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Johannes Brahms

Monday, May 22, 2017


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

May 8

Label news: Unreleased Kathleen Ferrier comes to light

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discBoutique label Somm are bringing out 16 unpublished tracks by the British contralto Kathleen Ferrier. These recordings are from two sources. Several are from the BBC’s own archives and include Ferrier’s first broadcast of Rubbra’s Three Psalms Op. 61, of which she was the dedicatee, five Schubert Lieder, four by Brahms and Parry’s Love is a bable, recorded at the 1948 Edinburgh Festival, which makes a delightful conclusion to the CD. The other source is the remarkable collection of Kenneth Leech, a composer and engineer who, from the 1930s to the 1950s, recorded numerous broadcasts, mainly using Bakelite and metal discs – the usual way for an enthusiast to preserve radio programmes at that time. This collection is stored at the National Sound Archive in the British Library. Out next month. Can’t wait.

My Classical Notes

May 15

May 19+20: Kavakos Plays Brahms

Venue: NY Philharmonic Orchestra Lincoln Center, New York, NY David Geffen Hall Dates: Friday, 19 May 2017 – 8:00 PM Saturday, 20 May 2017 – 8:00 PM Tuesday, 23 May 2017 – 7:30 PM Conductor: Alan Gilbert Artists: Anu Komsi (Soprano); Piia Komsi (Soprano); Leonidas Kavakos (Violin) Program: Brahms: Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 77 Þorvaldsdottir: Airiality Salonen: Wing on Wing




Classical iconoclast

May 14

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered - SOMM

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts  of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall.  Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings. Bruno Walter accompanies Ferrier in two Schubert and two Brahms songs.  Walter was a major influence on Ferrier, developing her style and repertoire and bring her to international prominence.  Reputedly, she was so overcome rehearsing for Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde that she wept inconsolably.  Perhaps it was that emotional directness that Walter recognized  that convinced him that the relatively unknown young singer had potential.  In these songs, recorded in the Edinburgh studios of the BBC, Ferrier's sincerity shines, though her delivery is more enthusiastic than refined.  But that was part of her charm. Walter responds in kind, his playing particularly free and invigorating. Ferrier's recordings of Mahler's Rückert Lieder and Kindertotenlieder are classics, but on this disc, she sings Urlicht, from Mahler's Symphony no 2.  This recording was made on 28th September 1950.  The following year,  Ferrier sang the part with full orchestra  in the recording of the symphony with Otto Klemperer and Jo Vincent in Amsterdam.  Here she sings the version for piano and voice, so the closer focus concentrates attention on the voice and its distinctive colouring.  Her vibrato is used to evoke fragility, in keeping with the nature of the piece.  A worthwhile addition to the discography, since she didn't record this version for Decca.  Apart from one track on this disc - C Hubert Parry's Love is a bable op 152/3 with Gerald Moore -  all the other selections feature Ferrier with Frederick Stone.  Ferrier sang a lot of Schubert and Wolf,  her contralto richness is most effective in Brahms.  Her Sonntag op 47/3 here, recorded in December 1949, is particularly impressive. Although Ferrier found fame, she was, at heart, down-to-earth and unaffected, rather like the "Das tausendschöne Jungfräulein" standing by her doorway, innocently capturing hearts.  For this reason, perhaps, Ferrier is often most endearing when she sings traditional songs in the English language.  This remastering makes Parry's Love is a Bable bright and shiny! On this SOMM disc, we have Edmund Rubbra's Three Psalms op 61, which Ferrier recorded for Decca with Ernest Lush, in performance with Frederick Stone, from 1947.  The piano settings are minimal, displaying the voice unadorned, suggesting private prayer.  In Psalm 150, Rubbra writes extravagant lines, which let Ferrier's voice fly exuberantly free. SOMM has also uncovered a special rarity: Maurice Jacobson's Song of Songs, quite probably the original recording, which has lain in the BBC sound archives long known but hitherto unreleased. The text comes from the Book of Solomon, and the setting makes clear reference to Jewish tradition. 



Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

May 7

Reports of a new Joyce Hatto

Remember the British pianist whose highly-praised recordings turned out to be husband-made home copies of releases by major artists? It appears she may have an Italian fan. The pianist Marc Pantillon, professor at the Conservatoire of Lausanne, Switzerland, has drawn attention to a CD of solo Brahms by Maurizio Moretti, professor at Calgiari and at the Schola Cantorum, Paris. Pantillon alleges that Moretti’s new recording is identical to his 2005 release. An Italian pianist, Luca Ciammarughi, supports his contention with comparisons here: Moretti’s release was withdrawn last week by the label, Inviolata, and the label’s owner issued an apology to Pantillon. Moretti has also deleted all of his own postings about the recording. But there’s more. A sound engineer, Alexander Kalashnikov, now claims that Moretti’s release of Tchaikovsky’s Seasons is identical to a 2002 recording that he produced with the pianist Victor Ryabchikov. Moretti’s version appeared on Decca. UPDATE: A third concern relates to his recording of the Rachmaninov 2nd concerto and Paganini Variations with ‘the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, conductor Alexander Petrov’. Ciammarughi finds alarming affinities with the EMI recording by Mikhail Rudy and Mariss Jansons. Professor Moretti is a respected pianist with an international career. He makes frequent appearances on competition juries. We have asked him to respond to these mysterious coincidences. It is possible he is the unwitting victim of some third party fraud, as was the unfortunate Hatto herself. In any event, we await Moretti’s explanation.

Johannes Brahms
(1833 – 1897)

Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 - 3 April 1897) was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene. In his lifetime, Brahms' popularity and influence were considerable; following a comment by the nineteenth-century conductor Hans von Bülow, he is sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the Three Bs. Brahms composed for piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus. A virtuoso pianist, he premiered many of his own works; he also worked with some of the leading performers of his time, including the pianist Clara Schumann and the violinist Joseph Joachim. Many of his works have become staples of the modern concert repertoire. Brahms, an uncompromising perfectionist, destroyed many of his works and left some of them unpublished. Brahms is often considered both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Baroque and Classical masters. He was a master of counterpoint, the complex and highly disciplined method of composition for which Bach is famous, and also of development, a compositional ethos pioneered by J. Haydn, W.A. Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Brahms aimed to honour the "purity" of these venerable "German" structures and advance them into a Romantic idiom, in the process creating bold new approaches to harmony and melody. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by subsequent figures as diverse as the progressive Arnold Schoenberg and the conservative Edward Elgar. The diligent, highly constructed nature of Brahms's works was a starting point and an inspiration for a generation of composers.



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