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Klassiek - Verschenen op 6 november 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Exploring the Beethoven's Violin Sonatas in 2020 took on a deeper significance beyond the anniversary celebrations. Recording all ten in Mechelen, Belgium, the home of Beethoven’s paternal ancestors, with much of the world’s population in isolation, these works revealed new layers of emotional intensity and psychological relevance. The Op. 12 Sonatas belong to the last decade of the eighteenth century, a period when Beethoven was conquering Vienna as the foremost keyboard virtuoso of the day but simultaneously seeking to have his compositions published for the first time. In essence, classical duo sonatas for piano and strings had grown from the eighteenth-century ‘accompanied’ sonatas, in which the string instrument provided a supportive role to the keyboard’s dominating textures. Here we witness a gradual incorporation of a ‘dramatic dialogue’ between instruments which had previously been more important in concerto writing. Beethoven’s Sonata No. 5 in F major Op. 24 is described by musicologist Angus Watson as ‘an exquisite testament to Beethoven’s profoundly religious feeling for the natural world’. © Challenge Classics
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 6 november 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Leading Dutch composer Robin de Raaff releases his fourth project on Challenge Classics, Atlantis. It is dedicated to the memory of Pierre Boulez, the last of the modernists. This release is live-recorded and conducted by Markus Stenz, one of the greatest contemporary musical specialists. Robin de Raaff completed Atlantis in the summer of 2016. The work is a complex and impressive oratorio that renovates the contemporary perspective of this musical genre. De Raaff uses the voice as a lyrical element to let it soar above the orchestral timbres. Atlantis is based to a large extent on “Atlantis”, the final poem in Hart Crane’s collection Bridges. De Raaff links a pessimistic future perspective to this hyper-symbolic and very complex poem. Boulez, the last surviving giant of post-War modernism, passed away while De Raaff was working on Atlantis. "Boulez was the great proponent of modernism. The island that modernism actually was simply disappeared when he died. This is why I felt a homage would be appropriate". This oratorio is not just an argument for the use of contemporary vocal skills as an element of the entire history of music, but also and primarily a warning about stewardship of water and the future of our planet. © Challenge Classics
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 16 oktober 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 9 oktober 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 2 oktober 2020 | Challenge Classics

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For about 150 years it was believed that Schubert composed his Ninth Symphony in 1828, not long before his death but, musical scholarship being a continuous process, this theory was later disproved. It was discovered in the late 20th century that in fact he composed most of this work three years earlier and revised it in 1826 and 1827. Following a period of poor health, 1825 was a better year for Schubert, while his finances were also improved. Schubert never heard a single performance of many of his works, including this great symphony. When it was rehearsed in 1827 at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, the string players complained that passages in which a rhythmic figure is obsessively repeated, especially in the finale, were unplayable. In May 1824, Schubert attended the first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Beethoven revolutionised symphonic form, expanding its expressive range enormously, his Ninth Symphony in particular being conceived on a much grander scale than any previous symphony. Schubert was just one of many composers influenced by Beethoven’s achievements. Many scholars have suggested the various ways in which Schubert was influenced by Beethoven, but the most extraordinary aspect of Schubert's mature music is its complete individuality. The compositional techniques, the handling of tonality and structure, and the orchestral sound of these two contemporaries have very little in common. Schubert’s own profound originality is all the more striking for its emergence at a time when Beethoven's impact on the development of the symphony was so revolutionary and far-reaching. © Challenge Classics
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 2 oktober 2020 | Challenge Classics

“I wish to be a living work of art” reads the famous comment made by Luisa Casati, the extravagant marchesa who drew everyone's attention to herself as a high society personality in the early 20th century and who inspired a number of leading artists to take up their writing pens, paintbrushes and cameras: Casati was the most prolifically portrayed woman of her age. She was both Muse and Maecenas who gathered an extensive coterie of famous artists around herself – an egregious set of people, some of whom were also her lovers, including Gabriele D’Annunzio, Man Ray, Filippo Marinetti, Kees van Dongen, Giovanni Boldini and Romaine Brooks. The Russian designer Léon Bakst dressed her in the most exotic of costumes. She led a split existence. On the one hand, she turned herself into a living work of art and organised grotesque parties as the backdrops to her own performances; on the other hand, she commissioned artists to immortalise her as a “piece of art” – and artists were queuing up at her door as she had enormous wealth at her fingertips to realise these whims. In the opera, Casati’s biography is compressed into a single party evening at her Venetian palazzo. Over seven scenes, we see a melange of events from the heroine’s life that actually occurred over many decades, to which the creators then added their own dreamed-up plot. Jeths’s palette as a composer has become ever richer and more dramatic as the years have passed. His spectrum ranges from attention to sound and colour to a subtle use of harmonic tension. His musical language was originally more atonal, but he has always flirted with tonality. And now more than ever, his notes are at the service of the text, the theatrical impression and the beauty of the human voice. In his music, Jeths employs multiple references to existing music. © Challenge Classics
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Nox

