I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman

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Dvořák in Hungarian mode

Antonín Dvořák:
Slavonic Dance, Op. 72 #8
Concerto for Cello in B minor, Op. 104
Legend, Op. 59 #10
Symphony #8, Op. 88

Slavonic Dances, Op. 72 #1,2
Concerto for Piano in G minor, Op. 33
Legend, Op. 59 #6
Symphony #9 “From the New World”, Op. 95

Daniel Müller-Schott, cello
Stephen Hough, piano
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
Bruges, Concertgebouw, 22-23 May 2014

Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer

Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer

Whoever considers classical music concerts a dull affair should give the Budapest Festival Orchestra under their music director Iván Fischer a try. The Hungarians guarantee not only music-making of the highest order, they also present it in a surprise package full of spirit and fun. When they opened their small Dvořák festival in Bruges with the ravishing 8th Slavonic Dance from the Op. 72 set, nobody could have guessed who the man was, sitting somewhat awkwardly on the soloist podium to the left of the conductor. He was a member of the orchestra alright, but it was only after a couple of minutes, when he took a small bell out of his pocket, we realized he was the percussionist. Not without some theatricality he ticked it a dozen of times as if it was the greatest solo part ever. It was a funny touch that set the congenial tone for the rest of the evening.
Read the full review on Classical Net

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A New Maestro in the Making and a Pianist on Fire

Richard Wagner: Siegfried Idyll
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 *
Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky: Fantasy Overture “Romeo & Juliet”
Serge Prokofieff: Romeo & Juliet, Op. 64bis & ter (fragments)

* Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra/Gustavo Gimeno
Gasteig, Munich, 15 May 2014

Cancellations always carry their bit of disappointment. 84-year-old Lorin Maazel had to sit out all concerts with his Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in May due to illness; he was already replaced on the orchestra’s New York tour in April, but we are told the maestro is recovering. Enter Gustavo Gimeno, totally unknown as a conductor in the international arena. The 37-year-old Spanish-born principal percussionist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra stepped in for his music director Mariss Jansons earlier this year and made a favorable impression in Amsterdam. Needless to say he has conducting experience and previously worked assisting old masters like Claudio Abbado and Bernard Haitink besides Jansons. Amsterdam clearly meant a huge break which put him on the map. Gimeno will soon quit playing percussion and devote himself full-time to conducting.
Read the full review on Classical Net

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The Film Music of Miklós Rózsa

Miklós Rózsa: Film Music Suites
The Thief of Bagdad
Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Rumon Gamba
Chandos CHAN10806 DDD 80:07

The Film Muisic of Miklós Rózsa

Miklós Rózsa

Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995) is mainly remembered as the composer of epic Hollywood film scores of the 1950s – Quo Vadis, Ivanhoe, Ben-Hur, among others. Less well known is that he also excelled in the film noir genre, while his auspicious first steps (as a young concert music composer) in the movie industry, closely connected to fellow Hungarian producer-directors Alexander and Zoltán Korda, remain relatively underrepresented on disc. Starting in 1937 Rózsa went on to compose for no less than nine pictures of the Korda’s, often successful, lavishly produced works that remain classics of the silver screen.
Read the full review on Classical Net

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Sinbad in the land of boredom

Adolphe Adam: Le Corsaire
Maria Guttierez – the Slave-girl
Davit Galstyan – the Corsair
Takafumi Watanabe – the Sultan
Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse
Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse/David Coleman
Opus Arte Blu-ray OABD7140D PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio

Le Corsaire from Toulouse

Le Corsaire – Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse

In the 19th century it was standard practice to alter, edit, reorder and interpolate scores written for ballet productions. Even Tchaikovsky who never allowed others to chop up his music didn’t escape it; after his death his first ballet Swan Lake was revived in a staging which radically restructured the score and added other parts of his piano music orchestrated by Riccardo Drigo. Contrary to the recent trend in ballet productions which tries to go back as much as possible to the sources (similar to the period performance movement in baroque/classical music, the original choreography, dramaturgy, stage design as well as the music are sourced), to this very day scores are still rearranged at will to suit the desires of choreographers and producers. This is not an easy undertaking, as one needs to confront and do better than guys like Tchaikovsky, Delibes or even lesser gods like Adam, Minkus and Pugni, and they usually knew quite well what they were doing. That not everybody is up to it is painfully proven again by this new production of Adolphe Adam’s Le Corsaire featuring the French Ballet du Capitole de Toulouse. Premiered in 2013, the production is now released on DVD and Blu-ray by Opus Arte.
Read the full review on Classical Net

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Fistoulari’s Swan Lake

Piotr Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (highlights)
Steven Staryk, violin
Tibor de Machula, cello
Phia Berghout, harp
Concertgebouw Orchestra, Anatole Fistoulari
Recorded in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam February 1961.

Swan Lake by Fistoulari

Swan Lake by Fistoulari

Performing ballet music on disc is vastly underestimated. Perhaps it’s linked to a dismissive attitude from many musicians towards the ballet genre – it’s not really “profound” music, is it, so how hard can it be? Yet some recent abysmal recordings of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake made me grab in despair at this old (1961) disc from Anatole Fistoulari with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Re-listening to it is a vivid reminder of how much is overlooked and lost by not taking the music serious or without a careful analysis of its mechanics. Ukrainian conductor Anatole Fistoulari (1907-1995) may be virtually forgotten today – even if he made most of his career in the West, having fled the delights of communist Russia, and became the son-in-law of Gustav Mahler – but he surely knew his ballet music.

Fistoulari breathes life in every bar of the score, naturally blending the symphonic character of Tchaikovsky’s music with the theatrical requirements: the result is one of the most dramatic accounts of Swan Lake you’ll ever find on disc – Evgeny Svetlanov excepted. Pushing the orchestra to the limit, juggling with a complex array of phrasing and rubato, scenes (even only fragmented as here) are bustling with emotion and presence, dance moments shivering with elegance and zest. Just listen to the suspense he creates in the opening of Act 2, preceding the first encounter of Siegfried and Odette (not for nothing the dramatic core of the story), or the subtle details in the Dance of the Swans at the beginning of the last Act. Here is a conductor groomed in the ballet world and while he is not conducting a performance, there is still the feeling that everything is exactly in the right place. You wonder whether discs like this are ever listened to before embarking on a new recording.

For the petite histoire, the cello solo in the pas d’action is played by this prince of cellists, the legendary Tibor de Machula. Recruited by Wilhelm Furtwängler for the Berlin Philharmonic, Hungarian de Machula left Germany after the Second World War for Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, where he reigned supreme as one of the most respected musicians for three decades.

A true gem in vivid early 1960s Decca sound.
The CD is available as part of the Decca Sound: The Analogue Years 54-CD box (0289 478 5437 1), or as a single disc, released by Decca Eloquence (442 9032).

Copyright © 2014 Marc Haegeman. All Rights Reserved.