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MusicWeb reviewers select their Recordings of the Year Reviewers were allowed a totally free choice. They were not restricted to discs they had reviewed.

PART TWO Part 1 Click on cover to read a full review
  John Quinn

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Overture: La Forza del destino* [7’34"]; Messa da Requiem [83’18"] Carlo Maria Giulini in conversation with Michael Oliver [6’44"] Ilva Ligabue (soprano); Grace Bumbry (mezzo-soprano); Sándor Kónya (tenor); Raffaele Arié (bass) Philharmonia Chorus/Wilhelm Pitz Philharmonia Orchestra/Carlo Maria Giulini Rec. 26 April 1964; *16 May 1961, Royal Festival Hall, London. mono ADD BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4144-2 [54’59" + 47’18"] [JQ]

Issued to mark the great Italian conductor's 90th birthday, there could scarcely be a finer tribute. The recorded sound has some limitations but the performance does not. There are fine soloists and a superb chorus and orchestra. Above all, there's the maestro himself, displaying total conviction and dedication. On the evening of 26 April 1964 he was on fire. This is an incandescent, almost driven reading, which blazes with conviction from first note to last. This extraordinary performance of the Verdi Requiem is an awesome achievement. I doubt I'll ever hear a better one. I haven't changed my mind since the verdict of my original review: "Absolutely superb! Indispensable! Buy it!" JQ

Great Conductors of the Twentieth Century:Dimitri Mitropoulos Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911): Symphony No 6 in A minor* [74’39"] Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869): Roméo et Juliette. Symphonie Dramatique; Op. 17 - Excerpts ** [46’28"]: Introduction; Roméo Seul; Scène d’amour; La reine Mab, ou la fée des songes; Roméo au tombeau des Capulets Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918): La Mer*** [22’36"] Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949): Salome: Dance of the Seven Veils**** [8’49"] *WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln (Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester) New York Philharmonic Orchestra Conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos Rec. *Klaus-von-Bismark Saal, WDR, Cologne, 31 August 1959; 30th Street Studios, New York, **22 October 1952; ***27 November 1950; *****3 November 1956. ADD EMI CLASSICS GREAT CONDUCTORS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY 7243 5 75471 2 3 [74’42"+78’18"] [JQ]

One of the finest volumes in this series. It includes individual and strongly characterised readings of La Mer and of substantial excerpts from Berlioz's Roméo et Juillette. Fine though these performances are they are dwarfed by a shattering live account of Mahler's Sixth symphony. The orchestra plays out of their skins and copes heroically with the strenuous demands made upon them by both composer and conductor. I can only say, borrowing Michael Kennedy's felicitous phrase in reviewing another performance that I was "left drained yet elated by this devastating masterpiece of a symphony." The Mahler is the highlight of the set but the whole anthology offers examples of great, inspirational conducting and it is music making that demands to be heard.

  Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Vier letzte Lieder* [20’44"]; Capriccio: Closing Scene* [20’09"] Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Schéhérazade** [15’04"] Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Le nozze di Figaro: "Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro" *** [3’36"]; "E Susanna non vien! – Dove sono i bei momenti*** [6’43"] Elisabeth Söderström (soprano) *Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Antal Dorati **BBC Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Boulez ***Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir John Pritchard Recorded: *Royal Festival Hall, London, 3 October 1976; **Royal Albert Hall, London, 3 August 1971; *** Royal Albert Hall, London, 20 August 1960 ADD BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4153-2 [67’46"] [JQ]

Another notable release from BBC Legends. This delightful programme includes performances of Mozart and Ravel by the great Swedish soprano. However, the greatest interest lies in superb renditions of music by Richard Strauss. In the closing monologue from Capriccio Söderström conveys the vulnerability and sensuousness of Countess Madeleine to perfection. She sings with glorious expressiveness, using the words superbly, and her tone is consistently expansive and lustrous. The performance of the Four Last Songs is every bit as excellent. Indeed, this is one of the finest readings of these wondrous songs that I've heard. This treasureable disc contains singing of great distinction and vividly recalls one of the greatest soprano voices of the second half of the last century. This is a disc which gave me the utmost pleasure from start to finish and which ought to be in the collection of every aficionado of great singing. JQ

