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The Spinning Girl
Stanislaw MONIUSZKO (1819-1872)

The Spinning Girl arranged Melcer [3.00]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Siciliana arranged Galston [3.24]
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)

Sarabanda [1.40]
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)

Orfeo – Dance of the Spirits – Menuet [5.16]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata No.14 in C sharp minor Op.27/2 Moonlight (1801) [14.42]
Friedrich KUHLAU (1786-1823)

Sonatine in C Op.20 No.1 (1819) [8.40]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Impromptu No.1 in F minor D935 (1828) [9.39]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Mazurka in A minor Op.68 No.2 (1827) [1.56]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)

Etude No.1 Op.4 (1902) [3.38]
Etude No.3 Op.4 (1902) [4.57]
Prelude Op.1 No.1 (1900) [1.51]
Prelude Op.1 No.7 (1900) [2.42]
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)

The Three Maries [3.29]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)

Toccata (1932) [3.54]
Dmitri KABELEVSKY (1904-1987)

Sonatine in C Op.13 No.1 (1930) [4.54]
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)

Tango Ballade [2.59]
Felicja Blumental (piano)
No recording location or date
BRANA RECORDS BR0014 [76.59]

 

This is something of a mixed bag. Brana has been reissuing Blumental’s recordings at a prodigious rate and that’s all to the good. This one though has an odds and ends feel to it; not necessarily a bad thing in itself but one that invariably leads to a lack of focus. That said one can see that the compilers have tried to lend a semblance of formality to the recital – Baroque opening, the Moonlight sonata, followed by Kuhlau, some Poles, Latin Americana – a strength of hers – and then Khachaturian and Kabalevsky, with a dash of Weill as an envoi cum bonbon.

The piece that gives the disc its title comes from the Polish Moniuszko whose folk- inflected The Spinning Girl is played with deliciously witty hauteur. Of the trio of Bach, Corelli and Gluck the first has a chaste ease but no great depth and the second is attractively pliant. The Gluck is a segue from the Dance of the Blessed Spirits to the Melodie (here called Menuet) and not the more normally encountered Melodie arrangement. Too much stiff upper lip here, for my taste anyway. The Beethoven is rather compromised by the original recording; I’m assuming these were transferred from an LP copy and that Brana didn’t have access to the master tapes (if they sill exist) because there are rather too many ticks and minor scratches for absolute comfort. I don’t happen to mind this too much but in all critical fairness I should mention these weaknesses as I should, more damagingly, some tape instability - it emerges as wow and makes some bars very flat. Two-thirds through the Presto finale the tape had deteriorated quite badly and I rather wish Brana had dealt with this problem, as it scuppers the performance.

Kuhlau is always with us on the pedagogic fringes and his ever-Mozartian Sonatine in C is mildly diverting, or as diverting as Kuhlau can be. Schubert’s Impromptu sounds rather businesslike in this performance and some of the phrasing is decidedly choppy. Some bright spark in the recording booth in the 1960s turned up the recording level toward the end of the performance with comic results. As Klemperer said to his daughter once during a recording of his - "Lotte, ein Schwindel!" I enjoyed the Szymanowski rather more – the third etude is particularly expressive – and the Villa-Lobos even more, though I know nothing about the work. She was an associate and friend of the composer and her credentials are impeccable in his music. Listen to the witty left hand pointing in the third of the Three Maries, Mintika - though it’s a shame it cuts off abruptly at the end, almost shaving the last note. Khachaturian’s lumbering boogie-woogiefied Toccata is here (clangorously recorded, alas) and so is Kabalevsky’s brief Sonatine.

There are no notes about the music but there are some evocative photographs. The fact that Dmitri Shostakovich is captioned Maxim and that Penderecki is captioned Paderewski attests to a certain haste in this production. This has not been my experience with past reissues from Brana so I hope this is a one-off disappointment.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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