Canteloube, Benda and Korngold releases reviewed by Norman Stinchcombe

CANTELOUBE, BENDA AND KORNGOLD CDs REVIEWED BY NORMAN STINCHCOMBE CANTELOUBE 'Chants d'Auvergne': Sampson / Tapiola Sinfonietta / Rophé ★★★★★ Canteloube's exquisitely spruced-up and polished versions of folk songs from the Auvergne region have been well-served on disc and Carolyn Sampson's is one of the best. Her voice doesn't have the rich, creamy quality of Kiri Te Kanawa on her complete Decca set – for languorous beauty her 'Baïlèro' is unmatched – but Sampson's lightness and clarity (in 'Lo fiolairé' for example) are very rewarding. So too is her vivid characterization, whether as a lusty farmer's daughter or the dreamy shepherdess of 'La pastoura als camps'. Sampson selected twenty-five songs from Canteloube's fives series. She ensures that the many slow songs, like 'Pastourelle' and 'Brezairola', aren't blandly alike. She's aided by the alert and piquant playing of the Tapiola band under


WONDERFUL GERSHWIN AND RACHMANINOV FROM JOHN WILSON AND THE CBSO JOHN WILSON CONDUCTS THE CBSO Symphony Hall ***** Word has spread like wildfire over jungle drums that the CBSO is playing at the top of its even more than normally tremendous form. Combine this with an appearance by the wonderful conductor John Wilson in one of the orchestra's highly popular matinee concerts and you can put your money on a packed Symphony Hall such as we hearteningly experienced on Wednesday. The welcome this modest man received was long, warm and genuine from musicians and punters alike. One can understand why the players love him. He is so obviously well-prepared, rehearses meticulously, and yet brings a spark of spontaneity, perhaps in the nuanced moulding of a phrase, to his elegant, economical and crystal-clear platform manner. And he never seems to break sweat! Wilson is perhaps most renowned in the public perception for his brilliant direction of film scores and stage musicals. N

Saint-Saens, Purcell and Mozart CDs reviewed

A MAMMOTH SAINT-SAENS SET PLUS PURCELL AND MOZART REVIEWED BY NORMAN STINCHCOMBE SAINT-SAËNS EDITION: Various artists ★★★★ This bumper 34 CD box set includes 600 works and contains many fine recordings with French performers dominating. The five symphonies are in the safe hands of conductor Jean Martinon with soloist Marie-Claire Alan in No.3 the Organ symphony. The five piano concertos are elegantly handled by Jean-Philippe Collard, with the RPO under Previn, in fine EMI digital 1980s sound. The violin concertos are equally good with Renaud Capuçon amongst the soloists. 'Samson et Dalila' appears twice: the magnificent 1963 recording under Prêtre with toweringly heroic Jon Vickers and magisterial Rita Gorr and a 1946 recording under Fourestier, smaller scale but more idiomatically French. Chamber and solos works are catered for and you can hear the composer on a 1919 acoustic recording. N.B. The Piano Quintet (disc 15 track 8) is marred by a mastering error. Purchase

Ex Cathedra review November 21

EX CATHEDRA JOURNEYS BACK TO ITS ROOTS EX CATHEDRA CONSORT Birmingham Town Hall ***** Earlier this week, Ex Cathedra received welcome news that they had been granted an award from the Government's Culture Recovery Fund. On tonight's evidence, I can see why: here was a carefully curated selection of English polyphony performed to the highest of standards by thirteen Ex Cathedra singers, including some current and former members of their choral scholarship programme. Billed as "Our First Love", this was a personal journey by conductor and founder of Ex Cathedra, Jeffrey Skidmore, through the music of his and the choir's roots: the golden age of the English Renaissance. The concert opener was Thomas Tallis's 'Lamentations of Jeremiah I' – the first item they sang in their inaugural concert of 1969 – its gently poised melodic lines emerging sensitively from the musical tapestry, fluidly paced by Skidmore throughout. Other items by Tallis inc

CBSO Cunning Little Vixen review

HUGE SYMPHONY TO NATURE THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN CBSO at Symphony Hall Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen is a huge symphony to nature in operatic guise, and this utterly absorbing and enchanting semi-staged performance from a wonderfully attuned CBSO made me more aware of the anguished subtext than I ever have been in the many productions I have seen. Written by Janacek towards the end of his life, the opera poignantly sets the eternal cycle of nature's renewal in relief against the human condition's inexorable progress towards regretful decay. Nowhere is this juxtaposition more heartbreakingly obvious than in the very final scene, where the world-weary Forester, warmly and compellingly sung by Roland Wood, recoils at the annoying return of a "clammy little bugger" of a frog. "No, sir," pipes up the frog, "That was my grandfather." The frog was charmingly played by Ben Fletcher, his colleague children from Trinity Boys Choir an

Cello, Prokofiev and Candide CDs reviewed

NEW CDs REVIEWED, INCLUDING A SPARKLING CANDIDE BRITISH SOLO CELLO MUSIC: Isserlis / Momen ★★★★ The lockdown encouraged solo performers to do something slightly different. Steven Isserlis has recorded a personal disc which his entertaining anecdotal notes greatly enrich. His affectionate sketch of the eccentric Frank Merrick – the 17-year-old Isserlis often visited the 90-year-old's home – makes his performance of the Handelian 'Suite in the eighteenth century style' come alive in its first recording What a delightful work it is, the 'Air' and seven dance movements ranging, in Isserlis's words. "from the cheeky to the poignant". Britten's Cello Suite No.3 – written for Rostropovich – is more substantial, tinged with meditations on mortality with Isserlis's' playing particularly trenchant. It's a bonus to hear him in its four Russian folk themes, a helpful listening aid, where he is accompanied by pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen.

Cecil Aranonwitz International Viola Competition

ZOOM IN ON THE ARONQWITZ VIOLA COMPETITION CECIL ARONOWITZ INTERNATIONAL VIOLA COMPETITION Bradshaw Hall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire **** Music-lovers the world over have been zooming into Royal Birmingham Conservatoire all week, watching the triennial holding of the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition. Named after the great South African violist who became such a presence in this country, the competition was locked-down last year, and the accumulation of entries for its resuscitation now totalled no fewer than 93 hopefuls. 40 applicants were selected to perform in the competition, but Covid flight precautions prevented 16 from attending, with a total of 24 performing in the preliminary rounds, streamed online. Three contestants made it through to Friday's final, watched by nearly 6000 aficionados worldwide as well as by an enthusiastic live audience here in the Bradshaw Hall: the UK's Edgar Francis, Haneul Park from South Korea, and Noga Shaham f