CDs June 2022

ZIBUOKLE MARTINAITYTE – EX TENEBRIS LUX
PAVEL GIUNTER, percussion ROKAS VAITKEVICIUS, cello
LITHUANIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, KAROLIS VARIAKOJIS, conductor
ONDINE ODE 1403-2  75’16

This is the second release from Ondine of works by Zibuokle Martinaityte, here focussing on works for strings. Born in Lithuania and now living in New York, it is possible to draw parallels in her writing with Eastern European independent thinkers Arvo Part and Henryk Gorecki. Despite the limited resources there is much variety in timbre and the slow moving, gradually unfolding music still has moments of surprise and heightened intensity. The opening piece, Nunc fluens. nunc stans., was written in 2020 as a direct response to the pandemic. The title roughly translates “the now that passes creates time; the now that remains creates eternity”. The work from which the CD takes its title was written slightly later, completed in 2021, is also written as a response to Covid -19. The final work, Sielunmaisema (“Soul-landscape, a particular place that a person carries deep in the heart and returns to often in memory”) was written in 2019 and is the longest work here. It reflects on the passing of the year, with four season-inspired movements.

UN MILAGO DE FE – A MIRACLE OF FAITH
MUSIC BY BEATRIZ BILBAO, ARIEL RAMIREZ, MARY LOU WILLIAMS
& OSVALDO GOLIJOV
BORDER CROSSING choir & instrumental ensembles
AHMED ANZALDUA, conductor
BRIDGE 9568  59’57

This is a very well thought out presentation of music of faith from Latin America. There are some really exuberant moments as well as some more reflective passages and many contrasting sounds from voices, percussion, piano and string bass. I found the whole CD quite energising and loved the blending of the now well-known Misa Criolla (-Ramirez) with Mary Lou Williams’ St Martin de Porres, two pieces by Osvaldo Golijov and the no-holds barred Fiesta de San Juan by Beatriz Bilbao which opens the CD.

JAMES KALLENBACH – ANTIGONE
The Writings of Sophie Scholl & the White Rose Movement
LORELEI ENSEMBLE
BETH WILLER, conductor
NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS FCR333  36’42

It took me a while to appreciate the concept and structure of this new choral work. Having done so I can see how well crafted it is. The blending of the ancient Greek drama – Sophocles’ Antigone with the words of Sophie Scholl, writing as a nonviolent resistance campaigner in Germany during the 2nd World War in new choral settings by James Kallembach is very effective. The voices blend very well and the whole presentation is superb. I intend now to spend more time with text and recording as well as perhaps doing a little historical research in order to gain a greater understanding of the source material and the timeless message they contain.

OPALESCENT
LOS ANGELES GUITAR QUINTET
LAGQ RECORDS LAGQ 0322  57’25

A gently arresting release of music that can transport the listener to other realms! Like the ‘thin places’ to be found in the landscape this music seems to point to more profound realities and this is reflected in many of the titles here, by a number of contemporary composers. Beginning with Andrew York’s Hidden Realm of Light and including Aerial Boundaries by Michael Hedges there are also works by Kevin Callahan, Frederic Hand and Robert Beaser. The whole. Project centres around two works by Philip Houghton – Opals and Wave Radiance. Tilman Hoppstock’s Suite Transcendent completes the programme. Beautiful.

MY LAI  – Music – JONATHAN BERGER  Libretto – HARRIET SCOTT CHESSMAN
KRONOS QUARTET
VAN-ANH VANESSA VO, t’rung, dan bau, dan tranh
RINDE ECKERT, vocalist
SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS SFW CD 40251

Written 50 years after the tragic events in Vietnam this opera looks back through the eyes of heroic American helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson jr, who intervened to try to stop the American massacre of innocent people. as he is dying of cancer in 2005. This is a remarkable piece of music and drama, allowing the enormity and the far-reaching imact of the tragedy to be displayed. Blending traditional Vietnamese compositional styles and instrumentation with western opera as well as material from the Jewish Kaddish and the traditional spiritual My Lord, what a morning, this is a moving, deeply spiritual piece. It tells of the horror of war, the inhumanity shown to many on the one hand and the bravery and rightness of an individual who will take a stand for justice and compassion. The juxtaposition of elements of a gameshow serve as a jarring indictment of the events that took place. A fine recording and wonderful presentation with extensive booklet notes including much historical background material including a complete list of names as a memorial for each of the 504 people killed in the My Lai massacre. Profoundly moving.

SOLUS ET UNA
AMIT PELED, cello
MOUNT VERNON VIRTUOSI CELLO GANG
ALLISON FREEMAN, piano
CTM CLASSICS

The Bach cello suites have a very special spacious quality which has ensured that performers and listeners return to them again and again. It is always good to hear fresh performances as these recently recorded and released by Amit Peled. As with a number of other recent CDs in the sleeve notes there is mention of that yearning for going beyond ourselves to find something bigger, something more, the source of inspiration and resilience. The two solo (Solus) items here are the Cello Suites No 4 in E flat major and No 5 in C minor. Included after these is the Una  – a recording of Amit Peled with his cello ensemble and an arrangement for 8 cellos and piano of the Andante from Brahms’ Symphony No 3.

THE POOR BRANCH  – 19TH C GUITAR MUSIC BY IVAN KLINGER
JAMES AKERS, guitar
RESONUS RES10302  64’18

This release of premiere recordings of guitar music by Klinger (1818-1897) is lovely. There is a timeless quality to the sounds of a solo guitar and here, in original compositions and arrangements, this music, from an area now part of Ukraine, this music from a relatively obscure composer has been given new life by James Akers who seems very at home with it. An enjoyable release.

THESE DISTANCES BETWEEN US – 21st  C SONGS OF LONGING
MUSICAL SETTINGS BY BRANDWEIN, HILL, RUDMAN AND SANTORE
EMILY JAWORSKI KORIATH, mezzo, TAD KORIATH, piano
JONATHAN SANTORE & CRAIG BRANDWEIN, computer generated electronics
NAXOS 8.559908  64’52

Part of the Naxos American Classics strand this is a fascinating compilation of songs from from four contemporary American composers of texts by varied authors including Amy Lowell, John Charles McNeill, Sulpicia & Rilke. There is well developed rapport between the performers and Emily’s wider work includes specialism in electro-acoustic music for voice which is represented by the additional electronics provided by two of the composers. A welcome addition to recordings of this developing repertoire.

FERNANDO LOPES-GRACA: DIVERTIMENTO – SINFONIETA – CINCO VELHOS ROMANCES PORTUGUESES – QUATRO INVENCOES
PORTUGUESE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, BRUNO BORRALHINHO, conductor
NAXOS 8.574373  63’25

This bold, inventive music sounds fresh and invigorating in this latest release of the Portuguese composer’s work. There is much variety of orchestration and rhythm throughout. The performances of each of these four medium length pieces bring much to enjoy.

ADOLF BARJANSKY – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS  2
JULIA SEVERUS, piano
GRAND PIANO GP881 64’11

I continue to really enjoy these single composer volumes from Grand Piano. Here is mostly virtuoso music in the 2nd volume of Odessan late 19th century composer Adolf Barjansky. Writing in late romantic style, this is music written on a grand scale, much of it not for the feint-hearted as piano and performer are given a good work out in inventive music that is often lively and with much depth. Piano Sonatas 2 & 3 are linked with his Moderato.

TAKASHI YOSHIMATSU – PIANO WORKS FOR THE LEFT HAND
YUMIKO OSHIMA-RYAN, piano
NAXOS 8.579121  51’31

The world of one handed piano music is a very inspiring place indeed. It never ceases to amaze me how listening to some of this repertoire, born out of adversity, it is often impossible to tell that only one hand is being used. Here we have some very contrasting music written by contemporary Japanese composer which spans the sound reminiscent of reflective film scores to rock, blues, tango and boogie-woogie. A great set of recordings of wonderful performances of this rarefied music that deserves to be heard and recognised more widely.

