Author Topic: The Asian Invasion  (Read 11053 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #120 on: April 23, 2018, 04:26:54 AM »



Anna Kurasawa is a name new to me.  Born and raised in Japan, she lived and studied in her home country until graduating from the Toho Gakuen College of Music, and thereafter she moved to Germany to study there, as well as in France.  Along the way, she won various competitions.  This debut disc of Brahms and Rachmaninoff was released by Naxos Japan.

The disc opens with the Brahms Third Sonata.  Kurasawa starts off with a bass-rich, weighty, and quite slow Allegro maestoso that comes in at 11'40".  Sometimes, in such slow recordings, musical lines can be stretched to the breaking point, but that doesn't happen here.  Instead, the playing becomes more episodic and more sectionalized than normal.  That doesn't help.  Kurasawa plays the Andante espressivo at a more conventional tempo.  She avoids the more intimate approach of FFG and instead, like others, keeps the approach larger in scale, though it nonetheless sounds attractive, if not perhaps as flowing as other versions.  Kurasawa reverts to the slower than normal pace in the Scherzo, which makes it kind of trudge along as a result.  The same applies to the Intermezzo.  The finale, too, is slow, though here, like in the opener, she creates a nice sense of scale.  Overall, the sonata is slower than I prefer and doesn't match up to preferred versions.

The Rachmaninoff Moments Musicaux don't display the same excessive slowness, but they are on the generally broad side, which is, or can be, fine.  Unfortunately, Kurasawa doesn't really play up Rachmaninoff's harmonic richness well, nor does she dazzle with virtuosic display.  She's not really very romantic, either.  The playing often seems kind of rote and drab.

Here's a case where streaming is ideal; I would have been more disappointed had I shelled out green for this.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #121 on: April 30, 2018, 04:24:55 AM »



It took me a while to get to Klara Min's Chopin Mazurkas disc.  It's been available for streaming for a good long while, but my experience with her Scriabin strongly suggested that a minimum of sixteen bit resolution is needed to appreciate what she does with the music.  And what she does here is similar to what she does with Scriabin: her tone is slightly bright and her playing is of the supremely fastidious and very personal sort.  While her rhythmic sense appeals, she lacks the more overtly dance-like rhythm of some other pianists.  Rather, Min lavishes immense attention to matters dynamic and tempo related.  Her dynamic gradations are so finely controlled as to invite - nay, demand - hushed, fully attentive listening.  Too, her rubato, with the minutest of minute shifts in tempo, demand attention.  The Mazurkas are, of course, short works, yet as presented here, each one is a self-contained work with nearly infinite details to attend to, and sometimes the result is that a two minute piece, though not slow, seems to go on longer than expected as Min will make the relative note value and dynamic shadings between two notes stand out, and she will render an arpeggio a series of events chained together rather than something dashed off.  Sometimes one forgets what one is listening to.  In some ways, Min goes further than Vassily Primakov or even Jean-Marc Luisada in terms of personalizing and micro-managing the pieces.  That's not a bad thing, not at all.  The only complaint I have is that she did not record the complete set of Mazurkas.  Min's discography is thin, though as luck would have it, her web-site states that she recorded for Steinway & Sons this month, with the release slated for June.  I don't know what she recorded, but I suspect I'll listen to it.   
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #122 on: May 07, 2018, 04:28:10 AM »



Takashi Asahina is a conductor I have long associated with Bruckner more than anything.  I figured now was as good a time as any to stream him conducting something else.  I settled on Beethoven.  This complete symphony cycle is recorded with the Osaka Philharmonic.  You know, his orchestra, as in the one he established in 1947 and led until his death.  This cycle was recorded in the year 2000, the year before his death.  He was 92 years old at the time.  This was his final presentation of the cycle.

