Stephen Taylor

Helpful votes received on reviews: 88% (56 of 64)
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Birthday: Nov. 3


Top Reviewer Ranking: 229,201 - Total Helpful Votes: 56 of 64
Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 ~ Sibelius
Petri Sakari and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra combine forces here for an inspiring performance of two of Sibelius' more upbeat symphonies, the First and the Third. The seldom-played First Symphony, in E minor, written in 1898, is kind of a loner among Sibelius' longer orchestral works. Unabashedly romantic, it shows virtually none of the almost minimalist feel of the composer's "maturer" symphonies. Here he combines earthy Finnish landscape-tones (symbolized by the lingering solo clarinet at the beginning) with wonderful evocations of the distant Nordic sunlight, all mixed together with fate-charged allusions to fin-de-siecle Vienna and Paris. The Third Symphony, written in… Read more
Two tracks on this 1987 Muzsikas recording are among the group's absolute best -- the exhilarating opening piece, "Vettetem violát", characterized by some deep, rich, resonant guitar strumming, and the transcendental third track, "Harom arva" ("Three Orphans"), which is a fascinating traditional song performed in a unique arrangement for this group. What is most interesting about this recording, though, is not so much the actual melodies as the unexpected and intriguing harmonies. The instrumental accompaniment moves back and forth between basic Hungarian chords that sound remarkably fresh and original to ears unaccustomed to this folkmusic. The… Read more
Violin Concertos ~ Sibelius
Violin Concertos ~ Sibelius
This is a pretty decent performance of the Elgar concerto, but the conductor and soloist alike rip the Sibelius concerto apart at its seams. It's excruciating to listen to. Dong Suk Kang's playing is harsh and loud. I've heard better Leaper performances, too. For example, in the rollicking opening of the 3rd movement, the orchestra comes in sounding unbelieveably weak -- the timpani and bass are virtually inaudible, especially compared to Kang's blaring violin. And the horrible bassoon glissades in the 3rd movement are way too loud, as well.
The recording has its merits, and these are both transcendently beautiful concertos, but I would definitely go for the Cho-Liang Lin/Salonen… Read more