Archive - Recording reviews from 2007

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DVD Review: Rossini's <em>La pietra del paragone </em> (Naive)DVD review: Rossini's La pietra del paragone (Naive) Miracles do happen, it seems. Three weeks after Rossini's La pietra del paragone received its first DVD incarnation on Opus Arte, the French Naďve label released this alternative. Remarkably, both DVDs document excellent, entertaining performances, both are extremely well filmed, both come with generous extras and both are... more> Reviews of four Handel recordingsCD reviews: Handel's Esther, Tamerlano, Acis and Galatea and Bostridge's 'Great Handel' The Handel revival continues apace as we approach the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his death in 2009. The composer is especially well served on record. Here we review four recent Handel releases from Laurence Cummings, George Petrou, Joan Sutherland and Ian Bostridge. more>
CD Review : Jean-Efflam Bavouzet: Debussy Piano Music vol.2 (Chandos)CD Review : Jean-Efflam Bavouzet: Debussy Piano Music vol.2 (Chandos) There's a bit of a tendency these days to try and stick the 'impressionist' tag back onto Debussy. A recent concert including much of his orchestral music also featured projections of Monet. It's an easy tag to apply to the composer but any attempts at creating a synaesthetic equivalence of this sort does neither... more> CD Review: Götterdämmerung from Adelaide (Melba)CD review: Götterdämmerung from Adelaide (Melba) There are so many great recordings of the final instalment of Wagner's Ring that any new version must have something to make it stand out from the crowd. In the case of this issue, indeed of the whole Adelaide Ring, that unique selling point is the recorded sound. This is one of the first recordings of the opera to be available on SACD ... more>
CD Review: Bach Cantatas Vol 16 (SDG)CD review: Gardiner's Bach Cantatas Vol 16: New York (SDG) Reaching the end of their pilgrimage to perform the complete Bach Cantatas must have provoked varied emotions in Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists. As Gardiner himself says in his typically revelatory liner notes, 'The mood of the choir and orchestra was a strange mixture... more> CD Review: Handel's SemeleCD Review: Rosemary Joshua in Semele(Chandos) This new recording of Handel's Semele comes hot on the heels of a recent concert performance of the work, given by the same orchestral forces, and much of the same cast, at Cadogan Hall. Having read our review of that concert, the recording appears to suffer from many of the same shortcomings, without enjoying its major redeeming feature... more>
Songs by Samuel Barber CD review: Gerald Finley sings Songs by Samuel Barber (Hyperion) Not the perfect soundtrack to the Christmas family lunch, perhaps, but the redoubtable Gerald Finley's new disc of songs by Samuel Barber is both thought-provoking and emotive. In particular, I admire the way in which the singer has considered the sounds he created to suit this repertoire. The eeriness of so many... more> Denis Matsuev – CD ReviewCD Review: Denis Matsuev: Unknown Rachmaninov (RCA) Young Russian Denis Matsuev's fourth disc for RCA is an all Rachmaninvov affair. Recorded with the support of the Serge Rachmaninov Foundation, it has two main selling points. First, it was recorded on Rachmaninov's own Steinway, housed at his Swiss villa; second, it contains two premiere recordings... more>
Rossini's Mose in Egitto CD review: Rossini's Mose in Egitto (Naxos) Less lavishly cast, less beautifully sung, slightly inferior (live) sound quality: one might not think that this new recording of Rossini's Mosč in Egitto could offer much competition to the new Natalie Dessay recording of La Sonnambula on EMI. But in all honesty, I enjoyed it quite a lot more. Antonio Fogliani leads the Württemberg Philharmonic... more> Shostakovich 10: Bychkov CD review: Shostakovich Symphony No.10: Bychkov (Avie) With this, the fifth disc in his ongoing Shostakovich cycle, Semyon Bychkov tackles the mighty tenth symphony with his WDR Sinfonie-Orchester Köln. Recorded as a Hybrid SACD on Avie, it's a distinguished addition to what looks to be turning into a very fine cycle indeed, characterised by meticulous preparation and precise execution... more>
La SonnambulaCD review: Natalie Dessay in La sonnambula (Virgin) Natalie Dessay's many fans have a double treat this month, with two recordings which document her voice in contrasting repertoires. But this new recording of Bellini's mature masterpiece La sonnambula, while not vastly disappointing, is not on quite the same level. One of the problems is the conducting of Evelino Pidň, which varies... more> Julian Rachlin: Shostakovich CD review: Shostakovich with Julian Rachlin (Onyx) Violinist Julian Rachlin has assembled an all star cast for this Shostakovich disc, recorded live at Vienna's Musikverein in 2006 during a series of seven concerts organised by Rachlin himself. He is joined by his regular pianist, Itamar Golan, alongside Yuri Bashmet, Janine Jansen and Mischa Maisky. The disc opens with the early Piano Trio... more>
