Classical album reviews: Melvyn Poore, Stefano Gervasoni, Leif Ove Andsnes & Mahler Chamber Orchestra


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Melvyn Poore Death Be Not Proud (Wergo)

Pity the poor tuba player, with few opportunities for solo work, there being precious few works written with his instrument in mind. Here, tuba virtuoso Melvyn Poore compensates by augmenting his instrument with electronic manipulations. The self-penned title track features bleak low moans amid a sea of shivering electronic wind and whispered recital of the John Donne sonnet from which the title is drawn: a sort of sonic cemetery that, to be honest, one wouldn’t want to visit too often. Cort Lippe’s “Music for Tuba and Computer” applies pitch-shift and chorus effects to the tuba’s sombre low, long tones, the treatments determined by the dynamics of the tuba performance. Maybe it’s the limitations of the instrument, but the results, while occasionally interesting, are hard  to get involved with.


Download: Death Be Not Proud; Music for Tuba and Computer

Stefano Gervasoni Dir – In Dir (Winter & Winter)

Though based around poetic texts (by Angelus Silesius and Paul Celan, respectively), in these works by Luigi Nono protegé Stefano Gervasoni language seems to break apart as if surrendering the grip of meaning, syllables becoming textural fragments among musical elements. The two pieces are intended as a pair of cycles, one representing spiritual ascension, and the second a suicidal descent (hence Celan). Employing a sort of double sextet (six strings, six singers), Dir – In Dir is the longer and more affecting, featuring a low humming speckled with string stabs and broken vocables, language floating apart amidst music. It’s an unnerving but oddly soothing work, for which the composer’s image of an “infinity of leaves  and thorns conceals all possible answers” offers an apt metaphor.


Download: Dir – In Dir; Descdesesasf

Leif Ove Andsnes, Mahler Chamber Orchestra The Beethoven Journey: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4 (Sony Classical)

Leif Ove Andsnes responds to an almost childlike wonder and innocence in these concertos with a performance full of optimism and light – his involvement in the lengthy, rhapsodic cadenza in the second concerto’s Allegro con brio is particularly outstanding. And the intrinsic gentleness and empathy of the fourth concerto, written while Beethoven was lovestruck, lends itself perfectly to Andsnes’s calm, lyrical treatment: the solo introductory passage seems almost to enter with bowed head, its diffidence presaging an emotionally draining journey that eventually resolves into the triumphant Rondo: vivace. It’s a serene performance that grips, but lightly.


Download: Piano Concerto No. 4; Piano Concerto No. 2