TAN DUN – PIANO MUSIC
RALPH VAN RAAT, piano
NAXOS  8.570621  73’06

This is a very welcome release of music which is influenced by both Chinese and Western musical traditions, more recent musical developments and older traditions. Blue Orchid is a variation on Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. The Film Music Sonata uses the composer’s own material for the soundtrack to the film, The Banquet. The Fire and Traces together show very different approaches to composition, one being a very virtuosic piece, the other making much use of silence. Tan Dun’s tribute to his teacher, C-A-G-E (In Memory of John Cage) makes references back to the timbres of the prepared piano and the opening work Eight Memories in Watercolour is a series of miniatures based on elements of the natural world and our place within it. A lovely collection.

ALAN HOVHANESS – PIANO WORKS VOL 2
ALESSANDRA POMPILI, PIANO
DYNAMIC CDS7946  56’08

The subtitle to this volume is “Journeying over land and through space” and all the pieces here are evocations of particular places with some very distinctive sounds reflecting different traditions. The three longest works are Komachi (evoking natural sounds of Japan), the premiere recording of Greek Rhapsody No 1 and Sonata: Journey to Arcturus. Hovhaness’ orchestral music is much more widely known than his piano repertoire so it is good to have this 2nd volume available now.

SELIM PALMGREN – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS 5
JOUNI SOMERO, piano
GRAND PIANO GP908  78’07

This survey of Palmgren’s piano music continues with another release of neglected gems in a variety of styles and moods. A number of the pieces here are recorded for the first time including the opening Exotisk Marsch with its evocation of things ‘oriental’. Lots to explore and enjoy.

TREVOR DUNCAN – BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC 8
SLOVAK RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, ANDREW PENNY, conductor
NAXOS 8.555192  68’27

I have made no secret of really enjoying previous volumes of this series from Naxos. Trevor Duncan was another prolific composer of so-called light music but is known today almost exclusively for his A Little Suite, which became well-known as the the source of the theme tune for the television series Dr Finlay’s Casebook. It is included here alongside many lesser known but equally well crafted pieces where melody is always to the fore. Encore!

BORIS LYATOSHYNSKY – COMPLETE SYMPHONIES
UKRAINIAN STATE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, THEODORE KUCHAR, conductor
NAXOS 8.503303 (3 CDs) 188’20

A timely release of these repackaged recordings from the 90s here we have the complete symphonies of the composer regarded as the father of 20th century Ukrainian music. In these times of war there is rightly a focus on the culture of this country. This is substantial music which was written at a time when it was often difficult to speak with an original voice. Lyatoshynsky’s work brought him into conflict with the authorities. There is much emotion and variety of colour in this music which straddles later romantic and modernist movements. An important release which reminds us of our often limited knowledge of musical geography.

SP

CDs May 2022

CARL VINE – COMPLETE PIANO SONATAS
XIAOYA LIU, piano
DYNAMIC CDS7931 69’56

A “full-on” contemporary experience is guaranteed with this CD which contains the composer’s four Piano Sonatas, written between 1990 and 2019. Mostly dense, exuberant, extrovert writing, with some more restrained passages, they are brought to life in these committed performances from Xiaoya Liu. World premiere recordings.

MANUEL MARIA PONCE – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS 3
ALVARO CENDOYA, piano
GRAND PIANO GP772 69’25

According to the notes Manuel Ponce was a leading light in Mexican nationalist music. These are lovely performances of music which is sometimes lyrical, sometimes more rhythmic and virtuosic. His music shows varied influences from the Western Romantic pianistic tradition to local folk and dance music. The CD presents these works, from the first four decades of the 20th Century, in a well balanced programme.

SELIM PALMGREN – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS 4
JOUNI SOMERO, piano
GRAND PIANO GP907 72’39

Jouni Somero continues this survey of a rather neglected late 19th/20th Century composer who was a student of Busoni. It is lovely to hear these pieces freshly presented in fine new performances. There is a range of colour and expression here in music that takes up the batons of both the Romantic and Impressionist movements and also draws on jazz and folk influences. Alongside a number of miniatures are several more extended works including Nocturne in 3 Scenes, 3 Fantasies and Triptych.

CAMARGO GUARNIERI – CHOROS 2
SAO PAULO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA & SOLOISTS
ROBERTO TIBIRICA, conductor
NAXOS 8.574403 70’13

Naxos’ Music of Brazil strand continues with this 2nd volume of Choros (concertos) highlighting in turn clarinet, piano, viola and cello. Alongside these four works is Flor de Tremembe, which has some similarities in compositional style. This is mostly infectious, spirited music. It is a delight to listen to this programme of pieces which deserve to be so much more widely known.

LORD BERNERS – SONGS + PIANO MUSIC
IAN PARTRIDGE, tenor
LEN VORSTER, piano
NAXOS 8.554475 51’45

There is a lightness and playfulness to much of this highly individual composer’s work as demonstrated in the opening Polka. An immediate contrast is to be found in his Lieder Album- Three Songs in the German manner which combine a surprisingly percussive piano part with the lyrical vocal line which at times verges on the atonal. There is much humour but of a more cerebral kind! A welcome and highly entertaining release from these two able performers.

ROBERT DOCKER – 3 CONTRASTS – BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC 7
WILLIAM DAVIES, piano. DAVID PRESLEY, oboe
RTE CONCERT ORCHESTRA, BARRY KNIGHT, conductor
NAXOS 8.574322 74’38

This disc highlights the work of a prolific composer in this genre. These are re-released recordings from 1995 but none the worse for that! There is a fresh feel to this music, rich in melody and with inventive orchestration. Opening with perhaps Docker’s most famous piece, Legend, other highlights are the Three Contrasts of the title, the Pastiche Variations and the contrasting Air. A lovely release.

ARNOLD SCHOENBERG – STRING QUARTETS
GRINGOLTS QUARTET
BIS-2567 79’31

Of the two Quartets performed here, No 1 is the most accessible for the general listener. No 3 is more angular and less melodic but the medium of the string quartet still makes for an ‘easier’ sound than the composer’s music for other forces. Fresh recordings from this well balanced group make for a very welcome release.

SAMUEL BARBER – THE COMPLETE SONGS
FLEUR BARRON, MARY BEVAN, SAMANTHA CLARKE, JESS DANDY, LOUISE KEMENY,
SORAYA MAFI, JULIEN VAN MELLAERTS, DOMINIC SEDGWICK, NICKY SPENCE,
WILLIAM THOMAS, soloists
NAVARRA STRING QUARTET
DYLAN PEREZ, piano
RESONUS RES10301 (2CDs) 80’26

A brilliant production from Resonus collecting the whole of Barber’s song settings, performed by a variety of singers, with many familiar names, ably assisted throughout by pianist Dylan Perez. Many of these songs will be unfamiliar, some recorded for the first time.

SP

CDs April 2022

BACH INSPIRED
THE BACH CHOIR
FAUST CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
DAVID HILL, conductor
STONE 5060192781182  33’57

This is a fascinating and very enjoyable release. The Bach Choir, obviously very at home with the original material here give fine performances of a musical response to the limitations of the lockdown. Six composers were asked to select a chorale from the St Matthew Passion and create a new work to sit alongside it. The juxtaposition of the new and the old works very well. It is to be hoped that this new sequence may gain a place in the regular repertoire. The composers are Charlotte Harding, Carmen Ho, Gavin Higgins, Des Oliver, Heloise Werner and James B Wilson.

PHILIP WILBY – AN ENGLISH PASSION ACCORDING TO ST MATTHEW
BELFAST CATHEDRAL CHOIR & SOLOISTS
MATTHEW OWENS, CONDUCTOR
RESONUS RES10298 67’44

Recent times have seen Matthew Owens very actively building on the musical tradition of Belfast Cathedral. Alongside music in the liturgy there have been several recordings featuring the choir and organ. Here is a very interesting disc featuring fine recordings of recent repertoire from Philip Wilby. In his new Passion (written for the cathedral) the composer effectively sets English hymn tunes found in the English Hymnal of 1906 in the manner that Bach and others used the Lutheran chorale melodies, well known in their time and place. Also included on the CD are a setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, God’s Grandeur and The Knaresborough Setting of the evening canticles, written for St John the Baptist Church in that town.

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS – ON WENLOCK EDGE/FOUR HYMNS/THE HOUSE OF LIFE
NICKY SPENCE, tenor,  JULIUS DRAKE, piano, TIMOTHY RIDOUT, viola
PIATTI QUARTET
HYPERION CDA68378 69’50 

A lovely release to coincide with Vaughan Williams’ 150th anniversary. Each of the works here in their own way are representative of the pastoral-spiritual ‘English’ idiom with which we associate him. For contrast there are also three more secular offerings of folk song settings including The saucy bold robber.  Fine performances throughout of perhaps less familiar works.

