March 2017 CD Reviews

March 2017 CD Reviews
Ernst Krenek – Complete Piano Concertos, Volume 1 – Mikhail Korzhev/English Symphony Orchestra/Kenneth Woods [Toccata Classics]
March, 2017 |  Ernst Krenek, the Viennese composer (1900-91), is on a roll at the moment: Hyperion has issued an imposing song-cycle (link below) and Toccata Classics comes up with this first volume of his Piano Concertos. ... Piano Concerto No.2 (1937) – first-performed in Amsterdam with Krenek as soloist, Bruno Walter conducting – is rather more severe, clearly aligned to Schoenberg’s twelve-note system, deftly utilised, organised and angular, and the result would pass in places for Webern. 
Rossini’s La donna del Lago – Katia Ricciarelli, Lucia Valentini-Terrani, Dalmacio González, Dano Raffanti, Samuel Ramey; conducted by Maurizio Pollini [Sony Classical]
March, 2017 |  Here’s a welcome release! This recording of Rossini’s most romantic and in some senses pastoral opera, La donna del Lago, was recorded in tandem with some celebrated performances at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, then a relatively new event. It is also a rare foray into conducting by pianist Maurizio Pollini. ... There are two superb singers in the cast. Lucia Valentini-Terrani was the Rossini mezzo-soprano of her generation. ... The other great is Samuel Ramey; every utterance makes one revel in the beauty of his voice and his fine technique. ... Katia Ricciarelli is much admired for her Donizetti and Bellini interpretations and later in Puccini and Verdi. ... With Juan Diego Flórez, Kenneth Tarver, Lawrence Brownlee, John Osborn and Michael Spyres (to name but a few) we live in an age of superb Rossini tenors. In the early-1980s this was less true. 
Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron – Hans Herbert Fiedler & Helmut Krebs; conducted by Hans Rosbaud [Sony Classical]
March, 2017 |  Eighty-two years after it was left in abeyance and fifty-seven after the initial hearing of its torso, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron remains an ambivalent, even problematic concept not merely for its incompleteness. For all that, the composition as it stands encompasses one-hundred minutes of Schoenberg at his most combative and provocative... ... Hans Rosbaud was a formidable exponent of modern music; his reputation resting on concert performances rather than his handful of studio recordings. Among these latter, most significant is this first commercial outing for Moses und Aron... ... In vocal terms, matters are hardly less consistent. Hans Herbert Fiedler evinces the requisite gravity and thoughtfulness for the exacting Sprechstimme of Moses... ... Helmut Krebs has no less eloquence and poise as Aron, though without quite the vocal agility which makes Philip Langridge (for Georg Solti on Decca) still the most captivating exponent of this cruelly exacting role. 
Morton Gould: The Complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra Recordings [RCA Red Seal]
March, 2017 |  Few musicians of his generation enjoyed such a varied career as Morton Gould (1913-1996), his activity over a range of genres taking in classical and crossover pieces (rapping and tap-dancing not excepted) as well as a lengthy association with RCA Red Seal as saw numerous releases with ‘his’ orchestra that set the standard by which such collaborations were judged. 
Wigmore Hall Live – Schubert Lieder – Benjamin Appl & Graham Johnson
March, 2017 |  He may have performed every nook and corner of the songbook and recorded it all for Hyperion, but Graham Johnson hasn’t yet finished with Schubert. The pianist has been lured back to the composer by the youthful, full-toned baritone of Benjamin Appl for a disc that’s packed with out-of-the-way gems plus a few favourites. ... Recorded live at Wigmore Hall... 
Vasily Petrenko conducts Elgar’s Second Symphony [Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; Onyx]
March, 2017 |  Elgar’s Second is on a roll. From Berlin to Singapore the score seems to be taking its place, finally, as one of the pillars of late romanticism. ... Vasily Petrenko has conducted fine, even remarkable live accounts of both Elgar Symphonies with several orchestras yet neither of his Onyx recordings does justice to his distinctive vision. ... The highest profile of the recent ‘revisionist’ contenders, Daniel Barenboim, is certainly closer to the ‘authentic’ lick of the composer himself...  
Ginastera – Orchestral Works 2 – Panambí & Piano Concerto No.2 – Xiayin Wang/BBC Philharmonic/Juanjo Mena [Chandos]
March, 2017 |  Chandos’s survey of Alberto Ginastera’s orchestral music continues with this stark if effective juxtaposition of works separated by thirty-five years... ... Not that Panambí (completed in 1937) is a derivative or jejune piece. Completed when Ginastera was a student in Buenos Aires, its subtitle implies a conceptual link to Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé such as is made manifest by the sophisticated impressionism evident in much of this score. ... By the time of his Second Piano Concerto (1972), Ginastera was well into his most forward-looking phase that fused a highly personal take on serial technique with an equally individual approach to rhythm and sonority. ... Not least when the pianist is so evidently attuned to this music as Xiayin Wang... 
Doric String Quartet plays Schubert – D703 Quartettsatz & D887 G-major [Chandos]
March, 2017 |  The Quartettsatz is only one movement but it contains the qualities of greatness evident in all of Schubert’s late works. The Doric Quartet is always deeply expressive and also gives sufficient impulse to propel the music firmly while still sensitively caressing every phrase. ... The Doric musicians’ interpretation of the G-major Quartet brings out the best of the players and the shaping of the immense opening movement is superb. 
Muzio Clementi – Four Symphonies – Mozarteumorchester Salzburg/Ivor Bolton [Sony Classical]
March, 2017 |  Apart from one appalling mistake by Sony, this is a brilliant issue of music that, for no defendable reason, is never heard in the concert hall, but which every self-respecting music-lover should hear. Muzio Clementi was a vastly more original and imaginative composer than many people realise... ... Indeed, we simply don’t know when they were written, nor do we know how many Symphonies Clementi composed... ... It has fallen to the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg – and a very gifted British conductor – to give us this exceptional release. ... The subtitle of the Third Symphony, ‘The Great National’, refers to the use of the British National Anthem, but some listeners may feel the opening three notes allude to the ringing of familiar bell changes – better-known to Clementi’s contemporaries than us. 
James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater conducted by Harry Christophers [Coro]
March, 2017 |  This is the first recording of Sir James MacMillan’s setting of the Stabat Mater... ... Stabat Mater is preceded by eponymous Plainsong, and MacMillan is said by Harry Christophers to be amongst “a trio of truly great composers of sacred music, the other two being Tomás Luis de Victoria and Francis Poulenc.” Whether one agrees or not with this list – which omits Tallis, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Bruckner, et al (Bach was Lutheran) – there is no doubting the belief which has gone into the preparation of the public performances – and this recording – of MacMillan’s score. 
Concertos by Howard Shore: Ruin and Memory for Lang Lang, and Mythic Gardens for Sophie Shao [Sony Classical]
March, 2017 |  The Canadian composer Howard Shore (born 1946) is best-known for his successful film music, having written scores for over eighty films. As a consequence, and certainly on the evidence of these two Concertos, his concert music has a directness of utterance... ... Ruin and Memory was composed for Lang Lang, who gives a wholly fine account of the solo part, quite well recorded at the world premiere in Beijing. ... The Mythic Gardens Cello Concerto is more sombre. 

 

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