Norman Stinchcombe reviews John WIlson and Thomas Trotter CDs


RAVEL: Sinfonia of London / Wilson ★★★★★

Chandos continues its winning formula of conductor John Wilson, his revivified hand-picked orchestra and the wonderful warm acoustic of St Augustine's Church, Kilburn. As in Wilson's Korngold and Respighi recordings, the production team present a sound picture startlingly clear and lifelike, especially in SACD. In the opening bars of 'La Valse' the strands of music whisperingly coalesce into the main theme from utter silence while the climax, as the Hapsburg Empire waltzes itself into oblivion, is cataclysmic. Ravel's five other ballet scores are equally vivid with Wilson's elan, and the Sinfonia's characterful playing. 'Ma Mere L'Oye' is alive with telling detail; Beauty's sinuous clarinet, the Beast's gauchely pleading contrabassoon and the Princess of the Pagoda's tinkling chinoiserie. I never thought Dutoit's 1984 Montreal recording (Decca) would be bettered for its combination of joie-de-vivre and superb sound – it has now. Ravel's 'Pavane', 'Alborada', 'Bolero, and set of 'Valses' are impressively performed.

Norman Stinchcombe

SYMPHONY HALL SORCERY: Thomas Trotter ★★★★★

Remember when Symphony Hall opened in 1991 with an organ facade but no instrument? It took ten years for the magnificent Klais organ to arrive but Thomas Trotter – Birmingham City Organist since 1983 – has shown us many times that it was worth the wait. Not least in this cracker of a disc from Wolverhampton-based Regent Records where producer and engineer Gary Cole does a fine job of capturing its huge dynamic range in the hall's splendid acoustic. It opens with Trotter's own stunning transcription of Dukas's 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' which has a wide range of colours and where the original comical contrabassoon part becomes eerily, and floor-shakingly, powerful. Favourites like Saint-Saëns 'Fantaisie in E flat major' and the Allegro Vivace from Widor's 'Symphonie V' are stylishly performed as indeed are the showpiece contemporary works including Rachel Laurin's virtuoso 'Sweelinck Variations' – a Trotter commission – and Zsolt Gárdonyi's wittily arch 'Mozart Changes'.

Norman Stinchcombe

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