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The Asian Invasion

Discussion in 'classical' started by Todd A, Apr 26, 2017.

  1. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Next up, a well known artist for me. I am a big fan of Kun Woo Paik's pianisim, and I own all of his readily available recordings and snap up any new one that comes along, however infrequently that occurs. This Scriabin recording from 1991 offers an aural glimpse of mid-career Paik, just before he signed with Virgin, when he recorded for Dante. Universal Music Korea appears to have bought the recording, and reissued it in the pianist's home market.

    It opens with the Second Sonata. The first movement alternates between well articulated passages, and crashing, hard, near ear-splittingly loud passages. Paik eschews gooey legato and avoids any hints of dreaminess. In overall style, it's sort of like a blend of Zhukov and Ponti, with the hardness rendering it more like the latter. In the second movement, Paik opens by scampering along the keyboard, keeping the playing small and light, before erupting into ear-splitting playing again.

    Next up are the 24 Preludes, Op 11, and the metallic tinge remains as Paik plays the first prelude loud and fast, and while he dials back in the second prelude, and as appropriate thereafter, this is not on the soft-end of the spectrum interpretively most of the time. There are exceptions, as with the gorgeous and delicate 15th Prelude, so at least part of the hardness is an interpretive choice. The Poeme satanique starts off sounding dark and mysterious, but quickly segues to more delicate and attractive playing - the better to seduce and beguile, I suppose - only to then again erupt into ear-splitting playing, with the crescendo at the coda especially loud. Both this work and the following Op 65 Etudes are like miniature encapsulations of Paik's approach throughout the program.

    The disc closes with the Tenth Sonata, which Scriabin apparently described by stating that 'Insects are the Sun's Kisses', and as Paik has done from time to time on various recordings, he extends the sonata, taking just shy of fourteen minutes to play it. That places him on the slow end of the spectrum in my collection, about even with Lettberg, with only the always idiosyncratic Ugorski taking even longer. He opens gently and mysteriously and slowly, but when the trills arrive, Paik dispatches them with musical haste bordering on the frenetic, and the he moves back and forth between languid and frenetic, or manic and depressive, in uniquely episodic fashion. As the work progresses, the faster playing sounds almost hallucinogenic. Had the sonata been recorded in SOTA sound for the day, it would easily be in contention for best ever version. It probably still is. This individual work is one of the best things I've heard from the pianist.

    The 1991 recording, using a 1926 Steinway D, is very clear, close, dry, and dynamic, but the piano sounds metallic and almost monochromatic and loses its tuning from time to time. Also, whatever venue was used was not ideally sound-proofed as heavy vehicle traffic can be heard on occasion.

    While the disc has some definite highlights, most importantly the great rendition of the Tenth Sonata, it is not one of Paik's best recordings overall.
     
  2. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Next up in Kim's Sibelius cycle, I opted for disc one, which has the First and Fourth Symphonies. The First starts off hushed but moves to satisfyingly loud and fast passages. Kim keeps things taut, and he generates real excitement in the climaxes. Kim never really lets up in the Andante, which maintains a nice degree of tension, and then he and his band knock out a sprightly Scherzo before moving to a Finale that opens in searing fashion, before backing off a bit, and then moving into some near fierce playing. Kim and the Suwon Orchestra generate some real excitement here. The Fourth retains some of the intensity of the first, but it sounds altogether starker and colder, more brooding and bracing. Kim brings out some details uniquely, and the orchestra plays well (I rather enjoyed the pizzicati in the final movement). Kim's penchant for avoiding excess works well here, even if one can think of better recordings.
     
  3. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Sixth. Given Lim's willingness to conduct the Schalk edition of the Fifth, it's a pity the Mahler edition of the Sixth isn't available, because if anyone would conduct it today, it might just be Lim. Anyway, Lim leads a weighty, slightly swift opener complete with ample power and drive, if not the intensity and drive of others. The Adagio ends up sounding a bit cool, but conductor and band keep it moving along and it sounds beautiful at times, more so than Bruckner often sounds, even if it lacks some of the grandeur of other readings. Both the Scherzo and Finale seem to meld together with the opening movements to create a more uniform whole than some readings, and in the Finale there are some passages with truly satisfying levels of intensity. While the KSO plays well throughout the cycle to this point (and I'll go out on a limb and predict that they continue to do so for the rest of the cycle), some of the violin playing here sounds especially well done. I can't say that this displaces or matches Klemperer, but then no one else does either.

