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June 2012/1 Download Roundup

Brian Wilson

Recording of the Month

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) La Cetra, Op.9/1-12
CD 1: Concertos Nos.1-6 [60:29]
CD 2: Concertos No2.7-12 [56:56]
Holland Baroque Society/Rachel Podger (violin) – rec. September 2011 and January 2012. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA33412 [60:29 + 56:56] – from channelclassics.com (mp3, 24/44, 24/96, 24/192 lossless and DSD)

I was uncertain what should be Download of the Month until, late in the day, this came along to end my quandary. From the very first notes of Concerto No.1 I knew that Rachel Podger and Channel Classics had pressed all the right buttons once again. We already had some fine versions of these neglected but very fine concertos, from the Academy of St Martin’s* for those who prefer modern instruments and the Raglan Baroque Players or the Academy of Ancient Music on period instruments** but they sound a little dull by comparison with the greater variety of approach on the new recording. I shall still keep those earlier recordings but I’m sure that their new rival will be a more frequent choice.

This is some of Vivaldi’s most imaginative music – less immediate in appeal than Op.3 and Op.8 but ultimately very rewarding – and it benefits from the imaginative approach of Podger and her team, as evidenced right from the start with the chamber-scale opening of the first concerto. The overall tempo for this movement is marginally slower than that of the Raglan Players, but the variety of approach makes it actually sound livelier. In this company, the Tactus recording with I Filarmonici is stylish but completely outclassed, unless you come by it as part of the bargain Brilliant Classics box (94056) which I reviewed some time ago – here – 40 CDs for around £35.

Attractive prices – good value for 2 discs, from £9.09 for mp3 to £18.18 for 24/192 and £26.44 for DSD – put the icing on the cake. There’s a mixed metaphor in there – how can a cake press buttons – but I think you know what I mean. More succinctly, this is one for all Vivaldi lovers to buy. Then go on to Rachel Podger’s recording of Vivaldi’s Op.4, la Stravaganza with Arte dei Suonatori on CCSSA19503 (2 CDs – see review and November 2011/1 Roundup) if you haven’t yet done so.

* Decca import 448 1102 (2 CDs) – Iona Brown (violin); Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner, with Neil Black and Celia Nicklin in the couplings, concertos RV535 and RV445. Download from hmvdigital.com.

** Virgin Veritas 5615942 (2 CDs) – Monica Huggett (violin); Raglan Baroque Players/Nicolas Kraemer: apparently no longer available on CD: download from hmvdigital.com or classicsonline.com. At just £5.99, the amazon.co.uk download is less expensive than either, but comes at a lower bit-rate. Stream from Naxos Music Library.

Decca 475 7693 – Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood: available as a download only, in mp3 or lossless from deutschegrammophon.com (with Op.3, Op.4 and Op.8, 6 CDs for £22.99)

Discovery of the Month

Premieres and Encores
Henry Hugo PIERSON (1815-1873)

Macbeth, Symphonic Poem Op. 54 (1859) [20:34]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)
Fantasy Overture, Cortèges (1945) [14:34]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
David MORGAN (1933-1988)
Contrasts (1974) [21:47]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Francis CHAGRIN (1905-1972)
Concert Overture: Helter Skelter (1949) [6:46]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/John Pritchard
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
Serenade for Strings (1922) [7:44]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Comedy Overture: Beckus the Dandipratt (1943) [7:52]
London Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite – rec. 1976-78. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.318 [79.22] – from emusic.com (mp3)

[See review by John France – Recording of the Month - and review by Rob Barnett.]

British Light Music Premieres – Volume 6
Anthony HEDGES (b.1931)
Overture: Saturday Market (1978) [4:33]
Alun HODDINOTT (1929-2008) Two Welsh Nursery Tunes (1962) [3:01]
Philip LANE (b.1950) Lyric Dances (2007) [11:33]
Carey BLYTON (1932-2002) Suite: Cinque Port (1957-58) [13:20]; El Tango Ultimo (Tango Cromatico) (2000) Op 111 [1:48]
David MORGAN (1933-88) Music for Children (1960s) [5:16]
John FOX (b.1926) Portrait of Diana (1997) [3:16]
Mansel THOMAS (1909-1986) Breton Suite (1949) [9:10]; Six Welsh Dances (1936-60) [13:46]
Richard ADDINSELL (1904-1977)/Noel GAY(1898-1954) The André Charlot show of 1926 [8:49]
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland
BBC Concert Orchestra/ Barry Wordsworth (Addinsell only) – rec. 2006 – 2010. DDD
World Premiere Recordings
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7283 [77:48] – from hmvdigital.com (mp3)

[See review by Gary Higginson.]

The common denominator is the attractive music of David Morgan – something of a mystery man, which explains why I hadn’t even heard of him before, though I shall look out for his name in future. He’s not the only discovery, however, or the sole reason to buy either or both of these recordings. Henry Pierson, whose Symphonic Poem Macbeth opens the Lyrita album was also a welcome discovery. Malcolm Arnold’s Beckus the Dandipratt is the only well known item on the Lyrita recording – for that reason I could wish that something else less familiar had replaced it, though it receives a good performance.

Everything on the Dutton recording was new to me – by definition, since it comes from a series of premiere recordings – but the whole is very enjoyable; the mystery is why these pieces have not been recorded before. The download of the Dutton from hmvdigital.com is in good, maximum 320kb/s, mp3 sound; the emusic.com download of the Lyrita averages only around 192kb/s but sounds perfectly acceptable. There’s no booklet with either download but the MusicWeb International reviews to which I’ve given links above and Dutton’s own website – here – will help fill the gap.

There’s another Lyrita recording which contains David Morgan’s Violin Concerto – see review and review. Amazon.co.uk have this as a download, but the Morgan is not available separately and I must admit to having been put off obtaining the album because of the couplings, works by Don Banks and Peter Racine Fricker. Despite John France’s advocacy, I’m afraid that I’m happy for Banks and Fricker to remain terra incognita.

