Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Piano Concerto (1938, rev. 1945)
Edward ELGAR (1857–1934)

Enigma Variations (1898/99)
Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra – Stanislav Skrowaczewski.
recorded 10 & 14 /10/94 in Funkhaus Hallberg, Saarbrucken.
ARTE NOVA 74321 27769-2 [68.26]

Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS  
Amazon recommendations

Arte Nova are building an impressive number of releases in their catalogue, some of which are superb. This, I am afraid is not one of them. This is not because there is anything wrong with the current issue, it is simply because you can get much, much better at a little greater cost.

Stanislav Skrowaczeski has had plenty of experience with British music (he was in charge of the Hallé for a number of years), but his German orchestra, superb in the company’s Bruckner releases, does not seem to be completely at home in the repertoire. The playing, although perfectly satisfactory in terms of accuracy and pitch, is somewhat gentle in approach – more fire would have been better. At budget price, Naxos has a stunning disc of the Elgar, and there are also many other similarly priced issues, conducted by Barbirolli, Boult, Mackerras etc., all of which would give the purchaser a far better view of Elgar’s favourite orchestral work.

As for the Britten Piano Concerto we can have the dedicatee (Richter), with the composer conducting, on London at mid-price. Although the recording is of 1971 vintage, it was made in Snape, with the wonderful acoustics there, captured by Decca engineers who at the time were among the finest in the world. The results as released on the London CD issue are superb. No contest once again, I am afraid.

Playing any of the older recordings, we enter an entirely different sound world, and begin to appreciate Elgar’s inspiration in terms of orchestral colour and vitality of spirit.

When it comes to the Britten, the balance between pianist and orchestra is slightly different, with the smaller orchestra and soloist being recorded relatively close up. With the current issue there is a more concert hall perspective, which perhaps to some extent, reinforces the somewhat coy atmosphere compared to the earlier disc. This is a characteristic of many modern performances which, I suspect might be a contributory cause of the downturn in the music industry.

There are four movements, Toccata, Waltz, Impromptu and March, and these play for just over half an hour. The timings between the two performances are similar in all movements apart from the Impromptu, which is almost a minute shorter in the new recording. It was first performed at the 1938 Proms with the composer as soloist. The toccata is one of Britten’s longest and most serious essays in sonata form. The remaining movements Waltz, Impromptu (replacing the original Recitative and Aria) and final March show Britten producing a suite like work, rather than a fully structured piano concerto.

Now for the positive values – the budget price is very low, and if this is the coupling you require, the Arte Nova disc will be quite satisfactory. It appears to be the only recording offering this coupling. The piano playing of Robert Leonardy is fine, but he is no match for Richter. Like the Elgar, the overall impression is of being slightly laid back. Nevertheless, the disc is easily listened to.

There are respectable though short notes, and the presentation is good. In retrospect, it is as if the performers are performing what they are superb at – Bruckner – Nimrod is slow and romantic – a very good example of what I am talking about.

John Phillips


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.