Archive - Recording reviews from January to June 2008

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My Fair LadyCD Review: Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady (Naxos Musicals) The most popularly successful musical of its day, My Fair Lady ran a whopping six and a half years – 2,717 performances – in its original Broadway run, starting in 1956. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, the lyricist-librettist and composer respectively, had never before enjoyed such critical and public acclaim. more> Juan Diego Florez: Bel Canto SpectacularCD Review: Juan Diego Florez's Bel Canto Spectacular (Decca) The front cover of Juan Diego Flórez's new CD, Bel Canto Spectacular, shows the Peruvian tenor in full evening dress with his body slightly to one side, adjusting his cufflinks as if he's about to go onstage. Sometimes, this might be an attempt to manipulate the consumer's response to the music through a visual message... more>
Handel's Il trionfoCD Review: Handel's Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (Hyperion) Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno was Handel's first oratorio. Written in his early twenties, the work came about after the composer's move to Rome from Florence in late 1706. On arrival in Rome, Handel attracted the attentions of a rich benefactor, the Marquis Ruspoli, and a well-connected librettist... more> Rolando VillazonCD Review: Rolando Villazon's Cielo e mar (DG) The fruits of Rolando Villazón's change of record company from EMI to Deutsche Grammophon have been quick to emerge. Hot on the heels of a very good recording of La bohème, in which his Rodolfo is unquestionably the finest element, has come this excellent new album of lesser known Italian arias. And what an album it is... more>
Rossini: Soirées musicalesCD Review: Rossini Songs: Persson, Doufexis, Ford & Vignoles (Hyperion) This programme of Rossini songs covers much of the material performed by the same artists last April in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. However, problems encountered at the live event seem largely to have dissipated on this extremely well engineered disc from Hyperion. The greatest challenge in concert no longer exists... more> Bavouzet/Rogé DebussyCD Reviews: Bavouzet & Rogé release Vols. 3 of their Debussy surveys (Chandos & Onyx) Debussy's piano music seems rather to be in vogue at the moment and the two complete surveys by French pianists Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and Pascal Rogé make a fascinating comparison. The discs reviewed here are the third volumes in their respective series but only have a handful of shorter pieces in... more>
La Cour de CelimeneCD Review: Ambroise Thomas' La Cour de Celimene (Opera Rara) Yet again, Opera Rara has come up trumps with an absolutely sensational recording of an opera by Thomas which, to my shame, I'd never even heard of before, and it has left me longing to hear more. La Cour de Célimène is, on this evidence, one of the finest examples of French opéra-comique of the 1850s. more> Owen WingraveCD Review: Hickox conducts Owen Wingrave (Chandos) Conventional wisdom says that Owen Wingrave, Benjamin Britten's television opera commissioned by the BBC in 1967 and first broadcast in 1971, represents a falling off of the composer's talents before he partially rediscovered them in his final opera, Death in Venice. Extremely fine though this new recording is, I can't really muster... more>
Siren SongCD Review: Jonathan Dove's Siren Song wth Brad Cooper (Chandos) Jonathan Dove's chamber opera Siren Song is a tightly constructed, gently inventive one-acter about a naïve young sailor who is tricked into financial ruin after falling in love with the fictitious Diana (or with the idea of Diana), whom he comes into contact with via a lonely-hearts ad. The opera is based on the novel...more> Tan DunCD Review: Tan Dun's Pipa Concerto: Moscow Soloists/Bashmet (Onyx) Tan Dun's Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa, based on his earlier work Ghost Opera for string quartet and pipa, is a thoroughly postmodern work. It is full of loosely organised stylistic reminiscences, from Bach to Bartok to Chinese traditional music, and it makes no apologies for its plural nature. It generates much of its... more>
Mahler 1CD Review: Valery Gergiev and the LSO play Mahler's First Symphony (LSO Live) Few concert series in recent times have so divided the critics as Valery Gergiev's ongoing Mahler Symphony Cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra. It's a textbook case of how a listener's preconceptions about a work's supposed meaning can make it difficult to accept a different viewpoint. more> Hungarian DancesCD Review: Brahms Hungarian Dances & Joachim Variations (Hyperion) Although Brahms' four books of Hungarian Dances contain some of his best known music, their effect on CD can be less than persuasive. The composer himself was always careful not to assign himself authorship of the works, publishing them without an Opus number and referring to them as arrangements. more>
Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata and String Quintet CD Review: Schubert Arpeggione Sonata & Quintet: Deletaille/Quatuor Rosamonde (Fuga Libera) It may seem peculiar to begin a review of major works by Schubert with a paragraph on the Russian composer Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952). However, an important illustrative metaphor can be drawn. Here was a man who wrote symphonies, concertos and piano music harking back to the days... more> FidelioCD Review: Karajan's 1962 Fidelio from Vienna (DG) Given the renowned perfectionism of Herbert von Karajan, one wonders what the great Austrian conductor would have had to say about the decision to release this live, first-night recording of Fidelio at the Wiener Staatsoper on 25 May, 1962. With an untidy opening to the overture, a mistaken early entry by the First Prisoner in the... more>
LeightonCD Review: Kenneth Leighton: Orchestral Works vol.1 (Chandos) Like the work of Gerald Finzi, Robert Simpson, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, Kenneth Leighton's music is essentially conservative, symphonic, earnest and elegiac, always open to a lyrical pastoralism – essentially English, perhaps. But like those other men, Leighton's reputation suffers somewhat from the sort of... more> OtelloDVD Review: Verdi's Otello with Domingo and Solti (Opus Arte) Everything seemed to come together for this excellent rendition of the composer's late Shakespearean masterpiece at Covent Garden in 1992: Plácido Domingo, arguably the title role's finest interpreter during the final quarter of last century; Kiri Te Kanawa at her radiant best as Desdemona; Solti at his most insightful in the pit... more>
Kiri te KanawaCD Review: La boheme with Villazon and Netrebko (DG) The reports of this new recording of Puccini's perennial favourite, La bohème, have been so decidedly mixed, that I was almost surprised by how much I enjoyed it Deutsche Grammophon's new set really does have a lot going for it. For one thing, the recording itself has the atmosphere of a live performance, yet the clarity of sound... more> Colin DavisCD Review: Colin Davis conducts Benvenuto Cellini on LSO Live Many of the highpoints of Davis' career have involved performances of music by Hector Berlioz, many of whose works, even now, are unjustly neglected; the conductor's return to the French master for the eighth volume in the LSO's Berlioz series on their in-house record label is every bit as rewarding as the previous... more>
Schubert: Romantic Poets vol.3CD Review: Schubert Romantic Poets vol.3 (Naxos) The first line of Sibylla Rubens' biography boldly refers to the singer's 'pure, almost angelic voice'. Luckily, this description is accurate and in the repertory chosen for this disc, the third of Schubert's settings of Romantic Poets in Naxos's Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition, she proves herself to be a near ideal interpreter... more> Ebene QuartetCD Review: Film Music by Constant Lambert & Lord Berners (Chandos) With this disc, Constant Lambert (1905-1951) and Lord Berners (aka the Rt. Hon. Sir Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 1883-1950) take their place alongside such heavy-weights as Shostakovich, Korngold and Vaughan Williams in Chandos's excellent film music series. As Philip Lane explains in his booklet... more>
Rare VerdiCD Review: Johan Reuter sings Rare Verdi (MSM) Rare Verdi is a serious disc from a serious artist. Danish bass-baritone Johan Reuter has just completed a triumphant run at Covent Garden as Theseus in The Minotaur and he'll return there in future seasons in Elektra and Salome. But as this new disc proves, his voice is no less suited to the classical lines of Verdi's baritone roles. more> MeistersingerCD Review: Alceste, Meistersinger and Ballo on ROH Heritage It's nice to report that the latest three releases from ROH Heritage show a little more imagination than was perhaps the case on previous occasions. Whereas all the other releases came from several decades ago, this time we have a 1962 Ballo in maschera with Jon Vickers, a 1981 Alceste with Janet Baker and a 1997 Meistersinger with John Tomlinson. more>
Pollini: MozartCD Review: Pollini and the VPO in Mozart (DG) Although this disc of Mozart piano concertos isn't, as the press blurb would have us believe, only Maurizio Pollini's second Mozart album, it true that the composer doesn't feature much in his discography. This is surprising given that his famous Chopin interpretations are praised for their classical poise, and that same sovereign technical command...more> Nigel Kennedy: Beethoven and MozartCD Review: Nigel Kennedy plays Beethoven and Mozart Concertos (EMI) Nigel Kennedy's new disc couples Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major with Mozart's No. 4, K. 218. As an added extra, the violinist performs his own arrangement of Horace Silver's 'Creepin' in'. This would seem, on the surface at least, a rather eccentric encore. However, that is only an extension of an even... more>
