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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 INTERNATIONAL
Recordings Of The Year 2007

Reviewers are allowed a totally free choice. They are not restricted to discs they had reviewed.
Click on cover image to read a full review.

Part 2: Reviewers M-Z  (Part 1)

Dan Morgan

Alexander Tikhonovich GRECHANINOV (1864-1956) Passion Week Phoenix Bach Choir, Kansas City Chorale/Charles Bruffy rec. 2004 CHANDOS CHSA5044

This is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful discs I’ve heard this year – or any other, for that matter. These choirs sound wonderfully dark toned and Chandos provide them with a rich and resonant recording to match. In both its CD and SACD forms this is a very special disc indeed, but the extra range, detail and ‘air’ of the latter add even more atmosphere to an already fine performance.


Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony 2 Juliane Banse (soprano) Anna Larsson (contralto) Schweizer Kammerchor, Tonhalle O Zurich/David Zinman rec. 2006 BMG-RCA 82876 87157 2

  This ‘Resurrection’, the second in Zinman’s projected Mahler cycle, is far and away the most rewarding so far. There is a sure sense of the Mahlerian idiom – not to mention the work’s structure – and the orchestra, soloists and chorus are all in radiant form. Despite a few misgivings about pacing in the Ländler, this remains a powerful performance and one of the most overwhelming I have heard in a long time. RCA has also done a splendid job with the Super Audio recording – the music expands naturally in the great climaxes, yet all those ear-catching instrumental details are revealed as well. Definitely a cycle to watch.
Seascapes Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) La Mer Zhou LONG (b. 1953)
The Deep, Deep Sea Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) The Sea Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936) La Mer Sharon Bezaly (alto flute/piccolo) Gulnara Mashurova (harp) Jonathan Fox (timpani) Singapore SO/Lan Shui rec. 2004/5 BIS SACD1447


BIS have a knack for unusual programming and this disc of sea-inspired pieces is a delight from start to finish. The Singapore band may not be one of the big names but under Lan Shui they respond magnificently to all the colour and nuance of the Debussy and play with plenty of brio and bite in the Bridge. Both performances are as good as any in the catalogue and the soloists are superbly caught by the BIS engineers. This is Super Audio at its very best, a real demonstration disc.
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) An Alpine Symphony Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Kent Nagano rec. 2006 ARTHAUS MUSIK 101 437
 
Although not a great fan of filmed concerts I was utterly seduced by this multi-award-winning DVD. There are some unusual camera angles and visual conceits but the whole production is so well edited and choreographed that the music isn’t compromised at all. Nagano proves as persuasive an interpreter of this score as any; he also secures fabulously rich and full-blooded playing from his Berlin band. The sound (in its PCM form at least) is exemplary, one of the best DVD audio tracks I’ve heard in years.
Knut NYSTEDT (b. 1915) Choral works Bærum Vokalensemble Ensemble 96/Øystein Fevang rec. 2004 2L 29SACD

A real find, a cappella singing on a par with that of the American choirs in the Grechaninov. This is austerely beautiful music, but although it is contemporary it is no sense dry or ‘difficult’. There is remarkable vocal precision but there is also warmth and soul aplenty, especially in Nystedt’s deeply moving setting of the Salve Regina. Another atmospheric Super Audio recording that sounds just as enticing in its Red Book format. Unaccompanied singing doesn’t come much better than this.
Scott JOPLIN (1868-1917) Piano Rags Volume 2 Benjamin Loeb rec. 2005 NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559277

This last spot was the most difficult to fill, given the number of excellent CDs from Naxos and other more specialised labels. That said, when it comes to sheer unalloyed pleasure the Joplin is an easy winner. For those reared on performances by Joshua Rifkin and others this collection will come as a real surprise. Whether animated or inward, Loeb makes these pieces sound entirely convincing in matters or speed and articulation. For their part Naxos provide a clear, natural acoustic, which makes for an enchanting disc all round. More, please.
Margarida Mota-Bull
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835) Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) Arias for Rubini Juan Diego Flórez (tenor), Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Roberto Abbado, rec. 2006 DECCA 4759079
 
Well known composers but less known gems; a wonderful choice of arias written for or sung by Giovanni Battista Rubini (1794-1854), one of the greatest tenors of the bel canto era. Juan Diego Flórez is fabulous and exceeds in this tribute to the great man, effortlessly taking his voice to stratospheric heights, displaying a flawless technique, amazing beauty and crystal clear sound in a fiendishly difficult repertoire. At present, no other tenor can sing it and only Flórez would dare trying. It is not to be missed and a unique dazzling listening experience.

Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Symphonies 88-92, Sinfonia concertante Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle, rec. live 2007 EMI CLASSICS 3942372
 
The “Wow!” factor or in this particular case the “Wow!” sound is present throughout the recording. It is truly wonderful to listen to the Berliner Philharmoniker play Haydn. Sir Simon Rattle’s and the orchestra’s interpretation is excellent, beautifully paced and articulated.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Symphonies Vol. 5 Danish Radio Sinfonietta/Adam Fischer rec. 2006 DACAPO 6.220540
 
Wonderful, different and on the whole excellent performances, very energetic and beautiful in tone. A fresh approach to well known long established works.


Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Cello Concerto Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Serenade 1 Natalia Gutman, Mahler CO/Claudio Abbado rec. 2006 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 476 5786
 
An unusual pairing of works but very welcome indeed; two different composers who of course knew each other well. Excellent performance by Natalia Gutman who gives this often neglected work by Schumann a less dark interpretation than most, as it should really be the case. Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra are in great form here and deliver a performance of quality and sensibility.
Anne Ozorio
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony 8 Chor der Deutschen Staatsoper Berlin; Rundfunkchor Berlin; Aurelius Sängerknaben Calw; Staatskapelle Berlin/Pierre Boulez rec. 2007 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4776597

Altogether, this truly amazing performance and recording can be recommended to anyone who wants to get closer to Mahler, and to the very spirit of artistic creativity. I’m proud to say that, after all these years, Boulez has made me realize how much there is still to be learned about Mahler, and why performers get so much out of his music.
Tim Perry
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Double Concerto, Clarinet Quintet Renaud Capuçon, Paul Meyer, Gautier Capuçon/Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester/Myung-Whun Chung, Capuçon Quartet rec. 2007 VIRGIN CLASSICS 3951472

The brothers Capuçon are a force of nature. Their new account of the Brahms Double Concerto radiates a gripping intensity matched by no other in the catalogue. The unusual and generous coupling is every bit as committed, with Paul Meyer bringing his glorious tone to the clarinet quintet. No matter how many recordings of these pieces you have in your collection, you need to buy this disc. It is one of the essential purchases of 2007.

Supremacy International Staff Band of the Salvation Army SP&S CD24838

I have no hesitation recommending this album as an example of premium brass playing in excellent repertoire. Brass lovers of all persuasions will find much to savour here. Believers – and not just Salvationists, I might add – will find something extra to move and inspire them.

Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937) Symphony 3, Bacchus et Ariane Royal Scottish Ntl O/Stéphane Denève rec. 2006 NAXOS 8.570245

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra has a dynamic new chief conductor in Stéphane Denève. Under his direction the orchestra produces Roussel playing of boundless energy without sacrificing the elegance of these scores. The symphony is impressive here, the ballet even more so. This disc launches a new cycle of Roussel's orchestral works for Naxos. I can't wait for the next instalment.

Sir Arnold BAX (1883-1953) Symphony 6, Irish Landscape, Rogue’s Comedy Overture, Overture to Adventure, Overture: Work in Progress New PO/Norman Del Mar, Royal PO/Vernon Handley rec. 1966-94 LYRITA SRCD.296

Norman Del Mar's legendary recording of Bax's 6th symphony is the reissue of the year. Subsequent accounts from Lloyd-Jones and Handley have impressed, but none has projected the power of this score with such coherence, concentration and attention to detail. Lyrita's luxurious sonics sound better than ever, and the fillers from Handley are consistently fine.

Hugo ALFVÉN (1872-1960) Symphony 5, Andante religioso Norrköping SO/Niklas Willén rec. 2004/5 NAXOS 8.557612

Stunning playing, excellent recorded sound, taut direction and a big juicy romantic score. One of the year's most addictive discs.


Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Complete Works for Solo Piano Vol. 4: Sonatas 12-15 Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano) rec. 2005 BIS SACD1473

As with BIS's other ongoing Beethoven cycle - Vanska's journey through the symphonies - I find myself looking forward ever more eagerly to each new instalment of Brautigam's sonata cycle. His uncluttered playing and knack for bringing out inner voices on his fabulous fortepiano make his accounts consistently illuminating. This fourth volume features excellent performances of the two Op.27 sonatas in particular, and a Pastoral that ranks with the most delightful on disc.
Glyn Pursglove
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Griselda Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Philippe Jaroussky, Ensemble Mattheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi rec. 2005 NAÏVE OP30419

An opera from Vivaldi’s musical maturity, played and sung with brilliance, precision and energy. There’s more psychological depth than the opera seria of this period always offers and – less surprisingly – some stunning arias. There isn’t a point of weakness in the casting or in the orchestral playing. Jean-Christophe Spinosi is a wonderful Vivaldi conductor and this is one of his very best recordings. It all benefits from a crystal-clear recorded sound and from intelligent and helpful documentation. If you haven’t yet caught the Vivaldi opera bug – be warned, this might very well infect you!
Santiago de MURCIA (1682-1732) La Guitarra Española William Carter (baroque guitar) rec. 2006 LINN CKD288

This is as enjoyable a disc of the guitar music of the Spanish baroque as one might ever reasonably hope to hear. The music draws on, and fuses, a variety of traditions:  the guitar idioms embodied in the work of Francisco Guerau and Gaspar Sanz and the work of important foreign composers, such as Corbetta and Corelli. Underlying much of it is a response to the popular dance music of Spain and its colonies. William Carter’s playing is seductive and scholarly in equal measure.

Alberto GINASTERA (1916-1983) Complete Piano and Organ Music Fernando Viani (piano, organ) rec. 2006 NAXOS 8.557911-12

The sense of the dance, and the actual rhythms of the dance, are rarely far away on this splendid set of Ginastera’s keyboard music. The music has energy and passion, a simultaneous area of the ‘primitive’ and the sophisticated. The performances by Fernando Viani are intelligent, perceptive and technically assured and it is particularly rewarding to hear all this music communicated in terms of the vision of a single artist. It makes a fascinating study in musical development.

Luigi CHERUBINI (1760-1842) Coronation Mass Philharmonia Ch & O/Riccardo Muti rec. 1985 EMI CLASSICS 49302

Hearing this superb recording and it is easy to understand the admiration of this composer expressed, at various times, by such as Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and even Berlioz. The Mass, indeed, is a kind of apotheosis of ceremonial music; it is positively monumental. Yet it is also genuinely moving and is far from merely pompous or rhetorical. The music is quite startlingly beautiful in places – as in the Credo, whether at the exquisite setting of “Crucifixus etiam pro nobis” or the brass-fuelled blast of triumph at “Et resurrexit tertia dia”.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) The Rise of the North Italian Violin Concerto Volume 2 Adrian Chandler (violin, director), Mhairi Lawson (soprano), La Serenissima rec. 2007 AVIE AV2128

Adrian Chandler and La Serenissima play with the kind of energy, verve and colour we have come to associate with the very best of contemporary Italian baroque ensembles, and with a similar degree of apt inventiveness. The music is played very much from within, clearly the work of musicians utterly at home with Vivaldi but who never allow that familiarity to lapse into mere routine. The slow movements are consistently lovely, played with winning eloquence and sensitivity, the quicker movements are characterful, subtly various in tempo and dynamics.
John Quinn
Peter LIEBERSON (b. 1946) Neruda Songs Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Boston SO/James Levine rec. 2005 NONESUCH 79954-2

This set of five songs was written by the American composer, Peter Lieberson, for his wife, the late and much-missed mezzo soprano, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. This recording, taken from live performances, was made shortly before her death. Rarely have I encountered singing that is so vivid and committed. The songs are exceptionally eloquent and well crafted – worthy in every way of the singer they celebrate. In a year that brought a number of very fine issues I have no hesitation in choosing this as my Recording of the Year.
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Bach Cantata Pilgrimage: Volume 7 The Monteverdi Choir/English Baroque Soloists/Sir John Eliot Gardiner rec. 2000 SOLI DEI GLORIA SDG124

Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s splendid and ongoing series of Bach cantatas continues to stimulate and delight in equal measure. This set is the pick of the 2007 crop, especially the cantatas for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels on the second disc. All of these cantatas are superb and receive vivid performances but the set is particularly notable for the stunning account of Es erhub sich ein Streit, BWV 19.This is a most exciting cantata but what makes this a desert island choice for me is the seraphic aria ‘Bleibt, ihr engel, bleibt bei mir.' This receives a spellbinding performance from James Gilchrist, which alone is enough to make this disc a mandatory purchase.

Francis POTT (b. 1957) The Cloud of Unknowing James Gilchrist (tenor) Jeremy Filsell (organ) Vasari Singers/Jeremy Backhouse rec. 2007 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD105

This is a recording that I have been impatient to hear for some time. I believe that this eloquent new piece is a work of great importance and one that not only stands firmly in the proud tradition of English choral music but that also carries that tradition forward and enriches it. It’s a hugely compelling work, which I find very convincing. It was written for the performers who have made this recording. James Gilchrist sings with burning conviction, as do the Vasari Singers. The virtuoso organ part is played by Jeremy Filsell in a manner that is beyond praise. A superb and thought provoking issue.

Sir Hubert PARRY (1848-1918) Ode on the Nativity Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) The Mystic Trumpeter Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) The Sons of Light London PO/Sir David Willcocks, London SO/David Atherton rec. 1980 LYRITA SRCD.270

The stream of Lyrita CDs in 2007 has brought many riches and I could have chosen any one of several discs. In the end, I’ve opted for this disc, since it contains the only available recording of a masterpiece by Parry. For years I’ve been longing for this recording to appear on CD and had almost given up hope. The other pieces on the disc give great pleasure but, above all, the emergence from the vaults of this fine performance of Parry’s scandalously neglected work is, for me, a cause for great rejoicing.

Morten LAURIDSEN (b. 1943) Mid-Winter Songs, Les Chansons des roses, Nocturnes Polyphony/Stephen Layton rec. 2006 HYPERION CDA67580

This is Polyphony’s second CD of music by Morten Lauridesen and it’s superb in every way. The music is sometimes deceptively simple in design but Lauridsen always communicates very directly with the listener. The singing of Polyphony is absolutely first rate and Stephen Layton’s direction is assured and authoritative. Since the composer was present at these sessions – and took part in some of the performances – I think we can presume that this marvellous disc carries his imprimatur. 

Willem Van Otterloo and Residentie Orkest - The Original Recordings 1950-1960 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72142

This extremely valuable set, issued to mark the centenary of the conductor’s birth, which fell this year, was something of a revelation. Van Otterloo’s star has faded somewhat since his death in 1978. However, on the evidence of these discs he was a significant conductor and he proves to be a reliable and often illuminating guide to a wide range of music, including quite a bit of unfamiliar fare. The set is splendidly documented and is a worthy tribute.
Donald Satz

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Goldberg Variations Simone Dinnerstein (piano) rec. 2005 TELARC CD80692

The most interesting recording of the Goldberg Variations I have heard in the past few years. Combining trance-like interpretations with a tremendous virtuosity always at the service of Bach's music, Dinnerstein consistently surprises the listener with highly individualized performances. Best of all, she extensively uses rhythmic hesitations that are usually the province of harpsichordists. A disc not to be missed by Bach enthusiasts.


Nikolai MEDTNER (1880-1951) Works for violin and piano Laurence Kayaleh, Paul Stewart rec. 2006 NAXOS 8.570298

A stunning disc that reveals Medtner as an emotionally-charged composer, quite distant from the prevalent opinion that his music is of neutral disposition. The Violin Sonata "Epica" is one of the masterpieces of 20th Century Russian chamber music, while the much earlier Nocturnes possess abundant poignancy. Although I generally do not favor arrangements, the Heifetz is a gorgeous transcription of one of Medtner's most beautiful piano miniatures. Performances and sonics are first-class.
Alexander GRECHANINOV (1864-1956) Passion Week Phoenix Bach Choir, Kansas City Chorale/Charles Bruffy rec. 2004 CHANDOS CHSA5044

Absolutely sublime and gorgeous a capella music served up in sonic perfection. The performers do full justice to the Passion Week, displaying expert teamwork with expressive and tonally alluring singing. Even those not generally attracted to a capella works will be captivated.
Christopher Thomas
Judith BINGHAM (b. 1952) Salt in the Blood, The Darkness Is No Darkness, First Light, The Snows Descend, The Secret Garden Thomas Trotter (organ), Fine Arts Brass, BBC SCh/Stephen Jackson rec. 2004/5 NAXOS 8.570346

It might have been a long time in coming but 2007 has at long last brought a disc dedicated entirely to the music of Judith Bingham. Although her output is wide ranging Bingham has carved a tremendous reputation in the field of choral music and it is therefore entirely appropriate that this fine Naxos disc celebrates her considerable contribution to the genre.

