DEAN: Concerto for Violin "The Lost Art of Letter Writing." Testament. Vexations and Devotions.
Frnk Peter Zimmermann, violin; Sydney Symphony Orch/Jonathan Nott, cond. (concerto) BBC Symphony Orchestra violas/Mrtyn Brabbins, cond. (Testament). BBC Symphony Orchestra Ensemble/BBC Symphony Chorus/Gonwana Voices/David Robertson, cond.
BIS SACD 2016 TT: 86:22

HANDEL: Piano Concerto No. l, in G minor. Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat. Piano Concerto No. 3 in G minor. Piano Concerto No. 4 in F. Piano Concerto No. 5 in F. Piano Concerto No. 6 in B flat (all Op. 4)
Matthias Kirschnereit, piano/Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss/Lavard Skou Larsen, cond.
CPO 777 837 TT: 67:32

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K 595.
Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano/Die Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens, cond.
BIS SACD 2014 TT: 53:34

Looking for something off the cutting edge? Here it is, a SACD of music of Australian composer Brett Dean (b. 1961) who has enjoyed a long successful career. As a performer, he was a violist with the Berlin Philharmonic from 1985-1999 after which he determined he wanted a career as a freelance artist. He has won many awards for his music, and until 2010 was artistic director of the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne. His music is incredibly complex, his orchestration often bizarre including electronic effects. This unique SACD will be a challenge for just about everyone. It features The Lost Art of Letter Writing," which actually is a violin concerto. This incredibly difficult work was awarded the highly prized Grawemeyer Award in 2009. The subject is communication today (and lack of), each of the four movements prefaced with a quotation. Titles are Hamburg (1856) (The Hague (1882), Vienna (1886). and Jerioliderie (1879). We also have Testaments for 12 violas written in 2002 for Dean's fellow BPO violists. It is inspired by Beethoven's Heiligen Testament, a 15-minute work that includes a few quotes of Beethoven's music. The final work is Vexations and Devotions scored for chorus and large orchestra, described by the composer as "a sociocital cantata ...dealing with the dehumanization of society. which is closely bound up with the loss of language and an increasing sense of alienation." I assure you will hear in all of this music sounds that will be new to you, sometimes perhaps disturbing, but intriguing. . One can only admire the incredible artistry of all concerned, and all of these sounds have been vividly captured by the BIS engineers. Program notes by Antje Müller will help you understand what is going on. A unique SACD, indeed, for the curious and enterprising.

Handel wrote his Op. 4 concertos to be played as interludes during performances of other major work, particularly oratorios. Originally they were intended for solo organ or other keyboard instrument—on this fine new CPO SACD we hear them in masterful readings by Matthias Kirschnereit.on a splendid sounding modern piano, and it woks beautifully. The music is charming indeed. The final concerto was arranged by Handel for harp; it is just as ingratiating when played on the piano. The chamber ensemble played on period instruments that have a somewhat steely sound.

Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigan (b. 1954) is highly respected in his native country as well as in leading music centers of the world. He focuses on earlier composers and has many recordings of Beethoven, Handel, and Mozart, as well as works of Prokofiev, Richard Strauss and Shostakovich—I saw him give a spectacular performance of the latter's first piano concerto with the Royal Concertgebouw under Riccardo Chailly when they were on tour in Washington, D. C. some years ago. Brautigan apparently is recording all of the Mozart concertos and has started with some of the later ones, 9. 12. 17. 19. , 23, 24, 25 and 26, and now we have this latest issue, a coupling of Nos. 20 and 27. Elegant playing as one would expect, and the firm accompaniments on period instruments are just about perfect. The featured piano is a 2011 reconstruction by Paul McNulty of an instrument made in1801 by Anton Walter, whose fortepianos were admired and bought by Mozart and Beethoven. I prefer the Mozart concertos on a modern piano; if you enjoy them on fortepiano, surely you should investigate this. Excellent audio..

R.E.B. (November 2013)