Latest Music Reviews

Koh Celebrates Saariaho

by David Vernier


Imagine the modern performer. In the “old” days, let’s say around the 1950s, the pinnacle for an aspiring young violinist might be the Bach Sonatas and Partitas; the Beethoven sonatas; concertos by Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky; perhaps a little Wieniawski, Sarasate, Saint-Saens; Mozart. Yet, today’s... Continue Reading

Sigiswald Kuijken’s Zany Bach of Wonders Boxed

by Jens F. Laurson


Sigiswald Kuijken’s La Petite Bande won’t win any beauty-prizes for the horn-playing in these Bach cantata recordings, which can be quite sour at times. It’s right at that edge where a lover of HIP performances might say that it adds indelible twang and color (certainly... Continue Reading

Litvintseva’s Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1: A Full-Priced Calling Card

by Jed Distler


A new release at full price by a relatively unknown pianist containing a piece that’s been recorded over and over again like the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 is bound to elicit a single word from most collectors and critics: “Why?”. Actually there’s much to... Continue Reading

Faceless Beethoven from Angelich & Equilbey

by David Hurwitz


No need to waste much time here. The Insula Orchestra is yet another one of those faceless period performance groups whose conductor, Laurence Equilbey, seems to believe that the timbre of the instruments legitimately substitutes for interpretive insight. These are sensibly paced, well-intentioned performances whose... Continue Reading

CD From Hell: Peter Gregson Banalizes Bach

by Jens F. Laurson


I like re-orchestrations, transcriptions, and re-compositions as much as the next guy. In fact, more than the next guy. Max Richter’s re-composed “4 Seasons” is terrific in its way; Hans Zender’s “composed interpretation” of Die Winterreise can be endlessly fascinating. Uri Caine’s Mahler is supremely... Continue Reading

Emerson Quartet Serves Tchaikovsky With A Side Of Schoenberg

by Victor Carr Jr


This is a rather unusual pairing, as Tchaikovsky and Schoenberg seem about as far apart as any two composers could be. (Although one could argue that Schoenberg’s highly-expressive, post-romantic work is not too distant in style from Tchaikovsky’s even more highly-expressive Pathètique symphony.) In any... Continue Reading

Giltburg’s Liszt: Impressive Pianism, Frustrating Musicianship

by Jed Distler


Boris Giltburg’s Liszt Transcendental Études abound with fussy rhythmic adjustments and quirky voicings that usually stop the music in its tracks and prevent a sense of flow and momentum. You hear this right from the start in the opening étude’s accelerandos and ritards (Giltburg’s, not... Continue Reading

Big Boxes: The Classic André Previn

by David Hurwitz


André Previn is one of those artists who’s difficult to pigeonhole, not that there’s anything wrong with that. A talented pianist, composer, and conductor in both the classical film, and jazz fields, his discography is vast and largely distinguished, but one thing is certain: he... Continue Reading

A Lady Macbeth From Hell

by Jens F. Laurson


The idea of Verdi’s Macbeth (in the original, dramatically taut 1847 version) performed by a period instrument ensemble is, generously viewed, intriguing–at least when Europa Galante and Fabio Biondi are involved, with all their creditable expertise in Italian music. Granted, Verdi is not Vivaldi and... Continue Reading

Alfred Bruneau’s Oh So Serious Orchestral Bits, Again

by David Hurwitz


This release duplicates exactly a somewhat more lively recording of the same repertoire on Marco Polo featuring James Lockhart and the Rhenish Philharmonic Orchestra. To be honest, Naxos needn’t have bothered doing it again. The music just isn’t that interesting. Bruneau (1857-1934) was an earnest,... Continue Reading

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