Classical, August 2021

hfnalbum.pngSandrine Piau, Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
Haydn: Symphonies Nos 15, 35 and 45, Scena di Berenici
Alpha ALPHA684 (downloads to 192kHz/24-bit resolution)

The 'Farewell' Symphony (No 45) is one of his most popular, not least because the players leave their stands and walk away during the Adagio finale. Three explanations are cited – and Hermann Scherchen's old recording had spoken 'adieu's and the sound of footsteps crossing the soundstage! Antonini's ends with a sharp decrescendo to silence. The rapid speed for (i) comes as an initial shock, but there's frequent lovely soft playing, Antonini always creating a sense of line. Yet the real star item here is the soprano Sandrine Piau's heroic account of the three-part, tragic cantata 'Berenice, che fai'. The elaborate booklet has essays and night-time coloured photos. CB


BBC Scottish Symphony Orch/Thomas Dausgaard
Bartók: The Miraculous Mandarin (cpte); Suite No 2; 8 Hungarian Peasant Dances
Onyx HMM902419 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

A first here, as the Mandarin ballet is not only played in full but recorded using a recently found score without the cuts imposed for the Budapest premiere in 1926. A great account – 'The Chase' must be one of the most exciting on records! Terrific sound too, from Simon Eadon. The Suite is an early work (1909). I found the old Doráti LP version a bore but this is something else: try the Allegro scherzando. Derived from his folksong researches, Bartók selected 18 pieces for a piano score, later orchestrating nine of them. Again, Dausgaard captures the idiom perfectly. CB


Freiburg Baroque Orch/Gottfried Von Der Goltz
Beethoven: Symphony No 7; Prometheus
Harmonia Mundi HMM902419 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

With middle of the road tempi and plenty of sound from the kettledrums this is a very enjoyable if hardly ground-breaking Beethoven Seventh. But the disc is worth hearing for the complete ballet score (often cut in recordings) from 1801 – a time when the composer was less famous than its choreographer Salvatore Viganò. Two salient points missed in the booklet note are that the score includes harp (in vii) and basset horn, which was unusual for LvB; and in the finale we hear the music recycled in the Eroica and later piano variations. Also, (ii) has a tempest strikingly anticipating that in the Pastoral. CB


Stephen Hough
Vida breve
Hyperion CDA68260 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Produced at a reverberant Kentish Town church in Dec '18 this isn't one of the most comfortable-sounding of Hough's Hyperion recordings. And it's unusual for this label to be told by the booklet essayist what to think of the playing! The theme of the programme is the inevitability of death – with Liszt's 'Funérailles' and quirky Bagatelle 'sans tonalité', Chopin's Sonata No 2 with funeral march, Busoni's Carmen Fantasy – the audacity of this will make you smile – and a lofty Bach Chaconne transcription. Vide breve is also the title of Hough's own sparing Sonata here: well worth hearing. Impressive power and coupled restraint are among the most notable qualities. CB