeping, and the CSO's sonorous string sound is captured realistically.
If the third movement is electrifying, with its extroverted, pomp-filled march theme, the finale, marked "Adagio lamentoso," can only be described as shattering.
With Järvi's sense of flourish and drama, it all sounds spontaneous. The Cincinnati Symphony musicians have never sounded more polished, performing with crisp attack and moving expression.

Paavo and the Cincinnati Symphony: Best live performance of the year

2007 ten best list: performances

December 23rd, 2007 ·
posted by tmangan

Here are some of the best live performances I heard this year.
------------


April 20: Paavo Järvi conducting the Cincinnati Symphony in Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable,” at Segerstrom Concert Hall. Review.
April 20: Leonidas Kavakos playing Brahms’ Violin Concerto at Segerstrom Concert Hall. Review.

http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/entertainment/arts/abox/article_1666420.php

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Paavo is top choice once again...


December 21st, 2007
posted by tmangan
Let’s put it this way — these are the best I heard, but there were hundreds that I didn’t. It’s a rather traditional list, but I didn’t mean it to be that way. Some new music by Reich and Stockhausen almost made the cut. I’ve included two reissues (I usually don’t), but they were just too good to pass up. The order is not a ranking.

1. Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 8. Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Paavo Jarvi, conductor. RCA Red Seal.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Paavo in Berlin!


December 17, 2007

Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Paavo Järvi Dirigent

Viktoria Mullova Violine

Jean Sibelius Rakastava op. 14
Ludwig van Beethoven Violinkonzert D-Dur op. 61
Ludwig van Beethoven Symphonie Nr. 6 F-Dur op. 68 »Pastorale«
Veranstalter
Konzertdirektion Hans Adler
Auguste-Viktoria-Straße 6414199 Berlin
Tel: +49 30 826 47 27
Fax: +49 30 826 35 20

Thursday, December 13, 2007

ClassicsToday.com’s 2007 Best of the Year Selection



LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Symphonies Nos. 3 "Eroica" & 8

Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Paavo JärviRCA 88697-13066-2
http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=11114



And you thought that there was nothing more to be said in Beethoven! This cycle and Vänskä’s Minnesota recordings on BIS will continue to be the outstanding Beethoven symphony events of 2008. Järvi and his band manage to take the music to a new level in terms of sheer perfection of execution, but without ever sounding precious or affected, and without compromising its rugged integrity. Stunning!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WGUC's Top CD of 2007 - Tchaikovsky



December 12, 2007


By Robin Gehl



WVXU To paraphrase an old marketing slogan, "this is not your father's Oldsmobile," these are not your father's classical artists. A new generation of instrumentalists, singers, and conductors has been taking the concert stage by storm, represented in part by these ten standout recordings of 2007.
- - - - -
This marks the twelfth recording with Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, one of few American orchestras with an active recording contract. Son of conducting icon Neeme Jarvi, whose own discography numbers hundreds of recordings, the younger Jarvi and the CSO—regarded as a top American orchestra—are on their way up, beautifully performing these two Tchaikovsky stalwarts.
Paavo Jarvi conducts the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. (Telarc 80681)


http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16741721

Sunday, December 09, 2007

CD REVIEW: Beethoven Symphonies 4 & 7


December 5, 2007

Sinfonien Nr. 4 + 7 (SACD)
Komponist
Ludwig van Beethoven
Interpret Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Dirigent Paavo Järvi Label RCA/Sony BMG
Erscheinungsdatum August 2007

Rezension
Alle paar Jahre gelingt es, da kommt ein neuer Beethoven-Sinfonienzyklus, der die neun Klassiker wie selbstverständlich in die jeweilige Gegenwart überträgt. Diesmal stammt er von der Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie Bremen und ihrem Chefdirigenten Paavo Järvi. Nach der Dritten und Achten sind nun die Vierte und Siebte erschienen, auch sie in kammermusikalischer Transparenz und angriffslustiger Schlankheit, ausgewogen zwischen Intellekt und Emotion, leuchtender Farbigkeit und blitzsauber artikulierter Wucht. Kurz: eine historisch bestens informierte Interpretation – und dabei ganz und gar modern.

