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Download News 2013/3

Brian Wilson

The 2013/2 Download News is here and earlier editions are indexed here.

Recording of the Month

James WHITBOURN (b. 1963)
Annelies (Chamber Version, 2009: World Première Recording)
Arianna Zukerman (soprano)
Westminster Williamson Voices
The Lincoln Trio (Desirée Ruhstrat (violin), David Cunliffe (cello), Marta Aznavoorian (piano)) with Bharat Chandra (clarinet)/James Jordan
rec. Princeton Meadow Church, New Jersey, USA, 14-16 May 2012. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts included.
NAXOS 8.573070 [69:53] – from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Naxos and classicsonline.com are, rightly, making much of this recording. This is timeless music, setting extracts from the diaries of Anne Frank. Not only does it impress as much as earlier releases of James Whitbourn’s music have impressed John Quinn (Naxos: review) and Grace Lace (Etcetera – review: Recording of the Month); for me it joins Britten’s War Requiem and Tippett’s A Child of our Time as a major work bewailing the inhumanity of twentieth-century man to man, though it’s very different in tone from either of them. The music is uplifting, yet never in such a way as to draw attention to itself from the words of Anne Frank – with one brief exception, describing the fate of the family, everything here comes from her.

Performances are exemplary. There’s an excellent booklet and the recording is very good indeed. Classicsonline.com kindly supplied me with both mp3 and lossless (16/44.1 flac) versions and I’d certainly recommend paying a little more for the latter (£5.99 against £4.99) though I’m still puzzled by the logic of providing the flac as a single file when most download sites offer both mp3 and lossless as separate tracks.

Bargains of the Month

Renaissance Radio
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of The Tallis Scholars: Sacred Music from the Renaissance Era for Celestial and Secular Radio
Gregorio ALLEGRI Miserere (omitting vv.7-18) – rec. 2007 [5:50]
Josquin DESPREZ Ave Maria ... virgo serena – rec. 1986 [5:27]
Cipriano de RORE Descendi in hortum meum – rec. 1994 [5:24]
Jacobus CLEMENS non Papa Ego flos campi – rec. 1987 [4:11]
Jean MOUTON Salva nos Domine – rec. 2012 [2:31]
Orlande de LASSUS Ave Regina cœlorum – rec. 1989 [3:53]; Salve Regina – rec. 1989 [3:58]
Hieronymus PRÆTORIUS Joseph lieber, Joseph mein – rec. 1989 [2:33]
Josquin DESPREZ Agnus Dei III (Missa L’homme armé sexti toni) – rec. 1989 [4:16]
Antoine BRUMEL Agnus Dei II (Missa Et ecce terræ motus) – rec. 1992 [3:29]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA Agnus Dei II (Missa Brevis) – rec. 1986 [3:07]; sicut lilium inter spineas – rec. 1989 [4:45]
Carlo GESUALDO Precibus et meritis – rec.1987 [3:03]; Maria, mater gratiae – rec. 1987 [3:43]
Francisco GUERRERO Ave virgo sanctissima – rec. 2006 [3:59]
Tomas Luis de VICTORIA Ave Maria [4 vv] – rec. 1986 [2:17]; O vos omnes (Tenebrae Responsories) – rec. 1990 [2:53]; Kyrie (Requiem) [6 vv] – rec. 1987 [2:36]; Graduale (Requiem) [6 vv] – rec. 1987 [3:11; Versa est in luctum – rec. 1992 [3:51]
Thomas TALLIS Incipit (Lamentations I) [1:22]; Aleph (Lamentations I) [2:39];
Beth (Lamentations I) – rec. 1992 [4:49]; Mihi autem nimis – rec. 1992 [2:37]; O sacrum convivium – rec. 1992[3:40]; O nata lux – rec. 1992 [2:03]; Miserere nostri – rec. 1985 [2:32]
John TAVERNER Leroy Kyrie – rec. 2013 [3:33]; Benedictus (Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas)– rec. 2013 [2:59]
William CORNYSH Ave Maria – rec. 1988 [3:11]
Robert WHITE Christe qui lux es III – rec. 1995 [4:55]
John SHEPPARD In manus tuas I [3:29]; In manus tuas II [2:56]; In manus tuas III – rec. 1989 [2:55]
William BYRD Agnus Dei (Mass for four voices) – rec. 1984 [3:18]
Thomas TALLIS If ye love me – rec. 1986 [2:04]; Hear the voice and prayer – rec. 1986 [3:06]; A new commandment – rec. 1986 [2:42]; Why fum’th in fight – rec. 1986 [0:58]; Even like the hunted hind – rec. 1986 [0:53]; God grant we grace – rec. 1986 [1:04]; Come Holy Ghost – rec. 1986 [0:41]
Thomas TOMKINS When David heard – rec. 1991 [4:27]
William BYRD Sing joyfully – rec. 1987 [2:48]; O God, the proud are risen – rec. 1987 [3:04]; O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth – rec. 1987 [2:52]; Nunc dimittis (The Great Service) – rec. 1987 [5:21]
The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips – rec. dates as above.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included.
GIMELL CDGIM212 [2 CDs: 151:46] – from gimell.com (mp3 and lossless)

This is the latest budget-price distillation of the recordings made by The Tallis Scholars and it joins a long list of strong recommendations included in a special Download Roundup dedicated to their recordings – here – and subsequent recommendations of three 3-CD distillations of their recordings (GIMBX301, 302 and 303) plus their most recent recording of Mouton’s Missa dictes moy toutes voz pensées (GIMCD047 – see review and Download News 2012/19). Encouraged by the (P) 2013 affixed to the two Taverner pieces, I understand that we are about to have a new recording from the Tallis Scholars of the music of this composer; though they made a classic recording of his Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas and the Leroy Kyrie in 1984 (CDGIM004) the Western Wind Mass from that CD has been reissued on inexpensive twofers, making the single disc effectively half-redundant, so a new coupling including the Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas would make sense.

There has always been healthy artistic rivalry between The Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen in this repertoire, nowhere more so than in the Allegri Miserere which opens this new Gimell set – something of a signature tune for both groups, but especially so for The Tallis Scholars, who first grabbed our attention with a recording of that work licensed to Classics for Pleasure which featured as runner-up for the 1980 Gramophone Awards. The version included here is their 2007 remake; I’m not even going to try to compare it with the earlier recording or with The Sixteen; you really need to have all three.

There’s plenty of Tallis and Byrd here, which is more than fitting; I’m glad that room has been found for some of their settings of English texts, too. In the case of the music from Archbishop Parker’s collection the words may be corny – it was not until the 1662 Prayer Book that the Anglican Church had a decent translation of Come Holy Ghost to set – but Tallis’s music more than makes amends, while Byrd did the nascent English church proud with his Great Service – almost the equal of his three settings of the Latin rite.

Though I know all these recordings well – many of them are regular visitors to my audio system in various formats – I downloaded the programme to hear the music in context. I’ve used all my superlatives long ago on Tallis Scholars recordings, so I’ll simply urge you to make the modest investment required to obtain the new set, even if you already have some or most of the original releases. The danger of such a collection is that it may sound bitty but that’s far from the case here. Nor is it all samey: two works in particular stand out as different from renaissance polyphony, Prætorius’s Christmas motet and Tomkins’ When David heard, the latest composition here, from the second generation of Anglican composers who were able to build on the work of Tallis and Byrd and even excel them.

At £7.99 (mp3), £8.99 (lossless) or £12.75 (2-disc set) it won’t break the bank, but I warn you that it will tempt you to splash out on those originals which you don’t yet have. The time span of the parent recordings means that there is no 24-bit equivalent, but you won’t be disappointed with the quality of the sound; I tried both the wma and mp3 versions and even the latter sounds fine. As well as the pdf booklet with texts and translations, if you play the recordings via Windows Media Player the texts and the brief notes appear on screen too; there’s no need for a bargain recording to seem cheap and this certainly doesn’t.

Now you need to turn to those Gimell 3-CD sets which I’ve mentioned and to Hyperion’s equally mandatory collection of recordings from this period by The Sixteen: The Golden Age of English Polyphony (CDS44401/10 review and review: Bargain of the Month). And if you wish to hear that first recording of the Allegri Miserere, Mundy’s Vox patris cœlestis and Palestrina’s Missa papæ Marcelli, it’s available at an attractive price on GIMSE401.

Lovers of English polyphonic music should also note the reissue of Thomas TALLIS Missa Salve intemerata, the sections of which are interspersed with other Marian motets, as performed in 2000 by Winchester Cathedral Choir directed by David Hill on Hyperion’s budget Helios label, with pdf booklet of texts and translations: CDH55400 [67:48] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and lossless). You’ll find Gary Higginson’s review of the ‘very fine’ original release here. It’s even finer at the new lower price and it neatly complements the Tallis on the new Gimell CDs – but don’t forget the complete works of Tallis which Alistair Dixon and Chapelle du Roi recorded for Signum, available separately on CD and download, as a 10-disc boxed set at budget price: Brilliant Classics 94268), and in a 2-CD distillation on the budget Regis label (RRC2090).

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) arr. Sir Thomas BEECHAM
Love in Bath (ballet suite, 1945)
Ilse Hollweg (soprano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham – rec. 1956-59
DISCOVER CLASSICAL [45:46] – from emusic.com (mp3)

This wonderful concoction, mainly from four Handel operas, comes complete on one track for £0.42 or less from emusic.com. The bit-rate is not great (156 kb/s) and the recording is rather thin and not comparable with my CD of an earlier EMI reissue on the Studio label, but bearable, especially if you intend to listen via your mp3 player. Otherwise, turn to the EMI Gemini 2-CD set where the coupling is Solomon (5865162, around £7.50 on CD; download for £5.99 from sainsburysentertainment.co.uk). Classicsonline.com offer an alternative – and probably preferable – transfer for £1.99 (Naxos 9.80915: not available in the USA and several other countries). The slightly shorter playing time of the Discover Classical transfer suggests that it has been made from a turntable running slightly fast; the Naxos version runs for 46:44, like the EMI CD.

Love in Bath originated as ballet music for The Great Elopement and Beecham also recorded a suite from this twice on 78s – the earlier version is on Somm and Discover Classical also have a recording of the later version from the 1940s, but the RPO complete version is better recorded and, of course, more complete.

***

Roland de LASSUS (Orlando LASSO) (c.1531-1594)
Biographie musicale Volume 1: Années de jeunesse

Hor qui son lasso [2:12]
Poi che’l camin [2:24]
En espoir vis [1:20]
Las, voulez vous qu’une personne chante [1:56]
Quando’l voler [3:08]
Del freddo Rheno [8:09]
Audi dulcis amica [3:53]
Inclina Domine [3:29]
O occhi manza mia [2:43]
Quel chiaro sol [3:10]
Vostro fui [1:36]
Non ha tente serene [9:34]
Fremuit spiritus Jesu [5:11]
Heu mihi Domine [3:12]
Peccavi quid faciam tibi [4:13]
Ludus Modalis (Nathalie Marec, Annie Dufresne (superius), Jean-Christophe Clair (alto), Hugues Primard (tenor), François Fauché (bass)/Bruno Boterf (tenor))
MUSIQUE EN WALLONIE MEW1158 [56:13] – from emusic.com or amazon.co.uk (both mp3)

All the music here dates from early in Lassus’s artistic life, so there are none of the major works and nothing here is duplicated on any other Lassus CD or download that I have. That makes the album even more desirable for those who already have some recordings of Lassus; though early and little known, the music, a mixture of sacred and secular, is of high quality and the performances do it full justice.

To download this from emusic.com will cost you £6.30 or less, around half the price of the CD – slightly more, at £7.49, from amazon.co.uk – but in each case you will miss out on the hardback booklet in which the disc comes. The emusic.com download comes at a variable bit-rate, around 230kb/s, so in theory amazon.com’s nominal 256kb/s is slightly better, but I can’t guarantee that it will sound any better, as Amazon’s nominal 256 has been known to fall well short. In fact, the emusic.com sounds perfectly adequate.

I’ve also received the CD of Volume 2 for review, it’s housed in a luxury hardback booklet. Subtitled La gloire musicale de Bavarie (I) – Le temps de la faveur, it covers his earliest years at the court of Duke Albrecht of Bavaria and the music is performed this time by Singer Pur (MEW1268 [57:14]). Look out for a review on the main pages of MusicWeb International and, probably, a brief note in a future Download News.

Il tormento e l’estasi
Anonymous (attrib. Luigi ROSSI (1597ca.-1653)?) Un peccator pentito, cantata à 5 [27:38]
Domenico MAZZOCCHI (1592-1665) Pentito si rivolge a Dio, aria à 3 [3:23]
Biagio MARINI (1594-1663) Passacaglio [4:45]
Giacomo CARISSIMI (1605-1674) Jephte, oratorio à 6 [28:14]
Los Musicos De Su Alteza (Olalla Aleman, Eugenia Enguita, Pilar Moral, Agnieszka Grzywacz, Cristina Bayon (soprano), Marta Infante (mezzo), Gabriel Diaz (haute-contre), Montserrat Bertral (contralto), Jose Pizarro, Inigo Casali (tenor), Joao Fernandes, Jesus Garcia Arejula (bass), Pablo Prieto, Eduardo Fenoll (violin), Natan Paruzel (viola), Pedro Reula (cello), Ventura Rico (violone), Rodney Prada (lyre), Chiara Granata (harpe), Josep Maria Marti (chitarrone), Alfonso Sebastian (organ)/Luis Antonio Gonzalez (harpsichord) – rec. September 2010. DDD.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included.
ALPHA 183 [64:08] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[‘a compelling disc’– see review by Johan van Veen.]

Of the works included here, only Carissimi’s Jephte is at all well known, with several good recordings to its credit; if anything, that slightly diminishes its value to the seasoned collector, who may well already own a recording, such as the Channel Classics album Love and Lament (CCSSA17002) which I recommended in the August 2010 Roundup. That recording is now best downloaded from channelclassics.com in mp3, 16– or 24-bit lossless rather than the low-bit emusic.com version listed there. Some UK dealers have Love and Lament as a CD, without the SACD layer, on Channel Canal Grande CG6012 at mid price.

The title, Torment and Ecstasy, and the cover shot from a painting of a topless Mary Magdalene may suggest over-the-top interpretations and there is, indeed, power enough here, but not excessively so. The mp3 sound is good and it’s good to have the booklet – it should be the case that downloaders could expect everything that comes with the CD, but that isn’t always the case. Better still, the download costs only £4.99.

This seems to be the only recording of the work attributed to Rossi; for another fine recording of his music turn to Le Canterine Romane, available in two formats from Warner Classics, the less expensive of which, on the Apex label, was reviewed by Johan van Veen here.

Crystal Tears (Dowland and his Contemporaries)
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Book of Songs, Book 1: Go, crystal tears [6:29]
John WARD (1589-1638) Fantasia No. 4 [3:30]
John DOWLAND Now, O now I needs must part, P.23 [4:32]
Book of Songs, Book 4, ‘A Pilgrimes Solace’: Go nightly cares, the enemy to rest [4:02]
John WARD Fantasia No. 3 [2:55]
John DOWLAND Sorrow, come! [3:59]
Semper Dowland semper dolens, P.9 [3:31]
Dowland’s Bells, P.43a, ‘The Lady Rich’s Galliard’ [2:03]
Robert JOHNSON (c1583-1624) Have you seen the bright lily grow? [2:51]
William BYRD (1543-1623) Though Amaryllis dance in green [3:43]
John BENET Venus’ birds whose mournful tunes [3:35]
Robert JOHNSON Full fathom five [2:10]
John DOWLAND Care-charming sleep [3:38]
Patrick MANDO Like as the day [4:03]
John DOWLAND A Fancy [3:29]
Book of Songs, Book 3: Time stands still [4:39]
Alfonso FERRABOSCO II (1572?-1628) 4-note pavan [4:49]
Book of Songs, Book 4, ‘A Pilgrimes Solace’: From silent night, true register of moans [4:06]
ANONYMOUS O Death Rock Me Asleep [2:57]
Richard MICO (1590-1661) Fantasia No. 13 [3:18]
Book of Songs, Book 1: Come, heavy sleep [5:02]
Andreas Scholl (counter-tenor)
Concerto di Viole (Brian Franklin, Rebeka Rusó, Brigitte Gasser, Arno Jochem)/Julian Behr (lute)) – rec. 2007. DDD.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC901993 (31009936) [79:21] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

[see review by Melanie Eskenazi of this programme given in concert at the Wigmore Hall.]

First a warm welcome to the availability of Harmonia Mundi recordings in lossless sound from eclassical.com in addition to the mp3 versions from classicsonline.com and hmvdigital.com; good as these are (at 320kb/s) it’s not just audiophiles who will welcome the lossless flac versions, with 16-bit at the same price as mp3 and 24-bit for a little extra.

There’s a complete recording of John Ward’s Fantasias (Linn CKD339 see October 2009 Download Roundup) but, as I wrote then, a little goes a long way and most of us will prefer to have them interspersed with other music, as here on Harmonia Mundi. In fact I referred to this recording of Crystal Tears in that Ward review and, with small reservations, I’m pleased to repeat my recommendation now that it’s available in lossless sound (24-bit, too, if you’re prepared to pay a little more) from eclassical.com.

Those reservations? Well though Andreas Scholl sings, I can’t entirely defend his performances here from the charge of over-stylisation that I’ve seen levelled against them and his diction is variable; mostly clear but not always – that’s a special problem in view of the lack of a booklet. (You won’t get one from classicsonline.com, either.) The recording sounds a trifle thin in mp3; it’s much firmer in the 24-bit version (24/44.1, despite having been recorded at 96kHz) but still not ideal.

This is well worth having, then, but you should also investigate the long list of recordings of Dowland and his contemporaries that I reviewed in the September 2012/1 Roundup – some of those, too, are best downloaded from eclassical.com.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Ouvertures pittoresques
Ouverture in D for three oboes, strings and basso continuo, TWV55:D15 [22:47]
Ouverture in B flat for strings and basso continuo, TWV55:B5 (‘Völker-Ouvertüre’) [21:59]
Concerto polonois in B flat for strings and basso continuo, TWV43:B3 [8:52]
Concerto polonois in G for strings and basso continuo, TWV43:G7 [8:14]
Ouverture, jointes d’une Suite tragi-comique in D for three trumpets, timpani, strings and basso continuo, TWV55:D22 [14:08]
Arte dei Suonatori/Martin Gester – rec. October 2012. DSD.
Pdf booklet included
BIS-SACD-1979 [77:12] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

This seems to have become something of a Telemann-fest; there are far worse things, but I had actually completed the other reviews below when this new BIS recording came on the scene. I’ve praised the work of Arte dei Suonatori before and this new recording is equally fine.

There’s a rival version of the Völker Overture among the fine Telemann recordings which Simon Standage and Collegium Musicum 90 made for Chandos; choice of coupling would be a safe guide in deciding between them. The Chandos is a shade more sprightly and more self-confident and marginally preferable.

The Chandos includes the Suite in G ‘des Nations anciens et modernes’, TWV55:G4, Concerto, TWV52:d1, and Sonata in F for two chalumeaux, Viola Concerto in G TWV51:G9 and the Suite in B-flat, TWV55:B5, known as the Völker-Ouverture (Music of the Nations, CHAN0593 [77:22] – from theclassicalshop.net, mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet but, unfortunately, no TWV numbers).

