Robert Levine

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
Robert Levine  |  Sep 19, 2017  |  11 comments
Eriks Ešenvalds: The Doors of Heaven
The First Tears, Rivers of Light, A Drop in the Ocean, Passion and Resurrection
Dr. Ethan Sperry, Portland State Chamber Choir; various instrumentalists
Naxos 8.579008 (CD). 2017. Erick Lichte, prod.; John Atkinson, Doug Tourtelot, engs. DDD. TT: 58:52
Performance ****
Sonics *****

Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds has been making quite a name for himself in choral music. He teeters gingerly between consonance and dissonance, and varies intimate whisperings, the strength of forces—sometimes a solo soprano over the chorus; sometimes a solo vocal quartet; sometimes exquisite, silky smooth legato singing by the entire chorus—with wise, spare use of instruments.

Robert Levine  |  Jul 13, 2017  |  3 comments
Rachmaninoff: Piano Sonata 2, Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Six Moments Musicaux
Evelina Vorontsova, piano
STH Quality Classics CD1416092 (CD). 2017. Paul Steverink, Boudwijn Zwart, prods.; Jaco van Houselt, eng. DDD. TT: 74:42
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

This is Russian-Dutch pianist Evelina Vorontsova's second recording; the first was in 2002. Born in 1972, she took fourth prize in the Rachmaninoff Competition at 18, and second prize at the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition two years later; in 2006, she won second prize in the International Piano and Orchestra Competition in Cantù, Italy (at which there was no first prize awarded). Judging from this CD and its very challenging program, she is a remarkable talent; one wonders why she is not more famous and signed to a major label.

Robert Levine  |  Mar 14, 2017  |  2 comments
Aside from the overnight sensation (after a career of more than a decade) of Beverly Sills at the New York City Opera as Cleopatra in Julius Caesar, the 1966–1967 opera "news" in New York was the Metropolitan Opera, newly opened at Lincoln Center. The 10 broadcasts included here feature some singers who still have no equals. In addition to seven starrily cast favorite operas and the premiere of Marvin David Levy's fine Mourning Becomes Electra, there were Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra, composed to inaugurate the new house; the Met premiere of Richard Strauss's 1919 masterpiece, Die Frau ohne Schatten; and the first production in 20 years of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes, with the incomparable Jon Vickers essaying the title role for the first time.
Robert Levine  |  Oct 20, 2016  |  5 comments
Martha Argerich: Early Recordings
Beethoven: Piano Sonata 7 in D, Op.10 No.3. Mozart: Piano Sonata 18 in D, K.576. Prokofiev: Toccata, Op.11; Piano Sonatas 3 in a, Op.29 & 7 in B-flat, Op.83. Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit, Sonatine.
Martha Argerich, piano
Deutsche Grammophon 479 5978 (2 mono CDs). 2016. No prod. or eng. credits given. ADD. TT: 2:10:50
Performance *****
Sonics ***½

There is no dearth of recordings by the great Argentine pianist Martha Argerich—over 150 are listed in her discography—and here, in honor of her 75th birthday, are two more discs, comprising previously unreleased material. Argerich has been playing publicly since she was eight years old; in 1957, she won the Busoni and Geneva competitions and continued to concertize, but it was not until she won the Chopin Competition, in Warsaw, in 1965 that she began to become a household name (in pianist-loving households). There is a rumor that she has never given a bad concert or made a poor or uninteresting recording; this new set does nothing to contradict it.

Robert Levine  |  Dec 15, 2015  |  First Published: Jan 01, 2016  |  0 comments
Verdi: Aida
Anja Harteros, Aida; Eleonora Buratto, High Priestess; Jonas Kaufmann, Radames; Ekaterina Semenchuk, Amneris; Ludovic Tézier, Amonasro; Erwin Schrott, Ramfis; Marco Spotti, The King; Chorus & Orchestra of Santa Cecilia Academy Rome, Sir Antonio Pappano
Warner Classics 0825646106639 (3 CDs). 2015. Stephen Johns, prod.; Luca Padovano, Giancarlo Ianucci, Claudio Emili, Marco Emili, engs. DDD. TT: 2:26:45
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

It has been a long time since we've had a big-budget, studio recording of Aida; in fact, the last was from 2001, and it was awful—conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt's attempt to present an intimate (read: "miniaturized") reading of the score, a sort of period-instrument approach with small-voiced singers. In all, Aida has been taken on nearly 30 studio outings (the first was in 1928), and there are "private" and video versions. This is one of the best, with what might arguably be the finest cast one can assemble today.

Robert Levine  |  Sep 22, 2015  |  First Published: Oct 01, 2015  |  3 comments
Mahan Esfahani: Time Present and Time Past C.P.E. Bach: 12 Variations on "Les Folies d'Espagne." J.S. Bach: Harpsichord Concerto in d, BWV 1052. Geminiani: Concerto Grosso in d (after Corelli). Górecki: Harpsichord Concerto. Reich: Piano Phase for Two Pianos (harpsichord version: Esfahani). A. Scarlatti: Variations on "La Folia."
Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord; Concerto Köln
Archiv Produktion 4794481 (CD). 2015. Christoph Classen, prod.; Michael Morawietz, eng. DDD. TT: 73:45
Performance ****½
Sonics *****

This razzle-dazzle release is remarkable on several levels, and I wouldn't be surprised if it converted harpsichord haters to harpsichord hipsters. Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, stealing a quote from T.S. Eliot about the relevance—or irrelevance—of time and (while he's at it) the harpsichord, here presents the instrument in works written for it in the 17th and 18th centuries, interspersed with pieces by two 20th-century composers. (The album's title references these lines from Eliot's Four Quartets: "Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future, / And time future contained in time past.") Esfahani's argument holds water: bringing an "olde" instrument into the present with unflinchingly contemporary music turns this debut solo-recital disc into a splendid event—and, yes, proves that baroque music, with its repeating patterns, can make a fine pairing with minimalism. It's all far less jarring than you might think, and does provoke thoughts about the slippage of time.

