CLASSICAL CORNER – November, 2007 
BERNARD HAITINK/IRIS VAN ECK/ARIELLE VERNEDE/
JACQUES LOUSSIER

By Lawrence Budmen

Three new releases make perfect holiday gifts. Each is different and musically fascinating – something for the music lover who has everything. 

The symphonies of the Austrian composer and mystic Anton Bruckner are vast cathedrals in sound. This music is treacherous terrain for conductors and orchestras. Only the most polished, superbly balanced orchestral playing will suffice. Bruckner’s vast, unhurried symphonic vistas require flawless pacing – a conductor who can move the music forward (through sometimes diffuse episodes) without appearing rushed or indulging in exaggeration. 

A terrific new recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No.7 in E Major on the new CSO-Resound label (www.Csoresound.org) accomplishes that and much more. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra simply sounds magnificent. With strings that are dark and lush, finely burnished brass, and woodwinds bright and precise, this great American ensemble has never sounded better. (Daniel Barenboim, the orchestra’s most recent music director, has never been given credit for infusing such beauty of sound and texture into this orchestra’s virtuosic palette.) The orchestra’s interim Principal Conductor Bernard Haitink leads a performance of immense majesty and inspiration. He captures the mystery of the opening bars of the initial Allegro moderato, paces the thematic flow with a sure hand, and never lets the momentum bog down. His sense of proportion and structure is even more impressive in the Scherzo and heaven storming finale. This recording was taped during live concerts in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall in May, 2007. Superbly produced by the veteran recording director James Mallinson, this disc captures the collaboration of Haitink and the Chicago musicians at white heat. This is a great performance and Bruckner’s divine sense of spirituality is perfect for the holiday season. 

The adventurous South Florida cellist Iris Van Eck has released an album of Works for Cello and Piano by Women Composers on the Eroica Classical Recordings label (www.Eroica.com). Van Eck has shone resplendently as a soloist in her innovative Chameleon Music series in Ft.Lauderdale. On this excellent recording, Van Eck’s deeply felt playing, warm tonal sheen, and high octane intensity are a real musical knockout. Dutch composer Henriette Bosmans’ Cello Sonata is a darkly complex, brooding piece. Van Eck plays it with great expressivity and pianist Arielle Vernede offers exquisite keyboard support. By contrast the lyrical outpouring of Louise Farrenc’s delightful Cello Sonata is all Mendelssohnian quicksilver lightness. Vernede’s limpid pianism and Van Eck’s feathery brightness literally glide through this wonderful souflee. Passacaglia on an Old English Tune by Rebecca Clarke (the first female composition student of Sir Charles Stanford at the Royal College of Music in 1907) is grave and formal with reverence for the music of Bach. Van Eck has produced a real winner! The music of these very gifted composers deserves greater exposure. 

Van Eck’s superb Chameleon series features some of South Florida’s best chamber musicians playing rarely heard repertoire in the wonderfully intimate setting of the Josephine Leiser Opera Center in Ft. Lauderdale. For more information about this inventive three concert series, see www.Chameleonmusicians.org

In the 1950’s French keyboard virtuoso Jacques Loussier burst upon the scene with his Play Bach jazz group. Loussier’s brilliantly imaginative transformation of J.S. Bach’s magnificent creations was informed by dazzling pianistic technique and awesome intellect. After retiring for a prolonged sabbatical in the south of France, Loussier reemerged in the 1980’s with a new trio to perform his reenergized kaleidoscope of jazzy riffs and reflections on the Leipzig master. A new Telarc set (www.Telarc.com) – Jacques Loussier Encore - features Loussier’s original compositions which reveal the diverse influences of Copland and Piazzolla and exhilarating reinventions of Bach’s Little Fugue in G minor and Concertos in F minor and C minor, and the Partita in B-flat Major. Joined by double bassist Vincent Charbonnier and percussionist Andre Arpino, Loussier pays tribute to the spirit of Bach with keyboard filigree of dizzying speed and precision and magical fusion of classical and jazz traditions. Here are two geniuses; musical giants in perfect sync. For holiday cheer, Loussier is unbeatable!


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