The performances are fine, especially of the Prokofiev, though for passion it doesn't equal that of Martha Argerich with Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic on Deutsche Grammophon's The Originals series (DGM 447 438-2). The Russian National Orchestra is something Pletnev himself formed and usually directs, and Rostropovich here appears as guest conductor.
Ilya Gringolts: Bach
Ilya Gringolts, violin Partitas Nos:1 and 3, Sonata No:2 Deutsche Grammophon 474 235-2
This CD, which will be available in Taiwan from July, features the 20-year-old Russian violinist Ilya Gringolts in three of Bach's six major works for solo violin, all Himalayas in the solo violin repertoire.
Its most noticeable feature is its exceptional audio quality, as if it's been recorded 2cm from the instrument itself. The result is not entirely pleasant, with a grating, almost snarling intensity characterizing much of the music.
Nonetheless, these are interpretations that grab you by the scruff of the neck and never let you go. This, in other words, is no lyrical, whimsical Bach. If Gringolts sees the music as Himalayan in terms of difficulty and contrapuntal daring, this is a performance of someone scaling a sheer cliff, hanging on by his ice-axe, and kicking away the stones as they shower down around him.
Gringolts comments in a note that the usual Russian way of playing Bach is essentially Romantic, and it sounds here as if the young instrumentalist is going out of his way to do everything in his power (which is considerable) to fly in the face of that tradition. Instead of sweetness we have angst, instead of harmony, an ear-splitting harshness. It's true this music is often cerebral and, for the violinist, very taxing.
Hable Con Ella (Talk to Her)
Original Sound Track of the film by Pedro Almodovar
Milan Music/ Warner Music Taiwan 5050466 3085 2 8
Pedro Almodovar is perhaps the world's greatest living filmmaker, and Talk to Her was a profoundly moving and intelligent movie. It remains unfortunate that European films are still routinely shown in Taiwan's cinemas without English subtitles, but I was still knocked over by this film without understanding a single word of the dialogue. DVD-watchers will have no such problems.
Most of the music in Talk to Her was composed by Alberto Iglesias. His work is hard to find, and many will buy the CD for this track alone. But they will find much else to please them.