Monday, July 31, 2017

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr ILyich. (1840-1893) Symphony No. 6 and Francesca de Rimini.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: June 2017.
First listen: 31-7-2017.
Label: BIS.
CD 5 from 5.
Recording dates: September 2003 & January 2004.
Recording venue: Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden.
Recording engineer: Michael Bergek.
Running time: 69:02.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 6 in B minor opus 74. "Pathétique".
Francesca da Rimini, opus 32, Fantasy for Orchestra.

Performed by:
Gothenburg SO, Neeme Järvi.

The last CD in this box.
Tchaikovsky said of the sixth symphony that he poured all of his soul in it, and one readily believes that. He found it to be the best of his works, and that is understandable. Järvi comes close to a perfect interpretation, but the full weight of the 6th does not come out in the appropriate passion that it needs. A little underwhelming, the somewhat cool approach and rationality does not fit the content. Thus tempi are well chosen, but the emotional impact is missing. The second and third movements are played in a breeze, blowing over instead of blowing you out of countenance. In itself this is a choice, but considering that the soul of the composer was in it, it is sadly missing in this instance. I cannot find blackness of a existence, and the pathos is missing too, although I wonder if that is in the fabric of the music, despite its title. Well at least there is no false sentiment and that counts for something too I guess. I like it but I do not love this account.
Well then, Francesca da Rimini, that is actually a full blooded account of a ferocity that perfectly fills the bill of this music. Järvi clearly found the right key to release the floods of passion, and a heartfelt directness. Punch is a mild expression for parts of the music, for it hits home pretty often and effectively so. Tchaikovsky remarked of this work that he really loved it, so that must count for something. This is a performance with character and excitement, of orchestral weight, and boisterousness that shakes the very frame of your mind countless times. And yes that means Järvi does well, very much so actually. 
The sound is clear and detailed.




Beethoven, Ludwig van. (1770-1827) Symphony No 6 & 8.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: November 2016.
First listen: 31-7-2017.
Label: Zig-Zag Territoires.
CD 4 from 6.
Recording dates: November 2006 & December 2005.
Recording venue: Concertgebouw, Brugge Belgium.
Recording engineer: Bert van der Wolf.
Running time: 65:03.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 6 opus 68 in F major. (Sinfonia pastorale)
No. 8 opus 93 in F major.

Performed by Anima Eterna, Jos van Immerseel.
Played on authentic instruments.

What a nice surprise it is when you can say with every disc in this box, yes, this is how it should be performed, intuitively knowing that all is as it should be. I have many sets of the Beethoven symphonies, authentic and modern, but Immerseel beats them all with a wide length. As it is with both symphonies on this disc. It is never lacking in grace, and has the punch lines at the right places, without fail. Dynamics are placed perfectly, which shows that Immerseel is scrupulously alert in this and all other aspects. No 6 is fast and furious without being too much of the good thing, the thunder is appropriately done and the rumble afterwards is most realistic. I noticed how much of the woodwinds I was hearing. Never noticed them in other performances. There is tonal brilliance and depth in No 8, and perkiness, especially in the second movement. Immerseel brings a remarkable authority and weight to this symphony, which sounds dignified and spacious, with an overwhelming finale. O, well if you want authentic, Immerseel is the way to go.
Sound is brilliant.



Haydn, Joseph. (1732-1809) The Almost complete Symphonies. Hogwood edition. Symphony No. 48 & 49.


From my collection.
Date of purchase: April 2013.
Gifted by a friend.
First listen: 30-4-2013.
Second listen: 31-7-2017.
Label: L'oiseau-Lyre.
CD 18 from 32.
Recording dates: June/July 1992.
Recording venue: Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, England.
Recording engineer: ?
Running time: 59:16.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 48 in C major. "Maria Theresia".
No. 49 in F minor. "La Passione".

Performed by:
The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood.
Played on authentic instruments.

The previous 17 CD'S which I reviewed on this blog hold all the possible information I could give about the interpretations, and sound, and since everyone of this discs in this box remains on the same level of excellence I refer for that info to the reviews of 1-17. To that I have nothing else to add.
Both Symphonies are done to perfection, tempi right, dynamics in place, creating a plethora of details clearly audible through the fine recording. Reference material.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760) Partitas for Harpsichord Volume 6. Spring and Winter.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 30-7-2017.
Second listen: 12-8-2017.
Third listen: 14-9-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates: January 2007.
Recording venue: Eglise de la Visitation, Oka, Canada.
Recording engineer: Carl Talbot.
Running time: 69:01.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Martius in G minor.
Partita in G major.
Martius in G minor.
Partita in C minor.
Partita I The Winter in F minor.

Performed by:
Geneviève Soly.

Instrument:
Hubbard & Broekman 1998, Boston, after Hasse, 1730's.

