March 2018 CD Reviews

April 2018 CD Reviews
Mark Bebbington plays Piano Concertos by Grieg and Delius [Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Jan Latham-Koenig; Somm]
March, 2018 |  This Good Friday release includes Grieg’s evergreen Piano Concerto (first heard in 1869) given a fresh and rewarding performance, with discretion, affection and character by Mark Bebbington and accompanied with sympathy and detail by the RPO and Jan Latham-Koenig... ... Delius’s twenty-five-minute Piano Concerto doesn’t get out much, which is a shame... 
Joseph Tong – Sibelius Piano Works, Volume 2 [Quartz]
March, 2018 |  The second volume of Joseph Tong’s very welcome survey of Sibelius’s extensive piano music opens with the familiar ‘Valse triste’, part of his incidental music for Kuolema and, dare one say it, more convincing in the composer’s transcription than his orchestral scoring... ... The Opus 97 Bagatelles all have their appeal, not least the scintillating ‘Kleiner Walzer’ – Sibelius on the dance floor – and the equally entertaining ‘Humoristischer Marsch’, which is countered by the elusive ‘Impromptu’. The Opus 103 set is contemporaneous with the great Seventh Symphony... 
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta – Kodály – Galánta, Concerto, Peacock, Marosszék [Naxos]
March, 2018 |  It’s fair to say that the name of Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) is alive and well, if by only a handful of works, principally the orchestral Suite from Háry János and Dances from Galánta... ... So, a warm welcome to the latest single-composer Naxos release from JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic, opening handsomely with Galántai táncok... ... The other pieces were high-profile commissions: Concerto for Orchestra for Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony’s fiftieth anniversary, and the Peacock Variations for the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and Willem Mengelberg... 
Tasmin Little & Piers Lane play Brahms’s Three Violin Sonatas [Chandos]
March, 2018 |  While noting the Scherzo that Brahms contributed to the collaborative FAE Sonata is not included – a pity, not because there is room but because it’s a good piece, and is often a makeweight in such programmes (live or recorded) – the well-established team of Tasmin Little and Piers Lane make vibrant music with Brahms’s three Violin Sonatas... 
Garrick Ohlsson plays piano music by Manuel de Falla [Hyperion]
March, 2018 |  Expect Spanish sunshine, dry heat and languorous lyricism as Garrick Ohlsson guides us through piano music by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946), transcriptions and originals. ... ...much of the music is familiar, taken from The Three-Cornered Hat and El amor brujo (Love, the magician) – the latter including ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ – and any thoughts that these arrangements, even though made by the composer, might lack for colour and vibrancy, are disarmed by Ohlsson’s wonderful artistry. 
Steve Reich’s Drumming – Colin Currie Group & Synergy Vocals [Colin Currie Records]
March, 2018 |  With this flurry of Reichian activity after a relatively fallow few years, it is a good time for a new recording of Drumming, enabling a revisit to this magnum opus of Reich’s early years. ... In this debut release on Colin Currie Records (in association with LSO Live), Drumming is performed by Colin Currie Group... 
Sounds of Transformation – David Greilsammer [Sony Classical]
March, 2018 |  On paper this is a cleverly designed programme, and a provocatively paradoxical one, in that by exploring the theme of transformation, it uses the apparently non-developmental form of a palindrome, centred on Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto. David Greilsammer’s liner note make reference to Cervantes’s Don Quixote... 
Adam Laloum plays Brahms’s two Piano Concertos [Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Kazuki Yamada; Sony Classical]
March, 2018 |  Winner of the 2009 Clara Haskil Competition, Adam Laloum studied with Michel Béroff at the Paris Conservatoire and Evgeni Koroliov in Hamburg. ... Physically involving no doubt in a concert but less than fully polished, Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto fares least well. There's lots of verve and youthful impetuosity, but by the end what's wanted is less high-gear driving force and more by way of longer-breathed paragraphs... 
George Li – Live at the Mariinsky [Warner Classics]
March, 2018 |  Recently I was very impressed by George Li playing a Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto via a live webcast from Detroit, hence tracking down this Live at the Mariinsky release... ... ...and then it’s hair-letting-down time in the most-famous Hungarian Rhapsody, which Tom & Jerry cartoon to in "The Cat Concerto"... 
Brahms – The Four Symphonies – Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Robin Ticciati [Linn]
