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April 30th

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Clifford Bax on English opera by Christopher Howell

Michael Cookson Interviews Anne-Sophie Mutter, Manchester 2012

A Really Good classical CD shop in the heart of Shropshire: Yarborough House, Bishop’s Castle Rob Barnett

3.6 million views and counting – The story of a YouTube pianist’s channel by Phillip Sear

April Download Roundup #2 by Brian Wilson

Jussi Björling The Commemorative Years - A retrospect by Göran Forsling



English Music Festival June 2012

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Who’s My Bottom? by Christopher Gillett

The Letters and Diaries of Kathleen Ferrier by John France

Arkivmusic has over 4000 ArkivCDs which are digital remakes of out-of-print CDs available nowhere else. New issues now contain full booklet notes link

The Golden Age of Light Music – Continental Flavour - Volume 2 rec.1930-61 GUILD LIGHT MUSIC
The Golden Age of Light Music – The Art of the Arranger Volume 1 rec.1930-60 GUILD LIGHT MUSIC
The Golden Age of Light Music – Holidays for Strings rec. 1952-61 GUILD LIGHT MUSIC
The Golden Age of Light Music – Light and Easy rec. 1947-60 GUILD LIGHT MUSIC


240 reviews completed so far this month.

Monday April 30th

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Organ Transcriptions Martin Schmeding (organ) rec. 2011 ARS PRODUKTION ARS 38109 [75:19] [DC]

Superb release in every regard. An all-round organ hit release. 

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Violin concertos, Keyboard concertos Devy Erlih, Henry Merckel, Reinhold Barchet (violin), Kurt Kalmus (oboe) Rudolf Reinhardt (harpsichord) Pro CO Munich/Kurt Redel rec. 1954/5 FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR 275-76 [68:03 + 48:43] [JW]

Never less than interesting. 

Francesco BARSANTI (1690-1772) Concerti grossi Banchetto Musicale - Il Piacere rec. 1997 DYNAMIC DM8023 [72:53] [JV]

Good entertainment and well worth listening to. 

Robert PATERSON (b.1970) The Book of Goddesses, Freya's Tears, Embracing the Wind MAYA, Clockwise, American Modern Ens rec. 2010/11 AMERICAN MODERN RECORDINGS AMR1034 [61:23] [Byz]

Atmospheric, thoughtful, rhythmic and melodic, this can be enjoyed by believers, agnostics and atheists alike! 

John RAMSAY (b.1931) String Quartets 1-4 Fitzwilliam String Qt rec. 2010/11 METIER MSV 28528 [38:32 + 48:29] [DC]

Deserving of respect and attention. 

Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) Le Comte Ory Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Metropolitan Opera Ch & O/Maurizio Benini rec. 2011 VIRGIN CLASSICS 0709599 [2 DVDs: 153:00 plus bonus] [RJF]

Outstanding singing from the three principals. Quirks of production spoil what should have been an issue deserving the highest accolade. 

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Der Tag des Gerichts, Die Donnerode, Der Herr ist König Barbara Schlick, Harry van der Kamp Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max rec. 1990/92 CAPRICCIO C5098 [70:45 + 65:30] [JV]

This set is a must for every Telemann fan. 

Il labirinto della chitarra Guitar music from 17th-century Italy Private Musicke/Pierre Pitzl rec. 2010 ACCENT ACC 24239 [59:04] [JV]

The music is great and often intriguing, the performances are fine, but the scoring raises questions. 

RECORDING OF THE MONTH A Musical Journey - Norway Featuring music of Edvard Grieg NAXOS 2.110274 [55.57] [RJF]

A winner for all lovers of Grieg’s music, and his captivating country, alongside spectacular photography. 

Precipitando  Alban BERG (1885-1935) Piano sonata Leos JANACEK (1854-1928) V mlhách (In the mists) Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Piano sonata Dénes Várjon (piano) rec. 2011 ECM NEW SERIES 2247 [58:00] [DC]

Highly intelligent, and with a sprinkling of lustre. 


