A Retrospective: Autumn 2016
By Brian Wilson
The Summer and early Autumn have seen me falling behind with reviews for reasons which I won’t enlarge upon. Rather than take forever to catch up, I’m clearing some of the backlog with this Retrospective, sometimes offering brief second opinions of recordings which my colleagues have already reviewed. In most cases the material has been received as a download or as a press preview and would previously have been included in the now defunct Download News.
Bartók Miraculous Mandarin, Dance Suite – Philharmonia: Signum
Berlioz Roméo et Juliette – LSO: LSO Live
Browne, Horwood, William Monk of Stratford Eton Choirbook IV – Christ Church Cathedral: Avie
Caccini Rapimento de Cefalo, etc (Firenze 1616) – Le Poème Harmonique
Castaldi Vocal and Instrumental Works – Le Poème Harmonique: Alpha
Charpentier M.A. etc. Splendeurs de Versailles – Various: Alpha (10 CD)
Copland Organ Symphony, Short Symphony – BBC Philharmonic: Chandos
Elgar Symphony No.1 – Santa Cecilia Orchestra: ICA Classics
Ešenvalds St Luke Passion – Latvian Radio Choir, Sinfonietta Riga: Ondine
Gershwin Piano Concerto, American in Paris, etc – Harmonie Ensemble/New York: Harmonia Mundi
Gesualdo Sacræ Cantiones I – Marian Consort: Delphian
Gostena Genus Chromaticum – De Ruvo: Arcana
Ludford , etc. Music from the Lost Palace of Westminster – Gonville and Caius College Choir: Delphian
Machaut Messe de Nostre Dame – Graindelavoix: Glossa; Ensemble Organum: Harmonia Mundi; Ensemble Gilles Binchois: Brilliant Classics; Diabolus in Musica: Alpha
Metcalf , etc. Mary Star of the Sea – Catherine King, etc: Linn
Monteverdi I 7 Peccati Capitali – Capelle Mediterranea: Alpha
Nanino Mass for 8 Voices, etc – Gruppo Vocale Àrsi e Tèsi: Toccata
Pärt Da pacem Domine , etc: Latvian Radio Choir: Ondine
Pepusch Venus and Adonis – Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen: Ramée
Ribera Magnificat , etc – De Profundis: Hyperion
Stravinsky Soldier’s Tale (complete and suite) – Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players: Naxos
- Mass, Cantata, etc. – St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh: Delphian
British Symphonies – Various: Lyrita
Et la Fleur vole: Airs à Danser & Airs de Cour circa 1600 – Le Musiciens de Saint-Julien: Alpha
Ice and Longboats: Ancient Music of Scandinavia – Ensemble Mare Balticum: Delphian
Venezia Stravagante – Capriccio Stravagante: Alpha
As always, my in-tray contains several reviews of medieval, renaissance and baroque music.
My review of a collection of music by Guillaume de MACHAUT (c.1330-1377) entitled A burning heart performed by the Orlando Consort (CDA68103 [58:57]) has already appeared. That’s a collection of mainly secular works but there has also been a recent recording of his most famous sacred work, the Messe de nostre Dame, with propers for a Lady Mass, performed by Graindelavoix (François Testory, Paul De Troyer, Marius Peterson, Adrian Sîrbu, Björn Schmelzer, David Hernandez, Tomàs Maxé, Bart Meynckens, Arnout Malfliet, Jean-Christophe Brizard)/Björn Schmelzer and recorded in St. Augustine’s Church, Antwerp, Belgium, 25-31 March 2015. With texts and translations included it’s on GLOSSA GCDP32110 [72:50]. Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic - Presto.
I streamed it in lossless sound from classicsonline.com where it’s also available to download. There’s no booklet but that’s available from Naxos Music Library. This is the Machaut work which should be in every library but even after repeated hearings, during which I warmed to the performance a little more than at first, this is unlikely to become my first choice for a work for which there is a wide choice of recordings, several of which would be my preference over Graindelavoix.
If you have ever heard any of the recordings made by Marcel Pérès with his Ensemble Organum, whose own recording of this work is available at mid-price on Harmonia Mundi Gold HMG501590, you will recognise and love or hate the style adopted by the Glossa team. Gary Higginson was impressed by an earlier Graindelavoix recording of music from an earlier century – review – and while I can see that their style might well suit that earlier music, I find their distinctive bass-heavy sound too ungainly to take in a recording of Machaut when there are so many versions which I prefer. Two of these share the distinctive feature of the new Glossa CD, interspersing the setting with other music which would have been sung as part of a Mass in honour of the Virgin Mary.
My version of choice features the Ensemble Gilles Binchois directed by Dominique Vellard, who features among the soloists along with, among others, Andreas Scholl and Gerd Turk, who have both gone on to feature on many fine recordings. It’s still available on a single CD on the Cantus label but it’s also available for even less than that single disc on a 3-CD plus CD-Rom super-budget compilation from Brilliant Classics (94217, target price £10.25). Those prepared to download and accept mp3 quality and no texts or notes can obtain that set for even less: £5.49 from 7digital.com . As Mark Sealey wrote: ‘These are all expert performances. They are full of atmosphere, intelligence, persuasive yet appropriate emotional charge and expression. Technically unselfconscious and gently brilliant, this collection should be acquired by lovers of early music in general and anyone committed to Machaut’s œuvre’. Any reservations about the playing time of the CD containing the Mass – just under the hour – are negated by the sheer value of the Brilliant Classics reissue.
There’s another fine album on which the Mass is interspersed with settings of propers and motets from Diabolus in Musica directed by Antoine Guerber on Alpha 132. Guerber has clearly learned something from the Ensemble Organum approach but though there is more energy and compulsion in their performance than from the Binchois Consort there’s none of the quirkiness which for me mars the Pérès and Schmelzer interpretations. With excellent recording to match, this could well be a first choice. I downloaded it from eclassical.com where mp3 and lossless are attractively priced at $10.94, but no download source comes with the booklet.
Some other fine performances offer just the six sections of the Mass. On Hyperion CDA66358 The Hilliard Ensemble and Paul Hillier complement their recording with the Lai de la Fonteinne. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s now available only from the Archive Service or as a download (mp3 or lossless with pdf booklet); it’s a most undeserving casualty. As I wrote in May 2012, ‘Other recordings may be more ‘adventurous’, but this is the version to which I return when looking for calm and tranquillity at the end of the day – which is by no means to say that it’s bland’.
Eton Choirbook Volume 4
John BROWNE (fl. c. 1480–1505)
Salve Regina I a 5 [15:01]
Salve Regina II a 5 * [18:47]
William HORWOOD (c. 1430–1484)
Gaude flore virginali a 5 * (14:56)
WILLIAM Monk of Stratford (fl. late 15th – early 16th centuries)
Magnificat a 4 [19:45]
* first recordings
Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford/Stephen Darlington
rec.14–16 March 2016, Chapel of Merton College, Oxford
AVIE AV2359 [68:42] Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – Presto.
Avie’s survey of the Eton Choirbook reaches Volume 4 and the performances remain as fine as on the earlier volumes, rivalling existing recordings from The Sixteen (Coro, five volumes separately or in a set), The Tallis Scholars (music from the Choirbook by John Browne, Gimell), Tonus Peregrinus (Naxos) and the Huelgas Ensemble (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi). Even if, like me, you have and love all these, with two premiere recordings to its credit the new Avie is well worth having. Of all these recordings, too, the all-male Christ Church Choir come closest to the sound that John Browne et al would have heard. Though it’s available as a very inexpensive mp3 download from emusic.com, neither that nor any download that I can find includes the essential booklet, still all too common a case.
An album of music by Bernardino de RIBERA (c.1520-?1580) brings the only UK recordings of any of his works. Three settings of the Magnificat are included along with Rex autem David, Gloriosæ virginis Mariæ, Beata mater, Dimitte me ergo, Vox in Rama, Regina cæli, Virgo prudentissima. Conserva me, Domine, Assumpsit Jesus Petrum and Hodie completi sunt dies Pentecostes are performed by De Profundis and David Skinner on HYPERION CDA68141 [76:48] – CD or download from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet containing texts and translations. Purchase on disc from Hyperion – Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto
The music of ‘Bernardinus Ribera’ is – or was – contained in a beautifully bound and illustrated folio in Toledo Cathedral but some eighteenth-century vandal cut out so many pages and so many of the best illustrations on other pages as to make the music unperformable. What can be performed, however, with a little restoration, is contained on this recording: three of what would have been eight settings of the Magnificat, here performed with plainsong antiphons fore and aft, and ten motets.
A further source, the monastery of Guadalupe, offers another Magnificat, quartus tonus I [9:00] and that’s recorded on a separate very inexpensive download-only album, complete with the antiphon Est secretum Valeriane [0:40 + 9:00 + 0:43]. CDA68141D – from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet).
What we have on these two releases makes it all the more reprehensible that some vandal has deprived us of the other Magnificats and the additional music known to have been included in the collection. In this case we know what we have lost, whereas there is no way of knowing what early Tudor masterpieces were lost in the Reformation. Without making exorbitant claims for Ribera as against the other fine Iberian music of the period on Hyperion recordings, I very much enjoyed the music and the performances.
I doubt if this music sounded anywhere near as good in Toledo Cathedral in the sixteenth century as we hear on this recording. De Profundis field a large ensemble here: seven each of altos and tenors, six baritones and five basses. The recording was made in a fairly resonant venue and although the engineers have done a fine job of keeping the strands separate, you need to follow the texts, thankfully included in the booklet, to hear the words, even in the plainsong sections. I don’t suppose that clarity of diction was a high priority at Toledo anyway, even after the Council of Trent so ordered.
Musicologist Bruno Turner has written the very informative notes and, though it isn’t stated, I presume that he and David Skinner have been responsible for making the music performable. Having been very picky about small points in Hyperion booklets recently, I’m delighted to say that this is first-rate – not that the small points which I’ve noticed in a couple of others have vitiated the usual high quality.
Ancient Music of Scandinavia: Ice and Longboats perhaps looks more exotic than it turns out to be. Åke and Jens Egevad and Ensemble Mare Balticum perform on recorder, lur, frame drum, bone flute, lyre, Birka lyre, Cologne lyre, symphonia, vielle, pellet bells, bells, rebec, shawm, horn, Trossingen lyre, shofar, jouhikko, tromba marina and vocals. DELPHIAN DCD34181 [76:28] – reviewed as a 24/48 lossless download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com. Also available in mp3 and 16-bit lossless. Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – Presto.
This is the second of five planned volumes of EMAP (European Musical Archaeology Project): Volume 1, Spellweaving: ancient music from the highlands of Scotland (DCD34171) has already been released (May 2016) and Volume 3, Dragon Voices: the ancient Celtic horns of Europe (DCD34183) is due shortly. Spellweaving has received some enthusiastic reviews, though not yet on MusicWeb-International, but I’m sorry to say that it didn’t do very much for me, perhaps because of the prevalence of the bagpipes for which I don’t much care.
A good deal of speculation has inevitably been exercised in producing Ice and Longboats, but it’s well-informed speculation and it’s hard to imagine anything more authoritative, including the notes by Cajsa S Lund and Per Mattsson. The instruments used are mostly based on archaeological finds from the Viking Age in Scandinavia.
Some of the instruments are very exotic sounding, such as the lurs (wooden trumpets), first heard in Signals to the Æsir Gods (track 2), a piece which would not sound out of place in the output of a modern avant-garde composer. Other instruments, such as the bone recorder (track 1, etc.), medieval harp (track 11, etc.), and the various forms of lyre – apparently the most ubiquitous instrument in early NW Europe and employed on several tracks – sound much more familiar.
Drømde mik en drøm (I dreamed me a dream last night) appears several times in various vocal and instrumental guises, hardly surprisingly, since it’s usually regarded as the earliest extant lyric in any Nordic language, in this case the medieval ancestor of Swedish. Though the runic text is annotated, various interpretations of the notation are possible and it appears here in four different forms.
In view of the common image of the Vikings as heathen louts in horned helmets – which they never wore – destroying monasteries – which they did – it may seem surprising that so many of the pieces are set to Christian texts in Latin or the vernacular. One of these, Sancta Anna, moder Christ, seems to me to have been inspired by an early Middle English lyric attributed to St Godric: Sainte Marie Virgine, / Moder Iesu Cristes Nazarene. The linguistic and cultural link between England and Scandinavia and the conversion of the Norse ran very deep: the word moder meant ‘mother’ in both Middle English and Old Norse.
If at first it seems disappointing that many of these pieces are taken from comparatively late collections, such as Piæ Cantiones (1582 and later editions), it is nevertheless the case that such collections contain much older music, much of which we still know in later arrangements, as in the case of the Spring carol Tempus adest floridum, which we know as Good King Wenceslas, the words having been fabricated by the Victorian writer JM Neale.
