CD REVIEWS – June Part 1

Capture.JPGPinchas Zukerman

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Vaughan Williams, Elgar


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Pinchas Zukerman joins the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time in more than 40 years in an exquisite collaboration featuring The Lark Ascending, Tallis’ Fantasia, Introduction & AllegroIn Moonlight by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar of  which he is Principal Guest Conductor. During the late 1960s in London Zukerman fell in love with English music. It was through his acquaintances with Jacqueline du Pré and Sir John Barbirolli that he discovered a natural affinity with the music of Elgar. The first track The Lark Ascending is impeccably moving, a fantastic choice for the first piece. Zukerman’s playing exudes pure beauty and his interpretation and vision of this piece is beautiful. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is equally as beautiful. You will be taken on an emotional rollercoaster, transporting you to your own paradise if you close your eyes and let yourself be swept away. We are then taken to the Serenade in E Minor for String Orchestra. Filled with flowery phrases, this is a stark contrast to the myriad of emotions heard in Williams’ works. The second movement Larghetto is a romantic transition from Allegro Piacevole. Listening to this powerfully romantic Serenade, one would imagine a lover longing deeply for a lost love never to return. Salut d’amour is no doubt another beautiful yet simple piece. The simplicity of Elgar’s works is what makes them beautiful, particularly his melodies which are breathtaking. The final track, Introduction & Allegro for Strings, Op. 47 begins with authority, slowly transforming into an array of beautiful phrases.

– Leslie Khang


Mozart with Friends

Nils Monkemeyer, viola, and assisting


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This CD is built around the violist Nils Monkemeyer, born in 1978 in Bremen. He plays in all the works recorded here with assistance, when required, from Julia Fischer, violin, and Sabine Meyer, clarinet, both of whom are well established artists, and the Korean pianist William Youn who is less well known but is clearly an accomplished player. Monkemeyer himself is an excellent performer. The CD contains at least two masterpieces – the Trio for Clarinet, Piano and Viola K. 498 – one of Mozart’s most beautiful and delightful works, and the Duo K. 423 for Violin and Viola, written to fulfil a commission originally given to Michael Haydn. Here, Julia Fischer’s sensitive and delicate playing is a particular delight. Most of the other works on the disc are from Mozart’s infancy or childhood and, although characteristic of his style, are too brief to make much of an impact; several last for less than a minute. Of greater consequence, but still not a masterpiece, is the Duet for Viola and Piano originally written for violin and piano) of variations on Helas j’ai perdu mon amant K. 360. While this disc is worth owning for K. 498 and K. 423, it would have been preferable to have dropped some of the smaller works in favour of the violin and viola Duo No 2 or perhaps even one of the great string quintets which require two viola players.

– Richard Gate


Operatic arias and songs

Robert Alagna, tenor, with various
orchestras and conductors and assisting



This CD contains 16 songs and 18 operatic arias. The songs are of the kind that crossover tenors often sing and, although some of them are catchy, the only one that struck me as having much musical value was Si loin de vous by one Andre Hossein. The others are hardly memorable. The arias are by Verdi (Rigoletto, Aida, Trovatore), Donizetti (La Favorite, L’elisir d’amore), Giordano (Fedora), Lalo (Le Roi d’Ýs), Flotow (Martha), Cilea (Adriana Lecouvreur), Berlioz (Damnation of Faust), Bizet (Carmen, Les Pecheurs de Perles), Massenet (Werther, Le Jongleur de Notre- Dame) Halevy (La Juive) and Rabaud. The last-named’s aria from Marouf has the advantage of unfamiliarity. Alagna is now 53 and his voice is still in acceptable condition, although it sounds rough from time to time and in any case is not the voice for some of the heroic roles he assumes here such as Radames and Calaf in Turandot. His musicianship and artistry are as impressive as ever. It is difficult to know for whom this CD is designed. Those interested in the songs are unlikely to be attracted by so many arias and operatic fans are unlikely to want so many songs. The CD will probably be popular with the many fans of Alagna. The orchestral accompaniments are satisfactory and the chorus which joins him at appropriate times is first rate.

– RG


These reviews appeared in the June edition of Fine Music Magazine – you can subscribe to our monthly magazine and have it posted to your home or business or click the link here to read online.


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