Sometimes, music requires more than merely combined star power to make it work, as Watch the Throne, the eagerly-awaited alliance between Jay-Z and Kanye West, seems to confirm.
The latest of the LCO Live series offers an engaging and varied programme of French Romanticism combining the well-known (Ravel's "Pavane pour une infante défunte" and Faure's "Pavane") with more abstruse pieces such as Ravel's giddily involving but graceful tribute to his predecessor, "Le Tombeau de Couperin", and Jacques Ibert's six-part suite "Divertissement", as gaudy and brashly-coloured as a cheap tablecloth in a seafront bistro. The centrepiece of the programme is Poulenc's "Piano Concerto", the opening section of which alone seems to incorporate more disparate styles than most composers cover in a career.
DOWNLOAD THIS: Le Tombeau de Couperin; Piano Concerto; Divertissement
Album: ALICE SARA OTT, Beethoven (Deutsche Grammophon)
Alice Sara Ott's follow-up to last year's remarkable studies of Chopin, Liszt and Tchaikovsky finds the gifted young pianist taking on Beethoven's two C-major sonatas, with a mature reading of the "Waldstein" preceded by an equally impressive take on the less frequently performed No 3 Sonata. It's this latter which provides the more gripping ride, from the dashing brilliance of the Allegro con brio first movement before negotiating the sudden thrust in a more melancholy direction in the Adagio. Finally, the rolling cadences of the concluding Allegro assai capture Ott's youthful spirit at its most attractively coltish.
DOWNLOAD THIS: Piano Sonata No 3 in C major; Piano Sonata No 21 in C major, "Waldstein"
Album: LUCA FRANCESCONI, Ballata (Stradivarius)
The subject matter of Ballata, an opera based on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, plays to Francesconi's strengths, notably the affinity for extremes of experience that he shares with the Romantic poets (he might just as readily have turned his hand to a setting of Wordsworth's "The Prelude", in which nature looms as implacably as it does over Coleridge's hapless Mariner). But it's the nihilistic resolve of the undertaking that most impresses: Francesconi is resolute in his large-scale realisation of the despairing Mariner's humiliation by the quixotic spirit of Life-in-Death, and of Death's utter disinterest in his victims. And, as might be expected of a pupil of Berio and Stockhausen, he wields a terrifying sonic palette. Not for the faint-hearted.
DOWNLOAD THIS: Ballata