Arts and Entertainment

Avi Avital "Between Worlds" (Deutsche Grammophon)

Album: Berg/Beethoven. Violin Concertos - Faust/Abbado/Orchestra Mozart (Harmonia Mundi)

The unorthodox pairing of Berg's anguished memorial to Manon Gropius and Beethoven's earthy, ecstatic concerto casts a curious spell in this thoughtful performance from Isabelle Faust and Orchestra Mozart under Claudio Abbado.

Album: Akademie Fur Alte Musik Berlin, Music for the Berlin Court (Harmonia Mundi)

When Frederick II assumed the Prussian throne, his Berlin court became one of Europe's main centres of musical endeavour.

Album: Graham Reynolds, The Difference Engine (Innova)

Graham Reynolds is the quintessential modern composer, able to turn his hand to anything from rock to ballet to movie scores to jazz.

Alexis Weissenberg: Pianist celebrated for the clarity and command of his style

At the height of his fame Alexis Weissenberg was a household name in his adoptive France.

Album: Mikhail Simonyan, Two Souls: Khachaturian/Barber

Mikhail Simonyan was born in Russia, of Russian/Armenian extraction, but has lived in America for several years – hence the Two Souls reflected in these performances of violin concertos by Khachaturian and Barber. Recorded with the LSO under Kristjan Järvi, Simonyan's intention was to bring out the qualities that embody the cultural roots of each composer: thus, he commissioned a new cadenza for Khachaturian's concerto by Artur Avanesov, to emphasise the Armenian flavour, and treated the dashing final movement of Barber's concerto in a looser manner than usual, suggestive of rustic American fiddling. The first movement of the Khachaturian is especially impressive.

Album: Peter Howard Jensen, Vivaldi

Vivaldi never wrote specifically for the guitar, but since he often recycled parts for different instruments, there's nothing wrong in Danish guitarist Peter Howard Jensen's transposing of these concertos and trios for guitar and strings. The only problem is that the guitar sometimes struggles within the ensemble setting, particularly during passages of gusto, when it occasionally disappears completely. But in the quieter sections its clarity of timbre brings a freshness to the lines, contrasting with the modern tendency towards over-rich interpretations of Vivaldi. While the lute pieces incorporate a more natural balance of elements than those where the guitar is playing violin parts, they suffer from a slightly plodding formality.

London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall, London

As curator of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s ongoing Prokofiev series, Vladimir Jurowski has striven to highlight the paradoxes which serve to make him the most contradictory of composers. He's fielding oddities, he’s bowling googlies – none more so than Symphonic Song Op.57. When did anyone last hear this curiosity, if ever, and was there ever a piece which more perversely stretched the credibility of its title?

London Philharmonic Orchestra / Vedernikov, Royal Festival Hall, London

The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s intriguing new Prokofiev series is entitled “Man of the People?” and the enigma is all in the question mark.

Christian Blackshaw, Wigmore Hall

Horses for courses: the question of which keyboard instruments suit which composers’ music is as pertinent now as it was when the harpsichord and fortepiano were competing for dominance in the 18 century.

Album: Copland / Hillborg / Lutoslawski etc, Dances to a Black Pipe (BIS)

Dance is the dominant theme in clarinettist Martin Fröst's eclectic recital with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Uchida/Davis/LSO, Barbican

On the London Symphony Orchestra’s website there’s a conversation between pianist Mitsuko Uchida and conductor Colin Davis in which they discuss the Beethoven and Nielsen works they are currently performing at the Barbican.

Album: Emmanuel Pahud, The Flute King (EMI Classics)

As enlightened monarchs go, King Frederick The Great of Prussia takes some beating. A successful warrior, he also championed early Enlightenment ideas, corresponding with Voltaire and writing political tracts of his own.

Album: Vivaldi, Il Cimento dell'Armonia... – Avison Ensemble / Beznosiuk (Linn)

Though based in the North-East, the Avison's double-disc of Vivaldi's Opus 8 Violin Concertos rivals the sun-kissed performances of Europa Galante and Concerto Italiano.

Album: Nicola Benedetti, Italia (Decca)

Benedetti indulges her Italian tastes with a baroque programme based around Vivaldi.

Album: Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, The Liszt Concertos (Deutsche Grammophon)

The pairing of the cool Boulez with the more expressive Barenboim might seem a mismatch of styles; but with Boulez wielding the baton over Barenboim's Staatskapelle Berlin as the pianist tackles these two pillars of Liszt's musical temple, a magical balance is achieved that allows the music's character to surge forth with no recourse to the easy victories of cliché.

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