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Splendid Porpora recital from Cencic

Porpora: Opera Arias

Max Emanuel Cencic (countertenor)Armonia Atenea, George Petrou (conductor)

Niccolò Porpora (17.08.1686 – 03.03.1768) was an Italian composer of the Baroque era. He wrote some four dozen operas, and his operas Orlando and Arianna in Nasso have been recorded. I am not over familiar with the works of Porpora, a Handel he is not, but on the showing of the arias on this latest offering from Cencic he produces many opportunities for vocal fireworks.

With all of the Debussy anniversary issues of late, it would be easy to overlook this release marking the 250th anniversary of Porpora’s death. The Viennese countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic has already recorded the first complete recording of Porpora’s Germanico in Germania and he is a great champion of neglected baroque composers.

This CD  opens in blazing fashion with the swaggering ‘Se tu la reggi al volo’
from Ezio. What follows is a range of arias performed with great elegance by Cencic whose voice is perfectly integrated across its wide range, and he dispatches the plethora of semiquavers with a smoothness that simply has to be heard. For me, Porpora is at his very best in the arias ‘Ove l’erbetta tenera, e molle’ from Filandro (written for Annibali) and the emotional lament ‘Torbido intorno al core’ from Meride e Selinunte. The fine musicians of George Petrou’s Armonia Atenea only serve to add to the enjoyment.

This is a great example of a fine baroque recital, which shows off the talents of the this splendid countertenor without ever going overboard. The sound quality in this 96kHz flac download was very good. Overall an enjoyable experience, but one which, for the present listener, would have been enhanced by the provision of some context for each of the arias. For those fully acquainted with the works of this composer that would not be an issue but for me I felt sold short by Decca in this respect.

iClassical rating: 

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Highly enjoyable Beethoven from Ozawa & Argerich

Argerich & Ozawa: Beethoven

Martha Argerich (piano), Mito Chamber Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa (conductor)

Listening to this lively recording it is hard to believe that Ozawa and Argerich have a combined age of 158 so playful and punchy is their performance of Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15.

It is interesting to compare this with a much earlier performance by these two artists with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra on YouTube.

Both performances are highly enjoyable and worthy of your attention. In the later performance you will note some influences of the HIP (Historically Informed Performance) movement shown most clearly in the use of hard timpani sticks.

Ozawa does not take Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21 at a particularly fast tempo but everything works out very nicely with tremendous detail coming from the small forces of the Mito Chamber Orchestra. Ozawa makes the most of the rich colours and harmonious spirit of this work.

Both of these performances show a sense of freshness and inventiveness and were recorded live in Ibaraki, Japan. Highly recommended.

iClassical rating: 

Stream on Spotify or buy from Presto Classical.

Sterndale Bennett’s Piano Concertos from Shelley

Sterndale Bennett: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 – 3

Howard Shelley (piano & conductor), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

In the latest addition to Hyperion’s commendable Romantic Piano Concerto series Howard Shelley gives us some highly expressive accounts of these rarities. These three works are shown off in their best light in this well recorded, well filled (almost 80 minutes) disc.  All three works display an innate musicality and this release is a must for collectors of the series and is highly recommended listening for those who wish to explore the wider piano repertoire.

iClassical rating: 

Not available for streaming.

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Tchaikovsky’s fateful symphony joins our masterworks

We have just added Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 ‘Pathétique’ to our growing list of masterworks.

Read more about this work here or review the whole collection (to date) here.

Four pieces, four composers & four pianos from Melnikov

Four Pieces – Four Pianos

Alexander Melnikov (various pianos)

This is a very interesting release from Alexander Melnikov. He presents four works from four different eras and performs them on four different pianos! Each piece, with one exception, is played on a piano from the respective period.

We have Schubert’s Fantasie in C major, D760 ‘Wanderer’ played on a Graff fortepiano, Chopin’s 12 Études, Op. 10 played on an Érard piano, Liszt’s Réminiscences de “Don Juan” (after Mozart), S. 418 on a Bösendorfer piano, Vienna ca. 1875 and finally Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka played on a contemporary Steinway piano.

All four are technically demanding works and Melnikov plays them all with apparent ease.

Pianophiles may find this a most fascinating release.

iClassical rating: 

Stream on Spotify or buy from Presto Classical.