Classical Editor: Rob Barnett
June 1999 part 2
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WILLIAM MATHIAS Piano Sonatas no 1 & 2; JOHN PICKARD A Starlit Dome; Piano Sonata No 1. Raymond Clarke (piano) Athene ATH CD15 DDD [66' 01"].
William Mathias' early works are somewhat more rewarding than some of his later ones when he developed his 'recessional music' where his music no longer developed or worked towards expected climaxes.
He was an excellent pianist having studied with Peter Katin and his understanding of the piano is assured. The Piano Sonata No 1, Op 23 is individual, strong and expertly laid out for the piano. It has a brilliance that is not that uncomfortable dazzling white light that blinds because it is always at the top of the piano, but a rugged brilliance. It teems with energy. It may not have the swaggering gait of the Piano Concerto No 3 but it is impressive. The slow movement is worth getting to know. It has a beauty and simplicity that defies its depth. The final toccata is full of vitality and athletic leaps.
The Sonata No 2, Op 46 dates from 1969 and is one of many piano sonatas that have employed the terrific Liszt Sonata as their model. Humphrey Searle did this first in 1951 in accordance with the precise instruction of the body commissioning this sonata for the 140th anniversary of Liszt's birth. The Mathias is in the slow-fast-slow format. The opening is uneasy and listless and then the music suddenly releases a tremendous blast and internal energy. And how well Raymond Clarke performs it and how splendidly the recording engineer captures this high drama. This is good, old-fashioned exciting piano music full of suspense, tension and exhilaration. The final section explores wonderful harmonies and arabesque figures and eventually leads to a quiet ending.
John Pickard was born in Lancashire in 1963 and studied with William Mathias. His orchestral piece The Flight of Icarus was included in the 1996 BBC Promenade Concerts and was very well received. He has written three symphonies, a Trombone Concerto and four string quartets. He is a composer to watch.
A Starlit Dome dates from 1995 and lasts about eleven minutes. It is an extended nocturne which reveals the composer's interest in astronomy. He has called the piece an 'astronomical nocturne'. It is a piece that begins and progresses mysteriously and quietly (and yet the music is never uninteresting). But an underlying agitation becomes apparent and the work heads towards a conclusion of tremendous and satisfying energy. It is a good piece.
Pickard's Piano Sonata of 1987 is a massive work in two parts, slow and fast. It has a brief and powerful start and the exemplary playing and excellent recording enhance this quality music. The composer may say that he wrote it in a comparative hurry and yet every aspect of the work shows evidence of careful and detailed planning. Although the first part of this sonata is slow it is strong and rugged and is itself in two halves each with a long theme with four variations. Any introspection is never a dreamy sentimental wallow although the music sometimes has the feel of a solemn occasion such as a cortege. But it is powerful music often reminding me of Liszt's Funerailles. Slow music does not have to be boringly soft and tedious; it can be powerful and strong like this. The composer speaks of the work's ferocity of expression and in the sleeve-note makes a political statement, to which he is, of course, entitled but I hope it does not serve to threaten or hinder his career. He is a composer with a very positive musical ability.
The second half of part one hints at Chopin's revolutionary study. Again the music is very strong and absolutely fascinating. Even something simple like the progression of chords has a great interest in their harmonic content particularly in the final pages.
Part two has a relentless onward drive with toccatas and ostinati. And, if I may display a hobby-horse again, this is a real fast movement. The tempo remains a fierce allegro and lasts about ten minutes. It is angry music, perhaps young man's music ... exciting and percussive and very stirring.
The piece is a revelation. The recording is spell-binding; the performances are staggering. Clarke is in complete control ... absolutely astonishing.
And the CD booklet contains a picture of Raymond Clarke with his cat.
It completed a wonderful hour of music.
See also review by Hubert Culot
DOMINIC MULDOWNEY Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) London Voices/Terry Edwards, Endymion Ensemble/Dominic Muldowney Original Soundtrack - much never used. Airstrip One AOD 1984 [54:31]
This is an intriguing album. It brings us another score in the annals of those written and never used. The birth and incredible expansion of the CD catalogue has brought us recordings of discarded scores by Schurmann (The Gambler), Walton (Battle of Britain) and many others. Clearly a deal of pain hides behind the liner notes from producer Michael Radford. The end result was that much of Muldowney's score was not used and in its place there were songs by Eurhythmics.
Muldowney is a leading name in the classical music field and may be unfamiliar to followers of film music. He is a British composer born in Southampton in 1952. He was music director for the National theatre and there composed eighty scores. His film music credits include Betrayal (1982) and Ploughman's Lunch (1983). For TV there are scores for six seasons of the Sharpe series (excellent music), Emma (1997) and King Lear (1998). His concert music includes concertos for violin and saxophone.
The present score was written in 1984. The overblown patriotism is extremely well portrayed by Muldowney. The aria Oceania 'Tis For Thee and Hiking Song (all words are reproduced in the booklet) is a hymn to the state's glory and victory. Like much else including some grandiloquent marches it is done with conviction but not so much that you lose the message that this music represents an oppressive regime in bloated celebration. I thought a little of Salammbo's aria (Bernard Herrmann - Citizen Kane) when hearing the Oceania song. Haunting desolation stalks many of the pages of this score although more human and 'man-sized' music is evident from the sections where Winston Smith is in the 'underworld' inhabited by the proles. In summary then the style is melodic and approachable with a political overlay and well if you warm to the occasionally Stalinistic bombast don't reproach yourself too much. Ultimately the score suggest tired but strangely satisfying resignation; not at all out of keeping with Winston's state of mind at the end of the book. His world view has changed.
There are excellent notes (English only) spanning 12 pages. Plenty of stills, posters, pre-production drawings and all presented on tastefully done matte paper. Full technical information is given and it is good to see there the name of John Harle (solo saxophone).
MAX REGER (1873-1916) Piano Concerto in F minor (1910) Gerhard Oppitz (piano) Bamberg SO/Horst Stein recorded Bamberg 1988 Koch Schwann - Musica Mundi 311058 H1 [36:46]
Reger's rather dull reputation precedes and undermines him! All organ works (I am in general allergic to the instrument) and fugues? Academic and lifeless?
Well there certainly seem to be acres of organ works (enough to fill ten or more volumes in MD&G's series - someone else care to tackle that assignment) but the rest of his very extensive heritage is worth assessment and on the evidence of my ears there are some uniquely valuable and enjoyable works amongst the orchestral (and I suspect chamber as well) works. I say this on the evidence of the often cheery orchestral variations and the Böcklin Pictures.
