Monday, May 29, 2017

Berkeley, Lennox. (1903-1989) and Berkeley, Michael. (1948-) Orchestral Works.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 26-6-2010.
Second listen: 3-4-2014.
Third listen: 29-5-2017.
Label: Chandos.
Recording dates: December 2002.
Recording venue: Brangwyn Hall, Swansea.
Recording engineer: Ralph Couzens.
Running time: 65:09.
Relevance to me: Essential.


Lennox Berkeley.

Symphony No. 4. (Premiere recording)

Michael Berkeley.

The Garden of Earthly Delights. ( Premiere recording)
Cello Concerto.


Alban Gerhardt, Cello.
BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Richard Hickox.

The booklet does not give much detail for us to understand what the thoughts were behind the Fourth Symphony by Lennox Berkeley, apart from the fact that it is the last one he wrote. LB has a remarkable steady hand in controlling all the melody lines. It's a multifaceted work, that covers pretty much all what makes it a worthwhile listen. Never harsh or overly insistent, but always exploring the deeper meaning of life,  thus the magic floats out of his hands .I cannot tell of the myriad of beautiful details that makes this symphony so worthwhile to listen to, but for a taste of it go to track 7, and you know what I mean. The performance is inspiring, and I could not imagine hearing it ever being bettered.

MB "The Garden", is a much more experimental work, in which tonality is stretched wider, and where is little place for mysticism, so altogether it's a more rational work, that clearly does not aim to give a truly harmonious picture, but rather lets the listener in on a controlled chaos. Whether all the effects make sense or enhance the quality of the work is currently beyond me, but as a whole this composition leaves me a bit shattered in my appreciation. Almost all works I heard before from MB, were much to my liking, but about the Garden I am ambiguous. Maybe more listening time with it, makes me open more to what I hear. The performance is first rate.
The Cello concerto gets me firmly back in the appreciation mood, for it's a truly fine work, and one that connects directly to the composing style that comes from his father, but has its own distinctive voice of expression. And this inherited kinship makes me happy in musical terms. This performance is perfect in its execution. The sound on this CD is demonstration class.

Coleridge Taylor, Samuel, Sowande, Fela, Still Grant, William. African Heritage Symphonic Series.

From my collection
Bought in February 2011.
First listen: 5-2-2011.
Second listen: 13-5-2015.
Third listen: 29-5-2017.
Label: Cedille Records.
Recording dates: May 2000.
Recording venue: Lund Auditorium at Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois.
Recording engineer: Bill Maylone.
Running time: 51:26.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Danse Negre, from African Suite. (1898)
Petite Suite de Concert. (1910)

Fela Sowande. (1905-1987)

African Suite (Selections) (1930)

William Grant Still. (1895-1978)

Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American" (1930)

Performed by:

Chicago Sinfonietta, Paul Freeman.

I knew already that Coleridge Taylor was a fine composer and orchestrator, so this piece proves yet again what a master he was, and ups this status with both pieces on this disc. The Petite Suite is a masterwork, no doubt about that at all. It has four movements. Its an overall delight to listen to this work, exemplified by the first movement , "La Caprice de Nannette" which is extremely well put together, but then, you know, all four pieces fill the shoes of that description. "Un Sonnet d'Amour" the third movement, is a delicate well structured filigree work, absolutely outstanding in every way. "La tarantelle Fretillante"  is an exuberant handful of musical joy, it has balletic elements, a march theme, even jubilant and rejoicing chattering goes on in the narrative. 

And if you think the surprises are over, Fela Sowande walks in, who knows him?, and delivers an equally genial piece as Taylor. Its an absolute fantastic work in three beautiful movements, with a warm and embracing quality to it. The second movement called "Nostalgia" is a knockout piece, it captures human life in just over 4 minutes. I got a wow feeling and goosebumps listening to it. Akila, the third movement is a exercise in perfect scoring for strings, really amazing!
And then Grant-Still comes in with his multifaceted first Symphony. All the musical styles from the time of composition (1930) can be found in this amazing work. And I mean literally all, worked in the score so cleverly, that I listened with amazement at almost every note. There are so many images presenting themselves, that you hardly know what to grasp first and what last, an almost impossible task. The performances are topnotch, and the recording close to State of the Art.
Highly recommendable.

Brian Havergal. (1876-1972) Symphonies No. 20 & 25.

From my collection.
Bought in 2011.
First listen: 12-2-2014.
Second listen: 5-4-2014.
Third listen: 29-5-2017.
Label: Naxos 8.572641. (Previously released on Marco Polo)
Recording dates: October 1994.
Recording venue: Concert Hall of Ukrainian Radio.
Recording engineer: Andrew Mokrytsky.
Running time: 62:44.
Relevance to me: Essential.


1) Fantastic Variations on a old Rhyme. (1907)
2) Symphony no. 20 in C sharp minor. (1962)
3) Symphony No. 25 in A minor. (1966)


National SO of Ukraine, Andrew Penny.

Havergal Brian, despite his beautiful name is not everyone's cup of tea. He takes considerable more effort to comprehend as most other British composers. His compositions are often complex, but offer plenty of lucidity for those that persevere in listening to his works. Throughout several years I collected all his orchestral works, safe for those that have vocal contributions, and that alas is his first and fourth, to name a few. This CD holds three major works out of his oeuvre, of which the first two compositions take almost no effort to comprehend, while No. 25 demands more dedication to get at the core of this work.

The Variations are simply on the charming level of Brian's British character, and are extremely pleasing to the ear, while with the Symphony No. 20, the second movement shows all the beauty Brian was capable of. The Cantabile element has so much gravitas and expression, quite amazing actually. The visceral beauty of the work as a whole, gives it grandeur as well as weight. A fine example of his art which shows again and again the formidable construction and harmonic ingenuity.
No 25 is in essence a more complex work, that needs quite an effort from orchestra/conductor and listener alike. At one side you have restrained expressivity which provides easeful balm, and on the other side it can be deceptively sedate, which in my view eloquently depicts the eternal issue of the soul's pilgrimage, and more so of Brian's search for the ultimate expression. So I learn and listen and hopefully comprehend what he actually meant when writing down his music.
The performances are very good, and the sound is so far the best I heard in this series.

Francaix, Jean. (1912-1997) Orchestral music.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
Label: Hyperion CDA 67323.
First listen: 13-2-2014.
Second listen: 2-5-2014.
Third listen: 29-5-2017.
Recording dates: September 2001.
Recording venue: Ulster Hall, Belfast.
Recording engineer: Simon Eadon.
Running time: 70:25.
Relevance to me: Essential.


1) Symphony in G major. (1953)
2) Serenade. (1934)
3) Ouverture Anacreontique. (1978)
4) Pavane pour un Genie Vivant. (1987)
5) Scuola di Ballo. (1933)


The Ulster Orchestra, Thierry Fischer.

There is absolutely nothing you could dislike about this composer. He so expertly puts the notes together, which all sounds natural, like it is unavoidable.  He shapes his melodies so lovingly, and imbues the music with such ethereal moods. He is out to please and no one better as him suited for this task. Just take the lovingly shaped "Andante " from his Symphony in G major. All what is to come after that is in the same mould. Gracefully, flowing as easily as a downhill stream. The sheer inventiveness,  squeezing the last ounce of creativity out of his pen, the amazing clarity in the scores, the virility of the melodies, soft grained but thrillingly evocative, coupled to an impeccable control of orchestral discipline, it can not be other as highly recommendable.
State of the Art sound.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cooke, Arnold. (1906-2005) Orchestral Works. Top recommendation.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 14-3-2010.
Second listen: 8-4-2014.
Third listen: 26-5-2017.
Label: Lyrita.
This is a CDR copy not a pressed one, as with almost all Re-releases by this label.
Recording dates. 1988, 1989, 1974..
Recording venues: Henry Wood Hall, London, Watford Town Hall, Kingsway Hall, London.
Recording engineers: Simon Eadon, Mark Vigars, Kenneth Wilkinson.
Running time: 70:53.
Relevance to me:Essential.
Reference recording.
State of the Art sound.
Top recommendation.

Concerto in D for String orchestra. (1948)
Symphony N0 1. (1947)
Jabez and the Devil, Suite from the Ballet. (1959) [Digitally remastered by Simon Gibson]

London PO, Nicholas Braithwaite.

Make no mistake, Cooke is formidable orchestrator,  and unjustly forgotten too.
Havergal Brian thought highly of Cooke. He said this on the basis of just a few works he heard, but yet was convinced Cooke was already a composer of great promise. Listening to his music I understand Brian's praise. 
He was a pupil of Hindemith, and you certainly hear traces in his music, albeit in a context that has nothing in common with his teacher. Cooke was however influenced by him, of this there is no doubt. His sense of technique and direction came from Hindemith. And added to that the English lyricism and pastoral lucidity.. His modernity is friendly, and harmonious. The Concerto in D is a gorgeous piece and has some sumptuous parts for strings, highly romantic in nature. Not wholly in the British tradition, but imbued with more continental influences, although it's hard to define them. A bit neoclassical. The mood can be pensive and pastoral, but also crisp and rhythmically. 
The Symphony is a more ambitious work, were a lot of thought has gone into the structure, a serious and deeply spiritual composition. The third movement is a statement as such in this vein, beautifully crafted, and with a profound musical statement. A work both turbulent in expression, and articulated in a very determined way. Its subtle and profound at the same time, imbued with a aesthetic empathy, that reminded me however slight, of Hindemith. This purely musical design of the symphony has great clarity, energy and abundant richness. Absolute beauty. 
A Ballet is always welcome with me, and certainly one I never heard before. It's a lively Suite, well scored, and very creatively done.  Must have been a lot of fun composing this. The Devil has a large part in it, so it's a bit unruly, no humpty dump, but some profound dialogue in which the Devil shows his true colours.  The performances are excellent, and the sound is  State of the Art. 

Berkeley, Lennox. (1903-1989) Symphonies No. 1 & 2.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 11-9-2010.
Second listen: 29-3-2014.
Third listen: 26-5-2017.
Label: Lyrita.
Warning: This is a burned copy not a pressed one. (It has however no consequence for the sound)
Recording dates: 1975 (No. 1) 1978. (No. 2)
Recording venues and engineers: Not mentioned.
Digital remastering: Simon Gibson.
Running time: 62:03.
Relevance to me: Essential.


Symphony No 1, opus 16. (1940) and No. 2, opus 51. (1956/7-rev 1976)


London PO, Norman Del Mar & Nicholas Braithwaite.

Lennox Berkeley, and indeed his son Michael Berkeley are pivotal composers from the 20th century for me. The style of music they represent is of the utmost importance. And what a good start into Lennox's music with this CD which holds both symphonies, so perfectly emulating the importance of this composer.

The first Symphony goes back to 1936, when he started the first sketches of the work, and completed it in 1941. Berkeley conducted the premiere at the proms of 1943.  It's a very broad work, very melodic, and solemn, and with some wartime drama in it, especially in the Lento movement. I find it to be a masterly constructed work, in which signs of his emerging modernism come to the surface in many instances.
Symphony No. 2, is also a broad work, but more robust, and wayward, in which Lennox's particular creative process is emerging full blast. Berkeley is widening his views, and walks slowly into a more modern sound.  The music gets a deep personal meaning, by the closely knitted shimmering strings which creates an unmistakable aura of eloquent gracefulness but also concentrated reflections of aggressive dissonances, coupled with innocent melodies, which gives you a compelling understanding of the structure in this symphony. Potent rhythms, remarkable unity in its projection, astonishingly  nuanced in detail, free floating at all times. This work conveys a deep emotional intensity, which culminates in all glory in the third movement, brilliantly executed by this fine orchestra. It is quite an impressive recording for its time, it certainly doesn't lack drive, and is detailed. A deep soundstage is giving the recording quite a natural ambiance.
As a side note is is interesting to know that Andrzej Panufnik was the chief conductor of the London PO, when Lennox premiered the piece on the 9th of September 1959. On this CD we hear the revision from 1976.

Norman, Ludvig. (1831-1885) Symphony No. 1 & 3. World Premiere recordings.

From my collection.
Bought in 2012.
First listen: 12-12-2012.
Second listen: 26-5-2017.
Label: Sterling.
Recording dates: September 1999.
Recording venue: Studio M la SABC, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Recording engineer: Evert de Munnik.
Running time: 59:43.
Relevance to me: Mildly interesting.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 1 in F major, opus 22. (1857-59)
Symphony No. 3 in D minor, opus 58. (1881)

Works performed by:
National SO of South Africa, Mika Eichenholz.

A South African orchestra playing music of a Swedish composer, sounded like an interesting adventure. It is the only recording I have with this orchestra and conductor, and this composer is also a first for me, but that may be caused by the fact that he is totally forgotten and hardly recorded or mentioned in the musical history of Sweden. It is claimed in the booklet that he was one of the leading figures in 19th century Swedish music. That may be, but all his work and activity did not keep him in the musical minds of the public. And on the basis of both symphonies I am inclined to think this is only natural. His music is to a certain extent melodious, albeit not very inventive. Noteworthy are the Finale of the first symphony that seems to have a concentration of many creative ideas, and the third movement of No. 3 that starts very promising, but loses itself into a freefall of mediocrity. If you want a musical bearings, it has to be Niels Gade ( 1817-1890), or Franz Berwald (1796-1868). There is in the first Symphony a touch of Robert Schumann, but that is about all. Norman has his own voice, be it quite feeble. I liked his music, but it did not make an impression. The orchestra plays the music admirably, well drilled by Mika Eichenholz, but it cannot lift the music any further as the quality allows. The recording is good, but at times a bit cavernous.
As an interesting side note I should mention that he was a one time married to Wilma Neruda, who after the death of Norman in 1888, married Sir Charles Hallé. She was a famous violinist,  and inspired a whole lot of girls to take up violin playing. She was a professional musician in a time, when it was not normal for women to be.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Kalliwoda, Johann Wenzel. (1801-1866) Symphonies No. 5 & 7.

From my collection.
Bought in February 2012.
First listen: 22-2-2012.
Second listen: 24-5-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: November 2004.
Recording venue: Studio Stolbergstraße, Köln, Germany.
Recording engineer: Stefan Hackspiel.
Running time: 68:29.
Relevance to me: Essential music.

