Sunday, April 26, 2015


 Peter Quantrill
May 2015

Live from the Philharmonie

Mike Ashman
2015 May

Paavo Järvi: A passion for recording

Geoffrey Norris
May 2015

Geschmeidiger Schmiss
Harald Eggebrecht

Artistxite's Review: Shostakovich-Symphony No.7 by Paavo Järvi

Salvatore Pichireddu

"Powerful, Rhythmic Interpretation of the most popular symphony by Shostakovich, that reveals the whole tragic beauty of the piece in its lyrical passages."

Another short but meaningful review written by Salvatore Pichireddu posted on Artistxite about our latest release 'Shostakovich-Symphony No.7' with Paavo Järvi and Russian National Orchestra.
The historical background of the seventh "Leningrad" symphony by Dimitri Shostakovich that we know – that of Leningrad encircled by German troops, released by the Red Army - often hides the fact that it is an ambivalent piece. Shostakovich's Trojan horse hides a sarcastic caricature of the ugly side of Stalin's dictatorship behind a curtain of patriotism. Paavo Järvi (like his father Neeme) is an experienced and subtle Shostakovich exegete with exactly the right feel for the multi-layered psychology of this piece. He addresses the embittered ambivalence of the music with strict tempos (similar to Rostropovich and Barshai) and a very rhythmically driven interpretation. In the continuous building of the powerful (and violent) first passage, he reveals the whole insanity of the desperate situation of those weeks of war. The enormous sound of the Russian National Orchestra is unmistakeably in its element here, but it is only in the lyrical Chiaroscuro-like passages of the second and third passages that this truly successful interpretation unfolds its full tragic beauty. Here, Järvi and the Russian Orchestra place musical accents, where others only reach a strange indifference. Bravo! And we should also mention that this PENTATONE production is (as always) recorded with a superb sound.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Paavo Järvi - conductor

BBC music magazine
Helen Wallace 
May 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dan Morgan
April 2015

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60, Leningrad (1941)
Russian National Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
rec. February 2014, Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, Moscow, Russia
Reviewed as a 24/96 download from
Pdf booklet included
PENTATONE PTC5186511 SACD [72:59]

Time was when Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony was regarded as something of an embarrassment, even by those who championed the composer’s cause. In a welcome reversal the piece has now been rehabilitated, as the parade of new recordings confirms. Among the latter is Mark Elder’s 2013 account with the Hallé Orchestra, its virtues intact despite poor balances (review). Valery Gergiev’s Mariinsky recording from 2012 comes up trumps too (review), and Dmitri Kitaienko’s – which dates from 2003 – is one of the glories of his Capriccio box (review). There are others, such as Vasily Petrenko’s and Andris Nelsons', which have excited others far more than they have me.

When Paavo Järvi’s Leningrad recording was first announced I really didn’t think it would be a contender. In the past this conductor has struck me as meticulous almost to a fault, and not the most communicative of baton wavers. That said, a Russian orchestra playing Shostakovich usually demands a listen. Factor in PentaTone’s reputation for fine recordings and it would seem this new album is a decent prospect. Even then I must admit to feeling somewhat blasé; with so many potent rivals what more could Järvi bring to the piece?

As it happens, quite a lot. For a start the half-hour first movement, with its long, much-derided march, is full of surprises. There’s a sweetness to the introductory section – an innocence, if you like – that seems very apt in the light of what’s to come. Sunny and unsuspecting this music is played with a simple loveliness that had me hearing the notes anew. Even more impressive is the superb recording, whose perspectives are as close to the concert-hall experience as I’ve heard in a very long time.

When it materialises the march is spine-tingling; it’s well paced, without haste or histrionics, and it’s all the more effective for that. The Russian woodwinds, so naturally caught, are first-rate and those cymbal clashes are powerful but proportionate. That’s very refreshing in a work that’s often presented in a crudely filmic way, not least when so much of the score’s fine detail is allowed to shine through. This is the very antithesis of Elder’s St-Vitus-like version, yet by some unexplained alchemy Järvi never wants for strength or intensity.

