A two-week pause to accommodate the 16th Tchaikovsky International Competition, and I couldn’t return from Moscow and St Petersburg without celebrating the musician who won not only the Gold Medal in the piano category but who also received the Competition’s Grand Prix. He’s the hugely impressive 22-year-old Frenchman Alexandre Kantorow, and I’ve included the three movements in Guido Agosti’s transcription of Stravinsky’s The Firebird and which also made a huge impact in Moscow. He’s a real star!
Another star is the mezzo Brigitte Fassbaender who celebrated her 80th birthday on July 3. She has recorded a vast range of music, but I want to recall her in her prime with a group of songs by Richard Strauss from a wonderful album, with pianist Irwin Gage. When she received a Gramophone Award in 1992 for her DG recording of Schwanengesang with Aribert Reimann I remember Elisabeth Schwarzkopf saying ‘Just wait till you hear her Winterreise’ - and in due course it arrived and what a magnificent creation it was.
Two fine violin concertos this week - one from the French-domiciled Qigang Chen, Messiaen’s last pupil, and whose music manages to sound both Chinese and French at the same time – atmospherically played by Maxim Vengerov and the fine Shanghai SO, and the other from William Walton from a cleverly programmed album of three violin concertos written in 1938. Fabiola Kim is the authoritative soloist.
Staying with strings, I’ve a quartet by a composer I’d never heard of - Karel Kovařovic (1862-1920), best known for his editorial work on Leoš Janáček's Jenůfa, but clearly a composer of personality and flare. Violinist Hilary Hahn headlines an impressive trio (of Alain Meunier and Robert Levin) in Mozart’s Piano Trio, K496.
On the piano front, a Grieg Lyric Piece played by Denis Kozhukin and a scrumptious operatic fantasy by Thalberg played by Mark Viner.
Choral music by my Gramophone colleague James McCarthy merely illustrates his growing authority and skill as a composer (also check out his powerful Codebreaker on Signum), and Jacob Mühlrad’s confident voice in an excerpt from Time reveals another major choral voice. And dipping back through the centuries, the wonderful Vox Luminis performs JC Bach’s Es erhub sich ein Streit. And this week's playlist opens with Bach Senior's exact contemporary Handel, a vibrant performance of his Op 3 No 2.
Pre-release tracks include Simon and Garfunkel played by Miloš Karadaglić, Tchaikovsky from Semyon Bychkov and a choral piece by Max Reger sung impressively by the Windsbacher Knabenchor.
Handel Concerto grosso in B flat, Op 3 No 2
Berliner Barock Soloisten / Reinhard Goebel (Hänssler Classic)
McCarthy If ye love me
Sonoro / Neil Ferris (Resonus)
Stravinsky (trans Agosti) The Firebird – Infernal Dance of King Kashchei; Lullaby; Finale
Alexandre Kantorow (BIS)
Copland Quiet City
Solistes Européens Luxembourg / Christoph König (Rubicon)
Greig Lyric Pieces, Op 65 – No 6, 'Wedding Day at Troldhaugen'
Denis Kozukhin (Pentatone)
Qigang Chen The Joy of Suffering
Maxim Vengerov; Shanghai Symphony Orchestra / Long Yu (DG)
Mozart Piano Trio in G, K496
Hilary Hahn; Alain Meunier; Robert Levin (Palais des Dégustiers)
R Strauss 5 Lieder, op 15
Brigitte Fassbaender; Irwin Gage (DG)
Walton Violin Concerto
Fabiola Kim; Munich Symphoniker / Kevin John Edusei (Solo Musica)
Thalberg L’Art du chant appliqué au Piano, Op 70 - XIX, ‘Casta diva’, cavatine de l’opéra Norma de Bellini
Mark Viner (Piano Classics)
JC Bach Es erhub sich ein Streit
Vox Luminis / Lionel Meunier (Ricercar)
Kovařovic String Quartet No 2
Stamic Quartet (Supraphon)
Mühlrad Excerpt from Time
Swedish Radio Choir (DG) PRE-RELEASE TRACK
Tchaikovsky Symphony No 5 - Valse: Allegro moderato
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra / Semyon Bychkov (Decca) PRE-RELEASE TRACK
Simon and Garfunkel The Sound of Silence (arr Lawson, Trueman)
Miloš Karadaglić; 12 Ensemble (Decca) PRE-RELEASE TRACK
Windsbacher Knabenchor / Martin Lehmann (Sony Classical) PRE-RELEASE TRACK