Best & Worst 2017

Best & Worst 2017: Classical Albums

BEST

Debussy: Jeux, Khamma & La Boite A Joujoux/ Singapore Symphony Orchestra / Lan Shui

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra's second Debussy disc is a greater success than its first.

All three works are ballets not often heard in concerts or recordings, coming from the French impressionist composer's later years.

Jeux contains some of Debussy's finest music, while the orchestrations of La Boite A Joujoux (The Toybox) and Khamma by Andre Caplet and Charles Koechlin respectively are masterful.

Conductor Shui Lan and the orchestra's close attention to detail and nuance is brilliantly captured in this breathtaking recording.

Salvador Brotons: The Complete Works For Flute Vol. 1/ Roberto Alvarez, Flute

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra's principal piccolo player Roberto Alvarez is the ideal interpreter of Catalan composer-conductor Salvador Brotons' flute music.

Fully attuned to his idiom and mastering myriad technical challenges, the performances of his two flute sonatas and chamber music with flute (Coloured Skies, Fantasia Concertante, Three Divertimenti and El Port De La Selva) play like a dream.

He is ably partnered by the who's who of Singapore music, including Beatrice Lin (piano), Katryna Tan (harp), Kevin Loh (guitar) and Eugene Toh (percussion).

Works For Violin & Piano, Kam Ning (Violin) and Liebrecht Vanbeckevoort (Piano)

The Dutch label Etcetera has found a winner in Singaporean violinist Kam Ning, who displays incisive and sensitive playing as well as lovely string tone in this wonderfully contrasted recital disc of music by Mendelssohn (Sonata In F Major), Stravinsky (Suite Italienne) and Prokofiev (Sonata No. 2).

All three works have a common factor - a fond look at past musical traditions, which are well-served by Kam's vision of conceptual simplicity coupled with outsized virtuosity.

A joy to listen to.

 

WORST

Best Liszt 100

Some bright spark had the idea of cramming 100 tracks of music by Hungarian pianist-composer Franz Liszt into six compact discs for this compilation box-set.

This was achieved by sub-dividing his two piano concertos into 10 separate tracks, and allotting the Sonata In B Minor some seven tracks. Also reliving the acts of Procrustes, a number of works, such as Les Preludes, Totentanz and Hungarian Fantasy, had been truncated to fit the confines of each disc's time limit.

There are no programme notes or a biography of Liszt, so one wonders at whom this exercise of dumbing down was targeted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline 'Classical Albums'. Print Edition | Subscribe