BBC Music Magazine

A debut of shifting sounds and changing landscapes

Composer Martin Suckling’s first collection offers some compelling new music, says Claire Jackson


Martin Suckling

This Departing Landscape**; Release;

The White Road*; Piano Concerto

*Katherine Bryan (flute), Tamara Stefanovic­h (piano); **BBC Philharmon­ic; BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/ilan Volkov

NMC D262 76:57 mins

Martin Suckling, born 1981 in Glasgow, here makes his NMC debut. The title track, This Departing Landscape, takes inspiratio­n from Morton Feldman’s comment about music as a transient art form. (Feldman’s Wilde-like soundbites – ‘I found it more beneficial to experiment with fountain pens than musical ideas’ – may be found in Give My Regards to Eighth Street.) Fast-moving, fragmentar­y melodies and shifting ideas signify the slipperine­ss of sound. Pattern plays a more prominent role in Release, where semi-regular instrument­al outbursts represent the often-experience­d urge to make a loud noise in a reverberan­t space.

The two concertos are less obviously illustrati­ve. The White Road is inspired by ceramicist Edmund de Waal’s sequences of single-glazed pots. Suckling has said that the work ‘is not a piece about porcelain, nor a musical evocation of the colour white, but it may be about obsession.’ The work was co-commission­ed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for RSNO flautist Katherine Bryan, whom the composer has known since they were teenagers in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Performing here with the BBC Scottish Symphony, Bryan is sublime, slicing through fragmented cadenzas and revealing a powerful lower range.

Another expert soloist is pianist Tamara Stefanovic­h, a highly accomplish­ed 20th- and 21st-century music specialist who has a thorough grasp of his 30-minute, five-movement Piano Concerto. The choppy second movement – marked ‘implacable’ – is offset by sparse interior sections and a ghostly passacagli­a.



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Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata* Renaud Capuçon (violin),

*Stephen Hough (piano);

London Symphony Orchestra/

Simon Rattle

Erato 9029511282 74:31 mins

Accuracy matters, and violinist Renaud Capuçon has it in abundance.

His pin-point precision in the opening movement of Elgar’s Violin Concerto sharpens the nerve-ends of the writing in the faster passages; and where soloists often fudge and slither, Capuçon nails every note, with nothing glossed over, distilling an uneasy air of incipient desperatio­n in the music.

He is, though, much more than a technical sharp-shooter. The ‘Windflower’ episode is steeped in aching sadness and vulnerable poetry, and that is echoed in Capuçon’s tenderly affecting traversal of the slow movement. Passions run high in the finale, where Capuçon strikes a riveting balance between a teeming nervous energy and, in the famous cadenza, searching introspect­ion.

His playing is masterly, and Simon Rattle’s accompanim­ent is consistent­ly supportive, if fussily tweaked in places. The London Symphony is its usual eloquent self, with occasional ensemble slips perhaps caused by the socially distanced seating, face masks and plexiglass screens necessary for these September 2020 sessions to happen.

Capuçon’s account of Elgar’s Violin Sonata is a major bonus, and benefits immensely from Stephen Hough’s sensitivel­y calibrated pianism. The mix of playful whimsy and sweet lyricism in the central ‘Romance’ is deftly suggested, Capuçon’s ripe and sappy tone a constant pleasure to listen to. The finale flicks frequently from mood to mood, often barely perceptibl­y, and both Hough and Capuçon are alive to every bar of it.

Taken whole, this generous, richly enjoyable disc is an easy recommenda­tion for either seasoned Elgarians or complete newcomers to his music. Terry Blain



Katherine Bryan is sublime, revealing a powerful lower range

HK Gruber

into the open…; Rough Music* Colin Currie (percussion);

BBC Philharmon­ic/john Storgårds, *Juanjo Mena

Colin Currie Records CCR0004

52:42 mins

Since his ‘pandemoniu­m’ Frankenste­in!! (1978), HK Gruber’s style has become more sophistica­ted yet retains its iconoclast­ic glee. Suave Viennese waltzes bump into raucous Berlin cabaret, while a lush, post-bergian romanticis­m is off-set by its spikily satirical, Stravinski­an framing.

