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ARTICLE Plain text for smartphones & printers

DOWNLOAD NEWS 2015/10
By Brian Wilson

DL News 2015/9 is here and the index of earlier editions is here.

Index 2015/10
ABOS A Maltese Christmas - Kölner Akademie/Willens_CPO
ALFORD The British March King - Ricketts, etc._Beulah
BACH Violin Concertos - Ibragimova_Hyperion
- Magnificat; Cantata No.63 - Butt_Linn
BACH, CORELLI, etc. Christmas Music - Kirkby_BIS
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.2 - Pires; London Symphony Orchestra/Haitink_LSO Live
COPLAND Billy the Kid; Rodeo (complete ballets) - Colorado Symphony/Litton_BIS
DVOŘÁK Violin Concerto - Johanna Martzy; RIAS Symphony Orchestra/Fricsay; Symphony No.7 – LSO/Monteux_Beulah
- String Sextet, String Quintet No.2 - Nash Ensemble_Alto
- String Sextet, String Quintet No.3 - Raphael Ensemble_Hyperion Helios
FRANCK Symphony - Chicago SO/ Monteux; Sonata for violin and piano – Francescatti/Casadesus_Diapason
HAYDN Symphony No.59, Symphony No.52, Symphony No.53 - Royal Northern Sinfonia/Miller_Signum
KALLIWODA Violin Concertinos and Overtures - Kölner Akademie/Willens_CPO
ORBÁN Christmas Oratorio - Béla Bartók Chorus; Béla Bartók University Orchestra, Budapest Eötvös Loránd University Orchestra/Baross_Hungaroton
PLAYFORD Nobody’s Jig - Les Witches_Alpha
RAMEAU Anacréon - OAE/Williams_Signum
RAVEL L'Enfant et les sortilèges; Ma Mère l’Oye - Orchestre National de Lyon/Slatkin_Naxos
SIBELIUS Kullervo - LSO/Davis_LSO Live
- Complete Symphonies with alternatives - Vänskä_BIS
- Symphony No.7; Violin Concerto - NYPO; Stern; RPO/Beecham_Beulah
SMETANA Má Vlast - Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Talich_Beulah
VIVALDI The Four Seasons, etc. - Chandler_Avie; Ehnes_Onyx
- Il teatro alla moda: Unpublished violin concertos - Gli Incogniti_Harmonia Mundi
WHEELER Gnu High - Kenny Wheeler_ECM

Collections:
Anne Boleyn’s Songbook: Music and Passions of a Tudor Queen – Alamire_Obsidian
Brazilian Adventures Ex Cathedra/Skidmore_Hyperion
The Call: More Choral Classics - St John’s College, Cambridge/ Nethsingha_Chandos
Christmas in Medieval England – Blue Heron
Dancing Day – St Thomas Choir, NY/Scott_Resonus
English Music 8: BLISS Piano Concerto, etc._Beulah
English Music 9: ELGAR Sea Pictures, etc_Beulah
Music from the Peterhouse Songbooks: 4 – Blue Heron
Overtures from the British Isles – BBC NOW/Gamba_Chandos
Requiem - Music for All Souls and All Saints – Clare College Choir/Ross_Harmonia Mundi
A Very English Christmas – Tenebrae/Short_Signum
A Wondrous Mystery: Renaissance Music for Christmas – Stile Antico_Harmonia Mundi
Yulefest! – Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Layton_Hyperion

***

Christmas in Medieval England
Blue Heron [David McFerrin, Daniela Tošic,  Pamela Dellal,  Michael Barrett,  Jason McStoots,  Paul Guttry, Owen McIntosh,  Mark Sprinkle (vocals)]/Scott Metcalfe (gothic harp)
rec. live in concert, First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, Cambridge, Massachusetts, December 20-21, 2013. DDD.
BLUE HERON BHCD 1006 [71:19] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and 16-bit lossless, with pdf booklet, $12.84).  Subscribers stream from Qobuz, with booklet, or purchase from Qobuz (16-bit lossless), £7.99).

It’s mid-October as I write so, inevitably, the Christmas decorations are going up in the shops and the seasonal recordings are beginning to come through.  On this example from the first batch the Blue Heron singers forsake their usual early renaissance repertoire for Christmas in Medieval England, commencing with the Advent Veni, veni Emanuel and pursuing a fairly predictable course via the likes of Angelus ad Virginem, here conflated with Gabriel fram hevene King, and Ther is no rose of swich vertu.  There are just two named composers: Leonel POWER (d.1445) and PYCARD (first name unknown, fl. c.1410-20) each contribute a Gloria from the Old Hall MS.  The Pycard is otherwise available only from Gothic Voices (Hyperion CDH55290 or CDH55295 or CDS44251/3, 3 CDs).  The Power Gloria is available from the Hilliard Ensemble (Virgin/Erato budget twofer, 6024932) and again from Gothic Voices (Hyperion CDH55283).  If you want those two works in a Christmas context, however, the Blue Heron is the one to go for.  It’s not as special as their fourth recording of Music from the Peterhouse Songbooks (below) but it is attractive.

Music from the Peterhouse Songbooks: 4
Nicholas LUDFORD (c.1490-1557) Ave cujus conceptio [8:51]
Plainsong: Kyrie Deus creator omnium [2:27]
Robert JONES (fl.1520-1530) Missa Spes nostra [36:41]
Robert HUNT (early 16th century) Stabat Mater [17:51]
Blue Heron Renaissance Choir/Scott Metcalfe
rec. Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, 14-15, 21-23 June 2013.  DDD.
Music restored by Nick Sandon
BLUE HERON BHCD1005 [65:51] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet – excellent value for £2.94) or classicsonlinehd.com (16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet containing texts and translations at £7.99/£15.99).  Subscribers stream from Qobuz, with booklet – purchase from Qobuz in 16- or 24-bit sound (£7.99/£11.99).  Download only: no CD in the UK.

The main work, Robert Jones’ Missa spes nostra, is not otherwise available – nor ever has been to the best of my recollection.  All the performances live up to the standard of Blue Heron’s other recordings – this is their fourth foray into the Peterhouse collection – and the recording, albeit in mp3 only as downloaded from emusic.com, is good. 

For better sound and a copy of the booklet, you need to turn to the other sources which I’ve listed.

A Wondrous Mystery : Renaissance Music for Christmas
Michael PRÆTORIUS: Ein Kind geborn in Bethlehem [3:26]
Jacobus CLEMENS non Papa: Motet: Pastores quidnam vidistis [5:01]
Michael PRÆTORIUS/Melchior VULPIUS: Es ist ein Ros entsprungen [2:57]
CLEMENS non Papa: Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Kyrie [5:51]
Jacob HANDL [Jacobus GALUUS]: Canite tuba [2:10]
CLEMENS non Papa: Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Gloria [8:11]
Hieronymus PRÆTORIUS: Magnificat quinti toni [11:25]
CLEMENS non Papa: Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Credo [10:09]
Jacob HANDL: Mirabile mysterium [4:06]
Johannes ECCARD: Übers Gebirg Maria geht [2:56]
CLEMENS non Papa: Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Sanctus and Benedictus [7:33]
Johannes ECCARD: Vom Himmel hoch [2:01]
Hans Leo HASSLER: Hodie Christus natus est [3:14]
CLEMENS non Papa: Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis: Agnus Dei [3:51]
Stile Antico [Helen Ashby, Kate Ashby, Rebecca Hickey (sopranos); Emma Ashby, Eleanor Harries, Katie Schofield (altos); Jim Clements, Andrew Griffiths, Benedict Hymas (tenors);  Will Dawes, Thomas Flint, Matthew O’Donovan (basses)]
rec. All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London, February 2015. DDD/DSD
Texts and translations included
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU807575 SACD [72:51] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).

