ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY ANNIVERSARY EDITION
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
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
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?