Classical, October 2021

hfnalbum.pngSandrine Piau, Stuart Jackson, Konstantin Krimmel, Arcangelo/Jonathan Cohen
Handel: Brockes Passion
Alpha ALPHA644 (two discs; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Richard Eggar's AAM version [HFN Dec '19] came in a 40mm deep slipcase with an extra CD of Handel alternatives and a 215pp hardback book. Alpha's presentation is more modest but you still get a scholarly essay and all texts for the 93 tracks provided. Production was at St Jude's London in Oct '19, Jonathan Cohen directing his 18-strong Arcangelo group from the harpsichord. Jesus is nobly sung, the ornate writing for the Evangelist and Daughter of Zion finely accomplished – other solos are taken by members of the Vocal Consort: eg, alto Alex Potter as Judas. This is a vivid yet intimately scaled account, gripping from start to finish. CB


Mika Kares, Szilvia Vörös, Helksinki Po/Susanna Mälkki
Bartók: Bluebeard's Castle
BIS BIS-2388 (SACD; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

Complete with spoken introduction (Géza Szilvay) this was recorded mostly live in Jan '20. The two singers – the bass Finnish, the soprano Hungarian – are stationary throughout Robert Suff's production although their interchanges have an intimate, conversational quality. The orchestral sounds are vivid, Bartók's large orchestration billowing out at last as we reach the 'fifth door'. Kares conveys a certain innocence as he surrenders to Judit's insistent requests, while the excellent booklet note touches on the idea of Bartók's early existentialist opera as a kind of self-portrayal. CB


Akademie Für Alte Musik Berlin
Mozart: Serenades K 361, 'Gran Partita', and K375
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902627 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit res)

The forthright playing by the two wind ensembles in these Serenades is vividly presented in rich recordings with plenty of separation. Hear these players in the two finales, where they are at their best. But think of Salieri's awe-stricken commentary on the slow movement from K361 (Peter Shaffer's Amadeus) and contrast the rather matter of fact account here – that solo oboe hardly sublime. Maybe the Alte Musik players should have had an independent conductor (as in the 2016 RAM/Pinnock Linn production), and there's an almost ruthless efficiency here, with little relaxation. The earlier work perhaps receives the more adventurous phrasing. CB


LSO/Sir Antonio Pappano
Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos 4 and 6
LSO Live LSO0867 (SACD; downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

After the 'London' and 'Pastoral', these two symphonies, with little shred of comfort, must have shocked audiences – the composer himself setting out a blueprint for No 4 in his 1937 BBC SO recording (now on Naxos 8.111048 in a very fine transfer). Pappano's timings are consistently longer. Yet it's a powerful, committed account – a modern replacement for the Mitropoulos/Sony perhaps. No 6, meanwhile, is most closely associated with Adrian Boult (premiere; first UK 78s) and with the regrettable deletion of his gripping 1972 live perf. [BBC Legends] Pappano's will do very nicely, with its seamless movement transitions and fine playing by the LSO. CB