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March 2011 Download Roundup [1]
Brian Wilson

The [1] after the month name above signifies a change of policy. These download roundups started as a few sides of A4 but, like Topsy, they just growed and growed to 30+ sides. Like Topsy, too, nobody made me - I just got carried away - but it means that Iím having to covert a large document to html and add images in one go. In future, I shall be producing two Roundups each month, at roughly fortnightly intervals - perhaps even three in some months such as December, when thereís a good deal of seasonal material to include.

Recording of the Month

Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585) and William BYRD (1643-1623) Cantiones Sacrae (1575)
CD 1
Thomas TALLIS Salvator mundi I [2:39]
Absterge Domine [3:28]
In manus tuas [1:51]
William BYRD Emendemus in melius [3:02]
Libera me Domine et pone [7:14]
Peccantem me quotidie [6:16]
Thomas TALLIS Mihi autem nimis [1:51]
O nata lux [1:41]
O sacrum convivium [3:08]
William BYRD Aspice Domine quia facta est [4:53]
Attolite portas [4:40]
O lux beata Trinitas [4:08]
Thomas TALLIS Derelinquat impius [3:19]
Dum transisset sabbatum [3:59]
[Honor] virtus et potestas [3:52]
[Sermone blando...] Illæ dum pergunt concite [4:55]
William BYRD Laudate pueri Dominum [4:02]
Memento homo [2:41]
Siderum rector [2:37]
Thomas TALLIS Te lucis ante terminum [festal setting] [1:59]
CD 2
Thomas TALLIS Te lucis ante terminum [ferial setting] [1:41]
Salvator mundi II [2:26]
[Candidi] facti sunt [2:02]
William BYRD Da mihi auxilium [7:04]
Domine secundum actum meum [7:29]
Diliges Dominum [3:08]
Thomas TALLIS In ieiunio et fletu [4:15]
Suscipe quaeso Domine/Si enim iniquitates [7:17]
William BYRD Miserere mihi Domine [2:29]
Tribue Domine/Te deprecor/Gloria patri qui creavit [10:57]
Libera me Domine de morte [3:59]
Thomas TALLIS Miserere nostri Domine [2:46]
Alamire/David Skinner - rec. February and March 2009 and January 2010. DDD.
Booklet with texts and translations available as pdf document
OBSIDIAN OBSID-CD706 [74:37 + 55:47] - from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Despite the (very) high quality of other recordings of this music, this new release sweeps the board, if only because it offers the only current collection to bring all the music together. For all Tallisís partial success and Byrdís almost total success in writing for the new English liturgy, it is their Latin settings that show their absolute command of renaissance polyphony and nowhere more so than in this collection dedicated to Queen Elizabeth in 1575 - 17 pieces by each of these loyal recusants to mark the 17th anniversary of her reign.

I wouldnít want to be without those other recordings which Iíve reviewed in these Roundups, but Alamire are superb. Iíve seen it suggested that their performance of Byrdís setting of the Eastertide motet Attolite portas (Lift up your heads, O ye gates) sounds muddy rather than joyful, yet they adopt almost exactly the same, fairly fast, tempo as I Fagiolini on The Early Byrd (Chandos CHAN0578), significantly faster than New College Choir on CRD3492, and in no way inferior to either, in my opinion.

That CRD recording contains eleven of Byrdís contributions to the 1575 collection and is supplemented by further excerpts from his 1589 and 1591 continuations (CRD3420 and 3439 respectively), all well worth downloading from theclassicalshop.net or, for the 1589 and 1591 collections, passionato.com. Theclassicalshop also offers CHAN0733, a collection from the 1589 and 1591 sets sung by Trinity College Choir, Cambridge, somewhat confusingly labelled Cantiones Sacræ I and II. (The 1575 collection was the first; the other two were Byrdís first solo sets.)

Some of the Tallis works from the 1575 collection are included on The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis (Gimell CDGIM203), benchmark performances from a highly recommendable and inexpensive 2-for-1 offering. Alamire are a little more expansive than the Scholars in some pieces and a trifle faster in others, but detailed comparisons of pairs of performances of this quality are pretty futile - take either on its own terms and you wonít go wrong.

Yet another superb collection of Tallisís music features on the Signum label - a highly enterprising complete collection of his extant works. Most of the music from the 1575 collection appears on Volume 7: Music for Queen Elizabeth (SIGCD029)*. The performances by Chapelle du Roi on Signum are generally slightly faster than either those on Gimell or those on the new Obsidian recording, but, once again, comparisons are odious (or odorous): all three are excellent in their own terms. Alamireís 2:39 for Salvator mundi I looks dangerously slow on paper but the result completely belies the appearance, even playing their version immediately after Chapelle (2:19) and the Scholars (2:21).

The download of the Obsidian recording from classicsonline, complete with booklet of texts, comes at the full 320kb/s rate and sounds splendid. Passionato will presumably offer a lossless version in due course, but only downright audiophiles need to wait. The notes remind us that the original publication was a financial flop: I sincerely trust that its modern equivalent will sell like the proverbial hot cakes.

As I close this Roundup, I note that one reviewer accuses this recording of cold perfection: I agree with the second part of that statement but I didnít find the performance cold, nor, I think, would Tallis and Byrd, but, of course, you'll have to take my word for that unless you listen first via the Naxos Music Library. I did that and immediately requested the review download.

Iím working on producing an index of music covered in these Download Roundups. So far Iíve indexed the following recordings of music by Byrd and Tallis:

BYRD Assumpta est Maria: Hyperion - Carwood (September 09, October 09, Hyperion Top 30)
BYRD Cantiones Sacræ: Chandos - Marlow; CRD - Higginbottom (February 09)
BYRD Gradualia (excs) - William Byrd Choir - Hyperion Helios (February 10 - mentioned)
BYRD Gradualia (excs.): Hyperion - Carwood (February 09)
BYRD Hodie Simon Petrus - Hyperion - Carwood (January 10)
BYRD Infelix ego - Hyperion - Carwood (February 10)
BYRD Keyboard Works excerpts - CDA66558 - Moroney (August 10)
BYRD Keyboard Works complete - Hyperion CDA44461/7 - Moroney (August 10)
BYRD Lute Music 4 - Naxos - North (January 10)
BYRD Mass for 5 voices in Sacred Music in the Renaissance I - Gimell (November 10)
BYRD Masses - Nimbus - Christ Church Cathedral - (Tallis Scholars at 30 - mentioned)
BYRD Music for Holy Week and Easter - ASV - Carwood (November 10)
BYRD O ye that hear this voice - Beulah Trinity Consort (January 11)
BYRD Singing Elizabethís Tune - Gimell - Tallis Scholars (Tallis Scholars at 30)
BYRD The Caged Byrd - Chandos (August 08)
BYRD The Great Service - Westminster Abbey - Hyperion (February 10 - mentioned)
BYRD The Second Service: Harmonia Mundi - Ives (February 09)
BYRD The Tallis Scholars Sing William Byrd - Gimell (Tallis Scholars at 30)
TALLIS Spem in alium, Lamentations, etc - Hyperion CDA30024 Winchester Cathedral (October 10)
TALLIS Spem in alium, Te lucis ante terminum, 4-part Mass, etc. : Linn - Magnificat (September 09)
TALLIS Complete English Anthems - Gimell (Tallis Scholars at 30)
TALLIS Complete Works Vols.1-6: Chapelle du Roi (November 08)
TALLIS Complete Works Vols.7-9: Chapelle du Roi (December 08)*
TALLIS Gaude Gloriosa, etc - Hyperion - Carwood (Tallis Scholars at 30)
TALLIS Lamentations I and II - Gimell - Tallis Scholars (Tallis Scholars at 30)
TALLIS Missa Puer natus Est - Tudor Music for Advent & Christmas - Stile Antico (Christmas 10)
TALLIS Missa Puer Natus Est (The Tallis Christmas Mass) - Gimell (Tallis Scholars at 30)
TALLIS Missa Puer Natus Est, etc. in A Marriage of England & Spain - The Sixteen (Tallis Scholars at 30)
TALLIS Spem in alium, etc. - Gimell (Tallis Scholars at 30)
TALLIS Spem in alium, etc. in Sacred Music in the Renaissance I - Gimell - Tallis Scholars (November 10)
TALLIS The Tallis Scholars Sing Thomas Tallis - Gimell (Tallis Scholars at 30)

* My earlier recommendation of the downloads from this series were based on lower bit-rate versions from eMusic. Iíve now tried Volume 7 from passionato.com and can report that the 320kb/s download - here - is preferable - and, at £5.99, itís only a few pence more expensive than the eMusic version.

Discovery of the Month
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959) Floresta do Amazonas, W551 (The Amazon Forest) (1958, revised by Roberto DUARTE)
Anna Korondi (soprano); Male voices of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra Choir;
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/John Neschling
Booklet available from Naxos Music Library
BIS-SACD-1660 [77:55] - available as SACD, as download from eclassical.com (mp3 and 16-bit or 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library.

Iíve been meaning to hear the complete work since I was intrigued by Bidú Sayão singing the Cancao do amor and Melodia sentimental (Love Song and Sentimental Melody) from it on a Classics for Pleasure recording (228376 - see review). In Floresta do Amazonas, one of his very last works, Villa-Lobos returned to the theme of so much of his earlier music: the rain forest, the creatures that live in it, and the myths that have been woven around it. The musicís wild beauty almost defies description - try it first at the Naxos Music Library if you need to be convinced: they also have the booklet.

Sayão was past her best when she recorded the Cancao do amor, but her feeling for the music remained. If Anna Korondi doesnít quite match her intensity, on tracks 20-21 of this recording, the quality of her voice more than compensates here and in the other items for solo voice. This BIS recording doesnít have much competition - a single rival on Delos - but this version seems thoroughly idiomatic, like Neschlingís other contributions to the Villa Lobos recorded repertoire. The men of the São Paulo Choir even make convincing head-hunters in Cacadores de cabeca (tr.19). The recording sounds very well when streamed from the Naxos Music Library and stunning in the eclassical lossless download, which comes at the very reasonable price of $9.35: thereís also a 24-bit version for $14.03.


Bargains of the Month

Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) (1893 version)
Martha Angelici - Leïla; Henri Legay - Nadir; Michel Dens - Zurga; Louis Noguera - Nourabad; Choir and Orchestra of l'Opéra Comique/André Cluytens - rec. 1954. ADD/mono.
DISCOVER CLASSICAL MUSIC [77:37 + 28:06] - from eMusic (mp3)

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Il trovatore
Jussi Björling - Manrico; Zinka Milanov - Leonora; Fedora Barbieri - Azucena; Leonard Warren; Robert Shaw Chorale; RCA Victor Orchestra/Renato Cellini - rec.1952. ADD/mono
PAST CLASSICS [2 CDs: 61:32+53:55] - from eMusic (mp3)

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Der Rosenkavalier (1911)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano) - Feldmarschallin; Otto Edelmann (bass) - Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau; Christa Ludwig (mezzo) - Octavian; Eberhard Wächter (baritone) - Herr von Faninal; Teresa Stich-Randall (soprano) - Sophie; Ljuba Welitsch (soprano) - Marianne; Paul Kuen (tenor) - Valzacchi; Kerstin Meyer (mezzo) - Annina; Nicolai Gedda (tenor) - A Singer; Franz Bierbach (bass) - A Police Officer; Erich Majkut (tenor) - Major-Domo to the Marschallin; Gerhard Unger (tenor) - Major-Domo to Faninal; An Animal Seller; Harald Pröglhof (bass) - An Attorney; Karl Friedrich (tenor) - A Landlord; Anny Felbermayer (soprano) - A Milliner; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, Kerstin Meyer - Three Noble Orphans; Gerhard Unger, Erich Majkut, Eberhard Wächter, Harald Pröglhof - Four Footmen; Gerhard Unger, Erich Majkut, Eberhard Wächter, Franz Bierbach - Four Waiters
Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
rec. 10-15, 17-22 December 1956, Kingsway Hall, London ADD
DISCOVER CLASSICAL MUSIC [3 CDs: 69:55 + 59:39 + 61:32] - from eMusic (mp3)

Hugo ALFVÉN (1872-1960)

Symphony No. 4 in c minor, Op. 39, 'From the outskirts of the archipelago' (1908-1919)
Elisabeth Soderström (soprano); Gösta Winbergh (tenor); Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Stig Westerberg - rec? (c.1970s?).
BLUEBELL from BELL107/ABCD001 [38:59] - from Amazon.co.uk or eMusic (mp3)

Allan PETTERSSON
(1911-1980)
Symphony No.5 (1960-62)
Berlin Sibelius Orchestra/Andreas Peer Kähler - rec. 1986. DDD.
BLUEBELL from BELL203/ABCD015 [39:00] - from Amazon.co.uk or eMusic (mp3)

All these Past Classics and Discover Classical Music opera recordings qualify as bargains because each act comes complete on one track, thus not only making eMusicís per-track price very good value (typically £1.68 or less per opera) but also ideal for syncing to an mp3 player or burning to an mp3 disc for replay without annoying gaps between arias. Similarly, the Bluebell recordings are complete on one track - £0.42 from eMusic and little more from Amazon.

This classic mono recording of Les pêcheurs de perles is all the more welcome for being currently unavailable on disc. The dryish mono recording may not be as good as the Rosenkavalier of two years later, also from Discover Classical Music on eMusic, and the eMusic download is not at such a high bit-rate, but itís well worth the modest price of three tracks (potentially as little as £0.72 and no more than £1.26). Performance-wise, this still holds its own very well and it offers an inexpensive demonstration that the whole work is more than the two extracts which most of us know. For those who arenít eMusic subscribers, HMV Digital has the same version, but I canít give you the price because I couldnít access the album from their web page. (I guess around £2.50).

The 1952 RCA recording of Trovatore is well worth having for Jussi Björlingís contribution alone. The sound is inevitably dry and restricted, but perfectly listenable.

Göran Forsling made this incomparable performance of Rosenkavalier a very worthy Bargain of the Month when it was reissued on Brilliant Classics in 2009 - see his detailed review here. For the cost of three tracks from eMusic, in a good transfer (all tracks at the maximum 320kb/s) itís even better value - potentially as little as £0.72 and no more than £1.26. GF complained that the Brilliant transfer was a little too bright. This is taken (presumably) from the LPs and sounds well-balanced for its age. If you donít subscribe to eMusic, the same transfer is available from HMV Digital for £2.37.

Thereís no libretto or synopsis, but these are readily available online. The Amazon.co.uk download of the most recent EMI reissue of this set includes a booklet with text and translation - at £11.49 itís still good value.

The two recordings from the Bluebell label, no longer generally available on disc, each cost a mere £0.69 as a download from Amazon.co.uk - even less from eMusic, potentially as little as £0.24 if you are still on one of the older tariffs. Both performances are idiomatic and well recorded - encoded at 256kb/s in the case of the Amazon download, slightly less for the eMusic Pettersson, but still sounding fine. Both works are approachable - the Alfvén very much in the picturesque manner of Richard Strauss, the Pettersson a rather gaunt but tonal work, both in single movements.

Almost as inexpensive is the eMusic download of the BIS version of the Alfvén Fourth Symphony, conducted by Neeme Järvi (coupled with the Legend of the Skerries for £0.84, but potentially as little as £0.48 to some subscribers). The BIS version of the Pettersson Fifth Symphony can also be had on eMusic for a similar price, coupled with the Viola Concerto, but for better quality downloads of both, including lossless, go to eclassical.com.

Beulah Extra

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Concerto in F for 3 violins, strings and harpsichord, RV551* [11:38]
Concerto in g minor, for flute, oboe, violins and figured bass, RV105** [9:10]
Concerto in c minor for strings and harpsichord, RV118*** [6:21]
Concerto in C for mandolin, strings and harpsichord, RV425^ [7:13]
Concerto in B-flat for strings and harpsichord, RV164^^ [4:27]
New York Sinfonietta/Max Goberman - rec.1959. ADD/stereo
1BX112*, 2BX112**, 3BX112***, 4BX112^, 5BX112^ [38:50] - from Beulah (mp3)

Max Goberman was a distinguished musicologist who edited a number of 18th-century works and collaborated with HC Robbins-Landon on what was planned as a series of Haydn recordings for Columbia/CBS, an enterprise sadly cut short by his early death in 1962. His Vivaldi was light-textured and lively for its day by comparison with conductors such as Karl Münchinger, perhaps as a result of Gobermanís association with Broadway, though it sounds somewhat heavy now alongside Venice in Mexico or even the Solisti Veneti recordings on the Warner Classics introductory CDs, bothreviewed below.

Itís doubtful, however, if modern approaches to baroque music would have been possible had it not been for the pioneering work of Münchinger and his Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and these Goberman recordings of which Scimoneís Solisti and period-instrument groups were the beneficiaries. Just consider, too, the wide variety of Vivaldi repertoire on offer here at a time when even the Four Seasons were considered excitingly unusual. Gobermanís recording of the Mandolin Concerto, RV425, was employed as the soundtrack of the film Kramer v Kramer.

With several well-known names among the soloists, including Julius Baker on flute and Goberman himself on violin, these reissues are all very enjoyable. The Beulah transcription of the recording is good - a trifle restricted at each end of the frequency range.

Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
String Quartet in D, G165
Quartetto Italiano - rec.1948 ADD/mono
5BX47 [13:28] - from Beulah (mp3)

This must have been an enterprising release at a time when just about the only Boccherini generally known was the Minuet from the String Quintet in E, Op.11/5, usually in orchestral transcription, as on the 1939 PCO/Weingartner recording which Beulah have also reissued. Even now there isnít much competition by comparison with Haydnís roughly contemporary quartets. Thereís no question that, given a Desert island choice between Boccherini and Haydn, itís for the latter that I'd plump, but that didnít prevent my enjoyment of this recording, which enshrines some sympathetic playing, especially in the slow movement, and has been made to sound surprisingly well for its time.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No.7 in A, Op.92
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Erich Kleiber - rec.1950 ADD/mono
9-12BX6 [33:07] - from Beulah (mp3)

This is my favourite Beethoven symphony - forget about those other odd-numbered war-horses, this is pure joy - the Apotheosis of the Dance as Liszt dubbed it, dancing on the piano top to prove it. (Allegedly.) Until someone reissues the Bruno Walter mono recording - preferable to his stereo re-make - this 1950 Kleiber recording will do very nicely. All the joie de vivre is there, though not in a galumphing fashion - thereís real delicacy in the second and third movements - and the recording is perfectly tolerable. Perhaps the finale could have been a little more delirious. For something more modern, go for Kleiberís son Carlos in the Fifth and Seventh on a splendid DGG Original reissue (447 4002), as an adjunct to the Beulah.

I know that these reviews are read by the proprietor of Beulah because he posts them on the labelís website almost as soon as they appear, so Iím going to suggest that in future whenever he has a similar situation he remembers to number numbers below 10 with a 0 prefix. In this case, you may find that you have to change 9BX6 to 09BX6 in order to prevent the tracks playing in the wrong order on players such as Squeezebox. Do it very carefully in Windows Explorer, having backed up the file in case you accidentally delete the original.

String Quartet No.9 in C, Op.59/3 (Rasumovsky No.3)
Drolc Quartet - rec.1960 ADD/stereo
1-3BX113 [29:09] - from Beulah (mp3)

The three quartets dedicated to Count Rasumovsky represent a mid-point between the Haydn-esque Op.18 set and the Late Quartets, with elements of the unconventional aspects of the latter already apparent. They, together with the Harp Quartet, Op.74, and Op.95, which stands even more on the verge of the unconventional, are probably the best to explore first.

This Drolc recording, issued at around the time that I was beginning to be interested in the Beethoven Quartets, seems to have passed me by, perhaps because it received a bit of a pasting when it was first released in the UK with Op.96 on the Classics for Pleasure label in the 1970s - and by then I was more than happy with the Hungarian Quartet on mid-price HMV.

The sound, from Electrola (?), was described as preferable to that of the Hungarians - the latter slightly acidic as I recall, for all my enjoyment of the performance - and the new transfer certainly maintains its quality. The performances are perfectly acceptable, but they donít quite capture for me those incipient unconventional qualities which were to be developed later, including a slightly manic tendency to throw a tune away just as itís being developed. The Drolc Quartet made at about the same time a recording of some of the Op.18 quartets which received quite a degree of critical praise, but their Op.59/3 still seems to me to inhabit the world of those earlier works.

Worth hearing, then, especially in the lyrical passages of the slow movement, but no match for the Takács Quartet (Decca 470 847-2, Op.59/1-3 and Op.74). The Drolc Quartet wonít frighten the horses; the Takács are prepared to do so.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
String Quartet in e minor
Quartetto Italiano - rec.1950. ADD/mono
6-9BX47 [21:41] - from Beulah (mp3)

Chamber music may not have been Verdiís forte - many will still be surprised to discover that he composed a string quartet - there still arenít all that many recordings, and the work was certainly not well known in 1950 when this version was made. Perhaps for that reason, I didnít think that the Quartetto Italiano were quite in touch with the music as the Leipzig String Quartet are, appropriately coupled with Pucciniís Crisantemi and other Quartets by Opera Composers (Respighi, Wagner and Humperdinck) on Dabringhaus und Grimm 3071495-2 (see review). There is also a fine version from the Alberni Quartet on mid-price CRD (CRD3366, with Donizetti), both of which have the edge on this reissue, though thereís very little specifically to criticise about it. The recording is a bit clouded, though itís not at all bad for its age.

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Prelude
Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer - rec.1960. ADD/stereo
1BX114 [10:52] - from Beulah (mp3)

Klemperer was quite a Wagner aficionado, with a fine recording of der Fliegende Holländer to his credit. This recording of the Meistersinger Prelude was made a few years earlier but still sounds well and the performance, if a little measured, is one of the best items to have appeared on three Columbia SAX LPs of Wagner in the early 1960s, a time when the Philharmonia was on splendid form. I'd ask for the other items, too, but EMI Masters have forestalled Beulah by issuing a 2-CD set, re-mastered from the original tapes, for around £8.50: 'recordings that should be on the shelves of any admirer of the composer' (6318272 - see review by John Sheppard).

Hans Christian LUMBYE (1810-1874) Københavns Jernbanedamp Galop (Copenhagen Steam Train Galop)
Copenhagen Symphony Orchestra/Lavard Frisholm - rec.1960 ADD/stereo
1BX115 [3:44] - from Beulah (mp3)

For an introduction to the music of Lumbye, you canít do better than the Naxos CD The Best of Hans Christan Lumbye (8.556843) which I recommended recently as a vade mecum to the complete series on Marco Polo. You could hardly fail to enjoy this charming brief excursion - the track extended only a few miles from Copenhagen in 1847 when Lumbye composed the work, but all on board were having fun - and it will probably lead you direct to that Naxos collection or even to some of its parent Marco Polo CDs. If anything, Lavard Frisholm adds a small extra degree of elegance to the excursion compared to Giordano Bellincampi on Naxos/Marco Polo. The Beulah recording and transfer are good.

