GUBAIDULINA: Fachwerk for Bayan, Percussion and String Orchestra. Silenzio for Bayan, Violin and Cello
Geir Draugsvoll, bayan; Anders Loguin, percussion; Geir Inge Lotsberg, violin; Oyvind Gimse, cello; Trondheim Symphony Orchestra Strings/Oyvind Gimse, cond.
NAXOS 8.572772 TT: 55:54

ARNOLD: Cello Concerto, Op. 136. Concerto for Flute and Strings, Op. 19a. Fantasy for Recorder and String Quartet, Op. 140. Saxophone Concerto. Symphony for Strings, Op. 13.
Raphael Wallfisch, cello; Esther Ingham, flute; John Turner, recorder; Cari Raven, alto saxophone; Northern Chamber Orch/Nicholas Ward, cond; Manchester Sinfonia/Richard Howarth, cond.
NAXOS 8.572640 TT: 73:17

AMIROV: Concerto for Piano and orchestra after Arabian Themes. ADIGEZALOV: Piano Concerto No. 4. GULIYEV: Gaytagi - Dance for Piano and Orchestra. BADATHEYLI: The Sea for Piano and Orchestra. Shusha.
Farhad Badalbeyli, piano (Amirov); Murad Adigezalade, piano (Adigezalov); Joan Rodgers, soprano (Badalbeyli); Royal Philharmonic Orch/Dmitry Yablonsky, cond.
NAXOS 8.572666 TT: 68:52

RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. Symphonic Dances, Op. 45.
Garrick Ohlsson, piano; Atlanta Symphony Orch/Robert Spano, cond.
ASO MEDIA CD 1003 TT: 79:09

Russian composer Sofia Gubaldulina (b . 1931) composes music that is significant, revelatory and incredibly challenging music. Recently this site mentioned a stunning orchestral work, Rider of the White Horse in a magnificent recording by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra directed by David Robertson (REVIEW), a video about an amazing violin concerto written for Anne-Sophie Mutter (REVIEW), and the intriguing Canticle of the Sun and Music for Flute, Strings and Percussion reviewed on this site by the late Roger Dettmer (REVIEW). Gubaldulina seems fascinated with unusual instruments and instrumental combinations thereof. Naxos' new CD offers the five-movement Silenzio for bayan, violin and cello composed in 1991, and the 36-minute Fachwerk (Timber Framing) for bayan, percussion and string orchestra, dating from 2009, revised two years later. Both were written for Geir Draugsvoli who is a master of his unusual instrument which is a folk-derived accordion. I don't particularly enjoy the sounds it produces, but one can only marvel at the music written for it, and virtuosity of the performers. Stimulating listening indeed, and the Naxos audio is state-of-the-art.

British composer David Ellis (b. 1933) has made some arrangements of four works by Sir Malcolm Arnold heard in premiere recordings on this superb Naxos release. The only original Arnold work is his 1946 Symphony for Strings in which he already displayed his energetic style and use of dissonance. Throughout his entire career, Arnold (1921-2006) wrote concertos for friends and colleagues resulting in 18 concertos for various instruments as well as numerous works for chamber and solo performers. Arnold started his career as a trumpet virtuoso and can be heard playing the difficult trumpet solo in his comedy overture Beckus the Dandipratt, which he recorded in 1946 with Van Beinum and the London Philharmonic (see our FEATURE on Arnold). The Cello Concerto, Op. 136 was written for Julian Lloyd Webber who premiered it in 1988. It isn't clarified just what was involved in the Ellis "performing edition." The Concerto for Flute and Strings is an orchestration of the Flute Sonatina, Op. 19, the Fantasy for Recorder and String Quartet was "revised" by Ellis and has five brief movements, each expertly played by John Turner on five different styles of recorders. Ellis arranged and orchestrated the Piano Sonata Arnold wrote when he was only 21, and is now a quixotic saxophone concerto. All of this music is brilliantly played, and audio is superb. Here's another winner from Naxos—don't miss it!

"Azerbaijani Piano Concertos" is the title of a new disk featuring works for piano and orchestra by composers who graduated from the Azerbaijani State Music Conservatory. Fikret Amirov (1922-1984) became known to American audiences through the 1959 Stokowski/Houston Symphony recording of Kyurd Ovshari ("Azerbaijan Mugam"). The Piano Concerto was a collaboration with pianist Elmira Nazirova who apparently was the inspiration behind Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 (in the third movement her name is musically encoded). Inspired by trips to Arab countries, the concerto is a substantial three-movement work with two dynamic outer movements separated by an effective andante. Vasif Adigezalov (1935-2006) was one of Azerbaijan's best-known composers. His Piano Concerto No. 4 is a brilliant work also in three movements; it is a showpiece for the soloist with huge sonorities and traces of both Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff. Young pianist Murad Adigezaizade plays it spectacularly—it is not clarified if he related to the composer. Gaytag, composed by Tufig Guliyev (1917-2000) is a brief (3:41) virtuoso dance for piano and orchestra. Two works by Farhad Badalbeyli (b. 1947) complete the disk: The Sea scored for piano and orchestra, and Shusha for soprano and orchestra. The Sea is a Montovani-esque romantic work with countless arpeggios, rich strings, and suggestions of Rachmaninoff, pleasant enough. Shusha is a vocalise depicting the sad story of the ancient city of that name. This is a delightful CD of piano and orchestra exotica, beautifully recorded, expertly performed. Thanks, Naxos, once again.

Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 is now standard concert repertory, reflected in more than 50 recordings, many of which are of highest quality. My favorites are those by Martha Argerich, Vladimir Horowitz, William Kapell, Jean-Yves Thaubadet, Van Cliburn, Arcadi Volodos, Earl Wild and of course the composer. Garrick Ohlsson, whose Chopin and Beethoven recordings have rightfully been praised, now enters the field and in a most impressive way. Of course he has technique to burn, plays the score without cuts (as usually is the custom) and doesn't rush idyllic moments. I saw Ohlsson play this concerto in a concert by the Baltimore Symphony at the Merriweather Post Pavillion in July 1975. The conductor was Leon Fleisher. As I recall, it was a stunning performance with some unintentional humor at the end. Garrick is a giant of a physical presence and because of this, his knees touched the bottom of the piano. During the rousing ovation, many people laughed as the bottom of the piano apparently was dirty and Ohlsson's white tuxedo showed two large black marks at the knees. This Atlanta performance was recorded in concert September 26, 2009 and eliminates applause. Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances is a generous filler, although the Atlanta orchestra doesn't have the lush string sonorities so important in this music.