Friday, March 24, 2017

Holbrooke, Josef. (1878-1958) Symphonic Poems. Top recommendation.

From my collection.
Bought in 2011.
First listen: 1-4-2011.
Second listen: 24-3-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: August 2008.
Recording venue: Konzerthalle "C.P.E. Bach, Frankfurt/Oder, Germany.
Recording engineer: Matthias Schurz.
Running time: 56:26.
Classical relevance to me: Absolutely essential.

Works performed:
Amontillado, Dramatic overture, opus 123.
The Viking, Poem No. 2 for orchestra, opus 32.
Three blind mice, Symphonic variations on an old English air, opus 37, No. 1.
Ulalume, Poem No. 3 for orchestra, opus 35.

Performed by:
Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester, Frankfurt, Howard Griffiths.

Did you ever had the urge to applaud ferociously after listening to a CD? No? Well today this happened to me, and for the fun of it I shouted loudly Bravo!
Josef Holbrooke is an unknown composer to most of us. Even I did not hear of him. By chance I found a CD with his works on CPO, but after listening once it gathered dust, as so many of my huge piles of CD'S. I am going through these piles to single out the ones that I already played more as once, and put them in the listening queue, for the last time. Holbrooke however had just one play, but I decided to make this the last CD of today. I can tell you that I fell from amazement into admiration, and felt like being on an adventurous expedition. 
This man writes music that captures your imagination in one sweep of a few notes. He is so deliciously different from any English composer I know, that it is utterly refreshing to dip my senses into what Holbrooke has to offer, and that is much. His writing style is unique, for I could not find comparisons in other composers from his time. His writing for Brass is amazing, his awareness in applying dynamics is devastatingly beautiful, and the way he is putting everything together utterly unique!
Never mind which piece you take first, it all bears the same stamp. Surprise after surprise, harmonies beyond believe, and melodies that will haunt you through the day and weeks to come.
His is a tonal world, with some appropriate modernness, but always in perfect synch.  I will forthwith try to find more recordings of his work, and am grateful for any pointer towards them.
You get State of the Art sound with capital letters! This orchestra is fully up to the task, and Griffiths is enjoying himself immensely.
You can find through Wikipedia all the info you need about this composer and his works.
For me to say, go get this CD.

Röntgen, Julius. (1855-1932) Orchestral Works. Symphony No. 8 & 15.

From my collection.
Bought in 2009.
First listen: 30-7-2009.
Second listen: 23-11-2009.
Third listen: 24-3-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: March/October 2006.
Recording venue: Großer Sendesaal des Landesfunkhausen, Niedersachsen, Germany.
Recording engineer: Björn Brigsne.
Running time: 69:29.
Classical relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No 8 in C sharp minor.
No 15 in F sharp minor.
Variationen über eine Norwegische Volksweise.

Performed by:
NDR Radiophilharmonie, David Porcelijn.
Carmen Fuggiss, soprano.

Julius Röntgen is without a doubt my number 1 composer from Dutch soil. Whatever this man is composing, it's always worthwhile. Of all the CD'S I have with his music, not one of them disappoints. The richness with which he writes is couched in a warm romantic bad, without getting overly sentimental. The sweetness is just a tinge on the tongue, just right to get a good taste. As a orchestrator he might be seen as one of the very best, and if it comes to catchy tunes, and satisfying melodies, he is your man. He can go deep, and comes up as quickly, just to show that on the surface there are also gems to be got. A brilliant composer who shows his genius immediately in the 8th symphony. It is in one movement and fluently written, encompassing all moods and emotions. He uses a soprano in this work, and she sings without words, and little vibrato. Well integrated into the framework of this symphony, she adds a welcome addition to the faery like moments in the Lento. She is perfectly woven into this work, thank God I would say. One of Röntgen's best works.
The 15th symphony is a bit more earthbound, but not so much as to say it's robust. Again all the means he commands out of his creative mind is given in the service of projecting a well balanced work so characteristically in his oeuvre. It's a colourful trip through what is possible in the hands of a master. A great work. The variations are unashamedly romantic in character, and the sweetness is as nourishing as honey. Pastoral in many places, but not without one or two wake up calls. Is a well balanced work, expertly written. 
The sound is almost State of the Art, and the performance is certainly a reference one.

Janáček, Leoš. (1854-1928) Orchestral Works. Reference recording (Performance)

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 17-3-2010.
Second listen: 24-3-2017.
Label: Hyperion.
Recording dates: June 2004 & January 2005.
Recording venue: Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland.
Recording engineer: Simon Eadon.
Running time: 59:54.
Classical relevance to me: Essential for the last 3 works of this CD.

Works performed:
The Eternal Gospel, Legend for Soprano, tenor, chorus and orchestra.
The Ballad of Blaník.
The Fiddler's child, ballad for Violin and orchestra.
The excursions of Mr. Brouček, Suite for orchestra.

Performed by:
BBC scottish SO, Ilan Volkov.
Elizabeth Layton, Violin.

When I bought this CD in 2010, the works performed were new to me. Now after almost 7 years of gathering dust, I familiarize myself again with 3 fantastic works. I forgot how good they are, and what a wealth of creativity from the hands of this composer. It does not matter which work you choose to listen to, it is apparent that these are not simply easy going pieces, but they are extraordinarily wrought into masterworks. As simple as that. I was utterly stunned by the Fiddler's Child, and blown away by The Excursions....The writing is sublime, the pacing perfect, and the expression beyond believe. The best Janácek I have heard so far. Would love more of this. But all falls and stands with the orchestra and soloists, so I am happy to say that think them reference performances. Furthermore it is a State of the Art recording. Very much recommended.
I did not sample the Eternal Gospel, this configuration is not for me I am afraid.

Rózsa, Miklós. (1907-1995) Orchestral Works, Volume I.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 24-4-2010.
Second listen: 8-3-2011.
Third listen: 24-3-2017.
Label: Chandos.
Recording dates: January 2008.
Recording venue: Studio 7, New broadcasting House, Manchester, England.
Recording engineer: Stephen Rinker.
Running time: 74:46.
Classical relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works performed:

Overture to a Symphony Concert, opus 26a. (1956, revised 1963) to Eugene Zador.
Three Hungarian Sketches, opus 14. (1938, revised 1958) for full orchestra.
Tripartita, opus 33. (1971, revised 1972) for orchestra.
Hungarian Serenade, opus 25. (1932, revised 1946) for small orchestra.

Performed by: 
BBC Philharmonic, Rumon Gamba.

I always admired Rózsa for his unbridled artistry, and genius of orchestration. No doubt he belonged to the best of them in his time. There is not a single works that falls below this high level of creativity. His works are always propulsive, energized to the max, and brimfull the picturesque ideas. His music is at times raw and uncensored, driven and unrelenting, but knows as much pastoral and spiritual moments. Never boring, always surprising, and technically perfect. The overture dedicated to Eugene Zador, whom I admire also, and of which I have several ideas, is stunning in it's conception, and I am sure Zador would have loved it. I think it is the strongest work on this disc. But then I love all what is on offer. Rarely he steps out of tonality. A bit stretched here and there but not much.
The recording is of Chandos quality, so very good. The performance could not be better.

Smetana, Bedřich. (1824-1884) Incidental music from his Operas. Volume II.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 24-3-2010
Second listen: 11-3-2011.
Third listen: 24-3-2017.
Label: Chandos.
Recording dates: October 2008.
Recording venue: Studio 7, BBC Broadcasting House, Manchester, England.
Recording engineer: Stephen Rinker.
Running time: 72:33.
Classical relevance: Well worth having.

Works performed:
See front booklet.

Performed by: BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda.

I bought this CD together with other Chandos CD'S in a sale, which does not occur on a regular basis. Chandos keeps out of the way in discounting the price of their productions. This time I was lucky I guess. Well Smetana's incidental music from his many operas. I do not listen to opera, but I am quite happy to listen to the instrumental music out of these works. And this disc is full of it. I almost never heard any of the music, so after all the years of gathering dust, they were still new to me. I like the sublime writing, so full of joy, drama, and reference to lost and gained love. All lovingly played by this orchestra in fine Chandos sound. One day I must get the other volumes of this series. 73:00 minutes is a long stretch, but I took it all in one gulp, and reckoned that this was a tad to much in one hearing, for my thoughts wandered. Nothing to do with the quality of the music, probably the mesmerizing effect of the notes.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Vecchi, Orazio. (1550-1605( Requiem. Ruben's funeral and the Antwerp Baroque.

New acquisition.
New release 2017.
Bought in March 2017.
First listen: 23-3-2017.
Label: Glossa.
Recording dates: February 2016.
Recording venue: Church of Saint Rémi, Franc-Waret, Belgium.
Recording engineer: Alexandre Fostier.
Running time: 67:00.
Classical relevance to me: Essential.

Works performed:

Orazio Vecchi.
Requiem-Missa pro defunctis.
The Libera me Domine a 8, at the end of the requiem was written by Paolo Bravusi. (1586-1630)
( in: Missae senis et octonis vocibus: Phalèse II, Antwerp 1578)

George de la Hèle. (1547-1586)
Kyrie a 6.
Sanctus a 6.
Agnus Dei a 6 & 7.
From Missa praeter rerum seriem; in: Octo missae, Plantin, Antwerp 1578.

Pedro Ruimonte, (1565-1627)
Agnus Dei (a 5&6) from: Missa ave virgo sanctissima; in: Missae sex IV.V.VI. Vocum, Phalèse II Antwerp 1604.

Duarte Lobo. (c.1565-1646)
Agnus Dei (a 4&5)
From: Missa Dum aurora; in: Liber LL missarum, Plantin, Antwerp 1639.

Performed by:
Graindelavoix, Björn Schmelzer.

A new release from Graindelavoix, and as per usual a good one. This ensemble gets a lot of positive reviews, but also attracts conservatives if it comes to performance practice. It's good for the intellectual balance I guess, but in the end your ears decide. My ears and musical knowledge say that it is good to have a refreshing wind blowing through the quarters of old. There are many ways in which to perform renaissance music, for neither of us know how it was performed. The singing of this ensemble is impeccable, they cannot be flawed in any way in the balance they create, the dynamics they apply, or the way they sing these works. This and much more is perfect.
As to the compositions on this CD, Schmelzer has some sensible things to say in how and why, essential reading before listening I might add. It is also a good idea to look on Wikipedia and read about all 4 composers on this disc. It is necessary for the preparation in understanding the music. I found some very useful information that helped me considerably to make loose ends meet.
As to the performance, well it's breathtaking. The total harmony and fluency, coupled with a state of the art recording, creates a virtual heaven of pure music. Every single voice blends, yet they melt into one sound, but every voice is distinguishable. The acoustics of the church give it a spiritual boost, and adds warmth and a sense of deep commitment. Should you have this recording. Absolutely, unless you disagree with all that schmelzer stands for.
Firmly recommended.

Winter, von Peter. (1754-1825) Orchestral works.

From my collection.
Bought in 2012.
First listen: 25-10-2012.
Second listen: 1-11-2012.
Third listen: 23-3-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: January 2009.
Recording venue: BR München, Studio 1, Germany.
Recording engineer: Not mentioned.
Running time: 56:08.
Classical relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works performed:
Sinfonia No. 1 in D major.
Ouverture à grand Orchestre opus 24 in C minor.
From: Six Entr'Actes, No. 3/5/6.
Sinfonia O opus in D major. "Schweriner".

Performed by:
Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Johannes Moesus.
Soloists in the Entr'Actes:
Christiane Dohn, Flute.
Jürgen Evers, Oboe.
Michael Weigel, Bassoon.

He was one of the most productive and versatile composers of all times. His name was famous throughout Europe, from Russia to France, and from Italy to England. He was elevated to the nobility. His burial cortege was like a royal funeral procession. But none of this could keep Peter von Winter from quickly and completely falling into oblivion.
Was that deserved? No, of course not, but it happened anyway.
He was considered in the 19th century as on equal footing with the likes of, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven and Weber. And do I think this to be true? Well his music is distinguished by a characteristically captivating swing and a colourful orchestration. All is finely balanced in tone colour and transparently instrumented, a brilliant orchestrator, his work has a unifying outlook, and a blending of instinctive and formal sureness, which you find throughout the works on this disc. If you need sampling, just go to the entr'Actes, which is brilliantly written, and a demonstration work of how good a composer he actually was. This strain of quality writing is part and parcel of his compositions. A unique voice? Yes, but not without its influences from the named composer earlier in this review. You will only notice this in the technical part, melodically and emotionally, this is prime von Winter.
The recording is good, with enough detail, and a good stage image. The orchestra could have done with smaller forces, but they do a perfectly good job.

Holbrooke, Josef. (1878-1958) Symphonic Poems. Top recommendation.

From my collection. Bought in 2011. First listen: 1-4-2011. Second listen: 24-3-2017. Label: CPO. Recording dates: August 2008. Record...