Classical, August 2019

hfnalbum.pngR Strauss
Also Sprach Zarathustra; Ein Heldenleben
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko

Decca issued one or two 1950s LPs of Scandinavian music with the Oslo PO but its profile changed with Mariss Jansons' Tchaikovsky recordings, issued on Chandos. This finely engineered coupling (featured album in last month's Classical Companion) has, I think uniquely, a female lead violinist (Elise Båtnes) as 'Pauline' in Heldenleben. She gives an affecting performance, while the final section is really moving. The clean extended organ pedal that opens Zarathustra (and its '2001' intro) raises expectations of the pinpoint sound quality which are nowhere disappointing – terrific 'Midnight Bell' for instance. A promising start then to a projected Oslo Strauss series. CB


Piano Concertos Nos 1-5
Mitsuko Uchida, Berliner Phiharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle
Berliner Philharmoniker BPHR 180241 (3CDs + Blu-ray Audio/Video)

These are live recordings from Feb '10, recorded at 48kHz/24-bit. The deluxe set has the performances on CD, Blu-ray audio and video (plus Uchida talking to camera), but at a €20 saving you can have just the music as downloads with a lavish PDF booklet. The orchestral playing is smooth and powerful, Rattle though making some distracting points with unusual tempi/dynamics. Uchida brings more depth to the music, as expected, although one or two extended pauses suggest she'd make more sense seen (Issey Miyake clothing and all…) rather than merely heard. Performances that leave mixed feelings. CB


Symphony No 1
Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth
Harmonia Mundi HMM905299

Not only Mahler's original score from 1893 but the restoration of the later discarded second movement, 'Blumine' – period instruments too, carefully selected after research in the VPO archives. (Wyn Morris included the first two of these in his 1970 Pye recording but the NPO had modern instruments of course.) Detail is clear in spite of the long reverberance heard as tracks end. And I particularly enjoyed the timbre of solo bass (stage left) in the fourth movement – parody sections played down here. Roth's account is solid and absorbing but does it communicate much feeling? Not to me, I'm afraid. CB


Symphony No 1; Piano Concerto No 2; Fair Melusine
Kristian Bezuidenhout, Freiburg Barockorchester/Pablo Heras-Casado
Harmonia Mundi HMM902369

Much as I enjoyed Roberto Prosseda's Decca recording of the Concerto [HFN Jan '19], musically it seems to be much more advantageous for the soloist to have – as here – a period instrument. Kristian Bezuidenhout (currently the Freiburg ensemble's artistic director) plays a finely-tuned 1837 Érard fortepiano with a mellow character in this excellent account. Heras-Casado is unusually searching in the slow movement of the early symphony, and while the sound is quite dense, the finale's counterpoint passages are clarified by divided strings. CB