Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Prιalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallι
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

Download News 2012/20

Brian Wilson

Download News 2012/19 is here; earlier Download Roundups are indexed here.

Update information
The Carus recording of Johann Hermann SCHEIN Israelsbrünnlein which I recommended in the September 2012/1 Roundup (83.350) is now available from eclassical.com in lossless as well as mp3; at $16.97 for 2 CDs, it’s actually less expensive than the classicsonline.com version which I reviewed – that costs £15.98 and comes in (good) mp3 only. Neither download offers the texts. Similarly, the Heinrich BIBER Vesperæ longiores ac breviores (Carus 83.348 – August 2011/2 Roundup) also comes now in lossless sound from eclassical.com at $10.71 – again slightly less expensive than the mp3-only classicsonline.com download which I reviewed.

Freebies of the Month

From the Heart
Patricia Van NESS
My Heart is a Holy Place [4.04]
Graham LACK Conceit [3.46]
John BRUNNING, arr. Philip LAWSON Pie Jesu [3.18]
Sinead LOHAN/Nickel CREEK, arr. Philip LAWSON Out of the Woods [4.15]
Leonard COHEN, arr. Philip LAWSON Hallelujah [5.04]
The King’s Singers (David Hurley, Timothy Wayne-Wright (countertenor); Paul Phoenix (tenor); Philip Lawson, Christopher Gabbitas (baritone); Stephen Connolly (bass) – rec.2010. DDD
SIGNUM SIGCD177 [20:29] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

This is the latest free download offered in mp3 to subscribers to theclassicalshop.net newsletter. If you haven’t yet signed up for this free service, why not do so?

Don’t forget, too, the monthly free samplers which Hyperion have been releasing for some time now. The October sampler includes excerpts from Mendelssohn’s Violin Concertos (yes, plural or, for classicists, dual – see below), Byrd’s Great Service (see Download News 2012/19: here), Britten’s St Nicolas – see below – Angela Hewitt in Debussy – see below – Schumann’s Liederkreis, music by Liszt for cello and piano, a movement from a Vivaldi concerto – see August 2012/2 Roundup – and St Paul’s Cathedral Choir singing music for Advent – see below. (The sampler is HYP201210 [36:49]).

***

Percival’s Lament: Medieval Music and the Holy Grail
TANNHÄUSER (fl. mid-13th century)
Staeter dienest, der ist guot [5:25]
Wolfram von ESCHENBACH (fl. c. 1170-1220) Wolframs goldener Ton (Instrumental) [2:30]
Chrétien de TROYES (fl. c. 1160-1190) D’amors, qui m’a tolu a moi [5:01]
Rigaut de BERBEZILH (fl. 1140-1162) Atressi com Persavaus el temps que vivia (Instrumental) [5:57]
Wolfram von ESCHENBACH (?) Was sol ein keyser ône recht? [4:03]
Anonymous English (c. 1270) Fowles in the frith [1:50]
Chrétien de TROYES Percival’s Lament (D’amors, qui m’a tolu) (Instrumental) [3:49]
Walther von der VOGELWEIDE (c. 1200) Under der linden (Instrumental) [2:46]
Hildegard von BINGEN (1098-1179) Karitas habundat [3:12]
Walther von der VOGELWEIDE Palästinalied [5:27]
Walther von der VOGELWEIDE Laus Trinitati [2:32]
Anonymous French (13th century) La Ultime Estampie Royale (Instrumental) [3:43]
Wolfram von ESCHENBACH (?) Do man dem edelen sîn gezelt [5:33]
Walther von der VOGELWEIDE Ich saz ûf eime steine [2:36]
Capilla Antigua de Chinchilla /José Ferrero – rec. August/September 2011. DDD
Pdf booklet included. No texts – available online at http://www.naxos.com/sharedfiles/PDF/8.572800_sungtext.pdf.
NAXOS 8.572800 [54:25] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

A minor grumble first: very little of the music here is in any way linked to the Grail legend or with Percival, the hero of that legend, so the title is no more than a peg on which to hang the programme, perhaps with an eye to enticing Indiana Jones fans. Even Percival’s lament (track 2) which gives its name to the collection is a courtly love poem with no connection to the Grail legend other than its supposed author.

Everything here is, however, roughly from the period in which the Grail legend and the related stories of King Arthur and Tristan and Isolde grew and flourished. The texts are in Occitan, the medieval language of Provence in which the trouvères wrote, Old (Northern) French, the language of the troubadours, Middle High German, that of the Minnesänger and, in the case of Abbess Hildegard’s hymn in praise of the Trinity, Latin. The vocal works are interspersed with instrumental items.

The names of the first two composers will be familiar to those who know Wagner’s Tannhäuser – yes, he and Wolfram von Eschenbach did actually exist, though it’s highly unlikely that Tannhäuser had any dealing with Venus or went on a pilgrimage to Rome, a legend based very loosely on his Bußlied: Song or Poem of Atonement.

Wolfram translated Chrétien de Troyes’ account of Percival and the Grail into German but his three works here are quite unrelated to that translation, Parzival. His most famous piece, his goldener Ton is given on track 2 in instrumental form and leads into a rendition of Chrétien’s Lament of Percival which is given again in instrumental form on track 7.

It’s a shame that Walter von der Vogelweide’s well known Under der linden is given only in instrumental form (tr.8). Walter was, of course, another of the Minnesänger supposedly involved in Tannhäuser’s Wartburg contest; in many ways he is the most sympathetic of that group to modern readers, especially his Ich saz ûf eime steine (‘I sat upon a stone’ tr.14) in which, in Romantic fashion, he sits solitary and contemplates the meaning of life.

I hadn’t encountered the Capilla Antigua de Chinchilla or their director Jose Ferrero before, though they have made two other recordings for Naxos: Endechar – Sephardic Music (8.572443: Bargain of the Month – see review) and. Tristan’s Harp (8.572784). They acquit themselves well here, though, with all the vocal items supported by an instrumental ensemble, this is not one for the followers of the minimalist Gothic Voices style. There’s room for both approaches; forget about the spurious Grail links and enjoy this recording.

Best of all, it may lead you to explore other recordings of the music of the period, several of them available from Naxos and classicsonline.com. As well as the two recordings which I’ve listed from these performers, there’s a fine recording of the music of Hildegard of Bingen (8.550998, Oxford Camerata/Jeremy Summerly) and a recording of the music of Neidhart, another important Minnesänger not represented on the Percival’s Lament album (8.572449 – see reviewRecording of the Month – and July 2011/1 Roundup).

The music of another Minnesänger, Oswald von Wolkenstein, often regarded as the last of his kind, can be found on Harmonia Mundi HMC902051 (Andreas Scholl), Raumklang RK2901review – and, with music by Neidhart, Eschenbach and Hans Sachs – another musician whom Wagner had no need to invent because he actually existed – on Bridge 9372review.

The texts were not available from the link stated in the booklet – follow instead the link that I’ve given at the head of this review. No translation was given for Chrétien’s D’amors (‘Of love who took me from myself, though she does not wish to retain me in her service’, tr.2) at the time of writing; perhaps one will appear later. There’s no translation, either, of Abbess Hildegard’s Karitas habundat (‘Loving charity abounds everywhere’, tr.9) or Laus Trinitati (‘Praise to the Trinity’, tr.11).

Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525-1594) Palestrina – Volume 2
Hodie Christus natus est [2:32]
Christe, redemptor omnium [8:27]
Magnificat quinti toni [11:38]
Tui sunt cœli [2:53]
Reges Tharsis [2:36]
Missa Hodie Christus natus est [23:31]
From the Song of Songs:
Osculetur me osculo oris sui [3:23]
Trahe me post te [3:24]
Nigra sum sed formosa [3:40]
O magnum mysterium [5:20]
Videntes stellam magi (bonus track: download only) [2:45]
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers – rec. February 2012. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included.
CORO COR16105 [70:15] – from thesixteendigital.com (mp3, aac, 24/96 alac and 24/96 flac) or stream from Naxos Music Library

The first volume of The Sixteen’s projected series of the music of Palestrina contained music for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (COR16095 – see August 2011/1 Roundup). Volume 2 of is a timely offering of music for Advent and Christmas; the two major items are the Magnificat on the fifth tone and the Mass based on the Christmas motet Hodie Christus natus est. As before, the performances are virtually self-recommending though again, as before, there is some stiff opposition in the catalogue.

