Presto News - 7th May 2012

Britten: War Requiem

Of all the musical masterpieces of the twentieth century, a work that must surely rank highly on anyone’s list is Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. It was commissioned for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral (just up the road from us here in Leamington Spa!), which had been more or less destroyed by a German bombing raid in 1940, and was first performed on the 30th May 1962. The pacifist Britten came up with the ingenious idea of interspersing the Latin text of the Requiem with poems by the celebrated First World War poet, Wilfred Owen, and even after fifty years the piece has lost none of its ability to shock us, to move us, and to force us to contemplate the nature of war and sacrifice.

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its composition, we have been treated to a new recording on LSO Live, with the Italian conductor, Gianandrea Noseda. Although he was a replacement for Sir Colin Davis, who had to withdraw owing to ill health, Noseda gives no indication of being a mere stand-by, and I particularly like the way that he brings an Italianate sense of theatricality to this work, heightening the inherent drama of the piece in a way that reminded me in several places of the Requiem setting by Giuseppe Verdi.

Perhaps nowhere is this more true than the thunderous brass interjections at the start of the Dies Irae, which pack quite a punch and are fantastically apocalyptic in their power (for me, there’s nothing quite like the LSO brass section in full flow!). The contribution from the chorus is also largely excellent, especially in this movement, where the opening lines are sung in a kind of half-hiss/half-whisper, but when their full force is finally unleashed for the Tuba mirum, the effect is quite terrifying indeed! They have clearly been prepared extremely well, and I was very impressed by their discipline and precision in tricky passages that can easily descend into rhythmic chaos (such as Confutatis maledictis and Sed signifer sanctus Michael).

Soloists, too, are on top form. I had expected this to be ideal repertoire for Ian Bostridge and I wasn’t disappointed: he has just the right kind of plangent sound and his diction is, as usual, pretty much perfect. Similarly, the marvellous Simon Keenlyside’s first entrance, Bugles sang, saddening the evening air, is wonderfully sung (coupled with some fine solo horn playing from Timothy Jones). Both male soloists kept me captivated at every stage, but perhaps their finest hour is their duet in the Offertorium, where Britten sets Owen’s The Parable of the Old Man and the Young, which tells of Abraham’s intended sacrifice of his son, Isaac. The moment where they sing of the angel appearing in order to prevent the sacrifice is simply ravishing, and sends a shiver up my spine every time I hear it.

I must admit that the soprano soloist, Sabina Cvilak, was previously unknown to me, but I’m pleased to say that she provides the requisite heft for the Liber scriptus, as well as plaintive tenderness in the Lacrimosa. Finally, special mention must go to the boys of the Choir of Eltham College with their brief but crucial contributions. Having played in performances of this piece myself where the boys’ choir has been somewhat less than stellar in quality, I always feel a certain amount of trepidation as we approach their first entrance, Te decet hymnus, but I needn’t have worried on this occasion; they are reassuringly secure and full in tone throughout.

In a letter to his sister after the première, Britten somewhat modestly said, “I hope it’ll make people think a bit”. This recording certainly does that. Obviously, lovers of this piece will already have Britten’s own version, made soon after the first performance and also with the LSO, but this new one is, I think, equally fine, and offers a deeply moving account of this thought-provoking piece.

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Britten: War Requiem, Op. 66

Sabina Cvilak (soprano), Ian Bostridge (tenor), Simon Keenlyside (baritone), London Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus, Choir of Eltham College, Gianandrea Noseda

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James Longstaffe - james@prestoclassical.co.uk

New Releases

7th May 2012

This is just the pick of the recent releases. The New Releases and Future Releases pages are always available for browsing all the new and forthcoming releases.

Love and Longing

Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano), Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle

Magdalena Kožená, Sir Simon Rattle, and the Berliner Philharmoniker seduce in Ravel’s Shéhérazade, stir and awe in Dvorák’s austere Biblische Lieder, and render to the fullest the bittersweet potency of Mahler’s intricately orchestrated Rückert Lieder.

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Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Volume 1

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)

To run parallel with his complete Haydn series, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is now starting a complete, chronological cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. This first set covers the sonatas composed in the 1790s. Two further volumes, of middle and late sonatas, will follow in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Each volume in the series will be available as 3 CDs for the price of 2.

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Dvorak: Stabat Mater, Op. 58

Janice Watson (soprano), Dagmar Pecková (mezzo soprano), Peter Auty (tenor) & Peter Rose (bass), London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, Neeme Järvi

Dvořák’s Stabat Mater was a work brought about by personal tragedy of almost incomprehensible proportions, after the composer lost all three of his then living children. A setting of the mediaeval Latin prayer to the bereaved mother of the crucified Christ, it was to become both a work of mourning and a work of healing. The shifts of mood from grief and near despair to hope and faith run throughout the work, before the glory and solace of the final Amen.

