Archive - Recording reviews from July to December 2008

To return to main recordings index, click here

DufayCD Review: Dufay & the Savoy Court: Binchois Consort/Kirkman (Hyperion) The mid fifteenth-century Savoy Court is the basis for this disc of Dufay's music from The Binchois Consort, an all-vocal ensemble directed by Andrew Kirkman. Built around the Missa Se la face ay pale, interspersed with Propers for a particular Saints Day and topped off by two motets and a song, all of these... more> Patricia PetibonCD Review: Patricia Petibon's DG debut recital disc, Amoureuses (DG) This new disc of 18th Century opera arias by the French soprano Patricia Petibon is something of a mixed bag. Under the title 'Amoureuses' she presents a portrait gallery of women in love, featuring arias by Mozart, Haydn and Gluck, and although none of the material is recorded here for the first time... more>
PraetoriusCD Review: Praetorius Magnificats & Motets: The Cardinall's Musick (Hyperion) The Cardinall's Musick are on quite a trajectory at the moment, just recently their discs, which have always been excellent, have suddenly moved up a notch into quite astonishingly exciting territory. This could be inspired by their move to the Hyperion label or equally it could simply be the coming-of-age... more> ChilcottCD Review: Susan Chilcott at La Monnaie (Cypres) Here is a reminder, if one is needed, of the musical loss we all suffered with Susan Chilcott's untimely death in 2003. Aged just 40, she had blossomed relatively late into a magnificent singing actress, a soprano of world class and fine stature who was surely on the verge of great things on the opera stage. I last saw her at the ROH in 2002... more>
ArtemisCD Review: Beethoven Quartets Op.18/4 & 59/2: Artemis Quartet (Virgin) The two latest additions to Wigmore Hall Live's ever-expanding catalogue of song recitals come from a pair of singers who have both distinguished themselves as much on the concert platform as they have on the opera stage. Both are very popular with British audiences and exhibit talents and a... more> KirchschlagerCD Review: Angelika Kirchschlager's Christmas Album (Sony/BMG) However unsuited to the repertoire an operatic voice might be, there's a long history of opera stars employing their capacious lungs to spread the Christmas message. Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price and many more have produced albums giving Christmas carols the operatic treatment yet this album is rather... more>
Hunt LiebersonCD Reviews: Recitals from Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Gerald Finley (Wigmore Hall Live) The two latest additions to Wigmore Hall Live's ever-expanding catalogue of song recitals come from a pair of singers who have both distinguished themselves as much on the concert platform as they have on the opera stage. Both are very popular with British audiences and exhibit talents and a... more> SibeliusCD Review: Sir Colin Davis and the LSO in Sibelius Symphonies 1 & 4 (LSO Live) Sir Colin Davis' Sibelius cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra on their own label has been built up at a leisurely pace over the last few years and this release of the First and Fourth Symphonies brings it to a close. Davis' pedigree as a conductor of Sibelius is second to none; his two other complete... more>
WattsCD Review: Elizabeth Watts's debut album of Schubert on RCA We are told that in preparing the programme for this, her debut disc for RCA, Elizabeth Watts listened to all of Schubert's Lieder before making her choice. As a result, we have a few lesser-known songs thrown in with some regular favourites. Watts of course has a string of very high profile competition wins to her credit... more> Lang LangCD Review: Lang Lang in Chopin Concertos with the Vienna Philharmonic & Mehta (DG) Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang continues to polarise public and critical opinion but this new recording of the Chopin Concertos, with the suitably stellar support of the Vienna Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta,shows the artist in more well-behaved mode. Opting to place the concertos in chronological ... more>
ExpressiaCD Review: Expressia: Tangos and Fantasies from the Cadence Ensemble (Signum) Cadence Ensemble’s Tangos & Fantasies has a deceptively promising opening in the electrifying Escualo (Ritmo Libre). This track fuses mercurially changing rhythms with a zesty timbric combination: piano and guitar play the rhythmic outline in dry, sharply defined chords while the accordion... more> Alte WerkCD Reviews: Monteverdi, Rossi and Bach re-released on Das Alte Werk It has been half a century since Das Alte Werk released their first recordings. Ever since their inaugural release of Gregorian Chant and music by Machaut back in 1958, they have become internationally renowned for their historically-informed recordings. With major figures from the Early Music movement such as ... more>
WarlockDVD Review: Peter Warlock Some Little Joy (Signum Vision) This film, as stated by the director in the accompanying notes, is a fictionalised retelling of the life of the early twentieth century British composer Philip Heseltine, better known to us under his musical alias, Peter Warlock. Heseltine's life, defined as it is for many by the hedonistic existence he led during the inter-war... more> BeethovenCD Review: Beethoven Sonatas from Müller-Schott and Hewitt (Hyperion) Daniel Müller-Schott has been garnering rave reviews for several recordings already, which have appeared on various labels. This new disc, volume one in a projected set of the Beethoven Cello Sonatas, is the first result of a new partnership with Hyperion and he's joined by one of that label's most... more>