I have written a lot about this series initiated by Geneviève Soly, with unprecedented energy and devotion, and what riches are harvested through all this work. She is a woman with many talents, so much is clear after reading all the info that is available. The fact that a musician of this caliber is emerging from the forest of harpsichordists is a small wonder, for competition is fierce and aggressive. She is without doubt at the very top in a competitive field... And she loves the music of Christoph Graupner out of necessity. She clearly shows that Graupner and J.S. Bach are two composers on the same bench. Technically they are each other's match, and musically they produce contrasting elements that have the same energy and resourcefulness if it comes to the quality of the works. Both are masters in the art of kontrapunkt and polyphony.
These interpretations have a winning purity. Her outlook in many musical details is cultivated, with an endearing touch of intimate gentleness. The playing has a touching grace, and the careful dynamic gradations are a thing to marvel about. And let's be honest, all is beautifully executed, and displays an impressive sense of style. And really I could go on with praise on end. All 7 volumes are bloody marvelous and I urge anyone with a sense of beauty to acquire them.



  

A new order, a present for my coming birthday in September

This one was on my list for a long long time, and finally it will land soon on my doormat.







Saturday, July 29, 2017

Graupner, Christoph. Partitas for Harpsichord Volume 7.

New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 29-7-2017.
Second listen: 17-8-2017.
Third listen: 27-9-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates: May 2008.
Venue: Eglise Saint Augustin de Mirabel, Canada.
Sound engineer: Carl Talbot.
Running time: 55:09.


Works on this CD:
Aprilis in C minor.
Maius in F major.
Junius in F minor.
Julius in D major.

Performed by:
Geneviève Soly.

Instrument used:
Hubbard & Broekman, Boston 1998 after Hass.
Temperament modified 1/5 comma meantone.
Temperament ordinaire for Julius.

What can I say otherwise then being very much in awe for what I hear. Geneviève Soly is a magician on this instrument. You do not get better Graupner as from her hands, so much is clear. I am amazed at what is happening when she plays. She is creating a musical perspective, so soft edged, in which every note glints and sings in shades that can range from the brilliant to the sombre often within the same phrase. Her tone is cultivated, clean and exhilarating. Translucent is another term I would use, the colours intimately drawn in a gentle way. She is endlessly imaginative and she evokes a particular mixture of magic and colour. And the recording is brilliant too.
The whole series gets a full recommendation, in as far you will be able to get them for they quickly get out of print. I have the complete set of 7 CD'S now and never been happier about it.





Organ concertos live in Uithuizen and Usquert in the Netherlands. Concert was today.

The first concerto was in Uithuizen, which church holds one of the finest organs of Arp Schnitger, build in 1700, and it sounds absolutely fantastic.
Alas an amateur organist called Johan Schmid, made a mess of the music. Really horrible.
The program was:

Fantasy on the manner of a echo by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck.
Alleluja, Laudem dicite Deo nostro, by Heinrich Scheidemann.
(Kolorierung einer 5st Motette von Hans Leo Haßler.
Herr Jesu Christ dich zu uns wend, by J.S. Bach, Trio super a 2 clav E pedale. BWV 655.
Praeludium et Fuga in C by Johann Ludwig Krebs.
Pavane (1887) by Gabriel Faure opus 50, arranged by Bryan Hesford.

The first two pieces were so so, but Bach and Krebs was far above his capabilities, and never heard so many notes in the wrong place. I was sorry for the organ and kept apologizing about it towards the organ.


Arp Schnitger 1700 Uithuizen


Next stop was Usquert which church holds a Petrus van Oeckelen organ from 1852. Played by Roelof Kuik, who did a fine job, not without mistakes, but that was due to his length. The manual and pedal were too far away  to play comfortably. so when he used the pedal he was hanging with his fingers on the manual. The organ is a good one, not particularly characteristic, but it did the job.  

His program consisted of the following composers. The first two were okay but I did not care much for the rest of the music.

Praeludium and Fugue in d, J.S. Bach.
Voluntary opus 7, No. 8 John Stanley.
Wer nur den Lieben Gott lässt walten. Max Reger.
Andante with variations, Mendelssohn.
Before the image of the Saint, Sigfrid Karg Elert.
Choral variation on a verse 461 from a Dutch songbook, Wim van Beek.
Fantasie about a Luther song, Jan Zwart.


Peter van Oeckelen organ 1852

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr ILich. (1840-1893) Symphony No. 5 and two ther works.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: June 2017.
First listen: 28-7-2017.
Label: BIS.
CD 5 from 6.
Recording dates: June & December 2002 & August 2004.
Recording venue: Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden.
Recording engineer: Michael Bergek.
Running time: (76:48)
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works recorded:
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, opus 64, 1888.
The Voyevoda, Symphonic ballet, opus 78, 1890-91.
Capriccio Italien, opus 45, 1880.

Performed by:
Gothenburg SO, Neeme Järvi.

