02 December, 2011

Concert Review: Hong Kong Sinfonietta - Tharaud - Liebreich

Concert Review: Hong Kong Sinfonietta - Tharaud - Liebreich

October 14, City Hall
Hong Kong Sinfonietta - Alexandre Tharaud - Alexander Liebreich

This concert of the two Alexander's opened with Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 5, BWV1056, accompanied by a much reduced orchestra who played standing. Tharaud played without much color and, together with the very lean sound of the small ensemble, the result was not at all genial. In my opinion, a larger ensemble and lusher playing would have better served the piece if indeed a piano is the chosen medium.

Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9, K271, fared much better. Tharaud's playing was more varied and expressive, if just a little too precious at times. The larger orchestra accompanied stylishly under Liebreich's guidance, and there was indeed a sense of dialogue, which made it enjoyable.

After the first half, it was apparent the German conductor, well regarded in Munich and elsewhere, is a star. But that doesn't prepare one for what followed, a superbly crafted Schubert's Symphony No 9. The long work was well laid out, tightly argued and surprisingly very well played. Perhaps it did not plumb the ultimate depth (as few performances does) but it kept us enchanted and eager, with glimpses into all kinds of emotion along the way. An unqualified success.

p.s. There is an interesting review at this site, and I concurred with almost everything the author said.

07 October, 2011

Concert Review: Hong Kong Philharmonic-Ning Feng-Andreas Delfs-HKPO

Concert Review: Hong Kong Philharmonic - Ning Feng - Andreas Delfs - HKPO

October 7, CCCH
HKPO-Ning Feng-Andrea Delfs


Miracle of miracles! Not a dull moment! If you did not attend last night, do so tonight! Although the raison d'etre for the concert is purportedly Ning Feng's Paganini, for this conductor watcher, the conductor is just as much the star!

Andreas Delfs has appeared with the HKPO before. He is widely acknowledged to have built up the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra during his ten-year reign (guess who succeeded him there? EdW!) Under Delfs' firm guidance, HKPO last night was like an orchestra transformed. Perhaps they finally got out of their summer holiday mood and realized they had to pay to earn their living, or perhaps it was the telecast! In truth, the chemistry between conductor and orchestra was unmistakable.

The substantial opener was Fandangos by the Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra, and what a champion he got in Delfs! The typical pin-point turns, crescendos and decrescendos of the fandango (you may recall Boccherini's quintets) were interlaced with passages of more modern writing. It is a thrilling piece, well rendered by the team, and I want a recording! Below I have embedded a youtube clip of this piece. Enjoy!

Everything I wrote previously about Ning Feng in his recital last year can be used to describe his performance of Paganini Violin Concerto No. 1:

"...here is a virtuoso who uses everything to empower the music, and there's no higher accolade...Ning Feng's beautiful and fulsome tone stood out from the start. Under his fingers, every note retains its full value, a quality rare as hen's teeth today. Add to this phrasing as natural as breathing and a wonderful evening was guaranteed. I fact I had rarely felt so relaxed and satisfied at a concert...In my book, the unassuming Ning Feng catapults to the top of the heap, and needs to yield to none. Other favorites that I like to watch are Augustin Hadelich, Ryu Goto and Hilary Hahn..."

"...粒粒皆清楚...這次終於趕上了, 洗耳之餘當是恨晚。他的琴音每一粒都異常飽滿, 不像一般小提琴家在琴絃上下之間會有意無意地突出,減弱,甚至僅僅帶過某些音符。加上有非凡連貫性的造句 ,這晚令人一路匯神聆聽, 且聼得無比舒服。琴是 2007 年德國的 Stefan-Peter Greiner, 音色不及意大利名琴華麗,但表現極爲乾淨,平均...他的造詣, 我覺得不在任何一位現代小提琴家之下。既然他是 Mr Paganini, 就跟先前聼過最好的 Paganini 詮譯者 Ryu Goto 一比。我覺得 Goto 更炫目醒神, 但寧峰更耐聼, 更具潛力..好一個音樂家!以他的造詣, 本應大紅大紫,可惜他樸素的造型可能不太適合這個浮華的世界。以他的毅力, 我堅信默默地耕耘也能“成功”。我只是覺得他的髮型, 還有那套有紅裏子的衣服, 都應該更新了。話説回來,他以後無論穿什麽,拉什麽我都會趕去捧場的..."

Aside from a tendency to slow down in the cadenzas' passages of lower register, the awesome pyrotechnics served the music well. Here the conductor must also be given full credit for the remarkably nimble accompaniment. Delfs urged and honed the reduced orchestra to breathe in sync with Ning Feng, displaying a technicolor give-and-take that gave the music stature. Compared to the somewhat clumsy Ning Feng, the energetic and slim Delfs, with his grimace and occasional podium antics, seemed to resemble more Paganini!

Truth to tell, despite all the brilliance, this command performance does not completely erase memories of the 2008 performance by Ryo Goto. How lucky we are, to have heard them both!

A pungent Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, more Apollonian than Dionysian, concluded the marvelous evening. The concert is titled "Apotheosis of the Dance", but for those who preferred their 7th lithe and more stately, this Seventh may not comply. For myself, I found the interpretation fresh, shedding light on its relationship with the dramatic elements of the Pastorale as well as the earthy Eighth that followed. The muscular reading, with strong accents and finely graded dynamics, was built on a solid sense of rhythm, and their were moments of great tenderness, such as the opening of the second movement. A less antiquated kind of dance, if you will. The reading easily surpassed EdW's reading with the HKPO when he first came on board.

Except for the fact that I find Michael Wilson's oboe often stolid, the orchestra played very well. Maybe Delfs is the kind of "orchestral builder" we should have! Someone who extracts discipline, but, instead of just delivering the notes, also makes the concert fun!

02 October, 2011

Concert Review: Shenzhen SO - Ehwald - Ning Kam

Concert Review: Shenzhen SO - Ehwald - Ning Kam

23 September, 2011, Shenzhen Concert Hall
Shenzhen Symphony-Christian Ehwald-Ning Kam
All Shostakovich

For some reason, the Shenzhen Symphony loves to program the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1. Just three months after the forgettable performance by child prodigy Gao Tianyang came this much better performance by Singaporean Ning Kam.

The press release touted the tone of her 1793 Storioni. Indeed, her tone was surprisingly beautiful and supple. More importantly, commitment and temperament were evident from the first note. In the rapid passages, I felt she short-changed the notes a little too much in exchange for a lighter dancing-on-the-strings feeling, and the fully macabre nature of the work was again not brought out in full, but it was a winning performance. The audience loved her and her Gershwin encore.

This was the second all-Shostakovitch concert I heard under Ehwald. The previous one in 2009 featured the same concerto, given a stunning performance by Antje Weithaas, still the benchmark! This time the Symphony No. 8 was played with some of the same quality as the previous No. 10, and I quote myself:

"...A similar Germanic resilience pervaded the symphony...The complete grip of architecture and non-sentimental approach reminds me of performances of the several Shostakovich symphonies that I have heard conducted by the excellent Gunther Herbig on record (Berlin Classics; available in the library). As in the concerto, I'd prefer a little more abandon and sardonic wit. The orchestra tried very hard, but their grasp of Shostakovich, in contrast to Brahms, was not quite that of the HKPO (in performances by the likes of Jaap Van Zweden and Mark Elder and I now add Lazarev)..."

In Ehwald's hands, the inner movements fared better than the outer ones. In fact, in those movements the playing had quite a bit more bite than the previous No. 10. In contrast, the outer movements seemed a little plain. The SZSO could do better in Shostakovich, as evidenced by the brilliance of Zhang Guoyong's No. 15 and Fred Buttkewicz's No. 11.

I must cite the astonishingly virtuosic playing of the percussion section. That lady bass-drummer was perfectly in sync with the tympanist. Thrilling!