The piano concerto is not new to disc. I first heard it in the 1970s on a CBS LP where the soloist was Peter Serkin and Ormandy may well have been the conductor. My memories of it were very hazy. At that time I was first exploring classical music and tended to move rapidly away from anything that did not have something to capture the imagination. Now I was returning to the work after a gap of about 25 years.
The concerto rises from a drabbly misty bed provided by strings. There are no instantly commanding heroics. Instead we are treated to hyper-romantic doom and gloom à la Manfred. However the atmosphere is pregnant with potential. That potential is exploited as the piano enters in tumult with bravura stormy playing which hardly relents at all throughout the movement. In fact so dominant is the strenuous atmosphere of dashing conflict and heroism that even the second movement (largo con gran espressione) opens in piano-driven turmoil. This does evaporate and after the storm the sound raindrops falling from the forest ceiling after the thunderstorm provides a pellucid accompaniment (track 2 10.54) to the general air of dreaminess. The finale (allegretto con spirito) IS spirited and there is a touch of Elgarian passion at start of the movement (viz 1:50) and some delightful work for the woodwind.
Not perhaps my most favourite piano concerto but certainly a fine sturdy work of concentrated late romanticism. This is clearly a concerto that will yield rewards with repeated listenings even though first impressions suggest a concerto with little in the way of easy glamour.
Trilingual (German/English/French) notes by Ekkehart Kroher are long on detail; short on hot air.
The performance seems adept and committed both as to soloist and orchestra. The technical dimension is well handled sounding like a very decent FM signal: natural and strong without being spotlit. Short playing time mitigated by rarish repertoire.
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Piano Concerto No 1 in F sharp minor, 'Fantasie-Tableaux'; Op.5* Sequeira Costa and Artur Pizarro* (pianos) Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Christopher Seaman IMP Classics 30367 02842
I have always had a sneaking regard for Rachmaninov's 1st Piano Concerto and I sway in my affections between this and the third Concerto. Although the Concerto was drastically revised in 1917 shortly before Rachmaninov left Russia for ever, it is astonishingly assured and mature for a student work. It brims with wonderful melodies; who, for instance, could resist the heart-on-sleeve emotion of the lovely central Andante. This is a sterling performance delivered by veteran Sequeira Costa whose career has now spanned four decades, yet his reading has the ardour and poetry of youth. Christopher Seaman delivers a powerful yet sensitive accompaniment.
Costa is joined by Artur Pizarro in a splendid performance of Rachmaninov's 'Etudes Tableaux', dedicated to the memory of Tchaikovsky who had just died, when the work was completed in 1893. The music is again very tuneful, colourful and evocative. After a Barcarolle, the second movement, 'The Night', is inspired by Byron's poetry and a nightingale is heard. In the third movement, 'Tears', heavy bells toll mournfully and the finale, 'Easter Festival', is based on words by Alexei Khomyokov and chronicles the celebrations beloved of the Russian people.
In the control room there is Brian Culverhouse as producer and balance engineer ensuring tip-top sound. It is nice to see him credited on a CD again.
ROSSINI/RESPIGHI La Boutique Fantasque RESPIGHI Impressioni Brasiliane Orchestre Symphonique De Montreal conducted by Charles Dutoit DECCA 455 938-2
After his Roman Tone Poem cycle, Respighi's most popular work is undoubtedly his ballet after the music of Rossini. It is a delightful and sparkling collection of melodies enhanced by Respighi's colourful orchestrations for a tale about toys coming to life in a toy shop after closing time. Visitors to the shop (American and Russian) had separately bought the male and female Can-Can dolls but the toys are determined that they will not be parted from each other and collectively drive the buyers from the shop when they call to collect the dolls the next morning. During the ballet, each of the dolls perform their dances: Mazurka, Cossak Dance, CanCan, Tarantella, Galop and a Valse lente etc. This new release is quite simply the best since the wonderful 1981Andrew Davis recording with the Toronto Symphony.
Respighi was drawn to South America by the establishment of both Brazilian and Argentine branches of his publisher, Ricordi. In 1927 the composer visited Brazil for concerts in São Paulo Respighi adored the country and was especially impressed by the raw tropical light and shade and most of all by his visit to the snake farm - the Instituto Butantan near São Paulo where snakes were "milked" for their venom. Returning home, he wrote his Impressioni Brasiliani. The first movement is a sensuous, langorous perfumed evocation of a Notte tropicale. You sense the heavy, scented atmosphere of a Brazilian night with a small band playing in the mid-distance and romance in the air. The central movement is a startlingly vivid portrait of the snakes slithering around at the Butanton snake farm. An allusion to the Dies irae reminds us of their deadly bite.
The final movement Canzona e Danza is all colour and movement. Dutoit delivers a brilliant reading that compares with the best of the competition - Jesús López-Cobos with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Telarc (coupled with Respighi's Church Windows).
OTHMAR SCHOECK (1886-1957) Elegie Op. 36 (1923) Song Cycle for Bass-Baritone and chamber orchestra Arthur Loosli (bass-baritone) Berner Kammerensemble/Theo Hug recorded 1967, DRS Studio, Bern JECKLIN DISCO JD 510-2 [56.52]
During the 1920s and 1930s this large-structure song cycle was one of Schoeck's most frequently performed works. So we are told in Chris Walton's typically lucid notes. The cycle was premiered by Felix Loeffel with an ensemble conducted by Schoeck on 19 March 1923 in Bern. Like many another romantic contemporary of Schoeck he wrote in his own style and resisted (perhaps felt no temptation towards) the atonalism of these years. He was a true late-romantic.
The cycle sets Lenau and Eichendorff and in doing so immediately occupies the heartland of the German- lied. There is no orchestral prelude. Schoeck cuts in immediately with Wehmut and the first thing you notice is the hiss associated with a recording now 32 years old. The emotional vista is dark but despite the (soon-effaced) hiss what impresses is the immediacy and feeling with which Loosli invests the words. Technically we should note the clarity of Loosli's enunciation and not forget the subtly coloured chamber textures on which the voice floats.
For Liebesfruhling Loosli adopts a resolute black tone which contrasts with the inwardness of Stille Sicherheit with its Warlockian curlew calls, haunt whisperings, wavelets lapping at the shore and splashing in the shallows.
Frage nicht is funereal and Warnung und Wunsch loud and stormy. Zweifelnder is lachrymose and Waldlied a vigorous Mahlerian gusty gale of life like the drunkard in spring. Waldgang is mournful as are so many of these Schoeck songs. An Den Wind seems to inhabit the wood dove-echoing wood; the best song so far. Kommen und Scheiden's opening sombre hymn for the strings gives way to Loosli's honeyed tones. All of which made me think of Tibbett and I began wondering if he ever sang in any Schoeck operas. Similarly sombre and intense is Herstentschluss (19).
Vesper and Verlorenes Gluck have more of the same sepulchral liquid: dunkel ist das leben indeed! Herbstklage is a serenade with a nice lullaby/folk tune feel. Herbstgefuhl I is darkly liquid and of wanderingly uncertain tonality. Slowly paced, its mood is very much of a piece with the rest of the cycle.
Nachklang chuckles and whispers quietly while the Bernard Herrmann haunted atmosphere of Das Mondlicht takes us back to the central mood of elegy similarly followed in Vergangenheit. Waldied is another nightmare ride à la Fuselli.
I will not comment on all the songs but note that common to most of them is a gentle ebb and flow, a wandering by the edge of a desolate lake and a sense of resignation: all flesh is grass, cowbells chime and Hassan's caravan passes into a lachrymose eternity.
The insert booklet contains all the texts in German only.
The quality of the recording cannot hope to compete with the 1998 CPO disc (see review). However the artistry in evidence from Loosli is deeply moving and marginally has the edge in interpretative terms over the CPO team.
See also previous reviews of Othmar Schoeck recordings
OTHMAR SCHOECK (1886-1957) Nachhall (1954-55) * Five Eichendorff Songs ** Three Hesse Songs ** * Arthur Loosli (bass bar) Radio Bern Chamber Ensemble/Theo Loosli ** Arthur Loosli (bass bar) Karl Grenacher (piano) rec * 1973; ** 1968 JECKLIN JD 535-2 [56.52]
Schoeck is a Swiss composer of late romantic and often elegiac (some might say mournful) music. The human voice was the centre of his inspiration. The music is determinedly melodic shaped by the human voice and romantic song.
On this disc there are nine songs for piano and voice (18 mins) and a major song cycle for voice and chamber ensemble (34 mins).
Nachhall (for voice and chamber ensemble) the song cycle, is his Op. 70; his last work. It is heavy with that woodland nostalgia peculiar to the golden age German poets. Exile and hushed reflection meet an emotionally replete resignation. The spell is very strong. Speaking of magic, that quality is prominent in the quiet and quick Mein Herz . The orchestral piano plays an assertive role in the Straussian high jollity of Veranderte Welt. In this last cycle a carpet of orchestral detail which rarely takes the foreground provides a discreet partner for the voice. Speaking of Loosli (whose brother(?) Theo conducts) listen to his admirably steady tone production at the end of Abendheimkehr.
Auf eine Hollandische Landschaft is slow as is Stimme des windes the ghost of the winds rather than their ebullient youth. Falsche Freund is sardonic. The mysterious dream of Niagara ushers us into dreams at the edge of the chasm. This is a song of considerable emotional force well projected by Loosli. Der Kranich starts in fugal splendour and then becomes ghostly. This golden age song cycle is rounded out in Autumnal (almost wintry) elegies.
The six Eichendorff songs are from a recording dating from five years earlier than the Nachhall tape. Again Loosli's super-fine enunciation is a great strength but this is detracted from by the use of what appears to be hiss suppression. This creates a 'push-pull' effect. In the quiet segments or the silences you are aware that the hiss has largely gone but in order not to compromise the original sound the hiss returns when the music reappears. With that point made, Nachklang is delightful for its gently chiming piano. Auf dem Rhein hymns the glories of the Rhein. Auf meines kindes tod is funereally slow, as you might expect. The pace is similar in Abendlandschaft. Im wandern is more vigorously Schubertian. The three brief Hesse songs comprise: Ravenna, Fur ninon and Keine Rast.
The recordings are between 26 and 31 years old. Tape hiss from the original masters is detectable but it is distant and soon lost in the face of the poetry of this music and its performance.
The notes are by the singer. Full German language song texts are printed but no translation.
Jecklin have recorded his complete lieder on twelve CDs. Those discs were completed during the 1990s. The present disc dates from an earlier era and Nachhall, which I believe is not otherwise available in its orchestral dress, is well worth your listening time if you are into German late romanticism. There is a Meridian recording of Nachhall but this is not the orchestral version. Nachhall is almost certainly the place to start before going on to the much longer Elegie.
See also previous reviews of Othmar Schoeck recordings
OTHMAR SCHOECK (1886-1957) Der Postillon Op. 18 for male chorus, tenor and orchestra Fifteen Lieder Ernst Haefliger (tenor), Wettinger Kammerchor und Seminarkor Wettingen, Wettinger Kammerorchester cond Karl Grenacher Haefliger and Karl Grenacher (piano) in the eighteen songs rec 1967 JECKLIN JD 504-2 [43.10]
Der Postillon (Lenau), or more accurately a few moments from Der Postillon, was my initiation into Schoeck's music. During the early 1980s BBC Radio Three's 'Music Magazine' included a ten minute illustrated profile of Schoeck. The presenter/writer was Sibelius expert, Robert Layton. He played the section of Der Postillon where Haefliger is at the top of his range and the orchestral ensemble's French horn ecstatically echoes the voice. This is a delight not to be missed. The moment parallels the sublime sweet harmony episode in Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music. The whole thing plays for five seconds short of ten minutes.
Mit einem gemalten Band (Goethe) is simple, Mozartian and utterly affecting. Marienlied (Novalis) is impressive and enticingly concentrated though not driving away memories of Joseph Marx's even more memorable setting. Peregrina II (Morike) is dark, straining at the gloomier lower boundaries of Haefliger's noble range.
The choral settings are An einem heitern Morgen (Uhland); Sehnsucht (Eichendorff); Ein Voglein singt im Walde (Ritter); Es ist bestimmt in Gottes Rath (Feuchtersleben) and Agnes (Morike). Agnes is notable for really quiet singing. The style is rather Brahmsian. 's Seeli (Lienert) is for male chorus and is a dialect setting for huskily honeyed voices and Zimmerspruch (Uhland) is in the character of a round.
Now for the solo songs in which Haefliger is partnered by Karl Grenacher. Im kreuzgang von St. Stefano (Hesse) is a Hardyesque song recalling Gerald Finzi's settings of that poet. Walvogelein (Leuthold) has some striking bird call effects predictably (but well) echoed by the piano - really unleashing the song in ecstasy in last of the four verses. Haefliger's legendary purity, enunciation and line is well used here. I wish Ian Partridge had recorded these pieces as he has a similarly pure line in enunciation and tone production.