Klassiek - Verschenen op 24 september 2020 | Challenge Classics

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"Nox", the Latin word for "night". In the world of art, the night of Schumann's Nachtstücke, Robert Zuidam's Nox and Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit creaks open its doors like a haunted castle for romantic poets and composers. Night-time visions became the foundations of a pre-Freudian subconscious in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Some of the great writers discovered their dreams and anxieties, seeing themselves and the magic of imagination in the mirror of fantasy. It was no coincidence that their work provided intellectual sustenance for Robert Schumann (1810-1856), who also had a literary gift. His earliest works, which were entirely for piano up until his Nachtstücke, Op. 23 (1839), originated in psychological impressions gained from literature. Schumann wrote to his beloved, Clara Wieck, that the work stemmed from a premonition. During the composition, he kept seeing visions of funeral processions, “Coffins and miserable, despairing people”. His instincts had not deceived him: on completing the work, with tears in his eyes, he heard that his brother Eduard was on his deathbed. Listening to the Nachtstücke again and knowing this, one can hear the shadows falling over light and life, depicted by the pianist's defeated irony. For Dutch composer Robert Zuidam (b. 1964), night is the night of toil. Nox (2020) is a night owl's ode to the hours of his creativity. Ravel had done everything he could in his piano cycles Jeux d'eau (1901) and Miroirs (1905) towards de-romanticising the 19th century character sketch, but he took an important step forward in Gaspard as regards both virtuosity and idiom. His aim was to produce something that was even more difficult to play than Balakirev's notorious Islamey. Gaspard is a deranged combination of abstract pianistic hyper-virtuosity with derailed eruptions of waltzes, peppered with raging, flamenco-style note repetitions and unplayable cascades of clusters of seconds, betraying the signature of Ravel's exceptionally dextrous thumbs. But, in essence, Gaspard is a symphonic poem for piano. The work is subtitled "Trois Poèmes pour piano d'après Aloysius Bertrand", and these poems are also printed out in full in the score. They are drawn from the collection of prose poems entitled Gaspard de la Nuit, Fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot, which were published in 1842. The infernal degree of difficulty is a metaphor for their contents; as Ravel himself stressed in one of his letters, Gaspard is in fact the devil. © Challenge Records
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 24 september 2020 | Challenge Classics

