Wednesday, January 31, 2024

A Fresh Look at Vivaldi Concertos

Long-time readers know that I'm interested in the unusual. And the albums I review reflect that interest. Can any album of Vivaldi -- especially one that includes part of the "Four Seasons" -- possibly be unusual? 

Why, yes it can. Violinist Théotime Langlois de Swarte has created an insightful program of Vivaldi. It's a collection of violin concerti, but it's unlike any I've heard before. 

Most albums present an assortment of Vivaldi three-movement concerti. And they all have a homogenous sound.

Not here. The musicians perform in different combinations and techniques, depending on the concerto's origin. Some, like the Concerto in A minor, RV 356 were meant for private concerts. Here the ensemble is stripped down to a small chamber group. It's a clean, intimate sound I don't often hear with Vivaldi.

Many of the concertos were written for the young ladies of the Ospedale della Pietà. These concertos, like the one in D minor, RV 813 have a much fuller sound. The Ospedale had some unusual instruments, such as the archlute, ottavino, and a psaltrey. Le Concort uses these to fill out the continuo. They give the concertos a distinctive sound -- and a fresh one at that.

The album also includes concertos written for festivals and special occasions. This is music-making on a grand scale, with multiple soloists and a large ensemble. Le Concert matches the number of players to the type of concerto (private, Ospedale, or public). And by doing so they enhance the character of the concerto. And that's something I seldom hear. This release makes it clear these concertos had different functions and audiences.

And mention must be made of the "Summer" Concerto, RV 315. This is the world premiere recording of the original version. Vivaldi revised these concertos for publication to give them a broader appeal. Hearing what he originally created is revelatory. Especially if you, like me, have heard this concerto far too many times. 

This is an extraordinary collection of music. Théotime Langlois de Swarte is a superb musician; as a performer, as a conductor, and as the curator for this program. Highly recommended. 

Antonio Vivaldi:Concerti per una vita
Le Consort; Théotime Langlois de Swarte, conductor & violin
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902373.74
Two CD Set

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

John Carmichael: Toward the Light -- Honest Music-Making

I admit I wasn't at all familiar with John Carmichael's work before this release crossed my desk. I'm glad it did. "Toward the Light" has a healthy sampling of Carmichael's catalog. Enough to encourage me to explore further. 

John Carmichael is an Australian pianist and composer, who worked mainly in the UK. A good deal of his works involve the piano. This release includes his second piano concerto. Four of the five chamber works on the release include piano. 

Carmichael writes in an accessible post-Romantic style. The tonal structure of his music is easy to follow -- but never cliche. The Piano Concerto No. 2 features Antony Gray, soloist, with the St. Paul's Sinfonia and Andrew Morely.

The way Gray performs the work suggests it's a joy to play. The gestures are big, but not overblown. The technique is challenging, but not impossible. And the music itself is engaging and well-crafted. And this is a very good performance. 

Also included is the Piano Trio "Toward the Light." Here the piano performs in partnership with the violin and cello. And yet it's a very full part with lots going on. 

The balance is a little better in the Aria for viola and piano. Carmichael writes effectively for the viola. He uses the instrument's dark tone to write some wonderfully resonant melodies. 

"On the Green" is a work for wind ensemble -- no piano. It includes pairs of oboes, clarinets, horns, and bassoons. Plus a contrabassoon. I think it's a real charmer. Carmichael uses his instruments to create a variety of interesting timbres. The music's straightforward, almost bordering on light classical.

And there's nothing wrong with that. "On the Green" has an immediate appeal. It should be a staple with community bands everywhere. I know it hasn't, but perhaps this recording will help. 

What I found most appealing about Carmichael's music was its honesty. Carmichael is straightforward in his intent. And the clarity of that intention makes his music appealing (at least to me).  

John Carmichael: Toward the Light
Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Trio "Toward the Light"; Aria for viola & piano; Contrasts
Short Cuts - Divertimento for flute, oboe, clarinet & piano; On the Green
Divine Art ddx 21103

Friday, January 26, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #Classical1924 Week 4

 It's become an annual tradition. For the first month of the new year, the Classics a Day team looks back a century. So the challenge for January 2024 is to post performances of classical works that were either composed, premiered, or first recorded in 1924.

