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Download News 2012/24

Brian Wilson

Download News 2012/23 remains available here.

Having been without a broadband connection for a good deal of the time since my last Download News and dependent on a mobile dongle with a 1GB a month limit until my new router box arrived to solve the problem, I haven’t been able to listen to as many downloads as usual this fortnight. I’m particularly grateful, therefore, to Hyperion for having sent me the Buxtehude and Żeleński and Zarębski recordings on a memory stick.

Another slight delay was caused by my decision to purchase, set up and test a new DAC. After a lot of deliberation I’ve gone for the Dragonfly – all formats catered for natively from 44.1 to 96kHz with 192kHz as an extension. Set 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96kHz from your Control Panel (System Preferences for Mac) and the light glows the appropriate colour to indicate the chosen frequency. It’s a neat device – just the size of a USB memory stick – plugs into a USB socket, and, at £215, it won’t break the bank. First results suggest that it gives a significant boost to the quality of the sound.

Bargain of the Month

Channel Classics are offering a number of attractive download samplers, currently on six volumes, from their catalogue for 8 euros (£6.49) in all formats – mp3, 24/44.1, 24/96, 24/192, DSD and SACD. Volume 5 on SEL5108 [73:03] contains excerpts from recordings made in 2008 by the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Katona Twins, Pieter Wispelwey, Rachel Podger, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Johanette Zomer, the Netherlands Bach Society, Florilegium and other stars from their catalogue. The only reason not to be tempted is the fear that you’ll end up buying most if not all of the parent albums from which the excerpts are taken.

There’s an even better bargain in the form of a 2-CD set of Rachel Podger’s choice of over 2½ hours of her own favourite recordings (The music I love: Channel Classics SEL6212 – mp3 £7.30 or 16-bit lossless, £8.12). There’s plenty of Vivaldi and Bach, together with Mozart, Rameau and Haydn. It’s only recently that I made Podger’s recording of Vivaldi’s Op.9 concertos, La Cetra, Recording of the Month (June 2012/1 Roundup) and the first concerto in that set features here (track 10), as does a concerto from La Stravanganza (track 6 – see November 2011/1 Roundup). Her Mozart sonata recordings with Gary Cooper (fortepiano), another highlight of the Channel Classics catalogue, are also represented here. The same warning applies – you’ll want at least some of the parent recordings from the samples here.

Don’t forget that Hyperion offer a free monthly download selection of their releases: December 2012 is HYP201212.

Advent and Christmas

And comes the day – Carols and Antiphons for Advent
Queens’ College Choir Cambridge and Players
ORCHID CLASSICS ORC10027 [62:10] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, no booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library (with booklet containing texts)

You’ll find full details of the contents in David Dunsmore’s review – here. I’m surprised to discover that this is the only Orchid Classics recording in my collection – I had to create a new folder for it on my external hard drive – but if its quality is any guide, I shall be exploring the label more fully via eclassical.com and classicsonline.com. As it is, this is some of my favourite listening in the run-up to Christmas this year. My only grumble about the eclassical.com download is the lack of booklet – subscribers to Naxos Music Library can obtain it there.

Berlin Classics have released a 3-CD set of Christmas music from St Thomas’s Choir Leipzig. The boys of the choir feature in a fine set of recordings of standard German Christmas repertoire and the whole choir under Kurt Thomas perform arias and choruses from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, with the likes of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau among the soloists. That’s two recommendable CDs out of the three, but the third disc, of Christmas music by Prætorius, is rather too heavy by modern standards. (Berlin Classics 0300488BC – see my review of the CDs). Amazon.co.uk have this as a download for £6.49 – about half the price of the CDs.

John GARDNER’s Cantata for Christmas, Chamber Concerto for organ and Christmas Carols on EM Records EMRCD009, with Hilary Davan Wetton and Chris Gardner (Organ Concerto) in charge, received a strong three-handed recommendation among this year’s MusicWeb International Christmas reviews – details here. Having heard this from the Naxos Music Library – here – I can add a fourth recommendation to that list. Download from classicsonline.com in mp3; no texts unfortunately.

Christmas Dreams on 13 Strings
Fantasies on Christmas songs, composed and performed by Anders Miolin on 13-string guitar – rec. March 2012. DSD.
Pdf booklet included.
BIS-SACD-2026 [72:18] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit flac)

The programme contains a mix of (predominantly) the well-known (Stille Nacht, Good King Wenceslas) and less familiar items, all performed on the 13-string guitar. You might expect an album with this title to sound cheesy, but two things save it completely from that to the extent that I may well find myself listening to Anders Miolin as an antidote to cheesiness: the inclusion of less familiar repertoire and, more importantly, the way in which Miolin performs the familiar items, blending subtlety of approach with what amounts to fantasias on the music in a blend of classical guitar and jazz improvisation – try Noël nouvelet on track 4 if you can.

Sacrum Mysterium – A Celtic Christmas Vespers
Meredith Hall (soprano)
Ensemble Le Nef/Sylvain Bergeron
Apollo’s Fire/Jeanette Sorrell (harpsichord)
rec. 12-14 December 2011, St Paul’s Church, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
pdf booklet with texts and translations included
AVIE AV2269 [69:04] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library.

Apart from one slightly grumpy set of comments - not on MusicWeb - everything that I’ve read about this delightful recording has been in agreement with my own pleasure in hearing it. That includes David Dunsmore’s review, where you’ll find full track-listings. With the booklet available to download as part of the deal, the only thing you’ll be missing is the bonus DVD that comes with the physical product.

