Helene Grimaud – Water
Works by Berio, Takemitsu, Faure, Ravel, Albeniz, Liszt, Janacek, Debussy Transitions by Nitin Sawhney
Deutsche Grammophon – 479 5268
Helene Grimaud’s latest collaborative album sees her team with Nitin Sawhney a British-Indian multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer to create an innovative and very personal recital deriving directly from her well known passion for nature in it many forms. Water draws on the music of eight composers that are linked by seven ‘transitions’ – short bursts of atmospheric sound that bridge together the works in a spiritual and reflective manner. These transitions weave the different philosophical and poetic aspects of the program into one cogent musical ecosystem. Grimaud, as always, delivers energetic and provocative performances. Her clean, crisp playing is nowhere better found than in her delivery of Liszt’s Les Jeux d’eaux a la Villa d’Este which is played with conviction and flair. The earlier works by Berio and Takemistsu take on a more sensual and reflective tone and provide the listener with a variety of contrasting moods and musical experiences. This is a uniquely holistic approach to music making, one which is refreshing and at times, almost hypnotic. Grimaud has spoken about the difficulty she had in choosing the repertoire, reflecting on the vast quantity of music which has the cognition of the elements of water. She settled on works which were less narrative and more abstract and stylised. Her playing is faultless, her ongoing work for the environment is almost as impressive.
– Frank Shostakovich
Martin Fröst – ROOTS
The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Roots amounts to a tour of European music from the Middle Ages to the present, narrated by Fröst’s incredibly versatile clarinet performance. In synthesising so many traditions the album is remarkably cohesive – one feels no sense of whiplash as a spritely Klezmer dance gives way to a meditative Swedish traditional tune. Fröst’s immense control of the clarinet is the common denominator here, treating each melody with great attention to dynamics and commanding the orchestra as much through subtlety as by grand gesture. Surprisingly, the classical era is dealt with in a single, rather predictable piece by Bernhard Crusell, the only on the album to be presented in its original setting. This felt quite out of place sandwiched between a floating, modern arrangement of Psalm från Älvdals-Åsen and a texturally rich, understated treatment of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 14. Fröst clearly favours the folk dance style, represented by the aforementioned Brahms, as well as Schumann with 5 Stücke im Volkston and Bartok with his Romanian Folk Dances, the latter collection a highlight for its colour and intensity. Rolig Pers Polksa takes a striking approach to dance, with Fröst beat boxing intermittently among the pulsating rhythms he meanwhile creates on his clarinet. Another oddity, Hillborg’s Hymn of Echoes charmingly dissolves the ancient into the modern and seems to me like a perfect endpoint, making the tango numbers that close the album seem somewhat superfluous as a result.
– David Groves
Chamber music by John Carmichael
Sylvie Leprohon, flute; Stephen Robinson, oboe; Antony Gray, piano
Wirripang – Wirr 071
With the soft pedal firmly on modernism, we can, guiltlessly, appreciate traditionalists – such as Australia’s John Carmichael. UK resident for almost 50 years, he studied with Melbourne’s Dorian Le Gallienne (whose Gallic proclivities extended beyond his French father). Later studying in Paris, it’s no surprise that his Hommages (2012) paid tribute to Ravel, Poulenc and Fauré. Flute and oboe are very appealing together; seeming to, by turns, blend and contrast – as in the opening Escapades. In Fantasy Sonata the opening melody could have been written by Faure himself. The modestly titled Postcards are precisely that, musical souvenirs spanning the globe: A Russian Song & Dance has a Rachmaninov-like fatalism and a falling line; A Courtly Dance could almost be a long-lost movement from Ravel’s Le Tombeau; and Solitaire with a stepwise melody and the (feigned) naivety of Erik Satie, has a touching simplicity. One of his teachers, Arthur Benjamin, wrote Jamaican Rhumba – did it inspire JC’s Caribbean? I’m usually besotted by anything played on an oboe, so Sonata – Music Grave and Gay is no exception. The closing Allegro has a perky little main theme that sounds like Poulenc at his debonair best; prior to it, the Lento is the most heavy-hearted movement in this collection. But is this music too wellmannered for its own good? Well, I sense Carmichael long ago realised the essence of integrity is being true to what you perceive to be the best aspects of yourself. A modernist he isn’t; but if elegant craftsmanship and integrity count for anything, he will always find an audience.
– Michael Muir