Now try to think of as many other pieces of music inspired by trains as you can: there are more than you may think.

Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Violin Concerto
Albert Sammons (violin); New Queenís Hall Orchestra/Sir Henry Wood - rec. ADD/mono
6-8BX3 [41:26] - from Beulah (mp3)

I reviewed this classic recording last month as part of a collection of Sir Henry Wood recordings (3PD13). I liked it, though I retain a soft spot for the teenage Menuhinís performance of a few years later, available on Naxos Historical 8.110902, with Bruch. Those few years saw a vast improvement in recording quality but the Beulah transfer of the earlier recording has been very well done. I made a quick comparison with the renowned Mark Obert-Thorn transcription on Naxos Historical (8.110951, with Delius) and found little to choose between them. I suspect that thereís a very slight difference in the speeds at which the transfers were made, with the Beulah marginally brighter and faster, but that didnít trouble me: I have no sense of absolute pitch, so I couldnít tell which is right. If anything, the Beulah has less surface noise; though thatís not a major problem on Naxos, the Beulah seems slightly easier to live with - and itís available in countries where the Naxos isnít because of copyright.

The Morriston Orpheus Male Choir sings:
Henry Brinley RICHARDS
God bless the Prince of Wales
1BX111 [3:30]
TRADITIONAL Abersytwyth
2BX111 [3:00]
Johannes BRAHMS Wiegenlied
3BX111 [2:27]
Giuseppe VERDI Nabucco - Chorus of Hebrew Slaves
4BX111 [3:26]
Griffith Hugh JONES Deus salutis (Llef)
5BX111 [2:51]
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN The Long Day Closes
6BX111 [3:48]
James JAMES Land of my Fathers
7BX111 [3:56]
TRADITIONAL Rock of Cadr Idris
8BX111 [3:11]
All through the Night
9BX111 [3:07] - all from Beulah (mp3)

Iím sorry to say that most of these 1958 recordings, conducted by Ifor E Sims, just arenít my cup of tea, though they will be just the ticket for many potential listeners - which is quite a mixed metaphor. Those who like this sort of thing will like what is here. The two-track recordings - Beulah describe them as binaural rather than stereo - were made in 1958.

Shirley Verrett Reissues

Iím grateful to Sony for access to downloads of four Shirley Verrett albums, previously not released on CD. They have been available since early February 2011, for download from Amazon.com in the US - Iím not sure if and when they are to be issued in the UK.

Singin' in the Storm
Oh, Freedom [3:22]
Lamento Esclavo (The Song of a Slave) [2:07]
Strange Fruit [3:13]
Kurt WEILL Mahagonny: Wie man sich bettet [3:38]
I been in de storm so long [3:37]
If I had a hammer [2:36]
Partisan Song [4:00]
Kurt WEILL Cry the beloved country [3:38]
No more slavery chains for me [4:52]
When Johnny comes marching home [3:29]
Where have all the flowers gone [2:50]
RCA/SONY 884977834925 [37:28]

Verrett at Carnegie Hall
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) An Die Musik [3:03]; An Schwager Kronos [3:01]; Ständchen [4:15]; Die Allmacht [4:23]
Piotr Ilich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Was I Not a Blade of Grass? [5:11]; Again, as before, I am Alone [1:50]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) O, Thou Billowy Harvest Field [3:51]; Spring Waters [1:55]
TRADITIONAL Heís Going Away [4:20]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990) Zionís Walls [2:07]; At The River [3:07]
TRADITIONAL Honor, Honor [2:04]; Oh, Glory! [4:51]; Witness [2:40]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Alleluia [2:53]
Shirley Verrett (mezzo-soprano); Charles Wadsworth (piano) - rec.1965. ADD
RCA/SONY 884977834925 [49:37]

Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946) El Paño Moruno [1:17]; Seguidilla Murciana [1:21]; Asturiana [2:41]; Jota [3:12]; Nana (Cradle Song) [1:44]; Canción [1:08] Polo [1:39]
Joaquín NIN (1879-1949) Minué Cantado (Minuet in Song) (from 'Four Ancient Spanish Songs’) [3;10]; Paño Murciano (The Murcian Cloth) (from 'Twenty Popular Spanish Songs’) [1:35]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916) La Maja Dolorosa No. 1 (The Sorrowing Maja No. 1) (from Tonadillas) [2:53]
Joaquín NIN Montañesa (Mountaineer) (from 'Twenty Popular Spanish Songs’) [2:38]
Fernando J. OBRADORS (1897-1945) Del Cabello Más Sutil (The Slenderest Hair) (from Dos Cantares Populares) [1:21]
Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912-2002) Cancion de Cuna para Dormir a un Negrito (Cradle Song) (from Cinco Canciones Negras) [2:57]
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949) Farruca (No. 1 from Triptíco, Op. 45) [3:14]
Joaquín NIN Corazón que es en Prisión (The Captive Heart) (from 'Four Ancient Spanish Songs) [2:10]
Enrique GRANADOS El Mirar de la Maja (The Gaze of the Maja) (from 'Tonadillas’) [3:04]
Fernando J. OBRADORS El Vito [1:42]
Shirley Verrett (mezzo-soprano); Charles Wadsworth (piano) - rec.c.1964. ADD
RCA/SONY 884977834963 [37:56]

Antonio VIVALDI
(1678-1741)
Credo [10:58]; Stabat Mater [15:06]; Beatus Vir [30:47]
Shirley Verrett (mezzo-soprano); Polyphonic Ensemble of Rome/Virtuosi di Roma/Renato Fasano; Nino Antonelli - rec. c.1966. ADD.
RCA/SONY 884977834987 [56:52]

If and when they are released in the UK - or if you access them via US Amazon, Singin' in the Storm is my pick of the bunch, from a singer who, under an alias, had sung 'Cry the beloved country' in the 1959 production of Lost in the Stars. The Vivaldi items are the least well suited to Verrettís voice. The Vivaldi is also a little too large-scale for modern tastes and the recording somewhat congested, so that it effectively becomes a historical curiosity - indeed, one reviewer thought some of the tempi too slow and rhythms too stiff, even in 1967.

Everything here serves to remind us what a powerful talent we have lost but, apart from Singin' in the Storm, I can think of much better ways that her talent could have been commemorated. If you have doubts that such a strong voice could be fined down for the items in the Carnegie Hall concert, you would partly be right: though her performances of the Schubert Lieder have genuine appeal, Verrett is hampered by Wadsworthís less than imaginative accompaniment both here and in the Spanish song recital.

Fortunately, we have better ways to remember her, not least for her part in the classic EMI/Giulini Don Carlo, to name one recent reissue (9668502 - see Colin Clarkeís 5-star review of earlier reissue).

***

Alexander AGRICOLA (c.1456-1506) Missa in myne Zyn
Ante Missam: In minen sin [2:15]; Si j'aime mon amy [0:59]
Anonymous Bien soiez venu - Alleluia [1:13]
Alexander AGRICOLA In mynen zin [1:47]
Ad Missam: Gloria, from Missa In myne Zyn [9:12]
Gilles BINCHOIS (c.1400-1460) Comme femme desconfortée II [2:23]
Alexander AGRICOLA Credo, from Missa In myne Zyn [10:17]
Johannes OCKEGHEM (c.1400/1430-1497) D'ung aultre amer III [1:51]
Alexander AGRICOLA Sanctus, from Missa In myne Zyn [9:18]
Walter FRYE (fl.c.1450-1470) Tout a par moy II [2:54]
Alexander AGRICOLA Agnus Dei, from Missa In myne Zyn [7:36]
Ad Vesperam: Pater meus agricola est [6:49]; Regina cœli [3:07]
Capilla Flamenca (Marnix De Cat, Rob Cuppens (counter-tenors); Tore Denys (tenor); Lieven Termont (baritone); Dirk Snellings (bass); Liam Fennelly, Thomas Baete, Piet Stryckers (violas da gamba)/Dirk Snellings - rec. May/June 2010. DDD.
RICERCAR RIC306 [59:41] - from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Iím revisiting this Download of the Month from January - original review here - because Iíve discovered a version in superior sound at classicsonline.com, at 320kb/s better than any of the versions I listed then. Also, Capilla Flamenca have very kindly supplied me with the booklet with Fabrice Fitchís notes, from which Iíve amended the presumed date of Agricolaís birth, now believed to be ten years later than formerly thought, and the all-important texts, not available with any of the download versions, so that I can share them with prospective purchasers. The rough translations are mine:

1. In minen sin
In minen sin hadde ic vercoren
een maechdeken jonck van daghen
Noyt schoonder wijf en was geboren
ter werelt wijt, na mijn behagen.
Om haren wille so wil ick waghen
beyde lijf ende daer toe goet
Mocht ic noch troost aen haer beiaghen
so waer ick vro, daer ic nu trueren moet.
Haer minnen doet mi mijn herteken quelen,
Ick ducht dat ick dat sal besterven
Nochtans soude si mi niet vervelen,
mocht ic noch troost van haer verwerven,
die nijders tonghen willen my bederven,
des ben ick gheworden vroet;
Woude si mi in haer herteken erven,
So waer ick vro, daer ic nu trueren moet.

[I thought I'd chosen a young girl more beautiful than any woman in the wide world - and I'd be happy. If she asked, I'd risk my life and all my possessions; if only I could place my hope in her I'd be happy, but now I must grieve. Her love makes my heart tremble so much that I think I'll die. Yet, if only I could place my hope in her, I wouldnít mind; jealous tongues wouldnít harm me, Iím sure of that. If she would take me into her heart I'd be happy, but now I must grieve.]

2. Sy j'aime mon amy
Sy j'aime mon amy
trop mieux que mon mary,
ce n'est pas de merveille :
il n'est ouvrier que luy
de ce mestier joly
que l'on fait sans chandelle.

[Itís no wonder that I love my lover better than my husband - thereís no one better than him in plying this fine trade that we work without candle.]

3. Bien soiez venu / Alleluya
Bien soiez venu mon signoir
a vostre osta pour reposade.
Pour pain, pour vin, pour char salade
de l'avaine pour vostre ronchin,
et sy arez s’il vous agrade
vostre serviteur jusque la fin.
Alleluya mi faul canter
quatre fois la semaine.
Tart coucher, matin lever,
par ma foi c'est grant paine.
La la sol fa mi...
que fera'je lasette ?
Je pers mon temps et toute ma saison,
plus ne seray jonette.
Sol fa mi re...

[Welcome, sir, to your inn to rest. Hereís bread, wine and salad and hay for your nag - and, if you like, I'll be your servant for the duration. I have to sing Alleluia four times a week. Late to bed, up early in the morning, truly itís wearing me out. La sol fa mi ... what can I do, Iím weary? Iím wasting my time, my prime of life; I'll never be young again. Sol fa mi re ...]

13. Regina coeli laetare
Regina coeli laetare, Alleluia,
Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia,
Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluia.

[Queen of Heaven rejoice, Alleluia, for he whom thou wast worthy to bear, Alleluia, has risen as he predicted, Alleluia. Pray to God for us, Alleluia.]