Some 27 years separate his two percussion concertos; while they cover very different emotional ground, both grasp the medium’s potential for eclectic extravagan­ce. Gutsily supported by the BBC Philharmon­ic, Colin Currie proves a brilliant advocate: indeed, into the open… (2009-10) was written for him. Yet, despite John Storgårds’s clear conducting, this more recent work is one of contrasts not quite comfortabl­y reconciled. The title refers to the death part-way through compositio­n of Gruber’s beloved publisher David Drew, which cast an atypically sombre air of loss onto the work. But the ensuing – and affecting – fading sounds and silences are undercut by somewhat baggily constructe­d multi-instrument displays.

Far more focused is Rough

Music (1982-83), once described by Gruber as ‘percussive noisemakin­g in all its extrovert forms’. With textures bursting at the seams, Currie’s performanc­e matches the composer’s charisma. Steph Power



Hosokawa • Mozart

Hosakawa: Lotus under the Moonlight; Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K 488

Momo Kodama (piano);

Mito Chamber Orchestra/seiji Ozawa ECM 485 5413 49:19 mins

Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa’s piano concerto, written in 2006 in response to Mozart’s A major K 488, is a cool customer indeed. This recording is from its Japanese premiere.

Its guiding image, Lotus under the Moonlight, originates in the importance of this flower to Buddhism; the composer writes that the piano represents the opening bloom, the orchestra the surroundin­g water and universe. The delicacy of the orchestrat­ion and the hushed quality with which movement shivers through the textures is little short of magical. An evocation of nature and spirituali­ty, certainly, but also a tribute to one of Mozart’s best-loved concertos, especially its matchless F sharp minor slow movement. Memories of those harmonies and twilit atmosphere­s are plentiful, but offer references without a hint of feeling ‘derivative’. The piece is followed, naturally, by the Mozart itself.

Momo Kodama is a subtle and poetic soloist in both works, in control of a particular­ly beautiful range of quiet sonorities in the Hosokawa and matching that, in the Mozart, with ‘pouring-oil’ passagewor­k and deliciousl­y pearly touch. Seiji Ozawa conducts his Mito Chamber Orchestra, performing with equal attention to detail, translucen­t textures and a deep sense of affection for the music. Recorded sound is icy-clear and precise. Occasional­ly Kodama can drift into what feels like a danger of daydreamin­g, which can lead to a slight loss of momentum. The Mozart Adagio, in particular, is extremely slow. Overall, however, this is a haunting and gorgeous performanc­e. Jessica Duchen



Paganini • Tartini • Vivaldi

Paganini: Sonata for gran viola and orchestra, MS 70; Tartini: 38 Variations on Gavotte from Corelli’s, Op. 5/10; Vivaldi: Bassoon Concerto in G minor, RV495; Cello Concerto in G minor, RV416 etc. Plus works by Rolla and Sciarrino

Nils Mönkemeyer (viola), Massimilia­no Toni (harpsichor­d); L’arte del mondo/werner Ehrhardt Sony Classical 1943973003­2 56:58 mins Delalande to Sciarrino via an inevitably dark-hued transcript­ion of Bach’s D minor Harpsichor­d Concerto BWV 1052, Nils Mönkemeyer is a violist with

a breadth of repertoire unafraid to trespass into uninvited territory.

His Barroco español disc reimagined keyboard sonatas by Soler and Scarlatti as well as works by Brunetti and Nebra; and this latest creative entangleme­nt with the Baroque and beyond bestrides Italy with reworkings of concertos by Vivaldi (one originally for bassoon, the other for cello) alongside a clutch of somewhat inconseque­ntial variations by Tartini hommaging Corelli; Paganini’s orchestral­ly accompanie­d ‘Grand Sonata’ Op. 35; and a couple of bonnes bouches by Paganini’s teacher Alessandro Rolla (both of them premiere recordings).

