Classical, July 2021

hfnalbum.pngBehzod Abduraimov
Chopin: 24 Preludes Op.28; Debussy: Children's Corner Suite; Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
Alpha Classics ALPHA653 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

The young Uzbek pianist's Rachmaninov at Lucerne on Sony was our 2020 Yearbook High-Res album choice. This is his first solo programme now he's signed to Alpha – the Chopin and Mussorgsky, at least, essentials in any pianophile's library. I've not heard a more consistently interesting Pictures: you can almost hear the words with the 'two Jews', and the finale is marvellously built with an extremely wide dynamic range. 'Tuileries', 'Limoges; and 'Unhatched chicks' are dazzling. The Chopin Preludes show so many touches of individuality (as they should) with beautifully soft playing in the tranquil numbers. And Debussy's 'Snowflakes' really dance! CB


Faust, Queyras, Melnikov, Freiburg Baroque/Heras-Casado
Beethoven: Triple Concerto; Piano Trio Op.36
Harmonia Mundi HMM902419 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

Op.36 – isn't that Beethoven's Symphony No 2? Indeed it is, but transcribed for piano trio by Ferdinand Ries (the booklet essayist argues, albeit 'signed off' by the composer), and performed here on period instruments – as is the Concerto. (This is not the first such: we had a 1972 DHM LP with Badura-Skoda, et al.) Melnikov plays an 1815 fortepiano, and in the Trio one modelled after an Anton Walter instrument. It's a relaxed, intimate account, the three soloists musically balanced so that, for once, it doesn't sound like 'Beethoven's Cello Concerto'. Still, it's the Op.36 as a trio that makes this disc more worth having. CB


Ben Goldscheider, Huw Watkins
Legacy – A Tribute To Dennis Brain
Three Worlds Records TWR0009 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

It's the centenary year of the great horn player Dennis Brain, killed in a night-time car crash – he was then only 36. This compilation has a track by composer/pianist Huw Watkins, Lament; Poulenc's Élégie; Britten's Canticle III (premiered in 1955 with Brain and so obviously tailored to Peter Pears' vocal style but ably sung here by James Gilchrist) and three transcribed Sonnets by Roxanna Panufnik. There are also unaccompanied pieces by Maxwell Davis, Fanfare Salute; and Malcolm Arnold, Fantasy (typically quirky and warm). Finalist in the 2016 BBC Young Musician Competition, aged 18, Goldscheider plays compellingly under the scrutiny of a close recording. CB


Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali
Prokofiev: Symphony No 5
Signum Classics SIGCD669 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

This is from the Royal Festival Hall, Feb '20, just before concerts ceased (but there's no applause). In January you could see his Gothenburg performance at GSOplay, and he'd been conducting it in Munich too. The Philharmonia playing is fine, tempi are well judged and transitions smooth (eg, in the scherzo slow middle section's accelerando back to the main tempo). Brass and winds sound well but the upper strings are disappointing in comparison with the Philharmonia/Rouvali Swan Lake recording [HFN Jan '21] – denser scoring here of course. In all, not so searching as Jansons/Leningrad PO on Chandos. CB