DVORAK: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104. STRAUSS: Don Quixote, Op. 35.
Mischa Maisky, cellist; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Zubin Mehta, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON SACD 474 870 5.1 channel TT: 37:45 & 42:25

"New Compositions for Toy Piano"
Works of Gottlieb, van Dillen, Denhoff, Linden, Zarius, Laufer, Willke, Yamaguchi, Wiesemann and Banasik
Bernd Wiesemann, toy piano
CYBELE SACD 160.501 5.1 channel TT: 68:53

Zubin Mehta and Mischa Maisky have been performing together for more than three decades. Here is their collaboration from concerts in December 2002 in Berlin's Philharmonie hall before remarkably quiet audiences, Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor (actually the composer's second; three decades before its composition in 1894-5 the composer had written a concerto in A major which he never orchestrated), and Strauss's Don Quixote. Indulgence seems to be the keynote here. Both works are magnificently played, almost overinterpreted one might say, convincing in their own way. The two works wouldn't fit on a single disk so there are two, sold for the price of one. Sid McLaughlan produced the recording and generally did a fine job in capturing the Berlin Philharmonic's sound although very little is heard from rear speakers—and for my taste, both Maisky as Quixote and violist Tabea Zimmermann as Sancho Panza are too close.

Bernd Wiesemann tells his "Little Toy Piano Story" in notes accompanying this SACD, "from the beginning" when he was fascinated by John Cage (after initial irritation). He then participated in a music theatre group that performed avant garde music, and discovered a toy piano for which he and others composed music, much of which is heard on this SACD. Wiesemann apparently gives concerts of music for this instrument. His statement ends, "This recording thus gathers music written during the passage of the 20th century into the 21st. Contemporary music on the toy piano: at this idea, surely many (grand) fathers and -mothers of modernity give us a wink." This suggests he may not be that serious about this project. I found what is heard on this CD of limited interest and rather annoying. You won't find tunes but you will find a lot of plink-plank-plunk. Titles for the various pieces easily could be interchanged and it wouldn't make much difference. The sound is just fine with the jangly instrument up front and, fortunately, we are spared the sounds of the "instrument" being ping-ponged around the speakers. A very little bit of this goes a very long way.

R.E.B. (June 2004)