It turns out 1924 was a landmark year for classical music. Here are my posts for the fourth week of #Classical1924.

01/22/24 Arnold Schoenberg: Wind Quintet, Op. 26

This work was one of the first Schoenberg composed in his 12-tone technique. It was completed in 1924 and premiered in September of that year.


01/23/24 Alban Berg: Three Fragments from "Wozzeck"

Berg completed "Wozzeck" in 1922. The complete opera premiered in 1925. But in 1924 these three excerpts were premiered. Their success helped establish Berg's reputation as a major composer.


01/25/24 Alexander von Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony

Zemlinsky completed this work in 1923. It received its premiere performance in Prague in 1924 with Zemlinsky conducting.


01/26/24 Igor Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments

Stravinsky finished this work in Paris in 1924. He retained the performance rights, allowing no one but himself to perform the concerto. He said it was to protect the work from "incompetent or Romantic hands." 


Thursday, January 25, 2024

Justin Dello Joio: Oceans Apart

I consider this an important release. Justin Dello Joio's "Oceans Apart" was commissioned by the Boston Symphony. Garrick Ohlsson was the intended soloist for this piano concerto. And in January 2023 the work was performed.  Alan Gilbert led the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with Garrick Ohlsson, piano soloist. 

This is a recording of that performance, hence its importance. It is performed by the commissioning artists, with input from the composer. And it's a tremendous composition.

Dello Joio writes that the work was inspired by divisions: political divisions and cultural divisions. The concerto effectively evokes those concepts. Themes break off unresolved. Various groups of instruments seem to compete for attention. And even the foundation of the music seems unsettled. 

Dello Joio writes in what I call a post-tonal style. That is, the overall language is tonal. However, the nature of the harmonies and their resolution aren't traditional. Yet they make sense.

Ohlsson is in top form in this recording, as is the BSO. I hope more orchestras program this work. It deserves a wider audience. 

Also included in this release are two Dello Joio chamber works. The Due Per Due for cello and piano is a tour de force for the performers. In this case, Carter Brey, cello, and Christopher O'Riley, piano.

Blue and Gold Music was composed for the tricentenary of Trinity School. This work for brass quintet and organ sparkles with originality. There's little heralding fanfare here. Just solid writing that utilizes the characteristics of the instruments involved. 

Justin Dello Joio: Oceans Apart
Concerto for Piano and ORchestra
Garrick Ohlsson, piano
Boston Symphony Orchestra; Alan Gilbert, conductor
Carter Brey, cello; Christopher O'Riley, piano
American Brass Quintet
Bridge Records Bridge 9583

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Ivor Gurney: Piano Sonatas Tell a Story

This release presents a selection of piano music by Ivor Gurney. Some of the music was composed immediately before the First World War. The rest soon after. Heard together, they tell a story. 

Ivor Gurney was one of the most promising composers of his generation. But that was the generation that went off to fight World War I. Gurney had suffered from bipolar disorder since his teens. 

During the war, he was on the front lines, where he was both wounded and gassed. He likely suffered PTSD on top of his disorder. In any case, Gurney was institutionalized in 1922 at age 32. 

Gurney was both a poet and composer. He continued to write verse until he died in 1937. But he stopped composing around 1929. 

Gurney's pre-war output includes a poem for piano and the Piano Sonata No. 1. His early style mixed late-Romantic Brahms with British folk harmonies and modes. The Poem for Piano, "Autumn" has an elegiac quality. Here the "Englishness" of the melodic turns and harmonies are readily apparent.

The first piano sonata of 1910 demonstrates Gurney's ability to handle large forms. This three-movement work is well-crafted. The structure of the sonata is there. Although it's been modified to accommodate modal and non-traditional harmonies. 

From Gurney's early post-war output are two other piano sonatas, and his Five Preludes. The preludes are a little deceptive. They're a sparkling set of miniature gems. George Rowley gives them a spirited performance. But they seem to come from a different place than Gurney's pre-war works. 

