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DOWNLOAD NEWS 2013/11
Brian Wilson


Download News 2013/10 is here; 2013/9, with reviews of recent Beulah releases is here 2013/8 here and the Index of earlier editions is here. Don't overlook David Barker's very useful article on collecting in the digital era.

Thomas TALLIS (c1505-1585)
Salve intemerata and other sacred music
O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit [2:58]
Missa Salve intemerata [21:03]
Man blest no doubt (No.1 of Nine Psalm Tunes) [3:41]
I call and cry to thee [3:42]
If ye love me [2:24]
Domine, quis habitabit? [8:15]
A new commandment [2:58]
Alleluia. Ora pro nobis [4:00]
Let God arise (No.2 of 9 Psalm Tunes) [3:35]
Salve intemerata virgo [16:06]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67994 [68:42] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) (September 2013 release)

This is the second instalment of The Cardinall’s Musick’s traversal of the music of Tallis, following the earlier Gaude gloriosa and other sacred music on CDA67548review and June 2011/1 DL Roundup. If that seems like a long gap, the interim has not been mis-spent; their complete traversal of Byrd’s Latin music, begun on ASV and completed by Hyperion, was followed in 2012 by his Great Service and other English music (CDA679372012/19 DL News).

The first volume of their Tallis ended up most unjustly in the unloved ‘Please buy me’ category; I very much hope that Volume 2 will sell better, though there is very strong competition from the complete set of recordings (La Chapelle du Roi, Brilliant Classics), also available separately, on Signum and the various recordings made by the eponymous Tallis Scholars (Gimell).

The new recording intersperses settings in Latin and English and though, inevitably, the English-texted music, especially the two works from Archbishop Parker’s Psalter, sounds sparse by comparison – it was Tallis’s friend Byrd who first successfully married the polyphonic style to English words – these performances prove that it should not be written off. O Lord give Thy Holy Spirit, which opens proceedings, is a notable case in point – aptly described in the notes as ‘exquisite’.

I’m not even going to try to compare the performances with those on Brilliant and Signum and, where relevant the Gimell. All three are so good that I can only urge you to obtain at least some of each – if you can’t run to the complete set from La Chappelle du Roi, though that’s inexpensive at around £25 for 10 CDs and can be downloaded from amazon.co.uk for a mere £7.49, at least opt for the selection on Regis RRC1394, Spem in alium, Lamentations I and II and motets for around £5. The more extensive 2-CD Regis/Portrait release which I recommended some time ago is apparently deleted, though amazon.co.uk had one left when I checked.

One minuscule niggle concerning Andrew Carwood’s excellent notes: the Book of Common Prayer as restored in 1559 was not the first Edwardine Book of 1549 but the more Protestant revision of 1552, albeit with some small restorations from 1549 which apparently reflected Queen Elizabeth’s belief in the Eucharistic Real Presence. Whatever her personal preferences might otherwise have been, the return of so many exiles from Geneva and the refusal to serve of even the most moderate bishops from Mary’s reign limited her choices – her Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, found it impossible to force all clergy to wear a cope and had to be satisfied with insisting on the retention of the surplice against Puritan opposition.

Times go by Turns
William BYRD (1540-1623)
Mass for four voices [21:40]
Richard Rodney BENNETT (1936-2012) A colloquy with God [3:36]
John PLUMMER (1410-1483) Missa sine nomine [25:54]
Andrew SMITH (b.1970) Kyrie cunctipotens Genitor Deus [3:44]
Thomas TALLIS (1505-1585) Mass for four voices [19:39]
Gabriel JACKSON (b.1962) Ite missa est [2:32]
New York Polyphony (Geoffrey Williams (counter-tenor), Steven Caldicott Wilson (tenor), Christopher Dylan Herbert (baritone), Craig Phillips (bass)) – rec. January 2013. DDD
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
BIS BIS-SACD-2037 [77:58] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

This is something of a mixed blessing. The plus points include the alternation of music from the heyday of polyphony with modern compositions, reminding us of the continuity of music through the turmoil of the Reformation and until the present day, with the three modern works showing clearly their kinship with their three predecessors. Andrew Smith’s Kyrie cunctipotens Creator Deus even uses as its text a troped or farced Kyrie such as is found in the Sarum Missal, with extra words interpolated to accommodate ever more elaborate settings, as here in the Plummer Mass, a practice which Archbishop Cranmer sought to end in 1549 with his rule of one note per syllable as far as possible.

Actually, the Byrd Mass meets that demand pretty well – a simpler setting had also become a requirement for the Latin rite after the Council of Trent – and could easily have been sung in the Queen’s Chapel Royal, where Latin texts and elaborate vestments and ritual still found a home, but it was almost certainly intended for small-scale private celebration in the home of Roman Catholic sympathisers in deepest Essex.

That brings me to the minus side: I thought that the Byrd Mass which opens the proceedings was delivered in somewhat too forthright a manner for a work which would have been sung with a degree of circumspection in the home of his recusant benefactor. The manner here, with the intonation of the opening Kyrie sung as if in defiance of Puritan spies, would be more suited to a performance of his Great Service, intended for public Anglican worship in the Chapel Royal or Westminster Abbey.

I have to admit, however, that I listened again immediately after hearing the whole CD and liked the performance a whole lot better the second time. Though the Tallis Mass moves a good deal faster than on other recordings, New York Polyphony’s tempi for the Byrd are fairly leisurely – very similar to those adopted by the Tallis Scholars on their classic recording of all three Byrd Masses (CDGIM208, two-for-one, with the Great Service, etc. – review and January 2009 DL Roundup). If you prefer the music in the context of an actual service, in the case of the four-part work with music for Corpus Christi, Nimbus can provide that with their three recordings from Christ Church, Oxford – review. Those recordings of the three Byrd Masses are also available, without the additional music, on a bargain release for around £5 (Regis RRC1336: Bargain of the Monthreview). This is hotly contested territory and I would still prefer any of the above to the new recording, but there are other considerations. The sections of the 4-part Mass are also distributed across 1605: Treason and Dischord (Signum – see list below).

Historians and students of literature have only recently begun to challenge the Tudor myth that the fifteenth century was dismal and unproductive – even the great C.S. Lewis called it ‘long’ and by implication boring – but musicologists have long known that it was a great age of English polyphony. NY Polyphony would have done us a favour in making available this performance of John Plummer’s Mass were it not that we already had a fine performance from the Clerks’ Group on Signum, together with another work from the same Brussels MS, Frye’s Missa Flora Regalis (SIGCD015June 2009 DL Roundup). As it is, the forthright New York style is more suited to this work than to the Byrd Mass. Autre temps, autre mœurs indeed or, as the title of this CD has it, quoting the martyr Robert Southwell, Times go by turns; it’s unfortunate that the performing style of the Byrd doesn’t illustrate that maxim more accurately. I liked the Clerks’ performance of this work, but my colleague Peter Wells was less impressed for reasons which I don’t fully understand – review – so it may well be that he and others would prefer the new recording.

It’s far from clear when the Tallis Mass was composed – Chapelle du Roi in their complete series include it ambiguously in the Music at the Reformation disc (Signum SIGCD002). As the notes in the booklet point out, it makes sparing but effective use of polyphony, so could have been composed at any time from late in the reign of Henry VIII onwards. It may be that my ear had become more attuned to the NY Polyphony style by this point, but I enjoyed their performance of this work, though I marginally prefer the rather more leisurely singing on the Signum recording. Indeed, that whole Signum series remains my benchmark for the music of Tallis. There are also very good versions of this four-part Mass on Naxos (Oxford Camerata Naxos 8.550576 or 8.556842) and from Magnificat (Linn CKD233August 2009 DL Roundup).

Gabriel Jackson’s Ite missa est is one of those works which sounds both ancient and modern – think of some of the 20th-century settings of medieval carols, familiar from King’s on Christmas Eve and you are in the right area. The style of the New York singers comes fully into its own here.

The recording is good, though the rather close balance heightens the forthrightness which I disliked in Byrd. I tried both the 24-bit and the mp3 downloads. The notes are scholarly but comprehensible even to non-scholars. The rather improbable timings listed on the eclassical.com page – 41:32 each for the Byrd and Tallis – are somewhat wide of the mark.

Some other recommendations of music from this period from eclassical.com:

William BYRD and Thomas TALLIS: Heavenly Harmonies, Stile Antico, Harmonia Mundi HMU807463 [78:38] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless). Recording of the Month – details and review
Puer natus est – Tudor Music for Advent and Christmas, Stile Antico, Harmonia Mundi HMU807517 [78:01] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet). Recording of the Month – review
Passion and Resurrection – Music for Holy Week, Stile Antico, Harmonia Mundi HMU807555 [71:08] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet). Recording of the Month review – and 2013/4 DL News.
Tune thy Musicke to thy Heart: Tudor and Jacobean Music for Private Devotion, Stile Antico and Fretwork, Harmonia Mundi HMU857554 [66:42] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet) – review and June 2012/2 DL Roundup.
Christopher GIBBONS Motets, Anthems, Fantasias and Voluntaries, Academy of Ancient Music/Richard Egarr, Harmonia Mundi HMU807551 [62:17] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet). Recording of the Monthreview.
Thomas TALLIS, William BYRD, Robert WHYTE, Hugh ASTON and John SHEPPARD Music for Compline, Stile Antico, Harmonia Mundi HMU807419 [74:25] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet).See review of Calliope CAL9623 - July 2012/2 DL Roundup.
Thomas TALLIS Lamentations I and II, Motets and String Music, Theatre of Voices, The King’s Noyse/Paul Hillier, Harmonia Mundi HMU907154 [70:39] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless). See review of SIGCD016.
1605: Treason and Dischord: William Byrd and the Gunpowder Plot, The King’s Singers, Concordia, Signum SIGCD061 [69:22] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf flyer) – details and review and July 2012/2 DL Roundup
Thomas TALLIS and William BYRD Cantiones Sacræ (1575) Alamire/David Skinner, Obsidian OBSID-CD706 [2CDs: 2:09:48] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless). Recording of the Month - review and March 2011/1 DL Roundup
William BYRD Ave verum corpus and other motets and anthems, Cambridge Singers/John Rutter, Collegium CSCD507 [69:26] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) – details and review.
Thomas TALLIS Complete Works, Chapelle du Roi/Alistair Dixon: Volume 1 SIGCD001 [71:51] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet); Volume 3 SIGCD003 [64:37]– from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless); Volume 7 SIGCD029 [62:41]– from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless). See July 2012/2 DL Roundup.

The above are also available from classicsonline.com in mp3 only but eclassical.com’s prices are competitive and 16-bit lossless comes at the same price as mp3, with 24-bit, where indicated, a little more expensive. Classicsonline.com have the remaining volumes of the 10-CD Signum Tallis set.

