Friday, 17 June 2016
Friday, 10 June 2016
Lebrecht Weekly - Cameron Carpenter: All you need is Bach (Sony)
So no more three stars on this site.
They’d be wasted, anyway, on Cameron Carpenter. The flamboyant American organist, more used to playing in a singlet than a surplice, either makes you feel young and with-it or old and totally out of it. Much of what I’ve heard him play has the first effect on me. Cameron is virtuosic, effervescent, totally in command of his pipes and sometimes quirky enough to make you rethink the piece from core principles. I like it when he does that, a lot.
Just not in Bach. To my ears, the sound of his much-vaunted International Touring Organ is all wrong in the fugues and sonatas selected for this album. No matter that it’s recorded in the sonorous Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin-Dahlem, it sounds unsuited to Bach and not a million miles away from the entertainment arcade of an English seaside resort.
What’s missing? Awe, that’s what. Bach can, in sententious hands, sound like so much holy-moly. Here, however, there is no sense Sebastian at the organ was writing for the glory of anything larger than his lunch. Cameron powers through the pieces with impatience and bravura. All too easy.
That’s just my impression, of course, and I may have fallen headlong into the Cam-trap of being made to feel unworthy of his genius. There is, after all, so much to admire in his fluidity and bravura. Other listeners may find All You Need is Bach utterly life-changing. But two stars is all I can give (now that three have been abolished). And two's a lot.
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Friday, 3 June 2016
Lebrecht Weekly - Feldman, Crumb: Piano pieces (Hyperion)
Anyway, this week, I’ve struck lucky with some top-grade industrial ear cleanser from a British pianist I’d normally associate with Beethoven, Rachmaninov and Messiaen. Steven Osborne, though, has a quirky turn of mind and a wonderful turn of phrase. The idea of interleaving Morton Feldman and George Crumb on a solo piano album is so counter-intuitive it would not occur to any other pianist in a month of car-wash Sundays.
Feldman (1926-87) is the ultimate urban ascetic, assembling music from bathroom fittings he took from a Greenwich Village bed-sit and half a croissant left over from yesterday’s breakfast. Crumb (born 1929) is a fusion composer of animal sounds and extreme electronica. Amazingly, the pair work together like Johnson & Johnson ear-buds.
You cannot imagine, until you hear it, what Crumb is going to do next in his Little Suite for Christmas, a fricassee of festive scraps and piano-string strummings, the sort of thing that might occur in a jam session involving John Cage, Pope John Paul II and a box full of legal highs. This is the generic opposite of a Christmas album, one you’d never give to a spinster aunt.
As for Feldman, he never lets you down. Just when you’ve classified him as an annoying epigrammatist, too clever for his own good, he delivers a contemplation of magic carpets under the title ‘Palais de Mari’ and grips your attention for a full half-hour. It’s his final piano work before pancreatic cancer took his life and every note of it is a world entire. What are you waiting for? This has to be heard.
Friday, 27 May 2016
Lebrecht Weekly - Anonymous: Six concertos (CPO)
The obvious suspects are the Dresden concertmaster Johann Georg Pisendel (1687-1755) and the singer and composer Carl Heinrich Graun (1704-1759). Both turned out music of high quality and near-memorability but, from what I’ve heard, not quite as high as this.
The Adagio of the opening concerto on this album bears such close resemblance to a Bach theme that if it’s not by Johann Sebastian himself it’s by someone who knew his style well enough to write a simulacrum. Maybe a son of Bach – there were plenty – or a student. Either way, you get the point: this is early-classical music that comes close to the best of its time.
There are numerous hints of Vivaldi, whom all the Germans imitated, Bach most of all. And the longest finger of suspicion points to Telemann, who wrote screeds of music just like this which fell into disuse the moment he died. There is no immediate solution to this authorial mystery, though you’ll have as much fun as I did playing spot the composer. What does emerge is how easy it was in early-classical times to hit a high-average without ever crossing the threshold of genius.
The performers here are Les Amis de Philippe, led from the cembalo by Ludger Rémy.
Monday, 23 May 2016
Review: Les Feluettes by Opéra de Montréal and Pacific Opera Victoria
Gordon Gietz (Monseigneur Jean Bilodeau)
Photo, Yves Renaud
La Scena has a limited number of fundraising tickets available for May 28. Visit www.lascena.ca
Cette semaine à Montréal (23 à 29 mai) / This Week in Montreal (May 23–29)
Le War Requiem de Britten à la Maison Symphonique
Concours Musical International de Montréal
Les Feluettes à l’opéra de Montréal
War Requiem at the Maison Symphonique
Concours Musical International de Montréal
OdM’s Les Feluettes
After a resoundingly successful opening night, Kevin March’s Les Feluettes continues this week for three more presentations, May 24, 26, and 28 at 7:30 pm, salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Based on the successful play by Michel Marc Bouchard, Les Feluettes tells the tragic love story between two young men, as retold 40 years later in an opera-within-an-opera at an all-male Quebec prison. Read our review here.