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Classical - To be released August 27, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released June 18, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Rock - Released June 11, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released May 28, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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With "Binary Star", trombonist Peter Steiner and organist Constanze Hochwartner take you on a journey through the infinite expanses of the cosmos. The program of the album unites different composers and spans the musical arc from the late romantic Gustav Mahler to the film music composer John Williams. After the Austrian trombonist presented his album "Sapphire" with Constanze Hochwartner on piano in 2018, the two pull out bigger guns on "Binary Star". These allow them to simultaneously present a range of sounds appropriate to the album's theme and dust off the time-honored combination of wind instrument and organ. "This brilliant combination allows us to create a wide variety of timbres and to realize all the musical ideas we have in the best possible way", say Peter Steiner and Constanze Hochwartner. Their program leads once across the galaxy and consists of orchestral literature, which the two arranged and had arranged for their instruments themselves. Like the launch of a rocket, the musical prelude is Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra, probably the most famous and impressive introductory piece in music history. Gustav Holst's Planets is given its own unique character and sound by the new arrangement and instrumentation. This is followed by excerpts of "From the New World", Dvorak's 9th Symphony, the energetic Summon the Heroes by John Williams, Gustav Mahler's Urlicht and Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. The finale - almost as if disappearing into the infinity of space - is an arrangement of Samuel Barber's famous Adagio, originally for string orchestra, here for solo organ. The realization of this album is associated with great enthusiasm for the duo. Steiner and Hochwartner are a well-rehearsed team, which is reflected in their musical interplay. "For three and a half years", says Peter Steiner, "Constanze and I have been looking forward to this project. And I'm thrilled with the outstanding skills of Emily Horton, who wrote the arrangements". © Berlin Classics
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Classical - Released May 21, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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On her debut album for Berlin Classics, Sarah Christian performs no less a work than Tchaikovsky’s warhorse, his Violin Concerto, ably supported by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Jéremie Rhorer. For full measure, she plays Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence. Sarah Christian is able to do more here than show off her brilliant technical skills; her love of chamber music can be clearly heard and clearly felt. Tchaikovsky composed both his Violin Concerto and his Sextet "Souvenir de Florence" when he was at a spa, recovering from depression and nervous breakdown. Vigorous and virtuosic, but also tuneful and romantic, each work reflects this sense of recovery, the surge of new energy in convalescence. This album means a lot to the soloist, as can again be seen in her bond with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, of which she has been leader since 2013. She speaks of it as her “musical family”, an assurance that comes across musically in the challenges of the Violin Concerto. Sarah Christian has an equally personal relationship with her fellow-musicians in the Sextet. Johannes Strake, Wen Xiao Zhen, Jano Lisboa, Jan-Erik Gustaffson and Maximilian Hornung are friends and companions with whom she can share a joke, relish thrilling experiences and discuss how to bring the music to life. The Violin Concerto is certainly not a work that is seldom recorded, in fact it is to be heard in several competing versions. Its original dedicatee Leopold Auer considered Tchaikovsky’s version “unplayable”, not so much for its technical difficulty but because of what he described as “un-violin-like” passages that he subjected to revision. His own version makes significant cuts in the last movement. Superstars like Heifetz and Kreisler preferred this version; as for Sarah, she plays the original with all the notes that Tchaikovsky gave it. The life-affirming, cheerful Sextet, in which Tchaikovsky brilliantly blends Italian sweetness and songfulness with Russian folk melody and Brahmsian counterpoint, achieves the very effect that the soloist was aiming for: it is bursting with power and energy. © Berlin Classics
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Classical - Released May 14, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Matthias Kirschnereit and the hr-Sinfonieorchester under Michael Sanderling have compiled a compelling, captivating programme of music from the last days of the Classical era, on the cusp of the Romantic. This "half-way house" – in the best possible sense – accommodates the compositions of Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Carl Maria von Weber and Felix Mendelssohn. On his latest album, the soloist makes the boldness of this musical venture audible: “I was attracted by the fact that these rare jewels were created at a time of change, of new horizons”. With over forty recordings to his credit, the German pianist cannot be praised too highly for his inventiveness and initiative in exploring unfamiliar terrain. It was this spirit of discovery that led him to a fascinating programme centred on Hummel’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 85, flanked by Weber’s Konzertstück in F minor, Op. 79 and Mendelssohn’s Capriccio brillant in B minor, Op. 22: all of them works whose fabric pulses with inner relationships, allusions and cross-references, united too by the fact that they are rarely to be heard on the concert platform. “There is so much thrilling music that has fallen from favour. I was looking for a new combination”, reflects Matthias Kirschnereit. Michael Sanderling is a conductor he has often worked with, and in this case Sanderling was his first choice: “These works, which represent just as great a challenge for the orchestra, require a high degree of precision, virtuosity and elegant musical discourse”. The album opens with the A minor Piano Concerto by Mozart pupil Hummel, whose “expansive, symphonically conceived orchestral exposition is still thoroughly indebted to the model of such works as Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, only to shift – in the style of the Romantic soloist vehicle exemplified by Chopin’s Concertos – to the piano as the centre of attention”, explains Kirschnereit. Hummel’s Op. 85 must surely have been modelled on Frédéric Chopin’s First Piano Concerto: “The bel-canto-like, elegant coloraturas of the first two movements reference Chopin’s inventive piano style. We know that Robert Schumann engaged intensively with this concerto; furthermore, his only Piano Concerto is also in A minor, its intermezzo-ish middle movement in Hummel’s key of F major ... Hummel was a superstar of his time, a charismatic, generous individual – and he supported Beethoven financially from time to time”. Carl Maria von Weber finished his F minor Konzertstück for piano and orchestra on June 18, 1821, on the morning of the triumphant premiere of his opera Der Freischütz in Berlin. “His Freischütz is omnipresent”, says Matthias Kirschnereit. “I keep hearing Agathe’s arias, scenes in the Wolf’s Glen, jubilant choruses! The work is in advance of its time, it is all of a piece and yet like a free fantasia”. And so to Felix Mendelssohn: “Weber’s Konzertstück again serves as the model for his Capriccio brillant. He played it often, it was part of his core repertoire. Like the Weber's Konzertstück, it is inspired by nature: I imagine scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream or his Walpurgisnacht. Joy and jubilation, despair and inner turmoil find expression in both composers with extremely fast tempos: youthful genius, bold bravado!”. The teamwork with Sanderling and the symphony orchestra of Hesse Radio can only be described as an act of providence. “This session rounded off the Corona year with an exhilarating highlight”. And so may this music, which conjured up the spirit of a new era with defiant optimism two centuries ago, give us too a future to look forward to in our own times. © Berlin Classics
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Classical - Released May 14, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released May 14, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released May 7, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released April 30, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released April 16, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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French bassoon or German bassoon (fagott): this was long a difficult choice to make, so different are the two instruments. They are distinct as much for their wood (Rio rosewood in France or varnished maple in Germany) as for their technique and their sound. The timbre of the French bassoon (let us remember the beginning of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring) is clearer and more precise than the German bassoon, which blends better with the orchestral mass. The conflict has now subsided and the German bassoon is the dominant instrument throughout the world, even in most French orchestras.This universality of the fagott is illustrated by this recital by the French bassoonist Sophie Dervaux, first soloist of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, using the German bassoon. With her compatriot Sélim Mazari at the piano, she offers a programme in which two original works, the Sonatas for bassoon and piano by Saint-Saëns and Koechlin, alternate with transcriptions of pieces by Reynaldo Hahn, Debussy, Ravel, Dutilleux and Roger Boutry. A golden opportunity to discover an endearing instrument, whose tessitura, similar to that of a cello, can move and seduce just as much as a cello itself. Seen here, the bassoon is a far cry from the humourous or sarcastic connotations which have limited it for so long. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Duets - Released April 16, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Soul - Released April 9, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released April 2, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Symphonic Music - Released March 26, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released March 19, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Following a highly personal and splendidly reviewed Brahms recording, Fabian Müller follows up with "Passionato", an album centring not on a single composer, but on a “central masterwork of Western piano music”: Beethoven’s “Appassionata”. Radiating from this hub, Müller weaves a programme that shows why he is regarded as one of Germany’s most promising young pianists. It stands to reason that he is not the first pianist to apply his energies to this great work laid out on the grand scale, and Fabian Müller is well aware of this. “Each generation is entitled to rediscover these pieces for itself. Apart from that, it is simply not possible to play a piece the same way twice. So even if I know my favourite performances back to front, mine will still be the Appassionata of Fabian Müller”. This is the starting-point of his new album, geographically as well as musically. Having grown up between the Beethovenhaus and Schumannhaus in Bonn, he sees “much more of the Rhinelander than the Viennese” in Beethoven, flanking the Appassionata with Schumann’s G minor Sonata – a work of extremes. When Schumann requires the artist to play “as fast as possible” in the first movement, then “even faster” in the coda, Müller has his own personal answer: “It is more a feeling that is too strong to be expressed in a ‘normal’ manner. Drop everything and play for your life. That is the key. A feeling that something is flooding out of you”. Fabian Müller has already proved that he knows how to make Brahms’s piano music his own. His two Rhapsodies give the pianist the impression “that they could melt their way through anything; because, without alarm, they are always so burning, pervasive and penetrating”. As his third counterpart to Beethoven alongside Schumann and Brahms, he selects a composer whose oeuvre represents another strand in his musical identity. Wolfgang Rihm and his Piano Piece No. 5 “Tombeau” cast another shaft of light on the musical interpretation of how human feelings are experienced: “Beethoven combines emotion with a very strong structure, Rihm with huge ruthlessness, Schumann with songlike rapture, and Brahms something else again”? In "Passionato", Fabian Müller presents an album that takes the interpretation of Romantic piano music to a new level. It must be authentic, on the human scale, like Fabian himself. He was studying in Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s piano class in Cologne at the age of 15, went on to play Germany’s great concert halls, and has since won the ARD Music Competition and the “Ton und Erklärung” Competition. It is noticeable that Fabian Müller speaks about music as clearly as he plays it. “After all, understanding a work means appreciating its appeal and being able to imagine what makes it worth hearing. I think that everyone can benefit enormously from that. And that is why I shall never stop loving music. And most important of all: never stop sharing that with as many people as possible”. © Berlin Classics
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Classical - Released March 19, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released March 12, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Classical - Released March 5, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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Nadia Boulanger, or: Teaching as a Relationship “I was accustomed to say that the composer must look far ahead into the future of his music. This seems to me to be the male train of thought: thinking at once of the whole future, of the entire fate of the idea, and preparing himself in advance for every possible eventuality. This is the manner in which a man builds his house, orders his affairs and arms himself for his wars. The other is the woman’s way of looking at the world, using good powers of judgement to address the immediate consequences of a problem, while failing to allow for more distant events. This is the approach of the seamstress, who could work with the most luxurious fabric, without thinking about how long it will last, provided it achieves the desired effect at the present moment. It need last no longer than the fashion. This is the approach of the kind of cook who prepares a salad without asking herself whether all the ingredients are right and go together well, whether they combine satisfactorily. A French sauce - or perhaps a Franco-Russian one - is poured over it and so everything is blended. Composing to such directions is consequently nothing but the production of a certain style.” (Der Segen der Sauce, p. 150) Arnold Schoenberg directed his 1948 polemic against an unknown person of the feminine gender. He undoubtedly meant Nadia Boulanger. There were no other female teachers of composition at that time, her ancestry was Franco-Russian, and her work with Schoenberg’s polar opposite, Igor Stravinsky, was Franco-Russian too. More than seventy years have passed since Schoenberg's chauvinist pronouncement, and the question of what can be considered innovative and what not, and by what standards, is differently worded today. And the assessment of the various forms of music associated with Nadia Boulanger will vary with one’s aesthetic standpoint. The name of Nadia Boulanger is linked in the history of music with neoclassicism and in particular with Igor Stravinsky. A glance at her student lists will nevertheless be sufficient to show that in her sixty years and more as a teacher, she gave instruction to pupils of very different backgrounds. Her student body was decidedly international and covered a wide spectrum of styles, from the works of a champion of American modernism, Elliott Carter, by way of the “practical music” of Aaron Copland and his like to the tangos of Astor Piazzolla, from the musique concrète of Pierre Schaeffer by way of the neoclassicist style of Jean Francaix to the pop music of Quincy Jones and the film scores of Michel Legrand. She taught many women too, among them the Turkish composer Idil Biret, the Englishwoman Thea Musgrave, the American Marion Bauer and the