Coming Soon from Avie in Skywalker Sound

2fdb4e87-5777-4500-a0b1-e73ed7e5a067The Cypress String Quartet seals its 20-year legacy with its last recording, the two String Sextets by Brahms, joined by long-time collaborators violist Barry Shiffman and cellist Zuill BaileyTrue to form, the CSQ applied innovation to its last recording: live in front of a studio audience at Skywalker Sound Studio and recorded in both high-resolution and analogue formats. In a first, the recording will be released as a 24/96 digital download and stream, on CD, vinyl and 1-inch reel-to-reel tape.

A Palace Upon the Ruins: New Howard Shore

Howe Records are issuing A Palace Upon the Ruins – Selected Works, an Album Featuring Concert Music Composed by Academy Award-Winner Howard Shore, With Performances by Such Classical Stars as Lang Lang and the Kronos Quartet
A Palace Upon the Ruins –  released November 4, 2016 – includes the titular song cycle featuring mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, along with choral works Peace and The Garden, instrumental-vocal suite Six Pieces and solo piano piece Catania for Lang Lang.
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Olga Jegunova: Poetic Piano Sonatas


POETIC PIANO SONATAS: BEETHOVEN, CHOPIN, BARTOK, Olga Jegunova, piano/Music & Media MMC 114   It is an ambitious programme that the talented pianist Olga Jegunova has chosen for this winning recital, but it proves to be the perfect showcase for her nuanced and sensitive talents. Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata is given a reading which stresses the poetic (as per the album’s title) as opposed to the monumental aspect of the music, but bids fair to hold its own against the formidable competition in this piece over the years. Similarly, Chopin’s ‘Funeral March’ Sonata is handled with great thoughtfulness, and the final item, Bartok’s Sonata sz. 80 is dispatched with the kind of neurotic energy that the piece demands. Those wondering, though, how this final percussive work can be included in a recital called ‘Poetic Piano Sonatas’, should note that Jegunova has selected (and comissioned) poetry to accompany and illuminate each piece — added value, in fact. It’s a striking disc, and the recording quality, while lacking the resonance of an SACD disc, has a remarkably faithful piano tone with a modest concert hall ambience.


Barbara Hannigan’s first album as singer and conductor is to be released on Alpha in 2017 with a documentary film directed by Mathieu Amalric. Whether singing, conducting, dancing or acting, the Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan is an endless source of fascination. Alpha Classics is proud to enter her world today and to present in 2017 her very first album as singer and conductor. With the Amsterdam-based orchestra LUDWIG, of which she is associate artist, Barbara Hannigan has devised a programme including Berg’s Lulu Suite and Gershwin’s Girl Crazy in a Suite newly arranged by the multi-award-winning American composer Bill Elliott. To complement these two pieces, she has recorded Berio’s spectacular Sequenza III for solo voice. An outstanding soprano, a distinguished interpreter of the music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, an all-round artist who creates a sensation on concert platforms and in opera houses throughout the world, Barbara Hannigan has enriched her palette over the past few years by also devoting herself to conducting. This album, entitled Crazy Girl Crazy, brings together the character of Lulu, a key role in Barbara Hannigan’s career, the heroines of Gershwin’s musical comedies and their famous songs like ‘But not for me’ and ‘I got rhythm’, and Sequenza III, that incredible musical sculpture built from words and the human voice: the result is an album that forms an evocative musical portrait of the artist. For this recording, Barbara Hannigan called on an orchestra with which she has had a very special rapport ever since it was founded in 2013: LUDWIG, a collective composed of the finest instrumentalists from the leading Dutch and international orchestras, which dares to stage quirky, innovative programmes. The very first moments of the rehearsals for this programme, and more particularly for Berg’s Lulu Suite, were filmed by Mathieu Amalric, the celebrated French actor and director who won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Festival in 2010 for his film On Tour (Tournée). Mathieu Amalric first met the soprano when they worked together on a renowned film for the 3ème Scène programme of the Opéra de Paris. For their reunion in front of the camera, Amalric plunges into the heart of the orchestra with a very personal look at the exchanges between conductor and musicians. This forty-minute documentary, produced by Camera Lucida, will be broadcast on Arte Concerts and will be included on DVD with the CD Crazy Girl Crazy. Continue reading

From America to the Antipodes


BENNETT: OLD AMERICAN DANCES, etc.: Suite of Old American Dances / Symphonic Songs for Band* / Down to the Sea in Ships* / Four Preludes for Band / Autobiography, RNCM Wind Orchestra / Clark Rundell / Mark Heron* Chandos 10916  Clued-up admirers of film and Broadway musicals will be well aware of the talents of such arrangers as Conrad Salinger and Robert Russell Bennett . Their exquisite orchestrations greatly enhanced and finessed the work of such composers as Rodgers and Hammerstein and Cole Porter. Personally, I’ve always been an admirer of both men (as is the conductor John Wilson, who programs much of their material in his concerts) and I even tracked down Bennett’s hard-to-find autobiography. It’s clear from the latter that Bennett slightly resented the neglect of his more serious orchestral music, although the Naxos label has recorded some of the latter. Long after his death, that omission is being remedied at intervals, and this new disc on Chandos may go some way to righting that wrong. These pieces for wind band are full of the piquant writing that is Bennett’s trademark, and though the Naxos recording of the composer’s Old American Dances is more lithe and pointed, this is still an exemplary reading, coupled with unrecorded and unfamiliar material in the same winning vein. The RNCM Wind Orchestra under its director Clark Rundell and guest conductor Mark Heron do justice to this programme of works by Bennett.

GRANADOS: Orchestral Works, Vol. 3 Liliana – Lyric Poem† (arr. Casals) Suite oriental† • Elisenda* Dani Espasa, Piano* Barcelona Symphony Orchestra Pablo González †WORLD PREMIÈRE RECORDING/Naxos 8.573265  Classical music aficionados often lament the appearance of yet another set of Beethoven’s symphonies, so it’s always refreshing to welcome music which is new to the recorded repertoire. That is very much the case with this colourful and attractive music. In the last of this three volume series devoted to Granados’s orchestral music, two very different compositional strands are explored. The early Suite oriental reveals his sense of vivid orchestral colour and melodic imagination, couched in the exotic language of the time. Written in a more pared-down style, the one-act ‘lyric poem’ Liliana, a collaboration with the writer Apel·les Mestres, is a four movement suite in which Granados conjures up a vivid, mythical world. Elisenda is another impressionistic score, both emotive and ethereal, here performed in its arrangement for piano and chamber orchestra.

BACH: CHRISTMAS ORATORIO, Dunedin Consort, John Butt/Linn CKD 499  Are you of the opinion that Bach’s much-loved Christmas Oratorio has nothing new to offer you? Think again. This splendid new release is virtually an exemplar of how period practice aligned with sharp and energetic performance can ensure a very familiar piece comes up fresh as paint. That’s very much the case here, and the set is a further indication of how Butt’s highly individual approach to baroque scores pays dividends.

BERLIOZ: ROMEO ET JULIETTE, ETC. Op. 17* / Marche troyenne (Trojan March) / Chasse royale et Orage (Royal Hunt and Storm)† Michèle Losier (mezzo-soprano)* / Samuel Boden (tenor)* / David Soar (bass)* BBC Symphony Chorus*† / BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis/Chandos CHSA 5169(2)  Of the slew of recent recordings of Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette, this impressive disc by Andrew Davis and the BBCSO has rather a wide dynamic range. Given that so much of the piece is quiet, turning up results in some very loud tutti passages for domestic listening. But caveats aside, this is a particularly persuasive reading, and more nuances of the composer’s vast command of the orchestra are in evidence here than in other readings. On this new SACD, the BBC SO and its Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with this performance and excerpts from his largest opera, Les Troyens – but the latter prompts, however, one other caveat: the extracts from the opera are efficient but curiously low-key, without the fiery advocacy given by such conductors as Colin Davis. Nevertheless, the set remains desirable.

LAJTHA (1892–1963) Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 Symphony No. 1 Suite pour orchestre In memoriam Pécs Symphony Orchestra Nicolás Pasquet/Naxos 8.573327  If you’re an admirer of the music of Bartok, you owe it to yourself to investigate László Lajtha, who remains Hungary’s foremost symphonist and one of the country’s greatest composers of the first half of the twentieth century. His music shows reflections of the musical language of his compatriot (as does that of another talented Hungarian, Miklos Rózsa), and it’s particularly good to see Pasquet’s pioneering discs available again at very affordable Naxos prices. Written when he was 44, the vigorous and optimistic Symphony No. 1, Op. 24 reveals a strong affinity with Latin and French models and with indigenous Hungarian folk-music. By 1941, when In memoriam was composed, the mood had darkened and this work is a shocking yet eloquent protest against the brutality of war. The delicious four movement Suite pour orchestre was compiled by the composer from his ballet Lysistrata.

KHACHATURIAN: SYMPHONIES, VOL. 1; SYMPHONY NO. 2 IN A MINOR; 3 CONCERT ARIAS: POEM, LEGENDE, DITHYRAMBUS  Julia Bauer, Robert-Schumann-Philharmonie, Frank Beermann/CPO 777972-2  It has to be said that the earlier recording by Tjeknavorian of Khachaturian’s mighty Second Symphony has greater dynamism and drama, but if you’re not familiar with that reading, there are many rewards to be found in this extremely well recorded new edition. With this disc, CPO launch a new Khachaturian edition featuring the composer’s complete symphonies. Vol. 1 focuses on his magnificently dimensioned Symphony No. 2, which functions as a heroic, Soviet ‘War Symphony’.

