March 2019 CD Reviews

April 2019 CD Reviews
Vasily Petrenko conducts Elgar – In the South, Serenade for Strings, Enigma Variations [Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; Onyx]
March, 2019 |  It was all going along pretty well until the end of Enigma Variations when the organ turns up (marked ad lib, but best to include it). Here it is too loud, dominant and growly... ... Not that Vasily Petrenko’s view of this imperishable masterpiece is a full-sail winner anyway... ... Preceding Enigma to make a well-designed concert is an expansive (twenty-four minute), stimulating and vivid account of In the South... 
Seong-Jin Cho plays Mozart – Piano Sonatas K281 & K322, and Piano Concerto K466 with COE/Yannick Nézet-Séguin [Deutsche Grammophon]
March, 2019 |  For all his fluency of technique and stylishness of approach, there is some suspicion as to Seong-Jin Cho’s complete empathy with this pair of Mozart Sonatas. ... It’s a different story with K466, owing a lot to the dramatic and incident-packed contribution from the COE and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, which treads the boards... 
J. S. Bach – Cantatas 33, 17 & 99 – Thomanerchor Leipzig & Sächsisches Barockorchester/Gotthold Schwarz [Accentus Music]
March, 2019 |  One can reasonably expect the modern-day successor of J. S. Bach’s choir at the Thomaskirche, Leipzig, to acquit itself well in a selection of Cantatas written originally for the singers’ musical forbears in the mid-1720s. Certainly they do so here in three generally joyful and upbeat works (composed for Ordinary Time in the Christian liturgical year – Trinitytide in this case) with a crisp and alert approach to the opening movements which are built freely upon a given chorale, with elaborate instrumental episodes. 
Sweeter Than Roses – Songs by Henry Purcell – Anna Dennis & Sounds Baroque [Resonus]
March, 2019 |  The rather innocuous and generic term ‘song’ belies, in this context, the extraordinary variety and imagination Purcell invested in his settings of texts even when, as in the case of most of those featured here, they were intended for public performance as a diversion within a stage play. They are not strophic settings, repeating the same music for each verse, but through-composed. Not all the writers are well-known today (John Dryden and Abraham Cowley are the prominent exceptions) but their expressive, Baroque texts repay close attention. ... Anna Dennis is wonderfully alive to the shifting moods and ideas expressed in order to tell a story... 
John Joubert – Piano Concerto & Symphony 3 – Martin Jones/BBC National Orchestra of Wales/William Boughton [Lyrita]
March, 2019 |  When John Joubert passed away earlier this year Kenneth Woods wrote a tribute to him for Classical Source (link below). It was Woods who conducted the world-premiere of Joubert’s opera Jane Eyre... ... ...Joubert had the wit to re-use the discarded material as the basis of his Third Symphony “on themes from the opera Jane Eyre”. It is Woods’s colleague William Boughton who introduces this impressive Symphony... 
Mozart – The Six String Quintets – Klenke Quartett & Harald Schoneweg [Accentus Music]
March, 2019 |  Had it not been for Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806), the underrated younger brother of Joseph Haydn, we might never have had these six life-enhancing works. ... The present set of Mozart’s Quintets features the all-female Klenke Quartet, who met as students in Weimar and made their debut in 1994. ... They are joined by one of their mentors, Harald Schoneweg, who was the original second violinist of the now defunct Cherubini Quartet: he sounds equally at home on the viola. 
Paavo Järvi conducts Sibelius – The Seven Symphonies – Orchestre de Paris [RCA Red Seal]
March, 2019 |  Why is it that this long-awaited Sibelius cycle from Paavo Järvi, historic for being the first to be recorded by a French orchestra, is not as globally satisfying as we might have hoped for? Certainly, you can't fault the playing: the Orchestre de Paris is one of the finest around, a large-scale enterprise with distinguished principals, and a rank-and-file committed to the task. No shirking, no ragged corners. 
Kenneth Woods conducts Philip Sawyers – Violin Concerto/Alexander Sitkovetsky, The Valley of Vision, Trumpet Concerto/Simon Desbruslais [Nimbus Alliance]
