Classical reviews

Sibelius: Symphony No 2, Karelia Suite. NZ Symphony Orchestra. Naxos CD.

Pietari Inkinen continues conducting his Naxos series of Sibelius symphonies, with this third volume. Symphony No 2 is a popular work of four movements and the NZSO gives his romantic interpretation of its northern mists, pastoral scenes and heroic finale. Karelia Suite in three movements fills the disc suitably, portraying a series of musical tableaux based on stirring episodes from Finnish history.

Inkinen gives the works an interesting flexibility of pulse, although I might argue with some tempi in phrasing. The orchestral precision sounds as fine as ever, with energetic but well-articulated strings and clarity from woodwind and brass. Timpani are a little restrained in the sound balance, though, and the tuba's presence not as impressive as in concert performances.

Highlight: Lengthy and grandiose finale of the symphony.

Rachmaninov: Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Piano Concerto No 2. Yuja Wang (piano), Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Deutsche Grammophon CD.

THE legendary Claudio Abbadi wields the baton here, allowing this romantic music to flow beautifully in the brilliant young Wang's first recording with orchestra. (Her solo rendition of Stravinsky's Petrushka and other works greatly impressed this reviewer last year.)

The Rhapsody, with an introduction and 24 gorgeous variations on its catchy Caprice theme, reminds us of Wang's superb technique and artistry. In the popular concerto, she resists the temptation to make the grandiose themes adorned with extrovert passion. Inspired, she presents Rachmaninov's own clean and balanced reading, with transparent sounds. It can hardly be faulted - the virtuosity is there when required. The whole programme is enhanced by rich sounds from the orchestra.

Highlight: Variation 18 (Rhapsody) is suitably vivacious.




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