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Great debut disc from co-winner of the 2016 Carl Nielsen competition

Prokofiev & Nielsen: Violin Concertos

Liya Petrova (violin), Odense Symphony Orchestra, Kristiina Poska

The talented Bulgarian violinist Liya Petrova was born in 1990 in Sofia. In 2016 she was the co-winner of the Carl Nielsen competition in Denmark. Below you can see her performing Nielsen’s Violin Concerto in the final with the Odense Symphony Orchestra.

Liya’s debut CD on the Orchid Classics label has been released recently. In addition to the Nielsen concerto this CD also includes Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19.

This is a very fine debut recording with confident and totally absorbing accounts of both works. Liya Petrova plays not only with exemplary technique but with a sensitivity to the music way beyond her years. This is clearly just the beginning for this talented soloist and I shall follow her career with interest. Bring on the next CD!

iClassical rating: 

Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, S178 – Work No. 68 in our collection

Franz Liszt (22.10.1811 – 31.07.1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer and a highly virtuosic pianist. He is best known for his piano music, but he also wrote for orchestra, and for other ensembles, virtually always including a piano. His talents at the keyboard meant that many of his piano works are marked by their difficulty. He was important in the development of new forms such as the Tone Poem and the device called metamorphosis in which the ‘story’ of a character or an idea is developed by the subtle alteration of a single representative musical idea.

Franz Liszt

Liszt’s greatest works are those written for solo piano and include the Piano Sonata in B minor, S178 and his Années de pèlerinage. He also wrote two piano concertos that have proved very popular both in concert and on recordings.

Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, S178 was completed in 1853 and published in 1854 with a dedication to Robert Schumann. Despite initial adverse criticism, the piece has subsequently become established as a pinnacle of Liszt’s repertoire and can be frequently heard in concert halls throughout the world. Despite its considerable technical difficulties, there are over 100 recordings of the piece that have appeared on CD.

The sonata unfolds in little more than 30 minutes of unbroken music. While its four distinct movements are rolled into one, the entire work is encompassed within the traditional Classical sonata scheme— exposition, development, and recapitulation.  Thus Liszt has effectively composed a sonata within a sonata, which is part of the work’s uniqueness.

In composing this sonata, Liszt was very economical with his thematic material. The very first page contains the three motivic ideas that provide the content, transformed throughout, for nearly all the music that follows. The centerpiece of the sonata is the slow movement, an Andante sostenuto of truly haunting beauty. The piece ends with one last titanic climax before a dramatic silence ushers in the twilit epilogue— the andante sostenuto melody reappears to serene and touching effect bringing this tour de force to a perfect close.

We have chosen to add to our collection a truly Olympian performance by the outstanding Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman dating back to 1990. It is available in a 2-CD set, from Deutsche Grammophon, that also includes exceptionally good performances of Liszt’s two piano concertos (with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa).

View the other works in our collection.

Our top recommendations for November 2018

Each month, at iClassical, we pick three albums, either new releases or reissues, that we regard as being worthy of your special attention. We nominate one recent release as our overall CD of the Month. We also highlight a bargain choice, that offers exceptional value for money, and a collectors’ choice for those wishing to branch out a little!

Follow the links to our original reviews.

CD of the Month – Rossini: Semiramide (Soloists, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment & Opera Rara Chorus, Sir Mark Elder (conductor))

Bargain Choice – Wagner: Götterdämmerung (Soloists, Hong Kong Philharmonic Chorus & Orchestra, Jaap van Zweden (conductor))

Collectors’ Choice – The Romantic Piano Concerto 77 – Bronsart & Urspruch (Emmanuel Despax (piano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Tzigane (conductor))

Discover our previous recommendations here.

Live Poulenc from Nézet-Séguin & LPO

Poulenc: Piano Concerto, Concerto for Organ, String and Timpani & Stabat Mater

Alexandre Tharaud (piano), James O’Donnell (organ), Kate Royal (soprano), London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Choir, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (conductor)

The three works on this release were recorded live at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, London in 2013 and 2014¹. Only the Organ Concerto has been released previously (LPO–0081). For this all-Poulenc offering the LPO has assembled a group of soloists of the highest quality to perform under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The CD begins with Poulenc’s Piano Concerto, one of the composer’s lighter works, that was premiered in Boston in 1950. It is played by the distinguished French pianist Alexandre Tharaud and utilises a fairly small orchestra. Overall this is a joyous piece, with the exception of the sombre middle movement, and Tharaud’s light touch is ideally suited to this work. However the overall impression of the performance leaves something to be desired and does not quite hit the heights of one of my favourite versions from Pascal Rogé under Charles Dutoit with the Philharmonia Orchestra.

This is followed by an earlier work (1938), Poulenc’s Concerto in G minor for Organ, Strings & Timpani, in which the soloist is James O’Donnell, Organist of Westminster Abbey. This was Poulenc’s first foray into writing for the organ and it is written in the style of Stravinsky’s neo-Baroque works. The work consists of seven movements, played without pause. The opening of the work sounds for all the world like a fantasy by J.S. Bach! This Bach-fantasy motif appears again towards the end where Poulenc adds to it a melancholy theme in which the organ is joined by a solo viola and a solo cello. The work concludes with stark simplicity and the abruptness with which the concluding unison G arrives is quite startling. This is a splendid performance that comes across well on the Royal Festival Hall organ accompanied by some fine string playing from the LPO. Highly recommended!

The disc is completed by a first rate account of the Stabat mater with Kate Royal (soprano) and the London Philharmonic Choir in fine voice and the conductor, Nézet-Séguin who is clearly at one with this work, brings everything together perfectly. This work, with its promise of salvation through Christ’s suffering, is something of profound beauty and that really comes across in this performance.

I suspect that many Poulenc fans will already have this performance of the organ concerto in their collection but with such an excellent account of the Stabat mater they might be tempted to purchase this release anyway. If you have neither the organ concerto or the Stabat mater in your collection then this release can be recommended wholeheartedly.

iClassical rating: 

¹ The Piano Concerto and Stabat Mater on 23 October 2013 and the Organ Concerto on 26 March 2014.