We already had one very fine recording of Tudor music for Advent and Christmas from Stile Antico (Puer natus est HMU807517).  Now they bring us another equally good Christmas offering mainly devoted to a Mass by Clemens non Papa* (c.1510-c.1555) from the early sixteenth century, interspersed with music from a slightly later period.

The only other recording of the motet and Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis comes from The Tallis scholars on Gimell (CDGIM013, with other music by Clemens, or a 2-for-1 set, Christmas with The Tallis Scholars, CDGIM202).   The Scholars pace both the motet and the Mass based on it fairly deliberately, but Stile Antico give the music even more time to breathe.  Both sound excellent, so the new recording is a must for lovers of the music of this period, even for those who already have the Scholars’ recording in one form or the other.  With SACD and 24-bit downloads available, the new recording is even better than the (very good) Gimell.  I haven’t been able to compare the 24/88.2 download with the HD stereo layer of the SACD on this occasion but whenever I have, with Harmonia Mundi, as with BIS or Chandos, any difference has been negligible.

* He was obviously something of a wit: his chosen nickname literally means ‘Clement, but not Pope Clement’.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Anne Boleyn’s Songbook : Music and Passions of a Tudor Queen
Jean MOUTON (c.1459–1522) Tota pulchra es [1:42]
Anonymous Venes regrets, venes tous [1:54]
Fer pietatis opem miseris mater [2:23]
Josquin DESPREZ (c.1450/55–1521) Stabat mater dolorosa [8:01]
Anonymous Laudate Dominum omnes gentes [3:10]
Maria Magdalena et altera Maria [3:30]
Forte si dulci Stigium boantem [8:07]
O virgo virginum [3:48]
Loyset COMPÈRE (c.1445–1518) Paranymphus salutat virginem [3:08]
Anonymous Gentilz galans compaingnons [1:43]
Antoine de FÉVIN (c.1470–1511/12) Tempus meum est ut revertar [5:16]
Antoine BRUMEL (c.1460–1512/13) Que est ista [5:15]
Josquin DESPREZ Liber generationis [14:17]
Claudin de SERMISY (c.1490–1562) Jouyssance vous donneray [3:39]
Anonymous Popule meus quid feci tibi [8:02]
Jean MOUTONIn illo tempore [5:42]
Antoine BRUMELSicut lilium inter spinas [1:55]
Josquin DESPREZPræter rerum seriem [6:39]
Anonymous O Deathe rock me asleep [6:18]
Alamire [Grace Davidson, Kirsty Hopkins (sopranos); Carris Jones, Martha McLorian, Clare Wilkinson (altos); Ruiari Bowen, Guy Cutting, Steven Harrold, Ben Hymas, Nick Todd, Simon Wall (tenors); Gregory Skidmore, Timothy Scott Whiteley (baritones); Tom Flint, William Gaunt, Robert Macdonald (basses); Jacob Heringman (lute); Kirsty Whatley (harp)]/David Skinner
rec. Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, 26–28 May 2015
Texts and translations included.
OBSIDIAN CD715 [62:14 + 32:15] – download: see below.

Any new recording from Alamire tends to grab my attention in view of the very high quality of their previous offerings – brief reminders of these follow this review.  Even in a month which offers some very fine performances of early and renaissance music, this is outstanding.  The Recording of the Month label is for the consistent quality of all Alamire’s recordings.

I listened to the 24-bit streamed version from classicsonlinehd.com (COL) as soon as the new album appeared there and was as enthralled as I expected to be.  It comes complete with the pdf booklet and I recommend all subscribers to listen to it.  I can’t, however, recommend that you download it there: though it’s a double album on the face of it, the total timing is only 94 minutes and the price on disc reflects that, at around £16, making the COL price of £15.99 (16-bit) and £31.99 (24-bit) somewhat excessive, though the better-than-CD quality of the latter added to my enjoyment.  Qobuz offer 16-bit at a more reasonable £11.99 and 24-bit at £17.59 – subscribers stream here; download here.  At the time of writing the expected eclassical.com download had not yet appeared.

The Anne Boleyn album has appeared with commendable speed: recorded in May 2015, it became available on 1 October.  It’s dedicated to the late Martin Souter, founder of Obsidian records, who himself did so much to advance our appreciation of the music of a slightly later period.

The music comes from a collection in the Royal College of Music, London (MS1070) which may have belonged to Anne Boleyn at the time when she was being courted by Henry VIII, though the notes honestly admit that “all that seems certain is that it originated in France and came to England at some point after 1522.  The only tangible evidence that the book went anywhere near Anne Boleyn is an inscription, very clearly in an early 16th-century English hand, that says ‘Mistres ABolleyne nowe thus’ followed by some musical notation of three minims and a long”.  No matter – the possible attribution is a good peg on which to hang an attractive selection of the kind of music which Anne may have become familiar with at the Imperial and French courts.

Even more to the point is the fact that a quick check suggests that several of the pieces on this album either have never been recorded or are not otherwise currently available and even those that are have not been recorded too often.

One piece which has received distinguished recordings is Josquin’s Præter rerum seriem, literally ‘beyond the end of things’, here appropriately placed next to last and preceding the anonymous ‘Deathe rock me asleep’.  It deals with the eternal: Jesus born outside or beyond the normal run of time.  One of the other recordings was made by The Tallis Scholars who, as regular readers will know, tend to be my benchmark for anything that they have given us.  (The Tallis Scholars sing Josquin, Gimell CDGIM206, 2 CDs for the price of one).  The other comes from The Sixteen, also luminaries in the world of renaissance music (The Earth Resounds: music by Brumel, Lassus and Josquin, Coro COR16097).  Alamire, like Blue Heron (above), present a strong challenge to both.

The recording and booklet are well up to the high standard of earlier releases, the latter containing detailed and helpful notes by David Skinner.

The earlier volumes are:

Josquin DESPREZ Missa d’ung aultre amer CD701 – stream/download from classicsonlinehd.com (16-bit lossless) or download from eclassical.com (mp3 and 16-bit lossless).  NO booklet from either.
Thomas TOMKINS: These Distracted Times CD702.  I could have sworn that I had reviewed this in an edition of Download Roundup but the MusicWeb search engine can’t find it, so I downloaded it from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless).  Also available for streaming/download from classicsonlinehd.com, NO booklet from either.
Philippe VERDELOT: Madrigals for a Tudor King CD703.  Stream/download from classicsonlinehd.com (16-bit lossless) or download from eclassical.com (NO booklet from either).
Ludwig SENFL Missa Paschalis, etc. CD704 – stream or download from classicsonlinehd.com (16-bit lossless) or eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless). NO booklet from either.
Henry’s Music – Motets from a Royal Choirbook and Songs by Henry VIII CD705Download of the Month DL Roundup September 2009.  The classicsonline.com link no longer applies – stream or download from the new equivalent,classicsonlinehd.com (16-bit lossless) or download in mp3 and lossless from eclassical.com (NO booklet from either).
Thomas TALLIS and William BYRD: Cantiones Sacræ CD706: Recording of the MonthreviewDL News March 2011/1.  Classicsonline.com link no longer applies: stream or download from new equivalent classicsonlinehd.com (16-bit lossless) or download from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless).  NO booklet from either.
John TAVERNER Imperatrix Inferni CD707 – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, NO booklet)
Petrus ALAMIRE: The Spy’s Choirbook CD712 reviewRecording of the Year DL News 2014/13.  Also available from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

John PLAYFORD (1623-1686)
Nobody’s Jig: 20 Dances from Mr. Playford’s English Dancing Master (1651)
Les Witches (Odile Édouard (violin); Claire Michon (recorders, transverse flutes and pipes); Pascale Boquet (lute and guitar); Freddy Eichelberger (harpsichord and cittern))
rec. Saint-Rémi Church, Sérigny, France, 2001.
ALPHA 307 [72:03] – earlier reissue from Qobuz (streaming for subscribers) and download (£3.99), with booklet.

I listed this in 2015/9 without further comment.  Since then Glyn Pursglove has written a detailed review, the burden of which I gladly endorse: ‘If you want only one recording of a selection of Playford dances, Nobody’s Jig is not the perfect choice but it is certainly a recording which anyone with an interest in this music will be pleased to have on his or her shelves’.

Qobuz also have the Harmonia Mundi Broadside Band collection of music from Playford’s collection – stream (for subscribers) or download (£4.29)
 
CHRISTMAS MUSIC
Carl BÖDDECKER (1607-1683) Natus est Jesus.
Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725) Non sò qual più m'ingombraa. O di Betlemme, altera povera venturosa.
Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706) Canon and Gigue.
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV61 - Öffne dich mein ganzes Herz
Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D, BWV1068 - Air.
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV147 - Bereite dir, Jesu, noch itzo die Bahn.
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713) Concerto grosso in G minor, Op. 6 No. 8, Fatto per la notte di natale.
Emma Kirkby (soprano); London Baroque/Charles Medlam (cello).
BIS CD-1135 [66:49] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet) or stream from classicsonlinehd.com.

Colin Clarke’s 5-star review dates from 2000 but it’s just as relevant now: ‘BIS have come up with that seasonal rarity: the intelligent, considered and beautifully presented Christmas album. Emma Kirkby’s pure tone, keen intelligence and utterly natural musicality need no introduction ... Many, many delights await you.’ 

As a confirmed Kirkbyite, I’m very surprised that I seem to have missed it till now, but better late than never.  The downloaded sound is excellent.
 
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Il teatro alla moda: Unpublished concertos for violin
Sinfonia from L’Olimpiade, RV725
Violin Concerto in D, RV228
Violin Concerto in F, RV282
Concerto per violino in tromba in G, RV313
Violin Concerto, RV314a: Adagio
Violin Concerto, RV316: Giga (reconstruction)
Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in g minor, RV322 (reconstruction)
Violin Concerto in g minor, RV323
Violin Concerto, RV372a: Andante
Concerto per violino scordato in b minor RV391
Ballo Primo de ‘Arsilda Regina di Ponto’, RV700 (reconstruction)
Gli Incogniti/Amandine Beyer (violin)
rec. November 2014. DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902221 [72:52] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

In his pamphlet of 1720 Il teatro alla moda – the fashionable theatre: perhaps ‘circus’ would be more like it – the composer Marcello satirised the excesses of new-fangled Venetian opera.  On this new recording Amandine Beyer and her team have assembled a collection of the sort of virtuoso display music by Vivaldi that would have annoyed Marcello and which is more likely to delight a modern audience.  Some of the works were first performed by Vivaldi’s pupil Pisendel.

I’m not alone in my great enjoyment of this recording: BBC Radio 3 CD Review made it their Disc of the Week.

Antonio VIVALDI The Four Seasons (Manchester Version)
La Primavera in E, RV269, Op.8/1
L’Estate in g minor, RV315, Op.8/2
L’Autunno in F, RV293, Op.8/3
L’Inverno in f minor, RV297, Op.8/3
Concerto for Bassoon, Strings and Continuo, La Notte, in B-flat, RV501
Concerto for Violin in Tromba Marina, Strings and Continuo in D, RV221*
Concerto per Maestro Dè Morzin for Bassoon, Strings & Continuo in g Minor, RV496
Concerto for Violin in Tromba Marina, Strings and Continuo in G, RV311*
La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler (violin)
rec. Hospital of St Cross, Winchester, 21-24 April 2015. DDD.
* World premiere recordings
AVIE AV2344 [73:43] - stream (subscribers) or download from Qobuz (16-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)
See also review by Dominy Clements.

I intensely disliked Nigel Kennedy’s latest assault on The New Four Seasons (Sony – review) so, although I already have several firm favourites, on both period- and modern-instruments, the new Avie recording from La Serenissima and Adrian Chandler, who have made so many excellent recordings of the North Italian Baroque repertoire and of Vivaldi in particular, seemed irresistible.  Like David Barker – review – I was not wholly taken with the Amandine Beyer Alpha reissue, though that comes at a very attractive price, so Fabio Biondi (Erato, ex-Virgin) remains my top period-instrument choice against which to judge the new recording.

This seems to be Vivaldi month, with two very enjoyable recordings of The SeasonsGramophone shared my enjoyment of this Avie recording – an Editor’s Choice.

Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770) Violin Sonata in g minor ‘Devil’s Trill’, B.g5*
Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764) Violin Sonata in D, Op.9/3 Tambourin*
Antonio VIVALDI The Four Seasons
Sydney Symphony/James Ehnes (violin)
Andrew Armstrong (piano)*
rec Alte Oper, Frankfurt, 17–18 May 2012 (Concerto); Hessischer Rundfunk, Sendesaal, Frankfurt, 7 December 2014 (Sonatas)
ONYX ONYX4134 [71:13] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).  Texts of sonnets available online (not yet available when I checked).

I listened to both of these new recordings immediately after the worst performance of The Seasons that I’ve ever heard, Nigel Kennedy’s new Sony recording – review.  Both are far superior, the Avie particularly so, as was to be expected in the light of earlier recordings of Vivaldi and other North Italian composers which this team have brought us.

I take issue with Adrian Chandler on one point: he admits in the booklet that the score requires the dog to bark loudly – sempre molto forte e strappato – but has chosen instead to make this the faithful dog referred to in the sonnet.  One of the reasons why the Fabio Biondi recording of the Four Seasons on Warner Erato is my favourite is that he obeys Vivaldi’s indication in the score more than any other version.

Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Anacréon (1754)
Anacréon – Matthew Brook (bass)
Chloé – Anna Dennis (soprano)
Batile – Agustin Prunell-Friend (tenor)
The Choir of the Enlightenment
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Jonathan Williams
rec. All Saints Church, East Finchley, London, 14-15 February 2014
World premiere recording
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD402 [50:19] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

I mentioned this last month with a promise and a firm intention to write a more complete review, having just received the CD in addition to the download.

Since then two detailed reviews have appeared, from Simon Thompson and Stuart Sillitoe.  Between them they have traversed most of the ground that I would have covered, so I need only add that I must apologise for doubting the world premiere claim inDownload News 2015/9: I had failed to note that this was the other Anacréon of the two which Rameau composed. The 1757 work has been recorded by Mark Minkowski (DG Archiv, available from Arkiv Music) and by Ensemble à Deux Violes Esgales for Alpha (Alpha176) and various recordings have been made of the orchestral suite.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Violin Concerto in a minor, BWV1041 [12:17]
Violin Concerto in E, BWV1042 [14:55]
Violin Concerto in A, BWV1055R [13:11]
Violin Concerto in g minor, BWV1056R [9:01]
Violin Concerto in d minor, BWV1052R [19:27]
Alina Ibragimova (violin)
Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 8-10 August, 2014. DDD.
HYPERION CDA68068 [68:51] - from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet_. Also available on CD.

On reflection it may have been mean of me not to make this a Recording of the Month when I reviewed it on the main MusicWeb-International pages, having found it very difficult to choose between it and a very similar programme from Giuliano Carmignola and Concerto Köln (Decca).

