Shostakovich rescued!

Born in 2006 with a mission to rescue and reissue recordings lost in the disappearance or downsizing of labels (Olympia, Melodiya, Unicorn, Vanguard) as well as early recordings of still-with-us Decca, EMI, Deutsche Graophon and Sony/CBS, Alto makes good on its word with a series of recorded treasures being released this month.

The 1933 Concerto No. 1 in C minor for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra has the composer as his raucous, irreverent best, toying with the unlikely pairing of piano and trumpet as almost-equal partners supported by a string orchestra.

With its plethora of musical puns, off-the-wall quotes and dash-to-the-end tempi the C minor concerto is a hilarious, exhilarating tour de force played for all its worth in this Columbia recording re-issue with Leonard Bernstein leading the NY Philharmonic Orchestra with Andre Previn as the piano soloist.

The single-movement Concertino in A minor for 2 pianos was composed and premiered in 1953 by Shostakovich father and son. It is again a bravura test piece given a terrific reading here by the composer and son, Maxim.

The 1957 Piano Concerto No.2 in F major is one of Shostakovich’s signature works, even if for some inexplicable reason the composer downplayed its merits. Written for his nineteen year old piano prodigy son, the work exudes optimism notwithstanding the presence of sweeping minor mode melancholy utterances from the strings in the middle movement. Here the multi-talented Leonard Bernstein is both soloist and conductor.

The Alto release of a group of Shostakovich works is a harbinger of more good things to come from this enterprising label.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

The National Orchestra of Sweden

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. This terrific site is another of my favorite sources of musical pleasure right at home.

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1905 and today consists of over 100 musicians.

The orchestra’s home is the Gothenburg Concert Hall. Santtu-Matias Rouvali is the Chief Conductor. In 1997, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra was appointed as the National Orchestra of Sweden.

With a strong commitment and belief in the uniting power of music, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra will be available even more on GSOplay (https://www.gso.se/en/gsoplay/) while the visits in the Concert Hall are limited due to the corona pandemic.

You don’t need an account, just click the concert range and start watching.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.

As we celebrate the harvest, let us take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Thanksgiving.  Let us give thanks for what we have—friends, family, health, homes to protect us, food to nourish us, and opportunity.  Let us hope for a peaceful world, where our sameness and our differences are celebrated and respected, and where every person on our bountiful planet will be blessed with the same possibility for, not only a full stomach, but a soul fed with everything our world can provide.    

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone. 

Love to all,

Rafi and Kim

ENJOY THE COLÓN EXPERIENCE AT HOME

Among the many sources of music widely available on line, the website of Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colón ( WWW.teatrocolon.org ) stands out among its many competitors. Readily available to the curious listener, the archival sound treasures of this illustrious institution go back to the 1940’s.

Sound recordings of recitals by singers Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Birgit Nilsson, José Carreras, Luciano Pavaroti and Régine Crespin are offered on its site side by side with concerts by guitarist Narciso Yepes, pianists Martha Argerich and Claudio Arrau, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, along with full operas featuring the likes of Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, and Teresa Berganza.

Starting with the new century, fully staged operas and ballets featuring a mix of Argentine talents and international stars are available on video along with concerts by the superb Buenos Aires Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Colon Theater of Buenos Aires is one of the most important opera houses of the world. The Teatro Colón functioned from 1857 to 1888 and then reopened on May 25, 1908. The theatre was again closed from October 2006 to May 2010, when it reopened with vast improvements to its technical capabilities to its huge 65 ft. x 65 ft. stage. The theatre’s seating capacity is 2,487 seats with additional standing room for 1,000 and it has just about perfect acoustics.   

Serbian American pianist Ivan Ilić takes on Anton Reicha’s L’Art de varier

In the recent CHANDOS three-volume release of Anton Reicha’s L’Art de varier – a set of an F major theme and 57 variations for piano under the opus number 57, the formidable Serbian American pianist Ivan Ilić takes on the challenge of bringing to life this intriguing work with splendid results.

Anton Reicha(1770-1836), a Czech artist and close friend of Beethoven composed this work between 1801 and 1803, and, in spite of its many merits, L’Art de varier  fell into relative obscurity for well over two centuries, along with most of Reicha’s prolific output. Reicha dedicated this work to Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, who then invited the composer to become his Kapellmeister and teacher, only to be inexplicably turned down by the eccentric composer!

Evenly balancing intellectual acuity, peerless musicality and sober sensitivity pianist Ivan Ilić sustains the interest of the listener throughout the entire set of variations that range from the drily humorous to moments of sheer bravura.

The album is neatly engineered and accompanied by a handsome booklet.

Rafael de Acha     www.RafaelMusicNotes.com  

Matilde di Shabran

Matilde di Shabran was Rossini’s last commission from Rome, where Il barbiere di Siviglia had had its birth. This premiere NAXOXS recording revives the original 1821 Rome version, which was conducted at the last minute by Niccolo Paganini, and caused turmoil in the streets of Rome between groups of Rossini’s pros and cons. Rossini was not overly concerned, as he had his sights set on greener pastures: Vienna, London and Paris awaited.

The cast of this NAXOS release of the original version (of three) features a youthful group of gifted singers from the Bad Wildblad Festival : six males and two females. Contralto Victoria Yarovaya and soprano Sara Blanch, both raise the bar for their other colleagues getting the lionesses’ shares of the show stopping arias.

