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Classical - To be released January 8, 2021 | BIS

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Classical - To be released January 8, 2021 | BIS

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Choral Music (Choirs) - To be released January 8, 2021 | BIS

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Classical - To be released December 4, 2020 | BIS

Booklet
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Classical - To be released December 4, 2020 | BIS

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Chamber Music - To be released December 4, 2020 | BIS

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Classical - To be released December 4, 2020 | BIS

Booklet
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Classical - To be released December 4, 2020 | BIS

Booklet
HI-RES£11.99
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Classical - To be released December 4, 2020 | BIS

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Classical - Released November 6, 2020 | BIS

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When there is so much to love about Bohuslav Martinů's two Violin Concertos, it's surprising that we hear so little of them from the top artists of today. So the first thing to say here is simply that it's very good news indeed to have the pair now being championed on BIS by the likes of Frank Peter Zimmermann and acclaimed Martinů interpreter Jakub Hrůša. Then, the further good news is that what they've produced is every bit as good one would have hoped. Concerto No. 2 opens the programme. Written in 1943 for Mischa Elman, and premiered the same year, it was swiftly taken up by other violinists of the period, who were no doubt instantly beguiled by its romance and lyricism, and its by strong Czech folk echoes. Here, the Bamberger Symphoniker's opening orchestral tutti fabulously sets the tone: full, wide and trembling; glossily rich and rhythmically sharp, followed by Zimmermann himself displaying all his usual polish and precision (the silkiest of double-stops), while occasionally spicing his sweetly silvery and singing tone with just the right dose of folk edge. The central Andante doesn't hang around – it's a good 2'20” faster than Isabelle Faust's exquisite reading on harmonia mundi – but the overriding impression is simply one of airy movement, with an infectious sense of carefree pastoral joy from everyone. The third movement is then nothing short of a joyride, and indeed one over which it's often the high-octane orchestra that shines most brightly, for its technical pizazz, and chameleon-like reinventions over the score's constantly shifting shapes, colours and moods. Next comes Concerto No. 1, and if ever a concerto were a wronged Cinderella then it's this one. Penned in 1931 while Martinů was living in Paris, it's again alive with Czech folk inflections, but this time sitting within a neoclassical language no doubt inspired by his fellow Paris-based émigré, Stravinsky. It was also written for the dedicatee of Stravinsky's own Violin Concerto of 1931, Samuel Dushkin. However, unlike with Stravinsky, Dushkin refused to play ball with Martinů - demanding successive revisions, delaying performing it, and refusing other violinists to premiere it in his place, until eventually the work was put to one side. The manuscript was eventually rediscovered in 1968, nine years after Martinů's death, and premiered in 1973 by Josef Suk. It's hard to know for sure whether the violin part's virtuosities were more a result of Dushkin's penchant for display, or of Martinů flexing his own violinistic muscles (it was as a violinist that he first entered the Prague Conservatory). Either way, Zimmermann dispatches its fiendish acrobatics with vim-filled perfection, matched over every hop, skip and jump by the crisply fleet-footed and exuberant orchestra. Frankly, all the above would be enough to sell this recording. However Zimmermann then also gifts us with a compellingly impassioned reading of Bartók's Hungarian folk and Bach-influenced Sonata for Solo Violin of 1944. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released November 6, 2020 | BIS

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Better known as "Gran Partita", Mozart’s Serenade in B-flat Major, K. 361 is the crowning glory of the Harmoniemusik of the Classical era. Austrian and German nobles in particular often employed small wind ensembles called Harmonien which provided entertainment during banquets and outdoor festivities. In order to satisfy the growing demand for suitable music, countless arrangements of operas and ballet music were made, while original works were supplied by a wide range of composers – Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and many lesser masters wrote Harmoniemusik. Among their works, Mozart’s Serenade stands out for several reasons. It is on a larger scale than most: with seven movements and a duration of some 50 minutes, it is scored for thirteen instruments rather than the usual eight or nine. But conceived with a cyclical layout and with a highly economic use of motivic material, it also displays a compositional sophistication unusual for the genre. The "Gran Partita" is here performed by wind players from one of the world’s finest orchestras, the Amsterdam Concertgebouworkest, under the direction of oboist Alexei Ogrintchouk. Ogrintchouk has also chosen the coupling, a set of variations by Beethoven on Mozart’s famous aria from Don Giovanni scored for two oboes and English horn. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released November 6, 2020 | BIS

