Tuesday, October 24, 2006

'THe Herald' Shostakovich Tour Review by Michael Tumelty

This review from ‘The Herald’ on October 11 2006 comes from a lunchtime recital for Strathclyde University and featured the first half of the Wigmore programme from September 10th. The concert is part of the ongoing national recital tour, sponsored by the UK Shostakovich Society. Part two of the Wigmore programme will reach Glasgow on October 31 and Nov 1st (see tour dates):

MURRAY MCLACHLAN, Ramshorn, Glasgow
Michael Tumelty
Pianist Murray McLachlan couldn’t keep the mischievous twinkle out of his eyes yesterday as he faced his near-capacity audience at Ramshorn. “Don’t worry”, he reassured the crowd, most of whom were clearly shattered. “That was a one-off.”
The one-off in question was Shostakovich’s First Piano Sonata, little-known, seldom-played, but one of the loudest, most aggressive and most violent pieces in the entire literature of the keyboard. McLachlan gave the sonata a rare outing, a committed, impassioned pounding and, altogether, a good seeing-to by placing it as the final item in the first of his two Glasgow recitals entitled Shostakovich and his Comrades, designed to mark the centenary of Russia’s greatest composer of the last century and the release of McLachlan’s latest CD, which features the music in his touring programme.
From start to end, with here and there a lull for some ominous thunder, the sonata, written when Shostakovich was barely out of his teens, represents a young man’s assault on his listeners’ ears and preconceptions, as well as a musically-virile young composer’s display of self-awareness of his own prodigious skills.
At the heart of the otherwise non-stop, motoric, percussively-lunatic sonata lies a single moment of respite, where the music implodes before starting over. McLachlan executed a spectacularly theatrical collapse at this moment, lying in a heap at the bottom of the bass register of the piano, fists and head buried in the keyboard. It wasn’t a stunt, but it was certainly breathtaking.
A fabulous recital, with the Shostakovich garlanded by other splendid and woefully-neglected rarities from Kabalevsky and Myaskovsky. More in three weeks.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Bartok-Camilleri-Stravinsky 2 Pianos & Percussion Review

A new review of the Dunelm Recording of Stravinsky 'Le Sacre' in its piano duet arrangement, Bartok Sonata for 2 Pianos and Percussion and Charles Camilleri Concerto for " pianos and Percussion


An ingenious, challenging and successful recital, excellently planned and played, bringing us a triptych of works for the chosen ensemble ... Jonathan Woolf
Innovations: Music by Camilleri, Stravinsky and Bartok Charles CAMILLERI (b. 1931) Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion (2005) [20.59] Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) The Rite of Spring (1912-13 revised 1947) Reduction for piano duet by the composer. [34.18] Bela BARTOK (1881-1945) Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937) [26.51] Kathryn Page; Murray McLachlan (piano) Heather Corbett; Stephen Burke (percussion) rec. Whiteley Hall, Manchester, 1 Sept 2005, 28 Jan 2006. DDD. Stereo DUNELM RECORDS DRDO258. [2 CDs: 82:11]

This is an ingenious recital, excellently planned and played. It brings us a triptych of works, one canonic for the chosen ensemble – the Bartók – one clothed in unusually spare guise – the Stravinsky – and one new to disc and a wholesome and bracing addition to the repertoire, the Camilleri.
Owing its genesis to the composer’s visit to Chetham’s School of Music in 2004 Camilleri’s Concerto for two pianos and percussion was completed the following year and unveiled in August 2005. This naturally enough is its premiere recording. It’s an exciting, often advanced work, tonal in essence but fully prepared to draw the listener’s – and performers’ – ears into rich new sound-worlds. The percussion adds a veritable Kandinsky of colour or else assumes a rhythmic independence that galvanises the exchanges, dialogues and soliloquies between the instruments. The opening movement visits some jagged, dynamic, explosive figures, though it ends in a kind of speculative, tentative indecision. Strong contrasts are a feature of the concerto and the Bartók was clearly one of the thoroughly absorbed models, both in terms of sound distribution and the level of internal energy generated. The saturnine piano writing contrasts with more reflective material, the percussion adding jazz-based glee – puckish and insolent – that manages to drive the pianos up the keyboard. The finale opens with Mussorgskian catacombs but there’s plenty of powerhouse declamation and dynamism here, a really exciting end to a broad ranging and inventive new work.
The Stravinsky is unusual enough in this two piano reduction to make one listen anew with freshly cleansed ears. The clarity thus revealed brings one closer, perhaps, to the compositional impulses that drove Stravinsky. It can’t replicate, quite obviously, the more primitive dynamism, the remarkable colour or the sheer overwhelming newness of orchestration and rhythm that the orchestral work displays. Nevertheless when played with such incision and verve as here it’s exciting on its own terms. When we hear the Ritual of the Rival Tribes and the Procession of the Sage played with as much energy and pulsating drama as here, we can happily enjoy the whole splendidly realised performance – and savour its relative rarity value as well.
The Bartók has received a number of compelling readings over the years but its necessity in this programme is obvious and very welcome. Kathryn Page and Murray McLachlan convey rather well the quasi-orchestral power of the first movement and the ensemble brings colour and definition to the writing, as well as clear delineation. The shimmering intensity of the central movement builds properly and powerfully, whilst the rhythmic snap of the finale is notable. They don’t overlook the caustically witty ending.
With a spacious but focused recording set-up strands come through with clarity but no hint of coldness. This is a challenging and successful recital. It spreads over onto two discs but is priced as one.
Jonathan Woolf
see also review by David Hackbridge Johnson

Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Wigmore Hall Recital Review

New Internet review of Wigmore Hall Recital on September 10 2006 at 'music on the web':

Seen and Heard Recital Review. Read in full at: www.musicweb.uk.net/sandh/2006/Jul-Dec06/mclachlan1009.htm

Kabalevsky, Miaskovsky, Shostakovich, Stevenson & Shchedrin: Murray
McLachlan (piano). Wigmore Hall, 10.09. 2006

Murray McLachlan’s recordings for Dunelm have always struck me as a mixed
bag (see here for my reviews of his Busoni and Chisholm) so it was good to
see him live, exceeding all expectations. This programme bristled with
difficulties, none of which seriously stretched him.

The Kabalevsky was the Third Sonata (for excellent recorded versions of
this, try either Werner Haas on a fascinating multi-disc set, or
Moiseiwitsch on a much cheaper Naxos disc). This 1945 work is an ideal
first item as it poses no real difficulties for the listener but is
nevertheless superbly crafted. McLachlan articulated the opening ‘Allegro
con moto’ very well (straight in, no settling at the piano), and just
avoided overloading the notorious Wigmore acoustic. He saw parts of the
first movement as almost Impressionist in conception, and located
late-Liszt-like dark sonorities in the second movement. The circus-like
finale had more than a twang of the slapstick about it.

McLachlan recorded Miaskovsky’s 1942 Song and Rhapsody, Op. 58 for Olympia
(OCD217). Interesting to hear Miaskovsky in context here (he taught
Kabalevsky, and the two were actually living in the same house when Op. 58
was composed!). The Song is very nostalgia-laden (McLachlan projected the
melody well) while the Rhapsody is unpredictable, as every good Rhapsody
should be, shifting hither and thither while flowing naturally all the
while. Fascinating.

It was the inclusion of both of the Shostakovich Sonatas that originally
drew me to this programme. McLachlan laid into the First in no uncertain
fashion (it was uncomfortable even from the very back of the hall). His
agenda was clearly to expose the extremes this work explores (the use of
the left-hand fist certainly added to the visual effect). The dynamic
range utilized was huge (as was the pause after a sequence of low-register
aggregations). Memorable.

The Second Sonata was reserved for the second half. Possibly he was
getting tired, as finger slips were creeping in (the first half was
notable for its accuracy), the work’s angularity was somewhat underplayed
and the slow movement could have looked further inward. It was left to the
finale to remind us of what a fine player McLachlan is. His spinning of
the long unaccompanied line was mesmeric; he brought Handel to mind in the
dotted Variation VIII and he generally had the measure of this movement.

