Delius, Prokofiev and a Month of Rarities from Naxos and Helios


CLASSICAL CD CHOICE CD OF THE MONTH   PROKOFIEV: PIANO CONCERTO NO. 3, SYMPHONY NO. 5 Mariinsky Orchestra, Dennis Matsuev, Valery Gergiev/Mariinsky SACD MAR0549  It’s hardly surprising that the performance of the concerto on this Mariinsky SACD has such flair and panache – this is, after all, core repertoire for Gergiev and his orchestra, but it comes up against some formidable opposition in both this piece and the symphony in the SACD format, and Prokofiev aficionados will inevitably be wondering how it compares with its rivals. Freddy Kempff on BIS has set down a truly impressive Prokofiev third piano concerto, and two things immediately strike the listener when hearing this latest performance by the equally talented Dennis Matsuev; firstly, that this recording has more refinement of detail and other more subtle aspects of the sound picture, while the Mariinsky engineers go for a much more forceful and concentrated sound canvas. These values are reflected in the performances; Kempff is more nuanced, but Matsuev generates more kinetic excitement, particularly in the exhilarating coda to the third movement, played with breathtaking verve. It’s a very difficult call to choose between the two; on balance, perhaps, the full-bloodedness of Matsuev/Gergiev seems to me to capture more of the authentic Prokofiev spirit. As for the symphony, the PentaTone performance by Jurowksi remains a more translucent recording in terms of dynamic range, but Gergiev is slightly more energetic.


SIERRA: SINFONÍA NO. 4,• FANDANGOS, Carnaval Nashville Symphony, Giancarlo Guerrero/Naxos 8.559738  A vivid snapshot of the music of the Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra, which is rapidly acquiring a following with heavyweight commissions and performances for Sierra around the world. Fandangos was premiered at the BBC Proms in London and utilises a harpsichord piece attributed to Antonio Soler as the basis of an orchestral fantasy. The striking Sinfonía No. 4 channels the Germanic symphonic style, adding Spanish infusions.


DELIUS IN NORWAY: EVENTYR, NORWEGIAN SUITE, ETC., Ann Helen Moen (soprano), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis/Chandos SACD CHSA 5131  Sir Andrew Davis and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra find an apposite musical expression for the relationship of Delius with his spiritual home, Norway. In splendid SACD sound, we are given music inspired by the Norwegian landscape and culture, often showing the influence of Delius’s friend and mentor Edvard Grieg. Delius first performed Sleigh Ride on the piano to a close group of friends, including Grieg. Orchestrated later under the title Winter Night, it went on to become Delius’s most popular miniature. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring is one of Delius’s sublime achievements, a perfect translation of nature and mood into music. Norwegian soprano Ann-Helen Moen joins the orchestral forces in Two Songs from the Norwegian.


DEBUSSY: LA CATHÉDRALE ENGLOUTIE, PRELUDES II, SUITE BERGAMASQUE: PIANO WORKS IN TRANSCRIPTIONS FOR  ORGAN, Carsten Wiebusch/ AUDITE SACD97699  Debussy’s piano works arranged for the organ? Surprisingly, it works: Carsten Wiebusch’s CD ‘La Cathédrale engloutie’ – piano works in transcriptions for organ – is highly impressive, utilising the instrument to find a persuasive equivalent for Debussy’s harmonic language. The second book of ‘Préludes’ and the ‘Suite bergamasque’, two standard works of piano repertoire, are superbly handled.


GOLDMARK: VIOLIN CONCERTO NO. 1 OP. 28 BRAHMS: VIOLIN CONCERTO OP.77, BACH: PARTITA BWV1004, Nathan Milstein, Philharmonia Orchestra, Harry Blech, Anatole Fistoulari/Praga Digitals SACD DSD350105  Vintage sound perhaps, but spruced up with SACD accoutrements, this coupling of ‘Hungarian’ Romantic concertos has its charms. Goldmark’s concerto was first given in Nuremberg, October 1878, and is influenced by Mendelssohn and Schumann. Milstein’s fourth of five studio recordings is the best regarded.


MYASKOVSKY/SVIRIDOV/TCHAIKOVSKY: PUSHKIN IN MUSIC, St. Petersburg Camerata/Intergroove IGC 82 0807297206227  Pushkin’s literary influence had a seismic effect on the burgeoning Russian romantic music scene, his writing inspiring many symphonic and operatic works. This unusual CD collects musical transcriptions of Pushkin’s works which are mostly unknown, though the two orchestral pieces from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin are popular. Myaskovsky’s 10th Symphony (based on Pushkin’s poem The Bronze Horseman) and Sviridov’s film score Snowstorm are given lively readings in reasonable sound.


WALLACE SYMPHONIC POEMS, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra of Wales, Martyn Brabbins/Helios CDH55461  The Passing of Beatrice, dating from 1892, was William Wallace’s first symphonic poem and is one of the first British works in the genre. Shaw described Wallace as ‘a young Scotch composer with a very tender and sympathetic talent’, though he had reservations. The Passing of Beatrice shows a Lisztian influence, notably the Dante Symphony. Wallace’s music is attractively romantic in idiom, and these ingratiating performances should have the effect of reawakeng interest in a forgotten talent.


WAGNER: THE RING: AN ORCHESTRAL ADVENTURE BIS SACD 2052  Henk de Vlieger’s ambitious potpourri of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle filters the dramas to create to a symphonic poem which follows the sequence of the operas up to the twilight of the gods is clearly delineated. The extracts (largely speaking) eschew alterations, though some  vocal lines are orchestrated. The piece now has two recordings; there is little to choose between this BIS SACD and the Chandos alternative, though the multi-channel descent into Nibelheim here is breathtaking.


DVORAK: STRING QUARTET OP. 80, MINIATURES B149, CYPRESSES B152, Zemlinsky Quartet/ Praga Digitals SACD DSD250303  An anthology of chamber music by the creator of the New World Symphony, which gathers lesser known pieces, mostly intimate, from a master of Czech chamber music. The Zemlinsky Quartet, do great service to the composer.


WEINBERG SYMPHONY NO. 2, THE GOLDEN KEY, ST. PETERSBURG STATE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, VLADIMIR LANDE/NAXOS 8573085  Weinberg’s symphonies are recognised today as a substantial continuation of the russian tradition. Weinberg’s Symphony no. 12 was written in response to the death in august 1975 of his great friend and supporter of 32 years, Shostakovich. With its subtle stylistic allusions to the composer, this is the longest and most wide-ranging of Weinberg’s purely orchestral symphonies. One of only two surviving ballet scores, the golden key is a compelling satire, extending a lineage which includes Prokofiev and Stravinsky. Vladimir Lande demonstrates a superb understanding of the works, leading the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra in exemplary performances.


ZEMLINSKY: SYMPHONIES 1 & 2, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Martyn Brabbins/Hyperion CDA 67985  Given their approachability, the neglect of these two Zemlinksy symphonies is curious, but the persuasive perforarmces set down here by Matryn Brabbins may go some way to give these expressive scores some currency.


SAMUEL/JONGEN:SYMPHONY NO. 6, THREE SYMPHONIC MOVEMENTS, ROYAL FLEMISH PHILHARMONIC, MARTYN BRABBINS/ RFP 006/5425008373157  The Royal Flemish Philharmonic uncovers more distinctive, little-known music of character. The second Belgian Boutique CD collects music by two composers from the south of Belgium, one of which is the atmospheric Sixth Symphony by Adolphe Samuel, built around the story of the creation. But the real find here is Joseph Jongen’s final orchestral piece, the neo-impressionist Three Symphonic Movements. ‘it is all extraordinary music, very special and spectacular’, in Martyn Brabbins’ words – and this does not understate the case; a genuine find.

Sonic Splendour from PentaTone, LSO Live and Chandos

WAGNER: GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG  Soloists, Berlin Radio Choir, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Marek Janowski PentaTone SACD PTC5186409  This issue of Richard Wagner’s ‘Götterdämmerung’ marks not only the completion of PentaTone’s Ring cycle, but also of their project to record and issue on SACD the ten mature Wagner operas by the end of 2013, the Wagner bicentenary year – a remarkable achievement by any standards, and a most successful one. This live recording of the concert performance given at the Philharmonie in Berlin took place on March 15, 2013. The cast assembled for this concert is comprised almost entirely of singers Janowski has used in his earlier PentaTone Wagner recordings – the exception being the leading male role of Siegfried. Siegfried is sung by the Canadian Heldentenor Lance Ryan. Continue reading