LAWRENCE’S LISTENING (June, 2007)
YEHUDA HANANI/ WALTER PONCE/ CHRISTIAN TETZLAFF/ 
JAMES EHNES/ DENIS MATSUEV/ SOL GABETTA

By Lawrence Budmen

Several exciting new recordings feature artists scheduled to appear in Miami during the 2007-2008 season. These recent cd releases promise exciting music making ahead. 

Many South Floridians will remember the Israeli cellist Yehuda Hanani from the Close Encounters with Music series he presented locally for many years. (Hanani still performs Close Encounters concerts in Scottsdale, Arizona and the Berkshires of Northern Massachusetts.) Hanani is joined by renowned pianist and pedagogue Walter Ponce in an exciting overview of Beethoven’s Music for Cello and Piano on the Close Encounters label (www.cewm.org). Like his string quartets, Beethoven’s five cello sonatas trace this titanic master’s evolution from the influence of Haydn and Mozart to a bold, path breaking musical language that remains bracingly modern. These masterpieces literally reinvented the instrumental sonata form, making the piano a full partner rather than a mere accompanist. Hanani’s rich, deep well of burnished tone embraces these remarkable scores. His patrician musicianship, heartfelt fervor, and intense expressivity of utterance produce performances that are truly remarkable. Ponce’s keyboard agility, interpretive authority, and finely honed sense of chamber music collaboration are a joy to hear. In addition the two disc set features Beethoven’s charming sets of variations on themes from Handel’s Judas Maccabaus and Mozart’s The Magic Flute, making this recording a real winner! Hanani and Ponce will play a recital on December 9, 2007 for Sunday Afternoons of Music at UM Gusman Concert Hall. 

Violinist Christian Tetzlaff is one of the most striking artists on the contemporary music scene. His recent conductorless performance of Mozart’s Concerto No.3 with the New World Symphony made the thrice familiar score sound incredibly original and freshly minted, evoking cheers and a standing ovation. Tetzlaff’s new Hanssler Classic (www.Haenssler-classic.de) set of Bach’s unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas is equally illuminating. From the lower string tones of the Sonata No.1 in G minor to the high pyrotechnics of the enchanting Partita No.3 in E Major, Tetzlaff’s aristocratic phrasing, shining tone, stylish sense of Baroque symmetry (with a nod to the early music movement), and interpretive individuality are memorable. Bach’s music has never sounded so vibrant and effervescent. These performances are the work of an artist of the most exalted variety. Tetzlaff returns to Miami on October 26-28, 2007 to essay the Violin Concerto by the Hungarian modernist master Gyorgy Ligeti with the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas at the Lincoln Theater. 

The sweet tone and rhapsodic sweep of Canadian violinist James Ehnes are spotlighted in a new CBC Records (www.cbcrecords.ca) release of scores by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Samuel Barber, and Sir William Walton. If the Korngold concerto is recycled Hollywood musical syrup, the Barber Violin Concerto is a bona fide American classic, an endless outpouring of inspired melody. Walton’s lushly romantic 1938 Violin Concerto (commissioned by Jascha Heifetz no less) is a tour de force of virtuosity and soaring lyricism. The score fits Ehnes like a glove. He gives a gorgeous, deeply felt rendition of this neglected work. The excellent Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under the commanding baton of Branwell Tovey provides idiomatic support. Ehnes will take the Lincoln Theater stage on January 25-26, 2008 to play Walton’s wonderful score with the New World Symphony conducted by the talented Donald Runnicles. 

Tchaikovsky Competition winner Denis Matsuev gives a riveting performance of Shostakovich’s wildly ironic Piano Concerto No.1 in C minor on an RCA Red Seal recording (www.sonybmgmasterworks.com). His power pounding performance of Tchaikovsky’s eternal Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat minor may lack subtlety but has visceral excitement aplenty. Add velvety playing from the St. Petersburg Philharmonic under Yuri Temirkanov, an authentic Russian master, for a lively pairing of pianistic fireworks. The Concert Association of Florida presents Matsuev playing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 with the State Symphony Orchestra of Russia conducted by Mark Gorenstein on March 17, 2008 at the Carnival Center’s Knight Concert Hall. 

Finally a terrific new RCA Red Seal release by the young Argentinian cellist Sol Gabetta. The daughter of French and Russian parents, Gabetta is a huge talent. A dark, richly reverberant tone (shades of Rostropovich), awesome musical intensity, and the ability to caress a melodic line make this cellist a natural for the music of Tchaikovsky. Gabetta gives an elegant rendition of the charming Rococo Variations, brings searing passion to the composer’s cello arrangement of the Andante Cantabile from the String Quartet No.1, and offers two melodic rarities – the Pezzo Capriccioso and Nocturne. She also plays Saint-Saens’ classical Cello Concerto No.1 with Gallic verve and impetuous bravura. Add Alberto Ginastera’s Pampeana No.2, a folk based tour de force, as a fiery bonus. Gabetta’s technique dazzles the ear; her musicianship and stylistic range are impressive. Hopefully we will hear this wonderfully gifted artist in Miami in the near future. 


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