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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.

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

Page 2 Page 1 Click on cover to read a full review

 
Anne Ozorio


Alexander ZEMLINSKY
(1871-1942) Lyrische Symphonie Matthias Goerne (baritone); Christine Schäfer (soprano) Orchestre National de Paris/Christoph Eschenbach rec. 2005 CAPRICCIO 71 081

This brings exceptional insight, not just to the music, but to the ideas that inspired it.  The text refers to the “thirst for far away things”, so crucial to creative growth, which inspires the performance throughout.  Superlative performances, which, to quote the text again, will “hold up the lamp to light you on your way”.  The most innovative interpretation so far, it sets new goals. 


Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No. 2 ('Resurrection') Christine Schäfer (soprano), Michelle DeYoung (mezzo) Wiener Singverein, Wiener Philharmoniker/Pierre Boulez rec. 2005 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4776004

Boulez understands the spirituality of this symphony, creating a profoundly moving, life enhancing interpretation.  It’s a powerful illumination of the deeper aspects of Mahler, opening up new approaches to inspire a new, reflective era in Mahler performance.   


Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No 4 (arranged by Erwin Stein) Christiane Oelze (soprano) Thomas Christian Ensemble rec. 2004 MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 603 1320-2

Why a chamber transcription?  This one is so exquisitely performed it’s like listening to the symphony distilled to its purest essence.  It’s a genuine learning experience. Don’t mistake this for another massively over marketed UK recording that came out shortly before.  This one is “the real thing”.  Oelze’s Mahler is refined and intuitive, and the spirited playing is decidedly “not” earthbound. 


Hans Werner HENZE (b. 1926) Voices Sarah Walker (mezzo), Paul Sperry (tenor) London Sinfonietta/Hans Werner Henze rec. 1978 EXPLORE EXP 0007/8 [2 CDs]

With Henze himself conducting the London Sinfonietta, for whose specialist skills the piece was written, there really is no competition at all.  This release on CD restores it to its rightful place as a major masterpiece of modern vocal repertoire.

Tim Perry

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphonies 1-9, 10 (Adagio), Das Lied von der Erde Kolner Rundfunk SO/Gary Bertini EMI 3402382

A Mahler cycle of reference status, with Bertini consistently revealing often hidden details of these complex scores and the orchestra on top form.

 


César FRANCK (1822-1890) Symphony Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Petrouchka Chicago SO, Boston SO/Pierre Monteux rec. 1959/61 BMG-RCA LIVING STEREO 82876 678972

Monteux's Franck D Minor is the proverbial benchmark performance and it sounds fantastic in its new remastering. Coupled with a jaunty, affectionate Petrouchka, it is irresistible.


Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904) Symphony No. 9, The Water Goblin Royal Concertgebouw O/Nikolaus Harnoncourt rec. 1999 WARNER CLASSICS 3984 25254-2

Recordings of this piece come and go, but Harnoncourt's will remain at the top of the list for decades to come.


From Byrd to the Beatles The King's Singers rec. live 2005 ARTHAUS MUSIK 101248

The King's Singers remain one of the most technically accomplished and most consistently engaging vocal ensembles in the world, and this DVD is a great showcase for their talents.

 


Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828) Piano Trio No. 2, Sonatensatz Kungsbacka Piano Trio rec. 2003 NAXOS 8.555700

The Kungsbacka trio are a classy outfit. Never before has Schubert's second piano trio seemed so involving from first note to last. This disc is their first outing for Naxos. I hope there will be many more.


George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Water Music Suites 1-3, Music for the Royal Fireworks Aradia Ensemble/Kevin Mallon rec. 2005 NAXOS 8.557764

Kevin Mallon and his Aradia Ensemble offer up Handel performances of verve and vigour. If you feel that you have heard the Water Music Suites and the Music for the Royal Fireworks once too often, this breezy disc will refresh your Handelian appetite!

Glyn Pursglove


Le Jeu d’amour The game of love in medieval France Songs of the trouvères Anne Azema (soprano) rec. 1976 WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 62685-2 [59:43]

This is a scholarly - but very far from dry - anthology of the music of the trouvères of northern France. Anne Azema is in fine voice, and performs throughout with spirit and a sense of drama, without ever overdoing anything. The instrumental accompaniment is top class too and judiciously conceived. There are things of rare beauty to be heard here, in a perfect marriage of scholarship and musicality.


¡Ay, Dulce Pena! - Tonos humanos del Barroco español Works by Juan del VADO (c.1625-1691), Juan HIDALGO (1614-1685) and others Marta Almajano (soprano) rec. 2001 HARMONIA MUNDI HMA 1957028

Unfamiliar repertoire brought vividly to life by the flexible, but full-toned, voice of Marta Almajano. She sings, and her accompanists play, with exemplary precision and great passion. The results are altogether gorgeous, a memorable affirmation of the virtues of the Spanish baroque.


Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690-1768) Four sonatas John Holloway (violin), Jaap ter Linden (cello), Lars Erik Mortensen (harpsichord) rec. 2003 ECM NEW SERIES 1889 476 7055

Veracini may have been excessively conceited and crazy enough to deserve the nickname of capo pazzo, but his contemporaries had no doubts as to his abilities as a violinist, and we need be, on the evidence of this disc, in any doubt as to the enduring interest of his best work as a composer. Violinist John Holloway, cellist Jap ter Linden and harpsichordist Lars Erik Mortensen play with intuitive togetherness and the music they make is richly exciting.


Norbert BURGMÜLLER (1810-1836) Piano sonata, Waltz, Mazurka, Rhapsodie, Polonaise Felix MENDELSSOHN BARTHOLDY (1809-1847) Marcia funebre Frédéric BURGMÜLLER (1806-1874) Rêveries fantastiques, selections from 25 Études, Valse brillante Tobias Koch
rec. 2005 GENUIN GEN 86061

Burgmüller deserves an honourable place in that sad catalogue of Romantic artists who died young. There's no need, though, to sentimentalise the story of his brief life, when some of the music he left behind needs no excuse or special pleading. His Piano Sonata, written at the age of sixteen, and his Rhapsodie, are remarkable pieces, beautifully played by Tobias Koch on an 1826 piano by Conrad Graf. This CD makes it easy to understand why both Brahms and Schumann admired Burgmüller's music.


Grażyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969) Complete Works for String Quartet (Volumes 1-3): Quartets 1-7, Piano Quintets 1 & 2) Amar Corde Quartet, Waldemar Malicki (piano) rec. 1999 ACTE PRÉALABLE APO019-21 [3 CDs]

The seven string quartets of Grażyna Bacewicz are intellectually rewarding and emotionally (and stylistically) diverse. They chart the development of a fascinating musical mind. This recording gives us the chance to hear two rarely performed early quartets, plus the five mature works. The women of the Amar Corde Quartet obviously love and respect this music, and play it with a winning commitment; they are wholly persuasive advocates for a still underrated composer.

John Quinn

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Complete Piano Sonatas Craig Sheppard rec. live 2003/4 ROMÉO RECORDS 7233/41 [9 CDs]

In a year that brought many outstanding releases this is my personal Recording of the Year. These discs capture a series of live recitals in which Craig Sheppard played the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, with a couple of minor exceptions, in chronological order of composition.This deserves to be ranked among the very best cycles on disc It's a carefully considered, satisfying and deeply musical traversal of the sonatas. There are significant gains to be captured through hearing an artist explore these wide ranging and very varied works in chronological order and I feel that I have a greater grasp of the scale of Beethoven’s achievement as a result. I urge collectors who take Beethoven’s piano music seriously to take this Journey with Craig Sheppard for themselves.


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Bach Cantata Pilgrimage - Volume 26: Cantatas for Whit Sunday & Monday Lisa Larsson, Nathalie Stutzmann, Monteverdi Ch/English Baroque Soloists/Sir John Eliot Gardiner rec. 2000 SOLI DEO GLORIA SDG121

I decided to limit my choice to recordings I'd reviewed as those are the releases to which I've listened most carefully during the year. This has resulted in a shortlist dominated by choral and vocal discs. The recordings made on John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage in 2000 are now being issued on CD and are most welcome To judge from the releases to date this seems set fair to become one of the finest ever cantata cycles on disc. This pair of discs, which will serve as representative of all those issued to date, contains some splendid accounts of Whitsun cantatas recorded in Long Melford church, Suffolk. The very high standards of performance, presentation and recorded sound that were set in earlier releases have been maintained These committed and excellent Bach performances have given me enormous pleasure.


