Classical

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Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
These bracing readings differ only slightly from Sir Charles’s late-1980s Prague/Telarc set (same producer: James Mallinson), which had even more brio in some places: eg, the ‘Linz’ finale. And one irritating feature is repeated: the juxtaposing of both slow movements for the ‘Paris’, when by coupling 32 with ‘Haffner’ and ‘Linz’ (CD2), timings would have allowed complete alternate three-movement versions to avoid fiddling with programe remote. The playing of the SCO could not be more responsive, but there’s a schoolmasterly severity about Sir Charles’s Mozart – enough to send me scurrying to Pinnock’s warmer view. Sound Quality: 72% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
The Bach playing of Tatiana Nikoleyeva was the inspiration in 1950 for Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, and her two recordings inevitably are seen as definitive. (Nikoleyeva endeared herself to London audiences late in life; she also made several Hyperion discs. ) The young Moscow pianist provides a booklet overview of exceptional thoroughness, although the accompanying 23m DVD interview with a stubbly Andreas Staier gets us practically nowhere. Melnikov’s pianistic range, though, is something else.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Dorati’s extensive experience as a ballet conductor is set out in his Notes Of Seven Decades. He left a substantial Mercury catalogue – the late producer Wilma Cozart Fine had once been his secretary – with his complete LSO Firebird (Watford Hall, 1959) ever after an audiophile choice. One hopes Speakers Corner will issue it separately. The Minneapolis Le Sacre, excitingly fast, has an air of authority.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Anyone present at either of the June 2008 Barbican performances edited here will not hesitate, yet a certain paradox might present itself to the disinterested listener. Haitink’s fastidious control and self-effacement, coupled with excellent orchestral playing, make for a fine presentation – of symphonic seriousness. But somehow it exposes Strauss’s lazy reliance on his motifs, the inherent schmalz, the ‘effects’ such as the water droplets: better placed in his Don Quixote capsized boat Variation. Somehow the Karajan Berlin or Dresden Luisi recordings mask the less attractive Straussian traits.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Some will recall the 17s 6d Supraphon LP of two of these grisly narrative poems – Czech PO/Chalabala, musically unsurpassed. Mackerras’s long association with Czech music virtually guarantees a recommendation here: Water Goblin and Noonday Witch (2008, live); Wild Dove (studio, 2009); and a reissued Golden Spinning Wheel (studio, 2001). Dvorak’s wind-swept allegros, rustic tunes and careful orchestrations fire the unique-sounding Czech Philharmonic much as Elgar’s or Walton’s music does the LSO. The one spectre at the feast is the skating-rink acoustic of the Prague Rudolfinum.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Similar in spirit to Alice Harnoncourt’s groundbreaking Teldec Seasons (1997), the Berlin group gives a real edge to Vivaldi’s pictorial writing here, yet with tranquil moments in the introduction to ‘Summer’ and ‘Autumn’ (ii). Sledgehammer D-minor discordancy launches ‘Chaos’ in the coupled ten-track 1737 score, Rebel’s nouvelle symphonie for dancers/orchestra. Continually inventive, with mechanical nightingales, a hunt scene, ‘Tambourins’, ‘Warblings’ for piccolos/violins, etc, this is not music of great substance yet it’s still worth knowing. Translucent sound and, as ever, superlative execution.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
A Festival Hall recording originally made by Tony Faulkner in Feb 1989, for what is now called Music Preserved, this was one of Klaus Tennstedt’s characteristic concert performances. And it is gratifying to see the transfer honouring Mahler’s wish for a break after (i), here spanning a considerable 25m. His highly individual response to the ‘Resurrection’ (some will say related to his awareness of mortality) is apparent from the beginning, and never diminishes, although the very deliberate second movt will not suit all tastes. The ‘Urlicht’ is beautifully sung and Yvonne Kenny’s later contribution no less considerable.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
The frail Romanian pianist was not always so lucky with her recording conductors. In these 1955 reissues she is partnered by Ferenc Fricsay, a significant figure in the postwar DG catalogue. In an essay written shortly before his early death he described Mozart as ‘a golden-feathered messenger of God’. Haskil’s unerring, needle-sharp fingerwork suggests no less a messenger of this composer.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Playing a Steinway, Nelson Freire completed these mid-Dec ’09 recordings in the as yet unfamiliar acoustic of The Friary, Liverpool. He made his debut in the Chopin Preludes, aged 28 (CBS, 1972). ‘A hurricane of pianistic power’ then suggested the Saturday Review. The words that spring to mind now are ‘pianistic wisdom’ – Freire unfalteringly negotiates the often tortuous, enigmatically conceived paths of the Nocturnes, balancing their elements and attuned to the contrasts between them.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
A stirring (although not properly level-matched) Kingdom Prelude prefaces a midpriced version of the Violin Concerto altogether superior to the recent Znaider/Sony [HFN June]. Sir Mark Elder is flexible in the introduction and exposes unfamiliar details; the Hallé reveals a natural affinity with Elgar’s writing escaping their Dresden rivals; and Thomas Zehetmair has a searching command of the solo part. Competition here for the earlier, less indulgent Kennedy recording! As fillers we have the Gerontius Prelude and, sung by mezzo Alice Coote, ‘The Angel’s Farewell’ in a 1900 arrangement without chorus. Sound Quality: 85% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
The Helsinki conductor, after ten years with the CBSO, has returned to his Nordic roots with appointments with the Finnish Radio SO and in Stockholm. These Schumann live performances, 2008/’09, equal the finest on disc: ie, Szell, Sawallisch. The orchestra sounds ‘right’ in scale and tone for this composer, playing beautifully for Orama, who brings euphoric brilliance to the ‘Spring’ Symphony’s scherzo and ideal pacing throughout the noble Second, with its returning motifs and (rather like the Allegretto in Beethoven’s Seventh) delightful little counterpoint section in the slow movement. The sound is natural, and one can only hope Symphonies 3 and 4 will appear.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Memorable Dvořák Sevenths we have had from Kubelík, Schmidt-Isserstedt, Monteux, Rowicki and (Sir Colin) Davis. I am not sure that Ivan Fischer’s ousts any of theirs but he’s always an interesting, individual conductor (visit the Berliner Philharmoniker website to see him in Haydn) and there’s enormous warmth in this DSD recording. But what makes this SACD significant is the way he brings to life the five-movement Suite: analogous to Brahms’s two Serenades – that is, delightful music neglected in favour of the symphonies. Ex-Philips, the Budapest Dvořák Symphonies 8 and 9 SACD coupling is now on Channel Classics.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
This offers a very different kind of listening experience from the classic Mercury Firebird with LSO/Dorati. There both sound and performance are upfront, confrontational (albeit exciting); Nelsons goes in for subtlety with soft playing that’s almost inaudible – the subject-matter is unmistakable with the ‘fluttery’ textures he achieves. The sound has an altogether more natural concert hall perspective too. Evidently performed with a very large chorus, the Symphony makes a complete contrast: taking us away from Stravinsky’s colourful Diaghilev period to a 1930 Koussevitzky commission with Latin texts and austere orchestration.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
It’s odd to find Sony, in promoting its young Classical Brit award-winning violinist, issuing recordings made as long ago as December 2007. And the resonant Potton Hall acoustic doesn’t add sweetness to the high register of Liebeck’s Guadagnini instrument – although he’s somewhat favoured in the balance, at forte the piano sounds lunge forward. There’s no doubting his sincerity and engagement with the music but, as with their earlier Dvořák sonatas on Sony (coupled with a lacklustre production of the Violin Concerto), it’s the highly developed artistry of pianist Katya Apekisheva that holds the attention more. Sound Quality: 65% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Of course, Vasily Petrenko is far too young to have lived through the Stalinist repressions which informed interpreters like Sanderling, Barshai or Mravinsky but to say that he pitches in is an understatement. I do feel the third movement could have had even greater force at a reduced tempo, but for overall tension this surpasses previous RLPO instalments in this Naxos series. Antiphonal exchanges in the second scherzo are rhythmically precise and the various solos throughout have real quality. And Petrenko obviously has the skill of gearing a complete performance to a climactic point – in this case the final coda, those flickering embers which leave no easy resolution.

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