Wednesday, 27 July 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, July 2016)

Sony Music  88875189262 / *****

Everybody loves encores, those tasty little morsels of music performed at the end of a formal programme in concert, or recital in the case of soloists. Often spontaneous and unannounced, these come as delightful surprises, which sweeten the deal and sends everyone home happy. Russian virtuoso Denis Matsuev has more than several up his sleeve, and his anthology has a decidedly Slavic slant.

Those who attended his concert with the London Symphony Orchestra at Esplanade in 2014 will remember Anatol Liadov's delicate Musical Snuffbox, contrasted with the Grigory Ginzburg's manically charged transcription of Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt.

Those were the “easier” ones, compared with Vladimir Horowitz's Carmen Variations or Rossini's Largo al factotum from The Barber of Seville (Ginzburg again). Of a less frenzied variety are a selection from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons (the popular Barcarolle and Autumn Song among these) Rachmaninov's Préludes and Études-Tableaux. A true rarity is Rachmaninov's extroverted Fugue in D minor, written as a teenager. 

In Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, Matsuev elects to play his own cadenza, a jazz improvisation in the truest sense, after which one will leap from the seat and shout “Bravo!”   

Barcelona and Catalonia Symphony / Jose Serebrier
BIS 1175 / *****

Whoever would have thought that the sultry tango, once the dance of bordellos, would some day be elevated to that of a concert hall classic? It took several decades and the efforts of one Argentine Astor Piazzolla to bring that kind of respectability. 

He gets pride of place with the popular Oblivion and Tangazo, this anthology's longest piece, which builds from Bachian slow boil to toe-tapping rhythmic climax. Uruguay-born conductor Jose Serebrier, also a composer of repute, adds his own Tango in Blue and Casi un Tango with cor anglais solo, both receiving World Premiere recordings.

Serebrier's wife soprano Carole Farley joins in with Kurt Weill's Matrosen-Tango (Sailor's Song) from Happy End and the tango-habanera Youkali, which ooze sensual appeal on every turn. There are also contributions to the form by Igor Stravinsky, Samuel Barber, Erik Satie and Morton Gould, all of which are very different in many ways. 

Danish composer Jacob Gade's Tango Jalousie is an acknowledged classic and the album closes with Gerardo Matos Rodriguez's La Cumparsita. The Symphony Orchestra of Barcelona and Catalonia have this elusive idiom in their blood, and the flavour is infectious.

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