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JAZZ

JAZZ AT BERLIN PHILHARMONIC IV: ACCORDION NIGHT
Vincent Peirani/Stian Carstensen/ Regis Gizavo/Klaus Paier
ACT
4/5 stars

This slightly crazy musical mash-up themed on the accordion was orchestrated by Siggi Loch, also the founder of ACT music label, who curates Jazz At Berlin Philharmonic. The results are intriguing if not quite jazz to the ears of purists.

The albumpays tribute to tango legend Astor Piazzolla with a burn-the-floor take on the Argentine's Libertango.

For most of the nine tracks, the eight featured musicians play in pairs. The duo dynamics result in some unusual contrasts. The traditional strutting Tango Loco that opens the album reflects the classical training of accordion player Klaus Paier and cellist Asja Valcic.

But from that point, things get more outre. Madagascan street musician and singer Regis Gizavo and guitarist Nguyen Le give their two tracks, South Africa and Love, a relaxed, pop and world music vibe. Then accordion player Stian Carstensen enters with Horgalaten, a Norwegian folk tune that sounds Celtic. His duet with violinist Adam Baldychon on Oriental Hoedown careens from modern atonal to Celtic dance.

The star of the show is accordion player Vincent Peirani, who delivers urgent, percussive counterpoints to saxophonist Emile Parisien's doodling melodies on two Sidney Bechet numbers and a third original.

Not quite jazz, but a freewheeling musical exploration that is very much in the spirit of the genre.

ONG SOR FERN


CLASSICAL

BRAHMS SYMPHONIES NOS. 3 & 4
Transcribed by Idil Biret
Idil Biret, Piano Idil Biret Archive 8.571303-04
(2 CDs)
5/5 stars

It may seem a thankless task to transcribe symphonies for the piano, essentially reducing orchestral textures and sonorities to the constraints of the two hands and 10 fingers of one performer. This is essentially what the venerated Turkish pianist Idil Biret did with two of Johannes Brahms' symphonies, working on a pre-existing score for piano four hands and performing them in concert.

The recordings from two such events in Paris in 1995 and 1997 are revealing. The architecture of the music is retained and, while some colours are lost, how Biret voices the parts and brings out the music's grandeur with stunning panache are what make these documents relevant.

Tempos are broader and there are some missed notes in the heat of action, but these seem almost inconsequential.

Imagine what Franz Liszt did for Beethoven's symphonies or Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique in private performances during his heyday. Biret has even recorded these, and Brahms' Third and Fourth Symphonies receive the same grandstanding treatment, which sound better with repeated listening.

Pianophiles need not hesitate.

CHANG TOU LIANG


20TH-CENTURY CLASSICS

SHOSTAKOVICH SYMPHONY NO.14
Soloists with Royal Liverpool
Philharmonic
Vasily Petrenko, Conductor
Naxos 8.573132
5/5 stars

The Fourteenth Symphony (1969) of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975) is more of a song cycle in 11 movements, scored for two solo voices, strings and percussion, rather than a conventional symphony. The work is a setting of poems (in Russian translations) by Federico Garcia Lorca, Guillaume Apollinaire, Rainer Maria Rilke, all of whom died prematurely.

Composed in relatively ill health, the overriding theme is mortality and the anticipation of death. Every movement with the exception of the 8th (The Zaparozhe Cossacks Reply To The Sultan Of Constantinople, a rebuke against authoritarianism) is death-obsessed in some way or another.

Its highly dramatic content is arguably far better experienced in a concert hall, especially movements such as Malaguena (a dance of death), the mock-comical On Watch (foreshadowing death on the battlefield) and the very brief Conclusion with a duet proclaiming "Death is great/We are his...", which ends abruptly.

The soloists, Alexander Vinogradov and Israeli soprano Gal James, give vividly chilling performances. There is no coupling of the final instalment of Vasily Petrenko's all-round excellent Shostakovich symphony cycle with his Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, but what could possibly follow this excellent and gripping recording of Shostakovich's darkest and most bitter symphony?

CHANG TOU LIANG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - MUSIC01'. Print Edition | Subscribe