Sunday, 29 March 2015

Faure - Piano Trio [Beaux Arts Trio]

What an unashamedly little gem Faure's Piano Trio is!, i remember well the day i 'discovered' it, on a walk to Church [17th February 2013], there the first movement truly impressed me, Faure has an underrated way with Chamber music, makes me want to check out his String Quartet too.

The Beaux Arts Trio were active for 53 years, they split up in 2008, this disc was recorded in 1988, the front cover of the booklet shows a superb photograph [by Christian Steiner], a portrait of the trio showing all three instruments, the dark background adds to the highlighting of the faces, look at the lovely browns of that cello!.

So like i said, it was the first movement Allegro that really wowed me, the Piano Trio was a late work for Faure, composed in 1923, maybe a couple of years before he died, and that late Autumn of his life has a feel for the same in this work, Faure got more away from 'nice tunes', and more into the ethereal 'feel' of things, which can be witnessed in his solo piano music, that's not to say that there's a lack of tunes to this work, but i find it hard to whistle late Faure, it sticks in the memory, but i think Faure was mastering the use of rhythms and structure more, there's some great architecture in his music, the first movement is Allegro, but then added 'ma non troppo' = but not too [fast], and that's a key notation, it just wouldn't work if A Trio just zoomed through the piece, there needs to be poise too, i love the way the piano has this superb rippling effect throughout the beginning, while the violin / cello play the melody, and when the piano gets to play a tune itself, it's a stunning little number [1:01-1:21], there's some individual notes that are off the usual highway, and it's these singular notes that really make Faure what he is, there's one early on [1:03], now that's truly inspired, love the way the instruments weave and overlap each other, but basically it's a dialogue between piano and strings, as the movement progresses it has a tendency to get more louder and complex, and it end i guess on a sort of forte.

Here's the Beaux Arts Trio playing the first movement on YouTube.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Ravel - String Quartet [Carmina String Quartet]

It's great to revisit this disc again, the last time i played it was in 2013, i delved into the Carmina Quartet when they won an award for their Szymanowski String Quartets, and that disc is superb, so it's good to find this is up to standard also, it's got a lovely front booklet cover, i well shot photo, with a blue theme, this disc appeared in my Blog early in its incarnation [27th January 2010].

The Carmina String Quartet are still going strong, now clocking up their 30 year anniversary, they are from Switzerland, they recorded this disc in 1992 on the Denon label.

So the best thing about this performance was the second movement assez vif, tres rythme = fairly lively, very rhythmic, and it's certainly the rhythmic bit which is very fitting, lots of pizzicato involved, love the way Ravel starts this movement, with a pizzicato quartet [0:00-0:15], very satisfying indeed, but even when the bowing comes in, there's always some instrument still playing pizzicato, and Ravel uses the power of each instrument to give different string effects, a treble twang from the violins, and a deep bass from the cello, there's a serene middle section of mainly bowing [1:51-4:48], and even within this middle section there's a couple of more sour and searching little episodes [3:28-3:45 & 4:08-4:26], i just love the lead back to the opening [4:46-5:10], it's such a tease!, and even within this passage, there's a great little rhythmic run by i believe the viola [4:56+], and the movement ends on a staggered last loud pizzicato!

Here's the Hagen String Quartet playing the second movement on YouTube.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Schubert - Symphony 9 'The Great' [Abbado-The Chamber Orchestra Of Europe]

Abbado uses reduced forces here, a Chamber Orchestra, but what it might lose on overall weight, it gains in a lightness and litheness, i'm sure orchestras back in Schubert's day didn't have the same depth they have today, i guess it's harder to get together a large enough group of professional musicians, and so maybe this sounds more like the real thing than a full blown Berlin Philharmonic, Abbado keeps things moving, there's a real lilt to proceedings, a real favourite of mine, it's already appeared in my Blog twice before [9th October 2011 & 18th September 2012]. 

Claudio Abbado passed away just over a year ago, he was 80, he recorded this work in 1987.

