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The Critic's Chair series ended in March 2015.

ONYXPiano Sonatas Vol 1
Beethoven:  Piano Sonatas, Nos 5, 11, 12 & 26
Jonathan Biss (pno)
(Onyx ONYX 4082)
There’s much to enjoy and savour on this new Beethoven sonata disc, and Jonathan Biss’s accounts of all four sonatas are right up there with some of the best on offer from contemporary artists such as Paul Lewis and Angela Hewitt. Nor does he suffer through comparison with some of the legendary Beethoven pianists of the past such as Kempff or Schnabel.


Evening Songs: Delius and Ireland songs arranged for cello and piano
DELIUS: Sunset, Love’s Philosophy, Slumber Song; IRELAND: Spring Sorrow, Sea Fever, Evening Song, and various other song transcriptions
Julian Lloyd Webber (cello), Jiaxin Cheng (cello), John Lenehan (pno)
(Naxos 8.572902)
This new CD brings together a selection of rather beautiful melodies by these two quintessentially English Romantic composers, although I have to say that it’s more a disc to dip in and out of – perhaps on your i-pod shuffle – as continuous listening will probably induce the slumber expressed in many of the texts. This is not to say that either the music or the playing is boring, or without character. Rather, that the music is all too one-dimensional, and without the texts and a singer on hand to colour and enliven the melodies as only singers can do, one’s mind does begin to wander somewhat.

CDAHAYDN: String Quartets in C Op 74/1; in F Op 74/2; in G minor Op 74/3, The Rider
Takács Quartet
(Hyperion CDA 67781)
New recordings of these six quartets were issued late last year on the Hyperion label by the Takács Quartet, and these are compulsory listening for anyone with even just a passing interest in the music of Haydn.  As might be expected, the members of the Takács Quartet are superb advocates for these works, relishing the energy and vigour of Haydn’s string writing, and feasting on the riches of his melodic and harmonic invention.

Ambroisie AMLISZT: Chasse-neige; Etude No 10; La Campanella; Vallee d'Obermann; Sposalizo; Les jeux d'eau de la Villa d"este; Petrarch Sonnet No 123; Liebestod from Tristan; Vale oubliee
Nikolai Lugansky (pno)
(Naïve Ambrosie AM 205)
This new Liszt recital disc by Nikolai Lugansky would have to be one of my top choices out of the slew of new Liszt recordings that have appeared over the past year or so. There’s some tremendous playing on this recording – it goes without saying of course that a pianist needs a fabulously virtuosic technique to come even close to meeting the ferocious demands Liszt places on the pianist. Lugansky has this in spades.