Christopher Breunig

Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
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  |  0 comments
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 10, 2010  |  0 comments
In 1988/9 former HFN writer Andrew Keener produced the Peter Donohoe recordings for EMI – Nigel Kennedy/Steven Isserlis, no less, in 2(ii). He’s worked with Stephen Hough since his Virgin Classics debut and these Minnesota recordings form Hyperion’s 50th set in its ‘Romantic Piano Concerto’ series. We have the full length slow movement for No. 2, but also the disparaged Siloti cut edition and another of the pianist’s own devising.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
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 08, 2010  |  0 comments
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  |  0 comments
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  |  0 comments
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  |  0 comments
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  |  0 comments
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  |  0 comments
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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