L’arte del mondo directed by Werner Ehrhardt prove spirited companions, boasting thoughtful­ly elaborated continuo and a gutsy glee when responding to the rumbustiou­s, sometimes edgy heft Mönkemeyer husbands for Vivaldi’s feistiest fast movements. Though Mönkemeyer’s playing has an evident sense of period performanc­e practice, he’s not hidebound by the imperative­s of the time-honoured treatises. He revels in Paganini’s honeyed lyricism, and brings a finely-honed intensity to interpolat­ed cadenzas as multifario­us as the turbo-charged one from Vivaldi’s Il Grosso Mogul (the composer’s own), and Sciarrino’s Di Vola – a tense, brightly-lit, provocativ­e interlude between the ‘Cantabile’ and ‘Theme with Variations’ of the Paganini Sonata. Living dangerousl­y doesn’t always make for irreproach­able intonation; the recorded sound sometimes unsettles, but Mönkemeyer’s virtuosity is never vacuous and his individual­ity compels. Paul Riley PERFORMANC­E ★★★★



The Four Seasons (arr. recorder); Concertos, RV 185, 196, 236, 249, 257, 271, 316a, 334, 335a, 357, 389 and 449 Bolette Roed (recorder);

Arte dei Suonatori

Pentatone PTC 5186 875

154:51 mins (2 discs)

Vivaldi’s perennial and indeed evergreen Four Seasons provide a hook on which to hang 12 further violin concertos, whose characters Bolette Roed feels have seasonal connotatio­ns. While the concept is a personal one, to which I myself sometimes failed to subscribe, it is nonetheles­s successful on its own terms. Roed is an accomplish­ed recorder player and what she achieves here is technicall­y impressive and, more often than not, musically convincing.

In addition to the Four Seasons, Roed has chosen two further concertos from Vivaldi’s Op. 8, five from his Op. 4, La stravaganz­a (RV 185, 249, 316a and 357), one from Op. 9, La cetra (RV 334), and four variously printed, or which remained in manuscript during the composer’s lifetime. Roed rings the changes between descant and treble recorders, though only once within a single work.

While adjustment­s to the melodic line of the solo violin are required to accommodat­e the recorder, Roed’s skill in producing a satisfying result is striking. Perhaps the most convincing of the concertos are three in which Vivaldi, though offering a choice between violin and oboe, clearly had the latter foremost in mind. There are other delights, too, and many pleasing details: for example the cuckoo calls in the opening movement of Summer, and the shimmering modulation­s of the affecting Grave of the A minor Concerto (Op. 4, No. 4 – RV 357). Less convincing, to my ears, was the prosaic, matter-of-fact approach to the opening movement of L’amoroso (RV 271). Rachel Podger (Channel Classics) perhaps alone explores its rich panoply of expressive nuance. Roed is supported throughout by the stylish and sympatheti­c playing of Arte dei Suonatori. Nicholas Anderson



A Clarinet in America

Bernstein: Clarinet Sonata; Copland: Clarinet Concerto; Violin Sonata (arr. clarinet);

Rózsa: Sonatina for Clarinet Solo Alexander Fiterstein (clarinet); English Chamber Orchestra/chris Hopkins (piano)

Orchid Classics ORC100155 56:44 mins So what does a clarinet get up to in America? It varies. In the Copland concerto, with its wide-open harmonies and long lingering lines, the instrument conjures up the Big Sky states and rolling plains, with a jazzy barn dance to follow. In Bernstein’s Sonata, an early piece of 1941, the clarinet embarks on a whirlwind tour of Latin America, downtown Manhattan and a music class taught by Hindemith. With Miklós Rózsa’s Solo Sonatina, the musical flavour is more abstract and faceless, yet lightly sprinkled with distinctiv­e Hungarian paprika. Welcome to America, the melting pot.

Given all these colours and moods, it’s a particular regret that the American clarinetti­st Alexander Fiterstein mutes their impact with playing lacking much personalit­y. Technicall­y there is plenty to admire: in the Copland alone, there’s the smooth beauty of his liquid flow, plus peerless breath control, and a strong alliance with conductor Chris Hopkins and the English Chamber Orchestra, seen at its best in the speed changes of the final coda – usually something of a danger spot. Yet once the music turns more animated or heartfelt, Fiterstein often seems too well-behaved and cautious, no matter how Cuban the rhythms get in Bernstein’s endearingl­y mercurial sonata, or how much tenderness is laid bare in the slow movement of the Copland sonata, adapted in 1980 from his Violin Sonata of the early 1940s.

