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Friday January 15th

York BOWEN (1884-1961) Piano works - Nicolas Namoradze (piano) rec. 2019 HYPERION CDA68303 [66:21] [JF] A most welcome release.

Nicola LeFANU (b. 1947) The Crimson Bird & other orchestral works - BBC SO/Norman Del Mar, Ilan Volkov, RTÉ Ntl SO/Colman Pearce rec. 1973-2017 NMC D255 [76:28] [SSi] I hope that this excellent disc is just the first of a series dedicated to exploring the music of Nicola LeFanu.

Franz LISZT (1811-1886]) Schwanengesang, Quatre Valses oubliées - Can Çakmur (piano) rec. 2020 BIS BIS2530 SACD [80:12] [MZ] The young pianist Can Çakmur makes a vivid impression with thoughtful performances of Liszt obscurities, beautifully recorded.

Alexander MOSOLOV (1900-1973) Symphony No 5, Harp Concerto - Taylor Ann Fleshmann (harp) Moscow SO/Arthur Arnold rec. 2019 NAXOS 8.574102 [68.55] [PCG] The symphony may not provide much interest, but the concerto is a fine work.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Winterreise - Asambura Ensemble rec. 2019 DECURIO 004 [77:29] [CSe] A high water-mark of German Romanticism is subsumed within a Persian deluge - the result is strange, disorientating and transformative.

Edward SMALDONE (b. 1956) Once and Again - Brno PO Strings/Mikel Toms rec. 2013-2019 NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS FCR258 [67:14] [RP] Works with structural integrity, aural brilliance and rhythmic vitality.

Magical Russia Duo Natalia rec. 2019 ARS PRODUKTION ARS38571 [77:02] [RCh] Intonation problems mean that this is not a disc I shall be returning to.

Mahler’s Forgotten Conductor Heinz Unger and His Search for Jewish Meaning 1895-1965 by Hernan Tesler-Mabé publ. 2020 University of Toronto Press [SG] A worthy tribute to a long-forgotten conductor and devoted Mahlerite, whose evangelistic zeal did much to promulgate the composer's music.

Isaac Stern (violin) Live Vol. 2 - Pinchas Zukerman (violin) Leonard Bernstein (piano) Concertgebouw Orchestra/Bernard Haitink rec. February 1953-68 DOREMI DHR-8128-29 [79:37 +79:19] [JW] Enough good things to tempt even the Sternist sated by the vast Sony box.

Verklärte Nacht Works by Lehar, Schoenberg, Fried & Korngold - Stuart Skelton (tenor) Christine Rice (mezzo) BBC SO/Edward Gardner rec. 2020 CHANDOS SACD CHSA5243 [63:36] [RWe] Recommended both for the excellent performances and valuable programme.

Thursday January 14th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Keyboard Works - Jill Crossland (piano) rec. 2003 DIVERSIONS DDV24169 [75:18] [JF] A satisfying and commanding performance.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Violin Concerto Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Symphony No. 4 - Zino Francescatti (violin), National Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti rec. 1965/72 ANTAL DORÁTI LIVE ADL 228 [77:34] [JW] The Vaughan Williams is the better performance of this somewhat odd coupling.

Ed BENNETT (b. 1975) Psychedelia - RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/David Brophy rec 2013-20 NMC D257 [78:13] [RHa] Yet more invigorating fare from Ireland; Bennett’s music oscillates seamlessly between the febrile and the subtle.

Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899) Concerto, String Quartet - Philharmonia Chamber Players, Gabriele Pieranunzi (violin), Jin Ju (piano) rec. 2018 AULICUS ALC0029 [73:76] [RMo] These two works could hardly be given better advocacy.

Armand-Louis COUPERIN (1727-1789) Pièces de clavecin - Christophe Rousset (harpsichord) rec. 2017 APARTÉ AP236 [49:41+51:06] [SSi] Christophe Rousset and the instrument showcase Armand-Louis Couperin’s music.

Francis POULENC (1899-1963) & Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997) Chamber Music - Sarah Rumer (flute) Joël Marosi (cello) Ulrich Koella (piano) rec. 2015 PROSPERO PROSP0006 [74:34] [SG] Blithe, sunny and imbued with charm and wit.

Anton Bruckner: Eleven Symphonies by William Carragan publ. 2020 Bruckner Society of America [SB] An authoritative work on the different versions of the Bruckner symphonies. 

Buried Alive Works by Honegger, Mitropoulos & Schoeck - Michael Nagy (baritone), The Bard Festival Chorale, The Orchestra NOW/Leon Botstein rec. 2019 BRIDGE 9540 [78:43] [NB] A disc that enhances the reputations of all involved.

Duende Music by Granados, Albéniz, Debussy, Ravel and Falla - Teo Gheorghiu (piano) rec. 2020 CLAVES RECORDS CD3021 [65:31] [RCh] A sunny recital vividly brought to life.

Per la Notte di Natale Italian Christmas Concertos - Concerto Copenhagen/Lars Ulrik Mortensen rec. 2020 NAXOS 8.574264 [48:17] [JV] The quality of the performances more than compensates for the lack of adventure and the short playing time.

Wednesday January 13th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2 - Borbála Dobozy (harpsichord) rec. 2018 BMC CD 293 [2 CDs: 74:42 + 76:51] [DC] Up with the best for Bach’s WTC Book 2 on harpsichord.

Gayané CHEBOTARYAN (1918-1998) Arno BABADJANIAN (1921-1983) & Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992) Piano trios - Trio de L’Île rec. 2020 DIVINE ART DDA25211 [54:53] [DJB] Absolutely outstanding – previous favourites are swept aside.

Stéfan ELMAS (1862-1937) Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2 -Tasmanian SO/Howard Shelley (piano) rec. 2019 HYPERION CDA68319 [73:55] [EJW] A fine addition to the Hyperion’s series of concerto recordings.

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957) Piano Trio, String Sextet - Spectrum Arts Berlin rec. 2019 NAXOS 8.574008 [65:20] [NB] Prodigious music played with passionate intensity.

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Also sprach Zarathustra, Tod und Verklärung, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche - San Francisco SO/Herbert Blomstedt rec. 1994-1995 Presto CD DECCA 448 815-2 [72:24] [RMo] A disappointment given the pedigree of the conductor and orchestra.

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - Georg Zeppenfeld, Vitalij Kowaljow, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann rec. 2019 PROFIL EDITION PH20059 [4 CDs: 274:20] [ST] This set left me feeling rather flat in comparison with the other bounty on offer elsewhere.

Andrès Segovia and his Contemporaries - Vol 13 After Tárrega: The Guitar in Spain - Part 1 rec. 1927-30 DOREMI DHR-8079 [75:43] [ZT] For those interested in hearing obscure guitarists from the guitar’s recording infancy, this CD is a worthwhile investment.

Murray Perahia (piano) Works by Schubert & Brahms - Radu Lupu, Sir George Solti (piano) Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) Amadeus String Qt rec. 1980-2010 SONY 194397883527 [8 CDs: 519:10] [SSi] A most welcome set which exemplifies Murray Perahia as an interpreter of Schubert and Brahms.

Puer Natus Est Christmas Day Mass from Buckfast Abbey - Matthew Searles (organ) Ch Buckfast Abbey/Philip Arkwright rec. 2020 AD FONTES AF005 [68:05] [MR] An atmospheric and beautifully-presented recording of a Christmas Mass.

Tame Cat and Other Songs by British Composers - Sylvia Eaves (soprano) Courtney Kenny (piano) Thea King (clarinet) rec. 1982 CAMEO CLASSICS CC9128 [46:43] [JW] A cannily selected programme.

Tuesday January 12th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Cello Suites - David Watkin (cello) rec. 2013 RESONUS RES10146 [68:19 + 76:42] [RMo] This recording presents period practice at its best.

Johannes de CLEVE (1528/29-1582) Missa Rex Babylonis Jacobus VAET (c1529-1567) Rex Babylonis - Cinquecento rec. 2019 HYPERION CDA68241 [71:06] [JV] Superb performances.

Talivaldis KENINŠ (1919-2008) Violin Concerto, Concerto for Five Percussionists, Beatae voces tenebrae - Eva Bindere (violin) Perpetuum Ritmico (percussion ensemble) Latvian National Symphony Orchestra/Andris Poga rec. 2020 SKANI LMIC088 [54:37] [HC] Very fine works in assured performances.

Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Don Quichotte - Gábor Bretz, David Stout, Wiener Symphoniker/Daniel Cohen rec. 2019 C MAJOR Blu-ray 754104 [125 mins] [MP] Excellent casting and playing are the high spots of an enjoyable staging that doesn’t quite capture the full mood of Massenet's tender opera.

Rebecca SAUNDERS (b. 1967) Still, Aether, Alba -Carolin Widmann (violin) Marco Blaauw (trumpet) Carl Rosman, Richard Haynes (bass clarinets) SO Bayerischen Rundfunks/Ilan Volkov, Peter Eövös rec. 2015-2018 BR KLASSIK 900635 [66:50] [GH] This may be the future of classical music.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741) Il Tamerlano - Bruno Taddia (baritone), Filippo Mineccia (countertenor), Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone rec. 2020 NAÏVE OP7080 [3 CDs: 154:19] [SSi] Not Vivaldi’s best opera but well worth investigating.

… and … Ars Nova Copenhagen/Paul Hillier rec. 2019-2020 NAXOS 8.574281 [62:48] [MR] An intriguing programme.

Entente Musicale Works by Delius, Debussy & Ireland - Clare Howick (violin); Simon Callaghan (piano) rec. 2019 SOMM RECORDINGS SOMMCD0625 [80:35] [NB] A unique and successful combination of familiar repertoire given performances of the highest quality.

Pioneers Piano Works by Female Composers - Hiroko Ishimoto (piano) rec. 2019 GRAND PIANO GP844 [77:30] [RCh] Lots to enjoy in this generous recital.

Sviatoslav Richter (piano) Works by Debussy & Haydn rec. 1976-1984 PARNASSUS DVD PDVD1209 [85 mins] [JW] If you need to see and hear Richter in reasonable sound and vision, then this DVD might well fit the bill.

Monday January 11th

Linda BUCKLEY (b. 1979) From Ocean’s Floor - Linda Buckley (electronics) Crash Ensemble, ConTempo Quartet rec. 2016-19 NMC D258 [78:17] [RHa] 'Ó Íochtar mara' is the unforgettable standout in a survey of fascinating electroacoustic pieces.

Samuel DUCOMMUN (1914-1987) Orchestral works - Lausanne Chamber Orchestra/Victor Desarzens rec. 1963-2019 CLAVES 50-3023 [78:34] [MR] The impact of these interesting works from a little-known Swiss composer is somewhat diminished by some poor recordings and uneven performances.

August ENNA (1859-1939) Kleopatra - Elsebeth Dreisig (soprano), Magnus Vigilius (tenor), Ruslana Kaval (soprano), Lars Møller (baritone), Jens Bové (bass), Kirsten Grøønfeldt (soprano), Danish National Opera Chorus, Odense Symphony Orchestra/Joachim Gustafsson rec. 2019 DACAPO 8.226708-09 [47:17 + 64:16] [PCG] An opera which, despite its dramatic deficiencies, well deserves its revival.

Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947) L’île du rêve - Hélène Guilmette, Cyrille Dubois, Anaïk Morel, Artavazd Sargsyan, Ludivine Gombert, Thomas Dolié, Chœur du Concert Spirituel, Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Hervé Niquet rec. 2020 BRU ZANE BZ1042 [60:19] [PSt] Despite a few tiny caveats, I found the piece utterly enchanting.

Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959) Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2 Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945) Sonata for solo violin - Franz Peter Zimmermann (violin) Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša rec. 2018-2020 BIS BIS-2457 SACD [74:40] [RC] Splendid performances throughout.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Complete Piano Sonatas Vol. 1 - Orli Shaham (piano) rec. 2019 CANARY CLASSICS CC19 [67:17] [DJB] This has the makings of a good series.

Alexander RAHBARI (b. 1948) Symphonic Poems No. 9-10 - Prague Metropolitan Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari rec. 2019 NAXOS 8.574208 [57:10] [GPu] Two intriguing and enjoyable works in different idioms.

Karlheinz STOCKHAUSEN (1928-2007) Stimmung Cyril DEACONOFF Our Time, String Quartet, Kontakion for Pascha, Canticles of Love, Despair and Hope - soloists, Voices of Silicon Valley, San Francisco Conservatory String Quartet, Indiana University chorus and orchestra rec. 2006-2018 ORPHEUS CLASSICAL OR2020-1579 [70:56] [DC] A collection of live souvenirs, and a well-performed ‘Stimmung’.

John Ogdon (piano) The Ludwigsburg Recital Works by J S Bach, Beethoven and Chopin rec. 1967 MELOCLASSIC MC1056 [79:45] [SG] Ogdon at the height of his powers.

Isaac Stern (violin) Live Vol. 1 rec. 1950-69 DOREMI DHR8116-17 [72:10 + 72:17] [JW] Sift the repertoire here carefully to see if you need these ancillary live performances.