The analogue sound is good and solid. The hiss suppression is not as subtly applied as it might have been but rarely distracts.
Good notes in English and German. Song texts in German only. This disc was released on CD in 1988 the year before Haefliger's seventieth birthday. He was 48 when he made these tapes.
This disc (which these days is rather short on playing time) is de rigueur for Haefliger-fanciers and the growing band of Schoeck hunters. Recommended especially for Der Postillon - sheer serene splendour! We can also hope that the world's choirs will listen to this disc and discover some new material for choral competition and concert.
ALFRED SCHNITTKE (1934-1998) Sonata for violin and chamber orchestra (1967) [17.31], Concerto Grosso for violin and string orchestra (1993) [27.48], KURT WEILL (1900-1950) Concerto for violin and wind orchestra (1924) [13.35], TORU TAKEMITSU (1930-1996) Nostalghia for violin and string orchestra (1987) [14.08] Daniel Hope (violin) English SO/William Boughton rec May 1998 except Takemitsu: March 1995 NIMBUS NI5582 [73.02]
Here served up for your delectation are four modern and moderately challenging works for violin with orchestra. Two call themselves 'concerto', in the case of the Schnittke adding the word 'grosso'. Both concertos so-called are in one case for the solo instrument with strings and the other with wind orchestra. Only the Weill is called a Concerto pure and simple and even that is unusual in its specification of a wind orchestra. All in all this is a multi-faceted and surprising collection.
Both Takemitsu and Schnittke died recently and, while we are on the subject of mortality it is worth reminding ourselves that Weill died surprisingly early at the age of 50.
The Schnittke Sonata announces itself amid tentative Bergian shards of melody and glints and sparks from the harpsichord. This resolves into a barbaric shostakovichian dance. The second movement is a stamping dance with harpsichord again a prominent part of the texture. Over pizzicato accompaniment the solo violin delivers a stream of melody. The third movement has the softest clashing harmonies, Bachian and gentle. Over a plangent accompaniment the violin sings sweetly. There is a beautifully poised emotional dance for the violin's high harmonics and a syncopated finale. This work is nowhere near as tough as the first movement might lead you to expect. The Weill is a rare work dedicated to Szigeti but never played by him. Stravinsky's concerto for piano and wind orchestra is roughly contemporaneous. The Weill is in four movements with the unusual textures to be expected of this instrumentation. The work is often chaste in character and athletically busy for the solo violin. There is a fine dance for the solo violin in the first movement. Sorrowfully subdued fanfares appear in the second movement. The solo violin in the last movement is lushly succulent, no doubt aided by an extremely good recording.
Returning to Schnittke, we have the Concerto Grosso No. 6. This is less challenging than the first movement of the Sonata. Initially the sound is virtually Sibelian; at least so far as the string writing is concerned. A vigorously crashing and flickering violin dominates the first movement. The bell-evocative solo piano chords of the second movement (Adagio) often suggest a piano concerto and that solo instrument's exciting 'pile-driver' part verging on hysteria makes an immediate impression: Bach on speed! The solo violin slips, slides and slithers its way through the movement. The Allegro vivace finale opens with a sound like a thousand gargantuan bees or a massive underground factory. The movement ends somewhat inconsequentially. The best approximation I can give for the Takemitsu is Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending. It is as if the lark is ascending high in a subterranean world. The music is serene but dark and it would not have surprised me to find that this had originally been intended as the middle movement of a violin concerto. This is a quite a long rhapsodic work - not at all avant-garde.
This appears to be the recording debut of the violinist, Daniel Hope. He is to be congratulated for the enterprising choice of music. No Mendelssohn/Bruch launch for him! He seems totally in sympathy with the music: dedicated and dazzling whether in virtuosity or in poetic sensitivity.
Recommended if you warm to the descriptions of these works.
SCHUBERT Drei Klavierstüke D946 Valses Nobles D969 Moments Musicaux D780 Peter Katin (piano) Athene ATH CD7 [73' 33"].
SCHUBERT Four Impromptus D899 Four Impromptus D935 Peter Katin (piano) ATHENE ATHCD5 [64' 22"]
In this era of "authentic" performance the description fortepiano is used both widely and loosely. It is a well-intentioned term indicating that it is an early post-harpsichord but pre-modern instrument. Perhaps somewhere between Haydn and Chopin would be a good rule of thumb. The instrument used here however is a six-octave Square Piano of 1832 manufactured by Clementi who apart from composing and giving concerts had investments in the instrument-making company bearing his name. Since the works were composed not too many years before the manufacture of the instrument and square pianos were used extensively during this period, it seems an excellent choice and it certainly has a fullness of tone superior to instruments of the 1790s. It is interesting to note that Katin (who provides his own notes) explains that he sometimes had to re-think the phrasing that he had applied to Schubert's music when previously using a modem piano.
The three extensive movements entitled Drei Klavierstucke make, in effect, a three-movement sonata more than half an hour in length (if one is not too fussy about key-sequence) and it is interesting to hear how exciting the stronger passages become in Katin's hands. This old piano stays remarkably in tune (the occasional clattering noises from the action are only to be expected). Katin's delightful subtlety in the Valses Nobles would perhaps have been enhanced given a more spacious sound but his mature reading of the Moments Musicaux is full of insight although, because of the clear, forward sound, Katin's tiny rhythmic subtleties in the well-known No.3 seem strangely obvious.
The Impromptus imply a grander scale and are therefore more demanding for the period piano. In the event, the firm, clear but very light bass of the instrument does not pose a problem in itself because so many of these works are of a flowing nature. The very first work (D899 in C minor) does have slow, spaced chords at the start and here the bare acoustic does seem to hinder the progress. This apart, Katin has a penetrating sense of shape and form. Gentle rubato is applied but it never interrupts the musical current (the elegant liquid runs in the A flat minor D 899 remind me of the famous old Schnabel version).
The recorded sound is very close and not very resonant. Maybe this technique was chosen in order to clarify the tonal characteristics of an historic instrument but it reveals an occasional mid-range "ring" in the powerful passages - especially in Valses Nobles Nos. 5 & 9 which are both happen to be in the key of A minor. Another result of this immediacy of sound is that the dynamics seem a little limited - most noticeably in the grander Impromptus. At a soiree in a 19th Century drawing room, Schubert's music may well have sounded like this. This is authentic music-making and stylish pianism but the bloom of a concert hall acoustic would have been welcome.