Neeme Järvi conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir in this live concert recording.

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Schumann: Piano Quartet & Piano Quintet

Alexander Melnikov (piano), Jerusalem Quartet

The Piano Quintet Op.44 and Piano Quartet Op.47 date from a brief period during which Schumann focused his attention intensively on chamber music (between June 1842 and January 1843). These works underline his wish to escape from the solo piano, now ‘too restricted’ for his overflowing imagination, as he told Clara. The Quintet, which made a powerful impression on Wagner, is probably one of his most sophisticated works, into which Schumann poured all the creative energy he derived from meticulous examination of similar works by his predecessors, especially Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Schubert.

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Weinberg: Cello Concerto & Symphony No. 20

Claes Gunnarsson (cello), Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Thord Svedlund

This is the fourth disc in a series dedicated to the orchestral works of Mieczysław Weinberg, performed by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under Thord Svedlund. The cello soloist is Claes Gunnarsson, one of Sweden’s leading cellists, who combines the post as Principal Cello of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra with a brilliant solo career.

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Britten: Serenade for tenor, horn & strings

Mark Padmore (tenor), Stephen Bell (horn), Britten Sinfonia, Jacqueline Shave (director)

Celebrated tenor Mark Padmore joins the Britten Sinfonia in some of the most beautiful English music for voice and orchestra. The centrepiece is Britten’s magical evocation of twilight and nightfall, the ‘Serenade’ (with Stephen Bell, horn). In Gerald Finzi’s war-time cycle ‘Dies natalis’, the ecstatic mood reflects a child’s wide-eyed wonder at the world. Britten’s poignant ‘Nocturne’ completes the programme.

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Vivaldi: Opera Arias

Roberta Invernizzi (soprano), La Risonanza, Fabio Bonizzoni

A new recording from Roberta Invernizzi always gives pleasure, but on the rare occasion when the Italian soprano is placed in the spotlight, as with this new collection of opera arias, it promises something very special indeed. Invernizzi is known for her style and drama in the music of the Baroque (as on recent discs of Handel and Campra). This new journey, on Glossa, showcases Vivaldi’s own fertile dramatic capacity to capture moods and a whole range of emotional highs and lows embracing anger, despair, anxiety, amorous frustration and touching intensity. Invernizzi triumphs, crowned by her electrifying performance of Dopo un’orrida procella from Griselda.

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Massenet: Cendrillon - DVD

Joyce DiDonato, Alice Coote, Eglise Gutiérrez, Ewa Podles, Orchestra & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Bertrand de Billy (conductor) & Laurent Pelly (direction)

With Joyce DiDonato as Cinderella capturing all hearts – not just Prince Charming’s – Massenet’s enchanting, sophisticated retelling of the classic fairytale makes its debut at Covent Garden in a charming and witty production by Laurent Pelly.

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Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 CD Review

Saturday 5th May 2012

Building a Library - Korngold: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35

First Choice

(coupled with Barber: Violin Concerto)

Gil Shaham (violin), London Symphony Orchestra, André Previn

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Disc of the Week

Massenet: Don Quichotte

Ferruccio Furlanetto (Don Quichotte), Anna Kiknadze (Dulcinée) & Andrei Serov (Sancho Panza)

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29-Dec-2008 -Jerusalem - in search of peace
22-Dec-2008 -Looking ahead - Handel, Haydn and more
15-Dec-2008 -2008 - A great year for DVDs
08-Dec-2008 -Top new Christmas recommendations
01-Dec-2008 -Richard Hickox
24-Nov-2008 -The World's Great Orchestras, and Euros and US Dollars now accepted
17-Nov-2008 -Lost manuscripts continue to be found
10-Nov-2008 -Haydn's String Quartets
03-Nov-2008 -Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony
27-Oct-2008 -Contemporary Music
20-Oct-2008 -Sir Peter Moores
13-Oct-2008 -Vivaldi in a new light
06-Oct-2008 -Americans in Pyongyang
29-Sep-2008 -Paul Lewis and the Gramophone Awards 2008
22-Sep-2008 -Songs her mother taught her
15-Sep-2008 -Vernon Handley
08-Sep-2008 -Zig Zag and the Atrium Quartet
01-Sep-2008 -Gramophone Awards nominations
25-Aug-2008 -Beautiful Messiah and Exquisite Morales
18-Aug-2008 -Great Pianists of the Past
11-Aug-2008 -Classical Television Broadcasts on the Internet
04-Aug-2008 -Chloë Hanslip and the unfamiliar
28-Jul-2008 -Leopold Godowsky and the virtuoso pianist
21-Jul-2008 -Linn Records
14-Jul-2008 -Vaughan Williams
07-Jul-2008 -Olivier Messiaen
30-Jun-2008 -Reginald Goodall's revelatory 'Mastersingers'
23-Jun-2008 -The French Baroque - 200 Years of Versailles
16-Jun-2008 -Bach Fugues from Onyx and the Emersons
09-Jun-2008 -New DVD page and Special Offer
02-Jun-2008 -Time to re-evaluate Miaskovsky
26-May-2008 -Superb Scholl sings Dowland and his circle
19-May-2008 -Fiesta! - Dudamel and the Venezuelans
12-May-2008 -The Guarneri Piano Trio and the label Praga
05-May-2008 -A La Bohème for all
28-Apr-2008 -Beethoven and Period Instruments
21-Apr-2008 -The Jerusalem Quartet
14-Apr-2008 -Nigel Kennedy
07-Apr-2008 -Paul Lewis's Beethoven
31-Mar-2008 -Ingrid Fliter
24-Mar-2008 -Mel Bonis
17-Mar-2008 -Stunning new Haydn Creation from Paul McCreesh
10-Mar-2008 -Hilary Hahn plays Schoenberg and Sibelius
03-Mar-2008 -Rattle and Gergiev on Mahler
25-Feb-2008 -Handel Organ Concertos
18-Feb-2008 -Late Mozart Symphonies
11-Feb-2008 -Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project
04-Feb-2008 -Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel
28-Jan-2008 -Undeservedly neglected music - John Marsh and Juan de Araujo
21-Jan-2008 -New Bach Cantatas page
14-Jan-2008 -Composers' Own Recordings
07-Jan-2008 -Francis Xavier and Jordi Savall
31-Dec-2007 -50 Years of Harmonia Mundi
24-Dec-2007 -Last thoughts on 2007, first on 2008
17-Dec-2007 -Discs of the Year
10-Dec-2007 -Stockhausen
03-Dec-2007 -25 Years of the Compact Disc
26-Nov-2007 -Pacini and the importance of first performances
19-Nov-2007 -Christmas music worth hearing
12-Nov-2007 -The forgotten Maria
05-Nov-2007 -Why composers marked repeats
29-Oct-2007 -Bach B minor Mass from Suzuki
22-Oct-2007 -New Mahler 8 from Pierre Boulez
15-Oct-2007 -Lucerne Festival Orchestra
08-Oct-2007 -Julia Fischer and the Gramophone Awards
01-Oct-2007 -Mozart - Don Giovanni from René Jacobs
24-Sep-2007 -Natalie Clein and the Elgar Cello Concerto
17-Sep-2007 -Joshua Bell
10-Sep-2007 -Luciano Pavarotti
03-Sep-2007 -Kate Royal
27-Aug-2007 -Gramophone Awards - finalists revealed
20-Aug-2007 -Exciting new baroque rediscovery - Conti's David
13-Aug-2007 -Venezuelan Youth Orchestra the envy of the world
06-Aug-2007 -Music's Best-kept Secrets
30-Jul-2007 -Haydn - the most underrated great composer
23-Jul-2007 -Beethoven Piano Sonatas
16-Jul-2007 -BBC Proms 2007
09-Jul-2007 -Elin Manahan Thomas
02-Jul-2007 -Open minds and superb Bernarda Fink
25-Jun-2007 -Excited by another batch of re-issues?
18-Jun-2007 -Composer Works lists now published
11-Jun-2007 -Padmore and Bostridge sing Handel
04-Jun-2007 -Elgar's Enigma Variations
28-May-2007 -Still suffering some seventy years on?
21-May-2007 -Buying Opera on CD or DVD
14-May-2007 -Debussy's new champion
07-May-2007 -Schütz's Legacy
30-Apr-2007 -Mstislav Rostropovich
23-Apr-2007 -Missed Opportunities
16-Apr-2007 -BBC Music Magazine Awards
09-Apr-2007 -The way we listen
02-Apr-2007 -Too much Mozart?
26-Mar-2007 -Harpsichord or Piano?
19-Mar-2007 -Strauss's Four Last Songs
12-Mar-2007 -The importance of government support
05-Mar-2007 -Do today's musicians all sound the same?

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