Press release: Baarn, The Netherlands, September, 2017
In October, PENTATONE releases three important new recordings and one legendary remastered classic. Arabella Steinbacher excels in the lyrical, troubled and profound violin concertos of Britten and Hindemith; Marek Janowski conducts the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin in one of the most popular pieces in the German opera repertoire: Hansel and Gretel; Matt Haimovitz and Chris O’Riley explore the music of the Slavic soul, combining the troika of legendary composers with more recent rebellious works.
Arabella Steinbacher excels in the lyrical, troubled and profound violin concertos of Britten and Hindemith
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Vladimir Jurowski
Breathtaking virtuosity flows seamlessly with expansive lyrical passages and fiendish passagework in this commanding performance by Arabella Steinbacher of the restless and technically demanding violin concertos of Britten and Hindemith, with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. Britten’s haunting and mesmerising violin concerto is considered one of the century’s finest. The three contrasting movements are replete with grand theatrical gestures, unabashed lyricism, and show-stopping pyrotechnics, and the work closes with an austere passacaglia of other-wordly beauty and power. Following the work’s enthusiastic reception at its premiere in 1940 at Carnegie Hall, Britten declared “So far, it is without question my best piece”.
“Britten and Hindemith completed their concertos at about the same time,” writes Steinbacher, “both are absolutely bursting with emotional turmoil, persisting precariousness, and latent despair.” Steinbacher feels a particular affinity with the Hindemith concerto. “Every artist introduces his own life experiences and personal feelings into his interpretations … with the Hindemith concerto, I have an extremely close, even private connection, as my father knew Hindemith rather well.”
Steinbacher’s previous recordings have received widespread praise. For her playing in the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky violin concertos, Gramophone commented “one could hardly wish for a more expressive account of both concertos”; for the Korngold and Bruch Violin Concertos, Gramophone noted Steinbacher’s “easy virtuosity with concern to find the right tone and nuance for every phrase”. And BBC Music Magazine said of her last album, Fantasies, Rhapsodies, Daydreams, that it was “recorded in glowing sound that feels astonishingly lifelike … this recital is something of a triumph”. This album will be released as 1 Super Audio -CD and in digital formats for streaming and high resolution downloads. (Article number: PTC 5186625)
Engelbert Humperdink – Hänsel und Gretel
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Marek Janowski
Is it possible to administer at too early an age the intoxicating and gloriously sweet poison of opera, especially in an era of constant muzak? The clear answer is “No!”. In a splendidly moving new recording of Engelbert Humperdinck’s one-hit wonder Hansel and Gretel, Maestro Marek Janowski now introduces the perfect “gateway drug” to opera.
The fairy-tale opera Hansel and Gretel is a perfect choice as the first joint trip to the opera for parents and children to enjoy. The story of the two children who lose their way in the forest and are ensnared by the evil witch is well-known. The plot reflects the age-old conflict between good and evil, and has a happy ending. Add to this Humperdinck’s magical music: poetically childlike and powerfully dramatic at the same time. In the score, Humperdinck’s close connection to Richard Wagner is always discernible. The composition oscillates between childlike simplicity and adult monumentality. To this day, Hansel and Gretel remains one of the most popular pieces in the German opera repertoire. One of the main reasons for this is certainly the seriousness with which Humperdinck approached the simple story. All emotions are truly felt: and this is obvious not only to a child, but also to any adult who has retained a childlike view of the world.
Who better than Marek Janowski here as conductor? Not only does he clearly feel completely at home in this late-Romantic German repertoire, he has also already given benchmark-setting interpretations of these works in both the major concert halls and the most important opera-houses. At the head of “his” Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin – which he previously led for 14 years, raising it to an outstanding level of playing – he takes the listeners into the forest-bird sound-world of this fairy-tale opera, at all times accompanied by a well-coordinated ensemble of singers.
