DOWNLOAD NEWS 2014/2
by Brian Wilson
Just when you thought you'd seen the back of me, I'm putting together one last issue of Download News until my successor can hit the ground running.
2014/1 is here and the index of earlier recordings is here.
Index for 2014/2 and earlier reviews mentioned therein:
BACH CPE Cantatas - Herrmann - Phoenix 2014/2
BACH CPE Hamburg Symphonies - Christ - Hänssler 2014/2
BACH CPE Keyboard Concertos Vol.20 - Spányi - BIS 2014/2
BACH CPE Magnificat, etc - Rademann - Harmonia Mundi 2014/2
BACH CPE Symphonies; Cello Concerto - Manze - Harmonia Mundi 2013/17
BEETHOVEN Missa Solemnis - Gardiner - SDG 2014/2
BEETHOVEN Missa Solemnis - Klemperer 1955 - Past Classics 2014/2
BRAHMS Piano Concertos 1 and 2 - Hough - Hyperion 2014/2
BRAHMS Piano Concertos 1 and 2 - Hough - Hyperion 2013/17
DAVY, SHEPPARD, MUNDY Voice of the Turtle Dove - Coro 2014/2: Recording of the Month
FALLA Amor brujo - Collins; Sombrero - Ansermet - Naxos Archive 2014/2
FALLA El corregidor e la Molinera + LORCA - Pons - Harmonia Mundi 2014/2
FALLA Noches en los jardines - Soriano + RODRIGO -Beulah 2014/2
FALLA Noches en los jardines; Piano Music - Harmonia Mundi 2014/2
FALLA Sombrero de tres picos; Noches en los jardines - Harmonia Mundi 2014/2
FERRANDINI Cantatas - Deuter - Accent 2014/2
GRAUPNER Cantatas - Feuersinger - Christophorus 2014/2
GRAUPNER Orchestral Suites - Finnish Baroque - Ondine 2014/2
HARDOUIN Masses - Krueger - Toccata 2014/2
La Lira d'Orfeo - see MONTEVERDI -Resonus 2014/2
LISZT Solo Piano Music - Cameron - Cala 2014/2 and 2013/16
LLOYD Symphonies - Downes - Lyrita 2014/2
LLOYD Symphonies - Lloyd - Albany 2014/2
LORCA Canciones antiguas + FALLA - Alvarez - Urtext 2014/2
LORCA Canciones antiguas + FALLA - Pons - Harmonia Mundi 2014/2
MACMILLAN World's Ransoming; Isobel Gowdie - Davis -LSO Live 2014/2: Freebie of the Month
MENDELSSOHN Symphonies 1, 3-5 - Litton - BIS 2014/2
MENDELSSOHN Symphonies 1-5, Overtures - Abbado - DG 2014/2
MENDELSSOHN Symphonies 3 and 4 - Karajan - DG June-09
MENDELSSOHN Symphonies 4 and 5 - Gardner - Chandos 2014/2
MENDELSSOHN Symphonies 4 and 5 - Krivine - Naïve Jun-09 and 2014/2
MENDELSSOHN Symphony 3; Hebrides - Klemperer - HDTT 2014/2
MENDELSSOHN Symphony 3; Hebrides - Maag - HDTT 2014/2
MENDELSSOHN Symphony 4 + BRAHMS - Boult - ICA 2013/4
MENDELSSOHN Symphony No.3 - Maag -Past Classics 2014/2
MINGUS Charles Complete recordings 1957-60 - Playtime 2014/2: Jazz Bargain of the Month
MONTEVERDI etc La Lira di Orfeo - Pé - Resonus 2014/2
MUSSORGSKY Pictures + PROKOFIEV - Osborne - Hyperion 2014/2
NIELSEN Symphonies 4 and 5 - Oramo - BIS 2014/2
PROKOFIEV Visions Fugitives, Sarcasms + MUSSORGSKY -Hyperion 2014/2
RODRIGO Concierto de Aranjuez - Yepes + FALLA - Beulah 2014/2
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto, etc. Pike/Davis - Chandos 2014/2
SIBELIUS Violin Concerto, etc. Suwanai/Oramo - Japanese Decca 2012/23
STRAUSS R Salome - Schønwandt - Chandos 2014/2
STRAUSS R Salome - Solti - Decca/Hallmark 2014/2
VERESS Music for String Quartet - Basel Quartet - Toccata 2014/2
Recording of the Month
The Voice of the Turtle Dove
John SHEPPARD (c.1515-58/9) Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria [14:08]
William MUNDY (c.1530-before 1591) Adolescentulus sum ego [5:35]
Richard DAVY (c.1465-c.1521) O Domine cæli terræque creator [14:41]
John SHEPPARD Libera nos I & II [6:28]
In manus tuas I [3:46]
Richard DAVY Ah, mine heart, remember thee well [4:57]
John SHEPPARD In manus tuas III [3:40]
William MUNDY Vox patris cælestis [17:37]
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
pdf booklet with texts and translations included
CORO COR16119 [70:58] – from thesixteendigital.com (mp3, aac, 24/96 flac and alac)
Despite my admiration for The Tallis Scholars and other, newer groups in this repertoire, or, rather, in addition to them, The Sixteen have strong claims to this territory, too. To quote the blurb: ‘In 2014 The Sixteen returns to its grass roots for the repertoire of the 14th Choral Pilgrimage tour as it revisits the golden age of Renaissance polyphony in England.’ My only complaint is that almost all of the music has already featured in earlier recordings by The Sixteen.
The oldest music here, by Richard Davy, O Domine … creator and Ah mine heart appeared on The Pillars of Eternity, Volume III of The Sixteen’s 5-disc survey of music from the Eton Choirbook (COR16022). Both pieces are taken slightly faster than before but otherwise there is little to choose. I must take this opportunity to direct you to those wonderful recordings of the music from the Eton Choirbook and to express the hope that thesixteendigital.com will make them available in lossless download form – good as the 320kb/s downloads are from classicsonline.com.
There are also earlier Sixteen recordings of the music of John Sheppard, made some time ago for Hyperion (2-for-1 CDD22022 or in 10-CD box, The Golden Age, CDS44401/10 – review and review: Bargain of the Month) and more recently for their own Coro label. In the case of those works included in the Hyperion set, Harry Christophers adopts slightly slower tempi than before but, once again, there is very little to choose. The download of the 10-CD set is currently discounted at £26.25, so it’s a superb bargain even if you also choose the new album.
The Sixteen also recorded the two Mundy works for Hyperion on an album entirely devoted to that unjustly neglected composer: CDH55086 (budget price) or in the 10-CD set listed above. There is little to choose between the two versions of Vox patris cælestis but Adolescentulus sum ego is now taken decidedly faster than before, yet still given time to breathe. I’d still go for The Tallis Scholars in Vox patris cælestis, from the very first recording of theirs that I encountered, coupled with the Allegri Miserere and Palestrina Missa Papæ Marcelli, available very inexpensively on their 25 th Anniversary Album GIMSE401. The Sixteen pace it beautifully but The Tallis Scholars give it that little extra room to breathe and for that reason I marginally prefer them to The Sixteen and even to their own remake on Live in Oxford (CDGIM998). Whichever version you choose, the music deserves to be more widely known.
I awarded the Recording of the Month accolade for the sheer delight of this new compilation, despite my misgivings about the duplication of material.
Both thesixteendigital.com and gimell.com have reissued their recordings of Sir John Tavener’s (1944-2013) Ikon of Light, with The Sixteen and The Tallis Scholars respectively:COR16116 and GIMSE404 (both in mp3, aac and 16/44.1 lossless formats). The Coro is available now; the Gimell, at budget price, is due at the end of March 2014 but can be previewed as CDGIM005 by streaming from Naxos Music Library.
La Lira di Orfeo - A Tribute to Gualberto Magli
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643) L’Orfeo – Musica (Prologo) – Primo intermezzo –
Speranza (from Act III) – Possento Spirito – Prosperina (from Act IV) [13:42]
Johann NAUWACH (1595-1630) Amarilli mia bella [3:37]
Francesca CACCINI (1587-c.1645) Dispiegate guancie amate [2:34]
Giulio CACCINI (1550-1618) Sfogava con le stele [2:31]
Sigismondo D’INDIA (c.1582 - 1629) Ancidetemi pur, dogliosi affani (Lamento di Giasone) [7:5]
Francesco LAMBARDI (1587-1642 ) O felice quel giorno [2:40]
Giovanni TRABACI (c.1575-1647) Toccata Seconda per l’arpa [2:39]
Girolamo MONTESARDO (1580-1620) Hor che la nott’ombrosa [3:04]
Alessandro CICCOLINI Solo et pensoso [7:27]
Giovanni Camillo Di PRIMI Se fama al mondo [2:11]
Johann NAUWACHTempesta di dolcezza [1:51]
Jetzund kömpt die Nacht herbey [4:21]
Sigismondo D’INDIAPiangono al pianger mio [3:10]
Raffaele Pé (counter-tenor)
Chiara Granata (triple harp – arpa doppia)
David Miller (theorbo) – rec. June/July 2013. DDD
pdf booklet with texts and translations included
RESONUS CLASSICS RES10124 [56:59] – from resonusclassics.com (mp3, aac, 16- and 24-bit lossless) or eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library. No CD equivalent.
Though billed as featuring Orpheus’s lyre, the cover illustration shows a 3-string harp, as employed for the principal accompaniment here. Actually, there’s so little difference between the harp and lyre that the instrument discovered in an Anglo-Saxon burial mound at Sutton Hoo and displayed in the British Museum, was originally reconstructed as a harp and only later turned out to be a lyre. In any case the prime raison d’être for this release is to showcase the voice of Raffele Pé, who, as I’m quoted in the booklet as saying of an earlier release, ‘is a discovery, indeed, a challenge to the likes of Andreas Scholl and Philippe Jaroussky.’
I suppose it was too much to expect more than excerpts from Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, especially in the light of the recent release on Avie of a fine new recording of that work from a team headed by Andrew Parrott. One day, however, I hope that Pé gets the chance to record the complete work. Meanwhile he shines as brightly as on that earlier Resonus album.
Christoph GRAUPNER (1683-1760) Orchestral Suites
Suite in F for transverse flute, viola d’amore, 2 chalumeaus, baroque horn, strings and cembalo, GWV451 [20:49]
Overture in F, GWV 450 [25:18]
Suite in G for viola d’amore, bassoon, strings and cembalo, GWV458 [29:53]
Finnish Baroque Orchestra/Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch – rec. May 2013. DDD
pdf booklet included
ONDINE ODE1220-2 [76:00] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and loss)
Cantata GWV1145/11 ‘Angst und Jammer’* [19:08]
Overture in c minor, GWV413: Tombeau* [2:52]
Cantata GWV1102/11b ‘Furcht und Zagen’* [14:42]
Cantata GWV1106/19 ‘Ich bleibe Gott getreu’* [16:46]
Cantata GWV1144/11 ‘Ach Gott und Herr’ [22:38]
Miriam Feuersinger (soprano); with guest Xenia Löffler (baroque oboe)
Capricornus Consort Basel/Peter Barczi (violin) – rec. April/May 2013. DDD
* world premiere recordings
pdf booklet with texts included – no translations.
CHRISTOPHORUS CHR77381 [76:06] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)
Christoph Graupner was the Leipzig council’s first choice for the job of Kantor at the Thomaskirche but his employers refused to let him go, so the ‘second-best’ Johann Sebastian Bach was chosen and the rest is history – but not quite because history has been undeservedly unkind to the memory of Graupner. Three of the cantatas and the overture on the Christophorus album are receiving their world premiere recordings. His works have now been catalogued – every good German composer needs a WV number – and the record companies are gradually putting right the neglect. These two well-filled recordings should serve that purpose very well.
Mark Sealey has already sung the praises of the Ondine recording – review – and I’m happy to concur. The downloaded recording is good – 16-bit only, though I see that the original was recorded in 24-bit sound – and the fine booklet comes as part of the deal.
I hardly thought to hear a voice that challenges and in some respects excels that of Emma Kirkby for clarity and beauty of tone, but Miriam Feuersinger does just that on the cantata recording. I have only one grumble about this album, that the tonal beauty is not matched by clarity of diction; I tried to listen without the booklet of texts to hand and could hardly make out a single word, perhaps as a result of the slightly resonant recording. Those whose German is rusty will have a problem even with the booklet because there are no translations. As if to prove that it can be done, the opening words of Ich bleibe Gott getreu are beautifully clear. For the rest, the booklet provides the texts in German but no translations.
Don’t expect cantatas on the Bach model – if you know Telemann’s cantatas for solo voice, for example as recorded by Toccata, these are more akin to that type. Otherwise I have only praise for the quality of the music, performances, recording and lossless download. In the booklet Ms. Feuersinger thanks all concerned but most of all Graupner himself for the pleasure of discovering his music: Der Schlussdank geht an Christoph Graupner, dessen Kantaten zu entdecken ein sehr schönes und tiefgreifendes Erlebnis für mich war. Conversely the spirit of Graupner owes a debt of thanks to her and all who have contributed to this recording.
Giovanni Domenico FERRANDINI (1709-1791) Cantate drammatiche
Sinfonia Pastorale [1:32]
Cantata No. 1 [12:32]
Cantata No. 3 [20:00]
Sinfonia in B flat [5:15]
Cantata No. 4 [22:50]
Olivia Vermeulen (mezzo)
Harmonie Universelle/Florian Deuter – rec. December 2010. DDD
ACCENT ACC24277 [62:31] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, no booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library (with pdf booklet)
This is new ground for me – the only music by Ferrandini that I’d heard before is his Pianto di Maria, once attributed to Handel* – and it’s ground covered in an attractive manner in this recording, which appears to be available, in the UK at any rate, as a download only. Two of these cantatas are on the old theme of powerful, unrequited love, while No.3 features the sunflower defending its attractions against the more showy flowers of the field.
All three cantatas recorded here, indeed all six in the collection, are for solo voice, in this case for mezzo. Though beautifully sung by Olivia Vermeulen and with two short Sinfonias interspersed for a degree of variety, there is an element of sameness throughout, especially as the music is not quite as dramatic as the overall title implies.
With six violins listed among the personnel, Harmonie Universelle would seem on paper to be a little on the large side for a chamber ensemble but in practice the accompaniment is of just the right proportions. The lossless recording is good but the lack of a booklet of texts from eclassical.com reduces the appeal. Fortunately subscribers to Naxos Music Library can sample the music there and obtain the booklet of notes – slightly awkwardly translated into English – texts and translations.
* sung by Bernarda Fink on Decca Oiseau-Lyre 4781466 – review.
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Sinfonia in G, Wq. 182/1, H. 657 [10:41]
Sinfonia in B-Flat, Wq. 182/2, H. 658 [10:35]
Sinfonia in C, Wq. 182/3, H. 659 [11:39]
Sinfonia in A, Wq. 182/4, H. 660 [12:25]
Sinfonia in b minor, Wq. 182/5, H. 661 [10:51]
Sinfonia in E, Wq. 182/6, H. 662 [9:08]
Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra/Wolfram Christ – rec. February 2013. DDD.
pdf booklet included
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD98.637 [65:29] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
If you are new to the Hamburg Symphonies of C.P.E. Bach, as was I before I heard this recording, you’re in for a real treat. Composed in 1773 for Gottfried van Swieten, the Austrian ambassador in Prussia who later sponsored Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, these works abound in interesting melodies and are simply delightful.
The performances by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Wolfram Christ (former principal violist of the Berlin Philharmonic) are fresh and ebullient. Tempos in the outer movements are swift, and slow movements never lag. Playing and ensemble are crisp and tight. Unique here is the decision to use a fortepiano for the continuo part, which provides a fuller yet less invasive sounding accompaniment than the typical harpsichord. I found nothing lacking in the sound quality of the mp3 version, which is both clear and dynamic, though the 16-bit lossless recording can be found at eclassical.com and prestoclassical.co.uk. Outstanding.
Albert Q. Lam
I’m happy to endorse Albert Lam’s high opinion of this recording – and to point out that it sounds even better in lossless format from eclassical.com.
If CPE’s music appeals – and it’s a good deal more interesting and unpredictable than is often said – there’s a very good recording to follow up by the English Concert and Andrew Manze of the symphonies Wq.183/1-4 with a Cello Concerto (HMU807403 – DL News 2013/17).
I’ve enjoyed several releases in the BIS series of CPE Bach’s keyboard concertos. The latest, final volume (No.20: BIS-CD-1967 – rec. 2012) includes the double concertos Wq.47 (H479) and 46 (H408) and the Sonatina Wq.109 (H543). Miklós Spányi plays a modern copy of a 1745 harpsichord, is accompanied by Concerto Armonico Budapest and the album is available in mp3, 16- and 24-bit sound from eclassical.com. The other soloists are Tamás Szekendy (fortepiano, Wq.47, establishing a very effective contrast between the two keyboard solos) and Cristiano Holtz (harpsichord, Wq.46 and 109) and Péter Szüts conducts the Sonatina. As before there’s a helpful set of notes.
Now I must catch up with some of the earlier volumes that I’ve missed.
There’s a 2-CD set of CPE’s vocal works:
Morgengesang am Schöpfungsfeste , Wq.239, H.779 [12:00]
Weihnachts-Musik: Auf schicke dich , Wq.249, H.815[18:03]
Anbetung dem Erbarmer , Wq.243, H.807 [20:41]
Heilig (Te Deum), Wq.217, H.778 [7:18]
Herrn Pastors Gasie Einführungsmusik , Wq. 250, H.821[25:39]
Wer ist so würdig als du , Wq.222, H.831 [4:56]
Der Herr lebet , Wq.251, H.821g [36:18]
Barbara Schlick (soprano); Rheinische Kantorei; Das kleine Konzert/Max Herrmann
PHOENIX453 [2:04:55] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) Also available on CD, Brilliant Classics 94817.
No recording dates are given, though I think these have been round the block before. They’re part of a series recorded by Capriccio for the bicentenary of his death in 1988 and reissued for the tercentenary of his birth. There are no texts or translations, though you should find Klopstock’s Creation Ode, the text of the first cantata, easily enough online: try http://www.freidok.uni-freiburg.de/volltexte/6315/pdf/Morgengesang.pdf
The music and the performances are attractive and the recording still sounds well. Whatever new recordings of CPE we get in this tercentenary year are not likely to put this too much in the shade.
CPE Bach’s Magnificat, Wq215, is written in a style akin to his father’s music, not surprisingly since its first performance in Leipzig seems to have been intended as a bid to succeed his father as Thomaskantor. For that reason it has sometimes made a good companion for JS Bach’s Magnificat, and it doesn’t fall far short of the latter – both were intended for those high days when the Latin text was sung rather than the German paraphrase. A new Harmonia Mundi recording couples it with the short but striking motet Heilig ist Gott, Wq217, (a paraphrase of the Te Deum), and the Sinfonia in D, Wq183: Elizabeth Watts (soprano), Wiebke Lehmkuhl (alto), Lothar Odinius (tenor) and Markus Eiche (bass); RIAS Kammerchor, Akademie für alte Musik, Berlin/Hans-Christoph Rademann. (HMC902167 [55:30] – from eclassical.com as HM2167D in mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet containing texts and translations).
This arrived as I was closing the DL News, so I haven’t had time for comparisons. There’s not much competition in the current catalogue – and two of the competitors are bound up in 10- and 30-disc boxes – but the new recording will do very well indeed.
Henri HARDOUIN (1727-1808) Four-Part Masses, Volume One
Mass No. 1, Incipite Domino in tympanis (publ. 1772) [17:47]
Mass No. 3, Jucundum sit eloquium meum (publ. 1772) [23:36]
Mass No. 4, Exaltate et invocate nomen ejus (publ. 1772) [19:00]
St Martin’s Chamber Choir/Timothy J. Krueger – rec. DDD.
pdf booklet with texts and translations included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC191 [60:38] – from toccataclassics.com or eclassical.com (both mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
Once again we owe Toccata our thanks for rescuing neglected music, this time by a French priest-composer whose works could not be performed during the first phase of the Revolution between 1791 and 1794. These are premiere recordings and they are promised as the first volume, with three other masses yet to come. The a cappella settings are short and fairly simple and conservative in style – don’t expect anything to match Haydn or Mozart, though the brevity would have delighted the latter’s employer, Archbishop Colloredo – but the music is nonetheless attractive and the performances and recording do it justice.
The titles of the masses suggested to me, as to the author of the notes in the booklet, that Hardouin was employing a cantus firmus technique, using tunes perhaps peculiar to the local Rheims usage, but the modern editor of the music suggests instead that the titles, from the Breviary readings from Judith and Psalms, rather suggest appropriateness to a particular Sunday or feast day, though I’m not sure how that works out, since traditionally the canticle from Judith 16, quoted in the titles of Masses 1 and 3, was traditionally assigned to Wednesday Lauds.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Missa Solemnis in D, Op. 123 [70:04]
Lucy Crowe (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo), James Gilchrist (tenor), Matthew Rose (bass)
Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique/Sir John Eliot Gardiner – rec. live at the Barbican Hall, London, October 2012. DDD.
pdf booklet with texts included
SOLI DEO GLORIA SDG718 [70:04] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)
(Recording of the Month – see review by John Quinn)
I passed this by when it was released, thinking that not even Sir John Eliot Gardiner could surpass his own DG recording, my clear favourite among earlier versions. John Quinn’s review and others in similarly adulatory vein persuaded me to listen – and I was convinced.
I’m not going to dispose of my CD of the earlier Gardiner recording, but the new one will, I’m sure, be in my listening schedule just as often.
There’s one other recording that I must mention with strong approval: between Otto Klemperer’s 1951 classic Vox account and his more monumental EMI Classics version, WDR recorded him in Cologne in 1955 and this recording is available inexpensively on Past Classics – just £2.10 from emusic.com and only a little more from other download sites. There has been considerable speculation about the provenance of this recording, with some attributing the direction to Josef Krips, but it seems to have been Klemperer at the helm of the Kölner Rundfunk-Orchester, with some fine soloists. Past Classics don’t name them but they seem to have been Anneliese Kupper, Sieglinde Wagner, Rudolf Schock and Josef Greindl. The timings (total 74:51) closely match the Medici Masters CD which reliably claims to be of Klemperer in 1955, allowing for slightly longer run-in and -out times on the latter, but I responded much more positively to the Past Classics transfer than John Sheppard did to the Medici Masters – review.
The singing is excellent, the scale of the performance just right and the recording, though edgy and resolutely double-mono, is clear and free from distortion even in loud passages, albeit that the emusic.com transfer is at a miserly 160kb/s.
Mendelssohn in Birmingham – Volume 1
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
The Hebrides Overture, Op. 26 [9:51]
Symphony No. 5 in D, Op. 107 Reformation [27:40]
Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90 Italian [28:12]
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner – rec. October 2013. DDD/DSD
CHANDOS CHAN5132 [66:04] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless). Also available as hybrid SACD CHSA5132.
Comparative versions of Mendelssohn symphonies:
Symphonies 1-5; Overtures: DG 471467-2 (4 CDs) LSO and Chorus/Claudio Abbado – from amazon.co.uk (mp3)
Nos. 3 and 4 only from 7digital.com (mp3), or 4 and 5 only from 7digital.com (mp3).
Symphonies 1 and 4; Ruy Blas Overture: BIS-SACD-1584 Bergen PO/Andrew Litton – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless) – review.
Symphonies 3 and 5: BIS-SACD-1604 Bergen PO/Andrew Litton – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless) Recording of the Month – review.
Symphony No.3: PAST TIMES LSO/Peter Maag – from emusic.com (mp3)
Hebrides Overture; Symphony No.3: HDDL315 Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer – from High Definition Tape Transfers (24/96 and 24/192 lossless). pdf booklet included.
Symphonies 3 and 4; The Hebrides: DG Originals 4497432 BPO/Herbert von Karajan – from 7digital.com - June 2009 DL Roundup
Symphony No.4: ICA ICAC5093 RPO/Sir Adrian Boult (with BRAHMS Symphony No.4) – review and DL News 2013/4
Symphonies 4 and 5: NAÏVE V5069 La Chambre Philharmonique/Emmanuel Krivine – review and June 2009 DL Roundup
Symphonies 4 and 5: Philips 4224702 (no longer available separately) NPO/Wolfgang Sawallisch
The arrival of the new Chandos recording and the death of Claudio Abbado prompted me to look at recordings of all the Mendelssohn symphonies. Among those listed above there’s nary a dud to be found, so the new recording has its work cut out. Even its availability as an SACD and in 24-bit download format is not unique, as that applies also to the two BIS/Litton recordings, albeit that they were recorded at 44.1kHz.
The Maag recording, from 1960, is the oldest of those listed. Though the emusic.com download is at a disgracefully low bit-rate of around 150kb/s, it sounds well enough, albeit with some moments of strain in loud passages and it’s very light on stereo placement. Despite the fact that it’s very inexpensive at £0.84 or less it’s a safer buy on mid-price CD (Decca E4669902) or as a download in mp3 or lossless flac, Mendelssohn in Scotland, Decca 4783184, from prestoclassical.co.uk. Both couple music from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Maag’s Scottish Symphony originally came with The Hebrides Overture but the Past Times download has been shorn of what was an appropriate coupling which remains available on a 2-CD budget set from Decca Eloquence (4803483). This recording set a high standard for many years until Decca capped their own achievement with a recording featuring the LSO and Claudio Abbado (mid-price Decca Originals 4758677: download for £4.99 from 7digital.com).
There’s also a recent 24-bit audiophile transfer of Maag’s Hebrides and Symphony No.3 from HDTT (HDDL414 – here) of which I was sent only the Hebrides for review. That track sounds very well indeed – much better than the Past Classics version of the symphony and slightly brighter than the HDTT Klemperer (below) and slightly faster-paced. Both these HDTT transfers are available in 24/96 and 24/192; be aware that the latter are very large files indeed and not all DACs can cope with them – my own Dragonfly will play 24/192 but only by downsizing to 24/96, which rather defeats the object of paying more and taking four times as long to download.
Klemperer’s recording of the Third Symphony and Hebrides dates from the same year as the Maag. If you thought of Klemperer as a slouch, this should make you think again: he gives the overture time to breathe but he’s only seconds slower than Maag and slightly faster than Abbado. In the first movement of the Scottish symphony, too, his tempo falls between Maag and Abbado – very little between them again – and in the third movement he’s actually slightly faster than either.
