SCRIABIN SYMPHONIES 3 & 4, London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev/LSO Live SACD LSO 0771 Judging by the number of recent and planned releases, record companies seem to have a new found interest in promulgating the orchestral music of Alexander Scriabin on disc. This release from LSO Live is the first in a cycle of Scriabin Symphonies from Valery Gergiev (a long time champion of this composer) and the London Symphony Orchestra. Both performances were recorded live in concerts at the Barbican in March 2014 (Symphony No.4, ‘The Poem of Ecstasy’) and April 2014 (Symphony No.3 ‘The Divine Poem’). Of the composer Gergiev says “Scriabin should be today understood as a man who was able to create a wonderfully magical musical world, and we just have to give in. We have to be imprisoned by these compositions and the magical powers of their creator”. True to his word Gergiev delivers riveting accounts of both works on this SACD, and thanks to the magnificent playing of the 100 – strong LSO, the compelling vision of his interpretations is realised to the full. The majority of the composition of Symphony No.3 ‘The Divine Poem’ took place in1903 at a time when Scriabin was becoming more preoccupied with the grandiose philosophical and mystical ideas that he attempted to express in his music. The Symphony is scored for massive orchestral forces and is the composer’s longest work. Continue reading
RACHMANINOV: PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1, STRAVINSKY, SHCHEDRIN, Denis Matsuev, Mariinsky, Valery Gergiev/Mariinsky MAR0587 For his latest release Denis Matsuev has had the interesting idea to present three works for piano and orchestra from three different generations of Russian composers on this SACD and, since the performances and recordings are uniformly excellent, this is a most satisfying programme. Matsuev immediately demonstrates his virtuoso credentials in a scorching account of Rachmaninov’s 1st Piano Concerto in its usual 1917 revision. The outer movements leave one breathless with the pianistic fireworks on display, yet in the central ‘Andante’ he is able to bring great romantic warmth and delicacy to the music with his nuanced playing. Since Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra seem to be fired by Matsuev’s enthusiasm, their alert accompaniment is both thrilling and, where appropriate, caressingly sensitive. The conductor’s idiomatic moulding of the romantic theme with which the Concerto opens being a case in point. Stravinsky’s Capriccio that follows is equally impressive. Matsuev really brings out the humour in this witty piece while the powerful contribution of the players of the Mariinsky Orchestra gives Stravinsky’s sparkling orchestration a definite Russian feel. Finally we have the 2nd Piano Concerto of Rodion Shchedrin. This was written in 1966 and is one of the composer’s most inventive pieces. Though it flirts with the music of the European avant- garde of the time by using a twelve-tone theme in the opening movement ‘Dialogues’, it sounds closer to Prokofiev than any serialist composition. This is especially true in the driving toccata-like second movement ‘Improvisations’ that Matsuev dispatches with considerable aplomb. The final movement ‘Contrasts’ is a compositional tour de force during which Shchedrin introduces a jazz combo between passages of tremendous rhythmic energy. The present recording is dedicated to the memory of the ballerina Maya Plisetskaya (1925 -2015) Shchedrin’s wife and dedicatee of this Concerto who passed away shortly after the making of this recording. An alternative version on SACD by Mark-Andre Hamelin is equally recommendable as an interpretation but is nowhere near as well recorded as this one. All three works were recorded live in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre by the excellent team of Philipp Nedel (b-sharp), Martin Kistner and Fyodor Naumov. The 5.0 DSD multi-channel is one of the most vivid I have heard from this label and is worthy of Matsuev and Gergiev’s exciting partnership.
MAHLER: SYMPHONY NO.1, Utah Symphony Orchestra , Thierry Fischer/Reference Recordings FR-715 Older collectors will remember with affection the cycle of Mahler symphonies recorded by Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony Orchestra that began in the 1960s. Those pioneering recordings (the first complete Mahler cycle to be recorded in the USA) not only introduced Mahler to many listeners but raised the profile of this fine Salt Lake City based orchestra. Now, from the Reference Recordings Fresh! Label, we have a compelling new account of Mahler’s 1st Symphony recorded in state-of-the-art sound from this same orchestra under their current Music Director, the Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer. This was taken from live performances given in the Maurice Abravanel Hall (September 2014). A glance at the total timing for this SACD (52.55) indicates that Fischer’s performance is towards the swifter end of the spectrum for recordings of this work, suggesting that it is to be the antithesis of lingering indulgence, which indeed proves to be the case. The magical opening pages of the first movement are beautifully controlled with the off-stage trumpets suitably distanced yet absolutely audible. The surprising immediacy of the woodwind entries indicate that the engineers have gone for a closely recorded balance ( possibly to avoid audience noise) but any slight lack of the dreamy atmosphere of Mahler’s ‘Naturlaut’ is more than compensated for by the freshness of the playing and the crisply focused sound. The main body of the movement, with the exposition repeat taken, is beautifully shaped with Fischer conveying the sense of foreboding in the passage from 8.13. The gradual build up to the movement’s final climax is free from any exaggerated slackening of tempo and the final pages are exhilaratingly joyous. The Ländler Scherzo is trenchant and beautifully articulated by the orchestra with the bass line especially clearly defined. Fischer’s sane tempo maintains the music’s momentum while the Trio section demonstrates both his lightness of touch and masterly control of rubato that gives the music a winning insouciance. The contrasting grotesque funeral march that follows shows the superb quality of the individual players in this orchestra, as first muted double bass then bassoon, cello, bass tuba, clarinet and finally plaintive oboe make their entrances over the steady tread of the timpani. The parodic klezmer passages are suitably telling but never over played. The raging opening of Fischer’s finale is a roller-coaster ride with fabulous orchestral playing and demonstration worthy sonics that will be seized upon by both audiophiles and Mahlerites alike. The thunderous percussion and incisive brass of the Utah Symphony are absolutely thrilling, but with the appearance of the lyrical second theme (at 3.22) the Utah strings are given the opportunity to show their mettle. This they do with ravishingly sensitive playing and subtle nuances of dynamics, whilst Fischer’s use of rubato is subtle and free of mannerism. As the material from earlier movements is recalled there is no loss of impetus and the build up to the triumphant final bars is magnificently handled, the coda capped with a room-shaking bass drum. The recording team from Soundmirror, Boston (Dirk Sobotka, John Newton and Mark Donahue) have, as usual, worked their magic and, as I have already indicated, produced a 5.1 multi-channel recording (64fs DSD) of astonishing tonal richness, clarity and presence. On the basis of this recording there is little doubt that Thierry Fischer is a Mahler interpreter of some stature and the projected recording of Mahler’s 8th Symphony in February 2016, scheduled for release in 2017, will be eagerly anticipated.
PROKOFIEV CINDERELLA, Mariinsky Ballet Orchestra, Diana Vishneva, Valery Gergiev/Blu-Ray MAR0555 Stereo only? In every other aspect (notably its beautifully detailed and lambent widescreen picture), this new version of Prokofiev’s classic ballet is state of the art – so why not surround sound, for God’s sake? Nevertheless, this is as exemplary a production as we’re likely to have in the Blu-Ray medium. The dancing is nonpareil, particularly Diana Vishneva in the title role who (as is the custom for dancers in the 21st-century) acts quite as persuasively as she dances. Alexei Ratmansky’s choreography – often angular and idiosyncratic — perfectly complements the scenario. But most of all it’s Gergiev’s perfectly judged contribution that winkles out every nuance in the score which makes this such a tempting acquisition. To go back to my first point – had this set been in surround sound, rather than stereo, it would have been one of the most competitive modern versions of the score, stage noises and applause notwithstanding. Nevertheless, a highly attractive set (Blu-Ray and DVD). SCHUBERT LIEDER, ORCHESTRATED BY REGER & WEBERN, Christian Elsner, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Marek Janowski/ PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186394 While the spirit of great Schubert interpreters such as Dietrich Fischer Dieskau need not be troubled by more recent interpreters, this is a particularly pleasurable disc – and the singing of Christian Eslner apart, what makes this a particularly valuable disc for collectors are the arrangements. Schubert lieder orchestrations were attempted by various composers, such as Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Benjamin Britten, Hector Berlioz. Max Reger and Anton Webern also made arrangements of Schubert’s songs. These arrangements – beautifully orchestrated — are real rarities, and this set features 17 Schubert Lieder, of which 13 were orchestrated by late Romantic German composer Reger, and four by Second Viennese School member, Anton Webern. The songs are beautifully performed by tenor Christian Elsner together with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and conducted by Marek Janowski. The 1 bit DSD, 2,8 mhz recording is available on SACD and in FLAC and DSD format.
CASELLA: ORCHESTRAL WORKS, VOL. 4.: SYMPHONIC FRAGMENTS FROM ‘LE COUVENT SUR L’EAU’, OP. 19 / ELEGIA EROICA, OP. 29 / SYMPHONY NO. 1 IN B MINOR, OP. 5, BBC Philharmonic / Gianandrea Noseda/CHANDOS CHAN 10880 Ask admirers of orchestral music from Italy (rather than opera) to name key composers, and there may be a struggle to come up with someone other than Respighi . But now we’ve had the chance to listen to some of his distinguished contemporaries, and few have been as rewarding as Casella. Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic here present a fourth captivating volume of orchestral works by Alfredo Casella, part of their ongoing Musica Italiana series. In 1912, with his music for the ‘choreographic comedy’ Le Couvent sur l’eau, Casella demonstrated that stylistic versatility was no disadvantage for a ballet composer, and although Diaghilev turned down the work for the Ballets Russes, Casella selected the highly colourful and once popular ‘symphonic fragments’, heard here, for concert use. Similarly, the Elegia eroica is stylistically eclectic, constructed, according to Casella, as a ‘vast triptych’, opening with a dissonant funeral march and ending with a comforting, tuneful lullaby. Casella wrote this piece, which he dedicated ‘to the memory of a soldier killed in the war’, after Italy had entered the First World War and suffered enormous losses. The three-movement Symphony in B minor is an early work (1906) of creative energy and burning conviction, in which Casella’s enthusiasm for Russian music is revealed already in the sombre Mussorgskyan opening theme. This hypnotic first movement is almost pleasantly oppressive in comparison to the gentler, melodious second, and the bold final movement represents the adventurous exploits of an ambitious young composer.
KORNGOLD: COMPLETE SONGS, Konrad Jarnot, Adrianne Pieczonka, Reinild Mees/Capriccio C5252 One trusts that Korngold’s reputation has now been thoroughly rehabilitated. The young prodigy who had been praised by Richard Strauss’s father was for years routinely written off for his adult sojourn in Hollywood, despite the fact that the music he produced in his American years was as rich with melody and invention as in his earlier Viennese period. But what of the songs? If, like this reviewer, you are familiar with only a handful of them, it might be considered that a complete two-disc set would be prove to be valuable. And so it is – but with reservations. My own perception of the songs was that they were in the largely in the idiom of the composer whose father had acclaimed young Korngold, but although the rich vein of melody is often apparent in this well-sung collection, this corpus of work never rivals the lieder of Strauss. Notwithstanding, there is much that is valuable here — even though I was finally unpersuaded. From his first attempts at composition, Erich Wolfgang Korngold wrote songs; Der Knabe und das Veilchen dates from early 1905 when Korngold was just seven years old and is recorded here for the first time, together with a number of individual songs, only recently published. As one of the last exponents of the Austro-Germanic lied which lasted almost two centuries, Korngold occupies a special place in that tradition.
HAYDN: SYMPHONIES 102, 103, 104, Cappella Coloniesis, Bruno Weil/ARS SACD 38 064 Since the inauguration of the SACD medium, a variety conductors have presented impressive versions of Haydn symphonies, and while Bruno Weil has only recorded the ‘London’ Symphonies (leaving aside earlier recordings by the conductor), this is proving to be one of the most accomplished and worthwhile additions to the catalogue, with a flawless balance between authentic performance modes (just relish that crisp, ear-pinging timpani) and modern orchestral thinking. In fact this series (live, but free of audience noise) has proved to be so accomplished, one can only wish that Weil would tackle all the other hundred-plus Haydn symphonies. This culmination of the complete recording of Haydn’s ‘London’ Symphonies” with Capella Coloniens is a series which has also featured an unusual concept: along with each work, Weil presents an explanatory introduction, which is hardly likely to be revisited as often as the music.
POULENC: PIANO CONCERTO‡ / CONCERTO FOR TWO PIANOS*†‡ / Aubade*‡ / Sonata for Piano Four Hands*† / Élégie*† / L’Embarquement pour Cythère*†. Louis Lortie*, Hélène Mercier† (Piano) / BBC Philharmonic‡ /Edward Gardner‡ CHANDOS CHAN 10875 Versions of this coupling have appeared before, and it must be admitted that these new takes – however admirable — do not supplant their admirable predecessors. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for this particular combination of Poulenc works for piano and orchestra in spanking modern sound, there is absolutely no necessity to hesitate, as Lortie and Gardner point up all the colour and energy in these delightful scores. After a cycle of Chopin works for solo piano, Louis Lortie plays here works by Poulenc with his duet partner Hélène Mercier. In Aubade and the two concertos they are joined by Edward Gardner and the BBC Philharmonic. The French-Canadian pianists draw a persuasive portrait of the melancholic Parisian that Poulenc was: playful and depressed, like his tutor, Erik Satie. There is always a sense of palpable anxiety in these pieces, be it the sarcastic joie de vivre of the ‘choreographic concerto’ Aubade or the ironic melancholy of the explosive Concerto for Two Pianos – Mozartean and Stravinskyan at the same time.
ATTERBERG: CELLO CONCERTO IN C MINOR, OP. 21; HORN CONCERTO IN A MAJOR, OP. 28, Nikolaj Schneider, Johannes-Theodor Wiemes, NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, Ari Rasilainen/CPO999874-2 If you’re one of those listeners lucky enough to have encountered the neglected music of Atterberg, you’ll realise that his time in the wilderness has been notably unjust – and it has been particularly welcome to have the composer’s symphonies available in excellent modern recordings This disc, a codicil to the symphonies, concludes CPO’s series of the concertos of Kurt Atterberg. The Swedish composer penned both works in the 1920s, and took an approach that was more intuitive than analytical – in the Horn Concerto he employs the unusual combination of strings, piano, and percussion to create a tonal phenomenon completely different from the Cello Concerto.
BERG: VIOLIN CONCERTO, etc., Rachel Cunz, Musikkloegium Winterthur, Pierre-Alain Monot/MDG 9011913 SACD To my knowledge, this is the first recording in the SACD medium of Berg’s plangent Violin Concerto. It is something of a cliché to say that this piece is the music by Berg for those who do not like Berg, and there is no question that the romantic overtones of the piece make its serial accoutrements much easier to swallow than much music of the Second Viennese school. It is played here with great sympathy and understanding, and (along with the more serial-oriented pieces by Berg on the disc) makes for an intriguing issue.
DVORAK: SYMPHONY NO. 5, ETC., Staatsphilharmonie Nürnberg, Marcus Bosch/Coviello COV 91512 SACD It seems strange that this is the debut in the SACD medium for Dvorak’s glorious fifth – surely there have been other surround sound this is before this? However, the wait has proved well worthwhile, and this is a truly splendid performance. Marcus Bosch finds all the colour and invention in the composer’s vivid orchestration.
1615: GABRIELLI IN VENICE The Choir of King’s College, Stephen Cleobury/KGS0012 SACD The selling point here is the fact that this is in the new Dolby Atmos system which delivers truly multidimensional sound – including speakers overhead. The system is clearly enjoying the commitment of several companies – many new Blu-rays are being issued in this format, but of those of us enjoying the benefits of surround sound, few will yet have overhead speakers. Nevertheless, even in five channels, the effect is impressive here, although one surprise that the rear channels are hardly used, even for ambience – surely this would be a natural for this recording.
SCHUMANN: DAS PARADIES UND DIE PERI, London Symphony Orchestra, Soloists, Sir Simon Rattle/LSO Live LSO 0782 With both an SACD and an Audio Blu-ray in the package, this is an issue which will be of interest to admirers of Schumann, although the non-converted may not be swayed. Nevertheless, it is given the best possible reading here.
HINDEMITH: MATHIS DER MAHLER, SYMPHONY IN E FLAT, NDR Symphony Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach/Ondine ODE 12572 It something of a mystery why these symphonies by Hindemith are not more popular (although Mathis enjoys some currency), as the energy and vitality of the music make them not at all difficult to approach. Perhaps these persuasive performance will lift them out of the shadow under which they reside (the disc is not SACD, despite earlier notifications to that effect).
J.S. BACH: MAGNIFICAT & CHRISTMAS CANTATA, Dunedin Consort; John Butt/Linn Classical CKD 469 Quite possibly the most persuasive version of Bach’s Magnificat you are likely to hear in modern times. This is the premiere recording of J.S. Bach’s Magnificat heard for the first time within its original liturgical context, alongside the beautiful Christmas Cantata. The first 1000 customers will also receive a free bonus disc of highlights from the Consort’s Gramophone Award-winning seasonal favourite ‘Handel: Messiah’. Dunedin Consort recreates Bach’s first Christmas at Leipzig (Vespers in the Nikolaikirche, 25 December 1723); the recording opens with a Gabrieli motet and includes organ preludes and a seasonal congregational chorale. Director John Butt has given listeners an interpretation that will provide a refreshing outlook on this masterpiece and will show the Magnificat in a completely new light. This recording marks the return of Dunedin Consort’s star-studded cast including, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Joanne Lunn and Clare Wilkinson plus newcomer Julia Doyle.
PROKOFIEV: BACK IN THE USSR: Cantata on the 20th Anniversary of October Revolution, op.74/Cantata on the 30th Anniversary of October Revolution, op.114/A Toast! In Honour of Stalin’s 60th Birthday, op.85, Aleksander Titov/CuGate Classics CGC 006/4038912419210 The Melodiya label apart, classical recording companies have demonstrated a deep embarrassment regarding the agitprop pieces that Prokofiev and Shostakovich were obliged to write in honour of the dictator who ruled their country, though they both loathed Stalin. But surely in the 21st-century, listeners can see these pieces in context and even access the tub-thumping aspects (much criticised over the years) as simply another element in their composers’ armouries – and enjoy them as such? The three works on this album belong to music which dispels the myth that Prokofiev – ‘shaker of foundations’ and ‘daring innovator’ – became, after his return to the USSR, an ‘acquiescent traditionalist’. As a result of the Soviet government’s permit to tour abroad, he lived for more than 18 years outside the country. On his return to his homeland, he entered actively into the building of socialist musical culture. However, he also recognized soon the reverse of the medal: the socialist realism with its official preference for simple ‘folk’ melodies, composed in a mood of profound optimism and easily understood by the masses led to conflicts with progressive composers. They all were exposed to persecution in the press, deprived of work and doomed to poverty. Thus Prokofiev was forced to play by the rules of the game. Nevertheless, in his work there remained too much that conflicted with the ideals of the ‘construction of communism’
ENESCU: SYMPHONY NO. 4 IN E MINOR; NUAGES D’AUTOMNE SUR LES FORETS; CHAMBER SYMPHONY OP. 33
DR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, Peter Ruzicka/CPO 777966-2 Let’s be frank; Classical CD Choice always tries to be. This is not Enescu in his typically ear-tingling, colourful vein ; the Fourth Symphony is a far less ingratiating piece than some of its predecessors – and certainly not the place to start with this composer, unless you are more inclined towards challenging modern music. Nevertheless, all the composer’s considerable virtues are present, and those who have been collecting the earlier symphonies should give this disc a listen. The present recording, like the Symphony No. 5 in D major, is a world-premiere release conducted by Peter Ruzicka, and emphatically underscores Enescu’s rank as a serious symphonist of the 20th century.
MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G major, Dorothea Röschmann, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Mariss Jansons RCO15004 Some pieces of music have been particularly lucky in terms of recording, and few more so over the years than Mahler’s fourth Symphony, which has enjoyed a variety of classic recordings (many, for instance, remember the famous George Szell version with great affection). If this new performances is not in the same league as some of its distinguished predecessors, it still does justice to this most modest and charming of Mahler Symphonies, though there is certain lack of poetry in the interpretation. With Gustav Mahler, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has a very special relationship. The composer conducted the orchestra no less than 12 times and found in Amsterdam an understanding audience. Mahler’s Fourth Symphony was premiered in Amsterdam by the composer, who conducted it twice, once before and once after the interval, so that the audience could get to know the work better..
