Saturday, 31 October 2015

A new disc from BIS of outstanding concertos and orchestral works by Sally Beamish show a composer who can create wonderful atmosphere and colour

For those who are still not familiar with the British composer, Sally Beamish (b.1956) , she was born in London and initially became a viola player before moving to Scotland where she has since developed a career as a composer.

She is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow, a Creative Scotland Award, and the Paul Hamlyn Award. With composer Alasdair Nicolson, Sally Beamish co-directs the annual St. Magnus Composers' Course in Orkney.

Jazz and Scottish traditional music in particular are amongst the many influences on her music. Her compositions include chamber, vocal, choral and orchestral music as well as music theatre, film and television.

Sally Beamish’s music is performed and broadcast internationally and since 1999 she has been championed by BIS Records , who have recorded much of her work.

It is BIS that have just released a recording of orchestral works by Beamish, The Singing, Concerto for accordion and orchestra; Trumpet Concerto; Under the Wing of the Rock; A Cage of Doves and Reckless. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra  and National Youth Orchestra of Scotland  are conducted by Martyn Brabbins with soloists James Crabb (accordion) , Branford Marsalis (alto saxophone)  and Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet)

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The Singing - Concerto for accordion and orchestra (2006) recalls the tragic time of the Highland Clearances that began in the 1760s.  

The first movement, Andante - Allegro – Andante, opens with the beat of a hushed, distant side drum.  Another drum quietly enters as the orchestra join with little twitterings from the accordion of James Crabb, beautifully done. Woodwind add to the myriad of orchestral tapestry before the orchestra brightens and increases in tempo as the accordion re-joins in the livelier allegro section, again with much going on in the orchestra. The music becomes increasingly lively before dropping to a slower section pointed up by the timpani where the soloist brings a kind of accompanied cadenza. There are more woodwind trills and twitters before a distinctly Scottish tune arrives.

The second movement consists of a Lento followed by six variations. In the lento the solo accordion brings a very Scottish tune with a Scotch snap. Slowly, instruments of the orchestra subtly join adding a lovely sonority. Variation I. Più Mosso brings a slow, steady theme where the orchestra weave a fine accompaniment to the accordion before a faster, staccato Variation II. Più Mosso where the side drum re-appears as the energy and passion increases.

Variation III. Ancora Più Mosso continues the rhythmic feel of variation II before running into Variation IV. Adagio, a slow solemn variation with a gloomy orchestra heaving around under the melancholy accordion. The music slowly rises in orchestral power to which the soloist responds with fast scales, picked up momentarily by the orchestra. As the accordion slows and quietens we move into Variation V. Adagio with quizzical little phrases over a quiet orchestral background, a moment of much simplicity yet tremendous atmosphere and effect. Variation VI brings a quiet rush of sound from the accordion and wind instruments who breathe into their instruments in a sustained passage.

The third and final movement, Variation VII Finale. Allegro arrives with the accordion livening the atmosphere, rushing ahead with a lively percussion section and orchestra providing some raucous sounds. Soon the accordion brings another very Scottish tune with some brilliant playing from James Crabb before the music rushes ahead with sounds of the pipes from the accordion and tubular bells chiming to provide an atmospheric lead up to the riotous coda where the orchestra join.

This is a very attractive work that receives a brilliant performance from James Crabb and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins.

The novel Magnus by the Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown was the stimulus for A Cage of Doves (2007), dedicated to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies who has been himself greatly affected by this poet and writer. Magnus tells the story of the Martyrdom of Saint Magnus Erlendsson and throughout this piece fragments of the ancient Hymn to St Magnus can be heard.  

The music emerges slowly out of a gloomy depth, deep orchestral instruments swirling around before a clarinet rises out of the orchestra, joined by other woodwind who weave a lovely moment, pointed up by celeste. Brass soon bring a distinctive sonority before a livelier section arrives with some lovely little instrumental details. Timpani and percussion sound out to add drama as the music gains in tempo and dynamics, rising to some dramatic outbursts before quietening to a gentle , lovely atmospheric section with harp and shifting orchestral textures. There are lovely little woodwind flourishes as well as little instrumental motifs that fly out of the orchestral texture. The music rises in strength and power to a terrific climax before tubular bells chime as the music subsides to a quiet section where a muted trumpet intones. There is a repeated note from a flute, around which some fine delicate orchestral textures are woven before a fluttering flute and hushed strings bring the coda.
This is a lovely work, finely played here.

Under the Wing of the Rock (2006/2008) was originally written for viola and strings but is here performed in its later version for alto saxophone and strings, played by Branford Marsalis, for whom this version was written. The idea for this piece was a Gaelic poem concerning a lullaby that was supposed to have been sung by a mother to her child when fleeing the massacre at Glen Coe.

A hushed alto saxophone theme opens alone; Branford Marsalis bringing some lovely varied tones before the orchestra gently join, adding to a glorious melody which is beautifully played. The strings rise over the soloist as he climbs higher with moments of greater passion before falling back for a faster, staccato section with the soloist bringing many fine moments as the strings weave around.  There are some vibrant, flowing passages as the theme is developed before a rhythmic passage with a staccato motif arrives. However, the music later slows for a return of the quieter flowing melody, the saxophone weaving some fine passages around the gentler orchestral accompaniment before finding its way to the gentle coda.

This is a glorious work that receives an exceptionally fine performance from Branford Marsalis and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Reckless (2012) for chamber orchestra was a commission by the Southbank Sinfonia, an orchestra for young professionals. It opens with a fast moving, sparkling theme that rattles ahead full of good humour, sounding very much like a mini concerto for orchestra as the theme is shared around the players. There is a brief quieter moment before the sudden end. What a lovely little work this is.

The last work on this new disc is Beamish’s Trumpet Concerto (2003). It reflects city life from its architecture to the more squalid side. In three movements, Prelude. Adagio - Allegro opens with a chord on low brass, the orchestra slowly fanning out before drooping phrases from the brass are heard. A very atmospheric sound is created before the soloist, Håkan Hardenberger enters, bringing a bright slow paced theme which blends and weaves with the orchestra. Soon a rhythmic, staccato theme starts with woodblock and side drum which the soloist takes ahead with the orchestra. Beamish again brings some lovely instrumental detail. The music eventually takes more of a flow as a dissonance is brought. It increases in drama and dynamics before broadening in a fine moment before finding its way, rhythmically and quietly, to the end.  

There are timpani rolls as the orchestra, with xylophone, quietly open the Andante where there are many lovely colours created. The trumpet enters to bring a languid, jazz influenced theme with a syncopated orchestral accompaniment.  Later there are shifting orchestral harmonies, joined by shimmering xylophone chords before a bass tuba adds to the orchestral texture as the soloist and orchestra gain in dynamics and passion and the coda arrives suddenly.

In the Allegro – Presto percussion sound out flamboyantly before the soloist enters with a strident theme, a march which the orchestra takes forward through some terrific dynamic passages, brightly lit and coloured by percussion. Part way there is a cadenza where Hardenberger brings some terrific, fluent and controlled playing before the orchestra leads on with percussion pointing up the music as the soloist re-enters. Drums, percussion and low orchestra stride ahead before orchestral brass drive the music on. The music scurries to a climactic passage as soloist and orchestra move inexorably forward to a tremendous coda.

