LUTOSLAWSKI: Mala Suite. Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. Grave. Symphony No. 2
Paul Watkins, cello; BBC Symphony Orch/Edward Gardner, cond.

MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 1 in B flat, K,. 207. Violin Concerto No. 2 in D, K. 211. Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K. 210. Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K. 218. Violin Concerto No. 5 in A, K. 2190. Adagio for Violin and Orchestra in E, K. 261. Rondo in B flat for Violin and Orchestra, K. 269. Sinfonia concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E flayt, K. 364. Rondo for Violin and Orchestra in C, K. 373. Concertone for 2 Violins and Orchestra in C, K. 190.
Julia Fischer, Gordon Nikolic, violins/Netherlands Chamber Orch/Yakov Kreizberg, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186 453 (3 disks + DVD) TT:69:46 / 60:45 / 63:35 / DVD: 24:44

MILHAUD: Scaramouche. RAVEL: Rapsodie espagnole. BIZET: Jeux d'enfants, Op. 22. POULENC: Sonata for Two Pianos. Élégie
Mona and Rica Bard, pianists
AUDITE SACD 92,672 TT: 74:03

This site has enthusiastically mentioned a previous Chandos SACDs in their Lutoslawski series (Symphony No. 4/Paganini Variations/Symphonic Variations/Piano Concerto) (REVIEW). Now we have this important addition, that shows all sides of the composer. It begins with the 1950 Mala Suite, a set of four brief movements based on folk music, three of them charming dances, all far removed from the complexity that marks the composer's later music. The half-hour Symphony No. 2 dates from 1965-67 and has but two movements: Hésitant and Direct. It takes the listener on a wild, dissonant journey before fading into nothingness. The four-movement Cello Concerto dates from 1969-1970 and is dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich who premiered it in London in 1970. It begins modestly with a simple repeated D notes from the soloist, but soon oppressive forces appear, and the concerto falters and conquers before its mysterious quiet conclusion. Grave originally was written for solo cello five years after the concerto, orchestrated in 1981, and based on the opening four notes of Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande, although you probably wouldn't recognize them. If you're interested in the Cello Concerto surely wouldn't want to be without Rostropovich's pioneering recording, but Paul Watkins does a brilliant job, and has the advantage of the Chandos ultra-clear, rich engineering.

All of these Mozart recordings featuring the remarkable young violinist Julia Fischer have been favorably reviewed on this site and elsewhere. Now Pentatone is issuing them in this boxed set that also includes a DVD of excerpts from recording sessions for Violin Concerto No. 2 and the Sinfonia Concertante. a delight to watch and it also gives us the opportunity to observe Yakov Kreizberg, who died of cancer recently at the age of 51, the estranged brother of Smyon Bychkov. Kreizberg made a number of recordings for Pentatone, and he will be missed. The set's booklet is a part of the packaging making it rather difficult to use. It is a pleasure to watch the graceful young violinist at work—you also can see her in a remarkable concert on DVD in which she gives sterling performances of Saint-Saëns' Violin Concerto and the Grieg Piano Concerto, a remarkable display of double virtuosity (REVIEW). If you don't already have Fischer's Mozart recordings, here's your opportunity to acquire them at about half of the price of original issues.

The young German piano duo Mona and Rica Bard are at the start of what promises to be an outstanding career, having already given many concerts, including orchestral appearances. This is their first CD, and it is fantastic. Programming is imaginative and varied. They capture all of the wild joy of Scaramouche, the mystery of Rapsodie espagnole, and the joy and innocence of the works by Bizet and Poulenc. And their beautiful sound has been wonderfully captured by Audite's engineers, defining but not overly separating the two pianos, with rear channels providing a warm concert hall effect. Highly recommended!

R.E.B. (December 2012)