Classical

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Christopher Breunig  |  Oct 01, 2018
This month we review: Haydn, Dream Album, Mendelssohn/Fanny Mendelssohn, and R Strauss.
Christopher Breunig  |  Sep 01, 2018
This month we review: Bruckner/Wagner, Handel, Mahler, and Scarlatti
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Some will recall the 17s 6d Supraphon LP of two of these grisly narrative poems – Czech PO/Chalabala, musically unsurpassed. Mackerras’s long association with Czech music virtually guarantees a recommendation here: Water Goblin and Noonday Witch (2008, live); Wild Dove (studio, 2009); and a reissued Golden Spinning Wheel (studio, 2001). Dvorak’s wind-swept allegros, rustic tunes and careful orchestrations fire the unique-sounding Czech Philharmonic much as Elgar’s or Walton’s music does the LSO. The one spectre at the feast is the skating-rink acoustic of the Prague Rudolfinum.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
A stirring (although not properly level-matched) Kingdom Prelude prefaces a midpriced version of the Violin Concerto altogether superior to the recent Znaider/Sony [HFN June]. Sir Mark Elder is flexible in the introduction and exposes unfamiliar details; the Hallé reveals a natural affinity with Elgar’s writing escaping their Dresden rivals; and Thomas Zehetmair has a searching command of the solo part. Competition here for the earlier, less indulgent Kennedy recording! As fillers we have the Gerontius Prelude and, sung by mezzo Alice Coote, ‘The Angel’s Farewell’ in a 1900 arrangement without chorus. Sound Quality: 85% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
In 1988/9 former HFN writer Andrew Keener produced the Peter Donohoe recordings for EMI – Nigel Kennedy/Steven Isserlis, no less, in 2(ii). He’s worked with Stephen Hough since his Virgin Classics debut and these Minnesota recordings form Hyperion’s 50th set in its ‘Romantic Piano Concerto’ series. We have the full length slow movement for No. 2, but also the disparaged Siloti cut edition and another of the pianist’s own devising.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
The Bach playing of Tatiana Nikoleyeva was the inspiration in 1950 for Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, and her two recordings inevitably are seen as definitive. (Nikoleyeva endeared herself to London audiences late in life; she also made several Hyperion discs. ) The young Moscow pianist provides a booklet overview of exceptional thoroughness, although the accompanying 23m DVD interview with a stubbly Andreas Staier gets us practically nowhere. Melnikov’s pianistic range, though, is something else.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
A Festival Hall recording originally made by Tony Faulkner in Feb 1989, for what is now called Music Preserved, this was one of Klaus Tennstedt’s characteristic concert performances. And it is gratifying to see the transfer honouring Mahler’s wish for a break after (i), here spanning a considerable 25m. His highly individual response to the ‘Resurrection’ (some will say related to his awareness of mortality) is apparent from the beginning, and never diminishes, although the very deliberate second movt will not suit all tastes. The ‘Urlicht’ is beautifully sung and Yvonne Kenny’s later contribution no less considerable.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Rebranding himself simply as Yundi, the Chinese pianist moves to EMI with the promise of a complete Chopin series. Produced by his former DG team (Christopher Alder/Klaus Hiemann), these Nocturne recordings were completed in a Zurich church during January. The sound is resonant but clean, wide in dynamic range – and preferable to that in last month’s Freire/Decca set. The two pianists are most divergent in the Lisztian Op.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Founded by Czech refugee musicians in 1946, the Bamberg Orchestra has been working with its English conductor for a decade now, and they are part-way through a Mahler cycle. More akin to Bruno Walter’s than Georg Solti’s, Jonathan Notts’ ‘Resurrection’ proves more than the sum of its parts and is fascinatingly detailed. Climaxes sound huge, although the recording perhaps exaggerates the rawness of brass and the tenor voices. Lioba Braun’s ‘Urlicht’ suffices, but that’s all.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Anyone present at either of the June 2008 Barbican performances edited here will not hesitate, yet a certain paradox might present itself to the disinterested listener. Haitink’s fastidious control and self-effacement, coupled with excellent orchestral playing, make for a fine presentation – of symphonic seriousness. But somehow it exposes Strauss’s lazy reliance on his motifs, the inherent schmalz, the ‘effects’ such as the water droplets: better placed in his Don Quixote capsized boat Variation. Somehow the Karajan Berlin or Dresden Luisi recordings mask the less attractive Straussian traits.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Playing a Steinway, Nelson Freire completed these mid-Dec ’09 recordings in the as yet unfamiliar acoustic of The Friary, Liverpool. He made his debut in the Chopin Preludes, aged 28 (CBS, 1972). ‘A hurricane of pianistic power’ then suggested the Saturday Review. The words that spring to mind now are ‘pianistic wisdom’ – Freire unfalteringly negotiates the often tortuous, enigmatically conceived paths of the Nocturnes, balancing their elements and attuned to the contrasts between them.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
These concert recordings supplement rather than displace Curzon, Gilels, Kempff, Serkin, et al, yet the opening bars of the Fourth Concerto immediately reveal Fellner’s very beautiful piano sound – which we already know from his Bach on ECM – and subsequently that he completely understands the imperatives of Beethoven’s expressive writing: in dynamic gradations, the function of trills and turns, etc. Furthermore he is very sympathetically accompanied by Nagano – the unfolding of the dramatic dialogue in 4(ii) has rarely sounded so interesting. Alas the ‘Emperor’ falls well below its companion here. Sound Quality: 65% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
These bracing readings differ only slightly from Sir Charles’s late-1980s Prague/Telarc set (same producer: James Mallinson), which had even more brio in some places: eg, the ‘Linz’ finale. And one irritating feature is repeated: the juxtaposing of both slow movements for the ‘Paris’, when by coupling 32 with ‘Haffner’ and ‘Linz’ (CD2), timings would have allowed complete alternate three-movement versions to avoid fiddling with programe remote. The playing of the SCO could not be more responsive, but there’s a schoolmasterly severity about Sir Charles’s Mozart – enough to send me scurrying to Pinnock’s warmer view. Sound Quality: 72% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Similar in spirit to Alice Harnoncourt’s groundbreaking Teldec Seasons (1997), the Berlin group gives a real edge to Vivaldi’s pictorial writing here, yet with tranquil moments in the introduction to ‘Summer’ and ‘Autumn’ (ii). Sledgehammer D-minor discordancy launches ‘Chaos’ in the coupled ten-track 1737 score, Rebel’s nouvelle symphonie for dancers/orchestra. Continually inventive, with mechanical nightingales, a hunt scene, ‘Tambourins’, ‘Warblings’ for piccolos/violins, etc, this is not music of great substance yet it’s still worth knowing. Translucent sound and, as ever, superlative execution.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Dorati’s extensive experience as a ballet conductor is set out in his Notes Of Seven Decades. He left a substantial Mercury catalogue – the late producer Wilma Cozart Fine had once been his secretary – with his complete LSO Firebird (Watford Hall, 1959) ever after an audiophile choice. One hopes Speakers Corner will issue it separately. The Minneapolis Le Sacre, excitingly fast, has an air of authority.

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