Cipriano de RORE (c1515/16-1565) Missa Doulce mémoire and Missa a note negre
Missa Doulce mémoire
[27:42]
O altitudo divitiarum [7:09]
Fratres: Scitote [5:58]
Illuxit nunc sacra dies [2:25]
Missa a note negre [31:14]
The Brabant Ensemble/Stephen Rice – rec. August 2012. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67913 [74:28] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

This is a valuable addition to the discography of a still under-represented composer whose secular works are much better known than his sacred music. Wisely and, presumably, deliberately, this new recording is complementary to The Tallis Scholars’ recording of the music of Cipriano de Rore (Missa Præter rerum seriem, with motets and music by Josquin Despres, Gimell CDGIM029Tallis Scholars at 30 Roundup – or on an inexpensive 2-for-1 collection of music by Flemish Masters, CDGIM211: Bargain of the Monthreview), hitherto the most important recording of his religious music, or a collection of his music from the Huelgas Ensemble and Paul van Nevel on Harmonia Mundi – the same Mass as on Gimell with a number of madrigals and motets: out of stock at some dealers and possibly due for reissue at mid price. Compared with the Gimell in Tallis Scholars at 30 Roundup.

I see that the Brabant Ensemble are due to sing the Missa Doulce mémoire and other motets by de Rore at morning Mass in Basel Münster on 25 August 2013. The quality of these performances makes me sorry that I shan’t be able to be there to hear them in the flesh; go if you can, then order the CD or purchase the download. Recording and booklet are both well up to Hyperion’s usual standard.

Like the Cardinall’s Musick, the Brabant Ensemble already have a distinguished Hyperion back catalogue:

Clemens non Papa: Requiem and Penitential Motets CDA67848
Crecquillon: Missa Mort m’a privé and other sacred music CDA67596
Gombert: Tribulatio et angustia CDA67614
Lassus: Prophetiae Sibyllarum and Missa Amor ecco colei CDA67887
Manchicourt: Missa Cuidez vous que Dieu and other sacred music CDA67604
Morales: Magnificat, Motets and Lamentations CDA67694
Moulu: Missa Alma redemptoris and Missus est Gabriel CDA67761
Mouton: Missa Tu es Petrus and other works CDA67933
Music from the Chirk Castle Part-Books CDA67695
Palestrina: Missa Ad cœnam Agni and Eastertide motets CDA67978
Phinot: Missa Si bona suscepimus and other sacred music CDA67696

François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Le Parnasse ou L’Apothéose de Corelli: Grande Sonade, en Trio [13:54]
Concert Instrumental sous le Titre d’Apothéose composé à la mémoire immortelle de l’incomparable Monsieur de Lulli [31:50]
La Paix du Parnasse faite aux Conditions (sur la Remonstrance des Muses Françoises) que lorsqu’on y parleroit leur langue, on diroit dorénavant Sonade, Cantade; ainsi qu’on prononce, ballade, Sérénade; etc: Sonade en Trio [7:28]
La Sultane: Sonade en quatuor (Edited by Richard Gwilt) [9:33]
La Steinkerque: Sonade en trio (Edited by Richard Gwilt) [9:12]
London Baroque (Ingrid Seifert, Richard Gwilt (violin); Charles Medlam (bass viol and narration); William Hunt (bass viol); Terence Charlston (harpsichord) – rec. 2001. DDD
Pdf booklet included
BIS BIS-CD-1275 [65:40] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)

[‘Charles Medlam leads an excellent performance, and … the recorded sound is exemplary, at once clear and atmospheric.’ See review by Terry Barfoot.]

L'Apothéose de Lulli [20:57]
La Paix du Parnasse [6:21]
Le Parnasse ou l’Apothéose de Corelli [12:41]
Allemande à deux clavecins (9e Ordre) [4:58]
La Julliet (14e Ordre): Gayment [1:53]
La Létiville (16e Ordre) [1:46]
Musète de Choisi. Tendrement – Musète de Taverni (15e Ordre). Légèrement [6:25]
William Christie and Christophe Rousset (harpsichords)
HARMONIA MUNDI D’ABORD 1951269 [55:01] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless)

We owe to François Couperin ‘Le Grand’ the ending of the musical wars between the French and the Italian styles – to us there seems little difference between them, but their partisans actually came to blows. In Couperin’s musical Parnassus both Lully – an Italian who espoused the French style – and Corelli, the begetter of the Italian style are reconciled.

The music of this period is meat and drink to both sets of performers and both recordings sound well in both formats. It’s just a shame that room was not found on either disc for at least some of the movements from Couperin’s other work on the reconciliation of the style, Les Goûts réunis, perhaps in preference to the shorter pieces, good as the performances of these are*.

The important difference between the two recordings is that whereas London Baroque performs the works as trio sonatas, as designated, William Christie and Christophe Rousset use the alternative two-harpsichord format, specifically authorised by Couperin himself. For all the quality of the two harpsichordists, it’s the BIS version that I am more likely to choose for future listening and I imagine that most potential purchasers would agree. My only reservation is the distraction of Charles Medlam declaiming the words which preface each section – in his best Comédie Française accent, but rather annoying on repetition. It’s not even as if the words are quotations from poetry like those which preface the sections of Vaughan Williams’ Sinfonia Antartica.

When last available on CD, the Harmonia Mundi was at budget price, but it’s now being offered in some quarters for over £25, so the eclassical.com price of $9.90 is very reasonable. By an anomaly which I don’t understand, eclassical.com, who charge by the second, actually offer the longer BIS recording for a few cents less.

Those in search of a bargain version of the Apothéose de Lulli will find it coupled with excerpts from Bach’s Musical Offering on Orion LAN0107 – £4.99 from classicsonline.com. The performance, by the Alarius Ensemble of Brussels, is decent but no more – the flute-dominated sound picture is more suited to the Bach than the Couperin. They also have the Apothéose de Corelli, with Bach Suite No.2 and music by Corette, on LAN0011. With Jean-Pierre Rampal playing the flute and directing the ensemble, this is another flute-dominated and, I’m sorry to say, rather anaemic recording, sounding older than its date of 1962.

* For the two best-known sonatas from Les Goûts réünis, also known as Nouveaux Concerts, the Chandos 2-CD set of Couperin’s Les Nations, performed by the Purcell Quartet, offers No.12 on CHAN0684 and No.13 on CHAN0729 (available separately, both in mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklets). Stephen Hall had serious reservations about Volume 2 – review – so you may wish to test-drive first via the Naxos Music Library if possible. There’s a 2-CD set of the complete Les Goûts réünis from Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset (Decca, from 7digital.com); I haven’t heard it but that too has been described as too serious in tone, not just in the MusicWeb International review. The three discs containing Concerts Royaux and Les Goûts from Musica ad Rhenum’s Brilliant Classics complete set of Couperin’s chamber music – review – are available for £5.49 from 7digital.com.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Tesori del Piemonte 50: Concerti da Camera
Trio Sonatas, Op.1, RV61-65, 73, 75, 78, 79
L’Estravagante Ensemble
Pdf booklet included
NAÏVE OP30535 [73:22] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Tesori del Piemonte 51: Violin Concertos Volume 4
Concertos Nos. RV171, 181, 263a, 271, 327, 331, 397 (L’Imperiale)
Il Pomo d’Oro/Riccardo Masahide Minasi (violin)
NAÏVE OP30533 [77:06] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Tesori del Piemonte 52: Violin Concertos Volume 5
Concertos for violin and strings Nos. RV177, 212a, 242, 246, 328, 370, 379 (Concerti per Pisendel)
Il Pomo d’Oro/Dmitry Sinkovsky (violin) – rec. March 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet included
NAÏVE OP30538 [77:47] – from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Concerti per archi – Concerti per strumenti vari
vol. 2
Concerto in A, RV159
Concerto in g minor, RV153
Concerto in D, RV121
Concerto in d minor, Madrigalesco, RV129
Concerto in g minor, RV154
Concerto in C, RV115
Concerto in f minor, RV143
Concerto in F, RV141
Concerto in c minor, RV120
Concerto in g minor, RV156
Concerto in A, RV158
Concerto in D, RV123
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini (harpsichord) – rec. Feb 2003. DDD.
NAÏVE OPUS111 OP30377 [65:49] – from eclassical.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[‘[a] sure fire winner.’ See review by Michael Cookson]

Concerti per l’orchestra di Dresda

Concerto for Multiple Instruments in F, RV569 [12:12]
Concerto in F, RV 568 [15:13]
Concerto in D Per la Solennità di San Lorenzo, RV562 [16:35]
Bassoon Concerto, RV571 [10:01]
Concerto for Multiple Instruments in g minor, RV574 [11:48]
Concerto in F, RV 568: Alternative movement – Grave [1:56]
Les Ambassadeurs/Alexis Kossenko – rec. July 2012. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
ALPHA190 [65:59] – from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) or eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Naïve/Op111: this series is almost self-recommending by now – but please can we decide if the recordings are on the Naïve or Opus111 label? I know it’s the same company, but it’s a bit confusing for the punters especially if, like me, you save downloads under the name of the label. Only those who like their Vivaldi a little tamer may wish to look elsewhere – try the opening movement of RV177 on Volume 52 if you want to see if you fall into that category.

Don’t forget Volume 29, Violin Concertos I, on Naïve/Opus11 OP30417, and Volume 54, Bassoon Concertos III, on OP30539, which I reviewed in DL News 2013/2. At the time of writing the eclassical download of the former was unavailable, presumably till the fault which I mentioned with track 2 had been put right: meanwhile there’s an mp3-only version from classicsonline.com.

Alpha: these concertos, composed for Vivaldi’s pupil and colleague, Pisendell and his Dresden orchestra, are among his finest works and the performances do them justice.

The eclassical download became available after I had obtained the lossless flac from classicsonline. If you just want mp3, honours are about even, but the eclassical price for flac is the same as for mp3, whereas it’s £1 or $1 more from classicsonline (mp3 £7.99/$7.99 and flac £8.99/$8.99), giving eclassical ($11.88 both formats), for whom this is their first Alpha release, a slight edge price-wise for UK purchasers at current exchange rates, though not for US purchasers. Moreover, eclassical allow purchasers to download the flac and return for mp3; if you purchase the flac from classicsonline and want the mp3 for your personal player, you’ll have to use a conversion program. Most of the free programs won’t convert to anything higher than 192kb/s mp3, though you may find one that will give you 320kb/s wma for your personal player.

Whichever download you choose, you’ll find these performances a little tamer than those on Naïve/Opus111, despite the violent storm depicted on the front cover – perhaps that would have been better saved for a recording of La Tempesta di Mare – but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty of energy and variety here and the lossless recording is very good, even when converted to 320kb/s wma for an mp3 player. This promises to be another fine series; meanwhile you’ll find more Dresden concertos (for the violin) on four separate Naxos releases, available from classicsonline.com.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Organ Works II
Toccata and Fugue in d minor, BWV 565 [8:48]
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 739 [4:50]
Passacaglia in c minor BWV 582 [13:20]
Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV 564: Toccata [6:15]; Adagio [4:11]; Fugue [4:41]
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr: Canto fermo in Soprano, BWV 662 [7:41]
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr: Canto fermo in Tenore, BWV 663 [7:00]
Trio super Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, BWV 664 [4:47]
Toccata and Fugue in F, BWV 540: Toccata [8:15]; Fugue [5:10]
Fuga sopra il Magnificat, BWV 733 [5:11]
Robert Quinney (Metzler organ of Trinity College, Cambridge) – rec. 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet included
CORO COR16112 [80:22] – from thesixteendigital.com (mp3, aac and 24-bit lossless)

It’s only a short while ago that I was praising a Resonus recording of Bach on the Trinity College Organ – RES10120: DL News 2013/8 and Geoff Molyneux’s equally enthusiastic response, DL News 2013/10. Now comes another fine Bach recording on that instrument. The Coro programme is less adventurous than that on Resonus of Clavierübung III, commencing as it does with the possibly spurious but ubiquitous Toccata and Fugue in d minor, BWV565, of which Bach and organ lovers surely have several recordings, but that makes it all the more attractive to comparative novices. Not that the performances would fail to appeal to more experienced aficionados, especially as the booklet contains a discussion of the authenticity of BWV565 – marginally in favour of Bach’s authorship – and a complete specification of the organ.

With the final bonus track, not on the equivalent CD, the download runs to more than 80 minutes, so the only way to burn it to CDR would be as an mp3 disc or to forego the bonus. I tried the mp3 download as well as the 24/96 lossless flac and both are excellent, with a noticeable advantage to the latter.

Since I recommended the recent Warner release of the complete Teldec Bach Edition on a single USB I seem to have been recommending so many excellent alternatives to the very fine performances there as to put a strain on the bank balances of Bach lovers. Don’t blame me; it’s the fault of the classical music recording industry for tempting us with so many goodies.

This is listed as Volume II: its predecessor, containing the Trio Sonatas, BWV525-530, on COR16095, is not yet available from The Sixteen’s own digital shop, but can be purchased in mp3 from classicsonline.com or streamed from Naxos Music Library (both with pdf booklet) or, for a few pence less but at a lower bit-rate and without booklet, from amazon.co.uk or emusic.com.

Discovery of the Month
William HAYES (1707-1777)

The Passions: An Ode for Music (Oxford 1750)
Evelyn Tubb, Ulrike Hofbauer (sopranos), Sumihito Uesugi (counter-tenor), David Munderloh (tenor), Lisandro Abadie (bass)
Chor der Schola Cantorum Basiliensis
La Cetra Barockorchester Basel/Anthony Rooley – rec. October 2008. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts included
GLOSSA GCD922501 [75:31] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library.

The only other recording – and that of excerpts only – on the ABC Classics label is out of stock at the UK distributor and the Capriccio recording of the orchestral music which Johan van Veen liked – review – seems to have been deleted, so it’s fortunate that this Glossa version remains available on CD and as a download.

The theme of the work, composed for the Oxford degree ceremony in 1750, concerns the various passions which music arouses, all controlled in true 18th-centuty fashion, by Reason. There may be no-one here of the calibre of Emma Kirkby on ABC, though Evelyn Tubb, her partner on two of my favourite Monteverdi CDs (now budget-price Alto ALC1060 and ALC1160) and on the 7-CD Virgin Classics set of all eight books of madrigals (0833972), comes pretty close, even if her voice is a little small-scale for this part. Overall this is an enjoyable set of performances of music which falls only just short of being worthy of comparison with Handel. Indeed, Revenge’s music will sound familiar to those who know Revenge, Timotheus cries from Handel’s Alexander’s Feast, though just avoiding any charge of plagiarism.

The recording sounds well and the inclusion of the 58-page booklet is an added bonus. Ignore the classicsonline.com claim to over 2 hours running time and the information in Naxos Music Library that this is ‘20th Century Baroque’ whatever that may be.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphonies

From time to time I like to take stock of basic repertoire recommendations and there’s nothing more basic than the Beethoven symphonies, which I last examined in March 2010 – what I’ve written below should be read in parallel with what I wrote then. Ignore the links to passionato.com, no longer in the download business.

Those who like to purchase a complete set in one swoop have never been better served in all categories:

• EMI 4042752: Philharmonia and New Philharmonia/Otto Klemperer in the complete symphonies and overtures, including both his mono and stereo recordings of the Third and Fifth Symphonies, on 10 CDs for around £20, has to be the top recommendation even among other choice recent reissues on the Klemperer Legacy Edition. Download from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk (320kb/s) for £13.99 or (256kb/s) from amazon.co.uk for £11.99.
• If you already have most of the stereo versions, the Naxos Classical Archives version of the Klemperer mono Eroica can be downloaded for £1.68 from emusic.com (not available in USA, Australia and several other countries). The lossless download from passionato.com listed in March 2010 is no longer available but Naxos Historical 8.111303 listed then remains available in certain countries at £4.99, with the EMI version at the same price from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk.
• If you want just one recording from the stereo Klemperer cycle, my recommendation would be No.6 (Pastoral) with Prometheus and Coriolan Overtures and incidental music from Egmont on EMI 0094639601554 – download for just £3.99 from classicsonline.com.
• Naïve V5258: La Chambre Philharmonique/Emmanuel Krivine – see July 2011/1 DL Roundup. This is the version for period-instrument enthusiasts, yet there’s plenty of power here, too, where it’s necessary. You may think that this and the Klemperer set would be mutually exclusive, yet I’d be loath to ditch either of them for my Desert Island selection. If I couldn’t have them both, I’d have to opt for my ideal compromise, modern instruments directed with a sense of period style:
• Hyperion CDS44301/5: Scottish Chamber Orchestra (1-8) and Philharmonia (No.9) /Sir Charles Mackerras, recorded live at the Edinburgh Festival – Recording of the Month – see review, review and March 2010 Roundup.

Any one of these complete editions would do me very nicely – better still all three – but many collectors prefer single-disc pick and choose and I made a number of suggestions in that March 2010 Roundup, among them Osmo Vänskä with the Minnesota Orchestra in Nos. 2 and 7 (BIS-SACD-1816) and No.9 (BIS-SACD-1616). I gave links to emusic.com, amazon.com and classicsonline.com, all in mp3 only and, in the case of the first two, at less than the ideal 320kb/s. eclassical.com offer the whole series at competitive prices and with pdf booklets, in mp3 and lossless sound and, for a little extra, 24-bit; I list the whole series below:

• Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6 (Pastoral): BIS-SACD-1716here;
• Symphonies Nos. 2 and 7: BIS-SACD-1816 here;
• Symphonies Nos. 3 (Eroica) and 8: BIS-SACD-1516 here;
• Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5: BIS-SACD-1416 here;
• Symphony No.9 (Choral): BIS-SACD-1616here.

It’s hardly surprising that these recordings regularly feature in eclassical.com’s top 25 best sellers – as I write BIS-1616 is No.9 and 1516 is No.24.

If you’re happy with mp3 at around 256kb/s and would like to save on the complete set, amazon.co.uk offer it for £22.99, but some dealers have the physical set for around that price, 5 CDs for the price of 2 (BIS-SACD-1825/26). Though I’ve listed the individual recordings as an alternative to a complete set, you may find after hearing one that you’re tempted to buy the lot. There are absolutely no duds here – don’t just take my word; read Dominy Clements’ review of the complete set: Recording of the Month. Sample individual recordings in the series from Naxos Music Library.

Three releases on PentaTone from Philippe Herreweghe with the Royal Flemish Phliharmonic Orchestra are also very worthwhile:

PTC5186313: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3 – CD only, no download available
PTC5186314: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 6 – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
PTC5186315: Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library – review
PTC5186316: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 8 – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library
PTC5186317: Symphony No. 9 (Choral) – from classicsonline.com (mp3, with booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Like Mackerras (Hyperion) Herreweghe puts his experience with period ensembles to good use with a modern-instrument orchestra. See Simon Thompson’s review of the whole cycle.

Another period-instrument set recorded live offers strong competition for the Krivine on Naïve and it’s available in lossless as well as mp3:

Glossa GCDSA921116: Beethoven – The Symphonies Live from Rotterdam: Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century/Frans Brüggen – from eclassical.com. It involves a larger layout than most of the sets listed above ($63.80) but it’s money well spent especially if, for any reason, the Krivine doesn’t appeal or you insist on having lossless. With this download, indeed, as with all eclassical.com downloads, it’s possible to download one format and return for the other – flac for your audio system and mp3 for your personal player. There’s no booklet, but that’s not the major handicap it would be with opera or choral music; in any case, subscribers to Naxos Music Library can obtain it there and compare it with Krivine. Review in DL News 2013/1.

I thought the Decca box set of Daniel Barenboim performances of all nine symphonies (Beethoven for All 478 3511 or Linn UNI030 in Studio Master Sound) something of a mixed blessing – September 2012/1 DL Roundup.

In addition to the recordings listed above, you’ll find a review of the Fifth and Seventh Symphonies from John Eliot Gardiner (SDG717) and an inexpensive Beulah Extra reissue of Klemperer’s First Symphony (6-9BX114) in DL News 2013/1. For Colin Davis’s wonderful first (HMV) recording of the Seventh Symphony, restored to us by Beulah (15-18BX129) see February 2012/1 DL Roundup.

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Les Nuits d’été, Op.7 [28:33]
Roméo et Juliette, Op.17: Love Scene [16:48]
La Mort de Cléopâtre – Scène lyrique [20:05]
Karen Cargill (mezzo)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Robin Ticciati
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
LINN CKD421 [65:48] – from linnrecords.com (SACD, mp3, 16-bit, 24/96 and 24/192 downloads) or stream from Naxos Music Library (no booklet)

Hector BERLIOZ Les Nuits d’été, Op.7* [30:35]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Shéhérazade* [15:40]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Trois chansons de Bilitis [9:40]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963) Chanson d’Orkenise [1:28]
Hôtel [2:05]
La Courte Paille: Le Carafon [1:06]
La Courte Paille: La Reine de Coeur [2:07]
Chansons villageoises: Les gars qui vont à la fête [1:45]
Deux Poems de Louis Aragon: 1. ‘C’ [3:00]
Régine Crespin (soprano)
L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet*; John Wustman (piano) – rec. 1963, 1967. ADD
DECCA ORIGINALS 4757712 [68:28] – from 7digital.com (mp3)

The classic Janet Baker performance of Les Nuits d’Eté is now yoked to a less recommendable recording of the complete Roméo et Juliette on an EMI twofer (Gemini 2176402). I thought this an unequal coupling – review; though it’s well worth having for Dame Janet’s contribution, that is now shorn of its original couplings to make way for a work which needs Colin Davis’s hand to succeed. The quality of Cléopâtre on the new Linn recording makes me wish all the more that EMI had managed to fit Janet Baker’s performance onto their Gemini set instead of making prospective purchasers buy a second Gemini set on which it is included (3814932, with La Damnation de Faust).

