Schubert: "Trout" Quintet (CD review)

Also, Piano Trio "Notturno"; Standchen; Ave Maria. Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; Daniil Trifonov, piano; Hwayoon Lee, viola; Maximilian Hornung, cello; Roman Patkolo, double bass. DG 00289 7570.

What's not to like? You've got one of the world's most-popular virtuosic violinists, Anne-Sophie Mutter, in the lead, supported by the equally popular piano virtuoso Daniil Trifonov and three soloists from the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation: Hwayoon Lee, viola; Maximilian Hornung, cello; and Roman Patkolo, double bass. Then you've got some of the world's most-popular chamber music, Schubert's "Trout" Quintet and several other delightful short pieces.

So, what's not to like? Well, some listeners may love the performance, regarding it as sparkling, while others may see it as a tad too fast and commonplace. Still other listeners may find DG's sound detailed and well focused, while others may see it as too big and close up. Like all things, one must give the recording a listen before forming an opinion about it.

The album begins with the Piano Quintet in A major "The Trout" by Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). He wrote it in the summer of 1819 while visiting the town of Steyr in the north of Austria. A wealthy music patron in the area, Sylvester Paumgartner, suggested the composer include in the music a set of variations based on his earlier song "Die Forelle" ("The Trout"). But apparently few people outside Schubert's friends and family ever heard the finished product in Schubert's lifetime since the work did not see publication until 1829, a year after the composer's death. Nevertheless, today practically every chamber group in the world has played and recorded it.

The work begins with an Allegro vivace, full of gentle good cheer. The second-movement Andante is more sedate and serious than the first movement. The third-movement Scherzo displays a pleasantly youthful playfulness. After that come the celebrated Variations, which mark the "Trout" as somewhat different from other chamber pieces. Here, it's the piano that often stands out, with the violin coming in a close second. Finally, the work ends with an Allegro giusto of high spirits.

Anne-Sophie Mutter
In the first movement, Ms. Mutter and the others must set some kind of record for pacing. Even the period-instrument versions I've heard don't zip along quite so fast. Not that this is bad, but for a piece of music with such charm as "The Trout," you'd think that a more leisurely approach might have been more appropriate. The speed with which Ms. Mutter takes it does, however, give ample display to her talents and an ample demonstration of a quick and lively Allegro.

In the Andante, things slow down appreciably, which is to say, the players take it at more conventional speeds, and it sounds all the more engaging for it. This also gives us a better chance to hear the contributions of all the players without Ms. Mutter dominating the proceedings. The Scherzo displays plenty of zest, although the fun seems a little forced and the whole thing a bit foursquare. The Variations are probably the best part of the show, and even though the players take them fairly fast, they exhibit a genuine delight. The expressive dynamics, contrasts, and pauses contribute to this effect. Then, in the Finale Ms. Mutter and the group appear warmer and more affectionate than in most of the preceding movements, and it comes off nicely.

Because there must be hundreds of different recordings of "The Trout," the listener has a multitude of choices. My own preferences include the sweetly lyrical one by the augmented Beaux Arts Trio (Pentatone or Philips), the spry period-instrument version by Jos Van Immerseel et al (Sony), and others by the Hagen Quartet (Decca), Sir Clifford Curzon (HDTT or Decca), the Nash Ensemble (CRD), Alfred Brendel (Philips), and many others. How does this one by Ms. Mutter and company stack up? It's fine and will no doubt please Ms. Mutter's fans, but I wouldn't personally put it at the top of my list of recommendations. The competition is just too strong, and Ms. Mutter and friends sound just a bit too commonplace for my liking, despite the alacrity of their playing.

In addition, the album includes three short works: The Piano Trio n E flat major "Notturno" and two arrangements for violin and piano of Standchen D957/4 ("Leise flehen meine Lieder") and the ever-popular "Ave Maria." Lovely.

Executive producer Ute Fesquet, producer and engineer Bernhard Guttler, and engineer Philip Krause recorded the music for Emil Berliner Studios at Baden-Baden, Festspielhaus, in June 2017. In the quintet and trio the instruments are spread widely and closely across the sound stage, with the piano set somewhat farther back than the strings. It's not an unrealistic image but one slightly bigger than I expected. The instruments sound rich and warm, never bright or edgy. No serious complaints.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


Classical Music News of the Week, May 19, 2018

Hotchkiss Summer Piano Portals Program Makes Carnegie Debut

The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut will launch its sixth annual Summer Portals Piano Program from July 15-29, 2018. Welcoming a highly selective, international body of exceptionally gifted students ages 11-19 by audition, this uncommonly rigorous two-week training program brings together acclaimed Hotchkiss faculty with guest artists, who engage the young artists with private lessons, masterclasses, and student and faculty concerts.

