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Best Recordings of 2011 (#5)

Time for a review of classical CDs that were outstanding in 2011. My lists for the previous years: 2010, 2009, (2009 – “Almost”), 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 5 - New Release

A. Scarlatti, Sonatas, Alexandre Tharaud, Virgin Classics 42016

available at Amazon
D.Scarlatti, 18 Sonatas ,
Virgin Classics

Alexandre Tharaud is a regular on this list, with Bach (HMU, 2005), Chopin (HMU, 2006), Couperin (HMU, 2007), and the re-issue of the “baroque” trilogy (HMU, 2010). He has moved from Harmonia Mundi to the Virgin Classics label now, where he has released a decent Chopin album (“Journale intime”) and most recently a very lovely recording of Bach Concertos. But inclusion on this list comes courtesy of his Scarlatti (live review here: “A Case of Perpetual Puppy”), which is more than just lovely.

Tharaud cares about every note of Scarlatti he plays, which his D-minor Sonata Kk.64 demonstrates well. On the surface this is a straightforward firecracker that one might play faster or slower, more or less abrupt… but otherwise find little differentiation in. Yet the way Tharaud enriches every space between the notes with atmosphere is surprisingly, enjoyably distinct. In Kk.141 Tharaud proves Pletnevian spunk, and a peckish-puckish Elsewhere he shows a perfect balance of attitude and cool, quicksilver fleetness and coy bumps; is delightfully whimsical here, and employs ruffian vigor elsewhere. (Full review here: “Original and Happy Freaks”)

# 5 – Reissue

J.S. Bach, Wanda Landowska, Le Temple de la Musique Ancienne • Saint-Leu-la-Forêt, Paradizo PA0009

available at AmazonItalian Concerto et al.,
Wanda Landowska

The collection of Bach works performed by Wanda Landowska titled “Recordings from Le Temple de la Musique Ancienne” was specially re-mastered for Skip Sempé’s “Paradizo” label. The Partita in B-flat, Three Little Preludes, the Italian Concerto, the English Suite in A minor, and the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue (recorded in 1935/36) present Landowska from her best side, they haven’t ever sounded that good before, and they certainly have never been re-issued with so much TLC. Sometimes her idea of “historical performance”, including her custom-built Pleyel instrument (which reminds me of Wendy Carlos' Bach, actually), are bemusedly belittled. But for all the anachronisms from a 21st century perspective, Landowska was earnestly concerned with early music, and in the 1920s its foremost champion without which the revival of old music in modern times but historical guise would certainly have come significantly slower and later. The release is a beautiful shrine to Landowska, her importance and her playing, but also to the lasting and multifaceted beauty of Bach.

(The DVD with the high resolution rare photos and documents somehow doesn’t work for me, despite having the latest version of the Adobe Reader… which means missing out on the letters from Landowska to Jean-Charles Moreux that she wrote while embarked on a concert tour of the US. I await word on how that .pdf file might be made to work and whether the file is at fault, or somehow my computer.
Edit: I've been told that my troubles seem unique; a new DVD is on the way.
Edit 2:Mea culpa: I did not have the latest version of the Adobe Reader, but 8.0. With 9.0 and above it works just fine and presents a real bonus, especially to those with an additional interest in architecture.)

-> Best Recordings of 2011 #1-10

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