July 2019 CD Reviews

August 2019 CD Reviews
Isata Kanneh-Mason plays the Piano Music of Clara Schumann: Concerto, Romances, Sonata, Transcriptions [Decca]
July, 2019 |  There is always danger of confusion because Clara Schumann’s A-minor Piano Concerto is in the same key as the better-known example by Robert Schumann. ... Earlier this year Howard Shelley’s excellent recording brought renewed attention to Clara’s Concerto and it is interesting that while both his performance and that of Isata Kanneh-Mason take similar lengths of time and both pianists are fully in sympathy with the romantic nature of the piece, their readings differ considerably in nature. 
The Classical Piano Concerto – Johann Baptist Cramer – Howard Shelley & London Mozart Players [Hyperion]
July, 2019 |  There are many unreasonably neglected Piano Concertos dating from the early-nineteenth-century and it is greatly to Howard Shelley’s credit that he brings them frequently to public attention. ... Johann Baptist Cramer (1771-1858) is a reasonably familiar name but it seems mostly to conjure up his skill as a teacher and the creator of many Etudes... 
David Skinner conducts Alamire in Motets by Hieronymus Praetorius [Inventa]
July, 2019 |  This release of Venetian-inspired polyphony by Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629) is the first from the specialist early-music label, Inventa. By and large David Skinner and his vocal and instrumental forces create a welcome addition to the catalogue, for while there are recordings exclusively devoted to this German composer, this from Inventa explores his more extravagantly-conceived Motets... 
Andris Nelsons conducts the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in Bruckner's Symphonies 6 & 9 and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll & Parsifal Prelude [Deutsche Grammophon]
July, 2019 |  The layout is sensible; on each disc a Wagner piece precedes a Bruckner Symphony, and – with applause removed (these are concert performances, with some annoying coughs and noises-off remaining) – the quiet endings segue nicely into Bruckner’s beginnings. And it’s the Wagner choices that receive the finer performances. Siegfried Idyll is literally breathed into life by Andris Nelsons, cueing the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra to commune with the music, bringing a very expressive beauty and contentment, ravishing the listener’s senses with a mix of poignancy and poetry... 
Thomas Dausgaard conducts Sibelius’s Kullervo [BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Hyperion]
July, 2019 |  Missing from Paavo Järvi's recent French Sibelius cycle was Kullervo – the composer's posthumously published 1892 choral Symphony drawing on the 1849 revision of the Karelian Kalevala. The Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard, six months younger, repairs the omission with this latest high-impact Hyperion release, a two-day Andrew Keener/Simon Eadon studio collaboration that largely lives up to the partnership. 
Sakari Oramo conducts Sibelius – including Lemminkäinen Legends [BBC Symphony Orchestra; Chandos]
July, 2019 |  As for the main event, the Lemminkäinen Legends (the latter titular word preferable to the now-usual Suite, which Chandos chooses), I have heard Sakari Oramo conduct this vivid four-part opus at least twice (March 2017, BBCSO, Barbican Centre; and October 2018, a Berliner Philharmoniker webcast) and on both occasions he has opted for a second-placed ‘Swan of Tuonela’. Fair enough, as this seems to represent Sibelius’s ultimate order of music revised three times, finally as late as 1939; yet, to my mind, ‘Swan’ is better placed third, where it is used to be when I was discovering this music (so long ago!), and also having the two longer sections riposted by the shorter ones makes greater sense ... so the surprise, and a gratifying one, is that Oramo has changed his mind, at least for this recording... 
Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts Weinberg – Symphonies 2 & 21 – CBSO & Kremerata Baltica [Deutsche Grammophon]
July, 2019 |  Having already confirmed her rapport with the music of Mieczysław Weinberg through her reading of his valedictory Fourth Chamber Symphony (ECM), Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla again directs Kremerata Baltica in the composer’s Second Symphony. ... Completed in 1991, the Twenty-First Symphony has a genesis stretching back some quarter-century – which, along with its allusions to Chopin, Mahler and several of Weinberg’s own pieces, makes for an undeniably summative statement. 
