Jennifer Pike, who won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition at the tender age of 12, appears to have survived the perils of prodigyhood and entered her early twenties with musical intelligence intact. Here she offers a terrific program of music from the middle of the 19th century; all of it is abstract, but it brings vividly to mind the crucial trio of creative figures who met in the early 1850s: the ailing Robert Schumann, his musically frustrated wife Clara, and the young Johannes Brahms, mooning over the latter.
Brahms & Schumann: Lieder sees Dame Ann Murray, one of the great vocal artists of the past decades, return to the recording studio to perform a personal selection of Lieder. Brahms & Schumann: Lieder, Ann’s first solo album in over a decade, will be her final Lieder recording and a fitting way to draw her long and distinguished recording career to a close.
After titanic contributions to the cello sonata repertoire by Ludwig van Beethoven, few notable additions were made for several decades. Not until 1862 did the cello sonata re-emerge in the hands of Johannes Brahms. His peculiar First Sonata contains only three movements (the Adagio having been omitted for fear of the sonata being too lengthy) and a finale that all but defies formal analysis. Almost a quarter century passed before Brahms again returned to the cello sonata, this time in the key of F major. The second sonata is considerably more challenging for cellists and Brahms' treatment of the instrument is not the exclusively lyrical, sonorous melodies that one might expect. Rather, Brahms incorporates lots of rhythmic, motivic playing and pizzicato passages and rapid bariolage. A "third" cello sonata, which has become increasingly popular in recent years, is Paul Klengel's (whose cello-playing father was much admired by Brahms) transcription of the G major Violin Sonata.
The air on Mt. Olympus must have been something like that in Berlin’s Jesus-Christus-Kirche when, in September 1969, the threesome of Richter, Oistrakh and Rostropovich joined Herbert von Karajan for this majestic recording of Beethoven’s underrated Triple Concerto. That there could have been such a meeting of the minds in this gathering of greats is difficult to believe, until one remembers that the three soloists were frequent collaborators who all spoke the same musical language, and after years in the trenches knew each other and their conductor very well. As one would expect, the solo work of the three Russians is brilliant and deeply musical. But just as delightful is the way they adjust from solo to ensemble roles and play together, with perfect unanimity, in the duet and trio passages. Karajan and the Berliners provide a monumental accompaniment, weighty, powerful, and rich in tone. The recording, one of the best from EMI in this venue, has been remastered in exemplary fashion and is impressively detailed and vivid.
Gilels had immense physical power and impeccable control, but he was also capable of exquisitely refined poetry and had an acute perception of the lyrical impulse lying behind even the most assertive of Brahms's writing. The firmness of attack and the depth of sound that make his (and the Berlin Philharmonic's) playing so thrillingly dynamic can be offset by the most poignant of delicate gestures. There is undeniable grandeur to these readings, but with those additional qualities of wise thinking, generous expression and artistry of great subtlety, these performances are in a class of their own.