Asahina's Beethoven is old school and that is evident from the opening bars of the First.  Tempi are broad, sometimes very broad.  Flashy gestures are a no-go.  Reverence is a must.  He's conducts like Takahiro Sonoda plays piano.  And there's nothing wrong with that, not at all.  The first two symphonies sound very stately, and more than occasionally reserved, the First relatively more than the Second.  That's not to say that they sound stodgy and don't flow, because they always sound forward-moving, and the finale of the second has some pep in its step.  The Eroica is very slow.  As in almost late career Carlo Maria Giulini slow.  He takes nearly as long as the Italian's LAPO take in the opening movement, and even longer in the funeral march, where he's in Celi territory.  Listeners who like slow burn Thirds have a higher probability of liking this than people who prefer speed, and Asahina does an estimable job of building up momentum and scale, but he doesn't achieve Giulini's ultimate power and granduer.  The funeral march, despite its length, never sags, and the Scherzo is hefty yet energetic.  The final theme and variations comes in at over thirteen minutes, and while it does sound quite slow, it is large of scale and possessed of seriousness and grandeuer and works well within such a broad conception.  Asahina's style works well overall here.  It doesn't work so well in the Fourth.  The first movement is on the slow side, but it's weighty, and the second and third movements sound similar, but the finale is just way too slow and heavy.  The Fifth is a slow, weighty, old-school reading, and one needn't listen beyond the lengthy fermata at the end of the somewhat famous opening to understand that.  How much one likes such an approach overall may or may not determine how much likes this reading.  I like it quite a bit, though the too slow tempo prevent it from being a favorite.  Slow tempi do not necessarily prevent maximum enjoyment in the Pastorale, and that's the case with this performance.  The first three movements move along at a leisurely pace, to the point that some may find the playing too slow, but it flows.  The Sturm is hampered just a bit by the slow tempo, but there is plenty of oomph.  Asahina then closes with a too-grand-but-so-what? and quite lovely Shepherd's Song.  It's a highlight of the cycle.  The Seventh, as expected, is broad of tempo and grand of gesture, especially in the often massive, dirge-like Allegretto.  The Presto is very dignified, but also sounds like an Adagio most of the time.  The somewhat stately Allegro con brio works well, especially when Asahina brings it in the coda.  Overall, it's decent, with that monumental Allegretto good enough to stick in the memory.  The Eighth falls right into line with the rest of the cycle to this point, and ultimately that means it is less than ideally satisfactory.  More snap is needed.  Fans of slower versions of this symphony may be more enthusiastic.  Not surprisingly, Asahina's Ninth is broad of tempo and stately of presentation, and also unsurprisingly, the Adagio is very fine indeed.  Generally, I like higher wattage takes here (eg, Munch), but Asahina's is a very fine example of its kind. 

This set offers yet another example of the value of streaming.  At its current price, I doubt I'd buy a physical copy of the cycle, but I got to hear it anyway, and in the event it ends up a budget issue at some point, I may buy it just to hear better what the engineers captured.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #123 on: May 14, 2018, 03:41:19 AM »



Yurino Izumi is so obscure that the only reason I stumbled upon this disc is because it showed up in Amazon Music's queue while I perused for new Schubert recordings.  Ms Izumi, per her poorly designed and maintained web-site, was born in Japan in 1983, studied there and in Paris, won a few competitions and awards, and currently concertizes.  This is her only commercially available recording as far as I can tell, and I opted to stream it.

The disc includes eight Liszt transcriptions of Schubert lieder and the D894 sonata.  The lieder transcriptions for the most part sound beautiful and lyrical and almost always favor the melody over the accompaniment.  The combination of streaming and less than A-list engineering for the live recording mean that dynamics are not world class, but that's more or less fine.  Sometimes, as in Die Forelle, Izumi's playing fits well, but in neither Gretchen am Spinnrade nor Erlkoenig does she really generate quite enough dramatic tension, though the latter does possess ample scale.  In the sonata, Izumi takes her time with a 19'11" Molto moderato e cantabile where too compressed or limited dynamics are offset by a lovely cantabile style.  While not devoid of some darker or stormier passages, the opener ends up being mostly about lyrical beauty.  The Andante is a bit slower and more introspective most of the time, and more beautiful yet.  It also ends up having more intense playing as well, indicating that at least part of the first movement's comparatively narrow dynamic range was an interpretive choice.  In the Allegro moderato Izumi somehow manages to play even more beautifully than before in the slow music, and she deploys some discreet rubato to good effect.  Unsurprisingly, Izumi ends by playing a lovely Allegretto. 

The disc is entertaining enough overall, and streaming probably doesn't offer the very best possible sound, but I think I'll pass on buying a physical copy, though I would not be averse to listening to any potential future releases from Ms Izumi.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations