SIBELIUS: Tone Poems
Alexander Gibson’s Sibelius recordings for Chandos represent the high point of his career on disc, and none is finer than this set of tone poems, an excellent value as reissued at a twofer price. Several of the performances here never have been bettered. Luonnotar features the sensational Phyllis Bryn-Julson, whose breath control, accuracy of pitch and evenness across registers delivers thrilling results…culminating in a mystical, luminous conclusion quite unlike any other. Here, and also in Oceanides, Gibson paces the music ideally, with perfectly timed climaxes, giving both works the effortless feeling of movement and organic unfolding that remains the hallmark of Sibelius’ symphonic writing.
Gibson’s swift and gripping Tapiola (why is it often played so much more slowly today?) also stands among the best, as does this primal and atmospheric account of En Saga, again featuring extremely exciting climaxes and a commanding control of musical architecture.
- By David Hurwitz © 2013 ClassicsToday.com>
BLOCH, E.: Schelomo / BRIDGE, F.: Oration / HOUGH, S.: The Loneliest Wilderness (In the Shadow of War) (Isserlis, Wolff, Takacs-Nagy) (Pike, Poster, Doric String Quartet)
…Isserlis’s spellbinding advocacy of Bridge’s raptly compassionate masterpiece in particular has acquired an extra richness of experience and plangent intensity (the epilogue will haunt you for days, I promise). At the same time, there’s no missing the songful ardour, story-telling flair and subtle poetic instinct he brings to Bloch’s fabulously idiomatic solo writing. With Hugh Wolff drawing the most stylish, characterful and responsive playing from his Berlin forces, both performances really are tremendously compelling in their articulate composure, nourishing intelligence and clear-sighted purpose…this fervent newcomer demands to be heard.
- By Andrew Achenbach © 2013 Gramophone
ONSLOW, G.: Cello Sonatas, Op. 16, Nos. 1-3 (Kliegel, Tichmann)
The three cello sonatas on offer here show a sure-handed mastery of cello idiom (Onslow played the instrument) and a facility for composition that gives equal voice and musical interest to both cello and piano…these are substantial works as demanding technically to the performer as they are immediately attractive to the ear of the listener.
…all of this is realized by two very competent and obviously devoted performers, cellist Maria Kliegel and pianist Nina Tichman, who work together in stylistic accord and with just enough individual interpretive freedom to ensure a lively interactive dynamic.
- By David Vernier © 2013 ClassicsToday.com
BRITTEN, B.: Rape of Lucretia (The) (Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble, Knussen)
(Virgin Classics: 5099960267252)
Most of the times I’ve come across Oliver Knussen he has been conducting his own work, but here he shows that he is a Britten interpreter par excellence. He directs the unfolding action with a masterful ear for building and distilling tension. He is helped by a crack team of Aldeburgh musicians who seem to hold the music up to the light to let it sparkle. Britten wrote the piece for a chamber ensemble, and each of the thirteen musicians are named and credited in the booklet. They do a great job of illuminating this most transparent of Britten scores, allowing each of the instrumental lines to shine. Britten’s effects come across brilliantly, nowhere better than in the opening scene with the harp for the twittering crickets and the pizzicato glissandi on the bass for the croaking of the bullfrogs. However, they are also capable of conjuring up the onward progress of the narrative, and moments of excitement such as Tarquin’s ride move with convincing sweep.
The singers are also an excellent team, anchored by the male and female chorus. Ian Bostridge, surely the modern day heir to Pears, sings his lines with energy and passion. He has as fine an ear for the drama as for the musical line, and he isn’t above resorting to a snarl to make the dramatic point.
Angelika Kirchschlager sings Lucretia with a tone of wounded virtue that puts me in mind of Janet Baker. Her portrayal of stolen innocence is powerful and beautiful.
- By Simon Thompson © 2013 MusicWeb International
BACH, J.S.: Violin Concertos, BWV 1041, 1042 / Concerto for 2 Violins, BWV 1043 / Concerto for 3 Violins (after BWV 1064) (Freiburg Baroque Orchestra)
(Harmonia Mundi: HMC902145)
Here we have a couple of virtuosos…who with their expert ensemble colleagues treat us to Bach as it should be done: straightforward, no mussing and fussing with stylistic mannerisms and extremes of tempo, and a magnetic attraction and keen ability to exploit the particular features of each work’s rhythmic/thematic signature, features that are immediately evident from the very first measure. The bold, dynamic opening of the A minor requires a matching confidence and assertiveness from the soloist (and orchestra), and a similar approach to the unbridled, straight-out-of-the-gate surge at the beginning of the D minor that leaves no doubt where it’s headed, unstopped, to the finish. Similar attributes mark the themes and rhythmic character of the E major and the three-violin D major concerto realization.
Here’s another sure-fire entry whose performances and production values make it an easy choice among the dozens of contenders.
- By David Vernier © 2013 ClassicsToday.com