As one would expect, Håkan Hardenberger proves to be a terrific soloist. The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland reveals themselves to be a very fine orchestra who bring much to this fine performance. 

Sally Beamish is a composer who can create wonderful atmosphere and colour. The works on this new disc are outstanding as are the performances. The recordings, made at the Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, Scotland are first rate and there are excellent booklet notes from the composer. 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Sir Simon Rattle makes his debut recording on LSO Live with a tremendous performance of Schumann’s rarely recorded Das Paradies und die Peri released on SACD Hybrid, Pure Audio Blu-ray and with downloadable audio files

Sir Simon Rattle  makes his debut recording on LSO Live  with a performance of Schumann’s rarely recorded Das Paradies und die Peri. Rattle will of course be joining the LSO as their new Music Director in September 2017.

Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra  are joined on this new release by the London Symphony Chorus , soloists from the Guildhall School , sopranos Sally Matthews  and Kate Royal , alto Bernarda Fink , tenors Mark Padmore and Andrew Staples ; and bass Florian Boesch

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LSO Live have done Sir Simon proud with this new set, not only on SACD Hybrid (2.0 stereo + 5.1 surround mixes and Standard CD audio) but with a companion disc that provides Pure Audio Blu-ray (5.1 DTS-HD MA - 24bit 192kHz, 2.0 LPCM - 24bit 192kHz) and downloadable audio files (stereo DSD, FLAC, WAV & MP3).

There is also a video trailer about this new recording that can be watched at:

Robert Schumann’s (1810-1856) oratorio for soloists, chorus, and orchestra Das Paradies und die Peri, Op. 50 was completed in 1843. The work is based on a German translation of a story from the verse epic Lalla-Rookh by the Irish poet, Thomas Moore. The Peri, a creature from Persian mythology and the focus of the story, has been expelled from Paradise and trying to regain entrance by giving the gift that is most dear to heaven. Eventually the Peri is admitted after bringing a tear from the cheek of a repentant old sinner who has seen a child praying.

In its time it was regarded as a significant achievement for the composer, receiving praise from Richard Wagner.

In three parts, Part 1 of Das Paradies und die Peri opens with Vor Edens Tor im Morgenprangen with a lovely gentle orchestral theme that immediately draws the listener in. When alto Bernarda Fink joins to sing  ‘One morn a Peri at the gate of Eden stood...’ she proves a fine choice of soloist for this part, beautifully following every turn. Soprano Sally Matthews as the Peri joins for Wie glücklich sie wandeln (How happy are the holy spirits who wander there) and proves to be equally flexible.

The Recitativ - Der hehre Engel, der die Pforte brings tenor Mark Padmore as the Narrator in ‘The glorious Angel, who was keeping the gates of light…against a beautifully controlled orchestral accompaniment. He is very fine, equally controlled with beautiful dynamics. Bernarda Fink continues as the Angel with a lovely, characterful rich tone. Wo find ich sie? brings the return of Sally Matthews with some finely felt moments in ‘ Where was there ever a gem that shone like the steps of Alla’s wonderful Throne?’ bringing some fine singing, beautifully shaped.  

Narrator, Mark Padmore brings a fine agile blend in So sann sie nach (While thus she mus’d her pinions fann’d…) with a fine vocal quartet of soloists. The LSO chorus enter with great gusto in Doch seine Ströme sind jetzt rot (But crimson now her rivers ran) giving a superb contribution, rising brilliantly in the dynamic passages, Rattle bringing a fine dramatic outpouring.

The LSO brass lead into Und einsam steht ein Jüngling noch(Behold, a youthful warrior stands alone) before Mark Padmore enters. The chorus rise up before a dramatic strong voiced Florian Boesch as Gazna enters followed by tenor, Andrew Staples, who adds a fine contribution as the Young Man.  

The chorus are again very fine in the flowing Weh, weh, er fehlte das Ziel (False flew the shaft. Ah sad to tell) with their little outbursts beautifully done, the orchestra and chorus providing a lovely blend.  A gentle hesitant orchestral opening precedes the Narrator Padmore in a sensitive finely controlled Die Peri sah das Mal der Wunde (Yet mark’d the Peri where he lay). The Peri, Sally Matthews enters with her finely coloured voice, soon joined by the vocal quartet, as well as the chorus. Rattle balances his vocal forces and orchestra to perfection here. Schumann brings some fine fugal writing in the later stages, almost Mendelssohnian in character (think Elijah), before a rousing choral conclusion pointed up with timpani.

There is another attractive orchestral opening to Part 2 before the entry of  Mark Padmore who brings a depth of feeling to Die Peri tritt mit schüchterner Gebärde (With timid steps the Peri then…approached the pearly gates of Eden). The Angel responds ‘Sweet is our welcome of the Brave…’ the female voices as the chorus of angels bringing a beautifully sound. The Narrator returns for Ihr erstes Himmelshoffen schwand ‘Ihr erstes’ (Her first fond hope of Eden blighted) with some lovely delicate orchestral passages and some light textured string passages as the chorus lead on as the Chorus of Nile Spirits. The Peri appears for ‘Ach Eden…’ (O Eden, how I yearn for thee.) There is some great choral singing here, refined and controlled.

The Narrator returns in the slower rather considered ‘Fort streift von hier das Kind der Lüfte(Thence over Egypt’s palmy groves.) with some exquisite orchestral textures. The Peri responds with ‘Für euren ersten Fall wie hart.’ (Poor race of men! dearly ye pay.) We are led into a lighter, gloriously orchestrated section where the Narrator and vocal quartet sing of ‘Die Peri weint’ (She wept).

Alto Bernarda Fink returns for the solo Im Waldesgrün am stillen See (Beneath that fresh and springing bower) bringing some fine varied tones before Andrew Staples as the Young Man brings a lovely, gentle ‘Ach, einen Tropfen nur aus dern See’ (Ah, a single droplet from the lake). Bernarda Fink continues in a beautifully drawn, flowing Verlassener Jüngling (Deserted youth!) beautifully supported by the LSO with lovely cello lines and lovely woodwind passages, rising buoyantly as the Narrator sings ‘Doch sieh – wer naht dort leise schleichend.’ (But see – who yonder comes by srealth)’

Soprano Kate Royal proves very fine as the Maiden in O lass mich von der Luft durchdringen(Oh! Let me only breathe the air.) fluent and of beautiful tone. The Narrator sings ‘Sie wankt – sie sinkt – und wie ein Licht’ (She fails, she sinks – as dies the lamp) subtly bringing a depth of feeling, particularly as the conclusion is reached. The orchestra leads beautifully and gently into the final section of Part 2 with Sally Matthews as the Peri bringing a very fine ‘Schlaf nun und ruhe in Träumen voll Duft(Sleep on, in visions of odour rest) with the LSO chorus bringing  a most beautiful conclusion to Part II.

Disc 2 contains Part 3 of Das Paradies und die Peri that opens with a very light buoyant chorus for the female voices of the LSO chorus as they sing ‘Schmücket die Stufen zu Allahs Thron’ (Bedeck the steps to Alla’s throne). The Guildhall School Quartet add ‘Auch der Geliebten vergesset nicht’ (Do not forget the lovers’ plight), lightly pointed up by percussion. The two solo sopranos rise out of the ensemble before a little cello phrase leads into Dem Sang von ferne lauschend, schwingt (Hearkening to the distant song) Mark Padmore as the Narrator very finely shaping the text before the Angel responds with ‘Noch nicht!’ (Not yet!).

The orchestra leads into a particularly fine section where Sally Matthews as the Peri brings a heartfelt Verstossen! Verschlossen aufs neu das Goldportal! (Cast out! From the golden gate) a terrific moment, beautifully sung, speeding as she declares ‘Doch will ich nicht ruhn, will ohne Rast’ (Yet I will never rest, nor cease). There is a very fine bass solo from Florian Boesch ‘Jetzt sank des Abends goldner Schein’ (Now, upon Syria’s land of roses) bringing a firm, fluent rich flow beautifully followed by the LSO with Rattle finding just the right gentle tempo.  

The narrator returns for Und wie sie niederwärts sich schwingt (And as she downward wings her way) along with the Guildhall School Quartet, Mark Padmore later bringing some finely, controlled and shaped phrases. Hinab zu jenem Sonnentempel! (Downward to that temple of the sun!) has a fine rhythmic pulse with some imaginative orchestral ideas as the Peri takes the music ahead full of determination. The Narrator lightens the flow of the music before alto Bernarda Fink enters continuing the flow.  Florian Boesch as the Man brings a hushed slow ‘S war eine Zeit’ (There was a time).

Vocal quartet and chorus bring a gentle O heil’ge Tränen inn’ger Reue!’ (Blest tears of soul-felt penitence!), a beautiful blend of voices with each individual soloist appearing through the texture. A horn quietly opens the penultimate section with a dark hued orchestral accompaniment, the strings having an almost period feel with little vibrato. The Peri enters with Es fällt ein Tropfen alfs Land’ (There’s a drop that down the moon…) a most beautiful passage. The Narrator brings a real strength to ‘Und sieh, demütig betend kniet’ (And now – behold him kneeling there) with a lovely fine use of the chorus around the soloist. Finally the music takes off with Sally Martthews as the Peri bringing a bright, glowing Freud’, ew’ge Freude, mein Werk ist getan’ (Joy, joy for ever! My task is done) with the Chorus of the Blessed Spirits adding just the right subtly hushed accompaniment before rising to a glorious, vibrant conclusion.

Expectations will be high when Sir Simon Rattle rakes over the reins of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2017. This tremendous new release only heightens those expectations.   

LSO Live achieve a first rate recording from the notoriously difficult acoustic of the Barbican, London. Applause is excised. There are excellent booklet notes from Stephen Johnson as well as full German texts and English translations. 

Friday, 23 October 2015

Fenella Humphreys’ new recording of solo violin works by composers from Bach and Ysaÿe to Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Gordon Crosse and Piers Hellawell for Champs Hill Records demonstrates this artist’s formidable talent

British violinist Fenella Humphreys studied with Sidney Griller, Itzhak Rashkovsky, Ida Bieler and David Takeno at the Purcell School, Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Robert-Schumann-Hochschule in Düsseldorf. She has taken part in masterclasses with musicians including Thomas Brandis, Lorand Fenyves, Anthony Marwood, Thomas Riebl and Krzysztof Penderecki.

She enjoys a busy career combining chamber music and solo work with performances around the world at such venues as the Wigmore Hall, London; the South Bank Centre, London and the new Helsinki Music Centre, Finland.  She has broadcast for the BBC; Classic FM; DeutschlandRadio Berlin; West-Deutsche-Rundfunk; ABC Classic FM, Australia and Korean radio. She has performed the Walton Concerto at the composer’s home at the invitation of the Walton Trust in a performance that was recorded by Canadian TV.

As well as Concertmaster of the Deutsche Kammerakademie, Fenella Humphreys also enjoys guest leading and directing various ensembles in Europe.  As a chamber musician she has collaborated with artists including Alexander Baillie, Adrian Brendel, Pekka Kuusisto and Martin Lovett. She is regularly invited by Steven Isserlis to take part in the prestigious Open Chamber Music at the International Musicians’ Seminar, Prussia Cove, Cornwall, UK.   

Her first concerto recording, of Christopher Wright’s Violin Concerto for Dutton Epoch with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Martin Yates, was released in 2012.  

During 2014/15 Fenella Humphreys premiered Bach to the Future, a set of six new unaccompanied violin works by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Gordon Crosse, Sally Beamish, Adrian Sutton, Piers Hellawell and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.   The project has so far seen performances at Aldeburgh, St. Magnus Festival, Presteigne Festival, Ryedale Festival, The Forge, Manchester University, Queen’s University and Belfast. It is to be recorded over two CDs for Champs Hill Records.  

Volume 1 of this project has recently been released by Champs Hill Records  and, in addition to solo violin works by Bach, Ysaÿe, Biber and Cyril Scott, includes works by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Gordon Crosse and Piers Hellawell. 


With Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006 we have some very fine playing,  a beautifully phrased and nuanced Preludio with terrific fluency and textures, Fenella Humphreys finding just the right carefully controlling the tempi. There is a finely shaped Loure and a beautifully pointed up Gavotte en Rondeau where this violinist brings many distinctive touches. Menuett I & II bring some fine sonorities. Though taken at a rather slower pace than is usually the case, this artist shapes the music beautifully. The Bourée brings a real contrast, fast forward moving with this violinist bringing an immediacy and spontaneity, something that carries over into the very fine Gigue.

The recorded acoustic tends to add a rather bright sound but the ear soon adjusts – and with playing this good one is soon totally caught up in the music making.

Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s (b.1980) Suite No. 1 for Solo Violin was written as a direct response to Bach’s Partita No.3. She develops some lovely textures as the
Adagietto weaves ahead and a very fine theme emerges from the textures. The
Allegro scherzando quickly jumps around with widely spaced intervals, a most appealing little movement. The following Adagio cantabile slowly weaves a fine melody, all the while creating lovely sonorities and textures before the Allegro molto brings some wonderfully exotic harmonies as it increases in excitement and dynamics. The concluding Allegro giocoso skips forward, again with wide intervals and some lovely little details finely executed here.

Fenella Humphreys brings a totally committed, infectious performance.  

The recoding here is warmer without losing a sense of space, providing a vivid image.

Eugène Ysaÿe’s (1858-1931) Sonata for Solo Violin, Op.27, No. 2 has links to Bach, quoting from his third partita in the opening movement. However, in the opening Obsession - Prelude: poco vivace it is not only Ysaÿe’s play on Bach that can be heard but also the ancient plainchant Dies Irae. Humphreys brings a fine control and shaping of all the music’s varying tempi and dynamics with some fine double stopping and a lovely flourish to end. Malinconia - Poco lento draws some fine sonorities, this fine violinist finding Ysaÿe’s melancholy tug with fine precision allied to a fine emotional response.  

