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Featuring the best reviews from our loyal ClassicsOnline members.
 (30 September – 13 October)

SHOSTAKOVICH: Chamber Symphonies (Orchestrations by Rudolph Barshai)
(BIS: BIS-CD-1180)

Reviewer: edalc
Date Reviewed: 09/26/10
SHOSTAKOVICH: Chamber Symphonies (Orchestrations by Rudolph Barshai)

Delight in discovery

There are apparently five arrangements of Shostakovich quartets as 'Chamber Symphonies', at least one of which was approved by the composer himself. On this disc are versions of String Quartets 3 & 4. The arrangements go beyond simply amplifying the strings and add wind, and in one of the works, brass and percussion too. In effect what we are offered is excellent, demanding, astringent, varied, exciting orchestral music. The Tapiola Sinfonietta under Kantorow produces scintillating playing, especially striking in the speedier passages where the sparkling sound makes its greatest impact. It would be a mistake to think that such arrangements do not deserve our attention. This is a wonderful listening experience, reminding me of the delights of first discovering Shostakovich.

MENDELSSOHN, Felix: Symphony No. 4, "Italian" (Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, Bernard)
(Park Avenue Chamber Symphony: PACSNAXOS0006)

Reviewer: ptesone
Date Reviewed: 09/25/10
MENDELSSOHN, Felix: Symphony No. 4,

A magnificent version

The album is really brillant because of the intense musicianship of the orchestra and the conductor; in particular the last movement is full of life and expression, besides it is played with what I should call "italianship..." I did not know this orchestra nor its conductor and this recording has made me listen to musicians of the utmost musicianship. In fact, this is not the only album I liked very much among several ones I have downloaded: really I must acknowledge that ClassicsOnline is a very appropriate means to get first-rate recordings in an easy way.

-Pedro A. Tesone

JACOPO DA BOLOGNA: Italian Madrigals of the 14th Century (Ensemble Project Ars Nova)
(Ars Musici: AM232306)

Reviewer: EW90580
Date Reviewed: 09/13/10
JACOPO DA BOLOGNA: Italian Madrigals of the 14th Century (Ensemble Project Ars Nova)

Jacopo da Bologna Madrigals

The fourteenth century, i.e., 1300-1400, known as the Italian "Trecento" or Italian "ars nova," is the period associated with the beginning of the Renaissance, which included the development of Italian music, especially Italian polyphony. Apart from his major role in the beginning of composed Italian polyphony, relatively little is known about the life of Magister Jacopo da Bologna, who flourished around 1340-1360. Born and educated in Bologna, he worked at the Visconti court in Milan during the 1340s. The Black Death, which swept across Europe between 1348 and 1350, struck Milan in 1348. Jacopo survived, but his patron Luchino died in 1349, from either the plague or being poisoned by Isabella Fieschi, his allegedly unfaithful wife, who was never charged with any crime. Exposure to the Visconti family power struggles, the ensuing violence and treachery, and the events of the plague inevitably affected many of Jacopo's works.

During the 1350s, Jacopo worked at the Verona court of Mastino II della Scala. There, his rivalry with two other composers, Magister Piero and Giovanni da Cascia, is reflected in some of his compositions.

The performances are exemplary, with crystal-clear delivery from each performer, the recording is well balanced, and the sound quality is excellent. If early-Italian Renaissance music appeals to you, this CD will surely please you.

-Ted Wilks

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