Piano Sonatas Nos. 2 and 3 were both started in 1919. The third sonata is a more complex work than the first. And it has a different character. Even at its liveliest, there's a sense of serious purpose here. 

Gurney never completed his second sonata. The second movement stands as a torso that hints of potential. It's a beautiful, somber work, and does quite well as a stand-alone piece. 

George Rowley plays with insight and sympathy. He's adept at bringing out both the optimism of the early works and the pessimism of the post-war ones. 

Only a small fraction of Gurney's music has been recorded. This is a welcome addition to that slender catalog.   

Ivor Gurney: Piano Sonatas
George Rowley, piano
Naxos 8.574479

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Irina Muresanu/Violeta Dinescu Amazing Collaboration

This is the kind of release that excites me. Violinist Irina Muresanu collaborated with composer Violeta Dinescu to create this recording. Why exciting? Because it's a document we're privileged to have. 

Joseph Joachim collaborated with Johannes Brahms in the creation of his violin concerto. But we don't know how he performed it. There are no recordings to give us insights. But these are modern times. It's possible to record those types of collaborations.

And in this case, that collaboration is especially fruitful. And with this recording, listeners can enjoy the music. And other artists can learn from Muresanu's informed performances. 

Romanian composer Violeta Dinescu has an impressive catalog covering all the major genres. In Romanian violinist Irina Muresanu, she's found a kindred spirit. As Dinescu says in the liner notes, Maresanu has found the "space between the notes," the essence of her work. 

And that's what makes these compositions live. There's an underlying Romanian character to these pieces that Muresanu brings out. It's often a subtle character -- just the way a note bends, or a double stop is articulated.

These works push the limits of the instrument, and a little beyond. And yet they have a lyrical quality to them. 

Muresanu won the Montreal International Violin Competition. One of her showpieces was Dinescu's "Aretusa" (included in this release). So make no mistake. These are indeed definitive performances. And ones not to be missed.   

Irina Muresanu Plays Violeta Dinescu
Solo Violin Works
Metier MEX 77106

Friday, January 19, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #Classical1924 Week 3

 It's become an annual tradition. For the first month of the new year, the Classics a Day team looks back a century. So the challenge for January 2024 is to post performances of classical works that were either composed, premiered, or first recorded in 1924.

It turns out 1924 was a landmark year for classical music. Here are my posts for the third week of #Classical1924.

01/15/24 Arthur Wood: My Native Heath

Wood was a staff composer for Boosey & Hawkes. This orchestral suite featured several orchestrated country dances. Only "Barwick Green" from this suite is still performed.


01/16/24 Ralph Vaughan Williams: Hugh the Drover

This opera premiered in 1924 at His Majesty's Theatre. Vaughan Williams makes effective use of folk songs and sets a prize fight to music. Easter egg: at midnight the town's church bells play "York," one of RVW's favorite hymn tunes and the foundation for his "Pilgrim's Progress."


01/17/24 Paul Hindemith: Klaviermusik (Concerto for Piano and Orchestra), Op. 29

This work was a commission from Paul Wittgenstein, the left-handed pianist. Wittgenstein never performed it. And since the commission included life rights, no one else could play it until after his death. It was finally premiered in 2004 with Leon Fleisher.


01/18/24 Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Piano Concerto for the left hand in C-sharp, Op. 17

The left-handed pianist Paul Wittgenstein commissioned this work. Korngold completed it in 1923. Wittgenstein premiered it in Vienna in 1924 with the composer conducting.


01/19/24 Karl Weigl: Piano Concerto for the left hand

Weigl wrote this work on commission from Paul Wittgenstein, the left-handed pianist. Wittgenstein never performed the work in public. The exclusive nature of the commission prevented anyone else from performing the work until after his death in 1961.


Thursday, January 18, 2024

Cappella Romana Deliver Arvo Pärt's Spirituality

The liner notes lay out the goal of the Capella Romana. "The mission... is to experience and understand the transcendent beauty of the sacred music of the Christian East and West, especially of Byzantium, cultivating heritage and sharing it worldwide." That's one heck of a long sentence. And one heck of a mission.

