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SEPTEMBER 2010 DOWNLOAD ROUNDUP

Brian Wilson

DOWNLOAD OF THE MONTH

Frédéric (Fryderyk) CHOPIN (1810-1849) Cello Sonatas
Cello Sonata in g minor, Op.65 (1846) [32:29]
Étude, Op.10/6, Andante, transcribed by Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936) [4:52]
Simon (Szymon) LAKS (1901-1983) Sonata for cello and piano (1932)* [16:39]
Karl (Karol) SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937) Sonata in d minor, Op.9 (1904) transcribed from Violin Sonata by Kazimierz WILKOMIRSKI [21:46]
Raphael Wallfisch (cello); John York (piano)
rec. Wyastone, Monmouth, UK, 23-24 January 2010. DDD.
* First recording.
NIMBUS NI5862 [75:53] – from classicsonline (mp3)

I might not be tempted to buy this for the sake of the Szymanowski, enjoyable as it is, but, though there are other fine versions of the Chopin, I’m inclined to think that this will become my version of choice now, and I’m very pleased to have discovered the Laks. This recording is, for me, one of the unexpected highlights of the Chopin bicentenary year. It’s already received high praise in other quarters, so I’m all the more confident in making this Recording (and now Download) of the Month. The mp3 transfer is very good.

In reviewing the Nimbus CD – here – my chief comparison was with a Hyperion recording:

Charles-Valentin ALKAN (1813–1888) Cello Sonata in E, Op.47 [33:44]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810–1849) Cello Sonata in g minor, Op.65 [29:10]
Alban Gerhardt (cello); Steven Osborne (piano) – rec. 2007. DDD.
HYPERION CDA67624
[62:56] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

This 2007 performance by Alban Gerhardt and Steven Osborne pairs the Chopin with another romantic Cello Sonata by Charles Alkan – an inspired coupling, a performance to stand alongside the best available, and a wonderfully clean and transparent recording in Robert Costin’s opinion – see review.

The instruments are much less clearly spatially separated here than on the Nimbus recording, with the piano slightly more dominant, whether because of the recording or from the performing style is hard to say. I don’t wish to imply that the cello is swamped here, but it does seem a very slightly less equal partner than on Nimbus. Though the overall timing of the opening movement is faster than on Nimbus – 14:48 against 16:34 – there were moments when the momentum seemed less well paced on Hyperion.

By the end of that first movement, I had formed a small but clear preference for the new recording, though I could very happily live with either: as regular readers will know, I’m often sceptical of my initial reaction after a Building a Library type of comparison – a performance often grows in stature away from such direct comparisons. Overall, I see no reason to disagree with Robert Costin’s high opinion of the Hyperion recording. If the Alkan coupling appeals, you should buy the Hyperion with confidence.

REISSUE OF THE MONTH

The Spirits of England and France – 4
The Missa Caput, an anonymous English Mass setting from c1440, interspersed with the story of the Salve regina Pange lingua:
The story of the Salve regina – I
[2:56]
Missa Caput - Kyrie: Deus creator omnium [5:39]; Gloria [4:53]
The story of the Salve regina – II [3:04]
Missa Caput - Credo [5:40]
The story of the Salve regina – III [3:48]
Missa Caput - Sanctus [5:02]
The story of the Salve regina – IV [2:16]
Missa Caput - Agnus Dei [4:42]
The story of the Salve regina – V [2:55]; Salve regina [2:22]
Fifteenth-century carols: Jesu for thy mercy [2:16]
Richard SMERT (c.1400-1478/9)/ John TROULUFFE (fl.1448-c.1473) Jesu fili Dei [2:48]
Make us merry [1:58] Nowell, nowell, nowell [3:20]; Clangat tuba [5:13] Alma redemptoris mater [6:15]; Agnus Dei (Old Hall Manuscript) [2:23]
Gothic Voices/Christopher Page – rec. July 1996. DDD.
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55284 [68:02] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

This is not only well up to the high standard of previous Gothic Voices reissues in this series, it even outshines them, containing, as it does, the important anonymous Mass setting Caput, tracing the development of the anthem Salve Regina, and concluding with some little-known 15th-century carols.

 

Francisco GUERRERO (1528–1599)
Missa Congratulamini mihi : Kyrie [4:15]; Gloria [6:03]; Credo [9:14]; Sanctus [2:53]; Benedictus [3:01]; Agnus Dei [6:39]
Thomas CRECQUILLON (c.1505-c.1557) Congratulamini mihi [6:57]
Francisco GUERRERO Dum esset rex [3:00]; Maria Magdalena et altera Maria [6:33]; Post dies octo [5:23]; Regina caeli a 4 [2:37]; Ave Maria [4:24]; Regina cæli a 8 [4:05]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood - rec. Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, 9–11 November 2009. DDD
HYPERION CDA67836 [65:09] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Once again we are indebted to Hyperion and the Cardinall’s Musick, this time for a fine recording which adds to the label’s already impressive tally of Guerrero recordings. They already have two excellent programmes of his music on the inexpensive Helios label – Missa de la batalla escoutez, CDH55340, and Missa Sancta et immaculata, CDH55313 – both performed by Westminster Cathedral Choir under James O’Donnell. These are important in that they come closer than any other English cathedral choir to the kind of sound that Guerrero would have heard, but there is equally room for performances by professional groups with women’s voices, such as the Cardinall’s Musick. The singing, recording and presentation are every bit as good as one would expect from this source and the download sound in lossless flac is superb.

To complete the picture of Guerrero, don’t forget the Tallis Scholars’ recording of the Missa Surge propera on CDGIM040 – here – on which one of the tenors was a certain Andrew Carwood, director of the new recording. Like the new CD, the Gimell concludes with the eight-part Salve regina, taken at a slightly more sedate pace by the Scholars.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Orchestral Suite No.3 in D, BWV1068 [16:04]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)Minuet (arr. from String Quintet in E, Op.11/5) [3:16]
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra/Felix Weingartner – rec.1939. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 1BX36 and 2BX36 [16:04+3:16] – from Beulah (mp3)

Though regarded in its day as a light performance, this is rather too stately by today’s standards, painfully slow in places, and the recording requires a good deal of tolerance, even considering its date. Even the graceful ornamentation with which Weingartner concludes the Suite couldn’t redeem this for me.

The Boccherini, however, which accompanied the original 78 release, remains what the Gramophone reviewer in 1940 described as ‘a splendid example of how to do a simple thing perfectly’.

Johann Sebastian BACH
Partita No.2 in c minor, BW826 [19:18]; Fantasia and Fugue, BWV906 [3:39]; Capriccio in B-flat, BWV992 [11:35]
Wanda Landowska (harpsichord) – rec. 1957. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 1BX29 [19:18] 2BX29 [3:39] 3BX29 [11:35] – from Beulah (mp3)

Wanda Landowska did much to popularise Bach on the harpsichord, but her massive Pleyel instrument bears as little resemblance to the more authentic instruments now in vogue as it does to an iron bedstead – in fact, with its grand-piano-like metal frame, it sounds rather like the latter. The harsh opening of Partita No.2 is a case in point, though there are some moments of delicate playing later and some surprising touches of authenticity, such as the occasional dotted rhythm. By the time that she recorded these works for RCA in 1957, Landowska’s huge Pleyel was already an anachronism, so I am surprised to see the Gramophone reviewer (Alec Robertson) praising the massive six-second reverberation and describing the LP as Landowska at her superb best. Chacun à son goût, but not for me, I’m afraid.

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piano Trio No. 25 in C, Mrs. Therese Bartolozzi gewidmet, Op.75/1 (Hob. XV: 27) [18:52]
Piano Trio No. 26 in E, Mrs. Therese Bartolozzi gewidmet, Op.75/2 (Hob. XV: 28) [16:13]
Piano Trio No. 24 in f# minor, Mrs. Rebecca Schroeter gewidmet, Op.73/3 (Hob. VX: 26) [14:49]
Piano Trio No. 22 in D, Mrs. Rebecca Schroeter gewidmet, Op.73/1 (Hob. XV; 24) [14:13]
Trio Goya (Kati Debretzeni (violin); Sebastian Comberti (cello); Maggie Cole (fortepiano)) – rec. Real World Studios, Box, Wiltshire, UK, December 2008. DDD.
CHANDOS CHACONNE CHAN0771 [63:51] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

This recording has the overall title The Heart of Invention. Haydn’s Piano Trios may not quite match the inventiveness of the hot-air balloon with sails, depicted on the CD cover, but they do merit much more attention than they usually receive. As it happens, however, Nos.24 and 25 have been well recorded by the Vienna Piano Trio (Nimbus NI5535, with Nos.18 and 29 – see August 2009 Download Roundup), and Tony Haywood gave a warm welcome to Nos.24-27 in the first instalment of the Florestan Trio’s series (Hyperion CDA – see review). Beulah Extra have the classic 1927 Cortot-Thibaud-Casals recording of No.25 with the ‘Gypsy’ Rondo (1BX87 – see June 2010 Download Roundup), so the competition is strong, but the new recording stands up well, especially as the use of a fortepiano overcomes the traditional objection that the piano is too prominent in these trios.

Whichever version of the well-known No.25 you choose, your next move might well be to the Florestan Trio version of Nos.28-31 (CDA67757) which I recommended as one of my Hyperion Top 30 downloads.

Chandos have been experimenting with various download methods recently – having been one of the fastest sites, they had become rather slow. They now employ the Java programme which is pre-loaded on almost all computers and the result brings their download speed in line with the best.

Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons), H21/3 (1801)
Heather Harper (soprano); Ryland Davies (tenor); John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); BBC Chorus; BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davisrec. Watford Town Hall, UK, 1968. ADD.
PHILIPS DUO 464 0342 [2 CDs: 138:51] – from passionato (mp3)

 

Barbara Bonney (soprano); Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor); Andreas Schmidt (baritone); Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardinerrec. All Saints, Tooting, London, 1990. DDD.
DG ARCHIV 431 8182 [2 CDs: 137:13] – from passionato (mp3)

The Seasons may be the poorer relation of The Creation, but there is much fine music here. Take your pick of Davis’s modern-instrument recording, with English text, still sounding well despite its 1968 vintage, and John Eliot Gardiner’s more recent DDD recording with period instruments, in German. Both outshine Johannes Somary on mid-price Lyrichord (LEMS8071 – see review), which I recently reviewed, good though that is. The only advantage of the Lyrichord comes from the revised English text, less awkward than Baron van Swieten’s text, derived from Thomson’s original, complete with its 18th-century diction.

Contemporaries of Mozart
Franz KROMMER (1759-1831) (from CHAN9275) Symphony in D, Op.40 [28:03]; Symphony in c minor, Op.102 [29:26]
Carl STAMITZ (1745-1801) (from CHAN9358) Symphony in F, Op.24/3 (F5) [14:47]; Symphony in C, Op.13/16/5 (C5) [16:33]; Symphony in G, Op.13/16/4 (G5) [13:35]; Symphony in D major ‘La Chasse’ (D10) [16:19]
Ignaz Joseph PLEYEL (1757-1831) (from CHAN9525) Symphony in C, Op.66 (B 154) [23:10]; Symphony in G, Op.68 (B156) [24:19]; Symphony in d minor (B147) [22:45]
Leopold KOZELUCH (1747-1818) (from CHAN9703) Symphony in D [18:08]; Symphony in g minor [17:47]; Symphony in F [20:56]
Paul WRANITZKY (1756-1808) (from CHAN9916) Symphony in D, Op.36 [21:42]; Symphony in c minor, Op.11 [18:47]; Grand Characteristic Symphony for the Peace with the French Republic in C, Op.31 [30:32]
London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert -rec. St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, 11-12 November 1993 (Krommer), 24-25 October 1994 (Stamitz), 23-24 November 1995 (Pleyel); All Saints Church, Tooting, London, 13-14 November 1997 (Kozeluch), 28-29 January 2001 (Wranitzky). DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN10628(5)X [5 CDs: 57:38 + 61:35 + 70:27 + 71:13 + 71:13] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

This reissue of five of the highly regarded Chandos Contemporaries of Mozart series is splendid value at £19.99 (mp3), £23.97 (lossless) or £25.98 (CD set). The music is all well worth hearing – surely it would have been better known had these composers not been under the shadow of the Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven triumvirate – and it receives sympathetic performances from a modern-instrument ensemble who always gave stylish performances in the old days with their founder, Harry Blech, and who have subsequently brought their playing even more into line with period-instrument practice. All the recordings are good, too, especially in lossless format. This 5-CD set is bound to make you want other programmes from the series.

At the time of writing the booklet of notes was not available, but those for the five individual releases are. The only fault that I can find is that the information for tracks 52-61 in Windows Explorer and Squeezebox indicates that they are by Pleyel when, in fact, they are the movements of the Wranitzky Characteristic Symphony. I’ve given the names of the composers above as they are spelled by Chandos in the German manner, but several of them were of Bohemian origin: Wranitzky, for example, was really Pavel Vranitzký and Franz Krommer was František Kramář.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Symphony No.39 in E-flat, K453
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Felix Weingartner – rec. 1928. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 3BX36 to 5BX36 [3 tracks: 24:45] – from Beulah (mp3)

Weingartner enthusiasts frequently cite this as their favourite recording by the maestro. It certainly remains very viable - a most affectionate performance, but the recording requires a great deal of tolerance.




Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No.8 (‘Unfinished’) [26:28]; Grand Duo in C, D812 (orchestral realisation by Joseph JOACHIM, 1831-1907) [43:56]
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Claudio Abbado – rec.1989. DDD.
DG 423 6552 [70:41] – from Passionato (mp3)

One of the best available recordings of the ‘Unfinished’ Symphony – the first movement a little too slow, perhaps, making the work effectively consist of two slow movements. That’s true of most recordings and this one is coupled with an orchestral realisation of the 4-hand piano work, the Grand Duo Sonata (see below). Though this is no longer considered to have been a sketch for the lost Gmünden-Gastein Symphony, the work is well worth hearing in this format, especially when so well performed and recorded. Passionato also have the complete 5-CD set of the Schubert symphonies, etc., for an attractive £21.99, but several attempts to download this failed. (Passionato have been informed.) Joachim’s orchestral arrangement of the Sonata is available for £1.99 in an historic 1951 performance from classicsonline (VSOO/Felix Prohaska, Naxos Archive 9.80605).

Piano Duets
Allegro in a minor Lebensstürme, D947 [16:39]; Rondo in A, D951 [12:08]; Fantasie in f minor, D940 [18:42]; 8 Variations on an original Theme in E-flat, D813 [17:43]
Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa
QUARTZ QTZ2068 [65:12] – from Quartz or classicsonline or emusic (all mp3)

‘Grand Duo’ Sonata in C, D812 [43:35]; 4 Ländler, D814 [3:43]; 8 Variations on an original Theme in E-flat, D813 [17:17]; 6 Marches, D819, Nos. 2 in g minor [6:04] and 3 in b minor [9:19]
Allan Schiller and John Humphreys – rec. 2007. DDD.
NAXOS 8.570354 [79:58] – from classicsonline (mp3) or Passionato (mp3 and lossless)

Schubert’s piano duets are often unfairly overlooked, but they contain some very fine music. The Grand Duo is on such a large scale that it used to be thought that it was the sketch for the lost seventh symphony (see above). The two recordings, from Quartz and Naxos, offer fine performances of the most important pieces in this form, with only the one item of duplication, the Variations, D813.

The emusic download is the least expensive way to obtain the Quartz recording, but one track from this source is at an unacceptably low 151kbps; the other tracks range from an acceptable 192k to 256k. From Quartz it costs £5.99 and from classicsonline £7.99. Subscribers to the Naxos Music Library can stream the classicsonline versions of both recordings. Only Passionato offer the Naxos in lossless format at the time of writing.

Hector BERLIOZ (1803 –1869) Symphonie fantastique, Op.73 (1830) [51:45]
L’Orchestre de la Société des Concerts de la Conservatoire/André Vandernoot - rec. 1961. ADD
HIGH DEFINITION TAPE TRANSFERS HDTT 119 [51:45] – from HDTT (26/96 flac)

HDTT bill this as performed by ‘L’Orchestre National’, but I understand that it was actually the Conservatoire Orchestra, as per my heading.

Though I agree with Bob Briggs in enjoying the performance, despite the rough and ready nature of some of the playing – see review – I shall be returning more often to HDTT’s other performance, conducted by Munch, which I recommended last month, alongside the classic Beecham version (EMI 5769722, download from passionato).

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Piano Concerto in a minor, Op.54
Myra Hess; Philharmonia Orchestra/Rudolf Schwarz – rec. 1953. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 2BX175 AND 3Bx175 [32:18] – from Beulah (mp3)

Études Symphoniques
Myra Hess – rec.1954. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 1BX175 [26:18] – from Beulah (mp3)

Dame Myra Hess’s Schuman makes a most welcome reappearance in the composer’s anniversary year. These recordings were reissued together on LP in 1966 (HMV HQM1014) and they make a good pairing now; though they are available separately, I have placed them in the same folder on my external hard drive. The piano tone is a trifle hard in the Études, but fully acceptable throughout. These are performances to live with rather than to marvel at. The performance of the concerto was deemed in 1954 to be the best available at that date on LP; though there have been many distinguished competitors, it remains one of the best.

Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1890) Les Contes d’Hoffman (The Tales of Hoffman)
Joan Sutherland (soprano) - Olympia, etc.; Placido Domingo (tenor) - Hoffman; Gabriel Bacquier (baritone) - Lindorf, etc.; Hugues Cuénod (tenor) - Andrès, etc.; Huguette Tourangeau (mezzo) - La Muse; Pro Arte Choir, Lausanne; Chœur de la Radio Suisse Romande; L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Richard Bonynge – rec. 1968. ADD.
DECCA 417 3632 [71:27 + 70:43] – from passionato (mp3)

For a 1968 recording to survive at full price, it has to be good – and it is, with Placido Domingo making his first visit to the recording studio and Sutherland’s diction much clearer than usual. I have to admit that, with the exception of Orphée aux Enfers and the orchestral confections, I’m not the greatest fan of Offenbach, but this recording is good enough to win me over.

The mp3 transfer is good and the download comes at a considerable reduction over the price of the CDs, though without libretto. You can find the latter on the web easily – notably from Stanford University here.

Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884) Má Vlast (My Country)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík – rec. 1959. Stereo/ADD.
BEULAH EXTRA 1BX34-6BX34 [6 tracks: 74:17] – from Beulah (mp3)

Rafael Kubelík made several (five?) recordings of Má Vlast, of which this is the earliest and the least well recorded in stereo. It’s also available on CD from Eloquence (467 4092) but his last recording, with the Czech Philharmonic, is incomparable (Supraphon 111208-2 or SU19102 – see review), so this must be a less urgent recommendation than for most Beulah Extra reissues. I enjoyed Kubelík with the VPO but eMusic have several Supraphon recordings of this wonderfully tuneful music with the Czech PO, including classic accounts by Talich, Sejna, Neumann, Smetaček, Mackerras and Ančerl. I couldn’t find the CPO/Kubelík there, but eMusic’s search engine is not the most user-friendly.
Passionato – here – have Kubelík’s Chicago recording on Mercury and his DG recording with the Boston SO, alone or coupled with Levine’s recording of several symphonic poems. Don’t overlook the Sargent CD on Classics for Pleasure 9689522: his is not a name which springs to mind for Smetana, but his Má Vlast is among the best.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Trio No.1 in B for piano, violin and cello Op.8 [35:50]; Trio in E-flat for piano, violin and horn Op.40 [27:29]; Trio No.2 in C for piano, violin and cello Op.87 [27:29]; Trio No.3 in c minor for piano, violin and cello Op.101 [20:07]; Trio in a minor for piano, clarinet and cello Op.114 [25:22] – rec.1997. DDD.
The Florestan Trio (Anthony Marwood (violin); Richard Lester (cello); Susan Tomes (piano)); Stephen Stirling (horn); Richard Hosford (clarinet)
HYPERION CDA67251/2 [63:26 + 73:19] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

- As above
Beaux Arts Trio; Artur Grumiaux (violin); György Sebök (piano); Francis Orval (horn); George Pieterson (clarinet) – rec. 1976-1979. ADD
PHILIPS DUO 438 3652 [2 CDs: 130:20] – from
Passionato (mp3)

Piano Trios Nos.1 and 2
Gould Piano Trio
QUARTZ QTZ2011 [65:13] – from Quartz (mp3) or classicsonline (mp3) or emusic (mp3)

 

Piano Trio No.3; Horn Trio; Clarinet Trio
Gould Piano Trio
QUARTZ QTZ2042 [73:56] – from Quartz (mp3) or emusic (mp3) and classicsonline (mp3)

We are very well provided for with versions of the Brahms Trios. The Florestan Trio on Hyperion head the list (£15.49 in mp3 or lossless) but the slightly less expensive Beaux Arts versions (£12.99 from Passionato; you may well find the CDs offered for less) and Gould Piano Trio on Quartz run them very close. The Quartz downloads cost 8 and 12 units respectively from emusic (potentially less than £5 in total) or £7.99 each from classicsonline. Classicsonline and Quartz also have a 3-CD set, QTZ2067, with the above recordings plus the posthumous Trio in A and the original version of Op.8. Purchased directly from Quartz, the downloads cost £4.99 for QTZ2011, £5.99 for QTZ2042 or £8.99 for the 3-CD set on QTZ2067.

Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881) Pictures from an Exhibition (1874) orchestrated Maurice RAVEL) (1922)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Ernest Ansermet – rec. October 1947 and June 1948. Mono/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 8BX68 [32:47] – from Beulah (mp3)

It was from Ansermet’s LP remake in its Ace of Clubs reissue, that I first got to know Pictures from an Exhibition. Much more recently I reviewed his stereo re-remake, now reissued on Australian Eloquence (480 0047 – see review). This 1947/48 version cannot compete with either of those later recordings in sonic terms – good as the transcription is, the searing presence of the trumpet in Samuel Goldberg is inevitably muted and the majestic concluding picture of the Great Gate of Kiev is no match for the later recordings – but the performance was well worth reviving. The LPO offer better playing than Ansermet’s own Suisse Romande Orchestra on the later versions. On the other hand, Ansermet let rip a little more on his mono LP than on 78s or in stereo, so there are reasons why that middle version would be worth reissuing. Beulah, perhaps?

The current release comes complete on one track, so it won’t be much use for those wishing to select individual Pictures, but that’s no hardship for the rest of us.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor (1875) [32:17]
Concert Fantasia in G major1 (1884) [28:24]
Solitude (arr. Hough) [2:09]
None But the Lonely Heart (arr. Hough) [2:44]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in G major1,2 (1880) [39:42]
Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major (1893) [14:32]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (Andante non troppo ed. Siloti) [7:06]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (Andante non troppo ed. Hough)1 * [13:55]
Stephen Hough (piano)
Anthony Ross (cello)1; Jorja Fleezanis (violin)2
Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
rec. live, Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, May-October 2009. DDD.
HYPERION CDA67711/2 [65:39 + 75:31] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

I actually downloaded this some time ago and for several months running have been toying with the idea of making it Download of the Month. In the event, Ian Lace beat me to the draw in awarding the Recording of the Month accolade, thereby sparing me the need to write a long review by referring you to his – here. It is, as he says, a triumph.


Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Pineapple Poll, complete ballet arr. Mackerras (1951)1 [45:41]
Overtures2: Yeomen of the Guard [5:01]; Ruddigore [6:30]; Mikado [8:31]; Iolanthe [7:39]Royal Philharmonic Orchestra1; Philharmonia Orchestra2/Sir Charles Mackerras – rec. 19562 and 19601. ADD.
EMI CLASSICS BRITISH COMPOSERS 5665382 [73:22] – from passionato (mp3 or lossless)

Pineapple Poll, complete ballet arr. Mackerras (1951) [43:13]
Symphony in E, Irish (1866) [35:13]
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
rec. Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. 1-2 August 2006. DDD
NAXOS 8.570351 [78:26] – from classicsonline (mp3) or passionato (mp3 or lossless)

Though I’m not a great fan of the operettas, with the exception of Mikado, I do find Pineapple Poll very entertaining. Reviewing available downloads now also gives me another chance to pay tribute to its arranger, that most versatile of musicians, Sir Charles Mackerras, who died in July 2010. Passionato offer the two listed above, plus the 1983 Double Decca set with Princess Ida (473 6352 – more cheaply obtained on CD than as a download) and the Eastman Wind performance of extracts on Decca British Music 468 8102, a mixed-source recording which also includes Mackerras’s performance of Di Ballo.

Classicsonline offer the Naxos recording with Lloyd-Jones, the Naxos Historical transfer of the 1951 Sadler’s Wells/Mackerras recording, coupled with Isidore Godfrey’s Iolanthe (8.110231-2 – here: not available in the USA) and, for £1.99, the 1951 Royal Opera House/Lanchbery recording of excerpts, coupled with Mackerras’s arrangement of Verdi, The Lady and the Fool. (9.80408 – here: not available in the USA.)

The EMI is no longer listed on CD, though the Classics for Pleasure disc, where Mackerras’s performance with the LPO is coupled with his similar Verdi concoction, The Lady and the Fool, is still available from some suppliers for around £5.50 (3932312). The Passionato price is higher than that of the CD when it was available, especially if you choose the lossless version. For those who are tolerant of a lower bit-rate (256kbps), Amazon have the British Composers recording for £5.49 and the CFP for £4.99 (also for £7.49!) Mackerras’s performances are infectious – slightly slower than Lloyd-Jones on Naxos, but none the worse for that – and the recording has worn well, even the 1956 Overtures, though there is a noticeable difference between them and Poll. The transfer, even in mp3 is excellent.

Michael Greenhalgh found the Naxos recording highly enjoyable but I share his reasons for querying the logic of placing the ballet before the symphony – see review.

Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt: Suite No.1, Op.46 [14:32]; Suite No.2, Op.55 [16:38]; Lyric Suite, Op.54 [15:18]; Piano Concerto in a minor, Op.16 [31:17]
Margaret Fingerhut; Ulster Orchestra/Vernon Handley – rec. Belfast, August 1989. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10175X [77:28] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

The mp3 version of this recording was Chandos’s recent free gift to subscribers to their newsletter, another reminder of the value of signing up for this service. Relegated to the bargain basement in favour of their more recent – and more idiomatic – Howard Shelley recording of the Piano Concerto, coupled with the Schumann Piano Concerto (CHAN10509), this would still be competitive, were it not for the availability at budget price of recordings by the likes of Leif Ove Andsnes (EMI 5034192, £3.87 from Amazon.co.uk) and Stephen Kovacevich (Philips 464 7022, £7.99 from passionato), both with the Schumann, especially bearing in mind the anomaly that the Chandos CD sells for £5.99, the mp3 for £6 and the lossless download actually costs £2 more at £7.99.

*

From time to time I like to investigate recordings of music by neglected composers. None is more worthy of attention than Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, who has a strong claim to have been the Morning Star of the revival of British Music, but whose works have been regarded as historical curiosities for far too long.

Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852 –1924) Clarinet Concerto in a minor, Op.80
Gerald FINZI
(1901-1956)
Concerto for Clarinet and Strings, Op.31
Dame Thea King (clarinet); Philharmonia Orchestra/Alun Francis rec.1-2 August 1979 (Finzi), 28-29 November 1979 (Stanford), Henry Wood Hall, London. DDD.
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55101 [48:56] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

This is a classic early Hyperion recording which I owned on cassette, now happily restored to the catalogue at budget price and sounding better as a lossless download than it ever did on cassette. It was one of my Top 30 Hyperion Downloads – here. Other versions of both works have followed, not least Emma Johnson’s ASV recording of both (CDDCA787 – see August, 2009, Download Roundup here) but there is still a real place for Thea King’s performances. The short playing time is the only disadvantage. See also review by Christopher Howell.

Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD
Cello Concerto in d minor (1879-1880) [27:36]
Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat, Op.171 (orch. Geoffrey Bush) (1919) [37:43]
Alexander Baillie (cello); Malcolm Binns (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicolas Braithwaite - rec. details not given
LYRITA SRCD.321 [65:23] – from emusic (mp3)

See reviews by John France here – Record of the Month – and MWI Classical Editor Rob Barnett here. This has a strong claim to be the first choice of these Stanford recordings, apart from the fact that several tracks of the transfer fall below an acceptable 192kbps and none is higher than 224kbps.

Irish Rhapsody No. 1, Op. 78 [13:42]
Irish Rhapsody No. 2, Op. 84 ‘The Lament for the Son of Ossian’ [15:44]
Irish Rhapsody No. 3, Op. 137† [14:08]
Irish Rhapsody No. 4, Op. 141‘The Fisherman of Loch Neagh and What He Saw’ [18:30]
Irish Rhapsody No. 5, Op. 147 [14:33]
Irish Rhapsody No. 6, Op. 191‡ [10:16]
Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 126§ [39:05]
Down among the Dead Men, Op. 71§ [26:08]
Lydia Mordkovitch (violin); Raphael Wallfisch (cello); Margaret Fingerhut (piano)§
Ulster Orchestra/Vernon Handley – rec. 1986-1991. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN 10116(2)X [2CDs: 77:13+75:49] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

See review by Christopher Howell here, who aptly compares the six rhapsodies as a cycle to Smetana’s Ma Vlast: “I am convinced that the Rhapsodies deserve a place in the international repertoire (I am less certain of the Symphonies) and I urgently recommend these discs to lovers of late romantic music the world around”. The download sound, especially in lossless form, is excellent.


String Quartet No. 1 in G Op. 44 (1891) [29:01]
String Quartet No. 2 in a minor Op. 45 (1891) [27:03]
Fantasy for Horn Quintet in a minor (1922) (ed. Dibble) [11:47]
Stephen Stirling (French horn); RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 22-24 Sept 2003. DDD
HYPERION CDA67434 [68:09] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

MWI Classical Editor Rob Barnett urged readers to snap up this recording as soon as possible – see review and reviews by Christopher Howell – Recording of the Month: here – and Michael Cookson - here. RB hoped that this would be the first of a series; it was soon to be followed by the Quintets (below).

 

Piano Quintet in d minor, Op. 25 (1886) [37:13]
String Quintet No. 1 in F, Op. 85 (1903) [27:25]
Piers Lane, piano (Op. 25)
Garth Knox, viola (Op. 85)
RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 17-19 November 2004. DDD
HYPERION CDA67505 [64:42] - from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

I can’t add much to the conclusion of Michael Cookson’s detailed review: “I am at a loss why anyone would not wish to add this superb Stanford chamber release to their collection. Wonderful music and marvellously performed. Highly recommended”. (See full review.)

Sadly, it appears that too few readers took that advice: the CD has since been relegated to the special-order Archive Service, but the download remains freely available.

Songs of the Fleet, Op.117* [26:04]The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet, Op.24 [25:17]Songs of the Sea, Op.91* [18:00]
Gerald Finley (baritone)*; BBC National Chorus of WalesBBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
CHANDOS CHSA5043 [69:37] – from theclassicalshop (mp3 and lossless)

See the very detailed review by Christopher Howell here. Anyone who enjoys the Fantasia on Sea Shanties at the Last Night of the Proms should purchase the SACD or download this recording at once.

The Old Superb from this CD quite rightly featured in Chandos’s tribute to Richard Hickox, CHAN10568 (2 CDs for the price of one), Within a Dream, here. (See John Quinn’s review.)

The Feast of Saint Peter the Apostle at Westminster Abbey
MATINS: Maurice DURUFLÉ Tu es Petrus Op 1/3 [0:58]; Philip RADCLIFFE The Preces [1:17]; Henry George LEY Psalm 138 [2:41]; Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD Service in B flat, Op 10: Te Deum [6:22]; Jubilate [3:17]; Philip RADCLIFFE The Responses [6:11]
EUCHARIST: William BYRD Mass for five voices - Kyrie [1:23]; Gloria [4:45]; Credo [8:47]; Sanctus [2:11]; Benedictus [1:25]; Agnus Dei [3:09]; Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA Tu es Petrus a 6 [3:32]
EVENSONG: William CROTCH Psalm 124 [2:00]; Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD Service in B flat, Op 10: Magnificat [3:30]; Nunc dimittis [3:38]; Sir William WALTON The Twelve [10:50]; Johann Sebsatian BACH (transcribed by Marcel DUPRÉ) Sinfonia from Cantata 29 [4:12]
Robert Quinney (organ); The Choir of Westminster Abbey/James O’Donnell – rec. February 2009. DDD
HYPERION CDA67770 [70:08] - from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

A very fine recording of Stanford’s church music in a liturgical context – the latest in a series of Hyperion recordings from Westminster Abbey of music for festivals and saints’ days.

The King’s College CHARM project offers as a free download a rather wavery 78 recording of the Service of Thanksgiving for the end of WWII in St Paul’s in 1945, which concludes with the choir and congregation singing Stanford’s Te Deum – more of historical than musical interest. The diction of 65 years ago might belong to a different world – listen to the ‘a’ of man, almost an ‘e’, in ‘when Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man’.

Lovers of church music, and of Anglican Evensong in particular, will already be aware of the weekly broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 (Wednesdays, repeated on Sundays). They should also investigate the free recordings from Merton College Chapel, Oxford, available for streaming here. The choir is directed by Peter Phillips and recorded by Steve Smith, better known as the prime movers of The Tallis Scholars and the Gimell label.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis [16:34]; Symphony No.2 (‘A London Symphony’) [42:58]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec. 1975 and 1971. ADD.
EMI BRITISH CLASSICS 7640172 [59:32] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless)

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis [16:42]
Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli – rec. 1946. Mono. ADD
HMV C3507/3508 [4 sides: 4:16+4:25+4:17+3:44] – from King’s College CHARM project.

Asked by my osteopath to suggest a recording of the Tallis Fantasia, I’m torn between Boult and Barbirolli, so I’m listing both.

Don’t believe Passionato’s error in suggesting that the Fantasia is divided across the first two tracks – it’s complete on track 1. At the time of writing, this was one of a number of recordings being offered at a special price. Its normal selling price is more expensive than when the recording was last available on CD, but downloading seems to be currently the only way to obtain the separate issue without buying the box set (5739242) for around £25 which is excellent value. The Fantasia is differently coupled on EMI 7640222 for around £6 - and that CD does remain available.

The CHARM recording offers, free of charge, Barbirolli’s 1946 recording of the Fantasia, in astonishingly good sound, with almost no surface noise. Only the failure to join the sides detracts slightly from this intense performance. For Barbirolli’s later stereo recording, coupled with his now classic Elgar Introduction and Allegro, on EMI Classics GROC 5672402, see my October 2009 Download Roundup and Harry Downey’s review.

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) The Planets (H125)
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent – rec. 1954. Mono/ADD.
BEULAH EXTRA 10BX13-16BX13 [7 tracks: 47:34] – from Beulah (mp3)

Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan – rec. 1981. DDD.
DG 439 0112 [52:02] – from Passionato (mp3)

This welcome Beulah release recalls the time, for most of the 1950s and well into the 1960s, when the choice for a recording of The Planets was between Boult (Nixa and later EMI versions) and Sargent (this Decca recording, from LXT2871, and later EMI versions). Beulah already offer Boult’s 1945 recording (2PD12) and EMI have his last recording, most recently reissued on EMI Classics Masters 6317832, generously coupled with Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

Sargent has fallen by the way, with the most recent Classics for Pleasure issue apparently deleted, so this release of his 1954 recording is very welcome. There’s little to choose between the two great interpreters of this music – I’m ignoring impressive recordings by such ‘foreigners’ as Karajan and Dutoit for the moment – and the recording still sounds well in this transfer. The 1954 review especially complimented the fade-out at the end; though this has since been attained routinely with more recent recording techniques, it remains a notable achievement for its time.

Holst’s own 1926 recording, coupled with Vaughan Williams conducting his Fourth Symphony in 1937, is available on Naxos Historical 8.111048 – stream from the Naxos Music Library or download from classicsonline. Two movements, Mercury and Uranus, were also recorded by Albert Coates in 1926: these are available free from the King’s College CHARM project – here – but the subfusc recording requires a great deal of tolerance.

I’ve included the Karajan recording because of its spectacular sound: even before the advent of CD, the LP version of this recording proclaimed the sonic possibilities of digital recording, especially as Karajan chose to include the optional organ solo in Uranus. Unfortunately, the wonderful glissando is now much less prominent and dramatic than I remember it on LP – and, though the reduced price of the download softens the blow, it’s a bit rich of DG still to charge full price for such a short recording.

Brian Wilson

 


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