Latest CD releases reviewed

Concerto Köln Archiv Produktion 477 5800 ***

Concerto Köln's period instruments performances here seem to be intentionally shaped to constitute Mozart with a difference. A harpsichord continuo peeps out in Eine kleine Nachtmusik, where, as also in the delightful Divertimento in D, K136, emphasis is given to scrubbing accompaniments. The Adagio from the Serenade for 13 wind instruments is taken at quite a lick, and the two overtures (from The Magic Flute and The Impresario) are given in a stark, cut and thrust style. The real curiosity is the selection from the 1778 Parisian ballet Les Petit Riens, to which Mozart contributed 12 numbers. The lively selection included in this upbeat CD intentionally strays beyond Mozart's contributions.  Michael Dervan

St Lawrence Quartet EMI Classics 359 9562 ***

Shostakovich's music has become a forum that presents not just the possibility of heart-on-sleeve approaches but also a kind of history-on-sleeve manner, as if anti-Stalinism might be as readily reproducible in music as a thunderstorm à la Beethoven or the bleating of sheep à la Strauss. The St Lawrence Quartet's disc of Shostakovich's Third, Seventh and Eighth quartets comes quickly in the wake of one by the Hagen Quartet. It's the St Lawrence who are the more explicitly interventionist, the more likely to hint at extra-musical argument with an edge of vehemence that can sound like flying off the handle. The recording is closer, too, which intensifies the impression. There's no lack of commitment here, but for my money the music sounds better when rather more is left to the listener's imagination.   Michael Dervan

Monique Haas (piano) 477 6201 (8 CDs) ****

French pianist Monique Haas (1909- 87) was a modernist in performing style and musical taste. Only a single disc here dwells on the 19th century, where her Schumann and Chopin are musicianly but a little pallid. The 18th century gets twice as much, Mozart and Haydn, played with delicately shaped classical poise. The rest is from the 20th century, Debussy's complete Préludes and Études (always future-looking), Ravel's Sonatine, Valses nobles et sentimentales and Tombeau de Couperin, both concertos plus the Violin Sonata with Max Rostal (this latter absolutely impeccable), Stravinsky's Capriccio, Bartók's Third Concerto and Sonatine (all sharply etched), Hindemith (with the composer conducting), Roussel, and pieces by her husband, the Romanian composer Marcel Mihalovici. In her home territory Haas offers consistent pleasure. There's a lightness and buoyancy in her playing, even when she's being punchy. The style is on the dry side, but this description is no more a slur than it is when applied to a fine wine.  Michael Dervan

Fabrice Pierre (harp), Patrick Gallois (flute), Swedish Chamber Orchestra Naxos 8.557404 ***

The prolific Carl Reinecke (1824- 1910), conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and director of the Leipzig Conservatory, has become a one-work composer, remembered for his Undine Sonata for flute and piano, and, a lot more rarely, for the two concertos recorded here. The explanation lies in the music itself. Reinecke's 19th-century version of easy-listening lacks both the rhythmic bounce and easy harmonic flow of the 18th-century variety, let alone the cleverness of 20th-century approaches. This CD has the nice conceit of the two soloists acting as conductors in each other's concertos. Amiability or no, there's just too much niceness here, and too much musical padding, too.  Michael Dervan