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This recording offers an overview of four of Peteris Vasks' most iconic works, from the large scale, dramatic Violin Concerto ‘Distant light’, and the magically dreamy meditation Lonely Angel, to his evocation of Latvian landscape and birdsong Plainscapes and the extatic Dona Nobis Pacem. The first piece by Peteris Vasks that the performer of this album (Daniel Rowland) heard, about a decade ago, was his magnificent Violin Concerto ‘Distant light’, already a modern classic, and Rowland was blown away by the deep emotional impact of this extraordinary music, that seemed to him both wonderfully mysterious, connected to ancient times, touched by a sublime spirituality and at the same time viscerally exciting and with moments of stunning virtuosity. In 2019, when Peteris accepted the invitation to come to the 15th edition of my Rowland's Stiftfestival in Holland as "Composer in Residence" he was truly excited at the chance to work closely with him on several of his pieces. At the festival we performed many of Peteris’ works, solo, chamber and orchestral, with wonderful artists. The week culminated with the concert that you now hold in your hands, in the splendid, deeply atmospheric and acoustically wonderful 15th century Plechelmus Basiliek in Oldenzaal. © Challenge Classics
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 18 september 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 11 september 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Robert Schumann’s piano music is invariably bound up with the dramatic events of his life. Schumann channelled both his love for Clara and his pianistic frustrations into his music, which was often composed with Clara in mind, both romantically and musically; she was an outstanding pianist and composer in her own right. During the late 1830s Schumann wrote numerous works for the piano, many of which met with considerable success. The Arabeske in C Major, Op. 18 dates from early 1839. In a letter of 15 August Schumann described the piece, which was dedicated to Frau Majorin Friederike Serre auf Maxen, as “delicate – for ladies”, and it is true that it has a gently lyrical, dreamy quality. Yet there is more to the Arabeske than this modest description would suggest. Schumann had left Leipzig for Vienna in the autumn of 1838 after reaching an impasse in his relations with the Wiecks, and the keenness with which he felt the separation from Clara may be sensed in the Arabeske’s mixture of wistfulness and determination. Of the piano music written by Schumann in the 1830s, just two collections include movement titles: the Phantasiestücke, Op. 12, and the Kinderszenen, Op. 15 of 1838. Schumann sketched 30 “cute little things” in early 1838, from which he chose 13 to create the Kinderszenen. The vivid movement titles were attached to each of the Kinderszenen after the music had been written, rather than inspiring the musical content. Yet the tender romanticism of these pieces – in Träumerei especially – suggests that Clara was never far from Schumann’s thoughts as he composed them. Although Clara was a powerful source of inspiration for Robert, he was also profoundly influenced by both musical and literary sources, which helped him to make sense of his rich inner world. E.T.A. Hoffmann enabled Schumann to explore the different facets of his nature through the character of Johannes Kreisler, who appeared in several volumes including Hoffmann’s Fantasiestücke, one section of which is entitled ‘Kreisleriana’. Schumann strongly identified with Kapellmeister Kreisler: both men were devoted to the music of J.S. Bach, and both veered between extremities of mood, from ecstasy to despair. This multifaceted nature is encapsulated in the eight movements of Kreisleriana, Op. 16. Kreisler’s brusque mood-swings are represented through Schumann’s contrasts between dazzling virtuosity and lyrical tenderness, often anchored by the tonal contrast between the key areas of G minor and B-flat major. Schumann’s dual nature, previously communicated through Florestan and Eusebius, had found a new mouthpiece. In contrast with the first decade of his career, which was almost entirely given over to piano music, Schumann did not write a great deal of solo piano music in the 1840s, producing just a handful of fugues and pieces for children. At the end of 1848 he began the Waldszenen (‘Forest Scenes’), a set of nine short piano pieces. Vogel als Prophet is one of the more disturbing pieces in the set. Schumann had returned from Vienna to Leipzig in April 1839. He drafted his Drei Romanzen, Op. 28, by 11 December. Clara was so enamoured of the set that she insisted on being their dedicatee: “As your bride you absolutely have to dedicate something more to me; and I know of nothing more tender than these three Romances, especially the middle one, which is the most beautiful love duet”. © CAVI-Music
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 11 september 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 14 augustus 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 26 juni 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 5 juni 2020 | Challenge Classics