    Jochum takes the opening two movements just a bit slower than Lim, and he makes sure the brass are prominent and does a masterful job of generating intensity and scale in the opening movement, and he also does better at making the Adagio sound deep in the standard manner, and in his slightly swifter final two movements he generates more intensity and weight and excitement, delivering a grand and romantic symphony. Jochum gets the nod here in one of the better Sixths I've heard.
     
  4. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Some Chopin from Dong-Hyek Lim. He's released a few discs on EMI and Warner, and was "introduced" by Martha Argerich, but I've not heard anything from him until now. Mr Lim is one of those young pianists with seemingly limitless technical ability, and he has won various awards, refused his third place finish at the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in 2003, and tied with his brother Dong-Min Lim for third place at the Chopin Competition in 2005. The disc is given over to the Variations brillantes, another reading (for this thread) of the Preludes, the Berceuse, and the Barcarolle.

    The opening Variations brillantes is brilliant, indeed. Light, bright, colorful, and dispatched with ease and a glittering panache, Lim delivers a superb opener. The main work ends up being decidedly different from Sheila Arnold's take, but it also has its own very attractive approach. Lim paces things more conventionally, coming in at just under forty minutes, and his approach is more restrained and poetic than Arnold's slow yet aggressive approach. Lim coaxes lovely sounds from his modern grand using fingers alone, as well as fingers and deft pedalling, and he dispatches the fastest passages with seeming effortlessness. His style is somewhat small of scale much of the time, but that's obviously an interpretive choice as he can belt out loud passages with effortlessness, too. The performance/recording is high-grade. If one were to do blind A/Bs with even the biggest, non-idiosyncratic names (eg, no Pogorelich allowed), one may very well come away with a favorable impression of this recording. The Berceuse is gorgeous in its nuanced and largely languid performance, as is the Barcarolle. Perhaps a few times in this last work, one might start to think that a bit more weight would be nice, and then, well, there it is. A superb disc start to finish.

    Lim's upcoming recording of Mozart and Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Ji Young Lim has already been pre-ordered, and perusing his other recordings, I'm leaning toward his Schubert duo disc with Su Yoen Kim. But I'm even more interested in what he might do going forward. I would love it if he recorded some Liszt, especially of the less showy variety. If ever he comes to town, I will make it a point to not miss him.

    SOTA sound with no mechanism noise to speak of, but a fair amount of breathing to be heard.



    Amazon UK link
     
  5. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    More Tchaikovsky from Daejin Kim, here the First and Second. For the First, I decided to do an A/B with Michael Tilson Thomas' BSO recording. In overall timings, Kim takes a bit longer in the first two movements, and a bit less time in the last two movements. As before, he doesn't really go for interpretive excess, and his conducting is not as graceful as MTT's in some spots in the opener. The Adagio is just lovely, though, and it almost evokes old-style cartoon accompaniment, but without the old, old-school mannerisms (eg, no gooey portamento). Maybe it's better to say that it sounds like a movement from a ballet, because that works, too. It's really quite good. Even though Kim leads a slightly quicker Scherzo than MTT, it feels a bit slower and weightier. The Finale starts off slower than MTT's, but segues into suitably energetic playing, with plenty of dynamic range, and the newer recording offers a lot more in the way of bass energy during drum thwacks. An excellent performance. The Second lightens up just a bit in overall demeanor, but is similarly energetic and devoid of histrionics. The Andantino Marziale displays more of that old-timey, cartoon accompaniment sound, and the Scherzo is both weighty and fleet of foot. The Finale is even fleeter of foot and hefty, if perhaps not ideally clear. Another excellent performance.
     
  6. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Seventh. Lim uses the Nowak edition, so here both conductors use the same version. Lim's take is shorter in the first three movements - almost five minutes shorter in the Adagio - and longer in the Finale. The Allegro moderato is grand lite, because while the playing sounds serious enough, it never becomes overwrought. In the taut Adagio, I think I can hear why Lim was credited with causing 'Mahler Fever' in Korea. Just a bit swift and still a bit cool, it seems to move into more of a Mahlerian world, especially with the string playing. The playing sounds meltingly beautiful at times, and while lyrical, there is a sadness to the playing, and though hardly dainty, he keeps the scale less towering than normal. Somewhat as a result, the weighty and smooth Scherzo sounds less dwarfed by what came before, and the trio is gorgeous. The Finale, with its prominent winds and somewhat gemutlich demeanor at times sounds a bit Straussian, and not until about three minutes in does Brucknerianism creep in, and when it does, it's slow motion excitement. The scale and intensity of the movement helps balance out the last two movements with the first two a bit better than in some cases. This is fine performance, though I can't say it matches established favorites.

