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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La chronique du disque (April 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 April

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 4 Op. 40 (Original 1926 version) - Scriabin: Prometheus, The Poem of Fire, Op. 60
[eMusic Download]

I posted a note on the forum about this recording at the time it weas issued; this is a “reconstruction” of Rachmaninoff’s fouirth concerto in its original version featuring Montreal-based pianist Alain Lefevre and the Montreal Symphony under Kent Nagano. Lefevre has had a hand in the reconstruction of two concertos that are contemporary to this work – Mathieu’s third and fourth. I own, as most of you do, a version of the “final version” of this concerto – two actually: Rachmaninoff himself and the Phuiladelphia Orchersra and Ashkenazy and the London Symphony. This “restored” version reintroduces several pages of material discareded by the composer, mainly because he was not satisfied with how it sounded with the Philly orchestra under Stokowski. I wonder of he would have felt the same under Nagano – the performance is in every shape and form gushy Rachmaninoff at its best, and the restored pages give the concerto a nobility that makes it more akin to its more famous predecessors (the second and third). The Scriabin Prometheus is also well done. New hall in Montreal sounds terrific. For under $2, there's no reason NOT to indulge.A for SQ, A for OI.

WILLAN: Organ Works
[eMusic Download]

Earlier this month, I featured the organ works of British-Canadian composer Healey Willan, and this NAXOS disc provides a good sampling of his works that have more of a seculat character. His many fugues are strong – very reminiscent of Saint-Saens’ preludes and fugues – modern yet somehow comfortable in their Bach-like feel to them. Patrick Wedd and the Casavant organ at the Churn of Immaculee-Conception in Montreal are up to the challenge. The recording does a great job of minimizing the reverberation in the church. A- for SQ, A- for OI.

Beethoven: Christus Am Ölberge (Christ On The Mount Of Olives) Op. 85
[eMusic Download]

When one thinks of Beethoven sacred music, we immediately think of the masses (the Mass in C and the Missa Solemnis), but often overlook Beethoven’s only Oratorio, Christ at the Mount of Olives. Helmuth Rilling and his charges (Gächinger Kantorei and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgar) dispatch this work with the right amount of dignity. Let’s face it: this isn’t great Beethoven, but it is solid Beethoven, and the choice of a narrow episode rather than a complete Passion Play were a wise choice. This is approached as a period interpretation, though not using period instruments. A worthy addition to any Beethoven collection. A- for SQ, A- for OI.

CHOPIN: Piano Sonatas Nos 1-3
[eMusic Download]

Turkish pianist Idil Biret did a “complete Chopin” cycle for NAXOS a few years back, and this is a disc from that collection, showcasing the three piano sonatas. We are all familiar with the second and third, and (as for the Beethoven earlier) we often neglect the first. A student work, yes, but showing some of the great Chopin earmarks just the same. Ms. Biret’s playing is smooth and light when needed, and her “funeral march” stacks up to Rachmaninoff’s and Ashkenazy’s. A- for SQ, A for OI.

VARESE: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2 - Ameriques / Equatorial / Nocturnal / Ionisation
[eMusic Download]

Here was a pleasant surprise. I was very apprehensive of this purchase, having made it to sample some of Varese’s music. I guess impressions from years ago (having heard Ionisations thirty years ago) linger in our musical subconscious. I have listened to a lot of contemporary music since then, and Varese’s music decades later sounds very tame, dare I say almost lyrical? This NAXOS disc has a few of the “Varese standards”, and they shine under the leadership of Christopher Lyndon-Gee. Quite happy to make the recommendation. A- for SQ, A- for OI.

April 27, 2012, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will be adding a new montage "Violin and Cello" to its Pod-O-Matic Podcast. Read our English and French commentary April 27 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Apr-24-2012 at 10:37 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music