April 18, 2024


Mahler: Symphony No. 6. Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks conducted by Simon Rattle. BR Klassik. $19.99.

Smetana: Má Vlast. Czech Philharmonic conducted by Semyon Bychkov. Pentatone. $17.99.

     Music can be intimate, in the sense of being personally revealing and communicative, without being intimate structurally: a composer may use very large forces to communicate highly personal, inward-looking emotions. Mahler was especially adept at this, employing large orchestras (and sometimes choruses) but frequently insisting on chamber-music delicacy from small sections or individual players. His Symphony No. 6 is full of this dichotomy, its memorable full-orchestra salvos starkly contrasting with sections in which the music barely rises above silence and is presented by a very small number of players. Simon Rattle’s BR Klassik performance with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks is notable for its understanding of this element of the symphony, and is also noteworthy for the uniformly excellent orchestral playing, which makes both the broad strokes of the symphony and its delicate touches exceptionally clear. The first movement’s forceful march is reminiscent of the Wie ein Kondukt from Symphony No. 5: the tempo very regular, the drumbeat portentous before the major/minor chord that becomes a kind of leitmotif for the symphony. There is a strong sense of yearning in the contrasting “Alma” theme, which is relaxed and expansive rather than urging matters forward as the martial theme does. All sections of the orchestra fit seamlessly into each other, with the low strings especially impressive in underpinning the martial elements, and the brass exceptional throughout. Interestingly, the percussion contributes significantly both to delicacy and to emphasis, as needed. Rattle pays close attention to the solo violin/chamber sound a bit more than halfway through, providing moments of respite before the march reasserts itself. There is near-exuberance toward the movement’s end, propelled by the timpani, until the dissonant full-orchestra chord abruptly halts it. Rattle places the Andante moderato second, which does seem the right choice after the first movement’s intensity (Mahler never quite made up his mind about which movement should be second and which third). Here the sweetness and delicacy contrast strongly with the mood of the first movement (placing the Scherzo second would accentuate and intensify the mood). Rattle’s performance presents a sylvan setting and pastoral feel; the cowbells are not prominent but are just part of the ambiance. However, the mood becomes increasingly fraught, if not overtly dark, as the movement builds to a climax. Then the Scherzo reintroduces a marchlike rhythm, but now it is contrasted with wind-dominated dancelike elements. Here the timpani are again prominent in introducing sections and setting the scene, with the percussion-and-brass sections particularly effective. The movement peters out uncertainly at the end. And then the mood changes immediately as the fourth movement begins, the timpani tattoo returns, and darkness sweeps back in. Rattle creates a strong sense of dark anticipation here: the brass heralds an uncertain future, the themes emerging in fractured and dissonant guise. When something finally does coalesce, it is the major/minor chord, after the music repeatedly hints at an approach to something uncertain. There is, for a while, a sense of being directionless: Rattle builds the elements of the movement gradually, giving the impression that cohesiveness is achieved only in time and after struggle. He does a fine job with the further moments of surprising delicacy here: with additional use of instrumental solos, the chamber-music sound momentarily eclipses the full-orchestra power elsewhere. The first hammer blow, less than halfway through, sounds in this performance as if it introduces some emotional near-hysteria. Indeed, the slight weakness of this reading is that the movement as a whole tends to be somewhat scattered rather than obsessively tragic: it seems constantly, or at least intermittently, to strive for a level of calm and quiet that never remains long. The second hammer blow, a bit more than halfway through the movement, accentuates this feeling; and like most modern conductors, Rattle omits the third, which Mahler superstitiously crossed out. After the second blow, the uncertainty of the textural elements is such that the symphony threatens to come apart at the seams: Rattle’s version is not as tightly knit as some other very intense performances. But if the finale lacks a pervasive aura of gloom – there is more struggle and less oppressive resignation here – the very end of this reading is entirely apt. The nearly evaporative ending, a perfect example of Mahler’s use of quiet, brings on a concluding burst of despair that is genuinely frightening in its exclamatory intensity.