01 October, 2011

Concert Review: HKPO-Ainars Rubikis-Hong Kong Philharmonic

Concert Review: Hong Kong Philharmonic-Ainars Rubikis

September 17, 2011, CCCH
Hong Kong Philharmonic-Ainars Rubikis-HKPO

Whether Edo de Waart is a great conductor is controversial. If you ask me, he is a good conductor, but over-hyped (only in HK) and not at all a great one. He has been promoted as an "orchestral trainer", but judging from the performance of HKPO in this concert (the playing of the Renes concert was not great either, mind you), that is an even greater fallacy. Would an "improved and trained" orchestra struggle so hard technically in the Honegger Pacific 231? The piece lost all of its brilliance.

Despite the lacklustre strings, Haydn Symphony 103, the Drum Roll, fared much better, better in fact than the Jupiter a week ago. Young, and very boyish looking, Ainars Rubikis has the full measure of this symphony, gave it good shape and managed some good pin-point turns, but overall this was not as much fun as the work Ton Koopman, not to mention Nicholas McGegan, did in similar repertoire.

Dvorak Symphony 7 was given a most "symphonic" reading, tight and at times exciting, but the reading lacked the genial and natural feeling, as well as perfect playing that Lu Jia achieved previously.

30 September, 2011

CD Recommendation: Vocal

CD Recommendation

Last week I heard at a friend's place L'Arpeggiata's Via Crucis (Virgin) album, and was immediately taken by it.

Today I was happy to find the ensemble's Monteverdi recording Teatro d'Amore (Virgin) in the public library. It is every bit as inviting, indeed the best Monteverdi disc I have heard. Sample the stunning singing in the youtube below of Lamento della Ninfa and you shall be converted.

These are some of the most beguiling sonorities and singing on disc.

16 September, 2011

Concert Review: HKPO-Renes-DeYoung-Skelton

Concert Review: HKPO-Renes-DeYoung-Skelton

September 2, CCCH
HKPO-Lawrence Renes-Michelle DeYoung-Stuart Skelton

I have always liked watching upcoming conductors more than tired "maestros", but my first encounter with Lawrence Renes, former protege of indisposed Edo de Waart and contender for the HKPO job, was a mixed bag. Renes had appeared with the HKPO before in Bruckner, which unfortunately I missed. Coming from the Dutch tradition, he is allegedly well schooled in Mahler and Bruckner.

I was surprised how the first half dragged. It was apparent Renes has good technique and clear direction, but the Mozart Jupiter sagged under an imposed weight that would more befit its immediate predecessor, the tragic G minor. The pedestrian performance was a curious blend of modern practice (little vibrato) and old sentiment (including slow tempo) that never took flight. Early on in his tenure with the HKPO, EdW had conducted this piece much more effectively (one of his best efforts).

The Mahler Das Lied von der Erde fared better but was not a complete success. Many of the orchestra's principals were on sabbaticals and their replacements had not quite gelled with the orchestra. The winds remained the perennial Achilles' heel, but overall the orchestral playing was good, loud enough when needed but too cool in temper. Best was Stuart Skelton, whose heldentenor quality was immediately apparent. I found Michelle DeYoung curiously lacking. On the surface, she produced some beautiful tones, but her interpretation was perhaps too considered and did not flow. The final movement, Der Abschied, was fragmentary and failed to resolve the piece.

14 September, 2011

Bach, Musica Antiqua Koln and Tadao Ando

Bach, Musica Antiqua Koln and Tadao Ando

I recently chanced upon this 2007 Berlin Classics DVD of Bach's Art of the Fugue. Two things caught my attention:

-it was played by my favorite Musica Antiqua Koln, who disbanded immediately after.

-the playing took place in a building (museum) in Germany designed by Tadao Ando.

I watched it on 中秋節 and was riveted by the musical performance. After a while, the (minimalist) architectural lines under the camera's obsessive scrutiny became tedious, even narcissistic, but the magnificent music carried the day.

The director of the film speaks here.

Someone has loaded most of the video on youtube. As you know, piecing things together this way is not at all easy. At the bottom is my feeble attempt. For completeness, I urge you to buy the video.