Having sorted the Agricola problem, I thought I'd mention three other highly recommendable recordings from Capilla Flamenca, one more on Ricercar and two on Naxos, all available in good 320k mp3 sound from classicsonline.com:

Roland de LASSUS (1532-1594) and contemporaries: Bonjour mon coeur
Le matin : l'amour naissant (Morning : dawning love)
Roland de LASSUS Bonjour mon coeur [1:47]
Jean de CASTRO Bonjour mon coeur [1:15]
Roland de LASSUS Vive mon Dieu, à mon Seigneur [1:07]
Bernhard SCHMIDT Bonjour mon coeur [1:27]
Roland de LASSUS O Herre Gott mein noth [1:08]
Andreas PEVERNAGE Bonjour mon coeur [2:21]
Pierre PHALÈSE Passomezzo [3:35]
Le midi : l'amour épanouï (Afternoon: exuberant love)
Roland de LASSUS Bonté divine, vien et monstre [0:59]
Jean de CASTRO/Roland de LASSUS O vin en vigne [3:40]
Roland de LASSUS Sauter, danser, faire les tours [0:51]
Sebastiaen VREEDMAN Het was een aerdich vrouken [1:57]
Ick sach vrou Venus burseken [2:22]
Een meysken op een ryvierken sadt [0:51]
Adrian WILLAERT/Pierre ATTAIGNANT Dessus le marché d'Arras [2:24]
Roland de LASSUS Dessus le marché d'Arras [1:40]
Le soir : l'amour éternel (Evening : eternal love)
Roland de LASSUS Ardant Amour souvent me fait [2:19]
Zu aller stundt [2:22]
Ardant Amour fit Dieu [2:49]
La Nuict froide et sombre [1:45]
Du fons de ma pensée [4:46]
Hola Caron nautonnier infernal [3:07]
La nuit : l'amour sommeillant (Night : sleeping love)
Pierre SANDRIN Doulce Mémoire [5:12]
Roland de LASSUS Missa Doulce Mémoire - Kyrie [3:25]
Diego ORTIZ Doulce Mémoire [2:47]
Albert de RIPPE Doulce Mémoire [2:47]
Roland de LASSUS Missa Doulce Mémoire - Agnus Dei [2:29]
Pierre CERTON Finy le bien : responce Doulce Mémoire [2:48]
Capilla Flamenca (Marnix De Cat (counter-tenor), Tore Denys (tenor), Lieven Termont (baritone), Dirk Snellings (bass); Jan Van Outryve (lute and cister), Liam Fennelly, Thomas Baeté, Piet Stryckers (viola da gamba), Patrick Denecker (recorders)) - rec. June 2009. DDD.
Booklet with texts included
RICERCAR RIC290 [61:55] - from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

The A-la-mi-re Manuscripts: Flemish Polyphonic Treasures for Charles V

GASCONGE Missa Myn hert: Kyrie [3:46]
Jean MOUTON Celeste beneficium - Audiutorium nostrum [6:16]
JOSQUIN des Prez Proch dolor - Pie Jhesu [2:53]
Pierre MOULU Mater floreat [5:31]
Adrian WILLAERT Missa super Benedicta es: Agnus Dei [4:04]
Anon. Salve Regina (on Myn hert) [7:38]
Heinrich ISAAC Maudit soyt [1:23]
Pierre de la RUE Autant en emporte [1:17]
Myn hert altyt heeft verlanghen I [2:23]
Cornelius RIGO Celle que j'ay [2:33]
Hans NEUSIDLER Myn hert altyt heeft verlanghen II [3:40]
Anon. Plus oultre [2:40]
JOSQUIN des Prez Plaine de duel [5:43]
Pierre de la RUE Soubz ce tumbel [5:04]
Mambrianus de ORTO Dulces exuviæ [2:46]
Pierre de la RUE Jam sauche [1:16]
Pierre ALAMIRE (Petrus IMHOFF) Tandernaken op den Rijn [3:10]
Capilla Flamenca (Marnix De Cat, Stratton Bull (counter-tenors), Jan Caals, Chris Kale (tenors), Lieven Termont, Bart Demuyt (baritones), Dirk Snellings, Paul Mertens (basses), Gail Schröder, Piet Van Steenberghe, Liam Fennelly (viola da gamba), Jan Van Outryve (lute))
La Caccia (alta capella: Patrick Denecker, Gunter Carlier, Mirella Ruigrok, Berhard Stilz, Peter Van Heyghen, Elisabeth Schollaert)
No texts, but notes available from Naxos Classical Library
NAXOS 8.554744 [62:03] - from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Oh Flanders Free: Music of the Flemish Renaissance

Anon. Requiem æternam [2:09]; Preludium [0:57]; Laus Deo [1:08]
Thomas FABRI Ach Vlaendere vrie [2:52]
Antoine BUSNOIS Alleluya [1:25]
Guglielmo Ebreo da PESARO Falla con misuras [1:22]
Johannes OCKEGHEM Ma maistresse [5:27]
Thomas FABRI Ach Vlaendere vrie [2:36]
Johannes OCKEGHEM D'ung aultre amer [3:01]
Mattio RAMPOLLINI Bacco, Bacco [1:03]
JOSQUIN des Prez El grillo [1:29]
Heinrich ISAAC Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen [4:41]
Anon. Sergonta Bergonta [3:23]
JOSQUIN des Prez Missa 'La sol fa re mi': Kyrie [2:09]; Guillaume se va chaufer [1:00]
Anon. Cueurs desolez [3:44]; D'ung aultre amer [1:22]
Philippe BASIRON D'ung aultre amer / Lhome armé [1:53]
HENRY VIII (King of England) Pastime with good company [1:29]
Tielman SUSATO Passe and Medio / Den iersten gaillarde [3:01]
Philippe VERDELOT Ogn'hor per voi sospiro [2:17]
Pierre de la RUE Mijn hert altijt heeft verlanghen [4:46]
Capilla Flamenca - rec. September 1996, Irish College, Leuven. Belgium. DDD
Notes and texts vailable from Naxos Music Library (click 'about this recording').
NAXOS 8.554516 [54:57] - from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

In a two-handed review on MusicWeb by Peter Grahame Woolf and Harry Downey this recording scored four and three stars respectively - review here.

Iíve nothing but praise for the whole enterprise, apart from the lack of texts and the unnecessary hyphenation of the name Alamire (alias Petrus Imhoff, the collector of the music in the eponymous manuscript) in the title of one of the CDs. Start, perhaps, with one of the Naxos albums - they're less expensive - but lovers of the music of this period should go for the lot.

Juan del ENCINA (1469-1529/30), Juan (Johannes) CORNAGO (c.1400-1475), Juan de ANCHIETA (1462-1523), etc.: Spanish Music of Travel and Discovery
Waverly Consort - rec. 1995. DDD.
VIRGIN VERITAS 5618152 [2 CDs: 114:48] - from passionato.com (mp3 and lossless)

Fun music from the early renaissance, with some earlier music, including music from the Cantigas of Alfonso the Wise and Cantigas d'amigo of Martin Codax, loosely grouped around the stated theme. The performances are very good and the recording is well transferred, especially in the lossless version.

This is particularly welcome because the parent CDs appear to be no longer available and the Passionato download, at £9.99/£11.99, reduced temporarily to £7.49/£8.99 at the time of writing (mp3/flac respectively) is little more expensive than those CDs used to be. (For some inexplicable reason, Passionatoís prices for Virgin Veritas twofers are usually well in excess of the CD price.) Much of this material is available elsewhere, but that doesnít make this any less enjoyable.

Allegri: Miserere and the Music of Rome
Felice ANERIO (c1560-1614) Salve regina [4:09]
Missa Cantantibus organis [29:33] -
Annibale STABILE (c1535-1595) Kyrie eleison [1:29]
Francesco SORIANO (1548/9-1621) Christe eleison [1:07]
Giovanni Andrea DRAGONI (c1540-1598) Kyrie eleison [2:12]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525/6-1594) Gloria [2:08]
ANONYMOUS Domine Deus, Agnus Dei [1:55]
Giovanni Andrea DRAGONI Qui tollis peccata mundi [2:57]
Annibale STABILE(c1535-1595) Credo [3:59]; Crucifixus [2:20]
Francesco SORIANO Et ascendit in cælum [1:53]
Ruggiero GIOVANNELLI (c1560-1625) Et in Spiritum Sanctum [3:21]
Prospero SANTINI (fl 1591-1614) Sanctus [3:28]
Curzio MANCINI (c1553-after 1611) Agnus Dei [2:25]
Gregorio ALLEGRI (1582-1652) De lamentatione Jeremiae prophetæ [4:38]; Miserere mei, Deus [12:35]; Incipit lamentatio Jeremiae prophetæ [5:01]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA Cantantibus organis [6:19]
Gregorio ALLEGRI Gustate et videte [5:23]
The Cardinallís Musick/Andrew Carwood - rec. April 2010. DDD.
Texts and translations included as pdf.
HYPERION CDA67860 [67:19] - from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

Had I made this Download of the Month, as I very well might, regular readers might have begun to think that I was fixated on renaissance polyphony, especially as delivered by the likes of The Cardinallís Musick - I am - and that I never find anything much to criticise in Hyperion recordings - I usually donít. I donít have shares in Hyperion, Chandos, Gimell, or Coro, but they do all produce some exceedingly good recordings of music of this period.

In this case, Hyperion have used Allegriís justly popular, if over-worked, Miserere - less of a florid hot-house performance than usual - as a catch-penny to attract listeners who might otherwise have baulked at some of the contents. With that setting of the penitential Psalm 51 at its centre, flanked by two excerpts from Lamentations, as prescribed for Tenebræ in Holy Week, the release is well timed. Donít worry if some of the composers are not even names - they werenít to me, either, but music and performance are enthralling and the lossless recording excellent - remember that flac comes at the same price as mp3 from Hyperion, where others typically charge a £2 premium.

The principal piece, the 12-part Missa Cantantibus Organis, dedicated to St Cecilia, patron saint of music, was the joint work of twelve composers, of whom the most famous was Palestrina, composer of the first section of the Gloria, whose motet of the same name is also included here. Excellent notes from Andrew Carwood, including observations on the ornamentation of the Miserere and the (in)famous top C, complete a first-rate release. There are rich pickings from Hyperion this month, but this justifiably receives their own top billing. I havenít heard the earlier recording by Ensemble Officium (Christophorus CHR77288, SACD or download from Passionato) but the download of that comes without notes, costs £9.99 in lossless flac against Hyperionís £7.99, and I cannot imagine that the performance excels that of the Cardinallís Musick.

When you have submitted to the charms of the new recording, you may well wish to experiment with the music of some of the other composers. Actually, thereís not much on offer, but an earlier Hyperion reissue of the music of Anerio, together with his brother Giovanni, from Westminster Cathedral Choir, on Hyperionís budget label Helios would be a very good place to start. (CDH55213). If you fall in love with the new CD, be prepared to undergo the same experience again with the older recording. For more Anerio and Allegri see the index to Palestrina which follows the next review.

Thereís a recording by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers of the ubiquitous Allegri Miserere and almost equally ubiquitous Lotti Crucifixus and Palestrina Missa Papæ Marcelli on Coro COR16014. That also contains a fine performance of Palestrinaís Stabat Mater and, though itís annoying to have to duplicate so much to obtain it, itís well worth downloading from classicsonline.com (mp3, with booklet) or passionato.com (mp3 and lossless, without booklet). Otherwise, to avoid duplication, the Stabat Mater is also contained on the recording of Palestrinaís Music for Holy Saturday by Musica Contexta, one of three CDs for the Sacred Triduum which I reviewed in the April 2009 Download Roundup, on Chandos CHAN0679, with booklet and texts from theclassicalshop.net.

Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525/6-1594)
Hymn Æterna Christi munera [2:50]
Missa Æterna Christi munera [21:30]
Sicut cervus desiderat [7:10]
Super flumina Babylonis [4:50]
Vidi turbam magnam [7:55]
from Canticum Canticorum Salomonis’The Song of Songs’
Quæ est ista quæ progreditur [3:35]
Duo ubera tua [4:34]
Nigra sum sed formosa [4:21]
Surge, amica mea, speciosa mea [3:06]
Magnificat primi toni a 8 [6:10]
The Choir of Westminster Cathedral/James O'Donnell - rec. February 1991. DDD.
Booklet with texts and translations included
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55368 [66:46] - from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)

This inexpensive reissue is self-recommending in any format - CD, mp3 or lossless download. I still canít fault the preferences of Organ Morgan in Under Milk Wood for 'Johann Sebastian mighty Bach - and afterwards Palestrina'. They are both pillars of strength and sources of solace and this CD is as good a place as any to start or continue. The performances are excellent and, 20 years on, the lossless download sounds as fresh as any more recent recording.

For earlier reviews of downloads of Palestrina, including the complete Canticum Canticorum, as a follow-up to the four appetite-whetting excerpts included here:

The Tallis Scholars sing Palestrina: Gimell CDGIM204 (Tallis Scholars at 30)
Canticum canticorum: Linn - Magnificat (October 09)
- Also consider, as a less expensive alternative, Hyperion Helios CDH55095 - Pro Cantione Antiqua/Bruno Turner - from Hyperion (mp3 and lossless)
Missa Papæ Marcelli, etc. - Christophorus - Ensemble Officium (August 10)
Missa Papæ Marcelli: Gimell - Tallis Scholars (1980 recording with ALLEGRI Miserere and MUNDY Vox Patris cælestis) (Tallis Scholars at 30)
Missa Papæ Marcelli, Stabat Mater: Gimell - Tallis Scholars (2005 recording with two versions of ALLEGRI Miserere) (Tallis Scholars at 30)
Missa Papæ Marcelli; Missa Brevis: Hyperion - Westminster Cathedral (Tallis Scholars at 30)
Missa Viri Galilæi - Hyperion Helios - Westminster Cathedral (June 10)
Missa Assumpta est Maria, etc.: Gimell - Tallis Scholars (January 09)
Missa Hodie Christus natus est, etc.: Hyperion - Westminster Cathedral/Baker (Christmas 09)
Missa Nigra sum, etc: Gimell - The Tallis Scholars (with VICTORIA and de SILVA) (October 09) (Tallis Scholars at 30)
Missa ut re mi: Harmonia Mundi - Huelgas Ensemble (Tallis Scholars at 30) (+ LASSUS, ASHEWELL)
Music for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday: Chandos - Ravens (April 09)
Missa Brevis in Renaissance Giants - Tallis scholars CDGIM207 (Tallis Scholars at 30)
PALESTRINA, etc.: Live in Rome: Gimell CD and DVD - Tallis Scholars (December 08) (Tallis Scholars at 30)
Ascendit Deus a 8; Ave Maria a 5; Angelus descendit a5; Assumpta est Maria in Music from the Sistine Chapel: Coro - The Sixteen (with Giovanni ANERIO and ALLEGRI) (October 08)

Philippe ROGIER (c.1561-1596)
Motet: Domine Dominus noster [5:53]
Missa Domine Dominus noster [20:08]
Regina Cæli [3:12]
Laudate Dominum [3:42]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525/6-1594)
Motet: Domine in virtute tua [6:44]
Philippe ROGIER
Missa Domine in virtute tua [20:27]
Videntes stellam magi [6:29]
Verbum caro factum est [6:51]
His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts; Magnificat/Philip Cave - rec. June 2009. DDD
Booklet with notes, texts and translations included as pdf document.
LINN RECORDS CKD348 [74:04] - from linnrecords.com (mp3, lossless and 24-bit)

This is a worthy - wonderful, even - follow-up to the earlier Magnificat recording of Rogierís Missa Sum qui sum, also on Linn - CKD109: see January 2009 Download Roundup. That Mass has now been recorded on a rival disc from Hyperion - CDA67807: see review and May 2010 Download Roundup - so the further exploration of the Rogier repertoire is very welcome, with three premiere recordings, including the Mass Domine in virtute tua to its credit. Two other pieces follow which had, I think, their first appearance, on Hyperion. Each of the Masses included here is preceded by the motet which provides its foundation or cantus firmus.

The singing, as on the earlier Linn CD, is excellent, but purists may find the instrumental accompaniment rather obtrusive. Philip Caveís notes claim that its inclusion is in keeping with Spanish practice of the time and the Hyperion recording adopts the same practice. It does all make a glorious noise and the recording is excellent in lossless form. The accompanying booklet is also of high quality: its inclusion with the download, complete with texts is very welcome - there is none with the earlier Linn download, though the Hyperion comes with a booklet of the usual high quality. I was strongly tempted to make this the Download of the Month: there were so many candidates.

What next? Thereís a recording by Musica Reservata de Barcelona of the Sanctus from Rogierís Missa Philippus secundus Rex Hispaniæ on the la Mà de Guido label and the Kyrie from that work from Currende on Et'cetera: perhaps Linn or Hyperion will offer us the Mass complete.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) The Classical Guide to Vivaldi
Contains: The Four Seasons; Ottone in Villa Overture; Gloria in D, RV589; Concerto for 4 violins, viola & basso continuo RV553; Flute Concerto in g minor, Op.10/2, 'La notte'; Flautino Concerto in C major, RV443; Concerto, Op. 3/10 'con quattro Violini e Violoncello obligato', RV 580 and excerpts from Nulla in mundo pax sincera; Orlando furioso (arias: Nel profondo cieco mondo and Chiara al pari di lucida stella); Arsilda, Regina di Ponto (Overture); Serenata a tre 'Mio povero cor'
I Solisti Veneti/Claudio Scimone; Jean-Pierre Rampal;
WARNER CLASSICAL DOWNLOAD [155:34] - from iTunes (mp3)
Also available as 2-CD set The Vivaldi Experience WARNER CLASSICAL 2564679265

This is, to a large extent, a distillation of Warners’ 18-CD box set of the Concertos and Sonatas, Opp.1-12 under the direction of Claudio Scimone (2564643202, around £60), together with a few other items. Itís the most coherent of these recent Warner introductory programmes, since most of the works here are performed complete. Most of the music is already available at budget price on single and double Apex CDs, though the iTunes price of £4.99 trumps both the cost of this set on CD (at around £8.50) and those Apex discs.

The set opens with Piero Toso as violin soloist with the Solisti Veneti/Claudio Scimone in the inevitable Four Seasons. Iíve never yet heard a version of this work that didnít cast new light on some aspect of it, but, having compared a number of versions in recent reviews, I have to say that this is one of the least amenable: it tries too hard to be different, with constant changes of tempo, yet without achieving the same energy as other, more 'daring and dangerous’ Italian versions.

At the iTunes price, and even on CD, this is a bargain worth having, but you should also be aware that Brilliant Boxes have released a 40-CD plus CD-ROM set of Vivaldi, which Iím currently reviewing (94056): there are one or two turkeys there, but at just over £1 per CD, itís well worth having and replacing the few duds with better versions. The same applies to this much shorter Warner introduction: for all my reservations, Scimoneís contributions have more life than the Münchinger and I Musici recordings which were my own entry to Vivaldi. I listened to the recording in lossless wav form, courtesy of Warners’ new download facility for reviewers, and the sound in that form is good throughout. I presume that the iTunes version will come as a 256kb/s mp3, which on past experience should be more than adequate.

Venice in Mexico
Giacomo FACCO (1676-1753)

Concerto in e minor for violin, strings and basso continuo, Pensieri Adriarmonici o vero Concerti a5 Op. 1 No. 1* (1721) [8:41]
Concerto in A for violin, strings and basso continuo, Pensieri Adriarmonici o vero Concerti a5 Op. 1 No. 5* (1721) [8:07]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto in D for strings and basso continuo, RV121 (1729) [5:21]
Concerto in a minor for violin, strings and basso continuo, L'estro Armonico Op. 3/6* (1711) [6:31]
Concerto in C for flautino (sopranino recorder), strings and basso continuo, RV443 ** [9:56]
Concerto in d minor for strings and basso continuo, RV127 (1729) [3:46]
Concerto in C for mandolin (psaltery), strings and basso continuo, RV425 *** [8:30]
Concerto in a minor for sopranino recorder, strings and basso continuo, RV 445 ** [9:47]
* Manuel Zogbi (violin); ** Miguel Lawrence (sopranino recorder); *** Daniel Armas (psaltery)
The Mexican Baroque Orchestra/Miguel Lawrence
Rec. Monterey, Mexico, October 2009 and February 2010. DDD
DIVINE ART DDA25091 [60:43] - from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless) or classicsonline.com (mp3) both with booklet

This offers a different kind of 'authenticity' - the music as it would have been heard not in Venice but when it was introduced to the New World, with the harpsichord continuo replaced by more easily obtained plucked instruments such as the vihuela and guitarrón. In the mandolin concerto the smaller-voiced psaltery takes the solo part - the least effective part of the enterprise, I thought - but I greatly enjoyed the whole project, as did the young friends to whom I played it. The music of Giacomo Facco is a real discovery - no match for Vivaldi, which is why I approve of its being placed first, to avoid anti-climax, but I'd like to hear more. The Mexican Baroque Orchestra uses modern instruments in addition to the vihuela, guitarrón and psaltery, but authenticists need have no fear. The lossless recording from theclassicalshop is very good: itís perhaps best to obtain the download from there and the booklet from the Naxos Library.

Thomas ARNE (1710-1777) Artaxerxes (1762)
(new edition, with additional material by Duncan Druce)
Artaxerxes - Christopher Ainslie (counter-tenor)
Mandane - Elizabeth Watts (soprano)
Arbaces - Caitlin Hulcup (mezzo-soprano)
Artabanes - Andrew Staples (tenor)
Semira - Rebecca Bottone (soprano)
Rimenes - Daniel Norman (tenor)
Classical Opera Company/Ian Page - rec. November 2009 and April 2010. DDD.
LINN CKD358 [2CDs: 137 minutes] - from linnrecords.com (SACD, mp3, lossless and 24-bit)

[comparative version: HYPERION DYAD CDD22073: Goodman - 2CDs-for-1, 140:16 - see review]

This is advertised as the first recording of the complete opera, which is strictly true, since the completion employed here - with finale by Duncan Druce, as seen at Covent Garden - is a little more thorough than that on the Hyperion set, but there really isnít that much difference between the two. Both offer excellent performances, well recorded, of a work which deserves to be much better known than the single aria familiar from recitals, especially from Joan Sutherland. And, for all Sutherlandís successes in the baroque repertoire, both complete recordings inhabit a world of greater authenticity without making the music seem a mere historical curiosity.

Honours may be even in other respects, but I initially deducted points from the Linn for lack of texts, or even a synopsis, and other information - recording dates, voice types of the singers, etc. - with the download, when Hyperion provide these with their much less expensive version, £6.99 for mp3 or lossless against Linnís £10.00 (mp3) and £13.00 (lossless). The booklet, with notes, synopsis, texts and translations, now appears to form part of the deal, however, and itís good: in this case the early bird must have been too early to catch the worm, or the download manager tripped up.

All in all, however, despite the many and manifest virtues of the new recording, I'd stay with the less expensive Hyperion unless you must have the 24-bit version. I downloaded the (ordinary) lossless version and found it very good. I also tried the 24-bit version of the Overture, which did seem to add an extra degree of clarity, though at £23 (88.2kHz) or £25 (192kHz) itís more expensive than the SACDs.

Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788) Keyboard Concertos, Vol.17

Harpsichord Concerto in F, Wq42, H470 (1770) [24:27]
Harpsichord Concerto in E-flat, Wq41, H469 (1769) [23:46]
Harpsichord Concerto in c minor, Wq31, H441 (1755) [25:40]
Miklos Spányi; Opus X/Petri Mattson
classicsonline download and streaming from Naxos Music Library includes pdf booklet
BIS BIS-CD-1687 [75:19] - from passionato.com (mp3 and lossless) or classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Having read my slightly negative recent review of the latest volume in Miklos Spányiís recordings of CPE Bachís complete keyboard music, in which I glanced at some of the other volumes in that series and its relative, the complete keyboard concerto series (BIS-CD-1624 - see review) I received an email from my colleague Stan Metzger, extolling the virtues of this concerto recording. Having listened via the Naxos Music Library and found myself in complete agreement that this is music to treasure in superb performances, I then downloaded the recording from passionato.com in excellent lossless sound.

Surprisingly, I couldnít find it on offer at eclassical.com, where I expect to find all BIS releases in mp3 and lossless, and slightly less expensively than their rivals: their latest offering in the series seems to be Volume 16. Thereís no booklet from Passionato, but you can find that in the Naxos Music Library or with the classicsonline download, the latter in mp3 only.

There is a rival recording of Wq31 on Hungaroton HCD31159, also available for listening via the Naxos Music Library, otherwise these recordings have the field to themselves.

Joseph HAYDN
(1732-1809) Composés par Mr Hayden

String Quartet No.6 (Divertimento/Cassation) in C, Op.1/6 (1762) [17:07]
String Quartet No.55 in D, Op.71/2 (1793) [20:22]
String Quartet No.67 in F, Op.77/2 (1799) [25:16]
Fitzwilliam String Quartet (live recording, on period instruments) - rec. 2001. DDD (from Dunelm DRD0172)
DIVINE ART DIVERSIONS DDV24151 [62:44] - from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 or lossless) or classicsonline.com (mp3)

[comparative versions: Kodály Quartet, Naxos - Op.1/0,6; Op2/1-2 8.550399; Op.71/1-3 8.550394; Op77/1-2 8.553146, all available from classicsonline.com]

This is a welcome programme of early-, middle- and late-period Haydn, charting the development at his pioneering hands of the string quartet form. Quartet No.6, really a five-movement Divertimento or Cassation, sounds a trifle overweight by comparison with the lively performance by the Kodály Quartet on Naxos (see above). The rest of the programme, however, goes swimmingly and the live recording, made at Royal Holloway College, is excellent. Those coming fresh to the Haydn quartets might well make this their springboard to the other works, all inexpensively available in the Naxos series with the Kodály Quartet - always sprightly despite the use of modern instruments - while lovers of period instruments should look to the Mosaïques Quartet on Naïve, both sets obtainable from classicsonline.com and available for sampling from the Naxos Music Library.

See my June 2009 Download Roundup for a review of the Naxos Op.77 Quartets and the Fitzwilliam Quartet in Haydnís Seven Last Words (Linn CKD153).

The classicsonline mp3 is less expensive than its equivalent from theclassicalshop (£4.99 against £7.99), but only the latter has the lossless version, at the same price, which makes it just a little less expensive than ordering the CD direct from Divine Art. Neither download comes with notes.

Franz SCHUBERT
(1797-1828) Die Winterreise, Op.89, D911 (1827)
Peter Harvey (baritone); Gary Cooper (fortepiano)
rec. 16-18 February, 2009. DDD/DSD
Booklet with texts included as pdf.
LINN RECORDS CKD371 [74:38] - from linnrecords.com (SACD, mp3, lossless or 24-bit downloads)

Iím not about to throw out Dietrich Fischer-Diekau - with Gerald Moore on an inexpensive 3-CD DG set (477 7956, with die schöne Müllerin and Schwanengesang, but just about any of his versions will do very well). This new recording has a great deal going for it, nevertheless, in particular the fact that Harvey, as a linguist manqué who, like myself started out to read French and German at Oxford and ended up reading something else there, English in my case, music in his, is exceptionally mindful of the words that he sings. If he stresses the desolation of the music rather than its lyrical moments, thatís fine by me. In fact, just as I was about to complete that sentence, I was listening to the opening of Das Wirtshaus, where, in addition to the despair, he conveys all the tenderness that anyone could want - Schubertís writing seems to rise above the awfulness of the door being shut in the travellerís face - and the ensuing Mut has all the drive and determination that you could want. For all that, in Der Leiermann, my benchmark for any performance, Harveyís identification with the poet, his with traveller and the travellerís with the hurdy-gurdy man is as moving as anything that you are likely to hear: to quote the poem, er läßt es gehen/alles wie es will*.

Gary Cooperís accompaniment is equally sensitive; the fortepiano adds a tang to the performances that a modern instrument cannot match - and thereís no danger of its overpowering the voice. The lossless recording is excellent. Doubtless the 24-bit version is even better, but Squeezebox down-samples the 88.1kHz to 44kHz, so most of the advantage is lost on my system. The notes, texts and translations are excellent, for all that I prefer 'hurdy-gurdy' man to 'organ grinder' as a translation of der Leiermann.

* Perhaps the best paraphrase would be that the singer, poet, traveller and hurdy-gurdy man let fate take its course.

Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849) Edition - Vol. 18
Rosen ohne Dornen, Walzer, Op. 166 [7:33]
Wiener-Früchteln, Walzer, Op. 167 [7:43]
Willkommen-Rufe, Walzer, Op. 168 [8:03]
Die vier Haimonskinder, Quadrille, Op. 169 [6:11]
Maskenlieder, Walzer, Op. 170 [8:29]
Eunomien-Tänze, Walzer, Op. 171 [9:51]
Odeon-Tänze, Walzer, Op. 172 [8:01]
Marianka-Polka, Op. 173 [2:55]
Musen-Quadrille, Op. 174 [6:36]
Slovak Sinfonietta Žilina/Ernst Märzendorfer - rec. Žilina, Slovakia, from April/May, 2009
NAXOS 8.225338 [65:43] - from classicsonline.com (mp3)

Surely the 18th volume of the complete works of Johann Strauss Senior must be scraping the bottom of the barrel? Actually, no - Iím beginning to wonder if the father of the dynasty hasnít been as unjustly neglected in favour of Johann II, as his son Josef has been. Thereís plenty to enjoy here, mostly waltzes but with a sprinkling of polkas and quadrilles, in idiomatic performances, well recorded, and with an elegant cover design to round it off. The booklet of notes comes as part of the deal. Donít forget to investigate the music of Josef, the most talented member of the family, too, on Marco Polo - start with the Naxos highlights disc from the series The Best of Josef Strauss (8.556846).

Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Orpheus in the Underworld (Highlights in English)
June Bronhill (soprano) - Eurydice; Kevin Miller (tenor) - Orpheus; Jon Weaving (tenor) - Pluto; Eric Shilling (baritone) - Jupiter; Suzanne Steele (soprano) - Diana
Sadlerís Wells Opera Company/Alexander Faris - rec. c.1959. ADD.
PAST CLASSICS (from EMI) [50:42] - from eMusic (mp3)

This is an attractive alternative in English to the Minkowski recording which I recommended some time ago. (EMI 5567252* - see February 2010 Download Roundup). Itís highlights only (about half the operetta) and the sound is rather thin, but the fun of the performance comes through well enough. Even the weedy singing of the King of the Bœotians sounds appropriate. (He 'was attractive before he died'.) It comes on just two tracks from eMusic (potentially £0.48 and no more than £0.84 on any tariff).

* Due for reissue on EMI Classics Opera 9482332, 2 CDs at mid price in March 2011.

Nikolay Andreyevich RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)

Sheherazade, Op. 35 [45:52]
The Tale of Tsar Saltan (Suite), Op. 57 [20:46]
The Tale of Tsar Saltan: Flight of the Bumblebee [1:31]
Maria Larionoff (violin); Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz
Rec. May/June 2010. DDD.
NAXOS 8.572693 [66:37] - from classicsonline.com (mp3)

My first thought was to wonder if this new recording could match or even excel Naxosís incumbent version (Philharmonia/Bátiz, also with the Tsar Saltan Suite, 8.550726) - and then if it could do the same to the classic Beecham and Reiner recordings, on EMI 5669832, with Borodin Polovtsian Dances, and RCA 88697700362, with Stravinsky Rossignol, respectively. The answer is yes to the former, but the jury is still out for me on the second count: I never wish to be without either or both of those recordings, elderly though they now are. I do think, however, that Monteuxís recording - no longer available, in any case - is now too dated, for all that I have enjoyed hearing it on LP and CD for many years, so my copy of the Decca Weekend reissue is off to the charity shop.

The new version is a full-blooded performance in full-bodied sound; though it doesnít neglect the more tender moments, it does stress the drama, whereas Beecham captures both the dramatic and emotive aspects of the music slightly more even-handedly. The Tsar Saltan Suite and the Flight of the Bumblebee make excellent fillers.

The Naxos has a price advantage over Beecham and Reiner, both on CD and as a download - in fact, I couldnít find the Reiner currently on offer as a download and the Beecham seems to have disappeared from Passionato, though itís available for £5.99 in mp3 from HMV Digital.

Gustav HOLST
(1874-1934)
Beni Mora, Oriental Suite, Op. 29 No. 1, H 107 (1909/10) [16:50]
Japanese Suite, Op. 33, H 126 (1915) [11:33]
The Planets, Suite for Large Orchestra, Op. 32, H 125 (1914-16) [49:40]
Manchester Chamber Choir
BBC Philharmonic/Sir Andrew Davis
rec. Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 24-25 June, 2010. DSD.
CHANDOS Hybrid SACD CHSA5086 [78:24]
Also available as CHAN5086: download from theclassicalshop.net in mp3, lossless, 24-bit/96kHz and 24-bit surround sound. Pdf Booklet available with download.

I listened to this recording as a CD-quality download and Dan Morgan chose the 24/96 download, the latter at least equivalent to the stereo layer of the SACD, both from Chandosís own site, theclassicalshop.net.

I had very high expectations for this new recording of Holst, not least because Andrew Davis had already made a distinguished recording of The Planets with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, coupled with Egdon Heath, now available at super-budget price on Warnerís Apex label (8573 890872). He has also made a number of other distinguished recordings of 20th-century British music, including Vaughan Williams’ Sixth Symphony (Apex 0927 495842, also in box set of VW symphonies), Elgarís Falstaff (Apex 2564 622002 - see review - and Lyrita SRCD-301 - see review and review) and Elgarís Crown of India for Chandos (CHAN10570: Download of the Month - see December 2009 Download Roundup and review by John France).

Then, too, Chandos already had a very decent recording of The Planets from Sir Alexander Gibson, available on An Introduction to Gustav Holst with the Brook Green and St Paulís suites (CHAN2026) at lower mid-price on CD or download or, without coupling, on Chandos Collect CHAN6633 (download only at super-budget price). Itís also included in Chandosís 30th-anniversary box - see review.

The fillers that I mentioned, Egdon Heath and the Brook Green and St Paulís suites, are available on other recordings but Beni Mora and the Japanese Suite, especially the latter, are much less readily available so, all in all, I sat down to listen all ears.

