CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews

17.11.20

On ClassicsToday: Gimmick Instrument, Splendid Performances: "Mozart’s Violin"

Gimmick Instrument, Splendid Performances: Mozart’s Violin Concertos

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
Gimmick Instrument, Splendid Performances: Mozart’s Violin Concertos

Artistic Quality: ?

Sound Quality: ?

“Haydn and the Harp” is a delightful disc of music written for the harp based on works and themes of Haydn by the composer’s contemporaries, as well as compositions of Haydn’s where the harp can (or was always meant to) be an alternative to the piano. All the music is tied in some way to Haydn, either biographically or musically. Exupère de La Maniere, for example, grabbed a theme from Haydn’s Symphony No. 63 (“La Roxelane”) and sent it through the variation-wringer for harp solo. Ditto Sophia Dussek with “God Save Emperor Francis”, the tune best known from the slow movement of the Op. 76/3 string quartet or the German national anthem. Nicolas-Charles Bochsa, meanwhile, created a virtuosic “Petite mosaique” of famous melodies from The Creation for harp solo... [continue reading]

12.11.20

On ClassicsToday: Tartini Delights

Tartini Delights With Chouchane Siranossian

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
HAYDN_and-the-Harp_GLOSSA_ClassicsToday_ClassicalCritic_Jens-F-Laurson

Artistic Quality: ?

Sound Quality: ?

Giuseppe Tartini has two things working against him: He’s not Vivaldi; and when acknowledged at all, he is often reduced to his Devil’s Trill Sonata (incidentally referenced in the slow movement of the D. 56 concerto, featured on this disc). The Naxos Music Library–to use a random measuring stick–features a respectable 250 items of his (on most of which he is mere filler). Vivaldi: Eleven times as many (and on most he’s the star). But Tartini’s concertos are terrific and sufficiently different from Vivaldi’s that they ought to exert considerable pull on any music listener interested in baroque concertos... [continue reading]

10.11.20

On ClassicsToday: Matthew Passion in Treble-Trouble

Treble-Trouble: A Forgettable Matthew Passion From King’s College

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
A Forgettable Matthew Passion From King’s College

Artistic Quality: ?

Sound Quality: ?

From the pedestrian opening chorus with its questionably delightful mix of all-over-the-place choristers, this Matthew Passion is utterly non-competitive and of interest really only to the proud parents and relatives of the little performers. The pitch ambiguities and tempo of said opening chorus and the muffled sound might make you think you accidentally grabbed a recording by Günther Ramin (Thomanerchor, 1950s) from your shelves and they cast all that is to come in a mediocre light...

...And then there is bass William Gaunt, whose “Am Abend da es kühle war” and following aria (“Mach dich, mein Herz, rein”) are simply exquisite, as good as any on disc. He delivers it with just the right mix of a lyrical, natural, and gentle approach and melts your heart instantly...[continue reading]

8.11.20

On ClassicsToday: Splendid Contemporary B-flat Major Brahms Concerto

Splendid Contemporary B-flat Major Brahms Concerto From Lars Vogt

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
Lars Vogt Schubet Ondine

Artistic Quality: ?

Sound Quality: ?

Together with the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Lars Vogt–in his fifth year heading the orchestra across the shore from Newcastle–got to record the Brahms piano concertos for Ondine. Anyone who reads a chamber orchestra’s and Brahms’ name on the same CD cover and might briefly flinch, fearing undernourished, pseudo-historically informed performances with an economically expedient small band–conducted from the piano at that (another couple thousands in savings!)–need not worry... [continue reading]

6.11.20

On ClassicsToday: Schubert in Love (or gone Wild?)

Schubert Gone Wild

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
Schubert in Love

Artistic Quality: ?

Sound Quality: ?

Here’s a recording the success of which depends entirely on how you approach it. If you think of it as a classical Lied recital that experiments, you’ll likely regard it as an experiment gone wrong. Come to it as a folk-blues-country-jazz-crooner album (or whatever genre you might associate it with) that happens to pay homage to Schubert–or better still, with no expectation whatsoever–it might just tickle you in all the right places... [continue reading]

5.11.20

On ClassicsToday: Pierre Henry’s Epigonic La Dixième Symphonie

Pierre Henry’s Epigonic La Dixième Symphonie

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
Pierre Henry’s Epigonic La Dixième Symphonie

Artistic Quality: ?

Sound Quality: ?

Pierre Henry’s La Dixième Symphonie – Hommage à Beethoven is a work of the genre where a modern composer takes an ancient model and weaves a modern cloth around familiar and loved structures, hoping thereby to benefit from the soothing sense of the familiar and–ideally, maybe–opening the ears to a few new sounds courtesy of their own creation. It has become quite popular, too: It’s easier to sell–and play–such music to and for an audience that would otherwise be more skeptical of sheer avant-garde music. The old masters inspire respect from within; the audience’s tolerance increases notably... [continue reading]

3.11.20

On ClassicsToday: Fine Christmas Oratorio With Boys From Stuttgart

Fine Christmas Oratorio With Boys From Stuttgart

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
Bach Weihnachtsoratorium

Artistic Quality: ?

Sound Quality: ?

The easiest way of telling that Thanksgiving is near is when new releases of the Christmas Oratorio start rolling in. A look from desk to calendar quickly confirms this. Here we have Handel’s Company and the Stuttgart Hymnus Choirboys, along with a cast of lesser-known soloists. What have they to say about these six cantatas that we should listen up? Is this recording with trebles going to be as wet a squib as the just-reviewed Kings’ College Matthew Passion?... [continue reading]

2.11.20

Dip Your Ears: No. 262 (#GoldbergReflections)

available at Amazon
J.S.Bach et al., Goldberg Reflections
Niklas Liepe / NDR RPO / Jamie Phillips
(Sony Germany)

There’s no dearth of Goldberg Variations in all shapes and forms. If you want to stick out of the crowd, and you haven’t Deutsche Grammophone’s marketing department behind you, you better do something pretty special. That’s what Niklas Liepe is trying to do, on this Sony-issued recording. For starters, the 30-year old is a violinist, not a keyboard player. Further, he doesn’t just play Andreas Tarkmann’s arragnement for string trio, orchestra and harpsichord (in essence a beefed-up Sitkovetzky arrangement), he also combines the 13 Variations which he chose for his project (plus the opening and closing aria, of course) with eleven newly composed, semi-precious Relflections-on-Variations. Hence the title of the record: #Goldberg Reflections.

From composers like Dominik Dieterle, Moritz Eggert, Friedrich Heinrich Kern, and Stephan Koncz, all the way to the fine epilogue of Konstantia Gourzi’s, we get an air of Piazzolla, wafts of glass-harmonica, and Schnittke-like molten intermezzi which, in their own, largely introvert ways, dance around the temple that is Bach. The fact that the actual Goldberg Variations morph into neo-baroque suites, brings them a few steps closer to some of these new compositoins. Open-eared Bach-lovers will find the whole project rather enjoyable; a diversion that’s certainly more diverting than hearing just yet another new recording of the real thing. The fact that Liepe performs his sometimes solistic, sometimes chamber-embedded parts impeccably – as do the strings of the NDR Radio Symphony Orchestra Hannover (themselves texture-enriched by the recurring harpsichord) – further helps the venture be a very happy listening-experience.

1/10