Music Reviews

An Embarrassment of Riches – Pt. 2

It’s been wonderful to see so many excellent new releases on Native DSD– “An Embarrassment of Riches!” Well, here I am with even more!  

The Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos

Garrick Ohlsson, Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, Sir Donald Runnicles

Last year I was totally entranced by Peter Takacs’ complete Beethoven Sonatas (here), and the whole collection went on to win the Album Of the Year award for instrumental. While I certainly have other famous recordings of some of the Sonatas, I felt that I could live happily with the Takacs set as my only versions. It seems to be happening again!

I know you’re going to tell me there’s no way the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra could compete with some of Europe’s and America’s top orchestras in Beethoven, but with the excellent piano of Garrick Ohlsson with  Sir Donald Runnicles conducting, they certainly do. Not only that, but these performances are magnificent. Ohlsson is precise, but sensitive, and he and the orchestra blend perfectly. When I started with the First Concerto, I really didn’t expect to sit transfixed and listen to them all– but I did. I’m too old and have too many other beloved recordings of these concertos to say that any are THE BEST, but what I will say is this set has immediately joined my list of those I would never want to be without. You’ll find Patrick Rucker’s review from Gramophone under “reviews” on this album’s page. He likes it too!

Towering Beethoven, beautifully played, and with superb recording quality! Can I say more? And then there is…

Brahms Symphonies (DSD Bundle)

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Herbert Blomstedt

(or individually)

We can be amazed that a conductor who is well into his 90s could produce magnificent results, but it’s certainly not unheard of–  Leopold Stokowski and Pierre Monteux are examples. But joining those luminaries is Herbert Blomstedt. His latest Brahms Symphonies on Pentatone are available on 3 separate albums or as a money-saving bundle on Native DSD. I don’t know why I should be at all surprised by how much I enjoy these performances–  I really like his Mahler 2, his Sibelius cycle, his Nielsen cycle, as well as his Beethoven cycles. He and the Gewandhausorchester make these symphonies absolutely beautiful, yet there is energy and a strong forward momentum as well. If you are looking for luminous Brahms, start here. Again, I have superb Brahms recordings in my collection, but I could happily live with this set as my only one.

Prokofiev Violin Concertos

Maria Milstein, Otto Tausk, Phion Orchestra of Gelderland & Overijssel 

Maria Milstein and the Phion Orchestra under Tausk do as fine a Prokofiev Violin Concerto #1 as you’re likely to hear. But they also bring out the best in Prokofiev’s Second Concerto in such a way that should bring it new recognition. Others have reminded me that the Second Concerto was written around the same time as Prokofiev’s ballet, Romeo and Juliet, and I can hear echoes.  Milstein masters Prokofiev’s marvellous rhythms and tunefulness in such a way that matches the best of the famous violinists who made these works famous in the first place. Superb playing and accompaniment, and the famous Jared Sacks touch in the Channel Classics recording and mastering.  

Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

Karina Canellakis, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

What an incredible debut album for Karina Canellakis, now the Chief Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra! Lively, with attention to Bartok’s wishes, and with incredible detail, this Is a Concerto for Orchestra that takes no prisoners. I’m a fan of Solti’s recording, as well as those of Reiner and Fischer. But this performance takes a back seat to no one. Canellackis captures the colour– I laughed out loud when Bartok makes fun of the Shostakovich 7th–  and I’m a huge fan of the 7th. Bartok’s Four Orchestral Pieces are a wonderful bonus. Watch for Karina Canellackis in the future– I’m sure there will be many more great recordings to come.

 An Old Hall Ladymass

Trio Mediaeval

The Old Hall Manuscript began as a collection of chants and motets in the early 15th Century, but some of the music had been around quite a bit longer. This is the most beautiful collection I’ve heard since the first few Anonymous Four albums. You don’t have to be religious to fall deeply into this music. The Trio Mediaeval’s voices are perfect. They are joined by Catalina Vincens playing something called an Organetto. There’s a picture of it. Historical wonders fill this album, but most importantly it is simply beautiful– and it’s available in a wide variety of formats. 

The Michel Legrand Songbook

Andrea Malek, Danubia Orchestra Óbuda, Janos Bodor, József Czibere, Kálmán Oláh, Paul Lakatos, Roby Lakatos, Trio Midnight 

Pianist Kalman Olah and vocalist Andrea Malek are joined by a bunch of their friends in this delightful tribute to Michel Legrand. The songs are great, the arrangements are fine, and Andrea Malek’s voice captures the very best of another era in mainstream music and light jazz. The first decade of my career in radio was filled with Michel Legrand’s music, so this album is like a long-lost old friend. “The Windmills of Your Mind” became a standard in spite of the first recording featuring the less than stellar singing of Noel Harrison. It didn’t take long for many others to add it to their repertoire. These arrangements are simple, yet sophisticated– familiar music with unexpected shades and colours. Do yourself a favour and listen!  

Written by

Bill Dodd

Bill is Senior Music Reviewer at NativeDSD. He lives in the Portland, Oregon area. He is an avid photographer too! Along with his early interest in broadcasting and high fidelity audio, he was exposed to classical music in small doses from age 5, was given piano lessons from age 9— Starting with Bach and including Gershwin. Successful morning personality in San Francisco at age 22. (true). Sang in choirs in high school and college. Although the broadcasting experience was all in popular music, his personal listening has been mostly classical his whole life—along with others including Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Joni Mitchell, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.


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