    It takes one or perhaps two bars before it becomes obvious that Jochum's reading is the more devout, serious, and probably profound reading. And though Jochum's timings are generally longer, it doesn't sound like it. Jochum's pacing comes as close to perfect as any version I've heard, and combined with masterly transitions and an ability to lead his orchestra in perfectly timed and scaled climaxes, the overall effect is captivating. The Adagio is the heart of the work and properly Brucknerian, and while it is certainly the better of the two versions, it does not sound as beautiful as Lim's. One minor drawback, if it's that, of Jochum's echt-Bruckner approach is that the symphony is a bit lopsided; even though the extended length doesn't register much while listening to the music, it does when the last two movements come around. Jochum leads them about as well as anyone, but the imbalance is unavoidable. Overall, Jochum's recording is a masterpiece, not significantly bettered by anyone.
     
  7. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    I remember when new and new-ish major label releases featuring the biggest artists of the day commanded premium prices. This Yuja Wang-Leonidas Kavakos recording of the Brahms Violin Sonatas went for under seven bucks new from Amazon when I bought it. That's what I used to pay for Naxos titles. Now, new Naxos titles are around twice that. Go figure.

    Bizzaro-world pricing aside, what is eminently clear from the opening bars of this disc is that the two artists have no problem playing the music exactly the way they want. Kavakos generates a rich, colorful, at times tenderly beautiful, at times powerful sound. Same with Wang, who seems undertaxed here. Everything is in the right place and everything sounds just lovely, but it lacks a certain spark for me that others bring. And there are so many others here. Pick your favorite set, new or old, and it may be better - but then, it may not. This is hardly a bad disc, but it enters an immensely crowded field filled with great discs and more good discs than mediocre ones. Still, if the duo shows up in these parts, I would happily attend.

    Sound is immediate and strikingly clear, not surprising given that Andreas Neubronner acts as producer (and has his name misspelled in the credits). Kavakos is miked too closely, with nearly every breath audible, sometimes to the point of distraction, never more so than in the lullaby that closes the disc.



    Amazon UK link
     
  8. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Kim's Tchaikovsky Fourth. For this recording, I decided to do an A/B with Daniele Gatti. Gatti's take is lighter on its feet and more classical in approach. It lacks the drive and intensity of other readings, but I still dig it. Kim's take is heftier and more tragic in the opening movement. Kim plays up the dark fate theme from the outset. The movement unfolds in a sometimes stately but never slow pace, which allows Kim to build up tension and intensity within the movement for greater contrasts, and the low strings, in particular, sometimes sound like they are playing some ballet music more than a waltz. As the coda approaches, Kim prods the Suwon to play for all they're worth, then drops off volume sharply, just to bring it right back up. It's especially effective as played here. The Andantino is both potent and poignant, the Scherzo is bouncy, with winds that evoke Mussorgsky as much as Tchaikovsky at times, and then the Finale erupts, underpinned by tight and weighty bass that, if the volume is set too high, can nearly pin the listener back in his or her chair. Kim generates notably more intensity and energy than the energetic Gatti here, and when he backs off for the secondary theme, the playing is rich and lovely. Kim wraps things up with a blistering coda that led to an obvious and well-deserved standing ovation. An outstanding performance.

    Sound for the live recording is not ideally clear, but the dynamic range is outstanding, as is the weight of the orchestra. That's a trade off worth making at least some of the time.
     
  9. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Eighth. Lim uses the Haas edition. Lim's tempi fall within mainstream interpretations, clocking in at about eighty minutes, which makes the decision to split the symphony between two discs seem a bit unusual for the here and now. Lim starts off the opening Allegro moderato with satisfying heft and scale, and as the coda approaches, the timps create a rumbling underpinnning for the brass that works well. The somewhat broad Scherzo does not sound as elevated, and it is a bit soft-edged, yet it still works well in its lighter (for late Bruckner) sound, with some gossamer string playing. The string dominated Adagio sounds just lovely, radiating an almost celestial aura, with the harp pluckings uncommonly effective. While Lim and the Koreans do not achieve the same heights as, say, Karajan in Vienna, the sound and effect is almost hypnotic at times. In the Finale, Lim manages to deliver some beefy pasages, with the timps again leading the way, and he alternates that with a lighter than normal style. Lim concludes the work by patiently building the coda, weaving the themes with perfect timing, and here he achieves a massive sense of scale and Brucknerian sound even with less brass than normal. It's not one of the very greatest readings of the work, but it's a highlight of the cycle. (On a side-note, the metadata for the second disc showed the artist and disc as Salvador Dali, Etre dieu.)

