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Clara Schumann anniversary

Today marks the 198th anniversary of the birth of the German musician and composer, Clara Schumann. She was one of the finest pianists of the Romantic era, an underated composer and the wife of the famous composer, Robert Schumann. In an era when women, with the exception of singers, rarely performed in public Clara proved to be an exception.

Unfortunately, Clara Schumann’s own compositions remained largely unknown until the second half of the twentieth century. Many of her works are still unpublished and the scores are owned by private collectors, so it is not possible to appreciate the full extent of her output. Let us hope that for the 200th anniversary in 2019, record producers and performers will see fit to extend the range of her works available on CD. In the meanwhile we can appreciate Lisa Batiashvili performing Clara Schumann’s 3 Romances, Op. 22 in partnership with Alice Sara Ott.

Listen on Spotify or buy it from Amazon.

Stunning debut recording from Gorini

Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, Op. 120 is a far from obvious choice for a first recording but Filippo Gorini has made a great success of it. The performance on this CD is well-prepared and, in his playing, Gorini shows a degree of maturity beyond his years. He shows great confidence in attacking the more powerful variations but equally he exhibits a sublime softness of touch where required. Furthermore this has been captured in excellent sound by the recording engineers at Alpha.

This is a CD not to be missed and I look forward to further offerings from this pianist.

Prior to reviewing this CD I was unfamiliar with Gorini but it transpires that in 2015, he received both the first and audience prizes at the Telekom-Beethoven Competition Bonn. In that competition he performed not only the Diabelli Variations but also works by Schubert, Schönberg, Bartok and Thomas Adès. He is now studying with none other than the great Alfred Brendel. Filippo Gorini is clearly an artist to watch out for in the future.

iClassical rating: 

Stream on Spotify or buy it from Chandos.

Outstanding performances from Steven Isserlis

Haydn & CPE Bach: Cello Concertos

Steven Isserlis (cello/director), The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

Hyperion has just released a CD featuring the distinguished British cellist, Steven Isserlis as soloist and director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.

In a programme that includes Haydn’s well known Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major, Hob. VIIb:1 and Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major, Hob. VIIb:2 we also hear C P E Bach’s A major concerto and a fascinating arrangement of Mozart’s Geme la tortorella (from La finta giardiniera) by Stephen Isserlis.

Isserlis has recorded the Haydn cello concertos previously with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Roger Norrington on a Sony disc that also contained Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante in B-Flat Major. That disc won a Radio 3 Building a Library award for the latter work in September 2012. This disc deserves equally high acclaim.

When Haydn wrote his Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major his cellist was Joseph Weigel and he must surely have been a sympathetic musician as well as a skilful player since this work is undoubtedly among the best of Haydn’s concertos; perhaps surpassed only by his Trumpet Concerto in E flat major. In the first movement Isserlis develops a tempo which shows steady poise perfectly complemented by the dotted figuration of the opening theme. Isserlis’ virtuosity is woven into the very heart of this music. In the following adagio his cello almost sings, tenor like, from the outset before he enters into a second cadenza (again his own). In the concluding movement there is suitable contrast between forte and piano and the wide melodic compass of the solo part. This is a good-humoured account with moments of real passion during the occasional visits to the minor key.

Wonderful! This concerto bears repeated listening and the other works combine to form a programme that can enjoyably be listened to in a single sitting thanks to the high quality of the musicianship and the beautifully engineered recording.

iClassical rating: 

Buy it from Presto Classical or listen to extracts and/or download the music from Hyperion Records and you will not be disappointed.

Happy Birthday Arvo Pärt

The Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt is 82 today and we wish him a very happy birthday.

Arvo Pärt is one of the most prominent living composers of sacred music who, since the late 1970s, has written music in a minimalist style. Many readers may be familiar with his, justly popular, work Spiegel im Spiegel; but there are many more great works written by Pärt that are well worth exploring.

Perhaps the best starting point for those who wish to become acquainted further with the work of this composer is a 2-CD set entitled Musica Selecta.

This compendium of Arvo Pärt‘s work was selected by the producer, Manfred Eicher who has recorded the composer’s works on ECM New Music for the past 30 years. This set is a near perfect introduction to Pärt’s work as it contains a wide range of recordings, both of Pärt‘s well-established pieces as well as more recent works. Buy it from Presto Classical.