Title: Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9
Year: 2014/2014
Genre: Classical
Conductor: Iván Fischer
Artist: Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano), Gerald Finley (bass), Myrtò Papatanasiu (soprano), Burkhard Fritz (tenor), Netherlands Radio Choir, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest)

Issued: United States | Naxos
Duration: 381: 55
Size: 101.51 GB

The Beethoven symphonies: all nine of them stunning masterworks, all nine performed countless times. Be that as it may, there are conductors who can recontextualise these symphonies in such a way that they sound completely new, as Iván Fischer proved in 2013 and 2014 in his Beethoven Series with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, spread out over two seasons. A veritable journey of discovery through a familiar landscape.
Recorded Live at Concertgebouw Amsterdam on 11 May 2013 (1, 2 & 5), 31 May 2013 (3 & 4), 9-10 January 2014 (6 & 7), 20-21 February 2014 (8 & 9). (more…)

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.

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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: hyperion-records.co.uk | © 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.

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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’.

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Mozart 5, Vieuxtemps 4 – Violin Concertos – Hilary Hahn, Paavo Jarvi, The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz  | Time – 01:03:48 minutes | 1.2 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | © Deutsche Grammophon
Recorded: Mozart: 4 & 5 December 2012: Kammer-Philharmonie, Bremen; Vieuxtemps: 7 & 8 August 2013: Gut Varrel, Stuhr

Hilary Hahn’s newest album, Mozart 5, Vieuxtemps 4 – Violin Concertos, is her first recording with The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Paavo Järvi, after performing and touring with the ensemble and conductor for many years. The disc releases on March 31, and is Hahn’s first orchestral offering since her 2010 pairing of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and Jennifer Higdon’s Pulitzer-prize winning violin concerto, which was written for Hahn. With this new album, she returns to core violin repertoire, hot on the heels of her critically-acclaimed, Grammy-winning album of 27 commissioned short pieces, In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores, and an improvised recording with prepared pianist Hauschka, titled Silfra.
Mozart 5, Vieuxtemps 4 also brings Hahn full circle, after more than three decades of violin playing, to two concertos that have been part of her repertoire since she was ten years old. Vieuxtemps’s Violin Concerto No. 4 was the last large piece she learned with Klara Berkovich, her teacher from ages five to ten. Several months later, Mozart 5 was the first concerto that Jascha Brodsky taught her at the Curtis Institute of Music. Berkovich began her violin studies in Odessa and went on to teach in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) before emigrating to the States. Brodsky was one of the last pupils of the legendary Eugène Ysaÿe, who, coincidentally, was a star student of Vieuxtemps, making Vieuxtemps Hahn’s musical great-grandfather in the violinist family tree.
Both concertos are part of Hahn’s active performance repertoire, and both were written by composers who were violin virtuosos in their own right. Hahn writes, “It’s fun to delve into [Mozart’s] ingenuity and emotional directness, his writing speaking directly to listeners while performers delight in his myriad clever phrases. As a result, Mozart improves moods; when I look around the stage at people playing his works, I always see smiles.” On this recording, Hahn plays the cadenzas by Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim.
Like Mozart, Vieuxtemps initially learned violin from his father and toured Europe as a prodigy. When he wrote Concerto No. 4, he was living in St. Petersburg, where he was a court violinist to Tsar Nicholas I and taught violin at the Conservatory. “This concerto is operatically lyrical and demands flexibility, panache, focus, a flair for drama, and chamber-music-style unity even in its most symphonic dimensions,” Hahn explains.
Of the collaboration for this album, Hahn writes, “One of my favorite things about working on a piece over many years is the chance to experiment broadly with expression, concepts, and technique — on my own and with my colleagues. When those colleagues have been musical partners for a long time, as is the case with Paavo Järvi and The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, our shared access to the imaginative aspects of music is immediate and honest. Trying a new idea is as natural as breathing, and challenging each other’s musical inclinations is like conversing with your oldest and closest friends.”

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Violin Concertos Nos. 1, 3 & 4 – Frank Peter Zimmermann, Kammerorchester des Symphonieorchesters des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Radoslaw Szulc (2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/48Hz  | Time – 01:17:31 minutes | 804 MB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: eclassical.com | © Hänssler Classic

Today when Frank Peter Zimmermann says that Mozart has always been easy for him, he needs only call to mind his debut concert at the age of ten – when he played Mozart’s G major Concerto K. 216; or when, some 30 years ago, as a fresh 20-year-old, the same FPZ made his first recording of the five concertos for EMI; and then if one factors in that over the years that each of these Mozart works has passed through his hands nearly 300 times in concert, then one can begin to appreciate the intense physical and spiritual experience that Frank Peter Zimmermann brings to these new recordings.
One will immediately hear on this CD the experience that a master can bring to these works, because no one else plays these works with the same incredible, almost balletic, weightless elegance and rich tone, reaching a degree of intimacy, without any obstacle between the performer and the listener, as does Frank Peter Zimmermann. Mozart’s every wish is perfectly fulfilled! The Chamber Orchestra of the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian broadcasting company serves both masters admirably.

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