DOWNLOAD NEWS 2015/1
by Brian Wilson, Dan Morgan and Geoffrey Molyneux
Reviews are by Brian Wilson unless stated otherwise.
The final DL News of 2014 was the last in the old format. Henceforth my detailed reviews will all be posted on the main pages of MusicWeb International and DL News will be limited to short links to reviews – others’ as well as mine – and an indication of where the download can be found.
The exception will be some short reviews, especially of recordings which are available as downloads only, such as Beulah Extra single releases – Beulah albums available from Amazon will appear on the main pages – and an indication of where special bargains may be found.
1865: Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War: Anonymous 4 – Harmonia Mundi
50 Years devoted to British Music: Volumes 1 and 2 – Lyrita
ADAM Giselle: Karajan – HDTT
BACH Motets: Marlow – Alto
Bells of Dawn – Russian Sacred and Folk Songs: Hvorostovsky – Ondine
BLISS A Colour Symphony; Violin Concerto: Mordkovitch/Hickox – Chandos
BOCCHERINI Cello Sonatas: Jones (+ CIRRI Sonatas) – DHM
Brian Symphonies Nos. 6 and 16: Fredman (+ COOKE) – Lyrita
BRYARS The Sinking of the Titanic: Bryars Ensemble – GB Records
CIRRI Cello Sonatas: Jones (+ BOCCHERINI) – DHM
COOKE Symphony No. 3: Braithwaite (+ BRIAN) – Lyrita
DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 8: Honeck (+JANÁCEK) – Reference Recordings
ELGAR Enigma Variations: Thomson – Chandos
- Beecham – Naxos Archives
- Monteux – Beulah Extra
- Colin Davis – LSO Live
- Andrew Davis – Signum
FINZI Dies Natalis ; Intimations of Immortality: Ainsley/Best – Hyperion Helios
JACOB Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2: Wordsworth – Lyrita
JANÁČEK Symphonic Suite Jenůfa (+ DVORÁK) – Reference Recordings
JOUBERT Concerto in Two Movements for Cello and Chamber Orchestra: Wallfisch (+ SIMPSON, WRIGHT – British Cello Concertos) – Lyrita
LYATOSHYNSKY Symphony No.4; Symphony No. 5: Kuchar – Naxos
MENDELSSOHN The Hebrides; Symphony No.3: Gardiner (+ SCHUMANN Piano Concerto) – LSO Live
MORALES etc. Christmas with the Shepherds: Marian Consort – Delphian
MOZART Horn Concertos: Eastop – Hyperion
PALESTRINA Missa Hodie Christus natus est etc.: Westminster Cathedral – Hyperion Helios
RAVEL Orchestral Works - Vol.1: Slatkin – 2xHD/Naxos
RUBBRA Symphonies Nos. 6 and 8; Soliloquy: Del Mar, Handley – Lyrita
St. Petersburg: Bartoli – Decca
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto: Pires (+ MENDELSSOHN) – LSO Live
Szenen aus Goethes Faust: Harding – BR Klassik
Szenen aus Goethes Faust: Harnoncourt – Concertgebouw
Semiramide - La Signora Regale: Arias and Scenes from Porpora to Rossini: Bonitatibus – DHM
SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Concertos: Melnikov – Harmonia Mundi
Piano Concertos; Beautiful Gorky: Alexeev – Classics for Pleasure
Symphony No.13: Petrenko – Naxos
Sibylla: Renaissance Music and New Music: Mixtura – Genuin
SIMPSON Concerto for Cello and Orchestra: Wallfisch (+ JOUBERT, etc.) – Lyrita
STRAUSS Family, etc.: New Year’s Day Concert: Mehta - Sony
STRAUSS R Four Last Songs; Ein Heldenleben: Netrebko/Barenboim – DG
STRAVINSKY Le Sacre du Printemps; Pétrouchka: Roth – Actes Musicales
Concerto for Piano and Wind Orchestra; Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra; Pétrouchka: Bavouzet/Tortelier – Chandos
TALLIS Ave, rosa sine spinis and other sacred music – Hyperion
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No.3; Concert Fantasia: Mewton-Wood – Naxos Archives
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Symphony No.3, Tallis Fantasia, etc: Elder – Hallé
VIVALDI Seven Concertos – Harmonia Mundi
Pietà: Sacred Works for Alto: Jaroussky – Erato
WRIGHT Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra: Wallfisch (+ JOUBERT, etc.) – Lyrita
It may seem too late for me to recommend a recording entitled Christmas with the Shepherds, but the main work here, Cristóbal MORALES (c.1505-1553) Missa Quæramus cum pastoribus – based on a motet of that title by Jean MOUTON (before 1459-1522), also included – is beautiful music suitable for any time of the year. The performances by the Marian Consort – hailed as the latest bright young things from Oxford to follow in the steps of the Tallis Singers – are every bit as fine and the recording overall as outstanding as John Quinn said in his review. The least expensive download comes from emusic.com, but at around 225kb/s the bit-rate is not ideal and there is no booklet. If you sample from Qobuz you will find a link to download the album in lossless sound but still, so far as I can see, no booklet. Delphian DCD34145 [62:55]
Sibylla: Renaissance Music and New Music
Mixtura (Katharina Bäuml (shawms), Margit Kern (accordion), Kai Wessel (alto))
rec. 11-14 March 2014, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Cologne, Germany. DDD
Pdf booklet with texts included
GENUIN GEN14299 [70:57] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library.
