András Schiff, the great Hungarian pianist who visits Meany Theater for a President's Piano Series recital on Wednesday, has been so closely associated with the fabled ...
“András Schiff: The Complete Beethoven Sonatas, Vol. I” (ECM)
András Schiff, the great Hungarian pianist who visits Meany Theater for a President’s Piano Series recital on Wednesday, has been so closely associated with the fabled middle-European piano repertoire that it’s surprising to learn these are his first recordings of Beethoven’s keyboard sonatas. Until Schiff was 50, these 32 sonatas weren’t in his repertoire. (He turns 52 in December.)
Now, the first volume of recorded sonatas has arrived, live from the Zürich Tonhalle, and it’s terrific: vigorous, passionate, full of variety in touch and attack and phrasing. Schiff’s amazing finger articulation makes this some of the clearest playing you’ll ever hear. The first installment in this series has the Sonatas Nos. 1-4 (from Op. 2 and the Op. 7), and will be followed by seven more volumes. (Two Beethoven sonatas, including the “Waldstein,” will be heard in Schiff’s 8 p.m. Seattle recital on Wednesday; call 206-543-4880 for tickets information.)
Ken Benshoof: “24 Preludes” and “Patti’s Parlour Pieces,” Lisa Bergman (Albany Records)
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Recently retired from the University of Washington faculty, composer Ken Benshoof has made his reputation with an easygoing fusion of several styles. Classical, blues, jazz, a little Satie, a whisper of Rachmaninoff or Chopin, a wisp of Gershwin — all these seep gently into his music in various ways.
Benshoof’s recent keyboard works, a set of 24 Preludes and another group of “Patti’s Parlour Pieces,” are recorded here by Seattle pianist Lisa Bergman, in witty and nuanced performances that should ensure their serious consideration by other concert artists. Some of the pieces are engaging trifles; others have a more serious core, though there’s a hint of a wink and a smile behind almost every one of these.
“Harvest Home,” Dale Warland Singers (Gothic)
Before disbanding at founding conductor Dale Warland’s retirement last year, this superb chorus left behind this recording of Americana. Songs, hymns, traditional folk ballads and more are collected here in intriguing arrangements by such composers as Carol Barnett, Norman Luboff, Stephen Paulus and Warland himself.
There’s an autumnal feeling about this CD, with the traditional Thanksgiving hymn “We Gather Together” at the disc’s center, and every listener is likely to recognize settings of “Shall We Gather at the River,” “Simple Gifts” and “The Water is Wide” (there also are a few surprises). As always, you’ll hear the sumptuous blend of the singers and the beautifully shaped sound that was Warland’s unique gift.
“Vivaldi Concerti: Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante” (Virgin Classics)
This supercharged baroque ensemble is headed by violinist Fabio Biondi, one of the most strikingly individualistic players in the business, and we’ll hear them right here in Seattle on Saturday (8 p.m., Town Hall, 206-325-7066, www.earlymusicguild.org). Judging from this new disc, Vol. 2 of “Concerti con molti strumenti” (Concerti for several instruments), it should be a concert to generate considerable excitement.
Listeners who have considered Vivaldi somewhat dull will be transfixed by this no-holds-barred approach: The ensemble plays with great flair and freedom and technical alacrity. It’s miles away from the plodding, chug-chug-chug Vivaldi produced by less imaginative chamber orchestras. On this disc, the instrumentation ranges far and wide, with particularly colorful writing for winds. And Biondi’s virtuoso playing is nothing short of, well, Fabio.