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

CDs SEPTEMBER 2021-1

LULLY – BALLET ROYAL DE LA NAISSANCE DE VENUS
LES TALENS LYRIQUES, CHRISTOPHER ROUSSET, director
CHOEUR DE CHAMBRE DE NAMUR & soloists
APARTEMUSIC AP255 73’

Despite being first performed in 1665 the music in this recording feels fresh and vital. Written at the request of Louis XIV in honour of his sister-in-law, Henrietta of England, the sounds conjure up something of the sumptuousness we have come to associate with the royal court. Voices form an important part of some sections of the ballet and some additional excerpts from four other works of Lully are included at the end of the disc.

SOUNDMAPS – EXTENDED REALITIES
VALERIA ZORINA, violin EVGENY SINAISKI, piano
OEHMS 0C492 48’21

This is a lovely collection of mostly contemporary works for violin and piano. The set of Four Nocturnes with Masks by Louis Franz Aguirre, themselves dedicated to other contemporary composers are particularly effective miniatures. Similarly Giacomo Platini’s Four Souvenirs for violing and piano show that much can be communicated in within a small space. Alongside these and other contemporary works are Biber’s Rosary Sonata IX – The Carrying of the Cross. The mostly reflective nature of all of this music is contrasted with the lovely violin and piano rendition of Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre.

WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE
APOLLO CHAMBER PLAYERS
AZICA ACD-71340

A feast of new music blending diverse sources and traditions in vibrant performances make for a very exciting compilation. Themes of inclusion and diversity are to the fore. A wide variety of timbres feature throughout, with electric violin in the title track, voice and electronics in Pamela Z’s The Unravelling. Theofanidis & Wingate’s What is the Word? begins with spoken word. The closing track, We will sing one song, by Eve Beglarian features a range of traditional percussion and viola. Much to explore and enjoy.

CHEVALIER DE SAINT-GEORGES – SYMPHONIES CONCERTANTES
CZECH CHAMBER PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA & SOLOISTS,
MICHAEL HALASZ, conductor
NAXOS 8.574306 64’56

The music of Joseph Boulogne, often known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, is being rediscovered and rightly appreciated much more. An early pioneer of the symphonie concertante style this substantial music can certainly hold its own alongside compositions of his often better remembered contemporaries. Fresh performances of the 4 Symphonies Concertantes making up Op 9 & 10 are joined by Symphony in G major, Op 11.

9/11:20 – MEMORIALS ON THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF SEPTEMBER 11TH
ADAM SWAYNE, piano
COVIELLO COV92111 62’41

A poignant but important release commemorates the 20th anniversary of this appalling event which continues to leave its mark. Adam Swayne is obviously fully immersed in this well thought out programme of American piano music which includes newly written works alongside the still contemporary sounding music of Henry Cowell. Two movements of Karen Walwyn’s Reflections on 9/11 and David Del Tredici’s Missing Towers bookend the CD with Kevin Malone’s Sudden Memorials at the centre. This work references many different musical styles and traditions. Another style is also included in the form of Scott Joplin’s Solace. This is unusual for Joplin in that it is a more reflective piece than most of his output. Here a beautifully understated performance really adds something to this collection. A very impressive commemoration with much of interest.

RONALD BINGE – BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC 2
SLOVAK RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, ERNEST TOMLINSON, conductor
NAXOS 8.555190 72’26

Included here alongside his three best known pieces, Elizabethan Serenade, The Watermill and Sailing By is a wealth of Ronald Binge’s lesser known miniatures. Many of these are rather charming and worthy of a wider audience. A surprise to me was the inclusion of the Alto Saxophone Concerto, showing a different aspect of the composer’s output.

NIKOLAI KAPUSTIN – PIANO CONCERTO NO 4
FRANK DUPREE, piano, conductor
WURTEMBERGISCHES KAMMERORCHESTER HEILBRONN, CASE, conductor
CAPRICCIO C5437 64’

I find the piano music of Kapustin to be an exciting blend of jazz and classical influences. Here we have a disc of three medium scale chamber and orchestral works. Opening the CD is the title work. This is followed by the Concerto for violin, piano and string orchestra. The Op 57 Chamber Symphony concludes the recording. Spirited performances by all including pianist Frank Dupree bring this music to life in a thoroughly entertaining programme.

ERIC TANGUY – CLARINET CONCERTO, VIOLIN CONCERTO NO 2, MATKA
PIERRE GENISSON, clarinet JULIA PUSKER, violin
JYVASKYLA SINFONIA, VILLE MATVEJEFF, conductor
ONDINE ODE 1390-2 68’01

There are also jazz influences here, including moments of vibraphone, in this welcome release showcasing the work of contemporary French composer Eric Tanguy. The oldest of these pieces is the Violin Concerto No 2, in a revised edition produced in 2004. The Clarinet Concerto and Matka have both been written in the last decade. These fine performances bring the music to life and made this listener want to hear more of Tanguy’s music.

