Dmitry Shostakovich – Symphonies 6 & 12 – Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko (2011) [Official Digital Download 24bit/44.1kHz]

Dmitry Shostakovich – Symphonies 6 & 12 – Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko (2011)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44.1kHz  | Time – 01:09:31 minutes | 609 MB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | © Naxos Rights
Recorded: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, England, on 28th and 29th July, 2009 (tracks 4-7), and on 23rd and 24th June, 2010 (tracks 1-3)

Shostakovich’s Sixth and Twelfth Symphonies both had their origins in large-scale projects about Lenin, though the Sixth was eventually to emerge as one of the composer’s most abstract and idiosyncratic symphonies. The long, intensely lyrical and meditative slow movement that opens the work is one of the composer’s most striking. The Twelfth, one of the least played of Shostakovich’s symphonies in the West, became less a celebration of Lenin’s legacy than a chronological depiction of events during the Bolshevik Revolution. ‘The playing is fabulously crisp and committed, while the interpretations combine atmosphere and a sense of proportion – to the benefit of the youthful First, which receives an eerily effective performance, free of exaggeration.’
“Petrenko leaves his stamp on the performances through his insight into the characteristics of each work…One particularly impressive feature is the fact that Petrenko seems to have instilled such a “Russian” sound into the players…Petrenko’s sense of the music’s structure is sure, both in the Sixth Symphony and in the Twelfth” –The Telegraph
“Superlative standards already set by this team’s Shostakovich couldn’t afford to slip in a symphony as great as the Sixth. In the first movement, at least, Vasily Petrenko and the Liverpudlians reach new heights of articulation and sonic beauty…In the inferior Symphony No. 12, Petrenko applies his usual standards of well-differentiated articulation and soulful playing” –BBC Music Magazine


Dmitri Shostakovich – String Quartets Nos. 1, 8 & 14 – Borodin Quartet (2015) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Dmitri Shostakovich – String Quartets Nos. 1, 8 & 14 – Borodin Quartet (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz  | Time – 1:15:53 minutes | 1.27 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: | © Decca
Recorded: The Concert Hall of the Victor Popov Academy of Choral Arts, Moscow, 14, 15, 18 & 19 January 2015

The original Borodin Quartet was founded in 1945 in the Soviet Union and this release marks the Quartet’s 70th anniversary. They enjoyed a close relationship with Shostakovich, and often worked with him as a new quartet was written (and they also recorded the cycle).
Now, a new line-up, though still one that bears the characteristic Borodin sound (large, almost symphonic in scope and with a very distinctive way of phrasing), starts a new cycle with works from very different periods in Shostakovich’s music life [No. 1 from 1938, the ever-popular No. 8 from 1960 and No. 14 from 1972 (begun in Aldeburgh when the composer was staying there with Benjamin Britten)]. This album features the three key quartets, including the most popular (No. 8).


Robert Schumann – Violin Concerto, Piano Trio No.3 – Isabelle Faust, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Alexander Melnikov, Pablo Heras Casado, Freiburger Barockorchester (2015) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Robert Schumann – Violin Concerto, Piano Trio No.3 – Isabelle Faust, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Alexander Melnikov, Pablo Heras Casado, Freiburger Barockorchester (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz  | Time – 01:01:36 minutes | 1.04 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks | © Harmonia Mundi
Recorded: May and September 2014 at Teldex Studio Berlin in Berlin, Germany.

In the autumn of 1851 Schumann composed, in rapid succession, the two violin sonatas and, in the space of just seven days from 2 to 9 October, the Piano Trio no.3, Op.110. As always during his work, Schumann was oblivious to everything around him, neglected social obligations, and isolated himself – even from Clara. ‘Robert is working very assiduously on a trio for piano, violin, and cello,’ she confided to her diary, ‘but he won’t let me hear anything of it until he has quite finished it – all I know is that it’s in G minor.’

