Navigation for The Critic's Chair

The Critic's Chair series ended in March 2015.

This week Peter Mechen is in The Critic's Chair

Ross Harris Symphonies NAXOSROSS HARRIS: Symphony No.2 / Symphony No.3
Madeleine Pierard (soprano), Auckland Philharmonia/Marco Letonja
(Naxos 8.572574)

Here are two absolutely vibrant symphonies by Ross Harris, one of New Zealand's leading composers, the works as different as chalk-and-cheese, but each serving as an appropriate foil for the other. Both works share a theme of individuals defying convention and following their own inclinations, going against society's rules and making their own individual statements about what is most important in life. Everything beautifully wrought by the composer and stunningly played and recorded -full marks to the Auckland Philharmonia and to conductor Marko Letonja.

ONYXTCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D / Serenade Melancolique / Valse-Scherzo / Souvenir d'un lieu cher
James Ehnes (violin), Sydney Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
(Onyx 4076)

Canadian violinist James Ehnes is partnered by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in a performance notable for its straightforward strength and cumulative excitement. Ehnes' noble tones are set against the characterful timbres of the Australian orchestra, giving their star soloist admirable support.

Frang TchaikTCHAIKOVSKY: Violon Concerto in D Op 35
NIELSEN: Violin Concerto Op 33
Vilde Frang (violin), Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Eivind Gullberg
(EMI 025705)

Rising violinist star Vilde Frang takes an approach informed by a free and volatile spirit, which pushes the work's boundaries and finds unexpected realms of delight in places along the way as well as bringing out a few extra coruscations here and there. Frang also gives us the seldom-recorded Nielsen Violin Concerto, the soloist's volatility ably matching the music's quirkiness.

McCreesh BerliozBERLIOZ: Grand Messe des Morts
Gabrieli Consort and Players, Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir/Paul McCreesh
(Signum SIGCD 280)

A new recording from Paul McCreesh features of one of the most powerful and imposing choral works ever composed, Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts. Released on McCreesh's own record label, Winged Lion, the lavish book-bound packaging suggests something special, and handsomely delivers with these musicians and this performance. McCreesh works with the Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra in the imposing gothic church of Mary Magdalene; and the results are truly spectacular, both sonically and musically.