June 11, 2009


Ives: Variations on “America”; Adeste Fidelis; Fugues in E flat major and C minor; Copland: Preamble (For a Solemn Occasion); Cowell: Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 14; William Grant Still: Reverie; Barber: Prelude and Fugue; Wondrous Love; Stephen Paulus: Triptych. Iain Quinn, organ. Chandos. $18.99.

Scriabin: Poèmes, Valses et Danses. Xiayin Wang, piano. Naxos. $8.99.

George Onslow: Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2; Reger: From “Six Burlesques,” Nos. 4-6; Wagner: Polonaise in D; Liszt: Grand Valse di Bravura; Grieg: From “Norwegian Dances,” Nos. 2-3; Balakirev: Suite for Piano Four-Hands. Elizabeth Buccheri and Richard Boldrey, piano duettists. Cedille. $11.99.

Debussy: Sonata for Violin and Piano; Schubert: Fantasie in C for Violin and Piano; Bartók: First Rhapsody; Jörg Widmann: Étude V for Solo Violin; Astor Piazzolla: Le Grand Tango. Sinn Yang, violin; Marco Grisanti, piano; Harald Oeler, accordion. Oehms. $16.99.

Léon de Saint-Lubin: Grand Duo Concertant; Fantasie sur un theme de Lucia di Lammermoor; Thème original et Étude de S. Thalberg; Adagio religioso; Potpourri on themes from Auber’s “La Fiancée”; Salonstücke, Op. 47, Nos. 1 and 2. Anastasia Khitruk, violin; Elizaveta Kopelman, piano. Naxos. $8.99.

     There is no instrument with a greater range than that of the modern keyboard: 11 octaves on a piano and potentially even more on an organ. Indeed, Iain Quinn takes full advantage of the 61-note manual compass and 32-note pedal compass of the organ of England’s Coventry Cathedral for his fascinating CD of some very American music. Quinn has made an excellent selection of better-known works and little-known ones, including some recording premieres. He has a real way with the music of Charles Ives, presenting Variations on “America” with great flair, and including the two ad lib bitonal interludes that Ives added to the piece two decades after he originally wrote it. The other Ives works here, all early ones, have their own charms, with the surprising end of the Fugue in E flat major being particularly characteristic. Quinn brings his fine sense of style and proportion to all the organ works on this CD, from Barber’s well-structured, rather Romantic prelude and fugue to Cowell’s fairly bouncy fugal work, from William Grant Still’s effective miniature Reverie to Barber’s serious but not overly solemn Wondrous Love variations. The CD is particularly nicely laid out, opening with Copland’s Preamble, created in connection with the Declaration of Human Rights, and ending with Stephen Paulus’ Triptych, inspired by hymn texts and written in 2000 for the 150th anniversary of the House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

     The layout of Xiayin Wang’s CD of Scriabin piano music is interesting, too: it opens with two waltzes written when the composer was 14, in 1886, and ends with two dances he completed shortly before his death in 1915. Between these bookends are a polonaise, a fantasy, several poèmes and a few other types of piano works. Most are quite brief: the Fantaisie in B minor, the longest piece on the CD, runs less than 10 minutes, with several other works running only a little more than a minute. Scriabin was not essentially a miniaturist, so this CD presents a somewhat skewed view of his compositions, but it is certainly very well played, and it does show some of the ways in which his style evolved from the Chopinesque to the mystical. Wang is a sensitive pianist as well as a technically adept one, and she brings a great deal of style and color to what is essentially a very personal recital.

     There is style and color as well in the two-piano works performed by Elizabeth Buccheri and Richard Boldrey and recently reissued by Cedille. Originally recorded in 1978 and 1985, these pieces sound very good indeed in remastered form, with George Onslow’s two sonatas (in E minor and F minor) being especially interesting. The “big names” on the CD, Wagner and Liszt, are represented by pleasant display pieces, but much of the charm here lies elsewhere, notably in Balakirev’s three-movement Suite for Piano Four-Hands. Cedille is a Chicago-focused company, and Buccheri and Boldrey were faculty members at that city’s North Park University when they began performing together. The music on this CD, though, has nothing provincial about it, although it does lean somewhat in the direction of salon pieces – especially in the selections by Reger and Grieg.

     The piano assumes the role of accompaniment in the works by Debussy, Schubert, Bartók and others performed by violinist Sinn Yang. Yet the keyboard’s range still comes through very effectively on this CD, which – like the piano disc by Xiayin Wang – comes across as a personal recital. Yang handles the standard-repertoire works here skillfully but a trifle perfunctorily: there is not as much stylistic difference among Schubert’s classicism, Debussy’s impressionism and Bartók’s folkloric modernism as there might be, although pianist Marco Grisanti offers very strong backup in all the works. Where Yang clearly comes into her own is in Jörg Widmann’s solo-violin work, written in homage to Paganini’s Caprice No. 6 – this is all flash and dash, and Yang clearly enjoys tossing it off. And Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango is a real delight in this arrangement for violin and accordion, prepared by Harald Oeler and played by him with great enthusiasm and a fine sense of rhythm.

     The new CD of music by Léon de Saint-Lubin (1805-1850) is also for violin and piano, but here the focus is clearly on the composer rather than on the personal preferences of the performers. Saint-Lubin was a famed virtuoso in his time, and wrote in all the accepted forms of the day: fantasies and variations on opera tunes, potpourris, large-scale chamber works and salon pieces aplenty. The Grand Duo Concertant, the most substantial work here, is well structured and musically effective, if not particularly original; the remaining pieces are pleasant to hear and filled with virtuoso opportunities for the violin and, to a lesser extent, the piano. Anastasia Khitruk and Elizaveta Kopelman pace the works well and toss the themes back and forth with aplomb. There is no profundity on this CD, but there is plenty of enjoyment.

1 comment:

  1. This post is excerpted today at http://AfriClassical.blogspot.com The blog and its companion website, www.AfriClassical.com, devote considerable attention to the music of Wiliam Grant Still (1895-1978). Your review was my first word of this new Chandos CD. I was happy to learn of it.