This is not the first time Marc-André Hamelin has been competing with himself for a position on my Want List. And if his recording of his own 12 etudes edges out his CD with the Strauss
and the Reger concerto, it’s at least partly because Hamelin is a better composer than Strauss was at that stage in his career or than Reger ever was. These etudes were penned at various times over nearly two decades; besides their virtuoso fireworks, they demonstrate Hamelin’s beguiling harmonic, rhythmic, and contrapuntal imagination, as well as his strong lyrical impulse, a quality that emerges even more clearly in the generally more introverted fillers.
A variety of forces—pure snobbishness being far from the least of them—have conspired to keep Korngold’s 1952 Symphony from the popularity it deserves. Still, since Rudolf Kempe’s revelatory taping in 1972, it’s had its share of good recordings. None, however, match the wrenching new version from Marc Albrecht, notable both for the conductor’s appreciation for the music’s contradictions and for the superior SACD engineering.
In contrast to Korngold’s Symphony, Glazunov’s Violin Concerto may have
popularity than it deserves—but most of the rest of his output for soloist and orchestra has a tenuous hold on the repertoire. Fresh from his illuminating run through the Glazunov symphonies, however, José Serebrier—partnered by violinist Rachel Barton Pine, cellist Wen-Sinn Yang, pianist Alexander Romanovsky, saxophonist Marc Chisson, and horn player Alexey Serov—makes the strongest possible case for this material. If, like me, you’ve been a Glazunov skeptic, give it a try. If this release doesn’t move the Glazunov concertos up a few notches in your estimation, I suspect that nothing will.
On to more standard rep: Vassily Petrenko’s exceptional Shostakovich cycle is especially valuable for its illumination of the First Symphony, an interpretation that—as well as any I know—celebrates the music’s violations of musical decorum: its timbral awkwardness, its structural transgressions, and its whiplash emotional trajectory. It’s coupled with an equally compelling reading of the even more radical Third. Illuminating in a very different way is Hélène Grimaud’s probing performance of Ravel’s G-Major Concerto, a performance that similarly heightens the music’s underlying rifts, and serves, more effectively than you would have thought possible, as a transition between Vladimir Jurowski’s impressive readings of Strauss’s
Much Ado About Nothing:
Albrecht / Strasbourg PO
PTC 5186373 (SACD)
Serebrier / Pine / Yang / Romanovsky / Chisson / Serov / Russian Natl O
WARNER 2564 67946-5 (2 CDs)
Symphonies: Nos. 1, 3
Petrenko / Royal Liverpool PO
Piano Concerto in G.
Metamorphosen. Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme:
Grimaud / Jurowski / Ch O of Europe
EUROARTS 3078734 (Blu-ray)