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May 2 , 2014

Reviews of the week

Reactions from the UK and the US to Harrison Birtwistle’s Chamber Music

The 12 settings for soprano and cello of poet Lorine Niedecker were assembled about 15 years ago. Terse to the point of aphorism, they are perhaps the most Webern-like of all Birtwistle’s works, capable of opening up expressive vistas from a handful of notes: Amy Freston and Adrian Brendel catch that spareness perfectly. In Bogenstrich, for Baritone (Roderick Williams), piano (Till Fellner), and cello, three connected movements for cello and piano – one a song without words – are framed by two settings of the same Love Song by Rilke. As with the Piano Trio, it projects a sense of emotions kept tightly in check, and of surfaces that only occasionally reveal the forces that are moulding them.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian

This gripping disc of fairly recent chamber and vocal music is unexpectedly playful, tender, mysterious, mellow, sparse and elegiac. The performers are top-notch – violinist Lisa Batiashvili, cellist Adrian Brendel, pianist Till Fellner, soprano Amy Freston, and baritone Roderick Williams – and the interpretations intense and cogent.
Richard Morrison, The Times

The smallish-scale, darkly sensual, often eerily calm works on this disc, superlatively played, might surprise those who associate Harrison Birtwistle with dizzying orchestral explosions. Two sets of songs for soprano and cello set to poems by Lorine Niedecker, from 1998 and 2000, pass with brief, lovely intimacy. More expansive are a shifty, enigmatic 2011 piano trio and ‘Bogenstrich,’ a somber 2009 cycle for baritone, cello and piano inspired by Rilke and sung with perfect control by Roderick Williams.
Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times: Artsbeat


International Record Review on Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Piano Concerto and Symphony No. 7

Tüür is at his most subeversive in the works on this new recording, with a concerto and a choral symphony that frequently has the orchestra ignoring the chorus [...] here the carefully colored orchestra (employing much tuned percussion) is so highly independent that it’s possible to hear within this concerto two separate works colliding with each other. [...] The Seventh Symphony is an hommage to the Dalai Lama, and sets Buddhist texts [...] but that should not suggest a work of ineffable, meditative peace. The lengthy, frequently reflective but remarkably intense finale (almost 20 minutes) is the result of searching, of musical antagonisms that seem to occur almost independently of the NDR choir’s clear, static enunciation of the texts, though they are in fact derived from the same ‘vetors’ of material. As we have seen with the Piano Concerto, this is a typically Tüürian paradox – the raucous climax at the end of the third movement before the choir’s hushed ‘Fill your mind with compassion’ that opens the fourth is probably the most unexpected moment - and it produces a work that is at the same time densely rich and full of subtleties. As usual, ECM’s recording of these performances, which are surely the most committed one could imagine, is outstanding.
Ivan Moody, International Record Review


Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica’s recording of compositions by Mieczyslaw Weinberg impresses the reivewer from Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Dass Weinberg selbst im bewusst einfach gehaltenen Concertino op. 42 (1948) oder in der Sonatine op. 46 (1949) – zwei Werken, die inmitten der zweiten großen Hetzkampagne gegen ‚formalistische’ Neutöner und in einem Klima wachsender antisemitischer Propaganda entstanden – nie ins musikalisch Banale und Plakative abglitt, ist bemerkenswert genug. Als noch beeindruckender aber erweist sich das von ästhetischem Anpassungsdruck weitgehend befreite Spätwerk. Die von glühender Intensität erfüllte Streichersinfonie op. 98 (1968) und die Solo-Violinsonate Nr. 3 (1979), in der die expressiven Möglichkeiten des Instruments souverän ausgelotet sind, zeugen davon; und sie tun dies umso mehr, als ihnen Gidon Kremer und seine Partner interpretatorisch nicht s schuldig bleiben.
Felix Meyer, Neue Zürcher Zeitung


Momo Kodama’s debut recording for ECM La Vallée des Cloches is reviewed in American Record Guide

Kodama’s impeccable technique and facility for crystalline sounds makes for a mesmerizing program. ‘Miroirs’, the highlight of the program, is awash in rich colors, poised and graceful. Two other rarely performed works round out the program. ‘Rain Tree Sketch’ is a short, but lovely treat, and Messiaen’s trademark birdcalls thread through ‘La Fauvette Des Jardins’. Impressive.
Kang, American Record Guide


UK website Marlbank on El Valle de la Infancia by the Dino Saluzzi Group

In part a homage to the zamba, carnavalito and chacarera dance traditions of northern Argentina and its broader culture, the bandoneonist is quietly intense to begin and the album takes quite a while to reveal itself. The family band backs Saluzzi like listeners to the stories he is compelled to tell musically, the clarinet down-playing its natural perkiness, the classical guitar hinting at another kind of music entirely. Held in the interstices between the folk traditions of his native land and the improvised world of jazz from far northern places the sensual side emerges amid much nostalgia and café bar mystique on ‘Churqui’ the sadnesses quiet and acute and yet the band’s motion lifts the mood and the pieces all come together on ‘La Fiesta Popular’. Some lovely moments throughout amid the austerity of the chamber atmosphere: an album that casts a spell it’s hard to break.
Stephen Graham, Marlbank