Nazareno! - Labèque, Labèque, Richards, Grau, Séquinier, Rattle
LSO Live LSO0836
Classical - Orchestral
Works by Bernstein, Stravinsky, Golijov
Katia and Marielle Labèque (pianos)
Chris Richards (clarinet)
Gonzalo Grau & Raphaël Séguinier (Latin percussion)
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle (conductor)
Celebrating the union of classical and jazz, LSO Live’s latest release encapsulates the very best of the two genres with an irresistible selection of works by Bernstein, Stravinsky and Golijov, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
Argentinian tango and jazz course through Golijov’s vibrant Nazareno. Superstar piano duo Katia and Marielle Labèque are flanked by brass, percussion and cello in this special arrangement for two pianos and orchestra by Gonzalo Grau.
LSO Principal Clarinettist Chris Richards steps into the spotlight in Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto. The work is an era-defining amalgamation of jazz and classical, reflecting back the variety of a rapidly changing world, at turns frenetic and agitated, mournful and bluesy. This fluidity extends into Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs—an exuberant display of contrasting musical ideas, harmoniously intertwined together.
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Review by Graham Williams - May 14, 2022
The main work on this latest release from Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra disc is Osvaldo Golijov’s ‘Nazareno’ a spin off from Golijov’s ‘La Pasión según San Marcos’ (The Passion According to St. Mark) a large scale work for soloists, chorus and orchestra that created a considerable positive impression when it received its Stuttgart premiere in 2000. Eight years later the piano duo Katia and Marielle Labèque commissioned the composer and arranger Gonzalo Grau, who had worked with Golijov on the Pasión, to compile a suite for two pianos and orchestra using elements of the original composition. ‘Nazareno’ heard here is in six short movements, lasting a total of 25 minutes. Its energising Latin American rhythms, attractive melodies and extensive use of percussion (played here by Gonzalo Grau (the arranger), Raphaël Séguinier and three members of the LSO’s own percussion section) make it something of a show piece relished by all the performers and the sound is spectacular.
The disc opens with two jazz inspired compositions. In the Bernstein ‘Prelude, Fugue and Riffs’, a work for clarinet and jazz combo initially conceived for the Woody Herman Band though eventually dedicated to Benny Goodman, the clarinet soloist is the orchestra’s brilliant Principal Clarinet, Chris Richards, who displays his considerable virtuosity throughout, but especially in the concluding Riffs section.
Stravinsky’s ‘Ebony Concerto’, here receiving its first recording on SACD, was written in 1945 as the result of a commission from Woody Herman for his band. The composer’s interest in jazz and ragtime had been evident as far back as 1918 in ‘The Soldier’s Tale’ and Hermann’s commission came at the right time for the impecunious Stravinsky. Though lasting less than ten minutes the concerto proved too difficult for the dedicatees, but thankfully not for the marvellous LSO players whose rhythmic acuity does full justice to the piece.
Rattle had previously recorded the items by Bernstein and Stravinsky respectively with Michael Collins and the London Sinfonietta for EMI in 1987 and apart from the obvious benefit of SACD quality sound, I can find nothing here to prefer over the excellently performed earlier versions.
All the pieces were recorded live in DSD256 at the Barbican, London in December 2018 by the familiar Classic Sound team of Neil Hutchinson and Jonathan Stokes who have really got to grips with the often problematic Barbican acoustic. The sound quality is excellent with great presence thanks partly to the close microphoning that suits the often exuberant and raucous style of much of the music.
The only fly in the ointment with this release is its short playing time of 42’24” that may limit its appeal for some listeners.
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