View RSS Feed

Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La Chronique du Disque (October 2014)

Rate this Entry
En français

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 Suggestions for October

Handel: Streams of pleasure

George Frideric Handel composed both oratorios and early operas seria, some of them sung in English as they were commissioned by English patrons and groups. The bulk of Handel’s vocal works explore historical and biblical subject matter, and the treatment was lavish, even when compared to equivalent works from composers of later generations. Baroque opera is a bit of an acquired taste, and though we have been well-exposed to Handel arias , some of this material can sound repetitive and over-done. Canadian soprano Karina Gauvin has worked extensively in this repertoire, and has sung mich of it with Bernard Labadie and his Violons du Roy, so a recording of hers (even with a different ensemble, here Alan Curtis and his Complessio Barocco) would certainly peek (or is it pique) my curiosity. This presents Handel the same way, say, Cecilia Bartoli presents Mozart in compilation albums; there is respect for the text, and great care in rendering the arias. Like I said, baroqiue arias are an acquired taste, but if this is something you care to try (or already like), this is well-worth the purchase. SQ = A, OI = A-.

LISZT: Transcendental Etudes

The Liszt set of 12 tramscendental etudes aren't "mere" studies (like, say, Chopin's or even Debussy's). They explore so many different moods and textures, and they tax the performer, as would any work from Mr. Liszt. Michael Ponti is certainly a good pianist, and since I am not a pianist myself, I feel it almost unfair for me to judge his performance from a pianistic sense, but I have heard so many of these performed by great Lisztians - Arrau, Cziffra, SIlverman - who play these with so much more panache, and leave such a lasting impression, I was somewhat disappointed. On the bright side, this is a complete set, budget priced, and the sound quality is pretty good... SQ = A-, OI = B+.

Brahms, J.: Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano, Op. 40 / Koechlin, C.: 4 Petites Pieces / Banks, D.: Horn Trio

Barry Tuckwell is one of the motre well-known horn soloists of the last 30 years, widely recorded and well-travelled. This disk shows Mr. Tuckwell in a chamber setting performing trios for piano, violin and horn with violinist Brenton Langbein and pianist Maureen Jones. Of the three works, the Brahm,s trio stands out for me - Mr. Tuckwell has recorded it at least two other tmes, including one in an "all-star" combo with Ashkenazy and Perlman. The work itself is a personal favourite, and it is given a very decent rendition here. The other works by Faure's pupil Koechlin and the modern trio by Banks complete well this collection of trios for that unusual complement of instruments. I liked this a lot. SQ = A, OI = A.

Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet Op. 64 (Excerpts from the Suites)

In past Chroiniques, I have discussed Prokofiev’s milking of the score to the ballet Romeo and Juliet, producing a few “suites” and a set of piano pieces. It is customary for conductors to “cherry pick” from the Prokofiev suites to create their own, and this is one such example. We tend to forget that after Bruno Walter and before Leonard Bernstein, there was a Stallworth musician at the helm of the New-York Philharmonic, and that was the Greek conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos. Mitropoulos also was the “de facto” Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, and he was quite productive as a recording artist – mainly monaural recordings. Mitropoulos was at ease in the classical and contemporary repertoires, and it is with great glee that I rediscovered this rare stereo recording of the Philharmonic under Mitropoulos. I own the vinyl reissue of this same recording (under the one-time Masterworks Portraits series) and find Mitropoulos’ renditions stellar, full of passion and intricate at the same time. Prokofiev never sounded better! The vinyl transfer (which is what I presume this to be) is well done. SQ = A-, OI = A.

A Class Act

Daisy Peterson taught piano to her famous brother, Oscar in their home in Montreal’s Little Burgundy. Later, she also taught another neighbourhood piano wannabe, Oliver Jones. Jones began his career as a pianist at the age of five, studying with Mme Bonner in Little Burgundy's Union United Church (made famous by the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir) and also performed in Montreal clubs as a child novelty act. As a grown-up jazz pianist, honing his skills in jazz clubs in the Montreal area, he later travelled throughout Canada by the mid-1980s, appearing at festivals, concerts and clubs, either as a solo artist or with a trio: Skip Bey, Bernard Primeau, and Archie Alleyne. His travels also took him to Europe during this period. Since the mid-1980’s, Jones has recorded extensively, covering works by other jazz legends and performing his own compositions, like his neighbourhood idol Peterson. The comparisons are inevitable – consider, for example, Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom which both have recorded in similar jazz combo settings, and you’ll find that Jones’rendition is very close to Peterson’s, almost as if it were a tribute. In general, this is good-to-very good jazz combo work, and this album compares favourably to other Jones discs, and discs in a similar vein. SQ = A, OI = A-.

October 31, 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Opera on Broadway" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more on our blogs in English and in French.