CLASSICAL

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS MUSIC - Peter Craw­ley Siob­hán Long Michael Der­van Michael Der­van Michael Der­van Kevin Court­ney

Al­though hear­ing such a re­strained per­for­mance from Bev­erly Hills bel­ter Bette Mi­dler may qual­ify as a Christ­mas mir­a­cle, there are few sur­prises among th­ese smoothly de­liv­ered sea­sonal stan­dards, taste­fully gift-wrapped in whis­pered strings or soft jazz ar­range­ments. Keep­ing schmaltz lev­els to just be­low toxic, Mi­dler decks the halls with pre­dictable sen­ti­ments (Have Your­self a Merry Lit­tle Christ­mas, I’ll Be Home for Christ­mas, White Christ­mas), her pol­ished tones and glossy or­ches­tra­tions giv­ing ev­ery­thing the sheen of an MGM mu­si­cal, but mut­ing any sense of char­ac­ter. To be fair, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and the Hawa­ian carol Mele Ka­liki­maka­her are out of the or­di­nary. But a duet with Christ­mas crooner Johnny Mathis is stag­gered with corny faux ca­ma­raderie, while a “Christ­mas Ver­sion” of Bette’s From a Dis­tance sums up the whole en­ter­prise: in­of­fen­sive, unin­spired and wholly un­nec­es­sary. www.bet­temi­dler.com shape has con­tracted and ex­panded over the years to re­spond to the choices and for­tunes of its mem­bers. All the crowd pleasers are here: The Rocky Road to Dublin, Whiskey in the Jar and The Black Vel­vet Band; and the ar­range­ments serve some of the songs well, but the ab­sence of ei­ther the Drew or Kelly peb­ble-dashed voices ren­ders The Dublin­ers a more di­luted ex­pe­ri­ence. John Shea­han’s fi­nesse is ev­i­dent through­out, and Bar­ney McKenna’s bois­ter­ous­ness is barely di­min­ished, but, de­spite the best ef­forts of Patsy Watchorn, Jim McCann and Seán Can­non, this is The Dublin­ers with­out the back­bone of old. BE­TRA­CHTE, MEINE SEELE Thomas Quasthoff (bass bari­tone), Staat­sopern­chor Dres­den, Staatskapelle Dres­den/Se­bas­tian Wei­gle Deutsche Gram­mophon 477 6230 ★★★ Around two years ago Ger­man bass bari­tone Thomas Quasthoff brought out a disc of Bach can­tatas in which ev­ery­thing gelled to per­fec­tion. He now has a new disc of arias from or­a­to­rio, from Bach and Han­del to Haydn and Men­delssohn, with a bonus track of Swing Low, Sweet Char­iot thrown in for good mea­sure – the dec­la­ra­tion on the back is “Mu­sic is my re­li­gion”. It’s a mixed kind of disc in more ways than one, and, for in­stance, the English lan­guage of Han­del’s The trum­pet shall sound never sits quite com­fort­ably. In Bach, things sit a lot bet­ter, but it’s ac­tu­ally the excerpts from Men­delssohn’s Elias and Paulus that sound best of all, and that goes for the Staatskapelle Dres­den un­der Se­bas­tian Wei­gle, too. www.deutschegram­mophon.com REGER: SYM­PHONIC FAN­TA­SIA AND FUGUE OP 57; SEVEN OR­GAN PIECES OP 145 Edgar Krapp (or­gan) Naxos 8.557891 ★★★★ If you ever want to imag­ine a zealot at the or­gan, hair fly­ing from his head and crazy mu­sic rac­ing from his fin­gers, you could do worse than sam­ple the open­ing of Max Reger’s Op 57, a seething, surg­ing Sym­phonic Fan­ta­sia and Fugue. Reger was 28 when he wrote it in 1901, and the ar­dent chro­mati­cism of his pe­cu­liarly dense writ­ing re­mains a heady chal­lenge to per­former and lis­tener alike. Edgar Krapp ne­go­ti­ates its dif­fi­cul­ties with author­ity and the grandeur of the Eisen­barth or­gan of Pas­sau Cathe­dral is well caught. The late pieces of Op 145 are much sparer and mostly more som­bre; even the one cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas was clouded over by the war that raged dur­ing the set’s com­po­si­tion in 1915 and 1916 – and Reger him­self was dead be­fore the na­tion­al­is­tic folly of his con­clud­ing Sieges­feier (Vic­tory Cel­e­bra­tion) was de­ci­sively known. www.naxos.com MOZART: COM­PLETE PI­ANO SONATAS Maria João Pires Deutsche Gram­mophon Col­lec­tors Edi­tion 477 5200 (6 CDs) ★★★★ This is Por­tuguese pi­anist Maria João Pires’s sec­ond record­ing of the Mozart pi­ano sonatas, made in 1989 and 1990, and now ap­pear­ing for the first time at mid-price. Pires ap­proaches Mozartwith a finely graded re­serve. She mostly favours a de­liv­ery of crys­talline clar­ity, but also al­lows mo­ments of vel­vety touch. The style is small in scale, and grand state­ments are stu­diously avoided. Pires prefers to con­vey the mu­sic’s mes­sages with an unim­pos­ing author­ity that’s clearly in­tended to draw the lis­tener in. In stay­ing within her care­fully de­fined lim­its she misses out on some mo­ments of drama and ex­pres­sive tur­bu­lence. But that seems only a small price to pay for such oth­er­wise con­sis­tently re­ward­ing mu­si­cal ob­ser­va­tion. www.deutschegram­mophon.com

CD re­views com­piled by Tony Clay­ton-Lea DAVID GIL­MOUR Arnold Layne feat David Bowie EMI ★★★★ Gil­mour pays trib­ute to his old band­mate Syd, and who bet­ter than Bowie to give the cross­dress­ing pop clas­sic an air­ing? This is from Gil­mour’s Royal Al­bert Hall gig, and was avail­able to down­load on Christ­mas Day. GOOD SHOES The Pho­tos on My Wall Brille ★★★★ Here’s a treat for all the good lit­tle indie boys and girls: a fine new EP from thisMor­den, Lon­don band, re­leased on Christ­mas day. As an added treat, fans who sent in their pho­tos might also spot their mugs on the cover art­work. AMY WINE­HOUSE You Know I’m No Good feat Ghost­face Kil­lah Is­land ★★★★ Re­hab in­tro­duced us to an Amy Wine­house we didn’t know be­fore, but just to be sure we never mis­take her for Katie Melua, here’s an­other re­minder of what a bad girl she is, and an­other good rea­son to snap up her su­perb Back to Black album. THE AU­TO­MATIC Raoul B-Unique ★★★★ This has been out al­ready, but hey, why shouldn’t the band cel­e­brate a bril­liant year with one more visit to the mys­te­ri­ous Raoul? Be­sides, this new re­lease also fea­tures a new track, Easy Tar­get, and a Fat­boy Slim Remix of Mon­ster. Done deal. RA­ZORLIGHT Be­fore I Fall to Pieces Ver­tigo ★★★ Nowthat all the panic in Amer­ica has died down, Johnny Bor­rell can turn his at­ten­tion to more per­sonal is­sues – namely, peo­ple who don’t ap­pre­ci­ate his god­like ge­nius. That should keep him busy for, ooh, the next 500 years. ERIC PRYDZ VS FLOYD Proper Ed­u­ca­tion Pos­i­tiva ★★ We’ve had Scis­sor Sis­ters’ camp disco ver­sion of Com­fort­ably Numb, and now here’s the Swedish DJ/pro­ducer with a club­mix of Floyd’s clas­sic an­tifac­ulty an­them. It’s the first time Floyd have given per­mis­sion to sam­ple their mu­sic; what next, The Game do­ing Wish U Were Here? ★★★★★ Ab­so­lutely un­miss­able ★★★★ A cut above the rest ★★★ Worth a lis­ten ★★ Only if you must ★ Avoid at all costs

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