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International lawyer by day and piano virtuoso by night, Paul Wee made his recording début in 2019 with some of the most technically demanding piano music there is: Alkan’s Symphony and Concerto for Solo Piano. He now returns with music which presents a different, but not lesser challenge: how make the keyboard sing. The piano is by nature a percussive instrument – the sound is created by little hammers falling on strings. To create a true legato – or the illusion of it – has been the aim of generations of pianists, but few have taken the matter as far as Sigismond Thalberg. A giant in nineteenth-century pianism, Thalberg was born in 1812, the year after Franz Liszt, his greatest rival on the international concert circuit. In comparison to the latter, Thalberg was often singled out for his ability to make the piano sing, an art which he himself highlighted in a collection of transcriptions aptly named The Art of Singing Applied to the Piano. Published between 1853 and 1863, the collection included Thalberg’s adaptations of popular arias by Bellini, Rossini and Weber and songs by Beethoven and Schubert, but also other vocal works, such as Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem. This nowadays little-known but fascinating chapter in the history of pianism is presented by Paul Wee, together with a substantial booklet which includes his own liner notes as well as Thalberg’s foreword, with the master’s advice to those who want their keyboards to sing. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released November 6, 2020 | BIS

Booklet
‘An ideal mixture of clarity and stylish effervescence’ (International Record Review) and ‘a completely new, crisp “Mozart-feel” for the 21st century’ (Stereoplay) were just a couple of the reactions from reviewers to the fresh, sometimes bracing readings that Ronald Brautigam and the Kölner Akademie offered up during their series of Mozart’s piano concertos. Released between 2010 and 2016, individual installments also received special recommendations from websites and magazines such as Klassik-Heute, Luister, Scherzo and Gramophone, which listed the team’s performances of Concertos No. 18 and No. 22 among its ‘50 greatest Mozart recordings’. The albums have now been collected in a boxed set, with the addition of the double and triple concertos that Brautigam recorded in 2006 with Alexei Lubimov and Manfred Huss as his fellow soloists, accompanied by the Haydn Sinfonietta Wien. The set spans Mozart’s entire career, from the 11-year old budding composer’s so-called ‘pasticcio concertos’ (Nos. 1-4) to Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, K. 595, which he gave the first performance of less than a year before his death in December 1791. © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released November 6, 2020 | BIS

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Born in Albania in 1958, Thomas Simaku studied composition at the State Conservatory of Music in Tirana. He moved to England in 1991, where he was able to immerse himself in the music that had been banned in his native country, and especially that of Ligeti and Kurtág. This, as well as his earlier experience of working with Albanian folk musicians, had a lasting effect on his own music – but as Simaku himself puts it: ‘when it comes to creativity, one should at least try to speak with one’s voice, however small that might be.’ He often composes for specific performers and the present album highlights his collaborations with Quatuor Diotima and with the pianist Joseph Houston. Catena I, the opening work as well as the most recent one on the programme, was written for Houston, while the String Quartets No. 4 and No. 5 were destined for Diotima, of which Simaku has said that ‘one cannot fail to notice their individual and sensitive approach to sound and color, and their huge range of expression. I have tried to embody these idiosyncratic qualities in both quartets.’ Houston also plays two works written by Simaku as tokens of his respect for two composer colleagues: L’image oubliée d’après Debussy and Hommage à Kurtág. These frame the piano quintet con-ri-sonanza which has also given its name to the entire album, after the sonic qualities it embodies: consonanza, risonanza, con risonanza … © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released November 6, 2020 | BIS

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The streets of eighteenth-century Madrid; a contaminated test-bombing site in Australia and a song from El Salvador provide some of the subject matter for this album by the United Strings of Europe (USE). Formed in 2012 by students at London’s Royal Academy of Music, the ensemble brings together outstanding players from across Europe. Artistic director is the Anglo-Lebanese violinist Julian Azkoul, who leads from the violin, curates programmes and arranges music for the ensemble. For "In Motion", USE’s début recording, Azkoul has arranged Boccherini’s celebrated and atmospheric evocation of the La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid, in a version that updates the original’s flirt with popular music. Far removed both geographically and in mood is Maralinga, Australian composer Matthew Hindson’s powerful and haunting work featuring guest soloist Amalia Hall. The programme opens and closes with works for string quartet, composed some 180 years apart in Vienna and New Zealand respectively and heard in bespoke arrangements by Azkoul. Reflecting the ensemble’s distinctive voice and multi-national heritage and the wide-ranging interests and stylistic versatility of its members, "In Motion" is a roller-coaster ride of an album. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released October 2, 2020 | BIS

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As a composer Sergei Prokofiev was so versatile that audiences never quite knew what to expect. As a strategy, this could misfire but with his first symphony he got things just right. He once described what he had wanted to achieve: "If Haydn had lived into this era he would have kept his own style while absorbing things from what was new in music. That’s the kind of symphony I wanted to write...". The "Classical" Symphony has been a true classic since its first performance in 1918 and is one of the few genuinely witty pieces in the twentieth-century orchestral repertory. A few months after the performance, Prokofiev left Russia for the USA where he remained for some years before settling in Paris in 1923. It was here that he composed the Second Symphony, now with the aim to be as up-to-date as possible. The first audience in 1925 was more bewildered than enthusiastic, however, and Prokofiev himself came to have doubts, wondering whether in this symphony "made out of iron and steel" he’d overdone the rough counterpoint and density of texture. He now returned to a project he had been working on for several years – the opera The Fiery Angel. In 1928, when he began to think that no opera house would take it up, Prokofiev decided to reuse the music and found that "the material unexpectedly packed itself up into a four-movement symphony" – his Third, characterized by an overwhelming sense of anxiety and tension. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released October 2, 2020 | BIS

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Franz Liszt’s arrangement of Schubert’s Schwanengesang is very much his own work: while it very clearly retains the musical meaning of the original it also provides a vision of Liszt’s understanding of what lies beyond the black dots on paper. In the young Turkish pianist Can Çakmur’s words, Liszt’s ‘songs without words’ are "striking, horrifying, grand, intimate, full of life and yet often as pale as death. The marvel of what a single instrument can attain plays an integral role in all these pieces". Published posthumously, Schwanengesang is a collection of songs that Schubert may have intended to be grouped together, but if so he never provided a definitive order. In his arrangement, Liszt adopted an order of his own, and Çakmur takes the same liberty, seeking "to arrive at a sequence which presents not a storyline but an emotional journey. Liebesbotschaft and Taubenpost constitute the prelude and the conclusion to the cycle: the one focusing on the poet’s promise to return to his lover while the other embraces longing with glistening tears. Sehnsucht is the very feeling that drives the cycle, for it carries both hope and disappointment within itself". The Liszt arrangement was first published in 1840, twelve years after Schubert’s death, and Çakmur contrasts it here with the much later Quatre Valses oubliées. As most of Liszt’s late music they are elusive, and Çakmur describes them as "possibly wistful, sardonic or melancholic – or perhaps all at once". Winner of the 2018 Hamamatsu International Piano Competition, Can Çakmur released his début album in 2019, receiving praise for his technical prowess and sensibility alike – qualities that come well in hand for his new Liszt recital. © BIS Records
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Chamber Music - Released October 2, 2020 | BIS

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The horn was one of the instruments that Johannes Brahms learned in his youth, from his father who played it professionally. His fondness and familiarity with the instrument is clear from the glorious solos that he provided it with in his symphonies, and he gave it pride of place in the Horn Trio that he wrote in memory of his mother Christiane. Even so, he never composed any other chamber work involving the horn – an oversight that horn players have regretted ever since. Following up on two highly acclaimed BIS albums, Alec Frank-Gemmill decided to rectify this, and enlisted the help of pianist Daniel Grimwood and violinist Benjamin Marquise Gilmore. It goes without saying that the resulting recording includes the Horn Trio – which Frank-Gemmill has chosen to perform on the instrument played by Aubrey Brain on his legendary 1933 recording of the work. But leading up to this are two works originally written for violin and cello respectively. The sometimes controversial subject of transcriptions is discussed by Frank-Gemmill in his liner notes where he also explains his selection of works. In the Scherzo that Brahms wrote as his contribution to the "F-A-E Sonata" (which also included movements by Schumann and Albert Dietrich), he finds that the very fabric of the piece is made up of horn calls, while the galloping 6/8 theme reminds him of the final movement of the Horn Trio. Wanting to also include a sonata, Frank-Gemmill settled on the E minor Cello Sonata, Op. 38 as the one best suited for the horn, and together with arranger Daniel Grimwood the decision was made to transpose the work a third up, into G minor. Through their efforts, we are able to present a Brahms recital that hornists – and the rest of us – could only dream of. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released October 2, 2020 | BIS

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When Andreas Haefliger conceived this unusual combination of concertos it was with the aim of putting into perspective three pieces, each a unique and highly expres­sive highlight from the composers’ output. That Maurice Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand and Béla Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto fulfilled the requirements was a given: towards the end of his life Bartók wrote his most lyrically expressive concerto while Ravel, inspired by the qualities of the left hand register, wrote a piece full of dark yearning and grotesquely fauvistic dances. The third work was more of a gamble, being a newly commissioned and not yet written concerto. The risk was a calculated one, however, given the stellar reputation of the composer Dieter Ammann, as well as Haefliger’s personal acquaintance with him. But as Haefliger himself remarks: "Little could have prepared me for the exceptional work I was to receive: The Piano Concerto – Gran Toccata. Keeping tradition close by as an ally in the layering of harmony and rhythm, it explodes into futuristic visions in an extremely personal language and, through its kaleidoscopic colours and pianistic virtuosity, reinvents the genre for the 21st century". The concerto was premiered at the 2019 BBC Proms, and Andreas Haefliger has since performed it in Boston, Munich and Helsinki, where the present recording was made. On all three occasions, he has been partnered by Susanna Mälkki, chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra which lends Haefliger eminent support in all three works. © BIS Records
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Classical - Released October 2, 2020 | BIS

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