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The Critic's Chair series ended in March 2015.

The Critic's Chair - 2 March 2014

Robert Johnson reviews violinst Anne-Sophie Mutter’s new Dvorák disc, and New Zealand musicians Donald Maurice and Richard Mapp playing music of national identity, including Douglas Lilburn. Marc-André Hamelin features in a 3-CD set of Busoni piano works, and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic offer Nielsen’s fourth and fifth symphonies.

Anne Sophie MutterDVORÁK: Violin Concerto in A minor Op 53; Romance in F minor Op 11; Mazurek in E minor Op 49; Humoresque in G flat Major Op 101/7
Anne-Sophie Mutter (vln), Berlin Phil / Manfred Honeck
(DG 479 1060)

Mutter opens commandingly, plays the subsequent lyrical phrase with melting tone, then ends with an utterly fearless performance of each of those punishing curlicues. She certainly impresses with her glorious tone and sensitive phrasing in the lyrical sections of the work, but she’s no shrinking violet when it comes to the pyrotechnics in the finale.

home is wherehome is where…Music of National Identity
LILBURN: Salutes to Seven Poets; ENESCU: Sonata in the Romanian Folk  Character; PIGOVAT: Sonata for Viola and Piano
Donald Maurice (vla), Richard Mapp (pno)
(Atoll ACD 413)

A unique recital of three contrasting works for viola and piano, united by the theme of cultural identity and the sense of belonging to a particular land. Two of the works were transcribed for viola by Donald Maurice himself. Pigovat’s Sonata was composed quite recently and is dedicated to him.  For me the disc is particularly valuable for its alto renditions of the Lilburn and Enescu works.

BusoniBUSONI: Late Piano Music
Marc-André Hamelin (pno)
(Hyperion CDA67951/3)

This three-CD survey covers music composed over the last seventeen years of Busoni’s life. Few composers have explored the potential of the modern grand piano as thoroughly or as imaginatively as Busoni. Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin is unsurpassed in the blend of technique, intellect and musicianship that he brings to this repertoire. This is one of the most wonderful sets of piano music that I’ve heard in some time, and among Busoni recordings it’s unparalleled.

Nielsen sys BISSACDNIELSEN: Symphony No 4 Op 29, The Inextinguishable; Symphony No 5 Op 50
Royal Stockholm Phil/Sakari Oramo
(BIS SACD 2028)

Nielsen’s symphonies seem finally to be getting the attention they deserve from record companies. The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic plays very well indeed, and Oramo’s control of the ebb and flow of tension suggests long familiarity with the scores. These are generally first-rate performances, if perhaps a little restrained. The recording is well-balanced and powerfully projected.