Works performed:

Symphony No. 5 opus 106 in B minor. (1840)
No. 7 WoO/01 in A minor. (1841)
Overture No. 16 opus 238 in A minor. (1863)

Works performed by:
Das Neue Orchester, Christoph Spering. ( On period instruments)

Kalliwoda composed 7 Symphonies and many Overtures, with an equal grandeur. I am slowly working my way through his music, which is always a great pleasure, for as well as Schumann esteemed Kalliwoda and followed his compositional development with attention, so do I in listening and comparing the differences between his orchestral output. He wrote capable and above all noteworthy music, probably the best that the post Beethovenian period has produced, although many see him as a minor composer, which he is not!
Martial moments, energetic sharpness, extensive passages of lyrical depth, gorgeous tone colours and often a virtuosic treatment of the instrumentation, to name a few things that prevail in his music. Especially the 7th symphony has a great romantic stature, maybe less concise in structure as his other symphonies, but much more atmospheric and emotional. Its romantic spirit breathes sounds of folkloristic character. Rich in structure with colourful moments, played at a interpretative high standard by this orchestra.
No. 5 has an inherent tenderness, in which you will find some references towards Beethoven. His compositional techniques and instrumentation are already on a very high level, almost worthy of a orchestral ruler in his own right. There is a sort of serene attitude that brings out all melodic qualities as if emerging by stealth. His contrapuntal aptitude is most evident too. The many virtuosic elements grace the music in a tenderly loving way. Such is the musical beauty that I feel overwhelmed at times.
The overture has a formal freedom that catapults it into every direction he wants. He shapes the music in diverse episodes, with many moods to choose from. A sort of symphonic poem but on a smaller scale. I love this overture. It's bouncy and bubbling with energy, and is again projected well by this orchestra.
As to the recording, well it has enormous depth, and details are heard throughout the music, but the recording made the orchestra sound bigger as you would normally hear with 44 players, and thus sounds bombastic and laboured, not always mind, but especially when the music gets loud. Too much air around the orchestra which causes 5 seconds of reverb. But despite this minor setback it is still very much recommended.

Martinu, Bohuslav. (1890-1959) The Complete music for Violin and Orchestra. Volume 1.

From my collection.
Bought in March 2010.
First listen: 22-3-2010.
Second listen: 24-5-2017.
Label: Hyperion.
Recording dates: 2004 & 2005.
Recording venue: Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic.
Recording engineer: Tomáš Zikmund.
Running time: 55:06.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Concerto for Flute, Violin and orchestra, H. 252.
Duo concerto for two Violins and orchestra. H. 264.
Concerto in D major for Two violins and orchestra. H. 329.

Performed by:
Czech PO, Christopher Hogwood.
Bohuslav Matousek, Violin.

From all three concertos on this disc I like H. 329 the most, purely for its orchestral parts, and a consistent melody line. Both the H. 252 and 264 are fine enough, but rather busy and insistently predominant in expression. H. 329 has no shortage in warmth or romantic notions, and a rather engaging expression. It is shot through with light passages of bubbling frolocking, but also harmonic ingenuity. Remarkable bursts of pinpoint articulation and a very elegant narrative. This is the sort of music I want to hear from Martinu.
Both other concertos are constantly moving from one idea to another in split seconds. There is a sumptuous array of crisp and incisive melody lines that shoot around you in a quick-silvery way.
Rhythmical dynamism is another apt description. But the music is eloquent, and scintillating, and it flourishes under the treatment by Hogwood and this fine orchestra. There is plenty of swagger I guarantee you. As to the performance I have no complaints. At some places in the H.252 the sound can be a tad too bright, you'll noticed this clearly when the Flute comes in, quite a deafening tone, so be aware. The other concertos are top notch.

Brian, Havergal. (1876-1972) Orchestral Works.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010
First listen: 6-12-2010.
Second listen: 1-4-2014.
Third listen: 24-5-2017.
Label: Naxos. (Previously released as Marco Polo)
Recording dates: 1992.
Recording venue: National Concert Hall, Dublin.
Recording engineer: Chris Craker. ( A educated guess, for the sound man is not mentioned.)
Running time: 59:37
Relevance to me: Essential.


Tone Poem: In Memoriam. (1910)
Festal Dance. (1908)
Symphony No. 17 (1960-61) and No. 32. (1968)


RTE National SO, Adrian Leaper.

The Tone Poem is easily one of the most beautiful works that I have heard from Brian so far. Its magnificently scored, just listen at the third movement around 2: 35 to the very end of this movement, absolutely magical. It has a stamina quite unusual, and power to stay on a concentrated level, without losing the tension on the strings. Remarkable.

The Festal Dance is quite another meal, when it starts in the Allegro vivo mood, indeed a dance with fleeting melodies, like little bolts of fire, and a surge of violins that keep you on edge. Some funky rhythms too, it keeps this work firmly in place, and is a lot of fun, going over in misterioso, albeit a happy foray into this realm, the dance rhythms are still on duty, with some march like brass into the bargain too. Very nice.
The first movement of the 17th symphony has a very solemn introduction, more misterioso as the Adagio, Allegro moderato tells us. And then the percussion sets in and the game is afoot.  A beautiful elegiac second movement, albeit too short, there are moments in it that are truly magical.  A very short and boisterous end to this symphony. 
And then No 32. This is a well balanced and harmonious work, with no harsh episodes, and rather well thought out. I like it very much. It being Brian's last work, is doesn't sound like a final statement, or the end of the road. What I hear in both the 17th and 32 th Symphony is a continuous and multitudinous contrast of mood and texture in a bewildering rapidity. He never lingers long on a certain theme but is constantly pushing forwards. That is a life affirming statement for me if anything! He lived for another 4 years without any musical thoughts, but enjoyed the silence. He had said all he had to say I guess. After all Sibelius followed the same road, albeit much longer. I always wondered about that.  
The performance strikes me as good, and the sound certainly is better as some recordings with Brian's music recorded on Marco Polo. There is only some hardness when the music bounces around the concert Hall.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hartmann, Karl Amadeus. (1905-1963) Webern, Anton. (1883-1945) Berg, Alban. (1885-1935. Orchestral Works.

From my collection.
Bought in February 2010.
First listen: 5-2-2010.
Second listen: 28-3-2010.
Third listen: 23-5-2017.
Label: EMI classics.
Recording dates: 1994 & 1995.
Recording venue: Bamberg, Sinfonie an der Regnitz, Germany.
Recording engineer: Herbert Frühbauer.
Running time: 55:36.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 6 (1953).
Six pieces for Orchestra, opus 6. (1929)
Three pieces for Orchestra. (Version 1929)

Performed by:
Bamberger Symphoniker, Ingo Metzmacher.

Seven years ago I bought this disc, and had forgotten all about it. A collector's problem.
Ever since I heard orchestral works by Hartmann I became more than a bit interested in his soundworld, and am slowly collecting bits and bobs from his oeuvre.. Both works by Webern and Berg are a very welcome addition on this disc. For me Hartman's music has a certain magical atmosphere, and at the same time it can feel like solid bricks being thrown at you. There is almost a martial energy in the second movement, as if going to combat imaginary forces. Technically very assured music, conveying an emotional intensity and energy, with vivid contrasts and a contrapuntal virtuosity that made me gasp at times. Rhythms can be disquieting without losing its forward motion. There are moments of introspection as in the first movement, delicately veiled, which are very impressive. The tonal spectrum is wide but never ugly. I love this symphony.
Both the pieces by Webern and Berg have many similarities for me. I like the soft forward motion in the music, a intense pulsating rhythm, but never with too loud a beat. It can be very calm, with an inward serenity and honesty in it's expression. The orchestral writing is flexible, assuming an almost magical, intimate and intensely emotional guise. It can be fiercely impulsive, though never at the expense of clarity. Again the tonal spectrum is wide but always inviting. I think the interpretation by this orchestra superb, and the recording is State of the Art.