Nothing cheesy or wallowy so far, then. Even less so is Wolcum Yule, a selection of Celtic and British music for Christmas stylishly sung by Anonymous 4 with Andrew Lawrence-King (harp). The music ranges from traditional English, Scottish, Cornish and Irish carols to Benjamin Britten, John Tavener and other 20th-century composers. (Harmonia Mundi HMU907325 – download from emusic.com or amazon.co.uk).

The quality of Wolcum Yule will make you want to investigate another Anonymous 4 Christmas offering, The Cherry Tree, which I recommended in the Christmas 2010 Roundup.

If it’s cheesy and wallowy that you want, try Home for the Holidays; like those bumper Christmas editions of the comics that I used to look forward to when I was about eight, it contains lots of your favourites in big-band arrangements. The Cincinnati Pops conducted by John Morris Russell give it all the full-fat treatment on their in-house label with vocal contributions worthy of the likes of Mario Lanza – sit back and enjoy. There’s just one problem – why is a short album, with less than an hour’s music being charged as if it were a double album at £13.99/$16.99? (Fanfare Cincinnati FC-001 [53:31] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library, with pdf booklet.)

Benjamin BRITTEN Ceremony of Carols and Saint Nicolas
Trinity College Choir, Cambridge/Stephen Layton
Hyperion CDA67946 [73:17] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)

I passed this over too quickly when I wrote about it in the 2012/20 Download News, saying that I couldn’t see any advantage over Hyperion’s earlier recordings of the Ceremony (CDA66220) and St Nicolas, the latter now on their budget Helios label (CDH55378), so I’m grateful that Geoff Molyneux has had a closer listen:

Ceremony of Carols is one of Britten’s works I know very well, having conducted it many times, and I always find it a very emotional experience to hear a fine new recording such as this. Music Directors in Girls’ schools are glad to have this magnificent work available to them, but I was interested to learn that it was in fact originally conceived with female voices in mind. So I was pleased to hear the women of Trinity College Cambridge Choir performing here. I am so struck by the fine musicianship displayed by all involved in this performance. The phrasing is beautifully done, there is magnificent harp playing and the balance is excellent.

In the opening Procession the voices may not seem as perfectly modulated as they do in Harry Christophers’ performance with the Sixteen on the Coro label [see below: BW], but Layton seems rather more vibrant and alive. Also in the Layton performance, the final note which is marked with a pause seems too short and the resonance is not allowed to die away naturally but is cut off by the recording engineers in mid-fade as it were, and we rush straight into Wolcum Yole with no time to catch our breath.

This is only a little moan however! I really liked Wolcum Yole. Throughout this recording the dynamic range is really very considerable, thus allowing pianissimos to be well contrasted with the louder sections, for example in No. 8 Interlude and in No. 9 In freezing winter night. In the latter, after a huge fortissimo is attained, the music dies down into the closing bars where a delicate beauty and balance is achieved between the pianissimo chorus and harp. I am not convinced by the extremely slow tempo adopted in No. 8 though. Listen to Britten’s own recording with the Copenhagen Boys’ Choir from 1953 where the much faster tempo imparts a different mood here. In fact, Britten conducts most of the pieces at a similar or quicker tempo than Layton on this Hyperion release.

This new performance is highly polished and well worth hearing.

The performance of Saint Nicolas captures a real air of mystery immediately from the beginning of the introduction with fabulous orchestral playing. Allan Clayton is the excellent, light-voiced and youthful sounding tenor soloist. He makes a very expressive first appearance, and further on in Nicolas devotes himself to God he captures perfectly the devotional mood required. The chorus is excellent in tone and balance, and every word can be heard. The Boys of the Temple Church Choir and soloist Luke McWatters sing magnificently in The Birth of Nicolas, and Britten’s rumbustious orchestra adds to the excitement.

He journeys to Palestine gives the men of the chorus a well-taken opportunity to shine and they provide a real sense of fearful anticipation until the drama of the storm itself is upon us. There is some magnificent music in Nicolas comes to Myra and is chosen Bishop. Chorus, orchestra and organ rise to the challenges and perform magnificently. The diction of the choirs is really excellent as is demonstrated in an exhilarating performance of Nicolas and the pickled boys.

This is a superb work full of contrasts and it brings together all kinds of performers and, like Noye’s Fludde, accommodates professionals, amateurs and children. There is music of great beauty and subtlety as well as simple but hugely effective passages. All performers and recording engineers are to be congratulated on their superb achievement.

Geoffrey Molyneux

Several other MusicWeb International reviewers have also recommended this new Hyperion recording highly – review: Recording of the Month and review. An additional recommendation – it’s one of a number of recordings that Hyperion are offering at a reduced price in the run-up to Christmas (CD £9.99, mp3 or flac download £5.65).

Just in time to catch this Download News, Coro have released their recording of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols (COR16034, with pdf booklet and texts [69:37]) as a download in mp3, aac, alac and flac lossless – from thesixteendigital.com. The couplings are three carols, the Missa Brevis and A Boy was born. At £7.99 the mp3 and aac are comparable with the price of the Hyperion recording and the lossless versions, at £10.00 cost a little more. I’ve already praised this performance of the ceremony in the alternative coupling on Hodie where it’s placed in the company of Christmas music by other 20th-century composers (COR16004 – see Christmas 2009 Roundup). Geoff Molyneux has mentioned the high quality of the intonation of this recording by the Sixteen in his review of the new Hyperion (above). The recording is good but benefits from a volume boost.

Also from thesixteendigital.com, Christus natus est: an early English Christmas (COR16027 – December 2010 Roundup) in mp3, aac and lossless formats, the latter neatly replacing the lossless version from passionato.com, which is no longer available.