March, 2018 |  It is not unknown for a chamber orchestra to perform Brahms’s Symphonies and this Scottish ensemble has previously recorded them with Charles Mackerras. ,,, Robin Ticciati does go along traditional lines by his relaxed treatment of the second subject although the exposition repeat (the only one he observes) moves on a little more at this point. ... The Allegro giocoso is delightfully vigorous, busy woodwinds are splendidly detailed and, as throughout the work, timpani have slightly greater presence than elsewhere. 
Schubert’s Winterreise – Florian Boesch & Roger Vignoles [Hyperion]
March, 2018 |  This Hyperion release is the second recording that Florian Boesch has made of Schubert’s Winterreise (the first was six years ago with Malcolm Martineau for Onyx), here with his frequent collaborator Roger Vignoles. 
John Jenkins – Complete Four-Part Consort Music – Fretwork [Signum Classics]
March, 2018 |  John Jenkins (1592-1678) is better known to viol-players and aficionados of repertoire for the instrument than to the general listener, but on the evidence of this Signum release he ought to be more highly regarded. His long life spanned the reign of Elizabeth I and the heyday of the Restoration regime... ... The members of Fretwork take all this in their stride with fluent and flexible readings of this contrasted music. 
London Philharmonic Orchestra – Aldo Ciccolini plays Piano Concertos by Mozart & Rachmaninov conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin [LPO own label]
March, 2018 |  Ciccolini (1925-2015), the Naples-born French pianist, was in inimitable form on these two occasions, playing the music with personality and insight... ... And the LPO and Yannick Nézet-Séguin are sure-footed and sympathetic partners in the Rachmaninov... 
Stephen Layton conducts Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B-minor [Trinity College Choir & OAE; Hyperion]
March, 2018 |  Grandeur, solemnity, intimacy and excitement are all handsomely conveyed in this magnificent version of Bach’s B-minor Mass and which bears favourable comparison with some of the very best. ... But, in its forty or so young voices from Trinity College, the luxury is having one of the finest collegiate choirs around and which, under Stephen Layton’s meticulous preparation, produces an exceptionally refined quality. 
Denis Matsuev plays Piano Concertos by Prokofiev & Rachmaninov conducted by Valery Gergiev [Mariinsky]
March, 2018 |  Denis Matsuev and Valery Gergiev, frequent musical partners, close friends, have now released all the Rachmaninov Piano Concertos (and Paganini Rhapsody) on the Mariinsky label bar the Fourth. This version of the Second gets on with the job without being special... ... Prokofiev's killer G-minor Concerto, massive and challenging, plays directly to Matsuev's strengths. But what is welcome in this reading is that while he can pump iron like no tomorrow – the climax of the notorious cadenza (around half the length of the first movement), leading into the oceanic return of the orchestra, is palpably frightening... 
Martin Helmchen plays Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations [Alpha Classics]
March, 2018 |  Martin Helmchen turns urbanely into Diabelli’s attractive Waltz... ... Throughout one is astonished at Beethoven’s magnanimous response to Diabelli's trifle, and in turn by Helmchen’s insight to Beethoven’s ingenuity. ... Especially wonderful are the slower numbers, a rapt stillness falls over them, transporting in effect, one might say Heaven-sent... 
The Romantic Piano Concerto – 74: Howard Shelley plays William Sterndale Bennett [BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Hyperion]
March, 2018 |  Englishman William Sterndale Bennett (1816-75), born in Sheffield, was a prodigy who entered the Royal Academy of Music in London aged ten and he’d return there as a professor, his pupils including Hubert Parry and Arthur Sullivan. Bennett went from boy to man as a respected composer and a distinguished pianist, admired by Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann... ... ...there is no doubting Howard Shelley’s superbly stylish and dynamic playing... 
Choir of King’s College Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury – William Byrd Motets [King’s own label]
March, 2018 |  The Motets of William Byrd form a remarkable compendium of Latin sacred music, all the more so for being the work of a dissident Catholic composer working in a staunchly Protestant environment. Dating from the second half of the sixteenth-century, a period of intense religious turmoil, the Motets were written for private use in clandestine Catholic households, and published in three collections during the reign of Elizabeth I (despite her official opposition) with two further compilations under James I. ... This King’s College survey is of nineteen Motets. 
LSO Live – Nikolaj Znaider plays Mozart Violin Concertos, K218 & K219
March, 2018 |  Nikolaj Znaider’s accounts are broad and this is underlined because Henning Kraggerud’s recent recordings of these works for Naxos remain in the memory and are relatively swift. Mozart wrote no cadenzas and I assume that Znaider has composed his own – extensive but stylish. 

 

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