BRITTEN: Piano Concerto, Op. 13. Violin Concerto, Op. 13. Original
third movement of Piano Concerto.
STRAVINSKY: The Firebird. Petrushka. Le sacre du printemps.
MONK: Railroad Travel Song. RACHMANINOFF: Five Preludes, Op. 23. TAO:
Vestiges. Iridescence. RAVEL: Gaspard de la nuit.
This new Chandos CD couples two early works of Benjamin Britten, the piano concerto composed in 1938 revised it in 1945, and the violin concerto written 1938-1939, revised three times, the latest in 1965. About five years ago this site mentioned a superb Hyperion recording of the piano concerto played by Howard Shelley containing all of the composer's music for piano and orchestra (REVIEW). It included the original version of the third movement as does the new Shelley version. This movement is a sprightly piece, and if you wish to you can program either disk to hear a four-movement concerto. The new Chandos CD couples it with the violin concerto with Tasmin Little as soloist. In CD notes both soloists speak of their affection for these concertos and it shows in these performances which have been captured in rich sonority. And collectors surely would not want to be without the famous recording of the piano concerto made in 1970 with the composer on the podium and Sviatoslave Richter as soloist (with the original third movement).
It seems most companies are jumping on the Stravinsky Sacre centenary, and now we have this new reissue from Melodiya. Both performances were recorded in the "Big Hall of the Moscow Conservatory," Firebird June 5, 1983, Petrushka March 5, 1990, Sacre August 4, 1981. CD notes say nothing about recording circumstances, and one wonders how the Boulez Petrushka came to be (his classic 1991 recording for Sony with the Cleveland Orchestra is a staple of the catalog). The Russian orchestras are large and aside from a few minor slips play very well indeed. These are big-scale performances that have very much of a "Russian" sound, as the hall was very resonant. Some low-end percussion is rather blurred, but the overall effect is pleasing. This is not an inexpensive reissue, but admirers of Stravinsky, and in particular Sacre, might wish to investigate it. The packaging is quite luxurious.
The Russians loved tenor Mario Del Monaco. In 1959, at the height of his career, he came to Moscow and appeared in two operas, Carmen and Pagliacci. This newly-released Melodiya CD, dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the occasion, offers the Pagliacci. Del Monaco is over the top vocally and sings Canio in Italian as all others sing in Russian. Festivity is the key word here, and the enthusiastic audience sometimes interrupts the performance with applause. It's a grand occasion in its way, and admirers of the remarkable tenor will surely wish to own this. ArkivMusic lists a pricey Myto set that includes both Pagliacci and Carmen.
Pianist Conrad Tao has already had a remarkable career. Born in 1994, he is a superb pianist, also plays the violin , and composes. He has won the ASCAP Young Composers Award 8 years in a row. When only 8 he played Mozart's Concerto No. 12 and later won several prestigious competitions. His EMI debut disk offers a wide variety of music beginning with Meredith Monk's flowing "travel song" Railroad. Of course the five Rachmaninoff preludes and Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit are played with utmost virtuosity, and we also have Tao's Vestiges ("upon walking alongside green glass, upon ripping perforated pages, upon being, upon viewing two porcelain figures"), and Iridescence, the latter written for piano "and iPad." No information is provided about just how this is accomplished, but the music surely has some fascinating sounds, rather like Debussy on steroids. This is an intriguing disk that surely serves the pianist better than his recent disk of piano music of Gordon Getty (REVIEW)..
R.E.B. (June 2013)