Classical

 

Latest CD releases reviewed

MONTEVERDI: COMBATTIMENTO & MADRIGALS.
Rolando Villazón (tenor), Topi Lehtipuu (tenor), Patrizia Ciofi (soprano), Le Concert d'Astrée/Emmanuelle Haïm (organ, harpsichord) Virgin Classics 363 4022 ****

Monteverdi's late madrigals introduced a groundbreaking, turbo-charged change in the reach of musical expression. Under the thrusting direction of Emmanuelle Haïm, Rolando Villazón and his partners take enthusiastically to the composer's invitations to fire up the drama and pierce the hearts of their listeners. Villazón may baulk at some of the extreme rapid-fire delivery, but the performance of the major piece here, the Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, a battlefield fight to the death between lovers who have not recognised each other, is thoroughly penetrating. The CD comes with a bonus documentary DVD from the recording sessions. Michael Dervan

www.virginclassics.com

CLAUDIO ARRAU, THE FINAL SESSIONS
Claudio Arrau (piano) Philips 475 7947(7 CDs) ***

The great Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau was engaged in a late burst of recording activity in the years before his death at the age of 88 in 1991. And more was planned, with Busoni, Scriabin and, incredible as it may seem, Stockhausen among the composers to be tackled. Arrau's late style was one of an almost priestly deliberation and reverence. The colouring was geared towards tonal richness, with a fondness for bottom-heavy balances. The strongest playing in the seven CDs marketed as his "final sessions" is found in the firm resolution of six Beethoven sonatas. The rubato in four Bach partitas is oddly willowy, and in the selection of Schubert (the late Sonata in G, D894, the Moments musicaux, the Impromptus, D935, and the Klavierstücke, D946), the slow tempos can sound laboured. There's much fine observation throughout, even in a slightly stilted-sounding selection of Debussy, and if you like your musical messages as a kind of sermon theres much to enjoy, too. Michael Dervan

www.deccaclassics.com

CLAUDIO ARRAU, BIRTH OF A LEGEND
Claudio Arrau (piano) United Archives UAR 008.4(4 CDs) ***

Claudio Arrau's recording career began in 1921 at the age of 18. This new Birth of a Legend set takes up the story much later, with the recordings he made for US Columbia between 1946 and 1950. The thoughtful style, the penchant for point-making are as present as in his later recordings, but there's a fluidity of movement and a willingness to stir his listeners pulses with virtuoso effects that was to diminish over time. Along with major works by Beethoven (the Waldstein and Les Adieux Sonatas), Chopin (the Preludes, Op. 28), Schumann (Kreisleriana) and Debussy (four sets of pieces), these discs illuminatingly include works by Ravel and Albéniz that Arrau never returned to in studio again. Sadly the sound is heavily filtered, sometimes detrimentally so - Chopin's Raindrop Prelude or the opening of Kreisleriana give a good idea of whats involved. Michael Dervan

www.uk.hmboutique.com

REINECKE: TRIO IN A OP 264; FANTASIESTÜCKE OP 22; UNDINE SONATA OP 167BIS; INTRODUCTION AND ALLEGRO OP 256
Olivier Dartevelle (clarinet), Pierre Henri Xuereb (viola), Jean Schils (piano) Naxos 8.570181 ***

The German composer Carl Reinecke (1824-1910), who lived a long and productive life, was one of those composers who entered the 20th century still composing in the shadows of Mendelssohn and Schumann, men who had died half a century earlier. His best-known work is the Flute Sonata, Undine, of 1882. It appears here in a successful version for clarinet. The major work, however, is the later Trio in A, for clarinet, viola and piano, written in the last decade of the composers life, and tinged with the influence of Brahms, as is the near-contemporary Introduction and Allegro for clarinet and piano. The performances are sympathetic. Michael Dervan

www.naxos.com