The pieces featured here are performed by Maria Letterberg, including the expressionistic Op. 111, which was forgotten for decades until it was rediscovered and recorded for the first time in 1984.
Over the course of his tragically short life, Alexander Scriabin wrote monumental works of great import. In between these efforts he produced a steady torrent of miniatures – concentrated gems of this same expansive genius. Fascinatingly, the title Poème is applied both to symphonic works and to the extended series of thirty-four piano pieces recorded here. Their inspirations are as varied as their titles and they offer a key into their composer's inner world. Pianist Garrick Ohlsson is an acknowledged master of the genre, and this new Scriabin recording will only enhance his already admirable reputation.
Lusine Zakaryan (Armenian: Լուսինե Զաքարյան), born Svetlana Zakaryan, (June 1, 1937 in Akhaltsikhe, Georgian SSR – December 30, 1992, in Yerevan, Armenia), was an Armenian soprano. She grew up in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of southern Georgia. In 1952, she moved with her family to Yerevan, where she attended a secondary music school. She entered the Yerevan State Musical Conservatory in 1957 and her singing talent soon became clear.
From 1970 to 1983, Zakaryan was a soloist with the symphony orchestra of Armenian TV and Radio. She also sang in the choir of the Armenian Apostolic Church's Holy See at the Echmiadzin Cathedral, and it is for her magnificent rendition of centuries-old Armenian spiritual hymns that she is now most remembered.
Zakaryan was also known for singing the international opera repertoire as well as Armenian traditional and church music.
Though Finnish master musicians Maria Kalaniemi and Timo Alakotila both play in many bands, something remarkable happens when they strip the music down to duets. The chemistry between the two emerges, creating a sound that is incredibly warm and intimate. On Åkerö — their first album as a duo since 2001’s Ambra — Kalaniemi (free-bass, five-row, button accordion) and Alakotila (pianist best known for his work with JPP) play like one musician. Their intricate arrangements showcase a wide dynamic range, from bold climaxes to subtle pauses. There’s probably no better example of this than the title track. It opens the album with the accordion playing both melody and counter melody as Alakotila’s piano enters almost imperceptibly, slowly growing in intensity. The music crescendos and decrescendos, continually and dramatically changing direction but always returning to the anchor of the opening melodies — all in a stunning five minutes.
This recording was made as a result of the first modern production, which was presented in the same Florentine theater in which the opera had received its premiere. With an unusually convoluted plot, and lasting over three-and-a-half hours, its unlikely that Atenaide will ever make its way into the repertoire, but especially for the Vivaldi enthusiast and the lover of virtuosic Baroque vocal display, the opera should be very attractive. In the title role, Sandrine Piau sings with remarkable tonal purity, flexibility, and expressivity. The other women in the cast are worthy colleagues for Piau. Soprano Vivica Genaux, mezzo-sopranos Guillemette Laurens and Romina Basso, and, especially, contralto Nathalie Stutzman pour themselves fully into their roles, creating rounded, clearly differentiated characters, and they maintain the highest standards of vocal beauty and virtuosity. The men, tenors Paul Agnew and Stefano Ferrari, are out of their league in such stellar company; they don't lack the technical facility to manage the music, but their voices are small and tend to sound thin and underpowered. Federico Maria Sardelli leads Modo Antiquo in a delicate but spirited performance that is nicely nuanced, and gives the singers plenty of opportunity to be rhythmically free and expressive in the recitatives. Naïve's sound is immaculate, with a lively balance between the singers and instrumentalists.
Widely known for his performances of music by Michael Nyman and Gavin Bryars, Alexander Balanescu is gradually achieving recognition for his own compositions, particularly those celebrating the culture of his native Romania. Maria T is a cycle of pieces based on the songs of Maria Tanase, a popular Romanian singer of the 1940s and '50s whose music Balanescu reinterprets for his own ensemble, the Balanescu String Quartet, and percussionist Steve Arguelles. There are some aspects of this work that may seem calculated to appeal to a crossover audience: the music is occasionally spiced with energetic rock and world beat rhythms to draw in pop fans, but the underlying flavor is a mix of soft classical and minimalist styles which, early on, seem bland and uninspired.
Chamber music has always formed the heart of Maria João Pires’s musicianship. Indeed, she has often commented that she is happier working with others than performing on her own. “Not sharing a stage is very difficult for me,” she once remarked (in an interview for ArtsJournal in 2012) “You are apart from the group, apart from community, apart from everything. You become different and special. And, if you become different and special, you’re alone.”