CLASSICAL NOTES with Nick Boston

Nick Boston December 29, 2022


In the second volume of pianist Orion Weiss’s series, Arc II, the focus is on times of war and grief, with works by Ravel, Brahms and Shostakovich. Ravel’s (1875-1937) Le Tombeau de Couperin was composed between 1914 and 1917, and each movement is dedicated to friends who died in the war.

Here, Weiss’s articulation is always crystal clear, never allowing the impressionistic soundscapes to obscure the detail. Brahms’ (1833-1897) Variations on a Theme by R. Schumann, Op. 9 take us back to 1854, and again a memorial to a friend, although Robert was still alive at this point, now in the sanatorium where he would subsequently die.

First Hand Records FHR128

Across the 16 variations, there is a wide range of styles and emotions, but there is an ever present longing and lyricism, to which Weiss is constantly alert. Shostakovich’s (1906-1975) Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 61 moves us forward to 1943, and it is dedicated to his friend and teacher, Leonid Nikolayev, who died in the mass evacuation from Leningrad.

Weiss brings out the sense of unease in the moments of seeming calm, as well giving full power to the violent climaxes. After such exhausting tension, Weiss finishes with two of Brahms’ Chorale Preludes. This is a powerfully emotive programme, performed with sensitivity and passion, and I look forward to the final volume that promises times of joy.

Audax ADX11202

The Mariani Klavierquartett return with the second release in their cycle pairing BrahmsPiano Quartets with those of Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916). In the first pairing, Gernsheim’s quartet stood alongside his friend’s admirably. Here, perhaps Gernsheim suffers a little next to Brahms’ mammoth A major Piano Quartet, Op. 26, weighing in at nearly 50 minutes.

The opening movement is of epic proportions, yet the Marianis ensure there is a lightness of touch where needed, and Gerhard Vielhaber on piano never overly dominates the texture, which is also testament to the excellently balanced recording here. They give the Finale energetic drive, yet pull back expertly for the lighter moments, and the slowing train is beautifully judged before the final race to the end.

Gernsheim’s Piano Quartet, Op. 47 is much lighter in mood, and the Marianis bring out the hints of ballroom swing in the opening movement, and galloping energy in the second movement is contrasted with warm lyricism. Another illuminating release, and I look forward to the final volume.

Chandos CHAN20253

In the sixth volume of his survey, pianist Barry Douglas tackles the second set of Impromptus and the Piano Sonata in A minor, D845 by Schubert (1797-1828). In the Sonata, Douglas takes a weighty approach, emphasising the drama. His tempi throughout tend towards the slow side, yet there is a spring in his step for the third movement scherzo, and the finale has suitable wildness in places.

For the Impromptus, the first has smoothly flowing hand crossing and bell-like tone at the top, but the second is taken at a very slow tempo indeed, which means that the central bubbling triplets lose their urgency. The Rosamunde-esque dance of the third has poise and delicacy, but again could benefit from a little more flowing tempo.

The fourth has incredibly virtuosic running scales, taken at a suitably furious lick, making me wish there had been more of this fire elsewhere. After the exuberance of this comes Liszt’s gloriously rich transcription of Schubert’s Ave Maria to finish, and Douglas gives this great warmth and expression, as well as effortless virtuosity. Overall, a mixed contribution to his otherwise exemplary Schubert survey so far.


Alex Kidgell

The East Sussex Bach Choir, with the Baroque Collective, conducted by John Hancorn perform Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, with soloists Alex Kidgell, Rebecca Leggett, Mark Dobell & Robert Davies (7pm on Saturday, January 7 at Lewes Town Hall).  Tickets HERE

Maria Marchant

The Worthing Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Gibbons, have two concerts this month. First, their New Year Concert with the usual Viennese favourites (2.45pm on Sunday, January 8), and then they are joined by pianist Maria Marchant for music by Gershwin, Borodin and Arnold (7.30pm on Friday, January 27 at Assembly Hall, Worthing). Tickets HERE

Guitarist Miloš Karadaglić joins the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Karen Kamensek for Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, along with music by De Falla, David Bruce and Bizet (3pm on Sunday, January 15 at Congress Theatre, Eastbourne). Tickets HERE

Joanna MacGregor

The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Sian Edwards, perform music by Philip Glass, Rautavaara, Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) and John Luther Adams with Joanna MacGregor on piano/keyboards, and visual projections by Kathy Hinde (7.30pm on Saturday, January 21 at Brighton Dome). Tickets HERE

Cellist Philip Higham plays Domenico Gabrielli, Bach, dall’Abaco, Berio and Reger (11am on Sunday, January 22 at ACCA, Brighton). Tickets HERE


Full reviews can be found HERE

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