The Listening Room: Episode 3

James JollyWed 8th November 2017

Atmospheric Sibelius from Finland, a classic Lorin Maazel recording, a classical discovery and some haunting music for lute and violin

Track list

Sibelius En saga

Finnish RSO / Hannu Lintu (Ondine) 

Sibelius/Sallinen Songs

Anne Sofie von Otter; Finnish RSO / Hannu Lintu (Ondine)

Falla El amor brujo

Grace Bumbry; Berlin RSO / Lorin Maazel (DG)

Ordonez Symphony in B flat

L’arte del mondo / Werner Ehrhardt (DHM)

Bach/Weiss Suite in A

Johannes Pramsohler; Jadran Duncumb (Audax)

Schubert Piano Quintet, ‘Trout’

Anne-Sophie Mutter; Daniil Trifonov et al (DG)

Sibelius Impromptu Op 5 No 6

Leif Ove Andsnes (Sony Classical)

Ešenvalds The First Tears

Portland State University Chamber Choir / Ethen Sperry (Naxos)

Listen on

Spotify, Apple Music or Qobuz

 

Music is, truly, an international language - having a Norwegian violinist playing English music with a German orchestra and an American conductor (as happened at the Awards a couple of years ago) comes as no surprise. But when musicians perform the music of their own country, something special happens and the new release that tops my playlist this week finds a Finnish orchestra and conductor playing music by Sibelius. The tone-poem En saga (the title is in Swedish, Sibelius’s mother-tongue) receives a terrifically intense performance under the baton Hannu Lintu, and made a huge impression when I first listened to it. The recording also contains a selection of Sibelius’s songs (to Swedish texts), newly orchestrated by Aulis Sallinen, and sung by Anne Sofie von Otter with enormous sympathy and feeling - I’ve sprinkled three throughout the playlist.

Bonfire Night fell last weekend so with the image of fire and smoke curling up into the sky, my archive recording – still sounding quite astoundingly vivid half a century on – is of Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo with Lorin Maazel conducting the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (the orchestra that is now the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester). The playing is breathtakingly precise and the spirit of magic infuses the suite with Grace Bumbry offering suitably vivid singing. This is one of Maazel’s finest achievements and a superb reminder that this is an orchestra that has played a major role in launching some brilliant careers.

I can honestly say that I’d never heard of Karl von Ordonez, let alone a note of his music. A generation older than Mozart, Ordonez (1734-86) was a part-time composer - his social standing as a minor noble probably prevented a musical career, though he was remarkably prolific - his output included at least 27 string quartets and 73 symphonies. L’arte del mondo has recorded four of the symphonies on recent Deutsche Harmonia Mundi album and, as with so many works that have been (and will continue to be) overshadowed by Haydn and Mozart, are well worth the occasional outing.

Another slightly unusual recent release that caught my ear finds the violinist Johannes Pramsohler (of Ensemble Diderot) partnering the lutenist Jadran Duncumb in a programme that links Bach and Weiss (both composers get a solo turn before teaming up for a suite, and that’s the piece I’ve chosen - intimate music of surprising power).

Three tracks from brand-new albums - a movement from Schubert’s Trout Quintet that finds Daniil Trifonov and Anne-Sophie Mutter take star-billing (and, not surprisingly are given a slight aural advantage) in a performance I’m dying to hear complete. More Sibelius – though for solo piano – from Leif Ove Andsnes - a real discovery! And a heart-stoppingly beautiful piece by Ēriks Ešenvalds called The First Tears which takes an Innuit legend of what happened just after Creation as its subject. Wonderful performances by the Portland State Chamber Choir. 

James Jolly

James Jolly is Gramophone's Editor-in-Chief. His blogs explore live and recorded music, as well as downloading and digital delivery.

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