Hotchkiss Summer Portals Piano Program's ideology is rooted firmly in the belief that music performance is an invaluable learning experience for aspiring musicians and academics alike, and that the discipline efficient practicing habits requires, and the development of poise needed for a successful music performance, helps build a crucial skill set which translates to any advanced study, and ultimately, any career path.

Each Piano Portals student performs in at least one public concert, while attending performances by their globally-renowned faculty. In honor of Chairman and Board Member Frederick Frank (class of 1950) and Mary Tanner Frank, a special gala concert takes place on July 21, 2018 featuring celebrated international pianists, Hotchkiss Piano Program Director Fabio Witkowski and Resident Piano Faculty Gisele Nacif Witkowski; joining them are the Fine Arts Quartet, described as a "powerhouse of American chamber music," (Washington Post) and with "tone… both beguilingly tangy and warm" (The Strad), comprised of violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, violist Gil Sharon, and cellist Niklas Schmidt. 

Following the success of the Hotchkiss School Music Program's Carnegie Hall debut performance in January 2018, the Summer Piano Portals Program makes its own Carnegie debut on July 24, 2018.

The Hotchkiss School recently celebrated its 125th anniversary and remains one of the most distinguished educational institutions on the East Coast. For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit https://www.hotchkiss.org/our-school/summer-programs

--Hannah Goldshlack-Wolf, Kirshbaum Associates

Philarmonia Baroque Orchestra Players at BFX and More
Every other June, the San Francisco Early Music Society produces the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition--- otherwise known as BFX. Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale and its musicians have participated in just about every festival since the early 90's. And this year is no exception. This year, the Philharmonia Baroque Chamber Players, consisting of PBO violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock; flutist Stephen Schultz; cellist William Skeen; and harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, will perform Telemann's Paris Quartets on June 7. PBO will also co-present Jory Vinikour and Philippe LeRoy in a program of works for two harpsichords on June 8.

Additionally, Elizabeth Blumenstock will appear with soprano Christine Brandes and PBO harpsichordist Katherine Heater in an intriguing program called "Nasty Women" with an all female ensemble on June 4. PBO musicians Hanneke van Proosdij and David Tayler will appear with their ensemble Voices of Music on June 7 and 9 and the Cantata Collective, which includes six PBO musicians, will perform Bach cantatas with regular PBO soprano Sherezade Panthaki on June 9.

Also on June 9, PBO bassoonist and Harvard Music Professor Kate van Orden will give a lecture titled "Romanticism Now" before PBO cellist Tanya Tomkins and fortepianist Eric Zivian perform works by Schubert and Schumann with Musicians of the Valley of the Moon Festival and regular PBO guest tenor Nicholas Phan.

For more information about BFX and PBO, visit http://www.berkeleyfestival.org/ and philharmonia.org

--Dianne Provenzano, PBO

Innovative Brass for Beginners
The Music Institute of Chicago offers a variety of summer programming for brass players, including summer jazz camps for youth and adults and Quintet Attacca Chamber Camp. Among those options are several that offer a unique approach: Brass for Beginners camp for youth and Brass for Beginners® classes for youth and adults.

The innovative Brass for Beginners (BfB) program, developed by Music Institute faculty member Chris Hasselbring in collaboration with music educator Jack Hasselbring and historian Kirsty Montgomery, uses the natural trumpet (an historical trumpet without valves) to limit learning variables and jump-start the development of fundamental brass and aural skills while stimulating students' capacity for creativity. A recipe for success, BfB has proven to be an efficient and effective way to prepare students to play any of the modern brass instruments.

For complete information, visit https://www.musicinst.org/2018-brass-beginners%C2%AE-summer-camp

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Chicago's Kairos Quartet Wins Fischoff
Congratulations to the Kairos Quartet on winning the Junior Strings Division Gold Medal in the
2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. The Kairos Quartet has had quite a year, having already earned: Gold Medal, Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Junior Strings Division; 1st Place, M-Prize International Chamber Arts Competition, Junior String Division; Silver Medal, St. Paul National String Quartet Competition; Grand Prize, A.N. & Pearl G. Barnett Chamber Music Competition; Rembrandt Chamber Players Chamber Music Competition; Rembrandt Young Artists for 2018.

The Kairos Quartet will participate in a master class with acclaimed musician and educator Pinchas Zukerman on Monday, May 21 at 11 a.m. at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois. The master class is free and open to the public; RSVP to vribadeneyra@musicinst.org.

For more information, visit musicinst.org/zukerman-class

--Jill Chukerman, Music Institute of Chicago

Violinist Tessa Lark Chosen for Prestigious Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship
The Borletti-Buitoni Trust announced in February that violinist Tessa Lark is a recipient of the coveted Borletti-Buitoni 2018 Fellowship. Ms. Lark adds this recognition to her growing stack of impressive awards, which include an Avery Fisher Career Grant and medals at the Naumburg International Violin Competition and the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.

The BBT Fellowship puts Ms. Lark in the elite company of prior BBT recipients including Jonathan Biss, Martin Fröst, Sol Gabetta and Augustin Hadelich. Of the £20,000 award, Ms. Lark says, "I am so excited to receive this prestigious Fellowship and to be included among the list of incredible musicians who are part of the BBT family. The BBTrust is unique and extraordinary in its encouragement of creative individuality of its artists."

For more information Tessa Lark and upcoming performances, visit https://www.tessalark.com/

--Classical Music Communications

Our Senior Class Has Inspired Us...
Since the founding Young People's Chorus of NYC thirty years ago, we have been driven by the belief that music has the power to bring people together, be it across the city or the world, and that all children deserve a chance to be on a winning team. Every child, regardless of background, should have the opportunity to experience a life-changing musical education in an environment that engages, inspires, and helps them realize their aspirations. Seeing our young people thrive as they take part in this vision, form friendships across social barriers, build life skills, and most importantly, make beautiful music together, thrills us all.

As we look forward to YPC's future, the senior class is taking the lead, celebrating our 30th anniversary by starting their own drive to help YPC's scholarship fund. They are setting an example by passionately carrying on YPC's unique vision.

Please join our senior class by making your commitment to support scholarships for YPC choristers. Your gift goes to the heart of YPC's mission to ensure that young people from all walks of life grow up together, singing side by side.

Donate at the YPC Web page: https://ypc.org/support/donate/

--Francisco J. Núñez, Founder & Artistic Director, YPC

Opera Maine Receives Grant from Macy's to Launch New Initiative
Opera Maine is pleased to announce that it has received a $2,500 grant from Macy's to launch a new initiative, "Opera for All!" With this grant, Macy's will underwrite opera tickets for those who might otherwise be unable to attend a professional opera performance. Macy's support will provide 100 tickets to nonprofit agencies throughout the state to distribute to young Mainers ages 13 to 18, veterans, members of our immigrant communities, and others. The tickets are for Opera Maine's mainstage performance of The Marriage of Figaro this summer.

"We are thrilled to receive this grant from Macy's for Opera for All!," said Opera Maine's Executive Director Caroline Koelker. "This is a wonderful way for Opera Maine to achieve its mission of introducing opera to new audiences and educating them about this unique art form, while championing equity, diversity, and inclusion. The support from Macy's, and that of other businesses in the community, will enable us to launch this exciting new program."

Opera Maine will present The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on Wednesday, July 25 and Friday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. in Portland's Merrill Auditorium. This comic masterpiece will be sung in the original Italian with English supertitles. This is a perfect "first opera" for newcomers because it unites a fast-moving and hilarious plot with the sublime music of Mozart. Not only is it a seminal work in the history of opera, but it also addresses themes that remain relevant in the 21st century. For tickets, visit Porttix.com.

For a complete list of nonprofits that will receive complimentary tickets, visit https://operamaine.com/events/opera-in-me/

--Kristen Levesque, Public Relations Consultant

Winner of the Busoni Competition Releases First Recording on IDAGIO
For the first time the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition Foundation has produced a studio album, which it has made available exclusively on IDAGIO, the streaming service for classical music. The 20-year old Ivan Krpan, winner of the 2017 competition, took to the legendary Emil Berliner Studios in Berlin to record Chopin's 24 Préludes and Schumann's Fantasie op. 17 and Arabeske op. 18. Classical music lovers around the world can hear the exceptional Croatian pianist from today exclusively on IDAGIO.

The release of this album marks the beginning of a long-term collaboration between IDAGIO and the Busoni Competition, which will see the start of Krpan's career supported by further joint initiatives.

For further information and to see if IDAGIO is available in your area, visit www.idagio.com

--Elias Wuermeling, IDAGIO

MTT Leads the SF Symphony in a New Semi-Staged Production of Boris Godunov
Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) leads the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and Chorus, joined by the Pacific Boychoir and an internationally-renowned cast, in semi-staged performances of the epic political drama Boris Godunov featuring Mussorgsky's original orchestration, June 14–15 & 17 at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA.

Inspired by Pushkin's Shakespearean tragedy, the work follows the rise and fall of the 16th-century Tsar Boris Godunov in a story underpinned by ambition, power, and betrayal. The production, conceived by MTT and directed by James Darrah, features original lighting design by Pablo Santiago, projection design by Adam Larsen, and scenic & costume design by Emily Anne MacDonald & Cameron Jaye Mock. This same world-class creative team has previously collaborated with MTT and the SFS on critically-acclaimed productions including Peer Gynt in 2013, Peter Grimes in 2014, and, most recently, On the Town in 2016.

