Intriguing and highly personal – ‘From Afar’ by Vikingur Ólafsson

It seems that whenever Icelandic pianist Vikingur Ólafsson touches a piano, beautiful sounds flow from the instrument – whether it’s Bach, Rameau, Debussy or Philip Glass. His latest release, From Afar, is no exception, with the added sonic treat of two pianos, offering contrasting colours and timbres. This new album, the most personal of all Ólafsson‘s recordings to date, reflects…

Sound and visions: Sean Shibe, ‘Lost & Found’

The latest album from Sean Shibe is original and rewarding; inspired and inspirational. And the more I play it, the more it also feels like a game-changer, the kind of release that could challenge any preconceptions about the instrument featured and open new avenues of writing and recording for it. * For those unfamiliar, Shibe…

Deep Listening – Inner Landscapes: Christina McMaster

“The act of listening can be transformative. It can introduce a change of perspective, heighten our perception of sound, space, time, spirituality. Our intuitive intelligence knows there is more beyond the images we see, the sounds we perceive. Just sit in silence for a few minutes to begin to recognise this. In this age of…

Get ‘Carta’: Xuefei Yang, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Clark Rundell perform the works of John Brunning

This is an elegant, ravishing album. On first encounter, it might place you firmly in a ‘traditional’ British orchestral soundworld, and lovers of that heritage should investigate this without hesitation. However, there are mysteries and idiosyncrasies waiting to be discovered on further listens – and no wonder, given Xuefei Yang’s distinctive brilliance and composer John…

Apart songs: Carolyn Sampson & Kristian Bezuidenhout, ‘Trennung’

Given the musicians involved, it should come as no surprise to learn that ‘Trennung’ is an immaculately crafted and beautifully performed album. But it’s also an unusual record, turning up at the party dressed as a recital disc, but as time goes on, revealing more and more of its unique character. It’s a considerable sonic…

Stephen Hough plays Schubert

Piano Sonatas D664, 769a & 894 – Stephen Hough (piano). Hyperion, 2022 Schubert’s  “heavenly length”, a term coined by Schumann specifically in relation to Schubert’s ‘Great’ C major Symphony,  is also very much in evidence in the late piano sonatas, whose first movements can last as long as an entire Beethoven sonata.  There is a…

Close to the edit: Edna Stern, ‘Schubert on tape’

Edna Stern’s latest release is a fascinating find. Beautifully performed, for sure, but those performances are led by an intriguing, impeccably realised idea. The pieces on this disc are well-loved and oft-recorded: the first four ‘Impromptus’ (D899) and the ‘Moments Musicaux’ (D780). But Stern, following the courage of her convictions, has arrived at a new…

Leonore Piano Trio plays Bargiel’s Piano Trios Nos 1 and 2

Woldemar Bargiel is not a composer I had heard of. His connection to Clara Wieck (later Schumann) is intriguing. Born in 1828 in Berlin, Woldemar was Clara Wieck’s half-brother – younger by nine years. Despite their difference in age, they enjoyed a life-long closeness of music-making. When Bargiel was born, Clara had already met Robert…

Continental lift: Rebeca Omordia, ‘African Pianism’; the African Concert Series

This marvellous disc contains multitudes. The variety of sounds and styles packed into its generous 77 minutes showcases not only the infinite intrigue of a music too little-heard until now, but the lightly-worn virtuosity of Omordia herself. (Important note: for the facts/background underpinning this post, I’m indebted to Robert Matthew-Walker’s invaluable booklet notes which, in…

Viennese Winds Blow Through Elisabeth Leonskaja’s Mozart Sonatas

In the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to Elisabeth Leonskaja’s Complete Mozart Piano Sonatas,. I have now worked my way through six discs, eighteen sonatas and one fantasia. I love Mozart’s sonatas and especially his fantasia, but it must be said that one or two early sonatas come across as a little frothy. That said, this…