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TCHAIKOVSKY & GRIEG: PIANO CONCERTOS, Dennis Kozhukin, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Vassily Sinaisky/PentaTone PTC 518 6566  In the modern age, certain performances have gone beyond the status of recording classics to become nigh-definitive statements on the works involved, against which all subsequent recordings have to be measured. (A classic example of this is Andre Previn’s earlier RCA recording of Walton’s First Symphony – few subsequent performances were able to match it, not even the conductor’s own underpowered later reading.) Similarly, Martha Argerich’s celebrated DG account of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto has seen off most subsequent rivals in this repertoire, and its sheer élan still makes it a prime contender today. So how does this latest rival from PentaTone compare? It almost goes without saying that in one respect at least, the newcomer scores over its predecessors in the sheer quality of recorded sound, so wide-ranging and nuanced is the PentaTone recording. But such sound issues – while important – must be matched by performance of similar quality, and while Kozhukin may not quite match Argerich’s authority in this most overplayed of warhorses, it is a remarkably persuasive performance. What’s more,  combined with such an exemplary recording, the disc is sure to tempt many listeners – particularly when coupled (as here) with a dramatic reading of another warhorse, the Grieg Concerto. Leaving aside gradations in performances, if you are after these two works in the best modern sound, you need not hesitate. But hang onto that Argerich disc.

OVERTURES FROM THE BRITISH ISLES, VOL. 2: Sir Hubert Parry, Sir Alexander, John Ansell, Dame Ethel, Roger Quilter, John Foulds, Eric Coates, Sir William Walton, Walter Leigh, York Bowen BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Rumon Gamba/CHANDOS CHAN 10898  Familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed contempt, but much as the enthusiast may love playing Ein Heldenleben or Petrushka for the umpteenth time, they sometimes feel the need for some unfamiliar repertoire – and the resulting frisson is precisely what Chandos are providing with this series of British pieces which (the Walton apart) have largely slipped from the repertoire (if they ever held a position in the first place). Rumon Gamba and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales supply a welcome second volume in their excavation of neglected overtures from the British Isles. As Gamba observed: ‘All the overtures on this disc belong to the period between 1890 and 1945. In this present selection, however, we see perhaps even more clearly the evolution of musical style, and in particular the use of harmony, in the armoury of the British composer.’

BURGESS: Mr W.S. – Ballet Suite for Orchestra, Marche pour une revolution, Mr Burgess’s Almanack, Brown University Orchestra, Paul Phillips/NAXOS 8.573472  This writer was once contracted to give a talk at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester, and wandering around the campus somewhat lost, I suddenly heard some slightly acerbic music issuing from a doorway – and realised that I had found the Burgess Foundation. Anthony Burgess, celebrated author of A Clockwork Orange, memorably filmed by Stanley Kubrick, once said, “I wish people would think of me as a musician who writes novels, instead of a novelist who writes music on the side.” Initially thwarted in his desire for a professional musical career, Burgess returned to composition in the mid-1970s, writing prolifically in many genres. Essentially, the music is largely of academic interest – Burgess is a far more distinctive novelist than composer – but perhaps deserves investigation. His music is mostly tonal but sometimes dissonant, a hybrid of Holst and Hindemith. Mr W.S. is an imaginative evocation of the Elizabethan era while Mr Burgess’s Almanack is a variegated work of ingenuity and charm with a nod towards modernism. This is the first recording of Burgess’s orchestral music.

RADECKE: ORCHESTRAL WORKS: Overture: Shakespeare’s König Johann’, Op. 25; Symphony in F major, Op. 50; Nachtstück, Op. 55; Zwei Scherzi, Op. 52, Sinfonie Orchester Biel Solothurn, Kaspar Zehnder/CPO  Let’s be honest: there are no neglected masterpieces on offer here, but for those with a taste for more arcane fare, a certain adventurousness may pay dividends. Radecke was a composer whose significant and multifaceted oeuvre contributed significantly to music history in Berlin and Germany. With this release, his romantic music now celebrates its recording premiere on CPO.

WEINBERGER: Overture to a Chivalrous Play; Six Bohemian Songs and Dances; Passacaglia, Jörg Strodthoff, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Gerd Albrecht/Capriccio C5272  Did Jaromir Weinberger, marooned in the US, commit suicide after his failure to consolidate the success of his opera Schwanda the Bagpiper? Whatever the truth, this unusual disc is proof that the composer was more than a one-hit wonder, with some very attractive and colourful music on offer — and given persuasive advocacy.

ALBENIZ: ORCHESTRAL WORKS: Suite Española (arr. Frühbeck de Burgos) / Suite from The Magic Opal / Piano Concerto No. 1 Concierto fantástico / Rapsodia Española (orch. George Enescu), Martin Roscoe (Piano) / BBC Philharmonic / Juanjo Mena/CHANDOS 10897  The enterprising Chandos Spanish Music series (La Música de España, with the BBC Philharmonic and Juanjo Mena) has now embraced Isaac Albéniz, one of the most colourful of Spanish composers. The Suite Española looks forward to the influential great piano collection Iberia, composed two decades later, in which, as Debussy observed, Albéniz ‘put the best of himself’. Lively, energetic readings here, perhaps not matching those by Frühbeck de Burgos.

RAVEL: ORCHESTRATIONS, Orchestre National de Lyon, Leonard Slatkin/ NAXOS: 8573124  Few would dispute Maurice Ravel’s unmatched skill in orchestration, both in his own music and that of other composers. This disc is a prime sampling of the composers skill in that arena, with his command of colour evident both in his own works and in his arrangements of music by others. A further addition to the catalogue of Ravel recordings from Leonard Slatkin and the Orchestre National de Lyon, this disc includes his versions of Chabrier’s vibrant Menuet pompeux, Schumann’s colourful Carnaval and his late friend Debussy’s Sarabande et Danse. Ravel’s iconic orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition vividly depicts scenes ranging from the playful to the macabre

KHACHATURIAN: Symphony No. 2, ‘The Bell’, Lermontov Suite (excerpts), Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, Dmitry Yablonsky/NAXOS 8.570436  There are not many versions of Khachaturian’s Symphony No. 2 in the catalogue, but in terms of giving this music the most dramatic possible reading, this new disc — while highly accomplished – does not unseat the rival reading by Tjeknavorian, still the most striking accorded to the piece. Besides his ever-popular ballet Spartacus (Suites Nos. 1–3 are on Naxos 8.550801), Khachaturian also wrote other stage music, including a splendid score for Boris Lavrenyov’s play about the great Russian author Mikhail Lermontov. The composer described his powerful Second Symphony, written during the final years of World War II, as ’a requiem of wrath, a requiem of protest against war and violence’. At crucial junctures, three tubular bells toll, giving the symphony its memorable subtitle.

RACHMANINOV: ALL-NIGHT VIGIL (VESPERS) London Symphony Orchestra and chorus, Simon Halsey/LSO Live SACD LSO 0781  Andre Previn, mentioned in connection with his Walton recording above, once pointed out with some passion that the unenthusiastic notice given to Rachmaninov in the Grove dictionary of music was severely out of date, given the composer’s re-evaluation as a major figure, and as someone fully of that opinion, I have listened over the years to the composer’s much-loved Vespers, trusting the scales will someday fall from my eyes (or ears) and I will be able to see why so many esteem this piece so highly. But just a few bars of it had me running back to the symphonies and the piano music. It is unquestionably a masterpiece, but the very restricted sound palette ultimately exhausts this listener’s interest. However, that’s my problem, and if you are among the Rachmaninov enthusiasts who love the work, it’s hard to imagine it given a better reading than that delivered by Halsey and his LSO forces.

FRICKER: THE VISION OF JUDGEMENT OP. 29, SYMPHONY NO.5 FOR ORGAN & ORCHESTRA, OP. 74, Jane Manning, soprano • Robert Tear, tenor, Leeds Festival Chorus, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Charles Groves, Gillian Weir, organ, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis  This BBC Broadcast (1976) is live from the Festival Hall. first performance. The key work here is Fricker’s cataclysmic Symphony No. 5, premiered by organist Gillian Weir with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Colin Davis in the presence of the composer. It was featured at the Proms on 11th August 1976 with the organist Jennifer Bate and the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra under John Pritchard. Terse and direct, the score offers some grand gestures in its lively outer sections. Fricker was among the first composers in Britain to be influenced by the music of Béla Bartók, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, assimilating aspects of their very different styles into a distinctive musical voice of his own.

DAWN TO DUST: Works by Augusta Read Thomas, Nico Muhly, and Andrew Norman, The Utah Symphony, Thierry Fisacher/Reference SACD FR-719  Some unusual world premiere recordings here of pieces commissioned by the Utah Symphony. The level of invention is high in these works by leading composers Augusta Read Thomas, Nico Muhly, and Andrew Norman (percussionist Colin Currie performs on Andrew Norman’s “Switch.”) The Utah Symphony, celebrating its 75th anniversary in the 2015-16 season, is one of America’s major symphony orchestras and here delivers adventurous fare.

SHOSTAKOVICH, MATTHEWS: Piano Quintets, Villiers Quartet et al/Somm B01C5PTVTI  It’s a measure of David Matthews’ achievement that this recording of his cheerful piano quintet is able to sit neatly alongside Shostakovich’s masterpiece and more than hold its own. Matthews wrote his Piano Quintet in 2004 as an engagement present for his wife Jenifer, so in his view, its overall happy mood is appropriate. The composer notes in the CD: When I wrote a piano quartet in 1995 I called it A Song and Dance Sketchbook because I didn’t want to follow the classical formal scheme, but also to acknowledge that each of its six movements was either a song or a dance. In this Piano Quintet I chose to adhere, more or less, to the traditional scheme: four movements, with a scherzo and a slow movement in the middle. The song and dance element, however, remains just as predominant.’ Both works are authoritatively performed here.

