TCHAIKOVSKY: Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70. VERDI: String Quartet in E minor
Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Candida Thompson, cond.
CHANNEL CLASSICS SACD CCS SA 21504 TT: 58:40 (5 channel)

HAYDN: Piano Sonata in C, Hobken XVI:50. Piano Sonata in E flat, Hoboken XVI: 52. BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Flat, Op. 19.
Dejan Lazic, pianist; Klassiche Philharmonie Bonn/Herbert Beissel, cond.
CHANNEL CLASSICS SACD CCS SA 19703 TT: 67:27 (5 channel)

The Amsterdam Sinfonietta, formerly Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam, consists of 22 string players with additional wind and other players as repertory requires. Recently appointed artistic director violinist Candida Thompson, who has had a fine career as soloist and in recital, leads the group in vivid performances of Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence and Verdi's delightful Quartet in E minor here played with a larger string complement than the composer intended. There's little difference between this recording of the Tchaikovsky and the other multi-channel version which is on Pentatone PTC 5186 009 coupled with the same composer's Serenade for Strings, performed by another Dutch group, the Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra directed by Marco Boni. Channel Classics' sound, as usual with the label, is very broad and resonant. From the photo in the booklet, it appear the group, except for the cellists, performs while standing. It would seem this is an unnecessary burden for the orchestra. It's unfortunate the CD doesn't contain more music; this premium-priced CD has less than an hour of playing time.

The second CD features 29-year old pianist Dejan Lasic in a rather unusual program of music of two piano sonatas by Haydn and Beethoven's Concerto No. 2. The Yugoslavian pianist is a clarinetist as well as a pianist—in 1987 he made a recording of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and Piano Concerto No. 14. Lasic also is a composer, writing his first string quartet for the gala of Mstislav Rostropovich's 70th birthday. In notes for this CD, the multi-talented musician provides a brief essay on "The Early Beethoven, the Late Haydn" which doesn't say much, and there are seven printed musical examples identified as "from the Cadenza by Dejan Lazic." The fragments are entitled "meditation: open pedal," "agogics: sforzandi," "surprises: fermatas," "voicing, arpeggi," "glissandi" and "rococo style: cembalo technique." It is an imaginative first-movement cadenza but it is not printed in is entirety and one can only wonder why these excerpts were. The performance of the concerto, which was recorded live in Stuttgart in March 2002, is delicate to the extreme, slight in energy. The other available multi-channel recording of this concerto, with Stephen Kovacevich, Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphoy (see REVIEW) is superior interpretively and has two advantages: it's coupled with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 (instead of the two Haydn sonatas here), is more naturally recorded in surround sound—and costs less.

R.E.B. (February 2004)