Latest CD reviews: Prokofiev, Poulenc, Durufle

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE ENTHUSES OVER NEW PROKOKIEV, POULENC AND DURUFLE RELEASES PROKOFIEV BY ARRANGEMENT: Kalnits & Chaplina ★★★★ Prokofiev always had the knack of writing a catchy tune, even before Stalin's cultural commissars made it compulsory. Here Yuri Kalnits (violin) and Yulia Chaplina (piano) perform arrangements of thirty-seven of his miniature melodies which range from an energetic little tarantella composed when he was ten-years-old to the luscious Diamond Waltz from his ballet The Stone Flower which he was still working on at his death in 1953. At the heart of the disc is Visions Fugitives, a twenty-movement suite from 1915-17. Looking back on it in 1950 Prokofiev said that he wanted to combine the lyric, jocose and motoric elements of his style with some slightly daring harmonies. Originally for piano Viktor Derevianko's 1980 transcription works a treat while Kalnits and Chaplina capture all its diverse elements. Famous fiddlers' transcriptions are her

Sinfonia of Birmingham excels in Warwick

A STUNNING SINFONIA CONCERT IN SUN-BATHED ST MARY'S, WARWICK SINFONIA OF BIRMINGHAM St Mary's Church, Warwick **** Glorious evening sunshine glinting through the windows onto mellow ancient stonework is one thing, but its direct shining into the eyes of some of the orchestra members was undoubtedly quite a challenge – but one to which the players rose heroically (no doubt inspired by the symphony under performance, Beethoven's Eroica). This was the final offering in a concert from the excellent Sinfonia of Birmingham, the final offering in what has been a remarkably successful Warwick and Leamington Midsummer Music Festival. Orchestral tone was rich in this soaring acoustic, the building's very spaciousness perhaps the cause of the few examples of imprecise ensemble, conductor Michael Seal secured a wide range of dynamics (some remarkable pianissimi) and articulation throughout this perforcedly short evening, and had obviously rehearsed so meticulous

COSI FAN TUTTE. Longborough Festival Opera **** (July 4)

Or “Women are Human” in this radical approach to Mozart’s notorious opera of fiancee-swapping and Age of the Enlightenment cynicism. Some might take a bit of convincing in accepting the parameters of this decidedly controversial production, but I can assure them that, but for a few flaws, it works very much of the time. Longborough has long been ahead of the game, and in its two-fingered approach to all the pandemic strictures it built a big top of a performing arena, an acoustic baffle above, and arranging socially-distanced audience seats (admittedly not very comfortable) around a circular stage. And this presentation went one step further, making a virtue of the necessity of social distancing for the performers by having them hold and sing to classically-sculpted heads for their most emotional moments. But that was just one brilliant touch in director Sam Browne’s novel take upon this normally set-in-stone masterpiece. It took us quite a time to get our heads round what were scarcel

COULL QUARTET Holy Trinity Church, Leamington

                                                  COULL QUARTET                                         Holy Trinity Church, Leamington Richard Phillips and Leamington Music have achieved epic triumphs in bringing live music back into our lives, and the miraculous existence of the Warwick and Leamington Midsummer Festival, running at various locations in the two towns for well over a fortnight, is a tribute to the team’s enterprise and tenacity. A highlight event here were the two concerts delivered by the popular, long-time local Coull Quartet on the evening of July 1, the second of which featured the String Quartet no.10 by Robert Simpson, Leamington-born, and with this year marking his centenary. This substantial three-movement work was composed for the Coull’s tenth anniversary, and dedicated to them “in friendship”. It bears the subtitle “For Peace”, and indeed much of the piece is slow-moving, never quite serene, and ultimately consolatory in acceptance, gracefully luminous as it

CBSO and Julian Anderson premiere

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY REVIEWS AN ABSOLUTELY AMAZING CBSO CONCERT CBSO Symphony Hall ***** Gradually music's coming home, and the CBSO is playing a huge part in restoring our musical experience to near-"normal". With the assistance and co-operation of Symphony Hall (a venue now revealing further versatilities) it has been treating us to concerts performed by a full-size symphony orchestra -- no worthy, well-meaning reductions here. Recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast two days later, the programme on Wednesday June 30 was an absolute joy, bringing a gem of a UK premiere and a richly satisfying account of a great Dvorak symphony under the baton of a conductor with whom I think everyone on both sides of the footlights has fallen in love. The premiere was a co-commission from the CBSO originally designed as one of the many premieres celebrating its centenary last year, and this was a celebration of a different sort, marking the rebirth of live music to an enthusiast

CBSO/Mirga Weinberg, Mahler review

WEINBERG DISSECTED CBSO Symphony Hall **** After the disappointment of last week's concert having to be Covid-cancelled it was good to return to the CBSO, and to welcome back principal conductor Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla for a Mahler sandwich, his Ruckert-Lieder tucked between two slices of Weinberg. Mirga and the CBSO have made something of a speciality of Mieczyslaw Weinberg in recent years, revealing his music to the British public, and winning a Gramophone "Record of the Year" accolade in the process. They began here with his Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, written with a view to pacifying the populist diktats of Stalin's policies towards the arts, and immediately attractive in its vivid use of folk-material. The CBSO have done wonders in accommodating a socially-distanced full orchestra on the versatile, capacious Symphony Hall stage, and it was just so good to hear a full complement of low strings digging darkly into the music's opening (for all

Sibelius, Mozart and James Joyce CDs reviewed

SIBELIUS, MOZART AND JAMES JOYCE CDs REVIEWED BY NORMAN STINCHCOMBE SIBELIUS: Davidsen / Bergen Philharmonic / Gardner ★★★★★ Opera's shooting star Lise Davidsen gives a stupendous performance of Sibelius's Luonnotar. For sheer beauty Söderström and Isokoski excel the Norwegian soprano but Davidsen turns this orchestral song into a miniature opera, inhabiting the mythical sky-maiden who helps to nurture the world into existence. Soaring, desolate and exultant by turn, moods realized in burnished tone. Edward Gardner unleashes his impressive Bergen players knowing that Davidsen can ride the waves of sound. Wow. It's a hard act to follow but Gardner almost succeeds in Sibelius's final tone-poemTapiola, depicting the deity of the forest, giving us every musical and emotional transformation of the theme with lashings of detail and no skimping. It's impressive, but Karajan's magisterial '60s Berlin recording captures the trees and the wood. In the Pelléa