Shostakovich/BrittenCD Review: Jamie Walton and the Philharmonia in Shostakovich and Britten (Signum) There is no disputing that Jamie Walton is a tremendous artist. He is endowed with the type of musicianship that pierces through recordings and demands complete attention. His performance of Shostakovich's Second Cello Concerto and Britten's Cello Symphony testifies clearly not only to... more> PatkovicCD Review: Accordionist Denis Patković plays Goldberg/Goldmine variations (Hänssler) Why would anyone want to transcribe the Goldberg Variations for the accordion? Denis Patković's recording is a pleasant surprise in that it offers several answers to this question. For a start, the accordion's two manuals allow for the observance of Bach's instructions for the harpsichord... more>
NetrebkoCD Review: Anna Netrebko's new album, Souvenirs (DG) This new disc – Anna Netrebko's fourth solo album for Deutsche Grammophon – is something of a mixed bag, and considering the extremely diverse nature of the repertoire, that's no surprise. Entitled Souvenirs, the recital seems to be a melange of arias and songs from all kinds of sources with no apparent connection other... more> Making WavesCD Review: Making Waves: Bob Chilcott Trio/The Sirens (Signum) Making Waves is a tricky album to talk about. Its genre, which could be defined as Modern English Choral Music, is itself a problem. One can't help the connection with the glorious renaissance tradition of English church music. After all, Bob Chilcott has been widely published by Oxford University Press, who certainly... more>
Sondheim: The Story So FarCD Review: Stephen Sondheim: The Story So Far (Sony/BMG) In many ways extraordinary, this four-disc boxset brings together a massive eighty-two tracks celebrating the career of Stephen Sondheim, one of the seminal figures in the history of American musical theatre. The recordings range from a performance of 'I Must Be Dreaming' (1948), a love song written by Sondheim in his junior year... more> Bach CantatasCD Review: Bach Cantatas Vols 5 and 17 (SDG) It almost seems unnecessary to say that the two latest instalments of Sir John Eliot Gardiner's recorded Bach Cantata cycle with the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir match up to the earlier releases. But such is the excellence of the performances that Soli Deo Gloria really does deserve the support of music lovers as this extraordinary... more
DebussyCD Review: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's Debussy Vol.4 (Chandos) In his own note in the booklet, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet writes of how he is bringing his complete survey of Debussy's piano music ends with the 'most resolutely virtuoso works'. While many of the previous discs have included miniatures and vignettes, all turned in with impeccable control, we now get a chance to hear him stretch his... more> SonnambulaCD Review: Cecilia Bartoli and Juan Diego Florez in Bellini's La Sonnambula (Decca) If the combination of Cecilia Bartoli and Juan Diego Flórez looks good on paper, their new recording of La sonnambula proves that it sounds even better. When singing together, Bartoli and Flórez almost seem to have the potential to become a bel canto alternative to Villazón and Netrebko, a relationship... more>
Mozart/BergCD Review: Boulez conducts Mozart and Berg works for 13 Wind (Decca) The idea of pairing Mozart and Berg – or more generally juxtaposing the first and second Viennese schools – is not necessarily new but this new release from Decca has a genuine feeling of discovery about it. One can't really imagine Pierre Boulez and his Ensemble Intercontemporain recording Mozart... more> BrahmsCD Review: The Takács in Brahms' quartets 1 & 3 (Hyperion) Brahms' first and third quartets, the C minor and the Bb major Op. 51 No. 1 and Op.67 respectively, make an ideal pairing. The first, dramatic, tense and expansive as it is, provides excellent rhetorical balance when set against the more diversionary, bucolic strains of the third. Yet they share much: each is rigorously constructed... more>
StraussCD Reviews: Bertrand de Billy and Marc Albrecht in Strauss Tone Poems (Oehms/Pentatone) The tone-poems of Richard Strauss have, with a couple of exceptions, been staples of the orchestral repertoire more or less since the ink from the composer's pen had dried. While Don Juan was the first to achieve universal success – its opening, for Dalhaus, symbolised... more> PapeCD Review: René Pape: Gods, Kings & Demons (DG) Perhaps more than is the case with any other voice type, the repertoire included on solo recital discs by basses tends to overlap substantially with those by other artists. Virtually all will offer the arias from Gounod's Faust for instance, and all seem to pull from the same relatively limited pool of Verdi and Wagner excerpts, plus Mefistofele and... more>
LucierCD Reviews: Works by Lucier and Clementi (Mode) These two releases on Mode showcase the differing approaches of what used to be contrasted in facile manner as the American experimental and European avant-garde schools of composition. The composers in question are Alvin Lucier and Aldo Clementi respectively, each a composer of unique outlook; and both CDs offer... more> BarlowCD Review: Piano works by Clarence Barlow (Cybele) This new release features piano and player piano music by the Indian-born European based composer Clarence Barlow, performed by Hermann Kretzschmar among others. The most interesting work here – Çoğluotobüsişletmesi – is the reason most people will have for buying the release. And it doesn't really disappoint so long as... more>