A few lurs go a long way and they won’t be to all tastes. I’ve said that Signals to the Æsir Gods on lurs and drum (track 2) sound tunelessly avant-garde, but most listeners, even those without any credentials in medieval music, should find the rest of the album very congenial. That applies to the instrumental tracks but it’s true most of all in the case of the vocals, performed by Ute Goedeke and Aino Lund Lavoipierre. Their duet version of Drømde mik en drøm (track 10) is the most attractive of the four versions of this piece on the album.
Groups such as Anonymous 4* proved long ago that women’s voices can sound right in medieval music and the two vocalists here maintain the same quality on track 5, too, Mith hierthæ brendher, and on the other vocal tracks. On track 5 the singer’s heart is burning not with courtly love, as you might expect, but with love of the Virgin Mary: the terms in which she was addressed are often indistinguishable from profane love in medieval poetry and song. If you ever passed a sleepless night wondering what a macaronic was, this is a good example, with words alternating in Norse and Latin. The most famous example is the Christmas carol In dulci jubilo, also, incidentally, from Piæ Cantiones: originally in German and Latin but now also sung in English and Latin.
Those familiar with the European medieval tradition will find much of the material to be in a fairly standard idiom, though some of the pieces are specifically in honour of Nordic saints such as St Knud Lavard and St Erik of Sweden. Apart from those lurs on track 2, don’t expect too much here to sound as exotic as you might imagine from the list of instruments. That said, I found it all very enjoyable, much more so than my personal response to Spellweaving and well worth investigating. I’m looking forward with anticipation to those Celtic horns on the next volume.
* Now disbanded after almost thirty years of distinguished performing. A recent anthology Three Decades of Anonymous 4 can be streamed by subscribers to Qobuz, or downloaded, with booklet including texts, for £4.29 (HMU907570). Also available for £9.00 on CD from Presto.
Another enterprising release from Delphian is entitled Chorus Vel Organa: Music from the Lost Palace of Westminster
Anon. (1519 Sarum Antiphoner) Processional: Sancte Dei pretiose [05:09]
Nicholas LUDFORD (c.1485–c:1557) Missa Lapidaverunt Stephanum – Gloria [08:08]
Anon:, c:1530 Offertory: Felix namque [04:07]
Nicholas LUDFORD Lady Mass Cycle vi (Friday) – Alleluia: Salve Virgo [03:00]
Lady Mass Cycle iii (Tuesday) – Kyrie [04:33]
William CORNYSH (1465–1523) Magnificat [12:17]
Nicholas LUDFORD Lady Mass Cycle iv (Wednesday) – Lætabundus [08:23]
Lady Mass Cycle v (Thursday) – Agnus Dei [04:15]
John SHEPPARD (c.1515–1558) Hymn: Sancte Dei pretiose [03:21]
Nicholas LUDFORD Lady Mass Cycle ii (Monday) – Gloria [06:31]
Missa Lapidaverunt Stephanum – Agnus Dei [07:06]
Choir Of Gonville and Caius College/Geoffrey Webber
Magnus Williamson (organ)
DELPHIAN DCD34158 [66:58] Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – Presto. Stream (for subscribers) or download from classicsonline.com (NO booklet).
Nicholas Ludford has been receiving long-deserved attention recently, not least from New College Choir directed by Edward Higginbottom in Missa Benedicta et venerabilis and several Marian votive antiphons on the K617 label, which appears to have become download-only (K617206). For that and several other Ludford recordings please see my 2014 survey of his music. There is, however, a better-quality download of that album now, in mp3 and lossless quality from eclassical.com, with booklet containing texts and translations.
The new Delphian album contains two sections of Ludford’s mass for St Stephen’s Day (December 26): the ‘lost palace’ of the title, which was situated on the site of the Houses of Parliament, having had a chapel dedicated to that saint. My only reservation is that the Gloria and Agnus Dei are likely to make you want the rest of the work, available only on an ASV recording performed by The Cardinall’s Musick and Andrew Carwood, withAve Maria, ancilla Trinitatis (CDGAU140 – a Presto special CD). Otherwise I have nothing but praise for the singing and the organ pieces on Delphian, the latter, as the title of the CD, ‘choir or organ’ implies, alternatives to chanted versions of some of the pieces. It’s particularly appropriate that William Cornysh’s Magnificat is preserved in the Caius Choirbook: I’m sure that’s noted in the booklet, but the download from emusic.com, in good mp3, though inexpensive at £4.62, comes without the notes.
Cornysh’s Magnificat also features on a recording by The Cardinall’s Musick directed by Andrew Carwood and David Skinner along with settings of the same canticle by Edmund Turges and Henry Prentes and Cornysh’s Ave Maria, Gaude Virgo and Salve Regina. (CDGAU164, download only: available from Presto). Despite the overlap with the new Delphian, where the music comes to life slightly more, especially in the plainsong sections, and the lack of texts with the ASV, that’s another recommended purchase.
Giovanni Maria NANINO (1544-1607) is not exactly a household name: his music has only a walk-on part on record. With typical entrepreneurism Toccata Classics have recorded a complete album of his music for 4, 5 and 8 voices, much of it receiving its first recorded outing:
Mass for Eight Voices; Magnificat VII toni a 8; Erano i capei d’oro a 5; Principes persecuti sunt after Erano i capei d’oro a 5; Morir non può ’l mio core a 5; Laetamini in Domino after Morir non può a 5; Dirige corda nostra after Donne vaghe e leggiadre a 8; Magnificat VI toni a 4; Haec dies a 5; Exultate Deo a 8
Orlando LASSUS after NANINO Magnificat VII toni after Erano i capei d’oro a 5
Texts and translations included
TOCCATA TOCC0235 [62:04] Toccata CDs are available from MusicWeb-International.
The music is mostly sacred but with some of the secular pieces on which Nanino and, on the last track, Lassus based sacred works. A successor of Palestrina, I can’t claim that his music approaches that of the maestro but it’s all well crafted. The performances from Gruppo Vocale Àrsi e Tèsi directed by Tony Corradini, are a little subdued, with some intonation slippage, especially on the top line, as compared with the best a cappella groups. As pointed out in the notes, their approach to pitch tends to favour the male voices. They don’t quite achieve the ‘remarkable balance between beauty, passion and dignity, between darkness and light’ claimed for Nanino’s music in the notes, though I enjoyed their singing of the secular music and the Magnificat VI toni a4 best, but I’m grateful to hear this music at all.
