New Release: KORNGOLD PROJECT (Part 1)

Writing in Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States (ed. R. Brinkmann and C. Wolff), the musicologist Bryan Gilliam notes that Erich Korngold was in essence ‘twice exiled’. The first instance of exile is obvious: Korngold, like many other Jewish musicians, intellectuals and artists residing in Vienna, fled Nazi persecution after the Anschluss in 1938. Korngold settled in Hollywood, making good of his recently-made reputation as a composer of film music. The neo-Romantic style he had cultivated during the inter-War period was put to good use in the medium of film. However, this style was also the cause of the second exile that Gilliam has in mind. When Korngold returned to Europe after the fall of the Third Reich, he found that his chromatic-tonal style was completely at odds with the anti-Romantic sentiments dominant amongst composers. Korngold would never achieve acclaim in post-War Europe in his lifetime, and his much celebrated early music was soon forgotten. As Gilliam states (p. 228), Korngold “left Austria as a ‘degenerate’ and returned an anachronism”.

The Korngold Project contributes to the rediscovery of this music. This disc features recordings of two of Korngold’s pre-War chamber works. The first, the Piano Trio in D major, op. 1, was written between 1909 and 1910. The second work recorded on this disc is the Suite for Two Violins, Cello, and Piano (left hand), op. 23, written in 1930.

What is remarkable in this recording is the journey the musicians undertook to record the works they so dearly love. They all represent different nationalities and met in South Africa for performances in Africa’s most prominent chamber music festival. Such was the success of their virgin Korngold performances that they vowed to travel the world to complete the Korngold project. And so they embarked on a journey that included rehearsing in Berlin, performing in Oxford and finally concertizing and recording in South Africa. This is not an established group but a meeting of minds linked through the beauty of Erich Korngold’s music.


This recording celebrates the diversity of American music in the 20th century, from the neo-Romanticism of Samuel Barber to that most influential of American art music developments, minimalism. Its title, ‘American Intersections’, points toward one of the most commented-upon facets of American musical life: the fact that the country is a melting pot of musical cultures, a crossroads of musical traditions, a colourful tapestry of diverse sounds. This recording features composers who all worked against the backdrop of an increasing tendency toward modernism in European art music. Yet, we find the direct influence of Latin-American and Southern American music; we find direct engagement with the blues tradition, with its origins in the West African slave population; we find a continuation of Romanticism alongside a representative of the modern minimalist style that no composer today can ignore. There is music inspired by daily life at hotels, there is music that is overtly political, there is music that engages with the European tradition and forges it into something totally original.

Having gained comparisons to the fabled piano duos of Ashkenazy-Previn and Argerich-Freire (American Record Guide), the Magalhães-Schumann duo, best known as TwoPianists, is one of the finest chamber music ensembles on African soil. Comprised of established Stellenbosch-based musicians Luis Magalhães and Nina Schumann, TwoPianists was formed in 1999 while both were under the tutelage of maestro Vladimir Viardo. Since then, the TwoPianists duo has toured extensively throughout the US, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Spain, China and Japan, in addition to numerous performances in their home country of South Africa. In 2014, the TwoPianists duo assumed the role of Yamaha International Artists, reflecting their growing prestige in the musical world.

The ensemble’s debut recording, comprising the full works for two pianos by Rachmaninov, established their reputation as recording artists. Their second release, consisting of virtuoso showpieces and released on their own label, has further cemented that position by being described as “Mehr kann man wirklich nicht verlangen.” (Deutschland Radio) and “thrilling and flamboyant, tender and passionate, vibrant and dynamic” (MusicWeb International). Their most recent release is a nod to their parallel careers as soloists: Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations, in piano duo format.
Following on their penchant for the original, TwoPianists introduces superb American repertoire for two pianos in a beautifully recorded disc.

January 11, 2015

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New Release: DISTANCE with James Austin Smith (oboe)

TwoPianists Records brings you an elegant disc by oboist James Austin Smith in collaboration with pianist Luis Magalhaes and harpist Bridget Kibbey. Most of the works on this disc are, upon first listen, foreign to ears accustomed to a diet of Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn. They are on the chilly periphery of classical music, abrasively private and unrevealing in comparison to their gregarious, largely romantic neighbors. But if they were truly unrelatable, truly alien, they would lack humanity - they would reject curiosity and remain forever opaque. And this is where the beauty of recording is embodied - to the keen, curious ear these works reveal themselves. They shed their frosty outer layer and expose a warmth of expression, a depth of atmosphere and a technicolor palette that rewards unlike any instant-gratification work of art. The work will draw you from being a tolerant (or perhaps even intolerant) neighbor, across its threshold, into a welcoming, if not complex environment. It will foster a deep friendship.

