Thursday, December 31, 2015

Any new years resolutions? Spotify classical music

Last playlist of 2015…
From the warm winter in the Netherlands I wish you a happy 2016!
Any resolutions? Well, hope to hear some kickass classical stuff again next year,
and hope to find the time to share the discoveries with you all :-D

Resolutions! When I think of that word, I think of the “Sonate beurocratique” by Eric Satie, where the last chords never seem to dissolve. Or the mysterious “three pieces in the form of a pear”, one of the most advanced four hand music Satie ever composed. Strange resolutions there, and I always “see” many stories being told in that music.
Short playlist! Tribute to Aldo Ciccolini, who introduced me to this music, and, after a long and musical life, died in 2015. Was lucky to see him perform life, once. 

Greetings, and see you next year!


Eric Satie (1866-1925)
-Trois Morcaux en forme de poire (1903) for piano 4 hands
Gabriel Tacchino and Aldo Ciccolini, piano

-Sonate Beurocratique (1917) for piano solo
Aldo Ciccolini, piano

Friday, December 18, 2015

Stephen Fry and Classical Christmas music on Spotify

Here is a very fine collection of Classical Christmas lollipops…
I discovered this CD when listening to this 78 RPM record of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Catchy Christmas overture from the mid ’20's. Could not fin a modern version on Youtube, but, with some trouble, did find it could be heard on the CD below. How nice this collection is! 
Stephen Fry is the narrator in Clement Clarke Moore’s (1779-1863) “The Night before Christmas”. Hope you will enjoy it too! :-)

Liner notes -> Here 

Leopold Mozart (1719-1787) arr. Lane, Philip (b 1950)
-Divertimento in F Major, "Die musikalische Schlittenfahrt" (The Musical Sleigh-ride)
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), arr Sydney Baynes (1879-1938)
-The Forest of Wild Thyme, Op. 74: Christmas Overture 
Jules Massenet (1842-1912)
-La vierge: The Last Sleep of the Virgin (cello solo Matthew Lee)
Philip Lane (b. 1950)
-Overture on French Carols
-The Night before Christmas (narrated by Stephen Fry)
Otto Nicolai (1810-49)
-Weihnachts-Ouverture uber Vom Himmel hoch
John Carmichael (b 1930) arr Philip Lane
-Sleighride to Thredbo (arr. for orchestra)
Franz Liszt (1811-86) arr Anthony Collins (1893-1963)
 Weihnachtsbaum, S613/R307 (excerpts) (arr. for orchestra)
-Scherzoso: Man zundet die Kerzen des Baumes an (Lighting the Tree) 
-Ehemals (Old Times, violin solo by Rebecca Turner)
Doreen Carwithen (1922-2002) (reconstructed by Philip Lane)
-On the 12th Day

BBC concert orchestra
BBC singers 
Barry Wordsworth, conductor

Stephen Fry, narration on “The Night before Christmas”

(HTTP link)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Magnatune issues on Spotify Philippe Graffin and Leon McCawley

Last week I experienced a sort of “Stendhal syndrome” while browsing Spotify. “This is online! This is online!”, the notion actually overpowered me a little… :-) And although I know that Spotify may be a curse for small independent labels; it’s also the aural equivalent of the ancient library of Alexandria.

One of the discoveries were the recordings once distributed by Magnatune. Magnatunewith the fascinating slogan “we are not evil” was in fact the first digital distributor for classical music online. You could download their music, made in collaboration with other labels, and you yourself could determine what you would like to pay for it. Having cold feet, I never tried it, although some issues received very favorable press, and I regretted never to try out any of the records in this Gramophone review

The cheers @ my home were when I discovered that the Avie label, partner of Magnatune back in 2006 has put some of the recordings mentioned in that article on Spotify. First a really fine and fiery recording of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s violin concerto, played by French violinist Philippe Graffin and the mentioned Schumann recordings by Leon McCawley
I hope you will be as thrilled as I was having the possibility to hear these performances en you will enjoy them too!

