Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 100500 times)

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George

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #140 on: July 08, 2009, 06:38:04 PM »
You may find this of interest:



Arvo Pärt's Berliner Messe, which, like much of his work, seems to blend the ancient and the modern. A beautiful piece, recorded to the usual exemplary ECM standards.

Indeed, that one's a keeper for sure.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #141 on: July 09, 2009, 05:15:38 AM »
But I don't think those 83 pieces are complete piano music, I have 102 pieces on 3 CDs (plus one CD concertante works and one CD with two pianos stuff)



Interesting, I don't know Poulenc's output well, so I assumed the twofer was complete.  Who knows, maybe I'll go for that bigger set sometime and trade-in my smaller one . . .
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #142 on: July 10, 2009, 06:53:02 AM »



I love Schubert’s solo piano music, particularly the sonatas, but also some of the smaller works.  But how about all of the dances?  The relatively few I’ve heard on disc and in recital have all been nice, some more than that, but until recently I never really gave much thought to listening to all of them.  Dozens of works comprising hundreds of dances could be a long slog, even if they are from the pen of Schubert.  And who would be a good guide for such an undertaking?  Michael Endres recorded one of the better extant sonata cycles in the 90s, and he also recorded the complete dances around the same time.  Yes, he would do.

And do nicely.  Endres obviously has an affinity for Schubert, and it shines through in every work.  No, he can’t make every piece sound profound or great or even remarkable, but the better pieces in the set are superb.  I can’t really pinpoint the best works in such a large collection, though in general the “later” works do tend to be more sophisticated.  I will say that Schubert’s single Diabelli variation sounds just about how one would expect it to.  Throughout the set, gorgeous melodies abound, and Endres delivers them with assurance.  Too, Endres’ rhythmic sense is well nigh flawless throughout.  And his tone is perfectly sumptuous and subtle.  No, these are not Schubert’s greatest works, and the set is not mandatory listening for even devout Schubertians, but it is thoroughly enjoyable.  Endres confirms his formidable Schubert credentials.

Top-notch sound.

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #143 on: July 16, 2009, 08:51:48 AM »



I rather enjoy the Spanish solo piano music I have sampled thus far, however limited the number of composers.  Albéniz (especially), Granados, Falla, Turina – all wrote some pretty spiffy music for 88 keys.  And of course others have written music inspired by the Iberian Peninsula.  So I decided to try Joaquín Rodrigo’s solo piano music, all of which fits neatly onto two CDs.  There aren’t exactly gobs of recordings of the complete works, so I went with the first such compilation, recorded by one Sara Marianovich for Sony Spain in 2001 to celebrate the composer’s centenary.  The then young Ms Marianovich (she’s still not exactly old) apparently worked with, and played for, Mr Rodrigo, so one can conclude she was and is well versed in the music.

The set contains twenty works written between 1923 and 1987.  Many of the works are comprised of multiple small movements.  In other words, it’s basically a collection of miniatures.  That’s quite alright, particularly given the quality of the music.  In brief comments by the composer, he mentions how he tried to avoid Albéniz’s style and purposely wrote smaller, clearer works.  And so they are.  Many of the pieces display a beautiful simplicity devoid of all virtuoso flashiness.  Some of the music is slow and almost static at times, but it is the more powerful, the more contemplative for it.  There are some snazzier pieces, too, that display some of the rhythmic freedom his fellow countrymen also displayed.  Some of the earlier pieces sound of their time; that is, they have a slightly “modernist” sound, though they avoid expressionist angst.  They’re more impressionist.  At times, one can hear Rodrigo’s influences.  Albéniz ends up being unavoidable, as does Turina.  In the Tres Evocaciones one can hear distant echoes of Debussy.  These are all good things.

Ms Marianovich plays splendidly.  Her dexterity and command seem quite strong, and she plays with a broad tonal palette and great sensitivity.  Of special interest is her quite playing.  It’s really good stuff.  Sony provides some fine sound, though it can be a bit bright at times.  It’s too bad there aren’t many more recordings available by this pianist – I’d love to here her in Debussy, for instance.  An altogether successful purchase.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #144 on: July 31, 2009, 11:43:33 AM »



I so enjoyed my earlier discovery of Albert Roussel’s three symphonies that I knew I should try something else.  Since I rather fancy piano music, it seemed natural to try that.  Roussel’s piano music is even harder to come by than his orchestral music.  I ended up going with a 1979 Solstice Records disc devoted to what is reported as the composer’s complete piano works, though I don’t know if that’s the case.  What I do know is that music is generally light, crisp, clear, light-hearted and a bit slight.

