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MARCH, 2010, DOWNLOAD ROUNDUP

 

Bargain of the Month

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphony No. 4 ‘Romantic’
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Günter Wand - rec. live, 1997. DDD.
BMG-RCA 09026 68839-2 [68:43] – from Amazon.co.uk (mp3)

 

Anton Bruckner: Symphonie Nr. 4At just £2.76 from amazon.co.uk, this is a wonderful bargain – a version of the Romantic with a strong claim to be considered the best ever, in decent mp3 sound (256kbps).  I got to know this much-played symphony long ago in a performance by Klemperer with the Vienna SO on a Vox LP; his fast tempi then – yes, he was something of a speed merchant until his last years – made that the first version to fit on one LP.  That performance is available on a 2-CD set with Rosbaud’s Mahler 7 on Vox CDX2-5520, available from classicsonline. Wand is slower, allowing us to view the scenery – and what wonderful scenery it is in this life-enhancing performance.  I’d have preferred a lossless download, but the mp3 copes pretty well with the music’s climaxes.  Amazon also have Wand’s NDR and BPO versions of the Eighth Symphony at the same low price of £2.76; the Ninth is even less expensive at £2.07.

 

The Hallé have recently issued a recording of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, conducted by Christian Mandeal on their own label (CDHLL7524) and available as a download from classicsonline.  It’s very well played, idiomatically directed, and the mp3 sound does the music justice, yet it failed quite to come alive for me, as Wand’s Romantic Symphony does.  You would be safer with Wand or Bruno Walter’s classic Ninth Symphony, both available from amazon.co.uk for £2.07.

Reissue of the Month

Thomas ARNE (1710–1778) Artaxerxes (1762) Reconstructed by Peter Holman
Artaxerxes - Christopher Robson (counter-tenor); Artabanes - Ian Partridge (tenor); Arbaces - Patricia Spence (mezzo); Rimenes - Richard Edgar-Wilson (tenor); Mandane - Catherine Bott (soprano); Semira - Philippa Hyde (soprano); The Parley of Instruments (Peter Holman, Musical Director)/Roy Goodman - rec. The Warehouse, Waterloo, London, March 1995.  DDD.  Texts available as pdf document.
HYPERION DYAD CDD22073 [2 CDs 72:26+67:50] – from Hyperion (mp3 or lossless)

 

Click again to hide large versionThis recording was originally issued in 1996 to a warm welcome.  Its reissue at half the original price deserves no less a welcome now, especially as it is still the only available recording of Arne’s one and only opera seria – generally regarded as the first of its kind in English – or, indeed, of any of his longer vocal works.  Peter Holman, who also contributes the notes, deserves our thanks for reconstructing the lost, fire-damaged, items in such a way as to make the work performable. 

There isn’t a single vocal weakness throughout, with the possible exception of Ian Partridge’s Artabanes – a beautiful voice, as always, but perhaps a little light-toned for this part.  With small reservations about the balance between voice(s) and orchestra, the recording is excellent.  The presentation is of Hyperion’s usual high quality.  I have submitted a more complete review of the parent CDs for Musicweb’s main pages; it may well have been posted by the time that you read this Roundup.  At £7.99 for two CDs (mp3 or flac), this could easily have been my Bargain Download of the Month.

 

Discovery of the Month

William BUSCH (1901-1945) Cello Concerto (1940/1941) [23:27]; Piano Concerto (1937/1938) [28:18] Raphael Wallfisch (cello), Piers Lane (piano); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley - rec. details not supplied. 1994? DDD LYRITA SRCD320 [51:45] – from eMusic (mp3) 

William Busch: Cello Concerto, Piano ConcertoBob Briggs’ review ends “Buy it. Cherish it. Let’s not let this fine composer disappear from our sights ever again” and Jonathan Woolf thought the recording “well worth the wait”, with Lane and Wallfisch the ideal exponents – see review.  With Vernon Handley in charge of proceedings and a decent mp3 transfer of the Lyrita recording, all for the price of six tracks, potentially less than £2, if you didn’t buy the CD, go for the download.  Four of the tracks are at the maximum 320kbps and none is less than 192k. 

Music for Holy Week and Easter

Download of the Month

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Matthew Passion BWV 244 (final revision, c. 1742)
Nicholas Mulroy (tenor) – Evangelist; Matthew Brook (bass-baritone) – Jesus; Susan Hamilton (soprano); Cecilia Osmond (soprano); Clare Wilkinson (alto); Annie Gill (alto); Malcolm Bennett (tenor); Brian Bannatyne-Scott (bass)
Dunedin Consort and Players/John Butt rec. Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, UK, 3-6 September 2007. DDD.
LINN RECORDS CKD313 [3 CDs: 67:41 + 50:24 + 43:11] – from Linn records (mp3, lossless and 24-bit)

Peter Bright made this Recording of the Month in May, 2008 – see review – and I have no hesitation in following suit and placing this at the head of my recommendations of music for Holy Week.  As with Handel’s Messiah, of which the same team have also made an excellent version, there is no one single definitive Matthew Passion – Bach made several revisions.  This is claimed as the only recording to use the final 1742 version.  For that reason alone it would be worth considering, but there is much more to it than that: I might prefer individual aspects of Gardiner’s Archiv recording, but there is very little to choose between them.

The recording runs to 101 tracks: don’t try to download each one manually – use Linn’s splendid download manager.  Squeezebox placed tracks 100 and 101 between tracks 10 and 11 – renaming them 99A and 99B in Windows Explorer solved the problem.

 Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611) Lamentations of Jeremiah (1585)
Lamentations for Maundy Thursday - Lamentation I SSATB [6:20]; Lamentation II SSATB [5:42]; Lamentation III SSAATB [6:19]
Lamentations for Good Friday - Lamentation I SAATB [4:01]; Lamentation II SSATB [5:35] ; Lamentation III SSAATB [4:51]
Lamentations for Holy Saturday - Lamentation I SSATTB [5:13]; Lamentation II SSATB [5:53] ; Lamentation III SSAATTBB [8:24]
Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (c.1590–1664)
Lamentations for Maundy Thursday SSATTB [11:48]
The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips – rec. Merton College Chapel, Oxford, 2009.  DDD.
GIMELL CDGIM043 [64:08] – from Gimell (mp3, lossless and 24-bit versions)

 

Responsoria ad Matutinum in ultimi tridui Maioris Hebdomadae
(Tenebræ) Responsories at Matins in Holy Week (edited by Bruno Turner)
Matins on Maundy Thursday [22:34]
Matins on Good Friday [30:10]
Matins on Holy Saturday [22:32]
The Choir of Westminster Cathedral/David Hill
Rec. March, 1988, Westminster Cathedral, London. DDD.
HYPERION CDA66304 [74:05] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

 

The Roman rite prescribes – or used to – the reading of passages from the Lamentations of Jeremiah for Matins on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday (Easter Eve); these passages form the first three of the nine nocturns into which the readings for those days are divided and the readings are interspersed with a number of Versicles and Responses, usually known as Tenebræ Responsories, from the practice which developed of anticipating Matins for these three days on the preceding evenings, with a hearse of candles extinguished one by one until only one was left, to signify the light of Christ shining in the darkness (Latin tenebræ = darkness). 

The new Gimell recording, which could easily have been my Download of the Month,  gives us the complete series of Lamentations which Victoria composed, in affective performances which match the emotive tone of the music: as Peter Phillips notes, the Spanish view of the Passion involves plenty of blood and nails and there is plenty of that in these performances.  The programme is rounded off with a performance of Padilla’s Maundy Thursday Lamentations in a performance to rival that of The Sixteen on Coro (Streams of Tears, COR16059 – see review).  As usual, I’m not going to try to judge between two such fine performances, especially when, on this occasion, the Tallis Scholars surprised me by taking the Padilla slightly faster than The Sixteen – the boot is usually on the other foot.  There is also an excellent performance of the Padilla Lamentations on a recent Hyperion Helios budget reissue, also available to download (CDH55317 – see review).  We really are spoiled for choice.

As with the Linn Matthew Passion, Gimell’s splendid download manager - it’s of the same provenance as the Linn - will download this recording excellently.

 

Click again to hide large versionVictoria’s 1585 Officium Hebdomadæ Sanctæ also contained the Responsories which were interspersed between the readings of the second and third nocturns.  Ideally, someone should record the whole office together, as the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, with Richard Marlow, partially did on a deleted Conifer CD (CDCF188).  That well-filled recording combined the nine lessons of the first nocturns, as on the new Tallis Scholars’ recording, with the responsories of the second nocturn.  The next best thing, however, is to have the new Gimell recording of the Lamentations together with the Responsories on their earlier recording (CDGIM022) or in the version recorded by Westminster Cathedral Choir under David Hill on Hyperion.  If I choose the latter, that is an attempt to be even-handed: no reflection on the excellent earlier Gimell CD – I haven’t heard the download but the parent CD is first-rate.  The Hyperion recording is a worthy successor to an earlier Westminster Cathedral recording under George Malcolm, which was a staple of the LP catalogue for many years and was until recently available on a Double Decca (433 9142).

 

Lamenta: The Lamentations of Jeremiah
Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder (1534-1588) Lamentations 1 [9:59]
Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585) Lamentations I [8:45]; Lamentations II [13:15]
Antoine Brumel (c.1460-c.1520) Lamentations [9:05]
Robert White (c.1538-1574) Lamentations (5vv) [21:55]
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c.1525-1594) Lamentations for Holy Saturday (Lesson 3, 6vv) [9:46]
The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips
Recorded in the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Salle, Norfolk, England, 1992-98. DDD.
GIMELL CDGIM996 [72:45] – from Gimell (mp3 and lossless)

 

With the exception of the Ferrabosco, these recordings all exist on other Gimell CDs – you’ll find the Tallis, for example, on The Tallis Scholars sing Tallis (CDGIM203), the Palestrina on The Tallis Scholars sing Palestrina (CDGIM204) and the White on The Tallis Scholars sing Tudor Music 2 (CDGIM210), three excellent value 2-for-1 compilations.  It is convenient to have the music together in this fashion, but the parent discs also contain other very valuable recordings.  That is my only reservation about recommending Lamenta; it’s all very well for reviewers like myself to recommend that you purchase this recording plus all the others.  Unfortunately, if you followed that advice, Gimell’s reissue policy means that you would end up with a great deal of costly duplication.

The two Tallis works come from CDGIM025, but this is the least of the losses, since the Lamentations from this CD are contained here on Lamenta and on CDGIM203 and the remainder of the programme on CDGIM210 – see my review of the latter, which also contains the White Lamentations.  There is a rival recording of the Tallis in the complete works which Chapelle du Roi recorded for Signum (Volume 8: SIGCD036, coupled with some of Tallis’s contrafacta, or alternative English settings).  On that Signum recording Alistair Dixon takes the music at a slightly faster pace than Peter Phillips, though he retains the music’s essential character in another very recommendable version.  (See review in December, 2008, Roundup).

The Brumel Lamentations come from a CD which includes his superb ‘Earthquake’ Mass (CDGIM026) – it would be a pity not to obtain the whole of this disc: see my review in the January, 2009, Download Roundup.  Gimell ride to the rescue again with The Tallis Scholars sing Flemish Masters (CDGIM211), which includes the Mass – my Reissue of the Month for November, 2009 – see review.  The Palestrina programme on CDGIM204 is even more essential, since it contains the Missa Papæ Marcelli and other wonderful music.

I made the 2-disc set containing Robert White’s Lamentations my Bargain of the Month – see review.  They are also available on CDGIM030, along with other works by this composer.  They are the odd ones out here, having been composed in post-reformation England and, not, therefore, intended for performance within the Roman Holy Week liturgy, since the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer (1559) had transferred the Matins readings from Lamentations, retained in 1549, to earlier in the week and replaced them with other lessons, from Hosea, Daniel, Genesis and Zechariah.

 

Thomas SELLE (1599-1663) Sacred Concertos and Motets for Easter
A Domino factum est illud [4:55]; Christ lag in Todesbaden [8:13]; Historia der Auferstehung (Die Aufferstehung Christi nach den 4 Evangelisten, Easter Oratorio) [34:25]; Surrexit Christus spes mea [7:26]; Christ ist erstanden [4:25];  Jesus Christus, unser Heiland [6:30]; Erstanden ist der Herre Christ [2:17]; Ich weiss, dass mein Erlöser lebt [3:21]
Monika Mauch, Manja Stephan (sopranos); Beate Duddeck (alto); Mirko Ludwig, Julian Podger, Knut Schoch (tenors); Wolf Friedrich (bass); Bremen Weser-Renaissance-Ensemble/Manfred Cordes – rec. 2008.  DDD.
CPO 777396-2 [71:32] – from classicsonline (mp3)

Thomas Selle: Historia der AuferstehungI’ve included some out-of-the-way music as well as the more familiar.  I hadn’t even heard of the North German composer Thomas Selle before trying this recording, so he might easily have featured as my Discovery of the Month.  The music is attractive, especially the central account of the resurrection, Historia der Auferstehung – if you already know and like Schütz and Buxtehude, you can’t go wrong – the performances stylish and the recording good, in an mp3 transcription of near-CD quality.  For £4.99 from classicsonline, this is emphatically well worth a try.

The best current version of Heinrich Schütz’s Historia der Auferstehung, from René Jacobs on Harmonia Mundi, appears not to be available as a download; try Peter Schreier on Berlin Classics 0092052BC, from various sources, including classicsonline, or Paul Hillier on Da Capo 8.226058, again from classicsonline – both available for just £4.99.

Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707)
Membra Jesu Nostri, BuxWV73(1680)
The Sixteen; The Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers
Rec. St Jude’s, Hampstead, London, February, 2000.  DDD
LINN RECORDS CKD141 [61:21] – from Linn records (mp3 and lossless)

A series of meditations in Latin on the limbs of the crucified Christ hardly sounds like fun, but such is the beauty of Buxtehude’s music that its gloomier associations can be forgotten.  The contemplation of aspects of the life of Christ, especially of the crucifixion, had been an important ingredient since the late medieval period – witness the wealth of English lyric poetry from the 14th and 15th centuries, some of it set by polyphonic composers – and remained a prominent ingredient of high Lutheran piety in Buxtehude’s day.  Here, however, it comes shorn of the horror of Mathias Grünewald’s famous painting from an earlier generation, with composer and performers concentrating on the mystic beauty of the experience.  There are several good versions of this fascinating work, but this is one of the best.  More recent Linn downloads come with notes, but they are notably lacking here.

 

Jan Dismas ZELENKA (1679–1745) Lamentations of Jeremiah
Lamentations for Maundy Thursday [24:32]
Lamentations for Good Friday [22:52]
Lamentations for Easter Eve [25:37]
Michael Chance, countertenor; John Mark Ainsley, tenor; Michael George, bass; The Chandos Baroque Players
rec. April 1990, Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London.  DDD.
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55106 [73:01] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Click again to hide large versionThis is not ‘essential’ listening, but that’s the point – Hyperion are particularly good at assisting us down such productive byways and we can hardly refuse when the price is so attractive.  Zelenka is well worth getting to know, not just because he’s almost the last composer in alphabetical order and the performances and recording do him justice.

 

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Cantatas for Eastertide, Ascension and Pentecost
CD1: Himmelskönig, sei willkommen, BWV 182
Kommt, eilet und laufet, BWV 249 (Easter Oratorio)
CD 2: Der Himmel lacht! Die Erde jubilieret, BWV 31
Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats, BWV 42
CD 3: Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe, BWV 108
Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein, BWV 128
Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen, BWV 43
CD 4: Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten, BWV 172
O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe, BWV 34
Erwunschtes Freudenlicht, BWV 184
Bach Ensemble/Helmuth Rilling
Download comes with pdf booklet containing texts and translations.
HÄNSSLER 94.027 [4 CDs 70:28+69:38+56:34+75:37] –from classicsonline (mp3)

Easter Oratorio (Cantata No.249), Kommt eilet und laufet, BWV249 [42:13]
Cantata No.66, Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen, BWV66 [30:22]
Barbara Schlick (soprano); Kai Wessel (alto); James Taylor (tenor); Peter Kooy (bass); Collegium Vocale Ghent/Philippe Herreweghe
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC90 1513 [72:34] – from classicsonline (mp3)

 

There are two recommendable ways of obtaining the so-called Easter Oratorio (actually cantata 149) from classicsonline, as part of a 4-CD set from Hänssler, in very reliable performances directed by Helmuth Rilling at an attractive price (£19.96 for the set) or in the even more recommendable version with Philippe Herreweghe from Harmonia Mundi.  Both offer splendidly stylish performances and both come in very good mp3 sound, though the Hänssler is ADD.

One small grumble about the Hänssler: despite what it says on the cover, the German title (zum Osterfestkreis, for the Easter period) is more accurate – these are cantatas for Palm Sunday and Easter (CD1) and for the Easter season (CD2), Ascension (CD3) and Pentecost or Whitsun (CD4).

 

Christoph Ernst Friedrich WEYSE (1774-1842)
Christmas Cantata No. 3 Jubler, o jubler i salige toner DF 26 (1821) (Sing and rejoice, O world in thy gladness) [24:14]; Easter Cantata No. 1 Hil dig, hill dig, livets morgenrøde. DF 15 (1836) (Hail, O hail, thou dawn of life arising) [27:29]
Bodil Arnesen (sop), Dorthe Elsebet Larsen (sop), Kirsten Dolberg (alto), Peter Grønlund (tenor), Stephen Milling (bass); Tivoli Concert Choir, Tivoli Symphony Orchestra/Michael Schönwandt - rec. The Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1997. DDD.
MARCO POLO/DA CAPO 8.224049 [51:42] – from classicsonline (mp3)

Raymond Walker praised “a [mainly] splendid performance and recording. Appreciation should be handed to Da Capo for bringing about a revival of exciting works of Weyse and recognising the importance of their heritage.”  - see review.  The download comes in good mp3 sound but devoid, unfortunately, of the excellent notes to which RW referred. Section 6 of the Christmas Cantata (track 6) is wrongly labelled Section 1 in the track information – but it will play in the right order on Squeezebox.  It’s hardly essential listening, but a refreshing and attractive change from the better-known Eastertide music.  Much of it made me think of Mendelssohn.

 

Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op.36 [15:00]
Symphonic Suite (Symphony No.2) ‘Antar’, Op.9 (third version, 1897) [33:38]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Yevgeny Svetlanov
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55137 [48:23] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Symphony No. 1, Op. 1 in e minor [28:02]; Symphony No. 2 ‘Antar’, Op. 9 [32:30]; Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34 [16:18]; Symphony No. 3 in C, Op. 32 (1886 version) [37:15]; Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36 [15:43]; Sadko, Op. 5 [13:12]; Piano Concerto in c sharp minor, Op. 30 [13:23] 
Geoffrey Tozer (piano); Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Kitajenko  
Rec. Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway, 1993.  DDD
CHANDOS COLLECT CHAN6613 [2 CDs for the price of one,156:43] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless) 

Click again to hide large versionGood performances and recording on Hyperion of Rimsky’s best-known symphony and the effervescent Easter Festival Overture – a real treat if you’ve been listening to all those Lamentations, and the ideal next move if you know Sheherazade and want to try more of the composer’s music.  The notes, which are available to download, explain the complex compositional history of Antar.  The only real complaint is that 48 minutes is very short value; £5.99 is inexpensive, but short downloads usually attract a reduction in price from Hyperion, and this one seems to have slipped through the net.

 The Chandos 2-for-1 offering represents better value – £10 for the lossless version or £7.99 for the mp3 – and almost equally fine performances if you want all three symphonies plus Sadko and the Piano Concerto.  Take your pick – you can’t go wrong with either.  Unusually, there are no notes with the Chandos.

 

Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria Rusticana
Renata Scotto (soprano) – Santuzza; Placido Domingo (tenor) - Turiddu; Ambrosian Opera Chorus; National Philharmonic Orchestra/James Levine – rec. 1978, ADD.
RCA/SONY OPERA HOUSE 88697576572 [70:44] – from Amazon (mp3)

Though not exactly Easter music in the conventional sense, the action of Cavalleria Rusticana takes place on Easter Day and it contains the wonderful Easter hymn Regina cœli Ineggiamo il signor non è morto.  I have already recommended as a superb bargain the Callas-Di Stefano-Serafin mono version on Past Classics in the October, 2009, Roundup – just one track from eMusic or 79p from Amazon.co.uk – but you may prefer a more recent stereo recording, in which case this Scotto-Domingo-Levine recording should provide what you want.  At £4.98 from Amazon.co.uk, it’s half the price of the CD and almost as much a bargain as the Past Classics version.

 

Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929-1988)
Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis ‘Collegium Magdalenae Oxoniense’ (1959) [8:18]
Give me the wings of faith (1962) [4:52]; An Easter Sequence* (1969) [13:44]; Veni Creator Spiritus** (1987) [5:03]; What love is this of thine? *** (1985) [6:17]; Crucifixus pro nobis**** (1961) [15:21]; Rockingham: Chorale Prelude on ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross’** (1975) [3:12]; Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (The Second Service) (1971) [10’30"]
* Crispian Steele-Perkins (trumpet); Gareth Jones (baritone); ** Christopher Whitton (organ);
***Benjamin Durrant (treble); **** James Oxley (tenor); The Choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge/Christopher Robinson
rec. St. John’s College Chapel, Cambridge, 9 – 11 July 2002.  DDD
NAXOS 8.555795 [67:25] – from classicsonline (mp3)

 

The three items which make this suitable for Passiontide and Easter will be obvious – two of them are billed on the CD cover – but the recording is valuable for the other items, too, not least the two settings of the Evensong canticles, which open and close the programme.  John Quinn “strongly recommend[ed] this CD to all who love the music of the English church” – see review – and, as so often, I find myself in complete agreement with him.  The mp3 sound is good.  Unlike the Weyse, from the same source, the booklet comes with the purchase.

 

Passiontide at St Paul’s
ANON A Lent Prose ‘Hear us, O Lord, have mercy upon us’ [3:34] 
Richard Farrant (?1525-1580) Call to remembrance, O Lord  [2:20] 
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) Symphony No 2 ‘Lobgesang, Op 52 – ‘I waited for the Lord’ 
[4:43]
Sir Edward Cuthbert Bairstow (1874-1946) The Lamentation [10:17] 
John Sanders (1933-2003) The Reproaches [12:54]
Brian Chapple (b1945) Ecce lignum Crucis  [6:21] 
Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) Christus factus est  [6:11] 
Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) Song 46: ‘Drop, drop, slow tears’ [1:51]  
Antonio Lotti (c.1667-1740) Crucifixus a 8 [3:56] 
Charles Wood (1866-1926) This joyful Eastertide [2:24] 
Sir Edward BAIRSTOW Exitu Israel (Psalm 114) [2:44] 
Peter Philips (1560/1-1628) Ecce vicit Leo de tribu Juda  [3:36] 
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) Te Deum in C [8:02]
St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, London/John Scott – rec. 1996.  DDD
Some texts available from the website.
HYPERION CDA66916 [68:53] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

 Downloading may be the only way to obtain this by the time that you read the review – only limited copies of the CD were available when I last checked.  The music, old and new(ish) covers Lent, Passiontide, especially Good Friday, and Easter.  The performances are as accomplished in their way as their Roman Catholic counterparts in the music of Victoria and the recording sounds well in lossless format.  Unusually, there is no booklet to download.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sarabanda con partite, BW990 (possibly spurious?) [22:19]
Goldberg Variations from Clavierübung IV, BWV988 [91:24]
Aria variata, BWV989 [16:41]
Matthew Halls (harpsichord, copy by Ian Tucker of Ruckers/Hemsch 2-manual instrument) (Niedhard temperament, 1745; pitch=415)
Rec. St Silas, Kentish Town, London, June, 2007.  DDD.
LINN RECORDS CKD356 [66:25 + 64:05] – from Linn records (mp3, lossless and 24-bit)

 Of recent years the best recordings of the Goldberg Variations have been on the piano – not least from Angela Hewitt (Hyperion CDA67305 – see review: five stars all round).

 Matthew Halls, now better known as the director of the former King’s Consort, bucks the trend by offering the music on a 2-manual harpsichord and by including all the repeats, thereby making his recording too long for a single CD.  In the latter respect, he has the field entirely to himself, as far as I am aware.  I was not convinced by the recent Virgin 2-CD budget-price reissue of Bob van Asperen’s performance of the Goldbergs (6931982 – see review); though I liked the Toccatas on the other CD, I felt that there was a need for a modern recording on the harpsichord to rival Trevor Pinnock on mid-price DG 477 5902.

 Having greatly appreciated Halls’s recent recording of Handel’s Parnasso in Festa (Hyperion CDA67701/2: Recording of the Month – see review) I had high expectations of his Bach. I was not disappointed.  I just wonder whether 91 minutes is not a little too long for the average listener – we aren’t all insomniacs, as the original recipient is supposed to have been.  For that reason alone, I shall not be ditching my copy of the Pinnock.  Bach scholars, on the other hand, will particularly welcome the ability to hear the work at its full length.

 Linn’s 24-bit recording is excellent and, being at 44.1kHz, will play on Squeezebox, but it does take up a great deal of space, at over 1.5GB.  In whatever form you choose – mp3 and ‘ordinary’ lossless are also available – an advantage of downloading is the ability to play the Goldbergs without break; on CD a change is required.

 Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
The Nine Symphonies
CD1: Symphony no.1 in C, Op.21 (1800) [26:12]
Symphony no.2 in D, Op.36 (1802) [33:16]
CD2: Symphony no.3 in E-flat, Op.55 Eroica (1805) [47:04]
Symphony no.4 in B-flat, Op.60 (1806) [31:36]
CD3: Symphony no.5 in c minor, Op.67 (1807) [31:28]
Symphony no.6 in F, Op.68 Pastoral (1807) [40:05]
CD4 : Symphony no.7 in A, Op.92 (1811) [38:20]
Symphony no.8 in F, Op.93 (1812) [26:20]
CD5: Symphony no.9 in d minor, Op.125 Choral (1812) [61:34]
Janice Watson (soprano); Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo); Stuart Skelton (tenor); Detlef Roth (bass); Edinburgh Festival Chorus; Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras - rec. August and September 2006, Usher Hall, Edinburgh. DDD
HYPERION CDS44301/5 [5 CDs: 59:28 + 78:40 + 71:33 + 64:40 + 61:34] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless).  See Musicweb review by Owen E Walton.

Symphony no.1 in C, Op.21 (1800) [26:24]
Symphony no.2 in D, Op.36 (1801) [31:15]
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON KARAJAN GOLD 439 001-2 [57:42] – from passionato (mp3) 

Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68, ‘Pastoral’ (1807-1808)* [41:32]
Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36 (1799-1802) [34:25]
London Symphony Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
rec. live, 21-22 November 2005; *26-27 November 2005, The Barbican, London. DSD
LSO LIVE LSO0582 [76:02] – from eMusic (mp3)
 

Symphony No. 2 in D, Op.36 (1801) [33:19]
Symphony No. 7 in A, Op.92 (1812) [41:36]
Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
BIS-SACD1816 [75:49] – from eMusic or classicsonline (both mp3)

 Symphony no. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 Eroica [49:46]
Leonore Overtures: Nos.1, Op. 138 [8:30] and 2, Op. 72b [13:05]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. 3-4 October and 17 December 1955 (Symphony); 17-18, 24 November 1954 (Overtures); Kingsway Hall, London. ADD. MONO.
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 5 67741 2 [71:19] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless).  See review by Christopher Howell.

Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55, Eroica (1803) [49:18]
Leonore Overtures: No. 1 in C, Op. 138 (1805) [8:34]; No. 3, Op. 72a (1805) [13:40]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer - rec. as above. ADD. MONO.
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111303 [71:33] – from classicsonline (mp3)
See review by Jonathan Woolf and review by Colin Clarke. 

Symphony No.4 in B-flat, Op.60 [33:51]
Symphony No.7 in A, Op.92 [39:45]
Manchester Camerata/Douglas Boyd
AVIE AV2169 [73:37] – from emusic (mp3) – see review by Tim Perry 

Symphony no.5 in c minor, Op.67 [33:24]
Symphony no.7 in A, Op.92 [38:36]
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlos Kleiber
DG ORIGINALS 447 400 2 [71:58] – from Passionato (mp3)

Symphony no.6 in F, Op.68 Pastoral [44:26]
Symphony no.8 in F, Op.93 [26:43]
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Nikolaus Harnoncourt - rec. live, 1990.  DDD
From WARNER 2564 637792 [71:09] – from Amazon.co.uk (mp3) – see review of complete set by Christopher Howell 

Symphony No. 9 in d Minor, Op.125, Choral (1824) [65:12]
Helena Juntunen (soprano); Katarina Karnéus (mezzo); Daniel Norman (tenor); Neal Davies (bass-baritone); Minnesota Chorale; Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
rec. Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, rec. 2004-2008. DDD.
BIS-SACD1616 [65:46] – from emusic (mp3) or amazon (mp3) 

Click again to hide large versionMost of the reviews in my Download Roundups have not been of the most basic repertoire.  In particular, I seem to have short-changed the Beethoven Symphonies, with only Carlos Kleiber’s outstanding versions of the Fifth and Seventh receiving a mention in December, 2008.  It’s high time, then, to look at the whole series and to make some recommendations.

 
It isn’t always a good idea to go for the complete works from the same interpreter, but I make an exception for a set which comes at a special price as a download, that recorded by Hyperion with Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, live at the 2006 Edinburgh Festival.  The special price of £34.95 for the CDs is further reduced to £24.99 for the mp3 or lossless download, making it competitive with Vänskä on BIS: fine performances, well recorded and competitively priced.  I’ve used this set, therefore, as my benchmark for other downloads.  If you don’t want the whole set, individual symphonies may be purchased separately at prices ranging from £3.25 to £7.80.  As usual with Hyperion, the booklet comes as part of the deal. 

BEETHOVEN, van L.: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 7 (Minnesota Orchestra, Vanska)BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9, "Choral"The BIS set, with Osmo Vänskä conducting the Minneapolis SO, was recently not only Recording of the Month but Dominy Clements’ choice to go to ‘the top of a pile of an already rather distinguished pile of references’ – see review.  If you intend to plump for the whole set, you would be better advised to go for the physical discs, available for around £26, especially if you want the SACD tracks.  Buying the five individual recordings from classicsonline in 320kbps mp3 would cost almost twice as much, at just under £40.  The equivalent from amazon.co.uk comes in slightly lower quality 256kbps mp3 for just under £35. 

The least expensive way to download these performances individually or en bloc is from emusic; I’ve included the recording of Nos.2 and 7 from them, potentially costing as little as £2, depending on your chosen tariff.  Some tracks are at the full 320k, others at a dangerously low 169k.  The Choral Symphony is even better value – just 4 tracks.  There isn’t a single track higher than 175k in the Choral, but I was not too disappointed with the sound of either of these emusic downloads.  Classicsonline (320k) and amazon (256k) offer them both at better bit-rates but more expensively.

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 Karajan’s 1977 Galleria CD of Nos.1 and 4, with the Egmont Overture, is no longer available as a passionato download in good mp3 sound, as it was when I began this review.  I’ve had to replace it with the later versions of Nos.1 and 2.  The ‘lighter’ symphonies especially benefit from Mackerras’s treatment, but I have included this Karajan recording for those who like Beethoven to sound a little bigger-boned from the start.  His version of No.1 became slower and meatier in the interim between the Galleria and Karajan Gold recordings.

 

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 2I’ve also included some of the LSO Live recordings conducted by Bernard Haitink.  These are no longer available from passionato, who have ‘lost’ the LSO Live label.  You will find emusic the least expensive way to obtain these recordings, but I haven’t been able to sample any of them, so I can’t guarantee the bit-rates, which tend to be variable, but (just) acceptable from this source.  Hatink’s versions of Nos. 2 and 6 are among the best.

 

The classic account of the Eroica is Klemperer’s mono version, with tempi noticeably faster than his stereo re-make.  It comes with two Leonore Overtures from EMI in the Great Recordings series, or with a slightly different coupling from Naxos.  Both transfers are very good; since the Naxos is the less expensive, both on CD and as a download, that’s the one to go for.  The lossless version which was available on passionato seems to have disappeared in their recent revamp, though they still have the EMI and classicsonline have the Naxos in good mp3.

 

Carlos Kleiber’s Fifth has long been a classic; for me it ranks alongside his father’s recording of Mozart’s Figaro.  It was my Bargain of the Month in December 2008, when it was briefly available from Passionato for £2.99.  At £7.99 now, it’s barely competitive with the parent CD, but, whichever you choose, CD or download, it remains at or very near the top of recordings of this much-recorded work.  Coupled with an almost equally desirable Seventh and in decent 320kbps mp3 sound, it beats even the fine Mackerras into second place in the Fifth.

 

Beethoven: Symphony No. 4 & Symphony No. 7The least expensive of the alternatives to the Hyperion set comes in amazon.co.uk’s price for the Harnoncourt coupling of Nos. 6 and 8 – just £2.76 for this worthwhile download of two of the performances which set the pace for small-scale modern-instrument performances with awareness of period-instrument practice – just the kind of performance which Mackerras offers.  If I think that Mackerras marginally beats Harnoncourt at his own game and that his performance sounds better in Hyperion’s lossless recording than in Amazon’s very acceptable 256kbps mp3, that doesn’t diminish the value of the Teldec download – I could happily live with this Pastoral and its coupling.  Amazon also have the complete Harnoncourt set for £13.29.

Douglas Boyd’s performances of Nos. 4 and 7 with the Manchester Camerata are comparable with those of Mackerras in that they both use small ensembles but neither lacks punch where it’s called for.  Many years ago, one of the first performances that I heard of the Seventh was from the chamber-size Haydn Orchestra – then something of a novelty – and both these chamber-size performances are excellent.  I just miss slightly those touches of the manic late Beethoven that Bruno Walter brought out in his break-neck performance of the finale, but compensation comes from the way in which Boyd captures the apotheosis of the dance, Wagner’s apt description of this symphony – he danced on the piano top for Liszt, to demonstrate.  The Archipel reissue of Walter’s Seventh, coupled with the Emperor Concerto, is available from amazon; the NYPO nearly come off the rails in the finale.

Mackerras captures the manic quality of No.7 better than Boyd, with mostly slightly faster tempi, but without losing the spirit of the dance which pervades the music.  Much as I like Boyd, Mackerras’s is the chamber orchestra version to go for.  Though he actually takes a few seconds longer than Boyd in the finale, he manages to sound livelier.  Hyperion’s lossless (flac) recording is also superior to emusic’s mp3 – the bit-rate of the latter varies from a minimal 172kbps to a much more acceptable 320k.

Both Mackerras and Harnoncourt offer lively performances of No.8.  Mackerras couples it with his excellent version of No.7 – the perfect coupling, I think – Harnoncourt with a fine No.6.  Both are well recorded, though the mp3 download of the Teldec version sounds a trifle muffled by comparison with Hyperion’s lossless (flac) sound.  I marginally prefer the Mackerras performance, too, though I could be happy with either; remember that the Teldec coupling costs just £2.76 from amazon.co.uk.

Mackerras changed from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to the Philharmonia for the Ninth.  There are so many really good versions of this symphony that I could spend the rest of the Roundup detailing them.  Suffice it to say that I don’t think you’ll have cause for complaint from either Mackerras or Vänskä.  If anything, the latter has a slightly lighter touch in the first three movements and I marginally prefer his soloists.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Violin Concerto, Op.35 [34:42]
Jean SIBELIUS Violin Concerto in d, Op.47 (1865-1937) (1903-5) [30:50]
Kyung Wha Chung (violin); London Symphony Orchestra/André Previn
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 1970. ADD.
DECCA ORIGINALS 475 7734 [65:33] – from passionato (mp3) 

Tchaikovsky/Sibelius: Violin ConcertosThis is basic repertoire again, especially the Tchaikovsky.  The Chung/Previn combination has seldom been equalled and the ADD recording comes up very well in mp3 sound of the best (320kbps).  Strongly recommended unless you must have the Sibelius in its original as well as the final version, in which case you need Kavakos and Vänskä on BIS (BISCD500).

 

When I downloaded this recording, Originals were all £4.99 from passionato.  At the regular £7.99, they now become only barely less expensive than the physical CDs.  Incredibly, however, this recording seems to be available only as a download in the UK.  Amazon.co.uk offer it slightly more cheaply at £5.98, but at the lower bit-rate of 256k.

 
Songs my Great-Grandfather taught me
Transcriptions by Josef Suk of 30 songs by Antonin DVOřÁK (1841-1904)
Including: Seven Gypsy Melodies, Op. 55 (B104); Eight Love Songs, Op. 83 (B106);  Ten Biblical Songs, Op. 99 (B185)
Josef Suk (violin and viola(; Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0100 [50:00] – from Toccata (mp3 – lossless promised soon)

This may not be exactly essential listening, but it is very entertaining and it typifies Toccata’s enterprise in offering out-of-the-way music.  I first heard Josef Suk play his great-grandfather’s music in the early 1960s on a Supraphon recording of the Dvořák Violin Concerto, and I’m delighted to hear that he is still going strong – here playing both the violin and his great-grandfather’s viola.  With very able support from Vladimir Ashkenazy – joint patron, with Suk, of the Toccata label – and good recording in 320kbps mp3, with an optional lossless version promised soon, you would be hard put not to like this recording.

 Just one grumble – the promised sleeve-notes are not available.  At least what we do have is not in the fractured English which Supraphon used to employ: as I recall, their notes informed us that ‘Josef Suk is grand grandson of Dvořák; since 1954 he plays violin in all countries of people’s democracy’.  Stuck for a Russian transliteration of Down Ampney, the notes on another Supraphon LP sleeve transferred Vaughan Williams’s birthplace to London!   Incidentally, if you are looking for a good download of that Supraphon Dvořák recording, you’ll find that it is still available, still sounding well, in its original coupling with the Romance here, or coupled with Suk’s Fantasy here, or in a later Suk/Neumann recording here, from eMusic.

 Leoš JANÁčEK (1854–1928) Orchestral Suites from the Operas (arr. Peter Breiner): 3
The Cunning Little Vixen – Suite [39:01]
From the House of the Dead – Suite [35:42]
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Peter Breiner – rec. August 2007. DDD
NAXOS 8.570706 [74:58] – from passionato (mp3) or classicsonline (mp3) 

Janácek: Orchestral Suites From The operas, Vol. 3This, the last in the series of orchestral suites, is every bit the equal of the earlier volumes, the first of which was a MusicWeb Recording of the Year for 2009.  There are two very different operas here, but the combination is very welcome.  I downloaded it from passionato.com immediately after their complete site revamp, when the flac download was not available; I was completely happy with the mp3 (at 320kbps).

 Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Serenade to Music1 [13:34]; Five Mystical Songs2 [19:41]; Fantasia on Christmas Carols3 [12:26]; Flos Campi4 [22:13]
Elizabeth Connell1, Anne Dawson1, Linda Kitchen1, Amanda Roocroft1 (soprano); Diana Montague1, Jean Rigby1, Sarah Walker1 (mezzo), Catherine Wyn-Rogers1 (alto); John Mark Ainsley1, Arthur Davies1, Maldwyn Davies1, Martyn Hill1 (tenor); Thomas Allen1-3, Alan Opie1 (baritone); John Connell1, Gwynne Howell1 (bass); Charles Tunnell, (cello)3 Nobuko Imai (viola)4; Corydon Singers2-3
English Chamber Orchestra/Matthew Best - released September 1990.  DDD.
HYPERION CDA66420 [68:17] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Dona Nobis Pacem [35:38]; Five Mystical Songs [20:29]
Edith Wiens (soprano); Brian Rayner Cook (baritone); London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir/Bryden Thomson  - rec. St Jude’s, London NW11, January, 1988.  DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN8590 [56:36] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

Click again to hide large versionThese two recordings might well have been placed with the Easter music at the head of this month’s reviews, since the first of VW’s Mystical Songs sets the words of George Herbert’s Easter.  All five Songs offer wonderful settings of marvellous poetry – I rate Herbert even more highly than his fellow metaphysical poet, John Donne.

 

There is very little to choose between the recordings: both are excellent and superior to Hyperion’s other version of this work on Helios CDH55004, where it’s coupled with an under-strength version of the Tudor Portraits.  The coupling may well be left to decide the issue – from Chandos a very good performance of Dona Nobis Pacem and from Hyperion, on a more generously filled CD, equally fine performances of the Serenade to Music, Christmas Fantasia and Flos Campi.  I’m not a great fan of the Serenade, though it’s VW’s best-known choral work and sets some marvellous poetry by Shakespeare; of all the versions that I’ve heard, this came closest to persuading me.

 

Kurt Weill (1900-1950) Lost in the Stars (1949)
Gregory Hopkins (tenor) - Leader; Arthur Woodley (bass-baritone) - Stephen Kumalo; Reginald Pindell (baritone) - Absalom Kumalo; Cynthia Clarey (soprano) - Irina; Carol Woods (singer) - Linda; Jamal Howard (treble) - Alex; Richard Vogt (speaker) - Stationmaster, Judge; New York Concert Chorale; Orchestra of St Luke’s/Julius Rudel - rec. 1992. DDD.
NIMBUS NI2543 (71:41) – from classicsonline (mp3) – see Musicweb review (Recording of the Month) 

Lost in the Stars, based on Alan Paton’s powerful novel Cry, the Beloved Country, represents the fruits of Kurt Weill’s Broadway collaboration with Maxwell Anderson in the late 1940s.  It may not be comparable with his acknowledged masterpieces, but it contains some fine music and deserves to be better known.  It selects episodes from the plot, which makes it difficult to follow for anyone who doesn’t know the novel.  The parent CD’s detailed plot summary, is not included with the download.

Julius Rudel had already had considerable experience of conducting an opera which he regarded as the equal of la Bohème, so his version has a claim to be definitive.  His singing cast does well by the music, too.  Stephen Kumalo, the Anglican priest at the centre of the story, and Cynthia Clary as Absalom’s girlfriend both give impressive and affecting accounts of themselves, while resisting the temptation to overdo the pathos in an opera dangerously close to sentimentality, but Carol Woods (Linda) brings the house down with her jazzy double-entendre laden Who’ll buy my juicy rutabagas? (tr.8).  Shades of Ella Fitzgerald here.

 The orchestral contribution is good, too, especially in the Entr’acte at the heart of the action (tr.13).  Limited to a very small orchestra, Weill made the best use of what he had, and the Orchestra of St Luke’s make the best use of what he gives them in a convincing evocation of a musical pit orchestra.  You probably wouldn’t choose Lost in the Stars in preference to Mahagonny or The Seven Deadly Sins, but it doesn’t deserve its neglect, and this is the recording to put things right.  Nimbus’s enterprise in reissuing it deserves to be rewarded.

 In brief

 Battaglia d’amore
Bellerofonte CASTALDI (1580 - 1649) O Clorida [02:44]; Saetta pur saetta [1:51]; O crudel amor [03:25]; Quella che tanto [04:58]; Echo, prima parte [03:46]; Echo, seonda parte [03:25]; Quagliotta canzone [03:49]; Hor meno lieti [04:40]; Fuor di noia [04:48]; Occhi belli [02:45]; Lo sdegno [03:11]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583 - 1643) Canzon V detta Bellerofonte [03:06]
Bellerofonte CASTALDI Felice e contento [02:53]; Pieno di bellezze [02:03]; Proterà’l sol [02:54]; Capriccio detto hermafrodito [02:30]; Più non vi miro [04:22]; Quella altera [01:46]; Amor colei [03:12]; Capriccio di battaglia a due stromenti [14:27]
Il Furioso/David Dolata
rec. 23-25 June 2006, Concert Hall of the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center, Florida International University, Miami, Fla., USA; 12-17 July 2006, Antica Pieve di San Martino d’Asio-Clauzetto, Pordenone, Italy. DDD
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0081 [76:33] – from Toccata (mp3 – lossless coming soon)

I agree with Johann van Veen – see review – in welcoming this enterprising recording and with his reservation that the tenor, Giano Paolo Fagotto, is a little too loud: I had to turn the volume down.  The mp3 sound is good, but I understand that optional lossless downloads are due from Toccata shortly.  The promised information on Castaldi and the sleeve-notes were not available when I tried; the only review was in Italian.  Toccata downloads are reasonably priced, but joining their Discovery Club brings a useful discount on CDs and downloads.

Giovanni Girolami KAPSBERGER (1580-1651) Libro Secondo d’Arie - Songs of Human and Divine Love (1623): Voi, che dietro a fallaci [3.28]; Alma che fai che pensi [3.17]; Tu dormi [2.00]; Pargoletto son io [2.31]; I’vo piangendo I miei [5.08]; Dulcissimo Signore [4.30]; T’inaspri á miei lamenti [2.52]; Dunque con stile lieto [2.15]; Pietea di chi si more [2.40]; Popol diletta mio [1.55]; Ancora il Re nasce piangendo in terra [5.13]; O come in van credei [3.18]; Perché pieta [2.19]; Corrente (1628) [2.45]
Bellerofonte CASTOLDI (b. 1622) Sonata 2a [1.36]; Mustazzin corrente [1.30];
ANON (b. c.1620) Canzona [2.30]; Toccata [1.55]
Gian Paolo Fagotto (tenor); Janet Youngsdahl (soprano); Julie Harris (soprano); Paul Grindley (bass); Victor Coelho (archlute; theorbo); David Dolata (theorbo); Neil Cockburn (harpsichord); Il Furioso/Victor Coelho - rec. 2004.  DDD.
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0027 [54.07] – from Toccata (mp3 – lossless coming soon)

 This is so good that at the end, like Gary Higginson – see review – I was left hoping for more.  The download comes without texts, however, which you really need.  Use the link in GH’s review to order the CD direct from MusicWeb if the lack of texts represents a serious loss.

 Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Cello Suites
CD 1: No. 1 in G major BWV 1007 [16:11]; No. 2 in D minor BWV 1008 [17:27]; No. 3 in C major BWV 1009 [19:46]; No. 4 in E flat major BWV 1010 [21:35]
CD 2: No. 5 in C minor BWV 1011 [24:06]; No. 6 in D major BWV 1012 [27:26]; The Song of the Birds (arr. Sally Beamish) [2:44]; Prelude from Cello Suite No.1 (Anna Magdalena manuscript) [2:24]; Prelude from Cello Suite No.1 (Johann Peter Kellner manuscript) [2:21]
Prelude from Cello Suite No.1 (Johann Christoph Westphal collection) [2:29]
Steven Isserlis (cello) - rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 4-8 December 2005 (CD1, CD2 Song, Preludes), and 17-19 July 2006 (CD2 Suites 5, 6). DDD.
HYPERION CDA67541/2 [75.10 + 61:58] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

 Please refer to my recent review of Angela East’s recording of these Cello Suites on Red Priest RP006 for a comparison with her version and the classic recordings of Fournier and Tortelier – and a preference for this Hyperion version among modern recordings.  See also review by Dominy Clements.  The Fournier and Tortelier versions are available as downloads from passionato.

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
String Quartet in A, Op.41/3 (1842) [26:44]
Piano Quintet in E-flat, Op.44 (1842)* [29:49]
Takács Quartet, with Marc-André Hamelin* - rec. St George’s, Bristol, May, 2009.  DDD.
HYPERION CDA67631 [56:33] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

I was completely convinced by this performance of the Quintet, marginally less so by the Quartet in my full review of the parent CD.  You may prefer the Fine Arts Quartet version of all three Schumann Quartets on Naxos 8.570151, available from passionato or classicsonline in 320k mp3 transfers – see review by Göran Forsling – an inexpensive enough proposition to allow you to buy the Hyperion too for the sake of the Quintet, since the slightly short playing time is offset by a reduction in the price of the download to £6.99.  I should add that others have been more impressed than me by both works on the Hyperion CD. 

 
César FRANCK (1822-1890) String Quartet in D major [44:03]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) String Quartet in E minor [23:01]
Dante Quartet – rec. December, 2007. DDD.
HYPERION CDA 67664 [67:04] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

See my review of the recent Naxos recording of the Naxos recording of the Franck Quartet and Piano Quintet (8.572009) for a detailed comparison with this recording, concluding with a marginal preference for this Hyperion disc.

Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910) Grand Fantasia on Russian Folksongs op. 4 (1852) [18:16]; Thirty Songs of the Russian People - alternating original folksong with Balakirev arrangements of each song (1866, 1900) [61:12]
Joseph Banowetz (piano); Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Konstantin Krimets
Olga Kalugina (sop); Svetlana Nikolayeva (mezzo); Pavel Kolgan (ten); Joseph Banowetz; Alton Chung Ming (piano, four hands) - rec. 2004-2006.  DDD
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0018 [79:28] – from Toccata (mp3 – lossless coming soon)

 A most interesting alternative to the Naxos version of the Grand Fantasia, which I reviewed in the September, 2009, Roundup.  For full details of this enterprising Toccata release, see Rob Barnett’s review of the CD.

 

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) La Mer: trois esquisses symphoniques (1903-05) [24:51]
Claude DEBUSSY arranged for orchestra by Colin MATTHEWS (b. 1946)
Préludes (1910-1912, arrs, 2001-06): Brouillards (Book II No. 1) [4:03]; Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest (Book I, No. 7) [3:10]; Minstrels (Book I No 12) [2:39]; Canope (Book II No 10) [2:57]; Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir; (Book I No 4) [3:53]; La Puerta del Vino (Book II No 3) [3:38]; Général Lavine – eccentric (Book II No. 6) [3:15]; Feuilles mortes (Book II No 2) [3:36]; Les tierces alternées (Book II No. 11) [3:12]; La danse de Puck (Book I No 11) [3:03]; Le vent dans la plaine (Book I No 3) [2:55]; La fille aux cheveux de lin (Book I No 8)*[5:00]
Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder - rec. 2006, New Broadcasting House, Manchester. DDD
HALLÉ CDHLL 7513 [67:24] – from classicsonline (mp3)

“An out-and-out winner” – see review by John Quinn.  If you didn’t know, I doubt that you would imagine that the originals of the Préludes were for the piano, so convincing is the orchestration.  The mp3 sound is good.

Claude DEBUSSY Jeux – poème dansé [19:22]
Préludes – arr. Colin MATTHEWS: Danseuses de Delphes (book 1, No.1) [2:58] ; La Sérénade interrompue  (1,9) [2:43] ; Des pas sur la neige (1,6) [4:22] ; Les Fées sont d'exquises danseuses (2,4) [3:45] ; Voiles (1,2) [4:18] ; Hommage à S Pickwick Esq, PPMPC (2,9) [2:41] ; Le terrasse des audiences du clair de la lune (2,7) [4:28]; Bruyères (2,5) [3:20] ; Ondine (2,8) [3,8] ; Les collines d’Anacapri (1,5) [3:40] ; Feux d’artifice (2,12) [5:00] ; La cathédrale engloutie (1,10) [8:28] ; Postlude: Monsieur Croche [3:46]
Hallé Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder - rec. 2007-8, The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. DDD
HALLé CDHLL 7518 [73:35] – from classicsonline (mp3)

Bob Briggs was slightly less won over by this second volume – see review – but, if you succumb to the manifold charms of the first, as I did, you’ll probably like the second equally well.  Performances and recording (and the mp3 transfer) are all good.  Please note: the current Penguin Guide wrongly implies that CDHLL7518 is a 2-CD set.

John IRELAND (1879-1962) Mai-Dun (1921) [11:04]; The Forgotten Rite (1913-1918) [7:09]; Satyricon Overture (1944-1946) [8:45]; The Overlanders Suite (arr. Sir Charles Mackerras) (1946-1947) [19:27]; A London Overture (1936) [12:14]; Epic March (1942) [8:18]
Hallé Orchestra/John Wilson - rec. 2007, BBC New Broadcasting House, Manchester. DDD.
HALLÉ CDHLL 7523[67:41] – from classicsonline (mp3)

“This is a great CD that every Ireland enthusiast will insist on having.” – see review by John France (Recording of the Month).  Exactly.  Once again, a very good mp3 transfer.

John IRELAND Piano Concerto (1930) [25:39]; Legend for piano and orchestra (1933) [13:17]; Mai-Dun, symphonic rhapsody (1921) [13:41]
Eric Parkin (piano); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
rec. All Saints’ Church, Tooting, London, December 1985. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 8461 [52:51] - from theclassicalshop (mp3 or lossless)

 An alternative, equally fine way to obtain Mai-Dun, coupled with the unjustly neglected Piano Concerto.  Gwyn Parry-Jones speaks for me: “I recommend this outstanding recording with enthusiasm, and it would make an unbeatable introduction to Ireland’s music for anyone wishing to take the plunge; it’s well worth it!”  (See review).  The lossless sound is excellent – I chose the wma version.  The mp3 is slightly less expensive.

eMusic have Eric Parkin’s earlier performances of the Piano Concerto and Legend with Sir Adrian Boult (Lyrita SRCD.247) and Mai-Dun, etc., another Boult recording (Lyrita SRCD.240).  I can’t vouch for these as downloads, but the parent CDs are superb – buy them direct from MusicWeb if you’re unsure about downloading. 

George BUTTERWORTH (1885-1916) A Shropshire Lad: Rhapsody for Orchestra (1911); Two English Idylls (1910-1911); The Banks of Green Willow (1914)
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Irmelin: Prelude (1931); The Walk to the Paradise Garden (1907); Brigg Fair: An English Rhapsody (1907)
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961) Brigg Fair (1906)
Trad. Brigg Fair (1908)
James Gilchrist (tenor), Joseph Taylor (singer); Hallé Choir; Hallé Orchestra/Mark Elder
rec. 2002, BBC New Broadcasting House, and Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. DDD
HALLÉ CDHLL 7503 [62:47] – from classicsonline (mp3)

This is  “a thoughtfully compiled programme, finely recorded, and containing really impressive performances of all the music.” – see review by Gwyn Parry-Jones.  Again, the mp3 transfer is at the highest level; short of lossless recordings from the likes of Gimell, Linn, Hyperion and Chandos, this is as good as downloaded sound gets.  The inclusion of the folksong version of Brigg Fair to set alongside the Delius and Grainger versions makes this issue especially valuable.

 

Brian Wilson



 


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