classical-music.com | Wed, 23 Jan 2019 11:32:13 +0000
As he sat down to put pen to score, what did ’s opera over 56 speakers in one of his Brunello vineyards – the grapes ripen in 14 days as opposed to the normal 20 which, we learn, in turn increases the wine’s alcoholic content.
‘From this vineyard,’ says Cignozzi, ‘a special Brunello is born: “Flauto Magico”, the first wine in the world ever to have been grown completely in tune with
6. Calmer dogs
In 2006, an
12. …and quicker growing fish
Sadly for gilthead seabream, they also appear to grow more rapidly when serenaded by a little
14. More breakdownable sewage
What is it about The Magic Flute? Not only does it help grapes ripen quicker (see No. 1), it also makes faeces decompose faster. Or so says Anton Stucki, chief operator of the sewage centre in Treuenbrietzen near Berlin.
Earlier this year, we reported how Stucki has recorded a noticeable speeding up in the breakdown of biomass since he started playing Mozart’s opera throughout the plant – so much so that the centre is expecting to save around 1,000 euros a month.
‘We think the secret is in the vibrations of the music, which penetrate everything,’ Stucki explained. ‘It creates a certain resonance that stimulates the microbes and helps them to work better. But of course you need the right frequencies and the right music, and Mozart hits the spot.’
Finally, the most remarkable Mozart effect of all. In 2001, researchers at Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas showed how plants exposed to the sound of the Concerto in G photosynthesise more quickly than if left in silence or, amazingly, than if they ‘listen’ to Bach. Or did they?
While the research paper comes complete with tables of figures and long words than non-biologists don’t understand, the citing of that nebulous ‘Concerto in G’ raises suspicions of inauthenticity – which are confirmed when the likes of B Spears, J Brahms and WJ Clinton appear in the list of sources at the end. Ho ho. Those wacky lab researchers.
classical-music.com | Wed, 23 Jan 2019 10:00:00 +0000
No composer changed the symphony more radically than Beethoven. Whilst his First (1801) pays its respects to the 18th-century classical tradition of Haydn and Mozart, each of the eight successive symphonies follows a unique trajectory heralding a new era: composers were no longer subservient to their court patrons and could assert their right to individual expression.
So it’s little wonder that Beethoven’s colossal symphonic legacy both inspired and intimidated later 19th-century composers. From the moment these works entered the repertory, conductors viewed the performance of a Beethoven cycle as a litmus test of their achievements.
Battle lines as to the ‘ideal’ interpretation of the symphonies were established at an early stage between Mendelssohn, whose performances were mercurial and precise, and Wagner’s more fluid and nuanced approaches.
This dichotomy is mirrored in current approaches with opposed views of the music emanating from Riccardo Chailly on one hand and Christian Thielemann on the other.
With works of such contrasting character and such an extended recording history, suggesting a cycle that is recommendable on all accounts becomes almost impossible.
Any serious collector will not only want to own several versions, but also savour some inspired recordings of individual symphonies – for example, Carlos Kleiber’s legendary account of the Fifth.
At the same time, in comparing currently available cycles on a symphony-by-symphony basis and in a highly competitive market, it becomes evident that some cycles achieve a greater level of consistency than others.
While certainly not subscribing to the notion that the most recent recordings must of necessity be the best, I found myself most completely captivated by Riccardo Chailly’s 2011 cycle with the Gewandhaus Orchestra.
Captured in superb sound by Decca, these are highly-charged volatile performances, owing much of their clarity and precision to recent approaches by period instrument ensembles and played here with breathtaking brilliance by one of the finest orchestras in the world.
Chailly can be too impetuous for his own good in some of the faster movements, where an occasional bit of poise might provide necessary emotional relief, and it’s unfortunate that the bass soloist in his opening entry to the Finale of the Ninth momentarily loses his bearings. But these seem minor flaws given the engrossing nature of the set as whole.
Vienna Philharmonic and Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestras/Wilhelm Furtwängler (1948-54) EMI 567 4962
It’s a testament to Furtwängler’s genius that recordings made over 60 years ago and in sometimes recessed mono sound remain mainstays of the catalogue. The qualities that the conductor brings to Beethoven are legion, not least a wonderful fluidity in the shaping of the melodic line which takes full account of the tonal conflicts that lie at the heart of Beethoven’s thinking.
In terms of tempo fluctuation, Furtwängler might seem much more wilful than many other interpreters, but the musical insights can be visionary. No interpreter, even modern-day admirers such as Daniel Barenboim and Thielemann, come close to projecting the transformation from minor to major at the outset of the Finale of the Fifth with the same awesome impact.
