The Listening Room: Episode 15 (2.2.18)

The Listening RoomFri 2nd February 2018

The run of terrific piano recordings continues with a magical Mozart piano concerto from Piotr Anderszewski, impressive late Beethoven from James Rhodes and a taster of a life-enhancing Beethoven First Concerto from Martha Argerich

2018 is off to a great start with some very impressive recordings indeed: Piotr Anderszewski and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe give us a magnificent coupling of Mozart’s K503 and 595 (the latter is on this Listening Room playlist), sounding, as it should, like chamber music on a big scale. And if the chemistry between player and orchestra is palpable there, the same might be said - in spades - for the magic that leaps from the speakers when Martha Argerich, the Mito Chamber Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa got together for Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto (sample the finale, and be prepared to smile with delight).

The OSM Chamber Soloists open proceedings with an enchanting chamber arrangement of Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (re-titled Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders! for this recording).

From a wonderful new recording from Delphian which focuses on music of Hanseatic cities in 16th and 17th century Europe, I’ve chosen the new work - Northern Soul by Andrew Keeling - written for In Echo and Gawain Glenton to sit alongside the older pieces, and beautifully evoking an earlier age but in a language that sounds pungently of our time.

Chamber music of a more conventional type comes courtesy of Antonín Dvořák and his gloriously melodic and atmospheric String Sextet - the Jerusalem Quartet are joined Veronica Hagen and Gary Hoffman is a recording of rapturous good spirits.

A couple of short pieces come courtesy of Jesús Guridi played by harpist Xavier de Maistre and a choral work from Ivan Moody, sung hauntingly by Amarcord.

James Rhodes is a pianist whose biography has sometimes threatened to overshadow his abilities as a musician, but at the heart of his new album, ‘Fire on all sides’, comes a performance of Beethoven's penultimate piano sonata, the A flat, Op 110, of such sincerity and engagement with its often wilfully combative nature that to listen to it is be powerfully moved. 

The Grammys his year, and particularly the Best Orchestral Performance category, seem to have taken President Trump’s 'America First' mantra to heart. Of the five recordings in contention not a single one featured a non-American ensemble. That’s quite a feat given the disproportionate representation of European orchestras in the monthly release lists. So, beating albums from the Cincinnati, Detroit, San Francisco and Minnesota orchestras, came a slightly odd coupling of Shostakovich and Barber from the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck. Spectacularly recorded by Reference Recordings, I’ve included their wonderfully ‘vocal’ performance Barber’s Adagio

I’ve always loved the music of Martinů and a new collection of his madrigals (not really conforming to expectations) is full of his characterisc imagination and boundless creativity. A brief taster from Daniel Hope's forthcoming 'Journey to Mozart', a lovely account of the Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice... And to end, that gloriously Beethiven from Martha Argerich... 

Listen on:

SpotifyApple MusicQobuz

The tracks:

R Strauss Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders!

OSM Soloists (Analekta)

Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 in B flat, K595

Chamber Orchetsra of Europe / Piotr Anderszewski (Warner Classics)

A Keeling Northern Soul

In Echo / Gawain Glenton (Delphian)   

Dvořák String Sextet, Op 48

Jerusalem Quartet; Veronika Hagen; Gary Hoffman (Harmonia Mundi)    

Guridi Viejo Zortzico

Xavier de Maistre (Sony Classical)    

Beethoven Piano Sonata No 31 in A flat, Op 110

James Rhodes (Signum)  

I Moody Apokathilosis

Amarcord  (Apollon Classics)

Barber Adagio

Pittsburgh SO / Manfred Honeck (Reference Recordings)

Martinu Primrose

Martinů Voices / Lukas Vasilek (Supraphon)

Gluck Orfeo ed Euridice - Dance of the Blessed Spirits

Zurich Chamber Orchestra / Daniel Hope (DG)

Beethoven Piano Concerto No 1 in C, op 15 - finale

Martha Argerich; Mito Chamber Orchestra / Seiji Ozawa (Decca)

The Listening Room

James Jolly's weekly exploration of the newest and most interesting classical releases. Available on Spotify, Apple Music and Qobuz

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