PETERIS VASKS – OBOE CONCERTO, VESTIJUMS, LAUDA
ALBRECHT MAYER, oboe
LATVIAN NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, ANDRIS POGA, conductor
ONDINE ODE 1355-2 68’41

This music moves between the expansive and the introspective, with a wonderful fusion of large orchestral textures and solo lines together with the occasional unexpected (temple block?) timbre. I am very drawn to the composer’s soundworld brought to life here in these committed performances. Opening with the newest and longest work, the Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra (2018) the programme ends with Lauda for Symphony Orchestra dating from 1985. Also included is Message (Vestijums) for two pianos, strings and percussion.

SP

CDs AUGUST 2021

ROBERT KYR – IN PRAISE OF MUSIC
ANTIOCH CHAMBER ENSEMBLE
JOSHUA COPELAND, conductor
BRIDGE 9558 58’28

This is a fine recording of ten choral works by Robert Kyr. All the music here has been composed in the last twenty years and comprises settings of English words by the composer alongside traditional Latin texts. The range of subject matter includes music itself and aspects of life in titles such as Freedom Song and Voices for Peace. The composer describes the CD as a celebration of “the many ways in which music can affect us as a transformative force; as a motivator for constructive action; as a spiritual catalyst; as a voice for freedom and peace; as wordless inspiration; and as a guide towards the light at the end of the tunnel.”

ALAN SHULMAN – THE TATTOOED STRANGER
HISTORIC SOUNDTRACK RECORDINGS (1946-1950)
VARIOUS ARTISTES
BRIDGE 9560 69’14

A very welcome release sees music by American composer Alan Shulman in these recordings from more than 70 years ago being brought into the light of day in accessible form. Sound quality cannot be judged by today’s standards but there is something about listening to these monaural sounds that makes them even more evocative of the period in which they were written. I know nothing about the pictures that this music was written to enhance but there is much to be enjoyed here in its own right. The longest track is of music from a feature The Tattooed Stranger (1950). The remaining 4 tracks (the last being very short in comparison) are all from RKO Pathe documentaries from 1946 and 1948. Listening to this compilation gives an insight into the creativity and effort that went into providing music for these films that were released in abundance for many years. Very enjoyable.

WALTER BRAUNFELS – DON GIL; DIVERTIMENTO OP42; SERENADE OP20
ORF VIENNA RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
GREGOR BUHL, conductor
CAPRICCIO C5429 59’20

An early twentieth century composer not influenced by serialism Walter Braunfels music still has some fresh things to say despite continuing in the German romantic tradition. His music sadly was outlawed for many years under the Nazi regime, to which he took a brave stand against, and took time to recover afterwards. This is a very welcome release as part of a range featuring several CDs of Braunfels’ music. It is to be hoped that it may help to stimulate further interest in the music of so many who were silenced or sidestepped during those oppressive times. Alongside the three tracks listed in the title is the orchestral Ariel’s Song.

THOMAS TORSTRUP QUARTET – TWO BROTHERS
NXN RECORDINGS NXN2007

This short CD contains some lovely music mostly conceived by Thomas Torstrup and developed and realised by the quartet. Piano, trumpet, bass and drums are supplemented by mouth harp (on the opening track). Located in the jazz/experimental sphere this music encompasses laid back and more angular/percussive sounds in a series of contrasting tracks inspired by the natural world, Olivier Messiaen and the drum playing of the composer’s son. Lovely!

KALEVI AHO – SOLO
VARIOUS PERFORMERS
BIS BIS-2446. 78’03

This is a wonderful experience in pared back listening. Since 1975 Finnish composer Aho has written a number of works for unaccompanied solo instrument which challenge the performer to use highly technical approaches to achieve a wide range of timbre and expression. This development of the tradition found in the Bach cello suites makes for a focussed and very satisfying exploration of the particular qualities of each instrument featured here. In turn we have cello, viola, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and flute in committed performances by each musician.

FRANCIS POTT – CHRISTUS
TOM WINPENNY, organ of Cathedral & Abbey Church of St Alban
NAXOS 8.574252-53 2’21 (2 CDs)

This mammoth work, a Passion Symphony for organ, is splendidly brought to life here by Tom Winpenny who is a fine exponent of new organ music. Bookended by shorter works based on chorales, Improvisation on Adeste Fideles (2005), Schmucke dich, O liebe Seele (2013) and Surrexit Hodie (Fantasia-Toccata sopra ‘O Filii et Filiae’) (2019), this is a feast of contemporary organ works from this masterful composer.

WILLIAM BLAND – PIANO SONATAS
KEVIN GORMAN, piano
BRIDGE 9556 58’39

American composer William Bland has composed a cycle of 24 piano sonatas, moving through the major and minor keys in the same way that many cycles of Preludes and Fugues have been created. Only a few of these works have been performed to date and so it is particularly pleasing to have this release of two of them- No 17 in A minor and No 18 in G minor -recorded here. This is exciting music which blends a number of styles and influences, echoing different periods, genres and compositional techniques including tonal and atonal approaches to harmony. I look forward to hearing more.

LOUISE FARRENC – SYMPHONIES 1&3
INSULA ORCHESTRA, LAURENCE EQUILBEY, conductor
ERATO 0190296698521 64’51

The music of French composer Louise Farrenc (1804-75) is only relatively recently becoming more widely known. Influenced by both German and French traditions she wrote successfully for piano and later for orchestra, including a number of larger scale works. The welcome release of these 2 Symphonies gives a good insight into this music, brought to life here by the Insula Orchestra, which has become a champion of this particular composer’s work. More releases are planned to highlight her music.