     There is nothing quite this striking in the six tone poems of Smetana’s Má Vlast, which collectively last about as long as Mahler’s Sixth, but Smetana here offers his very own blend of the broadly conceived and the highly personal. Although Vltava (Die Moldau), the second tone poem, is by far the best known, its Impressionism is reflected only in one other section: the fourth, From Bohemia’s Woods and Fields, which meanders pleasantly through a sylvan landscape quite different from the idealized one in the second movement of Mahler’s Sixth. Smetana’s Má Vlast is a cultural excavation and, at the same time, the composer’s personal exploration of his homeland’s history, suffering, beauty, uncertainty, and hoped-for eventual triumph – the last of these, with its religious underpinning, being especially important to Smetana, who devoted both the fifth and sixth tone poems to the topic. No orchestra is better equipped to bring forth both the large-scale portions of this work and its small-scale emotional touches than the Czech Philharmonic, which plays beautifully (and, unsurprisingly, entirely idiomatically) under Semyon Bychkov on a new Pentatone recording. Bychkov emphasizes the expansiveness of Má Vlast, choosing uniformly broad tempos that give the cycle a large scale commensurate with its mythic and historic elements, albeit at the expense of some more-personal touches here and there. The opening tone poem, Vyšehrad (The High Castle), works well here, the ruins assuming a musically statuesque position and being given the stature of a metaphor for Czech grandeur created and then lost (and hopefully to be found once again through the final paired works, Tábor and Blanik). Bychkov retains some of the mood of Vyšehrad in Vltava, but it does not work quite as well in this familiar music: the river seems rather sluggish, lacking the sparkle that other conductors find in it and that makes for a more-effective contrast when, toward the end of the second tone poem, the water flows past the castle portrayed in the first. The more-delicate portions of Vltava sound better here than the ones that could flow a bit more swiftly. As for the third tone poem, Šarka, Bychkov makes it a very human experience indeed, turning the mythic tale of female warriors revenging themselves on male fighters into an expansive exploration of the incompatibility of emotional warmth with the desire for vengeance. Šarka pairs with From Bohemia’s Woods and Fields to showcase two sides of the Czech land and character, the indomitable and intense on the one hand, the caring and nature-loving on the other. Bychkov effectively contrasts these two middle-of-cycle sections before moving on to the Tábor and Blanik pairing, which here comes across as strong and stately but a bit lacking in intensity: the outright march sections could use a touch more of a genuinely martial air about them. Nevertheless, the playing throughout the cycle is excellent, the orchestra’s sections are very well-balanced, and the underlying sense of commitment to the music and the stories within it comes through very clearly here. There is more grandiosity than grandeur from time to time, but on the whole, this version of Má Vlast does a fine job of communicating the human elements of the Czech experience in Smetana’s time as well as the historic ups and downs of Czech society as a whole.


Bach: Mass in B Minor. Sherezade Panthaki, soprano; Rhianna Cockrell, alto; Thomas Cooley, tenor; Paul Max Tipton, bass-baritone; Cantata Collective conducted by Nicholas McGegan. AVIE. $26.99 (2 CDs).

Kate Soper: The Hunt. Hirona Amamiya, soprano & violin; Christiana Cole, soprano & ukulele; Brett Umlauf, soprano & ukulele. New Focus Recordings. $16.99.

     Intended to confirm belief and lead to inspiration, Bach’s Mass in B Minor has long been a subject of veneration itself, acknowledged as one of the greatest of all works in the classical canon. Religiously surprising – Bach, although a Lutheran, here created a complete Catholic Mass – and subject to the usual musicological discussions and arguments as to its provenance, dates, and reasons for being, the Mass in B Minor transcends all the back-and-forth to become an audience experience that is deeply moving strictly on a musical level, whether or not listeners share the faith underlying it. It is stylistically remarkable: in it, Bach reaches back to Renaissance forms and combines them with his own preferred contrapuntal techniques and a level of chromaticism considered highly modern by the standards of his time. Filled with intricacy and elaborate ornamentation, the Mass in B Minor is often at its most effective when Bach deliberately reduces his vocal and instrumental forces to chamber-music levels – as when, near the work’s end, the Benedictus includes only tenor, flute and continuo. Written in parts over much of Bach’s life (between 1714 and 1749, the year before his death), the Mass in B Minor has a level of consistency in communication that may as well be ascribed to faith as much as to musical skill. It surely partakes of both. Nicholas McGegan, whose history with the work dates back some 50 years, brings all his longstanding knowledge of Bach, and of this music in particular, to a splendid new recording on the AVIE label, featuring the Cantata Collective chorus and orchestra. McGegan’s understanding of the music and its underlying spiritual impetus – and the thorough knowledge of Baroque vocal and instrumental techniques evinced by singers and orchestra members alike – add up to a performance that is musically uplifting and that, through the music, can be emotionally engaging as well. For those not spiritually moved, the musical elements alone make this first-rate recording a deeply involving experience. It is easy, for those so inclined, to dissect elements of the Mass in B Minor structurally as well as musically – for example, the work contains 27 sections, which is 3 x 3 x 3, the Trinity to the third power. But the music itself argues against over-intellectualizing, so varied are those 27 parts, so adeptly does Bach mix choral elements with solos and duets, and so carefully does he manage musical building blocks such as key structure: only five of the sections are actually in B minor, while 12 are in its relative major key (D). Bach organized the work in four folders – an arrangement followed by the titling of the McGegan recording – and all four end in the uplifting major key of D. What is significant in this release is that while McGegan and Cantata Collective are surely well aware of the work’s organizational, structural and foundational designs, the performance sounds anything but hidebound: the music sweeps along from section to section with a seamlessness that belies its creation during an extended time period, and the performers convey the beauty and intended uplift of the material without ever having the work sound straitlaced. Again and again, the beauties of detail come through: flute obbligato with muted strings in Domine Deus, bass with obbligato corno da caccia and two bassoons in Quoniam tu solus sanctus, the many differences of sound in sections with four-part, five-part or six-part chorus, and more. McGegan and Cantata Collective show that the Mass in B Minor is, in significant ways, always new and always contemporary, even in a time period so much more secular than Bach’s and so much less inclined to the creation of musical expressions of the highest order.

     Today’s composers are a great deal more likely to use vocal works to make sociopolitical points – even when they reach well into the past for inspiration. Some composers can do this quite cleverly, one such being Kate Soper (born 1981), whose chamber opera The Hunt is packed with contemporary approaches and sensibilities that are unlikely to sustain over the long term but do not appear to have any such concerns, staying focused on the here-and-now in a kind of forced philosophical manner. The Hunt – which happens to have 26 sections, although the number has no significance – is unusual in design, using three sopranos to tell the story and having each of them play an instrument instead of being accompanied by a separate ensemble. This is diegetic music – that is, the on-stage performers play pieces within the context of the work and can themselves hear the music, thus “breaking” a kind of “fourth wall” of sound as they participate in a narrative, and are aware that they do so, even as they function as characters within it. This and other sensibilities of The Hunt are quite contemporary in nature, even though the work was inspired by medieval tapestries illustrating the hunt for a unicorn through the use of a virgin as bait: lured by purity, the unicorn approaches and can then be captured by hunters. Soper, unsurprisingly for a modern composer, chooses to use the old legend as the basis of a critique of societal attitudes toward gender and sexuality, thus deliberately denying the tale any level of universality that it might otherwise have. She does employ a mixture of styles, including folk and chorale and parlor song and musical theater, and she even uses a mixture of Latin and English to establish the opening scene. Her musical language is unabashedly contemporary: hearing Latin homophony declaimed in strong dissonance with overlays of Sprechstimme is at the very least an intriguing experience. The verbiage (most of it also by Soper, with bits by Christina Rossetti and symbolist poet Hilda Doolittle, known as H.D.) is often self-consciously self-aware, and the vocal techniques tend to make much of the argument difficult to follow even when the underlying music itself is modest in scale. The Hunt is an intriguingly experimental bit of avant-garde sort-of-opera, with some elements of genuine creativity (for instance, the voices in First Sighting speak so rapidly over each other that they sound like electronics, while those voices’ high level of clarity in The Noble Unicorn creates a brief Gilbert-and-Sullivan-esque moment). The presentational quirkiness of this (+++) release is actually its most attractive element. It does undermine the intended seriousness of the messages that Soper wants to communicate, but that is perhaps all to the good, since the structure and sound of The Hunt are more unusual and innovative than the rather formulaic meanings it seeks to convey.