Booklet
Rethinking a masterpiece. The Art of Fugue is both Johann Sebastian Bach’s opus summum and last complete work, presumably undertaken between 1740 and 1742. According to the frontispiece, the work’s original title actually read "Die Kunst der Fuga", notably featuring the Latin (or Italian) word fuga rather than German Fuge - as found, instead, in the two printed editions of 1751 and 1752. Die Kunst der Fuga in the form and the order presented in the Berlin Autograph, has all the appearance of a finished work featuring 14 fugues and canons, all based upon a single original theme, serving as the work’s foundation and with the individual pieces progressing in an increasing order of difficulty and contrapuntal perfection. This brief study sets out to attempt a switch in perspective, shifting from the ‘point of view’ of the First Printed Edition – through which the Die Kunst der Fuga has traditionally been examined by the vast majority of scholars – to that of the Berlin Autograph. Despite having already been studied and collated with the 1751 and 1752 editions, the autograph has always been viewed by the dominant ideology as incomplete; little more than a preparatory stage for its printed counterparts. Only in recent times have scholars (amongst whom Christoph Wolff) started to note that the Die Kunst der Fuga as found in the autograph manuscript at the time of its completion might well stand comparison with the alleged ‘final version’ of the printed editions, and thus may be elevated to the full dignity of an Alte Fassung. And this study would argue that the Berlin Autograph contains, in fact, the latest and ‘closest-to-final’ version of the Die Kunst der Fuga, whilst the First Printed Edition is entirely the result of the conjoint efforts of Bach’s children and students as there is no proof that Bach was ever involved in preparatory works concerning any other of its pieces. Furthermore, the order displayed in the Berlin Autograph appears decidedly more logical and “artistic” than that of the First Printed Edition – which, by comparison, appears less interesting (tending towards pedantic) and not without compilation errors. Far from being a merely speculative or theoretical work, Die Kunst der Fuga is a work for manualiter keyboard. But true to the spirit of an era of musica prattica, performing polyphonic keyboard repertoire with instrumental ensembles aligns with a consolidated tradition that finds it roots in an amply documented practice dating all the way back to the 16th century. The viol consort had been the “instrument” par excellence since the 16th century for its ability to render transparent even the most complex of polyphonies, and it had only just left the scene to the modern virtuoso baroque orchestra. And our choice of combining the violin (a da braccio instrument) with the members of the da gamba family falls perfectly within the German musical tradition. © Challenge Classics
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 1 mei 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 10 april 2020 | Challenge Classics

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In 1799, after having made a name for himself with major compositions in the genres of the piano trio, piano sonata, violin sonata, and string quartet, but before finishing his first symphony, Beethoven wrote a work for mixed strings and winds. This piece, the Septet op. 20, would become one of his most popular compositions, with a large number of arrangements, including the one for piano trio on this volume. The form is clearly related to the divertimenti by Mozart, with six movements that alternate fast and slow tempos. The appearance of the Triple Concerto in this series might surprise some listeners, as it is the only work with orchestra, but this composition has more in common with chamber music than with concertos. It was written in 1805, and its instrumentation is highly exceptional if not unprecedented altogether. In tone, it is rather a stark contrast from Beethoven’s other concertos, which generally contain easily recognisable melodies and strikingly rhythmic material, neither of which are found to a great degree here. Furthermore, the opposition of soloist and orchestra, a central aspect of many solo works with orchestra written up until that point that was the engine behind much of the drama, is also absent, with the orchestra taking a largely subservient role to the three soloists. So, although the work was called a ‘Grand Concerto Concertant’ when it was published, it really has very little in common with other works with a similar title. The question is whether this piece is a concerto at all, or whether it could be more fruitfully played and judged as a different kind of experimental piece in a more collaborative genre. This disc takes the latter approach, and by contextualising it in a series of piano trios, it presents this work as Beethoven’s most richly instrumented chamber music. © Challenge Records
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 3 april 2020 | Challenge Classics

Booklet
Georgy Catoire did not have a high opinion of his own First String Quartet, so he destroyed it, sparing only one part, the Andante. On the last page of the manuscript of this movement, Tchaikovsky wrote a few words, and Catoire did not have the heart to destroy the autograph of the great composer. Georgi Lvovich composed a new quartet, which in the inventory of his works is listed as Opus 4. This piece, just like the Andante from the destroyed quartet, was never published and the manuscript seems to have been lost. But it is known that after a while, Catoire reworked the quartet into a quintet, adding a part for a second cello. The manuscript of this quintet, along with the surviving Andante, was discovered several years ago. Thus, the recordings of this quintet and the remaining Andante (from his very first quartet) presented on this recording are the first performances of these early works of Catoire. Catoire composed the Piano Trio Op.14 in the years 1899 to 1902. Stylistically, the Trio can be placed right in the middle of the compositional path of Catoire, which consciously ties in with the creation of this work to the already existing Russian chamber music literature. But although the Trio is so beautifully anchored in its time by such parallels, it clearly embodies the characteristic traits that keep Catoire’s music away from contemporary trends and that make his personality a special phenomenon in the history of Russian music. There is, for example, the symbiosis of various musical traditions: on the one hand Russian and French by its origin and on the other hand German through his education and profound knowledge of the music of Wagner. Catoire, and thus his style, is a transnational model European. Other important features of Catoire’s music are honesty and the absence of any kind of banality or pose. The two Poems Op. 34 are late works from Catoire and were composed in 1924-26. At the time Catoire, had experienced the Russian Revolution and the Civil War, the death of his beloved wife, the farewell to his son, who left Russia forever. The music acts like a free speech of the composer in an intimate circle, or even as a soliloquy - so restrained is the dynamics, so freely works the musical speech. In their brief form, the Poems Op. 34, discovered and published posthumously after the death of the composer, is one of the most perfect embodiments of Catoire’s compositional style. © Challenge Records
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 3 april 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) are not composers whose works are regularly included in the same concert or recording program. One reason for this is probably of a stylistic nature: Bach wrote in the empfindsame Stil and in the Sturm und Drang style, while Mozart used a language that today is described as classical. For Ewald Demeyere, it is precisely this stylistic difference between the two composers, whose four works on this album were written between 1777 and 1782, that makes such a musical encounter so fascinating. Another reason why compositions by Bach and Mozart are not often programmed together seems to have to do with the choice of instrument. Today, in the context of historically informed performances, Bach’s solo keyboard repertoire is mainly played on the clavichord and that of Mozart on the fortepiano. Both men, however, also played the harpsichord frequently, a fact which it is so interesting as to choose precisely that keyboard instrument for this recording. © Challenge Classics
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 13 maart 2020 | Challenge Classics

