Classical, July 2022

hfnalbum.pngOslo Philharmonic/Klaus Mäkelä
Sibelius: Symphonies 1-7, Tapiola, Three Fragments
Decca 4852256 (four discs; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

The new Finnish chief in Oslo may still be in his 20s, but this is a set to reckon with, bold and consciously rhetorical from the off. Quarantine studio conditions imposed a 1.5m distance between musicians which may account for some curious balances, remote brass and spotlit solo lines. Or it could be down to Mäkelä's expressionist foregrounding of detail even in the broad sweep of No 2. He's consistently sound on accumulating momentum – the lifeblood of this music – which makes its unpredictable loss at the end of No 4 and in the Seventh all the more disconcerting. Moulded cantabile phrasing and French-accented sonorities advance a strikingly different 'Finnish' Sibelius from Berglund and Vänskä. PQ

Peter Jablonski
Bacewicz: Piano Sonatas 1 & 2, 10 Concert Études
Ondine ODE1399-2 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Concise, virtuosic, Lisztian and often tumultuous: the piano music of Grażyna Bacewicz forms a missing link between the keyboard suites and dances of Bartók, and the Études by Ligeti. Bacewicz's Polish heritage comes to the fore in a spinning, extrovert Krakowiak. Her ten Concert Etudes also claim the heritage of Chopin, demanding and rewarding an intrinsically pianistic temperament despite the crunchy harmony. Jablonski is a fearsomely accomplished interpreter, and he gets to the dark heart of the imposing Second Sonata, which steps up the chromaticism, impressionism and fantasy of Szymanowski to new levels of intensity. Exhilarating. PQ

Fidelio Trio
Moeran: Piano Trio, Violin Sonatas
Resonus RES10296 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution

EJ Moeran deserves better than the label of another Anglo-Irish pastoralist. He collected as many folksongs and drank at least as heavily as his colleagues, but his chamber output does not waste notes or succumb to aimless rhapsody. The D major Piano Trio is the earliest, most expansive and sunniest work here, presented with winning passion by the Fidelio Trio. The Violin Sonata (1923) is an intricate, beautifully written conversation for contrasting characters, whereas the Sonata for Two Violins (1930) renews the Lark Ascending genre of violin writing in which the two instruments dance and swoop around each other. There's lovely, airy engineering here too. PQ


Chen Reiss; Jewish CO Munich/Daniel Grossmann
Fanny & Felix Mendelssohn: Lieder and Scenas
Onyx ONYX4231 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Stacking up Infelice!, Felix's take on the 'abandoned woman' concert-aria genre, against Fanny's version of the Hero and Leander legend (text by her husband and not, alas, Byron) produces a clear and perhaps unexpected winner. Fanny's feeling for text is more dramatic, her accompaniment more urgently responsive and darkly coloured, and Chen Reiss treasures each phrase like a pearl with superbly focused diction. An early version of the Hebrides Overture vindicates Felix's revision-mania. A bouquet of Lieder, stylishly orchestrated by Tal-Haim Samnon, presses Fanny's case as an inspired songwriter. PQ