What you get in all the works in this box is a ultimate clarity between all the desks, a compliment shared between conductor and engineer. Järvi never sacrifices this openness, whatever the dynamics thrown at them by the composer. And thus the level of detail you get is overwhelming, but it adds greatly to your understanding of the work. The orchestra is well drilled, so legato is kept at bay, unnecessary vibrato on a minimum level, dynamics well chosen to give a good effect, but never overdone, so we have almost a performance that comes near to a authentic view, but alas almost. For in the previous four symphonies where he had a brisk pace, the fifth is a mellow affair, with here and there some fast passages, but most of the time I think things are to slow. Järvi is clearly relishing the maximum of romantic impact and so sweetens up a work that could do without it. This I regret, for my expectations were high strung. O well what goes up must come down eventually. So it is a standard performance, with the exception that the orchestra shines in all quarters, and the playing is impeccable. Well articulated then and a richness in details.
We get more fire in the opus 78, certainly at the start of this work. Impressive and well scored, but ultimately a strange work, full of twisted emotions and despair. You certainly find that back in the finale notes of this re-constructed work, for the composer destroyed the original work. Very eerie, but I like and recognize the sentiment.
The opus 45 is a work of a genius, who could construe a work of light character with quality oozing from all pores. Too slow for my taste, it gets lethargic, and so robs the composition of it charm and lightness. Too much weight applied by Järvi, which is a pity, for the detail is amazing. 
A cautious recommendation then



Schubert, Franz Peter.(1797-1828) Symphonies No 7 & 8..


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: January 2016.
First listen: 28-7-2017.
Label: Zig-Zag Territoires.
Box with 4 CD'S.
Recording dates: September 1996 &  January 1997.
Recording venue: Lunatheater, Brussels, Belgium & Concertzaal, Tilburg, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Bert van der Wolf.
Running time: 25:00 and 57:25.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No 7 in B minor, D. 759. "Die unvollendete".
No 8 (No.9) in C major, D. 944. "Die Grosse"

Works performed by: 
Anima Eterna, Jos van Immerseel.

As good as the booklet is in explaining the provenance of all the symphonies it also confuses a lot of things. Musicologist are still not in one mind which is which, and so create a confusing array of so called facts of disreputable provenance, mixing it with real facts, give their own turn and twists to it, and creating more mist as there was before, especially in the numbering of the symphonies. Zig-Zag territoires editorial staff, omits a lot of details in the booklet, or shrouds them equally in thick layers of mist. Not to mention all the reconstructions, of which I only knew the excellent Brian Newbold versions on Philips. O, well, a good thing is that the performances on this disc are absolutely perfect. I never enjoyed them so much as now, with all the details razorsharp in my ear, spatial balance, a good sensible drive, accents in place, so one wonders why Immerseel had to do this in order to show us what is behind all the centuries of over romanticized performances we already heard for decades. It's more an interpretation of time, instead of a musical portrait of Schubert, that is produced by oversized orchestras. So what do we have here? Well basically what is the flowing factor on all the other discs. There is not a single performance that falls below the standard set by Immerseel which is high. Weight and ultimate clarity in both works. The music's boisterousness and lyricism is brought out with considerable feeling.  All movements are from the very start enthralling, and the performance unfolds with character and excitement.  There is an unfailing accuracy, but they are also meticulous in observing tempo and dynamic markings, and frankly the attention given to dynamic levels is totally impressive. Add a good and detailed sound.
There is no doubt in my mind that these performance are on top of my list as reference recordings.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Bruckner, Anton. ( 1824-1896) Symphony No. 7.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: June 2017.
First listen: 28-7-2017.
Label: CPO.
CD 8 from 11.
Recording dates: August 2010.
Recording venue: Casino Basel, Musiksaal Switzerland.
Recording engineer: Andreas Werner.
Running time: 64:21.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works recorded:
Symphony No. 7 in E major. (1881-83) WAB 107.

Works performed by:
Sinfonieorchester Basel, Mario Venzago.

If you are not sure about this set, I would say the 7th will be the prime example of convincing you of the view Venzago holds about performance practice. For of all the symphonies I have heard from this box, this one just about tops all of them in expression and the validity of Venzago's tempi. Venzago phrases very assertively, and with such expressive agility that at all times this great symphony gears at all the right moments. The urgency and propulsive excitement adds to this feeling of perfection. An air of acute melancholy in the second movement is deeply affecting, and a sweet ache comes in many a melody that takes wing skywards. Its rapturous where appropriate, undone of undue sentimentality and luckily bereft of sweet toothed romanticism that so often spoils the game for me. Venzago adds agility, brilliance and a flexible approach to phrasing and thereby creates a perfect balance of head and heart. There is plenty of muscle in this interpretation, and all in all, Venzago keeps the musical arguments fresh and meaningful.
Clean cut romanticism, with a realistic view towards emotions like, yearning, spiritual openness, elegance, with despair that cuts right through your heart, glorious in expression, especially when the gates of heaven open, here and there a touch of Gustav Mahler, which goes to show what a genius Bruckner was, Venzago shows him to be much more than a brass addicted junkie, defying all those orchestras that blow his music sky high in the wrong way. 
The sound is highly detailed and you could not wish for a better interpretation.


Haydn, Joseph. (1732-1809) The almost Complete Symphonies. No. 43 & 44. The Christopher Hogwood Edition.


From my collection.
Date of purchase: April 2013. (This set was gifted by a friend)
First listen: 15-4-2014.
Second listen: 28-7-2017.
Label: L'oiseau-Lyre.
CD 17 from 32.
Recording dates: June/July 1992 & November 1992.
Recording venue: Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, England.
Recording engineer: Not specifically mentioned.
Running time: 60:10.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No 43 in E flat major, "Merkur".
No 44 in E minor, "Trauer".