Carsten Fastner im Falter Wien 49/2007


Friday, December 07, 2007

CD REVIEW: Kullervo- CD of the month





CD REVIEW

RECORDING OF THE MONTH
By Stephen Hall




Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Kullervo, symphonic poem for soloists, chorus and orchestra Op.7 (1892) [78:29] (I. Introduction: Allegro moderato [14:00] II. Kullervo’s Youth: Grave [15:56] III. Kullervo and his sister: Allegro vivace [24:19] IV. Kullervo goes to war: Alla Marcia [9:38]V. Kullervo’s death: Andante [14:32]) Randi Stene (mezzo); Peter Mattei (baritone) National Male Chorus of Estonia Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Paavo Järvi rec. Stockholm, 14-19 March 1997 VIRGIN CLASSICS 3913632 [78:29]


The Finnish national epic ‘Kalevala’ gave Sibelius many ‘springboards’ from early days to his last published work. The composer used ‘Jean’ rather than ‘Janne’ at the suggestion of an uncle so as to sound more European at a time when Finland was a mere Grand Duchy after years of Swedish and Russian rule. French was the ‘cultured’ language of Russia in the mid-19th century and since the 18th century it had been usual to Latinise Finnish surnames. Well, it made sense when the Finnish language could only be understood by Finns and Hungarians and the important northern country was neither Scandinavian nor Slavic. Never make the mistake of calling a Finn a Scandinavian or you might end up with a nose bleed! The Kalevala stands among the aural traditions of the ancient Irish cycles and the Icelandic sagas. It has some scant resemblance to Nordic mythology before it was sanitised but is actually closer to the myths of the Indus and Ganges. This is no real surprise when one digs and finds that so-called ‘Celtic’ migration from the sub-continent split into many strands. It so happened that the related tribes of modern Hungary and Finland retained linguistic similarities. Sibelius was born in 1865 into a Swedish-speaking family but his parents were aware of the country’s nationalism so sent Jean to a Finnish-speaking school. Under the loose control of Russia (1809-1917) such schools were permitted. In any event the Russia grip was weakening in Sibelius’s boyhood and Sweden had long ceased to be imperialistic, preferring trade with the west and development at home. He had been steeped in his nation’s history and had a love of the arctic forests and tundra of his land which he could ‘describe’ with his gift for orchestration. The student Sibelius was brilliant but lazy and became an alcoholic in the bohemian intellectual climate of Helsinki. What surprises me so much about this Kullervo with a young Paavo Järvi, is that the whole work is more ‘Sibelian’ than the rather later Symphony No.1, which has a bit too much Tchaikovsky for my liking. Maybe young Sibelius in 1892 was writing for the home market whereas the symphony was ‘for export’. In any event the result is Sibelius in his own voice achieved rather earlier than in the more formal works. A useful way of seeing this is to refer to Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ of just a few years later. This also ignored formal structure but remains a great composer’s first important utterance. Anthony Short’s insert notes with this CD explain that Sibelius called Kullervo a ‘symphony’ in letters to friends. However I go along with Mr Short in thinking that ‘symphonic cantata’ better fits the bill. Short’s reference to Tchaikovsky’s ‘Manfred’ is relevant but the obvious difference is that Kullervo uses soloists and choruses. Kullervo is a character featured in Runes 31 to 36 of the epic Kalevala. He is an unpromising subject because he was doomed to tragedy and had a ‘big attitude problem’ by latterday standards. The basic story is that Kullervo is brought up by his uncle, who has killed the boy’s father. The boy’s behaviour is delinquent and the uncle sells Kullervo into serfdom, presumably to be rid of him. Kullervo’s resentment and wish for vengeance lack the redeeming features of another Sibelius