A pizzicato rendition of the plainchant Dies Irae opens Danse des ombres - Sarabande (Lento) before the music moves forward with some fine variations. This soloist brings a variety of fine textures and sonorities as the variations on the Dies Irae continue, leading to some rich textures in the coda. There is some especially fine playing in the Les Furies - Allegro furioso that takes off with terrific passion and command working through passages of different textures and timbres, all the while the plainchant theme appearing through.  

Fenella Humphreys brings this music alive with her fine technique and musicianship with a recording that has a similar warmth to that for the Suite No. 1.

Gordon Crosse’s (b.1937) Orkney Dreaming is a homage to both Bach and Orkney. The Moderato opens with long held chords before moving forward with a constantly shifting theme which is subjected to a variety of textures and effects. This violinist reveals some remarkably fine moments with varying tempi, little surges of energy and some lightening responses. Long held sonorous chords also open Fugue before developing in the freely moving textures of a fugue, culminating in an atmospheric coda. It is perhaps in the Andante that Bach is recalled more than anywhere else in this work with a slowly unwinding theme to which harmonies and textures are added. The vibrant Allegro moves forward with a terrific rhythmic theme, constantly varying and running into a Scottish style theme before a lovely little coda.

Fenella Humphreys brings so much to this unusual and attractive work.

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber’s (1644-1704) Passacaglia from his Rosenkranz Sonata is a most lovely piece. Here Humphreys slowly allows Biber’s lovely invention to develop, setting a fine, flexible tempo developing some lovely textures and sonorities with minimal vibrato, bringing fine musicianship and depth to this fine piece.  

The recordings for the Crosse and Biber return to the rather bright sound that was heard in the Bach. 

Piers Hellawell (b.1956) wrote his Balcony Scenes for Fenella Humphreys in 2014. In four scenes, it explores the idea of counterpoint or dialogue. Fantasia I: Broad – unhurried opens with rich sonorities interspersed with a pizzicato note before moving ahead in hesitating passages. As the theme is developed there are a variety of textures and timbres, very sensitively and finely revealed here. Bicinium I draws some long, sonorous phrases interspersed by high, little twitterings before developing into stronger phrases as it progresses to a subdued coda.

Bicinium II: Lento - Prestissimo volando moves ahead quickly and confidently with a repeated motif which is subjected to variations. Humphreys is absolutely terrific here. Fantasia II: Ad lib – rubato brings some lovely broad sonorities before gently opening out, developing constantly shifting chords before speeding through a terrific passage to arrive at the coda.

A scintillating Bumblebees by Cyril Scott (1879-1970) concludes this disc with Fenella Humphreys developing some terrific double stopped lines as this little piece moves quickly to its conclusion.

Whether taken as a straightforward, yet varied recital or a demonstration of this artist’s formidable talent, one will gain immense pleasure from this disc.

Whilst more warmth would have been welcome in some of the recordings this should not put anyone off hearing these very fine performances. There are informative notes from Ivan Moody. 

I look forward to Volume 2 with great anticipation. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Joachim Nikolas Eggert is a composer that is well worth hearing, especially his two symphonies that are given wonderfully accomplished and fluent performances by the Gävle Symphony Orchestra under Gérard Korsten on a new release from Naxos

The Swedish composer and conductor Joachim Nikolas Eggert (1779-1813) was born on the island of Gingst off the Baltic coast of Germany. He began studying the violin at an early age and continued his musical education in Stralsund studying violin and composition. He later studied in Braunschweig and Göttingen, Germany with Johann Nikolaus Forkel (1749-1818).

As conductor of the Swedish Royal Court orchestra he was one of the first to introduce many of the Viennese classics. In 1812 he conducted the first Swedish performance of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. His own compositions include two operas, four completed symphonies and chamber works.

The Gävle Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gérard Korsten  have recorded for Naxos  the first of two discs devoted to Eggert’s symphonies and orchestral works. This new release includes two world premiere recordings.


They open this new disc with Eggert’s Incidental Music: Overture for the play Mohrene I Spanien (The Moors in Spain), a spirited overture with much of the flavour of Mozart and even Haydn in its colourful orchestration.

The first major work here is the three movement Symphony No.3 in E flat major (1807) premiered that year in a concert mainly of other works by Eggert.

The Gävle Symphony Orchestra brings a fine weight to the opening Adagio maestoso before moving into a light, flowing Allegro spiritoso full of attractive ideas. The music has a very fine flow of invention with some wonderfully dynamic moments that really push the music along with a forward flow. For all its debt to Haydn the second movement, Marche: Grave reveals a rather Mendelssohnian flavour as it slowly reveals itself with some very fine instrumental details. Fugue: Adagio maestoso - Allegro soon finds a slightly faster tempo with some fine instrumental layers. The music slowly speeds into the Allegro where the varying musical lines flow quickly forward to a gentle coda.  

Eggert also wrote Incidental Music for the play Svante Sture (1812) which here receives its world premiere recording. Wind open the Marche bringing the feel of a Mozart wind serenade in the particularly attractive little theme. Entr'acte between Acts I & II has a fine orchestral introduction before a bassoon takes a lead in the melody over a gentle orchestral accompaniment. The lovely Postlude after Act II is full of Mozartian vibrancy before the stately Entr'acte between Acts II & III that brings some fine moments for wind.

For all its rather four square march rhythms the Prelude to Act III: Marche finds Eggert adding interest with his fine instrumental details. Marche and Chorale brings a nicely rhythmically pointed up Marche before leading into a slow Chorale that brings some very fine wind sonorities that again foreshadow Mendelssohn, before the Marche returns. A gentle flowing Entr'acte between Acts III & IV follows before the Entr'acte between Acts IV & V where brass point up the rhythms bringing a ceremonial air.

The second world premiere recording on this disc is the Symphony No.1 in C major (c.1804-1805) thought to be the composer’s first work on his arrival in Stockholm and given its first performance, privately, in 1805. There is a slow dramatic, grave opening Adagio mesto rising through fine passages of more flow before leaping into the Allegro con brio with its attractive theme. The Gävle Symphony Orchestra brings a fine weight and colour to the music with some terrific swirls of woodwind heard through the orchestral tapestry. Percussion add colour in a rather Haydnesque way with conductor Gérard Korsten bringing a real urgency to many passages. There are some very fine passages with great weight and dynamism, increasing in forward flow and drama as the music heads to the coda.  

A rhythmically buoyant Andante follows with passages of gentler flowing melody. There are some especially fine woodwind passages as well as those where percussion again point up the music. A brilliant little Minuet and Trio: Allegro follows with the flavour of Mendelssohn returning. There is a fine rhythmic pulse, nicely layered orchestral textures and details with a beautifully conceived trio section.

The Finale: Allegro vivace races ahead with a light touch, pointed up again by percussion with some lovely little ideas along the way, full of orchestral colour and dynamism. Later a slower passage arrives with prominent basses and gentle timpani before speeding again with some lovely woodwind passages before hurtling to a colourful coda.

Of all the byways of 18th/19th century music here is a composer that is well worth hearing, especially his two symphonies which are really attractive works that hold the attention throughout. 

