Thursday, 11 December 2014

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, December 2014)

Live From Lugano 2013
Warner Classics 0825646312207 
(3 CDs) / *****

Highlights discs from the Lugano Festival, where Argentine pianist Martha Argerich holds sway as chief conspirator, muse and inspiration in a wide range of chamber music, are keenly awaited affairs. The latest instalment from the 2013 festival is no less involving or gripping. She will be found in her usually imperious form in Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto, partnered by the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, and equal partner to cellist Mischa Maisky in Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in G minor (Op.5 No.2). As duo pianist, she joins Cristina Marton in Debussy’s delightful Petite Suite, and Lilya Zilberstein in Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals in its pared-down but no less infectious chamber version.

Generous space is allotted to the younger generation of artists. Renaud Capuçon (with pianist Francesco Piemontesi) perform the sublime but little-heard Respighi Violin Sonata, while 2012 Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition winner Andrey Baranov gives a sumptuous account of Ravel’s single-movement Posthumous Sonata with pianist Jura Margulis. Some bittersweet sobriety is provided by Gautier Capuçon and Gabriela Montero in Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata. The trio of Giorgia Tomassi, Alessando Stella and Carlo Maria Griguoli offers up another confection for piano six hands: the latter’s arranged suite from Offenbach’s Gaite Parisienne. Here is another worthy stocking filler for the festive season.

Decca  478 6769 (41 CDs) / ****1/2

Nostalgia is a strong emotion, which explains the necessity of this box-set commemorating the 50th anniversary of Decca Records’ audiophile Phase 4 Stereo series’ entry into the world of classical music. Already known for its multi-tracked stereophonic records of easy listening repertoire, this American-led initiative even threatened to outsell Decca’s longstanding vintage classical label. Its releases covered popular standards but featured big name conductors like Leopold Stokowski (in his own orchestrations), Lorin Maazel (Richard Strauss and Tchaikovsky), Erich Leinsdorf (Mahler Symphony No.1), Antal Dorati (Dvorak New World Symphony) and Arthur Fiedler (with his Boston Pops Orchestra), alongside the names associated with the series, like Stanley Black and Robert Sharples.

One coup was to get the James Bond of the day Sean Connery to narrate Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, in his vernacular Scottish charm. Another surprise was coupling Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21 with the Yellow River Concerto in performances by glamourous Israeli pianist Ilana Vered. Diehards of sonic spectaculars will enjoy the bonus disc “Battle Stereo”: an aural simulation of historical battles with rousing anthems, marching bands, charging cavalry and cannons bouncing off both speakers. There is much to savour dipping randomly into this collection from the swinging 60s and 70s.

No comments: