Monday 19 December 2011

Maria Bachmann: Glass Heart

Glass Heart
Glass, Schubert, Bach/Gounod, Ravel

Maria Bachmann (violin)
Jon Klibonoff (piano)

Orange Mountain Music OMM7006

Maria Bachmann holds a cut glass heart before her on the cover of this violin recital disc and, indeed, the Glass is the heart of a programme ostensibly designed to compliment a new work for violin and piano.  Philip Glass has written a violin sonata and, with it, has stepped into a long and formidable tradition hinted at in this attractive and enjoyable album.  Does Glass's new work hold its own against such formidable companions as Schubert's great A major Sonata?  I'm not so sure.

Glass Heart follows swiftly from Orange Mountain Music's live recording of Glass's 2nd Violin Concerto, subtitled the American Four Seasons, but Maria Bachmann's playing on the present album presents none of the problems of Robert MacDuffie's strained and inconsistent performance in the concerto.  Bachmann's way with Glass is tender and gently expressive and her mellow tone is suited to the sonata.  She is well balanced with pianist Jon Klibonoff, who throughout demstroates the same sensitivity and lightness of touch.  The sonata, though, is less memorable.  For the most part, it feels like a retread of the familiar Glass style, complete with copious arpeggios and repetitive figurations.  It might seem ignorant to accuse the most high profile of minimalists of being repetitive, but here Glass's repetitions seem more to do with a musical style based around a paucity of material than one the hypnotic and slowly transforming minimalism of old.  Each movement is actually based on a conventional chaconne model and, in the case of the first movement, the sequence of underlying chords yields only limited possibilities.  There are some moments of finely realised beauty, however; the second movement stands out for its regretful and reflective character and its opening bars are really quite special.  If only the rest were that good.

The booklet notes suggest that the rest of the programme has been chosen to reflect aspects of Glass's musical character.  Gounod's heavenly Ave Maria melody over Bach's masterclass in arpeggiated writing is an obvious comparison, though I feel the Bach/Gounod team do it rather better.  I suppose certain works of Schubert share Glass's introspective quality, but not the Sonata in A (originally published as the Duo) and in any case, the comparison between Glass's Sonata and Schubert's isn't a kind one.  Schubert's Sonata is a great work, though Bachmann's subdued take on the first movement saps some of its energy.  She seems always to be pulling back from Klibonoff's more incisive accompaniment and is unresponsive to the darting changes of character.  Her playing is stylish, though some of her more extravagant shifts are in poor taste and she generally is better suited to Ravel's posthumously published violin sonata, which receives a lovely performance.  Again, the stated connection to Glass's music is dubious, but Bachmann's sweet tone and control of colour suit it perfectly. 

Friday 16 December 2011

Razumovsky Ensemble at Wigmore Hall

Tuesday’s Wigmore Hall appearance from the Razumovsky Ensemble was a decidedly mixed affair, with one member outclassing the others.  Hamish Milne’s pianism was exquisite throughout, while Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s violin playing varied wildly.  Read my review at Classicalsource.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Prokofiev's Violin Concertos from Pavel Berman

Violin Concertos
Sonata for two violins

Pavel Berman (violin)/Anna Tifu (violin, Op.56)
Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana/Andrey Boreyko

Dynamic CDS 676

He may have been a pianist, but something about the violin excited Prokofiev enough for him to produce some of the instrument’s finest works.  Not much of the twentieth century’s repertoire for the violin can match the dazzling colour of the First Violin Concerto, completed in 1917 but not performed until the dust had settled after the Russian revolution, or the gravity and rhythmic energy of the Second, composed in 1935, shortly before Prokofiev returned to the Soviet Union to assume the role of most favoured composer.  Pavel Berman’s attractive coupling of the two is complemented by the Sonata for two violins of 1932, an ingenious and witty work much favoured by the father-son partnership of David and Igor Oistrakh.

In keeping the menu an all Prokofiev affair, Berman’s Dynamic recording would initially seem a more appealing proposition than some previous sets featuring both concertos.  Maxim Vengerov’s recordings with Rostropovich were at one time available with the Glazunov concerto, while Decca’s CD rerelease of Kyung Wha Chung’s 1970s performances came with the Stravinsky concerto.  Both of these venerable sets offer more persuasive performances, however, and while there are still things to be enjoyed in Berman’s playing, it was a disc that I found myself liking less as it progressed.    

The First Concerto begins promisingly.  Berman sets an unusually swift tempo, lending a dancing and dotted character to the opening melody, but this creates problems when he reaches the faster central section.  There’s nowhere to go and little contrast to be found, and this lack of care over the pacing continues across both concertos and, ultimately, everything feels rather generalised.  There are fine moments, though, particularly the first moment’s tranquil coda, captured very well by Berman and the Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiana.

Berman’s performance of the Second Concerto is also a mixed affair, with the first movement proceeding quite carefully; indeed, one moment seems to find Berman struggling with the basics of getting his fingers round Prokofiev’s passage work.  The Andante suffers from more generalised pacing, stretching it out and making it feel more repetitive than it ought to. But the finale is a success, with Berman finding more grit and swagger for the unhinged rustic dance.  In the Sonata for Two Violins, Berman is well matched with partner Anna Tifu, though the recording here lacks body.

Friday 9 December 2011

In memory of a fellow writer

My colleague at Musicweb and Classicalsource, Bob Briggs, has died after a long illness.  Musicweb have published a tribute to him.

Even if you didn’t know Bob, you may well have spotted him at concerts.  He was a huge guy, normally dressed in black; as Len Mullenger rightly says, a real life Hagrid.  He was also extremely friendly and willing to compare musical tastes and opinions with anyone.  I only met him on a couple of occasions, but on both spent a long and enjoyable time mulling over with him what we’d recently heard.  He was a real champion of the unusual and neglected, and I for one will miss his company at some of London’s more unusual musical events.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

5 for December

5 interesting December releases that caught Devil's Trill's eye.

I for one didn't imagine that we'd have Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony at the Proms; that's precisely what we did get in this year's series, much to the delight of English music nerds everywhere. In the end, I thought it was a tremendous experience live, but not one I'd rush out to again in a hurry. I'm interested to see how Hyperion's live recording of the concert turned out, though, having been stood up in the crowded gallery on the occasion.

Elgar's recordings are fascinating and haven't always been as readily available recently as they should.  No idea what's in it though; Music & Arts's website hasn't been updated for some months and MDT's listing (presumably from the record company themselves) doesn't say either. Don't these people want to sell us things?  You could just buy this really cheap EMI one.

Ernst was a great rival of Paganini and was apparently desperate to discover his secrets. This second volume from Toccata Classics, those archaeologists of the obscure, adds to other recent revivals of Ernst's music.

I've not heard Krzysztof Meyer's music, but his CV is very interesting. He was a pupil of Penderecki and Lutoslawski, and completed Shostakovich's unfinished opera The Gamblers.

Arthur Rubinstein - The Complete Album Collection (Sony)

Seriously wantable.  Prices vary, but I've seen this 144 disc set online for less than £200, which is a bargain by any standards.  Experience shows that these mega Sony behemoths don't hang around long; The 2009 Vladimir Horowitz set has gone from the catalogue, and last year's Heifetz collection is disappearing fast.  So get in early if you want one.  I'm seriously tempted...

Thursday 1 December 2011

British composer award winners

The winners for the British Composer Awards were announced yesterday at a ceremony in London.  Follow this link for news of who won what.  Some composers won for string music, including Anthony Payne for his String Quartet No.2 and William Sweeney for his Cello Sonata.  The ceremony is broadcast on Radio3 on Sunday at 2pm.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Georges Lentz's incredible Ingwe

Georges Lentz
Ingwe from Mysterium (“Caeli enarrant... VII) 
Zane Banks (electric guitar)

An hour long work for solo electric guitar might not sound like the best idea in the world, but in the hands of composer Georges Lentz it's an hour of startling power.  Lentz was born in Luxenbourg but lives in Australia, and has spent two decades composing music for a monumental series of works:  Caeli enarrant... (The Heavens are Telling (Psalm XIX)).  Ingwe means 'night' in the indigenous Australian langauge of Aranda, and it's a very dark night of the soul exposed in this episode from the larger sub-cycle Mysterium, the seventh segment of Caeli enarrant.