They are given wonderfully accomplished and fluent performances by the Gävle Symphony Orchestra under Gérard Korsten and an excellent recording from the Gävle Concert Hall, Sweden. There are informative booklet notes. I’m rather looking forward to hearing the second volume in this set. 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Sergey Khachatryan and Lusine Khachatryan provide a fine tribute to the composers of their homeland on a new disc for Naïve entitled My Armenia

As well as being solo performers, violinist Sergey Khachatryan (violin) and pianist Lusine Khachatryan (piano)  regularly perform as a duo and have made recordings for EMI and Naïve.

Their latest disc for Naïve  entitled My Armenia features the works of five Armenian composers, Komitas Vardapet, Eduard Bagdasaryan, Edvard Mirzoyan, Aram Khachaturian and Arno Babadjanian of whom only Khachaturian is likely to be known to many.

Komitas Vardapet’s (1869-1935) was an Armenian priest, musicologist, composer, arranger, singer, and choirmaster and is considered the founder of the Armenian national school of music. He is recognized as one of the pioneers of ethnomusicology. His Krunk (The Crane) is based on a song from the Middle Ages.  Pianist, Lusine Khachatryan opens with a theme that has a distinctly Armenian flavour before violinist, Sergey Khachatryan joins in this heartfelt, beautifully inflected melody that rises in passion part way, both performers bring much sensitivity and intuitive feeling.

Vardapet’s Tsirani Tsar (The Apricot Tree) opens with rolling chords before the violin joins in a passionate theme. Sergey Khachatryan soon takes a slow and melancholy pace with some exquisite high notes and textures against a gentle piano accompaniment exquisitely played by Lusine Khachatryan. There are some very fine lightly bowed textures before the quiet end.  

Vardapet’s Seven Folk Dances (for piano solo) opens with Manushaki, full of lovely Armenian inflections with this pianist picking up on all the little rhythmic variations. Yerangi is a hesitant, rhythmically unstable dance where this pianist finds many subtle details. Unabi has more of a flow yet with little inflections that pull on the music. Marali brings some atmospheric moments as this rhythmically faltering dance progresses, Lusine Khachatryan revealing some beautifully subtle little details. This pianist brings a brightness and clarity Shushiki to this lovely little dance, the opening passages ringing out again between moments of quieter reflection. In Het u Aradj (Back and Forth) Khachatryan achieves a fine flow with an ear catching melody, bringing a jewel like clarity to many passages. The final work in this set of dances is Shoror which opens slowly, the pianist’s left hand adding a distinctive harmony to the theme which soon picks up in tempo for a really fine dance tune. The dance theme broadens across the keyboard as a brighter, livelier passage arrives then quietens a while before dancing lightly to the coda.

The final work by Komitas Vardapet is Garun-a (It is spring) for piano solo, possibly the loveliest piece by this composer on this disc. It has a gentle, rippling theme that develops beautifully, often with hints of Debussy, yet wholly Armenian in its overall feel. It rises through some fine broader passages before slowing and quietening for a hushed coda. This is a quite lovely piece.

Eduard Bagdasaryan (1922-1987) was born in Yerevan, Armenia, coincidentally the birthplace of both the performers on this disc. He graduated from the Yerevan State Conservatory in piano and composition before further study in Moscow. Pianist Lusine Khachatryan quietly and gently opens Bagdasaryan’s Rhapsody slowly revealing a theme full of Armenian flavour. The violin of Sergey Khachatryan suddenly and vibrantly enters adding a passion to the theme as it rises up. There are some fine broad passages for piano as well as gentler, heartfelt passages for violin where the flow and melody of Khachaturian is recalled. Fast and furious piano phrases herald a fast and dynamic passage to which the violin joins with some particularly fine playing from both these artists. There are beautifully flowing melodic passages before the music picks up a lively rhythmic stance before leading to a gentle coda.

The piano and violin lead forward in another fine melody in Bagdasaryan’s Nocturne, leading through moments of restrained beauty before rising in passion. The music develops a lovely flow with Sergey Khachatryan bringing a fine romantic violin tone to a hushed coda. This is a most appealing work.

Edvard Mirzoyan (1921-2012) studied at the Komitas State Conservatory before also going to Moscow.  He was later elected president of the Armenian Composers’ Union and was a professor of composition at the Komitas State Conservatory.  

After a gentle piano opening to Mirzoyan’s Introduction and Perpetuum Mobile the violin joins, gently weaving a fine theme before rising to some fine passages. If there are hints of Khachaturian it may well be simply his use of Armenian themes. There are quiet, gentler moments before the music rises in a terrific passage where the ancient plainchant Dies Irae can be heard before the Perpetuum Mobile arrives. There are passages of varying tempi and dynamics with the piano more clearly revealing the Dies Irae before a decisive coda.

Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) is, of course, the best known composer to feature here. Lusine Khachatryan opens Poem-song slowly before the violin enters with the poignant melody that Sergey Khachatryan weaves around a fine piano accompaniment. He brings some exquisite violin textures before the music broadens with a rather rhapsodic passage through more incisive moments as the piece is developed, leading to a gentle passage with some lovely hushed violin and piano textures.

Khachaturian’s 1942 ballet Gayaneh is best known for its Sabre Dance which is one of two dances from ballet performed here. First it is Usundara (arr. by M. Fichtenholz) that these two artists bring us, a gentle little dance theme that develops through some lovely variations with varying textures and those distinctive little Khachaturian turns at the end of phrases.  

These two fine performers bring a scintillating performance of The Sabre Dance bringing many individual touches and a great sense of freedom with absolutely first rate playing.

The composer and pianist Arno Babadjanian (1921-1983) was also born in Yerevan, Armenia. It was at the suggestion of Khachaturian he should study music. He entered the Yerevan State Musical Conservatory at the age of seven before continuing his studies in Moscow with Vissarion Shebalin. He later returned to Yerevan, where he taught at the conservatory.

His Six Pictures for piano solo open with Improvisation which brings three rising scales before slowly developing the theme. The music later increases in tempo but soon slows as the theme is gently taken to the sudden coda. Folk Dance brings a fast moving, rather dissonant theme before Toccatina that has a fast, somewhat riotous theme full of complex rollicking passages, brilliantly played here by Lusine Khachatryan. There are some tremendously difficult passages but they never lose their melodic centre.

Intermezzo slowly finds its way ahead with its fragmentary theme before Choral opens slowly and mournfully with rich lower chords, rising slowly and laboriously but falling back to lead quietly and gently to a hushed coda. Sassoun Dance has a lovely sprung, insistent theme that develops and rises inexorably to the dynamic coda.  

Babadjanian is the least obviously nationalistic of these composers with his more forward looking style yet throughout one can still hear an Armenian accent to the music. 