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique/Sir John Eliot Gardiner (1994) DG 477 8643
From the 1970s onwards, historically informed performances on period instruments have stimulated listeners to hear different things in Beethoven’s music. Leaner textures serve to intensify Beethoven’s orchestration, bringing new and vivid colours to familiar works.
Any suggestion, however, that a resort to earlier notions of performance practice results in interpretations that are dry and inflexible is way off the mark, for the approaches are just as varied as on modern instruments.
For example, those who prefer a more fluid subtly nuanced view of Beethoven will warm to Frans Brüggen’s recent set on Glossa which offers some wonderful insights. Nonetheless, there’s a palpable sense of commitment and imagination in John Eliot Gardiner’s invigorating 1990s recordings that has you at the edge of your seat.
Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä (2004-8) BIS SACD 1825/6
There are two particular strengths in Osmo Vänskä’s beautifully engineered SACD recordings made between 2004 and 2008. First, the Finnish conductor manages to capture the essence of Beethoven’s thinking through his painstaking attention to inner details.
Second, he has established a sense of partnership with a first-rate orchestra and secures urgent and incisive playing. In general, Vänskä has more interesting things to say about the earlier symphonies, where the performances are strongly characterised and fleet of foot.
But the set is a superb achievement, illustrating the point that great Beethoven performances are not the exclusive province of the central European orchestral tradition.
Although Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra gave compelling performances at the 2012 Proms, this set does not quite ignite the same spark as those concerts. Despite the orchestra’s energy and enthusiasm, it doesn’t possess the subtlety of timbre and precision of ensemble one finds in other versions.
Another issue is Barenboim’s propensity towards heaviness which can make some of the interpretations sound stolid.
classical-music.com | Tue, 22 Jan 2019 10:00:00 +0000
'This recording conjures up a compelling emotional narrative'
This week's free download is part of the Pas de deux in Act 1 of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, performed by the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Russian Federation 'Evgeny Svetlanov' under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski.
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Dowland Come, Heavy Sleep (Grace Davidson, David Miller)
Schumann Humoreske Op. 20: II. Hastig (William Youn)
RO Morris Love Came Down at Christmas (arr. Stephen Cleobury) (Stephen Cleobury, Henry Websdale, Choir of King's College, Cambridge)
Tchaikovsky The Seasons Op. 37a: XII. December. Christmas (Barry Douglas)
Berlioz Roméo et Juliette: Pt. 3, Finale - Oath of Reconciliation (San Francisco Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Michael Tilson Thomas)
Elgar Chanson de nuit (Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder)
James Burton Tomorrow Shalle Be My Dancing Day (Jack Hawkins, Michael Bell, James Adams, Joseph Wicks, Choir of St John's College, Cambridge)
Julian Anderson Heaven is Shy of Earth: III. Gloria (With Bird) (Susan Bickley, BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Oliver Knussen)
Richard Strauss Horn Concerto No. 1: III. Rondo. Allegro (Live) (William Caballero, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck)
Derek Bermel Murmurations: I. Gathering at Gretna Green (ROCO)
Frank Martin Ballade for Flute & Piano (Bridget Bolliger, Andrew West)
Debussy Violin Sonata in G minor: III. Finale. Très animé (Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov)
Anonymous Now May We Singen (ORA Singers/Suzi Didby)
Rachmaninov Prelude in G minor Op. 23 No. 5 (Live at Philharmonie, Berlin/2018) (Yuja Wang)
James Newton Howard Violin Concerto: II. Andante semplice (James Ehnes, Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Cristian Măcelaru)
Sally Beamish In the Stillness (Sonoro/Neil Ferris)
Parry Suite moderne (arr. J Dibble for Orchestra): III. Romanza. Lento (BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Rumon Gamba)
Jonathan Dove A Brief History of Creation: X. Whales Return to the Sea (Hallé Children's Choir, Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder)
Purcell King Arthur, Act 1: 'Come if You Dare' (Robert Buckland, Vox Luminis/Lionel Meunier)
Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 4 (Live at Kimmel Center, Philadelphia) (Daniil Trifonov, The Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin)
Fagerlund Höstsonaten, Act 1: charlotte Andergast! Vilken konstnär! (Krista Kujala, Mari Sares, Jere Martikainen, Jarmo Ojala, Finnish National Opera Chorus, Finnish National Opera Orchestra/John Storgards
Julian Anderson Heaven is Shy of Earth: III. Gloria (With Bird) (Susan Bickley, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen)
Zemlinsky Albumblatt (Erinnerung aus Wien) (William Youn)
Schreker The Birthday of the Infanta: Suite I. Reigen (Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta)
Mozart Violin Concerto No. 1 K.207: III. Presto (Nikolaj Znaider, London Symphony Orchestra)
Tchaikovsky The Seasons, Op. 37a, TH 135: XII. December. Christmas (Barry Douglas)
Holst In the Bleak Midwinter (Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Isata Kanneh-Mason)
Glazunov The Seasons ‘L’été: No. 9, Scène de l’été (Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Kitayenko
JS Bach Prelude & Fugue BVW 855a: Prelude No. 10 in B minor (Vikingur Ólafsson)
Magnus Lindberg Tempus fugit Pt. 1 (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu)
Gurney Since I Believe in God the Father Almighty (Tenebrae/Nigel Short)
Tchaikovsky The Nutcracker Act 1: No. 6 Clara and the Nutcracker (Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel)
Ravel Ma mère l’Oye Suite, M. 60: V. Le jardin féerique (Prague Philharmonia/Emmanuel Villaume)
Eric Whitacre Deep Field: Earth Choir (Eric Whitacre Singers, Virtual Choir 5, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Eric Whitacre)
In the creepily sinuous Andante con anima second movement of Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto, a distinctly eerie sound – like something from a horror movie – emerges from the back of the orchestra.
