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Classical - Released June 22, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
While Bartók’s Divertimento for String Orchestra − written in 1939 upon commission by Paul Sacher who provided him with living arrangements in Switzerland – was indeed planned for a string ensemble, Brahms’ 1890 String Quintet No. 2 was initially intended for five soloists, but the Amsterdam Sinfonietta decided to perform it as a chamber orchestra. Undoubtedly their intention was to highlight the orchestral aspect and the richness of the writing, and they did just that masterfully! The juxtaposition of these two masterpieces is no coincidence: Brahms drew influence from “false-Hungarian” music, inherited from the gipsies of Vienna’s cafés and often borrowing from gleaned melodies, while Bartók – at least in the first and last movements – relied on actual Hungarian musical language, although his folklore is for the most part completely imaginary! The second part of this Divertimento is one of the saddest things one could ever imagine, with a slow and unrelenting march filled with heavy harmonies and complaints rising from the very bottom of the soul. It’s worth noting that the Sinfonietta, led by Candida Thompson on the violin, doesn’t hesitate to transform the end of trills in glissandos, and although the partition doesn’t command it, it provides extra lament to the piece. Was Bartók, just a few weeks before World War 2 erupted, letting his sadness run wild about leaving Hungary, Europe, and soon after, life itself? The last movement, although joyful and danceable, almost feels like a headlong rush. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
The Amsterdam Sinfonietta is a professional ensemble of 22 string players; The Bohemian Album is the group's fourth Channel Classics release, but it has also recorded for BIS and Challenge. Since 2003, violinist Candida Thompson has served as the leader, and this disc shares some consonance with what the group has done before; the Dvorák Serenade for Strings in E, Op. 22, is not terribly far off the style of the Tchaikovsky, and ill-fated modernist Bohemians Pavel Haas and Erwin Schulhoff can be related to some extent to Shostakovich, which Amsterdam Sinfonietta has recorded at least twice before. So this is within Amsterdam Sinfonietta's comfort zone, even though it has not recorded Bohemian composers. It isn't bad; the sound is certainly big, rich, and full and dynamically well-rounded and warm, though when the volume drops the music sometimes virtually disappears; more judicious use of compression might have helped that. The main thing that's a little cool is the band, and this sense of disciplined distance plays out well in the crazy, harrowing night ride that is Pavel Haas' String Quartet No. 2, Op. 7 "From the Monkey Mountains," heard here in a transcription for strings and sparingly used percussion. Haas' ex-quartet fairly rips out of the speakers with its eerie glissandi and ominous pedal points in the movement marked "Cart, Driver and Horse" and the monster movie-like drive of "A Wild Night." The Haas definitely works well in the string orchestra medium; the restraint, however, doesn't quite come off in the Dvorák Serenade. The "Tempo di Valse" almost sounds like Sibelius, and as pleasant as this is to the ear, it shouldn't; Dvorák is a tad more rustic than such a treatment might suggest. While the Schulhoff Five Pieces for String Quartet come off pleasingly, Amsterdam Sinfonietta does not quite manage to realize Schulhoff's cosmopolitan, world-weary sense of humor; this is more grave and serious sounding in the manner of Lutoslawski. One could argue that by challenging notions of traditional interpretation and style one can find new things in music, and more often than not, this is so. Part of the charm in Schulhoff, however, is his deliciously tongue-in-cheek wrong-note reinventions of popular dance forms, and the "Alla Tango Milonga" here is of such grave seriousness that one almost imagines Montgomery Clift wandering around in an empty train station in a film noir rather than an image that evokes the left-wing, Bohemian Schauhauses Schulhoff was known to frequent. So nothing is wrong with Amsterdam Sinfonietta's The Bohemian Album except that the Bohemian part was left out. The Haas, however, makes it worth the experience; this work -- despite its strong grounding in Eastern European folklore and topography -- manages to transcend its ethnographic roots and well survives Amsterdam Sinfonietta's rather heavy handling.
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Classical - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
There are plenty of great recordings of Shostakovich's Second and Fourth string quartets played by actual string quartets -- the Borodin, Beethoven, Tanayev, and Shostakovich quartets have made magnificent recordings of the works -- so where is the need for a recording arranged for string chamber orchestra? The answer becomes self-evident in this exciting recording. In arrangements by bass player Marijn van Prooijen, the Second and Fourth quartets turn out to be quite adaptable to the enlarged medium. Though one may miss the razor-sharp sonorities of the original, the weight and power of the transcriptions are persuasive. The Amsterdam Sinfonietta's performance is intense: the group is clearly enjoying every bow stroke. And if the intonation sometimes slips in more extreme passages, it more than compensates by the fervor of its attacks. Channel Classics sound is warm but a bit diffuse.
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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | BIS

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Classical - Released August 31, 1998 | BIS

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Classical - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

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Quartets - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

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Symphonic Music - Released November 30, 1994 | BIS

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Classical - Released February 17, 2017 | Channel Classics Records

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Symphonic Music - Released March 31, 1997 | BIS

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Symphonic Music - Released July 31, 1996 | BIS