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Cantatas for Soprano

 

ARTICLE Plain text for smartphones & printers

DOWNLOAD NEWS 2016/1
By Brian Wilson and Dan Morgan

DL News 2015/11 is here and the index of earlier editions is here. Index 2016/1:

ALFONSO ‘el Sabio’ Cantigas – Paniagua_Pneuma
ANTHEIL Capital of the World; de BANFIELD Le Combat – Ballet Theatre Orchestra/ Levine_Naxos Classical Archives
ARNOLD Philharmonic Concerto; Fantasy on a theme of John Field; Symphony No.7; FIELD Nocturne No.7 – Donohoe; RSNO/Yates_Dutton Epoch
Bach Lutheran Masses II – Suzuki_BIS (+ PERANDA Mass)
BACH, WF Keyboard Concertos – Gratton (harpsichord); Il Convito_Mirare
de BANFIELD Le Combat (see ANTHEIL)
BARTÓK Violin Concerto (see BRAHMS Violin Concerto)
BATES Mothership; Sea-Blue Circuitry; Attack Decay Sustain Release; Rusty Air in Carolina; Desert Transport – Moran; Chang; Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Rose_BMOP Sound
BEETHOVEN Symphony No.1; MAHLER Symphony No.1 – Hallé/Barbirolli_Beulah
BLISS Checkmate – Suite; Clarinet Quintet; Hymn to Apollo; Music for Strings; Pastoral ‘Lie Strewn the White Flocks’ – Janet Hilton, Lindsay String Quartet; Ulster O/Handley; Sinfonia Chorus, Northern Sinfonia/Hickox_Chandos
BLISS Pastoral ‘Lie Strewn the White Flocks’; BRITTEN Choral Dances (Gloriana); HOLST Rig Veda Hymns III – Holst Singers/Wetton_Hyperion
BOULEZ Le Marteau sans Maître; Dérive 1 and 2 - Hilary Summers; Ensemble Intercontemporain/Boulez_DG
BRAHMS Violin Concerto; BARTÓK Violin Concerto, Op. posth. – Jansen; Santa Cecilia Orchestra; LSO/Pappano_Decca
BRITTEN Choral Dances (see BLISS)
CASELLA Symphonic Fragments from Le Couvent sur l’eau; Elegia eroica; Symphony No.1 – Gillian Keith; BBC Philharmonic/Noseda_Chandos
DELIUS Over the Hills and far away, etc. (see GRAINGER Country Gardens)
DVOŘÁK Cello Concerto – see Great Cello Concertos_Beulah
FINZI Cello Concerto – Wallfisch; RLPO/Handley; Prelude for string orchestra; Romance for string orchestra; Concerto for Small Orchestra and Solo Violin – Little; City of London Sinfonia/Hickox_Chandos
FOULDS Le Cabaret; Pasquinade Symphoniques No.2; April – England; Hellas; Three Mantras – LPO/Wordsworth_Lyrita
GRAINGER Country Gardens, etc. - Eastman-Rochester Pops Orchestra/Fennell; DELIUS Over the Hills and far away; Summer Night on the River – RPO/Beecham; Brigg Fair - Philadelphia Orchestra/Ormandy_Beulah
GRANADOS Piano Quintet; TURINA Piano Quintet – Perianes; Cuarteto Quiroga_Harmonia Mundi
GRANADOS Goyescas; Escenas poéticas; Intermezzo de la Ópera Goyescas; El pelele (Escena goyesca) – Celis_BIS
HANDEL Arias for Francesca Cuzzoni – Bennani; Les Muffatti/van Heyghen_Ramée; Saffer; Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/ McGegan_ Harmonia Mundi
Partenope – Jaroussky, Gauvin; Pomo d’Oro/Minasi_Erato
HAYDN etc The Parisian Symphony – Les Agrémens/van Waas_Ricercar
— Cello Concerto – see Great Cello Concertos_Beulah
HOLST Rig Veda Hymns III (see BLISS)
ISAAC Missa Misericordias Domini, etc. – Cantica Symphonia_Glossa
IVES Symphony No.4; The Unanswered Question; Central Park in the Dark; Symphony No.3 – Cristina Valdés; Joseph Adam; Stilian Kirov, David Alexander Rahbee, Julia Tai; David Gordon; Seattle Symphony Chorale and Orchestra/Morlot_Seattle Symphony Media
New England Holidays Symphony; Central Park in the Dark; Three Places in New England; The Unanswered Question - Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Davis_Chandos
LASSUS Biographie musicale IV and V_Musique en Wallonie
MAHLER Symphony No.1 (see BEETHOVEN Symphony No.1_Beulah)
MATHIAS Symphony No.1; Symphony No.2 – BBC Welsh SO/ Mathias_Nimbus
Helios, Oboe Concerto, Requiescat, Symphony No. 3 – David Cowley; BBC Welsh SO/ Llewellyn_Nimbus
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, incidental music – Pike; Lois, Fuge, CBSO Youth Chorus; CBSO/Gardner_Chandos
The Fair Melusine; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, incidental music;The Hebrides – Tilling, Risberg, Swedish Radio Choir, Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Dausgaard_BIS
MUSSORGSKY Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel) – Concertgebouw O/Jansons_RCO Live
PERANDA Mass (see BACH Lutheran Masses II)_CPO
ROSENBERG Symphony No.2 – Stockholm PO/Blomstedt_Swedish Society (+ LIDHOLM Poesis)
— Symphony No.3 – Stockholm PO/Mann_Naxos Classical Archives
— Symphonies No.3 and No.4 – Stockholm PO/Rosenberg_Caprice
— Symphonies No.3 and No.6 – Gothenburg SO/Venzago_BIS; Stockholm SO/Westerberg_Phono Suecia
— Symphony No.4 – Gothenburg SO/Ehrling_Caprice
SIERRA Sinfonía No.3 ‘La Salsa’; Borikén; El Baile; Beyond the Silence of Sorrow – Guth; Puerto Rico SO/Valdés_NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS
SMETANA Piano Trio (see TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Trio)
SWEELINCK Works for Keyboard, Volume 3 – Woolley_Chandos
TCHAIKOVSKY Piano Trio; SMETANA Piano Trio – Trio con Brio Copenhagen_Orchid Classics (compared with recordings of the Tchaikovsky on Harmonia Mundi, Naxos and BIS)
— Secular Cantatas – Les Amis de Philippe_CPO
TUBIN (1905-1982) Symphonies (complete); Toccata; Suite from the ballet Kratt (The Goblin); Gothenburg SO; Bergen PO; Bamberg SO/Järvi_BIS
TURINA Piano Quintet (see GRANADOS Piano Quintet)
UNG Water Rings Overture; Anicca; Antiphonal Spirals; Singing inside Aura; Grand Spiral: Desert Flowers Bloom - Susan Ung; Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Rose_ BMOP Sound
Aura, Oracle, Still Life after Death_Cambria
WALTON Cello Concerto – see Great Cello Concertos_Beulah

Collections:

Der Herr ist König: Baroque Bass Cantatas – Mertens; Accademia Daniel/Ad-El_CPO
Great Cello Concertos: WALTON Piatigorsky; Boston Symphony Orchestra/Munch; DVOŘÁK Rostropovich; Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Talich; HAYDN Gendron; Lamoureux Orchestra/Casals_Beulah
Historic Grenadiers Volume 2 – Grenadier Guards Band/Miller_Beulah
Indian Classical Music – Hariprasad Chaurasia_Nimbus
STRAUSS family and contemporaries New Year’s Day Concert 2016 – VPO/Jansons_Sony

***

ALFONSO ‘el Sabio’, King of Castile and Leon (1252-1284)
Cantigas de Santa Maria: Cantigas de Alejandría
CSM 34: El Icono Perdido (Instrumental) [4:23]
CSM 155: Caballero de Alejandría [9:11]
CSM 131: El Emperador y el Patriarca (Instrumental) [4:29]
CSM 182: El Salteador de Damieta [6:41]
CSM 265: San Juan Damasceno (Instrumental) [5:49]
CSM 65: Ermitaño de Alejandría [24:40]
CSM 145: San Juan Eleimosinaryus (Instrumental) [5:11]
Música Antigua/Eduardo Paniagua
PNEUMA PN1510 [60:30] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet) or Presto (CD, mp3 or lossless download).

Eduardo Paniagua and his team have already given us several selections from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a huge collection in the Galician language assembled at the court of King Alfonso dubbed ‘the wise’.  All the songs relate to the Virgin Mary, enumerating miracles which she performed or sins which she forgave.  The cantigas are divided into different sections but Paniagua’s selection here cuts across those divisions, presenting seven works which mention Alexandria.  In fact only three of these cantigas refer directly to that place: No.155 describes how a sinful knight of that city turned to Mary, No.65 relates to the saving of another sinner – a common theme – and No.145, here in instrumental form only, describes John, the patriarch of Alexandria’s devotion to Mary.  There are no texts with the download but all the cantigas are available online, though without translation: type the CSM number of the work that you are seeking into the box at top left.

There’s no single right way to perform this music and recordings range from the comparatively minimalist, as on the recent recording on the PHI label (LPH017: Recording of the MonthreviewDL News 2015/9) to Paniagua’s tendency to throw in lots of instrumentation.  There’s room for both schools of performance when both are so well done: the court of Alfonso was comparatively open and enlightened for its time, with Jewish and Arab influence, so it’s quite defensible for Paniagua to rely on other Mediterranean musical practices.

Heinrich ISAAC (c.1450-1517)
Ave regina cælorum * (Reconstructed by Giuseppe Maletto) [4:17]
Ave ancilla trinitatis * [4:49]
Missa Misericordias Domini * [25:10]
Inviolata * (Anonymous, attrib. Isaac) [11:06]
Sub tuum praesidium [3:15]
Rogamus te [5:02]
Quae est ista * [6:48]
O decus Ecclesiæ [9:30]
Cantica Symphonia [Laura Fabris, Francesca Cassinari (sopranos); Giuseppe Maletto, Gianluca Ferrarini, Fabio Furnari (tenors); Marco Scavazza (baritone); Guido Magnano (organ); Svetlana Fomina, Efix Puleo, Daniela Godio (fiddles), Ermes Giussani, David Yacus (sackbutts & slide trumpets), Mauro Morini (sackbutt)]/Giuseppe Maletto
rec. 2009, 2010 and 2013.
* first recordings
Texts and translations included
GLOSSA GCDP31908 [69:57] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

Heinrich Isaac is still something of a neglected composer.  His music mainly features as a side dish to his contemporaries, so it’s hardly surprising that many of the works here, including the main item, the Missa Misericordias Domini, are receiving their first recordings.  The quality of the music in these fine performances makes me hopeful that we may have more such additions to the recorded repertoire, perhaps from this same group, who have already done sterling service for Guillaume Dufay – review.  A very fine supplement to the Tallis Scholars’ Isaac album, though that should probably be your first port of call if you don’t yet own it.  (CDGIM023 – from gimell.com or hyperion-records.co.uk, both mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet).

Roland de LASSUS (c.1531-1594)
Biographie Musicale Volume IV: La viellesse
Odhecaton/Paolo da Col
rec. Chiesa di S. Pietro, Belluno, Italy, April 2014. DDD
Texts and translations included in hardback presentation
MUSIQUE EN WALLONIE MEW1474 [73:54] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, all with pdf booklet)

Biographie Musicale Volume V: Lassus l’Européen
Track listing after review
Vox Luminis/Lionel Meunier
rec. Église de Franc-Warêt, Belgium, February and May 2015. DDD
Texts and translations included in hardback presentation
MUSIQUE EN WALLONIE MEW1579 [60:40] – from Qobuz: stream (for subscribers) or download (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless) all with pdf booklet.

For full details please see my review.

Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562 –1621) Works for Keyboard, Volume 3
Toccata C1, SwWV282/L19 [3:37]
Soll es sein (Poolse almande), SwWV330/N 12 [7:37]
Fantasia ‘Auf die Manier eines Echo’ C1, SwWV253/L13 [7:45]
Toccata 2di Toni g2, SwWV293/L22* [2:26]
Pavana Hispanica, SwWV327/N9* [2:47]
Fantasia [à 2] g3, SwWV272/L10* [1:10]
Toccata d1, SwWV285/L31 [3:26]
Ich fuhr mich über Rheine (Ick voer al over Rhijn), SwWV322/N4 [6:31]
Fantasia à 4 d2, SwWV259/L2 [11:13]
Toccata g4, SwWV295/L30 [2:08]
Malle Sijmen, SwWV323/N5 [1:35]
Fantasia d5, SwWV262/L37 [3:53]
Puer nobis nascitur, SwWV315/A8* [3:19]
Fantasia à 4 C2, SwWV254/L14* [5:21]
Allemande de chapelle, SwWV317* [3:06]
Fantasia re re re sol ut mi fa sol [à 2, 3 et 4 vocem] G4, SwWV269 [7:36]
Balleth del granduca, SwWV319/N1 [4:29]
Robert Woolley (harpsichord/virginal*)
Pitch: A = 415 Hz; Temperament: Quarter comma mean tone
rec. Glynde Church, East Sussex; 3–5 January 2008. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN0811 [79:28] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet)

All three volumes in this series are now download only: some dealers still have the discs of the earlier volumes but Volume 3 is released in that format only from the start.  Volumes 1 (CHAN0701 from theclassicalshop.net, mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet) and 2 ( CHAN0758review) were both well received and though I recommend starting with Volume 1, a collection of organ music, I also enjoyed this new successor.  I’m only surprised that we had to wait so long for it and I hope that we don’t have to wait as long again for what I hope will be further volumes in the series.  Sweelinck’s music may not have the general appeal of the music of some of his better-known contemporaries but you would hardly think that he was the organist of a Calvinist church.  He was not known as the ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam’ for nothing and his music is well worth getting to know in these fine performances: scholarly, enjoyable, well recorded and annotated.  The 24-bit is at 44.1kHz but none the worse for that.

Der Herr ist König  - Baroque Bass Cantatas
Johann Theodor ROEMHILDT (1684-1756)
Nichts soll mich von Jesu scheiden  (RoemV 217) [7:48]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Sprich, treuer Himmel: ja!  (TWV 11, 30) [10:26]
Christian WOLFF (1705-1773)
Ihr Sorgen laßet mich zufrieden  [9:22]
LIEBHOLD (?-c1730)
Mein gantzes Wißen soll Jesus seÿn  [13:53]
Christian WOLFF
Meines Bleibens ist nicht hier  [11:05]
LIEBHOLD
Des Menschen Sohn ist kommen  [10:07]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN
Der Herr ist König  (TWV 7, 31) [11:13]
Klaus Mertens (bass-baritone)
Accademia Daniel/Shalev Ad-El
rec. 1-12 November 2010, Community Hall, Lutheran Trinitatiskirchgemeinde, Chemnitz- Hilbersdorf, Germany. DDD
Texts and translations included
CPO 777646-2  [74:15] – stream (for subscribers) or download with pdf booklet from classicsonlinehd.com.

A delightful collection of North German cantatas for bass voice.  As Johan van Veen writes, there are no neglected masterpieces here – apart, perhaps, from the closing Telemann work which gives its name to the collection – but Klaus Mertens gives them the very best possible performance and he is very well supported and recorded.  The only blemish is the small slip which JV notes – Geist for heist – but Mertens gets that right second time round and we notice it only because his diction is so spot-on.

There’s an earlier collection of Baroque Bass Cantatas from the same collection preserved at Mügeln and performed by the same team on CPO 777298-2 [75:42] – download from eclassical.com; subscribers can stream this from classicsonlinehd.com.  Neither provides the booklet, nor does Qobuz, though Naxos Music Library offers the back cover only.  The composers are Emanuel Kegel, Christian Wolff, Johann Roemhildt (two cantatas), Hoffmann, Johann Donati and Georg Philipp Telemann (attributed) – details and review.

The lack of a booklet for the earlier collection is a serious blemish.  Connoisseurs of the vagaries of eighteenth-century German spelling will have a field day reading the booklet which accompanies the new release.

I was slightly less enthusiastic about Mertens’ contribution to Ton Koopman’s recording of Bach Funeral Cantatas – review – but much more appreciative of two recordings of Graupner Bass Cantatas from the same team as on the two CPO Baroque Bass Cantatas – DL News 2014/8.  For more of Mertens in Telemann, please see the Hänssler recording below.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Festive Cantatas
Der Herr lebet  (TWV 1, 284) [17:29]
Ehr und Dank sey Dir gesungen  (TWV 1, 413) [18:33]
Der Geist giebt Zeugnis  (TWV 1, 243) [21:42]
Miriam Feuersinger (soprano), Franz Vitzthum (alto), Klaus Mertens (bass-baritone)
Collegium vocale Siegen, Hannoversche Hofkapelle/Ulrich Stötzel
rec. 2014, Martinikirche, Siegen, Germany. DDD
Texts and translations included
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD98.047  [58:04] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet).  Subscribers stream from classicsonlinehd.com.

‘Three very fine specimens of Telemann’s sacred music in splendid performances.’  Please see full review by Johan van Veen.

There’s very little to add to what JV writes.  The slightly short value results in a comparatively reduced price from eclassical.com – just $10.39: at current exchange rates noticeably less than the £7.99 charged by other download sites.

Six of Telemann’s less often performed secular cantatas have been recorded by Klaus Mertens with Maria Jonas (soprano) and Les Amis de Philippe conducted by Ludger Remy on CPO 777297-2 [77:22] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless).  Once again Johan van Veen’s appreciative review says it all, except that the download comes without the vital texts.

Recording of the Month
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Lutheran Masses II
Mass in A, BWV234 [29:28]
Mass in F, BWV233 [23:52]
Marco Gioseppe PERANDA (1625-1675) Missa in a minor [16:43]
Hana Blažíková (soprano), Joanne Lunn (soprano), Aki Matsui (soprano), Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Yusuke Fujii (tenor), Gerd Türk (tenor), Katsuhiko Nakashima (tenor), Dominik Wörner (bass), Peter Kooij (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
Rec. February 2014 (Bach) and February 2015 (Peranda), Kobe Shoin Women’s Uinversity Chapel, Japan. DDD/DSD
Texts and translations included
BIS BIS-SACD-2121 [71:30] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet)

Bach took two of my six choices for Recordings of the Year 2015 and it already looks as if he may do so again in 2016.

I used up all my superlatives about Suzuki’s Bach recordings for BIS long ago: the church cantatas, completed a couple of years back, more recently the secular cantatas, selected organ works and the first volume of the short Lutheran Masses.  Now he completes the series of short Masses with BWV233 and 234, a highly competitive contribution even with The Sixteen/Christophers (Coro), Pygmalion/Pichon (Alpha), Collegium Vocale Ghent/Herreweghe (super-budget Erato/Virgin), Cantus Cölln/Junghänel and Amsterdam Baroque Choir and Orchestra/Koopman (Challenge Classics) in the field. 

I hesitate to choose a winner among these but the unique selling point of the new recording is the inclusion of the Kyrie and Gloria of Peranda’s Mass in a minor, virtuoso music composed for the Dresden court which Bach is now known to have performed as Kantor at Leipzig.  With excellent recording, especially in 24-bit (SACD also available) and notes you could hardly go wrong with the new BIS recording.

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Partenope, HWV27 (1730)
Karina Gauvin (soprano) – Partenope
Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor) – Arsace
Emöke Baráth (soprano) – Armindo
John Mark Ainsley (tenor) – Emilio
Teresa Iervolino (mezzo) – Rosmira
Luca Tittoto (bass) – Ormonte
Il Pomo d’Oro/Riccardo Minasi
rec. Lonigo, Italy, 16-28 February, 2015. DDD
Booklet with text and translations included
ERATO 2564609007 [74:31 + 62:48 + 66:07] – stream (for subscribers) or download from Qobuz (16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

Please see my full review

NB: though I have given the links to Qobuz, their price for the 16-bit download is slightly higher than you might expect to pay for the 3-CD set and their 24-bit considerably more so.  If you are happy with 320kb/s mp3, with booklet, 7digital.com offer the set for £12.49, but their price for lossless is, again, as much as or more than you would pay for the CDs.  The 16-bit download of the Chandos recording, to which I have given links in the full review, though less than you would pay for the CDs, is also marginally more expensive than the Erato CDs.

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Arie per la Cuzzoni : Arias for Francesca Cuzzoni (1691-1772)
Ouverture (Scipione) (1726) [5:55]
Marcia [1:26]
Che sento? Oh Dio! (Giulio Cesare) (1724) [1:09]
Se pietà di me non senti [7:39]
Scoglio d’immota fronde (Scipione) [5:22]
Concerto (Ottone) (1723) [2:44]
Ombre, piante, urne funeste! (Rodelinda) (1725) [5:26]
Non credo che sian finti (Siroe, Re di Persia) (1728) [0:27]
Or mi perdo di speranza [4:34]
Non è più tempo (Tamerlano) (1724) [2:53]
Ouverture (Tolomeo, Re di Egitto) (1728) [3:27]
Ballo di Larve (Admeto) (1727) [2:48]
Sinfonia (Scipione) [1:29]
Sinfonia (Admeto) [1:20]
È tale Otton? (Ottone) [1:17]
Falsa imagine [6:01]
Se’l mio duol non è si forte (Rodelinda) [5:46]
Sinfonia (Admeto) [1:17]
Nò, più soffrir non voglio (Alessandro) (1726) [3:58]
Torni omai la pace all’alma (Tolomeo, Re di Egitto) [4:17]
Hasnaa Bennani (soprano)
Les Muffatti/Peter van Heyghen
rec. February, 2015, Begijnhofkerk, Sint-Truiden, Belgium. DDD.
texts and translations included
RAMÉE RAM1501 [69:27] Reviewed as mp3 press preview from Outhere. Subscribers stream from Qobuz. Download from Qobuz (16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet).

Arias for Cuzzoni
Rodelinda: Spietati [4:17]       
Ombre, piante, urne funeste!    [4:46]  
Riccardo Primo: Il volo cosi fido [5:10]         
Giulio Cesare: Se pietà di me non senti [10:56]         
Piangerò la sorte mia [6:03]  
Da tempeste il legno infranto   [6:17]  
Scipione: Scoglio d’immota fronte [5:27]       
Ottone: False imagine [7:17] 
Affanni del pensier [7:34]       
Tamerlano: Se non mi vuol amar [7:14]        
Alessandro: L’amor che per te sento [4:42]   
Flavio: Amante stravagante [4:24]
Lisa Saffer (soprano)
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan
rec. c.1990. DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907036 [74:07] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, NO booklet)

The temperamental Francesca Cuzzoni was Handel’s prima donna in the 1720s, for whom he created several major roles. 

The Harmonia Mundi is download only and without booklet.  Lisa Saffer captures the technique which Cuzzoni possessed, without quite matching her reported ability also to ‘render pathetic whatever she sang’ as Dr Burney put it.  With very good support and recording, only the lack of texts presents a major problem.  Price is problematic, too: considering that this was recently available in a 4-CD super-budget set*, for UK£ purchasers the eclassical.com price of $16.68 will be less attractive than £7.99 (mp3) and £9.99 (lossless) from prestoclassical.co.uk.

Johan van Veen was less than delighted with Hasnaa Bennani on a recent Muso recording of Rameau, disliking her over-wide vibrato and lack of dramatic involvement – review – but I liked the Alpha recording of Clérambault and Couperin music for Holy Week on which she features as one of the soloists – DL News 2015/3.

On the new Handel recording, too, she employs a fairly wide vibrato and her timbre sometimes sounds more like a mezzo.  I didn’t find either of these too much of a problem and only about half of each programme overlaps with the other.  Some of the arias are not otherwise represented in the current UK catalogue.  Where there are alternatives, however, I tend to prefer them, as in the case of No, più soffrir non voglio which Sandrine Piau includes on a recent budget-price 2-CD conflation of two earlier Handel recitals (Naïve NC40037).  As Göran Forlsing writes, Piau sings this with élan.  ForOmbre piante, it’s Piau again or Emma Bell (Linn BKD252review of earlier release).

Several of the arias on the Ramée and Harmonia Mundi releases are also included on an inexpensive 3-CD download from Hyperion (Emma Kirkby and Catherine Bott:CDS44271/3 – Bargain of the Month review).  The download costs just £15 but I’m surprised to see that the CDs can be obtained only from the Archive Service because that would still be my top recommendation for anyone seeking a first-rate collection of Handel arias.

The orchestral support on the new Ramée album is good, as is the recording quality, even in the mp3 version which I received for review: at around 256kb/s that’s in line with what you would get from iTunes or Amazon, albeit that they have it without the useful pdf booklet.  Qobuz offer the booklet with their streamed version (for subscribers) and download (16- and 24-bit lossless).

Jonathan Woolf was mainly pleased with a third set of arias for Cuzzoni from Simone Kermes (Berlin Classics) – review.

* Amazon UK still have a few copies at £18.28.

Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784)
Harpsichord Concerto in a minor, F45 [14:23]
Sinfonia in F major, F67 ‘Dissonant’ [14:32]
Harpsichord Concerto in D, F41 [16:14]
Allegro e forte (Sinfonia in d minor), F65 [4:59]
Harpsichord Concerto in e minor, F43 [23:19]
Maude Gratton (harpsichord)
Il Convito
rec. Église de Xaintrailles, May 2012. DDD
MIRARE MIR162 [73:27] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet)

‘All in all one of the very happy surprises on my desk this year’: see review by Jens F Laurson.

It’s not the fault of the record companies if we have allowed WF’s music to be overshadowed by that of his father and brothers – I was surprised to see that there are over 100 CDs of his music in the current catalogue, so why are we not buying them?  It’s our own fault that we haven’t listened to them, but recently Giovanni Alessandrini and Il Giardino Armonico slipped one of his Sinfonias into one of their albums of Haydn and his contemporaries.  Unfortunately, it’s the same remarkable work that is recorded here, F67.  (ALPHA671review).  That Sinfonia is also included on a Harmonia Mundi collection (HMC901772 Akademie für alte Musik – from eclassical.com, mp3 and lossless).  Nonetheless, there’s enough other music here, all very well performed and recorded, to make the whole well worth having.

The Parisian Symphony  
Jodie Devos, Sophie Karthäuser (soprano), Jennifer Borghi (mezzo), Jean-Paul Madeuf (keyed trumpet), Jan De Winne (transverse flute), Benoît Laurent (oboe), Eric Hoeprich, Guy Van Waas (clarinet), Jane Gower (bassoon), Patrick Cohën-Akenine (violin), François Poly (cello)
Les Agrémens/Guy Van Waas 
rec. 2002 - 2014 
RICERCAR RIC357  [7 CDs: 510:12]

Johan van Veen has reviewed the 7-CD set in detail and in terms with which I largely agree.  I have listened only to the mp3 press preview from Outhere, which is at 192 kb/s, lower even than the iTunes and Amazon downloads, but adequate – I reviewed it with other recent Outhere releases

The press preview comes with a useful 102-page pdf booklet which you won’t find with the download versions from iTunes or Amazon.  Subscribers can stream the set from Qobuz and it can be purchased for download for £16.79, around half the cost of the 7-CD set and complete with the said booklet.

Great Cello Concertos
William WALTON (1902-1983) Cello Concerto [28:48]
Gregor Piatigorsky (cello); Boston Symphony Orchestra/Charles Munch – rec.1957 ADD/mono
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Cello Concerto No.2 in b minor, Op.104 [39:15]
Mstislav Rostropovich (cello); Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Václav Talich – rec.1952. ADD/mono
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Cello Concerto in D, Op.101, Hob.VIIb/2 [26:06]
Maurice Gendron (cello); Lamoureux Orchestra/Pablo Casals – rec. 1960 ADD/stereo
BEULAH 1PDR21 [94:10] – from iTunes (mp3) or stream (for subscribers) or download from Qobuz.

Three classic cello concerto recordings brought together as a download album longer than any CD: what’s not to like?  Well, I would have preferred the reverse order of playing but that’s about it.

The Gendron Haydn was originally released coupled with the Boccherini B-flat Cello Concerto on Philips SABL188 – the first recording of that work in its original form rather than the Grützmacher arrangement – but the Haydn was just as noteworthy and this recording has resurfaced over the years in various couplings, though neither the Philips Concert Classics CD which I own nor the Decca box set, L’Art de Maurice Gendron, on both of which it was coupled with an equally fine performance of the then recently rediscovered Concerto in C, is currently available.  With the great cellist Casals directing his distinguished successor, for this alone the Beulah reissue would be invaluable.  The transfer is only a shade less truthful than the deleted Philips CD.

If you seem to be experiencing déjà-vu, it’s because I’ve already praised this transfer of the Haydn on 1BX146-3BX146 in DL News 2012/23.  It’s better value as part of the new album.

It would be too much to expect hi-fi sound from the Dvořák, recorded in mono in 1952 by Supraphon, not exactly renowned then for the latest recording techniques.  This classic performance, however, would be worth hearing even with over a hundred current rivals and even if the sound were infinitely worse than the very creditable Beulah transfer.  Rostropovich recorded the work again with several other conductors but Talich was an interpreter beyond compare of Czech music.  There is a highly recommendable super-budget Regis transfer, coupled with the Piano Concerto (RRC1368: Bargain of the MonthreviewreviewDL Roundup April 2011/1) but cello connoisseurs may well prefer the Beulah coupling.  I recently praised the Beulah transfer of the Talich Má Vlast; if anything, this is even better.

This recording of the Walton is also special: it was the first recording available in the UK and, with the cellist who commissioned it performing, it still sets the benchmark for all other recorded versions.  It’s a work which was slow to impinge on the musical consciousness but it has surely established itself now.  As I recall, the sound on the RCA stereo LP (LSB4101) was dry and thin but the Beulah transfer is a great improvement.  The cello is rather too prominently balanced but there was nothing that could be done about that; otherwise there’s little to choose between the Beulah transfer and that on the super-budget set with the Violin and Viola Concertos and Symphony No.1 (74321925752 reviewreview).  That’s a very desirable twofer but even if you already have it the Beulah is well worth having for the other concertos.

My review files came in lossless wav format.  The Qobuz downloads are also available in several lossless formats but the iTunes equivalents, at the same price, are mp3 only and are likely to be at only 256kb/s so, while Qobuz continues to hold its head above water, that is the better option for this and all Beulah downloads. 

Sir John Barbirolli Symphonies Volume 1
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No.1 in C, Op.21 [25:07]
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) Symphony No.1 in D [51:34]
Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli – rec. 1958 and 1957 ADD/stereo
BEULAH 1PDR17 [76:41] – from iTunes (mp3) or Qobuz (lossless) – stream (for subscribers) or download.

Barbirolli’s recorded legacy shines brightest in the likes of Bax, Elgar and Vaughan Williams, not all of it currently available.  A Beulah reissue of his Pye recording of the VW London Symphony, for example, would not come amiss though it’s available from the Barbirolli Society.

The Beethoven Symphony receives an attractive performance, also available from the Barbirolli Society, though it’s hardly outstanding among the many available recordings of the work.

It’s the from other end of Mahler’s symphonic output that Barbirolli is best known – I regard his recording of the Ninth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic as a benchmark – but this Free Trade Hall recording of the First, from a time when there was far less choice of Mahler symphonies, is well worth hearing.  It was set down a couple of years after Barbirolli had stunned the Manchester audience with a performance of the work designed to outdo his great rival Beecham, who had appeared there with the RPO a few weeks earlier.  This recording, as reissued by the Barbirolli Society, holds a well-deserved place in Tony Duggan’s Synoptic Survey but the Beulah reissue is less expensive and many will prefer the coupling here to the Purcell pastiche on that release. 

The orchestral playing may not be of the best – even in the opening movement, one of the most magical accounts that I have heard – the odd phrase is slurred and the second movement may be a little too deliberate and sentimental for the kräftig bewegt marking*, but I was surprised overall to hear the extent to which this recording challenges my all-time top recommendation from Rafael Kubelík (DG Originals 4497352, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen).

When the Beethoven was released in stereo (Pye CSCL70001, with Symphony No.8), the sound was decried as inferior tonally to the earlier mono LP.  The Mahler was originally released in mono only, with stereo appearing for the first time a decade later on Pye Golden Guinea GSGC14074**, by which time stereo LPs had fully established themselves and the recording was deemed ‘pretty good for its age’, albeit with some of the surface noise – even a few bumps – to which Golden Guineas often seemed to be addicted.  Beulah’s refurbishment has worked its accustomed magic with both.

* Barbirolli perhaps takes more note of the added doch nicht zu schnell.

** Which appears to negate the Barbirolli Society assertion that the transfer on SJB1015 is the first time that the stereo has appeared.

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Volume 4
Violin Concerto in e minor, Op.64* [27:56]
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, incidental music, Op.61** [39:44]
Jennifer Pike (violin)*
Rhian Lois, Keri Fuge (soprano)**
CBSO Youth Chorus**
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Edward Gardner
rec. Town Hall, Birmingham, 13 and 14 July 2015. DDD/DSD
CHANDOS CHAN5161 [67:57] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)
Also available as hybrid SACD CHSA5161.

Das Märchen von der Schönen Melusine (The Fair Melusine) Op.32 [9:47]
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Incidental Music, Op.61 [49:26]
The Hebrides, Op.26 [8:51)
Camilla Tilling (soprano), Magdalena Risberg (soprano)
Swedish Radio Choir (women’s voices)
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
rec. September 2014, Concert Hall of the School of Music, Theatre and Art, Örebro, Sweden
BIS BIS-SACD-2166 [69:06] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).

Please see hybrid SACD review by Gwyn Parry-Jones: ‘this CD is stuffed with wonderful things.’

It’s the London bus syndrome again, with recordings coming in bunches like bananas.  As Chandos’s Mendelssohn series draws to a conclusion is BIS about to begin one, with Dausgaard and his smaller forces doing what they have already done in the ‘Opening Doors’ series?

As GP-J writes, the BIS recording is mostly highly desirable, apart from a slightly rushed tempo for The Hebrides, and even there the effect is in keeping with the refreshing qualities of the performances rather than off-putting.  The recording is excellent in 24/96 garb but more than acceptable even in the less expensive mp3 and 16-bit lossless formats.

I would have expected Chandos already to have had at least one other recording of both the Violin Concerto and the Dream music but only the ubiquitous Wedding March seems to be otherwise on offer, on a desirable super-budget-price Introduction which includes Symphony No.4, Piano Concerto No.1 and The Hebrides (CHAN2025).  Jennifer Pike is already a veteran in the concerto: she launched her career with it thirteen years ago when she became Young Musician of the Year aged 12.  John Leeman on our sister site Seen and Heard greatly enjoyed her performance with the London Mozart Players – review – writing that it was characterised by the most beautiful tone that he had heard since Menuhin.  When he wrote that in September 2015 the recording with the CBSO had already been a couple of months in the can but the same comments apply.  If you don’t yet have a good recording of the Violin Concerto – and even if you have, as most music-lovers must – this must go very close to the top of the pile.

Much of the success of this recording must be ascribed to the accompaniment of the CBSO and Edward Gardner, the constants throughout this Mendelssohn in Birmingham series.  I see that Pike performed the concerto, again with the CBSO but with a different conductor, in Lichfield Cathedral at about the same time that the recording was set down, a performance in which the Birmingham Post judged the ‘stolid’ accompaniment less than ideal.  In the Dream music, too, Gardner’s direction is very convincing.  There’s slightly less of the music here than on BIS but nothing essential is omitted.  There’s very little to choose between these two albums, so preference of coupling could be the deciding factor.  Both come with excellent sets of notes and both are very well recorded, with 24-bit and SACD on offer.  I had problems downloading some tracks of the 24-bit Chandos but the 16-bit and mp3 are very good of their kind.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Violin Concerto in D, Op.77* [38:29]
Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945) Violin Concerto, Op. posth., Sz 36, BB48A** [20:26]
Janine Jansen (violin)
* Santa Cecilia Orchestra; ** London Symphony Orchestra/Anthony Pappano
rec. live * Santa Cecilia Hall, Rome, February 2015; ** Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, August 2015.
DECCA 4788412 [58:55] – stream (for subscribers) or download from Qobuz (16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).

Though this recording has already received the highest praise in some quarters and though the solo playing, orchestral support in both Rome and London and recording are excellent, the Brahms just won’t do for me or, I suspect, anyone else who first cut their musical teeth on the 1959 classic Heifetz and Reiner recording.  That’s still my first choice, even though the single-CD releases, with the Double Concerto (RCA 82876594102) or with Tchaikovsky (09026614952) are now download only.  Otherwise it’s part of a budget-price 6-CD box set (88697761382) which also contains some other fine performances, such as the Beethoven (with Munch) and Tchaikovsky (Reiner again).

By comparison Jansen and Pappano take over half the time of the complete work (22:12) in a performance of the first movement which, beautiful as it is, is simply too slow overall and especially so in places where they linger to admire the scenery.  It’s a common problem in recordings of this work, but it means that we are effectively listening to two slow movements whereas at 18:54 Heifetz and Reiner keep the music moving.  After that it seems superfluous to praise the rest of the Brahms and the Bartók, but I do recommend sampling this for yourself if you can.

A further word of caution: the CD is currently selling for as little as £10.50, reduced from a regular £11.75, so the Qobuz 16-bit download at £11.56 is somewhat pricey, though the 24-bit at £15.56 may be worth the extra.

Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (1874/1922) (orch. Ravel) [34:43]
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
rec. live, 22 & 23 May 2008, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam
Pdf booklet included
RCO LIVE RCO09004 SACD [34:43] – from eClassical (mp3, 16- & 24-bit lossless)

Mariss Jansons, who stepped down as chief conductor of the Concertgebouw in 2015, is no stranger to this piece; he’s recorded it with the Oslo Philharmonic, where he was music director from 1979 to 2000 and, most recently, with the Bavarian RSO, which he has led since 2003/4. Michael Cookson praised the latter performance, both musically and technically (review). Perhaps that’s just as well, for this RCO Live version is a mess. For a start I’m surprised the company decided to issue this piece on a disc all by itself; both the Oslo and Munich recordings have substantial fillers. As if that weren’t cheeky enough the SACD is offered at around £11; at least eClassical’s per-second charging model makes the download more reasonable (£6.30).

Now that would be fair value if the performance and recording weren’t so disappointing. I’ve often felt that, for all his virtues, Jansons micro-manages his players. I first noticed it in his Oslo Tchaikovsky cycle (Chandos), but that set does contain some terrific performances. I’m afraid he’s at his worst in this 2008 Pictures, tugging the music about and fiddling with dynamics in the most unsubtle and unmusical way. Not only that, the Concertgebouw are not at their usual best; ditto Polyhymnia, who’ve come up with a remarkably dull recording.

And just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. The last notes of The Great Gate of Kiev are brutally faded, as if in a vain attempt to forestall any applause. I’ve no idea if this is repeated on the disc, but I can’t believe that Polyhymnia – who normally do such fine work for RCO Live and Pentatone – would have allowed this to pass. Whatever the story this download is one of the worst I’ve encountered in ages. Given the wayward performance, disappointing sonics and poor presentation this download is a waste of money at any price.

A dud; avoid at all costs.

Dan Morgan

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Trio in a minor, Op.50 [44:27]
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Piano Trio in g minor, Op.15 [29:42]
Trio con brio Copenhagen
ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100051 [74:09] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless with pdf booklet)

There are over 60 recordings of the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio and many of them set the benchmark very high.  So high, indeed, that I was lukewarm about recordings by the Petrof Trio (Nimbus) and Evrus Trio (Fontenay), though both have considerable virtues – review.

The lengthy opening movement sets the tone for the rest of the work and it’s important to get the balance right here between passion, wistfulness and lyricism and for me both those recordings lean a little too much to the lyrical.  You might expect a group entitled Trio con Brio to be a little too far on the cheerful side, too, and that is how it transpires, with the drama a little subdued.  It’s beautifully played and will appeal to those who like the music more rhapsodic; I liked it more on repeated hearing.  Similarly, I thought there was marginally too little contrast between the different variations which follow, leaving me still in favour of Trio Wanderer with the very similar Arensky Trio (Harmonia Mundi HMC902161 – review Download News 2014/4DJB’s Piano Trio Survey) among recent accounts of this work, alongside the Ashkenazy Trio as a budget-price recommendation, also with Arensky (Naxos 8.550467).  Among older recordings that by the Kempf Trio is also worth considering, especially if the Rachmaninov coupling appeals (BIS-CD-1302 review: download from eclassical.com, mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).

Recording of the Month
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas (1909-1911) [50:37]
Escenas poéticas (publ.1912/16) [17:10]
Intermezzo de la Ópera Goyescas (1916) [3:53]
El pelele (Escena goyesca) (1914) [4:18]
Joop Celis (piano)
rec. July 2014, Willem Hijstek zaal, Conservatorium Maastricht, The Netherlands
Pdf booklet included
BIS BIS-2122 SACD [77:09] – from eClassical (mp3, 16- & 24-bit lossless)

Alicia de Larrocha’s various accounts of Goyescas (Warner, Decca and RCA) are indispensable, but there are other pianists who have something useful to say about this music. Among them is the American Garrick Ohlsson, who now records for Hyperion. I praised him for his ‘exemplary musicianship’, although I noted his playing seemed ‘long on technique, but a little short on temperament’. With hindsight that may have been a little harsh, but then the Dutchman Joop Celis’s performance captivates me in a way that Ohlsson’s doesn’t. Both are very well recorded – Hyperion and BIS are class leaders in this respect – so I’ve no quibbles about the sound on either album.

Goyescas surely represents the pinnacle of Granados’s musical career, which was cut short when the passenger ferry on which he was travelling to Dieppe was torpedoed by a German U-boat in March 1916. The range of colour and the rhythmic subtlety on display in this new recording is just astonishing; indeed, Celis shapes and calibrates each of the work’s six movements with uncommon authority and skill. His dynamic shading is pure joy and the recording – engineered by Take5’s Marion Schwebel – has a glow and presence that’s just ravishing. Celis’s accounts of Escenas poéticas, the intermezzo from Granados’s opera Goyescas and El pelele are just as revelatory.  

I listened to this collection over several days, and each time Celis revealed something new; a lovely turn of phase, a twist of rhythm or a splash of colour. As if that weren’t enough there’s a profound humanity to Celis’s playing that’s deeply affecting. In the preamble to my Recordings of the Year 2015 I commented on the number of fine piano recordings that had come my way in the previous 12 months. If Celis’s Granados is a harbinger of things to come then 2016 should be every bit as enthralling. Incidentally, the splendid liner-notes are by Walter Aaron Clark, author of Granados: Poet of the Piano.

Very, very distinguished playing and a fabulous recording; where’s this pianist been hiding all these years?

Dan Morgan

Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)                                    
Piano Quintet in g minor Op.49 [15:55]
Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949)                  
Piano Quintet in g minor Op.1 [30:53]
Caliope (Hymn from Las musas de Andalucia Op.93/9) [4:26]
Javier Perianes (piano  ); Cuarteto Quiroga (Aitor Hevia, Cibrán Sierra [violin], Josep Puchades [viola], Helena Poggio [violoncello])
rec. Teldex Studio Berlin, February and March 2015. DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902226 [51:14] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).  Subscribers sample from Qobuz

Two masterpieces awaiting discovery, as the publicity blurb puts it?  Not quite that, perhaps.  Neither quintet is typical of its composer and, as for discovery, there have been recordings of both – four of each in the current catalogue – though never, I think, together.  The performances and recording, especially in 24-bit format, make a strong case for them and like Jonathan Woolf – review – I enjoyed this recording.

The rather short playing time brings a compensating reduction in price from eclassical.com: at the time of writing the 24-bit was on offer for the same price as the mp3 and 16-bit, $13.83.  After the initial offer expect the 24-bit to cost about 50% extra.  Subscribers can sample from classicsonlinehd.com but their download price (for 16-bit only) is rather steep at £12.24 – more than the cost of the CD (£11.75 from Presto).

Reissue of the Month
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Country Gardens [2:15]
Shepherd’s Hey [2:07]
Colonial Song [6:03]
Children’s March ‘Over the Hills and far away [4:12]
Immovable Do [4:26]
Mock Morris [3:37]
Handel in the Strand [4:19]
Irish Tune from County Derry [3:35]
Spoon River [4:04]
My Robin is to the Greenwood gone [4:09]
Molly on the Shore [4:18]
Eastman-Rochester Pops Orchestra/Frederick Fennell – rec. 1959. ADD/stereo
Fredrick DELIUS (1861-1934)
Over the Hills and far away [12:58]
Summer Night on the River [6:38]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham – rec. 1957. ADD/stereo
Brigg Fair [14:44]
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy – rec. 1962. ADD/stereo
BEULAH 9PD82 [77:25] – from iTunes (mp3)

Both halves of this release are very desirable.  Some time ago I recommended a Chandos sampler from their recordings of Grainger’s music led by Richard Hickox as a very fine and inexpensive introduction (CHAN2029, around £5 on CD: download no longer seems to be available from Chandos – Qobuz and 7digital downloads, without booklet, are more expensive than the CD).  Now it’s an even bet whether that or this very similar Beulah selection represents the better value.  As they are inexpensive, I’d go for both.

The cream on top of the Beulah release comes in the form of three pieces by Delius who, as the title reminds us, befriended Grainger – remember the latter’s leap from the bushes at Grez in the Ken Russell film on Delius?  The two Beecham items supplement his stereo Delius recordings on Beulah 3PDR4 (Recording of the Month – DL News 2015/11) and Ormandy’s Brigg Fair reminds us that he, too, was a very fine interpreter of his music.  All the recordings have been very well transferred.

Don’t be misled by the peaceful pastoral scene on the cover: neither Grainger nor Delius ever belonged to the ‘English cow-pat school’ if ever there was such a thing.

Charles IVES (1874-1954)
Symphony No.4 (ed. T. Brodhead)* [31:11]
The Unanswered Question (revised version)** [6:54]
Central Park in the Dark [11:52]
Symphony No.3 in B-flat ‘The Camp Meeting’ [22:18]
* Cristina Valdés (piano); Joseph Adam (organ); Stilian Kirov, David Alexander Rahbee, Julia Tai (assistant conductors)
** David Gordon (trumpet)
Seattle Symphony Chorale,
Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Ludovic Morlot
rec. S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, Washington, live in concert; 29 and 31January 2015 (Symphony No.4); 26 September, 2014 and April 3, 2015 (Central Park and The Unanswered Question); 14 May, 2014, 9, 10 and 26 September 2014 and 3 April 3 2015 (Symphony No.3).
SEATTLE SYMPHONY MEDIA SSM1009 [71:41] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).

I thought that Ives’s characteristic blend of discord and apple pie harmony had lost its power to surprise me by now but this recording of Symphony No.4 proves that it still has the power to disturb, from the challenging opening through to the peaceful conclusion.  It’s presented here in the recent critical edition of the score, as recorded live on two occasions, with three assistant conductors helping Ludovic Morlot to hold the whole vast assemblage together.  On the Hyperion recording with the Dallas SO and Andrew Litton (CDA67540) it’s a culture shock to hear the Fourth immediately after the First, an enjoyable work but firmly in the European symphonic tradition.  On the Seattle recording the shock comes right at the beginning of the programme.  I’m still inclined marginally to prefer the Hyperion but that’s not available to download and the coupling of the new recording presents four of Ives’s major works.  Stocks of the Hyperion SACD are now exhausted, though a few remain of Volume 2, Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3 (SACDA67525 – see Hyperion: The Last Few SACDS), so the Seattle recording is the only Fourth now available in 24-bit sound.  For contractual reasons the Hyperion recordings are not available to download and it appears that the Seattle recording will be download only in the UK.

The LPO/Serebrier recording of the Fourth Symphony (Chandos CHAN8397, download only) is really uncompetitive by comparison with Litton and Morlot: the opening of the first movement lacks all challenge and the playing-time of 33 minutes just won’t do for a full-price release.

The Fourth Symphony is the major reason for buying this new recording but it comes with equally fine performances of the other works.  The 24-bit download is very good and comes with a booklet containing useful analyses of the music.

Charles IVES
A Symphony: New England Holidays [39:04]
Central Park in the Dark [8:07]
Orchestral Set No. 1: Three Places in New England (version for large orchestra) [19:43]
The Unanswered Question [5:02]
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis
rec. Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: 30 March–2 April 2015 (Holidays, Central Park, The Unanswered Question); Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: 8, 9, 11, and 13 April 2015 (Three Places).  DDD/DSD
CHANDOS CHAN5163 [72:27] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

Also available on hybrid SACD as CHSA5163

This is a bonanza month for fans of Ives’s music, with the new Seattle recording of Symphonies 3 and 4 (above) and this of the Holidays Symphony.  Dan Morgan had a few reservations – review – which I don’t entirely share, but on the whole I agree with him in preferring Michael Tilson Thomas in the Holidays Symphony, either the CBS/Sony CD which he mentions or his more recent version with the San Francisco Orchestra (SFS Media/Avie: on CD: 82193600342, with Copland Appalachian Spring or on DVD 821936002490/blu-ray 821936002599, introduction and complete performance, in which form I reviewed it).  The Chandos 24-bit download is excellent, so the SACD should be too* but, as usual, I can’t see why the 24-bit download should be more expensive (£13.99) than the SACD (typically less than £12).

* Some irritating dropouts on track 4 had been repaired by the time that I returned to download again.  It’s a plus that theclassicalshop.net allows such a return.

Cyril ROOTHAM (1875-1938)
Symphony No.2 (1938) [37:44]
Scottish Philharmonic Singers; BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Vernon Handley
rec. BBC broadcast 28 January 1984 (stereo)
Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity  (1928) [42:39]
Teresa Cahill (soprano); Philip Langridge (tenor); Michael Rippon (bass-baritone); Trinity Boys Choir; BBC Singers; BBC Concert Orchestra/Vernon Handley
BBC broadcast, 18 December 1973 (mono)
LYRITA REAM.2118 [37:44 + 42:39] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet)

‘English music devotees should grasp the opportunity to hear these significant scores.’  See review by John Quinn and review by Jonathan Woolf.

There are currently only three recordings of Rootham’s music and two of them come from Lyrita: this and the First Symphony (with music by Holbrooke and Bantock, SRCD.269review review review: the fourth movement also appears on a 4-CD anthology, SRCD.2338review).  If anything the new recording is even more important than its predecessor: this is music that you are unlikely to hear in concert, let alone on record, yet its neglect is unfair.  Surely Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, with 56 recordings extant, is not 56 times better than Rootham’s Nativity Ode?

Fortunately the performances do justice to the music and the recording, though somewhat thin and close to distortion at climaxes, doesn’t let it down.  The emusic.com download costs just £3.36 and, like all their recent albums, comes at the full 320kb/s – a better bit-rate than you will find from Amazon, whose crazy pricing regime makes the download more expensive than the CDs, ignoring the fact that Lyrita charge for this 2-CD set as for one.  Amazon’s New Year resolution for 2016 should be to offer at least the full 320kbs, if not lossless, include the booklets – they do occasionally – and to sort out their pricing anomalies.

Similarly emusic’s New Year resolutions should be to offer lossless sound, too, include the booklets, and place a cap on the price of a single disc instead of charging ridiculously over the top for recordings with many short tracks.  Fortunately in this case the text of Milton’s poem Ode on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity is easily found online.

John FOULDS (1880-1939)
Le Cabaret, Op.72a (1921) [3:31]
Pasquinade Symphoniques No.2 Op.98 (1935) [6:34]
April – England, Op.48/1 (1926: orch.1932) [7:09]
Hellas, A Suite of Ancient Greece, Op.45 (1932) [18:03]
Three Mantras, Op.61b (1919-1930) [25:49]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth.
No recording information given. DDD
LYRITA SRCD.212 [61:07] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet)

John France’s advice was straightforward: ‘rush out and buy this CD’ – review.  Though a little more of John Foulds’ music has seen the light of day since this recording was released, with four volumes available from Dutton – review of Volume 4 and DL News 2014/14 – this remains a very useful introduction to it.  It’s all well worth hearing in these idiomatic performances and the recording is well worth downloading now that emusic.com has begun to release new material and refurbish some of the old, including this, at 320kb/s.  Don’t leave it there, emusic: next stop lossless downloads and pdf booklets, please, even if you charge us for the booklet as for an extra track.

Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947)
Symphonic Fragments from Le Couvent sur l’eau * (1912-13) [23:44]
Elegia eroica for large orchestra (1916) [15:08]
Symphony No.1 (1905-06) [38:00]
Gillian Keith (soprano)*
BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda
rec. MediaCity UK, Salford, UK, 12-13 September 2013, 11-12 February 2015 (Symphony No.1)
CHANDOS CHAN10880  [77:14] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

I’ve caught up with the Chandos recordings of Casella in mid-stream with Volume 4, like Nick Barnard, and like him I was impressed – review.  With two other reviews, from Ian Lace (Recording of the Month) and Dan Morgan, who was less impressed, there’s not too much left for me to say except that I lean towards the two more enthusiastic reviews.  The 24-bit download is very good: in the absence of an SACD equivalent it’s the best you are likely to get.

Sir Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
Checkmate – Suite [25:15]
Clarinet Quintet [29:11]
Hymn to Apollo [11:19]
Music for Strings [27:11]
Pastoral ‘Lie Strewn the White Flocks’ [33:51]
Janet Hilton (clarinet), Lindsay String Quartet
Ulster Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Sinfonia Chorus, Northern Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
rec. 1982, 1986 and 1990
Texts not included
CHANDOS CHAN241-1 [65:59 + 61:04] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 only, with pdf booklet)

In reviewing the new Chandos recording of Morning Heroes, coupled with Hymn to Apollo DL News 2015/9 – I briefly mentioned this earlier recording of the Hymn.  The new recording is part of a first-class album which I made Recording of the Month and considered for Recording of the Year but I have since been reminding myself what a wonderful bargain the earlier set is: two CDs for the price of one containing very good performances, well recorded, albeit that it’s available for download in mp3 only (for £8.40).

A short extract from the same recording of Pastoral, a wonderfully evocative setting of the Idylls of Theocritus, progenitor of the pastoral genre, is also available on a budget-price CD of ‘Byways of British Music’, a collection of otherwise short pieces, on CHAN6611.  

The only other stereo version of Pastoral comes on a very desirable Hyperion collection, with Britten’s Choral Dances from Gloriana and Holst’s third set of Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda.  (CDH55050 Holst Singers and Orchestra/Hilary Davan Wetton [59:53]).  That’s on the Helios label, which has just been raised from budget- to full-price but you may still find copies for around £6.50 and it can be downloaded in mp3 and lossless for £7.99 from hyperion-records.co.uk.  It contains the texts, unlike the Chandos.

Warning: Caveat emptor .
Bliss Conducts Bliss
Sir Arthur BLISS
Mêlée fantasque (1921, rev. 1937 and 1965) [13:06]
Rout (1920) [7:24]
Adam Zero – Suite: Nos. 2, 4 and 5 (1946) [8:54]
Hymn to Apollo (1928, rev. 1964) [10:23]
Serenade (1929) [25:52]
The World is charged with the grandeur of God (1969) [13:31].
Rae Woodland (soprano); John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); Ambrosian Singers;
LSO Wind and Brass Ensemble;
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Arthur Bliss, Brian Priestman, Philip Ledger.
No rec. info. ADD
LYRITA SRCD.225 [79:13] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet) but see warning below.

I mentioned this recording and download of the revised version of Hymn to Apollo when reviewing the recent Chandos recording where it’s coupled with Morning Heroes

Full marks to emusic.com for having re-mastered this and several other older downloads in 320kb/s transfers but, unfortunately, I have to report that the last four tracks, 10-13, the finale of the Serenade and the whole of The World is charged, are unplayable owing to a series of crackles and dropouts which also afflict other download versions which I have tried.  I have reported the issue – and received compensation from emusic – but for the moment my advice has to be to obtain this on CD.

Hilding ROSENBERG (1892-1985)

Symphony No.2 [32:57] – Swedish Society lt33160: Stockholm PO/Herbert Blomstedt (+ LIDHOLM Poesis [15:05]) [48:38].  No CD: stream (for subscribers) or download from classicsonlinehd.com (16-bit lossless, with rudimentary booklet)

Symphony No.3 [32:00] – Naxos Classical Archives 9.80751: Stockholm PO/Tor Mann – stream (for subscribers) or download from classicsonlinehd.com (NO booklet).

Symphony No.3 [32:28]; Symphony No.6 [22:41] – BIS-CD-1383: Gothenburg SO/Mario Venzago [56:00] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

Symphony No.3 [33:31]; Symphony No.6 [24:12] – Phono Suecia PSCD100: Stockholm SO/Stig Westerberg; Stockholm PO/Herbert Blomstedt [57:43] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet)

Symphony No.3 [38:49]; Symphony No.4 [36:35] – Caprice CAP20518: Swedish Radio Chorus; Stockholm PO/Hilding Rosenberg (narrator) – from prestoclassical.co.uk (mp3 and lossless).

Symphony No.4 [78:52] – Caprice CAP21429: Håkan Hagegård; Swedish Radio Choir; Gothenburg SO/Sixten Ehrling – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, NO booklet).  Subscribers stream from classicsonlinehd.com.

Rosenberg’s star has never shone brightly in the UK: his centenary in 1992 went almost unnoticed and neither the last complete edition of the Penguin Guide (2010) nor the final version of the Gramophone Guide (2012) even gave him a space.  Not much of his music is available on CD or as a download.

Knowing my interest in filling the gaps in my knowledge, our editor Rob Barnett pointed out the attractions of the early symphonies.  Symphony No.2 ( Sinfonia Grave, 1928-34) recorded in 1964 is available coupled with Ingvar Lidholm’s avant-garde work Poesis on the Swedish Society label.  The version from classicsonlinehd.com comes with a rudimentary ‘booklet’, actually the sleeve of the LP in a very small font and mostly in Swedish.  Endearingly it contains a handwritten note about the owner’s ‘Pappa’.  The Lidholm – a series of crashes and bangs – is hardly to my liking but the download is very important as the only recording of the Rosenberg symphony in any format currently available.  Lovers of Sibelius and Nielsen should find themselves comfortably at home here.  Though recorded over fifty years ago the sound is more than acceptable.

No.3 (1939) has four downloads to its credit: on its own on a Naxos Classical Archives recording from 1953, when it was still known as De fyra Tidsaldrarna (The Four Ages of Mankind) – it had originally been performed with recitations on that theme interspersed – with No.4 (below) and coupled with Symphony No.6 (1951) on BIS and Phono Suecia.  It’s a powerful work which deserves to be much better known and all three performances do it justice.  The historical Naxos has come up sounding surprisingly well but even at budget price it’s very short value.  It’s worth streaming but the newer recordings are the ones to go for, especially as they both also offer the Sixth, the so-called Sinfonia Semplice, a work no ‘simpler’ than Nielsen’s similarly oddly-name Sixth.  Neither of these sixths is the sort of symphony that sits in the corner and simpers.

Rob Barnett recommended the Phono Suecia, recorded in 1960 and 1966 – review – but the BIS, more recently recorded (2004 and 2005), comes in better sound and the download contains the brochure.  Don’t judge this book by its chocolate-box cover: these are idiomatic and powerful performances.

Symphony No.4 (1940) is a choral symphony for baritone, chorus and orchestra, with texts from the Book of Revelation, hence the title Johannes Uppenbarelse.  Rosenberg’s own recording offers only about half the work and the sound is dated, so the newer (1992) recording under Sixten Ehrling is the one to go for.  The problem concerns the lack of a booklet, which no download source seems to provide, so the listener is left with just the opening words of each section in Swedish and English.  With a bible to hand that might not be too much of a problem but that means missing out on the poems of Hjalmar Gullberg which are also set, thus ruling out downloading this for many potential listeners.  Fortunately it’s still available on CD.

Next time I plan to survey Rosenberg’s String Quartets, the complete series of which is available from Caprice – download from eclassical.com or stream from Qobuz if you wish to do some preliminary exploration of your own.

George ANTHEIL (1900-1959) Capital of the World [26:07]
Raffaelo de BANFIELD (1922-2008) Le Combat [21:23]
Ballet Theatre Orchestra/Joseph Levine – first released in UK on Capitol CTL7081, 1955.
NAXOS CLASSICAL ARCHIVES 9.81188 [47:30] – from emusic.com (mp3)

Despite the picture of what looks like a skyscraper on the cover, the Capital of the World is not Antheil’s own New York but Madrid and the plot involves a novice bull-fighter, hence the music’s nods in the direction of Falla, though without the qualities that make his music distinctive.

Raffaello de Banfield was actually the British-born Raphael Douglas, Baron von Banfield Tripkovich.  Like Antheil he moved in avant-garde circles but is hardly remembered now: this is one of only two recordings currently available in the UK and the other is also a vintage Naxos offering: his opera Lord Byron’s Love Letter, recorded in 1958 and starring Astrid Varnay and Gertrude Ribla (Naxos Historical 8.111362).

Gerald FINZI (1901–1956)
Cello Concerto in a minor, Op.40 [39:10]
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/ Vernon Handley
Prelude for string orchestra, Op.25 [5:00]
Romance for string orchestra, Op.11 [7:52]
Concerto for Small Orchestra and Solo Violin [20:05]
Tasmin Little (violin)
City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
rec. 1986 and 1999. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10425 [72:07] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet)

I mentioned this recording briefly in comparing the Cello Concerto with Yo Yo Ma on Lyrita in DL Roundup June 2012/1

That Lyrita recording remains my recommendation for the Cello Concerto but I was reminded recently by hearing the slow movement on Radio 3 what a beautiful work the Violin Concerto is, too, and this is not merely the only available recording, it’s also first-rate in every respect.  (It’s also still available at full price in its original coupling, with the Prelude and Romance, as here, plus In Years Defaced, seven songs with John Mark Ainsley: CHAN9888).

CHAN10425 is at lower mid-price, but there’s one pricing oddity: the mp3, at £6.00, is around the same price as the CD (typically £6.50, though Amazon UK have it for £5.99) but the 16-bit download, at £7.99, is considerably more expensive.  You would expect to pay more for the 24-bit, but £11.99 seems quite a large price hike over the other formats.  It’s not the first time that I have found the physical product to be less expensive than the download but the logic of it all still puzzles me.

Bargain of the Month
Eduard TUBIN (1905-1982) Symphonies
Symphony No. 1 (1931-34) [32:21]
Symphony No. 2 The Legendary (1937-38) [31:45]
Symphony No. 3 (1940-42) [33:28]
Symphony No. 4 Sinfonia Lirica (1943/1978) [35:32]
Symphony No. 5 (1946) [30:15]
Symphony No. 6 (1954) [31:36]
Symphony No. 7 (1958) [25:45]
Symphony No. 8 (1966) [28:41]
Symphony No. 9 Sinfonia Semplice (1969) [22:22]
Symphony No. 10 (1973) [25:21]
Toccata (1937) [5:38]
Suite from the ballet Kratt (The Goblin) (1961) [23:55]
Swedish Radio SO (1, 2, 3, 6, 8)
Gothenburg SO (7, 9, 10,Toccata)
Bergen PO (4)
Bamberg SO (5, Kratt)
Neeme Järvi
rec. Berwald Hall, Stockholm: 20-23 Oct 1986 (1), 10-12 June 1985 (2,6), 16-19 Sept 1986 (3,8)
Grieg Hall, Bergen: 5 Nov 1982, public concert (4)
Dominikanerhaus, Bamberg: 1-3 July 1985 (5, Kratt)
Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden: 25-27 May 1987 (7), 4 Sept 1981 (9), 31 Oct 1986 (10), 2 Feb 1984 (Toccata) DDD/AAD
BIS BIS-CD-1402/1404 [63:20 + 64:01 + 62:46 + 65:24 + 75:49]  5 CDs for the price of 3 – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless with pdf booklet).

At last eclassical are offering this insightful and authoritative set at a reduced price, as has been the case with the CDs for many years: Bargain of the Monthreviewreview.

Warning: be sure to follow the link above, where eclassical have the set for $29.82: they also offer the same set for almost twice the price!   A failure of logic again, especially as even the lower-price version works out at current exchange rates more expensively for UK purchasers than the CD set (£29.42 from Amazon UK ; £34.75 from Presto).  For US purchasers, however, the download offers a useful discount over ArkivMusic’s $65.99 for the CDs.

Sir Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Philharmonic Concerto, Op.120 (1976) [14:49]
Fantasy on a theme of John Field, Op.116 (1975) [22:09]
Symphony No.7, Op.113 (1973) [31:13]
John FIELD (1782-1837)
Nocturne No.7 in C ‘Reverie’ (1821) [5:02]
Peter Donohoe (piano)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates
rec. 2-3 June 2014, Henry Wood Hall, RSNO Centre, Glasgow. DDD/DSD
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7318 [73:21] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO notes)

Three powerful works which Arnold composed in the 1970s are brought together here.  None of it is easy listening – at this period he could turn even a Field Nocturne into something with plenty of teeth.  Dan Morgan thought the fillers ‘absolutely cracking’ – review – but there is strong competition in the symphony, from Andrew Penny (Naxos 8.552001, Nos. 7 and 8: the box set which I reviewed is no longer available), Rumon Gamba (Chandos: CHAN9967, mid-price, Nos.7-9 and Oboe Concertino or CHAN10853, budget price, Complete Symphonies: Nos. 1-6 directed by Richard Hickox).

The emusic download is inexpensive – £3.36 or less for subscribers – and though it comes in mp3 only, like all their recent releases it’s at the full 320kbs bit-rate.  No doubt the SACD sounds superb but the download is no slouch.  Qobuz offer it for £7.99, assuming that they are still in business when you read this, and they don’t offer the booklet either.  It seems that the problem stems from Dutton, who seem to treat downloads as poor cousins: I’ve yet to find any of their music as a download with the booklet.

Pierre BOULEZ (1925-2016)
Le Marteau sans Maître (1953-55) [38:29]
Dérive 1 and 2 (1994, 2002) [5:47 + 22:43]
Hilary Summers (mezzo)
Ensemble Intercontemporain/Pierre Boulez
rec. IRCAM, Paris, September 2002. DDD.
DG 4790565 [68:49] – streamed from Qobuz, with pdf booklet.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum … Fifty years ago a colleague returned from a holiday in France with LPs of Le Marteau and Pli selon pli, which were not then generally available in the UK – I think the composer’s own recording of Le Marteau with Domaine Musical* – and tried to convince me of Boulez’s genius.  I couldn’t make much sense of it – it sounded more like mere noise than music and, frankly, there was much better repertoire to get to know.  Following the announcement of the death of Boulez, I thought I might give the music another chance from this more recent recording, featuring his own group, Ensemble Intercontemporain.  It’s not just my imagination that the music sounds more approachable than it did because I tried both recordings and I found it more amenable than the older version.  Perhaps the maître himself had mellowed, or perhaps it’s because the instruments are better balanced.  I still wouldn’t be likely to make it part of my regular listening, but who knows …?  I can’t, however, recommend the Qobuz download at £11.56 when the CD can be yours for around £8.50.  The 7digital.com 16-bit at £12.99 is even further hors de combat.

* Directed by Boulez and still available: subscribers stream from Qobuz – purchase for £3.99.

William MATHIAS (1934-1992)
Symphony No.1 Op.31 (1966) [31:00]
Symphony No.2 (Summer Music) Op.90 (1983) [28:17]
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra/William Mathias
rec. Great Hall, Birmingham University, No. 1: 25 March 1990; No. 2: 18 March 1990. DDD
NIMBUS NI5260 [59:25] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet)

Helios, Op. 76 (1977) [15:02]
Oboe Concerto (1989) [16:26]
Requiescat, Op. 79 (1977) [8:51]
Symphony No. 3 (1991) [31:24]
David Cowley (oboe)
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra/Grant Llewellyn
rec. Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, 11 November 1991; 11 February 1992. DDD
NIMBUS NI5343 [72:22] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet)

Of these two recordings Rob Barnett wrote ‘the results repay the listener in bell-haunted spells, enchanted coinage and sturdy Celtic magic’ – review– and that’s as good a summing-up as you’re likely to find.  The performances are authoritative, with the composer himself directing the first album and supervising the second.

The emusic downloads are very inexpensive but they come at a low bit-rate and there’s no booklet, so you may prefer to order the CDs at a competitive price from MusicWeb – use the purchase button on Rob Barnett’s review.  NI5343 is better, at around 230kbs, not far short of what you would get from iTunes and Amazon; NI5260 is less good, at around 185kbs, but the result in both cases is tolerable.

Chinary UNG (b. 1942)
Water Rings Overture (1993) [6:46]
Anicca (1970) [8:27]
Antiphonal Spirals (1995) [11:03]
Singing inside Aura (2013) [14:34]
Grand Spiral: Desert Flowers Bloom (1991) [13:19]
Susan Ung (viola and voice)
Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Gil Rose
BMOP SOUND 1044 [54:10] Reviewed as press wav download.  Download from amazon.co.uk (mp3: also available on hybrid SACD).  Stream (for subscribers) from Qobuz.

It’s rare that I find much to enjoy in contemporary music but BMOP have provided me with two examples this month and Naxos with another.  Chinary Ung was born in Cambodia and now works in the USA and his blend of East and West is very appealing.  You don’t even have to get into the intricacies of the Buddhist philosophy which underlies much of his work to enjoy his music, though for me it’s an added bonus.

The notes, by Chinary Ung himself and, in more detail, by Adam Greene, are helpful and informative: I received the booklet with the press download and it’s more than a shame that neither Amazon nor Qobuz offer it with the download so you may prefer to buy the SACD.

If you would like to explore Chinary Ung’s music further, classicsonlinehd.com have the Cambria album of Aura, Oracle and Still Life after Death (CMCD-8854: no notes).   Stream for subscribers here or download for £7.99 here.

Roberto SIERRA (b. 1953)
Sinfonía No.3 ‘La Salsa’ (2005) [28:31]
Borikén (2005) [14:14]
El Baile (2012) [9:36]
Beyond the Silence of Sorrow (2002)* [22:20]
Martha Guth (soprano)*
Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra/Maximiano Valdés
Rec. Sala Sinfónica Pablo Casals, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 10-13 September 2014. DDD
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559817 [74:42] – stream (for subscribers) or download from classicsonlinehd.com.

I seem to have hit a seam of gold this month, with works by three contemporary composers to which I can not only relate but also enjoy: Ung (above), the Puerto-Rican Roberto Sierra and Bates (below).  Deep joy, as Staley Unwin used to say.

The major work, the ‘Salsa’ symphony is, as you would expect, largely in dance form, with movements entitled Tumbao (an Afro-Cuban dance form), Habanera, Danzas and Jolgorio (= fiesta, diversion), but it’s far from facile: the second movement is as sensuous as Ravel but it’s also reflective and even dark in tone in places. Most of the other music, too, has roots in the dance music that must be second nature to the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra who, under the direction of Maximiano Valdés, give idiomatic performances.  The recording is 16-bit only, but no worse for that.

Mason BATES (b.1977)
Mothership (2010) [9:22]
Sea-Blue Circuitry (2010) [12:29]
Attack Decay Sustain Release (2013) [4:39]
Rusty Air in Carolina (2006) [13:37]
Desert Transport (2010) [14:13]
Jason Moran (FM Rhodes)
Su Chang (Guzheng)
Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Gil Rose
rec. 30 June 2014, 24 September 2014 and 26 September 2014, Jordan Hall, Boston, MA.
BMOP SOUND 1045 [54:22]

Reviewed as press wav download.  Available for streaming by subscribers from Qobuz or for purchase (no booklet).  Hybrid SACD from Amazon UK or Amazon US .

Regular readers will know how averse I am to the sort of avant-garde music which merely seeks to annoy old fogies like myself – if that’s the intention, it surely works – and how delighted I am to be able to welcome works by contemporary composers which are a joy to listen to.  There’s the odd item here that I shall have to come to terms with but nothing that I find harder to absorb than, say, the music of Toru Takemitsu.  Indeed, I mention Takemitsu not just because of the use of an oriental instrument, the Guzhen, a kind of Chinese zither, in the title work Mothership; I also hear what I think may be his influence in Rusty Air in Carolina.

Another clear influence is jazz but most of all this is music in a clear line of descent from the likes of Copland and Bernstein.  The cover illustration and a double spread in the booklet are of urban landscapes but Rusty Air and Desert Transport breathe the open spaces of America as much as Appalachian Spring.  The performances are authoritative, the recording very good and the notes – a brief set from the composer and in more detail from Thomas May – are very helpful.

Historic Grenadiers Volume 2
including Kenneth ALFORD On the Quarterdeck; Great Little Army; Vanished Army; The Middy; Émile WALDTEUFEL Grenadier’s Waltz; Abe HOLZMANN Blaze away; Mike LAKE Evolution of Dixie.
Band of the Grenadier Guards/Lt. Colonel George Miller
rec. 1926-1940. ADD/mono 78s
BEULAH 2PD19 [68:48] – due shortly from iTunes (mp3)

Volume 1 (1PD1) was released quite some time ago on CD and remains available for £10 from Presto.  More recent recordings from the Grenadier Guards can be found on other Beulah albums: Bandstand Music and Kenneth Alford: The British March King (DL News 2015/10).  You may expect the 78 transfers on the new album to sound impossibly dated but they have for the most part come up sounding very well and they will, I’m sure, appeal to the many fans of military music, catering for whom is one of Beulah’s specialities.  They got my feet tapping if not exactly marching around.  Tonally the recordings are secure, though some of the oldest items sound a bit crumbly, and there’s very little surface noise – reduced almost to an occasional light patter of ghostly feet without sacrificing any wanted frequencies.

Neujahrskonzert 2016 (New Year’s Day Concert)
Robert STOLZ (1880-1975) UNO – Marsch [3:28]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899) Schatz-Walzer, Op.418 [8:06]
Violetta, Polka française, Op.404 [4:29]
Vergnügungszug, Polka schnell, Op.281 [3:01]
Carl Michael ZIEHRER (1843-1922) Weaner Mad’ln, Walzer, Op.388 [10:27]
Eduard STRAUSS (1835-1916) Mit Extrapost, Polka schnell, Op.259 [2:20]
Johann STRAUS II Eine Nacht in Venedig: Ouvertüre [8:09]
Eduard strauss Außer Rand und Band, Polka schnell, Op.168 [2:08]
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870) Sphärenklänge, Walzer, Op.235 [10:04]
Johann STRAUS II Sängerslust, Polka française, Op.328 [3:47]
Josef STRAUSS Auf Ferienreisen, Polka schnell, Op.133 [2:43]
Johann STRAUS II Fürstin Ninetta: Entr’acte Akt III [3:40]
Émil WALDTEUFEL (1837-1915) (after Emmanuel CHABRIER) España, Walzer, Op.236 [5:49]
Josef Hellmesberger I (1828-1893) Ballszene [5:05]
Johann STRAUSS I (1804-1849) Seufzer-Galopp, Op.9 [2:11]
Josef STRAUSS Die Libelle, Polka Mazur, Op.204 [5:28]
Johann STRAUS II Kaiser-Walzer, Op.437 [11:32]
Auf der Jagd, Polka schnell, Op.373 [2:31]
Im Sturmschritt, Polka schnell, Op.348 [2:30]
Neujahrsgruß (New Year’s Address) [0:43]
Johann STRAUS II An der schönen blauen Donau, Op.314 [10:31]
Johann STRAUSS I Radetzky-Marsch, Op.228 [3:47]
Vienna Boys’ Choir;
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
rec. 1 January 2016, Goldenersaal, Musikverein, Vienna. DDD
SONY 88875174772 [1:52:42] – lossless download with pdf booklet from Qobuz (available in 16- and 24-bit formats and for streaming by subscribers)

This year’s contribution may not quite be in the same league as the classic Strauss Family recordings which Willi Boskovsky made with the Vienna Phil (Decca) and with his own smaller ensembles (Alto and Warner) or on New Year’s Day by Herbert von Karajan (1987) or Carlos Kleiber (1989 and 1992) but it’s not for nothing that Mariss Jansons was invited back for the third time this year.

My full review of this year’s enjoyable concert is due to appear on the main MusicWeb International webpage shortly.

World Music/Bargain of the Month
Rág Ahír Bhairav [50:55]
Uttar Pradesh Marriage Song [16:06]
Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute)
Sabir Khan (tablá)
Recording released 2003.  Rec. 1988?
NIMBUS NI5111 [67:01] – from emusic.com (mp3, NO booklet)

I have absolutely no qualification to write about Indian classical music but I do like to dabble and to go beyond Ravi Shankar and the other obvious recordings which have impinged on the Western conscious since the 1960s, most of which reduce an evening’s rág into the shorter compass of US and European concentration spans.  Even here, where the beautifully plangent major work runs to almost an hour, I imagine that some pruning has taken place.  This is one of their older offerings which emusic have refurbished in very acceptable 320kb/s sound.  On just two tracks, it’s a bargain at £0.84.

Subscribers to Qobuz can stream another Hariprasad Chaurasia Nimbus recording, with Fazal Qureshi (tablá): Rág Bhímpalásí.  That also comes on two tracks only from emusic.com so cost just £0.84 to download, albeit without booklet and at a variable bitrate.  (NI5298 – rec. 1990?) [76:05]).

For a more approachable recording for Western listeners, there’s Ravi Shankar’s Symphony, performed by his daughter Anoushka with the LPO and David Murphy, which I reviewed in September 2012/2.  The classicsonline.com link no longer applies: it’s now available in lossless form from classicsonlinehd.com but the price paradox persists.  The download, at £7.99, costs more than you would pay for the disc  – Presto have the CD for £5.50 but charge £8.00 for mp3 and £9.75 for lossless.  Logic?




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