SAINT-SAËNS: SYMPHONY NO.3, ‘ORGAN’, ETC., Kansas City Symphony, Michael Stern/Reference Recordings RR-135 SACD  The relationship between the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra and Reference Recordings has, over the past few years, yielded some outstanding recordings. Not surprisingly in view of the label’s audiophile credentials much, but not all, of the repertoire the orchestra has committed to disc has been of ‘demonstration’ worthy material. Reference Recordings is one of the few companies to use HDCD encoding, a system that is compatible with CD, so many will be delighted that this release which appeared last year in the CD/HDCD format now comes as a spectacular hybrid 5.1 multi-channel SACD. The two hors’d’oeuvres that precede the Symphony are well chosen. Continue reading

Chandos Atterberg cycle completed; Pentatone, Linn, LSO Live


ATTERBERG: ORCHESTRAL MUSIC, VOL. 5: Symphony No. 7, Op. 45 Sinfonia romantic, Symphony No. 9, Op. 54 Sinfonia visionaria*, Anna Larsson ǀ soprano*, Olle Persson ǀ baritone*, Gothenburg Symphony Chorus* Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Järvi/Chandos SACD CHSA 5166  The publisher Virago once did sterling work in reissuing the novels of unjustifiably neglected women writers, but a point arrived when there was a sense that all the best novelists had been once again made available and that some on reissued writers on whom the dust of history had settled perhaps deserved their obscurity. All of this this is a preamble to talking about Chandos’s ongoing commitment to recording (in their customary top-notch sound) some composers who l have been relatively neglected. And thankfully, there is no sign yet of any barrel-scraping – clearly there is still a great deal of excavation work of remarkable music to be done. The composer Atterberg cannot be said to have been neglected, with other companies recording his very winning symphonies, but not in the splendid SACD sound that Chandos have accorded their series (with one puzzling exception, issued in stereo only rather than surround sound– why? ). This last volume is one of the most dynamic and committed of the series, finessing an enterprise that has proved to be one of the company’s great initiatives; for this listener, it has had the effect of making me hope that someday Chandos will finally complete its Vaughan Williams cycle  of the symphonies, left incomplete at the death of the conductor Richard Hickox. The final volume in the Atterberg series with Neeme Järvi and his Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra features two late rarely performed symphonies. The seventh, from 1942, is recorded here in its final, three-movement form, fourteen years after the Dollar Symphony. Originally in four movements, the work only acquired its final shape in 1969, when Atterberg decided to remove the last movement from the original score. The disc writes a satisfying finis to a wonderful series.

BARTOK CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA, DANCE SUITE, MUSIC FOR STRINGS, PERCUSSION AND CELESTA, ETC., London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti/Decca Eloquence 480 6872  This welcome two-CD set is a reminder of just how definitive an interpreter of Bartok his fellow Hungarian Georg Solti was, and most of the performances here are non-pareil — although the once-demonstration-class sound is showing its age. That is particularly true of a much sought-after performance, that of the Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. This particular reading has been something of a holy grail for Bartok aficionados for years, and is making its first appearance on disc here (other, less dynamic readings by Solti have been in circulation). It is still as pointed and vivacious as one could wish for, although the sound, once ear-tingling, now sounds somewhat muffled. Still, a useful set.

HANDEL: APOLLO E DAFNE, Soloists, Ensemble Marsyas, Peter Whelan/LINN CKD 543  There was a time when admirers of Handel’s operas and oratorios had to be content with some very inauthentic performances of the rarer works – simply because there was not the range of recordings available that there is today. Some of these sets which we once happily listened to in lieu of any alternatives else were conducted at stately tempi with little or no continuo — and certainly no crisp pointing of rhythms. This very welcome set of the composer’s Apollo e Dafne is proof of just how far we’ve come since then, and it’s hard to imagine a more committed and sympathetic reading of the work than the one presented here by Whelan and his forces. This is one of the most ambitious of the composer’s cantatas, and this new disc may create some friends for the piece.

MENDELSSOHN SYMPHONIES 1 AND 4, ‘ITALIAN’, London Symphony Orchestra, Sir John Eliot Gardiner LSO live LSO 0769  While the perfectly serviceable alternative recordings by Edward Gardener on Chandos have rightly received plaudits, most pundits have given the laurels to this rival set from LSO Live from another (differently spelt) Gardiner, sharper and (surprisingly) better recorded. This latest issue is one of the most enjoyable so far, with a particularly brisk and lively ‘Italian’ symphony.

