Due to the illness of a colleague I was asked at short notice to fly to Yerevan to record Camille Thomas and the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sergey Smbtyan. The album consisted of arrangements for solo cello and orchestra of songs by Charles Aznavour to celebrate his 100th anniversary year. The mixture of Camille’s sunny temperament and musicality with the enthusiasm of the orchestra was quite intoxicating. It will be a lovely album.
We also recorded the short violin concerto by the Armenia composer Tigran Mansurjan (whom I knew from a previous recording of his works in 2021). The wonderful young violinist Leia Zhou was the soloist. She proved to have formidable stamina, having missed a flight due to a delay, then spending 12 hours at Vienna airport and arriving at 6 in the morning for the midday session.
September started with a recording in the south of my home city, in the Friedrich-Ebert-Halle. This school auditorium is famous in the recording world (but unknown even to Hamburg citizens) and many famous pianists have recorded here, including Wilhelm Kempff, Ivo Pogorelich, Vladimir Horowitz, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Nelson Freire, and Maria Joao Pires. I was here for an unusual combination of harp and piano original repertoire, played by the Swiss virtuosi Praxedis Duo.
For the rest of the month and much of October I decided to take a long holiday, interspersed with some editing. In November there was a giant and exciting project planned in Shanghai, a work commissioned by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and its music director Long Yu. Émigré, composed by Aaron Zigman on a libretto by Mark Campbell, is a 90 minute cross between an opera and a musical and is based on the story of two Jewish brothers, Otto and Josef, who fled from Germany to Shanghai in the late 1930s. (Shanghai welcomed at least 25,000 Jews from central Europe despite the Japanese invasion.) Josef falls in love with Lina, a Chinese woman recovering from her loss of her mother in the Nanjing Massacre. The cast included Meiji Zhang, Diana Newman, Huiling Zhu, Matthew White, Arnold Geis, Andrew Dwan, Shengyang, and members of the New York Philharmonic Chorus with their chorus master Malcolm Merryweather. The week in Shanghai was hard work but fun, and as always we were well looked after by the staff of the SSO. The weeks following, up to shortly before Christmas, I spent editing so that Émigré was ready for the launch of Apple Music in China and for its release on Deutsche Grammophon coinciding with performances with the New York Philharmonic at the end of February.
A busy summer, starting off with a week in Leipzig for a French programme featuring Lang Lang and the Gewandthaus Orchestra conducted by Andrew Nelsons. The repertoire was the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No.2 and the popular Carnival of Animals, where Lang Lang was joined by Gina Alice. A mixture of several concerts and studio sessions, the recording was also filmed by arte for television. To complete the recording, pieces for 4 hands by Ravel, Fauré and Debussy were also set down. The following month, in July in Paris, Lang Lang recorded solo rarities by French female composers including Lili Boulanger, Charlotte Sohy and Germaine Tailleferre. The piano summer continued in Munich with sessions in the Herkulessaal with with Maurizio and Daniele Pollini. They recorded the Schubert f minor Fantasie for 4 hands, and Maurizio also played the G major sonata D894 and Daniele the Moments Musicaux D780.
In August the Swiss guitarist Christoph Denoth came to Hannover and recorded an exciting programme of Spanish music in the Tesmar studios. From there it was a few hours drive to the middle of the Belgian countryside where, in a beautiful chateau near Conjoux, the violinist Natalie van der Mersch played and recorded the Brahms violin sonatas. She was accompanied by Olivier Roberti on the piano.
The summer is of course festival time and musicians are either on holiday with their families, preparing their busy autumn and winter programs, or playing at festivals. Recordings tend to become rare and we producers are normally trying to finish off those productions which will appear in the weeks before Christmas. So it was this year, except for a video production with Maurizio Pollini in
Salzburg, which had to be canceled due to the artist’s post-Covid complications. Most of August I had to finish the editing of several albums including the Beethoven recorded in April with Pollini and the two violin discs from the beginning of the year. This was especially hard because of the extremely hot weather. I moved to our house in the Alps where it was cooler at night which made life easier.
At the beginning of September I attended the launch of the Disney Album with Lang Lang in Paris. This was a large affair with over a hundred label managers, press and music industry people from all over the world in the Hotel de la Ville. The album was released in the USA a week later and immediately reached #1 in the Billboard charts. Later in the autumn Daniele Pollini recorded pieces by Debussy in Munich and this too will have to be edited fairly quickly.
I enjoyed the sessions with the violinist Natalia van der Mersch of pieces by Kreisler for violin and piano – absolutely the right music for Spring. The recording took place in the music room of the Chateau de Conjoux in Belgium, a lovely place in the middle of the countryside close to the Luxembourg border. Shortly afterwards we were recording two late Beethoven sonatas op.101 and op.106 with Maurizio Pollini. Putting down op.106 “Hammerklavier” is a challenge for any pianist but Pollini was full of energy, especially considering he will be celebrating his 80th birthday at the beginning of 2023. The recording will be released at the beginning of December 2022.
In May a few days were spent in Zürich at the Swiss Radio studios Brunnenhof recording a mixed program with the Praxedis Harp Duo. This wonderful studio and building has housed the SRF for 80 years and will now be turned into a music school (SRF radio will join the TV in a new building). One of the main attractions for us apart from the perfect acoustics was the proximity of the 24 hour canteen to the control room! In June Maurizio Pollini returned to the Herkulessaal with his son Daniele to record a Schubert program including the f minor Fantasy for four hands.
The year started as the year 2021 ended – with editing a backlog of recordings, especially the June 2021 sessions with Daniele Pollini, August 2021 sessions with the Praxedis harp and piano duo and the very recent London recording of November 2021 with Esther Yoo playing Bruch and Barber violin concertos partnered by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vasily Petrenko, recorded at the end of 2021.
At the end of January another recording of the famous Bruch violin concerto also in London but this time with the Philharmonia orchestra and the excellent young Austrian conductor Patrick Hahn. I had already heard glowing praise for the the Canadian soloist Kerson Leong and the sessions were delightful. Britten’s wonderful violin concerto was the other main work and Bruch’s In memoriam a charming filler.
In February I had a couple of days in Paris adding a few pieces to the Disney album with Lang Lang. With these sessions the album is finally finished – in fact more than two hours of music. Some of the pieces which are not from Disney films will appear later. Most of the rest of this quarter was spent editing and mixing this big project. Due for a late summer release, the pressure was on to wrap up the post-production as the Chinese censorship process can take a few months.
- Long Yu
- Lang Lang
- Duo Praxedis