In his 90th year, Elliott Carter is doing something few nonagenarians ever do: he's premiering a striking new string quartet, his fifth. And it's an awe-inspiring piece. The Arditti String Quartet takes up the short phrases that run with and then against one another with sureness, plucking and scraping and making their bows sing. They then delve into each of the five interludes that interrogate the quartet's six sections and play through the disparate splinters of tone and flushes of midrange color as if they were perfectly logical developments. Which they're not. Carter has again brilliantly scripted a chatter of stringed voices–à la the second quartet–that converse quickly, sometimes mournfully, but never straightforwardly. This complexity of conversation is a constant for Carter, coming sharply to light in "90+" and then in Rohan de Saram and Ursula Oppens's heaving read of the 1948 Sonata for Cello and Piano, as well as in virtually all these pieces. This is a monumental recording, extending the documented work of a lamentably underappreciated American composer.
In his 90th year, Elliott Carter is doing something few nonagenarians ever do: he's premiering a striking new string quartet, his fifth. And it's an awe-inspiring piece. The Arditti String Quartet takes up the short phrases that run with and then against one another with sureness, plucking and scraping and making their bows sing. They then delve into each of the five interludes that interrogate the quartet's six sections and play through the disparate splinters of tone and flushes of midrange color as if they were perfectly logical developments. Which they're not.
The narrators are two gifted children, the pianist Alezandre Tharaud, whose acute playing has sparked the series. Set for narrator and small ensemble and originally improvised to please the composer's three-year old cousin, the tale of Babar the Elephant receives a charming performance from Alexandre Tharaud and friends with child narrators on this fifth instalment of Naxos's chamber-music series.
Naxos’ first-rate edition of Poulenc’s complete chamber music continues with this very fine collection of shorter pieces and song cycles for voice and small ensemble. Baritone Franck Leguérinel turns in a smashing performance of Le Bal masqué from its manic opening Air de bravoure to the hysterical falsetto antics in the closing Caprice. He’s equally fine in Le Bestiaire, but the cruel vocal line and harmonic acerbities of the Max Jacob songs prove less congenial, though he’s no less stylistically assured.
Naxos' triumphant march through Poulenc's complete chamber music continues with this latest release containing, among a host of smaller items, a smashing performance of the magnificent Sonata for Two Pianos, one of the composer's greatest large works in any medium. Alexandre Tharaud and Francis Chaplin play beautifully…hypnotically seductive in the slow introduction and third movement, while the faster music has the right rhythmic skittishness and crisp articulation. The other outstanding performance here is the Sonata for horn, trumpet, and trombone. This awkward but charming piece has seldom sounded better balanced and more natural (not to mention in tune), and it's very well recorded in a warm acoustic. The other pieces are trifles, but no less enjoyable for that. Another winner.
Francis Poulenc reportedly felt uncomfortable writing for piano and strings and had harsh things to say about both the violin and cello sonatas, remarks duly parroted by critics and biographers ever since. And yet the fact remains that they are his most ambitious, lengthiest, and emotionally complex chamber works. As so often happens in these circumstances, it’s much easier to regurgitate received opinion than it is to actually listen to the music and take it on its own terms.
The ever-expanding catalogue of Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach on Brilliant Classics (most of it contained in a 30-CD box, 94640), now reaches his music for clarinet, which has received much less attention on record than his orchestral or keyboard works but is no less melodically fertile and formally inventive than his better?known music.
Vol. 2 in BIS' complete Sibelius Edition is given over the Finnish master's chamber music for strings and for strings and piano. Fifty years earlier, this release would've included only the "Voces intimae" string quartet. But BIS' 2007 release includes all four quartets and all four piano trios, plus 35 other works or substantial fragments lasting between 13 seconds to 32 minutes. One thing is instantly clear: Sibelius scholarship has made enormous strides since the mid-twentieth century.
Chamber music has always formed the heart of Maria João Pires’s musicianship. Indeed, she has often commented that she is happier working with others than performing on her own. “Not sharing a stage is very difficult for me,” she once remarked (in an interview for ArtsJournal in 2012) “You are apart from the group, apart from community, apart from everything. You become different and special. And, if you become different and special, you’re alone.”