CDs DVDs February 2021 (1)

Gluck: Alceste
Bavarian State Opera, Antonello Manacorda
UNITEL 756804

Gluck used dance as an integral part of his staging but this version goes even further and includes dancers throughout, often to the point where the singer is static and only the dancers are moving. While the narrative of Alceste is certainly limited, the dancers add a parallel rather than a supportive element. Interesting, but not always convincing.


Shakespeare: Timon of Athens
Kathryn Hunter, RSC, Stratford upon Avon

We saw this production in Stratford in 2019 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I am not totally convinced by the whole scale indulgence in diversity but there is certainly no problem with Kathryn Hunter as Timon. The timeless setting and the fine emotional reality of the narrative make for a compelling production by Simon Godwin. With so much classical theatre around which I am afraid I regard as dubious, this is a refreshing approach which really works.


Beethoven; Piano Concertos 1 & 2
Igor Levit, Xiaohan Wang, piano; Kolner Kammerorchester, Helmuth Muller-Bruhl
NAXOS 8.551447

It is not often one has different soloists for the major works being recorded but the use of two soloists here goes back to the Kolner Kammerorchester’s policy of working with a range of young soloists to promote the best. As such we have two perfectly pleasing recordings of the Beethoven concerti but little more focus than that.


Mahler: Das Klagende Lied
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Michael Gielen
ORFEO C 210021

This is a live recording from 1990 and very fine it is. Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied is surprisingly little performed when set alongside the symphonies yet it really deserves a place with them if only for the magnificence of the orchestration and melodic creativity. Good to have this available.


Vaughan Williams: Symphony No 5; Scenes from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
BBC Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins

As one who feels that Vaughan Williams’ Pilgrims Progress is greatly undervalued, it is a pleasure to find these scenes at least linked with an equally fine recording of the Fifth Symphony. Martyn Brabbins has always been a sensitive conductor of Vaughan Williams and proves to be so again here.


Respighi: Concerto All’antica; Ancient Aires and Dances 1-3
Davide Alogna, violin, Chamber Orchestra of New York, Salvatore di Vittorio
NAXOS 8.573901

The Concerto All’antica is almost certainly unknown compared with the familiar Ancient Airs and Dances but it is an immensely appealing work, very much in the same vein. The score was only printed in a critical edition in 2019 and so is here recorded for the first time. It is good to have it available.


French Duets
Paul Lewis & Steven Osborne

This is sheer indulgence and there is nothing wrong with that. Think of a lollypop and it is probably here – Faure’s Dolly, Debussy’s Petite Suite, Ravel’s Ma mere l’oye – plus a number more, all joyfully played with enthusiasm.

Vida Breve
Stephen Hough, piano

I caught Stephen Hough speaking with enthusiasm on radio recently about this new recording. It creates a fine over-arching programme opening with an austere reading of Bach/Busoni Chaconne and then moving through a number of works which gradually unfold in enthusiasm until they end gently with a rapturous meditation on Bach’s familiar Ave Maria, drawing on Bach and Busoni as well as Stephen Hough himself. A lovely disc.


I wonder as I wander
James Newby, baritone, Joseph Middleton, piano
BIS BIS 2475

These are essentially reflective songs by a wide range of composers, but all focussed on the ruminations of the singer, even when the texts are drawn from folk songs. James Newby manages to communicate his introspection at the same time as ensuring we are not somehow too far on the outside. A moving collection.

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