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MusicWeb Reviewer’s Log: June/July 2005

Reviewer: Patrick C Waller

This log covers two months because I have been doing some travelling. Many thanks to John Quinn for posting a log last month (link 1).

My first trip was to Jutland in Denmark and was mostly work for me unfortunately. Meanwhile my wife was shown around the countryside and taken to Ribe Cathedral where the composer Rued Langgaard was appointed organist in 1940. She returned with a splendid CD of Danish organ music recorded in Ribe by Birgitte Ebert. This is on the Danish label Paula (PACD150) and features four short works by Langgaard within a programme which starts with Buxtehude and traverses Hartmann and Gade before concluding with Peter Møller’s Forvandling which dates from 1973. An excellent disc which would be worth tracking down – the company don’t seem to have a website but their details can be found at a site covering independent Scandinavian labels (link 2). Alternatively, you could get one step ahead of me and take a trip to Ribe – the photos show that the view from the top of the cathedral was impressive.

Before leaving the subject of Denmark I feel I should give Langgaard a further plug. He often has a rough time from critics and seems to have been a maverick both musically and personally. Nevertheless, on the evidence of the CD cited above, and a splendid Chandos disc of his 4th, 5th and 6th symphonies (CHAN9064) with Neeme Järvi at the helm, I feel his music is worth investigating. Whilst in Denmark I heard that his church opera Antichrist has recently been revived and recorded for DVD issue.

Back home and it was hard to miss Beethoven week on the BBC. What a pity I was quite busy with other things – it must be almost impossible to overdose on Beethoven. Radio 3 was turned over to him lock, stock and barrel for a week and it was nice not to have to play guess the composer when woken up by it in the morning. Mostly I heard unfamiliar works and soon realized how much Beethoven I didn’t know. Despite having multiple recordings of the major works and sets of all the key genres, my Beethoven collection started to feel a bit inadequate. The pièce de résistance was the television docu-drama of Beethoven’s life shown on three consecutive Friday’s. This was compelling stuff – bravo to Charles Hazlewood who presented it and particularly to Paul Rhys whose portrayal of the composer was compelling.

Belatedly, I managed to get to watch the Covent Garden Wagner’s Das Rheingold which had been languishing on the DVD recorder since Easter Sunday. Now, if I had known that they were reviving the idea of [initially] naked Rhinemaidens ... I had heard the production on the radio before, and already watched Die Walküre from this source and therefore knew roughly what else to expect (including Bryn Terfel’s imposing Wotan). Antonio Pappano’s conducting continues to impress and Siegfried is on the schedule for the new season. Meanwhile Die Walküre will be visiting the Proms very shortly with Placido Domingo taking over as Siegmund. I understand that he and Pappano have just recorded Tristan und Isolde – these are good times for Wagnerites.

I have managed to fit in reviewing a few discs and was particularly impressed with Angela Brownridge’s complete set of Kenneth Leighton’s piano music for Delphian; Rob Barnett was also enthusiastic (link 3). Discs of all Weber’s Chamber Music on Hyperion (link 4) and Oboe Quartets and Quintets by Krommer on Regis (link 5) were other highlights.

Purchased singly, Naxos discs come at a virtually giveaway price and it is often possible to get a discount for multiple purchases. Choice should, naturally, be guided by reviews and most Naxos discs have at least one review on MusicWeb. Five for the price of four seems to be the norm and a recent batch was full of interest. First up, Ashley Wass continuing his series of Bax Piano Sonatas with Nos 3 and 4 (link 6). Then George Dyson’s Symphony, a work I was unaware of until I read Rob Barnett’s review (link 7). Nor had I even heard of the Afro-American composer William Grant Still until John France wrote that his symphony is "one of the finest pieces of crossover ever written" (link 8). Certainly this disc is unmissable. So too are the Piano Concertos Nos 1-3 by the Brazilian Camargo Guarnieri (link 9). Finally, Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto contains a melting slow movement and is well worth an airing (link 10).

The major trip was a two week holiday in Ireland – far from the madding crowd in Donegal. For me there is no such thing as a holiday from music but it was slightly disappointing to miss out on traditional Irish music in the pubs (Donegal seems to have less of it around than, say, Dingle - the one billed event we went to never happened). Instead I took with me some Hamilton Harty – a fine disc including his Irish Symphony (link 11) and Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony (links 12 & 13). The latter disc also contains her Piano Concerto which I particularly enjoyed revisiting.

Two sets went along with me, Boult’s later Vaughan Williams recordings (an EMI bargain box – 573 294-2 – and a longstanding favourite) and Stanislav Skrowaczewski’s Bruckner Symphonies which had been sitting in the reviewing pile for a while (see link 14). Whilst southern mainland Britain baked in temperatures of 30 degrees, we lit turf fires (not kidding about this), dodged the showers, visited empty beaches and golf courses and listened to the major works of these two contrasting composers. Perhaps not "foie gras to the sound of trumpets" (I have forgotten who said that about Bruckner’s Third Symphony see footnote) but the nearest thing to paradise we have in this part of the world.

Back to reality now and I count myself very lucky to have been in London on the 4th rather than the 7th July. Perhaps music provides some hope for the world – Daniel Barenboim’s remarkable West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has just released its first recording (Warner Classics 2564 62190-5 to be reviewed).

Patrick C Waller






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The original was: “My idea of heaven is eating pates de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.”
Sydney Smith, English writer (1771-1845)


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