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Classical - To be released April 10, 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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Classical - Released April 3, 2020 | Challenge Classics

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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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Classical - Released April 3, 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Classical - Released March 13, 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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Classical - Released March 6, 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
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Classical - Released February 21, 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Classical - Released February 7, 2020 | Challenge Classics

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The setting of this album - two violins without accompaniment - is no ordinary combination, and the repertoire, though encompassing several style periods from the Baroque to the 21st century, is much smaller than that of a more standard duo such as violin and piano. When choosing a program for this album, we were adamant to present works which, rather than using virtuosic violin display as a means to an end, are masterworks in their own right, where the virtuosity of writing is a simple tool used to create breathtaking landscapes and thrilling stories. Three different countries and three different universes, though all three composed within less than half a century - the Sonatas for Two Violins by Serguei Prokofiev, Henryk Górecki and Eugène Ysaÿe show with their incredible variety how exciting a violin duo can be. (Maria Milstein and Mathieu van Bellen) © Challenge Records
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Classical - Released February 7, 2020 | Challenge Classics

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"A waltz is a simple dance, a gentle movement. It has a clear structure and distinct rhythm. In my project “Alles Walzer, einmal anders! “, I have tried to build up a complex program around the simplicity of the dance. All the pieces are connected to the waltz, by name, rhythm or a sound image. But each one has an individual structure and creates its own universe of emotions. The significant waltzing rhythm (¾ time) is the core, that unites all the compositions from beginning till the very last piece, which creates a clear musical line and a feeling of completeness. The first association one has with a waltz and maybe the most famous one, is the Viennese one - moving gently, in elegant clothing, the dancing couple is driven by the inner pulsation of the waltz. The phrase “Alles Walzer” is being said just before the couple enters the dance floor and marks the beginning of the waltz (in Austria). It is the brief moment when expectation turns into action, when silence melts into the music. The second part of the title “einmal anders” (once on a different way) refers to the different side of the waltz, that is represented on this album by less known compositions, such as waltzes by Ligeti, Bartok and Debussy. This recording has the goal to show a different perspective of the waltz and bring the audience to an unexpected musical journey, full of strong emotions and distinct rhythm. (Dora Delyska) © Challenge Records
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Classical - Released January 24, 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Ben Kim: "The story of Mozart is by now well-known. His oeuvre and life have become staples of modern culture, from the numerous books, films and biographies to the hundreds of recordings of his work by history’s most acclaimed musicians. Yet one might say this canonization has paradoxically led to a narrowing of our enjoyment of Mozart. I’ve long been interested in using the modern piano to mimic the unique temperament of the fortepiano, to make the notes not only sing but speak like a human voice, accentuating not only the luxuriant vowel sounds of the modern piano but also the short, staccato consonants created by the fortepiano. Mozart is master of the lyrical, but there are even more layers of dimension to be revealed by adding the percussiveness of the fortepiano, sometimes taking the modern piano off its contemporary pedestal, and weaving the more transparent texture of its historical sibling with the orchestra. For this recording, I had the privilege of playing with members of one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras. Working with leader Michael Waterman, our hope was for the orchestra to be fully integrated, to create a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts, soloist included. The recording was done without conductor, in a diplomatic approach more common to chamber ensembles than a 28-strong orchestra. We made musical decisions far in advance and in rehearsal set the balance so that the piano could suitably accompany the orchestra, rather than only the other way around. Removing its lid to open up the piano, the orchestra huddled around it so that I was face-to-face with the operatic winds, bringing them to the forefront, with easy access to all string players around me. In this configuration we were able to fully relish the accompanimental and often under-prioritized middle register which so often forms the backbone of the music, contributing heavily to its character. Taken together, this attitude of musical camaraderie was instrumental in helping us create a distinctive sound and feeling for these much-loved works.“ © Challenge Records
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Classical - Released January 10, 2020 | Challenge Classics

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Classical - Released November 1, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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Classical - Released November 1, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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Classical - Released November 1, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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French Music - Released October 18, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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Classical - Released October 4, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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Beethoven’s most famous piano trio is dedicated to the Archduke Rudolph, himself an accomplished musician. The importance of Rudolph as a patron can be seen in the number of other prominent works that Beethoven dedicated to him. Beethoven started work on the trio in the second half of 1810, but much of the work was done in March of the next year. Some descriptions give an inkling of how novel a composition this was perceived to be, and a young Ignaz Moscheles reported: “In the case of how many compositions is the word ‘new’ misapplied! But never in Beethoven's, and least of all in this, which again is full of originality.” A year after the Archduke, Beethoven wrote another piano trio in B-flat major. The autograph dates it 26 June 1812, but besides the similarity in key it is different in every way. It consists of a single movement, was not published during the composer’s lifetime, and was written to encourage the nine-year-old Maximiliane Brentano in her piano playing. The Trio in E-flat WoO 38 might have been once intended to be part of Op. 1 and although there are no extant sketches to support this, the style of the composition makes a dating of around 1790-1 plausible. The trio contains some surprising twists and turns, particularly in its lengthy codas. The last piece for piano trio that Beethoven published during his lifetime has one of the longest compositional histories of all of his works. It consists of a long introduction, followed by ten variations on ‘Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu’ from Wilhelm Müller’s popular opera Die Schwestern von Prag. The first version of this piece was probably composed between 1801 and 1803, but it was substantially revised in 1816, and most likely further revised before publication in 1824. This final trio therefore includes elements from Beethoven’s early, middle, and late styles. © Challenge Records
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French Music - Released October 4, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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Classical - Released October 4, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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There are some encounters in life about which one could say that they were simply destined to happen. The meeting of the two musicians in question is, without a doubt, one of them, because Michael Gees and Bella Adamova have a very rare talent: they are both exceptionally gifted improvisers. This is no quirk of a narcissistic piano virtuoso but rather the continuation of an old and venerable tradition. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was, to some measure, expected that a pianist could also perform something extemporaneously. Bella Adamova follows the same path. This is the basis from which the current project with collaborative improvisations arose. Ten poems from different authors form the starting point for the musical expedition. The choices came completely from Bella Adamova. In their collaboration, Adamova and Gees have a vast stylistic range at their disposal which expands from folklore and classical to jazz and contemporary music. This includes a conceivably wide spectrum of musical resources, where one can find sprechgesang as well as arioso lines, and the piano can grow from a rustling cantabile to a hammered martellato. © Challenge Records
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Classical - Released September 27, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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French Music - Released September 13, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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Classical - Released September 13, 2019 | Challenge Classics

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