the soadie wasteCD Review: Dillon - the soadie waste (NMC) James Dillon is often thought of as being a member of the New Complexity school of composition. And it is true that his music quite consistently portrays an obscure source of inspiration by the means of largely discontinuous and highly stratified textures. But like the other apparent members of that school, he cannot easily be captured...more> AllenCD Review: Sir Thomas Allen Sings Great Operatic Arias Vol 2 (Chandos) Although he's in the twilight of his career Sir Thomas Allen shows no signs of slowing down, as this new CD of arias and duets amply proves. Thirteen of the fourteen tracks showcase him in a wide range of Verdi and Mozart roles, with 'September Song' from Kurt Weill's Knickerbocker Holiday as a filler. more>
MoncktonCD Review: Lionel Monckton: Songs from the Shows (Hyperion) Edwardian musical comedy has not aged well. Despite its composers' often-skilful marriage of operetta aesthetics with the hardy tunes and themes of music hall, the genre consistently fails to find favour in contemporary society. In stark contrast to the still wildly popular Savoy Operas that it grew out of, and the American and British... more> Bulb - Irish Piano TriosCD Review: Bulb - Irish Piano Trios (NMC) The Fidelio Trio's new music star has been in the ascendant in the past few years, and this confident disc of contemporary Irish piano trios exhibits well the power of musical insight and the assuredly interesting programming that have helped occasion that rise. The works collected here are from mostly young but generally well-established composers...more>
Marc-André Hamelin in a state of jazz CD review: Marc-André Hamelin in a state of jazz (Hyperion) One could be forgiven for thinking that this disc might just be another case of a classical pianist deciding to indulge a 'hidden passion' for jazz, but thankfully it represents no such lapse in taste from Marc-André Hamelin or Hyperion. Hamelin sets out his stall straight away in his chatty and unstuffy liner note... more> Songs by Great ConductorsCD Review: Michael Volle and Petra Lang in songs by great conductors (Oehms) The three 'great conductors' whose songs feature on this disc are so closely associated with three great composers that it's almost impossible not to approach the works without expecting them to sound like, respectively, Wagner, Mahler and Richard Strauss. In fact, although von Bülow, who is represented by eight songs... more>
die Frau ohne SchattenCD review: Karajan's 1964 Die Frau ohne Schatten from Vienna (DG) This performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten has appeared in the catalogue in many guises throughout the years and this re-release on Deutsche Grammophon is just that, appearing exactly as it did on the label ten years ago - same packaging, same remastering. Of course, this is a document of a unique occasion... more> Simon BoccanegraDVD review: Milnes & Tomowa-Sintow in Simon Boccanegra (DG) Deutsche Grammophon's catalogue of DVDs of broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera continues with this 1984 performance of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. It has plenty going for it, but at the same time offers no serious competition to Decca's fairly recently released DVD of the 1994 Covent Garden version under Solti... more>
Strauss Volume 3CD review: Strauss Lieder vol.3 with Andrew Kennedy (Hyperion) The third instalment in Hyperion's edition of Lieder by Richard Strauss is the first to feature a male singer and, in tenor Andrew Kennedy, Roger Vignoles has picked one of Britain's finest young singers. Kennedy, though, has a very hard act to follow after the first two volumes featured two world-renowned Straussians ... more> Mille Bonjours!CD review: Mille Bonjours! - Dufay from Diabolus in Musica (Alpha) Du Fay, like most Medieval composers we know of today, has a reputation built upon his seminal sacred works. However, it is clear from this collection that his secular compositions are certainly worthy of recognition. Despite his prolific output of sacred music, he also had two major periods of his life in which he wrote... more>
CreationCD review: Haydn's The Creation : Paul McCreesh (Archiv) Coming only a few months after William Christie's account of the same work with Les Arts Florissants on Virgin Classics, Paul McCreesh's new recording of Haydn's The Creation needed to guarantee artistic excellence in order to justify the expense. Thankfully, McCreesh has worked wonders with this popular but difficult score.... more> NormaCD reviews: Historic Opera: Cerquetti, Di Stefano and Bruscantini in Norma, Forza and Il turco in Italia These three live recordings of popular operas from the less frequently performed end of the standard repertoire all date from 1958. All feature predominantly Italian casts, although La forza del destino also includes some stars of the Met in New York, all were made in Italy... more>