XIAOGANG YE – SEVEN EPISODES FOR LIN’AN
VARIOUS SOLOISTS
DEUTSCHE STAATSPHILHARMONIE RHEINLAND-PFALZ
STEPHAN MALZEW & FRANK OLLU, conductors
NAXOS 8.579088  73’04

Another release of music from this prolific contemporary Chinese composer brings evocations of the people and places of that country. The main work here sets ancient Chinese texts and perhaps more so than the orchestral pieces shows more of a meeting of east and west. Twilight in Tibet and Tianjin Suite, both orchestral, paint vivid pictures of two very different locations. A lovely recording of world premieres.

GEORGIOS AXIOTIS – A LOVE TRILOGY – SYMPHONIC IMPRESSIONSNEW FESTIVAL OPERA-SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA SOFIA,
BYRON FIDETZIS, conductor
NAXOS 8.574353  77’43

I haven’t heard music from this composer before. Part of Naxos’ Greek Classics series this is a very interesting release of mainly very lyrical music, mostly premiere recordings. The Love Trilogy is the longest work here. Axiotis wanted to preserve a distinctive national flavour to his music but writes in a variety of styles. Remembrance of a Ball for instance has a distinctly “light music” feel to it in comparison. Also included are Sunset, Prelude & Fugue, Lyrical Intermezzo and Like a Game.

MARGARET BROUWER – REACTIONS – SONGS & CHAMBER MUSIC
SARAH BEATY, mezzo-soprano, BRIAN SKOOG, tenor,
MARI SATO, narrator & violin
ELIESHA NELSON, viola, SHUAI WANG, piano
NAXOS 8.559904  56’00

This is a very interesting release, from another prolific composer, well known in their own country but perhaps less so further afield, this time in the American Classics strand. These are all recent works, written as a response to particular situations including the Covid-19 pandemic. As well as intensity and emotion there is also humour to be found, as in the work All lines are still busy – responding to being placed on hold during a telephone call. Rhapsodic Sonata, the longest work here, begins the CD. Declaration (2005) is the oldest work.

JENO TAKACS – PIANO CONCERTO – RHAPSODY FOR VIOLIN
NINA KARMON, violin, OLIVER TRIENDL, piano
GEORGIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA INGOLSTADT,
EVAN-ALEXIS CHRIST, conductor
CAPRICCIO C5438  65’59

Takacs lived from 1902 – 2005. During that time he witnessed many seismic changes in the world including the shifting of his place of birth from being in Hungary to Austria. He was widely influenced by different cultures as well as his own and took pride in being someone who developed and changed as he continued to write. Also included on this CD are Serenade after ancient Contredanses from Graz, Passacaglia for Strings and Three Pieces for Strings. A great introduction to this composer.

MASTER & PUPIL –
EXPLORING THE INFLUENCES & LEGACY OF CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI
SESTINA MUSIC, MARK CHAMBERS, conductor
INVENTA INV1007  71’18

This is a very interesting production highlighting the way that composers leave a legacy to be continued and developed by their students. Sestina Music have a similar approach to with more experienced musicians acting as mentors to the younger generation. Vocal music from Josquin and the two Gabrielis are placed here with Monteverdi alongside lesser known composers including Jaques de Wert and Giovanni Rigatti.

TWO CLASSIC POLITICAL FILM SCORES
REVUELTAS – REDES & COPLAND – THE CITY
POSTCLASSICAL ENSEMBLE, ANGEL GIL-ORDONEZ, conductor
NAXOS 8.574350  68’27

Although never intended to be listened to in this way these scores make for very enjoyable listening. World premiere recordings, these are fine reconstructions which have already featured on DVD releases. I am unfamiliar with Revueltas but The City has moments that chime with other music by Copland.

JOHANN LUDWIG KREBS – KEYBOARD WORKS VOL 2
STEVEN DEVINE, harpsichord
RESONUS RES10300  77’17

You know that with Steven Devine baroque keyboard music is in good hands. Here is volume 2 in the Resonus series. Here we have fine performances of three longer works: Overture ‘ nach dem Franzoischen Gout’, Partita in B flat major and Sonata in A minor.

SONGS OF ELIZABETH MACONCHY & RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
VOL 1
JAMES GEER, tenor, RONALD WOODLEY, piano
RESONUS RES10299  66’15

At first glance this may seem a strange pairing but Maconchy was a student of Vaughan Williams. Two very different styles sit together her, but both develop the British song tradition. I love the concept of this release and hope that, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of RVW’s birth those already drawn to his music may discover something of the beauty of Maconchy’s settings and that her music will become more widely known. What will volume 2 bring?

READY OR NOT
PALAVER STRINGS
AZICA ACD-71342 c55’

This is a very welcome release. Unusual repertoire, all written by women and assured performances from this ensemble. The title of the CD refers to the fact that women have been writing music for centuries, whether audiences, performers and compilers of the repertoire are prepared to acknowledge this. Ranging from the 16th Century to the present day the programme includes a range of styles and genres including jazz and folk influences alongside more traditional ‘classical’ forms. An arrangement of Barbara Strozzi’s  Lagrime mie sits alongside Fear the Lamb by Akenya Seymour reflecting on the life and tragic death of Emmett Till. Grazyna Bacewicz’ Concerto for String Orchestra makes a powerful opening statement. A set of three contemporary fiddle tunes by Liz Knowles and Elizabeth Mooreends the CD in lighter vein. Very enjoyable.

RAUTAVAARA – LOST LANDSCAPES: WORKS FOR VIOLIN & ORCHESTRA
SIMONE LAMSA, violin
MALMO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, ROBERT TREVINO, conductor
ONDINE  ODE 1405-2  57’32

There is a transcendent intensity to Rautavaara’s music which is heightened by this writing for strings.  All of the music here is relatively recent, the earliest from 2005, but here rearranged for these forces. Lost Landscapes, Fantasia, In the Beginning and Deux Serenades (completed by Kalevi Aho, after the composer’s death) are the four works here. Music to be immersed in and a fitting presentation of some of Rautavaara’s last work.

SANDRO FUGA – PIANO SONATAS 1-3
GIACOMO FUGA, CARLOTTA FUGA & CLAUDIO VOGHERA, piano
NAXOS 8.579110  71’54

Italian composer Sandro Fuga’s work draws on classical forms and influences and pushes forward, negotiating the more extreme paths of the 20th Century and remaining rooted in traditional harmony. The three works here are regarded as the high point of his writing for the piano. The CD has additional interest from the involvement of two of his children.

GERMAINE TAILLEFERRE – HER PIANO WORKS, REVIVED – 1
NICOLAS HORVATH, piano
GRAND PIANO GP891 83’21

This is the first of three volumes which seek to highlight the output of the only female member of Les Six. Many of the pieces here are short but no less interesting for that. Alongside many original works are some reworkings of older French classical music. The whole series promises to be very rewarding with Nicolas Horvath’s performances being highly praised by the composer’s granddaughter.

RECORDED RARITIES FROM MELODIYA
DAVID OISTRAKH, violin
ALEXANDER GOLDENWEISER & ZARA LEVINA, piano
BIDDULPH 85013-2

Here is another release of historic recordings, from the 1940s and 1950s. The unaccompanied Bach Violin Sonata No 1 in G minor begins the CD alongside two accompanied Sonatas by Medtner and Levina.

SATIE – PIANO MUSIC VOL 5 – ESOTERIK SATIE
NORIKO OGAWA, piano
BIS 2345 76’04

Satie was a fascinating figure, his music crossing several genres. This CD has collected some of the music, perhaps regarded as more obscure, which relates to his spiritual interests. Although perhaps a rather heavy listen in one sitting there is much of interest here and it is particularly good to have this curated selection. Committed performances from Noriko Ogawa on a historically appropriate instrument.

20TH CENTURY FOXTROTS – 4
GOTTLIEB WALLISCH, piano
GRAND PIANO GP855 75’21

I am continuing to really enjoy this series which highlights jazz-inspired piano music from the early 20thCentury. A number of world premiere recordings are included here in this disc which features music from France and Belgium. Wonderful music, beautifully played. I hope there will be more.

