This CD contains seven cycles of piano miniatures which are described as preludes. All of them are by Polish composers and date from the second half of the twentieth century. In stylistic terms, the prelude is a fairly homogenous genre and yet a more thorough analysis makes it possible to notice a rich spectrum of compositional devices and ways of shaping the musical material as well as the means of artistic expression. A disk of 33 short piano pieces, written by seven different composers over the space of 41 years might seem a daunting prospect yet this is a very enjoyable and fascinating collection of pieces, which makes for very pleasant listening.
Chandos has been attentive in promoting the orchestral works of Alexandre Tansman, who due to the vagaries of fashion has to a great extent been ignored. We now embark on the piano music and a deeply personal project for soloist Margaret Fingerhut. ‘My curiosity about the piano music of Tansman began over 20 years ago when I encountered the delightfully languid Berceuse he wrote for the album of Hommages to Roussel, and which I recorded for Chandos. The fact that he was born in Lodz, Poland, where my great-grandparents also came from, spurred me on to find out more about him, and since then I have been assiduously collecting his piano works - quite a task as it turns out that in the course of his long composing career Tansman was nothing if not prolific!’
Japanese label Triton has released a Pascal Rogé album with a rather remarkable program; Crystal Dream features the eminent French pianist in a program that interweaves short piano pieces by Erik Satie with others written by contemporary Japanese composer Takashi Yoshimatsu, mostly pieces drawn from his Pleiades Dances. Both composers employ relatively simple melodic concepts harmonized with elegant, though elemental, kinds of accompaniments, so perhaps the combination makes sense. On the other hand, Satie never lived into the age of rock-based pop music, his engagement with the popular consisting mainly of French music hall tunes, and later in life, a sort of half-understood perception of ragtime rhythm. Yoshimatsu, however, would not be Yoshimatsu if it weren't for his strong connection to pop, though admittedly in Satie's case the pop group Blood, Sweat & Tears' adaptation of his Gymnopédie No. 1 once earned Satie a Grammy-winning single. Either way, one might wonder "how does this combination-slash-conversation work?"
Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) represents the first of a series of operatic successes by the German composer Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1714-1787). It is his best-known opera and his greatest reform work (first performed in Vienna on 5 October 1762). Gluck broke every courtly convention governing the operatic art form of the time. He strove for naturalness and simplicity in both subject and music. Gluck liberated opera from its rigid confines, refrained from the pointless embellishment of arias, and replaced the recitativo secco with orchestral recitatives or recitativo accompagnato, creating through-composed forms of unprecedented drama. He also gave lyricism a greater significance in relation to the music. Gluck's importance in opera's overall history is matched only by Claudio Monteverdi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Wagner…
We’ve had several releases in recent years of works by the likes of Lourié, Roslavets, Wyschnegradsky, Deshevov, and Popov: forgotten composers demonstrating an inspired level of early Soviet Era music-making in styles that were subsequently abandoned. Leonid Polovinkin (1894–1949) is apparently next up for rediscovery. In 1914, he entered the Moscow Conservatory, graduating a decade later, and began two years of post-graduate work. He then taught orchestration and analysis at his alma mater for six years before joining the Moscow Central Children’s Theater as music director. Like Roslavets, Polovinkin was an active member of the radical Association for Contemporary Music (ACM), and even created several “collectivist” works—such as The Four Moscows, with Mosolov, Alexandrov, and Shostakovich, and a symphonic Prologue with Mosolov, Roslavets, and Shostakovich.
Lang Lang revisits giants of Russia's Romantic musical soul, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, to reveal another side of his prodigious talent–his finesse as a collegial interpreter of chamber music. This release, Lang Lang`s first ever chamber music recording, also features two giants of their instruments: Vadim Repin on violin and Mischa Maisky on cello. Lang Lang could not be in better company to reveal the inexhaustible inventiveness of Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor, op. 50 or the tender consolations of Rachmaninov's Trio élégiaque no. 1 in G-minor, a short early masterpiece composed before Rachmaninov was twenty.
One of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century, Emil Gilels (1916-1985) possessed a fearless technical facility and a highly cultivated tone control that freed him to follow his interpretive instincts. In this program, Gilels plays two masterpieces of the concerto repertoire: Grieg's Piano Concerto and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3. Both works are conducted by Paavo Berglund, leading the Philharmonia Orchestra in the Beethoven and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in the Grieg. Live performances, Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, 1983 (Grieg) /1984 (Beethoven). 86 min., Color, mono, 4:3, All regions.
Two books of Debussy’s piano preludes were composed in 1910 and 1913, respectively. Unlike similar opuses by Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and others, they had no tonal sequence, and each piece was conceived as an individual work. In whole, the cycle is a sort of concise encyclopedia of the great French composer’s music with its fanciful and sophisticated, but so imperceptibly attractive combination of romanticism and impressionism, centuries-old traditions of piano music and cultural paradoxes of the 20th century. The titles Debussy gave to each of the preludes (they are sooner poetic metaphors) are put in the end rather than in the beginning of the notes and not intended to impose a certain character on the listener. Instead, they seem to ask riddles as if they check whether the mood of a piece is caught correctly. Debussy’s preludes found a fine and thoughtful interpreter in the person of Alexei Lyubimov.
Lawrence Power makes the second of his appearances in this month’s release lists, this time with his regular pianist partner Simon Crawford-Phillips in the chamber music of Shostakovich. The centrepiece is the Viola Sonata, Shostakovich’s last completed work, premiered posthumously, on what would have been the composer’s sixty-ninth birthday. Its ravishing slow finale reworks the opening of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata—a tribute to a composer he revered.