Classical, July 2019

Symphonies Nos 3, 4 and in B-flat
Rachel Nicholls, BBC Scottish Symphony Orch/Martyn Brabbins
Hyperion CDA68231/2 (two discs; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Completing his cycle of the Tippett Symphonies [see HFN Yearbook '18], Brabbins and the Hyperion team add a work later withdrawn: an unnumbered symphony started when he was 27, later revised. With Sibelius's music an apparent influence although very 'English', this is a lusciously scored romantic work. For me, it's far more likeable than the late No 4, written for Solti: a dense score including 'breathing sounds' here fashioned from electronic tapes and added in post-production. No 3, even with its jolting quotes from Beethoven Nine and those 'blues songs', was a quite extraordinary imaginative step, especially in its orchestration, and is thrillingly realised in this set. CB


Diabelli Variations; 11 Bagatelles, Op.119; Für Elise
Imogen Cooper
Chandos CHAN20085 (downloads up to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Imogen Cooper describes playing the Diabelli Variations as 'a wonderful journey', a joyous undertaking. Hers is predominantly a reflective account, spacious (7m longer than in Serkin's 1957 Sony recording, for example, both taking all repeats), most memorable in the slow Variations. Perhaps she is inclined to slow for expression a little too noticeably. The Bagatelles and Für Elise – no mere bonus but really beautifully done albeit a 'beginner's piece' – make this a well-filled disc. The Steinway D is cleanly recorded (Snape Maltings) but has a rather shallow upper register. By the way, no-one matches Serkin's 'Risoluto' in Op.119(v)! CB


Symphony No 6
Deutsches SO Berlin/Robin Ticciati
Linn CKD (downloads up to 192kHz/24-bit resolution)

If you find this Symphony, for all its stirring moments, something of a puzzle, then read the fine Tom Service Guardian piece which unravels its complexities. (If the music is entirely new, I'd even suggest skipping the opening movement in favour of the deeply touching Adagio.) What is marvellous about Ticciati's conducting is that, excited by the music, he fully conveys that to his players. You'll find the sound thicker – with less to be heard from behind the orchestra – than in the two previous DSO recordings and that's because they are in the Berlin Philharmonie here. It's still a decent sound and I enjoyed this Bruckner Sixth hugely. CB


Haitink - The Early Years
Works by Andriessen, Beethoven and Mendelssohn
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
Eloquence ELQ4828627 (downloads up to 44.1kHz/16-bit resolution)

Approaching his 90th birthday (4th of March) Bernard Haitink said he'd be taking 'a rest' from conducting later this year. This collection – Mendelssohn's Hebrides overture and 'Italian' Symphony, Beethoven's Eighth and a short 1952 piece (worth reviving) by Dutch composer Henrik Andriessen – comes from his very first Philips recordings. The booklet note is an in-depth account of Haitink's early career. The Saltarello from the 'Italian' will surprise by its speed, and the general incisiveness shows a conductor determined to make his mark. Highlights: the Beethoven (iii); the calm before the final storm in Hebrides. CB