RACHMANINOV: COMPLETE PIANO WORKS BY EARL WILD VOL. 2, Giovanni Doria Miglietta/Piano Classics  If you are an aficionado of the piano music of Rachmaninov and have every note of it, here is fare that will not necessarily be familiar. The second instalment of Rachmaninov’s complete piano Works by Earl Wild is a reminder that Wild (1915‐2010) was without doubt one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. His immense repertoire, his staggering virtuosity, his warmth and his charm deserve him the epithet legendary. Wild was a great improviser as well, and he frequently played his own fantasies in his concerts. Fortunately he transcribed these pieces, and his creative legacy contains a wealth of transcriptions, fantasies and paraphrases, as well as original piano works. This CD features the complete recording of Wild’s famous transcriptions of Rachmaninov songs.

TCHAIKOVSKY: SYMPHONY NO. 6 IN B MINOR, OP. 74, DVOŘÁK: RUSALKA FANTASY (arr. Honeck/Ille), Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony/REFRENCE SACD FR-720  While there may be umpteen recordings (even in the surround sound medium) of the Tchaikovsky symphony on offer here, we are given a truly exemplary reading – and what makes Honeck’s disc particularly attractive is the companion piece, a sumptuous recording of orchestral passages from Dvorak’s Rusalka arranged in the form of a splendid suite by the conductor – and that alone makes this disc particularly attractive for enthusiasts. In the best possible audiophile sound, Reference gives us Tchaikovsky’s last (completed) symphony, of which the composer said: “I absolutely consider it to be the best, and in particular, the most sincere of all my creations. I love it as I have never loved any of my other musical offspring.”

Erik NORDGREN: The Bergman Suites Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra Adriano/Naxos 8573370   In his later films, Ingmar Bergman was to eschew conventional scores, other than the use of either Bach keyboard music or some very modest atonal writing; this disc is a reminder of an era when he utilised orchestral scores. Erik Nordgren, whose compositions include major concertos and chamber music, wrote seventeen film scores for Ingmar Bergman. The finest examples of their close collaboration can be heard on this recording. They include the symphonically proportioned Waiting Women, the suggestive and mysterious score for Wild Strawberries and the exceptional economy of The Face.

GILBERT & SULLIVAN: HMS PINAFORE, Soloists, Scottish Opera Richard Egarr, Lynne CKD522  This is a lively and ingratiating reading of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic masterpiece, ruled hors de combat for this listener by the ill-judged participation of Tim Brooke-Taylor as narrator; why anyone considered this notion would be something that would reward repeated listings is frankly beyond me. But if you don’t share this opinion, the opera is dispatched in energetic fashion.

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PROKOFIEV: PIANO CONCERTOS 2 & 5, Vadym Kholodenko (piano), Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Miguel Harth-Bedoya/Harmonia Mundi SACD HMU 807631  The first release in Vadym Kholodenko’s projected cycle of Prokofiev’s 5 Piano Concertos for Harmonia Mundi couples two of the composer’s least performed concertos (2 & 5) in thrilling accounts that make one eager for the completion of this enterprise – (Concertos 1,3 and 4) scheduled for 2016/17. Ukranian born Kholodenko was the winner of the gold medal in the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2013 and unsurprisingly has been garnering glowing reviews for the virtuosity of his playing – something that these days is almost taken for granted with concert pianists – but also for the thoughtful musicianship of his performances. The challenges of Prokofiev’s formidable 2nd Piano Concerto display both these qualities to the full. Kholodenko’s account of the opening movement is richly expressive from the start and the monumental cadenza that occupies more than a third of this movement is delivered with fearsome power and weight. The Scherzo is deftly played, with Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra providing alert and characterful support both here and in the Intermezzo that follows. The Finale is notable for the lightness of touch Kholodenko brings to the more lyrical passages and the incisive vehemence of his articulation. The 5th Concerto also receives a performance that makes its comparative neglect perplexing. The dominant angularity of Prokofiev’s writing and the wistful lyricism found in the fourth movement spark a performance of muscular strength and mercurial wit from Kholodenko, while Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra bring rhythmic acuity and pungency to the composer’s distinctive orchestral pallet. Both works were recorded live at the Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas in October 2014 (Concerto 2) and March 2015 (Concerto 5) and conspicuously benefit from being recorded, edited and mastered in DSD by engineer Brad Michel. The perspective is close, presumably to avoid any trace of audience noise, and though the balance certainly favours the piano, comparatively few orchestral details are lost. Overall the sound is remarkably rich and vivid. A most impressive release.

RUSSIAN DANCES: TCHAIKOVSKY: SUITE FROM SWAN LAKE, GLAZUNOV: 2 CONCERT WALTZES, SHOSTAKOVICH: THE GOLDEN AGE, STRAVINSKY: CIRCUS POLKA, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Kazuki Yamada/PENTATONE Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid PTC 518 6557  Russian Dances’ is the third and final release in a PENTATONE series devoted to compositions closely or loosely related to the dance and performed by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande directed by their principal guest conductor the charismatic Kazuki Yamada. Here the program takes us on a chronological journey from 19th century Russia, courtesy of Tchaikovsky and Glazunov, to the 20th-century represented by Shostakovich and Stravinsky. Kazuki Yamada’s account of the ever popular suite from ‘Swan Lake’ is beautifully paced at danceable tempi and the OSR respond to his direction throughout with playing of polish and refinement – the exquisitely phrased oboe solo at the opening being just one example of many. There are noteworthy contributions in the Act II ‘Scène-Andante’ (track 4) from Notburga Puskas, harp, François Guye, cello and the orchestra’s concert master Bogdan Zvoristeanu . One minor blemish is that the latter’s rather effortful breathing has been captured by the microphones. It is worth mentioning that, unlike some conductors, Yamada uses the eight-movement version of the suite, so both the delicious Danse éspagnole and Danse napolitaine are included, the latter featuring a splendidly agile cornett solo from Olivier Bombrun. The Tchaikovsky ballet suite is followed by genial performances of the two concert waltzes of Alexander Glazunov written in the 1890s as precursors to the composition of his celebrated ballets ‘The Seasons’ and ‘Raymonda’, and though often appearing either singly or together on disc remain rarities in the concert hall. Yamada’s performances have an appealing air of insouciance and a lightness of touch reflected in the immaculate orchestral playing. The four-movement suite from Shostakovich’s ballet of Soviet realism ‘Zolotoy vek’ (The Golden Age) is performed with all the wit and zest essential for the ‘Polka’ and ‘Dance’, but Yamada also finds surprising emotional depth in the second movement ‘Adagio’. Finally we have Stravinsky’s galumphing Circus Polka to end this entertaining programme in rumbustious style. PENTATONE’s superb 5.0-channel DSD recording, expertly engineered by Polyhymnia’s Erdo Groot, has a wonderfully coherent sound stage full of detail and with a glowing ambience that brings the fine acoustic of the Victoria Hall Geneva to vibrant life. While much of the repertoire on offer here is available in countless alternative recordings, Yamada’s persuasive accounts of these evergreen pieces delivered in gloriously opulent sound are irresistible.

DAWN TO DUST: Augusta Read Thomas: EOS (Goddess of the Dawn), a Ballet for Orchestra, Nico Muhly: Control (5 Landscapes for Orchestra), Andrew Norman: Switch*, Colin Currie* (percussion), Utah Symphony, Thierry Fischer/Reference Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid  FR-719  Dawn to Dust’ is the apt title of this new release on the Reference Recordings Fresh! label of works commissioned from three leading American contemporary composers by the Utah Symphony as part of the orchestra’s 75th anniversary celebrations during the 2015/2016 season. All three works here receive their world premier recordings in scrupulously prepared performances conducted by Thierry Fischer, the orchestra’s Music Director. The programme opens with ‘Eos (Goddess of the Dawn)’ by Augusta Read Thomas (b.1964) whose command of a wide ranging orchestral palette is breathtaking. She subtitles the piece ‘A ballet for orchestra’ and confesses in the liner notes that many of her orchestral and chamber compositions were conceived with dance in mind. Lasting around 18 minutes and played without a break, ‘Eos’ has seven movements each of which has a descriptive title. These, and a ballet narrative, are also reproduced in the liner notes and I found them most helpful in following the progress of the work. The music is full of ravishing orchestral sonorities, the subtle use of glittering percussion and writing for winds being immediately striking, whilst the almost Mahlerian string passages in the fourth section ‘Dreams and Memories’ are equally memorable. Textures have a crystalline clarity throughout and the ever changing variety of rhythmic patterns holds the listener’s attention in a composition of great eloquence and lucidity. Nico Muhly (born 1981) has composed works in many genres that include opera, ballet, sacred and pop music and has already amassed a considerable discography. His ‘Control’ (Five Landscapes for Orchestra) deals with Utah’s spectacular natural environment and the manner in which humans interact with it. Muhly acknowledges the influence of the music of Olivier Messiaen and in particular the latter’s ‘Des Canyons aux Étoiles’ a composition also inspired by the Utah landscape. The tiles of the work’s five parts are ‘Landform’– a depiction of large geological structures, ‘Mountain’ – an impressionistic mountain landscape in summer, ‘Beehive’ – industriousness that leads to technological innovation, ‘Petroglyph & Tobacco’ – suggestive of the resilience of Native Americans and finally ‘Red Dust’ – a striking feature of the St. George area of southern Utah. Though the music is harmonically complex, sometimes densely textured and often quite austere, its uncompromising originality and lack of pretension encourages repeated listening. The programme is completed by ‘Switch, a wildly energetic, one might almost say hyperactive, percussion concerto, written by Los Angeles based Andrew Norman (born 1979) and performed here with the utmost virtuosity by Colin Currie. Of the work Norman has written: “Cast as a single movement, Switch takes off where my orchestral cycle Play left off in exploring non-linear narrative structures and video game logic. The percussionist’s many instruments act as triggers, turning other players on and off, making them play forward and backward, and causing them to jump to entirely different musical worlds.” With an uninterrupted span of 28’34” it is the longest piece on the disc and it seems so. The music’s unrelenting drive, interspersed with occasional calm passages, is at first invigorating, but quickly becomes quite exhausting even for the receptive listener. One is left wishing that Colin Currie and the Utah Symphony’s dazzling and definitive account of this theatrical piece had been given a video dimension to clarify the darting interactions between soloist and orchestra and allow the eyes to reduce some of the strain on the ears. I accept, however, that others might not share this view. As is to be expected from this audiophile label, the sound quality on this 5.1 channel SACD (recorded and post produced in 64fs DSD)is awesome. The wide dynamic range of the recording allows both the subtlest string pianissimos and the loudest percussive climaxes to be reproduced with equal fidelity – every instrument clearly identified within a soundstage that possesses convincing width and depth. Though recorded live (February, November and December 2015) at concerts in the Maurice Abravanel Hall, Salt Lake City, the reliable team of Dirk Sobotka. John Newton and Mark Donahue from Soundmirror, Boston, have ensured no audience noise is audible and applause has also been excised. Exemplary notes on these compositions written by their respective composers complete this stimulating release.

