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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    




Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Cello Concerto No 1 in C major Hob VIIb: 1
Cello Concerto No 2 in D major Hob VIIb: 2
Concerto for Piano and Strings in D major Hob XVIII: 11
Violin Concerto No 1 in C major Hob VIIa: 1
Violin Concerto No 2 in G major Hob VIIa: 4
Trumpet Concerto in E flat major Hob VIIe: 1
London Trios Nos 1-3 Hob IV: 1-3
Yo-Yo Ma (cello) with
English Chamber Orchestra conducted by José Luis Garcia
Emanuel Ax (piano) with
Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra
Cho-Liang Lin (violin) with
Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Neville Marriner (Violin Concerto No 1)
Isaac Stern (violin) with
Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra
Wynton Marsalis (trumpet) with
English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Raymond Leppard
Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute) Isaac Stern (violin) Mstislav Rostropovich (cello)
No recording details
SONY SM2K89984 [2 CDs 143.50]
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Something of a mixed bag here starting, ominously and yet inevitably, with Sony’s packaging. This company usually manages to annoy me by omitting all recording details but here they surpass themselves because they’ve managed entirely to omit the names of the musicians who play the three London trios. A small matter really as they’re only Isaac Stern, Mstislav Rostropovich and Jean-Pierre Rampal. Never mind, once past this typographical omission and we’re faced with a dazzling array of soloists only some of whom live up to their billing. So to present the conclusion first it’s in with Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Cho-Liang Lin and the stellar chamber trio so thoughtlessly omitted from the booklet and jewel case documentation and it’s farewell to Wynton Marsalis and Isaac Stern the soloist.

Yo-Yo Ma is an exceptionally sensitive soloist; his phrasing is romantically orientated but not romanticised. A degree of self-control and tonal austerity are permanent admixtures of his playing so that for example the C major emerges as warm but not anachronistically emotive. The lean tone he employs in the Adagio sounds entirely apt – and if one can baulk at the recording, most especially in the finale where there is a degree of unnatural spotlighting – that’s hardly the soloist’s fault. In the D major his diminuendi are expressive without becoming excessive; dynamics are restrained and his naturally elegant phrasing is enormously pleasurable. He doesn’t dig too deeply into the string and in the slow movement is sympathetic but certainly not sugar coated. The spirited Allegro finale has some spot-on intonation, considerable energy and a winning stylishness. Not a brace of performances for those who crave emotive espressivo from their Haydn but to me more than merely efficient; these are readings more than deserving of a welcome back to the catalogue. Emanuel Ax is predictably splendid in the keyboard concerto; left hand stabbing away in the opening Vivace as he himself directs the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra. There’s plenty of fluency here and in his own cadenza, properly glittering, he creates an atmosphere around him of energy and skill. The limpidity and grace of the slow movement is delightful and the famous Rondo all’Ungarese finale is dextrous, taut and witty without ever resorting to bombast – a splendid traversal all round.

The same goes for Cho-Liang Lin’s performance of the First Violin Concerto. In keeping with his equally recommendable Mozart Concertos he is a most stylish exponent of this repertoire. The basses are well defined here, the harpsichord is well heard in the balance and Lin is expressive within the stylistic boundaries of the piece. His slow movement is done with real simplicity and elegance. After which Stern comes as something of a disappointment in the G major Concerto, in particular the first movement. His intonation is worryingly approximate in the first movement cadenza and the sense of technical strain becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Best to pass over this. And also, for different reasons, Marsalis’s Trumpet Concerto, a gauche and unattractive reading. I liked the prominence of the flutes in the orchestral passages in the first movement – Leppard on attentive and intelligent form – but Marsalis is anodyne for much of the movement and more crucially in the Andante. He launches a remarkable technique in the third but facelessness bedevils the performance. The little London trios reassert some last minute strength; the trio of Rampal, Stern and Rostropovich enjoy the simplicities of these undemanding works but no one will buy the discs for these performances alone.

As I said, a mixed bag. A better proposition, theoretically, would be to detach the Stern, Marsalis and the trios to leave Yo-Yo Ma, Cho-Liang Lin and Ax - but this would breach the 80-minute mark. So as it stands a recommendation with some serious reservations.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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