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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La Chronique du Disque (January 2015)

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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 Suggestions for January

Mendelssohn - Complete Symphonies/Overtures - Abbado

Seems I have unearthed quite a bit of Abbado’s early recordings over the last year – and shared many of it with you in Chroniques and in my podcasts, but I can safely say that this “complete Mendelssohn” set is probably his most ambitious undertaking on record during his London Symphony tenure in the 1980’s. This 2001 re-issue features all the numbered symphonies, seven overtures (the best known ones if you ask me) and a delightful orchestration by Mendelssohn himself oif the scherzo from the op. 20 octet – which was at one time the scherzo movement for his first symphony. As a “symphony cycle”, I think this has stood the test of time as a “reference set” and the digital remastering gives these performances a well-deserved audiophile face-lift. A “must-have” in your Mendelssohn collection. SQ = A, OI = A.

Famous French Overtures

The next two disks I will discuss have in common well-known French conductor Jean Martinon and, in this first offering, a quartet of French overtures. I think the best known of the lot is the overture to Herold’s opera Zampa, but the other three are also overtures to French stage works of the same time period. Though Martinon is best remembered for working with the Lamoureux orchestra and the Chicago Sympho0ny, he had a working relationship wuth the London Philharmonic, and it is with that orchestra that he made this recording (I think in 1953). These four tracks can be found in a DECCA “Eloquence” CD reissue circa 2005, however, the digital provider doesn’t specify it but I suspect these are digitized from a vintage vinyl LP source, and the transfer isn’t very good. The music comes through and Martinon’s vision does get communicated, but the sound quality does get in the way of a thoroughly enjoyable performance. SQ = B, OI = B+.

Martinon: Quatuors à cordes

Some of you will recall my recent post of the music of Igor Markevitch, a man best remembered as a conductor rather than as a composer, and I was pleased to read in another venue about another conductor with composer credentials, Jean Martinon. Indeed, during his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris he took classes under Albert Roussel (composition) and Vincent d'Indy (harmony). Serving in the French army during World War II, he was taken prisoner in 1940, composing works such as Chant des captifs while incarcerated. Among his other compositions are four symphonies, four concertos, additional choral works, film and chamber music. This recording of two of his string quartets was brought to my attention and, I must say, it is quite enjoyable. This is music in the post-romantic tradition, with tinges of modernism that distinguish it from the better known quartets by Ravel and Debussy, but are comparable to similar works by Dutilleux, for example. Worth the listen! SQ = A, OI = A-.

Previn, A.: Invisible Drummer (The) / Variations On A Theme by Haydn / 5 Pages From My Calendar / Matthew's Piano Book

Sonce I started looking at conductors that compose, an obvious candidate is Andre Previn, who like Leonard Bernstein can be thought of as a “triple threat musician” – composer, conductor and pianist. Though Previn has recorded many works from “serious” composers as a pianist (Shostakovich and Poulenc are two names that come to mind), I think most of Previn’s recordings as a pianist are more in the jazz fare. With this in mind, the set of Previn piano compositions ion this disk have more of a jazz slant than a “nouvelle musique” slant if you ask me. Nothing wrong with that… SQ = A-, OI = B+.

Jacques Ibert Chamber Music

Though he is born late in the 19th Century, Jqcques Ibert is most definitely a 20th Century composer. A versatile composer, his works for orchestra and for film are viewed as some of the best provided by the famous group simply known as "les six". The most popular of Ibert’s works for smaller groups must be the Entracte for flute (or violin), with harpsichord (or guitar),which is part of this group of chamber pieces assembled by the Bridge Quartet and friends. There are some works here for solo violin, for solo cello and (of course) for quartet. This is a fine disc of very enjoyable and accessible chamber music, not unlike the Martinon offering of earlier. SQ = A-, OI = A-.

January 30, 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Felix Mendelssohn: Concertos" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more on our blogs in English and in French.