Sergey Khachatryan and Lusine Khachatryan provide a fine tribute to the composers of their homeland. Overall the recordings here are very good though occasionally the recording can favour the upper frequencies. There are informative booklet notes though the English translation is a little clumsy and tends to change from past tense to present. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Elizabeth Watts’ new recording of Alessandro Scarlatti arias for Harmonia Mundi is one of the finest recital discs I’ve heard for a long time, an absolute joy with delights on every track

British soprano Elizabeth Watts was a chorister at Norwich Cathedral and studied archaeology at Sheffield University, before attending the Royal College of Music. She was selected by Young Classical Artists Trust in 2004 and won the 2006 Kathleen Ferrier Prize. The following year she received the Young Artist Award at the Cannes MIDEM Classique Awards and gained international recognition at the 2007 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, winning the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize.

From 2005- 2007 she was a member of English National Opera’s Young Singers Programme, where she appeared as Papagena, Die Zauberflöte; Barbarina, Marriage of Figaro and Music and Hope in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo.  She currently is an Artist in Residence at the Southbank Centre, London and the recipient of a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award. She has given recitals at the UK’s leading venues, including Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall, Purcell Room, Aldeburgh Festival and Cheltenham Festival as well as at prestigious venues and festivals such as the Hardanger Festival in Norway, the Bad Kissinger Summer Festival, Paris and at the Tonhalle, Zürich.

Her recording of cantatas and arias by J. S. Bach for Harmonia Mundi (SACD HMU 807550 with Harry Bicket directing The English Concert was a Gramophone Editor’s Choice.

Elizabeth Watts’ latest recording for Harmonia Mundi  entitled Con eco d’amore brings us arias from Alessandro Scarlatti’s (1660-1725) operas and cantatas. She is joined again by The English Concert  this time directed by Laurence Cummings

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Elizabeth Watts opens with Figlio! Tiranno! O Dio! from the opera Griselda (1721) delivering a gloriously free and flexible performance accompanied by a light textured English Concert. Her high G near the end is terrific.

In Se geloso è Il mio core from the serenata Endimione e Cintia (1705) she shows terrific agility as she competes with the trumpet of Mark Bennett in the rapid phrases, both eventually bringing a quite splendid blend, soprano and trumpet pitch perfect together over a lithe orchestral layer. This is a remarkably fine performance.

Nacque, col Gran Messia from the cantata Non so qual più m ‘ingombra (1716) opens with the finely blended strings of the English Concert. When Watts enters she brings the most lovely tone, beautifully characterised with some really sweetly voiced phrases.

She adds a subtle emotional edge to A questo nuovo affanno from the opera Eraclea (1700) showing how she can find the emotional core of each aria, again with superbly controlled dynamics and tempi.

Mentr'io godo in dolce oblio from the oratorio La Santissima Vergine del Rosario (1707) has a beautifully hushed opening from the English Concert which Watts reflects in a finely nuanced performance with some gentle, exquisitely controlled phrases.

There is a finely hushed opening to Ombre opache from the cantata Correa nel seno amato (1690) as Watts slowly develops this especially beautiful aria. Both the English Concert and Watts draw some spectacularly lovely moments. What fabulous, sensitive vocal control she brings.

Next Elizabeth Watts brings the Recitative, Qui, dove al germogliar and Aria, Torbido, irato, e nero from Scarlatti’s serenata Erminia (1723). In this soprano’s hands the recitative is very emotionally charged before a lovely orchestral passage leads into the aria with Watts bringing terrific agility, never holding back, bringing a real sense of spontaneity with some lovely vocal textures.    

Con voce festiva from 7 Arie con tromba sola (1703-08) opens with the tambourine of English Concert percussionist Robert Howes and the trumpet of Mark Bennett who announce this vibrant, fast flowing aria. Watts soon brings her fine voice, flexible and finding all the rhythmically sprung phrases.

A passionately shaped recitative O vane speme! precedes a glorious aria cara tomba del mio diletto from the opera Mitridate Eupatore (1706) full of pathos, beautifully controlled with Watts bringing the most lovely vocal tone and textures.

The English Concert bring some particularly fine gentle, hushed phrases in the opening of Sussurrando il venticello  from the opera Tigrane (1715) Again, when she joins, Watts reflects the opening instrumental phrases beautifully. The tone of her voice is really remarkably lovely, especially in little details that she never overlooks.

Harpsichord of Laurence Cummings and theorbo of William Carter bring a beautifully sprung opening to the aria Ergiti, Amor, su i vanni from the opera Scipione nelle Spagne (1714), Watts delivering her fluent and flexible voice in this joyful aria.

There are further extracts from the opera Mitridate Eupatore (1706) firstly Esci omai which opens vibrantly with the Concert before violin Huw Daniel brings some very fine textures. Watts joins to take this aria forward, again with a remarkable agility, never losing her beautiful tone throughout all the twists and turns of Scarlatti’s invention. There is a further passage for solo violin and orchestra where Daniel brings some terrific playing before ending on fast and almost Vivaldian string phrases.

Dolce stimolo al tuo bel cor brings a fine flow with fine string sonorities from the English Concert, a beautifully shaped performance from both soloist and orchestra.

Watts brings more terrific fluency to the fast and furious D'amor l'accesa face from the serenata Venere, Amore e Ragione (1706) full of life with superb precision between soloist and ensemble. Watts rises to some exceptionally fine vocal flourishes. Absolutely terrific.

There is much beauty in the lovely aria Io non son di quei campioni from the opera La Statira (1690) finely brought out by this soprano who finds so many subtle nuances.

Finally from the cantata A battaglia, pensieri (1699) we have the Sinfonia and Aria, A battaglia. The English Concert with trumpeter Mark Bennett and timpanist Robert Howes thunder out in the Sinfonia bringing some very fine sounds before leading into the Aria where Watts and Bennett together bring some terrific precision. Watts brings great, freely expressed, characterisation to the part with some spectacularly fine vocal flourishes toward the end.

This is one of the finest aria recital discs I’ve heard for a long time. It is an absolute joy with delights on every track. The English Concert provides terrific support with many fine moments in their own right.  The recording from All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London. England is excellent. There are first rate notes from Simon Heighes plus full texts and English, French and German translations. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima bring a Four Seasons to be reckoned with together with the very real attraction of the world premiere of two Concertos for violin in tromba marina

The violino in tromba marina is probably an instrument that is unknown to most people. It seems that it was intended to produce a sound not dissimilar to the tromba marina which was a single-stringed instrument that can be traced back as early as the 12th century and was commonly used in convent chapels as a substitute for brass instruments which the nuns felt it inappropriate to play. Its name, Marientrompete (Our Lady’s trumpet) may well be the explanation for its name.  

A new release from Avie Records features the world premiere recordings of two concertos for violin in tromba marina, strings & continuo by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) played by La Serenissima  directed by Adrian Chandler . These two concertos are coupled with Vivaldi’s better known La Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) and two concertos for bassoon, strings & continuo.

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The surviving evidence tends to suggest that the violino in tromba marina was unique to the Ospedale della Pietà one of four foundling hospitals situated in Venice, all of which were famous for the musical performances given by their female musicians. It was, of course, at the Ospedale della Pietà that Vivaldi was, at various points in his career, the violin master. Indeed, with the exception of one work by Nicola Porpora, all the surviving music for this instrument was written by Vivaldi.

