Joanna Macgregor: Live in Buenos Aires

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Dowland,Gismonti,Golijov & Piazzolla,JS Bach,Stravinsky
LABELS: Sound Circus
WORKS: JS Bach: Concerto for Keyboard and Strings in D minor, BWV 1052; Stravinsky: Concerto in D for String Orchestra; plus works by Dowland, Gismonti, Golijov & Piazzolla
PERFORMER: Joanna MacGregor (piano); Britten Sinfonia/Jacqueline Shave
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 68475-9

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This live recording hails from the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires on 3 May 2007 and presents a typically stimulating programme from Joanna MacGregor and the Britten Sinfonia. The opening pairing of Bach’s D minor Keyboard Concerto with Stravinsky’s Concerto in D major is a neat juxtaposition of genuine 18th-century music with sounds inspired by it.

Although classed as arrangements, MacGregor’s romantic, occasionally bluesy versions of Dowland verge on recomposition, traversing wider time spans in their imaginative musings. Bringing matters more up-to-date are three post-minimalist works, two from Egberto Gismonti and Golijov’s Last Round, which are each fun in their respective ways, though the Golijov is likely to remain in the memory longer.

There is a palpable sense of genuinely live performances throughout. The building of tension in the Golijov is irresistible, as is the rapt atmosphere in the Dowland. Conversely, ensemble is decidedly ragged in places, notably in the Gismonti and the Stravinsky.

My prime quibble is that the sound is oppressively resonant, often giving the impression that the ensemble is amplified, and the recording made some distance from stage and speakers.

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This is actually quite effective for the two Piazzolla pieces given as encores, especially the soulful Milonga del ángel. Stravinsky and Bach fare less well, with much of the detail turning to mush. Programme notes would have been helpful. Christopher Dingle