If I were titling this latest Ed’s Choice (covering our July reviews of recordings) I might have come up with Recent Discoveries and Those Releases that are Indispensable (clunky) ... or, more routinely (i.e. clichéd), Six of the Best.
Of those six July-ers, four are indeed discoveries (at least for me), although Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto recently had a high-profile release from Hyperion and Howard Shelley. Isata Kanneh-Mason now follows suit with a Clara album of compositional and artistic distinction. And if you fancy further piano music from yesteryear that is similarly worth a spin, then look no further than a couple of charming Concertos by Johann Baptist Cramer, stylishly and engagingly performed by ... you’ve guessed ... the splendid Mr Shelley.
Sticking with the piano, now with strings attached, a pair of chamber creations (a Trio and a Quartet) by Hubert Parry really hit the spot, so much so that if you don’t already have Hyperion’s first volume (the other Parry Trios) then you’ll want that title as well: sometimes this collecting business can be devilishly bewitching, all-consuming. And if you have a penchant for red-meat intensity, kaleidoscopic colour and a gamut of moods, and also have a regard for Shostakovich’s music, then two Symphonies (numbers 2 & 21) by Mieczysław Weinberg should find your favour, especially when conducted with such belief by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, with CBSO & Kremerata.
Which leaves The Indispensable Two: Polar opposites they may be in terms of their symphonic thinking, but Mahler and Sibelius are equally core in terms of repertoire. Herbert Blomstedt’s account of the former’s Ninth Symphony brings no exaggeration or whimsy yet penetrates deeply into the composer’s final completed opus; and, of similar must-hear quality, Sakari Oramo’s insightful conducting of Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends offers a vivid Kalevala-inspired travelogue, complemented by Chandos’s sound, an audiophile’s delight.
The Classical Source
1 August 2019
***As a postscript, just to clarify how Classical Source uses stars for its reviews. Since April 2016 a star-rating is mandatory for anything generally available (a recording, a book...) and when there is a run of performances (an opera, a ballet...). Stars are not required for a concert unless a reviewer is of the opinion that something is exceptional (five stars) or quite the opposite (one); either is rare ... ultimately it is the words that matter.***