As usual with Toccata, the texts and translations are provided and the notes are scholarly to the point of including footnotes, making them co-equals with Hyperion.
Giovanni Battista Dalla GOSTENA (1558?-1593) Genus Cromaticum is a collection of music published in 1599, performed by Irene De Ruvo on the Graziadio Antegnati Organ, 1565 in the Basilica di Santa Barbara, Mantova. Though Gostena is considered an important composer by musicologists, only two other recordings contain any of his music: one of his Fantasias performed by Jacob Lindberg (lute) on BIS and Fantasias 3, 8, 12 and 25 plus his arrangement of Lassus’ Susane un jour from Paul O’Dette (lute) on Harmonia Mundi. That chanson arrangement, two others and Fantasias 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 22, 23, 24 and 25 feature on a new Arcana digital-only release, AD102 [77:47]. Apparently not currently available on disc. Download in mp3, 16- or 24-bit lossless from eclassical.com.
Though usually performed on the lute, the music lends itself well to being played on the organ and the Mantuan instrument, with its modest selection of stops, sounds ideal in the hands of Irene De Ruvo. Hardly essential music but well worth hearing and not just by specialists.
Medieval and contemporary works are combined in a programme of music in honour of the Virgin Mary: Mary Star of the Sea. Gothic Voices, too infrequent visitors to the recording studios since making their wonderful albums for Hyperion, perform Joanne METCALF (b.1958) Il nome del bel fior, parts 1, 4 and 5 and Ave maris stella, interspersed with a selection of anonymous medieval pieces: Stillat in stellam radium; Stella maris illustrans omnia; Letetur celi curia; Tronus regis instauratur; Dou way, Robyn / Sancta mater gratiæ; Sancta Maria virgo; Stond wel, moder, under rode; Beata progenies; Jesu, fili virginis; Pia mater salvatoris; Moder, if hi dar the telle; Gaude Maria virgo; Alleluia psallat / Alleluia concinat – Virga Jesse and music by John DUNSTABLE (c.1390-1453) Beata mater; Ave maris stella; Richard SMERT (c.1400-?1478/9) Ave, decus sæculi; Godric of Finchale (c1065-1170) Crist and Sainte Marie - Kyrie eleison; Andrew SMITH (b.1970) Stond wel, moder, under rode. The singers are Catherine King (mezzo), Steven Harrold, Julian Podger (tenor) and Stephen Charlesworth (baritone) and the programme was recorded in June 2015 at Boxgrove Priory, Chichester, West Sussex. LINN CKD541 [74:21] – from hyperion-records.co.uk or linnrecords.com (both mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless with pdf booklet). Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – Presto.
I hadn’t come across Joanne Metcalf before* but her music, setting Dante’s vision of Mary in Paradiso XXIII and dating from 1998, blends perfectly with the medieval works, themselves settings of Latin and Middle English poetry in honour of Mary, the beautiful flower, the star of the sea, the Mother of Christ and the witness of His crucifixion. Performances, recording and booklet are all as excellent as when the Voices recorded for Hyperion.
A fascinating release; I’m pleased to see that a further Gothic Voices album of music by Dufay is in the offing but I’m surprised to note that this, like some other recent Linn releases, is on CD, not SACD.
* I’d forgotten that her music features on another Linn recording, Carmina Celtica – review.
Carlo Gesualdo da VENOSA (1566–1613)
Sacrae Cantiones for five voices, Book I (Sacrarum Cantionum Quinque Vocibus Liber Primus, 1603)
The Marian Consort [Emma Walshe (soprano); Esther Brazil (mezzo); Rory McCleery (counter-tenor and director); Ashley Turnell, Guy Cutting (tenors); Christopher Borrett (bass)]
rec. 6-8 January 2016 Chapel of Merton College, Oxford. DDD.
Texts and translations included.
DELPHIAN DCD34176 [60:55] Reviewed as 24/48 download from eclassical.com, with pdf booklet. Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto.
There’s a very recommendable recording of these 5-part settings from the Oxford Camerata and Jeremy Summerly on an inexpensive Naxos CD (8.550742) and five of them feature on the Tallis Scholars’ recording of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday (CDGIM212), so the bar is set very high. My colleague Johan van Veen, on his own site, was not impressed with a recording on the Ricercar label which employs instrumental parts. On Delphian and Naxos the music is sung a cappella and sounds more effective.
Though these Cantiones are not as intense as some of Gesualdo’s compositions they receive a fine set of performances, well recorded, especially in 24-bit, in the amenable acoustic of Merton College Chapel.
Book II of the Sacrae Cantiones has been recorded by Harmonia Mundi – Download News 2013/4.
Igor STRAVINSKY was fascinated by Gesualdo’s music. Another Delphian release brings his arrangements of three works from Book II of the Cantiones – Da pacem Domine, Assumpta est Maria and Illumina nos – with his own Mass, Cantata and other short works. The choir of St Mary’s Cathedral Edinburgh is directed by Duncan Ferguson on DCD34164 [59:54] – from eclassical.com, mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet.
Venezia Stravagantissima: Balli, Canzone e Madrigali 1550-1630
Antonio INCERTO (fl .1584-1602) Pavan: The Funerals [4:29]
Giorgio MAINERIO (1535-82) Pass’e Mezzo Moderno [4:18]
Gioseffe GUAMI (1540-1611) Canzon Vigesimaquarta a 8 [2:50]
Orazio VECCHI (1550-1605) Mostrav’ in Ciel: Tedesca a5 [1:58]
Giorgio MAINERIO Tedesca e Saltarello [2:45]
Pass’e Mezzo Antico [4:09]
Pass’e Mezzo della Paganina e Salterello [2:17]
Giovanni PICCHI (fl.1600-25) Ballo alla Polacha [1:50]
Floriano CANALE (1550-1603) Canzona: la Balzana a8 [3:20]
Orazio VECCHI Gioite Tutti in Suoni: Saltarello detto Il Vecchi a5 [2:48]
Giorgio MAINERIO Ballo Anglese e Saltarello [3:22]
Pietro LAPPI (1575-1630) Canzon Decimaottava a8: la Negrona [2:53]
Gasparo ZANETTI (fl.1626-45) Intrada del Marchese di Caravazzo [2:01]
Giovanni GABRIELI (1553/56-1612) Canzon II [2:35]
Giovanni PICCHI Ballo Ongaro [2:04]
Orazio VECCHI So ben mi ch’ha bon Tempo, e Finale [9:52]
Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra/Skip Sempé (harpsichord and virginal)
rec. November 2001, Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris.
ALPHA COLLECTION 327 [53:31] Reissued from Alpha 049. Purchase on disc from Presto.
This is the ‘most extravagant’ Venice of the age before Vivaldi and his contemporaries, the superlative adjective presumably chosen to contrast with the usual epithet for Venice, la Serenissima, the most serene. The notes state that this was the first recording of the ensemble Capriccio Stravagante, but I see that they recorded Lully for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi as long ago as 1990 – review. They have since made several recordings for Alpha and other labels within the Outhere group and for others, many of them winning awards. Their name is derived from a work by Carlo Farini, not included here.
My most recent encounter with them was in a performance of Gilles’ Requiem which attempted a reconstruction of Rameau’s funeral music – Download News 2014/11. I marginally preferred the Harmonia Mundi recording of the Gilles, largely because it gives us the music ‘straight’ rather than because of any defects on the part of Skip Sempé and team, whom I greatly enjoyed on the Alpha reissue. To date I have heard only an mp3 press preview, but that sounds well enough.
French court dance music from around the same period features on another Alpha Collection reissue:
Et la Fleur vole: Airs à Danser & Airs de Cour circa 1600
Michael PRÆTORIUS (1571-1621) Ballet – La Bourrée [4:09]
Suite de Branles : Robert BALLARD (c.1520-1588) Branles de la Cornemuse; Guillaume Chastillon de la TOUR (c.1550-1610) Tandis que je m’arreste; Michael PRÆTORIUS Bransles Doubles; André PHILIDOR (1652-1730) Bransle De Village [5:16]
Gabriel BATAILLE (c.1575-1630) L’Oeil noir de ma chaste Brunette [2:42]
Michael PRÆTORIUS Spagnoletta [5:41]
Antoine BOESSET (1587-1643) Je voudrois bien Ô Cloris [6:06]
Michael PRÆTORIUS Gaillardes [2:16]
Bransles de la Grenée; Jean PLANSON (1559-after 1612) Puisque le Ciel veut ainsi [4:08]
Gabriel Bataille Sortés Soupirs Témoins de mon Martire [6:08]
Jean PLANSON Et la Fleur Vole ; Michael PRÆTORIUS Passepiedz de Bretaigne [3:34]
Pierre GUÉDRON (c.1575-1620) Si jamais mon Ame blessée [2:36]
Michael PRÆTORIUS Courante ; André PHILIDOR Courante la Bergère [2:40]
Guillaume TESSIER (c.1550-c.1600) Pressé d’ennuis [2’46]
Pierre GUÉDRON Si c’est pour mon Pucelage; Jean PLANSON Amour n’a Point des Ayles [4:00]
Antoine BOESSET Un Jour Amarille et Tircis [4:41]
Michael PRÆTORIUS Bransles Gays
Girard de BEAULIEU (?-after 1587) Rosette pour un Peu d’absence [4’19]
Jacques MANGEANT (?-1633) J’ay un Oiseau qui vole (branle simple); Ceste Beauté Supresme (branle double léger); J’estois bien Malheureuse (branle double léger) [5’03]
Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien/François Lazarevitch
rec. February 2010, Chapelle de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame de Bon-Secours, Paris
Texts NOT included
ALPHA COLLECTION 314 [66:05] Reissued from Alpha 167. Reviewed as download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com. Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – Presto.
Many of the dances from Prætorius’s Terpsichore, the principal source of this album, are reasonably familiar from recordings of selections from that work including David Munrow’s classic recording (Erato/Virgin 3500032, 2 CDs, budget price, with Morley and Susato). The performances here reminded me of the exuberance of Munrow’s Early Music Consort rather than the slightly more restrained – though doubtless more historically accurate – more recent accounts. The vocal items, too, are sung with gusto and the album is well recorded. One serious reservation, however, must be the lack of sung texts – not a major problem with the Venetian collection where there is only one sung work but a fatal omission for La Fleur Vole. Unfortunately, I can’t point you to a source where the original booklet can be downloaded, so a fine ship must be marred for a ha’porth of tar.
Other pending reissues in this series:
Bellerofonte CASTALDI (c.1580-1649)
Arpeggiata a mio Modo [1:55]
Echo Notturno [5:14]
Francese Lamentevole [3:42]
Mascherina Canzone [4:45]
Dolci miei Martiri [5:28]
Capriccio detto Bischizzoso [4:11]
Quagliotta Canzone [2:58]
Chi Vidde più lieto e felice di me? [3:54]
Tasteggio Soave – Sonata Prima [4:40]
Grilla Gagliarda [1:58]
Capriccio detto Svegliatoio [2:58]
Capriccio detto Hermaphrodito [2:11]
Steffania Persuasiva [3:21]
Cecchina Corrente – Sadoletta Corrente [1:59]
La Lettera d’Heleazaria Heb. a Tito Vespasiano [10:35]
Guillemette Laurens (voice)
Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre
rec. 25-27 March 1998, Studio de la Fondation Tibor Varga, Sion (Switzerland)
ALPHA COLLECTION 320 [64:22] Reissued from Alpha 001 – reviewed as lossless download of original from eclassical.com.
Another reissue which comes without the vocal texts – not even the eclassical.com download of the original release provides them, either, though I chose to listen to that in lossless sound rather than the low-bit mp3 provided as a press preview. At $11.33 it works out at about the same price as the reissued CD. Despair not, however: you can find the original booklet with texts and (French) translations at chandos.net.
The music may mostly be quieter in tone than the dance music from Venice and the French court, but it’s well worth hearing in these fine performances. Some of the vocal items, especially the closing Lettera, are reminiscent of the early operas of Caccini, Peri and Monteverdi.
A further reissue entitled Firenze 1616 contains Giulio CACCINI’s fragmentary 1600 work Il Rapimento di Cefalo, Domenico BELLI’s L’Orfeo Dolente and three shorter works by Caccini and Claudio Saracini. The performers again are Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre, recorded in September 2007. (Alpha Collection 321 [58:43]). I downloaded the lossless version with pdf booklet from eclassical.com, preferable to the low-level mp3 press preview and, at $10.56, slightly less expensive than the reissued CD. The recording of Belli’s 1616 Orfeo, the last of the great early Florentine operatic works – actually a series of intermedii – is especially welcome, but there are no texts in the cut-down version of the booklet with the Alpha reissue. Chandos ride to the rescue with the booklet for the original release, Alpha 120. Texts and translations are included there, though not without problem: lines are printed which are not sung and some which are sung are omitted. There are no rival recordings of either of the main works, so it’s fortunate that they are so well performed and recorded here.
