Some Independent Label Recordings: January February 2017
By Brian Wilson
An acute case of January-itis has left me in arrears again, hence this attempt to catch up. So large has the backlog become that I’ve had to divide this survey – part two to follow shortly.
Index – Part 1
BACH Suites – Zefiro – Arcana
- Arias – Heynis – Beulah (+ BRAHMS, HANDEL)
BASSANI Giona – Les Nations - Tactus
BRAHMS Symphony No.1; Violin Concerto; Alto Rhapsody – Beinum – Beulah
- Symphony No.2 – Monteux – Beulah (+ ELGAR)
CACCINI, Francesca – Alcina – Allabastrina – Glossa
CESARINI – Cantatas – Varnerin – Aparté
DELIBES – Le roi s’amuse – Beecham – Beulah (+ HANDEL)
ELGAR – Enigma Variations – Monteux – Beulah (+ BRAHMS)
- Enigma Variations; In the South, etc. – Brabbins – Hyperion
FRANCK – Symphony – Barbirolli – Beulah (+ VAUGHAN WILLIAMS)
HANDEL – Love in Bath – Beecham – Beulah (+ DELIBES)
HAYDN, Michael – Mass and Vespers – Aarburg - Tudor
LULLY – Armide – Herreweghe – Harmonia Mundi
MENDELSSOHN – Midsummer Night’s Dream Music – Gardiner – LSO Live
- Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 – Gardiner – LSO Live
MONTEVERDI – Madrigals Book VI – Concerto Italiano - Arcana
MOZART, Leopold – Peasants’ Wedding, etc – Stadlmaier – Tudor; Németh - Hungaroton
MOZART, Wolfgang – Piano Concertos Nos. 8 and 9 – Dubourg – Tudor
- Mass in c minor; Exsultate, jubilate – Suzuki – BIS
SCHUBERT – String Quartets Nos. 12 and 15 – Doric Quartet – Chandos
STRAUSS Family, etc. New Year’s Concert – Vienna Philharmonic – Sony
TALLIS – Spem in alium, etc. – Cardinall’s Musick - Hyperion
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS – Symphony No.7 – Barbirolli – Beulah (+ FRANCK)
WAGNER – Die Walküre – van Zweden – Naxos
Overtures – Beecham – Beulah
Queen Mary’s Big Belly – Gallicantus – Signum
Virgin and Child – Contrapunctus – Signum
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
In ieiunio et fletu [4:56]
Blessed are those that be undefiled [4:32]
Purge me, O Lord [2:14]
Spem in alium [10:21]
God grant with grace - No. 8 of 9 Psalm Tunes [4:59]
O Lord, open thou our lips - Preces and Responses II [1:07]
Wherewithal shall a young man [2:21]
O do well unto they servant [2:34]
My soul cleaveth to the dust
Magnificat - Short Service ‘Dorian’ [3:16]
Nunc dimittis - Short Service ‘Dorian’ [1:59]
The Lord be with you - Preces and Responses II [5:05]
O sacrum convivium [3:49]
Remember not, O Lord God [3:36]
Hear the voice and prayer [3:17]
Verily, verily I say unto you [2:20]
O Lord, in thee is all my trust [[3:43]
Hodie nobis cælorum rex [3:41]
Sing and glorify [9:45]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
rec. 9 -11 November 2015, St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London
Texts and English translations included
HYPERION CDA68156 [76:59]
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk For CD availability please see review links below.
Two of my colleagues have already praised this, the final volume of a most distinguished series – review – review. It remains only for me to award Recording of the Month status in honour of the whole enterprise and to note that this could well be the place to start collecting for those who have not yet done so, with Tallis’s best-known work Spem in alium both in its original form and in the arrangement made after his death to an English text – known as a contrafactum – in honour of James I’s son, Henry. The 24-bit recording costs very little more than the CD; though the 16-bit is much less, the extra is worth paying.
This series as a whole is on a par with the equally distinguished Signum series recorded by Chapelle du Roi and Alexander Dixon, the individual volumes of which can also be downloaded inexpensively from Hyperion, while the whole set is available very inexpensively from Brilliant Classics (10 CDs around £27). Three works by Thomas TALLIS feature on a new release from Signum – Virgin and Child: Music from the Baldwin Partbooks II. Owen Rees directs Contrapunctus on SIGCD474 [75:18] reviewed as a 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk. As well as TALLIS’s Gaude gloriosa, Magnificat a5 and Videte miraculum we have John TAVERNER Mater Christi sanctissima, Robert WHITE Tota pulchra es and Regina cæli and Robert FAYRFAX Ave Dei Patris filia.
Volume I of this series, entitled In the Midst of Life, was released in 2015 (SIGCD408). I praised that – review – and its successor is equally attractive. CD from Amazon UK – Presto
In 1555 Queen Mary believed herself to be pregnant, to the delight of all those – possibly the majority – who had welcomed her return not only to the moderated Catholicism of the latter part of the reign of her father Henry VIII but also to the Roman obedience. Any child would have displaced as heir apparent Mary’s moderately Protestant half-sister Elizabeth but either she miscarried or it was a false pregnancy. A further episode in 1558 turned out to be the tumour which killed her.
Signum have recorded a collection of music from Mary’s reign under the title of Queen Mary’s Big Belly: Hope for an heir in Catholic England. Alongside works by the comparatively well-known composers, Thomas TALLIS – Like as the doleful Dove, O sacrum convivium, Quod chorus vatum, When shall my sorrowful sighing slack and Loquebantur variis linguis – and John SHEPPARD – Christi virgo dilectissima, Deus misereatur, Vain, all our life I and II, Martyr Dei qui unicum and Libera nos, salve nos – there is music by William MUNDY – Exsurge Christe – Christopher TYE – Peccavimus cum patribus nostris – Orlande de LASSUS – Te spectant, Reginalde, Poli and Philip van der WILDER – Pater Noster – A Fansy attributed to Anthony NEWMAN, the anonymous New Ballad of the Marigold and the Litany of the Sarum Rite. Gallicantus are directed by Gabriel Crouch on SIGNUM SIGCD464 [77:38] reviewed as a 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk. Texts and translations are included, though with no attempt to convey the pun in the Lassus: Poli meaning both the heavens and Reginald Pole who returned England to the Roman fold. CD from Amazon UK – Presto
Several of the works are not otherwise available and I suspect are first recordings, though not claimed as such. That alone makes the album valuable but it also forms a mini history lesson and, more importantly still, the performances are as good as on Gallicantus’ earlier Signum recordings, SIGCD295: Recording of the Month – review – and SIGCD339: Recording of the Month – review – review. Strongly recommended on all counts.
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643) Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali (1614)
Lamento d’Arianna [15:31]
Zefiro torna e ’l bel tempo rimena [3:40]
Una donna fra l’altre – Concertato nel clavicimbalo [3:48]
A Dio Florida bella – Concertato [4:27]
Sestina: Lagrime d’amante al sepolcro dell’amata [17:35]
Ohimè il bel viso [5:17]
Qui rise Tirsi – Concertato [6:38]
Misero Alceo – Concertato [5:15]
«Batto» qui pianse Ergasto – Concertato [4:00]
Presso un fiume tranquillo – Dialogo a 7. concertato [5:40]
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
rec. Convent of Saint Dominic (Sala Bolognini), Bologna, 28-31 May 1992.
Texts and translations included.
ARCANA A425 [72:50]
Reviewed from mp3 press preview. CD from Amazon UK – Presto
I’m not sure why Arcana have chosen to reissue this 1992 recording, first released on A66. Concerto Italiano and Rinaldo Alessandrini recorded this Sixth Book of Monteverdi madrigals again for Naïve/Opus111 and those more sprightly performances, released in 2006, are generally preferable to their earlier recording. They remain my benchmark for Book 6 – and, indeed, for Books 7-8 – with a selection from Books 6-8 from Arcangelo on Hyperion another strong recommendation – review.
The madrigals of Book VI are concerned with love, separation and loss. The opening sequence, collectively known as the Lament of Arianna, is all that remains of Monteverdi’s opera Arianna. It’s a seminal work in that it was much imitated, not least by Monteverdi himself who converted it into the Virgin Mary’s lament, Il Pianto della Madonna. There’s a very fine recent recording of that, together with settings of other sacred texts from Selva Morale, Fiori Musicali, Madrigals Books IV and V and elsewhere on Glossa (La Compagnia dei Madrigale: GCD922805 [68:20] – available on CD or as a 16- and 24-bit download from eclassical.com, with pdf booklet).
Originally released on Opus 111, Alessandrini’s later recording of Book VI is now available at mid-price on the Naïve Baroque Voices label (OP30522) but that’s reported as out of stock at the UK distributor as I write. ArkivMusic have it in stock, however. The original release on OP30423 is available as a download in mp3 or lossless format from eclassical.com or Presto, though neither offers the booklet.
The Arcana performances may be slow but Delitiæ Musicæ and Marco Longhini on a 2-CD Naxos release are slower still, taking 88 minutes for the whole collection, hence the need for a second disc completed with a few miscellaneous madrigals. I’m afraid that Longhini’s approach is not for me – review. Qui rise Tirsi offers a good test: Thyrsis’s smiles are largely lost at Longhini’s 8:19. Alessandrini on Arcana is much more to the point at 6:38 and even more so on Naïve at 5:20.
The strongest competition for the Naïve recording comes from La Venexiana on Glossa. In detailed comparison throughout Book VI they yield slightly to Alessandrini on Naive but for those looking to purchase the whole set of eight books their 12-CD set is offered at an attractive price – normally around £46 but on offer as I write for £36.56 (Glossa GCD920929).
DISCOVERY OF THE MONTH
Francesca CACCINI (1587-c.1641)
La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola di Alcina
Commedia in musica (Florence, 1625)
Elena Biscuola (mezzo, Alcina); Mauro Borgioni (baritone, Ruggiero); Gabriella Martellacci (contralto, Melissa); Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli (soprano, Sirena); Emanuela Galli (soprano, La nunzia Oreste); Raffaele Giordani (tenor, Un pastore, Nettuno); Yiannis Vassilakis (baritone, Astolfo)
Allabastrina, La Pifarescha/Elena Sartori (harpsichord)
rec. Salone d’Onore di Casa Romei, Ferrara, Italy, 29-31 August and 1 September 2016. DDD.
Texts and translation included.
GLOSSA GCD923902 [79:10]
Reviewed as streamed from Qobuz and Naxos Music Library (both with pdf booklet). CD from Amazon UK – Presto
Giulio Caccini’s work has been comparatively well recognised in recent years, not least with two recordings of his Euridice, which vies for the title of the first ever opera. Now we have the first recording of his daughter Francesca’s Alcina, the first opera composed by a woman. The plot is based on an episode from Ariosto’s Orlando furioso which would be the subject of several later operas, notably by Handel. It’s significant that, like Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653), another artistic daughter of an artistic father – a painter in her case – Francesca chose a strong female character in the form of Alcina. To connect the two there are two short pieces by Francesca on What Artemisia Heard, a collection of music from the time of Artemisia Gentileschi (Sono Luminus DSL92915 – review).
Though much influenced by her father’s music and that of his rival Peri, Francesca’s output is well worth hearing and the Glossa performance and recording will certainly encourage exploration of her other works. Apart from a collection on Brilliant Classics (94461 – review) and another on Analekta (AN29966 – review). you’ll have to search in anthologies such as La Lira d’Orfeo (Resonus RES10124 – review) and Firenze 1616 (Alpha 120 – review).
Another heathen sorceress from Italian renaissance epic who attempts to lead a Christian hero astray is Armida, who features in Tasso’s La Gerusalemme Liberata. Both Christoph Gluck and Jean-Baptiste LULLY composed operas entitled Armide, tragédie en musique. Robert Hugill was not enthusiastic about the only current CD version of the Lully, from Naxos – review – greatly preferring Philippe Herreweghe (his second recording, 1993) with a strong cast on Harmonia Mundi HMC901456.57. The good news is that, though out of stock on disc, it’s available for subscribers to stream from Qobuz, where it can also be purchased for download for £8.49 – the least expensive source that I can find. Subscribers to Naxos Music Library can also stream it. There’s no booklet from any download or streaming source but the score is available online, as is the libretto of the (cut) Naxos version. Gluck used the same text, without the prologue, and his libretto is online.
Giovanni Battista BASSANI (1647/1650?-1716) Giona (Jonah)
Laura Antonaz (Speranza), Margherita Rotondi (Obbedienza) (soprano), Carlo Vistoli (Giona) (alto), Raffaele Giordani (Atrebate) (tenor), Mauro Borgioni (Testo) (bass)
Ensemble Les Nations/Maria Luisa Baldassari
rec. July 2014 at the Chiesa di S. Maria della Natività, Rontana Brisighella (Ravenna), Italy, DDD
Texts without translations available from the Tactus website
TACTUS TC640290 [47:57 + 40:49]
Reviewed as streamed with pdf booklet from Qobuz and Naxos Music Library. For CD purchase details please see review by Johan van Veen.
I need only echo my colleague’s recommendation – at least listen to the streamed version if you can: a subscription to either of the services from which I listened need not cost too much and both are very useful. The Qobuz can also be downloaded for a reasonable £11.99.
There are no other recordings of this oratorio on the prophet Jonah, nor ever likely to be, but this is not the only work devoted to him: there are nine recordings of Carissimi’s Jonas, including one on another Tactus album, one of a Jonas by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and three of Rudolf Tobias’ Des Jona Sendung.
DISCOVERY OF THE MONTH
Carlo Francesco CESARINI (1666-1741?) Cantatas
Le Cantate da camera della Biblioteca Casanatense di Roma
Filli, no’l niego, io dissi (La Gelosia), per soprano, 2 violini e basso continuo [11:58]
Già gl’augelli canori (L’Arianna), per soprano e basso continuo [12:04]
Fetonte, e non ti basta, per soprano e basso continuo [10:56]
Penso di non mirarvi, per soprano e basso continuo [12:01]
V’è una bella tutta ingegno, per soprano e basso continuo [7:34]
Oh dell’Adria reina, per soprano, 2 violini e basso continuo [14:24]
Stéphanie Varnerin (soprano)
L’Astrée (Academia Montis Regalis)/Giorgio Tabacco
rec. Église Bon Secours, Paris, 18-24 May, 2016.
Texts and translations included
APARTÉ AP136 [68:57]
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com. CD from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto
This is a double discovery: the music of Cesarini, hitherto available only on a small handful of recital CDs, and the powerful and expressive voice of Stéphanie Varnerin. There doesn’t seem to be anything else by her in the current catalogue but I hope that we shall hear more of her. L’Astrée and Giorgio Tabacco, who have been mentioned with credit in these pages, offer excellent support – slightly less flamboyant than some early-music groups but none the worse for that. Add that to the fact that these previously unknown cantatas were well worth rescuing and you have a very enjoyable offering. The 24-bit download is more expensive at $18.62 than the CD (around £12.75 and on special offer as I write for £11.50) but it is worth the extra for the high quality sound. Highly recommended.