I concluded my review of this recording by saying: I’m sorry not to be more positive about this recording. If you think you may be more sympathetic, try it first from Naxos Music Library if you can, or sample from Qobuz.
Those seeking Lasso’s Prophetiae Sibyllarum would be better advised to turn to The Brabant Ensemble on Hyperion CDA67887 – review – DL News August 2011/2 – or The Hilliard Ensemble on ECM 4538412, on both of which the music is coupled with other works by Lasso. I had to turn to the Hyperion recording for solace after listening to the Genuin.
Thomas TALLIS (c1505–1585) Ave, rosa sine spinis and other sacred music
O salutaris hostia [3:11]
Wipe away my sins [5:48]
Why fum’th in fight (No.3 of Nine Psalm Tunes) [3:54]
Ave, rosa sine spinis [10:49]
Blessed be thy name [2:30]
Te lucis ante terminum I [2:06]
In manus tuas, Domine [2:14]
Te lucis ante terminum II [1:44]
Salvator mundi II [2:55]
O come in one to praise the Lord (No.4 of Nine Psalm Tunes) [4:15]
When Jesus went into Simon the Pharisee’s house [2:46]
Euge cæli porta [1:42]
Mass for four voices [25:31]
Laudate Dominum [3:54]
Miserere nostri [2:24]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
rec. Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, West Sussex, UK, 11-13 November 2013. DDD
Booklet includes texts and translations
HYPERION CDA68076 [73:50] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)
Even if you already have the complete Signum/Brilliant Classics set or many of the individual CDs from it, the new Hyperion and its three predecessors should be on your wish list. The four volumes issued to date cover almost half of Tallis’s extant output. Roll on the rest. Please see my review, based on the CD and download.
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594)
Alma redemptoris mater I [4:15]
Canite tuba [6:38]
Deus tu conversus [5:30]
Hodie Christus natus est [2:23]
Missa Hodie Christus natus est [25:55]
O magnum mysterium [6:50]
Tui sunt cæli [2:45]
O admirabile commercium [3:28]
Christe redemptor omnium [7:54]
Magnificat primi toni [14:37]
The Choir of Westminster Cathedral/Martin Baker
rec. Westminster Cathedral, 10-13 February 2003. DDD
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55367 [78:20] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet)
I praised this in its full-price original garb and as reissued at super-budget-price – December 2009 and2014/13 – and Simon Thompson has also reviewed the reissue. Only the title seems to have been changed – it was originally billed as Music for Advent and Christmas. The high quality of performance, recording and presentation remains the same. If you missed the boat for Christmas, not to worry: this is well worth hearing at any time of year which is, perhaps, why Hyperion changed the title.
Quite some time ago I praised a Harmonia Mundi super-budget-price recording of Seven Concertos by Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) performed by Marion Verbrüggen, Paul Goodwin, John Holloway, Dennis Godburn, John Toll and Sebastian Gombert on their Classical Express series (HCX3957046) – review. In common with the rest of that series it has been deleted on disc and doesn’t seem to have reappeared on their Musique d’Abord or HM Gold series, so the purchase links that I gave no longer apply, but it remains available as a download from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, no booklet). At $11.69 it’s now slightly more expensive than it was on CD but that doesn’t diminish the quality of the performances.
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Pietà: Sacred Works for Alto
Claræ stellæ, scintillate, RV625 (1715) [10:44]
Stabat Mater, RV621 (1712) [19:45]
Filiæ mæstæ Jerusalem, RV638 (1715) [9:26]
Concerto for strings and continuo in c minor, RV120 (1727-1730) [5:19]
Gloria, RV589: Domine Deus [3:49]
Longe mala, umbrae, terrores, RV629 (before 1739) [15:23]
Salve Regina, RV618 (before 1742) [13:52]
Philippe Jaroussky (counter-tenor and direction)
rec. 20-28 March 2014, Paroisse Notre-Dame de Liban, Paris. DDD.
Booklet includes texts and translations.
Bonus DVD included: highlights filmed during the recording and interviews
ERATO 2564625810 [78:31]
Please see my review of the CD/DVD set. Stream and/or download from Qobuz. (But NB, you may well find the physical discs for around the same price or slightly less.)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Motets, BWV225-230
Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf, BWV226 [7:24]
Komm, Jesu, komm! BWV229 [9:17]
Jesu, meine Freude, BWV227 [20:34]
Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir, BWV228 [8:23]
Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV230 [6:13]
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV225 [13:34]
Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Richard Marlow
rec. Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, 7-10 January 1988. DDD
ALTO ALC1271 [65:36]
I’ve included this as a reminder that the budget-price CD is well worth considering – review. I can’t recommend downloading, as you are likely to find the disc for less: Amazon UK £6.98, with free delivery, download from the same source, without the booklet, £7.49. If that’s logical, I must be dementing.
Semiramide - La Signora Regale
Arias and Scenes from Porpora to Rossini
Anna Bonitatibus (mezzo)
Accademia degli Astrusi; La Stagione Armonica/Federico Ferri
rec. 19-22 and 25-29 November 2013, Teatro Consorziale, Budrio-BO, Italy. DDD
Texts and translations included
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 88725479862 [44:14 + 53:21]
This concept album raised Anna Bonitatibus even higher in my estimation. The concept in question is the operatic treatment of the semi-legendary Queen Semiramis from 1724 to 1828, all superbly presented.
Full details in my review.
Stream and download from Qobuz (16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet)
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Cello Sonata No.1 in A, G13* [12:35]
Cello Sonata No.6 in A, G4* [16:10]
Cello Sonata No.2 in C, G2* [15:43]
Giovanni Battista CIRRI (1724-1808)
Cello Sonata in g minor, Op.15/5 [12:16]
Cello Sonata in F, Op.15/3 [10:48]
Cello Sonata in A, Op.15/4 [10:15]
Catherine Jones (cello by Robert Thompson, London, 1752)
Alison McGilvray (cello from workshop of Norman and Cross, 1715)
Giulia Nuti (harpsichord)
William Carter (archlute and baroque guitar)
* cadenzas by Catherine Jones
rec. 12-14 November 2013, Villa San Franco, Lonigo, Italy. DDD
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 88875013182 [77:49]
Excerpt on YouTube or Vimeo.
Please see my full review.
With the CD hard to come by – it’s an import only from Amazon in the UK and US and other dealers don’t stock it – the availability of this as a download becomes more important than usual.
Stream or download in 16- or 24-bit lossless from Qobuz (with booklet) or in mp3 from Amazon UK (no booklet).
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Horn Concerto No.2 in E flat, K417 (1783) [14:59]
Horn Concerto No.4 in E flat, K495 (1786) [16:39]
Horn Concerto No.3 in E flat, K447 (1787) [15:17]
Horn Concerto No.1 in D, K412 (K386b) (1791) (completed Anthony Halstead) [8:59]
Horn Quintet in E flat, K407 (K386c) (1782) [16:50]
Pip Eastop (natural horn)
The Hanover Band/Anthony Halstead
Eroica Quartet (Peter Hanson (violin); Vicci Wardman, Ian Rathbone (viola); David Watkin (cello)
rec. St. John the Baptist, Loughton, Essex, England, 18 February 2011 (Quintet) and All Saints, East Finchley, London, 15-18 October 2013 (Concertos). DDD
HYPERION CDA68097 [72:44] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).
Dennis Brain’s recording will always form part of my Mozart listening schedule and I shan’t throw out the super-budget-price Warner Apex with David Pyatt, the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields and Neville Marriner, which I thought the equal of anything available (2564681619 — review) but I very much enjoyed this new recording, too. Any good performance of great music brings out aspects that one hadn’t heard before; this recording made me hear more new aspects of the concertos and especially of the quintet than any other. See my full review.
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Giselle – Romantic Ballet in Two Acts (1841)
Wiener Philharmoniker/Herbert von Karajan
rec. September 1961, Sofiensaal, Vienna
Transferred from a London four-track tape
Pdf booklet included
HIGH DEFINITION TAPE TRANSFERS HDDL477 [60:12] – from HDTT (24/96, 24/192 PCM, DSD64/128)
Coincidentally the last HDTT release I reviewed was that of Jean Martinon’s marvellous set of Giselle excerpts; I was so impressed that I included it among my Recordings of the Year 2013 (review). Indeed, Bob Witrak’s transfers seldom fail to please, so when this John Culshaw/Gordon Parry/James Brown classic appeared in one of his regular newsletters I wasted no time in requesting it for review. And that in spite of my love-hate relationship with Karajan’s conducting.
The genesis of this recording is rather interesting. Dorio Soria, former president of Angel Records and then an RCA executive, contracted Karajan to record for his so-called ‘Soria Series’. Launched in 1959 this was an upmarket line aimed at discerning record buyers, so the artistic and technical credentials of these recordings had to be impeccable. That’s certainly true of this Giselle which, unusually, is presented as a two-part symphonic entity rather than as a series of distinct dances. That means only two tracks, one for each Act.
Does it work? Well, when the music is this well played and recorded one has to abandon all preconceptions and say yes. True, there’s a Prussian precision to some of Karajan’s rhythms, but then a gorgeous phrase or sudden swirl of harps changes all that. The WP are peerless in this music, which they play with all the skill they can muster. One senses they relish Adam’s carousel of lovely tunes, and the warm, pliant sound is simply ravishing. Indeed, when Karajan produces something his memorable I’m more than happy to suspend my usual cavils and caveats about his conducting style.
Glorious playing and sonics; a worthy companion to Martinon’s classic set of excerpts.
If you’re happy with 16-bit CD-quality sound, I’ve been listening to the less expensive Qobuz transfer of this recording (Decca Originals E4757507) and it not only sounds very good in that form – better than the Ovation CDs which I own – it also confirms Dan’s high opinion of the performance, which has all the élan of Karajan’s conducting of the VPO in a classic New Year’s Day concert.
Don’t overlook the recording which Richard Bonynge made with the Monte-Carlo Orchestra in 1967, which I reviewed some time ago (Australian Decca 4429028). (BW)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Overture The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave), Op.26 (1830-32) [10:01]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in a minor, Op.54 (1841-45) [31:28]
Symphony No. 3 in a minor (‘Scottish’), Op.56 (1842) [37:48]
Maria João Pires (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir John Eliot Gardiner
rec. 21 January 2014, Barbican, London. DSD
LSO LIVE LSO0765 [79:17] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)
Please see Geoffrey Molyneux’s review on the main MusicWeb International pages, also reviews by David Barker (Recording of the Month), Simon Thompson and Leslie Wright. GM and DB reviewed the Hyperion download and that is very competitive if you are just looking for mp3 or 16-bit lossless – each at £6.50 – but the physical product comes as an SACD and blu-ray audio for around £8.25, which means that the 24-bit download at £9.75 is uncompetitive. Classicsonline.com charge an equally uncompetitive £7.99 for mp3 only. Eclassical.com’s $14.27 (mp3/16-bit)/$21.42 (24-bit) is even further out. I understand that the record companies stipulate the price of downloads; they should not tie the hands of the suppliers in this way. At least all the download sources provide the booklet – see Dan Morgan’s recent pertinent article on that sore topic.
