Classical, April 2024

hfnalbum.pngBBC Nat Orch Wales/Jonathan Berman
Schmidt – The Symphonies Nos. 1-4, Notre Dame excerpts
Accentus ACC80544 (four discs; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

With slower-than-usual tempi and an opulent, bass-rich soundstage, Berman colours the quintessentially Viennese palette of Schmidt's orchestral imagination. Better still, he draws sharper distinctions between the profile of each symphony than either Järvi cycle. The ebb and flow of rubato tightens arguments which often seem diffuse. My respect for the Brahmsian First is increased, while my love of the dreamy, withdrawn Third is deepened. Nos 2 and 4 are more known quantities, but Schmidt explorers and fans alike may find that their accumulating momentum, lyrical outbursts and pervasive melancholy bear comparison with Strauss and Mahler when the music is moulded with such thorough and loving care. PQ


Thomas Guthrie, Barokksolistene
Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin
Rubicon RCD1086 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

This funky Norwegian group brought us updated 'period' recreations of 17th-century English pub culture with their 'Playhouse' and 'Alehouse' Sessions. The blend of improvisation and respect proves equally winning in this folky take on Die Schöne Müllerin. Guthrie notes that he wanted to evoke Schubert as 'a lover of relaxed storytelling through friendship, humanity and intimacy'. His French-accented German has an endearingly conversational tone, and his arrangements have fun with the accompaniments without bending them out of shape. The emotional stakes are raised towards a finale of quietly devastating simplicity. PQ


Molly Netter, Kate Maroney, Gene Stenger, Dashon Burton, et al
Lang: The Little Match Girl Passion, etc
Canteloupe CAZ1184 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

David Lang was drawn to Andersen's bitter fairy-tale by its tensions – 'a kind of naïve equilibrium between suffering and hope'. Looking to retain a universal quality from the St Matthew Passion, Lang distilled elements of Picander and Bach in his own Little Match Girl Passion. This composer-supervised second recording uses solo voices in a pop-style studio acoustic. Diction, rhythm and percussive punctuation all serve crystal-clear articulation, heightening the distanced pathos of Lang's serene conclusion. The Laurie Anderson vibe is even stronger in three poetic, close-harmony fillers sung by Trio Medieval. PQ

23826 Booklet.indd

Shostakovich: String Quartets Nos. 7-13
Genuin GEN23826 (two discs; downloads to 48kHz/24-bit res)

Cologne based, trained by Walter Levin (who led the LaSalles), with a Russian leader and the experience of performing many other Soviet-era quartets, the Asasellos have Shostakovich in their bloodstream. They bring a long-breathed, symphonic sweep to the 9th, sardonic bite to the catchy head-motif of the 12th, noble grief to the viola-led 13th and insouciant, Haydnesque poise to the suite-like 11th. They don't lay on the irony with a trowel – dry never means desiccated; phrasing is always direct and meaningful in the tradition of the great quartets as musical rhetoric. Draft fragments get us further inside the composer's troubled head. PQ