A feast of French music - Gounod, Ravel, Caplet and Roussel as well as Beethoven's Emperor, Brahms's First Violin Sonata and Rachmaninov's Second Piano Sonata - from a very fine young pianist
Striking pianism is definitely the order of the day (or even year): this week Alessio Bax takes on the mighty Emperor Concerto and gives us a Beethoven performance of real stature while the young Chinese pianist Moye Chen, as part of a thrillingly inventive programme, plays Rachmaninov’s Second Sonata with colossal authority and not a little fantasy.
The piano is joined by a violin for an impressive new recording of Brahms’s three violin sonatas – Tuija Hakkila and Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch do the honours and very fine they are too. Sample them in No 1.
Something a little off the beaten track courtesy of Charles Gounod (born 200 years ago): his String Quartet in G minor played with great charm and authority by the Quatuor Cambini-Paris. A lovely discovery – especially when the album contains three further quartets.
Staying in France, a rarish opportunity to hear Ravel’s glorious Shéhérazade with a piano accompaniment. Once you’ve resigned yourself to losing Ravel’s intoxicating orchestral writing, there’s a lot to admire here: Caroline Gélinas and Olivier Godin play it with a fine feeling for the piece’s danger and exoticism.
Still in Francophile mood – and conveying a danger far beyond anything Ravel hints at – is André Caplet’s Conte fantastique, a veritable Hammer Horror story that culminates in a bloodbath. And the harp, here, takes on a far more sinister voice than its traditional cherubic appearance. Emmanuel Ceysson and friends give it a very unsettling quality.
As always, a few taster tracks – including Puccini arranged for two guitars, Purcell courtesy of The Sixteen, Francesca Aspromonte and Il Pomo d’Oro giving us some ravishing Stradella and the flavoursome voice of Mariana Flores in Monteverdi. And for those who crave a rich orchestral tapestry, I’ve thrown in the lovely Pour une fête de printemps by Albert Roussel – Yan Pascal Tortelier back in the saddle with the BBC Phil …
Beethoven Piano Concerto No 5 in E flat, 'Emperor'
Southbank Sinfonia / Alessio Bax (Signum)
Stradella Con meste luci
Francesca Aspromonte; Il Pomo d'Oro / Enrico Onofri (Pentatone)
Caplet Conte fantastique
Emmanuel Ceysson; Quatuor Voce (Aparté)
Brahms Violin Sonata No 1
Tuija Hakkila; Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch (Ondine)
Roussel Pour une fête de printemps
BBC Philharmonic / Yan Pascal Tortelier (Chandos)
Monteverdi Lamento d'Arianna
Mariana Flores; Cappella Mediterranea / Leonardo García-Alarcón (Ricercar)
Rachmaninov Piano Sonata No 2
Moye Chen (DG)
Caroline Gélinas; Olivier Godin (Atma)
Gounod String Quartet in G minor
Quatuor Cambini-Paris (Aparté)
Piera Dadomo; Vincenzo Torricella (Christophorus)
Purcell Great God, and Just, Z186
The Sixteen / Harry Christophers (Coro)