What We’re Listening to…July, 2022

It’s always interesting to know what recordings spark the interest of fellow music lovers. The list below reflects new and old recordings that look promising to us. We will periodically add to the list as new releases catch our attention. We welcome your comments and suggestions to info@guarnerihall.org.

Johnny Gandelsman: ‘This is America’ Anthology

When Johnny Gandelsman played the complete Bach cello suites on violin at Guarneri Hall in 2020, his light and fresh readings won over our entire audience, even the cellists! With back-to-back album releases of Bach’s violin music and the cello suites played without accompaniment, one might have wondered if Gandelsman was becoming a baroque specialist. But this multifaceted artist has never been easy to pigeonhole. In this latest release, This is America, Gandelsman presents an anthology of 24 brand-new works by US-based composers, specially commissioned for this project.

The album features works by Clarice Assad, Kinan Azmeh, Layale Chaker, Christina Courtin, Olivia Davis, Nick Dunston, Adeliia Faizullina, Rhea Fowler & Micaela Tobin, Rhiannon Giddens, Marika Hughes, Maya Miro Johnson, Bojan Louis, Dana Lyn, Angélica Negrón, Ebun Oguntola, Tomeka Reid, Terry Riley, Matana Roberts, Aeryn Santillan, Tyshawn Sorey, Anjna Swaminathan, Conrad Tao, Akshaya Tucker, and Kojiro Umezaki.

In the liner notes, Gandelsman articulates a mission to amplify the voices of others, regardless of whether from centuries past or today. To Gandelsman, this is an essential part of being a classical musician. This fascinating project is worth tracking both for the variety of new sounds it represents and as an opportunity to experience a wide range of contemporary US artistic voices.

Johnny Gandelsman: ‘This is America’ Anthology
Release Date: 7/1/22
Label: In a Circle Records
UPC: 760137104308

Louis Lortie Plays Chopin, Vol. 7

Canadian pianist Louis Lortie has had a long and successful career championing a wide range of repertoire, including works by Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849). Taking inspiration from the great romantic pianists who would warm up their audience by performing short improvisations before major works, Lortie has tried to replicate the same practice in curating this Chopin new survey. 

This release includes a full program:

Four Mazurkas, Op. 17, Rondo à la Mazur, Op. 5, Rondo à la Mazur, Op. 5, Bolero, Op. 19, Four Mazurkas, Op. 68, Rondo, Op. 16, Four Mazurkas, Op. 30, Tarantelle, Op. 43, Three Mazurkas, Op. 63, Polonaise, Op. 53 “Héroïque”, and Four Mazurkas, Op. 68.

Critics have admired the outstanding performances, stellar recording quality, and programs on each of the six previous releases in this set, a project started by Lortie in 2009. Fans of Chopin and Lortie alike can now enjoy volume 7 just released by Chandos this month.

Chopin volume 7
Release Date: 7//1/22
Label: Chandos
Catalog No: CHAN 20241

Matangi Quartet, ‘Outcast’

Despite having played together since 1999, the Matangi Quartet isn’t well known in the US. But at home in the Netherlands, the Matangi has established a formidable reputation as a group that can credibly play Beethoven one night, premiere a brand new contemporary work the next, and then shift gears to play a wide range of non-classical forms. The Matangi Quartet’s recent release, Outcast, is an ode to the three Soviet-Russian composers who wrote music against the taste of the regime under which they lived. 

Dmitri Shostakovich, Quartet #8 (1960) 
Quartet #8 (1960) is perhaps the most revered chamber work of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). Shostakovich constructed his Quartet #8 from tones formed from an anagram of his name, leaving no doubt about the personal nature of the music. Quartet #8 was dedicated to the “Victims of Fascism and War,” a sentiment that would have appeased the Soviet censors. But lurking just beneath the surface in Quartet #8 is a powerful, universal warning about the perils of totalitarianism. Potential reprisals from the Soviet authorities were a source of constant fear for Shostakovich throughout his life. Knocks on the door by the Gestapo, graphically depicted in Quartet #8, could just as easily represent the KGB calling.

Alfred Schnittke, Quartet #3 (1983) 
Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998), whose music was often highly influenced by Shostakovich, also suffered under the hand of Soviet censors. In 1980 his first symphony was banned by the composers union. Schnittke was prohibited from traveling outside of the USSR. Eventually, his music made it to the west with the help of cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and violinist Gidon Kremer among others. Schnittke’s Quartet #3 (1983) references Shostakovich’s Quartet #8, making the two works interesting companion pieces on this release.

Valentin Silvestrov, Quartet #1 (1974)
The Ukrainian-born composer Valentin Silvestrov (1937- ) is known for his political opposition to the rulers of the former Soviet Union and present-day Russia. Early in his career, the Soviet authorities declared his music to be avant-garde and withheld his works from public performance. Silvestrov’s music remained little-known until after the fall of the Soviet Union, when he abandoned the modernist approach and began to compose works influenced by the style of Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox liturgical music. Ukrainian nationalist sentiments in many of Silvestrov’s works have brought him new recognition, especially given the current Russian aggression in the former Soviet territory. Silvestrov himself is currently living in Berlin, having fled Ukraine in early 2020 to escape the Russian invasion. The Matangi Quartet has valiantly championed his music for a number of years.

Matangi Quartet, ‘Outcast’
Release Date:
Label: Matangi
Catalogue Number: MTM04



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