All-new recordings of works composed and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen to celebrate his final performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Over 20 years after his first performance with the LA Phil (1984), Salonen bids... more » farewell as principal conductor in a series of concerts. Virtuoso Yefim Bronfman premiered the piano concerto and now commits to disc what is certainly the definitive recording along with two pieces for solo piano.« less
All-new recordings of works composed and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen to celebrate his final performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Over 20 years after his first performance with the LA Phil (1984), Salonen bids farewell as principal conductor in a series of concerts. Virtuoso Yefim Bronfman premiered the piano concerto and now commits to disc what is certainly the definitive recording along with two pieces for solo piano.
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is a heightened level of musical exhilaration in Los Angeles currently. The media is focusing on the final concerts of Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen as he closes his 17 year tenure at the helm of the now world class orchestra he has nurtured. In celebration of that event DGG has released this recording of his Piano Concerto written for Yefim Bronfman, the soloist on this recording. For those who have been following the conducting career as well as the composing career of Salonen this recording will satisfy on every level. And now we await the release of his just-completed Violin Concerto composed for Leila Josefowicz that was premiered this week in one of Salonen's last concerts. The Violin Concerto is even more virtuosic and complex and satisfying musically than the Piano Concerto: watch for it.
Salonen has grown from a composer of fascinatingly complex modern music to works that are not only inventive but are also so rich in color and thematic material and scale such emotional heights that they seem destined to become standards. The Piano Concerto is a perfect example of this present level of compositional finesse. More a conversation between piano and orchestra than the standard 'orchestra accompanied piano extravaganza', this concerto poses questions and comments from the keyboard that are then answered by various choirs in the orchestra. The piano writing is daring and demanding technically, but that never seems to be the focus. The entire work comes across as a thorough-composed dialogue between equal partners - piano and orchestra. Yefim Bronfman, long a colleague with Salonen, delivers an electrifyingly fine performance of this score, at once full of whimsy and of depth in thought, and is always at one with his conversational partner - the orchestra, conducted by Salonen. It is a major masterpiece.
The CD adds the orchestral 'Helix' and the piano 'Dichotomie', both already well known to audiences from the rather frequent performances they are enjoying. It is a fine coupling, but doubtless the tendency for listening to this CD will be repeated trackings of the enormously satisfying Piano Concerto. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, April 09"
One of the best piano concertos I've heard in a while
Christopher Culver | 04/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We got this Deutsche Grammophon disc in Europe last year, but the label appears to have delayed its US release until the occasion of Esa-Pekka Salonen's retirement from the L.A. Philharmonic. In any event, you're in for a treat with these three works written by Salonen, where he conducts his own home ensemble, with his favourite pianist Yefim Bronfman as soloist. I had known of Salonen the composer for a long time, but I never heard any of his music. I assumed he was, like so many contemporary composer-conductors, a generic modernist figure without any original angle. I found how foolish I was upon hearing a radio broadcast of the premiere of his Piano Concerto in February 2007.
The Piano Concerto is a major contribution to the genre, and we're fortunate in having a commercial recording. In writing his piano part, Salonen wanted to embrace the acoustic properties of the piano that had been neglected under serialism and early post-serialism, and the result is immensely colourful. The piano part is also one of the most virtuosic solo parts I can think of. Salonen spends much of the first movement exploring duets between the piano and isolated parts of the orchestra, such as violas in one portion, woodwinds and harp in another, and so forth. But sometimes the piano pauses while portions of the orchestra contend with each other, and the piece can seem as much Concerto for Orchestra as Piano Concerto. Salonen throws in some references to Debussy and Romanticism, and his music can be called neotonal, but I've never really heard any kind of music like this. Salonen believes that all musical expression flows from bodily expression, and this is reflected in the sheer range of rhythmic displays. I've been enjoying this piece for over two years now, and I think it's no flash in the pan.
While the Piano Concerto is multifaceted and exhuberant, "Helix" for orchestra (2005) is single-mindedly dedicated to the unfolding of its process. Relentless and sometimes brutal, the piece reminds me a lot of "Kinetics" by Salonen's old classmate Magnus Lindberg, who sadly doesn't write this kind of music anymore. This is a live recording and the CD track ends with audience applause, which the piece well deserved. "Dichotomie" (2000) is a two-movement work for solo piano that contrasts "mechanical" material with "organic" material, a concern that Salonen has had through his entire career. It's charming in parts, and its virtuosity is admirable, but I think it goes on a bit longer than necessary. While Bronfman performs here, "Dichotomie" was written for Gloria Cheng and her performance can be heard on a Telarc disc. Parts of "Dichotomie" found their way into Salonen's orchestral work "Foreign Bodies" (available on his last DG disc).
I think the Piano Concerto especially will appeal to a wide range of modern-classical listeners. It may even well deserve to be repertoire and reach a mass audience, but in a world where Bartok's first two piano concertos are still considered audience-unfriendly, that's unlikely. But whatever your musical persuasions, check this disc out."
WGL | 04/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"His accomplishments as a conductor aside, Salonen the composer just impresses my more and more. His music is bright, colorful, and relentlessly athletic. His has a unique voice. I agree with the other reviewer - Salonen's piano concerto is one of the best I've heard in a long time. Yefim Bronfman navigates the highly intricate piano part with lucid ease, the orchestra is a worthy adversary with Salonen's glittering, kaleidoscopic accompaniment...there is an orchestral interlude midway through the first movement that will knock your socks off. Helix is another exciting piece, its unstoppable forward motion pushing towards a delirious climax. Dichotomie doesn't do as much for me...its essentially a scaled-down version of his 'Foreign Bodies.'
I strongly recommend this disc...two showstopping pieces from one of today's foremost composers."
Salonen Continues His Phenomenal Journey
Leif Thorsted | Los Angeles, CA USA | 06/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Esa-Pekka Salonen is quickly becoming my favorite composer. Not only of modern music, but of all time. This CD is just as amazing as L.A. Variations and Wing On Wing. Salonen continues to honor the past while at the same time expressing new ideas and possiblities of where music should be going. Helix, for example seems to be remembering the first movement of Brahms' first symphony but never relents from its march into new territory. Helix also is the perfect introduction to the Piano Concerto. This concerto, like most of Salonens' works, has familiar references to previous composers, while also being uniquely and boldly Salonenesque. You will notice Gershwin, Prokofiev, Ravel and Barber hallmarks throughout, but also realize that this is completely new and different music. The solo piano pieces at the end of this disc are of course familiar melodies for those who have the Wing on Wing album. It's fun to hear these melodies un-orchestrated. They remind me of the Prokofiev Sonatas and Rachmaninov Etudes. I feel lucky to be living in the time of Salonen, and that I will able to hear all of his yet-to-be written compositions. In the two days since I've had this cd, I've played it no fewer than 10 times. It just gets better and better. I was in the audience at Disney Hall for his Violin Concerto premier. I suppose this will be the center piece of his next recording. Can't wait for what comes next from Salonen."