Musical Discoveries of the April

There was everything in the spring sky of music last month. Here, the unexpected choices of the repertoire surprised the masters of their instruments placed on the highest pedestals; baroque music spirals through time and around the world, presenting the most unexpected intersections of cultures; Lithuanian folk music motifs swell in different world, electronic and acoustic guitar contexts.

American Paris and Austrian Pierre

The icon of the 21st century violin – American Hilary Hahn – pampers fans after a year’s creative break with a new album “Paris”. It is a violin tribute to the cultural history of one of the largest cities in the world, with which it came closer to the 2018/19 season, when it resided in Paris, together with the Orchester Philharmonique de Radio France and its music director Mikko Franck. Immediately after that, in September 2019, Hahn wrapped the violin in a holster and decided to dedicate a year to delving into himself. After the quarantine was announced, her plans to paint with watercolors, travel and study at university crashed. The violinist spent the year with her family at home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. However, this time helped her leave tension behind her, distracted, and descended into the essence of her activities. “It simply came to our notice then. Art always asks itself, looking for ways to represent, talk to humanity, discuss difficulties and reveal beautiful things, ”says Hilary in one interview. At that time, her latest creative project was launched – the first joint album with her long-time colleagues from France.

Surprisingly surprisingly, the soloist combines Prokofiev’s first violin concert, a real French 19th century concert, with unexpected combinations of works. Ernest Chausson’s Poème and the first Finnish works by Einojuhani Rautavaara, Deux Sérénades. As you can guess, the recording is based on the solo dynamics of the great orchestra’s contrasting romantic violin. She is close to Hilary Hahn’s consistent violin tradition, subtle and positive style. The stunning solo canteen of the soloist shines on the disc, its lush, unobtrusive sound. “No violinist currently performing gives a more beautiful sound,” Rob Cowan has written about Hahn. Here, its extraordinary technique and clever phrasing, sound expression, picturesque and mesmerizing interpretations do not slip through the ears either.

A delicate recording of the Parisian mood begins with Ernest Chausson’s poem for violin with the Poème Orchestra. As if a seventeen-minute musical narrative influenced, the piece was filled with a lively, undulating, and vivid character. The squeaky sound tells a sensitive, illustrative, expressive story. A gentle, delicate and sensual piece, according to the violinist, is an acknowledgment of an emotional moment, not a creation. During it, the sound creates itself. Hilary Hahn’s interpretation is down to the smallest detail, all the emotional nuances are expressed here.

The cornerstone of the record is Prokofiev’s first concert in D major, Op. 19. According to the violinist, this canonical work of the Russian tradition always gave her a Parisian feeling. Canon has been in her repertoire for many years, so while playing Prokofiev, Hilary Hahn admitted she felt like a dancer in a role she had been dancing for decades. Her body’s close relationship with this music and her technique is felt throughout the recording. An intense work, in the technique of which Prokofiev clearly choreographed not only sound but also physical expression. In Hilary Hahn’s hands, it sounds in a radiant tone – very free and expressive; with broad singing phrases. Every sound is planted in a musical thought with intent, every detail is heard and clearly articulated. The greasy, floating sound combines and allows her to maneuver between the intonation, rhythm and character divisions of a different concert.

The disc ends with two serenades, Sérénade pour mon amour and Sérénade pour la vie. The real junction of the end and the beginning is the first performance and recording of the last works of the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, Deux Sérénades. Music completed just before his death in 2019 was dedicated to Hilary Hahn. The soloist felt as if she had received a letter from the outside when, during his funeral, the conductor discovered the composer’s manuscripts – a gift to Hilary Hahn and the Radio France Orchestra. Mat kai 2014 they performed the Rautavaara Violin Concerto (1970), Hahn was so impressed that he commissioned another piece. Rautavaara said he would write a serenade suite. His last work, Sérénade pour la vie (serenade for life), remained unfinished – in addition to the finished violin part and orchestral sketches, composer student Kalevi Aho had to complete the orchestration. Hahn felt the weight of responsibility when performing the composer’s last works: “I knew we were finishing the things he started.” In his late work, Rautavaara created by playing with modern techniques, but his style remained largely romantic. The works sublimate the former themes of the composer’s vocal works, weaves a network of memory and longing. The sounds of the serenade leave the feeling in the listeners ’minds that life was too short after all. “It is an honor to be a part of the composer’s last work,” the violinist hinted. Summing up her current mission, she describes it as follows: “We need to prepare the music world for the next generation of musicians, and their job is to move on to what we have prepared.”

Hilary Support Patricia Kopatinskaya – a violinist with a completely different haircut has long stated that the classical music industry is so far behind and there are already enough recordings of standard works. “If someone does something that’s just a little different, it becomes a huge, heated discussion,” she complained. And not unnecessarily, because Patricia does things a little differently. When she couldn’t play for a few months last year due to hand pain, she closed her eyes and thought about what she wanted to do all the time, but didn’t dare. The result is her latest album, which combines works by representatives of the second Vienna school, A. Schoenberg and A. Webern, inlaid with much sweeter ear plays by J. Strauss II and F. Kreisler. The main accent of the disc is a piece that is spit even after hearing everything. A herald of modernism and a manifesto of expressionism, who introduced the world to dodecaphony and Sprachgesang’s vocal technique, A. Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire (lunar Pierre). The absurd scenes, dreams and images full of pepper and surprises are experienced at the sight of the symbol of French culture – the joker Pierre. Freed from the instrumental violin challenges, Patricia is embodied in the clown. “I felt like I was Pierre all my life,” she admits, believing that the vocal piece allowed her to expand her musical language with vocal vocabulary and thus develop not only as a musician but also as a violinist. The character’s inner world is ironic, grotesque, but at the same time longingly gentle and naive. It operates in a musical landscape where anything is possible. As if the piece has a locked spirit of Schoenberg’s music with a heavy sound, which is allowed to be heard only by those who have survived to the end. “I came even closer to a vivid, spontaneous and colorful understanding of the expression of music,” the musician assures. On the album you can hear with what freedom and ingenuity Patricia interprets this piece. After Pierrot lunaire, she takes the violin and awaits the audience with A. Webern’s four plays for violin and piano, Op. 7, and A. Schoenberg’s Fantasy for Violin and Piano, Op. 47. The album concludes with a recording of six pianos by pianist Joon Ahonen and A. Schoenberg.

If, after Kocetinskoy’s weirdness, you want to listen to the “normal” romantic, melodic and emotionally captivating sound of a violin, I recommend a disc called “Dreams and Drama” without curtains. Imported from colorful, intoxicating and roasting Italy, a new baby from Naxos presents rare chamber works by Ermann Wolf-Ferrari (a 19th-20th century Italian opera composer) – the first three violin sonatas. The enigmatic, dramatic and magnificent atmosphere here is created by the dance of the shadows of Bach, Brahms and Wagner music.

Baroque guitarists

At a time when American Hilary Hahn and oyster Patricia Kopatinskaya were interested in the reflections of French culture in the music of the past centuries, the Italian – viola da gamba musician André Lislevando – undertook to perform a baroque French violin repertoire. His latest album, Forqueray Unchained, presents the repertoire of the French viola da gamba virtuoso Antoine Forqueray (1672-1745), inspired by his contemporaries (Marin Marais, Louis Couperin, Robert Couperin), escaping the constraints of style and technique. works. André Lislevand’s musical path was full of surprises and contradictions. At the age of six, he began privately studying violin in Verona. When he heard his parents playing lute and guitar, interpreting both baroque and popular music, he soon became fascinated with stringed string instruments and began playing rock with electric guitar. When, in the musician’s latest album, the flaming and extroverted virtuosity of Italian viola da gamba meets subtle, colorful and inventive French music, the listener is immersed in an intimate 17th-18th century. the world of chamber music. This atmosphere is created by harpsichord (Paola Erd), theorba (Jadran Duncumb) and cameo (Rolf Lislevand), embodying the playful duality of musical styles, epochs and traditions.

The mission to explore the musical relations between the two nations – this time Italy and Spain – continues on another Baroque guitarist Stefano Maiorana’s latest album. Richly ornamented and absurdly virtuoso works, hiding the motifs of folk music and the illusion of complex polyphony, sound masterful and archaic. The main works of Baroque guitar figures Santiago de Murcia (1673–1739) in Spain and Arcangelo Corelli, a popular and highly regarded representative of the Italian style in Spain, meet here. Yes in this musical bitch a doscope that creates a dialogue of contrasting aesthetics and instrumental technique, demonstrating the guitar as a unique-sounding instrument capable of adapting to different languages ​​and styles.

