DOWNLOAD NEWS 2013/14
Index of earlier editions here
Some gremlin seems to have gone through this edition at a late stage and removed all instances of the word from. I think I have restored them all but, at the risk of making it seem like a quiz game, you may have to re-insert them occasionally to make sense.
BIS at 40
For their 40th birthday BIS are running a special offer 40% off 40 of their best-known albums for 40 days. I often have to say of a particular BIS offer from eclassical.com that it will have ended by the time that you read my review, but that I advise checking out whatever the current offers are theres always at least one. This time I need not add anything to discourage you if youre quick: go to http://www.eclassical.com/pages/bis-records-40-years.html and there's bound to be something to interest you. With the festive season approaching, for example, why not go for Emma Kirkbys concert of Christmas Music (BIS-CD-1135 - review and DL Roundup December 2011/2) for just $5.83 in mp3 and lossless flac? There is also a 40-track sampler: 3 hours and 40 minutes for $7.99.
With so many fine recordings coming to me from all quarters, Ive let my coverage of the innovative Resonus Classics slip recently, so this is by way of a catching-up exercise.
• RES10120: Johann Sebastian BACH Clavierübung III. This is the most recent album that I reviewed in these pages. I repeat the listing here because I thoroughly enjoyed it Recording of the Month: here and so did Geoffrey Molyneux here.
• RES10121: Composing without the Picture Concert Works by Film Composers. Richard Harwood (solo cello) plays music by the likes of Miklósz Rózsa, Ennio Morricone and John Williams, together with previously unrecorded music by Christopher Gunning (Variations on a Slavic Theme) [80:20]: mp3, aac and 16-bit flac, with pdf booklet, from resonusclassics.com (mp3, aac, 16 and 24-bit lossless) or from classicsonline.com (mp3), eclassical.com (mp3, 16 and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library. The music is enjoyable rather than exciting but I enjoyed hearing it.
• RES10122: Sonnerie and other Portraits the group Fantasticus play Marin MARAIS Sonnerie de Ste Geneviève du Mont de Paris (1723) and other music by Marais (Tombeau pour M de Lully), Jean-Philippe Rameau (cinquième concert), François Francur, Jean-Marie Leclair, Jacques Duphly and Louis-Antoine Dornel. [71:06] with pdf booklet from resonusclassics.com (mp3, aac 16 and 24-bit lossless) or classicsonline.com (mp3).
This is a very enjoyable follow-up to the earlier Fantasticus recording of baroque chamber music on RES10112.
o RES10123: Jean-François GALLAY (1795-1864) Grands Trios, Op.24/1-3; Grand Quartet, Op.26: Chamber music for natural horn ensemble. Anneke Scott in a follow-up to her earlier recording of solo horn music by Gallay, this time with les Chevaliers de Saint Hubert [54:43]. With pdf booklet from resonusclassics.com, mp3, aac and 16-bit lossless, or eclassical.com (mp3, 16 and 24-bit lossless) or classicsonline.com (mp3) all with booklet, or stream from Naxos Music Library.
I have to admit to finding this paradoxically less interesting than the earlier album for solo horn (RES10114 2012/20 DL News); though I thought that likely to be of interest mainly to an academic audience, I did very much enjoy the variety of the music and of Anneke Scotts performances. Both albums are best sampled in small doses try first from Naxos Music Library, perhaps.
Some catching up is necessary here, too. Click on the catalogue number for the relevant web page:
• CDA67727: Guillaume de MACHAUT (c.1300-1377) Songs from le Voir Dit the Orlando Consort, rec. July 2012 (mp3, 16 or 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet of texts and translations). One of the great composers of the late Middle Ages, le Voir Dit (the true story) is often regarded as his masterpiece. Theres a Naxos recording of some of the songs, coupled with the Messe de nostre Dame, well worth considering if you dont have a recording of that work, and the budget price is attractive (8.553833 Oxford Camerata/Jeremy Summerly) but the Hyperion is a more complete collection and Id recommend this new recording and the Hyperion recording of the Mass (below) as first choices.
I listened to all three download formats the mp3 is good, the 16-bit flac, at the same price, better, the 24-bit worth paying a little extra.
Id go for the Messe de nostre Dame first and you could do worse than the Hyperion recording of that, too, from the Hilliard Ensemble on CDA66358. Also Gothic Voices in The Mirror of Narcissus on CDA66087.
• CDH55423: one of Machauts greatest successors was Guillaume DUFAY (1397-1474). His Mass puisque je vis with music by Loyset COMPÈRE and that prolific composer Anon is sung by The Binchois Consort/Andrew Kirkman. (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet containing texts and translations). Formerly available as CDA67368, in which form I recommended it in January 2010; its even more attractive now.
o CDH55429: William BYRD Consort Songs sung by Robin Blaze with Concordia (mp3 and lossless) is a budget-price reissue of CDA67397, recorded in 2003 review. The pdf booklet, with texts, is a straight reprint of that from the full-price original.
I cant think of a better interpreter than Robin Blaze try track 5, Come to me grief if you need to be convinced and he is very well supported by Concordia. The lossless version is 16-bit only but thats no hindrance to enjoyment of this inexpensive reissue.
Theres an enjoyable collection of Byrds consort music on Naxos (8.550604 Tessa Bonner, Red Byrd and the Rose Consort) which, fortunately, can be regarded as for further exploration rather than as a rival to the Hyperion, as theres little overlap. Theres also a fine recording of Byrds complete music for instrumental consort (Linn CKD372 see May 2011/2 DL Roundup).
• CDA67911/2: Franz SCHUBERT Complete music for violin and piano (Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien, mp3, 16 and 24-bit lossless) was Stephen Greenbanks Recording of the Month review. Mp3 and 16-bit come at slightly less than the normal 2-CD price and even the first-rate 24-bit costs only £21.75. A very enjoyable set, but those who insist on period instruments may prefer the two Naxos CDs recorded by Jacqueline Ross and Maggie Cole (fortepiano), available slightly less expensively from classicsonline.com but in mp3 only (9.70164 review and 9.70182, with pdf booklet).
• CDA68046: César FRANCK Symphonic Organ Works played by Simon Johnson on the organ of St Pauls Cathedral. The highlight is a performance of the Symphony in d minor, M48, in an arrangement by Simon Johnson. Its often said that Franck orchestrated as if he were writing for the organ so the arrangement works very well indeed. (mp3, 16 or 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet.)
I shall not be ditching my CD recordings of the orchestral original, for which my best download recommendation is Chandos CHAN9875: the Symphony with Les Éolides and Symphonic Variations. (BBC Phil/Yan Pascal Tortelier, with Louis Lortie (piano) in Variations, mp3 and lossless, pdf booklet available.) See review.
• CDH55176: Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Parade (1917) [15:28]
Trois Gymnopédies (orch. Debussy and Corp) (1896) [8:53]
Mercure (1924) [12:16]
Trois Gnossiennes (orch. Corp) (1890) [7:33]
Relâche (1924) [21:31]
New London Orchestra/Ronald Corp rec. April 1989. DDD
A budget-price reissue which Stephen Francis Vasta rightly described as an essential acquisition see review. With their strong track record in British, American and European Light Music, Ronald Corp and his team are just the right people to bring this off.
o CDH55448: Francis POULENC Mass in G and Motets, including Quatre motets pour Noël and Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence Westminster Cathedral Choir/James ODonnell, rec. 1993, is a budget reissue of CDA66664. (mp3 and lossless with pdf booklet).
Two excellent reissues from Westminster Cathedral Choir under successive musical directors. Poulencs sharper, leaner a cappella style offers an illuminating contrast with Langlais (below), especially in the latters Missa Salve Regina with its resplendent organ part. The very fine performance is brightly recorded.
o CDH55444: Jean LANGLAIS Missa Salve Regina and Messe solennelle with three short organ works Westminster Cathedral Choir/David Hill, rec.1987 (budget price, mp3 and lossless with pdf booklet). Highly desirable at full price and even more so now. Theres no competition if you want both the masses together. The Missa Salve Regina is the high point of the recording for me with a gloriously ceremonial organ part and harmonies which are at once of the 20th-century yet harking back to Machaut and before, this music deserves to be much better known and this is the very recording to do it.
• CDH55466: Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD String Sextet, Op.10 and Arnold SCHOENBERG Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 The Raphael Ensemble. A budget reissue of CDA66425 in mp3 and lossless sound, with pdf booklet. If, like me, you prefer the original sextet version of Verklärte Nacht, this was as good a choice as any, even when it was at full price. The Korngold makes an interesting coupling I compared it with the Chandos recording of the Sextet and Piano Quintet in April 2012 here. As with the Resonus recording above of instrumental music by film composers, its best to forget the silver-screen connection, well in the future when this work was composed in 1917. Forget, too, the over-worked more corn than gold jibe and enjoy.
o CDA67909: Judith BINGHAM (b.1952) Choral Music sung by Wells Cathedral Choir/Matthew Owens with Jonathan Vaughn (organ). This new recording is a notable and welcome addition to what I hope is a continuing series. See review by John Quinn. Though recognisably modern and sometimes demanding, the music has the same timeless quality as the Samuel Palmer painting on the cover of the pdf booklet which comes with the download (mp3, 16 and 24-bit lossless).
In all cases Ive sampled the best lossless version, 24-bit where available, and mp3.
I must content myself for the moment to pointing out the availability from Hyperion of music from other sources, including the Gimell catalogue of recordings by The Tallis Scholars, on which Ive expatiated at length in past editions. I havent had time to investigate the tempting Hyperion downloads of the APR reissue of Moura Lympanys HMV recordings, APR6011, 2 CDs for the price of 1.
• Highlights from most of these recordings are available on the free August sampler, HYP201308, the September sampler HYP201309 and their October equivalent, HYP201310.
Coro: The Sixteen
Theres slightly less catching-up to do here:
o COR16114: Giovanni Pierluigi de PALESTRINA Volume 4 Missa O magnum mysterium, Iubilate Deo, Magnificat quinti toni and other music with Christmas associations The Sixteen/Harry Christophers rec. January 2013 [71:53] from thesixteendigital.com (mp3, aac and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet). Theres no need to wait for Christmas to enjoy this latest recording in a series which Ive welcomed at every stage.
• COR16115: Johann Sebastian BACH Lutheran Masses I BWV235 in g minor; B7WV233 in F; Cantata No.102, BWV102. The Sixteen/Harry Christophers rec. May 2013. [74:04] from thesixteendigital.com (mp3, aac and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet). Actually The Sixteen are The Eight for this recording of two of Bachs short Lutheran Masses (also known as Missæ breves, only the Kyrie and Gloria were set, in Latin, for principal festivals). The music is mostly borrowed from his cantatas and these short masses are often overshadowed by their great b-minor sibling, but that doesnt make them any the less worth hearing. This is surprisingly hotly contested territory, with recommendable period-instrument recordings from Chandos (CHAN0642, BWV233 and 236, and CHAN0653, BWV234 and 235), Alpha (170, BWV233 and 236 and 130, BWV234 and 235)* and Challenge Classics (CC72188, 2 CDs). All these recordings add fillers but Coros Cantata 102, which Bach raided for some of the music, is the most substantial and that may be the clincher for many potential purchasers. Otherwise Id have to plump for Ton Koopman on Challenge, but I look forward to The Sixteen completing the set. The recording is good in both mp3 and lossless formats.
* Download for £4.99 each from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
o COR16113: Joseph HAYDN Symphonies Nos. 6 (le Matin) and 82 (lOurs); Violin Concerto in G, HobVIIa/4 Aisslin Nosky (violin); Handel and Haydn Society/Harry Christophers [69:19] from thesixteendigital.com (mp3, aac and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet). Unless you must have the three related times of the day symphonies, (Nos.6-8) together or a complete set of the Paris symphonies from which No.82 comes, this is an enjoyable anthology of Haydns orchestral music. Stylish performances from one of the oldest period-instrument orchestras and a warm welcome to Aisslinn Nosky, whom I havent encountered before; well recorded and sounding good in both mp3 and lossless formats.
All the Coro albums above can be streamed (with pdf booklet) from the Naxos Library.
September 2013 releases are here; October 2013 here.
• Among the October 2013 releases and those for September which I didnt cover last time, 9-11BX7: Léo DELIBES Sylvia, almost complete the LSO conducted by Anatole Fistoulari (1958), stands out as my personal choice. This Mercury recording has deservedly been reissued in many guises over the years on Philips and Fontana in the UK and was available until recently coupled with Antal Dorátis slightly less recommendable Coppélia on a 3-CD Mercury set. There are more recent alternatives, some of them attractively priced (Mogrelia on Naxos, Bonynge on Decca) but I see no reason not to stay with this Fistoulari reissue as my prime recommendation. The recording has come up astonishingly well and the price is attractive £5.25 for the whole ballet. Highly enjoyable.
• 1BX263: Tomás Luis de VICTORIA was one of the greatest composers of the Sixteenth century perhaps even greater than Palestrina and certainly worthy to be mentioned in the same breath. The Capilla de Musica de Montserrat kept the flame of the church music of this period alight when others were neglecting it, so a performance by them of O Domine Jesu, under the direction of Dom David Pujol ought to be enlightening. On the other hand, I approached this recording with caution, having heard the Montserrat Choir on a later recording for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi murder Victorias music. (I heard the choir of Toledo Cathedral commit the same crime in the flesh in the 1960s Im sure theyve got it right now.) Im afraid that, though my worst fears were not realised, I cant really recommend the insecure and wavery performance when theres so much of Victorias music available now in excellent performances. The Beulah reissues from the Oxford/HMV History of Music in Sound (HMS) from the early 1950s listed below contain some gems, but also some turkeys. Im afraid that this leans towards the latter category.
