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March 2009

Album Reviews: Tchaikovsky, Bach, and Vaughan Williams/Taverner

March 14, 2009 18:08

If you remember, back in December I wrote reviews for a number of albums. Now, I've reviewed some more.

 The Bach Concertos by Julia Fischer were released near the end of January, and what a good thing for me to spend some of my Holiday money on it was. This was the first recording of Fischer that I have ever purchased- it was an excellent way for me to be introduced to her playing!
The first concerto on the album is the all-too-famous Concerto for 2 Violins. The tempo of the first movement is very fast and kept up to beat the whole time. The rhythms of the third are very mind throwing if you're not familiar with the double concerto; it produces a very nice, yet somewhat unsettling effect.
The Concerto No.1 in A minor is one of my favorites out of all the Bach concertos. Fischer's tempo is very refined, while "taking it as fast as possible" in the opening movement. The second is very dragging, slow and almost sleeping. The third movement's tempo gives the idea of “rolling”.
The Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor is now one of my favorite Bach violin concertos, thanks to Fischer. The oboe and violin blend so well, only differentiating a few times. I really like the colors painted with the music. It's almost hypnotic in the first movement. The oboe and violin tangoing with each other as well as the orchestra.
Julia Fischer and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields brought to me the Bach violin concertos in a new light. I hope this recording will do the same for you. The album can be purchased here, or on iTunes.
Nicola Benedetti released her album of Vaughan Williams and Tavener in late March 2008. I have to admit, I originally only bought this album for The Lark Ascending! But, I'm glad I still got the whole album. The Lark Ascending is obviously the heart of the album. Her interpretation is so strong; it shot to the top out of all recordings of this piece I've heard. Benedetti paid such close attention to rhythm and tempo, that it's a mind blowing combination with the dynamics. The orchestra she chose to work with was so good to her! The dynamics of the orchestra in the multiple climaxes that this piece has are overwhelming. All in all, one of the freshest, most amazing interpretations of this piece available.
Song for Athene is an interesting piece of modern music. It's very relaxed and slow. The piece rotates around a very common theme.
Dhyana is a very unique piece. It has a wide range of qualities. With both the Song for Athene and Dhyana, it is very clear that Benedetti is able to create a picture with her sound. The music is just so eerie.
The Lalishri Introduction and Cycle are such "entailing" pieces. By that, I mean that you don't really know what is going to come next when listening to them. Lalishri has four cycles, and the whole set of them are very challenging to the way I look at music. I don't really know how to put what I feel when listening to them, into words. This is a major fault on my behalf. All I can say is that these pieces by Tavener are an educating way to become introduced to what modern classical music is becoming- very interesting. It can be purchased here, where you can listen to samples as well as on iTunes.
I’m sure many of you have had the experience of waiting eagerly for an album to be released. That’s what the past months since seeing the preview of Jansen’s Tchaikovsky recording have been like for me. When I first discovered Tchaikovsky’s music, I developed a deep connection with it immediately. It was unlike any other music to me. The emotion that lay beneath it and the life of Tchaikovsky himself gave qualities to his music which made it even more of a powerful connection for me. I very much think Jansen shares this understanding of Tchaikovsky’s music that I do, and it’s very apparent in her playing. I’ve listened to so many recordings of this piece, yet this is my favorite. The magic of the orchestra, the energy of the conductor, and of course this exceptional violinist made the recording amazing.
The recording opens with the Concerto in D. With the opening of the concerto, you begin to grasp the level of excellence that this orchestra has. Jansen chose to work with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the choice was very wise on her part. This orchestra is among the best and the relationships within the orchestra are amazing, which I had the chance to see in the Notes Of A Recording DVD. The first movement of the concerto is explosive. The first movement in a whole is amazing, yet the cadenza is very special to me. Jansen is very artistic with her cadenzas and I think it really shows up in the Tchaikovsky’s cadenza. The second movement, Canzonetta is kept to a crawling pace and the theme kept to a subtle mood of sorrow transferred from Tchaikovsky himself into the piece. It’s a very heart-touching piece to listen to. The third movement is indescribable. It’s very aggressive yet refined at the same time. The opening is a crashing theme with fast-paced playing that keeps Jansen up there with the best on this movement. Throughout the rest of the movement there are interluding solos between the solo violinist and members of the orchestra. This movement has many feelings in it that can be felt.
Also included is the Souvenir D’un Lieu Cher. The Souvenir is a very unique piece. The second movement, Scherzo with its fast paced virtuosity is just incredible. I think it somewhat resembles the third movement of the Concerto. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll be able to pick up on the qualities that this movement has resembling the third movement of the concerto. The final movement of the Souvenir, Melodie is a piece showing Tchaikovsky’s happier times. This piece show cases Jansen’s amazing vibrato. This album is available here, and of course on iTunes.  
These are the beginnings of many album reviews I hope to do and I hope they give you an insight of what to expect from albums from these artists.

