CDs/DVDs January 2017

Bruckner: Symphony No 4
UNITEL 732508
Bruckner: Symphony No 6
UNITEL 738208
Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann

This is proving to be an excellent series, and if, as promised, it goes on to include the even rarer early symphonies it will prove to be invaluable. If the Fourth is more conventional in approach, its tonal qualities and masterly construction of long paragraphs is continually rewarding. The Sixth is another matter. Very rarely heard live, its starkly different tonal palette compared with his other symphonies is all the more compelling. It is surely more than the fact that the composer had been on an extended holiday before he composed the work. There is an openness of texture and a lightness of touch we find nowhere else. Perhaps it is time some of our own orchestras explored its very eal riches.


Joseph Beer: Polnische Hochzeit
Gartnerplatz Chorus and Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ulf Schirmer
CPO 555 059-2

Anyone who enjoys Lehar will be immediately attracted to this operetta from a composer who spanned virtually the whole of the twentieth century. The Polish Wedding was first seen in 1937, shortly after Lehar’s final work Giuditta. The story line may be conventional but the music has an unexpected freshness and vitality, aided I am sure by the recently reworked orchestral parts. Worth investigating.


Music from a Higher Sphere
Mahler: Symphony No 8
Arranged for organ and chorus by David Briggs

I have enjoyed David Briggs earlier forays into Mahler, and felt the arrangement of the Fifth Symphony was particularly impressive. Here I am not so sure. The Eighth relies heavily on its choral setting, where the orchestra supports and enhances the vocal line. On this occasion the organ does not seem to adequately fill out Mahler’s intentions. The acoustic in the Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York, does not help, and for much of the recording both the voices and organ seem distant. This may be a good souvenir of the live performance but it does little to enthuse this listener.


J P Sousa: Music for Wind Band – 16
Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Keith Brion
NAXOS 8.559746

This is a joy to listen to throughout.  The longest section is a selection from the operetta The Charlatan alongside which are ten other pieces, all equally endearing. How Sousa was constantly able to turn out so much wonderful music is a mystery, and the longer this series continues the more pleased I shall be.


J S Bach; Cantatas
Iestyn Davies, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

Three Cantatas – BWV 170; BWV 54; BWV82 – together with the Sinfonias from BWV 52 and 174, make this a fine collection and one which shows off Iestyn Davies continuing strengths as a counter-tenor of rare quality. These cantatas were written for boy altos rather than counter-tenor, which only goes to show the quality of voices Bach had at his disposal. The final cantata, Ich habe genug is also the most familiar, but listeners may be surprised by the sinfonia from BWV 174 which is arranged from the Third Brandenburg Concerto.


Rostropovich Encores
Alban Gerhardt, cello, Markus Becker, piano

A collection of encores may not seem the most obvious to issue as a single cd but given that these were pieces used by Mstislav Rostropovich puts them into an altogether different class. Alongside familiar pieces by Debussy and Rachmaninov are a number of pieces by Prokofiev as well as some by Rostropovich himself. All of which makes for an unexpectedly pleasing recording.


Hymnus: Music for Organ by Carson Cooman
Erik Simmons, 1787 Holzhey organ, St Peter & St Paul, Weissenau, Germany
DIVINE ART DDA 25147  66:00

Carson Cooman is a prolific composer and an organist in his own right, though here his works are performed by Erik Simmons on the fine late baroque organ in St Peter & St Paul, Weissenau. The cd is made up of a large number of short pieces, many of which were written in memory of friends or to commemorate specific individuals. As such the whole has a highly reflective character which is none the worse for that. The opening Haec Aeterna is typical of the cd as a whole, being a meditative postlude built around the Old Hundreth. Many of the pieces are in a similar vein, using familiar hymn tunes as the basis for more elaborate, though normally brief, compositions.

There are a few exceptions. Three Enigmas are just that – short pieces which explore harmonics rather than procure any narrative structure. As if to prove that he can provide more exhilarating scores, the cd concludes with a rousing Rondo Festivo.

Many of these pieces would sit comfortably within either a liturgical or concert format, and details of compositions and scores can be found on

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