Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Collins Classics on Spotify

Oh yes, the early nineties. The years of shoulder pads, three tenors, startling fee’s and start-up cd compagnies. In that period there was one classical music label that started to make a name for themselves; „Collins Classics”. Based in England, they opened up busyness in 1989 and could continue until 1998, when the first troublesome signs of the classical CD market emerged. In later years, the back catalogue was bought by the clever boys and girls of Phoenix Music International Ltd. and they handle the digital distribution (ao on Spotify) of the recordings. Scavenger tactics, perhaps, but it makes it possible to hear some fine recordings from the Collins catalogue again and Phoenix emphasizes that the original artist are still payed all their royalties. Let’s trust on that… 

The first item I picked from the Collins catalogue is an excellent recording of Mozart’s Piano concerti no 17 and 21, played by Tamás Vásáry. Flowing piano lines and a sense op playfulness make these performance bubble and sparkle. It’s one of my favorite Mozart cd’s, actually…

The Beethoven performances by the Trio Zingara may not be everyone’s taste, but it’s highly individual and powerful chamber music making. The Gramophone noted about these performances back in 1990: „Nothing is overstated—the weight they give to sforzandos always seems to me just right—and there's a feeling of being carried forward on a strong, benign current. The Perlman/Harrell/Ashkenazy characterization on EMI sounds more than a little studied after this” 

Finally, an original program by the Duke Quartet; string quartets by Samuel Barber (yes, the one with the famous Adagio), Dvorak and Philip Glass. If you expect sweet minimalist harmonies in the latter one, you will be surprised; Philip Glass first string quartet is hardcore avant garde from 1966, including a 2 minute silence between movements. It was made just after he finished lessons from Nadia Boulanger. In the Samuel Barber string quartet from 1936, the famous adagio takes a central role, but it’s the outer movements that really sparkle and shine in this debut recording of the Duke quartet. I never heard it played with more panache than on this recording…

Hope you will enjoy this selection! 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto no 17 in G Major KV 453
Piano Concerto no 21 in C Major KV 467
The Philharmonia,
Tamás Vásáry, piano and conductor

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1828)
Piano Trio no 7 op 97 in Bb Major „archduke”
Piano Trio no 1 op 1 no 1 in Eb Major
Trio Zingara

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
String Quartet op 11 in b minor
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
String Quartet in F major op. 96
Philip Glass (b.1937) 
String Quartet no 1
Duke Quartet.
(HTTP link)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Belgian Revolution muette de Portici amour sacree

And we lost Belgium…

La muette de Portici, the mute girl of Portici, was a very successful opera by Daniel-François-Esprit Auber (1782 – 1871). It was premiered 29th (!!) Februari 1828 in Paris and quickly picked up by opera houses all over Europe. 

As happened at August 25, 1830 in Brussels, at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, as part of festivities in honor of the Dutch king William I, at the time that Belgium and the Netherlands were still one kingdom. A majority of the people of Belgium were not happy with this situation, as there were many cultural and religious (Netherlands predominately protestant, Belgium predominately catholic) differences and irritations between the two regions. There was a strong sense that Belgium was a separate nation, and when the chorus:

Amour sacré de la patrie,
Rends-nous l’audace et la fierté;
A mon pays je dois la vie.
Il me devra sa liberté.

(O holy love for my country, 
Give us courage and pride; 
To my country I owe my life. 
My country owes me liberty.)

(track 14) 

was sung in the second scene of the second act, the crowd dashed out on the streets, 
thus kickstarting the Belgian revolution… 
We throw them a party and they burst out in a revolution as a thank you gift. Party Crashers!! 
Well, no hard feelings from rising star conductor Anthony Hermus, born in the Netherlands, but predominately working in Germany. One to watch, as his guest performance with the Concertgebouworchestra was very successful and his recording of La Muette de Portici was reviewed very well by the international press. The cast is as follows:

Diego Torre ( Masaniello ) Tenor
Oscar de la Torre ( Alphonse ) Tenor
Angelina Ruzzafante ( Elvire ) Soprano
Wiard Witholt ( Pietro ) Bass
Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau,  Anhaltische Theater Opera Chorus 
Anthony Hermus, conductor
(HTTP link)

Our French troublemaker Daniel-François-Esprit Auber 
Nice sideburns, though... 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Christian Blackshaw Mozart Piano sonatas live Wigmore Hall on Spotify

Here are some fascinatingly irritating Mozart performances. I noticed them when I came across this tweet from Christian deFeo: 

„These just arrived: few pianists interpret Mozart's sonatas as sensitively as Christian Blackshaw. @wigmore_hall „ 

Picture of the CD’s included. I hushed to the spotify app and picked a sonata. After listening to KV 570 and KV 310, the infamous Arthur Schnabel quote came to mind: 
“The sonatas of Mozart are unique; they are too easy for children, and too difficult for artists.” Man 'o man, I thought, let the music speak for itself… Does every phrase need to be exclamation marked, emphasized and featured? Ok, some chilling moments in the slow movements, but soon compensated by irritating manners in the next movement. So… Although the set has enthousiast admirers en many good reviews, these live Mozart performances are not my cup of tea. 
But… the fact that I còuld hear them immediately after seeing the CD sleeves on twitter stays magical… And hey, I might not be „in to” this way of playing Mozart; maybe you will be, and, just like me, would like to sample these sonata’s.
So, here are the four live CD’s of Christian Blackshaw recorded live in Wigmore Hall , January and May 2012:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata No. 1 in C major K279
Piano Sonata No. 2 in F major K280
Piano Sonata No. 8 in D major K311
Piano Sonata No. 17 in B flat major K570
Piano Sonata No. 9 in A minor K310
Rec. Live Wigmore Hall Jan. 6, 2012

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B flat major K281
Piano Sonata No. 4 in E flat major K282
Piano Sonata No. 5 in D major K283
Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major K330
Piano Sonata No. 13 in B flat major K333
Rec. Live Wigmore Hall May. 23, 2012

Reviews who argue in favor of these recordings:
„Blackshaw s mindful yet spontaneous virtuosity, pinpointed sense of character and utterly alive music-making completely disarmed my scepticism. His light touch and unpredictable yet never contrived sounding accents in the outer movements of the C major Sonata are akin to a master actor who knows how to throw away a good line.
Jed Distler, Gramophone - December 2013”‘eternal-perfectionist’-pianist-christian-blackshaw

Photo by Christan deFeo

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Navis Classics on Spotify Beethoven by Naum Grubert and Zemstov viola quartet on Spotify

Courageous! Dutch producer Daan van Aalst (Channel classics, RCO live) started a new classical music label called „Navis Classics”. I heard about this on Twitter and at the Dutch national radio, where Daan had an interview (in Dutch) about the first two releases. 

First is the Beethoven CD by the Riga born pianist Naum Grubert, prize winner at the 1978 Tchaikovski competition, who now lives in the Netherlands and lectures at the conservatory of The Hague. Grubert has his own philosophy about the sonatas and on the site of Navis there is an interview where he explains his choices.

If viola recitals are rare, what to think about a viola quartet…? To make it even more remarkable, what about a quartet of viola’s, in which all players are family members… ! It’s the Zemstov viola quartet and on their first CD they play original (only the Piazolla is an arrangement) works for four viola’s by composers from the 19th (Guido Papini, Max von Weinzerl) and 20th century (York Bowen, Arne Werkman). They already received some fine reviews for this recording.

Fortunately for us, Navis has put the CD’s on Spotify, so we can all enjoy these recordings.
Hope to hear more from this label !

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1828)
Piano sonata no 31 in c minor op 111 
Piano sonata no 10 in G Major op 14 no 2 
Piano sonata no 17 in d minor op 31 no 2, „the Tempest” 
Naum Grubert, piano

Guido Pappini (1846-1912) - Quartet for four violas
York Bowen (1884-1961) - Fantasy Quartet op. 41 for four violas
Max von Weinzierl (1841-1898) - Nocturne op.34 for four violas
Arne Werkman (b. 1960) - Quarte Movements for four violas
Arvydas Malcys (b.1957) - Elegie for four violas
Daniel Zemtsov (b. 1996) - „Circle of diminished fifths" for four violas
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) - Verano porteno, Milonga del Angel, Muerte del Angel (arr.) 
Zemstov Viola Quartet
(HTTP link)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Clemens Krauss New Year Concert 1952 on Spotify

Happy New Year! First post of 2015 and we go back to… 1952 :-)

On a Decca Eloquende 2CD with the Johann Strauß Jr operetta „die Fledermaus”, I recognized that the extra tracks on that CD were taken from the Vienna New Years concert of 1952, originally issued on a Decca LP LXT 2645. The order of the tracks did not match the LP, however, so I re-arranged the order of the tracks so it fits the original vinyl again.

Josef Strauß - Mein Lebenslauf Ist Lieb Und Lust
Josef Strauß - Die Liebelle
Josef Strauß - Jockey
Johann Strauß Jr. - Im Krapfenwald'l
Johann Strauß Jr. - Eljen A Magyar
Johann Strauß Jr. - G’schichten Aus Dem Wiener Wald
Johann Strauß Jr. -  Pizzicato Polka
Johann Strauß Jr. - Agyptischer Marsch
Johann Strauß Jr. - Vergnugungszug

Nice performances by Clemens Krauss and the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, 
and fine mono recording by Decca! 

Hope you will enjoy these tracks!
(HTTP link)

Original 1952 LP