LORD BERNERS – THE TRIUMPH OF NEPTUNE (Complete Ballet)
ENGLISH NORTHERN SINFONIA, ROYAL BALLET SINFONIA
DAVID LLOYD-JONES, conductor
NAXOS 8.555222 69’27

Lord Berners (1883-1950) had his own distinctive style and compositional approach. This release combines the ballet music The Triumph of Neptune with puppet ballet L’uomo dai baffi (The Man with the Moustache) with orchestrations by Philip Lane of Valses bourgeoises and a short Polka.

CHARLES IVES – PIANO SONATA NO 1 / BERNHARD GANDER – PETER PARKER
JOONAS AHONEN, piano
BIS BIS-2409 61’27

Another very distinctive voice, ahead of its time, was Charles Ives. Taking inspiration from complete musical soundscapes as well as from particular classical and popular styles he combined them all in eclectic works which often require repeated listening. Here his first Piano Sonata forms the largest part of this CD. It is paired with the much shorter Three-Page Sonata. The work bridging these two is by contemporary composer Bernhard Gander. Taking its inspiration from the world of superhero comics, Spiderman to be precise, Peter Parker is named after the superhero’s human alter ego. As with Ives it is a meeting between so-called high and a further demonstration that such divisions are not necessary.

HENRY PURCELL – BIRTHDAY ODES FOR QUEEN MARY
THE KING’S CONSORT, ROBERT KING, conductor
VIVAT 122 77’10

Three of the six Birthday Odes for Queen Mary are featured here in fine recordings from a roll call of excellent singers and instrumentalists under Robert King’s direction. Expertly recreating the sumptuous sounds of the Queen’s court the Odes are Arise my muse, Love’s goddess sure was blind and Celebrate this festival.

XIAOGANG YE – WINTER
ROYAL SCOTTISH NATIONAL ORCHESTRA
GILBERT VARGA & JOSE SEREBRIER, conductors
BIS BIS-2113

The title track forms the centrepiece of this collection of music for orchestra and soloists by this contemporary exponent of Chinese composition. Two works, The Song of Sorrow and Gratification and Starry Sky also feature voices. The latter work includes some sumptuously spacious piano writing. Another very distinctive soundworld here, blending traditions of East and West.

BEHZAD ABDI – HAFEZ
VARIOUS ARTISTES
CREDO CHAMBER CHOIR, BOGDAN PLISH, conductor
NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OF UKRAINE, VLADIMIR SIRENKO, conductor
NAXOS 8.660426-27 (2 CDs) 1”45’27

Before reviewing this CD I knew nothing about its Iranian composer. Behzad Abdi (b. 1973) brings together elements of dastgah, the traditional modal system of Iran, and Western classical forms. This world premiere recording presents the recent (2013) two act opera with libretto by Behrouz Gharibpour based on the life of Hafez, the revered Persian poet and mystic. I really enjoyed the way the composer draws these different worlds together.

BARBARA STROZZI – SACRI MUSICALI AFFETTI OPERA QUINTA, 1655
AURATA FONTE
TACTUS TC611990 (2 CDs) 48’33 & 52’49

Barbara Strozzi’s music is becoming much more widely heard. Most of it is secular but here we have a wonderful complete presentation of her publication of sacred works from 1655. Including accompaniment on reproductions of period instruments which are helpfully documented in the booklet this makes for fascinating and uplifting listening.

CHRISTOPHER HERRICK – NORTHERN LIGHTS
ORGAN OF NIDEROS CATHEDRAL, TRODHEIM, NORWAY
HYPERION CDA68376 71’58

A CD by Christopher Herrick always makes for an exciting listening experience. At home here on the comprehensive and extremely versatile Nidaros organ he performs a varied and interesting selection which includes a good amount of contemporary works. The opening track, the spirited Yes! by Mons Leidvin Takle, gives a good hint at what is to come. Two contemporary Toccatas by Anders S Borjesson and Hans-Andre Stamm take their place alongside Gigout’s well-loved Toccata in B minor. A set of jazz variations on Amazing Grace by Iain Farrington and a piece by Yon (other than his famous Toccatina), the Second concert study:Flying Feet are to be found together with a Prelude and Fugue in G minor by Brahms and Dubois’ Fiat Lux. The inclusion of 3 chorales by the contemporary Christian Praestholm adds further interest.

SP

CDs July 2021 (2)

DIFFUSION
VERONA QUARTET
AZICA RECORDS ACD-71339

This beautifully packaged CD is described as “An album celebrating cross-cultural connection and migration through the music of Janacek, Szymanowski & Ravel”. Whilst containing some fine recordings of music each standing well in its own right the concept of the album is a very worthy and timely one. Music has always been a clear signpost for our connectivity throughout the world, celebrating difference and in turn influencing and developing new styles. There are three String Quartets featured here: Janacek’s No 2 “Intimate Letters”, Szymanowski’s No 2 and Ravel’s F major. Fine performances from this well-travelled and experienced Quartet who champion this repertoire.

