For the Record
Timothy Matthies, Musica Viva
My recording collection is as eclectic as the live music I listen to and enjoy. As a failed pianist and a practising singer I especially enjoy listening to works that I know from the inside, and the composer that I am drawn to most and frequently listen to in that regard is Johann Sebastian Bach. Recordings of the piano music by Glenn Gould and Angela Hewitt and of the great choral works by John Eliot Gardiner and Philippe Herreweghe are on pretty constant ‘play again’ on my iPod and iPhone (I listen to a lot of music while travelling as part of my Musica Viva Australia role).
The two Bach recordings that I most listen to, though, are of works for stringed instruments and while I have never performed the works featured I feel I know them inside out as a listener, from hearing them live in the beautiful acoustic at the Huntington Estate Music Festival. Both are by performers who exude intensity and intelligence, yet are also able to bring great musical freedom and spontaneity. They ensure the listener understands the rich architectural structures of Bach’s music while instinctively bringing out the earthy dancing qualities that are so inherent in the musical lines. Above all, for me, both performers never impose themselves on the music; rather the listener has the impression of hearing the composer’s vision as though freshly minted and newly composed.
The first features the wonderful twenty-something Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova. Her performance of the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin (Hyperion Records, CDA67691/2) is delivered faultless intonation, achingly beautiful tone, superlative technique and a musical wisdom far beyond her years. Each of the works is interpreted with a vast range of colours and textures, and the recording as a whole creates a powerful impression of the vastness of Bach’s musical imagination.
Here is Alina playing one of the solo pieces in a purpose built space for her interpretations:
The second features the great Chinese-born cellist Jian Wang, discovered by Isaac Stern and featured in the documentary film From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China. Like Alina, Jian is not a hugely demonstrative musician yet there is something about his music-making that immediately draws you into his world. His technical command of the cello is paramount, and the lyrical and characterful beauty of his playing brings out the natural lightness and gracefulness of the six Suites for solo cello (Deutsche Grammophon, CD DDD 0289 477 5228 8 GH 2). Wang draws the listener deep into these works of supreme profundity and depth. It’s too difficult to name a favourite suite or movement, and I often listen to all six suites in a single day as the journey from the opening Prelude of the First Suite to the final Gigue of the Sixth Suite is one of the great musical explorations and an experience in listening to a world that is both highly abstract and deeply rooted in life.
Here is Jian performing movements from the Fourth Suite:
These recordings bring me great joy and I hope you can find the time to explore them also.
You are also able to hear Jian Wang live across Australia in July, when he tours with Bernadette Harvey for Musica Viva. Together they will perform the two great Brahms sonatas for cello and piano and audiences will also get the opportunity to hear Jian perform the JS Bach Cello Suites nos 1 and 6. Details are here:
Timothy Matthies is Director of Business Development, Concerts of Musica Viva Australia, the largest chamber music entrepreneur in the world. Timothy’s role oversees all aspects of Musica Viva’s public concerts activity, manages the company’s six interstate offices and staff, and leads the development and strategy around all partnerships and associations relating to the company’s concerts. Tim also has a successful and stimulating musical life as a member of the Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers, has also performed with Cantillation and ACO Voices and is a member of the Australian Youth Orchestra’s Artistic Advisory Committee.