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Music Freelance Vladimir Ashkenazy announces his retirement

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The pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy has announced that he is retiring with immediate effect.

The 82-year-old is one of the most celebrated and versatile musicians of his generation, renowned for recording and performing an enormous and varied repertoire as both a pianist and a conductor over his 70-year career.

Ashkenazy shot to fame in 1956 when he won the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, followed by the 1962 International Tchaikovsky Competition, an accolade he shared with pianist John Ogdon.

 

 

Although Ashkenazy continued to perform and record as a pianist, he also began conducting after a chance encounter with Gennady Rozhdestvensky led to an impromptu lesson in the Soviet conductor’s apartment. He went on to hold prestigious positions across the globe with orchestras including the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (1988–96); Czech Philharmonic (1998–2003); the European Union Youth Orchestra (2000-2015); the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo (2004–7); the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (2009-2013); and the Philharmonia Orchestra. 

In 1963, Ashkenazy defected from the Soviet Union during a visit to England. His piano and orchestral performances of Rachmaninov, Sibelius and Scriabin demonstrate his love of Russian music. As Decca’s longest contracted artist, his discography – which ranges from Bach to Rautavaara – is a testament to the depth and breadth of his musical interest and ability. In total, his collected recordings exceed 100 hours of music, spanning 39 composers over 55 years.

Speaking to BBC Music Magazine in 2017 about his enormous success and his famously intuitive approach to conducting, Ashkenazy remarked: ‘There are some things you cannot teach or understand. Just as we’ll never know why Beethoven was Beethoven or Mozart was Mozart. They were people just like you or I, and yet in their music they created something that is such a gift for us all. Incredible. It’s a mystery. We must be grateful for that.’

 

 

 

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Freya Parr Who is Nicola Benedetti?

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Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti rose to fame in 2004, when she won BBC Young Musician at the age of 16, a competition she has remained an ambassador of ever since. 

She has released a number of acclaimed recordings, from concertos by Glazunov and Szymanowski to an album of Scottish music, which made her the first ever Scottish classical musician to enter the Top 20 of the Offiial UK Album Chart in 2014.

 

Image result for nicola benedetti bbc music magazine

 

 

In the 2019 New Year Honours, Benedetti was awarded a CBA for services to music.

She was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2020 for her premiere recording of Wynton Marsalis's Violin Concerto and his Fiddle Dance Suite, both dedicated to her by the composer.

At the beginning of 2020, she launched the Benedetti Foundation, dedicated to putting music at the heart of UK society and bringing music to all children.

 

 

 

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Freya Parr Free Download: Jonathan Biss plays Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 7

‘His performance is smooth and exquisitely expressive’

This week’s free download is the first movement, Presto, from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 7, performed by Jonathan Biss and recorded on Orchid Classics. It was awarded five stars for both performance and recording in the January issue of BBC Music Magazine.

DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS:

If you'd like to enjoy our free weekly download simply log in or sign up to our website.

Once you've done that, return to this page and you'll be able to see a 'Download Now' button on the picture above – simply click on it to download your free track.

If you experience any technical problems please email support@classical-music.com. Please reference 'Classical Music Free Download', and include details of the system you are using and your location. If you are unsure of what details to include please take a screenshot of this page.

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Michael_Beek Who is Stewart Copeland?

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BBC Four’s new three-part documentary series Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music is a deep dive into humankind’s relationship with music.

In the first episode, Copeland reveals he became obsessed with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana aged seven; that obsession evolved into a passion for music itself, one which he shares effusively on screen.

That first episode, called ‘Come Together’, sees him meeting a US football team marching band, discovering early human instruments in Germany and taking part in a workshop with Bobby McFerrin which reveals people’s natural instincts for picking up music.

Copeland’s lifelong enthusiasm for music has seen him move in many different musical circles, firstly as a drummer and songwriter, then as an in-demand composer.

His father was a trumpeter in the legendary Glenn Miller Band, though took up a career in intelligence, ultimately for the CIA, and it’s that work which took the Copeland’s from their home in Virginia to Beirut and then London.

With a natural talent for the drums, it was surely a given that Stewart Copeland would end up in a rock and roll band and he did just that. 

After a spell as a music journalist and roadie, Copeland found himself on stage and recording with the band Curved Air. 

 

 

He then founded what would be his most famous grouping, The Police, with Henry Pandovani and a bass player known simply as ‘Sting’. They, of course, went on to become one of the most successful British bands of the 1980s.

It was in the ’80s that Copeland began a new career as a composer. An original and distinctive musical style, born of his passion for new sounds and rhythm, set him apart and film directors came calling. 

Indeed two of his early film scores, Rumblefish (1983) and Wall Street (1988), were for Francis Ford Coppola and Oliver Stone.

That emerging style transferred to the stage, too, as Copeland was commissioned to write music for ballet and opera. This included Holy Blood and Crescent Moon commissioned by Cleveland Opera.

While all this was going on, Copeland found himself back on stage behind the drums, performing with the groups Animal Logic and Oysterhead, while his ensemble Orchestralli performed and recorded his own instrumental works.

With 60 million record sales worldwide, five Grammy awards and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Stewart Copeland has truly taken his passion and made a life with it.

 


 

Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music continues on BBC Four on Friday (24 January) at 21:30 GMT and you can catch up on what you’ve missed right now on BBC iPlayer (in the UK).

 

 

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Freya Parr A guide to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2

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Premiere:
Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 5 April 1803

On 6 October 1802 in the village of Heiligenstadt on the outskirts of Vienna, Beethoven wrote an impassioned letter to his brothers Carl and Johann. Including instructions that it should be read after his death, the ‘Heiligenstadt Testament’ describes in bleak terms the composer’s despair at the onset of deafness.

‘How could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection?’ he wrote. ‘…What a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing.’

 

Tonality:

It was also while staying at Heiligenstadt over the summer months of that year that Beethoven composed the bulk of his Second Symphony. Does the composer reflect in this work the frustrations expressed in his letter? In fact, cast in a sunny D major, the overall mood of the Second is largely upbeat.

Here and there, though, there are moments that point towards the growling and fist-thumping composer of Beethoven’s later years. The score is scattered with brutal sforzandos and sudden, and dramatic, changes of dynamic markings. And listen out, too, for the moment at the end of the exposition in the long first movement when the key unexpectedly shifts from A major to an unusual and ever-so-slightly disconcerting D minor.

 

 


Beethoven's Second Symphony, performed by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
under Daniel Barenboim at the 2012 BBC Proms

 

Rule-breaking:

Taken as a whole, Beethoven’s Second is by no means a game-changer in the course of classical music – that would come with the Eroica two years later. There are, though, already plenty of signs here that he was itching to go his own way. Take for instance, the third movement, where he ventures a step further along the path he’d already began to tread in the First Symphony – where tradition would normally place a courtly and graceful minuet and trio, here Beethoven presents us with a decidedly rustic scherzo.

And then there is the finale’s coda. Why follow convention by finishing with a charming little endpiece, when there’s the opportunity to go out in a blaze of timpani- and trumpet-adorned triumph? Here was a precedent that he would continue in the symphonies to follow.

 

 

Reception:

And the Second Symphony’s reception? Not great, with the descriptions of some critics almost matching the colour and inventiveness of the work itself. Complaining about its ‘barbaric chords’, Paris’s Tablettes de Polymnie reckoned that it sounded ‘as if doves and crocodiles were locked up together’. Vienna’s Zeitung für die elegante Welt, meanwhile, described it as ‘a hideously wounded, writhing dragon that refuses to die’. Posterity has treated it more kindly.

 

Recommended recording:

Skrowaczewski and his Saarbrucken players bring a rare fire and fury to the first movement. And few can match their bonhomie in the following two movements – as the music bounces from orchestral section to section, masterfully paced by the conductor, one gets the impression of players thoroughly enjoying each others’, and Beethoven’s, company.

Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra/Stanisław Skrowaczewski
OEHMS OC522

 

 

Words by Jeremy Pound. This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of BBC Music Magazine. 

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Freya Parr A guide to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2

Rating: 
0

Premiere:
Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 5 April 1803

On 6 October 1802 in the village of Heiligenstadt on the outskirts of Vienna, Beethoven wrote an impassioned letter to his brothers Carl and Johann. Including instructions that it should be read after his death, the ‘Heiligenstadt Testament’ describes in bleak terms the composer’s despair at the onset of deafness.

‘How could I possibly admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection?’ he wrote. ‘…What a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing.’

 

Tonality:

It was also while staying at Heiligenstadt over the summer months of that year that Beethoven composed the bulk of his Second Symphony. Does the composer reflect in this work the frustrations expressed in his letter? In fact, cast in a sunny D major, the overall mood of the Second is largely upbeat.

