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What floats yer boat these days?

Discussion in 'classical' started by windhoek, Mar 8, 2017.

  1. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    Michael Korstick playing some Russian piano music. I come to every Korstick recording with expectations of effortless virtuosity, sometimes exaggerated slow movements, a metallic patina, and eardrum-injuring and bone-crushing power. He surprises in this 1999 recording only by displaying a less metallic sound than he often does. The Mussorgsky starts off the disc, and the first Promenade is comparatively normal - one must wait until the third one to hear unreconstructed sonic massiveness - but one has to wait only until Gnomus to hear that bone-crushing power married to virtuosity that would be silly in its extreme display were it not so serious. You want thundering Bydlo with plaster-loosening left hand playing? You got it. (I tend to listen to Korstick recordings at higher than usual volumes to get the full effect.) The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks sounds like what a very serious person thinks light-hearted playing sounds like. Korstick forgoes the Promenade between Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuyle‎ and Limoges, making for a more jarring transition to the latter, especially given its hyper sound, and then he moves into a heavy-duty Catacombs, where dynamic contrasts are extreme. When it arrives, Baba Yaga smacks the listener upside the head the most powerful playing I've yet heard. Korstick backs off after the initial barrage, but those seeking true respite will not find it when he punches out some sharp right hand chords, before returning to proper bone-crushing form near the end. The Great Gate of Kiev is great indeed, with massive bass chords providing a foundation for a fifty story tall musical edifice. Forget Lewis or Kissin, their gates are puny little jokes scaled for Stuart Little.

    The Tchaikovsky Doumka ends up displaying more of that Korstick steel, and the effect is to drain the piece of any and all tonal color and rhythmic nuance, but the sheer excitement and power that Korstick generates comes close to off-setting anything that may be lost. (This piece also managed to make picture frames rattle for no good reason, or for very good reason, depending on how you look at it.) Sergei Lyapunov's Etude No 10 follows, and here Korstick gets to play an unabashedly virtuosic piece in unabashedly virtuosic style - with seeming ease. I would not mind one little bit if he recorded Liszt's original version of the Transcendental Etudes.

    The heavy-duty disc ends with the last of Prokofiev's War Sonatas. The few brief flourishes in the first movement aside, the first two movements find Korstick merely playing seriously, with a dark mien, and some playing that sounds marginally attractive. It's heavy playing of heavy music. The final movement allows Korstick to do his thing with far less restraint, and so he does, with some playing just hammered out, but he has no problem delivering what he wants to deliver.

    So, a good disc, but something of a heavy, tiring one. It will not lift spirits or make one smile much, but the unlimited power and supremely controlled and awesome virtuosity are their own unsmiling rewards.

    I'd like to hear Korstick in person, but I would make sure to get some seats in the back half of the hall.

    Amazon UK link for Ars Musici issue
  2. Del monaco

    Del monaco pfm Member

    Have you heard the live recording with Fabbricini/ Muti?. A remarkable immersed performance.Best since Callas for me. She even pips my beloved Scotto for me.
  3. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    I hadn't heard that performance (did say I was no expert!) but even on Youtube on an old laptop she sounds extraordinary. I may well seek out the DVD.

    Given the inherent melodrama, opera has to be effortless for me to suspend disbelief and lose myself in the music. Maybe I wasn't in the mood, but when I tried to listen to Aida from the Met on Saturday everyone but the Bass seemed to be straining too hard. It was so distracting that after 5 minutes I had to switch it off. Very odd.
  4. Nic Robinson

    Nic Robinson Moderator

  5. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    While I wait for Arcadi Volodos' new Brahms disc to arrive, I kind of wanted something else to whet the aural appetite. I'd previously streamed Alessio Bax's Mozart and Mussorgsky/Scriabin offerings via Amazon, and both are superb, with fantastically nuanced playing. But streaming always sounds sub-par, and I wanted to hear proper 16-bit. This is Bax's strongest disc yet. Scale and weight are added to his arsenal, and his command of the pieces is absolute. The Ballades at least equal the best I've heard before. This is one of the best single Brahms discs I've heard in years. Now to hear if Volodos does one better.

