Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Illuminating, moving musical project

This new disc from Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the leader of the conductor-less Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, is part of the new classical music recording trend of publishing projects built around a music-historical or conceptual theme. In the old days a record company would likely put out Schubert's Death and the Maiden Quartet on an LP coupled with the Trout Quintet, or another popular "named" quartet by another composer. The idea of wrapping a recording around a defining idea bigger than just "recital" or "concert" wasn't often on the radar in the LP era. This was perhaps because of format limitations: each 20-25 minute side happened to fit a chamber music work, or half of a romantic symphony, and the format pointed to a certain kind of conventional content.

This is different. Kopatchinskaja takes the idea of "Death and the Maiden", which began as a poem by Matthias Claudius, set as a song by Schubert in 1817, and makes it the basis of a fascinating 70 minutes of music. By the time Schubert wrote his String Quartet, which uses the song's great melody as the theme of its Andante second movement, he was facing death during a major health crisis in 1824. The various musical sources brought in for this project, from medieval chant to the avant garde, all speak to this consciousness of what is coming. Then each source, from widely varying musical beginnings, is adapted for a common platform, the string orchestra. The Schubert arrangements are by Kopatchinskaja herself. Pieces by Dowland, Kurtag, Gesualdo, Normiger and an anonymous Byzantine chant provide historical and emotional context for Schubert's masterwork. This is an illuminating, moving project.

This Alpha Classics disc will be released on October 28, 2016.

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