In a new series, members of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra share their own musical favourites...
First up, meet viola player Lisanne Melchior...
Usually as a musician, I am listening to and studying the pieces that are coming up at work, then go to Lyric or a CD in the car/train during my commute. My world is much quieter now, and I'm trying to be deliberate and conscious what I hear. Here are the seven tracks I’m listening to this week..
Listen now, via Spotify, and read more about Lisanne's picks below...
Dvořák, Serenade in E major for String Orchestra , op. 22 - Prague Philharmonic conducted by Jakub Hrusa
Just simply because it’s beautiful. Every section in the orchestra has really interesting parts, tunes and amazing accompanying lines. It breathes joy, calm and sunshine.
I love this recording because it has space, ebb and flow. I was conducted by Jakub Hrusa many times at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and for me he combines intellectualism and deep thought with an innate spontaneity and timing. The Prague Phil are beautifully balanced and tempered. Listening to this serenade just makes me feel warm inside.
Astor Piazzolla Café 1930
This is wistful and contemplative. Clean, lovely guitar playing by Morgan Szymanski, sincere feeling and phrasing without a hint of ego. The accordion-playing by Phuong Nguyen is wonderful.
The introduction is a beautiful solo guitar line, then when the accordion joins in it is spine-tinglingly tragically beautiful. They are wonderfully unanimous in phrasing and expression. The middle section is more sunny and innocently childlike. When the first theme comes back, the accordion adds a touch of vibrato. Sublime!
I find the sound of the guitar very comforting. My Dad used to play Spanish guitar in the evenings when I had gone to bed and I loved the rhythm and bittersweet melodies of Spain. I later played in a small chamber group for 20 years with an accordionist and we did a lot of Piazzolla.
Alone Together – Charlie Haden Quartet with Paul Weston and his Orchestra
A really interesting CD concept where the Charlie Haden Quartet plays together with old tracks. Improvising , adding to and mixing them seamlessly.
This track starts with a pizzicato double bass solo accompanied by kit and piano then leads into the old 1944 recording of Jo Stafford singing Alone Together. I love the lyrics and find them very poignant given what we are asked to do at the present moment to keep as many people as possible safe:
'And we can weather the great unknown, if we’re alone together’
Jo’s voice is rich and calm and has extraordinary long phrasing lines. I can’t imagine where she breathes! It is also wonderfully orchestrated, great Cor Anglais, strings and brass writing.
Why Have You Left Me Alone (I Hear an Army) - From Goldenhair by Brian Byrne, with Andrew Strong (vocals) and Phil Robson (guitar)
Such a small cool opening, a bodhrán, Brian’s piano chords and Andrew’s amazing voice. Then it just builds and builds. The words of the poem are so visual and the setting enhances them. It has pure raw energy. I remember when the RTÉ Concert Orchestra played it live at the NCH, by the end I had tears in my eyes.
Ravel, String Quartet in F major, 1st Movement
I love impressionism in art and music. The subtlety and colours, with images and emotions more hinted at than etched in uncompromising definition. This quartet has incredible complexity which in some ways is witnessed only by the players. The rhythms and lines with subtle nuances require a high level of control and technique, but for the listener may come across as a wash behind the beautiful melodies and progression.
I have played this quartet quite a few times throughout my life and I cherish all the different group experiences. The second subject started by the viola and the violin two octaves higher is one of my favourite pieces of melodic writing.
The whole piece is like an amazing walk in nature through woods and meadows beside a small stream of bubbling crystal water.
Brahms, Viola Sonata in E flat major op. 120 no. 2, 1st movement – Nobuko Imai and Harris Goldsmith
I can not imagine life without Brahms. For me he is the most generous of composers. His sound world is expansive, romantic, warm and deep. I love his symphonies, chamber music, songs and piano music.
The first movement of the Viola Sonata in E flat could stand alone as an entire piece, not because it’s long but as it encompasses so much. The initial phrase is like beginning a story and hints at the highs and lows and complexity of the subject. The rest of the movement has sudden passions and then whispered secrets.
I’ve been learning this piece for 32 years so far and keep finding more I could do with it. I think my definitive version is still a long way off!
Beethoven, String quartet no. 15 in A minor op. 132, 3rd movement – Vermeer Quartet
Beethoven wrote this in 1825 after recovering from a serious illness and this is a song of thanksgiving of a convalescent to the deity. He knew so much about conquering extreme difficulties in his life. He kept his deteriorating hearing a secret until he was practically deaf, which made social interaction very hard and frustrating for him. When he was totally deaf he found it so unbearable to his soul that he contemplated suicide. However, through continuing to create he found a renewed life purpose and share in humanity.
This movement is long and extraordinary. It alternates between slow, modal, choral-like sections in F with faster sections ‘feeling new strength’ in D. The slow sections are so still and lethargic just as time and the heaviness of the body feel in illness, but the faster sections for me reflect how the spirit keeps going and in some ways is increasingly light and effervescent.
Listening to Beethoven for me is like reading the words of a great spiritual teacher.
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