Saturday, November 25, 2017

Beethoven Between the Boobs, the infamous Daniel Barenboim Westminister gold series LP

Dutch NPR radio 4 initiated a “vinylweek” november 25th till december 1st 2017. Classical music recordings, not yet on Spotify or CD, bargain finds for an euro and of course the cover art of classical LP’s. 

One of the most (in)famous classical music covers -and therefore very much sought after!!- is the 1970 re-issue of Daniel Barenboim’s performance of Beethoven’s 3rd piano concerto. The cover is known as the “Beethoven between the boobs” cover (see below the Spotify widget on this page)

The cover was designed by Christopher Whorf for the Westminister Gold series. Originally, the cover of the 1965 Lp was quite traditional, as can be seen here. Whorf managed to make it one of the most whimsical and silly coves ever to be produced on the classical market…

Interesting to know that Christopher Whorf actually did make magnificent record covers, as he has been nominated four times for a Grammy award for best sleeve design, and won the Grammy in 1974, for his design of Mason Proffit’s “Come and gone”. 

But, most interestingly, almost no one seem to know the music on this LP, a 22 year old Daniel Barenboim on the brink of an international break-trough. So, here is the chance, thanks to a fine transfer by Deutsche Grammophon (who bought te tapes of the Westminister label), to hear the performance on of the most infamous LP’s in classical music history. 


Ludwig van Beethoven 

Track 01-03 Concerto For Piano And Orchestra In no 3 C Minor, Op. 37
Track 04 Fantasia For Piano, Chorus And Orchestra, Op. 80

Daniel Barenboim, Piano
Vienna State opera orchestra
Laszlo Somogyi, conductor
Vienna Academy Chamber Choir
Recorded in Mozart Hall, Vienna, May 1964

(Spotify Webplayer link)

The Christoper Whorf design...

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Another Milstein on the violin… Maria Milstein

This recital stupefied me. I started with the Saint-Saens sonata (track 5, try it yourself!) and immediately I wondered if this was an underrated masterpiece or that I witnessed a miraculous performance. After hearing the complete CD, I think it is the latter. Glorious tone, spectacular accuracy and thoughtful, electrifying performances. And no, she is NOT related to Nathan Milstein, but the granddaughter of Yakov (Yaakov) Milstein, musicologist, professor at the Moscow conservatory and lecturer of oa Bella Davidovich and Elisabeth Leonskaja…

The “theme” of recital CD seems to be music that is attached to Marcel Proust’s recherche du temps perdu, although it’s hard to find how and why that has been established. Nevermind, the playing is awesome, the program original. She is accompanied by her sister, Nathalia Milstein. 

As an extra, an older recording by Maria Milstein and cellist Noelle Weidmann in rarely performed 1910 work by Saint-Saens. 

Tracks 01-03 Gabriel Pierné - Sonate pour violon et piano en ré mineur opus 36 (1900)
Tracks 04 Reynaldo Hahn - À Chloris (1916)
Tracks 05-08 Camille Saint-Saëns - Sonate pour violon et piano n°1 en ré mineur opus 75 (1885)
Track 09 Reynaldo Hahn - 7 Chansons grises, no 5,  L’Heure Exquise (1887-90)
Tracks 10-12 Claude Debussy - Sonate pour violon et piano (1916-7)
Maria Milstein, violin
Nathalia Milstein, piano
Rec 2017 

Track 13 Camille Saint-Saëns: La muse et le poète violon, cello e Orchestre in mi minor, Op. 132 (1910)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège
Christian Arming
Noelle Weidmann (cello), Maria Milstein (violin)
Rec 2013
(Webplayer link)

Nathalia and Maria Milstein

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Nils Gade by Christopher Hogwood and Ronald Brautigam

How joyful it is to rediscover a splendid cd… In a Dutch Facebook group someone posted a link to the 5th symphony by the Danish composer Niels Gade, in the 19th century a prominent composer.  I liked the work, but remembered that I heard an even more splashing performance, years ago. A quick search through the review sites revealed the Chandos recording. And yes, Christopher Hogwood and pianist Ronald Brautigam really shine in this “symphony with piano obbligato”. Recommended! 
As a bonus, the first symphony by Gade is added, a symphony that Felix Mendelssohn adored… 

Reviews of this CD can be read on the websites of Classical Net, The Gramophone and Musicweb International.

Hope you wil enjoy it as much as I did…! 

Niels Gade (1817-1890) 

Track 01-04 Symphony No. 5 in D minor Op.25 (1852)
Ronald Brautigam, piano
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Christopher Hogwood, conductor

Track 05-05 Symphony No. 1 in C minor Op.5 (1842) 
Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Christopher Hogwood, conductor
Rec: Danish Radio Concert Hall, Copenhagen, November 2001
(Spotify web player link)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Saint-Saens is a good and inventive composer!

Recently, a Dutch politician wrote on Twitter:
“Tonight I am listening to the piano concerts of Saint Saëns.
A 2nd rate composer, but in everything you feel: his time was better than ours.”

For several reasons I disagree with him. At that time one could *only* hear music composed until that period (including the long forgotten kitsch composed in that period). 
Only if you were very wealthy (not much people then) you were able to hear it and of course you had to survive wars, typhoid, cholera and other inconveniences of that period…

But, what shocked me most, was the disdain for Saint-Saens very original piano concerto’s…!!!
In form and orchestration especially the 2nd, 4th and 5th concertos are highly original and in hearing upon hearing you still will be marveled by the inventiveness of Camille. 
I have made a playlist of these three concerto’s, which are very dear to me. 

First a 1904 “instruction manual” played by Camille Saint-Sains himself of his 2nd piano concerto. Note the left hand playing. Not many pianists play it that way anymore.  

Then, a surprise; a Danish pianist called Victor Schiøler who in 1953 delivered one of the most electrifying performances of the 2nd pianoconcerto. The Danish radio orchestra is incited by the Russian conductor Nicolai Malko. 

One of the first “cheap” CD’s I bought as a student was the concerto box by Aldo Ciccolini recorded in 1970. With the fourth concerto in this performance, my love for the Saint-sains concertos started. Highly original two movement form. 

The fifth piano concerto was inspired by the travels Saint-Saens undertaken to north Africa. The orchestration of this concerto is marvelous and I was pleasantly surprised Dutch pianist Hannes Minnaar played it at the 2010 Queen Elisabeth piano competition. A very fine performance, free and in nothing in his playing you hear he was competing for something. He obviously had fun…

Hope you will enjoy these performances! 

Camille Saint-Saëns:

Track 01 Camille Saint-Saëns plays parts of the first movement of his second concerto
recorded 1904

Tracks 02-04 Concerto No.2 in G minor op. 22 for piano and orchestra (1868)
Victor Schiøler, piano 
Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra ·
Nicolai Malko, conductor
recorded 1953

Tracks 05-06 Concerto No 4 In C Minor, Op. 44 for piano and orchestra (1875)
Aldo Ciccolini
Orchestre de Paris
Serge Baudo, conductor
recorded 1970

Tracks 07-09 Concerto No 5 In F Major, Op. 103 for piano and orchestra (1896)
National orchestra of Belgium,
Marin Aslop, conductor
recorded 2010

(Spotify Web Player Link)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Innovative classical music programming

Now here is some imaginative programming…!!! The string quartets of 19th century Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 20th century Sergei Prokofiev and 21st century Gabriel Prokofiev are combined on these three CD’s (of one big spotify playlist, to stay in 21st century terms ;-). The latter, Gabriel Prokofiev, is the grandson of Sergei Prokofiev, if you were asking… Performances by the Ruysdael quartet (who studied two years at the Berliner Hochschule with the Alban Berg quartet and did masterclasses with the Amadeus Quartett, Hagen Quartett and Quatuor Mosaïques) are exemplary. 

The Strad was very positive about the first disc and all music writes about the third:

The Ruysdael Quartet approaches each of these compositions with an admirable level of intensity and commitment to detail. Their blended sound quality is especially enjoyable, with each instrument taking turns coming to the foreground at different points in the music. Overall tone of the quartet is dark and powerful, brilliantly balanced, and possessing an enviable palate of colors. Rhythmic precision, which is absolutely necessary for these works, is present in abundance. Virtually all other technical aspects of the performance are exceptional, save for some curious difficulties in intonation between first and second violins when playing in octaves. The majority of the playing, however, is at an extremely high level and coupled with the thoughtful programming and informative liner notes makes for a highly worthwhile disc.

