Latest Music Reviews

Norma Fisher: A Great Pianist Rediscovered

by Jed Distler

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Born in 1940, British pianist Norma Fisher enjoyed a busy performing life before the onset of focal dystonia in her right arm forced her to retire from concertizing in the 1990s and refocus her career on teaching. Although Fisher did not make commercial recordings, live... Continue Reading

Slow Flow Beauty: A Tribute To Hans Knappertsbusch (Blu-ray)

by Jens F. Laurson

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This Blu-ray titled “A Tribute to Hans Knappertsbusch” is a tribute by virtue of showing, not telling, what the conductor was about. There’s no documentary element, just two live broadcasts of concerts that Knappertsbusch gave with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Vienna Festival-Week in the... Continue Reading

Mahan Esfahani’s Intriguing Goldberg Variations

by Jens F. Laurson

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From the start, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani deviates from the well-worn, well-known embellishments and grace-notes in Bach’s Goldberg Variations as we know them through Grandmaster Glenn Gould and just about everyone since. The easily irritable Esfahani knows he isn’t the first to record these works, but... Continue Reading

Salonen’s Puzzling Eroica

by Jed Distler

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It’s a cliché to label small-scaled, chamber-dimensioned, period-performance-informed recordings of the Eroica as “Beethoven-lite”. But that’s exactly what Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Sinfonia Grange au Lac deliver. Dynamics are alternately flattened out (the pluperfect yet under-dramatized first-movement tutti hemiolas) or exaggerated (the mannered swelling of... Continue Reading

Prosseda Splashes Sunshine Over Mendelssohn’s Piano Concertos

by Jens F. Laurson

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Felix Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto in G minor is hardly a youthful effort, seeing that at 22 Mendelssohn was already a grizzled veteran and roughly one third into his entire compositional career. Still, it’s a brilliant, frothy little thing that fits right in there with... Continue Reading

Historical Gems: Ashkenazy’s First Recordings Via Profil

by Jed Distler

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Discographical vagary often accompanies Profil’s piano reissues, and the label’s Vladimir Ashkenazy compilation “The First Recordings” is no exception. Let’s examine the contents. From 1955 we have 11 solo Chopin selections recorded live during the Warsaw Chopin Competition, some of which appeared on the Angel... Continue Reading

Demus’ 1984 Schumann Fortepiano CD Resurfaces: Do We Care?

by Jed Distler

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MDG has reissued these 1984 Schumann recordings by Jörg Demus with an updated booklet note taking into account the pianist’s death in April, 2019. Demus recorded lots of Schumann over his long career, including a complete cycle of the piano music in the 1970s and... Continue Reading

Wei Luo’s Promising Debut

by Jed Distler

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The 20-year-old Chinese-born pianist Wei Luo has been attending the Curtis Institute of Music since age 13, where she studies with Gary Graffman and Robert McDonald, and was the recipient of the 2018 Gilmore Young Artist Award. There’s no questioning her pianistic proficiency. Ravel’s La... Continue Reading

Gentle Brahms 3 and Dvorák 8 from Hrusa and Bamberg

by David Hurwitz

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In the interview that accompanies this disc, conductor Jakub Hrusa admits that he prefers works that do not conclude with a “superficially effective ending,” whatever that may be. It’s a silly comment for any number of reasons, but perhaps it explains why this recording of... Continue Reading

A Big Box of Roussel, Wonder of Wonders

by David Hurwitz

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Every so often the major labels extrude a heap of stuff, seemingly by accident, that leads one to believe that a glimmer of intelligence lurks somewhere in the bowels of their corporate digestive systems. Here is one such. Warner has put together a big box... Continue Reading

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