Interesting to compare McLachlan with Donohoe at the QEH in March.
McLachlan made the stronger impression of the two by far (and played from
memory), seeming to travel more often to the heart of this impressive

Preceding this was a work by Ronald Stevenson, the Recitative and Air
(DSCH). Apparently composed on a four-hour long train journey, this is a
work that despite some really peaceful moments and an obvious Bach link
leaves an impression of grayness and anonymity. Much more interesting was
the final item on the programme, Rodion Shchedrin’s Tschastuschki:
Concerto for Piano Solo, ‘Naughty Limericks’. Almost jazz-like and
possessed of unbuttoned virtuosity, this work is a virtuoso exploration of
the irreverent folk-songs of its title. McLachlan seemed particularly
suited to the toccata-like passages, but also reveled in the
Petrushka-like bitonalities and the irreverent vamp-till-ready
accompaniments. Great fun.

This was a memorable, intelligently planned recital – I look forward to
hearing McLachlan live in concert again.

Colin Clarke

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New BBC radio Interview on Sunday 22 October

New BBC Interview on Sunday!

Murray McLachlan talks about forthcoming concerts and projects to Jamie McDougall on the classical music magazine show ‘Grace notes’, which will also feature the first broadcast performance of part of his new CD for Dunelm records ‘Shostakovich and his comrades’.

(Sunday 22 October, BBC Radio Scotland 15.05-17.00hrs ‘Grace Notes’ with Jamie McDougall on 92-95fm 810mw)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New Review in October 06 issue of Gramophone Magazine

The current issue of Gramophone includes a review of the recent Regis Stevenson Concerto recording:

Stevenson Piano Concertos No 1 ‘Faust Triptych’; No 2 ‘The Continents’
Murray McLachlan pf
Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra/Julian Clayton
Regis Forum FRC 9109 (65’DDD)
From Olympia OCD429, recorded 1993

A dedicated non-follower of fashion finds champions worthy of his music

These extraordinary concertos are the products of a born rebel with a cause: a composer-pianist who has resolutely defied fashion to go his own way. Both are outsize reflections of Stevenson’s love of Busoni, a figure who has haunted him throughout his long and adventurous career, hanging like a menacing cloud over so much of his music. Originally written as a Franckian solo triptych for John Ogdon (another key influence), the First Concerto’s meditation on Busoni’s Doktor Faust was later orchestrated for its final form. The sombre start, sudden flashes of pianistic lightning and the alternation of toccata-like figuration and long passages of gloomy but mesmeric introspection are wholly typical.
The Second Concerto, The Continents, unites wildly disparate elements (African drumming, Australasian, Asian, Scottish pibroch, American and Latin-American) to create a vast musical fabric, its coherence dictated by the idea of a world united against prejudice and cruelty.
The piano writing in both concertos is as idiomatic and demanding as you would expect from a pianist of Stevenson’s calibre, at once virtuoso and primus inter pares. And it could hardly have a more dazzling or eloquent champion than Murray McLachlan. Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra do both composer and pianists proud and if it is difficult to imagine either concerto achieving popularity (hardly the composer’s intention), both repay the closest study. Sound and balance are admirable and all lovers of Stevenson’s powerful, eclectic but personal voice will have to have this. Bryce Morrison

Gramophone volume 84 October 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

New tour of Germany with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra


Following on from his forthcoming Symphony Hall Birmingham Rhapsody in Blue performance this Saturday (21 October), Murray will embark on a major tour of Germany with the same work, this time with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in seven major venues.

(Saturday October 21st Symphony Hall Birmingham – Raymond Gubbay 40th anniversary champagne Gala concert with the London Concert Orchestra, conductor Christopher Warren-Green)

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany (full details of tickets, etc from j.zich@deag.de ) :

Friday October 27th Europahalle Karlsruhe

Thursday November 2nd Velodrom Berlin

Friday November 3rd Volkswagenhalle Braunschweig

Monday November 6th Ostseehalle Kiel

Tuesday November 7th Bordelandhalle Magdeburg

Friday November 17th Arena Oberhausen

Friday December 8th Jako Arena Bamberg

Murray McLachlan has performed with the RPO many times over the years, including performances at the Royal Festival Hall (Tchaikovsky no, 1 and Rachmaninov no,2 ( Barbican (Greig) Fairfield Halls and Cambridge Corn Exchange (Schumann A minor)