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Symphonies - Released June 5, 2020 | Ondine

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How intriguing! American conductor Robert Treviño has dedicated his debut release with Ondine to Beethoven’s symphony cycle. This is the first time the Finnish label has visited these landmarks of Western symphonic culture with a traditional Scandinavian orchestra, namely the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, which will celebrate its centenary in 2025. With a rather faded palette of sound-colour and a smooth legato, this is undoubtedly a traditional version of the nine symphonies that transports us back to an era of discographies from Herbert von Karajan and Otto Klemperer. But by no means does it belong in the past…Treviño has worked closely with the likes of Leif Segerstam, David Zinman and Michael Tilson Thomas, the two latter conductors having, incidentally, made many interventions of their own in the Beethovenian symphonies as each attempted to produce worthy reinterpretations. Tilson Thomas drastically reduced the number of musicians in his complete cycle for CBS, whilst David Zinman based his work on Jonathan Del Mar’s Barenreiter edition which restored many of the lost accents and phrases that had been altered from one hundred and fifty years of, at times, rather unscrupulous interpretations. Here, Robert Treviño’s interpretations are lyrical and rich, precise as regards polyphony and mindful of the need to find a balance rather than overstress the text. Treviño ensures that each section finds its proper place and doesn’t get lost in the overall composition, creating dialogues with a chamber-like aesthetic. The unusual “concertato” at the beginning of the last movement of Eroica is the prime example of this. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released May 1, 2020 | Ondine

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This album presents a sequel for the album of Tchaikovskys sacred choral works by the Latvian Radio Choir and conductor Sigvards Kava. These two albums together form the composer's complete sacred works for the choir. The All-Night Vigil, Op. 52 for mixed choir, also known as the "Vesper Service", was written between May 1881 and March 1882. It was first performed by the Chudovsky Chorus conducted by Pyotr Sakharov in Moscow at the concert hall of the All-Russian Industrial and Art Exhibition on 27 June 1882. Tchaikovsky described the work as "An essay in harmonisation of liturgical chants". For this work the composer carefully studied the tradition of musical practice in the Russian Orthodox Church, which could vary considerably from one region to another. This beautiful, yet rarely recorded work is accompanied by four other choral works all written during the same decade: Hymn in Honour of Saints Cyril and Methodius as part of commemorations of the 1000th anniversary of the death of Saint Methodius, A Legend, originally coming from the collection "Sixteen Songs for Children", Jurists Song, for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in St Petersburg, and The Angel Cried Out, a beautiful traditional Russian Orthodox Easter hymn and Tchaikovskys final choral work. © Ondine
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Classical - Released May 1, 2020 | Ondine

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Mustonen, described by "The Sunday Times" as living dream of pianism, is known for delivering fresh and visionary approach to standard works this is evident in these masterful recordings of Beethovens Concertos. Mustonen is a particularly fitting exponent for Beethovens music as the composer himself was also both visionary and revolutionary in his approach to tradition. The recording of Piano Concerto No. 1 includes Mustonens own candenzas. Beethovens own Piano Concerto arrangement of his Violin Concerto is also featured one of Mustonens signature pieces. © Ondine
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Classical - Released May 1, 2020 | Ondine

