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    Richard Tognetti, Violin/Australian Chamber
    BIS 2103
    5/5 stars

Does the world need yet another recorded version of Antonio Vivaldi's most famous and overplayed quartet of violin concertos from The Contest Of Harmony And Invention Op. 8, better known as The Four Seasons? A resounding yes, if the results are as good as this.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra does not sell itself as a period instrument band and its version strikes a good middle ground between that of a vibrato-less thin-sounding group and those stodgy big-orchestra textures of old. Its leader Richard Tognetti's solo playing is vibrant and full of character, bringing to life the stories of poetic changing seasons without being afraid of contributing individual touches of his own.

Several movements of lesser-known concertos, with thematic links and references to the Seasons, have been included for good measure. The icing on the cake is the almost-as-famous Concerto In B Minor for 4 violins, which features among its soloists Singapore's own home-grown talent Ike See (See Ian Ike).

The performance is just as lively and polished, which plainly goes to show that the best of the "Little Red Dot" can also stand proud in any top-notch ensemble in the world.

Chang Tou Liang


    Gnattali Chamber Works
    Franz Halasz, Guitar & Debora Halasz, Piano
    BIS 2086
    5/5 stars

Sometimes, the line drawn between classical and popular music is so blurred that it is nearly impossible to make a clear distinction between the two. Such is the case of Brazilian composer Radames Gnattali (1906-1988), following in the example of his famous compatriot Heitor Villa-Lobos, who so skilfully married indigenous Brazilian folk music with classical forms.

One short piece for guitar so captures this ethos - Alma Brasileira (Brazilian Soul), also the title of a similar work by Villa-Lobos, is one of Gnattali's best-known tunes. The selection of dances for guitar, including Danca Brasileira, Saudade, Petit Suite and two Toccatas In Samba Rhythm are simply delectable.

The longer works, Sonatina No. 2 (for guitar and piano) and Sonata (for cello & guitar), both in three movements, are true classical-popular music hybrids and represent the best of "crossover". The husband and wife team (German and Brazilian respectively), joined by Swiss-Chinese cellist Wen-Sinn Yang, give idiomatic and exciting performances and there is no hiding their pedigree.

More than 70 minutes of infectiously toe-tapping music are to be found here.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2015, with the headline '(No headline) - MUSIC08'. Print Edition | Subscribe