Classical, February 2023

hfnalbum.pngBavarian RSO/Sir Simon Rattle
Mahler: Symphony No 9
BR-Klassik 900205 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Rattle's third Ninth on record is live like his previous versions from Vienna and Berlin, but now more than ever infused with portamento and the bittersweet nostalgia running through the irresolute momentum of (i). He has tightened tempi to advantage throughout, and no longer overplays the proto-modernism of (ii) and (iii). The BRSO's Mahlerian palette is heavier and gentler than their colleagues', coming into its own in a passionately sung (iv) which unfolds as a true symphonic finale more than a standalone hymn to extinction, though the Tchaikovskian parallels in both cases have rarely been clearer. No sign of an audience except in the orchestra's palpable playing beyond themselves, as Abbado used to in No 9. PQ


La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler
Forza Azzurri! – Vivaldi, Sammartini, Dall'Abaco, Zavateri and Brescianello
Signum SIGCD705 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

In the hands of Chandler and his colleagues, a Vivaldi concerto never sounds like 'just another one'. RV353 starts innocently enough but a slower minor-key episode wrenches the music off course. The Largo of RV443 is one of those haunting arias for sopranino recorder that only he could write. The E minor key of RV281 promises and then delivers Sturm und Drang (Tempesta e Inquietudine?) even in its own, mournful Largo. Chandler also knows where to drop the needle on the equally industrious output of Vivaldi's contemporaries, from a bold curtain-raiser by Zavateri to a boisterous chaconne by Brescianello. PQ


Myriam Barbaux-Cohen
Mel Bonis: Piano Music
ARS Production ARS38349 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Mel Bonis could knock out salon charmers with Hahn and the best of them in Belle Epoque salons, but tone-pictures such as 'Pensées d'Automne' and 'Eglogue' share a strain of melancholy with Grieg's Lyric Pieces. At 9m, 'La Cathédrale Blessée' is the longest piece here, standing proud from the Debussyan template, while the rippling 'Carillon Mystique' somehow belongs equally to church and café. Barbaux-Cohen has the right feeling for dance rhythm in the lighter pieces, and a deep, beautifully even touch on a sumptuously recorded Bechstein: play this at 'live' volume if you can for the full dynamic spectrum of her concluding 'Cloches Lointaines'. PQ


Regula Mühlemann/CHAARTS
Fairy Tales (various composers)
Sony 10999699 (downloads to 96kHz/16-bit resolution)

Bespoke arrangements for a crack German chamber group and some close miking brush vaseline on the lens of a well-planned recital of magical story-telling. Mühlemann is pushed by the long lines of a cheeky Rheingold rip-off by Offenbach, and tuning slips a bit when she duets with herself in a little catch from Purcell's Fairy Queen, but there's nothing wrong with her fioriture in a showstopper from Massenet's Cendrillon, or her Norwegian in 'Solveig's Song' from Peer Gynt. Monteverdi's 'Lamento della Ninfa' glows like an antique shampoo advert. She does light and rapture best, such as 'Neue Liebe', a Mendelssohnian sliver of delight complete with naughty wind-chime. PQ