This EMI release of The Four Seasons gives violinist Sarah Chang top billing (as would be expected) and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra a smaller, less significant listing. As far as the quality of performance goes, however, Orpheus should absolutely be considered the star of this recording with Chang getting the footnote instead. This is simply not the case; from the ridiculously posed glamour photos filling the liner notes to the balance of the performance itself, this album is all about Chang. The most fulfilling aspects are the orchestral tuttis. Orpheus is truly at its best here, playing with as much energy and passion as the much ballyhooed recording with the Venice Baroque Orchestra.
Jacques Ibert’s piano music isn’t exactly the most exciting part of his output, amounting to a series of short picturesque pieces written in a bland neo-classical vein, with just a hint of impressionism or humor here and there to liven up the expression. Lack of both imagination and strong features have kept these pieces away from the current concert repertoire, but on CD they make nice if quickly forgotten listening. The collection of Histoires, including the famous Le petit âne blanc (The Little White Donkey), comes off the best, along with Les rencontres, a little suite in the form of a ballet that displays some lively melodic figures underlined by slightly spicy harmonies, as in the softly swinging The Creoles. The other pieces do little else than round off the total timing of the CD. Hae-won Chang plays with charm and delicacy, with a clean and neat technique that is just what these unpretentious pieces require. The recording is well balanced and truthful.
This is a fine recording of two vastly under-appreciated works by young cello virtuoso Han-Na Chang. She has the extraordinary technique to play the excruciatingly difficult cadenza in the central movement of the Sinfonia Concertante and the sustained tone to play the long, lyrical melodies in the opening movement of the cello sonata. Antonio Pappano is a faithful accompanist whether he's directing the London Symphony Orchestra in the Sinfonia Concertante or playing the piano in the cello sonata.