The Listening Room: Episode 17 (16.2.18)

The Listening RoomThu 15th February 2018

Argerich and Ozawa give us youthful Beethoven, we introduce Australia’s Orava Quartet and the Austrian-Persian cellist Kian Soltani, and sample a fine new recording of Otello - plus a memory of the late Jóhann Jóhannson.

Shakespeare’s line - on Cleopatra -  that ‘Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety’ might very well be applied to the wondrous pianism of the ageless Martha Argerich. At 76, she joins the 82-year-old Seiji Ozawa and the virtuoso Mita Chamber Orchestra for one of the most joyous recordings of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto for have come out for years. Sure, the finale is taken at an incredible lick, but all the notes are there and the spirit flies freely - no wonder that there’s a great explosion of applause of a quite un-Japanese abandon.

From glorious maturity to some musicians of a younger generation - Australia’s Orava Quartet (who studied with the great Takács Quartet) have just released their debut album on Australian DG’ and a very fine recording it is - I’ve chosen Tchaikovsky’s First Quartet which they play with a lovely suppleness and flair. Also from DG, and still in his twenties, the cellist Kian Soltani also makes a first appearance - sample him in a lovely Schumann song transcription.

Thomas Dausgaard is a conductor worth taking note of - his work in Seattle and Scotland has been drawing terrific reviews – and he’s also working through the Brahms symphonies and orchestral works with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra - try the Haydn Variations, classy playing indeed.

Its not every day that a new recording of Verdi’s Otello emerges and has people reaching for superlatives. The newly invigorated Pentatone label gives us a splendid version headed up by Nikolai Schukoff and Melody Moore with Lawrence Foster an impressive presence in the pit. I’ve chosen the closing moments of the opera …

The Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannson, best known for his film scores, died last week aged only 48 - here, by way of a tribute, is his haunting Orphic Hymn sung gloriously by the Theatre of Voices.

Pre-releases tasters this week: Beethoven form the New York Phil and their new Music Director Jaap van Zweden, a terrific duet from Gluck’s Armide sung by Stéphane Degout and Stanislas de Barbeyrac and a Schubert Rondo played by Pieter Wispelwey and Paolo Giacometti.

Listen on:

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The tracks:

Jóhannson Orphic Hymn

Theatre of Voices (DG)

Beethoven Piano Concerto No 1

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

Schumann Myrthen

Kian Soltani; Aaron Pilsan (DG)   

Pärt Magnificat

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir / Kaia Urb (BIS)    

Tchaikovsky String Quartet No 1

Orava Quartet (DG)    

Verdi Otello, Act 4 - conclusion

Nikolai Schukoff; Melody Moore; Gulbenkian Orchestra / Lawrence Foster (Pentatone)  

Brahms St Antoni Variations

Swedish Chamber Orchestra / Thomas Dausgaard (BIS)

Beethoven Symphony No 7 – Allegretto

New York Philharmonic Orchestra / Jaap van Zweden (Decca Gold)

Gluck Armide – 'Nous ne trouvons partout que des gouffres ouverts'

Stéphane Degout; Stansilas de Barbeyrac; Ensemble Pygmalion / Raphaël Pichon (Harmonia Mundi)

Schubert Rondo in B minor, D895

Pieter Wispelwey; Paolo Giacometti (Evil Penguin)

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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