The portrait of John Bull on the cover of this two-CD U.S. release gives an idea for the uninitiated of what to expect from the composer's music: it's intense, single-minded, and even a bit demonic (although the hourglass topped with a skull with a bone in its mouth is apparently an alchemical symbol). Bull was, in the words of an unidentified writer quoted by harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, "the Liszt of the virginals." The most immediately apparent feature of his music is extreme virtuosity, on display especially in the mind-boggling set of variations entitled Walsingham (CD 1, track 8) and in the galliards of the pavan-galliard pairs. But the opposite pole in Bull's style exerts just as strong a pull: he is fascinated by strict polyphony by what would be called harmonic progressions, and by the close study of the implications contained within small musical units. As spectacular in their way as the keyboard fireworks are, the three separate settings of a tune called Why Ask You? on CD 2 are marvelous explorations of compressed musical gestures.
A majority of well-known composers have written at least a few chamber compositions in their entire lifetime. The most famous would have to be Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and probably Prokofiev. Some, including Respighi and Vaughan Williams, are overlooked or even rejected in today's society. Whether it's because of lack of originality or excessive complexities, these sorts of compositions are always left in the dark. Take Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata, for instance. This 35-minute work doesn't receive the complete recognition it deserves. It's overshadowed by the composer's piano concertos and symphonies, all of which are respectfully first-rate works in their own right.
…Writing of the chamber music of Friedrich Kiel, the famous scholar and critic Wilhelm Altmann notes that it was Kiel’s extreme modesty which kept him and his exceptional works from receiving the consideration they deserved. After mentioning Johannes Brahms and others, Altmann writes, “He produced a number of chamber works, which . . . need fear no comparison.”…
“Presenting Friedrich Kiel“. Hans Zentgraf’s MDG recordings have brought this cellist critical acclaim. These recordings include “an interpretation of the Bach suites compelling for its independent angle“ and a Reger CD representing” a high-level, tonally beautiful new recording.“ (FonoForum)
Although Korngold’s ‘complete works for violin and piano’ make up a reasonably full disc, it is only fair to point out that the Violin Sonata is the single work that is not an arrangement from one of his other pieces. Yet this Sonata, written at the age of 15 for Carl Flesch and Artur Schnabel no less, is a fine example of his early style, with its echoes of Zemlinsky and early Schoenberg. The young Dutch violinist Sonja van Beek and German pianist Andreas Frölich negotiate its challenges with ease: as in Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata, the pianist has as tough a role as the melody instrument. Much Ado about Nothing is one of several arrangements of a suite of four movements derived from incidental music to Shakespeare’s play written in 1918, performed here with affection and a silken suavity. The remainder of the repertoire is made up of arrangements of Korngold lollipops, hit numbers from his operas, such as the unforgettable ‘Marietta’s Lied’ from Die tote Stadt, arranged by the composer as salon pieces and popularised by Kreisler and his ilk.
Year 2015 marks the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), often entitled 'Finland’s national composer'. The fourth album on Ondine by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is dedicated to the complete works for mixed choir by Jean Sibelius. The award-winning choir, one of the finest of its kind internationally, is conducted here by one of the leading Finnish choir directors, Heikki Seppänen, who has conducted a large number of professional choirs in Finland and abroad. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s releases on Ondine have been a critical success: the first release was given an ‘Editor’s Choice’ by the Gramophone Magazine and ‘Disc of the Year’ by the renowned German weekly Die Zeit.
In this elegant box-set at special price Dynamic reunites all the compositions written by Nicolò Paganini for violin and guitar - the two instruments Paganini loved the most - with the violin clearly the protagonist (with only two exceptions - the Sonata Concertata M.S. 2 and the Grande Sonata Concertata M.S. 3, where the guitar has a role of importance). The success with critics and public met by the single CDs previously released show that music lovers do not only appreciate Paganini’s Violin Concertos but also works such as these, less imposing yet captivating for their melodic inventiveness and virtuosic solo writing.
With this disc, German label Neos takes on an enterprising project, Bruno Maderna: Complete Works for Orchestra, Vol. 1. Outside of Italy, Maderna is recognized as a significant figure within Italian avant-garde associated with Nono and Berio, but his music is not is well known as theirs, apart from his fanciful and hip Serenata per un satellite (1969). Within Italy, Maderna is remembered as one of her greatest conductors, although he is worshipped to such extent in that role that his compositions have been overlooked. Such a series, hopefully, would serve to redress the balance; Maderna's experience as conductor helped inform his compositions, and by having access to his orchestral pieces one might be able to determine to what extent his composing impacted his work as a conductor.