The years have seen Pierre Boulez record for CBS, Erato, EMI, and Philips, among other labels, but his most consistent and critically praised work has appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, where he has conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and his own Ensemble InterContemporain in many successful performances. These ensembles are heard on this trimline, six-CD box set of Igor Stravinsky's major works, which brings together Boulez's recordings of L'oiseau de feu, Petrushka, Le Sacre du printemps, L'histoire du Soldat, the symphonies, concertos, and other works, recorded between 1980 and 1996. As one of the leading champions of modernism, first as a composer and essayist, then as a prominent conductor, Boulez is regarded as an authority on Stravinsky's oeuvre, and it is difficult to imagine many conductors who have a better understanding of the technical and stylistic issues that affect performances. Boulez is also famous for his precision and meticulousness, which make the details stand out clearly in the rhythmically complex and texturally dense orchestral scores of the ballets, and yet seem so delicate and exact in the concertos and pieces for smaller ensembles.
Rosanne Philippens is considered one of the most promising violin talents in the Netherlands. Her open and communicative style of performance won her first prizes at competitions including the Dutch National Violin Competition in 2009 and the Freiburg International Violin Competition in 2014. This release from Channel Classics focuses on Polish and Russian works inspired by myths and legends. Philippens is joined by pianist Julien Quentin as well as the Nationaal Jeugd Orkest led by Xian Zhang in performances of Szymanowski's Mythes and Violin Concerto and Stravinsky's Chanson Russe and L'Oiseau de Feu.
Les Noces is a screaming, shrieking, flat-out masterpiece. Leonard Bernstein himself has referred to it as Stravinsky's greatest work, and listening to this incendiary performance, it's awfully hard to disagree. Scored for voices, four pianos, and percussion, the work provided the inspiration for the entire career of Orff (of Carmina Burana fame), but it's so much better as sheer music than anything Orff wrote. And what a cast! The pianists for this performance include Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman, Cyprien Katsaris, and Homero Francesch, four certified virtuoso performers, while the singers of the English Bach Festival Chorus really cover themselves with glory in both works. A stunner.
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.
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.
Testament to the versatility and musical command that Teodor Currentzis and his unique orchestra and choir possess, this new album brings together two diverse masterworks from two titans of Russian music. Although they have been acquainted for a long time prior, this recording represents the first musical collaboration between Teodor Currentzis and the exceptional violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. The instant artistic rapport (an “artistic wedding” of sorts) between these two maverick musicians can be heard in this dynamic new recording of Tchaikovsky’s Violin concerto - one of the most popular works in the violin repertory. Currentzis’ authentic approach to the folk influences in Stravinsky’s music (as revealed in Le Sacre du Printemps) is again very present in his interpretation of Les Noces.
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.