March, 2019 |  Philip Sawyers (born 1951) is an Englishman, a Londoner by birth, and he is doing well by the Nimbus Alliance label (four previous releases of his music) and through Kenneth Woods’s championing; he has recorded two of those four issues. ... Alexander Sitkovetsky plays with considerable attention and technical brio. ... The Valley of Vision (2017) – artist Samuel Palmer’s name for his bit of Kent – is a rhapsodic piece in the mould of Frank Bridge... ... Yet the 2015 Trumpet Concerto (of similar length to the Violin Concerto, twenty-seven minutes) hangs around long after auditioning. ... ...a fearless display from Simon Desbruslais. 
Amici Voices – Johann Sebastian Bach [Hyperion]
March, 2019 |  Amici Voices present a meditation on mortality and the uplifting prospect of a joyful afterlife via Christ’s redemption. Two relatively early Bach Cantatas outline the stylistic distance travelled from the German-influenced Actus tragicus (belonging to 1707 in Mühlhausen) to the French- and Italian-inclined Himmelskönig (from seven years later at Weimar), and there is a double-choir Motet from the Leipzig years drawn from the Venetian polychoralists filtered through Schütz. 
Maurizio Pollini plays Chopin – Nocturnes, Mazurkas, Berceuse, B-minor Sonata [Deutsche Grammophon]
March, 2019 |  You may not get quantity from Maurizio Pollini but you do get quality, as well as involved sniffs and vocalising as he rapturously floats the first of the two Opus 55 Nocturnes, not prettified in any way... ... These entrées lead to the B-minor Sonata, Pollini unleashing a fiery first movement (exposition repeat observed), the second subject integrated into this smouldering missive yet with no lack of shape or sensitivity... 
Leonard Slatkin conducts Aaron Copland – Grohg | Billy the Kid – Detroit Symphony Orchestra [Naxos]
March, 2019 |  2014 is correct, so here at last from Naxos (release date March 8) are two very different sides of the creativity of Aaron Copland (1900-90), if linked by both being music for ballet, conducted by one of his constant champions. ... Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra play every note of Billy the Kid... ... Musically, Grohg (a ‘he’, and adapted from Bram Stoker’s Dracula) is garish and threatening... 
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays Robert Schumann [Chandos]
March, 2019 |  Steering clear of more obvious repertory choices, this collection mixes big-boned and intimate Schumann. Dedicated to Moscheles, the F-minor Grande Sonate was chronologically the third of Schumann's Piano Sonatas to be published, in the autumn of 1836, under the (passingly questioned catchpenny) title of “Concert sans orchestre”. ... Jean-Efflam Bavouzet prefers to confine himself to the final thoughts of the relatively familiar 1853 edition, with, by way of homage, one or two hybrid touches emanating from Horowitz... 
Tasmin Little & John Lenehan – Music by Amy Beach, Clara Schumann and Ethel Smyth for violin and piano [Chandos]
March, 2019 |  Although the sole reason for this programme appears to be that all the composers were women, the Sonatas by Mrs H. H. A. Beach (strangely called here “Amy Marcy Cheney Beach”, of which more anon) and the young Ethel Smyth do go well together. ... Tasmin Little is well recorded and so is John Lenehan, who as always proves a strong yet tactful partner. He is nicely portrayed on the back cover of the booklet but has his name in smaller type on the front cover. I do wish record companies would not do this – the players in duo-Sonatas are equals. 
David Hackbridge Johnson Orchestral Music, Volume Two – Symphonies 10 & 13 – Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Paul Mann [Toccata Classics]
March, 2019 |  In misquoting the opening sentence of Charles Reade’s The Cloister and the Hearth, it appears that not a day passes over the Earth that David Hackbridge Johnson is not writing music, an observation prompted by the opus numbers of the three works recorded here. Johnson (born 1963) has waited some time for his music to reach an audience. Considering the reception accorded his Ninth Symphony (link below), it has been worth it – a view fully reinforced by this second release. 
Martyn Brabbins conducts Michael Tippett – Symphonies 3, 4 & in B-flat – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, with Rachel Nicholls [Hyperion]
March, 2019 |  I hope March the First 2019 has been as bountiful to you as it has to me – for this date marks Hyperion’s completion of Martyn Brabbins’s Michael Tippett Symphony Cycle – including an important bonus. 

 

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