Saturday April 28th

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Robert ALDRIDGE (b. 1954) Elmer Gantry - Opera in Two Acts (2007) Libretto by Herschel Garfein based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis Soloists, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra/William Boggs rec. 2010 libretto in English enclosed NAXOS 8.669032-33 [69:24 + 72:14] [GF]

Totally captivating.

Alban BERG (1885-1935) Concerto for violin and orchestra Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963) Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber ,Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Lars-Erik LARSSON (1908-1986) Max REGER (1873-1916) Franz BERWALD (1796-1868) Louis Krasner (violin) Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Fritz Busch; Kungliga Theatre Orchestra/Fritz Busch ¹ rec. 1938 - 1949 GUILD GHCD 2372 [78:45][JW]

Valuable live performances.

Ignacio CERVANTES (1847-1905) 38 danzas cubanas [66:04] Álvaro Cendoya (piano) rec. 2010, NAXOS 8.572456 [66:04] [BR]

Cuban folk dances, two minutes long, with a saucy air and light-hearted charm.

Josquin des PRÉS (c. 1440-1521) Anonymous chanson: L’homme armé [0:37] Missa L’homme armé super voces musicales [40:23] Missa L’homme armé sexti toni [33:06] The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips rec. 1989. DDD Latin texts, English, French, German, Italian translations included GIMELL CDGIM 019 [74:16] [JQ]

A disc of Josquin Masses to savour

Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1826) Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Alexander SKRIABIN (1872-1915) Piano Music Andrea Vigna-Taglianti (piano) rec. 2009. DDD SHEVA COLLECTION SH027 [70:58] [Byz]

Vigna-Taglianti’s audiences for now at least should not waste their money on this product.

George Alexander MACFARREN (1813-1887) Robin Hood - opera in three acts (performing edition by Valerie Langfield) (1860) Soloists, Victorian Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Ronald Corp rec. 2010, Includes detailed notes and synopsis Libretto downloadable from the Naxos site NAXOS 8.660306-07 [78:36 + 79:57] [CH]

Anyone even minimally interested in opera in Victorian England needs to get this set.

Michel Pignolet DE MONTÉCLAIR (1667 - 1737) CD 1 Concerts 1 - 6 Marie-Céline Labbé, Marion Treupel-Franck (transverse flute) rec. 2009, DDD RAMÉE RAM 1102 [54:18 + 52:23] [JV]

Very fine music, exquisite performances - what more do you want?

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) String Quartet No. 7 , String Quartet No. 8 Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) String Quartet,‘Rasumovsky’ Valentin Berlinsky Quartet rec. 2010, AVIE AV2253 [73:58] [DM]

Fine Shostakovich, unmissable Beethoven. More, please.

Eric WHITACRE (b. 1970) Water Night ** Julian Lloyd Webber (cello); *** Hila Plitmann (soprano) Eric Whitacre Singers; London Symphony Orchestra/Eric Whitacre Texts included DECCA 2796323 [75:56] [JQ]

A further collection of pieces by Eric Whitacre, including many first recordings, in first rate performances

The Scottish Viola – A Tribute to Watson Forbes Martin Outram (viola)
Julian Rolton (piano) rec. 2011, NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI 6180 [68:13] [JW]

A really worthwhile salute to a splendid musician.


Friday April 27th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750) Cantatas for the complete liturgical year, Vol. 12 Gerlinde Sämann (soprano) Petra Noskaiová (contralto) Christoph Genz (tenor) Jan van der Crabben (bass) La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken rec. 2009 ACCENT ACC25312 [70:22] [JV]

This volume in Kuijken's cantata series shows considerable improvement in expression. 

Johann Jacob FROBERGER (1616-1667) Libro Quatro of 1656 Webb Wiggins (harpsichord, organ) rec. 2002 FRIENDS OF MUSIC FOM 10-027.28 [67:50 + 55:22] [DC]

Sensitively programmed and lovingly produced - will not disappoint. 

RECORDING OF THE MONTH NEIDHART (c.1185-c.1240) A Minnesinger and his 'Vale of Tears' : Songs and Interludes Ensemble Leones rec. 2010 NAXOS 8.572449 [64:39] [Byz]

Peerless musicianship.

Michael NYMAN (b.1944) Initial Treat/Secondary Treat, Waltz, Bird List Song, M-Work Michael Nyman Band rec. 1981 MN RECORDS MNRCD123 [41:49] [DC]

Compulsive listening. 

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Papillons, Piano sonata, Kinderszenen, Fantasie, Waldszenen, Geister Variations András Schiff (piano) rec. 2010 ECM NEW SERIES 2122/23 60.29 + 69.73] [RBe]

Immaculate phrasing and a wonderful selection of colours and contrasts. 

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Cello Concerto 1 Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Cello symphony Johannes Moser (cello) WDR SO Köln/Pietari Inkinen rec. 2011 HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD 98.643 [62:24] [Byz]

Eloquent, rich-toned and enchanting. 

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Lieder Gillian Keith (soprano) Simon Lepper (piano) rec. 2009 CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD 018 [60:06] [Byz]

Keith is thoroughly convincing and communicates the emotional content of Strauss's ravishing music to great effect. 

Works for Flute by 20th Century Wrocław Composers Grzegorz Olkiewicz (flute) Mirosław Gąsieniec, Teresa Worońko, Maria Szwajger-Kułakowska, Andrzej Jungiewicz (piano) rec. 1992-93 DUX 0826 [59:19] [Byz]

An ultimately rewarding programme. 

RECORDING OF THE MONTH A Musical Odyssey in St Petersburg Renée Fleming (soprano) Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone) Ivari Ulja, Olga Kern (piano) State Hermitage O/Constantine Orbelian rec. 2009 DECCA 074 3383 [91:00 + 23:00 (bonus)] [RJF]

A must for every lover of fine singing in wonderful venues in a magnificent city. 

A Year at York York Minster Ch/Robert Sharpe David Pipe (organ) rec. 2011 REGENT REGCD368 [76:54] [JQ]

A very interesting programme, splendidly executed, tracing the Church’s year in music. 


Thursday April 26th 2012

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Cantatas Vol. 50 Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki rec. 2011 BIS BIS-SACD-1941 [74:57] [MC]

A must for any serious Bach devotee.

Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960) & Leighton LUCAS (1903-1982) Film Music BBC Ntl O Wales/Rumon Gamba rec. 2011 CHANDOS CHAN10713 [67:58] [JF]

A superb achievement. Beautifully played.

Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) String Quartets Arne NORDHEIM (1931-2010) Rendezvous Oslo Camerata/Stephen Barratt-Due rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572441 [76.45] [PCG]

Admirably precise playing that sparkles with electricity and brings a delightful warmth.

Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945) Cavalleria Rusticana Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919) Pagliacci Richard Tucker, Eileen Farrell, Anselmo Colzani, Franco Corelli, Lucine Almara, Metropolitan Opera Ch & O/Nello Santi rec. 1964 SONY CLASSICAL 88691 909992 [76:08 + 70:05] [ST]

An iffy release, and probably only for die-hard fans of the leads.

Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus Eugeniusz Knapik (piano) rec. 1979 DUX 0848/49 [56:57 + 73:11] [DC]

Opens the door on Messiaen’s vision ever wider.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Symphony 9 Hans GÁL (1890-1987) Symphony 2 Northern Sinfonia/Thomas Zehetmair rec. 2010 AVIE AV2225 [55:09 + 43:28] [JW]

Perfectly structured work, excellently proportioned.

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) L’Oiseau de feu; Orchestrations and arrangements Bergen PO/Andrew Litton rec. 2009/10 BIS BIS-SACD-1874 [71:40] [DC]

A stunning treat, and one which will give lasting pleasure.

Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Violin Concerto Max BRUCH (1838 - 1920) Violin Concerto 1; Kol Nidrei Michèle Auclair (violin) Austrian SO/Kurt Wöss, Wilhelm Loibner rec. 1950 FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR 126 [59:22] [JW]

Energetic, abrasive and charged with intensity.

John WILLIAMS (b. 1932) A Tribute Various orchestras/John Williams SONY 88691942532 [70:56] [IL]

A nice nostalgic trip.

Otro Mundo WARNER CLASSICS & JAZZ 5186543652 [73:52 + 74:12] [EML]

“The best music from around the world” is a misnomer, to say the least.


Wednesday April 25th

Arthur BLISS (1891-1975) String Quartet No. 2 (1950) [31:31] Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934) String Quartet RTvii/8 – Movement No.3; Late Swallows (1916-19) [9:32] Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) arr. Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1973) Chacony in G minor Z730 [6:44] Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1973) String Quartet No 2 in C Major, Op 36 (1945) [30:12] Barbirolli Quartet rec. 2011, NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6165 [77:58] [JW]

Full marks for this attractive compilation.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Claude DEBUSSY (1906-1975) Complete Orchestral Works for track listing see end of review Orchestre National de Lyon/Jun Märkl rec. 2007-2011 NAXOS 8.509002 [9 CDs: 9:08.49] [PCG]

Important for its completeness but it has other claims to our attention as well.

Bohemian Rhapsody Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904) (arrangements by Nicholas Ingman) Members of the Czech Nonet; Helena Hnykovà (violin); František Kuda (piano) Camerata Nova Prague/Josef Suk rec. Prague, 1988 (?) MUSICAL CONCEPTS MC114 [76:20][JS]

Very pleasant but adds little to our understanding or enjoyment of these wonderful works.

Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997) Piano Music Martin Jones with *Richard McMahon, +Adrian Farmer (pianos) rec. 2011 NIMBUS NI 5880 [3 CDs: 59:23 + 64:48 + 66:54] [PCG]

Françaix’s music gives enjoyment and pleasure and this collection does just that.

William Mathias - Santa Fe Suite and Other 20th Century Harp Classics William MATHIAS (1934-1992) Santa Fe Suite (1988) [12:40] Improvisations, op.10 (1958) [5:17] Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Une Châtelaine en sa Tour, op.110 (1918) [4:54] Marcel TOURNIER (1879-1951) Au Matin - Etude de Concert (1925) [3:52] Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963) Harp Sonata (1939) [10:57] Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937) Impromptu, op.21 (1919) [6:26] Germaine TAILLEFERRE (1892-1983) Harp Sonata (1957) [10:57] Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006) Fantasy, op.117 (1975) [10:29] Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Suite, op.83 (1969) [14:09] Elinor Bennett (harp) rec. 1993. DDD NIMBUS NI 5441 [79:04] [Byz]

Lightness of touch and ear for detail matched by superb technique, poise and panache.

Verdi Heroines and Mad Scenes – Maria Callas Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901), Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835) Maria Callas (soprano) Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra/Nicola Rescigno rec.1958 CD sleeve notes in English, no sung texts included ALTO ALC1156 [77.30] [MMB]

A wonderful tribute to a legendary voice. Callas admirer or not this is a disc that will enrich any collection.

Clarinet Sonatas of the 20th Century Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Othmar SCHOECK (1886-1957) Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990) Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (1919-1996) Edison DENISOV (1929-1996) Dawid Jarzynski (clarinet and bass clarinet); Tamara Chitadze (piano) rec. 2010 DUX 0799 [76:03] [BR]

A really admirable program, but playing which doesn’t adequately underline what makes each of its composers unique.

My First Violin Album Various performers rec. no details given. DDD NAXOS 8.578215 [76:44] [Byz]

This programme is probably catchy enough to get the young listener off to an enthusiastic start.

Michal Szymanowski - piano recital Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI, Fryderyk CHOPIN, Karol SZYMANOWSKI Michal Szymanowski (piano) rec. May 2011, CD ACCORD ACD 170-2 [66:50] [JW]

An attractive first disc.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) A Tribute to Tchaikovsky Vladimir Feltsman (piano) rec. 2011, NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6162 [68:10] [JWh]

Tchaikovsky miniatures intimately played.

Tuesday 24th April 2012

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Goldberg Variations Blandine Rannou (harpsichord) rec. 2010 ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES 111001 [89:29] [KM]

Love it or hate it, you cannot deny that this unique, personal approach to the Goldbergs is one to take note of.

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Les Illuminations
Hans Werner HENZE (b. 1926) Being Beauteous Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951) Herzgewächse
Niccolò CASTIGLIONI (1932-1996) Terzina Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937) Slopiewnie Anu Komsi (soprano) Ostrobothnian CO/Juha Kangas; Uusinta Chamber Ens/Sakari Oramo rec. 2010/11 ALBA ABCD331 [58:15] [WH]

Britten’s youthful cycle in an unusual programme, magnificently performed and recorded.

Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Music for String Orchestra Malmö SO/Bjarte Engeset rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572403 [71:13] [SV]

This will delight and comes up with splendid depth.

Jules MASSENET (1842-1912) Mélodies Sabine Revault d’Allonnes (soprano) Samuel Jean (piano)
Matthieu Fontana (cello) rec. 2011 TIMPANI 1C1191 [50.39] [PCG]

Expands our views of Massenet’s still underestimated muse to as yet undreamed-of new horizons.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Die Schöne Müllerin Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) Gerald Moore (piano) rec. 1951 REGIS RRC1383 [65:23] [JS]

Should be in the collection of anyone with a love for the music of Schubert.

Henri TOMASI (1901-1971) Works for trumpet Eric Aubier (trumpet) Thierry Escaich (organ) Frédéric Mellard (trumpet) Nikolaos Samaltanos (piano) Orchestre de l‘Opéra Nationale de Paris/Marius Constant; Ens de Cuivres et Choeur de Rouen/Jean-Philippe Dambreville; Orchestre de Bretagne/François-Xavier Bilger rec. 1988-2011 INDESENS IND 038 [71:34] [RB]

Adventurous listeners rewarded with quite remarkable music - tonal yet gaunt, serene and exciting.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Ernani Carlo Bergonzi (tenor) Cornell MacNeil (baritone) Leontyne Price (soprano) Metropolitan Opera O & Ch/Thomas Schippers rec. 1962 SONY CLASSICAL 88691 90996 2 [37:53 + 65:51] [RMo]

The most vital and uninhibited singing you will ever hear from Leontyne Price. Self-recommending as long as you are tolerant of mono sound.

Cor! - Alison Teale plays cor anglais Alison Teale (cor anglais) Elizabeth Burley (piano) rec. 2010 OBOE CLASSICS CC2023 [76:27] [JW]

This engaging recital has been extremely well recorded. Admirers of the instrument should find much to reward them.

Freud und Lust - Works by Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707) Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Johann Christoph BACH (1642-1703) Ryland Angel (alto) Holy Trinity Bach Players/Rick Erickson rec. 2005 DEUX-ELLES DXL1147 [57:52] [JV]

If you decide to purchase this disc you won't regret it.

Sounds of Defiance - Works by Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998) Joseph ACHRON (1886-1943) Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Arvo PÄRT (b.1935) Yevgeni Kutik (violin) Timothy Bozarth (piano) rec. 2011
MARQUIS MAR 81429 [68:18] [SA]

A disc of lasting value that sheds light on works that are heard far too infrequently.


Click for alphabetical listings by composer:
[Part 1 New] [Part 2 A-B] [Part 3 C-L] [Part 4 M-R] [Part 5 S-Z] [Part 6 Misc A-L] [Part 7 Misc M-Z]
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