Works performed by:
The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood.

Every single CD in this set is a gem. And that is because I think this is the ultimate set if it comes to Haydn's symphonies. This ensemble and Hogwood are a match made in heaven. Just take a moment to listen to the richness of details you get, and astounding display of very effective dynamics, the rhythmic control which adroitly avoids even the slightest hint of unevenness, the riveting sense of spontaneity in the orchestral playing, and the intricately variegated solo parts, especially in No 44, what else can it spell as success beyond belief. This ever shifting kaleidoscope of tone colour, that makes you acutely aware of how great this composer was, and much more.....
There is not much sadness in the notes of No. 44, but more of a slight regret, mild in expression, and at the same time, as in the finale a genuine artistry, fast and furious and evocative. Both works are great favourites of mine. It does not come any better as in these performances.
Sound is excellent.





Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760) Partitas for Harpsichord. Volume I.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 26-7-2017.
Second listen: 31-7-2017.
Third listen: 18-8-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates: September 2001.
Recording venue: Eglise de Saint Augustin, de Mirabel, Canada.
Recording engineer: Jason Corey.
Running time: 72:19.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Partita X in A minor.
No. 1 in C major.
In A major.

Works performed by:
Geneviève Soly.

Instrument used:
Hubbard & Broekman 1998, a Hamburg style double manual harpsichord after the designs and practices of H. A. Hass, c. 1730's.
*
Volume I is not available anymore for a reasonable price, and is currently out of print. The other 6 volumes will follow suit. There is already a shortage of Volume VII. The rest is available for pretty low prices.
*

I was finally able to find a new copy of Graupner's Partitas volume I, for a price that is. But since I am a stickler for completeness, and the fact that this is an unique series with works previously unrecorded  I bought it anyway. 
Needless to say that all what I said about the volumes already listen to, is applicable to Volume I.
The pulse of excellence is never broken, the momentum unfolded by Soly is amazing. Everything gets shape under her hands. She creates a musical perspective of a soft edged and thoughtful clarity. There are no emotional extremes in this music, but a more intellectual framework. Passion without virtuosity that could blind you to the finer details. She evokes a colouristic range that is utterly amazing Very intimate music and yet full of joyful rhythms, that makes the picture complete. There is a real dialogue going on between Graupner and Soly. And that I think is a great compliment for any artist and a hommage to the composer.
Sound is crystal clear.




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hoffmeister, Franz Anton. (1754-1812) Complete Works for Viola.



New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 25-7-2017.
Second listen: 7-8-2017.
Third listen: 19-8-2017.
Label: Oehms.
Recording dates: September 2003.
Recording venue: The Gulbenkian Hall, Lisbon.
Recording engineer: Andrew Hallifax.
Running time: 76:13.
Relevance to me. Relevant, especially for the 12 studies.

Works performed:
Concerto for Viola and orchestra in B flat major & D major.
12 studies for Solo Viola.

Works performed by:
Ashan Pillai, Viola.
Gulbenkian Orchestra, Christopher Hogwood.

The Viola concertos of Hoffmeister are not often recorded and if, than mostly the D major one, for it is well known for its second movement. The 12 studies however are the piece de resistance of this disc, and should be treasured as say the cello sonatas by J.S. Bach. All the creative effort and beyond went into those studies. So remarkable they are, that for me they are far above in technical quality as in comparison with the concertos. Not that there is nothing to enjoy in the concertos, on the contrary. The B flat major feels a bit as a exercise piece for the D major, which is much better, musically and technically. The B flat sounds a tad formal. It struggles to blossom, due to the somewhat undernourished melodic development. There is contrast, fine harmony, and creative shape, but it is not alluring, nor fertile enough to stay long in one's memory. The D major however starts with a somewhat weak first movement, but hops into a beautiful second movement with countless little touches of imaginative colours, which makes it immensely likable and approachable. It vividly conveys the music's likability, and has a certain grace to it. But the last movement is not bad either, and has a finely chiseled rhythmic lilt, that made me sit up. Eloquent and expressive.
But for sheer quality and elegance one has to turn to the studies, for they let Hoffmeister shine. The shading and pure line of thought that is behind this music is utterly and devastatingly beautiful. It's expression is potent in every movement. There is simply peace in this set. The Viola gets a good workout in the lower as well as the higher registers, and all eminently poised. The urgency of expression in these works is completely natural. The ingenuity of writing and all its coloristic effects are far beyond what I was expecting. The result sounds wonderfully in the hands of Ashan Pillai, who gets a very natural recording ambiance. The late Christopher Hogwood applied his talent on this orchestra and gets really good results. The recording is a tad forward in both concertos, but the total effect is detailed, and there is enough depth.
Highly recommended, especially for the 12 studies.




Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760) Darmstadt Harpsichord Book, Partitas. Volume 5.



New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 25-7-2017.
Second listen: 9-8-2017.
Third listen: 8-9-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates: September 2005.
Venue: Eglise Saint Augustin de mirabel, Canada.
Recording engineer: Marc Paquin.
Total time: 55:04.


Works recorded:
Partita in A minor.
No. 6 in E major.
In C major.