Perhaps it was partly because, as the cover design reminds us, this recording had been scheduled as second in a series intended for the late Richard Hickox, who recorded The Planets very successfully for the budget Pickwick label in 1987, reissued and re-coupled with the Moorside Suite on Regis RRC1200 at super-budget price, but I was disappointed with the new CD. That disappointment began with Beni Mora, a work which relies on insistent rhythm in order not to sound monotonous. Davis is not exactly guilty of monotony, but the music doesnít have the power which it really needs - itís just too slow to get underway.

For Beni Mora with Egdon Heath, Somerset Rhapsody, Hammersmith and Invocation, you canít do better than the inexpensive Naxos recording which I recommended in the May 2009 Download Roundup, conducted by David Lloyd-Jones (8.553696).

Another very fine recording of Beni Mora also includes the Japanese Suite under the direction of Sir Adrian Boult on Lyrita (SRCD.222). Unfortunately, I didnít have this to hand for comparison - itís disappeared somewhere in my collection, no doubt to reappear as soon as I send this review off. Both the Naxos and Lyrita versions capture the momentum of the music without losing track of its mystery, and both sound very well without the extreme dynamic range of the new Chandos, where quiet passages are almost inaudible at normal listening levels throughout.

This is just the sort of music that many will wish to play in the car but the Chandos sounds least well in the context of fighting road noise. I listened to the CD-quality lossless version and thought it good, but really not much better than the older Warner Apex recording or the early-digital Karajan, now on DGG Karajan Gold, though, sadly, with the gloriously tasteless organ burst toned down in the new mix (439 0112).

I found the Japanese Suite the highlight of the programme - competitive even with Boult on Lyrita - but The Planets only intermittently catch fire on the new recording. There are places, of course, where the understatement is effective - the unsentimental performance of the 'big tune' in Jupiter mitigates unpleasant memories of the jingoistic words of the first verse of the hymn which has become indelibly attached to it - but I found the overall effect underwhelming.

Someone coming to The Planets for the first time in this version would not be ill-served by it, though they might wonder if it was worth laying out as much as £19.99 for the 24-bit surround version. They might also wonder why the work had become so popular, a question which never arose from the recordings by Boult and Sargent which were my introduction to the piece and which pull out the stops a little further than Davis. There are several recordings by Boult - many still swear by his first, 1945, version, which subscribers can try on the Naxos Music Library. Itís also available on Beulah 2PD12 - see review by Christopher Howell. I havenít heard the Beulah transfer but on the Radiex version from the Naxos Music Library the sound is amazingly good for its age: download from classicsonline.com for £4.99 (not available in the USA and several other countries).

Itís to Boultís final stereo recording on HMV that most listeners will turn, most recently and least expensively reissued on EMI Masters 6317832 with Elgarís Enigma Variations for around six pounds or even less - see review by Michael Cookson.

Of recording many Planets there is no end, as the MusicWeb International index demonstrates. Very few of the available versions are less than competent but Boultís final version must be my ultimate recommendation. Three very inexpensive versions also possess real virtues: the Warner Apex reissue of Andrew Davisís earlier recording mentioned above, Vernon Handley on Alto - ALC1013, Bargain of the Month: see review - and, for those wishing to hear Colin Matthews’ extension of the work with Pluto - alas, now downgraded to a mere planetoid - Mark Elder, reissued on Hyperionís super-budget label Helios CDH55350 - see review.

All these are less expensive than the new Chandos and are more amenable to my view of The Planets, though none, of course is available on SACD or as a 24-bit download - on which subject I must refer you back to Dan Morgan, who tried the 24-bit version.

Brian Wilson

Holstís Beni Mora, the result of a trip to Algeria in 1908, certainly does have an Oriental flavour, as the composerís original title suggests. Those shimmering harp figures in the first dance are beautifully recorded, as are the bass drum and cymbals. So, this high-res download is very promising technically - just listen to those ear-pricking timp taps in the second dance. That said, Chandos have recorded this music at a fairly low level, but cranking up the volume does bring the orchestra into sharper focus. This uplift also brings with it a better sense of the 'air' around the notes. In other words, it all sounds a bit more dynamic.

Beni Mora is a deftly scored little piece that really does benefit from a detailed, high-res recording, so itís all the more disappointing that Davisís version burns with such a low flame. Which is also true of that other piece of orchestral exoticism, the Japanese Suite. Written in the midst of The Planets, its six short movements display the same transparency of texture that we hear in Beni Mora, albeit with a bit more heft. The Prelude - Song of the Fisherman doesnít sound particularly Japanese, nor indeed does the rest of the piece; still, itís attractive enough, and the BBC Philharmonic play very well indeed. The upper strings sound especially silky in the Interlude, but The Dance under the Cherry Tree is almost inaudible at normal listening levels. As for the Finale - Dance of the Wolves, this adds much-needed meat to an otherwise undernourished performance.

Worthy fillers, but I suspect most audiophiles will gravitate towards The Planets, which is surprisingly well-served on SACD. Davis takes Mars at a fairly deliberate pace, and while the sound is both vivid and detailed I longed for a bit more momentum and menace here. Surely oneís enemies wouldnít bat an eyelid at this very subdued snare drum? To be fair, matters improve as the movement progresses, but by then the battle is already lost. Sonically Mars isnít as overwhelming as it should be, either. Venus fares a little better - those rocking figures as alluring as ever - but thatís not saying a great deal.

This is turning out to be a very strange performance indeed. Compared with Boultís last EMI version - or, for that matter, John Eliot Gardinerís for DG - this new Planets sounds too much like a run-through. Just listen to the start of Mercury - The Winged Messenger; not a lot of lift there. And thatís the nub of it; Davis persistently undercharacterises these planetary portraits, robbing them of their distinctive personalities. Jupiter doesnít seem particularly jovial - certainly not at this ponderous pace - and how I miss the mystery, the sheer frisson, that Boult brings to the start of Saturn and Uranus respectively. Even that thundering organ chord doesnít efface memories of Sir Adrianís last Planets; as for Davisís Neptune, itís surprisingly clear-eyed, the wordless chorus not nearly as other-worldly as it should be.

Itís a fittingly prosaic finale to a very dull set of readings. Sonically this is not a bad recording, but it doesnít even come close to the dynamism and flair of Chandos’ 24-bit/96kHz download of Casellaís Second Symphony (review). In any case, good sound doesnít count for much if the performances arenít up to scratch. And that, regrettably, is the case here. Very disappointing indeed.

Dan Morgan

[Because we expected to like this new version of The Planets better, we have also submitted this review for the main MusicWeb review page.]

The Composers Conduct
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
The Planets, Op.32 (1916) [42:35]
Marching Song, Op.22/2 [3:36]
London Symphony Orchestra/Gustav Holst
Rec. 1926, Columbia Large Studio, Petty France, London. ADD/mono
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Symphony No.4 in f minor [29:51]
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Ralph Vaughan Williams
Rec. 1937, EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London. ADD/mono
Download includes pdf booklet
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111048 [75:42] - from classicsonline.com (mp3)

A valuable historical document, but I canít pretend that itís much more. This is, perhaps, one to stream from the Naxos Library, though the classicsonline download is very reasonably priced. The sound of The Planets requires considerable tolerance, though Iím sure that itís been cleaned up by Mark Olbert-Thorn as well as is humanly possible - he explains the process in the booklet. Itís worth hearing, however, if only to contrast with the new Chandos recording. Like Davis, Holst refuses to sentimentalise Jupiter, thereby helping to dispel memories of the jingoistic words which became attached to it, somewhat to his dislike.

The sound of the V-W recording is much better though, again, we are not starved of excellent modern alternatives.

Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967) Dances of Galánta [16:30]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945) Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste [29:53]
Divertimento [27:30]
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Charles Mackerras
rec. Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 29 February and 1 March 2004 (Bartók)
and Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh 7 March 2004 (Kodály). DDD.
LINN CKD234 [72:58] - from linnrecords.com (SACD, mp3, lossless and 24-bit)

[comparative versions:
BARTÓK Music for Strings Percussion and Celesta: Naxos Classical Archives 9.80677 Concertgebouw/van Beinum (rec. 1955) - from classicsonline.com
KODÁLY Dances of Galánta and Marosszék; Háry János (excerpts): Philips - Iván Fischer (see October 2009 Roundup)
Dances of Galánta; Háry János Suite; Peacock Variations: Nimbus - Adam Fischer (see October 2009 Roundup)]

Mackerras had a real rapport with the music of Central and Eastern Europe, chiefly, of course, Czech music. Here he delivers a personal response to Bartók and Kodály. I very much enjoyed his Dances of Galánta and if, ultimately, his softer view of Bartók satisfies less than performances such as those of van Beinum (see above - still well worth hearing despite the dated recording), Reiner or Solti, itís still something that I shall still turn to from time to time.

Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
An Introduction to Percy Grainger

Country Gardens, Version A (1949) [2:21]
Irish Tune from County Derry [4:23]
Green Bushes [8:30]
Early One Morning [3:03]
There Was a Pig Went Out to Dig [2:03]
Shepherdís Hey [2:06]
Shallow Brown [6:12]
Lincolnshire Posy [15:43]
The Immovable Do (The Cyphering C) [4:49]
Handel in the Strand [4:14]
Iím Seventeen Come Sunday [3:02]
Blithe Bells [4:14]
Molly on the Shore [4:06]
Mock Morris [3:19]
English Dance [9:01]
Joyful Company of Singers
BBC Philharmonic/ Richard Hickox
City of London Sinfonia/ Matthias Bamert
Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra/Timothy Reynish - rec. 1994-2000. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN2029 [77:11] - from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

The Grainger Edition, Volume 6: Orchestral Music 2
Youthful Suite [25:36]
Molly on the Shore* [4:06]
Irish Tune from County Derry* [3:41]
Shepherdís Hey!* [1:56]
Country Gardens (Version A) [2:17]
Early One Morning* [3:32]
Handel in the Strand* [3:59]
Mock Morris* [3:19]
Dreamery** [6:32]
The Warriors*** [18:47]
edited by *Dana Paul Perna; ** Barry Peter Ould; *** Alessandro Servadei
Paul Janes, Catherine Edwards, Steven Osborne (piano); Paul Hindmarsh (second conductor)
BBC Philharmonic/Richard Hickox - rec. Manchester, April 1997. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN9584 [74:35] - from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

Famous Folk-Settings
Youthful Suite: II Rustic Dance [3:26]; IV Eastern Intermezzo [1:50]
Blithe Bells (Free ramble - on a theme by J.S. Bach: 'Sheep May Safely Graze') [3:23]
American Folk-Music Setting No. 2: Spoon River [4:53]
My Robin is to the Greenwood Gone [5:53]
British Folk-Music Setting No. 12: Green Bushes (Passacaglia on an English Folksong) [8:40]
Country Gardens (Orchestrated by Adolf Schmid) [2:18]
Room-music Tit-bits No. 1: Mock Morris [3:29]
Youthful Rapture (solo cello) [6:01]
British Folk-Music Setting No. 3: Shepherdís Hey [2:12]
Walking Tune (for wind five-some) [3:30]
British Folk-Music Setting No. 1: Molly on the Shore (Irish Reel) [3:50]
Handel in the Strand (clog dance) [4:45]
Bournemouth Sinfonietta/Kenneth Montgomery
(Moray Welsh, cello: Philip Martin, piano) - rec. Christchurch Priory, Dorset, UK, 1990s?
CHANDOS COLLECT CHAN6542 [54:10] - from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

The Chandos release of all 19 volumes of the Percy Grainger Edition for the price of 4 CDs, hailed by MWI Classical Editor Rob Barnett - see review - prompts me to look again, having recommended the budget-price introduction as a download. (Bargain of the Month in August 2008 - see review.) The 19-for-4 offer had not been matched in the case of downloads at the time of writing, but by picking and choosing it is possible to obtain a good cross-section of the series. Alternatively, if you had started collecting the series on disc, you could supplement what you already have with downloads.