GenovevaDVD Review: Schumann's Genoveva from Zurich (Arthaus) Schumann's only opera, premiered in Leipzig in 1850 (three performances only, on 25, 28 and 30 June) and largely absent from the mainstream repertoire ever since, is a work of intriguing qualities. It has some ravishing music. It has a dense network of subtle leitmotifs and lush, romantic orchestration that marks... more> MessiaenCD Review: Messiaen's Eclairs sur l´Au-delà… from Metzmacher and the VPO (Kairos) More Messiaen, in a year already saturated with Messiaen, comes in the form of this new release by Kairos of the composer's last major work, Eclairs sur l´Au-delà… (completed in 1992). It at first strikes one as an unusual release for a label hitherto concentrating only on the most contemporary... more>
LisztCD Review: Eldar Nebolsin in Liszt Concertos with the RLPO and Petrenko (Naxos) The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko (appointed Principal Conductor in 2006) have only recently joined Naxos's roster of artists and this disc follows hot on the heels of a well-received 'Manfred' Symphony. However here in Liszt's two piano concertos, the have to cede some of... more> SalomeCD Review: Mackerras conducts Susan Bullock in Salome (Chandos Opera in English) The complicated story of Salome's libretto means that this recording of the opera in English requires a long explanation on Chandos's packaging. 'Libretto by the composer after Hedwig Lachmann's German translation of Oscar Wilde's play of the same name, English translation of the German by... more>
Kasarova HandelCD review: Sento Brillar: Handel Arias with Vesselina Kasarova (RCA/BMG) In a recent interview with me about her current appearances in Rossini's Matilde di Shabran, the Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova explained that Handel is a relatively new discovery for her, having spent the early part of her career devoted to Mozart and bel canto music.... more> The Dream of GerontiusCD review: Bryn Terfel in The Dream of Gerontius (Halle Live) 'The golden era may be happening right now' said The Guardian in May after witnessing a concert given by the Manchester-based Hallé Orchestra and their Music Director, Sir Mark Elder. One of the oldest orchestras in the world, the Hallé went through a difficult patch in the 1990s under Kent Nagano but is now ranked by... more>
JansenCD Review: Janine Jansen in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto (Decca) It might seem unusual for a recording of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, one of the great war-horses of the romantic repertoire, to be accompanied by a chamber orchestra. However, on this new release from Decca, the lyricism and easy virtuosity of Janine Jansen's approach works well with the smaller scale... more> Por GitaroCD Review: Lou Harrison's Por Gitaro (Mode) In response to the hegemony of equal temperament tuning in Western music, which he saw as a paragon of drab uniform compromise, Lou Harrison began in the early fifties to compose music in Just Intonation. In this tuning system the intervals are built out of proportions of whole numbers not out of multiples of the same basic interval... more>
PowerplantCD Review: Electric Counterpoint: Kraftwerk/Steve Reich (Signum) Powerplant's Electric Counterpoint is all about versatility. Unlike most débuts, it doesn't step forward by offering up a particular, recognizable 'sound', but concentrates on juggling three different genres within less than an hour of music. A brave choice, and one perhaps best suited to a duo of such versatility... more> DurosoirCD Review: Quartets by Lucien Durosoir (Alpha) 'I am going to make an enthusiastic report to all my friends about your quartet, which I find thousands of times more interesting than everything that springs from the pens of the noisy groups of newcomers that now assails us.' These were the words with which André Caplet heralded Lucien Durosoir's String Quartet No. 1 in F minor... more>
Mahler 3CD Review: Mahler 3 with Gergiev and the LSO (LSO Live) Valery Gergiev's much-lauded, much-criticised, much-debated Mahler interpretations with the London Symphony Orchestra deliver plenty of shocks and surprises. Indeed, this maestro's career has been founded on the ability to turn risk-taking approaches into breathtaking outcomes. Given the divisive nature of his music... more> Castor et PolluxDVD review: Rameau's Castor et Pollux (Opus Arte) This 2-DVD set was filmed at Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam on 21 and 25 January 2008 and is a permanent record of a sumptuous, ambitious production of what has been generally described as Rameau's crowning achievement in the 'tragédie lyrique' genre. Rameau first set the story in 1737 and the opera was an immediate success... more>
Chen ChopinCD Review: Sa Chen plays Chopin Piano Concertos (Pentatone) Pentatone has an admirable record in signing some of the best young artists around, as the success of their relationship with Julia Fischer proves. Chinese pianist Sa Chen was prize winner at the 2005 Van Cliburn competition and first captured the attention of the British public when she played in the final of the Leeds competition... more> Moscow SoloistsCD review: The Moscow Soloists and Yuri Bashmet in Tchaikovsky (Onyx) This new disc from the normally reliable Moscow Soloists and their founder Yuri Bashmet is curiously dull. Neither the repertoire nor the execution of it is especially interesting, so that while there are plenty of glimpses of why the ensemble has such a high reputation, it's hard not to be disappointed by such average results. more>
Manon LescautDVD review: Karita Mattila in Puccini's Manon Lescaut from the Met (EMI) On paper, the pairing of Finnish soprano Karita Mattila and Italian tenor Marcello Giordani in this DVD of Puccini's Manon Lescaut, filmed live at the Met on 16 February this year, looked extremely promising. Giordani is rarely so comfortable as when he's in lyric lover mode, while I was naturally intrigued to see what so... more> BowenCD Review: York Bowen: Piano Concertos No.3 (Fantasia) Op.23 & No.4, Op.88 (Hyperion) Given Hyperion's championing of the works of York Bowen – including Stephen Hough's award winning disc of his piano works from over a decade ago and Lawrence Power's recordings of his music for viola – it's maybe a little surprising that the 'English Rachmaninoff' hasn't featured in the Romantic... more>
La bohemeCD review: Pavarotti and Freni in remastered Boheme (Decca) Mirella Freni and the late Luciano Pavarotti were the dream team for La bohème for years, and for many this recording of the Puccini warhorse is the ideal way to sample the work. With voices this ravishing, it's not difficult to understand why. Such sheer beauty has rarely been matched, and with two Italian singers in their vocal... more> Robert HollCD review: Robert Holl sings Schwanengesang (Hyperion) This recording of Schwanengesang was made in London over three days in January 2008 and I found myself wondering, the third time I listened through the CD, which of the songs had been recorded on which day. For there are marked differences to the tonal qualities of Holl's voice as the 'cycle' progresses: at times he sounds... more>
Parnasso in FestaCD Review: The King's Consort in Handel's Parnasso in Festa (Hyperion) This is wonderfully festive fare indeed – an ideal way to get to know new, and yet often strangely familiar Handel, in the run-up to Christmas. The work itself dates from 13 March 1734 and was written as a court celebration for the wedding (which took place the day after its first performance) of Princess Anne and... more> DiDonatoCD Review: Joyce DiDonato's debut arias disc - Handel: Furore (EMI) Considering her popularity and expertise as an opera singer, it's incredible that this new CD is the first aria disc of American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. It cannot have been easy to choose the repertoire, considering that DiDonato sings everything from Mozart and Rossini to Strauss and Jake Heggie, but in spite of the... more>
BrahmsCD Review: Brahms Quartets from the Capuçons, Angelich & Caussé (Virgin) The brothers Renaud and Gautier Capuçon have been at the heart of several excellent recordings of Brahms on Virgin over the last couple of years and this disc of the piano quartets reunites them Nicholas Angelich, with whom they recorded the same composer’s trios. Viola player Gérard Caussé... more> BeethovenCD reviews: Beethoven Symphonies 2 & 7 and 4 & 7 from Vanska & Boyd (BIS/Avie) One strange by-product of the record industry's supposed decline is that Beethoven symphony cycles, which were once a staple activity of the larger labels and their big-name orchestras, have now been taken over by less high-profile orchestras on labels, such as in this case, like BIS and Avie... more>
BusoniCD Review: Hamish Milne plays Busoni (Hyperion) Hamish Milnea dmits, in his excellent booklet note for this disc of Busoni, that the composer's music often 'excites more admiration than affection'. The works on this disc are definitely from the more austere end of the spectrum and the half-hour long Fantasia Contrappunctistica, in particular, is not a piece for the faint-hearted... more> MoralesCD review: Morales' Magnificat: Brabant Ensemble/Rice (Hyperion) To the ever growing repertoire of intelligently-crafted and delicately given recorded recitals of Renaissance polyphony can be added this release, in which Stephen Rice and his Brabant Ensemble perform some less-heralded music from the great Spanish composer, Cristóbal de Morales. Boasting the first complete... more>
Renee FlemingCD Review: Renée Fleming sings Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs (Decca) It says a lot for the pulling power of Renée Fleming that at a time when most singers are struggling to make any recordings at all, she's just released her second account of Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs. But it's not just because the American diva is amongst the world's most popular singers that Decca... more> MacbethOpera DVD review: Verdi's Macbeth from the Met (Met) I've always had a soft spot for Verdi's Macbeth, one of the composer's first truly distinctive and individual works that in many respects provides an ideal compromise between the Shakespearean antecedent and the conventions of ottocento Italian opera. Those who deride Verdi's achievement here are often ignorant of, or unwilling... more>
ScelsiCD review: Giacinto Scelsi: Chukrum; Quattro Pezzi; Natura Renovatur; Hymnos (Leos) There has been a proliferation of releases lately of the music of Giacinto Scelsi. The Mode and Accord labels are both currently releasing their respective Scelsi Editions and there are many other labels getting in on the act too, though actual performances on these shores of the difficult music are still few... more> September's releases on Sepia RecordsCD reviews: Jane Morgan, Deanna Durbin, Pinocchio & Irma la Douce (Sepia) These four new releases show the excellent ongoing work of the London-based label, Sepia Records. Though these recordings are now in the public domain, they would probably be all but forgotten were it not for the efforts of labels like Sepia, whose output is exemplary of how the material should be treated... more>
FeldmanCD Review: Feldman: Late Piano Works vol.1: Schleiermacher (MDG) Triadic Memories for solo piano is from Feldman's late period. During the phase of his career from the seventies onwards, Feldman experimented in a striking and unconventional way with extended duration, composing pieces featuring etiolated, concentrated material and lasting anything from eighty minutes to... more> De StaatCD Reviews: Andriessen: De Staat (NBE) Can music be a politically subversive force? This is the question addressed by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen in the work presented here, on a new release by the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble issued on the ensemble's own label. De Staat was composed in 1976 and is generally recognized as the composer's breakthrough piece... more>
WEDODVD Review: Knowledge is the Beginning ; Ramallah Concert: WEDO/Barenboim (Warner) There's a powerful publicity machine behind Daniel Barenboim and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Their two appearances at this year's Proms, as part of an extensive tour, were preceded by extensive coverage in the press. Yet between all the sound bites and carefully presented back-story it's ... more> Beethoven/KissinCD Reviews: Beethoven Concertos from Kissin & Pletnev (EMI/DG) Now an exclusive EMI artist, Evgeny Kissin's second release on the label is this set of the Beethoven concertos; the first, a recording of concertos by Mozart and Schumann also featured Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra. There's no let up in recordings of this repertory and this new set from Kissin is released ... more>
RattleCD Review: Simon Rattle conducts Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique (EMI) Although it seems intellectually lazy to point out that Berlioz isn't natural territory for the Berlin Philharmonic – their pre-eminence amongst the world's orchestras speaks for itself, so there's no reason to think they can't play a French symphony – it is nevertheless difficult to hear this new recording and feel... more>> Susan GrahamCD Review: Susan Graham sings songs by 22 French composers in Un frisson francais (Onyx) As the ravishing sounds she produces throughout this new CD demonstrate, Onyx Classics has scored a coup in signing up American mezzo-soprano superstar Susan Graham to record an album with them. And it's typical of the boutique label that the artist has been matched to... more>
Colin DavisCD Review: Sir Colin Davis conducts Beethoven's Mass in C (LSO Live) This recording of Beethoven's Mass in C, based on a concert at the Barbican on 26 February 2006, has been a long time coming – the London Symphony Orchestra's in-house record label is normally quick at turning round its releases nowadays – but it's been well worth the wait. more> Songs of Love and LossCD Review: Sarah Connolly sings Schumann Songs of Love & Loss (Chandos) After being involved together on a well-received series of Mendelssohn songs on Hyperion, Sarah Connolly and Eugene Asti are reunited on this disc for that other enterprising British label, Chandos. This is a well planned programme of Schumann songs, featuring two of the composer's most famous cycles... more>
A nos amoursCD Review: á nos amours: Diabolicus/Dietrich Henschel (Ambroisie) The cover of this new release from Diabolicus gives little clue as to what a fascinating and, above all, immensely enjoyable disc this is. The group, new to me, is made up primarily of soloists from the Orchestre de Paris, and although the booklet emphasises the democratic and collaborative nature of their work... more> VerdiCD Review: Verdi's Requiem with Bychkov, Borodina & Urmana (Profil) The extensive discography of the Verdi Requiem provides stiff competition for any new entrants, yet they continue apace: in January, Sir Colin Davis will record his performances with the London Symphony Orchestra for LSO Live, and here's Semyon Bychkov with another live recording, from Profil, Edition Hänssler. more>
LukaszewskiCD Review: Choral music by Paweł Łukaszewski (Hyperion) Stephen Layton adds yet another accomplished choral recording to his discography with this release, which concentrates exclusively on the devotional music of the emerging Polish composer Paweł Łukaszewski. Like the Veljo Tormis release before it, this new disc contains music of outwardly simple means that... more> BrahmsCD Review: Brahms' First Symphony with Gardiner (SDG) Ever since Sir John Eliot Gardiner set up his Soli Deo Gloria record label to release his complete account of the Bach Cantatas after being dropped by DG, there was always going to be a question about whether the label could sustain interest and produce anything beyond the Bach series. This new venture answers it with a positive 'yes'. more>
SoltiCD Review: Sir Georg Solti conducts (BBCL) The BBC Legends label from Medici Arts Ltd aims to bring outstanding performances from the BBC Radio archive to a wider public by issuing them on CD via a 20-bit remastering system. This new release of Sir Georg Solti conducting works by Beethoven and Wagner is a complete triumph for the series and justifies the endeavour in every sense. more> CarmenDVD Review: Jonas Kaufmann stars in Carmen from the ROH (Decca) It's salutary to think that both of London's opera houses' current staging of Bizet's Carmen is directed by a woman. It's surely no coincidence: Carmen remains the very embodiment of operatic Otherness, the title role offering perhaps the most interesting, complex and controversial depiction of a woman in the... more>
Don QuixoteCD review: Tilson Thomas's Das Lied von der Erde with Thomas Hampson (SFS) While Valery Gergiev and the LSO might have completed their Mahler cycle in just one season, half of the performances already out on the orchestra's own label, LSO Live, another orchestra has been taking a far more leisurely approach, and some might say wisely. Michael Tilson Thomas has been garnering.... more> GlazunovCD Review: Glazunov Symphony No.6 etc: RSNO/Serebrier (WCJ) Alexander Glazunov's position in Russian musical history is, more often than not, defined by his relationship to others. Seen as the bridge between Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff it's easy not to see his own works without making, inevitably unfavourable, comparisons to his more illustrious compatriots.... more>
Don QuixoteCD review: Rostropovich in R.Strauss and Haydn (BBC Legends) Although Strauss's intention in composing Don Quixote was that the role of the deluded Knight be taken by an orchestra's principal cello, it's not unusual for solo cellists to take the part. whatever one's view, it's impossible to imagine even the best principal cello displaying the kind of force of personality Rostropovich... more> SalomeDVD Review: David McVicar's controversial Royal Opera Salome (Opus Arte) David McVicar's Royal Opera Salome has made it to DVD with astonishing speed. Having only opened in February, Opus Arte's release must set some sort of record. And with generous extra features and excellent picture and sound, there's no evidence of any compromises having been made... more>
La straniera (Opera Rara)CD review: Patrizia Ciofi in La straniera by Bellini (Opera Rara) Bellini's fourth opera, La Straniera, marked out the composer as one of the leading figures of the post-Rossini generation. Indeed, he then went on to receive a commission for I Capuleti e I Montecchi that far surpassed the record amount received by Rossini for his final Italian score. Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi brings the... more> Massenet's ManonDVD Review: Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon star in Manon (DG) A little while back, the opening editorial of Opera magazine bemoaned the celebrity joint promotion of Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón and claimed that their voices are not as perfect a match as Deutsche Grammophon would have us believe. But that's surely to miss the point: as stage animals, they have... more>
XenakisCD review: Keyboard music by Iannis Xenakis (Neos) Iannis Xenakis' music - dense, precipitous and bewildering as it is - is not easily realised. This situation is often exaggerated in his pieces for solo instruments. Works of this nature, the trombone solo Keren for instance, generate much of their emotional force from the sheer intricacy of their ideas... more> Gloria ChengCD Review: Gloria Cheng plays Stucky, Lutoslawski and Salonen (Telarc) This new release from Telarc showcases the solo talents of American pianist Gloria Cheng, performing recent compositions of Steven Stucky and Esa-Pekka Salonen as well as an early and rarely heard work by Lutoslawski. The works chosen for the disc outline well the pianist's gifts within the contemporary idiom.... more>
TannhauserDVD Review: Sir Colin Davis conducts Gwyneth Jones in Wagner's Tannhauser As much as it lies well within the canon, productions of Tannhäuser are rarer than the high quality of the work deserves. Therefore, a new addition to the opera's discography is very welcome indeed, even when it's an old Bayreuth performance from thirty years ago.In fact, this was the first film ever to be made at... more> FalstaffDVD review: Tony Britten's take on Verdi's Falstaff (Signum Vision) Oh dear – this is truly awful. But I should start by declaring an interest – an interest in the whole series of fun productions put on by Tony Britten and Music Theatre London at the Drill Hall from the 1990s until now. Falstaff is based on a Drill Hall production of 2005 and was evidently filmed on a golf course in 2006.... more>
PurcellCD review: Purcell's Complete Chamber Music on Brilliant Classics Brilliant Classics' recent release gathers together every piece of music by Purcell for solo harpsichord or instrumental ensemble. The Dutch record label have been in existence for over twelve years and, having experienced much success in their own country, are now becoming increasingly popular worldwide... more> Mark AndreCD review: Music by Mark Andre (Kairos) The music of Mark Andre is like Beethoven's late quartets as compared to the heroic middle symphonies of his most obvious forebears, Grisey and Lachenmann. Any sense of compromise that comes from externality has already been abrogated in this music, its place filled with internalised, dilated, unfolding thought. In fact his music... more>
PhilharmoniaCD review: The Philharmonia launches a new series with Mackerras and Dohnanyi on Signum Classics The first two CDs released by the Philharmonia Orchestra with Signum Classics are likely to be popular with music lovers. They work well on two levels: one can focus on the music or one can sort matters of minor importance while listening to the music in the background. I listened both... more> GypsyCD review: The 2008 Broadway cast recording of Gypsy (Time-Life) Just as Patti LuPone's performance as Rose in the current Broadway revival of Styne and Sondheim's Gypsy is the stuff of legend, so too is the cast album very special. Yet wonderful as LuPone is on the CD, the attraction for me is the inclusion of seven bonus tracks that consist of cut or unused songs from the show, and they've... more>
Rebecca SaundersCD review: Rebecca Saunders: choler, crimson, miniata Rebecca Saunders is a young British composer born in 1967 and based in Berlin. Her studies included time with Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe and with Nigel Osborne in Edinbugh. She has previously been the recipient of various awards in mainland Europe, including the Busoni Förderpreis from the Academy of Arts in Berlin... more> DichterliebeCD review: Gerald Finley's Dichterliebe on Hyperion As their previous collaborations for Hyperion have shown (extremely well received recordings of Ives and Barber songs), Gerald Finley and Julius Drake constitute something of a dream team. And this new recording of Dichterliebe, coupled with a selection of Schumann's other Heine settings, represents a master class of nuanced Lieder... more>
New World SymphonyCD review: The 'New World' Symphony on period instruments (Naive) While Brahms, Bruckner and Wagner have all had the period instrument treatment – to a greater or lesser extent – Antonín Dvořák's best-known symphony only now receives a performance on authentic instruments courtesy of Emmanuel Krivine and his La Chambre Philharmonique, on Naïve. Dvořák's 'New World'... more> GriseyCD review: Works by Gérard Grisey (Kairos) Both the works by Gérard Grisey presented here are new to CD. This release should therefore perhaps be of special interest to listeners in the UK, where neither work has been performed and where performances of Grisey's work in general are thin on the ground. With the UK premiere of Les Espaces Acoustiques,... more>
Pearl FishersCD review: Bizet's The Pearl Fishers with Keenlyside and Evans on Chandos Probably forever condemned to live in the shadow of its better-known sister Carmen, The Pearl Fishers is nevertheless a work of considerable inspiration and one which is certainly worthy of the loving treatment given to it by Chandos in this new release. The piece belongs to the Zeitgeist that inspired Massenet's... more> Haitink's ParsifalDVD review: Haitink conducts Parsifal on Deutsche Grammophon Bernard Haitink's return to opera after a gap of several years was one of the most anticipated events of 2007. Despite a career that had seen him as Music Director of Glyndebourne and then Covent Garden for a period of over twenty years, he turned his back on the theatre after his departure from The Royal Opera... more>
Eugene OneginDVD Review: Eugene Onegin from the 2007 Salzburg Festival (DG) The box for this new release of Eugene Onegin is emblazoned with positive press reactions at the time of its performance in last year's Salzburg Festival. 'Masterly down to the smallest detail', says one, but although Andrea Breth's production is excellently executed, there are times when it just comes across as too inconsistent... more> Zemlinsky SongsCD Review: Zemlinsky Songs on Bridge Recorded as far back as 2003, this excellent recital of Zemlinsky songs has already been in the catalogue once (on Pan Classics). However, its re-release on the enterprising American label, Bridge, is extremely welcome. Austrian mezzo Hermine Haselböck is an extremely fine singer and, along with her responsive pianist Florian Henschel ... more>
Bach Cantatas Vol 25CD Review: John Eliot Gardiner's 25th Volume of Bach Cantatas (SDG) While the obvious selling point of Sir John Eliot Gardiner's 'Bach Pilgrimage' through the complete cantatas is its comprehensiveness, as the series progresses it's also clear that each individual instalment is a voyage of discovery in itself. It would be nice to buy them all of course, but if that's not an option... more> Mahler 7CD review: Gergiev's Mahler 7 (LSO Live) The announcement of Valery Gergiev's Mahler series with the London Symphony Orchestra over a year ago was greeted with great excitement. The clash of two great wills – the interpreter Gergiev's and the composer Mahler's – was, several commentators anticipated, likely to set sparks flying. The performance of the Eighth Symphony... more>
Flower Drum SongDVD Review: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (Arrow Films) Coming to Region 2 DVD for the first time on 25 August courtesy of Arrow Films, Flower Drum Song is a good reminder that even second-tier Rodgers and Hammerstein is a cut above the average musical. Opening in 1958, a year after the first edition of the novel by C Y Lee on which it was based, it became the first Broadway... more> Martha Argerich: The Collection 1CD Review: Martha Argerich's solo recordings re-released on DG Some of the recordings reissued here in this lavish box from Deutsche Grammophon have been such mainstays of the company's catalogue that music-lovers are in danger of taking them for granted. This set then presents a particularly welcome opportunity to marvel afresh at Martha Argerich's breathtaking pianism... more>
Lorraine at EmmanuelCD Review: Lorraine at Emmanuel: Handel's Hercules and Bach Cantatas (Avie) When Lorraine Hunt Lieberson died on 3 July 2006 at the age of fifty-two, the tragedy was not only a human one: the music world lost one of its most special, unique talents. The American mezzo-soprano had a voice of sublime richness which extended through every register; combined with clarity of diction more> HeleneCD Review: World premiere recording of Saint-Saens' Hélène (Melba) While Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila, if not a sure-fire audience favourite, can be counted as a repertory opera, the composer's other essays in the genre, a total of fourteen, have all sunk into oblivion. Australian label, Melba, is to be congratulated then for exhuming Saint-Saëns' Héléne, composed for the Théâtre de... more>
Lars VogtCD Review: Nobuya Sugawa plays saxophone concertos (Chandos) The first work on this superb new disc of saxophone concertos is Takashi Yoshimatsu's Albireo Mode (2004-5). Written for Nobuya Sugawa, the featured artist on this release, it is a stylistically diverse composition that takes in references to everything from free jazz, to Japanese traditional music, to minimalism... more> SchrottCD review: Erwin Schrott (Decca) As much as Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott has wowed audiences with his abilities in the theatre – though I must confess I've never been much of a fan – his debut album is a disappointment by any standards. Some of the repertoire choices are odd; the way the arias, eras and styles are mixed up is far from effective... more>
Godowsky/StraussCD Review: Marc-André Hamelin in Godowsky's Strauss transcriptions (Hyperion) Godowsky's piano music is less of a rarity these days but still retains a mystique all its own. And the composer's works based on the ever-popular waltzes of Johann Strauss II are without doubt among the most challenging pieces in the repertoire. Representing the final flourish of a golden age of pre-war... more> Franck/Fauré String QuartetsCD Review: Franck & Fauré from the Dante Quartet (Hyperion) This attractive release from Hyperion exhibits the string quartets of two musicians, both organists, who spent the majority of their working lives at the centre of Parisian musical life. The coupling presented here represents the virtual cessation of these men's creative careers and, synonymously, their lives. In Franck's case... more>
Weinberg ConcertosCD Review: Weinberg concertos from the Gothenberg SO (Chandos) We can never measure the precise manner and extent to which Stalin's oppressive attitude to the arts in the Soviet Union actually shaped each of the affected artists' particular creative voices. The differences between the ideas, structures, and execution of Mieczysław Weinberg's music from before and from after the... more> Mozart SonatasCD Review: Mozart's Piano Sonatas from Peter Katin (Altara) British pianist Peter Katin has amassed an extensive discography over an extraordinary sixty-year career, ranging from Scarlatti to William Mathias. Here, his complete survey of the Mozart Piano Sonata's – recorded in Norway nearly twenty years ago – makes its return to the catalogue on the Altara label, having previously been available... more>
DvorakCD Review: Yakov Kreizberg conducts the NPO in Dvořák (PentaTone) One can now quite safely conjecture that Yakov Kreizberg and his Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra are in the midst of a Dvořák cycle on the PentaTone label. With two discs of the Czech composer's symphonic and programmatic orchestral works already available, this latest release turns to the evergreen Sixth... more> L'arlésienneCD Review: Bizet's music from L'arlésienne: Minkowski (Naïve) One of the most interesting concerts I attended at last year's Proms was that given by Les Musiciens du Louvre, Grenoble under Marc Minkowski . The whole second half was devoted over to the incidental music Bizet composed for Alphonse Daudet's play, L'arlésienne. The play itself is conventional enough... more>
Korean SongsCD Review: Korean Songs: Wookyung Kim (MSM) One of the most promising singers of his generation, the young South Korean tenor Wookyung Kim already has an impressive track record. After training in his native Seoul and undertaking further study in Munich, Kim went on to win prizes in the Belvedere Competition in Vienna, the Francisco Viñas Competition and Domingo's Operalia... more> Freddy KempfCD Review: Freddy Kempf plays Mussorgsky, Ravel & Balakirev (BIS) Freddy Kempf continues to build up an enviable discography on the Swedish label, BIS, and this latest release from the young British pianist sees him tackle three staples of the virtuoso repertoire. Pictures from an Exhibition, Gaspard de la nuit and Islamey are all works that aspire to creating orchestral sound effects... more>
Arabian NightsCD Review: Arabian Nights (Sepia) Continuing the label's outstanding reputation for quality releases of recordings of overlooked music of the past, Sepia Records' latest batch includes the surprisingly invigorating show Arabian Nights.Created for the open-air Jones Beach Marine Theatre on Long Island in 1954, the piece was a spectacle produced by the bandleader, restaurateur and... more> Nicole CabellCD review: Martin Roscoe plays Nielsen's Complete Piano Music (Hyperion) Complete musical surveys of any nature necessarily require the sacrifice of programming discretion to the pursuit of total coverage. Such surveys often come across as academic and pragmatic, and are best taken in the piecemeal spirit in which they are intended. This is indeed the case with Hyperion's recent release of.. more>
ArabellaDVD Review: Arabella from Zurich Opera House with Renée Fleming (Decca) This DVD, recorded a year ago in June 2007, captures Götz Friederich's Zurich Opera House production of the final opera produced by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. In the booklet, Renée Fleming enthuses that 'singing Arabella is simply a joy... more> VareseCD Review: Edgard Varèse: Orchestral Works: Polish National RSO/Lyndon-Gee (Naxos) In his otherwise fairly riveting book on (some types of) twentieth century music, The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross asserts rather rashly of the music of Edgard Varèse that it has 'no past, no future.' Nothing could be further from the truth. The composer's hyperfuturist, anti-symphonic works can be seen to have....more>
IvesCD Review: Charles Ives' Three Orchestral Sets: Malmö SO/Sinclair (Naxos) Naxos continues its fine American Classics series with this solid new release that groups together Charles Ives' Three Orchestral Sets, the third of which is appearing on record for the first time after some generally decent reconstructive editorial work on its behalf by David Gray Porter and Nors Josephson...more> FigaroOpera CD Review: Le nozze di Figaro inaugurates Glyndebourne's in-house label This sublime recording of Mozart's searing comedy inaugurates a new in-house label produced by Glyndebourne. Although the format is familiar from things like the ROH Heritage series, Glyndebourne's label offers something slightly more special, in my opinion. the 1950s, John Barnes has been... more>
A Child of Our TimeCD Review: Tippett's A Child of Our Time (LSO Live) Few works in the history of music can be as personal as Sir Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time. The composer always specialised in music with a message, though in some of the operas the message be a little obscure, but here he was responding specifically to the atrocities faced by the Jews on 'Crystal Night', 9 November 1938. more> RachmaninovCD Review: Rachmaninov Sympony No 1 (Chandos) Gianandra Noseda is bringing the BBC Philharmonic to this year's Proms with Rachmaninoff's First Symphony (coupled, intriguingly, with Puccini's Il Tabarro with a cast that includes Barbara Fritolli) and from the evidence of this release from Chandos, the same combination of orchestra and conductor are thoroughly at home in the... more>