Leonore Piano Trio – Music by Hubert Parry [volume 2] – with Rachel Roberts [Hyperion]
July, 2019 |  The hoped-for second volume from Leonore PT of Charles Hubert Hastings Parry’s chamber music has arrived! ... Sir Hubert (1848-1918) is once again done proud by the Leonore Piano Trio in his Second such work, a four-movement affair. For convenience Parry could be anointed as the English Brahms. ... Add Rachel Roberts’s viola for the Piano Quartet, an intense creation, opening darkly and pensively until Allegro molto appears and disperses the clouds, the music determined (again closer to Robert than Johannes) with room to skip forward irresistibility to (another) unexpected conclusion. ... So, a job exceptionally well done – hats off to Sir Hubert Parry, Leonore members and their guest viola-player, and of course Hyperion – and not forgetting sound-engineer Arne Akselberg, whose demonstration-quality recording invites the listener to be the fourth or fifth member of the ensemble. 
Andrew Davis conducts Hector Berlioz – Symphonie fantastique & Tempest Fantasy [Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Chandos]
July, 2019 |  The discography of Symphonie fantastique has grown lushly since 1923 (or 1924, depending on what you read) when René-Emmanuel Baton made the first recording of it, with the Paris-based Pasdeloup Orchestra, much reduced for the occasion (a handful of violins) but still a remarkable undertaking for the acoustic era (currently available on Warner Classics). I have no idea what number recording of fantastique Andrew Davis’s is, but in Berlioz 150 year it is welcome. I have no idea what number recording of fantastique Andrew Davis’s is, but in Berlioz 150 year it is welcome. The extra étoile is for the final chunk of Lélio, Berlioz’s Opus 14 “return to life”supplement (placed first on the disc). The ‘Tempest Fantasy’, scored for a chorus without baritones or basses (singing as required in Italian, text/translation in booklet) and an orchestra including a piano (believed to be the first such use of the instrument), is a delight... 
Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Volume 5 – Eight Overtures – CBSO/Edward Gardner [Chandos]
July, 2019 |  Most of these pieces are Concert Overtures, rather than being preludes to operas or plays. Felix Mendelssohn was an expert in this genre. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an interesting variation on this tradition since the fifteen-year-old composer wrote the Overture to Shakespeare’s play, and included identifiable references to characters and events, yet the incidental music was not published until twenty years later when some of the themes within the Overture reappear during individual scenes. Edward Gardner takes a forthright view. 
Herbert Blomstedt conducts Mahler 9 – Bamberg Symphony [Accentus Music]
July, 2019 |  “Do not go gentle into that good night...”. However we choose to interpret Dylan Thomas’s words, they seem appropriate to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony... ... Recorded shortly before his ninety-first birthday (and, at the time of writing this, he remains very concert-active and music-hungry) Herbert Blomstedt lets Mahler’s music do all the talking... 
Mark van de Wiel plays Clarinet Concertos by Joseph Phibbs and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [Signum Classics]
July, 2019 |  The opening bars of the Mozart (placed second) tell that Mike Hatch’s engineering is top-notch, the orchestral sound clear and airy, and if Mark van de Wiel’s basset clarinet is perhaps a shade too forward in the balance, his playing is consistently shapely and mellifluous. ... Joseph Phibbs’s Clarinet Concerto is new, 2017, and is gratifyingly taken into the studio so soon. Phibbs (born 1974), writing especially for van de Wiel, has created a four-movement work of considerable appeal. 
Supersize Polyphony – Striggio Mass 40/60 & Tallis Spem [Signum Classics]
July, 2019 |  From the shared conducting of Christopher Monks and Geoffrey Webber, here are choral blockbusters from the Renaissance. ... There’s logic to placing Alessandro Striggio’s forty-part Mass with Thomas Tallis’s similarly scored Spem in alium; less obvious is the inclusion of four settings by Hildegard of Bingen... 


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