Music Reviews

Classical Music - Part 6 - January, 2000

Jason Serinus





Richard Goode, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Nonesuch 79489-2

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Why is Mozart’s music so well-loved? Just listen to these two glorious piano concertos, mature works written in the year Mozart turned 30, to discover why. The A major’s first movement virtually bubbles over with joy, transitions into a gentle, slower movement flowing with sweetness and pathos, and overflows with contagious exuberance in its conclusion. The famed C minor is graver, but another absolute wonder of balanced phrasing and waterfall runs.

Richard Goode employs a soft touch most suited to the central quieter movements of these masterpieces. In the A major’s adagio, the way he caresses the notes out of his instrument feels like the most tender of touches on a lover’s cheek; the playing is simply superb. Here and in the C minor’s larghetto, I find Goode’s heartfelt expression, ably supported by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, more affecting than original instrument performances by Malcolm Bilson/John Eliot Gardiner in the A major and Melvyn Tan/Roger Norrington in the C minor. In the faster, more energetic movements, however, Goode lacks that last bit of pinpoint dramatic and virtuosic impact I would like to hear, and that I find in Bilson and Tan playing the fortepianos for which Mozart composed.

- Jason Serinus -


"Chick Corea (1941 the Next Millennium) Concerto Spain arranged for Sextet and Orchestra; Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra"

Chick Corea, London Philharmonic Orchestra

Sony Classical SK61799

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In the summers of 1995 and 1996, jazz great Chick Corea put together two four-hour outdoor evening concerts for the people of Tama, Japan. Both were entitled “Chick Corea from Jazz to Classical.” The 1995 program opened with Mozart’s D-Minor Piano Concerto (No. 20), and ended, after a lot of new music, with a newly-arranged version of Corea’s classic1971 song Spain. It is this arrangement of Corea’s “signature tune” that fills half of this CD.

If Mozart’s music bubbles, Corea’s swings. With influences of the art cultures of Spain, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, and New York in evidence, Corea’s “final visit” to Spain fascinates as it draws one in. The song itself is framed by an orchestral introduction and recap, all of which employ enough percussion and climactic passages to give your sound system a run for the money. Jazz is not my forte, but I thoroughly enjoyed this most original yet somewhat familiar jazz landscape through which Corea guides us.

Corea’s love for Mozart, whose compositional influence absolutely shows in Corea’s Piano Concerto No. 1, began in 1982, when he and the Austrian classical pianist Friedrich Gulda played together in the first year of the Munich Klaviersommer Festival. Gulda and Corea did not meet until the concert itself, and began with an entirely unplanned, half-hour duet of two-piano improvisation. Gulda next continued alone, first improvising and then playing a composed piece of music. When Corea asked him afterwards whom the composer might have been,  Gulda replied, “Why, that’s Mozart!”

“I was transformed and inspired,” writes Corea in the album’s liner notes. A month later, he and Gulda performed Mozart’s Double Piano Concerto in E-flat as part of a special Mozart week in Amsterdam. Shortly after this, Corea embarked upon composing his first piano concerto, choosing almost the exact instrumentation as the Mozart concerto which had so affected him.

“Dedicated to the spirit of religious freedom,” to which Corea is “on the same level as the creative freedom that is the basic right of all people,” and with thanks to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, this three part concerto deserves your attention. The first part begins with a genial piano solo, to which percussion and orchestra are added. The relaxed feeling continues until a big finish, with a surprise jazz tail thrown in. While the second part’s pace and occasional dance rhythms do not remind me of a typical Mozartian middle movement, the final part’s energy and momentum definitely remind me of the master whose music Corea loves.

Recorded in 24-bit sound (mixed down to 16/44), my only reservations about the sonics have to do with what seems to me like unnatural pinpoint miking on percussion. If in fact Corea would mike the percussion and double bass in an actual performance of this concerto, please add some extra points to the stars.

- Jason Serinus -


"Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791), Flute Quartets in D, k. 285; in G, k. 285a; in C, k. Anh. 171/K.285b; in A, k. 298"

Emmanuel Pahud, flute; Christoph Poppen, violin; Hariolf Schlichtig, viola; Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello

EMI Classics 7243 5 56829 2 5

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If you only heard these flute quartets through a mediocre auto FM radio as you drove in traffic, as I first heard them via a portable CD player connected to my Corolla’s generic cassette radio system, you might tend to dismiss them as Mozart-lite. Heard in stillness, however, over a high-end system that can convey “air,” space, color, and micro-shadings, these quartets shine as the mostly joyful gifts of a young genius.

To these ears, part of the “problem” lies with Emmanuel Pahud, the handsome 29-year old Principle Flute of the Berlin Philharmonic. Pahud’s playing is so effortless, his tone so consistently filled with light, that if you (or your vehicle) weren’t sitting still, you might miss all the consummate skill and musicianship that he and his fellow Berlin players put in service of this music. It is that flowing and perfect.

If this CD's first three flute quartets are filled with joy, the last is an outright joke. A parody of the music of Mozart’s contemporaries, which bases its theme and variations on music written by others, it runs the risk of being so good at being banal that it is sometimes boring. Alas, here I cannot help but think of the classical musak posing as music too-frequently played on the one surviving San Francisco Bay Area classical FM-station. Yes, programming perfect for drivers who want to relax, doctors who want to soothe their anxious waiting room patients, and various and sundry listeners who fear to think. Thank goodness, Mozart for the most part is much, much better than this parody suggests. If you are either able or willing to learn how to slow down, relax and receive, you are in for a treat when you hear this disc.

 - Jason Serinus -

Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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