Author Topic: The Asian Invasion  (Read 3253 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #40 on: July 19, 2017, 06:09:56 AM »



The Ninth.  Lim's rendition comes in at around fifty-six minutes, so again in the realm of conventional timings.  The opening movement is ever so slightly quick and tense, and though not as fierce as some other versions, there's more bite than in some prior symphonies in this cycle.  The playing also sounds more ethereal while also sounding a bit detached, which works well.  The Scherzo has plenty of drive and power and weight, and a sense of intensity approaching fearsomeness, in the outer sections, and the middle section is uncommonly light and dance-like, and the less than fully clear recording (by SOTA standards) combines with the playing to create a nice blurred effect.  The Adagio sounds both beautiful and just a bit intense.  Lim can choose to play with great beauty, as he showed in previous symphonies, but that clearly is not what he wanted here.  And once again, while the symphony is not as dominated by brass as other readings, Lim uses them well, and he creates some nice effects when he brings them more into the mix.  Lim brings the orchestra to a massive, nearly fearsome - heck, almost apocalyptic a la Furtwangler - climax at just after eighteen minutes and then allows for a lengthy pause to let the effect settle in.  The coda is lovely and just a bit tense to start, then it becomes gentler and more serene until fading away.  Lim himself seems to be even more engaged in this symphony than some preceding ones based on more frequent vocalizing, and this engagement shows in one of the best performances of the cycle.  Given the editions Lim uses for some symphonies, and the comparatively brass-light sound, and somewhat smaller apparent scale of the playing, I can't say that this is one if the great Bruckner cycles.  But, with that written, the excellent playing, the string-heavy sound, the sometimes detached approach, and the sometimes uncommon and almost unreal aural beauty on offer results in a unique cycle that more than ended up justifying the purchase for me.  I will definitely be revisiting the whole thing, probably starting with the Fifth.

Jochum's sixty minute version starts off more or less as expected: dark, mysterious, more brass heavy, large scaled.  While slightly swifter than Lim's in timing, the pacing nonetheless sounds more relaxed, the tension less pronounced in the early going, the music deeper.  And the low string pizzicati are pretty sweet.  As the movement progresses, Jochum generates apocalyptic music to rival Furtwangler, with the immense benefit of good sound.  The Scherzo, only a bit quicker than Lim, generates more intensity in the outer sections, and the trio very much meets it "schnell" designation.  The Adagio is simply marvelous.  Notably slower than Lim's, it sounds quicker and basically pulls off a Celi by making time irrelevant.  While lovely at times, this is no tender and gentle reading for the most part; it is simultaneously transcendent and despondent, and while Lim was no slouch when it comes to transitions, Jochum's sound perfect and seamless.  And he leads a blistering climax that I've not heard bettered.  The coda is gentler, lovelier, and radiant.  This is one of the great Bruckner Ninths.  Overall, Jochum's cycle is better than Lim's and would make for a good introduction to the works, though I think Wand's is still probably better for that type of role.  Jochum's cycle is more uneven than Lim's but that just means that it ranges from excellent to truly great.  I'm perfectly glad to have both.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #41 on: July 24, 2017, 06:21:12 AM »



Kim's Fifth.  For this recording, A/B duties fell to Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra, who got first listen.  I've long enjoyed this recording for the beautiful strings and the superb sound.  Eschenbach's tempi are quite leisurely overall, but he knows how to make it sound very nice.  No longueurs here, with masterful pacing and transitions and satisfyingly powerful climaxes, and the Andante cantabile is seductively gorgeous.  Eschenbach's reading is very much of the romantic variety.

In contrast, Kim takes the work much faster.  In the outer movements, he's faster than Mravinsky.  As one might expect with such zippy tempi, the playing is more intense and more classically proportioned, like Mravinsky, though not quite at that level.  He and his Suwon band crank right through the opening movement and generate some heat and a sense of tragedy without overdoing it.  The Andante likewise conveys a tragic feel without overdoing it.  It's emotional playing, but not full heart-on-sleeve playing, and the climax is nicely weight and urgent.  The third movement is swift and at times bracing, as is the Finale, which scales up the drama in climaxes even more.  It offers a most entertaining contrast with Eschenbach.