Surprisingly it was the last two movements that i enjoyed the most, with the third movement Scherzo really impressing this time, which is probably the least liked of the four usually, it's scored as Allegro Vivace, fast and lively, and i certainly agree with the lively bit, the woodwinds whistle and chatter away, the music alternates between a sweet little waltz, and heavier fortissimo strings, it's like a war between the strings and the woodwind / brass, there's this gorgeous trio section in the middle [6:26-10:40], again the woodwinds are fantastic here, i guess it's my favourite section of the movement, Schubert really knows how to spin a tune, it's melody sweeps you away, just when you think it's coming to an end, it glides away again, Schubert really knows how to jig those dance rhythms! 

Here's Claudio Abbado on YouTube, with the third movement Allegro Vivace.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Dire Straits ['Sultans Of Swing' The Very Best Of Dire Straits]

Well to start off with i need to explain the the track listing label on the back inlay, i didn't actually agree with the track list for this release, they added stuff i detest 'Calling Elvis' yuck, and 'Heavy Fuel' really!, very best of?, plus they then leave out stuff which is essential 'Down To The Waterline' and 'Skateaway', so of course the obvious solution is to record my own disc!, and so here's my take for what it's worth.

Dire Straits is the brainchild of Mark Knopfler, and it's hard to separate the two, of course Dire Straits have ended, and Knopfler is now 65, yes all the Young Rockers become Old Rockers eventually.

So the tracks i liked the best were 1, 3-5, 10 & 12, it certainly brings back memories, i used to own some of these as 45 singles, 'Sultans Of Swing' takes me back, used to be my favourite Dire Straits song, and 'Your Latest Trick' is an ingenious later song i really love, but the very best track is 'Tunnel Of Love', which always sticks in my mind, the lyrics are filled with double meanings, there's a longing and nostalgia there, i guess it talks of a real life experience by Knopfler, visiting an amusement park in Whitley Bay called the Spanish City, meeting a girl there, and they both decide to remain anonymous, at the end they part with a kiss, never to meet again, and then the subsequent searching / yearning to re-create that feeling of an event in the past that is just simply impossible to re-live, each time i hear it i also feel the sadness / happiness that an event was bottled up into a package, never to be opened again, you love that you've created something untouchable, yet at the same time you're sad that you can't get to touch it again.

Here's Dire Straits playing 'Tunnel Of Love' on YouTube.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dvorak - String Serenade [Alphen-Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra]

Now this is a real event in my Blog, where has Dvorak's String serenade been all my life?, this is the third time i've played this disc, but what was i listening to the other two times?, this is the greatest musical discovery this year so far, i went out for a walk throughout my neighbourhood late at night, with the strains of Dvorak's beautiful melody in my ears, discs like this make me happy.

Conrad Van Alphen is South African, and he's new to me, i don't have a lot of Telarc discs, and i don't believe i have another performance of Dvorak's String Serenade, i bought this disc eight years ago, and it's been a real slow burner, i love the programme of this disc, all the works complement each other, the front booklet and back inlay are gorgeous, a picture of a Scandinavian fjord [by Brian Lawrence], look at them luscious blues!, each Composer is boxed in vertical lines on the front, and horizontal on the back, i love the layout of this thing, a well presented visual adds to the music on the inside.

So it was the opening movement Moderato which was such a revelation, it's stunningly beautiful, lasting just under five minutes, and yet it feels more substantial, with Dvorak there's no intro here, it's straight into the music, the opening chords are heavenly, and are quickly restated with extra passion, i love the way this opening melody comes back again and again, it's so memorable and sweet, there's a central trio section, where the music gets more lively [1:36-2:55], and the return of the opening theme afterwards is a moment of magic [2:55+], there's also this short passage where the music 'dies' down into the minor [0:54 & 3:47], a wonderful moment of pathos, a stroke of genius by Dvorak, at the end there's this little coda [4:08-4:51], which brings this little movement to a close, now this is what makes all the music i listen to worthwhile!.

