Musical Opinion -  Feature Review: October – December 2015

Chopin: Piano Concerto No 2 in F minor Opus 21*
Berceuse Op 57
Six Mazurkas – Op 17 no 4; Op 24 no1; Op 63 nos 2 & 3; Op 68 nos 2 & 4
Adolfo Barabino, piano
*London Symphony Orchestra
*Lee Reynolds, conductor
***** Claudio Records   CR6021-2 [55’19”]

For many record collectors, the notion that a small independent company could, in the quality of recorded sound it produces, be consider not only the equal of, but in some instances superior to, results we associate with the largest and most widely acclaimed companies in the world would appear far-fetched.

But in some instances, it is true. Music lovers, over the years, may have come to associate the biggest and most powerful of companies as necessarily the ‘best’ in the business’ as the saying has it, and of course, in many ways, the finest orchestras and artists, recorded in the best equipped studios or in the acoustically acclaimed best-known performance venues, will often be found to have been captured in recorded sound quality that is consistently fine. That is as it should be.

So fine, in fact, that we have become used to it – used to assuming that the sound we hear on compact disc after compact disc, as they flow from the companies, is the ‘proper’ or the best’ sound we can have. At times, it has reached the point when a record collector, someone whose main experience of music is through the medium of the gramophone, has been shocked on going to a concert and hearing an orchestra, or chamber ensemble or singer or solo instrumentalist, ‘live’ – the shock being that in reality and in many venues, the musicians in reality do not sound as they do on commercial recordings.

Claudio Records, founded and driven by the commitment of Colin Attwell, has been ploughing a lonely furrow for a number of years, but the company has built up a relatively extensive catalogue of recordings covering a wide range of music, from medieval manuscripts to music of the present-day. In the course of this journey, Attwell has supported many young musicians – as well as some not so young, in the latter instance established artists whom the larger companies have tended to bypass.

The result has been for Claudio Records a catalogue of diverse and uncommonly interesting material with performances that often compare favourably with the finest and most acclaimed issues from the larger ‘majors’.

Which brings us back to our opening observation, for the latest recording to have come my way from Claudio Records features Adolfo Barabino with the London Symphony Orchestra, in Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, together with a group of solo piano pieces, mainly Mazurkas, a disc on which – in the Concerto – the recording quality and balance of the piano and orchestra is well-nigh perfect. Indeed, it is so natural and so convincing that I do not think I have ever heard a technically better recording of a concerto for piano and orchestra. In that regard, credit must naturally be extended to the conductor, Lee Reynolds, a name I confess I had not encountered prior to hearing this disc.

However, I do not believe that anyone bough a concerto record because who the orchestra was, and those connoisseurs of pianism who have been following Barabino’s traversal of Chopin’s piano music on the Claudio label (this is announced as Volume 4) will welcome this outstanding new disc with the greatest pleasure. I have no doubt that this performance will give the most lasting satisfaction. Barabino’s performances of the Berceuse and the group of Mazurkas are also in the highest class. Make no mistake, this is an outstanding recording in every way.

James Palmer



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