Works performed by:
Geneviève Soly, plays on a Hubbard & Broekman instrument 1998, after Hass.

As with the previous 4 volumes this fifth volume is a picture of ultimate perfections and a broad insight into this composer's greatness. This music simply does not disappoint, and neither does Soly's invaluable part in the process. It was a long time ago that I so much enjoyed harpsichord music as Graupner's compositions, and I will play them often. There is something so utterly seductive in this performance that it captures your imagination as quick as lightning. You are immediately convinced that this is the way it should be played. Authority, sensitivity, a surefooted command of the many colours in this music, a sure hand in dynamics, proportion, and a good sprinkling of restrained emotion. I am almost inclined to say a woman's touch... The sound is natural, but different in its presentation as Steven Bellamy, another engineer in these series who recorded also a part of the volumes. I prefer his sparkling recordings. Paquin has a more solemn tone and a bit distanced. Also good.




Saturday, July 22, 2017

Live organ Concertos in the Netherlands.

Today I attended two organ concertos in the Netherlands. The first concert was in a place called Zandeweer near the Dutch coast, and the organ was a Hinsz instrument from 1731, in a church build in the middle ages. The organist was Dirk Molenaar.
The composers he played were:
Erbach, Sweelinck, Tunder, Fischer, Kauffmann and J.S. Bach.

And early Hinsz organ with a gorgeous sound. Performance was not as good as the organ deserved. Acoustics were a bit unforgiving for the smaller pipes.

The second place was Uithuizermeeden near Zandeweer for the second Hinsz organ from 1785. A much bigger organ as in Zandeweer. The original Maria church was build in the 14th century.
The composers were:
Walther, Buxtehude, Stanley, Haydn, 
a1=465 HZ.
Wind pressure 69 mm/wk.
Neidhardt.
Played by: Ties Molenhuis.

Much better performance, sound almost perfect, a fine organ, one of the last Hinsz build.


Zandeweer, Hinsz organ 1731

Uithuizermeeden, Hinsz organ 1785

Friday, July 21, 2017

Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760. Partitas for Harpsichord, Volume 4.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 21-7-2017.
Second listen: 3-8-2017.
Third listen: 31-8-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates: June 2004
Recording venue: Église Saint Augustin de Mirabel, Canada.
Recording engineer: Steven Bellamy.
Running time: 64:01.


Works performed:
Partita No. IV in D minor.
No. V in E flat major.
No. VII in E minor.

Works performed by:
Geneviève Soly.

Harpsichord used:
Hubbard & Broekman, 1998, after Hass.

After listening to Volume 2 & 3, I came to the same conclusion with Volume 4. Simply excellent in all departments. I seriously cannot conceive better performances as what Soly delivers. However hard you search, you will find no fault with her, and neither with the recording. It is simply a well prepared survey in the likes of Christoph Graupner, a very underrated composer I might add. Listening some years ago to a bunch of concertos I quickly realized that this is not one of many composers justly forgotten, but a great master on his own terms, in which shadow many a composer of name will disappear. Why he is treated with so much negligence is beyond me, and these harpsichord compositions proves once more that I and others are right in their assessment of this man's greatness. Soly is not an opulent virtuoso but she has an inward frame of mind that enables her to connect in a pure and uncluttered way to Graupner. The music is beautifully paced, and I particularly like the way in which she is handling the dynamics with such subtlety and pose, her finely chiseled rhythmic ability, and the luminosity she brings to the music, that sets her interpretation apart. This is utterly unshowy playing with maximum creative punch. Her choice in tempi is always well weighted, very considered and soft-edged. The overall effect is one of harmony and balance, and her impressive technique is utterly in the service of the music. What could one wish for more. It is almost too late for all to discover this, for the 7 volumes of this music will not be available for long. Volume 1 is OOP, and 7 will soon follow, as will the rest. It will be available only by download, and as I understand it, it will not be reprinted.
The harpsichord sounds wonderful and the sound is perfectly suited to it. The only minor quibble I have is, that the booklet might have contained much more info. But as I said it's a minor quibble.





Braunfels, Walter. (1882-1954) String Quartets No. 1 & 2.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 21-7-2017.
Second listen: 12-8-2017.
Third rerun: 19-8-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: November 1996.
Recording venue: Immanuelskirche Wuppertal, Germany.
Recording engineer: Georg Litzinger.
Running time: 59:14.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
SQ No. 1, opus 60 in A minor. "Verkündigung"
No. 2 opus 61 in F major.

Works performed by:
Auryn Quartett.

