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Highly Reviewed Recordings

February 8 - February 21, 2012

SCHNITTKE, A.: String Quartets Nos. 1-4 (Molinari Quartet)
(ATMA Classique: ACD22634)

SCHNITTKE, A.: String Quartets Nos. 1-4 (Molinari Quartet)

“The Beethovenian scherzo keeps tripping headlong into crisis moments where high-velocity lines are on the brink of unravelling. The physical violence of the Molinaris’ attack sorts the men from the boys. And they also deliver the most persuasive account I’ve heard of Schnittke’s problematic First Quartet (1966), which is pretty much a catalogue of then modish Penderecki/Ligeti clusters, glissandos and twangs. The Molinaris’ physicality elevates the work’s slightly vanilla material.” 

© 2012 Gramophone
For the full review, visit

TUUR, E.-S.: Arkamine (Awakening) / The Wanderer’s Evening Song / Insula deserta (Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Sinfonietta Riga, Reuss)
(Ondine: ODE1183-2)

TUUR, E.-S.: Arkamine (Awakening) / The Wanderer’s Evening Song / Insula deserta (Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Sinfonietta Riga, Reuss)

“When the bolder, more stylistically emancipated perspectives of [Tüür’s] recent music meet the direct, almost vibrato-less timbres of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the results are more than musically impressive; they are spiritually stirring.

The booklet essay risks the claim that ‘the listener who encounters [Tüür’s music] is touched, overwhelmed, astonished, exalted, even rendered speechless by the suggestiveness of its sounds, images and the memories it evokes’. A hostage to fortune, perhaps, but for my money the claim is not so wildly exaggerated. Tüür’s shimmering, twinkling, yet at the same time edgy textures may be an acquired taste. I can only say that I feel greatly enriched for having acquired it.”

© 2012 Gramophone

For the full review, visit

BACH, C.P.E.: Keyboard Concertos, Wq. 23, 31 and 112/1 (Rische, Leipzig Chamber Orchestra, Schuldt-Jensen)
(Haenssler Classic: CD98.639)

BACH, C.P.E.: Keyboard Concertos, Wq. 23, 31 and 112/1 (Rische, Leipzig Chamber Orchestra, Schuldt-Jensen) It's simply wonderful to hear this music played on C.P.E. Bach's preferred instrument: the piano. The high level of contrast embodied in all of his music, and most particularly the carefully indicated dynamics (as soloist Michael Rische points out in his booklet notes), are simply impossible to realize on the harpsichord--indeed, possibly on any of the instruments readily available in Bach's own time. In this sense he truly was forward-looking, and while there are some excellent recordings on period instruments (including BIS's ongoing complete edition), there's no question that the music comes to life more effectively on a modern piano.

The performances here are full of the enthusiasm of a new discovery. The minor-key concertos are marked by many of those eruptive gestures that make Emmanuel Bach's music so distinctive: abrupt pauses, strongly accented rhythms, tangy dissonance, and huge intervallic leaps. Rische relishes the music's quirkiness without letting it fall apart into a series of disconnected fragments (another advantage, by the way, of using a modern instrument with its superior sustaining power). The Concerto in C major, for piano solo, is particularly remarkable--a virtuoso display piece full of arresting ideas, with a profound central Largo that Rische plays for all that it's worth.

The accompaniments by the Leipzigers under Morten Schuldt-Jensen are bold and gutsy, clearly influenced by period practice, but rather more timbrally appealing than the original-instrument norm these days. Hänssler has engineered it all beautifully, with natural balances and realistic tone quality. It's easy to understand why this music fell out of fashion given the evolution of the classical piano concerto in the hands of Mozart and Beethoven, but this is great music, and when performed sympathetically on modern instruments it sounds as fresh and new as the day it was written. It can stand toe to toe with anything that came later.

David Hurwitz,

SCHUMANN, R.: Violin Concerto / Phantasie / MENDELSSOHN, Felix: Violin Concerto (Tetzlaff, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, P. Jarvi)
(Ondine: ODE1195-2)

SCHUMANN, R.: Violin Concerto / Phantasie / MENDELSSOHN, Felix: Violin Concerto (Tetzlaff, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, P. Jarvi) Christian Tetzlaff is an absolutely fabulous violinist, and this repertoire suits him perfectly. His tone is unfailingly sweet, penetrating, and lyrical, but never burdened with excessive vibrato. His intonation is as accurate as we have any right to expect, his phrasing of the big tunes always natural and unaffected. In the slow movements, particularly that of the Mendelssohn, he makes his expressive points with an unobtrusive mastery that's truly moving, and seemingly inevitable. The music sounds as though it is being composed on the spot, songfully and spontaneously.

The couplings are perfectly chosen and even more impressive, if possible. Schumann's two clumsily orchestrated concertante works for violin and orchestra are full of beautiful ideas, but they so often bog down in what can seem like tiresome repetition. Not here. Tetzlaff plays with evident affection, making light of the difficult and often unforgiving solo parts, while Paavo Järvi does everything that he possibly can with Schumann's accompaniments. Superb engineering, ideally balanced, puts the finishing touch on an irresistible release.

David Hurwitz,

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