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January 2009

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Felix Mendelssohn - His Life and Music by Neil Wenborn (inc. 2 CDs) NAXOS BOOKS ISBN 978-1-84379-232-1; £13 [RW]

An ideal companion for a music student or audiophile ... see Full Review

The Rest is Noise...Listening to the Twentieth Century, by Alex Ross.
Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2007. ISBN-10: 0-374-24939-3; ISBN-13: 978-0-374-24939-7. 543 pages plus preface, notes, acknowledgement, suggested listening, index. 21 B/W photographs. 6-1/3 inches by 9-1/8 inches. USD 30.00 CND 34.50.

A candy bar for musicologists ... see Full Review

Sibelius by Andrew Barnett. Yale University Press, New Haven and London. 2007. ISBN 978-0-300-11159-0. 445 pages including appendices, index, catalogue of works, an appendix of musical examples mostly from relatively unknown works, and 18 B&W photographs. RRP: USD40, GBP25. [PSh]

Exhaustively complete, acutely perceptive, a real page turner ... see Full Review

The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music 2009 by Ivan March, Edward Greenfield, Robert Layton and Paul Czajkowski Paperback: 1602 pages Publisher: Penguin £30.00 (or less)



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FRIDAY January 30th

 Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano Sonatas 14, 17, 30 & 31  Heinrich Neuhaus (piano) rec. Moscow 1946-50  RUSSIAN COMPACT DISC  RCD16245 [66:50] [JW]

Utmost probity and moving control ... see Full Review

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphony 1, Double Concerto  Willi Boskovsky (violin) Emanuel Brabec (cello) Concertgebouw O, Vienna PO/Wilhelm Furtwängler rec. live, 1950/2  IDIS 6554 [79:38] [JW]

A worthwhile pairing but transfers bettered elsewhere ... see Full Review

Benjamin BRITTEN (19 13-1976) Violin Concerto William WALTON (1902-1983) Viola Concerto  Maxim Vengerov (violin, viola) London SO/Mstislav Rostropovich rec. 2002  EMI CLASSICS 2285252 [64:29] [BBr]

Do you really want to buy this disk simply for the Walton? ... see Full Review

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) Piano Concertos 1 & 2 Arthur Rubinstein, Los Angeles PO/Alfred Wallenstein, NBC SO/William Steinberg rec. 1946/53  NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111296 [66:58] [JW]

Poetic finesse from the placid waters of the studio ... see Full Review

 Jacqueline FONTYN (b. 19 30) On a Landscape by Turner, Au fil des siècles, L'Anneau de Jade, Quatre Sites  Janácek PO/David Porcelijn rec. 2006  CYBELE 860.601  [59:19] [HC]

Does justice to Fontyn's complex but rewarding music ... see Full Review

Dimitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987) Symphonies 1-4  NDR & Hungarian Radio Ch, NDR Radiophilharmonie/Eiji Oue rec. 2001/2  CPO 999 833-2 [45:12 + 60:19] [RB]

Captures with fervent fidelity the flaming intensity of vintage Soviet performances ... see Full Review

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Alborada del gracioso, Rhapsodie espagnole, Bolero Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Prélude à l'Aprés-midi d'un faune, Iberia  Munich PO/Sergiu Celibidache rec. live 1994  IDEALE AUDIENCE 3077968  [101:00] [CH]

Very late Celibidache - approach with caution. ... see Full Review

Alec ROWLEY (1892-1958) Piano concerto Christian DARNTON (1905-1981) Piano concerto Roberto GERHARD (1896-1970) Piano concerto Howard FERGUSON (1908-1999) Piano concerto  Peter Donohoe (piano, conductor) Northern Sinfonia rec. 2003  NAXOS 8.557290 [78:12] [CH]

The Gerhard is a masterpiece but the disc gives us plenty to think about ... see Full Review

Kaija SAARIAHO (b. 1952) Notes on Light, Orion, Mirage  Karita Mattila (soprano) Anssi Karttunen (cello) O de Paris/Christoph Eschenbach rec. live, 2008  ONDINE ODE1130-2 [63:06] [HC]

Refined, subtle and often quite beautiful ... see Full Review

American Trios Ellen Taaffe ZWI LLICH (b. 1939) Piano Trio Leon KIRCHNER (b. 1919) Piano Trio, Piano Trio II Mason BATES (b. 1977) String Band  Paul SCHOENFELD (b. 1947) Café Music  Claremont Trio rec. 2008  TRIA RECORDS no catalogue number [75:07] [BBr]

A very attractive and interesting programme ... see Full Review


THURSDAY January 29th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Cembalo Concertos  Francesco Cera (harpsichord) I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis rec. 2005/8  ARTS 47729-8  [68:15] [JV]

Much noise, little expression - there is no reason to recommend this disc ... see Full Review

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Piano Concertos 1 & 2, Intermezzos, Six Piano Pieces  Wilhelm Backhaus (piano) Vienna PO/Karl Böhm rec. 1953-67  DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 0800 [67:04 + 68:42] [CH]

Seekers after Brahms cannot ignore Backhaus ... see Full Review

Nicolas CHÉDEVILLE (1705-1792) Le Printems ou Les Saisons Amusantes  Les Eclairs de Musique rec. 2001 ARTS 476698  [54:15] [JV]

Perfect musical entertainment … instrumental colour and imaginative performances ... see Full Review

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) Piano Concertos 1 & 2  Vassily Primakov (piano) Odense SO/Paul Mann rec. 2008  BRIDGE 9278 [75:04] [MM]

Extraordinary power and beauty ... see Full Review

Carson COOMAN (b. 1982) Songs  Amanda Forsythe (soprano), Jeffrey Grossman (piano) rec. 2008  ALBANY TROY1053 [72:33] [BBr]  

Nothing to make me want to hear it ever again ... see Full Review

Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988) Orchestral Works Volume 1 Symphony for Strings, Organ Concerto, Concerto for String Orchestra  John Scott (organ) BBC Ntl O Wales/Richard Hickox rec. 2006 CHANDOS CHAN10461 [74:34] [RB]  

This is an attractive disc and extremely well recorded and presented ... see Full Review

Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919) Complete Chamber Songs  Barbara Meszáros (soprano), Hector Sandoval (tenor), Luis Ledesma (baritone) Umberto Finazzi (piano) rec. 2007  DYNAMIC CDS570/1-2 [68:47 + 72:32] [CH]  

The repertoire is worth conserving, but a mixed bunch of singers ... see Full Review

Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931) Aladdin  Mette Ejsing (contralto); Guido Paevatalu (baritone) Danish Ntl Chamber Ch, Danish Ntl SO/Gennady Rozhdestvensky rec. 1992  CHANDOS CHAN10498X [79:36] [RB]  

Packed deep with characteristic touches - no Nielsen enthusiast can be without it ... see Full Review

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Symphony 9 Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle rec. 2005  EMI CLASSICS 2285332 [57.43] [GH]

A journey after which life can never be quite the same again ... see Full Review

Kazimierz SEROCKI (1922-1981) Romantic Concerto Tadeusz BAIRD (1928-1981) Piano Concerto Jan KRENZ (b. 1926) Piano concertino  Adam Wodnicki (piano) Polish Ntl RSO/Tadeusz Wojciechowski, Jerzy Swoboda rec. 1999-2001  DUX 0651 [64:27] [RB]  

Excitingly recorded … should appeal to the adventurous ... see Full Review

WEDNESDAY January 28th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Bach Cantata Pilgrimage - Volume 5 Cantatas for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, Cantatas for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity Joanne Lunn (soprano); Daniel Taylor (alto); Christoph Genz (tenor); Gotthold Schwarz (bass) The Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/Sir John Eliot Gardiner. rec. 2000 SOLI DEO GLORIA SDG 147 [53:10 + 65:36]   [JQ]

Another distinguished and stimulating issue in this important series ... see Full Review

Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918) Mefistofele - opera in a Prologue, Four Acts and Epilogue (1868) Mefistofele - Ferrucio Furlanetto (bass); Faust - Giuseppe Filianoti (tenor); Margherita and Helen of Troy - Dimitra Theodossiou (soprano); Marta - Sonia Zaramella (mezzo); Pantalis - Monica Minarelli (mezzo) Chorus, Orchestra and Corps de Ballet of Teatro Massimo, Palermo, Sicily/Stefano Ranzani rec. 2008 DYNAMIC DVD 33581 [2 DVDs: 144:00] [RF]

This production does justice to Boito’s operatic mélange ... see Full Review

Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963) Das Marienleben Op.27 (1948 version) [71:05] Elisabeth Meyer-Topsøe (soprano) Per Salo (piano) rec. 2006 Includes texts DANACORD DACOCD 670 [71:05] [JW]

A powerfully expressive performance ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Tilo MEDEK (1940-2006) Organ Works Wandlungs-Passacaglia (2001) [5:09] B-a-c-h, Vier Töne für Orgel (1973) [7:44] Verschüttete Bauernflöte (1969) [11:22] Quatemberfeste für Orgel (1989) [29:16] Gebrochene Flügel (1975) [7:42] Rückäufige Passacaglia (1979) [11:02] Martin Schmeding (organ) rec. 25-27 March 2008, Evang. Aufstehungskirche, Düsseldorf-Oberkassel. CYBELE SACD 060.801 [72:21]   [DC]

Some of the most unearthly musical sounds I have ever heard ... see Full Review

Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) Éclairs sur l'Au-Delá... (1988-92) Wiener Philharmoniker/Ingo Metzmacher rec. 2008 KAIROS MUSIC 0012742KAI [67:00] [DM]

C’est vraiment parfait! A deeply satisfying performance ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Giacinto SCELSI (1905-1988) Preludi, Serie I-IV: Serie I [21:05]; Serie II [17:49]; Serie III [18:40]; Serie IV [13:46] Alessandra Ammara (piano) rec. 30 September – 1 October 2008, Chiesa di S. Apollinaire, Monticello de Lonigo, Vicenza, Italy ARTS 47721-8  [73 :10] [DC]

Enigmatic, fascinating, and a technically outstanding achievement all round. ... see Full Review

Cæli Porta: ‘Gateway of heaven and star of the sea’ 17thC Sacred Music form Lisbon and Granada Choir of the Queen’s College, Oxford/Owen Rees Carlotte Philips (organ) rec. 2007/8, DDD. Booklet with texts and translations. GUILD GMCD7323 [60:32] [BW]

Attractive performances of strikingly beautiful music ... see Full Review

Placido Domingo in Concert - Placido Grandissimo Placido Domingo (tenor), Julia Migenes (soprano), Guadalupe Sanchez (soprano), Ernesto Bitetti (guitar), National Symphonic Orchestra of Spain /Eugene Kohn/Manuel Alejandro rec. live 1992, Includes Video Special: Composer Documentary CASCADE 82002 [DVD: c.60:00  + Video Extra c.35:00] [CH]

Essentially a television event. Once through will be enough ... see Full Review

Gundula Janowitz in Concert George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759) Giulio Cesare: Overture [5:00]; Da tempeste il legno infranto [8:08] Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Don Giovanni: Crudele?... Non mi dir [7:23] Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826) Der Freischütz: Wie nahte mir der Schlummer… Leise, leise [8:18] Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) I Vespri Siciliani: Overture [8:27] Attila: Santo di Patria… Allor che i forti [6:37] Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Tosca: Vissi d’arte [3:30] Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Tannhauser: Dich, teure halle [6:14] Gundula Janowitz (soprano) Graz Philharmonic Orchestra/Berislav Klobucar rec. live, in concert, Stefaniensaal, Graz, 1970 Region Code 0, Aspect Ration 4:3, Mono only VAI 4458 [RMo]

I’d be willing to stay up all night to hear her ... see Full Review

Prague, L’âge d’or baroque Josef Ferdinand Norbert SEGER (1716-82) Prelude and Fugue in C [5:19] Fantasia and Fugue in d minor [8:50] Johann Caspar Ferdinand FISCHER (1665-1746) Aria [12:59] Josef SEGER Prelude and Fugue in c minor [4:53] Johann Kaspar KERLL (1627-93) Canzona III in d minor [3:40] Passacaglia in d minor [7:00] Josef SEGER Toccata and Fugue in d minor [4:22] Fugue in b minor [2:24] Toccata and Fugue Pastorale [4:32] Gottlieb Theophil MUFFAT (1690-1770) Aria sub Elevatione [6:23] Karel Blažej KOPřIVA (1756-85) Fugue in d minor supra cognomen DEBEFE [3:18] Pavel Kohout (organ of Our Lady of Týn, Prague, Hans Heinrich Mundt, 1673) rec. Our Lady of Týn, Prague, Czech Republic, 19-21 September 2007.  DDD.
Booklet with notes in French, English and Czech, including complete organ specification and registration for each work. EDITIONS HORTUS 053 [63:47] [BW]

The organ music of Seger, well played and recorded here, is a real discovery ... see Full Review


TUESDAY January 27th

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Fidelio Arnold Schoenberg Choir; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Simon Rattle rec. 2003 EMI CLASSICS GEMINI 2176302 [65:58 + 44:17][ST]

Deeply disappointing ... see Full Review

Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929–1988) Orchestral Works – Vol. 2 BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox rec. 2007 CHANDOS CHAN10495 [57:28][RB]

Sincere and undemonstrative music not lacking grandeur ... see Full Review

Magnus LINDBERG (b.1958) Sculpture; Campana in aria; Concerto for Orchestra Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo rec. 2006-8 ONDINE ODE11242 [64:10][HC]

I enjoyed this very fine release enormously ... see Full Review

Ljubica MARIĆ (1909-2003) Byzantine Concerto; Threshold of Dream; Ostinato super thema Octoïcha; Songs of Space Radio-Television Belgrade Chamber Orchestra/Oskar Danon rec. 1964-77 CHANDOS HISTORICAL CHAN10267H [69:12][RB] 

Unfailingly imaginative ... see Full Review

Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959) Sinfonietta La Jolla; Toccata e due canzoni; Concerto Grosso Josef Hála (piano); Prague Chamber Orchestra/Ondřej Kukal rec. 1997 SUPRAPHON SU39582 [59:29][RB]

Glorious Martinů ... see Full Review

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Early Piano Sonatas Zeynep Ucbasaran (piano) rec. 2008 EROICA JDT3403 [61:27 + 56:19][CH]

Mozart speaking without interference … you should be well pleased ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Complete Works for Cello and Orchestra Johannes Moser (cello); Radio Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR/Fabrice Bollon rec. 2007 HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD93.222 [69:16][MC]

A fruitful emotional encounter with Saint-Saëns ... see Full Review

Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741) Violin Concertos Daniel Hope (violin); Chamber Orchestra of Europe rec. 2008 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4777463 [57.44][RH]

An interesting dialogue between modern ways and period practice … see Full Review

Marilyn Horne – A Profile rec. 1994 EMI CLASSICS 2165819 [50.35 + bonus 25.23][RJF]

Insight into the career of one of the century’s greatest opera singers ... see Full Review

Mary and Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey: ‘Sisters in Hope of the Resurrection’ The Choir of Westminster Abbey/James O’Donnell rec. 2008 HYPERION CDA67704 [66:42][BW] 

A fine recording – a first-class introduction to Tudor music ... see Full Review


MONDAY January 26th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Solo Cantatas for Alto James Bowman (counter-tenor); The King’s Consort/Robert King rec. 1988 HYPERION HELIOS CDH55312 [59:03][JFL] 

A voice, not the most tender, beautiful in many ways, but tinged with artifice ... see Full Review

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano Sonatas Nos. 30-32 (Vol. VIII) András Schiff (piano) rec. 2007 ECM NEW SERIES 1949 4766192 [64:42][DC]

Warning: may render your current versions redundant ... see Full Review

Georges BIZET (1838-1875) Symphony in C; L’Arlésienne Suites Nos. 1 & 2 Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Children’s Corner Suite Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra rec. 1949-52 CALA CACD0548 [78:15][CH]

For those who will exchange modern sound for the magic of a great interpreter ... see Full Review

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Piano Concerto No. 2 Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Piano Concerto No. 1 Arthur Rubinstein (piano); London Symphony Orchestra/Albert Coates, John Barbirolli rec. 1919-32 NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111271 [71:12][CH]

Difficult to look the other way when Rubinstein is playing ... see Full Review

Joseph HOLBROOKE (1878-1958) Violin Sonata No. 3 Sir Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941) Violin Sonata No. 2 Cyril ROOTHAM (1875-1938) Violin Sonata Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960) Sonatina for cello and piano Jacqueline Roche (violin); Robert Stevenson (piano) rec. 2008 DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7219 [63:00][RB]

A fine conspectus of neglected British violin sonatas ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No. 4 Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jonathan Nott rec. 2006 TUDOR 7151 [55:29][TB] 

Makes a strong impression ... see Full Review

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Joseph MARX (1882-1964) Orchestral Songs and Choral Works Christine Brewer (soprano); BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Jiří Bělohlávek rec. 2008 CHANDOS CHAN10505 [71:33][RB]

A seething aureate blaze. Wonderful stuff ... see Full Review

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Vier letzte Lieder etc. Heather Harper (soprano); London Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox rec. 1986-7 EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2283742 [63:11][DM] 

A thrilling Straussfest. Not to be missed ... see Full Review

Richard WAGNER (1813–1883) Tristan und Isolde Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau/Golo Berg rec. 2007 ARTHAUS MUSIC 101325 [2 DVDs: 224:00][GF]

A very likeable performance ... see Full Review

The Voice in the Garden: Spanish Songs and Motets, 1480-1550 Gothic Voices/Christopher Page rec. 1993 HYPERION HELIOS CDH55298 [52:08][BW] 

Pretty well irresistible ... see Full Review


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