Songs by Schubert’s Friends and Contemporaries Susan Gritton, Stella Doufexis, Ann Murray, Mark Padmore, Gerald Finley, Graham Johnson rec. 2001/4 HYPERION CDJ33051/3 [3 CDs]

A fascinating supplement to Hyperion's wonderful complete edition of Schubert's lieder. Pianist Graham Johnson, the presiding genius behind the whole Schubert Edition, has assembled a wide-ranging programme of lieder here, adroitly mixing items by well known composers and others by composers who are long-forgotten. Johnson and his team of singers delight with a succession of fine performances while Johnson's erudite but eminently readable notes are an education in themselves. An absolutely first class set that offers rewarding and stimulating listening. It's an indispensible purchase for lovers of romantic lieder.


Francis POTT (b. 1957) Meditations and Remembrances Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin/Judy Martin rec. 2005 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD080

A fine sequence of choral and organ music by Francis Pott, built round his a cappella Mass in Five Parts. Expertly performed, the music is the product of a composer who clearly has something to say and who writes in a stimulatingly contemporary but accessible style. Though the music is often not overtly emotional, as you hear it you feel it is, nonetheless, written from the heart.The performances are splendid. The choir has been excellently trained by Judy Martin and they sing with precision, tonal beauty and complete conviction. The sound quality is first rate, as is the documentation. I hope this recording will win a still wider audience for the music of Francis Pott.


Macmillan and his British Contemporaries: Twentieth Century Masters Volume 2 Choir of New College Oxford/Edward Higginbottom rec. 2004 AVIE AV2085

This is the second CD in a short series by the Choir of New College Oxford under the expert guidance of their long-serving Director of Music, Edward Higginbottom.As well as offerings from James MacMillan, who is consistently one of the most interesting composers currently before the public, there are fine pieces by Julian Anderson, Francis Grier, Jonathan Dove and others. There's some marvellous and highly effective music on this disc, all performed with tremendous skill and commitment. This is one of the finest choral discs to have come my way for some time and I rejoice to find clear evidence that so much high quality music is being written for liturgical use by British composers of today.


Lighten our Darkness: Music for the Close of Day Cambridge Singers/John Rutter rec. 2006 COLLEGIUM COLCD131

This beautiful set contains a selection of a cappella liturgical music associated with the end of the day together with the full service of Compline as presented in the 1928 revision of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. John Rutter and his Cambridge Singers offer singing that is is superb from start to finish, mixing radiance and clarity to perfection. This is a lovingly performed and deeply satisfying pair of discs that should be self-recommending to all lovers of the music of the English church.

Donald Satz

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Cantatas for Alto Marianne Beate Kielland, Cologne Bach Ch & CO/Helmut Müller-Brühl rec. 2004 NAXOS 8.557621

Exceptional modern instruments performances in an historically informed manner characterized by crisp attacks, minimal vibrato, buoyant rhythms and glowing warmth. Alto Marianne Beate Kielland’s dark-hued and husky voice is a lovely and highly expressive contribution.


Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837) Piano Quartet, Piano Trios, Cello Sonata The Music Collection rec. 2002/3 NAXOS 8.557694

Wonderfully intimate period instrument performances of four of Hummel’s charming chamber works. The Music Collection fully captures the poignancy of the mature Cello Sonata as well as the youthful exuberance of the remaining works.


Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Fantasiestücke, Papillons, Symphonic Etudes Friedrich Gulda, Ingrid Haebler, Nikita Malakoff rec. August 1959-84 PHILIPS ELOQUENCE 470 6662

Stunning interpretations of three of Schumann’s most rewarding solo piano compositions. Friedrich Gulda’s aggressive performance of the Fantasiestücke might raise a few eyebrows, but it is entirely idiomatic of Schumann’s alter-ego Florestan. Overall, one of the most compelling Schumann discs on the market.

