Passionate, dramatic, yet poetic and richly nuanced Mari Kodama brings all these qualities to her interpretation of Beethovens Complete Piano Concertos. This exceptional recording with the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin shines with extraordinary intensity and contrast, due in no small measure to the artistic bond between Mari Kodama and her husband, the conductor Kent Nagano. Beethovens Piano Concertos are undoubtedly amongst the most influential works in the history of music. Art demands of us that we shall not stand still, the composer once wrote, placing the idea of development at the heart of his music. His five piano concertos saw Beethoven take piano music out of the salon and into the concert hall, playing a crucial role in advancing the genre towards the symphony, whilst simultaneously creating a bridge from the First Viennese School to the Romantic period. Mari Kodama, whose virtuosic mastery of the piano made her a household name all over the world, has completed the Beethoven Piano Concerto Cycle with her husband Kent Nagano, the international star conductor.
The old model for creating a hit classical recording – big-name soloist plus big-name conductor in major repertory work – is not so common anymore, but this live Brahms recording from the Staatskapelle Berlin under Venezuela's Gustavo Dudamel, with Argentine-Israeli-Palestinian-Spanish pianist Daniel Barenboim as soloist, shows that there's life in the concept yet. One could point to the virtues of pianist and conductor separately: it's a rare septuagenarian who can combine power and clear articulation of detail the way Barenboim does, and Dudamel builds a vast sweep in, especially, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. But it's the way that the two work together that really makes news. Chalk it up to shared South American heritage or to whatever the listener wants, but the way the orchestra and piano define separate spheres and work them together is extraordinary. Again, it is in the Piano Concerto No. 1 and its Beethovenian drama that their mutual understanding is most evident, but there is a sense of great variety powerfully unified throughout.
Claudio Arrau recorded these concertos twice for Philips, the present performances in 1963, and then again in 1980 with Colin Davis and the Boston Symphony. There's very little to choose between them. Tempos are almost identical, and contrary to what one might expect, the slow movement of the Schumann concerto is actually a bit faster in the later version. Arrau's way with the music is wholly characteristic of the man: serious, even reverential (at the beginning of the Schumann), and played with drop-dead gorgeous tone. The result enhances the stature of both works, but the Grieg in particular. The climax of the finale has an epic grandeur without a hint of bombast that you simply won't find in any other performance. Dohnányi's accompaniments are also distinguished: he lets Arrau lead but isn't afraid to permit the orchestra to assert itself where necessary; and of course the playing of the Concertgebouw is top-notch. If you haven't heard Arrau in this music, it really doesn't matter which of his recordings you wind up with, but do try to get at least one of them.
One of the few albums as a leader cut by pianist John Dennis – noteworthy not only for his own great work on the keys, but also for the presence of Charles Mingus and Max Roach in his trio! Their presence is a bit less surprising when you realize that the album was issued on the pair's Debut label, as part of its strong commitment to finding the best young jazz talent of the 50s – but it's still noteworthy nonetheless, as 1955 is a relatively late date for either player to be working as a sideman, especially in a trio record!
This first postmortem volume of the piano works of the Morton Feldman is an important one. Rather than attempt to be a complete representation of his work, it instead reveals the development of his aesthetic: From silence to silence, so to speak. The earliest work, from 1952, is "Intermission 5," where chance operation still had a small place in Feldman's work, but the notion that music is nothing but organized silence and must return to the stillness was already present. These graphic notational scores, made of blocks and lines shaded and hollow with other symbols, left much to the discernment of the musician playing the score, duration of pitch, timbre, etc.
This 14-CD set is really very complete (a few absences are mentioned below). Besides the solo fortepiano works, it features works for piano four-hands, two pianos, even works for organ and the adagio for glass harmonica KV 617a, though these works are performed on the fortepiano. Frankly, I can't bear listening to the glass harmonica, but I prefer the organ works played on organ and the CD with Mozart's organ works I recommend is Mozart - L'oeuvre pour orgue, Olivier Vernet, Cédric Meckler, Ligia Digital. Furthermore, this box presents some never before recorded works comprising recent authentications of Mozart's authorship; doubtful and spurious works; fragments. I name these works below.