Benjamin Beilman, violin
Yekwon Sunwoo, piano
Warner Classics 0825646008971
American violinist Benjamin Beilman, winner of the 2010 Montreal International Violin Competition, shows his mettle in his debut recording with an interesting programme of contrasted works.
In Schubert's lyrical Grand Duo In A Major (D.574), he crafts a tone that is wiry, incisive and on-edge. This might come across as acidic and unyielding for Romantic repertoire and is far better suited to the two 20th-century works that follow. But the mystery- and folk-inflected pages of Janacek's Violin Sonata benefit from this direct, full-frontal approach.
For Stravinsky's Divertimento, an adaptation of music from the ballet The Fairy's Kiss (which in turn uses Tchaikovsky's music), the narrative qualities and sense of fantasy are well brought out.
The recital comes full circle with the Fritz Kreisler's Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta, a single-movement violin concerto in all but name. Unsurprisingly, it is based on the waltz, opening in a tonally ambiguous haze before relaxing into the congenial dance that is so beloved.
Beilman and the ever-sensitive South Korean pianist Yekwon Sunwoo, himself a multi-award winner, ably provide the enjoyable conclusion that this disc deserves.
Chang Tou Liang
Kathryn Stott, piano
This is a handy anthology of 20th-century French music, with the composers casting a fond retrospective glance at musical forms and compositional styles of the past. The term "neoclassical" comes to mind, but that does not apply to all works, which are tonal with the tendency to 12-tone technique strongly resisted.
Jehan Alain's brief Prelude And Fugue (1935) is a neo-Bachian tribute by a composer better known as an organist. Henri Dutilleux's only Piano Sonata (1946-1948), in three movements, is both lyrical and jazzy in its resourceful use of harmonies, capped by an imposing yet free-wheeling Chorale And Variations, composed by Philip Sparke, as a finale.
The best known work is Maurice Ravel's La Tombeau De Couperin (1914-1917), with six movements including a prelude, fugue, baroque dances and toccata to close. Each piece was written in memory of a friend killed in World War I (1914-1918).
British pianist Kathryn Stott is sensitive to all forms of rhythms, idioms and nuances, which make for lively performances. She concludes with Olivier Messiaen's Le Baiser De L'Enfant-Jesus (Kiss Of The Infant Jesus) from the massive 20-piece cycle Vingt Regards Sur L'Enfant Jesus (1944), a gentle lullaby built over a repeated ground bass.
New is old and old is new in this revelatory recital disc.
Chang Tou Liang
ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC/POP
The name may not ring a bell immediately, but Frenchman DJ Snake is behind some of the biggest trap and EDM bangers of the golden era of radio and festival-friendly dance music, including Turn Down For What with Lil Jon, Get Low with Dillon Francis and record-shattering hit Leon On with Major Lazer.
None of those tracks features on his 14-track debut album, but it does not lack for those since he has created a new slate of potential hits, many of which are big-name collaborations.
The album runs the gamut of genres from melody- driven tropical house numbers, such as first single Middle, to hooky pop ballads that stay with you for days, such as Let Me Love You, featuring pop prince Justin Bieber.
There is even hardstyle on Ocho Cinco and hip-hop tracks, featuring some of the hottest names in the game, including Young Thug and Jeremih on The Half and Travi$ Scott on Oh Me Oh My. A dubstep track with the genre's poster boy Skrillex is thrown in for good measure.
Snake, whose real name is William Sami Etienne Grigahcine - and who also executive-produced the album - certainly has range.
But for all the EDM trap bangers (Pigalle and Propaganda), he shines most in the contemporary pop numbers, such as Sober and Talk. Sober, which sees vocalist JRY singing "you never call me when you're sober", is a heady, chill-out tune with African musical textures reminiscent of a Vampire Weekend track. Talk, on the other hand, is a colourful, tropical reimagining of the dark Talk Talk by Australian singer George Maple.
Overall, the album plays like a DJ Snake set - all killer and no filler - and is one that is guaranteed to get the crowds at festivals, or house parties, pumped.