Rhapsody: TOP 10 CLASSICAL ALBUMS, MARCH 2015

March 1, 2015

Though works by core-repertoire composers like Beethoven and Brahms figure in this month’s survey of the best new classical releases, the majority of our attached mix is dominated by modern and contemporary music. Spiky, energetic 20th-century pieces by Iannis Xenakis and Erwin Schulhoff are given slick new readings by violinist Mélanie Clapiès and cellist Yan Levionnois on their new album, Pierrots Lunaires. And on the album Spirit of the American Range, conductor Carlos Kalmar continues his impressive run of recordings with the Oregon Symphony. Together, they’re particularly good at bringing across the playful, boisterous modernism of Walter Piston’s “The Incredible Flutist Suite” (which includes a surreal, marching-band interruption in its eighth minute, punctuated by a barking dog).

On the bleeding-edge side of the contemporary scene, we have two (count ‘em, two!) new albums of loud n’ brawny orchestral pieces by Bang on a Can group cofounder Michael Gordon. (The LA Philharmonic takes on the towering “Dystopia,” while the Aurora Orchestra handles the companion work “Gotham.”) Put this together with new recordings that include chamber pieces by Paul Hindemith, piano items by Bela Bartok, and premiere recordings of works by Mexican composer Hilda Paredes, and, well, you’ve got a full month’s worth of vibrant classical music to discover! Click on the attached mix to get started, and refer back to this post, as well as our “composer tracklist” below, in order to keep track of who wrote each piece you’re hearing.

Track 1: Iannis Xenakis, “Dhipli Zyia”
Tracks 2-6: Bela Bartok, Szabadban (Out of Doors)
Track 7: Walter Piston, The Incredible Flutist Suite
Track 8: Ludwig van Beethoven, 12 Variations on “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute

Tracks 9-10: Paul Hindemith, Oboe Sonata
Track 11: Michael Gordon, Dystopia
Track 12: Hilda Paredes, Papalote
Tracks 13-16: Erwin Schulhoff, Duo for Violin and Cello
Track 17: Beethoven, 12 Variations on “See the conquering hero comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus
Tracks 18-22: David del Tredici, Facts of Life
Tracks 23-26: Aaron Copland, Symphony No. 3
Track 27: Beethoven, 7 Variations on “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute

Tracks 28-30: Paredes, Canciones lunaticas
Tracks 31-34: Ernst Krenek, 4 Pieces, Op. 193
Tracks 35-37: Gordon, Gotham
Tracks 38-41: Johannes Brahms, Symphony No. 6

  1. Michael Gordon, Michael Gordon: Dystopia (Live)
  2. Oregon Symphony, Spirit of the American Range (Live)
  3. Andreas Bach, Bartók: Complete Works for Piano Solo, Vol. 1
  4. Mélanie Clapiès, Pierrots Lunaires: Violin & Cello Duos
  5. James Austin Smith, Distance
  6. Arditti String Quartet, Paredes: Cuerdas del destino
  7. Aurora Orchestra, Gordon: Gotham (Live)
  8. Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bruckner: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7
  9. Matt Haimovitz, Beethoven: Sonatas & Variations for Cello & Fortepiano
  10. David Leisner, Facts of Life

By: Seth Colter Walls

Read at: Rhapsody

Strings Magazine: What Would Beethoven Think?

March 1, 2015
Matt Haimovitz

Matt Haimovitz’s new Beethoven set launches affiliation with Dutch label

Even for pioneering cellist Matt Haimovitz, recording Beethoven’s complete music for cello and piano on period instruments was an audacious step. There were musicological depths to be plumbed—based on manuscripts, first editions, and scholarly research—and practical performance issues to be addressed in order to ensure that the results of his new two-CD package on the newly minted Pentatone/Oxingale label called Beethoven, Period be simultaneously authoritative and entertaining. Throughout the project, Haimovitz had in his mind “at every second whether Beethoven would like this or not.”

