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The Critic's Chair series ended in March 2015.

Presented by Robert Johnson

This week on The Critic’s Chair, Robert Johnson applauds new discs that shine a light on rarely recorded works by Dohnányi and Petyrassi.  British pianist Martin Roscoe plays of Dohnányi’s solo piano music, and the Rome Symphony Orchestra gives world premiere performances of works by Italian composer Petyrassi.  German violinist Julia Fischer's performs Dvorak and Bruch concertos with the Tonhalle Orchestra conducted by David Zinman, and the incredible artistry of tenor Jonas Kaufmann is on display in Wagner arias.

The Critic's Chair for 5 May 2013

British pianist Martin Roscoe plays of Dohnányi's solo piano music, and the Rome Symphony Orchestra gives world premiere performances of works by Italian composer Petyrassi. German violinist Julia Fischer's performs Dvorak and Bruch concertos with the Tonhalle Orchestra conducted by David Zinman, and tenor Jonas Kaufmann sings Wagner arias.

DeccaBruch & Dvořák: Violin Concertos
Julia Fischer (vln), Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich/David Zinman
(Decca 478 3544)

Julia Fischer has known Dvořák’s wonderful concerto since she was a child, and her long experience of the work is reflected in the vibrancy of her playing. The coupling is one of the most fluid and soulful performances of Max Bruch’s First Violin Concerto to have come my way. These are intensely lyrical but also vigorous performances of both concertos, with Fischer in top form, well supported by a particularly alert and positive contribution from the Tonhalle Orchestra of Zürich under David Zinman.

Hyperion CDADohnányi: The Complete Solo Piano Music, Volumes 1 & 2
Martin Roscoe (pno)
(Hyperion CDA67871 [Vol 1] & CDA67932 [Vol 2])

Hyperion has found exactly the right pianist for their survey of Dohnányi’s complete piano music. Dohnányi was a masterful composer for the piano, and Martin Roscoe is an ideal interpreter of his music, possessing both the consummate technique required for the virtuoso pieces and the sensitive musicianship necessary to bring out the subtleties. Anyone who loves piano music of the Romantic era and beyond will want to have these beautifully engineered recordings.

NaxosPetrassi: Divertimento in C major; Partita; Quattro inni sacri; Coro di morti
Carlo Putelli (ten), Davide Malvestio (bass), Nuovo Coro Lirico Sinfonico Romano, Rome SO/Francesco La Vecchia
(Naxos 8.572411)

In Italy Petyrassi is regarded as one of the most important Italian composers of his generation along with Luigi Dallapiccola, both of them born in 1904. This CD includes the world premiere recording of his early Divertmento in C, showing the influence of Stravinsky, Ravel and perhaps early Hindemith. Performances on this disc are generally very good, though the recording quality isn’t first-rate, particularly in the Four Sacred Hymns. Nevertheless, these works are certainly worth hearing and these are currently the only available recordings of them.

DeccaWagner: Scenes and Arias; Wesendonck-Lieder
Jonas Kaufmann (ten), Markus Brück (bass-bar), Chorus and Orchestra of the German Opera Berlin/Donald Runnicles
(Decca 478 5189)

Though he’s miked a little too close, Kaufmann is an intelligent and highly musical singer with a fabulous dark-toned voice, and Runnicles directs the orchestra with energy and theatrical flair. One of the highlights of the album is Rienzi’s Prayer, which is given as perfect a performance as I could imagine. The big surprise on this album – perhaps I could go so far as to call it a revelation – is that Kaufmann sings the Wesendonck-Lieder, which are usually considered to be soprano territory. Undertaken by an artist any less fine than Kaufmann, it simply wouldn’t have worked, but Kaufmann’s artistry will convince you.