Beethoven, vaughan Williams and others reviewed on CD

CD REVIEWS OF BEETHOVEN, VAUGHAN WILLIAMS AND OTHERS BEETHOVEN MISSA SOLEMNIS: Freiburger Barockorchester / Jacobs ★★★ Since converting from counter-tenor to conductor Renè Jacobs has always courted controversy. His recordings can be refreshing, insightful, idiosyncratic and annoyingly wilful – usually a mixture of all these attributes. This original-instrument performance is brisk (72 minutes), bright and devoid of any old-style (i.e. mid twentieth century) gestures hinting at grandeur or gravity. Beethoven's great theistic-humanist musical mansion has been thoroughly de-cluttered. The excellent orchestra's playing is pin-sharp and the hard-stick timpani rattle menacingly if occasionally excessively. The vocal quartet Polina Pastirchak (soprano) Sophia Harmsen (mezzo) Steve Davislim (tenor) Johannes Weisser (bass) are first rate and Jacobs balances the orchestra so that they are seldom strained. If you enjoy the Gardiner-style slimmed down approach there's much t

A long, thoughtful review of Confessions of a Music Critic An entertaining book, but it's something of a missed opportunity. Support MusicWeb-International financially by purchasing this from Amazon or Presto Classical Confessions of a Music Critic By Christopher Morley 148 pages, including index. With colour and black & white illustrations ISBN: 978-1-85858-726-4 First published 2021 Retail price £11.95 Paperback Brewin Books When I was growing up in Yorkshire in the 1960s and 1970s, critics employed by regional and local papers regularly reviewed concerts, both amateur and professional. Ernest Bradbury reigned at the Yorkshire Post while, at the local level, correspondents such as Malcom Cruise provided almost daily reviews in the Huddersfield Examiner. These men, and countless other journalists throughout the UK, provided an invaluable service. They gave their readers informed commentary and appraisal of

Christopher Morley's "Confessions" reviewed by Richard Bratby

CONFESSIONS OF A MUSIC CRITIC reviewed by Richard Bratby At every meeting of the Critics' Circle Music Section – when the nation's music scribblers gather behind an unmarked door in the West End to drink weak coffee and grumble about fees – there's a ritual. The Chair opens the meeting, moves to the first item on the agenda, and someone pipes up: "Apologies have been received from Christopher Morley". The old guard chuckles, and the newer members have it quietly explained to them that Mr Morley has never attended, and never will – until the Section agrees, even once in a decade, to hold a meeting somewhere other than London. So far, it never has. So far, Christopher has never attended. The secretary makes a note and the meeting moves on. For the Chief Music Critic of the Birmingham Post, it's a matter of principle. Some might call it quixotic. I call it magnificent, even while I hop

New CD reviews: Beethoven, Orchestra of the Swan Timelapse abd English Symphony Orchestra Visions of Childhood

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE LOVES A NEW "PERIOD" PERFORMANCE OF THE BEETHOVEN TRIPLE CONCERTO, NOT SO SURE ABOUT RELEASES FROM ORCHESTRA OF THE SWAN AND ENGLISH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA BEETHOVEN: Faust, Queyras, Melnikov / Freiburger Barockorchester / Heras-Casado ★★★★★ Beethoven's Triple Concerto is the Cinderella of his concerto works, disparaged as lightweight and merely aiming to please. Jean-Guihen Queyras, the cellist on this new recording from Harmonia Mundi, dismisses this, adding "the beauty and depth of it is overwhelming. There are moments which are just absolutely breathtaking." Those qualities are evident in this fine new recording where he teams up with Isabelle Faust on violin and Alexander Melnikov – her chamber music partner – on keyboard. It's a performance full of fantasy and with a delightfully humorous concluding "Polish" rondo crackling with energy. They use original instruments which helps clarity and balance. Melnikov can really

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