Beethoven Headlines May BIS Releases [HFR]

BIS Records recently released two new SACDs entitled Enchanted Garden, performed by Jaakko Kuusisto and Sharon Bezaly with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Complete Works for Solo Piano (vol.5) performed by Ronald Brautigam. Information from BIS:

Enchanted Garden

Uljas Pulkkis: Enchanted Garden for violin and orchestra (2000); Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (2001); Symphonic Dalн – three paintings for orchestra (2002)

Jaakko Kuusisto, violin; Sharon Bezaly, flute; Stavanger Symphony Orchestra / Susanna Mдlkki

In spite of his youth, Uljas Pulkkis (b. 1975) is firmly established in Finnish music. A number of his compositions have won prizes in competitions, such as the Queen Elisabeth competition in Brussels (for ’Tears for Ludovico’) and the Gustav Mahler competition in Klagenfurt (for ’Duett fьr eine’). The title work of the present disc, Enchanted Garden, is another example: subtitled ‘a musical fairy-tale in eight chapters’ this work was singled out by UNESCO’s International Rostrum of Composers 2001. The solo violin – the work is sometimes described as a violin concerto – is the narrator whom the orchestral musicians comment upon and react to, and the ’fairy-tale’ itself tells of happenings from sunset to sunrise in a magical garden. The highly colourful writing in Enchanted Garden is characteristic of an early phase in Pulkkis’s development, a phase of which the work forms both the climax and the conclusion. In the following Flute Concerto, composed for Sharon Bezaly who performs it here, Pulkkis has turned full circle and uses material which, he himself claims, is as straightforward as possible. Especially in the outer movements one finds traces of a neo-classical style reminiscent of Honegger or Hindemith, though filtered through the composer’s very personal vision. The disc closes with Symphonic Dalн, a three-movement work which is the largest that the composer has written for orchestra to date. The three ‘paintings’ have the titles The Colossus of Rhodes, Shades of Night Descending and Dawn, and given the association with Salvador Dali, it is not surprising that Pulkkis in this work again changes direction, bathing the music in a Mediterranean light of Ravellian stamp.

With these three highly varied works, the programme forms a kaleidoscopic picture of a highly interesting young composer. The concertante works are championed by soloists Jaakko Kuusisto and Sharon Bezaly, both of whom played the respective first performances. They are supported by Susanna Mдlkki, conducting the Norwegian Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, whose previous recordings of the music of Harald Sжverud and Geirr Tveitt have been highly acclaimed, and who here steps across the border to neighbouring Finland.

Catalogue numbers: BIS-SACD-1339, EAN 7318599913391

Beethoven – Complete Works for Solo Piano, Volume 5

Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata No.16 in G major, Op.31 No.1; Sonata No.17 in D minor, Op.31 No.2 (‘Der Sturm’); Sonata No.18 in E flat major, Op.31 No.3

Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano

Few series have met with such unanimous acclaim as that of Ronald Brautigam’s Beethoven cycle. The very first volume was greeted as a milestone, and after three more, equally praised instalments most critics agree that this is certainly the foremost cycle recorded on the fortepiano. Indeed many critics maintain that it contains some of the most exciting Beethoven interpretations on any keyboard instrument, historic or modern. Reacting to the first volume, the reviewer in Fanfare expressed hopes of a cycle ‘that challenges the very notion of playing this music on modern instruments, a stylistic paradigm shift’, while German website called Brautigam’s performances on Volume 4 (which includes the Moonlight Sonata, Op. 27 No.2) ‘another milestone in his discography and in the history of Beethoven interpretation’. With the present disc we are nearing the end of Beethoven’s so-called Early Period. The three sonatas of Op. 31 were composed in the village of Heiligenstadt outside Vienna during the summer of 1802. This was one of the most difficult periods of the composer’s life, as he was having to resign himself to the increasing deafness that had been plaguing him for some years. He spent a summer of emotional turmoil, as testified by the famous Heiligenstadt testament, a never-to-be-sent letter to his brothers in which he confesses to thoughts of suicide. In the end, Beethoven decided to live, explaining his reasons in the following manner: ‘It was only my art that held me back. Ah, it seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me.’ Given the circumstances the Op.31 sonatas show surprisingly little of the strong emotions that their maker was experiencing, but in terms of how Beethoven in them forges new roads for the sonata form, bringing it into a new century and indeed a new era, they are ample proof of that which Beethoven must have felt within himself!

Catalogue numbers: BIS-SACD-1572, EAN 7318599915722