DIALOGO
JOHN-HENRY CRAWFORD, cello
VICTOR SANTIAGO ASUNCION, piano
ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100166 62’27

The accompanying booklet makes for interesting reading, shedding some light on the background of the three pieces that make up this disk. John-Henry Crawford gives some wonderful performances together with Victor Santiago Asuncion exploring the concept of dialogue. Beginning with Brahms’ Sonata for piano and cello No 2 in F major the programme then moves on to Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Cello and finally to the Sonata for Cello & Piano in D minor by Shostakovich.

INVISIBLE CITIES – CHORAL & ELECTRONIC MUSIC BY MARCO GALVANI
SANSARA
TOM HERRING, director
RESONUS RES10280 54’47

This fusion of choral and electronic timbres makes for compelling listening. Taking familiar Latin liturgical texts including Lamentations and Ubi caritas and treating them in this blended way is very successful. Galvani’s music opens us up to new possibilities whilst still remaining rooted in the traditional. More!

FERNANDO LOPES-GRACA – SONGS & FOLK SONGS 2
SUSANA GASPAR, soprano, RICARDO PANELA, baritone
NUNO VIEIRA DE ALMEIDA, piano
NAXOS 8.579082 65’04

Prolific twentieth century Portuguese composer Fernando Lopes-Graca has created some arresting and sympathetic settings of texts, crossing folk and contemporary art music forms. Included here alongside Portuguese poetry are Greek, Czech and Slovak texts in sensitive performances from pianist and singers.

ALBERT KETELBEY – A DREAM PICTURE
ROSEMARY TUCK, piano
NAXOS 8.574299 80’39

There have been many recent recordings of Ketelbey’s orchestral music which seems to be enjoying a renaissance. There has been less attention given to his piano music, which is what many of us grew up with. Only one of his really popular pieces, In a Monastery Garden, is included here. Incredibly, considering how popular Ketelbey’s music once was, the remaining twenty four pieces are premiere recordings! For me, that makes this an almost essential disk for anyone interested in early 20th Century British light music. Rosemary Tuck gives a lovely recital of descriptive movements including A Dream Picture which gives the title to this release and Oh! Look at the rabbits! (from A Woodland Story). I like that as a title…

JOHN PHILIP SOUSA – MUSIC FOR WIND BAND 21
ROYAL BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATOIRE WIND ORCHESTRA, director KEITH BRION
NAXOS 8.559863 66’05

More unfamiliar music from a very popular composer in this 21st volume which is part of the American Classics stream from Naxos. Comprising Selections from Chris & the Wonderful Lamp (a re-telling of Aladdin), Sisterhood of the States and Showing off Before Company these pieces make a welcome addition to Sousa’s popular march repertoire. The latter item was apparently featured as an opening to matinee concerts and incorporates a number of familiar tunes. Good fun!

JOAN TOWER – STRIKE ZONES
EVELYN GLENNIE, percussion, BLAIR McMILLEN, piano
ALBAN SYMPHONY, DAVID ALAN MILLER, conductor
NAXOS 8.559902 53’16

Another American Classics release features the music of contemporary composer Joan Tower. These fabulous premiere recordings give a good representation of the range of music Tower has been producing over recent years. It is particularly good to hear performances from Evelyn Glennie as one of a cast of top rate musicians here. The earliest work, Strike Zones, dates from 2001 and the latest, Small from 2016. Both these feature percussion. Still/Rapids combines piano and orchestra with the final piece, Ivory & Ebony being a test piece for an international piano competition.

JORIS ROELOFS – ROPE DANCE: Light-footed music for all and none
BRAM VAN SAMBEEK, bassoon, JORIS ROELOFS, bass clarinet & clarinet
BRAM DE LOOZE, piano, CLEMENS VAN DER FEEN, double bass, MARTIJN VINK, drums
BIS BIS-2453 52’06

This is a fascinating production. Striking artwork is used alongside an interesting background essay which explains the influence of Nietzche’s philosophy behind this music. The instrumentalists give tight, often highly rhythmic performances and create a very distinctive soundworld in what is essentially interesting and entertaining music from the Dutch composer and performer.

JOHANN PACHELBEL – ORGAN WORKS VOLUME 1
MATTHEW OWENS, Frobenius organ of The Queen’s College, Oxford
RESONUS RES10285 71’03

Matthew Owens gives fine performances of this staple (but often not very well known) baroque organ repertoire. Organist and instrument are well suited to this music in the first volume of what promises to be another well executed series from Resonus. A number of Chorale Preludes and Partitas sit alongside Prelude in D minor, Fugue in D minor and Toccata in F major.

WORDS ADORNED
THE CROSSING, conductor DONALD NALLY
AL-BUSTAN TAKHT, music director HANNA KHOURY
DALAL ABU AMNEH, soloist
NAVONA RECORDS NV6356

This is a very interesting release. The Crossing choir is dedicated to performing and promoting new music which pushes the boundaries of choral writing. Collaboration with composers and other performers is a key aspect of their work. Here are two immersive performances of new works setting Andalusian poetry. Kareem Roustom‘s Embroidered Verses & Kinan Abou-afach’s Of Nights and Solace are joined together with a traditional setting by Muhammad ‘abad al-Rahim al-Maslub Lamma Bada Yatathana (‘When he appeared’).

DOUBLE ECHO – NEW GUITAR CONCERTOS FROM THE AMERICAS
DAVID TANENBAUM, guitar
NEW CENTURY CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, conductor AARON JAY KERNIS
ADDITIONAL MUSICIANS conducted by THOMAS DERTHICK
NAXOS 8.574298 56’46

The works here were commissioned by the soloist David Tannenbaum, much of it written by Aaron Jay Kernis, who also conducts for some of the recordings. Alongside his Concierto de ‘Dance Hits’ are the shorter Lullaby and Soliloquoy. The other substantial work here is the typically infectious Double Concerto for Guitar and Bandoneon ‘Hommage a Liege’ by Astor Piazzolla. The CD also features Pequeno concierto by Roberto Sierra. Lively and entertaining.

MARK ANDRE – MINIATUREN / HIMMELFAHRT/ WOHER…WOHIN
MUSICA VIVA #37
ARDITTI QUARTET
STEPHAN HEUBERGER, organ of St Ludwig, Munchen
SYMPHONIEORCHESTER DES BAYERISCHEN RUNDFUNKS, conductor MATTHIAS PINTSCHER
BR KLASSIK MUSICA VIVA #37 66’56

Mark Andre’s music definitely falls into the more experimental/avant garde camp. Pushing the boundaries of sound production on all of the instruments is a large part of the compositional process. Contrasting extremes of duration and dynamics are also to be found on this CD with the opening Miniaturen comprising 12 short movements for string quartet followed by Himmelfart for organ, a single movement work lasting nearly 20 minutes. The final Woher…Wohin (Where from…Where to?) is for orchestra. The music draws on ideas of the inner being, transcendence and divinity. An immersive experience throughout.

RICHARD DUBUGNON – KLAVERIANA / CHAMBER SYMPHONIES
NORIKO OGAWA
MUSIKKOLLEGIUM WINTERTHUR, conductor THOMAS ZEHETMAIR
BIS BIS-2229 64’18

Although 2 of the works here by Swiss composer Richard Dubugnon are Chamber Symphonies this is all music on a grand scale. Much of it is very exciting with exburenat rhythmic passages contrasting with gentler moments. As the title would imply Klavierana has a prominent piano part (here played by Noriko Ogawa) alongside the orchestra, together with a part for Celesta. Fine performances of this fresh repertoire.

SP

CDs JULY 2021 (1)

FRANZ SCHREKER – DER FERNE KLANG
JENNIFER HOLLOWAY, IAN KOZIARA
CHOR DER OPERA FRANKFURT, TILMAN MICHAEL
FRANKFURTER OPERN-UND MUSEUMSORCHESTER, SEBASTIAN WEIGLE
OEHMS OC980 (3 CDs) 2’17”

Austrian composer Franz Schreker may not be a particularly familiar name but the release now of the recording of this opera, first performed in 1912 and recently revived points to the reassessment and rediscovery of his work. He has left a number of orchestral pieces as well as a few smaller scale works. It is in the field of opera, though, that he has probably made the more significant contribution. Der Ferne Klang (The Distant Sound) was regularly performed for nearly 2 decades before Schreker’s music was proscribed by the Nazi regime. Well presented here, with each of the three Acts occupying one disk, together with full libretto this is worth exploring.

PRESTEIGNE PREMIERES – NEW MUSIC FOR STRING ORCHESTRA
VARIOUS ARTISTES
PRESTEIGNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, GEORGE VASS, conductor
RESONUS RES10279 80’37

This is a lovely collection of new music, all written for the Presteigne Festival and all premiere recordings played by the Festival’s resident orchestra. All linked by the strings there is still much variety with songs and works with different soloists including saxophone and flute. A set of Variations on ‘Lovely Joan’ opens the CD with eight composers each providing a variation. Two works are by Hugh Wood together with two other standalone works by Martin Butler and Joe Duddell.

JESPER KOCH – CHOIRBOOK
DANISH NATIONAL VOCAL ENSEMBLE. FLEMMING WINDEKILDE, conductor
DACAPO 6.220627 51’09

31 settings of often very short poems by Frank Kjorup make up this work for acapella choir. Arranged in seven chapters this is an extended “meditation on nature”. Drawn really for the first time to write for the voice the composer has created a beautiful reflective work which speaks of beauty and simplicity. A world premier recording.

CON ARTE E MAESTRIA
MONTEVERDI STRING BAND IN FOCUS
OLIVER WEBBER, violin STEVEN DEVINE, organ & harpsichord
RESONUS RES10282 78’45

This CD (‘With art & mastery’) highlights a musical style from around 1600. The embellishment of simple melodies with virtuosic ornamentation was known as diminution. Here are a number of authentic works from that time – some of which were already treated in this way and some which have been embellished in the style for this recording. It is interesting to see this revival and extension of an ancient tradition.

