Classical

Sort By: Post DateTitle Publish Date
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
A stirring (although not properly level-matched) Kingdom Prelude prefaces a midpriced version of the Violin Concerto altogether superior to the recent Znaider/Sony [HFN June]. Sir Mark Elder is flexible in the introduction and exposes unfamiliar details; the Hallé reveals a natural affinity with Elgar’s writing escaping their Dresden rivals; and Thomas Zehetmair has a searching command of the solo part. Competition here for the earlier, less indulgent Kennedy recording! As fillers we have the Gerontius Prelude and, sung by mezzo Alice Coote, ‘The Angel’s Farewell’ in a 1900 arrangement without chorus. Sound Quality: 85% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
One could say that the Janet Baker/Barbirolli EMI recording prompted reappraisal of the Sea Pictures, and this live alternative (first published in an earlier LPO set) is an affecting reminder of her unique vocal timbre and musical commitment. From the same 1984 RFH concert, taped by Capital Radio, the First Symphony finds Vernon Handley with ‘the bit between his teeth’, skimming 3m 30s from his 1979 CfP timing with the London Philharmonic, and missing in particular the tender inwardness of the Adagio. Other writers have welcomed this more bitter account; I stand by the 1956 Barbirolli/Hallé Elgar First [SJB1017]. Sound Quality: 70% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Boyd Neel was perhaps first (1936) to bring authenticity to Handel’s Op. 6 – Karajan (very late ’60s) being ‘last of the dinosaurs’. Period instruments are pretty well the only choice today, Pavlo Beznosiuk’s group proving eminently stylish, with good tempi, good balance and imaginative detail. Continuo is harpsichord; and Handel’s added wind parts for Nos.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Forget Deryck Cooke: it’s not what it says on the tin. For this overblown ‘life and death’ soundscape Matthew Herbert has sampled Sinopoli’s 1987 Philharmonia recording of the Tenth Adagio, layering and cutting into it with solo viola (flute, Mahler’s ‘singing bone’, would have been more apt) and ambient sounds at Mahler’s graveside and Toblach composing hut. Recordings were made from a hearse and inside a coffin and ‘we buried microphones in an urn’. Play the nine tracks out of sequence and the ‘unexpected artistic consequences’ are your own responsibility, it warns! Such pretentious indulgence ought to make this eligible for a Turner Prize.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
After finally being allowed to come to the West in 1960, Richter soon made LPs for CBS, RCA, DG, EMI and Philips. Extraordinary! His UK debut with Kondrashin was at the Albert Hall in July ’61 in Chopin, Dvorak and Liszt; the two Liszt Concertos (which you can find ‘live’, with the Hungarian Fantasy and Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise, on BBC Legends 4031-2) were then produced over three days at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, by a Mercury team. With more than nine hours of tape to hand, the pianist asked for a complete retake of the First Concerto, most of which was used for the edited master. The results subsequently have become the benchmark coupling.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
This retrospective – with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Young Person’s Guide in two versions; Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, Falstaff and Symphony 2; and Walton’s Symphony 1 – is almost entirely sourced from 1956 Westminster/Nixa stereo tapes. The one exception, an alternative YPG without narration, is taken from LP; the mono has Boult narrating. There’s a huge difference between the Walton here and Somm’s transfer from an inferior Pye LP reissue [HFN May ’10] – you’d hardly dream it was the same performance. Sound from the Walthamstow Hall is extraordinarily vivid and the Elgar Falstaff and Second Symphony are musically superb.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
A Festival Hall recording originally made by Tony Faulkner in Feb 1989, for what is now called Music Preserved, this was one of Klaus Tennstedt’s characteristic concert performances. And it is gratifying to see the transfer honouring Mahler’s wish for a break after (i), here spanning a considerable 25m. His highly individual response to the ‘Resurrection’ (some will say related to his awareness of mortality) is apparent from the beginning, and never diminishes, although the very deliberate second movt will not suit all tastes. The ‘Urlicht’ is beautifully sung and Yvonne Kenny’s later contribution no less considerable.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Founded by Czech refugee musicians in 1946, the Bamberg Orchestra has been working with its English conductor for a decade now, and they are part-way through a Mahler cycle. More akin to Bruno Walter’s than Georg Solti’s, Jonathan Notts’ ‘Resurrection’ proves more than the sum of its parts and is fascinatingly detailed. Climaxes sound huge, although the recording perhaps exaggerates the rawness of brass and the tenor voices. Lioba Braun’s ‘Urlicht’ suffices, but that’s all.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
These bracing readings differ only slightly from Sir Charles’s late-1980s Prague/Telarc set (same producer: James Mallinson), which had even more brio in some places: eg, the ‘Linz’ finale. And one irritating feature is repeated: the juxtaposing of both slow movements for the ‘Paris’, when by coupling 32 with ‘Haffner’ and ‘Linz’ (CD2), timings would have allowed complete alternate three-movement versions to avoid fiddling with programe remote. The playing of the SCO could not be more responsive, but there’s a schoolmasterly severity about Sir Charles’s Mozart – enough to send me scurrying to Pinnock’s warmer view. Sound Quality: 72% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
The frail Romanian pianist was not always so lucky with her recording conductors. In these 1955 reissues she is partnered by Ferenc Fricsay, a significant figure in the postwar DG catalogue. In an essay written shortly before his early death he described Mozart as ‘a golden-feathered messenger of God’. Haskil’s unerring, needle-sharp fingerwork suggests no less a messenger of this composer.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Daniel Harding stresses what he sees as Orff’s ‘monumentality’ – perhaps this prompted timings outstretching the composer-approved Jochum recording (same orchestra, 1968) by over 5m. It takes the fun out of a piece to which, in any case, the ‘law of diminishing returns’ applies. Orchestral precision is exceptional, however. The singing is best at the top of the scale: fine boys’ and women’s voices, a boyish soloist; the ‘roasted swan’ (Bunz) is arguably the finest yet, but Gerhaher’s sensitive work sounds monochrome and the men dry in this live recording.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Anyone present at either of the June 2008 Barbican performances edited here will not hesitate, yet a certain paradox might present itself to the disinterested listener. Haitink’s fastidious control and self-effacement, coupled with excellent orchestral playing, make for a fine presentation – of symphonic seriousness. But somehow it exposes Strauss’s lazy reliance on his motifs, the inherent schmalz, the ‘effects’ such as the water droplets: better placed in his Don Quixote capsized boat Variation. Somehow the Karajan Berlin or Dresden Luisi recordings mask the less attractive Straussian traits.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey prompted a flourish of LPs excerpting the timpani and organ pedal opening of Also Sprach. . . One wonders how many non-Straussians would stomach the whole Nietzschean epic! In fact, Karajan’s Decca version was used for the film.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
The Helsinki conductor, after ten years with the CBSO, has returned to his Nordic roots with appointments with the Finnish Radio SO and in Stockholm. These Schumann live performances, 2008/’09, equal the finest on disc: ie, Szell, Sawallisch. The orchestra sounds ‘right’ in scale and tone for this composer, playing beautifully for Orama, who brings euphoric brilliance to the ‘Spring’ Symphony’s scherzo and ideal pacing throughout the noble Second, with its returning motifs and (rather like the Allegretto in Beethoven’s Seventh) delightful little counterpoint section in the slow movement. The sound is natural, and one can only hope Symphonies 3 and 4 will appear.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
The Bach playing of Tatiana Nikoleyeva was the inspiration in 1950 for Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, and her two recordings inevitably are seen as definitive. (Nikoleyeva endeared herself to London audiences late in life; she also made several Hyperion discs. ) The young Moscow pianist provides a booklet overview of exceptional thoroughness, although the accompanying 23m DVD interview with a stubbly Andreas Staier gets us practically nowhere. Melnikov’s pianistic range, though, is something else.

Pages

X