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This new album by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Hannu Lintu includes two of Magnus Lindberg’s (born 1958) recent compositions featuring soprano Anu Komsi as soloist in Accused. Magnus Lindberg is among the leading figures in today’s contemporary music and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra enjoys a particularly close relationship with the composer. Vocal music, with the exception of the award-winning work Graffiti (2009) for choir and orchestra, is a rare medium among Lindberg’s output. Accused (2014) is Lindberg’s first work written for a solo voice and orchestra. The work was jointly commissioned by the London Philharmonic, Radio France, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra and Carnegie Hall. The work was premiered in London in January 2015. Lindberg chose extracts from actual interrogations in three historically and politically different situations: from the French Revolution, an extract from East Germany’ Stasi archives, and part of the Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning interrogation. Accused reflects universal human values that transcend transitory politics. Two Episodes (2016) is an orchestral work that was written for the London Prom's in 2016 to accompany Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. With this in mind the work is scored for a similar orchestra that is required to play Beethoven’s 9th. Lindberg also concluded his work on the same A–E fifth that opens Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, meaning that the transition can be without a pause. Nevertheless, Two Episodes is an independent work and can naturally be performed without the Beethoven. Beethoven’s musical thinking left an imprint on the work, though in the form of distanced references and spiritual kinship rather than stylistic influences. Although textural similarities to Beethoven can be identified in the music, they blend seamlessly into the colourful tapestry that principally seems to hark from the orchestral brilliance of Ravel and Debussy. © Ondine
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Chamber Music - Released April 3, 2020 | Ondine

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New album of Beethoven’s late String Quartets by the prestigious Tetzlaff Quartett offers a fitting tribute to Beethoven’s 250th anniversary year. These monumental works which are given fresh interpretations by the quartet are among the greatest achievements in the history of Western art music written by a composer who had already largely lost contact with the world. When writing his final String Quartets (Op. 127–135) Beethoven was becoming increasingly ill and understood that he would never be able to recover fully. Beethoven had just completed his 9th Symphony when he received a commission to write string quartets. What resulted was a string of totally unique masterpieces highly individual in their language and unusual in their form. String Quartet in A minor, Op. 132 is a work in 5 movements with movements Nos. 1, 3, and 5 being the central bearers of meaning. The quartet’s hub and pivot is the middle part of the work, Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lidischen Tonart ("Holy Song of Thanksgiving of a Convalescent to the Divinity, in the Lydian Mode"). The biographical context of this title is obvious and specifically refers to the severe bout of illness experienced by Beethoven from the middle of April to the beginning of May 1825. The Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 is a work that has fascinated listeners for two centuries. Originally, String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130 and Grosse Fuge Op. 133 were part of one and same work. Beethoven had written the Fuge as the final movement for the String Quartet, but his publisher urged him to write a new ending. For this album, Tetzlaff Quartett performs the String Quartet Op. 130 together with the Grosse Fuge, thus bringing the work back to its original form. Praised by "The New York Times" for its “dramatic, energetic playing of clean intensity”, the Tetzlaff Quartett is one of today’s leading string quartets. Alongside their successful individual careers, Christian and Tanja Tetzlaff, Hanna Weinmeister and Elisabeth Kufferath have met since 1994 to perform several times each season in concerts that regularly receive great critical acclaim. They are frequent guests at international festivals such as the Berliner Festwochen, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival and Bremen Musikfest. Other recent highlights include performances at Kölner Philharmonie, Konzerthaus Berlin and Paris’ Auditorium du Louvre, as well as a North America tour with concerts at Carnegie Hall, in San Francisco and Vancouver. The quartet has also performed at Brussels’ BOZAR, Wiener Musikverein, Herkulessaal München, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. © Ondine
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Classical - Released April 3, 2020 | Ondine

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The second album in Lars Vogt’s Johannes Brahms concerto series with the Royal Northern Sinfonia includes Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto combined with a solo piano work, Handel Variations Op. 24, which was dedicated to Clara Schumann by the composer. Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 is a romantic 4-movement concerto written two decades after its predecessor and one of the cornerstones in the concerto repertoire. This remarkable opus with a great number of beautiful solo passages and with a duration of over 45 minutes has been intrepreted by numerous pianists since its premiere in 1881. In this album, Vogt performs the concerto conducting from the keyboard. Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel Op. 24 for solo piano were written by the young composer in his late 20s. This work, which includes some technically demanding passages for the pianists, reveals Brahms’ profound interest in the work of the great masters of the Baroque era which served as a source of inspiration in the composer’s creative work. This set of 25 variations and a fugue shows Brahms as a great successor to the tradition of piano variations exemplified by Mozart and Beethoven. ©: Ondine
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Classical - Released April 3, 2020 | Ondine

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This release by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Modestas Pitrėnas includes the complete surviving symphonic oeuvre of the great Lithuanian composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875–1911) restored back into their original versions. Čiurlionis was conceptually ahead of his time and the uniqueness and aesthetic value of his compositions have been fully understood only during the last decades. For the international audience Čiurlionis is particularly known as a painter who gave titles related to music to his paintings, but he wrote an impressive catalogue of at least over 340 music compositions, including 10 orchestral works. Čiurlionis studied composition under professor Carl Reinecke in Leipzig. He submerged himself into investigation of orchestrations of Hector Berlioz and especially Richard Strauss. His symphonic poems In the Forest (1900–1901) and The Sea (1903–1907) remain the cornerstones of Lithuanian symphonic repertoire. In the Forest brought Lithuanian professional academic music into existence, while The Sea remains an unsurpassed peak in the history of Lithuanian symphonic literature. Sadly, both works were premiered only after the composer’s death, in 1911 and 1936. Although both works were published, it was only in recent years when they have been cleared of editions by other composers back into their original form finally bringing to the listener the way how the composer envisioned them. The 30-minute symphonic poem The Sea has particularly sad history of editions and ‘improvements’ by other composers, but this recording includes the work in its original form. © Ondine
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Classical - Released March 6, 2020 | Ondine

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This album marks Peter Jablonski’s debut for the Ondine label. Alexander Scriabin (1872–1915) created an impressive catalogue of works for the piano and became one of the great innovators in 20th century music. In his early works, the listener can sense the composer’s great admiration for the art of Frédéric Chopin. This is especially manifested in the over 20 Mazurkas that Scriabin wrote for the solo piano, the very same form of music that Chopin followed throughout his active years as a composer. Jablonski's album includes all Scriabin's Mazurkas with an opus number as well as two early Mazurkas. Scriabin’s Mazurkas reveal various stages in the composer’s creative career. Ten Mazurkas Op. 3 are early pieces. Although the composer, like many of his colleagues, was deeply influenced by Chopin, yet Scriabin’s distinctive voice is unmistakable here. In the Nine Mazurkas Op. 25 the composer is starting to push harmonic and melodic invention to their extremes, delaying harmonic resolution, blurring the lines between the distinct lilt of the mazurka and often entering the realm of a dream waltz, or a tone poem. Two Mazurkas Op. 40 were written around the time of his 4th Piano Sonata and are more intimate and economic in style already pointing to completely new harmonic and philosophical directions that were to dominate Scriabin’s mind from then on. In his last ever public performance in St Petersburg on 2 April, 1915 Scriabin included his Mazurka Op. 25/4 into the programme. Peter Jablonski is an internationally acclaimed Swedish pianist. Discovered by Claudio Abbado and Vladimir Ashkenazy and signed by Decca at the age of 17, he went on to perform, collaborate, and record with over 150 of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors. He has performed and recorded the complete piano concertos by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Bartók, and all piano sonatas by Prokofiev. Hailed as an ‘unconventional virtuoso’, during his three-decade-long career he developed a diverse and worked with composers Witold Lutosławski and Arvo Pärt. Jablonski’s extensive discography includes several award-winning recordings. © Ondine
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Classical - Released March 6, 2020 | Ondine