A new release at full price:
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
I 7 Peccati Capitali (Seven Deadly Sins)
Mariana Flores; Francesca Aspromonte (soprano); Christopher Lowrey (countertenor); Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro; Mathias Vidal (tenor); Gianluca Buratto (bass)
Cappella Mediterranea/Leonardo García Alarcón
rec. Temple de Le Sentier, Vallée De Joux (Switzerland), during le Cadre des Rencontres Musicales de la Vallée de Joux, April 2016.
Texts and translations included
ALPHA 249 [72:24] Reviewed as press preview from outhere-music.com. Available from Presto.
Monteverdi never composed a work about the Deadly Sins, so the title is Alpha’s invention. One track comes from Monteverdi’s church music: O ciechi, ciechi from the Selva morale e spirituale (track 8). The rest is taken from the operas, Poppea, Orfeo and Ulisse and from the madrigals. Each track illustrates one of the sins or the virtues, the two alternating, though it’s understandable that the title should refer only to the sins – far more likely to sell the CD than mention of virtues.
The definition of the deadly sins – more accurately cardinal sins – and the corresponding virtues has varied over time: Monteverdi includes Accidia, acedie, not quite the same thing as sloth, and prodigality. The singing is excellent throughout and very well supported by Leonardo García Alarcón and his instrumental team. Cappella Mediterranea’s previous releases include a fine recording of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 – review – review – Carmina Latina – Recording of the Month – and part of an album of music by Cipriano de Rore and contemporaries – review. Everything I’ve heard from them, including these vigorous new performances, is so good that I’d like to hear them record more Monteverdi madrigals – a complete Book VIII, perhaps – and the extant operas. For all the virtues of the other music which I’ve mentioned, this album serves to remind us why Monteverdi is performed and recorded more often than his contemporaries.
The booklet, though lacking page 3 in the press preview, is beautifully illustrated from Ambrogio Lorenzotti’s painting of Good and Bad Governance. The recording came to me in mp3 format only, at around 256 kb/s, which is not adequate for me to judge the quality of the CD or the lossless download which I expect to be available in due course from the likes of classicsonline.com, eclassical.com and Qobuz. It is, nevertheless, good enough for me to expect well of hearing it in a better format. Unlike the reissues, full texts and translations are included.
Splendeurs de Versailles is a budget-price 10-CD set of French baroque music assembled from various releases from the Outhere group of labels:
- CD1 – Versailles: L’Île enchantée, Divertissements by Jean-Baptiste Lully and music by Jean-Henry D’Anglebert, etc., performed by Capriccio Stravagante/Skip Sempé – rec. 2001
- CD2 – L’Humaine Comédie, vocal and instrumental music by Estienne Moulinié performed by Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre – rec. 1999 (from ALPHA005 – available as mp3 and lossless download from eclassical.com, NO booklet). Download News 2014/11.
- CD3 – Pièces de Clavecin et Airs by Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Henry D’Anglebert performed by Café Zimmermann – rec. 2004 (from ALPHA 074, 2-CD set – available as mp3 and lossless download from eclassical.com). See also CD9 below.
- CD4 – Marc-Antoine Charpentier Te Deum and Jean-Baptiste Lully Te Deum, performed by Chœur Capella Cracoviensis/Jan Tomasz Adamus and Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre – rec. 2013 (from ALPHA 952 – review, available as mp3 and lossless download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com)
- CD5 – Marc-Antoine Charpentier Motets pour le Grand Dauphin, performed by Ensemble Pierre Robert/Frédéric Desenclos – rec. 2007 (from ALPHA 138, available as download in mp3 and lossless from eclassical.com, NO booklet)
- CD6 – Marc-Antoine Charpentier O Maria! Psalms and Motets, performed by Ensemble Correspondances/Sébastien Daucé – rec. ? (from Zig-Zag ZZT100601 – available as mp3 download from emusic.com, NO booklet).
- CD7 – Marc-Antoine Charpentier Tristes Déserts, including excerpts from La Descente d’Orphée aux enfers, performed by Il Seminario Musicale/Gérard Lesne – rec. 2006 (from Zig-Zag ZZT070302).
- CD8 – Marc-Antoine Charpentier Leçons de Ténèbres, performed by Arte dei Suonatori/Alexis Kossenko – rec. 2011 (from ALPHA 185 – available as mp3 and lossless download from eclassical.com, NO booklet)
- CD9 – Jean-Henry D’Anglebert Pièces de Clavecin et Airs d’après M de Lully performed by Celine Frisch (harpsichord) – rec. 2004 (from ALPHA 074, 2 CDs – available as mp3 and lossless download from eclassical.com) See also CD2 above
- CD10 – Louis-Nicholas Clérambault Miserere and François Couperin Leçons de Ténèbres performed by Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre – rec. 2010 and 2013 (from ALPHA957 – Download News 2015/3, available as mp3 and lossless download with pdr booklet from eclassical.com)
The massive booklet contains texts and translations. ALPHA 260 [10:44:66] Available from Presto.
Some parts of these recordings have been reissued before on two albums, both confusingly entitled Les Grands Eauxs Musicales de Versailles – review – but that should not prevent you from buying the new set. I’ve listed some downloads for those who have several of these recordings already: well worth obtaining individually but you wouldn’t need to buy more than a few of these to equal the price of the box set, around £40 or less. It would, however, be worth considering the download of the 10-CD box, with pdf booklet, for £23.99 from Qobuz. Individually all these recordings are at or near the top of their pile; collectively the set is irresistible.
Ensemble Correspendances and Sébastien Daucé, whose recording on CD6 is well worth investigating on its own if you don’t go for the complete set, have more recently recorded for Harmonia Mundi, including Henri du MONT’s (1610-1684) music for the private chapel of Louis XIV. Entitled O Mysterium it’s available from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto or as an mp3, 16- or 24-bit download with pdf booklet including texts and translations from eclassical.com. ( HMC902241). First class performances and recording of music which deserves to be better known.
Eclassical.com also offer for download Du Mont Motets for the Chapel of the Louvre (Ensemble Pierre Robert/Frédéric Desenclos, Alpha 069, in mp3 and 16-bit lossless – here – NO booklet). Some of his Grands Motets are available on Ricercar RIC202, performed by the Ricercar Consort/Pierre Pierlot and there’s another, different, selection of his Grands Motets from La Chapelle Royale and Philippe Herreweghe, Harmonia Mundi HMA1951077, formerly a budget-price CD but now download-only – from eclassical.com, mp3 and lossles, NO booklet. Only the lack of a booklet with the download prevents full recommendation of all these.
Johann Christoph PEPUSCH (1667-1752) Venus and Adonis – Ciara Hendrick, Philippa Hyde, Richard Edgar-Wilson, Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen/Robert Rawson rec. 2015 RAMÉE RAM1502 [85:03]
Having listened to this from an mp3 press preview from Outhere, the parent group which includes the Ramée label, I’m looking forward to obtaining it in lossless sound when, as I hope, it appears from eclassical.com. Meanwhile I can but agree with DBi that this is ‘A lively performance and a super-splendid recording of an unjustly neglected English opera seria’ - review and purchase details.
An equally charming BIS recording of Pepusch’s five pastoral cantatas from 1720 was released in 1998 before MusicWeb had got under full steam. The performances by Bergen Barokk can be downloaded in mp3 or 16-bit lossless from eclassical.com. The cantatas are Love frowns in beauteous Myra’s Eyes; Cleora; When Love’s soft passion… and Menaloas and Corydon and they are interspersed with instrumental music by Blow, Finger, Paisble and Purcell. (BIS-CD-965 [63:15).
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Roméo et Juliette – Olga Borodina (mezzo) Kenneth Tarver (tenor) Evgeny Nikitin (bass-baritone) London SO & Ch/Valery Gergiev rec. 2013 LSO LIVE LSO0762 SACD [2CDs: 90:25]
As Simon Thompson writes: ‘You could get all this done so much better elsewhere’. Review and details. Download from hyperion-records.co.uk (mp3, 16- and 24-bit lossless, with pdf booklet).
Look out for the forthcoming Linn release of performance by Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Robin Ticciati (CKD521) and the Chandos with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sir Andrew Davis (CHSA5169).
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Symphony No. 1 in A flat, Op.55 [54:35]
In the South (Alassio), Op.50 [19:54]
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Sir Antonio Pappano
rec. January 2012 (Symphony) and March 2013, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome
ICA CLASSICS ICAC5138 [74:32]
Review by Gwyn Parry-Jones and CD purchase details.
Two very pleasant surprises recently, though I should not have been unprepared for them, have come in the form of recordings of Elgar’s First Symphony. I’d just decided that no conductor not to the manner born could possible excel Daniel Barenboim in this work (Decca 4789353: Download News 2016/5). I now have to say that his erstwhile protégé Sir Antonio Pappano not only at least runs him very close but also offers an account of In the South to rival the very best which include a Conifer recording by Edward Downes which should be restored to us. I listened as a download from emusic.com where it’s available very inexpensively to subscribers (mp3 only, NO booklet).
Now I hope that the LSO Live label will give us Pappano’s recent Barbican performance of the Second Symphony. Meanwhile those looking for inexpensive couplings of both symphonies should consider Sir Andrew Davis on Signum SIGCD179, a budget twofer, available for download from hyperion-records.co.uk at an even more attractive price. Fans of Colin Davis can download his LSO Live recording of the First Symphony from eclassical.com, 16-bit CD-quality, with pdf booklet, while Janet Baker enthusiasts – count me in – who want her Sea Pictures other than coupled with the Cello Concerto on Warner should try Vernon Handley on LPO Live LPO0046, available for download from eclassical.com. Handley’s superb Classics for Pleasure recording has passed from sight, even as a download.
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
The Miraculous Mandarin (1918-19) [33:54]
Dance Suite (1923) [17:28]
Contrasts (1938) [16:59]
Yefim Bronfman (piano)
Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay (violin)
Mark van de Wiel (clarinet)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen
rec. Royal Festival Hall, London January 27, 2011 (Mandarin), October 27, 2011
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD466 [68:33] – reviewed as 24/44.1 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk.
Like Gwyn Parry-Jones – review – I was very impressed with this recording, especially as it offers the complete Miraculous Mandarin ballet, not just the usual suite. The performance of Mandarin is greatly preferable to the Harmonia Mundi reissue which I reviewed recently – also coupled with the Dance Suite – and little short of rivalling Iván Fischer, whose Philips recording is now available only as a download or on a special CD from Presto. The download from Hyperion is especially good value: £7.99 in mp3 or 16-bit lossless, £9.00 in 24-bit format.
For the Mandarin Suite, Solti remains hard to beat, the LSO recording recently reissued on Australian Decca Eloquence with Concerto for Orchestra, etc. (4806872, 2 CDs).
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale): English version by Michael Flanders and Kitty Black
Tianwa Yang (violin),
Fred Child (Narrator),
Jared McGuire (the Soldier),
Jeff Biehl (the Devil)
Virginia Arts Festival Chamber Players/JoAnn Falletta
NAXOS 8.573537 [58:02] Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto.
Having reviewed this recording as a download from eclassical.com in Download News 2016/5, I subsequently received the CD for a more detailed review. Meanwhile it has received some glowing reviews elsewhere, though some agreed with me that the performance is slightly lacking in earthiness, prompting me to listen again.
I like Naxos’s jaunty earlier recording, made in 1995/96 with the Northern Chamber Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Ward (8.553662, with Dumbarton Oaks). By a small margin I prefer that to the Chandos recording, also in English, directed by Neeme Järvi (CHAN9189) and a French version with Gérard Depardieu as the Devil (Naïve V5371) – see Download News 2014/9.
The new version doesn’t have quite the jauntiness or the down-to-earth qualities of that earlier Naxos and it comes without coupling, so I’d stay with the earlier Naxos, with the added bonus of a fine Dumbarton Oaks, one of my favourite Stravinsky works. UK readers will also probably prefer the narration on the older Naxos (David Timson) or the Chandos (Aage Haugland).
On the new Naxos the narrator, Fred Child, Jared McGuire and Jeff Biehl are well known voices across the pond. Bielh’s Devil may be less spooky than Haugland’s but his down-to-earth, less exaggerated performance is effective and preferable for continued listening. The other spoken roles, too, are all well taken on the new recording. Some of the phraseology of the Flanders and Black translation has also been slightly Americanized, though there’s nothing too alarming.