Suzanne Danco’s recording is even more of a classic and its reappearance on Decca Originals is very welcome – just £4.99 from 7 digital.com; be careful not to choose the more expensive Decca Classic Sound version. Though I’m a declared outright fan of Janet Baker, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t prefer the Danco on my desert island, especially as the couplings are equally recommendable. Though in mp3 only (at the full 320kb/s) the recording still sounds very well, but the lack of texts is a setback.

Though I wouldn’t want to be without either of those classic recordings, it’s not just the availability of SACD or 24-bit sound or the all-Berlioz coupling that makes me recommend Karen Cargill on the new Linn CD. Listening late on a hot July evening I was completely entranced.

Even if you are happy with mp3 only, there’s not much point in saving a penny by purchasing from classicsonline.com (£7.99) and foregoing the booklet). Linn’s prices range from £8.00 (mp3) to £18 (24/96 or 24/192), all with booklet. I tried the mp3 and 24/96 versions and both sound excellent.

Bargain of the Year
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Der Ring des Nibelungen (1869-1876)
Albert Dohmen (Wotan); Linda Watson (Brünnhilde); Stephen Gould (Siegfried); Andrew Shore (Alberich); Gerhard Siegel (Mime); Hans-Peter König (Hagen); Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde); Endrik Wottrich (Siegmund); Christa Mayer (Waltraute); Michelle Breedt (Fricka); Ralf Lukas (Gunther); Edith Haller (Gutrune); Kwangchul Youn (Hunding)
Bayreuth Festspiele Chorus and Orchestra/Christian Thielemann – rec. live, Summer 2008.
OPUS ARTE OACD9000BD [14 CDs: 14:50:00] – from amazon.co.uk (mp3)

At £4.49 this is either a huge mistake or the bargain of bargains – the CD set costs in the region of £90 and Amazon charge £14.98 for the 2-CD download highlights of the set; Siegfried alone costs £16.49 and there’s an alternative amazon.co.uk download for £53.49! I advise taking immediate advantage of this crazy economic anomaly.

7digital.com have the Swarowksy Ring for the same £4.49, but I had some reservations about that in my 2013/5 DL News. Though the amazon.co.uk transfer is at less than 256kb/s and the Swarowsky from 7digital is at 320, the more recent provenance of the Opus Arte means that it sounds better.

Opinions about the quality of the performances have ranged from Editor’s Choice, and five stars from some purchasers, to one star from another purchaser, with our own Tony Duggan in the middle, recognising the set’s many virtues but also pointing out some of its vocal shortcomings – review. In fact, some of the best singing is to be heard in the smaller roles, but none of it is less than acceptable, though experienced Wagnerites will have to put the great singers of the past out of mind. On the plus side, Christian Thielemann is as accomplished a conductor as you are likely to find.

The recording, though somewhat short of Amazon’s declared 256kb/s – more like 220-230 – is perfectly acceptable. Even Winamp and Songbird couldn’t smooth over one or two minute hiatuses between tracks – an inherent problem still with mp3 opera. Surprisingly, the latest version of iTunes did a better job. There are no texts, but these can be found online – better still look for a second-hand copy of the Faber edition of the original text with Andrew Porter’s working English translation. For all my mostly minor misgivings, anyone needing a complete Ring and unable to raise the wind for Solti (c.£75 as a download), Barenboim (c.£29), Karajan (c.£35) or Böhm (c.£35) need not hesitate.

Don’t forget the two instalments of what I hope is building towards a Hallé/Elder Ring cycle: die Walküre (CDHLD7531, 4 CDs plus libretto CD, £22 from MWI – here: reviewreviewreview) and Götterdämmerung (CDHLD7525, 5 CDs, £23 from MWI – here – or CDHLM7530, mp3 format, £11 from MWI here: see joint review of both formats). Without wishing to blow the MusicWeb International trumpet, most downloads work out more expensive than buying the CDs, apart from 7digital.com who offer each in mp3, without libretto, for £7.99.

Fans of Wagner in English in the Andrew Porter translation are well served by the Chandos recordings with Reginald Goodall and the ENO, available as a CD set, though the operas must be purchased separately as downloads now that the USB Ringreview – like all Chandos’s USBs, has shuffled off this mortal coil:

• The Rhinegold (CHAN3054)
• The Valkyrie (CHAN3038)
• Siegfried (CHAN3045)
• Twilight of the Gods (CHAN3060, excerpts CHAN8534 or, slightly less expensively, CHAN6593)
• Sampler (CHAN0019)

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No.1 in c minor, Op.68 (1876) [45:00]
Liebeslieder-Walzer from Op.52 and Op.65 (1869-70) [12:00]
Hungarian Dances: Nos.1, 3 and 10 [7:27]
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard – rec. March 2011 DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
BIS– SACD-1756 [64:27] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

The giants of recorded Brahms when I was finding my feet in his symphonic output were Walter (Columbia/CBS), Giulini (UK Columbia) and Klemperer (HMV). The last of these still provides my benchmark, especially for Symphonies 3 and 4, and his complete cycle has just been reissued again by EMI along with a great deal more valuable Klemperiana at unbelievably inexpensive prices. Klemperer’s Brahms is large-scale and craggy, though by no means as slow as you might expect – the big tune in the finale of No.1, for example, is much livelier than you might expect – while the Dausgaard recording comes in the BIS Opening Doors series with smaller forces than usual. How does the new version fare in comparison with those giants of the past?

Much hinges on the finale and the big tune which immediately earned the comparison with Beethoven that Brahms had feared and which had delayed his foray into the symphony – he laughed off the cries of ‘Beethoven’s Tenth’ with a retort that any donkey could see the similarity. We know that it’s coming but a good conductor makes us savour the rest of the movement first, with its hints of what is to come, and Dausgaard does just that without unduly hanging around. This performance may take some time to grow on the listener but I’m sure that it will do just that. With enjoyable performances of the Liebeslieder waltzes and three Hungarian Rhapsodies as fillers and good recording, especially in 24-bit sound, this will find a place in my listening as an alternative to Klemperer.

I’ve been listening to a live Klemperer recording of Brahms’ Third Symphony (Archiphon ARC-WU-139 [80:46]). Klemperer drives Eugene Ormandy’s de luxe Philadelphia Orchestra in a performance that matches his EMI version and, though less well recorded, adds that little extra frisson of a live concert. The couplings are Beethoven’s Egmont Overture – again that little bit more exciting than the studio recordings – and Schumann’s Fourth Symphony. Download in mp3 from classicsonline.com, rather extravagantly spread over 2 CDs when omission of the radio announcements would have brought it down to a single disc.

George Whitefield CHADWICK (1854-1931)
Symphonic Sketches (1895-1905) [30.07]
Melpomene Overture (1887) [13.03]
Tam O’Shanter (Symphonic Poem) (1915) [19.27]
Suite Symphonique (1909) [35.62]
Aphrodite (Symphonic Poem) (1910) [28.18]
Elegy (1887) [7.50]
Czech State PO/Jose Serebrier – rec. 1995/96
Abridged pdf booklet included
REFERENCE RECORDINGS RR-2104CD [62:50+72:25] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

['This is warmly recommended for fine rare repertoire and typically sprung, lively sound with power and subtlety aplenty.' See review by Rob Barnett]

This is the kind of music that sounds familiar and you think you ought to be able to recognise it, but can’t quite place it. Could it be Dvořák, or is it early Delius? It isn’t either but that suggests that Chadwick found it hard to develop an individual voice, though I enjoyed hearing everything here, thanks to the advocacy of all concerned. Despite the flow of incessant new recordings clamouring for attention I shall be listening to more of Chadwick’s music in Naxos American Classics recordings.

The mp3 transfer is good but the pdf booklet, which Rob Barnett found so helpful, is severely truncated – just the front and back covers and one random page from inside.

Sergei TANEYEV (1856-1915) Complete String Quartets Volume 3

String Quartet No.7 in E flat [38:05]
String Quartet No.5 in A, Op. 13 [24:10]
Carpe Diem String Quartet (Charles Wetherbee, John Ewing (violin); Korine Fujiwara (viola); Kristin Ostling (cello)) – rec. December 2010. DDD
Pdf booklet available
NAXOS 8.573010 [62:14] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Once again Naxos rides to the rescue of music which has not heretofore received its due, with only the eponymous Taneyev Quartet otherwise undertaking a complete set of these string quartets at full price on the Northern Flowers label. Those rival recordings are available as downloads from eclassical.com in mp3 and lossless sound and at budget price from classicsonline.com in mp3; Gavin Dixon enjoyed the first volume of that series – review – and thought Volume 5 – review – and Volume 6 adequate – review – but was not impressed by Volume 3 – review. With tuning not always reliable and sound dating from the 1970s on that series, the Naxos series, at budget price is probably the better buy.

This is the third disc in the series, which has been feeding through at sporadic intervals; the earlier volumes have been well received on MusicWeb International:

• Volume 1 (Quartets 1 and 3) 8.570437 [61:39] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library – review and review
• Volume 2 (Quartets 2 and 4) 8.572421 [73:10] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library – review

The music is small beer by comparison with the late Beethoven and Schubert Quartets and the Shostakovich Quartets (below) but it is tuneful and attractive and the Carpe Diem Quartet make a good case for it. I haven’t heard the eclassical.com lossless flac which, at $11.20, is more expensive than the CD, but the classicsonline.com mp3 is fine – now that classicsonline.com are offering recent Naxos recordings in mp3 and flac, I’m surprised that this recording is not among them.

Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No. 2 in c minor Resurrection (1888-1894)
Emilia Cundari (soprano)
Maureen Forrester (contralto)
Westminster Choir
New York Philharmonic Orchestra/Bruno Walter
rec. February 1957 and February 1958, Carnegie Hall, New York
32-bit XR re-master by Andrew Rose, April 2013. First issued as Columbia M2L 256
PRISTINE AUDIO PASC385 [79:40] – from Pristine Classical (24-bit flacs)

Andrew Rose’s re-mastered CD of Bruno Walter’s 1947 Mahler Fifth impressed me a great deal – review – not least because it freshened up the original sound in a most convincing and congenial way. That’s not always a given, as I’ve discovered with similar releases from other sources, such as HDTT. Indeed, Rose’s techniques are viewed with hostility in some quarters, but on the strength of that Mahler 5 – my first exposure to a Pristine product – such reactions seemed more than a little extreme. Yes, I did have a few reservations about the sonics – the odd timp sound, for instance – but taken in toto Rose’s efforts strike me as very worthwhile.

For comparison I dusted off my CBS Maestro set of this Walter Resurrection – coupled with the First – on M2YK 45674. It’s years since I last heard this recording and although time isn’t always kind to once-favoured performances I was surprised – and a little disappointed – by Walter’s measured way with the Trauermarsch; as for the early stereo sound it’s warm and rather veiled, as if the orchestra were playing behind a thick curtain. That wasn’t how I remembered it, but then I’ve heard so many fine, state-of-the-art recordings of this symphony since then.