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First volume in a series dedicated to Paul Hindemith’s (1895–1963) chamber works includes the first three works in his Kammermusik series together with Kleine Kammermusik written for a wind quintet. This album continues a successful series of recordings of Hindemith’s music together with conductor Christoph Eschenbach. These recordings of chamber music have been recorded with a group of young promising artists, including pianist Christopher Park and cellist Bruno Philippe who are playing the solo parts in the ‘Concertos’, Op. 36. Hindemith’s postwar period may rightly be described as a time of new beginnings not only for Hindemith personally but also for the European concert world, both in economic and artistic respects. It was during this time that Hindemith wrote his Kammermusik No. 1 (1922), a work for an ensemble of twelve solo instruments. Through to 1929 it was followed by six solo concertos that he designated as the Kammermusiken Nos. 2–7. At the premieres of four of these works the composer himself performed as an instrumentalist or as a conductor. Hindemith described the special character of such solo concertos for chamber orchestra in 1925, when he evaluated compositions that had been submitted to a competition: “The term ‘solo concerto’ is almost nowhere properly understood. Work indeed is done with solo instruments, but they do not perform in concerto style. In others, the prescribed ‘chamber orchestra’ is merely a reduced large orchestra that […] limits itself to producing a noise similar to the one traditionally produced by the larger groups of musicians but with shriveled means. In my view, this chamber orchestra has nothing to do with a proper chamber orchestra, in which only a few instruments of a very specific character (specified by the work) are in operation and with which genuine chamber-musical work is done.” By the time Hindemith ended the series of his seven Kammermusiken in 1929, he stood at the center of the German music world. © Ondine
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Classical - Released February 7, 2020 | Ondine

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In 1966, Pierre Boulez conducted the world premiere of Witold Lutoslawski’s Second Symphony. Boulez was then the head of the NDR orchestra in Hamburg and the city welcomed a series dedicated to contemporary music. The following year, the piece was performed fully in Katowice, Poland, conducted by the composer. Lutoslawski was a brilliant man: he spoke many languages, including French, and was an excellent conductor. First influenced by Bartók and French impressionist music, Witold Lutoslawski then forged a much more cutting-edge style based on the Second Viennese School. He invented the “aleatory counterpoint,” which remains his trademark. It can seem odd that Lutoslawski chose the frame of the symphony to express this new language. Nevertheless, it is with this form, that everyone thought dead, that he radically explored his aleatory techniques, specifically in the two movements of his Second Symphony. Melody and Rhythm are replaced by tones, harmony and texture and the music is continuously pulsed. Lutoslawski’s Second Symphony saluted Beethoven’s Fifth. His Third Symphony went further, developing the two-part structure of the previous and adding a long and abundant epilogue which left room for a few melodic elements during its elegiac final rising. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Chamber Music - Released February 7, 2020 | Ondine

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Classical - Released January 3, 2020 | Ondine

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Classical - Released January 3, 2020 | Ondine

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Classical - Released November 1, 2019 | Ondine

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Lars Vogt continues his series of concerto recordings with the Royal Northern Sinfonia with this new recording of Johannes Brahms’ (1833–1897) First Piano Concerto together with Four Ballades (Op. 10) for solo piano. As in previous albums, Lars Vogt conducts from the keyboard. The evolution of Brahms’ 1st Piano Concerto took several steps. Originally conceived to become a Sonata for Two Pianos through orchestration it was developed into a four-movement "Symphony" until reaching into its final form of a "Piano Concerto" in three movements. During the process, which lasted from 1854 to 1856, some movements were also discarded and replaced by new material. This music is packed with much drama. No wonder since these years were particularly tumultuous in Brahms’ personal life: it was during this period when his great mentor Robert Schumann was sent into an asylum and ultimately died. It was also time when Brahms formed a close, lifelong friendship to Clara Schumann. Some of these feelings might well be echoed in the peaceful second movement, Adagio. Brahms’ Four Ballades, Op. 10 are works written in 1854 by a young composer barely in his 20s, yet these pieces are technically mature and profound in such a manner that they could even be compared to his final piano opuses. © Ondine
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released November 1, 2019 | Ondine