If the progamme – the two regular solo concertos and three very plausible reconstructions – appeals, I see no reason to hesitate.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Organ Prelude: Gott, durch deine Güte, BWV600 [1:00]
Christen, ätzet diesen Tag , BWV63 [28:12]
Organ Prelude: Vom Himmel hoch, BWV606 [0:42]
Congregational Chorale: Vom Himmel hoch [2:58]
Organ Prelude: Fuga sopra il Magnificat, BWV733 [3:43]
Magnificat in E flat major, BWV243a (with Christmas interpolations) [33:30]
Organ Prelude: Puer natus in Bethlehem, BWV603 [1:36]
Congregational Chorale: Puer natus in Bethlehem [2:48]
Giovanni GABRIELI (1557-1612)
Hodie Christus natus est a8 [2:54]
Julia Doyle (soprano); Joanne Lunn (soprano); Clare Wilkinson (mezzo); Nicholas Mulroy (tenor); Matthew Brook (bass-baritone); John Butt and Stephen Farr (organ)
Dunedin Consort/John Butt
rec. 27-31 July 2014, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh
German texts and English translations included
LINN CKD469 SACD  [78:00] - from hyperion-records.co.uk and linnrecords.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).

John Quinn and I quite separately but unanimously made this Recording of the Month.  JQ’s review is here; mine is pending as I write.  In brief, even if you have another recording of either, or even both, of the main works you will be bowled over by this new recording.  It’s top of my Christmas 2015 list so far and I expect it to remain so. Whether you download from Hyperion or Linn, I strongly recommend against clicking the 'Download from iTunes' button on the Hyperion site - a recording of this quality deserves to be heard in better than mp3 at less than the full bit-rate.

Girolamo ABOS (1715-1760) A Maltese Christmas
Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel [27:04]
Magnificat [11:42]
Messa a due coriKyrie, Gloria (1756) [28:54]
Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
rec. live Valetta International Baroque Festival, St Paul’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral, 21 January 2015. DDD
Texts and translations included
CPO 7779782 [67:40] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet)

Take the Christmas link with a very large pinch of salt – only the Magnificat has the slightest relation to the season, and that comes in the standard setting without any specifically Christmas additions.  To be fair, only the cover title makes the claim.  The Benedictus is the canticle sung at Lauds and the Missa a due cori is simply a two-choir setting of the Kyrie and Gloria of the ordinary of the Mass.  All the music is composed in the Maltese equivalent of the galant style and it’s enjoyable.

There is only one other recording of Abos’ music in the current catalogue, taking up one third of a Cypres CD.  While I can’t pretend that he’s a neglected genius, I do recommend trying the CPO recording: subscribers can do that from Qobuz or Naxos Music Library.

The pdf booklet from eclassical.com is devoid of its back cover, which lists the recording location and date: I had to obtain that from Naxos Music Library.

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No.59 in A, ‘Fire Symphony’ [20:28]
Symphony No.52 in c minor [22:40]
Symphony No.53 in D, ‘L’Impériale’ [26:45]
Royal Northern Sinfonia/Rebecca Miller
SIGNUM SIGCD434 [69:53] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet) or stream (subscribers) or download from classicsonlinehd.com (16-bit, with booklet)

If you followed my advice in 2015/8 to obtain Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Symphonies 31, 70 and 101 (Linn CKD500: Recording of the Monthreview), this new recording of three middle-period symphonies – another stylish set of performances with a modern orchestra – would be a natural follow-on.  My own favourite is No.53, but all are well worth hearing.

The Virgin Veritas recording of Nos. 52 and 53, with No.26, Sinfonia Concertante and Violin Concerto in C, from la Petite Bande and Sigiswald Kuijken, is no longer available on CD; the Qobuz download is rather pricey at £11.82 for a 2-CD set which used to sell for around £8.50 and comes without booklet, but subscribers should enjoy streaming it.  If you are happy with 320kbs mp3, sainsburysentertainment.co.uk have it for £7.49.  Rebecca Miller’s tempi in No.53 are very close to Kuijken’s and her modern-instrumentalists play just as stylishly for her as Kuijken’s period band.  One respect in which the new recording scores is in providing alternative versions of the finale, though after one hearing you may find it a nuisance to select just one of these.

The classic account of No.52 was made by Max Goberman with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra: subscribers can stream the Sony reissue, with No.55, from classicsonlinehd.com, where it can also be purchased for £7.19.  On CD only the 14-CD set of the 46 symphonies and three overtures which Goberman recorded remains available (Sony 88843073942 (UK) or 886445052398 (US), also available for streaming by Qobuz subscribers).  These recordings are still very well worth hearing, as I wrote in reviewing the Beulah reissues of Nos. 6, 12, 14 and 24 (1PD55) and 41, 51 and 56 (2PD55), not least because in many ways they foreshadow period-instrument practice. 

Listen to Paul Sacher conducting the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in No.53 and 67 on Naxos Classical Archives 9.80339 and you’ll see both how far Gobermann was more in tune with modern performance style and how far we have come since the 1950s – subscribers stream from classicsonlinehd.com.

In the new recording Rebecca Miller brings her own experience of working with period performers* to bear in cooperation with the Royal Northern Sinfonia.  Goberman was old-fashioned in one sense in that he deprives the first-movement of its repeat and thereby of its pre-eminence.  His tempo for the second movement is also a trifle slow for andante, but there’s very little about his recording that doesn’t still sound stylish.  What Goberman achieved with the VSOO – not Vienna’s top orchestra – was wonderful, but Miller obtains a lighter, brighter sound from the Royal Northern Sinfonia players.

The Signum recording is very good, especially in 24-bit, but I wonder why there is such a long gap between movements three and four of No.53.

* C.P.E. Bach Symphonies, SIGCD395reviewreviewDL News 2015/3

Brazilian Adventures
Anonymous Matais de Incêndios verses 1-4 [2:30]
José Maurício Nunes GARCIA (1767-1830)
Missa Pastoril para a noite de Natal (1808, rev 1811) - Kyrie & Gloria [16:57]
José Joachim Emerico Lobo de MESQUITA (1746-1805)  
Tercios: Padre nostro [2:01]; Ave Maria [1:24]; Gloria [1:47]
José Maurício Nunes GARCIA
Missa Pastoril para a noite de Natal – Credo [7:11]
Theodoro Cyro de SOUZA (1761-?) Ascendit Deus
José Maurício Nunes GARCIA
Missa Pastoril para a noite de Natal – Sanctus, Benedictus & Angus Dei [4:29]
Anonymous Matais de Incêndios verses 5-8 [2:32]
André da Silva GOMES (1752-1844)
Missa a oito vozes e instrumentos (1785) - Kyrie [11:10]
Luís Álvares PINTO (c. 1719-c.1789)
Beata Virgo (Divertimento harmônico No.1) [1:58]
Lições de solfejo XXV [1:11]; Oh! pulchra es (Divertimento harmônico No.5) [1:10]
André da Silva GOMES (1754-1844)
Missa a oito vozes e instrumentos - Gloria [21:20]
Ex Cathedra/Jeffrey Skidmore
rec. 2-4 September, 2014, All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London
Texts and translations included
HYPERION CDA68114  [77:46] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

Please see review by John Quinn.

The anonymous instrumental music interspersed throughout this album sounds similar to and just as enjoyable as that recorded on three earlier Hyperion albums of Latin American music from Ex Cathedra, except that the choral music stems from a later century: CDA67380review – or CDA30030, CDA67524 review – and CDA67600 review – or SACDA67600review.

The main work is a Christmas Mass, sounding like you might expect from a contemporary of Haydn but one working in a more popular style for a South American clientele.  The performances are as excellent as we have come to expect from Jeffrey Skidmore and his team.

The 24-bit is at 24/44.1 but none the worse for that.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat, Op.19 (1788, rev. 1801)
Maria Joãn Pires (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
 rec. live Barbican, London, 17 and 21 February 2013. DDD/DSD
LSO LIVE LSO0245 [30:55] – download only, no CD.  From eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless with pdf booklet).

I’m not sure why this is being released on its own – perhaps because the other work at the concert was Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, already released on LSO0746 – but the price from most download providers reflects the short playing time - $5.57 from eclassical.com.  The performance is all that you would expect from two such experienced interpreters of Beethoven: no gimmicks just the music as you feel it should be played.

Though the recording was made in DSD according to the booklet, there appears to be no 24-bit version but the 16-bit sounds fine.

Johann Wenzel KALLIWODA (1801-1866)
Overture No.3 in C, Op.55 (1834) [4:31]
Violin Concertino No. 5 in a minor, Op.133 (c.1840 rev 1843-44) [22:06]
Overture No. 7 in c minor, Op.101 (1838) [7:47]
Violin Concertino No.1 in E, Op.15 (1828) [16:01]
Overture No.10 in F minor, Op.142 (1842) [7:02]
Ariadne Daskalakis (violin)
Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
rec. January 2011, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal
CPO 777692-2 [57:28] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

I very nearly lost this download when an almost-new external 4TB hard drive failed – it’s still away with the data being retrieved, I hope.  Ironically, I had bought it to replace a 2-year-old predecessor, which is still going strong.  The moral is always to back everything up, which I had not yet got round to for this album.  Eclassical.com saved the day because purchases remain available for ever in ‘My Pages’, so I was able to return and download again.

Three colleagues have already recommended the performances: David Barker and Brian Reinhart (Recording of the Month) and Jonathan Woolf.  The 24-bit recording is very good and not expensive at $15.50 but mp3 and 16-bit are also good of their kind at a less expensive $10.33.  CPO downloads now come with the complete booklet instead of the few pages that we used to get but without the CD tray insert where the recording venue and dates are listed: only Naxos Music Library seem to bother with this, but not their partners at classicsonlindhd.com.

César FRANCK (1822-1890) Symphony in d minor [39:06]
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux – rec. 1961. ADD/stereo
Sonata for violin and piano [26:45]
Zino Francescatti (violin); Robert Casdesus (piano) – rec. 1947. ADD/mono
Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra [14:34]
Leon Fleisher (piano); Cleveland Orchestra/George Szell – rec. 1957. ADD/stereo
LES INDISPENSABLES DE DIAPASON [80:31] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet).

With the RCA CD of the Monteux performance of the Symphony now download only or incarcerated in a huge box, this reissue from Indispensables de Diapson, also for download, offers a very welcome and inexpensive alternative.  It’s worth the price, just £3.36 from emusic.com, in 320kbs mp3, for the Symphony alone.  The EMI Beecham from much the same period is also in a box, albeit a more manageable one which contains some of his very fine recordings of French music (9099322, 6 CDs at budget price).  Much as I like the Beecham, however, the Monteux has a strong case for being regarded as the classic recording and it has come up sounding very well in this transfer.

So has the 1947 recording of the sonata, sounding amazingly well for its age, with a very occasional slight hint of 78 surface noise.  The Symphonic Variations fared much less well on their first release on a 7” EP, with an ill-chosen turnover and restricted sound.  There’s no problem about the turnover here and the sound is more than acceptable, though the transfer is somewhat muddy, so less impressive than that of the Symphony.  The 5-page booklet which comes with the Qobuz version at £6.39, but not with the emusic, wrongly lists the orchestra as the Philadelphia, Eugene Ormandy’s territory, not George Szell’s, which was the Cleveland orchestra.

Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)   
Má Vlast [73:06]
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Václav Talich – rec.1954 ADD/mono
BEULAH 3PD22 [73:06] - from iTunes

I have heard some very thin-sounding transfers of these classic performances over the years but this Beulah release makes it sound almost as good as Supraphon’s own or the Naxos Historical and thus better than any other that I know.  Supraphon and Naxos perhaps shave off more of the brightness from the top but the Beulah sound is more than acceptable.  Naxos lose some of the treble in taming the top – slightly muddy instead of slightly glassy – but both Beulah and Naxos transfer from LP, which means that the cut in the Supraphon CD of Tabor is restored.  As for the performances they excel all but the very best of the more recent recordings, from Kubelík, Mackerras (both Supraphon), Flor (BIS) and, surprisingly, Sargent (now imprisoned in a multi-disc box, but the Classics for Pleasure release is still available to stream or download).

If the slightly glassy top could have been tamed a little more without sounding muddy, this would have been my Reissue of the Month.  You can, of course, filter off a little of the top yourself: you can’t put back what isn’t there.  As it is, I’ve reserved the honour for another Beulah release (below).

Reissue of the Month
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in a minor, Op.53 [32:08]
Johanna Martzy (violin)
RIAS Symphony Orchestra, Berlin/Ferenc Fricsay – rec. 1953 ADD/mono
Symphony No.7 in d minor, Op.70 [37:30]
London Symphony Orchestra/Pierre Monteux – rec. 1959. ADD/stereo
BEULAH 2PD45 [69:38] – from iTunes (mp3)

If I hail the Monteux recording of the symphony as a very special old friend, that doesn’t mean that I’m disregarding the concerto, though my oldest guide to that work came from Josef Suk and Karel Ančerl with the Czech Phil on Supraphon – bought for the princely sum of 17/6 (£0.87) and in decent stereo.  The CD reissue of that recording seems to be out of stock on disc but the download from 7digital.com in 320kbs mp3 costs only £3.96 and it’s more than just nostalgia that draws me back to that recording, though I also like a recent Supraphon release with Josef Špaček as soloist (SU41822, with Suk and Janáček: Recording of the Monthreview: download from emusic.com for £2.10).

This Beulah reissue is good value for the Concerto and mandatory for the Symphony.

Another well-filled Beulah Dvorák reissue brings very decent transfers of the Piano Concerto, Op.33 [38:38], with František Maxián a persuasive soloist in the Kurz revision, and the first set of Slavonic Dances, Op.46 [37:36], both with Václav Talich at the helm, dating from 1951 and 1950 (3PD45B [76:15] – from iTunes).

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)

String Sextet in A, Op.48 (1878) [33:21]
String Quintet No.2 in G, Op.77 (1875) [33:38]
Intermezzo in B for two violins, viola, cello and double bass, B49 (original slow movement of Quintet) [4:34]
The Nash Ensemble
First released on ASV Gold in 2005.  DDD.
ALTO ALC1273 [71:34] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet)

This is inexpensive on CD, around £5.50 – don’t pay more: one dealer is asking over £11 – and even more so if downloaded from emusic.com for £3.78.  Originally released on the ASV label, it has been one of the victims of the shameful neglect of the riches on that label by its current owners, Universal, so I’m pleased to see it reissued by Alto.

The performances are excellent and the recording is good, apart from a slightly metallic edge to the sound which either abated or bothered me less as the album progressed.

The very fine Raphael Ensemble recording of the Sextet on Hyperion Helios, with String Quintet No.3, has now reverted, like the whole series, to full price but you may still be able to find CDH55405 for around £5.50.  The download from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet) costs £7.99 – still good value.  Choice of coupling would be a safe deciding factor between the Helios and the Alto.

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Kullervo, Op.7 (1892) [72:12]
Peter Mattei (baritone), Monica Groop (mezzo)
Gentlemen of the London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis
rec. Barbican, London, 18 September and 9 October 2005.  DDD/DSD
LSO LIVE LSO0074 [72:12] – from eclassical.com or classicsonlinehd.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet).  Also available on SACD and in a set with Symphonies 1-7 LSO01091.

Kullervo, like Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, is a choral symphony that is not counted among its composer’s tally of symphonies.  It’s a work for which I’ve always had a great liking and Colin Davis’s account has served only to increase my appreciation, especially as my previous version of choice from Esa-Pekka Salonen (Sony SK52563) is no longer available, even to stream or download, though Amazon had a couple of copies left when I checked. 

At $12.97 (eclassical.com) or £7.99 (COL:HD) the download won’t save a great deal over the cost of the SACD (around £8.75) and there’s no 24-bit version, but the 16-bit sound leaves very little to be desired.  Don’t be tempted by the eclassical.com set of Symphonies 1-7 and Kullervo, however: at $54.84 it’s a great deal more expensive than the £20 or so that you should expect to pay for the SACD set.

The most serious challenger comes from Osmo Vänskä with the Lahti Orchestra on BIS-CD-1215 – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet) or as part of Volume 3 of the BIS Sibelius Edition (Voice and OrchestraDL News 2015/2) or on The Essential Sibelius (BIS-CD-1697/1700review).  Unfortunately, Qobuz, who were offering The Essential Sibelius at a super-bargain price have now increased it to £59.99: better to go for the CDs, currently on offer from one dealer for £44.25.  Qobuz do, however, have Volume 3 of the BIS Sibelius Edition for £23.99 – purchase here or stream here (subscribers).

The budget-price EMI/Warner twofer from Paavo Berglund, in some respects even more powerful than the Davis/LSO Live, with The Oceanides, Karelia Suite, Tapiola, Finlandia and Scènes Historiques – Suite No.1 is also well worth considering – subscribers can stream from Qobuz and downloaded there for £7.27 but that’s a limited offer and when it returns to £9.00 the 2-CD set will be better value for around £8.50 (2176742 – review of superseded single-CD reissue).  If you’re happy with 320kbs mp3, sainsburysentertainment.co.uk have the Berglund 2-CD set for £5.99.

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
The Sibelius Edition: Volume 12 - Symphonies 
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
 
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä (symphonies), Jaakko Kuusisto (fragments – all world premiere recordings) 
rec. Church of the Cross (Ristinkirkko), Lahti, Finland, 1995-97. DDD 
BIS BIS-CD-1933-35  [5:19:31] - from  eclassical.com  (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet). 

This is the latest and penultimate release in the Sibelius Edition – Volume 13 is due in December 2015.  Now the downloads from eclassical.com, which have been more expensive than the physical product, are more than competitive. 

Please see my more detailed review.

Beecham Conducts Sibelius
Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105 [19:13]
New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham – rec. 1942 ADD/mono
Violin Concerto in D, Op.47 [29:13]
Isaac Stern (violin); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham – rec. 1951 ADD/mono)
Scènes Historiques No.1, Op.25 – Festivo [7:46]
Scènes Historiques No.2, Op.66 – The Chase; Love Song; At the Drawbridge [18:24]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham – rec. 1951 ADD/mono
BEULAH 2PDR4 [74:36] – coming soon from iTunes.

Sibelius is known to have enjoyed Beecham’s recordings of his music, eagerly anticipating forthcoming releases so that, though these reissues may not be as authoritative as those of Kajanus, they are certainly well worth preserving.

The recording of the symphony used to be available in CD transfers from Dutton and the Beecham Trust but I can’t find either in the current catalogue.  With the RPO version (1955) also unavailable – Amazon UK have a few copies left – this reissue of the 1942 version, which has a strong claim still to be regarded as the benchmark, is very welcome.  You wouldn’t mistake the transfer even for a mono LP, but it’s very tolerable.

The recordings of the Violin Concerto and the music from Scènes Historiques have also been very well transferred on Naxos Classical Archives, together with the King Christian II music.  That’s a slightly smoother transfer and it’s available as a very inexpensive download, but you may well prefer the Beulah coupling of the 1942 Symphony No.7, which I don’t think is otherwise available.  The Beulah transfers sound very acceptable for their age, though the concerto is old enough to have been first released in the UK on 78s and sometimes sounds a little brittle.  Stern made a later recording with Ormandy’s Philadelphia Orchestra, now imprisoned in an 8-CD set, but this recording, with Beecham conducting with his usual style, is well worth having, some minor problems of intonation notwithstanding.

The excerpts from the two sets of Scènes Historiques make up some typically affectionate Beecham lollipops, well worth having even if you have the 5-CD BIS Sibelius Edition Volume 1 of the complete Tone Poems, which includes all six items from the two suites.

Overtures from the British Isles
Frederic AUSTIN (1872-1952)
Concert Overture - The Sea Venturers (1934) [11:07]
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Prelude to Oedipus Tyrannus, Op. 29 (1887, revised 1888) [8:27]
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875-1912)
Overture to The Song of Hiawatha, Op. 30 No. 3 (1899) [11:21]
Frederic Hymen COWEN (1852-1935)
Concert Overture - The Butterfly’s Ball (1901) [11:48]
Granville BANTOCK (1868-1946)
Comedy Overture - The Frogs (of Aristophanes) (1935) [8:26]
Alexander Campbell MACKENZIE (1847-1935)
Overture to The Little Minister (1897) [8:12]
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Overture to Macbeth (1888) [8:13]
Henry BALFOUR GARDINER (1877-1950)
Overture to a Comedy (1906, revised 1911) [8:29]
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Rumon Gamba
rec. 24-26 April 2013, BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, Wales. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10797 [77:06] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet)

I missed this when it was released in 2014, despite Rob Barnett’s declaring it an out-and-out winner and awarding the Recording of the Month accolade.  Let me atone for the omission now by adding that the recording does the music and performances justice, though it’s available only in 16-bit format from eclassical.com.  There’s a 24/96 version from theclassicalshop.net but I can’t comment on that, as MWI reviewers have lost press access to that site – just restored as I put this DL News to bed. 

At $13.69 the eclassical.com price is slightly lower than theclassicalshop.net’s £9.99 for 16-bit, with 24-bit at £13.99 from the latter.

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
L’Enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Spells, 1925) [44:41]
Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose): complete ballet [27:11]
L’Enfant - Hélène Hébrard (soprano)
Maman, la Libellule, la Tasse chinoise - Delphine Galou (contralto)
La Bergère, la Chatte, l’Ecureuil, un Pâtre - Julie Pasturaud (mezzo)
La Théière, le Petit Vieillard, la Rainette - Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (tenor)
L’Horloge comtoise, le Chat - Marc Barrard (baritone)
Le Fauteuil, un Arbre - Nicolas Courjal (bass)
La Chauve-souris, la Chouette, une Pastourelle - Ingrid Perruche (soprano)
Le Feu, la Princesse, le Rossignol - Annick Massis (soprano)
Chœur Britten; Jeune Chœur symphonique; Maîtrise de l’Opéra National de Lyon
Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin
rec. Auditorium Maurice Ravel, Lyon, France, September 2011. DDD.
Detailed synopsis included but no text.
NAXOS 8.660336 [71:52] - from classicsonlinehd.com (16-bit lossless download or stream – for subscribers).

We weren’t stuck for choice of versions of L’Enfant et les sortilèges, with Lorin Maazel’s vintage mid-price DG recording still leading the field (Originals E4497692).  That, however, entails the purchase of a 2-CD set, albeit that we also get Ravel’s other little masterpiece,L’Heure espagnole, into the bargain.  I reviewed that in April 2009: the Passionato link no longer applies – the lossless version from Qobuz is fine for subscribers to stream, but it costs the same as the CDs to purchase and there’s no booklet.  7digital.com offer it in 320kbs mp3 for £11.99 – again, no booklet.

Wisely, Naxos have chosen not to compete directly with DG, giving us a complete version of the wonderful Ma Mère l’oye as coupling instead, bringing it into competition with Simon Rattle (Warner 2641972 reviewreview).  Neither ousts Maazel’s L’Enfant from top spot, though I enjoyed this performance of Ma Mère and the price is very attractive, at £4.99 with the booklet included.

Those looking for the bargain of bargains who don’t mind 1954 mono sound will find Ernest Ansermet’s slightly rough and ready recording, with Suzanne Danco and Hugues Cuénod, on Naxos Classical Archives for £0.84 from emusic.com.

