Friday, 12 November 2010

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, November 2010)

Tapiola Sinfonietta / Gabor Takacs-Nagy

Cellists usually complain of not having enough repertoire to perform. British cellist Steven Isserlis has gone some way in righting this deficiency with this collection of new arrangements for cello and chamber orchestra. Debussy’s Suite for cello & orchestra brings together five early pieces composed in the early 1880s, sympathetically orchestrated by Sally Beamish. Hardly vintage Debussy, but pianists will recognise the popular Reverie and Danse Bohemienne.

Equally substantial is Prokofiev’s late Cello Concertino of 1952, lightly orchestrated by Vladimir Blok, which is touched by mellowness and dark melancholy, a far cry from his early iconoclasm. The Jewish-sounding theme from the finale of the Symphony-Concerto, also for cello, is rehashed to good effect.

Two shorter Hassidic-inspired works complete this anthology. Ravel’s Kaddisch and L’Énigme Éternelle, originally for voice, translate perfectly for Isserlis’ instrument. Ernest Bloch’s From Jewish Life, a shorter counterpart to his better known Baal Shem Suite, also provides some deeply contemplative and moving moments. Recommended without reserve.

Naxos 8.572341

The Naxos Laureate Series provides rising young talents, invariably top prize-winners of international music competitions, to showcase their wares in a “calling card” début recording. 18-year-old Chinese pianist Qin Yun-yi, who appeared in concerts alongside Lang Lang during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has used her 76 minutes of exposure well. Her recital is a mixed bag of disparate works, the longest are Schubert’s A minor Sonata (D.845), Haydn’s C minor Sonata (Hob.XVI:20) and Mozart’s dainty Duport Variations, revealing her to be a thoughtful, sensitive and probing artist in the classics.

The balance of the programme consists of substantial encores, including Liszt’s Tenth Transcendental Étude, Granados' El Pelele (from Goyescas) and Scriabin’s Waltz Op.38, all flashy showpieces from an immaculate and totally secure technique. Claudio Prieto’s Jaen 2008 was commissioned for the competition which Qin won; inconsequential finger fodder as is Wang Jianzhong’s sentimental transcription of Liu Yang River. She may not be Yuja Wang, but impressive nonetheless.

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