• 1BX262: Orlande de LASSUS Scio enim from the London (Brompton) Oratory Choir and Henry Washington cant have been at all well known when it was recorded (earlier than 1954, as stated; it was reviewed in January of that year) for the History of Music in Sound project and I cant even find a recording in the current catalogue. The singing is of a different age when such music was treated with a degree of respect that we would now find over-cautious and the recording is thin, but this is a recording of historical significance. Not a turkey, then, but not a shining gem, either.
o 2BX262: Jakob Handl liked to latinise his name to Jacobus GALLUS, under which soubriquet the Oratory Choir recorded his motet O admirabile mysterium. The work lends itself rather more readily then the Lassus to Henry Washingtons reverential treatment. The presence of Ralph Downes at the organ may have helped and the recording, though thin, has come up sounding a little better than the Lassus at least a semi-precious gem this time.
• St Pauls Cathedral Choir conducted by John Dykes Bower sing Tudor English Church Music Thomas TALLIS, Adesto nunc propitius, William BYRD Hæc dies and Thomas MORLEY Agnus Dei on 2BX274. Like several other HMS recordings this month the sound is rather dated and the performances have been superseded by later, generally more springy, versions, but all these reissues from the History of Music in Sound are historically valuable.
• Ive already recommended another St Pauls collection of English Church Music of a later period, Pelham HUMFREYs Hear, O Heavens and Maurice GREENEs O clap your hands which provides a valuable opportunity to hear Alfred Dellers distinctive tones from a time when he was just about the only counter-tenor in the business (1BX274 see DL News 2013/12).
These works by Humfrey and Greene are also included on Music of England 3 (3PD76), as are the madrigals on 1BX273, which I also reviewed in 2012/12. The other items on 3PD76 are:
• SS WESLEY Magnificat in E [7:23]
• Sir Hubert PARRY I was glad [6:20] Festival of English Church Music (1933)/Sir Sidney Nicholson: some surface noise, some harshness of tone and some occasional noises-off apart, these recordings are remarkably good for their age. iTunes reveals the usual ignorance of classical music by attributing all the tunes on the album to Sir Sidney Nicholson.
• Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Song of Thanksgiving [14:50] Betty Dolemore (soprano); Luton Choral Society and Girls Choir; LPO/Sir Adrian Boult rec. c.1951. The words spoken by the narrator, Robert Speaight (from Shakespeare and the Bible) no doubt sounded less jingoistic in 1945 when the work was composed and even in the early 1950s when it was recorded. By the time of its re-release on the second side of an LP in 1953, the occasion seemed to have passed and its mainly of historical interest now. Betty Dolemore has a rather small but clear voice and the narrator uses the BBC Received Pronunciation of the time. The recording, first released on two Parlophone 78s, was deemed exemplary in its time but it demands some tolerance now.
• Benjamin BRITTEN Missa brevis in D, Op. 63 [10:11] Westminster Cathedral Boys Choir/George Malcolm (organ). Britten composed this short mass for these very forces. Recorded live in Westminster Cathedral and first released on a 7" EP in 1960, coincidentally at the same time as the Kings LP of Byrds 5-part Mass their recording of the Missa brevis is available on Classics for Pleasure at budget price, with other Britten choral music the performance is obviously authoritative and the recording has come up reasonably well, if a trifle shrill and with some extraneous noises. This one item makes the whole album well worth having the tracks can be purchased separately.
• Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Serenade to Music [12:15] Elsie Morison (soprano), Marjorie Thomas (contralto), Duncan Robertson (tenor), Trevor Anthony (bass); LSO/Malcolm Sargent. Im a great lover of VWs music and I once, long ago, played Lorenzo in Merchant of Venice, who utters the beautiful words set here, but I fear the Serenade to Music is not for me a minority view nor did this performance do anything to endear me. The recording has come up well.
The album is available from amazon.co.uk and iTunes (mp3)
• 2BX264: Orlando GIBBONS Anthem Behold thou hast made my days is performed by the choir of Hampstead Parish Church conducted by Sir Jack Westrup, with Ralph Downes (organ). The soloists declamatory style and diction and the thin recording place this in the historically-important rather than the essential category.
• We now have any number of recordings of the music of Heinrich SCHÜTZ but that wasnt the case when Arnold Goldsbrough recorded the short cantata Saul, Saul, was verfolgest du mich? with his own Goldsbrough Choir and Orchestra, soloists and Ralph Downes (organ), reissued on 1BX265. The HMS recording is dated but tolerable and the performance still sounds surprisingly stylish.
• Schütz visited Venice where he learned much of his trade from Giovanni GABRIELI, whose In ecclesiis is also performed by soloists and the Goldsbrough Ensemble on 2BX265. Performance rather too blatant and recording here have worn rather less well.
• More Gabrieli, this time Andrea GABRIELI, on 2BX266 where Susi Jeans plays the organ of the Marienkirche, Lemgo, Germany in Ricercar arioso No.1. On 1BX266 she performs Jan SWEELINCKs Chorale Variations. The playing is stylish and the recordings are unbelievably good for their vintage, especially when contrasted with most of these other HMS reissues, no doubt ably assisted by some of Beulahs magic. Two little gems here.
• I enjoyed Thurston Dart playing Girolamo FRESCOBALDIs Capriccio sopra un soggetto (24BX69) from the same HMS series playing which still sounds stylish in a thin-ish recording but perfectly tolerable in this transcription. This was singled out from a set of releases in 1954 and its one of my highlights, too.
• By contrast I found Anthony Bernards recording of Michael PRÆTORIUS Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern with the London Chamber Singers and Orchestra, from the same series, on 1BX161 rather heavy going Id like my morning star to shine a little more brightly in sound quality, too.
• 1BX255: Jacques Champion de CHAMBONNIÈRES (1601-1672) Three keyboard pieces and 2BX255: Domenico SCARLATTI Sonata in B-flat, L498, played by Aimée van de Wiele (harpsichord) are taken from HMS60. (The Chambonnières works are misattributed to Dorothy Swainson, clavichord, on the cover). The chosen instrument is less clangourous than was often the case in the early 1950s and I greatly enjoyed the stylish performances of the Chambonnières pieces.
Theres plenty of recorded Scarlatti nowadays and we usually hear the sonatas in the Kirkpatrick pairings. I especially like the Nimbus series on which Richard Lester plays harpsichord and fortepiano but this Beulah reissue makes an attractive pendant to that collection.
• The music of Diet(e)rich BUXTEHUDE features on 1BX267 Prelude and fugue in g minor (Johannes Brenneke, organ) and 2BX267 (Laudate pueri, Psalm 113), both recorded in 1962 and released on a special-order Columbia LP of Music in old Towns and Residences. The town in question was Lübeck and the focus of the LP was on Buxtehudes concerts there, known as Abendmusiken. With soloists of the quality of Edith Mathis and Maria Friesenhausen, a consort of gambas, violone, theorbo and organ (Walter Kraft) the performances are still well worth hearing and the recording has mostly come up well, apart from a tendency for the pedal notes to thump somewhat in the Prelude and fugue. Theres a lot more from this LP that I hope will see the light of day soon and not just in the recent 10-CD EMI Electrola set of recordings from this series (now re-badged as Warner Parlophone), in which that 1962 LP forms CD4. Subscribers to Naxos Music Library can sample the Lübeck volume there.
• Johann Christoph (not, I think Christian, as stated on the cover) BACHs Motet Ich lasse dich nicht, sung by the choir of St George the Martyr, Southwark, and directed by Sir Jack Westrup comes with the advantage of having Ralph Downes at the organ (1BX264). The recording of this double chorus by JSBs uncle has come up very well indeed considering that it first appeared on a batch of HMS recordings in October 1954; its much better than most of the reissues here from that series and the performance still sounds stylish. Well-balanced and very clear still describes this as well as it did in 1954.
• Last month I praised André Cluytens recordings with the Berlin Phil of Beethovens First and Third Symphonies and Prometheus Overture and mentioned the other Beulah reissues of his BEETHOVEN Symphonies, a set now happily completed with No.7 (33-36BX82), No.8 (37-40BX82) and the Fidelio Overture (41BX82) in sound which has hardly dated. The Seventh is perhaps a little too cautious and theres one recording from this period which Id place even higher on the list; Beulah have reissued that, too: the young Colin Davis with the RPO from 1961 15-16BX129, see February 2012/1 Roundup.
• In SCHUMANNs Third Symphony (Rhenish) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Paul Paray on 7-11BX279 (rec.1955, stereo), completing the Beulah reissues of this series. If, like me, you fell in love with this music from George Szells recording (Columbia) youll find Parays opening tempo much too slow and the whole first movement lumbering. Only in the finale does the performance come to life for me paradoxically, I see that some have thought that movement too fast and others too heavy. The recording has come up well.
• Birthday boy Richard WAGNERs orchestral titbits were recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Paul Paray and reissued now on:
• 12BX279: Der fliegende Holländer Overture rec. 1960
• 13BX279: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Suite rec. 1960
• 14BX279: Die Walküre Wotans Farewell and Magic Fire Music rec. 1960
• 15BX279: Götterdämmerung Dawn and Siegfrieds Journey to the Rhine rec. 1956
• 16BX279: Siegfried Idyll rec. 1956
• 17BX279: Tristan und Isolde Act III Prelude rec. 1956
Weve already had Parays Rienzi Overture (6BX279) which I liked enough in 2013/11 to ask for the other overtures and orchestral music from the same LP now here they are, still sounding very well indeed. The performances of the Holländer Overture, Meistersinger Suite and a snappy Siegfried Idyll are the best, with the Magic Fire Music and Rhine Journey rather less idiomatic. The Mercury CD of these works is not now generally available in the UK even ArkivMusic dont have it and sellers on Amazon are asking over £40 for it so the Beulah reissues are especially welcome.
Fritz Reiner conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in waltzes by the STRAUSS Family:
• 4BX276: Josefs Village Swallows, Op.164
• 5BX276: Johann IIs Vienna Blood, Op.354
• 6BX276: Roses from the South, Op.388
• 7BX276: Treasure Waltz, Op.418
• 8BX276: Thunder and Lighting Polka, Op.324
Reiner is much better known as one of the greatest interpreters of the other Strauss, Richard, but he was capable of letting his hair down with the Royal family of the waltz to very good effect, as in these 1960 recordings. The recordings have come up well. As Ive already said of 1-3BX276, you might think Willi Boskovsky was at the helm: 2013/11 DL News.
• 9BX137: Richard Lewis sings LISZT Wie singt die Lerche schön and Peter CORNELIUS Auftrag, Op.5/6 accompanied by Gerald Moore, from another, later, HMS release, this time dating from 1959. Amazingly these releases were still available on 78s a year after the introduction of the stereo LP. Youd be hard pressed to find more sensitive performances and the recording still sounds more than tolerable.
• Ill briefly note three other song recordings which I hope to deal with next time: 1BX256 Franz Mertens sings songs by DUPARC, CHAUSSON and FAURÉ. 1BX260 settings of Mörikes Er istss by Robert SCHUMANN, Robert FRANZ and Hugo WOLF (Ilse Wolf and Ernest Lush) and Alfred Orda sings Russian Songs on 1BX257, all from that 1959 batch of HMS recordings.
• I have to admit that ELGARs Dream of Gerontius is not one of my favourite choral works I tend to feel like Gerontius when he cries out to the angel Take me away; the Boult recording lies untouched in the EMI box of Elgars choral works and I havent heard the recent Mark Elder recording on Hallés own label. I can, therefore, only note the reissue of Sir Malcolm Sargents highly-regarded 1945 recording with the Huddersfield Choral Society and RLPO on 34-34BX13. This is also scheduled for release on iTunes and amazon.co.uk (9PD13) but Beulahs own transfers come at a higher bit-rate and, at £5.00, less expensive than from either of those sources or, indeed, than the Testament reissue of this recording, coupled with the Cello Concerto on two CDs. The recording has come up reasonably well for its age.
Sir Charles Mackerras was an authority on Czech music in general and JANÁČEK in particular. Beulah have reissued his 1959 recordings with the Pro Arte Orchestra of the opera preludes:
• 2BX278: The Makropoulos Affair
• 3BX278: Kátya Kabanova
• 4BX278: From the House of the Dead
• 5BX278: Jealousy
• plus 6BX278: SMETANA The Bartered Bride Overture.
He was not yet the eminence grise of Czech music that he later became when Pye issued these recordings as fillers to his performance of the Sinfonietta, but that doesnt make these reissues any less valuable. When I reviewed that recording of Sinfonietta (1BX278) a couple of months ago DL News 2013/11 I asked to have these preludes, too. No sooner wished for than granted.