character, Leminkainnen, who was arrogant but at least heroic. Not so with Kullervo; he is generally violent and negative. On the way back to take on his uncle in a vengeful showdown, he meets a beggar girl whom he seduces (rapes) only to find that she was his sister who had been lost after their father’s murder. She kills herself in shame and Kullervo falls on his sword but only after he has killed the evil uncle and most of his family. It makes the last scene of Hamlet look like a small family squabble. The first movement of Kullervo, Allegro moderato in its economy of expression takes us straight to mature Sibelius. In this it differs from the first two symphonies. It is a rather compressed exhibition of the spareness of the landscape and the wandering of Kullervo’s exile but there’s joy there as well. Through this music are woven, like a toxin, presentiments of Kullervo’s trail of tragedy. This 14 minute movement could stand alone and be entirely convincing, especially under Paavo Järvi’s innate and evident understanding of what is going on. The second movement, ‘Kullervo’s youth’, is a mere 16 minute matter with a relentless undertone. There’s brilliant string writing but with tragic interjections over a main theme. This extends to the rest of the orchestra with an economy and pace akin to the Third Symphony. This evolves from a simple signature theme into other subjects of sturm und drang but tracks the story with very few slips into mere imitation. This is mature Sibelius and what Constant Lambert called the ‘music of the future’ in his book ‘Music Ho’. We are far ahead of the actual year of composition with Tchaikovsky still alive (for a year). The third and longest movement, ‘Kullervo and his sister’ begins with the upbeat melodies and urgent rhythms heard earlier. The drawback with this CD is that Virgin/EMI do not supply texts. Even a reference web link would have helped but none is supplied. Given that Anthony Short’s insert notes (p.4) describe the composer’s altercation with his mentor Wegelius about references to “items of clothing” we are left not actually knowing what went on. Was it consent, seduction or rape. True, troubled and dominant sounds occur from about four minutes into this ‘mini-opera’ of 24 minutes but without a text we are left in ignorance. I hope that Virgin will remedy this omission. I should however stress that the mezzo role – here brilliantly sung by Randi Stene - is far from weak. In the brief fourth movement, ‘Kullervo goes to war’ there is a lot of bellicose melodic stuff. This reflects both the anti-hero’s getting even with the family who dumped him and the primal sin of incest. Sibelius accordingly underpins the movement with insidious minor harmonies which deserve more attention than I have ever heard discussed. This is genius at work. The proof is in the last (fifth) movement, ‘Kullervo’s Death’. Such lonely, wilderness, lost-soul music is full-on in the literal Greek sense. Again, without a text we have no idea exactly what is being said, However Sibelius was so good at conveying meaning without words that we instantly recognise the dark clouds of hopelessness. They duly arrive about 10 minutes into this extraordinary and relentless movement. The distorted reprise of Kullervo’s ‘theme’ is not heroic but brave and terminally tragic. Everyone involved in this recording brings the sensitivity needed to articulate what is ‘Baltic’ music as distinct from Scandinavian. It is done to perfection. Engineering and production are invisible and inaudible just as it should be. All involved should be congratulated for showing again that Sibelius had started to plough his own furrow in frozen soil well before the works that made his name in Europe and America. Apart from there being no manufacturer-supplied text or net access to Runes 31-36 I recommend this CD as my choice of this summer.

CD REVIEW: Tüür- "Magma"-CD of the month

December 2007

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Aug07/Tuur_magna_3857852.htm
By Rob Barnett

