Classical for Every Mood - Wed, 06 Mar 2013

In the follow-up to her acclaimed debut, Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili tackles one of the great warhorse concertos of the Nineteenth Century. Interestingly, Batiashvili here plays a Strad once owned by the concerto's dedicatee, the violinist Joseph Joachim. Throughout, her playing is technically superb, but never ostentatious. It is faithful to the score, but never slavish. The players of the Staatskapelle Dresden, under the baton of maestro Christian Thielemann, prove themselves as her ideal partners. Their speeds are well judged, giving a sense of the over-arching structure of this complex piece. After the Brahms, Batiashvili performs three Romances by Clara Schumann with pianist Alice Sara Ott. These pieces - playful and intimate - provide a warm contrast with their precursor. A thoroughly successful disc, and highly recommended.

A fine selection of popular Vivaldi arias, coupled with some equally interesting pieces by the Venetian's lesser-known contemporaries. Max Emanuel Cencic amply balances dramatic flair with firm control and, at times, utmost seriousness. Meanwhile, Il Pomo d'oro prove themselves a lively and dynamic ensemble, unafraid to take things quickly. The sumptuousness of their period sound is perfectly captured on this Virgin recording. This release is certain to delight fans of Philip Jaroussky, also signed to Virgin, though Cencic sings with colours quite distinct from those of his forerunner.

Coinciding with the two-hundredth anniversary of Wagner's birth-year, Jonas Kaufmann's latest release -and his fifth solo recording for Decca - offers a generous selection of the great Heldontenor scenes and arias. All are sung with the signature combination of bravado and sensitivity which ensured his recent successes on stage in 'Die Walk├╝re' and 'Lohengrin'. Also on this disc is the original version of 'In fernem Land' and the Wesendonck Lieder. While the latter was intended to be sung by a soprano role, the tenor's rendition is utterly convincing. This disc will set the standard for the next era of Wagner recitals.

In 2008, Michael Houstoun's 'Inland', which opens with Lilburn's 'Chaccone', won the NZ Music Award for Classical Album of the Year. Now, our most prominent pianist offers a whole disc dedicated to Lilburn's music. Houstoun's playing is as adroit and precise as ever, but what seems most attractive about this disc is the variety of moods which it encompasses. Houstoun deftly navigates through sixteen pieces, ranging from pretty, incidental numbers like 'The Player's Music', to the stormy dissonances which punctuate 'Sonata 1949'. This is a thoroughly enjoyable specimen of home-grown talent which, might I add, comes in an exceptionally stylish digipak case. Enjoy!

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