The 1960 recording has come up extremely well in this HDTT transfer, without any of the artificial brightness that they sometimes apply, so I was delighted to make the acquaintance of this recording again. There’s something odd about the booklet, which switches abruptly from describing the symphony to a description of Act II of Giselle.
There’s another vintage (1952) Decca recording of this symphony from Solti on Beulah 4-6BX16 – DL Roundup November 2010. I enjoyed it but it’s somewhat outshone as performance and recording by Maag and I’d hardly make it an urgent recommendation.
Karajan’s recording from 1971 sounds much fuller than the Past Classics Maag. It offers the classic coupling of the Scottish and Italian symphonies plus The Hebrides in performances that still deserve to be ranked with the very best and, at £4.99 from 7digital.com, it’s good value, too.
You may have to re-number the tracks to get them to play in the right order.
If it’s just those two works that you want, the choice is between this and the other DG recording listed above, taken from the complete DG/Abbado set.
If you plan to buy either of the single-album DG/Abbado recordings, however, you should bear in mind the availability of the complete 4-CD set from Amazon for just a little extra - £9.99 in the UK for all five symphonies plus the overtures. The bit-rate is lower than 7digital.com’s 320kb/s, at around 250kb/s, but the DDD recording comes over well in this transfer and the set reminds us that there’s more to Mendelssohn than just the three best-known symphonies.
The Boult recording of the Italian Symphony comes with a version of Brahms’ No.4 that challenges – but doesn’t replace – Klemperer’s version of that work in my esteem.
His Mendelssohn may not be quite so special but it’s well worth having for the sake of the Brahms. The download from eclassical.com comes in mp3 and lossless flac and at a price that makes it competitive with other download sites who offer it in mp3 only.
At one time I might have had to make a case for No.5, the Reformation Symphony, but that work has become more popular in recent years. Sawallisch’s 1966 recording of 4 and 5 still finds a regular place in my listening schedule, alongside his Elijah (in German). Both of these are now entombed in a budget-price 14-CD Decca set, along with the other three symphonies (Decca 4807707, around £40) but you may be able to find copies of the single CD of the Italian and Reformation symphonies and the Philips Duo of Elijah. The five symphonies from Sawallisch are also available in a budget-price Brilliant Classics set along with the String Symphonies (93777, 7 CDs for around £19, Bargain of the Month – review).
Krivine with his period-instrument players casts new light on these two symphonies. It’s not just the faster tempi that make the difference; these lithe performances will be ideal for many listeners. Emusic.com is the least expensive way to obtain this recording but at a fairly low bit-rate; classicsonline.com give you 320kb/s mp3 for only a little more (£4.99).
For all the enjoyment Krivine delivers, it’s the Abbado, Litton and Sawallisch versions of Nos. 4 and 5 and Karajan in No. 4, with modern instruments that I’ve used as my benchmarks for the new Chandos recording.
Litton on BIS has received some very mixed responses from MusicWeb International reviewers: Nos. 1, 2 and 4 were not liked but Dominy Clements made Nos. 3 and 5 a Recording of the Month – review. Stephen Francis Vasta’s judgement on No.1 as phlegmatic and on No.4 as featuring generalised and diffuse playing – review – surprised me in view of the positive reviews which this recording has received elsewhere, so I listened with apprehension to the BIS download. You may not be too startled to learn that, there being no accounting for taste – de gustibus, etc – I couldn’t find much amiss here and enjoyed the pairing of the 1833 work with its teenage predecessor of 1824.
One strange thing about this recording of the Italian concerns timings, especially for the finale. The booklet, like Naxos Music Library and eclassical.com, states 5:31 – about in line with the consensus for this movement – but Winamp times the 24-bit lossless and Windows Media Player the mp3 version at a much slower 6:03, reflecting a most unusual run-out of 30 seconds.
The new Gardner recording is billed as Volume 1 of Mendelssohn in Birmingham – a city where much of his music was performed, so the title is no mere gimmick. It opens with The Hebrides as an hors d’œuvre. It’s a bit slow to get under way; though the overall tempo is about par for the course, I prefer something that opens with a little more zip, such as the vintage Beinum on Beulah 10BX37.
After that I listened to the whole of the Fourth and Fifth symphonies without ever wishing to jot down a single adverse comment. That may sound like a negative comment but it’s a measure of the extent to which I enjoyed the new Chandos album. With good recording to match, especially in 24-bit lossless format, this merits prime placing unless you have a particular desire for an alternative coupling or an attachment to an earlier recording. This coupling of the Italian and Reformation is particularly valuable for, I hope, re-establishing the latter in popular esteem. With such powerful advocacy it’s hard to see why Mendelssohn came to dislike it so much.
You could hardly go wrong with any of the albums that I’ve listed. There’s a remarkable degree of agreement among the five recordings of the Italian and the four of the Reformation symphony. Only Karajan’s timing for the first movement of the Italian stands out and that’s because he omits an important repeat, thereby slightly diminishing the work’s stature.
You may wonder why I haven’t referred to Sir Thomas Beecham’s recording of No.4 with the RPO (BBCL4044-2, plus Schubert Symphony No.3, TchaikovskyNutcracker Suite) but the recording (RAH, 1958) is shrill and dated so I’m sorry to have to agree with Terry Barfoot – review – in ruling this out.
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Don Juan Fantasy [17:42]
Hungarian Rhapsody No.13 [8:16]
Funérailles: Octobre 1849 [13:26]
Hungarian Rhapsody No.5 [6:14]
Valse Oubliée No.1 [3:48]
Les Préludes [6:20]
Matthew Cameron (piano) – rec. c.2010. DDD
CALA RECORDS [72:48] – from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk or iTunes (mp3).
(See also DL News 2013/16)
I very much enjoyed listening to a recording recently which included pieces composed by pianist Matthew Cameron, as well as music by Chopin and Liszt and arrangements of some well-known orchestral pieces. The current recording consists entirely of music and transcriptions by Liszt as well as transcriptions by Cameron himself. He begins this new recording with the Fantasy on Don Juan by Lisztafter Mozart. He presents us with a suitably powerful and majestic opening and soon Cameron displays his virtuosity to great effect. However he also plays with great delicacy and lightness when required and successfully portrays the ever-changing moods in this lengthy piece.
Matthew Cameron plays the opening Andante sostenuto of Hungarian Rhapsody No.13 very affectingly and with plenty of expression and feeling for the style. I am not sure about the substantial cut he makes, at least according to the editions at my disposal, but maybe Cameron feels the piece otherwise would seem too long to maintain interest. Cameron demonstrates his virtuosity in brilliant decorative flourishes with crystal clear demisemiquavers, and these fiendishly difficult passages seem to hold no fear for him. In the end, they are only decorations of the melody. One of my favourite recordings of this piece is by Misha Dichter (Philips Duo) who seems to make all the virtuoso sections become part of the structure and melodic line. Dichter is fractionally slower than Cameron in the concluding vivace. Although Cameron’s virtuosity here is thrilling to hear, I did feel that Dichter’s fractionally slower tempo allowed the music to breathe and to give us more time to feel the shape of the musical phrases. Also Dichter makes no cuts but he adds the occasional short, but effective embellishments. However Matthew Cameron’s performance is thrilling and exciting and we want plenty of that in music by Liszt.
Funérailles from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses begins in sombre mood and Matthew Cameron captures well the tragic tones of this music. He plays the opening Adagio very slowly indeed, and his performance of this work is as much as two and a half minutes longer than some, but he nevertheless manages to maintain the interest and intensity throughout. He phrases beautifully and the sound is well-balanced. The recording is excellent and well able to cope with the huge climaxes achieved by the pianist. Once again I noticed a few minor textural differences, and I wondered why Cameron sometimes releases the pedal earlier than marked thus breaking the melodic line in some tied notes.
Jorge Bolet on Decca also gives a fine performance, a little quicker and more flowing in the slow sections. I like Bolet’s clarity in the poco a poco piu moto where he never allows the left hand quavers to drown the right hand even in the grandest fortissimo, something Cameron does in a couple of bars. Misha Dichter colours and phrases these left-hand triplet quavers brilliantly. Arnaldo Cohen on BIS also moves forward more than Cameron in the opening Adagio. He is also more concerned than Cameron to bring out the melody in this section, but too much so at the expense of the balancing of the chords. That said, Cohen always makes the piano sing and gives a superb reading, though some may find the recording a touch cavernous.
Hungarian Rhapsody No.5 is given a rather quick introduction for a piece marked Lento con duolo. I am not sure that Cameron quite captures the mood here and the sense of line does not always follow through. For example the long G in bar 1 seems to disappear as the pedal is perhaps half released. In the expresso assai section which soon follows, the tied crotchets are not joined to the ensuing notes thus breaking the melodic line. The pedalling sounds a little blurry in the semiquavers at the end of bar 2 and similar, and I also felt that the first crescendo is built too quickly and it reaches a climax too soon. Sometimes I would like to hear a greater distinction between semiquavers and demisemiquavers and I am wondering why on one occasion Cameron plays semiquavers as triplets. Just before the final section, he continues to play triplet quavers where ordinary quavers followed by crotchets are written. Again, he makes a cut. Maybe Matthew Cameron has a more up to date edition than those available to me, but Balint Vazsonyi on Vox gives a totally accurate reading rhythmically, at least according to my sources. Also Vazsonyi maintains a beautiful sostenuto and sense of line in the second main theme. There is a feeling of organic growth throughout and he gives a convincing performance although the recording is not quite top of the class. Jenö Jandó on Naxos is also very accurate with his rhythms but when he reaches the G major section this can hardly be described as dolcissimo. I find Jandó too fast and loud here, but the powerful sections are built superbly. But there is no disputing that Matthew Cameron, in spite of my minor niggles, gives a thrilling performance which is well worth hearing.
Liszt asked conductors to make sure that in the tempestuous opening section of Hunnenschlacht or the Battle of the Huns, brilliantly transcribed here for piano solo by Matthew Cameron, the colours must be kept dark and ghostly. In the fearsome opening section, Cameron displays his phenomenal virtuosity to great effect with dark and deep sounds to terrify us all.
Valse Oubliée is a nostalgic little piece and it is given an attractive and characterful performance. The recording at the start sounds a bit dry but I like Matthew Cameron’s phrasing and subtle pedalling here. To hear a different approach to this piece, listen to Clifford Curzon on Decca who gives us a faster, lighter and mostly pedal-free first section.
In Les Préludes the mood is convincingly set right from the start. Cameron’s arrangement and performance is very effective and the opening section builds to an exciting climax and then more lyrical music follows. Liszt himself made a transcription of this work for two pianos but Matthew Cameron’s version is equally successful, very virtuosic and exciting. Cameron’s transcription is sensitively realised and he successfully conveys the drama and intensity of the work.
This collection is very varied and exciting and although there are already many fine recordings of some of the pieces presented here, Matthew Cameron puts his own distinguished stamp on the proceedings. He demonstrates such fine musicianship and virtuosity, and this excellent project is really well worth hearing.
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Piano Concerto No.1 in d minor, Op.15 [49:02]
Piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat, Op.83 [48:51]
Stephen Hough (piano)
Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra/Mark Wigglesworth – rec. January 2013. DDD.
pdf booklet included
2 CDs for the price of one
HYPERION CDA67961 [49:02 + 48:51] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)
(See also DL News 2013/17)
Hélène Grimaud; Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Concerto 1)
Wiener Philharmoniker (Concerto 2)
Andris Nelsons (DG 4791058, 2 CDs, mid-price: Recording of the Month – review)
The Salzburg orchestra is truly menacing at the beginning of Stephen Hough’s performance of Brahms Piano Concerto No.1. The horns, violas, bass(es) and timpani attack the opening D with a ferocious fortissimo. I am used to hearing the orchestral introduction, marked maestoso taken in a rather more drawn out way in the old Romantic tradition. By contrast, this is lithe and rhythmical with momentum and makes for a refreshing change. A bit further on the strings play a new theme marked by the composer to be played softly with expression, and they play here with great delicacy and refinement. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra presents a more full-bodied, richer sound for Hélène Grimaud and Andris Nelsons on DG. They are a fraction slower than Stephen Hough and Mark Wigglesworth and their attack is more mellow and less biting. Hough plays with great eloquence and musicality and he builds the concluding climax magnificently.
Grimaud’s orchestra makes a fabulous, opulent sound at the beginning of the Adagio (slowly) second movement and there is some very intense playing here. Grimaud is heartfelt and passionate in this music. There seems to be a touch of background noise during Grimaud’s solos; maybe it is her breathing but this is not too obtrusive. Hough and Wigglesworth’s Adagio feels more like an Andante and they set a very different mood. The intensity and passion have gone to some extent and this is no longer the Brahms to which we are accustomed, but there is a feeling of forward movement and flow and very expressive playing from all concerned. Stephen Hough’s playing is beautifully phrased and nuanced. I could grow to like this way of playing Brahms.
In the concluding Rondo, Hough and his orchestra play spiritedly with fire and energy. There is always great clarity in the texture, for example in the strings fugato episode, but the tone does sound a bit thin here. Being a niggly person sometimes, I did not notice one wind chord not quite in perfect tune, and at the beginning of the Tempo 1 just before the end, the horn figures (first horn 1 followed by horn 2) are more or less inaudible due to the overloud piano trill. I prefer Grimaud’s sense of direction, fuller sound and lively excitement at the beginning of the Rondo, but there is a curious balancing when the strings take over the main theme. This is all but drowned by Grimaud’s semiquaver accompaniment … enough niggling. This is a great performance, truly spectacular. The playing of the orchestra and soloist is stunning.
Unusually the opening of Piano Concerto No.2 has more of a sense of Allegro, as marked by Brahms in Stephen Hough’s performance. We are used to hearing this horn melody beautifully played, and this usually means rather drawn out, sostenuto and held back thus allowing the horn player the opportunity to demonstrate his beautiful tone. Hélène Grimaud’s horn player is an example of that, although she herself changes gear a bit and starts to move forward at her first entry. The first statement of the main theme both by Hough and later by the full orchestra does not have the attack or sense of power with which we are accustomed and the strings sound comparatively lean. Steven Hough also sounds a bit underpowered sometimes, but I think the performers are saving themselves for the fortissimo later and the huge climax as we approach the conclusion of the exposition. At this point Grimaud and her orchestra are filled with so much fire and passion that I think she wins hands down. The horn playing is outstanding in the Vienna Philharmonic at the beginning of the development, with a slight pungency combined with tonal beauty. The most striking feature of Stephen Hough’s performance is the beauty of the playing and the lightness of touch. For example at the beginning of the recapitulation the delicacy of the piano playing and the gentle wind chording is to be admired for its beauty.
Grimaud begins the allegro appassionato with plenty of fire and passion. Her power here is amazing, although I think that Nelsons slows down too much for the second subject which almost comes to a halt, but the movement builds to a thrilling and passionate climax. Hough makes an arresting start to this movement. There is much clarity and forward thrust in his performance and I prefer Wigglesworth’s conducting of the second subject which he keeps moving well. This is a fine performance, and like Grimaud, Hough provides a superb climax.
Hough and Wigglesworth present the third movement as a real andante with a feeling of forward movement and never too slow. In fact when we reach the forte it feels a bit rushed. The opening cello solo is beautifully played and accompanied with lovely textures in the orchestra. All is captured superbly on this Hyperion recording. Grimaud’s conductor is a little slower, and the opening cello melody more dreamy but less characterful than the Mozarteum orchestra’s player. At the forte Grimaud and Nelsons maintain the tempo although they speed up a little further on. I prefer the cello soloist, the greater clarity and beautifully balanced colours of Hough’s recording, as well as his and Wigglesworth’s sense of forward movement. Hough’s subtlety of phrasing and expression here is unsurpassed, and the orchestral soloists, as well as the cello playing are outstanding.
Hough and Wigglesworth are beautifully light and airy in the Finale and they play here with great delicacy. Once again the orchestral soloists are exquisite and all is beautifully balanced. The playing is outstanding, so delicate and refined where necessary and it is all backed up by a great recording. The sections of the movement are well integrated by Hough’s subtle sense of rubato. There is always a sense of forward movement and thrust.
In short Hough is more classical in his approach than Grimaud who gives a full-blooded, truly Romantic style account and is just a little slower in the slow movements. The tempi are much the same in the other movements. Grimaud’s tone can be massive or delicate as required and her orchestras are superior to Hough’s. The Hyperion recording has greater clarity and allows every refinement in Hough’s playing to be really appreciated. If I were forced to choose between the two I would probably go for Grimaud, but fortunately I now have both of these great performances in my collection alongside my benchmark recording by Gilels, Jochum and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Both are outstanding.
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881) Pictures from an Exhibition (piano version) [35:47]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Visions Fugitives, Op.22 [10:35]
Sarcasms, Op.17 [19:36]
Steven Osborne (piano)
pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67896 [65:58] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)
Mussorgsky’s oft-recorded work is heard here in a new recording by Steven Osborne from Hyperion. The first Promenade is given in a forthright, no-nonsense way by the pianist and Gnomus also has a minimum of rubato, but great clarity and control. I particularly like the soft sections which sounded really mysterious. Il vecchio Castello is played really musically but maybe a touch more feeling of romance would not come amiss! Tuileries is fast and fleeting and Bydlo begins with a magnificent fortissimo; the sense of struggle as the oxen try to pull the oxcart to the summit of the hill is well portrayed. Osborne produces a wonderful, sonorous tone, never forced and always beautiful however loudly he plays. The next Promenade comes as a quiet relief after the tension created in Bydlo. Ballet de Poussins dans leurs coques is played and recorded with crystal clarity. I particularly like the refinement of the trill playing here.
The hustle and bustle of the market place Limoges, Le marché is vividly characterised by Osborne and this leads directly into Catacombæ played with subtle balancing of chords and extremes of dynamic contrast. It is difficult to forget Ravel’s orchestration at points like this, but Steven Osborne is totally convincing in this piece. He gives a lovely pianissimo at the start of Con mortuis in lingua mortua which is played with the utmost delicacy and sensitivity. La cabane de Baba-Yaga sur des pattes de poule reminds us of our pianist’s faultless technique and virtuosity. Always fiery and exciting! Then we move directly into the elegant first statement of La grande Porte de Kiev which can sound a bit of an anticlimax in some pianists’ hands, but Osborne is magnificent here. Later his octaves are sonorous and clear and he brings the work to a magnificent climax. I always feel that this is a really difficult work to bring off in its original piano version but Steven Osborne’s performance is very good and the Hyperion recording amazing.
Some months ago I wrote a review of Nicolai Demidenko’s performance, also on Hyperion. Although I found this very fine, I made comparisons with many other performances and I still feel that Lazar Berman’s account on DG from 1979 is the best with Richter as second choice. The trouble with Osborne’s performance is that there is little sense of romance and whilst the ferocious movements are phenomenally played, performances sometimes sound too calculated with little sense of danger. The recording by Hyperion is wonderful and couldn’t be bettered.
A great idea to follow this with some of Prokofiev’s astringent dissonance. The first of the Sarcasms is truly tempestuous in Steven Osborne’s hands, and the other fast movements are also thrillingly played. These miniatures provide a good contrast to the large scale Mussorgsky work and this strikes me as being good programme building. There is a lovely and subtle balancing of textures towards the conclusion of Smanioso, and the pianist’s lyrical style is well demonstrated.
The first piece of Visions Fugitives seems simple but with an underlying feeling of melancholy and Osborne captures the style instantly. Many of these pieces are easy to play compared with what we have already heard. But in No.4 we are back to virtuosic semiquavers, played here as we would expect from Osborne with the utmost clarity. What a strange ending this piece has and indeed all these short miniatures in the collection have real musical interest and unexpected turns of phrase. No.7 is particularly attractive with its unusual textures and spread chords. The direction Pittoresco is subtly observed by Osborne and this is just one of many unusual and sometimes humorous performance directions given by the composer. Osborne characterfully portrays No.10 Ridicolosamente and what a funny little gem is No.13 Allegretto. No.14 Feroce brings us back to the aggressive style that so often characterises Prokofiev’s music. Listen to the extraordinary textures in No.16 Dolente and No.17 Poetico, and the tenderness of No. 18. Steven Osborne plays the final piece beautifully. He is always able to change the mood for each successive piece in this collection quickly and easily and I can’t imagine hearing these Prokofiev works better played.
This is a very fine release and well worth hearing. It is welcome for its performances, particularly of the works by Prokofiev and these are the highlights for me. However, for the reasons already mentioned this would not be my first choice for the Mussorgsky. The quality of Hyperion’s recording is outstanding and David Fanning’s programme notes are excellent.
Jean SIBELIUS (1865 – 1957)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in d minor, Op.47* [31:55]
Karelia Suite, Op.11** [15:51]
Tuonelan joutsen (The Swan of Tuonela), Op. 22/2**/*** [8:16]
Valse lyrique, Op. 96a [4:09]
Valse triste, Op. 44/1 [5:03]
Andante festivo, JS 34b [4:06]
Finlandia, Op. 26 [8:16]
Jennifer Pike (violin)*; Hege Sellevåg (cor anglais)**; Jonathan Aasgaard (cello)***
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis – rec. June 2013. DDD/DSD
CHANDOS CHAN5134 [78:24] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)
Also available on SACD, CHSA5134
With my benchmark recordings in my head – Kyung-Wha Chung/André Previn (Decca – March 2010 DL Roundup; ignore passionato link – download from 7digital.com) and Leonidas Kavakos/Osmo Vänskä (BIS, original and revised versions – review and review) – in my head, as I thought, the opening movement of the Violin Concerto in this new recording seemed rather languid and lacking in energy. My impression was somewhat akin to listening to just about any recording of the first movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto after hearing Heifetz and Reiner (RCA), yet the stopwatch tells a different story: at 15:46 the new recording is only marginally slower than Chung/Previn and considerably faster than Kavakos/Vänskä.
Jennifer Pike and Andrew Davis almost exactly match the tempo of another recording which I like: Akiko Suwanai and Sakari Oramo with the CBSO, not generally available in the UK except as an expensive import but available for download in 24-bit sound from Linn – DL News 2012/23. So maybe it’s not these more recent recordings that lie in my unconscious but Tossy Spivakovsky and Tauno Hannikainen with the LSO (Everest, available for 24-bit download from HD Tracks), whose time of 14:42 – and sheer energy – undercuts all the versions that I checked out yet doesn’t sound rushed. In the case of Suwanai/Oramo it may be the extra-full sound of the 24/96 transfer that contributes to my preference – the Chandos was, surprisingly, available only in 16-bit sound when I obtained it, though 24-bit alternatives have now been added – but I listened to Spivakovsky/Hannikainen (also on Magdalen) in a streamed version which I received for review, to Chung/Previn in mp3 and on CD, and to Kavakos/Vänskä in 16-bit, so that’s not the whole answer.
If you like to hear the lyrical side of Sibelius stressed, you will probably be happy with the new Chandos, but my own preference lies with Suwanai/Oramo and Spivakovsly/Hannikainen, with the extra stipulation that Kavakos and Vänskä on BIS are indispensable if you wish to hear both the original and ‘regular’ versions.
Carl NIELSEN (1865–1931)
Symphony No.4, Op.29: Det uudslukkelige (FS76) (The Inextinguishable) [35:15]
Symphony No.5, Op.50 (FS97) [33:50]
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
pdf booklet included
BIS-SACD-2028 [69:46] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)
Symphony No.4: BEULAH 1BX161: Danish State Radio SO/Thomas Jensen – rec.1951 ADD/mono [33:15] – see DL Roundup August 2011/1.
Symphonies Nos. 4-6: DOUBLE DECCA 4609882: San Francisco SO/Herbert Blomstedt (+ Hymnus Amoris [2:21:21] – from 7digital.com: see DL Roundup April 2012/1
Symphony No.5: NAXOS CLASSICAL ARCHIVES 9.80541: Danish State Radio SO/Jensen [38:40] (+ Maskarade Overture) – rec.1954. ADD/mono [42:35] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library
Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6: BMG/RCA 74321202932 (no longer available): Royal Danish Orchestra/Paavo Berglund – rec.1988/89 DDD [69:05]
The two Jensen recordings inevitably sound dated, though Dutton, Beulah and Naxos have done very well to make them sound more than tolerable, especially as the Naxos is available in a lossless transfer from eclassical.com. More to the point, they have never been bettered as performances, not even by the Blomstedt recording which I’ve listed, though that remains the prime recommendation among recent recordings and it’s available very inexpensively on a Decca twofer (around £10 on CD, around £7.50 as a download). The Beulah is a remarkable bargain at £2 and the Naxos even costs a penny less in mp3 from classicsonline.com, though I’d be inclined to pay a little more ($7.67) for the lossless version from eclassical.com. Surprisingly the Berglund remains out of the catalogue – surely the time is ripe for a reissue.
One other highly-regarded recording which I must mention, though it’s a long time since I heard it, comes from the LSO and Schmidt, another bargain on the Alto label (ALC1236) and available direct from MusicWeb International for £5.99. See review.
Against those benchmarks the obvious advantage of the Sakari Oramo recording is the fact that it was recorded digitally and is available as an SACD and as an impressive-sounding 24-bit download. I tried the mp3 and that’s very good of its kind, too, so you may hesitate to pay a 50% premium for 24-bit ($16.73) over the 16-bit, which comes at the same very reasonably price as the mp3 ($10.46).
But it’s the lesson that the benchmarks teach us about performance style that’s vitally important, namely that it’s easy to capture the power that’s abundantly present in both these symphonies but that the real trick is to get the right mix of power and repose, of drama and reflection. Not surprisingly in view of his performance of No.4 at the 2011 Proms, Oramo fits the bill in both respects and I very much look forward to further instalments of what looks like being a complete series. Don’t throw out Jensen, Blomstedt or Berglund, but this could well be the new benchmark.
If it matters – perhaps to teachers and lecturers seeking to play examples – the new BIS recording, like the Naxos, divides the Fifth into just two tracks, whereas Decca make six tracks out of it: more convenient for finding examples, but even Winamp creates a minuscule pause between some of the tracks where the music is continuous.
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
El sombrero de tres picos (The three-cornered hat): Suites 1 and 2 [40:10]
Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain) G49 [24:57]
Josep Colom (piano)
Orquesta Ciudad de Granada/Josep Pons – rec. c.1996. DDD/DSD
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC901606 [65:07] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
Federico García LORCA (1898-1936) Canciones españolas antiguas (Old Spanish Songs)* [26:10]
Manuel de FALLA El Corregidor y la Molinera (The Official and the Miller’s Wife)** [45:17]
Ginesa Ortega Cortés (singer)*; Olga Serra (soprano)**
Orquestra de Cambra Teatre Lliure/Josep Pons – rec. c.1995. DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI HMA1951520 [71:27] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
With these two releases we have Spanish performances of Falla’s El sombrero de tres picos – the two suites – and its less well-known original form, El Corregidor y la Molinera in which most of the familiar music appears but not always in familiar guise. On the second album El Corregidor is coupled with Lorca’s settings of songs from the late medieval and early modern periods.
The first album is deleted on CD, presumably because in 2011 Josep Pons made a later recording of Noches en los Jardines* with Javier Peranes and the BBCSO, and ridiculously high prices are being asked for it, so its availability as a download is very welcome, especially as the performances of both works are good and well recorded.
The recording of El Corregidor is less easily recommendable: the parent CD is still available for around £6-7, slightly less than the cost of the download. There are no texts, but Harmonia Mundi are notoriously mean about providing these with the budget reissues, so there may be none with the CD either – a pity since the words are hardly familiar. I was able to recognise only Las Morillas de Jaén, based on a 15th-century song about three converted Moorish girls who love the poet: Tres moricas me enamoran / en Jaén: / Axa y Fátima y Marién.
Ginesa Ortega Cortés sings the music in flamenco style, no doubt more ‘authentic’ than Victoria de los Angeles (EMI Icons, 7 CDs) but some may find it off-putting – try first from Naxos Music Library if you can. The music has been orchestrated and, in some cases, the texts have been abridged.** Whatever your reaction – and I was put off by the singing of the Lorca – the recording is well worth having for the familiar yet unfamiliar version of the Falla ballet, which is available separately for $8.15.
The 1952 recording of El sombrero de tres picos (Suzanne Danco, soprano, OSR/Ernest Ansermet) inevitably sounds rather dry but has come up sounding surprisingly well in a Naxos Classical Archives transfer, coupled with a shrill but tolerable transfer of the LPO/Anthony Collins 1950 recording of El amor brujo. It’s available very inexpensively from classicsonline.com but, so good is the transfer, belying the original review which described it as suffering from ‘LP pinch’, I’d recommend paying a little more for the lossless version from eclassical.com. (980466). The information was clearly all in the grooves but the cartridges of the time couldn’t process it.
I’d just finished writing this review and was about to close this DL News when I received Beulah release:
The Art of Spain: Volume 2
Manuel de FALLA Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain) G49 [22:35]
Gonzalo Soriano (piano); National Orchestra of Spain/Ataúlfo Argenta – rec. 1957. ADD
Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999) Concierto de Aranjuez [21:17]
Narciso Yepes (guitar); National Orchestra of Spain/Ataúlfo Argenta – rec. 1957. ADD
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949) Danzas fantásticas [16:59]
Paris Conservatoire Orchestra/Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos – rec.1962. ADD
BEULAH 2PD88 [60:52] – coming soon from iTunes and Amazon
There are two classic performances here – the two concertante works, originally released on Decca SXL2091 – and one very enjoyable filler, all in transfers that belie their age. Various inexpensive transfers exist of the two recordings with Argenta, but I think some of them are actually of the earlier mono recordings with the Madrid orchestra and I can’t imagine that any of them come close to the quality of sound which Beulah have achieved.
The Soriano/Argenta recording of Noches en los jardines remains a prime recommendation even in the face of Soriano’s own later recording with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra and Frühbeck de Burgos, now available only in a 16-CD set, though the single-disc release with El Amor brujo (de los Angeles and Giulini) remains available to download.
Much as one might bemoan the fact that Rodrigo’s other concertos seldom get a look in, it must be admitted that the Concierto de Aranjuez is music with a very strong appeal. Narciso Yepes, who recorded it several times, has always been one of its prime advocates and this recording can stand its own against the later DG versions, at least two of which remain available on CD. Yepes’ guitar seems to fill the whole soundstage in a larger-than-life fashion but that’s my only reservation about any of the transfers, and it’s hardly a fault that can be laid at Beulah’s door.
There’s only one recording of similar, slightly later vintage of the Rodrigo to equal the Yepes and that’s the Julian Bream recording with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, now available again in its original 1975 coupling with the Lennox Berkeley Guitar Concerto for just £3.99 from iTunes.
Similarly, there’s only one vintage recording of Noches en los jardines de España to rival the Soriano and Argenta and that’s Alicia de Larrocha and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos on a Double Decca 2-for-1 bargain (4661282: The Essential Falla – download from 7digital.com). I was slightly underwhelmed by the recent Chandos recording of El sombrero de tres picos and Noches en los jardines de España on CHAN10694 (Bavouzet and Mena), but I liked their mid-price El amor brujo and Noches on CHAN8904 (Fingerhut and Tortelier) – see DL Roundup February 2012/2. A 24-bit version of CHAN10694 has been added since I wrote that review.
At the time of writing the Beulah reissue had yet to appear from iTunes or Amazon but precedent suggests that it will be available at a price attractive enough, around £7.50, to recommend snapping it up.
It’s been pointed out to me that the Beulah reissue of the Chalabala recording of The Bartered Bride which I reviewed in 2014/1 is also available for download from Supraphon, at a competitive price and re-mastered from the original tapes – here. You do, however, require a greater degree of fluency in Czech than I possess.
* HMC902099: eclassical.com have that, too, and in 24-bit format as well as mp3 and 16-bit lossless, albeit at a premium price of $21.45 (mp3 and 16-bit a much more reasonable, indeed competitive $14.30). Noches en los jardines is coupled with other music by Falla in texts which have been revised from authentic sources. This time the pdf booklet is part of the deal.
** Urtext offer the original settings with guitar (JBCC053), available from classicsonline.com and Naxos Music Library. Valentina Alvarez sings just as powerfully but clearly and without the gypsy-fying which I found somewhat off-putting. Still no texts with the download, however.
Sándor VERESS (1907-1999) Complete Music for String Quartet
String Quartet No. 1 (1931) [17:25]
String Quartet No. 2 (1937) [29:07]
Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra (1961) (first recording) [24:50]
Basel String Quartet;
Hungarian Symphony Orchestra/Jan Schultsz – rec. October 2012 and January 2013. DDD
pdf booklet included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0062 [71:26] – from toccataclassics.com or eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Also available on CD from MusicWeb International here.
This being my first encounter with Sándor Veress’s music, I can’t better Toccata’s own brief introduction to this album: ‘[he] was born in Kolozsvár, then in Hungary … but spent the last half-century of his life in Switzerland as an exile from Communism. In the 1930s he worked as Bartók’s research assistant in his work on Hungarian folksong, with results audible in the two early string quartets. By the time of the Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra three decades later, Veress had developed a lean and muscular style, incorporating elements of modernism but retaining a powerful sense of onward momentum, expressed in an original voice which combines head and heart in an exhilarating blend of freewheeling invention, fantasy and wit.’
Appropriately his native Hungary and Switzerland, which gave him refuge, have combined to produce this attractive album of his music, including a joint offering of the premiere recording of the concerto.
There’s an earlier recording of Veress’s two string quartets from the Ensemble des Equilibres on Hungaroton, coupled with his string trio on HCD32691 – review – download from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library.
The booklet which is provided free to all comers on the Toccata website is complete; that which eclassical.com offer lacks the rear CD insert with the important track details and timings.
As I was about to close this DL News, I noted that Jonathan Woolf has been impressed, too – review.
George LLOYD (1913-1998) Symphonies
Neglected for far too long, George Lloyd’s music at least received some attention from the record companies towards the end of his life, unlike poor Havergal Brian – no sooner had he been ‘discovered’ on a BBC TV programme than he suffered a serious accident and died soon after.
Apart from Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 and 8 from the Philharmonia Orchestra and Edward Downes on a 3-CD Lyrita set (SRCD.2258 – review, review, review: download in mp3 from emusic.com*), Albany Records are the ‘home’ of George Lloyd’s symphonies, in authoritative performances, mostly with the Albany Symphony Orchestra and all conducted by the composer himself.
Though I’m very happy with that Lyrita set, I’m very pleased to see that High Definition Tape Transfers have released some HD recordings in 24-bit sound under licence from Albany. Symphony No.11 (HDDLTroy060 [58:57]) is a powerful work, all the more remarkable for succeeding the easy-going No.10, November Journeys, which celebrated the cheap pensioner fares that British Rail used to offer in that month. No.11 began the Lloyd/Albany relationship in 1986 – the work was specially commissioned by the president of the Albany orchestra, having heard a BBC broadcast of the Eighth symphony.
The performance is clearly authoritative and the Albany Orchestra is no makeshift provincial ensemble. Because the original recording was made in 24/44.1 sound, HDTT have not tried to improve on it so, unusually for them, playback – from the master tapes rather than a commercial reel-to-reel tape, as is their wont – is at that setting rather than 24/96 or higher, but it sounds none the worse for it – here. At current exchange rates HDTT’s $14.00 represents a price advantage over the UK price of the Albany SACD of around £14. Don’t be deceived by the ghostly image of the composer on the cover – there’s nothing feeble about the music – see analysis by Paul Conway – performance or recording.
The bookends of Lloyd’s symphonies, Nos. 1 and 12, recorded in 1990, are coupled on HDDLTroy032 [65:39] – here. Once again the transfer is at 24/44.1. Here, too, it’s only the image of the composer on the cover that is at all faded – if anything, this is an even more important release than that of Symphony No.11. As before, the music, authoritative performances and recording – no attempt to make the sound over-bright – make this a desirable purchase and the price, slightly higher at $16, still compares favourably with the SACD release.
* an inexpensive download but not transferred at an ideal bit rate; the CDs are available from MusicWeb International, a 3-for-2 offer at £23 p.p. worldwide – here.
Richard STRAUSS (1914-1949) Salome
Birgit Nilsson (soprano) – Salome
Gerhard Stolze (tenor) – Herod
Grace Hoffman (mezzo) – Herodias
Eberhard Wächter ((baritone) ) – Jokanaan
Waldemar Kmentt (tenor) – Narraboth
Josephine Veasey (mezzo) – Page to Herodias
Paul Kuen (tenor) – First Jew)
Stefan Schwer (tenor) – Second Jew
Kurt Equiluz (tenor) – Third Jew
Aron Gestner (tenor) – Fourth Jew
Max Proebstl (bass) – Fifth Jew
Tom Krause (baritone) – First Nazarene
Nigel Douglas (tenor) – Second Nazarene
Zenon Kosnowski (bass) – First Soldier
Heinz Holecek (bass) – Second Soldier
Theodor Kirschbichler (bass) – Cappadocian
Liselotte Mailk (soprano) – Slave
Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Georg Solti – rec. c.1961. ADD.
DECCA ORIGINALS 4757528 [2 CDs: 99:19] also available as a Hallmark download from emusic.com (mp3)
Reiner Goldberg (tenor) - Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Judea
Anja Silja (soprano) - Herodias, Herod’s wife
Inga Nielsen (soprano) - Salome, Herodias’s daughter
Bent Norup (baritone) - First Nazarene
Per Hoyer (baritone) - First Soldier
Morten Frank Larsen (baritone) - Second Nazarene
Anders Jakobsson (bass) - A Cappadocian
Stephen Milling (bass) - Second Soldier
Sten Byriel (bass-baritone) - Fifth Jew
Robert Hale (bass-baritone) - Jokanaan (John the Baptist)
Marianne Rorholm (mezzo) - Herodias's Page
Henriette Bonde-Hansen (soprano) - A Slave
Gert Henning Jensen (tenor) - First Jew
Peter Gronlund (tenor) - Fourth Jew
Deon van der Walt (tenor) - Narraboth, a young Syrian, Captain of the Guard
Ole Hedegaard (tenor) - Second Jew
Mikael Kristensen (tenor) - Third Jew
Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Michael Schønwandt – rec. 1998
pdf booklet with texts and translations available
CHANDOS CHAN9611 [2 CDs: 98:58] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)
I downloaded the Hallmark version of the classic Nilsson/Solti recording for a mere £1.68 from emusic.com, sceptical that so inexpensive a transcription (mp3, at around 225kb/s) could deliver the goods in the case of a Decca Sonicsound original. I have to say that, although Decca’s own refurbishment from the master tapes no doubt sounds better, especially if downloaded in lossless format*, the Hallmark budget version is to my ears little inferior to what I remember of the full-price LPs (SET228), as played by a fellow (richer than me) undergrad on state-of-the-art equipment c.1963. It stands playing at a high level and will benefit from it.
The performance remains ‘the one to have’ as Göran Forsling put it – review, with all the power intact that I remember from fifty years ago. GF made it a Recording of the Month and it’s not just nostalgia that makes me regard it as unassailable.
With just four tracks on Hallmark, corresponding to the sides of the original LPs, you can burn the whole opera to an mp3 CD without any problem of hiatuses between tracks.
There’s no libretto with the Decca download but the Chandos booklet is free to all comers. More to the point, if you’re looking for a more modern version in lossless sound, the Schønwandt recording is not far behind the Solti.
You’ll find a detailed analysis of this recording from Dan Morgan in DL Roundup June 2011/1. On that occasion both Dan and I experienced some problems downloading so I started from scratch again this time and experienced no difficulty.
* Available from deutschegrammophon.com in flac for £11.49 – but NB you can find the CD set less expensively than that, currently for as little as around £8, from some online suppliers.
Freebie of the Month
James MACMILLAN (b.1959)
The World’s Ransoming [22:14]
The Confession of Isobel Gowdie [22:51]
Christine Pendrill (cor anglais); London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis – rec. live 2003 and 2007. DDD/DSD
pdf booklet included
LSO LIVE LSO0124 [45:05] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)
This is the February 2014 free offering, in mp3 format, for subscribers to the Chandos/theclassicalshop newsletter. There are several other fine versions of the Confession – purely orchestral despite the title and MacMillan’s intention that this should be the Requiem that Isobel Gowdie never had – but none to be had free. Tony Haywood liked the recording on BIS-CD-1169: Recording of the Month – review: download from eclassical.com, mp3 and lossless, with booklet. Even if you’re still not sure about James MacMillan – his often powerful music is a taste that I’m acquiring more and more – this is a good opportunity to get to know him. If you haven’t yet signed up for the newsletter, you’ll have missed this, but you can join now to enjoy forthcoming freebies.
If you are considering buying, I should point out that at £7 (mp3) and £9 (lossless), the download is rather expensive and that classicsonline.com’s and 7digital.com’s £7.99 (mp3 only) are even more so: MDT’s normal price for the CD, £5.40, is currently reduced to £4.50.
Jazz Bargain of the Month
Charles Mingus: Complete Recordings 1957-1960
Word from Bird [10:09]
Show Time [5:03]
When Your Lover has gone [2:29]
Just One of Those Things [6:01]
Blue Greens [11:39]
Haitian Fight Song [12:03]
Blue Cee [7:58]
Reincarnation of a Lovebird [8:34]
The Clown [12:25]
Back Home Blues [5:31]
I Can’t Get Started [6:31]
Hamp’s New Blues [3:54]
Dizzy Moods [6:53]
Laura (Three) [6:33]
Memories of You (Take 7) [4:27]
East Coasting (Take 4) [5:12]
West Coast Ghost (Take 6) [8:56]
Celia (Take 5) [7:05]
Conversation (Take 16) [5:28]
Fifty-First Street Blues (Take 4) [5:46]
Scenes in the City [11:55]
New York Sketchbook [8:55]
Duke’s Choice [6:27]
Better Git in Your Soul [7:21]
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat [5:43]
Boogie Stop Shuffle [4:59]
Self-Portrait in Three Colors [3:08]
Open Letter to Duke [5:50]
Bird Calls [6:16]
Fables of Faubus [8:14]
Pussy Cat Dues [9:12]
Jelly Roll [6:16]
Nostalgia in Time Square (Live) [12:18]
I Can’t Get Started (Live) [10:08]
No Private Income Blues (Live) [12:51]
Alice’s Wonderland (Live) [8:54]
Hey (Night) / Too Blue / Ballad of the Fortune Teller [3:13]
Note on the Commercial Theatre [1:35]
The Weary Blues [3:09]
Blues at Dawn [0:51]
Six Bits Blues [1:18]
Morning after [1:27]
Could Be / Bad Luck Card / Bad Man [2:50]
Life Is Fine [2:02]
Hey Hey (Morn) [1:18]
Consider Me [3:19]
Warning / Augmented [1:07]
Motto / Dead in There [2:05]
Final Curve [0:10]
Boogie / 1am [1:51]
Bed Time [1:06]
Tell Me [0:39]
Good Morning / Harlem [1:43]
Same In Blues / Comment On Curb [1:45]
Democracy / Island / Extract from Warning / Augmented / Jump Monk [6:07]
Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting [5:43]
Cryin’ Blues [5:02]
My Jelly Roll Soul [6:50]
E’s Flat, Ah’s Flat Too [6:42]
PLAYTIME [6:17:37] – from iTunes (m4a)
The contents of nine Charles Mingus LP recordings for £3.99 are a real bargain: you’d pay at least as much or more for each of the classic 1959 albums – the Sony reissue of one album, Ah Um, alone from iTunes costs £9.99. Moreover, this is only one of such offers, with similar collections from 1945-56 and 1960-62 available for the same price.
Better still, the sound, transferred at around 260kb/s, is good, so Mingus fans need not hesitate; even if they possess some of the tracks already, the rest is eminently worth having at the price.