Easter music, Vaughan Williams's Fifth, Bartók's First Violin Concerto and magical piano music by Mompou, Haydn and Prokofiev
Whatever your religious beliefs, there’s no denying that Christianity’s observance of Easter and everything that it conveys about humanity, spirituality and hope for the future, has given us some astounding works of art, and specifically for us music-lovers, some great compositions. So this week’s The Listening Room contains a handful of Easter pieces – a couple of arias from JS Bach’s St Matthew Passion (one featuring the incomparable Christa Ludwig, with Otto Klemperer providing a solemn and rock-solid accompaniment), part of a Passion Oratorio by Telemann, Seliges Erwägen des Leidens und Sterbens Jesu Christi (‘Blessed Contemplation of the Bitter Suffering and Dying of Jesus Christ’) and, from the archive, Poulenc’s powerful yet restrained Quatre Motets pour un Temps de Pénitence in beautifully judged performances by The Sixteen.
Larger scale pieces picked from recent releases included Ralph Vaughan Williams’s magnificent Fifth Symphony, perhaps the place to start if you’re unfamiliar with his symphonic output – Andrew Manze and the Royal Liverpool Phil give us a superb performance, beautifully recorded. From a recent disc of the Bartók violin concertos, I’ve chosen Renaud Capuçon in the seldom encountered (at least in concert) First Concerto: François-Xavier Roth providing imaginative support, with the LSO on fine form.
Terrific piano recordings continue to come out apace – Olivier Cavé offers a programme of Beethoven and Haydn sonatas: I’ve opted for Haydn’s B minor work, glorious inventive. From the highly impressive Julien Brocal, who gives us Mompou and Ravel, there’s the Catalan composer’s three Paisajes (‘Landscapes’) – miniature, visionary and, here, fabulously played. The third of the set, ‘Carros de Galicia’ (‘Carts of Galicia’) stretches tonality to its limits and the effect is pure magic.
Something special this week, a digital single by the young and immensely promising Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orlinski. I recently spoke to him for a Gramophone podcast, and his attitude to music-making is infectiously fresh and open. Erato is releasing a special digital single today (Good Friday) of a Vivaldi aria, ‘Vedrò, con mio diletto’ (from Il Giustino), a piece that, in two other recordings on YouTube, has made him something of an internet sensation. Partnered by Il Pomo d’Oro, this is music to stop the heart with its beauty.
A handful of taster tracks from pre-release or very new albums: Prokofiev from Martha Argerich and Sergei Babayan; Debussy from the Orchestre National de France and Emmanuel Krivine (sounding glorious in the opening movement of La mer); music for harp played by Mara Galassi and Prokofiev’s Ballade for cello and piano from an impressive new album from Pavel Gomziakov and Andrei Korobeinikov.
Telemann Seliges Erwägen, Passions-Oratorio – Third Meditation
Freiburger Barockorchester / Gottfried Von Der Goltz (NDR)
Julien Brocal (Rubicon)
JS Bach St Matthew Passion - 'Erbarme dich'
Christa Ludwig; Philharmonia Orchestra / Otto Klemperer (EMI/Warner Classics)
Poulenc Quatre Motets pour un Temps de Pénitence
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers (Coro)
Vivaldi Il Giustino - 'Vedrò, con mio diletto'
Jakub Józef Orlinski; Il Pomo d'Oro / Maxim Emelyanychev (Erato)
Vaughan Williams Symphony No 5
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Andrew Manze (Onyx)
JS Bach St Matthew Passion – 'Mache dich, mein Herze, rein'
Jonathan Sells; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner (SDG)
Haydn Keyboard Sonata in B minor, HobVXI:32
Olivier Cavé (Alpha)
Bartók Violin Concerto No 1
Renaud Capuçon; London Symphony Orchestra / François-Xavier Roth (Erato)
Pasquini Variazione per il Paggio Todesco
Mara Galassi (Glossa)
Prokofiev (arr Babayan) War and Peace – Natasha's and Andrei's Waltz
Martha Argerich; Sergei Babayan (DG)
Debussy La mer – 1. De l'aube à midi sur la mer
Orchestra National de France / Emmanuel Krivine (Erato)
Prokofiev Ballade, Op 15
Pavel Gomziakov; Andrei Korobeinikov (Rubicon)