Wednesday, 27 April 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, April 2016)

Winner of the 17th International
Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition
Deutsche Grammophon 479 5332 / *****

Almost immediately after his triumph at the 2015 Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, young Korean pianist Cho Seong-Jin's debut recording was issued, comprising wholly of live performances from the concours

His mastery of broad sweeping canvasses is immediately felt in the 24 Preludes (Op.28), made up of variegated miniatures which exhibit every facet of Chopin's technical armamentarium, and emotional breadth and depth. His impeccably polished technique is matched by a whole-hearted involvement which made this music very much his own.

One would also be hard put to find a reading of the Second Sonata in B flat minor (Op.35, or Funeral March Sonata) with as much passionate ardour, and that ceaseless probing of the human psyche's darker side. Here the names of Pollini, Argerich or Ohlsson may be cited, all of whom are enshrined in a pantheon of great Chopinists which Cho now joins. 

The disc is completed by the Nocturne in C minor (Op.48 No.1) and that most overplayed of Polonaises, the “Heroic” in A flat major (Op.53), both sounding as fresh as newly minted. All this accomplished at the age of 21, a promising musical career awaits this phenomenal new talent.

Mercury Classics 481 2310 / *****

That the music of the Beatles, like the works of J.S.Bach, could be translated into genres far removed from the original form is a testament of its universality and immortality. This album of Beatles standards by Montenegrin guitarist Milos Karadaglic is a winner not just because of his irrepressible personality, but also the idiomatic and seamless arrangements by Brazilian guitarist Sergio Assad.

The insouciant spirit of Lennon and McCartney's Blackbird, Come Together, The Fool On The Hill, And I Love Her, Eleanor Rigby and All My Loving, or George Harrison's Something and Here Comes The Sun are not lost despite the absence of words.

There is also a solo arrangement of Yesterday, by no less than Japanese modernist icon Toru Takemitsu (who despite his Zen-like austerity was a massive fan of the Fab Four), one which resonates deeply in its simplicity. 

There are cameo appearances by Gregory Porter (in Let It Be), Tori Amos (She's Leaving Home), cellist Steven Isserlis (Michelle) and sitar virtuosa Anoushka Shankar (Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds) which add to the glitter factor of this already desirable disc.

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