Bernstein as composer and pianist-conductor, Nielsen's Violin Concerto, songs by Debussy, chamber music by Hans Gál and harpsichord magic from Justin Taylor
Probably the most widely celebrated classical-music anniversary of recent decades falls on Saturday, August 25 – the centenary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein. To mark the occasion (and don't forget that Gramophone marked the occasion in style in our August issue), I've included his ballet Facsimile, one of Bernstein's less-often-encountered scores as well as a recording of the Ravel Piano Concerto made in Paris in 1975 with Bernstein as both pianist and conductor, newly released by Warner Classics. Facsimile is the second of Bernstein's collaborations with the choreographer Jerome Robbins and this 1946 score explores a tumultuous love-triangle and draws music of both power and delicacy from its composer - I've opted for a fine recording by the CBSO and Paavo Järvi.
The young American-French harpsichordist Justin Taylor made a huge impression with his first album for Alpha Classics, 'La famille Forqueray: Portrait(s)' and now follows it up with a thrilling cross-century pairing of Domencio Scarlatti and György Ligeti. I open this week's Listening Room with Scarlatti, but honour Taylor's juxtaposition of composers later on by including tracks by the two composers side by side - and it works beautifully.
The violinist Fabio Biondi is joined by the guitarist Giangiocomo Pinardi in a sonata by Paganini, and for an equally enchanting combination of instruments, I've included Air by Toru Takemitsu, written for flute and guitar - haunting stuff! And still on the chamber-music front, a delightful trio by Hans Gál, part of Avie's continuing service to this important and musically appealing composer.
Claude Debussy shares the spotlight this year with Bernstein, though 2018 marks the centenary of his death - he died exactly five months to the day before Bernstein's birth – which telescopes time rather amazingly. Harmonia Mundi has been issuing a wonderful stream of recordings featuring its fellow countryman and the latest volume, focusing on songs, finds Sophie Karthäuser and Stéphane Degout on magnificent form. Songs from both of them this week. And I've a trio of songs by Samuel Barber beautifully done by Christian Immler with Danny Driver at the piano.
The Big Work this week is the Violin Concerto by Carl Nielsen, a piece that really should be heard more often in concert. It's a strong work and the new recording from Jiyoon Lee with the Odense Symphony Orchestra squares up to its challenges and reveals its stature gloriously.
Pre-release tracks this week: the slow movement of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto from the superb Nicholas Angelich, a Beethoven string quartet movement (Op 127) from the Danish String Quartet and an electonically souped-up version of Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel.
And, to end, the sublime 'Nachspiel' from Leonard Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles ....
D Scarlatti Sonata in D minor, Kk213 (Andante)
Justin Taylor (Alpha Classics)
City of Birmngham Symphony Orchestra / Paavo Järvi (Warner Classics/Erato)
Piotr Plawner; Piort Salajczyk (Hänssler Classic)
Debussy Beau soir
Sophie Karthäuser; Eugene Asti (Harmonia Mundi)
Gál Varionationen über eine Wiener Heurigenmelodie, Op 9
Briggs Piano Trio (Avie)
Shin-ichi Fukuda; Shigenori Kudo (Naxos)
Ravel Piano Concerto in G
Orchestre National de France / Leonard Bernstein (Warner Classics)
D Scarlatti Sonata in C minor, Kk115 (Andante)
Ligeti Passacaglia ungherese
Justin Taylor (Alpha Classics)
Debussy Trois chansons de France
Stéphane Degout; Alain Planès (Harmonia Mundi)
Paganini Sonata concertata in A, Op 61
Fabio Biondi; Giangiacomo Pinardi (Glossa)cBarber Three Songs, Op 45
Christian Immler; Danny Driver (Avi)
Beethoven String Quartet No 12 in E flat, Op 127 – Maestoso … Allegro
Danish Quartet (ECM New Series)
Nielsen Violin Concerto
Jiyoon Lee; Odense Symphony Orchestra / Kristiina Poska (Orchid Classics)
Pärt Spiegel im Spiegel (sound synthesis by Giordano Franchetti)
Iskandar Widjaja (Berlin Classics)
Beethoven Piano Concerto No, 'Emperor' – Adagio un poco mosso
Nicholas Angelich; Insula Orchestra / Laurence Equilbey (Erato)
Bernstein Arias and Barcarolles – Nachspiel
Christian Immler; Anna Stéphany; Silvia Fraser; Danny Driver (Avi)