Alan Feinberg is one of those increasingly rare classical pianists who have managed to create an international career without the springboard of a well-publicized competition win. (No knock on competition winners who play like artists—see here. )
Alan Feinberg came to my attention some years back when he recorded a series of four CDs for Argo, one of which included a spellbinding performance of a Fauré “Après un Rêve” transcription by Percy Grainger. Feinberg’s approach was larger than life. Or, perhaps it was more that Grainger’s “transcription” left Fauré’s pensive little art song in the dust of a major construction project.
Respighi Impressioni brasiliane, La Boutique fantasque
Liège Royal Philharmonic, John Neschling, conductor
BIS SACD 2050
I raved about this SACD/CD in my next-to-last column for Stereophile magazine. Having since then heard it played back on a variety of stereo systems, my continued exposure to it has only increased my respect.
I have not yet heard Andris Nelsons’ and the Boston Symphony’s Grammy-winning Shostakovich 10th symphony, which, perhaps, might be even better. But as of right now, the Liège Royal Philharmonic’s Respighi Brazilian Impressions on BIS is the best new orchestral recording (not only in terms of recording quality, but also in performance) I have heard in years. Even if you rarely listen to classical music, this recording is well worth acquiring as material that shows off what a great stereo system can sound like.
Shen Lu, Watercolor
Steinway & Sons CD 30039
I am very persnickety about piano recordings. Many piano recordings manage to leave me rather cold–both from a performance standpoint, and usually also from the sonic standpoint. Some of that I can trace to the facts that my early musical experiences were playing violin in student orchestras, and singing in school choruses.
Shaping a musical line and shading dynamics are existentially important in music. But the piano is unavoidably a percussion instrument.
Piano dynamics are a one-way street. Once you hit a note, it will die out as it will—there is no way to swell the sound once a note has started sounding on the piano. Whereas swelling a note is part of a singer’s stock in trade, and a violinist’s too.
Wagner: Overture to Tannhäuser
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2
They say that if you want to grow up to be good-looking, it helps to have good-looking parents. The same is often true in the case of talented musicians. Examples abound—both positive and negative.
For every childhood violinist or pianist who matures into a well-balanced, happy, and productive member of society, there seems to be at least another (if not more than one) whose high solo flight is followed by an Icarus-like plunge to earth. The line between parents who are loving sources of inspiration and “The Stage Parents From Hell” is not always easy to see. Imparting discipline is one thing; imposing tyranny is another.