Classical

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Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
There are parallels with the 1970s Kovacevich cycle: keen young Beethoven pianist (students respectively of Myra Hess/Alfred Brendel) partnered with older, principal conductor of the BBC SO – though Colin Davis had the LSO for No. 5. Both soloists opt for glissando octaves at the recapitulation of 1(i), and play the longer Beethoven cadenzas in Nos. 1 and 4.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
It’s odd to find Sony, in promoting its young Classical Brit award-winning violinist, issuing recordings made as long ago as December 2007. And the resonant Potton Hall acoustic doesn’t add sweetness to the high register of Liebeck’s Guadagnini instrument – although he’s somewhat favoured in the balance, at forte the piano sounds lunge forward. There’s no doubting his sincerity and engagement with the music but, as with their earlier Dvořák sonatas on Sony (coupled with a lacklustre production of the Violin Concerto), it’s the highly developed artistry of pianist Katya Apekisheva that holds the attention more. Sound Quality: 65% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Daniel Harding stresses what he sees as Orff’s ‘monumentality’ – perhaps this prompted timings outstretching the composer-approved Jochum recording (same orchestra, 1968) by over 5m. It takes the fun out of a piece to which, in any case, the ‘law of diminishing returns’ applies. Orchestral precision is exceptional, however. The singing is best at the top of the scale: fine boys’ and women’s voices, a boyish soloist; the ‘roasted swan’ (Bunz) is arguably the finest yet, but Gerhaher’s sensitive work sounds monochrome and the men dry in this live recording.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Boyd Neel was perhaps first (1936) to bring authenticity to Handel’s Op. 6 – Karajan (very late ’60s) being ‘last of the dinosaurs’. Period instruments are pretty well the only choice today, Pavlo Beznosiuk’s group proving eminently stylish, with good tempi, good balance and imaginative detail. Continuo is harpsichord; and Handel’s added wind parts for Nos.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
The Helsinki conductor, after ten years with the CBSO, has returned to his Nordic roots with appointments with the Finnish Radio SO and in Stockholm. These Schumann live performances, 2008/’09, equal the finest on disc: ie, Szell, Sawallisch. The orchestra sounds ‘right’ in scale and tone for this composer, playing beautifully for Orama, who brings euphoric brilliance to the ‘Spring’ Symphony’s scherzo and ideal pacing throughout the noble Second, with its returning motifs and (rather like the Allegretto in Beethoven’s Seventh) delightful little counterpoint section in the slow movement. The sound is natural, and one can only hope Symphonies 3 and 4 will appear.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Of course, Vasily Petrenko is far too young to have lived through the Stalinist repressions which informed interpreters like Sanderling, Barshai or Mravinsky but to say that he pitches in is an understatement. I do feel the third movement could have had even greater force at a reduced tempo, but for overall tension this surpasses previous RLPO instalments in this Naxos series. Antiphonal exchanges in the second scherzo are rhythmically precise and the various solos throughout have real quality. And Petrenko obviously has the skill of gearing a complete performance to a climactic point – in this case the final coda, those flickering embers which leave no easy resolution.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Having recorded the concertos and complete piano solo works, Zoltán Kocsis continues to be the torch-bearer for Bartók’s music. And with his native orchestra everything sounds thoroughly idiomatic (whereas, for instance, fellow-Hungarian Solti’s Bartók had a personalised gloss) and full of gusto. The Hungaroton production offers clear separation and a wide soundstage, though this is accompanied by slight stridency in the Divertimento finale. The hapless drunkard in the fourth of the transcribed Hungarian Sketches should make listeners smile.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
This retrospective – with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Young Person’s Guide in two versions; Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, Falstaff and Symphony 2; and Walton’s Symphony 1 – is almost entirely sourced from 1956 Westminster/Nixa stereo tapes. The one exception, an alternative YPG without narration, is taken from LP; the mono has Boult narrating. There’s a huge difference between the Walton here and Somm’s transfer from an inferior Pye LP reissue [HFN May ’10] – you’d hardly dream it was the same performance. Sound from the Walthamstow Hall is extraordinarily vivid and the Elgar Falstaff and Second Symphony are musically superb.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
This offers a very different kind of listening experience from the classic Mercury Firebird with LSO/Dorati. There both sound and performance are upfront, confrontational (albeit exciting); Nelsons goes in for subtlety with soft playing that’s almost inaudible – the subject-matter is unmistakable with the ‘fluttery’ textures he achieves. The sound has an altogether more natural concert hall perspective too. Evidently performed with a very large chorus, the Symphony makes a complete contrast: taking us away from Stravinsky’s colourful Diaghilev period to a 1930 Koussevitzky commission with Latin texts and austere orchestration.

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