 John ADAMS (b. 1947) Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986) [4:05] The Wound Dresser (1988) [19:19]
Berceuse élégiaque (1991) [9:27] Shaker Loops (1978, rev. 1983) [25:28]
Nathan Gunn, baritone
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop Recorded at the Lighthouse Poole Centre for Arts, UK, 10-11 June 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.559031 [58:20]

I had thought that the recording of Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls, which I also reviewed in October might be one of my choices. However, further reflection and the comments of a friend whose judgement I particularly respect, have made me wonder if that work will stand the test of time. However, I have no such doubts about the pieces included on this CD, especially Shaker Loops and The Wound Dresser. Marin Alsop leads a quite splendid performance of the former. Her very fine reading stands up very well, I think, in comparison with the composer's own superb recording. Nathan Gunn is the excellent soloist in The Wound Dresser, a masterly score. All of Marin Alsop's discs that I've heard to date have impressed me but I fancy that this may be her most important achievement to date in the studio. This CD seems to me to offer an ideal (and very inexpensive) introduction to the music of one of the most interesting and stimulating composers currently before the public.

  John SANDERS (1933-2003) Festival Te Deum** [7’11"] A Prayer of Cardinal Newman [3’20"] The Firmament** [6’36"] Soliloquy for Organ** [5’07"] The Gloucester Service: Magnificat* [5’07"]; Nunc Dimittis* [3’35"] Dedication* [2’13"] My beloved spake [2’58"] Requiem [23’13"] I will lift up mine eyes* [4’01"] Toccata for organ* [4’02"] A Prayer* [3’21"] The Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge/Geoffrey Webber Organists: Francesca Massey* and Thomas Hewitt Jones** Recorded in Gloucester Cathedral 21-24 March, 2004 DDD British Church Composers Series, Vol. 1 PRIORY PRCD 831 [72’34"] [JQ]

John Sanders (1993-2003) was Organist of Gloucester Cathedral from 1967-1994. Besides all his notable achievements as an organist and conductor he was, as this CD demonstrates, a fine, eloquent composer who wrote for the human voice with exceptional understanding. At the heart of the programme is his Requiem (1998) for unaccompanied choir. This is a consoling and dignified work of great beauty. All the music in this recital exhibits great compositional and technical skill and will give listeners great pleasure. This CD provides proof in abundance that fine liturgical music is still being written to enlighten us in these troubled times. The performances by the choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge under Geoffrey Webber are splendid.

  Donald Satz

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 Pierre Hantaï, harpsichord Recorded at Doopgezindekerk de Haarlem (Pays-Bas), 2003 MIRARE MIR 9945 [78:40]

Ten years after his outstanding version of the Goldberg Variatiions on the Naive label, Hantai gives us a second recording that is darker and richer in emotional content than the earlier release. The new interpretation is also more improvisatory with sharper contours and greater use of rhythmic hesitations and tempo changes. Both versions are exceptional and mandatory for a Bach enthusiast's music library. DS

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Well Tempered Clavier: Book I, BWV 846-869 Till Fellner, piano Rec. Jugendstiltheater, Vienna, September 2002 ECM NEW SERIES 1853/54 B0002285-02 [54’05 + 60’41]

A superb interpretation of the greatest body of music ever created. Fellner's style is informed by lean textures of pristine quality, rounded contours, subtle intensity and exceptional detailing of inner voices and the interplay among musical lines. Most compelling, Fellner offers a very warm and affectionate set of performances combined with an incisive portrayal of the underside of the human condition. An essential recording for Bach fans and piano enthusiasts. DS

Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849) Ballade in G minor, Op. 23 Ballade in F major, Op. 38 Ballade in A flat major, Op. 47 Ballade in F minor, Op. 52 Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49 Barcarolle in F sharp minor, Op. 60 Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61 Burkard Schliessmann, piano Recorded Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg, April 2002 Hybrid SACD playable on SACD players and standard CD players BAYER RECORDS BR 100 348 CD [70:54]