Francaix, Jean. (1912-1997) Orchestral works.

From my collection.
Bought in 2011.
First listen: 24-2-2014.
Second listen: 29-4-2014.
Third listen: 23-5-2017.
Label Hyperion.
Recording dates: November 2002.
Recording venue: Ulster Hall, Belfast.
Recording engineer: Simon Eadon
Running time: 57:29.
Relevance to me: Essential. 


Les Malheurs de Sophie, 1935. (Ballet)
Concertino for Piano and Orchestra in F major, 1934.
Les Bosquets de Cythere, 1946.


Ulster Orchestra, Thierry Fischer.
Philippe Cassard, Piano.

Apart from the delightfully bubbly piano concerto, there are two pieces on this disc scored for ballet. Well one of them is, and the other one has not gone into history as one, but could well be. He is one of the composers of the 20th century for whom I have lots of respect. If you are able in a world full of turmoil to write such beautiful music you must be truly blessed. Les malheurs de Sophie from 1935, is a ballet par example. The scoring is so delicately done, that you hear the tapering of dancing feet by the nymphs on stage. Images come readily without any resistance into my mind, and I make my own choreography. Les bosquets de Cythere from 1946 may not be meant as a ballet, but in all respects, it would not be any trouble at all, to use it for it. The music is sparky with balletic impulses, with brilliantly judged melodies conveying this brittle world of ballet. There is plenty of delight in both works, for there are many delicate moments and mildly vivid contrasts, and dynamics are delicately applied. Quicksilver dialogue, the music is simply bursting with infectious joy.

The Concertino is dancing its way through the music which Francaix scored so well for orchestra and piano. None of them hard hitting notes here, but again this delicate framework of lucidity and clarity. A bit tranquil at times, as not to disturb the equilibrium of the finely chiseled melodies.
The performances are top notch, and the recording is State of the Art.

Vocal music from the French Reformation, and a Musical Banquet with music from Schein/Scheidt & Gabrieli. Second reruns.

See both reviews in the month May 2017.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Raff, Joachim. (1822-1882. String Quartets No 2-4 & 8. Second rerun.

See for reviews: 8-5-2017.
Second rerun.
Fabulous music.

Fasch, Johann Friedrich. (1688-1758) Overture Symphonies.

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 20-5-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: April 2013.
Recording venue: Katharina Saal der Stadthalle Zerbst/Anhalt, Germany.
Recording engineer: Mathias Metzner & Robert Baldowski.
Running time: 75:27.
Relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works performed:
Overture Symphony:
In D major, for 3 Trumpets, timpani, 2 Horns, 2 oboes, bassoon, strings & BC.
In G major, for 2 Oboes, bassoon, strings & BC.
In F major, for 2 Horns,2 oboes, bassoon, strings, & BC. (World premiere recording)
In G major, for 2 Horns in G, 2 horns in D, 3 oboes, bassoon, strings, & BC. (World premiere rec.)
In D major, for 3 Trumpets, Timpani, 2 horns, 2 oboes, 2 flutes, bassoon, strings, & BC. (WPR)

Performed by: 
Les Amis de Philippe, Ludger Rémy.

It is always a novelty to listen to music by Johann Friedrich Fasch, and more so as there are 3 world premiere recordings on this disc. And with this ensemble you do not run the risk of getting performances lacking in quality and refinement. I thought that the somewhat raw sound of the authentic brass sounded very much in place. It simply adds to the general attractiveness of the music, after all this is what they heard in 18th century. The music has both an aura of magic and refinement. The readings are fluid and all has a clear toned sound. The quality and strength of this ensemble lies in the dedication to whatever is on their plate. Elegant ornamentations and a perfectly judged ebb and flow swell. Faster passage work sounding so at ease that its true complexity often washes over you. There is a chattering dialogue going on that invigorates. Overall there is a real sense of music happening to charm and impress.
Delightfully and playfully presented, well almost seduced by this fine ensemble.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Knights, Maids and Miracles. NOX-LUX. The Spring of the Middle Ages. France & England, 1200-1300. CD 5.

From my collection.
Bought in November 2016..
First listen:17-1-2017.
Second listen: 18-5-2017
Label: Arcana.
CD 5 from 5.
Recording dates: October 2000.
Recording venue: Abbey of Rosazzo, Manzano, Udine, Italy.
Recording engineers: Michel Bernstein and Charlotte Gilart de Kéranfléc'h.
Running time: 63:10.
Relevance to me.: Essential.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
La Reverdie.

Absolutely smashing music. I have written quite a lot about the quality of this ensemble and the music. It would fill a book of some size to tell there is to know about the origins of the music, and the performance style. I think La Reverdie made all the right choices in instruments, and created an accord between each other that makes for perfect harmony, especially in the voice material. The music from that time makes for fascinating insights. Very much recommended.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bowen, York. (1884-1961. Austin, Frederic. (1872-1952) Bainton, Edgar. (1880-1956) Orchestral Works.

From my collection.
Bought in January 2011.
First listen: 3-1-2011.
Second listen: 10-4-2015.
Third listen: 17-5-2017.
Label: Classico.
Recording dates: December 2001.
Recording venue: Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, England.
Recording engineer: Tony Was.
Running time: 79:14.
Relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works performed:
York Bowen. (1884-1961)
Symphony No. 2 in E minor.

Frederic Austin. (1872-1952)

Symphonic Rhapsody, "Spring".

Edgar Bainton. (1880-1956)

Symphonic Movement "Genesis".

[All World Premiere Recordings]

Performed by:

Royal Northern College of Music SO, Douglas Bostock.

The most impressive work on this disc is no doubt the second symphony by Bowen. Pastoral, picturesque, rows of typical English hedges, red poppies, yellow fields of corn, castle ruins, eccentric englishmen, fox hunt, and what not.

This work is full of imagery, and it keeps surprising you at every corner it turns. The scoring is superb, as good if not better as Arnold Bax, certainly if it comes to the skills of orchestrating. Why his works are not more often recorded eludes me. Especially his symphonies,  I can't remember ever hearing it or seen it recorded. It is very refined music, with some exquisite tender phrasing in the second movement, especially the strings, silky and velvety come to mind. The pictorial details are a strong asset in his scoring to which this orchestra responds very readily. There are no emotional depths, despite the fact that it is a full blooded romantic work, but it has some thrilling moments and swirling undercurrents of poetic imagery. It is cleanly executed and is brimful with spicy harmonies. There is also some elegiac gravitas, although it does not go very deep. A beautiful work.
Austin's Rhapsody is also a very typical British affair, and the titel "Spring" is very apt. For despite some dark rumblings here and there, it's essentially a light but well composed work, in which you must strain yourself to keep your ears at what you hear. It diverts your thoughts quite easily in picturesque imagery.  That is not to say that it is a flighty work, no, it's a well put together work of great creativity. It is close to the sound world of Bowen.
Bainton is an altogether different kettle of fish, well the title says all, "Genesis" and that comes with really big bangs on the timpani, and I mean really Big Bangs, so brace yourself at the end of this piece. At first this work meanders a little bit, as if trying to get to grips with the many melodies that tumble over each other, but somehow Bainton glues it all together in a more coherent context after say 10 minutes, and from thereon it has a powerful building up of tension and loudness. It is well scored, and at the end has a breathtaking intensity, resulting in a powerful energy burst. The closing bars are mysterious, and close off with a dramatic statement. There is a lot of introspection in this work, but not readily accessible. The scoring is rather thick, and it's hard to listen to all the melody lines and not loosing track. It is essentially a dark piece, with a brooding character all on its own. All in all though, I found this compilation very interesting, and experienced contentment as well as a sense of awe, for music and performances.
All three composers deliver late romantic music without getting sticky, or flow over with sentimentality. Just thorough workmanship in the best possible way. 
This orchestra is very good! Well rehearsed and very precise in expression.  Bostock drilled them into a performing machine, delivering high class interpretations. I doubt it could be done better.
The recording must be labeled as State of the art.

