April 2017 CD Reviews

May 2017 CD Reviews
British Tone Poems, Volume 1 – BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Rumon Gamba [Chandos]
April, 2017 |  

Described as Volume 1, this collection of works has been cleverly selected so that all of them are likely to have equal appeal to the music-lover, which is not to say that each possesses equal artistic merit. ... The Witch of Atlas (1902, after Shelley) by Granville Bantock is one of those literal-inspired works wherein one cannot say if knowledge of the poem is a help or hindrance in coming to terms with this piece. ... Balfour Gardiner (1877-1950), in A Berkshire Idyll (this is its first recording), produced perhaps the most accomplished score in this collection after the more inspired pieces by Gurney and Vaughan Williams. 

Mariss Jansons conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony & Death and Transfiguration [BR-Klassik]
April, 2017 |  These are concert performances and it is reasonable to draw on live events since an enormous number of players are required for An Alpine Symphony. ... I was strongly reminded of that version as I listened to Mariss Jansons taking a similar view and bringing cohesion to this work... ... Bringing out pictorial references to the various scenes while ensuring that the drama progresses in symphonic terms is something that Bernard Haitink achieves (Concertgebouw and LSO); to his credit, Jansons sees the general structure in a way similar to the distinguished Dutchman... ... Although Richard Strauss did provide a programmatic description for Death and Transfiguration the title is sufficient to indicate his intentions. 
Carl Nielsen – Flute and Clarinet Concertos, Aladdin – Samuel Coles, Mark van de Wiel, Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi [Signum]
April, 2017 |  This very welcome release preserves Concerto performances from the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Nielsen Symphony Cycle with Paavo Järvi. ... Late in his life Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) decided to write a Concerto for each member of the Copenhagen Wind Quintet... ... Samuel Coles plays with much virtuosity and personality and he enjoys a vibrant and deft interaction from his Philharmonia colleagues... ... Caprice and confrontation, and a dark lyricism, inform the Clarinet Concerto... ... ...Mark van de Wiel plays this demanding work with flair, poise and insight... ... In February 1919 a new production of Adam Oehlenschläger’s Aladdin was staged in Copenhagen, for which Nielsen wrote a considerable amount of incidental music, and spectacularly good it is too... 
Chamber music by Borodin – Piers Lane & Goldner String Quartet [Hyperion]
April, 2017 |  Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) is as well-known to chemistry masters and pupils as he is to music-lovers through such always-welcome pieces as the Polovtsian Dances (from Prince Igor), In the Steppes of Central Asia, Symphony No.2 (the First is also magnetic), and of course there is Wright & Forrest’s borrowing of Borodin for Kismet, which includes the usage of String Quartet No.2. Here, as written, the Goldner String Quartet gives a flowing account... 
Vítězslav Novák – In the Tatra Mountains, Lady Godiva, Eternal Longing – Buffalo Philharmonic/JoAnn Falletta [Naxos]
April, 2017 |  The Czech composer Vítězslav Novák (1870-1949) is represented here by three pieces composed between 1902 and 1907. The earliest is In the Tatra Mountains, music that is atmospheric, impressionistic and ravishing... ... As for the eleventh-century Lady Godiva riding naked through the streets of Coventry to protest against a punitive tax levied by her husband – the Count – Novák’s descriptive powers are at their keenest... ... Coming in-between date-wise is Eternal Longing, owing to Hans Christian Andersen... ... ...JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic do Novák’s music proud. 
A Sousa Celebration – Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Kristjan Järvi [Chandos]
April, 2017 |  Looking for something foot-tapping and beguiling, and with a fund of tunes? This Chandos Sousa release could be the answer. It is indeed a celebration John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), who might be seen as America’s counterpart to the Viennese Strauss dynasty and its acolytes. Kristjan Järvi is enjoying himself and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra plays with panache and sensitivity. ... Of the pieces that are not for striding forth, there are two called Humoresque, one on ‘Swanee’ (owing to George Gershwin) and on ‘Look for the Silver Lining’ (Jerome Kern)... 
Arturo Toscanini – The Essential Recordings [RCA Red Seal]
April, 2017 |  To commemorate the 150th-anniversary of the birth (on 25 March 1867) of surely the twentieth-century’s greatest conductor, Sony Classical has enlisted two Toscanini specialists – Harvey Sachs and Christopher Dyment – to make their selection of recordings from the RCA back-catalogue, all presented in their previous re-mastering. So what do you get? ... There are then two discs embracing music by Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Berlioz. The Schubert is the ‘Great’ C-major Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra from November 1941. Toscanini had temporarily fallen out with NBC over a variety of issues; what you get here is unexpectedly good in terms of sound and the performance is stellar. ... Included with the Philadelphia Debussy is an exceptionally beautiful, languorous, yet crystalline, account of the Second Suite from Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, which explodes with energy in the concluding bacchanal. There is also Kodály’s Háry János, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and, in amongst the operas, a couple of Rossini Overtures... ... Then we have complete performances of Otello and Falstaff, from 1947 and 1950 respectively. In both Toscanini stands supreme, with only Carlos Kleiber equalling him in the former... 
Donizetti’s Il campanello di notte – Agnes Baltsa, Enzo Dara, Angelo Romero; conducted by Gary Bertini [Sony Classical]
April, 2017 |  Donizetti’s comic opera, Il campanello di notte, is a classic buffo piece with an inconsequential plot based around the attempts of Enrico to disrupt to post-nuptial celebrations of Don Annibale Pistacchio, an apothecary, and his new bride Serafina. She has been forced into the marriage... ... Don Annibale is played by the wonderfully ripe and supremely agile Enzo Dara... ... Agnes Baltsa was always a stage animal and recordings do not always do justice to her... 
Barry Douglas – Schubert Works for Solo Piano, Volume 2 – Impromptus D899 & Sonata D959 [Chandos]
April, 2017 |  Barry Douglas has always been his own man, an artist with a generous heart who thinks and plays big. His mixture of the darkly brooding and the urgently fiery makes for a temperament to conjure with: he can paint still waters, ravish shadows, and scale the Eiger. ... Celtic bard meeting Viennese poet, the dreamer and the storyteller, makes this second volume of Douglas’s Schubert edition for Chandos as individually nuanced as anything in his Beethoven and Brahms outings. 


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