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DOWNLOAD ROUNDUP – APRIL 2011/1

Brian Wilson

I’m concentrating this time on music for Passiontide and Easter. In addition, as usual, I’ve included the Beulah Extra releases for April 2011 and several recent Regis reissues on CD – a particularly rich batch, not yet available as downloads and, in any case, such excellent value on disc at around £5 that you won’t save much, if anything. You could purchase the Lassus as a download from eMusic in its earlier incarnation on the Musical Concepts Alto label for £6.30 without the booklet when the Regis CD is currently on offer from one of our online partner suppliers for £4.30 complete with booklet.

I have a few more Passiontide and Easter downloads which I didn't have time to include: I hope to return to them in about ten days in my April/2 Roundup.

Downloads of the Month

Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Appalachia: variations on an old Slave Song (rev. and ed. Thomas BEECHAM) [35:36]
The Song of the High Hills (ed. BEECHAM) [28:34]
Andrew Rupp (baritone); Olivia Robinson (soprano); Christopher Bowen (tenor); BBC Symphony Chorus
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis – rec. October 2010. DDD/DSD.
CHANDOS CHAN5088 [64:06] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, lossless, 24-bit or 24-bit surround)

Appalachia: variations on an old Slave Song [38:00]
2 Aquarelles ‘to be sung on a summer night’ (arr. Eric FENBY) [4:41]
Irmelin: Prelude [5:09]
Dance Rhapsodies No.1 [13:10] and 2 [8:01]
Florida Suite [37:35]
North Country Sketches [27:02]
Welsh National Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras
DECCA BRITISH MUSIC COLLECTION 473 7162 [2 CDs: 2:34:01] – from passionato.com (mp3) [reduced from £7.99 to £5.99 at the time of writing]

Can either of these modern recordings capture the magic that Beecham brought to Appalachia? Well, of course, in one very important respect they can. The Beecham recording came in an inadequate pressing on the Philips GBL label, sounding more like a transfer from 78s than an early LP. I haven’t heard later CBS/Sony reissues, having somehow allowed a work that I once treasured to pass out of my ken. Both Mackerras (deleted, but available as a good quality download) and the new Davis version restore it to me in sound much better than Beecham’s – Chandos even offer it as an SACD or in 24-bit surround sound – and in performances which I shall treasure as much as I once did that Philips LP.

In fact, I’m going to be greedy and recommend that you buy both these recordings for the sake of their couplings. Mackerras includes a version of the Florida Suite to challenge Beecham, once available on an HMV HQS LP and just restored on an EMI 6-CD set, 5 CDs of Delius, with a sixth disc of music by Bantock, Bax, Berners and German (9099152, a real bargain at around £17.50).

The Chandos filler is the wonderful Song of the High Hills. The Beecham version is available again on that new 6-CD but Davis runs him pretty close, and in a better recording. Even if you go for the Beecham 6-CD box – who could resist it? – you should also purchase the Mackerras or Davis Appalachia or both.

Reissues of the Month

Orlandus LASSUS (Orlando LASSO) (1532-1594) Music for Easter and Requiem

Hymn for Lauds: Aurora lucis rutilat [4:55]
Motets: Surgens Jesus [3:29]
Christus resurgens [2:47]
Regina cœli [2:33]
Magnificat super Aurora lucis rutilat [8:33]
Requiem for four voices with plainchant and antiphons (1578) [43:29]
Pro Cantione Antiqua/Bruno Turner; Mark Brown – rec.1981. DDD.
Booklet with texts and translations included.
MUSICAL CONCEPTS ALTO ALC1124 [65:57] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library.

[Requiem: comparative version]
Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ prima diei (Lamentations for Maundy Thursday, 1585) [26:12]
Motet In monte Oliveti [4:10]
Tract Absolve Domine (Mode VIII) [3:00]
Requiem (4vv, 1578) [29:27]
Motet Vide homo (7vv, 1594) [3:21]
Collegium Regale/Stephen Cleobury
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD076 [70:06] – for details see April 2009 Roundup.

Quam pulchra es [5:12]
Veni in hortum meum [3:38]
Surge propera amica mea [4:46]
Missa surge propera [26:12]
Tota pulchra es [4:30]
Osculetur me [3:25]
Vulnerasti cor meum [3:46]
Veni dilecte mi [4:29]
Magnificat quarti toni [7:29]
The Cardinall’s Musick (Carys Lane (soprano), Rebecca Outram (soprano), David Clegg (alto), Patrick Craig (alto), Julian Stocker (tenor), Nathan Vale (tenor), Simon Wall (tenor), Robert Evans (baritone), Robert MacDonald (bass), Michael McCarthy (bass))/Andrew Carwood – rec. 15-17 April 2002, Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle. DDD.
REGIS RRC1369 [63:39] – (S) super-budget CD.

Like the Hyperion Gombert, the Alto and Regis reissues offer proof that quality need not cost the earth. The Requiem was, in fact, licensed from Hyperion, formerly by Regis and now by Musical Concepts on the Alto label, both at super-budget price. At £4.99 the download is little – if any – less expensive than the parent CD, but it comes complete with the booklet and, of course, downloading is much more expeditious than ordering and waiting for the CD to be mailed.

The Regis recording is reissued under licence from Universal, current owners of its original creators, ASV. It’s not currently available for download, but the CD is very inexpensive – if it appears on eMusic, it’s likely to be little, if any, less expensive than the £5 or so for which the disc is on sale.

The music is superb, and the performances and recording on Alto are commensurate with it – the very names of the performers are almost a guarantee – my only reservation is that it might have been better to have had the Requiem first and the joyful Easter music last. The booklet is not quite as classy as Hyperion’s – even their budget reissues are models of how to do it – but that’s a small matter. The performance of the Requiem is even preferable to the more recent versions on Signum from Collegium Regale in that it places the Tract Absolve Domine in its correct liturgical place, after the Gradual. Otherwise, I recommended the Signum recording as a download from classicsonline.com or theclassicalshop.net in the April 2009 Roundup.

Lassus’ first and third Lamentations for Maundy Thursday are included on a highly recommended Naxos recording from the Oxford Camerata and Jeremy Summerly, coupled with Lamentations by Palestrina and Brito and the English composers Tallis and White (8.550572 – from classicsonline.com in mp3 and passionato.com in mp3 and lossless).

It’s worth checking out the several distinguished Pro Cantione Antiqua recordings, mostly from ASV originals, now available on Alto – all listed in the booklet. Classicsonline have their Palestrina (Missa Papæ Marcelli, Missa l’Homme armé, etc., ALC1061) and Schütz Motets (ALC1118), both very inexpensive at £4.99, the quality of which is very high, as I can vouch, having owned and enjoyed the ASV originals.

Though Regis have relinquished the recording of the Requiem, they have now reissued the excellent Cardinall’s Musick recording of some equally attractive music by Lassus. Robert Hugill had some small reservations concerning the original release on the ASV Gaudeamus label but concluded that ‘there is music making of a very high order on this disc. I would urge anyone interested in the music of Lassus to buy it.’ (See review).

That recommendation is even more relevant at the new much reduced price, though I have some reservations of my own to add concerning the presentation. There are no texts or translations, merely a short set of notes, and some slipshod proof-reading has left readers uncertain whether the motet on which the Mass is based is entitled Surge propera amica mea (which is correct – ‘arise my beloved’) or Surga propera (twice, which is incorrect). The Mass itself has been renamed Missa Surgens propera, which is grammatically possible – the Mass [on] arising – but I rather think that ASV were correct to call it Missa surge propera. Fortunately, the texts of the Mass and Magnificat are not hard to find and you’ll find the texts of the motets in the Song of Songs in any Bible. Surge propera comes from Chapter 2, vv.10-13, the Latin text differing slightly from modern translations, which are made from the original Hebrew:

Surge, propera amica mea, columba mea, formosa mea, et veni.
Jam enim hyems transiit, imber abiit et recessit.
Flores apparuerunt in terra, tempus putationis advenit.
Vox turturis audita est in terra nostra;
ficus protulit grossos suos; vineæ florentes dederunt odorem suum.
Surge, amica mea, speciosa mea, et veni.


[Arise my own beloved, my dove, my beautiful lady and come. For now the winter has passed, the rain is over and gone. Flowers have appeared on the earth, the time of pruning has come. The voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land; the fig has put forth its fruits; the flowering vines have given off their fragrance. Arise, my beloved, my fair lady, and come.]

I was less troubled than RH by the reservations which he voices, and I’m very glad that the Cardinall’s Musick did not adopt his suggestion of singing Latin with the hard German pronunciation, which I abhor. Unable to choose between two such fine recordings, I urge you to take advantage of the fact that you can have both for less than one premium CD.

Hyperion offer a recording of Lassus’s Missa Bell’Amfitri’ altera, as it might have been performed on the Feast Day of a Martyr-Bishop, with extra music by Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1612) and Christian Erbach (c.1570-1635). The 1993 performance, by Westminster Cathedral Choir and His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, conducted by James O’Donell has been a frequent visitor to my CD player and I’m sure that the download – at budget price on Helios CDH55212 – is equally recommendable. Don’t forget the Gimell recording of Lassus’ Missa osculetur me (CDGIM018).

Discovery of the Month

Fra Armando PIERUCCI (b.1935)

Via Crucis
Darius Ckramtai (organ); Gintaré Skeryté (mezzo), Algirdas Janutas (tenor), Mindaugas Zemaitis (baritone), Ignas Misiûra (bass-baritone); Aidija Chamber Choir/Romualdas Grazinis
PILGRIM’S STAR/DIVINE ART CD 27002 [48:44] – from eMusic.com or Amazon.co.uk (both mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library.

I’m indebted to Stephen Sutton of Divine Art for suggesting that I listen to this recording, another of their successful forays into the Baltic states. (See the very different Five-Fifteen recording from Estonia, a wonderful recreation of 1930s dance-band style which I reviewed in November 2010).

Humphrey Smith awarded four-and-a-half stars in 1999 – see review – which seems to me about right, though I don’t share his reservation about the use of operatic voices: the soprano Gintaré Skeryté is particularly impressive. The music is not especially dramatic, but it is often impassioned as the text meditates on the Stations of the Cross, displayed around the walls of Roman Catholic and many Anglican churches. That text (in Russian), by Regina Derieva, comes from the Uniate tradition, spanning the Orthodox and Catholic traditions, as represented at papal ceremonies by the deacon of the Greek rite.

Unfortunately none of the download or streaming sources provides anything in the way of notes, much less texts. With the CD costing little more, direct from Divine Art – here – you may prefer to listen first via the Naxos Music Library and order the physical disc when you are as impressed as I’m sure you will be.

Music for Passiontide and Easter

In Passione et Morte Domini (Gregorian Chant for Good Friday)

Tractus: Domine, audivi [7:54]
Responsorium-Graduale: Christus Passus est [3:59]
Evangelium Passionis et Mortis Domini Passio Domini [54:15]
Adoratio Sanctæ Crucis: Ecce lignum Crucis [2:50]
Improperia: Popule meus [4:59]
Hymnus: Crux Fidelis [4:25]
Nova Schola Gregoriana/Alberto Turco – Rec. April 1993. DDD.
Booklet with notes and texts – no translations.
NAXOS 8.550952 [59:00] – from classicsonline.com (mp3)

Plainchant dates from the earliest days of Christianity in Rome – Pope Gregory, whose name it usually now bears, merely organised the various tones associated with different parts of the liturgy and different times of the year. This Naxos recording assembles some of the texts for the Liturgy of Good Friday – not a Mass proper because this is the one day of the year when the Host is not consecrated. In the earliest times a Missa sicca, or ‘dry’ mass was celebrated; in later times, the celebrant alone communicated from the reserved sacrament.

With no Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus or Agnus Dei to set, other parts of the liturgy received attention, so that here, as well as the Tract, Gradual and Gospel, the Adoration of the Cross – ‘Behold the wood of the Cross’ – the Improperia or Reproaches, and the hymn ‘Faithful Cross above all other’ are set. The Improperia – ‘O my people, what have I done to you, or in what way have I saddened you?’ – are a particularly ancient part of the rite, with alternating sections in Greek and Latin, and its drama is heightened on this recording by the use of two choirs. With the raw power of the Ensemble Organum/Marcel Pérès recording (Harmonia Mundi, Chants of the Roman Church), with a Greek cantor for the Improperia, no longer available (I think – but snap it up if you find it*), this makes a very good substitute.

Apart from the Improperia, everything is sung in a placid and timeless style, so that even non-churchgoers and even non-believers are likely to find solace here, not just on Good Friday but at any time. At its very modest price, this is an excellent introduction to plainsong, with the minor reservation that, while the Latin texts are included in the booklet, no translations are offered. The notes by the President of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, no less, are most helpful in setting the music in context.

* Their recordings which do remain in the catalogue or as downloads from classicsonline or eMusic are well worth exploring.

Music at All Soul’s, Oxford: The Lancastrians to the Tudors
Sarum Chant Requiem eternam [2:22]
King HENRY V (1387-1422) Gloria [3:14]
Leonel POWER (1370/85-1445) Credo [4:42]
King HENRY V Sanctus [1:51]
Nicolas STURGEON (d.1454) Salve mater domini/Salve templum domini [2:31]
John DUNSTABLE (c.1390-1453) Descendi in ortum meum, antiphon for 4 voices, MB 73 [3:41]
Walter LAMBE (1450/1?-1499) Nesciens Mater for 5 voices [4:34]
Richard DAVY (c.1465-1507) O Domine Caeli Terræque for 5 voices [14:55]
John MERBECKE (c.1510-c.1585) Funeral Sentences (plainchant) [2:11]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585) Verily, verily I say unto you, anthem for 4 voices [1:46]
John SHEPPARD (c.1515-1578) Christ our Paschal Lamb/Paschal Kyrie, for 6 voices [1:28]
Christopher TYE (c.1505-1573) Ad te clamamus [2:25]
Robert PARSONS (c.1535-1571/2) Ave Maria for 5 voices [4:17]
Robert WHITE (c.1538-1574) Lamentations of Jeremiah for 5 voices [20:08]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood and David Skinner – rec.1999. DDD.
ASV GAUDEAMUS CDGAU196 [70:05] – from passionato.com (mp3 and lossless)

Though some of this music is available elsewhere: the Tallis and White most obviously, but also some of the less obvious items – the Sturgeon, for example, on Lancaster and Valois, a most recommendable budget Hyperion Helios CD (CDH55294, Gothic Voices) – most of the works here are not currently available on CD so I’m very pleased to see that Passionato have rescued this brand from the fire which seems to have consumed most of the ASV CDs. The connection with All Soul’s may be rather tenuous, but this is a superb cross-section of the music of the better part of two highly productive centuries and demonstrates the evolution of style. Merbecke’s adapted plainsong setting of the Funeral Sentences from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer sounds banal by comparison with his Latin music, which the Cardinall’s Musick also recorded for ASV – may we have that, too, please, Passionato?* – and even Tallis was never as fully at home in setting English as his younger partner Byrd, but these are minor reservations. By contrast, White’s Lamentations provide a minor masterpiece from the Elizabethan period – though there are now several recordings of this work, the Cardinall’s Musick offer one of the best. The recording is good, but the lack of notes is a serious handicap for most listeners.

