Browsing: CD and Book Reviews

The founder of the Dohnanyi dynasty achieved early success, political controversy and posthumous oblivion. His son, Hans, was an anti-Nazi resistant, hanged on Hitler’s orders in 1945. His grandson, Christoph, became an international conductor. Dohnanyi himself was investigated after the War for having held a Budapest post under the Horthy regime and settling to Vienna in November 1944. No concrete evidence of collaboration was ever presented. He migrated to the US in 1949, teaching for a decade until his death at the University of Florida at Tallahassee. It is hard to take entirely seriously who wrote a comic opera about…

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The German-Japanese pianist, a trophy artist on Deutsche Grammophon, is facing the onset of multiple sclerosis with courage, positivism and ingenuity. On her tenth album she seeks to give the preludes of Frederic Chopin a contemporary twist by interleaving them with some of her favourite modern composers. Her daring approach changes the colouring of some of the Chopin so that certain preludes sound like shards of Philip Glass that got left on the mixing desk – not that Glass is present in the mix. The composers she chooses are compellingly more eclectic. There is the Italian Francesco Tristano, who reimagines…

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One of the perils of the Covid period is the forgetfulness . We no longer remember the physical thrill of hearing a favourite work and recordings sometimes fail to deliver that visceral satisfaction. Here’s an exception. Shostakovich wrote his first concerto for himself to play and the second for his son, Maxim. The degree of difficulty is relative; neither was a virtuoso pianist. The writing is rich in orchestral texture and, in the first work, amounts could almost be a trumpet concerto. The second piano trio, written in wartime, is a lament for the sufferings of Jewish citizens under Hitler and…

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In the spring of 1943, with millions being murdered across the continent of Europe, Germany’s wealthiest conductor summoned the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to rehearse a symphony he had written in B minor, his first. Furtwängler had been writing it, on and off, since 1908 and had lately added a fourth movement for which he had high hopes. These aspirations were dashed on first play-through. ‘Am very depressed,’ he told his wife. Of all things to get depressed about at this darkest moment in modern history, a symphony seems relatively trivial, but such was the size of the maestro’s ego that…

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Introspection: Solo Piano Sessions Music by Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, etc. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, piano Deutsche Grammophon DG 289 48606184 ★★★★★ The lockdowns and restrictions have been trying for all. For those who care about classical music not to be able to hear music live has been frustrating. And for those who make music for a living it can be soul-destroying or even career-destroying. Yannick Nézet-Séguin has seen his usual whirlwind of concerts in Montreal, New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere reduced to a trickle. Last summer, when he was able to do almost no conducting he reverted to the piano…

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Jan Järvlepp: Concerto 2000 & Other Works Pascale Margely, flute. Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra/Stanislav Vavřínek;, Zagreb Festival Orchestra/Ivan Josip Skender; Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Petr Vronský Navona Records NV6291 ★★★★✩ Enfant terrible of the Canadian contemporary music scene, the Ontario composer Jan Järvlepp last year released Concerto 2000 & Other Works on the Navona label. Known to the general public for his audacious Garbage Concerto (1995), this composer delivers an impressive array of works that affirm the postmodern character of his approach by rejecting the dogmas of new music. Freed from these conceptual shackles, Järvlepp returns unabashedly to tonality and offers accessible…

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Summertime is an ideal moment to break a new artist, a time when big names are out of town and the flow of label releases dries up. Randall Goosby, 25, is Decca’s new poster-boy violinist. With an African-American father and Korean mother, he has been groomed for a stage career by Itzhak Perlman and the Juilliard fame school. He has major-league management in London and New York and a pleasant way of engaging with media. What could possibly go wrong? On first impression – this is his debut album – Goosby has all the technique anyone could need and an off-the-shoulder phrasing…

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Schubert: Winterreise Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, piano Erato 190295284138 ★★★★★ Schubert’s late song cycle Winterreise (Winter’s Journey) is based on poems by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827), one of the composer’s contemporaries. Like Schubert, he died young, at the age of only 32. The poems and the song cycle tell no story as such; they simply express the pain of unrequited love. While the composer intended the song cycle for a tenor voice, it has sometimes been performed by women. In fact, there are outstanding recordings by women of the stature of Lotte Lehmann, Brigitte Fassbaender, Christa Ludwig and our own…

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Matthew Larkin plays the organ of St. Paul’s Anglican Church Music by Couperin, Bach, Mendelssohn, Franck, Reger, Howells, Willan, Duruflé, Messiaen, MacMillan, Jongen, Jarrett, Ager and Mallory ATMA Classique ACD2 2857 (two CDs) ★★★★✩ This two-disc recital by the British-born Ottawa organist Matthew Larkin covers a vast stylistic territory but sits you squarely in the centre of a resonant Canadian church – St. Paul’s Anglican in Toronto, to be precise. Many Casavant instruments have a majestic sonority but Op. 550 of 1914, also called the Blackstock Memorial Organ, is particularly admired for its “scope and beauty,” to quote the title…

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Francisco Coll: Violin Concerto, Hidd’n Blue Op. 6, Mural, Four Iberian Miniatures Op. 20, Aqua Cinerea Op. 1 Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin; Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg/Gustavo Cimeno Pentatone PTC 5186951 ★★✩✩✩ Spanish composer Francisco Coll (1985-) is the only student to date of Thomas Adès. Coll has had some considerable success with his orchestral work Hidd’n Blue Op. 6. Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and conductor Gustavo Cimeno have been actively championing his music, and both will appear with the Toronto Symphony next April for two performances of Coll’s Violin Concerto. Cimeno was appointed music director of the TSO last year but so…

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