Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Selected CD Reviews

Here are a few recent CD reviews, also published in my column in GScene magazine.

First of all, a simply delightful disc of encore pieces, ‘Petits-fours’ from the great Brodsky Quartet. I had the great pleasure (with Brighton Festival Chorus) to perform with the Brodskys in Tarik O’Regan’s beautiful Ecstasies Above, but the highlight of that concert for me was actually their performance of the amazing Tenebrae by Osvaldo Golijov (b.1960). The 21 works on this disc are by definition less substantial (the longest is just over 5 minutes), yet no less impressive. They are all arranged for string quartet, mostly by the violist Paul Cassidy, or the quartet’s former leader, Andrew Haveron. Highlights for me are ‘Blues’ by Ravel (from his violin sonata), Shostakovich’s Waltz No. 2 (in which they are joined by Philip Edward Fisher on piano) and old favourites like Elgar’s Chanson de nuit and Dvořák’s Humoresque. They perform throughout with a great sense of enjoyment, entirely appropriate as this release celebrates their 40th birthday – many happy returns!

Various. Petits-Fours: Favourite Encores. Brodsky Quartet. 2012. Compact Disc. Chandos CHAN 10708

Dimitry Shostakovich’s (1906-1975) Cello Concerto No. 1 came 6 years after his 10th Symphony, and coincided with the end of his second marriage, as well as the onset of motor neurone disease.  The work is full of deep and dark emotion, building to a wild finale, with considerable challenges for the cellist.  The Cello Concerto No. 2 followed some 7 years later, and like the first, was dedicated to the great cellist Rostrapovich.  It is another dark work, with even less relief than the first – the finale is particularly bleak.  The Italian cellist Enrico Dindo is technically on top of these demanding works, and in particular, takes the first concerto’s first movement at a cracking pace.  At times, this technical command masks the necessary depth of emotion needed, but overall these are sound performances.  Gianandrea Noseda extracts appropriate caustic playing from the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and the wind players in particular.

Shostakovich, Dmitry. Cello Concertos Nos. 1 and 2. Enrico Dindo, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Gianandrea Noseda. 2012. Hybrid Super Audio Compact Disc. Chandos CHSA 5093.

The Trio D’Ante Vienna are an all-female piano trio formed in 2003.  On their latest CD, progress chronologically through works by Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich.  The Chopin Piano Trio Op. 8 is his only work for the combination, yet is quite a substantial work of about 30 minutes in length.  An early student work, it is clearly not as inspired as his piano repertoire.  Yet there are some pleasing melodies here, and considerably more interest in the piano part (which Chopin himself almost certainly played).  This is followed by Tristia – La vallée d’Obermann by Liszt.  A pianist composer like Chopin, he also didn’t compose much chamber music, and this is actually a recomposition by the composer of a piano pieces (from the Années de Pèlerinage).  Unlike the happier Chopin piece, it is quite anguished, and the Trio D’Ante explore its depths well here. They follow with Rachmaninov’s ‘Trio Elégiaque’ No. 1, another one-movement piece, which the young eighteen-year-old composed, inspired by Tchaikovsky’s A minor Trio from 10 years earlier.  The inspiration is clear, yet Rachmaninov also demonstrates his pianistic virtuosity in the writing for the instrument.  The Trio D’Ante close their programme with Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 1, again a single movement work.  An early student work, it has the composer’s trademark wit, without some of the darker, depressive tendencies of his mature output.  This is an enjoyable programme, and the Trio D’Ante perform with feeling and restrained command of the repertoire. 

Various. Chopin - Liszt - Rachmaninoff - Schostakowitsch. Trio D'Ante Vienna. 2011. Compact Disc. Gramola 98934.

The clarinetist Michael Collins also conducts the City of London Sinfonia on his latest disc of Concertante works by Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826).  He includes the two Concertos, the Concertino, and also the Concertino for Horn and Orchestra (with Stephen Stirling on the horn).  These are largely joyous works, composed for the great clarinetist Heinrich Bärmann.  In fact, Michael Collins performs the works incorporating the many embellishments and ornaments that Bärmann made and which survive in his annotated copies of the works.  Yet these works have more than just technical showmanship – in fact Weber also writes some gloriously lyrical music, particularly in the slow movements, and also produces moments of dark drama, for example in the first Concerto.  Collins manages to combine the technical requirements with still producing a beautiful tone in the more lyrical passages, and also commands solid playing from the orchestra.  Stirling is equally impressive in the horn Concertino, not least in the demanding cadenza, which requires ‘horn chords’, where more than one note are produced simultaneously – an eery effect.  Overall, a compressive collection, all excellently performed.

Weber, Carl Maria von. Concertante Works for Clarinet and Horn. Michael Collins, Stephen Stirling, City of London Sinfonia. 2012. Compact Disc. Chandos CHAN 10702.