Paul Serotsky

Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006) The Return of Odysseus Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974) Suite Française Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Toward the Unknown Region Scottish Opera O/Graham Taylor rec. 2005 DIVINE ART 25035

My review's prediction, along with many others, was disastrously wide of the mark. The minuscule compensation, that at least Sir Malcolm heard and enjoyed this CD, throws into stark relief the appalling neglect of his music at the "highest" level. Odysseus demonstrates that Arnold was the equal of Mozart when it came to finely-crafted, ingenious music that belied his personal circumstances. A truly lusty performance by the enthusiastic Glasgow forces is the icing on this very considerable cake.


Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) The Five Piano Concertos Oleg Marshev, South Jutland SO/Niklas Willén rec. 2001 DANACORD DACOCD584/5

My excuse for sneaking this one in is that (a) my review was tardy and (b) so was the issue! Despite its fraught provenance, both the recording and the performances more than hold their own against even the legendary Ashkenazy/Previn cycle. Ever mindful of the music, Marshev dares to be different. Where many find mostly modernity and machinery, he revels in the rumbustious and plucks the playfulness out of Prokofiev's musical top-hat. What's more, the orchestra backs him up to the hilt. This is as refreshing
as ice-cold fizzy lemonade on a hot summer's day.

Christopher Thomas

Elliott CARTER (b. 1908) A Labyrinth of Time IDEALE AUDIENCE INTERNATIONAL DVD9DS17

It is absolutely fitting that the life of a composer as extraordinary as Elliott Carter should be celebrated in film and director Frank Scheffer has produced a beautiful piece of work that takes us on a journey from Carter’s Sunday afternoon meetings with “Mr Ives” to his recent collaborations with the likes of Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez. It is the composer himself that provides the narrative thread through the film and it is a commentary that is an unmitigated delight from start to finish. Musical illustrations never descend into technical analysis and are often overlaid with entertaining conversations between Carter and the performers whilst Scheffer’s thoughtful direction and atmospheric camera work make for a compelling filmic portrait.


Julian ANDERSON (b. 1967) Khorovod, The Stations of The Sun, The Crazed Moon, Alhambra Fantasy, Diptych BBC SO, London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen rec. 2000/1 ONDINE ODE 1012-2

It is astonishing that for a composer whose impact on the British new music scene has been as striking as Julian Anderson’s that we have had to wait so long for the first CD dedicated to his music. And then, in the manner of the good old London bus cliché, two arrive almost simultaneously. Unfortunately for NMC they just missed out on being first, pipped to the post by Finnish label Ondine and a fine survey of five major works from the early orchestral Diptych of 1990 to the ensemble piece Alhambra Fantasy of 2000. The breathtakingly virtuosic Khorovod gets proceedings off to an exhilarating start with all five recordings being expertly handled by Oliver Knussen who directs the BBC Symphony Orchestra and London Sinfonietta.


Andrzej PANUFNIK (1914-1991) Sinfonia Mistica, Sinfonia di Sfere London SO/David Atherton rec. 1978 EXPLORE EXP0014

With its initial batch of releases drawn from the Decca back catalogue, Explore is a new label that promises much from the archives in the coming year. That same initial batch included several recordings that more than deserve their place back in the catalogue, including Roberto Gerhard’s The Plague in a compelling performance by Antal Dorati and the National Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Washington D.C. For me though the Gerhard just loses out to Andrzej Panufnik and these two authoritative recordings of his Sinfonia Mistica and Sinfonia di Sfere under David Atherton. The recordings retain every bit of the vitality that marked them out back in the late 1970s and make a strong case for an adopted “British” composer whose music is still heard all too rarely in the concert hall.

Johan van Veen

Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725) Cantatas Elisabeth Scholl, Modo Antiquo/Federico Maria Sardelli rec. 2004 cpo 777 141-2

This disc is a very impressive demonstration of the art of Alessandro Scarlatti. In these splendid cantatas the composer demonstrates his ability to characterise the protagonists with musical means and to depict the text according to the rules of rhetoric and with masterful use of the 'affetti'. The performances by Elisabeth Scholl and Modo Antiquo are exemplary.


Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Concerti per vari strumenti Orchestra Barocca Zefiro/Alfredo Bernardini rec. 2004 NAÏVE OP30409

This recording is an eye-opener for everyone who may think he knows Vivaldi after having heard a handful of pieces. It shows all the colours of Vivaldi's rainbow oeuvre. And it is difficult to imagine a more colourful, bold and technically brilliant performance than Zefiro offers here.


Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672) Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi Weser-Renaissance/ Manfred Cordes rec. 2004 cpo 777027-2

Impressive and idiomatic performances of one of Schütz's masterpieces and some fine sacred concertos for Easter. Hans-Jörg Mammel gives an excellent delivery of the Easter story, and the viols support him with great sensitivity. We find here a perfect balance between objectivity and emotion. The parts of the soliloquents and the tutti are performed to the same high standard.


Sebastian BODINUS (c1700-c1760) Divertissements Camerata Köln rec. 2003 cpo 999945-2

These pieces by the unknown German composer Sebastian Bodinus turn out to be real treasures. This is excellent music, and the scoring with viola and horn in some of the sonatas quite unusual. Camerata Köln delivers very lively and sensitive interpretations, which show a deep understanding of the character of German instrumental music of the 18th century.


Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674) Dialogo del Gigante Golia (oratorios) Musica Fiata/Roland Wilson rec. 2003 cpo 999983-2

This disc brings together four completely unknown oratorios, three of which have only recently been rediscovered by Roland Wilson. They are a very interesting and musically enthralling addition to the catalogue. The performances vary from good to outstanding. In particular the bass Harry van der Kamp is brilliant.


Benedetto MARCELLO (1687-1762) Sonate per Flauto e Basso Il Rossignolo rec. 2003 TACTUS TC683802

Il Rossignol and its recorder player, Martino Noferi, give very dramatic and gestural accounts of the first six sonatas of Marcello's opus 2. Noferi often goes to the limits of the dynamic possibilities of the recorder. And his colleagues give excellent support with an imaginative realisation of the basso continuo part, and also show a very good sense of rhythm. The recorder sonatas are interspersed with pieces for keyboard, which get excellent performances from Ottaviano Tenerani on a beautiful Italian harpsichord.

Raymond Walker


Jacques OFFENBACH (1825-1892) Ballade symphonique, La Vie Parisienne, Les Bergers, La Périchole, Sur un volcan, overture, Orphée aux Enfers, Ba-ta-Clan, Barbe-Bleue, Les Souvenirs d’Aix-les-Baines Orchestre National de Montpellier/Jean-Christophe Keck rec. 2005 ACCORD 4768999

This CD is unusual in that it gives us some of the previously lost/amended material that was used by Offenbach for the original productions of the famous operettas. Two overtures have never been heard before and have been researched for this performance. The orchestra is of a high standard and the recording is excellent.


Michael BALFE (1808-1870) The Maid of Artois Kay Jordan, Stephen Anthony Brown, Victorian Opera Ch & O/Philip Mackenzie rec. 2005 CAMPION CAMEO 2042/3 [2 CDs]

This premiere recording is important since their has been only one previous work to judge the music of Balfe on (The Bohemian Girl). Much research to put the band parts into a playable state was required and the material has been amplified with inclusion of the ballet and additional numbers. The orchestral playing is good and the work contains lush melodies fresh to the ear.


Edward GERMAN (1862-1936) Symphony 1, Hamlet, The Tempter, Romeo & Juliet, Willow Somg BBC Concert O/John Wilson rec. 2005 DUTTON CDLX7156

This premiere recording exposes a forgotten English composer who has been unjustly neglected. The works are interesting and recorded in a nice ambience.

 

Patrick Waller


Franz SCHUBERT
(1797-1828)
The Complete Songs various singers/ Graham Johnson HYPERION CDS44201-40 [40 CDs]

A remarkable project, masterminded by pianist Graham Johnson over 18 years, this would be a record of the year in any year.


Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) The Complete Keyboard Sonatas Scott Ross (harpsichord) rec. 1984-5 WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62092-2 [34 CDs]

A re-issue but, in bargain slimline format, for most collectors this will have been first realistic opportunity to acquire all these varied works. Since Ross made these recordings two decades ago others have followed but the set as a whole is unlikely ever to be surpassed.


Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959) Bachianas Brasileiras - complete Nashville SO/Kenneth Schermerhorn rec. 2004/5 NAXOS 8.557460-62 [3 CDs]

Conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn died before this recording could be completed. His Nashville musicians played superbly making this an obvious choice in the repertoire irrespective of the bargain price tag.