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
-Violin concerto in g minor op 80 (1912)

Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
-Violin concerto in a minor op 53 (1879)

Philippe Graffin, violin
Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Hankinson, conductor
Recorded 2004

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
-Papillons op, 2 (1829–1831)
-Davidsbündlertänze op. 6 (1837)
-Waldszenen op 82 (1848–1849)
-Widmung (arr Franz Liszt 1848)
-Frühlingsnacht (arr Franz Liszt 1872)
-Fantasiestücke op 12 (1837)
-Arabeske op. 18 (1839)
-Kreisleriana op 16 (1838)

Leon McCawley, piano
Recorded at St. George’s Bristol, England, September 2003

(HTTP link) 

Magnatune, seemingly giving the... 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Claude Debussy and Ryuichi Sakamoto on spotify

Sometimes you just don’t have to write to much about a playlist;
Couple of days ago a Boris Berman CD with piano music by Debussy (colorful Suite Bergamasque in this recording!) pared fine with the music of Japanese pop/film composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.
This article in the Telegraph actually showed the connection between both composers, an article I read after the serendipity connection I had between the two CD’s.
Funny. Hope you will enjoy the music too! 

Claude Debussy (1867-1918)
-La Boîte à Joujoux (1913) 
-Children’s Corner (1908)
-Suite Bergamasque (1905) 
-Le Petit Nègre (1909)

Boris Berman, piano
Rec 2001

Ryuichi Sakamoto (Born 1952)
-“A Day a Gorilla Gives a Banana” 1996
-“Rain"  (The Last Emperor) 1987
-“Bibo no Aozora" (Beauty of a Blue Sky, Smoochy) 1995
-“The Last Emperor"  (The Last Emperor) 1987
-"Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" (Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence) 1983
-“M.A.Y. in The Backyard"  (Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia) 1984
-“The Sheltering Sky" (The Sheltering Sky) 1990
-“A Tribute to N.J.P."  (Illustrated Musical Encyclopedia) 1984
-“High Heels (Main Theme)"  (High Heels), 1991
-“Torso of a Blue Cat” (Smoochy, 1995)
-“The Wuthering Heights"  (Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights), 1992
-“Parolibre"  (Futurista, 1986)
-“Acceptance (End Credit, Little Buddha), 1994
-“Before Long"  (Neo Geo) 1991
-“Bring them home"  (Smoochy, 1995)

Ryuichi Sakamoto - piano
Jaques Morelenbaum - cello
Everton Nelson - violin (tracks 1, 3 - 7, 9 - 12 & 14)
David Nadien - violin (tracks 2 & 8)

Barry Finclair - violin (tracks 13 & 15)
Rec 1996

(HTTP link)

Ryuichi Sakamoto

Monday, December 7, 2015

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Father of all Hipsters, on Spotify...

As as poor student, I often went to the free lunch concerts at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Often, it was a public rehearsal by the Concertgebouworchestra and I got to see the world’s greatest conductors “in action”. Bernard Haitink and Wolfgang Sawallisch meticulously going through the pages, or Chailly in a loose style, often unprepared. 
Not Harnoncourt. Harnoncourt was notorious for talking al the time during rehearsal.*
But what he did for the lunchconcert at Haydn’s 100th symphony, can only be described as “A Ted Talk avant la lettre”. He showed, the orchestra playing parts of the score, that in fact this “Military” symphony was an anti-military symphony and that Haydn hid many jokes in the score. And those eyes… I will never forget those piercing eyes…
I’ve known Harnoncourt of course from his 1970’s LP’s. Being from the generation of the 1980’s and 90’s I always marveled the bearded look on the sleeves. Looking back, I only can conclude Harnoncourt was the Father of all Hipsters ;-)

Around the time I visited the lunchconcert, 1993, Harnoncourt recorded the symphony with the Concertgebouworchestra. That recording starts the playlist. The first (second hand) LP I heard with Harnoncourt was a 1973 live recording from the Holland festival. Vivaldi and Handel come from that concert. One of my most played Harnoncourt CD’s is the Zelenka album from 1980. The weird “Hipocondrie” (describing a hypochondriac person) and the grand overture a 7 come from that CD.
Finally, his epoch making recording 1972 recording of Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium, using a boy treble for the soprano aria’s, a practice used in Bach’s own time. The Gramophone wrote in a survey about all BWV 248 recordings about this performance:
The essence of this pioneering reading is captured in the visceral, chamber-like instrumental playing of Concentus Musicus, a kind of Renaissance-style pageantry to the choruses, an intimate acoustic and the extraordinary veracity of Kurt Equiluz’s Evangelist.

Hope you will enjoy this selection!

*one of the orchestra members told me that the running gag in the orchestra was (in Dutch)
“Wat is het Franse woord voor ouwehoer? Harnoncourt…!”
("What is the French word for bullshitting? Harnoncourt …! “)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
-Symphony nr 100 in G major “military” (1793)
Concertgebouw orchestra, rec 1993

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
-Concerto in G minor, Op. 10/2, RV 439 "La Notte" (1728)
Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759)
-Concerto No. 3 in G minor for oboe, strings & basso continuo, HWV 287 (1704-1705)
Concentus Musicus Wien
Live, Holland Festival 1973
Lutherse Kerk, the Hague 
June 26th 1973
Unnamed soloists from the orchestra.

