Three Piano Concertos

April 8, 2017

9003643991309 copy

 

As I listened to this selectiion for the first time I thought to myself what an unusual choice of selections especially the Rimsky-Korsakov selection, one that I would consider unsung and seldom performed. Does Lizst and Tchaikovsky fit? The answer to the question is a resounding yes.  Not only does the historical (50+) years sound good, no stereo, but the playing is very good. While this would not be my choice of listening recordings of the Tchaikovsky or the Lizst recordings:I guess we have our favorites I tend to favor the Rimsky Korsakov recording over any of the others I have heard. For me this was just another orchestral color piece of Rimsky-Korsakov not better or worse than many of his others. This performance seemed to stick a little more inside me and I wanted to hear it again and again. Suddenly I began to enjoy the fine playing and listened to it as more of a piano concerto rather than an orchestral piece and I truly appreciated it for what it was written for. It is a scant 13 minutes, 5 minutes less than Tchaikovsky’s first movement but the shortness is an advantage as there is no excess baggage and every note and chord are there for a reason.

Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto is the favorite of many and for good reason. It is filled with melodies and is very accessible to even the beginning classical listener. The Lizst has a very powerful bold melody in the first movement that is fully developed around piano chords. A second more delicate theme appears part way through the first movement and continues into the next movement. A new theme, rather flashy surfaces in the third movement and also a repeat of the second theme. The final movement is a repeat of the theme from the first movement. Note that this is a four movement concerto not the standard three which is the norm.

Keep in mind that this is considered a historical recording and you’ll not hear the extended range as you’re accustomed to hearing on a Chandos recording. I feel that the fine playing overcomes that objection nicely.

 

 

 

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Sursum Corda remastered

How rewarding it must have been when Korngold went to the podium, received his Oscar for best score for The Adventures Of Robin Hood, part of which consisted of material from “Sursum Corda,” which was booed when it was first introduced in 1920. Likely because of the booing Korngold took the time to write some program notes for the premiere of the work in the U.S. in Chicago in 1922. At the time it wasn’t understood because it was too modern. Today that idea is laughable and while the work isn’t played often it is well accepted as part of the growing interest in the music of Korngold. Erich today is equally accepted as a classical and golden age film composer with his themes readily exchanged between the two genres.

“Sursum Corda” (Lift Up Your Hearts) is patterned after tone poems of Richard Strauss and is also dedicated to him, Korngold’s childhood mentor. It tells a story of hope and optimism (major keys) with some conflict but you somehow know that good is going to win out in the end. It has two wonderful melodies one of which was the leitmotif for Robin Hood in the film. Being a former horn player I can fully appreciate the great difficulty in performing this piece. Perhaps the difficulty of the work contributed to the less than enthusiastic response from the audience. I could certainly see many hours of practice necessary to get the passages correct. The BBC Philharmonic is in top-notch form and performs this work nicely under the baton of Matthias Bamert.

The other work included on this CD is “Sinfonietta,” Op. 5 an amazing work from a 14 year old who impressed Richard Strauss, Jean Sibelius, and others with his amazing talent. Had it not been for Nazism and a 50-year absence of being performed who knows how popular this work could have been? The entire work is based on the theme Motif of the Cheerful Heart written in B major (Erich loved major keys) it is bright and cheerful. His sound and style were already being formed with this work. One who is familiar with his Hollywood works can already hear the style from so many of the great Warner Bros. Films he worked on. One cannot help but enjoy this symphonic work.