The first-rate 24-bit version of the new BIS recording was initially available for the same price as 16-bit and mp3; even if that offer has ended when you read this, it’s well worth looking out for these offers – there’s always one available on the eclassical.com website.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Complete Violin Concertos Vol. 5
Concerto in G for Violin, Strings and continuo, TWV 51:G5 [7:19]
Concerto in B flat for Violin, Strings and continuo, TWV 51:B2 [7:11]
Concerto in F for Violin, Strings and continuo, TWV 51:F3 [7:53]
Concerto in A for Violin, Strings and continuo, TWV 51:A3 (arr. for oboe, strings and continuo) [9:48]
Concerto in f-sharp minor for Violin, Strings and continuo, TWV 51:fis1 [8:56]
Concerto in e minor for 2 Violins, Strings and continuo, TWV 52:e4 [9:17]
Concerto in A for 4 Violins, Strings and continuo, TWV 54:A1 [7:45]
The Wallfisch Band/Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin) – rec. April 2010. DDD.
CPO 777550-2 [58:24] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, no booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library (with booklet)

This latest volume continues the good work of the earlier releases in the series, though this time with Elizabeth Wallfisch’s own eponymous group. These are mainly early works but enjoyable; Telemann had already absorbed and personalised the model of his Italian predecessors. I’m not sure how large the Wallfisch Band is – even the booklet which comes from Naxos Music Library is rudimentary – but it sounds slightly larger than L’Orfeo Barockorchester on Volume 4.

There’s no booklet with the eclassical.com download, but that’s the one to go for since it comes in lossless for the same price as mp3, though if cost is an issue, classicsonline.com offer it with the same cut-down booklet that Naxos Music Library offer for just £4.99. Even at that price, isn’t under an hour’s playing time slightly mean these days?

Georg Philipp TELEMANN
(1681-1767) Wind Concertos Vol. 6
Concerto for Transverse Flute, Strings and continuo, TWV51:h1 [13:42]
Concerto for 2 Flutes, Lute, Strings and continuo, TWV53:D1* [8:54]
Concerto for Oboe, Strings and continuo, TWV51:a1 [7:38]
Concerto for 2 Oboes, Bassoon, Strings and continuo, Concerto alla francese, TWV53:C1 [9:18]
Concerto for Flute, Strings and continuo, Concerto polonoise, TWV51:D3 [9:06]
Concerto for 2 Recorders, Strings and continuo, TWV52:B1 [7:36]
Concerto for 2 Horns, Strings and continuo, TWV52:F3 [7:16]
La Stagione Frankfurt
Camerata Köln/Michael Schneider – rec. 2007-2009. DDD
CPO 777402-2 [64:02] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, no booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library(with booklet)

* not for 2 flutes, bassoon, strings and continuo, as stated in CPO booklet; the data on the downloaded track and in the eclassical.com listing is correct. MS score reads calchedon, crossed out and fagotto inserted.

Wind Concertos Vol. 8
Concerto for 2 Flutes, Bassoon, Strings and continuo, TWV53:a1 [8:52]
Concerto for Trumpet, 2 Oboes and continuo, TWV43:D7 [12:59]
Concerto for 2 Chalumeaux, 2 Bassoons ripieni, Strings and continuo, TWV52:C1 [13:37]
Concerto for Oboe, 2 Violins and continuo, TWV51:D5 [9:05]
Concerto for 2 Horns, Strings and continuo, TWV52:F4 [7:50]
Concerto for Oboe d’amore, Strings and continuo, TWV51:G3 [16:44]
La Stagione Frankfurt
Camerata Köln/Michael Schneider – rec. 200-2010. DDD
CPO 999951-2 [69:38] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless, no booklet) or stream from Naxos Music Library (with booklet)

CPO are doing Telemann proud with their continuing series of the Violin Concertos (Volume 5 above), chamber and vocal music and this series of concertos for wind instruments. In some cases there are few if any rivals to the CPO recordings – this is not the most popular aspect of Telemann’s œuvre – which makes them particularly welcome. Though Telemann preferred to concentrate on the Ouverture-Suite form, there’s some beautiful music to be heard here.

Though Johan van Veen concluded his review of Volumes 4 and 5 with the wish to hear the rest of the series, we don’t seem ever to have progressed to Volume 6 and beyond, but we appear not to be the only offenders in that regard: I can’t find anything more recent than Volume 5 in the Gramophone archive. Let me assure you, then, that apart from the ambiguity about exactly which version of TWV53:D1 is performed on Volume 6, these two further releases are just as recommendable as their predecessors.

The lossless recording from emusic.com is excellent and comes at the same price as the mp3 but classicsonline.com’s mp3 only costs even less, £4.99, and comes with pdf booklet. It’s the full booklet for Volume 6 and a cut-down 5-page affair for Volume 8, but that’s better than eclassical.com’s booklet-free zone.

I didn’t have time to complete my roundup of Telemann with recordings of the Paris Quartets on Channel Classics and CPO; I hope to include these, together with two Channel Classics recordings of Florilegium in Telemann’s Tafelmusik, in the next DL News.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Keyboard Concertos Volume 1

Concerto No.1 in d minor, BWV1052 [22:08]
Concerto No.2 in E, BWV1053 [20:34]
Concerto No.5 in g minor, BWV1056 [9:48]
Concerto in the Italian Style in F for solo harpsichord, BWV971 [13:03]
Aapo Häkkinen (harpsichord)
Helsinki Baroque Orchestra – rec. May 2010. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
ÆOLUS AE-10057 [65:34] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Two potentially contentious issues regarding this new recording are frankly addressed by Aapo Häkkinen in the notes: the use of a harpsichord with 16' stop – a copy of an instrument from 1760 – and the employment of organ continuo. A later note even admits that the date painted on the Hass original, 1710, is a forgery, presumably committed by someone who wanted to convince everyone that JSB would have used such an instrument; the instrument actually post-dates Bach’s death.

The weight of evidence adduced for instruments with 16' tone seems conclusive, though I can’t pretend to scholarly knowledge in the matter and I generally dislike bottom-heavy sound in Bach’s keyboard music for harpsichord or organ. In the matter of the use of organ continuo the evidence seems less convincing: the best that Häkkinen can claim is that ‘it does not seem too far-fetched’.

The proof of all puddings is in the eating and neither of these issues caused me as much concern in the event as I had expected. There is, naturally, a greater weight of sound at the lower end of the spectrum but there’s plenty of top end, too. If anything, the string players sound a little too top-heavy at times; certainly their playing is less accomplished than Häkkinen’s, though the recording, otherwise, very good, may be at fault in giving the soloist a little too much prominence.

I look forward to the rest of this series – at least, I assume that ‘Volume 1’ contains the promise of more to come – but with rather less enthusiasm than to the next volume of Matthew Halls’ series on Linn (Volume 1, CKD410 – see review: Recording of the Month – and review). Where that recording overlap with Häkkinen’s, in BWV1052, my preference is marginally for Halls. The Linn is also available in SACD and Studio Master download formats.

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Ombra cara
Amadigi di Gaula (1715): Aria Sento la gioia (III, 6) [4:39]
Agrippina (1709): Otton, Otton [1:18 ]
Aria Voi, che udite il mio lamento (II, 5) [6:02]
Riccardo primo, re d’Inghilterra (1727): Aria Agitato da fiere tempeste (I, 6) [4:05]
Tolomeo, re d’Egitto (1728): Recitativo Che più si tarda omai / Accompagnato Inumano fratel [2:09]
Aria Stille amare (III, 6) [5:32]
Orlando (1733): Act II, Scene 11, Accompagnato Ah! Stigie larve / Arioso Già latra Cerbero / Accompagnato Ma la furia / Aria Vaghe pupille [8:13]
Rodrigo (1707): Passacaille (Ouverture) [4:38]
Radamisto, HWV 12: Act II, Scene 2, Aria Ombra cara di mia sposa [9:31]
Rodelinda (1725): Fra tempeste funeste (II, 4) [4:46]
Con rauco mormorio (II, 5) [7:12]
Orlando: Act I, Scene 9, Recitativo T’ubbidirò, crudele / Aria Fammi combattere [3:54]
Sosarme, HWV 30: Act II, Duetto, Per le porte del tormento* [9:38]
Bejun Mehta (counter-tenor); Rosemary Joshua (soprano)*
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/René Jacobs – rec. 2009? DDD.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902077 (31009884) [71:37] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

This is another first-class result of eclassical.com’s obtaining the rights to offer lossless recordings from the Harmonia Mundi stable. We’ve covered several of Bejun Mehta’s contributions to various Handel operas, but we seem to have missed this beautifully sung recital when it appeared in late 2010. Mehta’s is a powerful voice, quite distinct from, say, Andreas Scholl or Philippe Jaroussky, though perhaps closer in timbre to the latter. His performance of Ah! Stigie larve (track 7), in which he achieves his effect without laying on the emotion with a trowel, is second only to the superb Janet Baker’s whom I heard at Sadler’s Wells many moons ago. With excellent direction from René Jacobs and ideal recording, as heard in the 24-bit form, this is a winner in preference to or at least equal with the finest Handel recitals currently available.

Better still, by a most fortunate coincidence, there’s no overlap between this recital and James Bowman sings Handel Heroic Arias (Hyperion CDH55370 [76:11], budget price, with the King’s Consort) which I recommended in the July 2012/2 Roundup. The Hyperion comes complete with booklet; the Harmonia Mundi, sadly, is text-free. Having paid $19.34 for the 24-bit download, you may well feel entitled to the texts. You will, however, find some video trailers and information on the Harmonia Mundi website – here (click on ‘in pictures’).

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Symphony No.22 in E-flat (Philosopher)
Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Max Goberman
BEULAH EXTRA 42-45BX112 [18:03] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

Symphony No.24 in d minor
Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Max Goberman
BEULAH EXTRA 36-39BX112 [16:45] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

Symphony No.41 in C
Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Max Goberman
BEULAH EXTRA 32-35BX112 [17:58] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

These versions of Symphonies Nos. 24 and 41 are also included on two recent Beulah albums available from iTunes, which I reviewed in the 2013/2 Download News (1PD55 and 2PD55 respectively). I’ve already praised several recordings from the incomplete series which Max Goberman made with the VSOO; it was ahead of its time in employing the authentic HC Robbins Landon text and somehow Goberman managed to make the orchestra sound much better than their normal workaday selves, but that’s less surprising considering his versatility, from Broadway, where he conducted the premiere of West Side Story, to film music, to ballet. Though the series was never completed on his own LP label – even less so on CBS Odyssey – I’m grateful for these brands which Beulah have saved from the burning and hope that we shall have many more; his version of Symphony No.48 is something of a collector’s item. The recordings have come up very well.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No.17 in G, K453
Hans Richter-Haaser (piano)
Philharmonia Orchestra/István Kertész – rec. 1960. ADD/stereo
BEULAH EXTRA 4-6BX173 [27:29] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

Competition is very strong in this, as in all the mature Mozart piano concertos. From the ADD/stereo era alone, Géza Anda with the Salzburg Mozarteum Camerata (Nos.6, 17 and 21, DG Originals 447 463-2) makes an excellent benchmark and Brendel’s even older Vox recording with the VSOO and Paul Angerer remains a bargain option on various Regis, Alto and Vox combinations – review.

Hans Richter-Haaser, with strong support from István Kertész, whose contribution also helps make Clifford Curzon’s Decca recording of the later concertos (20, 23-24 and 26-27, 468 4912)) so effective, comes out well by comparison. He dispatches all three movements a little more expeditiously than Anda or Mitsuko Uchida and Jeffrey Tate (Nos.9, 14, 16, 17 and 18, Decca 473 3132, 2CDs at budget price) without sounding hurried, and the recording has come up well in this transfer. Well worth considering in my estimation, though I see that Jeremy Noble in 1962 was unimpressed with what he called the Dresden-china school of Mozart when this recording first appeared in tandem with Concerto No.26; he was much happier with Géza Anda a few months later and that remains the stronger recommendation.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Symphony No.41 in C, K551 (Jupiter)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Karl Böhm – rec. 1962. ADD/stereo
BEULAH EXTRA 10-13BX133 [26:52] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

Unlike Goberman’s Haydn from around the same time, this is not a ground-breaking interpretation, but it is equally recommendable – ‘traditional’ Mozart performance at its best performed by a world-class orchestra and still sounding remarkably well in this transfer. If I marginally prefer Bruno Walter’s Columbia SO Jupiter of similar vintage (Sony 88697906832, 6CDs), that’s more to do with familiarity: I owned the CBS LP which coupled his Haffner and Jupiter and still dig out my 2-CD set of Walter’s last six Mozart symphonies.

It’s often instructive to look back at what was originally said about recordings like this which have developed classic status; surprisingly, Böhm’s original LP coupling of Nos. 40 and 41 was given something of a cold shoulder by Edward Greenfield, no less – nothing like the same imaginative individuality as Beecham’s coupling of the same two works and No.40; pale and unmemorable by comparison with Colin Davis’s versions of 39 and 40, reviewed the same month. Like most of us, EG has mellowed: the last complete Penguin Guide (2010), written by the quadrumvirate of which EG is part, describes Böhm’s late Mozart symphonies as broader and heavier in texture than is now usual but warm, magnetic and with an attractive honesty and strength. It’s the 2010 judgement rather than that of 1962 with which I concur.

Böhm’s recordings of Symphonies Nos. 35, 36 and 38-41 remain available on an inexpensive 2-CD DG Originals set (447 4162), 39-41 on Eloquence 463 2322, and the complete symphonies are on a 10-disc collection (477 6134) but the equally inexpensive Beulah transfer is ideal for anyone who just wants the Jupiter symphony.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto
Alfredo Campoli (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/Josef Krips – rec. 1952. ADD/mono
BEULAH EXTRA 14BX10 [44:20] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Violin Concerto
Alfredo Campoli (violin)
London Symphony Orchestra/Ataulfo Argenta – rec. 1956. ADD/stereo
BEULAH EXTRA 16BX10 [33:45] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

These two classic recordings have been available on CD for some time on Beulah 5PD10 and the Tchaikovsky is also included in Decca’s 50-CD set Decca Sound (478 2826).

Rob Barnett welcomed the first appearance of these reissues, the Beethoven coupled with Bruch and the Tchaikovsky with Bliss – review – though noting that not everyone will now approve of the edition employed for Tchaikovsky. That’s not something that I found at all troubling – it certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this reissue of an old friend which, in many respects is still my benchmark for this concerto. The recording still sounds extremely well. For some more recent recordings of the Tchaikovsky, please see below.

Though in early 1950s mono, the Beethoven has been made to sound unbelievably well in this transfer. The performance may not have quite the immediate appeal of the Tchaikovsky, but with able assistance from Josef Krips, who later recorded a very worthwhile cycle of the Beethoven symphonies, it certainly does great justice to a work which I recently heard Nicola Benedetti describe, with considerable justice, I think, as her favourite.

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Symphony No. 7 in E major (1881-1883) (1885, ed. Haas) [60:02]
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Donald Runnicles – rec. 2012. DDD
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67916 [60:02] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16/44.1 & 24/96 lossless)

My thanks to Geoff Molyneux for this review: you’ll find my thoughts on this recording in the 2012/24 News and Dan Morgan’s in the 2013/1 News.

From the very opening bars it is clear that we are about to hear a first class performance of this work. The first theme, elegiac in character, is given by violas and cellos in unison and they play with a ravishing, really beautiful tone with sensitive and expressive phrasing and dynamics. The violins and woodwind are equally impressive when they repeat the theme a few bars later. The ensemble and intonation is faultless, and to my ears beyond criticism. The recording by Hyperion is wide in dynamic range, clearly very important in the music of Bruckner. The fortissimos are majestic and convincing.

I first got to know the late symphonies of Bruckner in live performances and recordings under Klemperer, Karajan and Giulini.* This new recording sounds very different in many ways, lighter and faster sometimes. Actually Klemperer’s Scherzo is the same speed as that of Runnicles, but the former seems more convincing and more rugged. Otto Klemperer and the New Philharmonia are magisterial, even if the second movement Adagio seems a bit slow compared with today’s performance style. Listening again to these recordings after many years, I can’t help feeling that both Klemperer and Karajan build their climaxes with greater power and conviction than Runnicles, and the sound quality of these old discs is still pretty good. Karajan is rather nearer to Runnicles than Klemperer because beauty of sound is of paramount importance. When the New Philharmonia woodwind play the repeat of the first theme in the first movement we are aware of a comparatively rough tone and occasional shaky intonation.

I was surprised by the fastish tempo of the finale opening under Runnicles, with its crisp, light and dancing rhythmic feel. But it is very effective and a thoroughly modern approach to this music. At figure F this rhythmic theme returns on full orchestra, fortissimo to magnificent effect. Runnicles always keeps the music moving.

I feel that the recording is just a little too resonant, consistent with the attempt to achieve beauty of tone. Sometimes I would like greater clarity, for example the timpani rhythm at the opening of the Trio section of the scherzo can barely be heard and does not sound clearly articulated. At the opening of the first movement, the dynamic contrast between the string tremolando accompaniment marked pianissimo and the main theme marked mezzo forte is so wide that the accompaniment can hardly be heard. Contrast this with the Klemperer and you will have a much better balance with such detail clearly audible and articulated.

So this new performance under Donald Runnicles is magnificent with state of the art recording quality. It is well worth hearing but don’t throw away your great recordings from the past.

Geoffrey Molyneux

* Klemperer’s recordings of Bruckner Symphonies 4-9 have recently been very economically reissued by EMI Classics on 4042962 – you should find the six-CD set on sale for as little as £13. Download from hmvdigital.com for slightly less.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35 [34:53]
Sérénade mélancolique for violin and orchestra, Op. 26 [9:27]
Valse – Scherzo for violin and orchestra, Op. 34 [7:46]
Souvenir d’un lieu cher for violin and piano, Op. 42* [15:54]
Julia Fischer (violin)
Russian National Orchestra/Yakov Kreizberg (piano*) – rec. 2006. DSD.
Pdf booklet included
PENTATONE PTC5186095 [68:25] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

Violin Concerto in D, Op.35 [31:43]
Piano Concerto No.1 in b-flat minor, Op.23 [35:50]
Christian Tetzlaff (violin)
Nikolai Lugansky (piano)
Russian National Orchestra/Kent Nagano – rec. 2003. DSD.
Pdf booklet included
PENTATONE PTC5186022 [67:52] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

Alexander Konstantinovich GLAZUNOV
(1865-1936)

Violin Concerto in a minor, Op.82 [18:28]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-93)
Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Op.42 (arranged for violin and orchestra by Alexander Glazunov) [17:29]
Violin Concerto in D, Op.35 [33:58]
Vadim Gluzman (violin)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton – rec. 2008. DSD
Pdf booklet included.
BIS-SACD-1432 [70:58] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

There are so many first-rate recordings of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto that choice is invidious; I’d be more than happy with the Beulah/Campoli (above) or with any of the versions listed below.

The two Pentatone recordings are complementary; if you like the Violin Concerto to be a little on the dreamy side, but not unduly so, go for Julia Fischer who, though slower than Alfredo Campoli (above), perhaps under the influence of Yakov Kreizberg, still keeps the music moving and never overdoes the tendency to linger. Christian Tetzlaff, on the other hand, shaves a few minutes off Campoli’s timings without ever sounding rushed. Both Fischer and Tetzlaff receive excellent orchestral support and both are well recorded, especially in 24-bit, for which it’s well worth paying the extra, albeit at almost twice the price of mp3 and 16-bit.