Naxos: the Chairman recommends

Time didn’t allow me last month to complete my survey of the most recent list of recommendations from the Naxos chairman. Apart from de Almeida’s La Spinalba, which will have to wait till the New Year, here are the rest.

Classicsonline.com are beginning to make many of their recent downloads – not just of Naxos – available in lossless flac as well as top-quality mp3. That means paying an extra pound or dollar ($7.99 as against $6.99 or £5.99 against £4.99) but that still represent a saving on the regular price of the CDs, now no longer strictly speaking at budget price. What happened to the early days when they could be found, randomly dumped in a browser in Woolworths for £3.99? What happened to Woolworths, indeed?

Ferdinand RIES (1784-1838) Piano Concertos, Volume 5
Piano Concerto in E-flat, Op.42 [29:52]
Introduction et Rondeau brillant, Op.144 [17:52]
Piano Concerto in g minor, Op.177 [30:22]
Christopher Hinterhuber (piano)
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Uwe Grodd – rec. 12 – 14 September, 2011. DDD.
Pdf booklet included.
NAXOS 8.572742 [78:06] – from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

It’s been two years since we had volumes 3 and 4 in this series – December 2010 Download Roundup – and once again we have a change of orchestra, though soloist and conductor remain the same. The obvious comparison is with Beethoven, Ries’s mentor and friend, though his music has attractions all of its own. For all the changes of orchestra, this series has been and remains consistently recommendable and the recording sounds fine – though it’s available in lossless flac, too, my review download came in mp3 only. If you haven’t been following the series you may as well start here – and you’ll probably be tempted to obtain some or all of the earlier volumes.

Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947)
Introduzione, aria e toccata, Op.55 (1933) † [19:12]
Partita for piano and small orchestra, Op.42 (1924-25) * [30:14]
La donna serpente (‘The Snake-Woman’) – Opera, Op.50 (1928-31) Orchestral Fragments † [29:02]
World premiere recordings – but see below †
Sun Hee You (piano) *
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia – rec. June and October 2011 and March 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.573005 [78:28] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Both Naxos and Chandos have been recording the music of Alfredo Casella; you’ll find Dan Morgan’s review of the symphonic fragments from La Donna Serpente, also included on this new Naxos CD (CHAN10712), in the June 2012/1 Roundup. Naxos claim this as a world premiere, which may well have been true when they started putting this recording together, though Chandos have beaten them to it by a few months.

There’s another Casella recording, this time duplicating the Concerto for Orchestra from the Chandos release, on Naxos 8.573004:

- Suite in C, Op. 13 (1909-1910) [26:16]
- Pagine di guerra, Op. 25bis (version for orchestra, 1915, 1918) [11:00]
- Concerto for Orchestra, Op. 61 (1937) [32:42]
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma/Francesco La Vecchia – rec. June, July, October 2011. DDD
Pdf booklet included.

Dan Morgan reviewed this too, this time in CD format on the main MusicWeb International pages:

Music of unbridled energy, a big, sense-sating sound and unusually detailed liner-notes add up to a most desirable package. In short, Naxos have given us another cracker – and it’s not even Christmas!

Well, it is almost Christmas now and both these recordings are still well worth having. Colourful music in bold performances, well recorded – no flac, but the mp3 is very good.

Wolfgang RIHM (b. 1952) Complete Works for Violin and Piano
Phantom und Eskapade – ‘Stückphantasien’ (‘Fantasy Pieces’) for violin and piano (1993/94) [18:12]
Hekton for violin and piano (1972) [6:41]
Antlitz – ‘Zeichnung’ (‘Drawing’) for violin and piano (1992/93) [14:29]
Eine Violinsonate (1971/75) [11:02]
Über die Linie VII for solo violin (2006)* [24:41]
*world premiere recording
Tianwa Yang (violin), Nicholas Rimmer (piano) – rec 1 to 4 April, 2012. DDD.
Includes interview between Wolfgang Rihm and Dr. h.c. Hans Hachmann.
NAXOS 8.572730 [75:05] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Alfredo Casella is a composer of recent provenance of whom the musically timid need have no fear but Wolfgang Rihm may be another kettle of fish. This might be one to try out first, then, from Naxos Music Library if possible, or Spotify. For me most of Rihm’s music just falls on the right side of the dividing line between music that’s difficult but worth getting to know – after all, Bartók used to be only just the right side of that line 50 years ago – and music that’s out of my comfort zone. Messiaen falls on the right side of that line – emphatically so in the case of Turangalîla and many of his organ masterpieces – most of the music of his former pupil Boulez on the wrong side.

Asian Music for String Quartet
Zhou LONG (b.1953)
Song of the Ch’in (1982) [8:57]
Chinary UNG (b.1942) Spiral III (1990) [10:01]
Gao PING (b.1970) Bright Light and Cloud Shadows (2007) [11:33]
Toru TAKEMITSU (1930-1996) A Way a Lone (1981) [11:50]
Tan DUN (b.1957) Eight Colors (1986) [15:47]
New Zealand String Quartet (Helene Pohl, Douglas Beilman (violins); Gillian Ansell (viola); Rolf Gjelsten (cello) – rec. 21– 24 July 2010. DDD.
Pdf booklet included.
NAXOS 8.572488 [58:09] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

This is another recording that you might be well advised to sample first, though it falls more securely than the Rihm into my comfort zone. Tan Dun’s Song of the Ch’in breathes the air of the ‘mystic orient’ for Western listeners, while Chinary Ung’s Spiral III seems to me to owe more to Schoenberg than to ethnic music, though the Naxos notes refer to Cambodian æsthetics. Gao Ping’s Bright Light and Cloud Shadows is impressionistic in nature – but don’t think of Debussy or Ravel. Takemitsu’s A Way a lone owes its inspiration to James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, while Tan Dun’s Eight Colors – in eight sections with titles such as Peking Opera – which rounds off the programme blends his evident love of his native music with the influence of Schoenberg.

I’ve no benchmark for any of this music but the performances sound idiomatic, the notes are helpful and the recording is good.

***

Dieterich BUXTEHUDE (c1637-1707) The Complete Organ Works, Vol. 5
Canzonetta in G, BuxWV171 [2:15]
Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn, BuxWV201 [2:37]
Præludium in C, BuxWV137 [5:42]
Vater unser im Himmelreich, BuxWV219 [2:21]
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BuxWV188 [8:12]
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den Tod überwand, BuxWV198 [1:28]
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren, BuxWV215 [2:15]
Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl, BuxWV187 [3:18]
Præludium in e minor, BuxWV143 [6:23]
Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, BuxWV192 [2:06]
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen allzugleich, BuxWV202 [1:09]
Præludium in the Phrygian mode, BuxWV152 [4:19]
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt, BuxWV183 [3:03]
Præludium in F, BuxWV144 [3:04]
Magnificat primi toni, BuxWV204 [4:17]
Fuga in G, BuxWV175 [2:59]
Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist, BuxWV209 [2:24]
Præludium in E, BuxWV141 [7:18]
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, BuxWV220 [2:06]
Ich dank dir, lieber Herre, BuxWV194 [4:16]
Ach Gott und Herr, BuxWV177 [2:15]
Præludium in G, BuxWV147 [3:57]
Christopher Herrick (organ) – rec. Aubertin organ of Mariager Klosterkirke, Denmark, February 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet with organ specification and track-by-track registration included.
HYPERION CDA67964 [77:46] – from hyperion.co.uk (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

Now that Christopher Herrick has reached Volume 5 of his Buxtehude survey for Hyperion, we know what to expect, so this new release is pretty well self-recommending. There used to be a let-out clause in ‘true detective’ stories that only the names had been changed to protect the innocent; in this case it’s the organ that’s changed from one volume to the next. Despite the age of the church in which it’s housed, the organ was built as recently as 2007-2010; full details are included in the pdf booklet, which is available to all via the link given above, so I won’t repeat them. Suffice to say that it makes a fine instrument for the music of Buxtehude and that Herrick never gets carried away into overwhelming the music with his chosen registration.

With excellent recording and that booklet of notes to which I’ve referred – all fully up to the usual Hyperion standard, this is a worthy successor to the first four volumes. As usual there’s a good mix of free-form works and those based on Lutheran chorale tunes. There’s nothing particularly seasonal here, but you could do a great deal worse than to make this your Christmas listening. If you followed my recommendation and bought the EMI Gemini 2-CD set of Buxtehude organ music (4563292: Lionel Rogg: Bargain of the Month review) one or more of the Hyperion volumes should be your next consideration.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.9 in E-flat, K271, Jeunehomme [33:02]
Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K467 ‘Elvira Madigan’ [29:15]
Cleveland Orchestra/Mitsuko Uchida (piano)
DECCA 478 3539 [62:18] – from hmvdigital.com (mp3)

The Great Piano Concertos, Volume 1
Piano Concerto No. 19 in F, K459 [27:56]
Piano Concerto No. 20 in d minor, K466 [29:56]
Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in D, K382 [10:00]
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K488 [25:52]
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K467 ‘Elvira Madigan’ [26:15]
Piano Concerto No. 24 in c minor, K491 [29:32]
Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in A, K386 [8:37]
Alfred Brendel (piano)
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
DECCA DUO 442 2692 [2 CDs: 158:08] – from hmvdigital.com (mp3)

The Great Piano Concertos, Volume 2
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat, K271, Jeunehomme[32:49]
Piano Concerto No. 15 in B-flat, K450 [32:34]
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat, K482 [34:49]
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, K503 [25:15]
Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat, K595 [29:13]
Alfred Brendel (piano)
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
DECCA DUO 442 5712 [2 CDs: 154:42] – from hmvdigital.com (mp3)

Mitsuko Uchida
is revisiting territory that she last explored almost two decades ago in the company of Jeffrey Tate on a series of recordings still well worth hearing and owning*. If anything, however, her new versions, directing the Cleveland Orchestra from the piano, excel what she achieved then. On this second volume of her new series she gives us superlative performances of Mozart’s earliest success in this genre and the best known – thanks to the film Elvira Madigan, which has given it its spurious modern title – of his later masterpieces. My own favourite may be No.23, K488, but there’s no denying the appeal of K467 and, for that matter, of K271, when they are performed so very well.

I’ve been listening to a recent CD of K271 on which David Greilsammer (piano) directs L’Orchestre de Chambre de Genève in the Jeunehomme Concerto, K271, together with the Symphony No.23, K181, extracts from the incidental music to Thamos, König in Ägypten and Mitridate, re di Ponte, and a recent work by Denis Schuler (b.1970) (Sony 88725430252). Greilsammer, whose Mozart I have praised on another recording, gives a very good performance, albeit that the programme which he offers is rather bitty and not helped by interspersing the modern piece between two of the extracts from Thamos, but it’s to Uchida and to Brendel on Decca or to his early recording, recently reissued at budget price, that I shall return in future for K271:

– Musical Concepts Alto ALC1047: Alfred Brendel; Solisti di Zagreb/Antonio Janigro (with Piano Concerto No.14; Piano Sonata No.8) Bargain of the Month – see review

For K467 Geza Anda with the Salzburg Mozarteum Camerata has long been my benchmark and I recently praised the Linn 24-bit transfer of this classic recording (UNI014, with Nos.6 and 17– Reissue of the Month: July 2012/2 Roundup). I’m not about to abandon my loyalty to that recording when it’s come up sounding so fresh, but Uchida gives it a very good run for its money. I listened to her new version in 320kb/s mp3 sound which, of course, can’t compare with Linn’s 24/96 refurbishment in wma or flac, but I don’t think that anyone other than confirmed audiophiles would find too much wrong with the sound of the new recording. In K271 you won’t be surprised that the new recording outshines Brendel’s elderly Vox recording – that has come up surprisingly well for its age but cannot help sounding thin.

That’s why I’ve also included the two Decca Duo Alfred Brendel albums on the second of which he performs another superb version of the Jeunehomme concerto. Both of these Duo sets, formerly on Philips, offer splendid performances, five concertos on each, excellently supported by the ASMF and Sir Neville Marriner, and still sounding very well. Each can be had for around £9 on disc or for £7.49 in good mp3 sound from hmvdigtal.com – in mercenary terms, that’s two discs for the same price as the single Uchida CD. So many very valuable Philips Duo sets have been deleted recently that it’s good to see these two remaining available, albeit on the Decca label.

* No.9 with 14, 15, 17, 18 and Rondo, K382, on Decca Duo 473 3132; Nos. 19-23 on Decca Duo 468 5402, 2-CD sets for around £9 each or download from hmvdigital.com for £7.49 each.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le nozze di Figaro (1786)
Alfred Poell (baritone) – Il Conte di Almaviva
Lisa Della Casa (soprano) – La Contessa
Hilde Güden (soprano) – Susanna
Cesare Siepi (bass) – Figaro
Suzanne Danco (soprano) – Cherubino
Hilde Rössl-Majdan (contralto) – Marcellina
Fernando Corena (bass) – Bartolo
Murray Dickie (tenor) – Don Basilio
Hugo Meyer-Welfing (tenor) – Don Curzio
Anny Felbermayer (soprano) – Barbarina
Harald Pröglhof (bass) – Antonio
Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Philharmoniker/Erich Kleiber – rec. Redoutensaal, Vienna, June 1955. ADD.
No libretto
NAXOS CLASSICAL ARCHIVES 9.80427-30 [2:52:35] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) [not available in the USA and some other countries]

I’ve been watching the Opus Arte blu-ray recording of the Covent Garden Figaro conducted by Antonio Pappano (OABD7033D) and very good it is, but it sent me back to this Kleiber recording, still my benchmark over 50 years after I first heard it.

Some time ago I reviewed the emusic.com mp3 download of a rival transfer from Past Classics. That sounds quite well and it’s very inexpensive, but the eclassical.com download in lossless flac is much better; you still wouldn’t mistake this for a recent recording but the sound is much fuller. Here’s the rub, however: that emusic.com download can be yours for £2.10; from the same source the Naxos Classical Archives download costs £3.78 and from classicsonline.com in 320kb/s £7.96. The eclassical.com (mp3 and flac) will cost you $31.07. As with the Fistoulari Sleeping Beauty which I recommended in the previous Download News, I think the extra openness and depth of sound make the outlay worthwhile, but you should be aware that the Decca Heritage Masters CDs, taken from the master tapes, remain available for around £12 in the UK (478 1720review).

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [253:15]
Walther – Robert Dean Smith (tenor)
Eva – Edith Haller (soprano)
Magdalene – Michelle Breedt (mezzo)
David – Peter Sonn (tenor)
Pogner – Georg Zeppenfeld (bass)
Beckmesser – Dietrich Henschel (baritone)
Hans Sachs – Albert Dohmen (bass-baritone)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin/Marek Janowski
rec. live, in concert, Berlin Philharmonie, 3 June 2011. DSD.
Pdf booklet included
PENTATONE PTC5186402 [4 CDs: 79:54 + 67:25 + 58:34 + 47:22] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)

When I praised the Janowski Parsifal some time ago I promised to return to some of his other Wagner recordings. Christmas may not be the right time for an opera celebrating Midsummer – but perhaps we need something like Die Meistersinger to help us get over our Seasonal Affective Disorder; nothing is better guaranteed to make you feel less SAD.

This recording has had a generally very favourable reception. Simon Thompson enjoyed many aspects of it – review – though he thought it inferior to Solti, Karajan, Sawallisch and Kubelík. Well, Karajan in particular is my benchmark for Meistersinger, with much to be said in favour of both his mono and stereo recordings. The 1951 mono version with Schwarzkopf, Edelman, Kunz and Hopf can be obtained very inexpensively (£2.10) in a Past Classics transfer from emusic.com but the recording requires a good deal of tolerance. Just play the prelude immediately after the PentaTone lossless download and the sound is very ragged indeed and yet the vigour of Karajan’s direction shines through; though he takes a minute longer in total, the overall impression is of greater vigour than from Janowski.

Both classicsonline.com and eclassical.com offer the Naxos Historical transfer of this recording but sampling suggests that it doesn’t improve all that much sound-wise; the Documents transfer, available from hmvdigital.com for £7.99 sounds the best of all that I sampled. Sainsburysentertainment.co.uk are offering a 320kb/s download of the stereo Karajan recording for £10.99 and of the Sawallisch (also EMI) for £13.99.

I enjoyed the Janowski performance – rather more than Simon Thompson. Ultimately, there’s a little more life in either of the Karajan versions, so it’s to one of them that I shall most often return, even despite the limited sound of the 1951 recording. That said, I shall certainly not be jettisoning Janowski. What I’ve seen in some quarters described as its virtue – a refusal to exaggerate the swagger – can also be regarded as its Achilles heel; I’d have liked just a little more of that swagger.

On the other hand the singing is the great virtue of the set. The opera stands or falls by its Hans Sachs and in this case Albert Dohmen ensures that it stands and he is well supported. In my Beckmesser role I found my slate remarkably clear of negatives. Though this was a live performance, there’s remarkably little in the way of noises off.

The PentaTone recording sounds very well in the eclassical.com lossless transfer, available at the same price as the mp3. If, however, you are happy with 320kb/s mp3 or m4a this set is available for a most inexpensive £7.99 from hmvdigital.com, albeit without the booklet that comes from eclassical.com. That pdf booklet is of dubious value; it’s a cut-down affair with track-listings, summary and notes but no libretto; you’ll find that online courtesy of Naxos here.

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 7 in E (1881-3) [60:00]
Allegro moderato [19:18]
Adagio: Sehr feierlich und sehr langsam [19:09]
Scherzo: Sehr schnell – Trio: Etwas langsamer [9:33]
Finale: Bewegt, doch nicht schnell [12:00]
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Donald Runnicles – rec. May 2012. DDD.
HYPERION CDA67916 [60:00] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

I’ve listed the times for each movement of this recording because Donald Runnicles takes each one of them a little faster than is usual. By the end he has shaved over five minutes off the time taken by Marek Janowski (PentaTone – review and August 2011/2 Download Roundup: Joint Download of the Month), six minutes off Herbert von Karajan’s time with the VPO (DG Karajan Gold* – also August 2011/2 Download Roundup: Joint Download of the Month) and more than 8 minutes off Karajan’s EMI recording (download for £4.99 from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk). Of the versions which I know only Günter Wand with the Cologne Radio SO and the NDR SO (both RCA) comes close at just over four minutes longer than Runnicles. Sir Roger Norrington in his controversial recording for Hänssler skates through the work in 55 minutes; I haven’t heard that version but it looks dangerously fast on paper.

When I made the VPO/Karajan and the Janowski my joint Download of the Month the main criterion I used was that with neither of them did one feel jaded at the umpteenth repetition of the theme that you heard what seemed like half an hour ago – unless you are a confirmed anti-Brucknerite, in which case you shouldn’t be reading this review.

How does Runnicles fare on this criterion? On the face of it, by moving each movement along a little faster than other conductors, he should emerge victorious, but the opposite danger is to appear too superficial. In fact Runnicles skirts around that Scylla and Charybdis neatly and if, ultimately, I continue to prefer Karajan (both BPO/EMI and VPO/DG) and Janowski, I’d be perfectly happy with the new Hyperion. At one or two points in the long adagio I felt the tension waver slightly but Runnicles and his team always came back strongly before the reservations had set in.

In one important respect I prefer the new recording; I listened to both the ‘ordinary’ CD-quality 16-bit and the 24-bit downloads and thought them both very good, though the 24-bit opens out the sound a little more and is worth Hyperion’s reasonable price of £10.50 as against £6.99 for mp3 or 16-bit flac. Both are superior to the mp3 version of the DG Karajan, good as that is. If you like to burn your music to CDR, you’ll have to be content with 16-bit; at 1.02GB the Hyperion 24-bit is too large unless you can burn audio DVDs.

The booklet is full of good things except that nowhere are we told which version of the symphony is recorded; I presume that it’s the 1885 revision, though the percussion which Haas removed in his edition is included.

I haven’t had time to revisit Klemperer’s recording of this symphony but fans will be interested to note that EMI Classics have recently reissued his recordings of Symphonies 4-9 in a budget-price box, 6 CDs (4042962) which I’ve seen on offer for as little as £16.50 – stream from Naxos Music Library or download from hmvdigital.com for £10.49. I’ve yet to hear a version of No.6 to beat Klemperer. Bargain hunters should also note that Eugen Jochum’s EMI recordings remain available in a box set from Brilliant Classics for around £20 – his DG recordings, for which I own to retaining a soft spot, are rather more expensive at around £42 for the box (download from hmvdigital.com for £28.99).

* Ignore the passionato.com link – they are no longer in the download business: hmvdigital.com have this in 320kb/s mp3 for £7.49.

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op.78 Organ Symphony* [34:24]
Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila [7:15]
Prélude to Le Déluge Op.45 [7:36]
Danse macabre, Op.40 [6:51]
Gaston Litaize (organ)*
Chicago Symphony Orchestra*; Orchestre de Paris/Daniel Barenboim – rec. 1976 (Symphony). ADD
LINN/UNIVERSAL UNI071 [56:04] – from linnrecords.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

I’m pleased that Dan Morgan has been able to listen to this recording and to add to the very short mention that I made of it in the last Download News:

Regular readers will know just how much I’ve enjoyed many of the high-res Studio Masters from Universal. Indeed, the classic Solti Mahler 8 and Davis’s Symphonie fantastique are among the finest downloads I’ve heard. Those were demo discs in the LP era, as was Barenboim’s celebrated account of Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony. Indeed, the latter was one of my first LPs, the striking cover art as much of a draw as the music itself. Dubbing in the mighty organ of Chartres Cathedral was something of a gimmick, but as the agitated woofers of my modest student-funded system attested it paid off in terms of sheer thrill and excitement.

I’m pleased to say the organ doesn’t disappoint here either, the instrument’s first entry as full and warm as one could wish for. Anyone who’s heard this work in the concert hall will know that balances are problematic; there, and on record, the organ usually swamps the orchestra, but the DG engineers really got it right with this one. What a pity, then, that the orchestral sound has a wiry treble that I don’t remember from the LP. The extra clarity of this high-res download pays dividends in terms of inner detail though, as I heard rather more of it here than I did on vinyl.

Barenboim’s tempi are generally well judged and the Chicagoans play well for him. Those plucked strings are tautly done, and there’s a surging lyricism here that I most certainly do recall from the record. Hiss, although present, is not at all distracting, and I relived the frisson I used to feel at the end of the Poco adagio. This gorgeous, refulgent organ sound is a wonderful reminder of analogue’s last gleaming. The more excitable Allegro moderato may be a tad bright, but it’s bearable; also, the oft-hidden piano is easily discerned. The timps aren’t quite as imposing as I remember, but that matters less when Barenboim keeps it all moving so well.

That impassioned organ entry at the start of the Maestoso – Allegro is a real tummy-wobbler, even if tension slackens slightly thereafter. That said, Barenboim whips his orchestra into a veritable frenzy as the work sails majestically to a close. What a grand finale it is; the cymbals, timps and organ as overwhelming as ever. Although this forensic re-mastering exposes some orchestral untidiness and makes it clear just how close the original recording came to overload, it’s still a remarkable achievement.

The three fillers, recorded with the Paris band, are no less attractive. The now sinuous, now febrile Bacchanale is tautly controlled and played with astonishing crispness and clarity. Others may find more atmosphere here, but few are as, well, bacchanalian as Barenboim. Again, some listeners may want to tame the treble slightly. The Prélude to Le Déluge is altogether weightier, but Barenboim makes the most of its abiding inwardness and violin-drenched lyricism. It’s a lovely snippet, hauntingly done. That other pot-boiler, the Danse macabre, is perhaps the least memorable performance here. It’s well played and recorded, but it’s just a little under-characterised for my tastes.

This Studio Master isn’t the equal of that Symphonie fantastique, but then I always preferred Philips’ analogue sound to DG’s from the same period. Make no mistake, this is a terrific issue, and with a bit of knob-tweaking it will bring much pleasure – and a touch of nostalgia, too.

Dan Morgan
http://twitter.com/mahlerei

Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Cello Concerto No.2 in b minor, Op.104, B191 [42:37]
Victor HERBERT (1859-1924) Cello Concerto No.2 in e minor, Op.30 [22:15]
Gautier Capuçon (cello);
Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
VIRGIN CLASSICS 5190352 [64:52] – from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Dvořák was influenced in writing the better-known of his two cello concertos, during his stay in the USA, by Victor Herbert, music professor and cello virtuoso and especially by the latter’s own second concerto. This is therefore an entirely appropriate coupling. As the performances are very good – I liked the Dvořák better than did Jonathan Woolf (review) – and the mp3 sound is very acceptable, this download deserves a strong recommendation. I’ve given a link to the least expensive source for the download in full 320kb/s mp3 sound at £6.99; hmvdigital.com charge £7.99.

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
The Isle of the Dead, Op.29 (1909) [20:21]
Symphony in d minor (Youth Symphony ed. Paul Lamm) (1891) [10:18]
Symphony No.1 in d minor, Op. 13 (1895) [43:37]
BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda – rec. January 2008. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
CHANDOS CHAN10475 [74:39] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

This recording offers a version of Isle of the Dead to compete with those that I reviewed in the last Download News. There’s also a version of the First Symphony to count with the classic Ormandy version (CBS) from which I got to know the work. Add to these an account of the Tchaikovsky-influenced Youth Symphony that makes me wish that Rachmaninov had not cast it aside.

The lossless recording – 16– and 24-bit – is very good. I’m not sure why I downloaded only the 16-bit version, but it sounds fine. With excellent notes, too, this is a strong contender if the coupling appeals.

If you have been experiencing problems downloading Chandos recordings recently – their DL manager had become incompatible with the latest version of Java – their new version now comes to the rescue.

Wladyslaw ŻELEŃSKI (1837-1921) Piano Quartet in c minor, Op.61 [36:19]
Juliusz ZARĘBSKI (1854-1885) Piano Quintet in g minor, Op.34 (1885, pub.1931) [34:47]
Jonathan Plowright (piano)
Szymanowski Quartet (Andrej Bielow (violin, Quintet only); Grzegorz Kotów (violin); Vladimir Mykyta (viola); Marcin Sieniaswki (cello)) – rec. December 2011. DDD.
HYPERION CDA67905 [71:30] – from hyperion.co.uk (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

One thing that these two composers have in common – apart from the number of letters in their names with diacritic marks, which will mean that I’ll have to search for the right codes when converting this Download News to html; apologies in advance if I get it wrong – is the warm romanticism of these two works. The second is that, though highly regarded in their native Poland, their music has been little known generally.

I can’t say that we’ve missed out heretofore on two masterpieces, but I can say that both works are enjoyable and passionately intense, that the performances and (24-bit) recording do them full justice and that Adrian Thomas’s notes – excellent as always from Hyperion – will help fill in the background details admirably; there’s even help with pronunciation but not, as far as I can see, the date of the Żeleński Piano Quartet. I make that 19+/20 then, all round.