Available at a budget price from Chandos #10432X this recording has been remastered from the original 1994 Chandos #9317. Both recordings are the same the difference being a 24bit remastering. Recommended

Performed by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Matthias Bamert

Produced by Ralph Couzens

Engineered by Don Hartridge

Track Listing:

1.…Sursum Corda (19:31)

Sinfonietta, Op. 5

2.…FlieBend (10:32)

3.…Scherzo (8:56)

4.…Molto andante (8:09)

5.…Finale (15:14)

Total Time=62:42

Drag_me_to_hell_LKS34091Directed and co- written by Sam “Spiderman” Raimi for Universal, “Drag Me To Hell” was not made for the target market that I’m in these days. However, as of this writing in August 2009, the box-office figures show it is a huge success, meaning they hit their target market just fine without my advice. I saw the poster, read the press release, and said to myself, why bother with this at all. This has all of the makings of yet another slasher horror film with the wailing, irritating slashing strings, and loud, louder, and loudest. I bothered because the music is from Christopher Young an excellent underrated composer of the first order. I wasn’t disappointed in anyway and quite pleased at what I heard from the first bars of the main theme. Besides, Young has such thought provoking interesting track titles such as “Muttled Buttled Brain Stew” it is hard not to at least have a listen.

“Drag Me To Hell,” the main theme, begins with a reference from Jaws and ends with a reference from Star Trek. In between is a theme that isn’t your standard horror one at all but a melody you might hear in any number of genre of films, perfectly complemented by a solo violin, which represents the devil himself as explained by Young in the CD liner notes. Immediately the sounds of the violin of Saint-Saen’s Danse Macabre began to fill my head with the vision of a skeleton playing the violin with both hands while the bow was moving on its own, also explained in the liner notes as impossible to do without overdubbing. It is the same theme that you’ll also hear in “Concerto from Hell” which features an extended violin solo complete with trills.

“Tale of a Haunted Banker” starts with a piano lead which segues to a patented classic Young melody performed on a toy piano. It is simple, elegant, and one of those catchy melodies that puts a small lump in your throat. Tempo and lead in are different but the same theme as Haunted Banker is used in “Familiar Familiars” and “Brick Dogs a la Carte.”

There are plenty of horror tracks with chorus, ‘devil’s horn’, on the edge of your seat excitement in such tracks as “Mexican Devil Disaster,” “Auto-Da-Fe,” “Loose Teeth,” “Lamia,” and “Black Rainbows.” While this is top drawer writing for the horror genre this overall style of music has never been my cup of tea and it was difficult for me to get my teeth into it. The horror fan will have no trouble listening to it over and over.

This release comes highly recommended to any fan of Christopher Young and horror genre music. Even the classical listener will enjoy the “Concerto to Hell” as the violin playing is quite good.

Maintitles rating is ****

Produced by Christopher Young and Flavio Motalla

CD# is Lakeshore LKS 34091

Track Listing:

1. Drag Me To Hell (02:33)

 

2. Mexican Devil Disaster (04:33)

 

3. Tale Of A Haunted Banker (01:52)

 

4. Lamia (04:06)

 

5. Black Rainbows (03:24)

 

6. Ode To Ganush (02:23)

 

7. Familiar Familiars (02:11)

 

8. Loose Teeth (06:31)

 

9. Ordeal By Corpse (04:35)

 

10. Bealing Bells With Trumpet (05:12)

 

11. Brick Dogs Ala Carte (01:46)

 

12. Buddled Brain Strain (02:51)

 

13. Auto-Da-Fe (04:31)

 

14. Concerto To Hell (05:59) Total duration is 52:29

180px-ferdinandries2ries
The 2009 Penguin Guide had a total of 0 recordings in their perfect guide to building your classical collection. It only took me about 10 minutes into this new Naxos recording to come to the decision that they were wrong in their assessment, at least in the case of this recording and at the very least for offering nothing from this talented recorder.Ferdinand Ries was a student, secretary, and copyist for Beethoven during the years of 1803-1805. He made his debut as a pianist in 1804 performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #3 in C Minor, Op. 37 with his own cadenza, to good reviews. He left Vienna in 1805 to avoid the draft but stayed in touch with Ludwig over the years, aiding him with getting some of his publications in London performed and published, including the 9th Symphony in 1822.

My first listen gave me the impression that the 7th Concerto, composed in 1823, wasn’t written in the first part of the 19th Century but somewhat later on, perhaps as much as 25 years later. While not as technical or romantic as I’ve heard, the 1st movement, an allegro con moto is lyrical and stylish enough for me to have stopped what I was doing and just listen. The opening/ prelude statement, showing the Beethoven influence, is 3+ minutes and introduces quite nicely the piano, which offers another theme showing off the skill of the soloist, Hinterhuber in this case. The larghetto is a pretty one, reminding one of romantic times in a delicate fashion. If one were beginning to nod off with the somewhat tranquil nature of the second movement the allegro will certainly open those sleepy eyes in the third and final movement. Quite vivacious it certainly shows the skill of the soloist. While Grand Variations on ‘Rule Britannia’, Op. 116 is not my cup of tea it is a pleasant listening experience for the person who finds this majestic theme one they find enjoyable. Perhaps not being British might have something to do with my opinion. The concluding work, Introduction ET Variations Brillantes, Op. 170, is based on the song “Soldier, soldier will you marry me?” and offers a nice balance between orchestra and the piano solo sections. It is a nice theme that is nicely developed and allows the technical ability of the soloist to come to the forefront.

This is an excellent way to be introduced to the work of Ries and if one is interested there are 4 more offerings of his piano works performed by Susan Kagan and Christopher Hinterhuber on the Naxos label.

Track Listing and Times:

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 132 (34:59)
1… Grave-Allegro con moto
2… Larghetto
3… Allegro
4…Grand Variations on ‘Rule Britannia’, Op. 116 (15:58)
5…Introduction ET Variations Brillantes, Op. 170 (14:35)
Total Time is 66:02

the-soloist21Originally scheduled for release in November 2008, The Soloist was subjected to delays and the Oscar buzz given to Robert Downey Jr. for his performance of journalist Steve Lopez was put on hold, as well as the Decca soundtrack. Now scheduled for release in the US on April 24th, the Joe ‘Atonement’ Wright directed film also stars Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel a classical child prodigy cellist who is living homeless on the streets of Los Angeles as a result of his mental issues. The ensuing story leads to a wonderful friendship as well as a best selling book, which examines our society and how we handle mental illness.Academy award winner Dario ‘Atonement’ Marianelli approached this soundtrack from a purely classical point of view, primarily featuring the work of Beethoven’s E Flat Major ‘Eroica’ Symphony. This release is not a series of compilation material that one could put together. Dario orchestrates the themes in a way you’ve never quite heard Ludwig before. While there really isn’t an original main theme, his use of the cello and how he blends the orchestra into the tracks is a work of art. The cello playing can be tranquil, vivacious, tragic, slashing, and dissonant; all reflecting the different moods of Nathaniel. “Crazy About Beethoven” is a solo, tightly miked, with the cello performing the opening theme of the ‘Eroica’ the theme with the full orchestra only coming in at the end of the track. “There is No Escape” is the ‘Eroica’ theme but this time the Cello is backed by The USC orchestra in a way you’ve never heard them before! The talented Ben Hong, in ways I’ve never heard before, performs the cello solos. I would urge anyone who doesn’t own his third symphony to obtain a copy. There are far too many recorded versions to recommend one, but if backed up against the wall this reviewer would say that he owns the 1939 Toscanini/NBC Symphony Orchestra recording. Mono and a bit scratchy but superb playing overcomes any shortcomings in the recording. In addition, there are also parts of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, String Quartet #12 and #15, Sonata #4 for Piano and Cello, Triple Concerto, and Bach’s Partita for Cello. Like his use of the typewriter in Atonement, “A City Symphony” incorporates the sound of the cello into the traffic noise of a LA freeway. The sound of the cello is made to sound like a horn from a car! This opening eventually becomes the theme from the third movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet #15 beginning with the solo cello and then the rest of the quartet. “Accordion Interlude,” an original piece from Marianelli is an accordion solos but made to sound like an organ of Bach style material, a very clever use of orchestrating! “Cello Lesson” is the Bach Cello Partita piece, and the concluding track is the third movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

If you’re not a fan of classical material it is probably one that you’ll want to avoid unless you really take a liking to the film. If you’re open to some classic material it is certainly worth a listen. If you’re a fan of the classical genre you should pre-order it. I can’t recommend it enough!

Track listing:

1. Pershing Square (0:46)

2. Crazy About Beethoven (1:58)

3. Paper Mache World (1:30)

4. A City Symphony (3:37)

5. This Is My Apartment (1:50)

6. There Is No Escape (1:33)

7. Falling Apart (1:07)

8. Four Billion Years (2:50)

9. Nathaniel Breaks Down (5:28)

10. Accordion Interlude (2:03)

11. The Lord’s Prayer (3:10)

12. The Voices Within (2:05)

13. Sister (5:31)

14. Cello Lesson (2:24)

15. Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez (11:08)

Total Time is 47:36

Featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen and The Los Angeles Philharmonic

Valkyrie/Ottman

December 26, 2008

valkyrie-cover

Opening on Xmas Day in the US Valkyrie, code name for the emergency plan is a World War II epic starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Nighy, which deals with the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler. The 95 million dollar United Artist release is directed by Bryan Singer and brings together the Singer/Ottman team yet again. John also has been Bryan’s editor as well as composer for all but one film in their 15-year partnership.

 

The opening cue, “They’ll Remember You,” the end title theme sung by Rundfunkchor with soprano solo by Sylke Schwab, were from a Goethe poem “Wanderers Nachtiled II” adapted by Ottman and Rosner and is truly a thing of beauty, the highlight of the CD. A somber religious piece, it is one that could be added to any compilation CD and in this reviewer’s opinion a contender for best track of 2008! If you do nothing else download this one track. The final cue “Long Live Sacred Germany” is a nicely written string adagio depicting a somber mood of the tragedy. The “Midnight Waltz” is an all to brief delicate high society type piano solo with a string lead in and harmony. Co-written and orchestrated by Lior Rosner it’s an excellent waltz/source music piece for the film. “The Officers Club” is a sweet band source song calypso like sung in German, typical of the 40’s era.
The rest of the cues are various styles of underscore, ranging from drums of all types and styles, low string chords (good minor key motifs), tension building material, from the heart emotional motifs that are brief and without any memorable tune that this reviewer will likely ever remember again once I complete this review. “I’m Sorry” and “Operation Terminated” fall into this category of heartfelt emotional cues. “Operation Valkyrie is a good example of the sobering German influenced music with plenty of synthetic drum and jittery material included. This is ‘landscape’ material that could fit into any number of films and a fan of Valkyrie will enjoy as he relives those special moments. Without seeing the film, most of us will have difficulty. The constant drum material merely exercised my woofer and not my gray matter.

As I stated earlier the opening cue ranks at the top of the list for best cue of 2008. I truly believe that the poem inspired Ottman to new heights. There were also three other cues “Midnight Waltz,” “The Officer’s Club,” and “Long Live Sacred Germany” that merit further listens. That said, with a liking for one or more of the underscore cues you’ve a winner. Overall, a good effort from John Ottman.
Produced by John Ottman
Varese Sarabande CD# is3020669372
Conducted by Pablo Heisenberg
Mastered by Dave Collins
Main Titles Rating is ***1/2

Track listing

1. They’ll Remember You (04:20)

2. Operation Valkyrie (05:11)

3. What’s This Really All About? (03:44)

4. Bunker Bust (03:45)

5. March 13 Attempt (03:38)

6. Midnight Waltz (02:11)

7. A Place To Change (04:09)

8. Seconds Lost (03:34)

9. Getting the Signature (04:04)

10. The Officer’s Club (02:37)

11. The Way It Should Go (03:24)

12. If I Were That Man / To The Berghof (02:21)

13. I’m Sorry (03:04)

14. Important Call (04:07)

15. No More Indecision (02:31)

16. Olbricht Gives the Order (03:18)

17. Operation Terminated (01:16)

18. Long Live Sacred Germany (06:13)

Total Duration: 01:03:27