Classical

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Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Forget Deryck Cooke: it’s not what it says on the tin. For this overblown ‘life and death’ soundscape Matthew Herbert has sampled Sinopoli’s 1987 Philharmonia recording of the Tenth Adagio, layering and cutting into it with solo viola (flute, Mahler’s ‘singing bone’, would have been more apt) and ambient sounds at Mahler’s graveside and Toblach composing hut. Recordings were made from a hearse and inside a coffin and ‘we buried microphones in an urn’. Play the nine tracks out of sequence and the ‘unexpected artistic consequences’ are your own responsibility, it warns! Such pretentious indulgence ought to make this eligible for a Turner Prize.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Daniel Harding stresses what he sees as Orff’s ‘monumentality’ – perhaps this prompted timings outstretching the composer-approved Jochum recording (same orchestra, 1968) by over 5m. It takes the fun out of a piece to which, in any case, the ‘law of diminishing returns’ applies. Orchestral precision is exceptional, however. The singing is best at the top of the scale: fine boys’ and women’s voices, a boyish soloist; the ‘roasted swan’ (Bunz) is arguably the finest yet, but Gerhaher’s sensitive work sounds monochrome and the men dry in this live recording.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Having recorded the concertos and complete piano solo works, Zoltán Kocsis continues to be the torch-bearer for Bartók’s music. And with his native orchestra everything sounds thoroughly idiomatic (whereas, for instance, fellow-Hungarian Solti’s Bartók had a personalised gloss) and full of gusto. The Hungaroton production offers clear separation and a wide soundstage, though this is accompanied by slight stridency in the Divertimento finale. The hapless drunkard in the fourth of the transcribed Hungarian Sketches should make listeners smile.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
One could say that the Janet Baker/Barbirolli EMI recording prompted reappraisal of the Sea Pictures, and this live alternative (first published in an earlier LPO set) is an affecting reminder of her unique vocal timbre and musical commitment. From the same 1984 RFH concert, taped by Capital Radio, the First Symphony finds Vernon Handley with ‘the bit between his teeth’, skimming 3m 30s from his 1979 CfP timing with the London Philharmonic, and missing in particular the tender inwardness of the Adagio. Other writers have welcomed this more bitter account; I stand by the 1956 Barbirolli/Hallé Elgar First [SJB1017]. Sound Quality: 70% .
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
Boyd Neel was perhaps first (1936) to bring authenticity to Handel’s Op. 6 – Karajan (very late ’60s) being ‘last of the dinosaurs’. Period instruments are pretty well the only choice today, Pavlo Beznosiuk’s group proving eminently stylish, with good tempi, good balance and imaginative detail. Continuo is harpsichord; and Handel’s added wind parts for Nos.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
This retrospective – with Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Young Person’s Guide in two versions; Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, Falstaff and Symphony 2; and Walton’s Symphony 1 – is almost entirely sourced from 1956 Westminster/Nixa stereo tapes. The one exception, an alternative YPG without narration, is taken from LP; the mono has Boult narrating. There’s a huge difference between the Walton here and Somm’s transfer from an inferior Pye LP reissue [HFN May ’10] – you’d hardly dream it was the same performance. Sound from the Walthamstow Hall is extraordinarily vivid and the Elgar Falstaff and Second Symphony are musically superb.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 08, 2010
There are parallels with the 1970s Kovacevich cycle: keen young Beethoven pianist (students respectively of Myra Hess/Alfred Brendel) partnered with older, principal conductor of the BBC SO – though Colin Davis had the LSO for No. 5. Both soloists opt for glissando octaves at the recapitulation of 1(i), and play the longer Beethoven cadenzas in Nos. 1 and 4.

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