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J.S.Bach: Motets

Clarity, taste, color and an absence of exaggerated fussiness or radical musical politics in the vocal treatment, text delivery and instrumentation are some of the winning qualities which mark this historically well-informed recording of the Bach Motets.

Joseph E. Romero

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Ravel: Les Concertos pour pianos

Jean-Yves Thibaudet's poised, articulate and stylish handling of the Ravel piano concertos is only part of the immediate appeal of this recording. The inclusion of the rarely heard neo-classical concertinos for piano and orchestra by Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) and Jean Françaix (b. 1912) are a smart touch and add considerable value to this release. Charles Dutoit and his French Canadian orchestra prove to be ideal partners in all four works.

Antoine du Rocher

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The Martha Argerich Collection
Bach, Bartok, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Schumann, Tchaikovsky

The Martha Argerich Collection is an 11-CD retrospective of the eminent Argentinian pianist (b.1941), whose compelling interpretations of the music of Chopin, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, and Ravel among others have become a signature of contemporary pianism of the past three decades. Dating from her 1960 début recording to duo piano literature recorded in 1994, the collection features piano concertos and selected works for solo piano and duo. Other than chamber music or the odd concerto disc, it is significant to note that Martha Argerich has not made a solo recording in over ten years. For those who have not been following the evolution of an exceptional musician, this set can be acquired without hesitation.

Joseph E. Romero

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David Moss: Moss Tales

Moss Tales attemps to chronicle through music, song and speech 23 years of composer David Moss' travels around the world. Whatever posessed the Hamburg-based parent company of Berlin Classics to publish this calamitous collection of trite musical utterances is beyond comprehension. Despite the impressive credentials of New-York born composer David Moss (b. 1949), including a 1991 Guggenheim Fellowship and performances of his music at the Whitney Museum, Musica/Strasbourg Festival, Wiener Festwochen, Tokyo-Edo Festival, to name just a few, his incoherent musical chronicles for his voice, drums, electronics, amplified objects have little to commend them. Moreover, there is nothing entertaining about Moss' mediocre New York rap or his fumbling attempts at what he calls "half Deutsch, half English" and what he must naively consider as some cutting-edge form of Berliner Sprechgesang or Berlinsprache. The whole affair is excruciating within minutes.

Joseph E. Romero

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Barroco Español, Vol. III
"Quando Muere El Sol"

A sequel to its successful predecessors, Volume III documents the Spanish transitional repertoire circa 1700, in particular the music of José de Torres (ca.1670 - 1738) and Sebastian Duron (1660-1716). Engaging, intelligent and rhythmically alert, Eduardo Lopez Banzo and his musicians bring alive the sacred and secular baroque literature of Spain with a dramatic flair that far surpasses the earlier, bookish efforts by Flemish and English ensembles.

Joseph E. Romero

Read an interview with Eduardo Lopez Banzo

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Brahms: Complete Violin Sonatas

A sometimes chilly performer, Viktoria Mullova has nevertheless managed to communicate the sensual nature of the Brahms violin sonatas. Her full-bodied, brightly-lit tonal palette and incisive articulation coupled with Piotr Anderszewski's deft but often pugnacious pianism offer a striking and sometimes overly vigourous reading of all three works which some will perceive as lacking in variety.

Joseph E. Romero

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Strauss: Sir Georg Solti

The cover says it all: SOLTI ZARATHUSTRA, Berliner Philharmoniker. This is perhaps a very good selling point because of the triple A rating of the musicians, but it is not a guaranteed buy if the music is important to you. Although well conducted and well recorded, Sir Georg Solti's "live" Berlin performances of these obvious crowd pleasers teach us nothing new about the music itself. Moreover, Solti's rather ham-fisted manner is the complete antithesis of Rudolf Kempe's approach to Strauss (see below). Still, the Berlin Philharmonic is splendid and, at times, clearly has its own ideas about Strauss.

Joseph E. Romero

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Mozart: Piano Concertos, K. 453 & K 466

Robert Levin's Mozart scholarship is always of interest and Christopher Hogwood and his early music band are good partners. Levin's cadenza improvisations and elaborate embellishments, while not pure Mozart, are generally apt and enjoyable. Unfortunately, his pianoforte sounds anemic, especially in the solo-tutti relationships of the outer movements of the D Minor concerto. The pianoforte fares better in the G Major's andante, but unless Robert Levin's investigations are of particular interest, better pass this one up.

Antoine du Rocher

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Rudolf Kempe: In Memoriam

The Dresden-born conductor Rudolf Kempe (1910 - 1976) is best remembered today for his well-chiselled and elegant interpretations of the music of Richard Strauss, notably at the head of the Dresden Staatskapelle. This wide-ranging program with the Bamberger Symphony provides an adequate introduction to Kempe's subtle and lean conducting style in repertoire other than Strauss. Of particular interest is a stunning interpretation of Smetana's "From Bohemia's Fields and Groves" from Ma Vlast and a gripping Schubert Symphony No. 8. That said, this release would not figure at the top of Kempe's already scarce discography.

Joseph E. Romero

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Schubert: Sonata in G Major, D 894; Drei Klavierstücke, D 946; Sonata in A Minor D 784

In view of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Schubert, there is hardly a shortage of Schubert recordings on the market. Still, it would be a pity to ignore this release. Fresh from an admirable but uneven Beethoven piano sonata cycle, the Lebanese-born, Paris-based Abdel Rachman El Bacha has put together a handsome Schubert recital full of charm, tonal warmth and a nimble natural flow which is, at times, positively arresting. The three Impromptus D. 946 which are listed on the CD jewel box are not a hitherto unknown work but in fact the Drei Klavierstücke D 946.

Joseph E. Romero

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