Browsing: CD and Book Reviews

Ever since Samuel Barber’s Adagio and Gustav Mahler’s Adagietto became the standard works of public mourning and consolation, the first in the 1940s, the second in the 1970s, the search has been on for an alternative orchestral offering of sombre yet hopeful contemplation. When the Pittsburgh Symphony commissioned the Scottish composer James MacMIllan to mark the tenth anniversary of its Austrian music director, Manfred Honeck, his thoughts turned inward to their shared Roman Catholic faith. The Larghetto, based on MacMillan’s choral setting of Psalm 51, moves from a Miserere starting point to something altogether more encouraging, an organic optimism that transcends…

Share:

At the start of the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, the violinist Renaud Capucon asked his son Elliott to film a short Dvorak piece he was playing on a tablet. What arose from this moment was a ritual in which, for 56 days, Capucon would play each morning with the pianist Guillaume Bellom and post the results online. ‘It would give me a goal every morning, at a time when one could easily come adrift,’ he says. Twenty-two of those tracks have now been released on record, at the very moment that parts of Europe are heading back into…

Share:

****/*** Hindemith is a house without a door. The immensity of his output – 11 operas, 5 ballets, a dozen concertos, countless works for orchestra, lots of chamber music – is not just daunting but superficially impenetrable. The consistency is high and the differentiation difficult. A German who fought in the First War and was exiled by Hitler, Hindemith concerned himself with performance high and low, writing for major stages and domestic living rooms. When asked ‘which Hindemith should I try first?’ I’m lost for an answer. The American conductor Marin Alsop is embracing Hindemith with great enthusiasm with her…

Share:

Reconnaissance: Robert & Clara Schumann  Jeanne Amièle, piano – 2021 (self-produced disc) ★★★★★ The pianist and teacher Jeanne Amièle is still at the beginning of her career. She has just released her first self-produced album. For a first try, what could be better than performing youthful works? Amièle chooses to draw on the repertoire of Robert and Clara Schumann. The title of the album, Reconnaissance, refers to the 14th movement of Carnival Op. 9, which, in the words of the pianist in her booklet notes, evokes two characters who discover their true identity behind their masks and see each other as…

Share:

Bach: Goldberg Variations Sarah Hagen, piano ★★★★☆ The first thing one notices about Sarah Hagen’s self-produced recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations is the length of 1:41:42, which requires two CDs and is longer than Angela Hewitt’s 78-minute recording (Hyperion) from 2018, and much longer than Glenn Gould’s landmark 1955 recording or his final 1981 recording. Hewitt’s was played with repeats, while Gould’s 1955 was notoriously played without repeats and was considered too fast by Gould himself, whose last recording was more introspective. As a fan of Gould’s 1981 version, with his underlying humming, I was reminded of the breadth of…

Share:

Retro Americana/Vintage Americana Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano – Navona Records NV6384 ★★★☆☆ The Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico has released two new albums dedicated to music in America in various genres. Hence their titles: Retro Americana and Vintage Americana. The first begins with a troubling atmosphere where the music moves like a disjointed puppet. It’s not square and fixed in form. The second track plunges us into a race that nothing can stop, the piano spinning as if toward infinity. Then comes a return to a quieter atmosphere, but also more frightening, with certain melodic features more assertive than in the previous…

Share:

Brahms: Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in A Minor Op. 102.* Shostakovich: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 1 in E Flat Major Op. 107**  Oleg Kagan, violin, Natalia Gutman, cello. State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR/Yevgeny Svetlanov.* Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Lazarev** DOREMI 2022 – ★★★★★ Natalia Gutman (1942-) and her husband, Oleg Kagan, (1946-1990) were among the foremost Soviet artists of their generation. Kagan was an Oistrakh student with an important career ahead of him when he died of cancer at age 43. Gutman made her U.S. debut in 1969 with Stokowski conducting. She rivalled Rostropovich for the…

Share:

El Nour. Works by Ravel, Falla, Berlioz, Bizet, Obradors and others Fatma Said, soprano. Malcolm Martineau, piano. Rafael Aguirre, guitar and others Warner Classics 190295233464 – ★★★★1/2 The young Egyptian soprano Fatma Said has captured a lot of attention recently both as an opera singer and a recitalist. On the evidence of this recording, she has a light, attractive voice and a winning personality. What makes this CD exceptional is the freshness of its programming. Every song has a Middle Eastern connection starting with Ravel’s well-known Shéhérazade. But it has a novel touch. It is sung with piano accompaniment but with…

Share:

Dmitri Klebanov: String Quartets Nos. 4 and 5; Piano Trio No. 2 ARC Ensemble (Erika Raum and Marie Bérard, violins; Steven Dann, viola; Thomas Wiebe, cello; Kevin Ahfat, piano) Chandos 20231 – ★★★★★ Dmitri Klebanov (1907-1987) was born and died in Kharkiv, the second city of Ukraine, where he was employed steadily enough at the local conservatory. He might seem a questionable candidate for the ARC Ensemble’s “Music in Exile” series on Chandos. In his substantial booklet note, ARC artistic director Simon Wynberg argues that Klebanov’s was a case of “internal exile” in the face of Stalinist censorship. At any rate,…

Share:

New Jewish Music Vol. 3 – Azrieli Music Prizes Krisztina Szabó, mezzo-soprano. Nouvel Ensemble Moderne/Lorraine Vaillancourt Analekta AN 2 9263 ★★★★☆ The Azrieli Foundation and the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM) are joining forces again to deliver the crème de la crème of creativity in new Jewish music. Released on Analekta, New Jewish Music, Vol. 3 – Azrieli Music Prizes presents the works of the 2020 Azrieli Music Prize winners. Familiar with Jewish music or not, anyone listening to these three premieres will be transported to a fascinating musical crossroads where tradition and modernity resonate. Masterfully conducted by Lorraine Vaillancourt, the…

Share:
1 2 3 53