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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La Chronique du Disque (February 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 Febrary

Mozart, Schubert - Music for Two Pianos - Perahia, Lupu

My feature recommendation for this month’s “Double, Double” series is this first of two discs I am aware of featuring the All-Star pairing of Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu as a piano duo for CBS (Sony) Masterworks. A second disc of the pair, aspects of which were featured in a pair of montages this month on the Tuesday Blog and ITYWLTMT was all-Mozart, but this one adds a very fine Schubert piano duet to the Mozart sonata for piano four hands. The pianists work quite well together, and this is especially true in the Mozart which has more “four hand” passages rather than two pairs of two hands, if you know what I mean… Glad this got a reissue. SQ = A-, OI = A.

MSO – 100 Years Vol 3: John Hopkins conducts Percy Grainger

When I think of Percy Grainger, I think immediately of Leroy Anderson. Both men composed “light classics”, both men recorded their music with their own “bands”. If this disc from the Melbourne Symphony is indicative of Grainger’s output, then clearly he’s not merely Australia’s answer to Anderson… Anderson wrote short, tuneful and spirited works for orchestra, far less ambitious than some of the works presented here. To be honest, some of the tracks felt a tad pretentious to me, but maybe that’s because my expectations were somewhat biased (based on the comparison to Anderson). As a “centennial” disc, I thought the content was appropriate, but was less impressed with the production value. SQ = A-, OI = B+.

Shoka: Japanese Children Songs

This is a recent release by the Montreal Symphony under the Quebec label Analekta, and as the liner notes suggest this is a bit of a “preservation” project for conductor Kent Nagano (a Japanese-American) and his Japanese wife Mari Kodama. These Shoka are a set of children songs from the turn of the century, which have been preserved with the help of French composer Jean-Pascal Beintus. The songs are, as expected, naïve and catchy, as you would expect school songs to be, and the addition of a children’s choir on some tracks to soprano Diana Damreau’s adept singing add just the right amount of charm to the mix. This is a musical curiosity well worth the indulgence. SQ = A, OI = A-.

Lou Harrison: Piano Concerto/Suite for Violin, Piano and Small Orchestra

Keith Jarrett, like Chock Corea, is known to cross over from Jazz to classical settings, and it is with that in mind that I acquired this disc. Jarrett commissioned a piano concerto from American contemporary composer Lou Harrison (1917 - 2003), a man renowned for “musical mysticism”, capable of melding twelve tone, Asian and American Indian music. If you allow yourself to open your mind to it, this music leaves you with a great impression: maybe you need to listen to this a few times, but this is great stuff, more daring than many of the so-called “darlings” of contemporary music. The second work (also performed by Jarrett) is more suited for a traditional “western” setting, but still challenges the listener. Don’y knowc it till you try it! SQ = A-, OI = A-.

Michael Rabin 1936-1972 [6 CD box set]

If you’re not into being “challenged”, and the last couple of suggestions aren’t your cup of tea, then look no farther than this EMI compilation set of what I gather is the “complete” recordings of the American boy genius violinist Michael Rabin (1936-1972) for that record label. Rabin’s discography doesn’t quite stack up with some of his many contemporaries (Menuhin, Stern, …), and some of it can be attributed to his short career, however we note Rabin didn’t have a contract with any of the recording labels for the last 11 or 12 years of his life. Rabin, as these recordings attest, was a superlative violinist, but (like Glenn Gould for instance) he had to compose with personal demons, and with a mother-manager that would make Kris Jenner proud to boot! Putting all the folklore aside, these recordings are for the most part stellar. Some of these works get presented twice (mono vs stereo), including his performance of the Paganini Concerto no. 1, which is probably still to this day a “reference” - and I think either versions fit that bill. Rabin plays some of the well-travelled (and less travelled) chamber and concertante works, accompanied by great musicians. A “must get: for those of you who have a weakness for the violin. SQ = A, OI = A.

February 27, 2014, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "Vivaldi, Vivaldi - Part Two" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more on our blogs in English and in French.