This trio, like all his other chamber works with piano, was tailor-made for Clara to play and right from the first rehearsal session in the domestic circle she went into a veritable frenzy of delight: ‘It is original, absolutely full of passion, especially the scherzo, which sweeps one away to the wildest depths’, Just a little bit of that same enthusiasm would probably have spared the Violin Concerto a great deal of opprobrium: Clara witheld the score, as did the dedicatee, Joachim. It was finally premiered in Berlin on 26 November 1937, more than 80 years after it was composed, with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Karl Böhm and the violinist Georg Kulenkampff. Yehudi Menuhin had the privilege of making the first commercial recording, produced in the following year, 1938, with the New York Philharmonic under its British principal conductor John Barbirolli.
This first volume in a trilogy comprising the complete concertos and piano trios of Schumann brings together two late and unjustly neglected works. The instigators of the project, Isabelle Faust, Alexandre Melnikov and Jean-Guihen Queyras, champion their cause with a force of conviction and a choice of instruments that restore the delicate transparency and subtlety of their textures. The next release will be of the Piano Concerto and Piano Trio No. 2.


Oswald, Napoleao – Piano Concertos – Artur Pizarro, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Martyn Brabbins (2014) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Oswald, Napoleao – Piano Concertos – Artur Pizarro, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Martyn Brabbins (2014)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz  | Time – 01:07:09 minutes | 1.12 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: hyperion-records | © Hyperion Records
Recorded: October 2013 at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales

Portuguese virtuoso Artur Pizarro makes a welcome return to the Romantic Piano Concerto series with the outpourings of two brilliant pianist-composers. Their names may not be familiar to listeners today. The Brazilian Henrique Oswald and the Portuguese Alfredo Napoleão were born in the same year, less than three months apart, when Schumann, Brahms and Liszt were alive and Chopin recently deceased. Both were of mixed European heritage: Oswald with a Swiss-German father and Italian mother, Napoleão with an Italian father and Portuguese mother. Both were child prodigies who became widely travelled concert pianists, pedagogues and composers. In 1868 Oswald gave his ‘farewell recital’ and left Rio de Janeiro to study in Europe; Napoleão went to Brazil.
Oswald’s Piano Concerto in G minor, Op 10, dates from about 1886, the year he met Liszt. Although influences of Fauré can be detected in the second theme, the overall character of the first movement owes more to the late Romantic German style. The orchestration is rich and full, but the Tchaikovskian athleticism and virtuosity of the piano-writing keep the soloist to the fore.
Napoleão’s Piano Concerto No 2 in E flat minor, Op 31, is undated but was probably composed around the same time as Oswald’s Piano Concerto. Although Napoleão performed the concerto in a solo piano version, the first performance with orchestra had to wait until 12 February 1941. This was given by Evaristo de Campos Coelho (1903–1988)—with whom Artur Pizarro, the pianist on the present recording, studied as a young child. He played the work numerous times, and performed it for Portuguese radio. Dinorah Leitão (who was Ivo Cruz’s daughter in law, and also a student of Campos Coelho) then played it, and Artur Pizarro is only the third pianist to champion this work.


Carl Nielsen – Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 – London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis (2011) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Carl Nielsen – Symphonies Nos. 4 & 5 – London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis (2011)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz  | Time – 01:06:38 minutes | 1.34 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: | © LSO Live
Recorded: May 2010 & October 2009 at Barbican, London, United Kingdom

