Classical (January 2019)

Wand of Youth Suites Nos 1 and 2; Nursery Suite; Chanson de Nuit; Salut d'Amour
Hallé Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder
Hallé CD HLL 7548 (downloads up to 44.1kHz/16-bit resolution)

Sir Mark Elder turns here to the lighter Elgar, the Wand Of Youth Suites, miniatures handsomely served way back in the 1950s by Eduard van Beinum and the LPO [now on Eloquence] – odd that Barbirolli never did them.The sleeve essay describes Elgar looking back: 'I am still at heart the dreamy child…', although the Overture to Suite No 1 has occasional echoes of the bigger works. All of these new Hallé tracks (Andrew Keener producing) are sensitively played – charming too, where called for – while Lyn Fletcher's violin solos in Salut d'amour are beautifully fitting. Good sound too from St Peter's, Ancoat, Machester. CB


Violin Concerto No 1/String Octet
Vilde Frang, et al, Radio France PO/Mikko Franck
Warner Classics 9029566255 (downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit res)

These were the two composers who made the deepest impression upon Yehudi Menuhin. The two-movement Bartók Concerto relates to his love for Stefi Geyer (who rejected him), while in writing the Octet, Enescu endeavoured to make each movement self-contained while uniting all four into a whole. It's a challenging but fascinating work, much of it sounding like programme music. This would have been my Album Choice but the recording has obvious spotlighting and sounds like a full string orchestra. However, Frang – a wonderful player – reveals more of the range of the Bartók than any rivals. CB


Cello Concertos Nos 1 and 2/Verklärte Nacht
Alisa Weilerstein, Trondheim Soloists
Pentatone PTC5186717 (SACD, downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit res)

Her career undoubtedly boosted by working with Daniel Barenboim, the young American cellist has moved from Universal to become an exclusive Pentatone artist, playing here with the Norwegian group we associate with the 2L label. Where Isserlis stays 'in period' with his excellent Haydn Concertos CD [Hyperion], adding CPE Bach, Weilerstein joins the strings for the enlarged version of Schoenberg's late romantic tone poem originally for six players. Her booklet preface suggests a final one-take recording here. Beautiful string playing and sound but – oh dear! – a far too close solo balance in the Haydn lowers the rating. CB


Symphony No 3; Symphonic Dances
Philharmonia Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
Signum SIGCD540 (downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

These live recordings from Spring 2016 complete Ashkenazy's newest set of the Symphonies – performances to complement rather than quite supersede his earlier Concertgebouw/Decca CDs. Gergiev's LSO Live accounts are good: weightier in approach and with more 'slam'. But Ashkenazy wins with the total naturalness of these Philharmonia performances – in fine, transparent sound. Incidentally, last autumn brought the first release of a Dec 1940 (covert?) recording of the composer himself playing the Symphonic Dances on a piano, shortly before the Ormandy premiere [Marston 53022-2]. CB