José Miguel Pérez-Sierra brightly helms this performance of this comic rarity conducting the Passionart Orchestra Krakow in this NAXOS CD which is sure to entice Rossini fans with its rarity.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

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Peace, Health, and the simple joy of cherishing just simply being alive

Noel Coward once quipped in response to the silly platitude “Life is for living!” this response: “It’s difficult to know what else to do with it!” So, in that spirit, we send to all our readers – especially to those who are feeling more than just a bit depressed by the combination of Covid19, isolation, and the relentless piling up of bad news coming our way, a heartfelt salute to Life, which given the alternative is unquestionably more than worth living, no matter all the negativity. We send each and every one of you and yours our heartfelt wishes for Peace, Health, and the simple joy of cherishing just simply being alive.

MORE LIFE

“This disease will be the end of many of us but not nearly all, and the dead WILL BE COMMEMORATED AND WIL STRUGGLE ON WITH THE LIVING. And we are not going away. We won’t die secret deaths. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. You are fabulous creatures, and I bless you: MORE LIFE. THE GREAT WORK BEGINS. Prior Walter’s final words in Tony Kushner’s ANGELS IN AMERICA.

Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Prison

Henry Bennett Brewster wrote The Prison: A Dialogue in 1891, and Dame Ethel Smyth in her 1930 similarly-titled choral work, The Prison based its sung text on Brewster’s philosophical-poetic treatise. CHANDOS is releasing a recording of Dame Ethel Smyth’s final work and the results are very good indeed.

Dame Ethel Smyth, a fierce feminist, a passionate suffragist, and above all an immensely-gifted composer, endured neglect and patronizing sexism during her life, in spite of having the friendship and support of the likes of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bruno Walter, Sir Thomas Beecham and Donald Tovey.

In spite of many challenges and by dint of an unrelenting work ethic, Dame Ethel became the first woman composer to be given the title of Dame and the first one of her sex to have a production at the Metropolitan Opera – The Forest in 1903.

Structured in two parts and sixteen movements The Prison, here in its world premiere recording, is a fascinating composition that notwithstanding the sui generis quality of Smyth’s music, has its musical roots in the massive orchestrations, sweeping melodic lines and harmonic expansiveness of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler.

The work’s part-narrative, part-meditative text tells of a man imprisoned in a cell of the mind who – through a process of communing with his soul and through it with the universe – achieves an elevated state of enlightenment as he joyfully journeys towards a worldly death and a spiritual rebirth beyond the end of life.        

Here the silvery-voiced soprano Sarah Brailey and the impressive bass-baritone Dashon Burton deliver perfect performances, both equally earmarked by flawless vocalism, intelligent restraint, and utmost elegance. James Blachly who leads the superb Experiential Orchestra and Chorus with balance and clarity must also be given credit for the resurrection of this work in its revised edition. The young maestro elicits a wonderful performance from all the forces he helms in a one-of-a-kind addition to the recorded repertoire available on various platforms.

For more information contact Simon Astridge: sastridge@chandos.net

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Delos gives us three musical gifts at year’s end

In Soli Deo Gloria, a lovely two-disc set released by Delos perhaps never better than in time for the holiday season, thirty-five selections that include various sonatas and several of the nearly four-dozen chorale preludes (BWV 599-644) contained in the Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book) conceived by J.S. Bach during his tenure as organist and music director at Leipzig’s Thomas Kirche are brought to vibrant life by trumpeter Andrew Balio and organist Bruce Bengtson.

The genius of the composer shines through in these modest, small-scale gems felicitously transcribed by Andrew Balio for the trumpet. The title of the two-CD set comes from Bach’s own words which he wrote at the end of each of his compositions: Soli Deo GloriaOnly for the Glory of God.

The music of Bach as played by Balio and Bengtson transcends earthly bounds and touches and stimulates the brain and the heart of the listener with the composer’s mastery of counterpoint and the soulfulness of his art.

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In another timely release by Delos, the chamber choir Conspirare is alternately joined by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, the Texas Guitar Guartet, and the Austin Guitar Quartet in The Singing Guitar.

The album features several compositions: Nico Muhly’s How Little You Are – a compelling work that tells of the struggles of American pioneer women, Kile Smith’s The Dawn’ Early Light – a reflection on the meaning of our National Anthem by Sarah Winnemuca Hopkins, a 19th century native American Paiute activist, Reena Esmail’s hauntingly beautiful When the Guitar, and Craig Hella Johnson’s The Song That I Came To Sing.

The ensemble work by the unusually combined forces of each of the three guitar quartets and the chamber choir Conspirare yields excellent results in this most charming collection of works by American composers.

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Marcellus in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Hamlet speaks these words: Some sat that ever ‘gainst that season comes/ Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated/The bird of dawning singeth all night long/And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad/The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike/No fairy takes nor witch hath power to charm/So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.

And in So hallow’d the time a release of music by Brian Galante and Stephen Paulus, the Taylor Festival Chorus impeccably sings works by these two American composers that honor the Christmas Season as eloquently as the Bard’s words do. The music of Galante’s five-movement So hallow’d the time and that of the shorter How far is it to Bethlehem? is both melodic, straightforwardly tonal, and honest as it touchingly depicts the wonderment of the birth of Christ.

In Stephen Paulus’ Christmas Dances and in his Pilgrim’s Hymn the mood is celebratory and joyous, with a sound evocative of pastoral, folk melodies.

The titles of Galante’s sections in his So Hallow’d the Time are: Wisdom, Peace, Love, Light and Love. This listener cannot think of sentiments more needed in the troubled time in which we now live.

Rafael de Acha    www.RafaelMusicNotes.com