    Amazon UK link.
  6. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    Last week I listened to Alessio Bax's Brahms disc, and it was and is phenomenal, and it remains one of the best single Brahms discs I've heard in years. Volodos delivers one of the best single Brahms discs I've ever heard. Both pianists play Op 76, Volodos limiting himself to four pieces. Bax plays magnificently, his playing an apogee of a more or less conventional approach to playing the pieces. Volodos dispenses with that, and plays in a rhapsodic, almost improvisational way, the music emerging as though for the first time. The Op 117 and 118 pieces retain the rhapsodic component, and sound dark-hued and simultaneously introspective and timeless. Volodos' unlimited virtuosic ability here is restrained as much as on his standard-setting Mompou disc, and to potentially even better effect.

    SOTA sound, with some finger-nail clacking in the early 2017 recordings of Op 76, and damper mechanism noise for all the works.

    A great disc.

    Amazon UK link
  7. mattgbell

    mattgbell Weird owl

    The cycle of Röntgen's string trios by the Lendvai Trio are absolutely splendid.
  8. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

    Superb disc indeed. Must get his Mompou.
  9. rough edges

    rough edges pfm Member

    Rafal Blechacz plays Bach. Very impressive indeed.

  10. k90tour

    k90tour pfm Member

    My Brahms phase is going on and on. Mainly piano miniatures and chamber music. The Op 117-119 piano pieces are sublime.
  11. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    Here's something I never thought I'd say or write: I'm thoroughly enjoying some music by Paul Hindemith. Specifically, the string quartets as played by the Amar Quartet on Naxos. Superb, of its time music, played by an ensemble that sounds world class, and the set is in superb sound.

    Amazon UK link
  12. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    LOL. Know what you mean! Maybe I should try those quartets too.
  13. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    Claire Huangci's new recording of Chopin's Nocturnes is sublime. Physical media release date is a couple weeks out, but high res downloads are available now, and for less money.

    Amazon UK link
  14. FrankF

    FrankF pfm Member

    I hadn't played this LP in at least 15 years and really enjoyed it. John Williams is not my favourite classical guitarist but this version of the Paganini Grand Sonata is stellar IMHO.

  15. herb

    herb music live

    Early Stockhausen, 1950 to 1952, on CDs 1 and 2 in his list of works, Very cleansing.
  16. FrankF

    FrankF pfm Member

  17. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    It was time to listen to Marie-Luise Hinrichs' transcription of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. The opening movement is somewhat startling in its austerity, simplicity, and its almost eerily steady bass line; coming at this from the pianist's Soler and, especially, Bingen transcription recordings, the great beauty and nuance and flexibility of those discs seem almost AWOL. The second movement picks things up a bit, with grander scale, more beautiful harmonic invention, and more attractive pianism. However, it is with the third movement, O quam tristes et afflicta, that Hinrichs' playing more fully assumes the qualities that make her Bingen so captivating. So, too, does the first two thirds of Quis et homo, which is nothing shy of devout sorrow transcribed to the keyboard, with Pergolesi's original the medium. Hinrichs throws in some discreetly ornamented and slightly more pointed playing in the seventh and eighth pieces, and it's about at this point that one realizes that six and seven pieces have been played through completely. And it also becomes obvious that all of the traits that Hinrichs displays on her prior recordings are present, though to a slightly lesser degree. There is fine dynamic shading, but it seems less pervasive. There is rhythmic variegation, but it sounds constrained much of the time. There is tonal lustrousness, but it is purposively toned down a fair amount of the time. (In other words, Hinrichs adjusted her writing and playing styles to the music, which requires something in addition to her more standard interpretive arsenal.) Come the Inflammatus et accensus, there is more energy and color and rhythmic vitality, which is followed by an achingly beautiful and somber and simple Quando corpus morietur, at least until the rapturous coda.

    Immediately prior to listening to this disc for the first time, I listened to Claudio Abbado's second recording of the main piece. The transcription is both very successful and not so successful. It is not so successful in taking a beautiful, very operatic duet and creating a solo instrumental equivalent. It is very successful indeed, though, in taking the beautiful music and the somber text and creating a vast, baroque-modern hybrid keyboard suite that does a superlative job of evoking the emotional aspects of the underlying subject in a serious manner almost entirely devoid of unnecessary virtuosic display. I have no doubt that quite a few pianists could take the piece on, but it seems very personal, and Hinrichs obviously chose to transcribe to her strengths. The work is not as successful overall as her Bingen disc, but then, that is an unfair comparison. That disc is a work of inspired genius. This seems the work of slightly exhausted genius. Unlike with the Bingen disc, I did not listen back to back; I did, however, listen to it first thing four mornings in a row. I don't do that very often, either.