An expert and highly interesting set of Chopin performances from one of the greatest pianists of current time. Schliessmann displays a fabulous technique, superb musical instincts, and an inquisitive nature. His blend of intuition and intellect is riveting, and listeners will experience a truly unique look at these Chopin masterpieces. In the standard CD format, the soundstage is exceptional with a rich and well-detailed environment. In the multi-channel format, the sound is more expansive, revealing nuances not available in the standard format. DS

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) The Six French Suites, BWV 812-817 David Cates, harpsichord Recorded Takilma, Oregon, November 2001 MUSIC & ARTS 1124 [2CDs - 95:00]

Although David Cates skips second subject repeats, his performances are the most consistently excellent on record. He offers an abundance of buoyancy and poignant utterances, employing a fascinating staggering technique where musical lines are played slightly after the beat. With superlative clarity and richness of sound, these imaginative and daring interpretations are a first choice for those new to the French Suites.DS


Nikolay MYASKOVSKY (1881-1950) Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 44 (1938) Mieczyslaw VAINBERG (1919-1996) Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 67 (1960) Ilya Grubert, violin Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky Rec. Studio 5, Moscow State Broadcasting and Recording House, February/March 2003 NAXOS 8.557194 [66’49]

A stunning recording of two masterful violin concertos never paired before on record. Myakovsky's rapturous Concerto is in the grand romantic tradtion and possesses a host of memorable themes. The Vainberg Concerto is a harrowing work reflecting the composer's musical response to a debilitating and brutal dictatorship. Performances are exceptional, especially the solo work of Ilya Grubert. This is one of the most rewarding discs I have ever heard from the Naxos label, and I consider it essential for fans of Russian music and the violin. DS

  Paul Serotsky

Havergal BRIAN (1876-1972) Symphony No. 1 The Gothic (1919-1927) Eva Jenisová (sop), Dagmar Pecková (alto), Vladimir Dolezal (ten), Peter Mikulás (bass) Slovak Philharmonic Choir, Slovak National Opera Chorus, Slovak Folk Ensemble Chorus, Bratislava City Choir, Lucnica Choir, Bratislava Children’s Choir, Youth 'Echo' Choir CSR Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra/Ondrej Lenard rec. Concert Hall, Czechoslovak Radio, Bratislava, 29-31 March, 16-22 Oct 1989. DDD NAXOS 8.557418-419 [59.11+54.56]

It may be "only" a reissue, but it is a god-send! This glorious music, which outdoes even Mahler and Berlioz at their most massive, visionary and - yes! - intimate, is now widely available in Naxos's bargain-basement. However, the production itself is far from "bargain basement" - it's very decently packaged and retains all the substance of the original Marco Polo issue's documentation. Considering the utterly extraordinary demands of the music, the recording is miraculously clean and spacious, yet detailed, capturing performances of uncommon incandescence and missionary zeal. Available for little more than the price of a pizza, but infinitely more involving and edifying, there is really no excuse for not owning this magnificent monument, which surely deserves to be included in any list of "The Great Achievements of the Gramophone". P Se

  Paul Shoemaker

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906 - 1975) Symphony #5 in d, Op 47 (1937) [47.57] Symphony #9 in Eb, Op 70 (1945) [25.44] Kirov Orchestra/Valery Gergiev Rec. Martti Talvela Hall, Helsinki, Finland, 30 June 2002 (5); Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg, Russia, 18 May 2002 (9) Note in English, Français, Deutsch. Photo of the composer and of the conductor. CD tracks in 5.1 AC-3 sound. Super Audio tracks in 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround. Hybrid Super-Audio CD SACD playable on cd players. PHILIPS 470 651-2 [73.53]

Gergiev’s beautiful, intense, richly detailed version of this often recorded work moves at once to the top of the list, firmly establishing the conductor’s position among the very greatest of this or any age. P Sh

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 - 1943) Piano Concerto #2 in c, Op 18 (1901) [32.38] Piano Concerto #3 in d, Op 30 (1909) [40.55] Konstantin Scherbakov, piano Russian State Symphony Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky Recorded in Studio 5, State RecordingHouse, Moscow, Russia, 25 May 2002 CD tracks in 2.0 stereo. SACD tracks in 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound. DSD Hybrid SACD playable on CD players and SACD players    NAXOS 6.110013 [73.33] Discrete 5.1 surround sound at 48kHz 24Bit, Dolby 5.1 (AC-3), and DTS 5.1. DVD-Audio playable on all DVD players & DVD-audio players. NAXOS 5.110013 [73.33]

Perhaps nobody should be performing the Second Concerto right now (this requires idealism and innocence, two qualities not to be found in Russia or indeed anywhere in this world.) but this is a splendid Third Concerto, performed as well as anyone ever has done, presented, in the DVD-Audio version, with sound so accurate and powerful it sets a new absolute benchmark. This is the single finest surround sound orcherstral recording ever made. How long will it keep the crown? P Sh

George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1757) Theodora, HWV 68, oratorio in three acts, text by Thomas Morell (1750) [207.00] Theodora- Dawn Upshaw Didymus - David Daniels Valens - Frode Olsen Septimus - Richard Croft Irene - Lorraine Hunt [Lieberson] Keyboard continuo, Jonathan Hinden; Cello continuo, Susan Sheppard; Theorbo continuo, Elizabeth Kenny. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/William Christie Stage Director and video direction, Peter Sellars. Sets, George Tsypin; Costumes,  Duná Ramicová Recorded at the Glyndebourne auditorium, East Sussex, England, 1996. Brief synopsis and track list in English. On-screen menus in English. Subtitles in English, Français, Deutsch. Format DVD-9, NTSC 4:3 colour. Region code 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Dolby digital 2.0 stereo. Region 1 version available on Kultur video, WARNER MUSIC VISION 0630-15481-2 [207.00]

The silly staging adds a little welcome comic relief for this unrelievedly solemn work, but nothing can distract from the extraordinary vocal and dramatic qualities of Upshaw, Daniels, Croft, and Hunt-Lieberson. The one absolute must-have opera recording released this year. P Sh

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835 - 1921) Symphony #3, Op 78 Organ (1886) [34.44] Berj Zamkochian, Aeolian-Skinner organ; Bernard Zighera and Leo Litwin, pianos. Recorded 6 April 1959. Claude DEBUSSY (1862 - 1918) La Mer (1905) [22.52] Recorded 9 December 1956 Jacques IBERT (1890 - 1962) Escales (1922) [15.21] Ralph Gomberg, oboe solo Recorded 10 December 1956 Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch Recorded in Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Restored and remastered to DSD at Soundmirror, Inc. 3.0 and 2.0 stereo. Notes in English, Deutsch, Français. Technical and historical notes in English. Hybrid SACD playable on CD players. RCA/BMG 828766-61387-2 [73.04]

One of the finest recordings of anything ever made, presented here in a virtually perfect SACD version of the newly discovered three-channel original analogue master tape from 1959. Easily brushes aside all the competition, incuding that from other recent high resolution releases—both in performance and sound. P Sh

  Kevin Sutton

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano in D, Op. 94a [24:10] Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931) Sonata No. 3 in d minor "Ballade" for unaccompanied violin, Op. 27, no. 3 [6:59] Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899) Poème, op. 25 [14:41] Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Sonata for violin and piano no. 1 in d minor, op. 75 [23:51] Jack Liebeck, violin Katya Apekisheva, piano Rec. Wathen Hall, St. Paul’s School, England, 25 May, 2 July 2003. DDD QUARTZ QTZ 2002 [70:00]

One of the finest young talents to appear on the music scene in some time, Jack Liebeck plays with passion and conviction coupled with great refinement and intelligence. This is one of the best recital discs to have come across my desk in some time indeed.

