Classical Ear is an iPhone app, of the music discovery variety, that delivers a new review to your phone (or iPad) each weekday, along with a sound clip, other relevant information, and links to purchase. Below you’ll find highlights from our past 2 weeks of reviews, and links to the music itself via iTunes or Amazon. You can learn more about the app, and about us, from our homepage, where you can also sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can download the app from the iTunes app store here to access full reviews and our archive – it’s free for 2 weeks. Oh, and we’d love to hear what you think, whether on Twitter (@ClassicalEar) or via a comment below. Thanks for visiting!
Let’s kick off with an absorbing Harmonia Mundi double-pack featuring pianist Paul Lewis in four sonatas by Schubert, about which Evan Dickerson was able to purr approvingly: “Paul Lewis’s fine accompaniment of Mark Padmore in Schubert’s three great song cycles gave some hope that he might forsake his preoccupation with Beethoven of recent years and return to Schubert’s late sonatas, where his international prominence began on Harmonia Mundi in 2002. The A major (D959) and B flat major (D960) sonata performances are reissues of 2002 recordings; the C minor (D958) included here is from 2013, as is the A minor (D784). The earlier recordings still warrant the superlative praise that greeted them first time round, and Lewis never shies away from the emotional or technical challenges presented. In each work, astute tempi and an ever sensitive touch achieve texturally transparent results. Even when robustness is called for, Lewis’s tone is beautiful, which serves to highlight the tragic quality of much of Schubert’s writing still further. These trademark qualities are maintained in the recent recordings, as Lewis’s intellectually inquiring mind palpably probes Schubert’s meditations on the human condition. These are insightful performances that challenge Brendel (Philips) – though Lewis’s readings have greater warmth about them – or Maria João Pires (DG). Urgently recommended.” (from iTunes/from Amazon).
Staying with solo piano music, Colin Anderson found much to his liking in ‘Reflections’ – The Solo Piano Works of Andrzej and Roxanna Panufnik, played by Clare Hammond on BIS: “This is a father-and-daughter release of engaging piano music by Andrzej Panufnik (1914-91) and Roxanna Panufnik (born 1968). His twelve Miniature Studies are superbly crafted and full of interest; Clare Hammond brings amazing dexterity and sensitivity to them. As she does to his 13-minute Pentasonata (1984) and the lightly shorter Reflections (1968); both make for intriguing listening whether the textures are complex or spare: here is a musical mind of individuality, one who left us something to search for beyond the notes while also ensuring outgoing and meaningful communication. Of Roxanna’s pieces, Second Home is a slow folksong-inspired piece with crunchy harmonies, and Glo is a touching memorial to a deceased friend. Other short pieces are included by Andrzej and remind of his Polish heritage, and are arranged or completed by Roxanna. This is a very welcome recital, played with the utmost dedication, and very well recorded.” (from iTunes/from Amazon)
Andrew Achenbach was unstinting in his praise for Gil Shaham’s latest release on Canary Classics devoted to violin concertos by Barber, Berg, Hartmann, Stravinsky and Britten: “Here’s a magnificently varied and consistently absorbing survey of five substantial concerto offerings from the 1930s, all but one captured on the wing in the concert hall and played with consummate understanding, intrepid emotional scope and golden tone by Gil Shaham. It’s been many moons since I’ve encountered a more urgently communicative or tenderly poignant account of the Berg (marvellously eloquent support from the great Staatskapelle Dresden under David Robertson), while Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto funebre of 1939 emerges as a criminally overlooked masterpiece when given with such selfless, searingly dedicated advocacy (Shaham himself directs the wholly admirable Sejong Soloists). In fact, every performance on this set bears comparison with the finest available; certainly, the present reading of the Barber comfortably surpasses Shaham’s own DG predecessor in terms of edge-of-seat spontaneity and recreative spark. Both sound and balance are never less than first rate; justifiably enthusiastic applause greets both the Barber and Stravinsky. All told, a formidable achievement – I eagerly await Volume 2!” (from iTunes/from Amazon).
Next up, a treat from the Baroque era, and the Avison Ensemble’s recording for Linn of Corelli’s Church Sonatas, Opp 1 & 3 under the direction of Pavlo Beznosiuk. Mark Walker had a lot of time for this: “Corelli’s seminal first experiments in sonata form were published as ‘Sonate a tre’, Op 1, in 1781, and he followed this with another set (Op 3) in 1789; although the ‘da chiesa’ label remains attached to them, they were not written for church use. They were, however, hugely influential, particularly in England where Purcell soon published his own. And they remained in vogue throughout the eighteenth century: Charles Avison’s Op 1 was a collection of avowedly Corellian sonatas. Fitting, then, that Pavlo Beznosiuk’s Avison Ensemble follow their previous foray into Corelli (the Op 2 and Op 4 sonatas) with this beautifully performed, ideally recorded double-disc album of both the Op 1 and Op 3 sets. The three parts are here performed by two violins and cello, sensitively accompanied by keyboard and archlute continuo; and the near-ideal clarity of the Linn recording captures this ensemble’s joyful, confident way with Corelli’s dizzyingly lyrical flights.” (from iTunes/from Amazon)
Mark also lapped up the latest offering from The King’s Consort, who have recorded Purcell’s ‘Ten Sonatas in Four Parts’ on their own Vivat label: “Written in the early 1680s but not published until two years after his death, Purcell’s sonatas are an amalgam of continental influences (specifically Corelli, whose first set of sonatas had appeared in 1681) and the English composer’s own unique way with piquant, dissonant, knotty, musical melancholy. Indeed, such is the introspective tone of this collection that it ought to come with an advisory: not for those of a choleric disposition. Robert King provides an authoritative commentary in the chunky booklet, and is a subtle presence on the keyboard in the ‘fourth’ bass continuo part, also accompanied by theorbo player Lynda Sayce. Above them the two violins and bass viol weave their contrapuntal webs around each other, warmly captured by Vivat’s pellucid recording – pin-sharp in its focus on the instruments – which puts the listener in the room with the musicians without ever feeling uncomfortably close.” (from iTunes/from Amazon)