But that's what they do, and with this album, they succeed. "Transcended beauty" aptly describes Arvo Pärt's music. 

Pärt is a deeply spiritual composer and practices the Eastern Orthodox faith. His music is new, yet old. It's inspired by Medieval and Renaissance music, and by Eastern Orthodox chant. 

This release collects Odes of Repentance from various Pärt compositions. There are selections from "triodion." Kanon Pokajanen (Kanon of Repentance), "Zwei slawische Psalmen," and a few stand-alone works. 

The subject matter gives the program a stylistic cohesiveness. These are songs of penance. They are slow, quiet works. There's a hint of sorrow, but mostly introspection. And introspection is one of Pärt's strengths.

The Capella Romana delivers beautifully sung performances with hushed reverence. Director Alexander Lingas brings out Pärt's spirituality through the choir's singing.

When it's time to get off the merry-go-round of daily life, play this album. It can transport you to a world of quiet contemplation. And that's not a bad thing at all.  

Arvo Pärt: Odes of Repentance
Cappella Romana; Alexander Lingas, director
Cappella Records

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Evgeni Koroloiv Brings Insights to Handel

Tastes evolve. At least, mine have. When I first started listening to classical music, I wasn't particular about origins. A violin sonata transcribed for clarinet? Fine. Baroque keyboard music played on a modern piano? Cool. 

All that mattered was the sound. If it sounded good, I was good. Then I discovered the authentic instrument movement, and my attitude changed. Bach didn't write for a Steinway. I wanted to hear his keyboard music played the way he intended, on an instrument of his time. And don't even talk to me about transcriptions.

I've since mellowed. No matter how precise the notation is, the performer has to make musical judgments. And in the case of playing Baroque music on the piano, a lot of them. The modern piano has a host of expressive options unavailable to the harpsichord. Using them judiciously can yield insights into the works. 

Evgeni Koroliov is just such an artist. In this release he performs selections from two volumes of Handel's keyboard suites. The works date from the 1710s (though published later). Handel was a gifted melodist, and many of these pieces have wonderfully crafted tunes. 

But he could also write contraputally (as in Suite 3, Set I). His counterpoint isn't as thick as Bach's -- but it's pretty darned melodious. 

Koroliov's phrasing illuminates the structure of these works. There are subtle divisions between melodic and supporting harmonic lines. Small changes in dynamics signal major events. The pedal is used sparingly but effectively. 

Authentic? No. But musical? Yes. Koroliov gives us engaging, thoughtful performances of this material. And isn't that what we're listening for?

Georg Friedrich Handel: Piano Suites
Evgeni Koroliov,piano

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Solid Choral Compositions from Richard Lambert

This release features twelve works given their world recording premiers. Choirs throughout the English-speaking world are familiar with Richard Lambert's work. This album exposes his music to a wider audience. 

The collection presents a good overview of the composer's style. Lambert has an engaging, accessible style. His music can be challenging, but it's always playable and listenable. And those are the two elements of success in the world of choral music. 

The album has what it calls a "Christmas Sequence." The Christmas carols in this section are all original Lambert compositions. Although they weren't originally conceived of as a whole. The earliest carol dates from 1995, the latest from 2021. The sequence is simply a collection of Lambert's carols. 

Still, it's a nice sequence. And the carols are real standouts. In many cases, Lambert takes a familiar text and creates a new melody for it. "Away in a Manger" and "The Holly and the Ivy" take on new meanings in these resettings. 

The most ambitious work on the album is "a plague o' your houses." I've not heard anything quite like it. Lambert composed the work during the Covid lockdown. A narrator, personifying different plagues, sets the stage. The choir articulates the feelings and impressions of those living in a plague zone. Lambeth augments the sound with a string quartet and percussion. 

The work has a disorienting quality to it. The mood it sets is somber, yet restless. Oppressive, and yet unsettled. I think "...a plague" is worth the price of admission (or download). Consider the other selections bonus material. 

Karolina Csáthy directs the Accordare Choir. They sing with feeling and precision -- two qualities for the success of "...a plague."    

