SOUNDS OF AMERICA
B E R G E R
S T E P H A N
P H O T O G R A P H Y
vocal soloists, Charles Daniels stands out as a poetic and powerful Evangelist, William Sharp as a warmly inflected Jesus and Julia Doyle as a shining champion of the soprano arias. Donald Rosenberg
Beethoven Complete Violin Sonatas Orfeo Duo Frederick Historical Piano Collection S d FHPC1001 (4h 17’ • DDD)
The sonatas on a 1706 Albani and a piano Beethoven heard While parts of this enterprising new recording exceed the worst nightmares of the anti-authentic performance crowd, there are often moments and even long stretches when violinist Vita and pianist Ishmael Wallace, playing on original instruments, intriguingly explore what Beethoven may have expected from the relationship between the two instruments. The Wallaces play the sonatas not as modern-day recital pieces in the concert hall but on a much more intimate level that allows the music to breathe.
This sense of in-the-moment music-making is heightened by the duo’s decision to use complete, unedited takes of each movement in order ‘to emulate Beethoven’s disdain for punctilio and his trust in the creative spirit’. The endearingly rough-and-ready results will leave few listeners on the rail. The Spring Sonata is a prime example of the Wallaces’ odd-couple style: Vita Wallace’s syrupy portamento and her vibrato-less tone on a dry 1706 Albani hold their own, sometimes just barely, with the purer, more precisely struck tones of an early19th-century Viennese piano from the Frederick Historical Piano Collection in Ashburnham, Massachusetts.
Similar highlights occur now and then, as in the final bars of the Spring’s Scherzo, where Vita gives a shy, sudden and to my knowledge unique glimpse of Beethoven’s emotional life. As Vita and Ishmael move through the cycle, the roles of the two instruments shift as the music comes through the notes in a sort of parallel Beethoven universe in which the ego of virtuosity doesn’t exist. The thought that the Katholnig piano, made between 1805 and 1810, was one of the last pianos Beethoven heard adds something humbling to the listening experience.
The lifelike recordings were made in the Ashburnham Community Church. The brief but informative booklet-notes provide personal background to the performers’ thoughts and methods. Laurence Vittes gramophone.co.uk
Chopin ‘The Complete Works, Vol 9: Cannons Among Flowers’ Ballade No 2, Op 38. Two Nocturnes, Op 32. Four Mazurkas, Op 33. Impromptu No 1, Op 29. Largo, B113. Fugue, B144. Canon, B129b. Andantino, B117. Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op 66. Four Mazurkas, Op 41. Two Nocturnes, Op 37. Scherzo No 2, Op 31 Ian Hobson pf Zephyr F Z143 11 (71’ • DDD)
Ninth disc in Hobson’s complete Chopin traversal With Vol 9, Ian Hobson arrives two thirds of the way towards achieving his complete Chopin cycle. The opening selection, the F major Ballade, ranges from heavy-handed (the dragging opening section) and choppy (the final agitated episode) to assured and powerful (the A minor episode following the opening). Of the two Op 32 Nocturnes, Hobson’s flexible long line in the B major contrasts to the A flat major’s relative lack of variety and softness. Among the Op 33 Mazurkas, Hobson’s brisk, wonderfully pointed D major and subtly shaded B minor stand out. The A flat Impromptu is a tad square and businesslike (the abrupt transition from the Trio into the main theme’s recapitulation), yet Hobson’s straightforward, unsentimental shaping of the FantaisieImpromptu’s Trio is welcome to behold.
One might prefer more dynamically charged, sharply etched renditions of Op 41’s first two Mazurkas, or No 4’s melodies singing with more abandon and joy. Hobson’s best lyrical playing occurs in the two Op 37 Nocturnes, where his right-hand double notes flow like Mozart’s proverbial oil in No 2. He takes the trouble to play the three short and insignificant pieces (the Largo, Fugue and Andantino) as well as anyone else on disc. Everything comes together in the B flat minor Scherzo, highlighted by Hobson’s carefully articulated triplet figurations, his perfectly gauged transition from the end of the Trio to the main theme’s return and his sudden unleashing of power and bravura in the coda. In short, while Hobson’s Chopin remains a hit-and-miss affair, there’s much to enjoy. Jed Distler
Dennehy Stainless Staining. Reservoir Lisa Moore pf Cantaloupe B CA21062 (25’ • DDD)
New York’s ‘avant-garde piano queen’ Moore plays Dennehy Donnacha Dennehy is admired for melding an acute grasp of musical styles and genres with a fertile sonic imagination. The two piano works on this recording paint an extremely limited portrait of his gifts – less than 25 minutes of post-minimalist music – but the infectious ideas whet the appetite for more.
Stainless Staining, which gives the disc its title, places the piano in seamless communion with a soundtrack ‘made up of samples of a piano (played both normally and “inside”), retuned to provide a massive harmonic spectrum of 100 overtones based on a fundamental low G sharp’. Technical language
Lisa Moore: mesmerising in Dennehy
GRAMOPHONE NOVEMBER 2012 XI