Natalie Dessay: cd review CD Review: Natalie Dessay sings Bach and Handel (Virgin) It's great to see EMI branching out at the moment with some slightly unusual releases, And while it's true that neither of the masterpieces on this new baroque album is lacking a reliable recording, the company is to be applauded for investing in such a worthwhile and less obviously bankable pairing as this... more> Pavarotti in Ernani DVD review: Pavarotti in Ernani from the Met (Decca) Although the picture quality isn't great and the production (by Pier Luigi Samaritani) rather staid, this newly-released DVD of the late Luciano Pavarotti in Verdi's fifth opera Ernani boasts high musical standards which make it essential viewing. Pavarotti was in his prime when the film was made in 1983, singing with glorious golden tone... more>
Don Giovanni with Simon Keenlyside DVD review: Simon Keenlyside in Don Giovanni (EMI) Amongst the dreariest, most nonsensical opera DVDs I've ever come across, this EMI recording of Zurich Opera's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni does no justice whatsoever to Simon Keenlyside's justly renowned portrayal of the title role. It's a shame that no better vehicle could be found for him, nor a better supporting cast. more> Christine Schäfer: Apparition CD review: Christine Schäfer: Apparition (Onyx) Christine Schäfer's new disc, 'Apparition', juxtaposes the songs of Henry Purcell and George Crumb, punctuated by readings from Shakespeares sonnets. It's a fascinating idea and makes for a rewarding listen. Lavishly produced, the card box is contained within a frosted plastic sleeve, the art work shows Schäfer... more>
Brahms: Piano Quintet (CD Review)CD Review: Brahms Piano Quintet: Hough/Takàcs (Hyperion) It's with rather dull inevitability that this disc from Stephen Hough and the Takács Quartet is every bit as good as one would expect. A forthright, clearly defined and stunningly well played performance of Brahms' F minor Piano Quintet is coupled with the same composer's String Quartet in A minor ... more> Manze/Egarr - Schubert SontatasCD review: Manze/Egarr: Schubert Violin Sonatas (HM) Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr, after producing more or less definitive recordings of much of the Baroque and Classical repertoire for violin and keyboard, here turn their attention to Schubert's early sonatas. Manze, in his own programme note, explains why he reverts to the original designation... more>
Haydn's Creation (CD Review)CD Review : Haydn's Creation/Christie (Virgin) There are several fine recordings of Haydn's oratorio Die Schöpfung and this new version from Les Arts Florissants under William Christie has considerable virtues. Recorded in mainly excellent, detailed sound, it is played and sung with vigour and virtuosity, striking a happy balance between the drama of the universe's birth pangs and ... more> Jon Vickers - Four Operatic PortraitsDVD review: Jon Vickers: Four Operatic Portraits (VAI) The four operatic portraits on this DVD were taped in 1984 when Jon Vickers was close to sixty years old. It was made for Canadian television, and presents the audience of the tenor's native land with a glimpse of what he had been thrilling foreign audiences with, largely in New York and London, for the preceding thirty years... more>
Nicola Benedetti: cd reviewCD review: Nichola Benedetti plays Tavener and Vaughan Williams (DG) The problem with Nicola Benedetti's third and latest album is that there's simply too much of it. Or rather, what little there is of it is repeated far too often. Of the four works on the disc, three are compositions for solo violin and strings by John Tavener, and although it's only fair to expect ... more> La Serenata: Opera Rara CD reviewCD review: Colin Currie: Borrowed Time (Onyx) You'll perhaps remember Colin Currie as the the first percussionist to reach the final of the BBC Young Musician competition. But that was some time ago, and since then Currie has established a reputation as a unique virtuoso not only thanks to his instrument(s), but also his method more>
Anna Moffo: dvd reviewDVD review: Anna Moffo in Madama Butterfly (VAI) The point has often been made that Cio-Cio San is one of the most demanding roles in the soprano repertoire; it is very long and calls for beautiful, lyrical singing as well as many strong, dramatic outbursts over a large orchestra - two vocal styles which are juxtaposed in quick succession throughout the opera. Add to this the fact that... more> La Serenata: Opera Rara CD reviewCD review: La Serenata (Opera Rara) Running parallel with Opera Rara's larger scale operatic projects, the Il Salotto series shows all the same virtues of meticulous preparation, presentation and a willingness to explore the works of many now forgotten composers. The latest in the series, Volume 11, is entitled 'La Serenata' and features many of the same composers whose operas... more>
Hvorostovksy: Heroes and Villians: CD review CD Review: Dmitri Hvorostovsky : Heroes & Villians (DELOS) Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s latest release is a most enjoyable, if slightly perplexing offering. The first thing one notices on hearing this disc is that the timbre and technique remain fresh and virtually flawless, even though it's nearly two decades since he shot to fame as winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World... more> Max Emanuel Cencic: Rossini Arias - CD reviewCD review: Max Emanuel Cencic - Rossini Arias and Overtures Amidst the current glut of conventional bel canto recordings, this one stands out for its unusual approach. In his youth Max Emanuel Cencic was a boy soprano of the highest calibre, performing as a member of the Vienna Boys' Choir from 1987 to 1992 and making over twenty recordings... more>
