Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fine Rachmaninov playing from pianist & orchestra

From January 30, 2012:


While the 3rd Piano Concerto, with its big tunes and over-the-top virtuosity, is the more popular work on this new disc from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's own label, the greater work is the op. 45 Symphonic Dances. It requires as much virtuosity from the orchestra as the Concerto needs from the pianist. That's a tall order, but Robert Spano has his musicians hitting on all cylinders, with a tightly-disciplined and well-prepared reading of this important 20th century score. Spano's version is perhaps a bit more careful than other famous recordings, or white-hot live performances, fondly remembered, by favourite conductors. But I think it makes an excellent case for a masterpiece by a composer who doesn't have the reputation he once did. In this case, dialing things up to '11' in the Spinal Tap manner doesn't necessarily provide any gains. A well-balanced recording, with some deficiencies noted in B. Guerrero's review above, gives us a clear feel for the back-bone of the work as well as its surface sheen.

Even better, the Atlanta engineers have attained the perfect balance between piano and orchestra, allowing both the delicacy and the power of Garrick Ohlsson's playing to come through in the 3rd Piano Concerto. This disc is a triumph of virtuosity, musicality, and technology. Kudos to Ohlsson and Spano, and the musical & technical team in Atlanta!

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