Wednesday, 28 October 2015

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, October 2015)

Melodiya (10 CDs) / *****

Recent editions of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow have somewhat restored this grand institution to its earlier heights, when its winners were truly special talents. This marvellous restrospective cherry-picks cherished moments, with performances on the piano, violin, cello and voice dating from 1958 to 1986. 

Pride to place goes to its first piano laureate, the American Van Cliburn in Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto, conducted by Kirill Kondrashin. It is a well-measured reading that gets blistering and catches fire towards the end. Preceded by Cliburn's own transcription of the popular Russian tune Moscow Nights, it marked a high point of Soviet-American detente in the height of the Cold War. A fascimile copy of Cliburn's mark-sheet in the first round, graded 24 out of 25 by Emil Gilels has been included.

Tchaikovsky's three great solo concertos get performances from Andrei Gavrilov (piano, 1974), Viktor Tretyakov (violin, 1966) and Karine Georgian (Rococo Variations for cello, 1966), great representatives of the Russian school. 

Other highlights include Paganini's First Violin Concerto (Viktoria Mullova, 1982), Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto (Vladimir Krainev, 1970), Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody (Yuri Egorov, 1974), Ravel's Left Hand Piano Concerto (Roger Muraro, 1986), Bach's English Suite No.3 (Andras Schiff, 1974), solos from John Ogdon and Vladimir Ashkenazy (both 1962), John Lill, Cyprien Katsaris and Gidon Kremer (all 1970), Myung Whun Chung and Mikhail Pletnev (both 1978), and several Russian singers. 

Alas no playing time has been spared for Grigory Sokolov (1966) or Barry Douglas (1986), but could a second volume be coming out in due course?   

BBC Scottish Symphony / Martyn Brabbins
Helios 55464 / ****1/2

The Scottish composer Cecil Coles (1888-1918) belongs to the “lost generation” of British composers and poets whose lives were tragically cut short in the Western front of the First World War. He was a close friend of established composer Gustav Holst, who had guided and encouraged him in his youth. 

He studied in London and ironically in Stuttgart, Germany where his craft as a creator was moulded. While his orchestral suite From The Scottish Highlands (1907) displayed the pastoral folk-like style of many British composers, his later works drew inspiration from the Germans Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.

His Scherzo In A minor (1910) and The Comedy Of Errors Overture (1911) are very well crafted stand-alone pieces, full of Romantic gestures, while Fra Giacomo (1914) is a dramatic monologue in English for baritone (sung here by Paul Whelan) and orchestra which could have come from a Wagnerian operatic scene. 

His last work was the suite Behind The Lines (1918), parts of which were destroyed in the frontline where it was composed. Only two movements survived, Estaminet De Carrefour, a waltz-like dance of gaiety, contrasted by the solemnity of Cortege, a funeral procession for souls lost in battle. His music had eerily foretold his unkind fate. The Scottish orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins do full justice to these poignant scores, bringing to fruition a voice untimely silenced before his time.

1 comment:

madness said...

Dr Chang,

What did you think of the recently concluded 2015 Chopin Competition? Did any of the finalists impress you? And what did you think of the winner's Heroic Polonaise?