If Fauré's reputation were in disrepair, these impeccable renditions of his only two piano quartets (No. 1 in C minor, Op. 15, and No. 2 in G minor, Op. 45) would go a long way toward refurbishing it. As it isn't, the performances constitute the latest jewels in the crowns of the Adaskin Trio and the pianist Sally Pinkas. And, as the quartets were composed during the age of impressionism, they also provide an ideal soundtrack for viewing the works of Fauré's fellow Frenchmen Monet, Cézanne, and Renoir.
The refreshingly forthright liner notes accompanying this arresting and vigorously performed collection of sonatas for cello (Green) and piano (Gibson) celebrate the strengths of the Ernö Dohnányi and Richard Strauss pieces while admitting that they're "journeyman works," although in the case of Dohnányi, a Hungarian composer and pianist better known for his peers and friends (Bartók, Bonhoeffer), the sheer unfamiliarity of his Op. 8 will overwhelm the criticism's finer points. A similar pleasure awaits those who know Zoltán Kodály mainly for the pedagogical "method" that bears his name.
Tracks 1 through 14 include a toccata by Schildt's teacher Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1563-1621), a prelude and fugue by his peer Heinrich Schneidemann (1595-1663), and "Paduana Lagrima," Schildt's arrangement of a John Dowland piece. Tracks 15 through 19 comprise Schildt's Magnificat primitoni, "one of the monuments of 17th-century German organ music" (the liner notes). Richards' masterly performance on an instrument initially built 38 years before Schildt's birth-the Raphaelis organ in Denmark's Roskilde Cathedral-makes the intervening centuries seem like the blink of an eye.
Although these 23 selections average just 2:45 in length, each one introduces listeners to at least four different worlds: the one created by the original Spanish poems (including two by St. John of the Cross), the similar but by no means identical one created by the booklet's English translations, the one created by the composers' settings of the poems to music, and the one created by the interpretation of these settings by the operatic mezzo-soprano Tintes-Schuermann and her pianist accompanist Muñoz. The result: a strange and fascinating universe.
Canto di speranza (ECM New Series), a new recording by the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln of three works by Bernd Alois Zimmermann, provides a viscerally arresting introduction to the music and spirit of the prolific German composer. Influenced by his Catholic upbringing, the Second World War (he served in the German army), and seemingly every musical approach of the early-to-mid-20th century, Zimmermann sought to work out his salvation with a fear and trembling that was sometimes the chiefly unifying factor of his stylistically diverse compositions.
That he derived inspiration for his 18-minute, 1957 cello cantata Canto di speranza ("Song of Hope") from The Pisan Cantos of Ezra Pound speaks eloquently about Zimmermann's idea of hope. That he based his oratorical, and twice-as-long, Ich wandte mich um und sah alles Unrecht das geschah unter der Sonne on Ecclesiastes and the inquisitor scene of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov-and that Zimmermann committed suicide five days after its completion-says more.