‘There is no underlying rhyme or reason to the selection of the works on this disc - each of them simply speak to me in a way most other works don’t, or at least haven’t yet. It wasn’t until I was rattling them off to a friend in Germany, my laundry list of recordables, that I was made to realize that these works, disparate in style and era, were actually spiritually linked to one another. This friend remarked upon a “gewisser Distanz” - a certain kind of distance -that characterizes most of the works on this disc - most notably the pieces of Krenek, Hindemith and Carter. This “Distanz” to which he refers has a particular meaning in German - a kind of “unapproachableness” or removed quality which resists immediate engagement, humor or even enjoyment.’
(James Austin Smith)

May 24, 2014


Upcoming release: After a reading of... Liszt! (Antonio Pompa-Baldi, piano)

Born and raised in Foggia, Italy, Antonio Pompa-Baldi won the Cleveland International Piano Competition in 1999 and embarked on a career that continues to extend across five continents. A top prize winner at the 1998 Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud Competition of Paris, France, Antonio Pompa- Baldi also won a silver medal at the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Mr. Pompa-Baldi appears regularly at the world’s major concert venues including New York’s Carnegie Hall, Cleveland’s Severance Hall, Milan’s Sala Verdi, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and Paris’ Salle Pleyel, to name a few.

On this, his first disc for the TwoPianists label, Antonio Pompa-Baldi brings together an exhilarating collage of works connected by the formidable Franz Liszt. First on the menu are the etudes of Sergei Lyapunov, also named Douze études d’exécution transcendante, Op. 11. Lyapunov’s intention was to ‘complete’ Liszt’s etudes, by writing pieces in the major and minor keys that Liszt never visited. The final piece of Lyapunov’s set—the etude recorded here—carries the title ‘Élégie en memoire de Franz Liszt’. It is a natural progression for the Lyapunov to be followed by the etudes of Frederic Chopin for, like Liszt, Chopin composed etudes for personal use as well as publication. And, again like Liszt, these etudes were not simply technical exercises, but instead surpassed their pedagogical origins by being presentable as concert pieces. Chopin’s Op.10 set, featured here, was dedicated to Franz Liszt. Next are two pieces by Franz Liszt himself: the Ballade no.2 and Ernani: Paraphrase de Concert. The latter work represents a marriage between showmanship and compositional craft, and as a result stands head and shoulders above the ‘Carnival of Venice’-style showpieces of the time. The final piece on this program is one that Paraphrase de concert, the selected themes will be a delight to the seasoned admirerof Liszt’s music: Après une Lecture de Liszt, by the Sardinian-born composer Roberto Piana (b. 1971). In Après une Lecture de Liszt, Piana pays tribute to the immense influence of Franz Liszt on the modern pianist, by means of extensive quotation from some of the composer’s most important piano works. This work was dedicated to Antonio Pompa-Baldi and receives here its debut recording.
September 14, 2013


Richard Strauss: Complete works for voice and piano

To celebrate the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss, record label TwoPianists Records, is bringing out a truly comprehensive edition of the complete works for voice and piano. The project is the brainchild of Brigitte Fassbaender who has selected singers and accompanists to suit the vast collection of songs. The launch date for the CD Box is the 11th June 2014, during the Richard Strauss Festival in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The project enjoys the full support of the Richard Strauss Institute.

The Strauss oeuvre consist of 179 songs and 2 melodramas; the latter to be performed by Brigitte Fassbaender herself. The recording is taking place over the month of November 2013 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a picturesque town at the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. Here, Strauss lived and composed the majority of his works for over a period of 40 years. The artists, including 13 singers and 5 accompanists, now breathes the same inspirational mountain air as Strauss himself, whilst recording the fine artworks of his inspired revelations. A complex schedule was necessary to neatly accommodate everyone involved and record over 9 hours of music; some of it rarely, if ever, heard before.

The day before the recording began, the last song “Herbstabend” arrived from a collection in Belgium. It has never been recorded, neither has “Aus der Kindheit”. Another novelty in Strauss’ output is the trumpet solo at the end of “Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland”, as are the rarities “Alphorn” and “Stille Gang” with horn and violin.

The songs appear in chronological order on the CD, which makes for fascinating listening. Every Strauss lover will be intrigued by the composer’s musical development: from the first song composed at the age of 6 – his mother had to write in the text, because he could not – through to the song, “Malven”, – composed during the last year of his life when he was 84 years old.

This recording is, without doubt, unprecedented in its authenticity and is sure to be the established reference edition for many years to come. 

The singers taking part in the project are:
Anja-Nina Bahrmann
Juliane Banse
Michelle Breedt
Jeongkon Choi
Markus Eiche
Christian Elsner
Brigitte Fassbaender 
Brenden Gunnell
Lucian Krasznec
Christiane Libor
Andreas Mattersberger
Martin Mitterrutzner
Anke Vondung
Manuel Walser

The pianists joining the singers in this artistic venture are:
Christoph Berner
Burkhard Kehring 
Malcolm Martineau
Wolfram Rieger
Nina Schumann