Gramophone Magazine Editor's Choice

July 2004

Editor's Choice

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Maxwell Davies - Sacred choral music

Maxwell Davies - Sacred choral music


Davies, Peter Maxwell:

Missa parvula for unison upper voices & organ

Mass for full choir & two organs

Veni Creator Spiritus for organ

Dum complerentur for unaccompanied full choir

Reliqui domum meum for organ

Veni Sancte Spiritus for unaccompanied full choir


‘Baker entices some of the most wonderful singing from his choir here while Robert Quinney and Houssart positively revel in their virtuoso interplay. It almost goes without saying that Hyperion’s recording captures the full effect of Maxwell Davies’ astonishing writing’ (Gramophone)

“Under David Hill and subsequently James O'Donnell the choir of Westminster Cathedral established a tradition of excellent recordings for Hyperion. That tradition is as strong as ever under Martin Baker, who became Master of the Music in 2000. Like his immediate predecessors, Baker is exploring repertoire which isn't just challenging and unusual, but of real value.
The Missa parvula for unison boys' voices vividly recalls Britten's Missa brevis both in its terse musical language and understated emotion. The opening of the Mass occupies the same soundworld as the Missa parvula and it's only with the thrilling and lavishly scored Gloria that it's apparent we are now into a work of much greater depth and impact. This is a hugely impressive performance, as much for the astonishing effect of the two organs as for the often magical choral effects. Baker entices some of the most wonderful singing from his choir here while Roberts Quinney and Houssart revel in their virtuoso interplay. Hyperion's recording captures the full effect of Maxwell Davies' astonishing writing.
A revelatory disc for those keen to know what sort of 'establishment' music we might expect from the new Master of the Queen's Music.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2004

Contemporary Music - up to 25% off

Hyperion - CDA67454

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Coleridge-Taylor & Dvorak: Violin Concertos

Coleridge-Taylor & Dvorak: Violin Concertos


Coleridge-Taylor:

Violin Concerto in G minor Op. 80

Dvorak:

Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53


Philippe Graffin (violin)

Johannesburg Philharmonic, Michael Hankinson

Acclaimed violinist and prolific recording artist Philippe Graffin scored a major coup when he unearthed the Violin Concerto of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the Afro-English composer whose star has waned since the height of his fame at the turn of the last century, but has rapidly risen again on the strength of this world-premiere recording.

Coleridge-Taylor's education was as English as they come - studying at the Royal College with Stanford alongside such luminaries as Vaughan Williams and Holst - but his most powerful influences were the folk music and poetry of African-Americans and American Indians, reinforced by his first visit to the US in 1900. References to and inspiration from spirituals and slave songs abound in the Violin Concerto, making the coupling of the Violin Concerto by Dvorák, who was equally inspired by American idioms, apt indeed. In fact, the great American violinist Maud Powell who championed Coleridge-Taylor's works and premiered his Violin Concerto in June 1912 - called him the "colored Dvorák". In an interesting twist, the US premiere was nearly derailed when the original parts sank with the Titanic!

Under the inspired direction of British-born conductor Michael Hankinson, the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra is a musical miracle in a country whose national priorities seem a far cry from promoting Western classical music. Established in 2000 by a multi-cultural group of committed musicians, the JPO have created an exciting ensemble whose aims extend to the musical education of their public and, thanks to this recording, resound worldwide. Their motto: "A nation that turns its back on its culture turns its back on itself".

“Graffin plays with such vibrant character and imagination, and the whole venture radiates such a life-affirming spontaneity and joy in music-making.” Gramophone, Editor’s Choice

“The resurgence of interest in the music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor reaches another milestone with this long-overdue first recording of his Violin Concerto. Coleridge-Taylor completed it in 1911 for the American virtuoso Maud Powell but never lived to hear a note. Abetted by polished and passionate playing from the recently formed Johannesburg PO under its British-born chief Michael Hankinson, Philippe Graffin triumphantly demonstrates what an effective, endearing work it is, acutely responsive as he is to its bittersweet lyricism while equally relishing the many opportunities for solo display in both outer movements.
The choice of Dvorák's concerto as a coupling would no doubt have pleased Coleridge-Taylor; the Czech master was his favourite composer.
Again, there's no missing the wholehearted commitment of all involved. Admittedly, there are times when you're aware that the orchestra isn't in the luxury class, but Graffin plays with such vibrant character and imagination, and the whole venture radiates such a life-affirming spontaneity and joy in music-making that any drawbacks dwindle into insignificance.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2004

Avie - AV0044

(CD)

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Aho: Symphonic Dances 'Hommage à Uuno Klami', etc.

Aho:

Symphonic Dances 'Hommage à Uuno Klami'

Symphony No. 11 for six percussionists & orchestra


“a superb coupling of two strongly communicative contemporary works…which demonstrate Aho’s comprehensive mastery of rhythm, timbre and drama”. Gramophone

“Aho's Symphonic Dances (2001) bear the subtitle 'Hommage à Uuno Klami' – and therein lies the clue to the work's genesis. Klami (1900- 1961), one of the leading Finnish composers of the last century, had high hopes for his largescale, Kalevala-inspired ballet Pyrörteitä, but by the time of his death had managed to orchestrate only the second of its three acts. Aho orchestrated Act 1 in 1988. During 2000, no material having come to light for the final act, he embarked on completing Klami's magnumopus, bolstered by the prospect of a production at the Finnish National Ballet. In the event, that belated premiere never materialised, and it was left to Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti SO to champion Aho's 'Third Act' in the concert hall. A thoroughly approachable, 27-minute creation of exhilarating drive and colour, its four movements take their names from Klami's original synopsis. It's stunningly well served here by artists and production crew alike.
Symphony No 11 is almost as rewarding. It grew out of a commission for an orchestral work involving the Kroumata Percussion Ensemble, and is cast in three movements, the last of which distils a wondrous stillness and inner calm. It also serves as a perfect foil to the first two movements, both of which demonstrate Aho's comprehensive mastery of rhythm, timbre and drama. Again, the performance is a definitive one and BIS's engineering breathtaking in its realism.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2004

Contemporary Music - up to 25% off

BIS - BISCD1336

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Paavo Järvi conducts Ravel

Paavo Järvi conducts Ravel


Ravel:

Daphnis et Chloé - Suite No. 2

La Valse

Ma Mère l'Oye

Boléro


“Most of this disc is very enjoyable.
Järvi is always in absolute control, and one or two moments of unscheduled rubato in La valse can be forgiven, such was the tact and intelligence with which they were managed. Any conductor must balance the impulse to lilt à la viennoise against what appears to be Ravel's implicit instruction not to vary the tempo until around halfway. Järvi does it well and, notably, his speed for the return of the opening is spot on the original, not faster as so often happens.
His Boléro is on the quick side, but there's no feeling of scramble, and the only things to miss are the extra trombone slides from Ravel's disc, which unfortunately have never found their way into the score. The Pavane is lovely in all respects – steady but not stodgy – and the Daphnis suite has all the colour and warmth one could ask for. Just occasionally in Ma mère l'oye the balance isn't ideal: in the first movement the cor anglais momentarily obscures the clarinet, and in 'Laideronnette' the piccolo, too, is lost in its lower reaches. The only moment where Järvi's identification with the music seems to falter is with his handling of the 'Retenu/A tempo' marking leading into the final peroration of 'Le jardin féerique'.
But these are small points to set against the quality of the whole.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - July 2004

Telarc - CD80601

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$14.25

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