In a language carrying the stigmata of Jon Leifs, Messiaen's Turangalila and the later Panufnik Tüür's Magma is part-symphony and part-Concerto. There’s often jazzy syncopation to add to the palette. The work’s bearing and trajectory make it more symphony than concerto with the display almost always called for by the exigencies of the format. There are however moments when display seems in the ascendancy - for example at 16:00 onwards where the athletically active Glennie can almost be seen running full tilt from one instrument to another. It's an imposing work inhabiting a sound-world consonant with the primal molten material to which its title refers. The work ends in a malcontented jangling haze of sound punctuated by scamper and crash and then by a fade to niente.
Inquiétude du fini is distinguished by string and choral ululations and by a slalom sway recalling Penderecki and Hovhaness. The choral writing which is wonderfully done feels Gallic rather than archetypically Scandinavian. At times the more rhythmic material is redolent of Tippett (11:30). The earliest work here, this piece is notably more indebted to Schoenbergian dissonance than Magma.
Igavik is a portrait of the Estonian statesman and friend of the composer Lennart Meri. It was written for his funeral service and is intended to convey a short description of Meri's life. The music manages to be dark and yet to glitter with light and a sort of heroic awe.
The Path and the Traces was written during a family holiday in Crete. It's a work of quiet and disquiet, prompted by the experience of hearing Greek Orthodox plainchant, by the music of Arvo Part and by the death of Tüür's father. It's universe is ultimately confiding and consoling – a still small voice lapping and murmuring.
The notes are by Martin Anderson of Toccata fame and show respect and understanding. The recording is extremely well done.
Exceptional and patently sincere new music only failing to convince this listener in the display sections of the symphony.

CD REVIEW: Tüür- "Magma"-CD of the month

December, 2007
By Hubert Culot


www.MusicWebInternational.com

CD REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Erkki-Sven TÜÜR (b. 1959)
Symphony No.4 “Magma” (2002)a [31:06]
Inquiétude du fini (1992)b [18:29]
Igavik (2006)c [4:37]
The Path and the Traces (2005) [12:36]
Evelyn Glennie (percussion)a; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choirbc; Estonian National Male Choirc; Estonian National Symphony Orchestra; Paavo Järvi
rec. Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn, June 2006
Texts and translations included
VIRGIN CLASSICS 3857852 [67:23]


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Like the recent Tüür release from ECM (ECM New Series 1919 - see review), this new disc offers three fairly recent works, composed between 2002 and 2006, and a slightly earlier piece completed in 1992, which again allows for a fair appraisal of his stylistic journey while also emphasising some typical Tüür hallmarks.

The earliest work here, Inquiétude du fini, is a setting for small choir and chamber orchestra (flute, clarinet, bassoon and strings) of a poem in French by the Estonian writer Tōnu Ōnnepalu obliquely dealing with some present-day concern with the future of mankind and of the planet more generally, but in an oblique poetic manner, as Martin Anderson quite aptly puts it. The setting is mostly homophonic, with little attempt at counterpoint, but for a short almost aleatoric section (“Le silence! Les Mouches!”). In spite of its many felicities and its many typical Tüür touches, such as toccata-like string flourishes, glissandi, and cluster-like textures, this deeply felt and undoubtedly sincere score somewhat fails to satisfy completely, mainly – I think – because of its all-too-episodic structure that rather tends to emphasise the music’s eclecticism.

The main work in this selection is Tüür’s Symphony No.4 “Magma” for solo percussion and orchestra, the latter dispensing with any orchestral percussion, thus emphasising this work’s symphonic conception. Although in one vast single movement, the symphony clearly falls into four sections reflecting the traditional symphonic model. The first section opens with a massive, arresting gesture, three mighty waves of sound aptly suggesting a brutal eruption. This is then contrasted with softer episodes in which metal percussion predominates. The music, however, unfolds with the unpredictability of flowing magma. The second section is a Scherzo of some sort featuring a drum-set surrounded by powerful brass fanfares propelling the music with a formidable, irrepressible energy. It ends with an improvised cadenza for percussion leading into the third section, a nocturne of some sort, obviously designed to bring some marked contrast with the preceding sections; but it does not really succeed in slowing the music’s flow, that does not slacken in the least in the fourth section in spite of a brief episode characterised by “a tramping figure” in the cellos and basses. The symphony ends with a final irresistible final rush capped by a last resonating percussion shimmer. Tüür’s impressive Fourth Symphony is not only a most welcome addition to the repertoire for percussion and orchestra, although it is definitely not a concerto but a real symphonic work in which the percussion part is an integral part of the argument, but also one of Tüür’s finest works to date.

