Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"You wouldn't want to encourage this sort of thing"

So, of the 1,542 discs on the long list for the 2011 Nereffid's Guide Awards, 38 (= 2.5%) received the best possible review from one source and the worst possible review from another. (There was complete consensus on 97 discs, as it happens). In some cases, critical opinion spanned the entire spectrum - such as in Mikhail Pletnev's Tchaikovsky 5 on PentaTone and Gustavo Dudamel's Tchaikovsky/Shakespeare disc on DG. But in other cases there was general praise with one dissent. Here's some examples.

Rachmaninov: Piano concertos 3 & 4. Leif Ove Andsnes; London SO/Antonio Pappano [EMI]
Ian Lace on MusicWeb (a Recording of the Month): "
the partnership of Andsnes and Pappano delivers a beautifully-judged, nicely-balanced reading of heroic power and beauty. Andsnes’s fleet and tigerish playing dazzles. There are so many little delights, so many cherishable nuances in this reading."
Richard A Kaplan in Fanfare: "The opening solo serves as a template for the entire enterprise; there is no phrasing of the melody, just a succession of notes. ... And so it goes: Technical passages are too aggressive, lyrical ones given short shrift."

Debussy, Ravel, Dutilleux: String quartets. Arcanto Quartet [Harmonia Mundi]
This got top ratings from Classics Today France, Scherzo (Spain), and Pizzicato (Luxembourg).
Fanfare's Boyd Pomeroy: "The Debussy receives a dream performance, of silken refinement and great subtlety of expression - a very French kind of animation and inflection of line, minutely attentive to nuances of dynamics, articulation, and tempo modification. ... The Ravel is every bit as good, a textural and coloristic feast"
ARG's Gil French: "... insufficient articulation that turned the sound into a legato blur. The more I listened, the more I realized that the players themselves have a very poor feel for balance. In the Debussy and Ravel both the first violinist and cellist underplay their more tender lines to such a degree that I had to force myself to even notice them. Even worse is that the Arcanto Quartet have a very poor feel for pulse. Tempos shift constantly, destroying each movement's continuity".

Mozart: Piano concertos nos.14, 15 and 21. Christian Zacharias (p); Lausanne Chamber Orchestra [MDG]
Earned a Diapason d'Or, a 10/10 from Classics Today, and an Outstanding from International Record Review.
IRR's Nigel Simeone: "playing [from Zacharias] of disciplined energy, refinement and faultless, even-toned technique. ... Altogether, this is some of the most distinguished Mozart piano concerto playing I've heard in recent years"
ARG's Donald Vroon: "So here is the latest sterile style of playing applied to Mozart's lovely concertos - and it stinks... The pianist is choppy and never plays a phrase, just a pile of unconnected, mechanical-sounding notes. ... This is simply dreadful. Don't encourage this kind of sterile dogmatism by buying it."

Schubert: Rosamunde. Musikkollegium Winterthur/Douglas Boyd [MDG]
Both Victor Carr on Classics Today and Donald Vroon in ARG agree that the best recording of Rosamunde is the M√ľnchinger/VPO one on Decca. But for Carr, the M√ľnchinger is "the only serious rival to this new recording", whereas Vroon opines "This new one is not even worth considering".
Carr:
"Hearing the three dramatic chords that open the Zauberharfe overture played by this excellent Swiss orchestra (the oldest in Switzerland) I was immediately struck by the clarity of attack and rich instrumental color. As the performance progresses the Musikkollegium Winterthur exhibits an alluring full-bodied tone and characterful playing completely in the Schubertian style."
Vroon: "Atrocious. This is another misconceived fad recording; don't buy it - you wouldn't want to encourage this sort of thing. ... conductors like Boyd are determined to uglify our music - even romantic music like this. SACD sound is no help when the orchestra is made to play like a baroque band and sounds so terrible."

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