> Rachmaninov, Dohnanyi, Litolff CBC SMCD 5052 [IL]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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HOFFNUNG for CHRISTMAS? an ideal Christmas present for yourself or your friends.
Books posted the day the order is received

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp minor

Ernst von DOHNANYI (1877-1960)
Variations on a Nursery Song

Henry Charles LITOLFF (1818-1891)
Scherzo from the Third Concerto Symphonique
Arthur Ozolins (piano) Toronto Symphony conducted by Mario Bernardi
(recorded in 1986 at Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto)
CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) SMCD 5052 [58:21]


I have long admired the recordings published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for their adventurous repertoire, quality performances and clarity of sound. So, when this recording was sent to me for comparison purposes of one item in its programme, I jumped at the chance of reviewing it for MusicWeb. All the items here are reasonably well-known. Having said that we hear the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 1 too infrequently because it tends to be overshadowed by the composer’s more popular Second and Third Concertos. This is a great pity because it is full of gorgeous, memorable melodies. Ozolins gives a confident reading with plenty of attack and passion in the opening movement and tenderness in the haunting, yearning Andante, although the finale tends to sag a little in places, the orchestral accompaniment is less than sparkling. The Dohnanyi Nursery Song Variations is fun, beginning portentously with over-inflated Late Romantic bravura, but the pomposity is soon deflated by the announcement of the famous tune, ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’. The exquisite and tuneful variations that follow are parodies of the styles of many composers particularly Brahms and Liszt and Ozolins and Bernardi entertain with lively, polished performances.

That Scherzo by Litolff is also engagingly played. Interestingly the whole concerto from which it comes, Litolff’s Concerto Symphonique No. 4 (not No. 3 as published in this recording’s booklet!) can be heard on Hyperion CDA66889, together with Litolff’s Concerto Symphonique No. 2 featuring Peter Donohoe and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton. A new Hyperion CD, CDA 67210 has just been released with Litolff’s Concertos Symphonique Nos. 3 and 5 again played by Donohoe and Litton this time conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

It is unclear from the very cursory booklet notes whether these are live broadcast performances (even though there is neither audience noise nor applause, I suspect that they are).

Sterling performances of slightly less well-known yet well-loved Late Romantic works for piano and orchestra.

Ian Lace

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