Wellesz, Egon. (1885-1974) Symphonies No 4/6/7.

From my collection.
Bought in November 2009.
First listening date: 26-11-2009.
Second listen: 9-4-2015.
Third listen: 17-5-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: November 2001.
Recording venue: Grosser Sendesaal, Funkhaus, ORF, Austria.
Recording engineer: Andreas Karlberger.
Running time: 70:44.
Classical relevance: Essential. 

Works performed: 
Symphony No 4, opus 70. (Sinfonia Austriaca)
Symphony No 6, opus 95.
Symphony No 7, opus 102. (Contra torrentem)

Performed by:

Radio SO Wien, Gottfried Rabl.

Egon Wellesz is a formidable composer, and quite unjustly forgotten. At the same time he is not an easy composer to approach, far from it.
The common denominator, that what defines his music is, that his musicality can be very grim.
His tonal palette goes from tonal, to tonality stretched, right into the 12 tone technique, crossing the border to atonality, and his own musical input. He likes a frantic pace with little or no rest, or lingering on a theme. He is very much a composer that will use a large orchestra to full effect. Massive blocks of brass, fitted in a march like tempo, insistent it its arguments, aggressive interaction through all desks, sometimes in a very angry way, even quite brutal. Never slackens the pressure, not even in the slow movements. There is a logical determination that is almost oppressive. Sometimes, but very rarely, some light in the form of beautifully shaped tone clusters burst out of nothing, like in the third movement, of the Fourth Symphony, last 2 minutes. But blimey, the rich palette of moods and colours is fascinating and utterly convincing.
I admire the technical abilities of Wellesz, which are exceptional, I like the clear arguments he makes throughout his works, I admire the scoring for wind and brass, and the way he puts all together in a coherent way,  that makes me like his music enormously.
From No 7 in a classical form, to No. 6 in which he starts experimenting, ending in a 12 tone technique with the seventh symphony. Quite a kaleidoscope of notes with a devastating expression. You are confronted with an irresistible force of power, which at times is very brash but also loud. Extreme registers and huge dynamic contrasts await you. Always extremely energetic but with an amazing transparency in the scores. These are radiant and well prepared performances in which this orchestra responds superbly well, to the many technical and expressive challenges, and the recording is faithfully registering it, with a wealth of details and the room for the punches that are delivered in quick succession.  Recommended.

Knights, Maids and Miracles. Mediæval Echos of Celtic Femininity. (Insula Feminarum) CD 4.

From my collection.
Bought in: November 2016.
First listen: 10-1-2017.
Second listen: 17-5-2017.
Label: Arcana.
CD 4 from 5.
Recording dates: March 1997.
Recording venue: Abbey of Rosazzo, Manzano, Udine, Italy.
Recording engineers: Charlotte de Kéranflèc'h and Klaus Neumann.
Running time: 64:15.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Serca (Amores) 
"Ysot ma drue, Ysot m'amie en vus ma mort, en vus ma vie"
(Gottfried von Straßburg, Tristan, c.1225)

Banflaith. (Regalitas)
"Rex ést pax populorum, cura languorum, temperies aeris serenitas maris, terre fecunditas.
(Anonymous -Ireland, De XII Abusivis seculli 8th century)

Echtrai. (Casus)
"Ni raba-sa-riam cenfer scath araile ocum"
(Tain Bó Cuailnge, 9th century.

Fisi (Visione)
"I saw a swete semly syght a blisful birde, a blossum that murnyng made & mirth of-mange". 
(Anonymous-England, 14th century)

Performed by: 
La Reverdie.

As with the previous CD'S in this box I am thoroughly enchanted by what I hear. For most people it takes some adapting to this music, but for me it sounds quite natural and unspoiled. It is after all a dip in times far away, and gives a fairly good impression of how this music might have sounded. A world so far away that it is almost a miracle to have music from that time at all. The synergy that is with La Reverdie, is beyond imagining beautiful, and feels so close to that time. The strangeness of this performing style is one that does not come easy to most listeners, but it's worthwhile to sit still and let the sound get into your system. It will not take long before it is mesmerizing you into the world it tries to portray, and it feels like a privilege to be with them. The sound is exemplary.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Coleridge, Taylor, Samuel. !875-1912. Harrison, Julius. (1885-1963) Orchestral Works.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 8-4-2010.
Second listen: 8-4-2014.
Third listen: 16-5-2017.
Recording dates: 1994.
Recording venues: Watford Town Hall.
Recording engineer: Tryggvi Tryggvason.
Running time: 61:37.
Relevance to me: Well worth having.


Legend, (Konzertstuck), opus 14. (1897)
Romance in G, opus 39. (1899)
Violin Concerto in G minor, opus 80. (1912)


Bredon Hill, A rhapsody for Violin and orchestra. (1941)


Lorraine McAslan, violin.
London PO, Nicholas Braithwaite.

Taylor is a composer who did impress me recently with a fine Clarinet quintet, on the Naxos label, and purely by accident I stumbled over this Lyrita recording with some orchestral works, and more importantly his violin concerto. I had it in my possession since 2010, but only now I had it on my pile to be listen a third time. On this disc also a work by the composer Julius Harrison. I really never heard of him, never saw any reference, or a pointer in the many booklets I have read.  He was a much asked conductor in the first part of his life, but due to deafness, he switched to full time composing.
The pieces by Taylor are fine examples of his art. Mainly late romantic in nature, with little in the way of modernity. Sweet toned, easy to approach melodies, sometimes rhythmically muscular, but most of the time it bubbles along infectiously. There is little in the way of introspection,  and all melodic and harmonic invention is a tad predictable. The range of expression is limited, but there are moments of great beauty, especially in the violin concerto. I wished it would have been more enterprising, but as it stands the music could not keep my attention all the time. There are fine dynamic shadings especially in the second movement. Its mainly sweet centered, but that's one of the trademarks of this composer. The rest is compelling and vivid and tempos are spot on. Opus 14 and 39 are all in the same vein.
Harrison's piece is a more robust work, and has more flesh on the bones. There is simply a greater sense of clarity, and a integration of different elements that keeps you listening to it. Melodically it is not far away from Taylor's music, but it is a more complex work, difficult to play, and has a breathtaking intensity that grabs your attention. It plumbs the depths Taylor is avoiding, and thereby creates a gravitas which to my ears cuts more wood. The themes have more breath, and in the end that is a winning strategy. But what is also influencing the outcome of my listening session is the recording itself and indeed the performance as such. Let me be frank, the sound is clear as a bell, and detailed but that are all the nice things I am going to say about it. The sound is frontal and confronting in a very unpleasant way. Lorraine Mc Aslan usually has my deepest admiration, but in this case I withhold my praise. She is positioned far in front of the orchestra, so you might imagine what kind of effect that has on your ears. Furthermore her ataque is of such a character that I would call it aggressive, which is the death of Taylor sensitive scoring. Same with the orchestra. Braithwaite is a fine conductor, but in this case he misjudged the music, and a very experienced engineer did the rest to sink the boat.. Acoustically I think this is a badly judged project. Not often do I find Lyrita cd's faulty in this respect, but this is certainly the first one for me.

