Classical, September 2019

Lemminkäinen Suite; Spring Song; Suite – Belshazzar's Feast
BBC SO/Sakari Oramo
Chandos CHAN 20136 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

When with the CBSO, Sakari Oramo recorded the Sibelius symphonies for Erato – No 4 Radio 3's 'Building a Library' choice – and other shorter pieces. But not these. Lemminkäinen, the Four Legends, includes the 'Swan Of Tuonela', of course, and it's atmospherically done here (Alison Teale cor anglais) while the buildup of 'Lemminkäinen's Homeward Journey' has an exciting 'live' feel contrasting with the poise of Spring Song (which has, albeit, a characteristic triumphal penultimate section with bells). In the 1906-7 theatre music for Belshazzar's Feast Sibelius turned his hand persuasively to oriental music representation while remaining instantly recognisable. CB


Enigma Variations; Cello Concerto; Falstaff
NBC SO/Arturo Toscanini; Gregor Piatigorsky, NYPSO/
John Barbirolli; NYPSO/Artur Rodzinski
Somm ARADNE 5005 (mono; downloads to 44.1kHz/16-bit res)

This isn't the 1952 RCA Enigma Variations but a 1949 Tosanini broadcast with some astonishing playing – 'Troyte' or the finale the high points. But it's too often grimly driven ('G.R.S', a worst case). Huge dynamic range here. It's good to hear the growly Piatigorsky in one of his only two known accounts of the Concerto (1940), most touching in the bitter-sweet final section of (iv). Barbirolli matches him all the way – much faster topping and tailing (iv) than in his later years. With seven cuts, Rodziński's 1943 Falstaff in cloudy sound shows a high standard of playing in unfamiliar music. CB


CBSO/Edward Gardner
Chandos CHSA5235 (downloads to 96kHz/24-bit resolution)

This fifth SACD in Gardner's CBSO series has eight overtures (it includes the oratorio Paulus and the little-known Athalie and 'Trumpet') in performances of exemplary balance. And Gardner always seems to find the most apt tempi – A Midsummer Night's Dream, for instance, has a magical lightness and swiftness, and the first section of Calm Sea… (as I suggested in HFN Jul '19 – p67) has a great sense of atmosphere. The Birmingham Town Hall acoustic is quite dry, Ralph Couzens' engineering first-class, with the time-span, 2014-18, barely noticeable. These are versions of distinction, with nothing sounding merely dutiful. CB


R Strauss
Ein Heldenleben; Suite Der Rosenkavalier
RSNO/Thomas Søndergård
Linn Records CKD510 (downloads to 192kHz/24-bit resolution)

This third very recent Heldenleben (properly allotted six tracks unlike last month's Petrenko CD) comes with the delicious 1944 Rodziński adapted Rosenkavalier Suite. Those opening horn whoops, incidentally, represented an orgasm – or so EMI's Walter Legge told the great player Dennis Brain! Søndergård's interpretation sounds utterly idiomatic, while the main work [my July Classical Companion] is compelling characterised, nothing missed, boldly recorded too. The Hero's 'fulfilment' seems not quite attained in Søndergård's finale, I thought – a contrast with the otherworldly Petrenko realisation. CB