CDs/DVDs November 2019 (1)

MASAAKI SUZUKI PLAYS BACH ORGAN WORKS VOL 3
Masaaki Suzuki, Silbermann organ of Freiburg Cathedral
BIS BIS-2421 79’07

The latest volume of Bach’s organ works played by Masaaki Suzuki sees a fine recording on an historic organ with which the composer would have felt very much at home. The programme includes the Prelude & Fugue in C major and in C minor as well as the extended treatments of the chorales Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Her and  Ach was sol lich Sunder Machen. The CD ends with the longest work, Passacaglia & Fugue in C minor.

 

JON LEIFS – EDDA II : THE LIVES OF THE GODS
Hanna Dora Sturludottir, mezzo-soprano, Elmar Gilbertsson, tenor
Kristin Sigmundsson, bass, Schola cantorum
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Hermann Baumer, conductor
BIS BIS-2420 65’10

This truly is epic music! The second part of the (unfinished) trilogy based on medieval Icelandic literature, this oratorio in 6 parts includes sections on Odin and the Valkyries. This work occupied much of the composer’s life and it is good to see it presented here in a fine, well resourced performance. A comprehensive booklet gives some useful background, full texts and translations.

 

HAYDN – ORGAN CONCERTOS
Iain Quinn, organ
Sophie Gent, violin
Arcangelo, director Jonathan Cohen
CHANDOS CHAN 20118 69’41

Arguably less well known, but no less interesting than Handel’s, these works for organ and orchestra are amongst Haydn’s earliest concertos. In this new recording made in St Mary’s Church, South Woodford these pieces are recreated with care and attention to detail. Concertos 1,2 & 6 can be found here. In addition it is stated that Concerto No 10 is available for download only. Still being dedicated to CD format I don’t know how or why!

 

IVAN ILIC PLAYS HAYDN SYMPHONIES TRANSCRIBED BY CARL DAVID STEGMANN
Ivan Ilic, piano
CHANDOS CHAN 20142 68’42

This is an unusual release – recordings of three Haydn Symphonies in transcriptions made close to the time of their composition. Whilst there are different opinions about the place and value of transcriptions this is a good insight into the nineteenth century practice of transcribing works for orchestra so that they could be widely disseminated and experienced by audiences who would otherwise be denied access to new music. In these recordings we are in good hands as Ivan Ilic brings this music to us on the piano once more.

HOWARD SKEMPTON – MAN & BAT; PIANO CONCERTO;
   THE MOON IS FLASHING; ETERNITY’S SUNRISE
Roderick Williams, baritone, James Gilchrist, tenor, Tim Horton, piano
Ensemble 360
FHR FHR90 70’25

Howard Skempton continues to compose music that is fresh and exciting. Here we have his Piano Concerto (version for piano & string quartet) alongside another piece for instrumental ensemble, Eternity’s Sunrise. These works are complemented by two extended pieces for voice and instruments – a setting of DH Lawrence’s Man and Bat (2017), together with The Moon is Flashing, drawing on texts from the composer, Chris Newman and more DH Lawrence.

 

THE SECRET LIFE OF CAROLS – 800 YEARS OF CHRISTMAS MUSIC
The Telling
FHR FHR94 51’17

This four part ensemble produces a haunting sound, harking back to medieval times, with the combination of female voices, harps and drum. This production reposits a more resolutely folk approach to the singing of carols, enthused with vitality and rhythm.

 

FANTASY
Tessa Lark, violin, Amy Yang, piano
FHR FHR86 66’42

The basis for this recording are three 18th Century Fantasies by Telemann. Other works, from varying periods, but using the same or similar name are added to the mix. The longest work, Schubert’s Fantasie in C major, sits alongside works by Kreisler and Ravel as well as Tessa Lark’s own Appalachian Fantasy. A good balanced programme.

 

MACHAUT – THE SINGLE ROSE
The Orlando Consort
HYPERION CDA68277 56’48

This programme of secular vocal music from the pen of 14th Century French composer Guillame de Machaut transports the listener to a very specific sound world. Pristine performances are given by the four male members of The Orlando Consort.

 

DOHNANYI – PIANO QUINTETS; STRING QUARTET NO. 2
Takacs Quartet
Marc-Andre Hamelin,piano
HYPERION CDA68238 81’00

This CD would make a very good introduction to the music of Erno Dohnanyi. This neglected Hungarian composer is beginning to receive more recognition and this release can only help in that regard.

 

COBBETT’S LEGACY – THE NEW COBBETT PRIZE FOR CHAMBER MUSIC
Berkeley Ensemble
RESONUS RES10243 50’44

This is a very interesting release for those wishing to discover new music. Together with the winner of the original Cobbett prize for chamber music the three winning pieces from the newly inaugurated “New Cobbett Prize for Chamber Music”. Composers are William Hursltone, Barnaby Martin, Samuel Wesley Lewis & Lawrence Osborn. A bonus is the inclusion of A Purcell Garland – arrangements by Oliver Knussen, George Benjamin and Colin Matthews.