Russian Masters 3:
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Symphony No.2 in d minor, Op.40 [32:38]
Moscow RSO/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-2893) Eugene Onegin Tatianas Letter Scene [12:31]
Joan Hammond (soprano); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent
Swan Lake Suite [21:10]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan
Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910) Islamey (orch. Casella)[9:33]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Eugene Goossens
BEULAH 4PD11 [75:54] from amazon.co.uk or iTunes
After the First Symphony, with its imitation not wholly successful, I always think of the classical style, Prokofievs second was avowedly a work of iron and steel. Ive never heard a performance that brought out the brutalism albeit a colourful brutalism more than this transfer of a Melodiya recording. The sound has come up amazingly well, with the residual brashness suiting the music. For all my admiration of the Neeme Järvi series of the Prokofiev symphonies on Chandos, this is the version.
After that the two Tchaikovsky items are welcome but something of an anti-climax. The Letter Scene was a Joan Hammond special and its good to have a reminder, though her manner sounds somewhat dated. Karajan re-made the three ballet suites with the VPO for Decca but this early stereo Philharmonia recording has become something of a classic and the recording has come up very well in this transfer; if you turned down the volume for the Prokofiev, youll need to turn it up again.
Eugene Goossens didnt always get the same quality of performance from the Philharmonia as Karajan or Klemperer and I can think of more colourful accounts of the orchestrated Islamey, but this final track rounds off in style a recommendable album highly recommendable for the Prokofiev and almost as much for the Swan Lake Suite.
MusicWeb Classical Editor Rob Barnett has also been listening to this recording:
For me the main draw is the stomping and strutting Rozhdestvensky Prokofiev 2 which is impressively steely ... harsh even. If anything the recording quality is a step back from the exalted work Beulah did for the previous Melodiya Rachmaninov tranfers. Just a suggestion of distortion, especially on those trumpets and surging massed violins, but restricted to the Prokofiev. The Sargent-conducted Tatiana's letter scene is clean as a whistle. Old- fashioned so far as being sung in English is concerned, but very affecting. The Karajan Swan Lake suite is tenderly done, grand, lush even and delicate. Plenty of depth to the sound picture to complement the music making. The Goossens Islamey also sounds splendid in its glowingly multi-facetted Casella finery. Very much out of the Rimsky Capriccio Espagnol box. I hope that Beulah will do more all-Melodiya trasfers. They have shown a real gift for these. Let them have a look at the EMI Melodiya LP of the Arensky and Scriabin piano concertos ... a real showstopper.
Discovery of the Month
Philip van WILDER (c.1500-1554) Complete Sacred Music and Chansons
Philip van WILDER Ite missa est Deo gratias [1:03]
JOSQUIN des Prés Homo quidam [2:48]
Philip van WILDER Homo quidam [3:30]
Pater noster [3:29]
Thomas TALLIS Sancte Deus [4:19]
Philip van WILDER Sancte Deus [6:14]
Nicolas GOMBERT Amy, souffrez [2:32]
Philip van WILDER Amy, souffrez [2:47]
O doux regard [2:48]
Je file quand dieu me donne de quoy [1:18]
Pour vous aymer [2:06]
Amour me poingt, et si je me veulx plaindre [2:42]
Thomas CAUSTON Turn thou us [3:10]
Philip van WILDER Shall I despair thus suddenly? [2:01]
Thomas TALLIS O sacrum convivium [2:48]
Blessed are those that be undefiled [3:24]
Philip van WILDER Blessed art thou that fearest God [2:22]
William BYRD If in thine heart [2:35]
Philip van WILDER Vidi civitatem [6:21]
Non est qui/Non nobis, Domine [1:35]
Aspice Domine [6:00]
William BYRD Aspice Domine [4:19]
Ne irascaris / Civitas sancti tui [6:21]
Cantores/David Allinson rec. 2006 and 2007. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
First recordings of most of the van Wilder and some other works
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0198 [76:50] from toccataclassics.com (mp3 and lossless)
Toccata Classics continue to do us proud at both ends of the musical time scale from Philip van Wilder to Matthew Taylor, with Giacomo Facco in-between with a number of recordings, any one of which could well have been my Discovery of the Month. Im indebted to the booklet for details of a composer whom I had never even heard of there is one recording of two of the chansons (An Emerald in a Work of Gold: Music from the Down Partbooks, Delphian DCD34115) and one of Blessed Art Thou (Alto ALC4001 review).
Philip van Wilder was a Dutch lutenist and composer who became Henry VIIIs favourite musician. Although a major figure in his own day (and also comfortably off), he has passed almost unnoticed from musical history. This recording sets him in historical context: downstream from Josquin and Gombert, collaborating with Tallis and a formative influence on Byrd. Im delighted to be introduced to his music and the decision to place it in context was particularly apt, though I have to be a sour-puss and express some reservations.
Cantores is a choir formed from graduates of Exeter University by Dr David Allison which meets several times a year for specific projects, specialising in the music of the Renaissance. Their singing is attractive and stylish, but the programme invites the inevitable comparisons with others in Josquin, Tallis and Byrd and I think they suffer somewhat in that comparison.
In most of the familiar music I felt that David Allinson was pressing the pace a little too hard and comparative timings with recordings by the Tallis Scholars, New College, Oxford, Chappelle du Roi and Alamire reveal that Cantores are significantly and consistently faster, sometimes by almost 30%. As a result the words sometimes become less than ideally clear a particular problem with the English texts where Cranmer insisted on clarity and the polyphony sometimes becomes a wall of sound in which its hard to distinguish the parts. Thats not, I think, the fault of the diction or the recording, which is clear though a mite close. That reservation about tempo applies to van Wilders setting of Blessed art thou: a somewhat rushed 2:22 against a grander-sounding 3:02 on the Magdalen College recording on Alto ALC4001. The Magdalen boys voices also add a more ethereal touch to the music.
I would suggest that you try tracks 2 (Josquin), 5, 15-16 (Tallis), 22 and 23 (Byrd) yourself when the album appears on Naxos Music Library and compare them with other recordings there, except that I dont want my reservations to spoil the fun. Its not a serious problem when I think the new recording still very much worth having for the sake of its premiere versions of all the van Wilder music and the Causton Turn thou us.
Recording of the Month
Monteverdi: Heaven and Earth
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Toccata (Orfeo) [0:39]
Ritornello and Dal mio Permesso (Orfeo) [6:36]
Zefiro torna (Scherzi musicali, 1632) [5:18]
Ohimè, dovè il mio ben (Seventh Book of Madrigals) [5:52]
Chiome doro (Seventh Book of Madrigals) [3:05]
A Dio, Roma (LIncoronazione di Poppea) [4:06]
A Dio, Florida bella (Sixth Book of Madrigals) [4:14]
Interotte speranze (Seventh Book of Madrigals) [3:23]
Lamento dArianna Lasciatemi morire (Sixth Book of Madrigals) [2:18]
Possente spirto (Orfeo) [9:29]
O come sei gentile (Seventh Book of Madrigals) [5:00]
Lamento della Ninfa (Eighth Book of Madrigals) [6:24]
Cruda Amarilli (Fifth Book of Madrigals) [2:58]
Hor chel ciel, e la terra (Eighth Book of Madrigals) [8:49]
Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram, Julie Cooper (soprano)
Sarah Connolly, Diana Moore (mezzo)
Charles Daniels, John Bowen, James Gilchrist (tenor)
Robert Evans, Michael George (bass)
The Kings Consort/Robert King rec. February 2002. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
VIVAT 104 [68:10] from vivatmusic.com (mp3, 16 and 24-bit lossless)
A warm welcome back to the Kings Consort with their return on release No.4 to their home territory, though Ive enjoyed the earlier releases on their new label. In fact, it appears that this programme was recorded some time ago, perhaps with the intention of forming a supplement of Monteverdis secular music to the Consorts complete sacred works on Hyperion (four volumes, plus Vespers of 1610). That recording of the Vespers is my favourite, alongside the earlier Andrew Parrott (Virgin Classics, now re-badged as Erato, a first-rate bargain) so I had high expectations of the new release, which features two of the sopranos from that recording.
I was not disappointed, except insofar as the two excerpts from Orfeo and the lament from Poppea made me wish that Robert King would record those works complete. Meanwhile enjoy this selection of heaven and earth the title from the final track ecstasy and lament, largely taken from the later books of madrigals. Even those who have invested in the Naïve recordings of these works, especially the 3-CD set of Book 8, are not likely to regret the investment.
If I have to say something critical, the cover is a bit unimaginative. The booklet behind that cover is scholarly and informative and the recording, good in mp3, is excellent in 24-bit format. Prices range from £8 to £15.
Mention of complete recordings of Orfeo and Poppea reminds me that there are two very good recordings, one of each, sitting in my to do tray. So much download material has come my way recently that they have been unjustly neglected. There will be a more detailed review:
• lOrfeo: Charles Daniels, Faye Newton, Taverner Consort and Players/Andrew Parrott AVIE AV2278 [2 CDs]. Download, with pdf booklet, from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
• lIncoronazione di Poppea: Sonya Yoncheva, Max Emanuel Cencic; le Concert dAstrée/Emmanuelle Haïm VIRGIN 9289919 [2 DVDs]
Giacomo FACCO (1676-1753)
Pensieri Adriarmonici, Concerti à cinque: Volume One Concertos Nos. 1-6
Concerto à 5 in E minor, Op. 1/1
Concerto à 5 in B flat major, Op.1/2
Concerto à 5 in E major, Op. 1/3
Concerto à 5 in C minor, Op.1/4
Concerto à 5 in A major, Op. 1/5
Concerto à 5 in F major, Op. 1/6
Manuel Zogbi (violin)
Mexican Baroque Orchestra/Miguel Lawrence
Pdf booklet included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0202 [51:45] from toccataclassics.com (mp3 and lossless)
What an enterprising label Toccata Classics is; this was going to be my Discovery of the Month but they have beaten themselves to that title with the van Wilder recording (above). We already had some samples of Faccos concertos from the same performers on a recording made by another enterprising company, Divine Art (Op.1/1 and Op.1/5 on DDA25091 review) but Toccata have gone further and the Volume 1 heading suggests that theres more to come. That earlier album coupled Faccos music with that of Vivaldi and lovers of the latter will find much to admire in Faccos music, too.
The performances are lively a shade too hard driven at times and not cognisant of period performance practice, but I found that a less serious problem than Johan van Veen writing about the earlier release review its partly Faccos fault that theres less repose than in Vivaldi. You may wish to try it for yourself, however, from Naxos Music Library when it appears there, to see if you are as put off as JvV was by the earlier release. His dislike of the earlier release can to some extent be explained by the not unreasonable use of continuo instruments which would have been more accessible in Mexico at the time when the music was performed there.
Recording, in both mp3 and lossless flac, is good I tried both and the notes in the booklet are helpful. This is well worth making a voyage of discovery to hear; if you dont want to download, MusicWeb International have Toccata Classics CDs on sale for £10.50 post free.
Theres a recording of the second set of these concerti, Op.1/7-12 on the Pavane label (ADW7434) and the performances there, though again not particularly heedful of period practice, are somewhat more stylish and restful than those on Toccata classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream Naxos Music Library.
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Catone in Utica: Dramma per musica RV705 (1737) [2:40:40]
Topi Lehtipuu (tenor) Catone
Roberta Mameli (soprano) Cesare
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo) Emilia
Sonia Prina (alto) Marzia
Romina Basso (mezzo) Fulvio
Emoke Baráth (soprano) Arbace
Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis rec. Longino, Italy, September 2012. DDD.
pdf booklet with texts and translations included.
NAÏVE OP30545 [3 CDs: 69:25 + 60:11 + 31:23] from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream Naxos Music Library
For details see my joint review with Geoffrey Molyneux of the CD set. (But NB: you may find the CDs at a lower price than COLs £23.97 target in the UK £19.42.)
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Giulio Cesare in Egitto (1724)
Marie-Nicole Lemieux (alto) - Giulio Cesare
Karina Gauvin (soprano) - Cleopatra
Romina Basso (mezzo) - Cornelia
Emoke Barath (soprano) - Sesto
Filippo Mineccia (counter-tenor) - Tolomeo
Johannes Weisser (baritone) - Achilla
Milena Storti (mezzo) - Nireno
Gianluca Buratto (bass) - Curio
Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
NAÏVE OP30536 [3 CDs: 3:40:31] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, no booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library (with booklet containing texts and translations).
( Recording of the Month see review.)
Ive been admiring Alan Curtiss recordings of three baroque operas recently, two of which were rarities: Handels Giove in Argo (Virgin) look out for a review on the main MusicWeb International pages or, if you cant wait, be assured that its first-rate and Vivaldis Catone in Utica (Naïve, above). Giulio Cesare is no rarity and the market, on CD and DVD is highly competitive, but this new recording is up there with the very best, for all the reasons given in Simon Thompsons review to which Ive given a link.
Theres a surprise right at the beginning, with the opening of the Sinfonia taken much faster than usual as Alan Curtis writes in the booklet, theres no firm evidence to regard such pieces as in the French style, but it certainly makes the listener sit up and take notice if youre used to, say, the René Jacobs recording (see below). I dont wish to suggest, however, that you are likely to be shaking your head in disagreement; far from it whatever you may think of the argument, and Im no Handel scholar to say yea or nay, the performance will take you along with it all the way that Sinfonia to the finale.
The singing is first-rate, but look elsewhere for a counter-tenor Cesare, perhaps to Andreas Scholl on the Harmonia Mundi DVD (below). One reservation: the eclassical.com price of $39.20 is barely, if at all, competitive with the price of the CD set in the UK target price at the time of writing, ignoring short-term offers, £20.21.