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Composer Juris Karlsons (b. 1948) is one of the leading names in Latvian music today. This new album by the Latvian Radio Choir under their music director Sigvards Kļava features Karlsons’ choral works. These works are marked by deeply religious feeling and profound message. Oremus is choral piece written by the composer in 2018 for the Latvian Radio Choir. It was premiered as part of the Lincoln Center White Light Festivals. When writing this work, no doubt Karlsons had specifically the sound and vocal abilities of the choir in mind. The largest work of the album is Adoratio (2010), a symphonic, single-movement work for choir and orchestra with a duration of over thirty minutes. Yet, this powerful work filled with drama can, like a symphony, be clearly divided into musical sections. Le lagrime dell’anima (2013) for piano and choir is based on a short poem written by the composer: “Here are just seven simple notes that are born on a beautiful summer evening when watching the sunset. The stars slowly light up, one, then another. You wait for the next one. The seven sounds of stars are gradually born under the pianist’s fingers, somewhere in the silence they appear in the chorus’s intonations, and finally intertwined in a melodic line” the composer describes. The final piece of the album, Ora pro nobis (2019), is a tribute to Virgin Mary based on an earlier work and written for Sigvards Kļava. © Ondine
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Classical - Released November 1, 2019 | Ondine

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This new album by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra focuses on works by Perttu Haapanen (b. 1972), one of the most important and interesting Finnish composers of his generation. It includes a recently-written Flute Concerto with Yuki Koyama as soloist and conducted by Dima Slobodeniouk, and two other works conducted by Hannu Lintu: a song-cycle written for soprano Helena Juntunen and an orchestral work, Compulsion Island, written for the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Compulsion Island was written to a commission from the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and makes full use of the resources of a full-sized symphony orchestra. Haapanen creates a multi-layered and richly sonorous texture where extended instrument techniques play a significant and carefully considered role. Beginning with the opening trumpet solo, there are several solo sections (for violin, clarinet, tuba, etc.) that appear as individual voices in the chaotic mental landscape of the ‘island’. Quiet, stagnant and expectant yet tense moments alternate with charged and punchy rhythmical passages that increase in force until the final culmination, followed by a subsiding, dreamlike and unreal epilogue. The Flute Concerto lasts about 25 minutes and is in a single movement divided into two halves featuring different materials, according to the composer. At the surface level, it comes across as a flexible and elastic structure consisting of several short sections in rapid succession, with contrasting moods either alternating or superimposed. The palette of sonorities is rich, augmented by extended instrument techniques and a number of rare sound sources such as a typewriter producing crisp rhythms and the absurd sounds of wheezing toys. Haapanen wrote the concerto to a commission from the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, to be performed by the orchestra’s virtuoso Principal Flute, Yuki Koyama. Ladies’ Room for soprano and chamber orchestra was written to a commission from the Musica nova Helsinki festival. Originally written and premiered in 2007 by Helena Juntunen, it was revised by Haapanen in the following year. The work is in a single movement but is actually a cycle of nine songs that are all sung without a break. The texts come from a wide variety of sources: poems by conductor and mezzosoprano Jutta Seppinen, the Bible, Google, the archives of Scotland Yard and Paul Celan. Between them are four nonsense text settings that pay homage to Adolf Wölfli, an early 20th-century Swiss artist. The soprano part is highly demanding due to its wide range of vocal techniques which make Ladies’ Room a vocal virtuoso work where the virtuoso component is an integral part of the content. © Ondine
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Symphonic Poems - Released October 4, 2019 | Ondine

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This second volume in a series dedicated to the orchestral works of Heino Eller by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra under conductor Olari Elts is a ground-breaking introduction to one of the founders of the Estonian school of music. The present volume consists of Eller’s symphonic poems and contains some of Eller’s earliest symphonic works, including one of his most well-known works, Dawn (Koit). © Ondine
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Classical - Released October 4, 2019 | Ondine

