Pierre Boulez, Christian Tetzlaff, Wiener Philharmoniker
Song of the Night: Szymanowski
Pierre Boulez's first recording of Karol Szymanowski is a magical affair, pairing the Symphony No 3 ("Song of the Night"), with the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No 1. The latter is very well rendered, the gossamer thread of Christian Tetzlaff's violin drawing us inexorably into the haunted heart of the piece. There's an element of super-natural possession about the work, which is echoed on a larger scale in the Symphony No 3, where the tenor Steve Davislim and a full chorus anchor the fantastical orchestrations with grav- itas. Based on a setting of a text by the poet Jalaladdin Rumi, it's a Symphonie Fantastique for the 20th century.
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Margaret Leng Tan
She Herself Alone: The Art of the Toy Piano 2
The toy piano – essentially a glockenspiel keyed with plastic hammers – has a limited sonic appeal, which Margaret Leng Tan exploits to the fullest here in works by Cage, Crumb, Griswold and others. Of particular interest are pieces in which it's joined by other instruments: Eric Griswold's six-part suite "Old MacDonald's Yellow Submarine" uses prepared piano and toy piano to create a gentle gamelan feel, Laura Liben's "She Herself Alone" combines it with the Oriental tang of toy psaltery, while Ross Bolleter's "Hymn to Ruin" profitably exploits the toy piano in the context of the composer's fascination with "ruined" pianos.
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Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition
A new recording of Pictures at an Exhibition is cleverly programmed here alongside works from Debussy and Liszt which enrich one's appreciation of it. In the opening bars of Sposalizio, one of three Liszt depictions of Italian scenes included here, can be discerned forward echoes of Mussorgsky's Promenade motif, while Debussy's Estampes offer a trio of complementary visual treats on Oriental, Spanish and bucolic themes. Williams's touch throughout is subtle but assuredly dramatic, shifting between the various Pictures confidently: the crucial aspect-shift in which the viewer is lured into the skull-strewn catacombs in "Cum mortuis in lingua mortua" allows the sombre mood to linger.
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