RECORDINGS & EVENTS A special eight-page section for readers in the US and Canada

Beethoven Symphonies – No 5, Op 67a; No 7, Op 92b Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Orpheus Chamber Orchestra F OCOBEE001 (73’ • DDD) Recorded live at Carnegie Hall, New York, b December 4, 2010; aOctober 11, 2012

talks to... Brian Noyes The Welsh composer on his tribute to the poet John Clare

The conductorless, entrepreneurial Orpheus Chamber Orchestra launches a new, ‘taking control of its own content’ initiative with its first self-produced album, featuring live performances from Carnegie Hall in 2010 and 2012 of two popular Beethoven symphonies in their trademark virtuoso, positive style.

The Seventh in particular shows the creativity-through-collaboration model working at full blend and firing on all cylinders, led by the woodwinds, as captured in Adam Abeshouse’s perfectly balanced sound, sporting lovely colours, and amorously in tune. After a lithe Poco sostenuto, an exhilarating Vivace and a low-key Allegretto, the Presto finds the Orpheus at their most brilliant yet, uniquely, consolingly tender in the strings before coming out of the Trio. With their bulked-up strings and larger ambitions, the orchestra romp engagingly through the Allegro con brio before ending in fierce triumph and pride.

Although the orchestra’s interpretative approach – encouraging each player or section to connect better with the moment, the audience and within the ensemble itself – is a benefit of going without a baton, there can be a trade-off to this liberalising of the ensemble process in the form of a tendency towards the security of a square, metrical pulse, which in fact occasionally impedes momentum in the Fifth Symphony. But this Fifth also yields special Beethovenian pleasures, including an unexpectedly touching moment at the end of the first movement when the iconic opening bars return, phrased precisely in the idiosyncratic way they began, and some unforgettably poignant singing by the bassoon in the Andante con moto. Laurence Vittes

Your ‘Journeys After…’ trilogy was inspired by 19th-century English poet John Clare… I saw a programme on him and it struck me that here was this chap who was a farm labourer and yet driven to write poetry. When we think of the Romantics we think of Wordsworth and Bryon, but they had a leg up into the public world; Clare had to fight for it.

You were drawn to ‘Journey out of Essex’… Clare had been sent to an asylum in Epping Forest – he wasn’t deranged but there was a conflict between his real life and the world he imagined. After he fled the asylum, he wrote this account of his 80-mile journey home.

We hear ‘Points of decision’ first… I wanted to reproduce what Clare was feeling as he was contemplating leaving the asylum – fear, trepidation, elation – in musical terms. The solo violin is significant because Clare himself was a violinist. Also, in his written account, he says he was whistling a tune called Highland Mary – I’ve changed it around a lot, but it’s this tune that the violin plays. ‘Shadows of Memory’ represents Clare’s actual journey home… I endeavoured to portray a feeling of physical tiredness. I came up with some harmony that gets progressively quieter and longer, auralising the idea of slowing down. What’s planned for the third piece? It will be a lament and I plan to write it next year. After that, I’ll lay John Clare to rest.

Brahms ‘Brahms by Heart’ String Quartets Nos 1-3. String Quintet No 2, Op 111a Chiara Quartet with aRoger Tapping va Azica M b ACD71289 (139’ • DDD)

Does it matter if listeners know that the Chiara Quartet and viola player Roger

Tapping perform the music on their wonderful new recording from memory? The disc’s title is ‘Brahms by Heart’, which hints at the process, if not the results. Perhaps ‘Brahms from the Heart’ would be more accurate: the performances are suffused with warmth, energy and keen interaction.

Aha, you say! If lines are woven together so seamlessly and everyone breathes as one, this must be a manifestation of the quartet members engaged without the distraction of printed music. Not necessarily. In the end, playing ‘by heart’ is a crucial matter exclusively for the Chiara, especially since we only hear what they have wrought. What’s important is the fact that the quartet are intimately involved in the three Brahms quartets and Second Quintet, Op 111. Thanks to a superior acoustic space (the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, NY) and deft engineering, the musicians are captured in all their sensitive and observant splendour. Tempi are judiciously chosen, inner voices always come through and expressive nuances reflect keen delineation of Brahms’s gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE JUNE 2014 I