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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La Chronique du Disque (April 2014)

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For those unfamiliar with our monthly recordings review - If Sound Quality (SQ) and Overall Impression (OI) grades need further context, feel free to visit earlier posts in this series.

My acquisitions for April

Piet Kee Plays Buxtehude & Sweelinck

Dutch organist and composer Piet Kee provides this month’s obligatory organ selection as we bring to a close another year of organ and Lenten music. I am a big fan of his Chandos Bach recordings at the great Haarlem organ, and he brings the same learned attention to works by Dietrich Buxtehude and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, played here on a less-notable instrument (St Laurens' Church, Alkmaar). The selecxtions are many and offer a broad range of studies and chorals. This was thoroughly enjoyable! SQ = A-, OI = A-.

RESPIGHI, O.: Suite in E Major / Symphonic Variations / Prelude, Chorale and Fugue

Next, a pair of NAXOS recordings, featuring composers active in the first quarter of the 20th century. When we think of Respighi, the Roman Trilogy comes immediately to mind, or even the Ancient Airs and Dances. The selections in this album aren’t so much unusual as they are rarely heard in concert. The Suite in E ireminds me a bit of the aforementioned works, but the really interesting works are the Symphonic Variations and this “Carnival” overture – which doesn’t come close to similar overtures by many other composers though it does have its moments. For readers of this chronique, this album is conducted by the conductor only known as “Adriano”… Worth a listen. SQ = A-, OI = B+.

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 2, 'London' / The Wasps Overture

The second NAXOS disk is an all Vaughan-Williams album, featuring his “London” symphony (played here by a non-London based symphony) and the overture to “The Wasps”. Kees Bakels understands that if you are going to lead a British orchestra, you’d better get good – fast – at playing British music, and he proves to be a good student of the British school. British symphonies, in general, don’t stack up to the great German ones, but Vaughan Williams manages to to sew together a very atmospheric work, very Edwardian and rendered admirably by the musicians. The Wasps is a “British standard” and is given a solid reading. For people who ilke that sort of stuff. SQ = A-, OI = B+.

Kalman: Excerpts from Gräfin Mariza "Countess Mariza"

A little something to bring a smile to your face - the Vienna Volksoper Orchestra, Franz Bauer-Theussl and friends sing (in German) selections from Countess Mariza by Hungarian composer Emmerich Kálmán. If you like Viennese operetta (things like Lehar’s Merry Widow) you will love this stuff! This is full of atmosphere, the singers are excellent and the overall musical treatment is very respectful of the mood and material. Because it is a series of highlights, these have to be enjoyed as piecemeal works rather than as a continuous stage work, but it still provides much enjoyment. What a change from the Lenten stuff we’ve been concentrating on for the last couple of months! SQ = A-, OI = A-.

Chopin Valses (Waltzes)

For ourt last selection this month, a “complete” set of the waltzes by Chopin (the ones with opus numbers and the standard set of posthumously published ones) by French pianist Alexandre Tharaud. There are so many “great pianists” that have done such compilations – in my personal collection, I have the Ashkenazy and Anda sets - and you’d think all’s been said and done on these already (and maybe Tharaud doesn’t really show anything new). What stands out here for me, is the fact that Tharaud doesn’t “get in the way” of the music. This is Chopin played through Tharaud and not by Tharaud and for that reason alone, this set scores well with me. An exceptional touch here is the final track, placed as filler - Mompou's gorgeous homage to Chopin, sounding, in Tharaud's words, "like an intimate echo" of Chopin's world and music. I agree with what I’ve read on the Web about this set – it’s one of the better sets of Chopin Waltzes in the digital age. SQ = A, OI = A.

May 2nd, 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Schumann & Tchaikovsky Symphonies #1" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel .Read more May 2nd on our blogs in English and in French.