8 years ago

Volume 11 Issue 9 - June 2006

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every major and minor

every major and minor key) leave much to the imagination and recordings of the work have been issued on harpsichords, claviers, pianos, accordions and synthesizers. Ashkenazy has been keeping his lo ve of Bach to himself for many decades; his yeoman recording of the Italian Concerto was released some 40 years ago. While "WTC" was certainly a staple of the Russia of his youth, they were generally regarded as a private pleasure and not considered central to the performing repertoire until a sensational Moscow recital by a certain Glenn Gould caused heads to turn. Seasoned by long reflection, Ashkenazy's recording of the complete work is a grand success, full of sprightly tempos and demonstrating throughout an unfailing clarity of texture and profound musicality. It earns a rightful place among the most distinguished recordings of this work. The microphone placement is unusually intimate, as if peering over the pianist's shou lder. Ashkenazy's subdued vocal murn1uring aside, the wide dynamic range of his playing sometimes results in a rather raucous tone from his Steinway piano. The three discs are attractively priced and deserve a place in every home, perchance not too far from the family Bible. Mozart Pianoforte Ludwig Semerjian ATMA ACD2 2249 Daniel Foley Semerj ian and his ATMA producers have put together a fine collection of Mozart's late sonatas using a rare, original instrument from I 804. They offer us an intriguing aural glimpse of how aud iences 200 years ago heard their piano music. Early pianos are an oddity to the modern ear. From our perspective they lack almost everything we have come to love about the piano, as we know it today. To composers, performers and audiences of the late eighteenth century, however, they were a welcome change from the dynamically flat plucking of stalwart harpsichords. To appreciate early pianos fully we have to remind ourselves that their builders created them to meet the demands of more expressive music styles and forms . The rapid evolution from harpsichord to modem piano left the fortepiano with just a few decades of popular development. In that short time it captured the imagination of composers and keyboard players alike, who delighted in the newly found ability to shape notes, create tonal nuances and express dynamics from piano to forte. Young Montreal pianist Ludwig Semerj ian meets the contrapuntal demands of these sonatas with skill. While this instrument is incapable of truly great "forte", there is much very delicate playing at remarkable soft levels that makes the overall dynamic range of his performances very satisfying. Best tracks? Gigue in G major K.574 and the Sonata in B Flat K.570. This disc may have only limited appeal, but those with the curiosity to explore its earli er musical sensibility will find it highly rewarding. Alex Baran Beethoven; Brahms; Franck - Violin Sonatas; Ravel - Tzigane Leonid Kogan; Nina Kogan Orfeo C 657 051 B Leonid Kogan is one of the forgotten giants of the 20th century Russian violin school. Primarily a teacher at the Moscow conservatory from 1952 until his untimely death in 1982, Kogan was a winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 1951 and toured extensively as a prodigiously talented young fiddler in the 1950s. This recording is ofKogan's violin recital with his daughter - pianist Nina Kogan - at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg in August, 1978. Four towering works make up the program and the poise and athleticism with which both players attack each piece is a testament to their stamina and great technique. The liner notes tell us that the evening went on with the Kogans offering several more encores which were unable to be included on the CD, due to the time limitations of the medium. Beethoven's Sonata Op. 12, No. I opens the program, perfectly played, if a bit stiff and formal. Beethoven's playfulness in the wonderfully inventive second movement is approached in a rather humourless way in this performance. The Kogans are overwhelmingly intense, full of drama and great style however in Brahms' Op. I 08 and the ubiquitous Franck Sonata. The final piece on the recording is Ravel's miraculous Tzigane, which is played with great authority and panache. By this point in the evening, both players must have been exhausted, but there is no evidence of this in the recorded performance. The Kogans play as one and bring the house down. A remarkable achievement to play through such a program without a note out of place. We can be thankful that these archival recordings of special historical performances at the Salzburg Festival are being made more readily available on the Orfeo label and distributed here by Gillmore Music. Larry Beckwith Schumann -Carnaval; Arabesque; Toccata; Fantasiestiicke Juana Zayas, Hamburg Steinway 001 Music and Arts CD 1181 What a superlative musician Juana Zayas is. Not only does she possess a technique beyond fault but in those compositions she has recorded she displays an intuitive understanding of and simpatico with the composer 's temperament. This can place her interpretations somewhat at variance with the usually accepted readings. Such is the case with these Schu- mann works which were recorded in 2002 (Carnaval) and 2004 in resplendent sound. Vivid and immediate, the 24 bit recording comfortably captures the unique sonorities of the magnificent Hamburg Steinway, owned and maintained by technician Mary Schwendeman in New York, who is credited in the accompanying booklet. After the opening "Preambule" ofCarnaval Zayas breaks free from the usual playing by rote, reminding us that these 21 short pieces are portraits of different characters familiar to the composer whose attributes differ from each other. Heard this way this well known opus is considerably more interesting especially as Zayas realizes them. This is an unusual and very persuasive reading. The Arabesque, opus 18, has been a particular favourite for, well, a very long time and it is the piece 1 headed for on this new recording. As I hear it, the way in which a particular phrase in the final bars is played either resolves the piece or closes it with a hint of presentiment. I prefer the latter but Zayas convincingly resolves this unusual little masterpiece. Many famous pianists have recorded Toccata; Simon Barere, Horowitz, Cziffra and others, but Zayas has her own in sight into this virtuoso's outing. To parody an old cigarette ad: It's not how fast you play but how you play it fast. For whatever reasons, I have always felt that Schumann 's piano works were better played by women. Fabienne Jacquinot, Clara Haskil, MarthaArgerich, and Maria Joao Pires come to mind. Juana Zayas, too. Do read about her at Bruce Surtees Johannes Brahms - The Piano Concertos Nelson Freire; Gewandhausorchester; Riccardo Chailly Decca 475 7637 On the cover of this live recording of the Brahms piano concertos, pianist Nelson Freire and conductor Ricardo Chailly appear to be deep in conversation. The same intimate interaction can clearly be heard between the soloist and the conductor when the recordings are played. Freire is a profound and thought-provoking artist, who vividly captures a wide spectrum of musical co lours and plumbs the depths of these intense works while mastering all the considerable technical difficulties. 44 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE.COM ] UNE 1 - ] UL Y 7 2006 Back to Ad Index

