Masterpieces in Miniature: Works by Litolff, Mahler, Fauré, Debussy, Schubert, Ives, Rachmaninov, Dvořák, Sibelius, Delius, Grieg and Delibes

Reviewed on Tue 09 Dec, 2014

There are plenty of CDs around that show a major conductor’s mettle in big symphonies. Not so many however in miniatures, a genre almost lost to us nowadays but where a tiny pause, flavoured nuance or heart-stopping expressive gesture can spell artistry in the subtlest and most enduring ways. Such is this programme by one of America’s greatest orchestras, honed to dizzy heights of execution by a conductor whose ability to phrase sensitively marks him out an as an exceptional musician. Michael Tilson Thomas’s mastery in the likes of Sibelius’s Valse triste and Delius’s On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring recalls the loving attentiveness of Beecham, while his leaping exuberance in Delibes's ‘Cortège of Bacchus’ (from the ballet Sylvia) and Litolff’s celebrated ‘Scherzo’ (with pianist Yuja Wang on cracking form) offers proof that he can raise the roof as easily as prompting a tear. There are twelve pieces in all, from Schubert to Charles Ives, taking in the likes of Mahler, Dvořák and Grieg along the way. Great musical programming too, and superb sound. A release that should be on everyone’s Christmas list.
–Rob Cowan