Only a half dozen works are included, and many of those are suites and collections.  The first work, Des Heures Passent.. is a nice little collection of pieces, and each one successfully depicts the title – things like Joyeuses and Tragiques.  The Rustiques is similar.  The Suite and Sonatine and Prelude and Fugue strike me as more formal and better structured, but even so I can’t say these are anything other than lightweight pieces.  The disc closes with Three Pieces, all untitled, and all three display similar traits to the other works.

This disc offers some nice if slight works.  Perhaps another pianist could make them sound more substantive that Alain Raës does, but then again maybe not.  Sound is definitely not particularly good, but then it’s not particularly bad.  Overall, this is a nice disc, but not a major find.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #145 on: August 31, 2009, 07:17:10 AM »



Federico Mompou is been a composer I’ve long thought about looking into.  Sure, I’ve heard a piano piece here and there on the radio, and I think I may have a disc or two with his music as an encore, but I never sat down and listened to his music at length.  Now I have, and I’m glad I did.

Mompou being Spanish, I expected his music to sound similar, at least to an extent, to some of the other Spanish composers I’ve listened to, and, to an extent, it does sound similar.  But it also sounds unique.  When I spun disc one, which has the Música Callada, the impression I got was one of a Spanish Satie.  Generally slow, simple, and hypnotic, the collections of miniatures are my least favorite of the works in the set, but they are still good.  The remaining three discs are devoted to other collections of miniatures, including dances, preludes, and variations, including a compelling set based on Chopin’s fourth prelude.  All of these works are more to my liking, have a bit more verve (though never in the same category as Albéniz), and display rhythmic and harmonic originality, all while remaining somewhat understated.  Flashy and vacuous the music is not.

The pianist here is the composer himself.  Mompou, despite being aged when he recorded the works, seems to play well, handling the trickier and faster passages with what sounds to be at least adequate control.  Perhaps more youthful virtuosi could play with more brilliance (I may very well find out), but the composer delivers the goods.  One can also surmise that Mompou has the meaning of the music down.  Alas, the early 70s Ensayo sound is too metallic, harsh, and bright.  It’s not as bad as the likewise Antonio Armet produced recordings by Esteban Sánchez of the same period, but it’s not up to date sound.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #146 on: February 07, 2010, 09:46:05 AM »



I’ve always had a soft spot for Erich Korngold.  Gorgeous melodies; impossibly lush harmonies; dense, rich textures: Korngold’s music is so heavily romantic as to clog one’s aural arteries.  He’s the deep fried butter of classical music! 

Not having heard anything new from him in a while, I decided to give the Aron Quartett’s recording of the complete quartets and piano quintet a try.  Now, I’m not a newcomer to the First Quartet, having enjoyed the Franz Schubert Quartett’s Nimbus recording for over decade.  Still, I was glad to try a new ensemble.  (I never got around to the few other recordings out there.) 

The set starts with the Piano Quintet, and what a delightful piece it is!  The three traits I cited previously are all there in spades.  The piece sounds huge, as far as chamber pieces go, more like a chamber symphony than a chamber ensemble piece.  So dense is the music that great clarity of voices seems lost.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you, I’m just sayin’.  It’s a swooning piece.  And it’s just wonderful.  The first quartet is a joy from start to finish no matter what, but the Aron differentiate themselves from the fine Franz Schubert ensemble by shaving minutes off the piece.  The result is more youthful and vibrant, though also lush.  The decadently lush approach of the earlier ensemble is more my speed, but I fancy the newcomer.  The Second Quartet is infected with dances, particularly (not surprisingly) waltzes, and what nicely exaggerated waltzes they are!  It also boasts one of the most lively, joyous scherzos ever, though it’s called an intermezzo.  The Third Quartet is the latest work on the disc, and it is the most informed by both more modern musical ideas and Korngold’s own film music.  Big on invention and lushness married to occasional tartness, it works quite well.

Yes, I really dig this twofer.  It reaffirms for me, as if reaffirmation were needed, Korngold’s talents, and it brings some underplayed gems to light.  Throw in some superb sound and top notch playing from all involved, and it’s a winner.  I wouldn’t doubt if it ends up one of my favorites for the year.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #147 on: February 25, 2010, 08:15:56 AM »




Over the years I’ve picked up a variety of discs of the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos, and I’ve always enjoyed what I heard.  The Bachianas Brasileiras, the piano music, the string quartets: All are supremely enjoyable.  So when I stumbled upon the CPO recording of his complete symphonies, conducted by Carl St Clair and played by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, for a reasonable price (ie, cheap), I decided to give it a try. 

