Brahms – Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 (1878)

OISTRAKH_03

The Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77, was composed by Johannes Brahms in 1878 and dedicated to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. It is Brahms’s only violin concerto, and, according to Joachim, one of the four great German violin concerti. The Germans have four violin concertos. The greatest, most uncompromising is Beethoven’s. The one by Brahms vies with it in seriousness. The richest, the most seductive, was written by Max Bruch. But the most inward, the heart’s jewel, is Mendelssohn’s.

I. Allegro non troppo 0:00
II. Adagio 22:36
III. Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace 32:26

David Oistrakh
Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion Française
Otto Klemperer
Studio recording, Paris, June 17-19, 1960

[Dedicated to Ida Holst]

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Timothy Andres and his many, varied musical influences

Timothy Andres grew up listening to Brahms and Beethoven as he studied piano at the Juilliard School’s precollege program. When he enrolled at Yale in 2003, he discovered a new canon. “I gravitated to the, shall we say, stoner hippie types who were listening to really interesting music,” he says. Suddenly Pink Floyd and Brian Eno were on the menu, as were classical minimalists Steve Reich and John Adams.

What began as his senior project at Yale is now his debut album, “Shy and Mighty,” a work for two pianos, to be released May 18 by Nonesuch Records. The composer, 24 years old, says he thinks of his music as architecture. In a piece called “The Night Jaunt,” one piano sets up a spiralling series of chords, while the other piano weaves phrases in lengthening strings.

The composer says his pop inspirations include Scottish electronic act Boards of Canada and Radiohead (“amazing range and sense of space”). The challenge now is to avoid getting lost in the sprawl of his influences: “How can you possibly synthesize all that into something that makes sense? That’s something that I struggle with in my writing every day.”

The composer’s top iTunes plays*

Radiohead 1,157 plays
Beethoven 1,134
Brahms 1,102
Brian Eno 964
John Adams 901
J.S. Bach 868
The Beatles 787
The Beta Band 718
Benjamin Britten 676
Arcade Fire 641

*Source: His Last.fm profile

[via wsj.com]

Listen to his album on Spotify here.

Dvořák, Shostakovich, Brahms and fireworks from Bychkov, the LSO

Semyon Bychkov has already impressed me with his handling of last year’s revival of the Royal Opera House’s Don Carlos, so his debut with the London Symphony Orchestra was one of the concerts that jumped out at me when I was doing my last bit of booking back in December. Just as well.

He opened his programme with Dvořák’s Carnival Overture. While I’m a big fan of Dvořák, this isn’t a piece that’s ever especially grabbed me before and hence not one I know all that well. From the opening bars I began to wonder why. Bychkov unleashed the LSO in a phenomenal display of energy and precision. It made for a real party piece, full of orchestral fireworks, and an excellent curtain raiser.

After a brief pause while the piano was raised up through the floor (an always fun to watch quirk of the Barbican – much more interesting than just having it pushed on from the back of the stage), Denis Matsuev joined them for Shostakovich’s 2nd piano concerto. He proved every bit the match to Bychkov and the LSO. He maintained clarity through some rapid and intricate passages and found all the necessary weight without recourse to thumping the keyboard. Beneath him, Bychkov balanced his forces well, ensuring the pianist wasn’t overwhelmed by the comparatively large orchestra. And yet it wasn’t all fireworks – there was plenty of tenderness and beauty in the slow movement.

Read the full blog review here.

Clarinet Gets Acrobatic Workout

In his brilliant Clarinet Concerto, Magnus Lindberg exploits myriad facets of what the instrument can do, from playing soaring melodic lines to making almost rude-sounding noises. He composed the work in 2002 for the remarkable clarinetist Kari Kriikku, who performed its United States premiere with the New York Philharmonic, led by Alan Gilbert, on Saturday evening at Carnegie Hall.

Mr. Kriikku, a physically flamboyant player of Olympian virtuosity, tackled with aplomb the athletic demands of this rewarding and rigorously constructed single-movement work, whose five sections have allusions to Brahms, Debussy and jazz. Making his debut with the Philharmonic on Saturday, Mr. Kriikku played with a glowing tone and sensual spontaneity in the rhapsodic interludes. He offered a breathtaking cadenza, performing acrobatic feats in the instrument’s highest range.

While some contemporary composers view the symphony orchestra as archaic, Mr. Lindberg (the Philharmonic’s current composer in residence) has called it “his favorite instrument” and “the perfect typewriter where you have all the keys.” In this concerto he gives the orchestra a workout that results in dense, shimmering soundscapes, whose kaleidoscopic colors were aptly illuminated by Mr. Gilbert.

Read the full review in The New York Times here.

Leonard Bernstein on the Mystery Behind the Music

Imagine this: you drop onto the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, switch on the TV and see a dapper young man with a baton standing before an orchestra and demonstrating the patterns conductors use to lead music in different meters — two, three, four and five beats to the bar. He directs his players in a few examples, bits of Beethoven’s Ninth and Schubert’s Eighth Symphonies, Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” Waldteufel’s “Skater’s Waltz.” Then he ups the ante, showing how these simple gestures, with subtle modification, are used to coax a fluid, lyrical performance; a playful reading; or an urgently dramatic interpretation from an orchestra.

For 48 minutes, this young conductor — Leonard Bernstein, caught on film in 1955 — brings you into the musician’s world, talking about how tempo, dynamics and phrasing express a conductor’s feelings and beliefs about a piece, and how that expressivity affects a listener’s perception of the music. And he offers you a glimpse of his preparation for a performance.

“Take this opening bar of the Brahms First Symphony,” he says, and then conducts it. “There are 55 notes in it, being played by 100 instruments, and the conductor has to know them all, or he has no right to ascend the podium in the first place. And this is only one bar out of 1,260 in this symphony.”

Even with hundreds of cable channels to choose from today, the likelihood of running into a show like this is slim.

Read the full article in The New York Times here.