April 11, 2024


Bruckner from the Archives, Volume 1: Symphony No. “00” in F minor; Symphony No. 1; March in D minor; Three Pieces for Orchestra; Psalm 112; Overture in G minor; String Quartet. Bruckner Orchestra, Linz, conducted by Kurt Wöss (Symphony in F minor); Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugen Jochum (Symphony No. 1); Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Weisbach (March in D minor; Three Pieces for Orchestra); Vienna Akademie Kammerchor and Vienna Symphony Orchestra conducted by Henry Swoboda (Psalm 112); WDR Symphony Orchestra, Köln, conducted by Dean Dixon (Overture in G minor); Koeckert Quartet (Rudolf Koeckert and Willi Buchner, violins; Oskar Riedl, viola; Josef Merz, cello) (String Quartet). Ariadne. $24.99 (2 CDs).

Eugène Ysaÿe: Six Sonatas for Solo Violin. Sergey Khachatryan, violin. Naïve. $16.99.

     The Bruckner bicentennial continues to produce a host of mostly excellent examinations and reexaminations of Bruckner’s music, with performances not only of the many versions of his symphonies but also of his other, generally much-less-known music. In parallel with all the new performances is an ongoing dive into archival recordings, giving today’s audiences a chance to hear readings that date to a time when Bruckner was much less often programmed in concert halls and recording studios than is the case today. While the audio of many of the historic recordings leaves something to be desired, today’s audio restoration techniques have produced some remarkably fine-sounding CDs and have allowed genuinely important older performances to become available again – or, in the case of the Bruckner from the Archives series, for the first time. Planned to be a six-volume release by SOMM Recordings on the Ariadne label, with two discs per volume, Bruckner from the Archives shows in its first issue just how valuable it will be, not only for historical purposes but also because, if the first volume is any indication, the performances themselves stand up very well to ones recorded in later years. Furthermore, Bruckner from the Archives is packed with premières: with the exception of Psalm 112, every performance in the first volume is either a first release in any form or a first release on CD.

     All of these readings are very fine, and one is exemplary: Eugen Jochum’s 1959 recording of Symphony No. 1 with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. This is an electrifying reading, highly conversant with Bruckner’s style and expertly paced and balanced to bring out the highlights and intensity of the music – the finale, in particular, is genuinely exciting. Jochum was a fine Bruckner conductor, and as the founder of the orchestra that he leads here, he had a superb sense of the musicians’ capabilities, which he brings out to the full. Given that the remastered sound is quite good, this performance stands up exceptionally well to more-recent ones. The other full-length symphony here, the “study symphony” in F minor sometimes referred to as No. “00,” is a lesser work (derivative of Mendelssohn and Schumann) in a less-compelling performance (from 1974, with Kurt Wöss leading the Bruckner Orchestra, Linz. Everything is in place for this reading and everything sounds fine, but nothing is particularly inspirational – that is, nothing helps the symphony rise above itself. The symphonies are the major works in this release, with shorter pieces scattered between the two CDs in rather odd fashion – the music is not presented in chronological order of composition, nor in the order in which the recordings were made, and it is disappointing in such a thoughtfully conceived archival series for there to be no clear sequencing of the material. The first CD opens with the F minor symphony and then moves to the March in D minor and Three Pieces for Orchestra in Nazi-era recordings from 1944 – a time when Bruckner’s music was enlisted in the wartime cause – featuring the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Hans Weisbach. These are insubstantial works, but well-played here and insightful in terms of Bruckner’s development as an orchestrator. This CD concludes with the 1950 performance – the first recording ever made – of Psalm 112, with Henry Swoboda leading a forthright, enthusiastic reading of a piece containing some impressive fugal writing but a rather uninspired structure (the opening material appears unchanged in the middle and again at the conclusion). The second CD opens with Overture in G minor in a 1959 reading by Dean Dixon and the WDR Symphony Orchestra, Köln – a well-paced and well-balanced performance of a nicely orchestrated work, in which trombones and trumpets are prominent for the first time in what would later be thought of as a “Brucknerian” way. Symphony No. 1 follows this piece, and then the CD concludes with Bruckner’s C minor String Quartet in a highly sensitive, well-paced and thoughtful Koeckert Quartet performance from 1951. The totality of this first Bruckner from the Archives presentation is quite impressive, mixing more-familiar and less-familiar material in uniformly well-thought-out performances whose insights are as welcome today as they surely were when the readings were first heard by live audiences or on the radio.