Bargain of the Month

Last month I recommended the posthumous Hoffnung Astronautical Music Festival for just £0.42 from Past Classics on emusic.com. This month, as a logical follow-up, my bargain is the earlier Hoffnung Music Festival from November 1956 [48:23] – even more fun with Gerard Hoffnung himself at the helm. The recording again comes from Past Classics courtesy of emusic.com.. Non-members can obtain this for £0.89 from amazon.co.uk.

Even funnier still is Hoffnung at the Oxford Union, featuring The Bricklayer, Holiday Letters from Tyrolean landlords and other delights, as well as some more serious observations on the state of the arts and racial prejudice, from FourMatt Music, again via emusic.com, this time for £0.84. It lasts for just 26:15 but it’s a must if you don’t already have a copy. The same transfer costs £1.38 from amazon.co.uk. Would that I had been there but, alas, the occasion (1958) took place two years before I went up. Don’t forget that you can obtain these and other Hoffnung CDs from MusicWeb International’s Hoffnung webpage – here.

Freebie of the Month

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67 [29:19]
Cinderella Op. 87: Music from the Ballet: Introduction; Quarrel; Pavane; Cinderella and the Prince; Three Oranges; Southern Countries; Orientalia; Amoroso [26:24]
Lina Prokofiev (narrator)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi – rec.1986. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN8511 [55:10] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

The mp3 version of this recording was Chandos’s latest free gift to subscribers to the monthly newsletter from their theclassicalshop.net. It’s well worth having as a gift but if you missed out and would like to buy it, there’s a much better option: though still available as a download and on CD from the Archive Service, the contents of the programme are now available less expensively at lower mid-price, and with some short additional pieces, on CHAN10484.

The novelty is provided by having Prokofiev’s widow speak the narration in Peter and the Wolf – in excellent English – otherwise, the Cinderella Suite is more suited to Järvi’s approach than Peter. Even in mp3 the recording sounds fine.

For this and Neeme Järvi’s recordings of other Prokofiev’s works, please refer to my December 2008 Roundup.

Beulah Extra

Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No.4 in f minor, Op.36
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra/Yevgeny Mravinsky – rec.1961. stereo/ADD
BEULAH EXTRA 1-4BX191 [41:35] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Dolly Suite, Op.56 (orch. Henri Rabaud)
Orchestre National de l’ORTF/Sir Thomas Beecham – rec.1959. ADD/stereo
BEULAH EXTRA 12BX43 [17:57] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1928) La Mer [23:05]
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch – rec. 1957. ADD/stereo
BEULAH EXTRA 20BX32 [23:05] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Rapsodie Espagnole [15:19]
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch – rec. 1958. ADD/stereo
BEULAH EXTRA 24BX32 [15:19] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

The June Beulah releases reached me a little later than usual this month, so I’m having to review them in two chunks. In the first half I’m concentrating on the four reissues listed above – all effectively self-recommending. You’ll find the remaining June releases here.

Yevgeny Mravinsky’s Tchaikovsky Fourth has rightly achieved almost legendary status, along with his recordings of Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6. I made the DG Originals 2-CD reissue of all three (477 9111) my Bargain of the Month in my April 2010 Roundup and I can’t do better than repeat what I said then:

For me, performances of Tchaikovsky’s last three symphonies don’t come any better than this ... You will either love or hate the performances for the sheer Russian-ness of the brass in particular and the white-hot energy of Mravinsky’s direction. This set offers the power that I found lacking recently in Andrew Litton’s version of the Fifth Symphony (Virgin 6932382, super-budget, coupled with a much better performance of the Sixth – see review). Whatever other versions of these works you may have, you should add these to your collection; for all the virtues of the 1956 mono set on which Mravinsky shared the symphonies with Sanderling, the newer recording is preferable.

It remains only for me to say that the Beulah transfer is excellent and that I can hear no appreciable difference between it and the amazon.co.uk download of the DG release; in fact, as the Beulah is at 320kb/s and the Amazon at 256k or slightly less, younger and keener ears may well score in favour of the Beulah. On both the sound coarsens very slightly at full blast, but no more than you might expect from a recording of this vintage. The DG set remains available but the separate Beulah release will be ideal for those who want the Fourth separately at an attractive price.

Sir Thomas Beecham’s Fauré is also available in a larger collection (Sir Thomas Beecham conducts French Music EMI 9099322, 6 CDs – see review and review) but, as with the Mravinsky Tchaikovsky, many will find its separate inexpensive availability more to their liking. Beecham’s way with lollipops, especially those of French origin is legendary – and he’s conducting a French orchestra here, as well as having played the piano duet version with Fauré himself. Charming music, some of the most beautiful ever composed for or about children – older listeners will recall with nostalgia the use of the opening berceuse as the theme tune of Listen with Mother – winningly conveyed and sounding very well in this transfer.

The separate availability of Charles Munch’s La Mer for £2 will also be welcomed by those who don’t wish to go for the Sony Originals CD which also includes Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, Nuages et fêtes, Printemps and Ibert’s Escales (88697689542). Slightly more than a quarter of the contents of the CD for around a quarter of the price looks like good value. Should you so wish, the sections are also available separately as 21-23BX32. I’ve given Beulah’s date of 1957 for the recording, though the booklet for the 1988 RCA CD reissue says December 1956. More importantly, the transfer sounds fine, with a good but not excessive dynamic range between the opening, which Munch handles as delicately and sensitively as any version that I’ve heard, and the climaxes where the performance packs plenty of power without going over the top. You may wish to set the volume slightly lower than usual.

Munch’s Rapsodie Espagnole
is not, so far as I am aware, otherwise available in the UK at present, though it was available in the latter days of RCA and it has as much claim as any of these four reissues to be the kind of recording which should never be unavailable. Yet the performance received something of a pasting from the reviewers, both of the original mono release in 1958 and of the stereo follow-up in the following year. It seems the adverse reaction was mostly to do with the extreme hype with which RCA were pushing the Boston orchestra. Reviewers’ opinions seem to mellow with the years; by 1994, on a CD reissue, Munch’s colourful performance was receiving a much better response – as it deserves. The sound in this transfer is good.

