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Highly Reviewed Recordings

May 1 - May 14, 2013

ELLINGTON, D.: Black, Brown and Beige / Harlem / Three Black Kings / The River Suite (Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta)
(Naxos: 8.559737)

ELLINGTON, D.: Black, Brown and Beige / Harlem / Three Black Kings / The River Suite (Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta)


What with the dodgy availability of Mauric Peress’ benchmark Musicmasters Ellington recordings, we badly needed a top-notch survey of Ellington’s orchestral music, and this inspiring disc fits the bill perfectly. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic have yet to make a finer record.

The performances are just marvelous. JoAnn Falletta catches the music’s “swing” in vivid interpretations that challenge Peress in their vitality, color, and verve. The various instrumental soloists, especially Sal Andolina’s clarinet in Three Black Kings and Tony Di Lorenzo on trumpet in Take the ‘A’ Train (and elsewhere), are all brilliant, and captured by Naxos’ engineers in bright, natural, high-impact sound. This is a very necessary release, but one that should get a lot of play as well. It’s a joy.

- By David Hurwitz © 2013

CHAUSSON, E.: Concert for Violin, Piano and String Quartet / String Quartet in C minor (Pike, Poster, Doric String Quartet)
(Chandos: CHAN10754)

CHAUSSON, E.: Concert for Violin, Piano and String Quartet / String Quartet in C minor (Pike, Poster, Doric String Quartet)


[Concert] is a piece for chamber ensemble, not a concerto in the classical sense which pits a soloist or soloists against an accompanying body. The piano and violin solo parts, which differ from the string quartet only by the relatively large amount of thematic material which is given to the players, are first among equals and not grandstanding virtuosi. A number of recordings make the mistake of highlighting the two solo players - I have one which features Itzhak Perlman and Jorge Bolet, no less, with the Juilliard Quartet - and although this can indeed be very effective, the work sounds more unified if the two ‘soloists’ are properly integrated with the other players. As indeed they are here, with Jennifer Pike and Tom Poster - who both play superlatively - beautifully merging into the texture of the whole.

The String Quartet shows Chausson beginning to move away from the Franckian models into what Gerald Larner calls a more ‘classical’ style but one which to my ears also shows the influence of impressionism. There is indeed what sounds like a close quotation from the opening of Debussy’s String Quartet (written six years earlier) at the end of the first movement (track 1, 12.13). The second movement opens with a chromatic rising theme which not only hearkens back to Wagner’s Tristan but also echoes Chausson’s own Symphony. The players of the Doric Quartet produce a properly Debussian sound, not too beefy and not too saturated, which suits the music perfectly.

Chausson was just a few bars short of completing the third movement of this quartet when he went out for a ride on his bicycle. He fell off and in some manner sustained injuries which caused his death. The movement was completed by Vincent d’Indy, his friend and fellow-pupil of Franck, but the anticipated finale was never written and apparently no sketches for the uncompleted material exist. D’Indy merely adds some concluding chords which match well with their context, although Gerald Larner gives his opinion that Chausson himself would have concluded the movement with less sense of finality.

The recorded sound is warm and resonant without being overwhelmingly lush. Amazingly enough there appear to be no other discs in the catalogue which make the obvious coupling of the Concert and the String Quartet. But even if there were, this CD would be an immediate choice for these works. Anybody who is at all interested in late romantic chamber music should snap it up without delay.

- By Paul Corfield Godfrey © 2013 MusicWeb International

AUERBACH, L.: 24 Preludes for Cello and Piano / Cello Sonata (Celloquy) (Aznavoorian, Auerbach)
(Cedille: CDR90000-137)

AUERBACH, L.: 24 Preludes for Cello and Piano / Cello Sonata (Celloquy) (Aznavoorian, Auerbach)


…the performances are sensational. Auerbach is a superb pianist, and she handles her own frequently virtuosic writing with aplomb. Ani Aznavoorian plays a mean cello, both here and in the Cello Sonata. Auerbach also makes evocative use of microtones both here and occasionally in the preludes as well. It’s an interesting addition to her expressive arsenal, particularly when they appear in a tonal context.

The sonics are gorgeous, with perfect balances and a very realistic perspective. Fans of good contemporary chamber music will want to own this; it repays repeated listening and reveals Auerbach as a true force in today’s music.

- By David Hurwitz © 2013

NIELSEN, C.: Symphonies Nos. 2, "The 4 Temperaments", and 3, "Sinfonia espansiva" (Hall, Farnsworth, London Symphony, Colin Davis)
(LSO Live: LSO0722)

NIELSEN, C.: Symphonies Nos. 2,


[Symphony No. 3’s] spacious feeling and power is strengthened by the ecstatic entrance of the soprano and baritone soloists in the second movement. Its final movement embodies the ravishing Danish landscape. The sonics on both are up to the high standards of LSO Live SACDs. Individual solos come thru clearly and with great spatiality, and the orchestral climaxes are rich and clean, free of the compression effects frequently heard on standard CDs.

- By John Sunier © 2013 Audiophile Audition

BALSOM, Alison: Sound the Trumpet - Royal Music of Purcell and Handel
(EMI Classics: 5099944032852)

BALSOM, Alison: Sound the Trumpet - Royal Music of Purcell and Handel


Alison Balsom’s playing is stunning. The tone and intonation are fabulous; the lip trills, ornaments and runs simply staggering. How she achieves this level of technical assurance on an instrument without valves is remarkable and she makes it all sound like a piece of cake. Throughout the collection she is expertly accompanied by Trevor Pinnock…and his excellent orchestra is the perfect choice for a programme of music such as this.

Handel’s Birthday Ode and Purcell’s Sound the Trumpet are especially moving and the counter-tenor, Iestyn Davies, is a formidable partner for Ms Balsom, offering as he does a purity of intonation and clear diction. Lucy Crowe’s rendition of The Plaint from Purcell’s The Fairy is sensitively and beautifully sung…

The arrangements of the suites from Purcell’s King Arthur and The Fairy Queen by Alison Balsom both work very well as does Trevor Pinnock’s arrangement of Water Piece…The disc concludes with an arrangement of Handel’s Oboe Concerto in B flat…Like the rest of the programme it is played with assured virtuosity and ravishing tone. The recording throughout is sparkling, warm and realistically balanced. Only the most unbending of purist zealots would fail to love this record.

- By John Whitmore © 2013 MusicWeb International

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