While this appearance of the musical saw (or, alternatively, the flexatone) gives the Armenian composer’s 1936 work a uniqueness within the concerto repertoire, there is a lot more to his Concerto than just that.
The opening movement is a riot of oriental colour and chromaticism, while the Allegro brillante finale hurls the soloist, orchestra and listeners towards a thrilling finish.
Is there a more romantic concerto? Okay, the work is now imbued with the heady emotion of David Lean’s classic film Brief Encounter (1945) and it’s easy to see why it was chosen as the soundtrack.
It’s a musical rollercoaster of contemplation and elation–which it ably added to what might have otherwise been a bit of a staid drama.
Written while Rachmaninov was coming through a deep depression, the music does appear to render, in vivid hues, the complexities of human emotion – from the darkness of self-doubt to the intoxicating release that comes when the light is finally allowed in.
A whip crack. Jazz-infused melodies. A soundworld taking inspiration from Basque and Spanish music. What’s not to enjoy? Ravel’s concerto manages to achieve real emotional depth while also giving us the perfect party piece.
After the first movement, which is full of fire and fun, the second movement takes a step back and explores a much more serene landscape.
The piece ends with a final movement travelling through a series of unexpected key signatures to revisit the initial feisty atmosphere. It’s got everything you could wish for in a piano concerto.
classical-music.com | Fri, 18 Jan 2019 10:00:00 +0000
The BBC Music Magazine Awards are the biggest annual celebration of the best recordings from the world of classical music, and you can join us on the evening for only £20 a ticket.
The evening takes place at London’s Kings Place on Wednesday 10 April 2019 and begins with a champagne reception, where you’ll have the chance to meet the magazine’s editorial team, music industry professionals, artists and celebrities.
You’ll then move into Kings Place’s main hall for the awards ceremony, which will feature performances by award-winning artists from across the world. The Awards will be hosted by editor Oliver Condy, with a star-studded line-up of guest presenters. Previous guests have included Simon Callow, Gok Wan, Ed Balls and Anneka Rice.
classical-music.com | Thu, 17 Jan 2019 00:30:17 +0000
The nominations for the 2019 BBC Music Magazine Awards have now been revealed, with 21 of the best classical recordings from over the past year chosen by an expert jury.
The discs were selected from the 200 recordings awarded five stars by our critics in the last 12 months. Voting is now open to the public, so you can choose your favourite recordings from seven categories: Orchestral, Instrumental, Chamber, Choral, Vocal, Opera and Concerto.
There were a huge number of Debussy recordings released in 2018 in celebration of the composer’s centenary, and the best of these are reflected in this year’s Awards shortlist. In the Instrumental category, Alexander Melnikov is nominated with his recordings of Book 2 of Debussy’s Préludes and the much-loved La Mer, in which Melnikov is joined by Olga Pashchenko. Melnikov appears again playing Debussy in the Chamber category, alongside other leading musicians including Isabelle Faust and Jean-Guihen Queyras in a selection of late works by the French composer.
Contemporary composer John Adams also appears in two categories in this year’s Awards: he conducts his thrilling Doctor Atomic in the Opera category, and his Naïve and Sentimental Music and Absolute Jest are performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Peter Oundjian in the Orchestral category.
Old classics have been given new life in several of this year’s Awards nominations, including new recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony by MusicAeterna and Teodor Currentzis, and Mahler’s First Symphony by the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra under Adám Fischer.
New discoveries include Michael Collins’s recordings of Crusell’s fabulous clarinet concertos and a set of recordings of ‘Moralizing Songs in the Middle Ages’ from the Sollazzo ensemble in the Choral category.
Rising stars of the classical music world are heralded in this year’s Awards, with 25-year-old composer Owain Park’s choral works performed by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge in the Choral category and 26-year-old guitarist Sean Shibe’s disc SoftLOUD nominated in the Instrumental category, following his entry in the same category last year with his debut album.
Familiar faces in the BBC Music Magazine Awards this year include previous winners Mark Elder, who conducts Rossini’s Semiramide in the Opera category, and the Gabrieli Consort under Paul McCreesh, who are nominated in the Choral category with their A Rose Magnificat album.
'Drawing up our shortlist has been, like every year, a huge challenge', says BBC Music Magazine editor Oliver Condy. 'The quality of recordings in all genres throughout 2018 was remarkable. But now the power is in the hands of the music-loving public, and I'm excited to find out who they choose as the ultimate winners!'
In addition to the shortlisted recordings, there are four jury awards – Premiere Recording, Newcomer of the Year, DVD of the Year and Recording of the Year – all of which will be announced at the awards ceremony on 10 April.
The full list of nominees can be seen below, and the public vote is now open at www.classical-music.com/awards. You can also listen to audio clips from all the nominated discs here.
Voting closes on Tuesday 19 February 2019, and the winners will be announced at a ceremony at London’s Kings Place on Wednesday 10 April. For full details of the nominees and how to vote, go to our Awards page here.
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 MusicAeterna/Teodor Currentzis Sony 88985404352
John Adams Naïve and Sentimental Music; Absolute Jest Doric String Quartet; Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Peter Oundjian Chandos CHSA 5199 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Mahler Symphony No. 1 Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra/Adám Fischer Avi AVI8553390
Bartók Violin Concertos Nos 1 and 2 Christian Tetzlaff (violin); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hannu Lintu Ondine ODE13172
Rachmaninov Piano Concertos Nos 2 and 4; excerpts from JS Bach’s Partita in E for solo violin, arr. Rachmaninov Daniil Trifonov (piano); Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin Deutsche Grammophon 483 5335
Crusell Clarinet Concertos, Op. 1 and Op. 11, Grand Concerto, Op. 5, Introduction et air suédois, Op. 12 Michael Collins (clarinet/conductor); Swedish Chamber Orchestra Chandos CHSA 5187 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Handel Acis and Galatea Soloists; Early Opera Company/Christian Curnyn Chandos CHSA 0404(2) (hybrid CD/SACD)
John Adams Doctor Atomic Soloists; BBC Singers; BBC Symphony Orchestra/John Adams Nonesuch 7559793107
Rossini Semiramide Soloists; Opera Rara Chorus, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Sir Mark Elder Opera Rara 9293800572
A Rose Magnificat Works by Leighton, Tallis, Warlock, White, MacMillan, Sheppard, Park, Wylkynson, Howells, Lane and Martin Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh Signum SIGCD 536
Parle Qui Veut Moralizing Songs of the Middle Ages Sollazzo Ensemble Linn CKD 529
Owain Park Choral works The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Stephen Layton Hyperion CDA 68191
Mirages Works by Messager, Debussy, Delibes, Delage, Stravinsky, Thomas, Berlioz, Massenet and Koechlin Sabine Devieilhe (soprano); Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth et al Erato 9029576772
Schumann • Mahler Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister; Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen Florian Boesch (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano) Linn CKD 511
Enfers Works by Rameau, Rebel and Gluck Stéphane Degout (bass-baritone); Pygmalion/Raphaël Pichon Harmonia Mundi HMM 902288
Bacewicz Piano Quintets Nos 1 & 2; Quartets for Four Violins & Four Cellos Silesian Quartet et al Chandos CHAN 10976
Deux Works by Bartók, Poulenc, Ravel and Dohnányi Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Polina Leschenko (piano) Alpha ALPHA 387
Debussy The Late Works Isabelle Faust (violin), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Xavier de Maistre (harp), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Magali Mosnier (flute), Alexander Melnikov, Javier Perianes, Tanguy De Williencourt (piano) Harmonia Mundi HMM 902303
JS Bach Works and transcriptions Vikingur Ólafsson (piano) Deutsche Grammophon 483 5022
SoftLOUD Works by Oswald, MacMillan, Reich, Wolfe, Lang; 17th-century Scottish lute pieces Sean Shibe (guitar) Delphian DCD 34213
Debussy Préludes, Book 2; La mer (transcr. Debussy) Alexander Melnikov (piano), Olga Pashchenko (piano) Harmonia Mundi HMM 902302