Whether you begin with the Introduction or not will depend on how many of the series you intend to collect. If the 77-minute selection there is likely to satisfy you, you wonít find a better single-CD selection on the market. Add, say Volume 6 - Orchestral Music 2 - and you soon find yourself duplicating material, seven well-known short pieces, alongside two substantial works which top and tail the volume and are well worth getting to know: Youthful Suite and The Warriors.

An alternative budget-price collection on an older Chandos recording is even less expensive than the Introduction - at 54 minutes, it offers shorter playing time and there are no notes, but at £4.80 (mp3) or £4.99 (lossless) itís excellent value, the performances are idiomatic and, though thereís an overlap of pieces, thereís no danger of ending up with two recordings of the same performances as there clearly is with the Introduction. Donít think of buying this except from Chandosís own theclassicalshop.net - itís one of the crazy consequences of individual pricing policies that other suppliers are likely to charge more (even twice as much for the lossless version).

Severn and Somme
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937)

On your midnight pallet [1:58]
Dearest, when I am dead [1:54]
Edward, Edward [5:09]
Dreams of the sea [4:09]
In Flanders [3:33]
Severn meadows [1:56]
Dinny Hill [0:52]
Captain Strattonís fancy [2:33]
Red roses [2:43]
Song of silence [3:30]
The white cascade [1:58]
The folly of being comforted [5:05]
Desire in spring [2:00]
Walking song [0:54]
Lights out [3:59]
Black Stitchel [2:14]
Western sailors [2:34]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)
Goddess of Night [2:51]
John SANDERS (1933-2003)
On Painswick Beacon [2:33]
Cotswold Choice [2:43]
Christian WILSON (b.1920)
The Empty Cottage [2:37]
Anthem for Doomed Youth [3:22]
Ian VENABLES (b.1955)
Midnight Lamentation [4:05]
A Kiss [4:20]
Flying crooked [1:07]
Easter Song [3:40]
Roderick Williams (baritone); Susie Allan (piano)
rec. Potton Hall. Date? (2006?). DDD.
Booklet with words available as pdf.
SOMM SOMMCD057 [74:19] - from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

Ivor GURNEY
On Wenlock Edge [2:56]
Bread and cherries [0:53]
Down by the Salley Gardens [2:43]
Ian VENABLES Loveís Voice, Op.22 [15:43]
Ivor GURNEY
Ha'nacker Mill [2:09]
Snow [2:39]
Hawk and Buckle [1:10]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956) Oh Fair to see, Op. 13b [17:26]
Ian VENABLES
Vitæ summa brevis, Op.33/3 [3:32]
Flying crooked, Op.28/1 [1:08]
At midnight, Op.28/2 [4:08]
The hippo, Op.33/6 [1:40]
John IRELAND The Land of Lost Content [11:36]
Nathan Vale (tenor)
Paul Plummer (piano) - rec. Potton Halle. Date? (2006?) DDD.
SOMM SOMMCD063 [76:25] - from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

The inclusion of these two recordings is partly by way of atonement and expiation, having unwittingly ignored the role of Somm in the discovery and recording of the music of Ian Venables in my recent review of a Naxos recording containing some of his songs. (8.572514 - see review and review by John France). I was rightly, but gently, berated by Siva Oke, whose Somm label has brought us so many fine recordings of British music, old and new. The omission is all the more inexcusable, since John France posted a brief discography of Venables’ music, including these two Somm CDs, on the MusicWeb International site in March 2010 - here - and Jonathan Woolf - here - and Colin Scott-Sutherland - here - have written favourable reviews of SOMMCD063.

I no longer need to be persuaded that Ian Venables possesses a significant talent and that his music fits seamlessly into the tradition of Gurney, Finzi, Ireland, Howells, et al, but if I did, these two Somm recordings would provide ample evidence.

The Signum recording of Venables’ songs and String Quartet to which John France gave a warm welcome (SIGCD204 - see review) is available as a download from eMusic, classicsonline and theclassicalshop. Only theclassicalshop version is offered in lossless form as well as mp3.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
The Limpid Stream, Op. 39 (1934) (revised version by Gennady Rozhdestvensky)
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
rec. 9-14 June 1995, Stockholm Concert Hall, Stockholm, Sweden. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN 9423 [66:43] from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, lossless)

Dan Morgan and I have been listening to this recording from the Chandos back catalogue - in fact, I would not have realised that it existed had it not been for Dan, so Iím happy to give him centre-stage, other than to say that I listened to the recording for the difficult M25 section of a car journey - Europe's largest car park, for non-UK readers - and found that it lightened the load:

Performances of Shostakovichís early ballets - The Golden Age, The Bolt and The Limpid Stream - are rare, either on record or in the theatre. That said, the Bolshoiís 2003 revival of the latter - also known as The Bright Stream - was much praised when it toured the UK in 2007. And just last month - January 2011 - the American Ballet Theatre staged the work in Washington DC. As yet thereís no sign of a DVD or Blu-ray of these performances, so Rozhdestvenskyís pioneering audio recording will have to do for now. True, itís a 'revised' version of Shostakovichís original score - repeated numbers and snippets from The Bolt have been omitted - but the three-act structure has been retained. Indeed, this recording rekindled choreographer Alexei Ratmanskyís interest in the work and led indirectly to that Bolshoi revival.

Famously, Shostakovich came to grief over his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, which provoked that devastating Pravda piece 'Muddle instead of music'; less well known perhaps, but no less painful, was the 'Falsity in ballet' headline that followed shortly afterwards, cutting short The Limpid Streamís hitherto successful run in both Leningrad and Moscow. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of Soviet arts and politics even the balletís socialist-realist plot - itís a bucolic/patriotic tale of Soviet performers and collective workers - wasnít enough to protect Shostakovich from Stalinís ire. Itís always tempting to decrypt this music, finding subversive ideas behind the notes; surely itís nothing more than a daisy chain of banal tunes and empty gestures? But nothing is so straightforward where Shostakovich is concerned; indeed, reviews of Patmanskyís Bolshoi production suggest there is mischief in this music, and thatís why this score is so fascinating.

But what makes this download so intoxicating - itís reviewed here in its 'lossless’ WMA format - is the brazenness of both the recording and Rozhdestvenskyís reading. I was astonished by the idiomatic, Soviet-style sound of the Stockholm band, the baying brass and fruity woodwinds very well caught by the Chandos engineers. Just compare this raw, propulsive performance with the tidy, sophisticated sound of Neeme Järviís collection of Shostakovich ballet suites - Chandos CHAN 8730 - and the difference could hardly be more pronounced. And even if the composer decided to leave the messages to Western Union or its Soviet equivalent, Rozhdestvensky might just be sending a few of his own.

And thatís the nub of it; as ballet plots go, The Limpid Stream is lightweight, yet the composerís Puck-like persona is there in every swoony tune, every thumping climax. Second-rate it may be, but as I discovered listening to a Northern Flowers disc of Shostakovichís music for the theatre - Hamlet, The Human Comedy and King Lear - he is always worth hearing, even when heís slumming it. From the giddy overture and perky 'minute march' (trs. 1 and 3) to that slinky little waltz (tr. 10) and through to the lovely horn- and cello-led Adagios (tr. 16 and 19), ear-pricking pizzicatos (tr. 27) and rousing finale (tr. 29), thereís much to delight the ear and tickle the fancy.

Chandos have really done this music proud, giving it a spunky, wide-open sound that suits Rozhdestvenskyís hyperactive reading most admirably. The downloadable liner-notes are clear and informative and, as usual, the download process is simplicity itself. I do look forward to the time when Chandos offer these 1990s discs in their original 24bit/96kHz form; in the meantime, audio buffs and Shostakovich fans should be more than happy with the thrilling sound of these 16-bit files.

Dan Morgan


In lighter vein

Smile: Soft Jazz Classics
Frank LOESSER
What are you doing New Yearís Eve [2:34]
Ned WASHINGTON When you Wish upon a Star [4:24]
Rod DUNK Carolís Tune * [2:59]
Morgan LEWIS How High the Moon [4:11]
James van HEUSEN Polka Dots and Moonbeams [3:46]; But Beautiful [4:58]
Duke ELLINGTON/Juan TIZOL Caravan [3:51]
Jan SANDSTRÖM Sång till Lotta [6:23]
Cole PORTER Night and Day [4:18]
Burt BACHARACH Alfie [5:40]
Mel PURVES For Absent Friends * [4:10]
Zequinha De ABREU Tico-Tico [2:32]
Barry BOOTH Principal Uncertainty * [3:26]
Chic COREA Spain [3:44]
David MANN In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning [3:08]
Charles CHAPLIN Smile [2:47]
Carol Jarvis (trombone); Orchestra/Rod Dunk - rec. 2009? DDD.
* Composed specially for this album
DIVINE ART DIVERSIONS DDV24150 [62:41] - from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 or lossless) or classicsonline (mp3) or stream from the Naxos Music Library.

The publicity material on the Divine Art website says it all, so I wonít try to paraphrase: A very special CD for (and by) a very special musician. Trombonist Carol Jarvis is a fine and much in demand performer. Diagnosed in 2004 with Hodgkinís Lymphoma at the age of only 26, Carol has fought through the disease with pioneering treatment and has maintained her position as one of the UKís leading instrumentalists. In her own words; "a cancer diagnosis doesnít have to be a death sentence. It can be a very dark and lonely place, but it also opens your eyes to the world. If anything, my life is so much better since that diagnosis as I donít take anything for granted anymore and treasure even the smallest things."

50% of the proceeds of the CD version of this wonderful album are for the benefit of Macmillan Cancer Support; I hope and trust that the same is true of the download versions, otherwise I'd encourage you to purchase the disc. The cover shot is taken from a painting of Carol by Rolf Harris, again produced for the benefit of Macmillan Cancer Support.

Did I remember to say that in addition to the good cause, I enjoyed hearing it very much, hope to hear more from Carol, and that it comes from both download sites for a mere £4.99 (mp3: £7.99 for the lossless, the latter available from theclassicalshop only)?

The very Best of Broadway
Including music by George GERSHWIN: Girl Crazy
Cole PORTER: Anything goes
Irving BERLIN: Annie get your gun
Jerome KERN: Show Boat
Richard RODGERS: Pal Joey
Kurt WEILL: Knickerbocker Holiday
Frederick LOEWE: Brigadoon
Leonard BERNSTEIN: West Side Story
Kiri te Kanawa; Kim Criswell; Frederica von Stade; Teresa Stratas; Josephine Barstow; Rebecca Luker; Karla Burns; Jerry Hadley; Brent Barrett; Lambert Wilson; Thomas Hampson; Bruce Hubbard; Ambrosian Chorus; London Symphony Orchestra; London Sinfonietta/John McGlinn - rec. 1987-1992. DDD
EMI CLASSICS 6952402 [154:07] - from passionato.com (mp3)

This collection of excerpts from EMI musicals recordings, mostly directed by John McGlinn, is self-recommending and sounds well, even though available in mp3 only. Be aware, however, that passionatoís price of £15.99 is rather expensive, when the parent CDs can be found online for around £8.50.


 


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