Classical, January 2020

Symphony; Theme & Variations; Straussiana
London Sinfonia/John Wilson
Chandos CHSA 5220 (SACD; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Forced to leave Berlin, Erich Korngold made his name with film scores in the States. He intended his Symphony to re-establish himself as a serious composer – it had a disastrous 1954 radio premiere and only resurfaced under Rudolf Kempe who made the first recording (RCA) in 1974. The problem for us is that with its alternations of skittishness and solemnity and lush scoring it does sound like a film score. But you'll not be bored for a moment and the 1953 fillers are charming pieces – the second arranging Strauss II rarities à la Graduation Ball. With John Wilson's reconstituted London Sinfonia and outstanding Chandos engineering it's a significant addition to the catalogue. CB


Violin Concertos
Christian Tetzlaff, Deutsches SO/Robin Ticciati
Ondine ODE13342 (downloads to 48kHz/24-bit resolution)

For these remakes Christian Tetzlaff receives outstanding accompaniments from Ticciati's Berlin orchestra – the Beethoven has a splendid militaristic momentum in outer movements, the Rondo quite fast. I wasn't sure about the style of the two cadenzas here, but in (i) we have that from the piano transcription. To me the Sibelius emerges rather as a romantic concerto not unlike the Glazunov – personally, I miss the sense of icy plains and dark forests implicit in Heifetz's great 1960 RCA recording. But there's no doubting the violinist's technical mastery even if he tends to offer 'hear what I just did?' phrasing here and there. CB


Three Nocturnes/Requiem
Magdalena Kožená, DSO & Rundfunk Ch/Robin Ticciati
Linn CKD623 (downloads to 192kHz/24-bit resolution)

Ticciati's 'Nuages' have a boldly solid form while the brilliant 'Fêtes' receives demonstration-worthy sound (from a Berlin radio studio); the vocal perspectives in 'Sirènes' are impeccably staged too. Commissioned by the Vichy government, Duruflé's conservative Requiem was only completed in 1947, and like the Fauré (both have a female soloist in the Pie Jesu but no Dies Irae), published in different forms – Ticciati has recorded the full orchestra with organ scoring. Kožená's solo made me simply whisper 'wow!' and I like the way choral sections are separated over the soundstage. An outstanding Linn CD. CB


Symphonies Nos 1-6; Manfred, Ovt Romeo & Juliet; Francesca da Rimini; Serenade for Strings; Piano Concertos 1-3
Kirill Gerstein, Czech PO/Semyon Bychkov
Decca 4834942 (six discs; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

If you invested in the Pathétique, Manfred and R&J you'll have to buy them again to hear the rest of the Czech Philharmonic's distinguished first complete recorded foray into the Symphonies. While it's interesting to hear the arpeggiated opening of the 1879 version of the Piano Concerto No 1 and No 2 without Siloti's cuts, Gerstein's phrasing is quirky. And while Bychkov shows us the passion implicit in 4-6 he doesn't necessarily engage us with it. The early works and a wonderful Serenade are the best things here. Spacious recordings. CB