De Leidse Koorboeken. (The Leiden Choirbooks) Part 2, CD 2.

New acquisition.
Bought in 2017.
First listen: 16-5-2017.
Second listen: 19-10-2017.
Label: Etcetera.
CD 2 from 2.
Recording dates: February 2011.
Recording venue: Laurentiuskerk Mijnsheerenland, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Tom Dunnebier.
Running time: 79:27.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Composers on this disc:
Clemens non Papa.
Joachimus de Monte.
Anonymous works.

Performed by:
Egidius Kwartet & College.

Every CD brings us nearer to perfection in terms of choral balance, applying the right dynamics, getting a deep spiritual expression, resulting in a sonorous and well defined virtuosity. On this disc sensitivity is very much in evidence, and they are squeezing out every ounce of spiritual depth.
Their movement is mellifluous, and all voices tend to be in harmony. All works are ornamented with filigree care, and that might be called a small miracle being an ad hoc ensemble. And despite that perfection there are a few things that I noticed, and one of them was distinctly unpleasant and ruining for a moment the equilibrium of Clemens non Papa's Magnificat quarti thoni a 4. (Track 4) I am referring to the Altus Peter de Groot, who is yet again responsible for beginning two or three sentences with a loud and penetrating voice, pushing out all others. This startled me in such a way that my contemplative mood was shocked out of countenance in an instance, literally! Totally unnecessary and damaging. He does that again in Track 11, "Pange lingua" be it not so drastic. If I have to point to a weak member of this ensemble, he surely is. But it must be said, if he keeps his voice in check he sounds marvelous like in the anonymous piece, "Iam bone pastor", Track 2. In Track 11 "Tantum ergo" the 4 females sing at full blast and too loud. A pity that they did not listen at each other and adjust the dynamics and volumes accordingly. It is a bit out of synch, at least for me. I had a hard time hearing the males in this piece, and that is never a good sign. But my conclusion is one of great joy, that this project is getting better on every volume, and that we hear marvelous music in such high quality. Despite my reservations this is a great success, and I am looking forward to the other volumes. The sound is almost perfect.

Biber, Heinrich Ignaz Franz. (1644-1704) The Complete Violin sonatas.

New acquisition
Bought in March 2017.
First listen: 15&16-5-2017.
Label Brilliant.
CD 4&5 from 5.
Recording dates:  During the year 2016.
Recording venue: Westvestkerk, Schiedam, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Peter Arts.
Running time: 55:11&52:03.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
CD 4.
Sonatas for Solo Violin & BC (Salzburg 1681)
Sonata No.6/7/8.
Sonata in A.

CD 5.
Four Violin sonatas from the Minoritenkonvent, Vienna.
Sonata representativa in A (1669)

Performed by:
Ensemble Violini Capricciosi.
Igor Ruhadze, violin.

I have praised the first 3 cd's extensively, and all what I said can be said from the last two cd's in this set. Performances of high quality, expressive, and definitive recordings next to others. You cannot go wrong with what is done here. Artistically it is a huge success and well worth your consideration. Sound is very good.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Thuille, Ludwig. (1861-1907) Chamber Works.

New acquisition.
Bought in 2017.
First listen: 15-5-2017.
Second listen: 10-6-2017.
Third listen: 21/22-6-2017.
Label: CPO. (2 cd's)
Recording dates: July/May/December 2011.
Recording venue: Siemensvilla, Berlin-Lankwitz, Germany.
Recording engineers: Thomas Monnerjahn, Bernd Friebel, Henri Thaan.
Running time: 63:25 & 50:13.
Relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works performed: 
Sonata for Cello & Piano opus 22 in D minor.
Trio for Viola & Piano without opus in E flat major.
Sonata for Violin and Piano in D minor and in E minor, opus 30.

Performed by:
Mark Gothoni, Violin.
Ulrich Eichenauer, Viola.
Peter Hörr, Cello.
Frank-Immo Zichner, Piano.

Thuille proceeded from Viennese Classicism and conservative academicism incorporating elements from the New German School. This tension you can clearly hear in his music, and more or less defines this composer. My opinion is that it makes the music a bit unstable, frequently being on a crossroad, and feeling he cannot decide which way to go. He wanted to steer clear of Richard Strauss modernistic proclivities, but it is clear for me, that he could not keep to this goal. The music has many moments in which the New German school is clearly evident in the writing. The second movement E flat major trio clearly shows this tension. All through his works I feel a little unease, as if the music is forced out, not with a natural speed, but more with power and passion that stings. Thus I have to get used to what I hear. It is harmonious to a certain degree, restless in expression, and wayward in its progression. There is poise, but also dancing and darting moments. The textures are often striking, but for me interrupts the rhythmic pulse a bit too often  While I wouldn't say that I found any epiphanies here, it's all very elegant and thoughtful. The playing is technically flawless. I simply have to come back to this music a bit more often to fully appreciate what is on offer. And in the end that worked, I found the centre of the music.
The recording is a bit forward and the performance a tad pushy, ambiance is almost perfect, so no worries there. Thuille is not an easy composer to tackle, so I would advice to sample before buying.

Vecchi, Orazio. (1550-1605( Requiem. Ruben's funeral and the Antwerp Baroque.

From my collection.
New release 2017.
Bought in March 2017.
First listen: 23-3-2017.
Second listen: 15-5-2017.
Label: Glossa.
Recording dates: February 2016.
Recording venue: Church of Saint Rémi, Franc-Waret, Belgium.
Recording engineer: Alexandre Fostier.
Running time: 67:00.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:

Orazio Vecchi.
Requiem-Missa pro defunctis.
The Libera me Domine a 8, at the end of the requiem was written by Paolo Bravusi. (1586-1630)
( in: Missae senis et octonis vocibus: Phalèse II, Antwerp 1578)

George de la Hèle. (1547-1586)
Kyrie a 6.
Sanctus a 6.
Agnus Dei a 6 & 7.
From Missa praeter rerum seriem; in: Octo missae, Plantin, Antwerp 1578.

Pedro Ruimonte, (1565-1627)
Agnus Dei (a 5&6) from: Missa ave virgo sanctissima; in: Missae sex IV.V.VI. Vocum, Phalèse II Antwerp 1604.

Duarte Lobo. (c.1565-1646)
Agnus Dei (a 4&5)
From: Missa Dum aurora; in: Liber LL missarum, Plantin, Antwerp 1639.

Performed by:
Graindelavoix, Björn Schmelzer.

A new release from Graindelavoix, and as per usual a good one. This ensemble gets a lot of positive reviews, but also attracts conservatives if it comes to performance practice. It's good for the intellectual balance I guess, but in the end your ears decide. My ears and musical knowledge say that it is good to have a refreshing wind blowing through the quarters of old. There are many ways in which to perform renaissance music, for neither of us know how it was performed. The singing of this ensemble is impeccable, they cannot be flawed in any way in the balance they create, the dynamics they apply, or the way they sing these works. This and much more is perfect.
As to the compositions on this CD, Schmelzer has some sensible things to say in how and why, essential reading before listening I might add. It is also a good idea to look on Wikipedia and read about all 4 composers on this disc. It is necessary for the preparation in understanding the music. I found some very useful information that helped me considerably to make loose ends meet.
As to the performance, well it's breathtaking. The total harmony and fluency, coupled with a state of the art recording, creates a virtual heaven of pure music. Every single voice blends, yet they melt into one sound, but every voice is distinguishable. The acoustics of the church give it a spiritual boost, and adds warmth and a sense of deep commitment. Should you have this recording. Absolutely, unless you disagree with all that Schmelzer stands for.
Firmly recommended.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Épinal, Gautier d'. ( 1205/30-1272) Remembrance. Songs and instrumental works.

