CDs/DVDs January 2020 (2)

Bach: Well-tempered Clavier Book 1
Andras Schiff, piano
UNITEL 2.110653

Andras Schiff gave this concert as part of the BBC Proms in 2017. It is magnificent. His approach is reserved and precise, but never detached. He also sees the work as a whole, as if it has a logical structure throughout its nearly two hours of playing time. As such the concentration needed both from the performer and the audience is very demanding but worth the effort. Don’t dip in – listen to it straight through.

The Young Beethoven: Piano Quartets of 1785
Meret Luthi, violin; Sonoko Asabuki, viola; Alexandre Foster, cello; Leonardo Miucci, piano

It is difficult to accept that Beethoven was only 15 when he wrote these splendid works. While they lean on earlier models they constantly surprise by a new idea, a new unexpected twist. As such they are more than a match for later compositions and a delight to have here. The third quartet produces a melodic line which would eventually reappear in the Eroica!


Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No2; Violin Sonata
Piotr Plawner, violin, Gerardo Vila, piano, Berner Kammerorchester, Philippe Bach
NAXOS 8.559865

The second violin concerto is based loosely on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons though the composer refuses to label the movements so it is left to us to guess. The work is structured around four orchestrally based movements and four solo songs for violin. It is highly effective and unusually emotional for Glass. The sonata is more conventional but happily extrovert.


Brahms: Five Sonatas for Violin and Piano Vol2
Ulf Wallin, violin; Roland Pontinen, piano
BIS BIS 2419

This second volume includes the Sonata in E flat major Op 120 No2, Sonata No 2 in A major Op100 and Sonata No3 in D minor Op108. All are attractive works, sensitively played and recorded, of which I found Op100 the most immediate though this is very much a matter of personal taste as all three works have a gentle intimacy which is very winning.


Auber: Le Cheval de Bronze
Vienna Radio Orchestra, Kurt Richter
ORFEO C 986 192

This is an Austrian radio recording from 1953 which holds up remarkably well. The comic opera is best known (possibly only known these days) for its overture which does turn up in concert programmes. However the work itself is unlikely to be revived as it falls into the category of early 19th century Chinese fairy tale, with all the potential cultural problems attached. As a fantasy, the music is often charming if light-weight. Only Stella’s aria in the third act comes anywhere near Rossini for character and musical interest. A rarity and good to have available if its appeal may be limited.

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