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


Best Recordings of 2013 (#5)

High time for a review of classical CDs that were outstanding in 2013. My lists for the previous years: 2012, 2011, (2011 – “Almost”), 2010, (2010 – “Almost”), 2009, (2009 – “Almost”), 2008, (2008 - "Almost") 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

# 5 - New Release

Mieczysław Weinberg, Complete works for Violin and Piano, Linus Roth (violin), José Gallardo (piano), Challenge Classics 72567

available at Amazon
Works for Violin & Piano
L.Roth / J.Gallardo
Challenge Classics

I make no pretensions of being partial about this set: I love Weinberg and I love the fact that the complete* works for violin and piano were recorded in one fell swoop, with the Sixth sonata discovered in the process (one of two world premieres on this set). The Strad writes: “Recorded in exemplary, perfectly balanced sound, Roth and Gallardo capture the sense of despair that underpins the composer’s later music with nerve-jangling precision, most hauntingly the Sixth Sonata… It is their exploration of the lower end of the dynamic spectrum that particularly grips the imagination here—at times Roth appears to be merely breathing on his 1703 ‘Dancla’ Stradivari as he fearlessly probes Weinberg’s harrowing cries of anguish. Not an easy listening experience by any means, but a profoundly moving one.”

By way of disclaimer (to be honest, not to be pretentious): I wrote the liner notes for the release. There’s an ongoing cycle on Toccata Classics with Yuri Kalnits and Michael Csányi-Wills that’s most excellent, too, and includes the works for solo violin (and may include the Two Songs Without Words, which was discovered shortly after the above set was finished), but it’s going to be a while in the making.

* The set was complete at the time of recording. The unpublished Two Songs Without Words for violin and piano from 1947, though known to exist, had not yet turned up. Now Weinberg expert David Fanning has found them, in a Moscow archive over Easter 2013.

# 5 – Reissue

Ludwig van Beethoven, The Very Nearly Complete String Quartets, Amadeus Quartet, Audite 21424

available at Amazon
String Quartets
Amadeus Quartet

As part of their excavating activities at the RIAS tapes, the Audite label has now come up with a very nearly complete* Beethoven string quartet cycle from the famed, great Amadeus Quartet, recorded between 1950 and 1967**. In a sense this is hardly a re-release, but a first-time-ever issue on CD. Still, a half-century old recording seems a better fit under re-issues, so here it is.

What makes the set stand out is the Amadeus Quartet’s complete command of that chamber-music feel: the musicians—headed but not dominated by Norbert Brainin—become one organism that finds its expression through Beethoven (in this case). The fact that each movement of every work has been recorded in one continuous take only helps with this impression of a continuous arch and development. Warmth and an eager tension are combined to great results, leaving plenty younger interpretations that take the either athletic-Olympic approach or a merely beauticious one well behind.

There’s no need to pretend that many modern string quartets haven’t even greater technical mastery today. Or that recording quality hasn’t considerably improved*** (admittedly pointless when it’s voided via mp3 or poor streaming). Or that there aren’t select quartets which have just as much artistic and musical urgency and expressiveness. The qualities that make the Amadeus Quartet in Beethoven great are still most appreciable today: Among the great historic cycles, this is one that Beethoven lovers will immediately embrace alongside the first Budapest and second Végh cycles (more of the latter soon or above) as their go-to choices for old-world nostalgic beauty and musical insight.

* Only the “Harp Quartet” No.10, op.74 is missing, but to fill the void the String Quintet op.29 (with Cecil Aronowitz) is added. The Grosse Fuge is performed separately from op.130, as on their slightly later, fine but less vigorous, studio DG set.

** Really 1950 through 1962; only op.127 stems from 1967

*** The sound quality of these re-masterings off the original high speed analogue tapes are actually of superb quality and far better than anything one would ever expect from to hear from recordings that old.

-> Best Recordings of 2013 #10
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #9
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #8
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #7
-> Best Recordings of 2013 #6

No comments: