Nor,man Stinchcombe's latest CD reviews


NIELSEN & SIBELIUS: Dalene, RSPO / Storgårds (Bis CD / SACD) ★★★★★

On the disc cover gap-toothed Johan Dalene looks like a schoolboy larking about in the Scandinavian snow – but at twenty-years-old he's already a phenomenally gifted violinist. The young Swede won the 2019 Carl Nielsen Competition and his performance of that composer's concerto is an absolute winner. It's a tricky work, there's no big memorable tune to hook the newcomer, and its mercurial nature makes it hard to pin down. No problem for Dalene who produces not only glorious tone from his 1736 'Spencer Dyke' Stradivarius but limpet-like follows Nielsen through every musical mood whether spiky, whimsical or wacky. John Storgårds and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra are fully inside Nielsen's idiosyncratic style and the sound is up to Bis's usual exceptional standard. In the Sibelius concerto Dalene has all the world's great fiddlers as competition but his lean, muscular approach – no tempi extremes or virtuoso grandstanding – is very rewarding too.

Norman Stinchcombe

'The Mandolin Seasons': Jacob Reuven, Sinfonietta Leipzig / Wellber (Hyperion) ★★★★

Combining Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' and Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla's 1965 homage 'Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas' is not new; violinist Arabella Steinbacher did so two years ago. My first response to this disc was an exasperated reviewer's cry of, "Please not another 'Four Seasons!'. The second was to wonder why talented conductor Omer Meir Wellber – who narrowly lost out to Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla for the CBSO music director's job – was doing as an accordionist soloist on it. Wellber and Reuven are childhood friends and the mandolin and accordion are popular beginner's instruments in Israel where they grew up. Once one begins listening then the colours, shades and sounds they conjure up – Wellber also plays harpsichord and conducts the chamber band – are ear-ticklingly fresh. Reuven is a brilliant player – the opening of Vivaldi's 'Summer' is scintillating – while he and Wellber's accordion whistle up convincing 'Winter' winds. The alternating Piazzolla movements complement Vivaldi well.

Norman Stinchcombe

STRAUSS Tone Poems: Cleveland Orchestra / Welser-Möst (CD/SACD) ★★★★

Franz Welser-Möst is a fine conductor of Richard Strauss's music, learning his craft over decades while conducting his operas in Zurich and Vienna. This new recording, on the orchestra's own label, comprises the tone poems 'Macbeth', 'Don Juan' and 'Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks'. The Cleveland's virtuoso playing is captured in superbly engineered sound – especially on SACD – with phenomenal range, depth and warmth. Andris Nelsons' new Boston / Leipzig Strauss set, also recorded live in concert, is too close-miked and in-your-face by comparison. Welser-Möst's Don has ferocious speed and energy but a touchingly hushed demise; the under-rated 'Macbeth' here demands re-assessment in its unfolding drama; and in 'Till' he pulls off the tricky combination of drollery and madcap energy. The disc comes luxuriously packaged, with a full-sized concert programme, but in the days of the 80 minute disc, 45 minutes of music – even this well played and recorded – is pretty stingy.

Norman Stinchcombe

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