Listening to Rose’s take on the first movement was not so much a surprise as a shock; far too much of the recorded ambience has disappeared and the newly highlighted string sound is a little steely. Even worse, the sense of a dynamic, living event in a sizeable space has been lost; the end result sounds oddly synthetic. Interpretively this Mahler 2 does get better as it progresses, with Walter at his open-hearted best in those Wunderhorn moments; not only that, he has an unerring grasp of the symphony’s long spans and creates terrific tension as we move towards that pate-cracking finale.

The two soloists and chorus are more than acceptable and – as I remembered – Walter paces ‘Urlicht’ most beautifully. My initial reservations about the Pristine sound were forgotten at that point, only to return with a vengeance in the long build-up to the chorus’s first quiet entry. Somehow the sound has been shrivelled – de-natured might be a better term – and what ought to be firm and expansive sounds rather hollow and imprecise. Admittedly the original is far from perfect, but at least it has body and coherence; even more important, it’s involving.

Indeed, that odd lack of togetherness – almost as if the music has been taken apart and imperfectly reassembled – is what distresses me most about this re-mastering. Lower strings are disembodied, the chorus sounds like it’s miles away and – inexplicably – the pulse has become faint. I can only assume that Rose’s methods – so successful in that mono Fifth – are ill-suited to what is, in any case, a decent stereo Second. As if that weren’t enough the organ’s added heft just doesn’t ring true.

I so wanted to enjoy and endorse this re-mastered Resurrection, but such is the level of intervention that I can’t do either. I haven’t heard enough Pristine releases to know whether this is just a one-off, but what this re-mastering does do is demonstrate just why Rose’s techniques are so controversial.

Dan Morgan

http://twitter.com/mahlerei

Great Works for Flute and Orchestra
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, FS119 [16:16]
Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES (1884-1920) Poem for Flute and Orchestra (1918) [9:57]
Carl REINECKE (1824-1910) Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in D, Op.283 [18:08]
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944) Concertino for Flute and Orchestra, Op.107 [7:07]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-93), adapted by Ernest Sauter Largo and Allegro for flute and strings (1863-64) [3:53]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963), orch. Lennox Berkeley Flute Sonata (1956-57) [11:27]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908), arr. Kalevi Aho The Flight of the Bumblebee (1899-1900) [1:02]
Sharon Bezaly (flute)
Residentie Orkest Den Haag/Neeme Järvi – rec. 2011. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
BIS-SACD-1679 [69:25] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

Familiar works top and tail this recording, albeit that two of them are in unfamiliar form. The Nielsen which opens the proceedings is the weightiest music here and competition is strong, in the form of all-Nielsen programmes, and all-flute recordings. If you want all three of the Nielsen concertos, for clarinet, flute and violin, the obvious benchmark is Chandos CHAN8894, but if you already have a recording of the Violin and/or Clarinet Concerto – perhaps the Fröst recording of the latter on BIS-SACD-1463, with Aho (review: download from eclassical.com or stream from Naxos Music Library) – the new BIS recording of the Flute Concerto will do very nicely.

Between this and the more familiar music at the end comes a series of enjoyable discoveries – maybe nothing to get excited about but well worth hearing.

There are good recordings of the Poulenc in its original guise, but I enjoyed hearing the orchestration by the composer’s friend Lennox Berkeley and may well prefer to hear the music in this form in future. The programme is rounded off by an enjoyable arrangement of Rimsky’s Bumble Bee, specially composed for Sharon Bezaly by Kalevi Aho.

For all my enjoyment of the new recording, I enjoyed even more hearing the reissue of an earlier Sharon Bezaly album, offered for a short time at a 30% discount with the new recording:

Bridge across the Pyrenees
Joaquín RODRIGO
Concierto pastoral for flute and orchestra (1978) [25:19]
François BORNE Fantaisie brillante sur des airs de Carmen (arranged for flute and orchestra by Giancarlo Chiaramello) [11:09]
Jacques IBERT Concerto for flute and orchestra (1934) [19:15]
Sharon Bezaly (flute)
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP)/John Neschling – rec. 2005. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
BIS-SACD-1559 [56:50] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit repertoire)

Even Dominy Clements’ only complaint, concerning the short-ish playing time (review), is taken care of by the eclassical policy of charging per second. Though the special offer will have ended by the time that you read this – but look out for their regular appearance, also eclassical’s daily discounts – this is well worth having at the regular price.

You’ll find details of the many distinguished recording which Sharon Bezaly has made for BIS by typing her name into the search engine on eclassical.com. Reviews of the last two albums which I encountered, with very different repertoire can be found in DL News 2012/13 (Pipe Dreams) and here (Barocking Together).


Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Symphony No.3 Pastoral [33:46]
Symphony No.5 [37:38]
Margaret Price (soprano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra; New Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
EMI 0077776401850 [71:24] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Norfolk Rhapsody No.2 [9:15]
Symphony No.3 Pastoral [39:00]
The Running Set [6:33]
Norfolk Rhapsody No.1 [11:25]
London SO/Richard Hickox
Pdf booklet included
CHANDOS CHAN10001 or CHAN5002 [66:26] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless – also on SACD CHSA5002)

EMI’s recent reissue of the stereo Boult VW Symphonies, orchestral works and Pilgrim’s Progress on 13 CDs offers a marvellous bargain for around £25, but many potential purchasers will have some of the contents already, especially as Pilgrim’s Progress has recently been reissued again. For some, therefore, individual albums remain more attractive; though no longer to be had on CD except often at ridiculous prices, most of them are available from classicsonline.com for £4.99, some at £6.99. I’ve picked the two symphonies here as representative of the whole series – perhaps marginally less recommendable as performances than the mono set which I’ve praised so many times, though there’s not much in it, but better recorded.

Chandos: an alternative view of the Pastoral Symphony which competes strongly with either of the Boult recordings. The fillers may be less attractive than the Fifth Symphony on EMI but well worth hearing. Though the mp3 transcript of the Boult is very good, this download comes in 16– and 24-bit lossless sound at a slightly higher price and with a pdf booklet. You may wish to wait for the SACD and download to reappear, as they surely must, at a lower price on the Chandos Hickox Edition.

For the Hickox recording of the Fifth Symphony and associated works, derived like the symphony from the Pilgrim’s Progress project, on CHAN9666, see my review of the USB release of all the symphonies recorded by Hickox – no longer available in that format – and for the recent Hallé/Elder recording of Symphonies 5 and 8 (CDHLL7533) DL News 2013/6.

In the Shadow of War
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Schelomo, Hebrew Rhapsody (1916) [21:22]
FRANK BRIDGE (1879-1941) Oration, Concerto Elegiaco (1930) [29:11]
Stephen HOUGH (b. 1961) The Loneliest Wilderness (2005)* [16:09]
Steven Isserlis (cello)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Hugo Wolff (Bloch/Bridge)
*Tapiola Sinfonietta/Gabor Takacs-Nagy (Hough)
rec. January 2012, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem, Germany (Bloch/Bridge); November 2009, Tapiola Concert Hall, Finland (Hough)
Pdf booklet included
BIS-SACD-1992 [67:40] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– & 24-bit flac)

I first heard Steven Isserlis in John Tavener’s The Protecting Veil, a recording I grew to dislike intensely because it was played to death at the time. I haven’t encountered the cellist since, [try his multi-award-winning Bach Cello Suites, Hyperion CDA67541/2BW]* so this new collection is a good opportunity to play catch-up. It’s one of BIS’s more creatively programmed efforts, coupling the well-known Bloch with the less familiar Bridge and the unknown – to me at least – Hough piece.

Schelomo – Hebrew for Solomon – is a darkly impassioned piece written in the midst of the Great War. Veering between hope and despair it’s a remarkably compact work that demands much of its interpreters. Isserlis is certainly up to the task – he produces a firm, well-rounded sound that never becomes stressed, even in the music’s more demanding passages – but I had to crank up the volume before it all snapped into place. That said the orchestral image remains diffuse and balances are unconvincing; also, the soloist may seem too recessed for those used to, say, Fournier’s classic account (DG). So, a deeply felt performance hampered by sub-par sonics.

Make no mistake Isserlis plays well, and that’s what really matters. I did wonder how he would compare with Alban Gerhardt, whose fiercely eloquent reading of Bridge’s Oration impressed me so (review). Although the piece was penned in 1930 it’s a direct and very personal response to the First World War; from the cello’s keening first entry it’s clear Isserlis has the measure of the piece. Gerhardt digs deeper though, and he finds more colour and contrast too. Also, the spacious and better balanced Chandos recording is more to my taste.

Those familiar with Stephen Hough the virtuoso pianist will be intrigued – as I was – to hear his composition The Loneliest Wilderness, based on a poem by Herbert Read. Also inspired by the Great War it has a lovely, singing cello line that rises above an austerely beautiful orchestral base. The tone of lament is unmistakable, allied to a sense of nostalgia that brings to mind Housman’s ‘land of lost content’. Those gentle harp figures are just gorgeous, and the recording has a richness and clarity that I don’t hear in the Bloch and Bridge. Happily the balances are much more satisfying too.

The Hough is a real find, and I suspect it will be the piece I return to most. As good as the other two readings are they are resolutely – and inexplicably – uninvolving. That’s probably the result of an excellent soloist fettered by pedestrian accompaniment and less than first-class sonics. Yes, this is a 44.1kHz original, but other BIS recordings of a similar provenance sound far better than this. Thankfully the Tapiola band seem more committed, and the sound is airier and better focused. Steven Isserlis provides very readable liner-notes.

Worth hearing for the Hough alone; look elsewhere for the other works.

Dan Morgan

http://twitter.com/mahlerei

* His recording of the two Dvořák Cello Concertos with the Mahler CO and Daniel Harding is due for release on Hyperion CDA67917 in October 2013.

[Since Dan has reviewed the 24-bit version, I tried the other end of the spectrum, the 320kb/s mp3, and found that equally good of its kind. BW]

Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Voice in the Wilderness: Symphonic Poem [27:57]
Schelomo: Hebrew Rhapsody [20:20]
Zara Nelsova (cello)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Ernest Ansermet – rec. 1955. ADD/mono
NAXOS CLASSICAL ARCHIVES 9.80809 [48:17] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) [also available in mp3 from classicsonline.com and emusic.com.]

I’d written this review before I received Dan’s thoughts on the new BIS recording. Zara Nelsova’s Bloch has strong claims to authenticity – she studied with the composer, who dedicated some of his music to her and used to refer to her as ‘Madame Schelomo’. This was her second recording of that work (Decca LXT5062); she had previously recorded it with Bloch himself, and it was always considered preferable to that earlier version. You may prefer to play the works in reverse order, as I did by mistake; though both are filled with sadness that lies too deep for tears, Voice in the Wilderness ends on a more positive note, Bloch having re-read and re-interpreted the Book of Ecclesiastes in the interim.

