ConNotations – Berg: Chamber Concerto for piano and violin with 13 wind instruments; Saint-Saëns: The Carnival of the Animals; Shostakovich: Concerto in C minor for piano, trumpet and string orchestra, Op 35

Reviewed on Tue 28 Mar, 2017

I defy anyone not to derive enjoyment from Mei Yi Foo's pungently characterised alliance with Ashley Wass and members of the Britten Sinfonia in the indestructibly fresh and prodigally inventive menagerie that is Saint-Saëns's The Carnival of the Animals.

“In this recording I salute Shostakovich, Berg and Saint-Saëns for their mastery as weavers of musical codes. I succumb to playing their cryptic game; a musical game of hide-and-seek. They hide, I seek.” Thus Malaysian virtuoso Mei Yi Foo explains the premise behind her latest disc for Orchid Classics. Its centrepiece comprises an uncommonly perceptive account – concentrated, witty and affectionate by turns – of Berg's meaty 1925 Chamber Concerto with its sly thematic references to his friends Schoenberg and Webern. Shostakovich's sardonic First Piano Concerto (with trumpeter Philipp Hutter a stylish co-soloist) also enjoys a splendidly alert and vivacious outing – and I defy anyone not to derive enjoyment from Foo's pungently characterised alliance with Ashley Wass and members of the Britten Sinfonia in the indestructibly fresh and prodigally inventive menagerie that is Saint-Saëns's The Carnival of the Animals (in 'Tortoises' that hilariously slow-motion treatment of the 'Can-can' from Offenbach's operetta Orpheus in the Underworld is pure genius). A consistently absorbing, truthfully engineered collection, this, all of the soloist's profits from which will go directly to the Marine Conservation Society both here in the UK and in Malaysia.
–Andrew Achenbach