John 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

A follow-up to a previous disc of Fould's music, this is just as successful. Oramo and the CBSO are on great form and Peter Donohoe excels in the Dynamic Triptych.


Bo LINDE (1933-1970) Violin Concerto, Cello Concerto Karen Gomyo (violin) Maria Kliegel (cello) Gävle SO/Petter Sundkvist rec. 2003/4 NAXOS 8.557855

Two highly accessible concertos with hidden depths by a hardly known composer who died young. The cello concerto most impressed me initially but the violin concerto is perhaps just as fine.


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphonies 2 & 6 London SO/Bernard Haitink rec. live 2005 LSO LIVE LSO 0582

I shall not be ejecting Klemperer, Böhm or Cluytens in the Pastoral
Symphony but Haitink's readings of both these works has amazing freshness.

 

Julie Williams 


Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b. 1931) The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair, Sieben Worte Sharon Bezaly (flute); Torleif Thedéen (cello); Mie Miki (accordion) Gothenburg SO/Mario Venzago rec. 2004/5 BIS SACD-1449

For those with a serious interest in Gubaidulina and her contemporaries this is a must.


Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No. 7 San Francisco SO/Michael Tilson Thomas rec. live 2005 SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY 821936-0009-2




Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk Nadine Secunde, Christopher Ventris, Anatoli Kotcherga, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona SO & Ch/Alexander Anissimov rec. live 2002 EMI CLASSICS 5997309

 

 


Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) String Quartet in C ('Quartettsatz') Five Minuets and Trios, D89, String Quartet No. 14 ('Death and the Maiden') Maggini Quartet rec. live, 1993/4 RESONANCE CDRSN3036

I would re-iterate that this is a lively and exciting performance of a stirring work, and a disc I have found most enjoyable.


George CRUMB (b. 1929) Songs, Drones, and Refrains of Death Ensemble New Art/Fuat Kent rec. 2004 NAXOS 8.559290

A mesmerising and beautiful effect, with a glistening resonance of sound. Not entirely straightforward to grasp but grows on the listener with repetition. Quite fascinating

 

Jonathan Woolf


Lionel Tertis – The Complete Vocalion Recordings (1919-1924) Lionel Tertis (viola) Albert Sammons (violin) rec. 1919-24 BIDDULPH 80219-2 [4 CDs]

Biddulph has restored all Tertis’s commercial recordings to the catalogues with two four-disc sets, both released this year. The Columbia electrics made for a fine set in their own right but I plump for the Vocalion acoustics as they’ve been shamefully treated over the years, the vast bulk never before having been reissued. I was not quite so happy with the transfers but in the face of so much magnificent playing – including the exalted Sammons on many tracks – this is a must-have for the historically minded.


Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Violin Concerto and works by Valen, Shostakovich, Prokofiev etc Camilla Wicks (violin) Stockholm Radio SO/Sixten Ehrling rec. 1949-52 BIDDULPH 80218-2

Repitched and sounded splendid Biddulph once again features in my list with this tribute to Camilla Wicks. Hers is a performance of freely expressive emotion but the wisest architectural surety; and the collaboration with Sixten Ehrling ensures one of the most recommendable versions of the Sibelius ever recorded. With Valen’s pocket concerto and previously unissued sides this is a feast of Wicks.


Joseph-Guy ROPARTZ (1864-1955) String Quartets 2 & 3 Quatuor Stanislas rec. 2004 TIMPANI 1C1099

Let’s celebrate Timpani, a smaller label that does dashing things. The first volume of their projected Ropartz quartet cycle has been released and it’s a winner. He fuses lyricism and insouciant rhythmic swing; he can be reflective and he can be cool, and he can be dynamic, swinging across movements in an active compositional arc. The playing is entirely sympathetic and understanding with no little flair. Roll on that cycle.


Mstislav Rostropovich Edition - Historic Russian Archives rec. 1960-72 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92771 [10 CDs]

Ten CDs in this Brilliant box for much less than an evening out. Which would you rather enjoy – a trip to a dud musical or the chance to hear (and forever keep) Rostropovich in just about every concerto you ever wanted to hear? Weinberg, Knipper, Vlasov, Miaskovsky with Kondrashin… and I haven’t even mentioned the sonatas. Performance and duplication worries? What, at this price?


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