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Der Rosenkavalier - Highlights (In English) London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry CHANDOS CHAN 3022 [79:40]
Yvonne Kenny (soprano)..............The Fieldmarschallin, Princess of Werdenberg
Diana Montague (mezzo-soprano)............. Octavian
Rosemary Joshua (soprano)........................ Sophie
John Tomlinson (bass).................................. Baron Ochs of Lerchenau
The Peter Kay Children's Choir/Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Parry.
It's all a matter of taste whether you prefer your opera in English or the original language and whether you prefer "bleeding chunks" highlights or the unfolding of the complete production. There is no denying that Chandos present here a generous helping of highlights with only 20 seconds short of what we are given to understand is the maximum capacity of one CD (i.e. 80 minutes of music). Clearly in a production that normally takes some 3 CDs to accomodate there has to be some grievous ommissions and for me they include the marvellous Act I tenor aria (quite irrelevant to the plot but who cares?) that was sung so beguilingly by Nicolai Gedda in the Schwarzkopf/Karajan recording and the sparkling orchestral prelude to Act III.
This recording comprises:
Act I (opening)
Act I (conclusion)
Act II (opening)
Act II (conclusion)
Act III (conclusion).
Chandos's ravishing sound is ideal for the hot house opening scene of the opera as we hear the birds' dawn chorus after Octavian and the Marschallin have enjoyed a night of passion, Strauss's opulent scoring tells us all. In this opening scene where Octavian protests his love, the advantage of the immediate comprehension of English helps one to appreciate Strauss's subtleties and ironies. When for instance, Octavian murmers "...for I alone know your secrets", the woodwinds tell us that he is deluding himself. This opening excerpt closes after Marschallin has confirmed softly and tenderly (almost, and appositely, motherly) to Octavian that "You are my boy, you are my heart..." and after that meltingly beautiful brief orchestral description of their bliss. Then we go straight to the closing of the first act when Baron Ochs has been seen off. Marschallin rues his boorishness but then turns to her own predicament and begins to reflect on the pasing of time. During a bittersweet exchange with Octavian when she predict that he will soon forsake her for a prettier, younger love, she tells us in one of Strauss's most touching and evocative arias that " ...time is a mysterious thing" and that ..."Sometimes I arise in the dead of night, go to my clocks and stop them every one..." Kenny rings one's heartstrings here.
The Act II Presentation of the Rose is given in its entirety. The procession and the duet between Octavian and Sophie as they begin to fall in love are magical. The Act II conclusion excerpt is concerned with the setting of the trap for Ochs. John Tomlinson is in excellent form as the boorish old womaniser ardently singing: "with me not a night is too long" to one of Strauss's most beautiful and most memorable waltzes.
The final excerpt begins as Ochs gets his come-uppance and is chased from the inn by all his creditors and "children". But the big attraction is that famous, wonderful, soaring trio as the Marschallin lets Octavian go and blesses the young lovers while Octavian and Sophie at first awkward, guilty and confused, surrender to their love. Who could be unmoved by such an exquisite celebration of the feminine voice? Following on we have the equally beautiful unearthly duet between Sophie and Octavian as they swear eternal love to each other. The excerpt ends as the opera ends as the little Black Boy returns to the now empty stage to retrieve the Marschallin's handkerchief thus giving the audience time to compose themselves before the lights go up - just one instance of Hofmannsthal's and Strauss's sublime sense of theatre.
This is a sparkling production wth all the principals in very good voice. I would suggest that it is a very good introduction for newcomers to the opera and a valuable aid in further appreciation of the opera. Listen to this first then set aside an evening to hear the whole opera - either the 1954 Erich Kleiber Decca recording with Maria Reining, Sena Jurinac, Hilde Geuden and Ludwig Weber or the 1957 Karajan set with Schwarzkopf, Otto Edeelmann, Christa Ludwig and Teresa Stich-Randall, and Ljuba Welitsch as Marianne.
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 5, Valiant-for-truth, The Pilgrim Pavement, Hymn-tune Prelude on Song 13 by Orlando Gibbons, The Twenty-third Psalm, Prelude and Fugue in C minor. . Ian Watson: Organ, Richard Hickox Singers, London Symphony Orchestra Richard Hickox Chandos CHAN9666  DDD.
Following hot on the heels of his truly laudable complete recording of 'The Pilgrims Progress', Richard Hickox's recording of the Fifth Symphony is a breath of fresh air in a highly competitive field and if it heralds a complete cycle, then it is good news indeed. For a start this enterprising conductor chooses to pair this seminal work with a number of lesser-known pieces, most of them which have lain unrecorded and unperformed for decades.
I am extremely enthusiastic if the rest of his projected cycle would do the same. The short hymn 'Valiant-for-truth' is set to a text by John Bunyan with the haunting words extremely well portrayed by the excellent chorus. And this is a truly inspired and tautly controlled version of the Fifth Symphony. The Preludio glows with anticipation and development is remarkably controlled, aided by a superb recording that focuses on every subtle orchestral nuance.
Hickox's Scherzo is perhaps a shade too swift for comfort although the goblins and gremlins of Bunyan's imagination are led a merry dance indeed. I was reminded of Barbirolli's lovable classic 1944 premiere recording when listening to this deeply felt Romanza, only Hickox has the stupendous soundworld as a clear advantage. This movement shows the LSO strings at their brilliant best and I would hesitate to ask if any recording would better this. All is resolved in sublime beauty and tranquility with a Passacaglia of grandeur and pomposity, yet also of resignation and tranquility in the face of the Celestial City. Truly a version to treasure.
'The Pilgrim Pavement' is obviously remarkably underpowered after such great music, being written on commission for an American Cathedral in 1934. The soft pastoral sound of the strings make Helen Glatz's arrangement of the Gibbons Prelude beautifully vivid whilst the celebratory tones of the unrecorded 23rd Psalm recall the more famous 'Old One Hundredth'. The last word is left to Malcolm Hicks' brilliant virtuoso display in the Prelude and Fugue in C minor, another rarity. This 'organ concerto' of sorts makes a truly appropriate end to a disc that should remain as a standard recommendation for these works.
See also review by Ian Lace
Anna Russell Encore? Anna Russell - Comedienne, Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano; Tenor; Baritone; Pianist; Guitarist, Autriculatrix Extraordinary. Jimmy Carroll and his Miserable Five, José Rodriguez Lopez (piano) SONY SFK 60316 [76:46]
Madame Anna Russell first revealed these pearls of musical wisdom to New York audiences in 1958.