Contrapunctus 1:


Contrapunctus 4:

Canon a la ottava:

Contrapunctus 5:

Canon a la decima:

Contrapunctus 8 (click here; cannot embed)

Contrapunctus 9:

Contrapunctus 12:

Fuga a 2 Clavier:

Canon per augmentationem:

Contrapunctus 14:

11 August, 2011

Movie: Tree of Life

Movie: Tree of Life

General Info:

Tree of Life, the latest film of Terrence Malick, was many years in the making, garnered much attention, and won the 2011 Palme D'Or. There is little need for me to describe the film. There is much great writing on the film by various critics, and I urge you to read the following:

New Yorker film review
New york Times film review (also articles behind the scenes; also here)

Image and Classical Music that Speak
For this viewer, considered as a movie, this one is an instant classic. But it is more than that, as the film can be savored on many levels.

I watched it in Broadway Cinemateque. The quality of the print and photography are simply stunning, and I'd reckon the best I have watched on the silver screen, inviting comparisons with the IMAX shorts offered in museums. Who needs 3D?

But for people who listen to classical music, the movie is a must-watch. Although there is an original score, classical music permeates the film, and it would not be an overstatement to say the role it plays is no less than any actor. The way "Die Moldau" and Mahler's First Symphony (more than once) are used are simply stunning, and reveal a deep understanding of the music. If you would, those fragments can be considered among the greatest classical music MTV I have ever watched (think Hans Jurgen Syberberg's Parsifal).

For those curious about the music used, New Yorker music critic Alex Ross provided a comprehensive guide. There is more, in this Blog the music is not only listed, but samples are provided for you to savor! Thanks to people who care!

Concert Review: Shenzhen SO - Ehwald - Ma Vlast

Concert Review: Shenzhen SO - Ehwald - Ma Vlast

July 29, 2011, Shenzhen Concert Hall
Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra - Christian Ehwald Smetana Ma Vlast

Christian Ehwald returned to conduct the last concert of the SSO season. The program consisted of only one work, a rare treat of the complete Ma Vlast, though regrettably there was an intermission.

I cannot have enough praise for Ehwald's fluent conducting of this mammoth work. Smetana composed this work over a long time, and the individual tone poems in lesser hands do not always feel like part of the same fabric. Despite the intermission, Ehwald most skillfully knitted the work into an organic whole, no mean feat.

Ehwald natural phrasing was always evident, and as usual was mindful of structural integrity. Under his steady but gentle leadership, the orchestra warmed up quickly, blossomed and went from strength to strength. The beautiful playing of the harpist (not the Russian leading lady) set the mood, but it was the woodwind section that really shined above everything. The "pictorial" depictions demand the utmost of the woodwinds and they delivered in spades. The winds had to play almost non-stop, and up and down the scale. Take one example, the opening of Vlatva, when I watched the recent movie "Tree of Life", which uses this music, I instantly recalled the woodwinds in this performance, of the utmost coherence and beauty, really as good as the soundtrack (supposedly from the incomparable Czech Philharmonic)! Of such integrity was the performance that the closing pair, Tabor and Blanik, truly brought the piece to a resounding conclusion.

22 July, 2011

CD Recommendations: Concierto de Aranjuez

CD Recommendations: Concierto de Aranjuez

The blind composer Rodrigo wrote one masterpiece, the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra. For more info on this piece, read the wikipedia entry, which is lively and informative, though far from complete. I am sure you already know much of the music. If you think you don't, listen to the youtube clips supplied below and you shall realize you do.

There are literally hundreds of recordings available (click here), and it is hard to make a bad recording of this transcendentally beautiful music. Personally I'd opt for a Spanish guitarist accompanied by a Spanish orchestra if possible. Narcisco Yepes recorded it several times, but some versions seem to be out of print (for available ones, see here). All of them are delightful, so I'd go for the budget one shown (Universal/DG).

Yang Xuefei's version (EMI) is easily available, and has interesting fillers. I am not sure how "Spanish" she is, but she as always plays with character (to me much more interesting than those Japanese female guitarists). The Spanish orchestra and conductor are good too.

The wiki entry neglected to mention that the composer himself arranged his work for harp (for the great Zabaleta) and this version is performed to perfection in a new Sony/RCA issue (info in German; artist's website), which I recently found in the library! Xavier de Maistre, harpist of the VPO, is magnificent, strong, fleet, nuanced, indeed better than some guitarists! And the fuller sonority of the harp is a great pleasure. This may not be easy to source but is worth it.

Jazzed Up
Over the years there have been numerous arrangements of this syblime music. Most famous is Miles Davis' version (arranged by Gil Evans), which Miles delivers in his sparse style (Columbia).

But last year I chanced on the Jim Hall version and fell in love with it (CTI; info here). The Hall version stays quite close to the original and I prefer it because of its use of guitar, which is still best in delivering that certain sultry feeling.

You can listen to Miles and Hall in the youtube clips below. Many other arrangements veer too much towards pop and should be avoided if you have heard or love the originals.

There are tons of videos on this music. I have selected a few, mostly of the slow movement, for your enjoyment/comparison. First, classical guitarist Xuefei Yang's Proms performance is not for the full classical orchestra, but it is atmospherically shot. I particularly like Yang's rather individual, even somewhat masculine, way. The EMI promo for her CD is great to watch too.

The Miles Davis version is great, but I still like the guitar better:

It's too bad Miles' version is the one every jazz lover thinks of, but I think Jazz guitarist Jim Hall's version (with a great band) is actually better, more atmospheric and closer to the original. You get the best of all worlds here, guitar and trumpet!

16 July, 2011

Concert Review: Shenzhen SO - Fred Buttkewitz - Shostakovich

Concert Review: Shenzhen SO - Fred Buttkewitz - Shostakovich

8 July, 2011, Shenzhen Concert Hall
Fred Buttkewitz - Bai Ming 白明

White birds flying against a terrible black sky
Before I went into this concert, I tried to dig up info on the rather anonymous German conductor Fred Buttkewitz. The only detailed info was available in German, on the website of the National Youth Orchestra of Hamburg, of which he is Chief Conductor (Google translation of bio). It would appear he is yet another of those German kappellmeisters who came up through the ranks of their substantial network of radio orchestras (which is good training, no doubt). I did not have much expectation, but I was surprised from the start.

Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia is nothing if not atmosphere, and the marvelous winds delivered it right from the start, and beautiful strings followed. It was also clear Buttkewitz was not into micro-management and focused on the long line. The next piece for viola and small orchestra (no upper strings), Hindemith's Der Schwanendreher, proved more problematic. This is difficult music that takes more than good playing to come off. Although the orchestra and soloist (section leader) Bai Ming 白明 played safe, and Buttkewitz showed good control, the performance was too soft to display the neoclassical flavor and the jagged rhythmic patterns so essential to this composer's works. Nonetheless, a good try at a piece of difficult music that is certainly not a crowd-pleaser. A bonus came in the form of the contribution by the Russian lady harpist, of subtle and great beauty; and she in the encore of Chinese transcription outshone the violist!

The second half of the substantial program was a magnificent, and magnanimous, account of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 11. Compared with the 6th, this symphony perhaps is not as difficult to bring off, but with last year's seemingly definitive (I'd say immortal) June 4 performance by HKPO under Alexander Lazarev still fresh in the mind, before the performance I had thought I might be disappointed.

Quite the opposite happened: the performance in this sonically resplendent hall was a "symphonic" revelation that taught me much about the music and to look beyond the graphic episodes. For insight on this symphony, I'd refer to to the excellent CSO program notes.

The first movement was a little slower than usual, a little plain even, but it unfolded steadily and inexorably under Buttkewitz' steady baton, with hardly any rubato, building up quite powerfully to the second movement. The musical jostling before the massacre was well conveyed. The events of January 9th, 1905, were depicted with great power. I had thought it would not happen, but slowly and surely tears rolled down my cheeks. The SSO was perhaps not as vehement and graphic as the HKPO under Lazarev, but the playing was precise and superlative, with the weightiest sonority I have heard yet from this orchestra.

After the brilliance of the first two movements, many performances (both live and recorded) lose ground in the next two movements, which in lesser hands become anti-climatic. Emphatically not so here. As a matter of fact, under the steady direction of Buttkewitz I became intensely aware for the first time of what Shostakovich was trying to convey in the second-half of the symphony. Reminiscence, remembrance, yes; but to overcome is the riding goal. The music may sometimes collapse or lurch forward awkwardly but it is always forward, no matter the cost. The past (in musical quotation) comes back to haunt us, but is always beaten back by heroic calls of change (in musical quotation). There is always something new in the horizon, but never just exchanging one form of brutality for another, instead something more magnanimous and forgiving of the unspeakable past. In this performance, the symbolism of the kaleidoscopic shift of material became clear as day. In this respect, the second half even surpassed the HKPO-Lazarev performance in elucidating Shostakovich the enigma.

Attendance was abysmal, but the crowd was speechless and enthusiastic at the end. For once, in SZ, I was not at all the only person yelling "Bravo!" My hats off to the conductor and orchestra.

The great Anna Akhmatova said of Shostakovich's use of old songs (from CSO notes) in this symphony: “Those songs were like white birds flying against a terrible black sky.” And so I understood at the time of performance.

The greatest music are unfathomable, and it takes a lifetime to plumb the depths. Reckonings during a live performance are moments of magic and uncommon. For this, I am grateful for this wonderful performance.

去年的六四,Alexander Lazarev 指揮的港樂給了我們一個永遠難忘的蕭氏第十一號 (點擊這裡)。我以爲這次深交的演出一定會給比了下去,但令人雀躍地,事實並不是這樣。在默默無名的 Fred Buttkewitz 領導下,深交的演出面面俱全, 感人之餘極具深度,再次證明好的音樂是無窮盡的,只待有心人去演繹。

指揮很有耐性,把曲子處理得有條不紊,非凡地一氣呵成。用畫面點的語言來形容的話,在漫長的第一樂章乃至第二樂章大屠殺高潮前,指揮緩而有力地營造了各種躍動,不安,恐懼與威脅的氣氛。大屠殺的刻畫理性,毫不揭斯底理,但仍然異常震撼,令人愕然淚下。 最難得的卻是下來的兩個樂章,結構性強的處理令我聽到了蕭氏各主題裏的主導性和相互關係: 各主題互相的鬥爭,在巨大犧牲後,時代的巨輪下擠出了艱苦的勝利。


上半場先是 Borodin 《亞細亞草原》,可喜地奏出了氣氛。下來的 Hindemith《烤天鵝的人》中提琴協奏曲,曲目艱深,中提琴首席白明演出穩健,但缺神采;樂隊也一樣,沒能奏出曲子應有的節奏感。

08 July, 2011

Concert Review: Shenzhen SO -Zhang Guoyong - Shostakovich

Concert Review: Shenzhen SO - Zhang Guoyong - Shostakovich

17 June, 2011, Shenzhen Concert Hall
Zhang Guoyong 張囯勇 -Gao Tianyang 高天陽
All Shostakovich

For the world, I wouldn't miss most Shostakovich concerts, not to say one conducted by the wonderful Zhang Guoyong 张国勇, whom I wrote about in great length after hearing
his magnificent performance last year of Shostakovich Symphony No. 15.

That valedictory performance of an enigmatic work still resounds in my mind as if freshly minted. For this concert, I applaud Zhang for choosing yet another enigmatic work from the composer's cannon. Shostakovich symphony No. 6 seems to be gaining in status, and I refer you to this plainspoken but excellent program note for more info.

This symphony is difficult to bring off in concert or on records. Despite my profound admiration for Zhang, I regret to say I found the performance not entirely successful. Needless to say, Zhang shaped the piece well, and the orchestra played very well for him, but the work needs more management than usual, more color, more sarcasm, and less politeness when called for. Ultimately, the performance lacked the magic brought by the wonderful Mark Elder in a 2008 performance with the HKPO.

A similar plainness marred the performance of the Violin Concerto No. 1. I felt the 19 year-old soloist Gao Tiangyang 高天阳 was technically secure but he not surprisingly skimmed over the surface of the score. The opening Festival Overture fared better.