This time it’s not the Tallis Scholars who provide the main rivalry – they have recorded another Magnificat, on the first tone, and they haven’t recorded the Christmas Mass – but Westminster Cathedral Choir, Music for Advent and Christmas, on Hyperion CDA67396, containing the motet and Mass Hodie Christus natus est and several of the shorter works on the new Coro recording – from hyperion.co.uk in mp3 and lossless. I recommended the Hyperion in the Christmas 2009 Roundup and it remains the ideal choice for those who prefer male voices only; choice between that and the new Coro recording may safely be left to a straight choice between male choristers and a mixed professional ensemble. Both are enthralling: excellent of their kind, well recorded in mp3 and lossless – the Coro in 24/96 format – and both come with first-rate booklets.

The McCreesh recording which I recommended as an alternative in 2009 is no longer available from passionato.com, who have ceased to offer downloads. Deutschegrammophon.com offer it in mp3 and lossless formats.

I reviewed Volume 1 of the Coro Palestrina from the mp3 download from classicsonline.com. It’s now also available from thesixteendigital.com in mp3, aac and lossless flac or alac. Good as the classicsonline.com mp3 is, I can confirm that the lossless equivalent, even though 16-bit in this case rather than the 24-bit versions available for Volume 2, adds a subtle but valuable extra dimension to the sound. The pdf booklet with texts and translations is included.

Machet die Tore weit: Music for Advent and Christmas
Andreas HAMMERSCHMIDT (1611/12-1675)

Machet die Tore weit [1:40]
Meine Seele Gott erhebt [3:20]
Meine Seele erhebt den Herren [5:41]
Fürchtet euch nicht [2:04]
Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe [3:24]
Das Wort ward Fleisch [3:04]
Wo ist der neugeborne König? [4:23]
Das ist je gewisslich wahr [3:01]
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied [2:41]
Alleluja! Freuet euch, ihr Christen [4:12]
Johann ROSENMÜLLER (1619-1684)
Magnificat [13:50]
Gli Scarlattisti/Jochen Arnold – rec.2001 (Rosenmüller) and 2011. DDD
Pdf booklet available from Naxos Music Library – but no texts included
CARUS 83.375 [47:30] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

The short playing time partially militates against this recording – though eclassical.com’s price-per-second policy helps take care of that, surely something more could have been found? As it is, a recording of the Rosenmüller from a decade ago has been resuscitated as a filler. Then there’s the matter of texts – there’s no booklet at all from eclassical.com and that with the classicsonline.com download, also available from the Naxos Music Library, is an abbreviated affair with only three pages. Texts are not too hard to find online – most of the Hammerschmidt works have texts from the Lutheran Bible and the Latin Magnificat is also easy to find, but it shouldn’t be necessary to have to search them out. Look up the Wikipedia article and you’ll even find some scores of his music, including five different editions of Machet die Tore weit.

Grumbling apart, all the music by Hammerschmidt is delightful, from the opening Fling wide the gates, via the German Magnificat and the Christmas texts, Glory be to God on high, The Word became flesh and Where is the newborn King? Like his older contemporary Schütz, he had learned his lesson from the Italian composers of the age, the Gabrielis and Monteverdi.

Rosenmüller, too, was heavily influenced by the music of Italian composers, having been employed at St Mark’s in Venice, no less. His Latin Magnificat would have been equally at home in the Roman rite or on high days and holidays in Lutheran usage. The performances throughout are bright and stylish and the recording is to match. This is well worth considering for something unusual for this Christmas. There’s no direct competition and very little by either composer apart from the odd piece in anthologies.

The most substantial recording of Hammerschmidt’s sacred music is on CPO:

Herr unser Herrscher (1662) [05:35]
Anima mea liquefacta est (1649) [03:34]
Ein jegliches hat seine Zeit (1662) [04:59]
O Domine, quia ego servus tuus sum (1649) [03:23]
Herr, ich habe lieb die Stätte deines Hauses (1662) [04:26]
Christ lag in Todesbanden (1662) [07:12]
Nun danket alle Gott (1662) [04:24]
Wenn der Herr die Gefangenen (1649) [04:22]
Paratum cor meum (1649) [03:12]
Da pacem Domine (1649) [03:37]
Nun lob mein Seel den Herren (1662) [04:53]
De profundis clamavi (1649) [04:04]
Inter brachia Salvatoris mei (1649) [03:47]
Herzlich lieb hab ich dich (1662) [05:39]
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (1662) [04:12]
Vom Himmel hoch (1662) [07:45]
Weser-Renaissance/Manfred Cordes
CPO 999 846-2 [75:06] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

There’s music here for all seasons of the church year, and there’s no overlap with the Advent and Christmas album. Johan van Veen had some minor reservations, mainly concerning the documentation – see review. Defects or not, it’s a pity that we are not given that documentation with the download, but the very reasonable price of £4.99 goes a long way towards making amends. As with the Carus recording, most of the texts are from the Lutheran Bible and fairly easily found online. The singing is marginally less accomplished than on the new Carus recording but still well worth recommending; one of the sopranos is a little too shrill for my taste and the artificial chirping of birds in Herr unser Herrscher sounds terribly contrived.

I’ve included a few more suggestions for the music of Hammerschmidt below, but don’t overlook the inexpensive Hyperion Helios excellent reissue of German 17th Century Church Music (CDH55230) which contains Rosenmüller’s Christum ducemreview.

Christophorus have a selection of secular and sacred music entitled Dialoge, Concerte & Madrigale
Paduan in g (instrumental) [3:55]
Gaillard in g (instrumental) [1:45]
Lobe den Herren, meine Seele [3:44]
Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh [3:22]
Aria in F (instrumental) [1:48]
Gott, es ist mein rechter Ernst [4:10]
Nun treten wir ins neue Jahr [3:50]
Paduan in E (instrumental) [4:18]
Mein Freund ist mein [5:38]
Courente in a (instrumental) [1:55]
Vulnerasti cor meum [3:48]
Aria in g (instrumental) [1:34]
Komm Nordwind du, o Süd steh auf [2:56]
Wie der güldnen Rosen Zier [4:00]
Paduan in a (instrumental) [4:23]
O barmherziger Vater – Motette zu 4 Stimmen [3:15]
Herr, wie lange willst du mein so gar vergessen – Motette zu 5 Stimmen [4:49]
Sei nun wieder zufrieden [2:09]
Herr, nun lässt du deinen Diener im Friede fahren – Motette zu 6 Stimmen [3:54]
Movimento (Nele Gramß (soprano); Harry van Berne (tenor); Veronika Skuplik, Judith Steenbrink (violin); Catherine Aglibut, Klaus Bona (viola); Matthias Müller (violone); Michael Freimuth (lute, chitarrone); Christoph Lehmann (organ) – rec. 2011. DDD
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
CHRISTOPHORUS CHR77344 [65:13] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

You’ll find a review by my MusicWeb International colleague Johan van Veen of a recent concert by Movimento in celebration of Hammerschmidt’s quatercentenary here. That concert combined his music with that of his contemporaries but I think you will find enough in the Christophorus recording to be getting on with; certainly enough to agree with JvV that Movimento have opened yet another accomplished and enjoyable window on the music of this neglected composer. In many respects you will find this a more varied selection than on the Carus and CPO recordings and, though the personnel vary slightly from those that JvV heard in concert, the performances are equally accomplished.

There’s a lossless version from eclassical.com, but that comes without the booklet of texts and translations. On this occasion you may prefer to choose the (good) mp3 download for the sake of the texts. The prices work out about the same whichever you choose.

Verleih uns Frieden: Geistliche Vokalmusik von Andreas Hammerschmidt
(Sacred Choral Music of Andreas Hammerschmidt).
Verleih uns Friede genädiglich (1646) 7:32
Sonata à 5, nr. xix (1650) 3:18
Meine Seele erhebet den Herren (1656) 5:30
Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (1671) 2:54
Sei willkommen Jesulein (1671) 4:33
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebet (1671) 3:27
Ach! Jesus stirbt (1671) 5:23
Ich fahre auf zu meinem Vater (1671) 3:16
Paduan à 5, nr. ii (1650) 3:29
Höret zu, es ging ein Sämann aus zu säen seinen Samen (1655) 6:54
Herr, ich trau auf dich (1641) 3:29
Sei nun wieder zufrieden, meine Seele (1638) 2:09
Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz (1641) 3:12
Gott, mein Herz ist bereit (1641) 4:37
Canzon à 3, nr. xiv (1650) 2:17
Die mit Tränen säen (1652 ?53) 3:39
Sei nun wieder zufrieden, meine Seele (1646) 3:32
Jauchzet dem Herren, alle Welt (1652 ?53) 2:59
Lob- und Danklied aus dem 84. Psalm: Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaoth (1652) [7:04]
Himlische Cantorey
Knabenchor Hannover
Johann Rosenmüller Ensemble/Jörg Breiding – rec. October 2005. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
RONDEAU ROP7001 [79:25] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Rondeau claim this collectively as a world premiere recording; certainly many of the items here don’t seem to appear on any rival version.

