May 2019 CD Reviews

April 2019 CD Reviews
Ein Liebesleben – Simon Callaghan plays piano music by Jean Louis Nicodé [Hyperion]
May, 2019 |  Technically Prussian, born near Posen (modern-day Polish Poznań), ancestrally a Hugeunot, hence his French name, Jean Louis Nicodé (1853-1919) was a notably well-connected pianist, organist, composer and conductor. ... ...Simon Callaghan's debut solo disc for Hyperion, is a Nicodé first. And most welcome and generous it is. ... The imposingly 'Beethoven-Brahms-Reger' titled Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme in D-flat, dedicated to Anton Rubinstein, dominates. The six phantasiestücke of the Andenken an Robert Schumann collection (1876), inscribed to Clara – she of anti-Liszt/Wagner/Bruckner sentiment – are youthful essays in pastiche. ... Befitting his passion for discovery, Simon Callaghan acquits himself superbly. This is a classy album... 
Augustin Hadelich plays the Violin Concertos by Brahms and Ligeti with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya [Warner Classics]
May, 2019 |  A stimulating coupling of the Violin Concertos by Johannes Brahms and György Ligeti, linked by the superb artistry of Augustin Hadelich, vibrantly supported by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, this release’s success owing as much to him and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. ... Leave the disc running to enter the surreal world of György Ligeti (1923-2006). His Violin Concerto (from 1990) for Saschko Gawriloff underwent major surgery a couple of years later, one movement dropped, two added, making five. It’s a fascinating work... 
Jiří Bělohlávek conducts Josef Suk – Asrael Symphony & Fairy Tale – with the Czech Philharmonic [Decca]
May, 2019 |  In 1898 Josef Suk married Dvořák’s daughter Otilie: it was a very contented time for Suk (1874-1935); not only was he happily married but he also enjoyed a fruitful relationship with his father-in-law both professionally (as his student) and personally. When Dvořák died in 1904 Suk intended a piece in his memory (to be a celebration of his life) and he started work; but plans changed the following year when Otilie also passed away. ... That music was the Asrael Symphony (completed in 1906, white-hot out of double-tragedy, and dedicated to the “noble” deceased father and daughter) – Asrael being the Old Testament Angel of Death... ... Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic give a dedicated and inspiring performance – gripping, revelatory... ... Similarly distinguished is Pohádka [...] music Suk rescued for the concert-hall from an incidental score that he provided for Julius Zeyer's drama Radúz and Mahulena. 
Vers l'ailleurs – Gaspard Dehaene plays Schubert D959, Liszt & Bruneau-Boulmier [Collection 1001 Notes]
May, 2019 |  I chanced upon Gaspard Dehaene at the Paris Philharmonie in January 2018, playing Liszt's E-flat Piano Concerto. He caught my attention at many levels, a refined, aesthetic young man... ... Born to a cultured French family – his mother is the pianist Anne Queffélec – and benefitting from a cradle of teachers including Bruno Rigutto, Denis Pascal, Jacques Rouvier and Rena Shereshevskaya (bringing to bear the Moscow lineage of Vlassenko and Flier) – he's also taken advice from Alfred Brendel – his is a spirit from another age, a lyricist come to wander our dreams. ... An artist who traverses the intensity of late Schubert, the brilliance of Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody – calling-card of the Soviet greats – and the speech of Schubert-Liszt must ideally be a musician, virtuoso and dramatist. Dehaene does not disappoint. 
Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León – Andrew Gourlay conducts Rachmaninov [OSCyL own-label]
May, 2019 |  Spanish orchestra records Rachmaninov: that’s one to break-down preconceptions. ... This first recording on its own label for Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León [...] a linear and lucid account conducted by Andrew Gourlay. 
Albrecht Mayer – Longing for Paradise – Music for Oboe and Orchestra by Elgar, Strauss, Ravel & Goossens | Bamberger Symphoniker & Jakub Hrůša [Deutsche Grammophon]
May, 2019 |  Released today, May 17, nearly three years following the sessions, Albrecht Mayer’s Longing for Paradise recital opens with the wistful (Wand of Youth-like) Soliloquy of Edward Elgar... ... Immediately evident are Mayer’s consummate artistry, the excellence of the Bambergers’ response to Jakub Hrůša’s collaborative conducting, and that the recording is lucid and naturally balanced. ... These qualities are evident throughout, and serve especially well Richard Strauss’s autumnal Oboe Concerto... ... What might be a delightful discovery (it’s new to me) is Eugène Goossens’s Oboe Concerto, written in 1927 for his brother Léon. 
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Ssens Trio plays Divertimento in E-flat K563 & Bach Fugues [Lawo Classics]
May, 2019 |  What a beautiful release this is. Mozart’s Divertimento for string trio may be his longest chamber work but it never seems too long – which may be the cue for me to get my only complaint out of the way early on. The Ssens Trio members give us the exposition repeat in the opening Allegro, but not the second repeat, thereby depriving us of at least three minutes of music. I cannot understand the attitude... 
Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ – Andrew Davis conducts Melbourne Symphony Orchestra & Chorus [Chandos]
May, 2019 |  This fine recording of Berlioz's Sacred Trilogy from Sir Andrew Davis reminds us that this oratorio is far from a bombastic choral epic, but a rather tender re-telling of the events immediately after Jesus's birth. The soft hues and nuances which Sir Andrew tends to draw from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Chorus create the aural equivalent of an artistic triptych, inviting the listener to meditate on the Christ-child's flight to safety into Egypt with his parents... 
Johannes Brahms’s three Piano Quartets – Primrose Piano Quartet [Meridian]
May, 2019 |  Brahms’s three Piano Quartets are not exactly terra incognita, but this Meridian set has some special claims on our attention: several editions of the music have been consulted, the string-intruments are strung with gut, as they would have been in Brahms’s day, and John Thwaites uses three period pianos from the Gert Hecher Collection in Vienna – in opus number order, a Streicher, a Blüthner and an Ehrbar. 
The Choir of Westminster Abbey – James O’Donnell conducts Bairstow, Harris & Stanford [Hyperion]
May, 2019 |  Some of the finest sacred music written for the Anglican church is by these three knighted composer-organists whose impact still reverberates around cathedral cloisters. The settings of Edward Bairstow (1874-1946), William Harris (1883-1973) and Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) are often symphonically conceived, with the organ elevated to a quasi-orchestral dimension. ... Under James O’Donnell, the Choir of Westminster Abbey delivers robust, forthright readings ideally suited for much of this music. 
Seiji Ozawa conducts Beethoven 9 [Mito Chamber Orchestra; Decca]
May, 2019 |  The handpicked Mito Chamber Orchestra (a mix of stellar Japanese and European musicians) delivers greater weight of sound than its name might suggest... ... Seiji Ozawa does though lead a compassionate ‘Choral’ Symphony, sincere and shapely, with dedicated playing and singing... 
Gerald Finzi – By Footpath and Stile | Music for String Quartet – Finzi Quartet, Marcus Farnsworth, Robert Plane, Ruth Bolister [Resonus]
May, 2019 |  Gerald Finzi’s music can have a devastating effect on the emotions... ... Lovely music, beautifully played and recorded, and the Finzi Quartet also excels in the other considered transcriptions here... ... By Footpath and Stile is word-setting and Nature-painting at its most-haunting; music of atmosphere and rapture, enhanced here by Marcus Farnsworth’s sympathetic address and immaculate enunciation... 
Alina Ibragimova & Cédric Tiberghien – Violin & Piano – Lili Boulanger, Franck, Vierne, Ysaÿe [Hyperion]
May, 2019 |  This is an exceptional release. Cédric Tiberghien has been impressing me since I first encountered him at the festival in Cahors, giving an outstanding open-air recital in one of the town squares and competing successfully with an over-insistent blackbird which had stationed itself on a good vantage point. He appears to be capable of any technical feat and he produces great surges of sonority with seemingly effortless ease. In recent years his partnership with Alina Ibragimova has been a feature of the Hyperion catalogue, but I do not think they have risen to quite these heights before. 
Juanjo Mena conducts Manuel de Falla’s La vida breve [BBC Philharmonic; Chandos]
May, 2019 |  Manuel de Falla’s La vida breve is a fascinating work, for whilst its origins lie in the Italian verismo operatic tradition, there is much authentic, rather than impressionistic, Iberian colour and vitality. ... Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic have worked hard to get these dynamically balanced... 
Doric String Quartet plays Benjamin Britten’s three String Quartets and five Fantasias by Henry Purcell [Chandos]
May, 2019 |  This is a splendid way for the members of the Doric Quartet to enter their third decade, for they have done nothing better on record. ... To lend extra authenticity and inspiration to these sessions at Snape Maltings, violist Hélène Clément was using Britten’s own 1843 viola by Francesco Guissani of Milan, passed on to him by his teacher Frank Bridge. ... The Second Quartet, written in 1945 to mark the 250th-anniversary of Henry Purcell’s death and first performed by the Zorian Quartet on the date itself, November 21, is even more assured and has a wholly individual sound from first bar to last. ... The Third Quartet of 1975 was composed in the shadow of Britten’s 1973 heart surgery, which did not go well. 
Steven Osborne plays Beethoven – Piano Sonatas – Opuses 109, 110, 111 [Hyperion]
May, 2019 |  The holy trinity of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Opuses 109, 110 & 111 thrives under Steven Osborne’s intense musicianship; an unmissable release. 
An English Coronation 1902-1953 – Edward VII 1902 | George V 1911 | George VI 1937 | Elizabeth II 1953 – Gabrieli | McCreesh | Simon Russell Beale [Signum Classics]
May, 2019 |  Whether or not Paul McCreesh was in his “right mind”, he has created a corker of a release. It’s a tremendous achievement; not least for giving the opportunity for impressionable teenagers to work alongside seasoned professionals from whom McCreesh coaxes intensely committed performances ranging from Merbecke’s Lord’s Prayer to Stanford’s gloriously rousing Coronation Gloria. Taking music from each of last century’s four Coronations, this reconstruction largely follows that of the 1937 Order of Service with the oak-aged voice of Simon Russell Beale as the Archbishop of Canterbury delivering the spoken passages with reassuring gravitas. 
Thierry Fischer conducts Symphonies by Camille Saint-Saëns – in A-minor & Urbs Roma – and Danse macabre [Utah Symphony; Hyperion]
May, 2019 |  Déjà-vu, as the French say ... this time last month (on its first day) I was singing the praises of Gounod’s two Symphonies. Now, May the First, I am just as enthusiastic for a brace of such works by Saint-Saëns. ... ...deftly and fervently brought off by the Utah musicians and Thierry Fischer, driving forward without overlooking detail... ... Three years earlier Saint-Saens had written a Symphony in F (‘Urbs Roma’; City of Rome). It’s an ambitious piece... ... And then there is Danse macabre, one of Saint-Saëns’s biggest hits, and rightly so... 

 

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