SchumannCD review: Demidenko's Schumann reissued at budget price (Hyperion) Originally recorded and released in 1996, Hyperion's decision to re-issue Nikolai Demidenko's performances of these sonatas on the Helios label is most welcome, and will hopefully bring renewed recognition to these superlative accounts. Demidenko is a formidable pianist, and from the fiery opening bars... more> TormisCD review: Stephen Layton conducts the Holst Singers in Tormis (Hyperion) Veljo Tormis is a composer who has had, until recently, relatively little recognition outside of his native Estonia, where he is lionised. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, however, his predominately choral and folk inspired music has gradually been finding its way into the mainstream contemporary choral repertoire... more>
HillerCD review: Howard Shelley records Hiller's Piano Concertos (Hyperion) Once again, Hyperion uncovers the work of yet anther 'unknown' composer who possessed deep ties with the great and the good of nineteenth-century music. Indeed, a highly curtailed biography of Ferdinand Hiller (1811-1885) proves to be nothing more than a gross exercise in name-dropping: pupil of... more> TetzlaffCD review: Christian Tetzlaff records Brahms and Joachim (Virgin) This coupling of violin concerti by Brahms and Joachim is simultaneously understandable and unforeseen. Both musicians were virtually exact contemporaries and shared a friendship that yielded, amongst other things, the dedication of these works to each other. Yet, despite the rather attractive parallels to be drawn... more>
Gergiev's MahlerCD review: Gergiev Conducts the LSO in Mahler Symphony No.6 The Sixth Symphony of Gustav Mahler is, like many of his other works, charged with dialectical tension. This tension arises from the clashes of past and present, order and disorder, and progress and disintegration that the composer carves into his musical material. Much of the force of Mahler's music issues... more> Haydn's CreationDVD review: Ruggero Raimondi stars in Pizzetti's Assassinio nella cattedrale Something of an anomaly in the history of twentieth-century music, Ildebrando Pizzetti's name has never been as well known as that of Ottorino Respighi, his near contemporary. His most famous work is his 1958 opera, Assassinio nella cattedrale (Murder in the Cathedral). Poorly represented in... more>
ArabellaDVD review: Gundula Janowitz's Arabella on DVD (Decca) Making its first appearance on DVD, this film of Strauss's Arabella conducted by Georg Solti boasts a cast that, on disc, is perhaps only matched by the same conductor's classic Decca recording from 1958. Gundula Janowitz and Bernd Weikl make an Arabella and Mandryka vocally every bit as glamorous as Lisa Della Casa... more> Tristan DuetsCD review: Deborah Polaski and Johan Botha in duets from Tristan and Isolde (Oehms) This is the second disc from Oehms featuring extracts from Tristan and Isolde. The first concentrated on the scenes for just Isolde with Deborah Polaski. Here, she is joined by Johan Botha for the scenes the two main characters share; Betrand de Billy conducts the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra... more>
Melanie Diener: PucciniCD review: Melanie Diener sings Puccini Heroines for her debut recital disc Melanie Diener's new disc deals with eight of the mature works plus an aria from the early piece, Le villi. Patience and endurance pay off to the listener when approaching the disc because at her best, Diener makes an excellent interpreter of Puccini. The weight and mettle she brings to Puccini's bigger roles is...more> WagnerDVD review: Le nozze di Figaro from the ROH (Opus Arte) Capturing one of my favourite opera productions of recent years, this new DVD of David McVicar's take on the first of the Mozart-Da Ponte operas is in some ways the ultimate Le nozze di Figaro. Two or three of the singers involved aren't to my taste, but otherwise this performance seems to get to the heart of Mozart's greatest opera... more>
A Mozart AlbumCD review: Stephen Hough: A Mozart Album (Hyperion) Carrying on the series started with the two 'Piano Albums' released on Virgin first in the 1980s, Stephen Hough's 'A Mozart Album' differs from its predecessors first by focussing on one composer and second by mixing substantial original works by Mozart with arrangements, transcriptions and hommages by Cramer, Friedman... more> WagnerDVD reviews: Götterdämmerung, Tristan and Parsifal from Bayreuth (DG) These DVDs from Deutsche Grammophon document contrasting productions of three late Wagner works recorded at Bayreuth over the course of around 15 years. Each has something to offer, but none is entirely satisfactory and ultimately they simply reinforce the view that the small screen rarely does full justice to opera. more>
Paul AsciakCD review: Portrait of forgotten tenor Paul Asciak (MSM) Paul Asciak made his professional debut in 1950 and retired from the stage in 1961, enjoying what seems, according to the notes accompanying this CD, to have been a successful decade of respectable work in the best UK and Italian theatres, appearing alongside some illustrious colleagues. On the strength of the... more> ImeldaCD review: Nicole Cabell in Donizetti's Imelda de' Lambertazzi (Opera Rara) Is Imelda de' Lambertazzi 'the most avant-garde opera Donizetti ever wrote'? In his typically informative and readable essay accompanying Opera Rara's new recording, Jeremy Commons makes an excellent case for the piece, pointing out the lack of an overture, the absence of a concertato from... more>
