RACHMANINOFF-CARPENTER: Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. POUENC: Concerto in G minor for Organ, Srings and Timpani. VIERNE: Finae from Organ Symphony No 1, Op. 14.
Cameron Carpenter, organ. Befrlin Konzerthaus Orhestra, Christoph Eschanbach, cond.
SONY 88985390822

SAMSON FRANÇOIS plays music of Mendelssohn, Cjopin, Debussy and Prokofiev
SWR MUSIC CD 19060 TT: 57:16

POPPER: Cello Concerto No 1 in D minor, Op. 8. Cello Concerto No. 2 in E minor, Op, 24. Cello Concerto No 3 in G, Op. 59. Cello Cocerto No. 4 in B minor, Op. 72 (version for cello and piano)
Martin Rummel, cello. Mari Kato, piano. Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra / Tecwyn Evans, cond.
NAXOS 8.573930 TT: 79:02

This site has praised previous recordings by the remarkable Cameron Carpenter, whose incredible virtuosity and imagination have amazed listeners for some years. I first experienced his artistry via the disk of his transcription of Pictures at an Exhibition, mentioned on this site in 2007 (REVIEW). Since then there have been two Sony disks, and two for Telarc, one of which includes a DVD. Now we have Carpenter's first recording with orchestra, which I find disappointing. It featured his arrangement for organ and orchestra of Rachmaninoff's Paganini Rhapsody, a fascinating experiment, but I imagine most listeners (including myself) would prefer the piano original, one of Rachmaninoff's most inspired works. We also have the familiar Poulenc Organ Concerto, and the disk ends with a solo, the finale from Verne's Organ Symphony No. 1. All of this is performed on the digital International Touring Organ built 2013 - 2014 by Marshall & Ogletree to Carpenter's specifications. It produces a sound very different from what is heard on the finest church organs. As a result, this recording of the Poulenc cannot compare with many fine recordings played on a regular organ. The Vierne sounds quite ugly on this digital instrument. An intriguing, but frustrating issue. Christooph Eschenbach and the Berlin orchestra provide excellent accompaniment, and engineers have captured the somewhat stringent sound of the digital organ with clarity.

French pianist Samson Françoise (1924 - 1970) was a major figure on the pianist scene. He won major competitions and was known for his interpretation of music of Chopin, Debussy nd Ravel. He recorded often and his playing of music of these composers was highly individual but memorable. He recorded concertos of Chopin, Ravel, Liszt, Schumann and Prokofiev (concertos 3 and 5), and his Chopin and Debussy solo recordings are treasured. This new SWR solo recital is from 1960. Program notes mention "the artistic quality" of these performances. They must be kidding. The Chopin is a frantic insensitive reading with many notes jumbled, and the Prokofiev is eons removed from performances by numerous others, in particular Vladimir Horowitz, The Françoise is a rushed frantic mess. This disk detracts from the famed pianist's legendary status.

Bohemian composer David Popper (1843 1913) was one of the most important cellists of the 19th century. Popper premiered chamber works by Brahms and championed Schumann's Cello Concerto. He was highly respected as a teacher and master of the cello, and he composed profusely. It is remarkable that he composed only four official cello concertos, and this fine new Naxos release offers all four of them. They were written over a 50-year career. The first two have three movements, the third only one. Concerto No. 4 is dedicated to Popper's colleague, Alfredo Patti, and is heard here in a version for cello and piano. The music throughout is delightful,often playful, and one wonders why these charming works don't appear more often in the concert hall. The brilliant young Austrian cellist Martin Rummel, who already has made numerous acclaimed recordings of varied repertory, is in top form here, and is given strong accompaniment by the superb Czech ensemble led by Tecwyn Evans, a young New Zealander who is at the beginning of what promises to be a fine career in opera as well as the concert hall. The recording was made November 2017 and January 2018, and engineers have made 2017 and engineers have provided a most realistic audio picture. Recommended!

R.E.B. (April 2019)