Violinist Benjamin Beilman makes his debut as an exclusive Warner Classics artist with Spectrum, an album uniting works by Schubert, Janáček, Stravinsky and Kreisler. With his regular duo partner, pianist Yekwon Sunwoo – a fellow alumnus of Philadelphia’s prestigious Curtis Institute – Beilman explores a multitude of colours and expressive possibilities, evoking them with the finest technical nuances.
Three 20th-century orchestral scores, Bartók’s Two Pictures, Debussy’s Jeux and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, all dating from 1910-13 and all linked (as the detailed CD booklet explains), are brought to life in the hands of two exceptional French pianists. The central interest is the ballet Jeux. One of the world’s outstanding Debussy interpreters, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet has added to his complete Chandos recordings with his own transcription for two pianos. Written late in Debussy’s life for Nijinsky, Jeux involves an emotionally erotic and harmonically daring game of tennis. Bavouzet and his well-matched partner, François-Fréderic Guy, play with nimble grace, capturing the works wit and mystery. This gripping album is dedicated to Pierre Boulez, guru and enabler, for his 90th birthday.
Marios Papadopoulos plays Janacek's sonata with a gentle, romanticizing melancholy that is nature can well encompass, even if such an approach can diminish the work's sense of tragedy. It is a work with a tougher core than is here suggested. However, this is not an unattractive performance, and Papadopoulos seems more attuned to its manner than to the crisp assertions of the Capriccio or of Stravinsky's Concerto. It does not seem a good idea to attempt the Capriccio without a conductor. The admirable RPO players sound less than wholly comfortable, and their ensemble is a trifle precarious at times; moreover, the work's odd, sharp character does not emerge with sufficient definition.
This is the second release on ONYX from the amazing Moscow Soloists and their charismatic director, the great Yuri Bashmet. Their first ONYX release was of Chamber Symphonies by Shostakovich, Sviridov and Vainberg (ONYX4007) which gained excellent reviews, including a Grammy 2007 nomination. This disc combines two great Stravinsky works for strings: the marvellous neo-classical ballet Apollon musagète (in the revised 1947 version entitled simply Apollo) and the post-war Concerto in D for strings, with a genuine novelty: in 1962 Rudolf Barshai arranged for his own Moscow Chamber Orchestra 15 of the 20 Visions fugitives that Prokofiev wrote for solo piano between 1915-17. Now Roman Balashov, manager and violist in the Moscow Soloists has completed the set for this world première recording. These are exciting miniatures which truly benefit from the added colours a string orchestra can bring.
Masaaki Suzuki is firmly established as a leading authority on the works of Bach, both in his capacity as director of the Bach Collegium Japan and as an organist and harpsichordist. In recent years he has also been appearing in front of eminent orchestras worldwide, however, conducting repertoire as diverse as Britten, Fauré or Mahler. For his first recording of 20th century repertoire, Suzuki has chosen to collaborate with the acclaimed Tapiola Sinfonietta in an all-Stravinsky programme. The disc begins with the music for Pulcinella – here in the concert suite devised by the composer – which Stravinsky later described as ‘the epiphany through which the whole of my later work became possible’. Pulcinella was commissioned in 1919 by the Ballets Russes, for which Stravinsky had already written The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring. For this adaptation of an early eighteenth-century commedia dell'arte libretto, he based his score on existing music, initially ascribed to Pergolesi although material by other baroque composers is also included.
The earliest piece on this disc is the delightful Pastorale, written in 1907, when Stravinsky was 25; the latest is the enigmatic Epitaphium, written 52 years later. In between come a clutch of pieces from that fascinating period of Stravinsky’s life when he was moving from Russianism to neo-classicism via jazz. The remaining two, the Octet of 1923 and the Septet of 1953, are both firmly in Stravinsky’s witty, poised neo-classical style, though the Septet is moving towards new, tougher territory. Stravinsky himself made classic recordings of these pieces in the Sixties, now reissued on CD on the Sony label. These are always electric, if sometimes a little untidy, and so closely recorded you feel the players are sitting in your lap. By that lofty benchmark this new recording measures up superbly. Tempos are just as brisk and alert as Stravinsky’s, the accents just as incisive. These qualities are combined with a beautiful soft-grained tone – a nice change from Stravinsky’s lemon-sharp sound.
"By the end of 1949, when the recordings issued here were made, Leonard Bernstein was beyond the point where he could be regarded a "new" figure on the American musical scene. In six short years - from the dramatic moment of his debut with the New York Philharmonic on nationwide radio, filling in at the last moment for an ailing Bruno Walter - he had shown remarkable gifts first as a conductor, then as a composer in the symphonic world and ballet and then on Broadway . All that in the 13 months between November 14, 1943, and the end of 1944! When World War II ended, Bernstein was able to take up his role as the assistant to Serge Koussevitzky at Tanglewood. He had promoted the music of his fellow Americans in live performances…. had produced significant recordings of works by two of them. He had appeared as conductor and soloist in a recording of Ravel's Concerto in G. And, naturally, he had recorded a number of his own works."Steven Ledbetter