The oh-so-pliant start to the Moderato has seldom emerged with such disarming loveliness, its quiet, affectionate recollections accompanied by a wistful smile. The breath-bating hear-through quality of the playing and recording beggars belief; it really is as if one were at a live concert, caught in that almost hypnotic state where one communes with musicians and audience alike. Also, Järvi adds a penetrating chill to this spectral music, the like of which I’ve not heard since Gergiev’s deeply unsettling performance at the RFH some years ago.

In a composer – and a symphony – that’s no stranger to banalities it’s remarkable that Järvi’s discreet, unhurried approach brings with it a sustained coherence and logic that never sell the music short. Even the bleak, upward-winding start to the Adagio has a beauty that far from minimising the underlying grief actually seems to intensify it. The RNO strings sound glorious, the dark-toned woodwinds even more so, and it’s impossible not to be moved – and mightily so – by these spare, artless utterances. Indeed, I can’t recall the score being laid bare in such a way, its beating heart open to the elements.

One might think that such attention to detail is the enemy of purpose and momentum, but in this case it most certainly isn’t. Even the rollicking, circus-like episodes – played without recourse to vulgar emphasis – have a certain dignity that I find most affecting. And that’s the nub of it; this is a performance that eschews the fearsome in favour of the fragile, and favours the individual over the faceless crowd. Indeed, there were times when I wished the ravishing Adagio would never end, such is the heartfelt eloquence with which it’s delivered.

This conductor continues as he began, with a calm, clear-eyed Allegro non troppo. As so often the result is anything but prosaic, with the fleeting jauntiness of the first movement caught to perfection. Järvi also constructs a mean climax, and the music’s underlying jubilation never succumbs to emptiness or anarchy. The nobility here is entirely personal – a tribute to the indomitability of the human spirit, perhaps – and if Järvi seems a tad measured at this point it’s because there’s so much to filter out from the surrounding tumult. At the same time tension builds – quietly, unobtrusively – and all the while one has to marvel at the equally discreet virtuosity of this Russian band.

It’s not just about detail though, for Järvi shapes the music in such a way that hidden rhythms and phrases are disinterred as well. Goodness, is there no end to the revelations of this performance? As for the finale it unfolds with an unforced, passionately voiced grandeur that couldn’t be further from the bombast that some find here. That should come as no surprise, given the number of times Järvi defeats expectations in this paradigm-shifting performance. Even if you prefer cruder, more equivocal accounts of this symphony you simply cannot overlook this extraordinary alternative.

An unaffected, deeply humanising Seventh; quite possibly the best thing Paavo Järvi has ever done.

Album Review Steven Isserlis
Peter Quantrill
16 April 2015

British cellist Steven Isserlis delivers an unmissable disc, says Peter Quantrill, in this collection of Russian repertoire that even challenges the supremacy of the great Rostropovich.
Label: Hyperion
Rating *****
Prokofiev & Shostakovich: Cello Concertos by Steven Isserlis, Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt, Paavo Järvi

Deranged nuns, inveterate gamblers and fairytale princesses are stock-in-trade characters for Prokofiev’s operas, and it doesn’t take a wild imaginative leap to hear such fantastical characters peopling the busy, welcoming sprawl of his Cello Concerto like a comic-book city. It's thanks to Steven Isserlis, who makes a piece with a chequered history and ‘difficult’ reputation sound like a masterpiece completely characteristic of its creator.
In his hands, the yearning melody of the opening Andante is worthy of Romeo and Juliet (also composed in the mid-1930s), while the Scherzo’s rough humour jabs you in the ribs like a red-nosed joker from Gogol thanks to punchy support from the winds of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. Even the rambling variations of the finale are held together with a very timely narrative of one man against many, elucidated by Isserlis in a passionately argued booklet note: 'The better I know it, the more I love it', he says, and sympathetic listeners will feel the same.
Shostakovich’s First Concerto may require less personal advocacy, but Isserlis steps out from Rostropovich's bear-like shadow in this music to present another confrontation between individuality and the mechanistic forces of unknowable power. There’s a wonderful moment in the second movement where a waltz drifts in like a ghost orchestra in a deserted ballroom, and Paavo Järvi works hand in glove with his soloist throughout, offering more positive and detailed support than Isserlis received on a recent DVD of the work with different accompanists. It’s an unmissable disc.
Artists: Steven Isserlis (cello), Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Peter Quantrill has written for (among others) Gramophone, Deutsche Grammophon, the Salzburg Festival and Paul McCartney

