Thursday, 24 May 2012

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, May 2012)

RACHMANINOV Cello & Piano Works
Decca 8898195 / *****

After great success in the Beethoven Cello Sonatas, the most celebrated cello and piano duo resident in Singapore has returned to the recording studio for Rachmaninov’s complete cello music. The major work is the 40-minute long Cello Sonata in G minor (Op.19), composed at the same time as his celebrated Second Piano Concerto. Imbued with similar gloriously lyrical lines, cellist Qin Li-Wei finds the full gamut of emotional responses in its four movements. His is the true voice of yearning and nostalgia, brilliantly supported in the busy piano part by Albert Tiu. Rachmaninov’s playing used to drown his cellist partner in performances, but the balance here is just right. The two early Op.2 pieces – Prelude and Oriental Dance – are delightful miniatures.

The original music is padded up to a generous 70 minutes with transcriptions of Rachmaninov’s Russian songs, or Romances. The most popular is the Vocalise (Op.34 No.14), a melancholic lament so typical of the Slavic spirit. Quite contrasting in character are the rapturous Spring Waters (Op.14 No.11) and the reflective To The Children (Op.26 No.7), the latter dedicated to the duo’s four children. New to the repertoire is Tiu’s arrangement of the nocturne-like piano Prelude (Op.23 No.4), which sounds like the perfect encore. This album is a worthy successor on Decca to the beloved 1980s recording by Lynn Harrell and Vladimir Ashkenazy.

KAPUSTIN Concert Etudes
Preludes in Jazz Style
Naxos 8.572272 / ****

The music of Ukrainian pianist and jazz-band arranger Nikolai Kapustin (born 1937) has found great favour with pianists who play “serious” repertoire today. Not since Gershwin has a composer so effectively and successfully bridged the chasm between nightclub and concert hall genres. Kapustin studied at the Moscow Conservatory with Alexander Goldenweiser (who taught Lazar Berman, Tatiana Nikolayeva and Dmitri Bashkirov among others), thus rigorously schooled in classical forms and syntax. This set contains some of his best music outside of his sonatas.

The Eight Concert Etudes Op.40 headily unites the lyricism of Chopin, spellbinding virtuosity of Liszt, ecstatic efflorescence of Scriabin and freewheeling nonchalance of Oscar Peterson, the latter frequently quoted as Kapustin’s biggest influence. The shorter 24 Preludes In Jazz Style Op.53 follow the same major-minor key sequence as the great sets by Bach, Chopin and Shostakovich, beginning with C major and closing in D minor. Every piece is strictly notated in score and nothing is improvised even if the playing suggests otherwise. Georgian pianist Catherine Gordeladze possesses not the feverish or frenetic pacing of Marc-AndrĂ© Hamelin or Steven Osborne (the acknowledged Kapustin masters on disc) but her accounts still allow many details to be savoured. This is technically very difficult music to perform, but totally easy on the ears.        


Farshad Goftari said...

Hi there, I want to get that Kapustin recordings you posted the cover... And unfortunately I live in a country that can't order from amazon... could you please help me and show me some other ways? I'd appreciate it...

Chang Tou Liang said...

Hello! You might like to try ordering from: or

Both provide excellent mail order service. Retail from shops is almost non-existent now except if you happen to live in Hong Kong, Japan or South Korea.

Farshad Goftari said...

Yeah true, But what I mean is I actually don't have any cards to pay online... because I live in Iran and my country completely doesn't support this system... could you help me to get that? cause I've been looking for this recording for a long time... :(
Is there any other ways?

Chang Tou Liang said...

Sorry I did not realise you live in Iran. Best if you could get a friend or relative outside of Iran to order and send it to you. All the best!