Classical

 

GRIEG: STRING QUARTETS 1 & 2

Chilingirian Quartet

Hyperion Helios CDH 55299

***

Audiences have never taken to Grieg's sole completed string quartet with the enthusiasm they have shown for his popular orchestral works. His G minor Quartet dates from 1877, and seems to want to say things with an intensity the composer couldn't quite get the medium to yield. The piece, which has some wonderful moments, strains too much at the leash. Grieg only ever completed two movements of a second string quartet. Levon Chilingirian has extracted performable music from the sketches for the unfinished slow movement and finale, making Hyperion's reissue of the Chilingirian Quartet's attractive 1998 recordings all the more welcome in the year of the commemoration of the centenary of the composer's death. www.hyperion-records.co.uk  MICHAEL DERVAN

STRAVINSKY, DEBUSSY

Katia & Marielle Labèque (pianos)

KML Recordings KML 1112/3 (CD + DVD)

***

Katia and Marielle Labèque here revisit Stravinsky's Concerto for two pianos and Debussy's En blanc et noir on their own new KML label. The French duo brighten the Stravinsky with a showmanship that transmutes the piece into something not quite Stravinskian. Their fabulous technical resources are put to more apt use in the late and strange soundscapes of the Debussy. Stravinsky's short sets of pieces for piano duet are delectably done. The disc comes with a separate bonus DVD, with videos by Tal Rosner, shot mostly outdoors and on the move, and edited and paced to reflect aspects of the music they accompany. www.uk.hmboutique.com   MICHAEL DERVAN

HAYDN: SYMPHONIES 88-92; SINFONIA CONCERTANTE

Toru Yasunaga (violin), Georg Faust (cello), Jonathan Kelly (oboe), Stefan Schweigert (bassoon), Berlin PO/Simon Rattle

EMI Classics 394 2372  (2 CDs)

***

Simon Rattle's Haydn is light on its feet. This is perhaps a reflection of the fact that, through his work with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the conductor has a presence in the world of period instruments performance as well as a large footprint with more mainstream orchestras. But, for all their deftness and clarity, most of these performances rather fall between stools. The airiness often results in a lack of engagement and bite. Neatness and balance are the preoccupations here, and they are well achieved. But the musical tension in these smooth, often observant performances is rather on the low side. www.emiclassics.com   MICHAEL DERVAN

STANFORD: CLARINET SONATA; FANTASIES FOR CLARINET AND STRING QUARTET; INTERMEZZO; PIANO TRIO NO 3

Robert Plane (clarinet), Mia Cooper (violin), David Adams (viola), Gould Piano Trio

Naxos 8.570416

***

Stanford's music is so accomplished you would be surprised that audiences, not least in his native Ireland, don't want more of it. After all, Mahler did conduct his Third Symphony twice in New York. On the other hand, his works often have an essential quality missing, an X-factor that, craftsmanship notwithstanding, readily explains his ranking as honourable but dull. The pieces here that best contradict his reputation are the two late (1921-1922) Fantasies for clarinet and string quartet, often unexpectedly light and appealing in manner. The performers include the leaders of both the RTÉ Concert Orchestra (Mia Cooper) and Ulster Orchestra (David Adams). www.naxos.com   MICHAEL DERVAN