Here's the first movement Moderato on YouTube, played by the Kyiv Soloists.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Mahler - Symphony 4 [Hendricks/Mehta-Israel Philharmonic Orchestra]

I have roughly ten Mahler 4's in my collection, and this is certainly one of the better of them, from the cover, it presents itself as pastoral sunny work, and certainly it's the happiest of Mahler's Symphonies, i remember walking in the woods listening to this Symphony, seemed like the perfect place to hear Mahler's 4, the front booklet cover is fantastic [by Eric Bach], a castle on the hill, tiny in the picture, juxtaposed against the blossoms on the tree, i played this disc almost five years ago [21st June 2010].

Zubin Mehta is Indian, he's now 78, he recorded this in 1979, wow already over 35 years ago!, and yet it's still considered a 'modern' recording, i love these Decca Eclipse recordings, a great way to collect the back catalogue, and with seventy plus minutes of music.

On this listen i just love the slow movement, marked as Ruhevoll by Mahler, ruhe = rest, voll = fully, i think the idea was relaxing / refreshing, i guess like sleep, you get fully invigorated, the movement is long, clocking in at nearly 22 minutes here, but it never feels that long, maybe the same length as say a Schubert's Ninth movement [15 minutes], it indulges you, and you forget time!, the heavenly opening chords straight away introduce that beautiful tune, this to me represents a far more accurate portrayal of a possible heaven than the worded account in the following movement, supposedly built upon a set of variations, i love the way mahler takes the violins so high in the sweet treble, that at times they almost disappear, a wonderful swooning if you will [2:17-3:26], if the strings represent the brighter side of the movement, then the darker side of the movement is represented by the woodwind, or more perfectly by the brass, just over halfway through the movement Mahler uses some dance rhythms, some of it is quite jiggy [14:58-15:57], but after this the music almost descends into a deep pathos [16:17+], i guess a coda if you will, but the whole thing bursts into a loud fanfare of joy [18:30+], announcing the opening tune of the last movement before its time, and again those violins play high in treble, ending on an expectant pause, once you see more of the structure, you understand what Mahler is trying to say.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Mozart - Piano Concerto 20 [Schiff/ Vegh- Camerata Academica Des Mozarteums salzburg]

Probably my second favourite version of this Concerto, i seem to play this quite a lot, last appeared in my Blog in 2012 [30th September 2012], Andras Schiff is a great interpreter, and the Orchestra is somewhat of a chamber outfit, so you get a smaller feel for these works, probably more like what Mozart would have experienced in his day, plus Schiff plays a Bosendorfer i believe, a shade more toward what Mozart would play, rather than a Steinway, of course a pianforte 'original instuments' version it ain't, but Schiff gives you a feel for things, and i think good ole Wolfgang himself would have been pleased with the results.

Andras Schiff is Hungarian, he's now 61, he recorded this disc way back in 1989, i didn't realise this recording was that old, Schiff has recorded the full cycle of these Concertos, available in all sorts of packages, i love sampling individual discs, and i believe this is the best of the bunch, each of the front booklet covers show photography by Phil Sayer, showing Schiff i guess in Vienna?, with architecture in the background leaning, and low down shots with wonderful lighting, i love the blue theme throughout the cycle.

Well it the first movement Allegro that always gets me, it's Mozart's greatest Piano Concerto movement in my opinion, it's just so revolutionary, it has an incredible drive to it, it starts off quiet enough to begin with, but there's this undercurrent of unease and dread, a braying on the lower strings gives it a certain menace, and a sharp blast from the horns make you jolt upright! [0:28], i love this opening tutti from the orchestra, it's not a mere intro just to announce the piano, it's the music itself, the orchestra gets equal billing here, the piano also starts innocently enough [2:20], except for the fact it's in D Minor!, the same key for his Requiem [D for death as far as i'm concerned!], but of course the niceties are cast aside as the full force of the Minor key is exerted, the tension and knots it delivers are breathtaking, the way Mozart makes it all weave and thread together is masterly, i love the sound of the piano in this recording, the bass has a certain growling / rumbling tendency, very appropriate, i must admit Schiff can be a little too staccato and lumpy at times, a more delicate and flowing touch would have done better [Uchida?], i love the way that right after the cadenza, the orchestra come right back in with a jolt! [13:32], nicely knocks your socks off.

Here's Andras Schiff playing and conducting this Concerto on YouTube.