Classical, January 2024

hfnalbum.pngWegener, Henschel, ORF Vienna/Meister
Henze: The Raft Of The Medusa
Capriccio C5482 (downloads to 48kHz/24-bit resolution)

For years, Henze's 'Oratorio Militare e Volgare' was available only in DG's dress-rehearsal recording before the aborted premiere in 1968, derailed by red-flag-waving protestors. Géricault's 1819 canvas, immortalising a shipwreck and the brutality of its aftermath, is brought to life with avant-garde techniques, an operatic grandeur of imagination and an unequivocal commitment to left-wing ideals. Unlike Eötvös [SWR], Meister has finally restored the work's notorious 'Ho Chi Minh' ending. His narrator isn't as vividly garrulous as Peter Stein for Eötvös, but he has better vocal soloists, virtuosic choral singers, and a verismo-like feeling for the extravagance of Henze's ambition as a modern-day Monteverdi. PQ


Ensemble Resonanz/Minasi
Mozart: Symphonies Nos 36 & 38
Harmonia mundi HMM902703 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res.)

Riccardo Minasi's bracing Mozart won't be for everyone: sample the 'Prague' finale to see if his pointed phrasing and question-and-answer voicing strike you as refreshing or mannered. This sequel CD shares the high energy and bold ideas of his approach to Mozart's final symphonic trilogy. His unhurried serenity in 36(ii) and more searching shaping of the 'Prague' Andante make some old-time catalogue classics sound routine by comparison. Ens Resonanz lives up to its name, sounding much larger than its numbers in a Hamburg church, bringing an edgy collective sonority to both slow introductions, though much sweeter in the strings than older 'period' bands. PQ


Namur Chamber Choir/Alarcón
Arcadelt: Missa Noe Noe, etc
Ricercar RIC456 (downloads to 192Hz/24-bit resolution)

Every church choral singer knows Arcadelt's Ave Maria as a simple, devotional standby. But who was Jacques Arcadelt (1507-68)? The booklet notes unhelpfully refer us to a previous volume… Born in Namur, in modern-day Belgium, he worked in Rome and then France. But do you need an album by another second-tier contemporary of Josquin? Yes, if you want to hear a fresh approach to Renaissance polyphony. Alarcón is liberal in his use of instrumental doubling, so that both the Mass (based on a motet by Mouton, also beautifully sung) and Christmas motets take on almost orchestral depths of sonority, well defined in Namur's spacious concert-hall acoustic. PQ

Entwürfe cpo-Cover Juli 2023_cover.indd

Linos Ensemble
Farrenc: Piano Trios, Violin Sonata, etc
CPO 555538-2 (downloads to 48kHz/24-bit resolution)

Farrenc is emerging from the shadow of her contemporaries with every new album. Unlike the irrepressible, Schumannesque vigour of her quintets, the Op.34 Trio looks backwards to turn-of-the-century Vienna without sounding old-fashioned or reliant on hand-me-down ideas. Op.45 swaps out violin for flute, and dials up the intensity with its E minor key, past a devilish scherzo into a furious tarantella finale. Winfried Rademacher brings authentically Beethovenian gravity and an old-school, aristocratic tone to the Violin Sonata; he and his colleagues would benefit from more opulent sound, but the piano is balanced to give everyone else a chance. PQ