In order to reconstruct a violino in tromba marina from the little evidence available Adrian Chandler and his colleagues went back to Vivaldi’s scores to work out how they thought the instrument sounded and then worked backwards to find their solutions.  More information concerning this instrument can be found in the account books of the Pietà which record payments made for old violins to be fitted with tromba marina bridges and supplied with strings.

Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot provided the hypothesis that this instrument had only three strings, tuned g-d’-a’.  The three-string theory is supported by evidence found in the scores. There was needed a way of producing the trumpet-like rasp of the tromba marina on the violin. The first idea was to attach a metal plate onto the back of the bridge tied with gut but this was found to give inconsistent results and could sound simply like an open seam. The solution to this problem was to replace the metal plate with a small, metal pin through the hole in the bridge, onto the back of which were placed two small rings whose purpose was to vibrate against each other giving a convincing tromba marina effect.

The instrument played on this disc by Adrian Chandler was made by Johann Andreas Doerffel, Klingenthal, 1755 and converted to a violin in tromba marina by David Rattray, London, 2014.

Further information on the violino in tromba marina can be found in Adrian Chandler’s fascinating article in The Strad  to whom I am grateful for much of this information.

La Serenissima open their new recording with Vivaldi’s La Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons). There is a crisp incisiveness to the opening of the Allegro of the
Concerto La Primavera (Spring) for violin, strings and continuo in E, RV 269 with a beautifully clear and vibrant underlying bass line and finely controlled dynamics. The clarity of this ensemble allows so many instrumental sounds to be revealed with often some really dynamic, fast and furious sounds. In the Largo the solo violin of Adrian Chandler brings a fine flowing line over a beautifully quietened orchestral layer with such a natural flow. There is a lithe, vibrant Allegro with some really quite beautiful, often powerful sonorities from this period band.  

The lightly textured opening of the Allegro non molto – Allegro of the Concerto L’Estate (Summer) for violin, strings and continuo in G minor, RV 315 is finely done before the soloist launches into a terrific allegro, bringing varied timbres and textures to his sound. There are some pretty impressive rich, strong textures from the ensemble. The Adagio – Presto is finely done with all the little changes of tempi, before leaping into a strong, vibrant Presto with great energy, creating a terrific sound from the string band. When Chandler enters his playing is so crisp, incisive and thoroughly musical.  

The Concerto L’Autunno (Autumn) for violin, strings and continuo in F, RV 293 opens with a lovely buoyant Allegro which Chandler carries forward as he weaves some very fine passages. There is a lovely Larghetto section to contrast before these players dig deep to produce terrific incisive playing to conclude. Rippling harpsichord chords and hushed strings open the beautiful Adagio molto with lovely mellow sonorities effectively bringing a haven of calm. A rhythmically sprung Allegro – Lento – Allegro sets a great pace, steady and decisive, with some terrific rhythmic punch.  

As the textures are added in the opening of the Allegro non molto of the Concerto L’Inverno (Winter) for violin, strings and continuo in F minor, RV. 297 this ensemble create a very fine sound. When soloist Adrian Chandler enters and the tempo picks up there are more fine sonorities and a terrific solo line full of terrific textures and precision. Chandler brings a lovely flowing line over a vibrant, finely textured string accompaniment in the Largo before winding a fine opening over a sustained string line in the Allegro - Lento – Allegro. There are some finely bounced bowing before the tempo picks up, bringing a very fine conclusion.

There are innumerable versions of this much played work available but for a thoroughly musical, very finely conceived version this can open one’s ears afresh.

The first of two bassoon concertos on this disc is the Concerto La Notte (The night) for bassoon, strings & continuo in B-Flat Major, RV. 501. The Largo - Andante molto opens slowly with some fine instrumental details before the bassoon of Peter Whelan  enters with a series of rising phrases. It slowly moves forward over a spry string accompaniment  before the orchestra takes off in the Presto: Fantasmi - Presto – Adagio the bassoon running forward with terrific agility from the soloist through varying tempi before the Adagio: Il Sonno (The sleep) where the bassoon brings a lovely melody, rich, sonorous and flowing; beautifully done. The concluding Allegro: Sorge l'Aurora opens quietly before quickly speeding, the bassoon merging with the orchestral texture before taking the lead and bringing more terrific articulation.  

We now come to the first of the two works for violin in tromba marina, the Concerto for violin in tromba marina, strings & continuo in D Major, RV. 221. Lively strings open the Allegro before the soloist Adrian Chandler enters bringing an incisiveness to the texture. The instrument does not have a particularly penetrating voice, more a light and incisive sound. The rather distinctive sound of the violin in tromba marina is heard more clearly in the Andante, a leisurely, flowing movement where Chandler provides a lovely melody over subdued strings revealing a rather special string quality. Incisive strings open the Allegro to which the soloist brings a lighter tone, providing some remarkably fine textures from this instrument.

Incisive staccato phrases from the strings and the bassoon of Peter Whelan open the Allegro of the Concerto per Maestro dè Morzin for bassoon, strings & continuo in G Minor, RV. 496 before the bassoon leads in a terrific theme full of good humoured joy. The incisive precision of La Serenissima is impressive as is the articulation of this fine soloist. In the Largo the bassoon brings a mournful, flowing melody over the leisurely ensemble in this really lovely movement. The ensemble run quickly into the Allegro with the bassoon soon bringing beautifully sprung phrases, terrific playing, such tip top fluency and articulation.   

The disc concludes with the second of the works for violin in tromba marina the Concerto for violin in tromba marina, strings & continuo in G Major, RV. 311. The Allegro has an incisive rhythmic opening from the strings before the soloist Adrian Chandler enters, equally incisive but with the light tone of the violin in tromba marina. There is a leisurely Andante with the soloist taking the lovely, gentle melody forward over the ensemble with the well-chosen tempo adding so much. The incisive strings return for the Allegro, taken at a moderate pace, with the violin in tromba marina adding some rather plaintive little lines with its lovely tone, light and appealing.    

Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima bring a Four Seasons to be reckoned with alongside two beautifully played bassoon concertos and the very real attraction of the world premiere of two Concertos for violin in tromba marina. Vivaldi lovers and, indeed all baroque music enthusiasts will surely want this new disc. The recording from the Hospital of St. Cross, Winchester, UK is exceptionally detailed and there are excellent notes from Adrian Chandler as well as details of the instruments. 

Thursday, 15 October 2015

A most welcome release from New Focus Recordings of solo, chamber and vocal works by Reiko Füting

Reiko Füting was born in 1970 in Königs Wusterhausen in the German Democratic Republic, studying composition and piano at the Dresden Conservatory; Rice University, Houston; the Manhatten School of Music and Seoul National University, South Korea.

As well as composition, Füting has performed throughout Europe, Asia and the USA. He teaches composition and theory at the Manhattan School of Music and has appeared as guest faculty and lecturer at universities and conservatories in China, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Korea and the USA.

He has written instrumental, chamber and orchestral works as well as choral and vocal works.

Now from New Focus Recordings comes a new release of solo, chamber and vocal works by Reiko Füting entitled namesErased.

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This new CD features members of New York City’s most celebrated contemporary ensembles, including the International Contemporary Ensemble , Either/Or Ensemble , and the Mivos String Quartet performing works written by Füting over the past thirteen years.

In Kaddish: The Art of Losing (2008) the cello of John Popham opens bringing some quite distinctive ruminations, played remarkably. Soon the piano of Yegor Shevtsov enters quietly as the cello weaves its way ahead, a little theme showing through as it develops. The music grows in tension with a more strident, dissonant piano part and some very fine chords from the cello creating some wonderful textures and timbres. Incisive bowing from the cellist leads into a quieter passage before falling to a halt. The cello and piano slowly lead off again more gently before growing more agitated before another momentary pause. As they slowly move ahead again there is a sense of a heavy burden. Hushed vocal sounds are heard then the piano appears, leading slowly to the quiet coda that ends on a repeated single piano note.

Mezzo-soprano Nani Füting enters high up to open ‘Leises Geigenspiel...’ (Distant violin playing) (2004), slowly extracting some highly characterised vocal shapes in this, the first extract on this disc from Füting’s ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen.’ (‘...collected silence’) a setting of texts by Reiner Bonack.

tanz.tanz ( (2010) for solo violin is based on the choral tunes in Bach’s Chaccone that were discovered by the German musicologist Helga Thoene. These choral tunes are woven throughout the Chaconne and serve as the source material for Füting. The soloist Miranda Cuckson  opens, winding a line of textures, slowly adding bolder, more vibrant chords. She weaves a remarkable texture creating some very fine moments, with absolutely terrific playing. There is always a distinguishable forward line as this violinist reveals some finely shaped phrases. Throughout, a broader theme seems to be lurking. This is a formidable challenge for any violinist; here Cuckson is terrific.

Mezzo Nani Füting brings another extract from ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen’, ‘Fiel ein Stück Himmel...’ (‘Did a piece of the sky…(fall)’) in which she combines vocal sounds, sung text and occasional sprechgesang, very finely controlled.

leaving without/palimpsest (2006) is based on the old German folk tune Gesgn dich Laub (Bless you leaves) and brings clarinetist Joshua Rubin and pianist Yegor Shevtsov who opens slowly suggesting a little theme, rising in dynamics occasionally as it develops before falling to a brief halt. The music picks up slowly but halts again as the clarinet joins, bringing some finely tongued sounds between the melody.  Füting often stretches the tonal abilities of the clarinet, verging on the shrill, not necessarily capitalising on the mellower aspects of the clarinet. Nevertheless, some remarkable sounds are produced as the theme moves along, Füting showing how he always manages to hold an overall musical line before ending on a simple hushed piano note.

The third extract from ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen’ is ‘Das alte Weingut...(’The old vineyard’) where Nani Füting brings a lower range as she carefully delivers some very finely shaped text, vocally quite superb.

The title work, names, erased (2012) features cellist John Popham and uses musical material from Bach, Berg, and Ligeti, compositionally treated to reflect the erasing process of Robert Rauschenberg  in his famous Erased de Kooning Drawing . The cello opens by ruminating on a motif. Here again this soloist proves to be a very fine artist, allowing a theme to emerge from the closely woven texture of the opening. It is fascinating to follow the suggested musical lines that subtly emerge. There are many little subtleties in this piece that bear repeated listening before we are led to a hushed coda.

The fourth extract from ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen’ is ‘Die Teiche im Dunst...’ (‘The Ponds in Mist’) where mezzo-soprano Nani Füting rises from a lower pitch as she slowly allows the music to unfold in this remarkable, if short, piece.

ist - Mensch – geworden (was – made – man) (2014) is based on quotations from such diverse composers as Josquin, Bach, Schumann and Debussy with additional material from  Boulez, Morton Feldman, Beat Furrer, Jo Kondo, Tristan Murail and Nils Vigeland. Flautist Luna Kang and pianist Jing Yang www.morningpiano leap out suddenly as strident flute and piano chords are heard. The flute slowly subsides in more subtle textures before leading ahead with drooping notes and piano accompaniment. There are some lovely flute arabesques within a rather fragmentary line. As the flute develops the melodic theme, there are varying tempi with more strident, staccato passages. Flautist Luna Kang intersperses occasional breath and vocal sounds before repeated shrill flute phrases.

land - haus – berg (land – house – mountain) (2009) is for solo piano and takes settings of Goethe’s poem Kennst du das Land, wo die Citronen blühen (Do you know the land where the lemons blossom) by Beethoven, Schumann and Wolf. Yegor Shevtsov brings a rolling theme that is nevertheless broken by rests. It is rhythmically varied, the pianist bringing a really lovely feel to the music through his fine phrasing. Later there is a repeated note like a drip, drip before the music increases in flow yet still with occasional pauses. The lovely coda arrives with a single note. This is rather a lovely piece.

The fifth and final extract from ‘…gesammeltes Schweigen’ is "Hoch im Gebirge..." (‘High in the mountains’) where mezzo Nani Füting brings some intense phrases as she moves around to a hushed coda.

light, asleep (2002) for violin and piano opens with pianist David Broome introducing a broadly fragmented theme. Violinist Olivia de Prato  enters quietly bringing a longer musical line, developing the theme with some fine textures and timbres. Later there is a dissonant piano passage that develops the theme before the violin re-joins with some lovely phrases that burst out in little surges. The music moves through some very fine passages for solo violin before the coda.

finden – suchen (to find, to search) (2002) was written for a concert of works by former students of Jörg Herchet on the occasion of his 60th birthday.  Here the alto flute of Eric Lamb  is soon joined by cellist John Popham and pianist Yegor Shevtsov in a tentative theme, finely phrased with some lovely sonorities. Little flute trills rise out as the music is taken slowly and gently forward, building moments of more decisiveness  before the flute brings the gentle end.

‘...und ich bin Dein Spiegel’ (‘and I am Your reflection’) (2002) for mezzo-soprano and string quartet was a commission for the Festival Magdeburgisches Concert and is based on excerpts from the fragmentary writing of Mechthild von Magdeburg (c.1207-1282). Mezzo-soprano Nani Füting is joined by the Mivos String Quartet (Olivia de Prato and Josh Modney (violin), Victor Lowrie (viola) and Mariel Roberts (cello).

This work gives Nani Füting a more sustained opportunity to bring her considerable vocal skills to a more extended piece. She enters alone with a simple little melody, showing her very fine voice, musical, flexible and melodic. She then varies the melody, bringing a variety of vocal techniques, moving around vocally, often showing a terrific ability to suddenly rise up high. The quartet enters slowly, picking over the theme in fragmented chords before rising in passion and developing some very fine moments with terrific textures and sonorities. When Füting re-enters she brings some declamatory phrases that complement the quartet, showing terrific control in her dynamic leaps. There is a vibrant, volatile passage for swirling string quartet strings bringing a terrific outflow of textures before Füting returns along with quieter, yet still strident, quartet textures leading to this mezzo’s final outburst at the end.

This is a terrific conclusion to this disc.

It is Füting’s ability to subtly develop themes within a richer and often quite complex texture that is so attractive. The recording is detailed, revealing every texture and timbre and there are useful notes as well as full texts and English translations. 

This is a most welcome release.