ALBERT SCHNELZER – A FREAK IN BURBANK
– CHAMBER & ORCHESTRAL WORKS
ILYA GRINGOLTS, violin, JAKOB KORANYI, cello
HENRIK MAWE & DAVID HUANG, piano
VASTERAS SINFONIETTA, SIMON CRAWFORD-PHILLIPS, conductor
BIS 2483 77’34

Released in his 50th year this CD is an excellent showcase for Swedish composer Albert Schnelzer. The sheer variety of music included here perhaps reflects his eclectic influences gained from experience in the classical and rock worlds. Throughout the disk there is a huge amount of vitality and diversity of colour. The title track, for orchestra, is one of the composer’s most performed pieces. Dance with the Devil, for solo piano, which follows, is an extremely extrovert piece – a fantastic performance from Henrik Mawe. Burn my letters is a more reflective chamber orchestra piece. All the music here was written in the last 22 years. Excellent!

SP

CDs MARCH 2022

LULLY & OTHERS– LE MANUSCRIT DE MADAME THEOBON
CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET, harpsichord
APARTE LES TALENS LYRIQUES AP256 122’ (2CDs)

This beautifully produced set features harpsichord music from the performer’s own private collection. A recently discovered manuscript – belonging to one of Louis XIV’s mistresses – it contains music mostly by Lully and some contemporaries and includes some previously unknown works. The harpsichord dates from 1704.

TENEBRAE RESPONSORIES FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY
THE GESUALDO SIX, OWAIN PARK, director
HYPERION CDA68348 70’30

Owain Park’s Gesualdo Six have quickly established themselves as specialists with this early vocal repertoire. As with their previous recordings we have exquisite performances grounded in sound historical research. Two sets of Lamentations of Jeremiah by Tallis are paired with the Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday by Gesualdo himself. The programme is enhanced by the inclusion of two complimentary 21st century works by Judith Bingham and Joanna Ward.

ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD – COMPLETE INCIDENTAL MUSIC
HANS JORG MAMMEL, tenor. EKKEHARD ABELE, narrator/voice
HOLST-SINFONIETTA CHORUS, HOLST-SINFONIETTA, KLAUS SIMON, conductor
NAXOS 8.573355 64’36

Known primarily for his film scores, but also for some orchestral music, this CD highlights his earlier work with music from Much ado about nothing and The Vampire both dating from around 100 years ago. The concert version of The Vampire has been arranged as a concert version and the narration is in German. Fascinating!

JOHANN BAPTIST VANHAL – SYMPHONIES VOL 5
CZECH PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA PARDUBICE, MICHAEL HALASZ, conductor
NAXOS 8.574305 79’12

A contemporary of Haydn, Vanhal’s music is relatively unknown now but was apparently known in England before the symphonies of Haydn. It is good to have this once popular music being made available again in these premiere recordings. Three Symphonies are included alongside the Oboe Concertino in G major.

MUZIO CLEMENTI – KEYBOARD SONATAS, Op 1 Nos 1,2,4,5, Op 10 Nos 2&3, Op 12 Nos 2&3
HYEJIN KIM, piano
NAXOS 8.574171 85’57

There is so much more to Clementi than his well loved Sonatinas. This programme shows the development of Clementi’s style from the earlier Op 1 Sonatas to the Op 10 &12, written 12 or more years later. An enjoyable collection of this early English piano repertoire.

GEORGE WALKER – FIVE PIANO SONATAS
STEVEN BECK, piano
BRIDGE 9554 53’13

George Walker’s music is having a little more exposure of late. Whilst a number of CDs containing a range of his music are commercially available it is good to have a release that presents these five Piano Sonatas together in fresh recordings by Steven Beck. Written over a period of fifty years and arranged chronologically this is a fascinating document of this composer’s work in this particular genre.

THE BLACK ON WHITE ALBUM
HELGE IBERG, piano
NXN 1006

I enjoyed this so much. Norwegian pianist Helge Iberg has created these beautiful re-workings (not just arrangements) of twelve well-loved Beatles songs. Here jazz and classical inspiration meets with simple heartfelt melody. Enjoyable as new music in its own right but if by some small chance (!) you also happen to know the songs on which these are based…
I’m sure this CD will be a hit!

ALFONS SZCZERBINSKI – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS -2
GIORGIO KOUKL, piano
GRAND PIANO GP884 61’52

It is incredible that there is still so much piano repertoire to discover. I have to confess to never having heard of this 19th Century composer. Influences of his fellow countryman, Chopin, can sometimes be heard in the grander moments, beginning with the Polonez in B flat major. Two sets of Variations sit alongside a number of shorter works. Each track is a world premiere recording and there is some beautiful music to discover here.

NOSTALGIA
KORROS ENSEMBLE
CONVIVIUM CR071 59’

This CD takes the listener into a rarefied soundworld of flute, clarinet and harp. Alongside three works by Elizabeth Poston (including Trio for Flute, Clarinet and Harp and Three Pieces for Flute & Harp are Howard Blake’s Trio and Pennillion. There are also pieces by Nick Ellis, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Catrin Finch. As the CD title would suggest this is music that looks back to earlier influences in a pastoral style but with contemporary freshness. Lovely.

DAVID NADIEN PLAYS SCHUBERT, FRANCK & DEBUSSY
DAVID NADIEN, violin DAVID HANCOCK, piano
BIDDULPH 85012-2

The first of two re-releases of historic recordings here from Biddulph, these 1958 performances by popular violinist David Nadien were originally produced on the Monitor label. Originally a mono record, it was soon re-released in stereo and features Violin Sonatas by Franck and Debussy, Schubert’s Fantasy in C & Rondo brilliant in B together with short pieces by Faure and Ravel.

AMERICAN ART QUARTET PLAY HAYDN, MOZART & BEETHOVEN
AMERICAN ART QUARTET (with BENNY GOODMAN, clarinet)
BIDDULPH 85011-2

I was drawn to this when I saw that Benny Goodman was featured on the recording of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto but I suppose I imagined there would be some hint of his jazz style – not a bit, this is a very straight recording. I suppose it is interesting to hear a different side to this musician but I have to admit I was disappointed! Also included are Haydn’s String Quartet in D “Lark” and Beethoven’s String Quartet in E flat “Harp”.

CLAUDIO SANTORO – SYMPHONIES NO 5 & 7 ‘BRASILIA’
GOIAS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
NEIL THOMSON, conductor
NAXOS 8.574402 70’58

A new release in Naxos’ relatively new “Music of Brazil” series, here are two works by prolific 20th Century Brazilian composer, Claudio Santoro. Something of a contrast the first of the two symphonies here, No 5, draws on Brazilian folk tunes. The second is much more modernistic, celebrating the new capital of the country, Brasilia. Another world to explore!

VIERNE & SAINT-SAENS – HARMONIUM VS ORGAN
GUILIO MERCATI, Debain harmonium (1852) & Mascioni organ, Lugano Cathedral
DYNAMIC CDS7924.02 (2CDs) 62’29 & 61’38

This is a lovely production. Fine recordings with the first disc featuring Saint-Saens’ 3 Morceaux and Vierne’s 24 Pieces en style libreBook 1 on harmonium and Book 2 of the same on the second disc, this time on the organ. It is lovely to be able to compare and contrast the two instruments in this way. In my opinion there are certainly not enough readily availabl recordings of the harmonium so it is good to have this new release presented in this way.

AUGUSTE FAUCHARD – COMPLETE ORGAN WORKS
FRIEDRICH FLAMME, Schuke organ, Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche, Detmold, Germany
CPO 555 506-2 (3CDs) 197’13

Born in 1881, Auguste Fauchard continued the French symphonic tradition regarded to be founded by Widor. This is exciting music on a grand scale but very much remaining in the soundworld of the romantic era. Largely unknown today it is good to have this release to allow Fauchard’s music to be heard once more.

FRANK MARTIN – REQUIEM / LEOS JANACEK – OTEENAS (OUR FATHER)
WIENER JEUNESSE CHOR
ORF CHOR
ORF VIENNA RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
RUDOLF SCHOLZ, organ
LEIF SERGERSTAM, conductor
CAPRICCIO C5454 60’59

Frank Martin’s operatic background is to the fore in his setting of the Requiem. Written towards the very end of his life he had apparently delayed setting the text and once completed declared that his work was now done. Some decidedly 20th Century techniques, such as semi-spoken passages, can be heard in this music which is full of drama and displays a real affinity with the text. Janacek’s settting of the Lord’s Prayer is apparently written from a more detached view, with the composer apparently less committed to the meaning of the text in itself. However, this is still moving music, making for a fine pairing of lesser known liturgically inspired 20th Century (the Janacek only just!) works.

MUSICA VIVA #39 WOLFGANG RIHM
VARIOUS ARTISTS
BR CLASSIK 900639 58’05

MUSICA VIVA #40 WOLFGANG RIHM
SYMPHONIEORCHESTER DES BAYERISCHEN RUNDFUNKS
FRANK OLLO, conductor
BR CLASSIK 900640 61’41

Here are two new releases from the Musica Viva series which since 2020 has released recent and archive live recordings from Bavarian Radio of previously unreleased compositions. The focus of these two CDs is composer Wolfgang Rihm who is stil based in Germany where he remains active on the musical scene including lecturing at the Darmstadt music school. The first disc features chamber works – Sphare nach Studie (for 6 instrumentalists), Stabat Mater (baritone & viola) and Male uber Male 2 (clarinet & 9 instrumentalists). The second features one orchestral work – Jagden und Formen. These releases are always worth exploring.

SP

CDs FEBRUARY 2022

DOVE-WEIR-MARTIN – CHORAL WORKS

CHOIR OF WESTMINSTER ABBEY
JAMES O’DONNELL, Conductor
PETER HOLDER, organ
HYPERION CDA68350 70’16

This release presents a polished selection of liturgical choral works from three contemporary British composers. Much of the music here has been commissioned by the Abbey and so there is a particular affinity in this recording of these musicians in this place. The first two composers are well established figures in the contemporary choral repertoire. Matthew Martin may be less familiar and it is good to have his Westminster Service with other settings alongside Dove’s Missa Brevis and further anthems by him and Judith Weir.

BRITISH MUSIC FOR STRINGS III – BRITISH WOMEN COMPOSERS
SUDWESTDEUTSCHES KAMMERORCHESTER PFORZHEIM
DOUGLAS BOSTOCK, conductor
CPO 555 457-2 63’52

This is a very welcome recording of music for strings from British women whose lives spanned the latter part of the 19th and complete 20th centuries. It is good to see more music by both composers who may have fallen into the ‘neglected’ category on two counts – country of birth and gender. All of this music was unknown to me and very enjoyable. The longest work here, Ethel Smyth’s Suite for Strings Op 1A, opens the CD. The other more familiar name, Ruth Gipps, closes it with the wonderfully titled Gringlemire Garden: An impression for string orchestra. Lament and a Suite by Susan Spain-Dunk are included together with Constance Warren’s Heather Hill. A fascinating disk.

ASTOR PIAZZOLLA
ESCUALO5
BIS-2605 75’10

The release of a new recording of music by Piazzolla is, in my opinion, always a very welcome occurrence. Here we have passionate performances from the ensemble Esucalo5 which consists of violin, accorion, guitar, piano and double bass. Alongside the more familiar and extensive Tango Suite and Histoire du Tango is another longer piece Contrabajisimo (unknown to me) and a number of shorter pieces. A lovely production.

GEORGE CRUMB – METAMORPHOSES, BOOKS I & II
MARCANTONIO BARONE, piano
BRIDGE 9551 75’59

Sometimes a release becomes more topical for a sad reason. With the recent death of George Crumb at 92 years this is a case in point. The composer continued to push musical boundaries until the end of his life as can be seen in this pairing of his two books of Metamorphoses (after celebrated paintings) for amplified piano, written between 2015 and 2020. This is definitely a CD of immersive music which also serves as a poignant marker of the end of George Crumb’s life of musical innovation.

AMY BEACH – COMPLETE WORKS FOR PIANO DUO
GENOVA & DIMITROV PIANO DUO
CPO 555 453-2 63’51

Amy Beach is another composer who is receiving more attention after a long period of obscurity. This is a delightful disc of music brought to life with the seamless pairing of pianists Genova & Dimitrov. The expanded sound world of either the piano duet or duo allows for deeper, richer sonorities and virtuosic interplay. Here we hear both in a programme of four collected pieces. Variations on Balkan Themes for 2 pianos opens and together with Suite for 2 pianos founded upon old Irish melodies make up over half of the CD. They are complemented by Three pieces for piano four-hands and Summer Dreams for piano four-hands. Little known music that should be heard and enjoyed.

ERNEST MOERAN – CHAMBER MUSIC
FIDELIO TRIO
RESONUS RES10296 66’27

This is a very enjoyable programme of fine performances by the Fidelio Trio. Opening with Sonata for violin & piano in E minor and then the Sonata for two violins. The CD concludes with the Piano Trio in D major. Much of this music is spirited and extrovert but for me it is the exquisite introverted Prelude for Cello & Piano, the latest work (1943) here that really spoke to me.

EKMALIAN – PIANO WORKS
MIKAEL AYRAPETYAN, piano
GRAND PIANO GP894 75’50

This music was unknown to me and listening to it was fascinating. Armenian composer, Ekmalian, was a great influence in his home country. He composed the setting of the Divine Liturgy still in use by the Armenian Church. Here a major part of the recording is taken up by an arrangement of the liturgy. There are also a number of pieces inspired by Armenian folk song together with a Nocturne and Song without words. Some of this music seems to pre-empt the sparser, meditative piano music of the late 20th century, despite the composer dying in 1905. Played by a fellow countryman, this is a lovely welcome release.

ERIC NATHAN – MISSING WORDS
BOSTON MODERN ORCHESTRA PROJECT
AMERICAN BRASS QUINTET
INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE
NEAVE TRIO
HUB NEW MUSIC and soloists
NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS FCR314 84’10

A fascinating and engaging project this is an instrumental re-imagining of selected words from Ben Schott’s book Schottenfreude which itself is an inventive dictionary of imaginary German words. The author says, “Schottenfreude exists because when English is exhausted, we turn to German. Missing Words exists because when words are exhausted we turn to music” Arranged in six groups over two discs the musical representations are made in a wide variety of styles by an assembly of talented new music performers. The first word of Missing Words VI (Witzbeharrsamkeit) particularly caught my ear, harking back to a very well-known German composer! I shall return to this CD to enjoy both the music and the original words and may now be inspired to seek out the book from which they are derived.

GRAZYNA BACEWICZ – PIANO WORKS
PETER JABLONSKI, piano
ONDINE ODE 1399-2

A programme of ‘big’ piano music makes for very enjoyable listening. There are some quieter moments but much of this is powerful stuff! 10 Concert Etudes and 2 Etudes on Double Notes sit alongside Piano Sonatas 1 & 2 and the opening Concert Krakowiak. This is a wonderful release with commited performances of beautiful music from this talented composer who is slowly receiving more recognition beyond her native Poland.

SOFIA GUBAIDULINA – ORCHESTRAL MUSIC
RADIO-PHILHARMONIE HANNOVER DES NDR
JOHANNES KALITZKE, BERNHARD KLEE, conductors
CPO 999 164-2 57’42

The longest work here, Pro e contra, is also the most recent (1989). Concodanza and Fairytale Poem/Marchenbild, two works from 1971 complete the CD. This release is a welcome addition to available recordings of this significant 20th/21st century composer. Born in Tartarstan, then part of Soviet Russia, Gubaidulina’s music often serves as an expression of her innermost spirituality. Like Bacewicz her music is becoming more widely known across the world and she is being recognised as an influential composer with an individual voice across different genres.

WILLIAM BYRD – KEYBOARD MUSIC
FRIEDERIKE CHYLEK, harpsichord
OEHMS OC1724 57’02

This is a lovely recital by a German performer who specialises in English keyboard music from the 16th and 17th centuries. This programme includes some well known titles opening with The Earl of Oxford’s March and Sellinger’s Round. It is good to have these fresh recordings in this no-nonsense presentation.