Symphony No 4 ‘The inextinguishable’ (1914–16) :: Denmark remained neutral throughout the international upheaval of the 1914–18 War; but its citizens have always been acutely sensitive to the activities of its large and powerful neighbour to the south. For Carl Nielsen there was an added dimension of philosophical crisis. It may be hard to believe now, but many European artists initially welcomed the prospect of war: here was a grand opportunity for ‘spiritual cleansing’, and a celebration of the traditional masculine virtues of courage, loyalty and devotion to one’s country. Before the hostilities Nielsen had been an enthusiastic nationalist. But as he began to realise the horrors men could inflict on each other for Kaiser—or King—and Country, his faith was rocked to the core. Nationalism, he wrote not long after the war, had been transformed into a ‘spiritual syphilis’, the justification for the expression of ‘senseless hate’.
Nielsen’s faith in humanity may have suffered a setback, but rather than give in to despair he felt strongly driven to make some kind of affirmative statement: belief, if not in human beings (still less in nationhood), then perhaps in life itself. This is an important clue to the meaning of the title of the Fourth Symphony (1914–16). Nielsen added an explanatory note at the beginning of the score. ‘Under this title’, he tells us, ‘the composer has tried to indicate in one word what music alone is capable of expressing to the full: The elemental Will of Life. Music is life, and like it, inextinguishable’.
The motion of that elemental will can be felt throughout the Fourth Symphony. Although the broad outlines of the four conventional symphonic movements can be made out, the ‘Inextinguishable’ is really conceived in a single sweep. Nielsen normally identifies the movements of his symphonies with numbers, but here it would be difficult to know exactly where to put them. Transitions between movements are so skilfully dovetailed that it isn’t always easy to see where one movement ends and another begins. And while each movement has its own themes, the more one gets to know the symphony the more the family resemblances begin to reveal themselves. One senses that the basic thematic material, presented in the symphony’s early stages, is in a state of continual evolution. As the Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus put it: ‘All is flux, nothing is stationary’.
The Fourth Symphony begins in chaos, violence and tonal instability, with massed woodwind and string figures clashing aggressively. But as the fury subsides a calm, singing woodwind tune (initiated by clarinets) emerges that will be lifted up magnificently in the bright key of E major at the end of the symphony. After many upheavals, the initial Allegro claws its way to a massive anticipation of that final outcome (only based on the tune’s final phrase—the full glory is yet to come). But this fades into a gentle, intermezzo-like Poco Allegretto, dominated by woodwind. This has plenty of folkish charm, yet it also has its moments of mystery.
This too seems to fade, then a sudden anguished outburst from strings and timpani begins the Poco adagio. After more fraught struggles this heaves itself up to another massive anticipation of the symphony’s final E major triumph. A moment of wonderfully atmospheric, pregnant stillness (oboe and high strings), and a hurtling string passage lead—after a dramatic pause—into the final Allegro. This music seems determined to sing of hope, yet it meets powerful opposition, as a second timpanist joins the first to lead a destructive onslaught. After a quiet but tense section, the timpani begin their attack with redoubled energy, but somehow the first movement’s hopeful tune manages to reassert itself through the turmoil, now in full E major radiance. And yet the timpanists are not silenced. Their final hammer blows suggest that the struggle to affirm must go on—there can be no final, utopian resolution.


Nigunim, Hebrew Melodies – Gil Shaham, Orli Shaham (2013) [Official Digital Download 24bit/44.1kHz]

Nigunim, Hebrew Melodies – Gil Shaham, Orli Shaham (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44.1kHz  | Time – 01:07:04 minutes | 618 MB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | © Canary Classics
Recorded: 92nd Street Y, New York City, NY, USA on April 13 and 25, 2011

Jewish folk music has always played an integral part in Gil and Orli Shahams’ lives. This release includes masterpieces by Ernest Bloch, Joseph Achron, and Leo Zeitlin, and as their idiomatic writing for the violin suggests, they all started their musical lives as child prodigy violinists. Also included is music from the wonderful Schindler’s List score by John Williams.
The centrepiece of this release comes from the work sharing the album’s title Nigunim, commissioned by Gil and Orli from Israeli composer Avner Dorman. Dorman’s composition shares the universal appeal of the wordless melodies on which it was named. ‘He has created a masterpiece and in my experience everybody who hears the piece falls in love with it they’re electrified by it,’ Gil explains. Indeed, when he recently toured the work, San Diego Today affirmed that ‘it was hard to miss [its] visceral excitement and structural elegance,’ the Boston Globe admiring the ‘uncommonly intriguing sounds’.