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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La chronique du disque (January 2012)

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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

Keeping with the January Pianothon, this month's installment of LCdD is an all-piano and piano & orchestra edition. Stravinsky, Thalberg, Mozart, Emil Gilels in recital and...

Great Pianists of the 20th century (200 CD, APE) [Torrent download]

Brace yourselves: 200 CDs, 100 pianists from the earliest days of recording to some of the later names. They are all there, with at least 2 CDs-worth of recordings. I couldn’t convince myself to download everything, so I limited myself to ten or so pianists, including Shura Cherkassky, Sergei Rachmaninov, Earl Wild and Stephen Kovacevich (to name a few). These are top-notch recordings by top-notch artists. These re-issues seem to be from many different recording labels (from the Universal Music family, BMG and Sony), from the days of 78 RPM to the digital age. The analog restoration is excellent for the titles I sampled. Pick your poison! A- for SQ, A for OI.

Stravinsky : Capriccio pour piano et orchestre [eMusic purchase]

The last piece in my quest to gather Stravinsky's works for piano and orchestra is the Capriccio. This recording was a disappointment: the rcording engineering creates a strong imbalance between the soloist and orchestra, and there is no “sense of depth” to this recording. The sound appears at times so two-dimensional that we don’t see where the piano ends and the orchestra begins. I gave rthis a careful relisten on my stereo and got the same impression. C- for SQ, B- (with reservations) for OI.

THALBERG: Piano Concerto in F Minor / Souvenirs de Beethoven [eMusic purchase]

I remember reading some time ago about the rivalry between Liszt and Thalberg, who were both touring virtuoso pianists in the mid-19th century. I purchased this disk which had two interesting works (for me, anyway): the piano concerto and a solo piece called “uin soupir” – which I dutifully compared to Liszt’s concerto and concert etude ”un sospiro”… I don’t know how PC this is for me to say, but I found that Thalberg’s music sounded “feminine” to Liszt’s darker, richer masculine-sounding works. The playing and overall recording was better than all right. Despite my Liszt bias, A for SQ, A- for OI.

Mozart - The Complete Piano Concertos (Geza Anda) [Torrent download]

The Mozart concerto set by Geza Anda and the Mozarteum orchestra was the first "complete cycle" (recorded between 1961 and 1969) and, for years, was a solid go-to choice for these concertos. I own the Ashkenazy/Philharmonia set (which was done maybe 5 to 10 years later), and believe the Anda set to be generally stronger, with a tighter unity of vision. Unlike the Ashkenazy set, however, the concerti for multiple keyboards are omitted, and so are the two or three “filler” one-movement works – and that’s a shame… This set is worth the download. A- for SQ, A for OI.

Gilels - Scarlatti, Beethoven, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Debussy [eMusic purchase]

A couple of months back, I purchased a BBC Legends recording of Sviatoslav Richter BBC recital music, and this is pretty much in the same vein, but this time from another Soviet-trained and resident pianist on a Western tour, Emil Gilels. Richter and Gilels, for my money, are pretty evenly matched, though for this head-to-head comparison, Gilels selections win out for me. His Debussy is dreamy and playful, his Beethoven puts Serkin and other German-trained pianists to shame. The Scriabin and Prokofiev works are solid, standard “day in the office” material, but not routine. Well worth listening to A- for SQ, A for OI.

February 2nd, 2012, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will be adding a new montage "Groundhog Day" to its Pod-O-Matic Podcast. Read our English and French commentary February 2nd on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Jan-31-2012 at 11:20 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music