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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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

PAGE 1 Page 2
Click on the covers to read the full reviews
  MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL RECORDING OF THE YEAR

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Kondrashin conducts the Fifteen Symphonies No. 1 in F minor (1925) No. 2 in B, To October (1927) No. 3 in E flat, The First of May (1929) No. 4 in C minor (1935) No. 5 in D minor (1937) No. 6 in B minor (1939) No. 7 in C, Leningrad (1941) No. 8 in C minor (1943) No. 9 in E flat (1945) No. 10 in E minor (1953) No. 11 in G minor, The Year 1905 (1957) No. 12 in D minor The Year 1917 (1961) No. 13 in B flat minor, Babi Yar (1962) No. 14 (1969) No. 15 in A (1971) Artur Eisen, bass (13); Evgenia Tselovalnik (sop) (14); Evgeny Nesterenko, (bass) (14) Choirs of the Russian Republic/Alexander Yourlov (2, 3, 13) Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kirill Kondrashin Rec. Moscow 19 July 1972 (1); 29 Nov 1972 (2); 12 Nov 1972 (3); 1962 (4); 27 Mar 1968 (5); 15 Sept 1967 (6); 7 Mar 1975 (7); 4 Nov 1967 (8); 20 Mar 1965 (9); 24 Sept 1973 (10); 9 July 1973 (11); 13 Dec 1972 (12); 23 Aug 1974 (13); 24 Nov 1974 (14); 27 May 1975 (15). ADD AULOS CLASSICS AMC2 - 043 - 1-10 [10CDs: 68:59 + 65:28 + 68:16 + 60:02 + 75:34 + 71:10 + 56:36 + 64:46 + 53:54 + 54:06]

For a complete single conductor-orchestra survey Kondrashin and Aulos set the gold standard. The music and the performances speak for themselves. These are exemplary recordings presented in raging colours and with a compulsive tragic power. RB


  Len Mullenger

John FOULDS (1880-1939) Three Mantras from Avatara (1. Of Action and Vision ... of Terrestrial Avataras; 2. Of Bliss and Vision ... of Celestial Avataras; 3. Of Will and Vision ... of Cosmic Avataras) Op. 61b (1930) [26:28] Lyra Celtica - concerto for voice and orchestra Op. 50 (1925) [16:11] Apotheosis (Elegy) - Music Poem No. 4 for violin and orchestra Op. 18 (1907) [11:18] Mirage - Music Poem No. 5 for orchestra Op. 20 (1910) [23:49] Susan Bickley (mezzo) Daniel Hope (violin) City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo rec. Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 26-27 Feb 2004. DDD WARNER CLASSICS 2564 61525-2 [78:13]

This music produces an enormous G-force; well that is how it feels. I attended the concert performance from which this recording was made and felt as if I was being pushed back and back, squashed down into my seat by the towering climax of the first Mantra; now released in this sensational recording. Do follow all the links appended to this review. LM


  CLASSICAL EDITOR Rob Barnett's CD of the YEAR

BEECHAM conducts SIBELIUS 2 and DVORÁK 8 BBC Legends

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Symphony No. 2 in D major Op. 43 (1902) [39:35] Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904) Symphony No. 8 in G major Op. 88 (1898) [36:15] BBC Symphony Orchestra (Sibelius) Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Dvorák) Sir Thomas Beecham Rec. Royal Festival Hall, London, 8 Dec 1954 (Sibelius); 25 Oct 1959 (Dvorák).ADD MONO 20 Bit remastering from the original BBC tapes BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4154-2 [77.09]

Sensational, thrilling, incandescent: these words put you in touch with this live Beecham version of Sibelius 2 and the Dvorák 8 races not far behind. Music making of extraordinarily exciting intensity.RB


  Terry Barfoot

Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)Seven Elegies (1907-8) [39.29] Perpetuum Mobile (1921) Seven Short Pieces (1923) [20.46] Prelude and Etude in Arpeggios (1923) [8.54] Roland Pöntinen (piano) Rec 15-18 October 2001, 17 January 2002, Bolshoi Hall, Kammermusikstudio SWR Stuttgart CPO 999 853-2 [72.56]

Roland Pöntinen’s CPO recital begins with Busoni’s Elegies and is dominated by them. And rightly so, for this is important music by a master pianist-composer. Each of these pieces shares a common agenda yet has its own distinctive personality. Pöntinen knows and understands this. His playing is sensitive and strong, and the CPO recording supports his attention to detail with good, clear sound. The ongoing project of the talented British pianist Paul Lewis (for Harmonia Mundi) will offer a fierce rival, but Pöntinen remains very satisfying, supported by excellent and thorough documentation. TB


Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Complete Lieder, Volume 7 Romanzen und Lieder, Opus 84 (1877-81) [9.48] Sechs Lieder, Opus 85 (1877-82) [12.27] Sechs Lieder, Opus 86 (1877-79) [18.17] Fünf Lieder, Opus 94 (1883-84) [12.23] Juliane Banse (soprano) Iris Vermillion (mezzo soprano) Andreas Schmidt (baritone) Helmut Deutsch (piano) Rec March 1996(Opus 84-85), October 1997 (Opus 86), September 1999 (Opus 94); Kleiner Sendesaal, Radio Berlin Brandenburg CPO 999 447-2 [53.04]

These artists clearly know and love the songs they perform. The recording engineers have also captured them and their accompanist, Helmut Deutsch, in an ambient and truthful perspective, with results that are most compelling. The booklet, in its typically thoughtful way, makes it clear exactly who does what. In several of these settings the two women offer a subtle yet compelling contrast of timbre, whereas in others Banse’s soprano and Schmidt’s bass are strongly contrasted. Contemporary with the Fourth Symphony, Brahms’s Opus 98, the Opus 94 songs find Brahms at the height of his powers. Schmidt is a master of this repertoire, affording due credit to a composer whose achievement in this field is too often overlooked.TB


  Rob Barnett

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Fireworks - Fantasy for Orchestra (1909) [3:57] The Firebird - complete ballet (1910) [41:12] Tango (1940 rev 1953) [3:31] Scherzo à la russe (1944) [3:50] The Song of the Nightingale - symphonic poem (1917) [21:56] London Symphony Orchestra/Antal Dorati Rec. Watford Town Hall 7 June 1959 (Firebird); 22, 24 June 1964 (Nightingale); 27 June 1964 (Fireworks; Scherzo); 7 July 1964 (Tango). ADD SACD reviewed in CD mode MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE 470 643-2 [76:47]

This disc represents one of the last century’s greatest recordings. If you have any affection for the Russian tradition or for unbridled voluptuous orchestral extravagance sensationally recorded then this must be on your shopping list. RB