John ADAMS (b. 1947) Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986) [4:05] The Wound Dresser (1988) [19:19]
Berceuse élégiaque (1991) [9:27] Shaker Loops (1978, rev. 1983) [25:28]
Nathan Gunn, baritone
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop Recorded at the Lighthouse Poole Centre for Arts, UK, 10-11 June 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.559031 [58:20]

The best of the American big-three minimalist composers, John Adams is an original and unique voice in music in this country. Marin Alsop proves herself to be the great white hope of US conductors in these outstanding renditions of some fascinating music.

Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999) Concierto pastoral for flute and orchestra (1978) Dos miniatures andaluzas for string orchestra (1929) Adagio para instrumentos de viento (1966) Fantasía para un Gentilhombre (1978) arranged for flute by James Galway Joanna G’froerer (flute) Asturias Symphony Orchestra/Maximiano Valdés Recorded at the Auditorio Principe Felipe, Asturias, June 2002 Complete Orchestral Works Volume 8 NAXOS 8.557801 [62.36]

A fascinating composer whose works for orchestra have been sadly neglected, this series is a treasure trove of interesting and refreshing music. Anyone who dismisses Rodrigo as merely a guitarist with a couple of big hits need look no further than here.

  Christopher Thomas

Toward the Unknown Region Malcolm ARNOLDA Story of Survival - A Film by Tony PALMER Ratio 16:9. Widescreen. All regions. Isolde Films ISO 001 [133:00] Also available as VHS

These days I would not expect to be breaking with convention in naming a DVD as one of my discs of the year. What may be somewhat unusual however is the fact that this is a documentary, but I make no apologies for its inclusion in my shortlist. Tony Palmer’s powerful, riveting and remarkably frank portrait of Malcolm Arnold makes for compulsive viewing and even alongside Palmer’s other filmic achievements (his portrait of William Walton, At the Haunted End of the Day is another favourite of mine) this stands out as a triumph of the medium. It is certainly not all cosy yuletide viewing yet I defy anyone not to be utterly drawn in by this fascinating insight into the life and music of a tortured yet remarkable man. CT

Elizabeth MACONCHY (1907-1994) Complete String Quartets String Quartet No. 1 (1932/33) String Quartet No. 2 (1936) String Quartet No. 3 (1938) String Quartet No. 4 (1942/43) String Quartet No. 5 (1948) String Quartet No. 6 (1950) String Quartet No. 7 (1955) String Quartet No. 8 (1967) String Quartet No. 9 (1968) String Quartet No. 10 (1972) String Quartet No. 11 (1976) String Quartet No. 12 (1979) String Quartet No. 13 Quartetto Corto (1984) Hanson String Quartet (Quartets 1-4) Bingham String Quartet (Quartets 5-8) Mistry String Quartet (Quartets 9-13) Rec. St, Martin’s Church, East Woodhay, 19-21 April 1989 (Quartets 1-4) Radley College, Abingdon, 28-30 March 1989 (Quartets 5-8); Radley College, Abingdon, 5-7 April 1989 (Quartets 9-13) DDD FORUM FRC 9301 [3 CDs: 59:00 + 69:27 + 64:02]

Although a re-release this is the first time Elizabeth Maconchy’s quartets have appeared packaged in a boxed set. Originally on the Unicorn Kanchana label this fine cycle, one of the very best by any British composer, has been out of the catalogue for far too long so it’s great to see it back The Hanson, Bingham and Mistry Quartets all give performances of conviction and at bargain price it’s an opportunity too good to miss. CT

The Film Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) Volume 2 49th Parallel (1940) (Suite edited by Stephen Hogger) The Dim Little Island (1949) (Partially reconstructed by Stephen Hogger) The England of Elizabeth (1955) (Suite edited by Stephen Hogger) Emily Gray (soprano) Martin Hindmarsh (tenor) Chetham's Chamber Choir Rumon Gamba conducting the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra Recorded Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, 30 September- 1 October 2003 CHANDOS CHAN 10244 [70:47]

