CD Reviews- Jan

Beethoven CD

Beethoven Triple Concerto
Giuliano Carmignola, violin
Sol Gabetta, cello
Dejan Lazic, piano
Kammerorchester Basel Giovanni Antonini, conductor
Sony Classical
✶✶✶✶
Beethoven’s Concerto in C Major, Op 56 for violin, cello and piano is significant in that it is the only one of its kind in existence. The ability to balance not one nor two but three solo instruments with the orchestra requires an innate knowledge of the limitations of all three instruments as well as providing an appropriate orchestral accompaniment that is neither too light nor heavy. In essence, the work may be considered a concerto for piano trio and orchestra. It has been a staple of the repertoire since its inception and has been recorded on numerous occasions.
This latest offering from the Basel Chamber Orchestra brings a period feel to the piece. The opening orchestral exposition sets a colourful tone full of energy and tenacity. Sol Gabetta’s melancholic cello introduction evokes a richness and purity in sound which is ably supported by the solo violin and piano. The first movement rollicks along at measured and well-paced tempo with the tutti interludes providing the extra vitamin shot of energy to keep the piece moving forward. Beethoven’s grand success with this composition lies in the fact that he was able to perfectly balance his solo instruments. The brief interlude that comprises the slow movement is delicate in its phrasing between cello and violin, and the piano, whilst sparingly used, gives the clues that there is something far more significant in the not too distant future. The finale is the triumph of the work with its virtuosity not only evident in the solo parts but also scattered throughout the orchestra. Holding it all together is conductor Giovanni Antonini whose treatment of the material shows an excellent understanding of the balancing needed for the performance to succeed. The remainder of the disc has three of Beethoven’s overtures – The Creatures of Prometheus, Egmont and Coriolan.

– Frank Shostakovich

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Lavinia Meijer CD

Lavinia Meijer & Carel Kraayenhof in Concert
Sony Classical
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It’s well known in Holland that Lavinia Meijer likes to explore beyond the borders of the classical harp repertoire with her arrangements for harp of Philip Glass repertoire being well received in Holland. Both she and Kraayenhof have reached large audiences far beyond the borders of their country with instruments that are not commonly seen; the bandoneón and the harp, respectively. Kraayenhof has worked with musicians such as Sting, Ennio Morricone, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, JURK! Caro Emerald and the 3JS. Meijer has been seen frequently on stages recently with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Holland Symfonia, Michiel Borstlap and Gare du Nord, among others. Meijer and Kraayenhof wanted to try out whether a combination of the bandoneón and harp would work and soon found out that both the repertoire and the combination of instruments were indeed a very good fit. Their repertoire consists of tangos, milongas and other beautiful Argentinean/Spanish/Italian compositions from composers such as Piazzolla and Morricone, but also Kraayenhof’s own compositions. The combination of bandoneón and harp sounds magical.

– Emyr Evans

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WW2 CD

That Bloody Game
Michael Halliwell, baritone
David Miller, piano
Wirripang
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I’m not quite sure what to say about this latest release from our home-grown Wirripang label. ‘That Bloody Game’ refers to the First World War and is a collection of 21 songs, most of which I’d never heard before and wondered why. Of course World War 1 songs like It’s a long way to Tipperary, Hang out your washing on the Siegfried Line, and Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, are familiar to just about everyone over the age of 50, but how many are familiar with He died at the Dardanelles, Australia’s hymn for her dead, or What do you think of the Kaiser? Boo, hoo, hoo. This last one is actually just about the liveliest on the CD, the others, I have to say, are somewhat mournful and by the time I’d sat through the hour and fifteen minutes of the disk I felt somewhat depressed. The producers tell us that these songs were a source of propaganda for the government and other organisations. I hope they achieved their aim. The singing is of course excellent as you would expect from operatic baritone Michael Halliwell, and David Miller provides his usual professional accompaniment, but despite that it’s really only a CD to be taken in small doses or by those World War 1 history buffs who are keen to enlarge their collection of old wartime memorabilia.

– Michael Morton-Evans

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Bocelli CD

Andrea Bocelli: Cinema (Deluxe)
Decca
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This is an album that will not disappoint its classical listeners. If opera is not your cup of tea, I highly recommend this album to those who are huge fans of classical interpretations of film music. Bocelli has taken the classic Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and truly created something of his own. Each of these tracks opens a new setting; a new love story, making you crave for the next sound. Bocelli certainly does not lose his classical sound, keeping with the traditions yet giving a unique interpretation on film music. Por Una Cabeza from Scent of a Woman will push you out of your seat on to your living room floor, dancing all night to the Spanish romantic tunes arranged with beautiful luscious strings from the orchestra. Nicole Scherzinger also appears in this album this time without her all-girl group in a duet with Bocelli; performing No llores poor mi Argentina. The pop queen from The Pussycat Dolls has once again let her vocals shine and displayed her wide range of vocal repertoire. One of my absolute favourites is Mi Mancherai from Il Postino, the luscious and passionate melodies are executed with impeccable technique. The theme returns many times, each time more heartbreaking than the previous. We are then transported into a playful, tranquil place with Sorridi Amore Vai from La vita è Bella. It is charming the way the music floats between the traditional Western music sound to the sounds of South American music. Do grab a copy of this album if you love operatic arrangements of classic film soundtracks. However the instrumentation is generally leaning more to the classical side, lacking perhaps the essential power and strength of well-known epic film soundtracks.

– Leslie Khang

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Serene Nights CD

Serene Nights
Guitar Trek
ABC
****
You know the pet food advertisement with a night watchman whiling away the hours with his incredibly cute West Highland Scottish terrier (aka ‘Westies’ – and they’re always white)? I’d been wracking my brain to identify the charming waltz music they use. I sensed it was French. Was it Faure? Film music by Auric? Or was it Satie? Yes! Satie. A quaint little thing called Je te Veux – and it’s on this recording. “Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two,” is a quote attributed to Frederic Chopin. In which case Guitar Trek – with four such instruments – is surely doubly beautiful. If the guitar has one fault it’s that it can be quite a staccato creature, so put four guitars together and you risk quadrupling the challenge. The trick is to have such perfect ensemble and dynamic control that the quartet sounds like ‘one’ guitar; and with judicious use of doublings you can create stronger lines and an illusion of sustain – exactly what this ensemble does. I’m still not fully converted, but Guitar Trek could eventually win me over. Brahms purists may object to their renditions of the Intermezzo Op. 118/2 and the Finale from Horn Trio Op. 40 but no-one can deny the beauty of the almost harp-like tone in the Intermezzo; the trio movement lacks the power of the original but this busy, scherzo-like music suits the quartet. In more familiar Hispanic territory is the swaying Tango of Albeniz – given a suave reading. The transcription I liked most was the wonderfully atmospheric Four Pieces for Piano by Rodrigo. A minor criticism is that some items are a bit obscure but the compensation is that everything’s so enjoyably played.

– Michael Muir

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Thibault CD

Thibault Cauvin
Thibault Cauvin – guitar
Sony Classical (2 CDs)
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Thibault Cauvin has virtuoso technique and beautiful tone. It’s striking how well he achieves independence of line, convincing you the guitar is more contrapuntal than previously thought. Recital albums have a habit of rounding-up the usual suspects: Albeniz, Rodrigo, Sanz, Scarlatti, Tarrega. But there’s esoteric fare as well. The Adagio from Jazz Sonatina (1993) by Balkan guitaristcomposer Dusan Bogdanovic makes me want the complete work (and less of the obvious repertoire). Calcutta (Raga du Soir) by Sébastien Vachez aspires to imitate Indian classical music (replete with percussive taps on the guitar body) and requires some fiendish alternate tuning. On the more sedate side. Schubert – a guitarist himself – would surely approve of his transcribed Serenade; the ebbing accompaniment to the melody suits the guitar so well. And the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations must be one of the most sublime tunes ever written. Naturally, Latin America figures strongly with works by Piazzola, Jobim and Brazilian Sergio Assad. People who dismiss Paraguayan Barrios (Valse No. 3) as a mere ‘guitarist-composer’ deny themselves the pleasure of hearing a quintessential compositional talent. Honour thy father and thy mother? Indeed Cauvin does: playing Rocktypicovin (rock influences) and the wistful A l’infini pour ma mère, both written by his father. Truly, a worthy son – of the guitar.

– MM

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