I already own some orchestral works by this composer and very much liked it, so I was hugely pleased that the present recording was re-released. Both string quartets are tonal, rather late romantic in nature. The concentrated polyphony with tonally extended harmonies is something to marvel about. Very approachable and undoubtedly belonging to the very best he wrote. It is said that he was one of the most performed composers of the New Munich school. I readily believe that after hearing these SQ. The first SQ is a complex work, that digs deep in the emotional structure of Braunfels. The part writing is intricate, which undoubtedly grew out of loneliness and isolation. It is introspective  and tells of age and experience of life. It tells of deep suffering, and understanding the meaning of it. It even has something of a mercurial character about it. Not flashy in expression, but in fits and starts on the rhythmic flow, quite unsettling. Beautiful though. It has a certain affinity to Bartok SQ's.
No. 2 is different in character, in that in has a life affirming lilt to it. Lighter, less tense, it is far removed from the serious first. Here the concept of a beautiful sound comes in play, through which it gets more breathing space. There is a real command of light and shade, more lifelike. Braunfels is creating his musical perspective, further removed from the deepness of the second movement in No. 1, plunging into a soft edged almost springlike brilliancy.  The atmosphere thus metamorphosing in one of easy going lightness. The shadowy connotations of the first SQ are gone. Free and dreamlike in phrasing, Braunfels uncovers important inner lines, distinctly characterized by a mind that is untroubling itself. This is why I consider both SQ as essential to have. The performance is top notch, as is the recording.



Eccles, Henry. (c.1670-1742) Sonatas for Violin & Continuo. (First Book 1720)

New acquistion.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 21-7-2017.
Second listen: 7-8-2017.
Third listen: 16-8-2017.
Label: Musica Omnia.
2 CD'S.
Recording dates: September 2011.
Recording venue: Trinity United Methodist Church, Wilmette, Il. USA.
Recording engineer: Joel Gordon.
Running time: 45:21 & 49:18.
Relevance to me. Interesting.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
The Callipygian Players.

An US based ensemble, their first recording on this label, and a totally unknown composer. That should prove interesting? I am in two minds about composer and ensemble, but this is for later.
Henry Eccles was a gifted violinist, and he first enters history in January 1705. He seems to have been employed by the Duke d'Aumont, a French ambassador extraordinaire. His first book of Sonatas was dedicated to Sir William Gage, Baronet of Firle, Sussex. He had a brother called Thomas who was also a violinist but succumbed to the bottle. There is little more known about Henry Eccles. He was not a very original composer and he used verbatim complete movements from the likes of Giuseppe Valentini and Francesco Bonporti, in which initially it was very difficult to discover what was Eccles and what Valentini or Bonporti, but this was finally settled by research. All original scores were carefully edited and cleaned of mistakes and errors added by others. But what on the whole is the benefit of Eccles his music? Is he adding to the wealth and tradition of his time? Let me put it like this, there is originality and some finely crafted melodies. The music is pleasant but not extraordinarily refined, and I would have him not in the first row of worthies but certainly on a well deserved second row. Henry Eccles clearly did not attempt to elevate the general technical level of a violinist, he was quite prepared to leave that to others. His melodies are certainly engaging, and even up for repetitive listening in the background. Careful scrutiny may disappoint anyone with a deep knowledge of the Baroque era. I for one can live with the music and find enough rewarding moments to keep my interest on a conscious level. As to this ensemble, they play well, but are missing the ultimate refinement. It is historically informed playing, but compared to other ensembles in this field they fall short in expression and the finer distinctive details. There is simply too much legato with the violinist. The playing reminded me at times of ASMF under Marriner or Iona Brown, which is quite devastating methinks as a conclusion. To be fair, the second CD of this set is much better recorded and more rigorously performed in an authentic style. 
The recording is forward but clear. If you are interesting caution is advised. But in the end you may conclude as I did, that little is recorded of this composer, so this double CD is welcome, alone for that reason.


This is not a portrait of Henry Eccles, of which there are no paintings, but depicted is
a young man with a violin or a portrait of Charles Theodose Godefroy (1718-1796)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760) Partitas for Harpsichord, Volume 3. World Premiere Recordings.



New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 20-7-2017.
Second listen: 2-8-2017.
Third listen:25-8-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates: September 2003.
Recording venue: Èglise Saint Augustin de Mirabel, Canada.
Recording engineer: Marc Paquin.
Running time: 62:39.


Works performed:
Partita in C minor.
Februarius in G major.
Partita III in D major.

Performed by:
Geneviève Soly.

Instrument used:
Hubbard and Broekman 1998, Hamburg style double manual harpsichord, after the designs & practices of H.A. Hass, c. 1730's.

Almost needless to say that this is top drawer playing. Graupner found in Geneviève Soly the perfect interpreter of his music. As in volume 2, her playing is exemplary, and she cannot not be faulted in any way.  The harpsichord used has a great sound. A matching recording crowns this volume.  
Soly's deep seated understanding of colour and vitality is amazing and refreshing. She brings to the music subtle variations in shading and dynamics. Reflective, and yet a urgency to communicate, she carefully navigates through the notes, and never steps into the ordinary, but always keeps to a tasteful line in elegance and sophistication. Her suppleness and flexibility of phrase creates for me obvious enjoyments. The pure sonority and tints, all the shades of tone, the distinctive imagination, all leads to a expressive picture of Christoph Graupner's music, and so tells us what a creative composer he was. All this would come to nothing if the performer isn't any good, but luckily for us, we are served in high quality interpretations.



