Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Piano music from a contemporary icon


While Deutsche Grammophon brings us "The Gustavo Dudamel album the world has been waiting for" and the NY Times confirms things can get worse at EMI it is left to savy labels like Naxos to challenge and inspire. Released this week is an album that challenges and inspires quite magnificently - the piano music of John Tavener played by Ralph van Raat. If you think Tavener is just 'holy minimalism' this Naxos CD will make you think again. The influences range from Chopin to the Orthodox Liturgy. No requirement for marketing-speak from me, at budget price the best thing to do is buy it.

Tavener's music and Ralph van Raat's performance are magnificent, as is the sound captured by producer and engineer Michael Ponder in Potton Hall, Suffolk, just down the road from where I write and, ironically, a venue for many fine EMI recordings. A credit is also needed for the excellent sleeve notes by the pianist. But one small moan if I may. I know I am the only person in the world who still buys CDs, and I am also aware that sleeve and label graphics are a dead art in the age of the download. But I will still say that, once again, the Naxos sleeve design and blue label don't do the contents of the CD justice. So instead of a pack-shot I offer my own header photo of a far from contemporary icon taken in the beautiful 9th century Carolingian Abbey at Saint Philbert de Grand Lieu in France.

EMI's new boss Guy Hands may think that all artists are lazy. But the pile of extraordinarily challenging and inspiring new CDs on my desk which are waiting to be shared with you, and not one from EMI or DG and all from independent labels, proves otherwise. And before the Dudamel lobby springs into action let me explain I've paid for tickets to see the man himself when the mountain comes to Mohamed and he plays our village hall in a few weeks. His programme with the Gothenburg Symphony at Snape on August 14 is Ravel La Valse, Anders Hillborg Clarinet Concerto and Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique.

Gustavo's New York agent amicably turned down an interview request due to 'schedule pressures' but OAOP will be at Snape Maltings anyway as that Hillborg concerto with Martin Fröst is not to be missed. And Guy Hands could certainly learn a few things from young Dudamel, not least how he persuaded the Gothenburg management to promote his other new DG release which he recorded, not with his Swedish band, but with the more marketable LA Phil.

And yes, I did mean Tavener with only one 'r'.
Photo (c) On An Overgrown Path 2008. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

1 comment:

Pliable said...

I am reminded that Ralph van Raat is also one of the pianists on Naxos' disc of John Adams' complete piano music -

http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.559285