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
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
|Release Date||May 13, 2022|
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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