Classical, December 2020

hfnalbum.pngHallé Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder
Debussy: Images; Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune; La plus que lente, etc
Hallé CDHLL7554 (downloads to 44.1kHz/24-bit resolution)

A fine addition to the Hallé Debussy series where, for me, the standout tracks are the composer's atypical transcription including cymbalom, La Plus Que Lente, and with flautist Katherine Baker, L'Aprés-midi – one of the most satisfying accounts we have had on records. There is also a bonus item: Colin Matthews' orchestration of the Image for piano 'Et la lune decend…'. The five movements making up the orchestral set were well done by the San Francisco Symphony in the 2016 Tilson Thomas remake, but the British players have the edge, and there's more warmth and depth in Sir Mark Elder's interpretation, with a winningly colourful evocation of Spain in 'Iberia'. CB


Akademie Für Alte Musik Berlin/Bernhard Forck
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 1 & 2; CPE Bach: Symphonies Wq175 & 183/4
Harmonia Mundi HMM902420 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

The two early Beethoven Symphonies here are each prefaced by short three-movement ones by CPE Bach, which prove far less conventional and extremely adventurous (for which they were disliked by Frederick the Great, to whom Bach's son was in service). Beautifully balanced by the engineers in this Sept '18 Teldex Studio production, Forck's measured accounts of the Beethoven place them firmly in 'classical' territory, ie, they don't suggest a new musical force emerging, but they are wholly engaging and satisfying and utterly free of eccentricities. CB


Sinfonia Of London/John Wilson
Respighi: Fontani di Roma, Pini di Roma, Feste Romane
Chandos CHSA5261 (SACD; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Key recordings of Fountains/Pines date back to Toscanini and the NBC, with Reiner's and Karajan's in the stereo era. Aptly recorded in the generous acoustic of St Augustine's, Kilburn, John Wilson's coupling – prefaced by the blockbuster Feste Romane – is another Sinfonia winner. It's the quiet playing that impresses most. In the most beautiful Pines movement, 'I pini del Gianicolo' the recording used for the nightingale is unusually distant (a minor disappointment?) and the clarinettist really deserved a credit. The following trudge of the Roman soldiers sets the pulse racing… Well researched booklet notes too. CB


Cleveland Orchestra/Franz Welser-Möst
Schubert: Symphony No 9/Krenek: Static and Ecstatic
Cleveland Orchestra TCO0002 (downloads to 48kHz/24-bit res)

A Paul Sacher commission, Static and Ecstatic by the serial composer Ernst Krenek was written for chamber orchestra with piano and a large assortment of percussion instruments popping up across the soundstage. It has ten short movements (19½m overall) and ends like a kick in the teeth with barely a pause before the utterly poised horn solo in Schubert's 'Great C major'. Both pieces were recorded live with a minimal Severance Hall audience just as the pandemic limitations began in March. An odd but repeatable coupling: my one reservation is that the Schubert Scherzo has one or two quirky underlinings. CB