Classical

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Christopher Breunig  |  Mar 06, 2019
This month we review: Elgar, Bartók/Enescu, Haydn/Schoenberg & Rachmaninov
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 01, 2018
This month we review: Sibelius, JS Bach, Beethoven/Brahms/Mozart and The Rotterdam PO Collection
Christopher Breunig  |  Nov 01, 2018
This month we review: Schubert, Bruch, Ravel/Gershwin, and Mozart.
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
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
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
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
Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey prompted a flourish of LPs excerpting the timpani and organ pedal opening of Also Sprach. . . One wonders how many non-Straussians would stomach the whole Nietzschean epic! In fact, Karajan’s Decca version was used for the film.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.

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