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.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Music of real interest, beautifully played

February 5, 2015:


The 1st Piano Quintet of 1895 was Erno Dohnanyi’s first published piece of music. As liner-note writer Richard Whitehouse says, it’s among the more impressive op. 1s in spite of the composer’s early years. While it doesn’t stray far from its late-Romantic German models, it has a pleasingly relaxed feel to it, staying away from artificial significance and complexity. The musicians brought together for this disc, the Austrian pianist Gottlieb Wallisch and the Enso Quartet (one of my favourite string quartets since their Emmy-nominated Ginastera recording), keep things moving along briskly, making sure the teenaged composer’s climaxes aren’t too emo. I certainly enjoyed this piece more than I expected.

Though written in that portentous year of 1914, little note is made of modernist currents in the second Piano Quintet, and the context remains Vienna in the 1890s. Even so, the writing is more assured and the musical moods are quite gripping. It seems so much easier to appreciate conservative music from the early and middle parts of the 20th century from our vantage point in the 21st. From here it sounds like either good music or not, either original or not, whatever our favoured system might be. The second Piano Quintet especially is worth a listen now, though it broke no new ground in its day. Recorded in Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio way back in May 2007, the estimable Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver provide their usual first class sound. With performances as good as this, you want to hear the musicians clear and bright, and that’s what we get from this Naxos release.

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