Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sound the Bells!

Just arrived in my office and have decided to usher in the morning with some brass fanfares.  Sound the Bells!  American Premieres for Brass is a recent album from the end of 2011 featuring the Bay Brass, a San Francisco-based ensemble, in a performance of several first recordings of American composers including John Williams, Michael Tilson Thomas, Morten Lauridsen, Bruce Broughton, Kevin Puts, and Scott Hiltzik.  I don't normally run out and buy CDs or LPs of brass music, but something about this album -- whether it be the American repertoire, the generally wonderful sound quality of Harmonia Mundi recordings, or maybe just that I don't really own a CD of brass music -- motivated me to pick this one up.  Now while I can't say that I listen to this disc all the time, there's an occasion for everything.  I'm a morning person, and I happen to find the glorious sound of brass instruments a nice celebratory way to get my work day going.  I particularly like the John Williams compositions, which have a similar flavor to his Olympic Fanfare.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gramophone Award winners for May

The Gramophone Editor's Choices for May are:

1. Rafal Blaechacz Plays Debussy and Szymanowski  - Rafal Blaechacz - (Deutsche Grammophon) DISC OF THE MONTH

2. Ysaye: Six Sonatas for Solo Violin, Op. 27 - Tai Murray - (Harmonia Mundi)

3. Brahms: Works for Chorus and Orchestra - Collegium Vocale Gent & Orchestre des Champs-Elysées, Philippe Herreweghe - (PHI)

4. Tune thy Musicke to Thy Hart - Stile Antico & Fretwork - (Harmonia Mundi)

5. Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem - Katharine Fuge (soprano), Matthew Brook (bass), Monteverdi Choir & Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner - (SDG)

6. Medtner: Arabesques, Dithyrambs, Elegies - Hamish Milne - (Hyperion)

7. Shostakovich: Piano Concertos - Alexander Melnikov, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Teodor Currentzis - (Harmonia Mundi)

8. Manuel de Falla: Works for Stage and Concert Hall - BBC Philharmonic, Juanjo Mena -  (Chandos)

9. Beethoven: Piano Trios Nos. 1 & 7 - Peter Cropper (violin), Moray Welsh (cello) & Martin Roscoe (piano) - (Somimage)

10. Dvorak: Cello Concerto - Zuill Bailey, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Jun Markl - (Telarc)

11. Schubert: Chamber Works - Busch Chamber Ensemble, Rudolf Serkin - (Regis) - REISSUE OF THE MONTH

12. Mozart - Die Zauberflote, K620 - Günther Groissböck (Sarastro), Saimir Pirgu (Tamino), Albina Shagimuratova (Queen of the Night), Genia Kühmeier (Pamina), Ailish Tynan (Papagena), Alex Esposito (Papageno) & Peter Bronder (Monostatos), Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala & Choir of the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala, Roland Böer (conductor) & William Kentridge (stage director) -  (Opus Arte La Scala Collection) - DVD OF THE MONTH, BLUE-RAY OF THE MONTH

If you're reading this, I'd love to hear your comments about these selections!

I can attest to the Medtner and Shostakovich recordings, which I own, but I'm interested in the Rafal Blaechacz Debussy/Szymanowski, Manuel de Falla, and Beethoven Trio albums.  Also, has anyone heard the new Beethoven Complete Trios performed by the Trio Wanderer on Harmonia Mundi?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Behzod Abduraimov

Decca is really promoting a number of very talented young pianists.

Last year it was Benjamin Grosvenor, this year it is Behzod Abduraimov, a highly talented artist from Uzbekistan and winner of the 2009 London International Piano Competition.  Here's his promotional video for his debut album coming out later this month.

Debussy a la Stephane Deneve!

Now here's an album I'm eager anticipating!  I've already pre-ordered my copy from the UK classical music dealer, Presto Classical (it's official release date is 4/30/12, at least in the UK).

I had the privilege to hear Stephane Deneve conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra earlier this year in a concert of Ravel (Mother Goose Suite), Stravinsky (Concerto for Piano and Winds, with Peter Serkin), and Shostakovich (Symphony No. 5).  The concert blew me away.  I had not heard of Deneve prior to this performance (though he has received many positive reviews for his records of the orchestral works of Albert Roussel), but his talent was imprinted in my mind afterwards.  Now he's releasing an album on Chandos of orchestral music of one of my favorite composers ... I can't wait!
My quest to rediscover my LP collection has transformed into Music Appreciation Time with my 8 month old son.  Weekend mornings, we're both up at a little after six, and then it's breakfast time.  After he gets his banana, pear sauce, and sips of water, we head on over to the living area for playtime.  That's also when I use the opportunity to introduce his young ears to the wonderful world of music.  Last weekend, we explored a couple of Mercury Living Stereo and London FFSS albums:

Mercury Living Stereo
Carpenter: Adventures in a Perambulator; Phillips: Selections from McGuffey's Readers
Howard Hanson
Eastman-Rochester Orchestra
Recording director: Wilma Cozart
Musical director: Harold Lawrence
Engineer/technical supervisor: C.R. Fine
Tape-to-disc-transfer: George Piros
Recorded at th Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, October 28, 1956

What perfect music to play for your infant.  I had never heard of a perambulator before I picked up this record, but I'm pretty sure we have our own modern version of a perambulator right in our home.  Wonderful, charming music that depicts the pleasant imagery of a child's journey in a stroller.  Nicely recorded sound.  I always liked how Mercury recorded a lot of compositions of contemporary American composers, many of which were conducted by Howard Hanson for these recordings.  Though this album is not one of the most valuable Mercuries, I think it is still relatively hard to find.  I somehow managed to find a copy at a used bookstore in Wrigleyville.

Decca Record Co. Ltd.
CS 6235
Julius Katchen, piano
Recorded 1961

What a wonderful pianist with a tragically short life.  Katchen was an American, born in New Jersey in 1926.  Sadly, he succumbed to cancer at the young age of 42.  This is a nice album of shorter solo piano works with such pieces as the Chopin Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53; the Chopin Fantasie-Impromptu, Op. 66; etc.  He made a number of other recordings for London/Decca, including the Beethoven Piano Concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra as well as a beautiful disc of the Brahms Violin Sonatas with Joseph Suk.

Decca Record Co. Ltd.
CS 6248
Debussy: Prelude a l'apres midi d'un faune, Nocturnes; Ravel: Pavane pour une infante defunte, Rapsodie espagnole
Pierre Monteux
London Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 1962

What can I say? I love music of Debussy and Ravel and can't get enough of their recordings.  It's been a while since I listened to this album, but I was reminded of how dynamic these performances are when playing it for my son.  Decca really had nice clarity to their recordings in the 1960s, and this record is another testament to this observation.  Monteux wasn't the only one to record Debussy and Ravel for Decca during this time period.  You'll also find classic interpretations of the French impressionists from Ernest Ansermet and Ataulfo Argenta.