• Recorded Music Department

    October 25, 2016

    New classical recordings: Manchester Camerata, and premieres by Panufnik, Smyth and Stanford

    This month, our pick of the new classical releases includes three premiere recordings, Tasmin Little’s Four Seasons, and the latest from one of our neighbours, the Manchester Camerata.

    * * *

    *

    * * *

    Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen

    Florian Boesch (baritone)

    Roger Vignoles (piano)

    Hyperion CDA68158 – 59 mins

    £15.40

    Ernst Krenek described his 1929 song cycle as a ‘pilgrimage to the sacred shrines of Austria’s landscape and history’. Written 100 years after the death of Schubert, these 20 songs draw both on the idyllic settings of Schubert’s Lieder and on subsequent, interrelated developments in these landscapes, society and music. However, while many of his contemporaries had abandoned traditional tonal musical language, considering its capacities to have been exhausted, Krenek believed his songs demonstrated that it was ‘possible to rejuvenate an earlier vocabulary and to restore its former vitality and freshness through a new and original experience’. Delivered by Boesch and Vignoles ‘with fabulous naturalness and fierce dramatic intensity when needed’ (The Guardian), the album concludes with four songs by fellow Austrian Alexander Zemlinsky.

    * * *

    *

    * * *

    Mozart: Piano Concertos K 453 & K 456, Divertimento K 137

    Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)

    Manchester Camerata

    Gábor Takács-Nagy (conductor)

    Chandos CHAN 10929 – 74 mins

    £15.40

    If you heard Manchester Camerata perform Haydn’s first cello concerto with Hannah Roberts during their ‘From Haydn to Hendrix’ concerts last month, you will know what to expect from their latest release: a modern-instrument ensemble’s take on historically-informed performance spiced with stylistically anachronistic flashes, particularly in the cadenzas. It is a formula that worked for Bavouzet and the Camerata on their recording of Haydn piano concertos released in 2014 to resoundingly positive reviews, although The Financial Times did concede that Bavouzet’s cadenzas were “possibly not to all tastes”. Perhaps for this reason, Mozart’s K 453 is here offered with both Bavouzet’s and Mozart’s own cadenzas on separate tracks so that listeners can programme their machines to insert the versions they prefer. This disc also provides an opportunity to hear the Divertimento K 137 performed by chamber orchestra rather than the usual string quartet, the Camerata arguing convincingly that, since the work’s textures are less intricate than those in Mozart’s other chamber music, it is well suited to execution by an expanded ensemble.

    * * *

    *

    * * *

    Smyth: The Boatswain’s Mate

    Nadine Benjamin (Mrs Waters)

    Edward Lee (Harry Benn)

    Jeremy Huw Williams (Ned Travers)

    Lontano Ensemble

    Odaline de la Martinez (conductor)

    Retrospect Opera RO001 – 120 mins

    £14.95

    The Boatswain’s (pronounced “Bosun’s”) Mate was Ethel Smyth’s most successful work, a comedy presenting serious social themes of the day with a lighter musical touch than she allowed herself in her symphonic works. Central to the plot is the question of whether Mrs Waters, recently widowed, would be happier if she re-married than if she continued to live independently. First performed in 1916, two years before women over 30 were granted the right to vote, the opera’s overture incorporates “The March of the Women”, which, written by Smyth in 1911, had become the anthem of the women’s suffrage movement. Until now, the overture was one of the few sections of the opera to be commercially available, and Smyth’s own recordings of extracts from this opera and another, The Wreckers, supplement this first complete recording. As well as marking the 100th anniversary of the opera’s first performance, this release is also the first from Retrospect Opera, which plans to release further British operas such as Solomon and Burnand’s Pickwick, Loder’s Raymond and Agnes, and Smyth’s Fête Galante.

    * * *

    *

    * * *

    Stanford: String Quartets Nos 5 & 8

    Dante Quartet

    Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0160 – 67 mins

    £13.10

    The 40 Anglican choral works for which Stanford is largely remembered represent only a fifth of his varied output. Alongside nine operas and seven symphonies are numerous concertos and chamber works, including eight string quartets all written in the second half of his life as he consciously sought to preserve classical purity from what he considered the degeneracy of modernism. This effort is most apparent in the serious and sombre Quartet No. 8, which, along with Nos 4, 6 and 7, has never been published, remaining only in the composer’s manuscript. Even the four which were published in Germany during Stanford’s lifetime have not appeared in a modern edition, hitherto a major obstacle to performance, so all the quartets have been edited by Prof Jeremy Dibble for this series of premiere recordings. Quartet No. 5 was Stanford’s memorial to his friend, Joseph Joachim, the violinist who premiered Brahms’s concerto. Despite commemorating a death, it is largely a more cheerful work than No. 8, not only taking its lead from Joachim’s personal character but quoting from one of his own compositions, the Romance Op. 2 No. 1, which is also included on the recording.

    * * *

    *

    * * *

    Vivaldi & Panufnik: A Violin for all Seasons

    Graham Bradshaw (Tibetan singing bowl)

    Bradley Creswick (leader)

    David Wright (harpsichord)

    BBC Symphony Orchestra

    Tasmin Little (violin, conductor)

    Chandos CHSA 5175 – 63 mins

    £15.40

    If you’re a violinist recording Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, you’re entering an extremely crowded market in which most of your potential takers will already own other people’s interpretations and, to some, what you programme alongside the Vivaldi will be more important than how you play it. Most releases offer additional works related by either period or theme; enterprisingly, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin ticked both boxes with Rebel’s ballet Les élémens of 1737. Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires has become a favourite companion piece, but a fashion has developed for new commissions providing other local, national and global perspectives: Alexey Shor’s A Manhattan Four Seasons, Philip Glass’s The American Four Seasons, and now Roxanna Panufnik’s Four World Seasons. Here we witness both Indian Summer and Tibetan Winter (featuring Tibetan singing bowl), Spring in Japan, and Autumn in Albania, dedicated to the composer’s father, Sir Andrzej Panufnik, who, while Polish rather than Albanian, “lived, loved and died in Autumn”. Meanwhile, in the Vivaldi, while declaring herself “not a baroque violinist”, soloist and director Little creates an effective synthesis of elements drawn from historically-informed and modern practices. Instead of the one-to-a-part ensemble often employed for period-instrument performances, Little opts for a larger, modern-instrument orchestra which nonetheless sits comfortably with her nuanced vibrato, flowing ornamentation and improvised linking passages between movements, all accompanied by some inventive continuo playing.