MASON BATES: ORCHESTRAL WORKS, San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas/San Francisco Symphony/SFS SACD 0065  The name of composer Mason Bates, though possibly familiar to those living in the United States, is unlikely to be as well known to those in other parts of the world, but this is something that may well change with the release of this stunning SACD of his music from Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony. Mason Bates is a 39 year old classically trained (at Juilliard and Berkeley) composer with a considerable body of work in many genres including concertos, large scale orchestral works and shorter ones that he calls ‘openers’. Bates is just completing his duties as one of two composers-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who have already released a CD recording of ‘Alternative Energy’, one of the three works on this disc, though unlike the one heard here it is not released in high resolution sound. He now begins a three-year residency at the Kennedy Center as their first composer-in-residence and is currently writing an opera about the late inventor and IT genius Steve Jobs. What, however, distinguishes him from many other contemporary composers is his parallel career as a DJ in dance clubs both in Europe and the United States. This has led him to extend the range and possibilities of the modern symphony orchestra through a fusion with electronic dance music. The predictably exciting results can be heard on this SACD. It is worth mentioning at this point that Bates’s music is tuneful, rhythmically inventive and totally accessible which is one reason why its reception with audiences has been overwhelmingly positive. It is up to others to speculate on what will be the shelf-life of these populist works and the composer’s future direction, but his talent is undeniable. Bates describes the three pieces on this disc as ‘symphonies’ but they are really only symphonic if the earliest definition of the word as “sounding together” is applied. Each is really a suite whose movements are linked thematically by a clear extra-musical narrative. All three works require large orchestral forces plus electronica of different types. ‘The B-Sides’ and ‘Liquid Interface’ were recorded in January 8-18, 2014 whilst ‘Alternative Energy’ was recorded later the same year (September 10-13).’The B-Sides’ was commissioned and premiered by the SF Symphony in 2009 and is dedicated to Michael Tilson Thomas. It is a response to the conductor’s suggestion that the composer should write a collection of five pieces focusing on texture and sonority in the manner of Schoenberg’s ‘Five Pieces for Orchestra’. The musical imagery here is wide ranging; travelling from the ravishingly impressionistic textures heard at the start of ‘Broom of the System’ through ‘Gemini in the Solar Wind’ (that incorporates clips of actual conversations between NASA and the astronaut Ed White) and ending with the pulsating low frequency energy of ‘Warehouse Medicine’ that re-imagines the Detroit dance scene parties of the 1990s. In ‘Liquid Interface’ (2007) the music seems more focussed. Its subject is the various manifestations and states of water. ‘Glaciers Calving’ includes the sounds of fracturing glaciers in Antarctica while the dazzling ‘Scherzo Liquido’ bears witness to the alertness and virtuosity of the SFS musicians throughout these performances. The work’s final section is a tranquil evocation of spring at Wannsee, the lake on the outskirts of Berlin where Mason Bates once lived. ‘Alternative Energy’ (2011) is the most recent work on this disc and the most ambitious. In addition to large orchestral forces it requires a laptop, 6 speakers placed around the orchestra, and some onstage monitors. Bates calls it an “energy symphony”, and it takes us on a journey from Henry Ford’s Farm in 1896, depicted by metallic mechanical sounds and a folksy violin solo, to ‘Chicago, 2012’ a movement that makes spectacular use of the SACD’s surround sound capability and includes actual recordings from the FermiLab particle accelerator. Another leap forward in time and we reach ‘Xinjiang Province 2112’ a futuristic depiction of an industrial complex – its Chinese location indicated by some pentatonic melodic phrases – before the music erupts into a driving techno beat of unrelenting energy.  The final movement ‘Reykjavik, 2222’ suggests a strange post-apocalyptic landscape punctuated by electronic bird cries. Towards the end the violin solo from the start of the work re-appears to possibly suggest a return to a simpler way of life. Needless to say the orchestra under the direction of MTT play with tremendous concentration and enthusiasm in all three works. As with all SFS Media releases the production values could not be higher. Producer Jack Vad and his engineering team have created a magnificently vivid recording (PCM 192kHz/24-bit) in the Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco that, especially when heard in multi-channel sound, does full justice to Bates’s kaleidoscopic orchestral palette. The dynamic range is huge and everything from the soft whispers of string chords to room-shaking electronic pulses is reproduced with astonishing clarity in a realistic concert hall acoustic. Though these are live recordings there is no trace of audience noise and, unlike some other SFS Media issues, applause has been excised.
In short we have here 71 minutes of exuberant music from the fertile imagination of a talented composer, performed with style and flair and recorded in state-of-the-art sound – what’s not to like?

VIVALDI: BASOON CONCERTOS, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Gustavo Núñez/PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186539  With the exception of the violin, Vivaldi composed more concertos for the bassoon than any other instrument – a total of 39 if two incomplete works are included – yet little is known about for whom they were written. But it is generally believed that Vivaldi composed these concertos in the1720s and 30s and that the pupils of the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, where he was the ‘maestro dei concerti’, were probably the recipients since their reputation as accomplished instrumentalists is well documented. On this impeccably recorded release from PENTATONE six of these concertos are performed by Gustavo Núñez who since 1995 has been principal bassoonist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and is widely regarded as one of the leading bassoonists of his generation. Núñez performs these works on a modern instrument whose attractive tone enhances the stunning virtuosity displayed by him throughout this disc. The technical demands of these concertos, that include wide ranging leaps, arpeggios and fast scales, are met with ease by this consummate performer, while the flawless cantabile that Núñez displays in the expressive slow movements is especially appealing. Such is the variety and inventiveness of these compositions that one can happily listen to all six of Núñez’s superlative performances of them in one session without any trace of boredom ever creeping in. Núñez is partnered by the twenty one strong Academy of St. Martin in the Fields directed by Tomo Keller. Their crisp and alert accompaniment is always attentive to the soloist, and though these works are performed on modern instruments they do include elements of period style such as minimum vibrato and tasteful contributions from the four continuo players (Stephen Orton – cello, Lynda Houghton – double bass, Lynda Sayce – Theorbo and John Constable – harpsichord). The exuberance of the ASMF playing in all six concertos is bracing – the opening ritornello of the Bassoon Concerto in A Minor RV 497 (tr.14) being a prime example of the unanimity and fire of their attack. The recordings were made in April 2015 in St. John’s Smith Square, London – a venue long renowned for its fine acoustics. The Polyhymnia team’s microphones have captured just the right amount of the church’s ambience in their beautifully balanced 5.0 DSD multichannel recording to allow clarity of the instrumental lines while at the same time retaining the vividness and warmth of the overall sound picture. In all respects Vivaldi’s genius is well served by these spirited performances presented in immaculately recorded sound. Highly recommended.

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BeethovenBEETHOVEN: COMPLETE VIOLIN SONATAS, Tasmin Little (Violin) / Martin Roscoe (Piano) CHANDOS (3) There have been several distinguished integral sets of the Beethoven violin sonatas over the years, but Tasmin Little’s project is distinguished by an unforced authority which (combined with her innate musicality) have produced a very competitive issue. What’s more, the contribution by the pianist Martin Roscoe represents a genuine collaborative agenda on the part of the artists here; these are not violin sonatas with piano accompaniment but a perfectly balanced musical marriage in which the two partners operate on almost symbiotic level with immensely pleasing results, complementing her complete set of Schubert’s violin sonatas with Piers Lane [CHAN 10850(2)]. In all, Beethoven wrote ten sonatas for piano and violin, and seems not to have entertained ideas for other works in this genre. All but one may be regarded as early works: only Op. 96, in G major, which was composed almost a decade after the last of the other nine, does not fall into this category. As a group, then, the violin sonatas do not offer a conspectus of Beethoven’s stylistic development such as we find in the string quartets, piano sonatas, symphonies, and even cello sonatas. But each work is a masterpiece in its own right, original, full of vitality, idiomatic for both the pianist and violinist who are equal-ranking participants in the ensemble, and executed with consummate compositional skill.

SCHUBERT ARR. MAHLER: DEATH AND THE MAIDEN; SHOSTAKOVICH ARR. BARSHAI: CHAMBER SYMPHONY IN C MINOR, LSO String Ensemble Roman Simovi/LSO Live SACD LSO 0786 While long celebrated for its remarkable brass section, the London Symphony Orchestra is rightly proud of its world-class string players, so it should come as no surprise that this coupling of two transcriptions for string orchestra of string quartets should be so accomplished. But in terms of these pieces, times have changed: there is now such a wide choice of recordings of these transcriptions – once rarities in the recorded repertoire – that it’s possible to pick and choose. And it is in that panoply of choice that the reviewer is presented with something of a quandary. Mahler’s arrangement of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden has rarely been given such a muscular and emotional reading as it receives here, with the rich LSO string sound captured with fidelity in a forceful surround sound recording. But while the accompanying Shostakovich transcription is certainly estimable, there are now more dynamic readings available, such as that of Hradils on Praga Digitals SACD, which — while slower than the LSO set — finds more drama and impact in the music. Nevertheless, the new LSO Live disc is a tempting proposition if you’re attracted to this particular coupling.

BACH: VIOLIN CONCERTOS, Dunedin Consort, Cecilia Bernardini, John Butt/LINN SACD CKD519 No-one could claim that Bach’s imperishable violin concertos (in their various permutations) have enjoyed generous representation on disc, but this is a notably competitive issue, with the kind of bracing approach to authenticity that is now (uncontroversially) the norm. What would a violinist of David Oistrakh’s generation make of this? They would no doubt relish the impeccable playing, laced with appropriate gusto and finessed by John Butt’s customary fastidious attention to detail. A winner.

DVORAK: OVERTURES, Prague Philharmonia, Jakub Hrůša/PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 532 Those collecting the Dvorak overtures in the SACD medium have been obliged to adopt a piecemeal approach in recent years, sometimes buying not particularly distinguished versions of one of the Dvorak symphonies in order to obtain a surround sound recording of one of the overtures (it has to be admitted that the SACD medium has this acquisitive effect on its consumers); but now (courtesy of PENTATONE), we’re presented with a particular coupling which is unique to the medium, and even if there are perhaps more vibrant performances of some of the pieces here, this makes the disc rather cherishable – particularly with the glowing sound according to the orchestra by the engineers. For a large part, thanks to the effort of Johannes Brahms, who introduced him to his publisher Simrock, Czech composer Antonín Dvořák developed into a composer with an international reputation. Don’t we all know his Slavonic Dances, his Symphonies or his chamber music, such as the Dumky Trio or the American string quartet? This album reveals some of the more hidden treasures of Dvořák’s repertoire, namely his overtures, of which he wrote no less than thirteen. In the booklet to the album they are described as follows: All five overtures on this recording are richly and vividly scored, employing palettes of instruments broader on average than those found in Dvořák’s mature symphonies and sometimes calling for special effects. For their orchestral colour but also their rich expression of poetic content, as well as their purely musical invention and structural mastery, these overtures constitute gems of special brilliance in the treasury of Dvořák’s compositional bequest. The PKF – Prague Philharmonia recorded this album in January 2015 at the Forum Karlin in Prague under the baton of their 2009-2015 Music Director and Chief Conductor Jakub Hrůša.

WEINBERG: ORCHESTRAL MUSIC, VOLUME TWO: SIX BALLET SCENES, OP. 113; SYMPHONY NO. 22, OP. 154, Siberian Symphony Orchestra, Dmitry Vasilyev/TOCCATA TOCC0313 At the accelerating rate at which the music of Weinberg is being issued on disc, it’s only a matter of time before his formidable corpus of symphonies is fully available. This recording pairs a mature orchestral work, the Six Ballet Scenes, Op. 113 (1973), to which Weinberg gave the subtitle ‘Choreographic Symphony’, with the last symphony he composed, No. 22, leaving it in a piano score which has been orchestrated by Kirill Umansky. Performances are serviceable.

MARTINŮ: SUITES NOS 1 AND 2 FROM ŠPALÍČEK, RHAPSODY-CONCERTO FOR VIOLA AND ORCHESTRA*, Mikhail Zemtsov (Viola)* / Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi/CHANDOS CHAN 10885 A personal note here. As someone who has been collecting Martinu’s uneven but fascinating body of work over the years, there has been one holy grail, Špalíček, previously only available in a Supraphon performance with scrawny mono sound. But now we can finally hear the piece with all the nuances of orchestration that were previously only hinted at. This album with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and its artistic director, Neeme Järvi, features two mature works by Martinů, recorded in the splendid acoustic of the Estonia Concert Hall in Tallinn. One of the most wide-ranging composers of music for the stage, Martinů was also enthusiastic about the theatrical possibilities of including new media in his operas. Špalíček in many ways belongs to this experimental tendency. Although it was published and billed at its first performance as a ballet, it might best be described as an opera-ballet, as alongside the many dances there are extensive roles for chorus as well as tenor, soprano, and bass soloists. Martinů described the work on his manuscript as deriving from folk games, customs, and fairytales. The lyrical Rhapsody-Concerto was written in 1952, at a time when Martinů was fighting homesickness and depression, worsened by the political situation in his native Czechoslovakia. The work is a marked move toward a more romantic sound world. The soloist here is Mikhail Zemtsov, principal violist of the Reside ntie Orchestra The Hague since 2001 and a prize winner at the first International Viola Competition (Vienna) and the Elisa Meyer String Competition (Hamburg). The exploration by Järvi and the ENSO of hidden gems from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries has proved highly successful, their recent recording of works by Suchoň (CHAN 10849) awarded the Choc de Classica

SHOSTAKOVICH, ARR. BARSHAI: CHAMBER SYMPHONIES OP. 73A & 83A AND EAST EUROPEAN FOLK TUNES, The re:orchestra, Roberto Beltrán-Zavala BIS 2227 There was a time when recordings of the Barshai transcriptions for string orchestra of the Shostakovich quartets were few and far between, but lately, they are finding their way onto disc in bountiful profusion, as this latest disc demonstrates (and see above). If the present set is not quite the most persuasive available of these pieces, it remains highly competitive with string playing of considerable distinction. The two ‘Chamber Symphonies’ recorded here are in fact Shostakovich’s Third and Fourth String Quartets, Opp. 73 and 83, and were composed in 1946 and 1949 respectively, during the aftermath of World War II and the onset of Stalin’s terror. The disc is part of a project called ‘Essential Music’ initiated by the re:orchestra, a young and vibrant ensemble based in Rotterdam. Together with artistic director, the Mexican-Dutch conductor Roberto Beltrán-Zavala, the ensemble regularly undertakes multidisciplinary projects. Less successfully on the present disc Vasile Nedea has arranged a Russian klezmer dance, a group of folk melodies from Transylvania and Muntenia, and two Romanian dances: Turceasca and Hora de la Goicea. (Also note also a commendable rival set: SHOSTAKOVICH: CHAMBER SYMPHONIES IN C MAJOR, OP. 49A ‘EINE KLEINE SYMPHONIE’ IN C MINOR, OP. 110A IN D MAJOR, OP. 83A ARRANGED BY RUDOLF BARSHAI, Kiev Soloists, Dmitry Yablonsky, Naxos 8.573466)

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: FAIR CHILD OF BEAUTY, THE BRIDAL DAY; EPITHALAMION, John Hopkins, Philip Smith, Joyful Company of Singers, Britten Sinfonia, Alan Tongue, ALBION ALBCD025/026 As a listener who is content to have almost every note that Vaughan Williams wrote on my shelves (some juvenilia of the composer’s apart), I was certainly tempted by this latest issue from Albion Records, specialists in more arcane RVW. The lesser-known pieces by the composer, it has to be said, are hardly essential fare for any but hard-core Vaughan Williams enthusiasts, but the more adventurous should certainly give them a listen – provided, that is, they can accommodate the rather pedestrian spoken part included here, which very quickly outstays its welcome. The programme of works by Ralph Vaughan Williams comprises the Fair Child of Beauty, The Bridal Day, and Epithalamion. These performances are given by John Hopkins (speaker), baritone Philip Smith, the Joyful Company of Singers, the Britten Sinfonia, under the direction of Alan Tongue.

RESPIGHI: ANTICHE DANZE ED ARIE, SUITES 1-3; SUITE ‘GLI UCCELLI’, Muenchner Rundfunkorchester, Henry Raudales CPO 777233-2  Approaches to these pieces have varied over the years, but this new set, which combines the full orchestration Respighi accorded the pieces with a more crisply articulated period approach than the pieces customarily receive. This makes for a very tempting disc Ottorino Respighi’s Antiche danze ed arie, free arrangements of arias and dances from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, enables listeners to rediscover forgotten rhythms and tones. These works are complemented by his Gli Uccelli (‘The Birds’) suite.

NIELSEN; CHORAL WORKS, Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Danish National Concert Choir, Danish National Girls’ Choir, Danish National Junior Choir, Danish National Children’s Choir, Michael Schønwandt, Phillip Faber, Susanne Wendt DA CAPO 8226112 The slightly monochromatic sound world provided by these pieces renders it more suitable for the Nielsen enthusiast than the general listener, but it’s hard to imagine that pieces given more persuasive advocacy. Carl Nielsen’s prolific output of around 300 songs come in many forms. In this collection we hear 25 choral versions of the most popular Nielsen songs, such as Den danske sang er en ung, blond pige as well as more rarely heard or unknown choral works.

FRANCIS CHAGRIN: SYMPHONIES NOS. 1 AND 2, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins,/Naxos 8.571371 Naxos continues its enterprising excavation of neglected composers with this intriguing new disc. If Chagrin does not turn out to be a hidden treasure, there are still rewards here. Francis Chagrin described himself as ‘Romanian by birth, British by nationality and cosmopolitan by inclination’. A student of Paul Dukas and Nadia Boulanger, Chagrin wrote prolifically for films but composed for most genres. The two symphonies are among his most important orchestral works. Both are dramatic, even passionate—not least in the beautiful slow movements—and full of contrasts, both within and between movements. Undeservedly neglected, they reveal Chagrin’s mastery of form and colour.

LEO WEINER: CSONGOR AND TÜNDE, OP. 10 (1959 VERSION)*, BALLAD FOR CLARINET AND ORCHESTRA, OP. 28**(VERSION FOR VIOLA AND ORCHESTRA), Máté Szűcs, Viola**, Jubilate Girls Choir* • Ferenc Sapszon Jr., Chorus-master*, Budapest Symphony Orchestra MÁV, Valéria Csányi NAXOS If you have a taste for colourful orchestral there in a vaguely Bartok/Kodaly idiom, look no further. Leo Weiner is not the equal of his more famous countryman, but has much to offer. For over half a century at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, Leo Weiner taught successive generations of Hungary’s leading musicians, and won his country’s highest awards. As a composer his career was comet-like in its early brilliance and his music marked by an imaginative use of colour, masterful instrumentation and lyrical emotion. He regarded Csongor and Tünde as his magnum opus and its incidental music was later to take independent form as a ballet, heard here in its final 1959 version. The impressionistic Ballad, Op. 28 for viola and orchestra derives from an earlier work for clarinet and piano.

BRUCKNER: QUINTET & QUARTET, FITZWILLIAM STRING QUARTET, Linn CKD402  Bruckner enthusiasts will be pleased to investigate this recording of his chamber music, particularly given that a new approach is taken to the music. This is the first recording to use gut strings (a special set from Dan Larsen in Minnesota was obtained specially for this recording) and original instruments at the correct pitch for the time. Having first tackled the Bruckner Quintet nearly forty years ago , the Fitzwilliam’s starting point was achieving the famous ‘Bruckner Sound’ as well as considering tempo, bow strokes, use of vibrato and portamento in the performance. With many great moments (such as the Adagio) the Quintet is guaranteed an exalted place in the hierarchy of chamber masterworks.

GRANADOS: ORCHESTRAL WORKS #1, Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, Pablo González/Naxos 8.573263 Many classical listeners will be familiar with Granados’ piano and guitar music, but it transpires that there is a wealth of orchestral music to be rediscovered – of which this disc is the very tempting first instalment. Although he is best known as the composer of some of the greatest masterpieces of Spanish piano music, the composer also wrote a much less well-known sequence of orchestral music. The cinematic Marcha de los vencidos evokes the painful trudging of ‘the defeated’ in an unspecified battle, while the incidental music for the play Torrijos demonstrates Granados’s talent for lyrical writing and his love of the stage. These works are performed by the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra under Pablo González he internationally renowned Wihan Quartet continue with their exploration of Czech repertoire for string quartet, released through their arrangement with Nimbus Alliance Records.

ERLAND VON KOCH: SYMPHONY NO. 3, OP. 38; SINFONIA SERIA, OP. 51; IMPULSI; NORDISKT CAPRICCIO, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Per Hammarström/BIS2169 This is a particular find. Erland Von Koch was a composer with a very individual grasp of orchestral colour and an unusually fragmentary (yet dynamic) approach to symphonic form that looks forwards rather than backwards. One of von Koch’s orchestral works that has maintained a tenuous hold on the repertoire is Nordiskt capriccio, which was inspired by a folk tune from Dalecarlia, and which forms the festive finale on the present disc. The compositions which precede it are less well known. They include Impulsi (the first part of a triptych later completed with the works Echi and Ritmi) whilst the two symphonies 3 and 4 appear for the first time on disc. In Symphony No. 3, influences from Bartók and Hindemith can be detected; composed in 1948, it is a work which in its thematic material contrasts defiance with lyricism and, finally, a feeling of release. Sinfonia seria, von Koch’s fourth work in the genre, followed a few years later, undergoing a final revision in 1962. As indicated by the title, the underlying mood of the work is grave and bittersweet.

DVOŘÁK: STRING QUARTET NO. 13 IN G MAJOR, B. 192 (OP.106); SUK: MEDITATION ON THE OLD CZECH CHORALE “ST. WENCESLAS” OP. 35; JANÁČEK: STRING QUARTET NO. 1, “KREUTZER SONATA”, Wihan Quartet / Nimbus Alliance NI 6322NI6322 Dvořák’s chamber music is well served on disc, as is the first Janáček quartet, but this is nevertheless a persuasively played coupling with a lesser-known piece by Suk as icing on the cake. Dvořák composed his opus 106 quartet in 1895 on his return to Prague after a three-year tenure as director of the National Conservatory in New York – this was a work that he completed prior to the final revision of his Op.34/Op.105 quartet. All are given readings here of clarity and colour, though there are more incisive performances of Janáček’s Kreutzer Quartet.

ATTERBERG: ORCHESTRAL WORKS, VOL. 4: SYMPHONY NO. 3, OP.10 VÄSTKUSTBILDER / THREE NOCTURNES, OP. 35BIS / VITTORIOSO, OP. 58 Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra / Neeme Järvi/ CHAN 10894 Those collecting the new Atterberg sequence from Chandos will be purchasing this (and so they should – it’s splendid), but one nagging reservation must be expressed: earlier issues in this sequence had gloriously glowing surround sound of the kind that Chandos specialises in, so why has the company opted in this instance for two-channel stereo sound? It seems a very curious decision. The warm and tuneful music of Atterberg – one of Sweden’s leading composers in the twentieth century – meets the idiomatic spirit and commitment of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Neeme Järvi, for volume four in this series. The third of his nine symphonies, featured here, is a set of three ‘West Coast Pictures’. These contrasted movements (‘Summer Haze’, ‘Storm’, and ‘Summer Night’) were inspired by the atmosphere and landscape of the archipelago on the Swedish west coast and written between 1914 and 1916. It achieved great popularity abroad and was in Germany even considered as among the finest symphonic works written so far that century. The Three Nocturnes are orchestral movements which Atterberg extracted from Fanal (The Beacon), his highly praised third opera, which received thirty performances between its premiere in 1934 and 1957 and is nowadays his most appreciated stage work. Vittorioso was originally composed as the fourth movement of the Seventh Symphony (Sinfonia romantica) and, like the Three Nocturnes, shares its themes with the opera Fanal; the coupling gives a taste of Volume 5, due for release next year.

ENGLISH HARPSICHORD WORKS, MMC112  Henry Purcell: Suite 5 in Henry Purcell: Suite 5 in C; Ground in C minor; William Byrd: The Carman’s Whistle; Henry Purcell: Prelude in A minor; John Blow: Suite in A minor; William Byrd: Hughe Ashton’s Grownde; Henry Purcell: Suite 3 in G; Chaconne in G minor; William Byrd: The Mayden’s Songe; William Croft: Suite 10 in E minor; Henry Purcell: A New Ground; William Byrd: Will Yow Walke the Woodes Soe Wylde; Henry Purcell: Suite 6 in D; John Blow: Ground in D minor; William Byrd: All in a Garden Greene, David Pollock, harpsichord/Music & Media Although this is music for the cognoscenti rather than the general listener, those prepared to accommodate themselves to the more restrictive aural palate here will find many rewards. Since “Parthenia” (1612/13), ‘the first musicke that ever was printed for the virginalls’, as its own title-page declares, a devotee had ready access to high-quality English harpsichord music. A steady stream of publications followed as the century progressed. At first the trend was to issue books containing music by various composers. Later, volumes dedicated to single composers appeared of which the earliest were the Choice Collection[s] by Purcell (1696) and Blow (1698). Aside from miscellaneous pieces, often arrangements of ‘ayres’ and ‘theatre tunes’, the Suite was the principal form, with its standard sequence of alman, coranto and saraband, often introduced by a prelude. Pollock’s aim with this CD was to offer a personal anthology of English harpsichord music

RUSSIAN DANCES: TCHAIKOVSKY SUITE FROM SWAN LAKE/GLAZUNOV TWO CONCERT WALTZES/SHOSTAKOVICH THE GOLDEN AGE/STRAVINSKY CIRCUS POLKA, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Kazuki Yamada/PENTATONE SACD PTC5186557 This is an enjoyable collection of bonbons delivered in the kind of splendid multichannel sound that listeners know is a PENTATONE speciality. Recorded at Victoria Hall in Geneva, Switzerland in July 2015, this album is another result of the fruitful relationship developed between the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and PENTATONE over the last decade. At this occasion the OSR is conducted by Japanese conductor Kazuki Yamada, who was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the orchestra in 2012 after a very successful European debut with them in 2010. Kazuki Yamada equally holds the position of Principal Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Conductor and Artistic Director Designate of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo and he regularly appears as guest conductor with many other leading orchestras, gleaning critical acclaim.

 

 

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GOLDSMITH: THE BLUE MAX AND OTHER SCORES/EPIC HOLLYWOOD: THE MUSIC OF MIKLOS RÓZSA, City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus/Nic Raine/Tadlow 020 & Tadlow 021 Thankfully, distant are the days when recordings of large-scale orchestral film scores were at the mercy of record companies whose intermittent issues barely did service to music — and what was issued sometimes ran to little more than half an hour, such were the limitations of the long-playing record (not to mention the parsimoniousness of record companies). But now the music of Hollywood is something of a new golden age — at least when the company involved is the ambitious Tadlow Music, under the purview of producer James Fitzpatrick. This ambitious company has lovingly represented the scores of such composers as Bernard Herrmann, lovingly reproduced in vivid sound. These two latest issues continue the exemplary work of the company, and are also salutary reminders that with the exception of modern talents such as Michael Giacchino, there are very few current composers who can rival the two remarkable musicians recorded here, Jerry Goldsmith and Miklos Rózsa. Those who admire the work of Goldsmith tend to be of the view that the composer’s magnum opus was The Blue Max, here recording in its totality with a dynamic sound picture that does full justice to the composer’s tonal palette (although Goldsmith himself claimed to be an aficionado of Alban Berg, the templates for this WWII drama are the tone poems of Richard Strauss); other scores on this generous two-disc set include the composer’s superb music for such films as The Sand Pebbles and The Chairman. The Miklos Rózsa two-disc set is another winner. Despite splendid efforts from such contemporary rivals as Dimitri Tiomkin, Rózsa’s Hungarian-influenced scores were the definitive musical incarnations of the Hollywood epic, and the concert we are presented with here includes much of Rózsa’s best work in that vein, from the exhilarating overture to El Cid to his groundbreaking score for the massive Ben Hur. Apart from the generous playing times of these discs, the icing on the cake is the sheer panache of the orchestral playing by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under the ever-reliable Nic Raine, the conductor who, more than any other contemporary musician, has the full measure of these scores. If you possess the original soundtrack recordings of much of this music, you may not find yourself parting with these, even though Raine and his musicians give the originals more than a run for their money. But those seeking modern recordings of these dramatic, colourful scores need not hesitate, even though the astonishing surround sound (on Blu-Ray audio) of Tadlow’s recent Bernard Hermann ‘Obsession’ disc has been abandoned for ordinary stereo sound.

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RESPIGHI: ANTICHE DANZE ED ARIE PER LIUTO; GLI UCCELLI, Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Henry Raudales/CPO 777 233-2 Henry Raudales, the conductor on this new disc of Respighi’s three suites of ‘Ancient Airs and Dances’ is best known as an exceptionally fine violin soloist, but since 2001 he has been the Concertmaster of the Munich Radio Orchestra which he here directs in vivid performances of Respighi’s delightful homage to the music of often long forgotten Italian and French composers from the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries. For much of his life Respighi had a keen interest in the Renaissance and Baroque music of his homeland and he edited for publication many works by, among others, Monteverdi and Frescobaldi at a time when their music was not well known. His discovery of collections of lute and keyboard pieces made by the Italian musicologist Oscar Chilesotti inspired the composition of the three suites of ‘Antiche Danze ed Arie’ or as they are usually called ‘Ancient Airs and Dances’ heard here. As one might expect from this master of orchestration these arrangements are full of ear-tickling sonorities and piquant orchestral colour that, though sounding undeniably sumptuous and romantically expressive, retain the charm and spirit of the original pieces. This is only the second recording of these suites to appear on multichannel SACD so it is particularly welcome. Those who know and enjoy these engaging compositions will probably be familiar with the first stereo recording of them from Antal Dorati and the Philharmonia Hungarica, a Mercury Living Presence recording made some 57 years ago still available on SACD – if you can find it at a sensible price – and sounding pretty remarkable for its age. Stereo only listeners will also find the 1979 recording by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra also to be very recommendable. Perhaps the one unusual feature of this superbly recorded new version is that Raudales has brought some elements of current period practice to bear in his accounts of these suites (especially the third for strings only). Tempi, as one might expect, are very lively with crisp articulation, but the minimal string vibrato and occasionally choppy phrasing Raudales elicits from his players may for some listeners be considered unnecessary and perhaps a step too far in the interpretations of arrangements written between 1917 and 1932. That said, Raudales performances do bring an undeniable exuberance and bracing freshness to these enchanting pieces. The companion work on this disc is Respighi’s popular suite ‘Gli Uccelli’ (The Birds) and somewhat surprisingly the only other version of it available in multi-channel SACD is also to be found on the CPO label, though differently coupled. There is no doubt that both in terms of performance and recorded sound this new one is superior. The playing here has more verve and character than that from Marzio Conti and his Palermo Orchestra and the sound is more spacious. The CPO multi-channel recording, a co-production with Bayerischer Rundfunk made in their Munich Studio 1, is gorgeous – clean, transparent and possessing a pleasing ambience that enhances the playing of the many fine soloists in the Munich Radio Orchestra. This is an excellent addition to the catalogue of Respighi’s music on SACD and those seeking especially characterful accounts of these works in the finest modern sound need look no further.

COPLAND: SUITES FROM BILLY THE KID & APPALACHIAN SPRING; FOUR DANCE EPISODES FROM RODEO; FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN; EL SALÓN MÉXICO, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, John Wilson/CHANDOS CHSA 5164 SACD Hard on the heels of a recent Copland collection by Andrew Litton and the Colorado Symphony comes another recommendable one from John Wilson and the BBC Philharmonic, the first volume of a projected series of Copland orchestral works for Chandos. The programmes offered by Litton and Wilson are similar but not identical – ‘El Salón México’ being the single work common to both discs. The opening item on this SACD is Wilson’s imposing account of the celebrated ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ for brass and percussion. This was one of eighteen fanfares from various composers commissioned in 1942 by Eugene Goosens and the Cincinnati Symphony as, to quote Goosens, “…stirring and significant contributions to the war effort”. After the war Copland re-worked the piece and memorably incorporated it into the finale of his 3rd Symphony. Wilson’s delivery of the Fanfare is more measured than many performances on disc, but by adhering to the composer’s tempo marking ‘very deliberate’ the grandeur and nobility of the piece are allowed to emerge with striking effect. One can hardly fail to be impressed as the sounds of the incisive brass, bass drum and tam-tam strokes resonate thrillingly round the recording venue. The remaining four works on the disc do bring them into direct competition with the definitive Bernstein recording which for many remain hors concours in spite of its age. Wilson, however, brings the flair and panache familiar from his many performances of music from the stage and screen to these ever popular American classics with equal success. Thanks to his subtle use of rubato and the scintillating playing from individual members of the BBC Philharmonic, Wilson captures the humour of El Salón México to perfection, while every detail of Copland’s brilliant orchestration is sharply etched in the fine Chandos recording. The same is true of the three ballet suites which surely match the best available on disc. Choose any fast section in these pieces and you will find terrific vitality and rhythmic buoyancy in the playing; the final Hoe-Down from ‘Rodeo’ being just one example. But Wilson is also capable of relaxed tenderness when required, as in the atmospheric Prairie Night section of the ‘Billy the Kid’ suite and similar episodes in much of ‘Appalachian Spring’. By any standard this is an impressive achievement. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first surround sound SACD (24-bit / 96 kHz) that the BBC Philharmonic have recorded in the orchestra’s home at MediaCityUK, Salford, and for that reason alone it will be warmly welcomed. As someone quite familiar with the clean and bright acoustic of this venue I can confirm that engineer Stephen Rinker has done a marvellous job in capturing just the right amount of ambience of the studio, something that considerably enhances one’s enjoyment of these fine performances. It is to be hoped that future releases from this versatile orchestra will appear in multi-channel SACD rather than just stereo CD. On both musical and sonic grounds, a warm recommendation is warranted for this release.

DVORAK: OVERTURES: Nature, Life and Love (Příroda, Život a Láska), My Home (Můj Domov), Hussite (Husitská), Prague Philharmonia, Jakub Hrůša/PENTATONE PTC 5186532 The distinctive contribution from Jakub Hrůša and the PKF Prague Philharmonia to Johannes Moser’s recent account of the Dvorak and Lalo Cello concertos for PENTATONE made a most favourable impression. On this beautifully recorded SACD the orchestra is given the opportunity to show its mettle in a most welcome collection of five Dvorak Overtures again directed by the charismatic Jakub Hrůša. These splendid works often appear as fill-ups to recordings of Dvorak Symphonies so it is good to hear them presented together rather than as mere adjuncts to longer pieces. The programme opens with the cycle of three concert overtures that Dvorak composed under the collective title of ‘Nature, Life and Love’. These first appeared in 1891 but later they were separated by the composer and assigned the titles by which they are best known today – ‘In Nature’s Realm’, ‘Carnival’ and ‘Othello’ – and given individual opus numbers (Op.91, 92 and 93). All three overtures are linked thematically by the main theme of ‘In Nature’s Realm’ that is used in various guises in the other two. They are full of Dvorak’s typical abundant melodic richness and charm as well as passages of drama and driving energy that often recall his popular Slavonic dances. With their use of Czech folk songs and melodies, the two earlier overtures on this disc, ‘My Home’ Op. 62 and ‘Hussite’ Op. 67 , typify Dvorak’s lifelong patriotism. ‘My Home’ is the overture to the incidental music Dvorak composed to accompany the play’ Josef Kajetán Tyl’ by Frantisek Ferdinand Å amberk that depicts the life of the dramatist of the play’s title. Dvorak’s work incorporates the melody of a popular song ‘Where is my home?’ written by the composer Frantisek Skroup and a text by Tyl that quickly became very popular among Czechs and was accepted as their unofficial national anthem at a time when they were seeking to establish their own identity within the confines of Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is a most attractive piece and orchestrated with the composer’ s usual mastery. The stirring ‘Hussite’ Overture of 1883 that completes this collection concerns the Czech religious reformer Jan Hus who was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1415. In this work Dvorak marvellously combines the battle hymn of the Hussite warriors ‘ Ye Warriors of God’ – familiar from the two final sections of Smetana’s ‘Ma Vlast’ – and the ‘St. Wenceslas Chorale’ , to build a thrilling composition that moves from a sombre opening chorale through the sounds of battle to reach a magnificent peroration that symbolises the reconciliation of the warring factions. There have been many fine recording of these works on disc amongst which those by István Kertész and Rafael Kubelik from the 1960s and 70s are especially recommendable, though in terms of sound quality neither can match the vividness of this excellent PENTATONE version recorded in 5.0 multi-channel DSD. Jakub Hrůša’s performances of all five works are splendidly vital, stylish and beautifully shaped. If, perhaps, they occasionally lack a little of the dynamism and impetuosity of the two conductors mentioned above, this is more than compensated for by the obvious affection for this music shown by the players and their conductor. The idiomatic woodwind timbre of the PKF Prague Philharmonia, so reminiscent of Czech orchestras of the past, entrances the ear throughout – delightfully enhancing the Bohemian character of this wonderful music – while the crisp percussion and trenchant brass add to the rhythmic buoyancy of Hrůša’s beguiling performances. The Polyhymnia team (Job Maarse, producer, Erdo Groot, balance engineer / editing and Roger de Schot, recording engineer) have captured a warm and spacious sound with a rounded ambience in the fine acoustic of the Forum Karlin in Prague making this authentic Dvorak programme one that can be unreservedly recommended.

MUSICA REALE, François Devienne: Quartets/ Channel Classics CC SSA 35415 I suspect that the name of François Devienne (1759-1803) will probably be as unfamiliar to most people as it was to me; unless, that is, they happen to be flautists or bassoonists. It was, therefore, a serendipitous discovery to find that the four works by this forgotten composer on this beautifully recorded SACD from Channel Classics were so instantly beguiling. Devienne was a gifted exponent of the flute and bassoon and, as well as a prolific composer, he was an eminent teacher at the Conservatoire de Paris in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His compositions included not only scores of pieces for diverse instrumental combinations, mostly involving wind instruments, but also a number of comic operas. Many details of his short life are quite vague – he died at the age of 43 in what was then the Charenton insane asylum near the centre of Paris, and having had the misfortune to be a French contemporary of Mozart, he quickly became a largely forgotten composer, though in the 1960s the distinguished flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal revived his flute concertos and recorded some of them for the Erato label. The Devienne Quartets featured on this disc are given under the auspices of ‘Musica Reale’. This is an initiative that is intended to celebrate the diversity of chamber music and bring it to a wider international audience through performances by the section principals plus other players from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in a variety of collaborations. The pair of Devienne’s Flute ‘Quartets for flute and string trio’ (Op.66 Nos. 1 and 3) on this SACD were composed around 1794 and, unsurprisingly, emulate in style those by Mozart that appeared some seventeen years earlier. It may be a truism to say that Devienne does not possess quite the boundless imagination of Mozart or the wit of Haydn, but then who does? Both Quartets demonstrate the elegance of Devienne’s writing not only for the flute soloist, who naturally is given a virtuoso part, but also the three string players. One could not imagine performances better than these given here by Kersten McCall, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s principal flute and his three colleagues ( Junko Naito, violin, Benedikt Enzler, cello, Saeko Oguma, viola (in No.1) and Frederik Boits. viola (in No. 2) whose lively and polished playing shows Devienne’s engaging works in the best possible light. The Bassoon Quartets (Op.73 Nos. 1 and 3) date from around 1800 and, if anything, are even more winning than those for the flute. Here the consummate bassoonist is Gustavo Núñez, widely acknowledged to be one of the finest players of his generation. He is ably supported by Anna de Veij, violin and, as in the flute quartets, by Frederik Boits, viola, and Bendikt Enzler, cello. Devienne’s writing is fluent and winningly melodic throughout, but especially in the graceful slow movements of both quartets, whilst anyone needing to be convinced of the desirability of this disc should try the cheerful final Rondo of the first Quartet (Tr. 9) – quite irresistible in the hands of these superb performers. It need hardly be stated that the lambent warmth of Channel’s 5.0 DSD recording, made in the mellow acoustic of the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Deventer, (Spring of 2014), is outstanding for its clarity, perfect instrumental balance and tonal realism. In every respect this disc is a gem and can be unequivocally recommended.

1615: GABRIELI IN VENICE, His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornetts, The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury/ Kings College KGS0012 SACD Back in 1987 Stephen Cleobury, the choir of King’s College, Cambridge and the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble made a best selling LP recording of the music of Giovanni Gabrieli for the Argo label entitled ‘The Glory of Venice’ that was eventually reissued on CD some twenty years later. Now they return to the music of the Venetian master with an impressive new recording in state-of-the-art-sound. ‘1615: Gabrieli in Venice’ is the title of the sixth release on the King’s College Choir’s own label. The earlier issues have been marked by their notably eclectic choice of composers, but each has shown to advantage the magnificent acoustic of the King’s College Chapel. On this new release marking the 400th anniversary of the first posthumous publication in 1615 of this collection of Gabrieli’s works, the choir of King’s College, Cambridge is joined by His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts directed by Jeremy West whose incisive brass playing, in addition to supporting the choir, does full justice to the three ‘Canzona’ that intersperse the vocal items. The varied selection of Venetian polychoral pieces taken from the ‘Symphoniae sacrae – liber secundus’ includes a new reconstruction of ‘Quem vidistis pastores’ by Hugh Keyte. Amongst the large-scale settings are the popular ‘In ecclesiis,’ that benefits not only from the firm singing of the choir but also that of the fine soloists, (treble Gabriel May, alto Patrick Dunachie and tenor Toby Ward tenor), and the ‘Magnificat'(a 14) for three choirs, one of Gabrieli’s many settings of this canticle. The diagram in the liner notes with this disc shows that the performers were arranged in two loosely semicircular groups with the Choir in two rows facing the brass group and balanced so the instrumental and voices are on equal terms. Stephen Cleobury directs and balances his forces with exemplary skill ensuring throughout that the solo voices are never overwhelmed by the brass and that the full splendour of the music is communicated to the listener. The package contains a multichannel hybrid SACD 5.1 and a Pure Audio Blu-ray disc that includes downloadable sound files and the ability to play the programme using the new Dolby Atmos surround sound technology which is said to be able to reproduce the acoustics of the chapel with unprecedented realism. Not having the appropriate decoder/amplification nor speaker arrangement to experience Dolby Atmos, I cannot vouch for this. I can, however, confirm that heard in 5.1 Dolby True HD on the Blu-ray disc, the sound is breathtaking in its ability to recreate the justly famous acoustic of the chapel in one’s listening room. The SACD disc is equally impressive but for one unfortunate problem. The rear left surround channel has virtually no output. Those listening to the SACD in surround should check this out as it is possibly a manufacturing fault. Authoritative notes by Iain Fenlon and full texts and translations are included in the accompanying 24-page booklet. The print, however, is so small that only those with 20/20 vision will be able to read them comfortably. In every way an inspiring release.

 

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RICHARD STRAUSS: DUETT-CONCERTINO FOR CLARINET, BASSOON, STRING ORCHESTRA & HARP; DER BÜRGER ALS EDELMANN OP. 60; SUITE FOR ORCHESTRA (1917) Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana, Markus Poschner/CPO 777990-2 There is a slightly more generous PENTATONE SACD of this particular coupling (but also including the Sextet from Strauss’ Capriccio) in which the performances are slightly more elegant and pointed. Nevertheless, for those not possessing the earlier disc, this is a winning performance, given just the right degree of Straussian élan (although it should also be noted that the SACD sound is inevitably more rounded chez PENTATONE than this disc, which is CD only) This is the first recording Markus Poschner has made with the orchestra. Along with the Suite Op. 60 with the incidental music to Der Bürger als Edelmann of 1917, Poschner conducts the Duet Concertino for Clarinet, Bassoon, and Strings penned by Strauss much later, in 1947, for the Lugano Orchestra and also premiered by him there. The historical bonus tracks include selections (Four Songs for Soprano and Orchestra by Strauss) from this concert conducted by the composer on 11 June 1947 (his birthday) as well as the concert address delivered by Bernhard Paumgartner on the same occasion.

JAN VAN DER ROOST: SPARTACUS, POÈME MONTAGNARD, SINFONIETTA ‘SUITO SKETCHES’, Philharmonic Winds OSAKAN, Jan Van der Roost, NAXOS 8573486 Let’s be frank – you are unlikely to have heard of this composer, and many of the listeners who would take a punt on new music on the affordable Naxos label are known to peruse the information on the rear of the jewel case as a guide to the kind of composer they will be sampling. The sleeve notes here hopefully invoke Respighi, apparently a favourite composer of Jan Van der Roost, and there is certainly an attempt on his part to channel the vigour and excitement of the Italian composer’s music. Van der Roost, however, is not Respighi, and the very distinctive character of his mentor’s work is not greatly in evidence, even though the accoutrements are to be found. Nevertheless, there is much here that is vigorous, and which may attract those who have collected every note of the earlier composer but are still hungry for more. Jan Van der Roost is represented here by three compositions that are very different in style and inspiration. His tone poem Spartacus is a homage to Respighi, whose sense of colour and imagination have long fascinated Van der Roost. The expressive ‘mountain poem’ Poème Montagnard depicts the wonderful natural scenery of the Aosta Valley and the Sinfonietta ‘Suito Sketches’ consists of four contrasting movements exploring the qualities and virtuosic possibilities of the modern wind orchestra. Based in Osaka Prefecture, Philharmonic. Winds OSAKAN is Japan’s first professional wind ensemble.

GINASTERA: ORCHESTRAL WORKS: Estancia* / Ollantay / Pampeana No. 3, Lucas Somoza Osterc (Baritone)* / BBC Philharmonic / Juanjo Mena/CHANDOS CHAN 10884 It’s something of a mystery why this music is not better known, as Ginastera’s scores bristle with the kind of colour and inventiveness that makes them very accessible indeed. It is in fact the kind of repertoire which the Chandos label specialises in their excavations of attractive 20th-century music such as this (although one might wonder why such music is not rendered here in the SACD format that the company is noted for). In their Spanish music series, the BBC Philharmonic and its chief conductor, Juanjo Mena, now explores the works of the Argentinean composer in three orchestral volumes. Not only acknowledged as a leading South-American composer of his day, Ginastera is also seen as one of the heroes of Latin-American music in general, whose enduring source of inspiration was Argentina itself: its pre-Columbian legacy on the one hand and the vast landscapes of the pampas on the other. Indeed, if Ollantay is inspired by the former, and more especially by a dramatic poem of Inca origin, Ginastera turned to the latter for the setting of his second ballet, Estancia, based on the life of the gauchos who work in those wide open spaces. The essential genre of music in this piece is the malambo, an exclusively masculine, competitive traditional dance, far from the seductive tangos of Ginastera’s now more famous compatriot and pupil Astor Piazzolla. While the landscape is the same in Pampeana No. 3, the music is more abstract and contrasted, marking the transition from what the composer called a compositional period of ‘objective nationalism’ to a ‘subjective one’.

