Press Room

naïve April 2010 preview

Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin
Sergey Khachatryan, violin
V 5181
Two-CD set available April 20 from naïve

“Opening with Bach’s unaccompanied D-minor Partita, [Khachatryan] shirked anything to do with lean, limber Bach and went for old-fashioned, spacious Romanticism.  But there was a wealth of expressive detailing here: the Courante was driven and tense; an intimate Sarabande breathed into life like a whisper in the dark.  And then that mighty Chaconne, in Khachatryan’s hands a restless search for beauty that felt like an epic but never felt overwrought: it drew you in, rather than reaching beyond Bach’s natural austerity.”

Times review of recent performance at London’s Wigmore Hall

The celebrated young Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan climbs the Mount Everest of music for his instrument with a new recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin.  The album, his fourth for naïve, will be issued in the U.S. the day before his recital on Wednesday, April 21 with pianist Lusine Khachatryan, his sister, at New York’s Alice Tully Hall.  Bach will feature on their program – not one of the solo works, though one may perhaps serve as an encore – as well as sonatas by Beethoven (the “Kreutzer”) and Brahms (the Second).

In an illuminating booklet essay, appearing in multiple languages including Armenian, George B. Stauffer, Dean of the Mason Gross School of the Arts and Professor of Music History for Rutgers University, reminds listeners that while Bach was known in his lifetime for his accomplishments at the keyboard, he was also a supremely talented violinist.  Stauffer quotes the composer’s son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who observed, “He played the violin cleanly and penetratingly, and thus kept the orchestra in better order than he could have done from the harpsichord.  He understood to perfection the possibilities of all stringed instruments.  This is demonstrated by his solos for the violin and for the violoncello without bass.”  Stauffer continues:

“It is demonstrated, indeed, by the Six Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin, which are presented on the present compact disc in a stunning performance by Sergey Khachatryan.  Bach titled the works ‘Sei Solo a Violino senza Basso accompagnato’ – Six solos for violin without basso continuo.  As the date on the surviving autograph manuscript confirms, the collection was completed in 1720, midway through Bach’s tenure as Capellmeister at the court of Prince Leopold in Cöthen.  Bach was required to provide chamber works on a weekly basis for music-loving Leopold, and he responded by composing an extended series of concertos (including the famous Brandenburg set), sonatas, and other instrumental pieces.

Stauffer concludes, “The Sonatas and Partitas illustrate well Bach’s lifelong habit of focusing on a specific musical genre for a specific period of time and exploring its compositional possibilities in an exhaustive way.  Once he produced a set of unparalleled pieces, he moved on to other types of music, never to return to the examined genre again.”

For London’s Times, critic Neil Fisher reviewed Sergey and Lusine’s March recital at the Wigmore Hall, where they played the program planned for New York.  He lavished praise on the sibling duo:

“It’s the hardest lesson to master, because it can’t be taught.  Sure, the musician has found out how to play Bach, Brahms, or Beethoven, but has he found his own voice, too – the one that ultimately draws the audience to come back to him?

“When it comes to Sergey Khachatryan, the answer is a huge, huge yes.  There’s a big, glossy heap of talented violinists at the moment, but what separates this young Armenian from the pack isn’t just the rich sound of his Strad (the 1708 ‘Huggins’, if you’re interested in such things); it’s how forcefully, how individually he deploys it.  By the end of this recital, delivered with another Khachatryan (Lusine, his sister) at the piano, I felt so convinced that his way was going to be the right way that what the critical pen was scribbling on the critical notebook seemed pretty irrelevant.

“Brahms’s Violin Sonata No. 1 introduced a sibling partnership that clearly thought the same way: reflection over showmanship.  Violinist and pianist handled it with rapt affection and the sort of nonchalant, natural charm that could only mean hours in the practice room.

“Then, another demon of the repertoire, Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ sonata, and another surprise.  Its obsessive rhythms and repeated refrains normally scream high-octane drama, but it was the soulful tang of Khachatryan’s Strad that led the way, and what stayed in the mind was actually the soft, middle movement, a tender set of variations served up with sprung, silken elegance.  A spellbinding encore, an arrangement of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, rounded things off.  By then, the notebook had long been abandoned: one for the personal archive instead.”

Sergey and Lusine recorded a program of violin sonatas by Franck and Shostakovich for naïve, described by MusicWeb International as “an unusual but very exciting issue.”  The review continued: “I would never have thought that the soaring lyricism of César Franck would make a good bedfellow for Shostakovich’s very disturbing Sonata, but they work so well together, especially in such superb performances.”

Khachatryan’s concerto recordings (Sibelius and Shostakovich) for naïve have been widely acclaimed, both of them named Gramophone “Editor’s Choice” selections.  In recent seasons the violinist has performed with several major U.S. orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Also this month from naïve

Bertrand Chamayou plays Franck (V5208)

Following a debut recording for naïve dedicated to the music of Mendelssohn, the young French pianist Bertrand Chamayou turns to what he calls “an important milestone” in repertoire that is rarely recorded nowadays.  Indeed, although some of César Franck’s works are often heard in recital, others, including the mysterious and bewitching Prelude, Aria and Fugue, have fallen into oblivion.  The new recording comprises solo pieces and orchestral works – the latter including the scintillating composition Les Djinns and the Variations symphoniques for piano and orchestra, which Chamayou performs with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Stéphane Denève – revealing a composer who is by turns a painter and a narrator.

Edna Stern plays Chopin (AM 197)

Something special for the Chopin bicentennial year: pianist Edna Stern records a wide-ranging program including Ballades, Préludes, Waltzes and the haunting Sonata No. 2, played on a Pleyel piano dated 1842, housed in the Musée de la Musique in Paris, and similar to the one that Chopin owned from 1839 to 1841.  The recording recently received a top rating from Télérama, the leading French cultural magazine.

Christian Rivet – 24 Ways Upon the Bells (AM 183)

Christian Rivet takes us through England on a fascinating journey illustrated by selected pieces of music from the late 16th century to the present, played on several different plucked instruments – the archlute as well as guitars ancient, modern, and even electric!  24 Ways Upon the Bells is an inspiring release replete with originality, freshness, and charm, an accessible yet eclectic listening experience with very well-known repertoire by Dowland, Playford, Britten, and the Beatles.  The program ends with two of the Beatles’ best-loved songs: “Yesterday” and “Here Comes the Sun”.  After a musical journey rich in exciting sonorities, the latter, transcribed and played on the archlute by Christian Rivet, closes the release on a poetic ray of sunlight.  This release is part of the “Cité de la Musique” series on naïve, which offers internationally renowned musicians the opportunity to record on the legendary instruments held in the museum of early instruments at Paris’s Cité de la Musique.

Quatuor Mosaïques plays Schubert’s Der Tod und das Mädchen (LC06)

The sixth recording on the Laborie label, distributed worldwide by naïve, features the Quatuor Mosaïques, one of the leading groups that plays on period instruments, performing one of the most famous string quartets of music history: Schubert’s No. 14 in D minor (D.810), the “Death and the Maiden”.


Quatuor Mosaïques, soloists and Ensemble Baroque de Limoges play Chamber Music by Alexandre Pierre Françoise Boëly (1785-1858) (LC05)

This fascinating release features chamber music by the largely unknown Alexandre Pierre François Boëly, performed by Quatuor Mosaïques and the award-winning and internationally acclaimed Ensemble Baroque de Limoges, under director Christophe Coin.  The Romantic movement that swept through Europe in the 19th century made little impression on French composer Alexandre Pierre François Boëly; instead of embracing mainstream musical life in Paris, he championed such great composers of the past as Haydn, Frescobaldi, Couperin, and Bach.  His desire to write “serious” music proved to be his downfall and accounts for his being so little known today.  Because of his refusal to compose in the patriotic, operatic style that was then so popular, Boëly was dismissed from his position as organist at Saint Germain l’Auxerrois.  At the time of his death seven years later, he was just a piano teacher.  Though his name is all but forgotten, Boëly is widely acknowledged to have played an important part in the development of French music in the 19th century.  Interestingly, near the end of his life, he acted as a mentor to César Franck and Camille Saint-Saëns, both of whom respected him greatly.  Boëly is best known for his chamber works.


Recent critical acclaim for naïve artists and recordings

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9La Chambre Philharmonique / Emmanuel Krivine (V 5202, released in Marc

“Original-instrument performances, long confined to Baroque music, have moved into the Romantic era.  But as two new versions of Beethoven’s Ninth show, what still matters most is a conductor’s vision of a work, not whether the flutes are wood or metal or the horns natural or valved.  Philippe Herreweghe is a first-rate Beethoven conductor, but his in-studio Ninth is outclassed by Emmanuel Krivine’s live recording — and only incidentally because Krivine’s uses original instruments… . Krivine makes the timpani very dramatic, the more so because of his careful instrumental balance, especially between brass and winds…. Krivine gives the [Adagio] a gentle, almost pastoral opening, an overall soothing feel and some yearning in the strings that is proto-Romantic… . The vocal quartet is very fine; bass-baritone Konstantin Wolff and tenor Dominik Wortig sing especially well.  So does the chorus, which enunciates clearly and, despite being French, brings real feeling to the German words… . The martial music, which can stick out oddly, here fits perfectly with the words ‘wie ein Held zum Siegen’ – ‘like a hero going to victory.’”

– Washington Post [Mark Estren]

David Greilsammer: Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 22 and 24
David Greilsammer, piano, with the Suedama Ensemble (V 5184, released in January)

“In recent years the 32-year-old Israeli pianist David Greilsammer has emerged as an exceptionally sensitive and adventurous artist.  This new recording presents him as pianist and conductor in arresting performances of Mozart’s Piano Concertos No. 22 in E-flat and No. 24 in C minor, with the Suedama Ensemble (Amadeus spelled backward), a lively chamber orchestra that Mr. Greilsammer founded in New York in 2005.  Mr. Greilsammer’s playing is a model of refinement.  Yet just below the elegant surface lurks a bold and inquisitive musician alert to every ingenious nuance and quirk of these elusive scores.  He plays his own inventive cadenzas.”

            – New York Times [Anthony Tommasini]


naïve artists on tour

Sergey Khachatryan recital with Lusine Khachatryan

Wednesday, April 21, NYC

Lincoln Center (Alice Tully Hall)

Bach: Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor; 
Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major; Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major (“Kreutzer”)

Quatuor Diotima on tour in North America

April 10    St. Cloud, MN (program includes Onslow quartet)
April 14    University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
April 17    Centennial Theatre, Sherbrooke, Canada
April 19    La Maison Française, Washington, DC

For further information:

Visit naïve’s YouTube channel at the following link:

For updates and breaking news on naïve artists and projects, visit

# # #

© 21C Media Group, April 2010

Return to Press Room