BRITTEN: Variations on a Theme of Frank BRisto-Matti Marin (BIS / AUDITE / ALBA)ridge, Op. 10. Simple Symphony. Lachrymae, Op. 48a. Two Portraits. Elegy for Strings
Camerata Nordica/Terie Toonesen, cond.
BIS SACD 2060 TT: 81:04

BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59 No. 2. String Quartet in E flat, Op. 127
Quartetto Di Cremona
AUDITE SACD 92.681 TT: 69:42

WAGNER: Paraphrase on music from The Flying Dutchman (arr. Jukka Nykönen). Spinning Song from The Flying Dutchman (arr. Liszt). Prelude to Tristan and Isolde (arr. Schelling). Excerpts from The Ring (arr. Liszt, Brossin), Tausig, and Busoni). Tannhäuser Overture (arr. Liszt)
Risto-Matti Marin, piano

Here is a brilliant SACD of music for strings by Benjamin Britten. Most are early works: we have the dazzling Op. 10 set of variations on a theme of Frank Bridge, the charming Simple Symphony, and the early Two Portraits. An even earlier work is Elegy for Strings written in 1928, which here receives its premiere recording. The disk is filled out with Lachrymae (Reflections on a song of John Dow land), written in 1950 but revised in 1976 for viola and small string ensemble, the version heard here. Camerata Nordica is a virtuoso group under Terje Tonnesen's dynamic direction, and the BIS engineers have captured their performances with uncommon richness and clarity. A terrific issue!

This site has praised previous recordings by the Cremona Quartet. About a year ago, their collaboration with the Manderling Quartet in music of Mendelssohn was mentioned (REVIEW). The Cremona is in the process of recording Beethoven's quartets and here we have their brilliant accounts of two two of the best-known. These expert performances have been recorded with natural balances and the warm sound of the venue has been wonderfully captured. Collectors should look forward to future issues in the series.

Magic Fire is the name given to Alba's new issue of music of Wagner in various transcriptions for piano as listed above. Of course rich orchestral textures are essential for this music, but this is another approach to the composer's vision—and a much less expensive one. Three Liszt transcriptions include the seldom heard Rheingold finale. It seems odd that while the Prelude to Tristan (arranged by Schelling) is included, the Liebestod is not (there are outstanding piano arrangements by Liszt,Thalberg and Moszkowski). Perhaps space is the reason, but it would seem a disk of Wagner piano transcriptions should includeone of his most famous work. Finnish pianist Risto-Matti Marin (b. 1976) already has a .number of interesting CDs to his credit including Liszt symphonic poems arranged for piano. Some of these can be viewed on YouTube. He has a formidable technique and does an admirable performance of the fiendishly difficult Tannhäuser overture.

R.E.B. (November 2014)