SINGING SECRETS
VARIOUS ARTISTES
DACAPO 8.226585 67’51

This collection of works by Per Norgard is a very welcome release. Chamber music and vocal works written between 1953 and 2004 are featured here, many of them premiere recordings. The larger works here are Kvintet Op 1- Hommage a Marc Chagall, Libro per Nobuko: I Sonata- The Secret Melody and Cantica.

PENDERECKI – COMPLETE MUSIC FOR STRING QUARTET; STRING TRIO
TIPPETT QUARTET
NAXOS 8.574288 52’58

This is a lovely disc of this engaging music. Covering a period of 56 years Penderecki’s string writing is collected here in a disc recorded in the year he died. The extended String Quartet No 3 is subtitled ‘Leaves from an Unwritten Diary’. The 4th, final quartet returns to the length of the first two but this time has two short movements instead of the through-composed earlier works. The String Trio dates from 1990, revised 1991, and is also a longer work in two movements.

NATE WOOLEY – MUTUAL AID MUSIC
VARIOUS ARTISTES
PLEASURE OF THE TEXT RECORDS POTTR1309 (2 CDs)

It is well worth reading the accompanying booklet alongside listening to this recording. Seeking to develop a musical style that “lives outside the dialectic bubble of improvisation/composition” It also explores the idea of cooperation – mutual aid – in terms of relational working between performers and composer. There are obvious parallels with jazz and experimental/improvisational techniques. Listeners to this double CD can decide for themselves exactly where this music fits.

SP

CDs June 2021

ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY ANNIVERSARY EDITION
VARIOUS PERFORMERS
CAPRICCIO C7360 (6 CDs) 6’37

If, like me, you know little of Zemlinsky’s music this is an excellent introduction to his output. Orchestral music, songs with piano or orchestra and opera are all to be found here. It is clear that much of Zemlinsky’s work incorporated the voice, even in some of his large scale orchestral work such as the opening Lyric Symphony, Op18 for soprano, baritone and orchestra. A progression can be heard in later compositions which, whilst not embracing stark serialism certainly display an interest in adventurous harmony and less traditional tonality, for instance in the String Quartet No.2, Op 15. Purists might wish for more opera to be included here but I found the final CD of opera highlights to be an enjoyable listen in its own right and at the same time perhaps providing a sampler for those who would wish to experience fuller versions of the five works included here.

MOZART – SONATAS FOR VIOLIN & PIANO, K301, 304-5 & 454
PETER HANSON, violin
ANDREW ARTHUR, fortepiano
RESONUS RES10281 79’07

A fine period instrument recording of these sonatas which are each dedicated to women who supported Mozart in his musical endeavours. The duo of Peter Hanson and Andrew Arthur work very well together in the performances here.

NIKOS SKALKOTTAS – DANCE OF THE WAVES
ATHENS STATE ORCHESTRA, STEFANOS TSIALIS, conductor
NAXOS 8.574182 73’01

Described as “the most popular work of Greek art music today” Skalkottas’ 36 Greek Dances is a lovely work. Lasting just over 25 minutes these short dances combine in a lovely sequence that is often light and playful but with contrasts throughout. The disk also includes excerpts form the folk ballet The Sea and a premiere recording of the Suite No 1 for large orchestra, a work dating, in its final form, from 1935. Very enjoyable and probably unfamiliar repertoire for many listeners.

BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC 1 – RICHARD ADDINSELL
BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA
PHILLIP MARTIN, RODERICK ELMS, piano
KENNETH ALWYN, conductor
NAXOS 8.555229 68’16

I have long had an affection for what has become known as British Light Music. Although Naxos have released a number of recordings of the genre already this appears to be the first in a new series of single composer CDs. Richard Addinsell was a prolific composer for films, radio and of standalone music. All are represented here including reconstructions and arrangements by various musicians where the original manuscripts have been lost. As with much of this music there are memorable melodies and beautiful orchestrations. The CD sets out to prove that there is more to Addinsell than just Warsaw Concerto. Shades of this are to be heard in the new-to-me theme from A Tale of Two Cities which ends the collection. A very welcome and enjoyable production.

ETHEL SMYTH – STRING QUARTET/STRING QUINTET
MANNHEIMER STREICHQUARTETT
CPO 999 352-2 68’29

This is a lovely pairing of the String Quartet in E minor with the String Quintet in E major. These two works were published 30 years apart and consequently show development in Smyth’s compositional approach. In these recordings this music of a pioneer and innovator who bridges the 19th and 20th Centuries sounds fresh and invigorating. It pushes forward whilst at the same time remains firmly in the tradition of English string writing, with wider European influences.

CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH – THE SOLO KEYBOARD MUSIC VOL 40
KEYBOARD TRANSCRIPTIONS 1
MIKLOS SPANYI, harpsichord
BIS 2387 81’51

This monumental survey of the solo keyboard music of this son of JS reaches volume 40 with original keyboard transcriptions of orchestral works. Spirited performances from a performer who knows this repertoire very well include many shorter works alongside the Symphonies in E minor and D major and the Concerto in F major.