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 14-5-2017.
Second listen: 30-6-2017.
Third listen: 2-8-2017.
Label: Challenge.
Recording dates: June/July 2006.
Recording venue: Chapelle St. Augustin, Bitche, France.
Recording engineer: Jerôme  Lejeune.
Running time: 63:14.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Composers on this disc.
Gautier d'Épinal.
Colin Muset. (13th century)
Jacques de Cysoing. (Middle of the 13th century)
Jehannot de L'Escurel. (d. 1304)
Gautier de Coincy. (177-1236)

Performed by:
Ensemble Syntagma, Alexandre Danilevski.

Music from the 13th century is not everybody's cup of tea. So sample before you buy. For those that have a great interest in that time and music, do not hesitate, buy!
This ensemble sounds convincing in all they do. They have a air of authority in this performance, fed by an intellectual and well researched history.  Sweetly mellifluous, and with an impressive solemnity in some of the pieces. All the texts deal with love...and some of the words carry a whiff of mystic contemplation. The phrasing is incredibly intimate and the text is always the driving force, even to the extent that you can almost taste the words. Diction is impeccable. Delicate music intimately whispered at times, with a very distinctive beauty. All has an appealing lightness of touch, which makes the music easy to approach. Both vocal and instrumental pieces are well projected, spiced with a particularly divine spiritual expression.
The sound is gorgeous as is the performance.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Gliere, Reinhold. (1875-1956) Piano music.

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 12-5-2017.
Label: Brilliant.
Recording dates: March 2016.
Recording venue: Bartok Studio, Bernareggio, Italy.
Recording engineer: Raffaele Cacciola.
Running time: 70:22.
Relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works performed:
25 Preludes opus 30.
Romance opus 16 No. 2.*
Kinderstücke opus 31. (Selection)*
From 12 Sketches opus 47.
Two Piano pieces opus 99.

* First recordings.

Performed by:
Gianluca Imperato.

I must admit that I never heard piano music by Gliere before. Orchestral works and Chamber music yes, but not a morsel of music for piano. And after listening to this CD I consider that a grave omission in my collection, happily corrected now. The pianist is also a big unknown to me, again to my pleasure happily corrected too. 
If you think Chopin you might have an inkling about the technical difficulty of the 25 preludes. Works of gigantic proportions that are not to be taken lightly. Not everyone can play them. Your technical skills must far exceed the basic knowledge of piano playing. Let me say it differently, if you play Chopin to perfection, you might tackle the preludes and have a measure of success with it. There is a fair amount of bubbling energy, uncovering pieces that almost sound quasi improvisatory. The Preludes are strong and affirmative in their projection, absolutely beguiling, and multi layered. Imperato has the ability to conjure the most translucent of textures, varying the mood from drama to joyous optimism. Its simply emotionally multifaceted. He must have lived with these pieces for a long time, if you're able to set down such a commanding performance. The other pieces have their value too, but cannot reach the level of the opus 30. He is a man of subtle rubato, and meaningful bass-lines. This you can clearly hear in the rest of the pieces. Light fingered, and pointed articulation is his trade. Just sample the opus 31. It all has a airy ease and a lightness of spirit. And he has the benefit of an excellent recording, and a piano that is clearly in top condition.

Taneyev, Sergey Ivanovich. (1856-1915) The complete String Quartets, Volume 5.

From my collection.
Bought in December 2016.
First listen: 12-12-2016.
Second listen: 12-5-2017.
Label: Naxos.
Recording dates: November 2014 & March 2015.
Recording venues: Alberta Bair Hall, Billings, Montana & Grusin Music Hall, Boulder, Colorado.
Recording engineers: Marlan Barry & Kevin Harbison.
Running time: 76:51.
Relevance to me: Musically essential.

Works performed:
String Quartet No. 8 in C major. (1883)
String Quintet No. 2 in C major, opus 16. (1905)

Works performed by:
Carpe Diem String Quartet.
James Buswell, Viola.

The last volume in this series, and a successful close. I always considered this venture as a lucky stroke for me, for were I have a complicated relation towards his orchestral works, I rather like the chamber works, which to me tell more of this elusive composer as anything else in his oeuvre. Carpe Diem is consistent in their interpretations. Concentrated and alert playing on a very high level. Taneyev is never an easy customer to perform, and neither did Taneyev his utmost to please anyone apart from himself. Sometimes it is like squeezing a stone for water. Never easy to adapt, but worthwhile if you can. And in the case of his chamber works I can. SQ No. 8 reminds you in some ways of past great masters like Haydn and Mozart, this you clearly hear, but also Taneyev's own voice gets forcibly through this harmonious quartet, and yes it is quite adventurous, when a romantic idea pops out of the Adagio non troppo movement, quite a surprise.
The String Quintet is altogether a different beast, and one of the mature works. I would not say monumental as the cover says, but technically well written. It is the the first thing you admire, and secondary the melodic content. It has musically enough interest to keep your mind occupied, although your heart may suffer in the process. But then I have a complicated relationship with Taneyev's music, and probably not you😏 
The recording is good, almost no difference between both works.

A small order this weekend.

Taylor, Samuel Coleridge. (1875-1912) & Haim, Paul Ben. (1897-1984) Clarinet Quintets. Top recommendation.

From my collection. 
Bought in January 2017.
First listen: 25-1-2017.
Second listen: 12-5-2017.
Label: Naxos.
Recording dates: May 2016.
Recording venue: Studio Britz, Berlin, Germany.
Recording engineer: Andreas Stoffels.
Running time: 62:08.
Relevance to me: Essential.
Top recommendation.

Works performed:
Clarinet Quintet in F minor, opus 10. (Coleridge Taylor)
Clarinet concerto, opus 31a.

Performed by:
Klaus Hampl, Clarinet.
Quartetto di Roma.

This is easily one of the best Naxos cd's I heard in some time. Two composers that are high on my list if it comes to acquiring their music. The quintet from Coleridge Taylor is an absolute gem. It is such a melodious work and so well crafted that I listened in amazement, and I truly mean that. Taylor was an extremely talented composer who died when he was just 37. Cut down in the middle of his creative life due to a lung infection. After listening to this Quintet you wonder what fine works could have come from his hands, would he have lived a full life. Just sample the second movement "Larghetto Affettuoso"  It has such a deep spiritual tinge to it, especially the opening measures. And then this bouncy expressive Scherzo, third movement. What he could not have composed!
Ben-Haim is a composer who had my attention since I bought a CD with orchestral music on the label CPO. His clarinet quintet is a beautiful piece too. There is no musical stress in this work, and it is thus quite harmonious and melodious, and also extremely well written. There is true magic in the third movement "Thema con variazione". I connected with the composition as a whole through this well crafted movement. Ben Haim is in his own way a force to be reckoned with.
A good decision to couple both works, for they are complementary to each other. 
The performance could not be better, and the recording is well done.
A firm recommendation. Top recommendation.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Weill, Kurt. (1900-1950) Vasks, Peteris. (b.1946) Concertos for Violin and Wind Orchestra/String Orchestra.