Karl Amadeus HARTMANN (1905-1963)

Concerto funèbre for violin and string orchestra* (1939, rev.1959) [21:48]
Suite No.1 for solo violin (1927) [19:54]
Suite No.2 for solo violin (1927) [9:34]
Sonata No.1 for solo violin (1927) [14:14]
Sonata No.2 for solo violin (1927) [14:58]
Britten Sinfonia*/Alina Ibragimova (violin) – rec. November 2006 and January 2007. DDD.
HYPERION CDA67547 [80:48] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless)

[‘An impressive addition to the Hartmann discography’ – see review by Jonathan Woolf]

Hartmann’s Violin Concerto is one of the most powerful works of the 20th century; I first encountered it on a recording by Thomas Zehetmair, still available on Warner Apex, coupled with the Berg and Janá?ek concertos. If I prefer Zehetmair it’s only because I prefer the couplings to the solo violin works, but you may already have the Berg and Janácek in other versions. Alina Ibragimova and the Britten Sinfonia give a powerful performance of this powerful music, well recorded and with Hyperion’s usual high-quality booklet of notes.

As You Like It: Shakespeare Songs
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Hörch, hörch, die Lerch’ (Hark, hark, the lark) [1:34]
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) Three Shakespeare Songs, Op. 6:
Come away, death [2:37]
O mistress mine [1:24]
Blow, blow, thou winter wind [2:20]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Fancie [0:52]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963) Fancy [1:50]
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899) Trois chansons de Shakespeare, Op. 28:
Chanson de clown [3:29]
Chanson d’amour [2:11]
Chanson d’Ophélie [2:03]
Franz SCHUBERT An Sylvia [2:44]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695) (arr. Tippett/Bergmann) If music be the food of love [2:03]
An Epithalamium [2:51]
Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998) Songs for Ariel:
Come unto these yellow sands [1:48]
Full fathom five [1:45]
Where the bee sucks [1:17]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) She never told her love [3:21]
Franz SCHUBERT Trinklied [0:45]
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903) Lied des transferierten Zettel [0:56]
Geoffrey BUSH (1920-1988) It was a lover and his lass [1:52]
Alex WOOLF (b. 1995) Three Tempestuous Tunes (2012) *
This is a very scurvy tune [2:08]
Flout ’em and scout ’em [0:35]
No more dams I’ll make for fish [1:10]
Dominick ARGENTO (b. 1927) from Six Elizabethan Songs:
Winter [1:34]
Dirge [3:54]
Mervyn HORDER (1910-1998) Under the greenwood tree [1:22]
John DANKWORTH (1927-2010) Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? [2:24]
The Compleat Works [1:20]
Dunsinane Blues [2:56]
Peter DICKINSON (b. 1934) from Schubert in Blue: Hark, hark, the lark [1:55]
* world premiere recording
Nicky Spence (tenor)
Malcolm Martineau (piano) – rec. September 2012. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts included
RESONUS CLASSICS RES10116 [57:17] – from resonusclassics.com (mp3, aac and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Shakespeare must have inspired more music than any other playwright, from the large-scale such as Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet to the smaller works for voice and piano recorded here. With the exception of the three songs by Alex Woolf much of this repertoire is available, often in multiple recordings, but I can’t think of any collection comparable with this. As usual, in a pattern established with their first release, the original 1825 version of Mendelssohn’s Octet, Resonus are filling a niche and filling it very well. Who else would have given us Schubert’s Shakespeare, opening with his well-known setting of Hark, hark the lark, and closing with Peter Dickinson’s entertaining Scott Joplin-like take on Schubert’s setting. There’s a large variety of periods of composition and of moods here.

Nicky Spence has already featured on Resonus, in the music of Mark Anthony Turnage (RES10106 – January 2012/1 Roundup); I liked his contribution to that album and I enjoyed his performances here, expertly partnered by Malcolm Martineau and well recorded.

In brief

I’ve just been so bowled over by a new recording of Handel’s Organ Concertos by Lorenzo Ghielmi and La Divina Armonia (Passacaille 990 – download from amazon.co.uk) that I find myself preferring these recordings of The Cuckoo and the Nightingale (HWV295), HWV296, 343b, 304 and 310) plus the Oboe Concerto, HWV287, to the Simon Preston recording on DG Archiv. Only HWV310 (alias Op.7/5) overlaps with the recording of the concertos from Op.4 and Op.7 which Paul Nicholson made with the Brandenburg Consort and Goodman (Hyperion 2-for-1 Dyad CDD22052 – mp3 and lossless from hyperion-records.co.uk), so the two recordings are effectively complementary. Look out for my review of the Passacaille recording on the main MusicWeb International review pages, but you needn’t wait to obtain the stylish Hyperion recordings – two CDs for £7.99 as downloads, complete with pdf booklet.

I was slightly less impressed with a Channel Classics SACD of Joseph Haydn’s two Horn Concertos and music by his brother Michael (CCSSA30210 [55:00]) in another review which should be appearing on the main MusicWeb International pages shortly, but there’s no denying the high quality of the SACD recording – and it’s also available in a range of download formats, from mp3, via 24/44.1, 24/96 and 24/192 up to DSD from channelclassics.com.

I don’t think that Volume Two of Toccata’s complete keyboard works of Rameau has yet appeared as a download except from toccataclassics.com – it should also be available soon from classicsonline.com and others – but this CD from Stephen Gutman has joined his Volume 1 – review – in persuading me that Rameau can be made to sound well on the piano. (TOCC0051 [75:34]). That’s quite a feat when I normally dislike baroque keyboard music on the modern instrument, so Gutman joins a very small company, headed by Angela Hewitt. My review of the CD will be appearing on the main MusicWeb International pages soon.