Classical, March 2024

hfnalbum.pngBergen PO, ET AL/Sir Mark Elder
Delius: A Mass of Life
LAWO LWC1265 (two discs; downloads to 192kHz/24-bit resolution)

Does Delius's magnum opus stand up against other turn-of-the-century, soul-seeking choral epics such as Sea Symphony and Gurrelieder? Recordings, let alone performances, have been so few and far between that a fair judgement has been almost impossible. Freed from dusty sound (Beecham/Del Mar) and worthy but dull interpretation (Hill/Hickox), the score gleams and dances as never before under Elder, who directs with the blazing authority of his best nights in the pit. The engineering picks out the glittering French accents of Delius's orchestra, brings huge choral forces back and forth, and sets an opulent solo cast (led by Roderick Williams) in a realistic perspective. Unmissable for Delius lovers and sceptics alike. PQ


Bavarian RSO/Bernard Haitink
Bruckner: Symphony No 8*; Te Deum
BR-Live 900212 (two discs; *available singly at 96kHz/24-bit res)

When Bruckner is often manipulated as the vehicle for a maestro's ego, it's refreshing to remind ourselves how powerfully and truthfully this music can speak of life-and-death struggle and hard-won triumph. Longer than other Haitink Eighths, this 1993 concert version unfolds with an inexorable but not inflexible pulse, always animated by the fateful double-dotted head motif. There's a rounder, more human and tender profile to the BRSO's playing than Wand ever sought. The Te Deum (rec. 2010) similarly probes the elements of doubt and fear in both text and setting with a dark-hued palette. Weighty, substantial choral forces; a well-balanced solo team. PQ


Bertrand Chamayou
Satie: Gnossiennes, Gymnopédies, etc;
Cage: Dream, In A Landscape, etc

Warner 5054197696442s (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Producer Damien Quintard registers every last flicker of phrase and decay. He goes right inside the piano for this complementary pairing of Cage and Satie. The running order flicks distractedly between composers and sets, so that familiar pieces appear from new angles. Cage emerges as a natural inheritor of Satie's forms, which are not so much developed as assembled and polished from lucid dreams of Debussyan harmony. Prepared by a honky-tonk toccatina, the final piece here is also the longest, Cage's 9-minute Dream, not demanding patience but bestowing it on the listener. PQ


Borys Fedorov, Anna Fedorova, Mikhail & Dana Zemtsov
Chopin, Roslavets, Fedorov, Zemtsov, etc
Channel Classics CCS44523 (downloads to 192kHz/24-bit res)

Here are two musical Ukrainian families, reunited in the Netherlands, recalling happier days with old and new pieces. It's a charming and original concept, taking in bittersweet sketches of childhood by Borys Fedorov, a haunting Elegy of Glazunov and a nostalgic Silver-Age Viola Sonata by Roslavets. Folksong, Chopin and Yiddish prayer arrangements are brief and spirited. The Fedorovs present Scriabin's only two-piano work, a surprisingly innocent sounding Fantasy. Everyone joins in with bassist Nicolas Schwartz for a spicy Tango Suite by Mikhail Zemtsov. The fun they had recording it is palpable, and infectious. PQ