Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 


Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto “no.5” (Symphony no.2 in E minor, op.27, arranged as a piano concerto by Alexander Warenberg) (2007) [42:24] (((i) Largo – allegro moderato [18:56] (ii) Adagio – molto allegro [13:15] (iii) Allegro vivace [10:05]))
Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy (piano)
Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra/Theodor Kuchar
rec. Concert Hall, Ostrava, Czech Republic, 26-28 June 2007
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 8900 [42:24]

 

Experience Classicsonline


Listening to this disc is rather like eating an oyster – you’ll either love the experience or you’ll hate it.
 

First, let’s get clear what this hitherto unknown “fifth piano concerto” isn’t. It’s not an exercise on the lines of, for example, Semyon Bogatyriev’s reconstruction of Tchaikovsky’s abandoned “seventh symphony”. In that case, we know that, until he gave up on it in 1892, the composer definitely intended there to be such a symphony and that, with greater or lesser degrees of certainty, the surviving materials used by Bogatyriev recreated something that Tchaikovsky himself might, indeed, have gone on to produce. 

With regard to this new recording, on the other hand, there is not a scrap of evidence that Rachmaninoff ever thought of using the music of his most popular symphony as the basis of a piano concerto and its origins lie entirely in the imagination of one man. In the comprehensive booklet notes, Pieter van Winkel describes how, at Christmas 2000, “listening to the symphony, I heard, I kept fancying, a piano. What a pity – such beautiful music but not for the piano! I have nothing against the score as such … Yet … yet isn’t something missing? Listening to it with other ears, I imagined what it would be like with a concert-grand – and I thought, goodness, this could really work.”. 

Enter at that point van Winkel’s old piano teacher, “leonine and bearded” - as the booklet graphically but gratuitously informs us - Soviet émigré Alexander Warenberg, who, forced to abandon public performing by an arm injury, now works mainly as a composer and arranger for films and television. Apart from their prior acquaintance, one can see why van Winkel – recalling, quite possibly, the superbly effective use of Rachmaninoff’s second concerto in the classic David Lean movie Brief Encounter – might well have turned to such a man to rearrange the lushly romantic second symphony as a concertante work.

As he tells us in the booklet notes, in taking up his friend van Winkel’s idea Warenberg eschewed the virtuoso - one is tempted to say “leonine” - approach to Rachmaninoff that spotlights the piano part at the expense of the orchestra. “There’s neither the first or second priority”, he argues, “just first and first. A dialogue between the … equal partners. Give and take.”. 

With that musically egalitarian approach in mind, Warenberg went ahead with his revisions, helped, he tells us, by conceiving the new piece - for no particular reason that I can understand - as a three act/movement “kind of opera” based on the story of Ruslan and Ludmila. Thus, he excised more than four-fifths of the symphony’s scherzo and, by amalgamating the remainder with material from the adagio, created a new middle movement. About a third of the symphony’s finale was also jettisoned so as to create a tighter and more effectively emotional climax to the concerto’s finale. 

As well as modifying what he estimates as about 40% of Rachmaninoff’s original orchestration, Warenberg also changed many of the score’s harmonies (“I felt it necessary to improve the sound and balance”) and, indeed, occasionally added – though both briefly and generally sympathetically – some entirely original material. 

Interestingly enough, the booklet notes imply that soloist Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy sees the whole project rather differently. He chooses to distance the new concerto further from the original Rachmaninoff, believing that it will prove most convincing to those listeners without any prior knowledge at all of the symphony. His conception is of “a new piano concerto, with so much of the universe of Rachmaninoff’s genius in it, plus a lot of effective, brilliant new Warenberg ‘inventions’… A ‘Warenberg concerto’ that’s neither Rachmaninoff concerto nor Rachmaninoff symphony” [my emphases]. 

Even though I’m personally inclined to think that he is somewhat misguided on that particular point, Schmitt-Leonardy gives a spirited and entirely convincing performance that is very much of the “equal partners” school. He is clearly entirely at home with the material and all its much-loved characteristics – displaying glittering finger-work, ruminative introspection, high drama and sweeping romanticism as required. 

The Ostrava-based Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra – more usually associated with contemporary music – also plays with verve and élan, particularly relishing those moments where some striking new element of orchestration, such as the addition of chimes towards the end of the last movement, takes their fancy. Conductor Theodore Kuchar – well known for his recordings with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine on the Naxos and Marco Polo labels – throws himself into the whole enterprise with equal enthusiasm and considerable expertise. 

Given that this is the only recording of the work to date, comparisons are impossible – and if, as I suspect, the “fifth piano concerto” becomes a mere curiosity, that is likely to remain the case. Nonetheless, the very personal involvement of the (re)creators of the score makes it difficult to see how this performance could be any more authentic.

For recordings of any “new” composition, booklet notes are particularly important and those here – with specific and most interesting contributions from Pieter van Winkel, Alexander Warenberg and Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy, as well as more general material – are first class.

My only quibble is, in fact, the CD’s overall running time of less than 43 minutes, though it is, admittedly, somewhat difficult to imagine what might have been appropriately included to fill out the disc to a more acceptable duration.

By the way, just in case you’re wondering … I hate oysters – but I loved this disc!

Rob Maynard


 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.