From my collection.
Bought in March 2011.
First listen: 11-3-2011.
Second listen: 9-4-2015.
Third listen: 11-5-2017.
Label: Hyperion.
Recording dates: December 2004.
Recording venue: Henry Wood Hall, London.
Recording engineer: Simon Eadon.
Running time: 57:05.
Relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works performed:
Kurt Weill.
Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra, opus 12.

Peteris Vasks.

Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra. (Distant Light)

Performed by:

Anthony Marwood, Violin and Conductor.
Academy of St. Martin in the Field.

This is a disc that impressed me mightily when I heard it back in 2011. Never confronted a work before by Vasks, and the Weill concerto was also unknown to me. 

Weill's concerto is a strange duck in the pond. I mean violin and wind orchestra, that struck me as a tad odd, but the result is far from odd. It's not one of Weill's works that is easily accessible. It struck me as highly experimental, and a bit on the brash side. It is well orchestrated, but the first movement is a bit heavy on the stomach especially if you are uninitiated in the musical styles of Kurt Weill. He is a bit of an extremist in the Andante con moto, first movement, complicated writing, rather harsh, tonality stretched to the limit, and brusk harmonies, as if he wanted to make a point of some sort. It had me in astonishment for the full 9 minutes this movement lasted. The tenure of the first movement seems to be repeated in the following 4 movements, be it less harsh, and less pushy, with more approachable harmonies . It's a extremely fine work though, and a technical masterwork. Do not expect great emotions or an avalanche of romantic warmth, nothing of that kind I am afraid. But you will admire the technical prowess that Weill lets us hear, that is bloody amazing.  It will never be a favourite work of me though.
But what greatly bowled me over was Vasks his Concerto. From beginning to end it had me in its grip, not a moment of inattention, barely took a breath, so beautiful it is. Vasks creates with minimal effort and notes a maximum in emotion. He conjures up worlds in which your imagination can run in every direction, and fantasies up to anything in imagery that you wish, and it will fit, no matter what image gets out of your brain or heart. Marwood is a fabulous violinist who makes both concertos worth their weight in gold. No matter how soft or loud, he gets the desired effect with no sweat. It sounds all so effortlessly, which it isn't, no doubt.
Very much recommended. State of the Art sound.

Weinberg, Mieczyslaw. (1919-1996) Symphony No. 1 and 7.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 24-5 & 21-6-2010.
Second listen: 3-4-2015.
Third listen: 11-5-2017.
Label: Chandos.
Recording dates: August 2008 & August 2009.
Recording venue: Concert Hall, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Recording engineer: Torbjorn Samuelsson.
Running time: 69:23.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:

Symphony No. 1, opus 10. (1942) in G minor.
Dedicated to the Red Army.

Symphony No. 7, opus 81, (1964) in C major, for Harpsichord and String Orchestra.

Dedicated to Rudolf Barshai.

Performed by:

Gothenburg SO, Thord Svedlund.

There is a lot of strength, determination and powerful narrative in the first movement of the first Symphony. Bold rhythms, pointed brass entries, writing in the strings like hammer blows. There is an urgency, pushing forwards, and a almost heralding tone in the music. Energetic counterpoint in abundance, it is as if the music will never slacken in its pace, its rather grim until the last note.

The Lento is beautiful with a fine rhythm to it, almost of Mahlerian proportions. Long stretches of legato in the strings, an unbroken melody line, quite striking.
The third movement starts of in a brisk pace, and the woodwinds heralds a decisive argument, almost in pastoral tones, waltzing as it were its way through a breezy afternoon in the rural country. It's a movement with a lot of contrasts, different moods and impressions, absurd at times, and I hear in this narrative Shostakovich loud and clear.
The Fourth movement is one of majestic character, boldly powering up the mood from the first movement. A march like urgency peeps round the door, and again Shostakovich gets in the notes, The second and third melody lines shows his genius in counterpoint again. It's really tightly controlled, nothing escapes this composer, a well build composition were every note sits comfortably at its place. And it all comes to a glorious end, as a victory over evil.
No. 7 leaves me almost speechless, after I heard the harpsichord, reminded me of Alfred Schnittke. I admire the construction of the work, and yet again the fine counterpoint, but after the first Symphony it takes some adapting. It's a lucid well structured work in which all writing is extremely beautiful. This man is a genius.
The recording is State of the Art, as is the performance.

The Leiden Choirbooks, Volume 2. CD 1.

New acquisition.
Bought in 2017.
First listen: 11-5-2017.
Second listen: 19-10-2017.
Label: Etcetera.
CD 1 from 2.
Recording dates: February 2011.
Recording venue: Laurentiuskerk, Mijnsheerenland, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Tom Dunnebier.
Running time: 75:07.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Composers on this disc:

Christianus Hollander.
Clemens non Papa.
Josquin Baston.
Johannes Lupi.
Joachimus de Monte.
Benedictus Appenzeller.
Philippe Verdelot.
Jean Richafort.
Anonymous works.

Performed by:
Egidius kwartet & College.

I am impressed by this second volume. Quibbles I had with the first volume are almost all gone. Two things I heard are that the recording ambiance was changed in track 6, in a positive sense, but also an increase in the slissing of the letter S, quite obtrusively I might add. This is most audible from track 6-8, after that it gets better. But it did not diminish my pleasure in hearing all the improvements, most notably to the balance in the choir. Dynamics are much better judged and applied. Readily audible in the harmonies and communication between the soloists. They listen better to each other in terms of volume, increasing textual clarity, and heightening the expression.
There is a better and more relaxed sense of spirituality, and they probe deeper in vocal expression.
Articulated almost to perfection, the choir discipline is tighter and coherent to a fault. The choral argument is polished, and a breath of vocal colours is pouring out of my speakers. In one word I am very happy with the outcome.
There is not a single work on this disc that I did not like. The recording has just enough air around the voices to make it an intimate affair.

Venetian Sonatas for winds and Strings from the 17th century. (Castello & Co)

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2017.
First listen: 11-5-2017.
Second listen: 28-6-2017.
Third listen: 1-8-2017.
Label: Challenge.
Recording dates: November/December 2011.
Recording venue: Oud Katholieke Kerk, Delft, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Daniël van Horssen.
Running time: 71:21.
Relevance to me: Essential.

Composers on this disc:
Girolamo Frescobaldi.
Dario Castello.
Giovanni Antonio Bertoli.
Biagio Marini.
Giuseppe Scarani.
Giovanni Picchi.

Works performed by:
Caecilia Concert.
Temperament 4th comma meantone-Pitch a-465.

I love this music for wind instruments, and this cd fulfills all wishes one could possibly have. The instruments sound warm, thus the music is really embracing you. The composers on this disc were at the top of their game when they penned down this wonderful evocative compositions, for they are all well written, and in which technical demands are high. A colourful sonority infuses them with resonant warmth. They navigated rapidly and suavely through the music. Many a time there is joyful exuberance and a generosity in the way they present it.  The poise and dexterity with which the soloists play has an positive effect in understanding the beautiful harmonies.
It is well recorded.  

On my listening menu today (24-4-2018)

J.S. Bach. Complete organ works Olivier Vernet. CD 6. Erkki Melartin. Orchestral Works. Peteris Vasks Orchestral Works ...