CD Reviews (The Straits Times, December 2012)

Deutsche Grammophon 479 0063 / *****
Montenegrin guitarist Milos Karadaglic’s second recording for the Yellow Label is possibly the best recent anthology of Latin American music for the guitar. Not only does he imbue the hot-blooded yet sentimental music with a wealth of feeling, his stupendous technique holds up to the most virtuosic pages. Just hear his takes on the Paraguayan Agustin Barrios Mangore’s breath-taking tremolo studies, Un Sueno En La Floresta and El Ultimo Tremolo, which come across with silky smoothness and the greatest of ease, almost as natural as breathing. The Brazilian pieces best reveal his amazing range, graceful and lilting in Villa-Lobos’s Etude No.1 and Mazurka-Choro, while rhythmically exuberant in Uruguayan Isaias Savio’s Batucada and Argentine Jorge Morel’s Dansa Brasileira.    
Milos is joined by the European FilmPhilharmonie’s Studio Orchestra conducted by Christopher Israel in four works. Tango-meister Astor Piazzolla gets pride of place with a suitably vibrant run in Libertango and the more pensive Oblivion. His mentor Carlos Gardel’s Por Una Cabeza, Cuban Osvaldo Ferres’s Quizas, Quizas, Quizas and Uruguayan Gerardo Matos Rodriguez’s La Cumparsita(in solo arrangement) are some of those pieces one hears over and over, and wonders what their titles are. It really does not matter, when the usually staid German recording company lets down its hair to have some serious fun. Highly recommended.    
SHOSTAKOVICH Chamber Symphonies
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Deutsche Grammophon  477 5442 (2CDs) / ****1/2
The four Chamber Symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) are arrangements for chamber orchestra of his string quartets by the late Russian violist and conductor Rudolf Barshai. The string quartets are already regular repertoire works, and the chamber symphonies are beginning to gain popularity with audiences. The Symphonies Op.110a and 118a, scored wholly for strings, follow the same opus numbers as the Quartets Nos.8 and 10 respectively. The former was dedicated to “victims of fascism and war” and semi-autobiographical in content, containing quotations from a number of earlier works as well as the D-S-C-H motif, based on the German spelling of his name. This is an obvious start point in the discovery of his most personal music, as is the moving Passacagliafrom the latter symphony.
The Symphonies Op.73a and 83a are similarly amplifications of Quartets Nos.3 and 4, now with the addition of woodwinds and percussion. The mock gaiety and dripping irony of the original music is well captured, and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Bashai himself performs with great incisiveness and trenchancy. The very substantial bonus is the arrangement for piano trio, celesta and percussion of Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony by Viktor Derevianko. His enigmatic final symphony from 1972 is already lightly scored and this transcription further reduces it to bare bones. More importantly, its anarchic spirit with liberal quotes from Rossini and Wagner is not lost in this droll account from Kremerata Musica led by violinist Gidon Kremer. While some will prefer the original Shostakovich, these beefed up and pared down versions of his music have much to offer.