The merry month of May has arrived. April was a corker for four- and five-star reviews of recordings on Classical Source; and it had me anxious for this latest Choice ... things cleared following a word – with myself.
Colin: You really should confine yourself to three selections a month, your self-imposed target.
Colin: I know mate, but look at April, it was only seven days old and we’d already had Gounod Symphonies, Bach Cello Suites from Gerhardt, Thielemann’s Schumann Symphonies and Elgar’s Caractacus, all stellar releases that demand inclusion.
Colin: Ah, I see your plight
Colin: And, are you ready for this deluge (see below), then Richard Rodney Bennett Volume 3 turned up, also impressive. Not really a problem, though, it’s more an embarrassment of riches. I think I shall just mention releases that have really stood out for me. Simples!
Colin: Probably the best plan. Good to talk to you, and good luck.
I am now not sure which of me is writing this, but both of us are certain that Yan Pascal Tortelier’s Gounod is a joy, that Alban Gerhardt’s magnetic Bach Suites is one of the very best in a crowded market, that Christian Thielemann has carved an individual and interesting way through Robert Schumann’s Symphonies – on each listen I have found continuing illumination through the conductor’s personal approach, which I find magnetic – and that Martyn Brabbins has done Caractacus proud, raising its profile.
Let me add ... first call to RRB, Chandos’s series of Bennett’s Orchestral Music in its third instalment includes the compelling First Symphony and Zodiac, and also the lightly pleasurable ‘tea dance’ cycle sung by Sarah Connolly. Adding to the enjoyable excess, there is Busoni’s monster Piano Concerto (Gerstein/Oramo) and, stylistically not unrelated, late Liszt from Cédric Tiberghien; the latter, at the right time of day and with the listener in the right frame of mind, is an extraordinary listen; and, remaining with the piano, I was much taken by Imogen Cooper’s Beethoven, her beguiling Bagatelles and debonair Diabelli.
Writing as one (two) who has not always found Berlioz’s version of Romeo and Juliet wholly successful, I was impressed by Leonard Slatkin’s approach, raising the potentially weaker sections onto the same exalted level of the most-celebrated parts – enlightenment ensues, gratefully; and, from a different/later era, a collection of Gary Carpenter’s music makes for engaging and return-visit listening.
So, it’s a Top Ten. Enjoy them all, and also May’s music, however formatted. So, it's good night from me, and good night from me.
The Classical Source
1 May 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.***