* Amazon.co.uk offer it and the All Souls recording in mp3, but you really need lossless sound to do justice to these performances.

Nicolas GOMBERT (c1495-c1560)
Magnificat octavi toni [11:23]
Missa Tempore paschali :Kyrie [6:24]; Gloria [6:43]
Adonai, Domine Jesu Christe [5:58]
Missa Tempore paschali : Credo [9:03]
In illo tempore [4:54]
Missa Tempore paschali : Sanctus [4:02]; Benedictus [2:42]
O rex gloriæ [7:21]
Missa Tempore paschali: Agnus Dei [6:03]
Henry’s Eight (Declan Costello, William Towers (counter-tenor), Duncan Byrne, Nick Todd, Nicholas Yates (tenor), Gabriel Crouch, Damian O’Keeffe, Robert-Jan Temmink (bass)), with Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Toby Watkin (tenor), Giles Underwood (bass)/Jonathan Brown – rec. December 1996. DDD.
Booklet with texts and translations included
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55323 [65:31] – from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

The words of acclaim which greeted the release of this recording of Gombert’s Eastertide Mass, and from which Hyperion quote on the rear insert, would still be justified even if the CD had remained at full price. At the new budget price it’s doubly welcome as a reminder what a wonderful collection of recordings can now be built at very modest price, not least from Hyperion’s Helios catalogue.

The music illustrates why the religious reformers of the 16th century were both right and wrong – right that such heart-achingly beautiful music could easily distract from the importance of the words of the liturgy and wrong to think that such beauty could be other than divinely inspired.

With such excellent performances and recording, be prepared to fall deeply for Gombert to the extent of seeking out other recordings, of which there are none better than the following:

·         Eight Magnificats in Sacred Music in the Renaissance Volume 3 GIMBX303 (The Tallis Scholars – 4 CDs for around £16 from online dealers, or download from Gimell) (from Gimell CDGIM034 and CDGIM038 – see review) – see Tallis Scholars at 30  (NB the budget 4-CD box contains all eight Magnificats and much more fine music for less than the two separate CDs)

·         Tribulatio et angustia: 4- and 5-part Motets, Hyperion CDA67614 (The Brabant Ensemble) – see review and review

·         Magnificat primi toni; Salve Regina; Credo; Tulerunt Dominum, etc., Naxos 8.557732 (Oxford Camerata) – see review and review

·         8-part Credo, etc., Hyperion Helios CDH55247 (Henry’s Eight) – Bargain of the Month – see review.

If the singing of the augmented Henry’s Eight impresses you as much as I expect, their recording of the Penitential Psalms of Lassus, which also has relevance for Holy Week, is available even more economically on a 2-for-1 Hyperion Dyad (CDD22056 – see review and review). The Hyperion and Gimell downloads come complete with notes and texts, as does the Naxos if downloaded from its 'home’ site at classicsonline.com.

Giacomo Antonio PERTI (1661-1756) Lamentations and Liturgy of Good Friday
Omnes amici mei [3:45]
Velum templi [3:49]
Vinea mea [3:01]
De lamentatione Jeremiæ Prophetæ: Lamed. Matribus suis [8:29]
Tamquam ad latronem [3:30]
Tenebræ factæ sunt [4:06]
Animam meam [4:19]
De lamentatione Jeremiæ Prophetæ: Lamed. Matribus suis [10:00]
Tradiderunt me [1:59]
Jesum tradidit [2:52]
De lamentatione Jeremiæ Prophetæ: Aleph. Ego vir [11:20]
Caligaverunt [3:47]
Cappella Musicale di San Petronio di Bologna/Sergio Vartolo – rec. c.1995. DDD
NAXOS 8.553321 [77:59] – from classicsonline.com (mp3)

What we have here, which the title doesn’t really make clear, are the responsories and lessons from the Book of Lamentations, the three Nocturnes of Matins for Good Friday, usually celebrated in the 17th and 18th centuries on the previous evening in the form of Tenebræ, a dramatic service in which the candles in a ‘hearse’ before the altar were extinguished one by one until only one was lit, to symbolise the Light of the World.

Baroque composers, especially in France, usually set these texts in a highly-charged, florid or sensuous manner – see my review of a selection of music for Holy Week by M-A Charpentier. These settings by Perti are much simpler, though there’s no lack of drama where it’s called for and the performance is anything but dull. The recording is good too, but it’s a pity that there are no texts and that the classicsonline website offers only the barest of information. All this used to be readily available in inexpensive Holy Week Manuals – my copy still has the price 3/6 (£0.18) pencilled inside the front cover – but the advent of English in the Roman Rite made these redundant. You will, however, find the text of Lamentations in Latin and most of the responsories online with a little patience.

Gottfried August HOMILIUS (1714-1785)
Matthäus-Passion (St Matthew Passion)
Hans-Georg Wimmer (bass), Klaus Mertens (bass), Ulla Groenewold (contralto), Ann Monoyios (soprano), Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Gerd Turk (tenor); Capella Vocale Leverkusen; Akademie für alte Musik, Berlin/Christoph Schoener – rec. January 1992. DDD.
BERLIN CLASSICS 0010462BC
[2 CDs: 131:07] – from passionato.com (mp3) or classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library.

Berlin Classics bill this as a first recording and, to the best of my knowledge, this is still the only version of this work by a composer of whose music there is all too little available – some online dealers don’t even stock the parent CD of this download: Amazon US have it, but not Amazon UK. The music may not match either of the extant passions of JS Bach, whose student Homilius was, or Telemann, but it certainly does not deserve the neglect from which it has suffered. The performance does the music justice and the sound is good, especially in the lossless version. In contrast with many Berlin Classics recordings of music of this period, this is historically aware, but that doesn’t mean that the performers don’t engage with the music. The download price represents a considerable saving over the cost of the CDs, especially in mp3, but comes without notes, texts or translations.

Johannes-Passion
(St John Passion)
Jana Reiner (soprano) – Magdalene (arias)
Katja Fischer (soprano) – Magdalene
Fritz Vitzthum (counter-tenor) – Diener
Jan Kobow (tenor) – Evangelist
Tobias Berndt (bass) – Jesus
Clemens Heidrich (bass) – Pilate
Kruzianer Stephan Keucher (tenor) – Knecht
Kruzianer Christian Lutz (tenor) – Peter
Dresdener Kreuzchor
Dresden Baroque Orchestra/Roderich Kreile – rec. Lukaskirche, Dresden, March 2006. DDD
CARUS 83.261 [2CDs: 118:51] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Another premiere recording of a passion setting by Homilius. I can’t put it better than Jonathan Woolf, writing of the CDs: ‘The performances are just as searching, sympathetic and successful as the Passion Cantata [Ein Lämmlein geht]. The choir is superb, the soloists are excellent – on balance slightly better than on the other disc – and the direction is assured and understanding.’ (See full review). Again, however, the download comes without notes or texts.

The other recording of passion music by Homilius to which JW refers, the Passion Cantata Ein Lämmlein geht, Carus 83.262, is also available from passionato.com (mp3 and lossless) and classicsonline.com (mp3).

Beulah Extra – April 2011 Releases

Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) This is the Record of John
King’s College Choir, Cambridge; Jacobean Consort of Viols/Sir David Willcocks – rec.1958 ADD/stereo
2BX20 [4:46] – from Beulah (mp3)

William BYRD (1543-1623) Ave verum Corpus
King’s College Choir, Cambridge/Sir David Willcocks – rec.1959 ADD/stereo
3BX20 [4:31] – from Beulah (mp3)

The Gibbons recording originally appeared on an Argo LP entirely devoted to that composer’s music from which I very much hope that Beulah will give us some or all of the other items, which went together as a reconstruction of Gibbons’ music for Mattins. This is the Record of John, suitable for Advent or the Feast of John the Baptist, is Gibbons’ best-known anthem, but it deserves to be heard in the company of some of his other music.

Beulah have already given us some of Gibbons’ anthems from Willcocks’ predecessor at King’s, Boris Ord, which I recommended in the July 2010 Roundup (1BX20) but the Willcocks versions have a special assurance which makes them still well worth hearing. My only reservation is that hearing these downloads will make you want to obtain the 2-CD album Great Choral Classics from Kings (Double Decca 452 9492, around £9.50) or the single CD The World of King’s (Decca 430 0922, around £7) on which they are both included. If you just want these two items, of course, the Beulah downloads are much less expensive.

Byrd’s Ave verum corpus accompanied the King’s recording of Byrd’s Five-part Mass, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis a year later. These other items have been superseded by King’s own EMI remake and by later, more historically aware performances of all the Masses and the complete Great Service, notably by The Tallis Scholars. Though the Scholars have also recorded the Ave verum, I’m very happy to see the Willcocks version reissued on its own here: with its sense of innigkeit, the description ‘magnificently done’ is just as applicable now as it was when the LP was reviewed in 1960.

Do listen, too, to the superb later recording which King’s and Willcocks made of paired motets from Byrd and his English and continental contemporaries (Byrd’s Ave verum corpus paired with that of the exile Peter Philips) now available most inexpensively on Classics for Pleasure 5860482 (around £5.50). Newton Classics have just reissued the King’s/Willcocks recording of all three Byrd Masses, together with Taverner’s Western Wynde Mass (880 2020, around £11.50).

Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672) Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi (Easter Oratorio)
Helmut Krebs (tenor), Verena Gohl, Irmgard Dressler, Renate Krokisius (sopranos), Georg Jelden, Johannes Feyerabend, Otto Pingel, Hans-Dieter Rodewald, Johannes Hoefflin (tenors), Max Gründler (baritone), Klaus Ocker, Hans-Olaf Hudemanm (bass), Johannes Koch, Josef Ulsamer, Jürgen Sartorti, Heinrich Haferland (viola da gamba), Gunda Rathke, Hildburg Schröder, Wiltrud Kattanek (recorders), Edwin Koch (cello), Josef Lippert (double-bass), Mathias Siedel (organ); Norddeutscher Singkreis/Gottfried Wolters – rec. DGG Archiv 1958. ADD/stereo.
1-3BX119 [47:08] – from Beulah (mp3)

This recording predates the earliest version that I had previously heard, from Roger Norrington on Argo, c.1970, briefly available on CD but no longer available. The Wolters version was already described as ‘traditional’ in 1961 and it seems now to have more in common with the Karl Richter tradition of Bach, rather than more recent performances, such as that by Paul Hillier (daCapo 8.226058, with the Christmas Oratorio – from classicsonline.com) which I briefly recommended last Easter. Compare the overall time of 47:08 with 39:31 from Frieder Bernius on Sony (no longer available). Hillier falls between the two at 44:07. Nevertheless, with Helmut Krebs as a fine Evangelist – far preferable to Peter Pears on the Norrington recording, and making no attempt to amplify Schütz’s typically rather spare style – the Beulah is worth having at its modest price as an adjunct to the Hillier – download the latter for £4.99, complete with booklet – try it first in the Naxos Music Library – and you can afford both.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) O Jesu so meek, O Jesu so kind (sung in English)
King’s College Choir, Cambridge/Sir David Willcocks – rec.1959. ADD/stereo
4BX20 [2:53] – from Beulah (mp3)

Not exactly seasonal music for April – this is a lullaby for the Christ child – but, unless you insist on having the music sung in German (O Jesulein süß), this will do very nicely. Decca still hadn’t quite mastered the King’s reverberation, which makes the texture a little thick, but the recording and transfer are otherwise good.

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Overture in d minor (arr. Sir Edward ELGAR)
London Symphony Orchestra/Albert Coates – rec.1928. ADD/mono
1BX124 [4:13] – from Beulah (mp3)

The music comes out sounding more like Elgar than Handel. The recording is very thin, so it gives only an approximation of the orchestral sound – the orchestra was presumably thinned down anyway and sat around the recording horn. For me this is one for the historic archives – my tolerance tends not to stretch back before the early 1930s – but I’m sure that others will wish to snap it up at the modest price.

Organ Concerto No.13 (The Cuckoo and the Nightingale) – first movement
Herbert Dawson (organ); LSO/Albert Coates – rec. 1932 ADD/mono
2BX124 [3:25] – from Beulah (mp3)

The recording of the orchestra requires some tolerance; that of the organ is better; the transfer is as clean as we have come to expect from Beulah and the performance more stylish than I had expected for the date. With just the first movement on offer, however, this is a rather insubstantial offering.

Messiah: Overture* and Pastoral Symphony**
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent – rec. 1946. ADD/mono
17BX13* and 18BX13** [4:40 + 4:21] – from Beulah (mp3)

Sargent’s Handel is either measured and dignified or slow and ponderous according to your preferences. His Huddersfield Choral Society recordings of Messiah were once the only show in town unless you preferred Beecham with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. My tastes in Handel performances have moved on, but I still enjoyed hearing these two blasts from the past, especially the Pastoral Symphony, where Sargent achieves a measure of lightness, though he misses the rustic touch, the suggestion of shepherds playing bagpipes, which gave the music its name. The recording couldn’t be mistaken for early LP, but the transfer is good, with just a hint of 78 noise like a lightly frying egg in the background.

Francesco Maria VERACINI (1690-1768) Rosalinda: Meco verrai
Luisa Tetrazzini (soprano) – rec.1914 ADD/acoustic mono
1BX123 [2:59] – from Beulah (mp3)

Even in its earliest days, the gramophone was especially kind to the human voice, so the sound is nowhere near as dire as you might imagine, especially in this nicely tidied version. I had thought Veracini’s music to be a modern discovery – I’m thinking especially of the DGG 2-CD recording of his Overtures, now on Brilliant Classics, and Naxos recordings, also of his Overtures and Concertos, so I was surprised to find Tetrazzini in 1914 singing, in no mean fashion and with some sense of baroque style – perhaps inspired by the pared-down accompaniment which was all the acoustic horn could take – an aria from a work which still hasn’t made it into the CD catalogue, as far as I’m aware.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Overture: Der Schauspieldirektor*; Overture: Idomeneo**
National Symphony Orchestra/Boyd Neel – rec.1945 ADD/mono
1BX116*, 2BX116** [3:19* + 4:31**] – from Beulah (mp3)

Two sides of a 78 recording that was worth reviving, if only to remind us that Boyd Neel was playing stylish baroque and classical music long before authenticity came upon the scene. He was to do even better later with his own Boyd Neel Orchestra, but there’s plenty of lightness in the playing here from the NSO. The sound suffers from the limitations of 78 recording but the Beulah transfer makes it quite palatable. Check out the transfer of the Schauspieldirektor recording on YouTube here.

Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Una voce poco fa
Janine Micheau (soprano); London Symphony Orchestra/Muir Mathieson – rec. 1947. ADD/mono
4BX93 [6:38] – from Beulah (mp3)

As recorded here, Micheau’s voice is small and sweet, with a most attractive top, which is how it should be for this aria. Not having heard much of her before, I’d now like to hear more – Beulah please note. The accompaniment matters much less, of course, but it’s quietly efficient, if a little reticent, and the recording of Micheau’s voice has stood the passing of time very well.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1928) Heidenröslein
Alexander Kipnis (bass)/Gerald Moore (piano) – rec.1937 ADD/mono
2BX52 [2:10] – from Beulah (mp3)

Kipnis’s voice is sonorous, but just too heavy in Heidenröslein for me, despite sensitive accompaniment. The recording very much favours the voice, with the piano quite distant, which serves only to emphasise the deep vocal tone. I know that others take a different view and regard Kipnis’s Schubert as among the greats. Perhaps I’ve just heard Fischer-Dieskau in his various recordings of this song too often to tolerate anyone else, but I’d rather hear Kipnis in repertoire to which he was better suited.

Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Overture: Oberon
National Symphony Orchestra/Warwick Braithwaite – rec. 1945 ADD/mono
1BX117 [9:25] – from Beulah (mp3)

The recording has rather more presence than the Boyd Neel Mozart of the same year (above) and the performance is idiomatic. The National Symphony Orchestra seems to have been working overtime in 1945 – with the war over, many of them would have been freshly demobbed – and they play to good effect here.

Overture: Der Freischütz
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf – rec.1946 ADD/mono
1BX118 [8:48] – from Beulah (mp3)

The sound here is just a little too muffled for my liking – nothing like as open as the Braithwaite Oberon from a year earlier, though the transfer is free from surface noise. Nor did I find Leinsdorf’s interpretation as dramatic as I had expected, perhaps because of the recording quality. One for the archives rather than the general listener.

Overture: Euryanthe
National Symphony Orchestra/Karl Rankl – rec.1945 ADD/mono
5BX22 [7:58] – from Beulah (mp3)

Apart from the horrible abuse of the language in his final word, I’m happy to go with the words of the 1946 reviewer: ‘A grand little packet, treated in straightforward, workmanlike style, and capitally endisced.’ And we though linguistic abuse was a modern phenomenon. The tempi are a little hurried – 78 side problems? – but the interpretation is generally convincing. The sound quality falls somewhere between the comparative openness of the Braithwaite Oberon and the sub-fusc of the Leinsdorf Freischütz. I didn’t notice the side-break in any of these Weber transfers.

For a modern set of the Weber Overtures, try Wit with the NZSO on Naxos 8.570296 – see review and review.

Ferdinand HÉROLD (1791-1833) Overture: Zampa
Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra/Dan Godfrey – rec.1928. ADD/mono
1BX121 [6:57] – from Beulah (mp3)

The 1928 recording is a great deal better than one might expect and it enshrines a lively performance of a piece which used to be more popular than it is now, with just a handful of elderly recordings. Even in 1928 one reviewer thought that the orchestra, which grew into the Bournemouth Symphony, ought to have been playing something better than ‘tawdry pot-pourri overtures and snippets’. I certainly wouldn’t apply the epithet ‘tawdry’ to the Zampa overture or its performance here.

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Marche troyenne
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Hamilton Harty – rec.1935 ADD/mono
6BX25 [3:54] – from Beulah (mp3)

This is the sort of short piece that used to be ideal for one side of a 78 record – a pre-Beecham lollipop. With Beecham’s performance still available as a filler to his splendid recording of the Symphonie fantastique* and, of course, in much better sound, the raison d’être for the Harty, which sounds rather thin even for 1935, is less obvious than for his Cossack Dance (below), recorded three years earlier but actually sounding better.

World Record Club reissued several more substantial Harty recordings of Berlioz in 1971. Beulah have already given us some of these on CD, 1PD25 – perhaps we could have some more of them restored to us.

* recently reissued on EMI Masters 9187092 for around £6.50, thereby making it now less expensive than the download version which I recommended in an earlier Roundup.

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tristan und Isolde: Prelude
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec.1933 ADD/mono
24BX12 [9:09] – from Beulah (mp3)

I hadn’t thought of Boult as a Wagner composer, though he did make a stereo LP recording of a number of the Overtures and Preludes, still available on a super-budget 2-CD set (EMI 5753892). This recording dates back to his heyday with the BBC SO and comes in good sound. It captures the emotional content of the piece, though it’s perhaps a little less atmospheric than his LP version, where he allowed himself an extra minute and a half of space. Not surprisingly, Reginald Goodall with a later incarnation of the BBCSO, on a BBC Legends recording, takes 50% longer than Boult did in 1933.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Morgenlich leuchtend (Prize Song)
Lauritz Melchior (tenor); London Symphony Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli – rec.1931. ADD/mono.
1BX125 [3:55] – from Beulah (mp3)

In 1933 it was deemed that this Melchior recording ‘lacks both poetry and contrast. The smooth legato and pure, easy tone so essential for Walther’s improvisation seem altogether beyond the singer’s reach.’ And we thought that his Wagner recordings were classics which had always been recognised as such! I wondered at first what the problem was, but soon enough began to acknowledge the sense that Melchior was trying too hard and achieving too little. The recording and the transfer are good and the price small enough to allow you to decide for yourself.

César FRANCK (1822-1890) Symphonic variations for piano and orchestra
Walter Gieseking (piano); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Henry J Wood – rec. 1931. ADD/mono
1BX62 [14:57] – from Beulah (mp3)

The elderly recording requires some tolerance, but not to the extent that it’s impossible to listen with enjoyment. I certainly wasn’t aware of the quaint criticism made of the original 78s that ‘the hammers have too much to say’ – i.e. the sound was too percussive – or that the string tone was not ‘entirely pleasant’. Nevertheless, with more modern performances available, there isn’t enough that’s special about this performance to raise it much above the level of historical curiosity. Despite the overall fast tempo – dictated by the exigencies of 78 sides? – the music never quite catches fire. Try Thibaudet with the OSR and Dutoit, coupled with Saint-Saëns, which I reviewed in 2007 (475 8764 – see review.)

Max BRUCH (1838-1920) Scottish Fantasia, Op.46
Alfredo Campoli (violin); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec. 1958 ADD/binaural
7-9BX10 [24:14] – from Beulah (mp3)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Bruch’s Scottish Fantasia – based on Scottish tunes, though Bruch never got any nearer than Liverpool, and even more gloriously hammy than his First Violin Concerto. Two recordings introduced me to the music and this was the first of them, but it’s not just nostalgia that makes me welcome its return at such a modest price and in such a good transfer. Apart from a slightly heavy sound, this might have been new-minted and the performance is at least a match for any of the more recent versions. In fact, there isn’t a great deal of competition in the current catalogue numerically. The other recording which I got to know from the university record library, from Oistrakh and Horenstein, last seen on a Double Decca, appears to have been deleted, though it’s still available from Passionato.com (476 7288, mp3 only).

The Campoli version is also available on a Beulah CD, 7PD10, Ultimate Campoli, with the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and Saint-Saëns Havanaise. The Mendelssohn from this coupling is also available on Beulah Extra 5-6BX10 – see January 2011 Roundup, where I asked for the Scottish Fantasia to be reissued too, and here it is, my choice among this month's Beulah releases.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Mazeppa: Hopak (Cossack Dance)
Hallé Orchestra/Sir Hamilton Harty – rec. 1932. ADD/mono
5BX25 [3:43] – from Beulah (mp3)

The 1932 sound is a bit rough and ready, but the liveliness of the performance shines through. Like so much of the 78s repertoire which Beulah is reviving, this music doesn’t get much of an outing these days.


Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
La Capricieuse, Op.17
Alfredo Campoli (violin)/Harold Pedlar (piano) – rec. 1931. ADD/mono
10BX10 [3:21] – from Beulah (mp3)

Not the greatest piece of Elgar that you’ve ever heard but a charming lightweight of the kind that Campoli used to throw off with apparent ease. The recording is very good for its age and the transfer is almost totally free from extraneous noise.


Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Historic Premiere Recordings
Around the Village Green: Irish Reel [1:24]
Soirees Musicales, Op.9 [10:17]
Charles Brill Orchestra
Way to the Sea (1937) – original soundtrack [14:09]
Geoffrey Tandey (narrator); Britten Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
Introduction and Rondo alla Burlesca, Op.23/1 [9:02]
Mazurka Eligiaca, Op.23/2 [7:36]
Benjamin Britten and Clifford Curzon (pianos)
A Ceremony of Carols [19:56]
Maria Korchinska (harp); Morriston Boys Choir/Ivor E Sims
BEULAH 1PD14 [63:37] – from iTunes (mp3)

When the items conducted by Charles Brill were first reviewed, in 1938, Britten was still regarded as a ‘pleasant’ composer, with ‘a lively talent’, whose orchestrations, though ‘perhaps rather strident [seemed] well in tune with the days in which we live.’ Autre temps autre mœurs: now we can enjoy Britten’s Rossini orchestrations without any such consideration and these first performances allow us to do so in sound which still sounds perfectly acceptable.

Way to the Sea, complete here with narrative, was a jingoistic film in praise of Portsmouth, its naval and transport connections. The film’s sense of history may be a little creative – far from being a resounding success, as claimed, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle makes it clear that King Alfred’s longships at best achieved a stand-off with the Danes – one was ignominiously grounded. This is more of a curiosity, with its dated travelogue manner, than the Night Mail music; I enjoyed hearing it, but I’m not sure how many more times I shall turn to it.

The Ceremony of Carols was still a novelty in 1946 and required a long, detailed and mainly appreciative description from Alec Robertson, who also had very high praise for Maria Korchinska’s perfect realisation of the harp part and only slightly less for the conductor and choir. Actually, the boys are a little more fallible than AR realised but, even now, with a host of more recent versions, this well-transferred recording – just a light background hiss – of an idiomatic premiere is still well worth hearing.

AR was less appreciative in 1945 of the Introduction and Rondo, which he likened to assault and battery, though he ended up enjoying both it and the Mazurka, a tribute to Paderewski, nevertheless. Apart from a tendency for the pianos to sound like ‘unpleasant xylophones’ in the highest register, he had high praise for the performance and recording. By modern standards the piano tone is harsh, but the performances are self-recommending. Curzon and Britten were, of course, to go on to co-operate in some distinguished Mozart recordings much later (Decca Legends 468 4912 – Piano Concertos 20 and 27, coupled with equally fine Curzon/Kertész recordings).

***

All the Queen’s Men: Music for Elizabeth I
Thomas WEELKES (c.1575-1623)
As Vesta was from Latmos Hill descending [3:43]
Thomas HUNT (1580-1658) Hark! Did ye ever hear? [3:18]
William BYRD (c.1540-1623) O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth [2:56]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) O clap your hands [5:11]
ANON Robin is to the greenwood gonn [2:13]
Alfonso FERRABOSCO II (c.1575-1628) So beauty on the waters stood [1:42]
Philippe ROGIER (c.1561-1596) Laboravi in gemitu meo [6:04]
Michael EAST (c.1580-1648) Hence, stars, too dim of light [1:55]
John WILBYE (1574-1638) Oft have I vow’d [3:53]
John DOWLAND (c.1563-1626) Time stands still [3:27]
Thomas TOMKINS (1572-1656) Adieu, ye city-prisoning towers [2:23]
John WILBYE Ye that do live in pleasures [2:40]
John DOWLAND The Right Honourable the Lady Rich, her galliard [1:48]
Thomas MORLEY (1558-1603) Hard by a crystal fountain [4:07]
John WILBYE Draw on, sweet night [5:22]
The Sarum Consort/Andrew Mackay – rec. July 2009. DDD
Booklet included, but no texts: these can be accessed online.
NAXOS 8.572582 [50:41] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

In 1601 a group of English composers collaborated on a tribute to the aging Queen Elizabeth, a set of madrigals entitled The Triumphs of Oriana, held together by the refrain ‘Then sang the nymphs and shepherds of Diana/Long live fair Oriana’. By then the queen had passed almost into legend – the myth of the ageless Virgin Queen, whose portraits depicted her becoming ever younger. In actual fact, she had become quite unpopular, but the image or metaphor of Gloriana remained potent.

The Triumphs have been recorded complete a number of times, including by Pro Cantione Antiqua for DGG Archiv in 1977, briefly released on CD but no longer available. Two recordings remain in the catalogue: the King’s Singers on Signum SIGCD082 and I Fagiolini on Chandos Chaconne CHAN0682. Michael Greenhalgh compared the two performances of what he considered the seven best madrigals and mostly favoured the King’s Singers. Not all of MG’s seven choices are featured here – no Bennett, Carlton, Holmes and the Tomkins work here is not from the Triumphs.

Thomas Weelkes’s As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending is placed first on the Naxos programme – rightly so, I think, because it’s always been my favourite and I see that MG agrees in placing it among his seven choices. He notes agreement between his two versions in timing for this piece at just over three minutes. The Sarum Consort give the piece a little more breathing space at 3:43; their tempo works well enough but, having listened to the two rival versions I marginally prefer a slightly faster tempo. There’s a rival Naxos recording from the Jeremy Summerly and the Oxford Camerata, where the piece is taken even more slowly yet contrives to sound both stately and lively. (English Madrigals and Songs from Henry VIII to the 20th Century, 8.553088.)

Michael East’s Hence stars, which is included in the Naxos selection, was given pride of place in the collection because it arrived last at the printers; it’s a pleasant enough piece and it receives a good performance from the Sarum Consort. That features in MG’s second-best list, together with Morley’s Hard by a crystal fountain and Thomas Hunt’s Hark did ye hear? All three are sung with greater dispatch by the King’s Singers, who are a whole minute faster in the Morley, yet I thought the Sarum tempo here quite appropriate to the words.

It’s easy to sense fatigue creeping into Michael Greenhalgh’s review of the complete Triumphs and Naxos were probably wise to include only a selection together with other works from the period, some of them by composers who contributed to the Triumphs – John Wilbye’s Draw on sweet night, which concludes the programme is one of the best. On that rival Naxos recording from the Oxford Camerata the piece is taken significantly more slowly, perhaps appropriately for the words, but I prefer the Sarum tempo, where it sounds ‘dignified and inexorable’ enough, to quote the description given in Naxos’s brief but apt notes. I have considerable admiration for Jeremy Summerly, but I do think he allows this piece to drag a little.

Of the remaining pieces, Byrd’s anthem for the preservation of Elizabeth is the best known. The Consort’s timing is again a little on the slow side – a few seconds slower even than the Tallis Scholars on Gimell, who usually give what they sing a little more time to breathe than their rivals. Again, however, the Sarum Consort’s tempo works well enough.

Philippe Rogier is the odd man out – included here because Laboravi in gemitu was once attributed to Thomas Morley. He’s a welcome intruder, however, if only because we are only just beginning to hear his music in first-rate performances from Linn and Hyperion.

Despite minor reservations, then, the new recording merits a recommendation. The recording is good and the download comes with a useful booklet, but no texts – these are available online as indicated above or via a link from the Naxos Music Library. Unless you must have the complete collection of the Triumphs, this will do fine – and I have to admit that my own copy of the Pro Cantione Antiqua recording last visited my CD deck some time ago and is buried somewhere where I can’t currently find it.

Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) Songs and Sacred Arias
Including Œdipus: ‘Music for a while’ [3:58]; The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation [7:45]; King Arthur: ‘Fairest isle’ [2:37]; The Indian Queen: ‘I attempt from love’s sickness to fly’ [2:14]; Don Quixote: ‘From rosy bowers’ [7:10]; The ‘Golden’ Sonata [7:32]
The Deller Consort: Alfred Deller (counter-tenor); April Cantelo (soprano); Murice Bevan (baritone); Walter Bergmann (harpsichord); George Malcolm (harpsichord); Neville Marriner, Peter Gibbs, Granville Jones (violins); Desmond Dupré (viola da gamba) – rec. c.1958. ADD
REGIS RRC1366 [75:00] (S) super-budget CD

Taken on its own, this generous selection from the Purcell recordings which Alfred Deller made for Vanguard in the late 1950s, with a group of supporters who went on to make reputations of their own, is a wonderful bargain offering. This was cutting-edge Purcell for its day and it was for most of us of a certain age the introduction to the countertenor voice. The next two generations of countertenors – the likes of James Bowman, Paul Esswood and Andreas Scholl – would probably never have happened if it had not been for Deller, yet these four voices remain quite different, immediately recognisable and easy to distinguish from each other.

By comparison with more recent recordings, such as Paul Esswood’s on Hyperion (CDA66070 – archive service only) Deller makes something of a meal of Music for a while, but it’s a tasty meal and René Jacobs comes very close to matching its length (Accent ACC10002). The recording is good for its age, with just a very occasional trace of over-modulation, as in Upon a quiet conscience, track 8, and the odd extraneous noise. The notes, though short and without texts, are to the point.

Once you’ve heard it, though, you may start looking for what isn’t here – Dido and Æneas, the music from Dioclesian, or the superb ‘Bell’ Anthem, for example – and find yourself inexorably drawn from the 6-CD Musical Concepts box set of Deller’s Purcell which contains all these items and more, including John Blow’s Ode on the Death of Purcell (MC194 – download from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library). Don’t try to download the single-CD Regis, or you’ll find yourself paying at least as much as the £4.30 for which it’s currently offered by one online retailer. Even more ridiculously, eMusic’s per-track policy means that they will seek to charge you a cool £67.20 for the 6-CD set.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58 [32:56]
Piano Concerto No.5 in E-flat, Op.73 (‘Emperor’) [39:02]
Emil Gilels (piano); Philharmonia Orchestra/Leopold Ludwig – rec. 1957. ADD
REGIS RRC1367 [72:09] (S) super-budget CD

The Regis coupling is a straight duplication of that on EMI’s Great Recordings. As with the Dvořák recording (below), Regis give no indication of the age of these Gilels recordings, both of which date from the early days of stereo in the late 1950s and their quotation from the 1958 review of the Emperor by Trevor Harvey is somewhat selective, omitting his criticism of the recorded piano tone and slight lack of warmth in the solo playing. TH was much more appreciative of the ‘quietly poetic’ Gilels Fourth – and remember that, in those days, each of these concertos took an LP to itself, at many times the equivalent of the Regis price.

Had Regis checked out the review of the EMI Great Recordings of the Century reissue from David D Dunsmore which appeared here on MusicWeb International, they could have quoted from a very appreciative response – here. Colin Clarke even made that reissue Bargain of the Month – here. As Regis don’t reveal the provenance of their version, I can only speculate: it has a Regis matrix number, so it certainly isn’t derived directly from the masters of the EMI refurbishment which has done so much to improve on those stereo LPs. With rather hard piano tone and some marginal orchestral distortion at climaxes, I’d surmise that it’s been transferred from LPs, except for the absence of end-of-side distortion at the conclusion of the Emperor. The effect is probably less noticeable on smaller systems – and, surprisingly, in view of TH’s comment in 1958, the piano sounds better in the Emperor, the end of which is exceptionally vivid – but owners of more discriminating equipment should probably look elsewhere, perhaps to that EMI GROC transfer.

For an alternative version of this coupling, try Kempff and Leitner on DG Originals, available as a download from passionato.com. (447 4022, mp3 only, reduced from £7.99 to £5.99 at the time of writing.) As far as more recent alternatives are concerned, I was a little disappointed by the Pizarro/Mackerras versions of Piano Concertos 3-4 (Linn CKD336 – see July 2009 Roundup). The recent Sudbin/Vänskä recording of Nos.4 and 5 on BIS-SACD-1758 has received some mixed reviews. So far, I’ve heard it just once, courtesy of the Naxos Music Library, but I’m inclined to the side of those who recommend it. The acclaimed Lewis/Belohlávek recordings on Harmonia Mundi are available only as a complete set from classicsonline.com, eMusic.com or Amazon.co.uk.

The performances on the Alpha label, with Arthur Schoonderwoerd on the fortepiano and the small period orchestra Ensemble Cristofori, are in a class of their own, but I have greatly enjoyed hearing them as an alternative to modern large-scale interpretations: Nos.1 and 2 on Alpha 155 in the July 2010 Roundup; 4 and 5 on Alpha 079 in the December 2010 Roundup. Nos.3 and ‘6’ (the piano arrangement of the Violin Concerto) are on Alpha 122, available from classicsonline.com or eMusic.com.

Consider, too, the complete Katchen/Gamba* recordings on Decca 475 8449 (4 CDs) and Foldes and Leitner in No.5 (Beulah Extra 1-2BX96), both reviewed in the November 2010 Roundup.

* For some inexplicable reason, I seem to have got Piero Gamba and Peter Maag confused in the write-up.

Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Cello Concerto No.2 in b minor, Op.104 [39:10]
Piano Concerto in g minor, Op.33 [37:34]
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello); Frantisek Maxian (piano); Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Vaclav Talich – rec. 1951/52. ADD/mono.
REGIS RRC1368 [76:52] – (S) super-budget CD.

Of the many recordings which Rostropovich made of the well-known Dvořák Cello Concerto, he regarded his first, for Supraphon, with Talich, as his best. Be aware that it dates from a time when it was first released on 78s – a fact nowhere to be found in the Regis documentation – but the transfer is very good. I enjoyed it greatly, and I certainly don’t appreciate dated sound. With almost equally distinguished coupling – the unjustly neglected Piano Concerto – and informative notes, this reissue is self-recommending, especially when Supraphon’s own version of the same coupling is more expensive – unless you download it from eMusic for £2.52 – here.

Passionato.com have Rostropovich’s later recordings with Giulini (HMV Great Recordings – here) and Karajan (DG Originals – here), both in mp3 and lossless sound.

Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
Fanfare pour précéder La Péri [2:32]
La Péri, Poème dansé en un Tableau (1910) [19:28]
Symphony in C (1896) [40:54]
L’Apprenti sorcier (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) [12:04]
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Jean Fournet
REGIS RRC1344 [75:00] - (S) super-budget CD - see also review by Rob Barnett.

This recording emanates from a Denon CD released to general acclaim in 1993. Many will buy it in order to obtain an inexpensive version of L’Apprenti sorcier, perhaps inspired by memories of Mickey Mouse in Fantasia, and they will not be disappointed, but they will also obtain recordings of two rarely performed works. As far as I’m aware, I have heard La Péri only once, at the Proms, circa 2007, and the symphony not at all.

This Regis reissue is less expensive than many downloads. For versions which are available as downloads, the least expensive way to obtain La Péri and L’Apprenti sorcier is in the company of Polyeucte on Supraphon, from eMusic.com (Czech Philharmonic/Antonio de Almeida, £1.68 or less). Better still is the 2-for-1 set from Chandos theclassicalshop.net featuring Yan-Pascal Tortelier with the Ulster Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic (The Essential Dukas, CHAN241-32, mp3 and lossless: La Péri, Sorcier, Symphony, Polyeucte and Sonate).

Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1931) Organ Works
Prelude and Fugue in A-flat, Op. 36/2 [9:13].
Evocation, Poème symphonique, Op. 37 [22 :57]
Six antiennes pour le temps de Noel, Op. 48 : Ecce Dominus veniet [2:40]; Omnipotens sermo tuus [3:05]; Tecum principium [2:26]; Germinavit radix Jesse [1:40]; Stella ista [2:27]; Lumen ad revelationem [2:14]
Psalm XVIII, Poème symphonique, Op. 47 [20:27]
Choral and Fugue in f-sharp minor, Op. 57 [6:31]
Jeremy Filsell (Harrison organ of Ely Cathedral) – rec. c.1991? DDD.
REGIS RRC1321 [73:51] (S) super-budget CD

Like the recent Regis CD of Richard Dering’s Motets (RRC1355 – see my review), this Dupré recording was originally released on the Gamut label, in this case on GAMCD530, in 1992. Like the Dering CD, it can be thoroughly recommended, with a small reservation about the parsimonious booklet of notes – less of a problem this time, since there are no texts to bemoan the lack of. (I understand that the Dering CD will be re-released later in 2011, this time with the texts and translations). Jeremy Filsell subsequently recorded the complete Dupré organ works for Guild, to considerable acclaim, but the reissue of this single CD is no less welcome. No point in looking for a download alternative at Regis’s price.

Warner: The Classical Guide to ...

I’ve been dipping into a number of recent Warner Classics and Jazz 2-CD introductions to various composers, available either on disc or as downloads from iTunes. These reach me via an arrangement known as the MPE player, designed primarily to get the music to reviewers quickly, though available for purchase by the general public. It’s slightly fiddly to use, so most listeners would probably prefer to download via iTunes (£4.99) or purchase the inexpensive CD sets (around £8.50 each).

I’ve already recommended the Vivaldi collection in the March/1_2011 Roundup – not an ideal Four Seasons, but still a useful gateway to his music, consisting almost entirely of complete works, whereas the other sets consist of single movements and, in the case of Wagner, bleeding chunks. Nevertheless, the Wagner Opera selevtion is worth having, since it provides samples of Daniel Barenboim’s recordings of Tannhäuser, der fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde, die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Parsifal (wrongly labelled as Götterdämmerung) and substantial excerpts from die Walküre and Götterdämmerung. The download comes with a simple two-sided information sheet. The CD equivalent is labelled The Wagner Opera Experience (2564683449).

The Classical Guide to Mozart Opera opens with the Zauberflöte Overture and contains excerpts from that opera, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Lucio Silla, Idomeneo, the Overture to der Schauspieldirektor, Così fan tutte (Overture and excerpts), Don Giovanni (excerpts) and Le Nozze di Figaro (Overture and excerpts), all in performances directed by Nicolaus Harnoncourt – not top choices for the most part, and of variable, not to say controversial quality. See, for example, Göran Forsling’s review of the highlights CD from Harnoncourt’s 1985 die Entführung – here.

Unfortunately, Messrs Schreier and Salminen, GF’s main reasons for recommending the CD, are not represented in the two excerpts on the Guide. You wouldn’t get much sense of lightness from the dull rendition of Papageno’s Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja and O Isis und Osiris just isn’t imposing enough. The number of the CD equivalent, The Mozart Opera Experience, is 2564681682.

The Tchaikovsky offers just an excerpt from the first movement of the First Piano Concerto [4:10], yet finds room for the whole first movement of Symphony No.1 (Winter Daydreams) [11:51]. While I’m pleased to see the latter receiving attention, together with two separated movements from the Second (Little Russian) Symphony – there is much more to Tchaikovsky than the beginner appreciates – but those looking for an introductory selection would surely want the whole first movement of the concerto. The performances are mostly elderly but reliable – the likes of Elisabeth Leonskaja in the Piano Concerto, Kurt Masur in the symphonies, Vadim Repin in the Violin Concerto – why not Maxim Vengerov, also from the Warner stable? On CD, The Tchaikovsky Experience is on 2564683448.

The Mahler collection contains complete movements, two from the First Symphony, for example, but maddeningly separated from each other by tracks from the other symphonies and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, and in the wrong order – the third movement before the first. There’s a range of conductors, Kurt Masur, Daniel Barenboim, Kent Nagano, Waltraud Meier, Zubin Mehta, Armin Jordan and Kurt Sanderling, with Thomas Hampson in the Lieder – reliable interpretations but not first choices for the most part. On CD, the title is The Mahler Experience (2564686280).

Some Bargains and a ‘Bargain’ to avoid

Gounod’s Faust comes in a 1950s recording starring Victoria de los Angeles (Marguerite), Nicolai Gedda (Faust) and Boris Christoff (Méphistophélès) with the Paris National Opera Orchestra under André Cluytens, a classic version still available from EMI on 3 CDs. It comes on 5 tracks, one per act, for a mere £2.10 or less from Discover Classical Music at eMusic.com – here. The mono recording is more than tolerable, though four of the tracks are at the just-acceptable 192kb/s and only one at the maximum 320kb/s.

I like the Cluytens, despite the critical pasting which it has received in its time: Faust is a robust work which can take a variety of interpretations. You may prefer, however, to know that Passionato have the 1991 Plasson version on mp3 and lossless – reduced from £10.99 (mp3) and £13.99 (lossless) to £5.49 and £6.99 respectively at the time of writing – here.

There’s no argument about the value of Cluytens’ version of Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles, with Martha Angelici, Michel Dens, Henri LeGay and the Opéra Comique Orchestra. (Tolerable) mono sound and mainly 192kb/s transfer notwithstanding, this is another excellent bargain for £1.26 or less from Discover Classical Music at eMusic – here.

Rossini’s La Cenerentola has never enjoyed the popularity of Il Barbiere di Siviglia, but Vittorio Gui, whose Glyndebourne Barbiere is still one of the best, makes a strong case for it on a three-track bargain, £1.26 or less, from Discover Classical Music on eMusic.com (mp3 only – here). Marina de Gabarain as Angelina is well supported by the likes of Sesto Bruscantini and Ian Wallace. The 1953 mono recording is more than tolerable and, like the Faust, because each act is on a complete track, the whole opera can be burned onto a single mp3 CDR without gaps in the music – if your CD deck will play back mp3s.

Those in search of a more modern recording should be happy with Cecilia Bartoli and Roberto Chailly on Decca, available from passionato.com (436 9022, mp3 – here).

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, starring Maria Callas with the La Scala Chorus and Orchestra looks like a superb bargain on two tracks from the same suppliers, Discover Classical Music and eMusic, but this dim and scratchy transfer just won’t do – it’s not worth even the £0.84 price. Only Callas’s voice comes through, as if someone had followed her around the stage with a single microphone and a primitive tape-recorder.


 


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