Latest Music Reviews

Andsnes’ Beethoven Journey at the Finish Line

by Jed Distler

In 2012 Leif Ove Andsnes launched “The Beethoven Journey”, a project involving concert performances of all five Beethoven piano concertos and the Choral Fantasy, plus recordings with the pianist leading the Mahler Chamber Orchestra from the piano. When I interviewed Andsnes that year, he had... Continue Reading

Exciting Yet Problematic Haydn On Alpha

by David Hurwitz

This release has a lot going for it. First, there is the very worthwhile concept: a series of Haydn symphony recordings alongside couplings of unusual interest by the great man’s contemporaries. Here we have the shorter, original version of Gluck’s Don Juan ballet, made possible... Continue Reading

DiDonato Sings Neapolitan Bel Canto–Gloriously

by Robert Levine

This bel canto fiesta is filled with mostly unknown pieces. The only familiar works are Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, Bellini’s I Capuleti (and one of the melodies from it he had used previously in the unknown Adelson e Salvini), and to a lesser degree, Rossini’s Zelmira.... Continue Reading

Feldman’s Gripping String Quartet No. 1

by Jed Distler

Unlike the repetitions and slow-moving shifts characterizing his five-to-six-hour-long String Quartet No. 2, Morton Feldman’s 1979 String Quartet No. 1 is more of a mosaic on the surface, full of fragments bound by small silences. There are beautiful soft cluster chords in all registers, sometimes... Continue Reading

The Medium-Tempered Aimard

by Jed Distler

While Pierre-Laurent Aimard interprets certain areas of 20th- and 21st-century repertoire with incandescent mastery (Ives, Carter, Messiaen, Ligeti, and Boulez, for example) he’s unpredictable in earlier music. His Bach is a case in point. Reviewing Aimard’s DG The Art of Fugue I wrote how the... Continue Reading

Strangely Mediocre Carmen with Kasarova and Kaufmann

by Robert Levine

One might speculate as to why this 2008 performance of Carmen from Zurich has just been released, but frankly, it is not quite worth the concern. The draw here–unless you’re a Vesselina Kasarova groupie–is Jonas Kaufmann’s Don José. He does not disappoint, but he’s heard... Continue Reading

Barry Douglas’ Individually Idiomatic Schubert

by Jed Distler

No sooner did Barry Douglas undertake a Brahms cycle for Chandos than he begins this one devoted to Schubert, starting with the last sonata and the Wanderer-Fantasie, separated by two Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs. The sonata’s long opening Molto moderato unfolds as if it... Continue Reading

Joel Schoenhals’ Schubert and Schumann

by Jed Distler

A faculty member at Eastern Michigan University, pianist Joel Schoenhals first attracted my attention with two unusual and brilliantly executed CD releases: one devoted to Chinese piano music, the other to Liszt/Schubert transcriptions including all 14 songs from Schwanengesang. By contrast, the present release offers... Continue Reading

Schumann–And More–From Jonathan Biss, Live at Wigmore

by Jed Distler

In 2013 Jonathan Biss launched a series of concerts titled “Under the Influence”, examining Robert Schumann, composers who influenced him, and composers that he influenced. The first half of his May 22 Wigmore Hall concert contained Schumann’s Fantasiestücke Op. 12 interspersed with movements from the... Continue Reading

Unaffecting Handel from Coote and Bicket

by Robert Levine

British mezzo Alice Coote is a marvelous, refined artist, in the manner of Anne Murray and, to a lesser extent, Janet Baker. Her singing is elegant, her coloratura excellent and free of aspirates; she has conquered many levels of dynamics. (In contrast, Baker has conquered... Continue Reading

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