The search for "the" solo instrument of the 19th century leads inevitably to the piano. It has its place in the public concert hall as well as in the private salon, and not a few composers have emerged as successful pianists. Among the composers in this program, though, only Frédéric Chopin belongs to this group, but he soon changed his field of activity from the anonymous concert hall to the more intimate salon circle. Antonìn Dvorák, on the other hand, passed the organists' examination and was at first employed as violist in an orchestra, while Tchaikovsky was much too reclusive to interpret his own works in front of an audience. Among the selected works by Dvorák, Chopin and Tchaikovsky, only the Dvorák piano concerto requires a large concert hall, while the solo pieces by Chopin and Tchaikovsky were originally at home in the salon…
Chopin's two piano concertos have long been admired more as pianistic vehicles than as integrated works for piano and orchestra. But in his revelatory new recording, Krystian Zimerman suggests otherwise: The opening orchestral tuttis have so much more light, shade, orchestral color, and detail, you wonder if they've been rewritten. Every gesture, every instrumental solo is so specifically characterized that by the time the piano makes a dramatic entrance, the pieces have become operas without words.
The emotional content, lyricism and direct appeal of Gavin Bryars’s music are unique, reflecting a contemporary composer’s absorption and transformation of several centuries of musical craftsmanship in order to reflect his, and our, own epoch. Originally written for harpsichord, After Handel’s Vesper is a strong illustration of Bryars’s post-minimal interests in early music repertoire. Ramble on Cortona, derived from 13th-century music, makes expressive use of the piano’s resonant qualities, while in the highly-coloured, almost impressionistic The Solway Canal, landscapes pass by as if in a dream.
Since his triumph as winner of the 1970 Chopin International Piano Competition, pianist Garrick Ohlsson, has established himself worldwide as a musician of magisterial interpretive and technical prowess. Ohlsson said of this set, “This monumental recording project first came about when the American record company Arabesque approached me with an irresistible offer to record the complete works of Chopin.
The late Alfred Schnittke has, after his death, been accused of writing too much music of variable quality. This debate is still raging although suffice to say that the Eighth Symphony truly is one of his greatest works and indeed, one of the great symphonic works of the latter twentieth century. The charge of oppressive asceticism laid against the Sixth and Seventh symphonies can hardly be held up to this expansive and frankly emotional work. It is as if Schnittke relaxed the skeletal sounds of his previous essays in the genre and, while not quite returning to the dazzling orchestral pyrotechnics of the Fifth Symphony (Concerto Grosso no. 4), creating a work of great sincerity and beauty. The first movement is an obsessive repetition of a wide-ranging (in pitch, not rhythm) melody, seemingly effortlessly varied to touch on all sections of the orchestra.