Music

Boris Giltburg and the Pavel Haas play Brahms

We had tickets for the Sunday morning Wigmore Hall concert with the Pavel Haas Quartet playing Smetana and Janacek, our first post-Covid occasion to see them play live.

But, so it turned out, there were no trains from Cambridge North that morning. Which was, shall we say, massively disappointing.

Consolation: three of the Quartet played again at Wigmore Hall on Monday night too, joining Boris Giltburg to play the first two of Brahms’s Piano Quartets, and that concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. You can listen here for another month.

I’m not (yet) bowled over by the second quartet — the piece, not the performance. But the first quartet (after the interval) is terrific and the playing everything you’d expect and more. Listen from 1.17 into the concert. Wonderful!

Elisabeth Brauss at Wigmore Hall

A wonderful lunchtime concert by Elisabeth Brauss at Wigmore Hall this Monday. She played Prokofiev (8 Pieces from Op 12) and Beethoven (Sonata in E Flat Major, Op.31 No.30). Such technical control combined with joie de vivre and with poetic sensitivity too when called for. Really as good as it gets. The audience loved her as usual, and she responded wreathed in smiles. A delight. You can listen on BBC Sounds for another four weeks.

Music for the end of the year

Peter Jarusek, Veronika Jaruskova and Boris Giltburg. © Marco Borggreve

CD of the year for me has to be the double disc of Dvořák trios by these three!  — as I said here, just wonderful. And the great reviews keep coming.

Over the year, I have posted some links to particularly delightful performances available as videos. For example

Enjoy! And very best for 2024.

András Schiff at 70

András Schiff is seventy today. Here he is a decade ago, playing Bach’s Italian Concerto, with total mastery but also that evident enjoyment which conveys so much to his listeners. Twelve minutes of musical joy!

(Not just) Schubert on Sunday 7: Elisabeth Brauss and friends

Elisabeth Brauss has recently been in Australia with Noa Wildschut (above), with the two friends playing a dozen concerts to great acclaim in many reviews (such as here). Sadly, none of the performances seems to have been recorded for broadcast. One day, the recording studio must surely beckon.

However, another series of concerts by Elisabeth and friends was recorded in the Belfast a month or so back, and four short programmes were broadcast by the BBC this week, and are now available on BBC sounds:

1. Schumann Piano Quintet, and Mozart Quartet no. 1 (with Chaos Quartet)

2. Schubert D.664 and César Franck Cello Sonata (with Leonard Elschenbroich)

3. Schumann Carnaval, Fanny Mendelssohn Quartet in E flat Major (with Chaos Quartet)

4. Brahms, Cello Sonata and Ravel Le tombeau de couperin (with Leonard Elschenbroich)

Elisabeth’s Schubert little A major and the Ravel I heard her play in Cambridge are particularly good. As is this other outstanding performance of hers, also broadcast on the BBC this week:

5. Chopin Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor (starting about 2hr 8m into the programme)

Enjoy!

The long road to Ludwig (no, not that one …)

No, not Ludwig Wittgenstein (that brooding and distracting presence for philosophers of my generation … still, I think I’m in recovery).

But Ludwig van Beethoven.

In the end, every really serious string quartet faces the challenge of recording at least some, if not all, of the Beethoven quartets. The legacy of past recordings is simply stunning, and must be so daunting. Latter day cycles by the Takacs, Belcea and Casals Quartets are more than worthy successors of the legendary greats. More recently still, the wondrous Chiaroscuro Quartet having already recorded the Op. 18 quartets, have just started on later quartets with another terrific CD featuring Opp. 74 and 130.

And now the Doric Quartet, after some particularly outstanding Haydn  discs, among other fine recordings, have launched what they plan to be a complete Beethoven cycle, with a CD including  some of the quartets they have been playing since students twenty years ago (they have been taking the long road). As they say in a new interview in Gramophone, ‘We’ve tried not to rush into recording a cycle. We really wanted to live with these pieces: to play them, then leave them for a few years, then come back to them and so on. But we often say to each other that a concert where you don’t play a late Beethoven quartet is almost a missed opportunity. They’re such extraordinary things, and such humbling, inspiring works. We’re obsessed with them.’

I have found this double CD absolutely compelling over the last week or so. The Dorics’ performances are far too good for me to want to try to make amateurish comparative judgements; I’m being just swept along in the moment while repeatedly listening, exactly as you should be. The playing in some of the slow movements, in particular, is surely as good as it gets: heart-stopping.

Really warmly recommended, then.

Schubert on Sunday 6: D. 898, Noa Wildschut, Alexander Warenberg and Elisabeth Brauss

 

A delightful unexpected surprise this week. I quite serendipitously discovered, just the preceding day, that Elisabeth Brauss was giving a short concert on Thursday for the Cambridge University German Society. And some last minute tickets were available to non-members. So off we went. (An unusual experience too, to find ourselves the only ancients at a recital!)

Elisabeth was just wonderful, playing with such verve and colour and subtlety and evident enjoyment. And we in our turn hugely enjoyed her first piece, Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. She is playing this soon at Wigmore Hall, together with a Schubert sonata and Schumann’s Carnaval. For Thursday, she chose the Schumann — which is obviously great fun to play, and pleased her enthusiastic audience. But it is far from my favourite piece, and I would so love to have heard her Schubert.

So here she is playing his Piano Trio No. 1 four years ago, with her now frequent duo partner Noa Wildschut, and the cellist Alexander Warenberg, all ridiculously young. Just astonishing. And also in these dark times, a moment of beauty and hope.

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