Great Songs of the Yiddish Stage - Volume 1 Milken Naxos : Abraham ELLSTEIN (1907-1963) and Other Songwriters of His Circle ELLSTEIN Der Nayer Sher (1940) Simon Spiro, tenor ELLSTEIN Oygn (1934) Elizabeth Shammash, mezzo-soprano ELLSTEIN Ikh Vil Es Hern Nokh Amol (1946) Amy Goldstein, soprano Simon Spiro, tenor ELLSTEIN Ikh Zing (1939) Robert Bloch, tenor ELLSTEIN Abi Gezunt (1939) Amy Goldstein, soprano ELLSTEIN Zog Es Mir Nokh Amol* (1931) Bruce Adler, tenor Abraham SCHWARTZ (1881-1963) Di Grine Kuzine (1921) Joanne Borts, mezzo-soprano David MEYEROWITZ (1867-1943) Vos Geven Iz Geven Un Nito (1926) Simon Spiro, tenor ELLSTEIN Oy Mame, Bin Ikh Farlibt (1936) Elizabeth Shammash, mezzo-soprano Ilia TRILLING (1895-1947) Zog, Zog, Zog Es Mir (1942) Nell Snaidas, soprano YABLOKOFF (1903-1981) Der Dishvasher (1936) Robert Abelson, baritone TRILLING Du Shaynst Vi Di Zun (1941) Nell Snaidas, soprano Robert Bloch, tenor ELLSTEIN Vos Iz Gevorn Fun Mayn Shtetele? Benzion Miller, tenor Mazl (Ellstein) Elizabeth Shammash, mezzo-soprano Reuben DOCTOR (c.1880-1940) Ikh Bin A "Boarder" Bay Mayn Vayb (1922) Bruce Adler, tenor ELLSTEIN Der Alter Tsigayner (1938) Simon Spiro, tenor Vienna Chamber Orchestra *Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia/Elli Jaffe NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559405 [62:33]

Sheer delight! Adherents of music theatre must hear this glorious revival of music from a little known milieu. These songs are saucy, smiling, swooning, sexy, sentimental and yes schmaltzy. Stylistic streams flow freely ... interacting with each other. Weimar decadence, Viennese operetta voices of Lehár and Robert Stolz, Klezmer, folk song, Brahmsian lullaby they collide, inter-breed and metamorphose. In Ikh Zing (tr.4) which I have played at least fifteen times already for sheer pleasure, Robert Bloch knows how to use that yearning slightly nasal tone of voice so ringingly close to Dermota and Wunderlich. A sure-fire recipe for goose-flesh and the prickle of hairs on the back of the neck. RB


Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) The Poisoned Kiss (1936) An opera in three acts. Libretto by Evelyn Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams Pamela Helen Stephen, mezzo-soprano - Angelica Roderick Williams, baritone - Gallanthus John Graham-Hall, tenor - Hob Richard Suart, baritone - Gob Mark Richardson, bass - Lob Neal Davies, baritone - Dipsacus James Gilchrist, tenor - Amaryllus Janice Watson, soprano - Tormentilla Gail Pearson, soprano - First Medium Helen Williams, soprano - Second Medium Emer McGilloway, mezzo-soprano - Third Medium Anne Collins, contralto - Empress Persicaria Chorus of Day and Night Voices, Hobgoblins, Witches and Forest Creatures, Milliners and Messenger Boys, Flower Girls, Lovers Adrian Partington Singers BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox Rec. Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, 3-6 January 2003 World premiere recording CHANDOS CHAN 10120 [2CDs: 57:56+58:03 = 115:59]

The Poisoned Kiss is, for all its occasional echoes elsewhere, sui generis, as the lawyers say - one of a kind. Representing a serenade for a summer’s night, it is by no means perfect. While it creaks from time to time don’t deny yourself this music of undemanding delight, witty repartee and romantic enchantment. RB


SEEN AND HEARD EDITOR Marc Bridle's CD OF THE YEAR

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No. 2 Resurrection Eteri Gvazava, soprano, Anna Larsson, contralto Orfeón Donostiarra
Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) La mer Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
Recorded live at the Lucerne Festival, Summer 2003
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00289 477 5082 [45’01 + 60’29]

I have written about few CDs this year, but the one outstanding disc I have reviewed is Claudio Abbado’s Lucerne pairing of Debussy's La Mer and Mahler's Second Symphony. Some of the responses to this disc have been unfathomable; questions about the quality of the ensemble should not arise given that any half-decent critic with a score in hand should be able to discriminate in favour of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra’s response, and their accuracy. Questions about the sound of this recording are more subjective, and are dependent on individual factors that will determine one’s response to the performance. The more one hears this symphony – and this disc neither projects this argument more or less successfully – is that Mahler’s Second remains the most difficult of this composer’s scores to record. Abbado’s Mahler can go through peaks and troughs, but there is no question in my mind that this is his most successful recording of the symphony since a live Vienna one from 1968. It is not the greatest Mahler performance on disc this year (that falls to Riccardo Chailly’s Concertgebouw Mahler 9) but it is the one that has proved the most enduring to return to on repeated listening. The Debussy is simply luminous. MB


 

  Colin Clarke

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Tristan und Isolde Jon Vickers (tenor) Tristan; Birgit Nilsson (soprano) Isolde; Ruth Hesse (mezzo) Brangaene; Bengt Rundgren (bass) Marke; Walter Berry (baritone) Kurwenal; Stan Unruh (tenor) Melot; Horst Laubenthal (tenor) Shepherd/Young Sailor; Paul Taillefer (baritone) Steersman; New Philharmonia Chorus ORTF National Orchestra/Karl Böhm. Théâtre Antique, Orange, France, 7 July, 1973 PAL. 4:3. Region 0. Live HARDY CLASSIC VIDEO HCD4009 (240’00

A magnificent reading of one of Wagner’s greatest scores. The fact remains that whatever the shortcomings of this DVD (strange balances, jerky camera-work etc), this is an experience to treasure. It should be in every Wagnerian’s collection. CC


Harrison BIRTWISTLE (b. 1934) The Triumph of Timea (1972) [29’38]. Ritual Fragmentb (1990) [1123]. Gawain’s Journeya (1991) [24’37]. aPhilharmonia Orchestra, bLondon Sinfonietta/Elgar Howarth. Rec. aBlackheath Concert Halls in January 1993, bRosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead, on November 21st, 1991. NMC ANCORA NMC D088 [66’12]

This year has brought a memorable Birtwistle Festival at the South Bank. As a reminder of Birtwistle’s towering stature in British music of now, NMC have reissued classic performances of classic modernist scores. Urgently recommended.CC


Cyril SCOTT (1879-1970) Symphony No. 3, ‘The Muses’a (1937) [34’45]. Piano Concerto No. 2b (1958) [20’16]. Neptune (1933, rev. 1935) [24’22]. bHoward Shelley (piano); aHuddersfield Choral Society BBC Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins. DDD
No rec. info. available.
CHANDOS CHAN10211 [79’32]

Chandos have done Scott proud, with superb performances and a recording of demonstration quality. The Third Symphony and Neptune are première recordings; the Piano Concerto No. 2 appears for the first time on CD. This is an essential purchase. CC


  Michael Cookson

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Vespers of Sorrow Stabat Mater, RV621 Sonata al Santo Sepolcro, RV130 Nisi Dominus, RV608
Magnificat, RV611 Salve Regina (Plainchant)
La Tempesta/Jakub Burzynski (counter-tenor) Rec.: 11, 14 Jan 2004, Evangelical Reformed Church, Warsaw, Poland. DDD BIS BIS-CD-1426 [54:35]

My principal record of the year is this captivating new Vivaldi release from the enterprising BIS label that combines scores which could have been used for an imagined Vespers on the popular Catholic feast commemorating the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Lady of Sorrows. The performance could have taken place on the fifteenth September 1727 at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice.

This remarkable and atmospheric programme is sung and directed by the supremely talented young Polish counter-tenor Jakub Burzynski who performs all the solo parts that Vivaldi wrote for both contralto and soprano voice. Burzynski gives a special and suitably reverent performance, not always technically perfect, yet so rich in passion and high in intensity. The Polish based period instrument and vocal ensemble La Tempesta execute exceedingly secure and strikingly expressive performances, displaying excellent tone and textures throughout.