    Jochum brings his Eighth in at a trim seventy-six minutes and change. Part of this is accomplished by bringing the Allegro moderato in at under fourteen minutes. It's just too zippy and scaled back, and the obvious spotlighting of winds is perhaps a bit much. Jochum maintains dramatic tension expertly, and the orchestra plays portions with searing intensity, but I prefer more grandeur. The Scherzo ends up being a few seconds longer, and Jochum generates enough intensity in the outer sections, and late Bruckner depth in the middle, to fully satisfy. Not at all surprisingly, the lengthy Adagio is masterfully done, exuding grandeur and weight and depth, with nerve-rattling brass, and a sublime ending. Truth be told, Lim gets more beautiful playing from his band, but there's more to this music than beauty. Jochum does the nearly frenzied thing to start the Finale, with a galloping rhythm, a big brass blast, and both sharp and thundering timps. While Jochum lets up a bit, overall, this is one of the most intense and vigorous final movements to this symphony I've heard, and if the back-end lopsidedness ends up more obvious as a result, Jochum makes the symphony genuinely exciting. While a fun Bruckner symphony can be considered bad form, it's hard to envision this type of excitement not being appreciated. Throw in a masterful coda, and it's hard not to like this. That written, I like a grander, maybe even grandiose, style here - Karajan in Vienna, Giulini, Celi in Munich, Gielen - though Jochum probably represents the apogee of a more tightly conceived interpretation.

    So, Jochum takes it, but in a split decision.
     
  10. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    For the next post in the Asian Invasion, I decided to do a quasi-A/B with another new addition to my collection. Here, the A/B is with Beethoven's Op 106, comparing the heretofore superb Alessio Bax (superb in Brahms, Mussorgsky, Scriabin, and Mozart) and newcomer Sunwook Kim.

    I started with Bax. Bax opens with a broad 'n' big Allegro in 106, coming in at just under eleven minutes. Bax manages to evoke both a quasi-orchestral sound in the forte passages and more intimate sound in the quieter music, which he plays relatively slowly. Most important and successful here, he makes his specific tempo choices make sense and transitions flawlessly within the context of his overall approach. Generally speaking, the Scherzo more than occasionally sounds like an extension of the first movement, usually quicker and played in bursts, but Bax does more with it than most. The passages are fully differentiated, and Bax very much makes it sound like a musical joke more akin to something out of 31/3, stylistically speaking. Very nice. The Adagio is on the slow side at near nineteen minutes, and Bax keeps it mostly subdued with melody generally prominent. His often subdued left hand playing allows him to create a nice effect near the end as he gently increases left hand volume to overtake the right. Bax plays the Largo somewhat like the Scherzo, with slightly exaggerated accents and contrasts, but to superb effect, and then moves to a limber, quick, and clear fugue. Perhaps this Op 106 does not display a lot of the late LvB soundworld I tend to prefer, but Bax's approach and execution are sufficiently well done so that it doesn't matter. The Mondschein follows, and here Bax plays the opening Adagio sostenuto briskly, with nervous but gentle forward momentum, moves to a lovely, gently rocking Allegretto, and then plays the Presto agitato with satisfying heft and speed, with his left hand playing mostly held back a bit, rumbling and bubbling just beneath the musical surface. An excellent performance, if not necessarily a top twenty choice. Bax then closes the disc with two of his own transcriptions of music from The Ruins of Athens, including a new one for the Turkish March, and both would make for nice enough encores. Superb sound with more than a few instances of damper noise.

    Kim opens his disc with the Waldstein. The opening Allegro con brio is taken at a more or less standard tempo, not too fast and not too slow, and Kim's digital dexterity is obvious. All is clear. But all is also sort of plain. There's not much expressiveness for all the neatness, and one minor item is his terraced dynamics. When the paying should build up to the loudest passages, there's not a lot of variegation at the loud end of the spectrum. The loud playing is perfectly controlled and never ugly, but it's kind of one-note, as it were. The very clean and clear and measured Introduzione is definitely on the unexpressive side, and transitions to a Rondo that only occasionally generates excitement, and often finds Kim playing deliberately. The sonata is undeniably well executed. It's also dull. Like Bax, Kim starts his Hammerklavier with an eleven minute Allegro. Kim's playing is more direct and displays less in the way of dynamic or tempo flexibility or attention to detail. It sounds a tad aggressive and quasi-orchestral, all to he good, augmented by the loud but limited dynamic range playing. The Allegretto sounds more compressed and forceful than the opener, to the good. Kim then plays one of the swiftest Adagios out there at a taut 14'32". It starts off tense, and then for about two minutes after about 6'30", it becomes almost jittery, and the clarity of voices is quite striking. After that, when many or most versions become more desolate and searching, Kim keeps his playing tense and more intimate. Around 11'30" or so, he begins to play in a more desolate style, which ends up being brief as he ratchets up tension nicely and then plays the climax potently. This is evidence that the Adagio need not always be slow. Kim ends the sonata by starting with a restrained Largo and a clear Fugue that somehow manages to be played a decent clip yet still sound a bit stodgy. Sound is close and clear and a little hard, and dynamics seem to suffer a bit, which is a bit odd given that this was recorded at the Jesus Christus Kirche in Berlin in 2015.