Here and there, though, there are moments that point towards the growling and fist-thumping composer of Beethoven’s later years. The score is scattered with brutal sforzandos and sudden, and dramatic, changes of dynamic markings. And listen out, too, for the moment at the end of the exposition in the long first movement when the key unexpectedly shifts from A major to an unusual and ever-so-slightly disconcerting D minor.

 

 


Beethoven's Second Symphony, performed by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
under Daniel Barenboim at the 2012 BBC Proms

 

Rule-breaking:

Taken as a whole, Beethoven’s Second is by no means a game-changer in the course of classical music – that would come with the Eroica two years later. There are, though, already plenty of signs here that he was itching to go his own way. Take for instance, the third movement, where he ventures a step further along the path he’d already began to tread in the First Symphony – where tradition would normally place a courtly and graceful minuet and trio, here Beethoven presents us with a decidedly rustic scherzo.

And then there is the finale’s coda. Why follow convention by finishing with a charming little endpiece, when there’s the opportunity to go out in a blaze of timpani- and trumpet-adorned triumph? Here was a precedent that he would continue in the symphonies to follow.

 

 

Reception:

And the Second Symphony’s reception? Not great, with the descriptions of some critics almost matching the colour and inventiveness of the work itself. Complaining about its ‘barbaric chords’, Paris’s Tablettes de Polymnie reckoned that it sounded ‘as if doves and crocodiles were locked up together’. Vienna’s Zeitung für die elegante Welt, meanwhile, described it as ‘a hideously wounded, writhing dragon that refuses to die’. Posterity has treated it more kindly.

 

Recommended recording:

Skrowaczewski and his Saarbrucken players bring a rare fire and fury to the first movement. And few can match their bonhomie in the following two movements – as the music bounces from orchestral section to section, masterfully paced by the conductor, one gets the impression of players thoroughly enjoying each others’, and Beethoven’s, company.

Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra/Stanisław Skrowaczewski
OEHMS OC522

 

 

Words by Jeremy Pound. This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of BBC Music Magazine. 

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Freya Parr The best recordings of Nicola Benedetti

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Wynton Marsalis 
Violin Concerto; Fiddle Dance Suite
Decca 485 0013 (2019)

The jazz trumpeter and composer’s expansive and eclectic concerto was written for Benedetti. She premieres it on disc here with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Cristian Mačelaru.

 

 

 

Arlene Sierra 
Butterflies, Remember a Mountain
Bridge BRIDGE9506 (2018)

Benedetti joins cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk for the American composer’s second piano trio, described by The Times as ‘a small wonder’.

 

 

 

 

Shostakovich & Glazunov 
Violin Concertos
Decca 478 8758 (2016)

This powerful disc journeys from late Romantic Russia to the 1940s Soviet Union, with Kirill Karabits conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

 

 

Homecoming: A Scottish Fantasy
Decca 478 6690 (2014)

Benedetti paints a picture of Scotland’s musical landscape. She’s joined by folk singer Julie Fowlis for traditional song, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy.

 

 

 

 

The Silver Violin
Decca 478 3529 (2012)

Korngold’s lush Violin Concerto is at the heart of a programme of film classics, from Shostakovich’s The Gadfly to the theme for Schindler’s List.

 

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Ludwig van Beethoven: Why Beethoven?

Donald Macleod asks conductor Marin Alsop and historian Simon Schama why Beethoven’s life and work still matter today.

All through 2020, as part of Radio 3’s Beethoven Unleashed season, Donald Macleod takes an unprecedented deep dive into the compelling story and extraordinary music of Ludwig van Beethoven. In this uniquely ambitious series, told across 125 episodes of Composer of the Week, Donald puts us inside Beethoven’s world and explores his hopes, struggles and perseverance in all the colourful detail this amazing narrative deserves. Alongside this in-depth biography, Donald will also be meeting and talking to Beethoven enthusiasts and experts from across the world to discover how his music continues to speak to us in the twenty-first century. Through story and sound, the series builds into a vivid new portrait of this composer, born 250 years ago this year, who made art that changed how people saw themselves and understood the world.