Vivaldi has provided memorable, moving and inspired scores that are wholly compelling and enchanting infused with a certain spiritual mystery and awe. This BIS release is refreshingly distinctive and gives superb entertainment! MC


Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor op.25 (1861) Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56) Fantasiestucke for piano, violin and cello op.88 (1842) Martha Argerich (piano) Gidon Kremer (violin) Yuri Bashmet (viola) Mischa Maisky (cello) Recording: Teldec Studio, Berlin. February 2002 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DG 463 700-2 [58:17

The atmosphere must have been electric when this glittering collection of four celebrated star soloists, Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer, Yuri Bashmet and Mischa Maisky came together in February 2002 in Berlin to record the powerful Brahms First Piano Quartet and Schumann’s underrated Fantasiestucke op.88 .

It is frequently stated that superstar solo performers do not always make first-class chamber musicians. After listening to this recording that assertion could not be further from the truth. This account of the Brahms First Piano Quartet is truly the most vital, inspired and exciting chamber performance that I have ever experienced. An indispensable release, masterly performed! MC


Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936) Ancient Dances and Airs for Lute Suites Nos: 1, for orchestra (1917); 2, for chamber orchestra (1924); 3, for strings (1932) Philharmonia Hungarica/Antal Dorati Recorded: Grosser Saal, Wiener Konzerthaus, 9-11 June 1958. ADD Super Audio CD 3 channel stereo MERCURY LIVING PRESENCE 470 637-2 [54:32]

This re-release of Respighi’s complete Ancient Dances and Airs, for Lute from the Philharmonia Hungarica under the great Antal Dorati on Mercury Living Presence SACD is one of the most superb recordings that I have had the privilege to hear. I cannot find fault with the CD which I would describe as one of the very ‘great’ recordings of all time.

These orchestrated Ancient Dances and Airs for Lute are modern transcriptions and adaptations of pieces for Lute from Italian and French Renaissance and early Baroque composers. Respighi has created an incredibly successful synthesis of contrasts of brilliant orchestral colours, some sturdy, some delicately transparent and all truly delightful.

The Philharmonia Hungarica under their great Maestro Antal Dorati were both in their prime at the time of this recording. Dorati directs truly exhilarating accounts bringing out the invention and imagination in Respighi’s brilliant scoring. Extraordinary performances of outstanding virtuosity that conveying sheer enjoyment. It is hard to believe that this recording is forty-five years old as it sounds of demonstration standard with the original three channel format sounding absolutely marvellous. A remarkable achievement. Magnificent! MC


Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) String Quartet in C minor Op. 51 No. 1 (c.1868-73) String Quintet in G major Op. 111 (1890) Belcea Quartet Thomas Kakuska (second viola on Op. 111) Recorded: Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK (Op. 51/1, July 2003); (Op.111, September 2003) DDD EMI CLASSICS 5 57661 2 [62:19]

With these masterful performances on this EMI Classics release the exciting English based Belcea Quartet under the leadership of Corina Belcea go from strength to strength and place themselves on an equal footing to the finest ensembles in Europe.

In the String Quartet in C minor Op. 51 No. 1 the talented Belceas play with an enviable style and a natural warmth. The listener is held in their spell from the start throughout the heart-searching of the score’s solemnity and passion

The Belceas, augmented with Thomas Kakuska on second viola, thoroughly enter into Brahms’ spirit of naturalness, harmoniousness, and joy in the second String Quintet op.111. The talented players succeed in expressing the work’s reflective exuberance of youth combined with considerable vigour and a excellent degree of optimism.

These are excellent accounts from the Belceas and the release is eminently collectable.
MC


Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-47) String Quartets Vol. 2 String Quartet (No. 2) in A minor, Op. 13 (1827) [29:29] String Quartet (No. 5) in E flat major, Op. 44 No. 3 (1838) [33:49] Henschel Quartet Recording: November 13-15, 2003 Bavaria-Studio, Munich, Germany  ARTE NOVA CLASSICS 82876 57744 2 [63:29]

Containing three siblings the award winning Henschel Quartet are a young German based ensemble who are successfully carving out a considerable international reputation for themselves. This wonderful release follows swiftly on the heels of their critically acclaimed first volume of Mendelssohn’s String Quartets Op. 13 and Op. 44 No.3. The Henschel Quartet clearly have Mendelssohn’s music in their blood, playing with accomplishment, passion and considerable control. In short these are most stylish and delicious accounts.

The German based Henschel Quartet go from strength to strength and on this showing a magnificent career is assured. Available on super budget label Arte Nova, I can confidently recommend his superb release without reservation. MC



  Robert Farr

Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864) Margherita D’Anjou. Melodramma Semiseria in Two Acts Margherita D’Anjou, (widow of Henry VI of England), Annick Massis, (sop); The Duke of Laverenne, (Grand Senechal of Normandy), Bruce Ford, (ten); Isaura, (Laverenne’s wife), Daniela Barcellona, (mezzo); Carlo Belmonte, (A general banished by the Queen, in the service of Glocester), Alastair Miles, (bass); Riccardo, (Duke of Glocester), Paul Putins (bass); Michelle, (a French physician), Favio Previati, (bass); Geoffrey Mitchell Choir London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Parry Recorded at Henry Wood Hall, London. October 2002 OPERA RARA. ORC25 [3CDs: 61.25+56.14+53.40]

New recordings of opera are thin on the ground, with the big international companies largely restricting their contracted artists to hyped recitals. Notable among the exceptions are issues from Opera Rara and Chandos, supported by the Sir Peter Moores Foundation, and those from the Naxos stable. The outstanding new opera recording from Opera Rara was of Margherita D’Anjou (3 CDs. ORC 25), which is my recording of the year. First performed at La Scala during the composer’s years in Italy from 1817 to 1824, after which he left for Paris, it is one of six operas he wrote in that period all of which were successful at the time. This well recorded issue based round house singers allows opera lovers to hear what else was going on in Italy in Rossini’s heyday. RJF


Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864) Meyerbeer in Italy Romilda e Constanza, ‘Che barbaro tormento’ Semiramide Riconoscuita, ‘Il piacer, la gioja scenda’ Emma di Rseburgo, ‘Di gioja, di pace’ Margherita D’Anjou, ‘Pensa, e guarda; Amico, all’erta’ L’Esule di Granata, ‘Sì, mel credi’; ‘Iltrono avito’; ‘Trema i tuoi complici’ Il Crociato in Egitto, ‘Queste destre l’acciaro di morte’; ‘Ah! Non ti son più cara’; ‘Cara mano dell’amore’; ‘Sogni, e ridenti’ Geoffrey Mitchell Choir Philharmonia Orchestra. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/David Parry No recording venues or dates given OPERA RARA ORR222 [68.06]

Opera Rara’s single disc ‘Meyerbeer in Italy’ (ORR 222) has excerpts from all the works the composer created and presented in his years in Italy. It is the perfect complement to my record of the year. It is also an enjoyable introduction to a composer who is still undervalued and under represented on disc. RJF


Peter Von WINTER (1754-1825) Maometto. Tragic Melodrama in Two Acts Maometto, Sebastian Na (ten); Zopiro (Sheriff of Mecca), Antonia de Gobbi (bass); Omar (Maometto’s Lieutenant), Luca Salsi (bar); Fanor (Senator of Mecca), Cesare Ruta (ten); Seide (Maometto’s Slave), Gloria Montanari (m.sop); Palmira (Maometto’s Slave), Maria Luigia Borsi (sop) Czech Philharmonic Choir. Czech Chamber Soloists, Brno/Gabrielle Bellini Recorded live July 13th and 18th 2002 in Kurhaus Bad Wildbad, Germany, during the ‘Rossini In Wildbad Festival’ MARCO POLO 8.225279-80 [2CDs: 72.26+64.32]

