CD Reviews – April

CD - Schubert

Schubert The Edition 1 Orchestral, Chamber & Piano

Box Set: 39 CDs

Deutsche Grammophon – 4795545 ✶✶✶✶✶

Deutsche Grammophon describes this as the most authoritative Schubert project ever made, featuring all the masterpieces in timeless recordings – plus many rare gems that manifest Schubert’s genius. This first edition comprehensively covers Schubert’s vast orchestral, chamber and piano output, containing all the masterworks in recordings by legendary artists: Abbado (symphonies), Kempff (piano sonatas), Melos Quartet (string quartets & string quintet – the latter with Rostropovich), Pires (piano works), Gidon Kremer (violin works) Beaux Arts Trio (trios). Individual recordings of famous works include the Trout Quintet with the Amadeus Quartet and Emil Gilels, and string trios with the Grumiaux Trio. The rarities collected here include well-received completions of Symphonies nos. 7, 8 & 10 by British musicologist Brian Newbould, played by the Academy of St. Martins in the Field under Neville Marriner, a set of early overtures played by the Haydn Sinfonietta Wien, as well as many little-known piano solo and duet pieces (with Jörg Demus and Paul Badura-Skoda) – one of the many delights of the set. A bonus disc compares three legendary recordings of the “Unfinished” Symphony, conducted by Carlos Kleiber, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Leopold Stokowski. Two of the recordings featured have never been released before (Marches militaires D 733 Nos. 2 & 3 by Paul Badura Skoda & Jörg Demus). Fans of Schubert will already possess a great deal of this material but what makes it appealing is its overall presentation. The liner notes are extensive and set out in a way that makes it easy for the listener to work their way through the catalogue of works. This is a monumental achievement by DG to encompass the legacy of Schubert in such an accessible way.

 – Frank Shostakovich


CD - Concertos

Concertos, Symphony in D

Veriko Tchumburidze, violin

Chiara Enderle, cello

Munich Chamber Orchestra, Howard Griffith

Anton and Paul Wranitzky, composers Sony – 88875127122 ✶✶✶✶

A fresh taste of music from the classical period, Wranitzky’s Concertos are a pleasure to tune into. The melodies are simple and classy. In particular, the Violin Concerto in C Major, Op. 11 – II Adagio. Romanza Cantabile captures the simplicity and sheer beauty of its construction. A truly under-rated composer, Wranitzky is able to capture the subtle nuances in sound and expression. His music is not overly grand, and does not attempt to beautify its melodies, because they are simply just beautiful. The elegance is shown through its instrumentation, subtle expression and delicate control of the sound. Another beautiful work is the Symphony in D Major, Op. 16, No. 3 – II Adagio non troppo. Within the first minute, a vast range of expression has already been presented. Mystery, intrigue, fairytale, innocence and growth are painted with flair, transporting the listener through a series of doors, beautifully closing each emotion before moving onto the next. Although there is a lot of repetition and a number of common classical compositional techniques are used, it still is a work of art and worth listening to over and over again. This program concludes with an extremely fun and charming Cello Concerto in C Major, Op. 27 – III. Finale. Rondo – Allegro di molto. Wranitzky cleverly crafts his transitions of colour and texture, merging the different sections seamlessly. However, it would have been more effective in drawing the curtains had this movement been a little longer. Overall, the works are a pleasant choice of music to listen to.

– Leslie Khang



CD - Seong-Jin

Seong-Jin Cho

Winner of the 17th International Chopin

Piano Competition

Warsaw, 2015 Chopin – Preludes, Op 28; Nocturne in C Minor, Op 48 No 1; Piano Sonata No 2 in Flat Minor, Op 35; Polonaise in A Flat Major, Op 53 ‘Heroic’

Deutsche Grammophon – 479 5332 ✶✶✶✶

Seong-Jin Cho, the first winner of the 17th International Chopin Piano Competition from South Korea, is the man of the moment in this dazzling live expose from his victory late last year. His compelling renditions electrified the audiences and satisfied the jury consisting of the likes of Martha Argerich, a previous winner of the competition. He delivers a brash, lively account of the 24 Preludes, Op 28. From his sensitive reading of No 4 in E Minor to the energetic No 12 in G Sharp Minor, Cho expresses a youthful exuberance which is both exciting and pleasant to the ear. His reading of the fiendishly demanding No 16 in B Flat Minor is the highlight of the set. Here, his technical mastery is on show with the evenness of his playing proving to be quite extraordinary during this gem of the miniature oeuvre. The C Minor Nocturne from Op 48 shows a depth of maturity in his playing with his ability to not overstate the baseline whilst bringing out the elegant, tranquil melody being a highlight of the disc. He moves on to ever popular 2nd Sonata in B Flat Minor, Op 35. On occasion his variation in tempo might be called into question, especially during the Funeral March but overall it is more than an acceptable account of this warhorse of the solo pianistic repertoire. He closes with a fabulously grandiose and yet sentimental performance of the Heroic Polonaise which sent the audience into understandable raptures. This rounds out a very entertaining debut album.

