is a bizarre disc, harnessing a worthy
performance of a favourite romantic
concerto with a neglected symphony from
the 1960s by an obscure contemporary
composer. Familiar and unfamiliar together
can be a winning combination.
Paavo Järvi's recent run of recordings
for Telarc are an example. Here, however,
there does not seem to be any link at
all between these pieces. Thrown together
in a flash of enterprising concert programming
and taped live, they make very strange
bedfellows. Given the relative obscurity
of this label, though, that very weirdness
may be the factor that gives this disc
the market penetration it deserves.
this is a performance of Brahmsí Second
Piano Concerto that is worth hearing.
The soloist, Peter Rösel, is not
as well known as he deserves to be.
A student of Lev Oborin, he built his
career in communist East Germany and
has only made limited inroads into the
consciousness of music lovers in the
west - at least those who, like me,
did not have ready access to his vast
discography for Berlin Classics. My
only previous encounter with Rösel
is as pianist in a couple of concertante
works in Kempe's superlative Dresden
survey of Richard Straussí orchestral
works for EMI (CD - 73614). He acquits
himself admirably there, but I must
confess that I listen to those pieces
only rarely, being much more enamoured
of the big tone poems.
though, heard tell of the greatness
of Röselís 1970s performance of
Pictures at an Exhibition, which
is spoken of in hushed tones by
some critics. His cycle of Brahms' solo
piano music from around the same time
is also highly regarded, so I was keen
to hear what him in a big Brahms concerto.
He certainly does not disappoint. There
is much to enjoy in his big-boned and
darkly German performance.
me, the centrepiece of this performance
is the scherzo, which is beautifully
nuanced. Rösel has the full measure
of the ebb and flow of the drama of
this movement,. He resists the temptation
to rush but keeps the music moving forward,
ably abetted by Berg and his orchestra.
The first movement has grandeur without
bombast; the third movement floats gently
by, and the performance is brought to
a close by a finale of gentle humour.
This recording does not crackle with
the excitement of Richterís account
with Leinsdorf on RCA (CD - 60860-2),
and it does not offer the depth of emotion
and joy that Kovacevich brings out in
his recording with Colin Davis on Philips.
This is instead a warm and relaxed performance,
in which the humour of the finale twinkles
knowingly in the eye. It is a performance
for warm summer afternoons and one that
will make you smile. Rösel is a
custodian of a style of pianism that
falls somewhere between the German tradition
of Wilhelm Kempff and the more ruminative
side of Gilels. While not a first choice,
his performance is well worth hearing
and lovers of this concerto will gain
from Röselís insights.
about the orchestra. While hardly a
major player, the Anhaltische Philharmonie
Dessau can be proud of this recording.
The strings are lighter in tone than
their Saxon neighbours, the Staatskapelle
Dresden and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,
but they play with transparency. There
are a couple of shrill notes from the
violins and there is a little blandness
in some of the phrasing and exposed
solo playing - with the notable exception
of cellist Maurice Lepitat in the third
movement - but there is nothing here
that will really detract from your enjoyment
of this performance.
symphony is also noteworthy, if only
because it may be the only music by
Estonian composer Jaan Rääts
that you will ever hear . Rääts
was completely unknown to me when I
received this disc for review, a function
of the fact that he has lived his musical
life in the shadow of his more famous
contemporary and compatriot, Arvo Pärt.
His music has been performed internationally,
though - notably by that doughty champion
of Estonian music, Neeme Järvi.
He has also been a major influence on
younger Estonian composers, numbering
Erkki-Sven Tuur among his pupils.
not been able to find any mention on
the internet of other recordings of
his music. This may be the only one.
That being the case, it deserves special
attention. [but see
wrote eight symphonies. The fifth dates
from 1967, at a time when Pärt
was still writing serial music. It is
clearly the work of an expert craftsman
with an ability to assimilate different
styles and a keen interest in form.
It is something of a symphonic palindrome
in five movements: allegro - andantino
- allegro - andantino - allegro. The
first, second, fourth and fifth movements
are of roughly the same length, with
the central allegro a good deal shorter.
music is built on a set of motifs, including
a bluesy clarinet theme and diverging
lines for brass, with strings underneath.
Throughout, euro-jazz rubs shoulders
with serialism and tone-row counterpoint.
Something about the writing reminds
me of the music of Sir Malcolm Arnold.
That is not to say that there is a common
thread in the idiom of these two composers,
but rather that Rääts writes
for orchestra in a similar way to Arnold.
He colours his score with distinctive
writing for brass and woodwind, throws
in percussion for effect and uses the
strings to provide an undercurrent or
rhythmic background, or occasionally
to provide a lush tune tutti.
The strings never really lead the music
from the front.
and the orchestra perform the symphony
tidily, but with little flair. Their
ensemble is good, but it is a case of
safety first: the performance, solid
though it is, never takes wing.
radically different in idiom and style,
this odd couple may turn out to be a
symbiotic pairing for Antes. Certainly
Röselís performance stands a better
chance of being bought and heard coupled
with the Rääts symphony than
if the disc had been filled out with
more Brahms. Bigger names and bigger
labels dominate that space. Similarly,
Rääts coupled with Rääts
or other obscurities would be a mere
curiosity and would draw few but the
most intrepid purchasers. Only Naxos,
with its low, low prices, would be able
to sell such a disc in any real quantity.
Put it together with the Brahms, though,
and maybe the purchase becomes a bit
essential listening, but certainly interesting.