Manuel Brug wrote the following for Klassiker Welt-Blog: “Coming from the Wagner camp are Albert Dohmen (Peter) and Ricarda Merbeth (Gertrud) as the parents, who pulled out all vocal stops in a highly dramatic and parodic manner. Tenor Christian Elsner was terrific as the wicked witch. The lyrical ladies’ quartet (Katrin Wundsam as Hansel, Alexandra Steiner as Gretel, Annika Gerhards and Alexandra Hutton as the Sandman and, respectively, the Dew Fairy) sang in sweetly beautiful voice, in accordance with their roles.” This album will be released as 2 Super Audio -CDs and in digital formats for streaming and high resolution downloads. (Article number: PTC 5186605)
TROIKA – Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninov, Viktor Tsoi, John Lennon, Pussy Riot
Matt Haimovitz, Christopher O’Riley
Acclaimed for their adventurous and wide-ranging recording projects – from Beethoven Sonatas on period instruments to genre-bending arrangements of Radiohead and Arcade Fire – the endlessly inventive duo of cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley returns to explore music of the Slavic soul. Anchored by the cello sonatas of the iconic triumvirate of Russian composers –Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich – and inspired by the subversive irony of Shostakovich’s Sonata, TROIKA also delves into more recently-written, unexpected, and popular works. Whether subtle or blatantly rebellious, each work potently reveals the strength of the artistic voice in the face of political repression in mother Russia.
“With our cover of Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer, we celebrate the band’s courage and the spirit of protest in an age of Orwellian intimidation. In the opening and closing chorales, I use a glass slide on the strings as I pluck with the right for an eerie theremin-like effect. The grunge punk distortion in the bass is also acoustically achieved with a styrofoam cup smashed behind the cello’s bridge.
The traditional three-horse-drawn troika moved across the Russian landscape with its own elaborate system of bells and whistles, used to herald its arrival to the coming town. Here, the composers and songwriters of TROIKA, each in their own way, use the power of their voices to warn and to cajole, to resist and to remember” – Matt HaimovitzThis album will be released as 2 Super Audio -CDs and in digital formats for streaming and high resolution downloads. (Article number: PTC 5186608)
The realm of the infinite: Kubelik’s treasured account of Beethoven’s second and fifth symphonies are heard for the first time in multi-channel sound
Rafael Kubelik , Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra
Dating from the 1970s, Rafael Kubelik’s incisive and acclaimed reading of Beethoven’s second and fifth symphonies is the latest release in the Remastered Classics series from PENTATONE, performed with panache by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
For a work that was written during an unhappy period of his life, Beethoven’s second symphony nevertheless bristles with infectious humour and vitality. Its striking innovations startled contemporary audiences, from the imposing opening to the capricious scherzo and the witty, energetic finale, but Beethoven’s indebtedness to the classical symphonies of Haydn and Mozart are still quite apparent. Goethe described Beethoven’s turbulent fifth symphony as “very great, quite wild; it makes one fear that the house might fall down.” Its visceral energy is announced right from the start with its famous opening notes whose hammer blows drive the development of the symphony – from the dark, brooding drama of the opening movement to the spectacular and radiant outburst in the triumphant final movement. It’s one of Beethoven’s most riveting and compelling works and one of his deservedly most popular.
These recordings form part of the acclaimed cycle of Beethoven symphonies Rafael Kubelik made for Deutsche Grammophon in the 1970s, each symphony performed by a different orchestra. Although recorded in multi-channel sound, these winning performances have previously been available only in the conventional two-channel stereo format. Using state of the art technology which avoids the need for re-mixing, our engineers have remastered the original studio tapes to bring the performances to life as originally intended: in compelling and pristine multi-channel sound. A further release from this memorable cycle is planned this year in the Remastered Classics series, the masterly Symphonies 6, 7 and 8, due out in November 2017. This album will be released as 1 Super Audio -CD. (Article number: PTC 5186249) photo by: Sammy Hart