Recording the Beethoven cycle had been a dream since his days at Harvard when he wrote his thesis on Beethoven’s last cello sonatas and his advisor was famed Beethoven scholar Lewis Lockwood, Haimovitz says. Once he discovered that pianist Christopher O’Riley, his frequent collaborator at experiencing music “between the genres as the iPod generations do,” loved and was conversant with old instruments himself, the two gave a few performances. “It was such a revelation,” Haimovitz says, “that when we heard Skywalker Sound was free, we decided to record the complete set.”

Playing his 1710 Matteo Goffriller cello, strung with Toro Strings’ ox gut and set up by Louis Gaucher in Montréal, and partnered by O’Riley on an 1823 Broadwood, Haimovitz is using the Beethoven cycle recordings to launch his new Pentatone initiative: Beginning this year, new albums and critically acclaimed reissues from Haimovitz and his musical collaborators will be available internationally in SACD 5.1 surround sound and as high-definition downloads.

Haimovitz’s next recording will be a second go at Bach’s Six Cello Suites using a cello piccolo for the Sixth Suite. “They will be different from my recordings of 15 years ago—which I no longer recognize,” he says. The cycle will be accompanied by a newly commissioned overture for each suite by composers Philip and Vijay Iyer, among others. Each overture will be 5-15 minutes long and will reflect music from a different part of the world using Indian modes and rhythms, Greek chant, Middle Eastern and other influences. Improvisation will play a role in Iyer’s piece, Haimovitz says, and there will be “improv in the compositional process of the other new pieces.”

At press time, Haimovitz and O’Riley planned to launch Beethoven, Period in concerts in Los Angeles and San Francisco (where the duo is in residence at the Conservatory), and at clubs and listening parties in Seattle, Eugene, and Portland, where they will “play live and also experience the music in audiophile-quality surround sound.”

By Laurence Vittes posted

Read at: Strings Magazine

The Whole Note: Beethoven, Period. Review

February 27, 2015

Beethoven, Period
Matt Haimovitz; Christopher O’Riley
Pentatone PTC 5186 475

Beethoven’s interest in the cello appears to have begun early on. His first set of two cello sonatas Op.5 were written in 1796 in his 26th year, his last, Op.102, dates from 1815, by which time the composer was experiencing the trauma of increasing deafness. In between came another sonata and three sets of variations, all of them presented here in this two-disc Pentatone/Oxingale recording featuring cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley, the first in a series titledBeethoven, Period.

Most cellists choose to perform on early instruments, and Haimovitz is no exception – his cello of choice is a Goffriller, crafted in Venice in 1710. But rather than overpower the cello with a modern concert grand as is sometimes the case with cello/piano pairings, O’Riley proves to be the perfect musical partner in his use of an 1823 Broadwood pianoforte, both instruments tuned slightly below the standard A440. The result is a wonderfully authentic sound, very close to what Beethoven would have heard in the early 19th century

The first CD contains the earliest two sonatas and the 12 Variations on See the Conquering Hero Comes of Handel. From the opening hesitant measures of theSonata in F Major, we sense the two artists are in full command of the repertoire. Their playing is stylish and precise while the interaction of the two period instruments allows for a compelling degree of transparency.

In disc two, we move into a new period in Beethoven’s style – the Sonatas Op.69and Op.102 show evidence of a more mature style, somewhat darker and more dramatic, while the seven variations on Bei Männern… from Mozart’s The Magic Flute aptly demonstrate Beethoven’s facility at extemporizing on a popular theme. The “magic moment” for me on this disc came in the second movementAdagio con moto sentimento d’affetto of the Sonata Op.102, No.2. Here Haimovitz’s lyrical tone and the sensitive interpretation by O’Riley evoke a wonderful sense of mystery before the start of the jubilant Allegretto fugato,bringing both the sonata and the set to a most satisfying conclusion.

Bravo to both artists in this exemplary pairing; the “great mogul” himself would have been pleased.

By: Richard Haskell

Read at: The Whole Note

WFMT NEW RELEASE OF THE WEEK: Beethoven, Period.

Beethoven: Cello Sonata No 3 in A major, Op 69 (26:11)

Matt Haimovitz, cello; Christopher O’Riley, fortepiano

This release journeys back to the birth of the cello/piano genre with Beethoven’s complete sonatas and variations, recorded on period instruments. Matt Haimovitz plays his own Goffriller cello, crafted in Venice in 1710 and set up with gut strings also from Italy and an early 19th-century rosewood tailpiece. Haimovitz uses a Dominique Peccatte bow of the same era. Joining him is a frequent collaborator, Christopher O’Riley, who plays on an original Broadwood fortepiano made in 1823.

Click stars to rate:
Rating: 4.4/5 (14 votes cast)
Read at: WFMT

Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review: Matt Haimovitz & Christopher O’Riley, Beethoven, Period. Music for Cello and Piano on Period Instruments

 February 24, 2015

Beethoven wrote his music for pianoforte and cello in an age when the piano sounded very different than it does today. That has not stopped us from appreciating his cello-piano sonatas and variations as played on modern instruments. In the right hands they never fail to enchant. Yet an original instrument experience of the music, it turns out, is rather different, though no less enchanting.Matt Haimovitz & Christopher O’Riley, cello and piano, respectively, have given us a most pleasant surprise in their complete recording of the complete Beethoven oeuvre for cello and piano on such period instruments, in a 2-CD set entitled Beethoven, Period.(Pentatone Oxingale Series 5186 475).

They utilize vintage instruments, tune to A=430 in keeping with various tunings of the era, and use the untempered tunings, all of which gives the music a decidedly different cast. The music has a resonant sweetness with the tuning, sounds startlingly different in key modulations and, because of the lower general volume levels of the piano in those days, gives the cello part a prominence and an overall transparency of parts you don’t get in modern instrument versions.

The result is a very balanced interplay between the instruments and a very different feel in both forte and pianissimo passages. Listen to the resplendent Cello Sonata in A Major, op. 69, for example, and you will hear the music differently than what we have become accustomed to.

Haimovitz & O’Riley seem very at home in with the old resonances. Indeed their performances are detailed and filled with brio in the very best ways. They succeed capitally. Yet it all comes across in a wonderfully refreshing way.

This will be delightfully fascinating for all who know the music. It gives us a different sort of lyric appreciation of the music, a new life born of a return to the period sound.

Wholly recommended.

The New York Times: Her Art, Her Passion, Her Torment: Joyce DiDonato Celebrates Camille Claudel at Zankel Hall

February 6, 2015

Joyce DiDonato at Zankel Hall with the Brentano String Quartet: from left, Serena Canin, Mark Steinberg, Nina Lee and Misha Amory. Credit: Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

The life of the French sculptor Camille Claudel is a tangle of art, passion, madness and betrayal. A student and lover of Rodin’s, Claudel was a critically acclaimed artist when she began to show signs of mental distress, which led her family to commit her to an institution, where she spent the remaining 30 years of her life.

On Thursday at Zankel Hall, the incandescent mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato presented the New York premiere of Jake Heggie’s “Camille Claudel: Into the Fire.” Set for voice and string quartet, the work compresses a tragic life of operatic dimensions into a song cycle of great beauty and emotional resonance.

Ms. DiDonato is one of this season’s artists in the Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall, tasked with assembling a group of concerts that reflect her own interests. At first glance, these seem eclectic: Thursday’s program, which featured the fiercely eloquent Brentano String Quartet, also included instrumental music by Charpentier and Debussy, as well as the world premiere of “Mother Songs,” a set of lullabies composed by amateurs, resulting from an outreach program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.

But at a closer glance, there was a narrative cohesion to the concert that revealed Ms. DiDonato’s intelligence as a storyteller. Debussy’s seething String Quartet provided a backdrop for Claudel’s personal drama, a Parisian arts scene humming with innovation yet anchored in the kind of classicism of which Charpentier’s “Concert Pour Quatre Parties de Violes” is an elegant example. The Brentano Quartet performed both with stylistic finesse; in the Debussy, the juxtaposition of blurry textures and bright explosions of sound vividly evoked Impressionist painting.

The titles of Mr. Heggie’s songs, with texts by Gene Scheer, are those of some of Claudel’s sculptures, allowing her work to remain in the foreground, even as the songs explore her personal turmoil. Ms. DiDonato gave a riveting performance that ranged from the unkempt eroticism of “Shakuntala” to the hollow despair with which she sang the final line, “Thank you for remembering me.”

The touching simplicity of “Mother Songs,” written in a gospel-tinged American vernacular, with spun-sugar arrangements by the composer Luna Pearl Woolf, may seem far removed from Claudel’s wild genius. But the authors, women who had teamed up with teaching artists from the Weill Music Institute during their pregnancies, drafted these lullabies facing their own struggles. Of the four women represented in Ms. DiDonato’s performance, one had been homeless during her pregnancy, two were teenagers, and one was incarcerated on Rikers Island.

Ms. DiDonato’s tender performance of their songs alongside her tribute to Claudel thus became a gesture of defiant compassion.

By: CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM

Read at: The New York Times 

SF Examiner: Duo plays Beethoven as Beethoven would have wished

February 05, 2015
Cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley play Beethoven on period instruments at the S.F. Conservatory or Music. - COURTESY  PHOTO

Rarely does an encounter with the past forever change a musician’s relationship with his instrument. But when Grammy-nominated cellist Matt Haimovitz joined with pianist-NPR host Christopher O’Riley to perform and record Beethoven’s Sonatas and Variations for Piano and Cello on period instruments, he hardly expected that their move to authenticity would open an entirely new range of musical possibilities.When Matt, as he prefers to be called, outfitted his precious 1710 Goffriller cello with the same authentic ox-gut strings that were used in Beethoven’s day, and played them with a bow from Beethoven’s era, he discovered the changes were like night and day.

“I love the gut so much!” he exclaimed in a conference call with his duo partner. “Gut is so much more human to me, and it allows me so much more flexibility and range of attack and resonance. My fear with gut strings all along was that I was going to lose my voice. Quite the opposite has happened. More and more, I’m finding that the sound of gut strings is my ideal.”

That’s quite a switch for someone who wrote his graduate thesis on Beethoven at Harvard 25 years ago, and who has struggled ever since with the fact that, in Beethoven, a cello outfitted with modern metal strings does not balance well with a modern piano.

When the duo arrives at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on Tuesday night, Chris will play the same 1823 Broadwood fortepiano he used for the recording. On loan from the Beethoven Center at San Jose State, it’s very similar to the Broadwood in Beethoven’s possession. Tuning both fortepiano and cello a microtone lower than “modern pitch” will further replicate the sound that Beethoven heard in his head.

“There’s a whole world of color and articulation available when you’re not having to worry 80 percent of the time whether you’ll be heard or not,” says Chris of the period instruments’ superior blend. “If I had known 30 years ago what I know now, I wouldn’t have had to deal with the fact that the modern Steinway’s bass, as much as I love it, is at complete odds with a lot of Beethoven’s music. On the fortepiano, the bass is still penetrating, but the upper, lyric registers are much more singing.”

Since Chris no longer has to hold back, and Matt no longer needs to struggle to be heard over a 9-foot concert grand, Beethoven’s music should flow in a manner seldom heard with modern instruments.

“When we play the slow movement of the last sonata,” says Matt, “I don’t think you have to know anything about music to just close your eyes and take in such a hauntingly beautiful sound world.”

IF YOU GO

Beethoven, Period

with Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley

Where: S.F. Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10

Tickets: Free

Contact: (415) 503-6275, http://www.sfcm.edu

Read at: SF Examiner

San Francisco Classical Voice: From the Top Loves the S.F. Conservatory

February 4, 2015
Christopher O'Riley

Christopher O’Riley, photo by Edy Perez

 

It’s been a while, seven years, since the popular NPR musical talent show From the Tophas been back to San Francisco. The show is planning to tape a show at the S.F. Conservatory on Feb. 14.

The taping caps a week in which From the Top host Christopher O’Riley will be in residence at the Conservatory giving concerts with cellist Matt Haimovitz.

