Friday, December 30, 2016

New year wishes to all my classical friends worldwide.

I wish all of you a good rush into the new year and many good things to happen, especially a lot of classical music.
On another note, my equipment is being overhauled after many years of service, plus due to some new gear I had to enlarge the stereo rack, or rather modify it. So I expect all to be ready in the first or second week of January. Until then my listening will be a tad limited. However I will be back soon. Take care all, and appreciate life, it's very short.

My number 1 choice for 2016.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas wishes 2016.

Dear readers and friends.
My blog has had many visitors from all over the world, thus my posts are read by many. Every year visitors increase by almost 150%. Somehow things comes across when writing about classical music in my imperfect way. I always do my best to make music accessible in as clear a review as I am able to write. I find it satisfying that this has been an ongoing success. As long as I am able to listen I will write.
I wish all my readers and classical friends a very Happy Christmas, and may there never be a Scrooge around. I look forward to much more music.


The Courts of Ferdinand and Isabella. Renaissance Music.

New acquisition.
Bought in September 2016.
First listen: 6-9-2016.
Second listen: 23-12-2016.
Label: ERATO.
CD 3 from 6.
Recording dates: January 1991.
Recording venue: The Priory Church of St. Mary and St. Blaise, Boxgrove, Chichester Sussex, England.
Recording engineer: Simon Rhodes.
Running time: 65:26.
Classical relevance: For me essential.

Composers on this disc. (Renaissance)
Alonso de Mondéjar.
Francisco de Peñalosa.
Martin de Rivaflecha.
Lucas Fernández.
Pedro de Escobar.
Alonso de Alba.
Juan del Encina.
Juan de Urrede.
Francisco de Millán.

Performed by: The Hilliard Ensemble.

I already sung praises hearing the first two discs, and the third one is as good. A gorgeous assembly of composers and their musical efforts portrayed in a telling setting. The voices are for me perfect, and I keep being amazed at the perfect dynamics, and the beautiful shading of the text. The balance between voices is something to be admired too, and I could go on and on. The Hilliards are still a reference choir, if it comes to this repertoire, even if they do not exist anymore in this configuration. They have gone on a different path with other singers, not my cup of tea anymore.
Snatch this box for a ridiculous price. Very much recommended. 

Famous Organ Music from Europe. CD 7

New acquisition.
Bought in April 2016.
First listen: 23-12-2016.
Label: Ars Musici. ( Membran)
Recording dates: August 2000.
Recording venue: Cathedral in Brussels, Belgium.
Recording engineer: Manuel Mohino.
Running time: 
Classical relevance: Quite interesting.

Instrument used:
Grenzing Organ: 1997-2000.

Works, composers and performers.

Peeter Cornet (c.1562-1633)
Fantasia primi toni.

Franz Tunder. (1614-1667)
Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott.
Organist: Jean Ferrard.

Both works are fine examples of its time, and well played and performed. Especially the work of the composer Peeter Cornet was new for me. I liked it very much. And Tunder is always a welcome guest.

Nicolas de Grigny. (1672-1703)
Offertoire sur les jeux from: Mass.

Johann Sebastian Bach. (1685-1750)
Praeludium and Fugue in E minor, BWV 523.
Organist: Xavier Deprez.

Well played but a bit rough at the edges, and missing the nuances in Bach.

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. (1809-1847)
Sonata, opus 65.
Organist: Jozef Sluys.

Not bad, but it made little impression on me. Sluys lingers too much and is rather heavy handed.

César Franck. (1822-1890) 
Chorale No. 1 in E major.
Organist: Stanislas Deriemaeker.

No, no, Franck deserves a better interpretation and they are plentiful around. This is a mediocre performance. Stolid, turgid, and away from the spiritual essence. Little or no expression.

Philippe Boesmans (1936)
Fanfare II
Organist: Bernhard Foccroulle. 

This is not for me. A modern piece without anything to like

The sound of this modern organ is not really my thing. Although it sounds nice enough, it clearly is missing the sound I like in authentic organs. The recording is good though.
Of all the organists on this CD I liked most Jean Ferrard, and Xavier Deprez. Foccroulle is of course the best performer, but in this case I could not determine, for I really disliked the Boesmans piece. The rest is interesting but not exceptional.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Knights, Maids and Miracles. The Spring of Middle Ages. O tu chara sciença. Music in Mediæval Thought.

New acquisition.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 22-12-2016.
Label: Arcana.
CD 2 from 5.
Recording dates: July 1993.
Recording venue: Grand Auditorium, Nantes, France.
Recording engineers: Michel Bernstein & Charlotte Gilart de Keranflec'h.
Running time: 73:20
Classical relevance: Essential.

Works performed: 
See heading.
1) Musica Terrestris.
2) Ars Musica.
3) Laudatio Dei.

Works performed by:
La Reverdie.

For me this was an essential buy, because I am fascinated by Mediæval music. This music as no other, transports you easily back to the basics of the music in those times. And in this interpretation I am totally convinced by its validity. It sounds to my ears mediæval, for La Reverdie makes it sound authentic.
Of course it is all guess work, but the possibilities of the instruments used and the singing matching to it, does not leave any other option than to do it this way. And I for one am very happy with the result, and it is a joy to listen to these fabulous artists. The voices particularly are mesmerizing. Just listen to "Segugi a corde" probably composed by Magister Pietro, 1340-1350. A piece in which all the voices shine at this bright musical sky. And as it is all pieces on this CD follow the same pattern. A delicious musical table filled with the finest food and wine imaginable.
The recording is state of the Art, as are the performances.

Famous Organ Music from Europe, on the reconstructed Organ by Johann Andreas Silbermann.

New acquisition.
Bought in April 2016.
First listen: 22-12-2016.
Label: Ars Musici. (Membran box)
CD 6 from 10.
Recording dates: July 2002.
Recording venue: Benediktinerkirche St Georg, Villingen.
Recording engineer: Daniel Scheidegger.
Running time: 76:19.
Classical relevance: A valuable recording and for me essential.

Works and composers and performers on this disc 6.

Louis Nicolas Clérambault (1676-1749)
Suite du Premier Ton.
Organist: Christian Schmitt.

To my ears a most satisfying and excellent performance. Schmitt plays with a certain urgency and so keeps the music exciting and interesting. His narration is fluently and he has a very clean uncluttered tone. The recording is nothing short of amazing.

Johann Ulrich Steigleder. (1593-1635)
From the Tabulature Book, "Dass Vatter unser...".
Organist: Christoph Bossert.

A composer I did not know, it's new in my collection and a premiere hearing for me. A composition with a rich tone to it.  Pre Bach, it already has quite a weight to it, and a musical maturity that amazes me. It is played in the manner of a Toccata 4 vocum. A very impressive it is. It is a constant flow of pure melodic music that carries a lot of expression. The urgency with which Bossert plays this piece is invigorating and spot on! The recording is amazing too.

Juan Bautista José Cabanilles. (1644-1712)
Pasacalles de Primo Tono.
Organist: Christoph Bossert.

A nice contemplative piece, with long lines, in which the composer takes its time to colour the melodies. It is meant to stimulate your soul into a spiritual mood. And that works. Again impressive performance and recording.

Nicolas de Grigny. (1672-1703)
Veni Creator Spiritus.
Organist: Marc Schaefer.

