CD Reviews (The Straits Times, November 2012)

 

MICHELANGELI
The Early Recordings 1939-1948
Naxos Historical 8.111351 / *****

The legendary Italian Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920-1995) was one of the great enigmas among modern-day pianists. His extra-musical exploits could fill a book, including stints as medical student (he graduated), wartime pilot, member of the anti-fascist resistance and sometime Ferrari racing-car driver. These early recordings from His Master’s Voice (Italy) and Telefunken reveal a different personality from the cool and clinical persona of his later Deutsche Grammophon recordings. Bach’s Italian Concerto (recorded in 1943) finds him generous and whole-hearted. Hidden voices are revealed and he even doubles with quite outrageous octaves in its final Presto.

There is grandeur and warmth in the Bach-Busoni Chaconne (1948), and this thread of high-flying virtuosity continues in Brahms’s Paganini Variations (1948). Here he combines both books, drops a few variations and closes splashily with the latter half of the 14th Variation of Book One in a single sweep. Only he can get away with such liberties, and convincingly too. One pleasure of this anthology is his way with miniatures; four Scarlatti Sonatas and rarities by 18th century Italians, Pellegrino Tomeoni and Baldassare Gallupi are lovingly included. There is also special place for Spanish shorts by Albeniz, Mompou and Granados. Has the latter’s Andaluza (Spanish Dance No.5) received a more tantalising or teasing performance? On the strength of this disc, Michelangeli was truly one of the immortals.   



YOUTHFUL MUSING
MATTHEW SUPRAMANIAM, Treble
Orchestra of the Music Makers / ****

You can only be young once, and when that time passes, one can look back either in regret or gratitude. The latter definitely applies to fourteen-year-old Singaporean treble Matthew Supramaniam, presently a musical scholar at Eton College (Windsor), who was the indisputable star in Mark Chan’s Flight of the Jade Bird at this year’s Singapore Arts Festival. His voice has just broken, but this album of nine songs recorded just a few months ago at The Arts House captures the purity and innocence of evanescent youth.

Some Christmas favourites such as Adolphe Adam’s O Holy Night and Franz Xaver Gruber’s Silent Night lend the selections a festive flavour. These he sings with much love and thoughtfulness, his high registers ringing with a sonorous beauty especially for Mendelssohn’s anthem Hear My Prayer (O for the Wings of a Dove). His voice is also well-suited for the lyrical simplicity of Mozart, as in the Agnus Dei (Coronation Mass) and Voi che sapete (The Marriage of Figaro). In the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria and John Rutter’s The Lord Bless You and Keep You, he is partnered by Cultural Medallion winning violinist Lynnette Seah and sensitive young harpist Laura Peh. The recorded sound is very reverberant and gives the proceedings a dreamy feel.   

This CD is available at the Singapore Symphony Orchestra Esplanade pushcart on concert evenings. Proceeds go to the Community Chest, SINDA and restoration of the Victoria Concert Hall pipe organ.