Thursday, 31 July 2014

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, July 2014)

Deutsche Grammophon 479 1039 / ****1/2

It would seem like every young hot-shot pianist has to establish his or her credentials by cutting their teeth on Chopin’s 24 Études, long considered the ideal marriage between technical wizardry and musical poetry. The Polish-Canadian Jan Lisiecki, just 18 years old when he recorded both sets of studies last year, distinguishes himself as rather special talent in the crowded field of keyboard virtuosos. He displays a natural unforced facility in these unrelenting finger-twisters, and when the going gets tough, it is lyricism that shines through.

From the opening C major “Arpeggio” study (Op.10 No.1) to the torrents of crashing sea-waves of the final C minor etude (Op.25 No.12), one gets the sense of an artist fully in control of his faculties. The tricky filigree of the F major (Op.10 No.8), the ferocious runs of thirds in the G sharp minor (Op.25 No.6), or the octave cascades in the B minor (Op.25 No.10) hold little fears for this wunderkind. One however wishes he could have taken a little more time to savour the unfolding lament in the E flat minor number (Op.10 No.6), which  sounds hurried. This is a small quibble in an otherwise highly impressive showing from Lisiecki, a new name and one to note for the future.

Sao Paulo Symphony / LAN SHUI
BIS 1778 / ****1/2

The 20th century trumpet is an extraordinarily versatile instrument, equally at home with classical forms as well as jazz and contemporary music. Its powers of sustaining long notes and agility in articulation make it ideal for the blues idiom and extroverted pyrotechnics. These 20th century French trumpet concertos exploit those qualities, making for an entertaining listen. The two Trumpet Concertos by André Jolivet (1905-74) are already well-established. The First (1948, published as a Concertino) is influenced by Stravinsky’s neoclassicism, employing strings and piano like a modern concerto grosso.  The forces of the Second (1954) resemble those of a jazz band, offering a similar vibe as Milhaud’s Afro-centric ballet The Creation of the Earth.

The Trumpet Concerto of 1944 by Henri Tomasi (1901-71), a native Corsican, is more traditional in its acrobatic displays but the silvery strains of the moody blues are never far away. Less well known are the Robert Planel’s Concerto (1966) and Alfred Desenclos’s Incantation, Threnody & Dance (1953), which are highly tonal and totally engaging. Norwegian trumpeter Ole Edvard Antonsen is a virtuoso of the first rank, and he is well supported by the excellent Brazilian orchestra led by the Singapore Symphony’s music director Lan Shui. This interesting corner of the repertoire is well worth exploring.

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