Music featured:
Bagatelle in A minor (Fur Elise), WoO 59
String Quartet No 10, Op 74 (Harp) (3rd movement)
Symphony No 3 in E flat major (Eroica) (3rd movement)
Grosse Fuge, Op 133
Symphony No 5 in C minor (1st and 2nd movements)
Symphony No 8 in F major, Op 93 (2nd movement)
Sonata in A major, Op 30 No 1 for violin and piano
Leonore Overture No 3
Piano Sonata No 27 in E minor, Op 90 (2nd movement)
Piano Concerto No 4 in G major, Op 58 (2nd movement)
Piano Sonata No 13 in E flat major, Op 27 No 1 (2nd movement)
Symphony No 3 in E flat major (Eroica), Op 55 (2nd movement)
The Creatures of Prometheus: Overture
Fidelio: Act II finale
Symphony No 4 in B flat major, Op 60 (1st movement)
Piano Sonata No 14 (Moonlight), Op 27 No 2 (1st movement)
String Quartet in F minor, Op 95 (1st movement)
Egmont Overture, Op 84
Symphony No 9 in D major (Choral), Op 125
String Quartet in A minor, Op 132 (5th movement)
String Quartet in E flat major, Op 127 (1st movement)
Bagatelle in E flat major, Op 126 No 6
Mass in D major (Missa Solemnis), Op 123 (Kyrie)
Coriolan Overture, Op 62
String Quartet in B flat major, Op 130 (5th movement)

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Martin Williams for BBC Wales

For full tracklistings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Beethoven: Why Beethoven?
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And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: https://ift.tt/2vwHS8q

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Freya Parr A guide to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1

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Premiere:
KK Hoftheater nächst der Burg, Vienna, 2 April 1800

After permanently settling in Vienna in 1792 at the age of 22, Beethoven set about mastering an impressive range of musical genres. In the following years, he completed a substantial body of chamber music (piano trios and string trios and works for wind instruments), duo and solo piano sonatas and a piano concerto (No. 1 in C major). Missing from this work list, however, were either symphonies or string quartets. The highly self-critical composer was evidently reluctant to tackle either medium until he felt fully equipped to write something that could match the achievement of his great forebears, Mozart and Haydn.

In fact, Beethoven had made an abortive attempt to write a symphony between 1796 and ’97, but the work was only completed two years later. It was unveiled for the first time before the Viennese public at a concert on 2 April, 1800 and published the following year. The First Symphony bears a dedication to Baron Gottfried van Swieten, one of the most vociferous supporters of Beethoven at the time and the librettist of Haydn’s oratorios The Creation and The Seasons.

 

 

Structure and tonality:

As befitting a work composed at the turn of the 19th century, Beethoven’s First pays homage to the great Viennese classical tradition, but also offers tantalising anticipations of his innovative symphonic writing in the next decade. The retrospective elements are most obviously manifested in the close thematic relationship that exists between this Symphony in the ‘festive’ key of C major and previous works bearing the same tonality, most notably Haydn’s Symphony No. 97 and Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony (No. 41).

The First also follows a similar structural outline to the late Haydn symphonies, even though Beethoven places more emotional weight on the finale. Perhaps most notably, Beethoven designates the third movement as a minuet, but his recommended tempo marking of Allegro molto e vivace suggests that it is in essence the first of his dynamic symphonic scherzos.

 


Beethoven's First Symphony, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle

 

Instrumentation:

The orchestra Beethoven uses in the First Symphony (double woodwind, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings) is no different in size to that employed by Haydn. Yet his orchestration is radically different, as immediately evidenced in the brief slow introduction to the work. Many commentators highlight the provocative nature of Beethoven’s musical argument here, particularly its opening of a dominant seventh chord resolving to the ‘wrong’ key of F major. But no less striking is the unprecedented textural effect of combining pizzicato strings with sustained woodwind chords.

Indeed, throughout the First, Beethoven creates a different orchestral balance than his predecessors, giving the wind instruments far greater parity with the strings. A reviewer present at the first performance of the work took great exception to this tendency, claiming that Beethoven was writing something that was more appropriate for a wind-band than for a symphony orchestra. It was a complaint that Beethoven totally ignored in his subsequent symphonies.

 

 

Recommended recording:

Following in the footsteps of Toscanini, Riccardo Chailly delivers a characteristically high-voltage account of the First Symphony, perfectly capturing its moments of brusque humour with superbly incisive sforzando accents from his Leipzig players, yet allowing sufficient space for the graceful aspects of the second movement to come to the fore.

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
Decca 478 3493

 

 

Words by Erik Levi. This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of BBC Music Magazine.

 

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