Tickets and information are available at sfsymphony.org, by phone at 415-864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.

--San Francisco Symphony Public Relations

"What Rameau Intended"
On conductor Stephen Stubbs:
"What made this opera (Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie,Juilliard Opera) most special was the fact that Stephen Stubbs held true to Rameau's original music and made what was seemingly unfeasible to singers in the past, remarkably vital in interpretation to the Juilliard cast. In Act Two, there was a notable harmonic variation that, as Maestro Stubbs said, 'lends the effect that--as though in an earthquake--the solid ground gives way beneath the listener's feet.' It was in this specific moment of the opera that the audience was able to see and hear what Rameau intended for his work, as part of a large-scale innovative movement. The cast in this scene is in Hades, so to have a particular mind-blowing experience was perfectly fitting." --Operawire

Maestro Stubbs's next opera appearances:
Mozart: Il re pastore
San Francisco Opera Merola Opera Program
July 19, 21

Caccini: Alcina
Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Opera Series
November 24, 25, 26, 27

For more about Stephen Stubbs, visit http://schwalbeandpartners.com/project/stephen-stubbs-conductor/

--Schwalbe and Partners, Inc.

PARMA: 2018 Spring Call for Scores
PARMA Recordings are currently accepting submissions for:
Piano trio, cello and piano, or solo cello with Trio Casals in Philadelphia.
Solo flute;  flute and electronics;  flute, cello, and piano;  flute quartet; or flute with chamber ensemble in Columbus.
Works for orchestra with or without soloists in Athens.

Selected scores will be recorded and commercially released by PARMA. Submitter is responsible for securing funds associated with the production and retains all ownership of the master and underlying composition.

If selected, submissions will be considered for live performance. Accepted scores from previous calls are set to receive performances later this year in Poland, Russia, Croatia, Austria, Czech Republic, the United States, and more.

Deadline for all submissions is June 8, 2018. There is no fee to submit. 

For more information and project submission form, visit: http://parmarecordings.com/call-for-scores.html

--PARMA Recordings

Haydn: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (CD review)

Also, Boccherini: Cello Concerto in B flat. Jacqueline du Pre, cello;  Daniel Barenboim, English Chamber Orchestra; Sir John Barbirolli, London Symphony Orchestra. Warner Classics 0825646404155.

Perhaps owing something to the popularity of the 1998 movie about the English cellist Jacqueline du Pre, Hilary and Jackie, her old record company, EMI, re-released more of her work in the late 90's, giving her music a deserved new lease on life. After Ms. Du Pre's tragic death in 1987, her legacy could have been lost to all but the most avid music lovers. Thanks to EMI, however, and now Warner Classics, her Haydn and Boccherini are remastered and sound better than ever.

Her style in these pieces is, as always, sweetly expressive, warmly lyrical, broadly passionate, and I daresay by today's standards a little old-fashioned. Certainly, that's the way the music comes off compared to the less-adorned period-instrument renditions so much in vogue these days. She is best in both of the Haydn slow movements, where her natural affection for the music and for her instrument shine through effectively. The finale of the first concerto is a delight, too, full of youthful intensity and exuberance.

Jacqueline du Pre
The Boccherini is another story, through no fault of Ms. du Pre. In its familiar late-Romantic Grutzmacher arrangement, any resemblance between this piece and Boccherini seems purely accidental. It is so lushly orchestrated it could hardly be called Boccherini, and Ms. du Pre plays it in appropriate nineteenth-century fashion--long winded and luxuriant. There is nothing wrong with this approach, of course; it's just, again, a tad old-fashioned, and I'm happy for it.

The remastered sound of the first Haydn concerto and the Boccherini, recorded with Ms. du Pre's husband Daniel Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra in 1967, is ultra smooth and adequately revealing. It is not so clear, however, as either of the newer releases I reviewed at about the same time from Ha-Nah Chang and Giuseppe Sinopoli (EMI) or Steven Isserlis and Roger Norrington (RCA), although it is closer to the Chang in performance and closer to the Isserlis in audio quality.

The sound in the second Haydn concerto, recorded a few months later with Sir John Barbirolli and the London Symphony Orchestra, is very slightly better defined. None of this matters much as the ear adapts quickly to the beauty of the playing rather than obsessing with any sonic imperfections. Besides, unless you were to put on the other discs as I did for direct comparison in two identical-sounding CD players, you would find little fault in the sound of the older Du Pre recordings. As usual, Du Pre gets my wholehearted endorsement.

JJP

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below:


John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa