GRIEG: Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 45. SIBELIUS Danses Champetres, Op 106. NIELSEN: Sonata No. 1 in A, Op. 9.
Ragnhild Hemsing, violin. Tor Espen Aspaas, piano.
2L Audio. 1 DVD, 1 SACD TT: 59:00
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PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 1 "Classical": Sytmphony No, 5, Op. 100
Netherlands Radio Philharmoniic Orchcestra / James Gaffigan, cond,
CHALLENGE SACD CC 72732 TT: 58:33
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DEAN: Dramatis Personae. FRANCESCONI: Hard Place.
Hakan Hareenberger, trumpet. Gothenburg Symphony / John Storgards, cond.
BIS SACD 2067 TT: 58:30
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"Northern Timbre" is the title given to this recital of Nordic music for violin and piano. It features sonatas by Grieg and Nielsen, along with the five brief pieces that comprise Sibeloius's Danses Champetres. Composed in 1925, this is a set of charming contrasting rustic dances, surely the lighter side of Sibelius. The gifted young Norwegian violinist Raganhild Hemsing and pianist Tor Espen Aspaas have performed together for several years and made a number of recordings. Surely they impress in this fine program, which is given deluxe treTM tdeluxe treatment - the hour-long program is presented in two formats: SACD and Blu Ray audio.I did not notice any difference in sound quality. The front cover shows the violinist playing in a dark snowy forest, appropriate, perhaps, for the music.

Young American conductor James Gaffigan in recent years has enjoyed an amazing career appearing with most of the major orchestras of Europe and the United States, both in concert and in the opera house. He surely impresses in this SACD of Prokofiev Symphonies 1 and 5. Symphony No 1 is given a somewhat leisurely but solid performance that misses none of the score's humor. Gaffigan's Symphony 5 is among the best. It has strong multi-channel competition from Valery Gergiev and his Mariinsky Orchestra (REVIEW), and Marin Alsop with the São Paulo Orchestra on Naxos Blu Ray audio (REVIEW). Recordings were made in Studio 5, MCO in Hilversum in June 2015 and June 2014 (Symphony 1). As usual with Challenge Classics, engineering is state-of-the-art. This is a very welcome release of standard repertory, perfectly done.

This site has praised many recordings by the astounding trumpet virtuoso Hakan Hardenberger, including music of Riisager (REVIEW). The jacket on his latest disk is misleading. It shows what first appears to be four jolly villagers, but a closer look reveals a dark side to each: one holds a skull, one resembles Hitler, one is a black-dresser ogre, and the fourth is playing the trumpet. The program opens with Dramatic Personae, which actually is a fantastically difficult trumpet concerto utilizing some of the music Brett wrote for his opera Hamlet. The work incorporates three electronic soundscapes created by the composer with simulated 'crack and pop" of a vinyl LP disk. There are three movements, the cacophony and harshness of the first two (Fall of a Superhero / The Accidental Revolutionary) broken by the relatively gentle Soliloquy second movement. Luca Francesconi wrote Hard Place for Hardenberger and it is dedicated to conductor Antonio Pappano and the St. Cecila and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestras which commissioned it. The composer describes it as a trek, a journey and it has three sections: Adagio, Miles, and Finale. All of this music is rough listening for most listeners but one cannot help but admire the incredible virtuosity displayed by both the soloist and orchestra. These intricate scores must be incredibly difficult to perform, particularly for the soloist who has seemingly hundreds of those taxing high notes to play. Excellent reproduction, as usual from BIS.

R.E.B. (July 2017)