Ingwe conjures visions of sand blasted expanses in its depiction of the vast barrenness of the Australian outback, which itself serves as a metaphor for the spiritual vacuum contemplated by Lentz as he ponders the uncaring void of the universe.  Of course, there's no text here expounding Lentz's point of view, but it's amply communicated by the wailing intensity of Zane Bank's electric guitar which is rich in imagery and suggestion.  At moments, we are enveloped by unyielding storms of sound (or maybe wind and sand), while another moment seems to depict the passing of a giant freight train which melts into the distance.  Slices of silence punctuate the wall of noise, while the work's conclusion is the most violent episode of all; a series of cataclysmic bassy strokes that grow and grow in volume, bringing to my mind an image of bombs being dropped on an already dead city.

If all this sounds rather one-note, there are many moments of quiet reflection to counter the charge and, in the seventh of the eight continuous sections, an unexpected moment of clarity in the form of a soulful and tender melody picked out on the guitar.  This episode begins with chords emerging intermittently only as the guitar's volume is turned up, producing gripping gulfs between the rise and fade of the sound.  Throughout the work, the variety of timbre and technique that Lentz and Banks draw from the guitar is fascinating and makes this a genuinely involving hour that passes much faster than it feels it might at the outset.

Ingwe is Naxos's second disc of Lentz's music and features excellent notes from Richard Toop who gives a valuable guide through to the work.  The earlier disc (8.557019) includes further segments of Mysterium, and we can only hope that Naxos bring us more slices of Lentz's ongoing cycle.

Naxos 8.572483

Tuesday 29 November 2011

A personal apology to Charles Dutoit

Mr Dutoit,

I’m sure you don’t keep up with the critics; why would you?  Those symphonies aren’t going to learn themselves, after all.  So here’s hoping you didn’t see what I wrote about your performance of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony with the RPO a few weeks ago.  I think I said something like “Was anything ever at stake here? Were there depths beyond Dutoit's shimmering surface? ... on this occasion, not all of the hollowness was Tchaikovsky's own.”  That was a bit much, wasn’t it.  I’ll admit it: I was disappointed with the performance, especially after I’d so much enjoyed your Rite of Spring in London a few months before; but, all considered, I’ll admit I was guilty of a little overstatement.  The performance left me rather nonplussed, but it didn’t make me angry.  It took Valery Gergiev to do that; to make a performance of this same work not so much a distortion as an act of vandalism.  So I’m sorry for being a bit mean and I’ll look forward to your next concert.  Honestly, I will; now that I know just how much worse that Tchaikovsky really could have been.


Monday 28 November 2011

The Big List of Classical Music Blogs

This one does what it says on the tin.  I've never seen such a comprehensive list of classical blogs as this, and it is nice to see my name next to Alex Ross's.  But then, that's the alphabet for you.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Grill Mutter on Facebook

Photo: Tina Tahir/DG

Want to ask Anne-Sophie Mutter a question?  She'll be taking part in a Q&A session organised by the London Symphony Orchestra, to be streamed live on Facebook tomorrow afternoon.  Come up with a good'un and fire it their way here.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Liszt New Discoveries Vol 3

New Discoveries Vol 3

Leslie Howard (piano)

Hyperion CDA67810

All mammoth recording projects must resemble a mountain at their outset. Looking back on Leslie Howard's gigantic survey of Liszt's piano music, the great peaks were scaled and unknown plateaus and valleys revealed; and now, more than a decade on from the ostensible end of the project (for no international search for the continuing paper trail of a composer so intent on churning out manuscript can ever really be over) Howard presents another set mopping up loose Lisztian ends under the banner of 'New Discoveries'.

This is Howard's third volume of subsequently uncovered odds and ends, though the finds grow more academic and the newness of the material a little more dubious as time goes on. The bulk of the track listing is taken up with tiny fragments of music, some familiar and some not, classed as album leaves or, as Howard has it, 'keepsakes'. Very few could be considered independent musical works and many are little isolated passages which could be drafts. One of those that seems almost complete is track 27, an album leaf named Purgatorio (Andante in b minor), an intriguing series of descending figures with a melancholic tone. Howard doesn't specify in his sleeve notes which piece they may be connected to, and if this one is from a larger work it's not one I know.

One work appears in a number of guises. Howard suggests that Liszt must have had a special fondness for Lyubila Ya by Michael Wielhorsky (1788-1856) because of the couple of arrangements that Liszt made of the melody. We have three stages of the process here, though they're spread across the two discs, making comparisons a little difficult. What they do suggest is that Liszt was at his strongest when reigning in his instinct to hurl ornamentation into his familiar variation format. It's a point underscored by a simplified version of the Valse-Impromtu, which is all the more affecting for its pared back delicacy and transparency.

Of the more substantial pieces, the Romancero Espagnol includes a typical Lisztian mix of virtuosic variations and some moments of ear catchingly inventive tonality. Two pieces from the oratorio Christus come from Liszt's own transcription of the work for the published vocal score, and Howard clearly believes that they have pianistic value in their own right. One other curiosity is the Variations Tiszántuli szép léany, a work published under Liszt's name and mentioned in contemporary catalogues of his music but some way below the quality of even Liszt's most pedestrian works. Howard isn't convinced it's bona fide, but includes it for completnesses sake.

Completeness is the essence of this volume. To Lisztians, it's self recommending and anyone who has closely followed this Hyperion series will want this set. But this is specialist territory only and casual Liszt listeners are unlikely to have their picture of the composer broadened by it. Needless to say, Howard's playing is sensitive and enjoyable throughout.

This review originally appeared with a full tracklisting at Musicweb International.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Divine Art's Prokofiev

Russian Piano Music Vol.7: Prokofiev
Piano Sonatas 2 & 7
Visions fugatives (selections)
10 pieces from Romeo and Juliet (selections)

Sergei Dukachev

Divine Art DDA25096

It seems appropriate that Prokofiev wrote some of his finest and most varied music for his own instrument, the piano.  Prokofiev left a handful of recordings of his own playing for posterity, setting a high standard for those wanting to follow in his footsteps and tackle this remarkable oeuvre.  That bar was maintained by two of Prokofiev’s pianist colleagues, Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Ricther, so that anyone attempting this repertoire is stepping into a mighty tradition.  This volume continues Divine Art’s survey of an even grander tradition: the hi-ways and by-ways of Russian piano music.

Divine Art’s Prokofiev compilation begins with the Second Piano Sonata of 1912, the most substantial among the first five.  It’s a case of serving the best first in Dukachev’s case, as this performance is the most secure on the disc with only the final Vivace suffering from a few blemishes.  The Andante is successful, with Dukachev building the tension effectively throughout. 

Only a few notes into his selection from the Visions Fugitives, however, and alarm bells ring.  Dukachev misses a chord in the left hand of No.1, leading to a bar or so of mismatched left and right hands.  It sounds so deliberate that I questioned my own edition of the score, but checking the original Russian print confirms that it must be a mistake on Dukachev’s part.  It turns out that these are live recordings, taken from a number of different concerts; not that you’d know from the back of the box.  So, a memory slip could be forgiven - it’s certainly happened to the very best in the past – but who is going to want to listen to this mistake again and again?

Armed with the knowledge that these are live recordings (only confirmed inside the booklet), the lack of audience noise throughout (save for the end of the 7th Sonata, which includes applause) is a relief, and the disc’s live status goes some way to explain Dukachev’s untidy finger work in the faster passages of the Op.22 selections.  All pianists make mistakes in concert, but these performances aren’t persuasive enough in their own terms to warrant anyone returning to them and hearing those mistakes again.

Four of Prokofiev’s Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet suffer from the same issues, though they confirm that Dukachev is at least good at dreamy atmosphere, such as that conjured for the beginning of Romeo and Juliet before parting.  The Seventh Sonata, one of Prokofiev’s fiercest works in any genre, is given a reasonable performance which impresses mostly in the shell-shocked second movement Andante coloroso, but the Precipitato finale is disappointingly underpowered. 

Across the entire disc, there is the added problem of poor sound, which varies quite noticeably between pieces but which is always consistently bad.  It would have been poor by the standards of four decades ago; the fact that all of these recordings were taped during or after 2000 makes the situation particularly unforgivable.  I’m inclined to give Dukachev the benefit of the doubt in some cases of muddy playing, as the acoustic and production can only have made the problems worse than they might have seemed at the time of the performances.  But the sound problems are enough on their own for me to direct anyone interested in sampling Prokofiev’s wonderful piano music elsewhere, such as to Bernd Glemser’s three budget priced discs of Prokofiev’s complete piano sonatas (including the Romeo and Juliet pieces) on Naxos (8553021; 8554270; 8555030), at the very least.

This review originally appeared at Musicweb International.

Friday 28 October 2011

Polish greats

Violinist Giovanni Guzzo

It might be that seeing a great view from the top of a mountain is ehanced by there being no one else there.  I think the opposite is true of concerts, as I found out at Cadogan Hall on Tuesday when the RPO gave a terrific performance of Polish classical music to an almost empty auditorium.  Shame.  Read my review at Classicalsource, including my report on two brillint young string players who, if there's any justice, will be stars soon.

Thursday 27 October 2011

The violinists' violinist

The Guardian has asked a number of eminent violinists to choose their number one fiddler.  Interestingly, there are two mentions apiece for Ida Haendel, Pinchas Zukerman and Gidon Kremer, but no Oistrakh, Heifetz, Milstein, Szigeti, etc, etc.  I would have chosen Oistrakh myself, and Julia Fischer from the crop of current violinists.  Who would you choose?  Let us know in the comments section.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Herwig Zack: 4 Strings Only

4 Strings Only: A Recital for Solo Violin


Herwig Zack (violin)


Several themes run through this album of solo violin music from German violinist Herwig Zack.  Four of the works suggest a broadening of the repertoire in the shadow of the fifth; Bach’s violin works, after all, being so dominant in the repertoire.  Three of them were composed for Yehudi Menuhin, a prolific commissioner of new music, while Menuhin’s Bach remains one of his most important legacies.  And, perhaps more trivially, this disc reminds us that besides Bach, plenty of other Bs wrote solo violin music.

Zack’s recital gives us the two Suites by Bloch, in reverse order and separated by a sample of Bach’s mighty example of violin writing.  Bloch’s Suites for solo violin, composed for Menuhin, date from quite late in the composer’s life (both written in 1958) and maybe their close proximity makes them sound like two sides of a musical coin.  The Suites’ language is lonely, anguished, and at times quite angular.  If anything, the First Suite in more introspective than the Second, though its initial upward stab makes for a striking and combative opening.  At its heart is a brief Andante, just two lines long in the score, which evokes the more simple tonality of Bach.  Zach underscores this link by paring back his tone and vibrato, a technique also deployed in the Bach Second Sonata.

The Second Suite occasionally slips into a Bartokian sound world, and perhaps its most striking moment is a series of declamatory chords in the moderato second movement.  These are both intriguing works, but I must admit that despite having listened to them a number of times, I’ve struggled to retain the sound of them in my memory.  Zack’s intonation is always precise, but he’s let down, particularly in these works, by the recording’s lack of dynamic contrast; fortissimo moments are often little varied from pianos that follow them, though I sense that this is not Zack’s fault.  The dynamic issues are less of a problem in Bach’s Second Sonata, BWV 1003, in which Zack’s borrows period simplicity with minimal vibrato and sustain.  He adapts his sound very well, though a less self consciously stylised performance might have made more of the lines of the Fuga or of the famous andante.  

