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Decca Phase 4
MusicWeb Reviewer’s Log: May/June 2007
EMI’s Beethoven Collector’s
Edition – a box of 50 CDs – was a pleasant task but it
occupied my listening almost exclusively for a whole month.
I was just perusing a list of new
releases for June and see that there is competition on
the way in the form of a complete Beethoven edition (87 CDs
for £70 from Cascade) and a 60 CD selection of major works
from Sony for only £32. The latter seems mainly to derive
from US sources – presumably the old CBS catalogue – and
the former claims to contain quite a few new recordings with
nothing earlier than 1987. From the information available
it is hard to guess which of these three will be the most
did manage to get out a couple of times to musical events.
First, I heard an excellent performance of Shostakovich’s Leningrad symphony
given by the Southampton
Concert Orchestra. Reading up about the work beforehand
I came across a Pelican book called The
Symphony dating from 1967 and edited by Robert Simpson.
In the chapter on Shostakovich Robert Layton wrote that he
had not been able to trace a public performance of the work
since the war but it has certainly been rehabilitated since
second trip was to the 20th birthday celebration
of Naxos which was held on a boat on the Thames in central
London in late May. Also there from MusicWeb were
Len Mullenger, Bill
Kenny, Anne Ozorio and Robert Hugill.
There were quite a few well-known people present and I was
fortunate to meet Christopher Nupen,
José Serebrier and Klaus Heymann.
The latter gave a brief speech saying that 2006 had been
the most profitable year yet for Naxos. Afterwards he was
presented with a medal by the British Strauss society recognising
the Marco Polo recordings of the complete works of Johann Strauss II (on 52 CDs). Naxos
has done so much to facilitate access to the music of many
less well-known composers and I found it heartening that
it is possible for them to make a profit at all selling as
they do mostly at bargain price. Probably it is a case of
a few big sellers subsidising the more obscure but, nevertheless,
it is a good model for music lovers.
a month goes by without me hearing something new and interesting
from Naxos. The Fifth Symphony of Alfvén has
for me been the pick of recent releases with wonderfully
committed playing from the Norrkøping Symphony
Orchestra under Niklas Willén.
As heard here this is a much more interesting work than one
would expect from its reputation. At the same time these
forces recorded some of Alfvén’s film music – music
of less substance but delightful and often reminiscent of
Vigil. Also from Scandinavia, I found a disc from pianist
Håvard Gimse worth while – the
main focus being on the little known Klaus Egge – his
second piano concerto and first sonata form the backbone
of the programme.
the most riveting “new” CD I have heard recently is Smetana’s Ma Vlast performed
by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under Václav Talich in
1954. This is now available on Naxos Historical (8.111237) – if
you are lucky enough to live in those parts of the world
in which copyright expires after 50 years. No doubt this
will be reviewed on MusicWeb soon.
The transfer by Mark Obert-Thorn is very fine indeed and he has also transferred
equally superb performances of Dvořák’s Seventh and Eighth symphonies from the
same forces dating from the 1930s. These sound good too although
in the case of the Seventh the same performance is also available
from Pristine Classical.
The sound there uses their latest “XR” technique and is quite
different – much less hiss but perhaps a little less presence
Polo discs seem to be available quite cheaply at the moment
although many may ultimately be re-issued at bargain price.
Two that I picked up virtually for the price of one are the
Second Symphony of Joly Braga Santos and
the Fifth and Twelth Symphonies
of Janis Ivanovs (8.223332).
I am going to be going back for more having discovered the
music of Australian composer Alfred Hill in the Naxos
Music Library. Just added is a disc of his first three
quartets (8.570491), the first of which sounds very reminiscent
of Dvořák. Another recent
addition I enjoyed very much was the final release in the
notable Chandos father and son Berkeley edition.
As Tony Haywood’s says in his review, Michael’s Concerto
for Orchestra Seascape,
dating from 2005 makes a big impression.
Naxos discs that were not well-received on MusicWeb were
the Fifth symphony of Alla Pavlova (composed
in 2005-6) and various works by Holst performed
by the English Sinfonia under Howard
Griffiths. The gripes were primarily about the music in the
case of the Pavlova and the performances for the Holst. I
enjoyed both these discs more than the reviewers, particularly
the Pavlova. In the case of the Holst, Jonathan Woolf found
the composer’s daughter’s performances on Lyrita
much more desirable but I haven’t heard that. Indeed I have
only heard two of the recent crop of Lyrita issues and have
some catching up to do. These were a disc of British
Horn Concertos expertly played by David Pyatt and
a collection of orchestral Finzi mainly
conducted by Sir Adrian Boult.
Both lived up to high prior expectations and the former,
just released for the first time, was a Recording of the
Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto collection has reached Volume
42, heading for Scandinavia with works by Alnæs and Sinding played by Piers Lane.
An enjoyable disc, it is the former composer – a name I had
not heard of before – whose work makes the bigger impression
here. Two other Scandinavian composers whose music I have
been seeking out recently are Kurt Atterberg and Gösta Nystroem.
There is an excellent Atterberg symphony series on CPO and
couplings of the First and First
and Fourth and Third and
Sixth have not disappointed. Finding a copy of Nystroem’s Sinfonia del Mare took some patience but was worth
on CPO I should mention the five symphonies of Humphrey Searle – these
powerful atonal works come on two discs which are now available
together in a reasonably priced package. The Searle website on MusicWeb is
also full of interest, particularly as it includes the composer’s
memoirs. These works featured on Radio 3 recently alongside
an interview with Searle’s widow and hopefully interest in
them is reviving.
recently read in print two rave reviews of Sir Colin Davis’s
recent LSO Live disc of Sibelius’s 2nd symphony (LSO0105), one of which
suggested it might become a record of the year. But listening
to it was, for me, something of a disappointment. There are
some great moments no doubt but overall I was less impressed
by it than by the 1950s Anthony
Collins recording, for all the difference in sound quality.
And finally, a pair of discs which I have been meaning to
hear for years and picked up very cheaply in London recently – Mravinsky’s famous
1960 Leningrad Philharmonic recordings of Tchaikovsky’s last
three symphonies (DG 477 5911). These are hardly late night
I put the Fourth symphony on at 10.15 one evening and didn’t/couldn’t
stop till I had heard all three works. Now that was some
music-making and recorded in the studio too!
Patrick C Waller
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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