I am most certainly glad I did.  This set offers an invigorating seven disc journey through lesser known, though not necessarily lesser, music.  To be sure, not all of the works are equally good, but the best of the best are very good indeed.  All of the symphonies come across as a pastiche of styles, if not necessarily other works.  One can hear some Brahms, some Wagner, some Beethoven, some Mahler, and in the Third and Fourth symphonies, some Ives.  (Actually, I don’t know if one is hearing an Ivesian blending of multiple genres and styles in the same work, or just Villa-Lobos arriving at a similar approach.)  Back to the Third and Fourth, and also the Fifth – they represent Villa-Lobos’ “War Symphonies”, though here the war is the Great War, not the even worse one from a couple decades later.  In addition to Ivesian blending, there’s great intensity and focus.  They are quite something.

But there’s more than war.  There are two good old fashioned “big” symphonies: the not quite an hour Second, and the over an hour Tenth.  They are quite different.  The Second is wonderfully melodious and filled with beautiful string writing, and it’s a bit immature when compared to the later works.  The Tenth is a gigantic oratorio that blends Brazilian influences, including wordless chorus and Tupi Indian texts, and Old World influences, including text by Jesuit Jose de Anchieta, in a compelling package.  I’m not saying for sure that this homage to Sao Paulo was influenced by Mahler’s 8th, but the use of decidedly different texts, vast scale, and even the organ, seems to imply just a bit of influence.  No, it’s not quite as masterful as Mahler’s 8th, but it’s still quite good.

The other symphonies run the quality gamut from good to exceptional, and generally speaking, the later works are more readily identifiable as being by Villa-Lobos; they blend influences deftly and ultimately sound like Villa-Lobos and no one else.  Throw in a couple nice short works and a lush, romantic Suite for Strings, and this is quite a fine set indeed.  Excellent playing and conducting, and generally superb sound round out a most attractive package.  Definitely one of my purchases of the year.  Great stuff.
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Offline Lethevich

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #148 on: February 25, 2010, 08:45:09 AM »
I second your opinion of the very high quality of Korngold's chamber music. His string sextet and piano trio are also top-drawer :)
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abidoful

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #149 on: February 27, 2010, 11:50:32 PM »


This disc offers some nice if slight works.  Perhaps another pianist could make them sound more substantive that Alain Raës does, but then again maybe not.  Sound is definitely not particularly good, but then it’s not particularly bad.  Overall, this is a nice disc, but not a major find.
Wow- thats interesting, i guess Roussel is worth exploring (he has been on my mind for sometime now- never heard a single piece by him)

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #150 on: March 16, 2010, 11:29:01 AM »
 


A couple years ago I sampled the first volume in the Danel Quartet’s one day to be complete cycle of string quartets by Mieczysław Weinberg.  It was one of my favorite discs of 2008, so surely I had to try the subsequent volumes.  So I have.

The second and third volumes contain the quartets 7, 11 & 13 and 6, 8 & 15 respectively.  Rather than go into specifics, a few brief generalizations will suffice to describe the music.  The quickest though not completely accurate way to describe the music is as DSCH-lite.  Weinberg was a disciple of Shostakovich, and it shows.  All of the quartets sound quite a bit like the older master, and some might even be taken as lost works.  This isn’t a criticism so much as an observation.  (Since I love the Shostakovich quartets, I have no problem with other works that sound similar, provided they are of high quality.)  The writing in these quartets never rivals the intensity of DSCH, though the sophistication does.  One can also discern a similar change over time from tonal, dissonant and ultimately structurally conservative early works to more complicated, exploratory later works (like the nine movement 15th).  One can detect a more subtle and sophisticated use of Jewish music, and some of the music sounds more influenced by other folk music, at least in a very indirect way. 

The Danel Quartet, whose Shostakovich cycle is my favorite modern (ie, up-to-date digital) cycle, does extremely well in this music.  They handle all the densest, most complex music easily, and they always sound attractive, no matter how harsh the music.  This is intense Russian music delivered with French sensibilities.  Superb sound just adds to the allure of both volumes.  Another couple of winners from CPO.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #151 on: March 26, 2010, 11:47:07 AM »


The under-recorded pianist Andrea Lucchesini has not let me down yet.  Whether playing Beethoven, Chopin, or Liszt, he has delivered the goods.  So it only made sense for me to try his recording of Luciano Berio’s piano music on Avie.  Throw in the fact that Lucchesini worked extensively with the composer while he was composing the Sonata, and one could assume he would be intimately familiar with the composer’s idiom.  (This assumption is only reinforced by the fact that Berio wrote Lucchesini and his wife and the bride’s parents piano four hands works as wedding gifts.) 

Berio’s piano works are generally knotty and dense, with notes aplenty, and few hummable melodies to speak of, yet his music is “lighter” and less daunting than the piano works of, say, Pierre Boulez.  And though shorn of tunes in the standard sense, there is some attractive music in the mix.  As to individual works, the Sonata has hints of, of all composers, Ravel, in repeated notes reminiscent of Gaspard.  One may even be able to detect whiffs of Prokofiev buried in the mix.  Long stretches of quiet, repetitive music is mixed with thrilling flurries of notes.  The Six Encores are small, almost Webern-sized works, and are surprisingly varied.  The third, for instance, is beautiful and almost neo-romantic, and all are surprisingly accessible.  One needn’t be a glutton for modern music to appreciate even the most “modern” of these pieces.  Rounds, Sequenza IV, and Cinque Variazioni are heavier fare.  Touch and Canzonetta, the wedding gifts, are short, seemingly simple, but still compelling and surprisingly modern.  No sweet, romantic bon-bons these.  All told, the disc offers a healthy dose of quite fine works.  I dare say the Sonata and Sequenza IV are substantially more than that.

The fine music is aided by Lucchesini’s playing.  His tone is as attractive as ever, and his technique is easily up to the challenges of the music.  The man cannot, it appears, make an ugly sound, and can make gnarly music sing.

A supremely fine disc.
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Offline Brewski

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #152 on: March 26, 2010, 11:56:34 AM »
Thanks for that good description.  This looks quite interesting, since I don't know any of Berio's piano pieces, and don't recall ever hearing any of Lucchesini's recordings.

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #153 on: March 29, 2010, 01:25:49 PM »


Having rather enjoyed Roussel’s orchestral music, I figured it made sense to try his opera Padmâvatî.  Surely the lovely, lush writing displayed in the symphonies would reappear.  And so it does.  But.

First to the suitably operatic story.  Lucky Indian regent of some sort Ratan-Sen is married to the exquisitely beautiful Padmâvatî.  She so smokin’ hot that she keeps covered, presumably to prevent men from going bonkers upon seeing her.  Or something like that.  Then the Mogul leader Alaouddin bursts on the scene.  He’s been told of Padmâvatî’s legendary beauty, and he wants to see for himself.  After some cajoling, he gets to see her.  Yep, she’s smokin’.  And so Alaouddin goes bonkers.  He wants her.  There will be war.  Shenanigans ensue.  Ratan-Sen ends up dying, and the heroine commits suttee at his funeral.  So the story is there.

The music is there, too.  It’s lush.  It’s beautiful.  It’s “exotic,” or at least it’s a Frenchman’s slightly impressionistic take on music of the mysterious East.  The winds are deployed quite nicely, and the strings are quite fine.  There’s some nice wordless choir work, and then the choir will repeatedly call out for Shiva, and there’s dance music, and so on.  It’s a fully formed stage work.  Some of the music veers into a modern realm, but more in a Debussy than a Schoenberg kind of way.  Nothing surprising so far.

Now to the singing, playing, conducting, sound.  EMI used marquee names for the three main roles.  Marilyn Horne is the title character, and she does well so far as I can tell.  Nicolai Gedda is Ratan-Sen, and if perhaps he doesn’t sound like he’s at his peak here, he’s still nice.  Jose Van Dam fits the role of Alaouddin well.  Michel Plasson and his French orchestra (from Toulouse) both do well, creating lovely sounds and playing in a secure manner.  The early digital sonics are better than the recording date (1983 as far as I can tell) would suggest.

