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Thu, 30 Mar 2006

Ramallah - Beethoven No. 5

Live in Ramallah 	- Beethoven Symphony No. 5
- Mozart  Sinfonia Concertante, K297b
Daniel Barenboim
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
CD, Warner Classics

The key to this orchestra is the peace. Founded by two exceptional human beings, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said, artists and intellectuals alike, the aim being to create an environment for cross-cultural contact, musical study, and the sharing of knowledge. Orchestras are the ideal democracy, with all involved creating equilibrium with the next - without this, music would not happen. This is a key concept in the situation they were playing.

The concert took place in the West Bank, the rehearsal guarded by armed troops, but the atmosphere inside one of calm and relaxation. The unusual nature of the concert comes about due to participants: Israeli, Arab, and Andalusian citizens performing as one united orchestra - the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The name came about through a collection of poems by Goethe, the significance here being Goethe.

"He was the first German to be truly interested in other countries - he started learning Arabic when he was over sixty".

Understandably, no person involved believed for on minute that this concert was going to solve the political problems faced in the West Bank and it's surroundings. There was however a meeting of two cultures on a friendly term. The musicians, and families alike had the chance to get to know each other.

"The only political aspect that permeates the workshop is the understanding that there is no military solution".

The music is of exceptional quality, with a perfect ensemble particularly giving the live performance. Mozart opens the programme creating a friendly, chatty, but not flippant atmosphere. This is followed by Beethoven's Fifth. A much more serious piece of music, this is a good test of the emotional quality of the players. All stand up to the challenge creating an exciting, powerful, and most of all uplifting performance, which must be ranked amongst the best. Finally, the Elgar creates an emotionally fitting ending to the concert, and leaves with us all a sense of progression, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of peace and courage both now and in the near future.

Please listen to this music and really remember what it is about. If you need to listen to it again to understand the nature of the event, take a day off work and listen to it throughout :) (E Walton)

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Mozart, Exsultate Jubilate

Mozart – Exsultate Jubilate!
Regina Coeli K108
Laudate Dominum K339
Sub tuum Praesidium K198
Sancta Maria, mater Dei K273
Esxultate, Jubilate K 165
Agnus Dei K317
Laudate Dominum K 321
Regina Coeli K 127
CD, Hyperion	

Carolyn Sampson – soprano
Choir of the King’s Consort
The King’s Consort
Robert King – conductor
Recorded in Cadogan Hall, London on 29th-31st October 2006 

This recording brings together some of Mozart’s sacred music, some of which was written when he was employed under the patronage of the Prince-archbishops of Salzburg. Despite the fact that Mozart found his relatively short-lived employment there frustrating, as he considered Salzburg to be provincial and often longed to gain release to mingle with the more international musical society, his work was as productive and of as high a quality as ever. When listening to this music, it is incredible to remember that Mozart was only in his mid-teens! After his dismissal from his position at Salzburg he requested his father to send copies of his Sacred Music (K317, 337 and 275) to impress the musical society in Munich. As one would expect of Mozart, his treatment of the Mass and other religious settings is charming, beautiful, innovative (particularly in the use of tonality and adapting the music to suit each singer) and often displays an operatic style. In fact, the Exsultate, Jubilate K165 was composed for the castrato soprano, Venanzio Rauzzini who was certainly more familiar in operatic settings.

Carolyn Sampson definitely deserves her reputation as “one of the leading British sopranos of her generation.” She has a beautifully gentle and soft voice (which can obviously be more powerful when it is appropriate) that is never overbearing for the style and context, and her coloratura is superb. The combination of her musical sensitivity and that of Robert King and the King’s Consort has produced a wonderful and recording that anyone would enjoy.

In fact my only possible criticism of this CD would be the order of the programme notes in the inlay cover – they don’t match the playing order on the CD and confused me several times! (M.N.)

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Morricone

Morricone: the man, the music
2 CD set, Warner Classics

Maybe you've heard of Spaghetti Westerns? There were a bunch made mostly back in the 1960s and 70s I think. The name Clint Eastwood springs to mind here. The soundtracks for some of these (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one) had quite memorable theme tunes and the composer was Ennio Morricone ... and here we have two CDs worth ... but no theme to TGTBaTU! Oh well.

The first disc is nevertheless of film music and the second is piano music. As it happens, there is also quite a lot of piano on disc one. If you like Morricone's work, or are a completist collector of film music, then this is for you. If you're not, it probably isn't. (Dr Boots)

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French Medieval Songs

Le Jeu d'Amour
The Game of Love in Medieval France
Chant courtois et a danser du Moyen-Age francais
Anne Azema
LP, Apex

This is a nice collection of 13th century French love songs from Warner's low price label, Apex. It's not all love as we know it as it takes in the courtly love of a vassal for the lord's woman and other interesting topics. In the aristocratic courts women had considerable power and freedom and some of what we hear is a celebration of that even if nominally written by men -- though it is said that these sorts of songs were written by women but, through custom, like women writing novels under male nomme de plumes in Victorian times. The most interesting thing is that the songs exist at all in that in times before the only "official" music was sacred music. (Baron K)

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British Piano Concertos

British Piano Concertos
Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1941)
Comedy Overture
Fantasy Scenes
Piano Concerto in B minor
CD, NAXOS

Ulster Orchestra
Takuo Yuasa, conductor
Peter Donohoe, piano
Recorded in Ulster Hall, Belfast from 21st to 22nd February 2005

This recording is one of several by Naxos aimed at preserving and promoting British composers, in particular, British piano concertos. Sir Hamilton Harty was born in 1879 in Hillsborough (near Belfast), Northern Ireland; the son of an organist. At the age of 16 he moved to Dublin where he met Michele Esposito, an Italian composer, pianist and pedagogue who became a mentor as well as a friend, and to whom he dedicated his Comedy Overture and Piano Concerto. At the age of 21 he moved to London, working as a piano accompanist and later as the conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and then the Halle Orchestra in Manchester. As a conductor, we can thank him for introducing such new works as Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, Shostakovich’s first Symphony and premiering Walton’s First Symphony. Whilst he is certainly a romantic composer, with such influences in his work as Brahms, Dvorak and Tchaikowsky there is always an Irish presence, whether overt or not.

A Comedy Overture was composed in 1906 and was first performed at the Queen’s Hall Promenade Concert in 1907. The character of the music is lively and light-hearted although Harty’s treatment of themes is thoughtful and entertaining. The Fantasy Scenes (From an Eastern Romance) tell a story in the style of Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherezade. The first is called “ The Laughing Juggler”; the second is “A Dancer’s Reverie”; the third is “Lonely in Moonlight”; and the fourth is “In the Slave Market” and tells the story of Mohammed, a juggler who falls in love with Zuleika, the Sultan’s favourite dancing girl. The piano concerto was first performed with the composer as the soloist. It is romantic and virtuosic in style which shows us just how accomplished he was.

The orchestra provides beautifully clean string passages and the intonation from the woodwinds is excellent (I always find this can be lacking, even in recordings by some well established orchestras). In the concerto, the pianist and orchestra appear to have a good rapport which is important as the piano is often accompanying the orchestra. Peter Donohoe displays virtuosity, a clean touch and provides the passion needed for this rhapsodic style. All in all, I think that this music can certainly hold its own against other mainstream composers from Europe. (M.N.)

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