Wednesday, 28 September 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, September 2016)

Sony Classical 88697884092 (10 CDs)

What constitutes a great sonata? This seems arbitrary as the piano sonatas in this box-set range from  2-minute masterpieces by Scarlatti to half-hour mammoths from Liszt, Schumann and Schubert. One might argue that whatever the Ukrainian-American virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) touches turns to gold, especially Scarlatti's single-movement harpsichord miniatures of wit and wonder (there are 32 of them here). 

He also exhibited a special sympathy for the neglected Muzio Clementi, with several sonata movements, and reignited an interest for Alexander Scriabin, whose Sonatas Nos.3, 5, 9 and 10 get definitive performances.

The electrifying side to Horowitz's virtuosity is heard in Chopin's Funeral March Sonata, Schumann's Third Sonata (also known as the Concerto Without Orchestra), Liszt’s Sonata in B minor and Rachmaninov's Second Sonata,. He is less convincing in Schubert's last Sonata in B flat major and Beethoven, where the playing is often overstated. 

From the 20th century, he practically owned Samuel Barber's Sonata and Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata (he gave the American premieres), and makes a good case for Kabalevsky's banal Third Sonata. The only disappointment is the presentation as the lack of programme notes for new listeners is unacceptable.   

with Wiener Virtuosen
Deutsche Grammphon 481 1917 / *****

The Clarinotts is the world's foremost clarinet family, formed by Vienna Philharmonic Principal Clarinettist Ernst Ottensamer and his sons Daniel (also a Principal in Vienna) and Andreas (Principal of the Berlin Philharmonic). 

Their debut album features original works and arrangements for two and three clarinets, sometimes in combination with basset horn (a member of the clarinet family with a slightly lower range), performed with much zest and finesse.

Mendelssohn's Concert Piece No.1 (Op.113) is a delightful repertoire work in three movements, with excellent interplay between the sibs, Daniel on clarinet and Andreas on basset horn. Franz & Karl Doppler's Rigoletto Fantasy for three players was arranged from the original for two flutes, and luxuriates in popular melodies like La Donna E Mobile, Caro Nome and Quartet Bella Figlia Dell'Amore.

Also of operatic origin is the trio Soave Sia Il Vento from Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, while Rossini's La Danza with the pastorale from William Tell Overture as introduction is operatic in its intensity and outward display. The longest work is Bela Koreny Cinema I, conceived as dramatic movie music with a jazzy vibe. Serving as encores are Luiz Bonfa's popular Manha De Carnaval and the thrills and spills of Olivier Truan's The Chase, which complete a highly enjoyable hour. 

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