C 872 151 AIt makes evident his adjustment to the cultural politics of the Soviet Union – to which this world-famous composer had returned just twelve years before – but is also tailor-made for an exceptional cello-piano duo. Rostropovich and Richter gave its first performance, and Müller-Schott and Piemontesi are their worthy successors here. Dmitri Shostakovich’s Sonata in d minor op. 40 is no less marked by fate. It was on the programme of a concert tour given by the composer and his cello partner Victor Kubatzki in 1936 when Shostakovich was put on the Stalinist index of undesirables, on orders from the very top. This was a tragic irony of fate because this Cello Sonata is highly melodic and anything but modernist in its design, giving lie to the accusation that its composer wrote “chaos instead of music”. Daniel Müller-Schott and Francesco Piemontesi do full justice to all facets of this work – now catchy and playful, now pensive instead. And finally, Benjamin Britten’s Sonata in C op. 65 marked the beginning of a productive creative friendship that was established despite many a problem posed by the Cold War. It was first performed in Aldeburgh in 1961 by the composer and Rostropovich. The five movements of this Sonata are marked by typically Brittenesque twists and turns – at times hesitant, at other times effervescent and skittish, and towards the close ever more lively and unruly in its rhythms. This Sonata offers Daniel Müller-Schott and Francesco Piemontesi ample opportunity to unfold to the full both their technical expertise and their expressive art of interpretation.
ORFEO 1 CD C 737 151 A
Pavol Breslik has for a long time now been one of the most in-demand lyrical tenors on the world’s operatic stages – but nor has he neglected the concert scene or the Liederabend. His youthful yet masculine timbre, possessing clarity of tone and a timbre neither dark and baritonal nor overly bright, seems almost predestined for the world of Franz Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, his song cycle to texts by Wilhelm Müller.
C 737 151 ABreslik is captivating in this new studio recording. He sweeps us along on the miller boy’s journey, falling in love with his master’s daughter, then enduring disappointment, despair and ultimately infidelity and betrayal that lead to his abandonment of life. Pavol Breslik aptly conveys all this. The text is given its full due, while his phrasing is natural and faithful to every nuance and expression, from the fresh attacca opening to the close with its long legato arches of melody in the brook’s lullaby. The brook itself – the miller boy’s constant companion – is just as eloquent in Amir Katz’s piano accompaniment. The clarity of pedalling means there is no hint of opacity, and Katz’s experience as both soloist and chamber musician allows him to convey the rich accents of Schubert’s music in all its twists and turns, its irresistible torrents and, at the close, in its serene stasis when all the ripples have been calmed. And just as the brook accompanies the miller’s boy in all his ups and downs, so too does his interpretation go beyond all the thrilling motorics to encompass a multitude of nuances across the keyboard and the dynamic spectrum, affording a maximum of variety in the strophic songs without this variety ever becoming an end in itself. And all is at the service of the text, with its shifting moods and the trials and tribulations of the miller boy’s emotional life. The exciting musical dialogue between Breslik and Katz (who will both soon be taking the miller boy’s journey to the concert halls) means that this well-loved song cycle by Schubert comes across as lively and true-to-life as any lover of the Lied could wish for.
ORFEO 1 CD C 864 141 A
This live recording is being released 20 years after Konstantin Lifschitz’s final concert at the Gnessin School. He played the Goldberg Variations there as part of his school-leaving exams at the age of 17, and performed it otherwise several times in concert at the time.
C 864 141 AThis was back then still “unusual, even very, very daring”, and Lifschitz remembers how it seemed to him at the time that even the great Mrs Kantor (his teacher) was “almost envious” of him. Lifschitz himself has never missed an opportunity to try out the work on the organ or harpsichord, though he has never ever considered giving a public performance on one of those instruments. He has often performed the work in his piano recitals and has done so on all five continents.
Foto: Sona AndreasyanWhereas there is a lack of a performing tradition for the Art of Fugue – especially on the piano – with the Goldberg Variations one runs far more obvious risks, such as an over-romanticisation of it, or playing it too drily. What is important to Lifschitz is an equilibrium of knowledge and freedom in performance. Whereas the Diabelli Variations have a quite different sense of progression, given their process of “shattering” and “cleansing” the theme, it is very different, says Lifschitz, with the Goldbergs. It is also important to Konstantin Lifschitz that Bach’s original title did not call his work “variations”, but “Veränderungen” (thus “changes” or “alterations”). The idea of a series of variations on a given theme, which in itself is so simple and obvious, is one that it seems Bach took up only with great hesitation – at least when one considers the rest of his extant oeuvre – however natural to him he might have found the compositional means that he employed in the work. But Konstantin Lifschitz feels one could also claim that Bach employs even more artfulness in hiding his skill from the listener, by distracting him with his manifold art of variation on many different levels. Today, one thing is more important to him than was the case when he made his studio recording, and in which he feels the live recording of his Würzburg concert released here comes closest to what he wants. What is indispensable to him is to integrate properly all the repeats of the individual variations.
ORFEO 3 CD C 846 153 D
Even at the big opera houses it’s a real stroke of luck if a production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni doesn’t just have a charismatic Don, but a whole ensemble that’s able to exert its magnetism over the assembled audience (and who thus manage not to follow the Don’s example – after all, his attempts at conquest go awry throughout the opera, with only the memories of earlier conquests remaining).