The Bad Wildbad Festival has become known as the ‘Pesaro of the North’, not only making a speciality of the operas of Rossini but also of ‘Italian Operas’ written by German composers of a similar vintage. In 2002 it featured the great rarity Maometto by the German born Peter Von Winter that had lain unperformed for 150 years. Scholars designate his ‘Das unterbrochene Opferfest’ (1796) as being the most successful German operatic work between Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflöte, (1792) and Weber’s ‘Der Freischütz’ (1821). However, the return of the Italian provinces of Lombardy and the Veneto to Austrian sovereignty in the spring of 1814 provided Von Winter, as it did Meyerbeer and others, favourable opportunity in Milan for composers of Austro-German origin. ‘Maometto’ was premiered at La Scala, then as now the premier opera house in Italy, on January 28th 1817 and was such a success as to run for 45 performances featuring some of the finest singers of the day. RJF


Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) Boris Godunov. Opera with Prologue and 4 Acts in the version revised and orchestrated by Nicolay Rimsky-Kosakov Boris, Pimen, and Varlaam, Boris Christoff (bass); Marina and Fyodor, Eugenia Zareska (mez); Grigory, Nicolai Gedda (ten); Rangoni and Schelkelov, Kim Borg (bass); Simpleton, Wassili Pasternack (ten); Shuysky, Andrej Bielecki (ten); Xenia, Ludmilla Lebedeva (sop) French National Radio Orchestra, Russian Chorus of Paris. Cond. Issay Dobrowen Recorded 7th –21st July 1952 in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysees, Paris Appendix. Studio recordings of Fyodor Chaliapin as Boris Godunov. Recorded Queens Small Hall, London May 1926 and Kingsway Hall, London, June 1931 NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110242-44 [3CDs; 64.35+68.12+71.39]

With many famous opera recordings now out of copyright, the year has seen a cluster of re-issues from Naxos and Regis as well as those companies owning the original masters. Mark Obert-Thorn’s remasterings for Naxos generally stand head and shoulders above all others, often even those from the owning companies. Given the quality of Mark Obert-Thorn’s work matched here by the magnificent performance of Boris Christoff, taking three principal roles with distinction and clear differentiation, and the conducting of Issay Dobrowen puts this issue in pride of place. RJF


Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) ‘PUCCINI PASSION’. Cheryl Barker, (soprano) Le Villi, ‘Se come voi piccini..’ Edgar, ‘Adio mia dolce’ Manon Lescaut, ‘Il quelle trine morbide’ Manon Lescaut, ‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’ La Boheme, ‘Si, mi chiamano Mimi’. ‘Quando me’n vo’. ‘Donde lieta usci’ Tosca, ‘Vissi d’arte’ Madama Butterfly, ‘Un bel di vedremo’. ‘Che tua madre dovrà’. ‘Con onor muore’ La Rondine, ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’. ‘Ore dolci e divine’ Suor Angelica, ‘Senza Mamma’ Gianni Schicchi, ‘O mio babbino caro’ Turandot, ‘Signore, ascolta’.   ‘Tu che di gel sei cinta’   E l’uccellino, Sole e amore, Orchestra Victoria. Cond Richard Bonynge Recorded South Melbourne Town Hall, Australia MELBA. MR-301085 [71.20]

The best single disc opera recital to come my way this year features the Australian lyrics soprano Cheryl Barker. She has a very individual vibrant lyric soprano voice that conveys much emotion. There is within the voice a beat that helps the passion in Tosca’s ‘Vissi d’arte’ and agony in Butterfly’s ‘Un bel di’ (tr. 9). Her tone, support of the voice and vocal characterisation is a joy. She is also heard to particularly good effect as Mimi and Sister Angelica. RJF

Ramon VARGAS (tenor). ‘Between Friends’ Georges BIZET (1838-1870) Les Pecheurs de perles, ‘Au fond du temple saint’ (Vassily Gerello, bar.) Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) Maometo II, ‘In questi estremi instanti’ (Barbara Lavarian, sop. Vessilina Kasarova, mez.) Il barbiere di Siviglia, ‘All’idea di quell metallo’ (Manuel Lanza, bar.) Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868) L’Elisir d’amore, ‘Ardir! Ha forse il cielo mandato…Voglio dire, lo stupendo elisir..Obbligato’ (Leo Nucci, bar.) Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Don Carlo, ‘E lui…Dio che nell’alma infondere’ (Vassily Gerello, bar.) Don Carlo, ‘È dessa!..ma lassù ci vidremo’ (finale scene; Miriam Gaucci, sop.) La forza del destino, ‘Solenne in quest’ora’ (Roberto Frontali, bar) Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) La Boheme, ‘In un coupe..O Mimi, tu piu non torni’ (Roberto Frontali, bar) Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi. Cond. Vjekoslav Sutej Recorded April 8th to 15th 2003, in the Auditorium di Milano, Milan RCA ‘Red Seal’ 82876 54343 2 [56.08] Full Price

With the decline in recordings of complete opera, the major companies sometimes come up with an interesting repertoire for their contracted artists. This collection of duets does that but with a little extra imagination. It features Ramon Vargas with a number of different singers in both popular and lesser-known works. Vargas is making major strides in the international opera houses and is extending his fach to take on heavier roles. This disc provides an excellent opportunity to hear one of the best of the current tenors in good vocal state singing a wide variety of repertoire. It also enables us to hear other international singers who in the recent past would have featured on complete opera recordings.RJF


Beniamino GIGLI (tenor) 1890-1957 ‘The Gigli Edition’. Volume 5. New York Recordings 1927-28 Georges BIZET (1838-1870)
Les Pecheurs de perles, Au fond du temple saint (with Giuseppe De Luca, bar) Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886) La Gioconda, Enzo Grimaldo, Principe di Santifior (with Giuseppe De Luca, bar) Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868) Lucia di Lamermoor Tombe degl’ avi miei Giusto cielo, rispondete (Ezio Pinza, bass) Tu che Dio spiegasti l’ali (Ezio Pinza, bass) Chi mi frena in tal momento? (Sextet; with Giuseppe De Luca, bar. Ezio Pinza, bass. Amelita Galli- Curci, sop. Loise Homer, cont. Angelo Barda, ten.) Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Rigoletto, Bella figlia del’amore (Quartet; with Giuseppe De Luca, bar. Ezio Pinza, bass. Amelita Galli- Curci, sop. Loise Homer, cont.) La Traviata, De, miei bollenti spiriti Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896) Mignon, Adieu Mignon Mignon, Ah, non credevi tu Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864) L’Africaine, O paradiso Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945) Cavalleria rusticana, Viva il vino spumeggiante
Ernesto DE CURTIS (1875-1937) Voce’e notte. Canta pe’ me! Recorded in Liederkrnz Hall New York and 16 West 64th Street, New York (Manon), November and December 1927; January, May and December 1928
Accompanied by the ‘Victor Orchestra’, cond. Rosario Bourdon (trs. 1-3 and 14-19) and Metropolitan Orchestra, cond Giulio Setti (trs. 4-13) NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110266 [79.06]

Recitals of famous singers from the past appear regularly on a variety of labels. The remasterings from Naxos are far superior to others and come at bargain price too. With the conclusion of their admired Caruso Edition the company has moved on to other tenors, notably Beniamino Gigli. Of the seven volumes issued to date, Vol. 5 is the most notable. It has fine singing from the great tenor himself, notably in the extended extracts from Lucia, as well as that from his equally great contemporaries in the quartet from Rigoletto and the sextet from Lucia.RJF


Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919) Pagliacci. Opera in Two Acts. Plus appendix, Florence Quartararo Memorial Canio, Ramon Vinay (ten); Nedda, Florence Quartararo (sop); Tonio, Leonard Warren (bar); Silvio, Hugh Thompson (bar); Beppe, Lesley Chabay (ten) Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera New York. Conducted by Giuseppe Antonicelli Live broadcast performance. February 28th 1948 Plus appendix of Florence Quartararo in excerpts recorded 1945-1950 George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Atlanta, Care Selve Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948) Andrea Chenier, La mamma morta Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Il Trovatore, Tacea la notte placida Otello, Act 1 duet (abridged) with Joseph Laderout (ten) Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Tosca, Perche chiuso with Ramon Vinay Tosca, ‘Vissi d’arte’ Landon RONALD (1873-1938) Cycle of Life, Love I have won you Georges BIZET (1838-1870) Carmen, Parle-moi de ma mere. With Ramon Vinay Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945) Cavalleria rusticana, Voi la sapete Madama Butterfly, Un bel di vedremo Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Le nozze di Figaro, Dove sono Don Giovanni, Taci inguisto core. With Ezio Pinza (bass), Salvatore Baccaloni (bass) Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Thais, Mirror Song Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828). Ave Maria GUILD HISTORICAL. Immortal Performances Series. GHCD 2291-92 [2CDs: 72.08+79.10]

My singer discovery of the year is the American soprano of Italian parentage Florence Quartararo. She sings a vibrantly full toned and characterised Nedda in Pagliacci in Guilds two-disc set. The second disc is devoted to Quartararo’s four commercial 78s and private recordings from broadcast performances. She is a must hear for all lovers of great operatic singing. These well-reproduced tracks from the 78s include a beautifully coloured and expressive Car Selve from Handel’s Atlanta and a notable Tacea la notte from Il Trovatore. This is lyric soprano singing of the very highest order. The voice soars with clarity whilst words, expression, legato and colouration combine to give superb characterisation. Florence Quartararo was invited by Toscanini to sing Desdemona in his broadcast Otello. Many critics believe the recording from that broadcast to be one of the all time greats. Unfortunately for opera lovers, the Met management refused to release Quartararo for the detailed rehearsals that Toscanini demanded and the great maestro turned to his favourite Herva Nelli for the role. I believe that if Quartararo had sung the Desdemona on that recording she would not have been allowed to leave the stage forever when she did, after a mere four years at the Met, and the history of recorded opera on LP would have been very different than that which we inherit now on CD. On the evidence of the recordings on this second CD of the Guild issue Quartararo’s is a voice to set alongside the all time greats of the 20th century. RJF


JACQUES OFFENBACH (1819-1880) La Périchole. Opéra bouffe in 3 acts. Highlights La Périchole, Régine Crespin (sop); Piquillo, Alain Vanzo (ten); Don Andrès de Ribiera, Jules Bastin (b. bar); guadelena, Rebecca Roberts, (sop); Berginella, Eva Sourova, (sop); Mastrilla, geneviève Baudoz 9mez) Chorus of l’Opera du Rhin. Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg. Cond. Alain Lombard Recorded in the Palais des Fêtes, Strasbourg. February 1976 WARNER ‘APEX’ 2564 61500-2 [66.57]

Whilst we might criticise the majors for the lack of new opera recordings they themselves recognise that they are sitting on a gold mine of often superb performances and they seek to get a further economic return on these. There are few better performances of Offenbach’s frothy works than the highlights on this disc that contains all of the best bits, most of the rest being dispensable spoken dialogue. At bargain price, and with excellent singing and characterisation from Régine Crespin in particular, the disc provides an excellent opportunity for all those who do not know the oeuvre to remedy that deficiency.RJF


  Göran Forsling

Leontyne PRICE Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Aida (1871) – Ritorna vincitor! [6’55]; Qui Radamès verrà [1’32]; O patria mia [5’14]. Il trovatore (1853) – Che più t’arrestib? [2’28]; Tacea la notteb [4’31]; Di tale amor che dirsib [1’25]; Timor di me? … D’amor sull’ali rosee [5’19]c. Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Madama Butterfly (1904) – Un bel dì vedremo; Tu? Tu? piccolo Iddio! (Morte di Butterfly) [2’50]. La rondine (1917) – Chi il bel sogno di Dorettae [2’48]. Tosca (1900) – Vissi d’artee [3’15]. Turandotf (1926) – Signore, ascolta! [2’33]; Tu che di gel sei cinta [2’34]. Leontyne Price, bLaura Londi (sopranos) Rome Opera Orchestra/adefOliviero de Fabritiis, bcArturo Basile. Rec. June a27th, d29th, ef28th, f29th, 1960, bcJuly 15th & 22nd, 1959. ADD RCA RED SEAL LIVING STEREO SACD 82876 61395 2 [46’18]

This was Miss Price's debut recital and I hadn't heard it for many years. Anyway, memories of excerpts from this disc back in the 60s proved to be just as valid today. This belongs to the most glorious soprano singing ever committed to disc. GF


 

Nostalgica Juan MARTÍN (b. 1943): Rumba Nostálgica; Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921 – 1992): Romance del Diablo; Roland DYENS (b. 1955): Tango en Skai; Béla BARTÓK (1881 – 1945): Romanian Folk Dances; Bill WHELAN (b. 1950): Riverdance (from RiverdanceThe Show); CELTIC TRADITIONAL: She Moved Through the Fair; Bill WHELAN: American Wake (from Riverdance The Show); CELTIC TRADITIONAL: The Salley Gardens; Nigel WESTLAKE (b. 1958): Six Fish; DEEP PURPLE: Highway Star. Saffire – The Australian Guitar Quartet (Antony Field, Slava Grigoryan, Karin Schaupp, Gareth Koch). Recorded 4–16 June 2004, Jumpstart Studios, Brisbane, Australia. ABC CLASSICS 476 261-1 [54:39]

I don't thing I have ever been so enthusiastic about a record that could traditionally be labelled "cross-over" but in my vocabulary is "borderless" music. Four marvellous guitarists playing music from Bartok to Deep Purple.GF


 

A Night At The Opera: The Next Generation VERDI: Rigoletto: Un di, se ben rammentomi ... Bella figlia dell’amore (IT, KJ, MP, MK); MOZART: La Clemenza Di Tito: Parto, parto (KJ); GOUNOD: Faust: Quel trouble inconnu ... Salut! Demeure chaste et pure (MP); Alerte, alerte! (IT, MP, VR); PUCCINI: La Bohème: Vecchia zimarra (VR); MOZART: Don Giovanni: Là ci darem la mano (KJ, MK); VERDI: Don Carlo: Son io, mio Carlo (MK); O Carlo, ascolta (MK); OFFENBACH: Les Contes d’Hoffmann: Barcarolle (IT, KJ); HANDEL: Orlando: Sorge infausta una procella (VR); PURCELL: The Tempest: Arise, arise, ye subterranean winds (VR); VERDI: Il Trovatore: Vanne ... D’amor sull’ ali rosee (IT); BIZET: Les Pêcheurs de Perles: Au fond du temple saint (MP, MK); STRAUSS: Ariadne Auf Naxos: Seien wir wieder gut! (KJ); PUCCINI: Gianni Schicchi: avete torto! (MP); BELLINI: I Puritani: Suoni la tromba (MK, VR) Indra Thomas, soprano (IT), Kristine Jepson, mezzo-soprano (KJ), Matthew Polenzani, tonor (MP), Mariusz Kwiecien, baritone (MK), Valerian Ruminski, bass (VR) Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Rosenkrans Recorded August 2001 at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London NAXOS 8.557309 [70:59]

A nice concept: Five young singers in a mixed programme of arias and ensembles – a good alternative to the normal solorecital. Especially the tenor; Matthew Polenzani, and the bass, Valerian Ruminski, are certainly names to watch and the mezzo, Kristine Jepson, is not far behind. The other two are more ordinary but as a whole it is a finedisc – and cheap too.GF


 

  Gary Higginson

Hildegard of BINGEN (1098-1179) Sapphire Night: O Frondens Virga; Karitas Habundat; O Euchari, Columba; In Matutinis Laudibus; Columba Aspexit. Anonymous 'O Gloriosa' Patricia VAN NESS (b.1951) The Nine orders of the Angels' Tapestry/Laurie Monahan (soprano and harp) Carolann Buff, (mezzo-soprano) Recorded at Mandelslah, May 2003. DDD MUSIK DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM 344 1193-2 [76.43] [GH]

Sapphire Night successfully combines Hildegard’s mesmerizing and ecstatic melodies with Patricia van Ness’ ‘Nine orders of Angels’ fro unaccompanied female voices which has been inspired by Hildegard’s vocal lines.

 


Robin MILFORD (1903-1959) Fishing by Moonlight (1952) [6.33] Miniature Concerto in G (1933) [9.09] Elegiac Meditation (1946-7?) [8.23] Two Orchestral Interludes (1930) [3.49] Go, Little book –Suite (1930) [14.55] Elegy for James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch (1939) [7.06] Interlude for flute and strings (1944) [5.10] Festival Suite (1950) [14.27] Guildhall Strings, Robert Slater (director), Julian Sperry (flute), Julian Milford (piano), Carys Lane (soprano) Recorded in Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, Sussex on 26-28 May 2003 DDD HYPERION CDA 67444 [69.48]

 

Robin Milford’s music is quintessentially English, subtle, understated and melancholic.



Temple of Chastity - CODEX LAS HUELGAS - Music from 13th Century Spain
Virgenes egregie; Salve sancta parens; Surrexit de tumulo; Rosa das Rosas; Castitatis thalamum; Benedicamus benigno voto; Catolicorum concio; Alpha bovi et leoni; Veni, redemptor gencium; Audi Pontus, audi tellus followed by improvisation; Salve regina glorie; Gaude, virgo plena Deo; Vella e mininna; Confessorum agonia; Ex illustri nata prosapia; Parit preter morem; Castrum pudicie/Virgo viget melius; Como poden per sas culpas; O Maria, virgo regia/Organica cantica; Maria, virgo virginum Mille Fleurs Recorded at the church St. Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, September 2002. DDD SIGNUM CD 043 [59.38] [GH]

 

Temple of Chastity is a disc of medieval Spanish music from the ‘Codex de les Huelgas in Spain dating from the 12th Century. Female voices of delicate beauty and music of spiritual atmosphere.


  Robert Hugill

ASCENSION James MACMILLAN (b.1959) Tremunt videntes angeli Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929 - 1988) Preces and Responses (1964) Percy Carter BUCK (1871 - 1947) Eternal Monarch, King Most high Plainchant Psalm XLVII Plainchant Psalm CVII Richard ALLAIN (b.1965) Magnificat from the Exon service Richard ALLAIN (b.1965) Nunc Dimittis from the Exon service Patrick GOWERS (b.1936) Viri Galilaei Robert WILLIAMS (1782 - 1818) Hail the Day that Sees him Rise Olivier MESSIAEN (1908 - 1992) L’Ascenscion (a) Choir of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh Susan Hamilton (soprano) Revd Philip Blackledge (cantor) Simon Nieminski (organ) Matthew Owens (solo organ) (a) Matthew Owens (director) Recorded February and June 2003, St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh DELPHIAN RECORDS DCD 34017 [76.27]

A tremendous recital, from the opening notes of MacMillan's haunting 'Tremunt videntes angeli' it showcases the talents of the choir of St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh and a range of fine contemporary Scots composers, as well as providing a satisfying solution to the problem of
constructing this sort of recital record. RH


Jonathan Dove (1959 –)Flight Refugee – Christopher Robson (counter tenor) Controller – Claron McFadden (soprano) Bill – Richard Coxon (tenor) Tina – Mary Plazas (soprano) Older Woman – Nuala Willis (mezzo-soprano) Stewardess – Ann Taylor (mezzo-soprano) Steward – Gary Magee (baritone) Minskman – Steven Page (bass-baritone) Minskwoman – Anne Mason (mezzo-soprano)
Immigration Officer – Richard Van Allan (bass-baritone) Glyndebourne Festival Opera London Philharmonic Orchestra David Parry (conductor) Recorded Glyndebourne September 1999
Chandos CHAN10197(2) 2 CD’s [64.55, 64.17]

A lovely performance of a fine, attractive opera. It is heartening to see that, for once, a contemporary composer has managed to create something contemporary without being embarrassed by the past. Dove’s musical language is expressive, romantic even, though it is not cutting edge modernism nor does it use romantic gesture for irony. The opera is not a soul searching masterpiece, but it is fluent and entertaining; surely what De Angelis and Dove intended. RH


Gioacchino ROSSINI (1685 - 1757) Overtures: L’Italiana in Algeri, Der verlorene Akkord, La Gazza Ladra, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, L’inganno felice, La Scala di Seta, Otello, Tancredi, La Cenerentola arranged by Vaclav SEDLAK (1776 - 1851) and Guillaume LEGRAND (1770 - 1845) Consortium Classicum Rec. 2003. MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 301 0393-2 [67.43]

Charming early 19th century arrangements for Wind band of Rossini overtures in infectiously joyous performances - something to just sit back and enjoy. RH


 

 

Bill Kenny

Poul ROVSING OLSEN (1922-1982) Belisa – An Opera in Four Scenes Text by Federico Garcia Lorca - Sung in Danish. Belisa: Eir Inderhaug (sop) Don Perlimplin: Sten Byriel (bass) Marcolfa: Marianne Rørholm (mezzo) The Mother: Anne Margrethe Dahl (sop) Household Spirit 1: Lise-Lotte Nielsen (sop) Household Spirit 2: Elisabeth Halling (sop) Vocal Group Ars Nova, Odense Symphony Orchestra / Tamás Vetö Bo Lundbye Jaeger, electronics. DDD. Recorded at Odense Concert Hall May 1st -3rd, May 6th -7th and June 10th and in the Danish Radio Concert Hall on October 29th 2002. Recorded in cooperation with the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. DACAPO 8.226013 [72:00]

Anyone interested in unusual opera or Scandinavian music should rush out to buy this recording. It was a Disc of the Month for me and now ranks as my Discovery of the Year. Part of Da Capo's remarkable archive of Danish music, it is full of accessible, attractive and often extremely beautiful music. A genuine find. BK


The Russian Seasons Leonid DESYATNIKOV (b.1955) The Russian Seasons for violin solo, soprano solo and string orchestra and dedicated to Alicia Urwiller. Spring: Dominical, Lullaby, Song for St, Georges’s Day * Summer: Lament with Cuckoo, Song for Whitsuntide,* Fertilising Song Autumn: Song for Ember Days *, Autumn Song, Nuptial Song Winter: Song for Christmastide, Song for Shrovetide, Closing Song * Alexander RASKATOV (b.1953) The Seasons Digest, after ‘The Seasons’ op.37a by P. I. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) for solo violin, strings, percussion and prepared piano. + January: At the Fireside February: Carnival March: Song of the Lark April: Snowdrop May: Starlight Nights June: Barcarole July: Song of the Reaper August: The Harvest September: The Hunt October: Autumn Song November: Troika Ride December: Christmas Julia Korpacheva, soprano * Andrey Pushkarev, percussion +, Reinut Tepp, piano +, Kremerata Baltica/Gidon Kremer, solo violin and director. Recorded in December 2001 at Studio Nalepastrasse, Berlin. NONESUCH 7559-79803-2 [51.26]

