I get a lot of review CDs.  Most of them I listen to once, or not at all, and pass them along to the four or five people who have proven to be reliable reviewers.  It is rare that a recording makes me stop everything and listen.  Jenny Lin’s new recording of two major piano works by Ernest Bloch with the SWR Rundfunkorcheter Kaiserslautern, under Jiri Starek, is one of those rare moments.  I must confess that I didn’t know the Concerto Symphonique but I’m inclined to take the word of David Hurwitz at Classics Today who has pronounced it “one of the 20th century’s great masterpieces for piano and orchestra,” and this CD “easily…its finest recording to date.”

Jenny’s performance is extraordinary. Intense, sensitive, nuanced, and perfectly executed.  You wonder how a 97-pound human being could possibly create a sound this big and enveloping.  Her account of Bloch’s much more familiar Concerto Grosso No. 1 is just as spectacular, in a quieter way.  You come away from the CD with the realization that Bloch was even better than you thought he was and that Jenny Lin, who has until now been best known for her willingness to take on new and gnarly works, is an A list pianist in the late romantic repertory as well.  

6 Responses to “Attention Must be Paid”
  1. zeno says:

    Jenny Lin is giving a free recital of some new and possibly (or possibly not) ‘gnarly works’ in Washington this Thursday at the Austrian Embassy (I don’t see her listed on the Austrian Cultural Forum – NYC sister calendar):

    Johannes Maria Staud: Bewegungen (1996) | Peras (2004/5)
    Anton Webern: Piece for Children (Kinderstück) | Piece for Piano (Klavierstück) (1925)
    Franz Schubert: Three Piano Pieces (Drei Klavierstücke), D 946
    Olga Neuwirth: Marsyas
    Kurt Schwertsik: Five Nocturnes, op. 10b
    Johann Strauss/Ernö Dohnányi: Du und Du (Waltz)

    (The Schubert Drei Klavierstücke, D 946, are far from gnarly.)



    [Our California youth orchestra played Bloch’s Schelomo, with cellist/composer Heidi Jacobs, in Mainz and Berlin, in 1972.]

  2. The review and the comments that follow document how Bloch, indeed often dismissed as someone who just wrote Jewish music, has a great deal to offer today’s serious listeners. One mentions the Concerto Symphonique, another mentions the Violin Sonata No. 1. No less impressive are his Piano Quintets and–his greatest work, in my opinion–String Quartet No. 2. And they are all available on recordings–in some cases, in great performances. A comprehensive overview of Bloch’s life and work can be found in my book, Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers (Scarecrow Press, 2004).

  3. john mclaughlin williams says:

    Bloch is a master. Elmar Oliveira has a new recording coming out next month of Bloch’s massively symphonic Violin Concerto. (It’s coupled with the first commercial recording of Benjamin Lee’s Violin Concerto.)

  4. James Combs says:

    I’m convinced to pick that one up, nice review.


  5. Dan says:

    Great to hear about new recording of Bloch’s music. I will definitely check this out. A few months back I picked up a recording of Isaac Stern’s recording of Bloch’s Violin Sonata. Stunningly powerful piece — could not believe I had never heard it before. Been searching out Bloch’s music since. Think he’s been too pigeonholed as ‘that guy that writes Jewish classical music’

  6. david toub says:

    Bloch’s always been one of my favorite composers, so good that he’s getting recordings made of his lesser known works. He’s suffered in many ways from being categorized; a lot of his works that are not as popular as, say, Schelomo, are really amazing and original. Not as cutting-edge, perhaps, as early Copland or John Cage. But definitely not fluff. His violin concerto, sonata for violin and piano, and his piano sonata are incredible works that are rarely heard. I’m looking forward to hearing this album.