    I definitely, and by a wide margin, prefer the Bax disc in this shootout. Now I have to consider whether or not to hear Kim in recital next season playing the Diabellis. He's got the chops to do it, but I'm on the fence. Maybe his newer LvB disc can help me decide.



    Amazon UK link for Bax

    Amazon UK link for Kim
     
  11. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Kim's Third and Fifth. The Third opens with a bracing Allegro moderato where Kim adopts a, well, a moderate tempo and still generates quite a bit of heft. The Andantino is well played, with winds getting their due, but something feels off. It leaves me cold, though it's by no means bad. The final movement starts off light, with just-right tempo choices, and, again, the winds get their due (I especially dig the flute here). Kim keeps things relatively light until the chorale, where tension and scale build up, but he keeps things reined in. Early impressions here may not end up being my long-term outlook. There are some things I'm not wild about, at least usually, but more than with many recordings, this seems to be one to live with for a while.

    The opening movement to the Fifth sounds both grand in scale and somewhat severe at times before the tutti arrives, where hints of heroism emerge. (And am I the only one who hears hints of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune early on in the movement?) Kim then scales back appropriately, keeping things taut until the thundering coda. The second movement is ever so slightly quick overall, with ample forward momentum married to lightness. The Allegro opens very swiftly, but the horns sound like awfully scrawny swans at first. Fortunately, the strings do their thing, and the return of the swan-call has more blat, and the coda, though somewhat abrupt, sounds excellent.
     
  12. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Ninth. Lim's rendition comes in at around fifty-six minutes, so again in the realm of conventional timings. The opening movement is ever so slightly quick and tense, and though not as fierce as some other versions, there's more bite than in some prior symphonies in this cycle. The playing also sounds more ethereal while also sounding a bit detached, which works well. The Scherzo has plenty of drive and power and weight, and a sense of intensity approaching fearsomeness, in the outer sections, and the middle section is uncommonly light and dance-like, and the less than fully clear recording (by SOTA standards) combines with the playing to create a nice blurred effect. The Adagio sounds both beautiful and just a bit intense. Lim can choose to play with great beauty, as he showed in previous symphonies, but that clearly is not what he wanted here. And once again, while the symphony is not as dominated by brass as other readings, Lim uses them well, and he creates some nice effects when he brings them more into the mix. Lim brings the orchestra to a massive, nearly fearsome - heck, almost apocalyptic a la Furtwangler - climax at just after eighteen minutes and then allows for a lengthy pause to let the effect settle in. The coda is lovely and just a bit tense to start, then it becomes gentler and more serene until fading away. Lim himself seems to be even more engaged in this symphony than some preceding ones based on more frequent vocalizing, and this engagement shows in one of the best performances of the cycle. Given the editions Lim uses for some symphonies, and the comparatively brass-light sound, and somewhat smaller apparent scale of the playing, I can't say that this is one if the great Bruckner cycles. But, with that written, the excellent playing, the string-heavy sound, the sometimes detached approach, and the sometimes uncommon and almost unreal aural beauty on offer results in a unique cycle that more than ended up justifying the purchase for me. I will definitely be revisiting the whole thing, probably starting with the Fifth.

    Jochum's sixty minute version starts off more or less as expected: dark, mysterious, more brass heavy, large scaled. While slightly swifter than Lim's in timing, the pacing nonetheless sounds more relaxed, the tension less pronounced in the early going, the music deeper. And the low string pizzicati are pretty sweet. As the movement progresses, Jochum generates apocalyptic music to rival Furtwangler, with the immense benefit of good sound. The Scherzo, only a bit quicker than Lim, generates more intensity in the outer sections, and the trio very much meets it "schnell" designation. The Adagio is simply marvelous. Notably slower than Lim's, it sounds quicker and basically pulls off a Celi by making time irrelevant. While lovely at times, this is no tender and gentle reading for the most part; it is simultaneously transcendent and despondent, and while Lim was no slouch when it comes to transitions, Jochum's sound perfect and seamless. And he leads a blistering climax that I've not heard bettered. The coda is gentler, lovelier, and radiant. This is one of the great Bruckner Ninths. Overall, Jochum's cycle is better than Lim's and would make for a good introduction to the works, though I think Wand's is still probably better for that type of role. Jochum's cycle is more uneven than Lim's but that just means that it ranges from excellent to truly great. I'm perfectly glad to have both.
     
