Like father, like son

Like father, like son. As regards classical musicians, that used to happen only in bygone days, didn’t it?

mozart-familyIn addition to his achievements as a conductor and composer, the famous painting of Leopold Mozart performing on violin with his young son as accompanist, while little sister Nannerl looks on, also reminds us that the father was a hugely influential teacher of his instrument; the treatise he wrote on violin pedagogy was widely respected long after his demise. Wolfgang Amadeus rather hogged the limelight subsequently. Similarly with J S Bach’s sons: Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Phillipp Emanuel and Johann Christian all stepped up to the limelight when the style of their father’s music became passé.

The world of classical music continues to throw up father-and-son pairings, however. One thinks of Yehudi Menuhin and his pianist son, Jeremy. They were recorded together in a selection of Beethoven’s violin sonatas, which you can hear on the Naxos Music Library  (EMI Classics 0724356978959).

Likewise Dmitri Shostakovich and son Maxim, who shared the piano stool in a recording of dad’s Concertino for Two Pianos op. 94 (Documents 291266). Principally a conductor, Maxim continues to perform his father’s orchestral works, a relationship which is emulated on one of this month’s especially colourful new releases from Naxos.

The Ukrainian composer Ivan Karabits’ Three Concertos for Orchestra (Naxos 8.572633) make for tremendously entertaining listening. All single-ivan-karabitsmovement works, they give a wonderful account of Karabits’ skills in orchestration: the Concerto No 2, for example, deftly weaves conventional orchestral forces with unlikely splashes from harpsichord, celesta and a pair of bongos; there’s even a brief passage for some scripted applause!

Kirill-KarabitsKarabits died in 2002. His memory and artistic bequest are honoured in these premiere recordings by his son, Kirill, who directs the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He has been their principal conductor since 2009 and brings an authoritative empathy to the performances – like father, like son.

“Yet again, Naxos deserves praise for making contemporary music accessible at reasonable cost, and through excellent performances.”

This recent comment from BBC Music Magazine might well have been directed at the Karabits disc, but it was actually referring to Tianwa Yang’s recording of the complete works for violin and piano by Wolfgang Rihm, released late last year.

Yang is in the spotlight of new releases again this month with an unusual line-up presented in Blu-ray sound quality: Mendelssohn’s staple E minor NBD0032Violin Concerto: its younger sibling in D minor; and the similarly youthful Violin Sonata op. 4 (Naxos Blu-ray Audio NBD0032).

There aren’t many violinists who play both the E minor and D minor concertos, but Yang is a passionate advocate of the latter, which was rediscovered and given its first modern performance (maybe the first ever performance) in 1951. In a slightly different parental role to that mentioned above, it was Yehudi Menuhin who unearthed the work and became the adoptive father who cradled it out of obscurity.

“Menuhin … didn’t just discover and publish the piece,” says Yang. “He loved the work, played it numerous times and actually made three recordings of it.” The style on the surface may be more classical than mature romantic, “but in some ways it’s actually forward-looking,” she adds. “In fact, there are some ways in which it clearly anticipates some of the most ‘original’ features of the late E-minor concerto.”

daffodilsAs today’s posting coincides with the feast day of St David, the patron saint of Wales, here are a few recommendations for those with a drop of the Celtic in their blood.

Welsh Classical Favourites (Naxos 8.225048) has a handy potpourri of orchestral works representative of Welsh composers, from Grace Williams’ ever-popular Fantasia on Nursery Tunes to Alun Hoddinot’s Folksong Suite. But the ancient land is probably most famous for having produced a jewel casket of opera and oratorio singers disproportionate to its size. Today’s final salute, therefore, goes to some of them, whose recordings can be found on both Naxos Music Library and ClassicsOnline:

Dame Margaret Price (1941-2011)
(BR-Klassik 900305)

“One of the most beloved opera singers of her generation known for her roles in Mozart and Verdi.” The Guardian

Sir Geraint Evans (1922-1992)
(EMI Classics 0724357287753)

“That, perhaps, was the greatest strength of Geraint Evans as an opera-singer, his ability to bring such disparate people as quack doctors and insubordinate servants, amorous knights and pedantic town clerks, even murderous soldiers of limited intelligence, so vividly to life.” The Independent

Dame Gwyneth Jones (b. 1936)
(EMI Classics 0724356529656)

“Every inch the diva, Gwyneth Jones is one of the greatest Wagnerian sopranos of all time.” BBC Wales

Bryn Terfel CBE (b. 1965)
(Teldec 809274439468)

“The Welsh baritone turns in a triumphant Falstaff in what may just be the performance of the year.” The Guardian