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90 reviews completed so far this month

Saturday December 10th

Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945) Violin Concerto 2, Violin Sonata 1 Yehudi Menuhin (violin) Philharmonia O/Wilhelm Furtwängler; Adolph Baller (piano) rec.1947/1953 NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111336 [68:43] [SV]

This will give some idea of what the Menuhin fuss was originally about.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphonies 1-9, Overtures: Egmont, Leonore 3 Staatsoper Dresden Ch, Staatskapelle Dresden/Sir Colin Davis rec. 1991-3 NEWTON CLASSICS 8802077 [6 CDs: 402:50] [JQ]

Sensible, thoughtful and thoroughly musical … a good, sound proposition. 

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Cello Sonatas 1 & 2 Maurice Maréchal (cello) Jeanne-Marie Darré (piano) rec. 1952 FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR 168 [43:27] [JW]

Richly rewarding despite the occasional frailty.

Jean CRAS (1879-1932) Harp quintette, Duo, Deux Impromptus Rachel Talitman (harp) Erez Ofer (violin) Marcos Fregnani-Martins (flute) Pierre-Henry Xuereb (viola) Hee-Yong Lim (cello) HARP & COMPANY CD-5050-24 [52:04] [RB]

Music-making that smilingly beckons you in.

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Orfeo ed Euridice Herbert Handt (tenor) Judith Hellwig (soprano) Vienna State Opera O/Hans Swarowsky rec. 1950 MUSIC & ARTS CD-1250 [70:58 + 54:28] [JW]

A most worthy undertaking. 

Josep MARTÍ I CRISTIÀ (1884-1918) Musica per a piano Daniel Blanch (piano) rec. 2010 LA MÀ DE GUIDO LMG 2102 [62:02] [Byz]

Full of melody, poignancy, elegance, Spanish character and imagination, all brought vividly to life by the light-fingered, graceful pianism of Daniel Blanch.

Émile SAURET (1852–1920) Music for violin and piano Michi Wiancko (violin) Dina Vainshtein (piano) rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572366 [67:30] [RB]

While hardly profound statements neither are these vapid effusions.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) New Babylon Basel Sinf/Mark Fitz-Gerald rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.572824-25 [43:15 + 48:08]  [SA]

It is a great addition to any collector of his music and is superbly played on this disc

Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937) Piano Concertos 1 & 2, Fantaisie Markus Becker (piano) BBC Ntl O of Wales/Thierry Fischer rec. 2010 HYPERION CDA67817 [71:38] [NB]

Not as revelatory as some of the discs in this series.

Homage to Maria Callas Favourite Opera Arias Angela Gheorghiu (soprano) Royal PO/Marco Armiliato rec. 2010/11 EMI CLASSICS 6315092 [60:40] [RMo]

A sumptuous and very tasteful production.


Friday December 9th

Samuel BARBER (1910-1981) Despite and still and other songs Melissa Fogarty (soprano) Marc Peloquin (piano) rec. 2011 AUREOLE RECORDS 101 [48:45] [RB]

Intelligence, operatic chops and sensitivity make Fogarty a perfect fit for this serious sequence of Barber songs. 

Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950) Organ music Christian Schmitt (organ) rec. 2009 CPO 777 512-2 [67:40] [DC]

One of the nicest organ recordings I’ve heard. 

Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Piano Concertos 1 & 2, Les Préludes, Hungaria Andor Földes (piano) Berlin PO/Leopold Ludwig; Bamberg SO/Ferdinand Leitner rec. 1951-3 GUILD HISTORICAL GHCD 2381 [66:20] [MC]

A valuable reissue from Guild Historical that should form part of any serious Liszt collection.

George Alexander MacFARREN (1813–1887) Robin Hood John Powell Singers, Victorian Opera Ch & O/Ronald Corp rec. 2010 NAXOS 8.660306-07 [78:36 + 79:57] [JF]

A great work; possibly the composer’s masterpiece.

Michael NYMAN (1944-) In Concert Michael Nyman Band rec. 2009 ARTHAUS MUSIK 101487 [86:00] [KM]

A nice performance of some thirty years of music, mostly from soundtracks.

Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621) Christmas Music Westminster Cathedral Ch, The Parley of Instruments/David Hill rec. 1986 HYPERION HELIOS CDH55446 [49:13] [JV]

From every point of view this is an intriguing and captivating disc.

Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Peter and the Wolf Will Kemp (narrator) Royal Ballet Sinf/Paul Murphy rec. 2010 OPUS ARTE OA1057D [38:00] [ST]

If you know some children who enjoy dancing, or if you want to get some children interested in dance for the first time, then this is especially for you.

Pierre RODE (1774-1830) Violin Concertos 3, 4 & 6 Friedemann Eichhorn (violin) Jena PO/Nicolás Pasquet rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.570767 [73:51] [BR]

Pleasurable violin concertos of the ‘French school’ c. 1800, and the violinist joins in the spirit with his own excellent cadenzas.

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) String Quartets Doric String Qt rec. 2011 CHANDOS CHAN10692 [74:15] [RMo]

Much to admire but I find myself as often disturbed and perplexed as I am charmed.

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) The Tempest, The Bard, Tapiola Lahti SO/Okko Kamu rec. 2011 BIS-SACD-1945 [71:41] [RB]

Kamu, an elder statesman of Finnish music, sets out his Sibelian wares in splendid new recordings.


Thursday December 8th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) St Matthew Passion Vienna State Opera O/Hermann Scherchen rec. 1953 TAHRA TAH 701-3 [3 CDs: 199:14] [JW]

A comprehensively successful set.

Stephen DODGSON (b. 1926) Ode to the Guitar, Legend, The Midst of Life, Stemma, Partita 1, Fantasy-Divisions, Merlin Roberto Morón Pérez (guitar) rec. 2010 CADENZA MUSIC CACD0211 [70:26] [WH]

Outstanding performances of modern guitar music by a composer who really knows and understands the instrument.

Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Suites for Solo Harpsichord 1-8 Laurence Cummings (harpsichord) rec. 2008 SOMM CÉLESTE SOMMCD 095-2 [57:42 + 55:00] Suites for harpsichord: Volume 1 Gilbert Rowland (harpsichord) rec. 2010 DIVINE ART DDA21219 [74:54 + 71:34] [BW]

Two very satisfying new sets of the Handel Keyboard Suites, but Hyperion’s 2-for-1 alternative offers strong competition.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH  Johann Wilhelm HERTEL (1727 - 1789) Bassoon concertos, Sinfonia Sergio Azzolini, Miho Fukui (bassoons) Capriccio Barockorchester/Dominik Kiefer rec. 2010 TUDOR 7182 [82:11] [JV]

If there is any way to demonstrate that a little-known composer deserves more attention, this is the way to do it.

Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959) Piano Concertos 1, 2 & 4 Giorgio Koukl (piano) Bohuslav Martinů SO, Zlin/Arthur Fagen rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572373 [74:45] [DM]

Perhaps appealing to those unfamiliar with these concertos.

Peter SCHICKELE (b. 1953) A Year in the Catskills; Gardens; What Did You Do Today at Jeffrey’s House?; Dream Dances; Diversions Blair Woodwind Qnt, Felix Wang (cello) Melissa Rose (piano) rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.559687 [52:03] [KS]

Colorful, original, whimsical, and adventuresome, this collection of musical short stories from one of America’s most diverse composers has something to please every ear.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Un ballo in maschera Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill, Zinka Milanov, Marian Anderson, Metropolitan Opera O/Dimitri Mitropoulos rec. 1955 SONY CLASSICAL 88697 910022 [48:23 + 76:23] [DBe]

Significant historical importance, a strong cast even given some faults and decent sound.

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH  Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959) Complete Guitar Music Frédéric Zigante (guitar) rec. 2009/10 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9196 [50.41 + 54.01] [GH]

An excellent and inexpensive collection.

La Fenice - New Year's Concert 2004 Stefania Bonfadelli (soprano) Roberto Aronica (tenor) Ch & O Teatro La Fenice/Lorin Maazel rec. 2004 ARTHAUS MUSIK 107 081 [59:00] [RF]

Lacking verve and vitality this is also rather short measure for a New Year’s Day Concert.

Dan Godfrey Encores Bournemouth SO/Ronald Corp rec. 2011 DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7276 [74:40] [JF]

Brilliant with an obvious enthusiasm for these ‘lost’ or misplaced works.


Wednesday December 7th

Walter GIESEKING (1895-1956) Music for Flute and piano Karen Haid (piano, piano II, flute) rec. 2000. DDD NIMBUS NI 5696 [68:36] [Byz]

More attractive than compelling … worth anyone's consideration as a curiosity.

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) Two Psalms: ; Nunc Dimittis; I love my love; The Coming of Christ Robert Hardy.(narrator) Chamber Choir of St Paul’s Girls’ School/Heidi Pegler City of London Choir; Holst Orchestra/Hilary Davan Wetton rec. 2011. world premiere recording EM RECORDS CD004 [58:54] [JQ]

A dedicated recording of a great Holst rarity, which is very well worth hearing

Josquin des PRÉS (c1440-1521) Missa De beata virgine [38:03] Credo quarti toni (Cambrai Credo) [9:23] Plainchant Ave maris stella, verse I [0:36] Missa Ave maris stella [27:56] The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips Latin texts and English, French and German translations included GIMELL CDGIM 044 [75:58] [JQ]

Vital performances that bring Josquin’s music vividly to life.

