CD REVIEWS – July Part 2

Music of Margaret Brandman
Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra
Petr Vronský, conductor
Vít Mužík, violin
Lucie Kaucká, piano
Margaret Brandman, piano
Marcello Maio, piano
Navona Recordings
✶ ✶ ✶ 1/2

Like her late teacher, Peter Sculthorpe, Margaret Brandman writes accessible music; finding inspiration in the environment/events typical of Australia. In Binna Burra Dreaming (violin/piano) the opening could be Sydney Long’s painting The Spirit of the Plains set to music: wistful, atmospheric and beautiful. When the tempo lifts it becomes slightly ‘jazzy’ (harmonies and rhythm), with plenty of development throughout. I listened to it once and immediately had to hear it again – it’s a lovely piece. With a similarly fertile supply of material, The Eastern Spinebill has a more moody nature; it’s a duo version of Firestorm’s first movement – with the drama the orchestral version lacks. Firestorm Symphony is a kind of tone poem in three movements, dealing with the approach, aftermath, and rejuvenation following a bushfire. But the moment you give something a program you will be judged by how well that program is depicted; and in Firestorm Threatening I can’t hear the dread associated with an approaching bushfire, nor did Now the Tears are Flowing really capture the aftermath’s soul-searching – even though its author lived through the events depicted. The lushly romantic Love Brings Changes has a somewhat predictable melody, but attractive counterpoints compensate; against that, Lyric Fantasy is a lithe, quasi neo-classical work for piano and strings; and more evidence of Brandman’s expressive string writing can be heard in Undulations. Composers must allow themselves some fun, so Jucaro Rhumba D’Amor, sounding distinctly Latin-American (and tongue-in-cheek), is Brandman’s escapist jaunt here. Also enjoyable is the jazz-tinted pianism of Autumn Rhapsody and Spirit Visions.

– Michael Muir

Capture.PNGGreat Moments at Carnegie Hall
Selected Highlights from 125 Years of
Sony Classical
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Ever since its opening night in May 1891 Carnegie Hall has held sway as the undisputed shrine of classical music in America. It was and remains the essential venue for all great artists. To celebrate Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary, Sony Classical in cooperation with Carnegie Hall presents an extraordinary new 43-CD box set of treasures from the RCA and Columbia archives featuring live recordings from many of the world’s greatest musicians together with a 2-CD compilation of highlights drawn from this recorded chronicle of eight decades. In moments of greater affluence how wonderful it would be for Fine Music to be the beneficiary of such an inspirational collection of music. The selection spotlights many of the artists who enjoyed historically close ties to Carnegie Hall: Kathleen Battle, Leonard Bernstein, Jussi Björling, Renée Fleming, Marilyn Horne, Vladimir Horowitz, Kissin, James Levine, Yo-Yo Ma, Leontyne Price, Richter, Rostropovich, Serkin, Isaac Stern. So what does the 2-CD compilation include – Cliburn and Rach 3, Kissen and Liszt, Horowitz and Schumann, Bolet and Chopin, Richter performing Beethoven’s The Tempest, Volodos and Liszt. And there’s no forgetting Menuhin and Stern performing a memorable Bach double and some exquisite Dichterliebe from Dietrich-Fischer Dieskau accompanied by Horowitz. The list goes on and on! Acquire this collection and you wouldn’t need any other recordings in your library.

– Emyr Evans

Capture.PNGRichard Strauss
Intermezzo: Four Symphonic Interludes/
Ein Heldenleben
MSO/Sir Andrew Davis
ABC – 481 2425
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Strauss was the tone-poem’s master; a veritable ‘musical Charles Dickens’, telling ripping yarns – orchestrally. Intellect, technique and humour are a trifecta not all great composers have, but here carping woodwind (and two tubas) depict the multiple mutterings of music critics, and Till Eulenspiegel’s pompous clergy caricature, are just two hilarious examples of Straussian wit. So, a ‘musical John Cleese’ as well? Yet while nothing’s ‘toweringly fawlty’ in Heldenleben, I question the duration. The Laurel & Hardyesque Till averages 16’; the priapic boisterousness of Don Juan, under 20’; even the rambling Zarathustra (with the most portentous sunrise in music), around 30’; but in late Romanticism ‘nothing exceeds like excess’, so A Hero’s Life is a corpulent 47’. Concertmaster Dale Bartrop masters the technical minefield in the violin solo depicting the capricious nature of The Hero’s partner; but dare I risk relegation to the “carping woodwind” by suggesting (structural/thematic significance aside) this section is over-long and contributes to the indulgent duration of the whole? A voluptuous love-scene ensues. But just as we’re basking in the after-glow, The Critics – exquisitely poor timing – re-appear (more hilarity), The Hero engaging them in battle (Mahlerian trumpets/ raucous snare drum). The Hero’s Works of Peace follows, RS proving his green credentials by ‘reducing, reusing and recycling’ multiple themes from earlier works; a deserved ‘retirement from the world’ resolves the whole – all serving to prove Strauss’s boundless imagination and capacity for hard work. His music benefits from a warm recorded ambience and the standard to emulate may well have been set by EMI’s Walter Legge (cf. Four Last Songs – Schwarzkopf/Szell).

– MM

These reviews appeared in the July 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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