The downloads from classicsonline (£1.99) and emusic (£0.84), though less expensive, are in mp3 only and, in the latter case, at well below 320kb/s. Even the lossless version could hardly be mistaken for a modern recording; the sound is thin even for its age, but the ear adjusts and it is preferable to the emusic version (a pitiful 144 kb/s only) and even to the 320kb/s mp3, so I would recommend not economising. The usual proviso that this classic recording is not available in the USA, Australia and some other countries applies.

All three sources also have the Naxos transfer of Nelsova’s 1951 recording of the Dvořák Cello Concerto with the LSO and Josef Krips, much less of a challenge to existing recommendations.

In addition to the new recording (above) eclassical.com offers a recommendable modern recordings of Schelomo:

BIS-CD-576: Torleif Thedéen, Malmö SO/Lev Markiz (with Symphony in c# minor) – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet)

All three recordings can be streamed for comparison by those with access to the Naxos Music Library.

George GERSHWIN (1898-1937) Rhapsody in Blue
Strike up the Band – Overture (arr. Don Rose for orchestra) (1927/76) [6:56]
Rhapsody in Blue (arr. Ferde Grofé for piano and orchestra) (1924)* [18:28]
Promenade (arr. Sol Berkowitz, adapted by Paul Rosenbloom and John Fullam for clarinet and orchestra)
(1937/2010)† [3:32]
Catfish Row: Suite from Porgy and Bess (arr. Steven Bowen for orchestra) (1936/97) [25:25]
Orion Weiss (piano)*
John Fullam (clarinet)†
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta – rec. November 2010 and October 2012. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559750 [54:21] – from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Despite the rather short playing time, you may be tempted by the attractive price of this album (mp3 £4.99/$6.99, flac £5.99/$7.99). I had high expectations, too, of the performances, having enjoyed JoAnn Falletta and her Buffalo players in an earlier recording of the Second Rhapsody and Piano Concerto – April 2012/1 DL Roundup. Everything is in place here but at a rather lower voltage than I remembered from that earlier encounter. You’d still realise what a wonderful work the Rhapsody in Blue is from this performance, but you’d be more inclined to emphasise the beauty of invention, achieved at the expense of jazzy smoochiness. Surely I must be having an off day – but, no, turn to Brian Reinhart’s review and you’ll find a similar reaction. You don’t have to live on the American side of the pond to appreciate Gershwin, but I guess it helps, so I’m both gratified to see that we’re singing from the same hymn sheet and sorry that we’re not more appreciative.

The recording is good, but with the usual proviso that while the mp3 tracks are divided, the flac comes in one dollop, which you’ll have to divide for yourself with a program such as Medieval Cue Splitter if you don’t like it that way. Try this from Naxos Music Library to check out the performance, but remember that both the 320kb/s mp3 and lossless flac will sound better than the lower bit-rate of the streamed version.

It’s not long ago that I reviewed a recording of Rhapsody in Blue in its original jazz-band format on BIS-SACD-1940September 2012/2 Download Roundup. Freddy Kempf and Andrew Litton couple all the four Gershwin concertante works on a well-filled album. That release comes at a slightly higher price than the Naxos from classicsonline (£7.99/$9.99) and in mp3 only from that source, but turn to BIS’s home site, eclassical, and you’ll find both mp3 and lossless flac for $11.09 and 24-bit flac for $17.74, complete with booklet.

Readers outside the USA, Australia and other countries where Naxos Classical Archives are verboten will find two classic recordings of Rhapsody in Blue from classicsonline.com: Leonard Pennario and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Felix Slatkin (1956) with American in Paris and Morton Gould and his Orchestra (1955) with the Piano Concerto. £1.99 each in the UK or the Pennario for £0.84 from emusic.com.

Emusic.com have the Eugene List, Eastman-Rochester SO/Howard Hanson recording on Regis RRC1386, with American in Paris and Piano Concerto – May 2012/1 DL Roundup – for £2.10 and a Past Classics transfer of Leonard Bernstein in Rhapsody in Blue and Piano Concerto for £0.84. I can’t vouch for the quality of the transfers, so you may prefer to pay a little more for a download of one of several (at least three) Sony releases with Bernstein in the Rhapsody, such as the coupling with American from amazon.co.uk for £1.78. That’s what I really call Gershwin playing of the first order and it still sounds well, though the transfer is at slightly less than 256kb/s.

With so much competition, old and new, I’m sorry to have to rule the new Naxos recording out of court.

Discovery of the Month
Goffredo PETRASSI (1904-2003)

Magnificat for Soprano leggero (light soprano), Chorus, and Orchestra (1939-40)* [30:52]
Salmo IX° (Psalm 9) in Two Parts for Chorus, String Orchestra, Brass, Percussion, and Two Pianos (1934-36) [34:57]
Sabina Cvilak (soprano)*
Coro Teatro Regio Torino
Orchestra Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda – rec. 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet with texts and translations available
CHANDOS CHAN10750 [65:58] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

[see review by Gary Higginson and review by Hugh Culot]

I missed this when it was released earlier this year but I’m pleased to have caught up with it now. Despite the clear influence of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms on the Magnificat and occasional reminders of the 16th-century polyphonic style, there’s enough individuality about Petrassi’s employment of the neo-classical style to make the music worthwhile. If anything, the setting of Psalm 9, the longer work, is even more impressive and the performance of both contributed to my enjoyment.

Hitherto Petrassi has been a name only to me – he’s not listed in the last complete Penguin Guide (2010) or the last Gramophone Guide (2012) and I couldn’t even have given you his approximate dates – but I hope to explore his music further and that Chandos will act as vade mecum in the process.

The recording is good in all formats – I tried the 24-bit and mp3.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No. 7 in C, Op. 60 Leningrad (1941)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko – June 2012, DDD.
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.573057 [79:15] – from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

I had considerably fewer reservations about this new recording of the Leningrad than John Quinn – review; if you’re looking for a budget-price version I see no reason to hesitate, since only Rudolf Barshai on Regis RRC1074 presents a serious challenge and the only online dealer currently advertising this on CD is out of stock. Otherwise it’s available only in the complete Brilliant Classics set, which is fine if you want the whole box. Perhaps the Leningrad alone will return on the Alto label, as No.4 already has, for those prepared to wait, but most will be more than happy with the Naxos.

Petrenko’s Shostakovich has been winning plaudits and this latest addition to the series is one of the best. The very quiet opening of the first movement is indicative of his refusal to indulge in mere bombast. For much of the movement the tempo is slower than most, so that when the full power is unleashed the effect is stunning. I wouldn’t advise playing this recording in the car – if you crank up the volume to hear the opening over the road noise you’ll deafen yourself later. There aren’t many longer performances of this movement: Neeme Järvi (Chandos CHAN8623) takes just 25:30, though Valery Gergiev on Mariinsky MAR0533 (28:45) and Yevgeny Svetlanov with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1993 on Daphne 1023 (29:00) just top Petrenko’s 28:29 (try them all from Naxos Music Library). The result is that the Naxos recording only just fits on one CD.

The recording is good in both formats, with the lossless worth £1/$1 extra and still less expensive than the CD. There’s the usual problem if you don’t like having a flac version where all the movements are lumped together on one file. You may find other download sites which charge less but they don’t include the booklet.

The Soviet Experience – Volume One
String Quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich and his Contemporaries
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)

String Quartet No. 5 in B flat, Op. 92 (1952) [31:45]
String Quartet No. 6 in G, Op. 101 (1956) [25:38]
String Quartet No. 7 in f sharp minor, Op. 108 (1960) [12:13]
String Quartet No. 8 in c minor, Op. 110 (1960) [21:56]
Nikolai MYASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
String Quartet No.13 in a minor, Op.86 (1949) [25:36]
Pacifica Quartet (Simin Ganatra (violin); Sibbi Bernhardsson (violin); Masumi Per Rostad (viola); Brandon Vamos (cello)) – rec. 2010 and 2011. DDD
CEDILLE RECORDS CDR 90000-127 [2 CDs: 116:05] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[‘The Soviet Experience series has got off to an impressive start with these excellent performances.’ See review by Michael Cookson.]

Volume Two
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)

String Quartet. No. 1 in C, Op.49 (1938) [14.43]
String Quartet. No. 2 in A, Op.68 (1944) [35.18]
String Quartet. No. 3 in F, Op.73 (1946) [31.17]
String Quartet. No. 4 in D, Op.83 (1949) [25.18]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
String Quartet No. 2 in F, Op.92 (1941) [22.10]
Pacifica Quartet – rec. 2010 and 2011. DDD
CEDILLE RECORDS CDR 90000-130 [2 CDs: 75:37 + 53:40] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[‘There is much to admire in these excellent, civilised and deeply considered performances.’ See review by Paul Corfield Godfrey.]

Volume 3
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)

String Quartet No. 9 in E flat, Op. 117 (1964) [27:24]
String Quartet No. 10 in A flat, Op. 118 (1964) [24:52]
String Quartet No. 11 in f minor, Op. 122 (1965/66) [17:47]
String Quartet No. 12 in D flat, Op. 133 (1968) [26:11]
Mieczysław WEINBERG (1919-1996)
String Quartet No. 6 in e minor, Op. 35 (1946) [32:03]
Pacifica Quartet – rec. 2011 and 2012
CEDILLE RECORDS CDR 90000-138 [2CDs: 70:20 + 58:25] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[‘The excellence of this series makes this the finest collection available of the complete Shostakovich string quartets.’ See review by Michael Cookson.]

This series of recordings, coupling Shostakovich’s String Quartets with chamber music by his contemporaries, has received such resounding praise from all quarters that it’s almost superfluous to add my own two-pennyworth other than to endorse all the favourable comments and to say that I emerged from listening with no reservations. The classicsonline.com mp3 version of Volume 3 is very good and leads me to believe that the same applies to their downloads of the earlier volumes. The eclassical.com downloads of these – Volume 3 due soon? – are certainly very good in both mp3 and lossless and their prices competitive, with mp3 and lossless at the same price ($21.02 and $23.02 respectively).

If the combination of Shostakovich and Weinberg appeals, the Kopelman Quartet provide a very fine alternative account of String Quartet No.10, coupled with Weinberg’s Piano Quintet (with Elizaveta Kopelman) on Nimbus NI5865; something of a mixed bag with a fine recording of the Weinberg but just missing the emotional heart of the Shostakovich – review. Bargain-hunters will find the Alto reissues of the eponymous Shostakovich Quartet hard to beat, apart from the hideous artwork on the covers (ALC1112, 2012 and 2013). 7digital.com have the complete 5-disc set for download at £7.99; otherwise stick with the inexpensive CDs.

Discovery of the Month
Jaakko KUUSISTO (b. 1974)

Leika for symphony orchestra, Op. 24 (2010) [11:35]
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 28 (2011-12) [30:38]
John CORIGLIANO (b. 1938)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, ‘The Red Violin’ (2003) [33:53]
Elina Vähälä (violin)
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Jaakko Kuusisto – rec. April and August 2012. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
BIS BIS-SACD-2020 [77:04] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

The Kuusisto works amount to my Discovery of the Month – approachable music from the scion of one of Finland’s most famous musical families. Leika, an Old Norse word for play, preserved in Northern English dialects as the verb ‘laik’, makes a good introduction to Kuusisto’s rather tougher Violin Concerto, a powerful work which reveals the composer’s Sibelius heritage – the composer/conductor in the notes also mentions Pulkkis, whose music I don’t know, and Rautavaara, with whose works we are much more familiar. If you have tried some of the Rautavaara music that I mentioned last month, you will probably enjoy the Kuusisto. I take the presence of the composer at the helm of the Lahti Orchestra, whose Sibelius I revere, to be authoritative.

The Corigliano concerto is by now fairly familiar, with recordings by Joshua Bell (Sony – review – but inexplicably not currently available from most dealers in the UK) and Michael Ludwig (Naxos – review). The music originated as a film score, a suite from which is available on Chandos CHSA5035 (I Musici di Montréal/Turovsky, rec. 2003, DDD/DSD [62:28] – 5-star review), with the Second Symphony. The Symphony is pretty tough going and I can imagine it sounding better in its original string quartet form, but the Red Violin Suite is well worth hearing even if you also go for the Concerto.

I’ve been sold on the Concerto since I heard Joshua Bell and Marin Alsop give the UK premiere at the 2005 Proms – review – so I was interested to see how my reaction to the new recording compared with what I remember, making allowances for the hype which surrounded that Proms performance. BIS are clearly relying on the Red Violin name to sell this recording, since they use that as the title for the whole album. They have a first-class soloist in Elina Vähälä and all concerned make a strong case for the music; even if they didn’t quite repeat the magic of that 2005 performance, they came close enough for me to know that I shall be playing and enjoying this recording in the future.

The recording is good in all formats. Those trying to master that most difficult of languages, Finnish, will find material for practice in the very helpful multi-lingual notes from the two composers.

Andrew GREEN and Tony LEWIS: Classical Chinese Music
The Wakening Lotus [1:33]
Mei Mei’s Village Dance [1:33]
Moon Flower [3:22]
The Falls of Lushan [1:41]
The Silk Road [3:05]
The Contemplation of Guanyin [1:38]
Moon Flower (String Orchestra) [1:07]
Bird Mountain Cloud Song [2:05]
Imperial Garden [2:03]
Blossom of Tan Hua [1:43]
Reverie in Xiangshan Park [2:28]
Moon Flower (Solo Cello) [1:13]
Guo Yi (Sheng, Ba-Wu), Jan Hendrickse (Xiao, Dizi, Bamboo Flute) and Nick Cooper (Cello)
PICTURE LOCK MUSIC [23:31] – from iTunes (mp3) [download only: no CD equivalent]

Short but sweet – I hope there’s more where this came from. Western arrangements or interpretations of Chinese music can easily sound tacky or just plain wrong, so it was with some trepidation that I approached this album, though I admit to enjoying much ethnic music, Indian and Chinese in particular, without knowing much about it. I need not have worried; there’s nothing tacky about this recording and the presence of at least one Chinese musician leads me to assume that it’s pretty authentic. Nor does the cello sound out of place in the company of Chinese instruments.

More to the point, I imagine, for most readers, it’s very enjoyable. Only the lack of documentation and its availability in mp3 only – though the review samples which I received sound fine in that format – lead me to prefer the Channel Classics recording (CCSSA80206) which I reviewed in the November 2011/1 DL Roundup and which comes with a pdf booklet and in lossless sound. Buy them both.

You may, like me, not have heard of picturelock.com: you can find more about them on their website: http://picturelockmusic.com/

CANTUS
Arvo PÄRT (b.1935)
Für Alina [4:00]
Steve REICH (b.1936) New York Counterpoint (version for marimba) [11:14]
Arvo PÄRT Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten [6:27]
Fratres for Percussion [8:10]
Hywel DAVIES Purl Ground [11:24]
Arvo PÄRT Spiegel im Spiegel [10:25]
KUNIKO (Kuniko Kato, percussion: five octave marimba, vibraphone, crotales and bells) – rec. November 2012. DDD/DSD
Pdf booklet included
LINN CKD432 [51:40] – from linnrecords.com (SACD, mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

Kuniko and Linn already had a best-selling recording with Kuniko Plays Reich (CKD385review); now they follow with a recording centred around three well-known works by Arvo Pärt in new guise, which promises to repeat that success. There’s more Reich here, too, a version for marimba of New York Counterpoint, of which Kuniko gave the premiere performance, and a piece by British composer Hywel Davies. All the arrangements have been given the seal of approval by their composers.

The title work is already familiar in a number of guises, from a simple arrangement for violin and piano upwards. Here Kuniko accompanies herself, thanks to multi-tracking, in an elaborate arrangement – 200 tracks at the final count, according to the booklet – which is overwhelming and impressive, but which doesn’t quite impart the airy and ethereal quality which she claims to have been seeking. In compensation, the result matches another of the adjectives which she employs to describe the work, ‘overwhelming’.

The overall effect of this album is mesmerising. The most significant thing that I can say in reviewing it is that it sent me back to its predecessor, courtesy of Naxos Music Library. That earlier album was very short, so that the Reich work here could easily have been accommodated; its successor is still rather shorter than we are accustomed to nowadays, but that’s my only reservation and this is a recording that makes reservations irrelevant.

[NB: Those who like this album are almost certain to enjoy the equally mesemerising Dobrinka Tabakova's String Paths, ECM2239, from emusic.com – due for review in the next DL Roundup.]

Beulah Releases: July 2013

Details from eavb.co.uk here or here

Albums from iTunes and Amazon

1PD74: Gustav MAHLER Symphony No.5: London Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Schwarz [69:25], recorded by Everest and released on two LPs in 1959, the first stereo recording of this work and still sounding fine in this Beulah transfer, presumably taken from the UK release which followed some time later. There’s an Everest CD, available on mp3 from Amazon, but at least one user review suggests that little care has been taken over the transfer – including mis-spelling the conductor’s name – thus making the Beulah reissue a safer bet.

The performance may have been the first to be recorded in stereo but it remains well worth hearing – powerful and brooding, with almost Wagnerian climaxes, rather than lyrical. The adagietto takes a shade over 7½ minutes – one of the faster tempi on record, with Simon Rattle taking two minutes longer and Leonard Bernstein two minutes longer still. I know all the arguments for not taking the movement too slowly, and Schwarz makes a good case for a fast-ish tempo, yet it’s the Bernstein (DG) that I still choose most often for this symphony. When I bought it, it was briefly available at mid price, but it’s still worth its current full price, with Schwarz as a recommended second string.

The release of this and several other Beulah albums has been delayed by technical problems at iTunes, so Beulah will be releasing this on Beulah Extra in August 2013 as 1-5BX252.

1PD73: Manuel de FALLA: Three Cornered Hat (complete ballet); Nights in the Gardens of Spain. Barbara Hewitt (soprano); London Symphony Orchestra/Enrique Jorda; Arthur Rubinstein (piano); San Francisco Symphony Orchestra/Enrique Jorda. rec. c.1957. ADD/stereo [59:50] - from amazon.co.uk and iTunes (both mp3)

More Everest material: Three Cornered Hat was first released in the UK by World Record Club, originally coupled with the Goossens recording of Villa-Lobos’ Little Train of the Caipira, something of a cult novelty at the time.

The recording of Nights in the Gardens of Spain is taken from a collaboration by two artists associated with Falla and recorded for RCA around 1957. Originally coupled with solo piano pieces, Nights was always the chief attraction and it is so here for me; however much I may enjoy the Hat, I love Nights. I’ve only once seen the Alhambra and its gardens, but they remain ever present, like Wordsworth’s daffodils in vacant or in pensive mood whenever I hear this music, especially as well performed as this.

Three Cornered Hat is lively enough, but the LSO were not on best form here, so you’d be better advised to look elsewhere for that work, perhaps to Sarah Walker and a more recent LSO with Geoffrey Simon at mid price on Chandos CHAN10232 (February 2012/2 DL Roundup), which also comes with a good performance of Nights. Margaret Fingerhut on that recording may not be the equal of Rubinstein but she’s not far behind. There’s also a highly recommendable Double Decca with both works and more besides on 466128-2 – review. So Beulah have one run-of-the-mill performance and one magical one. Both recordings have come up sounding very well.

1PD80: Sergei RACHMANINOV Piano Concertos Nos. 2 and 3: Byron Janis (piano); Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra; London Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti [68:22] – from amazon.co.uk or iTunes (mp3)

Though reissued less than a decade ago, these classic Mercury recordings are no longer generally available on CD in the UK, so the Beulah reissue is timely. The performances always vied for top place with those of Richter (No.2, now on DG Originals) and Ashkenazy/Previn (Decca) and the only reason not to place them there now is the pre-eminence among more recent recordings of the Hyperion 2-CD set of all four concertos (CDA67501/2, with 2 and 3 also on CDA67649, Stephen Hough; Dallas SO/Andrew Litton). The Hyperion set is not available for download for contractual reasons, which makes the Beulah reissue the more desirable, perhaps as an adjunct to the Hyperion on CD or the Decca.

What’s not to like about these performances of the two best-known concertos which combine superb technique with real feeling for the music and are accompanied by two orchestras which worked superbly well with Doráti. It’s not all warhorse stuff, either, as witness the slow movement of No.2, where there’s sentiment without sentimentality. Add a recording which has come up very well and there’s every reason to recommend this. I haven’t heard other downloads of this album, but I can’t imagine that they improve much, if at all, on the Beulah.

1PD81: Sergei RACHMANINOV Symphony No.3; Symphonic Dances: Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra/Yevgeny Svetlanov; Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Kyril Kondrashin
ADD/stereo [75:51] - from amazon.co.uk or iTunes (mp3)

As you might expect, all concerned give a fine performance on this Beulah reissue of a recording originally issued in the UK on HMV. Though I didn’t think it a problem, you may find the Russian brass of the period a little fruity, which some find hard to take. The HMV LP sounded very well – a vast improvement on Russian Melodiya or MK recordings of the time, which usually sounded as if the surfaces were frying.

The Kondrashin recording of the Symphonic Dances featured in its Melodiya CD incarnation on a recent Artists’ Choice of 250 top recordings. That CD is no longer generally available in the UK and a transfer on the Audiophile label is listed as out of stock as I write, which serves to make the Beulah reissue all the more desirable.

There’s another Svetlanov recording of the symphony together with The Rock and other works, with the USSRSO, on budget-price Regis RRC1353.

1PD83: Ludwig van BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.3; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Piano Concertos Nos. 20 and 23: Annie Fischer; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Ferenc Fricsay; Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult. ADD/stereo [91:38] Due for release from iTunes and Amazon.