BACH – CANTATAS 35 & 169
IESTYN DAVIES, countertenor
TOM FOSTER, organ
ARCANGELO
JONATHAN COHEN, conductor
HYPERION CDA68375 65’12

This excellent CD pairs two of three solo cantatas probably written by Bach with a specifically gifted boy alto in mind. Gott soll allein mein Herze haben is here together with Geist und Seele wird verwirret. In these recordings countertenor Iestyn Davies takes them on with particularly pleasing results. Whilst the sound of a countertenor is not to everyone’s taste it cannot be disputed that Davies’ sound is remarkable and incredibly pure. Arcangelo and organist Tom Foster bring appropriate vitality and gentle underscoring to the vocal line throughout. Together with the cantatas are two short pieces from Bach’s influencers Schutz and Buxtehude.

ERIC COATES – BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC 4
SLOVAK RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
ANDREW PENNY, conductor
NAXOS 8.555194 62’58

The gentle stream of releases in this series of British Light Music continues to bring much pleasure. Whilst some of this music is very familiar (By the sleepy lagoon) and, perhaps to amateur pianists, the Four Ways Suite, there is much here that is unfamiliar and deserving of a fresh airing. Amongst these lovely recordings is the charming Springtime Suite, surprising Saxo-Rhapsody (with Kenneth Edge on saxophone) and two spirited marches The Eighth Army and High Flight.

NIKOLAI KAPUSTIN – BLUEPRINT: PIANO MUSIC FOR JAZZ TRIO
FRANK DUPREE, piano JAKOB KRUPP, bass
MEINHARD ‘OBI’ JENNE, drums
CAPRICCIO C5439 68’09

I have only fairly recently discovered Kasputin and what I have heard so far I have greatly enjoyed. His ability to cross musical boundaries and to fuse aspects of the jazz and ‘classical’ worlds was second to none. Here we have a wonderful new CD of music based around the composer’s main instrument here sympathetically enhanced by the addition of bass and drums. How sadly ironic that I am writing this on the day that Russia has launched attacks on Ukraine, the homeland of the composer, whose music remained relatively unknown through much of his lifetime due to the politics of where he grew up.

SP

CDs JANUARY 2022

JEAN SIBELIUS – WORKS FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO
FENELLA HUMPHREYS, violin
JOSEPH TONG, piano
RESONUS RES10294 67’32

Another release of lesser known repertoire from Sibelius, although it appears that the violin did have an important role in much of his music . This well constructed programme links early works with his last two sets of pieces for this genre. Fine performances by Fenella Humphreys and Joseph Tong.

JOSEPH PHIBBS – JULIANA
ZOE DRUMMOND, soprano, REBECCA AFONWY-JONES, mezzo, FELIX KEMP, baritone
NOVA MUSIC ENSEMBLE, GEORGE VASS, conductor
RESONUS RES10290 78’43

This recent one act chamber opera (2018) is based on a play by August Strindberg and features libretto by Laurie Slade. This world premiere recording brings to life once more a story written over 130 years ago that seems to be incredibly up to date, or perhaps simply timeless, with its themes of money, power, immigration and sex.

GOTTLIEB MUFFAT – SUITES FOR HARPSICHORD – 3
NAOKO AKUTAGAWA, harpsichord
NAXOS 8.574098 66’39

With so much music having been recorded and released over the past few years alone it is incredible to find further world premiere recordings such as these. Written in the 18th Century these 5 Suites for Harpsichord make up the final volume of Naoko Akutagawa’s excellent series. Muffat is described here as “the most important Viennese harpsichord composer of the 18th Century”. It is good to have this music now available on CD.

BELA BARTOK – PIANO MUSIC – 8
FULOP RANKI, piano
NAXOS 8.574340 60’48

Bartok’s use of the piano continues to sound fresh and innovative decades after his death. His understanding of the capabilities of the instrument, coupled with his interest in rhythms and timbres often imported from traditional song and dance create a very expansive sound world. Here are earlier works (excerpts from For Children and Variations and the Rhapsody, Op 1) together with a slightly later set of Etudes, Op 18. A lovely collection from Fulop Ranki.

CARL MARIA VON WEBER – 6 VIOLIN SONATAS
ARNOLD STEINHARDT, violin, SEYMOUR LIPKIN, piano
BIDDULPH 85010-2

These sonatas, written in 1810, are not particularly well known but have been the source of inspiration for works of other composers including Fritz Kreisler. It is good to have the set presented here in these performances, which whilst not recent, breathe life into this neglected repertoire.

BACH & HANSON
CAMERON CARPENTER, International Touring Organ at Konzerthaus, Berlin
DECCA B0034581-02

Cameron Carpenter is an excellent musician and a wonderful ambassador for the organ. His championing of the organ as an instrument to entertain, but not in a lightweight way, makes him an important and influential performer and recording artiste. His understanding of registration and pushing the boundaries of the capabilities of the organ, in the concert and particularly the symphonic tradition is second to none. His commitment to this has resulted in his design and development of his own digital touring instrument, the organ he now uses the most and which features here in Berlin.

The combination of organist with his own incredibly versatile instrument is incredible. Despite my love of ‘pure’ organ music I really enjoyed these expertly performer-crafted transcriptions of two very diverse pieces. This CD should be welcomed by those who love organ music, those who love any good music and should also challenge those who have doubts about the capabilities and ‘validity’ of digital organs.

JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations is paired with Howard Hanson’s Symphony No 2 in D flat, Op 30 ‘Romantic’. Encore!

SP

CDs December 2021

 

HENDRICK ANDRIESSEN – COMPLETE SYMPHONIC WORKS
PHION ORCHESTRA OF GELDERLAND & OVERIJSSEL, DAVID PORCELIJN, conductor
CPO 555 508-2 (4 CDs) 226’34

This very welcome release collects recordings of Andriessen’s four Symphonies together with other works for orchestra including Symphonic Etude, Symphonie Concertante and Kuhnau Variations. There is much to explore here as Andriessen’s music explores 20th century harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary whilst at the same time being rooted in earlier traditions and harnessing the varied resources of the neo-romantic orchestra.

LEROY ANDERSON – COMPLETE ORCHESTRAL WORKS
BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA and soloists, Leonard Slatkin, conductor
NAXOS (5 CDS) 8.505259

This second box set could not be more removed from the one above. Despite a similar sounding surname Andriessen and Anderson are writing very different music. I have long been a fan of so-called ‘Light Music’ and Anderson;s music is usually labelled such. Although the emphasis is very clearly on melody, and sometimes on novelty, much of the content is of perfectly crafted musical miniatures. There is no reason why this music should not be as appreciated in the same way as longer structured, more experimental works. A number of these pieces will be very familiar – The Typewriter, Syncopated Clock, Sleigh Ride, Forgotten Dreams, Blue Tango. Others will be less so – Melody on Two Notes, A Trumpeter’s Lullaby, Waltz around the Scale. Often there is humour, not least in the titles – Mother’s Whistler, The Waltzing Cat. Alongside the original miniatures are longer works – excerpts from Goldilocks and arrangements including two Suites of Carols and an Irish and Scottish Suite. A very enjoyable collection of spirited performances.

ERIC COATES – LONDON SUITE
SLOVAK RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, Adrian Leaper, conductor
NAXOS 8.555178 71’26

Further light music on this CD which features re-released recordings of both Coates’ London and London Again Suites. Other familiar music here is The Dambusters March and Calling all Workers. Perhaps more interesting are the inclusion of Cinderella, The Selfish Giant and The Merrymakers. A good balance of the well-loved and the less familiar adding up to a very good production.

BRAHMS – COMPLETE SONGS 1
CHRISTOPH PREGARDIEN, Tenor
ULRICH EISENLOHR, Piano
NAXOS 8.574268 64’55

The first volume in what appears to be a very promising series. Here we have recent recordings of Op 32, Op 43, Op 86 and Op 105.

WILLIAM BOLCOM – HORN TRIO / SOLO VIOLIN SUITE NO 2
STEVEN GROSS, Horn, PHILIP FICSOR, Violin
CONSTANTINE FINEHOUSE, Piano
NAXOS. 8.579102 40’26

I am familiar with some of William Bolcom’s organ music and songs but not the music contained on this disk. It is an enjoyable pairing of these two works for very contrasting forces. The musical language is perhaps more reflective in parts of the first work whereas the second sees a return to the often more playful styles that I associate with the music I have heard to date. A short but very welcome release.

PETROS PETRIDIS – REQUIEM FOR THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE PALAIOLOGOS / SYMPHONY NO 3
GOLDEN VOICES OF RUSE, SOFIA METROPOLITAN GOLDEN VOICES & SOLOISTS
SOFIA AMADEUS ORCHESTRA, NIKOLAS MANTZAROS WIND ENSEMBLE,
BYRON FIDETZIS, conductor
NAXOS 8.574354-55 (2 CDs) 2”09’18

Part of Naxos’ Greek Classics strand this is a very enjoyable CD of music from a composer who was new to me. The bulk of the release is given over to the epic Requiem for the Emperor Constantine Palaiologos. There is a filmic quality to this music which draws heavily on Byzantine chant but adds fresh twentieth century colour and often dissonant harmony. Alongside Symphony 3 is also the Concerto Grosso for winds and timpani. Once again I have been challenged to realise how much more music is out there to be explored as this collection of world premiere recordings clearly demonstrates!

VINCENT PERSICHETTI – ORGAN WORKS
IAIN QUINN, Organ of St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Greenville, North Carolina, USA
NAXOS 8.559887 73’42

This is a CD I didn’t realise I was waiting for! I had discovered a few of Persichetti’s liturgical settings but none of this instrumental music. He often uses traditional forms and starting points but writes with a fresh and often exuberant style producing music that is substantial and exciting. Iain Quinn’s performances are always of the highest quality and I have been very pleased to be able to listen to him again here with this repertoire.

FROM RAGS TO RICHES: 100 YEARS OF AMERICAN SONG
STEPHANIE BLYTHE, Mezzo-soprano, WILLIAM BURDEN, Tenor, STEVEN BLIER, Piano
NYFOS RECORDS

A collection of recent recordings from artistes associated with the New York Festival of Song this disc includes music and words by the Gershwins, Joplin, Weill, Rodgers and Sondheim as well as less familiar names. This is a very interesting release of mostly less familiar songs in various styles and moods ranging from ragtime to an art song arrangement of the spiritual How can I keep from singing? Several are in arrangements by pianist Steven Blier.

SP

CDs November 2021

XIAOGANG YE – THE ROAD TO THE REPUBLIC
CHINA NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, CHORUS & SOLOISTS
BEIJING PHILHARMONIC CHOIR
DEUTSCHE STAATSPHILHARMONIC RHEINLAND-PFALZ
JIA LU & FRANCK OLLU, conductors
NAXOS  8.579089   67’01

This disc collects recordings of two recent works by this leading Chinese composer. Both works draw on traditional music. The Road to the Republic is a cantata dating from 2011, commemorating the centenary of the Revolution. Cantonese Suite (2005) is a large scale orchestral work. Both combine the traditional with Ye’s contemporary voice.

FLORENCE PRICE – SYMPHONY NO 3
ORF VIENNA RADDIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, JOHN JETER, conductor
NAXOS  8.559897   66’48

The music of Florence Price is slowly experiencing more exposure and appreciation. Written between 1932 and 1940 the three orchestral works here also combine traditional music from a particular culture with more contemporary techniques and ideas. The Symphony No 3 in C minor is a 4 movement work, the 3rd movement being the Juba, recently aired at the Last Night of the Proms. Coupled with this are The Mississippi River and Ethipia’s Shadow in America. There is a filmic quality to much of the music here and much to explore and enjoy.

TOWARDS THE FLAME – ECCENTRIC PIANO WORKS
ALEXANDER SCRIABIN/RUED LANGGAARD
GUSTAV PIEKUT, piano
NAXOS  8.574312   56’15

The title of this CD was enough to make me want to listen and when I discovered its contents I was even keener. This is a lovely collection of music that often defies description and which comes from highly individual composers exploring spiritual themes without borders. A very welcome CD to return to for immersive listening. Included among the pieces here are two of Scriabin’s Sonatas (Nos 9 & 10) and Langgaard’s Afgrundsmusik (Music of the Abyss). Dedicated performances are given by Gustav Piekut throughout the programme.

IAN KROUSE – SYMPHONY NO 5 ‘A JOURNEY TOWARDS PEACE’
MICHAEL DEAN, bass-baritone
JENS LINDEMANN, trumpet
UCLA BRASS QUINTET
SEOCHO PHILHARMONIA, conductor JONG HOON BAE
NAXOS 8.559907 69’23

I sometimes find it difficult to get into the mindset of those who have commissioned works to commemorate historic occasions, particularly when they are linked to military action. Nevertheless this music is both effective and affective, combining both the triumphant and the sombre. I knew nothing of contemporary American composer Ian Krouse’s music before hearing this disc. His Symphony No 5 ‘A Journey Towards Peace’ (which includes text by Walt Whitman) is coupled with Fanfare for Heroes of the Korean War. Also included are two Symphonies of Strings, both of which draw on different musical traditions.

MATTHIAS KRUGER – AIN’T NUTHIN’ BUT FAIRY DUST
ENSEMBLE ASCOLTA, director NICHOLAS KOK
ENSEMBLE BRUCH
WDR SINFONIEORCHESTER, director ELENA SCHWARZ
ENSEMBLE INNERSPACE
WERGO   WER 64352  61’31

A CD for the adventurous listener. These recent electroacoustic works by Matthias Kruger are very absorbing. Drawing on a range of techniques, traditions and technology there is great crossover between styles and genres, signifying the great freedom and wealth of experience that today’s composers enjoy. A comprehensive booklet provides helpful background to the three works – Le vide a perdre, Wie ein stuck fett (redux) and Bellygoat Boom. There is also a link to a further audio/visual performance available online, Sweep over me them dusty brooms.

A BELFAST CHRISTMAS
BELFAST CATHEDRAL CHOIR, conductor MATTHEW OWENS
GRAINNE MEYER, harp
JACK WILSON, organ
RESONUS  RES10292   67’59

The newly formed all-adult choir of Belfast’s St Anne’s Cathedral makes its debut on Resonus with this lovely programme of carols from the twentieth century onwards. Composers include four Philips –  Stopford, Ledger, Moore and Wilby! John Gardner and Elizabeth Poston also feature with Gary Davison, John Ireland, Patrick Hadley, John Rutter, Bob Chilcott and an arrangement of Praetorius by Erling Pedersen. Matthew Owens’ Toccata on Good King Wenceslas is also included. Many of these fine recordings are world premieres.

CHRISTMAS BELLS – ORGAN MUSIC FROM BELFAST CATHEDRAL
MATTHEW OWENS, organ of Belfast Cathedral
RESONUS RES10293  78’29

A companion release to the above (although it stands well completely on its own) is this brilliant recital by Matthew Owens. This is a great collection of seasonal organ music, much of it referencing traditional carols. The title track is a piece by Howard Blake. It also includes chorale preludes (and the canonic variations) by JS Bach, JG Walther and Flor Peeters. Noels by Daquin and Guilmant represent another tradition. Other more recent composers featured are Philip Wilby, Gary Davison and Philip Moore. Matthew Owens’ own Prelude on Yorkshire is included and the CD ends with Garth Edmundson’s exuberant Toccata on von Himmel hoch.

SP

CDs October 2021

J S BACH – ECHO: WORKS FOR HARPSICHORD
ALESSANDRA ARTIFONI, harpsichord
DYNAMIC CDS7922 65’46

Well executed performances by Alessandra Artifoni of four longer keyboard works make up this CD. There is a good variety of forms here but the larger structures make for perhaps a more immersive experience than when there are a number of shorter tracks. Opening with the Concerto Italiano, BWV 971 and followed by Fantasia & Fugue, BWV 904 the programme also includes French Overture, BWV 831 and Sonata in D minor, BWV 964.

SEE, SEE, THE WORD IS INCARNATE –
CHORAL & INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC BY GIBBONS, TOMKINS & WEELKES
THE CHAPEL CHOIR OF TRINITY HALL, CAMBRIDGE
NEWE VIALLES
ORPHEUS BRITANNICUS VOCAL CONSORT
ANDREW ARTHUR, director
RESONUS RES10295 70’51

This is a very enjoyable programme combining voices and instruments in works by Jacobean composers who contributed so much to the English church music repertoire. The various musical forces drawn together for this production breathe new life into this music from centuries past in the fine performances collected here.

