This recording from Quebec's ATMA Classique label is a mixed bag in terms of both repertory and quality. The former aspect is a plus: the program of two Mendelssohn piano concertos plus the Symphony No. 5, Op. 107, "Reformation," is a natural mix that covers several phases of Mendelssohn's career and might easily show up on a live symphonic program, but CD marketers do not so often mix concertos and symphonies in this way. Montreal-born pianist Louis Lortie plays and conducts throughout, which Mendelssohn himself might have done, and the results are generally enjoyable.
The 1st & final movements of Brahms’s 3rd Symphony contain some of the most dramatic music he was to compose, yet both end serenely & enclose 2 beautiful inner movements. The equally exquisite Serenade No 2, unusually scored for wind instruments, violas, cellos & double basses, was 1 of his own personal favourites & both receive superb performances under Bernard Haitink in the 3rd part of his internationally acclaimed LSO Live Brahms cycle.
Hausmusik’s performance of the Mendelssohn Octet comes with the advantage of a sensibly steady tempo for the famous scherzo, allowing for maximum transparency and lightness; and a dazzling finale in which for once the cello’s first scurrying fugal entry sounds crystal clear. The First String Quintet, and the Op. 13 Quartet – Mendelssohn’s homage to the late quartets of the recently deceased Beethoven – are also miraculous products of the composer’s teenage years. The Quintet is quite beautifully done here, but the Quartet, like the late Quintet, Op. 87, is rather lacking in tension and urgency. Woldemar Bargiel was Schumann’s brother-in-law. For all its obvious weaknesses, his Octet contains some attractive ideas, and Divertimenti’s performance makes a strong case for it. Divertimenti is impressive in the Mendelssohn, too – though its finale is not quite as exhilarating as Hausmusik’s; and in the last resort neither group can quite match the élan of the ASMF Chamber Ensemble.
Julian Bream is, without a doubt, one of the premiere classical guitarists of the modern recording era. Comparisons between great guitarists is often unfair and misleading as they each have their own styles - and each musician and his/her style tends to be particularly well suited to certain types of music. For example, Andres Segovia's style, cultivated by self-teaching throughout his now ended life, concentrated on flowing legatto smoothness and flowing melodies. Bream's, on the other hand, while equally masterful, is better characterized as emphasizing the precision and crispness of each and every individual note. What better composer to focus on to show this particular proclivity that J. S. Bach, whose work, having been written largely for the keyboards (harpsichord) but also for the lute and triple harp, tends to emphasize the kinds of music Bream excels at. Stacatto phrasings, each written to be played with crystalline exactness, are the types of pieces wherein Bream's magnificence is conspicuous and best showcased. Thus, the special relevance of this particular compilation of some of his best Bach work on this CD.
Hilary Hahn burst onto the classical scene in 1997 with her debut album ‘Hilary Hahn plays Bach’. Hilary has since enjoyed an incredibly successful international career and is considered one of the world’s finest violinists, winning 3 Grammy awards amongst other honours. Hilary is a strong advocate for classical music, leading projects like the specially commissioned ‘In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores’ collection of new compositions and her inspiring #100daysofpractice campaign on Instagram.