CHOPIN: CHRONOLOGICAL CHOPIN: BALLADES; PRELUDES; SCHERZI AND OTHER WORKS, Burkard Schliessmann/ Divine Art SACD DDC25752 Earlier performances by this pianist on disc have been somewhat controversial, but this intelligently (and unusually) laid out Chopin program displays much of the sensitivity of earlier Chopin specialists such as Ashkenazy, captured here in a surround sound recording that registers every nuance of the piano. German pianist Burkard Schliessmann’s triple SACD set with state of the art sound and luxury packaging chronicles the works of Chopin in order, showing the composer’s development and is thus informative for scholars as well as being an impressive recital.

IVES: ORCHESTRAL WORKS, VOL. 2: Three Places in New England / A Symphony: New England Holidays / Central Park in the Dark / The Unanswered Question / Melbourne Symphony Orchestra / Sir Andrew Davis/CHANDOS SACD CHSA 5163 A personal declaration: at intervals (over several decades), I’ve listened to these pieces to try to unlock their strange secrets, and I’m still unsure as to whether or not I can respond to them. I was hoping that this new recital – recorded in the best possible SACD sound which is certainly streets ahead of any previous rivals in that respect — might firm up my commitment to these tone poems one way or the other. It hasn’t, but if you’re an Ives aficionado, there is no need to resist. In this second volume of a series, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and its chief conductor Sir Andrew Davis play some of the most characteristic pieces of Charles Ives, an insurance salesman by trade and one of the most precociously original of all American composers. Three Places in New England – composed between 1912 and 1916 and revised several times, as most of Ives’s pieces were – was one of Ives’s first major works to receive long overdue attention. It is performed here in its fully orchestrated version, as Ives conceived it at an early stage. The first movement, characteristically, features a superimposition of various thematic fragments of popular melodies accompanied by a simple march beat of timpani and lower strings. The album also features A Symphony: New England Holidays, its four constituent movements (marking national holidays) forming a chronological sequence of the seasons. They can perfectly well be performed in isolation however, which is why Ives chose not to include the work amongst his numbered symphonies. Central Park in the Dark and The Unanswered Question are shorter, companion pieces, the essential light-heartedness of the former pointedly contrasting with the more serious metaphysics of the latter

SIBELIUS, KAIPAINEN, TIENSUU: Different Voices – Kamus String Quartet/Alba Records Oy ABCD383 SACD An unusual programme, in which – inevitably — the Sibelius string quartet (poetically played here) is the principal selling point, with its shaded and elusive appeal brought closer to the surface than usual. ‘Different Voices’ is the latest CD by the Kamus Quartet, rapidly establishing a strong reputation. The quartet’s second disc well demonstrates Finland’s fine tradition of string quartet repertoire with some world premiere recordings.

SHOSTAKOVICH: The Two Violin Sonatas & Rare Chamber Works, Jeremy Menuhin/First Hand Records FHR37, Sasha Rozhdestvensky (violin) Jeremy Menuhin (piano) Ilona Domnich (soprano) Alexandra Sherman (mezzo-soprano) Sonata for Violin and Piano, Unfinished Sonata for Violin and Piano, Andantino from String Quartet No. 4, (arr. violin & piano by Dmitri Tsyganov), Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms 1 (arr. piano duet by Dmitri Shostakovich, c.1930) Braga: La Serenata – A Walachian Legend, (Andante con moto) 2 (transcrib. soprano, mezzo-soprano, violin & piano by Dmitri Shostakovich, 1972) Discovery Records Austere but fascinating repertoire, delivered with maximum conviction in acceptable (if slightly clouded) sound. It’s a disc that will undoubtedly attract admirers of Shostakovich, but given the dark sound world of much of the music, it might be best listened to in segments rather than as a complete programme.

BADINGS: SYMPHONIES NOS. 4 & 5, Bochumer Symphoniker, David Porcelijn/ CPO 777669-2 Anyone adventurous enough to listen to the music of the neglected composer Henk Badings will be well aware that he is worthy of further investigation. This recording of his fourth and fifth symphonies is quite as intriguing as earlier discs in the series, and the fifth in particular is something of a find. This new recording from CPO underlines the composer’s place as one of the great twentieth-century Dutch composers. In defiance of the war time landscape in which it was composed, his fourth symphony is imbued with a musical lightness and wit, and the fifth he wrote in 1949 as a commissioned work for the sixtieth anniversary of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Today this music will surprise the listener with its freshness and vitality.

BRAUNFELS: DON JUAN, SYMPHONIC VARIATIONS ON AN OLD FRENCH NURSERY SONG, OP. 15, Philharmonisches Orchester Altenburg-Gera, Markus L. Frank/ Capriccio C5250 Even his most devoted admirers would not complain that this is the most distinguished music by Walter Braunfels, but (with reservations), it is worthy of attention. The composer was once applauded as a pioneering representative of New Music, but this programme is in classic-romantic style. His 7-movement phantasmagoria Don Juan incorporates variations on themes and motifs from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The work was premièred in 1924, conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler.

SAINT-SAËNS: CELLO CONCERTOS AND OTHER WORKS: Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921): Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33* / Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 119* / The Carnival of the Animals†‡§ / Africa, Op. 89† / Caprice-Valse, Op. 76 ‘Wedding-cake’† / Truls Mørk | Cello* Louis Lortie (Piano)† / Hélène Mercier (Piano)‡ / Alasdair Malloy (Glass Harmonica)§ / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Neeme Järvi CHANDOS SACD CHSA 5162 A mixture of the familiar and the rare is the hallmark of this new recording by The Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Neeme Järvi. The cello concertos are not the composer’s best work, but will appeal to his admirers. Truls Mørk, this season’s Artist in Residence with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, is the soloist in the two contrasted cello concertos. His ‘seemingly flawless technical command’ is tested in the suave, expressive, famous No. 1 as well as in the many taxing solo passages, huge leaps, and double-stopping flourishes of No. 2.

SIERRA: SINFONÍA NO. 3 ‘LA SALSA’, BEYOND THE SILENCE OF SORROW*, BORIKÉN • EL BAILE, Martha Guth, Soprano*, Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, Maximiano Valdés NAXOS There is no shortage of orchestral colour and rhythmic verve to be found here; what is perhaps lacking is that final ounce of melodic distinction (evident in many South American composers). The rhythms enshrined in these four works provide further evidence of the art of internationally acclaimed Puerto Rican composer, Roberto Sierra. The award-winning Sinfonía No. 3 ‘La Salsa’ owes its inspiration to the music of the Spanish Caribbean and is a salsa of older and newer rhythms, intoxicatingly presented amidst revelry and dance. The instrumentally vivid Borikén is based on the baroque chaconne but with a Latin twist, while El Baile invokes traditional music in a wholly distinctive way. Beyond the Silence of Sorrow is a lyrical song cycle.

VICTOR YOUNG: THE UNINVITED, GULLIVER’S TRAVELS • BRIGHT LEAF, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, Moscow Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, William Stromberg/ NAXOS While such composers as Eric Wolfgang Korngold and Bernard Herrmann have achieved considerable posthumous recognition, their contemporary Victor Young, one of Hollywood’s busiest and most esteemed film composers, is known principally to the cognoscenti. This disc of attractive scores by Young may go some way to redressing the balance. His scores are very winning, and his piano concerto-style score for The Uninvited which produced the standard Stella by Starlight was pivotal to arguably the best Hollywood ghost story ever produced. The animated Gulliver’s Travels relied heavily for its charm and dramatic impact on Young’s wonderful orchestrations, while the tobacco dynasty drama Bright Leaf inspired one of his most restrained and thoughtful film scores.

UPHELD BY STILLNESS, Ora, Suzi Digby Harmonia Mundi The label Harmonia Mundi has made a specialty of unusual repertoire, and this collection focusing on the English composer William Byrd will appeal to lovers of the voice. The recording is particularly faithful in capturing every aspect of the individual strands of the music.

COPLAND: BILLY THE KID RODEO, ETC./BIS SACD 2164 With another Aaron Copland SACD disc imminent from Chandos covering very similar repertoire, it’s hard to say yet which company will best serve the American composer. Aficionados of Copland should be grateful for one fact: two separate recording companies are undertaking recordings of this exhilarating, idiomatic music in modern surround sound techniques. Until the Chandos appears, it’s safe to say that this performance — while lacking the final ounce of verve that Copland’s friend and advocate Leonard Bernstein brought to this music – is still immensely engaging; these scores have never sounded better. See also a more detailed review in Graham Williams Reviews, opposite.

PROKOFIEV; SYMPHONIES 4,6,7; PIANO CONCERTOS 4,5, Soloists, Mariinsky Orchestra, Valery Gergiev/Mariinsky SACD MARO577 While impressive recordings of some of this music has already appeared on SACD, this generously filled two-disc set plugs several key gaps in the medium — and in extremely idiomatic readings (as one would expect from Valery Gergiev). See also a more detailed review in Graham Williams Reviews, opposite.

 

 

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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.

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HAYDN: SYMPHONIES NOS. 31, 70 & 101, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Robin Ticciati Tadalafil online order 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 Online generic viagra uk 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/ Buy cialis online canada pharmacy 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/Buy amoxicillin capsules 500mg 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 BÄ›lohlávek. 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/Cialis sale online canada 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/ Buy kamagra jelly uk online 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 Åšwiatkiewicz (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.

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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.