26 January, 2010

CDs From The Hong Kong Public Library: Listening Log (2)

CDs From The Hong Kong Public Library: Listening Log (2)

(From Taipo)
Krystian Zimerman's Rachmaninov Piano Concerto 1+2 (DG) has garnered praise, but I find both the recording and performance poorly balanced (like his even more recent Brahms). Partnership and performance by the younger Zimerman with Boston SO/Ozawa is a lot better in Liszt's Piano Concerto 1+2 (DG). Boris Berezovsky's performances of Rachmaninov's 1+4+Paganini (Mirare) strike me as much more satisfying in performance and sound (2 of these playing this week by the HKPO). I have never heard of the Ural SO nor the conductor Dimitri Liss, but their contribution is idiomatic and first class.

Buried in the bargain 2-CD set(Capriccio) under the mundance title "Russian Violin Concertos" (filed under "RUS") are TOP performances by the seriously under-rated Bulgarian Stoika Milanova, a pupil of Oistrakh. The Prokofiev and Shostakovich concertos are all top-class. Only the Tchaikovsky is performed by Viviane Hagner. While slavic soloists rarely fail me, the rather flat Schubert CD by Russian cellist Leonid Gorokhov (AGPL) certainly was uninspiring. Partner Demidenko is rather coarse.

The library is a good starting place also to explore less known music. Julius Rontgen's 3 cello concertos (Et'cetera) are wonderfully entertaining and deserve a place in the repertorie. Many libraries have a huge series of (mostly Supraphon) Martinu, all in wonderful performances and sound. His harpsicord works (some concertante) (filed under "KNO") are curiosities but interesting.

I have never heard of Tanja Becker-Bender, but everything the reviews said of her Paganini 24 Caprices (Hyperion) is true. A wonderful CD with a fantastic cover painting (more info here). I have always liked Elizabeth Wallfisch, but in her comprehensive Locatelli "Art of the Violin" CD set (Hyperion), neither she nor the orchestra measure up to the sparkling playing of smaller offerings from the likes of Giuliano Carmignola (Sony).

(From City Hall)
On (Chandos), Valerie Polyansky has come in for a lot of bad reviews on the net, but I often find some salvation in the beautifully contoured playing of the Russian State Symphony orchestra. His Rachmaninov Symphony 2 is a bit turgid, not for those who like things to move along. Sound is somewhat murky.

(From Tsuen Wan)
Osmo Vanska's (BIS) Beethoven Symphonies 4+5 and Symphony 9 both offer wonderful playing that's full of tensile strength and rhythmic felicities. The SACD/CDs are beautiful sounding. Too bad the library does not have the rest of the cycle. BIS is offering the cycle at mid-price. I've ordered a set.

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