If you dont already have the René Jacobs recording you may wish to consider adding the highlights from that set: Harmonia Mundi HMA1951458, just £5.99 from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library.
Göran Forsling thought Natalie Dessays recording of eight of Cleopatras arias, with le Concert dAstrée and Emmanuelle Haïm (Virgin , now Erato) a highly attractive addition to a complete recording review. Its yours for £3.99 from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk or stream from Naxos Music Library.
Fans of opera in English and of the incomparable Dame Janet Baker will need no urging to obtain her recording with Valerie Masterson, John Tomlinson, Sarah Walker, Sir Charles Mackerras and the ENO (Chandos CHAN3019 from theclassicalshop.net, mp3 and lossless; highlights CHAN3072 from theclassicalshop.net, mp3 and lossless). The complete set is very good value at £10.00 (mp3) or £15.99 (lossless); both versions come with the pdf booklet. See February 2010 DL Roundup.
If you want a DVD version, either instead of or to supplement an audio-only recording, two that I know are well worth hearing:
• William Christie, with Sarah Connolly and a show-stealing Danielle de Niese (Glyndebourne, Opus Arte, also on blu-ray) review
• Lars Ulrik Mortensen, with Andreas Scholl and Inger Dam-Jensen (Harmonia Mundi, Recording of the Month) review
George Frideric HANDEL Aci, Galatea e Polifemo
Roberta Invernizzi (soprano) Aci
Blandine Staskiewicz (mezzo) Galatea
Lisandro Abadie (bass) Polifemo
La Risonanza/Fabio Bonizzoni (harpsichord) rec. 25-30 June 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet with text and translation included
GLOSSA GCD921515 [2 CDS: 89:57] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)
Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, not to be confused with the later English-texted Acis and Galatea, is a serenata which he composed in Rome at the age of 23. The plot, derived from Ovid, is the same as in the later work but the music and (Italian) text are completely different. In brief, the nymph Galatea is loved by the shepherd Acis and reciprocates his love, but not that of the giant Polyphemus, who grows increasingly insistent in pressing his suit. In a jealous rage, Polyphemus destroys Acis by hurling a huge rock at him. The gods take pity on Galatea and allow her to merge in the sea with Acis, now transformed into a river.
We already had a CD recording from Emmanuelle Haïm (Virgin, now Erato download from classicsonline.com, mp3) which I liked and a DVD (Dynamic) which I hated because of the balletic antics and the fact that each of the soloists has a double. The new recording is very good indeed I thought Ms. Staskiewiczs Galatea marginally less good than the other two soloists and the fact that its available in lossless sound at no extra price and comes with a pdf booklet is an added attraction. The recording, though rounded off with a short extract from one of Handels Roman cantatas, is rather short, but thats reflected in the eclassical.com price allowing for £/$ conversion thats slightly less than you could pay for the Haïm.
Subscribers to Naxos Music Library can compare the Haïm and Bonizzoni recordings there.
Handel later recycled Polifemos familiar Ruddier than the cherry from the English Acis back into Italian as Avampo ferito son damore and this features in a fine recital of music associated with one of Handels most famous singers:
o HARMONIA MUNDI HMU90716: Arias for Montagnana: (bass arias from Ezio, Sosarme, Esther, Tolomeo, Orlando, Deborah and Athaliah). David Thomas (bass) with Philharmonia Baroque/Nicholas McGegan. from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless). Theres no booklet of texts, but its Hobsons choice, with the CD (and its booklet) not currently available. The cover depicts the Covent Garden riot of 1726 opera could be as rowdy as football back then.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Music for clarinet
Clarinet Concerto in A, K622* [27:05]
Clarinet Trio in E flat, K498 Kegelstatt-Trio** [18:55]
Allegro in B flat for clarinet, 2 violins, viola and cello, KAnh.91^ (516c) [7:40]
Martin Fröst (basset clarinet and clarinet)
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen*
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)**, Janine Jansen (violin)^, Antoine Tamestit (viola)**, Boris Brovtsyn (violin)^, Maxim Rysanov (viola)^ and Torleif Thedéen (cello)^
rec. July 2012 and February 2013. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
BIS-SACD-1893 [53:40] from eclassical.com (mp3, 16 and 24-bit lossless).
Also available as hybrid SACD.
Martin Fröst already had a well-liked recording of the Clarinet Concerto and Quintet under his belt for BIS, with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta (BIS-SACD-1623), also available from eclassical.com, but Im glad that hes given the concerto a second go.
Only an inseparable attachment to one of the classic recordings of the concerto, such as the two which introduced me to its delights Gervase de Peyer (Decca, with Anthony Collins, Eloquence 4803608, also Beulah 1BX45, or with Peter Maag, Eloquence 4767404)* or Jack Brymer (EMI, with Sir Thomas Beecham, apparently no longer available on CD!)** would militate against this very fine new recording. Add the use of the basset instrument for which the concerto was conceived, the equally delightful Clarinet Trio, with a starry line-up of helpers, and the attractive Allegro and this release merits a strong endorsement. Further add a very good recording, especially in 24-bit sound the mp3 sound is pretty good, too and a price that takes account of the fairly short playing time.
If you want Frösts version of the Quintet without the earlier recording of the Concerto, its possible to purchase those tracks separately. Otherwise theres always the classic Alfred Boskovsky/Vienna Octet recording of the Quintet in a good transfer from Beulah (11-14BX168).
Thea King, with Jeffrey Tate, also employs the basset clarinet with its deeper range in very fine accounts of the Concerto and Quintet on Hyperion CDA66199 or CDA30010 Hyperion at 30 Download Roundup.
* Also with Horn Concertos 1 and 3, from Discover Classical, see September 2012/1 Roundup.
** Download from classicsonline.com with Bassoon Concerto and Symphony No.41 here or with Bassoon Concerto and Violin Concerto No.3 here both at £4.99. Stream the coupling with the Symphony from Naxos Music Library.
Id barely written the above when along came another recording of the Clarinet Quintet:
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Clarinet Quintet in A, K581 [31:42]
String Quartet No.15 in d minor, K421 [26:56]
Jörg Widmann (clarinet); Arcanto Quartett (Antje Weithaas (violin); Daniel Sepec (violin); Tabea Zimmermann (viola)
Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello))
Pdf booklet included
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902168 [58:38] from eclassical.com (mp3, a6 and 24-bit lossless)
Ive sung the praises of the Arcanto Quartett in Schuberts String Quintet below, but I understand that this is their first venture into Mozart. Its certainly an auspicious start, with one of the best versions of the Quintet coupled with a good performance of the Quartet K421.
With so many fine recordings of the Quintet and fewer but equally fine accounts of the Quartet, its impossible to have this as a Best Buy. These straightforward performances dont offer any new insights into the music thats probably impossible at this stage but they certainly arent routine. With good recording, especially in 24-bit format, only a strong preference for period instruments would make me ask you to look elsewhere to the Quatuor Mosaïques on Naïve E8843, for example, in K421:
• String Quartet No.14 in G, K387 [34:03]
String Quartet No.15 in d minor, K421 [33:20]
NAÏVE E8843 [67:23] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
• String Quartet No.17 in B-flat, K458 (Hunt) [35:06]
String Quartet No.16 in E-flat, K428 [37:02]
NAÏVE E8844 [72:08] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
• The Mosaïques performances of the remaining String Quartets from Mozarts maturity are available from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library: Nos. 18 and 19 (E8845), 20 and 22 (E8834), 21 and 23 (E8888). All represent excellent alternatives to the Italian Quartet, whose complete set has recently been reissued on Decca Collectors Edition (8 CDs) from 7digital.com (mp3). Nos. 14-19 and 20-23 remain available from the same source in 3 and 2-CD volumes respectively, but these two volumes together are more expensive than the 8-disc box set.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Divertimento in E flat, K563 (1788) [47:40]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) String Trio in B flat major, D471 (1816) [10:56]
Trio Zimmermann (Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin); Antoine Tamestit (viola); Christian Poltéra (cello)) rec. July 2009 (Mozart) and July 2010 (Schubert). DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
BIS BIS-SACD-1817 [59:25] from eclassical.com (mp3 16 and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
( Beautifully presented and recorded this impressive disc will prove a most worthwhile addition to any chamber music collection. See review of hybrid SACD by Michael Cookson.)
• Divertimento in E-flat, K563 [47:00]; String Trio in G, KAnh. 66 (K. 562e) [3:56]
Henning Kraggerud (violin); Lars Anders Tomter (viola); Christoph Richter (cello)
NAXOS 8.572258 [50:56] from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) see December 2010 Roundup.
This recording has developed a proper cover, a CD equivalent, a pdf booklet and availability in lossless flac since I reviewed it.
• Divertimento in E-flat, K563 [45:34]; Duo for violin and viola in B-flat, K424 [21:25]
Leopold String Trio rec. November 2000. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67246 [66:59] from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless) (see review by Christopher Howell.)
Theres an embarrassment of choices here: the purse-proud should probably go for the Naxos and those who must have 24-bit sound need the BIS recording, while the Hyperion represents the most music for your money and an all-Mozart programme. All three performances are so good that otherwise I find it hard to plump. This is some of Mozarts greatest chamber music you would hardly imagine that it was written for a friend to cover a loan to the perennially-hard-up composer and its length belies the title Divertimento.
The Lyrichord Years - Volume 1
Music for musical clock by BEETHOVEN, HAYDN and MOZART arranged for winds by W SKOWRONEK.
Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet rec. 1964. ADD
pdf booklet included
LYRICHORD LYRCD6018 [65:50] from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream Naxos Music Library
This is at once much more enjoyable and less exotic than the words musical clock in the title, also known as the mechanical organ, may suggest. If you enjoy Mozarts Wind Serenades, you should enjoy this collection; the arrangements are skilful, the performances attractive and the recordings newly spruced up and sounding fresh in these new transfers, originally released in the UK on two Oryx LPs. Failing the reconstruction of the Esterházy clocks, this will do nicely, but try first from Naxos Music Library if youre not sure it hadnt yet appeared there when I checked but it surely will soon.
The Lyrichord Years - Volume 2
Anton REICHA (1770-1836) Wind Quintet in e minor, Op.100/4 [28:51]
Franz DANZI Wind Quintet in D, Op.56/3 [19:22]
Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet rec. 1969. ADD
pdf booklet included
LYRICHORD LYRCD6020 [48:13] from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
As with Volume 1, this is territory that hasnt been visited too often by the recording companies the Reicha is available, as far as I can see, only on a Naxos recording and a CPO 10-CD set. Theres a New Classical Adventure omnium gatherum of all the Danzi Wind Quintets, this time on three discs.
Not essential repertoire, then, but its fun to step off the beaten track.
Soni Ventorum also had a US recording of music by Cambini (b.1746) not available in the UK, I think perhaps Lyrichord could brush that up for us, too.
Recording of the Month
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
String Quartet No.14, D810 (Death and the Maiden) [37:50]
String Quintet in C, D956 (Op.163) [53:51]
Pavel Haas Quartet, with Danjulo Ishizaka (cello)
SUPRAPHON SU41102 [37:50 + 53:51] from emusic.com (mp3)
Can players so young perfectly capture the valedictory mood of the dying Schubert? On the basis of this recording, emphatically yes especially when we remember that it was the young dying Schubert who wrote the wonderful String Quintet. Though the work is suffused with a melancholy that can easily be over-emphasised, these performances have reminded me, if I needed reminding, of Schuberts debt in his late chamber works and piano sonatas to Beethovens late quartets and sonatas with their abrupt changes of tempo and mood, as in the transition in the adagio slow movement of the String Quintet from E major to f minor.
In particular, I dont think I had realised how that slow movement and andante trio of the third movement of the Quintet, far from being mournful or even resigned, are Schuberts equivalent of Beethovens Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, his song of praise for deliverance from illness, in his Quartet No.15, Op.132. We know that Schubert had been studying its predecessor, Op.131.
Id forgotten that Arthur Hutchings, in his Faber Master Musicians book on Schubert mentions the Heiliger Dankgesang in connection with the Death and the Maiden Quartet, another reason why the coupling of the two works by Supraphon seems appropriate even though it means resorting to the awkward 2-CD format for music that only slightly spills over the bounds of a single disc.
I hesitated slightly about the Recording of the Month accolade because I can imagine that some listeners with a slightly different perspective will find the dramatic performances of the fast movements too forceful or think theres too little pathos in the slow movements. For that reason I suggest that you try it out for yourself if you can. There are plenty of very fine alternatives, though none coupled as here, and none that I think preferable.
Just of those that Ive reviewed for MusicWeb International in one form or another, all except the Hyperion at budget price, you might like to consider:
• Regis RRC1278: Aeolian Quartet (String Quintet with MOZART Divertimento, K136) review. Download from classicsonline.com (mp3) for £4.99 or stream from Naxos Music Library
• Classics for Pleasure 2282822: Chilingirian Quartet (String Quintet with Lieder: Janet Baker) review. Not all dealers seem to stock this, so you may have to search. Classicsonline.com offer an mp3 download for £3.99 and its available for streaming from Naxos Music Library.
• Hyperion CDA67864: Takács Quartet with Ralph Kirshbaum (cello) (String Quintet and Quartettsatz) 2012/23 DL News. from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
• Hyperion CDA67585 or CDA30019: Takács Quartet (String Quartets 13 and 14) review and December 2009 Download Roundup. from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
• Warner Apex 2564674298: Borodin Quartet (Quartet No.14 with SCHUMANN Piano Quintet, Sviatoslav Richter) August 2011/1 Download Roundup
• Beulah 17-20BX152: Busch Quartet (Quartets 8, 14 and 15 with Piano Trio No.2) historic performances from the 1930s given a new lease of life: see October 2011/1 DL Roundup. Available from iTunes as 2-3PD52. (The single release of Quartet No.14 seems to be no longer available).
The recording is rather close but not unduly so it serves to emphasise the dramatic sections, especially those arresting opening chords of the Quartet. All in all, this is looking like a strong candidate for one of my Recordings of the Year.
At the risk of muddying the waters, I should add that those in search of a recording of the String Quintet which stresses Schuberts debt to his classical predecessors rather than the supposedly personal and romantic side of the music will find a recent Harmonia Mundi recording (recorded December 2010 and released in 2012) more to their liking:
o HMC902106: Arcanto Quartett with Olivier Marron (cello) [52:37] from eclassical.com (mp3, 16 and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library.
In emphasising the more classical leanings of this version I emphatically dont wish to suggest that its in any way lacking in power or emotional content. The playing is first-rate and the recording excellent, especially in 24-bit lossless; I also, as usual, tried the mp3 and that, too, is very good of its kind.
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Messa da Requiem
If the Britten War Requiem which I surveyed last time is a modern classic, the Verdi and the Mozart Requiems are even more fully established in the repertoire. I started with two versions of the Verdi that I regard as good satisfying but not outstanding:
• Lyrichord LYRCD6008 (2 CDs) available from classicsonline.com (mp3) or for streaming from Naxos Music Library, both with pdf booklet. Accomplished performance and decent singing, such as you might enjoy in a concert but might not wish to hear regularly. A little lacking in the operatic oomph that has given the Verdi Requiem a bad name in some quarters but is an essential part of it appeal for me. Short value, too, in spreading a 78-minute performance across two discs.
• Naxos 8.550944/45 (2 CDs with Quattro Pezzi Sacri) directed by Pier Giorgio Mirandi available from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Anyone looking for a very decent budget recording might well consider this recording, which also offers a decent coupling of the Pezzi Sacri. More music than the Lyrichord for two thirds of the price.
Using these as my benchmarks for good run-of-the-mill versions rather better than that in the case of the Naxos leaves me in no doubt that the recordings listed below pack more punch and would, for various reasons, be the top of my desert island selection:
• Warner (EMI) Masters 0852192: Carlo Maria Giulinis classic EMI performance with the Philharmonia and a superb group of soloists in its latest guise. For a review of the earlier 1997 re-mastering see October 2009: Download of the Month. The lossless version from passionato.com is no longer available but theres a good mp3 release on classicsonline.com, now re-labelled as Warner Parlophone. The recording problems apparent on LP have almost been eliminated now, apart from some very occasional congestion and, with Quattro Pezzi Sacri as coupling, this is well worth seeking out, especially as, at £6.99, its even less expensive than the Naxos, though theres no booklet. All in all, this is still my top choice, though not all my MusicWeb International colleagues would agree.
• BBC Legends 4029-2 (2 CDs, with Vespri Siciliani Overture and SCHUBERT Mass No.6 in E flat, D950). Giulini recorded this version a short time before the EMI and it, too, is very well worth considering, especially as its available in good lossless flac for the same price as mp3 and with pdf booklet from eclassical.com. One small mark deducted for referring to this as by Giuliani, a composer in no way involved here.
• Warner (EMI) 6989362: my reservations about the very wide dynamic range of the recording didnt prevent me from making Antonio Pappanos version Recording of the Month in June 2010 and this remains the modern recording to have. Classicsonline.com were offering it in mp3 at an absurdly inexpensive £2.99 when I checked if they still are, snap it up, even if you already have one of the Giulini recordings. No booklet with this, though the text of the Latin Requiem is not hard to come by, and theres no coupling.
• CHANDOS CHAN9490: Richard Hickoxs 1995 recording with the LSO and Chorus fits on a single CD or download, comes with pdf booklet and is available in lossless sound as well as mp3, thus offering strong competition to the Pappano among modern recordings. From theclassicalshop.net.
• Naxos 8.110159: at almost the opposite end of the time scale, Tullio Serafins 1939 recording with Gigli has been reissued on a single disc download in mp3 and lossless from eclassical.com ($13.11) or in mp3, with pdf booklet, from classicsonline.com (£4.99) or stream from Naxos Music Library.
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Aïda
I ought to attempt a basic repertoire listing for Aïda but I fear I might set too many cats among the pigeons in the process, so Ill content myself with a few very selective pointers.
• Herbert von Karajans 1979 recording for EMI with Mirella Freni, José Carreras, Agnes Baltsa, Piero Cappuccilli and the VPO, has been around the block a few times, most recently at budget price (3818772), though apparently currently unavailable on CD: the least expensive download is from amazon.co.uk at £7.49, a good transfer though not at the highest bit-rate. Checking tracks at random, they ranged from 221 to 239kb/s; it really is time that Amazon caught up with the opposition and put everything out at 320kb/s. A safe recommendation at an attractive price. If you want 320kb/s thats available for just a little more (£9.99) from classicsonline.com; dont go for their download of the earlier CD release for £19.99. Id supplement this recording with Celeste Aïda from the greatest Italian tenor who wasnt Italian, inexpensively available on The Very Best of Jussi Björling: a 2-CD set, £5.99 from classicsonline.com. Robert J Farr highlights the problems attendant on Karajans use of lighter voices for the main roles in his review Carreras is certainly no match for Björling but I enjoyed listening to this recording again.
• Jussi Björling fans Im definitely one will need his RCA recording from the 1950s, with Zinka Milanov, Fedora Barbieri, Leonard Warren, Boris Christoff, the Rome Opera and Jonel Perlea, a splendid bargain from Discover Classical Music, £1.68 for members from emusic.com or £2.99 from amazon.co.uk Bargain of the Month in February 2012/1 Roundup.
• Im no fan of Maria Callas, but her mono recording with Fedora Barbieri, Tito Gobbi, Richard Tucker, la Scala and Tullio Serafin is an exception that Im happily prepared to make. See July 2010 Roundup for my reaction. Ignore the link to Passionato no longer in the download business and download from classicsonline.com. The CD set still seems to be unavailable in the UK but Naxos Historical have a transfer from LPs, 8.111240/41; download with booklet from classicsonline.com - but not available in the US, Australia and several other countries.
• Sir Georg Soltis recording with Leontyne Price, Robert Merrill, Rita Gorr, Jon Vickers and the Rome Opera is a very attractive bargain proposition on a Decca twofer at £7.49 from 7music.com or in later Decca Opera guise for the same price, again from 7music.com. I was going to suggest obtaining the highlights from this set if you have another complete recording, but, thanks to crazy pricing, that comes at the same price.
• A very definite NO, I fear, for the only DVD/blu-ray that Ive seen: a watery production from the Bregenz Festival, more gimmick than I can take I said it all in my review.
Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No.9 in d minor (1891-1896, ed. Nowak, with completed fourth movement)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Simon Rattle rec. live. February 2012. DDD
WARNER 9529692 (9529695 in USA) [82:10] from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
( Download of the Month see June 2012/2 DL Roundup)
There has been so much written already as to the reasons why the ninth symphony was left incomplete, and indeed much speculation as to whether the composer might have preferred to have left the work without a fourth movement, that I will confine myself to a few words about my own personal reactions to this music and its performance.
The first movement is given a magisterial performance by Rattle and his forces. The recording copes well with the huge dynamic range involved and is very impressive indeed. However the opening tremolando in the strings, marked to be played pianissimo is barely audible, and this happens again further on when it is marked ppp. Bruckner asks for this music to be played misterioso and maybe Klemperer achieves that more successfully. His tremolandi bring a mysterious but also a menacing quality to the opening, and every note can be clearly heard, a bit like the opening of his recording of Beethovens ninth. The recording of Klemperers great and craggy performance sounds a bit dated now and his orchestra of the time did not have the finesse of Rattles Berlin Philharmonic. Rattle pulls back the big sustained melodic lines to allow them space to breath, yet his performance never feels slow and he always maintains tension and momentum. In fact Rattle takes 24 minutes but Giulini takes 28 minutes, and Giulinis sustained melodies are even more expansive. Rattle brings the first movements huge final climax to an expansive and breath-taking conclusion. This must be one of the grandest climaxes in all music and on rehearing Giulini at this point, I feel that he manages this even better. Giulini saves the last ounce of crescendo for the final couple of bars making the final lonesome crotchet seem more effectively part of the final culmination.
I also have a preference for Giulini in the appearances of the terrifying fortissimo main motif of the Scherzo. Giulinis ensemble is so tight and focused whereas Rattles strings down bows are just a tad too long and lumbering. But it is all a matter of taste! Rattles is also a towering performance.
Rattle gives a fine and deeply moving account of the third movement Adagio, Langsam, feierlich. His performance is a few minutes quicker than Klemperers, and Rattle is a full 5 minutes faster than Giulini. I think this more flowing tempo helps us to feel that this movement is no longer to be regarded as the finale to Bruckners ninth. Norrington, of course, is even quicker, but I think that this conductor does not really have a feel for music of this period, and I felt the same about his performance of Mahlers ninth at the Proms last year.
The opening of the fourth movement seems very Wagnerian before reaching more authentic Brucknerian sounds and moods. But it is very convincing, in true Bruckner style and using the composers own material. I feel a bit uncomfortable with the short reference to music from the first movement towards the end, and wonder whether it was intended by Bruckner that this should be recapitulated here. The conclusion is truly magnificent and overwhelming, a great achievement by Simon Rattle, and of course by the orchestra which has been steeped in this period of music since the days of Herbert Von Karajan.
The problem for me is that I grew up to know and love this symphony from my student days as a three movement work. All the great conductors maintained that the Adagio made for a fitting and totally convincing conclusion to the work both emotionally and intellectually. I have heard many performances live and recorded and certainly came to believe this to be true. A few weeks ago I heard the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome under Antonio Pappano give a truly splendid account of the first three movements. Unfortunately he followed it with Verdis Four Sacred Pieces, wonderful music, but surely better to finish the concert with the Bruckner, either the traditional ending or with the completed fourth movement. However the fourth movement here recorded still seems to me like an additional but glorious appendage to a masterpiece which is already complete. Maybe on repeated hearings over a period of time I will change my mind! I have similar feelings about the completion by Anthony Payne of Elgars third symphony. It was a great experience to hear this realisation for the first time and I now have several excellent recorded performances of that piece. But as time goes on and as much as I enjoy it, I cannot get my head round the idea that this is part of the Elgar canon.
So next time I play my favourite recording of the Bruckner ninth by Carlo Maria Giulini and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, I will be interested to discover whether I feel like following it with the fourth movement or am happy just to finish with the Adagio. For a newcomer to this symphony, Rattles recording must surely be the recommended, benchmark version. The four movement work may well sound quite natural to someone who does not know the symphony in its three movement form.
Rattles fine performance stands up there with the best of them, and it is superbly recorded too.
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Cello Concertos
Cello Concerto in b minor Op.104 [39:25]
Lasst mich allein Op 82/1 (arranged for orchestra by B LEOPOLD) [4:22]
Cello Concerto in b minor (original ending) Op.104 [1:32]
Cello Concerto in A, B10, revised and orchestrated by Günter RAPHAEL (1903-1960) [33:54]
Steven Isserlis (cello)
Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Daniel Harding rec. October 2012. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67917 [79:13] from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16 and 24-bit lossless)
I have to confess that I didnt listen to this with an innocent ear it had already been made Recording of the Week on BBC Radio 3, but I tried to put that out of mind as I listened. What were less easy to put out of mind were the unconscious echoes of classic performances lurking in my unconscious, especially as its not long ago that I last listened to the budget reissue of the classic Mstislav Rostropovich/Vaclav Talich recording of the b minor, decently cleaned up, though by no means modern-sounding (Regis RRC1368 review and review) as well as the mid-price Raphael Wallfisch; LSO/Charles Mackerras recording which I nominated as my personal choice (Chandos CHAN10715, with Dohnányi August 2012/1 Roundup).
This new recording sweeps the Rostropovich/Talich aside sound-wise, recorded by Supraphon in mono in the dim dark early 1950s even then the sound was not ideal and the availability of very fine 24-bit sound makes it preferable in that one respect even to the Wallfisch, which comes in mp3 and 16-bit lossless only, though, at £4.99 the mp3 is less expensive than the Hyperion. (At £7.99 each the 16-bit versions are equally priced, with the 24-bit Hyperion at £13.99).
In performance terms the choice is less clear, with Steven Isserlis and Raphael Wallfisch both so good that I find it hard to choose. Coupling could be your deciding factor: Hyperion have the youthful First Cello Concerto, no great shakes but more palatable in this revised and shortened edition than the recording (also with Cello Concerto No.2) on Naxos. The inclusion of the original ending of the b minor concerto and the tune which crops up in the second and third movements is a bonus, but the Dohnányi coupling on Chandos also possesses a strong appeal.
Theres another version with a unique appeal that I have yet to mention: on Virgin (now Erato) Gautier Capuçon and Paavo Järvi couple the mature Dvořák concerto with the Victor Herbert Cello Concerto which was in many ways its inspiration (5190352 review and 2012/24 DL News). Any one of the three recent recordings could be my choice when I wish to hear the Dvořák concerto again, with coupling the deciding factor. I wouldnt wish to jettison the Rostropovich/Talich either.
As usual, I tried the new Hyperion recording in mp3 as well as 24-bit lossless and it sounds very well in that format, too.
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Symphony No.2 in E flat, Op.63 [50:49]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tannhäuser Overture and Venusberg Music* [23:34]
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult rec. Royal Albert Hall, London, 24 July 1977 (Elgar); Studio 1, BBC Maida Vale, 8 December 1968 (Wagner) ADD/Stereo
Pdf booklet included
ICA CLASSICS ICAC5106 [74:23] from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
There already were plenty of recordings of Sir Adrian Boult conducting Elgars second symphony, but this, made at the Proms during his Indian Summer, adds the frisson of a live performance and the BBC recording is little if at all inferior to the EMI studio recordings, even in the 320kb/s mp3 transfer. If you must have lossless sound, youll need to wait for eclassical.com to add it to their roster of ICA Classics recordings, but that usually means having to forgo the booklet.
ICA now have three very worthwhile Boult recordings of Elgar; this joins ICAC5019 (BRAHMS First Symphony; ELGAR Enigma) and ICAC5063 (BRAHMS Third Symphony; ELGAR First Symphony).
Classicsonline.com also have Boults EMI recordings of the two symphonies, In the South, Introduction and Allegro and Serenade in e minor, now re-badged as Warner Parlophone (2 CDs for £6.99 here).
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No.7 in e minor
Gürzenich-Orchester Köln/Markus Stenz rec. June 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet included
• OEHMS CLASSICS OC652 [73:30] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)
Id let earlier releases in Markus Stenzs Mahler symphony cycle pass by me, despite their having been reviewed mostly favourably by my MusicWeb International colleagues see, for example, John Quinns round-up of Nos. 2, 4, 5 and des Knaben Wunderhorn here. The award of Recording of the Month to the Seventh not on MusicWeb International made me listen to this latest release in the hope that Stenz and his team might convince me that this is a less episodic work than I had thought: full of very good things but not really hanging together.
Alas, in the final analysis I still found this something of a bumpy ride with lots of gear changes, but thats Mahlers fault rather than Stenzs. Where Mahler is good very good in the beautiful second movement,the first Nachtmusik Stenz makes him sound especially good and hes very well supported by the orchestra and recording engineers.
Gergiev with the LSO (LSO Live LSO0665) is even faster than Stenz, though the latter gets plenty of power where its needed. I rather liked Gergiev when I reviewed his Sixth and Seventh here and Im not sure that he doesnt offer a better choice, though the mp3 sound from emusic.com is no match for the eclassical.com download of the Oehms recording, either in mp3 or in lossless flac.
You may also wish to consider Leonard Bernsteins first recording (CBS, now Sony), available for £3.99 from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk dated sound but a very fine performance and Klaus Tennstedt with the LPO (BBC Legends BBCL4224-2); a good performance but running to two CDs, oddly coupled with Mozarts Jupiter Symphony. Subscribers to Naxos Music Library can sample Stenz, Gergiev, Tennstedt and Jonathan Nott (Tudor 7176).
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op.30 (1895-1896) [34:59]
Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op. 28 (1894-1895) [15:54]
Don Juan, Op. 20 (1888-1889) [18:39]
Berliner Philharmoniker/Gustavo Dudamel
rec. Philharmonie, Berlin, April 2012 (Zarathustra), January & February 2013 (Till & Don Juan)
Pdf booklet included
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4791041 [69:32] from Qobuz.com (16-bit lossless & 24/96 Studio Master)
I cut my teeth on Karajans first DG Zarathustra, a recording that I revisited on CD recently. As so often in such cases I was dismayed by the bright, aggressive sound, which had seemed so intoxicating on LP. Admittedly its the Strauss tone poem that I listen to least of all probably a reaction to overexposure all those years ago although some of that early excitement was rekindled by the excellent high-res re-mastering of Steinbergs classic DG/Boston account (review). Given that DG trailed the Dudamel version on Twitter for weeks if not months and that Qobuz was offering a high-res pre-order for a pittance, I decided to give it a whirl.
The nay-sayers and there are many insist that Gustavo Dudamel is just a product of DGs hyperactive marketing department, along with the likes of Lang Lang, and dismiss his recordings without further ado. I might have been tempted to do the same but for those unforgettable Bolivar Proms in 2007 and 2011, not to mention a pretty good Rite of Spring (review) and a superb Mahler 8 (review). That said, even I wont try and defend his dismal Mahler 5 and 9; indeed, Dudamels account of the latter is one of the most dispiriting Ive ever encountered.
As I suggested in another context my review of Jonathan Notts Mahler 6 and 8 anyone who can produce such a memorable Resurrection deserves a second chance. Or even a third. Id say this Strauss collection is as good a time as any to decide whether the Dude really is destined for the top job in Berlin come 2018. Given the hard sell on social media its pretty clear that both the BP and DG are grooming him for the role. The orchestra certainly needs a boost of some kind, for Ive always felt Rattles tenure has done them no favours. Which is why when it comes to Strauss Id probably choose other bands before the Berlin Phil.
I really had no idea which way this Zarathustra would go, but that spectacular sunrise is usually a good indicator of whats to come. Oh dear; the organ is nowhere near as powerful as it should be and those great climaxes are unforgivably constricted. This is a 24/96 download, but the original resolution doesnt appear anywhere in the booklet. Actually it hardly matters, for whatever the numbers this is an unexpectedly rough and unfocused introduction. As for the Berliners they seem to be on autopilot, but Dudamels limp direction, over-sweetened strings in Von der großen Sehnsucht and all those clumsy joins certainly dont help.
For all his failings Karajan knew how to knit and shape this strange piece; Steinberg is persuasive too, and he has the added advantages of a warm, natural recording and refined playing from the Bostonians. There are no redeeming features in Dudamels Zarathustra, Im afraid; if anything it just gets worse. Von der Wissenschaft sounds glutinous at these sluggish speeds Karajan, although driven, is clear and thrustful here while Der Genesende comes across as impossibly bumptious. True, Dudamel does screw up the tension at this point and that big climax underpinned by the organ does have plenty of heft. That said, if this were Eine Alpensinfonie Dudamel would still be thrashing about in the undergrowth, with no idea of how to reach that elusive summit.
The echt-Viennese rhythms of Das Tanzlied are forced and foursquare; even more damaging is Dudamels plodding pace throughout. Strauss may have been a first-rate composer of second-rate music, but listening to this Zarathustra one would think that a wildly optimistic assessment. Yes, the Philharmonie isnt the most grateful acoustic, although DG have managed far more spacious and appealing recordings there than this; the treble is edgy, bass is fuzzy and it all sounds so terribly uncouth.
Ironically DG/Universals marketing muscle will ensure this Zarathustra rockets into all the so-called charts, despite its serious shortcomings. Regrettably Dudamel is a cog in that relentless machine, and his detractors will surely point to this debacle in savage triumph. Trying to salvage some dignity and/or credibility I prayed the fillers would be more successful. The warmly expansive and nicely pointed opening to Till raised my spirits somewhat. Happily the recorded balance is vastly improved and the Berliners seem much more alert and characterful too. As for Dudamel, he finds welcome wit and sparkle in this mischievous music.
No, really, this Till isnt bad at all; it has all the amplitude and detail one could wish, and while it doesnt displace old favourites its a performance Id be happy to revisit. The biggest surprise is the deep, sonorous recording, which couldnt be more different from the strained-through-the-sheets sound of that Zarathustra. You see, with a little bit of care the Philharmonie can sound fabulous. Not before time Dudamel salvages his reputation with Till and this now strutting, now seductive Don Juan. Energy, depth and thrust all so lacking in Zarathustra are in abundance here, as is that Straussian fecundity and line.
What a pity I didnt start with the fillers, for they are most persuasively done. If the Berliners can play this well for Dudamel in the future and he develops as I think he will we could be in for some great music-making. So, I suggest we draw a veil over that Zarathustra and focus on this fine Till and Don Juan; thankfully, with downloads thats easily done.
A seriously flawed Zarathustra; Dudamel redeems himself in the fillers though.
A few recommendations for Zarathustra, all at low prices:
• Dresden Staatskapelle/Rudolf Kempe, Warner Parlophone (formerly EMI), £2.99 with Till, Tod und Verklärung and Salomes Dance of the Seven Veils from classicsonline.com or £7.99 with the same plus Don Juan, Ein Heldenleben and Rosenkavalier Waltzes, again from classicsonline.com. Classic Strauss performances still sounding well.
• Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner, RCA/Sony, with Four Last Songs and Act II of Die Frau ohne Schatten (Leontyne Price/Erich Leinsdorf) £2.99 from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk. A classic from 1954 in early but good stereo, now recoupled slightly less logically than on its earlier reincarnation with Heldenleben but excellent value for money, the latter still available for £7.99.
• Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Herbert von Karajan, DG Originals, with Till, Don Juan and Dance of the Seven Veils, £4.99 from 7digital.com. Generally preferable to the digital remake.
• Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi, Chandos, available in a confusing selection of 1 and 2-CD couplings, mp3 and lossless. The least expensive 2-CD set is CHAN7011/2, Zarathustra with Don Quixote, Macbeth, Symphonia Domestica and Till Eulenspiegel (£9.00, mp3, or £11.99, lossless). On a single disc, CHAN8538, with Don Juan, £4.99 (mp3) or £7.99 (lossless) [BW]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Symphony No.9 in e minor (with introductory tribute by Sir Adrian Boult)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
BMG EVEREST [34:52] availability: see below.
This recording was very special in many ways. Decca, having recorded the eight symphonies in mono (No.8 in stereo) with Boult and the LPO chickened out and refused to record the Ninth, leaving Everest, a small US label, then not widely available in the UK, to complete the task. When World Record Club began to release Everest recordings, this was one of the first that I bought, thus becoming more familiar with this orphan than with the rest of the canon. Sadly, VW died hours before the recording was made, which is why the recording, then and again now, opens with a tribute from Sir Adrian.
Everest recordings seem to pop in and out of the UK catalogue like yo-yos, but Ive recently received a press release indicating that they will be available again on CD from Amazon, as downloads from iTunes and in lossless form from HD-tracks. At the time of writing only iTunes seem to have this in the UK, for a reasonable £5.99, though at 35 minutes its short value; when it last appeared on CD (EVC9001 review) it was coupled with Malcolm Arnolds Third Symphony.
I should add, however, that amazon.co.uk are still offering the complete series from Classical Masters for just £4.49 Deccas Nos.1-8 and the Everest No.9 at a very competitive price. The bit-rates are not great around 230kb/s but the iTunes re-mastering is not likely to be much higher. Though the streamed version which reached me for review will have been at an even lower rate, the recording still sounds well enough to enjoy the performance.
Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
The Isle of the Dead, Op.29 [21:21]
Symphony No. 1 in d minor, Op.13 [44:57]
Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.573234 [66:18] from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
This completes the set of Leonard Slatkins Rachmaninov symphony recordings. The other two received rather mixed reviews from my colleagues: No.2 review and review; No.3 review.
On the basis of the new recording Im much more inclined towards the yeas than the nays. Its true that the Detroit Orchestra dont sound Russian, but thats true of Eugene Ormandys CBS (Sony) recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra which introduced the First Symphony to me long ago his earlier mono recording from 1954 is still available from Naxos Classical Archives for £1.99 and even Russian orchestras dont sound Russian any more.
If you want these two works together and at budget price the only competitors are elderly: Musical Concepts Alto ALC1032 (Moscow State SO/Pavel Kogan review) and Regis RRC1247 (USSRSO/Yevgeny Svetlanov). Gianandrea Noseda with the BBC Philharmonic (CHAN10475 review) is a little more expensive but he throws in the 10-minute Youth Symphony. All these are well worth considering, but so is the new Naxos recording; it comes in sound as fresh as the Chandos and more modern than the Alto and Regis. Its available in mp3 or lossless flac from classicsonline.com, but you may not be too happy with their practice of presenting flac as one long file you have to divide it yourself if you prefer separate files for each work or each movement. Eclassical.com also offer mp3 or flac separate files for each movement, but, at $11.94, more expensive than the classicsonline.com or even the CD.
Try Slatkin, Kogan and Noseda for yourself in Naxos Music Library if you can. All three bring the house down in the finale, with plenty of fire at the con fuoco opening that used to introduce Panorama on BBC TV; if you press me for a choice it would be Noseda by a very small margin but I also enjoyed the new Slatkin recording and its slightly less expensive.
For the First Symphony, coupled with the First Piano Concerto (BIS-SACD-2012), see Dan Morgan and myself in DL News 2013/8. That, too, can be test-driven from Naxos Music Library.
(See also review of CD by Dan Morgan).
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945) Violin Concerto No. 2 (1938) [38:57]
Peter EÖTVÖS (b. 1944) Seven (2006) [22:58]
György LIGETI (1923-2006) Violin Concerto (1990, rev. 1992) [27:47]
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin)
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Peter Eötvös (Bartók, Eötvös)
Ensemble Modern/Peter Eötvös (Ligeti) rec. October 2011 (Ligeti), July 2012 (Bartók, Eötvös)
NAÏVE V5285 [2 CDs: 62:06 + 27:47] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)
Id missed this when Leslie Wright reviewed it review and spotted it only when it won an award. If you like your Bartók in fiery and impassioned mode, this could be more your cup of tea or glass of Tokay than the more refined Isabelle Faust/Daniel Harding Harmonia Mundi version which I reviewed recently, though thats also strongly recommendable of its kind, especially for those for whom Ligeti and Eötvös are too avant-garde; it couples both Bartók concertos. (Recording of the Month review and DL News 2013/13.)
The recording is excellent, even in mp3, and better still in lossless. Though the two discs are selling for the price of one, the eclassical.com download represents a price saving. Theres no booklet, but subscribers to Naxos Music Library can grab it from there.
Karol Maciej SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Concert Overture, Op.12 [12:27]
Violin Concerto No.1, Op.35 [25:53]
Violin Concerto No.2, Op.61 [20:50]
Lydia Mordkovich (violin)
BBC Philharmonic/Vassily Sinaisky rec. April 1996. DDD
Pdf booklet available
CHANDOS CHAN9496 [59:10] theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)
Violin Concerto No. 1 Op.35 (1916) [26:12]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841 1904)
Romance in f minor Op.11 (1873-79) [11:44]
Violin Concerto in a minor, Op.53 (1884) [33:37]
Arabella Steinbacher (violin)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Marek Janowski rec. May 2009, DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
PENTATONE CLASSICS PTC5186353 [71:44] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)
(See review by Dominy Clements: There is so much more in this music than this release offers.)
Karol SZYMANOWSKI String Quartet No.1 in C, Op.37 [19:13]
Ludomir RÓZYCKI (1884-1953) String Quartet in d minor, Op.49 [32:34]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI String Quartet No.2, Op.56 [18:13]
Royal Quartet rec. March 2008. DDD
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67684 [70:00] from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
(see reviews by Rob Barnett here and Jonathan Woolf this is now a strong front-runner in the current Szymanowski quartet discography here.)
If you are looking to start a Szymanowski collection, the Violin Concertos and the String Quartets would be good places to start. Youll see from the links that Ive given that the Hyperion recording of the quartets comes with a stronger endorsement than the tempting coupling of Szymanowski and Janáček complete quartets on Chandos, which I havent heard but which, I see, received some mixed reviews.
For the concertos the choice is between the Chandos, as listed, NAXOS 8.557981 (Ilya Kaler; Warsaw PO/Antoni Wit) and an EMI budget-price twofer (2068702 details and review). All three can be sampled from Naxos Music Library and the Naxos and EMI (now Warner) recordings are available less expensively than the Chandos from classicsonline.com (mp3) here and here. The availability of the Chandos in lossless flac (at a slightly higher price) just tilts the balance for me, while the existence of other recordings of the Dvořák notably Suk and Ančerl on Supraphon is enough in itself for me to agree with Dominy Clements advice to look elsewhere than the PentaTone.
Roy HARRIS (1898-1979) Symphony No.3 [16:08]
Howard HANSON (1896-1981) Symphony No.4 (Requiem) [21:08]
Eastman Rochester Symphony Orchestra/Howard Hanson rec. 1953. ADD/mono
NAXOS HISTORICAL ARCHIVES 9.81162 [37:10] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless), classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library (not in the USA or several other countries)
Roy Harriss Third Symphony has had several distinguished outings on record but this was the first LP recording (for Mercury) and its still a valuable part of the archive, with Howard Hanson giving idiomatic performances of that and his own Fourth Symphony.
The sound is thin in the emusic.com transfer which I tried; surely the Mercury original sounded better, but thats probably due to the appallingly low bit-rate (around 150kb/s I thought such dismal rates were a thing of the past), so I wouldn't favour saving a few pence by downloading from that source. Its only £1.99 from classicsonline.com if you live in a country where its available. Better still, there's a lossless download from eclassical.com that still doesn't cost the earth, at $6.60; I tried that, too, and the sound is still dry but more tolerable.
For a more recent and highly recommendable recording of the Harris, look no further than another Naxos release, conducted by Marin Alsop and coupled with No.4, the Folksong Symphony (8.559227 review and April 2010 DL Roundup). Alternatively my Bargain of the Month for October 2011/1 Leon Botstein with the American SO, a single track from emusic.com for £0.42.
Howard Hansons Fourth has received less attention than the Harris Third or his own Second Symphony but theres a fine recording on another Naxos album, with the Fifth Symphony, Elegy and Dies Natalis I (Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz, 8.559703 Recording of the Month: review review and January 2012/1 DL Roundup).
The MusicWeb Classical Editor Rob Barnett has also been listening to this recording:
Readers would do well to leaf through the download pages of the Naxos Classical Archives. The 1950s mono ERSO Hanson recordings can be found there, including American works he never got around to doing in stereo. The treble can be a little unrelenting but in the case of Hanson's own Symphony No.4 and the Roy Harris's Third what we have here is much better than merely tolerable. While the heart-felt Hanson 4 may lack the popular drama and the gritty Nordic quality of the first, its sincerity and ecclesiastical atmosphere have their own attraction. He recorded the first three of his symphonies in stereo for Mercury but not No.4, let alone the other three. Shame. His Harris Third may have a lower boiling point than the classic Koussevitsky and less flamboyant grandeur than Bernstein's stereo for CBS, but it's well worth hearing. Likewise the indomitable and far too obscure download-only from Leon Botstein and the Americsn SO. (See above) The latter is a live recording. Botstein's many rare revivals can be experienced on emusic.com. I hope to return to this treasury of Botstein revivals for a later roundup.
Joaquin RODRIGO (1901-1999) Concierto de Aranjuez [21:25]
Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989) Guitar Concerto [21:54]
Julian Bream (guitar)
Monteverdi Orchestra/John Eliot Gardiner rec. c.1974. ADD.
SONY/RCA [43:19] from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk (mp3)
By reverting to the original LP coupling (ARL1 1181), a feature of their recent Bream reissues*, Sony/RCA have produced a very short recording by modern standards when they already had a more generous coupling with Rodrigos Fantasia para un Gentilhombre in the catalogue, but the download price of £3.99 compensates** and its good to have the contrast between Rodrigos Spanishry and Berkeleys cooler avoidance of the Iberian idiom, especially when the latter receives few outings. Both are splendidly encompassed by Julian Bream and John Eliot Gardiner in his pre-period-instrument phase.
* Available to celebrate Breams 80th birthday as a 40 CD+ 3 DVD set at budget price. Breams earlier recording of the Rodrigo, coupled with Vivaldi, also forms part of the set and is available separately from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk.
** Consider that the LP cost £2.99 in 1975, at least £35 in todays values.
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) War Requiem Op.66 (1962)
Evelina Dobracheva (soprano)
Anthony Dean Griffey (tenor)
Mark Stone (baritone)
Netherlands Radio Choir; Netherlands Childrens Choir
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra/Jaap van Zweden rec. live, May 2010. DDD
Pdf booklet with texts included
CHANNEL CLASSICS CC72388 [2 CDs: 46:58 + 35:42] from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
Susan Gritton (soprano)
John Mark Ainsley (tenor)
Christopher Maltman (baritone)
Wrocław Philharmonic Choir, Gabrieli Young Singers Scheme, Trebles of the Choir of New College Oxford
Gabrieli Consort and Players/Paul McCreesh
Pdf booklet included
WINGED LION/SIGNUM SIGCD340 [2 CDs: 37:20 + 46:45] from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
Two more strong contenders and there are further releases directed by Antonio Pappano on Warner and Mariss Jansons on BR Klassik, which I havent yet heard but which John Quinn liked review to add to those listed in my last DL News. Ill have to update that list in a future edition with a more detailed look at these four new versions. This really has become almost basic repertoire in a way unimaginable despite all the fuss that it caused fifty years ago. Its become associated with the re-consecration of Coventry Cathedral even more than architecture and art work of the building, iconic as that was seen to be at the time.
If youre prepared to tolerate a lower bit-rate of around 230kb/s it doesnt sound at all bad, and thats almost as good as youll get on Amazon or iTunes emusic.com offer the van Zweden for just £2.52 as against COLs £15.99. Emusic.com have no booklet but subscribers to Naxos Music Library can obtain it there.
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Homage to the Queen ballet, Op.42 (1953)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Robert Irving rec. 1953 or 1954. ADD/mono
NAXOS HISTORICAL ARCHIVES 9.80911 [41:51] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Not available in the USA, Australia, and several other countries.
Classico and Chandos have given us Arnolds own 20-minute suite from this ballet (CHAN10550 November 2009 DL Roundup) and, frankly, its hardly one of his essential works, but the original complete ballet is worth an outing or two. The performance is authoritative and the HMV sound, over-bright now but excellent in its day, is more than acceptable, especially in the eclassical.com lossless transfer, even though, at $7.53, thats more expensive than classicsonline.coms £1.99, in countries where its available.
Some of these Naxos Archive recordings come with simple but attractive and sometimes appropriate covers; Im not sure what the dollop of jelly (?) on this cover is meant to signify.
I have two more brief recommendations of recordings of music by Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (b.1928) to add to my recent mentions of his music, both from BIS, that champion of Scandinavian music:
• Angel of Dusk, Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra (1980) [26:15]
Symphony No. 2 (1957/84) [18:21]
Suomalainen myytti (A Finnish Myth) for string orchestra (1977) [6:16]
Pelimannit (Fiddlers) for string orchestra, Op. (1952) [6:32]
Tapiola Sinfonietta/Jean-Jacques Kantorow rec. 1997. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
BIS-CD-910 [58:37] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
• Playgrounds for Angels: Nordic music for Brass
Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA A Requiem in our Time (1953) [9:55]
Playgrounds for Angels (1981) [11:59]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Overture in f minor (1889) [8:18]
Allegro (1889) [4:26]
Andantino (1890/91) [3:08]
Menuett (1890/91) [1:37]
Förspel (Preludium) (1891) [3:55]
Tiera for Brass Septet and Percussion [4:19]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Sörgemarsj over Rikard Nordraak (Funeral March for Rikard Nordråk) (1866) [7:00]
Knut NYSTEDT (b.1915) Pia memoria Requiem for nine brass instruments (1971) [14:01]
Brass Partout/Hermann Bäumer rec. 1999. DDD.
BIS-CD-1054 [68:38] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
( The varied and eclectic programme may not be to all tastes but BIS enterprising customers will surely think otherwise. See 4/5 star review by Gerald Fenech)
Matthew TAYLOR (b.1964)
Viola Concerto, Humoreskes, Op. 41 [22:20]
Symphony No. 2, Op.10 [36:40]
Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Garry Walker rec. January 2013 and January 2009. DDD
Pdf booklet included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0175 [59:00] from toccataclassics.com (mp3 and lossless)
String Quartet No.5 Op.35 (2007-08) [14:41] ¹
String Quartet No.6, Op.36 (2006-08) [18:38] ²
String Quartet No.7, Op.37 (2008-09) [20:45] ³
Dante String Quartet ¹
Allegri String Quartet ²
Salieri String Quartet ³
rec. May 2012, All Saints Church, Durham Road, East Finchley, London
Pdf booklet included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0144 [54:22] from toccataclassics.com (mp3 and lossless)
Several admissions from me this month about not keeping up with what my colleagues have been writing about; in this case its several months since Jonathan Woolf wrote enthusiastically about the recording of the string quartets review and other colleagues have reviewed other Toccata recordings of the music of this talented composer, who manages to speak the same language as the mainstream of the past but with his own individual accent.
I dont want to give the impression that the music is easy or comfortable; it asks questions of the listener which are in some respects as demanding as those asked by the late Beethoven Quartets, but it does so in a way that isnt simply avant-garde for the sake of being so. The performances, by three different quartets, are very good and the recording is very good. I listened to this as a download from toccataclassics.com in CD-quality lossless flac as well as mp3; both formats are good and come with the full booklet in pdf form if you choose not to buy the physical disc but see below for MusicWeb Internationals special price for all Toccata Classics CDs.
The recording of the concerto and symphony is, if anything, even more recommendable it was, in fact, seeing this very favourably reviewed in a magazine that piqued my interest in Matthew Taylor. If anything the music asks even more demanding questions of the listener than the quartets and I wouldnt choose to listen to it in all moods, but I do suggest that you give it a try. If youre unsure and have access to the very valuable Naxos Music Library you can listen to both these recordings there and also to other Toccata albums of Taylors music.
If youre not into downloading I know that several readers go on to buy hard copies of the recordings that I review MusicWeb International will sell you both of these and other Toccata Classics recordings for £10.50 each post free order form here.
Tōnu KŌRVITS (b. 1969)
Kreegi vihik Kreeks Notebook (2007) [31:04]
The night is darkening round me (2005) [6:21]
Arturs MASKATS (b. 1957)
Lacrimosa (1995) [7:44]
Pēteris PLAKIDIS (b. 1947)
In memoriam All that is good flies heavenwards (1990) [5:53]
Fatamorgāna (1980) [7:15]
Lugums naktij Prayer to the night [2:59]
Gillian Franklin, Kate Telfer, Sanda Audere (sopranos)
Jonathan Kilhams (bass)
William Mason (organ)
The Choir of Royal Holloway
Britten Sinfonia/Rupert Gough
rec. 21-23 June 2012, All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, UK
Pdf and ePub booklets include sung texts and translations
HYPERION CDA67968 [61:15] from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16-bit lossless & 24-bit Studio Master)
The almost Dickensian title of this release refers to one Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962), an Estonian collector of so-called folk hymns whose work spurred his compatriot Tōnu Kōrvits to produce this eponymous eight-movement piece. The other composers represented here Arturs Maskats and Pēteris Plakidis are Latvian, so I was keen to hear how their choral work compares with that of Pēteris Vasks, whose Plainscapes impressed me so (review). As for the Holloway Choir and Rupert Gough, they are new to me, but I see they have already recorded a number of contemporary pieces by Rihards Dubra, Bo Hansson and Vytautas Mikinis. Gough provides the scholarly but eminently readable liner-notes.
In May Jesu now be praised, the first piece from Kreeks Notebook, the buoyant pizzicati and fresh voices are utterly captivating in their blend of simplicity and gentle folk rhythms. This music certainly strikes a good balance between the religious and the secular, and this fine choir mirrors that with their animated yet refined singing. The same wonderfully discreet rhythms inform Now the day is over, and the fast fall of eventide is superbly evoked in both the low-key writing and the spacious acoustic of All Hallows, Gospel Oak.
The Britten Sinfonias short I alone praise those wounds that bleed is austere, even skeletal those plucked strings again but the choir returns in Oh receive from me dear Jesus. After an immemorial, plainchant-like introduction the piece builds to some bright climaxes, all the while underpinned by those oh-so-discreet ur-rhythms. Soprano Gillian Franklin adds an ethereal, incense-drifting loveliness to I shall give myself up to your care, and once again the Britten Sinfonia bring welcome solemnity and warmth to this votive space.
The now familiar mix of a gentle beat and open-hearted singing resurfaces in Fly up from your sorrows, and although its not the most inspired piece it has just enough variety and vigour to engage ones ear and hold ones interest. Some may feel Kōrvits is a little short on imagination or lacks a well-defined musical character horror, he even writes for the cinema but then artlessness is what this repertoire is all about. The liturgical element is more overt in the radiant rise and fall of the choir hushed, spare in My soul oh be joyful. Indeed, the Calvary-contemplating finale I gaze up at the hill is suffused with some of the most eloquent and resonant instrumental writing here, and the crowning chorus heard as if from afar is just thrilling; the quiet, sorrowful postlude is deeply moving too.
Just before Maskats Lacrimosa a response to the sinking of the MV Estonia in 1994 we have Kōrvitss setting of Emily Brontës poem The night is darkening round me which, although subdued the men of Holloway are firm and sonorous throughout is illuminated from within by the gorgeous, filigreed singing of soprano Kate Telfer. This is another of those calm, understated works that can so easily sound bland, but which really comes alive when performed with such poise and passion. If we werent in chiesa as it were Id be tempted to let fly with a heartfelt Bravo or three.
The sinking of the Estonia was also commemorated by the Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi in Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae, superbly performed and recorded in Eternal Rest (Chandos). Maskats haunting little requiem makes splendid use of this sacred setting, the distant voices counterbalanced by the closer instrumental forces and glorious, full-bodied organ. What a powerful piece this is, economically scored yet also arresting without striving too hard for effect. How ethereal these shore-side singers sound, their out-of-reach lament so well caught by Hyperions engineers. The organ part is judiciously done, and the whole performance has a symmetry and scale thats most satisfying.
Pēteris Plakidis In memoriam is a setting of a poem by the Latvian poet and patriot Broņislava Martueva. The work sung here in English starts in near stillness and evolves slowly to a series of radiant peaks. The bright, high-lying parts for the women are anchored by the long-breathed phrases of the men. Simple, luminous, affecting, this is another gem in a chest of unexpected treasures. With its striking desert imagery and an emphasis on the fecundity of nature Fatamorgāna isnt as piercingly beautiful as its predecessor, but mezzo Sanda Audere does pluck some magical sounds from the ether; as for the choral forces, they are as secure and shapely as before.
The collection ends with Maskats setting of Prayer to the night, by Juris Helds. Not as instantly communicative as Lacrimosa, perhaps, but its still worth hearing. Any caveats? Just one; the restrained dynamics and delicate equilibrium of these pieces requires that one listen carefully to uncover the subtleties and nuances buried therein, so Id suggest auditioning this collection in several, concentrated sittings. Such committed music-making and a top-flight recording deserve nothing less.
Unusual rep that rewards the dedicated listener; a rare treat.
Béla FLECK (b.1958) The Impostor
The Impostor* [36:05]
Night Flight over Water** [25:44]
Béla Fleck (banjo)
Nashville Symphony Orchestra/Giancarlo Guerrero*
MERCURY [61:49] Availability see below.
A fascinating combination of banjo and orchestra in the first work and banjo and string quartet in the second. I received this album for review from Mercury soon after the Brooklyn Rider album containing Bartóks Second String Quartet, reviewed last time, and I actually enjoyed it even more. Any doubts about whether the different instrumental traditions could blend were swept aside with the very first notes.
The recording seems to be available in the UK on disc only as an import try amazon.co.uk or arkivmusic.com. I havent found any download outlets. The review download which I was sent came in wav format, so should be comparable with the CD; it sounds excellent. This is a potential hot-cakes best-seller if you can get your hands on it.
Yatsuhashi KENGYO (1614-1685) Midare (Disarray)
Michio MIYAGI (1894-1956) Rondon no yoru no ame (Evening Rain in London)
Yoshizawa KENGYO Chidori no Kyoku (The Song of the Plover)
Michio MIYAGI Sarashi-fu tegoto
Kikuoka KENGYO Keshi no Hana (Puppy Flowers)
Michio MIYAGI Furin (Windchime)
Rentaro TAKI (1879-1903) Kojo No Tsuki (Moon of the Deserted Castle) (arr. M. Kikujyo)
Michio MIYAGI Maritsuki (Bouncing a Ball)
Mitsuzaki KENGYO Akikaze No Kyoku (Melody of the Autumn Wind)
Ayako Hotta-Lister (koto and voice), Aiko Hasegawa (koto)
rec. 1990, Blue Moon Studios, London.
Pdf booklet included
ARC MUSIC EUCD2468 [72:30] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
From time to time I like to slip in a recording of ethnic music unfortunately, not from any authoritative position of knowledge but simply because it has appealed to me. This recording of Japanese koto music is a case in point not only have I enjoyed what I take to be idiomatic performances, I have also learned a good deal from the notes in the accompanying booklet, though it doesnt, unfortunately, contain the words of the vocal accompaniments to some of the pieces.
If youre not sure, try first if you can from Naxos Music Library an older release (EUCD1843) containing fewer pieces, whose booklet sports a different cover and features more languages. Youll find other albums of Japanese music and that from other traditions from ARC Music via eclassical.com and Naxos Music Library.
The Nutcracker Suites
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Nutcracker Suite Op.71a (1892) [22:19]
TCHAIKOVSKY, arr. Duke ELLINGTON (1899-1974) and Billy STRAYHORN (1915-1967)
Nutcracker Suite (1960) [31:52]
Toot Toot Tootie Toot (Dance of the Reed-Pipes) [2:29]
Peanut Brittle Brigade (March) [4:48]
Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) [3:03]
The Volga Vouty (Russian Dance) [2:53]
Chinoiserie (Chinese Dance) [2:55]
Danse of the Floreadores (Waltz of the Flowers) [4:07]
Arabesque Cookie (Arabian Dance) [5:53]
Harmonie Ensemble, New York/Steven Richman
featuring Lew Tabackin (tenor sax) Lew Soloff (trumpet), Bill Easley (clarinet), Victor Lewis (drums), George Cables (piano) rec. 2010 and 2011. DDD.
pdf booklet included
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907493 [54:07] from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
A new slant on a traditional Christmas seasonal favourite the original straight version followed by the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn version of 1960. Didnt that use to be known as The Nutrocker when it was played by Johnny Dankworths band? No matter there doesnt seem to be any other version in the UK catalogue and I found this very enjoyable. Im not so sure about coupling the jazz with the original, though; Id have preferred some more Duke Ellington The River, perhaps, though theres a very fine recording of that on Chandos.
A short CD, but the eclassical.com per-second charging policy takes care of that at $9.74.
Matthew CAMERON Starry Night [3:43]
Franz LISZT La Campanella [4:56]
Fréderic CHOPIN Fantasie Impromptu, Op. 66 [5:10]
Polonaise in c-sharp minor, Op. 26/1 [6:33]
Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53 [7:54]
Aram KHACHATURIAN arr. Matthew CAMERON Adagio from Spartacus [9:00]
Matthew CAMERON Song to the Wind [2:36]
Matthew CAMERON Scherzino [1:16]
Ave Maria [5:03]
Fréderic CHOPIN Etude in E [1:49]
Franz LISZT Hungarian Rhapsody No. 17 [3:01]
Franz SCHUBERT trans. Franz LISZT Gretchen am Spinnrade [4:08]
Franz SCHUBERT trans. Franz LISZT Erlkönig [4:57]
Franz LISZT Feux Follets [4:08]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART arr. Matthew CAMERON Rondo from eine kleine Nachtmusik [3:07]
Matthew Cameron (piano)
ARABESQUE RECORDINGS [75:56] download only, in mp3, from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and iTunes.
After one run-through I thought this good enough to ask Geoffrey Molyneux for a second, more informed and professional opinion. My only reservation that first time round was to wonder if in La Campanella the delicacy of the playing hadnt been achieved at the expense of the power of the music, a thought which youll see from GMs detailed analysis below didnt trouble him. In fact, having allowed other recordings to distract me from this album, Im put to shame by having received such a detailed and thorough analysis that theres nothing I really need to add, except to say that, having listened and enjoyed again, I still wonder if you cant have both the delicacy of touch and the power in La Campanella; not by any means a serious reservation.
Like GM, I particularly enjoyed the Liszt those small reservations about La Campanella apart so its appropriate to note Matthew Camerons two other Liszt recordings, for Cala (CACD88045) and, with Anthony Newman, for 903 records (903R:1850 from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library): details on his website here.
The review tracks are at a low bit-rate lower than the finished product from Amazon or iTunes but perfectly acceptable.
The recital begins effectively enough with one of Matthew Camerons own compositions Starry Night, an attractive and evocative piece with an unexpected and explosive middle section. There are several pieces composed by the pianist on this recording as well as some arrangements of well-known classics. I particularly liked the Adagio from Spartacus which is very virtuosically performed and Camerons arrangement of the Rondo from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik makes for a very attractive addition to the pianists light repertoire or encore pieces. Camerons own Song to the Wind is very stormy in places, and the Elegy is very effective with its developing moods. His little Scherzino is an attractive, lightweight piece and the charming Ave Maria is imaginatively written.
The music of Liszt seems to be Matthew Camerons great strength. La Campanella needs real lightness of touch and clarity of articulation as well as a virtuosic technique to cope with the demands set by the composer. Matthew Cameron is well up for this and the constant staccato playing required is really exciting and glittering. Feux Follets is delivered with real sparkle and utmost clarity of articulation. Very fine and virtuosic playing here full of musical insights, and Gnomenreigen is brilliantly played too, a performance that could not be bettered.
Matthew Cameron includes two Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs. First is Gretchen am Spinnrade, full of melancholy, and the pianist achieves a magnificent climax. This is followed by Erlkönig in which Cameron sets the moods perfectly in this forbidding work. Cameron has written some engaging programme notes including thought provoking descriptions of the tales behind these pieces.
Chopins Fantasie-impromptu is immaculately played and the opening octaves are suitably commanding. The first main idea is executed with very even and clear semiquavers but I would like to hear the first big melody sing through the texture a bit more characterfully. Also I felt that the first section could lead to a more exciting climax. The middle section is very repetitive and needs all the imagination the player can muster and then this passage will really glow and maintain the listeners interest. I did feel that there was much more scope for dynamic contrast and variety in the rubato in the repetitions in this performance. I felt that a softer, not so notey and more flowing feel to the left hand accompaniment would help. Similarly in the Polonaise in C sharp minor the middle section could have a little more romance with less feeling of every first beat being a strong beat. I would like more poetry here. Also I think the Romantic side of Chopin suffers from the rather dry acoustic. Cameron brings a sense of drama to the outer sections of the A flat Polonaise, Opus 53. The famous left hand semiquaver passage with its constant and tiring repetitions is very clear and exciting, and the way he gradually slows down into the nocturne-like passage, very effective. However I would have preferred the rather faster tempo adopted by many performers, and I think this would have added to the excitement especially, in the fiery conclusion to this work which seems here to be too slow and rather wooden. It just doesnt take off.
The technical demands of Liszt seem to hold no problems for Matthew Cameron and the performances are always insightful and musical. I really like his Liszt playing and if you are also a fan of Camerons own compositions then this recording is for you. Of course there are many recordings of the standard repertoire presented here and so Cameron has stiff competition. I admit I am not so bowled over by his Chopin playing although it is very fine, and there are so many great performances already out there. Mathew Cameron is not helped by the rather close and boxy sound and a little bit dry recording which sometimes sounds as though it was recorded in a small room. I have been comparing this with a new recording I am currently reviewing of Chopin Etudes on Dux (DUX0834) which has a touch more resonance and where the listener feels a bit more distant from the piano, very necessary in some of the big-sounding works recorded by Cameron.
The programme notes which came with the review tracks are excellent and give a good insight into the music and its background [its a shame that Amazon and iTunes dont include them. BW]. This is a recording well worth hearing.