Archives: Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (31)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (31)

by: Colin Anderson

***Contains strong(ish) language!***

As we turn into the longer and depressing dark nights of Winter – cheerful bugger aren’t I – there is always music to keep us warm (add in a glass or two of ginger beer – damn, my secret is out), I have once again gone beyond my ‘3’ brief, if only by one release this time.

Ergo, dear reader, to borrow Ateş Orga’s final word from his review of Andrey Gugnin’s Shostakovich album for Hyperion, it is indeed “outstanding”. Perhaps on paper a Mozart release conducted by Rimma Sushanskaya, albeit of favourites, may not be queue-former, but it is wholly excellent in every particular, capped by a felicitous account of the K467 Piano Concerto (the one now associated with Elvira Madigan) from John Lenehan. Robert Matthew-Walker outlines the performances’ qualities, and I do so echoing the words of the late Bill Newman (record producer, reviewer, and inveterate collector) who, when something delighted him, would invariably describe it as “bloody marvellous”. As is Claudio Abbado conducting Bruckner’s Symphonies 1 & 9 in Lucerne; wonderful and indispensible: maybe a door opens for non-Brucknerians. I hope so.

My fourth (bonus) choice is Widor’s Complete Organ Works, championed heroically by Joseph Nolan. Not that organ music and me necessarily get on, in general, but what a gift this set is – taking us beyond the Toccata for Widor’s ten ambitious Symphonies captured in floor-vibrating sound. With exemplary and illuminating presentation this is a box-set to reckon with and keep handy for exploring.

Colin Anderson
Editor
The Classical Source
1 October 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.***

The Editor’s Choice (30)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (30)

by: Colin Anderson

***Breaking News, Sunday September 15: With our review of last night’s Last Night of the Proms, Classical Source has once again (and for the umpteenth year) reviewed every Prom, eighty-five in total for 2019 – seventy-five in the Royal Albert Hall, eight in Cadogan Hall, and the two “At …” concerts***

Ed’s Choice 30 (really?), looking back over August. That number of months has gone – somewhere, flying – oh well, but some good listening along the way and each of these editorials can be found wherever you see CS Recommends (a link at the top of most pages). In bringing up the 3-0, I was planning to revert to my original discipline of nominating three ‘best of the month’ selections, but I have typically failed, for it’s Lucky Seven again.

So, in no particular order, John Wilson’s conducting of Korngold’s Symphony is something of a revelation (and I started with Rudolf Kempe’s pioneering LP of it), I much enjoyed Orli Shaham’s coupling of two Mozart Piano Concertos, was enthralled by Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin as performed by Roderick Williams and Iain Burnside, eloquent unforced story-telling that draws the listener in, and Brahms’s three Violin Sonatas from Alina Ibragimova & Cédric Tiberghien are simply wonderful, a lifetime of rich expression therein.

Maybe not so central on the music radar, but just as rewarding, are three of Haydn’s miraculous Symphonies, not left-field on their own orchestral terms of course but because they (44, 75, 92) are played on a piano if colourfully by Ivan Ilić. Sticking with that instrument, Hindemith’s Ludus Tonalis from Käbi Laretei is a very welcome rescue from the archive, and, adding an orchestra, the Concerto by Hans Pfitzner (with, earworm spoiler, its corking second movement, a quirky and humorous meeting between Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns) coupled with Walter Braunfels’s ever-intriguing/-revealing Tag- und Nachtstücke (first recording), both brought off with conviction and mastery by Markus Becker, making for a further feather in the Hyperion cap and its Romantic Piano Concerto series.

Colin Anderson
Editor
The Classical Source
1 September 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.***

The Editor’s Choice (29)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (29)

by: Colin Anderson

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.

Colin Anderson
Editor
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.***

The Editor’s Choice (28)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (28)

by: Colin Anderson

Tempus fugit, so this latest Editor’s Choice is brief in words, yet high in quality as to those releases that have scored well in my book, whether it’s my review or not; the litmus test being return visits to listen or the surprise factor: something that was until now off the radar yet turns out to be a revelation.

Of the core stuff, Barry Douglas’s fourth volume of Schubert Piano Sonatas has been a regular disc in my player, so too Lise Davidsen’s debut release, of Strauss and Wagner – both issues offering illumination and solace. So too from the Engegård Quartet addressing Mozart, very agreeable readings and well-judged playing … much pleasure.

There is plenty of music out there that is rarely encountered, yet is immediately very impressive and good to get to know; so a big thumbs-up for an excellent Herbert Howells collection from King’s College Cambridge and also for Linus Roth’s notable entry into Hyperion’s Romantic Violin Concerto series.

BBC Proms start on Friday the Nineteenth, so I had better finish off the planning as to who is reviewing what, I haven’t forgotten … the Classical Source writers are chomping at the bit: an editor’s work is perhaps never done.

Colin Anderson
Editor
The Classical Source
1 July 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.***

The Editor’s Choice (27)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (27)

by: Colin Anderson

June may well be about to bust-out – but I am in minimalist mode (fine for words, less good for music!). Rather than reveal three-of-the-best recordings of those that Classical Source reviewed during May, it’s Lucky Seven (I’ve got to stop somewhere, if with pangs of regret for what is not included).

So, in no particular order (if with links below being strictly alphabetical) I was bowled-over at the quality of Jean Louis Nicodé’s piano music (if you like Schumann…) – a feather or two in the cap of Simon Callaghan and Hyperion for this one; similarly for that label and Steven Osborne in Beethoven’s Opuses 109-111, stellar readings of core/competitive repertoire. Equally distinguished is Augustin Hadelich’s vibrant account of further staple/oft-recorded music, Brahms’s Violin Concerto, coupled with Ligeti’s compelling example.

