Norman Stinchcombe's latest CD reviews


MENDELSSOHN: Vogt / Orchestre de Chambre de Paris ★★★★

It was exactly thirty years ago that German pianist Lars Vogt, then aged twenty-two, released his acclaimed first CD of the Schumann and Grieg concertos with the CBSO under Simon Rattle. He's built up a sizeable catalogue of recordings and added conducting to his repertoire with the Northern Sinfonia and this Paris chamber orchestra. Here he directs Mendelssohn's Piano Concertos, No.1 in G minor and No 2 in D minor, from the keyboard, marking his welcome return to health after treatment for cancer. Vogt gets both concertos get off to a fiery start, precise and quick, genuinely con fuoco and appassionato, with fine support from the orchestra. In No.2 – premiered at Birmingham Town Hall in 1837 with Mendelssohn at the keyboard – his brisk tempo and light touch are suited to the finale's presto scherzando designation. In the delightful 'Capriccio Brillant' Op.22 Vogt masterfully balances its virtuosic showiness and sly humour.

Norman Stinchcombe

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Spence, Drake, Ridout, Piatti Quartet ★★★★

The song cycle 'On Wenlock Edge' has been recorded by many distinguished British tenors – Ainsley, Bostridge, Gilchrist, Partridge, Rolfe-Johnson – now joined by the Scot Nicky Spence as part of the tranche of recordings celebrating the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth. The version used here is for piano (Julius Drake) and string quartet (Piatti Quartet) and Spence is not outclassed by his distinguished predecessors. Some will prefer a more restrained, plaintive voice like Partridge's but Spence, primarily an operatic performer, scores in the rare moments of intense, dramatic emotion in these death-devoted songs as in 'Is my team ploughing?' and the accompaniment is top class. The discs packs in lesser-known works too: 'Four Hymns' for tenor, piano and viola (Timothy Ridout); 'The House of Life', six settings of sonnets by Dante Gabriel Rossetti; and three folk-song arrangements with Spence's vivacious characterization in the comic 'Harry the Tailor' and 'The Brewer'.

Norman Stinchcombe

'NAZARENO!': London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle ★★★★

Rattle recorded two of the jazz-meets-classical works here, Bernstein's 'Prelude, Fugue and Riffs' and Stravinsky's 'Ebony Concerto' back in 1987 on his 'Jazz' album with the London Sinfonietta. It's still in the catalogue and the performances, with a young Michael Collins as clarinet soloist, are excellent as are these live ones (taped at a 2018 concert) with Chris Richards and the LSO playing with plenty of pizazz under Rattle's enthusiastic and astute direction. The earlier disc adds two more cross-genre works by Gershwin ('Rhapsody') and Milhaud ('Creation du Monde'). The LSO Live release has Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov's infectious and high energy tango and Latin-jazz work 'Nazareno!', its five movements in Gonzalo Grau's arrangement for orchestra and two pianos with the star duo Katia and Marielle Labeque. It's like turbocharged Piazzolla with a tremendous climax featuring percussion, played by Grau and Raphael Seguinier, well to the fore in wide-ranging sound.

Norman Stinchcombe

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