ECM New Series is better known for its documentation of contemporary works, but the music of the past sometimes receives coverage when artists bring a new perspective to it. The Diabelli Variations, Op. 120; the Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111; and the Six Bagatelles, Op. 126, are among the most original and intellectually stimulating works Ludwig van Beethoven composed for the piano, and the sophisticated interpretations of András Schiff are especially worthwhile for their insights into authentic performance practice and reception. Here, Schiff gives the listener options between a relatively modern sounding version of the Diabelli Variations and a period interpretation, without favoring one or the other. On the first CD he plays the Sonata and the Diabelli Variations on a Bechstein piano from 1921, though with minimal pedaling and a restrained execution that allows every inner voice and subtle dynamic to be appreciated. While this piano is not as hard or bright sounding as a modern Steinway, it is familiar to modern ears and most listeners will readily accept it. On the second CD, Schiff plays the Diabelli Variations, along with the Six Bagatelles, on a smaller sounding Franz Brodmann fortepiano, an original instrument from around 1820, Beethoven's time period.
These performances of three early and one "late" symphony of Schubert are both bracing and youthfully brisk, done on tart "period" instruments of Schubert's time. This produces what Schubert would have heard and expected to hear. Just listening to each performance convinces that these are "right." Sound is good. Warm and focused.(amazon.com)
Living legend of the piano Murray Perahia records two benchmark sonatas by Beethoven for the first time in his career. Long renowned for his performances of this composer, Perahia’s brand new recording pairs together two of the most radically ground-breaking of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, in a release that is sure to be a crown jewel of the Beethoven discography.
Among the many genres Beethoven used to build on his reputation upon his arrival in Vienna, the violin sonatas allowed him not only to demonstrate his own prowess on the keyboard, but also played to the increasing popularity of chamber works that might be attempted by sophisticated amateurs. Following Mozart's trend of liberating the violin from a mere secondary role, Beethoven continued to bring about the equality of both instruments in all of his duo sonatas. Performing these 10 sonatas is the splendid duo of violinist Renaud Capuçon and pianist Frank Braley. The recordings take place in la Chaux de Fonds concert hall in Switzerland, a venue that offers listeners an exceptionally wonderful, intimate sound quality even on a CD.
The Orford String Quartet was a Canadian string quartet active from 1965 through 1991. They came to be the leading string quartet in Canada, and one of the finest in the world. For 26 years, the Orford String Quartet was the best of its breed in Canada.
This anthology of devotional music from 18th-century Venice and Naples offers an interesting and varied programme. Best known is Pergolesi’s Stabat mater, but the settings by Domenico Scarlatti and Bononcini stand well in comparison. The motets by Lotti, Caldara and Alessandro Scarlatti are real discoveries; Norrington’s performances of the latter are particularly fine. Guest’s Pergolesi suffers from a focus of sound which makes the interpretation seem somewhat generalised. However, all these performances give pleasure, while the music is melodically fresh and rhythmically vital.-Terry Barfoot