Vol. 2 in BIS' complete Sibelius Edition is given over the Finnish master's chamber music for strings and for strings and piano. Fifty years earlier, this release would've included only the "Voces intimae" string quartet. But BIS' 2007 release includes all four quartets and all four piano trios, plus 35 other works or substantial fragments lasting between 13 seconds to 32 minutes. One thing is instantly clear: Sibelius scholarship has made enormous strides since the mid-twentieth century.
Chamber music has always formed the heart of Maria João Pires’s musicianship. Indeed, she has often commented that she is happier working with others than performing on her own. “Not sharing a stage is very difficult for me,” she once remarked (in an interview for ArtsJournal in 2012) “You are apart from the group, apart from community, apart from everything. You become different and special. And, if you become different and special, you’re alone.”
Johann Melchior Molter was a German baroque composer and violinist. (…) Molter's surviving works include an oratorio; several cantatas; over 140 symphonies, overtures, and other works for orchestra; many concertos, including some of the first clarinet concertos ever written; and many pieces of chamber music.
This ambitious and beautifully produced two-CD set includes nearly all of Iannis Xenakis' chamber music for strings, piano, and strings and piano combined. Chamber music constituted a small part of the composer's output, since large ensembles and large forms were vehicles more commensurate with the aesthetic of his monumental, granitic music. There are no small pieces here, though; in each of these works, ranging from solos to a quintet for piano and strings, Xenakis was able to express his uncompromising vision no less ferociously than in his orchestral works. While all of the pieces have an elemental character, many with a visceral punch, the actual sound of the music is surprisingly varied, and the individual works have distinctive and individual characters. In spite of the weightiness and rigor of the music, the tone is not necessarily heavy, and some pieces, like Evryali for piano and Dikhthas for violin and piano, have moments of what could almost be described as whimsicality.
After the death of Janáček in 1924, Martinů assumed the mantle of the leading Czech composer of the twentieth century. The chamber music on this disc abounds with the mosaic-like patterns, translucent lyricism and infectious rhythmic vitality which give his works their kaleidoscopic quality. From the highly original Sextet of 1929, with its jazzy Parisian character, to the Flute Sonata of 1945, in which the much-travelled composer imitates the song of the whippoorwill, an indigenous bird of New England, this disc surveys a quarter-century of Martinů’s prolific and always inventive output.
In his 90th year, Elliott Carter is doing something few nonagenarians ever do: he's premiering a striking new string quartet, his fifth. And it's an awe-inspiring piece. The Arditti String Quartet takes up the short phrases that run with and then against one another with sureness, plucking and scraping and making their bows sing. They then delve into each of the five interludes that interrogate the quartet's six sections and play through the disparate splinters of tone and flushes of midrange color as if they were perfectly logical developments. Which they're not. Carter has again brilliantly scripted a chatter of stringed voices–à la the second quartet–that converse quickly, sometimes mournfully, but never straightforwardly. This complexity of conversation is a constant for Carter, coming sharply to light in "90+" and then in Rohan de Saram and Ursula Oppens's heaving read of the 1948 Sonata for Cello and Piano, as well as in virtually all these pieces. This is a monumental recording, extending the documented work of a lamentably underappreciated American composer.
If you're a lover of chamber music then you can't do any better than this amazing 59 CD set. The overall price is steep but it averages out to be less than $5 per CD. Couple that with the truly legendary performances offered here and you have an incredible bargain that will not be around for long. The Westminster record label (1949-1965) was justly famous for it's "Natural Balance" recorded sound which was primarily the combined effort of producer Dr. Kurt List and engineer Karl Wohlleitner. Centered in Vienna, they had access to some of the finest chamber musicians in the world through the city's various orchestras.
What made Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart perhaps the most complete "musical package" in history—a man who created more masterpieces of virtually every musical genre of his day than any other composer before or since? There is perhaps no better way to explore this question than by studying his chamber music. Nowhere is Mozart's maturity and mastery more apparent than in the chamber music he wrote during the last 10 years of his life.
Apparently a staple in Russia, the music of Taneyev exists on the fringes of the repertoire in the West, something that should be rectified–and will be if this superb CD made by a starry cast of performers gets the attention it deserves. He’s a Romantic composer, but hardly of the heart-on-sleeve variety, since he was a master of counterpoint and firmly encased his Romantic impulses in a well-fitted classical jacket. Sometimes he makes you think of a more modern, pungent Brahms with a Russian accent.