On this occasion, she begins her oration by covering Poetry in the Cellar with Jazz. "They read all kinds of way out poetry with the musicians clinkering behind," states Anna. "I imagine it is done by the angry young men or possibly the beat generation I thought that meant beat-up but I am told that it doesn't mean that at all; it means beatific. Of course, I suppose if you get sufficiently beat up you could become beatific from the point of view of being slap-happy However the whole thing is very existential" So, wearing her existential glasses Ms Russell proceeds to read two such poems: 'My Ear', about a well adjusted young lady who nevertheless has a left ear that behaves strangely - it changes into a gardenia but when it turns into a cauliflower she has to consult an ear and throat specialist who runs screamimg from his surgery and joins the used car business. The other poem asks the question who killed 'The Rubens Woman' and Where is Whistler's Mother?
Madam Russell then turns her attention to Backwards with the Folk Song. She reminds us that the definition of the folk song is "Uncouth vocal utterances of the people about the cares and joys of ordinary life extemporised by the singer accompanying himself on a simple instrument." Anna then goes on to observe: "I don't see this going on, do you?. Researchers dredge the Kentucky Mountains, and pry into the archives of the museums and libraries and then they accompany themselves on dulcimers and lutes - anything but simple instruments. They have to because (a) they can't find the simple instruments - or (b) if they do nobody can play them - or (c) if you do find out how to play them they're so antique they fall apart on you . Then people start societies for the protection of this sort of thing which the general public refuse to go to on account of it all being too arty. So the folk song has now become the complete opposite of what it started out to be namely - the uncouth vocal utterances of the people !" Madam Russell then assails our ears with five typical folk songs: 'A Lily Maid Sat Making Moan' ("I am the Lady Fripple - Frop and my husband did me dirt ); 'Old Mother Slipper Slopper' whose milk keeps turning sour; 'Ricky Ticky' with advice on how to carve up the family belongings through divorce; 'I'm sitting in the bar alone', described as one of the "self-pitying- ---school" songs ("I was once a movie star now I sit alone in the bar"); and finally 'Jolly Old Sigmund Freud' in which the singer tells why she killed the cat and blackened her husband's eye.
We then have two lectures on instruments. We are told everything about the French Horn including how to blow down it - "make a raspberry or Bronx Cheer at one end." We are also told it is not a very nice instrument for ladies because it could skid on their lipstick "but if there is one lying around the house it makes a very smart hat!" The Bagpipe comes under scrutiny next. "Once I asked audiences to guess what it was but I had to give that up because some of the guesses, well "
The grand climax of the programme is a detailed description of Verdi's Hamleto (or Prosciuttino). Madam Russell begins by admitting, " Now Verdi has made operas out of many of the Shakespeare plays. He has not as a matter of fact made one out of Hamlet but I am not, for a moment going to let that stand in my way." She tells us that Hamlet is a fantastically complicated story but there would have been no story at all had Hamlet avenged his father's death at once instead of hinkle pinkling around.
"Which just goes to show if you don't behave as you ought to you are liable to be terribly interesting!" Anna then spends nearly half an hour analysing this production singing all the parts on the way. We learn for instance that Polonias like Wotan (remember him from The Ring reviewed last month?) is also a crashing bore and that Ophelia is a little weak in the head - " so naturally she is a coloratura soprano. We also learn about the Queen's big Arras.
BEETHOVEN. Symphony No 9 in D minor, Op 125, Choral. Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Agnes Baltsa, René Kollo, José van Dam, German Opera Chorus, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan. Deutsche Grammophon VIDEO 072 133-3. 69 minutes
If you have never seen a video of Karajan you have missed one of life's most dubious spectacles. When it is realised that he is the artistic supervisor of this production and that he is seldom out of view, one can easily realise that his intentions are of arrogance and self-aggrandisement. He puts himself forward as a glamorous Hollywood megastar and it is a nauseating experience. The camera work focuses on him to such an extent that Beethoven is lost sight of. And Karajan performs a sort of conductor's solo ballet and one wonders if we are going to be able to count the hairs up his left nostril. There is no doubt that he is the father of the modern jet set of conductors who are not so much concerned with being faithful to the composer and his music but with personal megalomania.
Perhaps one could forgive Karajan for being so obsessed with himself if he were faithful to Beethoven's score. But he is not. He knows better than Beethoven; Karajan is the master, not Beethoven. As I am a confirmed Beethovian, I do not warm to Karajan's adultery. He uses two timpanists for a passage in the first movement which is not what Beethoven wrote and employs eight horns. This is Beethoven, not Wagner.
And the theatricals continue. The orchestra, which is all male, are made to play with an unnatural exaggerated energy as if there were wild Indians pursuing the seventh cavalry and desperate for scalps. Indeed, it is often very exciting but it is merely ostentation and insincere.
There are visual effects that are frankly quite stupid. In the finale we have, just for a few minutes, some lights showering Karajan; the artistic supervisor is highlighted with glitter. The compulsion which is evident is that he is to outdo Beethoven.
All this is so puerile and distracting. The performance is precise and mechanical and the camera operators' fascination with Karajan, who obviously supervised it all, is laughable and no wonder their names are not given in any credits.
Equally ridiculous is that Karajan does not look at the orchestra for the first three movements apart from wanting a handkerchief to mop his brow. Indeed, he conducts the floor and a vacuum cleaner in his hand is more suitable than a baton. His movements are often eccentric to the point of being both inane and painfully embarrassing.
But he is not the only conductor to behave in such ridiculous ways. However, it is curious that these 'mad' conductors are often the famous names. Perhaps Sir Adrian Boult and Fritz Reiner would be worshipped as Karajan was, if they had been musically cranky in performance. Fortunately they were not.
The choral finale is well done and for this Karajan does look at the performers but I suspect he is wanting them to look at him. The soloists are a mixed bunch. José van Dam is as solid as a rock; René Kollo struggles at one point because of the eccentric conducting; Anna Tomowa-Sintow may be just a little over the top while Agnes Baltsa is the exact opposite of Karajan in that she is natural, composed and unaffected.
But the affectations of Karajan are something else. Does it make a travesty of the genius of Beethoven? Perhaps not, for his incomparable ability remains unsullied whatever man may do to him.
The Music of Aaron Copland by Neil Butterworth (with a Preface by André Previn) Published by Toccata Press £12:95 264 pp ISBN 0 907689 07 8
Neil Butterworth has been Head of Music at Napier College in Edinburgh since 1968. His Dictionary of American Composers was published in New York in 1984. His love of Aaron Copland's music goes back many years. In fact he graduated from Nottingham University with degrees in English and Music and an MA for a thesis on Copland.
