Classical, March 2022

hfnalbum.pngCleveland Orch/Franz Welser-Möst
Prokofiev: Sym No 2; Schnittke: Concerto for Pno and Strings
Cleveland Orchestra TCO0003 (SACD; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

This third album from the Cleveland Orchestra's own label maintains the superlative technical standards of the first two – if there are more immaculate orchestral recordings being made right now, I've yet to hear them. But is this machine-age early-Soviet symphony (1925)really cut out for first-class finesse? Welser-Möst makes the most persuasive case, both in his programme note here and his direction which picks out Russian Orthodox and contrapuntal paths through the factory-floor of acrid dissonance. Yefim Bronfman is the coolly self-effacing soloist in Schnittke's 1979 concerto, unifying its disparate Baroque, Romantic and modernist-industrial idioms with (to me) revelatory assurance. PQ


Shani Diluka
Hahn: Piano Concerto; Debussy, Fauré, Wagner, etc
Warner Classics 0190296676253 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

The French-trained, Sri Lankan pianist issues a gilt-edged invitation to a Proustian soirée with this admirably original concept album. Close engineering captures her breathing in the solo tracks, as if we were page-turning for her in the neo-Baroque rapture of a Franck Prélude and 'Orpheus's Lament' (Gluck/Kempff). Pierre Fouchenneret joins her for a putative 'Vinteuil Sonata' (the fictional violin sonata described in Swann's Way) of exquisite nostalgia compiled from vignettes by Hahn, Ysaÿe and Chaminade. Natalie Dessay drops in for a pair of Fauré chansons and Hervé Niquet directs a sensuously textured accompaniment to Hahn's Concerto, but it's Diluka's show. PQ


Ensemble Pro Victoria/Toby Ward
Fayrfax: Magnificat Regale, Salve Regina, etc
Delphian DCD34265 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Various 'Eton Choirbook' albums since the 1960s have restored Robert Fayrfax to his rightful place among the early-Tudor masters of polyphony. The anniversary of his death in 1521 is as good an excuse as any to dig deeper – aided by intrepid research and ingenious completions – beyond the beautifully planed surfaces of the Salve Regina and the mesmerising intricacy of the Magnificat Regale. Even madrigals such as 'That was my woo' share the extravagant complexity of sacred feats of virtuosity such as the closing Maria plena virtute. Toby Ward draws subtly inflected singing from his young mixed-voice ensemble in a warm, close-grained recording. PQ


Cecilia Bartoli; basel CO/TANG
Concert Arias: Beethoven, Myslivecek, Mozart, et al
Decca 485 2093 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Whatever hesitation lay behind the eight-year delay in releasing this studio recital of Classical-era heroines on the edge of a nervous breakdown, it finds Bartoli on polished form and home territory. Sesto's radiant farewell aria from Mysliveček's take on La Clemenza di Tito is an outlier but a gem all the same, sharing an ornate (uncredited) fortepiano part with Mozart's 'Ch'io mi scordi di te'. The contrast here with her first recording is striking, with charcoal rather than pencil-drawn expression and darker vocal colours in the new version. Beethoven's 'Ah! Perfido' teeters on self-parody, but overall she holds pathos and elegance in fine balance. PQ