In January 2015 musicians and listeners converged upon Stuttgart’s Theaterhaus for two consecutive nights to celebrate the 75th birthday of Eberhard Weber. The concerts centered around a specially commissioned 35-minute suite by Pat Metheny, with whom Weber had played and recorded back in the 1970s. Featuring Metheny, the SWR Big Band conducted by Helge Sunde, Gary Burton, bassist Scott Colley and Danny Gottlieb on drums, the composition was arranged around recordings of solos by Weber. Other performers during the two nights playing selections from Weber’s vast body of work were Weber’s longtime companions Jan Garbarek, Paul McCandless and arranger Michael Gibbs, all drawing ovations from the packed house.
A countryman of Bela Bartók and a sometime teacher to both György Ligeti and György Kurtág, Sándor Veress emigrated to Switzerland from what was then part of Hungary in 1949. Settling in Bern, he collected various prizes and teaching posts while working in relative obscurity on who knows how many pieces–most of which have been unavailable. This collection is made up of a pithy trio of compositions dated 1938 (Six Csárdás), 1951 (Hommage à Paul Klee), and 1952 (Concerto for Piano, Strings, and Percussion), and they show what a deftly melodic force Veress was. He's thrilled by blustery string wafts, especially in the concerto, where the percussion adds drama and immediacy. But he also favors sweetly chipper string formations, which surprise the ear during the homage to Klee, especially given the dissonances fostered early on by the twin pianos. The closing piano miniatures of Six Csárdás are counterpoint-rich gems, played with sharp precision by András Schiff.
The Armenian monk Soghomon Soghomonian, better known by his priest’s name of Komitas, collected hundreds of folksongs around 1900 during the course of his travels through the Armenian highlands between Van Lake, the Black Sea and the southern Caucasus. These songs, handed down orally over the centuries, express all the archaism of this ancient people’s unmistakeable culture – a culture than was nearly extinguished in the genocide of the Armenians during the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1917…
It comes as no surprise that, a year after Rampal's death, James Galway should dedicate a disc to him. After all, Galway has always cited the Frenchman as his true mentor - and it was with Rampal that Galway first spied a golden flute. The recording actually happened over a year before Rampal died but appropriately enough contains concertos by the French Classical composer François Devienne, of whose music Rampal was a noted interpreter.
There is a recurrent theme running through the program presented by the Dena Piano Duo in this production; all four composers and works have a particular relationship to Edvard Grieg. Both Johannes Brahms and Camille Saint-Saëns were friends of Grieg, and in several of his works the inspiration Grieg gained from his colleagues in Vienna and Paris is easy to hear. In between the works of Brahms and Saint-Saëns the Dena Piano Duo play two Norwegian works they have commissioned from the composers Wolfgang Plagge and Terje Bjørklund with this recording in mind.