  13. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Kim's Fifth. For this recording, A/B duties fell to Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra, who got first listen. I've long enjoyed this recording for the beautiful strings and the superb sound. Eschenbach's tempi are quite leisurely overall, but he knows how to make it sound very nice. No longueurs here, with masterful pacing and transitions and satisfyingly powerful climaxes, and the Andante cantabile is seductively gorgeous. Eschenbach's reading is very much of the romantic variety.

    In contrast, Kim takes the work much faster. In the outer movements, he's faster than Mravinsky. As one might expect with such zippy tempi, the playing is more intense and more classically proportioned, like Mravinsky, though not quite at that level. He and his Suwon band crank right through the opening movement and generate some heat and a sense of tragedy without overdoing it. The Andante likewise conveys a tragic feel without overdoing it. It's emotional playing, but not full heart-on-sleeve playing, and the climax is nicely weight and urgent. The third movement is swift and at times bracing, as is the Finale, which scales up the drama in climaxes even more. It offers a most entertaining contrast with Eschenbach.

    Sound for the recording is like the prior discs in the cycle.
     
  14. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Another entry for Dong Hyek Lim, and a first appearance for Ji Young Lim. Ms Lim is a young at only twenty-two years of age, but she already has one big competition win under her belt: the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Competition. Before Steve Harvey flubbed announcing the winner of the 2016 Miss Universe, something similar appears to have happened when the person announcing the winner's name at the QE did not state it clearly enough and violinist Lee Ji Yoon thought her name had been called. This little factoid makes me want to sample Lee Ji Yoon's playing. Another factoid, and one more relevant to the proceedings here, is that Lim pays a 1708 Strad.

    This disc includes three Mozart Violin Sonatas (K301, K304, and K378) Beethoven's first Violin Sonata. As expected, both players play very well. Lim's playing in the Mozart is clean and unfussy, and quite attractive. DH Lim's playing is much the same. There's a nice degree of energy, especially in K378, but the playing is somewhat safe. No big gestures, no grand flourishes. The Beethoven sounds even more energetic, but it remains decidedly classical in style, and somewhat small in scale. DH Lim's playing is quite ear-catching at times, and as far as safe and proper approaches go, this is very well done.

    Overall, a good disc, but I was left wanting more.

    Sound is very clear and clean, but also a bit bright.


    Amazon UK link
     
  15. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Kim's Sibelius Sixth and Seventh. Kim's take on the Sixth is largely clean and austere, almost severe. The recorded sound is not as heavy and think as what came before, though it is not thin. While Kim does not lead an especially fast version, it maintains tension throughout. The second movement, while not particularly beautiful, is most effective in the middle as the winds come to the fore and the strings subside in importance while sounding very clean. The Poco vivace moves relentlessly forward, again without being unduly swift, and sounds edgy and angular. The final movement maintains tension without excess and never really sounds beautiful; here is the musical cold spring water the composer wrote about. While I can't say it's my favorite version of the work, it's very nice, indeed. The only beef I have is the use of slightly more extended than normal silences between movements.

    The Seventh. Kim starts off with an appropriately slow tempo, and the sound and style is clear and forward moving. Kim unfolds the piece nicely, if perhaps some of the tempo shifts are not as perfectly executed as Karajan manages (his is my favorite version), but then this is a live recording and out-executing Fluffy and crew is a mighty tall order. Kim does elicit mood shifts with the sectional changes and generates some satisfying intensity and hints of mystery, as well. It's possible to find the end of the Presto section pressed just a bit too much, but that just ends up offering maximum contrast to the Adagio, which itself blends into the gorgeous and at times searing Largamente molto quite beautifully. The timp thunder underpins a rather impressive coda. The cycle ends on a strong note.

    The cycle as a whole does not rate as the best I've heard, though Sibelius, more than some symphonic composers, doesn't really lend himself to ordinal rankings very well for me. Playing is excellent throughout, Kim avoids interpretive eccentricity, and sound is excellent. Sometimes I wanted more engagement and fire, and other times not. I will gladly return to the cycle, and I wouldn't mind hearing more from the conductor, be it as conductor or pianist - or both.
     
  16. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    Todd,

    The Lim + Lim review needs a couple of edits.