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Szenen aus Goethes Faust (Scenes from Goethe’s Faust) for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra WoO3
Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Mari Eriksmoen, Barbara Fleckenstein, Christiane Karg (sopranos), Sabine Staudinger (alto), Bernarda Fink (mezzo), Andrew Staples (tenor), Alastair Miles, Tarez Nazmi, Kurt Rydl (basses)
Chor and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Daniel Harding
rec. live Herkulessaal Munich, 18-19 January 2013. DDD.
pdf booklet with text and translation included
BR KLASSIK 900122 [72:40 + 43:00] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and 16-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
I had just embarked on re-reading Goethe’s Faust, which I had never read in its entirety in the original, when, pat upon its cue, this new recording of Schumann’s Scenes from Faust appeared. We were not wanting for good recordings, with Bryn Terfel, Karita Mattila and the Berlin Phil conducted by Claudio Abbado (Sony Classical Masters 88697712822, budget price: downloads are likely to cost more than the CDs; stream from Naxos Music Library) and Christian Gerhaher in an earlier recording with the Concertgebouw conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (RCO Live RCO09001, mid-price: see below for download availability) among the best of a surprisingly wide range of choices.
I had intended to write a longer review for the main MusicWeb International pages but Stuart Sillitoe – Recording of the Month: review – and Michael Cookson – review – have already expressed their strong appreciation, so I’ll merely add mention of the 2008 Concertgebouw/Harnoncourt live recording, available from eclassical.com, with pdf booklet containing texts and translations, as mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless downloads, which we seem not to have reviewed but which is also well worth considering. There is a connection in that Daniel Harding stood in for Nikolaus Harnoncourt in conducting Szenen aus Faust at a series of concerts in the Berlin Philharmonie in December 2013.
You should be able to find the Concertgebouw CDs in the UK for around £14 so eclassical.com’s $21.29 represents only a small saving on that price. If you want 24-bit the cost rises quite steeply to $31.94 but there’s no SACD equivalent, so those in search of the best sound have no option. If you are happy with mp3, 7digital.com offer a 320 kb/s download (mp3 or m4a) for £7.99 but there’s no booklet.
Noel Mewton-Wood was a rising star in 1951 when he recorded Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Concerto No.3 [15:44] and Concert Fantasia [29:17] with the Winterthur Symphony Orchestra and Alexander Goehr for Nixa. The recording was thought to be poor even for its day and the orchestral accompaniment – what can be heard of it – is not of the greatest. The now almost forgotten soloist, however, was on fine form and I’m glad that Naxos Classical Archives have restored it to the best of their ability (9.80623 [45:12]). The least expensive download is from emusic.com at £1.26, in less than full-strength mp3, but even eclassical.com in lossless sound can’t make it sound more than barely acceptable, so the best compromise is from classicsonline.com (£1.99 in the UK but not available in the USA and many other countries). A fine adjunct to a modern recording such as Stephen Hough and Osmo Vänskä with the Minnesota Orchestra in all three Tchaikovsky Piano Concertos and Concert Fantasia (Hyperion CDA67711/2: Recording of the Month – review and September 2010).
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 8 in G, Op.88 (1889) [38:57]
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1938)
Symphonic Suite Jenufa (1896-1902) (version conceptualised by Manfred Honeck, realised by Tomáš Ille) [22:57]
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Manfred Honeck
rec. 11-13 October 2013, Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. DDD
REFERENCE RECORDINGS FR-710 SACD [62:04] – from emusic.com (mp3)
To the appreciative reviews by Michael Cookson and John Quinn I need only add that I greatly enjoyed this very energetic recording of the Dvořák, though it won’t be the only version to which I listen, with fine accounts from Charles Mackerras on Supraphon (SU38482, with No.9) and Signum (SIGCD183, with No.7) to name but two alternatives.
The inexpensive emusic.com version is at around 230kb/s: not ideal and no match for the SACD, but it sounds well enough and it has the field to itself as a download as far as I can see.
Freebie of the Month
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma), Op.36 [31:24]
The Sanguine Fan, Op.81 [19:24]
Incidental Music from Grania and Diarmid, Op.42 [13:06]
Jenny Miller (soprano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bryden Thomson
rec. All Saints Church, Tooting, London, 18-19 January 1988. DDD
Pdf booklet included
CHANDOS CHAN8610 [64:14] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)
The mp3 version of this download was Chandos’s free gift to subscribers to theclassicalshop.net’s monthly newsletter in January 2015. If you are not yet signed up – and why not? – it’s a notable bargain at £4.99 in mp3 and lossless formats. Otherwise some dealers still have the later CD reissue, with the addition of the Froissart Overture [14:27] on CHAN6692, bringing the playing time to 78:09, for around £5.50 – download that version from theclassicalshop.net in mp3 and lossless for £4.80/£4.99 respectively: it’s the better bargain and the version which I’ve illustrated.
Quite apart from the attractive price, Thomson offers a fine performance of the Enigma Variations, especially if you like your Elgar taken fairly sedately, and the fillers provide a very worthwhile bonus, even though there now are alternative performances of The Sanguine Fan. An excellent bargain album.
