RÓSZA: ORCHESTRAL WORKS VOL. 2
Soloists/BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba
Aficionados of the music of Miklós Rósza (if they are the enterprising sort) will have tracked down most of the music featured on this CD, all of which has been available at some time or other. But splendid though some of the past performances were, the sheer exuberance and command of orchestral colour channelled into these readings by Rumon Gamba moves this disc into its own sui generis category — and like its predecessor, this second volume is a delight. The days when the composer’s long association with Hollywood ensured that Rósza’s concert works were looked askance should be firmly put to rest by this exhilarating issue. If one has a reservation, it’s that Chandos has chosen to put the disc out in stereo format rather than utilising the company’s astonishing super audio CDs facilities — and for a prime example of that, see the Schmitt review below.
SHOSTAKOVICH: COMPLETE STRING QUARTETS
Over the years, many recordings have done considerable justice to these most dynamic masterworks of the modern chamber repertoire, but for some time, the readings by the Mandelring quartet have come to be regarded as definitive. And as a reminder of their considerable status, here is a generously priced box set containing the set in CD incarnations rather than in the SACD versions which have previously been available. If you’re a CD collector rather than a surround sound aficionado, there need be no hesitation — this is probably the finest complete set of the Shostakovich quartets now on the market.
RESPIGHI: VIOLIN CONCERTO, ETC.
Laura Marzadori/CONY/Salvatre Di Vittorio
For Respighians, an essential issue – a recording of the never-before recorded violin concerto of the composer (not the better-known Concerto Gregoriano), burnished with some other neglected pieces (Rossiniana excepted). Not a lost masterpiece, but tempting for admirers of the composer – at a handsome bargain price.
DEBUSSY: LA MER/JEUX
London Symphony Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
This is a fiery and exciting performance of Debussy’s masterpiece, and may not be to every taste. But if you’re open for a muscular approach to La Mer, Gergiev gives a characteristically dramatic and impassioned reading. Perhaps the real gem here is a wonderfully atmospheric (and kinetic) Jeux; the composer’s late dance masterpiece sounds stunning in the full and wide-ranging LSO Live sound.
REGER PIANO CONCERTO IN F MINOR/RICHARD STRAUSS: BURLESKE IN D MINOR
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester/ Marc-André Hamelin
The Reger concerto is regarded as difficult to master with its massive harmonic challenges, but Hamelin dispatches it with aplomb. Richard Strauss’ Burleske, though, is the real treat here. Why is this such a neglected piece? Pianist and conductor present it with both charm and efficiency. Not a disc for the uninitiated, but rewarding.
BRUCKNER: SYMPHONY NO. 7
Suisse Romande/Marek Janowksi
Attention must be paid: one of the most formidable veteran musicians of the modern age is being allowed to set down on disc performances of great authority. Marek Janowksi is tackling some of the most monumental works of the repertoire; as with this imposing Bruckner 7 (in the Nowak edition), arrayed in dramatic Pentatone sound.
ALWYN: VIOLIN CONCERTO/MISS JULIE SUITE/FANFARE FOR A JOYFUL OCCASION
Lorraine McAslan, Violin/Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
Although there have been previous performances, the Alwyn Violin Concerto is a piece which has yet to win favour with many lovers of British music. However, this committed reading will be another step along the road to the work’s acceptance. The piece is brilliantly played by Juilliard School-trained violinist Lorraine McAslan.
BEETHOVEN: DIABELLI VARIATIONS
Paul Lewis, piano
Of the many recordings that Beethoven’s exquisite variations have enjoyed over the years, few are as rich in nuance, nimbleness and sheer musical acumen as Paul Lewis’ already-celebrated reading, which must now count as definitive.
BAINTON/BOUGHTON: ORCHESTRAL WORK
One wonders how long it can continue. How long can enterprising labels such as Dutton Epoch maintain their adventurousness in excavating unjustly neglected music of the recent past? Here, with Bainton’s Paraclesus and Boughton’s Love and Spring, we have more colourful and winning examples of British symphonic music which have been allowed to languish unheard for too long. Admittedly, there are no great masterpieces here, but the sheer professionalism of the work of these two remarkable composers is matched by a continually high level of inspiration, albeit that the inspiration of Richard Strauss and Wagner may be writ large throughout — but the music is no worse that.
SCHMITT: LA TRAGEDIE DE SALOME, ETC.
Sao Paulo SO/Susan Bullock/Yan Pascal Tortelier
Previous recordings of this ambitious and dramatic (if little-known) music have attempted to capture the heady exuberance (as well as the sheer fortissimo force) that the composer poured into these scores, but it has taken a Chandos SACD recording to render what must be nigh-definitive readings. This is not music for casual listening, but music lovers prepared to give themselves over to an experience that will leave them somewhat drained need not hesitate. However, for the full experience, you will need five speakers and a sub-woofer.
SCHUBERT: SYMPHONY NO.7 “UNFINISHED”/SYMPHONY NO.8 “THE GREAT”
Musikkollegium Winterthur/Douglas Boyd
Characteristically warm and affectionate readings of two of Schubert’s best-loved symphonic scores, conveyed here with the insight that has become Douglas Boyd’s trademark
BRAHMS: STRING QUARTET NO. 1 (ARRANGED FOR STRINGS) SCHONBERG: VERKLARTE NACHT
Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Candida Thomson
CHANNEL CLASSIC SACD
In immensely rich and refulgent surround sound, another welcome issue in the Amsterdam Sinfonietta’s series of issues documenting sensitive arrangements for fuller orchestra of great chamber music works. Why are some music lovers sniffy about such splendid adaptations?
RACHMANINOV, BACH/BUSONI, RAVEL & STRAVINSKY: PIANO WORKS
Freddy Kempf (piano)
Kempf’s command of the immense pianistic range to be found in Rachmaninov’s keyboard music clearly has few equals, and this set delivers at a stroke several jaw-dropping performances, though the repertoire here is a curious mix. The composers’ Corelli Variations is inspired by the theme utilised by Corelli in his violin sonata La Follia, radically transformed by the Russian master. Ravel’s collection of waltzes was composed in homage to Schubert, while Stravinsky’s Petrushka movements display the composer’s own arrangement of his ballet, commissioned by Arthur Rubinstein.
MARTINU/HINDEMITH/HONEGGER: CELLO CONCERTOS
Johannes Moser, cello/DTPS/Christopher Poppen
What a wonderful disc! You may possess individual recordings of these winning pieces, but as assembled here, they make an immensely cherishable collection. Needless to say, all three concertos do not benefit from being listened to in succession (as a certain aural fatigue with the dark sound of the cello would make itself evident). But individually these are matchless readings.
LINDBERG: Orchestral Music
Avanti! Chamber Orchestra. et al/Sakari Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Magnus Lindberg is one of the most celebrated of living composers. Since 2009, he has been The New York Philharmonic’s Composer-in-Residence. This collection of works written between 1982–2005 is a representative (and striking) sampler of his compositional skill.
DUKAS: ORCHESTRAL MUSIC
Perhaps more recent digital recordings are able to accommodate the inner orchestral detail of these scores, but there is no gainsaying the fact that these superbly pointed performances have great authority, though the recorded sound may show its age.
RICHARD STRAUSS: DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN
Soloists/Bayerische Staatsoper, Wolfgang Sawallisch
OPUS ARTE DVD
This live Recording from the Aichi Prefectural Art Theatre, Nagoya, Japan, 1992 showcases a rare document of an early nineties operatic highlight: the Japanese premiere of Wolfgang Sawallisch’s last production at the Bavarian State Opera. The Company’s tour of Nagoya and Tokyo in autumn 1992 under director and principal conductor Sawallisch was a particularly important event, and produced a splendid reading of Strauss’ masterpiece. In PCM Stereo sound and DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1
DELIUS: APPALACHIA/THE SONG OF THE HIGH HILLS
Soloists/BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis
The critic Ralph Gleason once said of Frank Sinatra that he (Gleason) would be happy for the singer to set on record every song from the classic American songbook. One might paraphrase Gleason and suggest that it would be equally welcome for the enterprising company Chandos to record every piece of music that fully exploits the possibilities of the orchestra in the company’s amazingly detailed recording facilities. Perhaps Thomas Beecham found a touch more poetry in these pieces by Delius than Davis extracts, but this is still an extremely welcome addition to a series that one can only wish long life for.
TCHAIKOVSKY SYMPHONY NO. 6
Gürzenatich-Orchester Köln/Dimitri Kitajenko
If the revelations that Kitajenko brought to his astonishing readings of the symphonies of Shostakovich are less evident in this reading of that composer’s great Russian predecessor, it is still a memorable version in detailed SACD sound.
DEBUSSY: ORCHESTRAL WORKS 6: SUITE BERGAMASQUE (ORCH. GUSTAVE CLOEZ/ANDRÉ CAPLET); PETITE SUITE (ORCH. HENRI BÜSSER), ETC.
Orchestre National de Lyon/Jun Märkl
When the great orchestral masterpieces of Claude Debussy are so copiously recorded, it is easy to forget the many other pieces that the composer granted us in his astonishing oeuvre. Which is precisely what makes this continuing Naxos series so very welcome, plugging so many gaps in accomplished performances. Volume 6 in Naxos’s series showcases five highly diverse works in rich orchestrations by Debussy’s colleagues or later admirers.
BARTOK: THE PIANO CONCERTOS
Andras Schiff/Budapest Festival Orchestra/Ivan Fischer
A highly useful set that collects dynamic (and authentic) performances of these ever-acerbic 20th century masterpieces. Even at more than its generous bargain price, this would be a highly collectible issue. These dynamic pieces have rarely been better played, though the sound has certain constricted quality.
BACH: MASS IN B MINOR/CANTATA “ICH WILL DEN KREUZTAB GERNE TRAGEN” BWV 56
Shirley-Quirk, Baker, Tear/Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
One of the great Bach performances, spruced up and sounding as fresh as ever. For the sublime Janet Baker contributions alone, an indispensable set.
LEIGHTON: ORGAN MUSIC
Greg Morris (organ of Blackburn Cathedral)
Leighton was one of Britain’s most significant 20th century composers, and his organ and choral work deserve the currency his orchestral music is now receiving. Greg Morris, Associate Organist at London’s Temple Church, is a persuasive advocate for the music, though it is unlikely to gain great currency.
RICHARD STRAUSS: CAPRICCIO DVD
Renée Fleming/ONDP/Ulf Schirmer
The exquisite countess of Renée Fleming is the selling point of this more-than-serviceable production of Strauss’ late opera, with impressive sound finessing the charm of the opera.
GINASTERA: CELLO CONCERTOS
Mark Kosower (cello), Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Lothar Zagrosek
Ginastera’s two cello concertos are among his most individual compositions. The first concerto, the definitive version of which was premièred by Ginastera’s second wife Aurora Nátola in 1978, is a delight here, with its Latin dance rhythms immensely winning.
BRUCKNER: SYMPHONY IN D MINOR “NULLTE”, 3 PIECES WAB 97/MARCH WAB 96
Beethoven Orchester Bonn/Blunier
In the early days of the SACD medium, as music listeners began to be aware of the amazing possibilities of the much greater range of sound that the medium offered, it was inevitable that the first recordings would be of familiar repertoire pieces. But how welcome it is to see more peripheral pieces given such authoritative performances in the new medium as Bruckner’s early ‘Nullte’ Symphony, a piece which displays all the fingerprints of the composer’s most mature work.
BRITTEN: BILLY BUDD
Soloists/The Glyndebourne Chorus, London Philharmonic Orchestra/Mark Elder, Michael Grandage
Truly, we live in a golden age of great opera recordings where a performance of Britain’s masterpiece — perhaps his greatest operatic achievement outside Peter Grimes — can be set down in an edition as exemplary as this. Singing, staging and recording are all non-pareil. Glyndebourne has a long association with the operas of Benjamin Britten, but until 2010 had never staged Billy Budd. Handsome amends are made here.
WEINBERG: SYMPHONY NO. 3 /SUITE NO. 4 FROM ‘THE GOLDEN KEY’
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Thord Svedlund
Of all this company’s excavations of colourful 20th century music, few are as important as this immensely rewarding Weinberginitiative. The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Thord Svedlund give a formidable reading of this remarkable symphony, while the ballet The Golden Key (composed in 1954 – 55) is a synthesis of Pinocchio and Petrushka, and the misc has great charm. Chandos surround sound is a considerable plus here.
SHOSTAKOVICH PIANO TRIOS/SONGS
Florestan Trio/Susan Gritton
After many years of musical achievement and popularity, the members of the Florestan Trio are to pursue separate careers. This CD, the last recording at the end of their studio career, is a fitting valedictory effort, an all-Shostakovich programme comprising the two piano trios and the Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok, for which the trio is joined by the soprano Susan Gritton. It’s a wonderfully balanced programme, and writes a satisfying finis to the Florestan’s achievements.
BRAHMS: COMPLETE WORKS FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO
Arabella Steinbacher violin/Robert Kulek piano
In characteristically warm sound, these masterpieces of the violin repertoire are presented in nuanced Pentatone sound. This is a welcome disc that collects Brahms’ masterpieces for violin and piano in utterly musical readings by Arabella Steinbacher and Robert Kulek.
HALVORSEN: ORCHESTRAL WORKS, VOLUME 3: SYMPHONY NO. 3, ETC.
Soloists/ Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Neeme Järvi
Neeme Järvi returns to conduct the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in the third volume in Chandos’ series devoted to the colourful orchestral works of the Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen. The composer was an important figure in Norway’s musical life (though some scores possess markedly more gravitas than others –the lighter works can be insubstantial), and the music here is performed by the orchestra that the composer conducted in the 1890s.
CHET BAKER: MY FUNNY VALENTINE
JOHN COLTRANE: BLUE TRANE
MEMBRAN 10-CD BOXES
Quite astonishing bargains, these formidable 10-Cd sets are crammed with influential jazz- and are cheap enough to make one forgive the total lack of documentation of the names of the musicians accompanying cool Baker and intense Coltrane.
AHMAD JAMAL/DAVE BRUBECK/CHET BAKER/ANDRE PREVIN: CLASSIC ALBUMS
REAL GONE LABEL/METRONOME
A highly useful (and economical) way of collecting some impressive jazz piano classics in these welcome anthologies.
Tasmin Little has scooped the Critics’ Award at the 2011 Classic Brit Awards, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London, for her recording of Elgar’s Violin Concerto with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
Florilegium celebrate their 20th Anniversary this year, and have recorded a Vivaldi disc in Upper Norwood. ‘Il Gran Mogul’ is a flute concerto, which was newly-rediscovered in Scotland last year.