And after hearing the playlist I wonder why these CD’s went by so unnoticed, actually. Anyway, here the are ad I hope you will enjoy them on Spotify!

Track 01-04 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Quartet no. 1 op. 11 (1871)
Track 05-07 Sergei Prokofiev — Quartet no. 1 op. 50 (1930)
Track 08-11 Gabriel Prokofiev — Quartet no. 1 (2003)
Track 12-15 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky— Quartet no. 2 op. 22 (1874)
Track 16-18 Sergei Prokofiev — Quartet no. 2 op. 92 (1941)
Track 19-22 Gabriel Prokofiev — Quartet no. 2 (2006)
Track 23-26 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Quartet no. 3 op. 30 (1875)
Track 27-30 Sergei Prokofiev — Sonata for 2 violins op. 56 (1932)
Track 31-35 Gabriel Prokofiev — Quartet nr. 3 (2010)

Ruysdael Quartet
Emi Ohi Resnick, violin
Joris Van Rijn, violin
Gijs Kramer, viola
Jeroen Den Herder, cello
Recorded between 2008 and 2010

(Webplayer link)

Sergei and Gabriel Prokofiev

Friday, April 21, 2017

Big Orchestra Sound (and past Gramophone Award winners) on Spotify

“Let there be no doubt, Franz Schmidt’s Fourth (1933) is one of the finest of 20th-century symphonies”, the Gramophone magazine wrote about the last of the four symphonies by the Austrian composer Franz Schmidt (1874-1939). When I was I Czechoslovakia, in the early 1990’s, I discovered the symphony cycle by conductor L'udovít Rajter on the Opus label (cheaper than a bottle of milk) and was mesmerized by the music. The recording by Franz Welser-Most and the London Philharmonic orchestra is even better and received a Gramophone award in 1995. 

“I could go on, but this is the finest of the Tennstedt cycle and one of the superlative Mahler performances on record.” said  the Gramophone magazine in 1987 about this CD. The recording by Tennstedt won also the Gramophone award that year. After the initial praise, the recording seems to be a bit forgotten. A fine rediscovery on Spotify. 

Hope you will enjoy these works as well! 

Franz Schmidt (1874-1939)
Track 01-04 Symphony no 4 in C major (1932-3)
Track 05-11 Variations on a Husar song (1930-1)
London Symphony Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)
Track 12-29 Symphony no 8 in Eb major, “Symphonie der Tausend” (1906-7)
Elizabeth Connell (Soprano I),
 Edith Wiens (Soprano II), 
Felicity Lott (Soprano), 
Trudeliese Schmidt (Alt I), 
Nadine Denize (Alt II), 
Richard Versalle (Tenor), J
orma Hynninen (Bariton), 
Hans Sotin (Bass), 
Tiffin School Boys' Choir, 
London Philharmonic Choir, 
David Hill (Organ), 
London Philharmonic Orchestra, 
Klaus Tennstedt, conductor

(Webplayer link)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Gorgeous Baroque music recording by Jordi Savall on Spotify

So you want to have a bit of Baroque in exemplary performances? 
Well, here are 78 minutes of pure joy. I stumbled on the Teleman Viola da Gamba suite and was hooked. Later, I read the Classics Today, Gramophone magazine, Musica dei Dominum and Fanfare reviews and it seemed I was not alone in my praise for this recording.

Hope you will like it too! Enjoy :-)

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713).
Track 01-06 Concerto Grosso in D major opus 6, no 4.

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767).
Track 07-13 Ouverture en suite in D majeur for Viola da Gamba, strings and continuo TWV 55: D6.
Jordi Savall, viola da gamba. 

Georg Philipp Telemann.
Track 14-17 Concerto in A minor TWV 52:a1 
Pierre Hamon, recorder. 
Jordi Savall, viola da gamba. 

Georg Philipp Telemann.
Track 18-24 Concerto Tafelmusik, Part 1: no 1, Overture for 2 Flutes, 2 Violins and Strings in E minor, TV 55

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764).
Track 25-30 Concerto Les Indes Galantes, Suites des Airs à Jouer.

Le Concert des Nations 
Jordi Savall, conductor

(Webplayer link)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Alexander Glazunov on Spotify

Alexander Glazunov is known for many things: First, he was one of the most gifted musical prodigies in history, comparable to Korngold and Mendelssohn-Bartoldy. Glazunov started relatively late at the piano and composed his first piece at the age of 13. But his development was so rapid, that one of his teachers, Rimsky-Korsakoff mentioned that he “not learned by the day, but by the hour". His first symphony was written at the age of 16. 
Second, Glazunov had one of the most amazing musical memories in history. Mozart could write Allegri’s 10 minute Miserere from memory, Glazunov is reported to write down a complete symphony from memory after just hearing it once. It came in handy when reconstructing Borodin’s Prince Igor after his death, Glazunov reconstructed it from memory, as the score was lost. 
Third, Glazunov was one of the most notorious drinkers in musical history. He ruined the premiere of Sergei Rachmaninov’s first symphony, sending Sergei in a depression for three years. Dimitri Shostakovich, like Nathan Milstein one of Glazunov’s pupils, remembered that during classes Glazunov always had a bottle of alcohol with him, zipping secretly once in a while.
But fourth, Glazunov composed some seriously fine music! 
In 1905 Glazunov became director of the St. Petersburg conservatory and composed his one and only violin concerto. For this occasion, he learned himself to play the violin in a couple of weeks. 

The 1959 recording by Erica Morini and Ferenc Fricsay is a real collectors item on vinyl, and one of the finest recordings I know of this piece. Proof of Alexander’s early mastery are the 5 novelettes for string quintet, written at the age of 16. It’s gathered on a recording by the fine arts quartet with the string quintet from 1891. A cd that I owned for years and made many rounds in my cd player. Glazunov composed two piano recordings of which I like the first the most. The form is somewhat original, two movements of which the last is a set of (very fine!) variations. The pianist is the winner of the 2003 Queen Elisabeth competition Severin von Eckardstein. 

Hope you will enjoy this playlist again!

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)
-Tracks 01-05 Concerto for violin and orchestra in a minor op 82 (1905)
Erica Morini, violin
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Ferenc Fricsay, conductor
Rec 1959

-Tracks 06-10 Five novelettes op 15 (1881)
-Tracks 11-14 String quintet in A major op 39 (1891)
Fine arts quartet 
Ralph Evans, violin
Efim Boico, violin
Yuri Gandelsman, viola
Wolfgang Laufer, cello
Nathaniel Rosen, (added) cello
Rec 2005

-Tracks 15-16 Concerto for Piano no 1 in F minor, Op. 92 (1910-11)
Severin von Eckardstein, piano
Belgian National Orchestra 
Walter Weller, conductor
Rec 2008
(Webplayer link)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Johann Sebastian Bach BWV 22 and BWV 23 plus Christoph Graupner playlist on Spotify

The joy of Spotify, you see  concert announcement (see poster below) and immediately you can imagine the concert already ;-) 
In this case a concert with music by Johann Sebastian Bach and a composer that was destined to get the job Bach had (Thomascantor in Leipzig), but did not get… I noticed that all works were written in 1723.
I sampled different version of the Bach cantatas BWV 22 and 23 and these versions by Philip Herreweghe received my preference. 
Hope you will enjoy this little concert! 

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Track 01-05: Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, BWV 22 (1723) 
Track 06-09: Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23 (1723)

Dorothee Mields (soprano); 
Matthew White (alto), Jan Kobow (tenor), 
Peter Kooy (bass),
Collegium Vocale Gent
Philippe Herreweghe
Rec. November 2007, Stolberger Saal, Cologne, Germany.

Christoph Graupner (1683-1760)
Track 10-12 Aus der tiefe rufen wir (1723)

Marcus Ullmann (tenor), 
Lieven Termont (baritone), 
Damien Guillon (countertenor), 
Il Gardellino 
Marcel Ponseele (conductor)
Rec: Amuz, Antwerp, January 2010 

(Webplayer link)