GRIEG: COMPLETE SYMPHONIC WORKS,• VOL. V:EXCERPTS FROM IBSENS’ PEER GYNT, OP. 23,SIX ORCHESTRAL SONGS: SOLVEIG’S SONG, SOLVEIG’S CRADLE SONG, FROM MONTE PINCIO, A SWAN, LAST SPRING, HENRIK WERGELAND TWO LYRIC PIECES, OP. 68 (NO. 4 & 5), THE MOUNTAIN RAPT, OP. 32, NORWEGIAN DANCES, OP. 35 Camilla Tilling, Audite SACD92671 What a delight this survey of Grieg’s orchestral music has proved to be – a tantalising delight, it has to be said, as there have been considerable gaps between the various additions to the series over the years. While individual recordings of some of the music might be more striking elsewhere, as an entity, this largely complete recording of the orchestral music has proved to be no definitive and – what’s more – recorded in the best possible surround sound This recording gathers several important examples of the less familiar Edvard Grieg as composer of songs with orchestra. Soprano Camilla Tilling plays a leading part in this fifth and final volume of Audite’s complete recording of Grieg’s orchestral works: although Grieg drew on his own songs with orchestra or piano for the ‘Six Orchestral Songs’, this set forms an independent, elegiacally-hued cycle reflecting the core of Grieg’s personality. It includes not only two songs from the incidental music to ‘Peer Gynt’ (Solveig’s Song and Solveig’s Lullaby) but also transcriptions of solemn piano songs such as the Roman ballad ‘From Monte Pincio’, or the memory of the short-lived Norwegian patriot Henrik Wergeland, to whom the final song (sung by Tom Erik Lie) is dedicated.
WEINBERG: IN SEARCH OF FREEDOM: PIANO QUINTET OP. 18, QUARTET NO. 10, OP. 85, QUARTET NO. 13, OP. 118 Zemlinsky Quartet/Praga Digital DSD 250 296 If you’ve been collecting the recent tsunami of recordings of the symphonies of Weinberg, you may feel the need to investigate some of his equally neglected chamber music The music of Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919 – 1996) is among some of the 20th century’s greatest hidden treasures. Born in Poland, Weinberg emigrated to Russia in perilous circumstances, where he was to live out the rest of his days in the shadow of his close friend Dimitri Shostakovich, by whom he was regarded as one of the most outstanding composers of the day, Weinberg is slowly being rediscovered as a 20th century genius, a figure of immense significance in the landscape of post-modern classical music. Weinberg’s musical idiom stylistically mixes traditional and contemporary forms, combining a freely tonal, individual language inspired by Shostakovich with ethnic (Jewish, Polish, Moldovian) influences and a unique sense of form, harmony and colour. His prolific output includes no less than 17 string quartets, over 20 large-scale symphonies, numerous sonatas for solo stringed instruments and piano as well as operas and film-scores. With the constant stream of recordings, score publications and concerts over the last decade, many of these gems have been unearthed to finally receive the critical praise and attention they deserve.
TASMIN LITTLE PLAYS BRITISH VIOLIN CONCERTOS: HAYDN WOOD (1882-1959): VIOLIN CONCERTO / SAMUEL COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875-1912): VIOLIN CONCERTO / FREDERICK DELIUS (1862-1934): SUITE FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA , Tasmin Little (violin) / BBC Philharmonic / Sir Andrew Davis/ CHANDOS CHAN 10879 The first thing that needs to be said about this disc is how exquisitely played it is, but that will come as no surprise to aficionados of the remarkable violinist Tasman Little. If the music on the disc offers no neglected masterpieces, it is still immensely appealing, and is given the greatest possible advocacy here. Following on from the acclaimed Elgar and Moeran concertos, Tasmin Little and Sir Andrew Davis continue their special affinity for British music with this exciting new recording featuring the music of Coleridge-Taylor, Wood, and Delius. Born in England of an English mother and a Sierra Leonean father, Coleridge-Taylor was much revered as a composer, dubbed ‘the black Mahler’ in the US in his later years. He was commissioned to write a violin concerto in 1910 for the Norfolk Festival in Connecticut and responded with a work based on several spirituals. After submitting it, he decided to completely rewrite it, concluding that the new one was ‘ten thousand times better than the other’. The premiere in 1912 – delayed because scores had gone astray – met with critical acclaim. The composer died a few months later. Like his predecessor Coleridge-Taylor, Haydn Wood studied violin at the Royal College of Music and composition with Sir Charles Stanford. This concerto is his only surviving one for violin. The high-romantic expression of the first movement is followed by a virtually continuous stream of lyrical melody in the second, and a full-blooded finale that at the same time is light and lively. This album also features a Suite of four short character pieces by Delius, in the spirit of the Lyric Pieces for piano by his friend and mentor Edvard Grieg.
BAX & BATE CELLO CONCERTOS, LIONEL HANDY, ROYAL SCOTTISH NATIONAL ORCHESTRA, MARTIN YATES/Lyrita SRCD 351 The rehabilitation of Bax has been underway for some considerable time, and he is now comprehensively regarded as one of the great British composers (if one can say that of a musician so committed to Irish republicanism ). Stanley Bate, however, remains unknown to the general listening public ; perhaps discs such as this one will redress that balance. The first of his pieces for solo instrument and orchestra which Bax officially designated a ‘concerto’ was the Cello Concerto of 1932. In the Cello Concerto, the instrument is centre stage virtually from beginning to end and the composer takes great pains to ensure that it is clearly audible at all times. To accomplish this, he uses modest forces: three flutes, two oboes, cor anglais, two clarinets, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, two trumpets, timpani, harp, celesta and strings. By the composer’s usual standards, this orchestration is notably restrained, with an absence of trombones and tuba and only two trumpets, the second of which does not feature at all in the first movement. When supporting the soloist, textures often take on the transparency of chamber music and are varied with such invention and flair (including much creative use of divided strings) that we rarely encounter the same combination of instruments accompanying the cellist for two phrases in succession. Before he wrote his Cello Concerto in 1953, Bate had produced a couple of instrumental works for cello and piano, consisting of a Recitative, op.52a (1945), and a Fantasy, op.56 (1947). The fluency of his writing in the concerto suggests that the composer had a natural empathy with the solo instrument’s lyrical and declamatory nature. It was premiered in late 1954 by the Eastman Rochester Orchestra at the Eastman School of Music, New York. Compact and sparingly scored, Bate’s concerto maintains the spotlight firmly on the soloist throughout. A sizeable orchestra is rarely exerted at full stretch and then only fleetingly. It is made up of two flutes, two oboes, clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, cymbals and strings.
MIKLOS RÓZSA: SODOM AND GOMORRAH City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, Nic Raine/Prometheus XPCD 178 Those familiar with earlier recordings of classic film scores produced by James Fitzpatrick will be well aware of this ambitious attempts to record virtually complete orchestral scores from the golden age of Hollywood. Listening to this glorious and exhilarating music, it’s hard to remember when film music (even when composed by musicians with such solid classical credentials as Miklos Rózsa) was regarded rather sniffily, as if there was something utterly infra dig about composing music for the cinema – the fact that such illustrious composers as Vaughan Williams, Shostakovich and William Walton had deigned to tackle the field seemed to cut no ice. But Rózsa’s magnificent score for Sodom and Gomorrah is perfect ammunition to use against the naysayers. The Robert Aldrich epic for which the score was written is virtually impossible see in the form which the director intended, with censorship cuts rendering the carnal activities of the famous twin sin cities rather innocuous (Anouk Aimée’s lesbian Queen has to have her Sapphic predilections taken on trust). But there are no reservations about the music, which is in the composer’s most grandiloquent style with particularly impressive use of brass (ringing fanfares were always a speciality of Rózsa in historical epics). Admittedly, the score uses key material more frequently that would be found in a symphonic composition, but it’s none the worse for that – particularly in a performance with the panache provided here by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus under the estimable Nic Raine, which makes the best possible case for the music. And if you find yourself succumbing to the aural splendour on offer here, you should investigate immediately the previous James Fitzpatrick production with these forces – Franz Waxman’s equally splendid score for another compromised epic, Taras Bulba.
FILM FEST GENT AND BRUSSELS PHILHARMONIC PRESENT ALAN SILVESTRI /Silva Screen B015YCWL5U Supported by the Gent’s World Soundtrack Awards, this is the second release from the series and first on Silva Screen Records. Each year a major film music composer is invited to present their work during the annual World Soundtrack Awards Ceremony & Concert closing event. As part of the celebrations Film Fest Gent and partner Brussels Philharmonic record a CD of their music and this year’s guest of honour is Alan Silvestri.
HAYDN: SYMPHONIES NOS. 31, 70 & 101, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Robin Ticciati Linn Records CKD 500 In every respect Robin Ticciati’s first recording of Haydn Symphonies is a triumphant success. On this new SACD for Linn, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra perform three symphonies that span different decades of Haydn’s long career. Though each one is the same key – D major, they are wonderfully contrasted in both style and instrumentation. Symphony No. 31 known as the ‘ Hornsignal’ opens with some of the most thrilling natural horn sounds imaginable from the four superb players led by virtuoso Alec Frank-Gemmill. Ticciati’s performance is exhilarating yet never rushed, and in each of the four movements the tempi he has chosen seem ideal to allow the music to breathe with unforced naturalness This is especially true in the Symphony’s unusual Finale where, following the statement of a simple theme, Haydn writes seven variations for combinations of various solo instrumentalists and strings. The soloists of the SCO rise fully to the opportunities offered to them with playing of the utmost grace and refinement before the Symphony ends as it began with rousing horn calls. Trumpets and drums give a festive air to Symphony No.70 as befits a work written to mark the rebuilding of the opera house at Esterháza following a disastrous fire in 1779. The opening ‘Vivace’ displays Haydn’s abundant wit and, with its frequent changes of tempo and dynamics, his ability to surprise listeners whilst at the same time providing challenges to the players. The composer’s contrapuntal mastery is demonstrated in the stately ‘Andante’ that follows whilst high spirits return in the minuet and fugal finale. Again Ticciati and his orchestra’s affectionate performance is impeccable, and hopefully will bring new admirers to one of Haydn’s less familiar symphonies. Symphony 101 ‘The Clock’ need no special pleading, being one of the most popular (and most recorded) of the composer’s ‘London Symphonies’. First performed in1794 it represents the composer at the height of his powers and Ticciati’s beautifully paced account effortlessly conveys all of the work’s splendour and undeniable charm thanks to the responsiveness of the excellent SCO. I understand that the next recording in this series will include three further ‘London Symphonies’ – an enticing prospect. These multi-channel recordings were made in the Usher Hall Edinburgh (January and February 2015) by Philip Hobbs and could hardly be bettered in terms of their clarity, spaciousness and warmth. Linn must also be congratulated on providing detailed booklet notes that not only discuss the three Symphonies on this disc but also include two informative essays ‘Haydn and the Enlightenment’ and ‘Haydn and the Horn’ that considerably enhance one’s appreciation of this wonderful composer’s oeuvre. An altogether outstanding release.
RESPIGHI: METAMORPHOSEN, BALLATA DELLE GNOMIDI, BELKIS, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, John Neschling/B IS BIS-2130 SACD Those seeking a coupling of these three lesser known orchestral works of Respighi need look no further than this superb release from BIS. The Brazilian-born conductor John Neschling has already demonstrated his complete empathy with Respighi’s music in his two previous releases for this label. – the so-called ‘Roman Trilogy’ with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and arguably an even finer follow-up of the complete ballet score for ‘La Boutique Fantasque’ and ‘Impressioni brasiliane’ with the orchestra heard on this latest release. ‘Metamorphoseon’ with which Neschling’s program begins comprises a theme and 12 variations (or modes), and is now generally accepted as one of Respighi’s finest works in spite of the composer’s doubts about its quality. Geoffrey Simon’s spectacular 1985 recording on CD for Chandos raised the work’s profile considerably and more recently we have had a sumptuous SACD version from George Hanson and the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra on MDG. Neschling’s measured account of this imposing work is on the whole most impressive, though perhaps his understandable tendency to dwell on the lyrical beauty of the music does at times rob it of forward momentum, but the responsiveness of the Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège is beyond reproach. Overall timings do, for once, give an accurate reflection of the different approaches of the three conductors; Neschling takes 29’16”, Hanson 26’50” and Simon 25’36”. When sound quality is brought into the equation Neschling and Hanson are equally matched with the BIS recording having marginally greater clarity and MDG greater ambient warmth. Respighi’s lurid symphonic poem Ballata delle gnomidi’ with its nightmare scenario of sexual depravity and brutal murder receives a magnificent performance in which Neschling and the players of his fine Belgian orchestra convey to the listener the sensuousness and violence of this remarkable piece while the composer’s glittering orchestration has been captured by the BIS engineers with startling vividness. The expressive qualities of Neschling’s performances on this disc are displayed to greatest advantage in his ravishing account of the four-movement suite from Respighi’s ballet ‘Belkis, Regina di Saba’ performed here in the order of the published score – two atmospheric slow movements followed by two percussive fast ones. Some conductors (notably Geoffrey Simon and Sascha Goetzel on a recent CD) alternate slow and fast movements to bring greater variety to the suite, but Neschling’s performance lacks nothing in commitment and the BIS sonics are spectacular. It is to be fervently hoped that more Respighi might be forthcoming from this outstanding team, the ‘Sinfonia Drammatica’ being an obvious choice.
RACHMANINOV: SYMPHONY NO. 3, BALAKIREV: RUSSIA,LSO, Valery Gergiev/ LSO Live LSO0779 This SACD is the follow-up to Valery Gergiev’s generally well received recording of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony and marks the continuation of this conductor’s Rachmaninov cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra that is due for completion in the Spring of 2016. As in so much of the Russian repertoire, and especially in this performance of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Symphony, Gergiev clearly demonstrates his empathy with the brooding melancholy and impassioned lyricism evident in one of the composer’s final symphonic outpourings. His account of the first movement (17’45”) is very measured, right from the introductory opening bars for muted cello, horn and clarinets, but it is magnificently delivered by the LSO. For some, Gergiev’s sombre, unhurried approach will seem short in excitement and though this may be true in comparison with say Vladimir Ashkenazy on Decca (CD only), it certainly never lacks power and drama. The second movement (11’53”) that combines an Adagio enclosing a central Scherzo opens with exquisitely played horn and violin solos from Katy Woolley and Roman Simovic respectively and the LSO strings phrase the soulful melody that follows with great eloquence. Gergiev unleashes the agitated central section with considerable energy and elicits notably trenchant playing, especially from the LSO brass and percussion, while the gradual return to the meditative mood of the movement’s opening is impressively handled. The finale (13’48”) follows the same pattern as the opening movement with steady rather than impetuous pacing of the main Allegro. Thanks to the precision of the LSO’s playing (and Gergiev’s antiphonal seating of the violins) the fugal passage from 3’50” emerges with great clarity while Rachmaninov’s glorious cantabile melodies are neither sentimentalised nor short changed; though perhaps the huge ritardando the conductor makes in the closing bars will not be to all tastes. Gergiev’s deeply serious and individual reading of this symphony has much to commend it, even if, amongst the many versions on disc, it is not an obvious first choice. The fill-up is an excellent account of Balakirev’s symphonic poem ‘Russia’ also known as ‘Second Overture on Russian Themes’ making its first appearance in high resolution audio. This is a most attractive work, based on three folk-songs that Balakirev had collected on trips up the River Volga. Gergiev’s performance is vividly characterised and the LSO deliver a sprightly and idiomatic performance of this engaging and colourful piece. Both works were recorded live in concert at the Barbican (11th and 13th November 2014) and though it must be admitted that the unforgiving Barbican acoustic does no favours to the lushness of Rachmaninov’s sound world, Balakirev’s ‘Russia’ emerges unscathed. The DSD recording (5.1 multi-channel and 2.0 stereo) definitely needs to be played at a high volume setting to give of its best.
DVOŘÁK & LALO: CELLO CONCERTOS, Johannes Moser, PKF Prague Philharmonia, Jakub Hrůša/PENTATONE CLASSICS PTC 5186488 For his début release on the PENTATONE label the young German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser has chosen two contrasting concertos that, though very different in style, share both bountiful melodic invention and firm symphonic structure. On this superbly recorded SACD Moser is accompanied by the PKF Prague Philharmonia (formerly called the Prague Philharmonia) an orchestra founded as recently as 1994 by the distinguished Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek. Here the conductor is the charismatic Jakub Hrůša who elicits outstanding playing from his orchestra in both concertos. The long orchestral exposition that opens the Dvorak Concerto immediately confirms one’s admiration for the quality of the PKF Prague Philharmonia musicians. There is a winning sweetness to the characterful woodwind sound, strings are supple and the lovely horn solo elegantly phrased. Moser’s first entry is firm and commanding and as the movement progresses one appreciates the absolute rapport evident between him and Hrůša. The eloquence of Moser’s playing is never in doubt. In the Concerto’s more reflective passages, such as the gentle central ‘Adagio ma non troppo’, it is subtly nuanced while there is plenty of rhythmic buoyancy to be found elsewhere. His technique displays absolute assurance, while the sounds he elicits from his warm-toned 1694 Andrea Guarneri instrument are always beautiful, thanks to the care with which he phrases the melodic lines. Lalo composed his Cello Concerto in D minor (1876/77) in collaboration with the Belgian cellist Adolphe Fischer and, like the Dvorak work, it is very well represented on disc though unaccountably it seems not to appear very often in the Concert Hall. Moser gives an ardent and expressive account of the piece that should win many admirers, and again the alert contribution of the PKF Prague Philharmonia matches the exuberance of Moser’s playing in the lively Spanish atmosphere evoked in the Concerto’s second and third movements. The 5.0 multi-channel DSD recordings were made in January 2015 at the capacious Forum Karlin, Prague where the Polyhymnia team have achieved a rich, detailed yet spacious sound typical of so many excellent PENTATONE releases. In every respect this is an auspicious PENTATONE début for Johannes Moser and the promised future releases from this exciting and gifted artist are eagerly awaited.
