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“The catalogue may bulge with recordings of these two concertos, yet the verve and poetry of these performances somehow forbid comparison, even at the most exalted level. Zimerman claims that Rachmaninov says everything there is to say about the First Concerto in his own performance. But had Rachmaninov heard Zimerman he might have been envious. Zimerman opens in a blaze of rhetorical glory before skittering through the first Vivace with the sort of winged brilliance that will reduce lesser pianists to despair. The cadenza is overwhelming, and at 4'36" in the central Andante's starry ascent his rubato tugs painfully at the heartstrings. In the finale, despite a dizzying tempo, every one of the teeming notes is pinpointed with shining clarity. The Second Concerto also burns and coruscates in all its first heat. A romantic to his fingertips, Zimerman inflects one familiar theme after another with a yearning, bittersweet intensity that he equates in his interview with first love. Every page is alive with a sense of wonder at Rachmaninov's genius. Seiji Ozawa and the Boston orchestra are ideal partners, and DG's sound and balance are fully worthy of this memorable release.”
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“Robert Simpson disagreed with writers who believed that Beethoven's backward glances to Haydn and Mozart in his Op 18 set were so obvious as to distract attention from his own individuality. The Takács disagree, too. They concede the tradition, but those glances are far from obvious. From the beginning this is Beethoven through and through. The opening bars of Op 18 No 1 are soft yet terse. The answering calls are conciliatory, but the suspense is palpable. And, in a trenchant Allegro con brio, every sforzando is used to raise the tension, especially in the development. There are no concessions to surface beauty, and the message isn't subdued. The Takács are particular about dynamics. The fortissimo chord near the finish of the slow movement is startling, and the build up from pianissimo is as impressive as the drop back to the end. The Adagio, though directed to be both impassioned and tender, tends to be fervent, while fine inflections to the line ensure that the fairly swift tempo doesn't appear hurried. Conversely, the Adagioma non troppo of No 6 is compassionately slow, but continuously mobile: these musicians don't overlay textures with fatty tissue. Despite wide separation, ensemble is always close-knit. Just how close may be appreciated in the Scherzos, which are tight and cohesive. That of No 4 has, in addition, precise give and take between the contrapuntal lines. The Takács play them in a way that leads the ear on without ignoring the expressive demands of the unusual marking Andantescherzoso quasi Allegretto.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
Virgin Classics is delighted to announce the signing of an exclusive contract with the Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon. The 31-year-old makes his debut disc with repertoire that ranges from bel canto arias to masterpieces of verismo: Cilea, Puccini, Donizetti, Verdi.
“Buffalo has preposterously harsh winters, but it is worth braving blizzards to hear its fine orchestra. Falletta and the Buffalonians pour an ample portion of polished Griffes's score” International Record Review
“Griffes represents the high point of American post-Romanticism. From his European training he inherited both the German and French traditions of Strauss and Debussy, fused them into something rich and strange, and in his later years became involved with Scriabin and oriental music. Much of his music has been regularly available on record, but this all-Griffes CD now makes the best showing for his hyper-sensitive responses to both literature and landscape. Many of the works here are piano pieces fastidiously scored, with significant additions. TheWhite Peacock, just possibly a cousin of Stravinsky's firebird, is the first of the Roman Sketches for piano, all prefaced with stanzas by Fiona McLeod (a nom-de-plume for William Sharp): the impressionistic Clouds is the last of these. The orchestral opulence of the Three Poems ofFiona McLeod, steeped in baleful Celtic twilights, makes the piano version seem anaemic; they're compellingly sung here by Barbara Quintiliani. In the Three Tone-Pictures every picturesque detail of harmonically qualified melody is subtly imagined. The same applies to the Poem for flute and orchestra, where the continuity has the instinctive flow of Delius, beautifully realised by Carol Wincenc. The Pleasure-Dome of KublaKhan, the most extended work in this anthology, is an ecstatic response to Coleridge's opium- saturated masterpiece. Conductor JoAnn Faletta is completely sympathetic throughout, and there are neatly delivered solos from many of the Buffalo players. This is a revelatory Griffes release, decently recorded with a wide dynamic range: strongly recommended.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Steven Osborne follows his superlative Hyperion recording of Messiaen's Vingt Regards surl'Enfant-Jésus with Liszt's Harmonies poétiques etreligieuses, surely a precursor of Messiaen's masterpiece. Attuned to the mystic heart at the centre of Liszt's Catholicism, Osborne once more shows the sort of stylistic ease and tonal magic that come to very few young pianists. Sacred and profane love blend with a wholly Lisztian alchemy. In 'Invocation', the magnificent gateway to the cycle, Osborne offers up its quasi-orchestral rhetoric with immense power but without bombast. The 'Bénédiction' is daringly understated in pages that can all too easily topple into lavish, tear-laden emotionalism. 'Pensées des morts' is a triumph of alternating anguish and exultation. If all conventional pomp and circumstance are erased by the brisk tempo in the opening of 'Funérailles', Osborne's performance is still a marvel of concentrated musicianship and indiv- iduality. In the Andante lagrimoso he conjures an uncanny stillness in music whose painful climbing looks ahead to the dark, attenuated utterances of Fauré's final years, while the final 'Cantique d'Amour' resolves all past torment in a paean of praise for the union of two traditionally opposed ideas of love. Few more radiant or deeply considered Liszt recordings have ever been made. Hyperion's sound is immaculate.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“This is a fine recital, with a recording to match” BBC Music Magazine