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[New] National discography update
Finnish & Baltic Symphonies ~ Scandinavian Concertos ~ Scandinavian Symphonies

[New] Puccini's La rondine - a survey by Ralph Moore

Stanfordian Thoughts: 7. Not-Quite-Concertos by Christopher Howell

Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur - a survey by Ralph Moore

The Music of Gabriel Dupont by Andrew Hartman

Music for the Movies by Ian Lace

Second Thoughts and Short Reviews: Autumn 2018/2 by Brian Wilson and Dan Morgan

Thoughts on Evaluating Unfamiliar Music by Walter Simmons

Classical Music on Stamps This week: Romania's favourite son


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Publishing schedule
Monday: Other reviews (nostalgia, books, jazz, other music); Friday: Articles.
Live performance reviews posted daily at Seen and Heard

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Tuesday November 13th

Vyacheslav ARTYOMOV (b. 1940) A Symphony of Elegies, Awakenings, Incantations - Tatiana Grindenko, Oleh Krysa (violins) Lydia Dayvdova (soprano) Mark Pekarsky Percussion Ens, Lithuanian Ch O/Saulius Sondeckis, Vyacheslav Artyomov rec. 1983-89 DIVINE ART DDA25172 [74:19] [SB] Well worth exploring.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Capriccios & Intermezzos - Nada Loutfi (piano) rec. 2018 MEII ENTERPRISES 707129224088 [2 CDs: 123:58] [RMo] Makes a thoroughly convincing case for Brahms as a composer for the piano.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH François FRANCOEUR (1698-1787) Sonatas - Kreeta-Maria Kentala (violin) Lauri Pulakka (cello) Mitzi Meyerson (harpsichord) rec. 2018 GLOSSA GCD921809 [2 CDs: 124:12] [JV] An important release, in performances that leave a lasting impression.

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] [DJ] A deeply appealing disc.

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) The Hymn of Jesus, The Perfect Fool, Egdon Heath, English & Welsh Folk Songs - BBC SO & Ch, London PO/Sir Adrian Boult; BBC Northern Singers/Stephen Wilkinson rec. 1961/74 ALTO ALC1359 [79:26] [RB] Holst at his most brilliantly ambitious and most touchingly modest.

Joaquín TURINA (1882-1949) Sevilla, La Oración del Torero, Danzas Gitanas, Mujeres Españolas José Luis TURINA (b. 1952) Variaciones - Music for Wind Quintet Azahar Ensemble rec. 2017 PROFIL PH18073 [62.56] [MC] With good recorded sound and excellent playing, this offers a new look at the work of Joaquín Turina.

Wilhelm Backhaus (piano) Chopin, Liszt, Schumann & encore pieces rec. 1925-1937 APR 6026 [2 CDs: 160:09] The complete pre-War Beethoven recordings rec. 1927-1937 APR 6027 [2 CDs: 142:18] [SG] Backhaus' recordings offer many rewards.

Nikolai Sokoloff (conductor) Complete Recordings - Cleveland Orchestra rec. 1924-28 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC524 [3 CDs: 183:20] [RB] Red-blooded emphasis in the Rachmaninov, always completely engaging and engulfing.

Mariko Terashi (piano) Works by Couperin, Rameau & Seixas rec. 2016 ATHENE ATH23207 [76:11] [JF] Mariko Terashi impresses throughout and the recorded sound is splendid.

Through The Eyes of Yuja rec. 2016 C MAJOR 745408 DVD [89 mins] [DJB] A well-made documentary which could have been longer and told us more, and bonus performances which don’t really add much value.

Monday November 12th 

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827) Piano works - Pavel Kolesnikov (piano) rec. 2017 HYPERION CDA68237 [76:18] [RHa] Another invigorating recital from Kolesnikov in sumptuous sound, presenting a ‘Moonlight’ revelatory in its understatement.

Stephen DODGSON (1924-2013) Chamber Music with Harp and Guitar - Karolos rec. 2015 NAXOS 8.573857 [81:57] [MW] Performances which do full justice to Dodgson’s remarkable ear for colour and variety.

Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) La Favorite – Celso Albelo (tenor), Veronica Simeoni (mezzo) Ch & O Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Fabio Luisi rec. 2018 DYNAMIC Blu-ray 57822 [155 mins] [RJF] This traditional, rather dark production is not as well cast as the recent one from Munich , but despite the limitations of lighting and cast it is to be preferred.

Sir Edward ELGAR (1857–1934) The Music Makers; The Spirit of England - Dame Sarah Connolly (mezzo); Andrew Staples (tenor); BBC SO & Ch/Sir Andrew Davis rec. 2018 CHANDOS CHSA5215 SACD [61:56] Lest we forget Timothy Ravalde (organ); Chichester Cathedral Ch/Charles Harrison rec. 2018 SIGNUM SIGCD562 [64:53] [BW]  Two very worthwhile contributions to the centenary of the end of World War I.

Dennis KAM (b.1942) Several Times - Mia Vassilev, Amy Tarantino-Trafton (piano) Pedroia Qt, Sirius Qt rec. 2016/17 NAVONA RECORDS NV6179 [47:01] [JW] If you are on Kam’s wavelength you will enjoy this.

Jeffrey KAUFMAN (b. 1945?) Instrumental music - Quintet a Pois, Houston Brass Quintet, ARCO Strings/Levon Ambartsumian rec. 1983-2017 PHOENIX PHCD186 [72:47] Vocal music - Long Island Chamber Ens, Gregg Smith Singers rec. 1983-2017 PHOENIX PHCD187 [70:29] [RB] The chance to chart the composer's progress - melodic and far from bland - from the 1970s to the present day.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Symphony No. 11 - London SO/Mstislav Rostropovich rec. 2002 ALTO ALC1366 [72:32] [RB] Weighty matters are afoot but at times this lumbers rather than towers; suffocates rather than dominates.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Christmas Cantatas II - Collegium vocale Siegen, Hannoversche Hofkapelle/Ulrich Stötzel rec. 2017 CPO 5551662 [54:12] [JV] A fine addition to the catalogue of music for the Christmas period.

Artur Bodansky (conductor) Overtures & Preludes Berlin State Opera O rec. 1927-29 PRISTINE AUDIO PASC537 [75:51] [RMo] On this evidence, Bodansky was very much more than a Wagner specialist.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH The Darkest Midnight Songs of Winter and Christmas - Papagena rec. 2018 SOMM CÉLESTE SOMMCD0189 [64:28] [JQ] The bewitching sound of Papagena will cheer your spirits in the depth of winter.

Other reviews
Apollo & Dionysus Sounds from Classical Antiquity rec. 2015-17 DELPHIAN DCD34188 [56:04] [RB] Lovingly couched and variegated, this is bound to inform, illuminate and even prompt discussion.

Friday November 9th

David BEDFORD (1937-2011) Alleluia Timpanis, Symphony No. 1, Recorder Concerto, 12 Hours of Sunset - Piers Adams (recorders) BBC SO/Jac van Steen, Martyn Brabbins rec. 1997 NMC RECORDINGS D049 [79:12] [RB] A welcoming and non-intimidating experience and one that monopolises the attention.

César FRANCK (1822-1890) The Organ Works - Ben van Oosten (organ) rec. 2017 MDG 3162080-2 [4 CDs: 292:06] [SSi] This is an excellent set, one of the finest produced, played and annotated sets of organ music I have heard in a long time.

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) The Planets Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1 - Royal PO/Mike Batt rec. 1993 GUILD GMCD7814 [59:14] [MG] A good Planets with plenty of fine features, but in the final analysis without as much character and variety as Vernon Handley’s contemporary account.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Alfred JANSON (b 1937) The Wind Blows - Oslo Sinfonietta, Norwegian Soloists Ch/Grete Pedersen rec. 2014-17 BIS BIS2341 SACD [66:28] [RHa] Alfred Janson’s luminous choral sound world cannot fail to provoke and delight.

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957) Cello Concerto, Much Ado About Nothing, Straussiana, Das Wunder der Heliane, Die Tote Stadt - Zuill Bailey (cello) Linz Bruckner O/Caspar Richter rec. 1999-2003 ALTO ALC1390 [67:05] [RB] A fulsomely orchestrated Korngold balancing-act between light-endowed brilliance and gloomy passionate depths.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880) Les Contes d’Hoffmann - Vittorio Grigòlo (tenor) Sofia Fomina (soprano) Ch & O Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Evelino Pidò rec. 2016 SONY 88985376619 [2 DVDs: 197 mins] [RJF] This opulent production gets an excellent cast and performance to see it into retirement.

Sir Hubert PARRY (1848-1918) English Lyrics Vol. 3 - Sarah Fox (soprano) Roderick Williams (baritone) Andrew West (piano) rec. 2016/17 SOMM CÉLESTE SOMMCD272 [58:46] [JQ] A fine conclusion to the complete survey of Parry’s English Lyrics.

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) I Due Foscari - Plácido Domingo (baritone) Francesco Meli (tenor) Anna Pirozzi (soprano) Ch & O La Scala Milan/Michele Mariotti rec. 2016 C MAJOR 742104 Blu-ray [137 mins] [MC] This compelling staging makes a strong case for this relatively neglected Verdi opera.

Louis Kaufmann (violin) Violin sonatas by Bennett, Delius, Guarneri & Porter - Theodore Saidenberg, Artur Balsam (piano) rec. 1947-49 FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1284 [64:43] [SG] Some off-the-beaten track repertoire, deliciously played.

Henryk Szeryng (violin) In Recital: Violin Encores - Charles Reiner (piano) rec. 1959-62 BIDDULPH LAW022 [69:18] [JW] Performances that provide perfect examples of his technique and powers of projection.

Thursday November 8th

Arthur BENJAMIN (1893–1960) & Edgar BAINTON (1880–1956) Songs - Susan Bickley (mezzo) Christopher Gillett (tenor) Wendy Hiscocks (piano) rec. 2017 NAXOS 8.571377 [80:16] [RB] Many gems here - Bainton and Benjamin need to be taken into the equation when assessing the legacy of British song.

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) La Mer, Jeux Paul DUKAS (1865-1935) La Péri, L'Apprenti Sorcier - O de la Suisse Romande, Paris Conservatoire O/Ernest Ansermet rec. 1954/58 ELOQUENCE 482 4975 [67:53] [RB] You can do better, but these are good old recordings of well-tempered interpretations.

Christopher FOX (b. 1955) Topophony - Alex Dörner (trumpet) Paul Lovens (drums) John Butcher (saxophone) Thomas Lehn (synthesiser) WDR SO/Ilan Volkov rec 2016/17 HAT[NOW]ART 211 [68:55] [RHa] A former orchestral sceptic turns in a visionary score combining free improvisation and fixed composition. Riveting and unsettling.

Franz LISZT (1811-1886) New Discoveries Vol. 4 - Leslie Howard (piano) rec. 2017 HYPERION CDA68247 [74:35] [RW] It is wonderful that Liszt was so productive that we can still hear ‘new pieces’ by him more than 130 years after he died.

Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672) Historia der Auferstehung Johann Hermann SCHEIN (1586-1630) Israelis Brünnlein - La Tempête/Simon-Pierre Bestion rec. 2017 ALPHA394 [77:18] [BW] Too many reservations: look elsewhere for both works.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Violin Concerto, Meditation Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Violin Concerto - David Oistrakh (violin), Philadelphia O/Eugene Ormandy rec. 1961/2 ALTO ALC1354 [75:06] [RB] A classic coupling ... Oistrakh is stupendous, liberally dispensing voluptuous tone.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Das Rheingold - George London (bass-baritone), Irene Dalis (mezzo), Metropolitan Opera Ch & O/Erich Leinsdorf rec. 1961 PRISTINE AUDIO PACO152 [70:42 + 77:07] [RMo] What an experience it must have been to be in the audience that evening!

EntArteOpera Festival Concertos by Hartmann, Kaprálová, Martinů & Smyth - Thomas Albertus Irnberger (violin) rec. 2014-16 GRAMOLA 99098 SACD [41:02+48:19] [JW] I commend this twofer for its ambition and dedication.

Frank Merrick (piano) A Recorded Legacy rec. 1961-70s NIMBUS NI8820-25 [6 CDs: 419:02] [JF] A fitting tribute to the memory of one of the most remarkable pianists from the United Kingdom.

Resilience Works by Prokofiev, Janáček, Golijov & Mendelssohn - Calidore String Qt rec. 2017 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD551 [80:50] [WH] The Calidore Quartet explore a unified theme in superbly played and recorded performances.

Wednesday November 7th

Domenico BARTOLUCCI (1917-2013) Chamber works - Marco Venturi (piano) Luca Venturi, Giacomo Scarponi (violin) Ivo Scarponi (cello) Angelo Cicillini (viola) rec. 2015 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 95451 [72:55] [RB] Backward-looking, but the romance and delicate inspirations of the mainstream past were sufficient for Bartolucci.

Jeff BEAL (b. 1962) House of Cards Symphony, Six Sixteen, Canticle, Flute Concerto - Sharon Bezaly (flute) Jason Vieaux (guitar) Norrköpping SO/Jeff Beal rec. 2017 BIS BIS2299 SACD [83:20 + 49:03] [MW] The ‘Symphony’ outstays its welcome, but there is much to enjoy and admire in the other works.

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Requiem; La Mort d'Orphée - Kenneth Tarver (tenor); Seattle Symphony Chorale, Pro Musica & SO/Ludovic Morlot rec. 2017 SEATTLE SYMPHONY MEDIA SSM1020 [88:28] [DM]  Intermittently exciting performances that fall far short of the best; good rather than exceptional sound.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Hans GÁL (1890-1987) Piano Trio, Variationen Dimitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Piano Trio No. 2 - Briggs Piano Trio rec. 2018 AVIE AV2390 [63.05] [RBe] Gál’s highly inventive and lyrical Piano Trio comes with an inspirational performance of the Shostakovich.

JOSQUIN Des Prez (c.1445-1521) Miserere mei Deus. Funeral Motets & Deplorations - Capella Amsterdam/Daniel Reuss rec. 2018 HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902620 [66:10] [GH] A keeper.

Alfreds KALNIŅŠ (1879-1951) Moments Musicaux - Toms Ostrovskis (piano) rec. 2018 SKANI LMIC069 [53:08] [SG] Those admirers of piano music on the lookout for something new will find plenty to gratify here. 

Édouard LALO (1823–1892) Symphonie espagnole Juan MANÉN (1883–1971) Concierto español - Tianwa Yang (violin) Barcelona SO/Catalonia Ntl O/Darrell Ang rec. 2017 NAXOS 8.573067 [62:55] [RB] Dark and moody Manén and the play of light and shadow in Lalo.

Richard STÖHR (1874-1967) Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 2 - Ulrike-Anima Mathé (violin) Scott Faigen (piano) rec. 2017 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0461 [56:34] [JW] Fully committed performances of avowedly lyric chamber music, though the sound qualiy is a little offputting.

Anita Rachvelishvili (mezzo) Arias - Sinfonica Ntl RAI/Giacomo Sagripanti Barbara Massaro (soprano) rec. 2017 SONY CLASSICAL 19075808752 [53:57] [MC] These compelling performances demonstrate why she is in such demand on the opera stage.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Venezia Millenaria (Venice 700-1797) Le Concert des Nations, Hespèrion XXI, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Ens Panagiotis Neochoritis/Jordi Savall rec. 2016 ALIA VOX AVSA9925 SACD [77:00 + 79:00] [ST] Yet another astounding achievement, worthy of every accolade.


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