A fine composition by Grigny, a composer I admire and love. By now I have a lot of his music. Apart from the inherent quality of his music, he has a good promotor in Marc Schaefer, who finds the right balance in giving this music just that extra push to make it extremely accessible. The Ebb and Flow is marvelously portrayed, and one is quickly immersed in this wonderful musical work created by Grigny. Well recorded too.

Marc Schaefer (1934)
Organist: Marc Schaefer.

Melodic and tonal piece. Not much in the sense of being a composition of great worth, but nice enough and well played. The stops he is using are great fun, and the harmonies thus created makes for a pleasant listen. And that's all, at least for me. Well recorded.

Jean Adam Guillaume Guilan. (c. before 1702-1739?)
Suite du Troisième Ton.
Organist: Hans Musch.

I like the music by Guilan, always did, and have already a sizable collection of his music, be it that it is divided over many discs in my collection. A composer that did not enjoy a long life, but created in his short life beautiful organ pieces. They are well played by Musch, an organist I did not encounter before. But than that is applicable to all organists in this box. Again played with some urgency but without losing grip on the melodic content. What a rich era it was for this instrument. Very enjoyable. I like the registrations used. Well recorded.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Pièce d'Orgue.
Très vitement-Gravement-Lentement.
Organist: Stephan Rommelspacher.

A organist that I have never encountered before. It is well played but less to my liking. In Bach it is more critical how you present the music. Impressive yes, but I like my Bach differently.
Good recording.

My final opinion about this CD is, that it's one of the best recordings in this box, almost State of the Art. As to the interpretation of the works, most excellent. A very enjoyable 76 minutes of well presented organ music. The Organ is a wonderfully reconstructed instrument. It sounds fantastic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Deutsche Barock Weihnacht. Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760) Ein Weihnachtsoratorium. CD 6&7

New acquisition.
Bought in December 2016.
First listen: 21-12-2016.
Label: Ricercar.
CD 6&7 from 7.
Recording dates: 1982-2003.
Recording venue and engineers: Not named in this release.
Running time: 66:13 & 70:02.
Classical relevance: Easily the best two recordings in this box.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Amaryllis Dieltiens & Elisabeth Scholl, Soprano.
Lothar Blum & Reinoud Van Mechelen, Tenors.
Stefan Geyer, Bass.
Mannheimer Hofkapelle.
Ex Tempore, Florian Heyerick.

Graupner is a composer that will never disappoint, and not little less in standing as J.S. Bach whom he admired greatly. This work of him is a first time for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed both discs. The music will not fail to impress you, for it's brimful with fine melodies, expertly written. A real pleaser as there ever was one. Curiously enough these are the best recordings in this box full of christmas music. But the feel of christmas can only be found in the text of the music, and much less in the music. I do not associate the works in this box with christmas, but that's personal.
Nevertheless in terms of music and performance this Weihnachts oratorium stands out as the best deal in the Ricercar box, which up to now was filled with more or less substandard stuff. Not that it was always up to a certain standard, but for me it did not work. So I was mighty pleased that at least Graupner's music did it for me. Of all other recordings I was confronted with rough singing, sopranos that lost their way, and choirs that thought that loud unnuanced singing was the thing to do. I exclude Ex tempore from this list. And also instrumental performances, for they were uniformly excellent. And for the first 5 CD'S the recordings were not that good either.
I could not say that in the case of Graupner, I liked the soprano Amaryllis Dieltiens, she had a hard time suppressing vibrato that she so desperately wanted to add. In some cases she lost that battle and in some she won, to my chagrin. Elisabeth Scholl on the other hand has my votes, a soprano "wie im bilderbuch". The guys were all in good form, as is the more than excellent Ex Tempore, with their sensitive accompaniment. The Mannheimer Hofkapelle was in very good form too, and as an extra bonus, so were the recordings. Clear, and extremely lucid, with a natural breathing space around all the soloists and choir. So maybe not a good buy in the sense that all the recordings are that good, but I would certainly recommend it for the works of Graupner.
On another note: Ricercar should be bloody ashamed of the booklet they provided, from them I expected much more.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Deutsche Barock Weihnacht. CD 5.

New acquisition.
Bought in December 2016.
First listen: 20-12-2016.
Label: Ricercar.
CD 5 from 7.
Recording years: 1982-2003.
Recording engineers and venues are not named.
Running time: 77:34.
Classical relevance: Can be of interest.

Composers on this disc.
Johann Pachelbel. Jauchzet dem Herrn. Motet and Cantata.
Johann Sebastian Bach. BWV 133/64/121.

Motets and Cantatas.

Works performed by:
Chœur de Chambre de Namur.
Les Agrémens, Jean Tubéry.

A nice box, filled with Christmas music, and on the present CD Pachelbel and Bach. Music that has the quality one expects from these composers. But I have to admit that I am at odds with the choir and individual soloists, especially the sopranos. Since they are not named specifically in the solo pieces, I can only say that some of them are not to my liking. Especially in Bach there is a soprano that sings out of her league. She is not able to create a nice round tone, but stretches her voice in a unnatural way. I do not like that. The choir is too dynamic and loud in an unpleasant way. That makes the music rather rough and without nuances.  I do not like that either. The recordings are mediocre at times. I have to conclude that Ricercar has more or less the same technician, because all music has the same sound stamp.  So I play the music not too loud and on the background. I have far better recordings of Christmas music, and will stick to them after finishing this box. I cannot generate more enthusiasm, I am sorry.

Zipoli, Domenico. (1688-1726) Complete Organ Works. (Famous Organ Music from Europe)

New acquisition.
Bought in April 2016.
First listen: 20-12-2016.
Label: Ars Musici.
CD 5 from 10.
Recording dates: May 1998.
Recording venue: Parish Church in Riva Valdobbia, Italy.
Recording engineer: Roberto Chinellato.
Running time: 78:27.
Classical relevance: Up to now the best recording and performance I heard of Zipoli's organ works. So in that sense essential.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Lorenzo Ghielmi.
Canto fermo:
Angelo Corno/Enrico De Capitani/ Giorgio Merli/ Alessandro Riganti.

Instrument used. ( Very little info I could find)
It's a modern instrument in true Italian Style, but no building dates.
This instrument has a "contra octave (the octave below bottom C) and is built on a base that stretches 16 feet.
Builders are: Carlo Dell'Orto and Massimo Lanzini.

I love Zipoli's organ works very much, but could not find a recording that satisfied my wishes, well, until now that is. I was surprised by the wonderful sound of this organ, and the right tempi in which Ghielmi plays. I often encounter playing that puts you to sleep in no time, but not here. Alert playing, detailed, and the church giving a good resonance in which the instrument blooms. Ghielmi is a fine organist who gets all the essentials of this composer. One would wish for more organ works, but he did not write more.
All is in proportion, stretching into the wonderful contributions of the Canto Fermo, all of them excellent singers. It comes in a box with 10 CD'S, not all of them good, but for this CD alone worth the price.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Bach, Johann Sebastian. (1685-1750) Organ Works.

New acquisition.
Bought in April 2016.
First listen.
Label: Ars Musici (Membran)
CD 4 from 10.
Recording dates: October 2003.
Recording venue: Martinikerk, Groningen, The Netherlands.
Recording engineer: Jan Willem van Willingen.
Running time: 73:13.
Classical relevance: Interesting.

Works performed:
Sarabande con Partite in C major, BWV 990.
(Senza Nomine 1-12)
O, Mensch, bewein dein Sünde Groß, Choralbearbeitung, BWV 622.
Passacaglia in C minor, BWV 582.
Sonata in G major, BWV 530.
Praeludium et Fuga in E flat major, BWV 552.
Allemande/Courante/Aria Variata/Partita ultima-Giguetta. (No BWV numbers attached)

Works performed by:
Andreas Liebig on the Arp-Schnitger Organ.

My stereo rack is being modified and enlarged, so I have to do with the smaller set to play on. That is not a punishment, but I can not be definitive about the sound as such. Let say I get a 80% score out of it.
I did not know this 54 year old organist, who was born in Germany, and seems to be equally at ease with modern and old organs/music. This recording is in a super budget box by Membran, and seems to my ears one of the better recordings that I have heard. Done on a organ I know very well, the church being in the city where I was born.
Liebig keeps the music flowing, with even tempi. Not overly sentimental, but lucid interpretations, with details clearly spaced out. His evenness makes the music very expressive, and he keeps the embellishments to a minimum. The Passacaglia is masterly done, a very convincing interpretation. The deeply contemplative introduction makes my spine tingle. All in all what he does he does well, I really like his approach. The Senza Nomine 1-12 is a beacon of rest, his concentrated effort is impressive.
As to the recording, apart from some high stops which are unpleasantly piping at times, (not often) the recording is detailed and gets a lot of the ambient of the Martini church. I do not have the idea that I am missing anything, but as said I keep to the 80%. In a later stadium I will maybe modify my view. As a performance I think it's pretty good.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr ilyich. The Nutcracker & Eugen Onegin, Ballet Music.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 24-5-2013.
Second listen: 16-12-2016.
Label: DECCA.
CD 31 & 32 from 35.
Recording dates: 1986.
Recording venue: Probably Jesus Christus Kirche in Berlin, Germany.
Recording engineer: Not named.
Running time: 46:13 & 55:42.
Classical relevance: Worthwhile to have, but with some caution.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Berliner Philharmoniker, Semyon Bychkov.

These are the only  2CD'S  in this mega box that were not recorded by DECCA engineers it seems. It only gives a recording year (1986) and the city of Berlin as the recording place, but no mention of the engineer. For me this is also the odd one out in the box, in the sense that I miss the balletic Schwung in both performances. Bychkov it seems, does not come natural to ballet music, for this performance is rather stiff, certainly in the first act. It's distant and rather cold in approach, technically excellently done, but one does not admire the outcome. It gets better when the second act begins, starting with "A Pine forest in Winter" as far as the "Dance of the Sugar-Plum-Fairy", from there on until the Apotheosis,  it's back to coldness. So, we all know that the second act holds all the musical goodies like all the dances, starting from "Chocolate: Spanish Dance" right through to "Dance of the Reed Pipes". This he does with ease and dare I say, emotions. That part I enjoyed most. But a big contrast to the first act!
Eugene Onegin is well enough done with 3 movements, especially the "Valse" and the following "Polonaise".
As to the sound, well that is very good, plenty of detail, depth in the soundstage, there's not a single thing you miss, times the brass and especially the flutes can get hard on your ears, the sound simply hardens up when the volume goes up, and that is quite frequently. So I thought the venue could be this church I mentioned, because it's acoustics gets rather nasty on brass when the volume increases. I heard that not to long ago with the Bruckner recordings by Riccardo Chailly, also on DECCA. The recording dates must have be spread out, for the second act sounded much better as the first. But all said and done, it is a good interpretation to have, but there are certainly better recordings around. Valery Gergiev's recording on Philips, down rated by many, but lauded by me. People always forget that this is a concert performance for orchestra only, and not an accompaniment to the actual ballet. There the tempi's should be much slower as in a concert performance. And it has state of the art sound too. 

Clemens Deus Artifex. Music at the Court of Pope Clement. (1342-1352)

New acquisition.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 16-12-2016.
Label: Ligia.
Recording dates": April 2011.
Recording venue: Abbaye Saint-Robert de La Chaise-Dieu, France.
Recording engineer: Eric Baratin.
Running time: 51:02.
Classical relevance: Essential.

Works performed:
A polyphonic office Hymn performed in the presence of Clement VI (Avignon-14th Century) 
A Proper of Assumption day.

Works performed by:
La Main Harmonique, Frédéric Bétous.

I am quickly becoming a admirer of this ensemble with only male voices. Not only are both countertenors a marvel, but tenor and bass are of a high standard too. Andrés Rojas and Frédéric Bétous are counters that have the right height and do not need to overstretch their voices, it flows easily out of their throats. And that is not always a given thing to most counters. so no worries on that score at all. They all blend marvelously together, and their diction of old latin is amazing, so perfectly demonstrated by the Introït-Gaudeamus, with has a nice Byzantine hum in the background, very impressively sung. And from there on it's all as it should be. Singing of a high calibre, high notes met with ease, perfectly balanced, and dynamics well judged. The recording seamlessly integrates the acoustic with the voices. A big plus. Be aware that in Sequence: Area Virga, the volume goes considerably up, so if you are slowly nudged into a relax mode, this one will shake you out of it within milliseconds.😄

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich. Swan Lake, Ballet. (Ballet Masterpieces)

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 23-5-2013.
Second listen: 15-12-2016.
Label: DECCA
CD 29 & 30 from 35.
Recording dates: May 1991.
Recording venue: Église St. Eustace, Montreal.
Recording engineer: Colin Moorfoot.
Running time: 78:00 & 76:01.
Classical relevance: Reference recording.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Charles Dutoit.

Without doubt one of the best ballets Tchaikovsky wrote, but then all his ballets are such. The music is know to a lot of classical music fans, so there is no reason to go into that.
The performance is superb, few things could be better. Maybe a bit less politeness in some parts, but that would be all what I sometimes missed. Dutoit has a good ear for the many sonorities Tchaikovsky conjured out of his magic hands, in fact I think he is the master in this, above all else. There are composers that come near, but the throne is his with scepter and all.
The orchestra is in good hands, they perform on a very high level, and the soloists are admirable too. A performance to love and to put high on your list. I think it's a reference recording and performance.
The recording is very good. Funny thing is that CD30 sounds state of the art, so it's a few notches up comparing with disc 29. Still well engineered.

Schumann, Georg. (1866-1952) Chamber Music.

New acquisition.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 15-12-2016.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: October 2013 & April 2014.
Recording venue: BR Studio München, Germany.
Recording engineer: Ulrike Schwarz.
Running time: 71:49.
Classical relevance: For me essential.

Works performed: 
Piano Quartet, opus 29 in F minor.
Sonata for Cello & Piano, opus 19 in E minor.

Works performed by:
Münchner Klaviertrio.

A composer who stands with both feet in Johannes Brahms tradition. He inserted some modernity into his compositions, but basically you hear Brahms extended. I see that as a compliment, for if you can equal Brahms you are good, and Schumann certainly is. I tasted his chamber music before by another CPO recording so I knew what I bought. And it only strengthened my opinion of him. His inserts more passion, dares to step out of line, and gets some wonderful harmonies. The romantic impact of his writing is having a major influence. Just sample the second movement of the opus 29, and you will know why. But also the second movement of opus 19 will do. I personally have a penchant towards this work with its fine sonorities. I like listen to his music, it is as if Brahms lived much longer, but that is not to say that Schumann copies, far from it. He simply belongs to a long line of composers that kept to the old ways, shunning new fangled modernity.
The recording is good, and the performance is superb. Well worth listening.

