(1) Elgar & Tchaikovsky. Johannes Moser, Andrew Manze, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande;
(2) On My Journey Now. Spirituals & Hymns. Lester Lynch, Baritone;
(3) Brahms – Ballades & Fantasies. Denis Kozhukhin, piano
PENTATONE PTC 5186570
Released on 01-02-2017
The profoundly moving, elegiac lyricism of Elgar and the wistful charm and brilliance of Tchaikovsky are on full display in this irresistible new release from PENTATONE played with consummate virtuosity by the German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Andrew Manze.
Composed at the end of the First World War, Elgar’s powerful Cello Concerto in E minor is one of his best-loved and most deeply-felt works. The soloist’s wrenching chords which open the work announce a mood of profound resignation and loss; gone is the youthful swagger of his earlier works, replaced instead with lonely introspection and longing, especially in the sublimely beautiful Adagio. The cello is given free rein in the vigorous final movement but the opening mood prevails as an anguished outburst from the cello brings the work to a close.
No such dejection hangs over Tchaikovsky’s delightful Variations on a Rococo Theme which ooze elegance, ineffable charm and daring displays of technical brilliance. While the Pezzo capriccioso finds Tchaikovsky in a more restrained mood, with the Nocturne and Andante Cantabile he wears his romantic heart full on his sleeve. The great Russian writer Leon Tolstoy is said to have wept when he heard the Andante Cantabile and its sumptuous theme shows Tchaikovsky’s unerring gift for haunting melodies. It remains a special gem in the repertoire.
The cellist Johannes Moser is no stranger to these works. Winner of the top prize at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition, he was also awarded the Special Prize for his interpretation of the Variations on a Rococo Theme.
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 Moser’s third 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).
PENTATONE PTC 5186571
Released on 01-02-2017
Life affirming, defiant and uplifting, there is nothing quite like the extraordinary power and simplicity of American Spirituals to move and inspire, abundantly demonstrated here by the acclaimed American operatic baritone Lester Lynch in this new release from PENTATONE of familiar and well-loved spirituals and hymns.
Conceived under conditions of tremendous hardship, these emotionally charged songs speak of the indomitable human will to live and to triumph over despair against the odds. Defiant and jubilant, they communicate the unquenchable longing for freedom and salvation.
“I have dreamed of recording this album from the inception of my career,” writes Lester Lynch in the accompanying album notes. “To realize that dream at this particular moment in time, to record these songs of freedom … echoes the spiritual tradition and revolutionary act of those who raised their voices in song against brutality and inequality.”
Lester Lynch personally chose and arranged the songs in this release, each with a particular accompaniment—piano, organ, acoustic guitar, violin, trumpet, harmonica, drum, and djembe (a West African goblet drum). From the rhythmic By An’ By and Ev’ry Time I Feel De Spirit, to the richly melodic Amazing Grace and Deep River, the 24 songs constantly astonish and delight for their range and depth and their unfailing power to move.
“Music speaks to and heals the human spirit,” writes Lynch. “These songs have had a profound effect on American history. I sing them to honor those who struggled (and died) for freedom, and it is my hope that they will spark the light of freedom anew for every listener.”
Lester Lynch is joined on this recording by Victor Simonson (pianist and arranger), Brian Farrell (keyboards and arranger) and the ART Singers and Oakland School of the Arts Ensemble (Choral Director, Alexander Taite).
Ballades & Fantasies
Denis Kozhukhin, piano
PENTATONE PTC 5186568
Released on 01-02-2017
Bold, turbulent defiance sit alongside pained introspection and bittersweet reverie in this penetrating recital of Brahms piano works by the acclaimed young Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin in his eagerly awaited second recording for PENTATONE.
By turns placid, sparse, restive and impassioned, the highly personal and contemplative late piano pieces of Brahms have been described as “the mirrors of his soul”. The seven pieces comprising the Fantasias, Op. 116 are quite different in mood but are nevertheless intricately constructed to produce poetic miniatures of great depth and sonority, requiring sensitive artistry to convey their sense of unity and poignancy.
Brahms is in a more full-bloodied and demonstrative mood with the four character pieces in the much earlier Ballades, Op 10. But these too show moments of transcendent beauty as in the closing ballade where the tenor melody is woven into the mellifluously undulating pianissimo accompaniment. And in the rarely heard Theme and Variations, Op. 18b, Brahms makes a sumptuous and instantly seductive arrangement of the second movement of his own String Sextet, producing an arresting and magisterial work with exquisite tone colorations and a hushed, sublime ending.
“Technically flawless and musically imperious” wrote Classical Source of Denis Kozhukhin, “his detail and articulation was immaculate, and his daredevil playing was thrilling … Kozhukhin was a knockout.”
Since winning the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 2010, the young Denis Kozhukhin is one of the most sought after pianists on the international stage and in 2015 he signed an exclusive contract with PENTATONE.
Kozuhukin’s first recording with PENTATONE of the Grieg and Tchaikovsky’s Piano concertos was widely praised. Radio Bremen hailed him as “…already one of the greats of the black and white keys”. Gramophone magazine named the release ‘Editor’s Choice’ for May 2016, noting “Above all, [Kozhukhin] is natural … His inerrant rhythmic sense is pliant yet taut; his sound unalloyed silver. Listening to Kozhukhin, you’re left with one thing: the music – incontestable, complete.” And The Herald Scotland was unequivocal. “If you want to add these old warhorses to your music library, however, there are few better places to start than here… [PENTATONE] uses the slogan ‘Sit back and enjoy’, and that is the way to appreciate a recording that could hardly be better for its balanced capturing of the performances.”