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Brian Wilson

Bargain of the Month
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) (1786)

Alfred Poell (baritone) – Il Conte di Almaviva; Lisa Della Casa (soprano) – La Contessa; Hilde Güden (soprano) – Susanna; Cesare Siepi (bass) – Figaro; Suzanne Danco (soprano) – Cherubino; Hilde Rössl-Majdan (contralto) – Marcellina; Fernando Corena (bass) – Bartolo; Murray Dickie (tenor) – Don Basilio; Hugo Meyer-Welfing (tenor) – Don Curzio; Anny Felbermayer (soprano) – Barbarina; Harald Pröglhof (bass) – Antonio; Wiener Staatsopernchor; Wiener Philharmoniker/Erich Kleiber
rec. Redoutensaal, Vienna, June 1955. ADD.
PAST CLASSICS [43:53+47:34+39:22+40:36] – from emusic (mp3)

Read Göran Forlsing’s most enthusiastic review of this recording in its recent reissue on Decca Heritage Masters, then consider that it’s also available from Past Classics on just four tracks from emusic – if you are on the 50 tracks for £11.99 tariff, that’s less than £1!  The recording is a little dry, but so, I understand, is the Decca reissue.  This was the Figaro for many years; it’s still my joint favourite with Gui, and the download does justice to it.  No texts, but the latest Decca issue is also devoid of these – and they are readily available online.  If you aren’t a subscriber to emusic, offer this recording for £3.95.

eMusic and amazon also offer the Krips/Siepi/Danco/Gueden recording of Don Giovanni from about the same period, again from Past Classics, this time on just three tracks or for £2.37.  The recorded sound requires no more tolerance than the Figaro; burned to an mp3 CD, both sound fine for listening in the car, for example, and you have a complete opera on one disc.

Discovery of the Month
Robert HUGILL (b. 1955)
The Lord Bless Thee [5:09]; Faith, Hope and Charity [5:10]; What is Man? [15:06]; Four Motets from Tempus per Annum: Ad te levavi [3:21]; Populus Sion [4:41]; Gaudete [2:01]; Rorate cœli [2:40]; The Testament of Dr. Cranmer [21:14]; Magnificat [6:24]; Salve Regina [4:08]; Agnus Dei [2:08]; Nunc Dimittis [4:03]
Christopher Watson (tenor); Simon Briggs (violin); Paul Ayres (organ); eight:fifteen vocal ensemble/Strings of the Chameleon Arts Orchestra/Paul Brough
rec. All Saints’ Church, East Finchley, London, 23-24 April 2007. DDD
DIVINE ART DDA25053 [77:07] – from Divine Art, emusic or Classicsonline (mp3) or theclassicalshop (mp3/lossless)

I came across Robert Hugill’s music by accident.  It had been brought to my attention that I hadn’t included any Divine Art recordings in my Roundups for a long time, so I was browsing the Naxos Music Library to see and hear what was available.  Having listened to the first work on this CD, I was sold.  John Quinn called the central work sincere and dramatic – see review – and I’m happy to endorse both that description and his reference to the performances of everything here as expert and committed.  JQ’s only reservation was that there was, perhaps, a little too much of the serious side of Hugill’s music.  I think I might prefer to describe most of it as quiet and contemplative rather than serious – just the thing for the end of a bad-hair day.  I shan’t be listening to this as often as to the Chandos Howells CD (below), but I already knew that I loved Howells’ music.

It was The Testament of Dr Cranmer that first caught my attention – in the event, not the most striking work on the CD.  Though I’m from the Catholic end of the Anglican spectrum, Cranmer is as much a hero figure for me as he is for the composer, not least for the wonderful prose which he bequeathed us until the modern shopping-basket language displaced it.  Do try this in one form or another – buy the CD if you are unhappy about downloading.  Subscribers to the Naxos Music Library can try it there – click here.  (You’ll be directed to log on first, but should then be taken to the relevant page.)

Missa Gotica (anon. 14th cent.)
Kyrie (Toulouse) [8:39]; Gloria (Barcelona - Apt) [9:30]; Alleluia: Veni Sanctus Spiritus (plainchant) [6:11]; Credo (Barcelona - Apt) [9:05] ; Preface [2:47] ; Sanctus (Toulouse) [3:51] ; Offertoire (plainchant) [3:49] ; Agnus Dei (Toulouse) [2:25] ; Introit: Spiritus Domini (plain chant) [2:57] ; Ite missa est (Toulouse) [2:16]
Ensemble Organum/Marcel Pérès (tenor, director) - rec. January 2009, Eglise de Payerne, Switzerland. DDD
ZIGZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT090601 [51:30] – from emusic (mp3)

“ ZigZag Territoires is to be congratulated for this important and stimulating contribution to the repertoire and its performance practice.”  – see full review by Mark Sealey.  The mp3 transfer from eMusic is good but, of course, comes without the notes which MS found so highly informative.  Presumably they explain why the Introit, which should come first, is placed next to last, the one thing about the recording which puzzled me.

Lamento di Tristano: Dances and Instrumental Music from the Medieval Period
Capella de Ministrers/Carles Magraner - rec.2002. DDD.
LICANUS CDM0307 [69:19] – from passionato (mp3)

The Licanus label is gradually opening up the riches of the medieval Catalan tradition in fine performances from the Capella de Ministrers.  I’m currently in the process of reviewing their latest recording, Fantasiant, devoted to the music of Ausiàs March and his contemporaries; look out for an appreciative write-up.  That new Cd comes in a luxury hard-back book with texts and notes; these are absent from the download, but it’s recommendable in every other respect.  I’m pleased to note that the revamping of the passionato site has brought access to music from The Orchard, including the Licanus label, though you will find their recordings listed under T, not O as you might expect.

Expect more reviews of music from this source in coming months.  I’ll add just one more recommendation this month, with the eye-catching title Borgia: Music from the Time of Pope Alexander VI, on which the main item is Peñalosa’s Missa Nunca fué pena mayor, preceded by the Urreda motet which inspired it (CDM0616 – from passionato in mp3).  Unfortunately, there is not much information on Licanus’s website about their recordings, even if you can overcome the problem that it’s all in Catalan. 

Be warned that this is music-making of the bright and cheerful variety, with instrumental accompaniment.  Though the accompaniment is comparatively restrained in the motet and mass, it’s quite different from the recordings of Peñalosa’s music and that of his contemporaries on the Hyperion recordings made by Gothic Voices (CDH55298, The Voice in the Garden – see review) and Pro Cantione Antiqua (CDH55357, Peñalosa Complete Motets – see review and review).

Philippe ROGIER (c1561–1596)
Videntes stellam* [6:20]; Cantantibus organis [3:19]; Missa Ego sum qui sum: Kyrie [4:05]; Missa Ego sum qui sum: Gloria [7:50] ; Caligaverunt oculi mei [6:51]; Missa Ego sum qui sum: Credo [9:52]; Locutus sum in lingua mea [10:09]; Missa Ego sum qui sum: Sanctus [2:58]; Missa Ego sum qui sum : Benedictus [3:22]; Laboravi in gemitu meo [4:42]; Missa Ego sum qui sum: Agnus Dei [3:54]; Verbum caro* [7:20]
Choir of King’s College London; The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble*/David Trendell
rec. All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, May 2009.  DDD. Booklet with texts and translations included.
HYPERION CDA67807 [70:48] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Full marks to Hyperion and King’s College, London, Choir for extending our knowledge of Rogier’s undervalued music, though I could have preferred something other than the Mass Ego sum, and Laboravi in gemitu, of which there are already good recordings in the catalogue on Linn (CKD109 – see January 2009 Download Roundup).  You wouldn’t mistake the King’s performances for those of a professional group like Magnificat on the Linn recording or for a cathedral or college choir like their more illustrious Cambridge namesakes, but, after a slightly shaky start in Videntes stellam, they make a very good showing in some fine music here and I hope to hear them more often. 

The performances are generally faster than those of Magnificat, but the music lends itself to both approaches, when the singing is so good.  Interspersing the sections of the Mass with motets, however, does seem odd, when these relate to different portions of the church year, so could not be seen as placing the Mass within a single liturgical context.  To have included the propers for a particular feast day, an established practice, would have been more understandable.

The recording is good, with individual voices well captured within the overall sound stage.  The presentation is excellent – the booklet of notes, texts and translations is available for download, and the texts and translations of individual sections can be accessed as they are playing in a programme such as Squeezebox.

Peter PHILIPS (1560/1–1628)

Ecce vicit Leo for 8 voices (1613) [3:07]; O quam suavis est II for 8 voices (1613) [4:56]; Tristitia vestra for 5 voices (1612) [2:02]; Tibi laus, tibi gloria for 5 voices (1612) [2:49];  Ave Iesu Christe for 8 voices (1613) [4:18]; Tu es Petrus for 8 voices (1613) [3:10]; O crux splendidior for 5 voices (1612) [5:46]; Christus resurgens for 5 voices (1612) [3:11]; Salve regina for 8 voices (1613) [5:33]; Cantantibus organis Cecilia for 5 voices (1612) [2:49]; Ascendit Deus for 5 voices (1612) [2:32]; O quam suavis est I for 8 voices (1613) [3:49]; Hodie concepta est for 8 voices (1613) [3:08]; Litania duodecima for 9 voices (1623) [12:38]
The Choir of Winchester Cathedral; The Parley of Instruments/David Hill - rec. November, 1992. DDD.
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55254 [61:26] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Cantiones Sacræ Quinis Vocibus
Salve Regina
[7:21]; Conceptio tua [3:09]; Hodie beata Virgo Maria [4:26]; Gaude Maria Virgo [4:57]; Alma Redemptoris Mater [4:22] ; Iste est Johannes [4:07]; O nomen Jesu [3:31]; Ave gratia plena [3:05]; Cantabant Sancti [3:31]; Stella, quam viderant Magi [5:12];     Tibi laus, tibi gloria [4:05]; Salve, salutaris Victima [4:31]; O Maria Mater [6:48];  Mulieres sedentes [5:47];  Surgens Jesus Dominus [2:04]; Christus resurgens [3:16]
Choir of Erskine College, Island Bay, Wellington, New Zealand/Peter Walls - rec. August 1999. DDD.
NAXOS 8.555056  [70:12] – from Classicsonline and passionato (both mp3)

If you followed my recommendation of Hyperion’s Passiontide at St Paul’s (CDA66916, March 2010 Roundup), enjoyed Peter Philips’ Ecce vicit Leo on that recording and would like to explore his music further, you need look no further than these two inexpensive downloads, from Hyperion and Naxos.  Fortunately, they complement each other nicely, since there is not too much overlap between them.  The New Zealand performances are a little more spacious than those from Winchester.

Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637–1707) 

Præludium in g minor, BuxWV 149 [8:35]; Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BuxWV 223 [8:36]; Vater unser im Himmelreich, BuxWV 219 [2:51]; Nun lob, mein Seel’ den Herren, BuxWV 212 [3:55]; Ciacona in c minor, BuxWV 159 [6:46]; In dulci jubilo, BuxWV 197 [1:53]; Magnificat primi toni, BuxWV 203 [9:08]; Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BuxWV 196 [3:37]; Præludium in f sharp minor, BuxWV 146 [8:10]; Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder, BuxWV 178 [3:49]; Fuga in C, BuxWV 174 [3:07]; Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, BuxWV 211 [1:53]; Præludium in C, BuxWV 137 [5:36]
David Hamilton (organ)
rec. King’s College Chapel, The University of Aberdeen, January 2007. DDD
DIVINE ART DDA25041 [69:25] – from Divine Art or Classicsonline (both mp3) or theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

I missed this when it was released in Buxtehude tercentenary year, 2007, even though it received a favourable review from Max Kenworthy, here on MusicWeb International.  This is not a showy performance or recording, but it is very attractive.  This would form a very recommendable pendant to one or more of the other Buxtehude organ recordings which have come my way on CD or download.  Listen first, if you wish, on Naxos Music Library – here.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681–1767)

Suite in a minor for recorder, strings and continuo [30:15]; Recorder Concerto in F [13:44]; Recorder Concerto in C [14:47]; Sinfonia in F major for recorder, bass viol solo, strings, cornett, three trombones and organ [6:57]
Peter Holtslag (treble recorder); Mark Caudle (bass viol); The Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
rec. December, 1989. DDD.
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55091 [66:13] from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Reviewing a recent CPO recording which couples the well-known a-minor Suite with two much less well-known works from TWV55 (Carin van Heerden and L’Orfeo Barockorchester, CPO 777 218-2), I made a detailed comparison with this Helios recording, and expressed a preference for it.  There are also good rival versions in this lowest price-bracket from Naxos – one from Helmut Müller Brühl and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra (8.554018) and an earlier recording (1988) from the Capella Istropolitana (8.550156).  Were it not for the omission of repeats which reduce the outer movements of the a-minor to half their proper length, I might well choose the 1988 Naxos.  As it is, with excellent couplings and the advantage of period instruments, you may download the Hyperion Helios with assurance.  The lossless version of the recording sounds well.  Only the TWV catalogue numbers are lacking from the excellent booklet.

Silvius Leopold WEISS (1687-1750) Lute Music: Volume 2
Sonata No.39 in C [32:16]; Tombeau sur la Mort de M. Comte de Logy [11:54]; Sonata No.50 in B-flat [30:43]
Jakob Lindberg (lute) – rec. Länna Church, Sweden, November, 2007. DDD.
BIS BIS-CD-1534 [76:32] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless) and Classicsonline (mp3)

Lindberg plays a lovingly restored instrument, one of only four extant Sixtus Rauwolf lutes, built around the end of the sixteenth century; the modifications which it has received make it ideal for the music of Weiss.  Both Lindberg on BIS and Robert Barto on Naxos have embarked on recording the prolific output of this composer. Barto is already up to Volume 10 (8.577219, also available from Classicsonline and  passionato), a recording on which he plays Sonatas Nos.28 and 40 and the Tombeau which also features on Volume 2 of the BIS. 

Reviewing Barto’s Volume 10 on CD, I enjoyed both versions, but thought that Barto had a slight edge because he captures both the melancholy, to which Lindberg also responds well, and the warmth of Weiss’s admiration for his fellow composer.  I had not come across either series before but I shall be investigating Lindberg’s Volume 1 (Sonatas 4, 7, 29 and Preludes, BIS-CD1524) and some of Barto’s earlier volumes, all of which have received strong recommendations on MusicWeb International.

Charles AVISON (1709-1770) Concerti Grossi

12 Concerti Grossi (1744) after Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
The Avison Ensemble/Pavlo Beznosiuk
rec. Jubilee Theatre, St Nicholas’ Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, 26-30 November 2007. DDD.
DIVINE ART DDA21213 [78:14 + 76:38] – from Divine Art or Classicsonline (mp3) or theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)  [See review for full track details]

The Brandenburg Consort/Roy Goodman
rec. 10-12 January and 7-9 February, 1994. DDD
HYPERION DYAD CDD22060 [76:34 + 74:05] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless) [See review for full track details]

Jonathan Woolf thought that ‘the ensemble that bears his name does him further honour in this excellently recorded survey’ – see review – and I was very hard put to find anything at all to criticise in my review of the CD issue.  To listen first on Naxos Music Library, click here.

Mark Sealey strongly recommended the rival Hyperion version – see review – but I think the Divine Art has a small edge.  Both sets are offered on CD at 2-for-1, so the download price of $19.98 from the Divine Art website does not represent a huge saving over the discs, when classicsonline charge only £9.98.  The Hyperion download is less expensive still, at £7.99 for mp3 or lossless flac and it comes with the booklet as a download.

18 Concerti Grossi, Opus 9/1-12 (1766-7) [87:31] and Opus 10/1-6 (1769) [44:10]
The Avison Ensemble/Pavlo Beznosiuk
rec. The Jubilee Theatre, St Nicholas’s Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 8-11 October 2006. DDD.
DIVINE ART DDA21211 [66:56 + 64:45] – from Divine Art or classicsonline (mp3) or theclassicalshop (mp3 or lossless

I came very close to making this 2-CD set my Bargain of the Month when I reviewed it in its physical form - here.  It’s just as desirable in download format.  To check it out at Naxos Music Library first, click here.

The CDs are offered as 2-for-1.  classicsonline don’t quite match that, but they do offer the set at £9.98, less than twice their normal price per disc of £7.99.  Divine Art’s $19.98 is not very advantageous, with the weak state of the pound at the time of writing.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Piano Concertos Nos: 20 in d minor, K466* [33:04]; 27 in B-flat, K595* [32:08]; 26 in D, K537 (Coronation) [31:17]; 23 in A, K488 [26:39]; 24 in c minor, K491 [29:54]
Clifford Curzon (piano); English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten*; London Symphony Orchestra/István Kertész - rec. 1967. ADD
DECCA LEGENDS 468 491-2 [153:02] – from passionato (mp3)

This is a very short review for one very good reason: there’s nothing at all that I dislike about these recordings.  I revisited No.23 in particular for comparison with the Beulah Extra download of the Denis Matthews recording of No.23 and, much as I like and recommend that version, still sounding well in Beulah’s transfer, despite its age, Curzon has to be my benchmark for this work, especially now that the excellent Stephen Kovacevich/Colin Davis Philips recording seems to be no longer available.  You won’t save much, if anything, by downloading – some dealers have this on CD for a little less than passionato’s £12.99 – but you will avoid having to change CDs midway through one of the concertos.

Sigismund NEUKOMM (1778-1858)

Missa Solemnis pro Die Acclamationis Johannis
La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy, Chœur de Chambre de Namur/Jean-Claude Malgoire
K617 K617212 [71:09] - from emusic (mp3)

This recording, on 15 tracks from eMusic, makes an excellent follow-up for anyone who has heard and enjoyed the Malgoire recording of Mozart’s and Neukomm’s Requiems, also on the K617 label – see Em Marshall’s review for details of Neukomm.

Fernando SOR (1778-1839) Early Works

Three Minuets, Op.11:  No.6 in A: Andante Maestoso [2:25]; No.7 in a minor: Andante [2:05]; No.8 in A: Andante con moto [2:40]; Air: ‘Oh Cara armonia’ from Mozart’s Opera Il Flauto Magico. Arranged with an Introduction and Variations for the Guitar. As performed by the Author at the Nobilities Concerts. Op.9 [9:24]; Menuet in c minor, Op.24 No.1 [2:58]; Menuet in C, Op.5 No.3 [1:25]; Andante Largo, Op.5 No.3 [7:40]; Two Minuets, Op.11: No.5 in D: Andante Maestoso [2:14]; No.4 in D: Andante con moto [3:06]; From Studios for the Spanish Guitar, Op.6: No.2 in A: Andante-Allegro [1:29]; No.8 in C: Andantino [1:16]; No.9 in d minor: Andante-Allegro [3:14]; No.11 in e minor: Allegro Moderato [3:07]; No.12 in A: Andante [4:38]; Grand Solo, Op.14: Andante-Allegro [10:44]; Menuet in G, Op.3 [2:34]
William Carter (guitar by Tony Johnson, 2006 after 19th century models)
rec. St Martin’s Church, East Woodhay, UK, 12-13 January 2009. DDD.
LINN RECORDS CKD343 [61:39] – from Linn (mp3, lossless and 24-bit).

We aren’t short of recordings of the guitar music of Sor, including performances from the likes of Andres Segovia, Julian Bream and John Williams, but his early works were under-represented in the catalogue, apart from the Minuets and the Mozart arrangement.  William Carter’s new recording changes that – and changes it convincingly, with finger-tip playing, as endorsed by Sor himself, that brings the music to life.  The CD-quality download is good and it comes complete with the booklet – an attractive Goya painting graces the front and Carter’s notes are excellent, even waxing poetic at times.  No track timings are given, though you can find these on the website.  The only thing missing is the surround sound of the SACD.  Recordings of Sor’s music have a habit of disappearing from the catalogue; the quality of this new recording is such that it certainly deserves to stay.

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)

Symphonie Fantastique, H48, Op.14 [56:01]; Le Carnaval Romain, Op.9 [9:14]
Anima Eterna Brugge/Jos van Immerseel
ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT100101 [65:15] – from emusic (mp3)

Symphonie Fantastique
[52:34; Overture Le Corsaire [7:58]; Les Troyens:  Royal Hunt and Storm and Trojan March [14:35]
Orchestre National de RTF; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham – rec. Salle Wagram, Paris, 1957, Abbey Road Studio, London, 1958/9. ADD.
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS 5679722 [74:53] – from passionato (mp3)

Jean SIBELIUS Finlandia [8:32]; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Symphony No.35 (‘Haffner’) [19:22]; Hector BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique [54:02]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Charles Dutoit - rec. live, London, 2006/7. DDD.
[81:55] – download only, from passionato (mp3)

There’s something old here, something new and one of Decca’s download-only concerts.  All are excellent in their different ways.  The Beecham recording has been a classic almost since it was first released; though it was challenged early in its life by rival versions from Klemperer (no longer available) and Davis (till recently available on Eloquence), it survived unscathed and became a genuine Great Recording of the Century.  Generously coupled and re-mastered, it remains one of the few versions of this symphony which retain my attention all the way through, when other versions leave me slightly off message in one movement or another.  The recording could not be mistaken for modern DDD – it sounds just a little coarse in places – but it is very good for its age.  Passionato have both UK (Nipper) and US (Angel) versions; I’ve given the US catalogue number and the URL of that version because I’ve found the Angel downloads to be more reliable.

Van Immerseel’s new account also retains my attention all through.  The employment of period instruments is scrupulous but never done for its own sake; only the substitution of two period pianos for the bells in the finale struck the wrong note to my ears – and Immerseel claims Berlioz’s own sanction for their employment.  The sound is lean and mean – quite the opposite of Beecham, who, even if he had known Berlioz’s preference for the kind of drum sticks employed by Immerseel, wouldn’t have given a hoot.  Yet the two conductors somehow arrive at the same place by different routes.

The Dutoit recording is available only as a download and the programme is slightly too long to burn to CDR.  It’s well worth having for the Fantastique alone, but the other works also come over well – a stirring Finlandia, a modern-orchestra Haffner Symphony informed by period-instrument practice and a Fantastique which may not set the world on fire but still retains my attention throughout.  This would obviously be a worthwhile souvenir for those who attended the concert, but the rest of us can enjoy it, too.

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)

Symphony No.5, WAB105 (ed. Haas)
Hague Residentie Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. The Hague, Netherlands, 17-19 September, 2009.  DDD/DSD
CHANDOS SACD CHSA5080 [62:05] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

I expected to like this; I’m sorry to report that I actually found the performance uninvolving.  It sounds more like a run-through than the finished product, at speeds far faster than any version that I know.  Perhaps the fact that I was able to listen only to the mp3 was partly to blame – a glitch prevented me from downloading the lossless version – but I don’t think that the problem stems from the sound quality: there’s nothing wrong with the mp3, and even SACD cannot atone for the fast tempi.  If this is meant to be Bruckner without the languor, it didn’t work for me.  To add insult to injury, the SACD is offered at a discounted price, while the download is not, thereby making the lossless version actually a penny more expensive than the disc.

Amazon have two Günter Wand versions of this symphony for £2.76, with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra; either of these, or the Barenboim version, offered at the same price, would be more recommendable – and less expensive.  If you want to go for broke and buy the complete Bruckner symphonies, passionato have both the Karajan and Jochum box sets for £30.99 each.

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)

Symphony No. 10 in f# minor (arr. Derek Cook and for piano by Ronald Stevenson and Christopher White)
Christopher White (piano)
DIVINE ART DDA25079 [67:04] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

This is an interesting concept for Mahler anniversary year – Derek Cook’s ‘completion’ of Mahler’s unfinished tenth symphony arranged for solo piano.  I have to say that it didn’t quite work for me; though I am a great fan of the Cook tenth and I give all concerned the highest marks for effort, too often it sounded more like Debussy than Mahler – but I imagine that may well be a minority opinion.  Try it first on Naxos Music Library here.

Frederick DELIUS

Florida Suite [37:11]; Over the Hills and Far Away [13:30]; Idylle Printemps [8:02] ; La Quadroone [4:05] ; Scherzo [5:49] ; Koanga, Act II: Closing Scene (arr. Sir Thomas Beecham) [10:26]
Susannah Glanville; Susan Lees; Irene Evans (sopranos); Sarah Francis; Sue Pearce; Shirley Thomas (mezzo-sopranos); English Northern Philharmonia/David Lloyd-Jones
NAXOS 8.553535 [79:03] – from Classicsonline (mp3) or passionato (mp3 and lossless)

Florida Suite (rev. ed. Beecham) (1886-87) [36:15]; Paris – The Song of a Great City (1899) [21:22]; Brigg Fair – An English Rhapsody (1907) [16:02]
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Richard Hickox - rec. Wessex Hall, Poole Centre, 7-8 May 1989. DDD
EMI CLASSICS BRITISH COMPOSERS SERIES 370565 2 [76:02] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless): no longer available on CD.

See review by MusicWeb International Classical Editor, Rob Barnett

Brigg Fair (An English Rhapsody), for orchestra, RT vi/16 [15:51]; A Dance Rhapsody (No. 2), for orchestra, RT vi/22 [7:40]; On Hearing the first Cuckoo in Spring [7:04]; Summer Night on the River [6:36]; A Song before Sunrise, for small orchestra, RT vi/24 [6:06]; Fennimore and Gerda Intermezzo [5:11]; Irmelin, prelude for orchestra, RT vi/27 [5:03]; Winter Night (Sleigh Ride) [5:28]; Summer Evening [6:22]; Florida Suite: Daybreak – Dance [10:26]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Beecham - rec.1956. ADD
EMI GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 5675532 [75:47] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless): no longer available on CD.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Overture: The Wasps [8:41]; The Lark Ascending* [13:54]
Frederick DELIUS Florida Suite [37:18]; Summer Evening [6:06]
Michael Bochmann, violin*; English Symphony Orchestra/William Boughton.
rec. Great Hall, Birmingham University, 14-16 July 1989. DDD.
NIMBUS NI5208 [65:59] – from Classicsonline (mp3)

This lengthy listing of versions of the Florida Suite, or parts thereof, arose from my receiving the Boughton recording on CD by mistake, which reminded me that the most recent reissue of Beecham’s Delius recordings on EMI had contained only the one section.  Otherwise, the Great Recordings of the Century recording can be strongly recommended – I only hope that its current unavailability on CD means that the 2-CD set, including the complete Florida Suite, now also unavailable, is due to reappear on EMI’s new reissue label.

In the meantime, the GROC download, still sounding well, is essential, supplemented by one or other version of Florida Suite.  All are good, so coupling may well be your best guide.  If you just want Beecham’s On Hearing the First Cuckoo, Beulah Extra can supply this, also from the 1956 stereo recording, here.

Richard STRAUSS (1864–1949)

Vier letzte Lieder (1949) [19:10]
1. Frühling (Hesse) [3:24]; 2. September (Hesse) [4:07]; 3. Beim Schlafengehn (Hesse) [4:27]; 4. Im Abendrot (Eichendorff) [7:11]
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano); Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Ackermann
rec. 25-26 September 1953, Watford Town Hall
Arabella (1933), highlights [57:41]
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano) – Arabella; Joseph Metternich (baritone) – Mandryka; Nicolai Gedda (tenor) – Matteo; Anny Felbermayer (soprano) – Zdenka; Walter Berry (bass) – Count Lamoral; Harald Pröglhöf (baritone) – Count Dominik; Murray Dickie (tenor) – Count Elemer; Waiter; Theodor Schlott (bass) – Count Waldner
Philharmonia Orchestra/Lovro von Matacic
rec. 27–29 September, 6 October 1954, Kingsway Hall, London. ADD
NAXOS 8.111145 [76:51] – from Classicsonline (mp3) [See review by Göran Forsling.]

Vier letzte Lieder; 6 Lieder, Op.68 (Nos.2-4); Befreit, from Op.39; Ruhe, meine Seele, from Op.27; Wiegenlied, from Op.41; Die heiligen drei Konige, from Op.56, etc.
Soile Isokoski; Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Mark Janowski
ONDINE ODE982-2 [63:03] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless)

Reviewing the reissue of Schwarzkopf’s later recording of the Four Last Songs recently (EMI Masters 9 65941-2, with 12 Orchestral Songs – see review) I found myself almost equally attached to the earlier recording, now so excellently restored by Naxos.  Lovers of Strauss and Schwarzkopf will ideally want both.

Classicsonline also have the Alto reissue of the Schwarzkopf Four Last Songs, alternatively coupled with Mozart – excerpts from Così and Figaro (ALC1008) – and Lisa della Casa’s recording of the Songs, with excerpts from Capriccio and Arabella (8.111347).  Ralph Moore has just made the della Casa Recording of the Month – see review – a view with which I can only partly concur.  The singing is excellent, but the recording, for all the care that Naxos always take, is just too dated for my full enjoyment.   The Past Classics reissue of Figaro (above), in the success of which della Casa plays no mean part, is more acceptable, though it appears that little has been done other than to transfer the LPs.

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Anthony Collins’ Sibelius Cycle
Disc 1: Karelia Overture Op.10 [6:57]; Symphony No 1 in E minor Op.39 (1899) [34:30];
Symphony No 7 in C Op.105 (1924) [19:47]

Disc 2: Symphony No 2 in D Op.43 (1902) [41:54]
Symphony No 6 in D minor Op.104 (1923) [27:54]

Disc 3: Symphony No 3 in C Op.52 (1907) [24:48]; Pohjola’s Daughter Op. 49 (1906) [12:54]; Pelléas and Mélisande (excerpts) Op.46 (1905) [16:19]; Nightride and Sunrise Op.55 (1907) [14:32]

Disc 4: Symphony No 4 in A minor Op.63 (1911) [31:01]
Symphony No 5 in E flat Op.82 (1919) [30:39]
London Symphony Orchestra/Anthony Collins - rec. Kingsway Hall, London 1952-1955
BEULAH 14PD8 [4 CDs (mono): 61:17 + 69:48 + 68:38 + 61:40] – from iTunes (mp3)

[See reviews by Patrick Waller – here – and Rob Barnett – here.]

Popular Sibelius
Finlandia, Op.26 [8:02]; Karelia Suite, Op.11 [17:08]; Swan of Tuonela, Op.22/3 [8:25]; En Saga, Op.9 [18:00]; Romance in C, Op.42 [6:03]; Tapiola, Op.112 [18:04]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Anthony Collins; Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum* – rec. September and December, 1957; December, 1952*. ADD
BEULAH 6PD8 [75:42] – from iTunes (mp3)

See review of earlier issue by Rob Barnett

A confession is in order here.  Knowing of my interest in these Anthony Collins recordings and that I didn’t have press access to iTunes, Beulah kindly supplied the CDs of these two albums.  I did purchase the finale of Symphony No.5 from iTunes and found it comparable with the equivalent track on CD, thereby justifying the inclusion in the Download Roundup.

As impecunious undergraduates in the early 1960s, my friends and I relied on Ace of Clubs for most of our introductions to the classics, from the likes of Karl Münchinger and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in Bach and Vivaldi – and Anthony Collins in Sibelius.  As a member of World Record Club, however, also a budget label, I was tied to purchase a certain number of their recordings, so I went for Tauno Hannikainen and the Sinfonia of London in Sibelius’ Second and Fifth Symphonies, the latter coupled with the Karelia Suite.  The Fifth was fine, but a disaster caused a huge cut in the finale of the Second, which Hanninkainen, a close friend of the composer, initially claimed was an authorial change.  The truth seems to have been that he turned over two pages at once.  Though the WRC recordings were in stereo, in every other respect the Ace of Clubs LPs were preferable and I soon transferred my allegiance to them.

Those Collins recordings, especially the Second and Fifth, must have been in the back of my unconscious ever since – I think I must have judged each subsequent version that I heard from them – and they now shine through the elderly recordings as brightly as they ever did.  In fact, though you could hardly mistake the sound even for the early stereo recordings which Decca made just a few years later, it’s all tolerable enough for enjoyment.  My colleagues have said a great deal about the performances which I shan’t repeat except to note that, athletic as they are in the main, nothing is ever hurried; all is given its full weight.

The Popular Sibelius album was recorded by EMI/HMV at about the same time that they were recording the Beecham Delius programme above; it’s not in the same league as that – in fact it’s not much of an improvement on the earlier Decca sound – but, again, it’s perfectly tolerable.  I understand that all the recordings on these five CDs were made from Decca and Emi master-tapes.

iTunes offer the 4-CD set for £17.99, about half the price of the CDs, and the single disc for £7.99, which doesn’t represent a huge saving over the cost of the CD.  They also offer the Past Classics recording of the same programme, minus Finlandia and the van Beinum Tapiola, again for £7.99, which represents poor value when eMusic have the same recording for the cost of 6 tracks, potentially less than £1.50.  I also sampled the eMusic Past Classics download of Night Ride and Sunrise (one track) and the Fifth Symphony (three tracks, potentially less than £1) and found both to be bearable but, with a few LP-derived plops and sounding rather thin, sonically inferior to the Beulah transfers.  The Past Classics transfer also seems to have been made from an LP on a turntable running marginally fast.

I am currently listening to all the Beulah recordings which have never been issued on CD, now available as downloads from Beulah Extra – details from their website here.  Rather than spread out my reviews of them over several Download Roundups, I shall be producing a special article about them in the next few weeks – please look out for that and a similar article about The Tallis Scholars’ recordings on their own Gimell label, now 30 years old.

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Symphonic Dances, Op. 45 (1940) [35:47]; The Isle of the Dead, Op. 29 (1906) [20:58]; The Rock - Fantasy, Op. 7 (1893) [13:01]
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko - rec. 5-6 September 2008; 23 September 2009. DDD
AVIE AV2188 [70:09] – from Classicsonline and emusic (mp3)

John Quinn made this Recording of the Month in a review which also carried a strong endorsement from MusicWeb International Classical Editor, Rob Barnett, thereby leaving me with little to say except that the mp3 sound is more than acceptable.  The classicsonline download is at 320k throughout, as are two of the emusic tracks – the remainder are at an acceptable 224k.

Memories of George Szell’s CBS recording of the Symphonic Dances are not totally expunged – still available to download from – but this interpretation stresses the word Symphonic more effectively than I remember Szell doing, and The Isle of the Dead is preferable to any version that I’ve ever heard, including Jurowski with the LPO on LPO Live LPO-0004 and Bátiz with the RPO on Naxos 8.550583, both of whom offer only the Dances and Isle.  One advantage of Jurowski’s slightly slower-paced version – my runner-up among modern recordings of The Isle, and also available from Classicsonline – is that the purchase comes complete with the booklet of notes, thereby atoning somewhat for the short playing length.

If you would like to replicate the recent MusicWeb ‘blind’ comparison of the various versions of The Isle of the Dead, most of them can be found by Naxos Music Library subscribers – click here, enter your logon details and you will be taken to a page listing all the versions.

Arthur BLISS (1891-1975) Piano Concerto
Trevor Barnard (piano); Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent - rec. 1962. ADD.
DIVINE ART 2-4106 [37:57] – from Divine Art or emusic (mp3)

The least expensive way to obtain this valuable historic recording is from eMusic – three tracks, costing potentially less than £1.  Divine Art offer it for not much more, $2.97. Reviewed by Colin Clarke


A Sequence for St Michael [10:02]; By the Waters of Babylon [10:11]; A Spotless Rose [3:24]; Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (Gloucester Service, premiere recording) [11:26]; Psalm 142 (premiere recording) [4:14]; A Grace for 10 Downing Street [2:29]; One Thing Have I Desired [5:38]; Like as the Hart [5:50]; Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (Collegium Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense) [7:33]; Salve Regina [4:44]; Te Deum (Collegium Regale) [9:01]
Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/Andrew Nethsingha - rec. St John’s College Chapel, Cambridge, 9-10 January, 13-14 July 2009. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN10587 [75:33] - from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

Chandos offer two items from the St John’s Service and one from the King’s College equivalent, next door, well sung by the choir of the former college in a recording supervised by John Rutter.  With Howells’ music guaranteeing that the programme will be well worth hearing, how could this not succeed?  Best of all, there are only two items, the Sequence for St Michael and Salve Regina, which overlap with the rival Hyperion recording of Howells’ Choral Music which John Quinn described as an outstanding disc, a view which I readily endorse.  (CDA67494, from Hyperion, CD, mp3 or lossless – see review).

A glitch prevented me from downloading the Chandos in lossless sound, but the 320k mp3 is a good substitute.  The Hyperion is available in good mp3 and excellent lossless sound.  Both versions come complete with the booklet.  If you love Howells’ music as much as I do, you really do need both.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No.8 in c minor, Op.65 (1947)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
NAXOS 8.572392 [61:57] – from classicsonline (mp3)

This is the third in Naxos’s series of Shostakovich symphonies with Petrenko at the helm and it’s just as successful as the other two.  The Eighth Symphony is a difficult work to bring off: it’s little wonder that, with its post-war weariness, when Stalin was looking for a celebration of peace comparable in power with the Seventh, the ‘Leningrad’ Symphony, it soon found its way onto a list of proscribed works and that, as Richard Whitehouse points out in his excellent notes, Shostakovich himself had periodic doubts about it.  When I saw that Naxos was due to release this in May, 2010, I couldn’t wait for it to be available, but pre-listened via the Naxos Music Library.  I wasn’t disappointed, though I was slightly less bowled over than by the first two instalments of the cycle.  I need to listen again when the CD and download are issued in May, in order to hear it without the annoying brief gaps which the Naxos media-player leaves between movements which should link without break.

As for alternative versions: in my review of his complete box set of the symphonies (Decca 475 8748, or download from passionato) I felt that Ashkenazy was trying a little too hard to bring out the subversive nature of the music which Shostakovich supposedly claimed for it.  I still think there is a place for Haitink’s interpretation (425 0712 – the budget Eloquence reissue seems to have been deleted, except as a download from passionato) and, of course, Barshai on Regis offers a notable bargain, though not as a download.

Ravi SHANKAR (b.1920)

Homage to Mahatma Gandhi
Raga Mohan Kauns [24:00]; Raga Gara [17:42]; Tabla Farodast [6:51]
Ravi Shakar (sitar); Alla Rakha (tabla) – rec. 1978-1980. Presumed ADD.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 474 9592 [48:43] – from passionato (mp3)

Inde du Nord – Northern India
Raga Puriya-Kalya [31:00]; Raga Purvi-Kalyan [20:39] ; Dhun Man Pasand [11:45]
Ravi Shankar
OCORA RADIO FRANCE C581674 [63:24] – from emusic (mp3)

2010 marks Ravi Shankar’s 90th birthday.  I merely point to the availability of these recordings and to my enjoyment of them – I’m no expert on Indian classical music, so I shall not attempt to analyse them.  The Ocora recording is especially good value from eMusic, on just three tracks, at potentially less than £1, a considerable saving on the CD.

Jon LORD (b.1941) To Notice Such Things

To Notice Such Things: As I Walked Out One Evening - At Court - Turville Heath - Stick Dance - Winter of a Dormouse – Afterward [27:08]; Evening Song [8:17]; For Example [9:15]; Air on a Blue String [6:37]; Afterwards by Thomas Hardy* [3:01]
Jon Lord (piano); Cormac Henry (flute); Jeremy Irons (narrator)*; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Clark Rundell
AVIE AV2190 [54:15] – from emusic (mp3)

I cannot really add much to Rob Barnett’s review, in which he summed up his response as “This is a well presented, recorded and annotated album and one that will please those who respond to Finzian pastoral melancholy. Quite an achievement.”  It should also appeal to those who enjoy the works of Thomas Hardy.

The eMusic download comes for the price of five tracks, but without any notes, so you may prefer to purchase the CD at MusicWeb International’s reduced price.

John ADAMS (b. 1947)

Nixon in China – an opera in three acts (1987) [154:53]
Richard Nixon: - Robert Orth; Pat Nixon: - Maria Kanyova; Henry Kissinger: - Thomas Hammons; Mao Tse-tung: - Marc Heller; Opera Colorado Chorus/Douglas Kinney Frost
Colorado Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop
rec. live, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver, Colorado, 6-14 June 2008. DDD
NAXOS AMERICAN OPERA CLASSICS 8.669022-24 [3 CDs: 66:22 + 51:04 + 36:27] – from Classicsonline (mp3)

I have not yet had enough time to listen more than once to this recording, so I refer you pro tem to Jim Zychowicz’s review of the CDs and merely point to its availability from classicsonline. My initial reactions mirror those of my colleague.  The booklet comes as part of the download deal.



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