Dedicated to Arvo Pärt on his 70th birthday, The Path and the Traces for string orchestra was written, while the composer and his wife were on holiday in Crete. There, Tüür heard some Orthodox chant, which left its mark on the music, which also contains some brief allusions to Pärt’s music. The opening gesture (oscillating harmonics over a low pedal note, recalling the drone in Orthodox chanting) later functions as a refrain of some sort throughout the whole work. A very beautiful work, indeed, that pays some tribute to the composer’s mentor but also a deeply felt homage to Tüür’s father who died while he was writing this score.

The most recent work here was composed for the funeral service of Lennart Meri, who was the first foreign minister of the newly independent Estonia and later its president. Meri, who had been exiled to Siberia after the Second World War, was also a scholar interested in the other Finno-Ugric languages, a concern that also led Tormis to explore the music of other Finno-Ugric peoples (the result was, among other, his splendid cycle Forgotten Peoples). Igavik (“Eternity”) on a short poem by Doris Kareva and scored for male voices and orchestra is an occasional work, no doubt, but one that certainly means much to Estonian audiences. It nevertheless is a well-meant and sincerely felt tribute to an important Estonian statesman.

These impeccable performances are a pure joy from first to last. Needless to say, too, that Evelyn Glennie almost effortlessly navigates through the often demanding and physically taxing percussion part. The recorded sound is superb and Martin Anderson’s insert notes are as detailed and well informed as ever. I warmly recommend this magnificent disc not only to lovers of Tüür’s music but also to all those who enjoy vital, all-embracing music of great communicative strength.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Concert poster



December 6 and 7, 2007, 20h
Alte Oper, Frankfurt

HR Sinfonie Orchester

Paavo Jarvi

Music by Schubert, Brahms and Widmann -don't miss it!

Monday, December 03, 2007

CD REVIEW: Tüür- "Magma"

December 1, 2007


FAZ Newspaper – Feuilleton (SCHALLPLATTEN UND PHONO) S. 40

Riesige Bögen von Liegeklängen
"Magma" und weitere glutvolle Werke von Erkki-Sven Tüür

Gleichzeitig mit der eindrucksvollen Aufführung von Erkki-Sven Tüürs "Magma"-Sinfonie durch das Sinfonieorchester des Hessischen Rundfunks beim Tüür-Schwerpunkt des Frankfurter Auftakt-Festivals (siehe F.A.Z. vom 18. September) erschien die Einspielung des vierteiligen Einsätzers für Schlagzeug und Orchester. Doch keine Medienkampagne mit CD, Begleitkonzert und Werbe-Sauce war da am Werk, sondern schlicht ein glücklicher Zufall. Konzert und Aufnahme haben denn auch trotz gleicher Solistin, nämlich der fulminanten Evelyn Glennie, und trotz gleichem Dirigenten, dem HR-Orchesterchef Paavo Järvi, nichts miteinander zu tun. Järvi dirigiert auf dem Album vielmehr das agile Estnische National-Sinfonieorchester.

Das HR-Orchester hatte im Live-Konzert die Energieströme zur Glut erhitzt und die Klanggesteinsflüsse im dritten Teil, der einem klassischen langsamen Symphoniesatz vergleichbar ist, bis zur Statik erstarren lassen. Das estnische Orchester setzt dagegen noch mehr aufs Innenleben. Sorgfältig wird es ausgepinselt - zwar mit gewissen Einbußen für Furor und Kontraste, doch mit erheblicher Rücksicht auf den Solopart. In dieser ungleich konzertanteren Version ist Evelyn Glennie stets besser heraushörbar als in der symphonischer konzipierten Frankfurter Version.

Sie kann ihr Feuer ausspielen, obwohl auch hier der Schlagzeugpart in die orchestralen Energieschübe vernetzt bleibt, die sie antreibt und überhöht. Von den übrigen drei Werken des Albums erweist sich "The Path and the Traces" aus dem Jahr 2005 als besonders eindrucksvoll. Es geht auf Spuren in Tüürs Leben zurück: auf den griechisch-orthodoxen Chorgesang in einer Kathedrale auf Kreta, den der Komponist für ein Streicherensemble nachempfindet; auf Arvo Pärt, den Pfadfinder und Spurenleger für die nachfolgende estnische Komponistengeneration, dem Tüür dieses Werk zum siebzigsten Geburtstag widmete; und auf den Todeskampf und das friedliche Ende des eigenen Vaters.

Tüür konfrontiert die riesigen Bögen von Liegeklängen der tiefen Streicher mit dem hohen Streicherfiligran eines imaginären Chors - Kontrast von Ruhe und Bewegung, architektonischer Raumtiefe und deren kleinteiliger Ausstattung. Immer erregter tasten die Klangfiguren die Mauern und Säulen des fast statischen Bassfundaments ab. Anspielungen auf Pärts "Tintinnabuli"-Stil schleichen sich ein. Zum Schluss atmet der Streicher-"Chor" des Estnischen National-Sinfonieorchesters, der die schwebenden Rhythmen des Stücks zwölfeinhalb Minuten lang in hoher Ausdrucksspannung hält, friedlich, entspannt, erlöst aus.

ELLEN KOHLHAAS

Erkki-Sven Tüür, Magma. Sinfonie Nr. 4 für Schlagzeug und Sinfonieorchester; "Inquiétude du fini" für Kammerchor und Orchester; "The Path and the Traces" für Streicher. Evelyn Glennie, Estnischer Philharmonischer Kammerchor, Estnischer Nationaler Männerchor, Estnisches National-Sinfonieorchester, Paavo Järvi. Virgin 3 85785 29 (EMI)

CD REVIEW: Bernstein bestseller!


December 3, 2007

Who is the Finnish conductor this person is talking about?? :)

James Manheim, All Music Guide

Don't be put off by the combination of a British orchestra and a Finnish conductor -- part of the appeal of Leonard Bernstein's music lay in the way he stood a bit aside from the jazz, Broadway, and popular dance rhythms he used. He thought he was struggling with the ascendancy of serialism, but actually he was attempting something much more significant -- a rapprochement between the popular and symphonic realism. Like Gershwin, his predecessor, he had a way of turning popular dances and forms inside out. On a more concrete level, conductor Paavo Järvi studied with Bernstein early in his career and approaches his music with gusto in these reissued performances featuring the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The program is a lot of fun and makes sense, offering four Bernstein works, all from different phases of his career, that involve different ways of treating popular materials. The performance of the opening Prelude, Fugue and Riffs of 1955, with clarinetist Sabine Meyer and pianist Wayne Marshall, crackles with energy. This work was as close as Bernstein came to straight jazz, and it stands up to Marshall's forward-pushing style. Surrounding the familiar Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (for which the orchestra imported a Broadway trumpeter) are works from the beginning and end of Bernstein's compositional career. Facsimile, a condensation of an early Bernstein ballet score, is the only work in which the performers seem to flag. The ballet tells the story of a young woman who is pursuing happiness through multiple sexual encounters but finds only emptiness. The music in Bernstein's suite moves from inertia into a sequence of dances, beginning with a waltz and moving forward in time. These dances need to get just a bit more frenetic as they go along, and in this performance the later ones don't have quite the zing they should. In the 1980 Divertimento for orchestra, however, Järvi perfectly catches the humor in this short suite of dances written for the centenary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This compilation does what a compilation should: it gives insights into an important aspect of a composer's musical personality. Worthy of strong consideration from anyone who wants a single Bernstein disc, or as a first step for anyone who wants to expand outward from West Side Story to Bernstein's concert works.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

CD REVIEW: Tchaikovsky Sumphony No. 6 "Pathetique"



