DVDs/CDs April 2020 (1)

Handel: Messiah ed. Goossens / Beecham
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Jonathan Griffith
Those of us of a certain age can recall a time when most Messiah’s were far closer to this full orchestral sound than the original instrument versions we have come to expect more recently. There really is a great deal to enjoy here particularly if you are prepared to indulge in the romanticised approach. The purists may not like it but I certainly did and the solo singing – minus any hint of ornamentation – is delightful, and tempi under Jonathan Griffith keep the pace moving smoothly. A welcome addition to the many recordings currently available – just sit back and enjoy the trombones and cymbal crashes.
Handel: works for viola da gamba and harpsichord
Ibrahim Aziz, viola da gamba; Masumi Yamamoto, harpsichord
FHR 91
This is not quite what it seems as much of the disc is given over to solo works for either gamba or harpsichord and two of the works are only attributed to Handel. That said most of the music here will be unfamiliar to all but the real enthusiast and therefore all the more welcome in expanding our knowledge of chamber music from Handel.
Cole Porter; A Celebration
Juliane Banse, soprano; Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, Dorian Wilson
SWR 19091CD
A strange mixture here but quite entertaining. Concert overtures are mixed with songs from Julianne Banse. Her voice is not an obvious one for musicals, seeming at times to be over-operatic but the music itself comes over with style and panache.
Rachmaninoff: Complete works for piano duo
Genova and Dimitrov Piano Duo
CPO 555 326-2
This recording mixes works specifically for piano duo with arrangements by the composer of more familiar works for two pianos. The cd opens with the Prelude in C sharp minor and the second concludes with the Symphonic Dances Op45. But as is so often the case, it is the lesser known works which prove to be equally engaging, even the brief Romance in G or the Polka Italienne.
Sullivan: Haddon Hall, Cellier: Captain Billy, Ford: Mr Jericho
BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Singers, John Andrews
There was a time when the only way of hearing very rare works was thanks to the BBC and here we certainly have some rarities. While the G&S canon is over-familiar I doubt there will be many who know Sullivan’s Haddon Hall, written in 1892 to a libretto by Sydney Grundy. But preceding this is Mr Jericho by Ernest Ford and you could be forgiven for thinking this is also by Sullivan, so similar is the style and melodic structure. This, and Francois Cellier’s Captain Billy, was written as a short curtain raiser, like Sullivan’s own Cox and Box. The booklet notes that these are world premiere recordings of the Cellier and Ford, and the first professional recording of Haddon Hall. It is certainly good to have them.
Rachmaninoff: Victor Talking Machine Company Recordings
Sergei Rachmaninoff, piano – recorded 1922-24
NAXOS 8.111413
There are some fascinating items here. Not only do we hear the composer playing his own scores but can witness his approach to others, notably Chopin and Tchaikovsky. The recording also includes the second piano concerto, with two attempts at the first movement! Fascinating. My only slight caveat, as one who has a player piano, is that Rachmaninoff sounds far better playing on our piano than he does on 78s!

Schumann: Cello Concerto, Alfredo Piatti, Cello Concerto No2, Concertino for cello and orchestra
Josephine Knight, cello, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Martin Yates
Although slightly younger than Schumann, Piatti lived into the twentieth century, though the two works here are firmly within the mid-nineteenth century romantic school. I particularly enjoyed the Concertino written in the early 1860s and here receiving its world premiere recording. The Schumann may seem more familiar but this is the original version, again recorded for the first time, and as such a welcome addition to the otherwise large number of recordings of the familiar version. A strong performance throughout from soloist and orchestra.