Showing posts from March, 2021

Holy Week Bach review

A wonderful Holy Week Bach sequence reviewed by Christopher Morley PASSION AND PRECISION Lana Trotovsek and Tenebrae St John's, Smith Square, London From more than half a century of reviewing it would be difficult for me to recall anything more moving at this special time in the Christian church calendar than this Holy Week Festival presentation offered by St John's, Smith Square. The church ambience, subtly lit both by candles and soft lighting, allied to its perfect acoustic, provided a wonderful setting for this reflective Bach sequence, built around the movements of the D minor Partita for solo violin, interspersed by choral offerings of passion settings by the composer. In fact this was no choir, just an amazing vocal quartet from Tenebrae, pure of tone, easy in their phrasing, so alert to each other, and beautifully balanced. More of them later, when I come to the climax of this beautiful presentation. Lana Trotovsek was t

SIbelius Violin Concerto CD review

VIBRANT SIBELIUS VIOLIN CONCERTO FROM FENELLA HUMPHREYS SIBELIUS VIOLIN CONCERTO, HUMORESQUES Fenella Humphreys, BBC National Orchestra of Wales/George Vass (Resonus RES10277) For all its acknowledged stature, the Sibelius Violin Concerto is an elusive work, not always convincing in performance, with soloists overawed by its technical difficulties, conductors bogged down in the mud of Finnish forests. Not so here, in this vibrant recording from Fenella Humphreys, joined by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by George Vass. Humphreys has been a much-loved performer at Vass' Presteigne Festival for many years, and the trust and empathy between them are in abundance here in an account which takes our perceptions out of Scandinavia and out into the rest of Europe. Sibelius loved Italy, and Vass and his orchestra bring a sumptuous Mediterranean sound at times (think Walton Cello Concerto) to complement the Nordic chill elsewhere. And Humphreys is almost ope

Bartok, SImpson, Beethoven and Rachmaninov CD reviews by Norman Stinchcombe

LATEST CD REVIEWS FROM NORMAN STINCHCOMBE: BARTOK, SIMPSON, BEETHOVEN, RACHMANINOFF BARTOK: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Dausgaard ★★★★ The second volume in Onyx's series of Bartok's orchestral works brings us a bustling, bristling and blazing account of his ballet score The Miraculous Mandarin. Under conductor Thomas Dausgaard the orchestra tear into this fiercely imagined and grisly work with all the ferocity it demands. Censored when it appeared in the 1920s for its plot involving prostitution and murder it's often played in the suite Bartok devised to rescue it from obscurity. Dausgaard gives us the complete score plus thirty extra bars rescued by the composer's son Peter for the revised twenty-first century score – although you'll need one to notice the additions. Seedy the plot may be but not the music with Dausgaard conjuring up the weird sonorities for the Mandarin's resuscitation and pawky humour for the seductress's rejected clients. T

Hellensmusic review

A HEARTENING ONLINE CONCERT FROM HELLENSMUSIC HELLENSMUSIC Hellens, Much Marcle **** In recent years this haunted 1000-year-old manor house has become a much-visited venue for chamber concerts, but lockdown ended all that. Now, in its first appearance since then, Hellens has presented itself online. to much success. Adam Munthe, its genial owner, welcomed us hospitably, and astute camera-work focussed subsequently not only on the dexterity and personal expressions of the performers, but also on a few of the glories of the house itself. We were also let into the barn, where all Hellens live performances take place, and where here pianist Christian Blackshaw gave touching accounts of Mozart and Schubert, the latter's G-flat Impromptu warm and inward, textures beautifully balanced (though the online sound did the piano tone no favours). Blackshaw's Mozart D minor Fantasia was a tad controversial. This was beautifully articulated, and there was I (who know a bit

Latest CD reviews

SCHOENBERG, BACH AND VAUGHAN WILLIAMS CDs REVIEWED BY NORMAN STINCHCOMBE VERKLÄRTE NACHT : Skelton / Rice / BBC Symphony Orchestra / Gardner ★★★★★ Schoenberg's early masterpiece is the focal point, but what makes this intriguing disc such a rich musical experience are the lesser known pieces. Schoenberg's string sextet Verklärte Nacht ("Transfigured Night") was composed in 1899 but the later version for string orchestra is used here. Based on a poem by Richard Dehmel – controversial sexual politics pioneer – it's the essence of fervid late romanticism and the orchestra, under Edward Gardner, give us a performance rich and febrile blooming in the expansive Chandos recording. Schoenberg never set Dehmel's words but Oskar Fried did (1901) with mezzo Christine Rice and tenor Stuart Skelton outstanding in music that depicts the couple moving from dark despair to radiant love. Skelton also excels as the delirious soldier in the expressionistic Fieber (Fever)