Franco-Flemish composer Pierre de la Rue contributed prolifically to the rich musical life of the Low Countries during the late fifteenth century. If today he is less well-known than some of his contemporaries, the distinguished advocacy of Stephen Rice and The Brabant Ensemble remedies the balance with these authoritative performances of the Missa Nuncqua fue pena mayor, Salve regina VI and Missa Inviolata. Pierre de la Rue is another of those composers who contributed so prolifically to the richness of musical life in the Low Countries during the late fifteenth century. If today he is less well known than some of his contemporaries, the distinguished advocacy of Stephen Rice and The Brabant Ensemble should do much to redress the balance.
Stephen Layton and Polyphony have a long and fruitful relationship with the music of Arvo Pärt. Their recording of Triodion and other choral works (CDA67375) won a Gramophone Award and became a cult classic. The extraordinary purity of Polyphony’s singing is the perfect vehicle for music of such clean, elemental simplicity, such cathartic calm. This third Pärt album from Stephen Layton and Polyphony reaches right back, intriguingly, to the composer’s youthful modernist phase and spans nearly five decades—from 1963 to 2012—in the process. As with the album Triodion, it reflects an increasingly broad spread of languages and sources in Pärt’s chosen texts. Latin, German and English are joined here by Church Slavonic and Spanish. A range of biblical texts are set alongside ancient prayers.
A new release from Polyphony, with Stephen Layton at the helm, always brings with it an assurance of singing of the highest possible calibre. Bring together a choir of such quality and the composer responsible for some of the most beautiful, transcendent music ever written, and the resultant disc is surely what must be one of, if not the most spectacular releases of the year. New works from Arvo Pärt are invariably cherished, and this disc contains no fewer than five world premiere recordings—Dopo la vittoria, Nunc dimittis, Littlemore Tractus, My heart's in the Highlands and Salve regina. It was recorded in the presence of the enraptured composer earlier this year at the Temple Church, London. This is a disc of achingly lovely music at its most mesmeric—prepare to be stunned.
Seraphical Euphony is the debut album for the Swedish metallers Hyperion and Black Lion Productions had quite a lucky hand to pick up into their roster this band. The guys recorded this album in the period between 2013 and 2015 in the Scarecrow Recordings, Forlorn Halls Studios and on various private locations in Stockholm. Hyperion is a six piece band who play very fast, technical, melodic and atmospheric kind of black metal.
Brahms’s two sonatas for clarinet and piano, Op 120, composed in 1894, were followed only by the four Serious Songs and a set of organ chorale preludes (some of which may have been written at earlier times). His farewell to chamber music was also his farewell gift to the clarinet. The two works recorded here were preceded by the Clarinet Trio in A minor (Op 114) and the great Clarinet Quintet in B minor (Op 115), and all four masterpieces were inspired by the playing of Richard Mühlfeld, principal clarinettist of the Meiningen Orchestra.
An all-too-rare new recording from Polyphony and Stephen Layton presents highlights from the choral repertoire by four twentieth-century American giants: Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson. Framed by Thompson’s understated favourites Alleluia and Fare Well, the programme includes Bernstein’s Missa brevis, Copland’s early set of four motets, and—of course—Barber’s inimitable Agnus Dei.
This programme features concert music by composers who also wrote film scores for Hollywood. While this was just one string to the considerable bows of Gershwin and Copland, Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman are best known for their music for Hitchcock films (Vertigo, North by Northwest, Marnie and Psycho for Herrmann; and Rebecca and The Paradine Case for Waxman). Centre stage is Gershwin’s Song-book, arranged by the composer for solo piano in order to present the songs ‘as George Gershwin plays them himself’.
This CD was initially recorded in 1993 and was reissued in 2001. That is fortunate for those of us who missed it the first time around, for Paul Coletti has produced one of the finest recorded examples of viola playing to be found. Coupled with the sensitive and thoughtful piano playing of Leslie Howard, this makes for benchmark renditions of these musical gems. Hyperion's sound is gorgeous and perfectly balanced throughout. The listener is drawn into the music making, with all its expressive and tonal nuances.
Études are primarily intended as exercises to train musicians in specific techniques, but since the Romantic era they have become associated with other miniature forms, such as the prelude and the intermezzo, and frequently regarded as evocative character pieces or tonal pictures. Garrick Ohlsson's album of piano études by Claude Debussy, Sergey Prokofiev, and Béla Bartók offers a brief survey of the genre in modern practice, and demonstrates the blending of pedagogy and poetry in these works. Ohlsson has become internationally known as an exquisite interpreter of the music of Frédéric Chopin, and much of the subtlety and atmosphere found in his previous recordings is present here. Ohlsson's finesse and humor are perhaps most evident in Debussy's Études, L. 143, which have a lighter character than Prokofiev's Études, Op. 2, which tend toward the sardonic side, and Bartók's Études, Op. 18, which are intensely virtuosic and mysterious. Hyperion's recording captures the nuances of Ohlsson's playing, and the piano is close enough to hear every detail, while the acoustics lend it a pleasant natural aura.