Barry Douglas’s decision in his Brahms series to mix and match pieces intuitively, rather than employing a strict sequence of genre or chronology, has given this series a pleasing personal slant, and Vol. 5 is no exception. Building the programme around three very different sets of variations, Douglas intersperses the more substantial works with palate-cleansing intermezzos, two little-known early Sarabandes – apparent fugitives from an unfinished Baroque-inspired suite or two – and one of Brahms’s not-so-jokey scherzos, the rugged Op. 4. Indeed, if you like your Brahms super-rugged, this CD will not disappoint. Douglas’s powerful tone and serious demeanour captures the composer’s uncompromising side; yet there’s a sense of flow that makes the intermezzos generous and warm without veering towards the emotionally indulgent. The Variations on a Hungarian Song and the Hungarian Dances are served on the bone with sour cream aplenty.
Baroque conductor Johannes Somary directs a distinguished cast led by John Aler, Julianne Baird, countertenor Drew Minter, D’Anna Fortunata, Jennifer Lane, Nathaniel Watson, Raymond Pellerin and the Armor Artis Orchestra. A tale of violent court intrigue civil strife, frustrated love, ambition and suicide.
GRAMOPHONE Magazine Editor's Choice - October 2015.The Artemis Quartet pairs Brahms’ intense first quartet with his lighter-spirited third quartet, both works that the Artemis’ cellist, Eckart Runge, describes as “remarkable and multi-faceted”. He says that “Brahms marries a Romantic spirit with the structure and forms of Classicism. There is an almost symphonic approach in the writing, but at the same time the quartets are imbued with a sense of warmth, immediacy, friendship and love that is interwoven with a more spiritual, timeless beauty”.
The music of Bach's 'St. John Passion', which the composer wrote for Holy Week in 1724 immediately after his appointment as cantor of St Thomas's Church in Leipzig, still retains all its freshness and vitality nearly 300 years later, and is a true Baroque delight. The two main choruses Herr, unser Herrscher and Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine form the beginning and culmination of a large-scale orchestral and vocal structure in which Bach reveals his absolute mastery of polyphony. Inwardly reflective chorales are as much interwoven into the events of the Passion as the haunting arias which comment on the biblical texts of the Gospel of St John. Throughout this solemn Passion oratorio, there is a constant emphasis on Baroque musical magnificence. What makes this live recording of the concert version of March 7, 2015 in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz so special? The fresh voices of the young and excellent vocal soloists, the regularly praised "astonishing three-dimensionality" and "crystalline clarity" of the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks under the direction of Peter Dijkstra and, of course, the renowned period instrument ensemble Concerto Köln.
Violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis are joined by two acclaimed musical forces - pianist Jeremy Denk and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, of which Bell is Music Director – in a landmark joint recording, For the Love of Brahms (Sony Classical). Available September 30, 2016, the new album is a unique project that features works of Brahms and Schumann that Bell calls “music about love and friendship.” Bell, Isserlis and Denk unite here in Brahms’s first published chamber work, the Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8 in its rarely performed original 1854 version. Isserlis also joins Bell – as violin soloist and director – and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in Brahms’s last orchestral work, the celebrated Double Concerto (for Violin and Cello) in A Minor, Op. 102. Bell, Isserlis and members of the Academy also offer the first recording of an unusual coupling: the slow movement of Schumann’s rarely heard Violin Concerto, in a version for string orchestra made by Benjamin Britten, who also added a short coda.