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May it all fall, yet don't forget to breathe

March 3, 2009 21:01

Have you ever had one of those weeks, where everything went the exact opposite of what you wanted, things one after another went wrong, yet you still didn’t want to interfere or try to stop them?

On Monday of last week, I was gravely struggling with my solo and the Adagio wasn’t coming along and I hit a bump that I couldn't get past. So on Monday afternoon I decided to switch to the Sarabande as my back up, and after switching all focus to the Sarabande, I was able to play the Adagio on Tuesday afternoon… This enforced my feelings toward “standing back for the ride and what happens, happens”. Tuesday was the night of my solo performance at school… My nerves were relatively okay, but at the point as to not be too relaxed. As I walked into the room I saw my previous orchestra teacher and was pretty happy because she and I got along quite well and I enjoyed her teaching style even when others of the class wanted to quit because of the “pressure” she forced on us—I for one benefited from it and found no pressure. I announced my piece to her, still no nerves. As I put my violin to my shoulder I still was fine. But when I touched the bow to the string it was horrid. I don’t want to talk about things beyond that point! It was just an utter disaster and I’ll be lucky if I get a 3 for my rating (1 being best, 5 being worst). I'll reveal the rating I recieved in the comments below, when I find out myself.
After Tuesday’s events, I thought that there was absolutely no chance for music in my life. But the changes that started months ago are still occurring.
The changes I speak of being my relationship with music. I know that music is a part of me. I know I’m supposed to do something with it. I just don’t know what that “something” is yet. When I hear orchestration in a certain manner my heart is moved. The place where my heart is moved may be to sadness, joy, a rush, or a combination of all. I’m often moved to the point where the music makes me want to cry, but yet I’ve never been brought to tears by a piece of music. I see an underlying message in every piece of music… It’s just there to me.
When I play a certain piece, the feeling I get inside is unreal. My heart almost stops beating, and it’s the feeling of being underneath the surface of water, seeing and experiencing amazing things, but not wanting to come up for oxygen. I can’t watch movies anymore and pay attention to the plot. For instance, in one of my classes we were watching the movie “Radio”, and the opening music captivated me so much I couldn’t help but close my eyes to take it in.
Today, I sat down at the piano and began playing a deviation of the Moonlight Sonata’s first movement… I’ve only heard it a few times, and I’ve never seen the sheet music for it. But what I was playing was just somewhat different. I’ve never had this happen to me and it’s quite odd. Today I decided that I wanted to play Clair de lune (on violin), and I’ve known the normal version of it for a while, but I decided I wanted to play it up an octave, and it was no problem for me, I just knew where the notes were and they came out.  Things like this keep happening to me and keep me confused about where music will take me.
Those who are truly wise have learned that accepting failure is necessary. Out of everything I’ve learned in my short life, the most important thing is to accept it all. Everything that happens to a person is necessary, much can’t be prevented and what does happen needs to.

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