Classical, April 2020

hfnalbum.pngRoyal Fireworks
Music by JS Bach, Handel, Purcell and Telemann
Balsom Ensemble/Alison Balsom
Warner Classics 9029537006 (downloads to 192kHz/24-bit resolution)

For her latest recording, Alison Balsom plays exclusively on the natural trumpet in a wide-ranging programme, from the rich splendour of the Royal Fireworks to the black sound of drums in Purcell's Funeral Music resonating in St Jude's, Hampstead – and then giving way to the one beautiful vocal track: 'Thou Knowest Lord'. (A vivid contrast with Purcell's cheery Sonata in D here.) It's all in demonstration-worthy sound, trumpets stage right and left in a new arrangement of the Handel. Director Simon Williams has re-orchestrated this and created a new setting of Bach's 'Jesu, Joy', where Balsom is like a vocalist. A Bach Christmas Oratorio Suite is also rescored by him. CB


Symphony Nos 1 and 5
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
Channel Classics CCSSA39719 (SACD; downloads up to DSD256)

The opening of No 1 has a Klemperer-like tempo and bluntness, Fischer setting out all but the finale – which properly springs to life – as if under dissection. All repeats and fine orchestral clarity, but curiously dispassionate. I then heard 5(i) broadcast without knowing the source, and I was impressed by its cohesiveness. The Andante is clear, with wide dynamic contrasts, and the basses (stage left) make an exciting effect in the trio of (iii). Fischer takes the repeat in (iv) but this has a certain objectivity and hasn't the continuing momentum of the Carlos Kleiber/VPO [DG]. He also finds more in the Scherzo. CB


'Jeux de Miroirs' – piano/orchestral works
Javier Perianes, Orchestre de Paris/Josep Pons
Harmonia Mundi HMM902326 (downloads to 48kHz/24-bit res)

A Spanish pianist and conductor, and reflections of Ravel's Basque/Spanish links in a symmetrically sequenced programme with Alborada del gracioso and Le Tombeau de Couperin (both versions – the extraordinary Fugue and Toccata aren't in Ravel's orchestral transcription) and the G major Piano Concerto at the centre. Slowing rather indulgently in the middle of (i), Perianes suggests a more romanticised than cracklingly jazzy piece. But in his two solo works he is lucid and engaging, while the Paris orchestra makes a colourful and engaging duplication with their two pieces. Well balanced sound: an enjoyable CD. CB


Karl Münchinger
Concertos and Symphonies, etc, by Haydn and Mozart
Christian Ferras, Pierre Fournier, Wilhelm Kempff, VPO, Klassische Philharmonie Stuttgart, Stuttgart CO
Eloquence ELQ4840170 (8CDs; downloads to 44.1kHz/16-bit res)

Karl Münchinger founded his Stuttgart CO immediately after the war, and some will recall the early LPs of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' and Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. In 1966 he expanded the ensemble for larger-scale works and built up a large Decca discography. Here we have six well-known Haydn Symphonies (all VPO); Mozart Nos 31-33, 35, 40; the 'Haffner' Serenade and a slew of smaller pieces. It's good to have replica sleeves and the remastering is first-class. Exhaustive notes by (ex-HFN) Tony Hodgson. Detailed performances if with less light and shade than, say, Jochum's. CB