Two explorations of 'Russian-ness' and of the mystical connections of time, with both of which Gidon Kremer declares himself to be pre-occupied. All of the music is intriguing and engaging and it is all played beautifully by Kremerata Baltica. Another discovery of compelling interest. BK


Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 -1976) Billy Budd Captain Vere: Philip Langridge Billy Budd: Thomas Allen John Claggart: Richard van Allan Mr. Redburn: Neil Howlett Mr. Flint: Phillip Guy- Bromley Mr.Ratcliffe: Clive Bayley Red Whiskers: Edward Byles Donald: Mark Richardson Dansker: John Connell Novice: Barry Banks Squeak: Howard Milner Novice’s Friend: Christopher Booth – Jones Bosun: Malcolm Rivers First Mate: Anthony Cunningham Second Mate: Christopher Ross Arthur Jones / Maintop:Richard Reaville Cabin Boy: Oscar Ces English National Opera Orchestra / David Atherton,English National Opera Chorus / Martin Handley, David Drummond Designers: Tom Cairns/ AnthonyMcDonald Lighting: David Cunningham Stage Direction: Tim Albery, DVD Direction: Barrie Gavin, BBC / RM Arts Co-production 1988. Recording details are not given. ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 2787 (1 disc) [155 minutes]

Tim Albury's production of Britten's 1961 two-act revision of his opera based on Herman Melville's story Billy Budd, Foretopman. Splendidly sung and carefully conducted by David Atherton, this DVD of a live performance from 1981 is technically excellent with good sound and decent programme notes. Well worth having for those who like DVD versions of opera. BK


Ian Lace

Gustaf BENGTSSON (1886-1965) Violin Concerto in B minor (1941) * Cello Concerto in A minor (1932) † * Tobias Ringborg (violin) † Mats Rondin (cello) Malmö Opera Orchestra/Mats Rondin*; Tobias Ringborg † Recorded at the Palladium, Malmö, June 2004 STERLING CDS-1063-2 (59:42)

First of all I would like to pay tribute to Bo Hyttner’s enterprising Sterling record company. Sterling has consistently unearthed and premiered so much interesting Late Romantic material from all over Europe is. This year, I have particularly enjoyed the two new Sterling releases.

What delightful concertos these are, so wonderfully melodic. Bengtsson’s Violin Concerto is unmistakeably Nordic in character and it has some quite ravishingly beautiful melodies, reminiscent of Max Bruch in their romantic intensity. Grieg’s influence is discernible. The finale has plenty of colour and fireworks. The Cello Concerto mixes eeriness and drama with haunting, heart-on-sleeve melody and a vivacious finale. Why have these lovely melodic concertos been so ignored? Every soloist should be considering them. IL


Miloslaw KOENNEMANN (1826-1890) Der Fremersberg (1853) Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880) Overture: La Princesse de Trébizonde (1869) Konradin KREUTZER (1780-1849) Overture: Das Nachtlager von Granada (1834) Jean-Baptiste ARBAN (1825-1889) Fantasie und Variationen über den ‘Karneval in Venedig’ * Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1889) Ballsträusschen (1878) Lob der Frauen (1866/7) Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893) La Colombe (Entr’acte aus der Oper) (1860) *Matthias Höfs (trumpet) Baden-Badener Philharmonie conducted by Werner Stiefel (Recorded in Weinbrennersaal des Kurhauses, Baden-Baden in June 1994, April 1995 and April 2003) STERLING CDS-1062-2 (55:50)


A delightful collection this, nothing serious, nothing profound, just fun.All the works are associated with the celebrated German spa town, known as the ‘summer capital of Europe’ that attracted the rich and the famous seeking rest and cures throughout the 19th century. The main work is Koennemann’s Der Fremersberg, a musical tribute to a mountain in the vicinity of the Spa. Listening to it today one might be forgiven for thinking it was film music, it is so graphic: hunting scenes, a rustic folk song and dance episode and one of the most violent storms in all music with all sorts of effects, bass drum rolls growing evermore furious, rattles, firecrackers, a wind machine etc. – it is as if Ferde Grofe has been let loose in Baden-Baden - a hell of a storm and fantastic fun.

Another highlight is Arban’s ‘Carnival in Venice’ fantasy and variations. Matthias Höfs on the cornet à pistons shows incredible virtuosity, speed and clarity, in his playing of this well-known tune. One can imagine audiences going wild and demanding repeats again and again.The other pieces by Offenbach, Johan Strauss II, Konrad Kreutzer and Gounod, are all delightful, and enthusiastically played. This is a fun collection that sparkles. IL


 

Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) 1963 French/Italian film. Music by Nino ROTA (1911-1979) Directed by Luchino Visconti Starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale (Digital restoration of complete film from original 70mm negative materials overseen by the film's director of photography, Giuseppe Rotunno, and presented in its original wide screen aspect ratio) Italian language with English subtitles Running time: 178 mins plus extra material BFI (British Film Institute) BFIVD595

I make no bones about it, this is one of my favourite films and it has one of my favourite film scores. The rousing emotionall-laden music was lifted practically bar-by-bar from Rota’s Symphony on a Love Song (recently recorded by Chandos) It can be argued that the sound quality of the music is not as good as one might have wished and some have said that certain scenes have been shortened or omitted but the colours have been beautifully restored but at last this wonderful film is now available on DVD. IL


 

LIONEL MONCKTON (1861-1923) La Cingalee (1904) New Year; Salaam; Pearl of Sweet Ceylon; Tea, Tea, Tea; My Cimmon Tree;
In the Island of Gay Ceylon; Cingalee; White and Brown Girl; True Love; When this Girl was a Wee Girl; Monkeys; Sloe Eyes; You and I; The Dance I'll Lead Him; Bear Away the Bride The Arcadians (1909) Plant your Posies; My Mutter; Fickle Fortune; Pipes of Pan; Sweet Simplicitas; Arcady is ever Young; I Love London; We want to be Arcadians; Joy of Life; Come to Arcady; Back your Fancy; Half Past Two; Piccadilly; Girl with A Brogue; Charming Weather; Truth is So; Beautiful; To All and Each; Arcady is ever Young Quaker Girl (1910) In this Abode of Madame la Mode; A Quaker Girl; A Dancing Lesson; While our worthy Village Neighbours; Barbizon; Tip Toe; Tony from America; 0, Time, Time! Mr. Jeremiah, Esquire!; Couleur de Rose; Little Gray Bonnet; Come to the Ball
Pirjo Levandi (sop), Jeanne Servchenco (sop), Mariliina von Uexküll (sop), Julie Lill (cont), Oliver Kuusik (ten), Annika Tonuri (mezzo sop), Mart Sander (bar) Chorus and Bel Etage orchestra/Mart Sander Recorded at the State Philharmonic Society's Concert Hall, Tallinn, Estonia; Spring 2002 and Autumn 2003 DIVINE ART 2-4110 [69:08]