Christmas Album - Camerata of London: CD reviewCD review: Christmas Album (MSM) This new CD from Michael Storrs Music explores Christmas songs and carols from around the world in performances from a multi-cultural line-up of singers. At its best, the disc presents strong renditions by performers who are currently under-represented in the recording catalogue. But the truth is that unless one of these happens to be a personal... more> Simoiin Rattle's Haydn Symphonies: EMI CD reviewCD review: Haydn's Symphonies 88-92 (EMI) Having been elated by Sir Simon Rattle's performance of Mozart's early G minor symphony at the Proms last year with the Berlin Philharmonic, I was expecting great things of his new double-CD set of Haydn symphonies with the same orchestra.But in spite of some excellent playing and an undoubtedly caring approach, my... more>
Lang Lang's Beethoven: CD reviewCD review: Beethoven Piano Concerti 1+4 - Lang Lang (Deutsche Grammophon) The record companies seem to have an unstinting belief in their ability to sell Beethoven, Deutsche Gramophon in particular. As one of their star pianists is half way through his cycle of the concertos, another, Lang Lang brings out a recording of the first and fourth concertos. more> Wolfgang Schneiderhan - Beethoven & BrahmsCD review: Schneiderhan - Beethoven & Brahms (BBC Legends) The Austrian violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan was one of the leading soloists of the mid twentieth century, and after his death in 2002, this new release is a timely reminder of his virtuosic prowess. Still less well remembered is the Hungarian conductor, István Kertész, who at 43 died tragically young... more>
Verdi's Luisa Miller: CD reviewCD review: Verdi's Luisa Miller (Arts Archives) Luisa Miller was amongst the first of Verdi's pre-Rigoletto operas to return to prominence following the revival of the composer's fortunes in the 1950s and 1960s. This newly released recording from the Italian radio archives has much to offer. he late Luciano Pavarotti far surpasses his achievement on the Decca recording in the role of Rodolfo more> Handel's Messiah: LSO Live CD reviewCD review: Handel's Messiah (LSO Live) Although I was initially nonplussed by various aspects of this new recording of Handel's Messiah, further investigation and an open mind have significantly increased its appeal. In particular, the interview on the bonus DVD accompanying some copies of the recording was a help in understanding the conductor's approach to certain numbers. more>
Arnold Concertos: CD ReviewCD review: Arnold Piano Concertos (Naxos) Malcolm Arnold appears here in Naxos's ongoing British Piano Concertos Series with works for piano and orchestra. Throughout the disc, Arnold's easy melodic gift and facility with more populist idioms is amply represented and at Naxos' bargain price, this should be self-recommending. However, I do have a major caveat: the piano used by Dyson... more> Vivaldi's Atenaide: opera CD reviewCD review: Vivaldi's Atenaide (Naive) Over the last few years the independent Naďve label has recorded a number of Vivaldi's operas as part of a projected complete edition of more than 450 works on over a hundred CDs. The edition began in 2000 and will take at least ten years to complete. This new instalment gives us the opportunity to enjoy the composer's 'dramma per musica' Atenaide... more>
Cecilia Bartoli: Maria: opera CD reviewCD review: Cecilia Bartoli: Maria Although her performances of baroque and classical period music are acclaimed by many, for me Cecilia Bartoli's strength has always been in the bel canto music of her homeland. Both her Covent Garden performances as Fiorilla in Rossini's Il turco in Italia and the recording of the opera on Decca remain my favourite examples of the singer's work. more> Rossini's La pietra del paragone: DVD reviewDVD review: Rossini's La pietra del paragone (Opus Arte) La pietra del paragone ('The Touchstone') was Rossini's seventh opera and undoubtedly the work with which he really made his mark. It premiered at La Scala on 26 September 1812 and was given an astonishing fifty-three performances; at the last of these, seven of the numbers were encored. Essential viewing. more>
Amanda Roocroft: None but the Lonely HeartCD review: Amanda Roocroft: None but the Lonely Heart (Onyx) British soprano Amanda Roocroft has had some ups and downs in her career. But being dropped by her original record company, EMI, has turned out to be a good thing in the long run, for moving to the independent Onyx label has allowed her to produce this attractive new CD of songs by Tchaikovsky, Debussy and Strauss. more> Janet Baker RecitalCD review: Janet Baker 1971 Aldeburgh Recital (BBC Legends) Dame Janet Baker presented an appealingly varied programme for this 1971 Aldeburgh Festival concert, balancing some familiar recital hall fare with obscure but worthy rarities. She was at the height of her powers and her fame at the time, so it is refreshing to find that she had nevertheless taken the trouble... more>
Paris Opera Ballet: DVD reviewCD review : Horenstein: Bruckner & Busoni (BBC Legends) The zenith of Jascha Horenstein's Bruckner recordings will always be the stupendous 1970 performances of the eighth and ninth symphonies. Astonishing in their intensity and scope, it seems almost unfair to place alongside them another performance given by the same conductor of the same composer's work... more> Amanda Roocroft: None but the Lonely HeartDVD review: The Callas Conversations Vol. II (EMI) The material on this latest Maria Callas DVD to be issued on EMI consists of an interview on a French television weekly chat show, L'invitée du dimanche, in 1969, lasting about eighty minutes, together with a ten minute extract from an interview with Le Monde de la musique in 1964, and a three minute extract from a rehearsal for Norma... more>
Amen! - Cincinnati Pops/KunzelCD review: Amen! - Cincinnati Pops/Kunzel (Telarc) It would be interesting to know why Telarc decided after 14 years to re-issue this disc. The album itself is something of a curiosity, featuring 14 tracks belonging with varying degrees of comfort to the gospel genre. Or, as the Bob Darden's sleevenotes put it, the disc 'applauds the melting pot that is gospel music.' more> Canteloube: Songs of the Auvergne: Veronique Gens CD reviewCD review: Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne (Naxos) Canteloube's settings of French folk songs prove an unexpectedly good match for the talents of Véronique Gens, a soprano normally associated with baroque-period music. Following on from an earlier acclaimed volume of the Chants d'Auvergne, Gens completes the cycle and offers a selection of the composer's Chants de France. more>
Sciarrino: Nocturnes: Nicholas Hodges - CD reviewCD review: Sciarrino - Nocturnes (Metronome) Arguably Italy's leading contemporary composer, Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947) is represented here by seven works for piano, all of which are performed by Nicolas Hodges. The title of the disc – Nocturnes: Complete Piano Works, 1994-2001 – is perhaps a little deceptive: Sciarrino's Fifth Piano Sonata... more> Danielle de Niese: Handel Arias: CD ReviewCD review: Danielle de Niese - Handel Arias (Decca) Having risen to prominence after appearing as Cleopatra in David McVicar's highly-acclaimed production of Giulio Cesare in 2005, it's perhaps no surprise that soprano Danielle de Niese chose to devote her debut album to Handel arias. But I fear that for me it proves to be a huge disappointment, for a number of reasons. more>
Stanford: Symphonies 2 & 5: CD ReviewCD review: Stanford Symphonies 2&5 (Naxos) Listening to this disc, the second in Naxos's cycle of the symphonies of Charles Stanford, made me pity the lot of those composers who, hard working and not unsuccessful in their lifetimes, failed to find a position, however lowly, in the musical pantheon. Although Stanford's name lives on ... more> Paris Opera Ballet: DVD reviewDVD review : MC14/22 & Le Songe de Médée (Opus Arte) The Paris Opera Ballet's latest DVD is a stunning display of modern dance and music from distinguished choreographer Angelin Preljocaj and composers Tedd Zahmal and Mauro Lanza. The DVD features the world première live recording of two works distinct in style and musical design more>
Mikhail Pletnev's Beethoven 2 and 4: CD reviewCD review: Pletnev plays Beethoven 2&4 (DG) There are two incontrovertible facts regarding Mikhail Pletnev: he's a phenomenal pianist and he's never dull. While some players struggle to inject originality into familiar works in the canon, Pletnev seems constitutionally unable to produce a sensible, middle of the road performance: he's hard-wired to challenge, infuriate and delight. more> Magdalena Kozena: Handel Arias: CD ReviewCD review: Magdalena Kozena - Handel Arias (DG) Although not uniformly successful, this new disc of Handel arias by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená has much to recommend it, both in terms of repertoire and of performance. It is one of a number of Handel CDs currently hitting the market, yet compared to the others it stands out for its greater range of expression and technical finesse. more>
Pierre Boulez conducts Mahler's Eighth Symphony: CD reviewCD review: Boulez conducts Mahler 8 (DG) It's impossible to tell how much Pierre Boulez influenced the angle of Henri-Louis de la Grange's liner note for this CD of Mahler's Eighth Symphony. I wonder if he'd either been at the concert performances this recording was based on had a sneak preview of the disc. Whatever the case, the great Mahler scholar does a bit of clever reassessment of... more> The Opera Gala: Live from Baden-Baden: opera CD reviewCD review: Netrebko Opera Gala from Baden-Baden (DG) As a piece of fun, this opera gala from Baden-Baden is perfectly acceptable. But the repertoire is largely uninspiring and the execution of it in many cases leaves much to be desired. Of the four singers on this disc, only Elina Garanca is uniformly excellent, though there are glimpses of the others' abilities. more>
Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment: DVD reviewDVD Review: Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment (VAI) Almost everything about the performance on this DVD is incredibly dated and, for want of a better word, tacky. Performing Italian operas of the first half of the nineteenth century (especially comedies) in English tends to make the results resemble Gilbert and Sullivan and make them into very different beasts ... more> James Ehnes performs Elgar's Violin Concerto: CD reviewCD review: James Ehnes plays Elgar's Violin Concerto (Onyx) The strong technique, which was evident from the start, has now been ideally matched to a more deeply felt performance style. Together with his natural musicianship, violinist James Ehnes seems to have a winning combination for this, one of Elgar's greatest masterpieces. It helps that he's been paired with Andrew Davis. more>
