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Superbudget £5.99 or less Budget £6-7.99 Medium £8-10.99 Full price £11+ Download

Camille SAINT–SAËNS (1835 – 1921) Cello Sonatas 1 & 2 Mats Lidström (cello), Bengt Forsberg (piano) rec. 1999 DDD HYPERION HELIOS CDH55342 [63:46] [BBr]

I cannot praise this disk too highly.

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835–1921) Album pour Piano, Études Mi-Joo Lee (piano) MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 604 0590-2 [72:25] [MC]

Excellent playing - gloriously committed, fresh, confident and perceptive. This deserves a wider circulation.

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Music for wind instruments Clarinet Sonata, Oboe Sonata, Bassoon Sonata Romance, Caprice, Tarantella Canada’s National Arts Centre Wind Qnt, Stéphane Lemelin (piano) rec. 2008 NAXOS 8.570964 [64:23] [JS]

Charm and entertainment in the company of humanity, skill and craftsmanship. 

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) The Complete Symphonies l'ORTF Ntl O/Jean Martinon rec. 1972-5 EMI CLASSICS 6318042 [79:05 + 77:13] [GD]

The best of the few options available.

Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908) Zigeunerweisen see TCHAIKOVSKY

Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1750) Messa per il Santo Natale, Stabat Mater see PERGOLESI

Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) Complete Keyboard Sonatas, Vol. 13 Chu-Fang Huang (pno) rec. 2008 NAXOS 8.572107 [67:04] [MB]

Enough to tempt the palate of the most jaded collector. The element of pleasant surprise is still alive and well in the recording studio.

Franz SCHMIDT (1873 – 1939) Symphony 4, Variations on a Hussar’s Song Malmö SO/Vasily Sinaisky rec. 2008/9 NAXOS 8.572118 [75:02] [BBr]

There are better versions of both works elsewhere.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH  Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Duets Paul Lewis, Steven Osborne (piano) rec. 2010 HYPERION CDA67665 [76:06] [DC]

A perfect partnering: Schubert in all his brilliance and emotive power.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Duets: Fantasia, Variations sur un thème original, Rondo, Duo Irena Kofman, André de Groote (piano) rec. 2008 TALENT DOM 2911 119 [64:43] [DC]

A two horse race in identical repertoire: alas with only one winner.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Arpeggione Sonata, Piano Sonata D784 Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Kinderszenen Håvard Gimse (piano) Henning Kraggerud (viola) rec. 2008 NAIM NAIMCD104 [61:50] [RBe]

Gimse and Kraggerud are clearly fine players but they both may need to look to other repertoire to showcase their considerable talents.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Octet Fibonacci Sequence rec. 2008. DEUX–ELLES DXL1145 [61:00] [RMo]

A fine version yet lacking the last degree of refinement and Viennese charm.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) String Quintet London String Qt, Horace Britt (cello) rec. 1928 PRISTINE AUDIO XR PACM071 [43:30] [JW]

The LSQ were a very fine Schubert group, as their other surviving performances demonstrate, and this is no exception.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Vocal Duets, Trios and Quartets Elly Ameling (soprano) Janet Baker (mezzo) Peter Schreier, Horst Laubenthal (tenors) Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) Gerald Moore (piano) Rias Kammerchor BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94082 [65:02 + 57:41]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Winterreise Christian Hilz (baritone) Eckart Sellheim (fortepiano) BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94053 [64:20] [RB]

Two new Schubert releases from the upstart label Brilliant Classics: one extremely good and the other which didn’t appeal to me at all.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano sonata see In the mists

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Transcriptions for Cello and Piano Francesco Dillon (cello) Emanuele Torquati (piano) rec. 2010 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94060 [62:53 + 52:14] [RB]

Artistically well advocated, generous and sensibly priced.

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Manfred - Overture, Symphonies 2 & 4 NBC SO/Arturo Toscanini/Bruno Walter, rec. 1940, 1946 GUILD GHCD 2362 [69:22] [JW]

Walter didn’t record the Second and Toscanini didn’t record the Fourth, so there is symmetry at work here.

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Kinderszenen see SCHUBERT

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Symphonies 1-4 see Sir Adrian Boult

Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915) The Complete Mazurkas Boris Bekhterev (piano) rec. 2010 CAMERATA CMCD-28222 [68:03] [SS]

Bekhterev’s natural affinity and understanding of Scriabin shines through.

Aleksandr SCRIABIN (1872-1915) Sonata 4 see BRAHMS

Alexander SCRIABIN (1872 – 1915) La Poème d'Extase see HIGDON

William SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616) Romeo and Juliet Ellie Kendrick, Adetomiwa Edun, Dominic Dromgoole (dir.) rec. 2009 OPUS ARTE OA1029D [101.77 + 66.56] [MM-B]

It is probably the closest you will ever get to experiencing a “real” performance, as it would have been when Shakespeare was alive.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Symphony 10 London SO/Maxim Shostakovich rec. 1990 ALTO ALC1083 [59:30] [RB]

Understated, highly individual, telling. A work you thought you knew. 

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Violin Concerto 2, Symphony 15 David Oistrakh (violin) Moscow PO/Kyrill Kondrashin rec. 1967/74 ALTO ALC1062 [70:21] [RB]

Atmosphere and concentration you could cut with a knife. 

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Symphony 1, Karelia Suite, The Swan of Tuonela, Finlandia Royal PO/Sir Alexander Gibson rec. 1989 ALTO ALC1089 [65:26] [RB]

Plenty of vibrancy but no lack of careful and sensitive dynamic gradation and spatial sense.

Jean SIBELIUS (1865 – 1957) Symphonies 1 & 3 New Zealand SO/Pietari Inkinen rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572305 [70:04] [BBr]

This bodes well for a complete cycle from Inkinen and the NZSO.

Valentin SILVESTROV (b. 1937) Sacred Works Kiev Chamber Ch/Mykola Hobdych rec. 2006/07 ECM NEW SERIES 2117 (476 3316) [75:23] [JW]

Bass-hewn Eastern Orthodoxy to Elysian refinement, carried on the winds of Silvestrov’s meaningful harmonic shifts. A splendid disc.

Christian SINDING (1856-1941) Suite see KORNGOLD

Alvin SINGLETON (b.1940) Praisemaker see HIGDON

Kaikhosru SORABJI (1892-1988) 100 Transcendental Studies for piano (1940-44): Nos 44-62 Fredrik Ullén (piano) rec. 2006 BIS BIS-CD-1713 [80:25] [RB]

Refulgent hyper-Szymanowskian writing, angry dissonance, delightfully stirring jewelled veils.

John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932) Marches The Great American Main Street Band/Timothy Foley rec. 1990 EMI CLASSICS 6411222 [66:33] [JS]

For anyone wanting just a single disc of Sousa it might well be just right.

Walter STEFFENS (b.1934) Guernica and Other Paintings Frierich Flamme (organ) Rainer Schmidt (viola) Northwest German Phil/János Kulka, North German RSO & Ch/Helmut Franz, Klaud Weise rec. 2005 LABOR RECORDS LAB 7084 [77:37] [RB]

Steffens takes with utmost seriousness the transcribing of music from paintings. The results are fascinating and can hold the attention without fore-knowledge that what you hear began as something seen by the composer.

Johann STRAUSS Jr (1825-1899) Waltzes & Polkas see RIMSKY-KORSAKOV

Richard STRAUSS (1864 – 1949) Amor - Opera Scenes and Lieder Natalie Dessay (soprano) Felicity Lott (soprano) Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo) Sophie Koch (mezzo) Thomas Allen (baritone) Royal Opera House, Covent Garden O/Antonio Pappano rec. 2004 VIRGIN CLASSICS 6419332 [65.35] [RH]

This disc is something of a curiosity.

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) The Rite of Spring, Petrushka Rex Lawson (pianola) rec. 1991 NIMBUS RECORDS NI 2577 [71:37] [JW] 

This is fascinating.

Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1862-1900) Pineapple Poll, Henry VIII Suite, Victoria and Merrie England Suite Philharmonia O/Sir Charles Mackerras, Royal PO/Royston Nash rec. 1974-82 DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 1284 [66:12] [JF]

An important release: Pineapple Poll is the main event and is given the definitive performance. 

Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) The six symphonies and the tone poems Russian National Orchestra/Mikhail Pletnev rec. Moscow, 1993-96. DDD DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON UNIVERSAL COLLECTORS EDITION 477 8699 [7 CDs: 488:17] [RB]

Admirable with a great sense of three-dimensional imaging and satisfyingly emotional musical insight.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Symphonies 4-6, Serenade, Moscow, Nutcracker suite Russian Federation Large SO/Gennady Rozhdestvensky rec. 1988-92 ALTO ALC 1104/5/6 [72:35 + 70:50 + 67:43] [RB]

Another Rozhdestvensky Tchaikovsky cycle emerges from the shadows - unruly vitality yet taut control. A superb Pathetique. 

Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893) Symphony 4 Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868) La Cenerentola Overture NBC SO/Guido Cantelli rec. 1954 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 245 [49:04] Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony 4, Serenade Boston SO/Serge Koussevitzky rec. 1949 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC 247 [75:06] [BBr]

Both performances are worthy of attention.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1849-1893) Serenade for Strings, Souvenir de Florence do.gma CO/Mikhail Gurewitsch MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM 912 1654-6 [65:01] [GD]

This recording tries to bring the works together somewhere between the symphonic and chamber music worlds. That might provide continuity across the programme, but does both works a disservice.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Piano trio Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Trio élégiaque Gould Piano Trio CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD 012 [65:44] [IL]

Polished performances of two outstanding works in the Piano Trio genre.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Romeo and Juliet, Capriccio Italien, Francesca da Rimini, Eugene Onegin (excerpts) Moscow State SO/Pavel Kogan, rec. 1990 ALTO ALC 1033 [68:22] [RB]

I urge all true Tchaikovskians to hear this disc.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Violin Concerto Julius CONUS (1869-1942) Violin Concerto Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908) Zigeunerweisen Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957) Violin Concerto Jascha Heifetz (violin) Philharmonia O/Walter Susskind, RCA Victor SO/Isler Solomon, William Steinberg, Los Angeles PO/Alfred Wallenstein rec. 1950-3 NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111359 [79:12] [JW]

Marvellously communicative, quiveringly intense and breathtakingly virtuosic violin playing. 

Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Sérénade mélancolique, Valse-Scherzo see PAGANINI

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Jukka TIENSUU (b. 1948) Vie Missa, False Memories I-III Kari Kriikku (clarinet) Helsinki PO/John Storgårds rec. 2009/10 ONDINE ODE 1166-2 [64:34] [HC]

A most desirable addition to Tiensuu’s discography … magnificent.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) An Oxford Elegy, Flos Campi, Te Deum Jack May (narrator) Roger Best (viola) Christ Church Cathedral Ch, Oxford, English String O/Stephen Darlington rec. 1989 NIMBUS NI5166 [52:20] [WH][RB]

Creditable performances for the most part, but let down by the sound. [WH] This disc, modestly timed, brings together two of my favourite works by Vaughan Williams in fine performances and adds three choral celebrations. [RB]

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) On Wenlock Edge Peter Warlock (1894-1930) The Curlew James Griffett (tenor) Haffner String Qt rec. 1973 REGIS RRC 1316 [64:47] [RB]

Classic and very individual recordings of English song. Do not be put off by their nearly forty year old analogue origins.

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Three Shakespeare Songs see Full fathom five

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Symphony 6 see ELGAR

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Songs of Travel see Let Beauty Awake

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Otello Simon O'Neill, Anne Schwanewilms, Gerald Finley, Allan Clayton, Eufemia Tufano, London SO & Ch/Sir Colin Davis rec. 2009 LSO LIVE LSO0700 [64:27 + 66:54] [JP]

Distinguished by the fire and brimstone conducting of the ageless Sir Colin Davis and O’Neill’s tireless, stentorian intensity and lovely Italianate refinement.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Otello Wolfgang Windgassen (tenor) Sena Jurinac (soprano) Norman Mittelmann (baritone) Wiener Staatsoper Ch, Wiener Sängerknaben, Süddeutsch RSO/Argeo Quadri rec. 1965 ARTHAUS 101 505 [134:00] [GF]

For the historically inclined reader this is a real treat.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Aida Montserrat Caballé, Placido Domingo, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Royal Opera Ch, New PO/Riccardo Muti rec. 1974 EMI CLASSICS 5406302 [3 CDs: 39.42 + 41.14 + 65.25 + bonus disc] [RJF]

Despite limitations this is still a vivid recording with some excellent Verdi singing of a quality hard to match today.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901) Aida Iano Tamar (soprano) Tatiana Serjan (soprano) Rubens Pelizzari (tenor) Camerata Silesia, Polish Radio Choir Krakow, Bregenzer Festspielchor, Wiener SO/Carlo Rizzi rec. live, 2009 UNITEL CLASSICA 702308 [135:00] [GF]

Innovative for sure. One can marvel at ideas that suddenly illuminate the proceedings but just as often one thinks: ‘What’s the point of this?’

Opera Open Air Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Aida, Nabucco, La Traviata Georges BIZET (1838-1870) Carmen National Theatre Brno Ch & O, Europa SO, Slovak PO & Ch/Ernst Märzendorfer rec. 2004-8 EUROARTS 2058208 [4DVDs: 150:00 + 165:00 + 122:00 + 134:00] [RJF]

Poor singing in one of the four operas spoils the magnificent setting and spectacular staging, but a bargain at the price.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Rigoletto Juan Diego Florez, Zeljko Lucic, Diana Damrau, Staatsoper Dresden/Fabio Luisi rec. 2008 VIRGIN CLASSICS 6418689 [137:00] [RF]

It will be a few years yet before Juan Diego Florez brings to Verdi’s music the vocal skills and nuance evident in his singing of the bel canto composers.

Louis VIERNE (1870 – 1937) Le poème de l’amour, Psyché, La ballade du désespéré Michael Bundy (baritone) Jeremy Filsell (piano) rec. 2003-7 NAXOS 8.572346 [62:48] [BBr]

Vierne’s musical world as displayed here is of little interest.

Henri VIEUXTEMPS (1820-1881) Viola Sonata see CLARKE

Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959) Choros Vols 1-3 Cristina Ortiz (piano); São Paolo Symphony Orchestra/John Neschling rec. 2003-6 BIS BIS-CD-1440, 1450 & 1520 [BW]

Try any of these three recordings – the second volume is a good place to start – and you’ll want all three.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) L'Estro Armonico Concertos Mercury Baroque/Antoine Plante rec.2010 MERCURY BAROQUE/HPR 84501 38529 [66:14] [DB]

Eight concertos from Vivaldi's great L'Estro Armonico, performed as well as it is possible to imagine and excellently recorded. 

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Ottone in Villa Julia Lezhneva, Veronica Cangemi, Roberta Invernizzi (soprano) Sonia Prina (alto) Topi Lehtipuu (tenor) Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini, rec. 2010 NAÏVE OP30493 [76:59 + 57:36] [MS]

Another success in Naïve's Vivaldi Edition: not the most profound or original Baroque opera ever written; but one which enthusiasts shouldn't miss.

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Tannhäuser Lucia Popp, Waltraud Meier, Siegfried Jerusalem, Kurt Moll, Bavarian RSO & Ch/Bernard Haitink, rec. 1985 EMI CLASSICS OPERA 6408002 [3 CDs: 56:07 + 66:51 + 50:41] [BW]

A welcome reissue with a considerable price advantage over Sinopoli and Solti.

George WALKER (b. 1922) Chamber Music and Songs Janet Stasio (sop.) Patricia Green (mezzo) James Martin (bar.) Sona Sonora Str Qt, Capitol Chamber Artists, Videmus Ens, Cygnus Ens, George Walker (pno) rec. 1994-2008 NAXOS 8.559659 [74:23] [WK]

An interesting variety of works from one of America’s senior composers.

Peter Warlock


Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996) Chamber Symphonies 1 & 4 Umeå SO/Thord Svedlund rec. 1998 ALTO ALC1036 [62:10] [RB] Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996) Symphony 2, Chamber Symphony 2 Umeå SO/Thord Svedlund rec. 1998 ALTO ALC1037 [56:48] [RB]

Warm and sumptuous recordings of four twentieth century classics of the North European string orchestra genre.

Józef WIENIAWSKI (1837-1912) Piano Concerto see GOETZ

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Hugo WOLF (1860-1903) Mörike-Lieder Wolfgang Holzmair (baritone) Imogen Cooper (piano) WIGMORE HALL LIVE WHLIVE0029 [73:25] [CC]

Magnificently focused, with little or no sense of strain … seemingly infinite sensitivity. A very special disc.

Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)  Ysaÿe Impressions Six Sonatas for violin solo, Op. 27 Wojciech Koprowski (violin) rec. 2008/9 CD ACCORD ACD 147-2 [65:01] [AM]

For all his technical command, he rarely engages with the score’s implicit demand to reproduce Ysaÿe’s idea of style and sound.

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