 

LA GRACIEUSE – PIECES DE VIOLE BY MARIN MARAIS
Robert Smith, viola da gamba, Israel Golani, baroque guitar & theorbo
Joshua Cheatham, viola da gamba, Olivier Fortin, harpsichord
RESONUS RES10244 66’13

Four suites from Marais’ five volumes of characterful Pieces de viole are presented here by this specially formed group of instrumentalists which includes the Amsterdam-based viola da gamba player, Robert Smith

 

THE WAITING SKY – MUSIC FOR ADVENT & CHRISTMAS
SANSARA
RESONUS RES10250 62’25

This beautifully performed and recorded disc blends mostly contemporary vocal works with music from the 15th & 16th Centuries. Despite so many seasonal offerings each year there is surely room for this.

 

AMADIO FREDDI – VESPERS (1616)
The Gonzaga Band, director Jamie Savan
RESONUS RES10245 58’10

This second recording from The Gonzaga Band on Resonus includes premiere recordings of the various movements of this contemporary of Monteverdi’s. Interwoven are pieces by other composers of the period including Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli.

 

O GEMMA CLARISSIMA – MUSIC IN PRAISE OF ST CATHARINE
The Choirs of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, Director Edward Wickham
RESONUS RES10246 72’02

A beautiful collection of 15th & 16th Century motets and hymns in praise of St Catharine presented by the choirs of the Cambridge College that bears her name.

 

LEOPOLD HOFMANN – FLUTE CONCERTOS 3
Uwe Grodd, flute
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, conductor Michael Halasz
NAXOS 8.573967 62’55

Volume 3 of this series of the 18th Century Vienese composer’s flute concertos consists of four works – in D & A and two in G.

 

GEORGE PHILIPP TELEMANN – 12 FANTASIES FOR SOLO FLUTE
Giovanni Roselli, flute
NAXOS 8.579054  55’27

Here for a change we are treated to a programme for solo flute, allowing the instrument to speak for itself in this original and contrasting music.

 

MILITARY BEETHOVEN – COMPOSITIONS & TRANSCRIPTIONS FOR PIANO
Carl Petersson, piano
NAXOS 8.573928 72’43

An intriguing and entertaining disc. Music includes Wellington’s Victory (or The Battle of Vitoria), 7 Variations on God Save the King & 5 Variations on Rule Britannia as well as the extended Music for a Ballet of the Knights.

 

MESSIAEN – MEDITATIONS SUR LE MYSTERE DE LA SAINTE TRINITE
Tom Winpenny, organ of Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland
NAXOS 8.573979  74’30

Tom Winpenny continues to explore the twentieth century organ repertoire and proves he is very much at home with this music, Messiaen’s moving theological cycle exploring the Holy Trinity. A fresh recording on this very suitable Icelandic instrument.

SYNAGOGUE ORGAN MUSIC
Stephan Lutermann, organ of St Maria & Cacilia, Verden
Cantor Assaf Levitin, Bass
CPO CPO 555127-2  73’34

This is a very welcome recording of 19th & 20th Century organ music for the synagogue based on traditional Jewish themes. The vocal music which provides the basis of these works is also included courtesy of the Cantor. A disappointment is the fact that this is not recorded on a synagogue organ. Perhaps there could be a project to record such organs for a future release?

 

SATIE – COMPLETE PIANO WORKS 4
Nicolas Horvath, piano
GRAND PIANO GP823 61’59

Volume 4 of this series presents a very interesting selection of pieces embracing different styles including music for theatre, pantomime, ragtime and more reflective styles. Very enjoyable.

SP

 

Heitor Villa-Lobos: Guitar concerto & Harmonica Concerto
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Giancarlo Guerrero
NAXOS 8.574018

Not as familiar as they might be, this forms an interesting collection as it includes the Sexteto Mistico and the Quinteto Instrumental in addition to the two concerti. Though popular at the time of its writing the guitar concerto is rarely played today and the appealing harmonic concerto entirely absent. This is a pity as both works have much to commend them and it would be good to feel that programme organisers moved outside of their comfort zone at times.

 

Philip Glass: Glassworlds 6: America
Nicolas Horvath, piano
GRAND PIANO GP817

The arrangement for solo piano of the second piano concerto works very well and sits comfortably alongside the world premiere recordings of Three pieces from Appomattox and A secret solo 2 which is a charming early work. I was not entirely convinced by Wichita Vortex Sutra with its mumbled narrative. I was unclear whether I was actually supposed to hear the text or not. Apart from this, the cd is a strong addition to the series.

 

Schumann; Violin concerto
Brahms: Double concerto
Antje Weithaas, violin; Maximilian Hornung, cello,
NDR Radiophilharmonie, Andrew Manze
CPO 555 172-2

The Schumann violin concerto is a surprising rarity on the concert platform and its complex construction may give some indication of why this is. Unlike the very familiar Sibelius, Mendelssohn, Bruch etc the soloist often seems lost within the denser orchestration and the melodic lines and more dissipated. Well worth getting to know but something of a challenge. No such problem with the Brahms which is here lovingly played with warm enthusiasm throughout and an indulgent slow movement second to know. Worth obtaining for both items.

 

Beethoven: Symphonies 3 & 1
Arranged for flute and piano trio
Uwe Grodd, flute; Gould Piano Trio
NAXOS 8.574039

With the Beethoven anniversary coming up next year we are bound to get some unusual recordings and this may be something of a precursor. Hummel’s arrangements are particularly striking in both their faithfulness to the originals and yet the sense that they could have been written like this in the first place. The Eroica is particularly impressive given the expectation of orchestral colour and dynamic one has come to expect, yet the limited palette seems to work extremely well. Thoroughly enjoyable and hopefully we might get the rest of the series!

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