Classical (November 2018)

Oktett; Two Minuets D89 (arr. Oscar Strasnoy)
Isabelle Faust, Schreiber, Waskiewicz, von der Goltz, Munro, Coppola, Zafra, van der Zwart
Harmonia Mundi HMM902263 (downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Schubert's Octet (1824) resulted from a commission by Count Ferdinand Troyer, an amateur clarinettist seeking something along the lines of Beethoven's Septet. Rather as Viktoria Mullova formed a group for her Onyx CD, so has Isabelle Faust here – opting for period instrumentalists. The two minuet fillers are transcriptions from an early piece for string quartet. At first hearing I thought Faust and van der Zwart (horn) were the stars of the show. But there's some lovely liquid playing from the clarinettist and even the cellist has her big moment in (iv). But here, you'll think more about the work than the playing. CB


Violin Concerto No 1; Scottish Fantasy
Joshua Bell, ASMIF
Sony 19075842002 (downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

An array of mics close to the soloist, and an added wash of reverberance added to the orchestra for this Air Studios production means that louder tuttis become messy while the violin sound shifts from side to side as Bell (directing as well as playing) moves his position – distractingly so for headphone listening. The concerto was one-half of his 1998 Decca/ASMIF debut CD; the Fantasy here celebrates his father's antecedents. Not a semiquaver has escaped Joshua Bell's consideration for maximum expression – fascinating for violinists but compare Heifetz on RCA and it's a case (with him) of 'less is more'. CB


The Piano Concertos
Denis Kozhukhin, Suisse Romande Orch/Kazuki Yamada
Pentatone PTC 5186620 (downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

A popular American composer taking on a 'classical' form, a Frenchman intrigued by jazz – these three concertos make an apt coupling. What is unusual is to have a Russian soloist, although, aged 78 Richter played the Gershwin once [SWR Music]. I doubt too that Geneva Hall has been the venue for Ravel's Concertos since the days of Ansermet (1953!). Undimmed, its acoustic bloom greatly helps low percussion here. Kozhukhin has the street-wise idiom of the Gershwin to a 'tee' and the Ravel Left-hand Concerto has a compelling continuity, thanks to Yamada. The G major? Exciting in (iii) but (ii) is too romantically explicit. CB


'Haffner', 'Linz' and five other symphonies; Mass in C-minor; Sinfonia concertante and other works
Soloists, BPO, Berlin Rad Ch/Claudio Abbado
Sony 19075816312 (five discs; downloads up to 44.1kHz/16-bit res)

When appointed to the Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado expanded his Mozart symphony discography with Sony, starting in 1992. (We'd only had Nos 40 and 41 from DG, and mostly Abbado was accompanying Gulda and Serkin in the piano concertos.) His interpretations are more lithe than his predecessor, Karajan's – although the later versions with Orchestra Mozart show greater depth and stylistic awareness. Even so, these alternatives are worth hearing – a shame, though, that this budget box contains no booklet notes and only minimal production credits. CB