June 2019 CD Reviews

May 2019 CD Reviews
John Andrews conducts Thomas Arne’s The Judgment of Paris – Brook Street Band [Dutton Epoch]
June, 2019 |  English music-theatre in the eighteenth-century has been so greatly overshadowed by Handelian Italian opera that audiences have rather forgotten about the native tradition of the masque. That is a pity as much as it is curious, since Purcell’s celebrated Dido and Aeneas at the end of the seventeenth-century is essentially the same type of work, and it might be expected that it would have inspired more attention to the genre’s subsequent development. ... ...two of the most prominent literary figures of that time, John Dryden and William Congreve, and intended for musical settings. The Judgment of Paris by the latter had been submitted for a competition in 1701, to be set to music by four composers (that by Daniel Purcell is relatively well-known in the annals of musical history if not in the concert hall). Thomas Arne’s later work first appeared in 1742... 
Lise Davidsen sings Wagner & Strauss with Philharmonia Orchestra & Esa-Pekka Salonen [Decca]
June, 2019 |  This is Lise Davidsen’s debut album, and it gives an accurate idea of what all the fuss is about. She is already being spoken of in the same breath as Kirsten Flagstad... ... The programme is Wagner and Strauss – this year she sings Elisabeth at Bayreuth and she has already performed Ariadne at Glyndebourne... 
James MacMillan – One Equal Music – The Elysian Singers/Sam Laughton [Signum Classics]
June, 2019 |  There seems to be no reduction in the prodigious quantity of sacred music coming from the pen of Sir James MacMillan. This Signum recording, mostly of relatively recent material, forms an imaginative response to a variety of liturgical and specific cultural events broadly divided into “Psalms, Poems and Folksongs”... ... But relief arrives with ‘Lassie, wad ye loe me?’. Its folk-inspired melody, drones and rapt harmonies are all affectionately delivered by The Elysian Singers, whose warmth of tone (and that too of soprano Lois Gallaher) makes an attractive counterweight. ‘One equal music’ itself, beginning with John Donne’s familiar text “Bring us, O Lord God”, is at some remove from Sir William Harris’s sublime setting. 
Albion Quartet – Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartets Opuses 9 & 96 [Signum Classics]
June, 2019 |  Those who value numerology will note that this release is number 555 in Signum’s catalogue, which must signify good luck. At any rate, it is a splendid recording debut but for the Albion Quartet, who had been going for only two years when it was made. I have been aware of Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Rosalind Ventris since they were in their early teens and I have watched their progress with interest. The other two musicians appear to be just as talented, on this evidence. With a name starting with A, which will get these musicians near the top of all alphabetical lists, they should do well. 
Andrew Manze conducts Ralph Vaughan Williams Symphonies – Sinfonia antartica & No.9 [Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; Onyx]
June, 2019 |  Andrew Manze is nothing if not full of surprises and this latest and final instalment of his recorded Vaughan Williams cycle contains more than most. ... Sinfonia antartica courts controversy straight away by including the literary superscriptions favoured by a minority of recordings, most famously Sir Adrian Boult’s first, Decca LP with Sir John Gielgud and André Previn’s RCA version with Sir Ralph Richardson. (I haven’t heard Kees Bakels on Naxos.) Timothy West’s recitations are calm and a little ‘furry’ as were Richardson’s... 
The Romantic Violin Concerto – 22 – Linus Roth plays Lassen, Scharwenka & Langgaard | BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antony Hermus [Hyperion]
June, 2019 |  Hyperion’s Romantic Violin Concerto series is in full swing, and this latest instalment is a winner. ... Eduard Lassen (1830-1904), a Copenhagen gentleman, completed his Violin Concerto in 1888. Nicely expressive from the off... ... ...the dance-like Finale is perky and enjoyably unpredictable, the violinist given greater demonstration, seized upon with relish by Linus Roth. ... Of equal distinction (and length, thirty-four minutes here) is the Violin Concerto by Ludwig Philipp Scharwenka... ... Which leaves the Violin Concerto by Rued Langgaard (1893-1952) and a return to Copenhagen. 
Heinz Holliger conducts Schubert, Volume Two – Symphonies 1 & 5 and the Overture to Fierrabras [Basel Chamber Orchestra; Sony Classical digital download]
June, 2019 |  Heinz Holliger’s version of Schubert’s ‘Great C-major’ Symphony proved outstanding (link below) and in these two earlier works he vividly illuminates the amazing talent of a composer still in his teens. These are sensitive performances, full of articulate phrasing but Holliger never finds it necessary to adjust the speed for the sake of expressiveness. ... I do though have reservations about the sound because higher frequencies often have a cloudy nature resulting in a lack of impact from the upper strings. The excellence of the compact disc reproduction on Holliger’s ‘Great’ is not equalled although the venue and producer are the same. Could this be the difference between downloaded sound and CD quality? 
The Fellini Album – The Film Music of Nino Rota – Riccardo Chailly conducts Filarmonica della Scala [Decca]
June, 2019 |  Eighty-one minutes of Nino Rota’s music for the films of Federico Fellini – played superbly by the La Scala Philharmonic, conducted with relish and affection by Riccardo Chailly... ... Take 8½ (Otto e Mezzo), dripping in picturesque sentiment and electric emotions... ... Finally, The Clowns – if you like Shostakovich in Dance/Film/Jazz mode [...] then you are in business... 
Barry Douglas – Schubert Works for Solo Piano, Volume 4 – Sonatas D537, D575 & D664 [Chandos]
June, 2019 |  Schubert unsettles people. ... This is the fourth volume of Barry Douglas's Schubert cycle for Chandos. Its strength is that it's Schubert supremely un-photoshopped. Irrespective of merits and recommendations, I find I have no need to listen to other versions or angles. He gives us the pages as they are, truthful to content and markings, the music and its grammar, not acquired habit, relaxing or pushing the tempo. This makes for a natural ebb and flow. 
Edvard Grieg Kor sings Grieg [Chandos]
June, 2019 |  The eight-voice Edvard Grieg Kor offers impressive singing and some fine arrangements, of which Jonathan Rathbone’s reimagining of the Holberg Suite is this release’s chief selling point. 

 

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