Robert Levine  |  Jan 28, 2015  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2015  |  0 comments
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Greer Grimsley, Wotan; Alwyn Mellor, Brünnhilde; Stefan Vinke, Siegfried; Stuart Skelton, Siegmund; Stephanie Blythe, Fricka, Waltraute; Margaret Jane Wray, Sieglinde; Richard Paul Fink, Alberich; Dennis Petersen, Mime; Wendy Bryn Hammer, Freia, Gutrune; Daniel Sumegi, Fafner, Hagen; Andrea Silvestrelli, Fasolt, Hunding; Markus Brück, Gunther; Mark Schowalter, Loge; others; Seattle Symphony Orchestra & Seattle Opera Chorus, Asher Fisch
Avie AV2313 (14 CDs). 2014. Evans Mirageas, prod.; Rick Fisher, mastering. DDD. TT: 14:35:33
Performance ****
Sonics ****

Judging from the pictures in the booklet accompanying these 14 CDs, Seattle's "green" Ring was quite beautiful. What we have to go by is audio only, but even without the visuals, it's very impressive.

Is there a movement toward de-monumentalizing the Ring? The Frankfurt Opera's (on Oehms), recently released on CDs and DVDs (different performances), is similar: the accent is on the behavior and interactions of those who inhabit the world of the Ring. The orchestral emphases are on transparency, not bombast.

Robert Levine  |  Mar 26, 2014  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2014  |  3 comments
Beethoven: The Symphonies and Reflections
Symphonies 1–9; works by Giya Kancheli, Misato Mochizuki, Raminta Šerkšnyte, Rodion Shchedrin, Johannes Maria Staud, Jörg Widmann
Mariss Jansons, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Christiane Karg, soprano; Mihoko Fujimura, mezzo-soprano; Michael Schade, tenor; Michael Volle, baritone.
BR Klassik 900119 (6 CDs). 2013. Wilhelm Meister, prod.; Ulrike Schwarz, Peter Urban, Sunao Shimazaki, engs; Mechtild Homburg, Elisabeth Panzer, Bernadette Rüb, asst. engs. DDD. 6:27:31
Performance ****
Sonics *****

These live performances of Beethoven's nine symphonies were recorded mostly in Tokyo's Suntory Hall, October through December 2012 (except 3 and 6, recorded in Munich's Herkulessaal); the ancillary material—the Reflections of this set's title—are works by contemporary composers commissioned by conductor Mariss Jansons and recorded in Munich and Tokyo in 2008, 2009, and 2012. Intended as homages to Beethoven (as if he needed any), they are supposed to reflect what these composers feel Beethoven might be writing if he were alive today. Each new work is meant to denote an aspect of a specific symphony, and the CDs are (mostly) arranged so that we can hear each after the symphony that inspired it. Some of these pieces are daring and innovative, and add value to these marvelous performances of the symphonies themselves.

Robert Levine  |  Jul 25, 2012  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2012  |  0 comments
Joplin: Treemonisha
Anita Johnson, soprano; AnnMarie Sandy, mezzo-soprano; Chauncey Packer, Robert Mack, tenors; Edward Pleasant, high baritone; Darren Stokes, Frank Ward Jr., basses; others; Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Singers, Rick Benjamin
New World 80720-2 (2 CDs). 2012. Judith Sherman, prod., eng. DDD. TT: 99:06
Performance ****
Sonics *****

The great ragtime composer Scott Joplin had grander ambitions than just the magnificent miniatures for piano he's famous for. When he died, in 1917, he had spent much of the previous 10 years polishing and campaigning for his full-length opera, Treemonisha, the piano-vocal score for which he had published in 1911. Joplin had studied classical composition and notation with a German scholar who had happened to settle in his hometown of Texarkana, Arkansas; lore has it that Julius Weiss gave young Joplin lessons in exchange for Mrs. Joplin's services as a laundress. Treemonisha is through-composed, with sophisticated harmonies clearly influenced by European teachings, but it also incorporates early-jazz beats, proto-blues sounds, odd syncopations, occasional Victorian-type ballads, African-American folk and pop music, and moments that recall field hollers and revival meetings—in short, all of the music of the Black experience in America is represented.

Robert Levine  |  Apr 08, 2011  |  1 comments
MOZART: Piano Concertos 22 & 25
David Fray, piano; Jaap van Zweden, Philharmonia Orchestra
Virgin 5099964196404 (CD). 2010. Etienne Collard, prod.; René Möller, eng. DDD. TT: 66:04
Performance *****
Sonics *****

From 1782 to the end of 1785 were successful, fertile years in Vienna for Mozart. He was sought by the aristocracy and the upper classes as a pianist, teacher, and composer. Throughout this period—and the following year, during which he ran out of money—he composed piano sonatas, songs, marches, wind serenades, a horn quintet, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, arias, quartets, works for violin and/or viola, horn concertos, the C-minor Mass, symphonies 35, 36, and 38 (37 was written by Michael Haydn), piano concertos 14–25, Le Nozze di Figaro, and dozens of other works.

Pages

X