'… brimful with alert character and beauty whilst the two piano pieces are delightful in their raucous melodies … briliantly done by Tanyel' (Classical Net Review). It was brave and useful and laudable of Seta Tanyel and the now-defunct label Collins Classics to have embarked, in the 1990s, in a thorough exploration of the music of Xaver Scharwenka (1850-1924), and one must be grateful to Hyperion to have reissued almost all of it. The 4-volume traversal of his solo piano music doesn't embrace I think Scharwenka's complete piano output, but it is still very substantial. Add to that the three first piano concertos (apparently Collins didn't live long enough to record the Fourth, and the first is the one disc that Hyperion did not reissue, Piano Concerto 1, obviously because they already had another one in their catalog, Rubinstein: Piano Concerto No. 4; Scharwenka: Piano Concerto No. 1) and what I think was the complete chamber music. However, I didn't always feel that the results lived up to the project's promises.
'Tanyel's clear enthusiasm for this unhackneyed programme is utterly refreshing … The performance reminds us again just how well she understands the piano's Romantic repertoire' (Classic CD). 'the music here could hardly be more sympathetically presented than by Tanyel, whose performances are immaculate in their musicianship and virtuosity' (Gramophone). Seta Tanyel, the Armenian pianist, demonstrates a flair for the virtuosic style of German-Polish Scharwenka. She projects a well-rounded tone, a flexible sense of rhythm, a seamless technique, a fertile imagination and a daring panache. She seems to genuinly love these beautiful, light-hearted compositions. Scharwenka's music (who lived in the States for seven years) possesses energy, harmonic interest, strong rhythm, many beautiful melodies and much Polish national character. A highly enjoyable recording.
'Scharwenka could not have been better served. He deserves no less' (International Record Review). 'The recorded sound has all the freshness needed for this music' (Pianist). Many young pianists of my generation cut their teeth on one or another of Xaver Scharwenka's Polish Dances; he composed about thirty of them. The Op. 3, No. 1 was immensely popular, selling millions of copies and that's the one I learned to play when I was about ten or so. On this release are the two Polish Dances, Op. 29, and they are mazurkas in all but name. They are lively and set your toe tapping as played by Seta Tanyel.
'The recorded sound has all the freshness needed for this music' (Pianist). 'Seta Tanyel plays her well-contrasted selection with obvious affection and persuasive charm … playing of outstanding drive and verve' (International Record Review). Hyperion's series of the solo piano music of Xaver Scharwenka (reissued from Collins), played by Seta Tanyel, is worth getting to know for everyone who appreciates romantic piano music. It reveals Scharwenka as a deft craftsman with plenty of good ideas and deep knowledge of how to utilize the potential of his instrument to full effect. Volume 1, however, is far from the strongest installment in the series, and if you started with this one, were disappointed and decided to stop investigating, I encourage you to reconsider - volume 2, for instance, is definitely superior (though Scharwenka's concertos and chamber works are superior still).
With his idiomatic and graceful style, pianist Philip Martin has established himself as the foremost exponent of Gottschalk. Much of his music is by no means easy to play; it requires an impeccable technique matched with Èlan and joie de vivre for its most effective execution. Although not essentially a great composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk had a unique spontaneity and individuality which Martins performances bring vividly to the fore. The composers music was hugely popular during his lifetime and his works display a real melodic charm and a great sense of fun. Each of the eight discs in Martins extensive Gottschalk series has received wide acclaim and left pianophiles eagerly awaiting the next issue.
Franco-Flemish composer Pierre de la Rue contributed prolifically to the rich musical life of the Low Countries during the late fifteenth century. If today he is less well-known than some of his contemporaries, the distinguished advocacy of Stephen Rice and The Brabant Ensemble remedies the balance with these authoritative performances of the Missa Nuncqua fue pena mayor, Salve regina VI and Missa Inviolata. Pierre de la Rue is another of those composers who contributed so prolifically to the richness of musical life in the Low Countries during the late fifteenth century. If today he is less well known than some of his contemporaries, the distinguished advocacy of Stephen Rice and The Brabant Ensemble should do much to redress the balance.
Stephen Layton and Polyphony have a long and fruitful relationship with the music of Arvo Pärt. Their recording of Triodion and other choral works (CDA67375) won a Gramophone Award and became a cult classic. The extraordinary purity of Polyphony’s singing is the perfect vehicle for music of such clean, elemental simplicity, such cathartic calm. This third Pärt album from Stephen Layton and Polyphony reaches right back, intriguingly, to the composer’s youthful modernist phase and spans nearly five decades—from 1963 to 2012—in the process. As with the album Triodion, it reflects an increasingly broad spread of languages and sources in Pärt’s chosen texts. Latin, German and English are joined here by Church Slavonic and Spanish. A range of biblical texts are set alongside ancient prayers.
A new release from Polyphony, with Stephen Layton at the helm, always brings with it an assurance of singing of the highest possible calibre. Bring together a choir of such quality and the composer responsible for some of the most beautiful, transcendent music ever written, and the resultant disc is surely what must be one of, if not the most spectacular releases of the year. New works from Arvo Pärt are invariably cherished, and this disc contains no fewer than five world premiere recordings—Dopo la vittoria, Nunc dimittis, Littlemore Tractus, My heart's in the Highlands and Salve regina. It was recorded in the presence of the enraptured composer earlier this year at the Temple Church, London. This is a disc of achingly lovely music at its most mesmeric—prepare to be stunned.
Here is some of the most spiritually uplifting music of our generation, sung by that most virtuosic of choirs, Polyphony. Arvo Pärt (paralleled in England by John Tavener) has succeeded in capturing the attention of a broad public through his consummate ability to weave a sense of inevitable power into music of fundamental simplicity. The impressive Berlin Mass which opens the disc was written in 1990, the Credo being a fascinating major-key reworking of the earlier minor-mode Summa; very much an expression of joy at the lifting of the Soviet embargo on ‘sacred’ music in Estonia. Annum per Annum is a monumental work for solo organ and is here performed on the organ of St Paul’s Cathedral: a thoroughly exhilarating experience. The disc ends with the masterpiece De profundis. This most powerful of texts draws from Pärt an inexorable momentum from a beginning almost out of nothing to a devastating climax.