The Himlische Cantorey (archaic spelling, Heavenly Singers), founded in 1995, are certainly not misnamed. They already have quite a discography for CPO and Naxos; Johan van Veen made their 2-CD recording of the music of CPE Bach Recording of the Month (CPO 777594-2 review) and they acquit themselves well in the music of Hammerschmidt, with the able assistance of the boys of the Hannover Knabenchor and the instrumentalists of the Johann Rosenmüller Ensemble. With good recording and a very useful and scholarly set of notes, this recording adds in excellent fashion to the availability of Hammerschmidt’s music.

Johann Friedrich FASCH (1688-1758) Orchestral Works, Volume 3

Ouverture in D FWV K:D2 [8:13]
Recorder Concerto in F, FWV L:F deest [8:09]
Concerto in D, FWV L:D8 * [10:00]
Ouverture in F, FWV K:F1 * [20:28]
Lute Concerto in d minor, FWV L:d1 [15:20]
Concerto, FWV L:F3 (Konzertsatz) * [3:24]
* premiere recording
Gwyn Roberts (recorder); Richard Stone (lute)
Tempesta di Mare; Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra/Gwyn Roberts, Richard Stone
Emlyn Ngai (concertmaster)
Pdf booklet available
CHANDOS CHACONNE CHAN0791 [66:20] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Classical Library

If you have tried either or both of the earlier volumes in this series, you won’t need me to tell you that is a delight; music, performances and recording are all of the highest quality and there’s an excellent booklet of notes. Go for it – and volumes 1 (CHAN0751) and 2 (CHAN0783) if you haven’t already done so. Then there are the recordings by il Gardellino (Accent ACC14182 – from classicsonline.com (mp3) and ACC24252 – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)). See November 2011/1 Roundup and December 2011/1 Roundup.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91)
Piano Concerto No. 17 in G, K 453 [26:46]
Piano Concerto No. 26 in D K 537 ‘Coronation Concerto’ [27:31]
Cadenzas: W. A. Mozart (K 453), Ronald Brautigam (K 537)
Ronald Brautigam (fortepiano – copy of instrument by Anton Walter, c.1795)
Die Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens – rec. July 2011. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
BIS-SACD-1944 [55:04] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16-and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

This is the third recording of Mozart keyboard concertos from this source:

Concertos Nos. 9 and 12; Rondo K386: BIS-SACD-1794
Concertos Nos. 24 and 25: BIS-SACD-1894

Those earlier releases have come in for some intemperate criticism in some quarters but Dominy Clements took a moderate course in reviewing BIS-SACD-1894here. Nor could I understand why these recordings had been so vehemently criticised – see February 2012/2 Roundup. My reaction to this latest release is much as before – clean, stylish playing all round, though lacking the last degree of involvement with the music, especially in the slow movement of No.17, and excellently recorded; go for the 24-bit version if possible. Not my first choice, but well worth having, particularly if you bought the previous two releases. Others, even period-performance enthusiasts, may wish to try first via Naxos Music Library if possible.

If you’re not wedded to period performance, Clifford Curzon still takes a great deal of beating in No.26, where he and István Kertesz give the slow movement considerably longer to breathe (Decca Legends 468 4912, 2 CDs, with Nos. 20, 23, 24 and 27). You may well find the CD set on sale for less than any download – the least expensive source of the latter is from hmvdigital.com.

Jacques-François GALLAY (1795-1864) Concerts cachés
Douze grands caprices, Op.32 (1838)
Préludes mesurés et nonmesurés, Op.27 (1835)
Fantaisies mélodiques, Op.58
Anneke Scott (natural horn – cor solo by Marcel-Auguste Raoux (1823))
Illustrated pdf booklet included
RESONUS CLASSICS RES10114 [72:39] – no CD; download from resonusclassics.com (mp3, aac and lossless) or from classicsonline.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

Of all the ground-breaking repertoire that Resonus has brought us in just over a year, this will be for most listeners the most unusual; I hadn’t even heard of the composer and I’m not aware of ever having encountered Anneke Scott, though she comes highly recommended by Andrew Manze and Pavlo Beznosiuk, no less, whose encomia appear in the pdf booklet. In fact, she is the principal horn of a number of distinguished period instrument orchestras such as the English Baroque Soloists, so you may well have heard her in action without knowing. The instrument which she employs here was made by the same manufacturer as Gallay’s own instrument and dates from 1823.

Though I’ve listed the préludes, caprices and fantaisies separately in the heading, the three genres are interspersed with each other in practice. A programme of music for the solo natural horn may not seem overtly appealing, even with such a mix of genres. I was recently rather disparaging of such a programme on the Dux label and I think the present release will appeal to a limited – perhaps mainly academic – audience. Nevertheless, if you give it a try, perhaps initially from the Naxos Music Library if you have access, I believe that you will be fascinated by the variety of sound which Anneke Scott achieves.

If you’re looking for this recording in 24/96 sound, that’s available from eclassical.com.

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-69)
Le Corsaire – Overture, Op.21 [8:06]
Symphonie fantastique, Op.14 [62:15]
Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin – rec. August/September 2011. DDD.
Pdf booklet included.
NAXOS 8.572886 [70:21] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

As I write, in late September, this is one of Naxos chairman Klaus Heymann’s ‘Chairman recommends’ releases and is being specially featured by classicsonline.com. We’ve recently had quite a stream of recommendable recordings from Leonard Slatkin on Naxos, but they have been reissues of earlier Delos recordings; this is the first fruit of a new association of the Orchestre National de Lyon, Slatkin and Naxos. With Naxos releases still priced at just £4.99 from classicsonline.com, it’s just about the least expensive Symphonie fantastique currently on offer, though my own enduring benchmark, recorded by Sir Thomas Beecham, costs only £5.99, again from classicsonline.com, in its latest incarnation on EMI Masters – here*. Like the new Naxos recording, that comes with Le Corsaire, but it also adds two excerpts from Les Troyens and it still sounds first-rate, despite its age.

Beecham takes 52:28 for the symphony, Robin Ticciati on Linn CKD400 54:58**, Colin Davis and the Concertgebouw 55:27. At first Slatkin’s 62:15, as listed by Naxos Music Library, certainly looks over-long on paper, but that overall time includes a separate alternative version of un Bal; his actual time for the conventional symphony is 55:34 and his tempi for individual movements well within normal parameters. The Lyon Orchestra may not be the world’s most mellifluous but they offer good performances under Slatkin’s direction of the first three movements – free from the longueurs that sometimes set in. Their March to the Scaffold, however, lacks the snarling menace that Ticciati brings to it – no sense that his chamber orchestra sounds undernourished – and the Witches’ Sabbath is rather slow to get into full swing, though it ends suitably in a blaze.

The recording is generally clear, with instruments well placed in a credible sound picture, though occasionally there are patches where everything is not as well delineated as might be. The alternative recording of Un Bal is a distraction – you’ll want to get up to stop it before it spoils the end of the Witches’ Sabbath unless you’ve already programmed the symphony to play without it. This offers a good bargain, then, but no match for Beecham, so I’d be inclined to pay the extra £1 for that vintage version. If you’re intrigued by period performance of the work, classicsonline.com can provide the Musica Aeterna/van Immerseel recording (ZZT100101) which I reviewed in the May 2010 Roundup – see also review – but beware of the two pianos which substitute for the bells in the finale; you may wish to try this one on a test drive first in the Naxos Music Library.

* also available as part of The French Collection, almost 7 hours of wonderful music-making for just £13.99 from sainsburysentertainment.com.
** See reviewRecording of the MonthreviewRecording of the Month – and April 2012/2 Roundup.

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Violin Concerto in e minor, Op. 64 [24:45]
Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave), Op. 26 [9:00]
Violin Concerto in d minor, Op. post. [21:34]
Alina Ibragimova (violin)
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Vladimir Jurowski – rec. September 2011. DDD
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67795 [56:19] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 16– and 24-bit lossless)

This new recording breaks the very common practice of pairing the conventional Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Bruch – an understandable partnership, but it means having two very similar pieces of music in succession. Here the pairing is with the earlier concerto in d minor, with the Hebrides overture in the middle of the sandwich. If you’re not sure whether having the youthful (aged 13) Concerto in d is worthwhile, Hyperion include the finale of that work on their October 2012 sampler (see above).

I’d have preferred to have the earlier concerto first, so I recommend re-programming to start with the overture and the d minor work before its mature companion. Heard at the end of the programme, the d minor seems too much like an also-ran, though it’s a work impossibly beyond the reach of most, even hyper-musical 13-year-olds. Alina Ibragimova makes the strongest possible case for it and, indeed, for its e minor big brother.

