21 March, 2009

Listening Log: 21/03/09

Listening Log

With this article I shall start a new series that logs what I have listened to date, at least for what's worthwhile. In contrast to more comprehensive surveys in my other Blogs (CD Library A and B), each CD/LP entry in this series shall be only briefly treated, mostly with no links provided. Should you be interested, it's easy to search for the CDs with Google.

The CDs mentioned in this session were obtained from the Flushing public library.

For me, up to now Hilary Hahn's DG discography has not met the same standards, artistically and sonically, of the SONY releases earlier in her career. My impression has changed with this newest release. Although not an echt-romantic Sibelius (and some may not like this), this is a FRESH and fluent account that benefits from the exceptionally detailed accompaniement of the Swedish Radio SO under Salonen. The coupled Schonberg is arguably even more of a marvel. Hahn's impeccable phrasing made this piece seem not nearly as difficult (took her 2 years to learn) or acerbic as usual. A fine effort in all. Very good sound.

For those not aversive to period performances in Mozart, Minkowski's Mozart Symphonies CD (DG) is refreshing. Les Musiciens du Louvre (Based in Grenoble) play with real bite in the Jupiter, imparting a sense of inevitability that the No. 40 narrowly misses. The Idomeneo ballet filler is crakling. Overall, a great effort, complemented by an excllent recording.

It took me a while to warm up to Giuliano Carmignola's DG 2-CD set of Mozart violin concerti with Orchestra Mozart (one of Abbado's youth orchestras) under Abbado. This is not in the old style of Grumiaux or Szyerng, but Carmignola's playing, besides boasting a sweet and variegated violin tone (that confuses you momentarily that he's playing Vivaldi), illuminates all kinds of details, yet knitting them (unlike Kremer) into an organic whole. Speed is fast, and the orchestra plays with utter committment, digging deep and with little vibrato, in period style. Abbado's conducting is stylish. Although likely not for those who like "sweet" Mozart, these non-sentimenatl accounts reward repeated listening. Excellent recording.

I have always liked Ernest Bloch's much neglected music. There's a lot more than Schelomo! His chamber music, notably the quartets, are particulalrly fine. On Hyperion, the 2 excellent piano quintets are played by Piers Lane and the Australian Goldner String Quartet. They are very well played, though even more bite would have been welcome. As usual, Hyperion's sound, though not bad, is a little veiled (likely too much added reverberance) for me. Note that I am usually NOT a fan of this label. But this is unduly neglected music, and I look foward to hearing more in the Hyperion/Bloch canon.

After the Schwarzkopf/Szell, it's hard to listen to other versions (with the exception of the creamy Gundula Janowitz/Karajan) of Strauss' Four last Songs. The reason for this preference is that these songs, written a year before Strauss' death, really need interpretation and word-pointing. Ricarda Merbeth does better in the softer, rueful, and regretful, moments. Overall she's very good, better than many. The Weimar Staatskapelle play beautifully and Wit conducts cogently. Good recording. Another excellent Naxos release.

With Reservations
Rafal Blechacz, 2005 Chopin Competition Gold medalist and the only Pole after Zimerman, has seen a meteoric rise. I could not get tickets to his Chopin concerto last year with the NYPO. His DG Chopin Preludes show an individual mind at work. He plays with excellent color, but since the overall tempo is a little slow and he pulls things around a little too much for a first listen, a little feeling of homogeniety sets in from time to time. However, some of it is strangely memorable and I should like to return to this CD and see whether things shall grow on me. Afterall, is there a complete Chopin preludes set that is NOT wilful at some point? One thing is for sure, he is a pianist to follow. Recording is fine but not exceptional.

I am a fan of Osmo Vanska, and have heard him to good effect live with the HKPO and the Minnesota Orchestra. However, I have mixed feelings about the first Beethoven CD I have heard, a coupling of Symphony No. 1 and 6. The playing is excellent, with stupendous bassline (just as in concert with the MO). The No. 1 receives a strong performance, but the No. 6 is less distinctive, even less attractive than the live performance with the HKPO. This is a BIS hybrid SACD/CD, which at least on the CD layer has a somewhat veiled sound that does not help.

No comments:

Post a Comment