November 2017 CD Reviews

December 2017 CD Reviews
Zino Francescatti plays Violin Concertos by Paganini and Brahms [Sargent in London; Paray in New York; Testament]
November, 2017 |  Although Marseille-born Zino Francescatti (1902-91, he was christened René-Charles) made commercial recordings of these Violin Concertos (Ormandy in both, Bernstein in the stereo remake of the Brahms), this Testament release documents the violinist caught ‘on the wing’. ... For his only BBC Prom, Francescatti played Chausson’s Poème (not recorded) and Paganini... ... Six years later, from London to New York for Brahms’s Violin Concerto, the Philharmonic also a little far-away in Carnegie Hall... ... Paul Paray leads an imposing introduction, and if Francescatti’s first entrance shows his tone to be less glamorous than in Paganini, his sweetness of phrase and his technical athleticism stands him in good stead... 
Mark Elder conducts Wagner’s Parsifal with Lars Cleveman, Katarina Dalayman & John Tomlinson [Hallé]
November, 2017 |  The most consistently satisfying aspect of this Parsifal is Sir Mark Elder’s conducting and the Hallé’s playing. This concert performance was the final event in the BBC Proms’ lavish celebration of Wagner’s bicentenary... ... John Tomlinson’s Gurnemanz has been the guiding principle in many a Parsifal for decades – he is the only Gurnemanz I’ve ever experienced who can create a wry smile in his exchanges with the knights in Act One. ... Along with Tomlinson’s Gurnemanz, Katarina Dalayman’s Kundry was the Prom’s other clinching performance, and, equally vividly, it jumps off the recording. 
Leonard Slatkin conducts Haydn's Twelve London Symphonies [Philharmonia Orchestra; RCA Red Seal]
November, 2017 |  In directing his twelve newly-composed Symphonies in London during his visits between 1791 and 1795, Haydn was provided with a larger number of players than that generally available to him and new colours were infiltrating into his music – as in his decision to include, for the first time in his Symphonies, clarinets, which appear in all but one of his last six. In using a ‘modern’ orchestra Leonard Slatkin reflects some of the musical grandeur which London audiences would have experienced during the 1790s. 
Steven Osborne plays Debussy [Hyperion]
November, 2017 |  Steven Osborne opens his latest Hyperion release, the second devoted to Debussy, all the latest selections from the first decade of the twentieth-century, with Masques, at once fleet-fingered and rhythmically chiselled; a wide (Alexis Weissenberg-like) dynamic range, too... ... Whether Japanese or Javanese in its inspiration, ‘Pagodes’, to open Estampes, is Debussy at his most expressive and mysterious, so something a little more inward and languorous from Osborne would have been welcome (Claudio Arrau an exemplar)... ... If a few reservations along the way thus far, then none for Children’s Corner... 
Schubert – The Finished Unfinished – Basel Chamber Orchestra/Mario Venzago [Sony Classical]
November, 2017 |  In a ten-page essay for the booklet, Mario Venzago gives a detailed account of the methods he used in his completion of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony. 
Nathan Williamson plays Great American Piano Sonatas – Bernstein, Copland, Harrison, Ives [Somm]
November, 2017 |  Four thought-provoking American Piano Sonatas (anti-formulaic ‘soundings') from the pre-war, pre-Barber years when, depending on one's viewpoint and roots, to quote from Anthony Burton's booklet note, “America [was] the land of the clean sheet, the fresh start – of making things new.” ... Nathan Williamson does a sterling job. He understands the mould-breaking environment of this repertory, and offers committed insight, opting for big, rounded bass sonorities and crystalline treble vistas. 
Leif Ove Andsnes plays Sibelius [Sony Classical]
November, 2017 |  In the wake of Sibelius's passing sixty years ago, I remember student days trawling through dank second-hand shops in west London seeking out what piano pieces of his I could find. ... ...Leif Ove Andsnes has come up with a milestone recording of poetic address, cross-sectioning a repertory from 1890 to 1929 contemporary with the orchestral masterworks from Kullervo to the Seventh Symphony, En Saga to Tapiola. 
Kirill Karabits conducts Kara Karayev – Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra [Chandos]
November, 2017 |  If you like the music of Khachaturian in Gayaneh, Masquerade and Spartacus mode, then you will surely respond favourably to the output of the Azerbaijani composer Kara Karayev – he was also a “teacher, folklore authority, and artistic dynamo” – born in Baku in 1918 and who died in 1982. To complete the K connection, Kirill Karabits leads vital and sympathetic Bournemouth performances, vividly recorded. 
Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony – BBC Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins [Hyperion]
November, 2017 |  In the four-and-a-half decades since André Previn and Sir Adrian Boult recorded Vaughan Williams Symphony cycles back to back, a group of his bite-sized ruminations has achieved unprecedented popularity... ... There are series currently on the go from Sir Mark Elder and Andrew Manze, and now Martyn Brabbins – and all three have something to say. ... A London Symphony is played in the rare, intermediate, edition... 
Mozart Piano Concertos & Divertimentos – Jean-Efflam Bavouzet/Manchester Camerata/Gábor Takács-Nagy [Chandos]
November, 2017 |  It is always refreshing to hear central movements of Mozart Piano Concertos moving forward purposefully and this is how Jean-Efflam Bavouzet views them. ... Gábor Takács-Nagy tends to phrase melodies in a somewhat legato manner with full, well-sustained chords and occasionally violinists are permitted a touch of portamento. 
Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.2 (plus) – Jack Liebeck with BBC Scottish SO & Martyn Brabbins [Hyperion: The Romantic Violin Concerto – 21]
November, 2017 |  Although this recording was released on 30 December 2016 I have only now got to it – despite my enthusiasm for Max Bruch’s music and Hyperion’s championing of it. ... Jack Liebeck’s account of the adorable Second Violin Concerto (which has attracted such as Accardo, Heifetz, Menuhin and Perlman into the studio) is a sweet and passionate success... 

 

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