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DOWNLOAD NEWS 2014/1
Brian Wilson

Download News 2013/18 is here and the index of earlier editions here.

This will be the last Download News that I shall be compiling, though I hope to continue to submit a few reviews of downloads for the main MusicWeb International review pages – or for the DL News spot if, as seems likely, it continues under new management.

It had been my intention to produce a cumulative index; I’m afraid I shall have to abandon that idea, but here is an index for this edition and 2013/18. * = Recording/Bargain/Discovery of the Month.

ADAMS City Noir - LAPO/Dudamel DG Concerts 2014/1
ADAMS Dharma at Big Sur + KRAFT, ROSENMAN - LAPO DG Concerts 2014/1
ALONSO La Calesera + SARASATE Danzas Beulah 2013/18
BACH JS Christmas Cantatas - Gardiner SDG 2013/18
BACH JS Christmas Cantatas - Pierlot Mirare 2013/18
BACH JS Christmas Cantatas - Suzuki BIS 2013/18
BACH JS Orchestral Suites - Freiburg Baroque Harmonia Mundi 2013/18
BACH JS, etc - Ciaccona - Brachetta Resonus Classics 2014/1
BEETHOVEN Bagatelles - Pressler + SCHUBERT La Dolce Volta 2014/1
BEETHOVEN Late String Quartets (orch. arr.) - Tønnesen BIS 2014/1
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto 3 + MOZART - Sudbin BIS 2014/1
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata 31 - Pressler + SCHUBERT BIS 2014/1
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas 11,18 and 28 - Hewitt Hyperion 2013/18
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas 14, 17 and 21 -Lubimov Alpha 2013/18
BLOCH Symphony; Poems of the Sea - Atlas Naxos 2014/1
BRAHMS Symphonies, Overtures - Chailly Decca 2014/1
BRAHMS Symphony No.4 - Skrowaczewski Oehms 2014/1
BUSCH Chamber Music Vol.1 - Busch Kollegium Toccata 2013/18
Dance Music from Old Vienna Naxos 2014/1
DELIUS Delius in Norway - Davis Chandos 2013/18
Doctor Jazz - Jelly Roll Morton * Ornithology Rec 2014/1
DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet 2; String Quintet 2 - Talich Q La Dolce Volta 2014/1
DVOŘÁK String Quartet 12; String Quintet 2 - Talich Q La Dolce Volta 2014/1
ERNST Complete Music 4 - Sherban Lupu, etc. Toccata 2014/1
FAURÉ Piano Quartet and Trio - Kungsback Trio Naxos 2013/18
George Wright at the Mighty Wurlitzer Beulah 2013/18
GRAINGER Country Gardens, etc - Fennell Naxos Archives 2014/1
HANDEL Belshazzar - Christie * Les Arts Florissants 2014/1
HAYDN Piano Concert No.11 + MOZART - E Fischer APR 2014/1
HINDEMITH Mathis Symphony, etc - Brabbins Hyperion 2013/18
HOLST Mystic Trumpeter; Choral Symphony 1 - Davis Chandos 2013/18
James Galway's Christmas Carol RCA 2013/18
JANÁCEK Taras Bulba + TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony 5 ICA Classics 2013/18
Jeu des pelerins d'Emmaus - Péres Harmonia Mundi 2014/1
KARAYEV Seven Beauties; Path of Thunder - Yablonsky Naxos 2013/18
KRAFT Timpani Concerto 1 + ADAMS, ROSENMAN - LAPO DG Concerts 2014/1
MAHLER Symphony No.4 - Kempe + WAGNER ICA Classics 2014/1
MAHLER Symphony No.6 - Nott Tudor 2014/1
MAHLER Symphony No.6 - Tilson Thomas SFS Media 2014/1
MAHLER Symphony No.8 - Nott Tudor 2014/1
MAHLER Symphony No.8 - Tennstedt LPO 2014/1
MAHLER Symphony No.8 - Tilson Thomas SFS Media 2014/1
MATTHEWS Music for piano - Mikkola Toccata 2014/1
MENDELSSOHN Ruy Blas - Kempe + MAHLER ICA Classics 2014/1
MIASKOVSKY Symphony 6 - Botstein American SO 2013/18
MIASKOVSKY Symphony 6 - Stankovsky Marco Polo 2013/18
MIELCK Fairy Tale Symphony; Konzertstuck - Oramo Ondine 2014/1
MIELCK Orchestral and Choral Music Toccata 2014/1
MOERAN In the Mountain Country, etc - Falletta Naxos 2014/1
MOERAN In the Mountain Country, etc - Handley Chandos 2014/1
MOERAN Symphony, etc. - Boult Lyrita 2014/1
MOERAN Symphony, etc. - Handley Chandos 2014/1
MONTSALVATGE Cinco invocaciones al crucificado, etc. Naxos 2014/1
MONTSALVATGE Simfonia da requiem, etc. - Meno Chandos 2014/1
Mozarabic chant - Peres Harmonia MundI 2014/1
MOZART Rondo, K511 - Pressler + SCHUBERT La Dolce Volta 2014/1
MOZART Choral Music - New College Novum 2014/1
MOZART Choral Music - St Paul's Hyperion 2014/1
MOZART Piano Concerto 24 + BEETHOVEN - Sudbin BIS 2014/1
MOZART Piano Concertos & Sonatas + HAYDN - E Fischer APR 2014/1
Music from Old Vienna Naxos 2014/1
MUSSORGSKY Pictures + RIMSKY Scheherezade - Krivine Zig Zag 2013/18
New Orleans Jazz * Profil 2014/1
PISTON Symphony No.2 - Botstein American SO 2013/18
PISTON Symphony No.3 - Hanson Naxos Archives 2013/18
PISTON Symphony No.4 - Ormandy Naxos Archives 2013/18
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No.3 Argerich + RAVEL DG 2014/1
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No.3 Katchen + BARTÓK Naxos Archives 2014/1
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No.3 Lugansky + GRIEG Ambroisie 2014/1
PROKOFIEV Piano Concertos 1-5 - Bavouzet Chandos 2014/1
PROKOFIEV Piano Concertos 1-5 - Berman, Gutierrez Chandos 2014/1
PROKOFIEV Piano Concertos 2 and 3 - Kempf BIS 2014/1
PROKOFIEV Violin Con 2 + STRAVINSKY - Kopatchinskaja Naïve 2014/1
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Scheherazade + MUSSORGSKY Zig Zag 2013/18
ROSENMAN Rebel without a Cause + ADAMS, etc. DG Concerts 2014/1
SARASATE Danzas + ALSONO La Calesera Beulah 2013/18
SCARLATTI etc: Guitar Recital - Park Naxos 2013/18
SCHUBERT Piano Sonata 18 - Pressler La Dolce Volta 2014/1
SCHUBERT Piano Sonata 21 - Pressler + BEETHOVEN BIS 2014/1
SHOSTAKOVICH Fall of Berlin; The Year 1919 - Adriano Naxos 2014/1
SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concertos - Alexeev CFP 2014/1
SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concertos - Melnikov Harmonia Mundi 2014/1
SHOSTAKOVICH Stepan Razin; October - Schwarz Naxos 2014/1
SHOSTAKOVICH Stepan Razin; Symphony 6 - Polyansky Chandos 2014/1
SHOSTAKOVICH Stepan Razin; Zoya Suite - Ashkenazy Ondine 2014/1
SMETANA Bartered Bride (complete) - Chalabala Beulah 2014/1
SMETANA Bartered Bride (complete)- Belohlavek Harmonia MundI 2014/1
SMETANA Bartered Bride Overture - Chalabala Beulah 2013/18
STRAUSS Family New Year 1987 - VPO/Karajan DG 2014/1
STRAUSS Family New Year 1989 & 1992 - VPO/C Kleiber; 2014 - Barenboim Sony 2014/1
STRAUSS Family New Year 2001 - VPO/Harnoncourt Warner Teldec 2014/1
STRAUSS Family, Best of New Year - various DG 2014/1
STRAUSS Family, etc Dances of Old Vienna - Boskovsky* Alto 2014/1
STRAUSS Johann I Volume 25 - Pollack Marco Polo 2014/1
STRAVINSKY Les Noces and other Russian Music - Wood Hyperion Helios 2014/1
STRAVINSKY Violin Concerto + PROKOFIEV Naïve 2014/1
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony 5 + Francesca - Jansons BR Klassik 2013/18
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony 5 + JANACEK - Rozhdestvensky ICA Classics 2013/18
VIVALDI Concertos for two violins - Pomo d'Oro Naïve 2013/18
WAGNER arr VLIEGER The Ring (Orchestral) - Renes Chandos 2013/18
WAGNER Parsifal Prelude - Kempe + MAHLER ICA Classics 2014/1

Mozarabic Chant
Ensemble Organum/Marcel Pérès – rec. 1994
HARMONIA MUNDI D’ABORD HMA1951519 [64:59] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

The Mozarabic Mass, now celebrated in one side-chapel in Toledo Cathedral and occasionally elsewhere in Iberia, was the rite celebrated in early medieval Spain. Though clearly a Roman rite – you’ll recognise familiar texts such as the Gloria (tr.3) and Sanctus (tr.14) – it has some unusual features which it shares with Gallican and some Eastern European rites. The Latin words of the Sanctus, for example, are repeated in Greek, though not on this recording. Unfortunately nowadays it’s celebrated in hugger mugger in Toledo; I don’t recall any chant when I attended in the mid 1960s – in fact, the whole thing was so disappointingly rushed through as a Low Mass that a friend and I tried to compensate by hearing High Mass and were equally disappointed at the quality of the singing of the music of Victoria.

In fact, the music is problematic: the earliest manuscripts are indecipherable; only the musical texts of the rite as restored by Cardinal Cisneros c.1500 can be relied on and these were employed by Marcel Pérès for this recording, made not in Toledo but in Cordoba Cathedral in 1994. Pérès always makes medieval and early renaissance music sound as if influenced by Arabic practice, as the Mozarabic rite undoubtedly was – the second half of the word is no accident, signifying the liturgy employed by Christians under Moslem rule. I can’t say how ‘authentic’ it all is, but I found it fascinating.

The first two-thirds of the recording cover the office of readings, including the Gospel for the day; the remaining 22 minutes constitute the Eucharistic Prayer or Canon, which includes a particularly dramatic manner of breaking and arranging the consecrated bread with the words Qui venit ad me non esuriet (He that cometh to me shall not hunger), sung to a lilting tune (tr. 15).

The eclassical.com download sounds very well in lossless format but it comes without any booklet, so no notes or texts* – Naxos Music Library is no help there, either – and it costs rather more than the CD, which you should find for around £6, though some are offering it for £8.99, by comparison with which eclassical.com’s $11.70 is competitive. You can find the full text in Latin at http://www.mercaba.org/LITURGIA/Mozarabe/ordinario_latin.htm

Next you could move on to Ensemble Organum and Marcel Péres again in another medieval reconstruction, Le Jeu des pèlerins d’Emmaüs, the 12th century play of the pilgrims to Emmaus. (Harmonia Mundi D’Abord HMA1951347, first released in 1990 [58:45] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Try this performance out on YouTube.

Because this is a shorter album and eclassical.com charge by the second, their price of $10.58, though still more than you might pay for the CD, is more reasonable, but there’s still no booklet*.

* In any case, the CDs in this series come with very sparse notes and, usually, without texts.

Western European drama seems to have developed from simple Eastertide origins such as this – a dialogue between the Maries and the Angel in the empty tomb at Matins on Easter Sunday or, in this case, commemorating the encounter between some pilgrims returning from Jerusalem and the risen Jesus, with whom they dined at the village of Emmaus and whom they recognised in the breaking of bread, a reading traditionally prescribed for Easter Monday. The album consists of the Kyrie, regnum summe from Vespers, the procession to the font, the play of the pilgrims proper (some 29 minutes), covering not just the Emmaus experience of the title but other events connected with the resurrection, such as the appearance to Thomas, and the return to the choir for the end of Vespers. French readers will find an article on the genre at http://sitm2007.vjf.cnrs.fr/pdf/s10-bonnotte.pdf

Ciaccona : Works for harpsichord
Bernardo STORACE (17th Century) Ciaccona [6:36]
Johann Caspar Ferdinand FISCHER (1656-1746) Chaconne [4:47]
Jacques DUPHLY (1715-1789) Chaconne [8:01]
Jacques Champion de CHAMBONNIERES (1601/2-1672) Chaconne [3:13]
John BLOW (1648/9-1708) Chacone [3:27]
Georg BÖHM (1661-1733) Chaconne [3:52]
Bernard de BURY (1720-1785) Chaconne [7:52]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1686-1750) Ciaccona (transcribed in a minor from BWV1004) [12:23]
Johann Joseph FUX (1660-1741) Ciaccona [9:10]
Louis COUPERIN (1626-1661) Chaconne ou Passacaille [5:00]
Guillermo Brachetta (harpsichord – modern instruments after Giusti, 1681, and Rückers, 1624/1680)
Pdf booklet available
RESONUS CLASSICS RES10126 [64:28] Download only – no CD. Due for release 1 February 2014 from resonusclassics.com (mp3, aac, 16- and 24-bit lossless)

The chaconne, variously spelled, seems to have originated in Latin America and to have percolated into Europe via Spain. Originally a lively dance, in baroque music it developed a more austere tone akin to the passacaglia – significantly, Louis Couperin describes the piece which ends the recital as either. The Couperins and Chambonnières were the chief exponents of the keyboard chaconne in France and Buxtehude and Pachelbel spring to mind as exponents of the form in Germany, but on the organ, so there’s room, perhaps, for a follow-up album of their music, if Guillermo Brachetta is as adept an executant of the organ as he is here and other Resonus recordings on the harpsichord.

It’s no disparagement of the other music here to say that the Bach, though a keyboard transcription of a movement from a violin sonata, BWV1004, is not only the longest work here but it’s also head and shoulders above everything else. As Bach was an avid transcriber of his own and other composers’ music, there are no purist grounds for rejecting this version – in fact, it works very well.

A whole hour of chaconnes may seem a daunting prospect; though there is a degree of variation of styles and two different harpsichords are employed, the variety may be more apparent to the specialist than to the general listener. That apart, this is well up to the standard we have come to expect in such a short time from Resonus Classics: this is only their 26th release.

Guillermo Brachetta is the harpsichordist of the group Fantasticus, whose two recordings of baroque chamber music for Resonus Classics are well worth seeking out: RES10112September 2012/2 – and RES10122 2013/14.

New Label of the Month
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Belshazzar , Oratorio in three acts, HV61 (1745) [2:46:23]
Belshazzar, King of Babylon - Allan Clayton (tenor)
Nitocris, mother of Belshazzar - Rosemary Joshua (soprano)
Daniel, Hebrew Prophet - Iestyn Davies (counter-tenor)
Cyrus, Persian Prince - Caitlin Hulcup (contralto)
Gobrias, Assyrian Nobleman in the service of Cyrus - Jonathan Lemalu (bass)
Arioch, Babylonian Lord - Jean-Yves Ravoux (tenor)
Geoffroy Buffière, Thibaut Lenaerts, Michael-Loughlin Smith, Damian Witheley
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie – rec. December 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet with libretto included
LES ARTS FLORISSANTS AF001 [3 CDs: 55:21 + 68:13 + 42:52] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)

Yet another auspicious launch of an own-label, this time of a group who already have a distinguished catalogue of recording for Virgin and Erato, both now housed under the Warner Classics umbrella. The amply proportioned booklet, which puts even Hyperion somewhat in the shade, generously acknowledges those earlier recordings for other labels.

Though Belshazzar is by no means the best-known of Handel’s oratorios, we already had two distinguished recordings in the catalogue, on DG Archiv from John Eliot Gardiner and on Warner Erato from Nikolaus Harnoncourt. The former comes in a budget-price triple set for around £14 (4770372: download from 7digital.com for £11.99) and the latter in a 6-CD box with Jephtha for around £18 (2564696116: downloading is unlikely to save much). Kirk McElhearn liked the mid-price MDG recording – review. There’s also a Harmonia Mundi DVD/blu-ray recording.

Though it was a flop at the time, despite Handel’s attempts to rework it, there is some very fine music in Belshazzar – it’s just that events move very slowly and nearly three hours seems over-long for such a straightforward story: Belshazzar holds a drunken feast, desecrating the sacred vessels stolen from the temple at Jerusalem; a mysterious hand writes on the wall and only the prophet Daniel can interpret this as divine judgment; Cyrus and his army invade and the kingdom passes to the Medes and Persians. Cyrus grants the Jewish captives leave to return home. To this biblical story the librettist adds a sub-plot in which Belshazzar’s mother sides with Daniel in vainly trying to mitigate her son’s behaviour. William Walton was to do the whole thing much more succinctly in Belshazzar’s Feast.

Christie has chosen an all-Anglophone cast, which is clearly an advantage, but Harnoncourt had Felicity Palmer and Robert Tear, while Gardiner had Anthony Rolfe Johnson, James Bowman and Catherine Robbin.

If any recording could convince me, Christie’s, made with an accomplished group of soloists and the clear advantage of studio recording immediately after live performance, would be at least as likely to do so as either of those rivals. To single out one contribution is invidious, but Iestyn Davies, who already had a fine version of Destructive war, thy limits know from this oratorio on Hyperion CDA67924 review deserves special mention.

Nevertheless, my final feeling was that the arias and duets from Belshazzar which crop up on various fine recordings have the best of it. David Daniels on Virgin (now Warner Erato 5454972), Christopher Purves (Hyperion CDA67842review: Recording of the Month) and Sarah Connolly and Rosemary Joshua on Chandos CHAN0767review and June 2010 DL Roundup – are good places to start, along with the Iestyn Davies which I’ve already mentioned.

One clear advantage of the new set is its availability in 16- and 24-bit lossless sound. The 24/44.1 is offered for a limited period at the same price as the 16-bit and mp3 ($24.90); even after the price rises it should still be commensurate with the £25 or so for which you can find the CDs. You will, however, need a lot of paper if you wish to print out the booklet and it probably won’t match the special stock on which I understand the CD booklet comes. Sumptuous as the booklet is, it has clearly been proof-read by a non-Anglophone, permitting such misspellings as relevent.

You can compare the new recording with the Harnoncourt and other recordings on the KuK – abridged on 2 CDs: review – and Berlin Classics labels on Naxos Music Library.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 24 in c minor, K491 [30:20]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Piano Concerto No. 3 in c minor, Op. 37 [35:08]
Yevgeny Sudbin (piano)
Minnesota Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä – rec. 2011 and 2012. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
BIS BIS-SACD-1978 [66:16] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)

These two c-minor concertos, though composed over a decade apart, make good bedfellows, not least because, to the best of my knowledge, the coupling is unique in the current catalogue.

I listened first to the Barenboim/Klemperer recording of the Beethoven to establish a benchmark but, not having heard this recording for some time, found myself immediately put off by the painfully deliberate tempo and lack of forward movement in the first movement. Barenboim does his best to nudge things along a little after his entry, but this is not Klemperer at his best – and I do like Klemperer’s Beethoven at its best – despite the high opinions held in many quarters of this recording.

At 13:43 against the Barenboim/Klemperer 18:53 Sudbin and Vänskä’s tempo is much more to the point. Even allowing for the different cadenzas, that’s a very considerable margin. Maybe listening to Klemperer gave the new recording a head start in my estimation, but the opening under Vänskä is altogether lighter. Melinda Bargreen epitomised the playing on the earlier recording of Piano Concertos 4 and 5 from Sudbin and Vänskä (BIS-SACD-1758) as marked with energy, crispness and zest – review. Another reviewer also hit the nail on the head in writing that Sudbin had little time for Beethoven weighed down by excess baggage, and those characteristics are at play again here. Indeed, there’s even more justification for them in this earlier concerto. I came very close to making that album my Recording of the Month July 2012-2 – and I’m equally pleased with the sequel.

I’ve dealt with the Beethoven first but BIS rightly precede it with the Mozart. K491 is one of the masterpieces which Mozart composed for this genre (Nos.20-25) and competition is just as strong as it is for Beethoven. Clifford Curzon is still my man (Nos. 20, 23, 24, 26 and 27, Decca 4684912, 2 mid-price CDs or a 23-CD set, 4784389) and aficionados of the fortepiano will prefer another BIS recording, with Ronald Brautigam (Nos. 24 and 25, BIS-SACD-1894 review and February 2012/2 Roundup: ignore the intemperate criticism of this recording emanating elsewhere) but I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with Sudbin and Vänskä.

The recording is very good – hardly surprising when the booklet lists the recording date of the Beethoven as a century hence, 2111.

For a surprising insight into Mozart piano concerto playing from the past, there’s a 3-CD APR set of Edwin Fischer with various orchestras performing Nos. 17, 20, 22, 24, 25, the C major sonata K330, its successor in A, K331, Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D, HobXIII/11 and some shorter pieces. He performed No.24 with Lawrance Collingwood conducting the LPO but, as the notes point out, that was for technical reasons only; in effect Fischer was conducting from the keyboard and the result is very stylish even by modern standards. The recording has transferred well, too, with fairly full tone – certainly more than tolerable considering its date, 1937* – and almost no surface noise, just the occasional very light pop. The set, APR7303, runs for nearly four hours (the Hyperion page says 218:31 but Winamp times the set at 221:37) and comes as a 3-for-2 download from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless) with pdf booklet. Allowing for the use of different cadenzas, timings in K491 are remarkably similar to Sudbin and Vänskä’s.

These recordings are of much more than mere historical interest and they can be yours for a very small outlay. I intend to explore them more fully.

* rather confusingly, K491 seems to have been known as No.14 then.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Music for Salzburg Cathedral
Litaniae Lauretanae , K195 [28:24]
Church Sonata in C, K329 [4:46]
Vesperae de Dominica , K321 [29:59]
Inigo Jones (soprano), Michael Alchin (alto), Guy Cutting (tenor) Patrick Edmond (bass)
Choir of New College Oxford
Collegium Novum/Edward Higginbottom – rec. June 2013. DDD.
NOVUM NCR1388 [63:10] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library (with pdf booklet containing texts and translations)

The chief rivals, deploying similar forces, in both main works are St John’s, Cambridge, under George Guest and Neville Marriner on a budget 2-CD Double Decca (4583792, with Vesperae de Confessore, the ‘Sparrow’ Mass and Litaniae de sacramento) and, in theVesperae de Dominica, St Paul’s and Anthony Carwood (Hyperion CDA67921, with Missa Solemnis, K337, etc. – review: download from hyperion-records.co.uk).

Those Cambridge recordings used to form the fillers for the Haydn Masses – now also gathered on a 2-CD Double Decca – and I still value those CDs for both the Haydn and the Mozart. Now gathered together more conveniently and at an attractive price, they make an desirable package. As downloads they are available only in mp3, without booklet, and probably not much less expensive than the CDs.

I missed reporting on the Hyperion when it was released, but that, too is very attractive and you may prefer the coupling. The Mass, K337, which opens the proceedings, and the Epistle Sonata, played between Gloria and Credo, were also composed for Salzburg, so the Hyperion album would have been equally entitled to use the overall title of the Novum recording. Honours are about even between the Hyperion and Novum performances – both very good without quite setting the place alight – so choice of coupling, or a particular devotion to New College or St Paul’s should be a safe decisive factor.

The provision of texts with the Hyperion is a plus – unless you can access them from Naxos Music Library there are none with the Novum download. There was a free bonus track to sample in its entirety but, unfortunately, the Hyperion bonus CD for July 2012 is no longer available; I mention it only because it’s worth checking this out every month.

Full marks to eclassical.com for providing a lossless download – as usual, at the same price as the mp3 and with the option to download both versions – but some points deducted for the lack of pdf booklet. Not everyone possesses the Latin rite litany and Vespers texts; if Naxos Music Library can provide the booklet, why not eclassical.com? Hyperion offer 24-bit sound and the pdf booklet with texts and translations comes with all formats. The Hyperion recording costs £7.99 for mp3 or 16-bit, £9 for 24-bit; eclassical.com charge $11.36 for mp3 or lossless – at current exchange rates pretty much the same.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
The Late String Quartets arranged by Terje Tønnesen for string orchestra
String Quartet No.12 in E flat, Op.127 [37:58]
String Quartet No.14 in C sharp minor, Op.131 [37:47]
String Quartet No.13 in B flat, Op.130 [45:36]
String Quartet No.15 in a minor, Op.132 [40:27]
String Quartet No.16 in F, Op.135 [22:34]
Camerata Nordica/Terje Tønnesen – rec.2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005. DDD
Pdf booklet included
BIS BIS-CD-1096 [185:47] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)

(Previously released by the Altara Music label and re-mastered by BIS Records for the present release.)

The late string quartets of Beethoven are the pinnacle of the chamber music repertoire; can they possibly succeed as orchestral music? The opening bars of Op.127 provide an immediate answer in that the attack of the music, which I first heard performed by the Budapest Quartet (CBS), featuring a particularly powerful rendition of those opening bars, is softened by the orchestration.

Some movements come off much better – that’s particularly true of the third movement of Op.127. That, generally speaking, is my reaction to the whole enterprise: I enjoyed hearing these performances; I’m happy that BIS have recovered them from the deceased Altara label and I doubt if the enterprise could have been better done, assuming that it should be done at all, but it’s to the string quartet originals that I shall always return.

Op.130 is given here with its original finale, the Grosse Fuge, Op.133, a work which is regularly performed in orchestral garb. We know that it works in orchestrated form, but there’s another challenge here, a different benchmark to match or excel in the form of Otto Klemperer with the Philharmonia Orchestra. That’s available on CD only as part of the EMI (now Warner) box set, where it follows the Eroica on CD3, as it once did on a separate disc.

At 16:30 it’s hardly surprising that Klemperer makes something of a meal of it – but what a meal it is and it’s one whose ingredients I find more than palatable. Given that Furtwängler takes 19:10 with the Berlin Phil on Beulah – DL News 2013/9 – Klemperer is hardly excessively slow. At 14:56 Camerata Nordica are a little faster than most performances of the string quartet original, though pretty well in line with the Takács Quartet (Decca) – overall my preferred version for the late quartets – who take 14:28. You can tell from the start that this is going to be a version with the power to challenge Furtwängler, whose recording in any case sounds rather crumbly, and even Klemperer.

You may wish to wait until these BIS performances are available on Naxos Music Library to test drive them for yourself, but that means that you will probably miss the initial 50% discount, available for a short time only.

Vienna Tales
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Sonata No.18 in G, D894 [44:28]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Rondo in a minor, K511 [10:24]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Bagatelles 1-6, Op.126 [19:57]
Menahem Pressler (piano) - rec. May 2013
Pdf booklet in English, French and Japanese included
LA DOLCE VOLTA LDV12 [74:56] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)

If I knew what Menahem Pressler is on, I’d have some of it: the 90-year-old légende vivante du piano as the notes aptly describe him has here recorded a programme of Viennese piano music in memory of Georgina Joshi, hard on the heels of another wonderful Beethoven (Sonata No.31) and Schubert (Sonata No.21, D960) programme for BIS which Brian Reinhart described as ‘profoundly mature’ (BIS-SACD-1999 – from eclassical.com: DL News 2013/16). Despite fierce competition in both works, this is a first-rate album even if you already have favourite versions of both.

I’d choose the Dolce Volta recording first because hearing it you’ll think Schubert’s Sonata No.18 so wonderful, as presented by Pressler, that he could never have composed anything more profound. Then move on to the BIS recording of No.21 and you’ll find an even greater degree of Innigkeit there, all the more effective because Pressler doesn’t lay on the emotion too thickly. If you’re going for only one, choose the BIS, but you will be missing out.

I’m not even going to try to compare: I’ll merely remind you of other very good recordings of D894 (Paul Lewis, Harmonia Mundi; Imogen Cooper, Avie) and D960 (Imogen Cooper, Avie; Stephen Hough, Hyperion; Clifford Curzon, Decca, though imprisoned in a monster box set) and Brendel in both (Philips, with Sonata No.20, or 2 CDs, plus Nos. 14, 15 and 20, or with Beethoven and Mozart on his Farewell Concert). Of single-CD recordings the choice is between the new recording and Brendel (DDD) or Brendel (ADD), both available for download only (mp3 or lossless from prestoclassical.co.uk).

