Ken Smith reviews a Mahler recital from Haselböck ‘She manages to subsume her musical personality in spinning a delicate musical spell ’ REVIEW ON PAGE XI
Beethoven . Kernis ‘The Kernis Project: Beethoven’ Beethoven String Quartet No 9, Op 59 No 3 Kernis String Quartet No 2, ‘Musica instrumentalis’ Jasper Quartet Sono Luminus F DSL92142 (71’ • DDD)
sounds of america
Donald Rosenberg reviews CSO Brass live ‘How many pipe organs could duplicate the sumptuousness they bring to Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor?’ REVIEW ON PAGE XI
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Kernis project for the Jasper Quartet’s debut on disc If chamber music is truly a conversation among friends, as the saying goes, then chambermusic programming should be a conversation among composers. Granted, the chat is often one-sided – these days, one side is usually dead; but the primary goal in putting together repertoire from different eras is finding composers who truly speak to each other, or at least create a common musical resonance.
In this philosophy of programming, the composer Aaron Jay Kernis provides a textbook case. Among his works drawing heavily on influences from the musical past, the Pulitzer Prize-winning String Quartet No 2, Musica instrumentalis, references Baroque dance forms in general and the fugal writing of Beethoven specifically, the third movement being an overt homage to the Third Razumovsky Quartet.
For their debut release, the Jasper Quartet initiate a series linking Kernis with his musical antecedents. This particular pairing colours both performances. One could imagine entirely different readings of either piece, with more lushness or greater weight in the playing, but either would accentuate the composers’ differences. The Jasper, rather, find a more equal balance, with a surface lightness highlighting the inner voices that not only draws these two pieces together but also connects Beethoven firmly to his own Classical influences in Haydn and Mozart.
Although this kind of programming usually fares better in live performance than in competition with the entire recorded catalogue, both performances here are keepers. The only real problem is figuring out whether to file the disc under ‘B’ or ‘K’. Ken Smith
In the spotlight: the Jasper Quartet
Symphony No 2, ‘Romantic’ a . Lux aeterna b . Mosaics c
Seattle Symphony / Gerard Schwarz Naxos American Classics S 8 559701 (57’ • DDD) From Delos a DE3073 (3/90), c DE3130 (3/93), b DE3160 (5/95)
Naxos reissues works by the 20th-century US composer Instead of being relegated to an obscure fate, Howard Hanson might in a parallel universe have become a widely beloved American symphonist. His music belongs to an optimistic American time and sensibility which remain a part of the country’s spiritual and cultural base. At its best – in the Second Symphony and in large stretches of Lux aeterna and Mosaics – it conjures up magic across time and space, as if Hanson were the American Sibelian writers often mistake him for. But more to the point, like Sibelius, the use Hanson makes of sound defines in many essential ways the 20th-century orchestra. More than the relatively well-known Symphony, the two companion pieces benefit from Naxos’s reissuing of these three classic Seattle Symphony recordings. The 16-minute Lux aeterna, with its elaborate solo roles for ‘viola obbligato’ (sweetly played by Susan Gulkis Assadi), double bass and violin (a wonderful, Elgarian cadenza), emerges as music that American audiences would gratefully benefit from. Mosaics, written in 1957 for the Cleveland Orchestra and George Szell, ripples with glorious symphonic muscle.
As befits Schwarz’s elegant approach and the Seattle Symphony’s noble playing, the sound is layered with the tonal radiance, effortless dynamic range and large sound stage that were trademarks of legendary recording engineer John Eargle’s work. The Seattle Opera House, where these recordings were made, also deserves superstar status for its part in recordings that sound smoother and more powerful now, with more and better interior detail when run through a high-quality external DAC unit. Laurence Vittes gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE FEBRUARY 2012 IX