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Highly Reviewed Recordings

March 20 - April 2, 2013

PENDERECKI, K.: Sinfonietta Nos. 1 and 2 / Capriccio / 3 Pieces in Old Style / Serenade (Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Wit)
(Naxos: 8.572212)

PENDERECKI, K.: Sinfonietta Nos. 1 and 2 / Capriccio / 3 Pieces in Old Style / Serenade (Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, Wit)


Both of the woodwind soloists, Artur Pachlewski (clarinet) and Jean-Louis Capezzali (oboe), play exceptionally well, especially Capezzali, who exhibits frankly insane agility in the Capriccio. Antoni Wit, as always, is the most reliable possible guide to this repertoire, combining accuracy with warmth and expressive intensity. Somehow he does so without making an ugly sound, and believe me that’s not always easy. Of course it helps that the Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra has a particularly rich-sounding string section. Excellently engineered, this latest release is well up to the high standards of Naxos’ Penderecki series.

- David Hurwitz ©

KORNGOLD, E.W.: Much Ado about Nothing / Sinfonietta (Helsinki Philharmonic, Storgards)
(Ondine: ODE1191-2D)

KORNGOLD, E.W.: Much Ado about Nothing / Sinfonietta (Helsinki Philharmonic, Storgards)


Over the years there have been a number of recordings in various guises from Korngold’s incidental music to Much Ado About Nothing but this is the first complete recording of all 14 movements…They make a most attractive sequence…An exuberant ‘Final Dance’, swinging to waltz time, brings the curtain down on this infectious concoction.

Korngold’s Sinfonietta, a symphony in all but name, is an astonishing piece for a 14‑year‑old, assured in structure as it is in its fecundity of tunes and glittering orchestration. The complex scoring and mood‑swings hold no qualms for the Helsinki Philharmonic who, under their conductor John Storgårds, offer a supremely confident performance that exudes all the charm, warmth and vitality with which this work abounds.

- Adrian Edwards © 2013 Gramophone

CHOPIN, F.: Chopin Edition, Vol. 9 (Mursky) - Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-3
(Profil: PH04074)

CHOPIN, F.: Chopin Edition, Vol. 9 (Mursky) - Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-3

The cool and vividly clear sound quality shows Mursky to his best advantage.

Mursky is at one with the demands of the wild and unruly opening and captures the mood with light and graceful playing in the Menuetto. In the Larghetto we hear a tear stained affection but there’s exhilaration in the headstrong Finale.

Written largely in 1839 in Nohant, France the Piano Sonata No 2 is a repertoire staple. Justly famous, the Marche funèbre was actually composed a couple of years earlier in 1837. There’s palpable conviction and dazzling playing from Mursky in the opening movement. The virtuosity required for the Scherzo feels effortless and the affectionate central section is most satisfyingly rendered. Mursky is authoritative with his moving and marvellously phrased Marche funèbre and deftly exhilarating in the very brief Finale; Presto.

The Piano Sonata No. 3 was written in 1844 after Chopin had settled in Paris. Although one of the greatest sonatas this score tends to lie in the shadow of the B flat minor Sonata. Chopin’s writing certainly makes significant demands. In the lengthy opening Allegro maestoso Mursky communicates intimacy through lightness of touch and fluid phrasing. A bold yet impressively controlled Scherzo is followed by an effortless Largo of consummate delicacy. In the Finale: Presto ma non tanto playing of unerring conviction creates a stunning effect.

There are relatively few recordings of the First Piano Sonata in the catalogue compared to the numerous accounts of the Second and Third. Pollini recorded the scores in 1984 at the Herkulessaal, Munich a favourite venue of his for making studio recordings. His assured playing is distinguished by masterful musicianship.

I loved every minute of this outstanding release with Mursky providing accounts that can stand comparison with the finest. Clearly born to play Chopin he is in quite remarkable form.

- Michael Cookson © 2013 MusicWeb International

PLEYEL, I.J.: String Quartets, Ben. 334, 335, 336 (Pleyel Quartet Koln)
(CPO: 777551-2)

PLEYEL, I.J.: String Quartets, Ben. 334, 335, 336 (Pleyel Quartet Koln)


Pleyel’s expertise is evident from the outset. The opening Allegro con spirito movement of the Quartet in C major begins unassumingly enough with a brief slow, stately march that soon evolves into a series of creative, often unpredictable variations. The inner Romance cantabile movement of the Quartet in A is equally fascinating, with its broadly paced, intensely slow legato, at times pausing demurely (that stunning five-second silence at 3:40 is especially sly) to wonderful effect. Throughout the program Pleyel’s craftsmanship and stylish invention are always apparent, and I can’t imagine anyone interested in chamber music of this period not enjoying this offering.

This is the Pleyel Quartett Köln’s second installment (they’ve previously recorded Quartets 7-9 for CPO) in what promises to be a complete cycle of Pleyel’s “Prussian” quartets. If so, we have much to look forward to.

- John Greene ©

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