Dvorak and Tchaikovsky in Surround Sound from BIS and Chandos

DVORAK: SYMPHONY NO.9, ‘NEW WORLD’; CZECH SUITEMY HOME  Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Claus Peter Flor/BIS SACD IS1856  The earlier symphonies of Dvorák may be thin on the ground in the SACD medium, which is a state of affairs that will hopefully be remedied before too long. When it comes to the New World Symphony we are (unsurprisingly) spoiled for choice in surround sound medium, and new entries have to offer something special. It’s good to report that Claus Peter Flor and his Malaysian forces do just that, offering a reading brimming with vitality and colour. What makes the disc particularly cherishable are the charming readings of the under-played Czech Suite and a bravura My Home overture.

TCHAIKOVSKY: THE SLEEPING BEAUTY  James Ehnes (violin), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Neeme Järvi/CHANDOS SACD CHSA 5113(2)  This immensely winning two-disc set inaugurates an ambitious (and welcome) new project by Chandos to record Tchaikovsky’s ballet scores in the studio’s exemplary surround sound. The survey begins in striking fashion with the complete score of The Sleeping Beauty (Swan Lake and The Nutcracker are to follow in 2013 and 2014, respectively – if there’s still a classical music industry then). Tchaikovsky’s ballet adaptation of Charles Perrault’s La Belle au bois dormant was distinguished by the composer’s utilisation of then-unorthodox instrumental combinations, and had an influence on later composers such as Stravinsky. This is a splendidly colourful and poetic reading of the score, with only a handful of caveats (might the famous waltz have been dispatched with a touch more panache?), but at a stroke this becomes the default reading of the complete score.

TONGUES OF FIRE: ORGAN CONCERTI  Martin Heini (organ), The State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Novosibirsk, Rainer Held/Guild GMCD 7386  This is unusual repertoire, the Poulenc Organ Concerto apart — and the fact that the Poulenc is not exactly under-recorded — might have made this a disc which could have escaped many people’s notice. But rave reviews have been forthcoming, and they have been justified – not least for the novelty here, Rütti’s splendid Concerto for Organ, Strings and Percussion, which (in its pawky individuality) is something of a find. What’s more, the Poulenc is given one of its most impressive readings. This is a CD worth seeking out.

TRAVELLING SONATA: Ravel, Faure, etc., Viviana Guzman (flute), Jeremy Jouve (guitar)/ Reference RR-128  The art of the arrangement is alive and well, as this subtle but companionable disc proves. Fauré’s Pavane lends itself better to the transcription for guitar and flute than Ravel’s Bolero, but the rest of the disc is full of quiet charm – and it is impeccably played.

TCHAIKOVSKY: THE NUTCRACKER  Andreas Morrell director/Warner DVD 2564-65630-9  There is no shortage of serviceable performances of The Nutcracker on DVD, but this is one of the most accomplished, graced as it is with dancers of great elegance and vitality.

HOWARD SHORE THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY  Decca 00602537155651(2)  Over the years (with his highly successful adaptations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), the director Peter Jackson has called upon the services of the composer Howard Shore as his musical amanuensis — so it was perhaps inevitable that Shore would be the default composer for the director’s version of the Tolkien prequel. And the fact that Jackson is planning to expand Tolkien’s slim book into three blockbuster movies means that Shore enthusiasts will be getting more than their money’s worth.

THREE GREAT AMERICA LIGHT ORCHESTRAS Percy Faith, David Rose and Paul Weston Orchestras/Guild GLCD 5200  Guild’s commitment to reissuing the very best of light orchestral music from the past continues apace with this beguiling collection, benefiting once again from the audio restorations and remasterings of Alan Bunting.







SHOSTAKOVICH: SYMPHONY NO 7 , ‘LENINGRAD’ LSO, Valery Gergiev/Mariinsky MAR 0533 SACD  This is the fourth release in Valery Gergiev’s cycle of the Shostakovich symphonies being recorded for the Mariinsky label. Now, for the first time, he has reached a work that he has already recorded with the same orchestra for Philips back in 2001. The Mariinsky Orchestra was then called the Kirov Orchestra – the alteration to its current name reflecting the changed political climate in the intervening years. The earlier recording used the combined forces of his Russian orchestra and the Rotterdam Philharmonic and exemplified Gergiev’s monumental approach to the ‘Leningrad’ Symphony – with dark sonorities and slow tempi being the order of the day.  Continue reading


For today’s audiences, Vivaldi’s name exemplifies Venetian opera in the early 18th century – but he was not the only composer to shape the distinctive musical aesthetic of the great trading city known as La Serenissima. In a programme of arias by Vivaldi and his contemporaries, countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic further explores Venice’s contribution to the world’s rich store of Baroque opera. His intention, in this first collaboration with Italian violinist/conductor Riccardo Minasi and his ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro, is to recreate Venetian taste and to trace the influences of the time, particularly as the city faced operatic innovations originating from Rome and Naples.  Continue reading

A Highly Recommendable Faure Requiem from LSO Live

FAURE REQUIEM LSO Chamber Ensemble/Nigel Short/LSO Live SACD LSO 0728 This is without doubt one of the finest sounding, and fascinating releases, that I have heard from LSO Live. The imaginatively conceived two-part programme on this SACD, featuring the superb Tenebrae choir, originally stems from performances given at St. Paul’s Cathedral during the City of London Festival in 2011. In May 2012 this same programme was re-staged in the ideal acoustic of the Church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, London and recorded by LSO Live. Tenebrae and their founder and director Nigel Short have made many acclaimed recordings for a variety of labels since their formation in 2001. Their extensive repertoire ranges from mediaeval chant to contemporary works by composers such as John Tavener and this new disc demonstrates the range of their capabilities to the full. Continue reading