MusicWeb reviewers select their
Recordings of the Year
Reviewers are allowed a totally free choice. They are
not restricted to discs they had reviewed.
Click on the covers to read the full reviews
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL RECORDINGS
OF THE YEAR
ARNOLD (1921-2006) Complete orchestral works
4765337, 4765343, 4765348
saw the death of Sir Malcolm Arnold. Throughout a long
career his symphonic music had been virtually ignored by
concert promoters although in recent years there had been
a number of recordings available. One of the pioneering
accounts was the huge collaboration between Conifer and
Vernon Handley that saw all the symphonies, concertos and
many orchestral pieces recorded. Long out of print, these
have now been gathered into three Decca boxes reviewed
by Rob Barnett. Often dismissed, I have lived with this
music for a number of years and would urge anyone unfamiliar
at least to get hold of a set of the symphonies. His music
is often brutal, barbaric, full of despair, grief and desolation
reflecting the sadness of his own life but with Ivesian
juxtapositions of lyrical, heart-achingly beautiful melodies
and, at times, rollicking hilarity. He switches in an instant
from profundity to flippancy yet all of life is there.
SHOSTAKOVICH (19061975) Symphony
No. 13 Jan-Hendrik
Rootering, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Ch &
O/Mark Wigglesworth rec. 2005 BIS
The centenary year of the birth
of Shostakovich saw great celebration
and a profusion of new recordings.
There were many BBC Promenade
Concert performances of his symphonies
and the European Youth orchestra
conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy
stood out for a superbly vital
and accomplished performance of
the Fourth symphony. Among the
CD releases there have been a
number of new recordings of Babi
Yar but the continuing cycle from
Mark Wigglesworth on Bis stands
out for the committed playing
of the Netherlands Radio orchestra,
clearly of world-class; the intensity
of singing from Rootering and
the power of the performance by
Wigglesworth fully captured by
the splendid recording from BIS.
SANTORO (1919-1989) Symphonies 4 & 9,
Ponteio, Frevo São
Paulo SO & Ch/John Neschling rec. 2002 BIS
is the rank outsider. I get about 300 recordings a month
passing my way all of which are offered to reviewers who
may choose what they would like to review. A disc by an
unknown composer such as Santoro is very likely to be passed
over, as was the case. However, as soon as I heard the
powerful opening to the 4th symphony I realised here was
a major work that could not be dismissed and persuaded
Patrick Waller to give it a listen; and he was as surprised
and gratified as I was. I had no hesitation in making this
a disc of the month and now of the year. A Brazilian symphony
in the mould of Shostakovich. I note with anticipation
that he wrote a total of 14 symphonies!
MARTINU (1890-1959) String Quartet
No. 5 Vítezslava
KAPRÁLOVÁ (1915-1940) String
Quartet Op. 8 Josef
SUK (1874-1935) Meditation on the
old Czech chorale St. Wenceslas Kaprálová Quartet
rec. 2005 ARCO
and relentlessly present music-making counter-balanced
by yielding tenderness in the wonderful Martinů and
FOULDS (1880-1939) Dynamic Triptych for piano
and orchestra, April - England (Impressions of Time and Place
No. 1) for orchestra, Music-Pictures Group III, The Song
of Ram Dass, Keltic Lament Peter
Donohoe (piano) City of Birmingham SO/Sakari Oramo rec. 2006 WARNER
CLASSICS 2564 62999-2
delightfully relentless tread of the Foulds Edition
... a disc not just for British music buffs but for
anyone who values music of stunning originality and
SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Symphonies 4 & 6 Royal
PO, BBC SO/Sir Thomas Beecham rec. 1951/54 SOMM
unissued Beecham-Sibelius symphonies in fallible historic
sound - irresistible for the specialist and a few others,
I don’t doubt.
ATTERBERG (1887-1974) Sinfonia per archi,
Adagio Amoroso for violin and orchestra, Intermezzo, Prelude
and Fugue, Suite No. 7 Camerata
Nordica/Ulf Wallin (violin and conductor) rec. 2004 cpo
Not to be missed by Swedish romantics. Beautiful coaxed and balanced dynamics,
subtle and diaphanous textures contrast with resinous attack.
Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Symphonies 4-6,
Marche Slave, 1812 Overture, Capriccio Italien, The Storm London
SO/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Yuri Ahronovitch rec. 1987 REGIS
RRC 3009 [3 CDs]
real competition in or out of budget price. Grippingly
sensational sound and interpretative insight. Rozhdestvenky’s
Tchaikovsky - the three last symphonies before
they became routine.
BOWEN (1884-1961) Violin Concerto,
Piano Concerto No. 1 Lorraine
McAslan (violin) Michael Dussek (piano) BBC Concert
O/Vernon Handley rec. 2006 DUTTON
concertos - such lavish extravagance of melody
EDITOR Rob Barnett's CD OF THE YEAR
ARNOLD (1921-2006) Complete
orchestral works DECCA
4765337, 4765343, 4765348 [3 sets: 12
The Decca Malcolm Arnold Edition stands out amid the welter
of classical releases in 2006; sadly also the year of his death.
These are all reissues – mostly from John Kehoe’s
short-lived Conifer label - but the collective impact of these
three sets is stunning. Artistic and technical qualities are
of the highest and the coverage cuts a colossal swathe through
the Arnold catalogue. It restores the Handley set of symphonies
and much else and does so at bargain price.
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908) The
Tsar’s Bride (overture),
Overture on Russian Themes, Suites: Pan Voyevode, Christmas
Eve, The Snow Maiden Malaysian
Philharmonic O/Kees Bakels rec. 2004
The standard of playing recorded here is a tribute to both
conductor and orchestra, and Rimsky’s colourful orchestration
always gives opportunities both corporate and individual.
Ensemble is particularly disciplined, and the subtle and
sensitive BIS engineering is absolutely at the service of
the music in allowing the dynamic range to make its mark
at either end of the spectrum. In Bakels’s hands rhythmic
vitality and melodic richness are found side by side, allowing
the composer to be heard at the height of his considerable
powers in conjuring the magical worlds of his three operas:
Pan Voyevode, Christmas Eve and The Snow Maiden. There are
memorable themes and gorgeous sounds at every turn.
CIMAROSA (1749–1801) Il
matrimonio segreto Dietrich
Fischer-Dieskau, Julia Varady, Arleen Auger, Julia Hamari
English CO/Daniel Barenboim rec. September
GRAMMOPHON 476 5303 [3 CDs]
Among the many opera composers who were active during the
later 18th century, Mozart so dominates the present-day repertory
that one is tempted to think that his operas are the only ones
that are still worth hearing. Yet nothing can be further from
the truth, as this spirited performance of Cimarosa’s
The Secret Marriage shows. This latest reincarnation of the
recording makes it hard to believe that the original was made
fully thirty years ago. This is a tribute to the quality of
the sound as much as to the performance itself, excellent though
the latter undoubtedly is. The cast could hardly be better,
since it consists of six experienced singers who were assembled
while at the heights of their careers and the top of their
ARNOLD (1921-2006) English
Dances Sets 1 & 2, Solitaire,
Not a new recording (obviously), but new to me, and though
I thought I knew this music from the Naxos recording, listening
composer's versions has been like discovering it all over again.
ATTERBERG (1887-1974) Sinfonia per
archi, Adagio Amoroso for violin and orchestra, Intermezzo,
Prelude and Fugue, Suite No. 7 Camerata
Nordica/Ulf Wallin (violin and conductor)
rec. 2004 cpo
romantic music that cries out for a wider audience. It is
to be hoped that cpo has plans for more releases in their
marvellous Atterberg series.
Wenzel KALLIWODA (1801-1866) Symphonies 5
& 7, Overture No. 16 Das
Neue Orchester/Christoph Spering rec. 2004 cpo
I was totally bowled over by this disc - how can the composer
of such wonderful music be almost totally forgotten? If you like
Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schumann, I know you will respond
likewise to these dramatic, melodic and inventive works.
Partiturbuch: Instrumental Music at
the Courts of 17th Century Germany Ensemble
Echo du Danube/Christian Zincke
17th century German chamber music did not strike me as being
something I would gain much pleasure from. Had it not been
for a favourable review in these pages and Naxos's
bargain price, I would not have thought about buying this.
What a mistake that would have been!
Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Cantatas
Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki rec. 2004
Not just a Record of the Year, but part of the Project of
the Decade. Before this series began in 1995, if anyone had
Japanese ensemble and conductor would produce absolutely
definitive Bach cantatas, they would have been laughed at.
KALKBRENNER (1785-1849) Piano Concertos
1 & 4
Hyperion's explorations of the peripheries
of the concerto repertoire
continues with thsi excellent disc.Howard Shelley is a first-class
soloist who leads his Tasmanian forces in performances of
dedication. Recording quality is excellent.
