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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La chronique du disque (January 2013)

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The rules will be kept simple: here’s what I found, here’s where I found it, here’s a couple of sentences about it and (possibly) some opinions.

Not unlike Olympic Figure Skating, I will provide two sets of marks (letters A to D) on sound quality (SQ) and on overall impression (OI). These grades are entirely subjective, but here are some guidelines:

  • About “sound quality”: my point of reference is my iPod (160 GB iPod Classic) with standard earbud-type earphones. I ride the buses here in the National Capital Region; buses and work are where I do most of my iPod listening, so this gives you an idea of the ambient noise… When it comes to sound quality, a good grade means I hear the music clearly, good recording pick-up, acoustically pleasing.
  • About “overall impression”: my point of view varies widely. It may be jaded by other performances I have heard or own (comparisons will be identified if they apply), but a good grade means I heard conviction, virtuosity, and I enjoyed it.
My Acquisitions for January

Brahms: Lieder

In an article I read in December, La Presse’s Caroline Rodgers reviewed a recent recital by Marie-Nicole Lemieux with the following title “l'excellence sans la magie” (Excellence without the magic) and I think this sums up quite well my impression of this recording by Ms. Lemieux of three lieder cycles by Brahms. She has all the attributes: the voice is great, the intonation is clean and the support by Michael McMahon and violist Nicolo Eugelmi on the Zwei lieder is top notch. But where’s the magic? The CD doesn’t quite transcend to the level of the performer. Still, a fine recording. A for SQ, B- for OI.

POULENC: Gloria / Stabat Mater

For years, I underestimated Yan Pascal Tortelier as a conductor, figuring he’d milked the family name into a conducting career. I remember hearing him in a program very early on with his famous dad, mother and sister, which him conducting the Lamoureux orchestra in a movement of the Tchaikovsky 4th and the Don Quixote variations with his dad Paul at the cello. In over 25 years, he’s become a very solid conductor of French repertoire, and I reviewed a pair of his recordings with the BBC Philharmonic in French works for Organ and Orchestra last year. In this disc, he tackles Poulenc in his most interesting, in a pair of choral sacred works – the Gloria stands out as being both very modern and very respectful of the latin text, in a mood which foreshadows Dialogues des Carmélites. The performance is spot on, and soprano Janice Watson is to be commended. Excellent! A for SQ, A for OI.

Chopin: Les Sylphides / Schumann:Carnaval

My next acquisition is a pair of ballet selections, featuring Robert Irving and the Philharmonia. From 1958 to 1989, Irving served as music director of the New York City Ballet, where he worked extensively with the choreographer George Balanchine. The jewel in this pair of recordings is the Glazunov adaptation of Chopin’s piano works for the ballet Les Sylphides: fluid, very dance-like (as opposed to ostensibly pianistic), this ballet shows how a ballet conductor approaches a work (as opposed to a symphony conductor’s more interpretive nature). The complimentary track, an orchestral version of Schumann’s Carnival (choreographed for a 1910 ballet production by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with orchestrations by Glazunov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Lyadov and Tcherepnin. The analog transfer is fair at best: B+ for SQ, A- for OI.

Choir of St John's College, Cambridge - Maurice Duruflé Complete Choral Works

Nothing sounds more like church than a choir backed up by an organ, and few people have written better music for choir and organ in the 20th cenbtury than Maurice Duruflé, pupil of Vierne and Tournemire and longtime organist at St-Étienne-du-Mont in Paris. Of the set of works on this album, the Requiem shines particularly. The choir is excellent, though I was somewhat underwhelmed by their French pronunciation in the Notre Père. Worth downloading: A for SQ, A- for OI.

Dvorak Complete Symphonies [Kertesz]

In last week’s PTB, I brought up the Brahms cycle by Hungarian conductor Istvan Kertesz, and I acquired the complete set of Dvorak symphonies by Kertesz and his then orchestra in London. I own a few of these works in my analogue collection, and I am quite impressed by the sound quality of these nearly 50-year old recordings (available in the provided download link as MP3’s). Kertesz rightly displays a maturing Dvorak through these works, and their overall cheerful tone. His Carnival overture is probably among the best on record. Top, top notch. A- for SQ, A for OI.

February 1st 2013, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "A Second or Two" at its [URL=""]Pod-O-Matic Channel /URL]. Read more February 1st on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Jan-29-2013 at 10:56 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music