Following in the footsteps of Santiago de Murcia’s music, which, torn from the composer’s service in Madrid and Naples, spread its wings to the same France, the Netherlands, and later Mexico and Chile, we travel to Central America. Another disco of baroque guitar music came out here, bringing to light the archives of the five-hundred-year-old Guatemala City Cathedral. The sources of cultural activity created by the Spanish colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries promoted the intricate musical life of the Cathedral of Guatemala City. A meeting of the courtiers with the local enthusiastic musicians of Latin America, who changed the face of their baroque polyphonic music, leaving the imprint of folk music with the admixtures of native Mayan, Aztec and Inca culture. The album is full of dance / variation works for Spanish guitars (cyanos, fairy tales, zarabands, foils and novels) with a rhythm and harmonic pattern typical of local music. The guitar is considered here as an essential instrument of both folk and professional and liturgical music. In the album, it shines in a virtuoso, complex instrumental language. The soloists (guitars, harp, voices and percussion) of the ensemble “El Mundo” revive the unique, mesmerizing sound of that time.

Although the guitar has not gained such a flair in the tradition of Western European classical music as in Spanish culture, in the 20th century. Julian Bream alone formed the Western repertoire of this instrument, commissioning new works from such internationally renowned composers of the time as B. Britten, J. Downland, J. Rutter, C. Scott, N. Mawa. Considered one of the most famous in the 20th century. classical guitarists, so Julian Breama played a significant role in improving the image of the guitar as an honorable instrument in the eyes of the public. After Mr Bream died in 2020, today these twentieth-century classical guitar works were performed and recorded by guitarist Graham Anthony Devine, named “performer continuing Breamo’s musical legacy” by Classic FM magazine. In a thick historical and semantic context, the recording sounds musical – in a smooth beautiful tone and matured technique.

Lithuanians and emigrants

Another guitarist in jazz music is cherished by the guitarist Mindaugas Stumbras, who floats between Scotland and Lithuania, and presented his second album Inspirations in April. Performing jazz, world, improvisational and academic contemporary music, the musician has been actively performing for many years, presenting his work in many European countries. His latest album declares beauty in simplicity. Nostalgic meditative mood; subtle, picturesque and dynamic sound is available to a wide range of listeners. Unexpectedly, Lithuanian folk intonations became a part of the music here, and the composition “Saulele, motule” was even created based on the song of Lithuanian folk shepherds. The recording features a piano (Dmitrij Golovanov), saxophone (Karolis Šarkus), trumpet (Mindaugas Vadoklis), drums (Domantas Razmus) and double bass (Denis Murašov).

In 2021, Gintas K (Kraptavičius), a musician called “sound manipulator”, managed to release twice as many – already two albums “The Ways” and “Art Brut”. The artist, who has been experimenting with sound for a quarter of a century and is already disappointed in rhythmic music in 2008, invites you to his sound world. Like the title of the album “Art Brut”, which means art that does not belong to the academic art tradition, Ginto K.’s work is alive – freed from external rules or restrictions. As you embark on each piece, you enter an ever-unrecognized territory, travel along unprecedented musical paths, and admire unprecedented sonorous landscapes. The creator breaks down stereotypes of sound management and propagation and creates meditative games with sound that allow the ear to touch a kind of audio life – unpredictable, promising nothing and turning prejudices into nothingness. The frantic improvisation contains sounds, noises and buzzing, chaotically dancing, breaking, stuttering. The experience of listening to Ginto K’s latest tracks is exciting and intense.

