Mstation Classical Reviews

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Fri, 30 Jun 2006

Weiss / Lindberg Lute

Silvius Leopold Weiss, Music for Lute
Jakob Lindberg

Silvius Leopold Weiss composed these pieces for lute in the first half of the eighteenth century. He was born in Silesia but ended up in the court at Dresden and was the highest paid instrumentalist in the Hofkapelle.

The pieces here are rather nice - muted as you'd expect of a single lute, and reflective. The actual instrument used is a Sixtus Rauwolf lute from 1590 which was purchased by Jakob Lindberg at Sotheby's.

It's a very pleasant 73'14 for those who like this period of music. (Baron K)

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Wagner, Gotterdammerung DVD

Richard Wagner, Gotterdammerung
Heinz Krause, Wolfgang Schone, Henk Smit,
Jeannine Altmeyer
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra
Hartmut Haenchen
Pierre Audi
3 DVD's, Opus Arte

One thing about Mr. Wagner and his kuntesartsmusick is that you tend to get quite a lot of it. It is certainly not for the impatient and is almost a direct opposite to the concepts of bite-size and dumbed-down sound bites. Walking out of a shop with one of these is a statement - a statement that will keep you entertained for approximately two hundred and sixty-nine minutes.

This is the the fourth and final part of Der Ring des Nibelungen, otherwise known in English as the Ring Cycle. This was a new production in 1999 and was recorded in Holland for TV. Quite a few music DVD's come from a TV source and the quality can be variable but this one is quite alright and the production itself is quite an interesting one, with a rich, modern look to it that is well done and suited to this media. (Mr. Mayberry)

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Mahler Symphony No 7

Mahler (1860-1911)
Symphony no. 7
Daniel Barenboim – conductor
Staatskapelle Berlin
CD, Warner Classics

Mahler’s Seventh Symphony was composed between 1904 and 1905, then revised and scored in 1905-6. It was first performed in 1908. As one would expect, this symphony is big and shows the transition from the Romantic Era into the music of the twentieth century. Mahler had an idea of an open air “night patrol” scene when composing this music, thus two of the movements (the second and fourth of this 5 movement work) are entitled “Nachtmusik” and were, in fact, composed long before the other movements. In correspondence with the idea of being out in the open air, the symphony contains many sounds of nature, such as cowbells. The first movement is march-like, almost grotesque in style with fanfares and occasional birdcalls. The second is particularly stormy and atmospheric. The third movement is entitled “Schattenhaft” which means “shadowy” and is rather threatening in mood, which ends up as a morbid type of “danse macabre.” The second of the Nachtmusik movements is completely different in style, indicated by “Andante amoroso” and includes writing for the guitar and mandolin. The final movement was referred to by Mahler as “Der Tag” – the daylight, which, by huge contrast brings the dazzling light of day.

The orchestra provides a huge range of colour in this symphony. The strings are often required to play long, rich lines, but are delicate when needed. The woodwind are particularly brilliant at bringing out the grotesque edge to the music, while the brass are both brooding and threatening. The character of the music changes so often, and the director (Barenboim) obviously has a huge sensitivity and understanding towards this style. (M. North)

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Herz Piano

Piano Concerto no. 3, op 87
Piano Concerto no. 4, op 131
Piano Concerto no. 5, op 180
Howard Shelley – piano
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
CD, Hyperion

Heinrich/Henri Herz (1803/6-1888)

The son of a musician, Heinrich Herz was born in Vienna. He studied first with his father, then at Coblenz and finally entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he became a prize-winning piano student. In 1821 the great pianist, composer and pedagogue, Ignaz Moscheles visited Paris and was to have a profound influence on Herz’s style. His career went from strength to strength as a pianist, composer, teacher, inventor and piano manufacturer. It is hard to believe now that in his day, he was more popular a pianist than Liszt, Chopin and various other pianists, and he was able to charge more per ticket for this recitals and concerts, in which he played mainly his own compositions (of which there are 8 piano concertos). From the 1830s, Herz joined up with the Klepfa manufacturer of pianos, and although this venture failed, Herz whent on to establish his own piano factory which actually managed to improve on Erard’s double-escape mechanism. His pianos went on to win prizes at International Expositions.

I won’t go on to describe each movement of the three concertos in detail, but this music is far from being purely virtuosic music of no substance. Admittedly, there is a lot of difficult piano writing intended to show off the player’s ability, which Howard Shelley does with tremendous clarity and beautiful touch. But at times, the writing is tender and delicate – my favourite movement being the second movement of the 3rd piano concerto, the opening theme to which sounds as though it is based on a Scottish lullaby. Both the orchestra and the soloist create a simple and beautiful sound. This is a lovely recording and it is nice to hear something different from this era in composition. (M.North)

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Beethoven Piano

Piano Sonatas, Opp. 109, 110 and 111
Mitsuko Uchida – piano	
CD, Philips

These piano sonatas are particularly special, as they are the last three of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, which he began in 1795, and ended in 1822 (the year in which he died). I know we’ve all heard it before, but I still find it more than incredible that he composed these sonatas well after he had lost the ability to hear completely!!! In contrast to the first sonata, which is clearly set in classical form and convention (yet with his own style clearly emerging, even then…), the late sonatas are slightly bonkers. We can see the stage set for composers such as Schumann in Beethoven’s numerous performance directions at the beginnings of the movements, often in German (e.g. “Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung” – Songlike, with the deepest expression). The full range (and beyond, at the time!) of the keyboard is used, while the tonality and form is being stretched to its limits.

Mitsuko Uchida is justly well-respected, particularly for her Mozart recordings, and this recording are certainly no exception. Her tone is beautiful and brings off the nobility and elegance of Beethoven’s sound world with great sympathy. If you follow the score, she has clearly given great thought to all of Beethoven’s markings and directions. Perhaps if we compare this to the recordings of Schnabel , it probably doesn’t share quite the same intense and deeply personal understanding (which in my opinion is probably more important) but it certainly is more obedient and accurate. (M.North)

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