Sir Georg Solti conducts Mahler's Fifth Symphony: CD ReviewCD review: Solti conducts Mahler's Fifth (Decca) Whoever said that this new disc was a poor way to mark the tenth anniversary of Sir Georg Solti's death must have been listening to a different CD. The power of the great Hungarian's conducting is awesome in this recording of Mahler's Fifth Symphony, and he has the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich drilled to within an inch of its life. more> Angela Gheorghiu Live at La Scala: CD reviewCD review: Angela Gheorghiu Live at La Scala (EMI) This new album from Rumanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu is a mixed bag indeed. On the one hand, the voice is still beautiful and the interpretation in a few songs shows the singer at her finest. On the other hand, there are signs of technical flaws, the repertoire is less than inspiring, and the overall impression is one of disappointment. more>
Juan Diego Florez Arias for Rubini Decca CDCD review: Juan Diego Florez: Arias for Rubini Decca The new album from Peruvian superstar and bel canto tenor Juan Diego Flórez is a tribute to Giovanni Battista Rubini (1794-1854), the singer for whom several of Flórez's stage roles were originally written in the early nineteenth century. Bellini and Donizetti wrote operas for Rubini, and Rossini revised several works for him. more> Cavalleria rusticana & PagliacciDVD Review : Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci Opus Arte Giancarlo del Monaco's Madrid production of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci is, in the very best sense, a sordid affair. As the interview with him on the bonus disc makes clear, he's thought a lot about what verismo is and has created a vision of these works where tawdry reality and human fallibility are placed to the fore. more>
Mozart: Don GiovanniCD Review: Mozart Don Giovanni/Jacobs HM The lavish booklet for René Jacobs' new recording of Don Giovanni contains an extended interview with the conductor in which he explains his aim to clean away the accumulated interpretative grime that has deposited itself around Mozart's Dramma giocoso, to remove the 19th Century's 'overpainting'... more> Dukas: Ariane et Barbe-BleueCD Review: Ariane et Barbe-Bleue Telarc Paul Dukas (1865-1935) has always had something of a reputation amongst those in the know for being an unrecognised genius. Quite apart from the flair for orchestration and melody that everyone knows from L'apprenti sorcier, the epic Piano Sonata and his single symphony are spoken of with hushed reverence. The same can be said for Ariane et Barbe-Bleue more>
Bach Cantatas Volume 6 John Eliot Gardiner Soli Deo Gloria CDCD review: Bach: Cantatas - Volume 6 Soli Deo Gloria The latest release from John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantatas Pilgrimage is, if possible, even more stimulating than the earlier issues. Such is the juxtaposition of works here that we see both the intimacy and grandeur, the joy and the poignancy, of Bach's writing; even more fascinating is the opportunity to hear cantatas written... more> Kate Royal opera CD reviewCD Review: Kate Royal EMI Much has been made of the young English soprano Kate Royal's debut album in the press during the last couple of weeks. The photographs of the singer on the cover of the CD have been heavily criticised; her technique has come in for a certain amount of censure; some think it was too early for her to make a recording. But while the album is far from perfect, the... more>
Simon Dinnerstein Bach Goldberg Variations CD review TelarcCD review: Bach: Goldberg VariationsTelarc It would be easy with this disc, the debut solo album from American pianist Simone Dinnerstein, to be distracted by all the publicity surrounding it. It would be a shame, since it's a recording of the Goldberg Variations of real accomplishment with some flashes of interpretative brilliance. I think the most complicated and, if one's honest... more> Entre Nous Celebrating Offenbach Opera Rara opera CD reviewsCD Review: Entre Nous: Celebrating Offenbach Opera Rara As is usually the case with this estimable record company, I have no reservation in wholeheartedly recommending Opera Rara's latest release. They have to some extent returned to their roots in Entre Nous - Celebrating Offenbach, since two of their very early recordings also captured music by the greatest composer of French... more>
Beethoven Mass in C (Telarc)CD review: Beethoven: Mass in C Telarc When Robert Shaw died in 1999, he left behind a legacy of choral recordings that show his skill and consistency as a conductor and trainer of choirs. This recording of Beethoven's Mass in C Major (coupled with the Elegiac Song and Calm Sea Prosperous Voyage) was recorded almost two decades ago ... more> Naxos: Rossini's Le Comte Ory CD reviewRossini: Le Comte Ory Naxos Rossini's delightful comic opera Le Comte Ory belongs to the period of the 1820s in which he settled in France, initially as director of the Théâtre Italien (in which post he both staged and wrote operas), later concentrating solely on composing new works. Initially, he returned to some of his Italian operas and reworked them in the French style. Maometto Secondo... more>
Mozart: Viola Concerto and Quintet CD ReviewCD Review : Mozart Viola Concerto and Quintet in A SIMAX Malcolm Macdonald's lengthy booklet note for this CD lays out a decent case for recording two of Mozart's best-loved works with the viola rather than the clarinet. Although the provenance of these two arrangements is unclear, they were published in 1802 and 1803 by Johann André of Frankfurt and Mozart's manuscripts for the works... more> Kancheli and Tavener CD ReviewCD Review: Kancheli - Styx; Tavener - The Myrrh-Bearer Onyx Giya Kancheli (b. 1935) is probably Georgia's most famous musical export, but if his profile in the UK is relatively low then this new disc from Onyx ought to raise it a notch or two. Styx (1999) is a 35-minute epic for solo viola, choir and orchestra, but these facts do little to prepare the listener for its strident display of motivic ... more>
Verdi: Oberto conte di San Bonifacio opera DVD reviewDVD: Verdi's Oberto, conte di san Bonifacio Opus Arte That Verdi already had a great facility for writing memorable tunes from an early age ought to come as no surprise: it is a natural consequence of his rigorous formal training and his lifelong empathy with Classical period music. Instead, the surprising aspect of his first opera, Oberto, conte di san Bonifacio, is the composer's instinct for drama. more> West Side Story opera CD reviewsCD Review: West Side Story Decca Other than by improving relations between Italy and New Zealand, I'm not sure what Decca hoped to achieve by giving the lead roles in this fiftieth anniversary recording of Bernstein's West Side Story to Vittorio Grigolo and Hayley Westenra. Neither has a sense of the Broadway style of the work; nor do they understand the identities of the characters they are playing. more>
Parisina Donizetti CD reviewCD Review: Donizetti's Parisina Myto Montserrat Caballé was at her absolute peak when she sang the title role in Donizetti's Parisina in a concert performance with the Opera Orchestra of New York under Eve Queler in 1974. In this live recording of the event, she is an indomitable spirit on the stage, and from the moment she first appears it is as if a highly reactive substance has been... more> Le nozze di Figaro opera CD reviewCD Review: Le nozze di Figaro Deutsche Grammophon The initial reviews of this recording were so comically damning that I suspected the product couldn't possibly be as bad as its reputation suggested. Unfortunately, the critics weren't exaggerating: this really is as off-putting a Figaro as you could ever hear. The main reason is Nikolaus Harnoncourt's perversely slow choice of tempo for... more>
SibeliusSibelius: String Quartets BIS The Tempera Quartet's laudable survey of Sibelius' music for string quartet comes to a splendid conclusion with this recording of works penned between 1890 and 1922. Though the genre had been a particular favourite of the composer's during his formative years creatively (appearing mostly by the age of twenty-five and prior to the First Symphony of 1892)... more> The A-Z of Mozart opera CD reviewThe A-Z of Mozart Opera Sony This lovely new CD from conductor Ian Page and his Classical Opera Company takes us on a thought-provoking journey through highlights from fifteen of Mozart's operas. By chance, the composer's first opera is called Apollo et Hyacinthus and the last Die Zauberflöte... more>
KoesslerKössler: String Quintet/Sextet CPO Since their genesis in 1995, the Frankfurt String Sextet has strived to present obscure and under-performed music in the concert hall and on disc. Their latest offering - a recording of two chamber works by the German composer Hans Kössler (1853-1926) - does not deviate from this self-chosen enterprise. more> Beethoven Overtures classical reviewBeethoven Overtures: Atlanta Symphony/Levi Telarc Amongst the various achievements in Beethoven's oeuvre, perhaps no single genre has endured a more turbulent existence than the overture. Of the eleven he produced only one - Fidelio - is still performed with regularity in the context for which it was intended. A further 3 were by-products of its convoluted gestation period. more>
AdeliaDonizetti: Adelia RCA Red Seal Although the chance to hear Donizetti's important and under-rated score for Adelia is something to celebrate, the cast assembled by RCA for this new recording is seriously substandard. Indeed, it is difficult to muster enthusiasm for the project at all, aside from the fact that it is available cheaply and the conducting is truly excellent. more> Il trovatoreIl trovatore (DVD) Opus Arte If there are worse ways of getting to know Verdi's Il trovatore than watching this new DVD from Opus Arte, I haven't come across them yet. Robert Carsen's production of the opera for the Bregenz Festival on Lake Contance in Austria seems to me to have very little to do with Salvatore Cammarano's libretto. more>
BrahmsBrahms: Ein deutsches Requiem Naxos Historical For all the enjoyment and expediency they provide us with, modern-day studio recordings are often context deficient. They tend to lack the personality of live concert equivalents which, despite their own troublesome paradoxes, come ready-stamped with their... more> Hansel and GretelHansel and Gretel Chandos The word 'ravishing' comes to mind when listening to Sir Charles Mackerras' new recording of Hansel and Gretel. The sound he conjures up from the Philharmonia Orchestra during the overture is glowing, while the immaculate sound of the strings in the Pantomime at the end of the second act is nothing short of entrancing. more>
BertiMarco Berti: Rare Verismo MSM Splendid stuff here from Marco Berti, one of the pre-eminent Italian singers of his generation, performing a selection of unfamiliar verismo arias by six composers. This is repertoire that suits him down to the ground: his sense of style is impeccable and the tone on the top notes is radiant... more> Colin DavisL'enfance du Christ LSO Live In a welcome return to their Berlioz cycle, the London Symphony Orchestra's latest recording with their President, Sir Colin Davis, is an immaculate account of the composer's oratorio L'enfance du Christ. And as ever, the combination of Davis, his responsive orchestra... more>