Charpentier, Marc-Antoine. (1643-1704) Beata est Maria. Motets for Three men's Voices

New acquisition.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 15-12-2016.
Second listen: 15-12-2016.
Label: Ligia.
Recording dates: September 2011.
Recording venue: Abbatiale de l'Abbaye-École de Sorèze. (Dans le Tarn-Midi Pyrénées), France.
Recording engineer: Eric Baratin.
Running time: 56:30.
Classical relevance: Very worthwhile to have.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Les Passions, Orchestre Baroque de Montauban, Jean Marc Andrieu.
Vincent Lièvre-Picard, Counter tenor.
Sébastien Obrecht, Tenor.
Jean Manuel Candenot, Bariton.

I never heard these pieces before, of which Charpentier wrote a lot, over 400 I read in the booklet. If they are all like the present ones than we definitively need them on CD. The duets are a pleasure for your ears. The countertenor is a marvel of softness and intergrates fantastically with the other singers. No sharp edges, but a round sound. Just perfect. The blend between them is near perfect, and they listen to each other very carefully and so keeping the right balance in tempi and dynamics. They all give their own colour to the compositions, and in this you hear how perfectly they match. It is well recorded in an acoustically superb place.  Quite worthwhile to have and to hold. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mare- Charpentier, Antoine. (1643-1704) Cantica Nativitatis 1676, Motets and Oratorios. .

New acquisition.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 14-12-2016.
Label: Ligia. 
Recording dates:  2004.
Recording venue: Saint Ouen Les Vignes, France.
Recording engineer: Eric Baratin I guess. He is not named.
Running time: 60:11.
Classical relevance: Worth acquiring.

Composers on this Disc:
Henry Du Mont, Louis Couperin, Gaspard Le Roux.

Participating in different parts
Attente et réjouissance.
Naissance et Adoration.

(Vocal and instrumental works)

Performed by: Ore mel...
Organ and direction: Olivier Vernet.

An anonymous 18 century organ.
Restored in 1992-4.
Tuning: 420 Hz.
Unequal temperament.

A fine disc with music that delights throughout and never disappoints. There is not a moment of boredom, but a constant supply of fresh invigorating music, well performed and sung by two excellent sopranos, ( Catherine Greuillet and Noémi Rime), and a thunderous but well within limits the Bass François Bazola, all aided by an instrumental group of enthusiasts. 
The Alma redemptoris Mater for two Sopranos is a musical marvel, movingly sung, as are all the other pieces. Very much liked the Organ contributions of Olivier Vernet. The instrument is a fine one. The sound is pretty good.

Passion selon Saint Jean. Anonymous 1534, from the Tenth book published by Pierre Attaingnant. World Premiere. TOP RECCOMMENDATION

New acquisition.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 14-12-2016.
Label: Ligia.
Recording dates: November 2004.
Recording venue: Sainte-Chapelle......
Recording engineer: Eric Baratin.
Running time: 76:02.
Classical relevance: Reference recording.

Works performed:
Good Friday Liturgy Part 1. Kyrie eleyson...Parce Famulis. (Claudin de Sermisy)
Matins, Lessons for Tenebrae (Anonymous)
The Passion according to Saint Jean. (Anonymous)

Performed by:
Les Chantres de la Sainte-Chapelle, Antoine Sicot.
With participation of Hervé Lamy, Tenor.

When I ordered this CD I did not know what to expect. But the samples sounded good to me, albeit short, so I took the risk of the small investment and was richly rewarded. This music is virtually unknown, and never before recorded. As to why is a riddle to me. This music is on such a high level, that it keep astounding me for its rich palette of creativity, and ingenuity. This is the work of someone that knew precisely how to create a effect sought for, and made a sublime composition out of it. Quite rarely do I encounter such genius, but with this CD all the rules are met, and thus I was presented with  a delightful insight into an unknown musical work.  The performance is superb. Excellent voices, well in balance, no nasty surprises but  singers that blend together to create one voice out of voices. Much research has gone into this venture in terms of the Latin pronunciation, and the performance procedure at that time. They had some basis to venture from, explained in the excellent booklet. The harmony is amazing. The Passion is to my ears a masterwork, without a shred of doubt. I urge all that have an interest in that time and music to buy this forthwith.
The recording is superb.

Ockeghem and Compère.... Music in the Time of Anne de France/Anne de Beaujeu/Anne de Bourbon. TOP RECCOMENDATION

New acquisition.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 14-12-2016.
Label: Ligia.
Recording dates: July 2009.
Recording venue: Église Saint-Pierre des Chartreux, Toulouse, France.
Recording engineer: Thierry Bardon.
Running time: 64:00.
Classical relevance: Essential. Reference interpretation.

Composers on this disc:
Johannes Ockeghem (1420-1497)
Loyset Compère. (1445-1518)
Alexander Agricola. (1445-1506)
Johannes Ghiselin-Verbonnet. (1491-1507)

Performed by: 
Le Main Harmonique, Frédéric Bétous.

This CD came with a large order of Ligia discs, and it took me some time before it landed in my player, but it was worth the wait, even more than that. La Main Harmonique is not an unknown ensemble to me, but they did nevertheless surprise me in many aspects of this recording. The quality of music is no point of discussion, but it can be when the performance is below par, which happens quite often. More so as many may think. The voices of this group are so good, that they bring with their vocal excellence a rest and contemplative element in the performance, that positively sends you towards a mental balance, which in turn makes you more than merely receptive of the many felicities in the music and text. It was a creative time at the court of Anne, were all the talented composers, writers poets and painters collaborated to create a cultural heritage of which we reap the fruits to this day. The immense pleasure it gave me in listening to those wonderful voices, with such inspiring music, made my day. When the music ended I was devastated that it would not go on forever. It is well recorded in this beautiful church, and acoustically near perfect. The sound is well captured, in a warm ambiance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Deutsche Barock Weihnacht. CD 4.

New acquisition.
Bought in December 2016.
First listen: 13-12-2016.
Label: Ricercar.
CD 4 from 7.
Recording dates: Between 1982 and 2003.
Recording venue and engineers: Not named.
Running time: 71:22.
Classical relevance: Nice assembly of Christmas music.

Composers on this disc:
Samuel Scheidt, Heinrich Scheidemann, Johann Herman Schein, Johann Krieger, Johann Christian Bach, Johann Michael Bach.

Performed by:
Ricercar Consort, La Fenice, Capella Sancti Michaelis,  Collegium Vocale Gent, Bernard Foccroulle.

Another delightful disc in this box. Filled with Christmas music and performed by names in the trade. I do not enjoy some of the sopranos on this disc, to know Monika Mauch, with the annoying habit of adding unnatural vibrato, Greta de Reyghere, who lets out at occassion some shrill tones that hurt my ears, and Kathelijne van Laethem who does pretty much the same. Not much they disturb, but you should know before buying the box. Foccroulle plays some lovely music from Heinrich Scheidemann, that was a treat!  The sound quality varies a bit, but is mostly good.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Lalo, Édouard. (1823-1892) Manén, Joan. (1883-1971) Violin Concertos.

New acquisition.
Bought in December 2016.
First listen.
Label: Naxos.
Recording dates:  June 2015.
Recording venue: Pau Casals Hall, L'Auditori, Barcelona, Spain.
Recording engineer: Eckhard Glauche.
Running time: 62:55.
Classical relevance: As a recording essential.