Jan Dietmas Zelenka (1679-1745)
-Hipocondrie à 7 in A major zwv 187 (1723)
-Overture a 7 in Fmajor ZWV 188 (1723)
Concentus Musicus Wien, rec 1980

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Weihnachtsoratorium BWV 248 (1734)
Concentus Musicus Wien
Paul Esswood, Kurt Equiluz, Siegmund Nimsgern, 
den Wiener Sängerknaben und dem Chorus Viennensis
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor

(HTTP link)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Richard Strauss Salome French version on Spotify

In 1902, Claude Debussy wrote an opera, that would revolutionize the way composers would treat the genre: Pelléas et Mélisande. One of the innovations was that, in stead of the centuries long tradition of hiring a librettist to adapt the text, Debussy chose to set the text directly, making only a number of cuts. Richard Strauss was influenced by Debussy’s opera, when he wrote his own masterpiece “Salomé”. He also directly adopted the tekst from a play, aulthough through a somewhat strange international detour: Hedwig Lachmann’s German adaptation of the original French text by British writer Oscar Wilde…
By 1907, Salomé was so popular (and even recorded, I’ve added two 1907 fragments with Emma Destinn on the playlist) that Strauss decided to make a reworking, with the original French text by Oscar Wilde as basis. Vocal lines and orchestration were arranged, making the work much more transparant and remarkably closer in sound the the original model of this work, Pelléas et Mélisande. 
The recording I’ve chosen was recorded in 2007 at the Valle d’Itria Summer Festival on the 100th anniversary of the first staging. The Italian forces render a surprising idiomatic performance, sensual and with a dark and vibrant Salomé sung by Sofia Soloviy. Admittedly, the first three tracks of this live recording sound a bit rough, but with the first big scene with Iokanaan this performance really takes of, helped by the vivid and lucid conducting by Massimiliano Caldi,. 

Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Salomé, Opera op 54

Sofia Soloviy (Salome)
Costantino Finucci (Iokanaan)
Leonardo Gramegna (Herod Antipas)
Francesca Scaini (Herodias)
Vincenzo Maria Sarinelli (Narraboth)
Francesca De Giorgi (The Page of Herodias)
Michele Aurelio Bruno (A Cappadocian)
Giuseppe Ranoia (First Soldier)
Marcello Rosiello (Second Soldier)
Nicola Amodio, Massimiliano Silvestri
Domingo Stasi, Giovanni Coletta
Michele Aurelio Bruno (Five Jews)
Emanuele Genovese
Giuseppe Ranoia (Two Nazarenes) 
Nicola Amodio (A slave)

Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia
Massimiliano Caldi, conductor
Live 2007 

A 100 years earlier…
-Jochanaan, ich bin verliebt in deinen Leib
-Dein Haar ist grässlich 

Emmy Destinn, soprano
Bruno Seidler-Winkler, conductor
Recorded 1907
(HTTP link)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Overture concert and symphony a la Française on Spotify

In concert programming, the “sandwich”, an overture, followed by a concerto and closed with a symphony is a proven succes. Also makes a nice Spotify playlist where you can combine you own armchair concerthall together :-)
For this playlist I’ve chosen three French works from the 19th century:

Camille Saint-Saens 1872 Le Rouet d'Omphale (Omphale's Spinning Wheel) is one of the composers symphonic poems based on Greek mythology. Rather more an atmospheric than a literal description of story about Hercules travesty adventures…  The performance of this piece by Charles Dutoit is a long time favorite, with fine playing by the Philharmonia Orchestra. 

For Édouard Lalo’s 1874 “Violin Concerto” (called “Symphonie” Espangole) I had two choices in digital recordings; the secure and firm Sarah Chang and the playful, more imaginative Christian Tetzlaff. Both versions had their own merits, but the “symphony” factor, in this case the magnificent playing by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Libor Pesek, made me go for the Tetzlaff version. Thrilling musicality :-)

The three movement 1890 symphony in B-flat Major is an underrated masterpiece, composed by Ernest Chausson. Cyclic in form, just as in Cesar Franck’s better known symphony, but darker in tone and especially the forward looking harmonies. Sibelius is not far away in this work. Although the BBC Symphony Orchestra is a British Orchestra, the “sound” conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier  elicits is idiomatically French. Fine listening experience. 

