In 1832 Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47) wrote to his sister Fanny that is what about time he wrote some ‘good trios’. He had already started but left unfinished a trio for piano, violin and viola, and started the D minor trio shortly after, completing it in 1839. Mendelssohn’s friend the composer-pianist Ferdinand Hiller advised him after the completion to make several revisions to make the work sound as up to date as possible – Hiller, was a pupil of Hummel was a keen supporter of Berlioz and Liszt. The result is a work of perfect proportions, with a brilliant piano part, skilful counterpoint and a wonderful blend of classical poise and romantic passion. Schumann reviewing the Leipzig premiere on 1840 commented that the trio was a masterpiece that would ‘bring joy to our children and grandchildren’. The 2nd trio is dedicated to the great German violinist and composer Louis Spohr.
A dacha is a summer home for Russians, away from the hurly-burly of the city, and can be as primitive as a cabin or as elaborate as a palace. A much-favored place for gatherings of intellectuals, dachas are a favored literary setting. In this film, adapted by Nikita Mikhailkov from Anton Chekhov's first play and some of his other works, the schoolteacher Platonov (Alexander Kalyagin) has come with his wife to spend a summer weekend at a friend's dacha. Among the other guests there, he meets his former lady-love Sophia (Elena Solovei), who is now married to another. Even though he thought he had recovered from his disappointed affection for her, he finds that this is not so for at least two reasons. First, she only recently got married; secondly, she is married to an idiot. Nostalgia spurs them to investigate their affection for one another, but eventually, as they remember their stations in life, their old love does not seem so important.
The emotional content, lyricism and direct appeal of Gavin Bryars’s music are unique, reflecting a contemporary composer’s absorption and transformation of several centuries of musical craftsmanship in order to reflect his, and our, own epoch. Originally written for harpsichord, After Handel’s Vesper is a strong illustration of Bryars’s post-minimal interests in early music repertoire. Ramble on Cortona, derived from 13th-century music, makes expressive use of the piano’s resonant qualities, while in the highly-coloured, almost impressionistic The Solway Canal, landscapes pass by as if in a dream.
The old model for creating a hit classical recording – big-name soloist plus big-name conductor in major repertory work – is not so common anymore, but this live Brahms recording from the Staatskapelle Berlin under Venezuela's Gustavo Dudamel, with Argentine-Israeli-Palestinian-Spanish pianist Daniel Barenboim as soloist, shows that there's life in the concept yet. One could point to the virtues of pianist and conductor separately: it's a rare septuagenarian who can combine power and clear articulation of detail the way Barenboim does, and Dudamel builds a vast sweep in, especially, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. But it's the way that the two work together that really makes news. Chalk it up to shared South American heritage or to whatever the listener wants, but the way the orchestra and piano define separate spheres and work them together is extraordinary. Again, it is in the Piano Concerto No. 1 and its Beethovenian drama that their mutual understanding is most evident, but there is a sense of great variety powerfully unified throughout.
'Piano Stylings of the Great Standards' is a series of books created for the pianist who longs to play the best-loved and most important songs of the popular genre in very special and elegant musical settings. The arrangements are represented in varying styles, written and influenced by the many great pianists who, over the years, have helped to shape popular piano performance…