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DOWNLOAD NEWS 2013/12
Brian Wilson

DL News 2013/11 is here, 2013/10 here and the index of earlier editions is here. Let me also remind you of David Barker’s very useful article on buying digital music – here – if you haven’t yet read it.

I’ve had to leave over some recordings till the next DL News because the external hard drive on which they were housed crashed and I’m waiting for the data to be retrieved. One or two reviews have had to be based on mp3 copies which I had made on USB memory sticks before the crash; hopefully the lossless equivalents will resurface. The lesson – which we all know and forget to put into practice – is to back everything up. Fortunately, thanks to the Know How Guys at PC World, all has been saved – at a price.

Most unusually, I find that I’ve chosen Coro recordings as my top recommendations twice running – but only An Immortal Legacy features The Sixteen.

Beulah Releases

All these recordings can be accessed at eavb.co.uk

iTunes – here – and amazon.com – here – have now got round to the RACHMANINOV reissue which I recommended last month, 1PD81: Symphony No.3 (Moscow RSO/Svetlanov), and Symphonic Dances (Moscow PO/Kondrashin).

MusicWeb International classical editor Rob Barnett has also been listening to this reissue and has expressed his appreciation in glowing terms: "I enjoyed these [transfers] enormously. They take me back to my first discovery of the Symphonic Dances and Symphony 3 via EMI-Melodiya LPs and for all of today’s sophistication, for me, there is nothing to match the smoking fervour and rapture of these recordings of music by a composer whose personality and music must have only recently been accepted in the USSR at the time the recordings were made. As for the Symphonic Dances I am delighted to say that the final extended decay of the tam-tam smash at the end has been preserved. Even the recent Melodiya reissue cruelly chopped the decay with that eerie digital silence."

Music of England 3 has been delayed but Music of England 4 (4PD76 [88:02]) is available from amazon.co.uk and iTunes. Follow either of the links for details of the varied and attractive programme. Oxford Street from Eric COATESLondon Again Suite opens the proceedings in lively style. The New Symphony Orchestra of London are conducted here by the composer c.1950. The LSO and Lawrance Collingwood (c.1954) offer ELGAR’s Nursery Suite and the LPO/Sir Adrian Boult perform ELGAR’s Introduction and Allegro, (c.1962, in stereo for World Record Club), HOLST’s Egdon Heath and VAUGHAN WILLIAMSLark Ascending (with Jean Pougnet, violin). The programme is rounded off with the Pro Arte Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent in three excerpts from SULLIVAN’s Henry VIII music and his Pirates of Penzance Overture (all 1961, stereo).

The Boult Introduction and Allegro, which I owned on a reel-to-reel tape, was underrated at the time – Barbirolli’s classic account of the same period put it in the shade, but I’ve always thought it well worth hearing – while the novelty for those who haven’t heard the Cleveland Orchestra and George Szell in the music of Delius comes on track 2, the Irmelin Prelude, a revelation for those who think only English orchestras and conductors in tune with this music.

All the performances are idiomatic and the recordings have come up sounding extremely well in these transfers, though the later stereo items are obviously the best. At 88 minutes, there’s plenty of music for a reasonable outlay and the Green Line bus makes a suitably nostalgic cover.

English music from the renaissance and baroque periods is on offer: madrigals by Thomas GREAVES, Thomas MORLEY, Thomas WEELKES and John WILBYE are contained on 1BX273 (Margaret Field-Hyde and Eileen McLoughlin (sopranos), Alfred Deller (counter-tenor), René Soames (tenor) and Gordon Clinton (bass) [8:51], recorded in the early 1950s and released on 78s for the History of Music project, HMS33 and 34). Deller made later recordings of Weelkes and Wilbye but these recordings were ground-breaking in their time and have come up sounding very well considering their 78 provenance. Even now Thomas Greaves is hardly a household name; the only other current recording of his music that I could locate comes on a budget-price Pro Cantione Antiqua collection directed by Philip Ledger on the Alto label (ALC1039).

Pelham HUMFREY (Hear, O Heavens) and Maurice GREENE (O clap your hands) both suffer by being overshadowed by Purcell but both deserve to be heard more often than is the case. Humfrey gets a walk-on part on some Purcell recordings such as Chandos CHAN0790 and New College Choir have recorded Greene for CRD (CRD3483), both recordings which I’ve praised, but there’s a place for these recordings with Alfred Deller and others with the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir directed by John Dykes Bower, again from the HMS project (HMS52) and sounding a little old-fashioned in style now. (1BX274 [8:50]). A very good transfer of early-1950s 78s again.

[NB: When Music of England 3 appears from iTunes and Amazon (3PD76), the contents of 1BX273 and 1BX274 will be included.]

There’s quite a lot of RAMEAU this month: from 1962 (DG Archiv 198302) Marcel Couraud conducts Janine Reiss (harpsichord) and the Lamoureux Orchestra in Les Indes Galantes – Troisième Concert (1BX275, with Andrée Esposito, soprano [5:20]) and Pigmalion – Acte de Ballet (2BX275, Esposito again and other soloists [40:17]). We tend to think of performances of baroque music from the pre-historical instrument period as tending to be slow and ungainly but this Pigmalion is stylish and lively; if anything, it’s a little too hurried in places. The recording has come up sounding well.

The notable bargain as a download of Pigmalion is offered by sainsburys.co.uk who have the Niquet performance on a budget Virgin twofer with the Grands Motets for £4.99, but this Beulah release of Pigmalion is even better value at £2 if that’s all that you want.

Ingrid Heiler (harpsichord) plays Rameau’s Gavotte variée on 2BX270 and François COUPERIN’s Les barricades mystèrieuses and l’Arlequine on 1BX270 (both stereo, 1962).

The Griller Quartet perform the quartet arrangement of HAYDN’s Seven Last Words of our Saviour from the Cross, Op.51, on 1-9BX269, recorded in 1943 and 1946. The recording is very good for its age – a trifle dry, but perfectly acceptable, considering that the 1949 review commented adversely on some aspects of the recording, including surface noise, which have been ironed out on this transfer.

The music was so little known in the 1940s that a detailed account of its origins had to be given; nowadays the quartet, chamber orchestra (original) and vocal versions are all fairly well known and there are several recommendable recordings including the Fitzwilliam Quartet on Linn CKD153June 2009 DL Roundup and at budget price the Kodály Quartet on Naxos (8.550346, with Op.103). The Griller performances are good but I’d be inclined to go for the classicsonline.com download of the Naxos, which actually comes at a slightly more attractive price. I’d have thought this the least attractive of this month’s Beulah reissues, though I’m not good at prophesying – Beulah recordings that I have enjoyed least have a habit of becoming best-sellers.

We’re not short of good recordings of the (second and better-known) DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto of all vintages and Pierre Fournier has made several of them. Beulah have reissued his DG recording with the Berlin Phil and George Szell from 1962 (stereo, 1-3BX268). TH liked the performances but thought the recording a little too up-front in all respects but, though this wouldn’t be my first choice, I enjoyed hearing it. Indeed, I owned this recording in a mid-price DG CD incarnation until I loaned it to someone and never got it back, so I’m pleased to make its acquaintance again. The transfer is as good as I recall from the DG CD.

The iTunes release of the LSO/Rudolf Schwarz recording of MAHLER Fifth Symphony which I welcomed last time is still delayed, so Beulah have released it as a 5-track Beulah Extra (1-5BX272). For £5 in total that makes it a better bargain than waiting for the album.

As well as the SULLIVAN items on Music of England 4, Beulah Extra have the Pro Arte Orchestra and Sir Malcom Sargent, from the same EMI LP (XLP20032), recorded in stereo in 1961: the overtures to Patience (33BX13), Ruddigore (32BX13), Princess Ida (31BX13) and Box and Cox (30BX13). I may not be the world’s greatest fan of the Savoy operas, but Sargent or Mackerras are the most likely interpreters to persuade me.

Love it or hate it – is there any reaction in-between? – RAVEL’s Bolero is a very catchy piece and hard to get out of mind; it’s a bit like getting chewing gum on your shoe. André Cluytens directs the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra in a 1962 stereo performance on 23BX82 [15:21]. The secret of a successful performance is to build up the tension slowly and gradually; despite an uncertain start, Cluytens does this effectively as he had already done on an earlier mono LP with the ORTF Orchestra. Unless you really can’t abide the music, this would be £1/$1.56 well spent even if you already have a recording … and there are plenty on the market at all prices. If you want the Cluytens performance as part of an all-Ravel programme, it’s available on a budget EMI twofer (5753862).

As I convert this DL News to html, I understand that three delayed albums are now available from iTunes and Amazon: 3PD11: Russian Masters 2; 1PD67 Rachmaninov and 1PD78, Historic recordings of Mendelssohn Hebrides Overture. I’ve already reviewed three of the Mendelssohn recordings as separate Beulah Extra releases, from Karajan (11BX18), Unger (28BX33) and Furtwangler (38BX31) in the 2013/9 DL News, where I somehow managed to double the playing times! More in the next DL News.

***

Adrian WILLAERT (c.1490-1562) Musica Nova: The Motets (pub. 1559)
Huc me sidereo – Pungentem capiti – De me solus amor [9:25]
Dilexi, quoniam exaudiet – O Domine libera [6:20]
Audite insulæ – Et posuit
[6:23]
Hæc est domus Domini – Fundavit eam [6:43]
Verbum supernum prodiens – Se nascens dedit [8:16]
Confitebor tibi Domine – In quacumque die – Si ambulavero [8:51]
Te Deum Patrem ingenitum – Laus Deo Patri [6:36]
Beati pauperes spiritu – Beati qui persecutionem [7:43]
Sustinuimus pacem – Peccavimus cum patribus nostris [6:14]
Præter rerum seriem – Virtus Sancti Spiritus [7:15]
Alma Redemptoris Mater – Tu quæ genuisti [7:46]
Mittit ad Virginem – Exi, qui mitteris – Audit et suscipit [12:35]
Benedicta es cœlorum Regina – Per illud Ave [7:03]
Salve Sancta parens – Virgo Dei Genitrix [7:06]
Inviolata, integra, et casta – Tua per precata [7:04]
Sub tuum præsidium confugimus [4:48]
O admirabile commercium – Quando natus es – Rubum quem viderat – Germinavit radix Jesse – Ecce Maria genuit – Mirabile mysterium – Magnum hæreditatis mysterium [27:35]
Aspice Domine – Plorans ploravit in nocte [8:38]
Peccata mea – Quoniam iniquitatem [6:22]
Domine, quid multiplicati sunt – Ego dormivi [7:12]
Pater, peccavi – Quanti mercenarii [7:25]
Miserere nostri Deus omnium – Alleva manum tuam [6:29]
Avertatur obsecro – Inclina, Deus [6:52]
Omnia quæ fecisti – Cognoscimus Domine [7:56]
Recordare Domine – Patres nostri peccaverunt [8:44]
Victimæ paschali laudes – Dic nobis Maria [6:48]
Veni Sancte Spiritus – O lux beatissima [9:29]
Singer Pur with guest singers – rec. May-July, 2011. DDD
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
OEHMS OC835 [3 CDs: 225:35] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

This is the largest collection of Willaert’s motets from the 1559 publication currently available and, to the best of my knowledge, there has never been any earlier complete collection, though individual motets are available, most notably from Hyperion, where five of them serve as couplings for Willaert’s Missa Mente tota (CDA67749, Cinquecento) and Verbum bonum et suave, on that CD, is included on an album of music by Josquin and his contemporaries (CDA67183, Binchois Consort). There’s no need for invidious comparisons, however; I’m pleased to report that there is no overlap with the present collection, since the motets on Hyperion come from earlier collections.

If you know and like the music of Josquin, to whom some of Willaert’s music was once attributed, you should enjoy this collection – but in smallish doses rather than all three CDs together.

The Regensburg-based ensemble Singer Pur live up to their name with warmth and purity of tone. They also have something of a history of partaking in multi-disc projects, such as a 3-CD set of the Moralia of Jakob Handl-Gallus (Ars Musici) and an earlier Oehms 3-disc set of Willaert’s Sonnets of Petrarch (Oehms). To Johan van Veen’s minor reservations – review – I’d just add a feeling that I’d occasionally trade the purity of tone for something a little more involved with the meaning of the words but, like him, I certainly wouldn’t want to be without this recording.

Recording of the Month
An Immortal Legacy
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-85)
Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter:
Man blest no doubt [1:09]
Let God arise [0:53]
Why fum’th in fight [0:56]
Come in one [1:30]
Salvator mundi [3:03]
Thomas MORLEY (1557/8-1602) April is in My Mistress’ Face [1:22]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) The Silver Swan [1:39]
William BYRD (1539/40-1623) This sweet and merry month of May [2:37]
James MACMILLAN (b.1959) The Strathclyde Motets: Sedebit Dominus Rex [4:33]
Sir Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998) A Child of Our Time: Five Spirituals [11:55]
Thomas TALLIS O nata lux de lumine 5vv [1:49]
O sacrum convivium [3:43]
Loquebantur variis linguis [4:10]
James MACMILLAN The Strathclyde Motets: Mitte manum tuam [3:14]
William BYRD Laudibus in sanctis [5:12]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Choral Dances from Gloriana, Op.53 [11:56]
Thomas TALLIS Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter:
E’en like the hunted hind [0:55]
Expend, O Lord [1:08]
Why brag’st in malice [0:44]
God grant we grace [1:04]
Tallis’s Ordinal: Come, Holy Ghost [0:46]
Bob CHILCOTT (b.1955) Tallis’ Canon (God grant we grace) [2:31]
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers – rec.1991-2013
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
CORO COR16111 [67:04] – from the sixteendigital.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

This is a conflation of recordings made by The Sixteen, with changing personnel, over a period of over twenty years but it hangs together well as a programme. Performances and recording quality have remained consistently high during that time.

I signalled my enjoyment and initial recommendation of this recording some time ago – DL News 2013/7 – but I lost the flac version in the crash of my external HD, though I retained the mp3 which I had transferred to a USB stick and it’s from there that I’ve returned to review it. Essentially the programme charts the upheavals of the sixteenth century as they affected music, with Tallis providing works in Latin and English for all the steps along the way from Henry VIII’s via media via the outright Protestantism of Edward VI and the return of full-blown Catholicism under Mary to Elizabeth’s rather different via media. Tallis’s music runs through like a thread and the programme is also interspersed with music from recent and contemporary composers, including one by Bob Chilcott specifically inspired by Tallis’s setting of the ordination hymn, Come, Holy Ghost.

Tallis’s English settings are small beer by comparison with his Latin music – it was Byrd who first wrote music for the English rite worthy of comparison with his Latin settings – but they have their own beauty and it was one of these (track 3) that inspired Vaughan Williams’ famous Fantasia. The idea of topping and tailing the collection with these pieces, then ending with the Tallis-inspired Chilcott, works very well indeed. The transition from the fourth psalm tune to Salvator mundi is like moving from the hors d’œuvres to the main course, though even the polyphony of that work is less elaborate than some of Tallis’s early music.

The three madrigals provide some lighter relief after a hymn associated with penitence – its English translation figures in the service for the Visitation of the Sick – and bring us to the first of the two MacMillan motets. His music can be a little angular but that’s a sign that his inspiration harks back to a time even earlier than the Tudor period, to early medieval and Eastern Orthodox church music. It’s a measure of the skill of The Sixteen that they make the many transitions in the programme so effectively – from penny-plain to twopenny-coloured Tallis, from sacred to secular and from Tudor to modern. The closing notes of the first MacMillan motet morph into the first of the Tippett spirituals – Steal away effectively steals in, not away.

For the rest of the programme I found to my surprise the second Strathclyde motet to be a high point even against such strong competition as the Byrd and Britten works. Cue a recommendation to hear The Sixteen’s all-MacMillan programme on COR16096 – also available for download from thesixteendigital.com

Unless you already have all The Sixteen’s recordings from which this anthology is taken, strongly recommended. I’m pleased that I’m too unimportant to appear on Desert Island Discs – how could I possibly choose between The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars (Gimell), The Cardinall’s Musick (ASV and Hyperion), Chapelle du Roi, etc…? Perhaps one could cheat and choose the 10-CD set of The Sixteen’s recordings for Hyperion (CDS44401/10

Rolande de LASSUS (c.1534-1564) A mystery and an apology

When I reviewed the Musique en Wallonie recording of music for the feast of St Charles (Emperor Charlemagne), O Rex Orbis (MEW1267review) and again when I reviewed the first volume of the musical biography of Lassus on the same label (MEW1158, DL News 2013/3), I referred to the second volume of that Lassus series, MEW1268, and indicated that a review of that had been written and would be appearing soon. As Singer Pur feature on that recording, I searched for the review, intending to add a reference to it in my Willaert review (above) only to discover that it seems to have disappeared without trace – I can find no reference in Outlook to having sent it off; I can’t find it in my Documents folder or on Skydrive, either.

MEW1268, recorded in April 2012, is subtitled La Gloire de la Musique de Bavarie (I) – le Temps de la faveur and contains works from Lassus’s earliest period at the Bavarian court of Duke Albrecht:

Missa On me l’a dict: Gloria [2:24]
Vous qui aymes les dames [1:33]
Si vous n’estes en bon poinct [2:00]
Un doulx nenny [0:39]
Quanta invidia ti porto avara terra [3:17]
Se si alto pon gir mie stanche rime [2:09]
O Mors, quam amara [4:17]
Surge propera amica mea [3:43]
Ave color vini clari [4:30]
Chi passa per sta strad’a e non sospira [2:39]
Tant vous alles doulce Guillemette [1:22]
Magnificat supra Tant vous alles doulx [7:27]
Vatter unser [2:32]
Im Lant zu Wirtenberg [3:18]
Frölich zu sein ist mein manier [3:18]
Res neque ab infernis [3:06]
Sidus ex claro veniens Olympo [3:25]
Edite Caesareo Boiorum [4:34]

As in the Willaert, Singer Pur are ably assisted by guest singers and in this recording by Cristoph Eglhuber on renaissance guitar; if anything the performances are preferable to those of Willaert, with the animation that I found very slightly lacking there. Perhaps that’s a response to the fact that most of the music is set to secular texts; even the extract from the Song of Songs, Surge propera amica mea, track 8, though sung at feasts of the Virgin Mary, is actually a love poem – ‘arise my beloved, hasten and come away’.

The total time is 57:14 and the CD comes complete with notes, texts and translations in a de luxe hardback booklet. Not all dealers seem to stock it, but it’s worth searching for online. The performances can be downloaded from amazon.co.uk for £7.49 or from amazon.com for $8.99, but it’s worth paying a little more for the CD and lavish booklet with notes, texts and translations: £15.99 from amazon.co.uk; currently reduced from $18.99 to $16.99 from arkivmusic.com. An expanded version of this review will be appearing on the main MusicWeb International site will appear soon.

I wouldn’t recommend either of these first two volumes of Lassus’ musical biography to beginners, who would be better served by, say, the Naxos recording of two of his masses (8.550842, Oxford Camerata/Summerly [68:25] – from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library, both with pdf booklet) or the Missa osculetur me and motets (Gimell CDGIM018* – from gimell.com or stream from Naxos Music Library) but experienced Lassus fans should find much that is new to them to enjoy in the second in particular when performances, presentation (on disc) and recording are so good.

* The Mass alone is better value on two-for-one The Tallis Scholars sing Flemish Masters (CDGIM211).

Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c1595-1663) Organ Works
Volume 1

Pieter van Dijk (St Laurenskerk, Alkmaar, Netherlands) – rec. 1997. DDD
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.554202 [78:38] – details and download from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Volume 2
Karin Nelson (Haga Church, Gothenburg, Sweden) – rec. 1998. DDD
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.554203 [75:48] – details and download from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Volume 3
Julia Brown (Brombaugh Organ, Central Lutheran Church, Eugene, Oregon, USA) – rec.1999. DDD
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.554548 [73:08] – details and download from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Volume 4
Julia Brown (Brombaugh Organ, Central Lutheran Church, Eugene, Oregon, USA) – rec. 1999. DDD
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.555876 [79:02] – details and download from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
[details and review here and here]

Volume 5
Julia Brown (Brombaugh Organ, Central Lutheran Church, Eugene, Oregon, USA) – rec. 2002
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.557054 [68:42] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
[details and review]

Volume 6
Benedicam Domino (after H. PRAETORIUS), WV48 [7:35]
Magnificat VIII Toni, WV20 [12:18]
Galliarda and Variatio in d minor, WV107 [5:46]
Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn (I), WV7 [7:57]
Ballett in d minor, WV111 [1:36]
Victimæ paschali laudes, WV68 [2:09]
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt, WV57 [5:00]
Praeambulum in e minor, WV38 [1:41]
Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit, WV70 [4:22]
Mascarata and Variatio in G, WV110 [2:47]
Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält, WV71 [4:32]
Fantasia in C, WV82 [2:54]
Mio cor, se vera sei salamandra (after ANERIO), WV105 [4:18]
Allemande in dminor, WV113 [3:14]
Courant and Variatio in d minor, WV123 [3:01]
Julia Brown (Brombaugh Organ Opus 35, First Presbyterian Church, Springfield, Illinois) – rec.2012 DDD
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.573118 [70:09] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Nicolaus BRUHNS (1665-1697)
Prelude and Fugue in e minor [9:16]
Choralfantasie ’Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’ [12:30]
Prelude and Fugue in G [8:34 ]
Prelude and Fugue in e minor [5:23]
Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN
Choral ’Christ lag in Todesbanden’ [8:19]
Canzon in G ’auf 2 Clavir Pedaliter’ [3:55]
Choral ’Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott’ [6:54]
Magnificat II. toni [18:54]
Helmut Winter (organ)
HARMONIA MUNDI HMX290799 [73:45] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)

Naxos: After a long gap and a change of organ this series has now reached volume 6, with volume 7 in the offing. Collectors of the earlier volumes will know what to expect from Julia Brown’s performances – stylish, if a little under-characterised – and well recorded. The organ, the specification of which is given in the booklet, is tuned to a mild unequal tone temperament claimed to be suitable for music of all periods, though not especially well suited to pre-Bach.

Harmonia Mundi: those seeking a short selection of Scheidemann’s music should find this recording of Bruhns’ complete organ works to their liking. Though credited solely to Bruhns on the cover, there’s so little of his music extant – he died at the age of 32 – that the Scheidemann items make up half the programme.

The CD is no longer generally available – the only online retailer that I could find was asking £19.99, so although $13.28 seems a little steep for a recording that once sold at budget price, it’s currently the best show in town.

Beulah reissued a recording of Bruhns’ Prelude and Fugue No.2 in a fine performance by Hans Heintze, ex-DG Archiv, on 1BX251review – and I hope that they will give us the rest of that LP in due course.

For a good selection of Bruhns’ spiritual choral music, music with a strong claim to be the best German cantatas before Bach, there’s an excellent recording from Cantus Cölln/Konrad Junghänel, first released in 2002, recently reissued on the Harmonia Mundi d’Abord label (HMA1951752 [73:48]):

Die Zeit meines Abschieds ist vorhanden [7:43]
Muß nicht der Mensch auf dieser Erden in stetem Streite sein [13:39]
Wohl dem, der den Herren fürchtet [7:57]
Paratum cor meum [12:10]
Ich liege und schlafe [17:27]
Hemmt eure Tränenflut [14:47]

Download in mp3 or lossless from eclassical.com, though I must point out that their price of $13.27 is hardly competitive with the UK selling price of the CD, around £6 or slightly less. Unfortunately the eclassical.com policy of pricing by the second, which is usually very competitive, fails to take account of budget-price labels. For mp3 only, classicsonline.com (£5.99) is more competitive, though even that is not much less than the CD and neither offers the booklet.

There’s a more comprehensive and equally well performed and recorded collection of Bruhns’ cantatas on the Ricercar label (RIC291: Greta de Reyghere, Jill Feldman and James Bowman with the Ricercar Consort – rec.1998-89 [2:30:40]). Download in 320kb/s mp3 from 7digital.com, complete with booklet of texts and translations (£7.99), but be aware that a quirk of the 7digital download manager may mean that the tracks come out in the wrong order, in which case you’ll need to prefix them with numbers from 01 to 50, using the numbers in the adjacent column as your guide – back up the tracks first and do it carefully. The classicsonline.com download should be less problematic but, at £15.99 that’s more expensive than the discs, which you should find online for around £13. Some dealers also have this recording as part of a hard-back book with eight CDs, Reformation and Counter-reformation (RIC101, around £44).

Three works by Bruhns open a Mirare recording, de Profundis, also containing music by Becker, Tunder and JC Bach (MIR041 Ricercar Consort/Pierre Pierlot) which I recommended in May 2009.

Discovery of the Month
Johann Rudolf AHLE (1626-1673) Neu-gepflanzte Thüringische Lust-Garten

Missa à 10: Kyrie [2:35] and Gloria [3:35]
Herr nun lässestu deinen Diener à 5 [4:41]
Zwingt die Saiten in Cithara [6:34]
Magnificat à 7 [8:09]
Jesu dulcis memoria [6:01]
Misericordias Domini [6:26]
Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag [6:53]
Magnificat à 8 [9:00]
Midori Suzuki (soprano), Yoshikazu Mera (alto), Gerd Türk (tenor), Stephan Schreckenberger (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan
Concerto Palatino Brass Ensemble/Masaaki Suzuki – rec.1996. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
BIS BIS-CD-821 [53:54] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)
[also available in a 15-CD set for the price of 4 CDs, Bach and Beyond, BIS-CD-9036/9]

This recording from the BIS back catalogue was offered as a download at half price at the same time as Volume 54 of their Bach cantata series (below), itself offered in 24-bit sound for the same price as 16-bit and mp3. That was a limited joint offer, but there is always one such, in addition to the daily eclassical.com bargain.

The CD is subtitled Toward Bach. The connection is a little tenuous – JSB was briefly Ahle’s successor as organist at Mühlhausen – but the music is well worth hearing in its own right; it’s not for nothing that a contemporary cantor dubbed him the German Monteverdi, yet this is the only album devoted completely to his music, though certain items are to be found in other programmes, including two BIS CDs. The style is akin to that of the better-known North German composers of the period, Schütz, Schein and Demantius, and the music deserves to be as well known as at least the second and third of those named.

The performances predate most of Suzuki’s Bach output but they serve Ahle’s cause extremely well and the recording, though 16/44.1 only, sounds very well, even in mp3 format. So that’s two winners in one blow from BIS if you managed to snap up the offer.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1705)
Cantata No.50, BWV50, Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft [3:49]
Chorale Prelude, BWV636, Vater unser im Himmelreich [1:24]
Cantata No.34, BWV34, O ewiges Feuer, O Ursprung der Liebe [16:43]
Chorale Prelude, BWV663, Allein Gott in der höh sei Ehr [2:32]
Cantata No.147, BWV147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben [30:38]
Gillian Fisher (soprano); David James (alto); Ian Partridge (tenor); Michael George (bass);
The Sixteen;
The Symphony of Harmony and Invention/Harry Christophers – rec.1990. DDD
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included.
CORO COR16039 [56:01] – from thesixteendigital.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Recording of the Month
Johann Sebastian BACH
Cantatas Vol. 54: Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe
Cantata No.100, Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV100 (? c.1734/5) [20:08]
Cantata No.14, Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit, BWV14 (Epiphany 4, c.1735) [14:13]
Cantata No.197, Gott ist unsre Zuversicht, BWV197 (Wedding cantata, c.1736) [28:37]
Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe, BWV197a (fragment) (Christmas 1728) [11:30]
Hana Blažíková (soprano), Damien Guillon (counter-tenor), Gerd Türk (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki – rec. September 2012. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
BIS-SACD-2021 [75:40] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) [due for release in September 2013 and available for download in advance.]

Though recorded as long ago as 1990, released on CD by Collins Classics and again on Coro in 2006, the Harry Christophers recording has just been released, along with the organ recording (above) as a download from thesixteendigital.com. There have, of course, been many distinguished Bach cantata recordings since then; to mention only those of the most substantial work here, Cantata No.147, from which the well-known chorus Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Jesu, joy of man’s desiring) is excerpted:

BIS-CD-1031: Bach Collegium of Japan/Masaaki Suzuki (Cantatas Nos. 21 and 147) (Volume 12 of complete series) [67:53] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library. See review;
SDG SDG162 (2CDs): John Eliot Gardiner (Cantatas Nos. 36, 61, 62, 70, 132 and 147) (Volume 13 of complete Bach Pilgrimage) [133:40] – from classicsonline.com (mp3, with pdf booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library. See review and January 2010 DL Roundup.

and, from an earlier era but still eminently worth hearing:

• Warner Teldec Complete Bach Edition on USB (Recording of the Monthreview). Volume 10: Cantatas 138-162 also available separately from amazon.co.uk; Nos. 140 and 147 £4.49 from classicsonline.com.

Masaaki Suzuki: this is the penultimate volume in this wonderful series and it’s just about as self-recommending as its predecessors. It comes fairly hard on the heels of Volume 53, which some magazines have only just got round to reviewing; you read it first here. (BIS-SACD-1991review and DL News 2013/5). I’m not going to beat about the bush – I’ve awarded a Recording of the Month label for the whole series now that it’s coming to an end.

As usual with this series, there’s no attempt to link cantatas from a particular season of the year – we don’t even know for what Sunday or festival BWV100 was intended – but the three complete works date from around 1734-7, while the fragmentary Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe (Glory to God in the highest) seems to have been intended for Christmas 1728 or 1729.

As it happens, I’ve also been listening to alternative versions of Cantata No.34 [16:00] and No.100 [23:45], coupled with No.93, Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten (Trinity 5, 1724) [20:08]. Susanne Winter, Rebecca Martin, Markus Schäfer, Sebastian Bluth, the Windsbach Boys’ Choir and the Deutsche Kammer-virtuosen are directed by Karl-Friedrich Beringer on RONDEAU ROP2007 [59:53], recently released though recorded as long ago as 2000, and available for download in mp3 and lossless sound on eclassical.com. (Stream from Naxos Music Library, with booklet.) The performances are good, without quite the ’star’ quality of their rivals on Coro (No.34) and BIS (No.100) and this, together with the use of a boys’ choir, though not boy trebles as on the classic Teldec recordings, a kind of half-way-house compromise, may endear this recording to some listeners. Though BWV100 looks significantly slower than from Suzuki, in practice there’s a lively enough spring throughout.

If it’s just these three cantatas that you’re looking for, this Rondeau recording is well worth considering. The short playing time is taken care of by eclassical.com’s per-second pricing policy. Though there’s no booklet, the texts of the Bach cantatas are easily available online; alternatively classicsonline.com offer mp3 (£7.99) and lossless flac (£8.99) with booklet.

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) String Quartets, Op.33
London Haydn Trio – rec. June 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67955 [2 CDs for the price of one: 133:19] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

[NB: I listened to the 320kb/s mp3 for reasons explained at the head of this DL News.]

Haydn’s Op.33, usually regarded as his coming of age in the String Quartet format, is hotly contested territory, but Hyperion’s offer of two discs for the price of one is a strong incentive, though not the only one, to choose their new recording. There’s plenty of fun in this music and the performers bring it out, as in the deadpan ending of Op.33/4 (tr.8), which is just as much a joke as Op.33/2 to which that label is attached.

Earlier London Haydn Quartet recordings of their namesake, all offered as 2-for-1, are on:

CDA67611 – Op.9 – review
CDA67722 – Op.17 – Recording of the Month: review
CDA67877 – Op.20 – review and September 2011/2 DL Roundup

All have been highly rated by myself and others without quite qualifying for outright recommendation and the same is true of the new recording. It costs less than the Kodály Quartet on Naxos – a very reliable pair of recordings in a very reliable series, but available as downloads in mp3 only and, at 2x£4.99, more expensive than the Hyperion mp3 and 16-bit versions (£7.99, with Studio Master 24-bit for £12). Even in mp3 their more recent provenance places them ahead of the Naxos and the performances are at least as recommendable.

My prime recommendations remain with the Quatuor Mosaïques, using period instruments, on Naïve E8801 (2 CDs – download in mp3 from classicsonline.com or stream from Naxos Music Library) or the Lindsay Quartet on ASV, of which only the volume containing Nos.1, 2 and 4 (CDDCA937) is currently available on CD or as a download – £5.49 from amazon.co.uk.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.12 in A, K. 414 (1783) [22:44]
Piano Concerto No.13 in C, K. 415 (1783) [25:21]
Piano Concerto No.14 in E-flat, K. 449 (1784) [21:06]
Gottlieb Wallisch (piano)
Piatti Quartet – rec. 15-16 May 2012, Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
LINN RECORDS CKD424 [69:13] – from linnrecords.com (SACD, mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

It may seem illogical of me to praise these recordings of chamber-size arrangements of three Mozart Piano Concertos and to dislike the chamber arrangement of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony (below) on another Linn recording. The difference lies in the fact that Mozart not only authorised these piano-plus-quartet arrangements, he made them himself and they sound right, especially when they are as skilfully played as here.

With good recording, too – I tried both the 24/96 and mp3 – it’s only a shame that No.11 couldn’t also be fitted on, as that also exists in a chamber arrangement. Hyperion had a similar problem in omitting No.14 when recording the chamber versions of Nos.11-13 with Susan Tomes and the Gaudier Ensemble. That recording comes in the budget-price Helios series (CDH55333, download in mp3 or flac for £5.99: January 2013/1 DL News) so you could have both it and the Linn to complete the run of 11-14 for a reasonable outlay.

Dominy Clements – review – mentioned the Naxos version of these concertos but there is stronger competition for authenticists from Jos Immerseel (fortepiano) and Musica Aeterna (Channel Classics) – not the quartet arrangements but a small period ensemble: Nos.8, 12 and 28 on CCS0690; 11, 13 and 14 on CCS0990.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN: Basic Repertoire: Piano Trios

Last month I looked at the state of play regarding Beethoven Symphonies for download. There’s less competition numerically for the Piano Trios, but this is also a keenly fought area in terms of quality.

If you are looking for a complete set, two EMI budget twofers and a specially-priced 4-CD set from Hyperion should be your first port of call:

Hyperion CDS44471/4 The Florestan Trio [4 CDs: 251:45] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet) download for £19.99.

This would be my prime recommendation. I also downloaded the mp3 version of Volume 2, still available separately, containing the ‘Archduke’ Trio and the ‘Kakadu’ Variations (CDA67369 [60:07]). It’s very enjoyable and the mp3 sound is good, especially if you want the recording for your personal player – but remember that you can purchase the lossless version for the same price, £6.99, and ask Hyperion for the mp3 later. Also bear in mind that you will almost certainly enjoy this recording so much that you’ll want the whole set, so you would have been better to splash out £19.99 from the start.

EMI Gemini 3507982 (Nos. 1-3, 7 (Archduke), 9-10) and 3508072 (Nos. 5 (Ghost), 6, 8 and 11; Cello Sonatas 3 and 5) Pinchas Zukerman (violin), Daniel Barenboim (piano) and Jacqueline du Pré (cello) – from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk – here and here.

These two inexpensive sets – my suggested links cost just £4.99 each – will appeal especially to the many fans of one or more of the participants. I haven’t heard the download, only the streamed version from Naxos Music Library, but the full 320kb/s is the order of the day from Sainsburys. Instead of the shorter works which complete the Hyperion set, the two cello sonatas from du Pré’s heyday shortly after recording the Elgar concerto, offer a substantial bonus.

Another EMI twofer also offers fine performances at a budget price, this time Nos. 1, 4, 5 (Ghost) and 7 (Archduke) from the Chung Trio on 3817512. Again I haven’t heard the download but I did enjoy the CDs when I reviewed them – here. If you just want the two most popular named works, this should suit very well. £4.99 from classicsonline.com. (with US catalog number: 0946 3817515 5).

Try all three EMI Gemini sets from Naxos Music Library, where you can also find another strong EMI contender, from Vladimir Ashkenazy, Itzhak Perlman and Lynn Harrell (5854932 and 5854962). £4.99 (Volume 1) and £5.99 (Volume 2) from classicsonline.com (with US catalog numbers.)

Decca have recently reissued the Philips recordings with the Beaux Arts Trio in a 5-CD set, 4684112 – available for £22.99 from 7digital.com, so only a shade more expensive than the Hyperion. It’s in mp3 only, but the full-strength 320kb/s variety. Amazon.co.uk have the set for the same price, but at 256kb/s at best.

The Beaux Arts Archduke and Ghost Trios, with the ‘Gassenhauser’ Clarinet Trio have been reissued on Decca Virtuoso 4785153 – £4.99 from 7digital.com. Whether in complete or single-CD form, these reissues give a new lease of life to a classic set which I’ve recommended in an earlier incarnation. There are no notes with any of the EMI or Decca recordings.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
String Quartet No.15 in G, D887 [52:24]
String Quartet No.12 in c minor, D703 (Quartettsatz) [9:45]
Wihan String Quartet – rec. June 2012. DDD.
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI6221 [62:09] – from emusic.com (mp3, no booklet) or classicsonline.com (mp3, with booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Like Schubert’s other great late chamber work, the String Quintet, Quartet No.15 is intense and lyrical by turns and the Wihan Quartet capture both aspects really well. Though there are very fine alternatives, such as those from the Kodály Quartet (Naxos 8.557125, with German Dances), Chilingirian Quartet (Nimbus NI5048, with Nos.13 and 14) and Lindsay Quartet (Resonance CDSRB403, a budget-price 4-CD set of Nos.8, 12-15 and the wonderful String Quintet) these are performances that I’d be happy to have on my Desert Island. One caveat – I recommend playing the less intense Quartettsatz first.

The emusic download is the least expensive, at £2.10, and though the bit-rate works out at around 230kb/s, that’s not far below what you would get from amazon.co.uk or iTunes for a higher price and the result is perfectly acceptable though, like Michael Cookson – review – I wonder if a warmer acoustic might have suited the music better. Classicsonline.com give you 320kb/s and the booklet, but subscribers to Naxos Music Library can obtain the booklet there. As there is no lossless download available, you may prefer to order the CD direct from MusicWeb International – currently reduced from £12 to £11 post free worldwide.

Anton Stepanovich ARENSKY (1861-1906) Violin Concerto in a minor, Op.54 (1891) [19:24]
Sergey TANEYEV (1856-1915) Suite de Concert for violin and orchestra, Op.28 (1908-09) [40:41]
Ilya Gringolts (violin)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov – rec. September 2008. DDD
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67642 [60:18] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)

[‘Gringolts draws marvellous tone from his Ruggeri violin. Passionate and poetic he conveys the meditative inner qualities of the music. Conductor Ilan Volkov provides accompaniment that is strong in personality and the BBC Scottish play quite delightfully throughout. The Hyperion engineers present impressive sound and the booklet notes are helpful.’ See review by Michael Cookson.]

Anton Stepanovich ARENSKY (1861-1906) Violin Concerto in a minor, Op.54* [21:48]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936) Concerto ballata in C for cello and orchestra, Op.108† [21:20]
Piano Concerto in f minor, Op.92‡ [28:20]
Alexander Trostiansky (violin)*
Yegor Dyachkov (cello)†
Maneli Pirzadeh (piano)‡
Members of the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra; I Musici de Montréal/Eleonora Turovsky – rec. August 1996. DDD
Pdf booklet available
CHANDOS CHAN9528 [71:43] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

Arensky is an undeservedly neglected composer – a species on whose behalf I regularly find myself campaigning. His Piano Trio and his Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky, both swam into my ken long ago as couplings for music by his more famous predecessor, but his music deserves to be heard and enjoyed in its own right and there’s no better way into it than from the Violin Concerto.

Some time ago I recommended an inexpensive recording of the concerto, available then from amazon.co.uk for just £0.69. For some inexplicable reason, that recording has now gone up to £7.49; a 21-minute single track for that price ceases to be a bargain and becomes its very opposite, sending me back to the two recordings which I mentioned then, on Hyperion and Chandos, either of which will do very well, so that choice of coupling need be your only guide. Both come with pdf booklets.

Two non-musical considerations: both downloads come in top-quality mp3 or 16-bit lossless but Hyperion charge the same price, £6.99, for both, while the Chandos costs £7.99 in mp3 and £9.99 in lossless form. On the other hand, if you buy the lossless from Chandos, you can return at any time for the mp3; with Hyperion you will need to contact them and request the second download, or use one of the free programs available to convert 16-bit flac to mp3 or 320kb/s wma for your personal player.

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (arr. Benno Sachs) [10:39]
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No.4 (arr. Erwin Stein, 1921) [64:38]
Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble/Trevor Pinnock
– rec. St. George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol, UK, 16-18 February 2012. DDD/DSD.
Pdf booklet included
LINN RECORDS CKD438 [74:22] from linnrecords.com (SACD, mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Two valuable firsts here: the first recording of Erwin Stein’s chamber-scale reduction of the Mahler for Schoenberg’s Vienna Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen, only recently reconstructed, and the beginning of a collaboration between Linn and the Royal Academy. There are gains and losses in this arrangement for fourteen instruments and sopranos – the smaller ensemble allows Mahler’s scoring to be heard more clearly, but it also means that certain instruments emerge from the texture with greater prominence than is usual or, I think, always desirable. The sound of the harmonium and two pianos seems to me especially at odds with the composer’s intention.

It’s true that the Fourth is on a smaller scale than any of Mahler’s symphonies apart from the First, but his orchestration was carefully thought out, perfectly suited to the music, and works very well in a good performance like Szell’s (formerly Sony SBK46535 – inexplicably no longer available in the UK, even to download: look out for good second-hand copies of the CD, even though these are currently on offer at around £30 or $60).

I have fewer reservations about Benno Sachs’s arrangement of the Debussy, which seems to me to work very well.

I listened to the 24/96 and 16/44.1 CD-quality downloads and in both formats the recording is very good.

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Vier letzte Lieder, Op. posth. (1948)*
Frühling [3:44]
September [5:23]
Beim Schlafengehen [5:26]
Im Abendrot [8:25]
Muttertändelei, Op. 43/2 (1899)* [2:08]
Waldseligkeit, Op. 49/1 (1901)* [3:18]
Zueignung, Op. 10/1 (1885)* [1:55]
Freundliche Vision, Op. 48/1 (1900)* [3:09]
Die heiligen drei Könige, Op. 56/6 (1903-1906)* [6:39]
Ruhe, meine Seele, Op. 27/1 (1894) [3:54]
Meinem Kinde, Op. 37/3 (1897) [2:50]
Wiegenlied, Op. 41/1 (1899) [4:45]
Morgen, Op. 27/4 (1894) [3:46]
Das Bächlein, Op. 88/1 (1933) [2:01]
Das Rosenband, Op. 36 No. 1 (1897) [3:12]
Winterweihe, Op. 48/4 (1900) [3:21]
Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra/Georg Szell
rec. *September 1965, Grünewald Church, Berlin (BRSO); September 1968, Kingsway Hall, London (LSO)
Downloadable cover art; no booklet
EMI CLASSICS 50999 4 04662 5 6 [64:36] – from e-onkyo.com (24/96 wav and flac)

This has to be one of the great classics of all time, with soloist, orchestras and conductor caught on the wing as it were, and superbly recorded too. I first succumbed to the charms of this collection on LP, and although I own two subsequent re-masters on CD I’ve always hankered after the warmth and ’bloom’ of the analogue original. I was sorely tempted by EMI Japan’s 2011 SACD, but at around £40 in the UK that was more than I was prepared to pay. Then I was alerted to this 24/96 download from e-onkyo.com, which at ¥3,000 (just under £20) is comparable with high-res offerings from, say, Linn/Universal. I gather this re-mastering is also available from HDTracks in the USA, but their downloads are for domestic buyers only.

Schwarzkopf has always polarised opinion, whether it’s her politics or her singing, and although I don’t often warm to her voice in other repertoire she seems ideal in the Four Last Songs. Limpid, achingly beautiful and wonderfully responsive to the texts Schwarzkopf has radiant support from Szell and the Berlin Radio orchestra. Indeed, the playing is even more miraculous than the singing, those long-breathed phrases so naturally done. Some may find this re-mastering a little dry – it’s also more recessed than the GROC CD – but such is the nourishing power of these performances that scarcely matters.

The twelve orchestral songs are no less alluring. Split between the Berlin band and the LSO, they showcase the interpretive range of this most individual of singers, from the barely contained delight of Muttertändelei to the hushed loveliness of Waldseligkeit and the animation of Morgen. At every turn one is reminded of just how glorious these Berlin and London bands sounded in the 1960s; that refinement and refulgence is well caught in this unforgettable Zueignung. I do sympathise with those who find Schwarzkopf too calculated – that’s certainly true of Freundliche Vision, for instance – but then she silences all criticism with a darkly intense rendition of Die heiligen drei Könige.

I’m very impressed by the warm, well-rounded bass and the silky string sound of this high-res re-mastering; really, there are no audio nasties here, and for that I am very grateful. The added immediacy of Ruhe, meine Seele heralds a change of orchestra and venue; Strauss’s score certainly sounds as sumptuous as ever. As for the rocking pizzicati of Wiegenlied they are a joy to hear, and Szell paces the music to perfection. The LSO strings – the harp especially – have an almost analogue glow both here and in Morgen, and the musicians lay down a carpet of the softest velvet.

Having emptied the cupboard of superlatives perhaps I should list some caveats. Trouble is, there aren’t any, unless you count occasional archness and a hint of croon in Wiegenlied; then there’s the lack of liner-notes. If you don’t care for Schwarzkopf’s manner – it really is an acquired taste – no re-mastering will change your mind. For newcomers, though, this is a marvellous opportunity to hear a classic recording at close to its original best.

Not quite the revelation I’d hoped for, but still worth acquiring.

Dan Morgan
http://twitter.com/mahlerei

[Dan’s review sent me back to this recording, which I hadn’t heard since I disposed of my LP collection until I reviewed the EMI Masters reissue – Bargain of the Month here – I’d been happy on CD with Gundula Janowitz (with Karajan, DG Originals), Jessye Norman (Philips, now Decca Originals) and Lucia Popp (a wonderful bargain when it was available on HMV Classics, coupled with Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder sung by Janet Baker; currently, differently coupled, on EMI Red Line) but, very good as these all are, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf is supreme in this music.

Much less expensive than the 24-bit version which Dan has reviewed is the 320kb/s mp3 of the penultimate EMI Masters reissue from classicsonline.com (£4.99 in the UK) and it sounds pretty good in that format, too. I know because, having failed to lay my hands on the CD that I reviewed – a consequence of having a chaotic CD library, with downloads much easier to find – I purchased the download. There’s no booklet but the words are available online.

You’ll find reviews of Schwarzkopf’s earlier recording, with Otto Ackermann (Naxos Historical) and Soile Isokoski in this music (Ondine) in my May 2010 DL Roundup. Download the Ondine now not from passionato.com, defunct for downloads, but from classicsonline.com (320kb/s mp3).

Returning to Schwarzkopf in Strauss offers an opportunity to remind readers of her performances of der Rosenkavalier with Otto Edelmann, Christa Ludwig and Herbert von Karajan – a very decent transfer of the LP set very inexpensively available from Discover Classics/emusic.com (£1.26) or in a superior transcription (EMI/classicsonline.com, £9.99) and the film made around the same time, with Sena Jurinac instead of Ludwig, on an inexpensive DVD (Park Circus PC0021 – from amazon.co.uk. Also on blu-ray.) Pay no heed to the customer review which suggests that the film was lip-synched to the completely different LP recording. BW]

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Complete Music for Piano and Orchestra
Steven Osborne (piano)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov
HYPERION CDA67870 [60:16] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

[full details and review: DL News 2013/10]

It is good to have all Stravinsky’s music for piano and orchestra together in a single recording.

One of the highlights is surely Concerto for piano and wind instruments from 1924 and typical of Stravinsky’s neoclassical music of this period. The austere opening Largo of the first movement is rhythmically taut under the tight control of pianist and conductor. In style it is modelled on the French Overture, and the ensuing Allegro, given an explosive start by the players, proceeds in an energetic performance. Mostly elegiac and static, the second movement Larghissimo begins lyrically in the piano closely followed by the winds. This is contrasted with sometimes strong, sometimes arabesque-like cadenza passages in the piano part in free flowing tempo, delicately and nimbly played by Osborne. The third movement is well-judged, and I particularly like the cold austerity of the closing section followed by the concluding jolly, witty few bars which form the final coda and seeming to say that all the preceding seriousness was really just a joke. The varying styles, tempi and moods in this work are expertly handled by Osborne and his partner, Ilan Volkov. One realises in this performance that the wind players have an equally important role to the pianist, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra players have never, in my experience been bettered in a performance of this work.

Similarly sensitively played is the Capriccio for piano and orchestra. The first movement, presto is a sectionalised piece and much of the music is unrelentingly virtuosic for the soloist, admirably played here by Steven Osborne. We are sometimes reminded of the Symphony in three movements and other more well-known works by this composer. There are many lovely touches from the players, such as the delicate figuration tossed around between flute and piano, and we hear much virtuosic playing from wind and strings alike. The second movement andante rapsodico, although precisely notated in complex rhythmic patterns, often sounds improvisatory in style, and the final movement is great fun as well as extremely difficult to play.

Much later, in 1959 Stravinsky was exploring serialism, and one is very much reminded of Webern and the serialists in Movements for piano and orchestra. Nonetheless these delicious miniatures sound totally Stravinskian. The addition of celeste and harp helps to enhance the composer’s marvellously colourful instrumentation. This work is surely a testament to the elderly composer, now exploring new compositional techniques in music of great complexity. The score has been thoroughly mastered by the performers, and the recording allows for great clarity of detail and every shade of colour is really telling.

The Concerto in D is for strings alone and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra string section really shines here. In the first movement vivace, fragments of ideas dance about in this lively performance until we reach a schmaltzy, repetitive and slower motif. The melodic lines of the Arioso: andantino are given beautiful shaping by the orchestra. The third movement Rondo: allegro is a kind of moto perpetuo played here with great energy and panache.

The recording begins with a warm and full-blooded account of Song of the Volga Boatmen for Wind and Percussion and concludes with the Canon (on a Russian Popular Tune) written as a memorial to Pierre Monteux who had died the year before. I had never heard this piece before, but although very short it makes interesting use of canonical devices.

I really enjoyed this superb collection, wonderfully played and recorded with great clarity and excellent balance.

Geoffrey Molyneux

Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989)
Piano Concerto in B flat, Op.29* (1947) [26:13]
Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, Op.30** (1948) [32:17]
* David Wilde (piano)
** Garth Beckett, Boyd McDonald (pianos)
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Norman Del Mar – rec. 1970, 1979, 1977. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.250 [58:33] – from emusic.com (mp3, c.180-190kb/s £2.10) or 7digital.com (mp3, 320kb/s, £7.99 reduced to £4.95 at the time of writing).

[‘Berkeley’s two piano concertos finely performed and recorded – the first a serious work; the second in the nature of a mercurial diversion.’ See review by Rob Barnett.]

All I need add to Rob Barnett’s review is that the emusic.com bit-rate is rather low – most tracks are less than what could reasonably called the bare minimum of 192kb/s for decent reproduction – but adequate for the refurbished Lyrita sound quality to come through.

Christopher ROUSE (b.1949) Flute Concerto (1993) [29:44]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962) Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (1934) [21:14]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1916) Syrinx (1913) [3:21]
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974) Ballade (1939) [8:19]
Katherine Bryan (flute)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Jac van Steen – rec. January and October 2012. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
LINN CKD420 [64:15] – from linnrecords.com (SACD, mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

I expected this to be enjoyable mainly for the Ibert, not having heard any of Christopher Rouse’s music before. In the event, his Flute Concerto of 1993, the central movement of which alludes to the murder of Jamie Bulger, made a stronger impression than I had expected, with music that is crushingly dramatic and lyrical by turns. I’m still not sure that it will become part of my regular listening schedule, but I certainly shan’t skip it when I want to listen to the Ibert. There’s another performance on BIS, which Hubert Culot enjoyed – review – but I can’t imagine that it presents a stronger case, though it comes with an all-Rouse programme. Subscribers to the invaluable Naxos Music Library can try both there.

We weren’t short of recordings of the Ibert but it, too, receives a fine performance and it’s followed most appropriately by the Debussy work to which it owes so much. That and the Frank Martin Ballade round off a very fine programme, excellently recorded in 24-bit, though if you wish to economise I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by the mp3.

There’s a slightly snappier version of the Ibert with Sharon Bezaly as soloist on BIS-SACD-1559, coupled with Rodrigo and Borne – I enjoyed that, too, and you can also try it from Naxos Music Library (Bridge across the Pyrenees: see DL News 2013/11).

Light Music Recording of the Month
Nigel HESS (b. 1953)

New London Pictures* (2003) [14:52]
Ladies in Lavender, theme from the film* (2004) [3:55]
The Lochnagar Suite*, from the ballet The Old Man of Lochnagar (2007) [14:10] Monck’s March, Concert Overture (2002) [10:08]
Shakespeare Pictures* (2008) [12:21]
A Christmas Overture* (2007) [7:33]
The Central Band of the Royal Air Force/Nigel Hess – rec. September 2012. DDD.
* Premiere recording or premiere recording in this format
Pdf booklet included
CHANDOS CHAN10767 [63:30] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

The New London Pictures Suite may be said take over where Eric Coates left off with depictions of the Millennium Bridge, London Eye and Congestion Charge. If you wonder how the last-named can be depicted in music, think of Coates’ Knightsbridge March, especially if you’re old enough to remember how it was used, complete with traffic noise, to introduce In Town Tonight on steam radio, and Gershwin’s An American in Paris and you’ll get some idea.

There’s both jaunty and languid cod-Scottishry in Lochnagar (shades of Arnold’s Scottish Dances and Bruch’s Scottish Fantasia), while Shakespeare Pictures draw together some of Hess’s music for the Royal Shakespeare Company: Much Ado, Winter’s Tale (the statue) and Julius Cæsar (entry to the Senate). This is all Middle of the Road stuff but it’s very good of its kind and I enjoyed it all a great deal more than Gary S Dalkin who was a trifle sniffy about an earlier Hess/Chandos release on CHAN9750 to which he awarded only two stars – review. Another very fine Chandos contribution to the enjoyment of those of us who like good MOR alongside inter alia renaissance polyphony, baroque opera and Wagner. I just wish they hadn’t put that London Eye monstrosity on the cover.

Antony PITTS (b.1969)
Jerusalem-Yerushalayim: An ancient tale, a unique city, a new oratorio
Londinium, Tiffin Boys’ Choir, Aldeburgh Choir Young Musicians
Tonus Peregrinus/Antony Pitts – rec. October 2011. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts included
1EQUALMUSIC 1EMJ2O [2CDs: 114:12] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

These are the first fruits of a collaboration between Hyperion, who have already recorded some of Antony Pitts’ colourful music, and the label 1Equalmusic. If you have heard the Hyperion recording of Alpha and Omega (below) you’ll have heard the coda from Jerusalem-Yerushalayim. Otherwise, rather than try to describe the music, except to summarise the four sections:

(A) the city in patriarchal times;
(B) the city as the capital of Israel and then of Judah up to its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in 586BC;
(C) the city rebuilt under occupation until its destruction by the Romans in 70AD; (D) the city as prefigured by prophets and unfolded in history; and a coda looking forward to Isaiah’s vision of the wolf living together with the lamb;

it’s better for me to direct you to the free Hyperion Sampler for August 2013, HYP201308, where you can hear a complete section, as well as the shorter extracts from each section on the main webpage.

I am not alone among my MusicWeb colleagues in enjoying Pitts’ own music and the performances by his group Tonus Peregrinus of his music and that of others; the new release is equally fine. From earlier reviews I single out:

PITTS Seven Letters Hyperion CDA67507review and DL Roundup September 2012/2
PITTS Alpha and Omega, including the coda from Jerusalem-Yerushalayim, Hyperion CDA67688DL Roundup September 2012/2
• Music from the Eton Choirbook, Naxos 8.572840DL Roundup August 2012/2 (Bargain of the Month)

The demise of the 2TB external HD where I store my music has meant that I was able to listen only to the mp3 version until the data can be restored (addendum: it has been!), but the sound there is very good indeed, so the lossless versions should be stunning. In addition to the pdf booklet which comes with the download, a separate 52-page souvenir booklet is available, currently reduced from £5.00 to £4.79 – here.

Søren Nils EICHBERG (b. 1973)
Symphony No. 2, Before Heaven, Before Earth, for large orchestra (2010) [23:29]
Symphony No. 1, Stürzten wir uns ins Feuer, for large orchestra (2005) [34:11]
Danish National Symphony Orchestra/Christoph Poppen
rec. Danish Radio Koncerthuset, Copenhagen, 10-12 February 2011 (No. 2) and 9-11 February 2012 (No. 1)
Pdf booklet included
DACAPO 8.226109 [57:40] – from dacapo_records.dk (mp3, 16/44.1 CD quality and 24/96 Studio Master)

The Danish label Dacapo has no equal when it comes to promoting home-grown music, from Nielsen to Nørgård and beyond. Technically their recordings are among the finest available; indeed the entire package always suggests the highest production values. That was certainly confirmed by the first instalment of their Nielsen Project, with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic (review). For the moment at least only some of Dacapo’s high-res downloads are available on other vendors, such as eclassical.com, so I’m delighted to have access to their own site for this and future reviews.

The Danish-German composer-pianist Søren Nils Eichberg is unfamiliar to me, but Byzantion’s enthusiasm for this recording persuaded me to give it a whirl (review). The subtitle of the Second Symphony may evoke something cosmic and/or elemental, perhaps along the lines of Górecki’s Copernicus or Leifs’ Edda. The work takes its cue from a verse by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, which refers in passing to the ’formless void and timeless quietude’. That means the piece can go one of two ways; either it will major in monumentalism or it will offer a fresh take on a much-worn theme.

‘Chaotisch’, the first of the symphony’s four continuous movements, starts well enough; the agitated writing, with its primordial brass and tectonic drum shifts, is superbly rendered, and I was impressed by the width and depth of the stereo image. There’s no hint of musical overload; instead the ear is drawn to strange glissandi and wonderfully transparent textures. Such felicities aside, the material is overworked, so one’s attention is apt to wander. Indeed, without such a splendid recording – this really is an aural feast – my concentration would have waned a lot sooner.

That said, the third movement, ‘Gläsern’, boasts some gorgeous sounds, and there’s a tautness to the final movement that can’t fail to impress. Despite these laudable qualities I felt I’d been here before, and that blunted my enjoyment of this otherwise cleanly crafted opus.

The subtitle of the First Symphony is translated as ‘If we flung ourselves into the flames’, and is based on The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by the late Portuguese writer and provocateur José Saramago. Eichberg freely admits he’s drawn to the idea of ‘collective self-destruction’, which gives the work a handy board from which to jump. There’s plenty of vigour and vitality here, and Christoph Poppen builds and sustains tension admirably. The brass, timp and bass drum figures that form the work’s connective tissue are at once its greatest strength and its biggest weakness. Energetic and propulsive it may be, but I can’t escape the notion that these repetitive loops conceal a paucity of invention.

In his review Byzantion suggested this music would appeal to ‘every bold-leaning lover of big-sounding symphonies’. I wouldn’t go that far, but thanks to exemplary performances and top-notch sonics these undemanding pieces will surely appeal to audiophiles and curious listeners who don’t fancy an acid bath. Dacapo’s attractive site and slick Download Manager are a joy to use, and a query about my account was answered online within minutes. Dacapo’s pricing is competitive too*, although I still think that most high-res downloads are too expensive.

A little too lightweight to be truly memorable; fine sound and playing though.

Dan Morgan
http://twitter.com/mahlerei

[* eclassical.com offer this recording for download in mp3 and 16-bit lossless for $10.38; if either of those formats – or both if you require lossless for home listening and mp3 for your personal player – that works out as rather less expensive. BW.]

Dobrinka TABAKOVA (b.1980) String Paths
Kristina Blaumane (cello)
Janine Jansen, Roman Mints, Julia-Maria Kretz (violin)
Amihai Grosz (viola)
Torleif Thedéen, Boris Andrianov (cello)
Raimondas Sviackevi?ius (accordion)
Vaiva Eidukaityt?-Storastien? (harpsichord)
Donatas Bagurskas, Stacey Watton (double bass)
Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra/Maxim Rysanov (viola) – rec. March/April 2011 and June 2012. DDD.
ECM New Series 2239 [72:21] – from emusic.com (mp3)

Dobrinka Tabakova’s first album, consisting solely of her own music and entitled String Paths, has recently been released by ECM. What an amazing composer! She successfully blends styles from music of past centuries with her own modern-sounding ideas to make convincing works of musical art in a style all her own. These pieces, therefore, are immediately appealing to those who do not really have a feel for ‘modern’ music or may even dislike anything sounding even vaguely discordant, but after having been lulled into a false sense of security such listeners soon find that they are immersed in complex, avant-garde works.

The first piece on the disc is called Insights for string trio. It begins with a lugubrious, slow-moving, largely homophonic modal section which is nevertheless sometimes strongly rhythmic. Simple major and minor chords contradict dissonant passages. Further on there are contrapuntal passages with some virtuosic writing, and then we hear a high violin with a more static accompaniment. I like the interesting textures that are constantly reinvented between the three instruments. The short coda is reassuring in its use of simple and traditional chords.

The first movement of the Cello Concerto is certainly turbulent, as its title implies, and also menacing. The bass instruments play a toccata-like theme and soon the upper strings enter canonically until the cello soloist joins in. Then the soloist introduces a second and warmer melody soon to be shared with the orchestra. Much of the middle section is consonant and attractive, but later the soloist returns with a development of the menacing first theme in music of great virtuosity, superbly played here by Kristina Blaumane. This dissolves into a passage of radiant, sustained strings bringing the music to a ravishing climax of great warmth to conclude the movement.

The second movement Longing begins simply but becomes ever-more complex following the cellist’s entry as we reach a climax of great beauty and emotional intensity. The music then dissolves into a closing serene passage. The emotions here and in the final movement Radiant are clearly expressed and felt. After a quiet beginning, the final movement moves forward into some very difficult music, admirably executed by soloist and orchestra alike as they take us to a thrilling climax.

We are aware of many influences from the 20th century and earlier in The Suite in Old Style, and indeed this work is Tabakova’s homage to Rameau. We hear baroque style figuration and ornamentation, and the harpsichord has an important part to play, but the style is Tabakova’s own. The opening Prelude in several sections is easily accessible with bright rhythms and delightful colours. There is much opportunity for the violist Maxim Rysanov to demonstrate the full beauty and virtuosic possibilities of that instrument. The second movement is very touching. It brings back memories of earlier twentieth century works for strings, whilst the final movement, Riddle of the Barrel Organ Player is very tonal and traditional sounding, until finally the haunting music of the opening Prelude returns. Again, Rysanov and the orchestra play superbly.

The short but highly evocative Frozen River Flows for violin, double bass and accordion, is eerily glacial and atmospheric, and the more substantial piece Such Different Paths is for string septet. This latter moves forward sectionally and sometimes a fairly simple passage develops into discordant music of great ardour and intensity which then dissolves into music of quiet contemplation. Towards the end a single violin soars above as we reach a quiet and contemplative conclusion. This is a powerful and interesting piece commanding our attention.

This is a fine release for those interested in music steeped in tradition but with a distinctly modern and individualistic flavour. It is very well-recorded with great clarity of texture. Many congratulations to ECM on this release.

Geoffrey Molyneux

[I can only add that I was as bowled over by this recording as Geoff, an experience akin to hearing the Górecki Symphony of Sorrowful Songs or Pärt’s Cantus for the first time. The emusic.com download comes at around 230kb/s – not the best mp3 bit-rate, which can be had at £8.99 from 7digital.com, as opposed to £3.78 from emusic.com, but adequate. Geoff listened to the CD release which, of course, comes with the booklet of notes, not available with the download, though there’s a useful potted version on Tabakova’s own website. BW]

See also review by Rob Barnett.

Brian Reinhart’s Reviews

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 6 [30:32]
Rosamunde, incidental music [32:14]
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
rec. February 2012, Orebro Concert Hall, Sweden
BIS-SACD-1987 [62:46] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

Thomas Dausgaard’s recordings with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra fall into two categories for me. Their Beethoven series on Simax has been revelatory, including an Eroica that for its energy and living pulse is my favorite Eroica of all-time; their efforts in late romantic repertoire, like Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique, have been disappointing. Happily this is in the first camp.

This is actually their second Schubert album. The first featured the last two symphonies; this one showcases the ’Little’ Sixth and Rosamunde. The symphony crackles with excitement and youthful energy, paced to effervescent perfection. If you’re not captivated and cheered by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra’s fine, virtuosic playing and sharp chamber sound (with hard-stick timpani and the all-important flutes having a field day), have your ears checked! The booklet calls the scherzo "exuberant," and the performers prove it.

The Rosamunde entr’actes are presented out of order (1, 3, 2) and without the adopted overture, giving them a rather symphonic feel; I’m especially pleased by the transition from the dramatic B minor piece, sometimes used to "finish" the Unfinished Symphony, to the calmer B flat major piece which follows. The ballet music is appended, too. Those who like the ’period style, modern instruments’ genre will enjoy this.

I listened via 24-bit FLAC downloaded from eClassical. The sound is extremely fine: a great concert-hall seat, not so close you feel cramped but close enough to capture every detail and keep the instruments in fine balance. The PDF booklet is downloadable from eClassical. No regrets: this one’s a treat!

[see also DL News 2013/10]

Karl GOLDMARK (1830-1915)
Rustic Wedding Symphony, Op. 26 [44:05]
Symphony No. 2 in E flat, Op. 35 [32:17]
Singapore Symphony Orchestra/Lan Shui
rec. August 2009 (Rustic Wedding), July/August 2011 (No. 2), Esplanade Concert Hall, Singapore
BIS-SACD-1842 [76:22] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

Karl Goldmark’s ‘Rustic Wedding Symphony’ from 1875 is one of those fun romantic pieces that charms, serenades, spins tunes, conjures up all the folksy colour its title implies, and still somehow doesn’t get its due in concert. Luckily we have some pretty terrific recordings, like Bernstein’s with the New York Philharmonic and, really, this new one is just as good.

I’m surprised to be saying so. Bernstein & Co. set the bar very high (and so does Thomas Beecham), but Lan Shui and the Singapore Symphony are fantastic throughout, showing not just a great color palette and top-quality orchestral sound but the kind of life, liveliness, and humour necessary. Lenny is somewhat faster in the first movement (but not the other four), and I’d never part with it, but this new recording has the added benefit of state-of-the-art sound: download in 24-bit FLAC or buy it as SACD.

Another benefit: the Symphony No. 2! ArkivMusic lists just one other recording, on Marco Polo, which after twenty years is now hard to find. [eclassical.com offer that, too, in mp3 and lossless, with Penthesilea. BW] The symphony is pastoral in a post-Mendelssohn way, more memorable than similar music by Bruch and Raff. It’s also similar to the first movement of Dvorák’s Third Symphony, but without anything like the emotional power of that work’s funeral march. The unexpected highlight might be a first-movement tune that sounds uncannily like Sibelius’ ‘Swan Hymn’.

My Download News colleagues Brian Wilson and Dan Morgan are also fans of this disc [DL News 2013/10]. Persuaded yet? The vote is unanimous!

Brodsky Quartet: In the South
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)
Italian Serenade [7:00]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Crisantemi [7:22]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) String Quartet [23:44]
Joaquin TURINA (1882-1949) La oracion del torero [8:41]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1991) Four for Tango [6:45]
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840) Caprices Op.1 Nos. 6 and 24, arr. Paul Cassidy [12:27]
Brodsky Quartet
rec. 28-30 October, 2012, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, England
CHANDOS CHAN10761 [65:59] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

This is one of those discs that can fill a lot of gaps in a collection with one go. Verdi’s tightly coiled, underrated string quartet; Puccini’s Crisantemi; Wolf’s Italian Serenade (in a blistering hot performance); and then some more Hispanic treats by the likes of Turina and Piazzolla. Two of Paganini’s caprices for solo violin are transcribed by the Brodsky Quartet’s own violist, Paul Cassidy.

And what a pleasure the program is. The performances are truly impassioned; the Brodsky Quartet turned the intensity up to maximum for the most serious works here, by Verdi and Puccini, and kept up the same level of engagement for everything else. What with the extremely fine sonics you also get in the package, this deserves more attention than it’s likely to get. A consistent delight.

From theclassicalshop.net; high-quality downloads are available but you’ll have to grab the PDF booklet separately from the rest.

Antheil, Leshnoff, Brossé, Mendelssohn
George ANTHEIL (1900-1959)
Serenade No. 1 [17:05]
Jonathan LESHNOFF (1973– ) Cello Concerto [26:39]
Dirk BROSSÉ (1960– ) Parade’s End: Song for Peace [2:44]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Symphony No. 1 in C minor [33:07]
Nina Kotova, cello
Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia/Dirk Brossé – rec. live 3-4 March 2013, Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia
CHAMBER ORCHESTRA OF PHILADELPHIA COP016 [79:35] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

This might be the most rewarding digital release yet from the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. Bolstered by a strong performance of Mendelssohn’s First Symphony, it takes off into new directions and treats us to good stuff available nowhere else.

George Antheil’s Serenade No. 1, for example, is a rare work from late in his career. It’s not as wacky, rebellious, or mechanical as his daring early music; instead, think of how Shostakovich and Prokofiev filtered Russian folk music into a cheeky modern language, and imagine that concept applied to American folk tunes. Sounds irresistible, right? If it doesn’t, your imagination is insufficient; it’s a piece that can be enjoyed by anybody.

Jonathan Leshnoff’s Cello Concerto is presented here in the live performances which were its world premiere. It’s a piece I’d love to see enter the repertoire, and would like to hear live: the work begins with a long slow movement with a dark Sibelian glow, proceeds to a long fast movement, and then ends with a brief epilogue bringing the music to a place of great tranquility. The tonal language has more in common with the romantic era than with any of the last century’s avant garde; if you like Moeran, Weinberg, Shostakovich, Sibelius, or the most recent works of Penderecki, for example, turn to this. I prized the combination of lyricism and drama, and the playing of Nina Kotova, whom I’d never heard of but who truly does the composer proud. He was in attendance.

Only two slight blemishes on this smart, engaging release: the applause after each piece, and a two-minute work by conductor Dirk Brossé which aspires to make a political statement (‘Song for Peace’) by developing a so-so B-movie melody. Still, this is the kind of recording you really ought to go out of your way to discover. Find it on classicsonline.com.

André CAPLET (1878-1925)
Suite persane, for six winds [15:54]
Deux pieces, for flute and piano [6:29]
Légende, for saxophone, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and string quintet [13:40]
Quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and piano [25:58]
Ensemble Initium (Édouard Sabo, flute soloist)
Quatuor Ardeo (string quartet in Légende)
Laurent Wagschal, piano (Deux pieces, Quintet)
Rec. September 2012, Ircam, Paris (Suite persane); November 2012, Coeur de ville, Vincennes
pdf booklet included
TIMPANI 1C1202 [62:03] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

If you know André Caplet, it’s because he orchestrated many piano pieces by Claude Debussy, including Children’s Corner and Clair de lune. It might be because he was a close friend and collaborator of Debussy, contributing to that man’s own orchestrations. It might be because Caplet was born on a sailboat and died from after-effects of a gas attack in World War I. Maybe you don’t know Caplet at all. Whatever your situation, you ought to hear this CD.

It’s a bouquet of lovely music for various wind ensembles. The Suite persane has movement titles inscribed in what the booklet calls ‘Persian (or pseudo-Persian)’ and a strong exotic bent that I can’t help liking. It’s certainly more committed to orientalism and unusual harmonic effects than most examples of ‘tourism music’.

The two short pieces for flute and piano are wonderful additions to the flute repertoire. The Légende combines saxophone, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and five string players for fifteen minutes of marvellous musical storytelling. There’s a slow ‘once upon a time’ intro and a rhapsodic progression to a surprisingly poignant, even haunting ending. And the Quintet for winds and piano is a joy too, but of a different sort: it’s more classically shaped, and instead of bringing to mind Debussy or Pierné, it evokes Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns.

So all this music by Caplet is charming in different ways. The Timpani record label is a sign of quality: performers are among France’s best, booklet is incredibly informative, and engineering is excellent. I look forward to many more listens, especially to Suite persane and the Légende. classicsonline.com has the MP3s and the PDF.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Violin Sonatas
Violin sonata in G, RV25 [10:22]
Violin sonata in c minor, RV6 [12:05]
Violin sonata in F, RV19 [17:38]
Violin sonata in C, RV2 [15:57]
Violin sonata in A, RV29 [6:25]
Baltic Baroque – rec. venues and dates not provided with download
ESTONIAN RECORD PRODUCTIONS ERP6312 [62:27] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

I was hoping this disc would be my cup of tea (Vivaldi violin works, but sonatas not concertos!). But alas, it wasn’t. If you feel so inclined, take the rest of my review with a grain of salt. But, in addition to the sonatas rather distractingly being recorded in different venues, I just wasn’t a big fan of the music. Vivaldi gives his usual big virtuosic lines to the soloist, but the harpsichord and cellist labor away with minimal imagination. It makes me think of them as oppressed minorities, and I want them to rise up and overthrow the violinist’s tyranny.

Possibly I’ve gone bananas. These performances are fairly well-played, and the violinist is up to the task. If you’re more interested in the repertoire than I was, go ahead, although at classicsonline.com the MP3s are accompanied by a back cover image PDF which only ever loads halfway (no booklet.) [The NML copy of the back cover is similarly afflicted. BW]

***


In honor of Christian Lindberg’s new Tchaikovksy recording on BIS (which I am reviewing separately), I also downloaded three other albums Lindberg has conducted. You can also find my review of his cleverly-done CD of saxophone concertos and other treats here. (Do click. It’s a fun treat of a CD.) Here, then, is an impromptu Lindbergapalooza:

Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in a minor, B.108 [30:45]
Ten Legends for orchestra, B.122 [38:41]
Richard Tognetti (violin)
Nordic Chamber Orchestra/Christian Lindberg – rec. January 2009. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
BIS-CD-1708 [69:26] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

This Dvořák CD combines two pieces from shortly after the composer began his ascent to fame: the Legends and Violin Concerto, from 1879 and 1881. Richard Tognetti is a violinist who – impressively, given he’s also done period-influenced Mozart – gets into the composer’s idiom with big, singing phrasing, luxurious vibrato, and a great dancing spirit in the finale. However, there are places where his instrumental tone is a bit harsh or at any rate less than ideally golden. Listen to the violinist’s first two double-stopping entrances in the first movement or the very start of the finale. The contribution of Lindberg and the Nordic Chamber Orchestra is excellent, though.

A few comparisons: Itzhak Perlman on EMI is a more ’golden’ soloist, but his backing band, the LSO, is imprecise and drowned out by the thunderous acoustic. Pavel Sporcl, an extraordinary young violinist who’s going unnoticed on Supraphon, delivers a totally amazing performance on that label, backed by the Czech Philharmonic and all the more astonishing in its emotional perfection because it was recorded in a single live concert. Sporcl’s almost three minutes slower but makes them count.

Lindberg & Co. get a solo display in the ten Legends, which like the Slavonic Dances are arrangements of piano four-hands music. Actually they have a lot in common with the Slavonic Dances, maybe the only major difference being a comparative lack of quick numbers. This is about as good a performance, and as well-recorded, as can be found; maybe you already have Mackerras on Supraphon, but I didn’t.

[Please see my review of the CD for reservations about the tempo of the first movement. The least expensive way to obtain the Mackerras Legends is as part of the 6-CD set My Life with Czech Music (Supraphon), an unbelievably inexpensive £8.49 from 7digital.com. See 2013/10 DL News. BW.]

Ole OLSEN (1850-1927)
Asgaardsreien, Op. 10 [10:38]
Trombone concerto in F, Op. 48 (46) [14:21]
Symphony No. 1 in G, Op. 5 [37:57]
Christian Lindberg (trombone and conductor)
Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra/Rune Halvorsen, conductor (concerto) – rec.2011. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
BIS-SACD-1968 [62:56] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Ole Olsen was a Norwegian composer who came of age in the 1870s and set about writing music which, like Grieg’s work at about that time, sometimes exhibited special nationalistic properties but sometimes aped Germanic styles. The symphony is an unfortunate example of the latter, but its long, rather unentertaining heft shouldn’t distract you from this CD’s two highlights.

The trombone concerto, just 14 minutes long, is a tiny little gem of precision, wit, and romantic vision; it does everything a romantic trombone concerto ought to do in a quarter-hour. That it’s laid dormant so long is inexplicable; this is the first-ever recording. The ’Op. 48 (46)’ is because there’s also a version for horn.

Asgaardsreien, a fiery tone-poem that’s sort of like a Viking version of Night on Bare Mountain, is also a load of good fun. With playing as good as this (on the Arctic Philharmonic’s first-ever CD), you should head over to eClassical and download the two shorter works regardless of your interest in the symphony. Even the 24-bit FLACs will cost less than $5.

Nordic Showcase
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
: Suite for string orchestra, Op. 1 [14:04]
Johan SVENDSEN (1840-1911): Romance for violin and orchestra, Op. 26 [8:06]
Anders WESSTRÖM (1720-1781): Armida overture [8:02]
Jón LEIFS (1899-1968): Variazioni pastorali, Op. 8, on a theme of Beethoven [10:53]
Bo LINDE (1933-1970) Concerto piccolo for wind quintet and orchestra, Op. 35 [11:05]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Impromptu for strings [8:04]
Richard Tognetti, violin (Svendsen)
Nordic Chamber Orchestra/Christian Lindberg
rec. January 2006, Tonhallen, Sundsvall, Sweden
BIS-CD-1538 [60:14] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)

This programme is a bit like one the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra just released, which luck has it I just reviewed. They share the Nielsen Suite and the Svendsen Romance, but from there the threads diverge. The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (on Simax) opts for some more common pieces, Sibelius’s Valse triste and Grieg’s Holberg Suite, while Christian Lindberg and his forces choose obscurities new and old. Anders Wesström’s Armida overture is a three-movement piece from the classical era (he died in 1781). It bears no traces of ’Nordic’ influence but is here because it’s attractive and enjoyable and probably not available anywhere else.

On the other hand, from the 20th century we have Bo Linde’s Concerto piccolo for wind quintet and orchestra, which functions a lot like the neo-classical concerto grosso as you’d hear it from someone like Martinu or Britten. There’s a wit and charm that’s pleasing, but Linde has nothing on the standout track, Jón Leifs’ crackling variations on a theme of Beethoven. Leifs is out to make a statement both about Germanic tradition and Icelandic music, and he succeeds, because by the end the tune (from a chamber serenade) is transformed into a volcanic eruption complete with pounding timpani. It’s a thriller.

Where the Simax CD’s Sibelius encore is the more popular Valse triste, this one substitutes the Impromptu. I really richly enjoyed both CDs, but will admit that in the Svendsen Romance the Simax disc has a romantic warmth and irresistibility that’s absent here. Still, decide which repertoire you prefer and go for it or use eClassical’s wonderful payment scheme to grab what you want off this CD. If you take that route, the Sibelius is excellent, the Wesström and Linde are strongly recommended to the curious, and the Leifs (less than US $2!) is Absolutely Mandatory.



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