Friday, 23 July 2010

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, July 2010)

CHOPIN 21 Nocturnes

YUNDI, Piano

EMI Classics 6083912 (2CDs)


The Nocturnes of Frederic Chopin represent the French-Polish pianist-composer at his most personal and expressive. Taking the simple genre of a “night piece” created by the Irishman John Field, he transformed these into exquisite miniature tone poems. Most of these open in tranquillity but some take on darker and more turbulent overtones. Arguably the greatest of these is the tragic C minor Nocturne (Op.48 No.1) with its rapturous chords and tumultuous octave passages. Others revel in Chopin’s love for bel canto singing, none better realised in the seamless D flat major Nocturne (Op.27 No.2). Despite his recent onstage travails, Chinese pianist Yundi (who has now dropped his surname Li) is still quintessentially a Chopinist at heart. He finds beauty in these pages and his fingers do not fail him. The two discs are priced as one.

RESPIGHI Church Windows

Brazilian Impressions

Buffalo Philharmonic / JOANN FALLETTA

Naxos 8.557711


The Italian Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is best known for his sumptuous orchestral canvases, typified by his Roman Trilogy. Vetrate Di Chiesa (Church Windows) of 1925 follows in this grandiose tradition, an orchestration of his Three Preludes On Gregorian Melodies (originally for piano solo). The second movement St Michael The Archangel explosively depicts the shock and awe of an almighty celestial battle between good and evil. Brazilian Impressions evocatively paint scenes of a tropical rainforest, venomous snakes at the Butatan institute (the ominous Die Irae is quoted) and a Copland-esque Song And Dance. Alongside these exotic musical picture postcards, Rossiniana – a suite of Rossini’s dances - sounds staid by comparison. Lady conductor JoAnn Falletta, who conducted the Singapore premiere of Church Windows, directs these less familiar scores as if they were great classics.

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