STRAVINSKY: LE ROI DES ÉTOILES & LE SACRE DU PRINTEMPS , Michael Tilson Thomas/PENTATONE CLASSICS PTC 5186 225 With this release PENTATONE demonstrate once again how their remarkable re-masterings of these 1970s Deutsche Grammophon quadraphonic tapes to multi-channel SACD can breathe new life into 40 year-old recordings with spectacular results. Michael Tilson Thomas has long been a champion of Stravinsky’s works as his many recordings of them testify and though there are countless fine versions of Stravinsky’s iconic ballet ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ (The Rite of Spring) in the catalogue, this one shows that when an exceptionally talented and confident 28 year old conductor is put before a superbly drilled world-class orchestra the results can be electrifying. The bassoon solo of the Part I introduction, beautifully played by Sherman Walt, is quite slow, with the long opening note unusually sustained, but it immediately establishes what Stravinsky described as ‘the mystery of the physical world in Spring.’ As the work progresses MTT quickly builds up forward momentum and the ‘Danses des Adolescentes’ and ‘Jeu du Rapt’ are, thanks to the incisive playing of the Boston Symphony, as barbaric as one could wish for. Following a marvellously atmospheric start to Part II the pounding eleven chords that open the ‘Glorification de L’ Élue’ are delivered with tremendous ferocity and MTT skilfully racks up the tension as the ballet proceeds to its eventual frenetic close. The 4.0 channel recording captures the huge tam-tam crashes and earth-shattering drum beats that appear throughout the work with a vividness and power rarely experienced on many more recent recordings, while no praise can be too high for the orchestra’s magnificent brass playing. Though the almost cavernous acoustic of Symphony Hall, Boston certainly presents challenges to both the conductor and the recording team, they are for the most part overcome brilliantly, and thanks to the skills of Thomas Mowrey (producer) and Günter Hermanns (balance engineer) many details emerge with unexpected clarity while the overall impact of the sound is thrilling. The fill-up is the short but remarkable cantata ‘Le Roi des Étoiles” that was composed around the same time as Stravinsky was working on ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ (1911-12). It is a setting of ‘Zvezdoliki’ (literally ‘Starface’), a text by the Russian symbolist poet Konstantin Balmont and is dedicated to Debussy who greatly admired it. Scored for male chorus and large orchestra, that includes a celesta and two harps, the influence of both Debussy and especially Scriabin in its harmonic language is clear. Surprisingly it had to wait until 1939 to receive its first performance. It is enthusiastically performed by the Men’s Chorus of the New England Conservatory Choir who seem undaunted by its rhythmic and harmonic complexities while the reverberant Boston acoustic adds to the sonic magic of this fascinating piece. It is a pity that PENTATONE could not have re-printed the text of the cantata in the liner notes that accompany this SACD, especially as they were included with the original LP release. Stravinsky, however, was more concerned with the sounds of the words rather than their meaning so perhaps this is no great loss. It should be pointed out that this disc contains only what was on the original LP release in 1972 so a total playing time of 39’41” does seem rather short measure these days for a full-price issue. But quantity does not replace quality, and to have these two performances in such fine high resolution sound is, in my opinion, worth the cost in spite of the disc’s brevity.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Rachel Podger/ Channel Classics CCS SA 35513 Without doubt this is yet another award worthy production from the incomparable Rachel Podger and the Channel Classics team. Heinrich Biber’s fifteen ‘Rosary Sonatas’, also called the ‘Mystery Sonatas’ as each is connected with one of the Mysteries of the Catholic Church, were composed in or around 1676. They fall into three groups of five – the Joyful Mysteries, The Sorrowful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries each group inspired by the events of the life of Jesus and his mother. Biber was a both a gifted composer and a violin virtuoso and these sonatas exemplify his most extensive use of scordatura, a technique in which the strings of the instrument are re-tuned from their usual G-D- A-E tuning in order to produce unusual sonorities and textures. Only in the first of these Sonatas and the concluding Passacaglia is the standard tuning used. It is hardly surprising that Rachel Podger, a superlative exponent of the Baroque violin repertoire, has now turned her attention to these remarkable sonatas, and she and her colleagues do not disappoint anywhere on this supremely rewarding two-disc set. Podger uses her own violin (Pesarinius, Genoa,1739) rather than a set of pre-tuned instruments for all the Sonatas and in the notes she suggests that the “suffering” to the instrument as the re-tuning progressed was, in musical terms, worth the danger to its fabric! The continuo used here is provided by three of today’s most distinguished period performers, David Miller (theorbo and archlute), Marcin Światkiewicz (harpsichord and organ) and Jonathan Manson (cello and viola da gamba) who throughout, in their various combinations, provide ravishing tonal colours appropriate to Podger’s playing. The hauntingly beautiful unaccompanied G minor Passacaglia (‘Guardian Angel’) with which Biber ends the work is taken from Rachel Podger’s earlier release of the same name recorded in the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Haarlem in 2013 . One minor point is that on the new issue the timing of this track is given incorrectly as 10.00 (it is in fact 8.52) which might confuse some listeners into thinking that it is a different performance. Channel’s 5.0 DSD recording made in the Church of St. Jude-on-the-Hill is beyond criticism. The venue provides an ambient warmth and rich glow that enhances the sound of the various instrumental aggregations and the events that they portray, while each and every instrumental line is delineated with absolute clarity and positional accuracy. Splendidly informative notes from Rachel Podger and Mark Seow put the seal on a most desirable release.
WILLIAM WALTON: LONDON CONCERT, Soloists, LSO, Andre Previn/Arthaus Blu-ray 109111 Watching the new Arthaus Blu-ray of William Walton: London Concert from 1982 has been a trip in a time machine for me. Apart from watching a relatively youthful Kyung Wha-Chung give a superlative performance of the Walton Violin Concerto, I can see — over the top of Andre Previn’s head – my younger self, enjoying every second of this superlative tribute to one of the greatest English composers – with a frail-looking Walton himself in the Royal box, visibly moved by the energetic performance that Belshazzar’s Feast is given. Thomas Allen is a superbly declamatory soloist in the latter, and the whole concert is a delight – but a certain historical indulgence is required, technically speaking. The picture is (of course) Academy ratio, and not inordinately sharp, despite the Blu-ray wash-and-rinse, and the sound — while largely impressive — shows its age in a certain tubbiness. But as a document of one of the great evenings in the Royal Festival Hall, this is unmissable – and it goes without saying that Walton aficionados need not hesitate.
MANKELL: PIANO CONCERTO OP. 30; GÖSTA NYSTROEM: CONCERTO RICERCANTE, Anna Christensson, Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Roberto Paternostro/CAPRICCIO: C5240 There may be a market for this disc, which has nothing to do with the classical music industry. The composer Henning Mankell is not (as some may assume ) the talented and influential Swedish crime writer and creator of Kurt Wallander, but is the latter’s grandfather. This fact will inspire some interest — but (frankly) will it be rewarded? Swedish composer Henning Mankell was a private teacher of piano and music theory in Stockholm, a music critic and a member of the board of the Academy of Music. His works, from the last decades of his life, were given labels such as ‘impressionist’ or ‘futurist’, and although he was probably interested in French Impressionism, he did not identify with it. To this listener, the music by the older Mankell is relatively anonymous, and I can’t see that I will be returning to it very often; there is, however, no denying its efficiency and expertise. The Mankell pieces find a stylistic allegiance in the music of Gösta Nystroem, the stablemate here
BERNSTEIN: SYMPHONY NO.3, KADDISH, etc., Marin Alsop/NAXOS 8.559742 I definitely count myself among passionate admirers of the composer Leonard Bernstein, and have tried over the years to respond positively to the ‘Kaddish’ Symphony, but the self-indulgent, hectoring narrative which is such an integral part of the piece has always acted as a disincentive to me – even in the understated reading it is given here by Claire Bloom (very different from the over-stated histrionic efforts by previous narrators). But if you can cope with the narration, then it’s hard to see the symphony being given a more committed performance than that by Marin Alsop, a Bernstein protégé, who has written fondly and extensively about studying with him. This disc presents Bernstein the vocal composer performed in largely original editions by one of his best contemporary interpreters.
SCHUMANN: SONG CYCLES James Gilchrist, tenor Anna Tilbrook, piano Lynne SACD CKD 474 The tenor James Gilchrist has frequently demonstrated that he is one of the most sensitive and nuanced of modern singers, and delivers this set of Schumann song cycles with maximum sensitivity. If the great performances of the past (notably by the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) are not unseated, those preferring these cycles delivered by a higher voice will not be disappointed. Linz SACD sound captures every subtlety.
FUČÍK: A FESTIVAL OF FUČÍK: EINZUG DER GLADIATOREN, OP. 68 ETC;, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Järvi/CHANDOS CHSA 5158 Now, be honest: if you have heard of Julius Fučík at all, you will know him for one piece: Entry of the Gladiators, which now has more association with circuses of the clown and elephant variety than those on which Roman gladiators spilled their blood. That lively piece may inspire you to wonder what the rest of his music is like, and now in this splendidly recorded anthology, you have a chance to find out. Frankly, there are no great discoveries here, but it is all pleasant and likeable fare. Thirty years after having recorded Dvořák’s complete Symphonies on Chandos, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and its laureate conductor Neeme Järvi tackle another romantic Czech composer, Fučík, famous for his more than 400 polkas, marches, and waltzes, some of the best of which are featured here. Fučík studied violin in his early years, switching later to the bassoon, with a subsidiary in percussion and timpani. Playing in Austrian regiments, he gained invaluable experience of writing for military band and became a very prolific composer of marches. The most famous of these is of course Entry of the Gladiators, completed in 1899 and performed throughout the world ever since.
MAHLER: SYMPHONY NO. 1 ‘TITAN’, Utah Symphony Orchestra, Thierry Fischer/REFERENCE SACD FR-715 The first thing that strikes one about this new recording of Mahler’s First Symphony from the redoubtable Reference label is how the recorded sound is subtly different from most of the impressive previous entries from the company. Rather than providing a concert hall-style panoply, there appears to be a close miking of many of the instruments, rather in the fashion of Decca’s Phase Four engineers recording Stokowski in the 1970s. But it’s none the worse for that, as the ear soon adjusts to this new aural canvas. The performance here has the kind of kinetic sense of drama we associate with Fischer, and in a highly competitive field, the performance deserves attention. The Utah Symphony, celebrating its 75th anniversary, is one of America’s major symphony orchestras and a leading cultural organization in the Intermountain West. It is recognized internationally for its distinctive performances, commitment to music education programs and recording legacy. Reference Recordings have released this new performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 as part of the orchestra’s two-year Mahler Symphony Cycle.
HAYDN: SYMPHONIES NOS 31, 70 & 101, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Robin Ticciati/LINN SACD With an impressive ongoing Haydn series from Bruno Weil and ARS, it’s pleasing to find another Haydn symphonies disc as crisp and authentic-sounding as this, giving the music vigorous new life in similar fashion to Weil. Of course, this is no surprise to those who have bought earlier discs by Robin Ticciati , who is undoubtedly on something of a roll at the moment, with a universally acclaimed series of discs of music from very disparate composers. And it is not just Ticciati’s razor-sharp readings which have been gleaning plaudits, but the beautifully focused and sympathetic sound accorded to his performances by the Linn engineers. As is very much the case of with these-performances, which are truly splendid.
RODRIGO: CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ, etc., Narciso Yepes/PentaTone Classics SACD PTC5186209 Like many listeners of a certain age, this reviewer first discovered the Concierto de Aranjuez in the classic Decca recording by Narciso Yepes, and of his subsequent ventures into the world of the Spanish composer, this PENTATONE reissue proves that Yepes had lost not an iota of his sensitivity and soulfulness .The seeds were planted in the early 1970s when Deutsche Grammophon realised what amazing results could be achieved by recording on multichannel tapes, with either four or eight channels. Yet, due to a few restrictions, they never fully blossomed. Flaws in the playback equipment meant that music connoisseurs were prevented from enjoying these recordings in the way that artists, producers, engineers and other professionals intended, even though recording technology was already way ahead of its time. Now over a quarter of a century later and thanks to the arrival of the multichannel Super Audio CD, there is finally a system available which permits this precious recording to be released in SACD, a medium that does it full justice.
RESPIGHI: METAMORPHOSEON; BALLATA DELLE GNOMIDI; BELKIS, REGINA DI SABA, Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, John Neschling/BIS SACD 2130 There are other performances on SACD of these breathtaking pieces by Respighi, and arguments can be made for or against them individually. But while this new disc does not match the last Respighi recording by the conductor, it is a very useful anthology, which collects the first time these three pieces on one disc Three orchestral works by o Respighi are gathered here. Ballata delle gnomidi (‘The Ballad of the Gnomes’), composed in 1920 and inspired by a poem depicting satanic rituals, sexual abandonment and blood sacrifice, is here framed by two later and longer works. Metamorphoseon (1930) was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and it is in fact something of a concerto for orchestra, the 30-minute long work consisting of a theme and twelve variations or ‘modes’. The disc closes with the suite from Belkis, Regina di Saba, a full-length ballet depicting the encounter between the Queen of Sheba and Solomon. John Neschling has previously recorded two acclaimed discs of Respighi’s music for BIS. The most recent instalment also featured l’Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, in a performance of Impressioni brasiliane
IBERT: THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL, THREE BALLET PIECES, FAIRY SONG OF MADNESS, ELIZABETHAN SUITE, Slovak Philharmonic Chorus Orchestra, Adriano NAXOS 8.555568 Ibert remains a neglected composer, but perhaps this new disc will go some way to redressing the balance. Based on Oscar Wilde’s impassioned text Le Ballade de la Geôle de Reading, Jacques Ibert’s first symphonic work astonished and impressed audiences with its dark atmospheres of anguished madness and terror. The Trois Pièces de Ballet portray society guests with colourful music-hall wit, contrasting with the impressionistic symphonic poem Féerique and the horrors of war expressed in Chant de Folie, while the Suite Élisabéthaine introduces ancient styles to enhance Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
MOSOLOV: IRON FOUNDRY; PIANO CONCERTO NO. 1; LEGEND OP. 5; SONATA OP. 3; FOUR NEWSPAPER ANNOUNCEMENTS, Steffen Schleiermacher, Ringela Riemke, Natalia Pschenitschnikova, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Johannes Kalitzke/Capriccio C5241 Many composers are only known for single piece… but a piece that lasts only 3 minutes? Among his contemporary countrymen Alexander Mosolov certainly underwent one of the most individual developments. Although most of his compositions have remained unknown both in the Soviet Union and abroad, a single piece has ensured that his name has stayed lastingly present: the Iron Foundry from the ballet Steel (1926/27), a work that was at odds with Socialist Realism gradually becoming established in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union.
KLUGHARDT: SYMPHONY 4 IN C MINOR, Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau, Antony Hermus/CPO 7777402 Those hoping for a major rediscovery along the lines of many other composers whose work has been dusted off by CPO may be disappointed by this relatively quotidian music, but there is no denying its unpretentious appeal. This third CPO disc sets down more neglected orchestral works by August Klughardt. A live performance of the music on this disc, Symphony 4 in C minor was described as: “…a thoroughly noble work, with a simple thematic structure, filled with beautiful ideas, rich in its melodic invention.” This characterises Klughardt’s oeuvre as a whole, which becomes evident from the other works included here, performed by the Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau, and conducted by Antony Hermus.