Fears of a mismatch between Ibragimova’s modern style of playing and the period-instrument OAE are unfounded; she doesn’t overdo the slurpier moments and they don’t overdo the period aspect, though the clarity which they achieve is remarkable. At times I missed the greater power of modern instruments – parts of the Hebrides overture sound a bit monochrome, like the cover picture, or more like the Midsummer Night’s Dream overture than they should – but it’s far from a serious problem.

The recording is excellent, especially in 24-bit format, and the booklet is of Hyperion’s usual high quality. The playing time is a bit mean, but there’s a reduction from the usual £7.99 to £6.99 for mp3 and 16-bit lossless; the Studio Master 24-bit can be yours for a reasonable £10.50.

[A review of this recording from Geoffrey Molyneux reached me too late for inclusion; I'll run it in the next Download News.]

Modest Petrovich MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881) (arr. Peter BREINER) Pictures at an Exhibition [40:26]
Pesni i plyaski smerti (Songs and Dances of Death) (arr. Peter BREINER) [18:39]
Detskaya (The Nursery) (arr. Peter BREINER) [19:03]
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Peter Breiner
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.573016 [78:08] – Download only (no CD) from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Orchestral Works – Volume 8
24 Préludes (orch. Peter BREINER)
Book 1 [36:06]
Book 2 [39:06]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Jun Märkl – rec. June 2011. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.572584 [76:31] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[all 9 CDs of the complete Naxos recordings of Debussy’s orchestral music are also available on 8.509002. Download in mp3 from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library.]

Two Naxos recordings this month of music orchestrated by Peter Breiner.

A very slow opening Promenade almost put this out of court for me from the start – and that’s pretty much the case every time the Promenade recurs. On the other hand, the extra bite of Peter Breiner’s new orchestration in Gnomus put it back in the running. Not since I heard Stokowski conduct his own orchestration at the Proms in 1966 have I been so impressed with an alternative to the Ravel. You’ll find Peter Breiner’s own notes on his powerful orchestration available from both eclassical.com and Naxos Music Library. As he also directs the performances – all three works come in his orchestration – I can only assume that he obtains the effects that he wants. Minor reservations about interpretation, mainly concerning tempo and some odd gear-changes are irrelevant; with this performance further removed from the piano originals than any that I know, you either like it or leave it as a whole and there’s nothing to compete directly. The Great Gate of Kiev brings the house down – this version makes it all the more regrettable that it was never built. The other works are equally effective – perhaps the orchestration is just a little too fierce for The Nursery.

Try it first from Naxos Music Library and, if you like it, go for the searingly realistic 24-bit download from eclassical.com; it was temporarily reduced to $19.92 at the time of writing. If it’s just mp3 that you want, that should be available from classicsonline.com for rather less than eclassical.com’s $14.06 by the time that you read this review.

Naxos usually treat these download-only recordings as a toe in the water, with a subsequent CD release where indicated. I think in this case that they can safely plan for that CD, or even an audio blu-ray to take advantage of the wide-ranging recording.

For me there’s no contest between Mussorgsky on the piano and in orchestral guise, with the originals sounding very monochrome indeed, but the issue is far less clear cut with Debussy, much as I enjoyed hearing Colin Matthews’ orchestrations on Hallé CDHLL7513 and 7518 – March 2010 Roundup In brief: see below for the reissue of those recordings on a 2-CD set of the complete Préludes.

Naxos also include in the complete 9-CD set (see above) the Debussy Préludes in Colin Matthews’ orchestration*, but it appears that they always intended to record the Peter Breiner versions too, and here they are. Much as I enjoyed Breiner’s Mussorgsky and although there is a good deal to enjoy in these Debussy arrangements, too, I recommend staying with the originals this time.

* also recorded by Mark Elder and the Hallé (CDHLL7527review. Download in mp3 from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library.)

Claude DEBUSSY
Children’s Corner [17:05]
Suite Bergamasque [18:27]
Danse – Tarantelle styrienne [5:28]
Deux Arabesques [7:43]
Pour le piano [14:06]
Masques [5:03]
L’isle joyeuse [6:42]
La plus que lente [5:41]
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67898 [79:25] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

For all that I enjoyed both Peter Breiner’s and Colin Matthews’ orchestrations of Debussy, Angela Hewitt’s new collection reminds us that the piano originals are perfectly self-sufficient, especially when they are as well played as this. She covers a wide range of Debussy’s piano music, so this would make a good introduction as well as a satisfying recital for connoisseurs. With downloads available a month or so ahead of the CD issue, I’m usually first in the field, but I can’t help being aware that this recording has already earned a well-deserved strong recommendation from another reviewer.

Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Symphony No. 3 ‘Sinfonia Espansiva’, Op. 27 (1910-1911) [35:09]
Symphony No. 2 ‘The Four Temperaments’, Op. 16 (1901-1902) [37:19]
Pdf booklet included
New York Philharmonic/Alan Gilbert
rec. live, Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, 27-29 January & 1 February 2011 (No. 2), 14-16 June 2012 (No. 3)
DACAPO 6.220623 [72:28] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

I first heard Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic’s ‘Espansiva’ on a decent 192kb/s mp3 of a concert they gave at Colorado’s Vail Valley Festival in August this year. From that imperious, sharply delineated opening it was clear this was going to be a performance of sinew and strength; indeed, the telling detail, essential thrust and a superbly vaulted structure is just right for this music. As for the orchestra they’re in fabulous – and highly virtuosic – form. Just two months earlier Dacapo recorded ‘Espansiva’ live at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall, adding to the ‘Four Temperaments’ taped in 2011. This natural coupling marks the first instalment of their much-anticipated Nielsen Project.

I should point out that the 24-bit flacs are sampled at 192kHz, rather than the usual 96kHz, which wasn’t made clear on eclassical.com’s website at the time of purchase. I only realised this when I saw the file sizes and confirmed the sampling rate on Songbird. Not all devices will support the higher rate, but I’m pleased to confirm that even in 24/96 this is a very good recording indeed. For techies the pdf booklet notes that No. 2 was recorded in ‘96kHz/24-bit resolution [and] mixed and edited in the DXD audio format (Digital eXtreme Definition) 352.8kHz/24-bit’. No. 3, it seems, is pure DXD. I daresay most listeners, only too pleased at the prospect of a high-res Nielsen cycle, won’t care two hoots about such details; that said, I was intrigued to hear how these recordings compared in purely sonic terms.

Avery Fisher Hall doesn’t have the most grateful acoustic, although what it lacks in velvet glove it more than makes up for with a mailed fist. Gilbert’s tough, forthright performance of ‘Espansiva’ certainly works well in this unforgiving space. As with that Vail performance there’s a strong sense of the symphony’s architecture, and Gilbert never allows the animated diversions of the Allegro espansivo to impede progress. Those brass-drenched tuttis are splendid and rhythms are as taut as one would wish for. This is shaping up to be a formidable Third; even the Andante pastorale is more affectionate – more pliable, even – than I’ve come to expect from this seemingly aloof conductor. The horns are hair-raising, as are the ideally distant vocalists Erin Morley and Joshua Hopkins, whose contributions bring a touch of real magic to this lovely movement.

Unsentimental yet generous is a perfect description of Gilbert’s way with this music; those dancerly tunes in the Allegretto are discreetly sprung and utterly spontaneous, while in the firm, well-proportioned Finale the pizzicato playing in that long-breathed passage is a miracle of finesse and feeling. The orchestra excel themselves throughout; ditto the engineers, who extract a warm, detailed and surprisingly seductive sound from this otherwise intractable acoustic. I really wouldn’t want to be without Schmidt, Blomstedt, Schønwandt or Saraste in this work; that said, this newcomer, a tad impenetrable at first, grows in stature the more I hear it.

Over time I also warmed to Myung-Whun Chung’s recording of ‘The Four Temperaments’ – review – although his Swedish forces are no match for their American counterparts. Under Gilbert the high-coloured complexion of the first movement is very well caught; as before the playing is incisive yet characterful – the brass especially so – and momentum never flags. Saraste is at his best in this symphony, and I find him more open-hearted here; but for all their charms the Finns must yield to the easeful virtuosity of these New Yorkers, especially in the gentle bounce of the second movement.

Gilbert coaxes thrilling sonorities from his orchestra in the dark-toned Andante malincolico; not only that, he judges the emotional ebb and flow of this music to perfection. It’s all so beautifully scaled too, with some gorgeous string and woodwind playing in the more inward moments. This is Nielsen laid bare in a way I’ve not heard before, the tuttis Sibelian in their blend of gravitas and grandeur. Moreover, there’s a heightened concentration in the playing that one associates with only the best live performances. The sanguine Finale is no exception, its liveliness augmented by passages of astonishing transparency. Also, the recording picks up even the smallest shift in dynamics; both symphonies sound excellent, although No. 3 is perhaps more forensic and offers an extra degree of ‘presence’.

These are slow burners, so they may take a while to yield their secrets. Do persevere though, as Gilbert’s view of these scores is as consistent as it is insightful. Indeed, I’m so impressed with this partnership that I intend to seek out other Gilbert/NYP recordings I’ve ignored in the past; if their Mahler Ninth (BIS) is half as compelling as this Nielsen coupling it should be well worth hearing. Expect a review of it soon.

Deeply satisfying; a splendid start to this Nielsen Project.

Dan Morgan
http://twitter.com/mahlerei

Having read Dan’s review, I immediately listened to this recording from Naxos Music Library and he’s absolutely right; this offers a strong challenge to existing recommendations and my only reservation concerns the decision to place the less mature work first.

There are many more NYPO/Gilbert recordings to be had from emusic.com – here – many of them on their own label and available very inexpensively. There’s a very good Schoenberg Pelleas and Melisande, for example – see February 2012/1 Roundup – well worth having, though yoked to a rather dull Brahms Violin Concerto. Searchers after classic recordings of Nielsen will find the Naxos Classical Archives reissue of Erik Tuxen’s 1952 performance of the Espansiva for £1.68 from emusic.com. (£1.99 from classicsonline.com).

British Clarinet Concertos
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Clarinet Concerto, Op.80 (1902)* [21:15]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956) Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra, Op.31 (1948-49) [28:07]
Sir Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006) Clarinet Concerto No.2, Op.115 (1974) [16:00]
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Michael Collins (clarinet)
CHANDOS CHAN10739 [65:45] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit and lossless) or stream from classicsonline.com

Alternative recordings (Stanford and Finzi Clarinet Concertos):

Dame Thea King (clarinet); Philharmonia Orchestra/Alun Francis – HYPERION HELIOS CDH55101 [49:08] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless) – see September 2010 Roundup, Hyperion Top 30 and review by Christopher Howell
– Emma Johnson (clarinet); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Charles Groves – ASV CDDCA787 (with Finzi Bagatelles; Stanford Intermezzi) [72:37] – from hmvdigital.com (mp3): see August 2009 Roundup

(Finzi Clarinet and Cello Concertos)
– John Denman (clarinet); New Philharmonia Orchestra; Yo-yo Ma (cello); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley – LYRITA SRCD.236 [70:25] – from amazon.co.uk (mp3) or emusic.com (mp3): see review, review and June 2012/1 Roundup

The Hyperion recording was one of their very first releases in 1980; always highly regarded, it’s even more recommendable now as a budget CD and download, the price making up for the fact that it’s very short on playing time. As recently as the June 2012/1 Roundup I found myself unwilling to plump for any one of the Hyperion, ASV and Lyrita recordings of the Finzi Clarinet Concerto.

Now Chandos, who clouded the waters of choice then with a reissue of a recording of the Finzi Cello Concerto to rival that with which the Clarinet Concerto is coupled on Lyrita – Wallfisch versus Ma – are making the choice very difficult again with a recommendable recording of the Finzi and Stanford coupled more generously than on Hyperion with the jaunty Arnold Clarinet Concerto No.2. I can only suggest once again that coupling be allowed to decide the issue; if you would like the three works on Chandos, go ahead.

If, however, you think that the two Arnold Clarinet Concertos should go together, rather than with the very different idioms of the Finzi or Stanford, Thea King is at your service again – she couples both Arnold concertos with a Movement for clarinet and orchestra by Benjamin Britten and two Clarinet Concertos by Elizabeth Maconchy on another budget-price Hyperion reissue (CDH55060 [63:29] – from hyperion-records.co.uk in mp3 and lossless: see review). I’m lucky in having all the recordings which I’ve mentioned and, ideally, I’d recommend that you do, too, if possible. Otherwise, if pushed against the wall and forced to choose I’d set aside the new recording and go for the two Hyperion downloads and still have a couple of pence to spare from £12*. As the 20- and 30-year-old Hyperion recordings still sound well, you may well think it not worthwhile to pay almost twice the price for Chandos’s 16-bit lossless or almost three times as much for 24/96 sound.

The Finzi is without doubt the stand-out work and his Cello Concerto is also delectable; if you don’t have either, go for the Lyrita; the best transfer is from amazon.co.uk – albeit only in 256kb/s sound, that’s better than the less expensive emusic.com which barely reaches even 192kb/s.

* Those who hark back to a past Golden Age should bear in mind that the regular price for the Finzi and Stanford LP in 1980 was £4.99 at a time when that would buy a lot more than now; the Helios reissue is yours for £5.99.

Josef Bohuslav FOERSTER (1859-1951)
String Quartet No.1 in E, Op.15 [26:32]
String Quartet No.2 in D, Op.39 [28:19]
String Quartet No.3 in C, Op.61 [15:34]
String Quartet No.4 in F, Op.182 [22:02]
String Quartet No.5 in G ‘The Vestic’, sine op. [16:08]
The Prayer for String Quartet, sine op. [8:10]
Erinnerung for String Quartet and Harp, sine op. [2:14]
Stamic Quartet – rec. c.2009 (?)
SUPRAPHON SU40502 [2 CDs: 2:11:21] – from hmvdigital.com (mp3)

If you like the chamber music of Dvořαk, Smetana and Suk, you’re likely to enjoy this 2-CD recording of idiomatic performances from the Stamic Quartet. Hmvdigital.com have an endearing habit of selling many multi-CD sets for the same price as one and this is one such bargain. There’s no current competition, but don’t let that make you think that Foerster’s music is not worth recording – it emphatically is, especially when it’s as well performed as here.

Only the lack of notes constitutes something of a handicap. That’s particularly problematic because you may think that you have downloaded two versions of Quartet No.1, or that it has seven movements – the track labelling from hmvdigital.com will make you think so; only tracks 1-4 are in fact No.1, with No.2 on 5-7. The 320 kb/s transfer of the recording sounds well.

For more attractive music by Foerster, on Supraphon and BIS, see the September 2012/1 Roundup.

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No.1 in D Titan (1889)

No sooner had I recommended Iván Fischer (SACD and download) and Claudio Abbado (blu-ray and DVD) in a recent roundup than yet another recording came along from the Baltimore SO and Marin Alsop on Naxos (8.572207 [54:54] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) with booklet). I enjoyed this performance but thought it a little lacking in the sheer delight in the sounds of nature which typify those other two recordings and the classic Rafael Kubelík account (DG Originals). As the Kubelík is available to download for £4.99 from hmvdigital.com, the same price as the classicsonline.com Alsop, and comes with a sizeable filler in the shape of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, no less), I’d still recommend that to bargain seekers. It still sounds well, but those in search of a more modern recording won’t go far wrong with Alsop.

I forgot to give a link to my fuller review of the Abbado recording – it’s here – or, indeed, to look at it myself to see that I managed to say very little about the performance of the Mahler. You’ll also find more detail in Dave Billinge’s review of the reissue of this recording in a set with Symphonies Nos. 2-7 – here – and Colin Clarke’s of the DVD equivalent – here.

Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Appalachia – Variations on an Old Slave Song with Final Chorus (1896-1903) (ed. Sir Thomas Beecham) [35:19]
Sea Drift (1904) (ed. Sir Thomas Beecham) [24:52]
Leon Williams (baritone)
The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay/James K. Bass
The Florida Orchestra/Stefan Sanderling – rec. January, 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet with texts included
NAXOS 8.572764 [60:11] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

There’s any number of recommendable recordings of these two works separately, but only on the Decca complete Delius Edition (8 CDs) or its EMI equivalent (18 CDs) will you find them together. Those who would like to have them together on one CD will not regret spending £4.99 on the classicsonline.com download. The performances are idiomatic, the recording is good, and the booklet comes as part of the deal.

I must, however, point out that you can do better elsewhere; Sir Andrew Davis coupled Appalachia and Song of the High Hills on a recent Chandos release (CHSA/CHAN5088: Recording of the Monthreview). I recommended this alongside Sir Charles Mackerras’ 2-CD Delius collection (473 7162) as joint Download of the Month in the April 2011/1 Roundup and they remain my outright recommendations. The Decca set can be had from hmvdigital.com for £7.49, which is actually less expensive per disc than the Naxos and it comes with wonderful versions of the Florida Suite, Over the Hills and North Country Sketches. (The passionato.com link no longer applies.) The best performance of all time remains the Beecham LP; if you can cope with the dated mono, it’s available inexpensively in a decent transfer from Past Classics – see May 2012/2 Roundup.

Chandos also have the most recommendable version of Sea Drift, coupled with Songs of Farewell and Songs of Sunset on CHAN9214review. That version goes to the top of the pile if only for Bryn Terfel’s contribution, but there’s much more to it than that. Once again, Beecham’s classic recording takes some beating – available inexpensively in decent sound from Emkay with the Hassan music – see May 2012/2 Roundup.

[Somewhat belatedly, after closing this Download News, I discovered a better transfer of the 1956 Beecham recording of Sea Drift from Naxos Classical Archives, coupled with Paris (9.80097). It’s a bargain, too, in the countries where it’s available – not the USA – at £1.99 from classicsonline.com.]

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Daphnis et Chloë
New England Conservatory Chorus; Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch – rec. 1955 ADD/mono
NAXOS CLASSICAL ARCHIVES 9.80723 [54:14] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

In the previous Download News, reviewing a recording of this work from Bernard Haitink on the CSOR label, I forgot to mention Munch’s two classic recordings of Daphnis et Chloë. This is certainly worth £0.84 from emusic.com or £1.99 from classicsonline.com*, but be aware that it’s the mono version released on RCA (USA) and HMV (UK) in 1956, not the later stereo reissue of the same recording on RCA Victrola and more recently on CD/SACD, or the 1962 remake. The atmospheric performance rivals even Pierre Monteux (Decca Originals) but the recording is constricted, not assisted by the very mean bit-rate from emusic.com, and there’s noticeable surface noise in the quieter sections when heard on ’phones. The ear soon adjusts to the shortcomings, however, so this makes an inexpensive alternative to Monteux or Haitink.

* don’t pay £7.49 for the amazon.co.uk version.

George ENESCU (1881-1955)
The Unknown Enescu – Volume One: Music for Violin
Aubade (1899) [3:46]
Pastorale, Menuet triste et Nocturne (1900; arr. Sherban LUPU)** [13:38]
Sarabande (c. 1910-15)* [4:43]
Sérénade lointaine (1903) [4:49]
Andantino malinconico (1951) [2:15]
Prelude and Gavotte (1898)* [10:21]
Airs dans le genre roumain (1926)* [7:12]
Légende (1891) [4:21]
Sérénade en sourdine (c. 1915-20) [4:21]
Fantaisie concertante (1932; arr. Sherban LUPU)* [11:04]
Nocturne ‘Villa d’Avrayen’ (1931-36)* [6:11]
Hora Unirei (1917) [1:40]
Aria and Scherzino (c. 1898-1908; arr. Sherban LUPU)** [5:12]
Masumi Per Rostad (viola); Marin Cazacu, Dmitry Kouzov (cello); Ian Hobson, Ilinca Dumitrescu, Samir Golescu (piano)
Enescu Ensemble of the University of Illinois/Sherban Lupu (violin) – rec. April 2011. DDD
*first recording
**first recording in this version
Pdf booklet included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0047 [80:30] – from toccataclassics.com or classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library.

This is all very attractive music in a fairly light vein, often verging on the sentimental, as might well be expected of the composer of the Romanian Rhapsodies, the only works of Enescu’s that are at all well known. I don’t recall having heard any of these pieces before – several of them are being recorded for the first time* – so I have no benchmark except to say that I very much enjoyed them all and that the recording is good. I can’t claim that there are any undiscovered masterpieces here, but, once again we owe a debt of gratitude to Martin Anderson of Toccata Classics for having brought us this unfamiliar material and having done it so well.

If you prefer to burn your downloads to CD, you will have a problem with this one, in that it exceeds 80 minutes; you will, however, be able to burn it as an mp3 CD in the (free) iTunes player – in fact, you can burn the equivalent of four CDs in that fashion, provided that none of the music is continuous across tracks. You’ll have a brief dropout every time if so.

As usual with Toccata releases, the booklet contains a scholarly essay, by Malcolm MacDonald, well worth printing out to read if you dislike reading on-screen material as much as I do.

* Nothing here is included on another recent recording, Enescu’s Complete Works for Violin and Piano (Saphir LVC1114). In fact there seems to be a small crop of recent Enescu recordings; I hope to pursue some of them in the near future.

Terzetti: Trios for flute, viola and harp
Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Elegiac Trio [9:41]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Sonate en Trio [17:42]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Sonatine en Trio arranged by Carlos SALZEDO (1885-1961) [12:35]
William MATHIAS (1934-1992) Zodiac Trio, Op.70 [18:00]
Théodore DUBOIS (1837-1924) Terzettino [5:20]
The Debussy Ensemble (Susan Milan (flute), Matthew Jones (viola), Ieuan Jones (harp))
DIVINE ART DDA25099 [63:20] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless, no booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library (with booklet).

The combination of flute and harp can be very evocative – I’m thinking especially of Mozart’s concerto for the pair where he somehow overcame his supposed dislike of the two instruments, especially the flute, and Ravel’s Introduction et allegro for harp, string quartet, flute and clarinet. The Ravel Sonatine on this Divine Art recording was not originally composed for those two instruments plus viola but is often played in this arrangement and sounds little short of the power of its better known sister piece. All the other music is well worth hearing, too.

I found this album to be attractive late-night listening. Over speakers at a moderate volume I thought the performances sensitive without being over-sugary and that the lossless recording serves the players well. It goes to show that when and how one listens can affect one’s judgement in that the following day, listening at a higher level via headphones, the recording appeared over-close, almost claustrophobic, and small imperfections of intonation, especially from the flute, thereby exaggerated.

Then, too, I listened again to the Nash Ensemble in the Bax Trio (Hyperion CDA66807, with Nonet, etc. – see Hyperion at 30). At almost exactly the same tempo their performance manages to sound more relaxed and elegiac and more varied in dynamic, while the recording, heard both on speakers and via headphones, is much more truthful.

Similarly, listening to the performance of the Debussy by Roger Bourdin (flute), Colette Lequien (viola) and Annie Challan (harp), recorded in 1966 by Philips and formerly available with the Violin and Cello Sonatas (Arthur Grumiaux/István Hajdu, Maurice Gendron/Jean Françaix) on 422 8392 reminded me that there’s more magic in that work than is brought out on the new recording. The Violin and Cello Sonatas from that recording are still available on Eloquence 468 3062 but the other performances seem to have vanished from the catalogue.

The Hyperion download comes with the usual high-class booklet. It’s a shame that theclassicalshop.net doesn’t offer the Divine Art booklet or even the back cover, but subscribers to Naxos Music Library will find it there.

Those in search of the Ravel Introduction et allegro will find it coupled with the Debussy and Ravel Quartets very inexpensively in a fine performance from the Chilingirian Quartet, etc., on Classics for Pleasure 3822312 – see review. Download for £4.99 from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library. The CD costs around £5.00; for some ridiculous reason sainsburysentertainment.com, amazon.co.uk and hmvdigital.com charge almost twice that price for the download. For wonderful performances of that work with the Debussy Sonate en trio, the Melos Ensemble recording, now on Eloquence 480 2153 or Decca 421 1542 (slightly different couplings) takes some beating and makes up for the loss of the Philips recording mentioned above.

Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Symphony No. 6 ‘On the Outline of the Mountains of Brazil’ (1944) [28:49]
Symphony No. 7 (1945) [39:28]
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Isaac Karabtchevsky – rec February/March 2011. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.573043 [68:18] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library. (Not available in Brazil)

This is billed as the first of a series of Villa-Lobos’s music, redressing the balance by offering works on a larger scale when it’s his smaller-scale music that is better known. Naxos have done their fair share to make his music available, with recordings of his piano music (8.554489 and seven subsequent volumes) and chamber music (8.557765). They have also recorded the complete Bachianas Brasileiras on 3 CDs (8.557460-62) and Chôros 8 and 9 (8.555241).

Symphony No.6 is a colourful work evoking the highs and lows of the mountains of Brazil, as depicted in a vintage photograph on the cover, according to a formula which the composer had devised to translate graphic shapes into music. If that sounds unappealing, don’t be put off; there’s nothing too gimmicky about it. Its successor is even more powerful.

Both works successfully combine the idiom of North American and European music of the mid-20th century with a distinctly Latin American feel. With performances that I take to be authoritative – at the very least they convinced me of the value of the music – good recording and helpful notes, this is well worth the modest asking price. If it appeals to you as much as it did to me, you will want to look out for the other volumes when they appear; meanwhile you could try the recordings of the wonderfully colourful Amazonas, Erosao and Genesis on the sister label, Marco Polo (8.223357 [61:40] – no longer available on CD: download from classicsonline.com (mp3) or eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library. See review of this and the Dorian alternative (below) by Len Mullenger).

The BIS recording of Villa-Lobos’s Floresta do Amazonas (BIS-SACD-1660) was my Discovery of the Month in the March 2011/1 Roundup. Jonathan Woolf – review – also liked the Dorian recording of Symphony No.3, the Cello Concerto and Amazonas (DOR90228). Fans of classic recording will find the 1952 recording of Erosao by its dedicatees, the Louisville SO, on Naxos Classical Archives with Dello Joio’s St Joan on 9.80912 – £1.68 from emusic.com or £1.99 from classicsonline.com (not available in the USA). The Louisville recording is also available in lossless sound from eclassical.com.

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Danse macabre, Op. 40 [8:38]
Sergey Sergeyevich PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Suggestion diabolique, Op. 4/4 [2:36]
Piano Sonata No. 6 in A, Op. 82 [28:41]
Franz (Ferenc) LISZT (1811-1896) Bénediction de Dieu dans la solitude (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173 No. 3) [19:34]
Mephisto Waltz No. 1 [11:16]
Behzod Abduraimov (piano)
DECCA 478 3301 [70:53] – from hmvclassical.com (mp3)

Benchmark recording:
Sergey Sergeyevich PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata No. 6 in A, Op. 82 [27:23]
Juvenilia [8:43]
Gavotte from ‘Classical Symphony’, Op. 25 [1:42]
Sonata No.10 (fragment) in e minor, Op.137 [1:04]
Sonata No. 5 (original version) in C, Op. 38 [15:51]
Toccata Op.11 [4:55]
Boris Berman (piano) – rec. 1992 and 1994. DDD.
Pdf booklet available
CHANDOS CHAN9361 [60:29] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Classical Library

Having heard Behzod Abduraimov in Mozart at the Royal Festival Hall, a friend purchased his debut Decca recording and found it to be a very different animal indeed from the Mozart that he’d just heard; in fact he didn’t quite know what to make of the Prokofiev sonata, the main work here. It’s not that he’s scared off by mid-twentieth-century Russian music, having enjoyed the Shostakovich Piano Trio No.2 enough the previous week to purchase the Hänssler recording listed below, but I think that for a Prokofiev novice he’s called at the wrong door and I advised him to listen instead to the First and Fifth symphonies, the ballet scores, Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella, then the Violin Concertos and some of the Piano Concertos, but that’s not very helpful in helping appraise Abduraimov in this work.

As you may already have guessed from my recommendation of the symphonies and concertos, the bleak wartime piano sonatas are not among my own favourites, certainly not part of my regular listening, so I had to refresh my memory of how Piano Sonata No.6 should sound by listening to the Berman recording on Chandos. Berman strikes a cooler tone than much of the competition and he even contrives to make some of the music sound lyrical; he’s also very well recorded, though he doesn’t wean me from my admittedly narrow view of the Prokofiev that I like. Perhaps I’ll enlarge on those preferences in a later Download News – see below for starters.

If anything, Abduraimov emphasises both the hard and, especially, the softer edges of the music more than Berman and there’s no question of his pianistic technique being in any way inferior. I hadn’t expected him to ‘sell’ the music to me more effectively than the more established rival, but overall I think that he does, just, which means that he doesn’t capture the hard edge of the music quite enough. He’s a little faster in the opening allegro moderato and noticeably more relaxed in the remaining movements.

Berman and Chandos offer more Prokofiev, including the original version of Sonata No.5, and that will probably strengthen the appeal of that recording for most. Also, the download comes with the pdf booklet. The remaining items on the new Decca are polished off with aplomb; whether it’s because the Liszt has already found its way into Abduraimov’s heart as well as his technique or simply that the music is much more firmly within my comfort zone I really enjoyed the last half of the CD. Ultimately, however, the words of my MusicWeb Seen and Heard colleague Margarida Mota-Bull concerning Abduraimov in the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto are appropriate: ‘I admit it wasn’t very eloquent but young Abduraimov’s playing was so unbelievably magnificent that it left me speechless’. (Review). Give this pot a little more time to simmer and keep an eye on the outcome.

I should stress that although I have given a link to the hmvdigital.com download – at £7.49 it’s half the price that my friend paid for the CD and it comes at 320k which makes it preferable to the iTunes and amazon.co.uk versions – it’s to the latter that I’ve been listening.

As for my recommendation of beginning with the symphonies, the ideal coupling of Nos.1 and 5, where I recommend beginning, from Karajan and the Berlin Phil, has been superseded by the DG Originals reissue coupling No.5 and a controversial recording of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Stephen Gunzenhauser on Naxos makes a very acceptable and inexpensive substitute (8.553218, with Lieutenant Kijé and the Suite from The Love for Three Oranges – download from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library.

For Symphonies Nos. 1 and 7, with two items from Three Oranges and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, you can’t do better than Nikolai Malko with the Philharmonia on Classics for Pleasure; almost 80 minutes at budget price. Download from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Library. The CD is no longer available.

For the complete symphonies turn to Chandos’s box set of all seven, including both versions of No.4, on CHAN10500, 4 CDs, – the mp3 and lossless versions both come at the same price, £19.99, from theclassicalshop.net. (See review: Bargain of the Month.) Individual symphonies from this fine series, some with couplings of other Prokofiev works, remain available at full price.

Symphony No.5 has strong claims to be the best of the seven – it’s certainly the most popular, alongside the Classical, No.1. There’s a single-disc release of this symphony, coupled with the Ode to the End of the War on PentaTone. (PTC5186083 – Russian National Orchestra /Vladimir Jurowski). The Ode is no great shakes – it’s best played first to avoid anti-climax – but this is a fine performance and recording of the symphony. Whereas the Järvi box and individual recordings come with a pdf booklet, however, there’s none with the PentaTone, whether you download from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library.

Maris Jansons’ red hot 1987 recording of the Fifth Symphony with the Leningrad Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra (Chandos CHAN8576) is extravagant in that it comes without coupling, the whole CD lasting a mere 38 minutes, but you may find that preferable to having the Ode to the End of the War. Chandos compensate slightly in that the mp3 from theclassicalshop.net (with booklet) costs the usual £7.99 but the lossless version comes at £8.99, £1 less than usual. If you’re seeking just the mp3 version and can live with a less than ideal bit-rate, emusic.com offer this recording, without booklet, for £1.68.


Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (1919-1996) Piano Trio, Op.24 [28:52]
Alexander WEPRIK (1899-1958) 3 Folk Dances, Op.13b (version for piano trio) [4:49]
Dmitry SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Piano Trio No. 2 in e minor, Op.67 [26:46]
Dmitry Sitkovetsky (violin); David Geringas (cello); Jascha Nemtsov (piano) – rec. 2004. DDD.
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD98.491 [60:27] – from eclassical.com (mp3 or lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[Benchmark Recording: Shostakovich Piano Trios 1 and 2; Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok: HYPERION CDA67834 Susan Gritton (soprano) Florestan Trio [61:53] – see review and June 2011/1 Roundup: Recording of the Month]

Reviewing a rival version of the Weinberg and Shostakovich on Cascavelle – here – Jonathan Woolf expressed a preference for this Haenssler recording, not least because of its inclusion of the Weprik rarity. I’ve no hesitation in recommending Sitkovetsky and partners if you are looking for this particular, apt and revealing coupling – Weinberg was Shostakovich’s pupil and the music of both composers benefited from their interaction.

The Shostakovich Second Piano Trio is no stranger to the recorded catalogue but the Weinberg is a much rarer beast – this seems to be the only download generally available in the UK catalogue* – and it’s undoubtedly a powerful work, here receiving a powerful performance. With an equally idiomatic account of the Shostakovich and the significant inclusion of the Weprik – not a composer whom I’d heard before – and fine recording, purchasers need have no hesitation.

If, however, you’re looking for the two Shostakovich Trios and the Blok Songs, the Hyperion recording, the last ever from the wonderful Florestan Trio, will knock your socks off. It, too, is very well recorded – like the eclassical.com Hänssler it’s offered in lossless for no extra cost. The Hyperion comes with an excellent booklet whereas there are no notes for the Haenssler from either download source; a friend copied the booklet for me and it is worth having, which means buying the CD if you want it.

* of the suppliers that I checked only Amazon.co.uk offer the Cascavelle recording and there’s no download equivalent even from them.

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
A Ceremony of Carols, Op.28* [24:13]
St Nicolas, Op.42** [49:15]
* Sally Pryce (harp), Katherine Watson, Zoë Brown (sopranos)
** Allan Clayton (tenor)
** City of London Sinfonia, Holst Singers and Temple Church Choristers
*/** Trinity College Choir Cambridge/Stephen Layton – rec. September 2007* and January 2012**. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts included
HYPERION CDA67946 [73:30] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)

Are you prepared for the centenary avalanche of Britten’s music that is surely about to be unleashed? With Christmas in the offing, this recording should get you off to a gentle start. There are, of course, plenty of fine versions of the Ceremony of Carols and Hyperion already have a good recording of St Nicolas on the budget Helios label (CDH55378review and November 2009 Roundup). The Ceremony is a minor masterpiece and it receives a sensitive performance here, but not, I think, superior to Hyperion’s own offering from Westminster Cathedral and James O’Donnell, especially as that earlier version comes with the Missa brevis and several shorter works (CDA66220). Though that recording offers shortish value at 49 minutes, the price adjustment (£5.99 instead of the regular £7.99) takes care of that.

I still think, too, as I did when the Helios reissue was released, that St Nicolas is more fun to sing than to listen to.

For a CD of the Ceremony of Carols with an interesting coupling, see my review of the recording by the National Youth Choir of Scotland on Signum SIGCD228. You’ll also find appended there a link to a MusicWeb International best seller of the Ceremony which I’d missed on ArcoDiva UP-0070-2 231: Recording of the Month – see review.

Advent at St Paul’s
St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, London/John Scott – rec. 1997. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55463 [71:04] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)

Recorded in June, which seems to be about par for such undertakings, though it must be a very odd sensation, this reissue encapsulates the programme of the Advent Sunday service at St Paul’s. You may know the format from King’s College and St John’s, Cambridge, the latter usually broadcast by BBC Radio 3. The form is modelled in many respects on the Christmas Eve service of Lessons and Carols.

There’s a variety of music here, from the opening plainsong Christus vincit via the medieval Angelus ad virginem (arr. Willcocks) Palestrina’s Matins and Vespers Responsories, Jacob Handl, Martin Peerson, William Byrd, Thomas Weelkes, Robert Parsons and Orlando Gibbons from the 16th and 17th centuries via Anton Bruckner to Benjamin Britten and contemporary composers Richard Lloyd, Philip Wilby, John Rutter and Andrew Carter. The programme concludes with Veni Emanuel, first sung and then in the form of an organ postlude.

The programme is very satisfying, the singing excellent. The recording faithfully reproduces the St Paul’s reverberation, though not to an annoying degree. With the original booklet as a pdf document, this is very appealing at the new budget price.

China Silk Road
Da-wei CHEN/ Jingxin XU Flying Apsaras [12:55]
Traditional arr. Xiao-zhong WU Farewell at the Yangguan Pass [7:14]
Traditional arr. Zhou CHEN-LONG Plum Blossom Melody [4:42]
Xiao-zhong WU/Xin LIANG Spring in the Garden [5:40]
Di MA Reflections on Qinchuan [5:58]
Ji-ping ZHAO Silk Road Fantasia, Departure at Changan [4:54]
Silk Road Fantasia: In Praise of the Ancient Route [6:56]
Silk Road Fantasia: Xiliang Music [3:56]
Silk Road Fantasia: Dream of Loulan [4:35]
Silk Road Fantasia: Quiuci Dance [5:17]
Sin-yao Lim, Thean-siong Phang, Xiao-zhong Wu; People’s Association Chinese Orchestra/ Lap-Man Ku – rec. c.1992.
YELLOW RIVER 82006 [62:07] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

I have no idea how ‘authentic’ or otherwise this is, but I enjoyed it considerably. If you’re not sure, try it from the Naxos Music Library if you can. If ever a booklet of notes were necessary, this would be it but, unfortunately, neither provider offers it, nor is the CD currently available in the UK. Just give it a try.

Recent DVDs and Blu-rays

In reviewing its CD equivalent, I recently expressed reservations about a DVD of Cavalli’s Il Giasone (Dynamic CDS663 (CD)/33663 (DVD) – September 2012/1 Roundup) where a perfectly acceptable set of performances is rendered unpalatable for me by sundry acts of tomfoolery. I’m delighted to exonerate another recent recording of Cavalli and to recommend it heartily:

Francesco CAVALLI (1602-1676) La Didone (1641)
Anna Bonitatibus (Didone-Dido)
Krešimir Špicer (Enea-Æneas)
Xavier Sabata (Iarba-Iarbas)
Maria Streijffert (Ecuba-Hecuba)
Katherine Watson (Cassandra)
Tehila Nini Goldstein (Creusa/Giunone-Juno)
Mariana Rewerski (Anna/Fortuna)
Claire Debono (Venere-Venus/Iride-Iris as Prologo)
Terry Wey (Ascanio-Ascanius/Amore-Cupid)
Victor Torres (Anchise-Anchises)
Valerio Contaldo (Corebo-Corœbus/Eolo-Æolus)
Mathias Vidal (Ilianeo-Ilianus/Mercurio-Mercury)
Joseph Cornwell (Acate-Achates/Sicheo-Sichæus)
Francesco Javier Borda (Sinon Greco-Sinon the Greek/Giove-Jupiter)
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
Clément Hervieu-Léger (director)
rec. live, Théâtre de Caen, October 2011. DSD.
Subtitles: English, French and German
Picture format: 16:9
Sound format: 2.0LPCM + 5.1(5.0) DTS
Region: 0
Format: NTSC
OPUS ARTE DVD OA1080D [2:56:14] [also available on blu-ray: OABD7106D]

[a more detailed review of this recording is due to appear on the main MusicWeb International pages]

This time there’s no CD or download equivalent* but I do strongly recommend the DVD or blu-ray. The opera itself deals with the sack of Troy, the Trojans’ arrival in Carthage and the love of Dido and Æneas. The music presents a strong challenge to Monteverdi, Cavalli’s friend and teacher, there are no weak performances and the production is mercifully free from gimmicks. Above all the guiding hand of William Christie almost guarantees complete satisfaction. Only the lack of a decent synopsis proves something of a drawback.

* an earlier CD recording on Dynamic is available for download, but I recommend the new recording.

If La Didone is mercifully free from tomfoolery, I’m afraid that’s not true of two recent DVDs which have come my way. A detailed review of Handel’s Rinaldo from Glyndebourne will be appearing in due course on the main MusicWeb International pages; the excellence of the singing, conducting and orchestral support just about outweighs the completely unnecessary relocation of the action to a boarding school. (Opus Arte OA1081D (DVD)/OABD7107D (blu-ray))

Wagner’s Tannhäuser, I’m afraid, defeated my ability to review without saying something very rude, despite some fine singing by Peter Seiffert. I’ve passed it on to a colleague, but he’s had it for quite a while too without apparently being able to say anything helpful about a production in which Tannhäuser becomes a painter – presumably an excuse to get a naked body-double of Venus on stage in the Venusberg music – thereby placing the words which make him a Minnesänger at odds with what we see him do. (C Major 709308 (DVD)/709404 (blu-ray))

To end on a more positive note, I’m currently putting together my thoughts on

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Don Giovanni, K527 (1787)
Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Don Giovanni)
Conal Coad (Leporello)
Rachelle Durkin (Donna Anna)
Daniel Sumegi (The Commendatore)
Henry Choo (Don Ottavio)
Jacqueline Dark (Donna Elvira)
Taryn Fiebig (Zerlina)
Andrew Jones (Masetto)
Opera Australia Chorus
Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra/Mark Wigglesworth
Göran Järvefelt (director)
Designer Carl Freidrich Oberle
Light design Nigel Levings
rec. Sydney Opera House, 4-7 October 2011. DSD
Picture ratio 16:9
LPCM Stereo and 5:1 DTS surround sound
All regions
Subtitles: Italian (original), English, French, German and Spanish
Special features: Cast Gallery; Surviving Don Giovanni [13:06]
OPERA AUSTRALIA Blu-Ray OPOZ56024BD [162:25]

[also available on DVD OPOZ56023DVD and CD OPOZ56025CD (3 CDs).]

This is a performance without gimmicks – indeed, some may think the minimalist staging too bare – yet I found it as powerful as the OTT Claus Guth production on Euroarts DVD 2072548: either a 5-star masterpiece or an outrageous failure depending on your point of view – review. The new Australian production is bidding fair to become my Don Giovanni of choice alongside the classic EMI Giulini recording, recently reissued on EMI Opera 9667992. Watch out for the complete review for my final thoughts.

Late thoughts

As I was closing this Download News I dipped into This Christmas Night – a recording from the choir of Worcester College, Oxford, conducted by Stephen Farr (Resonus Classics RES10113). Though theirs is not a major choral foundation, they acquit themselves well in a varied programme devoted to music by recent and contemporary composers. Like Resonus’s Christmas offering last year, this is sufficiently different not to get lost in the welter of seasonal recordings. I haven’t yet received my review download from Resonus and the Naxos Library version doesn’t come with the booklet.