    The disc includes five Domenico Scarlatti sonatas as filler. Given the success of her two Soler discs, I figured these would be superb, and so they prove to be. Her playing doesn't display the pianistic bravado of some other players (Pletnev, say), but it does maintain a lyrical, nuance-filled seriousness of some others (Schiff, for instance). When the final piece on the disc arrives, K380, Hinrichs dispatches all others - even the mighty Pletnev, who for the last sixteen years has been untouchable in this sonata in my collection - with a gentle beauty that leaves the listener, or at least this listener, wanting more. I most definitely wouldn't mind hearing more Scarlatti from her.

    I doubt many listeners would be as taken with this disc, or Hinrichs' other discs, as I obviously am, though some might be. She's just got my number. I can't entirely explain it. More so than even Sheila Arnold, I feel Marie-Luise Hinrichs can do no wrong. I doubt I ever get to hear her play in person, but if ever I do, I would jump at the chance, and I even have the perfect venue in mind - Mt Angel Abbey in Mt Angel, Oregon. I heard a sacred choral work program there recently, and the acoustics would suit Hinrichs' playing, and so would the setting. (In the real world, I'd have to head back east or to some Euro festival to hear her in person.) She has joined the likes of Michel Block in my pantheon of artists. Maybe she will eventually join St Annie.

    Sound is near SOTA, though maybe just a tad too close, with damper noise audible in quieter passages. A nice tube or single-ended solid state Class A headphone amp makes the playing sound even more appealing than a more unforgiving rig.

    Amazon UK link
  18. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    This disc mostly contains music new to me. The Grieg Cello Sonata is not, but this version is much better, much more vibrant than the Lloyd Webber/Forsberg recording. Somewhat like with Isserlis' Janacek Pohadka recordings, the music is drained of some of its characteristic Grieginess, but the trade-off here is playing of such perfectly judged intensity and controlled passion as to make this emerge a true chamber music masterpiece. It's so good that I think I may have to hear the Isserlis/Hough remake on Hyperion, which comes paired with Mendelssohn.

    The five short Liszt works are all excellent, and even if not his best efforts, they reveal Liszt to be more than a showman alone, in the event such evidence is still needed.

    The Anton Rubinstein Cello Sonata No 1 is large scaled, rich, and romantic, like bulked up Mendelssohn, with some Tchaikovsky tossed in. The Allegretto has some absolutely breathtaking cello playing, with Isserlis frantically whispering out figurations, which Hough later repeats expertly, though the effect is not quite the same due to the instrument. The piano music at the beginning of the Allegro molto sounds like nothing other than a Lied ohne Worte. If I could be assured all performances of Rubinstein's music were this good, I'd dramatically expand my collection of his music.

    RCA's best 90s sound caps off an unexpectedly great disc.

    Amazon UK link for the individual disc

    Amazon UK link for the Isserlis RCA box set - a much better deal
  19. George J

    George J pfm Member

    JS Bach and Haydn still remain my favourites.

    The most significant recording I got this year is the Saint Matthew Passion conducted in Vienna by Mogens Woldike. It is very special. Almost unknown in the English speaking World except the USA, it is never the less on the level of Richter or Klemperer, and in my humble opinion actually finer than either. It is also probably the first recording [1959] the first to use the appropriate scale of forces, and also using the correct instruments, though the pitch is modern.

    I listened to the three and a half ours of it in a single stretch. It is a real page turner. It compels interest. You cannot ignore it.

    On Vanguard CDs from the USA. Budget price.

    ATB from George
  20. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    Faure's chamber music is uniformly magnificent, and the later the better. Both Cello Sonatas are late. Both are masterpieces. Both are qualitatively equal to Beethoven's best in the genre. Isserlis and Devoyon deliver world-class performances of these two works and the shorter pieces, too. The extremely brief Allegretto moderato for Two Cellos is a fleeting beauty. The concluding original Andante, Op 69, for cello and organ shows how to blend those two instruments. Superb sound. Another great disc from the unexpectedly fine box.

    Amazon UK link for individual disc

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