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December 2019

Charles-Valentin ALKAN (1813-1888) Symphony for Solo Piano; Concerto for Solo Piano - Paul Wee (piano) rec. 2017/18 BIS BIS-2465 SACD [78:32] [DM]  Meet barrister Paul Wee, a pianist of no small talent; dazzling rep, superbly recorded.

John AMNER (1579-1641) Complete Consort Music - Fretwork; Dublin Consort Singers/Mark Keane rec. 2018 RUBICON RCD1032 [72:71] [RHa] Delightful, little-known fare from an obscure 17th century Fenland master.

Gilbert AMY (b. 1936) Concertos - Jean-François Heisser (piano) Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Nouvelle-Aquitaine CO/Julien Leroy, O de Paris/Gilbert Amy rec. 2006-19 EDITIONS HORTUS 175 [55:34] [RHa] A pair of very different concertos from a somewhat underappreciated figure, cogently argued and clothed in arresting, beautiful sounds.

George ANTHEIL (1900-1959) McKonkey’s Ferry Concert Overture, Capital of the World, Symphony No. 1 - BBC Philharmonic/John Storgårds rec. 2018 CHANDOS CHAN20080 [70:26] [JW] The third volume in this series proves just as gripping as the previous two.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Violin Concertos - Kati Debretzeni (violin) English Baroque Soloists/Sir John Eliot Gardiner rec. 2018 SOLI DEO GLORIA SDG732 [70:15] [DD] Superb renditions of familiar and unfamiliar Bach violin concertos; sheer joy from start to finish.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750) Cantata No. 63; Magnificat - Hana Blažíková (soprano), La Chapelle Harmonique/Valentin Tournet rec. 2018 CHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES SPECTACLES CVS009 [59:13] [JV] One of the best performances of the E flat version of Bach's Magnificat available right now.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No. 9 - Ann-Helen Moen (soprano), Marianne Beate Kielland (alto), Allan Clayton (tenor), Neal Davies (bass), Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki rec. 2019 BIS BIS2451 SACD [66:28] [ST] A good but ummemorable performance.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Complete Symphonies - Danish Ntl Concert Ch, Danish CO/Ádám Fischer rec. 2016-19 NAXOS 8.505251 [5 CDs: 328:56] [ST] Not perfect, but certainly a talking point.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Works for flute & Piano - Duo FlautoPiano rec. 2018 MDG 903 2135-6 SACD [75:29] [DC] Beethoven-lite, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Symphonie fantastique; Overture Les Francs-Juges - Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth rec. 2019 HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902644 [65:45] [JQ] There’s only one possible verdict on this disc: like the symphony itself, it’s fantastique!

Sir Arthur BLISS (1891–1975) The Enchantress, Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, Mary of Magdala - Dame Sarah Connolly (mezzo) James Platt (bass) BBC SO & Ch/Sir Andrew Davis rec. 2019 CHANDOS CHSA5242 SACD [76:58] [JQ] An excellent disc and a significant addition to the Bliss discography.

William BYRD (c.1540-1623) The Great Service - Choir of King’s College Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury First released 1987 WARNER CLASSICS 9029532656 [64:56] [BW]  Download only, but a very fine tribute to the memory of Stephen Cleobury.

Jean CRAS (1879-1932) La Flûte de Pan, Quintets - Sophie Karthäuser (soprano) Oxalys rec. 2018 PASSACAILLE 1067 [69:00] [JW] Cras’ allure proves difficult to resist.

Carl CZERNY (1791-1857) Concertino; Second Grand Concerto; Rondino - Rosemary Tuck (piano), English CO/Richard Bonynge rec. 2018 NAXOS 8.573998 [82:19] [PRB] This release could accord Czerny a higher ranking in the history of music than he currently enjoys.

Charles DIBDIN (1745-1814) The Jubilee, Datchet Mead, Queen Mab - Soraya Mafi (soprano) Heather Shipp (mezzo) Robert Murray (tenor) Stephen Higgins (piano) rec. 2018 RETROSPECT OPERA RO006 [68:37] [JW] A slice of eighteenth-century theatrical history is brought happily to life.

