Classical, April 2021

hfnalbum.pngChristine Rice, Stuart Skelton, BBC SO/Edward Gardner
Works by Fried and Schoenberg (Verklärte Nacht), Korngold and Lehár
Chandos CHSA5243 (SACD hybrid; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Sixteen years before Schoenberg completed his 'Transfigured Night' string sextet, Oskar Fried – mainly remembered for his 1924 Mahler 'Resurrection' 78s – set Dehmel's verses for two voices and orchestra. A late romantic piece of no discernible individuality, it has here some compelling singing by Christine Rice. The Schoenberg (eight tracks provided) is dramatically varied and distinguished by some really soft BBC SO string playing. But Korngold's four tenor Songs Of Farewell and the Lehár Fever are the real finds here: the latter, with obligatory waltz and even a Radetzky March quote, tells of a soldier in hospital! CB


Jerusalem Quartet
Bartók: String Quartets Nos 1, 3 and 5
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902240 (downloads to 44.1kHz/24-bit res)

With 2019 production in the Teldex Studios Berlin, this completes another accomplished Bartók cycle (the even-numbered 2-6 were issued in 2016 on HMC902235). The booklet succinctly traces the defining moments in these works: No 1 relating to his unrequited love for Stefi Geyer; No 3 with its innovative string-writing effects; and No 5 in palindrome form around the 'Alla bulgarese' scherzo. The Israeli players create a consistent smoothness (the cellist, incidentally, has Du Pré's cello on loan from Barenboim) and fluency – eg, transitioning easily in 5(v) between Bartok's changes of mood, like the 'girlish' episode for second violin. CB


LPO/Sir Adrian Boult
A Musical Legacy
LPO LPO0119 (five discs; downloads to 44.1kHz/24-bit resolution)
Bookended with Elgar – Symphony No 1 (HMV, 1949) and In the South (RFH, 1955)

– this extensive LPO set is part live, partly drawn from various LP catalogues, principally WRC's. Expertly remastered, it was compiled and issued last year as five download programmes. Besides the obvious English music examples (Garden Of Fand; Lark Ascending; Perfect Fool; Portsmouth Point; Shropshire Lad, etc) there are rarities like Bartók's MSPC and Beethoven's Eroica. But the selection equally shows Boult's mastery in lighter/unexpected fare: Delibes, the Dohnanyi Variations, Stravinsky's Circus Polka, Falla's 'Ritual Fire Dance' and Gershwin's Cuban Overture. CB


Oslo PO/Vasily Petrenko
Prokofiev: Symphony No 5 and Myaskovsky: Symphony No 21
LAWO Classics LWC1207 (downloads to 192kHz/24-bit resolution)

Two Stalin-era symphonies,1940/44, which could hardly be more contrasting. Unlike Prokofiev, Myaskovsky was a conformist, his music described by Richard Taruskin as 'simple, pretty and anodyne'. His short Symphony No 21 was a Chicago SO commission – a continuous piece with a touch of fugal writing and a nice fadeaway ending. After the 'Classical', No 5 is the most popular of Prokofiev's Symphonies and has almost invariably done well on records since the 1946 Koussevitsky. Beautifully recorded and played, Petrenko's only worries me when, in (ii), the 'grotesquely ponderous' episode seems overdone. CB