KunzelAmerican Jubilee Telarc Given the current state of world affairs, it seems a rather ambitious move on the part of Telarc Classics to release a CD entitled American Jubilee in any country other than the United States itself. While there is undoubtedly a place for patriotic music in the canon of any nation...more> PetitgirardPetitgirard: String Concerti Naxos In an interesting mix of Laurent Petitgirard's (b. 1950) compositions spanning twenty years of his work, Naxos' latest CD release consists of three string concertos. Each performance is given by a different orchestra and soloist but all are conducted by Petitgirard himself. more>
TchaikovskyTchaikovsky: String Quartets Telarc To describe the Ying Quartet as a versatile ensemble is to verge on the precipice of understatement. Their sphere of activity extends well beyond the boundaries of a traditionalist concept of so-called 'classical music', with projects engaging in folk music and graphic...more> Lucio SillaLucio Silla Deutsche Grammophon At last, one of Deutsche Grammophon's DVD releases of the Salzburg Festival's complete canon of Mozart operas from last year has impressed on almost every level. Indeed, were it not for several extremely dubious directorial decisions, this live film of Lucio Silla would be a huge triumph. more>
Madama ButterflyMadama Butterfly ROH Heritage Hot on the heels of an exceptional recording of a 1962 performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni, the Royal Opera House Heritage Series has released this almost equally impressive live performance of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Essential listening for the seminal interpretation of Cio-Cio-San by de los Angeles... more> Making of MusicThe Making of Music: Part 1 BBC Audiobooks It seems like the BBC is now just as in thrall to the cult of celebrity as the rest of the country's media. While David Dimbleby's series on Britain's Architecture has been running on BBC 1 (and not exactly to glowing reviews), James Naughtie has been given the chance to tackle the history of Classical Music on Radio 4 more>
MullovaBach: Violin Sonatas Onyx In a recent interview, when asked if she suffered for her art, Viktoria Mullova answered 'of course I do, I'm Russian'. On this new 2-CD set of Bach Sonatas with Ottavio Dantone, however, there is not much evidence of suffering. In fact, these are remarkably measured... more> Stolen NotesVerdi: Stolen Notes MSM This exciting album inaugurates an equally exciting new record label from Michael Storrs Music Ltd, who represent a number of leading international opera singers. Current and upcoming releases include Italian tenor Marco Berti singing verismo arias, a Christmas album with Angela Denoke... more>
Don GiovanniDon Giovanni ROH Heritage This new release of Don Giovanni from 1962 is the most exciting release in the series so far, for me at least. A stellar cast joins Sir Georg Solti at his most inspired for an evidently atmospheric performance with few flaws... more> CelibidacheSergiu Celibidache Symphonic Series Opus Arte Conductor Sergiu Celibidache is one of the most mythical figures in music. He demanded some of the most detailed rehearsal periods in history, refining every detail of the scores he performed with enormous care. He always conducted from memory. And he only... more>
Wagner HalleWagner: Orchestral Highlights Hallé Fresh from their survey of Elgar, Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra have chosen to venture into the realm of Wagner's orchestral music for the latest offering from their own label. Such a transition is a logical one, given the connections that have been made between the sound... more> GriegGrieg: Lyric Pieces Simax Classics In a backhanded comment directed towards Grieg's Lyric Pieces, Claude Debussy once declared that 'one has in one's mouth that bizarre yet delightful taste of pink bon-bons filled with snow'. If the number of record and concert hall appearances is anything to go by, it seems that the Frenchman's... more>
Enigma VariationsElgar: Enigma Variations LSO Live As part of their contribution to the Elgar 150th birthday celebrations, the London Symphony Orchestra has released this superlative new recording of the Enigma Variations and the Introduction and Allegro. Under their President, Sir Colin Davis, the orchestra achieves an unexpected freshness... more> PottFrancis Pott: The Cloud of Unknowing Signum British composer Francis Pott's oratorio The Cloud of Unknowing was premiered in highly emotional circumstances on 13 May 2006. The piece is a vivid plea for peace in a world torn apart by violence, the inscription in the score reading: 'To the memory of Margaret Hassan and all innocent lives lost in Iraq or beyond'. more>
NashBrahms: String Sextets Onyx The Nash Ensemble's latest CD release of Brahms' Sextets No. 1 (op. 18) and No. 2 (op. 36) once again leads the way with an energetic, brilliant and deeply atmospheric performance. On almost every level they impress. From the tightness of their ensemble to the brilliance of their sound... more> MandarinBartok: Two-Piano Music Hanssler Though Bartók completed the draft of The Miraculous Mandarin by May 1919, he did not write the orchestral score until 1924. At the same time, he wrote the piano reduction (for two pianos), which was published by Universal Edition a year later in 1925. Bartók thought highly of his orchestral score... more>
