Classical reviews: December 22

Lilburn: Complete Piano Music Vol.4.
Dan Poynton (piano).
Trust 2CDs.

The fourth and last volume of a landmark series has several first recordings, sensitively played by Dan Poynton. One of Lilburn's finest works for solo piano, Sonatina No.2 (1962) is well known, but the first complete recording of Five Bagatelles (1942), important among the New Zealand composer's early works for keyboard is another treasure. Other first recordings included are: Three Pieces (1965), Christmas 1943, Andante Sustenuto (1964), Piece in E Major (c.1942), Prelude (1950) and A Christmas Offering (1944). Disc 1 lasts for 76 minutes; disc 2 (''Appendix'') comprising a collection of piano works for six hands, studies and a compositional sketch from Lilburn's papers is 16 minutes long - gaining some criticism from dealers for charging it as a full-price CD.

Highlight: Bellbird-like opening to Sonatina No.2.

''Verdi Villazon''.
Rolando Villazon (tenor), Torino Theatre Orchestra.
Deutsche Grammophon CD.

For next year's 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi's birth, the tenor pays tribute with a personal voyage into the composer's hidden world of passions.

''Verdi knows all our feelings,'' he says. Villazon owes international stardom to Verdi: he made opera history in La Traviata, Rigoletto and Don Carlo, as well as being a fine interpreter of the breath-taking Requiem. The tenor's voice has not suffered from throat surgery and he takes us on a journey from Verdi's earliest compositions to the last he wrote for tenor voice: the beautiful aria from Falstaff (Dal labbro il canto estasiato vola) in 1893. Villazon sounds slightly darker but still beautifully sings such favourites La donna e mobile and Questo o quella, alongside less familiar gems.

Highlight: Two arias from Rigoletto.

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