REISSUE OF THE MONTH
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Love in Bath (ballet, arr. Beecham) [47:44]
Léo DELIBES (1836-1891) Le Roi s’amuse [15:56]
Camille SAINT-SAENS (1835-1921) Samson et Dalila: Danse des Prêtresses; Bacchanale [9:44]
Ilse Hollweg (soprano); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
rec. c.1956. ADD/stereo
BEULAH 7PDR4 [73:25] - from iTunes (mp3) or wait until available in lossless sound for the same price from Qobuz.
Alternative transfer of this recording of Love in Bath NAXOS CLASSICAL ARCHIVES 9.80915 [46:38] - from Presto (mp3 and lossless)
The unavailability of Love in Bath except as a download coupled on a budget twofer with Solomon, (Warner Gemini 5865162) makes the Beulah reissue of this delightful music, originally concocted from a wide range of Handel’s music as The Great Elopement, all the more welcome and the inclusion of the Delibes, another ballet which Beecham brings off superbly, clinches it. The Warner coupling, Solomon, is another ‘Handel arr. Beecham’ concoction but far less amenable than Love in Bath. Both have received quite a hammering from purists but for me Love in Bath is too full of sheer delectation and delight to be criticised.
As for Le Roi s’amuse, I fell in love with the music years ago when BBC2 used it as theme music for a dramatisation of Kenilworth. Beecham’s is the most complete recording of the music and easily the best. It remains available from Warner on a single CD or as part of Beecham conducts French Music (download only) but many will find the Beulah coupling ideal.
8PDR4 [83:24] a well-filled second RPO/Beecham album brings reissues of Overtures: to BEETHOVEN’s Ruins of Athens, BERLIOZ’ Le Corsaire and Le Carnaval Romain, BRAHMS’ Academic Festival, MENDELSSOHN’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, ROSSINI’s La Cambiale di Matrimonio and La Gazza Laddra, SUPPÉ’s Poet and Peasant, BOCCHERINI’s Overture in D and MÉHUL’s Timoléon. Carnaval Romain and the last two were recorded in 1953/4 in mono, the rest in stereo in 1959/60. Some of these are available otherwise coupled – Le Corsaire, for example, with Beecham’s superb Symphonie Fantastique and the Brahms and Suppé as part of Warner’s multi-disc Beecham: The Later Tradition, now download only – but it’s very convenient and enjoyable to have them collected by Beulah in such good transfers. Collections of overtures, once very popular, are much less in fashion nowadays. The Boccherini Overture is currently available only in another transfer of the Beecham recording (Somm) and in two Giulini recordings. The Beulah album is available from iTunes but I recommend waiting for it to be available from Qobuz in better quality for the same price.
Beecham’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture, Op.21, is only seconds faster than that which opens a new recording of the complete Felix MENDELSSOHN incidental music, Op.61, from the LSO and Sir John Eliot Gardiner on LSO Live LSO0795 [55:03] - reviewed as a 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk. SACD/blu-ray from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto. What the new recording lacks in energy by comparison with Beecham it makes up for in evoking the magic of the music and the recording, of course, is much better, good though the Beulah transfer is. Some cuts to the music – no rude mechanicals, thus enhancing the magic of the playing – and the inclusion of narration, somewhat irksome on repeated hearing, however, mean that this will not be to all tastes, especially as the cuts make for a short album. The live Barbican recording (February 2016) is better than many from this source. Recent recordings on Chandos and BIS which I reviewed in Download News 2016/1 offer more music, without narration, and better value.
MENDELSSOHN’S Symphony No.1, the other item in the programme that evening, performed with the Scherzo from the Octet, has recently been released with Symphony No.4 (Italian) on LSO Live LSO0769 [62:11] – reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion records.co.uk. SACD/blu-ray from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto. The performances compete strongly with Chandos’s recent very fine Birmingham series from Gardiner’s near-namesake Edward Gardner, differently coupled.
Eclassical.com also offer LSO Live downloads in 16- and 24-bit but sometimes without booklets and at prices in US$ which make them uncompetitive with the Hyperion or the SACD/blu-ray releases, especially for UK purchasers.
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Ouvertures (Suites)
Cantata BWV119 ‘Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn’ (arr. A. Bernardini for orchestra) [4:40]
Orchestral Suite No.1 in C, BWV1066 [23:50]
Orchestral Suite No.3 in D major, BWV1068 [21:10]
Cantata BWV194 ‘Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest’ (arr. A. Bernardini for orchestra) [4:26]
Orchestral Suite No.4 in D, BWV1069 [22:43]
Ensemble Zefiro/Alfredo Bernardini
rec. Gustav Mahler Hall, Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Dobbiaco, 6-9 November 2015. DDD.
ARCANA A400 [76:49]
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com. CD from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto
An attractive release from an ensemble whose work I have appreciated before, most recently in Trio Sonatas by Zelenka – DL News 2016/7 – but there’s just one serious obstacle in the way of my recommending these stylish and energetic new recordings. With many fine versions of all four orchestral suites, in all price ranges and with a choice of period and modern instruments, the omission of No.2 from this Arcana release is a serious handicap. Several recommendable recordings fit all four on one CD: Boston Baroque and Martin Pearlman (Telarc, full-price); La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken (Accent full-price – review – Download News 2014/3, inadvertently omitted from the Index); Virtuosi Saxoniae/Ludwig Güttler (Brilliant Classics, budget price); Academy of St Martin/Neville Marriner (Decca mid-price or Eloquence lower mid-price) and even, despite a reputation for ponderous speeds, Karl Münchinger with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra (Eloquence, lower mid-price). Perhaps best of all, especially for those in search of period performance, the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra run to two CDs but include alternative dances for not much more than the price of one CD (Harmonia Mundi HMC902113/4 – DL News 2013/18). The BIS recording with the Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki is also offered as 2-for-1 (BIS-SACD-1431 – DL News 2014/15). The 3-for-2 set of these recordings with the Brandenburg Concertos, an even better purchase, seems to be hard to obtain in the UK at present (BIS-SACD-1771/2).
Ensemble Sonnerie and Monica Huggett offer a rather different experience in the form of an attempted reconstruction of the original versions of these suites (Avie AV2171 – review – Download Roundup).
Leopold MOZART (1719-1787)
Divertimento in D: Die Bauernhochzeit (Peasant Wedding) [18:06]
Paolo SALULINI (1709-1780) Concerto for dulcimer and harpsichord in G [13:58]
Niccolò JOMMELLI (1714-1774) Sinfonia in G [8:01]
Benedetto MARCELLO (1686-1739) Recorder Sonata in F, Op.2/12 [13:55]
Karl-Heinz Schickhaus (dulcimer); Johannes Schickhaus (harpsichord); Christian Ohlenroth (recorder)
Munich Chamber Orchestra/Hans Stadlmaier
rec. 1986, 1991.
TUDOR712 [54:00] Reviewed as lossless download from eclassical.com (NO booklet) and as streamed from Naxos Music Library (with booklet).
Leopold MOZART Divertimento in D: Die Bauernhochzeit (Peasant Wedding) [16:24]
Symphony in G, Eisen G3 (Sinfonia Pastorale) [11:40]
Georg DRUSCHETZKY (1745-1819) Partita for rustic instruments in B-flat [20:54]
Capella Savaria/Pál Németh – released 1999.
HUNGAROTON HCD12874 [48:58] Reviewed as lossless download from eclassical.com (NO booklet).
As presented in the play and film Amadeus Mozart senior comes over as a humourless character but much of his extant music belies that image, none more so than Die Bauernhochzeit. As performed on Tudor it comes over as enjoyable but a rather sedate affair by comparison with the classic DG Archiv performance directed by Eduard Melkus, rustic instruments, crackers, whoops and swoops included, now available only as a special Presto CD or download. That Melkus version remains my benchmark, especially as it’s coupled with an equally fun recording of the Musikalische Schlittenfahrt or Musical Sleigh-ride. The dulcimer features prominently on Tudor, no doubt because a player was on hand for the concerto for that instrument, the only available recording of it and the Jommelli, thus making this a vital recording for those seeking stylish accounts of those two works. But the lack of rustic instruments and sheer fun otherwise rules it out.
The Hungaroton recording comes much closer to rivalling Melkus: here again are the hurdy-gurdy and the noises of merry-making and livelier tempi. The opening marcia villanesca, for example, is almost 30% faster than on Tudor, though still a little slower than Melkus, which subscribers can stream from Qobuz.
If you choose the Melkus you will also obtain the Sleigh-ride, otherwise available on another Hungaroton recording of older vintage from the Liszt Chamber Orchestra, with the Toy Symphony, Wolfgang Amadeus’s Les Petits Riens and Süssmary’s Das Namensfest (HCD32228 – download from eclassical.com with pdf booklet).
There’s another Tudor recording of Leopold’s music, available for subscribers to stream from Naxos Music Library. Once again, however, the performances of Sleigh-ride and Toy Symphony directed by Hans Stadlmair are rather sedate, with rather coy children’s voices in the latter, though the performances of two symphonies Eisen D26 and Jagd-symphonie are worth having. (TUDOR 737). I enjoyed this much less than Dominy Clements: his comment about the Toy Symphony being rather sedate is understated – review.
The best, though not ideal, recommendation for the Toy Symphony and Die Bauernhochzeit, comes from Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, coupled with music by Mozart junior (Challenge Classics CC72189 – review). Nothing quite rivals Melkus, however, in Die Bauernhochzeit and the Sleigh-ride, and I’m very pleased that Presto have restored his recording to circulation. It can also be streamed from Qobuz.
Michael HAYDN (1737-1806)
Missa sub titulo Sancti Leopoldi in festo Innocentium, Klafsky I/24, MH837 [20:12]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Andante in F, K616* [5:32]
Vesperae pro festo Sanctorum Innocentium, Klafsky IV/5, MH548 [27:17]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Music for flute clock, HobXIX (arr. for organ)* [6:02]
Rico Zela, August Schram, Lambros Tsimitselis (boy sopranos), Olivier Messerli (boy alto), Daniel Winiger (organ), Georges Athanasiadès (organ, Stiftsbasilika Klosterneuburg*); Zürcher Sängerknaben, Capella Concertante/Alphons von Aarburg
rec. Refomierte Kirche, Zürich-Altstetten, 27-28 December 1989. DDD.
TUDOR 754 [59:19]
Reviewed as lossless download from eclassical.com (NO booklet). Also available to stream from Naxos Music Library (with backcover image).
The two Michael Haydn works which form the major part of this album were recorded back in 1989 but were recently released as a download only, perhaps inspired by recent renewed interest in Joseph’s younger brother and friend of Mozart, father and son.
I had expected to find that these were the only recordings of the St Leopold Mass for Holy Innocents (28 December), and the Vespers for that day but the Hannover Girls Choir on Carus 83.355 couple the Mass with Michael Haydn’s Missa Sancti Aloysii, MH257, and Koessler’s Missa in f minor and the American Boychoir and the New York Collegium conducted by James Litton offer both Michael Haydn works on Linn CKD152, which I downloaded for comparison from hyperion-records.co.uk. It’s also available from linnrecords.com and from dealers on CD. At 76:59 it contains more music than the Tudor, with plainsong propers for the Mass and antiphons for Vespers but I should point out that at £12.00 the lossless download is more expensive than the CD which can be found for as little as £9.
The lack of texts with any download source of the Tudor recording is regrettable but even if you choose that version it remains possible to download the booklet, with texts and notes, from Hyperion. On the whole the Linn recording on CD or download is probably the best option.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.9 in E-flat, K271 (Jeunehomme) [34:02]
Piano Concerto No.8 in C, K246 (Lützow) [22:21]
Evelyne Dubourg (piano); Munich Chamber Orchestra/Hans Stadlmair
rec. Munich, May 1980.
TUDOR 703 [56:23]
Reviewed as lossless download from eclassical.com (NO booklet)
This is another elderly recording which has recently been reissued in download-only format. The performances are very decent in a slightly old-fashioned style, with accomplished, nimble pianism matched by sympathetic orchestral support. The sound is a little dry but not badly dated.
If the coupling appeals, this is well worth having for the sake of No.8, the less well-known of these two concertos, but even that has over 50 recordings to its credit and one of them comes from Mitsuko Uchida and Geoffrey Tate with the ECO and it’s coupled with No.9. (Download only, available from Presto in mp3 and lossless, or stream for subscribers from Qobuz).
The extra stylishness of the Philips recording gives it the edge and there’s an even better recording of No.9 with Uchida playing and conducting the Cleveland Orchestra (Decca 4783539, with No.21 – review – review – Download News 2012/24). Bargain lovers will also find details of Alfred Brendel’s very fine earlier recording of No.9, with the ASMF and Neville Marriner, coupled with Nos. 15, 22 and 27, in Download News 2012/24. Ignore the hmvdigital links: the Brendel/Marriner twofer can be purchased on CD or downloaded in mp3 or lossless from Presto. The budget Uchida/Tate twofer containing No.9 referred to in DL News seems to have been deleted in all formats.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Mass in c minor, K427 (completed by Franz Beyer) [52:15]
Exsultate, jubilate, K165 [13:50]
Exsultate, jubilate (Salzburg version, with flutes – excerpt) [4:24]
Carolyn Sampson (soprano); Olivia Vermeulen (mezzo); Makoto Sakurada (tenor); Christian Immler (baritone)
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
rec. November 2015, Saitama Arts Theatre, Concert Hall, Japan
Texts and translations included
BIS BIS-2171 SACD [71:17]
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com. SACD from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto
Stephen Greenbank made this a very well-deserved Recording of the Month – review. It’s received similar accolades elsewhere. There’s not much that I need to add except that with the mid-price reissue of the McCreesh version (DG Virtuoso) currently out of stock in the UK* except as a special CD from Presto this becomes my version of choice alongside John Eliot Gardiner (Philips – Download Roundup **). Among older releases, however, I shall not be ditching Ferenc Fricsay, formerly on DG and now an excellent bargain on Alto ALC1235, also with Exsultate, Jubilate. Harry Christophers with the Handel and Haydn Society is also well worth considering (Coro COR16084, again with Exsultate, Jubilate plus Haydn Symphony No.85 – Download News 2012/22). I liked that more than my colleague Johan van Veen – review – but the new recording is preferable. Carolyn Sampson may not efface memories of Emma Kirkby in Exsultate, jubilate but she comes very close.
* Amazon UK had just three copies left when I checked. ArkivMusic have the original Archiv CD to special order.
** Ignore the defunct Passionato download link. CD and download available from Presto.
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
String Quartet No.12 in c minor (fragment), D703 (Quartettsatz) (1820) [9:05]
String Quartet No.15 in G, D887 (1826) [52:14]
Doric String Quartet [Alex Redington, Jonathan Stone (violin), Hélène Clément (viola), John Myerscough (cello)]
rec. Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk; 23 – 25 May 2016. DDD.
CHANDOS CHAN10931 [61:19]
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com. CD from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto
The Wihan Quartet offer the identical coupling on a Nimbus Alliance recording which I could be happy with for my putative Desert Island, though I recommend reversing the playing order, with the Quartettsatz first, as on the new Chandos album. (NI6221 – Download News 2013/12). The Wihans bring out both the intense and lyrical aspects of Schubert’s great final quartet, as do the Kodály Quartet on a very fine budget-price recording (NAXOS 8.557125, with German Dances). The inexpensive ASV Resonance set of the late Schubert quartets and String Quintet from the Lindsays, which I mentioned in 2013, remains available as a download.
Without in any way dismissing the Quartettsatz, I’m pleased that Chandos have placed it first and that the Doric Quartet perform it so sensitively, though I might have liked a little more of the ‘innovatory wildness’ referred to in the booklet at times and a touch more lyricism at others. No.15 receives a performance which stresses its connection with Beethoven’s late quartets: Bayan Northcott in the notes refers to Schubert’s attendance in 1826 at the premiere of the latter’s Op.130, in its original form with the Große Fuge finale, a work with which D887 has much in common, not least in that both represent the String Quartet in its highest form. Strangely, Arthur Hutchings, whose Schubert volume in the Dent Master Musicians series is often so perceptive, connects D887 with Beethoven’s middle-period Op.59 quartets rather than the later works, even going so far as to deny to Schubert the ‘spiritual (his italics) adventures’ of his hero’s final output. I can only think that to be because when Dent published the first edition in 1945 the work was a comparative rarity, but by the time of the 1973 revision there should have been ample opportunity to hear it: the Amadeus Quartet on DG, for example, made a very fine LP recording – the Heliodor label reissue (478433) was my introduction to the work c.1966.
If the Doric Quartet bring out the intensity of the music occasionally at the expense of the lyricism, it certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment and appreciation of a very fine account. The 24-bit recording is very good: there’s no SACD, so the 24/96 is the best available format.
Sir John Barbirolli Symphonies: Volume 5
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Symphony in d minor [37:32]
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli – rec. 1962 ADD/stereo
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1972-1958)
Symphony No.7 ‘Antartica’ [38:17]
Margaret Ritchie (soprano)
Hallé Choir and Orchestra /Sir John Barbirolli – rec. 1953 ADD/mono
BEULAH 5PDR17 [65:49]
Sir John Barbirolli’s Antartica appeared on HMV ALP1102 mere months before Sir Adrian Boult’s now much better known Decca recording; they shared Margaret Ritchie in the soprano role. Though the Boult is the one which has become a classic – in many ways preferable to more recent recordings, even Boult’s own – the Barbirolli stayed at full price in the catalogue well into the stereo era: it was still advertised as such in 1966 and it was until recently available in a Warner British Composers set (now download only). Like Barbirolli’s Eighth (4PDR17, with Elgar Symphony No.2 – DL News 2016/6), this deserves to be heard by every VW enthusiast and the recording has come up well for its age, though not quite as well as the Decca Boult. The Beulah transfer is good for its age, a trifle dry but no more so than the Warner reissue, streamed via Qobuz.
Barbirolli recorded the Franck Symphony with the New York Philharmonic in the days of 78s and that remains available on Guild but his Czech Philharmonic version is rarer. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about it: the performance has a vitality that sometimes challenges even the classic Beecham (Warner, download only) and Munch (RCA and Sony, download only or 86-CD set) recordings but the Supraphon recording seems to have been problematic, even for Beulah who have made much older Supraphons sound very acceptable. I suspect that the original LP was a ‘swinger’, with the central hole not quite accurately placed, or slightly warped. It’s not a gross problem but the pitch is just sufficiently off to be the musical equivalent of that slightly rough tooth that your tongue keeps getting attracted to.
I asked a colleague to listen in case my ears were just not attuned to this recording and he confirmed my reservations.
The reissue is well worth having for the Vaughan Williams but the Franck is a rare misfire for Beulah. The Supraphon CD, coupled with Dusík’s 2-piano concerto, seems no longer to be available in the UK but subscribers can stream it from Qobuz, where it’s also available to download. Though labelled ‘Archiv’ – which makes me suspect it’s actually older than 1962, the year in which it was released in the UK – it doesn’t sound at all bad. [My thanks to my colleague John Quinn who tells me that Michael Kennedy’s biography of Barbirolli confirms the March 1962 date.]
Van Beinum conducts Brahms
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No.1 in c minor, Op.68 [41:17]
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum – rec. 1951. ADD/mono
Violin Concerto in D, Op.77 [38:25]
Arthur Grumiaux (violin); Concertgebouw Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum – rec. 1958. ADD/stereo
BEULAH 5PD17 [79:43]
I recall reading a review of van Beinum’s Brahms – not these recordings, I think, but it applies to them – to the effect that he couldn’t put a foot wrong. It’s certainly true of his recording of the First Symphony: I’d be hard pressed, for example, to name a more affectionate account of the ‘big tune’ in the finale. The recording has come up well for its age, though it’s inevitably rather thin. It’s also been reissued by Beulah with Solomon’s recording of the Second Piano Concerto – Proms Music 2016 Volume 4 – review.
If you already have that earlier Beulah release, you may wish to know that this recording of the Violin Concerto has been reissued by Australian Philips Eloquence – Bargain of the Month: review. I doubt, however, that the Eloquence transfer has come up sounding better than the Beulah. At nearly 22 minutes this is one of those performances where the first movement sounds almost as slow as the real slow movement but most seem to like it so and it’s certainly not the worst offender. Listen to Heifetz and Reiner (RCA) and you may never wholly enjoy any other account but there’s no lack of passion in Grumiaux’s playing or the accompaniment throughout.
The Eloquence reissue also contains the Alto Rhapsody, Op.53 performed by Aafje Heynis with van Beinum and the Academic Festival and Tragic Overtures. That 1958 recording of the Rhapsody is also included on another Beulah release: The Art of Aafje Heynis (1PS8). The Beulah also includes BACH (Christmas Oratorio, St John and St Matthew Passions) and HANDEL (Judas Maccabaeus, Samson, Messiah) arias from a 1961 recording with the VSO conducted by Hans Gillesberger. The Brahms is beautifully sung and accompanied but the recording sounds much older than 1958. I checked and it was indeed recorded in February 1958 and issued later that year on a 10” LP. The fault clearly lies with the original recording, not with Beulah’s transfer, because the Eloquence CD sounds no better. I’m amazed to see that Janet Baker’s recording of the Alto Rhapsody is now download only, in several couplings, or as part of a multi-disc set.
The VSO and Gillesberger may not have been in the top league but they offer mainly stylish accompaniment in the other items. At the time Heynis was compared with Kathleen Ferrier but I prefer her voice to Ferrier’s and she is much better recorded than Ferrier. The rest of the Beulah recording is better than the Brahms: Philips quality had improved immeasurably in three short years. Recommended for all but the Brahms.
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Variations on an original Theme (Enigma)* [29:22]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73** [43:50]
London Symphony Orchestra*; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra**/Pierre Monteux – rec. 1958/1959 ADD/stereo
BEULAH 1PDR39 [73:12] Download from iTunes – but better quality for the same price due shortly from Qobuz
I can’t resist giving Beulah the accolade twice this month – see Handel above. I’ve been hoping for some time that they would reissue their recording of the Enigma Variations to replace the earlier release on 1BX181 – DL Roundup February 2012/2). It was a Recording of the Year and I see no reason not to stand by my very firm recommendation in its new guise.
The Brahms is one of two versions which Monteux recorded around the same time. Originally on RCA, this is preferable to his LSO Philips recording made shortly afterwards. Monteux’s more relaxed and caressing account makes a fascinating adjunct to Klemperer’s rugged recording of around the same time, also recently reissued by Beulah. Even if you bought the original Beulah reissue of the Elgar, the modest price of the new download is worth paying for the Brahms. Both recordings are available on Eloquence but differently coupled, adding to the value of the Beulah release. The transfer is very good, with a touch of brightness on the upper strings reflecting the Decca sound of the time.
There’s a recent Hyperion release offering the Enigma Variations, In the South and some shorter pieces which Gwyn Parry-Jones thought ‘outstandingly fine’ (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins CDA68101 – review and CD purchase details: reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk). On paper the new Hyperion looks like one of the slowest Enigmas on record, at 33:15, but it never outstays its welcome. In fact I found in it the same vitality which marks the 1936 Boult and the Monteux. The former I heard as a raw copy of the 78s; there is a commercial release on Warner but it comes in a large box, so a tidied-up download from Beulah would be well worth considering. The 78 sound is more than tolerable but if you want something akin to Boult’s Elgar, his protégé Vernon Handley is your man, and at a very attractive price: London Philharmonic Orchestra; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley (with Serenade for Strings; VAUGHAN WILLIAMS The Lark Ascending; Greensleeves and ‘Tallis’ Fantasias) Classics for Pleasure 5748802 or Warner National Gallery 6782712. Both are offered at super-budget price; the National Gallery album is download only.
I need hardly add that the Hyperion 24-bit download offers the best sound of all these.
Two brief mentions of recordings due to receive more detailed treatment in forthcoming reviews:
Despite the many adverse comments which have appeared on the Message Board I enjoyed the audio-only recording of the New Year’s Concert 2017 from the Vienna Philharmonic. Despite the antics of Gustavo Dudamel – contrast the calm and minimalist manner in which Willi Boskovsky used to direct proceedings – the VPO played with their usual panache. Give the DVD and Blu-ray a miss this year for the Sony CD or download. (88985376152). Alternatively, as the DVD is less expensive than the CD, buy it and play it audio only.
The second helping of Naxos’s new WAGNER Ring cycle from Hong Kong, Die Walküre, is every bit as good as Marc Rochester says in his review. You should be aware, however, that the Blu-ray audio version is both of better quality than the CDs, is complete on one disc and, paradoxically, costs half the price (NBD0051). If you don’t yet own a Blu-ray player or it’s not linked to your audio system save £10 on this recording and put it towards obtaining one, preferably one which will also plays SACDs. You would have to turn to the complete Decca Ring recording with Solti for a better version of Walküre – and incidentally that’s available at a very reasonable price on a single Blu-ray disc: yes, the whole Ring in first-class sound on one disc in a hard-back book with texts and translations for around £64 – review.