GRAMOPHONE AWARDS SHORTLIST 2018
acoustic for the two flute works, and what’s tolerable in Emmanuel Pahud’s eloquent Syrinx leads to congestion in the sonata. Still, the playing throughout this disc is so sensitive and stylish that you might well choose to overlook that. Richard Bratby (12/17)
Dvořák String Quintet No 3, ‘American’, Op 97 B180a. Piano Quintet No 2, Op 81 B155b Pavel Haas Quartet with aPavel Nikl va b Boris Giltburg pf Supraphon F SU4195-2 (75’ • DDD)
S A C K S
J O N A S
P H O T O G R A P H Y
Just a month after the Takács and Laurence Power impressed with their Dvo∑ák Op 97
Quintet comes this one from the Pavel Haas Quartet, who are joined by Pavel Nikl, the quartet’s founder viola player. It is the happiest of reunions and their sense of shared purpose is evident from the very start. Their recorded acoustic – the Dvo∑ák Hall of Prague’s Rudolfinum – is notably more reverberant than that for the Takács (the Wyastone Estate concert hall in Monmouth), which means that in climaxes they sound fulsome indeed. Not only is the acoustic more generous but so is the Pavel Haas’s tendency to bend and shape this music to their own ends. But because they are so inside the tradition, this is to the good.
From the off, they make the music their own, the very opening phrase, presented first by viola 2 and later cello, given a pungent folkiness. My wish for the Takács to be a degree lusher-toned at climaxes is amply fulfilled here, while the way the PHQ subside into the warmest of chords at the first movement’s close is truly felicitous. The Takács/Power are particularly compelling in the Allegro vivo second movement, more so than the milder-mannered Raphael; by comparison, the Pavel Haas are, like the Škampa, more earthy – the music dances, but to quite different effect, while the climaxas are almost terrifying in their impact. The variation-form slow movement is every bit as intense and imaginatively coloured as the Takács, while the finale finds a similar level of joy, though, with the ample Supraphon acoustic, the climaxes sound as if they’re made by an army of string players – sample the passage from 6’40” to the end: I loved it, but some may find it a bit too much.
For the Second Piano Quintet, the Pavel Haas are joined by Boris Giltburg.
I heard them live in the company of another prodigious young Russian-born talent – Denis Kozhukhin – and was mightily taken with the results. Giltburg is likewise completely at one with the quartet, who set off full of sighing pathos. The Elias with Jonathan Biss take a more flowing tempo but both score high in emotional impact – the new recording for its freedom and responsiveness, the Elias/Biss from an impetuosity and enthusiastic application of portamento. In both, the sense of storytelling is very persuasive. That acoustic strikes you again at the start of the Dumka second movement, the solo piano haloed as it introduces the wistful minor-key theme. The Elias/Biss line-up are very fine here, reducing their sound down to a whisper but also cherishing the tops of phrases, especially in the violin lines. There’s contrast between major and minor, fast and slow, but it never feels disjointed – as it can easily do – in either of these outstanding readings. To my ears, the Pavel Haas/ Giltburg just have the edge in the bucolic Furiant that follows, the interplay between the five musicians at once unerring and sounding completely unstudied. Both groups offer a thrilling reading of the finale, the Elias more delicate, the PHQ more generous-toned. Another triumphant addition to the Pavel Haas’s already Award-laden discography. Harriet Smith (11/17) ‘American’ Quintet – selected comparisons: Raphael Ens (8/89R) (HYPE) CDH55405 Škampa Qt, Chorzelski (8/17) (CHAM) CHRCD110 Takács Qt, Power (10/17) (HYPE) CDA68142 Piano Quintet – selected comparison: Elias Qt, Biss (12/12) (ONYX) ONYX4092
‘Grandissima Gravita’ Pisendel Sonata in C minor Tartini Sonata, Op 2 No 5 Veracini Sonatas, Op 2 – No 5; No 12, ‘Sonata accademiche’ Vivaldi Sonata, Op 2 No 2 RV31. Suonata a solo fatto per il Maestro Pisendel, RV6 – Adagio Rachel Podger vn Alison McGillivray vc Daniele Caminiti lute/gtr Marcin Świątkiewicz hpd Channel Classics F Í CCSSA39217 (69’ • DDD/DSD)
It’s not often worth devoting many words of a CD review to the contents of the CD’s booklet. However, what the Baroque violinist and musicologist Mark Seow has come up with for Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque’s ‘Grandissima Gravita’ is nothing short of genius: a theatre script, the action of which sees the four violinist-
composer stars of the album – Antonio Vivaldi, Giuseppe Tartini, Francesco Maria Veracini and Johann Georg Pisendel – reclining tipsily on divans in heaven (yes, really) for their annual winefuelled reunion. Seow’s imagined pile of alcohol-fogged reminiscences covers all bases, from their admiration for Corelli’s famous Op 5 collection and its historicalmusical significance to their backgrounds and the interlinking of their own careers; a reminder, for instance, that Tartini discovered the violin while hiding in a monastery to which he had fled after his controversial secret marriage was discovered, and then how he left the monastery for Venice and heard Veracini’s tone and smooth bowing, which inspired him to dedicate his own career to bow technique. Also included are attitudes towards their contemporaries such as JS Bach, scandalous gossip (the scurrilous story of how a practical joke from Pisendel was the reason behind Veracini’s limp for instance, which the heavenly Veracini refutes as the gossip of enemies), and even how the mid-18th-century European obsession with alchemy found musical embodiment in the fugue, plus in musical devices such as the one that begins the album’s programme-opener: Vivaldi’s Sonata for violin and continuo in A major from Op 2, where the music ‘spirals and blossoms out of a single chord’.
The performances themselves are as stunning as the notes are imaginative, all four musicians both completely under the music’s skin and under each other’s, and playing as a smoothly dovetailed unit. Podger herself is exquisite; fluid, lilting and multi-shaded, with gorgeous filigree ornamentations. Her fellow Brecon Baroque members are equally faultless as sympathetic chamber partners, helped by engineering (from St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead) that balances them slightly behind, while equally drawing our ears towards qualities such as McGillivray’s sensitive cello duetting, the plucked colour of Caminiti’s lute and guitar, and S ´ wia˛tkiewicz’s nimbly delicate harpsichord support.
There’s a sweet little encore too, in the form of Vivaldi’s Adagio in E flat. This links back to the C minor Sonata by Pisendel, for whom Vivaldi wrote this piece: Seow’s heavenly Pisendel tells Vivaldi that he couldn’t have written the sonata’s third movement Affetuoso ‘without your generous sound world in mind’.
Programmed and presented with flair, and faultlessly performed, this is a listening experience of unbridled pleasure. An exceptional album. Charlotte Gardner (12/17)
6 GRAMOPHONE SHORTLIST 2018
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