Smetana: String Quartet No 1 in E minor, From My Life (28:32)
Pavel Haas Quartet
After their Janáček quartets and their award-winning Dvořák (Gramophone Award 2011 “Recording of the Year”), the Pavel Haas Quartet have now put all their energy to the service of the music of Bedřich Smetana. Even though his chamber music is modest in scale, each of these works can be said to be a foundation stone of Czech chamber music. They are personal works, often with a strong autobiographical element.
Tower: Chamber Dance (16:19)
Nashville Symphony / Giancarlo Guerrero
Joan Tower creates music which is bold, colorful and communicative, her list of commissions and awards providing ample evidence of her ability to engage performers and audiences alike. Emotional intensity characterizes Stroke, which vividly conveys a stroke victim’s dramatic turmoil while also offering a vision of hope. The Violin Concerto, selected for the final round of the Pulitzer Prize in Music, is both a virtuoso showcase and a lyrical vehicle for the soloist. The deceptively titled Chamber Dance alternates huge blocks of sound with intimate solos and duets in an ever-evolving riot of colors.
New Release of the Week
Veracini: Sonate Accademiche, Op 2: Sonata No 9 in A major (13:04)
Trio Settecento presents Italian Baroque composer Francesco Maria Veracini’s monumental Opus 2 Sonate Accademiche for violin and continuo. It’s a cosmopolitan collection of 12 sonatas of breathtaking scope and pan-European influences — a set of sonatas unlike any other of the era. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine and her colleagues in Trio Settecento, cellist John Mark Rozendaal, and harpsichordist David Schrader, bring their “refreshing, life-enhancing Baroque playing” (Chicago Tribune) to these works.
Ravel: Le tombeau de Couperin (16:59)
Boston Symphony Orchestra / Seiji Ozawa
The Pentatone label has been re-mastering albums from the 1970s by Deutsche Grammophon recorded with multi-channel tapes, with either four or eight channels. Now, with the advent of the Super Audio CD, there is finally a system that makes it possible to issue these recordings in the quality they deserve. The latest release is a sumptuous performance of favorite orchestral works by Ravel with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa, recorded in 1974 in the famed acoustics of Boston’s Symphony Hall.
Shostakovich: Two Pieces for String Quartet, Op 36a (7:12)
Celebrating its 70th anniversary, the Borodin Quartet has signed to Decca Classics for a major series of recordings of the music of Shostakovich. The centerpiece of this landmark season, the Shostakovich project will comprise the composer’s complete works for string quartet. Shostakovich himself personally supervised the ensemble’s study of each of his quartets and a profound understanding of his music has been passed down through the generations.
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No 3 in D minor, Op 30: I, Allegro ma non tanto (17:07)
Stewart Goodyear, piano; Czech National Symphony / Heiko Mathias Förster
Stewart Goodyear’s second release on Steinway & Sons is a followup to his acclaimed 2014 release of the Tchaikovsky and Grieg Piano Concertos. The Canadian pianist is a notable concert soloist and has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, among many others. In 2013, he gave a series of marathon performances in the U.S. of all the Beethoven piano sonatas, performing the complete cycle in a single, eleven-hour performance at each venue.
Bach: Solo Violin Sonata No 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 (15:33)
Saariaho: Frises: Frise Grise (3:55)
Jennifer Koh, violin
Violinist Jennifer Koh’s ‘Bach & Beyond Part 2′ is the second installment in her venturesome, three-album series linking Bach’s landmark violin sonatas and partitas to the sounds of today. It includes Bach’s first work for solo violin, the Sonata No 1 in G minor, BWV 1001, and his first exploration of the partita form, the Partita No 1 in B minor, BWV 1002; Bartók’s first and only work for solo violin, his Bach-inspired Sonata for Solo Violin; and the world-premiere recording of Saariaho’s Frises, her first large-scale work for solo violin and electronics, which has its own Bach connection.
Sibelius: Four Songs from Op 18 (7:15)
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir / Heikki Seppänen
The 150th Anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius will be celebrated in 2015. The fourth album on Ondine by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is dedicated to the composer’s complete works for mixed choir. Choral music was a genre in which Sibelius showed interest from his student days to the near close of his life. This 2-disc set includes patriotic songs, works closely connected to the Finnish national epic Kalevala, student compositions, Christmas songs, works based on Finnish poetry, as well as pieces written for ceremonies and other official occasions. It also includes two versions of the famous Finlandia Hymn.
Prokofiev: Scythian Suite, Op 20 (20:25)
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop
This fourth volume in Marin Alsop’s acclaimed Prokofiev symphonic cycle features two of his most viscerally exciting works. Using material salvaged from his opera The Fiery Angel, the Third Symphony was hailed by Serge Koussevitzky at its 1929 premiere as ‘the best symphony since Tchaikovsky’s Sixth.’ Originally commissioned as a ballet by Sergey Diaghilev but rejected as un-danceable, the Scythian Suite has become a popular orchestral showpiece, while Prokofiev retained a lifelong fondness for his dark-hued early symphonic sketch Autumn.
Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy-Overture (20:25)
San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas
Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony release a live recording of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5 and Romeo and Juliet on the orchestra’s own Grammy Award-winning label, SFS Media. The release coincides with the celebration of the 175th anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s birth. Tilson Thomas says, “Tchaikovsky has always been important to me. My work as a student and young musician with Piatigorsky, Heifetz and Rubinstein imparted to me a sense of elegance about his music. It is this quality that has shaped this performance.”