Ernst von DOHNÁNYI (1877-1960) Piano Quintets Nos 1 & 2, String Quartet No. 2 - Marc-André Hamelin (piano) Takács Qt rec. 2018 HYPERION CDA68238 [80.58] [CRa] A splendid recording of undervalued, infrequently played music.

Egidio Romualdo DUNI (1708-1775) Trio Sonatas - DuniEnsemble rec. 2018 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 96023 [48:20] [JV] These pieces are nice to listen to but probably more fun to play.

Leo FALL (1873-1925) Die Dollarprinzessin - Christiane Libor (soprano), Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Ulf Schirmer rec. 2012 CPO 777906-2 [53:25 + 68:30] [MP] A pleasant romp through “operetta land”, reliably cast and well recorded.

Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947) Complete Songs - Tassis Christoyannis (baritone) Jeff Cohen (piano) rec. 2018/19 BRU ZANE BZ2002 [4 CDs: 253.09] [MC] A delight to dip into this collection.

George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759) Joseph and his Brethren - Diana Moore (mezzo-soprano), Philharmonia Baroque Ch & O/Nicholas McGegan rec. 2017 PHILHARMONIA BAROQUE PBP-11 [3 CDs: 175:30] [MP] Worth investigating.

Fritz HART (1874-1949) Violin Sonatas No. 1-3 - Susan Collins (violin), Stephanie McCallum (piano) rec. 2017 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0470 [58:43] [JW] A noteworthy sense of form and structure and a propensity for singing lyricism and compression too.

JOSQUIN des Prés (c.1450/55-1521) Missa Mater Patris Noel BAULDEWEYN (c.1480-1530) Missa Da pacem - The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips GIMELL CDGIM052 [72:26] [BW] Well up to the very high standard of earlier Josquin recordings in this series.

Aaron Jay KERNIS (b. 1960) Flute Concerto, Air, Symphony No. 2 - Marina Piccinini (flute) Peabody SO/Leonard Slatkin, Marin Alsop rec. 2017 NAXOS 8.559830 [65:38] [RHa] An engaging, unusual flute concerto and a rather grim symphony constitute a surprising and at times unsettling programme.

Alexander KREIN (1883-1951) Chamber Music - Musicians of the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival rec. 2012/18 TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0546 [69:23] [JW] There is valuable work going on here, but one should sample the music judiciously.

Josef LABOR (1842-1924) Piano Quintet, Piano Quartet - Nina Karmon (violin) Pauline Sachse (viola) Justus Grimm (cello) Niek de Groot (double-bass) Oliver Triendl (piano) rec. 2018 CAPRICCIO C5390 [67:18] [PRB] If you appreciate good tunes, rich invention, and well-honed musicianship, then Josef Labor is well worth getting to know.

Kenneth LEIGHTON (1929–1988) Sacred Choral Works - St Mary’s Cathedral Ch, Edinburgh/Duncan Ferguson rec. 2019 DELPHIAN DCD34218 [79:36] [BW] A very fine recording from which to get to know Leighton’s choral music, or, better still, to add to other collections.

Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) Le Tombeau resplendissant, Les Offrandes oubliées, Un sourire, L'Ascension - Tonhalle-O Zürich/Paavo Järvi rec. 2019 ALPHA CLASSICS 548 [64.48] [SB] A collection of Messiaen’s shorter orchestral works in fine performances which would make an admirable introduction to the composer.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) - Youth Symphonies, Contredanses - Freiburger Barockorchester/Gottfried von der Goltz rec. 2019 APARTÉ AP215 [64:38] [BW] A very enjoyable release; no masterpieces, but youthful Mozart enticingly presented.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Flute Quartets - Karel Valter (traverse flute), Pablo Valetti (violin), Peter Biely (viola), Petr Skalka (cello) rec. 2018 ARS PRODUKTION ARS38285 SACD [63:14]  [DC] Very fine indeed - a ‘winner’.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Piano Sonatas No. 8, 12-14 - Virginia Black (piano) rec. 2017 CRD 3538 [66:00] [DRD] Accomplished performances but just missing that special quality.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Complete Piano Sonatas Vol. 2 - Jean Muller (piano) rec. 2016 HÄNSSLER CLASSIC HC19074 [68:28] [DD] First rate execution of these four sonatas including three early examples of Mozart’s unique qualities.

Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880) La Périchole - Les Musiciens du Louvre/Marc Minkowski rec. 2018 BRU ZANE BZ1036 [51:40 + 51:11] [SSi] An enjoyable romp through Spanish Peru in the hands of Offenbach, a worthy celebration in his two hundredth anniversary year.

Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941) & Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849) Piano Concertos - Claire Huangci (piano), Deutsche Radio Philharmonie/Shiyeon Sung rec. 2018 BERLIN CLASSICS 0301096BC [75:31] [RC] This account of the Chopin First is not to be missed, and even if you’re not a fan of the Paderewski Concerto, you’ll have to admire Huangci’s thrilling performance.

Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525/6-1594) Lamentations Book 2 - Cinquecento rec. 2018 HYPERION CDA68284 [72:11] [DC] Offers the best of worlds in Palestrina’s immersive Lamentations.

Giovanni Maria PELAZZA (1847-1936) Suonate sui varii tuoni - Bruno Bergamini (organ) rec. 2017 TACTUS TC841601 [51:35] [DC] Something of a novelty, but such fun.

Pēteris PLAKIDIS (1947-2017) Canto, Variations, Legend, Glance Back - Latvian Ntl SO/Vassily Sinaisky rec. 2019 SKANI LMIC076 [71:15] [SG] Thought-provoking music, performed with infectious enthusiasm and zeal.

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Piano Sonata Nos 3, 8 & 9 - Freddy Kempf (piano) rec. 2018 BIS BIS-2390 SACD [56:06] [RC] A most attractive issue.

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Romeo & Juliet, Piano Pieces - Stanislav Khristenko (piano) rec. 2015-17 STEINWAY & SONS 30114 [56:38] [RC] Khristenko impresses greatly.

Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Tales of an old Grandmother, Études, Visions fugitives, Piano Sonata No. 6 - Florian Noack (piano) rec. 2019 LA DOLCE VOLTA LDV74 [72:13] [RCh] Classic Prokofiev played with exemplary pianism.

Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) Piano Sonatas Vol. 2 - Alexander Melnikov (piano) rec. 2018/19 HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902203 [58:20] [RWe] A fine second issue of an important cycle.

Josef Gabriel RHEINBERGER (1839-1901) Symphony No. 1 - Liechtenstein SO/Florian Krumpöck rec. 2019 ARS PRODUKTION ARS38284 SACD [49:50] [NB] An enjoyable discovery for those of Romantic disposition.

Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868) Giovin fiamma - Levy Sekgapane (tenor) Münchner Rundfunk O/Giacomo Sagripanti rec. 2018 PRIMA CLASSIC PRIMA002 [63:54] [GF] Lovers of Rossini and/or lovers of good tenor singing should have their fill here.

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) Complete Piano Works 5: Rarities & Transcriptions - Geoffrey Burleson (piano) rec. 2017 GRAND PIANO GP626 [71:51] [JWe] A marvellous recording, perhaps best heard in parts rather than in one sitting.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Symphony No. 9 - Scottish CO/Maxim Emelyanychev rec. 2019 LINN CKD619 [54:30] [ST] Take a bow, everyone involved.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Sonata No. 20, Minuets - Arcadi Volodos (piano) rec. 2017-19 SONY CLASSICAL 19075868292 [55:42] [RMo] Belongs in the collection of every devotee of Schubert’s piano music.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Piano Trios - Paul Badura-Skoda (piano) Wolfgang Schneiderhan (violin) Boris Pergamenschikow (cello) rec. 1981/84 GRAMOLA 99176 [76:36] [RC] The admirers of Badura-Skoda will certainly want these versions.

Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828) Schwanengesang Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897) Vier ernste Gesänge - Gerald Finley (baritone), Julius Drake (piano) rec. 2018 HYPERION CDA68288 [73:21] [GF] Utterly attractive readings.