(像第 5,7-12 號) 比較容易定位及找到演出方向;另一些卻比較困難,而可嘉的是 張囯勇 這兩年在深交演的都屬於後者。去年的 第 15 號 令我大爲震撼,但今年的 蕭氏交響樂第 6 號 卻沒能再次替我帶來同一程度的驚喜。說老實話,我是認爲這曲子是更難更深的。樂隊表現雖然不錯,而 張囯勇 的演繹也平穩明確,但整體缺乏了必需的神來之筆,效果遠不及 2008 Mark Elder 港交的演出

上半場的 小提琴協奏曲第一號 有點乏味。
小提琴獨奏 高天陽 才十九嵗, 技術沒有問題,但沒能演繹出曲子應有的風格及變化;同樣深交,比起 2009 年 Antje Weithaas 的演出 相差甚遠。開場的 節日序曲 平穩之餘也嫌喜慶不足。

附錄:小提琴独奏高天阳生于1992年,5岁习琴,曾获得2001年上海“索乐杯”少儿小提琴比赛第一名,2005年罗马尼亚国际小提琴比赛少儿组第一 名,2006年第八届中国小提琴演奏比赛少年组第二名及少年组“中国作品演奏奖”,2008年在梅纽因国际小提琴大赛中也取得了好成绩。

24 June, 2011

Recommendation: Classical
CDs from the Library

New Issues
Since I already have more CDs than I can consume in more than a life time, I don't buy many new CDs, but every year I buy the newest set of EMI Lugano. Martha Argerich plays some of the pieces but mostly the performances are from her motivated friends, and what a trove of treasury! This year's offerings are among the strongest ever.

Lola Bobesco is much under-rated and neglected. Grab this Bach concerti LP or CD (Talent) while you can. Sound and playing all first-class.

Along with his violin works, the Brandenburg Concertos are are my favorite Bach works. This version with Orchestra Mozart (DG) is not perfect but still very good. I have never quite taken to Abbado before, but his work now with Lucerne and Orchestra Mozart are wonderful. Available in CD or DVD.

Piano Recordings
This being Chopin's Centennial, the library is flooded by various Chopin recordings. Some of the most classy ones are by the under-rated Bella Davidovich, now re-issued by Brilliant Classics. No "spontaneous" or "impulsive" pulling and pushing for no reason, but well structured and everything sound inevitable. Great Chopin.

Not to be forgotten is the immaculate Orfeo recording of some of Beethoven's variations by Bruno Leonardo Gelber, a pianist whom I have always admired.

BBC Legend is highly reliable as a source of historic live performances. Two Gilels issues are of course wonderful. Gilels' Beethoven recordings rank among the greatest ever made. This live account of the Waldstein attains lofty heights. The other lesser known pieces are gems too. The 1984 Scarlatti and Debussy are even in marvelous sound.

I have not heard a better recorded or played version of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony than Haitink's (Decca). The instruments are virtually 3 dimensional. Recorded by Colin Morfoot. Now available mid-priced coupled with the 9th.
Ashkenazy is a warm Sibelian, and this earlier account of Finlandia with the PO (later version with BSO) is a strong performance worthy of putting along side Barbirolli. Perfectly recorded by Kenneth Wilkinson. Now available only in budget 2CD sets.

Wonderful Prokofiev playing from the Russian duo. Krainev has previously appeared in HK under the auspices of the Chopin Society. What a marvelous musician! As usual, the Teldec recording is clear as day. Now available only in budget 2fers (Apex).

I actually prefer Shchedrin's arrangement of Carmen suite to Bizet's own. The Rozdhestventsky version is now on Melodiya, ugly cover and somewhat brittle sound, both inferior to the original LP! But the performance of the Bloshoi is wonderful and the coupling is a gem!

The spirited period instrument style suits Handel's music to a T. Wonderfully natural recording from Naxos. Top recommendation for this repertoire.

More Violin and Chamber
For me, the Smetana trio is the perfect ensemble for a difficult genre. Their perfect balance is at turns intimate and symphonic. A version of the great Tchaikovsky that offers more than any other version (Supraphon).

The Reger is is THE find of the year. I have heard some of these solo Reger violin works (Dorian) before, but none captured my heart like this one. Thanks to the HK library! I wish there are more recordings by this young violinist.