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Highly Reviewed Recordings

June 13 - June 26, 2012



RACHMANINOV, S.: Caprice bohemien / Vocalise / Symphony No. 3 (Petrenko)
(EMI Classics: 5099967901951)


RACHMANINOV, S.: Caprice bohemien / Vocalise / Symphony No. 3 (Petrenko)

If you regard Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony as a decadent, nostalgic remnant of Czarist Russia, then you really should hear this performance. The music couldn’t sound fresher, lighter, or more modern. It’s not that Vasily Petrenko slights those lush, romantic elements, but he certainly doesn’t dwell on them either. His handling of the “tempo rubato” second subject of the first movement is typical, and I offer a sample below. If you like it, then buy this recording. One thing is certain: there isn’t a dull moment anywhere is this performance. The music surges, flows, and dances, with an urgency and lightness that you won’t believe possible.

One other aspect of the interpretation deserves mention, and it’s an important one. It concerns dynamics. So many performances make heavy weather out of the start of the finale: the “bull in a vodka shop” approach. It’s actually very interesting, but if you consult the score (now readily available thanks to Boosey & Hawkes in a nicely printed popular edition) it’s fascinating to note that Rachmaninov’s indicated dynamics are actually only mezzo-forte in the brass, and Petrenko takes great care to ensure that the indicated volume is observed, and that the string articulation is accordingly light and bouncy. The result has a remarkable dance-like quality that’s wholly convincing.

As for the rest of the disc, the presence of Vocalise was inevitable, but the Caprice bohémien is a delightful work, far too little known, and it’s as splendidly played as the symphony. EMI’s engineers do everyone proud. If you’ve been collecting Petrenko’s Naxos recordings, you know just how well the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic plays for him, and so the general excellence of this release will come as no surprise. This is definitely a distinctive view of Rachmaninov, a breath of fresh air, and a nice complement to more traditional approaches.

David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com




ELGAR, E.: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 / Introduction and Allegro / Elegy / 5 Military Marches, "Pomp and Circumstance" (Watkins)
(Chandos: CHAN10709)


ELGAR, E.: Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 / Introduction and Allegro / Elegy / 5 Military Marches, (Excerpt)

This is an excellent disc which I’ve enjoyed greatly. The playing of the BBC Philharmonic is excellent, reminding us – if we needed to be reminded – that Manchester has two first class symphony orchestras. They’re directed and energised by one of the leading Elgar conductors of the present moment. Add to that a splendid soloist in the Cello Concerto and you have a distinguished release. The performances are reported in excellent Chandos sound, which has all the presence and detail that one expects from this label. Incidentally, this is the first CD I’ve heard from the BBC Philharmonic since they moved into their new home at MediaCity UK in Salford. The name of the new venue may be dreadful but it seems that the studio in which the orchestra now plays produces good results. I have the impression, on a first hearing, that the acoustic is somewhat more ample than was the case in their former home at Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, where the sound was very immediate. In the new venue there appears to be a bit more space around the sound of the orchestra.

John Quinn, Musicweb-International




Choral Music (Canadian) - CORLIS, T. / ENNS, L. / TIEFENBACH, P. / WATSON HENDERSON, R. (I Saw Eternity) (Elora Festival Singers, Edison)
(Naxos: 8.572812)


Choral Music (Canadian) - CORLIS, T. / ENNS, L. / TIEFENBACH, P. / WATSON HENDERSON, R. (I Saw Eternity) (Elora Festival Singers, Edison) (Excerpt)

The sweetest setting, of the Nunc Dimittis, or Song of Simeon, traditionally part of Anglican Evensong, was commissioned from Toronto’s Peter Tiefenbach in 2003. It comes with a simple, atmospheric piano accompaniment elegantly rendered by Leslie De’Ath. (Other accompanists on the album are organist Michael Bloss, cellist John Marshman and clarinettist Stephen Pierre.)

The other commissions are equally successful: Bless the Lord for the Good Land, an affecting anthem from 2000 by Mark Sirett; Timothy Corlis’s To See the Cherry Hung With Snow, from 2007; and an arresting, chilling setting of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence created in 2005 by Craig Galbraith.

Among the pieces programmed from long-established Canadian choral specialists are a colourful setting of Psalm 23 (The Lord is My Shepherd) by Imant Raminsch and “Remember,” one of Stephen Chatman’s Rosetti Songs.

It’s such a pleasure to be able to celebrate fine choral music, gloriously well sung, that also happens to be Canadian.

Musical Toronto




HAYNES, B.: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 7-12 (after J.S. Bach) (Milnes)
(ATMA Classique: ACD22565)


HAYNES, B.: Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 7-12 (after J.S. Bach) (Milnes)

Bach, Nouveau “Brandebourgeois” Reconstitution by Bruce Haynes performed by Bande Montreal Baroque under Eric Milnes (Atma).Something a little new and wildly ingenious here. Since (A) Bach had absolutely nothing whatsoever against transcribing his own and others’ music for other musical forces and (B), a large quantity of the music Bach left at his death was lost to history, why not believe that one of the eternal classical masterpieces the world now knows as Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos was just part of a huge stock of lost Bach concertos that may have numbered as many as 100? And further, why not believe they can be simulated by taking movements from Bach’s Cantatas, transcribing vocal lines for the instrumental forces familiar from the Brandenburgs and present the whole merrily synthetic thing as “Nouveau Brandebourgeois” concertos? The Brandenburgs they’re not, but you’ll be joyfully surprised by how plausible these synthetic Bach pieces are. Good fun, as all such inventiveness should be.

Jeff Simon, BuffaloNews.com









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