Organ Concerto in B-flat, Op.7. no. 1
Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr, director and soloist
Devised as a promotional magnet to bring audiences to his oratorio productions, Handel's solo organ concertos proved their popularity immediately, and have continued to delight listeners and challenge soloists...since Handel left many sections (particularly in this later Opus 7 collection) with the marking 'ad lib'...the talent for improvising being one of Handel's many skills, but often lacking in players of our time. Richard Egarr addresses the challenge here with spontaneous and imaginative bridges and embellishments. His period-instrument band, and the little period-appropriate chamber organ make sounds such as Handel would have enjoyed, and the results are totally beguiling. 10:04 p.m.
Psyche; La Fiancee perdue; Vocalise
Emile Paladilhe; Olivier Messiaen; Gabriel Fauré
Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano; Malcolm Martineau, piano Un Frisson Français - A Century of French Song
Susan and Malcolm concocted this all-French buffet for their concert tours (and performed it on 12/2/09 at the Ordway in Saint Paul). A marvelous sampler of melodies, it covers a century of stylistic change (Gounod to Honegger). Because of her 'lost voice' announced at the Ordway concert, we did not hear the Messiaen and Faure items live, so I thought you might enjoy this 'rematch'. 10:22 p.m.
Etude-Tableaux in C, Op. 33, no. 2; Prelude, Op. 11, no. 2; Sarcasm, Op. 17, no. 1
Sergei Rachmaninoff; Alexander Scriabin; Sergei Prokofiev
Mayron Tsong, piano
A supremely talented Canadian-born soloist, now on the faculty of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Ms. Tsong has all of the technique and touch necessary to bring this music to life...vibrant, nuanced and colorful. Excellent recorded sound, too. 10:35 p.m.
La Triomphante and La Fanfarinette, fr Suite in a; Le Poule, fr Suite in g
Susan Toman, harpsichord
Another Canadian musician, Ms. Toman was recorded in a German church on a ravishingly rich and plumy Detmar Hungerberg harpsichord (after Pierre Donzelague). Rameau's suites combine the traditional dance movements with engaging character sketches, alternating elegance with good humor. Performances are splendid, if lacking that last bit of frisson. 10:44 p.m.
Allegro non troppo, fr Sonata No. 1 for Viola and Piano
Kenneth Martinson, viola; Christopher Taylor, piano
A wonderful showcase for the viola, Martinu's sonata was composed while teaching at the Curtis Institute, but during a period of particular personal stress. Does this account for the score's stoic dignity, with a nostalgic, folk-influenced first movement and a driven, sometimes anxious finale? Martinson (from Florida) and Taylor (from Wisconsin) convey uniform conviction in their compelling presentation of this minor masterwork. Other Martinu works for violin and viola complete the CD program. 10:53 p.m.
Prelude, Courante & Gigue, fr Cello Suite No. 1 in G, BWV 1007
J. S. Bach
Myles Jordan, Baroque cello
In thoughtful booklet essays on the problems of period performance practice, Jordan outlines some of the areas (tempi, timbre, improvisation, and autobiographical allusions) where his performances will differ from the norm. And then he justifies his numerous original interpretive decisions with these thoroughly engrossing accounts of three full suites. Bach might have been bemused by the amount of intellectualization that modern artists devote to their craft, but he likely would have applauded Jordan, too, for personal and persuasive playing. 11:03 p.m.
Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 (excerpted for this program)
J. S. Bach
Lisa Goode Crawford, harpsichord
Think of this as a thoughtful perusal of Bach's album of high-art late-night diversions. Crawford seems to have recorded each variation separately, interrupting the energy flow of the totality that some others bring to this music in concert or on disc. And though fluent, she is also perhaps a bit too careful, making her recording better as a study guide and less successful as an emotional encounter. Nice instrument and sound. 11:17 p.m.
Primera Sonata, Op. 16; Sonata de El Escorial, Op. 2, no. 1; Invencion No. 2, fr Dos ensayos
Silvana Santinelli, piano
Born in Spain, largely self-taught and one of the 'new wave' of young artists and thinkers trying to awaken the local cultural scene in the early 20th century, Halffter exiled himself to Mexico after the Spanish Revolution and became a major figure in his adopted homeland. Ms. Santinelli, born and trained in Mexico and now teaching at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, revels in the variety of Halffter's evolving style, which embraces Hispanic national flavors, neo-classic references to Scarlatti and Soler, and the more rigorous 'modernisms' of the international scene. These two discs provide not only a fascinating glimpse into an overlooked composer of real merit, but also ably showcase a committed youthful talent. 11:29 p.m.
Presto, fr Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano
Miranda Cuckson, violin; Blair McMillen, piano
Young players to dedicate themselves to the music of their time earn a special star, even if the 'new music' vocabulary does not easily commend itself to the general audience. But listening to this minute-long movement from Martino's new sonata and you can't help but be curious to hear more! 11:39 p.m.
Molto Vivace-Presto (2nd mvt); fr Symphony No. 9 in d, Op. 125
Ludwig van Beethoven (arr. Liszt)
Paul & Matthew Kim, piano
Before the easy access of radio and internet transmissions and recorded music, if you wanted to keep up with 'what's happenin' in classical music, you played it at home, though this two-piano arrangement goes well beyond the more utilitarian 4-hands/one instrument versions more common in the domestic setting. Liszt created his Beethoven arrangements over a thirty-year period as a labor of love, essentially reinventing the symphonies for this medium. The Kims (father Paul teaches at Long Island University; son Matthew is a highly regarded NYC social policy research analyst) refrain from singing in the final movement, but their capability and commitment are so thoroughly involving that you hardly miss the soloists and chorus. Quite a feat! 11:42 p.m.