May 17th sees Erik Satie's 150th anniversary and ECHO-Klassik Award winning pianist Olga Scheps presents the only new studio recording of his most beautiful piano solo works for the Satie celebrations 2016. Erik Satie is among the most popular composers worldwide, his most famous piano pieces such as „Gymnopédie No. 1” or “Je te veux” are instantly recognisable, having be used constantly in motion picture soundtracks and TV ads. As a special Bonus Olga Scheps recorded “Gentle Threat” by Chilly Gonzales, whom she frequently works together with on stage. Olga Scheps was born in Moscow in 1986, the daughter of two pianists, and discovered the instrument for herself at the age of four. She began studying the piano more intensively after her family moved to Germany in 1992. At an early age she had already developed her own unique style of keyboard playing, which combines intense emotiveness and powerful expressivity with extraordinary pianistic technique.
Leslie De'Ath has taken up the banner for the music of Cyril Scott, which many feel is long overdue for unfurling again, with a series on Dutton of his piano music. It is easy to hear in the pieces on this first volume why Scott was called "The English Debussy." The extremely colorful, translucent harmonies he uses make his music entrancing, sometimes mystical.
Of all the composers Claudio Arrau recorded extensively, Liszt was perhaps the most central, the most essential and the most personal. Trained as a youth in prewar Berlin by a Liszt pupil, Arrau's commanding virtuosity and compelling authority is clearly a continuation of the grand Romantic manner in general and of Liszt in particular and on these six discs are dozens of performances that speak with the power of tradition infused with strength of true belief. From the glittering cascades of Les jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este to the harrowing sonorities of Gnomenreigen and from the radiant arpeggios of Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude to the hushed intimacy of Liebestraum, Arrau knows Liszt's music with the fervor of a prophet and the passion of a lover. While it's true Arrau was in his seventies and eighties when he made these recordings and that time had mellowed his virtuosity, it's also true that time had matured his interpretations. Some listeners may prefer their Liszt players more vigorous, but few could ask for a more sensuous Liszt player. Including two performances of Liszt's Sonata in B minor, one an almost youthfully ardent recording from 1970 and the other a slower but more penetrating recording from 1985, provides a wonderful way to compare Arrau's approach to the composer's masterpiece. Philips' stereo sound is so realistic one can sometimes hear the pianist shift on the bench.
On A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, Brian O'Donovan, the host of the Celtic Sojourn radio show, compiles a collection of songs that mixes the contemplative with more raucous fare, ancient melodies with modern, and the earthy with the ethereal. The musicians come from all corners of the Celtic world, and include the Breton choir Ensemble Choral du Bout du Monde, who blend medieval vocal harmonies with modern instruments such as the tin whistle and the guitar; Dordan, the masters of Irish baroque music; and the pan-Celtic band the Boys of the Lough. Also included are English performers Maddy Prior (the lead singer of Steeleye Span) and the family group Waterson:Carthy, who deliver a hearty version of the "The Ditchling Carol." The majority of the tracks feature vocals, but the instrumental selections–particularly fiddler Bonnie Rideout's haunting "Gloomy Winter" and the lovely "Midwinter Waltz" from the Boys of the Lough–do a beautiful job of wordlessly evoking the season. By passing over too-familiar Christmas songs in favor of less-well-known melodies, O'Donovan has come up with that rarest of all holiday treats–a gift that that both surprises and delights.