(1) Rachmaninov & Prokofiev: Works for Cello and Piano
(2) Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Ballet Suites for Piano Duo
(3) Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben / Macbeth
PENTATONE PTC 5186594
Released on 01-11-2016
The achingly beautiful, haunting lyricism of early Rachmaninov and the soaring effusiveness of late Prokofiev are glowingly brought to life by the German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser and the Russian pianist Andrei Korobeinikov in this new release from PENTATONE of richly expressive 20th century cello sonatas and other works.
Composed during troubled periods in the composers’ lives, the cello sonatas are life-affirming works. Rachmaninov’s arresting sonata which he wrote following a nervous breakdown is not unlike his perennially popular Second Piano Concerto: a journey from brooding melancholy to untrammelled joy, with a transcendentally beautiful slow movement. Prokofiev wrote his outstanding sonata while labouring under considerable hardship. It is by turns restrained and movingly lyrical, but the hair-raising final movement with its bravura passagework ends the work in a blaze of defiance.
“Both Rachmaninov and Prokofiev are genius musical storytellers,” Moser said in a recent interview. “Both have their own very personal and individual language, but they are at the same time deeply rooted in the epic Russian tradition…When we recorded the album, we were very inspired by images of wide open nature, Russian folklore, as well as the longing and humour that both composers share.”
“The Rachmaninov sonata is a piece that I’ve been avoiding for many years,” he added, “because I was waiting for the right partnership. And so to have a champion of Rachmaninov’s music like Andrei … it’s been very exciting for me to go on that journey with him.”
Described by Gramophone as “one of the finest among the astonishing gallery of young virtuoso cellists” and by the LA Times as a musician who “…connects with the audience in a way that only great artists do”, this is Johannes Moser’s second outing for PENTATONE. His first album of concertos by Dvořák and Lalo was widely praised for his “performance of enormous flair and effervescence” (BBC Music Magazine) and “his dazzling virtuosity, free, passionate phrasing and immense energy … that recalls Pablo Casals’ iconic 1937 recording” (Strings). And he electrified audiences at this year’s BBC Proms in a performance of Dutilleux’s ‘Tout un monde lointain …’
About this recording, Moser said “When we were talking about repertoire with PENTATONE, I thought about doing a really core repertoire Russian disc with this amazing Russian pianist [Andrei Korobeinikov]…He is a true master and true champion of this music and I feel very honoured to have him as a partner on this disc.”
Johannes Moser plays on a cello by Andrea Guaneri, made in 1694, from a private collection.
PENTATONE PTC 5186579
Together for the first time in the recording studio, the sisters Mari and Momo Kodama are on scintillating form in these lively arrangements of music from Tchaikovsky’s ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker. In another first, the release contains the first ever recording of Arensky’s transcription of the timeless Nutcracker together with notable arrangements by Debussy and Rachmaninov.
Conceived on a grand scale, Tchaikovsky’s colourful, often passionate scores for the ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker abound with graceful melodies, arresting harmonies and exuberant orchestration. The music has proved enduringly popular with audiences and rates among his most familiar and best-loved works. Composers such as Arensky, Debussy and Rachmaninov made arrangements of these works for piano, not mere reductions but wholesale realisations of the works, combining subtlety and insight with their own technical polish.
“Tchaikovsky was really the first composer to combine a broad sweep of ballet music with a great story,” the Kodama sisters write in their introduction to the release, “before that, it more resembled a compilation of pieces…in all three works there is folkloric and popular music. He has the great skill to make such vivid colours and textures on a large canvas… This makes his orchestral works very special.”
“Our challenge was to use just two pianos … to bring the same sense of scale,” they write, “with just two pianos the atmosphere is more intimate, it brings a different quality to the music. And the composers who made the transcriptions brought their own personality to bear on the works. So we tried to reflect that in our playing.”
The sisters Mari and Momo Kodama both pursue busy international careers. Momo specialises in French and Japanese composers and 20th century and contemporary composers; she has been widely praised for her ‘attractive, lyrical tone’ and ‘technical brilliance’. Mari has established an international reputation for profound musicality and articulate virtuosity; she has recorded extensively for PENATONE, including an acclaimed cycle of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas.
“We are quite different pianists and have our own ideas and approaches,” they write, “so we have spirited discussions. But we always find we are aiming for the same thing, usually from a different angle. So it’s been fun to record these works and it has brought us a lot of sisterly joy too!”
PENTATONE PTC 5186582
Released on 01-11-2016
The celebrated young Colombian maestro Andrés Orozco-Estrada continues his critically acclaimed series of recordings for PENTATONE with this release of the evocative tone poems Macbeth and Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss, performed here with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony.
These gripping works, with their intricate scoring and compelling narratives, are orchestral tours de force, demonstrating Strauss’s gift for filling a huge orchestral canvas with vivid and exquisite details while maintaining a sense of drama. And they are stunningly brought to life in this recording with PENTATONE’s state of the art multi-channel surround sound.
Strauss’s brooding tone poem Macbeth is a psychological portrait of the main protagonists in the play, the insecure and vacillating Macbeth and his wife, the ambitious but deranged Lady Macbeth. Strauss’s often highly charged score suggests the mounting horror and dread of the ill-fated couple and their domestic unease, the work ending on a sombre note following their deaths and the triumphal march of Macduff.
In Strauss’s striking and florid masterpiece Ein Heldenleben, there’s little doubt who the real hero is but Strauss himself. While he was roundly mocked at the time for his audacity, there’s also little doubt that this bold and dramatic tone poem is no mere cornucopia of orchestral effects; it’s a life-affirming work which ends not in a triumphal blaze, but in a mood of quiet resignation.
Andrés Orozco-Estrada is one of the most sought after conductors of his generation. Music Director of the Houston Symphony and Chief Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, he is also Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been widely applauded for his style and command, Triblive writing that “He is energetic and passionate, but also possesses genuine lyrical sensibilities and is exceptionally attuned to full orchestral textures.”
This is Orozco-Estrada’s fourth recording for PENTATONE. His first recording, the Stravinsky ballets The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, was praised by Gramophone for his ability to “unearth an astonishing amount of detail at relatively spacious tempi” and for “PENTATONE’s awesomely precise recording”. His two discs of Dvořák symphonies received similar acclaim: “Vivid and colourful, overall well balanced” (Pizzicato) “an interpretation full of theatricality, with a sure sense of the monumental” (Gramophone).
Future releases from PENTATONE with Orozco-Estrada include Dvořák’s ever popular Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World”.