Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

REVIEW


Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 


Buy through MusicWeb
for £12 postage paid World-wide.

Musicweb Purchase button

Sound Clips and Downloads

George BENJAMIN (b. 1960)
Shadowlines
Shadowlines * [15:12]
Viola, Viola ** [10:22]
Three Studies for solo piano *** [21:41]
Piano Sonata **** [22:31]
Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano) *; Tabea Zimmermann (viola)**; Antoine Tamestit (viola) **; George Benjamin (piano) ***, ****
rec. 16-18 December 2003, 8 February 1986, 29 March 1980 (sonata), Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, Wales. DDD *
NIMBUS NI5713 [69:46]

Experience Classicsonline


 
Here is a prize of a CD. It contains three works for piano and one for two violas by George Benjamin, who is 50 this year (2010). Benjamin is usually thought of as a symphonist; so it's refreshing to hear his music on a smaller scale. Although Shadowlines and Viola, Viola are also available elsewhere - on a DVD featuring Aimard, Euroarts 2055798; and on Bis 1379/80 celebrating the Viola Space festival in Japan respectively - this CD is really the place to find really good examples of this intriguing corner of Benjamin's work played in exemplary fashion.
 
It's also a CD with a history - in that the recordings it presents fall either side of the crisis which Nimbus experienced, and from which it's now thankfully recovered. It's a testament to the expertise and determination of the company's production team that the recording qualities should not only be as high as they are, but also be as consistent … the Piano Sonata is an analogue recording.
 
In fact, the four pieces play in the reverse order of their composition. Benjamin describes the influences behind Shadowlines (the most recent) as being his exposure to Webern, specifically his Symphony Op. 21. Shadowlines is indeed a spare piece; yet it's rich in sonorities and tonal palette. Dedicated to Pierre-Laurent Aimard, this is its première recording. For distillation and purpose, beauty and sensitivity, this is a rendering which could hardly be bettered.
 
Viola, Viola is the shortest piece on the CD, at a little over ten minutes. It has an interesting premise which is very well realised by Zimmermann and Tamestit: that the viola is of a 'retiring' temperament, and usually plays 'second fiddle' to stringed instruments with larger personalities. Benjamin employs a variety of techniques from counterpoint to what almost amounts to brute force - at the opening of the piece, especially - to convince the listener that they are experiencing an entire string ensemble. Repeated and careful listening to these two soloists wholly in tune not only with the instrument's possibilities, but also with Benjamin's superb understanding of string sound in this context reveals more, though: melodic development, the way that duos really work when sharing and contrasting material, and how vigour that's 'agnostic' of any instrument's characteristics nevertheless can only be experienced through and thanks to that very instrument.
 
Three studies for solo piano were actually composed over three years, between 1982 and 1985. They represent the kind of challenge that is so typical of Benjamin. After the success of such now iconic orchestral pieces as his Ringed by the Flat Horizon, the young composer wanted to impose his own constraints and meet the resulting challenge - musically, not in terms of form. In the Three Studies, as in the even earlier Piano Sonata, which ends the CD and is its longest work at a minute or two more than the originally separate Three Studies, it's Benjamin himself who plays. In both cases, we hear a truly remarkable interpreter in his own right. He would obviously understand the works' challenges, why they exist and how, and to what extent, they are met. But beyond that he can communicate them with no overstatement or indulgence. Indeed, with a fair degree of detachment.
 
The music is spare here too. It's not 'minimal' in the technical sense of the word. But highly economical in the tension which each piece sets up between form and emotion. Yet we need know nothing of the theory or historical context against which the Sonata and Three Studies were conceived to enjoy the focus, the intensity yet also intervening humour which characterise them.
 
This is a highly satisfying CD. It may come as a revelation to those less familiar with Benjamin's small scale instrumental music. For those put off by the 'meteoric' élan which has sometimes tended to obscure the substance of Benjamin, the music on this CD is a useful and very enjoyable corrective. Focused, intense yet highly successful given the self-imposed curbs and checks which Benjamin used, it's music to return to again and again.
 
The recording quality - as has been said - is high. There's almost a sense of a live concert, particularly in the case of the Sonata and Three Studies. The booklet is highly informative, concise and packed with relevant fore- and background on compositions, composer and players. A tribute to the Nimbus label in every respect!
 
Mark Sealey
 
 


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.