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This new recording “Pas de deux” presents many new pieces by composer friends - it’s a project that’s very close to our hearts. The great Sonata by Ravel is in a way our kaleidoscope, a looking glass that takes us both back and forward in time, and both of those simultaneously. The journey of Daniel Rowland (violin) and Maja Bogdanović (cello) begins here with the slightest of pieces. Raindrops is a charming vignette by the 10-year old Sibelius, whose love of nature would a decade or so later of course give us some of the greatest works in the symphonic repertoire. Deeply moved by the death of Pope John Paul II Penderecki in 2005 wrote the Ciaconna in memoriam Giovanni Paulo II, for string orchestra. His transcription of the piece is a self-contained, independent artistic statement: subtle and virtuosic, filled with emotions of a genuinely Romantic kind. The Interior Castle by Peteris Vasks was composed after a text written by St. Teresa of Ávila, Spanish Carmelite nun and famed mystic, in 1577 as a guide for spiritual development through service and prayer. The Vask's work is conceived as a tryptich of pure, deeply felt, reverential music, interrupted my two frenetic, disturbing, dark passages. The love and belief conquers the dark forces. Both musicians of this album asked their friend Craig White to arrange a Debussy piano prelude and he created for this album this beautiful version of the 9th piano prelude of Book 1 (La sérénade interrompue). Sicilian cellist/composer Giovanni Sollima is one of the most colorful, eclectic, musical personalities of his generation, and his Heimat Terra is performed here ; the title is based on a beautiful text by the anthropologist Edgar Morin. Marcelo Nisinman is one of the great tango artists of our time, a brilliant bandoneon virtuoso as well as a uniquely personal, eclectic composer of music that is deeply infused by the world of tango but very aware of classical avant-gardistic writing. Marcelo Nisinman got to know Astor Piazzolla as a child, when Piazzolla and his quintet used to come to rehearse at his parents apartment in central Buenos Aires. © Challenge Records
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 6 maart 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Diminutions, the art of extemporary embellishment or melodic variation, were an essential part of performance practice of the Renaissance and early Baroque periods. The basis of diminutions is the fragmentation of a long note or series of long notes into many shorter and faster ones that move around the original melody. In the 16th and early 17th centuries, a composition as written by the composer was often regarded as raw material and it was normal and even required of musicians to embellish the works performed. The number of treatises that were devoted to the teaching of this subject is a clear indication of the importance of diminutions at that time. Most of these manuals included a collection of decorated melodies taken from renowned madrigals, motets and chansons by well-known composers of the time. These pieces give clear examples of how music was performed during that time and what was considered the proper way to embellish a piece of music. Often technically demanding, these pieces gave scope for virtuoso display as they required great dexterity from the performer. In conclusion, diminutions were added to make a piece of music more ‘beautiful’. This programme explores the widespread practice of diminutions by presenting published examples of diminutions on well-known motets, by master composers; diminutions on popular melodies or dance forms and finally, diminutions composed by the performer as artist. © Challenge Classics