Works performed:
Lalo-Symphonie Espagnole, opus 21 (1875)
Manén-Violin Concerto No. 1 "Concierto Español"opus A-7. (1898, rev c. 1935)

Works performed by:
Tianwa Yang, Violin.
Barcelona SO & National Orchestra of Catalonia, Darrell Ang.

A warhorse like Lalo's opus 21, most of us have, but the violin concerto No. 1 by Joan Manén, that will prove more difficult, for this composer is almost forgotten, although his standing as a composer is on equal footing as Lalo. A different composer in musical aspects, but as brilliant as Lalo. 
The first reason for buying this recording is of course Tianwa Yang, a violinist I admire for the sheer brilliance and ease with which she plays all what is thrown at her. It seems as if she never has any problems with whatever comes on the musical path. Lalo is brilliant, Manén also. that is a fact. Lalo we all know and love, well most of us. For it's a piece that flaunts unashamedly the brilliancy with which this composer shows his feathers. And rightly so, for it is a beautiful composition, certainly in the hands of Yang. Joan Manén is a new composer in my collection, and I had no idea what to expect. No worries though, for he is as good as Lalo, and his violin concerto is brimful with virtuosic writing, and melodic content to please every sense in your body. Although he did not like the Violin, that did not deter him from writing this work, which is clearly a statement of love towards the instrument. Technically demanding, Yang plays it with ease and assuredness. She clearly maps out her way in this work, and squeezes the maximum of musicality out of it. The result is devastatingly gorgeous. Two works that fit together like a glove. The performance of both orchestras with a very talented conductor is superb. We will hear a lot of him in the future to come. I was very impressed.
The recordings are made in the same hall at different dates by the same engineer. Lalo sounds very good, Manén sounds State of the Art. A great difference. Could he not have thought of this before!

Taneyev, Sergey Ivanovich. (1856-1915) The complete String Quartets, Volume 5.

New acquisition.
Bought in December 2016.
First listen: 12-12-2016.
Label: Naxos.
Recording dates: November 2014 & March 2015.
Recording venues: Alberta Bair Hall, Billings, Montana & Grusin Music Hall, Boulder, Colorado.
Recording engineers: Marlan Barry & Kevin Harbison.
Running time: 76:51.
Classical relevance: Musically essential.

Works performed:
String Quartet No. 8 in C major. (1883)
String Quintet No. 2 in C major, opus 16. (1905)

Works performed by:
Carpe Diem String Quartet.
James Buswell, Viola.

The last volume in this series, and a successful close. I always considered this venture as a lucky stroke for me, for were I have a complicated relation towards his orchestral works, I rather like the chamber works, which to me tell more of this elusive composer as anything else in his oeuvre. Carpe Diem is consistent in their interpretations. Concentrated and alert playing on a very high level. Taneyev is never an easy customer to perform, and neither did Taneyev his utmost to please anyone apart from himself, but once accustomed to the way he writes things, it gets less in the way of squeezing a stone for water. Never easy to adapt, but worthwhile if you can. And in the case of his chamber works I can. SQ No. 8 reminds you in some ways of past great masters like Haydn and Mozart, this you clearly hear, but also Taneyev's own voice gets forcibly through this harmonious quartet, and yes it is quite adventurous, when a romantic idea pops out of the Adagio non troppo movement, quite a surprise.
The String Quintet is altogether a different beast, and one of the mature works. I would not say monumental as the cover says, but technically well written. It is the the first thing you admire, and secondary the melodic content. It has musically enough interest to keep your mind occupied, although your heart may suffer in the process. But then I have a complicated relationship with Taneyev's music, and probably not you😏 
The recording is good, almost no difference between both works.

Gilles, Jean. (1668-1705) Lamentations and Motet.

New acquisition.
Bought in November 2016.
First listen: 12-12-2016.
Label: Ligia.
CD 2 from 3.
Recording dates: 2010.
Recording venue: St-Pierre-des-Chartreux, Toulouse, France.
Recording engineer: Eric Baratin.
Running time: 66:40.
Classical relevance: Essential.

Works performed:
Première Lamentation pour le Mercredi saint au soir.
Lamentation pour le Jeudi saint au soir.
Lamentation pour le Vendredi saint au soir.
Motet, Diligam te Domine.

Works performed by:
Les Passions-Orchestre Baroque de Montauban.
Chœur de Chambre les éléments, Joël Suhubiette.
Directed by: Jean-Marc Andrieu.

As I wrote about the first disc, is applicable to the second. In terms of performance you get superb singing. Duets, choir, solo singing, it's all done with taste and elegance. The music has a warmth to it that makes it approachable and intimate. Instrumentalists hoover on the same level. A perfect mix of musicians that makes Gilles music work. The recording is a matching partner, it's well spaced with just enough reverb to give an impression of depth that is easy on the ear. As for Gilles music, previously unknown to me, words fail. A composer that is in effect unknown to most, producing such fine works, and only on the map because of a handful of recordings, needs to stand in the lime light permanently. For me this set is a highlight.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Mendelssohn, Felix. (1809-1847) Violin Concertos.

New acquisition.
Bought in December 2016.
First listen: 9-12-2016.
Label: Naxos.
Recording dates: August/September 2010 & December 2011.
Recording venues: Hankasalmi Church, Jyväskylä,  Finland & Clara Wieck Auditorium, Sandhausen, Germany.
Recording engineers:  Sean Lewis and Günther Appenheimer.
Running time: 66:41.
Classical relevance: If a admirer of Tianwa Yang, essential.

Works performed:
Violin Concerto in E minor, opus 64 & in D minor.
Violin sonata in F minor, opus 4.

Works performed by:
Tianwa Yang, Violin.
Romain Descharmes, Piano.
Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä, Patrick Gallois.

It so happens that I am an admirer of Tianwa Yang, who is called master of the Violin" which she really is. The ease and agility with which she plays is nothing short than amazing. The female counterpart of Paganini would be a more apt title for this lady. There are many excellent violinists, but there are only a few exceptional, thus Yang certainly belongs to the last group. I already enjoyed her CD'S with music of Pablo de Sarasate, so this acquisition was really unavoidable. Now the Mendelssohn Violin concertos are often recorded, and many are pristine in performance, but when you listen to Yang, you hear immediately what you are missing with other interpretations. Yang's bowing is sublime, the phrasing an intimate concoction of poetical rhyming, her precision and surefootedness a thing to impress, the shaping of Mendelssohn attractive melodies as if she was born to it. The synergy she has with the music she plays, puts her in a cosmos of her own, and if she does not get a good partner in crime to perform with, the whole thing falls apart. Happily not so with the Sinfonia Finlandia, which is steered with submissive supportive strength to Yang, and so creates a symbiosis that makes the music into a miracle to hear. The colours she gets out of her Violin is nothing short of amazing, and the breathtaking ease and speed with which she dashes of the notes makes me wonder if a human can do this at all. But look at her hands, wonderful long fingers very bendable, and able to play anything. A revelatory performance.
As to the recording of the violin concerto in E minor. As such it is a good recording, which gets a bit muddy at the side of the cellos and woodwinds. There is not enough depth to sustain the short little details that makes these concertos so tantalizing to listen to. Yang's violin tone is beautifully captured though. The Concerto in D minor recorded in the same church is a perfect example of I heard what went wrong in the E minor and hereby it is corrected. Perfect depth, all the detail you need, and Yang's violin wonderfully integrated into the musical spectrum. And at the same time this is the best interpretation I ever heard from the D minor, so sensuous, drawing you into this concerto. I had a hard time adapting to the next piece, after this sumptuous meal of magic. The Violin sonata in F minor is a beautiful piece, well written and melodiously as seductive as the previous concerto, but right at the start Yang comes in with too much volume, and make the Adagio introduction overblown for this intimite work. The piano is to bold also, an approach that this piece can hardly stomach. It is beautifully played and both musicians get out what is in the notes, but the chamber music element is a concerto element, which is misjudging the intent of the piece. But that is a minor quibble really, must be said, but must not detain you from buying it. It is well captured in the recording. 

