The German violinist Tanja Becker-Bender burst onto the recording scene with a dazzling set of Paganini’s Caprices which thrilled the critics. She appears here in a second disc for Hyperion with her compatriot, Markus Becker, who has made two acclaimed recordings for the label. Erwin Schulhoff: jazz enthusiast, sometime Dadaist, surrealist and committed communist. These are some of the labels that spring to mind for this extraordinary figure, but Schulhoff was a more complex and wide-ranging musician than any neat tags suggest. This Prague-born prodigy had an intensive training rooted in the Austro-German tradition from before the age of ten, and later studied with Max Reger and Fritz Steinbacher. His music is impossible to pin down stylistically – even at a particular stage of his career. His music for violin is often outrageously virtuosic and never less than fascinating.
As late as 1982 Soviet musicologists claiming any significance for Nikolay Roslavets were vigorously suppressed. Only in 1990 was his unmarked grave identified. How many scores were lost when his flat was ransacked just after his death in 1944? The ruthless vengeance of a reactionary proletariat—branding Roslavets, himself born of peasant stock and a fervent 1917 revolutionary, a mere pedlar of bourgeois ‘art for art’s sake’—has fortunately now given way to a gradual recognition of the very real significance ……..
Respighi’s orchestral music is loved for its lavish, operatic ‘fireworks’, its pomp and circumstance. This recording of his music for violin and piano demonstrates a more tender and intimate side to the composer, and also shows what a master he was of melody. Respighi had many influences from all over Europe and an enthusiasm for German music which perhaps explains the pleasing echoes of Brahms and Schumann among others. The sonatas, especially the later in B minor, are important works of nineteenth-century chamber music, and gems such as the Valse caressante and the Serenata are suffused with lyrical elegance which is perfectly carried off by the wonderful violinist Tanja Becker-Bender.
…Performed by violinist Tanja Becker-Bender and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, conducted by Lothar Zagrosek, the Violin Concerto is grandiose, lush, and expansive, epitomizing the post-Romantic preferences for large-scale forms, luxurious orchestration, and densely wrought ideas, while the Two Romances are comparatively modest in their length and transparent in content. (…) the orchestra sounds gorgeous, and the careful microphone placement keeps Becker-Bender front and center, so the elaborate scoring doesn't drown out her sound.
Tommy Smith, the great Scottish saxophonist, composer, bandleader and educator, studied classical orchestration in the 1990s, and has played in plenty of challenging jazz/classical settings. But Modern Jacobite is his most ambitious journey yet, centred on an intricately woven three-movement symphonic work inspired by the Jacobite uprisings; it is bookended by a rapturous tenor-sax improvisation on Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, and by Chick Corea’s famous Children’s Songs interleaved with Smith’s own Bairn’s Songs as personal variations on the same theme. The Jacobite pieces embrace violent, cinematic soundscapes for slewing brass and thundering percussion; deep cello themes that segue into pulsating tenor-sax ruminations; Scottish folk dances that become pipe-toned tenor jigs.
British composer Jonathan Harvey has all the credentials of a classic modernist, and while his music would never be described as making the slightest concession to the New Accessibility of the late 20th century, the attractive, colorful surfaces of his work coupled with unerringly visceral intuitive development makes him a composer who can appeal to more than just hardcore new music aficionados. (…) The BBC Scottish Symphony, led by Ilan Volkov, plays with a confident mastery of the demanding scores and a sensitivity to their mercurial shifts and transformations. NMC's sound is clean, detailed, and present. (The composer recommends that listeners take a pause between the pieces, to surround each with a cleansing silence.)