Monday, March 19, 2018

Howells, Herbert. (1892-1983) Orchestral Works.

From my collection. (2010)
Purchase year: 2010.
First listen: 3-9-2010.
Second listen: 19-3-2018.
Label: Hyperion.
Recording date: February 1991 & March 1992.
Venue: Philharmonic Hall Liverpool, England.
Engineer: Tony Faulkner.
Playing time: 69:19.

Works on this CD:
Concerto for String orchestra 1938.
Three Dances for Violin and Orchestra 1915.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor 1925.

Performed by:
Kathryn Stott, Piano.
Malcolm Stewart, Violin.
Royal Liverpool PO, Vernon Handley.

Howells is since my early classical beginnings a favourite composer. This mix of late romantic with blends of the twenties music was always very appealing to me. The typical English treats are all to have with Howell. Pastoral yearnings, glorifying the English landscape and traditions, mellow to a fault, but also suave in expressing his feelings. Quite a English gentleman in the good British sense. His music is all encompassing, reaching every nook in the emotional palette of a human being, very individually expressed. There is not quite such an composer as Howell, he was always a bit apart from the rest. There is no need to muster yourself for outbreaks of frenzy, for Howell is a well balanced composer who simply writes very beautiful music excellently scored as you might hear in all the concertos on this disc. Kathryn Stott is a small marvel on the piano in playing this fiendishly difficult concerto. She plays it with such authority and elegance that it took my breath away several time during her playing. But the piece of resistance for me are the three Dances for Violin and orchestra. I simply adore this work, warm and super romantic, so colourfully displayed by Stewart, that I cannot imagine a better performance of this concerto. All the details that flow out of his hands, the excellent bowing, and a real sense for Howell needs is astounding. He captures all what Howell wrote in this piece, and is partnered by Handley and the Liverpool musicians in an appropriate manner. This is an also perfectly knitted team of dedicated musicians, glorifying this music to a lonely top.
Tony Faulkner delivered a true State of the Art recording, like he only can.

Martinů, Bohuslav. (1890-1959) Violin Concertos. Volume 4.

From my collection (2010)
Purchase year: 2010.
First listen: 12-4-2010.
Second listen: 19-3-2018.
Label: Hyperion.
Recording dates: May 2001 & June 2004.
Venue: Dvorak Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague Czech Republic.
Engineer: Tomas Zikmund.
Playing time: 54:10

Works on this CD:
Violin Concerto No. 1 & 2.

Performed by:
Bohuslav Matoušek, Violin.
Czech PO, Christopher Hogwood.

Apart from his Symphonies, the Violin concertos are for me 2 of his best works. For the romantic in Martinů finds a lot of space to express these characteristics to the full. Warm embracing music, with so many hints to the late romantic ideals that I got all fuzzy in my head, when all these feelings were thrown at me. It is some measure of Matousek professionalism that he brings out all the difficult violin parts without stress and with an ease that astounds me. A great violinist indeed.
He and Hogwood make a perfect team in which nothing is missed in expression or weight, all is perfectly balanced. In this series volume 4 affects me most, in terms of connecting so easily to the context. This is how I like my bit of Martinů, which is also one his ways to express himself. More of this  is very welcome at my door.
State of the Art recording.

Martinů, Bohuslav. (1890-1959) Works for Orchestra and solo instruments. Volume 2.

From my collection (2010)
Purchase year: 2010.
First listen: 8-9-2010.
Second listen: 19-3-2018.
Label: Hyperion.
Recording dates: April 2004.
Venue: Dvorak Hall, Rudolfinum, Czech Republic.
Engineer: Tomas Zikmund.
Playing time: 64:35.

Works on this CD:
Concerto da Camera,
Concerto for Violin, piano and Orchestra.
Czech Rhapsody.

Performed by:
Bohuslav Matoušek, Violin.
Karel Košárek, Piano.
Czech PO, Christopher Hogwood.

After almost 8 years it was quite a surprise to get back to these Martinů recordings made by Hyperion. I quite forgot how wonderful they were. I have always been a keen admirer of this composer, but it was over the years very hard to find adequate performances. Communicative as his music might be, it is still very difficult to perform them well. They are by no means easy scores. The new born modernity I call his music, hyper realistic, hard hitting and happily not free of some rumbustious moments. Percussion flies through the speakers,  music almost falling off the tonality ladder, but not quite, grotesk as expression is also used often, so it can be quite a jumble. The first two concertos give you this in abundance, there is almost no sentimentality or romantic warmth in his compositions, and if then only occasionally. Still there are moments that Martinů seems to forget his style and lapses into some deeply felt emotions, that hits home quite ferociously, and ever so gorgeous that is. Just sample the Czech Rhapsody for these snippets.
The recording is simply superb.

Bach, Johann Sebastian.(1685-1750) The Complete Organ Works. The Foccroulle edition. CD 13 & 14.

New acquisition.
Date of purchase: 2017.
First listen: 19-3-2018.
Label: Ricercar.
Recording dates: October 1991 & August 1992.
Venue: The Dom In Freiberg & Abtei Neresheim.
Engineer: Jerome Lejeune.
Time: 78:05 & 66:57.

Works on this CD 13.
Leipziger Period- Die Leipziger Chorale (I)

Works on CD 14:
Leipziger Period, Die Leipziger Chorale (II)
Freie formen,  Schübler Choräle, Einige Kanonische Veränderungen.

Instrument used:
Silbermann Organ  in Freiburg.
Holzay Organ, Neresheim.

Performed by:
Bernard Foccroulle.

It was a surprise to hear this Silbermann organ so well recorded, without the notorious reverb hindering the music. Jerome Lejeune clearly did not fall in the sound trap many engineers before him did. Most of the time the music ends in utter chaos. It is still not ideal, but at least you do not much of the inner detail, and Foccroulle cleared noticed the fact that he should play slower and let the reverb find its way before hitting the keys anew. And lo and behold, he managed to squeeze in quite a amount of warmth, almost compassion in the music. So I was happy about the beautiful Leipziger Chorale, they sound magnificent and well controlled. Even spiritual which is not a given with Foccroulle. The Abtei in Neresheim has also a long reverb, and in this case Lejeune decided to the record the Holzay organ quite close. You have to put the volume a notch down, and all will be well. And again Foccroulle makes an effort to encompass this reverb, about 7 seconds, and manages the get the same result as on the Silbermann organ. But the Holzay is a miracle of sound too. I rather like it quite a bit more as the massive Silbermann organ in Freiberg. Anyways both CD'S gave me a lot of pleasure.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Juon, Paul, (1872-1940) The String Quartets, CD 1.

New acquisition.
Purchase year: 2018.
First listen: 17-3-2018.
Label: CPO.
CD 1 from 2.
Recording dates: January 2014.
Venue: Studio I, Radiostudio Zurich.
Engineer: Andreas Werner.
Playing time: 69:35. (CD 1)

Works on this CD:
SQ opus 5 in D major.
Opus 11 in B minor.

Performed by:
Sarastro Quartett.

If someone would ask me what is there to like about the music of Juon, I would say, its sheer balance, melodiousness, and the tightly knit musical arguments. But also its perky spirit, charm and deftness of technique. He illuminates the music with an extraordinary musical world of his own. The music is enriched by subtle changes of colour and sublime articulation. It has an overwhelmingly positive and impressive argument behind every note. Such is the concentration that you cannot escape to be enthralled. It is tremendously compelling on every level. This clarity of detail in his writing demands respect, and lets you experience the context in a logical way. Also a deeply sensuous tone, with a beautiful narrative, thus the overall effect is conversational rather than dramatic. It sounds almost like a extension of the music by Johannes Brahms equally compelling.  The music surrounds you with a thick layer of warmth, there is no way out of it , and even after the music dies out, the warmth will be there for a long time.
The performance is sublime, and so is the intimate recording.

Two items I ordered today.

The samples sounded gorgeous, so I took my chances.

I was rather curious after different renditions of these works.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Hartmann, J.P.E. (1805-1900) Symphonies.

From my collection.
Purchase year: 2010.
First listen: 25-6-2010.
Second listen: 15-3-2018.
Label: Dacapo.
Recording dates: April/May 1996.
Venue: Danish Radio Concert Hall.
Engineer: Jørn Jacobson.
Playing time: 69:11.

Works on this CD:
Symphony No. 1 in G minor opus 17. (1836)
Symphony No. 2 in E major opus 48 (1848)

Performed by:
The Danish National Radio SO, Thomas Dausgaard.

From a compositional standpoint these symphonies are mature and musically strong works in every respect, without flaws whatsoever. Melodically inventive, with a huge creative input, scoring sublimely for every instrument in the orchestra. Hartmann knew how to keep such a structure together, plus there is an easy grace and flow in the music that endeared it to me right away.  I was amazed how much detail is written in both symphonies, and how much I heard due to the excellent engineering by Jørn Jacobson. Sunny music, with a small dose of drama, but predominantly it has a free flowing outlook created by a composer who also was a perfect orchestrator.
Romantic symphonies with a slight hint to modernity, and maybe to Mendelssohn.
Hartmann was forgotten by the Danish and utterly ignored and neglected in his lifetime and all this despite the fact that he was one of the best composers they had in their realm he is still almost forgotten.
Very much recommended.

Howells, Herbert. (1892-1983) Orchestral Works.

From my collection. (2010) Purchase year: 2010. First listen: 3-9-2010. Second listen: 19-3-2018. Label: Hyperion. Recording date: Febr...