Widor: The Organ Symphonies Vol 3
Joseph Nolan, Cavaille-Coll organ, La Madeleine, Paris
SIGNUM SIGCD 334 65.01
This is proving to be a highly impressive series, and one which you can return to with confidence, knowing that the performances will come up fresh on each hearing. The two symphonies on this disc may not be the most popular but repay careful listening. Joseph Nolan’s approach is studied without being over academic and he allows us to follow the structure of each symphony and to sense where Widor is leading us. Widor’s own comment you must give the organ time to breate and speak seems to lie at the heart of the recording, for we are aware of the atmosphere in La Madeleine before and during the individual movements. There is a real sense of a live performance rather than the cut and paste of many earlier recordings.
The dynamic changes within the church are impressive. Listen to the over-powering impact of the Marcia in the third symphony, followed by the reflective Adagio. Nothing sentimental or insipid in the quieter registration, but a real sensitivity towards the quieter voicing. Equally pleasing are the gentle Andante cantabile of the fourth symphony before the skittering of the Scherzo and the blazing finale. If you have not got the rest of the series – do so! BH
Bach Organ Works: Vol 2
Robert Quinney, Metzler organ, Trinity College, Cambridge
CORO COR 16112 75.11
This is a collection of highly popular works which most organ lovers will already have, some many times over, but I have to admit this is splendidly played and has gone straight to the top of my list when I want a popular Bach Toccata. I particularly liked the joyful approach to BWV540 which has always been a favourite. The pedal is never too heavy and the tempi forward-moving without being over-fast. The great Passacaglia has a sense of narrative which I enjoyed as well as some highly impressive articulation.
Choir of the King’s Consort; the King’s Consort; Robert King
VIVAT 101 67.52
I always feel Stanford is unjustly overlooked as a composer. Elgar we know well and Parry pops up with regular well-known lollipops. But what about Stanford? This new cd goes a long way to helping if not restore a reputation then at least bringing four different settings of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis by Stanford for our delight. Alongside these are Parry’s familiar I was glad, Blessed Pair of Sirens, the Coronation Te Deum and Elgar’s arrangement of Jerusalem (and how good to hear it sung rather than belted with cheers). All splendidly performed with original instrument accompaniment which softens the textures, and crisply sung by the Choir of the King’s Consort.
Britten: Spring Symphony
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Richard Hickox
CHANDOS CHAN 10782 X 58.48
A welcome reissue of a fine recording in the year of Britten’s anniversary. While the Spring Symphony is widely available the accompanying Welcome Ode and setting of Psalm 150 are less well known and thus all the more acceptable.
Schumann: Arrangements for Piano Duet 2
Eckerle Piano Duo
NAXOS 8.572878 73.18
While these are pleasant arrangements one has to admit that the music itself does not really gain anything from the arrangement for piano duet, however well played.
Wolfgang Holzmair; Andreas Haeflinger
CAPRICCIO C 5149
A rich acoustic gives a sense of a live performance for a work which I often feel is a masochistic challenge. While one feels the catharsis at the end, one’s heart is made to suffer all the way. Wolfgang Holzmair makes no attempt to over-characterise, allowing the narrative to unfold with simplicity, while Andreas Haeflinger’s accompaniment is a model of tact. Consider the delicacy of the opening of Der Lindenbaum or the quiet despair of the final Der Leiermann. Probably better not to listen to this alone – music can be devastating.
Early Opera Company, Christian Curnyn
CHANDOS CHAN 0797 66:46, 60:16, 39:27
It is difficult to accept that Serse was written off as a failure when first performed and not revived in the way that Handel did for so many of his operas. That it was composed in extreme haste over the Christmas of 1737 in no way compromised the wit and delicacy of the score itself, which has in recent years become one of his most popular compositions on stage.
This new recording, with a strong cast and exquisite original instrument accompaniment throughout is a valuable addition to the range of CDs and DVDs already available.