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Hannu Lintu here takes a stand against Paavo Berglund’s legendary version in Bournemouth, the very first of the discography recorded in 1970. Kullervo is a piece of work generally considered epic, a style not often explored by the Finnish composer, who had returned to Vienna at the beginning of the 1890s where he was able to submerge himself in Bruckner and discover some composers of the new generation. Here, Hannu Lintu dares to offer up a serene interpretation, with moderate contrasts in both the emphasis and the tone. For him, Kullervo stays within the defined category of Austro-hungarian music, even if it remains a singularly unique piece of music, as it does not demonstrate much of the modern and cutting-edge Sibelius which broke out from the 4 Legends of Kalevala and certainly over the course of the 1900s after the Second Symphony. Hannu Lintu privileges the ensemble line with regular post-Bruckner-esque balances, organised around polyphony, all the while underlining the freedom which escapes from the young Sibelius’ woodwind motifs. He also appears to snub typically runic Finnish popular influences, which notably guide the whole Introduction, an Allegro which is perfectly moderato. Kullervo transforms into a vast lyrical poem, meditative but somber (there are essences of the Violin concerto). From this vision are born some incredibly poetic moments, like in the third episode (Kullervo and his sister) as the choir sing their last lines just before the soprano (Johanna Rusanen, what a husky tone!) and the baritone (Ville Rusanen) begin their respective narratives, themselves just as astonishing in their dramatic power. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Violin Concertos - Released September 13, 2019 | Ondine

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It takes a good deal of confidence to record these two most familiar of all the Romantic violin concertos, especially if you have recorded them both before, as violinist Christian Tetzlaff has. Confidence is what Tetzlaff is all about here, and it gives him the wherewithal to create a genuinely original reading of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61. His tempos are fast, but others have taken the concerto fast. He de-romanticizes Beethoven's big melodies: although there's no hint of historical performance here, the sparing use of vibrato is common enough these days, partly as a result of that influence. If you imagine a 20th century Beethoven violin concerto performance from the Eastern European-Israeli sphere, say that of Itzhak Perlman, you will find Tetzlaff at the opposite extreme. So far, so good, and you can take your pick among recordings according to whether you favor these tendencies. Where Tetzlaff demands attention is in his overall structuring of the concerto, which seems to unfold as a single set of grand gestures. At least, that is, up to the cadenzas, which are adapted from the ones Beethoven wrote for the alternative piano version of the concerto. This may seem a stretch, but tune in to Tetzlaff's mood, and you'll find that the music has built up enough momentum to support these unusual, irregular cadenzas. The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under Robin Ticciati keeps up well with Tetzlaff's interpretation and never drags, which in this case is a bit of a tall order. The Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47, is a bit closer to the mainstream, although even here, Tetzlaff is taking pains to dissociate himself from the big Romantic tradition: sample the finale, where you may wish for something a bit more rousing in the main theme. Impressively bold, and well worth your time. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 13, 2019 | Ondine

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With their album dedicated to Psalms of Repentance by Alfred Schnittke, and two works by Arvo Pärt (BIS), this same line-up won some fine prizes (Diapason d'Or, Gramophone). Kaspars Putniņš leads the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir as they continue on their way through the works of Arvo Pärt with four very seductive scores (including the choral version of Summa): they are starting here, and this forms an ideal introduction to the programme's most major work, which is surely Via Crucis, S. 53 by Franz Liszt, an ample score for piano and choir finished in 1879 in Budapest, recordings of which are all too rare. The voices of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir are sublime here, possessed of an enrapturing depth and purity. This Via Crucis is a perfect summary of the later, most modern Liszt: the writing for piano "comes" directly from the final part of the Years of Pilgrimage. There are such striking similarities with pieces like Angelus! Prière aux anges gardiens or the Sursum corda that one might well wonder whether certain pages from Via Crucis (number 12, Jesus stirbt am Kreuze, for example) aren't in fact elaborations from these. In this work, Franz Liszt is developing astoundingly modern harmonies, which draw out a naked form of Wagner's chromatisms, rarefying them: all the more so given that pianist Kalle Randalu tends to put the accent on their dryness. This is the essence of the end of Romanticism, in an absolutely hypnotic record. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz