February 2017 CD Reviews

March 2017 CD Reviews
Flute Concertos by Mozart and Nielsen – Juliette Bausor/Royal Northern Sinfonia/Jaime Martín [Signum]
February, 2017 |  This recording represents something of a homecoming for Juliette Bausor, principal flautist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Previously she was with the Northern Sinfonia, and additionally it is very suitable that she should co-operate with Jaime Martín who is also a flautist. ... The Mozart may be considered as highly superior entertainment music to which Carl Nielsen’s Concerto is a perfect foil. ... The dedicatee was the distinguished Holger Gilbert-Jespersen and the joke would at once have made its mark with his companions... 
Andrew Davis conducts Vaughan Williams’s Job and Ninth Symphony [Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Chandos]
February, 2017 |  Job (1930) is one of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s 24-carat masterpieces, and in recorded terms, I have no doubt that Sir Adrian Boult’s fourth and final version (with the LSO, for EMI) is definitive. Andrew Davis, vastly experienced as a conductor of this composer, is every bit as idiomatic as the score’s dedicatee and finds the Bergen Philharmonic in virtuoso and sensitive form. ... Vaughan Williams’s Ninth Symphony (1957) was underestimated at its premiere, and possibly remains so... ... The second movement, with contemplative flugelhorn and militaristic rhythms, and perhaps linked to a literary source, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, continues the opposites to be found in this music... 
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain/Edward Gardner – Also sprach Zarathustra & The Planets [Chandos]
February, 2017 |  Two stellar performances that together just fit one disc, which rightly starts with the earthy rumbles of Also sprach Zarathustra... ... Edward Gardner’s conducting of Strauss’s Nietzsche-inspired symphonic poem is impressively flowing and direct while still being flexible and also alive to small details; in return the members of the National Youth Orchestra play with confidence, poise and bravura... ... However, it’s The Planets that takes the bouquets, captured in sound, as ‘Mars’ announces immediately, which is that bit more tangible – indeed the war-mongering is hurled at the listener – Gardner not driving the music but ensuring tension-packed and increasing danger; the full force of the outsized NYO is uncompromising. 
Elbphilharmonie Hamburg: The First Recording – Thomas Hengelbrock conducts NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester in Brahms’s Symphonies 3 & 4 [Sony Classical]
February, 2017 |  The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester is formerly the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra, originally conducted by Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt from 1945 and, later, by Günter Wand, Christoph Eschenbach and Christoph von Dohnányi. The new name dates from 2016 and stems from the ensemble’s residence – the spectacular new Elbphilharmonie. ... Although the disc’s packaging is labelled Brahms Symphonies 3 & 4 (presented in reverse order), the first music to be heard is two long-held chords that do not belong to either work. “Thomas Hengelbrock has opted for a world-first in this release” and includes four bars that Brahms composed to commence his Fourth Symphony but he didn’t include them in the published score – they have been recorded previously by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly as an appendix within their Decca Brahms cycle. 
Bernard van Dieren’s Chinese Symphony [Lyrita]
February, 2017 |  Time was when the music of Bernard van Dieren (1887-1936) was more discussed than heard, then hardly discussed at all, yet there is no better way into his output than the ‘Chinese’ Symphony. .... Dutch-born Van Dieren resided in London from 1909, but travelled widely prior to the First World War; attending the 1912 premieres of both Busoni’s Die Brautwahl and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. He seems not to have attended the Munich debut of Das Lied von der Erde a year before, though he must have been aware of Hans Bethge’s anthology Die Chinesische Flöte prior to the London premiere of the Mahler in 1913 as he had already embarked on his own settings. 
Humphrey Searle Orchestral Works [Lyrita]
February, 2017 |  Both the 30th-anniversary of his death and, more to the point, the centenary of his birth passed without any consequence. Humphrey Searle (1915-82) deserves better... ... After the notable disaster that was the premiere of his Fourth Symphony (1962), the relative success of the Fifth (1964) might partly have been a recognition of its less fragmented nature. Inscribed to the memory of Webern (with whom Searle studied in Vienna during 1937 and 1938) and conceived as an overview of his life... This last performance also serves as a reminder of the numerous British premieres undertaken by Louis Frémaux and the CBSO under the auspices of the Feeney Trust. Nor are the other accounts slacking conviction; testament to the interpretative acumen of Messrs Pritchard, Leonard and Foster. 
Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride – Carol Vaness, Thomas Allen, Giorgio Surian, Gösta Winbergh; La Scala Milan conducted by Riccardo Muti [Sony Classical]
February, 2017 |  Iphigénie en Tauride (1779) was Gluck’s penultimate opera, written in Paris and premiered there... ... ...which looks back to the directness of diction which the French operatic tradition had prized since Lully and Rameau, and lays the foundations for the even greater symphonic structures in operas by Mozart, Weber and, eventually, Wagner. ... Riccardo Muti captures the essence of both worlds... 
Handel’s Serse / Xerxes – Carolyn Watkinson, Paul Esswood, Ortrun Wenkel – La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy/Jean-Claude Malgoire [Sony Classical]
February, 2017 |  This re-issue provides a welcome opportunity to reappraise one of the milestone recordings in the history of Handel opera. ... Jean-Claude Malgoire’s interpretation is alert and well-sprung... ... That aside, Malgoire’s cast is distinguished and creditable, led by Carolyn Watkinson’s assured Serse. ... There is a slightly brittle wobble in Paul Esswood’s singing as Serse’s brother Arsamene, and there are times when he projects more confidently... ... More-recent recordings offer greater drama and vivacity, such as William Christie’s with Les Arts Florissants (Anne Sofie von Otter in the title role) or the Early Opera Company under Christian Curnyn... 


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