None of these recordings can boast the distinguished line-up of Sir John Gielgud, Tom Courtney and Ron Moody with the Boston Chamber Players on Decca Eloquence 4803300 (2 CDs, with Octet, Pastorale, Ragtime, Septet, Concertino, Berg and Schoenberg). It’s been too long since I heard that classic recording for me to make a detailed comparison.
Having listened to the new Naxos again, my feelings remain as before. This is a very good recording and English speakers, especially those in North America, will prefer it to the Depardieu, though that preserves the rhythms of the original French. The Virginia Arts Festival Players, not too well represented in the catalogue, perform very well under JoAnn Falletta’s direction and the violin part is very well performed by Tianwa Yang. Type her name into our search engine and you’ll discover some glowing reviews.
The recording is pin-point sharp. Keith Anderson’s notes are as excellent as ever; though there are no texts in the booklet and no online link to them the diction is clear enough not to need them.
I haven’t yet heard Falletta’s recording of just the Suite, recently released by Naxos, but the classic Ansermet recording is coupled with Honegger’s Le Roi David on Naxos Classical Archives – Download News 2014/9.
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Overture to ‘Of Thee I Sing’ (1934 radio version) – first studio recording [3:16]
Piano Concerto in F (1925) [29:37]
Three Preludes (1930s arrangement by Roy Bargy) – first recording [6:10]
An American in Paris (1928) [16:57]
Lincoln Mayorga (piano)
Harmonie Ensemble / New York/Steven Richman
rec. Di Menna Center for Classical Music, New York City, 22-24 June 2014. DDD.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907658 – reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto.
There are many fine recordings of An American in Paris and quite a few of the Concerto in F – Bernstein springs to mind for the former, Previn and Kostelanetz for the latter, both from Sony – but there’s little point in making comparisons when so much about this recording is unique. Working from Gershwin’s original manuscripts, Steven Richman and the Harmonie Ensemble/New York recapture the lean, unsentimental style the composer intended for these two works, with Lincoln Mayorga, staff pianist for the Disney Studios, as the soloist.
None of which would matter if the performances, and even the cover shot, didn’t work out so right. A splendid discovery and a strong candidate for Recording of the Month.
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990): Orchestral Works, Volume 2
Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (1924) * [23:23]
Orchestral Variations (1957, arr. of Piano Variations, 1930) [12:35]
Short Symphony (Symphony No. 2, 1931-33) [15:22]
Symphonic Ode (1927-29, 1955) [18:18]
Jonathan Scott (organ) *
BBC Philharmonic/John Wilson
rec. Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 16 January 2016 (‘Organ’ Symphony); MediaCityUK, Salford, 13 January 2016 (Symphonic Ode) and 17 January 2016 (other works)
CHANDOS CHSA5171 SACD [70:17]
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com. Also available in 16- and 24-bit from chandos.net and as hybrid SACD from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto.
Benchmark (Organ Symphony): E Power Biggs; NYPO/Leonard Bernstein (with Symphony No.3, Sony, download only): Bargain of the Month – Download News 2016/8.
I was far from alone in enjoying, albeit with some slight reservations, the first release in this series: CHSA5164 – review – review. That offers the ballet suites from Billy the Kid and Appalachian Spring together with El Salón México and the dance episodes from Rodeo. The playing is splendid, if a tad reserved, and the recording is excellent in 24-bit format.
Nothing on the second release has quite the immediate appeal of the orchestral suites or the sheer power of the Third Symphony. The budget-price Sony download of the Organ Symphony is very tempting indeed and it’s coupled with what remains my benchmark Symphony No.3, a classic recording that rivals the composer’s own: 66 minutes of wonderful music for not much more than £3. The sound may not have quite the immediacy of the new Chandos but it’s very good indeed for its age and I still marginally prefer it to its new rival. Taken all in all, however, the new recording is highly recommendable.
Another very fine recent Copland recording brings the complete Appalachian Spring, preferable to the usual suite, plus the rare courtroom ballet Hear Ye! Hear Ye! in performances by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin. Like Dan Morgan, whose Recording of the Month review should have appeared by the time that you read this, I downloaded the 24-bit from eclassical.com, with pdf booklet, and very much enjoyed hearing it. The CD and 16-bit are obtainable less expensively but the Hi-Res sound is very good. (NAXOS 8.559806 [72:27]). Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto.
Ēriks EŠENVALDS (b. 1977) St Luke Passion – Latvian Radio Ch; Sinfonietta Riga/Sigvards Kļava rec. 2015 ONDINE ODE1247-2 [68:09]
Having converted John Quinn’s review – ‘Highly imaginative music by Ēriks Ešenvalds in superb performances’ – I downloaded this in 24-bit sound, with pdf booklet, from eclassical.com and was equally enthralled.
Sigvards Kļava also directs the Latvian Radio Choir in Arvo PÄRT (b.1935) Da pacem Domine, Triodion, Magnificat Anthems, and other music on another recent Ondine release. If you like the one you’re almost bound to go for the other. (ODE1286-2 [71:18] – download in 16-bit sound, with pdf booklet, from eclassical.com). Purchase on disc from Amazon UK – ArkivMusic – Presto.
BARGAIN OF THE MONTH in any format has to be British Symphonies by William ALWYN; Malcolm ARNOLD; Arnold BAX; Lennox BERKELEY; John JOUBERT; E J MOERAN; Alan RAWSTHORNE; Cyril ROOTHAM; Edmund RUBBRA; Humphrey SEARLE; William Sterndale BENNETT and Grace WILLIAMS LSO and LPO, various conductors – rec. 1968-2007.
LYRITA SRCD.2355 [77:54 + 79:31 + 77:56 + 78:55]
Having missed out on the CDs, I downloaded this from Qobuz, where it costs a mere £7.99 in lossless sound, albeit without the essential booklet. The booklet comes with the download from classicsonline.com but, at twice the price of the CDs when I checked, I can’t recommend that when any subscribers who stream it from there are likely to want to obtain it in more permanent form. As Marc Rochester writes, it’s ‘A wonderful celebration of a genre which is too often overlooked by those who should know better’ – review and details including purchase button from MusicWeb-International, where it costs not much more than the Qobuz download and much less than that from classicsonline.
Gwyn Parry Jones was also enthusiastic: ‘as important as it is stimulating’ – review. Even if, like me, you have several of these recordings already, this is an essential purchase alongside the earlier 4-CD Lyrita bargain sets of British String Concertos and British Piano Concertos.