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, July 2, 2017

A fascinating programme, beautifully performed


The Great Fugue: music for two pianos & one piano four hands, by Schumann, Schubert, Mozart & Beethoven

Pianists Izabella Simon and Denes Varjon have built a really interesting program from a very solid base, a convincing and accomplished performance of Beethoven's own four hand transcription of the Great Fugue, originally the finale to his op. 130 String Quartet. Each of the pieces that precede the Beethoven is original and well worth listening to in its own right, and not just as a build-up to the main event. I had never heard Robert Schumann's Six Canonic Etudes, Op. 56, in Debussy's version for two pianos, but these are really delightful character pieces with plenty of charm and, well, character. Schubert packs a lot into the Allegro in A minor he wrote late in life: a poignant, sentimental soft centre surrounded by a crunchy, mock-serious coating. More delightful music, and played with especially apt energy, subtlety and style by these two fine pianists. The Mozart Fugue, K. 401, is one of the works that the composers wrote in response to his serious encounter with the contrapuntal music of J.S. Bach, and as it proceeds in its sombre way it's clear that Mozart has struck a deeply personal vein that he would go on to explore in his last decade, in his Great Mass and Requiem, and the most serious passages in his mature operas. This is a highly recommended release, both for its original repertoire and for the fine, assured playing.

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