Reviews Sounds of America
Blumenstock and Robert Mealy, are boldly inventive, and there are savoury and sweet contributions from David Morris (Baroque cello, viola da gamba), Charles Weaver (theorbo, Baroque guitar) and Peter Maund (percussion). Prepare to be captivated. Donald Rosenberg
‘The Pulitzer Project’ Copland Appalachian Spring Schuman A Free Song a Sowerby The Canticle of the Sun a
Grant Park a Chorus and Orchestra / Carlos Kalmar Cedille F CDR90000 125 (74’ • DDD) Recorded live at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Millennium Park, Chicago, June 25 & 26, 2010 Three prize-winners – two premiere recordings and an iconic masterpiece
Although Cedille’s Pulitzer Project arrives with the best of intentions, the fact that two of the works are receiving their first recordings is a tip-off to their relative interest, especially when coupled with Copland’s iconic winner from 1945.
Chicago’s Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus make an eloquent case for music by William Schuman and Leo Sowerby that strives to capture American enthusiasm and energy but winds up sounding mostly dated and even, in the Sowerby, hollow. The performance of Appalachian Spring is more vital still but faces stiff competition from many of the more than 30 recordings already in the catalogue.
Of the two newcomers, Schuman’s A Free Song, set to excerpts from Walt Whitman’s Drum Taps, recording visits to hospitals in the nation’s capital during the Civil War, is reasonably successful for its attractive populist accents. It was the first Pulitzer winner in 1943 and set a useful professional standard for those which followed, although Schuman himself must have been stunned only two years later when Copland’s ballet score for Martha Graham, heard here in its guise as an orchestral suite, won the prize.
Leo Sowerby’s The Canticle of the Sun brings up the rear and was written a quarter of a century after Sowerby became the first American composer to win the Rome Prize. It struggles valiantly to project the eloquent glory represented by St Francis of Assisi’s 13th-century hymn but ultimately the result is more outer technique than inner soul.
Recorded in concert at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park, Chicago, in June 2010, the sound is brilliant throughout. Laurence Vittes www.gramophone.co.uk
Goodyear in Beethoven
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A vitally communicative reading of the late sonatas
Beethoven Piano Sonatas – No 28, Op 101; No 29, ‘Hammerklavier’, Op 106; No 30, Op 109; No 31, Op 110; No 32, Op 111 Stewart Goodyear pf Marquis B b MAR507 (120’ • DDD) Riveting playing that draws favourable comparisons with Arrau and Pollini
Despite this release’s drab, monochrome engineering, Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear’s stylish, vitally communicative way with late Beethoven still manages to leap through the loudspeakers and grab the listener by the scruff. His playing abounds in linear awareness, spontaneous inflections of phrase that never sound the least bit mannered, and a kind of kinetic response to the composer’s combative, hair-trigger dynamic contrasts.
Notice, for example, the organic ebb and flow and extremely subtle rubato that enliven Op 101’s opening movement, which suddenly gives way to a Vivace alla marcia spiced with explosive accents, rhythmic verve and insightful voice leading. The fugal finale’s joyful sweep might be described as Schnabel with the right notes, an observation that equally applies to the Hammerklavier Sonata’s demanding outer movements, both of which come within spitting distance of the composer’s optimistic metronome markings. By contrast, Goodyear reins himself in for the Scherzo, only to let loose and whack the hell out of the rapid upward F major scale right before the main theme recapitulates. And although the pianist adapts a fairly brisk basic tempo for the Adagio sostenuto, the phrases still expand, contract and breathe naturally.
The last three sonatas prove no less distinct, especially in each of the final movements’ seamlessly integrated and unified tempo relationships. As with Claudio Arrau’s antipodally expansive Op 110 first movement, Goodyear makes the rapid left-hand figurations uncommonly clear, and he matches the bleak, ultra-concentrated note-tonote tension that both Maurizio Pollini and Annie Fischer bring to Op 111’s first-movement introduction. And given Goodyear’s genuine passion and involvement, it’s easy to forgive him running a red light or two, such as his rushing ahead in Op 109’s Prestissimo. After all, we forgave Schnabel. Sonic caveats notwithstanding, this is a riveting release on every level. Jed Distler
GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2011 XI