Following on from Volume One, which featured the first recording of the complete score from Scott of the Antarctic, chief interest here is in the incidental music for the 49th Parallel. Again this is the first complete recording and what glorious music it contains. The England of Elizabeth is more familiar thanks to Muir Mathieson’s truncated suite but this reconstruction of the complete suite by Stephen Hogger reveals new joys. A disc that no VW enthusiast can afford to be without. CT

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Symphony no. 4 in F minor (1934) Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 (1906) Flos Campi (1925) Paul Silverthorne, viola Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Paul Daniel. Recorded March 2003 in The Concert Hall, Lighthouse, Poole, UK. NAXOS 8.557276 [62.34]

This is a last minute addition to my discs of 2004 and as I write I am still working on the unfinished review. Having listened to Paul Daniel’s scintillating recording of Vaughan William’s Fourth Symphony twice now however, I simply had to include it in my list. It follows on from Daniel’s authoritative reading of the Sea Symphony and once again the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra respond to his direction with tremendous commitment. For some years my benchmark recordings of the work have been the composer’s own recording and the inimitable Vernon Handley. For sheer excitement, if not perfection of orchestral performance, VW himself cannot be beaten. Yet amongst modern recordings Daniel at last presents us with a true rival for Handley. Add to this a beautifully atmospheric Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 and Flos Campi with a first class soloist in Paul Silverthorne and this is a winner of a disc. CT

  Johan van Veen

Francois COUPERIN (1668-1733) Complete Chamber Music CD1 ‘Les Nations’ Volume 1 1st and 2nd ordres [48.28] CD2 ‘Les Nations’ Volume 2 ‘3rd Ordre ‘L’Impériale’ 4th ordre ‘La Piémontoise’ [48.44] CD3 Concerts Royaux ; [49.35] CD4 Les Goûts-réunis Part 1 Concerts 5-8 [55.52] CD5 Les Goûts-réunis Part 2 Concerts 6-14 [63.32] CD6 ‘Le Parnasse ou L’Apothéose de Corelli’ and Concert Instrumental sous le titre D’Apothéose de Lully’ [42.16] CD7 La Sultane; La Superbe; Le Steinquerque; Pièces de Violes (2 suites) Le Rossignol en amour [60.01] Musica ad Rhenum/Jed Wentz Recorded at the church of Maria Minore, Spring 2004  BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92178 1-7 [7 CDs - timings listed above]

This is a set of extraordinary importance. It is the first time in history one ensemble has recorded Couperin's music for instrumental ensemble completely. And the interpretation is of the highest quality, technically flawless, and full of imagination. This release at a bargain price is the best possible way to make Couperin's instrumental music better known, which it fully deserves. JV

Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704) Complete Clavier Works Partita in d minor [03:51] Partita in d minor [14:14] L’Amerande, Prelude in F [01:02] Partita in F [11:55] Partita in F [10:24] Gigue in G [01:15] Partita in C* [17:13] Siegbert Rampe, harpsichord (Bernhard von Tucher, 2002, after anonymous instrument, Bavaria/Austria, c.1650), clavichord (*) (Jörg Gobeli, 2000, after anonymous South-German instrument, c.1670) Recorded in August 2003 at the Oranienburg of Schloss Nordkirchen, Germany MDG 341 1213-2 [60:34]

In several ways the keyboard pieces by Muffat throw new light on the development of keyboard music around 1700. But the attraction of this disc goes far beyond its importance in regard to music history. Muffat's keyboard works presented here for the first time are just excellent music, well worth listening to. And the performance by Siegbert Rampe does them full justice. JV

Un Concert pour Mazarin – Italian music in 17th-century French manuscript collections Philippe Jaroussky, alto La Fenice: Jean Tubéry (cornet, mute cornet & direction), Gebhard David (cornet, mute cornet), Enrico Onofri, Alessandro Tampieri (violin), Emilia Gliozzi (cello), Jérémie Papasergio (bassoon), Matthias Spaeter (archlute), Jean-Marc Aymes (harpsichord, organ) Recorded in June 2003 at Saint-Michel in Thiérache, France DDD VIRGIN CLASSICS 5 45656 2 [60:48]

