Wednesday, 6 January 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, January 2016)

SWR Symphony Orchestra
Naxos 8.573135 / ****1/2 

It seems almost inconceivable that the Second Violin Concerto by the Florence-born composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968), also called “The Prophets”, is virtually unknown. It was written for the great Jascha Heifetz and premiered in 1933 at Carnegie Hall with Arturo Toscanini conducting the New York Philharmonic. The Jewish-Italian composer was driven out of his homeland by Mussolini's Fascist regime, settling in Beverly Hills where he composed as many as 250 film scores and taught composers like John Williams, Henry Mancini and André Previn.

The Judaist prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Elijah inspired the three movements, and the work is a lush score which looks forward to the music of those biblical epics starring Charlton Heston. The First Violin Concerto (1926), also known as Concerto Italiano, is just as accessible for its memorable tunes and highly lyrical violin solo part. Both play for just over the half hour and are eminently suitable for programming in concerts. Beijing-born former child prodigy violinist Tianwa Wang, justly celebrated for her recordings of Sarasate's music, plays both with the finesse and virtuosic flair. For lovers of the byways of Romantically-conceived music, this is required listening.


TIANWA YANG performs 
Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor
with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra
Esplanade Concert Hall
Saturday 9 January 2016 at 7.30 pm
Tickets available at SISTIC

YO-YO MA, Cello
Sony Classical 88875 10316 2 / ****1/2

This anthology of short encore-like pieces for cello and piano celebrates Yo-Yo Ma's 60th birthday last year, as well as his fruitful 31-year partnership with British pianist Kathryn Stott. This duo performed in Victoria Concert Hall in 1993 when Ma made his Singapore debut. The title refers to the works the performers (and their listeners) have enjoyed in various stages of life, essentially a nostalgic journey of music from childhood to the reminiscences from a bygone age.

Many popular favourites have been included like the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria, Brahms' Lullaby, Dvorak's Songs My Mother Taught Me, Fauré's Aprés un reve, Elgar's Salut d'Amour, Saint-Saëns' The Swan and Schubert's Ave Maria, mostly slow and meditative numbers. There are some rarities thrown into the mix like Frederick Delius' virtually unknown Romance, Italian cellist-composer Giovanni Sollima's Tema III from Il Bell'Antonio (based on a 1960s Italian film), and the longest track, Praise to the Eternity of Jesus from Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. Ma's unfailingly gorgeous tone, coupled with Stott's sensitive accompaniment, makes this very enjoyable and easy listening.  

No comments: