Andrew Aronowicz


October 31, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Szymanowski & Karłowicz: Violin Concertos (Tasmin Little, BBC SO/Gardner)

It’s only recently that Tasmin Little released her recording of Karol Szymanowski’s Violin Sonata on the Chandos label, and she must have a liking for the composer as she’s followed it up with readings of both concertos by the Polish master. There’s much to be found in Szymanowski’s music, which draws on various early-20th-century influences. His Violin Concerto No 1 is considered by many to be the first modern violin concerto, and it’s a true stylistic melange: a heady concoction of impressionist colours, expressionist drama, and the sweeping lyricism of late romanticism (basically, what would become the stock template for the Hollywood soundtrack within a few decades). There’s so much detail in the vibrant orchestration, it’s easy to get swept up in the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s vivid and immersive performance under the direction of Edward Gardner. It’s a truly brilliant score, and so temperamental: rich romanticism one moment, playful and mercurial the next. Little’s performance is luscious and nuanced – broad and lyrical at moments of high drama, as well as spirited and finely articulated in faster passages. The cadenza here is a truly captivating moment. The Second Violin Concerto marks a complete change. Its language is more akin to folksong, particularly in…

September 22, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Satie: Piano Music Volume 2 (Noriko Ogawa)

Of all the oddballs in classical music, the French composer Erik Satie surely takes the cake. He was an artistic visionary and a bona fide eccentric, a friend to occultists, surrealists, and Dadaists, and a self-dubbed ‘phonometrist’. To describe him as ahead of his time would be something of an understatement. He wrote furniture music and produced a string of other musical experiments that prefigured Postmodernism. London-based Japanese pianist Noriko Ogawa has recorded Satie’s complete set of works for piano for Sweden’s enterprising BIS label, and in this second volume there’s not a Gymnopedie in sight – not even Je te veux. The curious listener will gain a more rounded understanding of this very unique genius through works like the Sports et Divertissements (Sports and Hobbies), and Préludes Flasques pour un Chien (Flabby Preludes for a dog). The Trois Préludes du Fils des Étoiles (Three Preludes from The Son of the Stars) are particularly interesting, sounding as though they might have been sketched by that other French musical dreamer, Olivier Messiaen. The disc is almost entirely composed of miniatures and, whether strange or serious, each gives a perspective on Satie’s musical nature: mock-traditionalist, austere, and reverent, with his curious mixture…

September 15, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Szymon Laks: Chamber Works (ARC Ensemble)

The Music in Exile series is a fantastic initiative by Canadian group ARC Ensemble (Artists of the Royal Conservatory). A spotlight on composers of suppressed music during the rise of Nazism, the most recent in the series looks at the chamber works of Paris-based Polish composer, Szymon Laks. Musically, Laks was something of a more cosmopolitan Bartók, with notes of Hindemith, Poulenc and even Prokofiev peppering his language. His works are infused with tuneful confidence, and many, particularly the Piano Quintet, draw on Polish folk tradition. The performances on this disc are all crystal clear, capturing the fine lines of Laks’ calculated counterpoint. Much of the music is light, and upbeat in character, with the works including winds having particular bounce. This is music in stark contrast to the darkness of the war, during which Laks was imprisoned at Auschwitz. In the midst of the terror of the Nazi regime, music might have been a light of hope, especially for those at Auschwitz. The camp had a few ensembles, and at one point Laks was appointed conductor of the men’s orchestra. Laks’ testimony, however, was that music provided little in the way of comfort: “In no case,” he said, “did…

August 31, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Suite Cubed (Umberto Clerici)

Bach’s six suites for solo cello are cornerstones of the repertoire, and since Casals, they’ve been championed by a host of the world’s greatest virtuoso cellists. The intimacy of the suites, their arcs and lines, and general architecture, are familiar to a great many listeners. There are countless recordings, ranging in interpretation of phrasing, bowing, and tempo, and each connoisseur will have their favourite. But none will have experienced a reinterpretation quite like Umberto Clerici’s. In Suite Cubed, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra principal cellist adopts the general blueprint of the original suites, forming two new suites pieced together from various solo works from the 17th through to the 20th centuries. Bach’s music is treated as a kind of platform for exploring the experience of a solo cello suite: its pacing, progression of tempi and mood, dance character, and dramatic flow. From this familiar territory, Clerici charts a new course, weaving lines into unexpected places in this fascinating approach to musical curation, a kind of contemporary meditation on one of the Baroque’s most popular genres. Clerici’s playing is soulful, robust, and beautifully sculpted. In the first Suite Cubed, in D, he springs from Bach’s resonant and buoyant D Major Prelude backwards…

August 25, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Franck • Chausson: Violin Sonata, Concert (Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov, Salagon Quartet)

German violin virtuosa Isabelle Faust and Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov have released an extensive list of recordings of chamber works by Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Shostakovich and Weber. This, their most recent release, sees them dabbling in French repertoire, with two works by French romantics César Franck and Ernest Chausson. Franck and Chausson really are a perfect complement to each other. Both composers inject the same kind of lyricism and harmonic drama into their music, Chausson lying somewhere between Franck and Debussy in terms of style. This recent recording sees the pairing of Franck’s classic Violin Sonata with Chausson’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet, Op. 21. The Chausson is less well known than the Franck, but is nonetheless a wonderful example of chamber music at its most intimate and dynamic, and sees Faust and Melnikov joined by the Salagon Quartet. Faust’s signature silky, gauze-like tone colour is on fine display throughout the recording, though particularly in the Franck’s fragile third movement, and Melnikov’s light touch on the c.1885 Érard piano lends a sense of period authenticity to the performance. The reading of the Franck Sonata captures all of its dreaminess and nonchalance, balanced nicely by more rugged displays…

June 14, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Ravel: Daphnis and Chloé (Les Siècles, Ensemble Aedes/François-Xavier Roth)

Ravel called his glittering score to Daphnis et Chloé a ‘Symphonie choreographique’: essentially a ‘symphony with dance’, the perfect description for a work of such majesty, where the music really is centre-stage. The score is usually segmented into three suites for concert performance, making a hearing of the full version all too rare a treat. Thankfully François-Xavier Roth with period instrument orchestra Les Siècles and Ensemble Aedes deliver the full ballet on this recent release with Harmonia Mundi, with the most stunning results. The exact date of inception of Daphnis et Chloé is somewhat disputed, but the original commission came from Diaghilev, for the prestigious Ballets Russes. The composition was fraught with challenges, mainly due to creative differences between Ravel and the choreographer, Michel Fokine. After numerous revisions and a delayed premiere, the ballet finally opened in June 1912, almost a year before Parisian audiences would be scandalised by the riot over Stravinsky’s vicious Rite. Underscoring the ancient Greek tale of a pastoral romance between a shepherd and shepherdess, Ravel’s music is languorous and enchanting, shimmering with lush orchestral colour, and worlds away from Stravinsky’s pulsating nightmare. The beginning and third part are mostly relaxed, dreamy episodes, framing the dramatic…

May 31, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Ravel: Daphnis and Chloé (Les Siècles, Ensemble Aedes/Roth)

Ravel called his glittering score to Daphnis et Chloé a ‘Symphonie choreographique’: essentially a ‘symphony with dance’, the perfect description for a work of such majesty, where the music really is centre-stage. The score is usually segmented into three suites for concert performance, making a hearing of the full version all too rare a treat. Thankfully François-Xavier Roth with period instrument orchestra Les Siècles and Ensemble Aedes deliver the full ballet on this recent release with Harmonia Mundi, with the most stunning results. The exact date of inception of Daphnis et Chloé is somewhat disputed, but the original commission came from Diaghilev, for the prestigious Ballets Russes. The composition was fraught with challenges, mainly due to creative differences between Ravel and the choreographer, Michel Fokine. After numerous revisions and a delayed premiere, the ballet finally opened in June 1912, almost a year before Parisian audiences would be scandalised by the riot over Stravinsky’s vicious Rite. Underscoring the ancient Greek tale of a pastoral romance between a shepherd and shepherdess, Ravel’s music is languorous and enchanting, shimmering with lush orchestral colour, and worlds away from Stravinsky’s pulsating nightmare. The beginning and third part are mostly relaxed, dreamy episodes, framing the dramatic…

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