Thursday, April 26, 2012

Schumann: Piano Works

Robert Schumann (Composer)

Piotr Anderszewski (Piano)

Audio CD (2010)
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Virgin Classics 948625-2

Every record by this vivid and compulsive pianist is cause for celebration, for argument and point-counter-point. Never one to follow a conventional path, Anderszewski makes Schumann entirely his own while at the same time highlighting the composer’s essentially schizophrenic nature. Everything is seen through a novel perspective or prism with a rare ability to read between the lines.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

Nikolaj Andreevič Rimsky-Korsakov (Composer)
Vladimir Ashkenazy(Conductor)
Christopher Warren-Green (Violin)
Philarmonia Orchestra (Orchestra)

Audio CD (1987)
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Decca 417 301-2

This may not be an essential Scheherazade, but it is a very good one. Vladimir Ashkenazy certainly knows how this music should go. His is an idiomatic and balanced interpretation of Rimsky-Korsakov's score. This is not a Stokowskian swoon fest, nor a precision powerhouse performance like Reiner’s. It is does not surge with the high octane of Svetlanov, nor is it ablaze with the passion of Kondrashin – the latter’s performance with the Concertgebouw (Philips 454 550-2) is my benchmark. It is, however, a colourful and highly enjoyable account played by a virtuoso orchestra on top form.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mozart: Così fan tutte

Wolfang Amadeus Mozart (Composer)
Karl Bohm (Conductor)
    Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, Alfredo Kraus (Performers)
Philarmonia Orchestra (Orchestra)

Audio CD (1988)
Number of Discs: 3
Label: EMI 7 69330 2

A benchmark recording — Christa Ludwig's dark voice and direct musicianship make a desert island Dorabella. In essence, EMI's 20-bit remastering of Karl Böhm's 1962 Così fan tutte fortifies the lower strings, winds, and timpani, while sharpening note attacks and word endings. By contrast, the label's 1988 CD transfer is equalized more evenly from top to bottom. The close-up, slightly dry sonics underline Böhm's tightly-knit, forthright, and sober conception.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Strauss: Vier letzte Lieder

Richard Strauss (Composers)
George Szell (Conductor)
  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano)
London Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra)

Audio CD (1991)
Number of Discs: 1
Label: EMI 7 47276 2

Strauss completed his late, lovely masterpiece, the Four Last Songs between May and September 1948. A fifth song was started but not finished. Sadly, barely a year later, the composer died without ever hearing them in performance. Throughout his life Strauss had shown a distinct penchant for the soprano voice - one only has to recollect the three magnificent but demanding soprano roles in Der Rosenkavalier for instance. It is therefore fitting that this sublime last work with its fine vocal writing and opulent orchestrations (with glorious string parts), should be given to the soprano.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nono: Como una ola de fuerza y luz

Luigi Nono (Composers)
Claudio Abbado (Conductor)
  Maurizio Pollini (Piano)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Orchestra)

Audio CD (1988)
Number of Discs: 1
Label: DG 423 248-2

In Como una ola defuerzay luz (1971-72), the engineering is still more intricate and inventive. Indeed it's the very substance of the piece, for in the traditional sense there is little enough 'composing' involved: the tensions which sustain the affair arise from juxtapositions of blocks of sound much more than from patterns of notes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bollani - Chailly: Sounds of the 30s

Ravel, Stravinsky, Weill, De Sabata (Composers)
Riccardo Chailly (Conductor)
  Stefano Bollani (Piano)
Gewandhausorchester (Orchestra)

Audio CD (2012)
Number of Discs: 1

Label: Decca

Dopo “Rhapsody in Blue”, rimasto per oltre 30 settimane nella classifica “Top 100” GFK-Fimi dei CD più venduti e ormai disco di platino, nasce un nuovo progetto discografico della “strana coppia”.
Se “Rhapsody in Blue” era un progetto monografico dedicato a George Gershwin, Riccardo Chailly e Stefano Bollani ci sorprendono oggi con una esaltante quanto imprevedibile panoramica del sound classico degli anni ’30.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rossini: Stabat Mater

Giachino Rossini (Composer)
Antonio Pappano (Conductor)
 Lawrence Brownlee, Joyce DiDonato, Anna Netrebko, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo 

Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Orchestra)

Audio CD (2010)
Number of Discs: 1

Label: Emi Classics

The Stabat mater is a work with a complex provenance and an unusual aesthetic. Distinguished conductors and even on occasion distinguished (if rarely well-matched) quartets of soloists have been lined up to deliver bold and serious-sounding renderings which have often stopped the piece dead in its tracks. Giulini’s live 1978, now on Testament and identical in most essentials to his 1981 London studio recording, is a representative example of this. Richard Hickox and Marcus Creed resisted the temptation to fit the work into a mid-19th-century operatic straitjacket. But if an antediluvian choral manner can productively be dispensed with, the quintessentially Rossinian vocal style cannot.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Maria Callas: 5 Héroines

Maria Callas (Soprano)

Audio CD (1992)

Number of Discs: 5

Label: EMI


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