     The “tribute” element of Bruckner from the Archives is explicit, while that of a new Naïve CD featuring the six solo-violin sonatas by Eugène Ysaÿe is more subtle but scarcely less worthy. Indeed, the exceptionally well-played performances by Sergey Khachatryan will for some listeners be less of a focus here than the violin on which he performs, because this is Ysaÿe’s own 1740 Guarneri del Gesù instrument, the one famously carried on a pillow in front of Ysaÿe’s coffin after the violinist’s death in 1931. Ysaÿe had a label bearing his own name placed inside the instrument in 1928, next to del Gesù’s own – a sacrilege today, but understandable at the time in light of Ysaÿe’s own superstardom. It was this instrument for which Ysaÿe composed his Six Sonatas for Solo Violin in 1923, and the knowledge that one is listening to this specific instrument in Khachatryan’s recording adds a fillip of delight to the disc. Not that any such boost is necessary: these readings simply sound wonderful, the violin’s pure and sweet tone through its entire range allowing Khachatryan to focus both on the elements that the pieces have in common (notably their Bach-derived elements) and on those in which they are very different (in their reflections of the six performance styles of the six violinists to whom they are dedicated). Khachatryan does not seem overawed by the provenance of the instrument he plays, putting it through its paces with care and sensitivity while varying the emphases of the six sonatas in ways appropriate to the special elements contained in each of them. He handles Sonata No. 1 (for Joseph Szigeti) with textural sensitivity, including skill with the difficult double-stopped sixths. Sonata No. 2 (for Jacques Thibaud) mixes elegance with an amusing use of the Dies irae in acknowledgment of Thibaud’s hypochondria. Sonata No. 3 (for Georges Enescu) opens interestingly, with a nod to Enescu’s interest in atonality. Sonata No. 4 (for Fritz Kreisler) reflects Kreisler’s predilection for Baroque pastiches as well as his very considerable élan. Sonata No. 5 (for Mathieu Crickboom, an Ysaÿe pupil) nicely contrasts its opening, Impressionistic L’Aurore with the following Danse rustique. And Sonata No. 6 (for Manuel Quiroga) includes tango and habanera elements reflective of Quiroga’s Spanish nationality, plus some difficult passagework that Khachatryan tosses off with apparent abandon. These are first-rate performances by any measure, which sound wonderful on an instrument of superb quality. Knowing that it is the instrument so intertwined with the composer/virtuoso who created the music brings even more pleasure to a recording that, on its own, is filled with enjoyment on every level.


Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2; Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”; Rondo à la Krakowiak. Abbey Simon, piano; Hamburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Heribert Beissel. Vox. $18.99.

Paul Chihara: Concerto-Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra; Bagatelles (Twice Seven Haiku for Piano); Four Reveries on Beethoven; Ami for piano four hands. Quynh Nguyen and Rieko Aizawa, piano; London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stephen Barlow. Naxos. $13.99.

     Newcomers to classical music, who quickly learn of Chopin’s importance as a composer for the piano, are often surprised to discover that he completed only six works for piano and orchestra. That is actually testimony to Chopin’s determined dedication to the piano for its own sake (and his own sake): he simply was not interested in the sort of showmanship often associated with piano-and-orchestra combinations. Nor was he much concerned with the intricacies of orchestration: Chopin’s orchestral parts for the combination works are less than exemplary. However, when first making his mark as a performer, Chopin did understand that he could draw audiences in with appealing piano-and-orchestra pieces, and accordingly he wrote a small number of them in his youth – and all of them have remained popular ever since. The poised, elegant performances by Abbey Simon (1920-2019) with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra under Heribert Beissel (1933-2021), released in the 1970s, were always among the most attractive versions of these works, and now they are available again in first-rate digital remasterings on the Vox label. The second of the two Simon/Beissel CDs includes Chopin’s second piano concerto (second to be published, that is: it was written first) and two extended concert pieces packed with tunefulness and elegance, and showing the many ways in which Chopin keeps the piano dominant while still allowing it to merge and contrast with other instruments. These performances are in an older, refined and sophisticated style that fits the music exceptionally well, allowing plenty of opportunities for pianistic grace as well as fireworks when appropriate. The second (1829) concerto, in F minor, is especially noteworthy for its lovely central Larghetto, which became instantly popular when the work was first performed, and Simon and Beissel do a particularly good job of exploring its beauties without overdoing attempts to give it more emotional depth than it possesses. The very early 1827 Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” (Chopin’s Op. 2) are utterly charming, as is the original operatic aria – and Chopin cleverly withholds a full statement of Mozart’s music until almost one-third of the way through the piece, thereby increasing audience anticipation and setting up a series of thoroughly delightful musical explorations for the remainder of the work. As for the 1828 Rondo à la Krakowiak, it is one of Chopin’s explorations of Polish folk music, thoroughly uplifted to concert-hall status and played by Simon with considerable élan. The sound of this 1972 recording is warm and well-balanced, the digital remastering is sensitive to the care with which the original was produced, and the overall aural world fits the performers’ thoughtfully Romantic approach to the material well. Even more than half a century after these readings were created, they retain their power in exploring the intricacies of Chopin’s limited contribution to piano-and-orchestra creations.

     Many other composers have put their own imprimatur on pieces for this instrumental combination, and interest in it has continued into the 21st century. Some of the contrasts with Chopin’s approach can be quite intriguing to hear – for instance, by listening to the Concerto-Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra (2019-2021) by Paul Chihara (born 1938). Composed for Quynh Nguyen, who is the soloist on the world première recording of the work on the Naxos label, this four-movement piece opens surprisingly with a Dolce Cantabile section in which the solo violin, not the piano, is front-and-center. That sets the stage for a work that is pleasantly old-fashioned in its adherence to tonality and insistent in its lyricism from start to finish, even when – as in the second movement, Interlude – the rhythms are distinctly jazzy. While Chopin constantly finds ways to accentuate the piano’s dominance in his piano-and-orchestra works, Chihara in Concerto-Fantasy is often at pains to downplay the centrality of the solo instrument, or at least to present it on an equal footing with others (as in the third-movement Scherzo, where the interplay with percussion makes it quite clear that the piano is itself a percussion instrument). Although the Concerto-Fantasy draws to an extent on traditional Vietnamese music, it does not sound “exotic” but comes across as a well-balanced exploration of piano-and-orchestra sound worlds, both where they overlap and where they differ. It contrasts interestingly with the three remaining pieces on the disc, which do not include orchestra. Bagatelles (Twice Seven Haiku for Piano) is a 2010-2011 work that, as the title indicates, is a set of 14 very short solo-piano pieces, all with evocative titles. Several of them incorporate contemporary techniques, such as the percussive strike in No. 2, Drinking song for kittens, and the rhythms of No. 7, Hip hop farmer. But others are pure lyricism, such as No. 4, Frankie and Annie; or an intriguing combination of Impressionism and traditional form, such as No. 6, Misty fugue; or an interesting look at older music, notably No. 8, Hommage aux trois B’s (Bach, Brahms, Bolcom) and No. 12, Kleine Toccata. Nguyen plays all these brief works as if they are little gems, with the result that that is exactly what they sound like. There is a touch of Chopin in them here and there – and a touch of Debussy, a hint of Gershwin, and tidbits of other composers as well. But the combination style of the Bagatelles is uniquely Chihara’s. Somewhat similar explorations and sensibilities are present in Four Reveries on Beethoven (2021), each of which is longer than any of the Bagatelles and all of which share the miniatures’ willingness to accept older styles and reinterpret them for the 21st century. There is a bit of ragtime in No. 1 (RAG 109), a hint of the sylvan in No. 2 (Pastorale), some forthright drama in No. 3 (Storm), and considerable delicacy and gentleness in No. 4 (Sayonara). The CD concludes with the five-movement Ami (2008) for piano four hands, in which Nguyen is joined by Rieko Aizawa. This work’s movements are about the length of those in Four Reveries on Beethoven, and they show yet again Chihara’s willingness to echo other composers, incorporate some of their sounds and techniques into his own work, add his personal sensibilities to the mixture, and produce pleasantly accessible music of no great depth but considerable listening enjoyment. The third movement of Ami, called Pascal Rag, is especially bright and bouncy, contrasting well both with the second, Love Song, and with the fourth, Aka Tombo. Chihara’s handling of piano-and-orchestra material and piano-without-orchestra material is not directly comparable to Chopin’s, but there are enough parallels of sensibility and instrumental effects between the two composers to show that two centuries after Chopin’s time, there is still much to be said for – and through – the piano, whether on its own or as part of a larger musical canvas.