– FS

CD - Pleasure Garden

The Pleasure Garden

Genevieve Lacey recorders, co-composer Jan Bang producer, co-composer

ABC ✶✶✶✶

Genevieve Lacey, recorder virtuosa, spent her childhood in stories and gardens, real and imagined, old and new – which now form her musical response to the original Pleasure Garden, is a series of exquisite musical vignettes by the Dutch nobleman Jacob van Eyck who was a recorder player, much-loved in his lifetime and mourned in poetry, song and statue on his death. His 17th century Der Fluyten Lust-hof (The Flute’s Pleasure Garden) is a recorder player’s treasure trove and is the largest surviving collection of solo woodwind from any age. Appearing with Genevieve is Jan Bang, the Norwegian musician, one of the most accomplished and influential record producers, and the epithet ‘electronic guru” has stayed with him for a long time. The music consists of 14 delightful tracks which feature Bang and Lacey, originals by van Eyck, as well as one from recording engineer Jim Atkins. Sprinkled amongst the tracks are the delightful van Eyck Amarilli variations, and Granite with its birdsongs accompanied by periodic solo and harmonic clusters from a carillon. The sounds of the Whipbird will be very familiar to Australian listeners. Lacey is a former artistic director of the Four Winds Festival in Bermagui which would have influenced the outcome of Bermagui Dawn. For the final track we’re offered Pale Blue Evenings with lots of bird sounds, carillon and other percussive sounds. The overall effects, electronics and otherwise, are mesmeric, hypnotic and generally delightful.

– Emyr Evans



CD - Bill Frisell

When You Wish Upon A Star

Bill Frisell, electric and acoustic guitar

Petra Haden, voice

Eyvind Kang, viola

Thomas Morgan, bass

Rudy Royston, drums, percussion

Sony ✶✶✶✶
The legendary guitarist shines a new light on his affinity for Americana by drawing on his favourite themes from film and television. Aside from a couple of well-known standards (Moon River, Shadow of Your Smile), the repertoire is refreshingly diverse. Elmer Bernstein’s bittersweet To Kill a Mockingbird sets the mood with a nod to Frisell’s more impressionistic, improvised oeuvre before a languishing groove sets in. Frisell sounds especially at home on the frontier – a short rendition of the Bonanza theme announces the centrepiece of the album: a trio of pieces from the great Ennio Morricone score Once Upon a Time in the West. It’s hard to classify this album as jazz – the tunes are carefully arranged, and abstraction is minimal. The songs are the focus here; each theme is presented with nostalgic warmth and clarity. An exception is made for an appropriately weighty nine-minute exploration of The Godfather, which should sate fans of Frisell’s more adventurous work. Ultimately, it’s the distinctive sound of the ensemble that defines this project; the dark timbre of Eyvind Kang’s viola is superbly effective on the eerie Psycho Pt.1 against drummer Rudy Royston’s unsettling rhythmic shifts, whilst vocalist Petra Haden soars elegantly on the Bond classic You Only Live Twice. Bassist Thomas Morgan is focused and interactive as ever, imbuing the title track with his breathless vulnerability. Each piece drips with Frisell’s ambrosial guitar tone, rounding out a highly listenable (if not revolutionary) addition to his extensive discography.

– David Groves



CD - Cello Music

Cello Music from Austria-Hungary

Samuel Magill, cello

Beth Levin, piano

Works by Beethoven, Schnabel, and Moór


Samuel Magill & Beth Levin have presented an excellent recording of cello and piano music of Beethoven, Schnabel and Moór. The Sonata in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer” breathes excitement and energy in its first movement which is in Presto. The first movement truly is worth listening to over and over again. Levin’s accompaniment works effortlessly with Magill’s charming artistry. Both performers have not failed in bringing Beethoven to life, capturing his brilliance in composing music of the heart. The pure emotion of heartache and loneliness can be felt especially in the second movement, Andante Con Variazioni. The final movement Presto exudes excitement and mellowness, not a second of this will put you to sleep. The second Sonata for Solo Cello was not as enjoyable to me perhaps due to its main characteristic of being atonal. However, it’s not to say that Schnabel’s music is terrible. He is an incredible interpreter of Beethoven’s music. The third movement Larghetto certainly was my favourite out of the four, almost sounding like Shostakovich’s fugues for piano but with more of a theatrical flavour. Moór’s Ballade in E Major, Op. 171 is absolutely beautiful. The opening melody is breathtaking, taking any listener to a place of peace and tranquility. Both Levin and Magill draw the listener to a world of magic, then suddenly taking the listener on a series of exciting dissonant adventures. Overall, this is a beautiful recording. Whether the Schnabel fits is entirely up to the listener.

– LK



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