The Call : More Choral Classics from St John’s
John IRELAND (1879-1962) Greater Love hath no man* [6:02]
Douglas GUEST (1916-1996) For the Fallen [1:21]
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY (1848-1918) My soul, there is a country [4:00]
Roxanna PANUFNIK (b. 1968) The Call† [4:21]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) Hear my prayer* [11:21]
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY I was glad* [5:28]
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) Beati quorum via [3:39]
Sir John TAVENER (1944-2013) Song for Athene [5:31]
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD Te Deum laudamus * [6:47]
Sir William Henry HARRIS (1883-1973) Holy is the true light [1:42]
Jonathan DOVE (b. 1959) Gloria * [3:48]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) O salutaris Hostia [3:39]
Felix MENDELSSOHN Ave Maria * [6:31]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) A Spotless Rose [3:24]
Sir Ernest BULLOCK (1890-1979) Give us the wings of faith* [2:54]
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY And did those feet* [2:49]
Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/Andrew Nethsingha
Alison Martin harp†
Edward Picton-Turbervill organ*
rec. St John’s College Chapel, Cambridge; 17–19 April 2015. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10872 [73:25] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

It’s one of the many virtues of this recording that there’s something here for all seasons and all moods.  Perhaps for some it casts its net a little too wide: I might have preferred a clearer theme.  That apart, it’s a very worthy successor to the earlier very varied and distinguished fare on recordings from St John’s and Andrew Nethsingha on Chandos: CHAN0790 (Purcell and Humfrey), CHSA5096 (On Christmas Night), CHAN0804 (Tomkins), CHAN10587 (Howells), CHSA0401 (Sheppard), CHAN0786 (Mozart), CHAN10751 (S.S. Wesley), CHAN0778 (Lassus), CHAN10842 (Messiaen, Poulenc etc.) and its immediate predecessor, Hear My Word: Choral Classics, CHSA5085.  Of the last of these John Quinn wrote: ‘a most attractive and varied programme and all of it is expertly performed’, and that’s equally true of the new recording.  There’s no SACD this time, so downloading is your only way to obtain 24-bit, which is very good, albeit without a surround option.

Gwyn Parry-Jones thought this an outstanding issue apart from problems with the balance of the organ – review.

Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
An Outdoor Overture (1938) [8:17]
Billy the Kid (complete ballet) (1938) [32:23]
El Salón México (1933-1936) [11:19]
Rodeo (complete ballet) (1942) [24:10]
Colorado Symphony/Andrew Litton
rec. November 2014, Boettcher Concert Hall, Denver, Colorado, USA
BIS BIS-2164 SACD [77:26] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet.

Dan Morgan’s punch-line says it all and does so succinctly: ‘Litton leaves his rivals choking in the dust; the same goes for BIS’s exceptional recording’ – review.

Though there are several distinguished rivals in both Billy the Kid and Rodeo, the fact that both are given complete here swings it for me.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard Rodeo so complete that Litton includes even Ranch House Party – I thought at first that I’d picked up a rogue track from a Scott Joplin honky-tonk piano recording.   Whatever other versions you have, this is a must for Copland fans.

Jazz Bargain of the Month
Kenny WHEELER (1930-2014) Gnu High
Heyoke [21:56]
Smatter [6:01]
Gnu Suite [12:49]
Kenny Wheeler (fluegelhorn), Keith Jarrett (piano), Dave Holland (bass), John Duchesne (drums)
rec. Generation Sound Studios, New York, June1975.
ECM1069 (825591-2) [40:46] – from emusic.com (£1.26 for subscribers).

41 minutes may look like short value but this is such a very enjoyable album that I wasn’t counting and the emusic price more than compensates.  The bit-rate is not great – around 235kbs – but the result is more than adequate.  Qobuz charge a good deal more, £10.59, for their lossless download and there’s no booklet, but subscribers should enjoy streaming it there.  Even 7music.com in 320kbs mp3, at £8.99, seems a little pricey for such a short album.

György ORBÁN (b.1947)
Christmas Oratorio
Ildikó Cserna (soprano); Xavier Rivadeneira (tenor); Csaba  Gaal (baritone); Tamás Szüle (bass), Dániel Fülep (narration)
Béla Bartók Chorus
Béla Bartók University Orchestra, Budapest Eötvös Loránd University Orchestra/Gábor Baross
HUNGAROTON HCD32746 [73:20] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless); stream, (subscribers) or download from classicsonlinehd.com (lossless).  NO booklet from either.

Listening with an innocent ear you would be at a loss to know the date of this composition – György Orbán is hardly a household name.  It’s hard to place but if I had had to guess I would have said early twentieth-century.  In fact, given his date of birth it has to be much later: I understand that Orbán’s music tends to be a blend of the traditional, harking right back to influence from the renaissance, modern jazz and all points between.  There’s little information that I can give other than that he was born in Romania and emigrated to Hungary, where he became professor of composition at the Liszt Academy in Budapest.

The brief sections of mostly biblical Hungarian narration, including the Magnificat and Benedictus, and the lack of texts and translations are somewhat of a handicap, but both websites give brief indications in English of the contents of each section.  I’d rate this interesting enough to be worth a listen rather than an essential Christmas download.

Beulah English Music 8
Sir Arthur BLISS (1891-1975) Piano Concerto in B-flat (1938) [37:48]
Solomon Cutner (piano)
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec. 1943. ADD/mono
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) (arr. Sir John Barbirolli) Suite for Strings [14:00]
Evelyn Rothwell (oboe)
Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli – rec. 1956 ADD/stereo
Sir Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998) The Midsummer Marriage – Ritual Dances [23:00]
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra/John Pritchard – rec. 1958 ADD/stereo
BEULAH 8PD76 [74:49] – from iTunes (mp3)

Beulah English Music 9
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Sea Pictures , Op.37 [22:46]
Gladys Ripley (contralto); London Symphony Orchestra/George Weldon – rec. 1954 ADD/mono
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934) Idyll [21:29]
Sylvia Fisher (soprano); Jess Walters (baritone); Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli – rec. 1957 ADD/stereo
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958) Serenade to Music [13:21]
Elsie Morrison (soprano); Marjorie Thomas (contralto); Duncan Robertson (tenor); Trevor Anthony (bass); London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Sir Malcolm Sargent – rec. 1954 ADD/mono
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900) The Long Day Closes [3:46]
Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir/Ivor Sims – rec. 1958 ADD/stereo
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1876) A Charm of Lullabies [11:28]
Helen Watts (contralto); Benjamin Britten – radio recording, 1962.
BEULAH 9PD76 [72:52] – from iTunes (mp3)

Beulah’s series of reissues of vintage recordings of English music has now reached its eighth and ninth volumes.

Solomon’s recording of the Bliss – he usually omitted his surname – is extremely valuable.  He was the soloist at the premiere in New York in 1939, the recording of which has been reissued on APR5627.  Sir Adrian Boult was the conductor there as on the Beulah reissue, but both he and Solomon seem even more at home with the Liverpool Phil and the 1939 sound, as streamed from Qobuz, is rather dim and swishy.  The 1943 recording, justly hailed as a magnificent achievement by AR in Gramophone, in July 1943, blasts a little at the opening – I recommend turning down the volume somewhat – but soon settles down in this very good Beulah transfer.  This is well worth having, especially as the other historical recording (Trevor Barnard/Malcolm Sargent, Divine Art DDV24106review) takes up a whole CD on its own.

Barbirolli’s beautiful arrangement of music by Purcell with a prominent part for his wife, Evelyn Rothwell, is not available on the Barbirolli Society’s own series of CD reissues, so its inclusion here is very welcome.  If you like it you should also try Barbirolli’s arrangement of Pergolesi and Corelli as oboe concertos for her (Barbirolli Society SJB1009, with other concertos and arrangements).  They would all drive historically-aware enthusiasts mad but, much as I enjoy period performance, I also love this sort of arrangement.

The Pritchard recording of the Ritual Dances – the only part of The Midsummer Marriage likely to appeal to a wider audience – is a classic recording which still sounds very well in this transfer.  The Decca recording, part of a Tippett collection on 4756750, is now download only.

I haven’t yet heard the new Hallé recording of Elgar’s Sea Pictures (CDHLL7536review), so my benchmark remains Dame Janet Baker, whose wonderful recording with Sir John Barbirolli is enough to make the listener forget the banality of Lady Elgar’s words.  That recording, now at lower mid-price on Warner 2564607600, rather eclipsed the Ripley/Weldon which Beulah have reissued and which received high praise from AR in Gramophone when it was released on Columbia 33SX1028 in 1954 but the mid-price reissue on XLP30008 didn’t stay long in the catalogue.

If, like me – and Sir Thomas Beecham – Gerontius is not your favourite Elgar, the recent Chandos recording which couples Sea Pictures with that work will not be for you, though John Quinn made it a Recording of the Month.  I began to listen to Gladys Ripley with a degree of trepidation – pre-Baker contraltos, including, I regret to say, Kathleen Ferrier, were mostly given to plumminess – but I enjoyed hearing this recording and intend to return to this very good transfer, especially as I’m not allowed to play the Cello Concerto which is coupled with the Baker/Barbiolli recording – my better half finds Jacqueline du Pré too intense to bear.  At first I thought the performance a little understated but soon changed my mind.  I always thought George Weldon somewhat under-rated, especially in Elgar and this recording confirms that impression: his recording of Cockaigne, Serenade for Strings, and other works would still be worth reissuing (World Record Club ST296, Classics for Pleasure CFP40135).

The Somm reissue of the Ripley/Weldon recording seems to be out of stock at the moment, so the Beulah release is all the more valuable.  I was surprised to find the Delius Idyll which followed – from Pye CCL30108 and later Golden Guinea GSGC14075 – musically somewhat diffuse and something of an anti-climax after the Elgar, but it and the other works also receive very fine performances – especially the VW, of which this is a classic version but not, I think, otherwise available.  There are only three other recordings of the Delius currently available: this Barbirolli recording is also available on the Barbirolli Society label and the others are on 7-CD and 18-CD sets from Heritage and EMI respectively.

Kenneth ALFORD (1881-1945) The British March King
Including Colonel Bogie, Eagle Squadron, The Standard of St George, On the Quarter Deck, The Great Little Army, Holyrood, The Thin Red Line, The Vanished Army and Sparks.
Band of HM Royal Marines Plymouth/Major F.J. Ricketts – rec.1939/1940 ADD/mono
Band of the Grenadier Guards/Lt. Col. George Miller – rec. 1931-1939 ADD/mono
Band of HM Royal Marines/Lt. Col. Vivian Dunn – rec. 1959 ADD/stereo
BEULAH 2PD95 [56:39] – from iTunes (mp3)

‘Kenneth J. Alford’ was the pen-name of Warrant Officer, later Major, Frederick Joseph Ricketts, a skilful and prolific composer of military music, which Beulah have made something of a speciality. 

Many of the performances are authoritative – directed by Alford himself, under his real name and, though the older recordings sound their age, they are mostly perfectly tolerable, especially as surface noise is almost totally inaudible without any loss of upper frequencies.  Track 5, By Land and Sea , is rather wheezy: try sampling it from Qobuz and if you can tolerate it the rest should be all right.

I’m listening and writing this review immediately after the two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday and the music sets the mood ideally. It’s a mark of Alford’s distinction that most rival recordings of his music are performed by US military bands.

Requiem - Music for All Saints and All Souls
Gabrielle Haigh, Sophie Horrocks, Alice Halstead, Janneke Dupré (sopranos); Eleanor Warner, Abigail Gostick (mezzos); Alexander Walmsley, Christopher Loyn (tenors); Christopher Preston Bell, Hugo Popplewell (bass)
Matthew Jorysz, Peter Harrison (organ)
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Graham Ross
rec. Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, 17 February 2014 and All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, 20 and 22 March 2014. DDD.
Texts and translations included
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907617 [77:18] - from eclassical.com, mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet.

My own review of this recording of music ranging from Byrd to Leighton but focused mainly on Victoria’s Requiem is in the pipeline as I write.  Meanwhile please refer to John Quinn’s review.  We have both been very positive about it, though my loyalty to The Tallis Scholars (Gimell) or Westminster Cathedral (Hyperion) in the Victoria is unshaken.

Yulefest!
The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Stephen Layton
rec. 8, 9, 12 January 2014, Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge
Texts included
HYPERION CDA68087 [65:13] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

For full details, please see review by John Quinn: ‘A splendid and varied disc of Christmas music, immaculately performed.’

I haven’t yet had time to listen to the whole album but I very much doubt that I shall be at variance with JQ.  On the basis of what I’ve heard – just over half – this could well be the Christmas album of the year for me.  Don’t expect something serious because the performances come from a Cambridge college: this is a fun album with oodles of syncopation, so not for stern traditionalists, though there’s plenty of music which receives a delicate treatment, too.

A Very English Christmas
Tenebrae/Nigel Short
James Sherlock (organ)
rec. 21-22 January 2015, Church of St Augustine, Kilburn, London
Texts included
BENE ARTE/SIGNUM SIGCD902 [55:35] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet).  Full details and review by John Quinn.

This is a very attractive combination of the familiar, unfamiliar settings of old favourites and new works for Christmas, all performed with Tenebrae’s usual expertise.  All of the unfamiliar settings and new works are well worth hearing, too, and the recording quality – close but not too close – does the music and performances full justice.  The download is only 16/44.1, but none the worse for that, and it comes at an attractive price of £6.99.

Dancing Day
Matthew MARTIN (b. 1976) Novo profusi gaudio [3:36]
Patrick HADLEY (1899-1973) I sing of a maiden [2:55]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) A Ceremony of Carols, Op.28 [22:29]
A New Year Carol [2:19]
Traditional Dutch, arr. John SCOTT (1956-2015) King Jesus hath a Garden [3:20]
John RUTTER (b. 1945) Dancing Day [25:31]
Traditional English, arr. Philip LEDGER (1937-2012) On Christmas Night (Sussex Carol) [2:00]
William MATHIAS (1934-1992) Wassail Carol [1:41]
Sara Cutler (harp); Stephen Buzard, Benjamin Sheen (organ)
Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, Fifth Avenue, New York/John Scott
rec. Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, 15-17 April 2015. DDD.
Texts and translations included
RESONUS RES10158 [63:58] – from resonusclassics.com (mp3, aac, 16- and 24-bit lossless and CD).

This is a very special recording in that it was made just before the death of conductor John Scott, one of the most highly regarded choirmasters in the Anglican Communion. A previous recent release, of the Bach motets, came as close as any recording has to making me enjoy what remains a blind spot in my appreciation of JSB – DL News 2015/5 – I see that Stephen Greenbank was also impressed by that ‘impressive release’ – review.

The main work among these modern settings of medieval words, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, is in no danger of being a blind spot for me.  The only problem concerns the multiplicity of recordings, variously coupled, but if the Resonus programme appeals, as it did for me, this is as good as any of the best recordings.  The booklet and the quality of the recording, which I heard in both 24-bit and mp3, both good of their kind, added to my enjoyment.  I see no reason to prefer any of the five other extant recordings of Rutter’s Dancing Day, a sequence of eight settings concluding with his well-known Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day, though those from Worcester and Exeter Cathedrals (Griffin and Herald respectively) look tempting.

Only those in search of an all-Britten programme need look elsewhere, perhaps to one of the two very fine Hyperion recordings (CDA67946DL News 2012/24 and CDA66220) or to the budget-price Classics for Pleasure with performances from King’s College, Cambridge, conducted by Sir David Willcocks and Sir Philip Ledger, neither, sadly, any longer with us (9689492).

 

 




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