Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chopin Piano Concertos: classically elegant

Chopin: The Piano Concertos—Lang Lang, pianist; Zubin Mehta conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Chopin piano concertos

Given that Frédéric François Chopin lived during the 1st half of the 19th century and generally is considered a romantic compositor, "romantically elegant" might be a better review title, but pianist, orchestra and conductor all perform with more polished reserve and measured restraint then with passionate ardor and fiery abandon, so I'm going with classical.

Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 is my own favorite of the pair, and listening to both in a row is enjoyable, though both performances have a sense of sameness about them that's not necessarily a negative thing at all. Not surprisingly, Lang Lang's keyboard technique approaches perfection, the orchestra plays extremely well and the recording itself has an almost ideal level of brightness and presence. As an aside, to all the non-pianists reading this, despite stereotypes to the contrary, Chopin's music is well-suited to the human hand and not technically difficult in the way Liszt's (for example) is, but it does take many hours of practice to get all but his simplest, shortest pieces to high-end performance-readiness. If you like piano music and if you like Chopin, I'd definitely recommend this released-in-2008 recording.

my amazon review: classically elegant

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

clear perfection!

Bach Orchestral Suites

The four Overtures or Orchestral Suites, BWV 1066-1069, by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of my all-time favorites. I love this recording by Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert, the orchestra he founded and led for thirty years. I frequently find myself amazed at how well some older analog recordings have been digitally remastered and at other times distressed at the poor quality of others. This CD of a recording made in 1979 was released in 2007; the performances approach essence of perfection and the recording sounds clear and bright and rich.

my amazon review: clear perfection!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Harris & Copland: 3rd Symphonies

Copland, Symphony #3; Harris, Symphony #3

Copland, Harris Symphonies CD   Copland, Harris Symphonies CD back

With trilingual liner notes in English, German and French along with strikingly bright cover art featuring a DC-2 hovering above a horse-drawn stagecoach, this recording of two classic American symphonic standards is well-prepped for export! For both pieces Neeme Järvi conducts the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It's fair to say Roy Harris' Symphony No. 3 in one movement and five parts is an icon of 20th century American music, and especially given that the final, 4th movement of Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3 is a version of his "Fanfare for the Common Man," his 3rd symphony isn't far behind in the category of iconic.

Basically I like the orchestra's playing under Maestro Neeme Järvi, who served as DSO Music Director from 1990 through the end of the 2004-2005 season. However, at times the music simply sits there, so in general I'd like to feel a greater sense of the narrative moving along and greater passion in the shapes of the phrases. Not surprisingly, the luminous sound of the Chandos recording is a joy to the ears! Do I recommend this CD? Definitely! It will give you another perspective on a pair of major orchestral works that are among my very favorites, and maybe yours, as well.

my amazon review: solid performances, clear sound