Sunday, July 16, 2017

Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760) Partitas for Harpsichord Volume II. Partien 1718 & Galanteries. Top recommendation.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: July 2017.
First listen: 16-7-2017.
Second listen: 1-8-2017.
Third listen: 24-8-2017.
Label: Analekta.
Recording dates:  December 2002.
Recording venue: Église Saint Augustin de Mirabel.
Recording engineer: Steven Bellamy.
Running time: 59:38.
Relevance to me: Essential.
Reference recording.
State of the Art sound.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Geneviève Soly.
Harpsichord: 
Hubbard & Broekman 2002, after H.A. Hass 1730's.
Tuned: to a'=415 Hz.
Basic temperament: 1/5th comma mean tone.

Christoph Graupner was well respected in his lifetime. Judging by what I already knew of him, and now listening to his harpsichord compositions I am easily convinced that he ranks amongst the greats. The level of this music is so high, that it will astound many a  listener, me included. It has to do with the remarkably talented Geneviève Soly. Her easy grace exudes such confidence that the outcome could not be other as perfect. Her playing reveals contrast and dynamics that are quite infectious. Not so much a dazzling affair, but sheer control over the textures. She delights in the music's expressive power, which is wonderfully confiding and unfailingly imaginative. Soly's rhythmic focus underlines the music's excellence. She leaves room to let the music sing and breathe, it sounds light and has an inbred elegance. All is so refreshingly animated, splendidly articulated, unleashing imaginatively controlled embellishments that fuse heart and mind to the brim. I could go on endlessly, but I urge everyone to buy at least one volume, after hearing it you will want all. The instrument used is a marvel in sound and colour.
The recording is reference quality. 



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Schubert, Franz Peter. (1797-1828) Symphonies No. 5 & 6.

Franz Peter Schubert.

New acquisition.
Date of purchase: January 2016.
First listen: 14-7-2017.
Label: Zig-Zag Territoires.
Recording dates:  October/December 1996.
Recording venue: No. 5, Concertzaal, Tilburg, The Netherlands, No. 6, Luna theater Brussels, Belgium.
Recording engineer: Bert van der Wolf.
Running time: Approx 57:00.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 5 in B flat major. D. 485.
Symphony No. 6 in C major. D. 589.

Performed by: 
Anima Eterna, Jos van Immerseel.

As in Beethoven, the same happens with Schubert. I am totally convinced that this performance is how it should be. We are all familiar with the Symphonies of Schubert, and they are very much liked, and rightly so. I even appreciated them more by this performance in which all has gone to the right proportions. I always comfort myself with the thought that it must have sounded like this in the days of Schubert. And again I must say that I did not hear both symphonies better performed as on this disc. All seems to be right. What I said in my previous review about Beethoven is applicable to the Schubert interpretations. It is fast, detailed, poetry pur sang. Expressive, dynamics well applied and spot on tempi. The message is clear, insistent and all revealing. Immerseel might be termed a genius. In fact he is the prime precursor of what is to come in the future. What I said earlier about artistic growth is clearly audible, a work in progress and a fast learning curve. Immerseel has a awesome control, thus the rhythmic momentum is to be marveled at. A perfectly and thoughtfully calibrated gradation in touch and shading, subtle accelerations in the best possible light. Orchestrally rich in expression, deeply impressive in the moulding of Schubert's melodic creativity, and an eagerness to unearth the many treasures in both symphonies. What more does one need?
The recordings are very good. 



Beethoven, Ludwig van. (!770-1827) Symphonies No 4 & 5.


New acquisition.
Date of purchase: November 2016.
First listen: 14-7-2017.
Label: Zig-Zag territoires.
CD 2 from 6.
Recording dates: December 2005 & December 2007.
Recording venue: Concertgebouw Brugge, Belgium.
Recording engineer: Bert van der Wolf.
Running time: 62:23.
Relevance to me: Essential.
Reference performance.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 4, opus 60 in B flat major.
Symphony No. 5, opus 67 in C minor.

Works performed by:
Anima Eterna, Jos van Immerseel.

More and more I tend to replace my conventional performances by authentic ones. From Beethoven I already have Roger Norrington and the Christopher Hogwood set,  plus the John Eliot Gardiner, and now I have added the Immerseel for good measure and comparison.  And to be honest Immerseel wins on all counts. His orchestra has the oomph to create the same dynamics as normal performances, but also happens to be the better orchestra of the two mentioned above. Immerseel is a man with a mission and makes a statement in almost all recordings he has made. Beethoven is such a statement. He makes my picture complete and the transition to the authentic performance style easy.
Frankly I did not hear better performances of both the fourth and fifth. They are riveting, and have a lot of punch. Marveling in listening to the clear expression of the timpani, and the weight of the strings. The tempi are spot on and I even craved for more tempo in the second movement of the fourth. The fast and furious finale blew me away. The intro of the fifth symphony has punch and weight, but the dynamics are sensibly applied. So no hammer blows and undue slowing down of the tempi, but a cleanly executed statement. Every beat sits in the right place and the strings sings constantly, such is the loving partnership between orchestra and conductor. I even managed to hear instruments of which I knew they were there, but never was able to find while listening, Well on this recording you will hear them, like the Tuba in the last measures of the finale. 
The artistic growth this orchestra has gone through over the years is amazing, they learn as they go, which gives me every indication they they are enjoying the challenges thrown at them. There is no limitation in the colouristic display of authentic instruments, on the contrary I would say. The extra lilt, charm, nuance and a display of tonal shades is applied effectively in every note.  All melodic lines are beautifully drawn out of the texture. This is on all counts a solid technical accomplishment and we as listeners reap the rewards of it. 
The shimmering surfaces and gossamer textures are beautifully captured by the engineer.



Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilich . (1840-1893) Symphony No. 4, Serenade for Strings & Elegy in Memory.

Pyotr, ILich Tchaikovsky.

New acquisition.
Date of purchase: June 2017.
First listen: 14-7-2017.
Label: BIS.
CD 4 of 5.
Recording dates:  May 2003, August 2004, March 2005.
Recording venue: Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden.
Recording engineer: Michael Bergek.
Running time: 80:23.
Relevance to me: Essential.
Reference recording.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 4 in F minor, opus 36.
Serenade for Strings in C major, opus 48.
Elegy in Memory of I.V. Samarin. (1884).

Works performed by:
Gothenburg SO, Neeme Järvi.

This may not be an authentic performance but it comes pretty close. There is no whipping up of sentimentality, nor overcooked romanticism, or ridiculous drama, but a work played according to its intent. Tchaikovsky is in many cases played like circus music, purely for its effect rather than for its content. Järvi makes short measure with this way of playing. What you get is a tightly controlled orchestra, were the strings play with a minimum of vibrato, and legato is in short supply. Dynamics are economical applied,  and thus is very effective in the punches dealt. That means that the first to the last movement is utterly convincing in its expression and true to the intent and nature of the work. I would have loved the second movement to be a tad faster, and the first strings in the third movement a bit more prominent to get that real lift above the main melody lines of the lower strings. The finale is riveting and rather hard hitting, clear as a bell, and as clean in execution as one could would wish for. The brass shines superbly as are the woodwinds. The orchestra has an agility that sounds towards an authentic orchestra, radiating an restrained emotional health that is refreshingly free of any hint of exhibitionism what I so often encounter in his symphonies by other performers.
The serenade is also a clean affair, undone of all the add ons by conductors that wanted to score on effect only. We get clarity throughout, which benefits the strings enormously. Would have like a bit more tempo in the three tempo markings of the first movement. The Walzer is gorgeously done, and that is a real treat. The lucidity in the Elegy is remarkable, as if floating in mid-air. Exceptional is the term I would use. The finale is ideally paced and kept in a tight reign by Järvi, which is not always the case in this work, often milked completely of its effectiveness by overly romantic leanings. The Elegy in memory of I.V. Samarin was new to me, and I find it an utterly devastating work, deeply moving, well scored, and well played. The occasional entry of the first violins at places in an almost chamber like guise, is so effective it getting at the heart of its emotional core. All the works on this disc are richly evocative and the identity of individual pieces well captured. The simplicity of utterance make this well know music a new experience, hugely rewarding. The energetic momentum Järvi creates has the right kind of dramatics builds in, and that is as far removed from the normal procedures in Tchaikovsky's works as can be, and that is which makes these interpretations so interesting.
The sound is superb.


Bruckner, Anton. (1824-1896) Symphony No. 6 in A major. (1881)

Anton Bruckner.

New acquisition.
Date of purchase: June 2017.
First listen: 14-7-2017.
Label: CPO.
CD 7 from 11.
Recording dates: February 2011.
Recording venue: Kultur Casino, Bern, Switzerland.
Recording engineer: Jacob Händel.
Running time: 50:34.
Relevance to me: Essential.
Reference performance.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Berner SO, Mario Venzago.

I have said about the previous recordings in this box all there is to say about performance practice, tempi, details, dynamics etc, so I will not repeat myself again and again. You can always read my previous reviews I guess. So I limit myself to the 6th symphony, a pillar of Bruckner's ever increasing strength. First of all the orchestra is bigger as in the fifth symphony, and this you will hear. The punch is much harder, but nevertheless extremely effective. All is in the right proportions. The first movement is fierce and furious, an exhilarating and impressive second movement, and a gorgeous Scherzo, closed by a thundering Finale. Never mind how loud it gets, detail is never obscured. There is no doubt about the musical validity of the performance, it is simply vintage Bruckner pur sang.  The enchanting simplicity of Venzago's approach is amazing and at the same time an affectionate tribute to the composer. It is shown that Bruckner is still a  man of exuberant expression, but simply in a different way as we all thought. His music is one of reflection but also of spiritual introspection. This interpretation is more brisker, and yes, also terser and classically more connected to the composers in his time as you ever imagined. The performance is of a high standard with a assiduous dynamic architecture that comes to light in this near authentic take. And that is the great gain, a gain which makes us understand Bruckner better as ever before.
A curious anomaly came to light in the recording. The first two movements sounded just fine, but movement 3 and 4 sounded much better, with the fourth movement even a notch better. More openness of the soundstage. Has Jacob Händel been sleeping?


Fête du Ballet, A compendium of Ballet rarities. CD I second rerun.

From my collection. Date of purchase: 2011. First listen: 21-11-2013. Second listen: 19-1-2018. Label: Decca. CD 1 from 10. Recording ...