A solitaire in French is a single mounted jewel, a concept that seems less than apt for the rather hefty works recorded here by British pianist Kathryn Stott. But this fine recital holds together in another way: Ravel, who so often provides the temporal endpoint for traditional piano recitals, is here, to a greater or lesser extent, the launching point for the other three composers featured. Stott's reading of the neoclassical Le Tombeau de Couperin is beautifully precise and balanced, catching the economy of this Baroque-style suite to the hilt. That economy carries over into the later works, even the rarely performed Piano Sonata of Henri Dutilleux, a work that deftly fuses Ravel's sense of classical forms with a largely dissonant language. The opening Prelude and Fugue of Jehan Alain, actually two separate works that are reasonably enough combined here, is another seldom-played piece that makes an arresting curtain-raiser, and the final "Le baiser de l'Enfant Jésus" of Messiaen, part of the giant Vingt regards sur l'Enfant Jésus, is the splendid climax of the whole, its spiritual, dreamlike ascent at the end superbly controlled.
There are artists who have the gift of magnifying a work that was thought more or less successful. That is the case here of the young quartet Hermes which we owe a splendid recording of three quartets by Robert Schumann. If the Third has always seemed the most successful, the first two seemed littered writing weaknesses. Nothing like here with the Hermes who offer us a worried Schumann, enthusiastic, romantic, giving this triptych cohesion rarely heard such a level. France has truly become the last twenty years a large string quartet nation, thanks to the combined actions of Pro Quartet and the beautiful teaching of Ysaяe Quartet. A new record provides further evidence. Hermes Quartet is a young training to monitor closely.
Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen has already released his own arrangements of Bach’s solo violin sonatas. Now he turns his attention to the partitas and gives fascinating interpretations of these bottomless works. Any guitarist transcribing Bach has to contend with the spirit of Segovia but Korhonen manages convincingly to carve his own path in this music, even if he doesn’t quite shake off the shade of the Spanish master.
J.S. Bach's sonatas for solo violin, part of a long tradition of virtuoso works for the instrument, seem unsuited to transcription. But a guitar comes closer than perhaps any other instrument: it embodies a tension – not the same tension as with a solo violin but a tension nonetheless – between melodic material and polyphony. In the hands of Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen they produce an unusual effect.
Performances of Bach's St. John Passion, BWV 245, with these forces or close to them have become an annual Eastertime tradition in London, and this recording is guaranteed an appreciative audience. Certain details relate specifically to this tradition: several chorales are sung unaccompanied, but an accompanied version is included at the end for those who reject the dramatization.
Albert Schweitzer was a German (writing in French also) theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. As well as his important theological work (he depicted Jesus as literally believing the end of the world was coming in his own lifetime), he developed various theories on music, in particular the work of J.S. Bach. He explained figures and motifs in Bach’s Chorale Preludes as painter-like tonal and rhythmic imagery illustrating themes from the words of the hymns on which they were based.
Dantone interpretation is easily one of the best I have heard in recent years, and I consider it among the elite harpsichord recordings of the Goldbergs in the catalogs. His interpretations feature a compelling mix of power/energy, rhythmic lift, sharply etched phrasing, poignant refrains, playful episodes, bleak terrains and totally satisfying conversations from Bach's contrapuntal musical lines. I think it is fair to say that Dantone gives us the full measure of Bach's soundworld in excellent sonics that are crisp as well as well as abundantly rich.