BalloDVD review: Pavarotti stars in Un ballo in maschera at the Met (DG) Continuing their celebration of Luciano Pavarotti's career on record, Decca Classics have released this DVD of the late tenor in a performance of Un ballo in maschera from the Met. Predating DG's release of the same tenor in a later production of the same opera by ten years, it finds Pavarotti at the peak of his vocal talents. more> BluebeardDVD review: Bluebeard's Castle conducted by Georg Solti Nearly a century after its first performance, Bluebeard's Castle retains all of its dramatic potency, its power to thrill and its sensual allure. In the hands of Sir Georg Solti, conducting two Hungarian soloists and the London Philharmonic Orchestra on top form, the score still evokes its varied colours as vividly as on the day it was written. more>
Bernard HaitinkDVD reviews: Masterclasses with Haitink, Quasthoff, Schiff, Vengerov and Isserlis (MMF) Products of the recently-established Masterclass Media Foundation, these five DVDs preserve four very different sets of classes between famous musicians at the top of their field and young musicians at the start of their careers, plus a lecture-demonstration from the great pianist András Schiff. more> ImeldaCD review: Rachmaninoff/Prokofiev Cello Sonatas (Virgin) In pairing Gautier Capuçon and Gabriela Montero in Russian sonatas, Virgin have produced a disc of some refreshingly direct, passionate and unbuttoned music-making. Capuçon is no newcomer to the scene but up until recently, Gabriela Montero would have been a new name to many, were it not for the reputation she's garnering. more>
PoulencCD review: Poulenc's Gloria (Hyperion) All things considered, Poulenc's Gloria has fared remarkably well on record. But this new addition to the catalogue, excellently performed and recorded, is none the less welcome for that. Conductor Stephen Layton and his choir Polyphony are joined by soprano Susan Gritton, The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge and the Britten Sinfonia... more> Bernard HaitinkCD reviews: Gardiner Bach Cantatas Vols 3 and 27 (SDG) The more John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage proceeds, the more one appreciates his understanding of the specificity of the composer's reaction to each Feast Day's texts. As always, the performances by the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists are lessons in how this repertoire should be treated. more>
Four Last SongsCD review: Strauss's Four Last Songs & Brentano-Lieder (Naxos) Rather than coupling the Four Last Songs with the usual selection of favourite orchestral songs, this new release from Naxos places them alongside Strauss's own orchestrations of his Brentano-Lieder Op. 68 and two orchestral excerpts from Ariadne auf Naxos. The two sets of Lieder make a fascinating coupling... more> MackerrasCD review: Mozart's Late Symphonies with Mackerras (Linn) Over the last four weeks, this new recording of Mozart's final four symphonies by Sir Charles Mackerras and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra has enjoyed lavish praise from all the newspaper critics, almost without exception in fact. The Times, Sunday Times and no doubt various others have described it as either the best... more>
Simon Trpčeski : DebussyCD review: Simon Trpceski plays Debussy (EMI) Simon Trpčeski isn't the most prolific of recording artists but everything he produces is of consistently high quality; this disc of Debussy is no exception. We can take for granted the effortlessly classy pianism, the immaculate voicing and varied touch and in the works chosen here, the results are hugely successful... more> Bach CantatasDVD review: Natalie Dessay in Manon (Virgin) It seems that barely a month goes by without Virgin Classics releasing another recording by Natalie Dessay. Since November, we've had her on CD singing Amina in a complete version of La sonnambula, a baroque coupling of Bach's Magnificat and Handel's Dixit Dominus, and more recently a disc of Italian arias. Virgin's investment... more>
Paul SchoenfieldCD review: Paul Schoenfield (Black Box) The playing on this new disc of old works by the sixty-year-old American composer Paul Schoenfield is fresh, excited, and full of rhythmic propulsion. Joann Falletta and the Prague Philharmonia articulate the mischievous scoring and undulating lines of the first piece, the Four Parables for piano and orchestra, with strong clarity and force. more> Alessandro nell'IndieCD review: Pacini's Alessandro nell'Indie (Opera Rara) Thanks to their unerring sense of adventure, Opera Rara have uncovered another hidden gem with their latest release, Pacini's Alessandro nell'Indie. And while I don't suppose that productions of the work will be spreading all over the world, the opportunity to hear the score in such a high-quality recording is irresistible. more>
Eugene Onegin (Decca)DVD review: Renee Fleming in Eugene Onegin from the Met (Decca) At certain peaks in this performance of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, filmed live in High Definition at the New York Met in February 2007, I couldn't resist feeling that this is as good as opera gets. It's not consistently great, but particularly when Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renée Fleming give their violent rendition of the closing... more> HerrewegheDVD review: Anna Netrebko in I puritani from the Met (DG) Perhaps the best news about this new DVD of I puritani from The Met Opera in New York is the picture quality. Thanks to the introduction of the 'HD Live' cinema broadcasts, all future recordings from the house promise to be filmed in high definition, which means an end to the gravelly pictures one used to encounter in operas... more>
Jon Lord: Durham Concerto CD review: Jon Lord: Durham Concerto (Avie) The spectre of a thousand film music composers hangs heavily over Jon Lord's Durham Concerto, a recent commission from Durham University to celebrate its 175th Anniversary year. The hour-long piece has been released on Avie Records and the recording pairs the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, under... more> HerrewegheCD review: The Florestan Trio plays Dvorak and Suk (Hyperion) Nearly twelve years have passed since the Florestan Trio released their debut disc on Hyperion, with performances of Dvořák's famous Dumky Trio in E minor, Op. 90 and the magnificent F-minor Piano Trio, Op. 65 (CDA66895). More than a decade later, after hearing this ensemble give a splendid performance of Dvořák's... more>
Gustavo DudamelCD review: English Madrigals with The Tallis Scholars No music conjures up the sights and smells of summer for me quite like the sound of madrigals. Listening to this disc from the The Tallis Scholars – their sole recording of secular music – is a real treat, dragging me back to warmer, sunnier times. These madrigals, recorded in 1982 but unavailable for over twenty years, have been... more> Diana DamrauCD review: Diana Damrau: Arie di bravura (Virgin) The chief criticism to be levelled at this, Diana Damrau's debut recital disc, is a direct consequence of the thinking behind its title, 'Arie di bravura'. The programming of opera arias chosen on the basis that all of them are florid is already limiting, but the fact that all the pieces are by three composers who were close contemporaries, and... more>
HerrewegheCD review: Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner Symphonies (Pentatone) If it wasn't for SACD - and the fact that both Universal and EMI seem to have stopped releasing recordings in the format - you might wonder whether a label like Pentatone would venture to add to a catalogue already groaning with recordings of symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner. more> Simone KermesCD review: Amor profano - Simone Kermes sings Vivaldi Arias (DG) It really is baffling to me that Deutsche Grammophon has fixated on Simone Kermes as an artist who merits major exposure through not one but two vigorously-promoted solo recital discs of Vivaldi arias. I am also at a loss to tell why the first of these discs received such acclaim from the press if the follow-up is any indication of... more>
Francesca da RiminiCD review: Scarlatti's Stabat Mater (Ricercar) This important CD helps to illuminate an aspect of the musical output of one of the greatest, yet most misunderstood, composers of all time. Domenico Scarlatti is well known as a gifted composer of keyboard music but the majority of his operas, cantatas, oratorios and sacred works are completely forgotten today. This CD offers the chance to remedy... more> Natalie DessayCD review: Natalie Dessay: Italian Opera Arias (Virgin) Sometimes, personal taste can come in the way of one's enjoyment of a performer, regardless of his or her assets. Such is the case with me and the French soprano Natalie Dessay, who is in demand the world over and regularly sells out both in concert and in opera but whose voice and approach to singing leave me cold. Last January, I was totally ... more>
das RheingoldCD review: The Bach Family Dynasty (Naive) This CD is never going to make us reassess the musical hierarchy of the Bach family: Johann Sebastian stands at the head of the whole German classical canon. However, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques do at least demonstrate to us the ample musical talents of two of the great composer's offspring, Carl and Wilhelm. more> das RheingoldDVD review : Karajan's film of Das Rheingold (DG) Herbert von Karajan's anniversary year is going to see a whole spate of commemorative editions and re-releases. This DVD of Das Rheingold, however, doesn't look set to count among the highlights. It is a version 'with imaginative extra film sequences', directed by Karajan, which captures the conductor's own Salzburg Festival production... more>