Richard Lambert: Choral Music, Sacred and Secular
Accordare Choir, Karolina Csáthy, director
Toccata Classics TOCC 0713

Friday, January 12, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #Classical1924 Week 2

 It's become an annual tradition. For the first month of the new year, the Classics a Day team looks back a century. So the challenge for January 2024 is to post performances of classical works that were either composed, premiered, or first recorded in 1924.

It turns out 1924 was a landmark year for classical music. Here are my posts for the second week of #Classical1924.

01/08/24 Arthur Honegger's Pacific 231

Honegger had completed this work in 1923. It was premiered at a Paris concert conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. It shared the progam with Prokofiev's reconstructed Piano Concerto No. 2


01/09/24 Leoš Janáček: String Quartet No. 1

This quartet was written within a space of 15 days in October, 1923. It was inspired by the Tolstoy's novel "The Kreutzer Sonata," which is the subtitle for this work. The Czech Quartet premired the quartet at a Contemporary Music Society concert in Prague in 1924.


01/10/24 Gustav Holst: Choral Symphony

Holst completed this work in 1924. It was premiered in october 1925. Although sometimes known as the First Choral Symphony, Holst never got beyond writing some sketches for a planned second.


01/11/24 Bohuslav Martinu: Concertino for Cello, Winds, Percussion and Piano in C minor, H 143

This concertino was one of seven major works Martinu composed in Paris in 1924.


01/12/24 Maurice Ravel: Tzigane, Rapsodie de concert

The original version for violin and piano premiered April 26, 1924 with violinist Jelly d'Aranyi, who commissioned the piece. The orchestral version premiered October 19, 1924 with the Conertgebouw Orchestra and violinist Samuel Dushkin.


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Strong Debut by Sam Boutris

This album is a recital by Sam Boutris. The program is comprised of composers who have especially influenced him. Not all, though wrote for the clarinet (or rather, not much). As such, it's an album of original works for clarinet, plus some transcriptions. 

On the side of originality are two works by clarinetists. Louis Cahuzac had a successful solo career as a clarinetist in the early 1900s. His work "Cantilena" shows the clarinet at it's most lyrical. 

Luigi Bassi was the principal clarinetist for La Scala in Milan. Influenced by his day job, Bassi wrote 15 operatic fantasies for clarinet. His Fantasy on the themes of Verdi's Rigoletto is the most popular, and the one included here. Carl Nielsen's "Fantasy Piece" is an early work, written for the clarinet. 

The transcriptions include Robert Schumann's "Three Romances, Op. 94," originally for cello and piano. This work has been transcribed for many solo instruments.  -- in this case, the clarinet.

Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune" began as a piano work, and Carl Maria von Weber's "Andante e Rondo ungarese," Op. 35 was originally for bassoon. 

Overall, the selections make for a varied and interesting program. 

Bourtris turns in some solid performances. His instrument has a clean, liquid tone with no harshness in the upper range. His phrasing instincts are excellent. The lyricism of these works is brought out in Boutris' playing. 

If you want to know how the clarinet should be played. pick up (or download) a copy of Phases.

Sam Boutris, clarinet; Sophiko Simsive, piano
Musica Solis

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic Continues Fine Tradition

This is the sixth release of the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic. Each year, the Philharmonic records an album of American music with a guest conductor. This time it's JoAnn Falletta, director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. 

The orchestra is comprised of conservatory students from the U.S. and abroad. While the players may lack experience, they have plenty of talent and musicianship. Every track was a top-flight performance. 

I did have a quibble with the recorded sound. I'm not sure if it was the venue, or where the mics were set. But the overall sound was a little unfocused. And I thought there was a touch too much ambiance, which tended to slightly blur the sound.

Still, there's a lot to like with this release. Falletta is in her element with these works. One of her many strengths is her Mid-Century repertoire.

Aaron Copland's "The Tender Land" Suite was based on his opera of the same name. But he significantly reworked the material for the suite. Falletta delivers the feeling of the wide-open plains of Copland's opera. A few motifs and instrumental combinations have become staples of Western movie soundtracks. 

Paul Creston's Saxophone Concerto receives its world recording premiere. And so does Ulysses Kay's  Pietà. Creston's concerto is a robust post-Romantic work. Creston uses the saxophone as a strictly classical instrument -- there's not a hint of jazz.

Ulysses Kay became the first black composer to win the Prix de Rome in 1949. While there, he was inspired by Michelagel's sculpture, and composed "Pieta." This somber and beautiful work could be a companion piece to Barber's "Adagio." English hornist Anna Mattix delivers a haunting performance.

Walter Piston's "The Incredible Flutist" Suite is a staple of modern orchestral repertoire. It's from a ballet score commissioned by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. So accessibility was key. The score is a delightfully tuneful and fun composition that justifies its popularity. 

A fine addition to this Naxos series.  

Aaron Copland: The Tender Land Suite
National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic; JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Naxos 8.559911

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Four Hands at Home Present Cozy Compositions

This release recreates the sound of the 19th-century salon. Stephanie McCallum and Erin Helyard perform at an 1853 Érard piano. The instrument has a surprisingly good sound, with virtually silent action. 

Modern pianos are cross-strung to give a homogenous sound across the full range. The Érard was straight-strung, creating different timbres across the range. That difference was used to great effect by the transcribers of piano four-hand music. 

The opening selection by Ignaz Moscheles was originally conceived for piano four-hands. Moscheles was a piano virtuoso, though he scaled the technique back for this work. Nevertheless, "La belle union" is a composition that lays well under the hands. 

Transcriptions were a big part of the piano four-hands music market. This album includes a transcription of Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin" Vorspiel. The music attests to the work's popularity. 

French composer Pierre-François Boëly arranged his third string quartet for piano four-hands. String quartets translate well to the medium. And it's likely Boëly saw more music sales with this version of the work, as opposed to the original.

Augusta Holmès also contributes a transcription. This Irish/French composer. The "Poeme symphonique" was written in 1853, inspired by the Polish independence movement. Her message saw wider distribution in homes across France than in the concert hall. 

Stephanie McCallum and Erin Helyard make a great team. They play with one accord, and the music benefits. There were times when I couldn't tell if one or two people were playing. The pair bring out the Romantic expression in these works, without over-doing it. 

An interesting audio recreation of a time gone by. And a revival of some sadly-neglected repertoire.  

 Four Hands at Home: Domestic Music-Making in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Stephanie McCallum and Erin Helyard, piano four-hands
Toccata Classics TOCN 0031 


Friday, January 05, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #Classical1924 Week 1

 It's become an annual tradition. For the first month of the new year, the Classics a Day team looks back a century. So the challenge for January 2024 is to post performances of classical works that were either composed, premiered, or first recorded in 1924.

It turns out 1924 was a landmark year for classical music. Here are my posts for the first week of #Classical1924.

01/02/24 George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue

The first version of this work premiered on February 12, 1924, in Aeolian Hall, NYC. It was part of "An Experiment in Modern Music" Concert. Gershwin was the soloist.


01/03/24 Julian Carrillo: Preludio a Colón

Carillo premiered this work in a February 15th, 1924 concert in Mexico City. It featured the Grupo Sonido 13, an ensemble specializing in microtonal music -- the "13th Sound" of Carrillo's system.


01/04/24 Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 7

Sibelius began this work in 1914, and completed it ten years later, in 1924. It premiered that year under the title "Fantasia sinfonica No. 1."


01/05/24 Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto NO. 2 in G minor

Prokofiev completed the original Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1912, but the score was lost. He reconstructed the work a decade later. It was premiered in Paris with Serge Koussevitzky conducting.


Thursday, January 04, 2024

Emilio de'Cavelieri: Lamentations


Emilio de' Cavalieri was a major figure in the early Baroque. He's credited with writing the first oratorio in 1600. That same year he produced "Euridice" by Jacopo Peri, one of the first operas. 

Cavalieri was also one of the first to write in stile rappresentatvio, or monody. This was a radical departure from the thick textures of Renaissance choral music. 

Cavalieri was also an organist, a dancer/choreographer, and even a diplomat. He wasn't, though, very diplomatic about his rivals. Stile rappresentavio caught on quickly. 

And Cavalieri was quick to ensure his place in history. "Everyone knows I am the inventor of [this style]," he wrote, "and I said so myself in print."

