Browsing: CD and Book Reviews

George Martin: Film scores and orchestral music (Atlas Realisations/Pias Classics) How good a musician was the Beatles’ producer? I talked to George Martin three or four times and, while I found him very likeable, was unimpressed by his musical curiosity. Like many other producers I knew at Abbey Road, he was a purposeful fixer who knew what needed to be done to make a track work and which of London’s hundreds of freelancers he had to call in to patch up a session that, somehow, lacked the finishing touch. String quartet for ‘Yesterday’, piccolo trumpet for ‘Penny Lane’, George Martin…

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Leo Weiner: Five Divertimentos (Chandos) It was George Solti who first mentioned Weiner to me as his most sympathetic teacher in Budapest, an astute encourager of musical temperament. Solti returned to Weiner in what would be the last recording of his life, an affectionate account of the 1906 f-minor Serenade, perhaps Weiner’s trademark work though scarcely known beyond Hungarian borders. This new account by Neeme Järvi and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra is strikingly fresh and virtuosic – just wallow in that sumptuous third-movement clarinet – less relaxed than Solti’s and altogether more together. The rhythms might sound a shade…

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Daniil Trifonov: Chopin Evocations (DG) FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (Arr. By Mikhail Pletnev), Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” Works by Barber, Grieg, Mompou, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Daniil Trifonov, piano; Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Mikhail Pletnev, conductor 2 CDs, 0289 479 7518 2 The 2011 Tchaikovsky winner has lost none of his capacity to surprise. Daniil Trifonov thinks nothing of coming on stage with one wrist in a bandage, no explanation offered, or of asking the audience not to applaud at any time through a 90-minute recital. His powers of concentration are phenomenal and he expects no less from his listeners.…

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Chopin: Works for Piano & Orchestra. Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise brillante Op. 22. Rondo à la Krakowiak Op. 14. Variations on “La ci darem la mano” Op. 2. Fantasy on Polish Airs Op. 13. Nocturne in C sharp minor Op. posth. Jan Lisiecki, piano. NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra/Krzysztof Urbański. DG 4796824. Total Time: 64:43. At age 22, Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki ­already enjoys an international reputation. He was born in ­Calgary of Polish ­descent, perhaps ­allowing him an ­­authoritative ­approach to Chopin. This CD of all-Chopin works is likely to be a crowd-pleaser. Chopin was a pianist and composer who…

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Noa Wildschut, Mozart Yoram Ish-Hurwitz, Gordan Nikolić, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra Warner I’m about to break an iron rule and review a kid playing the violin. And, no, I haven’t given in to peer pressure, though there has been plenty of it from the London agency that signed her at 15, and the record label that followed up. The kid’s 16 now, old enough to take a bit of criticism and interesting enough to warrant adult consideration. Noa Wildschut first appeared on Dutch television at six years old and at the Concertgebouw a year later. The child of two string players…

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Alexander Scriabin: 2nd symphony and piano concerto Kirill Gerstein, piano Oslo Philharmonic, Vasily Petrenko, conductor Lawo classics LWC113 Total duration 01:16:33 What did Alexander Scriabin have in common with Donald J. Trump? Small hands, that’s what. Scriabin’s 1897 piano concerto was an instant hit with similarly endowed artists, although it also won approval from Sergei Rachmaninov, whose mitts were mega-sized. Despite these contemporary endorsements, it has hovered ever since on the repertoire fringes. That may be due to uninspiring first movement, all meander and no meat. But the succeeding andante has one of the most memorable tunes in any piano concerto, as compelling…

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When Pierre Boulez became music director of the New York Philharmonic in the 1970s, he refused to conduct Mozart, inserting Haydn instead. It did no good for Haydn. The Mozart lovers deserted in droves, while the cerebral types that Boulez hoped to attract were dismayed to find just as much frivolity in Papa Haydn as in the trivial Amadeus. Haydn’s reputation has taken years to recover. The instant appeal of this recording is that it contains not just two well-known Haydn concertos but three extra pieces that complement and contextualise them. The second benefit is that Steven Isserlis’s performance with…

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Four releases, arriving in timely fashion for the upcoming New Year, explore the shushed-up sounds of creative Jewish femininity. The San Francisco composer David Garner has set four female Jewish poets, of whom the most gripping is the exotic Berliner Elsa Lasker-Schüler, represented here by her Blue Piano cycle. The poet’s voice is unbridled and inimitable, Garner’s is more conventional; the singer is Nanette McGuinness. This is one of those recitals that, good on paper, never quite gets lift-off (Centaur **). A full album of 26 Lasker-Schüler poems, dating from the mid-1920s, was set to music in the 1960s by…

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Quarter of a century ago, Decca sank its Three Tenors profits into an ‘Entartete Musik’ series, breaking the silence that had settled on a generation of composers who had fled Nazi Germany, or died in its concentration camps. Those vital recordings are now hard to find, but the search continues for other member of the silent generation. None of the music on this gripping compilation will be familiar to anyone alive. Even the names of the composers will cause some scratching of heads. Erich Itor Kahn (1905-56) is known to me only from an adoring memoir by his widow. A…

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No label generates such a buzz around new releases as the quirky Munich-based ECM which, after 48 years of high output, still manages to produce the unexpected, and at high quality. To find the senescent music of CPE Bach in a series that specialises in living composers is surprise enough. To hear him played on an esoteric Tangent piano is altogether a delight. The shortlived Tangent piano, mostly built by August Späth in the mid-to-late 18th century, allows an artist to express a personal sound – according to the Russian pianist, Alexei Lyubimov. Certainly, the sound on this recording is unlike…

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