Other notable recordings of the Enigma Variations available for download include:
NAXOS HISTORICAL ARCHIVES 980611: RPO/Sir Thomas Beecham (with Cockaigne and Serenade for Strings) [58:12] in decent mono sound (1954), far superior to the Philips recordings on which I first heard them (GBL5645 and 5646) and available inexpensively. Stream from Naxos Music Library, download from classicsonline.com (mp3), stream/download from Qobuz (lossless). Not available in the USA and several other countries.
BEULAH EXTRA 1BX181: LSO/Pierre Monteux – from eavb.co. A faultless transfer of a classic recording which still serves as my benchmark and all available for £1.75/$2.65: Reissue of the Month – see DL Roundup February 2012/2.
LSO LIVE LSO0609: LSO/Sir Colin Davis (with Introduction and Allegro) [47:54] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet). (Also included in 12-CD set LSO0766). The 24-bit is especially impressive. Mp3 and flac cost significantly less and even the 24-bit slightly less than the typical asking price for the SACD.
SIGNUM SIGCD168: Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis (with In the South (Alassio) and Serenade for Strings) [67:36] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet) – review and DL News 2014/12. Sir Andrew is currently recording Elgar for Chandos and his very fine earlier recordings of Elgar are now enshrined in a super-budget-price 5-CD box set (Warner Classics 2564621992).
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Four Last Songs [21:55]
Ein Heldenleben [46:22]
Anna Netrebko (soprano)
Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim
rec. live, Philharmonie, Berlin, August 2014
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4793964 [68:19]
You can find my review alongside Simon Thompson’s on the main MusicWeb International pages. I was by far the more enthusiastic – I even came close to awarding Recording of the Month, though I eventually decided not to: Netrebko almost challenges Schwarzkopf, but not quite. I should add that this is a recording that divides opinion – not just mine and ST’s – with some disappointed customers venting their complaints on Amazon. We can, however, set aside the one who liked ‘Netrebco’ but was disappointed that she was on only one third of the album – always read the full contents, not just the front cover, before buying.
The DG recording was on offer at a special price from Qobuz when I downloaded the 16-bit version, but it has now reverted to costing only very little less than the CD. You can, however, stream it from Qobuz – sampling only for non-subscribers – and compare it with the Schwarzkopf there. Jessie Norman’s account can be found in the second volume of the DG complete Strauss operas which I reviewed in September 2014.
If only the first CD of the EMI/Warner 2-CD Strauss set were available separately – Beecham’s Heldenleben and Barbirolli’s Metamorphosen, both in stereo – instead of being yoked to dated mono versions of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Don Quixote. At least the twofer comes at super-budget price - £5.49 in 320kb/s mp3 from 7digital.com: no booklet. I should issue the usual warning that 7digital downloads tend to come down the line with the tracks in the wrong order and usually need to be sorted out correctly.
Recording of the Month
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872–1958)
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis [16:08]
‘Pastoral’ Symphony (Symphony No.3) [36:06]
Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus [11:27]
Overture: The Wasps [9:34]
Sarah Fox (soprano)
Hallé/Sir Mark Elder
rec. 3-4 November 2012, BBC Studios, Media City, Salford (Tallis Fantasia and Wasps Overture), 9-10 September 2013, Hallé St. Peter’s, Ancoats, Manchester. DDD.
HALLÉ CDHLL7540 [74:16] – from classicsonline.com (mp3)
Please see my review with one by Michael Greenhalgh and earlier review by John Quinn. As I wrote that review I found myself coming to the inevitable conclusion that I would have to join John Quinn in making this a Recording of the Month.
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Orchestral Works - Vol. 1
Alborada del gracioso, (from Miroirs piano suite 1904-05, orch. 1918) [7:35]
Pavane pour une infante défunte (1899, orch. 1910) [6:37]
Rapsodie espagnole (1907/08) [15:04]
Pièce en forme de habañera * (Vocalise en forme de habañera for low voice and piano 1907, arr. violin and orchestra, Arthur Hoérée) [3:18]
Shéhérazade – Ouverture de féerie (1898) [13:02]
Menuet antique (1895, orch. 1929) [6:43]
Boléro (1928) [15:18]
Jennifer Gilbert (violin)*
Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin
rec. 2-3 September 2011, Auditorium de Lyon, France
2xHD NAXOS 812864019520 [67:37] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)
This recording has already been released on CD – review review – and blu-ray audio – review. Now it receives the 24-bit treatment from 2xHD in their latest batch of Naxos re-masterings.
Like those earlier reviewers I found a good deal to enjoy in these performances but thought them lacking in the last degree of those qualities which I find in the likes of Ansermet and Monteux – from both of whom I first got to know Ravel – and Dutoit. I haven’t heard the CD or the blu-ray but the 2xHD transfer is good and audibly superior to the mp3 and 16-bit, though, surprisingly it’s 24/44.1, not 24/96. Whether it’s worth the premium price of $18.26 when the blu-ray can be obtained for slightly less (around £10) and Qobuz offer a 24-bit version of the Naxos for £7.19 is another matter. Both the eclassical.com and Qobuz downloads come with the pdf booklet, including Keith Anderson’s notes from the Naxos release.
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Le Sacre du Printemps (1913) [33:31]
Pétrouchka (1911 version) [34:45]
Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth
rec. 2013/14, Metz, Grenoble and Frankfurt
ACTES SUD MUSICALES ASM15 [68:22] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, no booklet)
Please see Dan Morgan’s review and DL News 2014/9.
Sample from Qobuz – but there’s no booklet there, either.
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Concerto for Piano and Wind Orchestra (1923-24, rev. 1950) [18:36]
Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra (1928-29, rec. 1949) [16:59]
Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1958-59) [9:10]
Pétrouchka (1910-11, rev. 1946) [34:16]
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Yan Pascal Tortelier
rec. Sala São Paulo, Júlio Prestes Cultural Center, São Paulo, Brazil; 2-5 and 7 May 2014
(Concerto, Pétrouchka) and 8-12 May 2014 (other works)
Pdf booklet included.
CHANDOS CHAN5147 [79:40] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless). Also available on SACD as CHSA5147.
If the coupling appeals, you should buy with confidence. The Hyperion collection of all the works for piano and orchestra (CDA67870) is more logical but, with the prominent piano part in Petrushka, very ably performed by Bavouzet here, the new recording has its own logic too. Performance, recording and presentation of both are first-class. Please see my full review.
Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
A Colour Symphony (1921-22, rev. 1932) [31:48]
Violin Concerto (1953-55) [41:47]
Lydia Mordkovitch (violin)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
rec. Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, 17-18 January 2006, DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10380 [73:35] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)
I was looking for something to commemorate the late Lydia Mordkovitch so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and choose a recording that I hadn’t heard but which Rob Barnett thought offered ‘a fine performance and a splendid recording of the Symphony by anyone’s reckoning. It’s also the only way of accessing a modern recording of the Violin Concerto in sound that can only be described as stunning.’ The Symphony is an old friend; I barely knew the concerto but enjoyed this performance.
The 2-CD set of Bliss’s music in Decca’s British Music collection which, as John Quinn reports, has been restored by Presto Classical, is also available from them as a download, in mp3 or lossless sound, at a saving over the price of the CDs but, so far as I can see, without the booklet. If so, that’s another ha’porth of tar saved to the detriment of the ship. (Decca 4701682). It’s also available for streaming and purchase from Qobuz but, again, apparently minus booklet.
Discovery of the Month
Boris LYATOSHYNSKY (1895-1968)
Symphony No.4 in b flat minor, Op.63 (1963) [27:49]
Symphony No. 5 in C, ‘Slavonic’, Op.67 (1965-66) [27:34]
Ukrainian State Symphony Orchestra/Theodore Kuchar
Rec. Hall of the State Broadcasting Company of Ukraine, Kiev, 27-30 December 1993. DDD
NAXOS 8.555580 [55:23] – from classicsonline.com or eclassical.com (both in mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet)
David Barker reviewed the complete set of Naxos reissues of Lyatoshynsky’s symphonies – ex-Marco Polo – in generally positive terms. So far I’ve listened only to Volume 3 but Volume 2, containing Nos. 2 and 3, which DB enjoyed the most, is also available from both classicsonline.com and eclassical.com. For the moment I’ll take his advice and regard Volume 1 as the most expendable.
GERALD FINZI (1901-1956)
Dies Natalis Op.8 [24:20]
Intimations of Immortality Op.29 [42:15]
John Mark Ainsley (tenor); Corydon Singers; Corydon Orchestra/Matthew Best
rec. All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, February 1996. DDD.
pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDH55432 [66:55] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)
Reviewing this in its original full-price garb, I thought John Mark Ainsley’s singing in Dies Natalis just a trifle colourless by comparison with other recordings of this wonderful work – and by comparison with Susan Gritton’s then new version on Chandos – DL Roundup June 2010 . I had, however, changed my mind when I compared the two again in June 2012/1 and at its new super-budget price it becomes more attractive. Nevertheless, for the Immortality Ode, I’d go for the Lyrita version with Ian Partridge and Vernon Handley, coupled with Hadley’s The Trees So High (SRCD.238 – see reviews here, here and here – download with pdf booklet from classicsonline.com).
Christopher Finzi is best of all in his father’s Dies Natalis, a recording still available as part of a super-budget 5-CD set of music by Bax, Finzi, Holst and Vaughan Williams which also contains Richard Hickox’s recording of the Immortality Ode and my preferred account of VW’s wonderful Oxford Elegy (EMI/Warner 0954332, currently on offer from one dealer at £10.03).
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F major, Op. 102 (1957) [20:28]
Sonata for Violin and Piano in F major, Op. 134 (1968) [31:40]
Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings in C minor, Op. 35 (1933) [22:18]
Alexander Melnikov (piano)
Isabelle Faust (violin) Jeroen Berwaerts (trumpet)
Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Teodor Currentzis
rec. November-December 2010, Rathaus-Prunksaal, Landshut (DE) (concertos);
March 2011, Teldex Studio Berlin (sonata)
Pdf booklet included
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 902104 [73:56] - from eclassical.com (mp3, 16-bit & 24-bit lossless)
The Greek conductor Teodor Currentzis has been much praised for his recent Mozart opera recordings, Brian Reinhart welcomed pianist Alexander Melnikov’s Scriabin (review) and violinist Isabelle Faust has a slew of fine discs to her name; so, the auguries for this Shostakovich album are good. There are several fine recordings of the Shostakovich concertos, not least from the composer himself (Warner, Brilliant), André Previn and Leonard Bernstein (CBS/Sony) and my go-to version, Dmitri Alexeev and Jerzy Maksymiuk (Warner). In the sonata Faust faces fierce competition too.
The second concerto starts well enough, but thereafter we get passages of superficial brilliance interspersed with lackluster interludes in which momentum and character are quickly lost. There is none of the electricity and thrilling edge found in the versions I’ve mentioned; Currentzis seems oddly detached throughout and Melnikov finds little to please the ear or soften the heart in that inward central movement. Alas, that’s not all, for the Mahler Chamber Orchestra are having an off day and the recording – reviewed here in its 24-bit form – is surprisingly coarse and unfocused at times.
So, not an auspicious start. The late Sonata No. 6 certainly has its bravura moments and Faust certainly bring out the music’s more spectral qualities. Her cleanly-articulated pizzicato passages are especially impressive, but taken in toto there’s little personality or sense of engagement from her or the less-than-assured Melnikov. Indeed, the latter seldom modulates out of the key of dull, so this too is a very forgettable performance.
The first concerto is even less memorable; the wickedly sardonic opening is po-faced here, the slow movement is dirge-like, the orchestral playing is untidy and the trumpet isn’t very well balanced. There’s something fettered about this music-making, a shackling sense of duty that makes one yearn for the musicians to strike their chains and break free. The most liberating accounts of these works – the three I’ve mentioned are high among them – really do bring out the composer’s dry wit and rib-poking asides. Regrettably, you’ll find no such lightness and alacrity here.
Dispiriting performances all; the recording is below par too.
A reminder that Dan’s preferred version of the two piano concertos comes at super-budget-price on Classics for Pleasure 3822342 (around £5.50) and also features the wonderful mini-concerto The Assault on Beautiful Gorky, Tahiti Trot (Tea for Two) and other short pieces, a splendid bargain. It’s available from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk in mp3 for £3.99. (BW)
John Quinn and Dave Billinge were both impressed with the final instalment of Vasily Petrenko’s SHOSTAKOVICH cycle, Symphony No.13 (Naxos 8.573218): Recording of the Month review – as was Michael Cookson – review. For my slightly less enthusiastic review and details of how to obtain as a download, please see DL News 2014/13.
British Cello Concertos
John JOUBERT (b.1927)
Concerto in Two Movements for Cello and Chamber Orchestra (2012) [23:02]
Robert SIMPSON (1921-1997) Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1991) [28:40]
Christopher WRIGHT (b.1954) Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra (2011) [18:56]
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/William Boughton
rec. Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, UK, 11-13 December 2013
LYRITA SRCD.344 [70:38] – from classicsonline.com (mp3, with pdf booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library or Qobuz
See review: Recording of the Month. At the risk of striking a discordant note, I found some of the music on this new release rather hard to digest – I suspect that I shall have to keep working at it. The quality of performances should make the process easier but you may prefer to sample from Naxos Music Library or Qobuz.
Last month I mentioned several Lyrita recordings now available as downloads from classicsonline.com, to which I can add:
Havergal BRIAN Symphonies Nos. 6 and 16; Arnold COOKE Symphony No. 3 (London Philharmonic/Fredman, Braithwaite) SRCD.295 – from classicsonline.com (mp3 with pdf booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Recording of the Month: review and review
Celebrating 50 Years devoted to British Music, Set 1 – William ALWYN to John IRELAND SRCD.2337 (4CDs) – from classicsonline.com (mp3 with pdf booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library
Celebrating 50 Years devoted to British Music, Set 2 – Gordon JACOB to William WORDSWORTH SRCD.2338 (4CDs) – from classicsonline.com (mp3 with pdf booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Joint review and review of SRCD.2337 and 2338.
Caution: buy these two sampler sets and you’ll find yourself tempted to buy several of the CDs from which the excerpts are taken. The CDs can be obtained for £18 each or £28 the pair from MusicWeb International, which makes the COL downloads uncompetitive at £31.96 each. Qobuz offer them in lossless sound but, again, at £19.99, more expensive than the CDs.
Gordon JACOB Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 (London Philharmonic/Wordsworth) SRCD.315 – from classicsonline.com (mp3 with pdf booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Review and review.
Edmund RUBBRA Symphonies Nos. 6 and 8; Soliloquy (Philharmonia Orchestra, London Symphony/Del Mar, Handley) SRCD.234 – from classicsonline.com (mp3 with pdf booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library. Review review and review
All come with pdf booklets. Some of these albums are also available less expensively from emusic.com, but at lower bit-rates and without booklets so the classicsonline.com downloads are the ones to have.
Gavin BRYARS (b. 1943)
The Sinking of the Titanic (b.1969)
Gavin Bryars Ensemble
rec. 2012 Live Tour, date and location not given.
GB RECORDS BCGBCD21 [74:40] – from 7digital.com or emusic.com (both mp3, no booklet)
This recording of The Sinking of the Titanic was made in 2012, the centenary year of the disaster. It was described by Gavin Bryars as the most definitive performance that there is ever likely to be. It brings together elements of earlier performances together with a new contribution by Philip Jeck, the turntablist. The work began in 1972 and gradually evolved as more evidence about the disaster came to light. It is a kind of eerie abstract art piece dominated by long, trance-inducing passages, such as the Titanic Lament which has a myriad of contrasting sounds.
In the first section we hear the rain and watery sounds build to a rather frightening climax when the ship strikes the iceberg. Soon one of the most dominant features of the work is heard. The hymn tune Autumn, which is thought to be the tune the band continued to play as the ship gradually went down, is played by a string quartet which is variously treated with accompaniments by instruments or sound effects.
Particularly noteworthy are the fascinating programme notes by Gavin Bryars. He outlines details of the evolution of the work and how it relates to the actual evidence and historical facts surrounding the accident, and how Bryars used descriptions by survivors, for example the sound of passengers swimming in the sea, said to resemble the noise heard from a crowd at a football match.