    I'm spending far too much, but keep up the good work. :)
     
  17. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    Some Liszt from 2005 International Franz Liszt Piano Competition winner Yingdi Sun. Sun was born in 1980 in China, received most of his training in his home country, and then embarked on the international competition and touring circuit. This disc, recorded in 2008, appears to be the only one available from him. It includes the Sonata (which I desperately needed another version of), the three Petrarch Sonnets, and the St Francois Legend. The Sonata opens the disc, and at just a tad over a half hour, it's on the leisurely side. That's no problem as pianists like Pogorelich and Angelich deliver exceptional slow performances. Sun isn't quite at that level. The first one thing notices is that, as recorded, Sun's tone is rich, dark, and bass heavy. And pedal stomp heavy. Somewhat like Angelich, he seems to revel in the slower, more lyrical music, which he plays very well indeed. Unlike Angelich, he doesn't play the fastest and most demanding passages with control and precision to match or surpass the best on record, and he never truly lets loose. Sometimes when it sounds like he might, he pulls back. That ends up being something of a limiting factor, but his somewhat micromanaged approach is not unattractive. The three Petrarch Sonnets border on sounding languid, and are too bass rich at times, but sound quite attractive overall, and most attractive when Sun takes his time to gently coax lovely sounds from the keys and when he lets some chords just hang. Sun saves his best for last in the Legend. While the loud passages are effective, it is the endless beautiful right hand playing, gentle and fluid and shimmering that captivates and almost mesmerizes. So, a mixed disc. Sound is excellent overall.

    If ever Sun records more Liszt, I certainly would consider listening to it, especially if it's the complete Annees or the Harmonies. Some Debussy could be nice, too.



    Amazon UK link
     
  18. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    Kim's Sixth. Here the A/B was with Mravinsky's stereo recording on DG. Mravinksy's Sixth is masterful, of course, blending beautiful and forlorn slower music and positively ferverish and superbly well played fast music possessed of an intensity not surpassed or even really matched by anyone. Of course, that fevered intensity can be too much of a good thing if one is not in the mood to hear it, though I was when I relistened. The only real drawback to the set has to do with aged, early stereo sonics, but that poses no barrier to enjoyment.

    Kim's overall timings are close in all movements, and in the Allegro con grazia and Finale, Kim leads swifter playing. With his tempi, Kim keeps the playing moving along at all times. While Kim and the Suwon band generate plenty of intensity in the opener, they don't sound as feverish as Mravinsky, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and the slower sections are searching but not too sentimental. Kim's swift take on Allegro con grazia sounds very much like a caffeinated waltz, with the strings doing good things, and a generally light feeling. Kim keeps things light to start the Allegro molto vivace, but he makes sure to inject weight in to the louder passages, and as the movement progresses it sounds like a triumphant, peppy processional, and here the energy and speed do rival Mravinsky, but in better sound and balance, and the coda makes for a heckuva false ending, complete with room reverberating bass drum. The Finale does a complete one-eighty most effectively, and sounds sorrowful but not maudlin. The fast overall tempo manifests briefly after four minutes in, and even more so a couple minutes later when Kim whips the band into a brief, intense fury before pulling back in the symphonic equivalent of exhausted resignation. After that, the throbbing low strings underpin a tense acceptance of fate, somewhat Mahlerian in demeanor, until the final sound fades away at a swift 9'15". The Sixth ends the cycle on a high note, and qualitatively it is surpassed only by the superb Fourth. Maybe.

    Kim's cycle taken as a whole is excellent, even if it doesn't supplant Temirkanov for me, and it probably would not supplant <insert favored interpreter here> for others, it does not need to. I wouldn't mind hearing more from the Kim/Suwon team.
     
  19. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    Since I've listened to a couple discs from Dong-Hyek Lim, I figured I should hear how well his older brother plays. The elder Lim, older by four years, studied in Russia, Germany, and the US, and he is now a professor in Korea. In 2005, he tied for third with his brother at the Chopin competition, so at the very least he should be very good. Dong-Min has not reached international star or something approaching star status like his brother, and this Korean language only release is obviously a local market release by Sony Korea.

    Dong-Hyek's Chopin Preludes disc ends with the Barcarolle, and Dong-Min's starts with the same work, so a quick A/B was done with the first listen. The overall timing is only seconds apart, with Dong-Min slightly faster overall, but one wouldn't know that listening to the opening, which is slightly gentler and darker hued and slower sounding. As the piece progresses, Lim picks up the pace, but he never sounds rushed, and the left hand is insistent but not as clean, with the older Lim generating a more blended sound, at least as recorded. The piece almost imperceptibly ratchets up tension and speed until the climax, and while not as lilting as some overall, it's superb. Call it a draw between the two pianists.