At the very least, Cavalieri realized the expressive possibilities of the new style. This collection presents his settings of Jeremiah's "Lamentations." This text was traditionally sung during Lent, a time of penance. 

Cavalieri's music is wonderfully expressive, wringing the emotion from every phrase. His use of chromaticism can sound advanced even today. And his use of dissonance is superb.

The Profeti della Quinta has been researching this music for a decade. It's only now that they feel ready to share it with the world. Their performances are subtle and effective. It was worth the wait.

Today, Cavalaier's name isn't as well-known as Claudio Monteverdi's and Jacobo Caccini's. This is in part because so little of Cavalieri's music survives. But what remains shows a composer inspired by the possibilities of this new style.

Emilio de'Cavelieri: Lamentations
Profeti della Quinta
Pan Classics PC 10451

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Gija Kancheli's Music Erupts with Elisaveta Blumina

"An ascetic with the temperament of a maximalist; a restrained Vesuvius." That's how Roidon Shchedrin characterized Giya Kancheli. This Georgian composer certainly made his own path both in the Soviet Union and later in Belgium. And the description is apt.

This release presents some of Kancheli's smaller works. The centerpiece are selections from his 18 Miniatures for Violin and Piano. Also included are four works for chamber orchestra. 

All seem ready to burst at the seams. The forces involved may be small.  But there's energy in Kancheli's music that can barely be contained. 

The most recent work is "A Little Daneliade for piano, strings, and percussion." As with many of Kancheli's works, it's built around melodic fragments. These fragments join and separate in different ways throughout the piece. There's a Kurt Weill cabaret sound to this work, and one the musicians lean into.

18 Miniatures for violin and piano show Kancheli's lyrical gifts. His melodies borrow from folk and jazz. Yet they're something more than their inspirations. Violinist Hartmus Chill and Elisaveta Blumina make a great team. Kancheli's music is for two equal partners, not soloist/accompanist.

Chill and Blumina compliment each other's playing. Their combined sound is delicate and perfectly balanced. And their performances show these works to be creations of real beauty. 

The album ends with the Largo and Allegro for piano, strings, and tympani. In this 1963 work, Vesuvius finally erupts. The allegro is fast and frantic.

Recommended for anyone with a taste for modern music.

Gija Kancheli: A Little Daneliade
Valse Boston; 18 Minatures; Largo and Allegro
Elisaveta Blumina, piano/conductor; Hartmus Chill, violin
Capriccio C5488

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Gregor Aichinger: Virginalia, 1607 - Ground-breaking

Gregor Aichinger worked for the House of Fugger in the late 1500s. They were an important international banking family and one with cosmopolitan tastes. With his employer's blessing, Aichenger journeyed to Rome in 1599 to study music.

The year 1600 marked the beginning of the Baroque era. The Baroque movement had new ideas about keys, harmonies, and even musical forms. Aichinger was there at the start. And when he returned to Augsberger, the concepts of the Baroque came with him.

Aichenberger became one of the first German Baroque composers. His compositions incorporated basso continuo, and his counterpoint reflected the new, post-Renaissance ideals. 

This collection from 1607 is an excellent example. It features various compositions venerating the Virgin Mary. There are pieces concerned with the various mysteries associated with Mary. The final section is a paean to the Mother of God, intercessor between mankind and her Son. 

In some ways, this music sounds familiar. Aichinger provides the foundation. generations of German composers would build upon. From Heinrich Schutz to Johann Sebastian, most adopted Aichinger's innovations.

The Concentus Vocum has a smooth, homogenous blend. As recorded, the 24-voice ensemble has full, rich sound. The recording has the right amount of ambiance. There's some echo, but not enough to muddy the music. 

Interspersed throughout the program are some organ pieces by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli. This is certainly music Aichinger would have heard in Italy. These musical interludes add to the overall listening experience. They're especially welcome if you're listening straight through. 

Excellent performances of ground-breaking music.

Gregor Aichinger: Virginalia, 1607
Concentus Vocum; Michaelangelo Gabrielli, director
Tactus TC 560101