Press Reviews


MAGNIFICENT REVIEW IN FANFARE MAGAZIN Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Op. 35 Cologne New Philharmonic Orchestra, Volker Hartung by Steven Kruger
It would be hard to imagine these days how many thousand-and-one choices there are for a recorded performance of Rimsky-Koraskov’s Scheherazade, most of them perfectly fine. (Does anyone know of a bad one?) The suite has been popular for well over a century. But hats off to youthful imagination here for what it can still conjure of romance in this ancient tale of the Arabian Nights! I’ve known the music for many decades. I’ve even thought at times I might be bored with it. But for vividness, impassioned color, and commitment, this account by a Rhineland post-conservatory training orchestra simply gobsmacks me. It’s as good as any performance you are likely to hear.
I confess to having clicked on the New Cologne Philharmonic with a certain condescension, half expecting to encounter the usual amateur amalgam of raw student energies, stodgy conducting, intermittently coherent textures, drunken-tuba brass sonorities, bows hitting stands, dropped mouthpieces, and rustling noises from clueless struggle with the sheet music. Not at all! Instead, I find a beautifully polished professional account of the music, gleaming from head to toe, gorgeously recorded in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and vibrantly alive with interest. The sheer quality of rounded, satiny string playing made me sit up from the outset. Volker Hartung, the orchestra’s longtime leader (he’s 63) has managed to weld it into a single unit. His strings insinuate themselves into a phrase with a lovely push-me-pull-you and proceed to soar. This is a serene, airy, Romantic version of the suite, all movements taken at normal tempo, but utterly without that cynical “here we go again” feeling one can get from a famous orchestra sawing its way once more through familiar music. There is not a weak player to be heard. Instead, all the soloists seem fascinated with the colors they can create, and in the slow movement the strings evince as much swoopiness as swoopy allows. This is a performance of unusually beautiful small moments, tiny tempo shifts, little brass crescendos and transitional dovetailings of this and that. And rhythmically, I give it the best compliment I know—it’s well sprung.
By now you have the idea. I’m running out of adjectives. The release includes two arrangements of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee as encore, one featuring Lika Yakupova on violin, the other with Michael Schubert on flute. Both are done with genuine virtuosity. You can choose your sting. Meanwhile, enjoy Scheherazade, as passionate and new here under youthful fingers as the day it was composed. © 2019 Fanfare
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Fanfare's review about Brahms album

Jerry Dubins, music critic from Fanfare Magazine in USA has written a fabulous and legendary review about our recent 2-set album of Johannes Brahms’s piano concertos with Italian pianist Filippo Faes and the Cologne New Philharmonic under my direction.
Here is the link:


Concert in Lancaster, UK

The Virtual Lancaster, UK
played the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at
St.Peters Cathedral, Lancaster (UK)

Magical, moving Mozart

...The fact that St Peter's Cathedral has wonderful acoustics for both words and music, and that the performers were German added even more tempting authenticity.
I was not disappointed. First on the programme was the Bassoon Concerto K191 in B flat, which Mozart wrote when he was a mere eighteen. There was some lovely light and shade in the limpid second movement, Andante ma adagio, which has a theme the composer would later use as one of the heart stoppers in The Marriage of Figaro. By the third and final movement, Rondo tempo di menuetto, the wonderful dramatic tension that the Phil's conductor Volker Hartung managed to evince was palpable. The solo part in this, the first orchestral concerto from Mozart's pen, was beautifully played by a young Romanian Dejan Topchiev, to the well articulated ensemble playing from the ripieno. The size of the orchestra, with seventeen players, ensured a ravishing, clear and sharp sound..
You don't get that clarity or sense of intimacy, or such a well judged dynamic range, from many larger orchestras.
Or from many contemporary 'early music' ensembles who, sad to say, so often deliver stilted, spineless readings on disc, on the radio and in the concert hall. I was particularly impressed with Hartung's idiomatic and polished style, and the superb cadenzas, which captured the sheer joy of Mozart's very operatic music without ever lapsing into vulgarity.
Second on the programme was his best known Symphony, no 40 in G minor K550. Again, another passionate performance, racy tempi and full justice done to the piece's dramatic and sometimes daring textures and melodies.

But the highlight of the evening was the titanic Requiem in D minor, K626, from late 1791, at the very end of the composer's life. Here the now larger orchestra (more brass) was joined by the University of Medical Sciences Mixed Choir of Poznan, in the west of Poland. Numbering around two dozen, their size was well matched to the players, and their butch, clear and robust Eastern European consonants (and vowels) along with their exquisite diction contributed to a wondrous sound.
Some would have demurred from the use of a performing edition of the Requiem based on Süssmayer with its very full and perhaps over-heavy orchestration. But Hartung and his players were not fazed by this; there was still great clarity and more wonderful articulation.
Despite the ticket prices the Cathedral was packed. It is Lancaster's finest venue for a concert of this nature and scale. You could have heard a pin drop. The atmosphere was electric. I was moved to tears by this stunning performance.
Lancaster was richly blessed with a superb concert in such wonderful surroundings.
(Virtual Lancaster: Michael Nunn)