The young, American, all-female Lark Quartet have been gathering prizes and critical encomia over the past ten years or so, and these sensitively prepared performances of three of Schnittke’s most memorable chamber pieces show just why. I’m pretty sure I’ve not heard a better focused or more full-blooded account of the Second Quartet, nor one which held my attention more consistently.
Naxos' album devoted to Carson Cooman's instrumental works, including symphonies, chamber music, and solos, represents an infinitesimal portion of his output; his opus numbers were in the 700s before he was out of his mid-twenties, and include pieces written in virtually every genre of Western music. Inevitably, there are some areas in which he will be stronger than others. His choral music is especially compelling: well written for the voice, with excellent text setting in a style that is not simple, but is also immediately engaging.
The peerless Takacs Quartet recently nominated for a Gramophone award for their second disc of Brahms's string quartets, continue their exploration of the Romantic chamber music tradition with this disc of Schumann. The Piano Quintet is by far Schumann's most popular chamber work and one of the most beloved works in the genre. Schumann was the first romantic composer to pair the piano with the string quartet. Schumann studied the string quartets of Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn and his quartet Op. 41 No. 3 demonstrates these influences. However, it contains many highly original strokes, particularly the casting of the scherzo as a set of variations. The Takacs Quartet are joined by Marc-Andre Hamelin in an invigorating partnership that has already been widely acclaimed on the concert platform.
Volume 3 in the series with the complete orchestral works of Ludwig van Beethoven is ready from the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and its music director since 1997, Thomas Dausgaard. The piano concertos are true gems of the classical canon, as Beethoven was an expert both in the art of writing for the orchestra and himself a master pianist. Russian pianist Boris Beresovsky (b.1969) is such a wizard. At the age of 21 he won the Gold Medal at the 1990 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. It is a privilege to hear how the combination Berezovsky and Dausgaard/SwCO really hit it of in this music. They are enjoying themselves, surprising each other, challenging and courteous at the same time. The sounding result speaks for itself.
From the irresitably forceful opening bars of the English Suite's prelude to the throbbing repeated octaves of the D minor concerto, Richter shows why many of Bach's works are ideally suited to the piano. The Bach concerto is often regarded as a student piece, or relegated to refined performances on the harpsichord. Not here – the bookend movements are as maniacal, pulsing and driving as the best of John Coltrane or Prokofiev. The CD is worth it just for those movements, but Richter's treatment of the English Suite is equally enlightening, especially the Prelude and Gavotte.