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VARIOUS COMPOSERS "Joseph Fennimore in Concert III" Fennimore (Albany TROY767) Grade: A-minus
Joseph Fennimore could have been a star in the pleiad of American pianists - including Van Cliburn - that rose after World War II. But, finding no pleasure in the concert-career rat race, he withdrew to compose. Fortunately, that hasn't prevented occasional recitals, one of which is preserved here.
Gazing out from the CD cover, Fennimore's face tells you what you'll get: intelligence, depth and a pleasantly quirky personality. He sets dances by the English renaissance composer Orlando Gibbons dancing, then wittily follows with his own 1963 Fantasy, a neoclassical opening leading to some real surprises. His Haydn (the F-minor "Sonata," Hob. XVII:6) is personable, his Schubert (the little A major Sonata) charming, his Faure (Nocturne in D-flat major, Op. 63, No. 6) noble. The opening of Chopin's F minor Fantasy could use a little more imagination, and the "Liszt Feux follets" more devil-may-care whimsy, but Liszt's F minor Transcendental Etude works up an impressive storm.
Good sound, too.
SCHUMANN "Symphonies (4)" Zinman, Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra (Arte Nova ANO 577430, two CDs) Grade: A-minus
Years before "authenticists" such as Roger Norrington and John Eliot Gardiner got onto Beethoven's metronome markings, David Zinman was the rare conductor who actually took the tempos the composer indicated. (His recordings of the nine symphonies, also on Arte Nova, are a prime modern-instruments recommendation.)
He's less doctrinaire about Schumann's tempos, but most of the time he's pretty close here, which makes for quite a mobile scherzo in the "Rhenish" Symphony, and, overall, a welcome freedom from the heavy-handedness of too many modern performances. In scores often criticized for clumsy orchestration he finds remarkable clarity and color. Restlessness and buoyancy are elegantly balanced in the quick movements; slow ones are expressively shaped, but unsentimentalized.
Zinman's earlier Schumann cycle with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra was an also-ran; this one goes right to the head of the class.
(c) 2005, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.