If you're looking for some new, noteworthy and particularly pertinent Classical music for these times, Capital Public Radio's Kevin Doherty has a few suggestions. T
he Morning Classical Host joins Beth Ruyak to preview four recently released recordings, including Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Dmitri Shostakovich's Cello Sonata in D minor performed by Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley (yes, From the Top's Christopher O'Riley).
Felix Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4, “Italian.” First Movement (1833) – Yannick Nézet Séguin, conductor; Chamber Orchestra of Europe (June 2017) Mendelssohn: Symphonies 1-5
Felix Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony is the product of a well-to-do life and a 10-month trip to Italy. Mendelssohn was never much of a broody composer like Beethoven or Schubert. His music is cheerful and his output is vast. The first movement of the “Italian” Symphony is a quintessential example of Mendelssohn’s oeuvre. Yannick Nézet Séguin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe take on all of Mendelssohn’s major symphonies on this new album from Deutsche Grammophon.
Dmitri Shostakovich. Cello Sonata in D minor, Movement 4 (1934) – Matt Haimovitz, Cello; Christopher O’Riley, piano (October 2017) Troika
Christopher O’Riley and Matt Haimovitz were made for each other. These two rogue virtuosos are anything but the norm in classical music. O’Riley is the host of From The Top on NPR and responsible for introducing classical audiences to his arrangements of Radiohead, Pink Floyd and others. Haimovitz has his own record label and toured the country playing Bach sonatas in barrooms and rock halls.
Haimovitz says the duo’s third album, Troika, is about the “strength of the artistic voice in the face of political repression in mother Russia” and was inspired by Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata in D minor. Shostakovich’s sonata was written before his first censure by the Russian government and was a product of some personal turmoil. Shostakovich divorced his wife for a short time after she found out about an affair he was having with a one of his students. Listen for the cartoon-like “chase” music in the fourth movement.
Philip Glass. Étude No. 6 (1992) – Víkingur Ólaffsun, piano (January 2017)
I’m not afraid to say it; Philip Glass is one of my favorite composers! I know, I know, “his music is so repetitive.” Yes it is; until it draws you in and puts you under its spell. When you begin to notice the subtle changes and the complexities beneath the outer layer of simplicity, you begin to appreciate the composer and his music more.
Glass’s études are the perfect place to start to hear these nuances. And this recording featuring Víkingur Ólaffsun can provide the gateway for an avid classical lover feeling a little tentative to try something new. Ólaffsun’s performance is polished and at times it sounds like he’s playing music by Chopin or Debussy.
Einojuhani Rautavaara. Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra (2015). Anne Akiko Meyers, violin (September 2017)
Anne Akiko Meyers fell in love with the music of Einojuhani Rautavaara early on in her career. Then in 2014, Meyers finally mustered up the courage to ask Rautavaara to write her a piece for violin and orchestra. Rautavaara agreed and produced this glorious Fantasia for Meyers. The work is “neo-romantic” in style with lush orchestrations and gorgeous melodies. Its wide scope is at times pastoral and other times cinematic. Composed in 2015 the Fantasia was Rautavaara’s last completed work before his death in 2016. Listening to the Fantasia with Meyers at the helm will be 13 minutes well spent.