DUKAS (1865-1935) Piano
Abel DECAUX (1869-1943) Clairs
rec. 2004/5 HYPERION
A Recording of the Month for July, I began
my review by predicting this
would be one of my Records of the Year, and so it is. Hamelin
exactly the right technique and temperament for the huge
(let us hope for an increase in live performances now). The
(Decaux) confirms Hamelin's roving musical spirit.
MAXWELL DAVIES (b. 1934) Naxos
Quartets 5 & 6
Historically, the Maxwell Davies 'Naxos' Quartets
may well be Naxos'
most significant achievement. The Maggini Quartet plays this
music with the utmost dedication. Those of us lucky enough
attnded some of the Wigmore Premieres have been privileged
to watch a
major string quartet cycle unfold.
BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Overture - Leonore III
rec. live 1990 TDK
When Wand left us it felt as if the last great
Maestro had gone. Here
is a magnificent reinder of his stature in his 'home' repertorie
Brucker and Betehoven recorded in the magnificent Lübeck
to be missed!"
ERICSSON (b.1958) The
Four Beasts´ Amen and other works for
Ericsson rec. 2004/5 BIS
For me this has been a truly inspirational disc
- food for the imagination, as well as being a spectacular
MESSIAEN (1908-1992) Vingts Regards sur
rec. 2004/6 CONCERT ARTIST CACD 20032 [2 CDs]
A magnificent monument to one of the great unsung heroines
of British musicianship. This must be an inspiration to us
all: recorded when the pianist was well into her 70s. I challenge
anyone to find a more powerful reading of this music.
LISLEVAND (b. 1961) Nuove
Lislevand (archlute, baroque guitar, theorbo)
Arianna Savall (triple harp, voice) rec.
NEW SERIES 1922
If this is crossover, then it's also what crossover
should be all about - excellence in performance, honesty to
both materials and the strengths of your instruments and performers.
This CD is THE universal gift; to your best of friends, but
more especially to yourself.
Apituley rec. 2004
My joint first choice for 'Recording of the
Year' 2006 is entitled 'Violent Viola' performed by Amsterdam
born violist Esther Apituley. This is a fascinating collection
that covers an eclectic range of viola works that tends to
avoid the mainstream. I must single out the Lachrymae for
the authority and concentration of
Apituley's playing takes the listener through Britten's shadowy,
sinister reverie with playing that makes this interpretation
a deeply moving
experience. There is so much to relish here in these exciting
and emotionally charged
performances from Esther Apituley who plays her 'Violent
DVORÁK (1841-1904) Cello
Augusta Read THOMAS (b.
1964) Ritual Incantation
Finckel, Taipei SO/Felix Chiu-Sen Chen rec. 2003
This superb performance of Dvorák's
Cello Concerto by David Finckel is a
joint first choice for my 'Recording of the Year' 2006. Finckel
balances security of control with an impressive weight of
expression, in a
commanding performance of nobility and rapt concentration.
conducts the Taipei Symphony Orchestra with an impressive
believe it would be difficult to know that the listener wasn't
of the world's best known orchestras. I believe Finckel performs
one of the
finest accounts of the Dvoøák Cello Concerto
ever recorded. I urge you to
hear it. There is no point looking in the usual commercial
outlets for this
recording. ArtistLed is the own record label of husband and
wife team of
cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han and this disc is
exclusively via their company
MENDELSSOHN (1809-47) Piano Trios 1 &
Fischer, Jonathan Gilad,
rec. 2006 PENTATONE
These are quite outstanding readings from the
trio of Fischer, Gilad & Müller-Schott
in these often underrated Mendelssohn Piano Trios. Their
security of ensemble is breathtaking and one can detect
of enjoyment from the players. These are assured and enchanting
interpretations that provide a wide spectrum of brilliant
colours. I believe
that these performances
surpass the best of the available versions.
Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Violin
Concertos Nos. 1-3 Europa
Galante/Fabio Biondi rec. 2005
I loved these explosively exciting and thought provoking
Mozart's Violin Concertos Nos. 1-3 played by baroque violinist
who also directs the period-instrument ensemble Europa Galante.
