Classical Music CDs, DVDs

Staff Reviews


 With a well-timed Australian tour in July, this new DG release by Austrian clarinettist and part-time model, Andreas Ottensamer, is his first solo album. Portraits, The Clarinet Album, presents some staples of clarinet repertoire including the Copland Concerto and Spohr Concerto no.1, with arrangements of Debussy’s well known The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, Cimarosa’s Oboe Concerto and American composer Amy Beach’s Berceuse, interspersed between.

The disc begins with a cheeky two minute Gershwin prelude arranged for clarinet and orchestra, which Ottensamer delivers tastefully and energetically. This modest interpretation sets the theme for the rest of the CD, which is performed unassumingly with a beautiful sound and is virtuosic without being overbearingly showy.

 While there is not the same clarity of articulation with Ottensamer as with other clarinet soloists, this co-principal clarinettist of the Berlin Philharmonic, along with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin has recorded a wonderfully accessible CD which leaves you feeling charmed and dreamy.


During their 2012 tour with pianist Polina Leschenko, the ACO recorded this all- Mendelssohn release of the Double Concerto in D minor for violin, piano and string orchestra, as well as the popular Octet in Eb major, op.20. Russian born Leschenko joins artistic director Richard Tognetti in the double concerto to form a wonderfully exciting rendition. Supported by the energetic, vivacious ACO, Leschenko and Tognetti create some beautifully tender, delicate moments throughout this three movement work. This performance is decorated by a constant flux of high energy and lively points of expression, and the cohesive ensemble playing allows the solo lines to glide smoothly in and out of the texture.


The ensemble feels especially at home in the recording of Mendelssohn’s octet, where the ACO players demonstrate the tight, clean, dynamic intimacy of the chamber piece for which they are so well regarded.


Just over 60 minutes of music, this CD is an engaging, enjoyable listening experience for any Mendelssohn lover. 


This 2012 release of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony sees Sir Simon Rattle very much at home directing the Berlin Philharmonic. At Bruckner’s untimely death, the finale of this magnificent symphony was incomplete, and Rattle performs a completed version by Nicola Samale, Benjamin-Gunnar Cohrs, Giuseppe Mazzuca and Australia’s own John A. Phillips. The work was accepted for almost a century as a three movement work; while less frequently now than in the past, it is still occasionally performed with Bruckner’s Te Deum as a substitute for the previously lost Finale. This recording is particularly remarkable as it is the first to include this most up-to-date revision of the scholarly completion of the fourth movement. After 20 years of writing and revising, the four Bruckner specialists have definitively completed the final 28 bars needed to end the symphony; Bruckner’s comprehensive sketches and notations left more than 600 bars of the Finale either fully orchestrated or clearly structured.


With the added benefit of a concert recording, the energy of the Berlin Philharmonic is unmistakable. Rattle takes full advantage of the lush woodwind sounds and allows the brass to tease us—tastefully!— in a constant flux of tension before reaching the final climax. The beautiful orchestral balance throughout the four movements allows the warmth of the strings to add the depth of colour that the Berlin Philharmonic are so adept at achieving, and which gives this performance a vibrancy and drive that can be lost in other more ponderous, brass heavy interpretations.


Rattle’s tempi are moderate, to no loss of the music or phrasing, and he takes great care to maintain close attention to detail throughout the 80 minutes of the completed work. The Finale ends in a style true to Bruckner’s rhythmical integrity, and fittingly exultant, to culminate his glorious output as an outstandingly innovative composer of the 19th century.