Mstation Classical Reviews

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Sat, 03 Feb 2007

Romantic Cello Concertos

Schumann, Volkmann, Gernsheim, Dietrich
cello concertos
Alban Gerhardt
Hannu Lintu
CD, Hyperion

It is a bit of a coincidence that I'm listening to this on a wintry Sunday in Berlin itself where this CD was recorded. The city has a very rich classical music life with no fewer than three opera companies and a host of orchestral venues. The concerts are very frequently sold out as well so it's not just organisational wallpaper.

This is quite a nice and varied selection of cello music as well. People putting together these things sometimes get slightly carried away with the doleful and lugubrious which can be rather depressing - there is a certain school that actually holds that the cello is right in its element with that sort of thing. We know better of course. The cello is a wonderful instrument with a great range at its disposal. Using it merely as a faux bass is a crime.

Here we have a pleasantly varied selection that, being Romantic, does have its moments of loud pomp and crescendos that can have you rushing for the volume knob. It is all rather good though. (Baron K)

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Montiverdi Vespers

Montiverdi Vespers - Vespro Della Berta Vergine

Gabrielli Consort and Players

Paul McCreesh

2 CD, Archiv Produktion

Written in 1610 as part of the publication " Vespere" it was dedicated to Pope Paul V and the grandeur would suggest Montiverdi's wish to break away from the constraints of court chamber master. Vespers is the evening service of Office, and was performed with large ensembles in the case of a celebration/festival during the 17th Century.

The Gabrielli Consort and Players provide an excellent performance of this work, with the firm guide of Paul McCreesh; 25 years experienced in this work. In conversation with Tim Carter, Paul describes how his fascination with the work comes from its mystery and ambiguity. The music "forces both performers and listeners to challenge preconceptions" implying that it has more to offer each time it is performed.

As a performance, the music has clarity, and a non-intrusive ambience. Work has obviously been done to fit in with the acoustic of Tonbridge Chapel, each voicing clearly represented by both soloist and choir. The ensemble do not overcrowd the singers, nor the organ, rather, they all work together to lift the music with a gentle persuasion.

The earlier suggestion that Montiverdi was looking to improve his position in the musical world is almost surely confirmed by his move in 1613 to the position of maestro di cappella at the Basilica of St. Mark, Venice.

Take time to listen through this music, it doesn't need to be heard all at once. ( E Walton)

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Nikolay Roslavets

Chamber Symphony and In the hours of the New Moon

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Ilan Volkov

CD, Hyperion

This music is some of the most fascinating I have heard in a long time. I had not come across Roslavets before now. His compositional technique is highly advanced for his time, and unique; a great thing during this time of great change in both music and the world itself.

We open with Roslavets Chamber Symphony (1934/5). Interestingly it has a sister composition entitled the 'Roslavets Symphony', completed and orchestrated by Raskatov. It is the larger of the two works, completed in Moscow, but never performed. His contemporary, Myaskovsky is said to have been impressed by the work, but the recent criticism of Shostakovich seemingly restricted the enthusiasm to perform such Modernist/Impressionistic works. His orchestration is highly successful, creating a well-balanced sound (the performance skills of the BBC Scottish aside). His use of piano, to my ears, helps the precision of the articulation and textures. A very sharp/icy sound in the upper strings blends beautifully with the lush, lower strings. The harmonic structure is heavily chromatic, but hints at traditional tonality (particularly at the conclusion).

An excellent work! I encourage you to listen again and again to try to understand what Roslavets is describing to us. No records of his thoughts appear to exist for this work so it is up to each one of us.

In the hours of the New Moon (c.1910) is in contrast, very secretive. From the outset the music is written in such a way that it entices to listen harder, drawing us in towards

This is an excellent recording of music from a composer much suppressed by his country particularly after his death (1944) as recently as the 1980s; it is very well worth listening to and researching all you can about Nikolay Roslavets. ( E Walton)

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Hapsburg Music

Music for the Court of Maximilian II
Jacobus Vaet, Antonius Galli, Pieter Maessens,
Orlandus Lassus
LP, Hyperion Records

Maximilian II succeeded his father, Ferdinand I, in 1564. The Holy Roman Empire was a very big affair taking in Spain, the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and parts of modern Fraance) as well as most of Central Europe and chunks of the east. It could be expected that the court and its music might have some magnificence, and such is the case.

The primary figure here is Jacobus Vaet who, despite only living into his thirties, produced quite a fair amount of work including masses and motets. The others are not to be dismissed though and include Galli who was fired from Bruges for mistreating choirboys. In the liner notes it explains that this was far from uncommon as choirmasters had to provide for them and were frequently caught out by changes in grain prices.

Cinquecento were formed with the idea of presenting Hapsburg music and they do a fine job of doing so here. (Baron K)

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Byrd Laudibus in sanctis

Laudibus in sanctis - William Byrd

The Cardinall's Musik

Andrew Carwood

CD, Hyperion

Born around 1539, Byrd first came into public view with the publication of Cantiones Sacrae in 1591. Before this he had been organist at Lincoln Cathedral until the death of Robert Parsons - Byrds opportunity to move back to London, to the Chapel Royal in Parsons' now vacant position.

Noted for his exceptional ability to set text to music, Byrd's reputation spread rapidly. It could have also had an influence in saving him from severe punishment for his Catholic beliefs. In 1591, Byrd took leave of London in favour of Stondon Massey - Essex. It was at this time that he published music written for Catholic liturgy; a dangerous but seemingly non- repercussive move.

The performances of these works exude authority from the start. The intricacies of Byrd's compositional style are well demonstrated; with his command of invention and harmonic writing providing an excellent foundation on which to build ideas of your own. The music is clear, and the sound, full and vibrant. The composition is outstanding of the period, and a clear example of the level of Byrd's compositional abilities. ( E Walton)

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Maerzmusik sampler

various, Maerzmusik sampler
LP, Festival organisers

This is available ffrom the organisers if you ask nicely. MaerzMusik is a festival of "aktuelle musik" held in March in Berlin.

There tend not to be too many people sitting on the fence for this sort of music and in some parts of the world there are hardly any people to sit in chairs for it either. Luckily, for Berlin's cultural richness, there are enough here to keep a festival going, and in good health as well. It is not my sort of thing I have to say. This sort of modernism in music seems sorely dated to me and has more than a few echoes of musty classrooms. Is that bad - what of classicism? Yes, well, quite! - except maybe this is not what it says it is.

In any case, the music here by such as Gagem, Steamboat Switzerland, and Wiesenberg is nicely realised and there's enough variety to make it engaging. (Baron K)

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