Briefly Noted (II)

What "Briefly Noted" is.

Elmar Oliveira gives authoritative performances of substantial violin concertos by Ernest Bloch and Benjamin Lees (Artek AR-0042-2). Both of these works, while providing plenty of opportunities for virtuosic workouts, are in the serious, concerto-as-symphony-for-soloist-and-orchestra. The accompaniment of John McLaughlin Williams and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine matches Mr. Olivieira's impassioned playing and provides for him a solid foundation.

Isabel Bayrakdarian sings songs transcribed by Gomidas Vartabed, "the most important figure in Armenian music history" (from Atom Egoyan's notes) on a lovely release from Nonesuch (511487-2). The songs, arranged for orchestra or piano by Serouj Kradjian (who plays the piano accompaniment) are generally introspective and pensive. Ms Bayrakdarian, a Canadian-Armenian soprano, sings them with warm expression.

Neeme Järvi leads the Scottish National Orchestra and its Chorus (with contralto soloist Linda Finnie) in rousing performances of music by Sergey Prokofiev, on a digitally remastered release of late 1980s recordings on Chandos 10482 X. The big piece here is the Suite from the score to Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, which I've described elsewhere as "a big, friendly, kind of stupid, fluffy dog of a piece". I find it a little less so in this duskier reading, but I think it's still an apt metaphor for the composer's music in the out-sized mode of Nevsky and of the other works on the disc, the Scythian Suite and the Suite from The Steel Dance.

Johannes Moser plays the complete works for cello and orchestra of Camille Saint-Saëns with the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR, Fabrice Bolton conducting, on hänssler classic 93.222. This is not is my wheelhouse, repertoirely-speaking, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I particularly like the First Concerto (a minor, Op. 33), with its taut, convincing one-movement form. Moser is a fine musician--he really digs in to this music, playing with understanding and panache.

Richard Stoltzman has been one of the world's premiere clarinetists for years. With Tashi, he made a definitive recording of Messiaen Quatuor pour la fin du temps. A new disc from Navona (NV5801) has him playing short pieces by Carl Maria von Weber (Concertino), Giovanni Bottesini (Duetto, with Richard Frederickson on bass), and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Herbstlied, arranged for clarinet and string quartet by Toru Takemitsu). In addition Stoltzman gives a commanding performance of Weber's second Clarinet Concerto (Eb, Op. 74). The highlight for me, though, is his richly expressive reading of Claude Debussy's Premiere Rhapsodie (1909-10). The Rhapsodie is a great introduction to the composer's work, with its long lines and lanquid harmonies. Stoltzman emphasizes the piece's melodic content, and Kirk Trevor leads the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra in sensitive preformances of all of the music on the disc.

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