Canteloube, Benda and Korngold releases 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 Pascal Rophé, especially in Canteloube's many rustic flourishes for the wind players. The Bis recording from Tapiola Hall is pellucid on CD with extra clarity for those with high-resolution SACD players.

Norman Stinchcombe

BENDA: Howard Shelley / London Mozart Players ★★

The latest in Hyperion's Classical Piano Concerto series features four works by Georg Benda (1722-95), one of the distinguished family of Bohemian musicians. The indefatigable Howard Shelley is the soloist and directs the lively little orchestra, just nineteen members, from the keyboard as he did in the previous seven discs in the series. From the generation before Mozart, but outliving him, Benda's concertos help to fill in the musical background of the 18th century. As a scholarly and historial enterprise I found them interesting but don't expect too much musically. While Mozart's works are peaks, Benda's are gentle inclines. The slow movements of the G minor and B minor concertos are pleasant and amiable as is the G major concerto's opening. There are occasional touches that lift passages out of the mundane and routine but, in all honesty, there's simply too much of the latter despite Shelley's admirable give-it-all playing.

Norman Stinchcombe

KORNGOLD: Eusebius Quartet / Alasdair Beatson ★★★★

The interest in Korngold's output continues to grow and this excellent new Somm disc explores his chamber music. There's a delightfully rich and romantic take on the Piano Quintet in E Op.15 from 1921. The Eusebius Quartet and pianist Alasdair Beatson revel in its rich and ripe textures so that one at times forgets this is chamber music. They make the central Adagio quite magical, taking to heart Korngold's desire for utmost quiet expressiveness. In the String Quartet No.2 in E flat (1933) the playing is equally as fine, its waltz finale feeling like the end of an era. The Suite: 'Much Ado About Nothing' is familiar in its orchestral guise but this intimate chamber version is equally enjoyable. The short Intermezzo, discovered in 2012, appears on disc for the first time, in an arrangement by Tom Poster for string quartet and piano commissioned by the Eusebius' violinist Beatrice Philips.

Norman Stinchcombe

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