Nielsen, Carl. (1865-1931) The Complete Orchestral Works. CD 2, Symphonies No. 3 and 4. The Membran Edition.

From my collection.
Bought in 2012.
First listen: 15-11-2012.
Second listen: 9-12-2016.
Label: Membran.
CD 2 from 10.
Recording dates: January & August 2000.
Recording venue: Liverpool Hall.
Recording engineer: Not mentioned.
Running time: 79:53.
Classical relevance: A worthwhile set any time!

Works performed:
Symphony No. 3, opus 27 & No. 4, opus 29.

Works performed by:
Royal Liverpool PO, Douglass Bostock.

Most of us collectors have a set of these symphonies, and some have even multiple sets. That's all good, I belong to them with a few sets, and this is one of them. To my ears a set that deserves to be high on anybody's list. For what is basically a low budget box, holds excellent interpretations of Nielsen's orchestral works in good to excellent sound quality. And make no mistake about this orchestra and conductor, for both belong to the top ensembles in the world, and Bostock as a conductor has quite a reputation if it comes to superb performances. He is a multi talent if it comes to known but also unknown composers. I have many recordings to testify that.
The performances of Symphony No 3 & 4 are top notch. Swift furious passionate and very precisely executed, with some of the best brass I ever heard from an English orchestra. With the third symphony comes an alternative movement, the second movement, but instead of the voices of a Tenor and a Soprano we get the blessings of a Clarinet and Trombone, far preferable to the one with voices. they add nothing to my ears, thus the harmonies of both clarinet and trombone do much more good. I am happy he recorded the alternative.
A very strong performance of the Fourth symphony, hammers Nielsen world into shape, and makes this a powerful statement that will linger long afterwards. Bostock is creating a wonderful chaos, and brings all the orchestral lines back into shape as if nothing has happened. Bostock understands the genius of Nielsen in a unique way, and he has a powerful instrument in the Liverpool musicians whose machinery is buzzing with pleasure.

Bach, J.S. The Complete Organ Works. CD 3. (The Aeolus Edition)

From my collection. 
Bought in November 2014.
First listen: 27-11-2014.
Second listen: 9-12-2016.
Label: Aeolus.
CD 3 from 19.
Recording date: April 2008.
Recording venue: Eglise abbatiale Saint Maurice, ( Ebersmunster)
Instrument: Andreas Silbermann (1732)
Recording engineer: Christoph Martin Frommen.
Running time: 75:45.
Classical relevance: Essential. Reference recording and performance.

Works performed:

Fantasie in c Moll, BWV 537.

Fuge in c Moll, BWV 537.
Allein Gott in der Hoh. sei ehr, BWV 715, and 717.
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV 726.
Ach Gott und Herr., BWV 714.
Herzlich tut mich verlangen, BWV 727.
Fantasia und Imitation, BWV 563.
Fantasia super, Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 713.
Jesu, meine zuversicht, BWV 728.
In Dulci Jubilo, BWV 729.
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 730 & 731.
Partite diverse sopra, O, Gott du frommer Gott, BWV 767.
Fantasia in c Moll, BWV 562.
Partite diverse sopra, Christ, der du bist der helle Tag, BWV 766.

Performed by:

Ewald Kooiman.

For those that enjoy Kooiman's playing style, this set is a must. 

It is some kind of a novelty that I hear all of Bach's organ works on Silbermann Organs. Being used to basically North German instruments, it takes some sort of a adaption, to find the genius in these works again. In most of Bach's works I enjoy this sound, but there are pieces that do not lend themselves to this opulence, notably the work "Allein Gott in der Hohe, sei ehr, BWV 715". That needs adjustment, but it is far and wide between, for hearing "Ach Gott, und Herr BWV 714" is heart rendering, and so well suited to the instrument. And I could go on, for this set has many moments of sheer bliss, the more so for the recording, which is almost the best I ever heard in regard to the instrument. 

Tchaikovsky, Pyotr Ilyich.(1840-1893) The Sleeping Beauty, Ballet Music in 3 acts. Meyerbeer, Giacomo.(1791-1864. Les Patineurs Ballet music in one act. (Ballet Masterpieces on DECCA)

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: CD, 26: 18-4-2013, Second listen: 6-12-2016.
First listen: CD 27:  23-4-2013. Second listen: 6-12-2016.
First listen: CD 28: 26-4-2013.  Second listen: 9-12-2016.
Label: DECCA.
CD 26/27/28/ from 35.
Recording dates: Les Patineurs (January 1973. The Sleeping beauty (March 1977)
Recording venues: Kingsway Hall, London England.
Recording engineers: Michael Woolcock: Les Patineurs. Richard Beswick: The Sleeping Beauty)
Running time:  73:37-69:48-52:51.
Classical relevance: Essential for all ballet admirers.

Works performed:
See heading.
Les Patineurs is an arr by Constant Lambert.

Performed by:
National Philharmonic Orchestra, Richard Bonynge.

We all know the music belonging to The sleeping beauty, a masterwork by Tchaikovsky. We are less informed about Meyerbeer's "Les Patineurs". also ballet music of a high level, short granted, but powerful nevertheless and an unmissable piece in the repertoire.
We get fine performances with all the nuances we could wish for, ballet music pur sang, performed by an orchestra and conductor that have been the reference in these matters for a long time and will be long after my life will be ended. There is absolutely no doubt about this. Bonynge's name stood for ballet music, he was the sole representative of the genre and his recording label knew this well. Not for nothing has he recorded so much music in this genre. His live performances and recordings have always been a great success even to this day.  The man is still alive and for me a living icon.
As to the recordings...they are excellent, but in the sleeping beauty I missed details that were a bit cluttered, not much but enough to miss a few things. I did not know the engineer Richard Beswick, and although the recording is almost faultless, his experience did not reach that far that he got the ultimate out of the Kingsway Hall. Les Patineurs recorded by Michael Woolcock, also unknown to me, is a picture of clarity.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Deutsche Barock Weihnacht. CD 3. Miscellaneous works for Christmas time.

New acquisition.
Bought in October 2016.
First listen: 8-12-2016.
Label: Ricercar.
CD 3 from 7.
Recording dates: Between 1982-2010.
Venues and engineers: Not named.
Running time: 67:54.
Classical relevance: Nice Christmas music.

Composers on this disc:
Johann Herman Schein, Heinrich Schütz, Nicolaus Bruhns.

Works performed by:
Chœur de Chambre de Namur.
La Fenice, Jean Tubéry.

The music will bring you in a Christmas mood, no doubt about that. Fine and competent performances and sound.  Some impressive soloistic contributions. I loved Nicolaus Brühns "Nun komt der Heiden Heiland" a composition for Organ, and performed by Bernard Foccroulle. Superb.

Rota, Nino. (1911-1979) Respighi, Ottorino. (1879-1936) Malipiero, Gian Francesco. (1882-1973) Italian String Quartets.

