Brahms: Sonatas for Cello and Piano & Klavierstucke
Kate Bennett Wadsworth, Yi-heng Yang
Deux-Elles DXL1181. 67′
Sonate für Klavier und Violoncello, Op. 38
Klavierstücke, Op. 76: 4-8
Sonate für Klavier und Violoncello, Op. 99
This 2018 recording, which I somehow didn’t get round to reviewing at the time, offers a refreshing insight into cello and piano performance practice during Brahm’s time, the result of detailed research by cellist Kate Bennett Wadsworth and pianist Yi-heng Yang. In this, their debut recording, a rethinking of the performing tradition of the past century aims to bring back the “freshness and vitality that they had when they were new”. Continue reading
BBC Prom 17: Berlioz, Beethoven, Brahms
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra (SWR)
Sir Roger Norrington, Robert Levin
Royal Albert Hall, 28 July 2016
Few in the audience would have realised what a poignant and emotional, event this Prom was to be until after the encore, when the leader Natalie Chee took a microphone and addressed the packed Royal Albert Hall to explain that, due to spending cuts, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra is to merge with the SWR Symphony Orchestra in September, and that this was their very last concert. Founded in the dark days of 1945 this distinguished orchestra has built an enormous international reputation, not least during the years from 1998 to 2011 when Sir Roger Norrington was their chief conductor, bringing his noted ‘historically informed’ performance practice to this modern instrument orchestra, producing a distinctive style – the ‘Stuttgart sound’. The two merging orchestras are both under the auspices of Südwestrundfunk (South West Radio), the public broadcaster for Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, and have very different repertoires and styles. It was entirely appropriate that Roger Norrington, now their Conductor Emeritus, was the conductor for their final concert.
Berlioz’s sparkling and witty overture to Beatrice and Benedict opened the evening, with Norrington’s characteristic attention to detail being at the forefront. Continue reading
1880: Brahms, Rott & Bruckner
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Sir Simon Rattle
Royal Festival Hall. 22 April 2016
Brahms: Tragic Overture; Hans Rott: Scherzo (Symphony in E); Bruckner: Symphony No.6.
Having helped to sort out the early music world over the past 30 years, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is now turning its hand to the high Romantics. Hot on the heels of their 14 April RFH performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony (reviewed here), they now turn their hands to Bruckner and his rarely performed 6th Symphony, with Sir Simon Rattle. Their programme was built around the year 1880, and compared the music of three works composed in that year by three very different composers, one almost completely unknown.
The evening started, slightly unfortunately, with the Tragic Overture of Brahms, the bête noire of Bruckner and Hans Rott (pictured), and several others of a progressive ilk, such as Mahler. Unfortunate, because of the effect that Brahms’ withering comments on Hans Rott’s First Symphony had on the young composer. The unfortunate Rott (1858-84) was a student contemporary of Mahler and Hugo Wolf at the Vienna Conservatory, and studied organ with Bruckner, who saw him as his ‘favourite pupil’. Although Rott hadn’t impressed a conservatory competition panel with a piano reduction of the first movement, he went on to expand it into a four movement symphony. For reasons unknown, and certainly ill-advised, the then 22 year-old Rott showed the score to Brahms, an enemy of anything musically progressive, and of Bruckner and the Vienna conservatory. Brahms advised the already vulnerable young man to ‘give up composing’, leading to a possibly hallucinatory incident that resulted in him being committed Continue reading