The two Mozart concertos were justifiably listed by Bryce Morrison among Annie Fischer’s Key Recordings in a 2001 survey and nothing has changed to make that less true; indeed, Nos.20-23 have just been reissued at budget price on two CDs by Major Classics. There’s an inexpensive EMI Red Line CD of the two Mozart works, but I don’t think the Beethoven recording is currently available and that was one of the glories of the DG Heliodor catalogue when it was available for 12/6, one of the few genuine stereo LPs in that series – I know because I owned it and it was my recording of choice for a long time, even in preference to Wilhelm Kempff (also DG). It still comes close to the top of my list – headed, if you push me to a choice, by Stephen Kovacevich and Colin Davis (Philips, now on Decca Virtuoso 4784027 with Arthur Grumiaux in the Violin Concerto).

At the time of writing iTunes had not got round to releasing this and several other Beulah albums and though an Amazon link is listed on the Beulah website, that was not working either when I tried; watch eavb.co.uk for details. Their tardiness means that Beulah have released the Beethoven on three Beulah Extra tracks, 10-12BX130, which is ideal if you already have the EMI Red Line CD of Fischer’s Mozart or the earlier Beulah releases of the Mozart: Concerto No.20 is already available on Beulah Extra 1-3BX130 – see May 2011/1 DL Roundup – and No.23 on 5-7BX130 – see October 2011/1 DL Roundup. Either way the recordings have come up sounding well and the playing time is generous – too much to burn to a CDR unless you choose to burn an mp3 disc.

Beulah also offer Clifford Curzon in Piano Concerto No.23 on 1-3BX101, recorded in 1945 with the National Symphony Orchestra and Boyd Neel – not so well recorded and sounding less than authentic now, but still well worth hearing in a transfer that mostly made me forget its age – see January 2011 DL Roundup.

Beulah Extra

All details from eavb.co.uk

Three recordings caught my eye immediately I saw the list, Boult’s recording of Holst, Michelangeli’s Ravel and Mackerras’s Janáček:

47BX12: Gustav HOLST Egdon Heath: London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult

There could be no finer evocation of Hardy’s vision of the Heath in Return of the Native, as envisioned by Holst, than this Boult recording, made in stereo in 1952. It used to be available as a filler to the Decca CD of the Solti Planets, but it’s now one of the couplings for a rather less distinguished recording of that work on Decca Eloquence, which makes this Beulah release an even stronger recommendation. The recording has come up sounding at least as well as on that Decca reissue. Strongly recommended alongside several other Beulah releases of Boult performances of English music which you’ll find at http://www.eavb.co.uk/lp/extraboult.html.

1-3BX277: Maurice RAVEL Piano Concerto in G: Benedetto Michelangeli; Philharmonia Orchestra/Ettore Gracis – rec. 1957. ADD/stereo [21:48]

This recording of the Ravel Piano Concerto is rightly regarded as one of the best available, if not the best; though recordings by Casadesus (EMI), Queffélec (Warner Apex) Zimerman and Argerich (both DG) have their advocates, you’ll go a long way to beat it. It’s currently available with the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.4 (EMI GROC), in the same coupling plus Haydn on the less expensive EMI Masters label and on a budget EMI twofer of Ravel in the 20th-Century Classics series – review – but its separate release by Beulah for just £2.25 will appeal to those who want it on its own. The recording sounds very well, with little allowance needing to be made for its age.

1BX278: Leoš JANÁČEK Sinfonietta: Pro Arte Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras. rec. c.1960. ADD/stereo [25:08]

Mackerras went on to record the Sinfonietta again with the Vienna Phil (Decca, various reissues including a Double Decca) and the Czech Phil (Supraphon) but there’s a strong case for reissuing this older version, recorded for Pye in the early 1960s, especially if you don’t want the other works with which it’s coupled on Testament SBT1325. I’ve seen this performance described as earthier than his later recordings; it’s certainly got plenty of power and the sound is more than acceptable in this transfer with nary a hint of the surface noise that bedevilled many of the Pye LPs which I owned. Now how about the four Preludes which were included on the original Golden Guinea LP?

37-45BX129: Georges BIZET Carmen (highlights in English): Patricia Johnson, Donald Smith, Raimund Herincx, Elizabeth Robson; Sadler’s Wells Opera Company, Chorus and Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis – rec. 1961. ADD/stereo [51:34]

This is the latest in a series of early Colin Davis recordings which Beulah have been reissuing. For me it’s less important than their releases of his Mozart and Beethoven recordings but it’s still a valuable contribution now that the Classics for Pleasure CD of these excerpts, which used to be available, seems to have disappeared. (Amazon.co.uk had one left at the time of writing.)

The performances are lively – much better than those of the Carl Rosa Opera Company which introduced me to the work – and the recording has stood the test of time well.

1BX176: Johann STRAUSS II: Kaiser-Walzer (Emperor Waltz) [7:35]
2BX176: Morgenblätter (Morning Papers) [8:03]
3BX176: An der schönen blauen Donau (On the beautiful blue Danube) [8:08]
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner – rec. 1957. ADD/stereo

Reiner’s recordings of Richard Strauss and Bela Bartók remain justly famous but he was also a distinguished Haydn conductor and here he proves that he could turn his hand to the lighter music of that other Strauss, Johann the younger; he also recorded Fledermaus, now available from Pristine Audio. He even manages to make the Chicago players sound passably like the Vienna Phil – listen to the lilt in Morgenblätter and you might think Willi Boskovsky was at the helm – and the recordings have come up well.

There’s more Reiner/Strauss out there, but little or none of it currently available in the UK. The various reissues on CD and SACD are no longer listed, so I hope that Beulah will give us some more.

1-4BX279: Robert SCHUMANN Symphony No.2: Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Paul Paray – rec.1955. ADD/stereo [33:56]
5BX279: Robert SCHUMANN Manfred Overture: Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Paul Paray – rec.1958. ADD/stereo [10:37]

Between 1954 and 1958 Paul Paray recorded all four Schumann symphonies – the remaining works, Nos. 1 and 4 are due for reissue on Beulah 1PD68 from iTunes and amazon.co.uk. With the 2-CD Mercury reissue no longer available in the UK, the Beulah reissues are welcome, though competition in these works is strong, even at budget and mid-price. My own favourite remains the EMI Sawallisch, with Kubelík as runner-up (DG Originals and Sony), both inexpensively available, and there would be a strong case for someone (Beulah?) to reissue the Decca recording of Nos. 1 and 4 from the LSO and Josef Krips – not a conductor whose reputation has endured, but his version of No.1 in particular, once available on a 10" LP, is stunning.

The Manfred Overture first appeared in tandem with the First Symphony and the Fourth Symphony with music by Liszt; the former received something of a pasting from Trevor Harvey and the latter came off only slightly better. With its inspiration in Byron, this is archetypally Romantic music and it needs a stronger performance.

The Second Symphony, too, was panned as superficial by Harold C Schonberg when the American LP first appeared in 1956 so with firm favourites already in mind, as above, I started with low expectations to listen to the First, the Spring Symphony. Spring is certainly bustin’ out all over in the Krips and Sawallisch recordings but it’s rather delayed in the Paray performance and even when it gets going I much prefer those rival recordings.

The Second Symphony, too, often sounds lumpish by comparison with Sawallisch or Kubelík, the latter available on an inexpensive DG Originals set of all the symphonies as a download from amazon.co.uk for £5.49 (lossless flac from deutschegrammophon.com). Though matters improve as the symphony progresses, this is not a version that I would recommend. Despite Beulah’s efforts, the sound is acceptable at best. For Thomas Dausgaard’s smaller-scale recordings of the symphonies on BIS, see April 2010 DL Roundup; only about the First did I have some reservations. In addition to the classicsonline.com links in that Roundup, these recordings are available in lossless sound for the same price as mp3 from eclassical.com.

2-4BX14: Léo DELIBES Coppélia (complete) Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti – rec. 1957. ADD/stereo [85:21]

Another classic recording brought to life by Beulah colourfully and at an attractive price – £5 for the whole ballet, which makes it competitive with the Ansermet recording from the same period (Decca Eloquence) and the later Bonynge (Decca Ballet Edition), each at around £11 on two CDs. In fact, you could buy the Ansermet in the Naxos Classical Archives transfer as well, unless you live in the USA, Australia, or another country where it’s not available for copyright reasons, and still have change from £10. I find it hard to choose between the two – even the overall timings are almost identical; despite Doráti’s reputation for fast tempi there’s nothing over the top here, though you may think Ansermet just a shade more affectionate.

The original LPs were rather strident and that’s been very largely tamed; the sound is slightly drier than modern recordings, but very acceptable.

29BX13: Edward GERMAN Nell Gwyn – Three Dances: Pro Arte Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent – rec. 1961. ADD/stereo [9:18]

Sir Malcom Sargent made a number of popular recordings with the Pro Arte Orchestra, including the Sullivan Overtures from the same LP, which Beulah will be reissuing in August 2013 on 30-33BX13. When first released on the HMV Concert Classics label, the stereo LP cost 5/– (£0.25, but worth at least £8 in today’s values) more than the mono. Autre temps … The music may be well and truly out of fashion now – it even was in 1962 – but in such idiomatic performances it remains enjoyable.

6BX279: Richard WAGNER: Rienzi Overture Detroit Symphony Orchestra/Paul Paray – rec. 1960. ADD/stereo [10:54]

Though I’d call myself a reasonably committed Wagnerite, the overture is all that I’ve ever heard of Rienzi. It receives a fine, dramatic performance here – much the best of Beulah’s Paray offerings this month – and the recording hardly sounds its age. There’s more where this came from – a collection of Wagner overtures and other orchestral music which first appeared in the UK in 1961 on AMS16095 – and I hope that we shall have the rest in due course.


1-4BX280: Anton BRUCKNER Symphony No.4 (Romantic) Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/William Steinberg – rec.1954. ADD/stereo [55:15]

The EMI (ex-Capitol) separate CD, which was once available is now to be found only in a 20-CD box. That version gave the recording date as 1956 and described the sound as binaural, so I’m not sure if we’re dealing with like for like, though there is some stereo information on this recording and I hardly imagine that Capitol would have recorded the same performance twice in a space of two years when Bruckner recordings, even of the Romantic Symphony, were thin on the ground.

Steinberg was an accomplished Brucknerian and though tempi are fairly fast – when most LPs of the Romantic ran to three sides, this fitted on two – I didn’t think it too hurried. I’m not sure which edition was used, so it’s difficult to compare timings, but the slow movement and finale are a couple of minutes shorter than usual. Eugen Jochum from the same vintage (1955, Naxos Classical Archives) takes 65 minutes overall and my favourite version from Günter Wand on RCA runs to 69 minutes. (Bargain of the Month: March 2010 DL Roundup.) The recording is good for its age, though with moments when the sound of the brass is slightly wavery. If you’d ever heard the only other recording from that period to fit the work on one LP, a reissue of a dim Vox recording made by Klemperer which I owned c.1960, you’d think the Beulah reissue of the Steinberg aural bliss.



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