Francesca da RiminiCD review: Rachmaninoff's Francesca da Rimini (Chandos) The idea of writing an opera about Francesca da Rimini was suggested to Rachmaninoff by Modest Tchaikovsky, brother of the more famous Pytor Illych whose orchestral work based on the same Dante passage is better known. In view of the nature of the work, the plaudits go to Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic. more> Mozart's RequiemCD review: Colin Davis and the LSO in Mozart's Requiem (LSO Live) After the visceral thrills of their recently-released CD of music by contemporary composer James MacMillan, the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis move back to mainstream repertoire with their February release of the Mozart Requiem. The results are scarcely less exciting, even if Davis' solid approach sounds... more>
Romanza di Central Park: Songs by Charles IvesCD review: Gerald Finley & Julius Drake in songs by Charles Ives (Hyperion) Hot on the heels of a widely admired recording of Barber songs, Gerald Finley and Julius Drake bring us their second disc of songs by Charles Ives and it finds them in similarly fine form. Ives' songs cover a wide range of musical styles and registers, capturing the composer in candid, unbuttoned guise as well in... more> Pictures at an Exhibition Rattle (EMI)CD review: Simon Rattle's new Pictures at an Exhibition (EMI) You really have to hand it to Simon Rattle. In a time of economic meltdown in the classical music recording industry, he continues to record all the standard repertoire from Haydn to Brahms to Mahler – and with no less an orchestra than the Berlin Philharmonic. The cash-strapped EMI has recently laid off almost two thousand staff, but... more>
CD Review: Steven Osborne plays TippettCD Review: Steven Osborne plays Tippett (Hyperion) Given his popularity, and yet the relatively small size of his output, it is somewhat surprising that Michael Tippett's Piano music isn't more well-known. As a means to address this issue, I can think of no better option than Steven Osborne's excellent recordings of the complete Tippett Piano Works, which combine a keenly... more> Davide penitente (Naxos)CD review: Mozart's Davide Penitente (Naxos) This splendid new CD from Naxos offers excellent performances of two of Mozart’s lesser-known works: the cantata Davide penitente and the Regina coeli. Stanley Sadie once wrote that no substantial work of Mozart’s maturity has been as consistently neglected by writers on the composer as Davide penitente and on the basis of this stylish... more>
Pierre-Laurent Aimard: Bach: Art of FugueCD Review: Pierre-Laurent Aimard: Bach Art of Fugue (DG) You have to wonder how happy the executives were at Deutsche Grammophon when their new star-signing, pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, plumped for Bach's elusive Art of Fugue for the first recording of his exclusive contract with the label. One can imagine from a pianist renowned for his intelligence, as well as formidable technique, this was... more> Griselda (Naxos)CD review: Vivaldi's Griselda (Naxos) Until very recently, the chances of being able to obtain a recording of an early-eighteenth-century opera were slim; excepting a handful of Handel's most popular operas, almost nothing was available in the catalogues of major record labels. But recently we've seen a meteoric rise in the popularity of this repertoire, with numerous Handel discs... more>
Roberto Alagna: Aida (Decca)DVD review: Aida with Alagna (Decca) The events surrounding tenor Roberto Alagna's departure from La Scala's new production of Verdi's Aida in December 2006 caused such a furore that all discussion of the merits and flaws of both the staging and the singing seemed to go out of the window. This DVD release of the first performance of the run – the one before Alagna walked off... more> La donna del lago (Naxos)CD review: Rossini's La donna del lago (Naxos) The high reputation of Naxos' delectable series of recordings of Rossini operas continues with this new release of La donna del lago. While the quality of some of the performances on the other recordings can be disappointing (Ciro in Babilonia comes to mind), others (such as Joyce DiDonato in La Cenerentola) are as good as anything you'll find on one of the... more>
James Macmillan (LSO Live)CD review: James MacMillan's The World's Ransoming (LSO Live) It is well known that many of James MacMillan's compositions are inspired by his Catholic beliefs, and both of the compositions on this new CD from the London Symphony Orchestra on LSO Live fall into the same category. But the prominent Scottish composer's ability to create instantly-appealing soundworlds and vivid musico... more> CD Review: Kim Borg: Opera AriasCD Review: Kim Borg: Opera Arias (Preiser) The name Kim Borg will be familiar to many opera lovers, given that he was something of a stalwart in European opera houses following his debut in 1951. However, he has seldom been the centre of attention on disc, so it is particularly pleasing that this recital has been issued. Although Borg sang a mixture of baritone, bass and bass-baritone... more>