The performance is very well recorded, with a full but also detailed sound, and the balance seems very good. Although I am personally averse to minimalism, I concede that this is a rewarding experience in its honest depiction of a terrible tragedy. It reminds us of the suffering of the passengers and crew and of the heroism of those on board, in particular the band which continued to play as the ship was sinking, and maybe even for a few moments underwater.
So this is a rewarding and quietly moving experience if you have 74 minutes to spare. It may be even better in live performance with the accompanying film.
(See also review by Dominy Clements)
The latest concept album from Cecilia Bartoli, with I Barocchisti/Diego Fasolis contains music composed by foreign eighteenth-century composers, mainly Italian, for the Russian court at St. Petersburg, hence the title (Decca 4796767). It’s all stunningly executed and as enjoyable as Simon Thompson says in his review. Stream, with access to booklet, from Qobuz and download from there in 16- or 24-bit lossless sound or, if 320kb/s mp3 is all you need and you can do without the booklet, from 7digital.com.
The Bells of Dawn - Russian Sacred and Folk Songs
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (baritone)
The Grand Choir ‘Masters of Choral Singing/Lev Kontorovich
rec. June-July 2012, Moscow State Conservatory P. I. Tchaikovsky
Pdf booklet with sung texts included (English, Russian)
ONDINE ODE1238-2 [64:29] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless)
More Russian repertoire, this time a collection of sacred and folk music anchored by baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Ralph Moore welcomed the CD ( review) although I found Hvorostovsky’s delivery rather more variable than he did. Not surprisingly DH was in ardent, ringing voice in a 2-CD set of Russian folk songs he recorded for Philips in the 1990s (review). The singing of the St Petersburg Chamber Choir and the fine recording makes that a must-hear for fans of this singer and Russian choral music alike.
Working my way through this new collection I was surprised by how infrequently I was engaged by this music-making. It’s never less than intelligently sung and it’s always idiomatic, but there’s little of the light and shade or the dramatic intensity I remember from that earlier recording. The choral sound is a little too bright for my tastes, but the soloist – forwardly placed – is warmly caught.
Decent, but nothing special; Hvorostovsky fans will want it anyway.
1865: Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War
Anonymous 4 (Ruth Cunningham, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek)
Bruce Molsky (fiddle, banjo, guitar, vocals)
rec. June 2014, Concert Hall, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey
Pdf booklet with sung texts included (English, French, German)
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 807549 [66:43] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- & 24-bit lossless)
This is my first encounter with the all-female group Anonymous 4, described by The New York Times as ‘a kind of Andrews Sisters of the early music set’. Certainly a quick look at their substantial discography confirms that as their natural territory, so it may come as something of a surprise to hear them in songs and ballads commemorating the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War. They are joined by the well-known fiddler Bruce Molsky, who plays banjo and guitar in some of these numbers. He sings too.
It’s a well-chosen programme, full of heartache and homesickness, of yearning, loss and stoicism, and one can’t fail to be impressed by the purity and refinement of the singing. The DSD recording is superb, and every nuance, every inflexion is faithfully rendered.Weeping, Sad and Alone, Sweet Evelina, The Southern Soldier Boy, Listen to the Mocking Bird, Home Sweet Home and Shall We Gather by the River? are among the most memorable of the album’s 18 tracks. Molsky’s low-key vocal and instrumental contributions are most attractive, too.
For all its virtues – and there are many – I’m not convinced the ethereal, almost cloistered beauty of Anonymous 4’s delivery is ideal in this repertoire. I would have preferred something a little earthier – more of the Andrews Sisters, perhaps – from these singers. After all much of this is parlour music, immediate and affecting. Such sentimentality just doesn’t sit comfortably with a group that’s more at home with Hildegard of Bingen than Henry Bishop. On the plus side the substantial booklet is elegantly laid out and Marsha Genensky’s very readable notes are a joy to read.
Gorgeous music-making and superb sonics; not sure about the context, though.
Neujahrskonzert (New Year’s Day Concert) 2015
Wiener Philharmoniker/Zubin Mehta
rec. Goldener Saal des Wiener Musikvereins, 1 January 2015. DDD
SONY 88875035492 [51:58 + 53:12]
Please see my full review.
If you listened or watched on New Year’s Day to Mehta’s fifth appearance at the helm you will probably need no advice from me to obtain the recording in one form or another. If you missed it, you should at least sample the concert, perhaps from Qobuz. I downloaded from there, too; their price of £7.99 for 16-bit lossless, with pdf booklet, is less than others charge for just mp3.
Freebie of the Month
Divine Art Releases Sampler: February 2015 is available here. There’s something for all interests with excerpts from:
Harpsichord music by François Couperin and the contemporary composer Graham Lynch (b.1957) played by Assi Karttunen on DDA25120 (Beyond the River God)
Beethoven Explored Volume 6: The Chamber Eroica offers the piano quartet arrangement of the Third Symphony by an unknown member of Beethoven’s circle, published in 1805 (MSVCD2008: Aaron Shorr (piano); Peter Sheppard Skærved (violin); Dov Scheindlin (viola); Neil Heyde (cello))
Gothic: New piano music from Ireland (MSV28549, Mary Dullea (piano))
Orfordness: music for piano and actuality, oboe quintet, piano quintet and cello and electronics by David Gorton (b.1978) (MSV28550, Zubin Kanga (piano); Christopher Redgate (oboe); Neil Heyde (cello); Kreutzer Quartet)