Tag Archive | "Hybrid SACD – DSD"

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Denis Matsuev’s Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos Nos.1 & 2 on Mariinsky Label

Posted on 05 February 2014 by admin

While Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto ranks as one of the most popular ever composed, his Second has remained in its shadow and is heard comparatively rarely. It is an even bigger piece, demanding a fabulous range of expression from soloist and orchestra alike and featuring major solos, too, in the slow movement, for violin and cello. The two works make perfect companion pieces and should be recorded together more often. Denis Matsuev, a winner of the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition and a frequent concerto partner of Valery Gergiev, now holds – among several posts – the title of head of the Public Council under the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. He is one heck of a player, flexing the pianistic equivalent of beefcake muscles as he thunders through Tchaikovsky’s octaves, swooshes through the first movement of the Second Concerto sweeping all before him and flashes through the scherzo-like episode of the First Concerto’s second movement with pianistic bling. But one vital thing is missing from this performance of No.1: any vestige of tenderness. It’s the Winter Olympics of music: immense display and flair, yet cold as the driven snow. No.2 shows a glimmer of heart in the slow movement’s string solos; the section leaders, violinist Stanislav Izmailov and cellist Oleg Sendetsky, seem to melt the soloist and conductor into a welcome if brief respite from hammering poor old Tchaikovsky into submission. Other than that, the effect is so ferocious as to seem positively frightening.

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concertos Nos.1 & 2

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Britten’s The Turn of the Screw on Lso Live, Hybrid SACD – DSD

Posted on 26 December 2013 by admin

Britten: The Turn of the Screw

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Only Colin Davis could have persuaded the London Symphony Orchestra to reduce its forces to 17 – Britten writes for 13 players, four doubling instruments – for two visually unatmospheric concert performances of this rigorous horror-opera. Sadly he died two days before the first; but the gain is a rare CD chance to catch the superlative work of Richard Farnes. He gives his LSO players absolute freedom when they need it, starting with pianist Susanna Stranders – spacious and nuanced, later an equally subtle celesta player. Farnes also knows when to turn the screw, as this layered adaptation of Henry James’s novella sees country-house ‘ghosts’ possess not only the children they were once charged to care for but also the hyper-imaginative young woman who comes to take the place of her dead predecessor. Sound-wise, Sally Matthews’ Governess is the weak link here – the plummy tone and diction more worrying than in her live performances. Still, she impresses in her forceful desperation through a gripping second act. The ghosts are peerless: tenor Andrew Kennedy has both allure and more threatening steel than fellow Quints Pears, Bostridge and Padmore, while Katherine Broderick may be the most powerful, dramatic-soprano Miss Jessel yet. Catherine Wyn-Rogers finds dark corners in the housekeeper, Mrs Grose, tonally clearer than Matthews, and while the child Flora loses some conviction when taken by a fully-fledged singer, (Lucy Hall). Michael Clayton-Jolly uses dramatic sophistication to make Miles the boy who wants to break free. Ultimately, though, it’s the instrumental impact, with bass clarinet and double bass especially present, which offers essential listening here, even with Britten’s own vivid interpretation still holding sway.

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Saint Nicola to Britten’s centenary year , Hybrid SACD – DSD

Posted on 25 December 2013 by admin

Britten: Saint Nicolas, Hymn to St. Cecilia, Rejoice in the Lamb

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Saint Nicolas caught the spirit of post-war Britain. Its libretto opens with a call, voiced ‘across the tremendous bridge of sixteen thousand years’, from a man of peace to all afflicted by division and hatred. Britten wrote the piece in 1948 for the pupils of Lancing College, testing their skills and rewarding them with memorable melodies and music of terrific energy. He conducted the work’s premiere that summer at the first Aldeburgh Festival and introduced it to King’s College Chapel a few weeks later. As so often in his compositions for children, Britten recognised the value of story-telling to focus young minds. The boy choristers and choral scholars of King’s are focus incarnate in their latest recording of the work, cutting through the reverberant acoustics of their famous medieval home like Saint Nicolas through the ways of the wicked. Stephen Cleobury’s interpretation plays to the strengths of King’s Chapel. He shapes a dramatic Saint Nicolas, hallmarked by bold effects and tonal contrasts. The album’s surround-sound disc brings out more detail than its conventional stereo companion but is less warm. King’s alumnus Andrew Kennedy, well served by both recording processes, stamps his authority on the role of Nicolas with heroic tone and forensic attention to words and their meaning. Cleobury and his singers are almost too meticulous, certainly too deliberate, in their reading of Britten’s a cappella setting of Auden’s Hymn to St Cecilia. Expressive spontaneity returns in their five-star account of Rejoice in the Lamb, unlocked by boy treble William Crane’s excellent solo and magnified by the choir’s corporate compassion for Christopher Smart’s visionary poetry.

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