MESSIAEN/MULLER/KIRCHNER: Beyond Time – Zurich Ensemble/ARS Produktion ARS38205 SACD/Discovery  Let’s be frank, the new works by Muller and Kirchner on this exceptionally well recorded disc will not be played often by most listeners; the real attraction here is a totally persuasive reading of Messiaen’s remarkable Quartet for the End of Time, which — in terms of the wide dynamic range of the recording — leaves earlier performances standing, particularly in the disc’s very faithful SACD sound. The Zurich Ensemble chose to record a programme featuring composers of three different generations, with each work touching upon a different aspect of existence. Each of the selected works has its roots in ‘lived experience’ while at the same time offering universal, timeless truths. Fabian Müller’s Am Anfang (In the Beginning) is a musical rendering of creation myths and ‘attempts at inventing the world’ by author Tim Krohn. Exil by Volker David Kirchner deals with questions of individual isolation as well as internal and external emigration. Neither of the latter pieces are distinctive; for the Messiaen alone, however, resounding approval.

FROM MELBA TO SUNDERLAND; Australian Singers on Record, various artists/Decca Eloquence 482 5892  Given that the two most famous Australian sopranos — Dames Nellie Melba and Joan Sutherland — have been included in this wide-ranging, generous collection, it’s hardly surprising that the discs represent a kind of epic journey for the Antipodean voice. It goes without saying that the scrawny-sounding early recordings require a certain indulgence on the part of the listener, but for admirers of great singing, the journey is well worthwhile. Some might quibble with the extremely eclectic selection of material, but that does demonstrate the range of achievement here.

COPLAND: ORCHESTRAL WORKS, VOL. 2: Symphony for Organ and Orchestra* / Symphonic Ode / Short Symphony (Symphony No. 2) /Orchestral Variations John Wilson / BBC Philharmonic / Jonathan Scott (organ)*/Chandos SACD CHSA 5171  John Wilson’s second Copland disc eschews the more popular crowd-pleasing ballets of its predecessor for such items as the for the not-greatly-ingratiating Short Symphony and other pieces, but admirers of the composer will find the music here is given the greatest possible advocacy. A discovery for many people will be the cataclysmic Organ Symphony, which, while more than powerful enough, doesn’t quite match the apocalyptic quality of the Michel Tilson Thomas/San Francisco reading. But in this context, it’s part of very persuasive programme which throws light on a neglected area of the composer’s career.

NIELSEN, DEBUSSY, FRANÇAIX: CLARINET CONCERTOS, Vladimir Soltan, Hamburger Symphoniker, Jose Luis Gomez/MDG SACD 901 1964-6  Nielsen’s spiky and rebarbative Clarinet Concerto (with its aggressive side drum echoing the composer’s masterpiece, the Fifth Symphony) has been well served on disc and has even made its way successfully onto the SACD medium. Vladimir Soltan’s is a particularly persuasive reading full of great character – such an essential ingredient in any reading of this piece. The very short Debussy piece (a mere eight minutes – hardly a concerto!) and the Françaix are given eloquent readings.

WEINBERG: SYMPHONY NO. 17, SUITE FOR ORCHESTRA, Siberian Sate Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Lande/Naxos 8.573565  There is no visible slowing up in the very welcome stream of recordings of the once-neglected music of Weinberg, and this is not the first appearance on disc of the impressive Symphony Number 17, ‘Memory’. The disc does, however, include a reading of the lightweight Suite for Orchestra which is a very winning piece. Admittedly, this is the kind of undemanding music that was designed to please the crass Soviet apparatchiks who did not like the composer (or his Jewishness), but it’s no less attractive for that. The Symphony is given a very strong and characterful reading.



Distinctive Tchaikovsky from Fischer


TCHAIKOVSKY: SYMPHONY NO.6, ETC., Budapest Festival Orchestra, Ivan Fischer/Channel Classics SACDCCSA37016  It is now more than ten years since Ivan Fischer and his crack Budapest Festival Orchestra recorded a Tchaikovsky symphony for Channel Classics. Back then it was the 4th Symphony, a version that while widely praised did receive minor criticism in some quarters for a couple of idiosyncrasies in Fischer’s conducting. Over the intervening period both Fischer and his orchestra have produced a series of outstanding recordings that clearly illustrate how this conductor has now become, more than ever, a facilitator who brilliantly links the composer and composition with us, the listeners. His interpretive ideas, underpinned by a fierce musical intelligence, have increasingly become a means to that end rather than representing any attempt at self-aggrandisement. Continue reading

New Appointment for PENTATONE

Renaud Loranger has been appointed Vice President for Artists and Repertoire at PENTATONE. He takes up his new role in November, with a mission to develop the label’s roster and expand its activities internationally. Loranger began his career in his hometown as dramaturge with Kent Nagano and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, before moving to the new Deutsche Grammophon worldwide headquarters in Berlin in 2011. As Executive Producer, he oversaw the label’s opera productions and key vocal releases, and worked in close collaboration with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin on his recording projects, among others.

New Morricone CD

image001Legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone will release his first new album on Decca Records on 11th November, the day after his 88th birthday.  Entitled ‘Morricone 60’, it celebrates his prolific career which spans 60 years and 600 compositions.  It is the first album of Ennio Morricone’s greatest hits conducted, recorded and curated by Morricone himself. It includes some of his greatest film music from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to his recent Academy Award-winning score for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. The album features brand new recordings with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, with whom he’s collaborated on major international movie scores. The deluxe version is accompanied by a DVD called ‘MORRICONE & TARANTINO at ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS