march, 2012

For my taste, the most exciting news of the Month is the national tour by the incomparable superstar vocal group, the  Hilliard Ensemble. They perform with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, in a concert that ranges from Gregorian and Russian Orthodox chant to Arvo Part and Elgar's Serenade for Strings, at Melbourne Town Hall on 18 & 19 March--details and bookings at If you are unfamiliar with the name, the Hilliards are, not only the finest, but also one of the most pioneering ensemble performers of mediaeval and renaissance vocal music of the last twenty-five years. Not content with producing the benchmark recordings of such towering masterpieces as the Ockeghem Requiem and the Machaut motets, they have also collaborated with saxophonist Jan Garbarek to produce three unique, crossover CDs, introduced Arvo Part's St John Passion, commissioned many contemporary composers, and issued their own recordings of choice repertoire in live concert.


We have two tickets to give away for the Hilliard/Australian Chamber Orchestra concert at The Melbourne Town Hall on Sunday 18 March. For your chance to win email your contact details to with a subject heading of Hilliard/ACO before 5pm on Wednesday 7 March.


The forthcoming CD of devilish piano music from man-of-the-moment Behzod Abduraimov is creating a great deal of interest, after his impressive grand prize win at the 2009 London International Piano Competition. We at Thomas' Music have decided to offer anyone who buys his CD, together with the recent 35CD box set of the recorded solo piano legacy of Wilhelm Kempff, a free copy of the Piano Masterworks set from Decca.


This month sees the arrival of the much-anticipated DVD of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies, the sequel to the Phantom of the Opera. This month also sees the release of the soundtrack to the Academy Award-winning film, the ArtistA very appealing February release that did not make it into our last newsletter was the new recording of the ever-popular Brahms German Requiem  featuring Teddy Tahu Rhodes, with soprano Nicole Carr, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Johannes Fritzsch.


As the close of the cricket season looms, remember that you can maintain your daily dose by listening to the Songs of Cricket collection, sung by the London Quartet and guests. Included are such immortal numbers as "the Rules of Cricket--a Psalm Chant", and "I made a hundred in the backyard at Mum's". A long way from the Hilliards, admittedly, but why not?

Chris Dench More about chris
Australian Cast
3mbs Cds of the week

Week one: one of the big hits at Thomas' last year was Fiona Campbell and David Walker's Baroque Duets album, and Fiona Campbell returns with a new disc on her own label called Love and Loss, featuring music by Handel, Haydn, and Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725).

Week two: Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov was the grand prize winner of the 2009 London International Piano Competition, and this, his debut recital CD, promises to impress. The slightly sulphurous program includes Prokofiev's Sonata No. 6 and Suggestion Diabolique, Liszt's first Mephisto Waltz, and the Saint-Saens/Liszt Danse Macabre

Week three: after his break from operatic activity it is a pleasure to see Rolando Villazon resuming his sequence of great tenor roles, beginning with Massenet's dramatic Werther.

Week four: one of Thomas' favourite pianists, Yuja Wang, has a new release coming in March: Fantasia, which includes the solo piano transcription of Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice, best-known for its appearance in a certain very famous Disney film. The CD also includes shorter pieces by Rachmaninov, Scriabin, and others. 

$29.95 AUD
$28.00 AUD
Love & Loss - Scarlatti/ Handel
Prokofiev Piano Sonata 6 - Liszt Saint-saens
Fiona Campbell
Behzod Abduraimov
$24.95 AUD
$19.95 AUD
Fantasia - Rachmaninov Dukas Scriabin Etc
Massenet Werther
Yuja Wang
These encore pieces by Scriabin, Gluck, Rachmaninov, Chopin and ... See More
CDs of the month
$28.00 AUD
$24.95 AUD
$19.95 AUD
Prokofiev Piano Sonata 6 - Liszt Saint-saens
Fantasia - Rachmaninov Dukas Scriabin Etc
Massenet Werther
Behzod Abduraimov
Yuja Wang
These encore pieces by Scriabin, Gluck, Rachmaninov, Chopin and ... See More
Thomas` Recommends
$25.00 AUD
$14.95 AUD
$77.00 AUD
John Tallis A Composer Of His Time
Love Never Dies Dvd - Andrew Lloyd Webber
Shakespeare Collection 11dvd
Stefan Cassomenos
Australian Cast
English Shakespeare
John Tallis 1911-1996 - A composer of his time

Jack Morton ... See More
Henry IV; Henry V; Henry VI; Richard II; Richard III; Othello; ... See More
$87.00 AUD
$24.95 AUD
$24.95 AUD
New York A Documentary Film 5dvd
Highlights From Musical Comedy & Operetta 2cd
Our Glad The Queen Of Song 2cd
Ric Burns
Gladys Moncrieff
An elegant, lyrical and compelling portrait of the greatest and most ... See More
Gladys Moncrieff OBE (13 April 1892 8 February 1976) was an ... See More
$125.00 AUD
Solo Piano Repertoire On Dg 35cd
Wilhelm Kempff
Wilhelm Kempff (18951991), one of the great piano masters, ... See More
Collectors Corner
$29.95 AUD
British Clarinet Sonatas Vol 1 Stanford Bliss
Michael Collins

Although every Collectors Corner month has its highlights, I was particularly pleased with the March selection, which includes the latest Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto release featuring Kalkbrenner's 2nd and 3rd, played by the inimitable Howard Shelley, reissues of the legendary Columbia Terry Riley LPs In C and A Rainbow in Curved Air on the Esoteric label, and on Chandos the first in a series of British Clarinet Sonatas performed by Michael Collins, including Bax, Bliss, Howells, Ireland, and Stanford--good solid fare. On the BIS label, cellist Christian Poltera contributes a recital of three concertos by composers with links to Switzerland, Honegger, Frank Martin, and the underrated Othmar Schoeck; this looks to be a most attractive CD. If there were awards for 'sexiest piece of classical music', the perennial winner would be Ravel's Daphnis & Chloe: Bernard Haitink conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra and John Aldis Choir in a performance of the complete ballet on the orchestra's own label. This is a historic recording from London's Festival Hall in 1979, recorded by the BBC; clearly the orchestra think it special enough to be released after all this time.

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Dvorak Symphony 7 Elgar Enigma Variations
Franck Symphony Variations Symphoniques Bartok
Tchaikovsky 1812 Capriccio Italien Swan Lake Sui
Pierre Monteux
Roge Maazel Weller
Kenneth Alwyn
By 1958, Decca has been recording in stereo for four years, regularly ... See More
$9.95 AUD
Grieg Peer Gynt Suite 1 Rossini Overtures
Kenneth Alwyn
Kenneth Alwyn was a principal conductor of the Royal Ballet at Covent ... See More

One of the great joys of working on the Eloquence label is contact with artists and experts in various fields. That with the Flagstad Museum resulted in their full cooperation for our Flagstad series including access to rare and beautiful photographs of the soprano. Roy Goodman wrote the notes to the first complete release on Decca CD of the original Argo LP that housed “his” Allegri Miserere. Richard Bonynge wrote the note that accompanied the first complete release on CD of “Song for a City” – the concert given to raise funds for victims of the infamous Darwin cyclone. The latest in that line is Kenneth Alwyn who conducted Decca’s first official stereo LP – SXL 2001 – that of Tchaikovsky blockbusters – 1812, Capriccio italien and Marche slav, now coupled with music from Swan Lake. And there’s another CD of music by Grieg and Rossini. All of these, amazingly, and especially so in case of the Tchaikovsky, receive their first international release on CD. Kenneth Alwyn writes the notes for both – personal, fascinating and often quite hilarious.


Together with these you can enjoy the 18-year-old Pascal Rogé’s debut recital with a fast and furious Liszt Sonata, and more Liszt from pianist-turned-priest Jean-Rodolphe Kars. Claudio Abbado’s only three Beethoven recordings for Decca (with the Vienna Philharmonic) appear collectively on CD for the first time. Pierre Monteux conducts the much-requested reissue of the Dvorák Seventh (with the LSO) coupled with Elgar’s Enigma Variations – a recording still held in great esteem. And Maazel conducts a volatile and energetic Franck Symphony.

All will be released on 23 March.

MSO News
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The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra presents two concerts with renowned cross-over jazz trumpeter Chris Botti at the State Theatre of the Melbourne Arts Centre on 10 March at 7pm, and 11 March at 2. Thomas' Music is very pleased to be able to offer 2 Free Tickets for the Chris Botti concert with the MSO on Saturday 10 March. For your chance to win email your contact details to with a subject heading of Chris Botti before 5pm on Wednesday 7 March.


The Elisabeth Murdoch Hall at the Melbourne Recital Centre provides the venue for an appealing concert featuring both Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony--Ralph Barshai's arrangement of the 8th string quartet--and Beethoven's exquisite Violin Concerto, with Haydn's early Symphony 6, le Matin, as appetiser; violinist Kolja Blacher is both soloist and director. The program is presented on 22 March at 8pm, and 24 March at 6:30. Blacher features also, firstly as soloist in Stravinsky's amiably neo-classical Violin Concerto, plus Dukas and Berlioz, with conductor Matthias Pintscher on March 15 & 16 at Melbourne Town Hall (both 8pm), and in a varied program with solo works by Bach and Berio, and Mendelssohn's charming Octet: March 28, 7:30pm, at the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall once again. There is a rare opportunity to hear Shostakovich's Piano Quintet, a work "of great emotional power", with two newer American pieces, at the Iwaki Auditorium in the ABC Southbank Centre on 25 March at 11am; what better way to develop an appetite?


