Chopin's two piano concertos have long been admired more as pianistic vehicles than as integrated works for piano and orchestra. But in his revelatory new recording, Krystian Zimerman suggests otherwise: The opening orchestral tuttis have so much more light, shade, orchestral color, and detail, you wonder if they've been rewritten. Every gesture, every instrumental solo is so specifically characterized that by the time the piano makes a dramatic entrance, the pieces have become operas without words.
From an early age Max Bruch had enjoyed the ideal conditions for becoming a composer: his family had considerable cultural awareness and gave him all the support he needed. He had already composed not only a (lost) symphony but a significant proportion of his chamber music while still a student. The two youthful String Quartets Op.9 in C minor and Op.10 in E major show a Romantic exuberance poured into classic and classical moulds. The members of the ISOS Quartet — Isabelle van Keulen, Katharine Gowers, Vladimir Mendelssohn and Imke Frank — know each other from several important summer festivals as Lockenhaus and Kuhmo. As their CD debut, they recorded both string quartets by Max Bruch exclusively for Koch International Schwann.
Here was displayed for the first time the many variants of IDM, showing that there was much more to Ambient than just atmospheric instrumental tracks: from the deep moody electronica of David Morley or Biosphere, to the dub-influenced collages of the Orb's remix of Electrotete, and the Detroit techno of Model 500 at its most subtle, every track here is a gem, making it an unrivalled release.
The concert works of film composer Nino Rota, best known for his scores for the Godfather trilogy and for a long series of films by Federico Fellini, have increasingly often been finding space in classical recording catalogs. Here's a nicely recorded rendering of Rota's two numbered symphonies, virtually unknown until perhaps the turn of the century, issued on a major British label, Chandos. Both are attractive pieces that could be profitably programmed by any symphony orchestra. They were composed in the 1930s, when Rota was as much American as Italian; he won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and studied there for several years. Both reflect the French neo-classic trends that flourished in the U.S. between the wars, and, although Rota sounds nothing like Copland, you do experience in these works an evocation of what annotator Michele Rene Mannucci aptly calls "landscape in sound." Each work is in the conventional four movements, with a slow movement placed second in the Symphony No. 1 in G major and third in the Symphony No. 2 in F major.