Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos has been known for high-powered Liszt performances and for gee-whiz transcriptions of works like Mozart's Rondo alla turca that seem to add an impossible collection of polyphonic lines to the music. All that could have been expected from this 2003 recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23, was another big, powerful interpretation to join the others already out there.
The highlight of the Chandos disc is a real rarity, the 1953 Sinfonietta written as a fruit of Piazzolla’s studies with Ginastera prior to his trip to Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Vigorously rhythmic (as one might expect), the three spans are dramatic, sober and jubilant by turns, even if the melodies do lack the distinctive Piazzolla sound. It’s a well-constructed work, though, and Gabriel Castagna’s account is full of verve.
There are two points concerning the piano music of Sibelius that I feel need to be kept in mind. One is that the piano was not a natural instrument for Sibelius to communicate his musical thoughts. The other is that his ability to write appealing music extended to his piano compositions. Merging the two points results in attractive music that does not reflect the masterful orchestral works and symphonies that Sibelius composed. Sibelius wrote most of his piano music in response to financial requirements, while his strongest concentration was saved for his large-scale works. The variable quality of the piano music is apparent in any recorded program, ranging from disjointed and rambling pieces to music of dramatic substance and pieces that delight and sparkle. However, you will not find any hidden masterpieces, as the works do not plumb deep emotional issues or offer the structural coherence found in the works of outstanding composers for the piano.
Radio Massacre International is a trio of English musicians (Duncan Goddard, Steve Dinsdale, Gary Houghton) known for their extended concerts of epic aural excursions. Their performances are largely improvised and often veer off into areas dictated by mood, circumstance or whim. RMI's recorded output reflects the diversity and complexity of this work, which is often compared to that of the Berlin School of cosmic music that emerged in Germany during the 1970s. But RMI is not simply re-creating the music of this era, but rather further exploring and contemplating the expressional mode and the instruments that made it possible - in hopes of realizing new ideas…
…An appealing and most melodic selection of rare French harpsichord works, expertly performed with a very decent sound. Highly recommendable listening.
When the name Chopin is mentioned, what often comes to mind first are his Nocturnes and their dreamy qualities. Chopin, of course, wrote much more than that, and some of it is quite dramatic and intense. However, Daniel Barenboim seems to have missed getting that memo before recording Chopin's Preludes and the other works on this album. There is both drama and intensity in at least a few of the Preludes, often overdone, but not here. Those marked agitato, Nos. 1, 8, and 22, are placidly performed, with little impetus to them, while the "Polish Dance," No. 7, has no strength in it. No. 12 in G sharp minor has a little more energy, and No. 16 has a little more forcefulness, both coming closer than the other Preludes to living up to their potential. At the opposite extreme, Barenboim is generous with meaningful rubato in No. 17. The softness, gracefulness, and relaxed nature of Barenboim's playing works well for the Berceuse, but not for much else. The Polonaise-Fantasy still leans toward weaker drama than it could have; the brillantes aspect of the Ludiovic Variations is lost until the very end; and the Paganini Variations sound like a Nocturne throughout. There is little bombast in Chopin's music, but even if Barenboim were trying to avoid melodrama, a little more resolve in these works would have been nice.(Patsy Morita)