Hope you will enjoy this French “concert at home” playlist…!

Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)
Le Rouet d’Omphale op 31
Philharmonia Orchestra
Charles Dutoit, conductor

Édouard Lalo (1823-1892)
Symphonie Espagnole in d minor op 21
Christian Tetzlaff, violin
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Libor Pesek, conductor

Ernest Chausson (1855-1899)
Symphony in Bb Major op 20
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Yan Pascal Tortelier, conductor
(HTTP link)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra on Spotify Fux Freiburger Barockorchester

Recently, I’ve been further convinced of the awesomeness of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, and this is the reason why…
The music of Johann Joseph Fux is well written, well woven and can drive my roommates more insane than any of my grindcore, industrial of dubstep collection :-) It can be mindblowingly dull sometimes, when the performers just don’t give something extra. Scrolling through several CD’s on spotify, the agreeable (and dull) Fux versions of Suites and Overtures flowed through the loudspeakers, nice but unnoticeable. Enter the Freiburg Baroque, two or thee phrases and whoom, they got the Fux sound right. Not only well written, but also fun, excitement and grandeur…!
It’s not the Christine Pluhar like actualization that does it, it’s the language of the music itself they understand, that with techniques from that period it’s possible to find “new” sounds and adventure in the scores to revitalize the music again. So, curious what you think of this CD,
I enjoyed it very much and has been playing many times now on my Spotify account… !

Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741)

-Overture in D major, N. 4:   
-Concerto for 2 oboes, 2 violions & continuo in D major ('Le dolcezze e l'amarezze della notte'):  
-Intrada for chamber ensemble in C major, E. 62: Intrada 
-Suite for chamber ensemble in C major, n. 83 
-Rondeau à 7, for violino piccolo, bassoon, 4 violins & continuo  

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra 
( Freiburger Barockorchester )
Gottfried von der Golz, conductor

HTTP link:
Foxy Fux...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Authentic Dvorak on Spotify

If you think of “authentic performances”, historically informed and on instruments from the period of the music’s creation, you probably do *not* connect this with a composer like Antonin Dvorak, or the late 19th century. And yet, one new and one older recording explore the sonorities and mindset of the late romantic period, where instruments, phrasing, embellishments and performance style were different than the now evolved performing styles. 

This is especially apparent in a brand new recording of arguably the most famous piece by Dvorak, the Symphony in e minor “from the new world”. Brass and woodwind timbres differ significant from the vibrato laden sound of a 21st century orchestra, while the use of embellishments and legato in the string section is much more differentiated than in the present day practice. Fine performance by the Anima Eterna orchestra and conductor Jos van Immerseel

Between 1967 and 1972 Radoslav Kvapil recorded all known works for piano composed by Antonin Dvorak on the composer’s own Bösendofer concert piano, build in 1879. Surprisingly close in timbre to a modern Concert piano, but leniger in the discant and slightly more transparent in the middle and low registers. Kvapil is an unsurpassed advocate for the relatively unknown output of this composer and still one of the most convincing recordings of these works. I’ve chosen the most prolific works Dvorak wrote for piano, the Suite in A major op 98 also nicknamed “the American”  , the Humoresques op 101 (and yes, no VII is THE Humoresque by Dvorak :-) and the wonderful Poetic moods op 85.

Hope you will enjoy this authentic selection ;-)

Antonin Dvorak (1941-1904)

-Symphony in e minor op 95 “from the new world” (1893)
Anima Eterna
Jos van Immeseel, conductor

Rec 2015

-Suite in A major (original piano version) “American” op 98 (1894)
-Humoresques op 101 (1894)
-Poetic Moods (Poetické nálady) op 85 (1889)
Radoslav Kvapil, on Dvorak’s own Bösendorfer piano from 1879

Rec between 1969 and 1972.
(HTTP link)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Helmut Schmidt Bach Mozart on Spotify

RIP Helmut Schmidt (1918-2015), German Bundeskanzler…

… and Pianist.

Johann Sebastan Bach (1685-1750)

-Concerto for 4 piano’s and orchestra in a minor BWV 1065

Helmut Schmidt, piano
Justus Franz, piano
Gerhard Oppitz, piano
Chistoph Eschenbach, piano and conductor
Hamburger Philharmoniker

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

-Concerto for 3 piano’s and orchestra, F Major KV 242
Helmut Schmidt, piano
Justus Franz, piano
Gerhard Oppitz, piano
Chistoph Eschenbach, piano and conductor
London Philharmonic Orchestra
(HTTP link)