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.