Elizabeth MACONCHY (1907-1994) Proud Thames, Symphony, Serenata Concertante, Music for Strings Manoug Parikian (violin) London PO, London SO/Vernon Handley, Barry Wordsworth rec. 1970-79 LYRITA SRCD.288

2007 has been notable for the long awaited return of many revered Lyrita recordings to the catalogue and this is one of the most vital and welcome of them all. With the exception of her String Quartets Maconchy’s music remains scandalously under represented on disc and it is to be hoped that these committed readings, recorded with typical Lyrita presence, might just encourage further exploration of her substantial output by other record companies.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Hodie, Fantasia on Christmas Carols Stephen Gadd (baritone) Guildford Choral Soc, Royal PO/Hilary Davan Wetton rec. 2007 NAXOS 8.570439

Another Naxos recording and one that is so recent a review only appeared on Musicweb after writing this comment. The Christmas Cantata Hodie was a result of the wonderful period of creativity that VW saw in his twilight years and although Richard Hickox’s recording of the work on EMI is tremendously rich in choral and orchestral sound this new recording under the direction of Hilary Davan Wetton possesses both vitality and a touching sense of innocence in the passages for children’s choir. In true Naxos fashion it’s also great value for money.
Johan van Veen
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707) Eine Lübecker Abendmusik La Capella Ducale, Musica Fiata Köln/Roland Wilson rec. 2006 CPO 777 318-2

This disc gives some idea of the repertoire Buxtehude performed during the 'Abendmusiken' in the Marienkirche in Lübeck when he was the organist there. It shows the variety of forms of the compositions usually referred to as 'cantatas'. This is a brilliant and moving interpretation by La Capella Ducale and Musica Fiata. In fact, in my view this is the best recording of Buxtehude's sacred music ever made.
Gottfried August HOMILIUS (1714-1785) Passion cantata Basler Madrigalisten, Neue Düsseldorfer Hofmusik/Fritz Näf rec. 2006 CARUS 83.262

The first recording ever of this splendid Passion oratorio by Gottfried August Homilius, one of Germany's best composers of sacred music of the era between baroque and classicism. Homilius effectively translates the text into music, and there is much variety in the scoring. It is given an outstanding interpretation by soloists, choir and orchestra. A very important addition to the repertoire for Passiontide.

Pascal DE L'ESTOCART (1539?-after 1587): Deux coeurs aimants Ludus Modalis/Bruno Boterf rec. 2006 RAMÉE RAM 0703

L'Estocart was a composer of the French renaissance, who was leaning towards the ideas of the Reformation. This disc brings sacred music by L'Estocart: motets on Latin texts and 'chansons spirituelles' on French texts. This music is first-rate, and the efforts of the ensemble to perform this repertoire as 'historically correct' as possible has definitely paid off. The result is a disc of wonderful music in outstanding performances.

Johannes SCHENCK (1660-c1720) Il Giardino Armonico - Trio Sonatas La Suave Melodia/Pieter Dirksen rec. 2005 ET'CETERA KTC1356

Johannes Schenck was a Dutch composer born from German parents who had settled in Amsterdam. The largest part of his oeuvre was written for his own instrument, the viola da gamba. This collection of trio sonatas for two violins and bc was assumed to be lost, but was recently rediscovered by Pieter Dirksen, who gives an outstanding interpretation of these pieces with his ensemble La Suave Melodia. Although these trio sonatas are modelled after Corelli's, Schenck shows an independent mind in the structuring of these works and the variety of 'affetti'.

The Oxford Psalms Charivari Agréable/Kah-Ming Ng rec. 2006 SIGNUM SIGCD093

This disc contains compositions of Psalm texts, some of them metrical, by English composers of the mid-17th century. Most of them were in some way or another connected to Oxford. This is basically sacred music for domestic use, which is largely neglected today. This repertoire also shows Italian influences, much more than one would expect in English music of this time. The Psalms are sung here in true declamatory style, but without exaggeration. This disc is of historical importance and of great musical value.

Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784) Sonatas & Trios Camerata Köln rec. 2003 CPO 777 086-2

Wilhelm Friedemann is one of the most original composers of the mid-18th century in Germany. He had a personality which is best characterised with the terms 'unpredictable' and 'individual', and that is reflected in his music. That includes the compositions on this disc, two of which have been recently rediscovered. Camerata Köln plays them exceptionally well, and the many twists and turns of Wilhelm Friedemann's music come out very clearly.
Raymond Walker
William STERNDALE BENNETT (1816-1875) Overtures, Symphony London PO, Philharmonia O/Nicholas Braithwaite rec. early 1990s? LYRITA SRCD.206

Little has been known of WSB's music until this series came out. This romantic music is utterly delightful.


Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895) Die Schöne Galathée Jörg Dürmüller, Marianne Beate Killand, Capella Coloniensis/Bruno Weil rec. 2005 CAPRICCIO 60134

A work little recorded until this excellent performance under Bruno Weil.
Patrick Waller
Peter LIEBERSON (b. 1946) Neruda Songs Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Boston SO/James Levine rec. 2005 NONESUCH 79954-2

One of the most moving discs you’ll ever hear – enough said.



Sir Granville BANTOCK (1868–1946) Omar Khayyám Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Toby Spence, Roderick Williams, BBC S Ch & O/Vernon Handley CHANDOS CHSA5051(3)

Put off by a few cuts? Get a life and just get listening to this. A big bravo to Chandos and all concerned.


Francis George SCOTT (1880-1958) Moonstruck (songs) Lisa Milne (soprano), Roderick Williams (baritone), Iain Burnside (piano) rec. 2006 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD096

F.G. who? Get Moonstruck and find out. One of the best things to come out of Scotland since whisky.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) The Golden Age - complete ballet Royal Scottish Ntl O/José Serebrier rec. 2006 NAXOS 8.570217-18

This arrived just too late to be in last year’s picks but I have played it as much as anything. If you’ve only heard the suite before, there’s a treat in store.


Hugo ALFVÉN (1872-1960) Symphony 5, Andante religioso Norrköping SO/Niklas Willén rec. 2004/5 NAXOS 8.557612

Concluding a bargain-priced series on a high point, this is a recording that puts to rest the notion that Alfvén shouldn’t have bothered with his final symphonic struggle.


George LLOYD (1913-1998) Symphonies 4, 5 & 8 Philharmonia O/Edward Downes rec. 1982-84 LYRITA SRCD.2258

A re-issue but it was impossible not to choose something from Lyrita and this is the release I have enjoyed most. A warm welcome back to recordings that put these works – and indeed the composer – on the map.

Julie Williams 

Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) Sir Patrick Spens, Hymnus Paradisi James Gilchrist, The Bach Choir, Bournemouth SO/David Hill rec. 2006 NAXOS 8.570352

This disc features a good local orchestra and is recorded near where I live, so it's not surprising that I'm championing it ! It also features excellent singers and ones whose performances I particularly enjoy.

Judith BINGHAM (b. 1952) Salt in the Blood, The Darkness Is No Darkness, First Light, The Snows Descend, The Secret Garden Thomas Trotter (organ), Fine Arts Brass, BBC SCh/Stephen Jackson rec. 2004/5 NAXOS 8.570346

This is a long-overdue collection of an interesting composer's work, at the usual Budget price. It is further evidence of Naxos' commendably broadening repertoire.

Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937) Violin Concertos 1 & 2, Nocturne and Tarantella Ilya Kaler (violin) Warsaw PO/Antoni Wit rec. 2006 NAXOS 8.557981

My comments above about the Naxos label are supported by further evidence here. Excellent playing of works which deserve better recognition, which have come to my attention following the interest in Polish composers which my work on the Gorecki article has stimulated.
Brian Wilson
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643) Madrigals (Book VIII) Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini rec. 1997-2005 NAÏVE/OPUS111 OP30435

As I have not completed a full year on Musicweb, my first choice is ‘borrowed’ from GPu, whose comment that “this is the best complete set [of Book VIII] that I know” I thoroughly endorse. Good value, too, at mid-price. Watch out for reissues by this team in Naïve’s new Baroque Voices reissue series.
Sir Malcom ARNOLD (1921-2006) Complete Symphonies Ntl SO Ireland/Andrew Penny NAXOS 8.505221

I originally intended to ‘borrow’ MC’s endorsement of Arnold’s Wind Chamber Music, also on Naxos. This set presents a tougher view of Arnold – some of the later symphonies make demanding listening – and it’s a reissue of a reissue but none the worse for that. Strongly recommended to anyone wishing to explore a major, under-rated, twentieth-century composer.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) String Quintet Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Divertimento Aeolian String Quartet, Bruno Schreker rec. 1966-7 REGIS RRC1278

I could (and should) have been more fulsome in welcoming this old friend back to the catalogue at bargain price: the Schubert receives one of the best performances that I know and the sound is much improved on the Saga original. The Mozart makes an attractive filler.

Grandes Pièces Symphoniques Ian Tracey (Liverpoool Anglican Cathedral Organ) rec. 2006 CHANDOS CHSA5056

The Widor Toccata here is not the famous one, but all the music is excellent, as are the performances and recording. A wonderful introduction to French organ music and equally recommendable to those already converted.

Thomas TALLIS (1505-1585) A Portrait Chapelle du Roi/Alistair Dixon rec. 1996-2002 PORTRAIT CLASSICS PCL2101

If you haven’t got all the nine original Signum CDs from which this is taken, go out and buy this bargain-price distillation of the music of an English composer who can stand comparison with the best of his continental contemporaries. During the process of writing this, I have learned that Brilliant Classics are due to reissue the whole collection.

The Garden of Zephirus Gothic Voices/Christopher Page HYPERION HELIOS CDH55289

My last choice stands proxy for all the excellent Helios reissues which have come my way this year, particularly all the wonderful recordings made by Gothic Voices. I’m just about to review their Music for the Lion-hearted King and I look forward with anticipation to the whole of the Spirits of England and France series being reissued.

Jonathan Woolf

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Violin Concerto, En Saga Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Coriolan Overture Georg Kulenkampff (violin)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Wilhelm Furtwängler rec. 1942/3 MELODIYA MELCD 10 01109


The Melodiya reissue programme gave us a large number of Furtwängler discs, none remotely new to the catalogue, and some - long discredited as the work of others - brazenly still claiming to be by WF. Let's focus instead on the dramatic live Sibelius Concerto with Kulenkampff. This is one to set beside your early Ignatius, Wicks, Neveu and Heifetz recordings. Kulenkampff and Furtwängler blaze away from beginning to end.
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) String Quartets 11-15 Beethoven String Quartet rec. Moscow 1969-75 MELODIYA MELCD 10 00862/63

Authority and expression are two hallmarks of these performances which, like the Kulenkampff-Furtwängler Sibelius, are well known and newly re-issued by Melodiya. The Beethoven's playing of No.15 in particular is a miracle of perception.

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) Great Pianists - Alfred Cortot: Volume 5
Ballades & Nocturnes
rec. 1947-51 NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111245


This, the fifth volume, marked the end of the Cortot-Chopin series on Naxos. If I referred to his playing of the F Minor Ballade as "a panorama of intensity" then that pretty much goes for everything here. Lyricism and tensile strength are ingredients served up in these most attractive transfers.
George BUTTERWORTH (1885-1916) Two English Idylls, The Banks of Green Willow, A ‘Shropshire Lad’ Rhapsody Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930) An Old Song Patrick HADLEY (1899-1973) One Morning in Spring Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) Procession, Merry-eye, Elegy, Music for a Prince London PO, New PO/Sir Adrian Boult rec. 1970-79 LYRITA SRCD.245

I have a shrewd hunch that Lyrita resissues will figure strongly in more than one critic's basket this year. Here's mine, chosen from a number of equally worthy candidates. The architectural assurance, spellbinding playing and still devastatingly magnificent recording mean that Boult and Butterworth (and Warlock, Hadley and Howells) gets my vote.
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Heroes Philippe Jaroussky (counter-tenor) Ensemble Matheus/Jean-Christophe Spinosi rec. 2006 VIRGIN CLASSICS 3634142

Spot the odd man out. My only new choice. Jaroussky wields his very feminine counter tenor with fluidity, grace and technical brilliance, taking Vivaldi's divisions with a rapier like incision. Dramatic and expressive singing.  



 


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