Pole Grazyna Bacewicz. There is thus no justification for talking of a Boulanger school in the sense of a particular style. There was the term “Boulangerie”, an affectionately ironic play on words to describe pupils and friends of Nadia Boulanger, but it is a term that suggests a particular spirit, rather than a style. The source material on her teaching is mostly drawn from a rich fund of reminiscences: numerous pupils, along with friends such as Leonard Bernstein or Yehudi Menuhin, have sought to describe what actually made Nadia Boulanger capable of pointing the way forward over many decades to young musicians from all over the world. This is both a question of her extensive knowledge, her incomparable ear for music (Yehudi Menuhin) and the way she “thought in notes” (Igor Markevich), and a matter of her enthousiasme and rigueur (Paul Valéry), a “special blend of energy and attention” (Antoine Terrasse) and “French intellect and Russian soul” (Yehudi Menuhin). Common to all who gave such testimony is the fact that they are describing the personality of their teacher rather than the conduct of her lessons, as noted by Lennox Berkeley, one of Nadia Boulanger’s first English pupils in the 1920s: “I have often been asked how the fame of Nadia Boulanger as a teacher is to be explained, how she could have enjoyed so much success in leading young composers to their own musical language and what methods she used. I would say that she never used a particular method; other than the conventional instruction in harmony, counterpoint and instrumentation. She distrusted all musical systems. In fact it was the force of her personality and the example that she set with her life, which was totally concentrated on music, that exerted such an uplifting influence. She inspired us, she conveyed to us an awareness of the necessity to form a compositional technique of one’s own, for which no effort was too great. Apart from that, she insisted upon a knowledge of past composers, and on this basis she helped us to develop a sense of form. Her lessons in analysis were memorable […].” (Mademoiselle, p. 124) Nadia Boulanger left behind no great number of compositions, nor did she write an introduction to harmony or composition, even though these are the publications that chiefly establish the authority of a composition teacher. Her oeuvre took shape during her lessons, in conversation, in animated exchange with her students: “Nadia Boulanger impressed one with a quite special blend of energy and attention. Without any hidden meaning, the charm that she radiated was a mixture of male and female elements. She bore herself quite erect, her movements were full of elegance, her gaze exceptionally vivid. It was a look that was always ready to take an interest, whether it was a matter of amazement or delight. Yes, a rare mixture of power, intelligence and a controlled sensitivity. In all this she showed absolute self-control. [...] Even those who were not her pupils are well aware that her mode of teaching was also a dialogue, a sharing. She needed to create an encounter, provoke an awakening. That was not always to be achieved without difficulty; between such an intellect and students who were intimidated or daunted by such a challenge, embarrassing situations could easily develop. In those moments, Nadia Boulanger applied all the resources of her intelligence, open to all questions and alert for the deepest misgivings. Then, through an astonishing retreat, the mastery which she seemed destined to assert triggered an effort of will in her conversational partner and prompted that learner to give what was most true in himself or herself.” (Antoine Terrasse, p. 53) Nadia Boulanger’s art of instruction was thus also the expression of an art of relationship anchored in the moment, unrepeatable and incapable of being fixed in writing. This offers a structural parallel to the function of the salon so crucial to the history of French culture. To ensure the desired intimacy, the number of participants was limited and made dependent on the satisfaction of certain criteria, such as a high level of education and membership of a higher social class. Exclusivity is very important in this connexion. The initiates knew each other, met regularly over the years, were driven by the same ideas. The Paris salons were centres of a highly developed urban culture and in many respects set the pattern upon which Nadia Boulanger consciously or unconsciously modelled her teaching and the environment in which it took place. Admission to her celebrated analysis classes, which took place every Wednesday afternoon in her apartment in the Rue Ballu in Montmartre, was by invitation only. No payment was requested or accepted for these lessons, although Nadia Boulanger made her living by teaching. After the group instruction, tea was served, and the students engaged in discussion with guests, composers among them, but often writers, philosophers, painters as well. To return to Arnold Schoenberg’s polemical utterance quoted earlier: there can be no question of “directions”, nor of a “certain style”, still less of the “production” of a particular style in the case of Nadia Boulanger; but one can very well talk of a way of thinking and working that bears the cultural connotation of “feminine” - albeit, otherwise than supposed by Schoenberg, in a positive sense. What is more, developments since 1989 have shown that Nadia Boulanger looked very far into the future. © Berlin Classics
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Classical - Released February 19, 2021 | Berlin Classics

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