Gramophone: The Listening Room: Episode 22

March 23, 2018

James Jolly’s weekly playlist of new releases and archive favourites, including a ‘new’ recording from Alfred Brendel and magnificent Schumann from the Elias Quartet

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Two major Romantic works this week – Brahms’s Handel Variations (one of my O-Level set works – oh, how I know every twist and turn of this great piece!) in a newly issued recording from Alfred Brendel (and his only recording of the work) and Schumann’s Third String Quartet played with passion and chamber-music making at its best by the Elias Quartet. From the archive, Herbert von Karajan’s ravishing Berlin performance from the early 1960s of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (with Karlheinz Zöller the incomparable flautist). And speaking of Debussy, today sees the release of a digital single of Clair de lune played by Alexandre Tharaud – it’s so well known yet when played like this, so beautiful!

A couple of modern pieces have recently caught my ear – John Corigliano’s haunting Soliloquy for clarinet and string quartet played by Mathias Kjöller and friends, and an orchestral work, Stonework, by Sebastian Fagerlund, a Finnish composer in his forties whose music draws on a host of disparate influences to powerful effect (his opera Autumn Sonata, and based on the Ingmar Bergman film, made quite an impression last year when given in Helsinki). Stonework explores the man-made stone structures that are found all over the globe and which serve so many different purposes, whether to mark burial sites or to guide people or ships.

Though it’s not a new recording, Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs, given by Anja Harteros with the BRSO and Mariss Jansons, has recently been reissued with the Alpine Symphony as its companion – which seemed like a good excuse for giving it a second airing. Similarly, a recording of music by Mozart from Matt Haimovitz and friends was only ever available in the States and now, thanks to the streaming world’s global reach, is there for all. I’ve chosen a Prelude and Fugue by Bach arranged by Mozart for string trio – an intriguing and wonderfully inventive treatment.

Taster tracks this week – Danzi from Les Vents Français (and what a line-up of great wind players they are), Florent Schmitt from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Debussy from the young Canadian violinist Blake Pouliot with Hsin-I Huang at the piano, Handel from Ruby Hughes (and do check out the podcast I made with Ruby and her conductor, Laurence Cummings) and Steve Reich from Colin Currie. (And for Apple Music users, glorious playing from the pianist Pavel Kolesnikov in music by Louis Couperin.)

Listen on:
SpotifyApple MusicQobuz

The tracks:

Danzi Sinfonia Concertante in E flat – Rondo
Les Vents Français; Munich CO / Daniel Giglberger (Warner Classics)

Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
Karlheinz Zöller; Berlin PO / Herbert von Karajan (DG)

Corigliano Soliloquy
Matthias Kjöller; Callino Quartet (Orchid Classics)

Schumann String Quartet No 3
Elias Quartet (Alpha)

Debussy Suite Bergamasque – Clair de Lune
Alexandre Tharaud (Erato)

Fagerlund Stonework
Finnish RSO / Hannu Lintu (BIS)

Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel
Alfred Brendel (Decca)

Bach/Mozart Prelude and Fugue in D minor, K404a
Jonathan Crow; Douglas McNabney; Matt Haimovitz (Pentatone)

L Couperin Chaconne in F
Pavel Kolesnikov (Hyperion) ONLY ON APPLE MUSIC

R Strauss Four Last Songs
Anja Harteros; Bavarian RSO / Mariss Jansons (BR-Klassik)

Debussy Beau Soir
Blake Pouliot; Hsin-I Huang (Analekta)

Schmitt Antoine et Cléopâtre, Suite No 2 – 3. Le tombeau de Cléopatre
BBC SO / Sakari Oramo (Chandos)

Handel Susanna – Crystal streams in murmurs flowing
Ruby Hughes; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Laurence Cummings (Chandos)

Reich Drumming – IV
Colin Currie Group; Synergy Vocals (Colin Currie Records)

BY: James Jolly

READ AT: Gramophone: The Listening Room

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