GETTY: Plump Jack
GETTY: Homework Suite. Ancestor Suite. Three Traditional Pieces.
First Adventure. Raise the Colors. Andantino. Scherzo Pensieroso
BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 3 in D, Op. 18 No. 3. String Quartet
No. 5 in A, Op. 18 No. 5. String Quartet No. 16 in F, Op. 135.
Gordon Getty (b. 1934) has spent a small part of his wealth (estimated at $3 billion) promoting the arts and music, including some of his own. Pentatone, doubtless with help from Mr. Getty, has issued several recordings of his music including two reviewed on this site: a pleasant group of orchestral pieces conducted by Sir Neville Marriner (REVIEW), and a large scale cantata Joan and the Bells with soloists, chorus and the Russian National Orchestra (REVIEW). Here now are two new disks, the first offering highlights from Getty's "tragic comedy" opera Plump Jack based on on episodes in the life of Falstaff in scenes from Shakespeare plays. There are a number of cuts in the score, probably so it would fit onto a single disk (PT: 78:34). The recording was made in a Bavarian radio studio in May 2011. Singers generally are excellent although Christopher Robertson's wobble and Melody Moore's harsh sound distract. Obviously a lot of time and effort—and $$$—went into this, but the end result is unmemorable. Getty's music has little to say and you probably won't remember any of it. Without the composer's support, I doubt this recording would exist. The same could be said of the other Pentatone disk featuring various short keyboard works by Getty played by young American-born pianist Conrad Tao. Tao is at the beginning of what doubtless will be a remarkable career; he has won a number of prestigious awards including being named a US Presidential Scholar for the arts. Tao also is a violinist and composer; he has been commissioned to write an orchestral work for the Dallas Symphony—rather remarkable for a musician not yet 20. EMI shortly will issue a solo disk featuring Tao. Tao does what can be done for these innocuous little piano pieces by Ge tty. Totally forgettable. This is one disk where I don't mind very short playing time. Excellent audio from Pentatone on both disks, but not particularly "surround."
The Hagen Quartet, currently violinists Lukas Hagen and Rainer Schmidt, violist Veronika Hagen and cellist Clemens Hagen, has a long distinguished recording history. They have recorded most of the staples of the quartet repertory including all of Beethoven's and Bartók's, some by Mozart, plus Janacek, Ligeti and Schoenberg. Now apparently they are starting a new Beethoven cycle for their new label, MYRIOS (most of their previous recordings were on DGG), and the new series promises to be a winner. These recordings were made last year in two locations, but the sound is consistently warm and clear. The players are in front of you, with little ambient sound coming from rear speakers, a very natural concert hall effect.
R.E.B. (June 2013)