Harty, Vivaldi/Piazzolla CD reviews


HARTY: Rudge / Glynn (Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0616) ★★★★

Fancy a sojourn in the Celtic twilight with its romantically windswept shores, love-lorn maidens, merry fiddlers and a distant view of the blue hills of Antrim? If so then this collection of twenty-three songs by Anglo-Irish composer Sir Hamilton Harty – sixteen of which are premiere recordings – will pleasantly while away a long summer evening. The British mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge has a powerful and flexible voice, able to command our attention at the doom-laden opening of Sea Wrack but refine it down for the ambiguous misty ending as she wonders whether the wrecked boat will eventually drift ashore. There's lightness too in the jolly Fiddler of Dooney and the easy-paced Scythe Song with Christopher Glynn's strumming piano. Harty was also an excellent accompanist and composer of piano miniatures, two of which, Idyll and Arlequin and Columbine, are charmingly played by Glynn. Full song texts are included for this intimately recorded disc.

Norman Stinchcombe

VIVALDI & PIAZZOLLA: Steinbacher / Munich Chamber Orchestra (Pentatone SACD PTC 5186 746) ★★★

Vivaldi's Four Seasons has become indissolubly linked with the words "Please hold the line" – as the call centre's favourite music-while-you-wait track. It's easy to forget what imaginative, colourful and exhilarating works they are. Arabella Steinbacher plays crisply and tastefully, directing the spritely Munich players and is captured in airy, vivid sound. It's also rather blandly phrased and doesn't have the excitement and flair of, for example, Nils Erik Sparf's Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble recording (Bis). Compare Steinbacher's rather cosy Winter with Sparf's howling winds and crackling fireside flames. She pairs Vivaldi with Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, one-movement concertos from 1970, originally for tango band but arranged here for orchestra. Typical Piazzolla – catchy, danceably rhythmic with an undertow of melancholy. A nice pairing undermined by the dubious decision to intersperse Piazzolla's pieces between the Vivaldi concertos. Listening to either composer's work straight through requires an annoying amount of button-pressing.

Norman Stinchcombe

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