Almost Famous: New Releases Show Success at Different Junctures

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This week's featured albums showcase one artist on the cusp of a promising career (cellist Edgar Moreau) and another whose career has evolved from early hype to skillful maturity (pianist Jon Nakamatsu). And we spotlight Giacomo Meyerbeer, a composer whose fame burned brightly in the 19th century.

Play: Works for Cello and Piano
Edgar Moreau, cello
Available at

The conceit of “Play,” the debut release by the 20-year-old cellist Edgar Moreau is of an MP3 player stuffed with short encore numbers that can be heard in shuffle mode without a huge time commitment. Moreau, who won the Rostropovich Competition at age 15, and took second prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow two years later, brings the requisite nimble technique to virtuosic vehicles including Rostropovich's Humoresque, Francaix's Mouvement perpetuel and Monti's Csardas. He also applies a soulful approach in lyrical pieces like Paganini's Variations on One String, Faure's Elegie and Gluck's Dance of the Blessed Spirits. One small gripe: the closely mic'd acoustic picks up every breath, sigh and grunt in an otherwise well-engineered recording.


Schumann: Carnival Op. 9, Papillons, Sonata in G minor
Jon Nakamatsu
Harmonia Mundi
Available at

Like Moreau, Nakamatsu came to the world’s attention because of a competition win: It was his gold medal at the Van Cliburn Competition in 1997 that led to his signing with the Harmonia Mundi record label. Unlike some Cliburn winners, Nakamatsu has stayed in the public spotlight and built a significant discography that ranges from standard Germanic repertoire to American pieces by Gershwin, Foss and Bernstein. Here he showcases three of Schumann’s greatest piano compositions. There’s an elegant account of the whimsical Papillons (''Butterflies'') (once described by the Schumann scholar John Daverio as ''less a dense web than a gossamer tissue of premonitions and recollections”). The brilliant Carnaval – kind of a portrait gallery of Schumann's friends, love interests, musical heroes and ensembles – has tonal variety and deep characterization. And the Piano Sonata no. 2 in G Minor features a severely beautiful funeral march leading to a breathless finale. 


Meyerbeer: Ballet Music from the Operas
Barcelona Symphony Orchestra
Michal Nesterowicz, conductor
Available at

Giacomo Meyerbeer was one of the most famous opera composers of the 19th century, innovative in his gorgeous choral writing, huge finales, and supernatural and religious subject matter. But for various reasons he slowly sunk into the shadows of history. In recent years, his ballet music has come back into the spotlight. He churned out acres of it, after all, and some of it holds up well on its own. That includes Robert le Diable (Robert the Devil), a work containing the curious “ballet of the nuns.” That work, along with Les Huguenots and Le Prophète were included in the opening season of the Metropolitan Opera in 1883-84 and included here. Most engaging is L’Africaine with the exotic orchestral color of its Marche indienne.