Bruckner, Handel and Flute CD reviews


BRUCKNER SYMPHONY no.6: BBC Philharmonic/Mena

Want a great recording of major Bruckner's symphony from No.3 to No.9? Not a problem – except for No.6. It's amazing how many disappointing recordings of it there are. That this one has lain in Chandos's vaults for nine years doesn't bode well. Indeed it's a curate's egg – good in parts. The symphony's morse-code opening on high strings underpinned by an ominous bass line suggests stirring events to come. Mena and his fine orchestra largely deliver with playing of weight and power – genuinely Majestoso – but one feels that they are still on the leash, that a little more impetus is needed. That feeling becomes manifest in the second movement where Mena takes Bruckner's sehr (very) to qualify Adagio rather than Feierlich – so it's very slow (more than twenty minutes) rather than just very solemn. The scherzo and finale are judiciously paced but the sagging slow movement leaves the performance severely flawed.

Norman Stinchcombe

HANDEL RODELINDA : Crowe, Davies et al. / The English Concert / Bicket ★★★★

For those who find Handel's opera seria interminable and their plots incomprehensible, this excellent new recording of Rodelinda may change their minds. At a mere 3 hours and 22 minutes in Handelian terms it zips along, its plot driven by characters who act with credible motivation, at least within the limits of baroque opera. The performance is uniformly well-sung with soprano Lucy Crowe emotionally believable and brilliantly accurate – admirable coloratura – as the eponymous heroine. The countertenor Iestyn Davies, as her husband Bertarido, is a model of scrupulous enunciation allied with the conviction to make even risible plot devices convincing. If his aria Dove sei sounds familiar it was once a recital favourite as Art thou troubled?, most famously by Kathleen Ferrier. Supporting roles are also well taken and the The English Concert, under experienced Handelian Harry Bicket, are no mere backing band but a vital part of the drama too.

Norman Stinchcombe

MOZART & FLUTE IN PARIS: Pahud / Paris Chamber Orchestra / Leleux ( 2CDs) ★★★★

Emmanuel Pahud takes a warmly romantic view of the two Mozart works recorded here. The Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, reconstructed by Robert Levin, is ripely played – a bit too rich for youthful Mozart – but Pahud's beautiful silvery tone is matched by superb horn playing from Radovan Vlatković with stylish accompaniment from oboe player / conductor Francois Leleux. In the Flute and Harp concerto Pahud is joined by Anneleen Lenaerts – placed unrealistically forward in the sonic balance – with lovely (if anachronistic) cadenzas by Godfather composer Nino Rota. Pahud casts his net wide: first up is Philippe Hersant's suitably laid-back minimalist Dreamtime; Poulenc's Flute Sonata and Faure's Fantasie – both in orchestral guise – are delightful with the latter's loss of the original flute-and-piano intimacy compensated for by added instrumental colour. Pahud's combination of brilliance and sensitivity is evident is Chaminade's lyrical Concertino and Saint-Saens' Romance – where the flautist's song-like phrasing is gorgeous.

Norman Stinchcombe

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