Do keep an eye (and ear) out for pianist Gaspard Dehaene – very talented – and, gratifyingly, a few of my musical hang-ups have finally been laid to rest: Josef Suk’s Asrael Symphony (Jiří Bělohlávek), Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ (Andrew Davis) and Britten’s Three String Quartets (Doric SQ).

PS: if you happen to read this late on May 30 or anytime on May 31, don’t worry, it is that date; I posted early!

All best and bustin’-all-over wishes (musical and otherwise) to you all for June.

Colin Anderson
Editor
The Classical Source
1 June 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.***

The Editor’s Choice (26)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (26)

by: Colin Anderson

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.

Colin Anderson
Editor
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.***

The Editor’s Choice (25)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (25)

by: Colin Anderson

April arrives. I’m no fool. What to choose from Classical Source’s March reviews of recordings? I have returned to Paavo Järvi’s Sibelius Cycle from Paris with continued admiration, if a few doubts, with Symphonies 3, 5, 6 & (a couple of oddities aside) 7 standing out. Also numerously gone back to are Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s Schumann recital, including a superb Faschingsschwank (I jest not), and also to Leonard Slatkin’s contrasting Copland coupling – Billy the Kid & Grohg – both releases have been regulars in my ears and enjoyment.

I am becoming quite a fan of David Hackbridge Johnson’s music, the second volume of his Symphonies, 10 & 13, every bit as enlightening as the launch release, Symphony 9, although I am not packing my trunk for the desert-island without Michael Tippett’s music, so Martyn Brabbins’s BBC Scottish accounts of his Symphonies 3 & 4 will do more than nicely.

If you are more into core rep, there’s always stellar Chopin from Maurizio Pollini, and, this is a haunting hold-over from February, Christian Gerhaher’s wonderful recital of (further) Schumann, songs this time. The baritone plans to record all of Robert Schumann’s Lieder (ten discs planned) – and as reviewer Peter Reed says: “he seems to be singing only for you, which says much for his intense understanding of both the music and the poetry.”

Oh well, so much for yours-truly making three choices each month; ‘lucky seven’ then, indicative of the musical riches before us.

Wishing you an amazing April, music-filled.

Colin Anderson
Editor
The Classical Source
1 April 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.***

The Editor’s Choice (24)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (24)

by: Colin Anderson

The Year 2019 marches on, and twenty-eight days were not enough for February. But music gives us a leap of faith: so, from last month’s reviews of recordings, a few selections, in no particular order, until the Winner is announced.

I was much taken by Steven Isserlis & Olli Mustonen’s Russian programme, including a real find in Kabalevsky’s Sonata – and if the cello is your bag, then Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Concerto is well-worth investigating. Not my usual sort of thing is Baroque harpsichord music, or so I thought until Mahan Esfahani came along … and I am now in danger of being Hyperion-centric, for a couple of Brahms-leaning Piano Trios by Hubert Parry have proved very rewarding. The Winner? First among equals more accurately, delightful orchestral and vocal music by Arriaga.

Wishing you all the best for March, mad hares and all, and of course some great listening.

Colin Anderson
Editor
The Classical Source
1 March 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.***

The Editor’s Choice (23)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (23)

by: Colin Anderson

Self-indulgence this time, all my Choices are my reviews! Just the three from January, Mark Elder’s Elgar Wand of Youth, Vladimir Jurowski’s Tchaikovsky Little Russian & Polish Symphonies, and – giving particular pleasure – the 2019 New Year’s Concert with the Vienna Philharmonic and Christian Thielemann.

And, given the amount of listening and writing that was involved, some recent Features (November & December) – involving Kubelík and Szell, Serebrier conducting Glazunov, and Eloquence goes Dutch – are looked-back on.

Wishing you all the very best for February.

Colin Anderson
Editor
The Classical Source
1 February 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.***

The Editor’s Choice (22)

The Classical Source Recommends

The Editor’s Choice (22)

by: Colin Anderson

The Classical Source wishes a Happy, Prosperous and Musical New Year to all

At the switch of a second 2018 has become 2019. This column is unchanging though, a simple formula, yours truly choosing a few recommendable releases from those reviewed the previous month. This time it’s an all-British affair, something purely coincidental, but, that said, do please take a look in Features for my review of José Serebrier’s survey of Glazunov’s complete Symphonies and Concertos, a budget box of considerable musical quality. In Features there is also my Eloquence Goes Dutch round-up: please don’t miss Eduard van Beinum’s Brahms 1, Boléro and La valse (all from Amsterdam), the latter ends up being deranged, to borrow a friend’s apt description, and other treasures include Eugen Jochum’s Mozart. I am returning again and again to these beauties with the greatest of pleasure.

Of the Brits, Andrew Davis’s latest volume for Chandos of Gustav Holst’s Orchestral Works takes us rewardingly beyond The Planets; Bob Matthew-Walker details why in his five-star review. As for my own scribbles, Stephen Dodgson’s Chamber Music with Harp and Guitar repays attention, and the Ninth Symphony of David Hackbridge Johnson is a major discovery; the review of the latter was prompted to coincide with the Symphony’s public premiere (see Concerts, December 15, for Tony Hodgson’s critique). There is also NMC’s collection of three opuses by Huw Watkins, each very gratifying, with particular kudos for his own take on the Symphony.

May I mention that my previous Choice editorials are now available to (re-)read. As one follows another so the previous example has been archived, sleeping peacefully, hidden from viewers. Each has been transferred to CS Recommends, an option available on our new-look pages (not this one, though, the homepage). So, if you fancy taking a gander at my previous Choices, simply click on CS Recommends wherever you find it. Thanks.

Colin Anderson
Editor
The Classical Source
1 January 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.***
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