Richard Gill is well known for his activity as an ambassador for classical music, and he is presenting three "interactive journeys into music" with the MSO in 2012, of which the first, featuring Brahms powerful Tragic Overture takes place in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall at the MRC on 3 April at 6:30pm. Truly an event not to be missed.


For those who are not Melbourne residents there is an opportunity to hear the orchestra in a traditional program of Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, and the Dvorak New World Symphony: HM Theatre, Ballarat, 28 March; West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul, 29 March; Frankston Arts Centre, 30 March--all at 8pm.

Limelight Magazine
$29.95 AUD
Los Pajaros Perdidos South American Project
L Arpeggiata

In the March issue of Limelight, we go behind the scenes with oud master Joseph Tawadros as he records his Concerto of the Greater Sea with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and review the ensuing album.Online, we speak with Ludovic Bource, winner of the coveted Oscar for Best Original Score for The Artist, about the challenges and risks involved in writing music for a silent film. Plus, we explore the Top Ten One-Hit Wonders of Classical Music.

Review of the Month: Los Párajos Perdidos

Christina Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata go troppo with their latest South American Baroque adventure.

Staff Reviews
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Schubert Piano Sonatas D840 D850 D894
Paul Lewis
Paul Lewis has just emerged from a vast Beethoven project: the ... See More


After almost fifty years of listening to them, I would contend that three of the greatest works in all Western Classical Music are included in this new recital by Paul Lewis—Schubert’s great D.894 G Major Sonata, the D.899 Impromptus, and the D.946 Drei Klavierstücke—and in close to ideal performances. This is a mighty claim, of course, and I do not expect listeners to take it at face value—fortunately the proof is easily, and cheaply available.


I was never very convinced by Lewis’ Beethoven performances; I tried repeatedly to like his readings of both the solo and concertante works, but always came away feeling frustrated and underwhelmed. Admittedly, I have a temperamental disaffinity with Beethoven’s melodramatic psychology, but even so I find performances by Stephen Kovacevich, Andras Schiff, or particularly Ronald Brautigam far more engaging. For me to feel so positive about his Schubert, the nineteenth century composer closest to my heart, is therefore a strong endorsement. Even so, there are Schubertians and Schubertians: I never felt particularly touched by Lewis’ mentor, Alfred Brendel’s Schubert, and amazing though the notorious Richter überslow performances of the great G Major and C major Reliquie Sonatas are (4758616), his is not the Schubert I recognise. I grew up with the performances of Jörg Demus on Deutsche Grammophon, and it is to those that I would compare Lewis’ unaffected, masterly performances. His use of microrubato to colour phraseology while maintaining an unfluctuating main tempo is wonderfully effective; his ability to imbue the music with solemn beauty without pathos is outstanding.


The three Schubert Sonatas that everyone knows and loves are the final three, C minor D.958, A major, D.959, B flat major D.960. Lewis has, however, chosen to perform their precursors, the energetic D major D.850, sublime G major D.894, and the unfinished C Major Reliquie, D.840—he only plays the first two movements of this work, where Richter essayed the two unfinished final movements, ending heart-breakingly in mid-flow. I rather wish Lewis had done likewise, but one cannot have everything. Both D.840 and D.850 are emulations of Beethoven’s sonata approach—in fact, it is possible that Schubert abandoned the last two movements of D.840 as the thematic material was too redolent of Beethoven’s Op2/3 Sonata to be susceptible to true Schubertian shaping—but the sound world is entirely his own. Lewis clearly has a strong feeling for the logic of these pieces, and his ability to convey the architectural meaning while not losing an iota of expressivity is remarkable.


In contrast to the formal predeterminedness of the Sonatas, Schubert’s shorter pieces simply astonish. Often made out of deceptively simple component material, the eight misnamed Impromptus (there is not the slightest thing throwaway about these pieces) and the three Klavierstücke D.946 take the listener into a largely unprecedented realm of expressive possibility, and with an un-sonata-like compression of ideas. There are innumerable versions of these works on CD, but I have heard few performances as good as these—in fact, the Drei Klavierstücke as performed by Lewis are probably my single desert island disc. Consistent with his reading of the Unfinished D.840 Sonata, Lewis declines to play the second trio of the first of the D.946 pieces—Schubert put a line through that section in the manuscript. It seems a shame to be denied the pleasure, but it is true that doing so extends the length of the work sufficiently to cause an imbalance with the final, much briefer, Klavierstuck, with its single, extraordinary, trio.

Even legendary recordings have to be new at some point, and we may well collectively remember the release of this Schubert set as a special moment in early twenty-first century musicmaking. I certainly shall.