13 July, 2009

Listening Log 11/07/09:

Listening Log 11/07/09: Treasures from the Library

Top Choice
Many people have asked me why I borrow from the library, when I have thousands of CDs. The reason I think is the library affords us an opportunity to go out of our own confines, to sample things we may not otherwise sample, for reason of cost, fear of duplication, or simply bias.

With so many Mahler CDs, these days I have to listen to one first before I even think about buying. Well, this DG Mahler Symphony No. 2 got me. It is simply the most detailed rendition I have heard. It breathes right and somehow does does not slight the spiritual dimension, as Boulez sometimes might. Needless to say the VPO's playing is a spiritual dimension in itself. With this Boulez has finished his cycle. I wonder when a bargain boxset shall be issued. I listened to this CD twice and could not get enough.

The Vegh Quartet has always been my favorite. In this live (1961 Salzburg) recording from Orfeo, you are bathed in a glow for the entire duration. Whether in Haydn, Beethoven or Debussy, the lead of Vegh is seamless in its phrasing and the ensemble creates the most beautiful soundworld. You can just leave this spinning on the tray (or on hard disc) forever. There's no more rewarding quartet playing than this.

Of current quartets I cannot think of any that is superior to the Leipziger Streichquartett, who records exclusively for MD+G. Here, members team up with pianist Christian Zacharias (another uner-rated pianist) and double bassist Ockert to deliver an account of Schubert's Trout Quintet that is truly different. At first listen rather detached, close listening reveals a rock-solid rhythmic line (helped by the recording; you shall never hear the double-bass so clearly) and a symphonic treatment. This is not a version that screams gemuchlichkeit, but rather a telling version that reveals the myriad beauty of the score, the details that one tends to not notice besides the boldness of the themes. Zacharias's playing is at once refined and unerring. This oblique review is enlightening. You can also hear some of this recording in the youtube embedded below.

I have always liked the passionate Natalia Gutman, who with Abbado/Mahler Chamber Orchestra delivers a version of the Schumann Cello Concerto that outstrips her teacher Rostropovich, also on DG.

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