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2021 Listening Project - Feb 27

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Bach
Sonata for Solo Violin, No. 1
Sergiu Luca, violin
Nathan Milstein, violin
Paul Galbraith, guitar (his own transcription)

I own three recordings of the complete Bach solo violin (Luca, Milstein, & Galbraith), plus Hilary Hahn's incomplete set from 1997. I am going to try to listen to all recordings for a given piece on the same day, to try to compare them. The music is sufficiently great that I think that won't get repetitive.

In the past when I've listened to solo Bach it's almost always been Hahn or Milstein, with Luca being a distant third. But with this first piece, I found that I liked the Luca version nearly as much as the Milstein. I liked Milstein's tempo for the Fuga much more than Luca's slower pace, but I found Luca's presto quite moving. Luca's presto is double the length of Milstein and Galbraith, and while the tempo is slower, it isn't *that* much slower. So maybe there are repeats that Luca takes that the other don't.

The tone of the instruments/players is clear different in Milstein and Luca. Milstein was fuller, more of a pure tone, and he used more vibrato. But nevertheless I like Luca too.

In the past I've found the Galbraith interesting, but not musically compelling. Listening more carefully to Sonata 1 doesn't change that impression. Even though the tempos seems to similar to Milstein & Luca based on the length of the tracks, it sounds slower ... in fact too slow. The playing is too smooth, there's not enough drive or urgency here. I don't know if this is a sign that the piece only "works" on violin, or whether Galbraith makes a noble but failed attempt. I'm curious to see what I think about his rendition of the other pieces.

Albert Roussel
Piano Concerto
Maria Littauer, piano
Hamburger Symphoniker
Alois Springer, conductor

I obtained this as part of the "French Piano Concertos" box set from Brilliant Classics that David Hurwitz recently raved about, and was on sale for like $10.

I didn't enjoy this. It's a style of music where (to my ears) the notes don't really fit together. And something is screwed up about the recording. There's a bunch of faint (but still audible) "noise" in the background. It's hard to describe, but it was at times distracting.

Charles-Valentin Alkan
Concerto da camera, 1, 2, & 3
Giovanni Bellucci, piano
Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto
Roberto Forés-Veses, conductor

From the same box set. I really liked these! No. 1 was just fun and enjoyable music. No. 2 was quite different - the opening bars did *not* sound like something written in the 1830's, it seems much more modern. Not that I've listened to a wide ranch of orchestral music from the 1830's, admittedly. I really liked the Adagio movement.

No. 3 was also really good.

I'm puzzled by the shortness of these pieces. No. 1 is 15 minutes, No. 2 is 8:16, No. 3 is just under 6 minutes. It's almost like these are highlights from a concerto rather than a true concerto. There's no time to really develop ideas. But I still like them ... it's just that I wanted all of these to be longer!

I'd never even heard of Alkan before purchasing this box set, and I feel like just to discover this one composer is pretty much worth the $10 spent. And there are many more pieces to listen to from this set!

Chopin
Nocturnes, Op.Post. 72
Maurizio Pollini

Per wikipedia, this was the first one that Chopin wrote, but he was unsatisfied with it. Only published posthumously. It does seem to have a different character than the others, somehow simpler. But I liked it!
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