LagoLa donna del lago Opera Rara Once again, the specialist operatic recording label Opera Rara has struck gold with its latest release, Rossini's La donna del lago. Recorded at last year's Edinburgh Festival, the quality and technical security of the performance belies its origin in a single live concert. The singers, orchestra and conductor are... more> StiffelioStiffelio DG Although I saw this performance of Verdi's Stiffelio from the Metropolitan Opera in its original video release, nothing had quite prepared me for the impact it would have on DVD. With vastly superior picture quality and atmospheric 5.1 DTS Surround Sound, it has gone instantly near to the top of my favourite opera DVD list. more>
MahlerMahler: Symphony No 1 RCO Live The orchestra may come from Amsterdam, but the Royal Concertgebouw's performance of Mahler's First Symphony on this recording evokes Vienna more acutely than any of the other ten recordings of the work with which I am familiar. Indeed, the brilliance of Mariss Jansons' reading is its fusion of... more> Schwanewilms StraussStrauss Lieder Vol 2 Hyperion It comes as little surprise that this disc of Strauss Lieder sung by the German soprano Anne Schwanewilms is so magnificent. She gave a poised and accomplished performance as the Primadonna in the same composer's Ariadne auf Naxos at Covent Garden in 2004... more>
Bach 2Bach Cantatas Vol 23 Soli Deo Gloria It's almost impossible not to get worked up by this latest release from John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage. Gardiner took his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists around the world in the year 2000 to perform and record all 198 of Bach's sacred cantatas... more> Pauline ViardotPauline Viardot Opera Rara The task undertaken by Opera Rara in this recording is of great importance in the sociological study of music history. Even if the results are less than perfect, largely because of the raw sound of this live performance, the enterprise is intriguing and highly instructive. more>
Netrebko-VillazonNetrebko/Villazon: Duets DG The history of opera is full of great partnerships - indeed, collaboration is the major characteristic of the art form. And soprano Anna Netrebko's onstage relationship with tenor Rolando Villazón in productions of Massenet's Manon and Verdi's La traviata is already the stuff of legend. more> CabellNicole Cabell Decca I knew from the moment Nicole Cabell first opened her mouth at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2005 that she was going to win. It was obvious that here was a singer with the complete package: vocal beauty, intelligence, stunning good looks, poise, communication... more>
SebastienDom Sebastien, roi de Portugal Opera Rara Donizetti's final opera, Dom Sébastien, is of great importance both historically and biographically. For over a century and a half, music historians dismissed it as a disorderly and inferior product of the composer's madness during the final few years of his life (the illness was brought on by syphilis). more> FintaLa finta giardiniera DG No apology needs to be made for the eighteen-year-old Mozart's La finta giardiniera. A dramma giocoso like Don Giovanni, it finds the composer already experimenting with a genre of mixed character; the piece runs the gamut of styles from a striking mad scene (reminiscent of opera seria) to moments of all-out humour. more>
StraussStrauss: Four Last Songs EMI Recordings of Strauss' late masterpieces, the Four Last Songs, are so plentiful that any new addition to the catalogue is up against very stiff competition indeed. For some, the icy poignancy of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's account with Szell, the visceral power of Jessye Norman's with Masur... more> Maria StuardaMaria Stuarda Opera Rara Unlike familiar retellings of the life of Mary Stuart by Schiller and Donizetti (amongst others), which recount her trial and execution, Saverio Mercadante's Maria Stuarda, regina di Scozia deals with an earlier period of her life when she was trying to maintain the crown amidst local squabbles with members of the Scottish aristocracy. more>
Brahms RequiemBrahms: A German Requiem EMI Written during a period of bereavement, Brahms' German Requiem confronts the issue of mortality from a highly personal perspective. The composer's mother suffered a stroke in 1865, and although Brahms travelled to see her, she had died before he reached her. more> SibeliusSibelius LSO Live Great performances of music often contain a seminal moment when the listener's senses are completely overwhelmed by the sheer power of the sounds being heard. For me, the arrival of the chorale theme in this recording of the fourth movement of Sibelius' Second Symphony is one of them, a split second when all technical... more>
bachBach Cantatas: Vol 22 Soli Deo Gloria Sir John Eliot Gardiner's series of the complete Bach cantatas, recorded during his year-long Bach Pilgrimage around the world with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in 2000, has been an outstanding achievement from the very start, both in terms of excellent... more> Naive: Griselda CD reviewCD review: Vivaldi: Griselda (Naive) If nothing else, this new release of Vivaldi's Griselda should teach us to look beyond The Four Seasons, in the direction of the composer's works for the theatre. Scholars estimate that he wrote at least forty-nine operas, and he has been linked to sixty-seven separate productions. All the more reason, then, to applaud the Naďve label's Vivaldi... more>