Wednesday, 6 July 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, July 2016)

Warner Classics 0825646285495 (3 CDs) / *****

The feast of chamber music continues with this ongoing series of highlights from the Martha Argerich Project at the Lugano Festival, inspired by the 75-year old Argentina-born piano virtuosa's irrepressible pianism. Even if she appears spottily in just five works, there is much to enjoy. 

Argerich partners fellow compatriot Eduardo Hubert in  Luis Bacalov's Portena (Latitud 34'36'30''), a concerto for two pianos and orchestra in tribute to her hometown of Buenos Aires, where tango meets high art. In Debussy's En blanc et noir, also for two pianos, she is joined by Stephen Kovacevich (father of her third daughter Stephanie) in a heady and exciting reading.

From the Pianos Trio of Griguoli, Stella and Tomassi comes more arrangements for 6-hands of music by Philip Glass and Alberto Ginastera. Elsewhere the familiar (Brahms' Clarinet Trio and Horn Trio, Bartok's Romanian Dances) sits happily with the obscure (Ferdinand Ries' Piano Quintet and Joaquin Turina's Piano Trio No.2), and no readings by Argerich's younger colleagues are less than fully committed. There are rumblings that this year’s festival might be the last, so every minute of passionate music-making here is precious.

Soloists with Israel Philharmonic
Zubin Mehta (Conductor)
DG Eloquence  482 2728 (2 CDs) / *****

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, founded as the Palestine Orchestra by Polish-Jewish violinist Bronislaw Huberman in 1936. In December 1982, the orchestra's Music Director for Life Zubin Mehta gathered a stellar cast of Jewish violinists to perform in the week-long Hubermann Festival, the highlights of which have been included in this double disc set. 

The first CD has Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, Shlomo Mintz and Itzhak Perlman, each playing one concerto from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. The sense of occasion and camaraderie between soloists and orchestra is clearly palpable.

Heard for the first time on CD are Bach's Double Violin Concerto in D minor with Stern and Mintz, and Vivaldi's popular Concerto For 4 Violins in B minor, where they are joined by Ivry Gitlis and Ida Haendel for an irresistible romp. The second disc is completed by the famous account of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major with Perlman (violin) and Zukerman (viola), memorable for its tonal warmth and lyricism. 

This gathering has been humorously nicknamed the “Kosher Nostra” or “Stern gang”, but everyone knows the Jewish make the best violinists and what a party they had. The pleasure and privilege of listening is all ours. 

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