MARTINŮ: ARIANE LYRIC OPERA IN ONE ACT, H 370 (1958), DOUBLE CONCERTO FOR TWO STRING ORCHESTRAS, PIANO AND TIMPANI, H 271 (1938) Essener Philharmoniker, Tomas Netopil/Supraphon SU4205-2  Another gap in the Martinů story is re-plugged with this very welcome issue which brings an intriguing vocal piece by the composer to light – and it turns out to be a particularly lyrical short essay in operatic form, though no masterpiece. To make the disc even more attractive, there is a strong and persuasive performance of one of the composer’s calling card pieces, the Double Concerto, which might not quite match the classic Mackerras account in sombre intensity, but is slightly better recorded and a worthy successor to the earlier disc, The composer wrote: “I am writing a new small opera, a one‐acter, as I would also like to have a rest from the grand-scale opera, The Greek Passion, which has taken its toll.” Martinů composed Ariane within a mere month, in the summer of 1958. The Greek myth of Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, King of Crete, who helps Theseus slay the Minotaur, has been set to music by a number of renowned composers. Martinů was captivated by Georges Neveux’s drama Le Voyage de Thésée, on which he based his own libretto. Theseus is portrayed as a split personality, struggling with himself and overwhelmed by love for a woman. Tomáš Netopil and his Essener Philharmoniker have made a new recording of the opera some 30 years after the one created by Václav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic which very effectively plugs a gap in the repertoire.

MOZART: PIANO CONCERTOS, KV 414 + KV 453 Alfred Brendel (Piano), Academy of St Martins in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner/PentaTone PTC 5186236  When Phillips quadraphonic discs were originally issued in the 1970s, I, like many listeners, only had the facility to hear them in stereo, and frankly, most of them seemed a little opaque and underpowered. But how splendid most of them now sound in the new leases of life given to them in the SACD medium by PentaTone – such as this Mozart disc, a perfectly judged performance from the great Austrian pianist Alfred Brendel. Brendel, one of the most important exponents of the German-Viennese Classical and Romantic traditions, possessed an intellectual rigor and poetic spirit. As one of the founding fathers of the German-Viennese classical tradition, Mozart’s contribution to music history speaks for itself, and, one of his greatest achievements in composition is the piano concerto. While improvising and experimenting from the keyboard, he masterly combined instrumental and operatic styles. This interaction between instrumental and operatic elements can particularly be heard in the last movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, which on this album is coupled with his Piano Concerto No. 12.

MOSZOWSKI: FROM FOREIGN LANDS: REDISCOVERED ORCHESTRAL WORKS, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, Martin West/Reference Recordings RR 138 CD  With its evocative tile, ‘From Foreign Lands’, this is an unusual issue from the always reliable Reference Recordings brings out of obscurity a variety of short orchestral works by a neglected composer. Moszowksi is known (if at all) for his piano works. All of the pieces here are given an amiable advocacy, and although one cannot honestly say that there are any undiscovered masterpieces to be found, the music is tuneful and orchestrated with professional skill.

GINASTERA: ORCHESTRAL WORKS, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Arturo Tamayo/Capriccio C5271  This collection of rigorously ordered pieces by Ginastera is perhaps not the best introduction to the composer; these works represent a him in his more strictly ordered vein, rather than in colourful mode. Nevertheless, for aficionados of the composer, this will make a functional adjunct to other more approachable discs.

PROKOFIEV: SYMPHONY NUMBER 6, WALTZ SUITE, Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra Marin Alsop/Naxos8.573519  This remarkably invigorating performance of the Prokofiev Sixth Symphony is every bit as striking and appealing as earlier discs in this much-acclaimed series. But there is a caveat. Earlier issues in this series of enjoyed astonishing Blu-ray audio surround sound, and this latest issue is in acceptable but hardly spectacular two-channel stereo. Those who have been buying earlier discs in the series will note this fact with some disappointment.

DURUFLÉ: REQUIEM, FOUR MOTETS. MESSE CUM JUBILO, Choir of Kings College, Stephen Cleobury/Kings CollegeKG50016  Always popular with choral societies, Duruflé’s ingratiating Requiem is here granted a very sympathetic performance, with Stephen Cleobury balancing his choral forces with great acumen.

MAURICE JARRE: IS PARIS BURNING? City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Nic Raine/Tadlow Music 2 CDs TADLOW023  Once again, the reliable team of producer James Fitzpatrick, conductor Nic Raine and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra do sterling work in dusting off some unfairly neglected orchestral film scores from the days before far less ambitious and complex music took over – and with nary a hectoring rap theme song in sight. Maurice Jarre was one of the great film music professionals, initially making his mark with such French classics as Les Yeux Sans Visage/Eyes Without a Face before having his greatest success with the epic films of David Lean. This is Jarre in militaristic mode, cheekily borrowing motifs from Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, but coming up with something possessing its own individual character. A particular plus here is another wartime film score by Jarre, The Night the Generals. As ever, Raine and his highly professional forces do a great service to this music.


Nelson Goerner releases first major Beethoven album

The celebrated Argentinean pianist Nelson Goerner, an award-winning interpreter of Debussy and Schumann,  turns his hand to Beethoven for his first major recording of the composer. Already boasting an imposing discography, the celebrated Argentinean pianist now commits to disc one of the most important and challenging works ever composed for the instrument, unparalleled in its dimensions and depth: Sonata no.29 op.106 ‘Hammerklavier’, plus the 6 Bagatelles op.126 – Beethoven’s final work for piano. As well as the major new Beethoven album, Goerner’s acclaimed recording projects continue into the new season with the release of the Fauré and Franck Violin Sonatas with Tedi Papavrami [Alpha, spring 2017].
23 September 2016: Beethoven Hammerklavier no.29 op.106 + 6 Bagatelles op.126 (Alpha239)

Forthcoming from Proper Music

Some tempting discs in the offing from the labels in the Proper Music stable, including the latest release from Richard Tognetti on the ABC Classics label (who appears in Edinburgh and the Cadogan Hall with none other than Barry Humphreys this Summer), and a new series from them entitled ‘1000 Years Of..’ which has already gained some momentum in Australia. From the Australian Eloquence label, there are  orchestral reissues from Zubin Mehta and Sir Georg Solti, plus a significant recording of Finzi’s Choral Works on a 2 CD set with the late Richard Hickox conducting. There is the usual mix of releases from New Arts International’s labels (available via Proper Music) and the next release from Yannick Nezet-Seguin on the Atma Classique label plus a new recording of the Complete String Quartets of György Kurtág performed by the Quatuor Molinari quartet. The next recording on Norwegian label Lawo Classics with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko is Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare Songs from Bostridge and Pappano on Warner Classics


Froam Warner ClassicsGrammy® Award winners Ian Bostridge and Sir Antonio Pappano have been working together on the stage and in the recording studio for over 20 years. Together they have produced award-winning recordings and played sold out concert halls all over the world to huge critical acclaim. Now they embark on a project marking the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare with a new album out in September. Shakespeare Songs celebrates the four centuries of music and performance that his plays and sonnets have inspired. Shakespeare’s peerless feeling for the music of the English language has inspired countless composers, from those who set the Bard’s verse during his lifetime to musicians as diverse as Britten, Finzi, Korngold and Stravinsky. Ian Bostridge and Sir Antonio Pappano, together with four outstanding chamber musicians, delve into the rich Shakespeare legacy for this brand new recording, marking the playwright’s quarter-centenary with a delectable programme of works written for Jacobean productions, Restoration revivals and the modern concert hall. As guests Ian has invited his friends the lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, and for Stravinsky’s Three Songs flautist Adam Walker, violist Lawrence Power and clarinetist Michael Collins.

September Discs from PentaTone

Tempting new surround-sound issues have been announced by PentaTone for September. From Arablla Steinbacher: Fantasies, Rhapsodies and Daydreams  (with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo and Lawrence Foster), and the first SACD recording of  Roussel’s Bacchus et Ariane  (with Debussy and Poulec from the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Kazuki Yamada). Also en route:  Out of the Shadow – Rediscovered American Art Songs (with Lisa Delan, Kevin Korth, and Matt Haimovitz) and  Wagner: Overtures, Preludes and Orchestral Excerpts (with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and Marek Janowski)