SCHUBERT PIANO TRIOS VOLUME 1
GOULD PIANO TRIO
RESONUS RES10289 61’05

In the first of a new series we have here Piano Trio No 1 in B flat major together with the Piano Trio in E flat major ‘Notturno’. Sandwiched between them is a 19th century arrangement for piano trio of Valses Nobles, Op 77.

ELISABETH LUTYENS PIANO WORKS VOLUME 1
MARTIN JONES, piano
RESONUS RES10291 67’39

This is a very welcome release, making the music of this very neglected British composer available to a wide audience. Several of these are premiere recordings, all of the music being from Lutyens’ later period. Martin Jones brings this very individual music to life in convincing and vibrant performances. Includes Seven Preludes, Five Impromptus, Plenum I and The Great Seas. I look forward to volume 2.

SOLITUDE – PIANO WORKS BY FLORENT SCHMITT
BILJANA URBAN, piano
GRAND PIANO GP850 71’00

This CD also highlights piano music from another highly individual composer. Dating from the very late 19th and early 20th centuries these works are very enjoyable and offer variety of form and style. These are fine performances and most of the recordings are premieres.
Some of the pieces carry intriguing titles, too: Crepuscles, Pupazzi, Ballade de la Neige.

ALFRED SCHNITTKE – FILM MUSIC VOL 5
RUNDFUNKCHOR BERLIN
RUNDFUNK-SINFONIEORCHESTER BERLIN, director FRANK STROBEL
CAPRICCIO C5350 53’38

I really enjoyed this disc. Showing something of the diverse influences Schittke drew upon to create music that is evocative and interesting. Light 1920s jazz stylings sit alongside minimalist orchestral, lively tuned percussion textures and meandering wordless choral in this selection from three soundtracks. Tagesterne (The Stars of the Day), Der Liebling des Publikums (The Favourite) and Vater Sergius (Father Sergius) are the featured films.

20th CENTURY FOXTROTS – 3- CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE
GOTTLIEB WALLISCH, piano
GRAND PIANO GP854 79’49

This is another super release. The third volume in a survey of “jazzy piano dances” contains mostly premiere recordings of music that is largely unknown and rhythmically infectious in these great performances. Most of the music dates from the ‘20s and ‘30s with a couple of later items and one earlier. I am sure this would have large appeal to anyone who enjoys this style of music and to pianists looking for unusual repertoire. I must now find the other volumes in the series.

KERMES
JULIA DEN BOWER, piano
NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS FCR311 63’05

Contemporary music around the theme of sources of colour are found here in brilliant performances by a pianist who is obviously at home with contemporary repertoire. The album takes its name from insects which are the source of the brilliant red pigment used to create vermillion. There are four pieces, each by a contemporary experimental female composer – Linda Catlin Smith’s The Underfolding, Crimson by Rebecca Saunders, Reminiscence by Anna Thorvaldsdottir and Giulia Lorusso’s Deserts. An enjoyable disc of new music for immersive listening.

SP

CDs September 2021-2

A PIAZZOLLA TRILOGY
KAREN GOMYO, violin
STEPHANIE JONES, guitar
ORCHESTRE NATIONAL DES PAYS DE LA LOIRE
BIS-2385 63’03

Tango seems to be all around us at the moment and this disc is a treat for anyone who loves music with infectious rhythm, melodic interest and slightly exotic harmonies. For those with a particular interest in the music of Astor Piazzolla this is a wonderful collection showcasing three of his more substantial works. Opening with his own take on Vivaldi, Cuatro Estaciones Portenas (The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) and ending with the popular Histoire du Tango this CD also includes Etudes Nos 3, 4 and 5 from Tango Etudes. These arrangements for violin make for excellent performances from Karen Gomyo and her fellow performers.

PALMGREN – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS 3
JOUNI SOMERO, piano
GRAND PIANO GP869 71’25

Containing a number of world premiere recordings this CD continues Grand Piano’s survey of this early 20th century writer for the piano. Palmgren’s work covers a range of styles and i some charming and interesting repertoire for the pianist. The music here ranges from a miniature, Tanssiaskeleita (Dance Steps), lasting just 20 seconds to the twenty minute suite, Sol och Skyar (Sun and Clouds). A student of Busoni, much of his music is descriptive, often drawing on local folk influences and crossing the boundaries of ‘classical’ and ‘light’ music. An interesting concluding work is his Intermezzo for the Left Hand.

DUTILLEUX – PIANO WORKS
JEANNE-PIERRE ARMENGAUD
GRAND PIANO GP790 70’13

Remaining with the piano but with a very different programme this CD presents 3 larger scale works by a composer also writing in the twentieth century but in a much more experimental style. Programmed chronologically the CD begins in the 1940s with the Piano Sonata which takes the traditional three movement structure but allows for much freedom of expression in terms of all the other elements of the music. The composer’s own arrangement of the ballet music from Le Loup (The Wolf) comes next, followed by Three Preludes, written at different times but satisfyingly grouped together here as they were when first published many after their composition. A very interesting disc of lesser known twentieth century piano repertoire expertly realised by Jean-Pierre Armengaud.

ARVO PART – STABAT MATER
CHOR DES BAYERISCHEN RUNDFUNKS
MUNCHNER RUNDFUNKORCHESTER, IVAN REPUSIC, conductor
BR KLASSIK 900335 59’24

Anyone who knows the work of Arvo Part knows that he composes sublime music that plumbs the depths and scales the heights of emotion. Here is a wonderful programme of choral and orchestral music which together creates an intensely moving and spiritual experience. The title work completes the CD which begins with the sparse textures of the instrumental Fratres. Also included are Silouan’s Song, La Sindone, Summa and Fur Lennart in memoriam.

BRITISH SOLO CELLO MUSIC
STEVEN ISSERLIS, cello
MISHKA RUSHDIE MOMEN, piano
HYPERION CDA68373 78’28

The cello, to me, has a purity of sound that makes it ideal for unaccompanied solo performance and for a relaxing listening experience. Sometimes mournful, at other times more joyous, the programme here, given life with such commitment by the master of the instrument, Steven Isserlis. Britten’s Cello Suite No 3 is complemented by Frank Merrick’s Suite in the eighteenth century style together with some shorter items including works by Walton, John Gardner and Thomas Ades.

INFINITY
VOCES 8
DECCA B0034074-82

The cover text invites the listener to “escape into another world”. This collection of wonderfully evocative performances from Voces 8 certainly provides an oasis of tranquil and sublime contemporary choral music. Described as a “space-inspired concept album” it includes music by established choral composers including Ola Gjeilo and many more often associated with other musical genres including film and electronic music. Some tracks are a capella, whilst others include additional sparse instrumentation. A beautiful album that really has the capability to transport the listener somewhere beyond. It contains many interesting and unusual pieces.

BEST OF TURKISH PIANO MUSIC
IDIL BIRET, piano
IDIL BIRET ARCHIVE (distributed NAXOS) 8.504058 (4CDs) 4”58’38

It is not often that a collection as large as this contains music that is all completely unknown to the reviewer. Here, over 4 CDs, is an archive release of recordings by the same pianist spanning over 60 years. All the music is by Turkish composers and together this collection presents a fascinating survey of music that has come about as a result of the meeting of the particular traditions of this region and the encounter with the so-called western classical tradition. As well as repertoire for solo piano there are pieces for for piano and other instruments including four concerti (Saygun, Isikozlu, Erkin and Pars). This is a set that will be a very useful reference for those wishing to explore new repertoire as well as providing plenty of interest to enjoy.

SHALL WE GATHER
LUCAS MEACHAM, baritone IRINA MEACHAM, piano
RUBICON RCD1071 52’54

This programme was put together as a response to the situation the world has found itself in with the pandemic and social distancing. The husband and wife team give some heartfelt performances of a variety of American art songs. There are some particularly interesting musical settings by composers including Aaron Copland, Stephen Foster, Charles Ives, Florence Price, William Grant Still and Kurt Weill as well as some less familiar names. There is a very positive focus here on what draws people together. Although the accompanying notes emphasise these values, as a non-American I still find the overt nationalism of the opening track difficult to listen to and wonder if it would have been better to leave this unsung! Proceeds will go to the Meacham’s Perfect Day Music Foundation which supports young musicians and encourages an appreciation of composers who have been ‘historically excluded’.

SP