This new book forms a valuable addition to our knowledge about the composer. Using over 160 musical examples, Butterworth analyses every one of the composer's works from his early 'difficult' compositions, following his classes with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, like the Dance and Organ Symphonies and the Piano Concerto, though to his awakening and response to the musical demands of the American public with a series of popular works like El Salon Mexico Rodeo, Billy the Kid, Appalachian Spring, and the Clarinet Concerto; and finally to his later forays into serialism with Connotations and Inscape.
André Previn, in his sharply-observed preface, reminds us that Copland has become synonymous with American Music and "...endless film scores attempting to depict certain 'outdoor' aspects of America - to be specific the West and New England - steal blithely from those pages of Copland's most famous scores which can be imitated but never actually duplicated." Previn also reminds us that Copland's style - "the voicings of the chords and the intervallic leaps in the melodic lines are unmistakeable"; and that as a teacher (of both music and music appreciation) he had an enormous influence ..."no one has written on musical matters with more lucidity and strength."
This is a book aimed mainly at the professional musician, but the readable style will appeal to the general music lover with limited technical knowledge too for the author's analyses often contain much of interest besides the actual musical examples. I was, however rather disconcerted about the chapter on the Third Symphony where Butterworth digs deep into musical theory and gets lost in the notes at the expense of a more general and human view of the work. It is left to the last paragraph when Darius Milhaud is quoted as having said: "His recent symphony has more grandeur and a deeper lyricism, but the melancholy simplicity of its themes are a direct expression of his own delicate sadness and sensitive heart." Readers might find a little more insight by reading the interview with Copland on his Third Symphony published in the notes for the 1979 CBS recording of the work with the Philharmonia conducted by the composer.
I was disappointed, too, to see there was no discography a serious omission and I felt the film music, apart from The Red Pony, was too briefly covered (when will academics catch up with the rest of us and begin to appreciate film music more?). Butterworth considers that The Heiress does not merit a concert suite - I suggest that he listens to Slatkin's 1994 recording of Arnold Freed's eight-minute suite of music from the film.
On the credit side there is much to admire: the in-depth coverage of the opera The Tender Land, the absorbing section on Copland the writer and the insight in the analysis of Copland's Style and Language. Butterworth identifies Copland's economy of thematic material, his habitual use of the melodic interval of a third, major and minor; themes built on arpeggios (that inevitably include thirds); the more indirect influence of hymn tunes and folk tunes (often the his melodies have a folk song flavour but they are nevertheless original; in fact he has probably influenced American folk music more than it has influenced him!); and the influence of jazz.
Butterworth also reminds us that despite occasional bitonality and the use of serial techniques his harmonic language is basically diatonic.
KLEMPERER ON MUSIC: Shavings from a Musician's Workbench. Edited by: Martin Anderson with a Foreward by Pierre Boulez. Published by Toccata Press £12:95 264 pp ISBN 0 907689 13 2
Always an enigmatic and highly controversial personality, Otto Klemperer was unquestionably one of the greatest musical interpreters of all time. He was a profound interpreter of all the classical repertoire but was also an avowed modernist in his youthful days with an astonishing array of music performed and premiered in those heady Kroll years. This fine volume of essays and writings shows Klemperer at his finest and most fans who will have read Peter Heyworth's magnificent biography will recall most incidents with almost luscious pleasure. Most of the narrative is strikingly matter-of-fact and lean, but that was Klemperer. A man of few words, he was never wont to say anything more than was entirely necessary. Reading through most of the chapters, one is struck by the absolute modesty and humility of this great man, especially in the matter-of-fact way in which he describes his heroic stance at the Kroll. The personal recollections are strikingly matter-of-fact and unceremonious with facts stated as if they were the most ordinary things in the world. One is also given a window look into German political aegis of those days with an ever increasing current of anti-Semitism ruining musical circles for ever. Klemperer talks fondly amongst others of Hindemith, Krenek and Schoenberg although his frankness in his lack of understanding of the latter's music is understandable. The chapters which are of obvious interest are those dedicated to Bach, Beethoven and of course, Mahler! Klemperer's reverence for Bach's music was always one of his idolatries and he speaks with a certain loftiness about the composer which is absolutely disarming. One is also enthralled by the deep analysis of 'Fidelio' and Beethoven's symphonies, the Fifth is discussed with a certain terse detail that makes it highly interesting. Mahler is 'the key that was to open every door'. Every time I read the story of Klemperer watching Mahler walk down the same path that he used to trod as a boy, shivers travel down my spine. Klemperer's views on Mahler were absolutely unflinching, in his opinion he was the greatest symphonist and conductor of his time, indeed perhaps of all time. Articles on Mozart, Mendelssohn and other composers are similarly revealing of Klemperer's wit and varying opinions. Another interesting and perhaps underrated characteristic is Klempere's ability to make a case for an ailing orchestra, as he did with zeal in his younger years in America and in his later years in London. Incidentally the only reference to Walter Legge is the short but famous exchange regarding the Mozartian piano rehearsals that brought about the rift that almost killed the Philharmonia. An icy wit runs through most of the writing, none the more obvious than in the answer to a rather thoughtless question on Beethoven! Various speeches and introductory talks are also pervaded with an honest-to-goodness directness but a sense of whimsical sardonity is also apparent.An indispensable feature of the collection is its inclusion of a list of all Klemperer's, to my mind the first volume on the conductor/composer to do so. Summing up, this collection is outstanding in its wide and traversing appeal, and most of all a monument to one of the greatest conductors of the century.
VILLA-LOBOS. His letters translated and edited by Lisa M Peppercorn. Published by Toccata Press ISBN 0 907689 28 0 £19.50
Villa-Lobos is best known as the composer of nine works known as Bachianas Brasileiras (1930-1944) of which the second is the famous and deservedly popular Little Train of the Caipira and the fifth, scored for soprano and five cellos, has been performed and recorded by many leading singers. He also wrote fourteen works entitled Choros (1920-1928) which clearly were superseded by the Bachianas Brasileiras. He composed twelve symphonies (1916-1957), five piano concertos (1945-1954), two concertos for cello and one each for guitar, harp and harmonica. There are seventeen string quartets (1915-1957) and very much more.
In many ways he moved in parallel with Darius Milhaud who wrote twelve symphonies, five piano concertos and eighteen string quartets ... although it could be said to be seventeen as numbers fourteen and fifteen are often played together as an octet. Milhaud was the French attaché in Rio de Janeiro during 1917-1919 when Villa-Lobos lived there.
Both composers had an addiction to composing and, as a consequence, each produced a plethora of works and, as a result, many of them are not of the top quality.
