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.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Rich and ripe music for violin and piano


Until this disc showed up I knew Georgy Catoire only through Marc-Andre Hamelin's 1999 Hyperion disc of piano music (re-issued on Helios in 2014), a surprisingly strong late Romantic mix sounding here and there like Scriabin, Chopin, Faure and late Brahms, from a composer I had never suspected the existence of. Now comes this disc from violinist Laurence Kayaleh and pianist Stephane Lemelin (who both teach at Montreal Universities), which is full of highly charged and very appealing music. I was quite surprised to find out that this is the third recording on CD, and that doesn't count a Russian recording made by David Oistrakh and Alexander Goldenweiser (to whom Catoire dedicated the 2nd Violin Sonata) which you can listen to at YouTube. The new Naxos disc outshines the competition on CD - a slightly under-powered Avie disc from 2008 with Herwig and Bernd Zack that dawdles a bit, and a fine CPO disc from 2010 with Laurent Albrecht Breuninger and Anna Zassimova that just misses in violin tone, piano colour and sound quality. Kayaleh produces a rich sound with her 1742 Guarneri violin, and when required in Catoire's heart-on-his-sleeve 1st Violin Sonata, she provides a ripe tone just this side of being over-ripe. This isn't subtle music, and Lemelin and Kayaleh seem to be having fun providing the full measure of soulful music without hitting the angst red-line. In the musically stronger 2nd Sonata, a one-movement work that shows the influence of Scriabin, Ravel and Debussy, Kayaleh and Lemelin tell Catoire's complex story of passion, sorrow and redemption with subtlety and control as well as full-bodied emotion and virtuosity. This is a moving performance of a special work that matches the best music for violin and piano of many a composer much better known than Catoire. The final 4-minute Elegy is short but not slight, showing more evidence of French models, but most importantly, the slightly quirky and a bit off-centre sound that Gyorgy L'vovich Catoire had made his own.

Playback with Kayaleh, producer Zack Miley, & Lemelin

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