The last two works on the disc turn out to be the most appealing.  Paul Ben-Haim’s Sonata of 1951 makes a great play of Jewish elements, such as a distinctive harmony and single note drones maintained beneath modal flourishes.  Zack is at his very best in Berio’s Sequenza VIII, which plays with the idea of closely pitched clusters of notes and, in a brilliant central section, a ghostly toccata of smudged semi quavers.  At one point, Zack excels himself by continuing the toccata while interjecting four-note chords into their flow without ever loosing the thread of the underlying semi quavers.  It’s a bravura moment from a very impressive violinist.

Monday 24 October 2011

British Composer Awards 2011

Here's the shortlist for the British Composer Awards, as selected by the British Academy of Songwriters, Compsoers and Authors (BASCA).  The winners will be announced on November 30th, and Radio 3 will be airing a special programme about the awards on 4th December.
Instrumental Solo or Duo
Oliver Knussen: Ophelia's Last Dance
Thomas Simaku: Soliloquy IV for Bass Clarinet
William Sweeney: Sonata for Cello & Piano
David Matthews: Horn Quintet
Anthony Payne: String Quartet No. 2
Martin Suckling: To See the Dark Between
Dai Fujikura: away we play
Martin Suckling: What Shall I Give?
Huw Watkins: Five Larkin Songs
Alexander Campkin: O magnum mysterium
Francis Pott: Mass in Eight Parts
Michael Zev Gordon: Allele
Wind Band or Brass Band
Tom Davoren: Looking In
Emily Howard: Obsidian
Lucy Pankhurst: In Pitch Black
Julian Anderson: Fantasias
Simon Bainbridge: Concerti Grossi
Huw Watkins: Violin Concerto
Stage Works
Orlando Gough: A Ring A Lamp A Thing
Tim Minchin: Matilda
Joby Talbot: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Julian Anderson: Bell Mass
Francis Grier: Missa Spiritus Sancti
Gabriel Jackson: The Glory of the Lord

Sonic Art
No Award

Contemporary Jazz Composition
Tommy Evans: The Green Seagull
Martin Kershaw: Closing In
Sid Peacock: Hallucinogenic Garden
Community or Educational Project
John Barber: Consider the Lilies
David Bedford: The Wreck of the Titanic
Anna Meredith: Night Shift
Making Music Award
Richard Bullen: I can't find brumm...
Kirsty Devaney: Hadal Zone
Tim Sutton: The Seven Joys
International Award
Gerald Barry: La Plus Forte
Brett Dean: Epitaphs
Bent Sørensen: La Mattina
Mira Calix / Orlando Gough / Emily Hall / Andy Mellon / Paul Sartin: Fables - A Film Opera
Graham Fitkin: PK
Julian Joseph: Shadowball

Thursday 20 October 2011

Liszt on the violin

This is a bit bonkers.  Noam Sivan has transcribed Liszt's mighty B minor Piano Sonata for solo violin and it's performed here by Giora Schmidt.  The Sonata is one of Liszt most formidable works, one which eschews the flashy virtuosity that Liszt's works can suffer from.  This arrangement doesn't really work, but it's a really admirable attempt at reducing a dense score onto an instrument that doesn't really do harmony.  It's also very well played here by Schmidt. 

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Takács Bartok round 1

Photo: Richard Houghton
 Over at Classicalsource, I review the first part of the Takács Quartet's Bartok cycle at Queen Elizabeth's Hall, London.  Read the review here, and UK readers can listen to the concert for a week on iplayer.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Rostropovich: The Genius of the Cello

When Mstislav Rostropovich died in 2007, one of the last great connections to a generation of remarkable composers was lost.  Rostropovich was celebrated internationally as the greatest cellist of his age, but he was also the man who coaxed the finest cello music of the Twentieth Century from its towering composers.  Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Britten, Lutoslawski, Penderecki, Dutilleux - these are just a few, though it was the first three with whom Rostropovich's name become inextricably linked.  John Bridcut's excellent documentary, broadcast last Friday on BBC4, touched on these special relationships and culminated in the first glimpse of newly discovered footage of the premiere, in Moscow, of Britten's Cello Symphony. 