Choice of coupling could well determine your choice, with a good performance of the Piano Concerto on offer from Nikolai Lugasky as companion to Tetzlaff. On the other hand, Fischer’s heartfelt performance of the Sérénade melancolique suits the music very well.

Actually, though the Fischer version of the first movement seems to linger longer over the scenery, as it were, it’s only a few second slower than Campoli. The difference is most marked in the slow movement, which takes a minute longer than from Tetzlaff but who can complain when the music is made to sound so beautiful?

If the coupling of the Violin and First Piano Concertos is logical, though not very common*, the combination of the Tchaikovsky and Glazunov Violin Concertos on BIS, with Glazunov’s arrangement of the Souvenir d’un lieu cher, also makes excellent sense. While the Glazunov Violin Concerto is no match for the Tchaikovsky, it’s well worth having in such a fine performance, easily excelling my old IMP CD with a decent performance by Hideko Udagawa which now goes off to the charity shop (PCD966, no longer available).

* There’s a Kogan/Cziffra coupling on EMI Red Line and there used to be a recommendable budget-price RCA Silver Seal recording from the mid-1960s: John Browning (piano) and Erick Friedman (violin) with the LSO and Seiji Ozawa, second-hand copies of which are worth looking out for (VD60491), though not at £29.97, which one dealer is currently asking.

Sainsburysentertainment.co.uk offer Sarah Chang’s EMI recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, with the LSO and Colin Davis and coupled with four of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances in mp3 for £4.99 but it’s rather ungenerous in timing at 48 minutes. For the same tempting price hmvdigital.com offer Kyung-Wha Chung in the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky concertos on Decca Originals – see March 2010 Roundup, but ignore the passionato link given there.

Other recommendable Glazunov recordings containing the Violin Concerto include:

The Seasons, ballet, Op.67 [35:34]
Violin Concerto in a minor, Op.82 [20:48]
Oscar Shumsky (violin); RSNO/ Neeme Järvi – rec. 1987
Pdf booklet included
CHANDOS CHAN8596 [56:22] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library


Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978) Violin Concerto in d minor (1940) [36.38]
Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 19 (1917) [22.00]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1856-1936) Violin Concerto in a minor, Op. 82 (1905) [20.28]
Julia Fischer (violin)
Russian National Orchestra/Yakov Kreizberg – rec. 2004. DSD
Pdf booklet included
PENTATONE CLASSICS PTC5186059 [79:24] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[see review by Paul Shoemaker: NB slightly incorrect catalogue number in that review – correctly as above]

If you’re looking for the Glazunov Violin Concerto in the context of his other concertos, the inexpensive 2-CD conducted by José Serebrier (Warner 2564679465review) can be downloaded from hmvdigital.com or streamed from Naxos Music Library.

The impecunious will find Maxim Vengerov’s performance, coupled with the two Prokofiev concertos and conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich for £2.99 at sainsburysentertainment.co.uk

For an inexpensive alternative version of The Seasons, coupled with Scènes de Ballet, you won’t go far wrong with Ondré Lenard and the Slovak RSO on HNH Amadis 7178; I’ve owned and enjoyed the Naxos CD of this performance of The Seasons, differently coupled, for a considerable time. From eclassical.com in mp3 and lossless – and less expensive, at $7.85, than their download of exactly the same performances on the Marco Polo label. There’s also a classic Ansermet recording on an inexpsnsive 2-CD release from Australian Eloquence, which I recommended some time ago - review.


Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Symphony No.6 in D, Op. 60, B112 (1880) [47:48]
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928) Idyll, JW VI/3 (1878) [29:31]
Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz – rec. May 2009 and October 2011. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
NAXOS 8.572698 [77:19] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op.10, B34 [34:10]
Symphony No. 6 in D, Op.60, B112 (1880) [45:47]
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/José Serebrier
WARNER CLASSICS 825646577521 [79:57] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

There are several reviews in this Download News which I wrote in time for 2013/2 but kept back because I thought that I’d been unduly critical. In this case, I enjoyed the Serebrier recording of the Sixth Symphony more than the Schwarz, but wondered if I hadn’t been too hard on the latter. On reflection, however, I still prefer Serebrier.

These are two very well filled releases of Dvořák, both of which contain the Sixth Symphony. There’s some very strong competition in this work, principally from Sir Charles Mackerras (Supraphon), Marin Alsop (Naxos rivalling themselves here – see January 2011 Roundup for a comparison of Alsop and Mackerras) and Jiří Bělohlávek (Chandos).

On the face of it the Warner coupling of two symphonies seems more logical than the Naxos arrangement, but Janáček was in many ways Dvořák’s musical heir and the older composer has been described as the spiritual godfather of the Idyll, so Gerard Schwarz’s coupling is equally logical. This is not, it seems, a reissue from the Delos back catalogue, but a release of two recent recordings from a conductor who has also recently been recording the French repertoire with the Lyons orchestra for Naxos.

In the first movement of the Sixth Symphony Schwarz plays around with the tempo a little too much for my liking – sometimes speeding up, more often broadening the pace. I’m not asking for a boringly unyielding speed and unremitting tension, but I would like something more consistent than this. That something might be more like Mackerras, who also varies the tempo occasionally but within a basic forward motion. At least, like Serebrier (below) and Alsop, he observes the important repeat, which Mackerras and Bělohlávek omit, though I’d still give Mackerras’s Supraphon recording top billing and place the Chandos Bělohlávek not far behind.

In mitigation I should add that another review which I’ve since read finds Schwarz preferable to Serebrier; whereas I think that Schwarz makes the first movement sound a little too episodic, it’s Serebrier’s ritardando that he thinks a trifle overdone. In the slow movement, too, where I think Schwarz just a little too slow, it’s possible to regard his broader tempo as magical. On the other hand, yet another review finds the scherzo, which I liked, lacking rhythmically. All of which provides a good illustration of the fact that there’s no absolute opinion on any performance and a good reason to try this yourself, from Naxos Music Library if possible.

At least we agree in liking the Janáček coupling – not typical of the composer but very easy on the ear and very well performed and recorded – together with the attractive price it goes quite some way towards making the whole programme more compelling.

José Serebrier may not quite match the strong challengers that I’ve mentioned, but he comes very close indeed. I wasn’t entirely convinced by his recording of the Ninth – November 2011/2 Roundup – or the Seventh – September 2012/1 Roundup, but this time he seems more idiomatic and more competitive – after all, he did once conduct the Czech Philharmonic, so the music is in his blood. With just a few reservations – the broadening of the tempo towards the end of the first movement doesn’t quite work, for example; here I do agree with the reviewer who prefers Schwarz – and with good mp3 sound, if the coupling appeals you could do much worse.

The Third Symphony gets far fewer outings than the Sixth, though it doesn’t deserve the oblivion to which the composer sought to consign it when he chose only five of his symphonies to receive numbers. It receives a sympathetic performance here and one which makes this new recording preferable to Naxos’s identical coupling from the Slovak PO and Stephen Gunzenhauser, though that offers a very serviceable pairing of the same two symphonies on a CD which I have played frequently since I bought it some twenty years ago. That remains available for just £4.99 from classicsonline.com as against £7.99 for the Warner and it comes with the booklet that the latter lacks, so both it and the Marin Alsop version of No.6, with Nocturne and Scherzo capriccioso – also with booklet – are well worth considering as a bargain. Marin Alsop’s 6th is also available coupled with the 9th on a Blu-ray audio disc (Naxos NBD0014).

Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt – excerpts [39:23]
Piano Concerto in a minor, Op16 [29:15]
Clifford Curzon (piano)
London Symphony Orchestra/Øivin Fjeldstad – rec.c.1958/9. ADD
DECCA THE CLASSIC SOUND 448 5992 [68:38] – from hmvdigital.com (mp3). On CD onlyfrom Arkivmusic.com or in a 23-disc set, Decca 478 4389.

Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op.46 (1874/88) [15:34]
Peer Gynt Suite No. 2, Op.55 (1891-2) [17:15]
Funeral March in Memory of Rikard Nordraak (1866/92) [7:52]
Old Norwegian Melody with Variations, Op.51 (1891/1904) [24:29]
Bell Ringing, Op.54/6 (1904) [3:59]
Bergen Philharmonic/Ole Kristian Ruud – rec. 2003-2005. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
BIS BIS-SACD-1591 [70:50] – from eclassical.com (mp3, 16– and 24-bit lossless)

[see review by Stephen Francis Vasta: Recording of the Month]

The Decca recording is a very old favourite – I owned the Piano Concerto on a 10" LP and, later, the Peer Gynt extracts – slightly more than the two suites but minus Ingrid’s Lament – on Ace of Diamonds but it’s not just nostalgia that still makes me place this top of the list for both works and regret its absence on a single CD, which is all the more reason to welcome the fact that it’s still available in good (320kb/s) mp3 from hmvdigital.com. The 18/– that I paid for the Piano Concerto alone would equate to at least £25 in modern terms, so the asking price of £7.99 is very reasonable. I reviewed this as a lossless download from passionato.com some time ago, but they are no longer in the download business, so you’ll need to turn to the hmvdigital.com download. You’d hardly think that these recordings date from a time of politeness so long ago that the Gramophone reviewer referred to the conductor as ‘Mr Fjeldstad’.

Clifford Curzon’s earlier (1951) mono recording of the Piano Concerto, with Anatole Fistoulari, is available from Beulah (6-8BX7, October 2011/1 Roundup).

Øivin Fjeldstad offers ten items from the complete Peer Gynt music whereas most perform just the two suites which Grieg excerpted, eight items in all, so the Ruud recording on BIS falls a little short in that respect but it’s recommendable on all other counts, not least in that it offers some less standard Grieg for those who don’t want the Curzon Piano Concerto or already own it.

Nikolay RIMSKY KORSAKOV (1844-1908)

Symphony No.1 in e minor, Op.1 (second version, 1884) [25:18]
Fantasy on Serbian Themes, Op.6 (second version, 1887) [6:46]
Symphony No.3 in C, Op.32 (second version, 1886) [33:51]
Malaysian Symphony Orchestra/Kees Bakels – rec. November 2002, DDD.
Pdf booklet included
BIS BIS-CD-1477 [66:48] – from eclassical.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[‘Recommended for the Third Symphony.’ See review by Stephen Francis Vasta.]

The First Symphony is attractive enough, but it doesn’t ‘go’ anywhere. My wife makes the same comment about the Balakirev Symphony No.1 and I suppose that she’s right, but that work is packed with good tunes in a way that Rimsky’s First isn’t quite. The Third is a different matter and it receives a fine performance here. With the booklet of notes included and good recording, especially in lossless format, this is a worthwhile release, but I’d go for the Second Symphony, Antar, first if you don’t already know that work: see below.

For the Chandos recording of Symphonies Nos. 1-3, Russian Easter Festival Overture, Capriccio espagnol and Piano Concerto (CHAN6613, Bergen PO/Kitaienko) and the Philharmonia/Svetlanov recording of the Antar Symphony (No.2) and Russian Easter Festival Overture on Hyperion Helios (CDH55137), both inexpensive releases, please see March 2010 Download Roundup. The booklet of notes, which I reported previously as unavailable, now comes with the Chandos download; the Hyperion also comes with a booklet.

Luigi DENZA (1846-1922) Funiculi funiculà [2:43]
Regimental Band of the Coldstream Guards/Lt-Colonel Douglas A Pope – rec. 1959. ADD/stereo.
BEULAH EXTRA 5BX203 [2:43] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

This is one of many railway-inspired pieces of music, in this case the funicular railway up Mount Vesuvius. It’s also the music that got Richard Strauss into copyright problems – thinking that it was a Neapolitan folk song, he incorporated into Aus Italien, for which he had to pay royalties. It receives a suitably jaunty performance here and the recording still sounds well.

Beulah also offer in conjunction with iTunes, a whole album transcribed from the Guards’ 1959 stereo release on RCA (1PD51). There’s also a 1962 stereo recording from the CWS Manchester Band and Alex Mortimer of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 (Beulah Extra 1BX259).

Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Bach Fantasia and Fugue in c minor, BWV537 [8:21]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult – rec. 1949. ADD/mono
BEULAH EXTRA 46BX12 [8:21] – from eavb.co.uk (mp3)

That such arrangements of Bach have gone out of fashion is not a matter that I greatly lament – even as long ago as the year of this recording a Mr HH Fountain was writing to Gramophone to point out that if Bach had wanted orchestrate his organ works he would have done so – but I know that there are those who hanker after them. Though one thinks more immediately of Stokowski in this context, few will be disappointed with Sir Adrian Boult’s altogether less heavy-handed performance here. It seems, in fact, to have been a favourite with Boult, who recorded it again in the 1970s as a filler to his performance of Falstaff. The recording shows its age, especially at climaxes, but is more than acceptable and is largely free from surface noise.

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Symphony for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 68* [31:30]
Sonata for cello and piano in C, Op. 65** [20:38]
Suite No. 1 for cello solo, Op. 72 [24:40]
Suite No. 2 for cello solo, Op. 80 [20:02]
Suite No. 3 for cello solo, Op. 87 [20:57]
Tema ‘Sacher’ [1:34]
Alban Gerhardt (cello)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Manze*
Steven Osborne (piano)**
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA67941/2 [2 CDs: 119:21] – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3 and 16/44.1 and 24/88.2 lossless)

My review of this recording was ready to be included in the 2013/2 Download News but I held it back in order to give the performances a little more time to make their impact on me. In the meantime I’ve seen another review which also comments on the fast tempi in the Cello Symphony and the coolness of the soloist’s approach; though the latter comment is tempered with the observation that Britten would probably have preferred a more cool-headed approach, the reviewer ends, like me, in emphasising the uniqueness of the Rostropovich-Britten recording. In the end I decided to leave what I had originally written, especially as Geoff Molyneux has kindly sent me his thoughts on this recording – appended below. Not only does he give a more rounded and sympathetic view of the Cello Symphony, he also relates more positively than me to the three Cello Suites.

Hyperion bill this as ‘a major new release at the start of Britten’s anniversary celebrations’. They are certainly biting off a big chunk in recording the whole of his cello œuvre when we have the performances of the dedicatee Rostropovich for comparison; Cello Suites and Sonata, Decca 421 8592; Cello Symphony with Sinfonia da Requiem and Cantata Misericordium, Decca E425 1002 [74:35] (download mp3 from amazon.co.uk), recordings which I’m hardly likely to pension off. Bargain hunters will find these, with all Rostropovich’s other Decca recordings, in a budget 5-CD box 478 3577. There’s an earlier collaboration between Rostropovich and Rozhdestvensky in the Cello Symphony on EMI Great Artists – a powerful performance, coupled with Shostakovich, but in far from ideal mono and with a noisy audience – review. I deliberately chose not to listen to either of these for fear of influencing my judgement.

Chandos have also got their feet firmly wedged in the door with two strong contenders: a budget-price reissue of Rafael Wallfisch’s recording with Steuart Bedford of the Cello Symphony (with Death in Venice Suite, pdf booklet available, CHAN10274X [61:02] – review: Bargain of the Month) and a recent full-price recording from Paul Watkins and Edward Gardner (with Gloriana Suite and Four Sea Interludes, CHAN10658review: Recording of the Month and March 2011/2 Roundup).

Another rival recording, from Pieter Wispelwey, live with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra and Seikyo Kim on Onyx (ONYX4058 [63:37], with Cello Suite No.1) pulls no punches, especially in the first movement, in conveying what a tough work this is. I’ve listened to this in ‘best’ quality from Naxos Music Library which encourages me to think that the classicsonline.com download, with pdf booklet, should sound fine.

By comparison with the Onyx, the new Hyperion recording offers a brooding, somewhat detached, rather than a fierce account of the first movement. As a result the performance sounds slower in pace than any of its rivals, yet the clock says otherwise, with Gerhardt and Manze taking just 11:12 against a fairly consistent tempo from their rivals: 12:33 (Rostropovich and Britten), 12:34 (Watkins and Gardner), 12:38 (Wallfisch and Bedford) and 12:55 (Wispelwey and Kim). The music still retains much of its impact, however, especially as the movement progresses and I’m not about to throw out the new performance at this stage.

In the second movement there’s almost a consensus on tempo, ranging from a time of 3:40 (Hyperion) to 4:04 (Onyx), with the new recording, at 3:40, very close to Britten’s own time with Rostropovich of 3:42. In the third movement Wispelwey takes 12:09 against Gerhardt’s 9:53, with Rostropovich splitting the difference, but I have to say that Wispelwey didn’t seem to drag or Gerhardt to be too hurried – indeed, if anything, it’s the latter who, once again, actually seems slightly more contemplative and a little detached here. At almost exactly the same overall timing (9:52) Wallfisch on the older Chandos version moves things along more effectively.

In the finale Gerhardt and Manze recover the momentum that they haven’t quite managed to achieve so far despite their faster tempi. Again, at 6:43, they adopt a speedier tempo than any of their rivals but this time their choice pays dividends in terms of liveliness. First and last impressions are both important psychologically and here it’s the final impression that redeems this recording for me.

If you want the absolutely complete Britten cello opus, the new Hyperion recording is essential. The mp3 or 16-bit flac can be yours for £14.49, which is marginally less than buying downloads of the two Decca recordings with Rostropovich; the recording is better and the booklet comes as part of the deal. On the other hand, those two Decca albums should be in the collection of every lover of Britten and, though you miss out on the short Tema, you get authoritative and spanking performances of the powerful Sinfonia da Requiem and the Cantata Misericordium.

The 24/88.2 version of the new Hyperion costs £21.75 and, while it’s very good, I didn’t think it vastly superior to the budget-price Wallfisch version on Chandos. 24/88.2 is an awkward sampling rate, too; it’s not currently supported by Windows 7, so I had to leave my DAC at the 44.1kHz setting. If you’re looking for a less expensive version and/or if you want the Suite from Death in Venice, Wallfisch and Bedford are very well worth considering.

The newer of the Chandos versions, too, comes in very good 24-bit sound. If you don’t have a recording of the Four Sea Interludes, that, too constitutes a strong suit. The rarely performed Symphonic Suite from Gloriana provides an added incentive, so, even if you have the Interludes – say on the wonderful budget recording from Andrew Davies on Warner Apex – it’s worth putting up with the duplication.

In the Cello Sonata and the Suites the tempi on Hyperion are close to those adopted by Rostropovich and Britten and, with Steven Osborne at the piano in the Sonata, there’s a great deal to be said for the new recording, not least the quality of the recording. I have to admit that the Cello Symphony is the main attraction for me, rather than the Sonata and Suites, though I know that many will place the boot on the other foot. If that’s the case I’d recommend that you listen to the samples which Hyperion offer before deciding, perhaps comparing the Rostropovich and Britten recording via Spotify.

So my final recommendation must be hedged with ifs and buts. The two Decca recordings – especially the one including the Cello Symphony – should be in every Britten collection. That means that I’m sorry to be able to recommend the major new Hyperion undertaking only to those who would like two recordings of everything except Tema or who demand 24-bit sound. If you just want the Cello Symphony and the first Cello Suite, Wispelwey is well worth considering; most providers offer this in mp3 only, but there’s a lossless version from theclassicalshop.net.

The two Chandos versions each have their own advantages: the Wallfisch recording offers an attractive coupling and comes in mp3 and lossless at a decent price – £4.99 and £7.99 respectively. Twist my arm and make me choose and, assuming that the Decca recording is already in your collection, I’d go for that as my favourite. The newer Watkins recording comes in mp3 and 16– and 24-bit lossless and if you choose either of the lossless versions theclassicalshop.net system allows you to return to obtain the mp3 for your personal player at any time at no extra cost.

***

The Cello Symphony begins dramatically with a heavily syncopated theme presented with great energy and rhythmic incisiveness by Alban Gerhardt and his orchestra. Later the dark and brooding tones of this movement are well portrayed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra which is in fine form. I am impressed by the way Andrew Manze builds the huge climax in this movement. The inevitable comparison must be with Rostropovich’s recording with the composer conducting. On listening again to this fine account on Decca I am struck by this cellist’s total commitment to the music and the incredible energy and passion with which his performances were always imbued.

Gerhardt is certainly not second best to Rostropovich, a musician whom many, including my friend in the London Symphony Orchestra who knew him well and played with him many times, regarded as possibly the finest performing musician of the last century. Sometimes Rostropovich’s emotional intensity can be just too much for us ordinary mortals and can even lead to tiny lapses in intonation and less than attractive tone. Any performer, including Gerhardt, will inevitably sound a little more cool than Rostropovich, but it is good to hear this music played so well, even with not quite so much overwhelming emotion.

Britten wrote to Rostropovich saying that he hoped that the Scherzo would amuse him. Gerhardt plays this rather weird piece with a kind of gruff wit, and the performance has the advantage over the Decca in that every note can be clearly heard thanks to the superb Hyperion recording. The Adagio is very dramatically done and the orchestral climax is superbly controlled by Manze. However, the slower tempo adopted by both Rostropovich and Pieter Wispelwey on Onyx gives their performances rather more gravitas and depth of feeling. Gerhardt nevertheless gives a characterful performance, and the cadenza is sombre and lugubrious. This leads directly into the last movement with which it is joined, and the glorious trumpet melody is superbly played here, much better than the offering of the trumpeter in Wispelwey’s orchestra, the Flanders Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra is not in the same league as the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Onyx recording quality and balance is inferior to the Hyperion. The wide-ranging and inventive instrumental textures and colours devised by Britten are given full justice in this new Hyperion recording.

Steven Osborne is the fine pianist who joins Alban Gerhardt in the Cello Sonata. The balance is excellent and the piano is often to the fore where necessary. Ophélie Gaillard and Vanessa Wagner give a warm-toned but less dramatic performance of the opening to the first movement on Ambroisie. Osborne is quite thrilling here. After a brief pizzicato scherzo comes an emotionally intense Elegia. Gerhardt sustains the tone admirably in the melancholic theme and Osborne adds the contrasting piano music, with its chords, trills and other figuration admirably executed. The excellent recording copes well with the wide-ranging dynamics. The short finale, Moto perpetuo with its reminiscences of Shostakovich is played with great variety of colour, and it all leads to the final simple and witty chord. This performance is certainly enhanced by the superb piano playing of Steven Osborne.

The Suites for Cello are works of such richness and depth of expression they seem worthy of comparison with those of Bach which were obviously Britten’s inspiration here. Also this body of work seems to me to be immediately appealing due to the variety of individual movements but also within each movement. Personally I feel that the finest of the Suites is No.1. At the outset the profundity of Bach is instantly felt. This short Canto returns later in the Suite in various guises and developments helping to give unity to the work. After this sustained movement, the Fuga is an ingenious foil. The Lamento gives Gerhardt an opportunity to display his understanding of Britten’s lyricism. I love the direct simplicity of Canto Secundo and the gruff quality of Serenata pizzicato. Canto Terzo begins with some really lugubrious music in the depths of the cello’s range. Gerhardt provides a beautiful and rich tone.

Suite No.2 is a very different work, shorter with fewer movements. Declamato is followed by an extraordinary monophonic Fuga. Next comes a brief but aggressive Scherzo followed by the most substantial part of the work, Andante lento joined directly with the concluding Ciaccona. This last is full of invention and variety as well as hints of Bach, and is superbly performed by Gerhardt.

The centre-piece of Suite No.3 is a very intense Fuga: Andante espressivo played with great mastery by Gerhardt. The brief but imaginative Moto perpetuo: Presto is followed by the concluding Passacaglia: Lento solenne, the most lengthy movement of the Suite and containing statements of the Russian themes on which the preceding variations are based.

I cannot imagine these Suites and Sonata being better performed or recorded than they are here. However I will always retain my Rostropovich recording of the Cello Symphony which must remain the definitive performance!

Geoffrey Molyneux

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)

Les Illuminations for soprano and string orchestra, Op.18 (1939)* [22:57]
Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge for string orchestra, Op.10 (1937) [26:22]
Serenade for tenor, horn and string orchestra, Op.31 (1943)** [25:20]
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal for tenor, horn and string orchestra (1943)** [4:21]
Barbara Hannigan (soprano)*
James Gilchrist (tenor); Jasper de Waal (horn)**
Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Candida Thompson
– rec. October 2010, October 2011 and April 2012. DSD
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA32213 [79:15] – from channelclassics.com (SACD, mp3, 24-bit lossless and DSD)

Les Illuminations, Op 18 [23:42]
Quatre Chansons françaises, [13:02]
Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op 31 [22:19]
Felicity Lott (soprano), Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Michael Thompson (horn)
Scottish National Orchestra/Bryden Thomson – rec. 1988. DDD
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
CHANDOS CHAN10192X [58:55] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

[‘Altogether, a welcome reissue of a classic from the archives: Felicity Lott’s Illuminations alone is a must.’ See review by Anne Ozorio]

Les Illuminations, Op.18 [22:15]
Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op.10 [26:28]
Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op.31 [24:02]
Toby Spence (tenor); Martin Owen (horn)
Scottish Ensemble/Clio Gould (violin) – rec. July 2003. DSD
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
LINN CKD226 [72:45] – from linnrecords.com (SACD, mp3 and lossless)

[‘This disc isn’t perfect, but it comes nearer than most.’ See review by Peter J Lawson]

As with the Hyperion recording of Britten’s Cello Symphony (above), this review was all ready to go online in the 2013/2 Download News but I decided that I ought to give the new Channel Classics recording time to gel in the hope that I might appreciate it better. Since deferring my thoughts, I see that others have warmed to it much more: one reviewer prefers the larger forces involved here to the smaller-scale Linn recording with the Scottish Ensemble and one newspaper in the Netherlands has gone so far as to headline this as Britten op het hoogste niveau – Britten at the highest level – so it may well be worth your while to sample this new recording.

Channel Classics: This, one of the first releases in Britten centenary years, has been over two years in the making. I wish that I could be more enthusiastic about les Illuminations; it’s not a work that I warm to easily and it needs a very special performance for it to catch fire. Barbara Hannigan sometimes achieves that, but not consistently enough.

For a soprano version of les Illuminations which really grips, you need to turn to the Chandos reissue; not only does Felicity Lott bring the music alive for me, the price is right, too, with mp3 for £4.99 and lossless at £7.99. Though the latter is 16/44.1 only, this version remains competitive sound-wise, even heard straight after the new Channel Classics. On the latter you’ll need to turn the volume up a notch or two to enjoy the full effect of the wide dynamic range of the very good recording – I listened to the 24/96 version. With a more recent Chandos recording featuring Susan Gritton ruled out for John Quinn and me by some vocal idiosyncrasies, this is the soprano version to have, especially as Anthony Rolfe Johnson’s and Michael Thompson’s contributions in the Serenade were described at the time of their first release in 1989 as ‘one of the best imaginable performances’. I see no reason to demur.

James Gilchrist, on the other hand, an accomplished singer of Britten’s music, redeems the new Channel Classics album; his recording of On this Island helped me to appreciate music that had hitherto eluded me (Linn CKD404, with The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo and Canticle I – see Download News 2013/2) and his contribution in the Serenade comes alive in a way that Hannigan’s Illuminations don’t, thus making this new recording a mixed blessing.

The Linn recording offers all but one short item* of those on the new Channel Classics but with a tenor soloist throughout. Britten composed les Illuminations with a soprano in mind, but it’s become a tenor work almost exclusively over the years and Toby Spence on Linn is a worthy successor in the line that descends from Peter Pears (Decca and Eloquence) via Ian Bostridge (EMI). Bostridge is the man to beat in my book – I’m not a great fan of Pears – and the light-toned Spence comes very close to that, here and in the Serenade; both Bostridge and Spence achieve the necessary power as effectively as Felicity Lott and the recording, though 16/44.1, like the Chandos, comes very close to matching even the 24/96 Channel Classics.

* I was under the impression that Britten didn’t wish Now sleeps the crimson petal to be performed alongside the Serenade, but I see that BIS do so, too, on their recording with Christoph Prégardien and Osmo Vänskä (BIS-CD-540).

If competition is fierce in les Illuminations, it’s even fiercer in the Bridge Variations. Here, too, the Linn recording offers a powerful performance, worthy to be ranked with the best. If the Linn coupling appeals, there’s every reason to go for it; Peter Lawson and I are not the only reviewers to think highly of it. The new Channel Classics version packs slightly less of a punch but that certainly doesn’t put the new recording out of the running if the coupling appeals and if, despite my reservations, you’re looking for a soprano version of les Illuminations.

The only really naughty thing about the Chandos recording is the claim on their web page ‘originally recorded in 2003’, which is out by 15 years and really ought to be corrected.

