Jephtha (1752) was George Frederick Handel's final oratorio, and it was composed during a period of incipient blindness and declining health. Yet the composer's artistic powers were undiminished in this dramatization of the Biblical story, for the arias and choruses are as memorable as any from Handel's earlier works in the genre, including Messiah and Israel in Egypt. This 2008 recording by Fabio Biondi, the Collegium Vocale Ghent, and the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra is a brilliant period presentation, and the spry rhythms, lean counterpoint, clear textures, and distinctive colors of original instruments combine to make this an especially enjoyable performance of a fairly neglected masterpiece.
Olga Tverskaya's fortepiano is a gorgeous instrument, with a rich, wooly bass, a velvety middle, and a ringing top. Fabio Biondi plays with romantic sensibility, fabulous technique, and, in the big Sonata in A major, depth and drama. This music can sound sticky sweet; here it's full of life and dynamism, with flowing lyricism that's irresistible.
Marios Papadopoulos plays Janacek's sonata with a gentle, romanticizing melancholy that is nature can well encompass, even if such an approach can diminish the work's sense of tragedy. It is a work with a tougher core than is here suggested. However, this is not an unattractive performance, and Papadopoulos seems more attuned to its manner than to the crisp assertions of the Capriccio or of Stravinsky's Concerto. It does not seem a good idea to attempt the Capriccio without a conductor. The admirable RPO players sound less than wholly comfortable, and their ensemble is a trifle precarious at times; moreover, the work's odd, sharp character does not emerge with sufficient definition.
Born in 1986, Gen Yokosaka began to play the cello at the age 4 and studied with Katsuro Washio and Hakuro Mori at the Toho School of Music as well as taking further lessons with David Geringas and Jian Wang at the Ishikawa Music Academy. Gen quickly became known as the most promising cellist of his generation in his native Japan after being awarded the top prize in the string section of the All Japan Classical Music Competition at 12 years old. He went on to win numerous competitions including, at 15, the 2002 Viva Hall Cello Competition in 2002 of which he is the youngest ever winner.
Maxim Vengerov now confronts - and conquers - one of the supreme challenges all great violinists must face: The Brahms violin concerto. This beautiful, virtuosic work has defined careers from Heifetz to Perlman. Vengerov's turn has come, and his rich, burnished tone and impassioned phrasing make this one of the standout concerto CDs of the year. The soulful partnership of Vengerov and Barenboim (one of his most important mentors) is also a strong selling point.
The land of 1000 lakes has churned out an abundance of melodic metal bands over the past thirty years. It would be very difficult in the modern metal climate to find a fan who was not at least a fan of one Finnish band – whether that be Children of Bodom, Insomnium, Nightwish, or even Stratovarius. But included in that crop is also Sonata Arctica, a band that is often revered as being one of the better contemporary power/symphonic metal bands there is. Given such a storied career to this point, it almost seems hard to believe that they are about to release their ninth album ‘The Ninth Hour’.