From my collection.
Bought in October 2016.
First listen: 20-10-2016.
Second listen: 8-12-2016.
Third listen: 8-12-2016.
Label: Claves.
Recording dates:  June 1996.
Recording venue: Villa Medici, Briosco, Italy.
Recording engineer: Teije van Geest.
Running time: 61:23.
Classical relevance: For me this is an essential interpretation of these works.

Works performed: 

Nino Rota.
String Quartet (1948-1954)

Ottorino Respighi.
String Quartet in D major. (1907)

Gian Francesco Malipiero.
String Quartet No. 3 (1931) "Cantari alla Madrigalesca".

Performed by:
Nuovo Quartetto Italiano.

Without doubt, this ensemble is one of the best around, listening at their technical perfection, and a perfectly balanced sound. They are clearly well integrated and have been together for a while. In that sense all is okay. The harmonic flow is remarkable, but they raised it to a high level. The recording is good, it has a warm ambiance, without missing any detail. 
As for the works performed I can with confidence say that it will be hard to match for any other ensemble. The Rota work I never heard before, but since I am more or less on a discovery tour with this composer, it is a welcome addition to the works that are already in my possession. It is a well written work, with a beautiful second movement, and some gorgeous writing.
Respighi's SQ starts with a fine first movement, played with warmth and genuine affection. It draws you in quickly, and moves one profoundly by its beauty. Not in the least because is played with such concentration.
I bought some time ago orchestral works by Malipiero, on the label Marco Polo, but only listened once to them. But they impressed me nevertheless, and so I was curious if his SQ would match my expectations. It is in one movement. Neo classical, tonally stretched but not much. The writing has a clarity and determent focus. The melodies are worked into clear lines, with a melodic purpose emulating a musical picture, of an emotional spectrum that can be quite unsettling but also reaffirming of life. But it wanders in strange places, and sometimes gets lost in a magical conundrum of colours that puts a mist over its meaning. I have to hear this several times, before I can get this into a context. Fascinating it is though. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Deutsche Barock Weihnacht. CD 2.

New acquisition.
Bought in October 2016.
First listen.
Label: Ricercar.
CD 2 from 7.
Recording dates: From 1982-2003.
Recording venue and engineers not mentioned.
Running time: 70:23.
Classical relevance: Nice Christmas music for a pittance.

Composers on this disc:
Dieterich Buxtehude, Andreas Hammerschmidt, Hieronymus Praetorius, Thomas Selle, Johann Herman Schein, Samuel Scheidt.

Works performed by:
As with CD 1.
Plus: Bernard Foccroulle & Guy Penson, Organ.

A treat, to start with Buxtehude played by Bernard Foccroulle on organ, and Schein and Scheidt, played by Guy Penson. Foccroulle Buxtehude recordings on Ricercar are played on a number of fine organs, but I do not know which organ it is of this compilation. They sound marvelous though. Still available as a 5 CD set, but quite expensive. The Guy Penson recordings, (Scheidt and Schein), I could not find. As for the choir works and instrumental works they are all from mediocre to good, as are the recordings. The organ recordings are superb.

Deutsche Barock Weihnacht. CD 1.

New acquisition.
Bought in October 2016.
First listen.
CD 1 from 7.
Recording years: Between 1982-2003. Not specifically named.
Recording venue: Not mentioned.
Recording engineers: Not mentioned.
Running time: 68:00.
Classical relevance: A nice box for Christmas.

Michael Praetorius, Michael Altenburg, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Schelle, Matthias Weckmann, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Michael Bach, Franz Tunder, Dietrich Buxtehude, Johann Hermann Schein, Hieronymus Praetorius, Vincent Lübeck, Andreas Hammerschmidt.

Works performed by:
Chœur de Chambre de Namur, Denis Menier.
Capella Sancti Michaelis, Erik van Nevel.
Ricercar Consort.
La Fenice.

A very inexpensive box exclusively released by JPC de. Seven CD'S with Christmas music, vocal and instrumental. Performed by a lot of different ensembles. Meaning that although the music is beautiful, the performances on this first CD go from mediocre to very good, and all what is in between. Same goes for the recordings. That said, for around 20 euros this is a super bargain, as long as you do not expect top quality.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Haydn, Joseph. (1732-1809) The Symphonies. CD 2.

From my collection.
Gifted to me in 2013. (Reena)
First listen: 20-4-2013.
Second listen: 6-12-2016.
Label: L'oiseau-Lyre.
CD 2 from 32.
Recording dates: November/December 1991. July 1991.
Recording venue: Abbey Road Studio 1, London, England.
Recording engineers: Named, but not attached to individual recordings.
Running time: 53:12.
Classical relevance: Must have essential.

Works performed:
Symphony No. 10 in D major
No. 11 in E flat major.
No. 18 in D major.

Works performed by:
Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood..

Three delightful symphonies, expertly scored by Haydn, with an abundance of fine melodies and surprises. There is always a musical twist or turn that makes you sit upright. I would have wished the first movement of No. 11. and the first movement of No. 18 a bit faster as Hogwood does. It's not that the integrity is at peril, but the coherence would have been more clear and steady as it now sometimes is. Apart from this I find the Adagio cantabile from No. 11 with its 9:05 a tad overstretched, beautiful as it is. For the rest I like the tempi chosen. The recording lets you hear all detail, and the soundstage is really excellent. There is not a note you will miss, and you can walk through all the desks. Well engineered!

Mahler, Gustav. (1860-1911) The Complete Symphonies. Symphony No 1 in D major, "Titan".

From my collection.
Bought in 2008.
First listen: 11-11-2008.
Second listen: 6-12-2016.
Label: Brilliant. (Licensed from DENON)
CD 1 from 15.
Recording dates: February 28- March 1 1985.
Recording venue: Alte Oper, Frankfurt, Germany.
Recording engineer: Not mentioned.
Running time: 54:39.
Classical relevance: Very interesting as a interpretation.

Works performed:
See heading.

Works performed by:
Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester-Frankfurt, Eliahu Inbal.

This is by no means your run of the mill performance! Your eyebrows will raise during the whole listening time, and more than once you will be surprised by the stance Inball takes in this work.
To toss a few terms, I would like to say, well behaved, depends on your views if it will challenge you, polite and extremely elegant, really slowish tempi, extremely detailed, and a conductor that will not keep to the score as expected. He does not put a foot wrong, no he puts new shoes on, and walks in an ungainly way through the score. Devoid of emotion as known to man, a cool approach in the most literal way, logical and at times matter of fact. He will not raise or raise your hairs depending of how you like your Mahler. Inspiring as well as dull, adds new things, for instance, no sentimentality, no romantic cluttering throughout, no none of that. Inbal has very clear notions in connection with tempi, phrasing, dynamics and shading. An that might not be everybody's cup of tea. But he clearly marks his territory no doubt about that. He ignores most of the movement markings and runs his own show, contrary of what Mahler would have wished, he sails his own ship against the wind. But in a very polite way. In that sense he is a truly unique conductor. 
And the orchestra follows him closely, Inbal's grip on them, down to every single player is absolute. The recording made by DENON is State of the Art. The soundstage has a depth, that will let your hear even the tiniest sound made. The ambiance is perfectly suited to orchestral works. So you are able to follow the score in every detail. That is a huge bonus. And despite all, I rather like what I hear.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Haydn, Joseph. (1732-1809) Symphonies. CD 1. The Christopher Hogwood Edition.

