Project Harmonia Mundi - Part 14

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Rachmaninov: Sonata No. 2, Balakirev; Islamey [HMU907399] Olga Kern
Classical | Ape (Single Tracks) dbPowerAMP | 1CD/180MB | Covers |

Rachmaninov's glittering Sonata No.2 (revised version) and Morceaux de fantaisie; Liadov's enchanting Music Box; Taneyev's essay in counterpoint; and the Oriental pyrotechnics of Balakirev's Islamey - all unforgettably performed by 2001 Cliburn Competition gold medalist Olga Kern.
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Beethoven: Missa Solemnis [HMC901557] Philippe Herreweghe & Orchestre des Champs Elysées
Classical | EAC APE+CUE+LOG | 1CD/320MB | Covers+Booklet |

Philippe Herreweghe has the measure of this stubborn masterpiece… No-one has ever got it quite right - until now.
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Mendelssohn: String Quartets I [HMU907245] The Eroica Quartet
Classical | EAC APE+CUE+LOG | 1CD/353MB | Covers+Booklet |

Formed in 1993 with the commitment to rediscovering the vivid performance style of the romantic era, The Eroica Quartet makes its remarkable recording debut with quartets by the precocious Felix Mendelssohn. The major influence of Beethoven is unmistakable in these works, yet it is Mendelssohn's humane sophistication, urbanity, and sense of well-being that make these quartets uniquely his own.
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Mendelssohn: String Quartets II [HMU907287] The Eroica Quartet
Classical | EAC APE+CUE+LOG | 1CD/273MB | Covers+Booklet |

Leading the revival of Romantic period-performance style, The Eroica Quartet presents the second installment of its highly acclaimed Mendelssohn cycle with which the group made its harmonia mundi début.
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Mendelssohn: String Quartets III [HMU907288] The Eroica Quartet
Classical | EAC APE+CUE+LOG | 1CD/335MB | Covers+Booklet |

Leading the revival of Romantic period-performance style, The Eroica Quartet presents the third and final installment of its highly acclaimed Mendelssohn cycle.
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R. Strauss: Five Piano Pieces, Piano Sonata Op.5, Stimmungsbilder [HMC901642] Frank Braley
Classical | Ape (Single Tracks) dbPowerAMP | 1CD/174MB | Small Front Cover |

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Rachmaninov: Corelli Variations, Transcriptions [HMU907336] Olga Kern
Classical | Ape (Single Tracks) dbPowerAMP | 1CD/197MB | Covers |

Olga Kern comes from a long line of distinguished Russian musicians—her great-grandmother was a soprano who sang with Rachmaninov. Named Gold Medalist at the 11th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2001, she is heard here in a dazzling program of Rachmaninov piano transcriptions, his Corelli Variations, and the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 (with Rachmaninov’s cadenza transcribed from his own recordings) — performances by turns soulful and breathtaking.
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Ravel: Complete Works for Piano Solo [HMC901811.12] Alexandre Tharaud
Classical | EAC APE+CUE | 2CD/376MB | Small Cover Front |

How can one listen to the piano works of Ravel without thinking of Couperin and Rameau? In his exacting quest for precision, clarity, formal perfection, Ravel is indeed the heir to a certain 'classicism'. Yet let us not make the mistake of viewing his music as that of an unfeeling intellectual. Simplicity, irony and humour are never far away, and are in fact much more characteristic of the style of a composer whose primary concern is always to be a faithful servant of emotion. A notable feature of this recording is the presence of two previously unrecorded pieces, La Parade and the Minuet in C sharp.
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Schumann: Frauenliebe und -leben [HMC901753] Bernarda Fink, Roger Vignoles
Classical | Ape (Single Tracks) dbPowerAMP | 1CD/212MB | Small Front Cover |

Mezzo Barbara Fink provides a very attractive Schumann recital here, including the famous Frauenliebe und -Leben and the obscure Op. 90 Lenau cycle as well as some individual song selections. I recommend this recording but gave it 4 stars because I don't consider it as good as several other Schumann lieder sets I have been listening to recently. But it only trails by a little bit and is often very beautiful. If you like this repertory, you'll definitely want to hear this disc. About the Op. 90 cycle setting lyrics by the famous German poet Lenau, this is the only recording I know of this neglected late song cycle. I'll say that, like quite a few of Schumann's later works, it is underwhelming although it has its moments. I'll take an example: the 5th song, "Loneliness" (Einsamkeit) begins with a complicated piano figuration which recollects the best of Schumann's earlier work in its inventiveness, creatively matched with an attractive melody. So far so good. But the song doesn't sustain the initial inspiration and rambles, failing to sustain my interest, at least. The final song, a valedictory "Requiem", falls flat.

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Vivaldi: Oboe Sonatas [HMU907104] Frances Eustace, Nigel North, John Toll, Gail Hennessey, Paul Goodwin
Classical | Ape (Single Tracks) dbPowerAMP | 1CD/225MB | Cover+Tracklist |

Though the baroque instruments don't have the depth and richness of their modern counterparts, they have a charm and beauty of their own, and these sonatas are a treat, and a change from the often heard Vivaldi concertos. He wrote over a 100 sonatas, but they don't get performed or recorded often, and in this CD, you get 3 of them played to perfection.
The C major sonata RV 779 wasn't discovered until the mid 1970's, and is my favorite of the Vivaldi pieces on this CD. It has a large part for organ (played by John Toll), as well as one for the tenor chalumeau (played by Colin Lawson), which is a single reed instrument related to the early clarinet.

Despite the information given on the amazon CD listings, the A major RV 59 and G minor RV 58, which were once thought to be authored by Vivaldi, are actually the work of Nicolas Chedeville, a Parisian composer and musette player. These are delightful pieces, and match the loveliness of the Vivaldi compositions…in fact, the G minor sonata just might be the choice piece on this CD.

Paul Goodwin is one of the world's great oboe virtuosos…he specializes in repertoire that spans the 17th through the 19th centuries, and he's an expert in period instruments. If you like baroque music, I'm sure you'll enjoy this delightful CD.

Alejandra Vernon,
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Wolf: Moricke-Lieder [HMC901882] Werner Güra, Jan Schultsz
Classical | Ape (Single Tracks) dbPowerAMP | 1CD/180MB | Small Front Cover+Tracklist |

Hugo Wolf absolutely venerated the poems of Eduard Mörike, so much so that he ‘could not bear to be away from them even for an hour’. Almost all the Mörike-Lieder burst forth miraculously between February and May 1888, and it is in composing them that Wolf found his own voice. They are indispensable for understanding the subtle, accomplished art of this last great master of the lied with piano.
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