C 846 153 DThis rare constellation – having an engaging title hero whose gifts are matched by the objects of his passion – in fact came about in 1973 at the Munich Opera Festival. Ruggero Raimondi was in his early 30s at the time and his unmistakeable, agile, irresistible bass-baritone voice veritably conquered the Bavarian State Opera. In the process he established himself as the Don Giovanni of his generation. But while he was the centre of attention, he was by no means the only sensation of the production. With Margaret Price as Donna Anna, Julia Varady as Donna Elvira and Lucia Popp as Zerlina he was faced with a trio of sopranos who in their individual arias and in their numerous, tricky ensemble numbers turned the evening into a musical feast – as we can now hear in this live recording of the opening night. In the midst of these powerful, highly individual personalities, Hermann Winkler’s lyric dramatic tenor and Stafford Dean’s agile lyric buffo bass were well able to hold their ground as Don Ottavio and the servant Leporello respectively. Enrico Fissore offered a vigorous Masetto, while Giovanni’s final descent into hell – which leaves shivers down many a spine – was made doubly gripping by the dark bass of Kurt Moll’s Commendatore and by Wolfgang Sawallisch at the helm of the Bavarian State Orchestra. This was a Don Giovanni of fast-paced tempi, with a momentum brilliantly geared to the dramatic trajectory, carried by the lyrical qualities of its singers, and with a perfect sense of poise and exhilarating intimacy at just the right moments.
ORFEO 1 CD C 887 141 B
In the world of opera there are certain roles for every type of voice that can crown a singer’s stage career. For the basso profondo, these are clearly – and suitably – the majestic roles of King Philip II in Verdi’s Don Carlos and Tsar Boris Godunov in Mussorgsky’s opera of the same name. Those who have sung these two roles on the great stages of the world are a handpicked group, and among their number is the Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto (who also enjoys much success in comic roles).
C 887 141 BFor almost 30 years he has been a regular guest at the Vienna State Opera – as also in the current season, performing in Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina on its opening night and singing the role of Fiesco in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra (one of his other famed roles). The above-mentioned rulers in the operas by these same two composers – Boris Godunov and Philip II (whom Furlanetto will also sing at the New York Met in 2015) – are on the programme of Furlanetto’s new portrait CD in the series “Vienna State Opera Live”. Ferruccio Furlanetto has performed both roles several times at the Vienna State Opera. As a master of vocal characterization and psychological nuance, Furlanetto particularly understands how to give expression to the loneliness of both men – such as here in excerpts from Don Carlos in 1997 and 2001 (conducted by Michael Halász and Vjekoslav šutej) in the duet of the King with the Marquis von Posa (here sung by Carlos Álvarez), in the famous aria “Ella giammai m’amò”, and in the ensuing confrontations with the Grand Inquisitor (Eric Halfvarson) and Elisabeth, his supposedly unfaithful queen (Miriam Gauci). Ferruccio Furlanetto also impresses and moves us as Boris Godunov, both in the Kremlin scene in the second version of Mussorgsky’s opera, here in a production from 2007 under the baton of Daniele Gatti, and also in the death scene of the original version, sung under Tugan Sokhiev in 2012. As in his Verdi interpretations, Ferruccio Furlanetto also demonstrates a keen sensitivity to the shape and phrasing of the music in the Russian idiom. He is a bass who, according to the demands of the drama, can offer the darkest of tone colours and vocal shadings, and yet can rise above the human abysses of his characters to maintain the beauty of the musical line throughout.
ORFEO 1 CD C 873 141 A
Baiba Skride is almost unparalleled in her virtuosic, idiomatic mastery of the standard solo violin repertoire. But that is not all, for her concert calendar and her discography also repeatedly feature works by lesser-known composers. In September 2013 she played Karol Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto at the Proms in London, accompanied by the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Vasily Petrenko.
C 873 141 AShe has also recorded the same composer’s Second Violin Concerto in the studio, along with the duo cycle Myths with Lauma Skride at the piano. Szymanowski’s music fascinates above all on account of its stylistic variety. His oeuvre can be divided into several different phases; the early piano and chamber music clearly betrays the influence of Skryabin and Chopin, with the works of the latter serving as a decisive inspiration to Szymanowski as co-founder of the “Young Poland” music movement. On his journeys through Europe and to Africa, Szymanowski’s music developed further. He was initially inspired by the music of Wagner, Strauss and Schreker, then became increasingly attracted by archaic topics and drew on these in his musical concepts. The abovementioned works in Baiba Skride’s most recent recording allow us to trace this path that Szymanowski took, beginning with the chamber duo Myths, which refer to ancient times in a quasi-Impressionistic fashion, depicting characters such as “Narcissus” and the “Dryads and Pan” in iridescent colours. The First Violin Concerto was given its world première one year later, in 1916, and goes beyond this aesthetic. The poem on which it is based – May Night by Tadeusz Micinski – also contains references to myths, though Szymanowski uses its nocturnal atmosphere after the manner of Gustav Mahler, eschewing any clear programme. Instead, he creates beguiling melodic lines and duets between the solo violin and individual instrumental groups (especially the woodwind). The Second Violin Concerto of 1932, on the other hand, offers Baiba Skride and the orchestra the opportunity to savour the full force of Szymanowski’s late style: in the Finale, clear, rhythmically structured sections with folkloristic echoes are united with the violin’s melodic lines to create an unexpectedly triumphal close that Szymanowski himself never surpassed.
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