Buxton ORR (1924-1997) Chamber Music for Strings
String Quartet No.1, Refrains IV (1977) [23:01]
Duo for Baroque Violin and String Bass (1994) [8:20]
String Trio (1996) [14:45]
String Quartet No.2 (1985) [21:39]
Beethoven String Trio of London (Pavlo Beznosiuk (violin); Jeremy Williams (viola); Richard Tunnicliffe (cello)) with Andrew Roberts (violin); Maya Homburger (baroque violin); Barry Guy (double bass) – rec. 2000 and 2001. DDD.
First recordings
Pdf booklet available
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0103 [68:12] – from theclassicalshop.net (mp3 and lossless)

I’m not the greatest lover of late 20th-century music but this recording makes me wonder why we haven’t heard more – much more – of the music of Buxton Orr. Perhaps it’s too approachable for the avant-garde crowd? I see that these performances have been ‘in the can’ for over a decade before seeing the light of day. Whatever the reason, this recording makes we want to hear more of Orr’s music; it’s not ‘easy’ but it pays dividends. My next stop will be the Marco Polo recording of his Piano Trios (York Piano Trio, 8.223842), available in mp3 and lossless from eclassical.com or stream from Naxos Music Library.

The performances are thoroughly sympathetic and the recording is good: mp3 only from the Toccata Classics website, mp3 and lossless from theclassicalshop.net; both offer the very useful booklet of notes. I’m told that Toccata will be offering lossless downloads soon.

Sir Peter MAXWELL DAVIES (b. 1934)
Piano Concerto (1997)* [36:02]
Worldes Blis (1966-69) [42:23]
Kathryn Stott (Piano)*
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Peter Maxwell Davies – rec. 1993 and 1997
Pdf booklet with text and translation of Worldes blis included.
NAXOS 8.572357 [78:25] – from classicsonline.com (mp3 and lossless) or stream from Naxos Music Library

These recordings were previously released, differently coupled, on the defunct Collins Classics label, one of a whole run of Maxwell Davies recordings there, in 1993 and 1998. I never got round to buying any of that series, apart from a sampler on their budget label, and by then the label had gone. Naxos have already reissued Symphonies 1-3 with couplings, the string quartets (separately and in a 5-CD box – review), Linguæ Ignis and Vesallii Icones, and they released Symphonies 4 and 5 – review – at much the same time as the Piano Concerto and Worldes Blis.

These are not only authoritative recordings; they are, to the best of my knowledge, the only ones available, so they’re essential for fans. Though I must admit that only a small amount of Max’s music has yet clicked with me, these recordings have gone some way towards achieving that end, especially as the poem which inspired Worldes Blis, written out with musical accompaniment in a medieval manuscript in the Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 30, is one of the major Middle English lyrics: facsimile here.

Grant FOSTER (b.1945)
Suite, The Pearl of Dubai: The Winter Palace: 1916-1918 [16:49]; Romance: Nicholas and Alexandra [11:04]; Dubai [3:45]; Fantasy: Anastasia [24:46]
The Ballad of Reading Gaol * [10:32]
Andrew Goodwin (tenor); Mira Yevtich (piano); Sergey Roldugin (cello)*
Novaya Rossia Symphony Orchestra; Hermitage Symphony Orchestra; Belorussia Symphony Orchestra/Zaurbeck Gugkaev – rec. 2011 and 2012. DDD.
Pdf booklet included
QUARTZ QTZ2091 [66:56] – from classicsonline.com (mp3) or stream from Naxos Music Library

[‘This is certainly not music that breaks any boundaries but it does show that it is possible to work within those boundaries to produce results that are worth hearing.’ See review by John Sheppard.]

As I was completing this Download News I was reminded in the nicest possible way that it’s some time since I included any Quartz recordings. Though it was a bit late to download and write about anything new, I remembered listening to this programme of music by Grant Foster, having been intrigued by John Sheppard’s review. I made a mental note at the time to write about it – and then inexcusably forgot. There may not be anything deep and deedy here, but it’s all immensely approachable and extremely enjoyable. If I compare it with good film music – Maurice Jarre, perhaps, or the Warsaw Concerto – or the sort of music that Mantovani used to perform with his shimmering strings, or Friday Night is Music Night on BBC Radio 2, I don’t mean that to sound at all pejorative.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol, as befits the text, is much more subdued. The performances, plush for The Pearl of Dubai, and recording match the music – the latter sounds good in ‘best quality’ from the Naxos Music Library, which augurs well for the classicsonline.com download. You won’t, however get the bonus DVD – for that you need to pay a little more for the physical product.

Hafliði HALLGRÍMSSON (b.1941) Choral works
Rúra, rúra barni (Sleep, my child, 2010) [4:07]
Myrtuskógur (1993) [9:31]
Níunda Stund (Ninth Hour, 1993/2006): Engill (Angel) [2:31]; Níunda Stund [3:46]; Nótt (Night) [3:59]
Endurkoma (Last Coming, 2012) [4:24]
Sónhenda LXXVIII (Michelangelo Sonnet LXXVIII, 2010) [4:06]
Your Image (1986/2010) [10:15]
Lofið Guð i hans helgidómi (Praise God in His Holiness, 1996/2012) [9:17]
Schola Cantorum Reykjavík/Hörður Áskelsson
Björn Steinar Sólbergsson (organ)
Elísabet Waage (harp)
Ásgeir H. Steingrímsson (trumpet)
Steef van Oosterhout (percussion) – rec. February 2008 and March 2012. DDD.
All premiere recordings.
Pdf booklet with texts and translations included
RESONUS RES10117 [52:05] – from resonusclassics.com (mp3 and lossless)

The music of contemporary composer Hafliði Hallgrímsson, an Icelander living in Edinburgh, has already appeared on an earlier Resonus release of Christmas music – Download News 2012/21. I wrote then that his music is clearly modern but within an established tradition and that’s true of the present recording. Indeed, though I understand that the opening lullaby doesn’t refer specifically to the Nativity, it might easily have been included on that earlier Christmas album.

We have had recordings of his orchestral music, such as the Ondine recording of his Cello Concerto – review and review – and of his religious work Passia (Ondine again) but the shorter choral works here are very welcome. The booklet informs us that Hallgrímsson is not a particularly religious man but Endurkoma refers to a Last Judgment in which, perhaps, no-one will be judged – a vision of the Second Coming very different from that of the composer’s own Icelandic predecessor who wrote in the Völuspá, a conflation of pagan and Christian concepts, of the terrible time after the fall of the Gods (Ragna rök or Götterdämmerung):

Skelfr Yggdrasils
askr standandi,
ymr it aldna tré,
en jötunn losnar;
hræðask allir
á helvegum,
áðr Surtar þann
sefi of gleypir.

(Yggdrasil, the world-ash-tree, shudders where it stands; its old trunk groans and the giant is loosed; all are terrified on the ways to hell before Surtar’s kin (fire) swallows [them] up.)

By contrast, Hallgrímsson’s brief vision of the end is peaceful, like most of his music here.

The performances are authoritative, the booklet of notes and texts informative – though it’s silent on the meaning of Myrtuskógur and it’s not an Icelandic word that’s within my limited and largely forgotten grasp of Old Norse – and the recording excellent, at least in 24/96 format. Another outstanding download-only release from Resonus.

New Year’s Day Concert 2013
Josef STRAUSS
Die Soubrette, Polka schnell, Op.109 [2:42]
Johann STRAUSS II Kuss-Walzer, Op.400 [6:01]
Josef STRAUSS Theater-Quadrille, Op.213 [5:02]
Johann STRAUSS II Aus den Bergen, Walzer, Op.292 [12:58]
Franz von SUPPÉ Leichte Kavallerie, Ouvertüre [7:06]
Josef STRAUSS Sphären-Klänge, Walzer, Op.235 [10:02]
Josef STRAUSS Die Spinnerin, Polka francaise, Op.192 [3:42]
Richard WAGNER Lohengrin, Prelude to Act III [3:22]
Joseph HELLMESBERGER Jr. Unter vier Augen (In confidence), Polka Mazur, Op.15 [4:25]
Josef STRAUSS Hesperusbahnen, Walzer, Op.279 [9:06]
Josef STRAUSS Galoppin, Polka schnell, Op.237 [2:15]
Joseph LANNER Steyrische Tänze, Op.165 [7:03]
Josef STRAUSS Melodien-Quadrille, Op.112 [4:24]
Giuseppe VERDI Don Carlo, Prestissimo, Ballet music from Act III [3:17]
Johann STRAUSS II Wo die Citronen blüh’n, Walzer, Op.364 [9:59]
Johann STRAUSS I Erinnerung an Ernst oder Der Carneval in Venedig, Fantasie, Op.126 [7:13]
Josef STRAUSS Plappermäulchen, Polka schnell, Op.245 [3:14]
New Year's Greeting [0:35]
Johann STRAUSS II An der schönen blauen Donau, Walzer, Op.314 [9:44]
Johann STRAUSS I Radetzky-Marsch, Op.228 [3:36]
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst – rec. live, 1 January 2013. DDD.
SONY CLASSICAL 88765411632 [2 CDs: 1:55:53] – from amazon.co.uk (mp3)

Many will have heard and/or seen this on New Year’s Day and won’t need me to remind them that Franz Welser-Möst repeated his triumph of 2011. I know that the VPO could play all this music in their sleep, but it helps to have an Austrian conducting; it’s no accident that Karajan’s 1987 concert and a collection of Boskovsky recordings remain available when other New Year offerings have fallen by the way.

One big plus for this year’s concert in my book was the inclusion of more music by Josef Strauss even than his big brother Johann II. Sphärenklange (Music of the Spheres) and Plappermäulchen (blabber-mouth or chatterbox) are deservedly quite well known but Josef’s last composition, Hesperusbahnen, first performed shortly before his death at the Hesperus Artists’ Association ball, much less so. I believe the only other available recording is that on the Marco Polo Josef Strauss edition, Volume 7 (8.223567) and also on the Naxos highlights CD from that series, The Best of Josef Strauss (8.556846).

Unless you must have the DVD or blu-ray, this will do very nicely.