Classical, December 2021

hfnalbum.pngEhnes Quartet
Beethoven: String Quartets Opp.127 & 131
Onyx ONYX4215 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

James Ehnes and colleagues grasp that late and difficult needn't translate into an assault-course for the listener. Their second Beethoven volume meets us halfway with the kind of well-rounded tone, full attack and finesse we associate with the finest Haydn performances. Without emulating 'period' sonorities, their graceful response to Op.127(i) keeps Beethoven's predecessors in mind before setting sail across the mystical waters of the Adagio. Warmth and patience are similarly winning qualities in Op.131. While they bring a glittering, combative intelligence to the obsessive Scherzo, their Beethoven is no wild-eyed prophet but a musical philosopher finding moderation even in the midst of struggle. PQ


Sueye Park
Journey Through A Century
BIS BIS2492 (SACD; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

After a stunning set of Paganini Caprices, in her early 20s and with a luscious Gagliano instrument at her disposal, Sueye Park is set fair to inherit the mantle of Ricci and Milstein as a solo violinist of astonishing technical address. In this original survey of 20th-century repertoire, the crisp lines and cutting edges of sonatas by Prokofiev and Weinberg are to be expected; less so the dreamy cantabile of a minute-and-a-half shaving from the workbench of Richard Strauss's Daphne, or the swooping fantasy on Bach's 'royal' theme by Isang Yun. Even Kreisler (Scherzo-Caprice) and Schnittke (A Paganini) find common ground through Park's musicianship beyond virtuosity. PQ


Filippo Gorini
Bach: The Art Of Fugue
Alpha ALPH755 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Bach's final musical testament is something of a personal obsession, but I've heard few recordings that deal with the inner workings of the counterpoint as pianistically as Filippo Gorini's: anyone nervous of its academic reputation should give him a try (look out for Daniil Trifonov too). The softly rounded, close-up piano tone helps, but so do Gorini's gently sprung rhythms and sure touch in guiding the listener through each fugue and canon without playing them as an illustrated lecture. Even the final unfinished fugue smiles rather than frowns. I fancy, if Chopin had ever invited me to sit down while he played Bach, it might have sounded rather like this. PQ


Michelle Deyoung, Et Al, Shanghai SO/Long Yu
Mahler/Xiaogang Ye: The Song Of The Earth
DG 4837452 (two discs; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

The oily timbre of Brian Jagde is rather stretched in Mahler's song cycle despite a helping hand from the engineers. Some pinched oboe playing, and Michelle DeYoung's mezzo has noticeably broadened since her 2008 Minnesota recording. Never mind: she is still deeply invested in every word and Long Yu directs a vividly detailed accompaniment. The album's offbeat authenticity is enhanced by a native response to the same poems from Xiaogang Ye (b.1955). The modern-tonal idiom is (surprisingly) less picturesque-Oriental than Mahler's: a touch filmic, impressionistic, and gorgeously written for the voices. PQ