Classical, February 2019

The Soldier's Tale
Actors, Ensemble instrumental/Jean-Christophe Gayot

Harmona Mundi HMM902354 (downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

If, like me, you like the music and the spoken texts, then the Gielgud-narrated version with the Boston Chamber Players [Eloquence] is the obvious choice. Here it's in French with three brilliant actors from the Comédie-Française. We had a Naïve version with Gerard Depardieu in explosive form but the musical performance is certainly outclassed by this one, with violinist Olivier Charlier far more attuned (!) to his role than Shlomo Mintz. The seven instrumentalists bring out all the drama of the Tale, where the Boston group were more conventional – every mood is caught. And the engineering is just as exceptional: plenty of use of perspectives for the speakers and a bold Ensemble presence. CB


BBC SO/Bruno Walter
Symphonies by Haydn (No 96) and Mahler (No 1); Brahms Schicksalslied; Wagner Faust Overture
ICA Classics ICAC 5151 (two discs; mono)

Initially invited by Adrian Boult, Bruno Walter gave concerts with the BBC orchestra both pre- and post-war. These performances are from two Festival Hall programmes from May 1955, when he was nearly 80. The Mahler (then by no means standard repertoire) is very finely prepared, and after we first hear the Wayfarer theme moves steadily to a concluding movement which I have rarely heard bettered. There's charm occasionally but never sentimentality. It's followed by Irmgard Seefried in a Wunderhorn song. The trio in the Haydn shows off the marvellous wind section the BBC orchestra then had. CB


Daphnis et Chloe – Suites Nos 1 and 2; La Valse;
Le Tombeau de Couperin
Munich PO and Ch/Sergiu Celibidache
Munich PO 9305211274 (downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Youth versus age: the marvellous account of Suite No 2 by Robin Ticciati [HFN Dec '18] could not be more different from this 1987 live performance (with singers) – measured, impressive in its architecture, but not with that sense of exciting new discovery so evident with Ticciati. Celibidache pulls out all the stops for La Valse – an account from 1979 you'd either love or hate, very different from Monteux's or Ansermet's – but sounds happiest presiding over his fine Munich instrumentalists in the four Tombeau de Couperin tracks (1984). All these Herkulessaal recordings are good. CB


'Trout' Piano Quintet, Piano Sonatas D850, 915, 959 and 960; Impromptus, etc
Artur Schnabel; Pro Arte Quartet
Warner Classics 9029563376 (five discs; mono)

With two complete cycles from Brendel and numerous versions of the late sonatas at least, it's hard to grasp that when the Austrian pianist and pedagogue Artur Schnabel (1882-1951 – his repertoire was essentially classical) was giving recitals, Schubert was quite foreign to audiences. This is not the first comprehensive CD set we have had since the original HMV 78s, although the Studio Art et Son remastering here is truly exemplary: a far cry from Warner's disappointing Beethoven sonatas set with Schnabel. Presto offers 96kHz/b24-bit downloads. CB