The Sonata and Impromptus are early and come from the year in which the first version of En Saga was composed. The Sonata has a genuine sense of forward movement and some of its ideas are appealing. The Op. 24 Pieces were written at various times between 1894 and 1903. The Norwegian pianist Håvard Gimse has consistent tonal beauty and unfailing musicianship. He is imaginative and has the kind of natural eloquence which allows the music to speak for itself yet still makes it sound fresh and unsentimental. This is distinguished playing and a strong recommendation at any price level.
The late chamber music of fin de siècle English composer Edward Elgar is as melodic and personal as any he ever wrote, but because it is also more emotionally elusive than his earlier symphonies and concertos, his chamber music is much less frequently performed and recorded. This disc by members of London's Nash Ensemble coupling the three-movement, 25-minute-long Violin Sonata in E minor with the three-movement, nearly 40-minute-long Piano Quintet in A minor is a wonderful introduction to both works.
On the evidence of this sensational disc, it seems clear that Sharon Bezaly is a flutist virtually without peer in the world today. The only serious competition for top position comes from Emmanuel Pahud, also a superb artist but one whose discography, fine enough in and of itself, fails to rise to Bezaly's level either in terms of imaginative programming or in its commitment to commissioning and recording worthy new works for the instrument./quote]
The history of the Russian chamber ensemble of the middle of the 20th century, in all possibility, did not know a more intricate yet remarkable brilliant group of musicians than the celebrated trio of Emil Gilels. Leonid Kogan and Mstislav Rostropovich. All to different in their essence were these three artistic individualities – these three virtuosos, spoilt children of fortune, who were brought together at various stages of disclosure of their outstanding talents. At that, there was not a great difference between their respective ages – Gilels was born in 1916, Kogan was born in 1924 and Rostropovich was born in 1927. Nonetheless, whereas Gilels was already able to reconsider and revise in many ways his principles of work, departing further and further from a pure demonstration of capabilities of his breathtaking technique, Rostropovich and Kogan were still passing through their lengthy period of thrill over their virtuosic powers, affecting their audiences in a straightforward manner.
Reinecke's work is a musical re-telling of the well-known story of Undine, the water spirit who marries a knight, but is betrayed and takes her revenge on him. Frank Martin's virtuosic Ballade (1939) features an acrobatic flute cadenza, roaming melismas and irrepressible cascades, generating a compelling sense of drama. In 1945, while in exile during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Martinu composed his Flute Sonata, in which the virtues of his distinct musical language are plain to hear - lyrical lines, a rhythmic drive which is both energetic and lively and an effective use of tone colour.
Rachmaninov's opus 1, his first piano concerto, deserves to be heard more often. The opening bars have that heroic sound that raises the hair on the back of the neck. Indeed those first moments rank alongside those of the Grieg and Tchaikovsky piano concertos for their ability to thrill. Ashkenazy's breathtaking playing on a superb piano is matched by that of the Concertgebouw Orchestra under Haitink's direction.