Recorded for the ASV label in 1990, this collection of Ravel’s piano music has never previously been released complete. Now reissued for the first time in more than a decade, this set presents not the kind of coolly objective view of the fastidious composer-craftsman that modern recordings have accustomed us to, but more of a poet in sound and in touch with his Basque origins.
This set of recordings made in 1963 by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and pianist Sviatoslav Richter of Beethoven's cello sonatas are the most virtuosic, the most lyrical, the most dramatic, the most expressive, the most intense, the most ecstatic, and, in a word, the greatest ever recorded. From the Empfindung style of the Op. 5 sonatas through the "Eroica" style of the Op. 69 sonata to the Elysium style of the Op. 102 sonatas, Beethoven's five cello sonatas are a précis of the highlights of his career as a composer.
Once we are aware that certain music has been written for film, it’s easy to wax poetic about said music’s visual associations. Yet I believe that one needn’t be aware of Greek composer Eleni Karaindrou’s filmic motivations in order to feel it in the same way, for hers imagines, recites, and sings the lament of a zeitgeist in decay. Karaindrou’s themes are potent yet familiar, even (if not especially) to those who’ve never heard them before. Brimming with tragedy and triumph alike, this is music not only for the fictional, but also for real strangers crossing paths in a world of mist and shadows.
This is a reissue of a recording from 1993 (re-released a few years ago and deleted in 2003), recently remastered for SACD, and it really impresses with a renewed presence and impact, even on standard CD playback. As I said in my original review, Savall's reading "comes as close as these things can to placing us in the best seat in the house and treats us to a rare experience: the sensation of believing we're hearing a ruggedly familiar piece for the first time. Literally bursting with energy, scintillating strings, blazing horns, and incisive winds, and never boring even for one second, these performances give you Handel at his most exciting." If you have the earlier release, you probably don't need this one–unless you now own an SACD system–but it does deserve a place in every Handel collection, not only for the unsurpassed performances, but also for the effect of Savall's several decidedly "non-standard" tempos(!), and of course for the phenomenal sound, which now must have reached its ultimate realism in this format.
This venture into Scottish early music is a first for Temple Records - the label known mainly for its emphasis on traditional Scottish music. It is also the recording debut for The Rowallan Consort. Formed in 1994 by Robert Phillips and William Taylor, they uniquely combine the sound of the lute and the wire-strung harp (clarsach) to beautiful effect. With guest singers Mhairi Lawson and Paul Rendall, they have researched and perform songs and music dating from 1400-1700.