Villa-Lobos' letters are usually brief and somewhat awkward and not just when he is writing in his native Portuguese. Even letters to friends are not very personal. The letters tell of his anxiety to be recognised as a composer and his constant financial troubles. He was so busy with composing and with concerts that his friends had to make appointments to see him. His travelling meant long periods away from his wife which may have been the main reason for their eventual separation. The letters tell of his need to make money and of a failed venture in selling Gaveau pianos. He was a worrier, a heavy smoker and many health problems ensued. He was always asking questions and was an insecure man.
What comes through in these letters is that a composer's lot is not a glamorous one but rather it is hard work and frustration as well as a catalogue of disappointments and broken promises. It also shows that some music-lovers, so-called, who project sincerity and dependability are not genuine and only want to 'be about' in the event of sudden fame and some personal gain.
What emerges is that Villa-Lobos was a warm and generous personality which he would not have been if he had had the privileges and characteristics of say an Elgar or a Britten. It is an extraordinary thing that humble circumstances often make composers far more likeable and this quality is shown in their music.
There are no staggeringly famous events in Villa-Lobos' life and his letters reflect this. The index, for example, does not list famous names in plenty. And there are things not said that the reader has to discern for himself such as Villa-Lobos being the first notable voice in the serious music of Brazil.
He is probably not a great composer but I would rather have his music for my desert island discs than that of the other composers I have mentioned here. His Choros No 10 is a marvellous depiction of the Amazon and what splendid choral writing it is. The nationalism in his music is never pompous but controlled and all the better for it.
Somehow I believe Villa-Lobos and his music has profound depths and is worthy of close study.
Would you care to say something? The thirty year story of a successful music society by N K Scott CBE, Overleigh Press, Overleigh House, East Cliff, Preston PR1 3JE England. pub. 1998 ISBN 0 95341560 0 £25 plus £5.00 postage
This is the story of the BDP Music Society.
"BDP?" you say.
"Building Design Partnership Music Society," I reply.
"Very silly title," you add.
It began with partners in this organisation in Preston and the author Keith Scott, one of the originators of this society, sets out the details which I will not repeat here. I found the introduction a little long and self-indulgent and throughout the text the personal pronoun is used far too much. Nonetheless, details of the society's seasons from 1968-9 to 1995-6 are given with photographs of all the artistes. It is this picture gallery that is the real value of the book, not all the blurb.
The first picture is of the pianist Colin Horsley who was the society's first guest on 15 January 1969.
Throughout the text there are some awful snide remarks which I found unnecessary and tactless. How Leon Goossens needed to pace himself and how he is supposed to have praised Heinz Hollinger but hated every note he played. The author's admiration for Sheila Armstrong, a wonderful singer, is couched in terms of her appearance and physical beauty rather than her splendid voice. He makes sweeping statements which are questionable. Is the Academy of St Martins-in-the-Fields the world's best known chamber orchestra? Well, they could be, but when I listen to them play Rossini's Overture: William Tell, really a miniature symphony, the definition chamber orchestra does not seem to apply.
There is an unflattering picture of Sir Charles Groves on page 21 but a welcome picture of Cyril and Phyllis Sellick. The author refers to the cellist Rohan de Saram trying to make a career in Great Britain. At the time and for several years, he had been in demand and a regular broadcast on the BBC. He was an extraordinarily fine cellist but overshadowed by Jacqueline du Pré who was prettier and often wore miniskirts, of course.
The remarks about Peter Katin on page 30 are utter tosh! "He tended to steer clear of the great classic composers, and it was years before he felt comfortable with Beethoven. Indeed, the concert going public have never been convinced ..."
The author attacks Peter Cropper of the Lindsay Quartet as to his exaggerated mannerisms. He is rude about Gerald English who he calls 'an old fish' and who, apparently, had broken his engagement to Sheila Armstrong and was pursuing another woman in Australia. And the pianist Jan Cap was 'glum'. He then likens that fine baritone Brian Rayner Cook to Bryn Terfel. They are as different as chalk and cheese. For one thing, Brian's intonation is excellent; Terfel's is not. The author speaks of an Alfred Brendel flaw; he talks of Anthony Hopkins as complex and so on.
This is tabloid newspaper stuff. He then speaks of Leon Goossens being short of wind; the Czech pianist, Jana Frenklova, comes in for a verbal bashing. A gentlemanly author would not write like this. There is a lot of praise for Imogen Cooper but he makes the unnecessary point that John and Susan Georgiadis are now divorced. Is that of any relevance to music-making and therefore a music society? He is ungentlemanly again when he refers to Susan's limited pianistic talents. Equally sickening is the audience vote as to who was the better singer between Jill Gomez and others.
And another picture of Imogen Cooper ... this time with the splendid French pianist Anne Queffelec who I have been privileged to see play concertos by Beethoven and Ravel. Their programme on 20 May 1980 included Schubert, Mozart K49, Schumann's Op 66 and Bizet's joyous Jeux d'enfants. Anne returned for a solo recital on 26 November 1985 with a group of Scarlatti sonatas, Beethoven's Sonata in D minor, Op 31 no 2, Ravel's fiercely difficult Miroirs and two pieces by Liszt. She returned in April 1997.
Poor Jorge Bolet comes under the author's hammer being accused of being a possible misogynist. Like Menuhin, Bolet had really bad days in performance but on form he was excellent. Vlado Perlemuter was the same ... a charming man but when he went wrong he did it in a big way.
There is another picture of Imogen Cooper on page 76! The pianist of the Stuggart Piano Trio is also highlighted ... well, Mr Scott, she is pretty!
And here we go again. 1983-84 saw the visit of the pianist Peter Denshoe whose "attempt at Mozart was frankly awful." Well, I don't know if Mr Scott is a pianist or even a musician. If he is a professional then he has a right to say this although I notice Peter did not play any Mozart at the BDP's evening.
I agree with the author's praise of the Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida who gave a recital of Mozart and Chopin on 28 January 1985 but, reader, have you heard her play Bartók?
There is another picture of Imogen Cooper on page 99!
However, it is the pictures that are interesting reminding us of artistes we used to know. The pictures do show the ageing process particularly John Lill and Christian Blackshaw. There is the obligatory picture of the 'mad' Nigel Kennedy on page 111 and of the finest clarinetist for decades, Janet Hilton, on page 119 and a very welcome reminder on page 124 of the pianist Valerie Tryon.
There is another picture of Imogen Cooper on page 141 - five in all! Oh, and the one on the front cover!
As a picture book this is great. It is nicely produced but I would care to say something ... and I have!
There is an "alternative" review of this book by Len Mullenger here
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