Tristan und Isolde (Opus Arte)DVD review: Tristan und Isolde (Opus Arte) One might not think to look to Jiri Belohlavek, the gentlemanly but rather placid Principal Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, for a ravishing performance of Tristan und Isolde. I couldn't help but wonder: would he be able to do justice to Wagner's masterpiece? On the basis of this new DVD from Glyndebourne, the answer is a resounding yes. more> Julia Fischer - Mozart Sinfonia Concertante (Pentatone)CD review: Julia Fischer: Mozart Sinfonia Concertante (Pentatone) Pentatone have really backed a winner with Julia Fischer. Only in her mid twenties she is consistently praised to the skies for her concert performances and recordings. To cap it all, Gramophone named Artist of the Year in their 2007 awards. Having already produced well received versions of Mozart's Violin Concertos...more>
La traviata with Renee FlemingDVD review: La traviata with Reneé Fleming (Decca) Featuring the American soprano Reneé Fleming in divine form, this excellent DVD of Verdi's La traviata is sure to beat off the winter blues.With stiff competition from earlier recordings in the catalogue, one might not think there was a need for another. Yet Fleming's strong track record in Verdian repertoire continues with this new DVD. more> Bieito's Wozzeck (Opus Arte)DVD review: Calixto Bieito's Wozzeck from the Gran Teatre del Liceu (Opus Arte) Calixto Bieito's production of Berg's Wozzeck is challenging, although not for the reasons which I expect he anticipated. The naked cadavers, simulated necrophilia, blood, filth, full-frontal nudity, mindless cruelty and eviscerated flesh all test one's reactionary instincts to the hilt, but simultaneously force... more>
Rake's Progress (Opus Arte)DVD Review: The Rake's Progress (Opus Arte) The challenge of how to create opera in the twentieth century took composers in numerous directions. For Berg, a new, complex harmonic organisation was the way forward, while Puccini and Strauss constantly struggled to move beyond their inherited high Romantic musical language, and the stasis of Debussy's Impressionist project... more> Queyras - Bach Suites (HM)CD review: Jean-Guihen Queyras: Bach Cello Suites (HM) There seems to be an unspoken rule that the great solo string works of Bach should not be tackled by young performers. Although this has been recently blown out of the water by violinists such as Julia Fischer, some of the press coverage of Steven Isserlis' recording of the cello suites suggested that this view still held for the cello work... more>
CD Review : Kapp family: Orchestral Works: BBCSO/Järvi (Chandos)CD Review : Kapp family: Orchestral Works: BBCSO/Järvi (Chandos) This attractive new release from Chandos is dedicated to orchestral music written by Artur Kapp (1878-1952), his son Eugen (1908-1996) and his nephew Villem (1913-1964). These three musicians were largely responsible for founding and maintaining the so-called 'Estonian orchestral tradition'... more> Tanguy Cello ConcertosCD review: Tanguy: Cello Concertos: Gastinel (Naïve) The latest addition to the discography of Éric Tanguy – one of the most active and exciting composers of the post-Grisey generation – consists of his first and second cello concertos, performed by the equally exciting soloist Anne Gastinel. Whilst the recording is notable, not least, for its interesting exploration of the... more>
CD Review: Melcer Piano Concertos (Hyperion)CD review: Jonathan Plowright plays Melcer Piano Concertos (Hyperion) The latest instalment of Hyperion's The Romantic Piano Concerto – number forty-four, no less – delves into the music of Henryk Melcer (1869-1928), an esteemed pianist who studied in Vienna with the renowned Theodor Leschetizky before himself becoming one of the most influential piano teachers of his generation... more> Alwyn Piano Works vo;.1CD review: Alwyn Piano Works Vol.1: Ashley Wass (Naxos) Continuing their survey of repertoire by William Alwyn (1905-1985), Naxos have turned to the British composer's output for solo piano, with the 2000 Leeds Piano Competition finalist Ashley Wass at the keyboard. The main attraction on this disc is the Fantasy Waltzes, a composition that pushes the definition of this... more>
CD Review : Mahler Wunderhorn Lieder: Genz/Vignoles (Hyperion)CD Review : Mahler Wunderhorn songs: Genz/Vignoles (Hyperion) The tried-and-tested team of baritone Stephan Genz and pianist Roger Vignoles has produced a string of excellent Lieder recordings for Hyperion. This, their second Mahler disc, contains an hour-long selection of songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn and finds them in typically persuasive form. It is a recording that seems... more> CD Review : Henri Herz Piano Music: Philip Martin (Hyperion)CD Review : Herz Piano Music: Martin (Hyperion) 'About Herz one can write (1) sadly, (2) gaily, (3) sarcastically or, as now, all three at once. One can hardly believe how cautiously and shyly I avoid any discussion of him, and how I try to stay at least ten paces away from him, lest I praise him too loudly to his face. For if anyone has ever been honest with with his fellow-man and himself then... more>