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Life-affirming Nielsen from Paavo Järvi and the Philharmonia

Seen and heard international
Robert Beattie

Haydn, Beethoven, Nielsen, Martin Helmchen (piano) Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi (conductor) Royal Festival Hall, London 12.4.2014 (RB)
Haydn – Symphony No. 88 in G Hob 1/88
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat Op 73 ‘Emperor’
Nielsen – Symphony No. 4 Op 29 The Inextinguishable
Carl Nielsen’s music is featuring prominently in concert programmes across London at the moment.  Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are presenting their own interpretations of all six symphonies at the Barbican while Järvi and the Philharmonia are also performing all of the symphonies at the Southbank Centre.  This concert featured one of the most incendiary works in the Nielsen symphonic canon – The Inextinguishable.  Before the apocalyptic eruptions of the Nielsen, Järvi and the Philharmonia presented us with two contrasting works from the Classical period.
Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 was written in 1787 immediately after the Paris symphonies and before the London symphonies.  It is one of the composer’s most inventive and highly regarded works and it follows the traditional four-movement Classical format.  The Philharmonia’s strings gave us broad, clean strokes in the Adagio introduction before launching into the ensuing first movement Allegro.  Vibrato was kept to a minimum and there was clearly enormous attention to detail as conductor and orchestra worked through the composer’s tightly argued contrapuntal textures.  Järvi coaxed some very muscular and gutsy playing from the Philharmonia, which I liked and did a wonderful job of bringing out the harmonic surprises and dynamic shifts.  The Largo slow movement is an exquisite set of variations which received a very graceful and beautifully shaped performance here – bravo in particular to the Philharmonia’s principal oboe!  Järvi adopted a nice flowing tempo that seemed spot on to me and was alive to both the nuanced Classical elegance and filigree decoration in the score and the striking dramatic interjections. The droning of the bagpipes was perfectly realised in the third movement trio while Järvi was hopping about on the podium to the rustic foot stomping of the minuet.  The finale was light and effervescent with Järvi and the Philharmonia nicely capturing the ebullient high spirits of the work.
Martin Helmchen joined the assembled forces for Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto.  I normally like Helmchen’s playing but I was a little disappointed with this performance.  He opened well, capturing the grandeur and majesty of the piece in the initial flourishes while Järvi and the Philharmonia brought a feeling of strength and exhilaration to the subsequent tutti section.  One of the key challenges the soloist faces with this work – one of the most famous in the repertoire – is making the material sound fresh and unhackneyed.  In the first movement, Helmchen’s performance came across as technically competent but slightly jaded, perhaps because of over-exposure to the piece.  There was some very fine playing, particularly in the development section where Helmchen’s rapport with Järvi and the orchestra was exemplary but there were also moments when his playing sounded a little too casual and untidy – a glaring example was the last chord which was held down too long by the pedal.  The slow movement was better and I loved the soft-grained poetic sounds which Helmchen conjured from his Steinway and the way in which he allowed the gorgeous suspended melody to sing.  However, the sequence of ascending trills did not quite have the magic that it should and Helmchen lost the pulse of the music a little and went off too fast in the subsequent section.  He seemed to spark much more in the romping finale, saving his best playing to last.  He gave us some excellent shaping of the line and very fine articulation and at the same time brought out the discrete character of the contrasting episodes.
Following the première of his Fourth Symphony, Carl Nielsen spoke to the newspaper Politiken and is quoted as saying:  “Music is life, and as such inextinguishable”.  In his private correspondence he amplified his thought processes further when he wrote that he was “trying to describe all that has the will and the urge to life, which cannot be kept down”.  The Fourth Symphony was composed while the First World War was raging around Europe and it describes the will to survive and to overcome the dark destructive forces engulfing the continent.  Järvi and the Philharmonia captured the white heat of the opening movement presenting us with an uncontained maelstrom of sound.  Järvi synthesised the composite elements into a seamless organic whole, bringing out the angularity of the writing and feelings of disquiet in the more reflective material.  Nielsen’s sonic and harmonic shocks, rhythmic asymmetries and unusual textural collages were all brought thrillingly to life.
The Philharmonia’s woodwind provided an oasis of calm in the tranquil second movement – the music had a charm and timeless beauty all of its own.  The strings achieved a searing intensity in the opening of the third movement in a very dramatic piece of playing.   Järvi allowed the subsequent fugue to build in a powerful and incremental way and the dramatic conflict at the heart of the piece was brought vividly to life.  The final movement is famous because of the explosive battle between the two sets of timpani on either side of the orchestra and the Philharmonia’s percussionists did not disappoint, giving us explosive fusillades of sound.  The brass gave the final bars of the work a life-affirming grandeur while the  rumbles from the timpani warned us that the threat of war and the descent into barbarism is never far away.
This was great playing from Järvi and the Philharmonia – and it’s good to see these wonderful symphonies by Carl Nielsen receiving so much public exposure.

Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Symphonies by Haydn & Nielsen (The Inextinguishable) – Martin Helmchen plays Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto
Douglas Cooksey

Sunday, April 12, 2015 Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Symphony No.88 in G
Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat, Op.73 (Emperor)
Symphony No.4, FS76/Op.29 (The Inextinguishable)
Martin Helmchen (piano)
Philharmonia Orchestra
Paavo Järvi 

Paavo Järvi
Photograph: Ixi Chen
On the evidence of the previous Nielsen collaboration between Paavo Järvi and the Philharmonia Orchestra (Symphony No.1 last year) expectations were not high. In fact this was an outstanding concert from first note to last and a salutary reminder to keep an open mind.
At one time Haydn’s Symphony No.88 seemed to be as frequently played as the later ‘London’ Symphonies. Its inclusion here was doubly welcome. With a substantial complement of strings (violins antiphonally positioned, cellos and double basses to the left of the conductor, just as in Klemperer’s day) this was big-orchestra Haydn but with the added twist of hard-sticks timpani and an appropriate cutting edge to the brass. The outer movements developed a fine momentum. The slow one brought an eloquent cello solo from Timothy Walden and abrupt tutti interjections whilst the Minuet had a real spring to its heel and its rustic Trio was notable for Gordon Hunt’s affectionate oboe-playing. The reception included whoops of joy.
Beethoven composed his E flat Piano Concerto (to become known as the ‘Emperor’) under the least propitious of circumstances – Vienna was under heavy bombardment from Napoleon’s forces – but one would hardly have suspected this from its Olympian splendour. Martin Helmchen numbers Alfred Brendel amongst his mentors and is a notably fine player in the best classical mould.
Martin Helmchen
Photograph: Marco Borggreve
Particularly noticeable was Helmchen’s care over note-values and markings. In the first movement there is a series of descending semiquaver scales rounded off with a triplet, which emerged with crystalline clarity; and there is a bar where Beethoven uncharacteristically interrupts the flow with a senza tempo as though the music has momentarily lost its way, precisely observed here. In the Adagio, normally treated with quasi-religious devotion, Helmchen and Järvi adopted a slightly faster tempo than normal, yet lost none of the music’s inwardness. The gradual descent towards the finale achieved a moment of timelessness and rightly Helmchen delayed the ff till the first bar whereas many players jump the gun and start on the last beat of the slow movement, thus losing its shock value. Under Järvi the accompaniment was both muscular and sensitive, the piano’s frequent exchanges with the woodwinds marking Helmchen out as a fine chamber-musician.
Carl Nielsen’s ‘Inextinguishable’ Symphony was a game changer for its composer. When he conducted it at Copenhagen’s Odd Fellows Hall in 1916 it changed perceptions of him. Later, a performance at an early Edinburgh Festival under Launy Grøndahl did much to establish Nielsen’s reputation outside Denmark. Nielsen could scarcely but be affected by the horrific unfolding events of the First World War. There is also an extraordinarily positive attitude which is quintessentially Danish. As Nielsen put it, “only music has the power to express fully the elementary will to live. Music is life, and like life inextinguishable.”
At the outset Järvi and the Philharmonia hurled us into the vortex with maximum force. It is possible to take a longer view building more patiently to the first movement’s glorioso climax, but this had conviction in spades and in Nielsen conviction counts for a great deal. It also had genuine finesse, for instance as the initial hubbub subsides giving way to a curious accelerando flute passage picked up by the violins and vehemently disrupted by the violas. The intermezzo-like second movement brought some particularly sophisticated wind-playing, the bass clarinet dying to near silence before that extraordinary unison violin entry which ushers in the slow movement. This had all the unanimity and depth of tone which this music cries out for but seldom receives and has been compared to an eagle soaring and swooping. The finale, presaged by another eruption despatched here with a visceral panache, features two battling timpanists in its progress towards the ultimate peroration. This was a concert to make one realise why one keeps coming back for more.

