Sunday, 7 November 2010

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, November 2010)

Tokyo Symphony / Naoto Otomo

The British composer Graham Fitkin (born 1963) is proof that the Minimalist movement in serious music is well and alive. Like the more older and venerated American John Adams, Fitkin takes his music beyond the processes of mere repetition, developing and morphing seemingly mundane material and patterns into something quite different from its original precepts. The largest work here is Circuit (2002), a 20-minute single-movement concerto for two pianos written for the duo of Noriko Ogawa and Kathryn Stott. It begins with the rhythmic chugging, resembling The Dance Of The Adolescents from Stravinsky’s primal The Rite Of Spring, before embarking on a journey of rapidly changing movement and variegated shades. Unlike others, Fitkin does not allow the boredom of familiarity to set in.

T1 and T2 (1999, the “T” standing for the Tate Gallery at St Ives, Cornwall) for two pianos, contrasts static silences with quick-fire machine-like thrusts. In White, originally for 4 pianos but reworked for two, Stravinsky’s (again) neoclassicism is relived. The solo works, with mostly economical single-word titles, pack in more notes thought possible for ten fingers. Those shocked by the new would have turned away by now, but the adventurous will be rewarded by Ogawa and Stott’s vigourous advocacy and virtuosity.

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.4
Piano Concerto in D major, Op.61
Norrköping Symphony / ANDRE PARROTT

Thought you knew all of Beethoven’s piano concertos? Think again. The great composer was notorious for not notating the solo parts of his piano concertos, which he practically improvised at the first performances. The familiar Fourth Piano Concerto in G major (Op.58) is performed here in a revised version by scholar Barry Cooper, based on Beethoven’s own scribbles. The result is a very different and more difficult solo part in the first and final movements. Much of its sounds improvisatory, fancifully embellished, but does not interfere with the overall structure of the work.

The success of Beethoven’s only Violin Concerto in D major (Op.61) dictated that he also wrote a piano version of it. This is a bona fide and legitimate rewrite where the piano sounds very idiomatic in place of the beloved violin. His very own piano cadenza which ingeniously incorporates the timpani (which so importantly opens the work) also works brilliantly. These performances are faithful and non-gimmicky, revealing another vista of Beethoven’s multi-faceted genius.

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