Latest Music Reviews

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

L’Orfeo Barockorchester’s Stunning Rebel Returns

by John Greene

In 1737 at age 71, after more than four decades serving in numerous positions as a Court violinist, orchestra director, and part-time composer, Jean-Féry Rebel composed his profoundly unique ballet-suite Les élémens (the elements). In his description of the opening movement (included in the notes... Continue Reading

A New Cycle of Janácek Orchestral Music Begins

by David Hurwitz

First some housekeeping. This version of the suite from The Cunning LIttle Vixen is allegedly the “final” edition prepared by Charles Mackerras, consisting largely of the Talich score (that is, most of Act 1) but with Janácek’s original orchestration restored. According to Janácek scholar John... Continue Reading

A 21st-Century New Zealand Piano Landscape

by Jed Distler

Landscape Preludes consists of 12 piano pieces composed between 2003 and 2007 by 12 different composers from New Zealand. They were commissioned by the New Zealand-based pianist Stephen De Pledge, who also gave their premieres. Their first CD recording, however, features another pianist, Henry Wong... Continue Reading

An Unnecessary Bach Recital from Joshua Bell

by Robert Levine

This is Joshua Bell’s first recording of any of Bach’s music. As you might imagine, the playing is expert, for the most part, and Bell happily uses a very light touch, particularly in the outer movements of the overly familiar concertos. The final movement of... Continue Reading

Lintu’s Light and Lively Messiaen

by David Hurwitz

Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie is no longer a special event. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to see the work enter the repertoire, finding itself within the capabilities of most full-time professional ensembles. Hannu Lintu’s performance fits the new paradigm: his conducting has an... Continue Reading

Keyboard Delights by Kabalevsky

by Jed Distler

Although Dmitri Kabalevsky’s concertos and sonatas hardly lack for good recordings, few pay attention to his prolific output of shorter solo piano pieces. That’s a shame, because this composer, if not a towering original, wrote imaginatively and effectively for the keyboard, as the works on... Continue Reading

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