Philharmonia/Järvi review – Järvi tames Nielsen’s wild masterpiece

The Guardian
Martin Kettle
Paavo Järvi
Impassioned performance … Paavo Järvi. Photograph: Julien Hekimian/Getty Images
Even within my lifetime a Guardian critic could write a review complaining that Nielsen’s fourth symphony should not have been titled the “Inextinguishable” but the “Indistinguishable”. We are certainly more interested in and hopefully much wiser about Nielsen’s achievement now. And with two cycles of his symphonies – the other under Sakari Oramo – interweaved in London’s current concert season, Paavo Järvi’s impassioned performance of this craggy yet sweeping masterpiece was the best possible retort to an earlier era that struggled to get it about Nielsen’s individuality and metaphysical drive.
Few symphonies explode with such pent-up energy as Nielsen’s first world war-era assertion of what he saw as the embattled life force. A conductor must work hard to prevent the piece becoming so wild and relentless that its textures and motivic structure are lost. Järvi was equal to that challenge, hugely helped by some committed wind playing, which brought out the more angular dimensions of the score. But he never lost his grip either, and the awesomely executed duel of timpani thunderbolts across the orchestra in the final movement was not allowed to eclipse the compelling trajectory of Nielsen’s argument.
Järvi had begun with Haydn’s 88th symphony in G, a work that is musically and emotionally on another planet. Järvi’s big-band Haydn was a throwback in terms of modern performance practice, but the phrasing and wit of the symphony, a favourite of many early 20th-century conductors, came through just as irresistibly all the same. In between the symphonies, the notable young pianist Martin Helmchen gave a sparkling account of Beethoven’s Emperor concerto, which at times tended to go its own way rather than working in rapport with the orchestra. The rewards of Helmchen’s reading lay more in the exceptional detail and tonal range of his piano-playing, which was extremely impressive, than in the bigger Beethovenian picture, which never quite left the ground as one hoped.

Schostakowitsch mit Bodyguard
Julia Kaiser

Wie der estnische Dirigent Paavo Järvi mit drei Kantaten zu Ehren Stalins seine Landsleute provozierte
Einen Bodyguard, "dreimal so breit wie ich selbst", engagierte Paavo Järvi, um ein Konzert daheim in Tallinn geben zu können. Der Dirigent, 52, widmete sich der Musik von Dmitri Schostakowitsch, die der sowjetische Komponist einst Stalin zu Gefallen geschrieben hatte. Haarsträubend propagandistisch – und heute aktueller denn je, wie Järvi im Vorwort der Mitte Mai bei Erato erscheinenden CD-Aufnahme schreibt. Järvi, der am Pult der Berliner Philharmoniker vom 14. bis 16. Mai Schostakowitschs "1. Symphonie" präsentieren wird, hatte sich mit dem Tallinn-Projekt im April 2012 bewusst in die kulturelle Frontlinie zwischen Estland und Russland begeben.
Bei Järvis Konzert in Tallinn hatten die Zeitungen die Ironie des Komponisten übernommen. "Paavo Järvi huldigt Stalin", titelten sie, provozierend. Daher der Bodyguard, nur zur Vorsicht: "Sie wissen nicht, wessen Gefühle Sie verletzen", so Järvi: "Schostakowitsch schrieb die Kantaten 1964, zwei Jahre, nachdem ich geboren wurde. Historisch gesehen gewissermaßen gestern. Wer nahe der Grenze zu Russland wohnt, hamstert Vorräte im Keller und ist jederzeit auf einen Einmarsch gefasst." Jedem Konzertbesucher sei aber die Ironie des Projektes klar gewesen, nicht nur den Bildungsbürgern, sagt Järvi, und vergleicht es mit Pop-Art in Russland, die Jesus, Micky Maus und Lenin Hand in Hand abbildet.
Eine Gänsehaut sei ihm über den Rücken gelaufen, als er Schostakowitschs drei Kantaten vor ausverkauftem Saal dirigiert habe. "Ich habe mich geschämt, über die Schulter zu schauen, denn ich hasste jedes Wort, das ich da dirigierte. 'Stalin – unser Land wird geführt von einem Genie' und so weiter. Die Hälfte der Bevölkerung unseres Landes ist in Konzentrationslagern von Stalin umgebracht worden!"
Paavo Järvi, der in Tallinn, damals Hauptstadt der Estnischen Sozialistischen Sowjetrepublik, geboren wurde, war 1980 mit seinen Eltern in die USA emigriert. Nach der Unabhängigkeitserklärung Estlands von Russland kehrten sie zurück. Heute fördern Paavo Järvi und sein Vater, der Dirigent Neeme Järvi, mit ihrem Sommerfestival im südestnischen Pärnu und der Järvi Academy für junge Künstler den Musikernachwuchs ihres Heimatlandes.
Mit dem Schostakowitsch-Projekt habe er, zum ersten Mal, dass dies ein Künstler überhaupt tat, die drei Chorwerke "Über unserer Heimat scheint die Sonne", "Das Lied von den Wäldern" und "Die Hinrichtung des Stefan Rasin" dort aufgeführt. Der Komponist schrieb sie, nachdem er mit seiner "4. Symphonie" beim Regime in Ungnade gefallen war. "Die Stücke könnten vordergründig kaum lauter und pompöser sein, mit Posaunen und Knabenchören. Aber es gibt da diese Doppelbödigkeit. Schostakowitsch muss beim Schreiben vor Lachen vom Stuhl gefallen sein." Ein lebensgefährlicher Humor. Die Entscheidung des Regimes fiel zu seinen Gunsten aus. Schostakowitsch kam nicht nur mit dem Leben davon, diese demonstrativ propagandistischen Werke ermöglichten ihm, seiner Berufung weiter nachzugehen. Angst vor der Willkür aber muss er bis zu seinem Lebensende verspürt haben.
Auf die Frage, ob ein solches Konzert nicht eine Art Über-den-Zaun-spucken sei, verweist Järvi auf Schostakowitschs künstlerische Bedeutsamkeit. Sie sei in allen ehemaligen sowjetischen Ländern unumstritten, in Estland wie anderswo. "Deshalb konnte ich das Konzert überhaupt spielen. Hätte ich ein Programm mit Musik von Schostakowitschs Zeitgenossen Dmitri Kabalewski geplant, wäre es verboten worden." Ob Kabalewski in derselben Situation wie Schostakowitsch war, wissen wir heute nicht. Der "schmale Grat zwischen richtig und falsch", auf dem auch ein Künstler balancieren muss, ist an Schostakowitschs Werk plakativer abzubilden.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Classical CDs Weekly: Ives, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Bizjak Piano Duo

Arts Desk
Graham Rickson

Prokofiev, Shostakovich: Cello Concertos Steven Isserlis (cello), Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi (Hyperion)
Prokofiev began writing his Cello Concerto for the great Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky in the early 1930s. The work was completed after Prokofiev’s 1936 return to Moscow, meaning that Piatigorsky, as a Soviet refugee, was no longer able to give the premiere. Several unsuccessful performances led to the concerto falling into obscurity, until Prokofiev’s post-war decision to rewrite the piece for the young Rostropovich as his Op.125 Symphony-Concerto. Here, Steven Isserlis gives us the composer's first thoughts, and it’s hard to understand why such a dramatic, melodic and approachable work has been so neglected. It grips from the outset, the cello melody heard over a stabbing, ticking ostinato that couldn’t have been written by anyone else. Conductor Paavo Järvi rightly emphasises Prokofiev’s sinuous writing for lower strings and tuba. Things get better still in the central Scherzo, 11 hyperactive minutes sounding like a collection of the best bits of Prokofiev you’ve not yet heard. Isserlis’s gutsy, passionate playing defies belief, notably in the extended finale’s sequence of variations. The concerto’s uncompromising, violent close is devastating – fast major key music which leaves a defiantly bitter aftertaste.
As a coupling, Isserlis and Järvi give us Shostakovich’s taut, compact Cello Concerto no 1. Prokofiev’s concerto is epic and darkly romantic; this one is pithy and ironic. This performance is up with the best; Isserlis’s warm, sonorous tone a real asset in the slow movement and extended cadenza. The Allegro con moto’s riotous close is both witty and disturbing. Isserlis throws in a delicious encore as a palate-cleanser: Piatigorsky’s solo cello arrangement of a short march from Prokofiev’s piano suite Music for Children. Hyperion's engineering is impeccable. Only the cover photo disappoints; a greyish portrait of a sleepy-looking Isserlis contrasts with the dynamism of his playing.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Mostly Classic
May 2015

