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Sunday, February 24, 2013
Bartok, B.: Violin and Piano Works, Vol. 2 (Ehnes, Armstrong) - Violin Sonatas, BB 28, 124 / Hungarian Folksongs

Bartok, B.: Violin and Piano Works, Vol. 2 (Ehnes, Armstrong) - Violin Sonatas, BB 28, 124 / Hungarian Folksongs
Chandos: CHAN10752
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So far in his amazing career, Brandon, Man., native James Ehnes has turned into gold every note touched by his violin bow. His second album devoted to the music of Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (1881–1945) is nothing short of spectacular. The attraction of Bartók's music is that you can enjoy the late-Romantic side as well something more modern. So much of his music vibrates with the vitality of folksongs and dances. They start off as clear depictions in his earlier music, gradually becoming more abstract over time—like Pablo Picasso's faces, which ultimately bore only a fragmentary resemblance to the original subject. Ehnes has his feet firmly planted on the earthiness of the folk elements as he tosses off this virtuosic music with panache. The big showpiece on this generous album is the 1944 Sonata for solo violin, a four-movement monster that tests the violinist's every skill. A 1903 Sonata with piano accompaniment is easier listening, but no easier to play. Ehnes has a strong, elegant accompanist in Andrew Armstrong, who is also there for three sets of folksong transcriptions for violin and piano. This album is a wonder from beginning to end.

© 2013 The Buffalo News
 
Bond for Orchestra

Bond for Orchestra
Carl Davis Collection: CDC021
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This new recording of noted film composer Carl Davis conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra through 25 tracks of marvelous James Bond movie theme music is the latest release from the Carl Davis Collection, the composer/conductor's new label devoted to issuing his scores and performances. Back in 1997, Davis released a Bond album in Interscope called "Carl Davis Conducts James Bond Themes," featuring orchestral interpretations of a dozen Bond themes from DR NO's "James Bond Theme" through GOLDENEYE, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This new recording with Philharmonia is a much more vivid interpretation, featuring vibrant solos from Guy Parker (trumpet) and Pavel Šporcl (violin, whose running of the melody line from THE SPY WHO LOVES ME's "Nobody Does It Better" is a delight). The sonic range is much more dynamic on this recording, which covers more than twice as many scores, including themes from every 007 score through QUANTUM OF SOLACE (including the unofficial 1967 CASINO ROYALE and 1983 NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, and two themes from ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE). I think it's rather interesting that Davis has chosen David Arnold's proper theme song from TOMORROW NEVER DIES, "Surrender," to cover, rather than the Sheryl Crow track foisted upon... (read more)

© 2013 Buysoundtrax.com
 
Liszt, F.: Beethoven Symphonies (Complete), Vol. 1 (Baldocci) - Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6, 'Pastoral'

Liszt, F.: Beethoven Symphonies (Complete), Vol. 1 (Baldocci) - Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6, "Pastoral"
Dynamic: CDS731
Preview and Download at ClassicsOnline
Franz Liszt's solo piano transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies may not exactly be standard repertoire, yet more and more pianists are committing them to disc. Gabriele Baldocci's superb performances of the First and Sixth augur well for his projected cycle of all nine. Although his care with voicings, balances, polyrhythms (notice the precise yet never rigid articulation of the "Pastoral" first movement's constant two-against three patterns), and dynamics surely signify Baldocci's knowledge of the orchestral originals, a high pianistic culture informs his tasteful rubatos and his elegant, lean, and well modulated sonority.

Among the most felicitous moments are the introduction to the First symphony's finale, with its perfectly gauged upward scales and their effortless transition into the movement's main theme; the same symphony's animated yet gracefully shaped Andante; and the "Pastoral" storm's careful textural delineation leading into a febrile climax. Baldocci also favors a slightly faster and more fluid basic tempo for the Andante molto mosso than either Leslie Howard or Cyprien Katsaris, while imbuing Beethoven's bird-call imitations with more color and poetic fantasy. Aside from a wee bit of congestion in loud chordal passages, the Borgato grand piano is captured with attractive presence and naturalness. I look forward to following this cycle as it progresses.

By Jed Distler, © 2013 ClassicsToday
 
Schubert, F.: Piano Sonata No. 21 (performance on 3 different pianos) / 3 Klavierstucke (Badura-Skoda)

Schubert, F.: Piano Sonata No. 21 (performance on 3 different pianos) / 3 Klavierstucke (Badura-Skoda)
Genuin: GEN12251
Preview and Download at ClassicsOnline
Austrian pianist Paul Badura-Skoda, born October 6, 1927, has established himself as one of the best-informed interpreters of the piano literature, not only for the precision and clarity of his execution but also for understanding emerging from scholarship of impressive quality. I count myself lucky to have experienced both sides of his career through recitals and lectures I was able to attend at both Lincoln Center and Yale University. I also value every one of his recordings in my collection.

Now well into his eighties, Badura-Skoda is as active as ever in recording projects motivated by scholarship. The end of this month will see the release of a new recording from the German GENUIN label that is as daring as it is unusual. This two-CD set is currently available for pre-order from Amazon.com; and, for those more impatient, it can currently be downloaded from ClassicsOnline. What makes this recording so unique is that Badura-Skoda has taken a single sonata by Franz Schubert, the monumental D. 960 in B-flat major (the last piano sonata Schubert composed), and recorded it on three different instruments: a fortepiano made by Conrad Graf in 1826 (Schubert finished D. 960 on September 26, 1828), a 1923 Bösendorfer (number 23274), and a 2004 Steinway grand (number 569686). This "journey" through the three performances is prefaced by an "overture" consisting of the three "impromptu" pieces... (read more)

© 2013 Examiner.com

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