If I had to
choose just one new Mozart recording, in this his 250th anniversary
would be this one.
my Prayer - Hymns and Anthems Choir
of St John's, Elora/Noel Edison rec. 2004
The Choir of St John's, Elora demonstrate tremendous technical
accomplishment and convey an outstanding security of ensemble,
and enunciation; so crucial to psalm settings. I was especially
with the beauty and character of their interpretations in
which they provide
a highly appropriate liturgical personality. It would be
worth buying this
disc just to hear the rapt devotion of the setting of Elgar's
Lux aeterna. I
doubt I will hear a finer release of sacred choral music
WOLF-FERRARI (1876-1948) Concertos
for oboe, English horn and bassoon Piet
van Bockstal, Luc Loubry
West Saxony SO/Hans Rotman
now and then one receives a disc for review of unfamiliar
from the initial sense of trepidation the recording joyously
as a breath of fresh air.
The Talent label should be proud of this wonderfully performed
release of three woodwind concertos from Wolf-Ferrari. The
soloists Piet van Bockstal and Luc Loubry are assisted by
direction of Hans Rotman and the West Saxony Symphony Orchestra
sympathetic and poised support. The Bassoon Concerto in particular
created significant interest when played at Recorded Music
of late-Romantic music who are looking for something different
advised to investigate these rewarding scores.
ANDERSON (b. 1967) Khorovod,
The Stations of The Sun, The Crazed Moon, Alhambra Fantasy,
SO, London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen rec. 2000/1 ONDINE
all-Anderson disc provides a fair survey of his output.
A composer with a distinctive voice.
ANDERSON (b. 1967) Eden, Imagin’d
Four American Choruses, Symphony, Book of Hours City
of Birmingham SO & Ch, Birmingham Contemporary Music
Group rec. 2003/5 NMC
This superb release perfectly complements the Ondine disc,
with several substantial recent works of which Book of Hours
and Four American Choruses are the highlights.
FERNEYHOUGH (b. 1943) Shadowtime Nicolas
Hodges, Mats Scheidegger, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart;
Nieuw Ensemble/Jurjen Hempel
rec. live 2005
A complex piece that surely needs repeated hearings to yield
its secrets. A most welcome and major release. Strong stuff,
but well worth the effort.
BERIO (1925 – 2003) Sequenzas
I – XIV rec.
The first complete recording of Berio’s Sequenzas in
excellent performances, and at Naxos’ bargain price.
Not to be missed.
STRAUSS (1864-1949) Elektra Gwyneth
Jones, Leonie Rysanek
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Jeffrey Tate
rec. live 1990
CD50-2514/15 [2 CDs]
Technically, I am cheating by including a December 2005
release; but as it just missed the 2005 list I think I’ll
get away with it! Three of opera’s grand dames really
go for it in this live recording, which is an an absolute
must for Gwyneth Jones fans. Her detractors should hear this
and then re-evaluate their opinion. Jeffrey Tate’s
conducting is surprisingly good, too. A searing performance
that is not to be missed!
PURCELL (1659-1695) Dido and Aeneas Catherine
Bott, Emma Kirkby, John Mark Ainsley Academy of Ancient
Music O & Ch/Christopher Hogwood rec. 1992 DECCA
CLASSIC OPERA 4757195
The finest English opera ever written is as great a contrast
to Strauss’ Elektra as one is likely to find. Purcell’s
wondrous work is heard here in a magnificently atmospheric
recording. An all-round strong cast is led with affection,
wit and flair by Christopher Hogwood on this mid-price Decca
ENESCU (1881–1955) Piano
Music, Vol. 2
Borac rec. 2005
Every music lover looks for something new on the composers
close to their heart. It’s been a great year for Enescu
with two recordings of Oedipe released; Luisa Borac’s
second volume of piano music, though, is even more noteworthy
and trounces all competition on disc. A pianist to listen
out for – and not just when playing Enescu.
lives and loves - A Liederspiel
devised by Graham Johnson Felicity
Lott, Angelika Kirchschlager,
Quite what more one could want in a song recital I do not
know. An intricately and intelligently crafted programme,
such as this one, performed by two excellent singers in superb
form accompanied most sensitively by a master of his art
should be enough for anyone. It certainly is for me.
MAHLER (1869-1911) Symphony
No. 6 ('Tragic') Carl
NIELSEN (1865-1931) Symphony
No. 5 Gioachino
ROSSINI (1792-1868) Semiramide Overture Bournemouth
SO, New Philharmonia O, BBC SO/Jascha
LEGENDS BBCL 4191-2 [2 CDs]
Horenstein's 1969 Bournemouth recording of Mahler's Sixth Sympony
has long been on my wish list for issue by BBC Legends and
this year my wish has been fulfilled at last. His nihilistic view of
Mahler's most challenging work is a formidable achievement that should be
heard by everyone who values this work's grand and terrible message to
Art of the Lindsays Quartets
by Mozart, Schubert, Ravel, Mendelssohn, Haydn, Beethoven,
Tippett and Bartók The
Lindsays rec. 1992-2005 SANCTUARY
CLASSICS RESONANCE CDRSB404 [5
This set is undoubtedly my bargain chamber collection. At
around £15 its marvellous value. The Lindsays were splendid
for 40 years and this complation goes a fair way to show why.In
addition are 2 live recordings from their farewell in Sheffield.
It will lead to you more great renditions from a quartet who
enjoyed introducing chamber music to the public.
You can give this as a present and the recipient will think "how
generous".and you'll still have change from a twenty to
buy a nice bottle!
GIBBONS (1583-1625) Peace
on Earth - Sacred and Secular Music Truro
Cathedral Choir/Robert Sharpe;
Christopher Gray (organ)
LAMMAS RECORDS LAMM190D
This is a lovely collection of Gibbons choral work.It is superbly
sung. Definitely a good disc to relax to and
enjoy one of England's finest Choral writers.
My Choral record of the year.
Brain Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Horn
Concerto No. 3, Divertimento No. 14
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Serenade
for tenor, horn and strings
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Adagio
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974) Chasse à Valabre Peter Racine FRICKER (1920-1990) Wind
Brain, BBC SO, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Benjamin Britten;
Brain Wind Quintet rec. 1953-7
This is a wonderful disc from a master musician. The Mozart
is superb as is the Britten. It will be 50 years since Dennis was killed next September.
This disc tells us why he was so great.
Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Water Music Suites
1-3, Music for the Royal Fireworks
was a hugely enjoyable disc to review and was refreshing
to hear familiar music coming up bright and fresh in 2006!
At a firework party we heard it again and realised how great
an achievement this was. There were some reservations about
speed of the Air and the use of the tambourine but I've got
used to them! Naxos are used to producing splendid bargains
and this one of their best ever!
Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) The
Piano Sonatas, plus fantasies & rondos
This is wonderful collection of music that is still underrated
and thought of being too "pretty" or samey. Leon
McCawley, whom I've watched emerging over the past decade,
Mozart and studied these works closely to produce a superb
set of recordings. With very intelligent notes by Malcolm
Macdonald, excellent recording and a great price this is a
for yourself and as gifts at Christmas. The chronological order
see the advancement of Mozart's skill in this genre and there
are sonatas whose joys you will discover or rediscover with
great pleasure. P.S. I'd love to hear him in Schubert!
As the major recording companies amalgamated and retrenched
in recent years, the lot of the opera reviewer suffered more
than most with only the likes of Opera Rara and Chandos,
both with the help of funding from The Peter Moores Foundation,
breaking the mold with studio recordings. Three factors have
improved matters significantly. First, the emergence from
copyright of recordings from the early LP years in superb
remasterings by Mark Obert-Thorn on Naxos, second, the rapid
issue of DVDs from both the archive and of recent live performances
and finally the issue of live performnces from the likes
of the Rossini Festival at Pesaro in both CD and DVD formats.
ROSSINI (1792-1868) La
Scala Di Seta Alessandro
Corbelli, Luciana Serra,
Stuttgart Radio SO/Gianluigi Gelmetti
rec. live 1990 EUROARTS
No composer has benefited more than Rossini in terms of
recordings filling significant gaps in the discography of
his 39 operas.
Rossini first made an impact on the opera scene with a series
of five one act farse for the Teatro San Moisè in
Venice around 1812. These were recorded on video at the Shwetzingen
Festival in the early 1990s in visually delightful sets and
productions. Of the two that have been issued this year I
have chosen the third of Rossini's series with its popular
overture a bonus.
ROSSINI (1792-1868) Matilde di Shabran Annick
Massis, Juan Diego Florez,
Orchestra Sinfónica de Galicia/Riccardo Frizza
rec. live 2004 DECCA
My second and third choices are of Rossini operas recorded
at the Pesaro festival. The first is an audio recording
of Rossini's rarely heard 32nd opera Matilde di Shabran. This
was the work that Juan Diego Florez saved at its Pesaro
premiere in 1996, since when he has become a prized Decca artist.
When he reprised the role of
Corradino at the Festival in 2004 Decca were there to
record it live. They have made a superb job of the live recording
with no intrusion of applause.
ROSSINI (1792-1868) Bianca e Falliero María
Bayo, Daniela Barcellona, Francesco Meli
Orchestra Sinfonica de Galicia/Renato Palumbo
rec. live 2005 DYNAMIC
Another choice is also from Pesaro. It is of a
DVD of Rossini's 30th opera Bianca e Falliero with
Daniella barcellona as Falliero and Maria Bayó as Bianca in a visually
interesting production which is also available as a CD.
ROSSINI (1792-1868) Maometto II Lorenzo
Regazza, Anna-Rita Gemmabella, Carmen Giannattasio,
O & Ch Teatro La Fenice, Venice/Claudio Scimone
rec. live 2005
last Rossini selection from what has been a vintage year
for the composer is a DVD of his 31st opera Maometto
It was a work that he thought sufficiently off that he
re-wrote it as La Siège de Corinthe (No.
36) when he was in charge at the Paris Opera.
This well staged perforamance was recorded by Dynamic
in February 2005 at the La Fenice in Venice where the
was premiered. Like Bianca e Falliero it is recorded in High
VERDI (1813-1901) Aida Plinio
Clabassi, Jussi Björling, Boris Christoff,
Rome Opera House O & Ch/Jonel Perlea
rec. 1955 NAXOS
HISTORICAL 8.11142-44 [3 CDs]
Moving from Rossini, my last two choices are of
operas by Verdi. The first is of Mark Obert-Thorn's
the RCAs 1955 recording of Aida with Jussi Bjorling,
Zinka Milanov, Fedora Barbieri, Leonard Warren and
a formidable quintet of singers. The Naxos CDs sound
better than the original LPs ever did.
VERDI (1813-1901) Don
André Turp, Robert Savoie, BBC Concert O/John Matheson
rec. 1972 OPERA
ORCV 305 [4 CDs]
My final choice is perhaps the most important of all,
It is of Don Carlos in the Opera Rara issue of
the 1973 BBC
recording of all the music that Verdi composed
for the Paris premiere in 1867, some of which was cut
to enable the Parisians
to catch their trains home. This lost music was
only rediscovered in 1969 and this performance, now reissued,
allows us to
hear the most marvelous of Verdi's operas as the
composer originally intended.
Nilsson - Swedish Radio Concerts Birgit
Nilsson rec. 1947-61
Live recordings catching the great soprano
on top form in some of her signature roles plus a couple
of real rarities, including her very first commercial record.
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782–1840) Twenty-Four
Caprices (arr. for saxophone)
DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM 619 1379-2
"...not for a very long time have I been so captivated
by a disc" I wrote in my review and I'm still just as
amazed every time I play this recording: the technique, the
beauty of the playing, everything.
Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Un moto
di gioia - Opera and Concert Arias
Swedish CO/Sebastian Weigle
One of the loveliest lyric sopranos around in a completely
enchanting Mozart programme.
CIMAROSA (1749–1801) Il
matrimonio segreto Dietrich
Fischer-Dieskau, Julia Varady, Arleen Auger,
Julia Hamari English CO/Daniel Barenboim rec.
September 1975/6 DEUTSCHE
GRAMMOPHON 476 5303 [3 CDs]
A handful of the best singing actors under the spirited
direction of Barenboim in the most scintillating
of opere buffe. Recorded 30 years ago but sounding
fresh as paint.
of Opera Simon
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Ulf Schirmer
rec. 2006 SONY
One of today's leading baritones finally gets an
opportunity to show his versatility in a testing
programme. What a voice, what expressiveness!
Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791) Tutto
Terfel, Scottish CO/Sir Charles Mackerras rec. 2006
Bryn Terfel shows his mastery in characterisation as well
as his limitless vocal resources in this mix of well-known
firends and thrilling new acquaintances.
English Renaissance: music for oboe and strings
by Vaughan Williams, Britten, MOeran, Maconchy and Gow
by Leon Goossens
Caird (oboe) rec. 2004
I chose this CD for three reasons: firstly, it is a fine foray
into a backwater of English chamber music that well deserves
exploration; secondly, the
stunning playing – well recognising the variety of
moods and the language of the several composers; and finally,
the Dorothy Gow – possibly the most moving and eye-opening
piece of music I have heard this year. Definitely a seriously
important addition to the catalogue.
van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano
Concerto No. 4, Piano Concerto (arr. from violin concerto)
Swedish CO/Thomas Dausgaard
As fine a performance of the fourth piano concerto
as you'll hear and an
extra Beethoven piano concerto which will be more familiar
as the violin
concerto. But this is Beethoven's own arrangement with 4
cadenzas and a very
convincing case is made for it.
van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No.
3, Twelve Contredanses,
Romances 1 & 2
Swedish CO/Thomas Dausgaard
The most stimulating Eroica I've heard in years with the
including the one with the Eroica theme and another Beethoven
on the Death of a Hero as novel and illuminating couplings.
But it's the
character and vitality of the playing that are really arresting.
GIBBONS (1583-1625) Keyboard Music Christopher Hogwood
EXPLORE RECORDS EXP0006
Here's a disc that's really stood the test of time. Both
meticulously structured, these 1975 performances haven't
Plenty of variety too in the use of 3 historic instruments:
virginals and harpsichord.
SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Piano
Trios 1 & 2 Florestan
Trio rec. 2004
We all know of Saint-Saens's gift for melody, and these two
glorious works display that to the full. They are neatly from
either end of his career and the contrasts and colours are
beautifully realized by the Florestan Trio, who seem to be
going from strength to strength.
ROUSSEL (1869-1937) Bacchus
et Ariane: Suites 1 & 2,
Symphony No.2 Orchestre
de Paris/Christoph Eschenbach rec. 2005
Knowing the later symphonies and the Bacchus ballet did not
prepare me for the revelation of the Roussel Second Symphony,
whose dark colours and orchestration are of gripping originality.
Eschenbach gives a superbly prepared account, now replacing
Martinon as first choice, with the Bacchus complete ballet
a generous and equally well played bonus.
SCRIABIN (1872-1915) Five Preludes,
Nikolai MEDTNER (1880-1951] Sonata-Reminiscenza
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1951) Three
Movements from Petroushka
Kissin (piano) rec. 2004
RED SEAL 82876 65390-2
This mixed but logical recital finds the young Russian back
on home turf and obviously loving it. His Scriabin smoulders,
his Medtner broods and his Stravinsky glitters, all in exemplary
MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony
No. 8 ('Symphony of a Thousand')
National Philharmonic Ch & O/Antoni
Wit rec. 2005 NAXOS
I really didn't expect to be making
a Mahler recording a Disc of the Year, but this Antoni Wit performance is as
fine a 'Thousand'
as you will ever hear. It has great nobility, the finest choral
singing I've heard in this piece, a well balanced team of soloists
and, above all, a real symphonic vision that he and his fine
orchestra see through from start to finish.
CHOPIN (1810-1849) Piano works Arturo
Benedetti Michelangeli (piano) rec. 1962 OPUS ARTE OA0940D
A quite extraordinary experience, something
timeless that goes beyond the confines of Chopin and Michelangeli
themselves to touch the universal.
DEBUSSY (1862-1918) The
Complete Piano Works Vol. 2
ARTIST CACD 9131-2
This looks like becoming a classic version of
the “Etudes”. But if I had to choose just one piece
from Hatto’s Debussy (so far) with which to demonstrate
that she is up there with the greats, it would be "La
Plus que lente".
SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Abendbilder
Gerhaher (baritone), Gerold Huber (piano)
SEAL 82876 777162
Lieder singing of the highest order.
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) Songs
of the Fleet, The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet,
Songs of the Sea
Finley (baritone) BBC National CH & O Wales
The best versions so far of the two popular Stanford
cycles, with the once-popular “Revenge” entering
the catalogue for the first time.
and Dream-Figures Lieder by Schubert,
Berg and Wolf
Stotijn (mezzo), Joseph Breinl (piano)
A highly original programme sung by an up-and-coming
singer who can bear comparison with even the greatest lieder-singers.
She is furthermore blessed by a pianist who seems to share
her imagination and freedom of spirit.
VIVALDI (1678-1741) Musica
Sacra Vol. 5 Sandrine
Piau, Stefano Montanari (violin)(4), Marcello Gatti Accademia
Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone rec. 2005
It’s beginning to dawn on me that
we’re living in a golden age of Vivaldi interpretation.
JENKINS (1592–1678) Consort
Consort of Musicke
Wonderful survey of the works of a composer
currently neglected on disc.