BRAHMS PIANO SONATAS & RHAPSODIES
GARRICK OHLSSON, piano
HYPERION CDA68334 69’11

The 2 Rhapsodies, Op 79 have long been favourites of mine. Sitting neatly between the longer Piano Sonatas No 1 & 2 and shorter works I find the way these pieces have room to develop without overstaying their welcome very appealing. Both have characteristic melodies and the way they play with rhythm and harmony bring out the best of Brahms’ pianistic writing. Lovely performances throughout by Garrick Ohlsson.

VOYAGE OF A SEA-GOD:
The Bassoon leading a musical journey through the 20th Century
LAURENCE PERKINS, bassoon
CITY OF BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
WILLIAM GOODCHILD, conductor. MICHAEL HANCOCK, piano
CARDUCCI STRING QUARTET
HYPERION CDA68371/2 (2 CDs) 144’21

Both the title and the concept drew me to this release. From an early age I was intrigued by the sound of the bassoon (Ivor the Engine?) both by its sound and, later on when a classmate was a player, by its looks! I am afraid to say that despite this I knew none of the music on this splendid double CD collection. A roll-call of prolific 20th Century composers each provide a single piece, together making a wonderful compilation of diverse music linked by this most magical timbre. Longer works such as Arnold Bax’ Threnody and Scherzo, Richard Rodney Bennett’s Bassoon Sonata, Andrzej Panufnik’s Concerto for bassoon & small orchestra and Elizabeth Maconchy’s Concertino for bassoon & string orchestra sit alongside shorter works including the brilliantly titled Minuet:Grace for a fresh egg written for a friend at the end of the 2nd World War by Herbert Howells. There was one composer I did not know, Richard Henry Walthew, whose Introduction & Allegro opens the whole set. Expertly played, Laurence Perkins’ solos enable different moods and atmospheres to be conveyed ably supported throughout by the other musicians. The booklet adds some interesting background to the music and this chronological progression.

KORNGOLD – SONGS -2
BRITTA STALLMEISTER, soprano SIBYLLE FISCHER, mezzo-soprano
UWE SCHENKER-PRIMUS, baritone KLAUS SIMON, piano
NAXOS 8.573083 57’55

This second volume includes quite a variety of settings. The more serious Drei Gesange fur mittlere Singstimme und Klavier, Op 18 ventures into the realms of more experimental harmony and form. This contrasts with some of the other songs which are in lighter style more reminiscent of Musical Theatre. A very good collection.

MUSIC FROM THE PROMISED LAND – DUO MANTAR
JACOB REUVEN, mandolin ADAM LEVIN, guitar
NAXOS 8.573962 73’02

This is a very enjoyable compilation of contemporary music from Israel for the less usual combination of mandolin and guitar. Pieces include Yehezkel Braun’s Sonata for Mandolin & Guitar (2004) and Paul Ben-Haim’s 3 songs without words (dating from 1952 and arranged more recently). Includes a number of premiere recordings.

VITEZSLAVA KAPRALOVA – WAVING FAREWELL
NICHOLAS PHAN, tenor AMY I-LIN CHENG, piano
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN S O, KENNETH KIESLER, conductor
NAXOS 8.574144 58’57

It is a tragedy that Vitezslava Kapralova died so young. The music here is superb. Reaching only the age of 25 what more might she have gone on to achieve? The most substantial works here are Vojenska symfonieta (‘Military Sinfonietta’) and Piano Concerto in D minor, Op 7. Well worth investigating.

XIAOGANG YE – MOUNT E’MEI
WEI LU & DAN ZHU, violin SHENGNAN HU, percussion XIAOTANG TAN, piano
ROYAL SCOTTISH NATIONAL ORCHESTRA, GILBERT VARGA
DEUTSCHE STAATSPHILHARMONIE RHINELAND-PFALZ
STEFAN MALZEW & FRANK OLLU
NAXOS 8.579087 63’51

This very evocative music from one of China’s leading current composers makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. I am personally very drawn to the mixture of timbres , particularly the percussion. In the first and longest track from which the CD takes its name, also scored for violin and orchestra. Scent of Green Mango for piano and orchestra follows, together with Lamura Cuo for violin and orchestra and the string work The Silence of Mount Minshan. A very welcome addition to the Naxos range.

THE BEST OF ARNOLD – MALCOLM ARNOLD
VARIOUS ARTISTS
NAXOS 8.578360 76’30

Released to celebrate the centenary of Malcolm Arnold’s birth this collection is a very good introduction to his music with single movements from symphonies and concertos, the well-loved English Dances, Set 1 and the 3 Shanties and other shorter works. There is also a premiere recording of his Grand Fantasia from 1940. But to really be the ‘best’ doesn’t it need The Padstow Lifeboat?

SP

CDs May 2021 (2)

I WILL BUILD YOU A HOUSE
ANDREAS IHLEBAEK, piano
NXN 1004 50’ approx

An enjoyably relaxing sequence of melodic, expansive piano music from this contemporary Norwegian pianist/composer. Grouped into 3 sections, Come Summer, Preludes to Storm and Let me be Good, the music is at times gently hypnotic, with hints of Satie and contemporary film soundtracks. There is a lovely purity to this music. An interesting biographical note gives a hint at how these composition/performance pieces have helped him and others, especially as much of the music came about during the Covid pandemic.

OTTORINO RESPIGHI – WORKS FOR FLUTE & ORCHESTRA
ROBERTO FABBRICIANI, flute
ORCHESTRA SINFONICA ABRUZZESE, NICOLA PASZKOWSKI, conductor
TACTUS TC 871805 50’48

This collection of late romantic works includes two premiere recordings. The CD is bookended with two Suites with the two-movement Melodia & Valse Caressante and Serenata in between. Developments in his compositional style can be seen in the chronological progression from the earlier works here (early 20th Century) up to the final suite Gli Ucelli. As well as various influences from his native Italy, including baroque stylings, Gregorian chant and polyphony he was influenced by Russia and other European cultures.

MAX BRUCH PIANO WORKS
CHRISTOF KEYMER, piano
CPO 555 258-2 66’43

This collection of short descriptive pieces mostly arranged into themed collections shows a different side to the composer associated mostly with larger works for solo strings and orchestra. Bruch was an excellent pianist but did not regard his piano writing as particularly significant. He was drawn to folk melodies of many different sources. Two sets of Swedish Dances make up a sizeable portion of this CD. They can be seen in the same light as other national dances by Brahms and Dvorak. An interesting collection with amterial that will be unfamiliar to many.

RACHMANINOV – PIANO SONATA NO 2, PRELUDES OP 23 NOS 4-6, MOMENTS MUSICAUX
SONYA BACH, piano
RUBICON RCD1058 68’18

This is a lovely disc of Rachmaninov’s music. With sensitive and passionate performances throughout Sonya Bach is obviously very at home with this repertoire. Recommended!

EDUARD FRANCK – PIANO CONCERTOS 1 & 2
GEORG MICHAEL GRAU, piano
WURTTEMBERGISCHE PHILHARMONIE REUTLINGEN
FAWZI HAIMOR, conductor
CPO 555 320-2 74’57

These two piano concertos, in D minor and C major, date from the middle and latter half of the 19th Century. These romantic pieces were in part influenced by associations with Mendelssohn, Schumann and Sterndale Bennett. These performances give a very good introduction to the works of this particular Franck, if, like me you were unfamiliar with him and is enjoyable in its own right.

NORDIC RHAPSODY
JOHAN DALENE, violin
CHRISTIAN IHLE HADLAND, piano
BIS-2560

Produced in conjunction with Radio 3’s New Generation Artists scheme this is a lovely programme of music highlighting composers from the region. Although many of the composers are well known the music is not necessarily familiar. Music includes Nielsen’s Romance in D major, Grieg’s Violin Sonata No 1 in F major, as well as pieces by Sinding, Stenhammar, Sibelius and Rautavaara’s Notturno e danza.

SCOTT WOLLSCHLEGER – DARK DAYS
KARL LARSON, piano
NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS FCR287 ’50 approx

This is a very rewarding disc of short contemporary pieces which play with colour, rhythm and harmony. Written between 2007 and 2020 this collection shows how the composer combines these elements together with the properties of the piano alongside his personal experience of synaesthesia. The music is expansive, often repetitive but with slight shifts and variations. The long term collaboration of composer and performer also adds to the overall effectiveness. I hope to hear more.

ROBERT GROSLOT – THE INTIMACY OF DISTANCE
CHARLOTTE WAJNBERG, soprano
BRUSSELS PHILHARMONIC, ROBERT GROSLOT, conductor
NAXOS 8.579100 55’45

Described as a “concerto for soprano and orchestra” The Intimacy of Distance sets a recent text concerned with life and distance. Alongside this are My Green Shade Forest and Trittico incantevole. The CD consists entirely of music written within the last six years and premiere recordings. A welcome addition to the catalogue of contemporary music.

WIDOR – ORGAN SYMPHONIES 5
CHRISTIAN VON BLOHN, organ of St Josef’s Church, Sankt Ingbert, Germany
NAXOS 8.574279 76’26

The Naxos survey of Widor’s organ works continues with volume 5 of the Organ Symphonies, the 3rd volume in the series recorded by organist Christian von Blohn. Interesting booklet notes highlight the fact that these works exist in different versions, necessitating decision making as to which version to record. This is again referenced by the inclusion between Symphony No 5 in F minor (which includes the famous Toccata) and Symphony No 6 in G minor of movement 4 of Symphony No 8 in B major, which was included in the 1887 edition but omitted later in 1901. Fine performances of substantial music.

JOHANN SIMON MAYR – MESSA DI GLORIA IN E MINOR & F MINOR
SIMON MAYR CHORUS
CONCERTO DE BASSUS, FRANZ HAUK, conductor
NAXOS 8.574203 80’09

World premiere recordings here of two different approaches to setting the mass. The first, lasting nearly an hour is on a much grander scale to the second which comes in at just over twenty minutes. The first incorporates intricate musical devices and showcases the development of Mayr’s (1763-1845) later writing. The pairing gives an opportunity to compare a single composer’s response with vastly differing outcomes from the same starting point. This music was once to be heard across Europe as a development of the traditional Italian school of composition. I am sure this CD will re-introduce his name to many.

SP