Sergei RAKHMANINOV (19873-1943) 24 Preludes: Op 3 No.2 [4.46]; Op. 23 Nos. 1-10 [32.59]; Op. 32 Nos. 1-13 [39.12] Marta Deyanova (piano) rec. 1987 NIMBUS NI 5094 [76:57] [RB]

Warmth without sultry condensation and drama without uncontrolled blur.

Alexander SKRIABIN (1872-1915) 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 11 (1896) [28:44] Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) 24 Preludes for Piano, Op. 34 (1933) [26:46] Marta Deyanova (piano) rec. 1985 NIMBUS NI 5026 [55:33] [DJ]

Another superb reissue from Nimbus, excellently engineered.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678 - 1741) The French Connection 2 Katy Bircher (transverse flute), Gail Hennessy (oboe), Peter Whelan (bassoon), Adrian Chandler (violin); La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler rec. 2011, DDD AVIE AV 2218 [79:03] [JV]

An interesting contribution to the growing Vivaldi discography.

Another Night Before Christmas and Scrooge *Simon Callow (narrator) RTÉ Concert Orchestra/Gavin Sutherland +Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland rec. 2008, . DDD NAXOS 8.572744 [79:20] [JS]

An undemanding, unhackneyed and unexciting collection of Christmas orchestral music.

The Colours of Christmas JOHN RUTTER Full contents list at end of review The Bach Choir, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, John Birch (organ), Over the Bridge, onductor John Rutter rec. 2011 DECCA 2782129 [73:27] [NB]

Very good and enjoyable.

Joy to the World The King’s Singers rec. 2010. DDD Full track-list at end of review SIGNUM SIGCD268 [58.39] [RB]

An eminently enjoyable release that will please fans of The King’s Singers and lovers of Christmas music alike.

Naxos Travelogue - Christmas goes Baroque: A Musical Tour of Switzerland, Germany and Belgium Christmas music in the style of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi (arr. Peter Breiner) Slovak State Philharmonic/Peter Breiner NAXOS DVD 2.110546 [52.38] [RF]

Plenty of interesting content, well photographed, complements the musical arrangements of popular Christmas tunes.


Tuesday December 6th

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)Grande Messe des Morts Robert Murray (tenor) Gabrieli Players/Consort/Chetham’s Sch of Music Symphonic Brass Ens/Wroclaw Phil Ch/O/Paul McCreesh rec. 2010 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD280 [48:25 + 40:17] [ST]

First class.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Erno DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960) Sextet Krzysztof PENDERECKI (1933-) Sextet Ensemble Kheops rec. 2010 FUGA LIBERA FUG585 [58:52] [BR]

Great sound, great under-exposed music, an obviously excellent and good-humored ensemble: this one is a keeper.

César FRANCK (1822-1890) Violin Sonata Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Violin Sonata 1 Joseph Fuchs (violin) Artur Balsam (piano) rec. 1953 FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR 426 [51:46] [JW]

Expert transfers show raffiné performances in the best light.

Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936) String Quartet 6, Five Novelettes Utrecht Str Qt rec. 2009-2010 MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG 603 1239-2 [69:59] [JW]

Once again I’m taken by the Utrecht approach.

Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b.1931) Fachwerk, Silenzio Geir Draugsvoll (bayan) Anders Loguin (percussion) Geir Inge Lotsberg (violin) Øyvind Gimse (cello) Trondheim SO Strings/Øyvind Gimse rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.572772 [55:55] [MS]

Exciting, pleasing and intriguing.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Witold LUTOSLAWSKI (1913-1994) Silesian Triptych, Paroles Tissées, Les Espaces du Sommeil, Chantefleurs et Chantefables Lucy Crowe (soprano) Toby Spence (tenor) Christopher Purves (baritone) BBC SO/Edward Gardner rec. 2011 CHANDOS CHAN10688 [67:40] [WH]

Magnificent music, superbly performed by an all-British team, and with outstanding Chandos sound and presentation to match.

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH Felix MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY (1809-1847) Incidental music: Antigone, Oedipus, Athalia Berliner Rundfunkchor, Männerchor 'Carl Maria von Weber' Radio SO, Berlin/Stefan Soltesz, Das Neue Orch/Christoph Spering rec. 1991-2002 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94216 [3 CDs: 55:27 + 50:33 + 63:19] [RB]

Something of an event and unmissable if you are a devoted Mendelssohnian or an impassioned researcher of German romantic theatre music.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Il Trovatore Franco Corelli (tenor) Leontyne Price (soprano) Metropolitan Op O/Ch/Fausto Cleva rec. 1961 SONY CLASSICAL 88697 910062 [65.22 + 59.30] [RJF]

This is strictly only for lovers of live recordings and first performances by favourite singers.

Central Europe – Works for Cello and Piano Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Arpeggione Sonata Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904) Rondo, LeoŠ JANÁčEK (1854–1928) Pohádka Bohuslav MARTINů (1890-1959) Variations on a Slovak Theme Adam Mital (cello) Olimpia Tolan (piano) rec. 2009 SOLO MUSICA SM 153 [66:09] [MC]

Much to enjoy: excellent spirited performances with refreshing ardour and engaging sensitivity.

Flights of Fancy Works by Duparc, Gates, Koechlin, Poulenc and Satie Andrew Knights (oboe, cor anglais, oboe d'amore) Philip Gates (piano) rec. 2011 MELODIST CD5683 [67:31] [RB]

A warm landscape … comforting stillness. An atmospherically consistent and reflectively assembled anthology.

Monday December 5th

Ragomania William BOLCOM (b.1938) Ragomania, Clarinet concerto, Commedia Clare FISCHER (b.1928) The Duke, Swee’Pee and Me Richard Stoltzman (clarinet) Lankaster Fest O/Gary Sheldon rec. 2008 MARQUIS 81397 [52:45] [OL]

Cheerful and attractive.

Louis COUPERIN (c.1626-1661) The Complete Harpsichord Works Richard Egarr (harpsichord) HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907511.14 [4 CDs: 4:55:58] [KM]

Harpsichord music by a unique composer, played with grace and subtlety, and with beautiful sound. 

César FRANCK (1822-1890) Les Béatitudes Chorale Elisabeth Brasseur, Petites Chanteurs de Chaillot/Roger Thirot; L'Académie Symphonique de Paris/Jean Allain rec. 1972? EDITIONS ANDRÉ CHARLIN CL340 [54:56 + 45:02] [RB]

This groundbreaking and astonishingly passionate Béatitudes returns from LP gehenna.

Giovanni GIORGI (d. 1762) Ave Maria a 4, Missa a due Cori tutti piena a 8 & Offertorio In omnem terram a 4 Cappella Mediterranea, Choeur de Chambre de Namur, Ens Clematis/Leonardo García-Alarcón rec. 2010 RICERCAR RIC 313 [55:00] [JV]

Giorgi's music is a major discovery, and the artists have done him a great favour with these fine performances.

Nicola PORPORA (1686-1768) Cantatas Iestyn Davies (counter-tenor) Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen (cello) rec. 2010 HYPERION CDA67894 [78.04] [RH]

A fine disc of civilised entertainment which wears its learning and musicality lightly.

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH Nikolay RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908) Capriccio espagnol, Overtures Seattle SO/Gerard Schwarz rec. 2010-11 NAXOS 8.572788 [67:05] [RMay]

What I want to know now about Schwarz and his musicians is what exactly are they on?

Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 - 1868) Il Turco in Italia, L'Italiana in Algeri, Il Cambiale di Matrimonio Haydn O di Bolzano e Trento/Umberto Benedetto Michelangeli, Antonello Allemandi; Teatro O Comunale di Bologna/Donato Renzetti rec. 2006/7 DYNAMIC CDS682 [5 CDs: 378:36] [RH]

Not perfect but lively and involving and certainly worth the low price. 

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Manfred Johann von Bülow, Chor des Städtischen Musikvereins zu Düsseldorf; Düsseldorf Symphoniker/Andrey Boreyko rec. 2010 ARTHAUS MUSIK 101575 [89:00] [JS]

This disc does not give an adequate impression of Manfred’s beauties and complexities. 

Synne SKOUEN (b. 1950) Call-Notes Geir Inge Lotsberg (violin) Ellen Ugelvik (piano) Norwegian Radio O/Christian Eggen, Johannes Martens (cello) Oslo Str Qt rec. 2009-2010 AURORA ACD5062 [72:02] [WH]

Challenging, innovative and ultimately convincing music with many moments of rare beauty.

Vêpres Monastiques Russes Choeur des Moines du Monastère de l’Union à Chevetogne rec. 1965 EDITION ANDRÉ CHARLIN AMS64 [42:06] [GH]

The singing is excellent, clear and with pure intonation, faultless I would say for a quiet vespers service and with a tangible atmosphere.