Though John Barry achieved popular recognition for the swinging, loungey, noir-ish soundtracks he composed for the James Bond films, he moved to the front rank of film composers with his score for 1966's BORN FREE. Stylistically, the music of BORN FREE is miles removed from Barry's Bond soundtracks, though the composer's fondness for brass fanfares, stirring strings, and lush, intricate charts with stunning dynamic range is still intact. On the whole, however, the music to BORN FREE has a playful, innocent quality, evoking the nature of the wild animals at the film's center. As the movie is set in Africa, Barry employs a range of African percussion instruments, and sections of flute music (which often seem to echo the sounds of birds or other creatures). The arrangements are expansive and sweeping, giving rise to the sensation of open plains, and Barry's recurring musical themes parallel the film's action (the track titles indicate plot events). The score is, for the most part, surprisingly subdued, with occasional bursts of energy (mirroring tumultuous events onscreen) and its stirring title theme the exceptions. Barry won an Academy Award for the score in 1966.
Esteemed for almost 60 years as one of the greatest Chopin interpreters, Maurizio Pollini confirms his preeminence with this 2017 release on Deutsche Grammophon, and offers his first all-Chopin disc since 2012. Chopin's late works were composed between 1845 and 1849, and include the Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60, the 3 Mazurkas, Op. 59, the Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61, the 2 Nocturnes, Op. 62, the 3 Mazurkas, Op. 63, the 3 Waltzes, Op. 64, and the Mazurka in F minor, Op. Posth. 68, No. 4; they are notable for their harmonic richness and freedom of melodic embellishment, characteristics that made them especially influential among his Romantic contemporaries. Pollini's fluid phrasing and control of expression and dynamics have always given his performances sophistication and a feeling of balance, though these are engaging renditions that are far from cerebral or clinical, claims that critics have sometimes laid at Pollini's door. Yet listeners can hear for themselves how polished and deeply felt these performances are, and appreciate the artistic wholeness of Pollini's conceptions, from the elegance of the "Minute" Waltz to the sublime melancholy of the posthumous Mazurka in F minor. Highly recommended for fans of great piano music.
Pianist Dong Hyek Lim, a bit older than the youthful face in the graphics might suggest, has gained a reputation as a Chopin specialist, with restrained, often exquisitely detailed performances made for the small recital hall rather than for the concert hall. This was, of course, the kind of venue for which Chopin wrote most of his music, and this is a very fine tour through the much-recorded 24 Preludes, Op. 28, which form the centerpiece of this album. Lim does well to introduce things with the flashier and rarely played Variations brillantes in B flat major, Op. 12, commanding the listener's attention before delving into the Preludes, some of the most harmonically intricate music Chopin wrote. Sample any of the really famous Preludes, such as the Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, No. 4, for an idea of what Lim is up to here: he not only lingers over dissonances, but explores their potential directions with sensitivity and intelligence, all while keeping the top of the dynamic range not very high. Lim takes you back to the public world with the Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57, and Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60, which show him to be capable of a more brilliant style. London's Henry Wood Hall fits these pieces well, but Warner's engineers might have gone with even a more intense, intimate space for the preludes. In any event, the performance of those is one of the most absorbing to have come along in quite some time.
Following his successful 2012 release of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov tries on the more intimate role of recitalist for this live Decca album of solo piano pieces by Frédéric Chopin. Trifonov is a powerhouse in the Lisztian mold, and his incredible technique seems better suited to fast, flashy fingerwork than to more subdued music. Certain pieces, such as the Rondo in F major, Op. 5, "À la Mazur," the Étude in F major, Op. 10/8, and the Grande Valse Brillante, Op. 18, allow feats of prestidigitation, and there's no denying that he can perform with dazzling virtuosity.