Your Lovers Songs by Tippett,
Britten, Purcell and Humfrey John
Mark Ainsley (tenor),
Ian Burnside (piano)
Fine recital from a fine young singer and a superb new outing
GOTTWALD (b. 1925) Choral transcriptions
of Berlioz, Ravel, Debussy, Liszt,
Wolf, Wagner, Berg, Webern and Mahler
rec. 2004/5 CARUS
Something to explore, the delicious
textures of Gottwald's choral
RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Opera
The Miserly Knight,
Francesca da Rimini Mariana
Zvetkova, Boiko Zvetanov, Sofia
National Opera Ch & O/Nayden Todorov
This is an attrative and adventurous concept, a valuable
addition to the Rachmaninov discography. All the excerpts
are performed with passion and commitment.
SIBELIUS (1865-1957) A Film in Two Parts: The
Early Years; Maturity and Silence Christopher
Nupen (writer and director) rec. 1984 NTSC All regions ALLEGRO
Brilliant, insightful documentaries,
lovingly photographed amongst the lakes and forests of Finland, in all seasons,
supported by sensitively chosen quotations from Sibelius's
and his wife's writings. They chart the musical development,
through the symphonies and other major works, of a world-acclaimed
genius whose star has somewhat dimmed since his death. It is
to be hoped that this, the first of Christopher Nupen's wonderful
films to be released on DVD, will help restore greater interest
in Sibelius's music.
BERLIOZ (1803-1869) La
damnation de Faust (1828 and 1845/6) Anne
Sofie Von Otter, Keith
Lewis, José Van
Dam, Peter Rose,
Chicago SO & Ch/Sir Georg Solti rec. live 1989 ARTHAUS
A fine tribute to Solti’s
triumphant 22-year association with the Chicago Symphony.
performance full of dramatic intensity with the three
soloists at the their
RESPIGHI (1879-1936) La
Campana sommersa (The
Sunken Bell) Laura
Aikin, John Daszak, Roderick Earle, Orchestre National de Montpellier
et Choeur Opéra Junior/Friedemann
rec. live 2003 ACCORD
4761884 [2 CDs]
sommersa (The Sunken Bell) was one of Respighi's
most successful works. A story of the clash of orthodox Christian
faith with the older, more pagan beliefs, it reveals the composer's
predilection for the world of nature and fable. The music demonstrates
Respighi's mastery of the orchestra - luscious harmonies and
resplendent orchestrations and Friedmann Layer and the Montpelier
orchestra deliver a powerfully dramatic and colourful reading
sensitive to the drama's quicksilver mood changes. As Rautendelein,
the elf who craves romance with a human, Laura Aiken is appealingly
sweet, a powerful and clear coloratura and John Daszak seizes
all his varied expressive opportunities as Enrico, tender in
his Puccini-like love duets with Rautendelein and angered and
frustrated as he impatiently admonishes his dwarf bell-builders.
LEHÁR (1870-1948) Highlights Le
Tsarévitch, Giuditta, Frédérique,
Le Comte de Luxembourg, La danse de libellules Lina
Dachary, Alain Vanzo,
O & Ch Lyrique of the ORTF/Adolphe Sibert rec. 1966-71 NAXOS 8.111010
Live broadcasts of glittering, lilting readings from Adolphe
Sibert who had worked with some of the finest operetta composers
including Lehar, Kalman and Robert Stolz. The highlight is
the intensity and sincerity of Alain Vanzo as Octavio in Guiditta.
Unafraid to insert that little catch in his voice at precisely
the right emotional moment, his singing must have left many
a misty eye. And Lina Dachary, despite the occasional missed
note, has warmth and spontaneity and, when required, spunk;
her 'Ah, pourquoi m' as-tu pris mon coeur?' really touches
FOULDS (1880-1939) Dynamic Triptych for
piano and orchestra, April - England (Impressions
of Time and Place No. 1) for orchestra,
Music-Pictures Group III, The Song of Ram Dass, Keltic
Donohoe (piano) City of Birmingham SO/Sakari Oramo rec.
2006 WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62999-2
Accessible, colourful, dramatic, almost cinematic, music of
a seriously undervalued and neglected British composer. The
Dynamic Triptych is, to all intents and purposes, a piano concerto
conceived in the grand Late Romantic tradition - and dynamic
it is: melodic, atmospheric with spendidly huge climaxes it
covers the emotional gamut from nobility to romantic tenderness
and material that is dread and creepy. Music-Pictures Group
III created a sensation at its 1912 Promenade Concerts premiere;
the music reflecting Foulds' own reactions to specific paintings:
music of sombre and thunderous majesty for Blake's painting,
'The Ancient of Days'; and material of joy and grace for Alfred
Brunet's 'Colombine'. The Song of Ram Dass, again quite film
music-like, was written in the Indian style shortly after the
Foulds arrived in India.