October 2017 CD Reviews

November 2017 CD Reviews
Saint Thomas Choir/John Scott – Duruflé’s & Howells’s Requiems [Resonus Classics]
October, 2017 |  The claim is made, somewhat sensationally, that “this album marks the final release in this series recorded across John Scott’s illustrious tenure in New York.” ... It brings together two well-known twentieth-century Requiems – Maurice Duruflé’s in particular being a favourite with choirs – which are not often thought of in connection with each other. The Duruflé is likely to be considered the headline work, but Herbert Howells’s example – less frequently encountered in the repertoire of English church choirs – serves as no mere prelude... ... Forging the link between these two works is a crisp account of Vaughan Williams’s Valiant-for-truth, setting words from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. 
The Romantic Piano Concerto – 73: Simon Callaghan plays Roger Sacheverell Coke [BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins; Hyperion]
October, 2017 |  The English composer and pianist Roger Sacheverell Coke (1912-1972) – maybe his surname is pronounced “Cook” just like Peter Coke, the superb BBC Radio Paul Temple, still sleuthing the airwaves – here enters Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series, a late entrant at No.73. 
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett Orchestral Works Volume 1 – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/John Wilson, with Colin Currie [Chandos]
October, 2017 |  “Bennett’s orchestral music, eh?” a friend exclaimed, when I told him of this Chandos release, the first of a series. He continued, “No-one should be so gifted, but Bennett never wrote a memorable tune in his life.” ... ... ...but the “memorable tune” jibe has tended to stick – in so far as the greater extent of Richard Rodney Bennett’s output is considered. I disagree about Bennett’s music being unmemorable – I can cite a number of wonderful original tunes – the ‘Samba triste’ that opens his Four-piece Suite for Two Pianos, and the pop song ‘Lonely man in a lonely room’ he wrote for Hardy Kruger in the film Blind Date, are two that instantly spring to mind... ... Here is Bennett the consummate professional, displaying his seemingly effortless mastery at its most elegant, with John Wilson drawing from the BBC Scottish SO a response of the highest quality. 
Reicha Rediscovered, Volume 1 – Ivan Ilić [Chandos]
October, 2017 |  Antonín Reicha (1770-1836) was born in Prague but studied and had his early career in Germany before moving to Paris in 1799. A later spell of six years in Vienna was succeeded by his permanent return to Paris in 1808 and he became a French citizen in 1829, now as Antoine. ... This trend is also to be found in these choices by Ivan Ilić from Reicha’s piano works. ... The Sonata on a Theme of Mozart is strangely constructed – it opens with ‘March of the Priests’ from the second Act of Die Zauberflöte... 
Louis Frémaux – The Complete CBSO Recordings [Warner Classics]
October, 2017 |  The death in March of Louis Frémaux (1921-2017) brought into new focus his contribution to music-making in Birmingham. During 1969 to 1978 he transformed a capable ensemble into one of the finest in the UK, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra also benefitting from EMI opting to record more extensively with Britain’s regional orchestras. ... On its first appearance, the May 1972 account of Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No.3 (“avec orgue”) was highly acclaimed as a demonstration disc. ... The June 1972 recording of John McCabe’s Second Symphony, made soon after its premiere, captures the excitement though also inventiveness of one of its composer’s finest orchestral works (inspired by Sam Peckinpah’s western The Wild Bunch). 
Andrew Davis conducts Vaughan Williams’s Sinfonia Antartica, Concerto for Two Pianos, and Four Last Songs [Mari Eriksmoen; Hélène Mercier & Louis Lortie; Roderick Williams; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Chandos]
October, 2017 |  It arose from the music Vaughan Williams composed for the outstanding 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic, telling the story of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to locate the South Pole in 1910-12. ... ...for the result was the Sinfonia Antartica, first performed in January 1953 in Manchester by the Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli. ... ...and it is a measure of the excellence of Chandos’s vastly experienced team that this version of the Symphony is the finest recording of the score I have heard. It helps to have the acoustically fine Grieghallen in Bergen, but more than that is required – and is achieved here. ...  
Elgar: The New England Connection – Enigma Variations – and George Chadwick’s Symphonic Sketches [BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Andrew Constantine; Orchid Classics]
October, 2017 |  The premise of this release is to couple music by two contemporaneous composers, the American George Whitefield Chadwick (born 1854 in Massachusetts) and Edward Elgar (arriving in England three years later). ... In his booklet note Andrew Constantine goes into greater detail regarding the two men’s relationship [...] and leads the BBC’s Welsh orchestra in a revealing account of Chadwick’s Symphonic Sketches... ... Enjoyable though the Chadwick is, it is put into the shade by the perennially fresh and imperishable Enigma Variations... 
Beethoven’s Third & Emperor Piano Concertos – Norman Krieger/Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/JoAnn Falletta [Decca]
October, 2017 |  My understanding is that this release is currently only available in South Korea and also direct from the Buffalo Philharmonic. No doubt the artists involved hope for an international release and to complete their Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle. ... ...revealing Norman Krieger and JoAnn Falletta as working well and stylishly together and that her Buffalo players are not only well-prepared but very productive confreres... 
LSO Live – Simon Rattle conducts Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande – with Magdalena Kožená, Christian Gerhaher & Gerald Finley
October, 2017 |  This welcome recording of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande was made during Barbican Centre performances, as directed then by Peter Sellars. There is a great deal to admire, although it may not appeal to all lovers of this opera: it rather depends on how you view Simon Rattle’s interpretation. ... Christian Gerhaher shows why having a high baritone’s tint pays dividends to the role of Pelléas. ... Which leaves the Mélisande of Magdalena Kožená. The voice is ample and full of rich colours, which may be the issue for some. 
Vladimir Jurowski conducts Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty [State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia; ICA Classics]
October, 2017 |  A cursory glance at the annotation might suggest that Evgeny Svetlanov is involved in this performance of Tchaikovsky’s music for The Sleeping Beauty... ... This recording then is solely the inspiration of Vladimir Jurowski who leads a superb account of the complete score, every note of it. ... There are other notable versions of Sleeping Beauty (of course) – such as Ansermet, Bonynge, Lanchbery, Pletnev, Previn, Rozhdestvensky, Slatkin and, indeed, Svetlanov – to which distinguished company Jurowski easily joins... 
Hallé – Mark Elder conducts Vaughan Williams’s Symphonies 4 & 6 [Hallé own label]
October, 2017 |  When Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Sixth Symphony was first-performed (in London, April 1948) it must have come as a profound shock. ... Convincing solutions I have heard are by Sir Malcolm Sargent, Osmo Vänskä and via this recording Sir Mark Elder. ... On balance I regard Elder’s interpretation on this Hallé release to be the finest and most convincing. 
J. S. Bach – Solo Cantatas for Bass – Michael Volle & Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin [Accentus Music]
October, 2017 |  The Bach Cantatas forming the core of this release are staple Baroque fare for bass singers. Michael Volle’s presentation rings the changes by setting them within the context of a wider trajectory, though it is not a straightforward progression from darkness to light, or despair to hope and salvation. 

 

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