***

Claudio MERULO (1533-1604)
Missa Virginis Mariae ‘In Annutiatione Domini’ (1568)
Toccata Seconda del V Tono [7:02]; Voltum tuum (chant) [2:56]; Kyrie – alternatim [5:32]; Gloria – alternatim [16:10]; Tollite portas (Chant) [5:24]; Toccata Ottava [3:53]; Diffusa est gratis (Alleluja) [3:06]; Ave Maria [2:33]; Sanctus – alternatim [3:42]; Agnus Dei – alternatim [3:52]; Ecce Virgo (Chant) [2,32]; Toccata Primo del V Tono [5:46])
Roberto Loreggian (organ); Schola Gregoriana “Scriptoria”/Dom Nicola M. Bellinazzo – rec. 2000. DDD
TACTUS TC533801 [62:08] – from emusic.com (mp3)

[‘This disc offers an interesting insight into a species of sacred music which is rarely if ever encountered in the flesh.’ – see review by Gary Higginson and review by Johan van Veen: ‘In short: this new recording is a winner in every respect.’]

Merulo’s Missa Virginis Mariæ is an example of an alternatim or organ mass – alternate verses sung in plainchant and played on the organ – a form which was surprisingly prolific until it was banned by papal authority in the early 20th century, no doubt for the excellent reason that half of the words went unheard, the very antithesis of the Reformation and Counter Reformation desire to make the words sovereign. The most famous examples are Couperin’s Messe pour les couvents and Messe pour les paroisses. For all its liturgical shortcomings such music is often well worth hearing and so it proves with this example by Claudio Merulo, especially for lovers of organ music.

The bit-rate of the emusic.com download varies between around 200 and 220kb/s – not a great rate, but the result sounds well enough. There are no notes, but the two MusicWeb International reviews should help.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute)
Maria Stader (soprano) – Pamina; Rita Streich (soprano) – Queen of Night; Ernst Haefliger (tenor)- Tamino; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) – Papageno; Josef Greindl (bass) – Sarastro; Kim Borg (bass) – Speaker, Second Armed Man; Martin Vantin (tenor) – Monostatos; Lisa Otto (soprano) – Papagena; Marianna Schech (soprano) – First Lady; Liselotte Losch (soprano) – Second Lady; Margarete Klose (mezzo) – Third Lady
Berlin RIAS Chamber Choir and Orchestra/Ferenc Fricsay – rec. 1954. ADD/mono
PAST CLASSICS [122:13] – from emusic.com (mp3)

I’ve chosen to commemorate Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with a Schubert recording (below) but this album which includes him as Papageno is an irresistible bargain at £1.26 or less from emusic.com (£2.37 from hmvdigital.com for non-members of emusic.com). Ferenc Fricsay had a sure feel for Mozart and all concerned generally do very well by him. I prefer Zauberflöte without dialogue – one reason why the Klemperer recording still heads my list* – and I’m pleased to see that it’s been edited out from this transfer.** The sound is mono only and the transfer is at a low bit-rate, around 170kb/s, but it sounds not at all bad; the hmvdigital.com version is offered in 320kb/s sound. With the overture, Act I and Act II each complete on one track, there’s no problem with gaps in the playback from an mp3 player.

* recently re-reissued on EMI Opera 9667932– download from hmvdigital.com for £7.99
** hmvdigital.com have the DG reissue of this performance with dialogue for £7.49. The Naxos Classical Archive recording also retains the dialogue – 9.80720/1, from classicsonline.com (£3.98) or stream from Naxos Music Library.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Sonata No.21 in B flat, D960

Schubert’s final piano sonata (from his last year, 1828) is one of the greatest works in the keyboard repertoire; the andante sostenuto is among the most heartfelt music, alongside the slow movement of his String Quintet in C. I’ve made some recommendations in earlier Download Roundups but I thought it might be helpful if I summed up my thoughts, added a few more recommendations and, in some cases, updated references to where the recordings might be found. Apologies if I’ve missed your favourite version.

There have been several transcriptions of the recording by Artur Schnabel. The most reliable is probably that on an EMI Icon 8-CD set, 2650642Artur Schnabel (Scholar of the Piano). The recording is inevitably a bit sub-fusc, but very good for its age (rec. January 1939) and there is almost no surface noise. Forget the ‘scholar’ in the title: however well informed, this is heart-felt Schubert and in many ways it still sets the benchmark. Download from hmvdigital.com or stream from Naxos Music Library. Hmvdigital.com and Naxos Music Library also have the 2-CD set from EMI Réferences.

My top recommendation remains with the second-earliest of the recordings under consideration, from Clifford Curzon. Unfortunately, Curzon’s recorded Decca œuvre now seems to have been almost entirely wiped out by Universal, even including the multi-CD album on which his D960 was coupled with an equally wonderful version of the Dvořák Piano Quintet. Fortunately deutschegrammophon.com still offer as a download that 5-CD set of Curzon’s Decca recordings, 1941-72: Volume 2 (475 0842) 4 CDs for £15.49 (mp3) or £18.99 (lossless).

Beulah have also done a great deal to keep Curzon’s flag flying, with his Grieg Piano Concerto (the earlier version with Fistoulari, 6-8BX7 – see October 2011/1 Roundup), Mozart Piano Concerto No.23 (with Boyd Neel, 1-3BX101 – see January 2011 Roundup) and the Schubert Trout Quintet (with Vienna Octet, 1-3BX41 – Reissue of the Month, August 2010 Roundup).

Alfred Brendel recorded the Schubert sonatas several times. His first recordings were for Vox and Vanguard; though I don’t believe that he recorded D960 for either, Sonatas 16, 19, 20 and the Wanderer Fantasy have been reissued at budget price on Vanguard ATM-CD-1209 (from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library) and Nos. 15, 19 and the German Dances, D783, also at budget price, are on Musical Concepts Alto ALC1040 (again from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library).

At the other end of Brendel’s career he chose D960 for his farewell concerts (Decca 478 2116, 2 CDs – see review by Dominy Clements). Between the Vanguard and Decca recordings came a 1972 analogue recording, formerly available with the Wanderer Fantasy on Philips at mid price (420 6442). That’s no longer available, except as a download from amazon.co.uk or hmvdigital.com – a pity, because in many respects it remains my favourite recording and it still sounds very well. The same recording comes with Sonatas 19 and 20 and the Klavierstücke D926 on an inexpensive Decca Duo 438 7032 (from hmvdigital.com or in lossless sound from deutschegrammophon.com).

In all his recordings Brendel omits the first movement repeat, the importance of which Stephen Hough stresses in the notes to his own recording (Hyperion CDA67027 – see below), but in every other respect it’s to the 1972 Brendel version that I turn most often. He takes a little longer over each movement in his farewell version, thereby adding a little gravitas, especially to the first; I could happily live with either version. Avoid Brendel only if you are averse to his employment of rubato or you can’t live with the retention of applause. Listen to the farewell concert from Spotify and you’ll find it hard to resist buying it (hmvdigital.com).

There are two other Brendel recordings to consider – a studio digital remake (on a single CD with the Wanderer, 422 0622, mp3 from hmvdigital.com or mp3 and lossless from deutschegrammophon.com, or in Schubert Piano Works 1822-1828, 478 2622, 7 CDs at budget price from hmvdigital.com or in lossless quality from deutschegrammophon.com) and the live Festival Hall recording from 1997 which forms part of his 80th Birthday tribute Alfred Brendel plays Schubert, 2 CDs – see review – also inexpensively from hmvdigital.com and in lossless flac from deutschegrammophon.com).

Hyperion have two excellent recordings of this sonata: the first from Stephen Kovacevich (CDA66004), who re-recorded the work for EMI, and Stephen Hough (CDA67027) – both reviewed in my February 2010 Roundup. The Kovacevich version is offered alone at an attractive price of £4.99; the Hough comes with D613 and D784 at the regular £7.99 for mp3 and lossless.

Not the least of the virtues of the Kovacevich recording is the fact that he takes the first movement repeat – why did Schubert write a 9-bar lead in if he didn’t want the repeat? He does so again on his more recent EMI recording, where the sonata is coupled with the Allegretto, D915 and Moments musicaux, D780. Stream from the Naxos Music Library, but don’t hit the classicsonline.com purchase button which will take you to an asking price of £7.99. Instead you should choose their download – here – of the more recent, less expensive reissue on the EMI Recommends label at £5.99. If anything, this is even finer than the Hyperion.

Characteristically, András Schiff also takes the first-movement repeat on an inexpensive 2-CD set of Sonatas 19-21 and Impromptus D899 (Double Decca 475 1842 – rec.1990-93). Normally around £9 on CD, one dealer has a special offer price of £5.75 for this series at the moment. Otherwise download from hmvdigital.com for £7.49 or in lossless from deutschegrammophon.com for £11.99. His account of this movement highlights the contrast between the dramatic and inward sections in a way suggestive of Schumann’s Eusebius and Florestan. I enjoyed Schiff’s way with this sonata – his Bösendorfer is well suited to the music and, like everything that he plays, the performance comes from the heart, especially in the second movement – but ultimately I have to rule it out because of the gear-changes in the first movement, which I think many will find off-putting, though at least one reviewer has awarded full marks. Try it from Spotify – use the free version if you can stand the inter-track ads – and if you like it you may even consider investing in Schiff’s 9-CD set of Schubert Sonatas and Impromptus; you can sample that, too, from Spotify. It’s £19.99 from hmvdigital.com. When first released, the recording was criticised for placing the piano too distantly, but I didn’t find that a problem.

David Levine offers the last two sonatas on an inexpensive Virgin Classics Virgo recording (699538-2) which I reviewed on CD. It’s not at all bad, but just not special enough for this music – see review.

I haven’t been able to hear Mitsuko Uchida, but her Schubert has received considerable praise. Deutschegrammophon.com offer her complete recordings of the sonatas and other works (8 CDs) on 475 6281 for £21.29 or £25.99 (mp3/flac). That’s less than amazon.co.uk and considerably less than hmvdigital.com. Nor have I been able to listen to Wilhelm Kempff, whose Beethoven I still rate with the greats; I see that Colin Clarke was less than enamoured of his version of D960. Complete sonatas on 7 CDs, 463 7662 (in lossless flac only, no mp3) from deutschegrammophon.com.

Leif Ove Andsnes originally recorded the late sonatas (Nos. 17, 19-21) in tandem with Schubert Lieder, still available at full price, but his recordings have also been rearranged on two budget-price CDs (EMI 5164482review). Like Kovacevich, Andsnes takes the first movement repeat – whether by luck or design their timings for the movement are almost identical – and, though Andsnes sounds a little episodic in places, this is another version well worth considering, especially if you want the three other sonatas and the price is tempting. His slow movement is one of the most intense versions of this affective music. Sainsbury’s, who have recently entered the download business, offer the set in full 320kb/s mp3 for a tempting £2.99 – sainsburysentertainment.co.uk. hmvdigital.com charge only a little more at £3.49 – also superb value. Stream it from the Naxos Music Library but don’t hit the classicsonline.com purchase button unless their price has tumbled well below the £14.99 that I found when I checked.

Imogen Cooper performed the Schubert sonatas at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The results were played by the BBC on Radio 3 and licensed by them to Avie who released them in three 2-CD volumes. D960 features on Volume 3, AV2158, along with Sonatas 14 and 15, 12 German Dances, D790, and 4 Impromptus, D899 – see review by Bob Briggs of live concert. Download from classicsonline.com with booklet.

The piano tone is slightly harsher, less gratifying than, say, any of the Brendel recordings, but that’s not a major problem; the ear soon adjusts. In direct comparison with any of the Brendel recordings, the first movement weighs in a trifle on the heavy side at 15:59 – around a minute slower – which makes her approach sound more studied. I didn’t think this a problem when I first heard this recording on its own, so you may not think that it matters when the other movements are superb, but it does now make me wonder if a recording with which I was initially very much taken quite deserves the top spot. Like Mark Sealey – review – I shall still return to Cooper’s Schubert, however. There’s no first movement repeat and this recording retains brief applause after each work.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
An die Entfernte D765 [3:14]
Auf dem Wasser zu singen D774 [3:24]
Der Schiffer D536 [1:49]
Der Wanderer D649 [3:48]
Nachtgesang D314 [3:56]
Das Zügenglöcklein D871 [3:54]
Der Jüngling und der Tod D545 [4:08]
Das Heimweh D456 [1:23]
Das Lied im Grünen D917 [5:04]
Der Tod und das Mädchen D531 [2:29]
Der Winterabend D938 [7:22]
Der zürnende Barde D785 [1:45]
Der Strom D565 [1:37]
Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen D343 [3:36]
Sei mir gegrüsst D741 [3:56]
Du bist die Ruh D776 [4:17]
Heidenröslein D257 [1:47]
Ständchen, ‘Horch! Horch! die Lerch’ D889 [3:56]
Der Jüngling an der Quelle D300 [1:33]
Die Forelle D550 [2:01]
Der Erlkönig D328 [4:03]
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone); Gerald Moore (piano)
EMI ENCORE 5747542 [69:00] – from hmvdigital.com (mp3)

How best to complete my self-imposed task of commemorating Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who died on the 18th May 2012, with just one recording? The answer had to involve Schubert, so I could have cheated and recommended the DG complete Lieder edition – 477 8989, 21 CDs, available to download from deutschegrammophon.com for an unbelievably inexpensive £23.49 (mp3) or £27.49 (lossless flac). More realistically, I decided to choose a single-CD collection and, as I’d already recommended a recital of the Goethe Lieder, mostly with Jörg Demus (DG Originals 457 7472: January 2010 Roundup), I chose this EMI collection with Gerald Moore, partly because there are only two works which duplicate that earlier recommendation. Either accompanist – or Daniel Barenboim or Alfred Brendel – would have done very well, but Fischer-Dieskau and Moore seemed to go together like hand in glove.

With the virtual disappearance of the EMI Encore label – some dealers still seem to have this album – downloading is the best option. Hmvdigital.com have several versions of this download, all at the full 320kb/s, and some at £7.99; go for the one to which I’ve given the link above, at a very reasonable £3.49. Ignore the passionato.com link for the DG recording – they are no longer in the download business – go to hmvdigital.com for the mp3 (£4.99) or to deutschegrammophon.com for lossless (£8.99).

Rutland BOUGHTON (1878-1960)
Three Folk Dances (1911) [5:44]
Aylesbury Games (1952) [22:20]
Flute Concerto in D (1937) [5:20]
Concerto for String Orchestra (1937) [31:58]
Emily Beynon (flute)
New London Orchestra/Ronald Corp – rec. 2000. DDD
HYPERION CDA67185 [73:03] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)

This is one of my regular pleas for an attractive premiere recording that has fallen on hard times and was in Hyperion’s ‘please buy me’ slot when I wrote this. Remember to check that and the ‘bargain basement’ regularly. The music is congenial and lyrical – Rob Barnett aptly called it graceful rather than dramatic: review – but it should have a wide appeal and certainly doesn’t deserve to be relegated to the waifs and strays. Excellent performances and recording and the Hyperion notes are, as always, generous in proportion.

Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Concerto for Orchestra, BB 123 (1943) [37:57]
Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, BB114 (1936 [29:29]
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop – rec. 2009 and 2010. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.572486 [67:27] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

I’m beginning to think that Marin Alsop is infallible. This was a strong contender for the Download of the Month slot – as fine a performance of these two works as any that I’ve heard, including both Solti versions (Decca), Reiner (Sony from RCA) and Iván Fischer (Philips)*. I think there’s no need to look any further unless you insist on lossless sound, in which case you’ll have to wait until classicsonline.com start to offer flac downloads (as promised) or until eclassical.com take this Naxos recording under their wing, as I presume they will. Most will be perfectly happy with the very good mp3 transfer. The booklet is included with the deal and contains notes written with his usual authority by Keith Anderson – brief but to the point. Good value, too, at £4.99 now that most dealers have pushed Naxos CD prices up into the lower-mid-price category.

* 3-disc set, 475 7684, not available on CD: download in mp3 or lossless from deutschegrammophon.com. (See June 2010 Roundup).

Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947)
Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 61, À Willem Mengelberg ed all’orchestra del Concertgebouw di
Amsterdam
(1937) [26:55]
A notte alta, Op. 30, Poema musicale per Pianoforte ed Orchestra, À Yvonne (1921)* [19:53] Symphonic Fragments from La donna serpente, Op. 50 (1932) [26:16]
First Series: À Fritz Reiner
Second Series: À Bernardino Molinari
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda
rec. 5 August 22 and 23 November 2011, MediaCity UK, Salford. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
CHANDOS CHAN10712 [72:37] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16-bit lossless & 24/96 Studio)

One of my most significant discoveries of recent years has been the music of Alfredo Casella; long neglected it’s been championed by Francesco La Vecchia, whose fine Naxos recordings of the first two symphonies impressed me so, and Gianandrea Noseda. The latter’s account of the quasi-Mahlerian Second Symphony and Scarlattiana is nothing short of stupendous, especially in its 24-bit Studio version (review). Virile, imaginative scoring and a strong, sure grasp of his material gives Casella’s œuvre a potency and pull that both these conductors exploit to the utmost.

Chandos have followed up their first triumph with this intriguing collection, starting with the Concerto for Orchestra. Seconds into this fizzing, virtuosic score it’s hard to believe this is a premiere recording. Dedicated to Willem Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw on their 50th anniversary it has all the hallmarks of Casella’s symphonies; it’s big, bold and cuts a dashing figure. The BBC Philharmonic play their hearts out for Noseda, relishing the endless invention, colour and mood swings of this terrific piece.

I was a little concerned that the orchestra’s new recording venue – MediaCity UK in Salford – would put the dampers on this concert, as it seems to have done with Juanjo Mena’s de Falla (review). I’m delighted to say the sound here is excellent, with plenty of weight and ‘air’, individual timbres very well rendered. And in a work that could so easily succumb to prolixity it’s good that Noseda has such a firm hold on the reins; he draws crisp, animated playing from his band, especially in the concerto’s propulsive third section. It’s all so taut and muscular, with a festive coda that any orchestra would die for.

A notte alta, or ‘deepest night’, is an autobiographical piece dedicated to a student, Yvonne Müller, who went on to become the second Mrs Casella. As Gerald Larner points out in his detailed notes, the piece was originally written for solo piano in 1917, the version for piano and orchestra penned for a US tour in 1921. Sun Hee You gives a good performance of this on Naxos 8.572414review – although the piano plays a fairly minor role in this strange, unsettled piece.

From its quiet, gong-tormented introduction to its Debussian flourishes on the piano A notte alta displays an economy of style that’s most impressive. And although its deeply personal nature invites introversion and self-pity there’s a surprising degree of nuance, of light and shade, Roscoe’s restless figures bright pinpricks in the gloom. The recording is atmospheric, those Letheward-sinking pizzicati superbly caught. It’s a gem of a piece, raw emotions artfully distilled and sensitively voiced. Make no mistake, the Naxos version of A notte alta is good, but this newcomer has an added coherence and polish that’s even more compelling.

The two sets of symphonic fragments from Casella’s short-lived opera, The Serpent Woman, are most elegantly scored; also, the transparent recording brings out so much inner detail. As Gerald Larner says in the booklet it’s not really important to know the details of the opera, as these fragments have all the strength and flair required of stand-alone works. They certainly aren’t lacking in incident, but it would be idle to pretend they’re in the same class as the symphonies or the concerto. The second series is the more brilliant and extrovert of the two, culminating in a thrilling if somewhat overworked finale. As ever, Noseda proves an emphatic and persuasive advocate, and I doubt you’ll hear this music played with as much affection and insight as it is here.

Another welcome addition to the Casella discography, and a sonic spectacular to boot. Throw in informative and very readable liner-notes and you a have a quality package that’s well worth your time and hard-earned shekels.

Dan Morgan
http://twitter.com/mahlerei

Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950)
Cello Concerto (1945) [30:30]
Cello Sonata in a minor (1948) [25:11]
Prelude for cello and piano (1944) [4:40]
Peers Coetmore (cello)
Eric Parkin (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec. 1969. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.299 [60:25] – from emusic.com (mp3)

[see reviews by Rob Barnett – here – John France – here – and Ewan McCormick – here.]

Violin Concerto (dedicated to Arthur Catterall)*‡ [33:18]
Lonely Waters (dedicated to Ralph Vaughan Williams)‡ 9:19
Whythorne’s Shadow (dedicated to Anthony Bernard)‡ [6:30]
Cello Concerto† [28:41]
Lydia Mordkovitch (violin)*
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)†
Ulster Orchestra‡
Bournemouth Sinfonietta†
Vernon Handley‡
Norman Del Mar† – rec.1985, 1987 and 1989. DDD.
CHAN10168 [78:03] – from theclasicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

For all the shortcomings of Peers Coetmore’s handling of the solo, as outlined by EMc, this is a very special recording; it’s not every day that we get to hear a concerto performed by the composer’s widow, especially when the work was composed to celebrate their marriage. It’s best to overlook the blemishes, as RB and JF did in their reviews and to regard this as a complementary recording to the Chandos with Raphael Wallfisch which I recommended in the February 2009 Roundup (CHAN10168 – with Violin Concerto, etc – details repeated above); that’s very special, too, not least because it comes at an attractive price (£4.99/£7.99 for mp3/lossless) and couples the two concertos.

The emusic.com download costs just £2.10 and comes at the usual variably (mostly low, below 192 kb/s) bit-rate but sounds perfectly adequate.

Having read Rob Barnett’s review of the new Dutton recording of Martin Yates’ realisation of Moeran’s sketches for the second symphony, I’m looking forward to obtaining that on download. It doesn’t seem to be available at the time of writing but I’ve pencilled in its first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 from the Dorchester Festival on the first of June.

Gerald FINZI (1901-1956) Some Recommendations

For no particular reason – no anniversary is pending and I haven’t yet heard Mark Padmore’s new Britten and Finzi (Dies natalis) on Harmonia Mundi – the spirit moved me to make some recommendations for the music of Gerald Finzi. I have not aimed at a comprehensive survey – you’ll find a MusicWeb International discography here – just some of the recordings that I like of music that strikes a real chord.

Cello Concerto in a minor, Op.40 (1956) [39:10]
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley – rec. 1986. DDD
Prelude for string orchestra, Op.25 [5:00]
Romance for string orchestra, Op.11 [7:52]
Concerto for small orchestra and solo violin (1925-1927)† [20:05]
Tasmin Little (violin)†
City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox – rec. 1999. DDD.
Pdf booklet available
CHANDOS CLASSICS CHAN10425X [72:07] – from the classicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Clarinet Concerto in c minor, Op.31 (1949)* [29:19]
Cello Concerto in a minor, Op.40 (1956)** [41:06]
John Denman (clarinet); Yo-Yo Ma (cello); New Philharmonia Orchestra*; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra**/Vernon Handley – rec. 1977, 1979. ADD.
LYRITA SRCD.236 [70:25] – from emusic.com or amazon.co.uk (mp3)

[see review by Rob Barnett and review by Dominy Clements.]

The perennial problem of coupling bedevils recommendations for the Cello Concerto. That on CHAN10425X has the advantage of also offering the Violin Concerto; both soloists are excellent, well supported and recorded in very good DDD sound. The price is right, too (£6.00 for mp3, £7.99 for lossless) and there’s even a 24-bit option at £15.99. Confusingly, Wallfisch’s recording is also available coupled with Kenneth Leighton’s Cello Concerto on CHAN9949 (mp3 and lossless) and in its original coupling with Leighton’s Suite Veris Gratia on CHAN8471 (mp3 and lossless), both still at full price.

The Chandos would be my clear recommendation were it not that Yo Yo Ma’s recording of the Cello Concerto on SRCD.236 is very special – made at the start of his career in a work to which he has never returned in the recording studio. It’s worth buying even if you already have or intend to purchase one of the several other versions of the Clarinet Concerto.

The emusic.com download of the Lyrita is good value at £2.52 or less. It’s no match for the Chandos from their own theclassicalshop.net, yet, though the transfer has been made at an extremely low bit-level of around 180kb/s the result sounds quite acceptable. Non-members will find the amazon.co.uk version a more reasonable substitute at £7.49 than the hmvdigital.com (192 kb/s only) for £7.99.

Concerto for Clarinet and Strings in c minor, Op.31 (1949) [27:31]
5 Bagatelles for clarinet and piano, Op.23 [15:25]
Emma Johnson (clarinet); Malcolm Martineau (piano); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Groves – rec. 1992. DDD.
(with Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) Clarinet Concerto in a minor, Op.80 [21:04]; 3 Intermezzi for clarinet and piano, Op.13 [8:35])
ASV CDDCA787 [72:36] – see August 2009 Roundup

Concerto for Clarinet and Strings in c minor, Op.31 (1949) [21:30]
Dame Thea King (clarinet); Philharmonia Orchestra/Alun Francis – rec.1979. DDD.
(with Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852 -1924) Clarinet Concerto in a minor, Op.80 [27:38])
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55101 [48:56] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless) – see September 2010 Roundup, Hyperion Top 30 and review by Christopher Howell

If you choose the Lyrita recording of the Cello Concerto, the Clarinet Concerto comes as a welcome bonus.

I thought Emma Johnson’s ASV recording very competitive in 2009. It’s still available on CD for around £8.50 but the passionato.com link no longer works – no more downloads from that source – and the replacement from hmvdigital.com, at £7.49, is only a little less expensive than the CD. (£5.99 from amazon.co.uk if you don’t mind the lower, 256kbs bit-rate.) The same recording is also available, again from hmvdigital.com, on a Classic FM album, where it’s coupled with Ian Bostridge in Dies Natalis.

At £5.99 (mp3 and lossless), the Hyperion album is shorter but less expensive and the booklet comes as part of the deal. If you decide to go for one of the Wallfisch couplings of the Cello Concerto, this is well worth having – slightly more business-like than either Denman or Johnson, but by no means brusque. In fact, even if you have chosen the Lyrita, it’s worth duplicating the Clarinet Concerto in this version or Emma Johnson’s for the sake of the under-rated Stanford coupling on both recordings.

There’s an interesting coupling of the Finzi and Copland Clarinet Concertos, with the chamber version of Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite on Somm SOMMCD244, available from theclassicalshop.net in mp3 and lossless sound (Sarah Williamson, Orchestra of the Swan/David Curtis). Bob Briggs thought it an interesting attempt – review – but far preferred John Denman (Lyrita, above).

Concerto for small orchestra and solo violin (1925-1927)

As well as the coupling with the Cello Concerto (above), Tasmin Little’s account of the Violin Concerto is available at full price with the Prelude and Romance and orchestrations of some of Finzi’s songs, sung by John Mark Ainsley on CHAN9888 – see review by Rob Barnett.

A Severn Rhapsody, Op. 5 (1923) [6:14]
Nocturne, Op. 7 (c.1925) [10:23]
Three Soliloquies for small orchestra (1946): (Grazioso[1.40]; Adagio [1.40]; Allegretto [1:19])
Romance for string orchestra, Op.11 (1928) [8:08]
Prelude for string orchestra, Op.25 (date uncertain) [5:16]
Introit for small orchestra and solo violin, Op.6 (1925) [9:48]
The Fall of a Leaf – Elegy for Orchestra Op.25 [9:14]
Eclogue for piano and orchestra (1956) [10:33]
Grand Fantasia and Toccata for piano and orchestra (1953) [15:14]
Rodney Friend (violin), Peter Katin (piano); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult or New Philharmonia Orchestra/Vernon Handley (Eclogue, Fantasia)
rec. 1978 (Boult); 1977 (Handley), venues not given. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.239 [79:26] – from emusic.com (mp3) – reviewed in January 2010 Roundup
[See also reviews by Rob Barnett and Gary Higginson]

This is a generous selection of beautiful music, excellently performed, well recorded, good value for £4.62 or less, and sounding well in mp3 format, even though the bit-rate falls even below the 192kb/s now usually regarded as a bare minimum. There are some fine recordings of the Eclogue, including that coupled with Ferguson’s Piano Concerto and other pieces on Somm, SOMMCD241, which I reviewed, on CD, but none to excel the performance here – it avoids the slightly over-placid nature of Mark Bebbington’s performance on that newer recording. Introit is a surviving fragment from the Violin Concerto, still worth hearing even though the original work has been reconstructed on the Chandos recording (above) – as Rob Barnett points out in his review of the latter, the two sound quite different.

Gerald FINZI (1901-1956) Dies Natalis, Op.8 (1939) [26:00]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Les Illuminations, Op.18 [22:59]
Quatre chansons françaises [13:24]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934) A Late Lark [5:20]
Susan Gritton (soprano); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner – rec. 2009. DDD
English texts and French texts with English translations included in pdf booklet
CHANDOS CHAN10590 [68:15] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

Dies Natalis for tenor solo and string orchestra, Op 8 (1939) [24:20]
Intimations of Immortality – Ode for tenor solo, chorus and orchestra, Op 29 () [42:15]
John Mark Ainsley (tenor)
Corydon Singers; Corydon Orchestra/Matthew Best – rec. 1996. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts included.
HYPERION CDA66876 [66:55] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)

Traherne’s Centuries, which furnished the text of the opening Intrada of Dies Natalis – an account of his magical childhood, in Wordsworthian terms long before Wordsworth – had only recently been discovered and literally rescued from the flames when Finzi set this selection. Finzi’s setting is just perfect; it’s not just because I got to know it before I heard his Intimations of Immortality that I prefer it, though I yield to none in my love of Wordsworth.

John Quinn had issues with Susan Gritton’s diction and vibrato, issues which I regret that, on reflection, I share to the extent that this rules out for me what I had hoped might be as definitive a soprano take on the wonderful Dies Natalis as the tenor versions. I was too forgiving of these faults when I reviewed her recording in the June 2010 Roundup, perhaps unduly influenced by the fact that she brings more life and colour to the music than John Mark Ainsley, who is a little lacking in these qualities. Re-hearing them both, I now prefer the Hyperion, which also comes with a pdf booklet of texts and couples the Immortality Ode.

I still prefer Wilfred Brown’s ground-breaking recording with the ECO and Christopher Finzi to both. The most succinct of all the recordings, yet without sounding hurried, it’s still available on an attractive budget-price 5-CD set of English Song (EMI 6805132) and on another 5-CD set of Bax, Finzi, Vaughan Williams and Holst (EMI 0954332 – see review by Rob Barnett) – both around £20 in the UK. The English Song collection comes at an advantageous price of £14.99 from classicsonline.com (5099968051358), but their download of the other collection is uncompetitive with the CDs at the time of writing. Try them both from the Naxos Music Library. See also my December 2011/1 Roundup.

Gerald FINZI
Romance, Op.11 [8:09]
Dies Natalis, Op.8 (1939) [26:41]
William WALTON (1902-1983) String Sonata (from String Quartet, 1947) [28:17]
Toby Spence (tenor); Scottish Chamber Ensemble – rec. live 2007. DDD.
WIGMORE HALL LIVE WHL0021 [63:07] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

The two multi-CD collections which contain Wilfred Brown’s Dies Natalis work out at around £4 or less per disc, but if you if you don’t wish to dip in so deeply, this Wigmore Hall collection can be had for just £4.99 from classicsonline.com. (More from other download suppliers.) The Scottish Chamber Ensemble open with a tender account of the beautiful Romance, a fine curtain-raiser for Toby Spence in Dies Natalis. There is applause -fairly lengthy – which I know some find off-putting, though I think it’s part of the package of a live recording.

The orchestral opening of Dies is equally delicate, foreshadowing the mystic nature of the words to come, so it’s something of a shame that when the voice enters Toby Spence is a little too forthright, a little too keen to make us understand the meaning. His diction, unlike Susan Gritton’s is exemplary, but ideally the music needs a mid point between Spence’s emphasis and Ainsley’s slightly bland approach – and that mid point was struck by Wilfred Brown. Nevertheless, though I heard Spence at the end of a long line of comparative recordings, I still found a great deal to enjoy here. Though Robert Hugill mentioned this recording in his review of the Naxos Dies Natalis, it seems to have slipped through our net, so I’m pleased to catch it now, even if I can’t wholly recommend it. Try it from the Naxos Music Library if you can – you may agree with the reviewer who thought Spence’s Dies sensitive or another who thought it rather special. There’s no booklet but you won’t need it – the words are crystal clear.

Gerald FINZI
Dies Natalis (1939) [26:16]
Prelude for String Orchestra (1929) [4:36]
The Fall of the Leaf (Elegy) (compl. Howard Ferguson) (1929) [9:34]
Two Sonnets for Tenor and Orchestra (1928) [7:37]
Nocturne (New Year Music) (1928, rev. 1940s) [9:39]
Farewell to Arms (1926-8, 1940s) [9:01]
James Gilchrist (tenor); Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/David Hill – rec 2007. DDD
Pdf booklet. No texts – these are available online.
NAXOS 8.570417 [66:40] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

This recording received a pretty good press, not least from our three reviewers Rob Barnett, Michael Cookson and Robert Hugill. I was a little put off by the sentimental cover picture – Traherne and Finzi are not sentimental, but that’s no great matter. The orchestral opening is a little less magical than that on the Wigmore Hall recording, but it’s the soloist who makes or breaks the performance and James Gilchrist makes a good impression from the start – a little more emphatic than Wilfred Brown, but less so than Toby Spence. The coupling, all-Finzi, may be more to your liking, too, than the Walton which concludes the Wigmore Hall recording, attractive though that is. Almost inevitably, however, these additional Finzi works do overlap with some other available recordings.

This could well be the modern single-disc equivalent of the Brown/EMI recording and, at £4.99, it’s as economically priced as a download from classicsonline.com as the Wigmore Hall version. Don’t even consider paying more to download this or any other Naxos recording than from classicsonline.com at £4.99, unless it be to obtain a lossless version from eclassical.com – and they don’t have the Finzi at the time of writing.

Gordon LANGFORD (b.1930) Orchestral Classics
Fanfare and Ceremonial Prelude (1981/1995) [4:34]
Concertino for Trumpet and Orchestra (1979) [11:37]
Four movements for String Orchestra (1965) [16:14]
A Song for all seasons – A Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra (1997) [11:48]
First Suite of Dances (1973) [14:01)
Greenways (1970) [3:30]
Spirit of London (overture) (1965) [6:43]
The Hippodrome Waltz (1988) [3:10]
Pastorale (1996) from Colour Suite [3:08]
March (1966) from Colour Suite [3:18]
Crispian Steele-Perkins (trumpet); William Stephenson (piano)
BBC Concert Orchestra/Rumon Gamba – rec. 2003. DDD
Pdf booklet available
CHANDOS CHAN10115 [79:04] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

[‘Chandos are to be congratulated for recording this disc. I hope that it will encourage further issues. Rumon Gamba is a true champion of “light music”, though it is my opinion that such a description of the music on this disc is entirely inappropriate.’ See review by Steve Arloff.]

This is light-classical music at its very best – I use the term despite Steve Arloff’s disapproval, for lack of a better, without meaning to belittle its value. There’s as much a place for this repertoire in my book as there is for the high art of the renaissance, baroque, classical and romantic periods. If you like the two recordings which I’ve made my discovery of the month, Chandos have plenty of wonderful CDs and downloads such as this that you could move on to. Rumon Gamba is at the helm of many of these and I doubt you could find a better advocate for the music here. The lossless sound is excellent.

In brief

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op.30 (1895-1896) [29:56]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) The Planets, Op.32/H.125 (1914-1916) [45:58]
Boston Symphony Orchestra/William Steinberg – rec. 1970-1971. ADD
Pdf cover art; no booklet
LINN/UNIVERSAL UNI016 [75:54] – from linnrecords.com (mp3, 16-bit lossless and 24-bit Studio Master)

So pleased was Dan Morgan with this that he not only made it his Download of the Month, he also couldn’t wait for the next Download Roundup, so reviewed it in the main pages of MusicWeb International – here. I didn’t have time to obtain the 24-bit version from Linn, but even as heard in mp3, this is a stupendous recording.