BIS Records have recently released three new SACDs featuring the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Peter Herresthal with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Bach Collegium Japan.
Sofia Gubaidulina – ‘…The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair’ (Concerto for flute and large orchestra, 2005) and Sieben Worte for cello, bayan and strings (1982) features performers Sharon Bezaly (flute) Torleif Thedйen (cello) Mie Miki (accordion) and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mario Venzago.
Considered by many to be the most important Russian composer since Shostakovich, Sofia Gubaidulina is well represented in the BIS catalogue. This latest disc will be welcomed by her many admirers, as it includes the world premiиre recording of her flute concerto, composed in 2005 and dedicated to Sharon Bezaly, the performer on this disc. Its title, ‘…The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair’, is taken from T.S. Eliot’s poem Ash Wednesday, but as the composer herself writes in the liner notes: “It was by no means my intention to represent the emotional states mentioned in the title by musical means. I was far more concerned with musical and acoustic actualities.”
The solo part calls for three different instruments (flute, alto flute and bass flute) and, with the extended orchestra, covers a very wide range of colours and pitches. The work explores ‘difference tones’, an acoustic phenomenon whose varying aspects come to symbolize the concepts of ‘hope’ and ‘despair’. Accompanying the one-movement concerto is Sieben Worte (Seven Words), in which Gubaidulina follows in the footsteps of Schьtz and Haydn, setting in music the pain and wonder of Christ’s last moments on the cross. The seven-movement suite for cello, bayan (Russian-style button accordion) and strings employs a number of musical symbols, but is, like the flute concerto, anything but a cerebral exercise. Rather it is a work of great emotional impact by a composer who has stated: “I can’t reach a single musical decision except with the goal of making a connection to God. If I separated the religious goal from the musical one, music would have no meaning for me.” The emotional content is given its full weight in this interpretation by Torleif Thedйen and Mie Miki, together with the strings of Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mario Venzago.
The disc is a 5.0 hybrid SACD and is BIS catalogue number BIS-SACD-1449.
Thommessen – BULL’s eye
Olav Anton Thommessen – BULL’s eye (2003) for violin solo and double orchestra, Please Accept my Ears (1981) for violin and piano and Cantabile (Etyde-cadenza) (1995) for solo violin are performed by Peter Herresthal (violin), and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rolf Gupta with Gonzalo Moreno (piano). The disc is a 5.0 hybrid.
Norwegian composer Olav Anton Thommessen describes BULL’s eye as “a symphonic wrapping” of Ole Bull’s first violin concerto from 1834. A leading figure in Norwegian musical life, Thommessen has often in his later works explored the history of music, using the heritage of classical music as a ‘supply-room’ of musical building components. For BULL’s eye, his starting point was an incomplete score by the great Norwegian violin virtuoso, a score where long stretches of the solo part was missing. Struck by Bull’s melodic, Italianate themes and the examples of his virtuosic violin technique, evident in the extant passages of the violin part, Thommessen was inspired to borrow components from Ole Bull’s themes, harmony, rhythm, orchestration and virtuosity, put them under scrutiny and then confront them with his own material. The result is a fascinating work where one can never be sure which concerto one is hearing: Bull’s or Thommessen’s. For the soloist the challenges are greater than usual, due to the need to change between styles of playing – on the one hand Bull’s Paganini-inspired alternation between virtuosity and melodic charm, and on the other Thommessen’s virile and violent eruptions. The solo violin also has to fight against both Thommessen’s monumental orchestra and Bull’s more classical scoring in order to impose himself. The work was written for Peter Herresthal, whose previous release on BIS (Arne Nordheim – the music for violin, BIS-CD-1212) was received with great acclaim, and who again gives a congenial interpretation, greatly aided by Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rolf Gupta.
The 35 minute concerto is followed by two other violin works by Olav Anton Thommessen: Please Accept my Ears for violin and piano and Cantabile (Etyde-cadenza) for solo violin. Catalogue number BIS-SACD-1512.
Bach: Ich freue mich in dir – Cantatas, Vol.31
J.S. Bach: Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV91, Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV101, Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV121 and Ich freue mich in dir, BWV133 are performed by the Bach Collegium Japan, conducted by Masaaki Suzuki with Yukari Nonoshita (soprano) Robin Blaze (counter-tenor) Gerd Tьrk (tenor) and Peter Kooij (bass) with the Concerto Palatino brass ensemble.
On this 5.0 hybrid disc three jubilant Christmas cantatas, BWV91, BWV121 and BWV133, all from 1724, are performed along with Nimm von uns Herr (BWV101), a work of more sombre colours from the same year. The latest additions to Masaaki Suzuki’s cantata cycle have been receiving high praise, with volume 29 (BIS-CD-1461) gathering top marks and a recommendation from German web site Klassik Heute, as well as being named ‘Opera & Vocal Disc of the Month’ in Classic FM Magazine (UK) and ‘Benchmark Recording’ in BBC Music Magazine. The critic in Classic FM Magazine wrote: “The sheer polish and technical accomplishment of the music-making immediately hold the ear, and are reinforced by subtle phrasing and a quality of listening among all concerned that allows Bach’s counterpoint to progress with lightness and jaw-dropping clarity.” Volume 28 (BIS-CD-1451) was also noticed by the reviewers, who reported about “consistently outstanding performances, musical beyond belief, and worthy of any collection” (MusicWeb International.) The critic of the French magazine Classica-Rйpertoire was especially impressed by the orchestra and “the flawlessness of its interpretation, the beauty of its colours and the liveliness of its playing.” On the present disc Bach Collegium Japan is complemented by the brass players of Concerto Palatino, who add to all of these qualities. The four soloists are all veterans of the BCJ cantata cycle.
The catalogue number is BIS-SACD-1481.
All three SACDs are available now.