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Symphonies Nos 1-4 - Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann rec. 2018 C MAJOR 708504 Blu-ray [182 mins] [RWe] These performances combine thoughtful preparation with very fine playing.

Dame Ethel SMYTH (1858-1944) Fête Galante Liza LEHMANN (1862-1918) The Happy Prince - Charmian Bedford (soprano) Carolyn Dobbin (mezzo) Dame Felicity Lott (reciter) Lontano Ens/Odaline de la Martinez rec. 1918-39 RETROSPECT OPERA RO007 [76:34] [EJW] These world première recordings are very good indeed.

Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924) The Travelling Companion - David Horton (tenor), Julien Van Mellaerts (baritone), Kate Valentine (soprano), New Sussex Opera O & Ch/Toby Purser rec. 2018 SOMM RECORDINGS CÉLESTE SOMMCD274-2 [66:47 + 57:12] [JQ] A release that Stanford admirers need to hear.

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Don Quixote, Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche - Louisa Tuck (cello), Oslo PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2017 LAWO CLASSICS LWC1184 [76:27] [LW] Vasily Petrenko excels in Strauss tone poems on this well-programmed disc.

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Der Rosenkavalier - Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)  Otto Edelmann (bass) Philharmonia Ch & O/Herbert von Karajan rec. 1956 PRISTINE AUDIO PACO167 [3CDs: 190:58] [RMo] For the most part this is one of the glories of the catalogue.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Serenade Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906) Chamber Symphony - Amsterdam Sinfonietta/Candida Thompson rec. 2014/15 CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS37119 [57:10] [DD] A lovely disc with a very well-loved piece and a fresh discovery, beautifully realised.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) & Arno BABAJANIAN (1921-1983) Piano trios - Vadim Gluzman (violin) Johannes Moser (cello) Yevgeny Sudbin (piano) rec. 2017 BIS BIS2372 SACD [73:21] [CRa] A disc of the highest standards of recording and performance; a less known but interesting work is a bonus.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767) Telemann’s Garden - Elephant House Qt rec. 2018 PENTATONE PTC5186749 [58:56] [MC] Admirers of Telemann should be delighted with the results.

Avet Rubeni TERTERIAN (1929-1994) Symphonies No. 3 & 4 - Bournemouth SO/Kirill Karabits rec. 2019 CHANDOS CHSA5241 SACD [58:56] [EJW] Tremendous aural impact, but difficult, even startling music at times.

Fritz VOLBACH (1861-1940) Es waren zwei Königskinder, Symphony - Münster SO/Golo Berg rec. 2019 CPO 777 886-2 [61:52] [JW] Let’s hope there is more Volbach from this team.

Andrew WAGGONER (b.1960) Violin, Piano & Guitar Concertos - Michael Lim (violin) Gloria Cheng (piano) Kenneth Meyer (guitar) Seattle Modern O/Julia Tai rec. 2018 BRIDGE 9521 [47:06] [RHa] Waggoner has contrived three busy, absorbing concertos, and there is more than enough in this invigorating 48 minutes.

Abendmusiken Works by Buxtehude, Theile, Erlebach & Reincken - Ens Stravaganza rec. 2017 MUSO MU-025 [50:59] [JV] If you are not acquainted with this kind of repertoire, this is a perfect introduction.

British Cello Works Works by Smyth, Lutyens, Maconchy & Clarke - Lionel Handy (cello) Jennifer Hughes (piano) rec. 2018 LYRITA SRCD.383 [73:06] [GH] Consistently superb performances with spacious but immediate recording of four little-known but very fine works.

Robert Casadesus (piano) The Complete French Columbia Recordings rec. 1928-39 APR 7404 [4 CDs: 281 mins] [JW] Vital and athletic performances.

Cor Europæ Christmas in Mediaeval Prague - Tiburtina Ensemble/Barbora Kabátková rec. 2019 RICERCAR RIC410 [60:12] In Natali Domini Christmas songs from Staniątki Cantional and Renaissance dances - Ensemble QuattroVoce/Jacek Urbaniak rec. 2019 ACTE PRÉALABLE AP0457 [61:27] [BW]  Two very different but equally fine recordings of unfamiliar Christmas music from Central and Eastern Europe.

The Farinelli Manuscript Ann Hallenberg (mezzo) Stile Galante/Stefano Aresi rec. 2019 GLOSSA MUSIC GCD923521 [72.04] [JW] Hallenberg makes a striking impression.

Norma Fisher (piano) At the BBC - Vol. 2 rec. 1969-85 SONETTO CLASSICS SONCLA004 [57:57 + 56:45] [RC] Exceptional playing from a pianist who deserves to be better known.

The French Romantic Experience rec. 2008-19 BRU ZANE BZ2001 [10 CDs: 732.54] [MC] A valuable and a fascinating insight into rarely known French Romantic music.

Reine Gianoli (piano) Recitals in France 1962-1966 MELOCLASSIC MC1044 [78:36 + 79:15] [JW] At her best an artist of probity and emotional candour, and capable of witty characterisation.

Göttinger Stadtmusik Works by WF Bach, Rudorff & Quantz - Hanna Zumsande (soprano) Nicole Pieper (contralto) Consortium Vocale Berlin, Göttinger Barock O/Antonius Adamske rec. 2018 COVIELLO CLASSICS COV91911 [79:29] [JV] I am impressed by the quality of the music and the performance.

Wilhelm Kempff (piano) Recitals in France 1959-1967 MELOCLASSIC MC1042 [79:45 + 77:57] [JW] Lively, human, sometimes fallible, but always elevated music-making in variable sound.

Like to the Lark Maria Forsström (mezzo-soprano), Jennifer Pike (violin), Swedish Chamber Ch/Simon Phipps rec. 2019 CHANDOS CHSA5255 SACD [63:54] [EJW] A highly approachable disc, with a lovely alternative version of The Lark Ascending.

O Holy Night London Choral Sinfonia/Michael Waldron rec. 2014 ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100110 [71:53] [MR] A programme of largely traditional texts but elevated by some inspired arrangements and settings and all delivered with superb artistry.

Progetto Italiano Works by Martucci, Respighi & Rota - Vladyslava Luchenko (violin) Christia Yuliya Hudziy (piano) rec. 2017 CLAVES RECORDS 50-1910 [72:54] [WK] It would be hard to find more exciting and committed performances.

Routes du café Ensemble Masques/Olivier Fortin rec. 2018 ALPHA 543 [71:39] [BW] A concept album that works well – but don’t overlook the classic Emma Kirkby ‘Coffee’ cantata.

The Soldier: From Severn to Somme Christopher Maltman (baritone), Joseph Middleton (piano) rec. 2018 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD592 [73:54] [JQ] An outstanding release, rewarding in every way.

Sommernachtskonzert 2019 Yuja Wang (piano); Wiener Philharmoniker/Gustavo Dudamel rec. 2019 SONY CLASSICAL 19075943542 [71:53] [BW] A very fair idea of an occasion that must have been more enjoyable to attend than to watch or to hear.

Sung Hee Park (soprano) Birds and Love - Yuki Koyama (flute), Jean-Pierre Ferey (piano) rec. 2017 SKARBO SK3174 [77:25] [JW] A different programme might suit better.

The Symphonic Euphonium II David Childs (euphonium), BBC Philharmonic/Ben Gernon rec. 2019 CHANDOS CHAN10997 [70:06] [JW] So much here that is approachable and finely done.

Katherine Watson (soprano) L'Opéra du Roi Soleil - Les Ambassadeurs/Alexis Kossenko rec. 2018 APARTÉ AP209 [73.25] [MC] An album to treasure.


Other Reviews

Forward. 100 Years of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra by Richard Bratby publ. 2019 Elliott and Thompson [JQ] An excellent and comprehensive centenary history of the CBSO which will be of great value way beyond the boundaries of Birmingham itself.

Thoughts Around Great Singing by Linda Esther Gray & Ian Partridge publ. 2019 Green Oak Publishing [GH] A reminder of the great heritage of singing and singers.


Articles and Notices

MWI Recordings of the Year 2019

Piano Trio Discography: "R" Composers - compiled by David Barker

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