CD REVIEWS – September

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 8.11.05 PM.pngBach: Goldberg Variations

Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord

Deutsche Grammophon



Mahan Esfahani is an Iranian-American harpsichordist born in Tehran in 1984. He has given concerts widely in Europe, the United States, China and other parts of Asia. In 2011 he gave the rst solo harpsichord recital in the history of the Proms in London. Esfahani made his American debut at the Frick Collection in New York in 2012. His recordings have won several awards; and he is now Professor of the Harpsichord at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Esfahan’s recording of the Goldberg Variations must be one of the best of that widely recorded work. He elicits a beautiful silvery tone from the harpsichord. His virtuosity is astonishing in the more rapid passages. His tempi are sensible – not too slow in the slow sections nor exaggeratedly fast in the quicker sections. On the vexed and arcane question of ornamentation, his playing is in accordance with the copy of the score that I have. Esfahani makes all the repeats requested by the composer. His rhythmic control is excellent. In all respects, his playing fully reveals the greatness of this masterpiece of Bach. Much as one admires the performances of this music by pianists such as Glenn Gould and others, there seems little doubt that the music sounds more natural when played on the harpsichord. I look forward to hearing his other recordings and hope that it will not be long before Esfahani performs in Australia.

– Richard Gate

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 8.13.52 PM.pngMozart’s Last Symphonies

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Directed from the Violin by Richard Tognetti

ABC Classics


As part of the 40th anniversary celebrations the ACO re-visits the recording of these wonderful and popular works originally directed by the much acclaimed Dutch maestro, Frans Bruggen, one of the great pioneers of the early music revival. Critics felt that the symphonies were produced as a personal expression without regard to the demands of patrons or public and that motivation, in turn, goes far to explain their extraordinary scope and their striking ingenuity. Taken together, these three nal symphonies seem to explore Mozart’s personality. Symphony no.39 is gentle, buoyant and courtly as if to re ect the royal patronage upon which Mozart depended for his livelihood. No.40 is a rare foray into gravity, one of his only two symphonies in minor keys, perhaps re ecting Mozart’s depression over his waning popularity; whilst no.41 in C-Major presents a dazzling summation of Mozart’s past. The ACO under Tognetti’s attention to detail exploits the character and moods of each work and indeed each movement. There are few great conductors like Bruno Walter and Thomas Beecham who have not recorded these symphonies, and their performances have been much admired. This ACO recording shows all the usual dynamism, vibrancy and much fulfilled excitement expected from Tognetti and his Orchestra. These recordings will be considered a wonderful acquisition to any personal CD collection.

– Emyr Evans

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 8.18.22 PM.pngTranscendental

Daniil Trifonov plays Franz Liszt

Deutsche Grammophon – 2 Disc Set ASIN: B01FYHNG5Y


Daniil Trifonov has the stamina of a marathon runner when it comes to the piano. He burst onto the scene after resounding victories in the Tchaikovsky & Rubinstein competitions and since then has wowed audiences with his meticulous and imaginative playing. His delicate touch juxtaposed with a highly organised brand of technical wizardry makes him one of the most sought after pianists on the circuit today. The repertoire for his latest album is Liszt’s Complete Concert Etudes. This is a highly significant release by Deutsche Grammophon as it is the 1st time the complete set of Etudes has been recorded as a whole. Trifonov completed the task in a mere five days. The 1st disc is devoted entirely to the 12 Transcendental Etudes. Right from the opening Preludio, a sense of showmanship is evident with Trifonov relishing in all the Lisztian pianistic requirements ranging from the sensual and floating account of Ricordanza right through to the incredibly dashing and demonic Mazeppa. Trifonov displays a brand of intelligent and thoughtful playing, which under the hands of another pianist might simply be passed off as bombastic and souless. The second disc contains the remainder of the Oeuvre des etudes with the Two Concert Etudes, Three Concert Etudes and the Grandes etudes de Paganini. His connection with Liszt and his sense of appreciation of the score is apparent and this is no more evident than in the 1st of the Two Concert Etudes where the immaculate dexterity in his playing easily conquers all of Liszts technical demands. The 3rd Etude La Campanella occasionally suffers of overplaying but Trifonov takes a more measured approach, whilst losing nothing in his interpretation. This is playing of the highest quality. Experienced listeners will quote the performances of Liszt by the likes of Bolet, Berman and Arrau. In time Trifonov will be included in that list and a lot sooner than one might expect. He is a highly accomplished artist and this album may well prove to be his crowning achievement to date.

– Frank Shostakovich

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


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