From my collection.
Bought in 2013.
First listen: 18-4-2013.
Second listen: 5-12-2016.
Label: L'oiseau-Lyre.
CD 1 from 32.
Recording dates: Symphonies 1,2,4: July 1990, Symphony No. 5: July 1991.
Recording venue: Studio 1, Abbey Road, London, England.
Recording engineer: They are named but not attached to each separate recording.
Running time: 54:00.
Classical relevance: Essential, but not the last answer in interpretation.

Works performed

Symphony No 1 in D major. No. 2 in C major, No. 4 in D major. No. 5 in A major.

Works performed by:

The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood.

I have listen today to a recording of the complete set done by Antal Dorati on Decca, and came to the conclusion that I have outgrown the way it is played. I finally lost my unwavering allegiance to this set, and decided to let it rest in my collection forever, for it served it's purpose, and now newer approaches take over the helm from the much venerated conductor that has us all introduced to Haydn wondrous world in recording the first complete set of his Symphonies. But I now know more, miss more, and am more critical in what I hear, or rather what I do not hear. I already have a very good set by the likes of Adam Fischer on the label Brilliant. A good all round performance throughout that can stand easily on it's own feet and will hold a primary place in any collection, without putting you to shame. And now I bought this set some years ago by the late Christopher Hogwood, a much lamented conductor that alas did not complete this set entirely. This is to be regretted immensely, but alas cannot be repaired, so we have to do with what he recorded and that's quite a lot. I have listen to this set from 2013 till 2014, and remember that I was not totally satisfied with the result, so after a few years of attuning my ears anew, I took the box out of my collection and started again with disc 1. What I thought then and still do, is that Hogwood keeps most of the time to his speed limits, almost never overstepping the boundaries set by the movements, with an exception of the fourth movement, Finale: Presto of the fifth Symphony. 
Hogwood follows the tempi indicated and in this he is not at fault. But some movements would benefit greatly if played a little faster as he does. Gentle, sophisticated, elegant, poetical, yes all these things are abundantly present, but also polite, reserved, a bit too mild in the expression of emotion, and rather a stiff walk at times. Agility is less of a factor, and the energy is sometimes at a low voltage. A gentleman at leisure is a good term. But this said, there is a enormous amount of detail, and beautiful phrasing, careful observance of fff or ppp, that makes this a see through performance in which you will not miss anything.  But do not expect to be swept of your feet, for you will not. To understand Haydn as an orchestrator you could not wish for better performances. And as such I applaud them, and start with some rested ears on this journey.
The sound is a bit unbalanced at times. It is always very good, but there are some anomalies which I rather would not hear.
Symphony No: 1/2/4 are made on the same dates and have a good soundstage, with plenty of air around the instruments, in the fff when Horns and the top notes of the Violins come together the horns get a hooty sound and mixed with the violins gives a shrill tone. No 5 which is recorded a year later, accentuates these things, for it is louder recorded and the orchestra is more on the foreground. I was not expecting this from the DECCA engineers, but let's hope this is not repeated.

Weckman, Matthias. (c.1616-1674) The Complete Organ Works. CD 1. TOP RECOMMENDATION.

From my collection 
Bought in January 2016.
First listen: 13-1-2016.
Second listen: 5-12-2016.
Label: Motette.
CD 1 from 2.
Recording dates: November 1990,
Recording venue: Ludgeri Kirche im Norden, Germany.
Recording engineer: Erik Sikkema.
Running time: CD 1, 77:35.
Classical relevance: Essential. Reference recording

Performed by:

Hans Davidsson.

Arp Schnitger 1688.
Wind pressure: 71.5 mm WS.
Pitch: a'= 5/8 ton, 440Hz.
Erweitert mitteltönige Stimmung.

This came by a recommendation of a good friend in the classical music field, and was he right in telling me about this fabulous recording of Weckman's Organ works. I knew the works, of course I did, but I did not know the performer, a magician in all respects. I never heard Weckman in such a modus, and can safely say that this one shoots to the top of my list. He simply has no competitor. Coupled together with one of the finest Arp Schnitger organs around, plus a state of the art recording by Erik Sikkema, it is a eclatant success which I can only recommend further to all that are interested in this music. Pure poetry I tell you, music straight from paradise. The booklet is the best I have every seen, all the info you could possibly want is at hand.
Get it before it goes OOP, this will be soon.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Strauss, II Johann. (1825-1899) The complete Orchestral Edition. CD 30

New acquisition.
Bought in 2013.
First listen: 2-12-2016.
Label: Naxos.
CD 30 from 52.
Recording dates: January 1991.
Recording venue: House of Arts, Košice.
Recording engineer: Gejza Toperczer.
Running time: 67:17.
Classical relevance: Since these are the only recordings, essential.

Works performed:
Fest Marsch, opus 49.
Luisen Sympathie Klänge, opus 81.
Alexandrine Polka, opus 198.
Paroxysmen, opus 189.
Kammerball Polka, opus 230.
Attaque Quadrille, opus 76.
Reiseabenteuer, Waltz, opus 227.
Par Force, Polka, opus 308.
Erinnerung an Covent Garden, Walzer nach Englischen Volksmelodien, opus 329.
Kriegsabenteuer, Quick Polka, opus 419.
Perpetuum mobile, ein musikalischer Scherz, opus 257.
Klug Grethlein Waltz, opus 462.

Works performed by:
Slovak State PO Košice, Alfred Walter.

After a long time I came back to this box. I always listen to this music with large intervals, so it must have been a year ago or more, I do not remember. These are the only recordings of Johann Strauss II complete orchestral works, and as such it is a unique document and not likely to be repeated by what ever label. To record 52 CD's of Strauss music is for most companies impossible to realize in terms of money. It would however make a big improvement to have top orchestras and conductors doing the performing, for despite the efforts that went into this project, the major flaw are the orchestras, conductors and recording engineers. They are of the second tier, not bad, but not good either. But at least we have the music, and for this I am grateful.
CD 30 then, not filled with absolute masterworks, but a few stand out in a compositional manner.
I was delighted to hear such witty and well written works like: Alexandrine polka, Attaque Polka and Perpetuum mobile-ein musikalischer scherz. This orchestra excels in the faster works, like the Polkas, the Quadrilles and so forth. The waltzes are mediocre on this disc. The Viennese swing and spontaneity is missing. It is stiff in the loins, square even, straightfaced as if they are all counting the notes, and play the dance element always in the same tempo, more like a menuetto. No sloppy playing mind, they keep close to the score, but it is all so measured and without the joy that is unmistakable the prime part of Strauss's music.  There is no natural flow. But funny enough, and do not ask me why, but the last waltz on this disc "Klug Grethlein" is played as it should, flowing free, emitting joy, as if the bonds of mediocre fell to the floor. Well....
As to the recording, It is not bad, all details can be heard, and there is some depth, but the ambiance is not warm but rather chilly. Moreover the string and flutes together can give you a start for their shrillness, suddenly in a fff, not nice for the ears. A decent recording, not more. A question of quality of equipment, placing of the microphones, a good mixing console, and decent near field monitors to have a bearing as to the sound. Good headphones is also a wise decision. O, well, we have to do with them.

Juon, Paul, (1872-1940) The String Quartets, CD 1.

New acquisition. Purchase year: 2018. First listen: 17-3-2018. Label: CPO. CD 1 from 2. Recording dates: January 2014. Venue: Studio I...