Although also in the Lithuanian, but in a completely different music scene, the classic opuses of Eduardas Balsys and Jurgis Karnavičius were sailed into international waters last month. The port of the Finnish publishing house Ondine has released two albums. “Reflections of the Sea” (1981), dramatic frescoes (1965) and violin concert no. 1 (1954) – the three main second century. jewels of Eduardas Balsys, half of the Lithuanian musical figure. They are recorded on the album by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra with conductor Modest Pitren and soloists pianist Indre Baikstyte and violinist Dzerald Bidva. The album features cornerstones marking the composer’s different creative periods and twists and turns in the development of Lithuanian music. Combining the early classical form written “folklore romantic compositions and late expressionist and dodecaphonic works, the album moves along the way towards new stylistic directions and composition techniques. Here E. Balsys reveals himself as a master of rich, colorful orchestral scores.

The initiative of the Vilnius Quartet to record Lithuanian music for the quartet begins with the first two string quartets of Jurgis Karnavičius, who made a significant contribution to Lithuanian cultural life. The first G minor belongs to his early creative period – it was written after the composer graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory. The composer himself described it as the beginning of his creative path. The second quartet was written four years later. During World War I, he was captured by the Germans and until 1918. lived in a prison camp in Josefstadt, near Vienna. The composition created here has the same classical structure as the first quartet, following the moderate aesthetic line formed during the studies. But it’s a much more individual, deeper expression of music. Although tonal, lyrical, it surprises with its intricate texture and harmony. Although the composer’s work is still admired after his death, the first quartets are performed quite rarely. This album revives Jurgis Karnavičius’ chamber music with a dedicated performance by the Vilnius String Quartet. Energy and bright sound properly convey the traditions of Lithuanian academic music.

Stumbras’ jazz compositions based on Lithuanian folk songs rise to the world of world music. The band Merope, consisting of Lithuanian Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė (voice and kankles), Belgian Bert Cools (guitar, electronics) and Frenchman Jean-Christophe Bonnafous (bansuri), organically combines original compositions with interpretations of folk songs. Their recently released fourth album “Salos” has a unique – gentle, soothing and minimalist sound of the ensemble – a mixture of Lithuanian instruments and world melodies and intonations. Here the sacred aura of songs is given by new voices – the long-time creative companion of Merope, the choir Jauna Muzika (artistic director Vaclovas Augustinas), cello (Gyð Valtýsdóttir), synthesizer (Shahzad Ismaily), keyboards (Kjartan Sveinsson). The result is an enchanting, meditative listening experience, perhaps even with healing properties.


However, not only Lithuanians, but also Icelanders place their folklore heritage – melodies and intonations of folk songs – in modern contexts. The Hugar duo, consisting of two multi-instrumentalists Bergur Þórisson and Péturo Jónsson, have collaborated with other famous Icelandic musicians, such as Björk, Vikingur Olafson, Sigur Rós, Ólafur Arnalds and Johann Johannson. In his latest album, ójóðlög / Folk Songs, which will be released in May, he presents spacious electronic soundscapes based on new interpretations of Icelandic lullabies such as Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu and Nú vil ég enn í nafni pínu and imitating ancient instruments that have been heard in Icelandic expanses. “Filled with themes of loss, grief and darkness, the works reflect our long, dark winters,” say the musicians. In presenting the project, Hugar emphasizes the importance of these songs to the Icelandic people and the duo’s mission to keep folk musical traditions alive and relevant to the younger generation.

When writing about lullabies, one must mention the six-year-old sleep epic of Max Richter. The composer, pianist and producer, while juggling a computer and a symphony orchestra, writes both stage music and soundtracks for films, art installations, and theater works. One of his most notable works is an eight-and-a-half-hour sleep project that began in 2015 as an album, turned into a world concert tour, a documentary that captured it, and this year, on the occasion of International Sleep Day, into a smart app.

