Nazareno! from the London Symphony Orchestra on LSO Live celebrates the union of Classical and Jazz music. It encapsulates the very best of the two genres with an irresistible selection of works by Bernstein, Stravinsky and Golijov, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle in Stereo and 5.1 Channel DSD Surround Sound.
Argentinian Tango and Jazz course through Golijov’s vibrant Nazareno. Superstar Piano duo Katia and Marielle Labèque are flanked by brass, percussion and cello in this special arrangement for two pianos and orchestra by Gonzalo Grau. The Labeque Sisters appear by kind permission of Universal Music France.
LSO Principal Clarinetist Chris Richards steps into the spotlight in Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto. The work is an era-defining amalgamation of Jazz and Classical music, reflecting back the variety of a rapidly changing world, at turns frenetic and agitated, mournful and bluesy. This fluidity extends into Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs — an exuberant display of contrasting musical ideas, harmoniously intertwined together.
Katia Labèque and Marielle Labèque – Pianos
Chris Richards – Clarinet
Gonzalo Grau – Latin Percussion
Raphaël Séguinier – Latin Percussion
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle – Conductor
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 00:42:24
Neil Hutchinson & Jonathan Stokes
The Labeque Sisters appear by kind permission of Universal Music France
|Original Recording Format
Recorded Live in DSD 256 at the Barbican in London on December 12-13, 2018
|May 13, 2022
Simon Rattle lets his hair down with London Symphony Orchestra for Nazareno. This energizing album of Jazz-related works features a Stravinsky Concerto and a Percussion-filled Suite.
It is time to have a bit of fun. Simon Rattle is not averse to letting his hair down from time to time and, going back to André Previn’s days as principal conductor, the London Symphony Orchestra has had a hot line to American razzamatazz, so this album was always going to be worth catching.
All three pieces here have a link with Jazz and the performances were recorded live at concerts in December 2018 at the Barbican, London. The album comes with plenty of color and energizing rhythms that set the toes tapping.
The novelty is Osvaldo Golijov’s Nazareno. To mark the millennium Golijov wrote La Pasión según San Marcos, a cosmopolitan blend of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian roots, Jewish laments and Argentine tango, which has become his defining work. In 2008, pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque commissioned Gonzalo Grau to fashion a purely instrumental suite from it. The result is Nazareno for two pianos and orchestra. Blazing with percussion (mambo cowbells, maracas, flamenco cajon, and more), it gives the Passion new life as a concert item, and the Labèque sisters have made it their own.
The album starts with Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, which has become a favorite short, punchy concert-opener, giving the LSO wind and brass a fine workout.
Stravinsky may seem a stranger in this line-up, but his Ebony Concerto, written when he was living in the US, is also a jazz-based concerto grosso, albeit with an astringent economy that has Stravinsky’s fingerprints all over it.
There are plenty of recordings of works that fuse Classical Music and Jazz, although it is less common to hear a whole program of them. This performance by the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle has an especially interesting group that offers three less common examples of the genre, all totally different in flavor from one another.
Two of the three, Leonard Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs and Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto, were composed for Jazz bandleader Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd, although only the Stravinsky was ultimately performed by the group.
The Stravinsky, whose title refers to African influences, receives an especially strong performance here, peppy and dry. Stravinsky’s flirtations with Jazz date back to the 1910s, but this work arguably represents the deepest fusion, with a spiritual-like melody in its finale.
The final work is less familiar. Nazareno, meaning “The Nazarene,” is an arrangement by Gonzalo Grau of music from Osvaldo Golijov’s La Pasión segun San Marcos (2000), made in 2009 for the performers here, the veteran sister duo pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque.
Even considering that Golijov was approaching the peak of his popularity in 2000, commissioning this arrangement was a bold and imaginative move on the part of the Labèque Sisters, and it is good to have the work back in circulation. Transferring it from the choral to the keyboard medium really makes it into a whole new piece. It is full of the kaleidoscopic eclectic sound of Golijov’s music of the period, with a strong component of Latin Jazz.
The London Symphony’s energy level is high throughout. Sonically, this is an especially clean example of work from the LSO Live engineering team.
BBC Music Magazine
Do you want to party? This album features three ebullient works fusing Jazz, Latin and Classical traditions. Bernstein’s rollicking Prelude, Fugue and Riffs is a Simon Rattle specialty and this is an utterly compulsive swing through this masterpiece of written-out jazz. Clarinetist Chris Richards is judiciously understated in Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto, having joyously let rip at the end of the Bernstein.
The disc’s title work, Nazareno, has its roots in Golijov’s La Pasión según Marcos, a visual and aural extravaganza from 2000 in which Cuban and Brazilian musical styles underpin an imaginative Passion setting. Nazareno is Gonzalo Grau’s arrangement for two pianos and reduced orchestral forces of six of the Passion’s 34 movements.
Aside from the soulful ‘Sur’, the result is a foot-tapping, high-octane romp. Shorn of texts and surrounding context, the music gives no hint of its sacred origins or the earlier work’s powerful reflection on state execution. The finale is rambunctiously exuberant in the hands of the evergreen Labèque sisters and Rattle for they are thoroughly relishing the carnival atmosphere.
There are motor and a cornucopia of dance rhythms, fugal sounding elements, the soloists sometimes play as part of the ensemble and the orchestration is dazzling. The performance is committed and the LSO sound as though they are enjoying themselves…Instrumental timbres are as near to analogue as you are likely to hear (the trombones really do rasp), there is a tangible sense of space between the performers and the percussion are exceptionally crisp.
The Arts Fuse
For Osvaldo Golijov, his St. Mark Passion, premiered in 2000, is the gift that keeps on giving. One of the 21st century’s most striking pieces, several individual numbers from it have taken on lives of their own, and, in 2010, Gonzalo Grau crafted a 30-minute-long work for two pianos and orchestra based on it. Called, Nazareno, the score is the anchor of the London Symphony Orchestra’s (LSO) eponymous new album.
Even given the niche genre it inhabits, this is a double-piano concerto that doesn’t always do what one expects. For one, the keyboards are often embedded in the orchestral textures and the orchestra functions in solo roles nearly as frequently as the pianists do.
Then there’s the music itself, which broadly captures of the flavor of Golijov’s original work but manages, at times, to rather overstay its welcome. This is most problematic in the concluding “Processional,” which builds to climax after climax only to keep on going, but, throughout — in the lovely “Sur” as much as in the kinetic “Guaracha y Mambo” — there’s little evident rhyme or reason to either the organization of thematic materials or the concerto’s larger structural scheme.
Of course, maybe none of this matters. Nazareno is bright, often joyous, and easy on the ears. That ought to count for something. Its echoes of South and Latin American music (like the opening “Berimbau” movement and the apparent snatch from The Champs’ “Tequila” in the “Mambo” — with the attendant stratospheric trumpet writing) are appealing.
And, occasionally, Grau’s writing for the full ensemble hits on something bracingly original, like the melding of both pianos with orchestra at the apex of the second movement, “Tambor en blanco y negro.” If the larger effort doesn’t scale the heights as touchingly as Golijov’s Azul does, well, that’s just how a piece comes out sometimes.
Regardless, the performance, featuring duo-pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque (for whom Grau crafted Nazareno), is vigorous and Sir Simon Rattle draws conspicuously responsive playing from the LSO.
There’s more of the same in the album’s filler, which consists of Leonard Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue & Riffs and Igor Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto.
True, the Bernstein isn’t quite so raw as it might be. The “Fugue’s” climaxes, in particular, lack some bite (at least when compared to Rattle’s earlier effort with the London Sinfonietta). But the “Prelude” moves briskly and the “Riffs” let loose with admirable abandon, especially over the movement’s last half.
Meanwhile, Rattle’s take on the Stravinsky is dry and droll, ably capturing the music’s sense of wit and whimsy. Ostinatos drive and the Concerto’s contrasts of instrumental color — like the call-and-response between saxophone choir and muted trumpets in the Andante — all come out very well. You won’t probably want to trade in Stravinsky’s own recording of the piece (with Benny Goodman) for this one, but, of course, you don’t have to. Here, Rattle and the LSO offer a nice, characterful complement to the old benchmark.
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