Latest Music Reviews

Glowing Netrebko in Iolanta

by Robert Levine

iolanta

Tchaikovsky’s final opera, Iolanta, is a brief affair in one act, slightly more than 90 minutes long. It’s not a masterpiece, but it has a mood and color that are most welcome. It entirely lacks the pomp and circumstance of his better-known operas and has... Continue Reading

A “Mr. Softee” Bruckner 7th from Runnicles

by Victor Carr Jr

Bruckner-7-Runnicles

Smooth and easy going–fitting descriptors, were I discussing a performance of Vaughan Williams’ A Lark Ascending. But this is not what you want in a Bruckner symphony (unless, that is, you prefer your Bruckner in the background). Donald Runnicles’ carefully crafted reading does emphasize the... Continue Reading

CPE Bach’s Symphonies–Each A Delight

by Robert Levine

CPE

One of the things that those particularly fond of the Classical era in music love is the formality, the predictability, and the changes that can be made within that formal structure. It gives comfort, and one admires differentiations in orchestration, combinations of and the highlighting... Continue Reading

So-So RVW 3 from Elder and Hallé

by David Hurwitz

VW3Elder

Vaughan Williams’ Pastoral Symphony has turned out to be a tricky work to conduct and record. Mark Elder hasn’t quite gotten the pacing right, or the expression. The first movement needs to be played with great rhythmic steadiness. It should convey an almost impersonal sense... Continue Reading

Chauzu’s Iberia: Very Good–But Worth Full Price?

by Jed Distler

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The composer and pianist Olivier Chauzu generally proves to be a capable if leisurely tour guide through Isaac Albéniz’s Iberia. He unearths Evocación’s subtle nuances and inner voices at a pace that’s more deliberate than the composer’s Allegretto, yet lacking the forward-impetus of comparably slow... Continue Reading

Marta Mathéu’s Beguiling Mompou Songs

by David Vernier

mompousongs

“Whoever she is, that singer really knows how to sing a song.” Those unsolicited words came from a professional singer/long-time voice teacher who happened to be in the next room when I first listened to this recording. The singer being praised is soprano Marta Mathéu,... Continue Reading

Great Prologue, Mediocre Opera in Frankfurt Ariadne

by Robert Levine

ariadne

This performance of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne was recorded live at the Frankfurt Opera in 2013. Applause comes only at the end of the opera proper; the fact that Zerbinetta’s aria goes unlauded, with acoustic and balance changes here and there, also leads me to believe... Continue Reading

Naxos’ Promising New Saint-Saëns Symphony Cycle

by David Hurwitz

SSSoustrot

All of Saint-Saëns’ symphonies have been thrown into the shadows by the popularity of the last of them, the famous “Organ” Symphony (No. 3). This is a pity, because the others are very enjoyable and rewarding pieces. The First, dating from 1852 when the composer... Continue Reading

Impressive Festing Violin Sonatas

by David Vernier

brandywinefesting

There certainly are composers from past eras whose music doesn’t merit serious modern-day scrutiny, but that’s not true of the work of 18th-century English violinist/composer Michael Christian Festing (1705-52). We can only speculate as to why his very attractive violin sonatas, rooted in Italian style... Continue Reading

Bayreuth ’61 Tannhäuser–Stunning Cast, Deeply Felt Performance

by Robert Levine

Tann

This is not to be confused with the (rightly) famous Philips recording with almost the same cast from a year later, also from Bayreuth. I find this performance somewhat more compelling–it has an energy that the ’62 does not: rarely have I heard the choral... Continue Reading

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