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

13.7.20

On ClassicsToday: Best Recording of Hans Zender's Superb Winterreise

Best Remembrance Of Hans Zender

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
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Composer/conductor Hans Zender, who died last October (2019), is better known for his “composed re-composition” of Schubert’s Winterreise than for any of his other work. That’s not to sell those other “original” compositions short, or his work as a conductor (a fine Mahler Ninth and excellent Schubert First, among them). It’s simply a credit to how spectacularly well-made his orchestral reworking of the Schubert classic is. Sure, there always will be those who find the idea of futzing with an original masterpiece objectionable. And in many cases where a mediocrity latches onto a work of genius, the critics have a point. Not here... [continue reading]

11.7.20

On ClassicsToday: Haydn & The Harp: Light Delights

Haydn & The Harp: Light Delights

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
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“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]

9.7.20

On ClassicsToday: Mayseder, a Viennese Bridge Between Classical and Romantic

Mayseder: A Viennese Bridge Between Classical And Romantic

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
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The late classical/early romantic Viennese composer Joseph Mayseder is a wonderful discovery whose music is being methodically made available by the Gramola label. He was the concertmaster of the predecessor of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and of the Wiener Hofmusikkapelle–an ensemble that still exists (albeit as a loose ensemble of singers and instrumentalists from the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, and the State Opera Chorus) and that performs the musical duties on this disc that couples his musical legacy, a Mass in E-flat major, with an early violin concerto. [continue reading]

7.7.20

On ClassicsToday: Margherita Torretta's Bang-On Scarlatti

Margherita Torretta: Bang-On Scarlatti From Out Of Nowhere

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
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Scarlatti recitals on the piano are no longer a rarity, but really great ones still are. Since Horowitz’s groundbreaking disc, outstanding recordings have been made by Mikhail Pletnev, bursting-with-wilful fantasy, Ivo Pogorelich absorbed in his dynamic wonder-world, and Sergei Babayan, with refined insight. More recent additions to the top of the heap, many reviewed on Classicstoday.com, have come from Alexandre Tharaud, Konstantin Scherbakov, Zhu Xiao-Mei, and Yevgeny Sudbin. A very recently received new recording of 20 Scarlatti sonatas did not look particularly promising, much less like it might break into the phalanx of a dozen superior discs–rather it seemed more likely to be just another vanity recording by yet another young artist. [continue reading]

6.5.20

On ClassicsToday: Strauss' Enoch Arden in a new Reference Recording

Granitic Enoch Arden From Bruno Ganz And Kirill Gerstein

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
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Monodramas are tricky to pull off. The text has to be very good and the music has to be better still, to fulfill its dual duty of underscoring the drama and offering enough interest on its own, when it does pipe up. The results vary: from the rare best, like the ingenious masterpiece that is Viktor Ullmann’s Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke, to the tawdry and banal, like Liza Lehmann’s The Happy Prince (based on one of Oscar Wilde’s lesser efforts). One of the few gems that works quite well is Richard Strauss’ Enoch Arden on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s ballad by that name. [continue reading]

5.5.20

On ClassicsToday: Josephine Knight in Lovely Piatti World Premieres

Self-Serving Schumann And Lovely Piatti World Premieres

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
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This new release of the Schumann Cello Concerto purports to be the premiere recording of its absolute original version–a faithful reconstruction of the 1850 “Concertstück”. After cellist Josephine Knight found the autograph in Krakow, she set about to discern the differences from the modern version we know, which apparently include some alterations made or suggested by Robert Emil Bockmühl on whom Schumann relied for advice, and several subsequent performers’ changes. She found “hundreds of differences”, mostly accents, dynamic markings, bowings. The notes, but for a handful, are the same, though. She’s since made this her vehicle and this recording is meant to propel the original version–and presumably her–into the limelight. [continue reading]

4.5.20

On ClassicsToday: Evan Johnson compositions on Kairos

CD From Hell: Evan Johnson’s Sound Installation (With Sadistic Toy Piano)

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
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Amid the sea of beautiful, intelligent, vigorous contemporary music, which has at long last recovered from the damage that ideologically charged academicism and anti-sensual strands had successfully inflicted on it, there are still plenty of exponents of yesteryear’s avant-garde music.... [continue reading + sound samples]
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2.5.20

On ClassicsToday: Jazzrausch Bigband Inspired by Beethoven

On Beethoven’s Beat: “Ludwig Van, House Remix”

Review by: Jens F. Laurson
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Before the year is out, 2020 will see Beethoven-themed everything, so it’s perhaps not so surprising to find non-classical acts having some fun at the master from Bonn’s expense: Jazzrausch Bigband, for example, which has released “Beethoven’s Breakdown” on the fine jazz label ACT, which itself has a track record of excellent classically inspired jazz. (Dieter Ilg’s Parsifal or Otello suites come to mind). It’s an album full of surprises, starting with the name: Whatever you might be expecting “Big Band Beethoven” to mean, that’s decidedly not what you are getting here... [continue reading]