Sound for the recording is like the prior discs in the cycle.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #42 on: July 28, 2017, 05:38:48 AM »



Another entry for Dong Hyek Lim, and a first appearance for Ji Young Lim.  Ms Lim is a young at only twenty-two years of age, but she already has one big competition win under her belt: the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Competition.  Before Steve Harvey flubbed announcing the winner of the 2016 Miss Universe, something similar appears to have happened when the person announcing the winner's name at the QE did not state it clearly enough and violinist Lee Ji Yoon thought her name had been called.  This little factoid makes me want to sample Lee Ji Yoon's playing.  Another factoid, and one more relevant to the proceedings here, is that Lim pays a 1708 Strad.

This disc includes three Mozart Violin Sonatas (K301, K304, and K378) Beethoven's first Violin Sonata.  As expected, both players play very well.  Lim's playing in the Mozart is clean and unfussy, and quite attractive.  DH Lim's playing is much the same.  There's a nice degree of energy, especially in K378, but the playing is somewhat safe.  No big gestures, no grand flourishes.  The Beethoven sounds even more energetic, but it remains decidedly classical in style, and somewhat small in scale.  DH Lim's playing is quite ear-catching at times, and as far as safe and proper approaches go, this is very well done.

Overall, a good disc, but I was left wanting more.

Sound is very clear and clean, but also a bit bright.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2017, 05:58:58 AM by Todd »
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #43 on: July 31, 2017, 05:24:39 AM »




Kim's Sixth and Seventh.  Kim's take on the Sixth is largely clean and austere, almost severe.  The recorded sound is not as heavy and think as what came before, though it is not thin.  While Kim does not lead an especially fast version, it maintains tension throughout.  The second movement, while not particularly beautiful, is most effective in the middle as the winds come to the fore and the strings subside in importance while sounding very clean.  The Poco vivace moves relentlessly forward, again without being unduly swift, and sounds edgy and angular.  The final movement maintains tension without excess and never really sounds beautiful; here is the musical cold spring water the composer wrote about.  While I can't say it's my favorite version of the work, it's very nice, indeed.  The only beef I have is the use of slightly more extended than normal silences between movements.

The Seventh.  Kim starts off with an appropriately slow tempo, and the sound and style is clear and forward moving.  Kim unfolds the piece nicely, if perhaps some of the tempo shifts are not as perfectly executed as Karajan manages (his is my favorite version), but then this is a live recording and out-executing Fluffy and crew is a mighty tall order.  Kim does elicit mood shifts with the sectional changes and generates some satisfying intensity and hints of mystery, as well.  It's possible to find the end of the Presto section pressed just a bit too much, but that just ends up offering maximum contrast to the Adagio, which itself blends into the gorgeous and at times searing Largamente molto quite beautifully.  The timp thunder underpins a rather impressive coda.  The cycle ends on a strong note.

The cycle as a whole does not rate as the best I've heard, though Sibelius, more than some symphonic composers, doesn't really lend himself to ordinal rankings very well for me.  Playing is excellent throughout, Kim avoids interpretive eccentricity, and sound is excellent.  Sometimes I wanted more engagement and fire, and other times not.  I will gladly return to the cycle, and I wouldn't mind hearing more from the conductor, be it as conductor or pianist - or both.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #44 on: August 04, 2017, 06:02:00 AM »



Some Liszt from 2005 International Franz Liszt Piano Competition winner Yingdi Sun.  Sun was born in 1980 in China, received most of his training in his home country, and then embarked on the international competition and touring circuit.  This disc, recorded in 2008, appears to be the only one available from him.  It includes the Sonata (which I desperately needed another version of), the three Petrarch Sonnets, and the St Francois Legend.  The Sonata opens the disc, and at just a tad over a half hour, it's on the leisurely side.  That's no problem as pianists like Pogorelich and Angelich deliver exceptional slow performances.  Sun isn't quite at that level.  The first one thing notices is that, as recorded, Sun's tone is rich, dark, and bass heavy.  And pedal stomp heavy.  Somewhat like Angelich, he seems to revel in the slower, more lyrical music, which he plays very well indeed.  Unlike Angelich, he doesn't play the fastest and most demanding passages with control and precision to match or surpass the best on record, and he never truly lets loose.  Sometimes when it sounds like he might, he pulls back.  That ends up being something of a limiting factor, but his somewhat micromanaged approach is not unattractive.  The three Petrarch Sonnets border on sounding languid, and are too bass rich at times, but sound quite attractive overall, and most attractive when Sun takes his time to gently coax lovely sounds from the keys and when he lets some chords just hang.  Sun saves his best for last in the Legend.  While the loud passages are effective, it is the endless beautiful right hand playing, gentle and fluid and shimmering that captivates and almost mesmerizes.  So, a mixed disc.  Sound is excellent overall.

If ever Sun records more Liszt, I certainly would consider listening to it, especially if it's the complete Annees or the Harmonies.  Some Debussy could be nice, too.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #45 on: August 07, 2017, 05:44:53 AM »



Kim's Sixth.  Here the A/B was with Mravinsky's stereo recording on DG.  Mravinksy's Sixth is masterful, of course, blending beautiful and forlorn slower music and positively ferverish and superbly well played fast music possessed of an intensity not surpassed or even really matched by anyone.  Of course, that fevered intensity can be too much of a good thing if one is not in the mood to hear it, though I was when I relistened.  The only real drawback to the set has to do with aged, early stereo sonics, but that poses no barrier to enjoyment. 

Kim's overall timings are close in all movements, and in the Allegro con grazia and Finale, Kim leads swifter playing.  With his tempi, Kim keeps the playing moving along at all times.  While Kim and the Suwon band generate plenty of intensity in the opener, they don't sound as feverish as Mravinsky, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and the slower sections are searching but not too sentimental.  Kim's swift take on Allegro con grazia sounds very much like a caffeinated waltz, with the strings doing good things, and a generally light feeling.  Kim keeps things light to start the Allegro molto vivace, but he makes sure to inject weight in to the louder passages, and as the movement progresses it sounds like a triumphant, peppy processional, and here the energy and speed do rival Mravinsky, but in better sound and balance, and the coda makes for a heckuva false ending, complete with room reverberating bass drum.  The Finale does a complete one-eighty most effectively, and sounds sorrowful but not maudlin.  The fast overall tempo manifests briefly after four minutes in, and even more so a couple minutes later when Kim whips the band into a brief, intense fury before pulling back in the symphonic equivalent of exhausted resignation.  After that, the throbbing low strings underpin a tense acceptance of fate, somewhat Mahlerian in demeanor, until the final sound fades away at a swift 9'15".  The Sixth ends the cycle on a high note, and qualitatively it is surpassed only by the superb Fourth.  Maybe.

Kim's cycle taken as a whole is excellent, even if it doesn't supplant Temirkanov for me, and it probably would not supplant <insert favored interpreter here> for others, it does not need to.  I wouldn't mind hearing more from the Kim/Suwon team.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #46 on: August 11, 2017, 05:50:13 AM »



Since I've listened to a couple discs from Dong-Hyek Lim, I figured I should hear how well his older brother plays.  The elder Lim, older by four years, studied in Russia, Germany, and the US, and he is now a professor in Korea.  In 2005, he tied for third with his brother at the Chopin competition, so at the very least he should be very good.  Dong-Min has not reached international star or something approaching star status like his brother, and this Korean language only release is obviously a local market release by Sony Korea.

Dong-Hyek's Chopin Preludes disc ends with the Barcarolle, and Dong-Min's starts with the same work, so a quick A/B was done with the first listen.  The overall timing is only seconds apart, with Dong-Min slightly faster overall, but one wouldn't know that listening to the opening, which is slightly gentler and darker hued and slower sounding.  As the piece progresses, Lim picks up the pace, but he never sounds rushed, and the left hand is insistent but not as clean, with the older Lim generating a more blended sound, at least as recorded.  The piece almost imperceptibly ratchets up tension and speed until the climax, and while not as lilting as some overall, it's superb.  Call it a draw between the two pianists. 

The disc moves on to a single Nocturne, Op 55, Number 2, and Lim displays very fine dynamic gradations at the lower end of the spectrum, with different voices played at different levels.  It's very deliberate yet very flowing, but it does not evoke any mystery or darkness, seeming like an abstract miniature fantasia, and somehow, despite the deliberate playing, it almost sounds improvised.  A full cycle from the pianist would surely be welcome.

Next up is the main work, the Third Sonata.  At over thirty-one minutes total, Lim is no speed demon, and indeed, he doesn't storm out of the gate in his over thirteen minute Allegro maestoso, preferring to present a more forensic take.  The independence of hands and varying volume levels are so good and distinct it almost sounds like a studio trick as his left hand playing will remain super clean and clear but noticeably quieter than the right hand melody, which nonetheless doesn't dominate.  Lim coaxes some beautiful sounds from his piano, and his playing remains captivatingly exact.  The Scherzo is a bit quicker, but again Lim is all about supreme clarity and exactitude.  The Largo opens with powerful, weighty playing, sounding almost organ-like, and then Lim quickly and effortlessly slows way down and plays with gentle beauty.  He opens the Presto nan tanto with controlled speed and power in the introduction, and the rest of the movement never really sounds unleashed, with Lim's control of everything most captivating.  Strangely, though the rhythm never sounds galloping or pronounced, the forward momentum is unyielding.  In general, I tend to like faster sounding versions of this sonata, like, say, Alexis Weissenberg's blockbuster RCA recording, but Lim makes as strong a case as I've heard for a slower sounding, more meticulous approach. 

The disc closes with the B-flat minor Scherzo.  Lim plays with more overt virtuosity, but he never sheds the sense of absolute control over every aspect of the playing.  Here, the playing can sound a bit studied at times, but it still works very well, and it has the same unyielding forward momentum as the closing movement of the sonata.   

There's some subtle vocalizing evident throughout the recording, and sonics are SOTA but a bit closer and softer edged when compared to his brother's recording. 

It sounds like the Lim family has two superb pianists.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #47 on: August 14, 2017, 05:38:27 AM »



I figured I might as well listen to what the Middle Kingdom is up to in terms of orchestral playing.  Based on slim internet info, Yu Long is a, or even the, preeminent conductor in mainland China, and has been instrumental in building both the China Philharmonic Orchstra and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and has also worked extensively with other bands.  (Of course, since I read neither Mandarin nor Cantonese, and English language information is scarce, I could easily be mistaken.)  It looks like Universal Music China decided to work with him and released recordings on both the DG and Decca labels.  This particular concert recording also includes cellist Jian Wang, who has made multiple recordings for DG as both soloist and chamber musician, and violist Anxiang Zhang.  The performances, as the cover indicates, are from 2007 and 2008.  As this was only available as a download and no digital booklet was provided, no further specifics are available without scouring the web.

The Tchaikovsky starts off the disc, and its clear that the China Philharmonic plays at a very high level.  Both the Suwon and Korean orchestras mentioned previously in this thread may have a slight edge in execution, but I've heard better played recordings, and recordings not as well played, from eastern and western orchestras alike, so for all intents and purposes, that's not an issue.  Interpretively, Long tends toward a fast, potent sound, with powerful timps and lots of excitement.  He appears to have no time for exaggerated shifts in tempi or adding additional romanticism to the proceedings.  This is hardly my favorite Tchaikovsky work, and while I can't say this is the best I've heard, I would be more than happy to hear something like this in concert.

The main work for me is the Strauss, which is possibly my favorite of the tone poems.  Long makes sure to bring out detail, but the balances prevent ideal realization of all details.  Long again favors a relatively fast overall tempo, which when combined with a somewhat direct approach, means the piece doesn't flow as well as better performances.  It's somewhat generic.  Wang plays the solo part expertly, which is no surprise, and Zhang does fine work, as well.  There is less spotlighting of the soloists here than in some other recordings.  Again, this is a performance I would not mind hearing in concert, but on disc it faces some serious rivals, and when I say that old man Fluffy with young man Meneses remains my favorite, and by a pretty wide margin, that's not surprising.

As mentioned before, the recording was available only as a download, and I got an MP3.  (It may be available lossless, but I didn't look as I was content to drop only nine bucks.)  Sound is excellent overall, if somewhat lacking in ultimate clarity and dynamics, and the perspective is not ideal - it seems to almost be the conductor's perspective - but I can't say how much of that is due to encoding and how much to more traditional matters of recording technique.  I'm thinking the latter is more important.  This more or less matches many live recordings from the 90s, and it is clear enough to allow one to hear all manner of score page turning and feet shuffling and other non-musical sounds.

I may very well have to sample more from this conductor.
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Offline Brian

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #48 on: August 15, 2017, 04:53:12 AM »
I've seen the name Long Yu on Naxos - checking now, for them he's recorded such overtly red propaganda as the Long March Symphony, and also somehow Korngold's violin concerto.

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #49 on: August 15, 2017, 04:59:10 AM »
I've seen the name Long Yu on Naxos - checking now, for them he's recorded such overtly red propaganda as the Long March Symphony, and also somehow Korngold's violin concerto.


He's also recorded Ode to the Red Flag for DG.  Maybe his choices are influenced by a deep love of Communism, maybe they are made out a sense of national pride and wanting to perform and record the work of Chinese composers, or maybe they are influenced by A&R folks.  If he runs a full time orchestra devoted to western style classical music, I have to think core rep is more important to him.
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Offline Brian

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #50 on: August 15, 2017, 05:10:33 AM »
I think Marco Polo and Naxos in particular, being based in Hong Kong, knew that recording Chinese classical music with cheap-to-rent Chinese orchestras was easy money. They recorded the "Butterfly Lovers" like five times.

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #51 on: August 15, 2017, 05:18:41 AM »
I think Marco Polo and Naxos in particular, being based in Hong Kong, knew that recording Chinese classical music with cheap-to-rent Chinese orchestras was easy money. They recorded the "Butterfly Lovers" like five times.


I believe two HNH recordings have Klaus Heymann's wife as the soloist.  Gil Shaham has also recorded that work.  I've not yet decided if I want to try that work.
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Offline Brian

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #52 on: August 15, 2017, 06:17:32 AM »
Just checked Naxos Music Library and the truth is even insaner than either of us thought.

FIVE recordings by Nishizaki - that's more than Barenboim will record a Bruckner symphony:



Two different recordings by Si-Qing Lu on Marco Polo:



Plus three more Marco Polo recordings of the piece with other instruments instead of the violin:



(erhu)



Anyway...it's not that bad a piece, but it's not a knockout. It's kinda like if Korngold's Violin Concerto was written for an "exotic" movie, and also had a couple tablespoons of extra sugar. Youtube it before you buy.

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #53 on: August 15, 2017, 06:32:26 AM »
FIVE recordings by Nishizaki - that's more than Barenboim will record a Bruckner symphony


Don't count Barenboim out yet!  He's still got time to crank out a couple more of a favorite symphony.

I have to assume that the concerto sells well in China, and perhaps other markets.  That does indeed look like a streaming work.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #54 on: August 17, 2017, 06:31:44 AM »



Kun-Woo Paik's Rachmaninoff Sonatas reissue, recorded for Dante in 1992.  The recorded sound has some of the same problems the Scriabin disc does, though to a lesser extent.  Paik's playing is bold, to say the least, and volcanic, to say the most, in the loud passages of the original version of Rachmaninoff's Second Sonata that opens the disc.  Paik comes close to dreaded banging, and he may well get there, but no one could accuse him of not giving it his all.  He maintains his composure very well, but sometimes Paik seems to be pushing up to the limit of his abilities in a way that, say, Weissenberg does not, though Paik plays more feverishly.  Unlike Weissenberg, Paik plays the gentler music with actual gentleness.  Unfortunately, because of recorded sound and the battering the perhaps not ideally maintained piano takes, some of the upper registers sound questionable, but because of Paik's ability, it still sounds appealing.  He can play Rachmaninoff with more subtlety and color as evidenced by his slightly later recording of the concertos for RCA.  That's not to say that the sonata is poor, because Paik gets the spirit right. 

In between the two sonatas are the Lilacs, Op 21/5, a 'Fragment', the posthumous Prelude, and Tchaikovsky's Lullaby.  All four demonstrate the same traits as Paik's quiet playing in the opening work, and had Paik had a proper piano and recording team at his disposal, the result would be wonderful.  As it is, the result is very nice. 

The disc closes with the First Sonata, and both the recording and piano are generally in good enough shape to allow the listener to appreciate Paik's way with the work.  (About 13' into the first movement, something goes wrong with the piano, though.)  The vast breadth of the work and the length can make it a chore to listen to sometimes, but other times, its grandeur and romantic sweep are just the ticket.  Paik does very well here, and though the piano does not cooperate ideally, one gets a much better sense for his tonal variety and sensitivity in the Lento.  In the Allegro moderato, Paik comes close to playing with the same intensity as in the Second Sonata, but doesn't quite get there, which actually seems to help in the (perhaps?) overlong movement.  Given the sub-par sound and piano, I can't say that this is of Weissenberg or Silverman or Romanovsky quality for both sonatas on one disc, but it's worth having, if for nothing else than for some inevitable shoot-outs down the road.

Hopefully Universal Music Group Korea can buy the rights to Paik's Mussorgsky recordings. 
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