My only small reservation concerns the playing order: I don’t want to hear Mozart and Beethoven in less profound vein immediately after the Schubert, even though K511 is far from facile as played here. On the other hand, if you thought you could play the Beethoven Bagatelles – I once did – think again after hearing Pressler.

The piano tone is extremely well reproduced and the booklet, though its tri-lingual nature takes a while to plough through, is valuable, especially for the interview with Pressler. La Dolce Volta is a new label to me but I hope that they continue to produce recordings of this quality. I shall certainly be exploring some of their other goodies as offered to us by eclassical.com, including recordings by the Talich Quartet. See Dvorák, below, and Mark Sealey’s review of their Beethoven cycle.

Heinrich Wilhelm ERNST (1812-1865) Complete Music: Volume Four
Violin Concerto in f sharp minor, Allegro pathétique, Op. 23 (1846) [19:31]
Violin Concertino in D, Op. 12 (1837) [20:58]
String Quartet in B flat, Op. 26 (1862)* [26:33]
Sherban Lupu (violin)
Sinfonia da Camera/Ian Hobson
Ciompi String Quartet
Pdf booklet included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0189 [67:02] – from toccataclassics.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library. CD available from MusicWeb International – here.

I’d barely got through my initial run-through of this recording when Jonathan Woolf’s review appeared and I found myself so far in agreement with what he’d written, including his preference for Sherban Lupu over a rival Naxos recording, that I need only direct you to his review and to say that the download, especially in its lossless form, is very good. I shall be investigating the earlier volumes, too – you’ll find links to them in Jonathan Woolf’s review.

Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Prodaná nevesta (The Bartered Bride) , B143/T93 (1866)
Marenka - Dana Burešova (soprano); Jenik - Tomáš Juhás (tenor); Kecal - Jozef Benci (bass); Vašek - Aleš Vorácek (tenor); Micha - Gustáv Belácek (bass); Háta - Lucie Hilscherová (mezzo); Krušina - Svatopluk Sem (baritone); Ludmila - Stanislava Jirku (mezzo); Ringmaster - Jaroslav Brezina (tenor); Esmeralda - Katerina Knežiková (soprano); Indian - Ondrej Mráz (bass); First Child - Maxim Dusek (treble); Second Child - Babette Rust (soprano)
BBC Singers
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jiří Belohlávek - rec. May 2011 DDD
Sung in Czech. Pdf booklet with translations in French and English, but no Czech original.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902119.20 [64:31 + 71:49] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)

Rudolf Vonásek (tenor), Jaroslav Horácek (bass), Jaroslava Dobrá (soprano), Drahomira Tikalová (soprano), Václav Bednár (baritone), Štepánka Štepánová (mezzo), Oldrich Kovár (tenor), Ivo Židek (tenor), Eduard Haken (bass), Jarmila Pechová (soprano), Jiří Joran (bass)
Prague National Theatre Chorus
Prague National Theatre Orchestra/Zdenek Chalabala – rec. 1959. ADD/stero
BEULAH 1PD89 [130:49] – from iTunes or 7digital.com (mp3)

Much as I enjoy the Rudolf Kempe recording in German (EMI/Warner) and the Charles Mackerras in English (Chandos), there’s always something missing in an opera performed in anything other than the original language even if, as in this case, I don’t understand it.

Originally released on 3 LPs in mono and stereo in 1960, the Chalabala is a classic. With the Supraphon 2-CD set no longer available in the UK, replaced by the Košler and Vogel versions, and as the Beulah is at the bargain price of £7.99 from iTunes or £7.49 from 7digital.com*, this is a self-recommending reissue. The refurbished recording has come up sounding well and there’s no trace of the snap, crackle and pop for which Supraphon LPs were notorious, so all that’s missing is the libretto; that can be found in Czech here and the Chandos English translation is available free here. I’ve already praised the recording of the Overture, also available separately – 1BX289: DL News 2013/18 – and I enjoyed the complete performance just as much. A small point – the recording was made in 1959, not 1961 as Beulah state and as I said in reviewing the Overture.

If you must have a more recent recording in CD quality or better, you won’t go wrong with the recent Harmonia Mundi, which Leslie Wright rightly thought a fine addition to the Bartered Bride discography – review.

One thing to consider in connection with the eclassical.com download: at $24.47 the mp3 and 16-bit downloads are competitive with the CDs, typically around £30 though you may find them for less, but the 24-bit adds quite a hefty surcharge to $36.71.

* the 7digital.com version is at the full 320kb/s bit-rate.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Complete Symphonies
Symphony no. 1 in c minor Op. 68 [43:52]
Symphony no. 3 in F Op. 90 [34:21]
Symphony no. 2 in D Op. 73 [40:12]
Symphony no. 4 in e minor Op. 98 [37:57]
Revised opening Symphony No 4, 1st movement [0:46]
Tragic Overture Op. 81 [12:45]
Intermezzo Op. 116/4, arranged by Paul Klengel [4:41]
Intermezzo Op. 117/1, arranged by Paul Klengel [4:48]
Variations on a theme by Joseph Haydn (St Antoni) Op. 56a [16:45]
Liebesliederwalzer Op. 52 & 65 [12:56]
Symphony no. 1 – Andante (original first performance version) [8:22]
Academic Festival Overture Op. 80 [9:23]
Hungarian Dance No. 1 [2:53]
Hungarian Dance No. 3 [2:08]
Hungarian Dance No. 10 [1:53]
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
Pdf booklet included
DECCA 4785344 [3 CDs 78:13 + 78:56 + 76:38] – from amazon.co.uk (mp3)

I’ve taken my time considering these recordings, having listened to them regularly since mid-October 2013, and I’m happy to say that they now take their place as my benchmark for a set of the complete symphonies, though I shall certainly supplement them with the likes of Beecham’s Second (BBC Legends) and Klemperer’s Third and (especially) Fourth (EMI now Warner).

The original Andante of the First Symphony is a valuable addition to the symphonies and overtures, but the revised opening of the Fourth is no more than a curiosity – in fact, it’s rather a nuisance to have it.

The Amazon download comes at just under 250kb/s – not ideal but sounding more than adequate – and with the advantage of the pdf booklet. Shouldn’t that be a mandatory adjunct to all downloads whatever the source?

Unless you renumber the tracks in Explorer, CD2 will play first, then CD3 and finally CD1.

Just as I had this review wrapped up, I couldn’t resist trying another new recording of the Fourth Symphony from Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken-Kaiserslautern and Stanislav Skrowaczewski (Oehms OC410 – from eclassical.com, mp3 and lossless or stream from Naxos Music Library, both with pdf booklet). Recorded in 2011, when the conductor was 88, this is another benchmark recording, every bit as good as I remember a budget-price Pickwick/IMP recording which he made with the Hallé when he was a mere septuagenarian and sounding very well in lossless garb. At 41:36, with no filler, it’s very short value on CD but the eclassical.com per-second pricing policy brings it down to a very reasonable $7.48.

Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
String Quartet No.12 in F, Op.96, B179 (American) [26:37]
String Quintet in E-flat, Op.97, B180 [32:25]
Talich Quartet with Jiri Žigmund (viola) in Op.97 – rec? DDD?
LA DOLCE VOLTA LDV254 [59:02] – from emusic.com (mp3 and lossless)

There’s a very good budget-price Warner Apex coupling of Op.96 and Op.97 from the Keller Quartet – review – but the Talich Quartet have the music even more in the blood and, at eclassical.com prices as a download, are not vastly more expensive. Despite the claim on the eclassical.com website that the tempi are marginally faster than usual, the Talich Quartet are slightly slower overall than the Kellers but not to the extent that they sound in any way sluggish – just the opposite: there’s plenty of life in these performances and I’d rank this version of Op.96 with the very best.

The String Quintet, the second which Dvořák composed, is far less often recorded than the Quartet. It, too, receives a fine performance. Here the tempi are a shade faster than on other recordings that I know, such as the Melos Quartet on a 2-CD Harmonia Mundi set of Dvořák chamber music which you can try from Naxos Music Library. Unfortunately, their partners at classicsonline.com have decided to charge for the download as for two CDs when the discs were issued as a 2-for-1 set.

There’s no booklet, so I’m not sure of the provenance of these recordings – presumably from Calliope CAL9331, released in 2003. The recordings both sound fine, especially in lossless format. That CD and the Calliope box set from 2004 seems to have been deleted, so this is the only way to obtain these performances.

Op.96 and Op.97 make a good, logical coupling, but so does the Nimbus Alliance arrangement of pairing Op.96 with its immediate predecessor, Quartet No.11, Op.61, a recording by the Wihan Quartet which I enjoyed (NI6114review). So, too, does the Pavel Haas Quartet’s pairing of Op.96 with its successor, Quartet No.13, Op.106, on Supraphon SU4038-2: Jonathan Woolf liked this rather less than Brian Reinhart – review and review: Recording of the Month. See also November 2011/2 DL Roundup.

Surprisingly, La Dolce Volta offer another (apparently different) Talich Quartet recording of the Op.97 Quintet, this time coupled with the Piano Quintet No.2 in A, Op.81 (LDV261 [65:29]). The cover wrongly labels this Dvořák String Quintets, as do eclassical.com, who offer it in mp3 and lossless. Again, I’m not sure of the provenance; presumably these are the performances last seen on Calliope CAL9229, released in 1994, with Kazuko Mimura (piano) and Tasso Adamopoulous (viola). Good performances and decent recordings again, but the duplication of the String Quintet, which here sounds slightly less spontaneous than on the Op.96/97 coupling, is impractical and, in any case, you may well prefer or have already purchased the recent Hyperion Piers Lane/Goldner Quartet coupling of the first and second Piano Quintets (CDA67805 - review) or the older budget-price pairing of Op.81 and Op.97 (Hyperion Helios CDH55472). If, on the other hand, you want to mix and match, both eclassical.com and hyperion-records.co.uk allow you to purchase each work separately.

Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Piano Concerto in a minor, Op.16 [30:55]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Piano Concerto No.3 in C, Op.26 [28:20]
Nikolai Lugansky (piano)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Kent Nagano – rec. February 2013. DDD
NAÏVE AMBROISIE AM210 [59:15] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library (with pdf booklet)

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Piano Concerto No.1 in D, Op.10 [15:31]
Piano Concerto No.2 in g minor, Op.16 [31:23]
Piano Concerto No.3 in C, Op.26 [27:49]
Piano Concerto No.4 in B-flat, Op.53 [23:43]
Piano Concerto No.5 in G, Op.55 [23:07]
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda –rec. June 2012 - September 2013. DDD.
Pdf booklet available
CHANDOS CHAN10802 [74:45 + 46:52] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless). Due for release on CD in February 2014 but available in advance for download.

Benchmarks (Prokofiev): Piano Concertos 1-5: CHAN8938: Boris Berman, Horacio Gutierrez; Concertgebouw/Neeme Järvi – DL News 2012/22 for this and Kempf/Litton (below)

Piano Concertos 2 and 3: BIS-SACD-1820: Freddy Kempf; Bergen PO/Andrew Litton – review.

Lugansky/Nagano : if for no other reason, this would be valuable for breaking the Grieg/Schumann yoke, but it does so at the risk of your having to duplicate either or both of these concertos.

Don’t choose this recording if you like your Grieg powerful and feisty – Lugansky brings out the poetry rather than the drama and for that reason I rate him rather lower than Clifford Curzon, still my ideal version for bringing out both the lyrical and dramatic aspects of the music. (With LSO/Fistoulari in mono on Beulah 6-8BX7October 2011/1 Roundup or with LSO/Fjeldstad on London, with Peer Gynt suites, from 7digital.com (mp3). Both versions are available on the 23-CD set of Curzon’s recordings, Decca 4784389). The new Ambroisie recording didn’t really click for me until the finale and even there I wanted the music to move on more at times. I see that Michael Cookson was of similar mind – review.

All concerned sound much more at home in a glorious free-wheeling performance of the Prokofiev. Now may we have the other concertos from this team, please?

The lossless download sounds excellent; I just wish that I could like the rather languid Grieg more, though I should add in all fairness that this was an Editor’s Choice elsewhere, so I strongly recommend trying it for yourself from Naxos Music Library where you’ll also find the booklet that eclassical.com don’t give you.

Bavouzet/Noseda : Chandos compete here with their own earlier recording, listed as one of my benchmarks and available as a very attractive 2-for-1 bargain. The opening of No.3 sounds a tad less lively than on Ambroisie, yet, surprisingly – at 9:18 – Bavouzet and Noseda are a shade faster than Lugansky and Nagano’s 9:33 or Kempf and Litton’s 9:37, reminding us that the stopwatch is an imperfect guide in these matters. Gutierrez and Järvi are fastest in this movement, at 8:59: perhaps the opening andante is a little less magical in this version, but overall I enjoyed the performance.

I don’t want to exaggerate the differences: each of these recordings sounds fine in its own context and the earlier Chandos offers an excellent version for bargain-hunters, as also does the Naxos recording from Kun Woo Paik and Antoni Wit which I’ve owned on CD for many years (Nos. 1, 3 and 4,8.550566 – download in mp3, with pdf booklet, from classicsonline.com for £4.99 or stream from Naxos Music Library).

Better still by a small margin are Martha Argerich and Charles Dutoit in Concertos 1 and 3 plus Bartók Concerto No.3, on Warner (ex EMI 2285312), available from 7digital.com for just £5.99. 7digital.com also have the earlier Martha Argerich recording with the BPO and Claudio Abbado on DG originals 4474382 for even less, £4.99. If I have to plump for just one versions of No.3, the DG would have to be it – the coupling of the Ravel concerto and Gaspard de la Nuit would clinch it.

The many fans of Julius Katchen and Ernest Ansermet will find their early 1950s mono recording of No.3, with Bartók Concerto No.3 on Naxos Historical9.80509 [48:57] – £2.10 from emusic.com or £1.99 from classicsonline.com (both mp3: not available in the USA and some other countries). The recording has come up sounding quite well, with just a touch of rawness to betray its age.

Having listened to eight versions of No.3 without disliking any of them, I dipped in and out of comparisons for the remaining concertos – you can do that for yourself if you subscribe to Naxos Music Library once the new Chandos recording appears there.

Mp3 and 16-bit wma downloaded a treat, but, as on some previous occasions, I had a problem downloading the 24-bit using theclassicalshop.net Download Manager from Chrome – I had to try again using Internet Explorer.

Viennese Dance Music

I’m listening to and enjoying the 2014 concert with Daniel Barenboim in charge as I complete this DL News (Sony 888837922722): the least expensive download is £7.99 or $14.99 from iTunes (m4a) and sounding very well, though you should be aware that m4a is not compatible with some programmes – even the iTunes player won’t allow you to burn m4a tracks as an mp3 CD. The iTunes m4a comes at around 275kb/s; for the full 320kb/s mp3 7digital.com charge £10.49 and sainsburysentertainment.co.uk £9.99. The 2-CD set and DVD are selling for around £14 and the blu-ray for a little more.

Enjoyable as the annual VPO concerts are, however, it’s smaller ensembles that I enjoy most in this music and none more than the Boskovsky Ensemble whose Vanguard recordings, made at the same time in the early 1960s that Willi Boskovsky was concert master of the VPO and directed the New Year Concerts for many years. These recordings have been out of the catalogue for too long – fortunately I snapped them up when they were last available on Vanguard CDs – and now they are beginning to return from Musical Concepts Alto at budget price.

A few dances from the Boskovsky Ensemble appeared as very welcome fillers to an Alto reissue of the Schubert Octet (ALC1227review) and now a whole album of Dances from Old Vienna has appeared (ALC1237), 78 minutes of sheer delight from the Strauss family, mostly Johann Senior, Lanner, Haydn, Schubert and others. I haven’t yet located a download source for either of these albums but the CDs are very inexpensive – £5.99 each from MusicWeb International post free. Look out for my full review on the main MusicWeb International pages: Recording of the Month.

If it’s the music of Johann Strauss I that you’re seeking, let me remind you that Marco Polo are now up to Volume 25 of their complete series, 8.225345 – from eclassical.com in mp3 or lossless, with pdf booklet. The contents, none of them well known, are:

Die Friedensboten , Walzer, Op. 241 [8:44]
Soldaten-Lieder , Walzer, Op. 242 [8:48]
Almacks-Quadrille , Op. 243 [5:18]
Jellacic-Marsch , Op. 244 [3:45]
Wiener-Jubel-Marsch , Op. 245 [4:32]
Wiener Stadt-Garde-Marsch , Op. 246 [3:05]
Deutsche Jubellaute , Walzer, Op. 247 [7:20]
Quadrille ohne Titel , Op. 248 [5:07]
Exeter-Polka , Op. 249 [1:56]
Radetsky-Bankett-Marsch (Fragment) [1:04]

The Slovak Sinfonietta and Christian Pollack may not be the best-known names in the business but they can be relied on for idiomatic performances, as on earlier volumes – review of Vol. 24. The playing time (49:39) is short but that’s taken care of in the eclassical.com price of $8.94. Volume 24 (8.225344) has not yet appeared in lossless sound but may be downloaded in mp3 from classicsonline.com with pdf booklet or, if you can put up with a lower bit-rate, less expensively from emusic.com. Both recent volumes can be streamed from Naxos Music Library (with booklet).

Returning to small-scale performances, there are two on Naxos that are well worth considering. Dance Music from Old Vienna (8.555689 – from classicsonline.com, mp3) is performed by the Vienna Dance Quartet while there’s a slightly fuller sound on Music from Old Vienna performed by Thalia-Schrammeln ( 8.550228 – from classicsonline.com). Both come with pdf booklet and both can be streamed from Naxos Music Library.

There’s only one Strauss work (from Johann II) on the second album, where most of the music is by violinist brothers Johann and Josef Schrammel, whose ensemble with a guitar and clarinet is depicted on the CD cover.

From the New Year’s Concert itself, one of the greatest surprises was what a success stern period-instrument specialist Nikolaus Harnoncourt made of his outing with the VPO in 2001, preserved for posterity by his label, Teldec, now part of the Warner Empire and available from classicsonline.com or for streaming from Naxos Music Library: 96 minutes of fine music-making, including often severely truncated applause, for just £5.49. That programme is no longer available on CD, though his repeat performance in 2003 is still to be had as an import (DG E4742502) and on DVD (TDK and Arthaus).

It’s necessary to go a little further back for the classic New Year’s Concerts of recent times, to 1989 and 1992 when Carlos Kleiber took the rostrum and 1987 when Herbert von Karajan did the honours; both these great conductors reminded us what consummate music the Strauss family produced and how well it can sound in the right hands. Kleiber 1989 is due for reissue on mp3 on 6 January 2014 by amazon.co.uk; 75 minutes of his 1992 concert can be streamed from Naxos Music Library or downloaded in mp3 from 7digital.com , while 68 minutes of the Karajan are available in mp3 or lossless from prestoclassical.co.uk (DG Grand Prix 4776336). Large chunks of Karajan 1987 are included on an inexpensive 2-CD set with items conducted by Abbado, Boskovsky, Krauss, etc. – from 7digital.com .

For the 2014 concert Daniel Barenboim has included a good deal of the music of Josef Strauss. I’m far from alone in thinking his music a degree more thoughtful than that of his father or brothers. Marco Polo have recorded 26 volumes of his music and the place to start is with a single-CD distillation of the best of these on Naxos (8.556846review: from classicsonline.com, mp3, with pdf booklet).

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No.4 in G* [52:51]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Parsifal : Prelude [14:20]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Ruy Blas Overture, Op.95** [7:08]
Jean Alexander (soprano)*
BBC Symphony Orchestra; London Symphony Orchestra**/Rudolf Kempe
– rec. 1957 (Mahler), 1965 (Wagner), 1967 (Mendelssohn) ADD/mono
Pdf booklet included
ICA CLASSICS ICACD5117 [74:20] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)

Rudolf Kempe is not a name that I associate with Mahler. There are still plenty of his recordings of Richard Strauss in the catalogue plus some Wagner and Smetana – the best non-Czech Bartered Bride available – but I’d forgotten his BBC Legends recording of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Janet Baker (BBCL41292, now download only, from classicsonline.com, mp3, or stream from Naxos Music Library) and the earlier budget-price Archipel release of his recording of the Mahler Fifth (ARPCD0519). Both of those received warmer welcomes than his BBC Legends recording of the First and Second Symphonies. This Fourth comes somewhere between the two – stylish, idiomatic and a safe choice but not a replacement for Szell on CBS or Sony. That’s still my top recommendation if you can find a copy; there’s an HDTT transfer but it tried too hard for Dan Morgan and myself and ended up by exposing the inherent shortcomings of the recording – Feb 2011 DL Roundup. Jean Alexander on ICA is an attractive soloist but her voice is a little too mature-sounding for the words which she has to sing.

I’m still looking for an ideal Mahler Fourth in a modern recording – you’ll see that I had reservations about Iván Fischer on Challenge Classics CCSA26109, a version much liked by many, including our own Leslie Wright (Recording of the Month), but withrubato sounding too purposeful for me, and even stronger reservations about Lorin Maazel on the NYPO’s own label – July 2010 DL Roundup.

In 1957 – and even in 1965 – the BBC was still stuck in deepest mono but, that apart, the ICA recordings have come up sounding well, if a little raw and congested at climaxes and with the merest hint of wow in the sustained chords at the end of the third movement.

Gustav MAHLER Symphony No.6 (Tragic)
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jonathan Nott
Pdf booklet included
TUDOR 7191 [80:21] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Symphony No.8 (Symphony of a Thousand)
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jonathan Nott
Pdf booklet included
TUDOR 7192 [78:38] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Opinions about these two recordings have been remarkably divided, some giving No.6 top rating and finding fault with No.8, others exactly the reverse. My own view is that both have qualities that make them well worth considering, though neither would be my top choice.

I enjoyed No.6 until, like Dan Morgan – review – I felt that the finale rather let the show down, with the hammer blows of fate not energetic enough. I’d rate this higher than Valery Gergiev’s LSO Live recording, though I enjoyed that for different reasons; it’s more ‘tragic’ than the Tudor (LSO0661 - review). George Szell’s version (Sony), still my version of choice, seems to be no longer available on CD but is still available as a download from amazon.co.uk .

Another version, from Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, on their own SFS Media label (82193600012 – rec. live, 2001, DDD/DSD [87:24]: review), is well worth considering, especially if you’re looking for a bargain: it costs just £1.68 from emusic.com and though it’s mp3 only and the bit-rate little more than the minimum 192kb/s, it sounds quite acceptable. Stream from Naxos Music Library but be aware that to purchase via the Classics Online button (at the full 320kb/s) from there costs £15.98. There’s no booklet from emusic.com but subscribers to Naxos Music Library can obtain it there. Tilson Thomas comes closer than Nott and as close as any version that I’ve heard to shaking my adherence to Szell.

On balance, Dan Morgan thought that Jonathan Nott redeemed himself in No.8 – review – but, as he noted, the rivalry here is very intense. Another reviewer thought this quite possibly the best recording of the past two decades, but yet another faulted the soloists. The singing didn’t trouble me but my benchmark remains the classic Solti version (Decca) despite the shortcomings even of the Studio Sound 24-bit refurbishment available from Linn. (UNI005, Download of the Month,March 2012/2 Roundup and March 2012/1 Roundup). I mentioned minute drop-out problems with the less expensive Decca Originals download of that recording, very good value at £4.99 from 7digital.com – the solution is to join the tracks of each of the four movements with a programme such as the free Shuangs Audio Joiner. As with his Wagner Ring cycle, everything came right for Solti on that occasion and Nott isn’t quite in the same league.

John Quinn described the 1991 Klaus Tennstedt recording of the Eighth with the LPO on their own label (LPO0052 [87:01]) as an extraordinary, visionary reading: Recording of the Monthreview. Because that’s divided into so many tracks and emusic.com charge per track, that’s less of a bargain, so this time I suggest obtaining it in full-cream 320kb/s sound from classicsonline.com (with pdf booklet). Stream from Naxos Music Library. If, however, you have some of your monthly allocation from emusic.com to use up, Tilson Thomas and the SFSO again are well worth considering at £7.14, with the Adagio from Symphony No.10 as filler. No booklet, but that can be obtained from Naxos Music Library.

Discovery of the Month
Ernst MIELCK (1877-1899) Orchestral and Choral Music
Macbeth Overture in f minor, Op. 2 [13:27]
Altböhmisches Weihnachtslied (Old Bohemian Christmas Song), Op. 5 [10:01]
Dramatic Overture in d Minor, Op. 6 [12:41]
Altgermanisches Julfest (Old Germanic Yuletide Feast), Op. 7 [9:29]
Suomalainen sarja (Finnish Suite) in d minor, Op. 10 [15:50]
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0174 [61:28] – from toccataclassics.com or eclassical.com (both mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Try listening to this as an ‘innocent ear’ test. If you guess Mendelssohn or Bruch, you won’t be far wrong, as Mielck studied with the latter in Berlin. A musically precocious but otherwise somewhat autistic young man from a Finnish family of Swedish and German ancestry, everything you hear had been written by the age of 21 – he died of tuberculosis on his 22nd birthday.

The Dramatic Overture (track 3) is exactly what it says on the tin – dramatic – as is the opening Macbeth Overture. Anglophone listeners are hardly likely to recognise the traditional music which inspired the Old Bohemian Christmas Song or the Old Germanic Yuletide Feast, tracks 2 and 4, but these works are also attractive, as is the Finnish Suite which rounds off the programme. Without any benchmark, I can only say that the performances sound as if they do justice to the music.

The lossless download is very good, with the eclassical.com price – the same for mp3 and lossless – slightly more expensive than Toccata’s own for the mp3 and slightly less than their price for the lossless download.

The Ondine recording of the Fairy Tale Symphony, Op.4 and Konzertstück, Op.8 (ODE1019-2) is entirely complementary to the Toccata album. The performances by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo and John Storgårds make that worth having, too – download from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library, both with pdf booklet.

Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Symphony in c sharp minor [54:38]
Poems of the Sea [13:35]
London Symphony Orchestra/Dalia Atlas – rec. November 2011. DDD
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.573241 [68:23] – from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Within the Naxos ‘family’ there’s an earlier Marco Polo recording of the symphony and at first I thought this was a reissue of it, but in fact it’s a completely new recording of a work that I hadn’t heard before – apart from the usual favourites such as Schelomo and Baal Shem, there isn’t much of Bloch’s orchestral music in the catalogue. It’s a very impressive work, mostly very powerful but with interludes of relaxation; if you like Richard Strauss, Mahler and Bruckner, you’ll probably enjoy it as much as I did.

There’s also a Marco Polo recording of the Walt Whitman texted Poems of the Sea but I see no reason to pay the higher price than for the new Naxos release. Dalia Atlas has a reputation as a leading interpreter of Bloch’s music, a reputation that stands to be enhanced by the current release.

The lossless recording is very good, apart from Naxos’s usual habit of encoding the whole album as one long track, which you need a special programme to untangle. No-one else yet offers a lossless alternative – watch out for theclassicalshop.net or eclassical.com to do so – so at present it’s the awkward COL download or buy the CD.

The BIS alternatives of these two works which Paul Corfield Godfrey mentions in his review of the Naxos are available in mp3 and lossless sound from eclassical.com: the Symphony with Schelomo on BIS-CD-576 and Poems with Violin Concerto on BIS-CD-639. Compare the Marco Polo, BIS and Naxos recording from Naxos Music Library.

Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) Piano Quintet in d minor, H49a (1904-5: rev.1912) [29:25]
Cyril SCOTT (1879-1970) Piano Quintet No.1 (1924) [37:37]
Raphael Terroni (piano); Bingham String Quartet (Steve Bingham (violin), Mark Messenger (violin), Brenda Stewart (viola), Miriam Lowbury (cello)) – rec.1989. DDD.
BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY BMS442CD [67:02] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, no booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library (with booklet)

John France made this A Recording of the Monthreview – and Michael Cookson was also enthusiastic – review – so there’s little to add except that the recording, originally issued on cassette, has been refurbished and sounds very well indeed in the lossless download.

The CD came out almost a year ago – buy for £12 post-paid from Musicweb International (here) – but it has been worth waiting for the lossless download; it’s one of several that eclassical.com have just released which, I hope, means that they will be catching up with the backlog of recordings from this label. Please may we have the pdf booklet in future – it’s available from Naxos Music Library for subscribers, but that’s not the point.

There are other recordings of the Bridge but this is the only version of the Scott in the current catalogue.

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Violin Concerto in D (1931) [20:40]
Cadenza (by Patricia Kopatchinskaja) [2:53]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Violin Concerto No.2 in g minor (1935) [27:32]
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski – rec. May 2013. DDD.
NAIVE V5352 [50:53] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Gwyn Parry-Jones (Recording of the Monthreview) and others have already praised this so highly as to make me wonder what I was missing when I first noticed it and passed it over for other recordings. After all, I already have Kyung-Wha Chung with André Previn (Decca 450032, mid-price: download from amazon.co.uk , mp3), who also offer the other Prokofiev concerto, surely still unassailable in these concertos. Well, I was wrong: the only reservation that prevents me from placing the new recording alongside Chung and Previn at the top of the tree is the omission of the Prokofiev Concerto No.1 and the resulting short playing time – taken care of by eclassical.com’s per-second pricing policy which reduces the price to $9.20. There’s no booklet but subscribers can obtain that from Naxos Music Library.

Even fans of Chung and Previn or other prized combinations in these two works should add this recording to their collection, though I wasn’t convinced by the cadenza, specially composed by the soloists for a concerto which Stravinsky deliberately left without cadenza.

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Les Noces and other Russian Choral Music
Traditional Five Bridal Folk Songs from the Voronezh District [9:32]
The Voronezh Chamber Choir (Institute of the Arts)/Oleg Shepel
Igor STRAVINSKY Svadebka / Les Noces (The Wedding) (1923) [23:37]
Jane Ginsborg (soprano); Elena Medvedovskaya (alto); John Potter (tenor); Alexander Nazarov (bass)
Andrew Ball, Julian Jacobson, Clive Williamson, Paul Webster (pianos); David Corkhill, Martin Allen, Richard Benjafield, Julian Poole, Christopher Wells, Graham Cole (percussion)
New London Chamber Choir and the Voronezh Chamber Choir/James Wood
Podblyudnye (Four Russian Peasant Songs) (1914/17 versions) [2:53]
Women’s voices of the New London Chamber Choir and the the Voronezh Chamber Choir/James Wood
Podblyudnye (Four Russian Peasant Songs) (1954 versions) [4:11]
Brendan Thomas, Joanna Hensel, Robert Stroh, Lynn Jarman (horns)
Otshe Nash (Our Father) (1926) (Slavonic version) [1:57]
Bogoroditse Devo (Ave Maria) (1934) (Slavonic version) [1:02]
Simvol Very (Creed) (1964) (Slavonic version) [2:18]
The Voronezh Chamber Choir/Oleg Shepel
Carlo GESULADO (c1561-1613) Tres Sacræ Cantiones (arr. Stravinsky, 1957 and 1959) [9:43]
Igor STRAVINSKY The dove descending breaks the air (1962) [2:42]
New London Chamber Choir/James Wood
Introitus : T S Eliot in memoriam (1965) [5:17]
Andrew Ball (piano); Yuko Inoue (viola);Duncan McTier (double bass); Rachel Masters (harp); David Corkhill and Julian Poole (timpani); Martin Allen and Richard Benjafield (tam-tams)
Men’s voices of the New London Chamber Choir/James Wood - rec October 1990. DDD.
Pdf booklet with transliterated texts and translations included
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55467 [63:12] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)

When it was released this was the only version of Les Noces to be sung in Russian by a Russian choir; now it competes in both respects with a more recent recording conducted by Valery Gergiev on the Mariinsky label (SACD, with Œdipus Rex, MAR0510), which I haven’t heard but which has received favourable reviews. That’s at full price whereas the Hyperion reissue is on the budget Helios label.

Though initially conceived as early as 1912, Les Noces was not completed until 1923 and it bears clear marks of the composer’s attempts to recapture some of the mood of the Rite of Spring – not entirely successfully for me; it remains a very interesting failure, even judged by the high standards of Ernest Ansermet’s Decca recording which was my introduction to the work on LP (2 mid-price CDs, E4434672, with Petrushka, Rite and Firebird – downloads are likely to be as expensive or more than the CDs). If neither Ansermet nor Robert Craft (Naxos, with Œdipus Rexreview and review: stream from Naxos Music Library) could quite persuade me, nor could James Wood, but he comes as close as those other two recordings to capturing the sheer energy of the music.

Where the Hyperion remains unique is the other Russian-texted music included here. If the programme appeals, this, too is well performed and recorded and the booklet is up to the usual Hyperion standards.

Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Country Gardens and Other Favourites (versions for orchestra)
Country Gardens [2:15]
Shepherd’s Hey [2:09]
Colonial Song [6:07]
Children’s March ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ [4:15]
The Immovable Do (The Cyphering C) [4:29]
Mock Morris [3:39]
Handel in the Strand [4:21]
Irish Tune from County Derry (‘Danny Boy’) [3:37]
Spoon River [4:06]
My Robin is to the Greenwood Gone [4:12]
Molly on the Shore [4:21]
Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra/Frederick Fennell – rec. 1959. ADD/stereo
NAXOS CLASSICAL ARCHIVES 9.80593 [43:31] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library (not available in the USA and some other countries)

This download makes a fine supplement to the Fennell recording of Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy and music by other composers on Decca Eloquence 4802089, which I reviewed some time ago, also to the various Eastman/Fennell recordings which Beulah have reissued and which I reviewed in earlier editions of DL News.

If you’re looking for a wide variety of Grainger’s music, you need to turn to Chandos’s series of recordings with Richard Hickox – there’s a budget-price introductory album to the series, CHAN2029,Bargain of the Month from theclassicalshop.net, mp3 and lossless – but this Mercury-derived selection is well worth the £1.99 it costs from classicsonline.com or $7.83 for the lossless version from eclassical.com and there are only a few overlaps with the Chandos sampler.

Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950)
Overture for a Masque (1944) [9:27]
In the Mountain Country (1921) [6:24]
Rhapsody No. 1 in F (1922) [11:26]
Rhapsody No. 2 in E (1924/41) [12:17]
Rhapsody in F sharp (1943)* [1 7:32]
Benjamin Frith (piano)*
Ulster Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta - rec. September, 2012
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.573106 [57:06] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) eclassical.com (mp3 or lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Little-known but attractively tuneful Moeran works, idiomatically performed and well recorded and at budget price – what’s not to like here on an album which significantly increased my exposure to the music of a composer whose works I long ago decided was on my wavelength?

At the time of writing the classicsonline.com version was in mp3 only; the eclassical.com, which appeared earlier, is in mp3 and lossless but at a higher price even than the CD.

There’s just one small reservation – or, rather, two – in that the new release cuts across earlier strong recommendations:

  • LYRITA SCRD.247 : Overture for a Masque, Sinfonietta, Symphony in g minor. London Philharmonic Orchestra, New Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult. Recording of the Month review and review. Download from emusic.com (mp3)

  • CHAN10235X (lower mid-price): Serenade in G, In the Mountain Country, Rhapsody No. 1, Rhapsody No. 2, Nocturne. Hugh Mackey, Renaissance Singers, Ronnie Lee, Richard Howarth, Ulster Orchestra, Vernon Handley. Review . Download from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

  • CHAN10169X (lower mid-price): Symphony in g minor, Overture for a Masque, Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra. Margaret Fingerhut, Ulster Orchestra, Richard Howarth, Vernon Handley. Review. Download from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
The Execution of Stepan Razin, Op. 119 (1964) [25:34]
Zoya Suite, Op. 64a (1944) (arr. for orchestra by Lev Atovmyan) [28:57]
Suite on Finnish Themes (1939) [11:15]
Tuomas Katajala (tenor); Mari Palo (soprano); Shenyang (bass-baritone)
State Choir ‘Latvija’; Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy – rec. March 2013. DDD
pdf with texts and translations included
ONDINE ODE1225-2 [65:37] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Dan Morgan had no doubts: ‘This is a very worthwhile disc; it has everything - a strong Stepan Razin, a rafter-rattling Zoya and a frothy little Finnish finale’ – review. I haven’t heard the classic Kondrashin account of Razin (in an 11-CD Melodiya set) but this performance certainly matches the old Philips Herbert Kegel recording from East Germany, now embedded in a 9-CD Decca box set. The Zoya music was new to me and I didn’t expect much – I got much more than I expected, which added to my enjoyment of this recording.

The lossless version from eclassical.com is hors de combat at the moment owing to a technical fault, but the classicsonline.com mp3 sounds fine.

There are two alternatives for Stepan Razin that don’t involve multi-disc sets:

CHANDOS CHAN9813 : Anatoly Lochak (bass); Russian State Capella and Symphony Orchestra/Valeri Polyansky (with Symphony No.6) – rec.1999 [58:52] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless; pdf booklet available)

Lochak’s voice may be too vibrato-laden for Dan Morgan’s liking, but this is a powerful performance.

There’s a lot to be said for having an all-Russian team and if you don’t yet have a version of the Sixth Symphony, a short work too easily overlooked, this is well worth considering – review.


NAXOS 8.557812 : Charles Robert Austin (bass-baritone); Seattle Symphony Chorale and Orchestra/Gerald Schwarz (with October and Five Fragments) – rec. 2000. DDD. [52:22] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library, both with pdf booklet.

Another version well worth considering – review. This time the fillers are of minor importance but offset that against the inexpensive price of the recording, just £4.99 as a download.

All three of the above can be streamed for your own comparison from Naxos Music Library.


Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
The Fall of Berlin , complete score, Op. 82 (1949). Premiere recording. [45:26]
The Unforgettable Year 1919 , Suite, Op.89a (1951). First complete recording. [29:49]
Ellena Alekseyeva (piano)
Moscow Capella and Youth Chorus
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Adriano – rec. Mosfilm Studios, Moscow, March 2000. DDD
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS FILM MUSIC CLASSICS 8.570238 (from MARCO POLO 8.223897) [75:15] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Marco Polo version from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)

Thinking that a film score about the fall of Berlin had to be hack music, I had steered clear of this. I was wrong: it’s not exactly vintage Shostakovich and the ‘Classics’ in the title of the label is an overstatement, but it has much to recommend it, as you can see from our three MusicWeb International reviews of the Marco Polo original release – review,review, review.

The 7-minute mini-masterpiece piano concerto The Assault on Beautiful Gorky, from The Year 1919 is well known, especially from a splendid, nay essential, Classics for Pleasure bargain recording (Dmitri Alexeev, piano, 3822342 – download for £3.99 from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk ) where it’s coupled with the two Piano Concertos. This version is not quite so captivating, but it’s presented here in the context of music from the whole film.

The eclassical.com download of the Marco Polo is the only show in town for lossless sound but it’s seriously over-priced at $13.55 when the Naxos CD can be had for around £6 and the classicsonline.com download, albeit mp3 only, for £4.99.

Mention of the two Piano Concertos reminds me that in his 2012 Recordings of the Year Brian Reinhart regretted that the 2011 Alexander Melnikov/Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Teodor Currentzis recording, with Isabelle Faust in the Violin Sonata (Harmonia Mundi HMC902104 [73:56]) had not made it for review to MusicWeb International. Eclassical.com offer that recording in mp3 and 16-bit lossless and for a little extra in 24-bit, complete with pdf booklet. It’s also available for streaming, again with booklet, from Naxos Music Library. It hasn’t ousted the Classics for Pleasure recording from my top spot but it runs it very close.

Xavier MONTSALVATGE (1912–2002)
Folia daliniana (1995) [14:07]
Madrigal sobre un tema popular (El cant dels ocells) (1991)* [5:15]
Concertino 1+13 (1975)** [12:15]
Serenata a Lydia de Cadaqués (1970) [9:33]
Cinco invocaciones al Crucificado (1969)* [21:16]
Sasha Cooke (mezzo)*, Tim Fain (violin)**
Perspectives Ensemble (Sato Moughalian (Artistic Director, flute), Wendy Sutter (cello2), Blair McMillen (piano), James Austin Smith (oboe), Todd Palmer (clarinet), Monica Ellis (bassoon))/Angel Gil-Ordóñez – rec. September 2012. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included (except No.3 of cinco invocaciones)
NAXOS 8.573101 [62:36] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Xavier Montsalvatge was one of the most important Spanish (specifically Catalan) composers of the 20th century but he hasn’t received the degree of recognition to which he should have been entitled. Apart from hearing some of his music many years ago as part of a BBC Radio 3 initiative Raïces Ibericas, my knowledge of his music has been woefully limited. I’m pleased to see that Naxos are doing their bit to put matters right, with six recordings of his music to date, all available to download or stream from COL and NML. This latest recording is as good an introduction to his music as any and it’s well performed – as far as I can judge without a benchmark for comparison – and recorded, albeit in mp3 only. Eclassical.com have it in mp3 and lossless, but costing more than the CD.

Chandos, too, have aided the Montsalvatge cause with a recording of the Simfonia da Requiem and other music, none of it duplicating the new Naxos recording. (CHAN10735, Ruby Hughes, Clara Mouriz, BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Meno – review).

David MATTHEWS (b.1943) Music for Piano
Piano Concerto, Op.111 (2009)* [18:27]
Piano Sonata, Op.47 (1989) [12:42]
Variations for Piano, Op.72 (1997) [11:52]
Two Dionysus Dithyrambs, Op.94 (2007 and 2004) [5:35]
One to Tango, Op.51d (1990, arr. 1993) [2:55]
Laura Mikkola (piano)
Orchestra Nova/George Vass – rec. in the presence of the composer, October 2012. DDD.
All first recordings
Pdf booklet included
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0166 [56:26] – from toccataclassics.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Also available on CD from MusicWeb International – here.

(see review by Gary Higginson.)

Toccata Classics have done well by the music of David Matthews, with four recordings to date, including his String Quartets Nos. 4, 6 and 10 onTOCC0058: I could have sworn that I’d reviewed the latter in a DL Roundup, but I can’t find it, so let me direct you to Hubert Culot’sreview and say that the download from tocccataclassics.com is very good.

Matthews’ music doesn’t make too many concessions to easy listening; I never found myself too far outside my comfort zone in the piano album, but you may wish to try it for yourself from Naxos Music Library.

There are also several recording of his music on Dutton Epoch, some of which I hope to explore later, and a Chandos album of The Music of Dawn and other orchestral music which I thought captivating (CHAN10487review and DL Roundup March 2009). That’s probably the best place to begin.

West Coast Left Coast
William KRAFT (b.1929) Timpani Concerto No.1 (1983) [24:15]
Leonard ROSENMANN (1924-2008) Suite from Rebel without a Cause (1955) [17:16]
John ADAMS (b.1947) The Dharma at Big Sur (2003) [28:08]
Joseph Pereira (timpani); Leila Josefowicz (electric violin)
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/John Adams – rec. live December 2009. DDD
Pdf booklet included
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON CONCERTS 4778972 [69:40] - from amazon.co.uk (mp3)

This concert, available as a download only, is rather a mixed bag: if you purchase it, as I did, for the Adams Dharma and for Rosenman’s music for the classic film Rebel without a Cause, you may well find the opening Kraft Concerto outside your comfort zone. It’s a small price to pay, however, literally, because amazon.co.uk have the whole album for £1.29, well recorded in decent mp3 (around 235kb/s) and complete with a decent set of notes. Make sure you buy the version to which I’ve given a link, as they also have precisely the same concert for £7.49. 7digital.com also offer this for £1.29, at a better bit-rate (320kb/s) but without the booklet.

The Dharma at Big Sur was commissioned and premiered by the LA Phil, so who better to perform it and who better to direct it than the composer? The work manages to combine Asian influences – especially the imitation of the sitar in Part II – and folk-fiddle techniques in an evocation of West Coast America, specifically of California, the title being derived from those Asian influences and Jack Kerouac’s novel Big Sur. I’m sold, but I’m a fan of Adams already. It won’t cost a fortune to see if you agree. Those who dislike applause should be warned that it’s rapturous and prolonged.

Adams fans will probably find another LAPO/DG Concerts release even harder to resist and it’s even less expensive: Gustavo Dudamel conducting the 2009 premiere of City Noir: 4779064 [34:39] – download for £1.19 from amazon.co.uk with pdf booklet at around 275kb/s or, at a higher bit-rate (£1.34) or in lossless sound (£1.68), also with booklet, from prestoclassical.co.uk. The music, in three sections, is effectively symphonic in conception and power, a valuable corrective if you think of Adams as an easy-going minimalist.

Also available on DVD with the Mahler First Symphony from the same inaugural concert.

Jazz Recording of the Month
New Orleans Jazz
HÄNSSLER PROFIL PH10022 [56:19] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)

If you’re looking for a single-CD distillation of New Orleans Jazz, this could well be what you need, with performers including Sidney Bechet and the New Orleans Feetwarmers, George Lewis, Sonny Boy Williamson, Fletcher Henderson and Pete Johnson. The transfers are generally very good, though some tracks display a degree of surface noise – it’s never distracting.

There’s no documentation, not even a copy of the back-cover insert but eclassical.com list the composer(s) of each track and the performers’ names are embedded in the information displayed by Winamp (download free if you don’t have it) and other players.

Jazz Bargain of the Month
Doctor Jazz
Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers
ORNITHOLOGY REC [5:19:09] – from amazon.co.uk (mp3)

I direct the attention of those looking for a little more than a single-CD to this absurdly inexpensive set of 100 Jelly Roll masterworks, opening with Doctor Jazz and Jelly Roll Blues (there’s a later version of the latter on track 35) via classics such as Grandpa’s Spells (tr.8), The Pearls (tr.11) and The Chant (tr.44) and closing with Alabama Bound and The Crave. I’m not sure how accurate is Jelly Roll’s spoken claim that Coon Blues (track 18) was the first blues ever composed in New Orleans; he knew more about the subject than I shall ever know but some of his claims, such as that of having invented jazz in 1902, were given to hyperbole.

The transfers have been well made – the sound is a little thin and there’s occasional distortion, but not at all bad considering the age of these 1920s and 1930s recordings. The surface noise has been reduced to a minimum – mostly it’s barely audible, though a few tracks are badly afflicted – without limiting the frequency range. What’s not to like for £2.99? The bad news for US readers is that I can’t find an equivalent on amazon.com, but they do have a similarly named collection (101 tracks) from Proper Box for $8.99 – here .

Freebie of the Month
London Symphony Orchestra Highlights features an hour and 41 minutes of LSO recordings on their own LSO Live label, many of them conducted by Colin Davis, almost all in the form of complete movements, in mp3 from amazon.co.uk . The shortest track, from Messiah, is 2:26 and the longest, Sarka from Má Vlast, 10:11. At present the download is free, no doubt to tempt you to purchase some or all of the parent albums.



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