Unusually, this edition of the radio show will focus on performers from the Conservatory’s pre-collegiate division, including soloists 16-year-old cellist Elena Ariza from Cupertino; 15-year-old pianist Elliot Wuu from Fremont; and 14-year-old violinist Kevin Zhu from Cupertino. Conservatory alums Haimovitz and soprano Lisa Delan will premiere parts of the “music storybook” Angel Heart (based on stories by Cornelia Funke and with music by Luna Pearl Woolf) on the same program. Normally, the auditions for From the Top include a geographical region, so this is a little feather in the cap for the Conservatory.

The radio episode airs nationally on March 9. For tickets to the taping, call 415.503.6275 or visit this Conservatory website.

BY MICHAEL ZWIEBACH

Read at: San Francisco Classical Voice

The Seattle Times: Next at the Tractor Tavern: fortepiano and cello

CONCERT PREVIEW

‘BEETHOVEN, Period’

8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2, Tractor Tavern, 5213 Ballard Ave N.W., Seattle; $20 (206- 789-3599 or tractortavern.com).

When two artists title their concert “BEETHOVEN, Period,” it’s reasonable to assume that they’re referring to Beethoven as the end-all and be-all of composers. Or perhaps they’re alluding to his pivotal position as the “bridge” composer between the classical and romantic periods.

While Grammy-nominated cellist Matt Haimovitzand pianist and NPR host Christopher O’Rileywould hardly dispute Beethoven’s compositional supremacy, the title actually refers to their exploration of his sonatas and variations for piano and cello on period instruments. In advance of the release of their double-disc high-resolution recording on Pentatone, the duo arrives at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle on Monday, Feb. 2, to perform Beethoven’s music as the composer expected it to be heard.

Haimovitz’s precious Goffriller cello, which dates from 1710, 60 years before Beethoven’s birth, will be outfitted with authentic ox-gut strings, just as in Beethoven’s day. His bow, too, will be from the same era. Sonically, these changes are like night and day.

“I love the gut so much!” Haimovitz exclaimed in a conference call that included his duo partner. “Gut is so much more human to me, and it allows me so much more flexibility and range of attack and resonance. My fear with gut strings all along was that I was going to lose my voice. Quite the opposite has happened. More and more, I’m finding that the sound of gut strings is my ideal.”

That’s quite a switch for someone who wrote his graduate thesis on Beethoven at Harvard 25 years ago, and who has struggled ever since with the fact that, in Beethoven, a cello outfitted with modern metal strings does not balance well with a modern piano.

O’Riley, in turn, will play an authentic fortepiano, whose sound Beethoven also had in mind. Tuning a microtone lower than “modern pitch” will further replicate the sound of Beethoven’s era.

“There’s a whole world of color and articulation available when you’re not having to worry 80 percent of the time whether you’ll be heard or not,” he says of the period instruments’ superior blend. “If I had known 30 years ago what I know now, I wouldn’t have had to deal with the fact that the modern Steinway’s bass, as much as I love it, is at complete odds with a lot of Beethoven’s music. On the fortepiano, the bass is still penetrating, but the upper, lyric registers are much more singing.”

All of this talk may seem a little highfalutin’ for an evening in a honky-tonk bar, but Haimovitz has nothing but praise for the Tractor. At the forefront of musicians who brought classical to new audiences in nontraditional venues, he discovered the Tractor some years back when he played the Bach Cello Suites there. He’s been back several times since.

“It’s really one of my favorite alternate venues to play,” he says. “The people are really passionate about music. It’s great energy and a great, fun vibe.”

Since he no longer needs to struggle to be heard over a 9-foot concert grand, and O’Riley no longer has to hold back, their vibes, too, should be quite high. What better place to perform music that took the piano/cello combination to new heights?

“There’s a sense in these groundbreaking pieces that Beethoven is pushing the limits of what the instruments can do separately and together,” says Haimovitz. “When we play the slow movement of the last sonata, I don’t think you have to know anything about music to just close your eyes and take in such a hauntingly beautiful sound world.”

Jason Victor Serinus writes about classical music and high-end audio for publications worldwide. Reach him at jserinus@gmail.com.

By Jason Victor Serinus

Read at: The Seattle Times