December 2, 2007


TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique;” Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy – Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra – Paavo Jarvi, conductor – Telarc
The orchestra occupies an exceptionally wide and deep soundstage. Very highly recommended.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique;” Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy – Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra – Paavo Jarvi, conductor – Telarc Multichannel SACD – SACD-60681, 67 mins. ****:Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony is probably my least favorite of the bunch. I find it’s predominantly mournful character depressing, to say the least, but I guess it really resonates with a lot of people, and brings them in touch with the misery of Tchaikovsky’s later life, which perhaps explains its popularity and frequent appearance on orchestral programs. Paavo Jarvi is a superb conductor; his pacing in the slower opening movement and finale are spot-on, and he gives us a lilting second-movement waltz and a lively third-movement allegro. His use of orchestral color is magnificent, and helps lift the entire disc, including the oft-played Romeo and Juliet, to an even higher level of enjoyment and appreciation than our expectations would lead us to believe possible.The disc was engineered by Michael Bishop, who’s also frequents the Audio Asylum hi-res forum, and never fails to offer insightful commentary about the nature of SACD, and SACD recording and mixing to the zany cast of characters that abound there. While I’m not always in agreement with his surround sound choices on jazz and more vocal-oriented jazz and pop material, his recordings in the classical arena are always head-and-shoulders above the pack, and this disc is no different from an acoustic standpoint. He manages to capture an accurate representation of Cincinnati’s Music Hall, and the orchestra occupies an exceptionally wide and deep soundstage. Very highly recommended.- Tom Gibbs


CD REVIEW: Beethoven Symphonies 3 & 8


December 1, 2007
BEETHOVEN: Symphonies No. 3 and 8 – German Chamber Philharmonic, Bremen – Paavo Jarvi, conductor – Sony/BMG

The historically-informed presentation of these works proves, if anything, that the chamber approach to Beethoven can be both enjoyable and enlightening.
BEETHOVEN: Symphonies No. 3 and 8 – German Chamber Philharmonic, Bremen – Paavo Jarvi, conductor – Sony/BMG Multichannel SACD – 88697-13066-2, 70 mins. ****:


This entertaining and often astonishing disc represents the first offering from a currently in-progress complete cycle of Beethoven Symphonies by the German Chamber Philharmonic, Bremen, and conductor Paavo Jarvi. The historically-informed presentation of these works proves, if anything, that the chamber approach to Beethoven can be both enjoyable and enlightening, and offers a truly valid alternative to the more typical big-band treatment that Beethoven generally is given. If this disc is representative of what’s to come, this cycle will undoubtedly become an instant classic and a necessary supplement to the multiple versions of these works already residing in your collection.Notable in the presentations here are the relatively rapid tempi, especially as compared to more mainstream full orchestra recordings. The Eroica’s second movement, the Marche Funebre, in Karajan’s classic 1963 version on DGG, clocks in at nearly 18 minutes, while Paavo Jarvi traverses the same territory in only 13 minutes. A rather sprightly funeral march – at a tempo much more likely at home in New Orleans than Vienna! However, Jarvi’s reading retains all the requisite magisterial stateliness necessary to any successful performance of this material, and while a chamber symphony simply cannot compete with the big-box orchestras in massed climaxes, they nonetheless managed to instill sufficient bravado and ultimately carry the day. Equally surprising to me were the numerous instances throughout both symphonies where the true “chamber” quality of the orchestra was manifested; smaller assemblages effectively presented whole passages that are traditionally portrayed by massed groups of instruments. Despite multiple playings of this disc over the last few weeks – including multiple repeats of individual movements – I’m still really struck by the sensation of “newness” I’ve experienced hearing this infinitely familiar music; it’s almost like hearing it for the first time!The sound quality is generally first-rate. I do, however, have one slight caveat – the sound is a bit close-up, and the acoustic is a touch dry for my personal tastes. There’s very little sense of the recorded acoustic, and this otherwise excellent disc would have been more well-served by the warmth of a nice church, rather than the somewhat sterile studio environment. Nonetheless, very highly recommended!- Tom Gibbs