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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La chronique du disque (May 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 May

The first acquisition I wish to discuss is that of a new pair of earbud-type earphones:

I made an "investment" by purchasing the Bose IE2 audio headphones. So far, I am quite impressed with the sound quality and with how comfortable they are. I hope these don't fail on me like the litany of dollar-store earphones I have been using with my iPod! Read more here.

Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem / Klemperer, Schwarzkopf
[Torrent Download]

In my personal music collection, I own one version of Brahms’ choral masterpiece – a recording by Giuseppe Sinopoli, Lucia Popp the Prague Philharmonic Chorus and Czech Philharmonic. I decided to have a try at this version by Klemperer and the Philharmonia, during their fruitful period of the early 1960’s. What a difference! Sinopoli’s version is, shall I say, a bit fluffy compared to Klemperer’s more in-your-face style. The recording is part of the “Great Recordings of the 20th Century” lineup, as it fully deserves to be. The soloists (Schwartzkopf and Fisher-Diskau) are top notch and the chorus is outstanding. This definitely displaces Sinopoli’s version in my collection A for SQ, A for OI.

B]The Essential George Gershwin[/B]
[Torrent Download]

If you are looking for something to add to your collection in time for the Gershwin 115th/75th anniversaries, might I suggest this large compilation by Sony which includes tracks from past releases. In general, the many showtunes are given strong, characteristic performances – some of them from landmark moments from film (Jolson, Kelly, and Astaire only to name a few). The full spectrum here: tunes, jazz adaptations and a handful of “orchestral” works, including the very bizarre recording by Michael Tilson-Thomas and the Columbia Jazz Band backing up Gershwin (from a 1925 piano roll) clocking Rhapsody in Blue at under 14 minutes! Generally, I like these tracks, and I think you will too. A for SQ, A- for OI.

Schubert: String Quartets No 8 And 14 / Quatuor Alcan
[eMusic Purchase]

The Death and the Maiden quartet is my favourite Schubert quartet, and I own what I think is a near-definitivce performance by the Vienna Philharmonic quartet from the late 1950’s – it is full of drama, excitement and heartfelt. This newer version by the Alcan Quartet lacks the drama, but is just as heartfelt ; where the VPO Quartet has an almost dry approach, the Alcan version is more romantic in approach and provides a new perspective on an old favourite. The D. 112 is a nice filler to the disc. I also commend the Analekta engineers on their great work here – the pick-up is outstandoimg, and the qyartet sounbds very three-dimensional (or is it the new headphones?) A for SQ, A- for OI.

Khachaturian, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky /Rostropovich, Et Al
[eMusic Purchase]

In the past, I have reviewed some releases of both Soviet pianists Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter from the BBC Legends series. This month, I downloaded a CD from the same series dating from the late 50’s and early 60’s by then-Soviet resident Mstislav Rostropovich as cello soloist in three Russian/Soviet compositions. The first, Khatchaturian’s Rhapsody-Concerto is a virtuposo work that doesn’t get performed often. The other two, Shhostakovich’s second cello concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Rococo variations are not only played more often, but have a few recordings by Rostropovich with other orchestras. In all three, the soloist is always present, playing almost uninterruptedly throughout the works. Rostropovcich is in great form here, and the crowd noises are worthy putting up with. A- for SQ, A- for OI.

Schubert: String Quartet No. 15, D. 887; Beethoven: String Quartet No. 16, Op. 135 / New Orford String Quartet
[eMusic Purchase]

The Orford Quartet disbanded almost 10 years ago, but a new group, formed by members of the Montreal Symphony, adopted the monicker and this is their first recording as a group. The quartets chosen are by Schubert and Beethiven and, though these musicians have a “day job” – Jonathan Crow has since taken up the concertmaster position in Toronto – the enthusiastic playing by the quartet and the excellent ensemble play gives you the impression that’s all they do… The group is still performing, depite Crow’s new appointment, so we hope to find more recordings from this fine group in the future! An impressive debut. A for SQ, A- for OI.

Quick Hits
  • Prokofiev Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra [eMusic purchase]: I purchased this Bulgarian recording featuring Rostropovich and the Sofia Philharmonic in the Prokofiev sinfonia concertante for cello and orchestra. The pairing is obscure, but the playing is top notch. Can’t say the same of the Audio quality… B for SQ, A- for OI.
  • To The Distant Beloved - Beethoven, Liszt, Schumann / Lortie [eMusic purchase]: This Louis Lortie/Chandos disc showcases Liszt as a “rearranger”, doing his reinvention of works by Beethoven and Schumann. The Schumann fantasy that completes the disc is right in Lortie’s wheel house. I liked this a lot A for SQ, A- for OI.
  • Gould, Macmillan: String Quartets / Alcan String Quartet [eMusic purchase]: Another Alcan quartet recording, this time of music by two Canadian composers – Sir Ernest MacMillan and a rare composition by Glenn Gould. The Gould work is, as you would expect, very unfluenced by the Second Viennese school. The MacMuillan is OK, but his two arrangements of French Canadian folk Songs (once heard in concert by a string orchestra) are very enjotable. A good purchase. A for SQ, A- for OI.

June 1st , 2012, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will be adding a new montage "Number 104" to its Pod-O-Matic Podcast. Read our English and French commentaries June 1st on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.
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Updated May-29-2012 at 10:37 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music