GERALD FINZI - A FINZI ANTHOLOGY NAXOS 8508017
Gerald Finzi was born in London in 1901. His father (of Italian Jewish descent) died when he was seven. After the outbreak of the First World War, he moved with his mother to Harrogate, in Yorkshire, where he studied composition with Ernest Farrar and Edward Bairstow. In 1922, went to live in rural Gloucestershire, where he was inspired to compose amid the tranquillity and beauty of the English Countryside. He went on to become one of the most characteristically ‘English’ composers of his generation, embodying the lyrical pastoralism so associated with English twentieth-century music. He had a passion for saving old English varieties of apple trees and was a great admirer of the poet Thomas Hardy. This splendid 8 CD anthology includes critically acclaimed recordings of some of Gerald Finzi’s works. The themes of fragility and transient existence are expressed in three early song anthologies with words by Thomas Hardy. Intimations of Immortality is a deeply touching lament for the passing of the freshness of childhood, while the tender Dies Natalis is a setting of texts by the 17th century poet Thomas Traherne. Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice takes the listener through a feast of moods and textures and ends with one of the most sublime Amens in all choral music. His wonderful songs use soul-searching, poignant, romantic texts and he had the knack for writing singable, graceful melodies. Also included here are Finzi’s enchanting Clarinet Concerto (soloist Robert Plane), completed in 1949 in response to a commission from the Three Choirs Festival, and his Cello Concerto (soloist Tim Hugh),, with its elegiac slow movement, composed when Finzi learned that he was suffering from an incurable illness and is one of his finest works. The Cello Concerto was first broadcast the night before he died in 1956. His music continues to be much admired and celebrated as it embraces a rich variety of moods, from elegiac lyricism, through spiritual reflection, to radiant joy.
PLEASURES AND TREASURES SAYDISC CDSDL436
Saydisc is an idiosyncratic label from Badminton, Gloucestershire, that has been at the forefront of recording for posterity a host of unusual, historic and traditional musics, speech and sounds. Started in 1965 by Gef Lucena, it has built up a worldwide reputation for innovation, dedication and quality with a delightfully eclectic catalogue. This double album forms part of Saydisc’s 50th Anniversary celebration releases and is drawn from recordings made over the years from mono open reel recording to high quality stereo digital. Saydisc has always kept up with the latest technology and taken enormous care with recording and editing procedures, weathering many an economic storm due to its wide range and global outlook. A personal selection of 50 tracks from 50 years by the partners, Gef and Genny Lucena, this collection includes world music, traditional British music, early classical music on original instruments, novelty numbers, jazz, music hall, musical boxes, guitar quartets, saxophone quartet, brass group, viol consorts, choral music and chant, hurdy gurdy, handbells and church bells, poetry and readings - from mediaeval times to the present day. This kaleidoscope of rare and beautiful music is performed by artists who include The Blue Note Jazz Band, The York Waits, Musica Secreta, Broadside Band, Richard Burnett, Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band, Gef Lucena, Lucy Skeaping & Burning Bush, English Guitar Quartet, The Orlando Consort, Nigel North, Ella Shields and Cambridge Baroque.
TRANQUILLO SAYDISC AMON RA SAR071
Amon Ra is the classical division of Saydisc Records, currently celebrating its 50th Anniversary, and is devoted to authentic performances on original instruments or copies. The unifying feature of all the music in this double album is its calm and tranquil nature, which still offers enormous variety in terms of period of music, instrumentation and style. There is 150 minutes of beautifully performed music by, among others, J.S. Bach, Schumann, Haydn, Chopin, Tchaikovsky (Andante cantabile from Quartet No. 1 in D), Mozart (the famous Clarinet Quintet Larghetto), Beethoven, Brahms (the Adagio from his Clarinet Trio in A minor), Mendelssohn, Handel and Vivaldi. Less well known highlights include Fauré’s Une Chatelaine en sa Tour played by harpist Frances Kelly, Michel Corrette’s Flute Sonata in D, and the Nottturno from Borodin’s Second String Quartet (English Guitar Quartet). The impressive range of performers also include Preston’s Pocket, London Baroque, Classical Winds, Le Nouveau Quatuor, Alan Hacker, The Fitzwilliam, Salomon and Dartington String Quartets, Ralph Holmes (violin), Robin Canter (oboe), Lisa Beznosiuk (flute), Nigel North (lute), The Rose Consort of Viols, Stephen Preston (flute), Andrew Watts (bassoon), Paul Nicholson (harpsichord). Highly recommended.
RAVEL – ORCHESTRAL WORKS, 3 NAXOS 8.573124
The Basque French composer and pianist Joseph-Maurice Ravel is famous for the subtlety, richness and poignancy of his melodies and of his orchestral and instrumental textures and effects. His piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music have become staples of the concert repertoire, and his one-movement orchestral piece Boléro, which premiered in 1928, was originally composed as a ballet. Ravel’s incomparable skill in orchestration and command of orchestral colour is evident both in his own works and in his orchestrations of music by other composers. His versions of both Chabrier’s vibrant Menuet pompeux and the colourful commedia dell’arte figures of Schumann’s Carnaval were commissions for ballet, while new life was given to his late friend Debussy’s Sarabande et Danse at the request of publisher Jean Jobert. Ravel’s iconic orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition makes telling use of a large orchestra, vividly depicting scenes that range from the playful to the macabre. All five of these scintillating works are included on this recording by the Lyon National Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.
JOURNEY TO ALDEBURGH: YOUNG BRITTEN RESONUS RES10139
Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft on St Cecilia’s Day (22 November) in 1913. Such an auspicious birthday perhaps encouraged him to become a brilliant pianist and conductor as well as the most outstanding English composer of his time. He wrote many solo works, a great choral War Requiem and music for orchestra and chamber ensembles, including symphonies and concerti, as well as operas such as Peter Grimes and Death in Venice. Britten’s compositions are still being discovered and this exciting new CD from Resonus features six early works by him, including four world premieres. On Journey to Aldeburgh, Chamber Domaine, conducted by Thomas Kemp, explores music written while he was a student at London’s Royal College of Music, culminating with the Suite for Violin and Pianoforte. Also included are Britten’s arrangement for the first Aldeburgh Festival of There is a Willow Grows Aslant a Brook composed by his teacher Frank Bridge, and heard on disc here for the first time. Other world premieres include the substantial Introduction and Allegro for piano trio, The Moon for violin and piano and Allegro for solo piano. Britten’s Opus 1, the Sinfonietta is heard here in its rarely-played original version as the CD offers a glimpse into the lesser-known early, and often English pastoral, output of this celebrated composer. Chamber Domaine play with vitality and elegance and these recordings are a delightful addition to the many Britten Centenary releases.
SIBELIUS – PELLEAS ET MELISANDE NAXOS 8.573301
Jean Sibelius composed his ambitious incidental music for Maurice Materlinck’s symbolist play Pelléas and Mélisande during 1904-05, following a commission from the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki, and conducted this music at the Finnish highly successful premiere of the play in 1905. Sibelius later rearranged the ten sections of the incidental music into a slightly modified version, which became one of his most popular and accessible concert works. The music’s appeal has been helped by television since the sixties, when the opening movement from the Pelléas and Mélisande suite - At The Castle Gate - began to feature regularly as the theme music for the BBC’s long-running astronomy programme, The Sky at Night. This recording by the excellent Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leif Segerstam, features the full score to Sibelius’s Pelleas and Melisande as well as his Musik zu einer Szene, Valse lyrique, Autrefois (with soprano Pia Pajala and mezzo-soprano Sari Nordqvist) and Valse Chevaleresque. The striking Musik zu einer Szene dates from the same year as Pelleas and Melisande and was originally intended to accompany a tableau. The two waltzes of 1921 are transcriptions of piano pieces and reveal the influence of Tchaikovsky. Sibelius’s Morceau romantique sur un motif de Monsieur Jakob von Julin, also included here, was completed in 1925. This short romantic piece, composed for a festive occasion connected with the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, is based on a waltz theme by the industrialist Jakob von Julin, who was a friend of General Mannerheim. The piano version raised a considerable amount of money to benefit a project to build a children’s hospital.
CLASSIC QUADROPHENIA DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4795057
Following upthe huge success of Tommy, legendary British band The Who released their second rock opera, Quadrophenia, as a sprawling double CD album in 1973. With music composed by group’s leader, Pete Townshend, it tells the story of a young working-class mod named Jimmy and his search for self-worth and importance. Jimmy enjoys amphetamine-fuelled fights on Brighton beach and romance and becomes a fan of the Who after seeing them at a concert. Disillusioned by his parents’ attitude towards him and his dead-end job, he takes a train to Brighton, where he feels that everything in his life has rejected him, so he steals a boat and uses it to sail out to a rock overlooking the sea. As well as the group’s typical playing styles, especially from drummer Keith Moon, the album made significant use of Townshend’s multi-tracked synthesizers and sound effects, and John Entwistle’s layered horn parts. Quadrophenia was well received but proved difficult to stage, though it has been revived several times since with a larger ensemble. A film 1979 adaptation starring Jeff Daniels was followed by a number of remixed CD reissues. To celebrate The Who’s 50th anniversary, this landmark work has now been released in a new orchestral version orchestrated by Townshend’s partner, the composer and arranger Rachel Fuller, and performed by The Royal Philhamonic Orchestra conducted by Robert Ziegler. Popular tenor Alfie Boe takes over the leading role and the recording also features Pete Townshend, Billy Idol and Jeff Daniels (as Jimmy’s father), plus 80 members of the London Oriana Choir. The result is an adventurous album that has sold easily enough copies to top the official classical chart many but was barred from doing so on the grounds that it is based on rock music. This deluxe edition includes the CD as well as a bonus DVD featuring the making of Classic Quadrophenia, along with exclusive clips and interviews with Pete Townshend and Rachel Fuller.
LOUIS BABIN - SAINT-EXUPERY: DE COEUR, DE SABLE ET D’ETOILES LB-002
French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born in 1900. He flew for the first time at the age of twelve, at the Ambérieu airfield and became determined to be a pilot. Later, after failing the entrance exams for the French naval academy, he enrolled at the prestigious art school l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris before serving in the military, where he learned to be a pilot. After leaving the service, he worked as a profession pilot and became a hugely successful novelist. His classic, The Little Prince, appeared in 1943, when Saint-Exupéry was serving with his French air squadron in northern Africa. Despite being forbidden to fly (he was still suffering physically from his earlier plane crashes), he insisted on being given a mission. On July 31, 1944, he set out from Borgo, Corsica, to overfly occupied France, and never returned. Canadian composer and former violist Louis Babin created his ambitious piece for symphony orchestra - Saint-Exupéry : de cœur, de sable et d’étoiles - as a moving homage to a literary icon who is commemorated in the Panthéon in Paris, France’s repository of historical greats, even tthough his body was never identified. The music is an exploration not just of the novel but of the author’s entire life, representing both the clarity of Saint-Exupery’s thinking and the tumultuous events he faced. This adventurous album was independently-released on June 29, the anniversary of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s birthday. Peter Vronsky conducts the excellent Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in this heartfelt tribute as well as two more works by Louis Babin. Couleurs poignantly depicts the longing of adolescence, and La Suite du promeneur shares a philosophic vision of mankind’s passage here on earth. Highly recommended.
SIBELIUS – KUOLEMA NAXOS 8.573299
This recording by Leif Segerstam and the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra features wonderfully authentic performances of music that Jean Sibeliu wrote for the theatre. He composed the incidental music for King Christian II, included here in full, for the Scandinavian historical play written by his friend Adolf Paul. Kuolema (Death) is a drama by the Finnish writer Arvid Järnefelt, first performed in 1903, with incidental music created by the author's brother-in-law, Jean Sibelius. This includes the haunting melody which would later become the Valse triste. The Two Songs from Twelfth Night (soloists Pia Pajala and Waltteri Torikka) contrast the spectre of death with more comical moods, an effect also to be heard in one of Sibelius’s least performed orchestral works, the Overture in A minor.
MRAVINSKY SPECIAL EDITION MELODIYA MELCD1002295
Russian conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky (1903-1988) was born into a distinguished aristocratic family in Saint Petersburg. After studying biology at university he went to the Leningrad Conservatory to study music, making his first public appearance as a conductor in 1929. Through the 1930s he conducted at the Kirov Ballet and Bolshoi Opera before becoming principal conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, where he remained for 50 years and gained a legendary reputation, particularly in Russian music such as Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and other Soviet composers. Under Mravinsky’s demanding leadership the Leningrad Philharmonic became one of the finest symphony orchestras of the world. He gave world premieres of six symphonies by Shostakovich: 5, 6, 8 (which the composer dedicated to Mravinsky) as well as 9, 10 and 12. Mravinsky’s refusal to conduct Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony in 1962 caused a permanent rupture in their friendship of over 40 years. This five-CD box set from Melodiya presents a set of recordings by this introverted yet dynamic conductor for whom ‘Happiness is to be in music above everything else, in your environment – in Nature, in Love, in confession and in Thanks be to God.’ The music here was recorded by Yevgeny Mravinsky and the Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic Society both in studio and at concert in 1949 to 1982 It includes symphonies by Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms (his marvelous Third) and Bruckner, as well as music by Lyadov, Debussy (La Mer and Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune), Ravel’s Boléro, Sibelius (The Swan of Tuonela), Scriabin, Stravinsky and Wagner (Overtureto Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). These are rare recordings by one of the most important Russian conductors of the 20th Century, who largely eschewed studio recordings in favour of concert performance.
LYDIA KAKABADSE - THE PHANTOM LISTENERS NAXOS 8.572524
Lydia Kakabadse was born in 1955 of Georgian/Russian and Greek/Austrian parentage and grew up in a quiet market town in Cheshire. She worked as a solicitor but has been composing music since the age of thirteen, writing both chamber and choral works that include songs, string quartets, musical dramas, a cantata, song cycles for unaccompanied male vocal choir and a concert Requiem Mass. Drawing inspiration from a diverse range of influences such as Middle Eastern Music, mythology, nineteenth century poets, Latin Literature and talent for dancing, she has written five intriguing pieces for this album. The Mermaid, for narrator (Kit Hesketh-Harvey), mezzo-soprano (Clare McCaldin), string quartet and piano, tells an enchanting musical story in the style of Peter and the Wolf. Kit Hesketh-Harvey is again the narrator for the longest work here, The Phantom Listeners, which also features soprano, mezzo, baritone, organ and ensemble. Based on Walter de la Mare's famous poem, The Listeners, this haunting musical drama is beautifully orchestrated and suitably dramatic. The sad Song of the Shirt, for mezzo-soprano and piano and written when Kakabadse was only fifteen, is set to a text by the 19th century poet Thomas Hood describing the pitiful, eploited existence of a poor seamstress. Her gorgeous Arabian Rhapsody Suite was written when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer in 2008 and helped her get through that difficult time. The bitter-sweet Russian Tableaux, also scored for string quartet, was inspired by the landscape, history and culture of Russia. Lydia Kakabadse’s beguiling and richly textured music is sung and played here by an excellent ensemble of musicians.
STRAUSS MEETS OFFENBACH NAXOS 8578288
Intended for the army by his father, Josef Strauss - the founder of the waltz dynasty - instead turned first to engineering and then, in a glittering career from 1856 until his premature death in 1870, to full-time composition and conducting. Josef was especially enamoured of the music of German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach, whose operettas and operas travelled successfully from the Parisian stage to Vienna. It was Josef’s custom to take the most attractive and suitable motifs from Offenbach’s stage works and fashion them into spritely quadrilles, works performed to huge acclaim by his virtuoso orchestra. This delightful CD features the Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Michael Dittrich, Christian Pollack, Alfred Eschwé and Manfred Müssauer) in dances by Strauss based on music by Offenbach and others, including Gounod. This irresistible and life-affirming music would make even the most churlish listener want to join in the dance.
MILHAUD - L’ORESTIE D’ESCHYLE NAXOS 8.660349-51
Part of the great French musical tradition and a member of Les Six, Darius Milhaud was an important avant-garde figure in early twentieth-century Paris. The Oresteia of Aeschylus trilogy arose from his lifelong interest in Greek mythology and drama, inspired by the expressive, syncopated rhythms of Paul Claudel’s poetic texts. In addition to innovative rhythmic elements, the trilogy exhibits complex harmonic techniques, particularly polytonality, which Milhaud believed gave him more varied ways of expressing sweetness in addition to violence. For the first time since its completion in 1922, Milhaud’s massive operatic composition has now been recorded and released by the Naxos in this three-CD set, which follows the first North American performance of the entire work the first anywhere in the world since 1963). The excellent University Symphony Orchestra is joined by a 320-voice choir comprising the University Choral Union and SMTD’s Chamber Choir and Orpheus Singers, as well as the SMTD Percussion Ensemble and a cast of nine professional vocal soloists, including soprano Lori Phillips as Clytemnestra and baritone Dan Kempton as Orestes. The performance of this extraordinarily ambitious work is conducted by orchestra’s music director, Kenneth Kiesler, and the chorus master is Jerry Blackstone. Milhaud’s music is intense, dramatic and exciting, and the performers rise triumphantly to the challenge of this dauntingly epic work by a composer whose students would later include jazz pianist Dave Brubeck and songwriter Burt Bacharach.
SMETANA - MA VLAST WEITBLICK SSS0084
Czech composer Bedřich Smetana pioneered the development of a musical style which became closely identified with his country's aspirations to independence. Widely regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music, he is best known internationally for his opera, The Bartered Bride, and his symphonic cycle Má vlast (‘My Country’), which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer's native land. This set of six symphonic poems was written between 1874 and 1879. Each had its own separate premiere before the first performance of the complete set took place in 1882 in Prague, under Adolf Čech. The Bohemian countryside and sagas are evocatively brought to life from Bohemia’s Woods and Fields, while the programmatic Moldau occupies a rightful place among the most outstanding works written in the late 19th century. Thanks to its popular folk melodies and brilliant orchestration, Má Vlast has never failed to arouse the enthusiasm of a wide public is indisputably one of the greatest testimonies to Czech national music. Smetana’s masterpiece is wonderfully played on this double-CD release by the Radio Symphonie-Orchester Wien, conducted by Lovro von Matačić. The orchestra is perfect in the gentle, gossamer-light orchestral passages, yet powerful and smooth when required. A thoroughly satisfying performance is enhanced by the quality of this recording made in 1982.
BRITTEN – THE COMPLETE ORCHESTRAL AND INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC DECCA 478 5451
Benjamin Britten’s ‘simple and direct’ Piano Concerto was the only one he composed for the instrument and it was first performed with the twenty-four year old composer as soloist at a Henry Wood Promenade Concert at the Queen’s Hall, London, in 1938. Britten subsequently rewrote the concerto in 1945, making minor revisions to three of the four movements and replacing the third with completely new music. This splendid box set features a bravura performance of this underrated concerto by the great pianist Sviatoslav Richter with the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by the composer himself. Also included in this comprehensive 13-CD collection is Britten’s virtuosic Diversions for piano (left-hand) and orchestra, and Young Apollo, written for piano, string quartet and string orchestra. Britten also wrote extensively for the violin, cello and orchestra alone. The glittering array of artists here include Richard Bonynge, Mark Lubotsky, Peter Donohoe, Simon Rattle, Julius Katchen, Neville Marriner, Mstislav Rostropovich, András Schiff, Janet Baker and Peter Pears. These thrilling, revelatory performances confirm Britten’s reputation as English music’s greatest composer since Henry Purcell. Coming soon to DVD are two BBC documentaries by director John Bridcut. BRITTEN’S CHILDREN (DECCA 074 3860) explores the importance of children to the work of Benjamin Britten. His close relationships with juveniles throughout his life have caused some controversy in recent years. Many see these as key to Britten’s creativity, while others are distrustful of his motives, though there is no evidence to suggest that the composer’s relationship with any of the youngsters in his care was improper. The documentary includes contributions by the late actor David Hemmings, who began his career in one of Britten’s operas. BRITTEN’S LATER YEARS (DECCA 074 3861) looks at the final years of the composer’s life. Britten’s friends and colleagues provide an insight into his struggles with heart disease as well as the composition of Death in Venice and his Third String Quartet.
LEONARD BERNSTEIN: HISTORIC BROADCASTS 1946-1961 WEST HILL RADIO ARCHIVE WHRA6048
Composer, conductor, author, music lecturer and pianist Leonard Bernstein was one of the first American-born conductors to receive worldwide acclaim. His fame derived from from his conducting of concerts with the world’s leading orchestras and from his work a composer, writing in many styles from symphonic and orchestral works to ballet, film and theatre music (including Wonderful Town, On the Town, West Side Story, Candide), choral works, opera, chamber music and pieces for the piano. He also gave many television lectures on classical music and was an accomplished pianist, often conducting piano concertos from the keyboard. His long tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra began in 1957 in what turned out to be an inspired appointment. This splendid 11-CD box set demonstrates what it was in about Leonard Bernstein’s music making and personality that led the orchestra’s directors to choose him. It includes extensive recorded documentation of Bernstein’s career up to the time of his nomination in New York, mostly in live performances and rehearsal segments, working on music ranging from Mozart to Messiaen. Bernstein’s work after his appointment to the NYP is represented in this set by performances of American music given as part of his ‘Survey of American Music’ in the 1958–9 season (Fine, Harris and Piston), along with Copland in 1957 and Diamond in 1961; the 1959 recording sessions for two of his favourite twentieth-century classics (Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony and Copland’s Billy the Kid) which show conductor and orchestra at their most efficient and effective; and hitherto unpublished live performances of music by Bartók, Beethoven, Chávez, and Mahler. The rehearsal recordings ar particularly fascinating and the sound quality throughout is excellent.
RICHARD STRAUSS - DON QUICHOTTE & TILL EULENSPIEGEL HYPERION CDA67960
The was inspired to write his tone poem Don Quixote by the picaresque novel by Miguel de Cervantes, a sympathetic representation of the self-appointed errant knight, Don Quixote de la Mancha and his comical servant, Sancho Panza. Strauss’s ‘Fantastic variations on a theme of knightly character’, as Don Quixote is subtitled, is one of the composer’s most popular works, principally because of the beautifully drawn central characters of the Don (performed by a solo cellist) and Sancho Panza (viola). These roles are admirably cast in this new recording, being taken by the gifted Alban Gerhardt and Lawrence Power. The second variation depicts an episode where Don Quixote encounters a group of sheep and perceives them as an approaching army (the ‘Battle with the mighty armies of Alifanfaron’). Richard Strauss’s masterly tone poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (In German, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche) completes this release. It chronicles the misadventures and pranks of the German peasant folk hero. The two themes representing Till Eulenspiegel are played respectively by the horn and the D clarinet, which craftily suggests a trickster doing what he does best. The Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, the very orchestra which gave the premieres of both works in the 1890s, is conducted by its Principal Conductor, Markus Stenz.
ORFF - CARMINA BURANA DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4778778
Composer Carl Orff’s fame and reputation rests on one amazing piece of music: Carmina Burana - Cantiones profanae. Though a work of the twentieth century, Carmina Burana has its roots in a group of secular thirteenth-century songs discovered in a monastery at Benediktbeuem during the 1800s. The main subjects of these texts are Fortune, the coming of Spring, Drinking and Love. Overall this massive work has the image and sound of a pagan ritual. Carmina Burana was completed in 1936, the year that the Berlin Olympics was hosted by Adolf Hitler, and the mood of imminent chaos is well captured in the powerful music that Orff composed. Carmina Burana received its hugely successful world premiere in Frankfurt in 1937 and has been a cornerstone of the repertoire ever since, despite requiring large vocal and instrumental forces. The vocalists include a solo soprano, tenor, and baritone, a large chorus with a smaller choir within it, as well as a children’s chorus. In addition to substantial string, wind, and brass sections, the huge orchestra features two pianos, a celesta, and a spectacular array of percussion instruments including three glockenspiels, xylophone, castanets, ratchet, sleigh bells, triangle, finger cymbals, large cymbals, tam-tam, bells, tambourine, two snare drums, and a bass drum. For his new recording, Daniel Harding directs the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio, who give an outstanding performance under the conductor’s inspirational leadership. The impressive trio of vocal soloists are soprano Patricia Petibon, tenor Hans-Werner Bunz and baritone Christian Gerhaher. The power and precision of this version of Orff’s masterpiece are staggering, and the forces gathered here do full justice to this exciting and demanding music.
CARLOS KLEIBER - COMPLETE RECORDINGS ON DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DG 4778826
Born in 1930 in Berlin as the son of Austrian conductor Erich Kleiber and Ruth Goodrich, an American, Karl Kleiber fled Nazism with his family and emigrated to Buenos Aires in 1935, changing his name to Carlos. He had an English governess, grew up in English boarding schools in Argentina and later studied in New York and Zurich. He also composed, sang, and played piano and timpani. He initially studied chemistry in Zürich before deciding to dedicate himself to music, becoming a charismatic, eccentric and enigmatic conductor as well as a legend in his lifetime. Although loved by musicians and the public, he refused to accept a permanent position because he disliked any form of routine and even turned down the Berlin Philharmonic’s invitation to become Herbert von Karajan’s successor. Kleiber remained publicity shy, reclusive and kind-hearted, preferring family life to the limelight. Later in his career, he deliberately limited himself to conducting only his favourite operas and symphonies. Carlos Kleiber would have been 80 on 3 July 2010, and in celebration of the great artist Deutsche Grammophon has released this 12 disc box set of his recordings for the label. Each of them is a classic that has been in the catalogue since the time of recording. As well as three CDs of orchestral works by Beethoven (symphonies 5 and 7), Brahms (symphony No.4) and Schubert (symphonies 3 & 8), there are Kleiber’s four superb complete opera recordings (Der Freischütz, Die Fledermaus, La Traviata and Tristan und Isolde). Packaged with strikingly modern cover, the discs come with a booklet that includes full tracklists, an article by Andrew Clements, and many rare photos of Kleiber and other artists at recording sessions.
CLASSICAL MEDITATION NAXOS 8.570364-65
Whether or not you follow a particular form of meditation, meditate for a specific reason, or simply need some quiet time to yourself, the music selected for this two-disc set is designed to help you to relax your mind and body, focus your thought, and refresh your spirit. The music is grouped into ‘sessions’, each of which may take you on a different imaginative journey. The first disc features choral music of radiant beauty, which seems to float freely outside time and space, inviting you to enter a realm of inner peace. The composers are Arvo Part, John Tavener, Samuel Barber and Thomas Tallis (three works, including his long Salve intemerata. The second disc presents music inspired by natural landscapes from around the world, celebrating our place in the world. Composers here include Frederick Delius (On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring), Vaughan Williams (The Lark Ascending), Arthur Bliss, Rautavaara (Cantus Arcticus, his wonderful Concert for Birds and Orchestra), Tasmanian born Peter Sculthorpe (his astonishing Earth Cry, with sounds of the didgeridoo), Alla Pavlova and Edward Elgar (the dreamy Sospiri).
BENJAMIN BRITTEN: UNKNOWN BRITTEN NMC D140
This new disc from NMC features eight world premiere recordings coupled with Britten’s best-known song-cycle Les Illuminations (including three extra songs). The three newly discovered songs are orchestrated by Colin Matthews, who writes, ‘Britten not infrequently composed more songs for his song cycles than he eventually used, and the evolution of Les Illuminations is particularly complicated. He began the composition in March 1939, writing at least three of the songs, and wrote the rest between June and October, in Canada and the USA. During the process Britten expanded his original scheme of seven songs to a cycle of no less than fourteen. Four of these were rejected in the final version: ‘Aube’, ‘Phrase (La cascade sonne)’ and ‘A une raison’ were completed in sketch, and have been orchestrated by me for this performance.’ Matthews has also realised ‘Movements for a Clarinet Concerto’ based on sketches Britten wrote for the first movement of a Clarinet Concerto (intended for jazz clarinettist Benny Goodman) as well as other sketches written on the same manuscript paper (possibly the Sonata for Orchestra which Britten mentioned as a work in progress in the spring of 1942). Matthews writes that ‘This cannot, of course, be ‘Britten’s Clarinet Concerto’ in any real sense, hence the title. But by combining the fine first movement with music of high quality written at almost exactly the same time I hope that I have devised a work that stands in for what Britten hoped to write, and which both fills a gap in his output and enriches the clarinet’s repertoire.’ The other pieces on this fascinating and important disc are In memoriam Dennis Brain, Rondo Concertante, Untitled Fragment, and Variations for Solo Piano. Thomas Zehetmair conducts the Northern Sinfonia and soloists include soprano Sandrine Piau, Michael Collins (clarinet) and Rolf Hind (piano).
SUFI / BACH GUILD GMCD 7333
Ibn Khaldun, the 14th century Arab historian, described Sufism as: ‘... dedication to worship, total dedication to Allah most High, disregard for the finery and ornament of the world, abstinence from the pleasure, wealth, and prestige sought by most men, and retiring from others to worship alone.’ Sufis are emphatic that Islamic knowledge should be learned from teachers and not exclusively from books, and Sufi orders can trace their teachers back through the generations to the Prophet himself. Through the centuries, Sufis have contributed hugely to Islamic literature and been influential in spreading Islam even to the furthest outposts of the Muslim world in Africa, India and the Far East. Orthodox Islam as well as some Christians are weary of the inherent power of music to elicit sensual pleasure and thus subjugate the power of the word. The Order of the Sufi, however, is dedicated to music and consciously uses its power to elicit trance and ecstasy as a religious practice, thus allowing for pleasure and sensual experience. The famous circular dance of the Dervish is an example of this. The Pocket Opera Company’s Sufi/Bach summer concerts at the 2008 Zurich festival brought together orient and occident on a musical level: Sufi songs (with dervish dancing) and Bach’s cantatas BWV 93 and 107. By juxtaposing both forms of music, riveting the Zurich audiences in the fully packed church, the musicians explored both commonalities and differences between Islam and Christianity while discovering a similarly mystical effect of music in approaching spirituality in both religions, exploring the possibility of transporting the idealised word of both religions into a sensual experience, even achieving ecstatic effects with Bach’s formally strict cantatas. This is extraordinary music of truly transcendent beauty. Other releases from Guild include REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST (GMCD 7341), which has music by John Dowland together with world premiere recordings of five new lute songs written and played by the excellent Peter Croton. The singers are Theresia Bothe and Derek Lee Ragin. MUSIC BY MAX BRUCH (GMCD 7338) features the young Canadian violinist Alexandre da Costa and the Orchestre Symphonique Bienne conducted by Thomas Rösner playing the much-loved Violin Concerto No. 1 and, for the first time on CD, the famous ‘Kol Nidrei’ arranged by the composer himself for violin and orchestra.
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF BRITISH MUSIC, VOLS 1 & 2 LYRITA SRCD2337 & SRCD2338
These two 4-CD box sets feature a wide range of British music designed to show off the breadth and depth of the Lyrita catalogue. The included CD booklet contains insightful and informative essays by Edward Greenfield and Lewis Foreman, photographs of featured artists and composers, and short biographies of the featured composers as well as explanatory notes for each piece. They represent some of the best music recorded by this legendary label over the last 50 years, arranged alphabetically in order of composer, with the eight discs featuring whole works alongside single movements extracted from larger symphonies or concertos. Set 1 (Alwyn - Ireland) includes William Alwyn’s Symphonic Prelude, The Magic Island; Sir Malcolm Arnold’s enchanting English Dances; Sir Lennox Berkeley Serenade For Strings (conducted by the composer); Frank Bridge’s Suite For String Orchestra (conducted by Adrian Boult); Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Valse De La Reine; Frederick Delius’s The Walk To The Paradise Garden; John Foulds’ impressive Three Mantras; Gustav Holst’s rarely heard Japanese Suite; and John Ireland The Forgotten Rite, Prelude. Highlights from Set 2 (Jacob - Wordsworth) include the first movement from Gordon Jacob’s Symphony No.1; the finale of John Joubert’s Symphony No.1; Constant Lambert’s Music For Orchestra; George Lloyd’s Symphony No.4; William Mathias’ Sinfonietta; Sir Hubert Parry’s Symphonic Variations; the first movement of Edmund Rubbra’s superb Symphony No.4; Ralph Vaughan Williams’s moving Tallis Fantasia; Sir William Walton’s Music For Children; and Malcolm Williamson’s Overture ‘Santiago De Espada’. These splendid collections make an excellent introduction to British music as well as to Lyrita, a label that has championed British composers on vinyl and CD over the past fifty years, with many world premieres and composer-conducted recordings.
MENDELSSOHN - ANTIGONE CARUS CV 83.224
In his efforts to turn 19th century Berlin into a centre of the arts, Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV summoned Felix Mendelssohn to Berlin and commissioned him to write the music to performances of Greek tragedies (Antigone, Oedipus), French classical drama drawn from the Old Testament (Athalia) and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mendelssohn soon grew discontented with his working conditions and turned his back on Berlin but his music survived, though Antigone has rarely been performed. Antigone was the daughter of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta; her story has come down to us principally through Sophocles’ tragedy of the same name. Sophocles wrote his work as a reaction to the banning from Athens of Themistocles, the hero of the naval battle of Salamis. Here Sophocles dealt with the question of morally justified opposition to the power of tyranny. Hegel once praised Sophocles’ Antigone as the most perfect work of art known to him. In 1841 Mendelssohn, as newly appointed master of royal music, was commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia to compose incidental music for the play, first heard at a performance given at the King’s private theatre in a German translation by Johann Jakob Christian Donner which retained the verse forms of antiquity. Published in 1838/39, it soon become the most popular German version of the play. For this recording the spoken text has been written by Helmuth Flashar and Frieder Bernius has recorded Mendelssohn’s little-known music with the Klassische Philharmonie Stuttgart and the men’s voices of the Kammerchor Stuttgart. Antigone is a fascinating rarity by a composer who Ferruccio Busoni considered ‘a master of undisputed greatness’.
THE ART OF CONDUCTION - PRZYTOCKI K&K 12
Paweł Przytocki studied at the Kraków Academy of Music in Poland under Jerzy Katlewicz and perfected his skills at the Bartok International Seminar with Peter Eötvös and the Master Conducting Course at the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene with Helmuth Rilling. Przytocki has since collaborated musically with the Krakow Philharmonic, the Grand Opera Theatre in Lodz, the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra in Gdansk, the National Philharmonic in Warsaw, the Orchestra Sinfonia Varsovia and the Artur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra in Łódz. He is also a regular guest conductor in performances and concert tours throughout Europe and has participated in international music festivals such as those in Athens, Stuttgart, Flanders, La Chaise- Dieu, Kissinger Sommer, Bratislava, Prague and Wratislavia Cantans. In 2005, Przytocki became conductor of the National Opera in Warsaw, performing Khachaturian’s ballet Spartacus, Tchaikovsky’s Onegin, Verdi’s La Traviata and Puccini’s La Boheme. This CD features concerts conducted by Pawel Przytocki of Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 in C Major (the ‘Linz’) with the Schlesische Kammerphilharmonie Kattowitz at the church of the Maulbronn Monastery in 2002, and of Dvorák’s Serenade for String Orchestra with the Beethoven Akademie Orchestra Krakau at the Castle Church Bad Homburg in 2007. An ideal introduction to one of Poland’s most talented and exciting young conductors, whose work has been compared to that of Carlos Kleiber and Svjatoslav Richter.
FLUTE MYSTERY - FRED JONNY BERG 2L 2L58SABD
The innovative Norwegian composer, singer, film director and producer Fred Jonny Berg lives in Saltdal, a valley north of the Arctic Circle. Since his debut album in 1993, he has produced seven more before this ambitious SACD & Blu-ray release. Flute Mystery is a collection of five orchestral works recorded in dynamic surround sound by London’s Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by the legendary Vladimir Ashkenazy, with Welsh sisters Emily and Catherine Beynon as soloists on flute and harp. The title work, dedicated to Sir James Galway, is a lyrical tone poem featuring a harp solo on equal terms with the flute, backed by elegant strings. Emily Beynon is also the soloist for Berg’s delightful new Flute Concerto, dedicated to her and featuring a large orchestra that includes organ, glass harmonica and harp. The titles of the four movements reflect their moods: ‘Memento’, ‘Reminiscence’, ‘Obituary’ and ‘Awakening’. The other pieces here are Berg’s beautiful ‘Pastoral’, a dramatic sound landscape ‘Vicino all Montagna’ (based on a soundtrack for a film of the same name and reminiscent of Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony), and an energetic tone poem, ‘Warning Zero’. All the scores are available free at www.symbiophonic.as This release includes both Blu-ray and SACD discs together with an illustrated booklet and comprehensive sleeve notes by Wolfgang Plagge and producer Morten Lindberg. The pure audio Blu-ray disc is designed to offer two ways of operation, either with or without a TV screen. You can navigate the on-screen pop-up menu or simply use the dedicated buttons of your remote control. 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is pre-selected and provides stunning sound. Berg’s original, soulful and richly rewarding music is brilliantly performed on this ground-breaking recording.
SYMPHONIC ROCK RPO RECORDS RPOSP 019
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra regularly gives performances of ‘Symphonic Rock’ at major venues throughout the UK. This 3-CD box set features over three hours of classic rock anthems and pop tracks that have been given an orchestral twist. The 42 imaginative tracks include stirring versions of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, The Beatles’ Let It Be, U2’s Beautiful Day, Procul Harum’s A Whiter Shade of Pale, Eric Clapton’s Layla, Tina Turner’s Simply The Best, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell and John Lennon’s Imagine. This music may upset a few purists but when it works - as on the Moody Blues classic Nights in White Satin - the result can be very exciting. Other new releases on the RPO label include a double CD Mozart Wind Collection (RPOSP 005) with some of the composer’s most popular pieces (including concertos for clarinet, horn, flute, bassoon, etc.) featuring excellent RPO Principal musicians as soloists, conducted by Nicholas Cleobury. Schumann’s The Four Symphonies are included on another 2-CD set (RPOSP 014), conducted by Grzegorz Nowak, the Principal Associate Conductor of the RPO.
PARIS TO CUBA - GRIGOROV WARM AND GENUINE RECORDS
The ten evocative tracks on this album are the embodiment of summertime. Composed and created by Bulgarian-born Mario Grigorov, the sound conjures up beautiful complexions, mid-afternoon mojitos, linen garments and vintage Cadillacs. This is music that creates an aural landscape, a narrative of striking up a wandering romance with a stranger, a ‘paseo’ through Plaza Vieja or a sunset on the Seine. Lilting, sensual brass sections flirt with gentle vocals on I See, Every Little Moment and Snake Eyes - three tracks which feature singer Melissa Newman. It’s easy for the listener to get lost in the guitar solos, mysterious accordion and nostalgic, sweeping strings. This is not your typical jazz or world record. Mario Grigorov, the mastermind behind the record, is best known for conceiving and creating the 1998 classical crossover hit, Aria, with composer Paul Schwartz. The album immediately landed on Billboard’s Classical Crossover chart, beating Philip Glass, John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra. Aria sold over half a million copies worldwide and writer Douglas Levy declared that ‘the CD that could save classical music’. Grigorov moved to the United States to record as a solo pianist and has also written original scores for more thirty films and documentaries, including Lee Daniels’ recent Sundance success, Precious, and the Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side. His unique blend of classical, jazz and world music influences brilliantly transcends these traditions and infuses them in today’s musical influences. This new album was inspired by the composer’s visits to Paris and Cuba and the essential beauty of both is captured in the music’s melodic, feel-good ambience. Paris to Cuba website
THE LONDON TROMBONE SOUND CALA CACD 0108
This disc must be the ultimate showcase for an extraordinarily versatile instrument. It features a unique orchestra of sixteen trombones drawn from seven top London orchestras, plus jazz trombonist Richard Edwards on three tracks, assisted by percussion and bass guitar. For the concluding track, Meredith Willson’s classic 76 Trombones written for The Music Man, the orchestra is extended to an amazing 76 players to produce a stunning finale. In fact, the album is full of such delightful surprises, such as an irreverent and sassy treatment of the Pink Panther theme tune and a stirring interpretation of Eric Clapton’s Layla. Other highlights include Monteverdi’s beautiful Domine Ad Adinuandum from the Vespers, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and the Brahms Intermezzo No.1. All the outstanding arrangements are by Eric Crees, principal trombone of the London Symphony Orchestra, who also wrote the opening fanfare. The conductor is Geoffrey Simon, who brings out the best in this amazing ensemble, producing an album of imaginative music in a wide variety of styles. The London Trombone Sound is just one in a beautifully recorded series from Cala Records, which began in 1993 with The London Cello Sound (CACD0104). Other titles include The London Horn Sound (CACD0112), The London Violin Sound, featuring the first violin sections of the London Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (CACD0105), The London Viola Sound (CACD0106), Latin Cello (CACDS4109), A Cello Christmas, with the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge (CACDS4115), The London Double Bass Sound (CACD0110), The London Trumpet Sound (CACDS4113) and the jazz-inspired Give It One (CACD0117).
THE HAYDN EXPERIENCE WARNER CLASSICS 2564-69574-0
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was one of the most leading composers of the classical period and has been called both ‘Father of the Symphony’ and ‘Father of the String Quartet’. Born in Rohrau, Austria, a village near the border with the Hungary, his father was a wheelwright and the ‘Marktrichter’ (similar to village mayor). Haydn’s mother had previously worked as a cook in the palace of Count Harrach, the presiding aristocrat of Rohrau. A life-long resident of Austria, Joseph Haydn spent most of his career working as a court musician for the wealthy Hungarian Esterházy family on their remote estate, isolated from other composers and musical trends throughout most of his long life. He claimed that this isolation forced him to become original. This joyous double CD from Warner Classics & Jazz features 26 tracks recorded by such leading interpreters of the Haydn repertoire as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Jésus Lopez-Cobos, Ton Koopman and the Eder Quartet. More than two and a half hours of life-affirming music here celebrates the works of a much-loved composer. Warner has also released a splendid box set of Haydn’s Complete Piano Sonatas played by Rudolf Buchbinder.
THE PURCELL EXPERIENCE WARNER CLASSICS 2564-69240-6
This double CD features more than two and a half hours of delightful music by the great henry Purcell, performed by a marvelous array of musicians, including Michael Chance, James Bowman, Susan Graham, Dawn Upshaw, Catherine Bott, Sumi Jo, Chanticleer, the Choir of King’s College Cambridge and Il Giardino Armonico, with conductors including John Eliot Gardiner and Nicholas Harnoncourt. This is a joyous celebration of England’s finest native composer.
DIVERTIMENTI - TRONDHEIMSOLISTENE 2L 2L50SABD
The divertimento as a musical genre dates back to the nineteenth century. Divertimenti were often composed for small string ensemble, intended for various social occasions, and were light, uncomplicated and cheerful. Over the years this effortless, elegant form has appeared in many different musical styles and, to a large extent, set the standard for the virtuosic chamber music we know today. Following on from their award winning recording of Mozart’s violin concertos with Marianne Thorsen, Norway’s gifted Trondheim Soloists release a new album featuring some of the finest and most technically challenging repertoire for string orchestra. An immaculate version of Britten’s masterful Simple Symphony is followed by three less well known but equally brilliant pieces: Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz’s Concerto for Strings, Norwegian Terje Bjørklund’s lyrical Carmina and Bela Bartók’s demanding Divertimento for Strings. This ambitious programme of music is played with marvelous assurance by the Trondheimers and the recording quality is superb. Divertimenti is the first music-only recording to be made available commercially in the ground breaking Blu-ray format. One disc in this two-disc is a Hybrid SACD recorded in DXD while the other is a Blu-ray disc encoded with magnificent 5.1 sound. A true world premiere!
10 ANS ET TOUJOURS NAÏVE! NAÏVE V5160
The excellent independent French label Naïve is currently celebrating its tenth anniversary. Naïve prefers the description ‘a house for artists’ to ‘a record label’ and aims to challenge the record industry and received ideas. To mark its milestone anniversary, Naïve is highlighting some of the outstanding musical moments from its first ten years, including this two-CD compilation, ‘10 ans et tourjours naïve!’. Artists include Accentus under Laurence Equilbey (a stunning vocal arrangement of the Ardagietto from Mahler's 5th Symphony), Anne Gastinel, Hopkinson Smith, Sandrine Piau, Magdalena Kožena, Rolf Lislevand, Quatour Mosaïques, Tugan Sokhiev, Emmanuel Krivine and La Chambre Philharmonique (a sprightly excerpt from Mendelssohn’s 4th Symphony), Concerto Italiano with Rinaldo Alessandrini, Ensemble Matheus directed by Jean-Christophe Spinosi, and recent signing Marc Minkowski conducting Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble. Also present are outstanding young performers such as pianists Lise de la Salle, David Greilsammer and Bertrand Chamayou, and violinists Sergey Khachatryan and Patricia Kopatchinskaja. These brilliantly recorded performances make the perfect introduction to one of the classical music world’s most innovative and quirky labels. Other recent Naïve releases include Schnittke’s impressive Concerto for Viola and Orchestra with Antoine Tamestit and the Warsaw Philharmonic (AM 168) and From the Shtetl to New York (AM 173), in which the Sirba Octet reveal the links between traditional Yiddish music and American musical comedy.
BERLIOZ - REQUIEM PENTATONE PTC 5186 191
The revolutionary Hector Berlioz composed his innovative Requiem (or Grande Messe des Morts) to a text derived from the traditional Latin Requiem Mass. In 1837, Adrien de Gasparin, the Minister of the Interior of France, asked the composer to write a Requiem Mass in memory of death of Marshal Mortier and for soldiers who died in the Revolution of July 1830. Berlioz already wanted to compose a large orchestral work, and the Requiem features tremendous orchestration of woodwind and brass instruments, including four antiphonal brass ensembles placed at the corners of the concert stage. The premiere was conducted by François-Antoine Habeneck, and according to Berlioz himself, Habeneck put down his baton during the dramatic Tuba mirum (part of the Dies irae movement), and took a pinch of snuff. Berlioz rushed to the podium to conduct himself, saving the performance from disaster. The premiere was a complete success, but Berlioz later revised the work twice, first in 1852 and finally in 1867, two years before his death. In this 1969 recording made in Westminster Cathedral, Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, with Ronald Dowd (a passionate solo tenor in the Sanctus) and Wandsworth School Boys’ Choir. This is an enthralling performance and the superb SACD sound does full justice to Berlioz’ visionary masterpiece. ‘If I were threatened with the destruction of the whole of my works save one, I should crave mercy for the Messe des morts.’ - Berlioz.
KARLOWICZ - SYMPHONIC POEMS, VOL. 1 NAXOS 8.570452
The Polish composer and conductor Mieczyslaw Karlowicz was born into a wealthy academic family in Vilnius (now capital of Lithuania) in 1876. He studied at Warsaw Academy and in Berlin with Heinrich Urban. His music is of a late-romantic/fin-de-siècle character, reminiscent of Richard Strauss, Albéric Magnard and Alexander Scriabin. Karlowicz wrote an ambitious symphony (Revival) and a violin concerto but is perhaps better known for the six tone poems written during final years of his career, including Eternal Songs, The Returning Waves and his most successful, both critically and publicly, Stanislaw and Anna Oswiecimowie. He also wrote songs for voice and piano, but much of the rest of his small output was lost during the Second World World War. Mieczyslaw Karlowicz died in 1909 when skiing in the Tatra mountains during an avalanche but is regarded as one of the most important Polish composers of his generation. This CD features the third, fourth and sixth of of symphonic poems - Stanislaw and Anna Oswiecimowie, the nostalgic Lithuanian Rhapsody, and his final symphonic poem, Episode at a Masquerade. Alternating between fervent affirmation and brooding melancholy, these impressive late-romantic works are notable for their colourful and imaginative orchestration and fresh and original harmony. Karlowicz’s music justifiably occupies a prime place in the history of Polish music between Chopin and Szymanowski.
HERMAN SCHERCHEN - LE CONCERT IMAGINAIRE TAHRA TAH 651
The eminent German conductor Hermann Scherchen was born in Berlin in 1891 and played as a violist under Nikisch, Mottl, Strauss, Oskar Fried and Weingartner. In 1914 he became conductor of the Riga Symphony Orchestra and went on to direct many other leading orchestras (mainly self taught, he was one of the few conductors who did not use a baton). He founded Melos, a journal devoted to contemporary music, and did much to promote new talents such as Schoenberg and Berg. He also conducted memorable performances of music by more traditional composers, including Mozart, Bach, Händel, Beethoven and Mahler. This ‘Imaginary Concert’ satisfyingly puts together a concert that Scherchen might have given, beginning with Smetana’s tone poem Ma Vlast, The Moldau (Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, 1957), then Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the left hand in D major (Kölner RSO - soloist: Robert Casadesus, 1957) and, finally, a sparkling performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 (Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, 1951). These are outstanding recordings by one of the the twentieth century’s most important figures, who encouraged new composers and trends while maintaining old traditions. Other recent Tahra releases that feature rare historic recordings are by Pierre Monteux (Debussy and Schubert, TAH 659), Otto Klemperer (Beethoven and Brahms, TAH 636-637) and Karel Ancerl (Mozart’s Requiem, TAH 660).
TOSCANINI – ALL BRAHMS GUILD GHCD 2337/38
Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) was considered by many critics, fellow musicians and contemporary audiences to be the greatest conductor of his time. Born in Parma, Italy, he studied cello at the local music conservatory before joining the orchestra of an opera company, with which he began his career as a conductor at the age of 19. He went on to conduct the world premieres of Puccinis La Bohème and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and as well as being resident conductor at La Scala, Milan, he conducted to great acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, at Bayreuth and at the Salzburg Festival. This double-album of historic broadcasts by New York Philharmonic conducted by Toscanini is devoted entirely to the music of Brahms - a composer whose work was central to Toscanini’s repertoire throughout his career. Toscanini was thirty years old when Brahms died. Although they never met, Toscanini regarded Brahms as a contemporary. This exciting album includes the only available versions in the best possible modern sound of major works by Brahms which the great conductor never recorded commercially, or hardly ever. Principal amongst these is the first disc containing Brahms’s two Serenades for Orchestra, Opus 11 and Opus 16, which Toscanini never recorded commercially. The second CD contains rare performances of the Academic Festival Overture and the Second Piano Concerto with Robert Casadesus as soloist. Toscanini again never recorded the Overture commercially and the Concerto just once. As an intriguing bonus, the CD is completed by four of Brahms’s part-songs, three from his Opus 17 set and one an arrangement by Brahms of a famous song by Schubert (Toscanini again never recorded these works commercially). This rare set of recordings will be hugely welcomed by all collectors of great conducting, especially of the Maestro renowned for his brilliant intensity and restless perfectionism.
RAVEL – BOLERO TELARC 80703
French composer and pianist Joseph-Maurice Ravel’s one-movement orchestral piece Boléro premiered in 1928 and was originally composed as a ballet. Before this, Ravel had composed several large scale ballets (such as Daphnis et Chloé, written for the Ballets Russes), suites for the ballet (including Ma Mère l’Oye), and one-movement dance pieces such as La Valse. Apart from such compositions intended for a staged dance performance, Ravel had demonstrated an interest in composing re-styled dances, from his earliest successes (the 1895 Menuet and the 1899 Pavane) to his more mature works like Le Tombeau de Couperin (which takes the format of a dance suite). Boléro epitomises Ravel’s preoccupation with restyling and reinventing dance movements and was also one of the last pieces he composed before illness forced him into retirement. Notable for its feverish, hypnotic rhythm and massive orchestral sound, it became Ravel’s most popular composition, much to the surprise of the composer, who had predicted that orchestras would refuse to play it. According to a possibly apocryphal story, at the premiere a woman shouted that Ravel was mad. When told about this, Ravel smiled and remarked that she had understood the piece. It is usually performed today as a purely orchestral work, and is given a subtly rousing performance here by the excellent Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, conducted by Erich Kunzel. The disc also features a medley of music popularised by the 1953 musical Kismet, which was constructed around the music of celebrated Russian composer Alexander Borodin, and two Spanish-influenced works: Suite Nos. 1 and 2 from Georges Bizet’s opera, Carmen, and a festival procession in Seville by composer Isaac Albéniz, Féte-Dieu à Séville. Highly recommended.
BEETHOVEN - ORCHESTRAL WORKS WARNER CLASSICS 2564637792
Ludwig van Beethoven’s fame peaked in 1814 when his only opera, Fidelio, was successfully revived. Three years later he started to compose his magnificent Ninth Symphony. Beethoven died on March 26, 1827, appropriately during a violent storm, but his music continues to be held in high regard, forming the core of orchestral and chamber music repertoires around the world. This superb value box set from Warner Classics features all of Beethoven’s major orchestral works, including his nine symphonies, five piano concertos, the triple concerto for piano, violin, and cello, seven overtures (The Ruins of Athens, Coriolan, Leonore 1-3, Egmont and The Creatures of Prometheus), the violin concerto in D major, romances 1 & 2 for violin and orchestra, and the great Missa Solemnis. An excellent booklet provides notes for each work, with texts and translations. Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Arnold Schoenberg Chor, with soloists including Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Clemens Hagen, Gidon Kremer and Thomas Zehetmair. Harnoncourt was a pioneer of ‘historical’ performances with period instruments and his lithe interpretations of Beethoven’s work are refreshingly unaffected. Highly recommended.
SIEGRIED WAGNER - COMPLETE ORCHESTRAL WORKS CPO 999 655-2
The first son of Richard Wagner and Cosima Liszt – and grandson of Franz Liszt - Siegfried Wagner (1869-1930) was a prolific composer, writing more operas than his father. In 1896 he started conducting at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus and around Germany, becoming artistic director of the Bayreuth Festival from 1908 to 1930. He was a pupil of Humperdinck and turned from a proposed career as an architect to music, although none of his many works has entered the standard repertory. His compositions are not Wagnerian in subject or treatment, but he acknowledged a technical debt to his father in some respects. This comprehensive seven-CD box set features the complete orchestral music of Siegried Wagner, including four discs of overtures, one of symphonic poems, various concertos and his ebullient Symphony in C. Siegfried’s fascinating and vivid tone paintings not only defy all classification and fill a major gap in the repertoire but also display a unique and independent compositional mastery of the highest order. The Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg and Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz are conducted by the excellent Werner Andreas Albert. Individually, these recordings have been met with great interest and this collected edition should enhance the reputation of an accomplished composer more usually found engulfed by his father’s shadow.
SCHUBERT/BEETHOVEN/HARTMANN CARUS 83.230
Karl Amadeus Hartmann has been called the greatest German symphonist of the 20th century. Born in Munich in 1905, he was the youngest son of the teacher and painter Friedrich Richard Hartmann. His first compositions were performed in the 1920s and show the influences of jazz and dadaism on his music. An idealistic socialist all his life, he voluntarily withdrew from musical life in Germany during the Nazi era, while remaining in Germany, and refused to allow his works to be played there. His music was condemned by the Nazi regime but continued to be performed abroad. After the fall of Hitler, Hartmann became a Dramaturg at the Bavarian State Theatre and was a vital figure in the rebuilding of West German musical life and his post-war works include eight symphonies. With its use of quotations from composers whose works were forbidden after 1933, the Concerto funebre demonstrates Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s resistance to the political situation in 1939, the year it was written. An extraordinary and prophetic work, inspired by the composer’s feelings about the Nazi annexation of Czechoslovakia, the Concerto funebre contains conflicting messages of hope, desperation and foreboding. Partially atonal in conception, its use of varied musical material grips the listener with immediacy, especially as played here by the fine German violinist Ulrike-Anima Mathé, with Frieder Bernius conducting the Streicherakademie Bozen. This excellent CD also features Schubert’s Ouvertüre in C minor and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major, both of which were composed for chamber music ensembles, through their clear orchestral traits soon found their way into the repertoire in the orchestral versions recorded here.
BANTOCK – ORCHESTRAL MUSIC HYPERION CDS44281/6
Sir Granville Bantock was born in London in 1868, the son of a doctor. He was educated for the civil service but entered the Royal Academy of Music in 1889, where some of his earliest works were performed. He went on to became a conductor, founded and edited the New Quarterly Music Review and in1907 he succeeded Sir Edward Elgar as professor of music at the University of Birmingham, where he stayed for almost thirty years. After his retirement from the university, he continued to work prolifically as a composer, a conductor and an examiner for Trinity College of Music. Sir Thomas Beecham, eleven years Bantock’s junior, saw his gifts as principally operatic, praising what he describes as a ‘flow of genial melody, unmistakably of the ‘stagey’ sort, a solid but lively handling of the orchestra, and a by no means too common capacity for passing swiftly and easily from one contrasting mood to another’, finding in him one of the two outstanding figures in English musical life. Bantock is perhaps best known today for his colourful Pierrot of the Minute overture (1908) but he wrote a vast amount of other music all genres, much of it inspired by Asian and Celtic themes. Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss were a considerable influence on his large-scale orchestral works, many of which appear on this generous six-CD collection. Highlights include A Celtic Symphony for string orchestra and six harps, A Hebridean Symphony, Pagan Symphony ‘Et ego in Arcadia vixi’, Fifine at the Fair ‘A Defence of Inconstancy’, The Cyprian Goddess Symphony No 3, The Helena Variations, Sappho Prelude and Nine Fragments for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (with Susan Bickley), Sapphic Poem for cello and orchestra (with Julian Lloyd Webber), Camel Caravan from Omar Khayyám with chorus, Pierrot of the Minute and excerpts from The Song of Songs (with soprano Elizabeth Connell and tenor Kim Begley). Vernon Handley conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and these recordings, made between 1990 and 2003, have done much to promote the music of an undeservedly neglected composer.
BARBIROLLI – RUSSIAN FAVOURITES GUILD GHCD 2325
The much-loved conductor and cellist Sir John Giovanni Battista Barbirolli was most closely associated with the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester, which he led for almost three decades. He was also music director of the New York Philharmonic and the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and conducted many other orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Renowned for his interpretations of music by English composers such as Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Barbirolli was also well-known as a conductor of the music of Gustav Mahler. Since his sudden death in 1970, the reputation of Sir John Barbirolli has grown, aided by a series of broadcast recordings which were never available during his lifetime, and many of his sterling qualities can be appreciated in the new anthology of performances from the 1950s featured on this highly desirable disc. The great man and his beloved Hallé Orchestra play works by Russian composers Nicolay Rimsky-Korsakov (Capriccio espagnol), Anatole Liadov (his mystical ‘fable-tableau’ The Enchanted Lake) and Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky (excerpts from his Swan Lake ballet, Marche slave, and the Romeo and Juliet fantasy overture). All receive deeply sympathetic and virtuosic performances in admirable sound, making this a highly enjoyable collection.
IN MEMORY OF ARTURO TOSCANINI MUSIC & ARTS CD-1201
Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) was considered by many critics, fellow musicians and contemporary audiences to be the greatest conductor of his time. Born in Parma, Italy, he studied cello at the local music conservatory before joining the orchestra of an opera company, with which he began his career as a conductor at the age of 19. He went on to conduct the world premieres of Puccinis La Bohème and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and as well as being resident conductor at La Scala, Milan, he conducted to great acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, at Bayreuth and at the Salzburg Festival. In 1937 Toscanini escaped Italian and German fascism by leaving Europe for the United States, where the NBC Symphony Orchestra was created for him. He conducted the first broadcast concert later that year from New York City’s Rockefeller Center and in 1938, he conducted the world premieres of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Essay for Orchestra No. 1. Many memorable NBC concerts followed and in 1950 they were moved to Carnegie Hall, where many of the orchestra’s recording sessions had been held. The final broadcast performance took place there in April 1954, and during this concert Toscanini became ill and never conducted live in public again. After his retirement, aged 87, the NBC Symphony was reorganised as the Symphony of the Air and made regular performances and recordings until it was disbanded in 1963. This double CD features a concert given by the Symphony of the Air at Carnegie Hall in 1957 and includes music by Beethoven (the Eroica Symphony, conducted by Bruno Walter), Debussy (La Mer, conducted by Charles Munch) and Elgar (Enigma Variations, conducted by Pierre Monteux). Bonus tracks include recordings made by the (conductorless) orchestra in 1954: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Berlioz’s Roman carnival Overture and Wagner’s Prelude to Act 1 of Die Meistersinger. Also available from Music & Arts is a newly issued CD of Toscanini conducting dramatic, emotionally-charged performances of Beethoven’s Third and Fifth Symphonies in concerts to celebrate allied victories in Europe and Japan (MUSIC & ARTS CD-753).
THE GOLDEN AGE OF LIGHT MUSIC – LIGHT MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK GUILD GLCD 5128
Early on in the Second World War the BBC used to broadcast a daily programme of non-stop music called ‘Music While You Work’ intended to boost the morale of millions of British factory workers. When the show was not being broadcast, factories often played records on their own loudspeaker systems. Recognising the need for a series of discs offering catchy, tuneful music, in 1942 Decca started releasing 78s on its special ‘Music While You Work’ label. Many of these contained light music and a selection has been chosen for this CD, with popular orchestral and show music as well as true light music 'classics'. The BBC programme went on to become an institution in British broadcasting, lasting for 27 years. ‘Music While You Work’ was brought back for several editions to celebrate the BBC’s 60th anniversary in 1982 and the final broadcast was heard in 1995. Decca released an astonishing 400 78s in its ‘Music While You Work’ series, the last of which were issued 1947. The discs were deleted soon afterwards, so this is a rare opportunity to hear these enjoyable recordings. Most of the tracks here feature Harry Fryer and his Orchestra, and there are recordings by Richard Crean with the London Palladium Orchestra, Harry Davidson’s Orchestra (which played in 109 editions of ‘Music While You Work’ during the programme’s first year), the Reginald Pursglove Orchestra, Annunzio Paolo Mantovani’s world-famous orchestra (Adios, Conchita and Memories of Spain), the Studio Orchestra conducted by Philip Green and Ronnie Munro with the Scottish Variety Orchestra. The remastered sound quality is surprisingly good and the music makes an encouraging and wonderfully nostalgic background for spring cleaning. Other new releases in Guild’s excellent light music series include Beyond The Blue Horizon (GLCD 5129), Cornflakes (GLCD 5130) and Light Music On The Move (GLCD 5131).
PHILIP GLASS – HEROES SYMPHONY/THE LIGHT NAXOS 8.559325
Philip Glass used several tracks from David Bowie’s 1977 album Low to create his Low Symphony and did the same for Heroes in his Heroes Symphony, written 1996 for American choreographer Twyla Tharp’s dance company. The original Bowie album was recorded with synthesiser virtuoso Brian Eno in Berlin, which was then still a divided city. Glass imaginatively expands the songs while remaining close to the harmonies of the originals and highlights include the title track, the wistful Abdulmajid, Sense of Doubt, the rhythmic Neuköln and climactic V2 Schneider. Also featured on this CD is The Light, written by Glass to a commission from Case Western Reserve University in 1987. Inspired by the Michelson-Morley experiment confirming the uniform speed of light, paving the way for its theoretical explanation in Einstein’s theory of Relativity two decades later, Glass's piece has an expressive introduction followed by an energetic main movement: a ‘before’ and ‘after’ mirroring the onset of modern scientific research. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the acclaimed Marin Alsop, gives compelling performances of both works. ‘It was though Philip had fed into my voice...but somehow had arrived, I feel, a lot nearer to the gut feeling of what I was trying to do’ - David Bowie.
SUNDAY EVENINGS WITH PIERRE MONTEUX MUSIC & ARTS CD-1192 (13)
The French-born conductor Pierre Monteux (1875-1964) premiered many masterworks of the twetieth century, including Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Claude Debussy’s Jeux, and Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka. This great conductor became famous worldwide at the age of 38 by conducting the riotous world premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in Paris on 29 May 1913. The composer, fearing bodily harm, fled through a backstage window, while the imperturbable conductor persisted with the music. He would also conduct the first concert performance and one of the first two recordings of Stravinsky’s masterpiece, the other one conducted by Stravinsky himself. Pierre Monteux originally trained as a violist, performing for both Edvard Grieg and Johannes Brahms as a member of the Quatuor Geloso. Over the course of a long conducting career, he directed among others Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, the Metropolitan Opera, the Boston Symphony, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris (which he formed), the London Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony (from 1935 to 1952). The remarkable concert performances selected and annotated here by Arthur Bloomfield were broadcast from California between 1941 and 1952 by Monteux with the Symphony Orchestra of San Francisco. Ten of the CDs were previously issued by Music & Arts but the last three discs in this marvellous 13-CD set contains nearly four hours of music that has not previously been issued. Although not originally intended as permanent recordings, these are performances of exceptional quality and the newly remastered sound is remarkably good. The huge range of music collected here gives a fascinating insight into the work of one of the greatest conductors the world has ever seen.
STRAVINSKY/HINDEMITH - TO THE NEW WORLD AND BEYOND CCn’C 02962
Kristjan Järvi (born 1972) is the youngest of the highly gifted Järvi musical clan. His father is the esteemed Estonian-American conductor Neeme Järvi, and his siblings Paavo Järvi and Maarika are also musicians. Born in Tallinn, Kristjan spent most of his childhood in New York and studied piano at the Manhattan School of Music (with Nina Svetlanova. After being assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for three years he became principal conductor of the Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra of Umeå in Sweden and has appeared as guest conductor with ensembles such as the Russian National Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra and Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. His repertoire includes pieces classical and romantic music but he is specialises in 20th century composers and contemporary music, having conducted the first performances of works by Erkki-Sven Tüür, Peeter Vähi and Arvo Pärt. This hybrid SACD disc from CCn’C Records features Kristjan Järvi and the Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra in little-known works by Igor Stravinsky (Symphony in Three Movements - his ‘War Symphony’, Four Norwegian Moods, Suite No.1, Suite No.2 and an arrangement of Sibelius’s Canzonetta) and Paul Hindemith (Concerto For Orchestra). Both Stravinsky and Hindemith left Europe to become American citizens and these pieces often reflect the conflicts and challenges they experienced in the New World. The orchestra responds enthusiastically to Järvi’s lively direction to create performances of passion and distinction.
COPLAND - AMERICAN CLASSICS NAXOS 8559240
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) forged a uniquely American style of composition and became known as ‘the dean of American composers’. His music combined modern music with traditional American folk styles and the harmonies of many of his works were inspired by the vast landscapes of his homeland. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Polish-Lithuanian Jewish descent (his father’s surname was ‘Kaplan’ before he changed it to Copland while in England before emigrating to the United States). Aaron Copland’s music education included time with Rubin Goldmark (one of George Gershwin’s teachers) and with Nadia Boulanger at the Fontainebleau School of Music in Paris, where he began to write his first full-fledged pieces. His early compositions on returning to the USA were jazz-inspired but his style soon evolved toward more accessible works such as Rodeo, a ballet score originally created for a string orchestra and later modified for full symphony orchestra. Originally known as Four Dance Episodes, Rodeo consists of four sections: Buckaroo Holiday, Corral Nocturne, Saturday Night Waltz and the irrepressible Hoe-Down. This new CD collection, devoted to Copland works inspired by the landscape of the American prairie, naturally features Rodeo as well as the Suite based on his ‘folkish’ score for the 1948 film of John Steinbeck’s novel, The Red Pony, starring Robert Mitchum and depicting life on a California ranch. The other two works included are less well-known but equally enjoyable: Prairie Journal, a vivid expression of life on a western range, and Letter from Home, completed in 1944 and poignantly evoking the feelings of nostalgia experienced at a far-away army camp. The excellent Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted with great brio by JoAnn Falletta.
TAKEMITSU - ORCHESTRAL WORKS NAXOS 8.557760
Toru Takemitsu (1930–1996) was a largely self-taught Japanese composer, born in Tokyo, who explored the principles of western music and his native Japanese tradition both separately and in combination. He became interested in western classical music during the Second World War by listening to American military radio and his father’s collection of jazz records while recuperating from an illness. He was greatly influenced by French music, particular that of Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen. In 1951 he founded the Jikken Kobo, a group which introduced many contemporary western composers to Japanese audiences. He later incorporated Japanese instruments such as the shakuhachi (a kind of bamboo flute) into the orchestra. He first came to wide attention when his Requiem for string orchestra was heard by Igor Stravinsky, who went on to champion Takemitsu’s works. These include the orchestral piece A Flock Descends Into the Pentagonal Garden, chamber music, works for piano, electronic music, and film scores for almost a hundred Japanese films. Many of the formal concepts in his music depend on visual imagery derived from paintings, dreams, or his concept of the garden. The works on this CD span the composer’s career, starting with the delicate Solitude Sonore (1958), which already shows his brilliant command of orchestral colour. A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden, one of his most performed works, interweaves silences, surges of dissonance and beautiful fragmentary melodies. Also included here are the ethereal Spirit Garden, written two years before the composer’s death, Dreamtime and film music for string orchestra (from José Torres, Black Rain and Face of Another). Marin Alsop and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra perform this original, sensuous music with great assurance, making this a fine introduction to ‘the Japanese Debussy’.
PIERRE MONTEUX IN FRANCE:1952-58 MUSIC & ARTS CD-1182 (8)
The renowned orchestra conductor Pierre Monteux (1875-1964) was born in Paris, France, and later became an American citizen. He studied violin from an early age, entering the Paris Conservatoire at the age of nine. He became a good enough to share the Conservatoire’s violin prize in 1896 with Jacques Thibaud. He later took up the viola and played at the Opéra-Comique, before becoming the conductor of Sergei Diaghilev’s ballet company, the Ballets Russes. He conducted the premieres of Stravinsky’s Petrushka and The Rite of Spring as well as Debussy’s Jeux and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, establishing the course of his career, in which he was particularly acclaimed for his interpretations of Russian and French music. This invaluable 8-CD collection contains works that Monteux recorded commercially, as well as many new to his discography. Highlights definitely include his exuberant performances of Beethoven's Second, Seventh, Eighth and a wonderfully triumphant Ninth. Other notable interpretations here include Stravinsky’s Petrushka and Le Sacre du Printemps, Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Le coq d’or, Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 24 (with Robert Casadesus, piano), Prokofiev’s ‘Classical’ Symphony, Ravel’s Shéhérazade, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, and Franck’s Symphony in D Minor. All feature Pierre Monteux with the excellent National Orchestra.
PROKOFIEV/TCHAIKOVSKY AUDITE 92.557 SACD
Mily Balakirev, one of the ‘Mighty Five’ amateur Russian composers of the mid-eithteenth century, encouraged Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to write a piece based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, knowing that Tchaikovsky had recently emerged from his infatuation with a Belgian soprano named Désirée Artôt. Balakirev continued to make suggestions about the work throughout the ten years before the final version was published in 1880. Described as an ‘Overture-Fantasy’ by its composer, the overall design is a symphonic poem in sonata-form with an introduction and an epilogue. The work has become one of the most popular in the classical repertoire and its passionate love theme has been used in many movies, including Wayne's World. Sergei Prokofiev’s monumental Fifth Symphony was premiered in 1945 in the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory by the USSR State Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer himself. The Red Army had announced its victory in the war a few minutes before the premiere, so the heroic spirit of the work fitted perfectly. The music was a great success at its premiere and remains one of Prokofiev’s most popular works. This rewarding SACD release features fine performances of both these fine Russian works by the Novosibirsk Academic Symphony Orchestra, directed by its permanent guest conductor, Thomas Sanderling. Founded by the government in 1956 to enliven Siberian cultural life, this orchestra has subsequently aquired an increasingly international reputation, giving concert tours throughout Western Europe and Japan.
AITA MADINA - BASQUE MUSIC COLLECTION, VOL. IX CLAVES 50-2517/18
Rev. Francisco de Madina (Aita means ‘Father’) was born in Oñate, Guipuzcoa in 1907 and died in his home town in 1972. Ordained a Canon Regular of the Lateran in 1929, he studied music and theology at the Order’s seminaries before being assigned to a post in Argentina (his early compositions were often influenced by gaucho music). He was reassigned to Albany (New York) in 1955, where his priestly responsibilities and work as organist left him little time for composition. His works cover a wide range - from operas to masses and psalms; from symphonic suites to small pieces for orchestra, piano, organ, violin, harp and guitar. Madina’s musical style is conservative and is greatly influenced by the folklore of his native country, particularly the Basque region. Many works were commissioned by the Romero brothers and dedicated to the artists by the composer. This double CD set (the ninth in an excellent series of Basque music albums from Claves) features recordings by Los Romero of eleven Madina works, including the dramatic Concierto Vasco para 4 guitarras y orquesta (for four guitars and orchestra), the delightful Basque Rhapsody and the delicate Concertino Vasco para arpa y orquesta de cuerdas (for harp and string orchestra). The second disc features some of Madina’s shorter scores, including his Basque Christmas Suite, the serene Agur Maria, and the irresistible Basque Children’s Overture. Other performers here include Xavier de Maistre (harp), Ana Salaberria and Elena Barbé (sopranos) and the Basque National Orchestra, directed by Cristian Mandeal. This is opulently recorded music by a talented composer who deserves to be much better known.
MOZART - JUBILEE EDITION DISKY HR 903708
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791) is perhaps the most loved and admired composer across cultures, generations, languages and musical styles. In the year of his 250th Birthday, people from all over the world are celebrating his work by creating new museums, staging opera performances and putting on an extraordinary number of festivals, galas, special exhibitions and concert events (over 5,000 concerts are planned worldwide during 2006). Mozart's name summons up visions of powdered wigs, aristocrats, concert halls and opera houses, but his music pervades all aspects our society, appearing in cartoons, films, elevators - just about anywhere that music is heard. No one needs an excuse to enjoy the music of this 18th century genius but the occasion of his 250th jubilee is as good a time as any to revisit a master of music in all its forms, inspired by a keen insight into the human heart. This excellent value box set of 10 CDs from Disky features music performed by some of the 20th century’s most famous orchestras (such as the Chicago Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic), conductors and soloists (including Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Erich Kunz). Altogether, there is more than 11 hours of music, from chamber works for piano through to sublime operas, concertos and symphonies. Highly recommended.
BACH/SCHERCHEN - WESTMINSTER ARCHIVES, VOL. 2 TAHRA WEST 3003-3004
The eminent German conductor Hermann Scherchen was born in Berlin in 1891 and played as a violist under Nikisch, Mottl, Strauss, Oskar Fried and Weingartner. In 1914 he became conductor of the Riga Symphony Orchestra and went on to direct many other leading orchestras, becoming one of the most important figures in the world of music in the twentieth century (he was one of the few conductors who did not use a baton). He famously promoted new talents such as Schoenberg and Berg and also conducted wonderful performances of music by more traditional composers, including Mozart, Bach, Händel, Beethoven and Mahler. This new double-CD release continues Tahra’s series of the Westminster recordings Scherchen made for Deutsche Grammophon in the 1960s, featuring a composer who was very important to him, particularly regarding the Art of the Fugue. Of particular interest is the Musical Offering (Offrande Musicale) that Hermann Scherchen orchestrated himself after becoming dissatisfied with the version by Roger Vuataz. The stereo recording has never previously been available on CD, and this release also features lively and eloquent performances of four Bach Suites. Scherchen was always ahead of his time and this splendid album shows why his recordings deserve to be better known today. See also the Berlioz Requiem - TAHRA WEST 3001-3002.
HOWARD HANSON - ORCHESTRAL WORKS TELARC CD-80649
The prolific composer Howard Harold Hanson was born in Wahoo, Nebraska, in 1896 to Swedish immigrant parents. He began learning the piano with his mother when he was six, and later studied with composer Percy Goetschius and at Northwestern University (with church music expert Peter Lutkin). Hanson became a teacher of music theory and composition himself and began to compose orchestral and chamber works. He was the first recipient of the Prix de Rome, awarded by the American Academy in Rome, and lived in Italy for three years, during which time he wrote his first symphony and studied orchestration with Ottorino Respighi. After returning to America, Hanson’s conducting career took off and brought him to the attention of George Eastman, inventor of the Kodak camera and roll film, who chose him to be director of the Eastman School of Music. Hanson held that position for forty years, taking it to a place of world pre-eminence in education and performing excellence. As a composer, he worked conservatively in the style of the late-Romantics, melodic inventiveness being evident in his large catalogue of music, from opera to instrumental works. Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra here give stirring performances of Hanson’s ‘Romantic’ Symphony No. 2 (composed for the Boston Symphony in 1930), his Merry Mount Suite (derived from an opera about the conflict between Puritans and Cavaliers), and the world premiere recording of Bold Island Suite. Written in 1961, this attractive Suite has three movements - ‘Birds of the Sea’, ‘Summer Seascape’ and ‘God in Nature’ - inspired by Hanson’s annual summer retreats to Bold Island, near the fishing village of Stonington, Maine. ‘This recording is essential’ - Time Out New York.
DISCOVER MUSIC OF THE CLASSICAL ERA NAXOS 8.558180-81
The Classical era in Western music, falling between the Baroque and the Romantic periods, occurred largely in the 18th century and into the early 19th century. Although the term classical music is often used to mean all kinds of music in this tradition, it can also sometimes just mean this particular period. The commonly accepted beginning and ending dates are 1750 and 1820 but some sources regard 1730 as the start. At this time, the art, literature and architecture of Ancient Greece and Rome were being rediscovered and re-evaluated, which in turn strongly influenced the ‘modern’ art of the time. This was also a period of great social change and political unrest, with challenges to the old established order culminating in the French Revolution of 1789. Discover Music of the Classical Era comprises two CDs and a 100-page booklet written by Stephen Johnson, showing how all this was reflected in the music written during those turbulent yet intensely creative years. The music is by Mozart, Haydn, Stamitz, J.C. Bach, Boccherini, Gluck, Gossec, C.P.E. Bach and others. This release is one of Naxos’s admirable ‘Discover’ series, providing a valuable introduction to key areas of classical music and including a Timeline of events in music, history, art and literature. Combining well-chosen music with an authoritative essay, this way of exploring music is highly enjoyable and easily accessible. Others in the series include DISCOVER EARLY MUSIC (Naxos 8.558170-71, with music by Josquin, Dufay, Landini, Taverner, Tallis, Obrecht, Victoria and Palestrina, among others) and DISCOVER MUSIC OF THE 20th CENTURY (Naxos 8.558168-69, with music by Ravel, Schoenberg, Ives, Stravinsky, Bartók, Shostakovich, Messiaen, Britten, Cage, Reich and John Williams).
MUSSORGSKY/STOKOWSKI - PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION NAXOS 6.110101
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky’s suite of 15 musical pieces, Pictures at an Exhibition, was composed in 1874. Originally written for piano, the work has proved irresistible to other composers and is now probably better known from their orchestrations and arrangements. The first to arrange Pictures at an Exhibition for orchestra was the Russian conductor Michael Touschmaloff, although his version includes only seven of the ten pictures. Other orchestrations have been made by, among others, the British conductor Sir Henry Wood and the Slovenian-born violinist Leo Funtek but the version produced by Maurice Ravel in 1922 has proved the most popular and enduring. Conductor Leopold Stokowski introduced Ravel’s version to his Philadelphia audiences in 1929 then wrote his own orchestration ten years later, considering Ravel’s masterful version insufficiently Russian and too subtle to do justice to Mussorgsky’s coarser idiom. Stokowski’s version omits two pictures, Tuileries and The Market Place at Limoges, perhaps because their subject matter was not Russian enough. This new recording features the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stokowski’s protégé José Serebrier, and was sponsored by the Leopold Stokowski Society. This SACD also includes Stokowski’s arrangements of other Mussorgsky works, including A Night on Bare Mountain and a concert version of Boris Godunov, as well as two pieces by Tchaikovsky and some traditional Slavic Christmas music. The recording qualityand performances are first-class and should help this forceful version of the Pictures to become more widely appreciated.
BAX - SYMPHONIC POEMS NAXOS 8.557599
Arnold Bax (1883-1953) was born into a prosperous middle-class family in Streatham, London. He started writing music at the age of twelve and went on to produce seven symphonies, several tone-poems, overtures, ballet and film scores, concertos, chamber music, piano pieces, choral works and more than 130 songs. He also wrote short stories, plays and poetry under an Irish pseudonym. In the 1920s and early 30s he was regarded as a major British composer, alongside Elgar, Delius, Holst and Vaughan Williams, but after his death he fell out of fashion. Only recently has his highly individual, romantic music been rediscovered by a new generation. This collection gathers together his five outstanding Symphonic Poems: Tinagel, The Garden Of Fand, The Happy Forest, The Tale The Pine Trees Knew, and the reflective November Woods. The most famous of these compositions is Tintagel, his shimmering, almost cinematic portayal of ‘the castle-crowned cliff of Tintagel’. The acclaimed Royal Scottish National Orchestra is conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, and this CD makes an excellent introduction to a composer Sibelius called ‘one of the greatest men of our time’.
DEBUSSY - ORCHESTRAL WORKS TELARC CD-80617
The French composer and critic Claude Debussy’s music was much influenced by Wagner, the writer Edgar Allan Poe, and the impressionist movement in painting that flourished at the end of the 19th century. He became one of the most important composers of the 20th century, developing a unique and sensuous style that broke many rules but remained essentially French. His compositions didn’t simply express an idea or tell a story, but created an ‘atmosphere’ through sound sketches and rich instrumentation. Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, played on this CD by the excellent Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paavo Jarvi, relies on a series of repetitions and variations of its basic themes rather than any sense of development. Also featured here are two of Debussy's other best-known works, Nocturnes and La Mer, as well as the little recorded Berceuse Héroïque, a piece written.in 1914, shortly after the fall of Belgium at the beginning of World War I, to honour the Belgian king and people. The spellbinding Prelude here reveals the CSO at its best as the languorous yearning sweeps to a climax before tension fades. La Mer shows the orchestra’s great virtuosity, especially in the closing ‘Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea’. ‘The primary aim of French music is to give pleasure.’ - Claude Debussy, 1904.
MUSIC OF DARIUS MILHAUD - NICOLE PAIEMENT KLEOS 5131
The award-winning conductor Nicole Paiement is Artistic Director of San Francisco’s BluePrint Festival and is Director of Ensembles at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she conducts the orchestra, chamber singers and full opera productions. She is also Artistic Director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, which has a growing reputation for performing and commissioning works by living composers. This album includes world premiere recordings of Cantate de la Guerre by Darius Milhaud and API (bees), a work commissioned from the teacher and composer Elinor Armer, who studied composition with Milhaud and Leon Kirchner and piano with Alexander Libermann. The other pieces on this enjoyable and adventurous CD are Milhaud’s Sonata for Harpsichord and Violin; Aspen Serenade and Saudades do Brazil.
JACQUES THIBAUD IN CONCERT APR 5644
The virtuoso French violinist Jacques Thibaud was born in 1880 in Bordeaux. His playing is typical of the elegantly suave classical French style and he was a member of a remarkable musical trio that also included cellist Pablo Casals and the pianist Alfred Cortot. Thibaud, who also became a renowned teacher, died in 1953 in a plane crash on his way to Japan. His 1720 Stradivarius instrument perished with him. This most valuable CD includes rare recordings of Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole (performed with the Orchestre Radio-Symphonique/Jean Martinon in 1953) as well as the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto No.1 and Introduction & Rondo capriccioso (performed with the Hessichen Radio Orchestra/Alceo Galliera, also in 1953). The album also features Chausson’s Poème, recorded with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet in 1941, when Thibaud’s playing was at its most enchanting.
HAYDN/MOZART - ORCHESTRAL WORKS BERLIN CLASSICS 017692BC
The excellent Chamber Orchestra of Berlin give vibrant performances of famous and not so famous works by Joseph Haydn (Double concerto for violin, harpsichord and strings; Symphony No. 45) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Divertimento in D major; Serenade in G major). Haydn’s little known concerto is conventional and light in tone without descending into banality and could in many respects almost be a late Baroque work. The outstanding soloists on this recording are Kevin McCutcheon (harpsichord) and the orchestra’s artistic director Katrin Scholz (violin). Mozart’s Serenade in G major ‘Eine kleine Nachtmusik’ has long served as a perfect example of Classical composing, representing a smooth transition from the entertaining style of the serenade to the weightier one of the symphony. Haydn’s unique ‘Farewell Symphony’ was written in 1772 as a protest on behalf of his musicians, who were growing dissatisfied at being separated from their families in Eisenstadt during Prince Miklos’s seemingly never-ending summer sojourn at his palace in Eszterhaza. Haydn had the musicians snuff their candles and leave their desks one by one in an Adagio section at the end of the symphony.
FRANK BRIDGE - THE SEA & OTHER WORKS NAXOS 8.557167
The work of the English composer and viola-player Frank Bridge (1879 - 1941) is at last beginning to find the wider audience he deserves, not least because he was the teacher of Benjamin Britten, one of whose earlier works is based on a composition by him. Bridge’s meticulously crafted music is full of haunting imagination and was much played in the earlier part of his career, during which time he was also a fine chamber music player and conductor. His later music took on a more radical style to which the musical public responded less favourably, and for 30 years after his death his major works were little played. It was around the time of the coronation of George V in 1911 that he composed his beautiful orchestral suite The Sea, which subsequently became a favourite at promenade concerts. This latest bargain-priced album form Naxos features an fine performance by the excellent New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Judd. The other works included are Bridge’s startling rhapsody Enter Spring, the tone poem Summer and Two Poems for Orchestra. Highly recommended.
J.S. BACH - THE COMPLETE ORCHESTRAL SUITES TELARC SACD-60619
Johann Sebastian Bach composed remarkably few instrumental orchestral works. The most famous of these are his Brandenburg Concertos, which were written in Baroque Italian Concerto style. His less well-known Orchestral Suites were composed in the French Baroque Style. The excellent Boston Baroque orchestra, directed by the American harpsichordist and conductor Martin Peariman, celebrates its 30th anniversary season by giving superb performances of the four suites on a single disc. There are no autograph scores for these works, so the music is principally known through instrumental parts copied out by Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel, among others. The first and fourth suites are thought to have been composed during the 1720s, the third dates from 1731 and the second is from the late 1730s. They are presented on this immaculately recorded SACD in what has been determined to be their order of composition rather than their published order.
LAMOND/D’ALBERT - ORCHESTRAL MUSIC HYPERION CDA67387
Born prematurely as a result of a steamboat collision on the Clyde, Frederic Lamond (1868-1948) lived a short walk from Eugen d’Albert in Glasgow and both of them became pupils of Liszt in Vienna. Lamond gained an international reputation as a concert pianist, especially as an interpreter of Beethoven. His only symphony, published in 1893, is reminiscent of both Brahms and Beethoven but with a distinct Scottish accent. It’s played here in great style by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, together with Lamond’s striking concert overture From the Scottish Highlands, which tells the poignant story of Quentin Durward’s Burgundian adventures. This lively and revealing album also features an exuberant Sword Dance from Lamond’s opera, A Life in the Scottish Highlands, as well as Eugen d’Albert’s intriguing Overture to Esther. The six times married d’Albert was also a fine concert pianist and his operas, especially Tiefland, became well-known throughout Europe.
GRIEG/DVORAK/ELGAR TELARC SACD-60623
The Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra, directed by the Dutch/South African conductor Conrad van Alphen, perform three wonderfully Romantic compositions: Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Dvorák’s Serenade for Strings in E major and Elgar’s intimate three-movement Serenade for Strings in E minor. Antonin Dvorak’s work was often influenced by folk music and his Serenade for Strings is an uncomplicated yet sophisticated composition. Grieg’s delightful suite ‘From Holberg’s time’ was written to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian-Danish metaphysician Ludvig Holberg. The excellent Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra was founded by Conrad van Alphen and the Japanese violinist Makiko Hirayama in the year 2000, and in addition to its own concert performances in Rotterdam, the Orchestra regularly plays in such renowned venues as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and Queen Elizabeth Hall in Antwerp. This outstandingly produced multi-channel surround SACD will play on all SACD and CD players, and the disc is also available in CD format (TELARC CD-80623).
SCHONBERG/STRAUSS - FRIEDER BERNIUS CARUS 83.198
This Frieder Bernius recording of instrumental music features Arnold Schoenberg’s late Romantic psychogram Transfigured Night (in the version for string orchestra) and Metamorphoses by Richard Strauss. In Transfigured Night, Schoenberg drew directly on the earlier tone poems of Strauss and wrote that musically he wanted to limit himself to ‘represent nature and to express human feelings’. The subject of this programme music is the poem ‘Verklärte Nacht’ by Richard Dehmel, one of Germany’s finest lyric poets before the First World War. The content of Strauss’ Metamorphoses represents an ‘inner programme’ that expresses a deep sadness, reflecting the composer’s own sadness over the destruction in the last years of the Second World War of those places where he had experienced his greatest artistic triumphs. Frieder Bernius, conducting the Accademia d’Archi Bolzano, admirably recreates the original stylistic character of the music.
AFTER WORK HOUR, VOLS. 1, 2 & 3 BERLIN CLASSICS 0182712ART/ 0182722ART/ 0182732ART
These three new ART compilations feature music designed to help you switch off after work and recharge your batteries. The titles of each CD have been carefully chosen to complement each other and open up the listener’s senses to appreciate classical music. The wide range of composers here include Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Grieg, Ravel (Pavane pur une Infante defunte), Sibelius, Verdi (la Traviata), Beethoven, Bizet (the Intermazzo from L’Arlesienne Suite), Mussorgsky, Satie (Gymnopedie No. 3), Debussy (Claire de lune), Tchaikovsky (Valse from Symphony No. 5), Franck and Granados (Andaluza). This is an enjoyable and gentle introduction to the pleasures of classical music.
MAX D’OLLONE - SYMPHONIC MUSIC CLAVES CD 50-2301
This welcome CD features premiere recordings of the some of the most important works for orchestra by Max d’Ollone (1875 –1959), who is better known as the composer of eleven operas, sacred and secular cantatas, and a large number of songs. The three-movement structure of Le Ménétrier, with its solo violin part, is reminiscent of a concerto but d’Ollone described it as a ‘symphonic poem in three parts with a solo violin’. Lamento is a meticulously orchestrated work with wonderfully melodic lines and delicate harmonies. The Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra is forceful and majestic, reminiscent of Saint-Saëns in its monumental, grandiloquent finale. This CD also features a short chamber music work, the Andante and Scherzo for Three Cellos. The soloists are Mark Kaplan (violin) and François-Joël Thiollier (piano), with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Foster. These are powerful performances of richly lyrical music that is both emotionally expressive and technically impeccable.