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25.9.17

Forbes Classical CD Of The Week: America! From "Maryland, My Maryland" To John Cage


…Harmonia Mundi has re-packaged American (-themed) music into seven CD sets, revealingly titled “AMERICA!”, of which the first three with two discs each cover classical music. The volume dedicated entirely to Gerswhin (vol.2) is the most satisfying, musically, and never more fun than when Michael Sheppard dives headlong into Earl Wild’s rollicking Porgy & Bess Fantasy arrangement. Frank Braley has the solo piano hit song transcriptions covered, which are short, small, light, and lovely. In short: “‘s Wonderful!” Bertie Wooster would have played them all (just not as well) on his stays in the Metrop. Disc two takes us “From Broadway to the Concert Hall”, which includes the Rhapsody, of course, the superb Piano Concert in F, and more—again in very fine performances by Jon Nakamatsu and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.…

-> Classical CD Of The Week: America! From "Maryland, My Maryland" To John Cage

22.9.17

Latest on Forbes: Bamberg - Blomstedt - Bruckner



The Bamberg Symphony and Herbert Blomstedt took Bruckner's Fifth Symphony on tour to four different cathedrals in Bavaria and Austria this summer.


…Perhaps I was thinking along those lines – or about the smoked beer from earlier – when I lost track of time and looked at my watch only five minutes before Blomstedt was to lift his baton up in the cathedral. I don’t remember when I last moved as fast. Off I was, running toward four-spired St.Peter & St. George… which of course has to be on top of one of the hills on which Bamberg is built. (When Bambergers go to Rome, they exclaim: “Oh, just like Bamberg!”) A gasping, melting mess I poured myself into the church bench, hoping that my heartbeat would keep quiet…

- > The Subtle Miracle Herbert Blomstedt And Bamberg's Cathedral Tour Of Bruckner








19.9.17

Forbes Classical CD Of The Week: C-P-Eppreciation! Or: The Rescue For Bach Junior


…What unexpected Joy! But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me lower expectations, first: The Gallant style wedged between late Baroque and the Classical style, of which Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach is one of the most prominent proponents, largely escapes our aesthetic. I remember well hearing a performance of his oratorio, Die Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt Jesu, at the Salzburg Mozart Week mini-festival. A veritable dream cast consisting of the Freiburger Barockorchester and RIAS Chamber Chorus under René Jacobs, with Miah Persson, Maximilian Schmitt and Michael Nagy on soloist duty. The occasion – such works and composers always need occasions – was the 300th anniversary of C.P.E. in 2014, and if anyone should have been able to make the reclusive value of Gallant music palatable to the ears of a modern audience, it should have been been them…

-> Classical CD Of The Week: C-P-Eppreciation! Or: The Rescue For Bach Junior

18.9.17

A Survey of Beethoven String Quartet Cycles



Discographies on ionarts: Bach Organ Cycles | Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycles I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX | Bruckner Symphony Cycles | Dvořák Symphony Cycles | Shostakovich Symphony Cycles | Sibelius Symphony Cycles | Mozart Keyboard Sonata Cycles



Continuing my discographies, this is a survey of - hopefully - every extant recorded cycle of Beethoven's String Quartets. As of September 2017, it includes 63 different cycles (one incomplete, one that may not be finished, and another soon to be finished) spanning 70 decades of recording history. I am sitting on the data for several new discographic entries under work. Ring cycles, Mahler, Nielsen, Martinů and Beethoven symphony-cycles, as well as Bartók and Shostakovich string quartet-cycles. They just take an awful lot of time to research and then put into html-presentable shape and even then they are rarely complete or mistake free. Neither will this one be, and every such post is also a plea to generously inclined readers with more information and knowledge of the subject than I have to lend a helping hand correcting my mistakes or filling data-lacunae. I am explicitly grateful for any such pointers, hinters, and corrections and apologize for any bloomers. Unlike some earlier discographies, this one does intend to be comprehensive. So I am especially grateful if I have sets that I have missed are pointed out to me. I have not listened to them all, of course, but about 20. Favorites are indicated with the "ionarts choice" graphic. With nearly 2000 links in this document, there are, despite my best efforts, bound to be some that are broken or misplaced; I am glad about every correction that comes my way.

Edit 09/18/17: Already the first corrections come in: It's been pointed out to me that I have missed the Romanian "Cvartetul de Coarde Voces" and their 1998 cycle on Electrecord. Will be added tomorrow. And the Brilliant re-issue of the Guarneri cycle is not the RCA cycle, but the Philips/Decca one, after all.

Edit 09/20/17: I am adding links to MusicWeb-Intl. reviews of complete cycles for further reading, wherever they have a well-written review up.


13.9.17

Forbes Classical CD Of The Week: Bruckner's End In Salzburg


…The 2014 Salzburg Festival featured all the Bruckner Symphonies, and the Ninth with Christoph von Dohnányi and the Philharmonia Orchestra was the best of the lot. (See ionarts review: Notes from the 2014 Salzburg Festival ( 9 ) Anton Bruckner Cycle • Bruckner IX.) Happily, the occasion transferred nicely onto CD. Christoph von Dohnányi leads an absolutely controlled performance that awes with its opening: the orchestral voices are perfectly separate but with finely rounded edges, and these blocks of sound emerge organically from the most subtly, softly shimmering carpet of strings. This, and the Philharmonia’s sonorous, warm sound which featured glorious brass and a daring, happily thwacking timpanist, made this the most immediately emotionally appealing of the Bruckner Ninths I have heard in concert. The competition on record is fiercer, but this Ninth is on par with the very best. Certainly on my “Almost List” of 2016 that will accompany my “Best Classical Recordings of 2016” lists. The accompanying Four Last Songs in that concert (with Camilla Tilling and an inspired concertmaster) were just as stunning. Another release worth hoping for?…

-> Classical CD Of The Week: Bruckner's End In Salzburg

8.9.17

À mon chevet: Illusions perdues

À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.

book cover
The name of [Chez] Flicoteaux [Restaurant] is engraved on many memories. Few indeed were the students who lived in the Latin Quarter during the last twelve years of the Restoration and did not frequent that temple sacred to hunger and impecuniosity. There a dinner of three courses, with a quarter bottle of wine or a bottle of beer, could be had for eighteen sous; or for twenty-two sous the quarter bottle becomes a bottle. Flicoteaux, that friend of youth, would beyond a doubt have amassed a colossal fortune but for a line on his bill of fare, a line which rival establishments are wont to print in capital letters, thus—BREAD AT DISCRETION, which, being interpreted, should read "indiscretion."

Flicoteaux has been nursing-father to many an illustrious name. Verily, the heart of more than one great man ought to wax warm with innumerable recollections of inexpressible enjoyment at the sight of the small, square window panes that look upon the Place de la Sorbonne, and the Rue Neuve-de-Richelieu. Flicoteaux II. and Flicoteaux III. respected the old exterior, maintaining the dingy hue and general air of a respectable, old-established house, showing thereby the depth of their contempt for the charlatanism of the shop-front, the kind of advertisement which feasts the eyes at the expense of the stomach, to which your modern restaurant almost always has recourse. Here you beheld no piles of straw-stuffed game never destined to make the acquaintance of the spit, no fantastical fish to justify the mountebank's remark, "I saw a fine carp to-day; I expect to buy it this day week." Instead of the prime vegetables more fittingly described by the word primeval, artfully displayed in the window for the delectation of the military man and his fellow country-woman the nursemaid, honest Flicoteaux exhibited full salad-bowls adorned with many a rivet, or pyramids of stewed prunes to rejoice the sight of the customer, and assure him that the word "dessert," with which other handbills made too free, was in this case no charter to hoodwink the public. Loaves of six pounds' weight, cut in four quarters, made good the promise of "bread at discretion." Such was the plenty of the establishment, that Moliere would have celebrated it if it had been in existence in his day, so comically appropriate is the name.

Flicoteaux still subsists; so long as students are minded to live, Flicoteaux will make a living. You feed there, neither more nor less; and you feed as you work, with morose or cheerful industry, according to the circumstances and the temperament.

At that time his well-known establishment consisted of two dining-halls, at right angles to each other; long, narrow, low-ceiled rooms, looking respectively on the Rue Neuve-de-Richelieu and the Place de la Sorbonne. The furniture must have come originally from the refectory of some abbey, for there was a monastic look about the lengthy tables, where the serviettes of regular customers, each thrust through a numbered ring of crystallized tin plate, were laid by their places. Flicoteaux I. only changed the serviettes of a Sunday; but Flicoteaux II. changed them twice a week, it is said, under pressure of competition which threatened his dynasty.

Flicoteaux's restaurant is no banqueting-hall, with its refinements and luxuries; it is a workshop where suitable tools are provided, and everybody gets up and goes as soon as he has finished. The coming and going within are swift. There is no dawdling among the waiters; they are all busy; every one of them is wanted.

-- Honoré de Balzac, Lost Illusions: A Great Man of the Provinces in Paris (trans. by Ellen Marriage)
This central portion of Lost Illusions is one of the high points of my ongoing project to read all of Balzac's La Comédie Humaine. At the end of the Scènes de la vie de province section, it follows the impressionable young poet from Angoulême, Lucien de Rubempré, as he pursues the woman he loves to Paris. Lucien goes through most of the self-discoveries Balzac himself made, falling into desperate poverty, meeting a group of sincere writers, and then being seduced by the easy money of journalism. Balzac's descriptions of the more squalid corners of Paris, as well as the less savory aspects of the publishing business in the 19th century, are based on first-hand observation and a delight to read.

7.9.17

Forbes Classical CD of the Week: Zelenka To Fall In Love With


…Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679 – 1745) is a composer waiting to be fallen in love with. All he needs is for the half-way inclined listener (and that’s anyone who loves Bach, really) to get a good ear-full on one or two occasions. This disc of two masses, the Missa Divi Xaverii ZWV 12 and the Litaniae de Sancto Xaverio ZWV 156, offers such a first ear-full that should suffice for Euterpe’s arrows (assuming she operates along the lines of Eros/Cupid) to hit their target.[1]…

-> Classical CD Of The Week: Zelenka To Fall In Love With

1.9.17

Forbes Classical CD of the Week: The Martin Luther Soundtrack


…“1517. 500 Years of Reformation”, as measured by the publishing of Luther’s 95 theses, celebrates one of the most important events of modern Western history that can be conveniently pinned (as it were) to a single event. “Luther 2017” is accordingly a big event in German lands and beyond. The occasion has its own logo, walking paths have been established (so you can hit all the important sites on foot and not get lost), and press junkets organized. I’ve written about them in Listen Magazine in 2013,“Wagner The Revolutionary”, and 2015, “Eat Pray Listen”. I even have my own 500-Years-of-Reformation Martin Luther Playmobil action figure! …

-> Classical CD Of The Week: The Martin Luther Soundtrack