    The disc moves on to a single Nocturne, Op 55, Number 2, and Lim displays very fine dynamic gradations at the lower end of the spectrum, with different voices played at different levels. It's very deliberate yet very flowing, but it does not evoke any mystery or darkness, seeming like an abstract miniature fantasia, and somehow, despite the deliberate playing, it almost sounds improvised. A full cycle from the pianist would surely be welcome.

    Next up is the main work, the Third Sonata. At over thirty-one minutes total, Lim is no speed demon, and indeed, he doesn't storm out of the gate in his over thirteen minute Allegro maestoso, preferring to present a more forensic take. The independence of hands and varying volume levels are so good and distinct it almost sounds like a studio trick as his left hand playing will remain super clean and clear but noticeably quieter than the right hand melody, which nonetheless doesn't dominate. Lim coaxes some beautiful sounds from his piano, and his playing remains captivatingly exact. The Scherzo is a bit quicker, but again Lim is all about supreme clarity and exactitude. The Largo opens with powerful, weighty playing, sounding almost organ-like, and then Lim quickly and effortlessly slows way down and plays with gentle beauty. He opens the Presto nan tanto with controlled speed and power in the introduction, and the rest of the movement never really sounds unleashed, with Lim's control of everything most captivating. Strangely, though the rhythm never sounds galloping or pronounced, the forward momentum is unyielding. In general, I tend to like faster sounding versions of this sonata, like, say, Alexis Weissenberg's blockbuster RCA recording, but Lim makes as strong a case as I've heard for a slower sounding, more meticulous approach.

    The disc closes with the B-flat minor Scherzo. Lim plays with more overt virtuosity, but he never sheds the sense of absolute control over every aspect of the playing. Here, the playing can sound a bit studied at times, but it still works very well, and it has the same unyielding forward momentum as the closing movement of the sonata.

    There's some subtle vocalizing evident throughout the recording, and sonics are SOTA but a bit closer and softer edged when compared to his brother's recording.

    It sounds like the Lim family has two superb pianists.
     
  20. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    I figured I might as well listen to what the Middle Kingdom is up to in terms of orchestral playing. Based on slim internet info, Yu Long is a, or even the, preeminent conductor in mainland China, and has been instrumental in building both the China Philharmonic Orchstra and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and has also worked extensively with other bands. (Of course, since I read neither Mandarin nor Cantonese, and English language information is scarce, I could easily be mistaken.) It looks like Universal Music China decided to work with him and released recordings on both the DG and Decca labels. This particular concert recording also includes cellist Jian Wang, who has made multiple recordings for DG as both soloist and chamber musician, and violist Anxiang Zhang. The performances, as the cover indicates, are from 2007 and 2008. As this was only available as a download and no digital booklet was provided, no further specifics are available without scouring the web.

    The Tchaikovsky starts off the disc, and its clear that the China Philharmonic plays at a very high level. Both the Suwon and Korean orchestras mentioned previously in this thread may have a slight edge in execution, but I've heard better played recordings, and recordings not as well played, from eastern and western orchestras alike, so for all intents and purposes, that's not an issue. Interpretively, Long tends toward a fast, potent sound, with powerful timps and lots of excitement. He appears to have no time for exaggerated shifts in tempi or adding additional romanticism to the proceedings. This is hardly my favorite Tchaikovsky work, and while I can't say this is the best I've heard, I would be more than happy to hear something like this in concert.

    The main work for me is the Strauss, which is possibly my favorite of the tone poems. Long makes sure to bring out detail, but the balances prevent ideal realization of all details. Long again favors a relatively fast overall tempo, which when combined with a somewhat direct approach, means the piece doesn't flow as well as better performances. It's somewhat generic. Wang plays the solo part expertly, which is no surprise, and Zhang does fine work, as well. There is less spotlighting of the soloists here than in some other recordings. Again, this is a performance I would not mind hearing in concert, but on disc it faces some serious rivals, and when I say that old man Fluffy with young man Meneses remains my favorite, and by a pretty wide margin, that's not surprising.

    As mentioned before, the recording was available only as a download, and I got an MP3. (It may be available lossless, but I didn't look as I was content to drop only nine bucks.) Sound is excellent overall, if somewhat lacking in ultimate clarity and dynamics, and the perspective is not ideal - it seems to almost be the conductor's perspective - but I can't say how much of that is due to encoding and how much to more traditional matters of recording technique. I'm thinking the latter is more important. This more or less matches many live recordings from the 90s, and it is clear enough to allow one to hear all manner of score page turning and feet shuffling and other non-musical sounds.

    I may very well have to sample more from this conductor.



    Amazon UK link
     

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