The concept of this work is best explored with the help of a documentary. In it, director Natalie Johns captures the creative process of Max Richter and his wife, filmmaker Yulia Mahr. Images from the personal archive are intertwined here with recordings of interviews with M. Richter, Y. Mahr, neuroscientist D. Eagleman, other colleagues, and audience listeners from Sleep performances in Los Angeles, Berlin, Sydney and Paris. At midnight, spectators gather in a concert hall or open-air space, where instead of chairs they find rows of beds. Curled up and curled up in bed, the listeners embarked on the composer’s most daring experiment – an exciting frontier experience from dusk to dawn. As the audience slept on stage, Richter played keyboards and electronics, supported by soprano Grace Davidson, violinist Andrew Thollu, viola player Isabelle Hagen, cellist Claire Jensen and Emily Brausa, and filmmaker Ben Russell. They were all preparing for the enduring Sleep the day before bed and waking up only at midnight before going on stage. During the breaks, Richter watched the audience’s reactions as he walked around the hall, making music’s effect on the sleeping person, his brain, was the central theme of this project. In Western culture, we use music to regulate our emotions and moods, to mark occasions, to establish social connections, but although Pythagoras himself sounded his sleeping pupils, the Indians created the horns of the night, not to improve the quality of sleep. This composition / lullaby was based on neuroscience – brain waves in the sleep state and cognitive cycles. The composer’s efforts to connect the musical consciousness with the human subconscious become like an invitation to pause tense lives, in today’s ever-steady culture, it can turn out to be an anomaly. Music asleep as a warm blanket becomes a vehicle that travels to the boundary space between wakefulness and sleep, between consciousness and the subconscious. This show gives listeners an open space to dream and consider the most important issues in life.
This year, continuing the tradition, Max Richter organized a one-hour collective meditation with the newly introduced Sleep app. There are three functions – sleep, meditation and concentration. They create separate music sessions with customized visualizations and alarms.

Another news from this composer is the album “Voices 2” released last month (a sequel to “Voices” released a year ago). The activist work “On the World We Live in Now” is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It features recordings by people who read it in more than 70 languages ​​around the world, along with an inverted orchestra with 12 double basses, 24 cellos, 6 viola, 8 violins and a harp. Even activism in Richter’s music turns into “silent protest” and “a place for reflection.” The album retains the meditative, minimalist style of the composer. Ambient, subtly calm, atmospheric works are created. It seems that even with these compositions, he could stretch the beds in the concert halls, as the sound is quite sleepy.

And still Beethoven

Tatata taaaaaaaaaaaaa – awakens from dreams Ludwig van Beethoven. Academic music label Naxos released an album this month that could be described as Patricia Kopatinskay’s biggest horror. It features thirteen best-known and most frequently played interpretations of the symphony. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 have been recorded more than 800 times in the last 100 years. Because only constant repetition makes a masterpiece a cult object, the symphony has today become one of the cornerstones of Western music, with a world-famous four-note motif. Now it’s even hard to imagine that this piece didn’t cause big waves during the premiere. It all moves out when writer E. T. A. Hoffmann reviews a symphony in a Leipzig newspaper, describing as “rays shoot through a deep night and giant shadows, swaying back and forth, close us up and destroy everything except the pain of endless longing.” Beethoven’s 5th Mania, which does not end today, is witnessed by the new disc, which compares interpretations of works by conductors such as Otto Klemperer, Michael Gielen, Stanisław Skrowaczewski, Robert Trevin and Jasch Horenstein.

Another famous interpreter of Beethoven’s symphonies today is the polarizing Greek conductor Teodor Currentzis. The recording of his and Musica Aeterna’s Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, released last autumn, received a sister symphony in April 7, 7 in A major, Op. 92 entries. This double contribution of the musicians to the commemoration of the composer’s 250th anniversary was recorded in one go at the Konzerthaus in Vienna in August 2018, but Teodor Currentzis decided to release them separately, as each symphony was deeply felt and thought out for him. Unique as a separate story. Combining historically based performance with the sensitivity of romantic interpretation, T. Currentzis boldly uses unmarked articulations and dynamics, freely treats rhythm, and plays at an unexpected pace. While the musical details he reveals are interesting, they distract the main melodic material. Spontaneity and creative will allow the conductor to refine an individual relationship with melodies heard many times.

The final chord is for Liszt

A new disc released by the British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor a couple of months ago – a volley for the works of the romantic piano virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt – for his original compositions and arrangements of works. Liszt’s music has been a major part of the pianist’s repertoire from an early age. Not surprisingly, his interpretation today is characterized by persuasive pianism, musical instincts, accurately conveyed contrasting details, wide color, and sincere, clear wording. The impressive technical performance does not distract, but enables the listener to focus on the essence of the music itself and engage in the ever-changing dramatic history of music. Ave Maria’s subtly arranged Liszt arrangement became a subtle and contemplative finale of the record.

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