Henryk Gorecki (1933-2010) became best known for his Third Symphony, the ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ that became a hit in the 1990s, tapping into a new hunger in the listening public for serious new music that was nonetheless melodically inspired and spiritual in sensibility. These qualities can be readily discerned in much of the rest of his small and fastidious output. The Kleines Requiem für eine Polka (1993) is itself at once a profoundly serious work and a curiously elusive one, a blend of warm expressive directness with almost Brechtian alienation. It is scored for a chamber ensemble: like Henze’s late masterpiece, it is an instrumental Requiem, in which words are felt to be otiose to the direct expression of grief and consolation.
This box collects several recordings of Satie's piano music by Dutch pianist Reinbert de Leeuw, going back as far as 1977, with an English-language DVD (not reviewed, but the idea is attractive) including a fictionalized presentation of Satie's relationship with artist Suzanne Valadon (after they broke up, he hung in his window cataloging her faults, but the film apparently doesn't get to the fun stuff). The provenance of the music on the third CD, consisting mostly of songs and featuring soprano Marjanne Kweksilber, is unclear from the booklet, and it's a poor choice for the non-Francophone – no song texts are provided at all. The piano music from de Leeuw is another matter, however. It is immediately distinctive in its slow tempos and dreamy, rather lugubrious tone.
When Written on Skin had its premiere at the 2012 Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, conducted by George Benjamin himself, it received a standing ovation. The opera's arrival at Covent Garden in 2013 was eagerly anticipated, and provided audiences with the opportunity to experience the work of two of Britain's greatest living artists. Benjamin previously collaborated with playwright Martin Crimp on Into the Little Hill, a magical retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale, and for this new work they joined forces with acclaimed stage director Katie Mitchell. For all three, the production marked their main-stage debut at the Royal Opera House. The tale, inspired by a medieval legend, tells of an ill-fated troubadour, drawn into a liaison with an innocent maiden. But they are observed by the jealous eye of her protector, who wreaks a shocking revenge on the young couple.
This is a marvelous release, equally perfect in conception, execution, and engineering. The program locates the intellectual origins of the American avant-garde composers Morton Feldman and John Cage not in postwar European developments, but in the music of Erik Satie, who with each decade seems a more pioneering figure. Feldman and Cage here seem not modernists, but postmodernists. Front and center at the beginning is Feldman's masterpiece Rothko Chapel (1967), a chamber-ensemble-and-chorus evocation of the Houston, Texas, chapel adorned with paintings by, and partly designed by, the Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko.
May 17th sees Erik Satie's 150th anniversary and ECHO-Klassik Award winning pianist Olga Scheps presents the only new studio recording of his most beautiful piano solo works for the Satie celebrations 2016. Erik Satie is among the most popular composers worldwide, his most famous piano pieces such as „Gymnopédie No. 1” or “Je te veux” are instantly recognisable, having be used constantly in motion picture soundtracks and TV ads. As a special Bonus Olga Scheps recorded “Gentle Threat” by Chilly Gonzales, whom she frequently works together with on stage. Olga Scheps was born in Moscow in 1986, the daughter of two pianists, and discovered the instrument for herself at the age of four. She began studying the piano more intensively after her family moved to Germany in 1992. At an early age she had already developed her own unique style of keyboard playing, which combines intense emotiveness and powerful expressivity with extraordinary pianistic technique.
The present installment of Arturo Sacchetti’s encyclopedic Organ History survey for Arts Music drops anchor in late-19th/early-20th-century France. It can be argued that the five instrumental sections from Satie’s Mass for the Poor that open this recital lose poignancy when shorn of their surrounding vocal movements, although the organ is a perfect instrument for the composer’s quirky, instantly identifiable harmonic language. By contrast, D’Indy’s Les Vêpres du Commun des Saints, Roussel’s Prélude et Fughetta, and Honegger’s Deux Pièces pour Orgue make an arid, academic impression. After Wayne Marshall’s pulverizing speed through the Pastorale by Roger-Ducasse (Virgin Classics), Sacchetti’s relatively conservative virtuosity proves less engaging. However, his incisive hand/foot coordination enliven Tournemire’s Improvisation on “Te Deum” and Langlais’ Hymne d’Actions de grâces “Te Deum”, although the latter yields to Andrew Herrick’s more vivid and better engineered traversal on Hyperion. Organists looking for an effective, unhackneyed encore should consider Ibert’s Musette or Milhaud’s Pastorale.