Wednesday, 25 May 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times / May 2016)

Warner Classics 0825646288076 / *****

The saying “Two's company, three's a crowd” does not apply to the Italian threesome of Alessandro Stella, Georgia Tomassi and Carlo Maria Griguoli, who call themselves The Pianos Trio and performs six-handed repertoire on three pianos. 

Pieces of this kind do not exist in the natural concert habitat, so it was the task of Griguoli to re-write pre-existing works and redistribute the parts to three pianists. These live recordings come from The Martha Argerich Project at the Lugano Festival from 2010 to 2013.

Light-heartedness rules in the suites from Offenbach's Gaite Parisienne and Shostakovich's operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki, where digital accuracy and synchronisation at such high speeds border on amazing. Symphonic textures come alive in Debussy's La Mer and Stravinsky's Firebird Suite such that one rarely misses the orchestra. 

The sole original work is Carlo Boccadoro's Vaalbara (the name comes from the super-continent of prehistoric times) which is atonal but so rhythmically charged that it becomes a vigorous ballet in the spirit of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. The playing is infectious and the zest it generates hard to resist. 

PAGANINI Violin Concerto No.1
WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No.2
Blue Moon Records 113 / *****

One of the cautionary tales in classical music has to be the brilliant but tragically short life of American violinist Michael Rabin (1936-1972). A child prodigy who made his debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 15, his meteoric career was beset by substance abuse and psychiatric illness, and he was found dead after an accidental fall. 

These recordings were made during his prime, before his mid-twenties. Superb control, perfect intonation and a gorgeously singing tone distinguishes his reading of Paganini's First Violin Concerto, an edited version that includes the rarely heard Carl Flesch cadenza in the first movement.

This 1960 Capitol recording with The Philharmonia conducted by Sir Eugene Goosens is coupled with Wieniawski's Second Violin Concerto, another superlative reading that marries a sweetness of sound with dramatic fireworks.  

The fillers in this reissued compilation disc come from 1956, with Saint-Saens' Havanaise and Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso (same orchestra led by Alceo Galliera) on the Columbia label. Again, the playing is of jaw-dropping quality, which makes the comparisons of Rabin with the legendary Jascha Heifetz and the younger Itzhak Perlman apt, and his loss to the world particularly painful.

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