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The Romantic Cello Concerto, Vol. 5: Saint-Saëns

The Romantic Cello Concerto, Vol. 5: Saint-Saëns


Saint-Saëns:

Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Manze

Cello Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 119

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Manze

La Muse et le Poète, Op. 132

Antje Weithaas (violin)

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Manze

Allegro Appassionato in B minor Op. 43

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Manze

Le carnaval des animaux: Le Cygne

Julia Lynch (piano) & Judith Keaney (piano)


Natalie Clein adds a remarkable collection of Saint-Saëns’ music for cello and orchestra to her impressive discography. Clein first came to prominence when she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year award in 1994; it is appropriate that she performs the music of an extraordinary child prodigy.

The first cello concerto has always been one of Saint-Saëns’ most popular pieces, Casals choosing it for his London debut in 1905. It is a gloriously playful piece that carries the listener along on a melodic and emotional rollercoaster, from the jaunty opening to the eloquence of the second movement minuet, with a persistent yearning threading its way throughout. The second concerto will be less familiar to listeners. The soloist for whom it was written, Joseph Hollman, was an energetic, muscular player and Saint-Saëns seems here to turn his back on the suave style of the first concerto. When Saint-Saëns’ pupil and friend Gabriel Fauré chose the concerto as a Conservatoire test piece, the composer was duly grateful, but admitted ‘it will never be as well known as the first; it’s too difficult’. This it certainly is, with many solo passages, huge leaps and runs that require two staves to accommodate them, and a large amount of doublestopping. Natalie Clein meets these challenges with marvellous technique, musicianship and the passion for which she has become so well known.

“It is the light airiness of Natalie Clein's approach that works so well here...she finds a golden timbre and fleet elegance, matched by Andrew Manze and the effervescent BBC Scottish forces. This is as close as you'll get to musical champagne; I've a feeling Saint-Saens would have approved.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2014 ****

BBC Music Magazine

Concerto Choice - October 2014

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Handel: Arias

Handel: Arias


Handel:

Quando mai (from Radamisto)

Mi lusinga il dolce affetto (from Alcina)

Verdi prati (from Alcina)

Sta nell'Ircana pietrosa tana (from Alcina)

Hercules: There in myrtle shades

Hercules: Cease, ruler of the day, to rise

Hercules: Where shall I fly?

Cara speme (from Giulio Cesare)

Con l'ali di costanza (from Ariodante)

Scherza, infida (from Ariodante)

Dopo notte (from Ariodante)


Hyperion is delighted to present a tour de force from the supreme mezzo-soprano of today, Alice Coote, accompanied by The English Concert and Harry Bicket, making their Hyperion debut. Coote performs a selection of Handel’s greatest arias from opera and oratorio, employing an extraordinary range of vocal and dramatic colour, tone and emotion to produce triumphant and moving interpretations of these masterpieces.

Every piece is a highlight. Handel’s Italian operas are represented by his first two Covent Garden operas, Alcina and the great tragedy Ariodante, and also Radamisto and Giulio Cesare in Egitto (perhaps Handel’s most popular opera today). Handel’s English oratorio Hercules contains music of utter beauty. Written to a libretto by Thomas Broughton based on Sophocles’ Trachiniae, it is a drama of sombre magnificence. At its centre is the tragic figure of Hercules’ wife Dejanira, a role to rival Saul as a study in the corrosive power of jealousy. Little is known about the ‘Miss Robinson’ who created the part. But the music that Handel wrote for her suggests that she must have been a fine singing actress. Alice Coote’s powers in this direction are unrivalled today.

“The wealth of virtues in Coote's recital include her intuitive sense of apposite, well-proportioned ornamentation and a sure feeling for just tempo...Occasionally I found her vibrato and vocal portamentos a little intrusive. But expressive singing with eloquent instrumental partnership make for a rewarding encounter.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2014 ****

“The bronze-coloured mezzo of Alice Coote is well-suited to the virtuosity and drama in some of Handel’s greatest operas” Financial Times, 6th September 2014

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Brahms: The Complete Songs Volume 5 (Christopher Maltman)

Brahms: The Complete Songs Volume 5 (Christopher Maltman)


Brahms:

Die schöne Magelone, Op. 33


Christopher Maltman (baritone) & Graham Johnson (piano)

A new recording from renowned recitalist and winner of the Lieder Prize at the 1997 Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, Christopher Maltman. Graham Johnson is both accompanist and curator of this series that presents the entire piano-accompanied songs and vocal works of Johannes Brahms.

As such it is a companion to the series undertaken by Hyperion for the songs of Schubert, Schumann, Fauré, Strauss and Liszt. This fifth volume presents the songs of Op 33, the only time that Brahms composed a song cycle as such, but even then his observations about how he wished his songs to be heard are worth considering; they are far removed from the contemporary orthodoxy. Brahms sets Tieck’s ‘novella’ Die wundersame Liebesgeschichte der schönen Magelone und des Grafen Peter von Provence (‘The wondrous love story of the beautiful Magelone and Count Peter of Provence’). A full account of the text and of the composition of this intriguing cycle is to be found in Graham Johnson’s erudite booklet notes.

“While Behle and Bjelland attempt contextualisation [on their Capriccio recording ealier this year], Maltman and Johnson give us the music on its own, in a performance that is the more focused and emotionally detailed of the two, though some may prefer Behle’s romantic-sounding tenor to Maltman’s sexier, if more troubling baritone.” The Guardian, 11th September 2014 ****

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The Classical Piano Concerto 1: Dussek

The Classical Piano Concerto 1: Dussek


Dussek, J L:

Piano Concerto in G major, Op. 1, No. 3

Piano Concerto in C major, Op. 29

Piano Concerto in E flat major, Op. 70


Howard Shelley (piano & conductor)

Ulster Orchestra

Following on from Hyperion’s hugely popular ‘Romantic Piano Concerto’ series, the ‘Classical Piano Concerto’ focuses on the lesser-known concertos from the dawn of the genre. Between about 1770 and 1820—the high classical period dominated by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven—musicians including Clementi, Cramer, Dussek, Steibelt, Woelfl and others made their names as composers and performers of piano concertos. This series aims to be the first in-depth recorded survey of this forgotten repertoire.

This first volume features three of Bohemian virtuoso Jan Ladislav Dussek’s eighteen piano concertos, taken from different points in his career. As a group, these pieces are a fascinating study, with most of the earlier works largely reflecting the Mozartian model, and the later ones revealing stylistic traits sometimes at odds with the late eighteenth-century conception of the form, and anticipating future developments in the genre.

There could be no finer guide to the hidden gems of this repertoire than Howard Shelley, whose recordings of Clementi keyboard works, and Mozart and Hummel piano concertos, have received such acclaim. He appears here as pianist / conductor with the Ulster Orchestra.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“Shelley has been a stalwart of the Romantic series of concertos, and so it seems fitting that he has been chosen to do the honours here. He brings his customary elegance to every bar, and it's a delight to listen to him, with immaculate passagework and tender playing in the slow movements. I look forward to hearing further volumes in this series!” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 21st July 2014

“bright, buoyant and restlessly busy” Financial Times, 20th August 2014

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Canticles from St Paul's

Canticles from St Paul's


Archer, M:

Benedicite, omnia opera

Gray, Alan:

Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in F minor

Roth, A:

Jubilate

Stanford:

Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in B flat, Op. 10

Tippett:

Magnificat & Nunc dimittis (Collegium Sancti Johannis Cantabrigiense)

Walmisley:

Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in D Minor

Walton:

Coronation Te Deum

Wood, C:

Magnificat and Nunc dimittis (Collegium Regale)


The Canticles are the crowning glory of the Anglican liturgy and have afforded the greatest opportunity for musical development within the Anglican rite. Thousands of people daily hear the world-famous St Paul’s Cathedral Choir and organist Simon Johnson under their director of music Andrew Carwood singing these settings. Here these forces present a satisfying collection including nineteenth-century masterpieces by Stanford and Charles Wood, and from the twentieth century Walton’s Coronation Te Deum, written for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and Tippett’s monumental work for St John’s College Cambridge.

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - September 2014

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Prokofiev: Violin Sonatas & Five Melodies

Prokofiev: Violin Sonatas & Five Melodies


Prokofiev:

Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80

Five Melodies for Violin and Piano, Op. 35b

Violin Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 94a


‘One of the biggest joys of the London concert scene in recent years has been the opening up of the musical world of Alina Ibragimova, a world that seems to know no bounds … here she was partnered by Steven Osborne—a meeting of minds and talents that had that paradoxical effect, common to the best collaborations, of two strongly contrasted individuals speaking with one voice. The First Sonata really let fly … quiet but powerfully sustained in the slow music, a fount of uncorked energy in the more frequent fast sections, Ibragimova dug deep into Prokofiev’s aching heart, profiling the jagged motifs of the Allegro brusco second movement as vividly as she tore into the syncopated rhythms of the battling finale—every phrase stamped with conviction and gravitas’ (Financial Times)

Hyperion is delighted to present a collaboration—an extraordinary force on the concert platform—in its first appearance on record. Alina Ibragimova and Steven Osborne are musicians of searing, uncompromising intelligence and intense feeling.

In his works for the violin, Prokofiev produced some of his most personal and expressive music. Both of his Violin Sonatas were written for David Oistrakh. The First was begun against the backdrop of Stalin’s Great Terror, in 1938, and one senses that he drew his inspiration from the uncharacteristically dark wells of fear, despair and bereavement which were the lot of Prokofiev and his contemporaries. The Violin Sonata No 2 in D major is of a very different character—generally sunny and carefree, though still with occasional fleeting shadows from the dark world of the First Sonata. In its original form it was a Flute Sonata, Op 94, which Prokofiev had completed in 1943. At David Oistrakh’s suggestion and with his assistance, Prokofiev transcribed this Sonata to create the Second Violin Sonata, Op 94bis.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“The performances might lack the volcanic lustre found in Ibragimova’s Szymanowski album, but her febrile manner still finds a lively outlet in repertoire stamped with the skittish, the sardonic, the bittersweet and other Prokofiev hallmarks.” The Times, 27th June 2014 ****

“there is always room for performances of the depth of perception and strength of character that Ibragimova and Osborne give...In tandem with the comparative calm of the Second Sonata there is also a vitalising impetus and an apt palette of colour that distinguishes the whole disc.” The Telegraph, 4th July 2014 *****

“They are played here with an intense-feeling virtuosity, Ibragimova equally magnificent in restraint...and when belting out, say, the second movement of [the F minor], as strongly contrasted with its predecessor as the whole sonata is with its successor.” Sunday Times, 6th July 2014

“they bring their interpretation to disc – with the same conviction, clairvoyance and charismatic force as their live rendition. Osborne’s weighty tone is a match for the Russian-born violinist’s no-holds-barred attack.” Financial Times, 19th June 2014 *****

“Two of today’s most impressive soloists unite in pieces both introspective and lyrical, and – particularly the First Sonata – deeply emotional. Musical collaboration at its most intense and thoughtful.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2014

“From the austere opening bars...it's clear that this violin-and-piano duo is capable of the subtlest interplay. Steven Osborne is the lion, or the demon, that needs taming by Alina Ibragimova's fiddler, dancing - sometimes ever so frailly - on the volcano.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2014 *****

“two enormously contrasting sonatas that could hardly be more different, but it's testament to the musicianship of Ibragimova and Osborne that both works, as well as the Melodies (which are certainly more than just filler material), succeed so well.” David Smith, Presto Classical, 14th July 2014

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - August 2014

BBC Music Magazine

Chamber Choice - August 2014

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The Romantic Piano Concerto 63 - Godard

The Romantic Piano Concerto 63 - Godard


Godard, B:

Piano Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 31

Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 148

Introduction et Allegro pour piano et orchestre, Op. 49


Howard Shelley directs the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra from the piano in this latest volume of The Romantic Piano Concerto series. As ever, they perform unknown music with consummate style and deep understanding, making the best possible case for the works. We have reached Volume 63 and the works of French composer Benjamin Godard, a figure who is almost totally forgotten today. He is described by Jeremy Nicholas in his booklet note as ‘a composer who combines the sentimental melodic appeal of Massenet with the fecundity and technical facility of Saint-Saëns’.

Among Godard’s oeuvre, well over seventy opus numbers are devoted to works for solo piano, ranging from Les contes de Perrault, Op 6, to Valse No 15, Op 153. His Hommage à Chopin can be found on Hyperion CDA67803, performed by Jonathan Plowright. Much of the enormous amount of music he produced followed in the tradition of Mendelssohn and Schumann (his admiration for the latter inspired a string quartet arrangement of Kinderszenen in 1876). With the emergence of more innovative composers, Godard’s conservative idiom meant his reputation faded before his early death in Cannes on 10 January 1895. However, in the three works presented here his writing for the piano exceeds the technical range of his two idols, and is often reminiscent of the bravura demands found in the concertos of Liszt and Rubinstein.

“As far as the pianism goes, Godard was evidently fully aware of the new vistas of technique and colour opened up by Liszt...The performances by the indefatigable Howard Shelley and the Tasmanian orchestra cannot be faulted.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2014

“Godard distrusted Wagnerism, and his two piano concertos constrain Romantic sensibilities within the classical form...The disc is a tour de force for Howard Shelley, who, in addition to coping with Godard's often vertiginous piano writing, directs all three performances from the keyboard, which is no mean feat.” The Guardian, 10th July 2014 ****

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Bridge: Complete Songs

Bridge: Complete Songs

All forty-five of the songs composed by Frank Bridge


Janice Watson (soprano), Louise Winter (mezzo soprano), Jamie MacDougal (tenor), Gerald Finley (baritone), Roger Vignoles (piano)

This important release brings together all forty-five of the songs composed by Frank Bridge. The programme is presented generally along chronological lines, and although the songs were written over two decades there is a remarkable consistency of style. A good number of the texts will be familiar from the songs of, say, Quilter or Finzi, but many more show Bridge’s enthusiasm for unearthing rather less well-known literary subject matter.

