The British viola player Lawrence Power continues to be acclaimed as one of the greatest performers of today. Together with Hyperion he is recording all of the seminal twentieth-century works for the viola. Of the three Hungarian works for viola and orchestra on this latest release, the best-known is Bartok’s viola concerto, completed after the composer’s death by Tibor Serly.
This pair of single-movement viola concertos written for Yuri Bashmet justify his renown. In both, he is able to draw an impressive variety of expressions from his instrument with seeming ease. On the other hand, it's obvious there was a lot of thought and care put into his interpretations. The concertos need thoughtful interpretations by the soloist and the conductor, not because the pieces are necessarily complex in rhythm or harmony, but they are complex in tone and color.
The mutual admiration society that was Glenn Gould and Herbert von Karajan gave six concerts between May 1957 and September 1959 featuring Beethoven’s C minor Concerto (Berlin 1957) and Bach’s D minor (Berlin 1958, Lucerne 1959). Though neither of the Bach performances has appeared on disc, the Beethoven has had several CD outings. This handsomely packaged “official” transfer by Sony is the best we have had technically.
This is the eagerly awaited final volume in our historic series of Vaughan Williams’s Symphonies, started about twenty-five years ago by the late Richard Hickox, and recently continued by that other expert in British repertoire, Sir Andrew Davis.
Jennifer Higdon is a masterful colorist whose music is immediately appealing, full of energy and dash, but also with lyrical movements that grab you and hold your interest with their variety and melodic freshness. She can be brassy and bold like William Schuman and lushly Romantic like Samuel Barber, to mention just two American predecessors her music calls to mind. She also has a strong profile of her own, as we hear in City Scapes, a musical portrait of Atlanta that captures the bustle of a metropolis on the move. It's centerpiece, "river sings a song to trees," is wonderfully paced and engrossing. Concerto for Orchestra is a grand workout for a virtuoso band, teeming with solo turns that can tax all but the best musicians, and passages that spotlight sections of the orchestra with opportunities to strut their stuff. It's a brilliant piece brilliantly played by the Atlantans. Add Telarc's usual terrific sound and this disc becomes a must for fans of accessible modern music.
Brett Dean (born 1961 in Brisbane, Australia) is beginning to be a much talked about name in the music world. Long established as a fine violist (he was a violist with the Berlin Philharmonic for fifteen years) both as an ensemble member and soloist, Dean is spending more time composing these days than playing.
The revival of the viola d'amore as an instrument distinct and separate from the viola is a well-established phenomenon, advanced by composers and performers alike at least since the 1920s. That doesn't mean, however, that there are a great many players of the viola d'amore around, nor are there nearly as many viola d'amores in existence to play, at least in a quantity relative to the number of violas that are out there.