Respighi and Brahms CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE RAVES OVER JOHN WILSON'S RESPICHI AND RELISHES SIRODEAU'S BRAHMS



RESPIGHI: Sinfonia of London / Wilson (Chandos SACD CHSA 5262) ★★★★★

Hearing Respighi's complete Roman Trilogy at a CBSO concert in February I found it too much of a good thing. So it's a credit to the orchestra's tremendously skilful playing; the Chandos engineering team's "shut your eyes and you're there" production; and conductor John Wilson's complete mastery of the composer's sound palette, that I listened to this disc at one sitting – absolutely spellbound. It opens with Roman Festivals and we have a ringside seat at the gladiatorial Circus Maximus. The recording location was St Augustine's Church, Kilburn and every inch of its generous acoustic is exploited with brass fanfares echoing around the aural spectrum. There's floorboard-shaking bass as you can almost see the Roman legions marching along the Appian Way in Pines of Rome. Respighi can be delicate too – the water pictures in Fountains of Rome – with Wilson and his orchestra weaving and wafting these delicious sounds. An absolute winner.

Norman Stinchcombe


BRAHMS INTERMEZZI : Christophe Sirodeau (Melism MLS-CD-922) ★★★★

In the solo piano works the essential Brahms can be found in his late collections of short works, above all his Intermezzi. The French pianist Christophe Sirodeau selected fourteen of the eighteen which are found in Op. 76, Op. 116, Op. 117, Op. 118 and Op. 119. Brahms' musical advocate the Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick described the Op.117 Three Intermezzi as personal monologues, "pensive, graceful, dreamy, resigned, and elegiac". Sirodeau is an elegant and perceptive interpreter, guiding us through these enigmatic but beautiful works which Brahms stripped of rhetoric. The recording, made in the reverberant Eglise Evangelique in Paris, casts a hazy dream-like aural glow over the performances perfectly fitting for a piece like Op. 117 No. 1 which Brahms called a lullaby to his sorrows. There is turbulence too, the anguished central section of Op.118 No.2, but Sirodeau deftly guides us through to its final, sublime reconciliation. Immensely satisfying.

Norman Stinchcombe

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