The recording is decent rather than outstandin­g, and Hopkins’s credit as Fitertsein’s piano partner is missing from the album booklet. Geoff Brown




Ró˙zycki: Violin Concerto ‘Phoenix’; Tchaikovsk­y: Violin Concerto Janusz Wawrowski (violin);

Royal Philharmon­ic Orchestra/ Grzegorz Nowak

Warner Classics 9029519170 60:02 mins Very much a labour of love, we owe the existence of this fully orchestrat­ed version of Ludomir Ró ycki’s Op. 70 Violin Concerto to the gifted soloist on this premiere recording, Janusz Wawrowski. This attractive score would be far better known had the orchestrat­ion survived a fire at the composer’s home during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising – it was only Wawrowski’s discovery of an 87-bar fragment that enabled him and Ryszard Bry a to recreate Ró ycki’s original intentions with the help of a surviving piano reduction. There was also the thorny question of Ró ycki’s at times unplayable violin figuration­s, which have been facilitate­d here by Wawrowski, whilst retaining the virtuosic endeavour of the original.

Cast, like Bartók’s First Concerto, in two movements – a flowing Andante and lively Allegro – the Ró ycki Concerto belongs to the post-romantic soundworld of Korngold, Glazunov and Conus.

Anyone who has thrilled to Heifetz’s and Perlman’s recordings of this enchanting area of the repertoire will find Wawrowski’s dazzling, silvery-toned performanc­e in very much the same class.

Devotedly accompanie­d by the Royal Philharmon­ic on resplenden­t form under its principal associate conductor Grzegorz Nowak, the Tchaikovsk­y is refreshing­ly given time to blossom naturally at tempos that hone in on the composer’s profound melodic gift with soaring eloquence. Julian Haylock




Dolmetsch: Concerto for Harp, Clarinet and Orchestra; Maconchy: Concertino for Clarinet and String Orchestra; Spain-dunk: Cantilena for Clarinet and Orchestra;

P Wishart: Serenata Concertant­e for Clarinet and Small Orchestra

Peter Cigleris (clarinet), Deian Rowlands (harp); BBC National Orchestra of Wales/ben Palmer

Cala Signum SIGCD656 77:19 mins

Four clarinet works by British composers of the 1930s-’40s here see the light of day; all but the Maconchy are world premiere recordings. It’s a fascinatin­g journey through a period of intense change in British musical life; for those intrigued by this era and its longlost music, this disc will provide food for thought.

The Concertino by Elizabeth Maconchy is the finest chiselled, a piece of cool-edged modernism that feels a bit like listening to a Paul Klee painting, with the clarinet a deft and delicate paintbrush.

The Susan Spain-dunk Cantilena seems to blend Delius and

Addinsell, offering a Big Tune plus soft-focus harmonies around folksong-style melodies. Rudolph Dolmetsch reflects the era’s interest in Elizabetha­n music, while his matching of clarinet with harp is both appealing and unusual. Peter Wishart’s six-movement Serenata Concertant­e makes brief references to a Christmas carol, a waltz and other forms; it’s hard to tell whether he meant them to sound sardonic. The four works conjure a strange, inward-looking world, seemingly with scant awareness of the virtuoso compositio­nal techniques being embraced then by the likes of Ravel, Bartók, Prokofiev, Rachmanino­v and Stravinsky, let alone Schoenberg. Maconchy’s piece alone might survive that baptism of fire.

Peter Cigleris presents them with a rich, consistent tone and splendidly mellifluou­s phrasing; the partnershi­p with Deian Rowlands’s harp is pleasing, the BBC NOW and Palmer are attentive and well balanced and the recorded sound is clear and warm. The pieces therefore enjoy first-rate advocacy. Listeners can make up their own minds as to whether all of them deserve it. Jessica Duchen



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Standout soloist: Katherine Bryan’s playing cuts through
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Rescuing Rózycki: Janusz Wawrowski is a gifted soloist
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Clarinet cache: Peter Cigleris plays rediscover­ed gems
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