The issue for me is the work as a whole.  Such a dramatic story deserves more intensity, or at least a more vibrant overall feel.  Maybe it’s the performance, maybe it’s the score, I don’t know.  It just never really catches fire for me.  Even though it’s relatively short (under two hours), the time doesn’t fly by.  Rather, beautiful moments come and go, and less compelling stretches fill the gaps.  It’s not bad, not at all, but it doesn’t measure up to even Leo Delibes’ Lakme, to choose a similar work.  Perhaps Christoph Eschenbach can be persuaded to conduct the work, given his success (for me) in the orchestral works of the composer.  As it is, this is a disappointment for me.  The lack of an English language libretto, even online, didn’t help.
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MN Dave

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #154 on: March 30, 2010, 09:43:55 AM »
Always a pleasure reading these, Todd.

karlhenning

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #155 on: March 30, 2010, 09:47:38 AM »
What Dave said, Todd.

Offline Opus106

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #156 on: March 30, 2010, 10:13:39 AM »
First to the suitably operatic story.  Lucky Indian regent of some sort Ratan-Sen is married to the exquisitely beautiful Padmâvatî.  She so smokin’ hot that she keeps covered, presumably to prevent men from going bonkers upon seeing her.  Or something like that.  Then the Mogul leader Alaouddin bursts on the scene.  He’s been told of Padmâvatî’s legendary beauty, and he wants to see for himself.  After some cajoling, he gets to see her.  Yep, she’s smokin’.  And so Alaouddin goes bonkers.  He wants her.  There will be war.  Shenanigans ensue.  Ratan-Sen ends up dying, and the heroine commits suttee at his funeral.  So the story is there.

This is perhaps an irrelevant quibble, but facts of history must be set right: Ala-ud-din Khilji was, as the name suggests, from the Khilji dynasty; the Moghuls arrived about 200 years later. :) And it's Ratan Singh. Of course, if all the information you have are through the liner notes, then shame on EMI for not getting the facts right.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2010, 10:15:45 AM by Opus106 »
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Navneeth

Offline Opus106

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #157 on: March 30, 2010, 10:23:56 AM »
This is perhaps an irrelevant quibble, but facts of history must be set right: Ala-ud-din Khilji was, as the name suggests, from the Khilji dynasty; the Moghuls arrived about 200 years later. :) And it's Ratan Singh. Of course, if all the information you have are through the liner notes, then shame on EMI for not getting the facts right.

I just visited the Wikipedia page for the opera and learnt that the libretto is based upon a work with the incorrect information. Well, shame on Théodore-Marie Pavie, then. ;D
« Last Edit: March 30, 2010, 10:32:48 AM by Opus106 »
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Navneeth

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #158 on: April 01, 2010, 02:34:18 PM »



Good old reliable Bohuslav Martinů.  Over the years I’ve sampled a decent numbers of his works, and while not all have been home runs, nary a one has been bad.  His best stuff is top tier for me.  So I came to his complete works for violin and piano with high expectations.  Said expectations were heightened further since violinist Bohuslav Matoušek is one of the artists.  His cycle of Martinů’s works for violin and orchestra, paired with Christopher Hogwood and friends, is superb, so surely this would be at least good.

My expectations were more or less met.  The sixteen works spread across four discs range from juvenilia from Martinů’s teen years to (comparatively) late in life works of more substance.  That written, this set is filled with a few didactic works not really meant for the stage.  Anyway, the earliest works, including two violin sonatas, are romantic in nature, and the influence of others – most notably Franck and Dvořák – is easily heard.  The works are enjoyable in any event.  A bit further on the works begin to become more structurally rigorous, more neo-classical, and have that Martinů sound that is hard to describe, at least for me.  And here’s the thing: the didactic works ain’t so bad.  The Rhythmic Etudes are just plain nice sounding, and at times fun.  Ditto the Seven Arabesques and Five Madrigal Stanzas.  The later sonatas are much more substantial and original than the earlier ones, and the other works all tickle the ear.  I cannot say that the works reach the same heights as the violin sonatas of Beethoven or Bartok or perhaps even Schubert, but they are extremely fine.  How fine?  Well, a couple times, when one disc ended, I just automatically plopped in the next disc.  I don’t exactly do that all the time.

The playing on the set is to a nice, high standard.  Mr Matoušek plays well, and his accompanist Petr Adamec is more than up to snuff.  Sound is variable, with some recordings a bit more distant that others, and all of the recordings a bit more reverberant than my ideal, but overall Martinů Hall serves the music well enough.  A winner.
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Offline Guido

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #159 on: April 03, 2010, 03:10:19 AM »
His ... piano trio (is) also top-drawer :)

Really? Much though I love Korngold, the piano trio is the work of a 12 year old and astonishing thoiugh that is, its not one of his better chamber works - the best of course being the Suite for piano left hand, two violins and cello.
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