Chailly provides superb orchestral support, pushing and pulling the tempo in exciting directions without being fussy. The Gewandhausorchester is technically superb; among many orchestral highlights, the crucial cello solo in the second movement of the second concerto for once has just as much presence and is just as well-executed as the piano part. Overall, the second concerto is slightly more successfu I than the first; the latter has a couple of passages which seem hurried, while the former is exquisitely built up and executed, making it not just a great performance but a truly memorable one. The benefits ofa live performance are palpable from the start; the excitement and overal I cohesiveness present here are difficult to achieve in a studio setting. The engineering gives us an orchestra on equal balance with the soloist and not the usual dim background accompaniment. Among a crowded field of contenders, this is a top choice for a recording of both concertos, especially for one in modem sound. Seth Estrin concertos by the 19th century composer Henri Herz, who lived from 1803 to 1888. Although Herz was born in Vienna, he settled in Paris early in his career, soon establishing himself as a fashionable piano virtuoso and composer. The three concertos on this disc were written over a 50 year period between the 1830s and 1880s, and perhaps not surprisingly, show influences of music by Mendelssohn and Schumann - almost but not quite. There is a particular French feel to this music as well, seen in the elaborate bravura writing (surely designed to dazzle Parisian audiences) and in the lightness of orchestration. Also, I can't help but feel that the use of cymbals in the finale of concerto # I would have made the German romantic composers wince - can Offenbach be far behind?! Shelley and the Tasmanian Orchestra - no strangers to this series - are a formidable pairing. Shelley's solid technique makes ease of the technical demands, while the more lyrical passages are treated with great sensitivity. The clean and spirited performance by the Tasmanians indeed proves that th is island has much more to offer than devils and spectacular scenery. Great music? Perhaps not, but nevertheless, thi s disc provides a fascinating insight into a composer who flourished alongside others whom history ultimately deemed far worthier. Recommended. Richard Haskell Romantic Piano Concertos Vol. 40 Howard Shelley; Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Hyperion CDA67537 Impossible! Hyperion can't be up to volume 40 in its Romantic Piano Concerto series already! Surely there aren't enough piano concertos to fill 40 discs I But yes indeed, it has been 15 years now since Hyperion launched this ambitious program, and the latest in the series proves itselfj ust as worthy as the previous 39. This time, Howard Shelley and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra present the third, fourth , and fifth Strauss - Ein Heldenleben; Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Berliner Philharmoniker; Simon Rattle EMI Classics 3 39339 2 Richard Strauss' spectacular 1898 "tone poem" Ein Heldenleben (A Heroic Life - the Hero of the title being none other than the immodest 34-year old composer himself) is an orchestral showcase so closely identified with the late Berlin Philharmonic magnate Herbert von Karajan that it may seem an odd, perhaps reckless choice for Simon Rattle to assay. The result has proven well worth the risk however. Assem- ] UNE 1 - ] UL Y7 2006 WWW, TH EWHOLENOTE.COM 45 Back to Ad Index

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