This disc presents a number of pieces, mainly by Italian composers, which became known in France in the seventeenth century either through manuscript copies or printed editions. The programme is a mixture of sacred and instrumental pieces and definitely contains some of the finest and most exciting music of the 17th century. Philippe Jaroussky has a very beautiful voice with an unusually high tessitura. Both his and the ensemble's performances are first-rate.JV


Johann Georg PISENDEL (1687-1755): Violin Sonatas Anton Steck, violin; Christian Rieger, harpsichord CPO 999 982-2 [61:11] This is a very interesting and musically fascinating recording, which shows that Pisendel wasn't just Germany's most brilliant violin player at Bach's time, but also a first-rate composer. No matter how virtuosic some pieces or passages in them are, Anton Steck masters them with ease. His interpretation shows a deep understanding of the character of German baroque music. Christian Rieger supports him with his driving continuo playing. This is a very eloquent and passionate plea for Pisendel's oeuvre.JV


Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Dixit Dominus HWV 232 (1707) Antonio CALDARA (c.1670-1736) Missa dolorosa – Messa a 4 voci (1735) Crucifixus a 16 voci Balthasar-Neumann-Chor Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble/Thomas Hengelbrock Recorded at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, March 2003 SACD DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 82976 58792 2 [63.07]

One of the best-known sacred works from Handel's Italian period is getting an exciting and dramatic performance here. Like Handel Caldara worked in Rome for a number of years, but composed this Mass setting for the imperial court in Vienna. It is a relatively concise work, but quite expressive. Even more so is the 16-part Crucifixus, which was circulating in many copies in the 18th century, which is not surprising considering the bold harmonies and strong text-expression in this short piece. The performance leaves nothing to be desired. JV

  Patrick Waller

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in f-sharp minor, Op. 1 [26:02] Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in g minor, Op. 40 [24:35] Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, op. 43 [23:44] Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in c minor, Op. 18 [32:26] Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3 in d minor, Op. 30 [38:23] Stephen Hough (piano) Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton Recorded live in concerts at the Eugene McDermott Concert Hall, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas TX in May 2004. DDD HYPERION CDA67501/2 [74:41 + 70:54]

“A must have. A revelation. Get it.” wrote Kevin Sutton. So I did and it is. I don’t much like applause on records but I was virtually joining in at the end of these performances. Hough’s sizzling interpretations took my breath away. Litton and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra are in total sympathy. Christopher Howell’s review shows that their approach will not suit all tastes but I can’t see anyone being agnostic. PCW

Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Harmonies Poètiques et Réligieuses (1845-52) Invocation Ave Maria Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude Pensée des morts Pater noster Hymne de l’enfant à son réveil Funérailles Miserere d’après Palestrina Andante lagrimoso Cantique d’amour Steven Osborne, piano Rec. 2003 HYPERION CDA67445 [2CDs: 83.48]

A neglected, important work superbly played and recorded on two discs for the price of one.PCW




Robert SIMPSON (1921 – 1997) Symphony No.11 (1990) Variations on a theme by Nielsen (1983) City of London Sinfonia/Matthew Taylor Recorded: St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London, December 2003 HYPERION CDA 67500 [54:55]

Hyperion’s cycle of Simpson symphonies is complete at last. The 11th Symphony may lack the toughness of the previous two but it’s a fine work and the Variations on a Theme of Nielsen is the perfect coupling. Excellent performances under the direction of the symphony’s dedicatee and in great sound. PCW

Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 (Piano Transcription) S464/R128 (1863-5) Konstantin Scherbakov (piano) Rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk in June 2003 DDD NAXOS 8.557366 [63:05]

Each time I have listened to this disc I have marvelled at Beethoven’s music, Liszt’s conception for the piano, and Scherbakov’s musicianship and virtuosity. Listening to this disc is truly an uplifting experience.PCW

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Symphony No. 4 in F minor (1935) Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 in E minor (1906) Flos Campi – Suite for viola, chorus and orchestra* (1925) Paul Silverthorne* (viola) Bournemouth Symphony Chorus* and Orchestra/Paul Daniel Rec. The Lighthouse, Poole, March 2003. DDD NAXOS 8.557276 [62:34]

Warning: check volume control before pressing “play”. The impact factor of this recording is right at the top of the scale. Allied to tremendously well-played and committed orchestral performance is sound quality of stunning immediacy. PCW


Jonathan Woolf


In Memoriam Jacques Thibaud (1880-1953) Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Violin Concerto Op.61 Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne/Victor Desarzens, recorded live in 1950 Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Violin Concerto No.4 K218 Concertgebouw/Eduard van Beinum, recorded live in 1948 Edouard LALO (1823-1892) Symphonie espagnole Op.21 (1873) (omitting Intermezzo) Sinfonie Orchestre das Hessischen Rundfunks/Winfried Zillig, recorded in the radio studio, 1951 César FRANCK (1822-1890) Violin Sonata (1886) Jean Laforge (piano) recorded in a studio broadcast, 1952 Jacques Thibaud (violin) with accompaniments as above TAHRA TAH 499-500 [2 CDs 67.43 +53.54]

I choose this because all are previously unreleased. The Beethoven was one of the greatest omissions from Thibaud's discography and though fallible we can still hear something of the provocative sweetness that so imbued the Frenchman's playing. Thibaud was a marvel and no admirer of his art can be without this two disc set, presented with such care and tendresse by Tahra. JW


Stokowski’s Classic 1947-49 Columbias Vol. 3 and live broadcasts Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony No. 6 [29:16] Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY Romeo and Juliet [19:07] Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Symphony No. 35 Haffner [15:17] Thomas Jefferson SCOTT From the Sacred Harp [7:46] Jaromir WEINBERGER Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper [7:30] New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski Rec. Carnegie Hall, 1949, RVW/Tchaikovsky licensed from Sony. Other tracks live concert performances Produced in association with the Leopold Stokowski Society CALA CACD0537 [78:58]

Remastering. Original source material. Going back to the lacquers. This release, one in a pleasingly long line from Cala, shows what can happen when a company has access to sonically superior source material and employs it brilliantly. The VW has never been heard in such stunning sound - cast off all your previous issues. Ditto the Tchaikovsky. JW


Erich Kleiber. Decca Recordings 1949-1955 Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No.3 in E flat major Op.55 Eroica Concertgebouw Orchestra, recorded May 1950 Symphony No.3 in E flat major Op.55 Eroica Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded April 1953 Symphony No.5 in C minor Op.67 Concertgebouw Orchestra, recorded September 1953 Symphony No.6 in F major Op.68 Pastoral Concertgebouw Orchestra, recorded September 1953 Symphony No.6 in F major Op.68 Pastoral London Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded February 1948 Symphony No.7 in A major Op.92 Concertgebouw Orchestra, recorded May 1950 Symphony No.9 in D minor Op.125 Choral Hilde Gueden (soprano), Sieglinde Wagner (contralto), Anton Dermota (tenor), Ludwig Weber (bass) Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Wien Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded June 1952 Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826) Symphony No.1 in C major Op.19 Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded January 1956 Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Symphony No.40 in G minor K550 London Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded April 1949 Four Deutsche Tanze K600 No.1, K600 No.5, K602 No.3, K605 No.3 Symphony No.39 in E flat major K543 Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded January 1956 Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Symphony No.9 in C major Great D944 Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded November 1953 Erich Kleiber, with orchestras and recording dates as noted above DECCA ORIGINAL MASTERS 475 6080 [6 CDs: 79.51 + 73.09 + 71.30 + 66.05 + 61.11 + 80.58]

In the year of his son's death here is a handsome tribute to Erich Kleiber. In sometimes multiple recordings we can follow his taut logic through a relatively slender Decca discography. My preference is for the Vienna recordings over the Amsterdam - but I wouldn't willingly trade any, such is his consummate conviction. JW


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