Ah! How this album brings back childhood memories in the 1940s when my generation’s parents and grandparents requested such delights on BBC Radio’s Family Favourites. The charms of these three Edwardian operettas, or musicals, are enthusiastically and sensitively communicated, with no condescending archness, by the Estonians whose diction, barring one or two oddities of pronunciation, is very good. How nice to hear the ‘Pipes of Pan’, ‘Arcady is Ever Young’, and ‘Charming Weather’ from The Arcadians, and ‘Come to the Ball’ from The Quaker Girl again after all these years. I will confess that I had never heard the equally beguiling, rollicking music for The Cingalee. IL


 

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Piano Concerto no.1 in F sharp minor op.1 [26 :02], Piano Concerto no.2 in C minor op.18 [32 :26], Piano Concerto no.3 in D minor op.30 [38 :23], Piano Concerto no.4 in G minor op.40 [24 :35], Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini op.43 [23 :44] Stephen Hough (piano) Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Litton Rhapsody recorded 29th June 2003 and the Concertos recorded live during April and May 2004 at the Eugene McDermott Concert Hall, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas HYPERION CDA67501/2 [74:41 + 70:54]


My recording of the year I leave until last. These live performances (except for the studio-recorded Paganini Variations) impress strongly. The ear is arrested immediately by the portamenti string slides in the opening movement of Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto indicating that these performances are to be as close as possible to those originally intended by the composer. Litton’s orchestra is excellent: listen to the Dallas players in the lovely Andante of the First Piano Concerto, sheer poetry; and how much detail they reveal in the Allegro Vivace of the Fourth Concerto. Hough’s technique is superb, his eloquent readings thoughtful, deeply probing, phrasing sensitive and subtle. Tempi are often very fast yet Hough is always in control every chord a model of clarity. It is good, too, that note has been taken of Rachmaninov’s Vivacissimo markings for the ‘big tune’ at the end of the Third Concerto. A set to cherish, and for me, Hough’s recording of the Fourth Concerto can be set beside Michelangeli’s classic recording. IL


Em Marshall
London Pride – A Celebration of London in Song Lionel MONCKTON Chalk Farm to Camberwell Green [3'07] Madeleine DRING (John Betjeman) Business Girls [2'12] Sandy WILSON A Room in Bloomsbury [3'03] George GERSHWIN (Ira Gershwin) A foggy day in London town [4'12] William WALTON (Anon) Rhyme [2'00] David Owen NORRIS Big Ben Blues [3'42] Ewan MACCOLL Sweet Thames, flow softly [3'18] BOYCE/arr. FRANKLIN (Lockman) The Pleasures of Spring Gardens, Vauxhall [3'38]Jonathan DOVE Five Am’rous Sighs [8'04] (Mary Montagu) Between your sheets you soundly sleep [2'50]; (Mary Montagu) Finish! Finish, these Languors make me sick [1'02]; (Matthew Prior) My heart still hovering round about you [1'20]; (Mary Montagu) All these dismal looks and fretting [1'41]; (Matthew Prior) Venus, take my votive glass [1'21]) Kit and the Widow Wimbledon Idyll [4'25] Harold FRASER-SIMSON (A.A. Milne) They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace [2'17] Michael CARR/Billy MAYERL (Jimmy Kennedy) Mayfair merry-go-round [3'01] Harry DACRE While London’s fast asleep [4'56] Richard Rodney BENNETT Let’s go and live in the country [2'30] Manning SHERWIN (Eric Maschwitz) A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square [5'50] Bennett SCOTT (A.J. Mills) Take me in a Taxi, Joe [3'43] Donald SWANN (Joyce Grenfell) Joyful Noise [6'07] Noel COWARD London Pride [5'31] Catherine Bott (soprano) David Owen Norris (piano) Recorded live at the Savage Club, London, 23rd and 26th May 2003. DDD HYPERION CDA67457 [71.58]

A delightful compilation of very different songs performed superlatively by Catherine Bott and David Owen Norris. These will make you laugh and cry – and the musicianship is unrivalled! EM

Arnold BAX (1883-1953) Youth (Clifford Bax) [3.32] Parting (George Russell) [5.17] The Fairies (William Allingham) [5.31] Lullaby (‘Sheila MacCarthy’ i.e. Arnold Bax)[4.07] A Milking Sian (Fiona Macleod) [4.12] Song in the Twilight (Freda Bax) [5.16] The Enchanted Fiddle (‘Anon’ i.e. Arnold Bax) [2.16] Far in a Western Brookland (A.E. Housman) [4.15] To Eire (James H Cousins) [3.37]
A Celtic Song Cycle (Fiona Macleod): Eilidh my Fawn [3.42]; Closing Doors [6.03]; The Dark Eyes to Mine [2.35]; A Celtic Lullaby [7.04]; At the Last [3.44]. The White Peace (Fiona Macleod) [2.26] When we are lost (‘Dermot O’Brien’ i.e. Arnold Bax) [5.44] When I was one and twenty (A.E. Housman) [3.06] Roundel (Chaucer) [3.15] The Market Girl (Thomas Hardy) [1.58] Ian Partridge (tenor), Jean Rigby (mezzo), Michael Dussek (piano) Recorded St George’s, Brandon Hill, London, 21-23 July 2003 DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7136 [77.57]

Singing at its best with Partridge’s gorgeous tenor and Rigby’s sensitive mezzo in a selection of charming songs from an important English composer.EM


Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) The foggy, foggy dew [2.32] Sally in our alley [4.10] Tom Bowling [4.28] A brisk young widow [2.01]
O Waly Waly [3.32] Sweet Polly Oliver [2.28] Early one morning [2.57] The bonny Earl o’Moray [2.29] The ash grove [2.45] Come you not from Newcastle [1.13] Le roi s’en va-t’en chasse [3.21] La belle est au Jardin d’amour [2.4] The minstrel boy [1.55] How sweet the answer [2.07] The last rose of summer [3.54] Avenging and bright [1.26] Oft in the stilly night [2.34] The miller of Dee [1.44] Ca’ the yowes [3.50] The plough boy [2.05] Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano) 1-4 recorded October, 5-21 recorded 1961, at Kingsway Hall, London DECCA BRITISH MUSIC COLLECTION 476 1973 [67.00]


An authentic collection of songs performed by Pears accompanied by the composer. A tremendous rapport between the performers enables the nuances in these songs to be brought out brilliantly without ever lapsing into sentimentality. A must-have for any Britten lover. EM


Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852 - 1924) Requiem, for SATB soloists, chorus and orchestra op. 63 (1896) The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan - excerpts (1879)* Peter Kerr (tenor) Virginia Kerr (soprano)* Nigel Leeson-Williams (bass) Frances Lucey (soprano)
Colette McGahon (mezzo-soprano) RTE Philharmonic Choir/Mark Duley RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland/Adrian Leaper (Requiem)/Colman Pearce (Khorassan) Recorded at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland, Feb, Sept 1994. DDD NAXOS 8.555201-02 [59:34 + 44:55]


Incredibly, a première recording of Stanford’s sublime Requiem, exquisitely performed EM


Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) Chandos Collected Orchestral Works Vol 5 Suite for Strings (1909-10) The Hag (1902) * Two Songs of Robert Bridges (1905-06) * Two Intermezzi from ‘Threads’ (1921/38) * Two Old English Songs (1916) Two Entr’actes (1906/36)
Valse Intermezzo à cordes (1902) Todessehnsucht (1932/36) Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas dance) (1922/39) Roderick Williams (baritone) * BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox Rec. Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, 3-4 December 2003. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10246 [68:17]

Good old Chandos keeping up their excellent work in English music. This disc contains some real gems – and some surprises (The Hag!). Top performances, and wonderful music.EM


 

PART TWO

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