“These two CDs, finely recorded and thoughtfully presented, are a most timely and valuable addition to the catalogue” Gramophone Magazine

“This fine collection of settings by poets as diverse as Herrick, Heine and Tagore is full of surprises and beautifully performed by all, especially pianist Roger Vignoles” The Observer

“Prepared and performed with the care and conviction for which Hyperion is famous. Those who simply love vocal recitals will find plenty of enjoyment in these well-documented discs, as well as a further revelation of the wealth of ‘English Renaissance’ contributions to art song. Distinguished performances of little-known but substantial, and often impressive, repertoire” Classic CD

“Another superb collection of songs” Financial Times

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The Romantic Violin Concerto 16 - Busoni & Strauss

The Romantic Violin Concerto 16 - Busoni & Strauss


Beethoven:

Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123 - Benedictus

arranged for violin and orchestra by Ferruccio Busoni. First recording

Busoni:

Violin Concerto, Op. 35a

Strauss, R:

Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 8


German violinist Tanja Becker-Bender returns to the Romantic Violin Concerto series having dazzled the critics with her ‘great lyrical force and tremendous sense of drama’ in her recording of the Reger concerto. Here she appears with Hyperion house band the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker, in Volume 16: concertos by Busoni and Strauss, each composer’s only example of the genre.

In D major, the key of Beethoven’s and Brahms’s violin concertos, Busoni’s Violin Concerto is clearly intended to continue their lineage—significantly, Busoni wrote cadenzas for both of them—although it never descends into mere imitation. Although it uses quite a large orchestra, it is transparently scored, with plenty of Italianate cantilena for the soloist. Also included is Busoni’s transcription of the Benedictus from Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, which brings the solo violin to the fore, with instrumental obbligati representing the vocal contributions.

The seventeen-year-old Strauss wrote his Violin Concerto in 1881–2, during his final year at the Ludwigsgymnasium. The work was dedicated to Strauss’s violin teacher Benno Walter (1847–1901), concertmaster of the Bavarian Court Orchestra. The work is fairly unknown on the concert platform; as Tully Potter writes in his booklet notes, Tanja Becker-Bender’s interpretation should win it new friends.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“[The Busoni] audibly haunted by the ghosts of Beethoven and Brahms's violin concertos, but at just 23 minutes long, it's far less daunting. It's tuneful and easygoing too, and as Tanja Becker-Bender's performance on the latest instalment of Hyperion's romantic violin concerto series underlines, it's hard to understand why it isn't performed more often.” The Guardian, 21st August 2014 ***

“this performance [of the Strauss] is very persuasive indeed...The real discovery of the disc for me, however, was definitely the Busoni concerto. This piece was completely new to me, but it's full of fantastic music and such imaginative touches of orchestration that I was instantly hooked...It's a wonderful performance, and has definitely converted me to the Busoni cause!” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 21st July 2014

“She plays with ...sweet tone, sureness [of] intonation and complete understanding of Busoni's music...She plays [the Strauss][ for all its worth though cannot disguise the longueurs of the opening...Her accounts of the Lento ma non troppo and concluding Prestissimo are winning. An excellent disc.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2014

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Mendelssohn: The Complete Solo Piano Music, Vol. 2

Mendelssohn: The Complete Solo Piano Music, Vol. 2


Mendelssohn:

Rondo capriccioso in E major, Op. 14

Fantasia on "The Last Rose of Summer", Op. 15

3 Fantasies (or Caprices) Op. 16

Fantasia in F sharp minor, Op. 28

Songs without Words, Book 2 (6), Op. 30

Individual ‘Lieder ohne Worte’: E flat major, Espressivo & Allegro, MWV U 68

Individual ‘Lieder ohne Worte’: A major [Allegretto], MWV U 138

Songs without Words, Book 3 (6), Op. 38


Howard Shelley is acclaimed as the living master of early Romantic piano music. So much of this music was ignored throughout the twentieth century that there is still a sense of discovery at each new recording. Shelley here presents the second instalment of a six-volume set of Mendelssohn’s complete solo piano music—perhaps the least well-known part of the composer’s repertoire. The first volume was praised for Shelley’s ‘immaculate, lightly-pedalled brilliance, unfailing stylistic assurance, warmth and flexibility’ (Gramophone).

This second volume includes the Rondo capriccioso, a favourite virtuoso concert piece of the nineteenth century; the three-movement Fantasia in F sharp minor, which was originally described as a ‘Sonate écossaise’, with its characteristic Scottish folk-song elements in the first movement, and two books of the Songs without Words.

“Time and again Shelley makes it clear that Mendelssohn has a special place in his affections, and although it is invidious to locate the finer moments in his unfailing expertise, certain performances stand out for their exceptional grace and commitment.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2014

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