Here was a man of enormous energy, who inspired love and a certain degree of fear in his students and colleagues.  Unlike many of his Soviet contemporaries, Rostropovich was sometimes outspoken in his criticisms of the authorities and their actions and it ultimately forced his exile from his homeland for almost two decades.  Bridcut's documentary ties Rostropovich's story together with this story of political conscience, beginning with the story of his famous 1968 Proms appearance, playing Dvorak on the day Soviet tanks rolled into Prague, and ending with his dramatic intervention in the fall of the Soviet Union, two decades later.  Hopefully, a DVD will follow this broadcast, with all of the footage from the Britten premiere.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Proms Gothic gets CD release

It seemed a sensible idea to release it on CD, but at the time of this year's Proms performance of Havergal Brian's gigantic Gothic Symphony, there was no word of it.  It has now been announced that the live performance will be released by Hyperion Records in time for Christmas.  Smart folks, those Hyperion people.  Read what I thought about the performance at the time and go to Hyperion's site for a few clips of the performance.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Rostropovich on BBC4 tomorrow

Viewers in the UK will get to see John Bridcut's documentary on the late cellist, Mistislav Rostropovich.  It's on BBC4 at 7.30PM on Friday and I for one hope it's on iplayer there after as I'll be out at the time.

Monday 3 October 2011

Interview: Belceas take on Beethoven

Boulez isn't the only B in town.  Across at Wigmore Hall, the Belcea Quartet are beginning a year long cycle of Beethoven's string quartets, starting tonight with Op18/3, Op74 and Op130 (without Grosse Fuge).  I spoke to the quartet's violist, Krzysztof Chorzelski, for about this new project.  You can read the full interview here.  Tickets for this evenings concert are sold out, but the concert is broadcast live on Radio 3 at 7.30pm and will be available for 7 days on BBC iplayer.

Friday 30 September 2011

Boulez takes over Southbank Centre for the weekend

If an entire weekend of Pierre Boulez sounds like fun to you, then you'll be pleased to hear that's just what's been programmed at London's Southbank Centre.  It cultimates in a performance of his Pli selon pli for soprano and orchestra, conducted by the composer.  Looks like there's plenty of tickets left, so if you want to show the old man your support, you know what to do.  Me?  I'm covering most of the weekend for, so expect my report soon.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Tetzlaff jumps to Finnish label Ondine

Slipped Disc carries news of another top artist leaving the safety of a big record label for the freedom of an independant one.  In this case, German violinist Christian Tetzlaff has left EMI to join the adventurous Finnish label Ondine, perhaps best known for their tireless advocacy of Finnish composers such as Rautavaara.  Tetzlaff isn't the only big name to have left EMI recently; Krzysztof Chorzelski of the Belcea Quartet told me recently, for a forthcoming interview for, of their frustrations with EMI and their shift to small French outfit Zig Zag Territoires.  It seems that the attractions can be greater artistic freedom and a choice of more unusual repertoire.  Let's hope it works out for CT.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Copyright extension bad news for anyone who loves music

No one seemed to think it was a good idea.  Two government-commissioned reports cast doubt on it's benefits to the music industry.  Nevertheless, the European Union Council has voted to increase the term of copyright on recorded performances from the current 50 years to 70.  Cliff Richard was poster boy for a long campaign that argued it was wrong for performances such as his own to fall into the public domain within the lifetime of their artists.  He and other famous artists can now rest assured that their early hits will not be viable for free use in advertising and other public platforms for some time to come.  Those artists and corporations with revenue now guaranteed for a couple more decades will paint this as a moral victory for everyone who creates; music lovers who now find previously available half-century old recordings put under lock and key and see performing rights traded like commodities might beg to differ.

The full implications of the legislation will not be clear for some time - European governments have two years to fall into line.  The headlines have focused on mega stars with back catalogues to protect, such as Cliff and The Beatles, but this will have ramifications for the classical music industry.  Devil's Trill will be looking at just what the implications will be, but in the meantime, Bob Stanley's excellent piece in the Guardian explains why the new law is good news for celebrities and bad news for music.