Author

Michael Walsh

Written as a public apology to Stalin for his adventurous opera, The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District, Shostakovich inscribed the 1937 score of his Fifth Symphony, ”A Soviet artist’s practical, creative response to just criticism.” Still, Shostakovich’s appareet memoir, Testimony-dictated to Solomon Volkov and made into a memorable 1987 film by British director Tony Palmer-demonstrates that the Leningrader was too much the pure musician to let ideology compromise the force of his message. The Fifth is a big, rich, sprawling work, deservedly popular in both the East and the West.

Read Full Story

Weber is a Boston-based pianist and novelist (”The Secret Life of Eva Hathaway”) whose musical career has posed the question, why make it easy for yourself when you can make it hard? Eschewing the standard repertory, Weber has instead concentrated on the fiercest knuckle-crackers – in particular the showpieces of Leopold Godowsky and the transcriptions of other late-Romantic virtuosos. Now comes this recording of Liszt’s famous etudes – not the final version of 1852, which is usually played, but the even harder version of 1838, the one Liszt himself performed in public.

Read Full Story

In 1819, Anton Diabelli, a music publisher, asked Beethoven and 49 other composers to contribute one variation on a waltz theme he had composed; Beethoven came up with 23 and later added 10 more. His variations are among the glories of the piano literature. The ”Hammerklavier” Sonata may be deeper, but no other Beethoven piano work is as rich in humor, nuance, and invention as these brilliant glosses on this trivial waltz theme. Brendel, tagged his whole career as a ”pianist’s pianist,” here demonstrates his considerable wit in a dashing display.

Read Full Story

And now for something completely different: To the Fore!, wind band originals and arrangements (of Bach, Sousa, and Franck) by the 20th-century Australian-born piano virtuoso (surely the greatest pianist named Percy of all time). Even if you generally hate band music, how can you go wrong with tunes like ”The Gum- Suckers’ March” and ”Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon”? You can’t, that’s how. B

Read Full Story

Oppitz, 38, is a Bavarian pianist, winner of the 1977 Artur Rubinstein Competition in Israel. A professor at the Munich Conservatory, he is better known for his performances of contemporary music, but this splendid integral recording, The Complete Works for Solo Piano, is impressive Brahms playing on every level. Oppitz is perhaps more impressive in such big works as the three sonatas and the Handel Variations than in the delicate traceries of the late intermezzi and fantasies. But this is a small caveat. B+

Read Full Story

Is there any classier pianist than de Larrocha? So what if the Spanish-born pianist can play Spanish music in her sleep? There’s simply no one alive who can better give Albéniz and Granados their due. This disc of Granados’ masterpiece Goyescas, which throws in three other short works as a bonus, is de Larrocha at her best: the warm tone, the rippling passagework, and, most important, the profound musical intelligence at work. A

Read Full Story

Kissin is the baby-faced Russian pianist who took America by storm last fall, and this record, Evgeny Kissin at Carnegie Hall made live, shows why. The 19-year-old Russian is impetuous, fiery, headstrong, willful — and terrific. His Schumann Symphonic Études sing, the Prokofiev Sixth Sonata growls, and Liszt and Chopin drip with drawing-room sentiment, not sentimentality. Get on the Kissin bandwagon: He’s for real. A

Read Full Story

A nice try here, but no cigar. Éva Marton is too icy and unfocused, José Carreras too weak, and Juan Pons a toneless disaster. Best of the lot is Michael Tilson Thomas, who conducts this Tosca suavely but a little too dispassionately for this mighty melodrama. Stick with the classic Leontyne Price-Giuseppe di Stefano-Herbert von Karajan version, still available on London. C-

Read Full Story

Well, what can you say about an icon? The Complete Caruso has everything the great tenor recorded for the Victor Talking Machine Co. between 1902 and 1920. The works have been spruced up for CD via the Soundstream process, which purports to reveal the true sound of music recorded with archaic technology; true or not, the 12 CDs have a vivid immediacy that makes the collection irresistible. Still, was there any particular reason why Golden Age singers had such a cavalier attitude toward intonation?

Read Full Story

The need for a cycle of Mozart’s 41 symphonies performed on modern instruments by an East European orchestra of no particular distinction would seem to be dubious, and indeed Mackerras’ performances offer no compelling reason for this project. The original-instruments crowd has pretty well mopped up the field. What we have here are reasonable readings, but not much more. Christopher Hogwood conducting the Academy of Ancient Music remains the best Mozart symphony choice. C

Read Full Story
Page: