MALIPIERO, G.F.: Impressioni dal vero / Pause del silenzio (Rome Symphony, La Vecchia)
It's always difficult to speak authoritatively about performances of unfamiliar music, but these works are so strange, so beautiful, and so remarkable that criticism is disarmed. Impressioni dal vero ("Impressions from life") consists of three, three-movement suites of strikingly colored, harmonically arresting, melodious music. The titles give some impression of these atmospheric pieces: Dialogue of Bells, The Cypresses and the Wind, The Woodpecker, and Festival in the Valley of Hell. "Haunting" is perhaps the best term to describe the music--it gets under your skin, and doesn't sound like anyone else.
Pause del silenzio ("Breaks in silence") consists of two suites, one of five movements and one consisting of seven brief episodes played continuously. There's an improvisatory quality to these pieces that makes them completely unpredictable, and yet somehow they work well together. Okay, let's forget about describing the impossible and turn instead to performances that sound remarkably confident and assured. The orchestra plays very well, conductor Francesco La Vecchia (as in his Casella series) leads with a masterly sense of pacing, and the sonics are excellent. This is just wonderful.
David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
MARTINU, B.: Symphonies Nos. 1-6 (BBC Symphony, Belohlavek)
“From the mystery and drama that start the First Symphony to a sense of suspense—never far and sometimes ratcheted to the kind of tension one would expect from a Hitchcock film—that pervades the journey, Martinu is there as narrative as well as pure sound world. It’s a riveting approach and the players deliver in spades.”
James Inverne, Gramophone
VICTORIA, T.L. de: Sacred Choral Music (Hail, Mother of the Redeemer) (The Sixteen, Christophers)
For the past 30 years Harry Christophers and his Sixteen choir have been reliable and often inspiring interpreters of Renaissance and Baroque choral music, whether putting their own stamp on the grossly familiar--Handel's Messiah--or introducing us to eminently worthy but obscure repertoire by such early English composers as Fayrfax, Browne, Davy, Lambe, Cornysh, and Carver. (My favorite Messiah remains a rarely-mentioned live performance on Erato from 1983 with The Sixteen and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra led by Ton Koopman.) This ensemble and conductor even ventured into 20th-century music several times, offering classic renditions of the choral works of Benjamin Britten, among other composers.
The Sixteen has tackled Victoria before, notably on its own Coro label, and here the choir shows once again its mastery of style and confident ensemble technique, savoring the rich harmonies and executing Victoria's reams of lovely lines with care for detail and requisite sensitivity to rhythm and dynamics in the shaping of phrases and cadences.
Although the Mass is the "big" piece, impressive as it is, for me highlights are the magnificent five-part motet Alma Redemptoris Mater, the intimate Ne timeas Maria, one of those rare, perfect marriages of text and music, and the joyous Gaude Maria, for which the singers give full measure of enthusiasm. The production, managed by legendary producer and engineer Mark Brown and Mike Hatch, was recorded at the very choral-friendly All Hallows Church in London. This is a must for every serious choral music library--and makes an excellent introduction to Victoria for those looking to explore the work of this inimitable Renaissance master.
David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I.: Symphony No. 6, "Pathetique" / MENDELSSOHN, Felix: A Midsummer Night's Dream: Overture (Philharmonia Orchestra, Mackerras)
(Signum Classics: SIGCD253)
The late, great Sir Charles Mackerras’s way with style shows itself in tiny details: the anticipatory intake of breath before the wistful second subject arrives, the hint of portamento in the phrasing of it. Then, in the zippy march, an exciting but almost infinitesimal ritardando into the final reprise, all guns blazing. The ache of the Adagio lamentoso is not wrung out of the string sound but rather is implicit in the harmony. The final surge, one feels, is where this music has been heading all along; and note how Mackerras clears the tutti sound to let those ugly grimaces in stopped horns come through.
“The late, great Sir Charles Mackerras’s way with style shows itself in tiny details: the anticipatory intake of breath before the wistful second subject arrives, the hint of portamento in the phrasing of it. Then, in the zippy march, an exciting but almost infinitesimal ritardando into the final reprise, all guns blazing. The ache of the Adagio lamentoso is not wrung out of the string sound but rather is implicit in the harmony. The final surge, one feels, is where this music has been heading all along; and note how Mackerras clears the tutti sound to let those ugly grimaces in stopped horns come through.”
Edward Seckerson, Gramophone