Classical, October 2022

hfnalbum.pngHallé/Sir Mark Elder
Vaughan Williams: Symphonies Nos 7 & 9, Lark Ascending, etc.
Hallé CDHLD7558 (two discs, downloads to 44.1kHz/24-bit resolution)

The final volume of Elder's VW maintains the high standard of the cycle as a whole, and surpasses it in the Sinfonia Antartica, engineered (Bridgewater Hall) with exceptional attention to VW's orchestral illusions of space and distance. Elder is well attuned to the symphony's heroic/tragic aspirations as well as the Francophone transparency of its quick writing. He imparts a traditional nobility of gesture to the more elusive form and gleaming, urban soundworld of the Ninth in the boxier acoustic of the orchestra's St Peter's rehearsal home. Is the piece a set of elegies for past times and glories (VW's own) or a combative statement of intent and postwar renewal? Elder allows you to decide for yourself. PQ


Vienna State Opera/Welser-Möst
Wagner: Tristan Und Isolde
Orfeo C210123 (three discs)

Franz Welser-Möst eschews extremes in an opera full of them, always moving the drama forwards without emulating the volcanic surges of Böhm or Bodanzky. Nina Stemme is the Isolde of our time, imperious in both fury and ardour, here close to top form. Peter Seiffert's Tristan endures some tight patches in the love duet but comes magnificently through his Act 3 torments. Stephen Milling's Marke is more intriguing, fleshed out by both singer and conductor beyond the archetypes of hapless dotard or cuckold. Even the Act 3 Prelude majors on inner beauty rather than raw pathos, caressed by the VPO in an atmospheric live recording with minimal stage noise. PQ


Bertrand Chamayou
Messiaen: Vingt Regards Sur l'Enfant-Jésus
Warner Classics 0190296196669 (two discs, downloads to 48kHz/24-bit resolution)

First up, the piano sound: wow! Damien Quintard is Currentzis's favoured producer, and he has engineered an ambience of sensational depth and impact from a new-build auditorium in Grenoble. It's a good fit for Chamayou's approach, which underlines the Lisztian nature of Messiaen's writing for the brilliant pianism of a young Yvonne Loriod: more at home in the brassy clangour of 'Noël' than the rapt stillness of 'Le Baiser'. These are 'contemplations' that grapple with the awe and terror of an authentic faith: less conventionally prayerful than most but essential listening for Messiaen disciples and sceptics alike. PQ


Brabant Ensemble/Stephen Rice
Mouton: Missa Faulte D'Argent, Motets
Hyperion CDA68385 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

With the oak-beamed polyphony and spicy false relations of Confitemini Domino, Stephen Rice immediately sets out a stall for Josquin (1459-1522) as the most undeservedly neglected contemporary of Mouton. His booklet essay, his repertoire choice and direction all highlight the multifarious variety of Mouton's response to his texts, from the dazzling confidence of Illuminare Jerusalem to the gentler radiance of O Quam Fulges (pungently 'French' nasal tone-colour). The expansive Mass setting is another valuable first recording and another feather in the mixed-voice Brabant Ensemble's cap, unfailingly responsive to the potential for ebb and flow. PQ