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[New] Christmas Music Past and Present - a short survey by Brian Wilson

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MusicWeb International Recordings of the Year 2018

Second Thoughts and Short Reviews: Autumn 2018/3 by Brian Wilson and Dan Morgan

Strauss' Capriccio - a survey by Ralph Moore

National discography update: Finnish & Baltic Symphonies ~ Scandinavian Concertos ~ Scandinavian Symphonies

Classical Music on Stamps This week: The Violin Pt 1


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Tuesday December 11th

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No. 3 Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Horn Concerto No. 1 - William Caballero (horn) Pittsburgh SO/Manfred Honeck rec. 2012-17 REFERENCE RECORDINGS FR-728 SACD [65.17] [MC] Bold and focused, compelling and uplifting Beethoven from Honeck, with Caballero in sterling form in the Strauss.

Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934) Orchestral Favourites - Royal PO/Sir Thomas Beecham rec. 1946-62 ALTO ALC1374 [75:15] [BW] Delius from the consummate master at an attractive price.

Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660-1725) O Penosa Lontananza - Deborah Cachet (soprano) Scherzi Musicali/Nicolas Achten rec. 2018 RICERCAR RIC396 [70:01] [SSi] Excellent performances throughout.

Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958) Piano Quintet, À tour d’anches - Birgitta Wollenweber (piano) Solisten-Ens Berlin rec. 2008 NAXOS 8.570489 [74.03] Piano Music Vincent Larderet (piano) rec. 2009 8.572194 [76:45] Works for Violin & Piano - Beata Halska (violin) Claudio Chaiquin (piano) rec. 2014 8.573169  [65:43] [RB] Well suited to anyone wanting to explore Schmitt, the composer of chamber music.

All the Host of Heaven Works by Ešenvalds, Duruflé & Dove - Baylor A Cappella C/Alan Raines rec. 2014 ACIS APL55284 [53:03] [MR] Memorable performances by this Texan University choir on tour in France.

The Liberation of the Gothic John BROWNE (fl. c.1480-1505) Salve Regina I, Stabat Mater Thomas ASHWELL (c.1478-1527) Missa Ave Maria - Graindelavoix/Björn Schmelzer rec. 2017 GLOSSA GCDP32115 [79:48] [GH] The disc has made me hear this music with an utterly different pair of ears.

The Passinge Mesures Music of the English virginalists - Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord) rec. 2017 HYPERION CDA68249 [77:43] [SG] An attractive disc, offering pleasing variety.

Poetical Humors Les inAttendus rec. 2017 HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902610 [62:26] [DC] Get your intellect tickled and your emotions moved.

Songs for Strings English CO, English SO/Donald Fraser rec. 2012/18 AVIE AV2391 [58:43] [JW] Arrangements that yield a pleasing range of textures.

Vienna: Fin de Siècle Barbara Hannigan (soprano) Reinbert de Leeuw (piano) rec. 2017 ALPHA CLASSICS 393 [77.41] [WH] Hannigan and de Leeuw excel in repertoire that fits them like a glove.

Monday December 10th 

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Sonatas and Partitas - Dénes Zsigmondy (violin) rec. 1995 PALADINO PMR0093 [68:01+77:26] [JW] The most concentrated and elevated of Zsigmondy's surviving recordings.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Piano Concerto No. 1 - Ekaterina Litvintseva (piano) Klassiche Philharmonie Bonn/Heribert Beissel rec. 2017 PROFIL PH18065 [48:52] [RC] It holds up well even against the older classic performances.

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) An Ode for Saint Cecilia's Day, Concerto Grosso - Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Ian Bostridge (tenor), Polish Radio Ch, Dunedin Consort/John Butt (harpsichord) rec. 2018 LINN CKD578 [61:15] [RWe] This fine account of a noble work joins the very best available.

Gary HIGGINSON (b. 1952) Scenes & Messages - Laura Cioffi (flute) Patricia Auchterlonie (soprano) Oliver Brignall, Jonathan Hyde (baritone) Alessandro Viale (piano) rec. 2018 SHEVA SH209 [67:47] [RB] Adds valuably to the store of songful and pensive British pastoral invention.

Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643) Vespro della Beata Vergine - Ludus Modalis rec. 2017 RAMÉE RAM1702 [59:20 + 31:17] [DC] Enlightening and enjoyable.

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Fantasy, Violin Concertos - Lena Neudauer (violin), Deutsche Radio Philharmonie/Pablo González rec. 2010 SWR MUSIC SWR19422CD [79:15] [JWh] Fine playing and some interesting novelties alongside the main fare.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Concerto da Camera Vol. 1 - Camerata Köln rec. 2015 CPO 555131-2 [68:03] [BW] Yet another very fine and hugely enjoyable Telemann recording from Camerata Köln and CPO.

At the Pleasure of Mazarin Jessica Gould (soprano), Ensemble L'Aura Soave Cremona rec. 2017 MV CREMONA MVC/018-043 [64:17] [AY] A dramatic and historically informed album.

Leonard Bernstein at Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Justus Frantz (piano), Vienna PO/Leonard Bernstein rec. 1988 C MAJOR 746608 [3 DVDs: 215 mins] [JWh] A patchy set but worth acquiring for the extensive rehearsal sequences.

Teddy Tahu Rhodes (baritone) I’ll Walk Beside You - Karin Schaupp (guitar) Southern Cross Soloists rec. 2018 ABC CLASSICS 481 6826 [72:23] [GF] I didn’t like the singing as much as I perhaps should have, but the programme has alerted me to the multiplicity of musical expressions.

Other reviews
The Gift of Poetry Sir Alec Guinness, Richard Burton, Sir John Betjeman, Robert Donat, Orson Welles, Laurie Lee (readers) ALTO ALN1968 [78:42] [RB] Imaginatively selected - discoveries ready to be made.

Friday December 7th

Francesco Nicola FAGO (1677–1745) Cantatas for Solo Voice and Continuo Vols 1 & 2 - Riccardo Angelo Strano (counter-tenor); Ensemble Barocco Santa Teresa dei Maschi rec. 2015/17 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0367/0437 [63:51 & 59:22] [BW]  An almost unknown composer, well worth checking out by lovers of baroque music.

Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Requiem, Pelléas et Mélisande Suite, Pavane, Fantaisie, Masques et Bergamasques - Sylvia McNair (soprano) Thomas Allen (baritone) John Birch (organ) William Bennett (flute) ASMF & Ch/Neville Marriner rec. 1993 ELOQUENCE 4824963 [77:58] [JWh] This disc showcases Fauré’s art to a tee.

John IRELAND (1879-1962) A Downland Suite, Julius Caesar, The Overlanders - Royal Scottish Ntl O/Martin Yates rec. 2017 DUTTON EPOCH SACD CDLX7353 [79:51] [JW] Three Ireland novelties performed with creditable enthusiasm.

Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) La Nativité du Seigneur - Richard Gowers (organ) rec. 2017 KINGS COLLEGE KGS0025 [67:36] [JQ] A conspicuous achievement.

Steve REICH (b. 1936) Drumming - Kuniko (percussion, vocals) rec. 2017/18 LINN RECORDS CKD582 [70:04] [SSi] An incredibly nuanced performance, one in which every phase is minutely captured with clarity and accuracy.

Joaquín RODRIGO (1901-1999) Concierto de Aranjuez, Fantasia para un Gentilhombre, Concierto Serenata - Narciso Yepes (guitar) Nicanor Zabaleta (harp) Ataulfo Argenta, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Ernst Märzendorfer ALTO ALC1379 [71:41] Andrés Segovia (guitar) Guitar Fantasia - SO of Air/Enrique Jorda rec. 1952-58 ALTO ALC1395 [75:00] [RB] Sturdy catalogue bargain price contenders for an all-Rodrigo collection and a judiciously selected mix of elite Segovia solo and concertante.

Filippo SAULI (fl. 1705-22) Sei Partite per mandolino solo - Davide Rebuffa (mandolin) Rosanna Turone (harpsichord) rec. 2013 TACTUS TC671901 [61:04] [GPu] For many this will be too specialized a ‘dish’, but those who love the instruments of the lute family will surely find it rewarding.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) & Friedrich BURGMÜLLER (1806-1874) Die Nacht - Anja Lechner (cello) Pablo Márquez (guitar) rec. 2016 ECM NEW SERIES 2555 [55:49] [DC] Balm to quieten your moods on dark and stormy nights.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Messa da Requiem - Bolshoi Theatre Ch, St Petersburg PO/Yuri Temirkanov rec. 2017 DELOS Blu-ray DV7013 [94.14] [DBi] Another grand but rather worthy Verdi Requiem on video from Temirkanov.

Sacrum Convivium Works by Durufle, Machaut, Poulenc & Messiaen - Vox Clamantis/Jaan-Eik Tulve rec. 2014 MIRARE MIR366 [55:37] [WH] A superb Estonian vocal ensemble in French music.

Thursday December 6th

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Music for Christmas - various performers rec. 1974-2013 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95853 [11 CDs: ca 9 hrs] [SSi] A very welcome set, and a perfect antidote to the endless discs of Christmas Carols – to listen to throughout the year.

Georges BIZET (1838-1875) Carmen - Grace Bumbry (mezzo) Mirella Freni (soprano) Jon Vickers (tenor) Vienna State Opera Ch, Vienna PO/Herbert von Karajan rec. 1967 ORFEO C866183D [2:42:20] [MS] An eccentric and inadequate Carmen that disappoints on most fronts.

Marco Enrico BOSSI (1861-1925) Musica da Camera - Giulio Giurato (piano) Roberto Noferini (violin) Andrea Noferini (cello) Anna Noferini (viola) rec. 2012-17 TACTUS TC862707 [65:42] [MR] Bossi’s chamber music speaks of love and affection, especially in these colourful and committed performances.

Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990) Orchestral Works Vol. 4 - BBC PO/John Wilson rec. 2018 CHANDOS CHSA5222 SACD [66:09] [NB] Performances to be considered alongside current favourites rather than supplanting them.

Yuri Alexandrovich FALIK (1936-2009) Sinfonietta, Violin Concerto, Elegiac Music, First Concerto for Orchestra - Viktor Lieberman (violin), Leningrad CO/Eduard Serov, Leningrad PO/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky rec. 1977-91 NORTHERN FLOWERS NF/PMA99119 [71:29] [RB] Supremely studied yet spontaneous accounts of music by a little-heard Russian master whose standing has dipped since his death.

Karl GOLDMARK (1830-1915) Symphonic Poems Vol. 1 - Bamberg SO/Fabrice Bollon rec. 2017 CPO 555 160-2 [69:53] [RB] CPO and Bollon in Bamberg leave us with a very much elevated impression of Goldmark.

Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911) Sonatas Nos 4 & 7  Louis VIERNE (1870-1937) Pièces de fantaisie Eugène GIGOUT (1844-1925) Toccata - David M Patrick (organ) rec. 2001/02 GUILD GMCD7802 [74:40]  If you like French organ music, I’m sure that this will convert you to the cause of Guilmant.

Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840) Caprices - Lisa Jacobs (violin) rec. 2017/18 COBRA RECORDS COBRA0064 [47:18+39:46] [JWh] A fantastic recording, which overshadows many a version by star players.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Piano Trio No. 2 Lera AUERBACH (b. 1973) Piano Trios Nos1 & 2 - Delta Piano Trio rec. 2017 ODRADEK ODRCD350 [63:30] [LW] An enterprising disc of trios by Auerbach and Shostakovich in superb performances and sound.

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741) Violin Concertos - Europa Galante/Fabio Biondi (violin) rec. 2017 NAÏVE OP30572 [68:45] [CR] Another winning issue in the Vivaldi Edition.

Wednesday December 5th

Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) La favorite - Veronica Simeoni, Celso Albelo, O & Ch Opera Firenze Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Fabio Luisi rec. 2018 DYNAMIC DVD 37822 [2 DVDs: 156 mins] Blu-ray 57822 [156 mins] CDS7822.02 [72:36 + 76:16] [RMo] Excellent visuals, but the singing is not up to standard.

Raymond DRIVER Words that Sing in the Night - Laura Whittenberger (soprano) Peyson Moss, Alan Naylor (piano) Kah Yun Song, Sarah Casey (flute) Jessica Albrecht (cello) Joshua Hong (violin) Maximiliano Marques (guitar) Laura Stokes (harp) MERROW RECORDS MR002 [47:38] [JW] These settings will give pleasure, not least when played and sung as attractively as they are here.

Heino ELLER (1887–1970) Violin Concerto, Symphonic Legend, Fantasy, Symphony No. 2 - Baiba Skride (violin) Estonian Ntl SO/Olari Elts rec. 2013-18 ONDINE ODE1321-2 [67:43] [RB] Whoops with joy and sighs with poetic sensibility.

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) Orchestral Works Vol. 4 - Guy Johnston (cello), BBC PO/Sir Andrew Davis, rec. 2018 CHANDOS SACD CHSA5192 [77:02] [NB] A valuable addition to the series, though for those willing to pick and choose there are equally fine alternatives.

Amanda MAIER (1853-1894) Chamber works - Cecilia Zilliacus, Julia Maria Kretz (violin) Kati Raitinen (cello) Bengt Forsberg, David Huang (piano) Johanna Persson (viola) rec. 2017/18 DB PRODUCTIONS DBCD188 [63:45] [PRB] The final volume of a valuable tribute to a hitherto-neglected composer.

Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Symponies 1-3; The Isle of the Dead; The Rock; Symphonic Dances; Caprice Bohémien Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881) Pictures at an Exhibition Sergie PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Romeo and Juliet - Rotterdam PO, London PO/Edo de Waart rec. 1972-80 ELOQUENCE 4828981 [4 CDs: 305:25] [JW] A thoroughly enjoyable set and a real bargain.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Sonata Arpeggione Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Cello sonata - Jonathan Swensen (cello), Filip Strauch (piano) rec. 2016/18 DANACORD DACOCD834 [65:51] [JF] Enjoyable performances, though the CD’s documentation leaves something to be desired.

Cantilena Anglica Fortunae Works by Scheidemann & Scheidt - Yoann Moulin (harpsichord) rec. 2018 RICERCAR RIC394 [55:35] [SSi] A very fine introduction to the harpsichord music of composers who provide a link between Sweelinck and Bach.

Movie Magic: Twenty Big Themes – Space, Action and Romance - London SO & Stanley Black O/Stanley Black rec. 1987 ALTO ALN1969 [79:13] [RB] Full-on treatment for a sometimes far from obvious selection of film scores.

Solitude Works by Mendelssohn & Weinberg - Dudok Quartet Amsterdam rec. 2017 RESONUS RES10215 [54:37] Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847) String Quartets - Minguet Quartett rec. 2013 CPO 777931-2 [71:27] [BW]  The Resonus appeals by reason of its themed programme, while the CPO will satisfy those who like this music a little on the cool side, but more profound performances are available.


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