6 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 10 - July 2006

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at least boast

at least boast impressive credentials. Daniel Rohn comes from a distinguished musical family (his grandfather was Furtwangler's first concertmaster in the Berlin Philharmonic), and at the age of 27, he has already been winning praise from European critics. Milana Chernyavska is a graduate of the Kiev Conservatory, and was a gold medalist in the 1994 Horowitz Competition. The best word to describe this disc is ECLECTIC! There is indeed something for everyone here, with pieces from the familiar to the obscure - from Waxman's Carmen Fantasy to arrangements of popular pieces by Debussy, Brahms, and Ponce. Less well-known is a suite by Christian Sinding, but this a followed a few tracks later by a thoughtful rendition of Stephen Foster's Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair (a little incongruous perhaps?!). While Rohn's playing is expressive throughout, I felt he could have striven for a warmer tone - certain notes in the higher register have a shrill quality at times. Nevertheless, his technique is always impressive, and he's able to make relative ease of those demands that 19th century composers loved to incorporate into their pieces. Chernyavska proves to be a more than adequate musical partner - indeed, as an artist in her own right, she presumes a role less of mere accompanist, and more of a musical equal - a formidable pairing indeed. Richard Haskell Autour de la Harpe Montreal Chamber Players; Jennifer Schwartz, harp ATMA ACD2 2356 Jennifer Schwartz, the enterprising principal harpist of l 'Orchestre symphonique de Montreal, is the featured soloist in this highly appealing and enjoyable recital of early twentieth century French compositions for harp and ensemble. She is ably assisted by first chair players from the OSM: flutist Timothy Hutchins is the centre of attention in Albert Roussel 's excellent Serenade for flute, harp and 54 Back to Ad Index string trio; clarinetist Robert Crowley lends his liquid tone to Ravel's sensuous Introduction and Allegro; and violist Neal Gripp shines in a sensitive performance of Debussy's 1915 Sonate for flute, viola and harp. The mixing of the recording is erratic, at times artificially sweetened with the harp and flute panned towards the centre, yet conventional in other instances. Although soloists Schwartz and Hutchins acquit themselves admirably, overall the sense of ensemble lacks the subtle architecture Judy Loman achieved in her recording of the Ravel, Roussel and Debussy works on Marquis 7 7418-13232-1 (which I reviewed here in the December 2004 issue, available at www. However this recording remains quite desirable for its inclusion of two major though lesser known works, Joseph Guy Ropartz' intriguing Prelude, Marine et Chansons and (though not credited as such in the disappointingly generic liner notes) the premiere recording of the Quintette "Primavera II" Op. 223 by Charles Koechlin (1867- 1950), one of the greatest and most under-appreciated composers of his generation. Daniel Foley Tchaikovsky l'r.1cml~1!..o:-rn!r!u.m 01(l-c''J H.1t!;,..,:1\;Jti-. Tchaikovsky - Symphonies Prague Radio Orchestra; Vladimir Valek Supraphon SU 3862-2 Although not a true "symphonist" like Beethoven, Brahms or Bruckner who constructed magnificent edifices from seemingly insignificant fragments, Tchaikovsky with his immortal melodic gifts still created some of the most beautiful works in the genre and his last three symphonies are cornerstones of symphonic literature. Tchaikovsky's symphonic oeuvre divides so sharply between the 3rd and the 4th symphonies with such an incredible qualitative leap that one wonders if the same composer wrote them. In the first three Tchaikovsky is spreading his wings, trying safe methods, exploring his already considerable compositional skill. Note for example the brilliant variations on the folk : .. , WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM song The Crane in his 2nd symphony or a masterly fugue in the 3rd. Even the shimmering, atmospheric opening of the !st, evoking the Russian winter with a troika ride over a frozen lake, complete with the driver's whip, betrays a master's touch, though the work itself is very uneven. As Tchaikovsky's skill matures, his genius becomes more and more evident. The three last symphonies are something no other composer could have written. Unfortunately his mental health had severely deteriorated. The music alternates between great depression and forced, exhausting gaiety. Nowhere is this more evident than the unsurpassable 6th symphony, his greatest. Even the immensely popular and relatively optimistic 5th has interruptions of horror and the "tragic fate". Great recordings of the symphonies are too numerous to mention. This bargain priced Supraphon set, however, is no mean competitor. Vladimir Valek, with his outstanding orchestra, very strong in the wind section, has great soul and a natural ability to interpret Tchaikovsky. With fast tempi he has a youthful, energetic, no-nonsense approach and with well judged pacing he makes these performances very successful. He has the rare ability to grab the listener quickly and get to the essence of the music. Up-to-date DDD sound. A set to treasure. Janos Gardonyi Prokofiev - Complete Symphonies London Symphony Orchestra; Valery Gergiev Philips 475 7655 The much travelled Valery Gergiev, director of the Mariinsky Theatre (the Kirov Opera and Ballet), conductor of The Rotterdam Philharmonic, and favoured conductor at Metropolitan Opera in New York is also, since May 2005, the principal conductor of the London Symphony succeeding Sir Colin Davis. He travels the world both with his Kirov orchestra and as a guest conductor. Next Spring he brings the entire Mariinsky Theatre group to the Met for two performances of their mounting of Wagner's Ring Cycle. This production has not received unanimous acclaim but will surely be honed for the New York performances. This set of the Prokofiev symphonies, recorded I ive between May 1 and 8 2004 in the Barbican Centre, has been widely acclaimed, particularly in the British press. The LSO can sight read any score put before it and, although he was still a guest conductor at the time, it must be assumed that Gergiev had rehearsed the orchestra for these recordings. To be present at these dynamic performances, which included two editions of the Fourth, the 1930 original and the 1947 revised version, must have been thrilling. These are standing ovation events although the audience does not betray its presence. As solidly played as these performances are however, they sound, to these ears at least, like sight reading. I hear some smart tempos but, sadly, detect no pulse. The recordings capture every instrumental nuance and while certainly not dry, there are no reverberations from the auditorium. All but one of Gergiev's recordings on CD and DVD from Philips are of Russian repertoire, including Prokofiev's five piano concertos with the Kirov and the flamboyant pianist and teacher, Alexander Toradze. Recorded in Finland between 1995 and 1997 (Philips 462048 2 CDs) these performances well deserve the praises heaped upon them at the time of publication. Bruce Surtees Symphonic Dances Utah Symphony; Keith Lockhart Reference Recordings RR-105 What a smashing album this is! Each of these up-tempo, brilliantly orchestrated works is well chosen, complementing and contrasting with the other two. Bernstein employed Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal to arrange and orchestrate selections from West Side Story into the familiar suite. Under Lockhart's direction, the j UL Y 1 - SEPTEMBER 7 2006

music sheds most of its brash Broadway origin, emerging, not as selections from the show but as a symphonic suite unencumbered by lyrics, as memorable as they are. In 1940, when Rachmaninoff (as it was spelled at the time) was writing his Symphonic Dances he consulted Eugene Ormandy to advise him on the orchestration and is quoted as stating that The Philadelphia Orchestra was the world's greatest. While the Ormandy/Philadelphia performance on Sony holds a special place in the catalogue, this stunning new version is now the preferred one in both orchestral polish and superlative recorded sound. Gabriela Lena Frank was born in Berkley CA in 1972. Lockhart premiered her Three Latin American Dances in Utah on April 23, 2004, two days before all the recordings on this CD were made. The energetic and colourful movements are Jungle Jaunt, Highland Harawi, and The Mestizo Waltz. Reference Recordings is deservedly world famous for its sumptuous sound, true to life dynamics and accurate perspective. They eclipse every major label and all the others I can think of. This HDCD, High Definition CD, is playable on regular equipment. Bruce Surtees tracks feature a straight-ahead jazz quintet, augmented by the veteran trombonist Slide Hampton on three tunes. The rhythm section is solid, with another vet, Ronnie Mathews on piano alongside bassist Dwayne Burno and Willie Jones III on drums. Justin Robinson's astringent alto is a good foil for Hargrove's big-toned trumpet. Hampton's articulate horn enriches the ensembles, and his composition A Day In Vienna offers real 'meat' for the soloists. The leader's own tunes include the ballad Trust, on which he plays flugelhorn and Robinson flute; Cameraderie, whose avant-gardeish opening settles into straight ahead swing; and The Gift, an expansive melody with Hargrove on flugel again. From within the band comes Devil Eye by bassist Dwayne Burno, a tune for Jones III to shine; and Ronnie Mathews' dedication to his daughter, Salima 's Dance. I could use a few more straightahead 4/4 tunes, as most everything here is Latin-ish, or in odd time signatures, but at 45 minutes, this collection suits an old LP fan like me - I'm often tired of listening to CDs well before they're over. Ted O'Reilly JAZZ AND _ IMPROVISED Nothing Serious Roy Hargrove Verve B000621102 Trumpeter Roy Hargrove's dichotomous career is on full view with two concurrent releases from Verve, but only one of them is to be taken seriously by a jazz fan, and that's this one, ironically called "Nothing Serious". (The other, "Distractions" is by his pop/funk/hip-hop RH Factor group. Ugh.) The Texan, now in his mid-30s, has matured nicely from his earliest brash days. He's always been an energizer, but now approaches ballads convincingly too, becoming a more complete player. The eight j ULY 1 - SEPTEMBER 7 2 006 Back to Ad Index For Basie Randy Reinhardt/Jesper Thilo Sextet Nagel Heyer CD098 The dedicatee here is Count Basie, of course, and the concert from which the CD is derived was part of a 2004 Centenary Tribute to the bandleader presented by an international sextet at a jazz club in Hamburg, Germany. From the USA came Randy Reinhart, equally comfortable on trumpet and trombone; Denmark's masterful J esper Thi lo on tenor and clarinet (and even a vocal); and the Italian pianist Rossano Sportiello, whose range and competence runs from Jelly Roll through Bud to Evans. The home-town rhythm section (guitarist Rudolph "Pluto" Kemper, Nico Gastreich on bass with his son Moritz on drums) WWW.THEWHOLENOTE. COM 5

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