April 2015

April 2015

Hilary Hahn Marches Through Mozart

NPR music
Anastasia Tsioulcas

Violinist Hilary Hahn.
Violinist Hilary Hahn.
Michael Patrick O'Leary/Courtesy of the artist 
When you're all grown up, you — at least theoretically — put away childish things. But there are exceptions, as violinist Hilary Hahn proves in her latest recording project.

The album is a pairing of two concertos she's been playing since she was just 10 years old: 19th-century Belgian composer (and violin virtuoso) Henry Vieuxtemps' Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor and Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, nicknamed "Turkish" — a concerto that Mozart wrote when he was just 19 himself. (And how's this for historic continuity? Hahn first studied the Mozart with her beloved teacher at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, Jascha Brodsky, who in turn studied with the legendary Eugène Ysaÿe, who was himself a student of ... Vieuxtemps.)
Now that Hahn is 35 and has been playing these concertos regularly for a quarter century, she brings both grace and immense force to these performances with conductor Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. There's no better example than the final movement of the Mozart, a rondo that is by turns regal and rollicking. Hahn never gives up her pinpoint precision in the movement's minuet theme. And she brings out real muscle when, in the middle of the movement, Mozart inserts a janissary-influenced section that evokes a Turkish military band and gives the concerto its nickname. The whole album is a pleasure — this is just a little taste.

Prokofjew / Schostakowitsch ∙ Cellokonzerte

 (Bild: )

Eine neue CD des Labels Hyperion vereint das Cellokonzert von Sergej Prokofjew und das 1. Cellokonzert von Dmitrij Schostakowitsch in einer faszinierenden neuen Produktion des hr-Sinfonieorchesters mit Paavo Järvi und Steven Isserlis. 

Mit dem weltberühmten britischen Cellisten hat das hr-Sinfonieorchester in der Vergangenheit bereits mehrfach erfolgreich gearbeitet, zuletzt 2013 bei der Präsentation des Cellokonzerts von Sergej Prokofjew, das lange nur in der stark überarbeiteten Fassung als »Sinfonisches Konzert op. 125« bekannt war. Die von Steven Isserlis vorgestellte, eminent anspruchsvolle und – nicht zuletzt deshalb – selten zu hörende Urfassung des Prokofjew-Werkes wurde im Rahmen eines gefeierten Konzerts in Frankfurt zugleich für CD produziert und macht diese neue Publikation allein schon interessant.

Mit Schostakowitschs 1. Cellokonzert ist auf der CD darüber hinaus ein Hauptwerk der Celloliteratur des 20. Jahrhunderts zu erleben – ein skurriles und hintersinniges Konzert des aus ideologischen Gründen seiner künstlerischen Freiheiten beraubten Komponisten, das voller Masken, Fassaden und Doppelbödigkeiten steckt. In beiden Werken besticht Isserlis dabei mit seiner tiefen, leidenschaftlichen Virtuosität, und das hr-Sinfonieorchester und sein langjähriger Chefdirigent Paavo Järvi bringen auf beeindruckende Weise ihre große Interpretationserfahrung in Sachen Prokofjew und Schostakowitsch ein. 

Medien-Info Prokofjew /

Sergej Prokofjew:

Dmitrij Schostakowitsch:
1. Cellokonzert

Sergej Prokofjew:
Marsch aus »Kindermusik« op. 65

Steven Isserlis, Violoncello
Paavo Järvi, Dirigent

CDA 68037

Gesamtdauer: 65:18