Presto News - 14th January 2013

Little Britten

Well, the Britten centenary is upon us, as the new 50p coin and a quick survey of today’s new releases will testify...Virgin’s powerful new Rape of Lucretia, which I mentioned before Christmas, is among them - but today I want to tell you about an intriguing solo instrumental disc and a comprehensive collection of choral music which have been occupying me over the past week.

Matthew Barley
Matthew Barley

First up is Matthew Barley’s ‘Around Britten’, an eclectic but cohesive programme built around Britten’s mighty Third Cello Suite: written towards the end of Britten’s life for his great friend Rostropovich and inspired by his interpretation of the great Bach suites. The work utilises the ‘Kontakion’ (a Russian Orthodox hymn for the dead) and this chant also underpins several of the works by other composers on the disc. The significance of the recital’s title is two-fold: on one level, the programme is centred ‘around Britten’, with Gavin Bryars and John Tavener (and, in a haunting ten-minute improvisation, Barley himself) drawing inspiration from his writing for solo cello much as Britten himself did from Bach.

On another, it references Barley’s forthcoming journey ‘around Britain’: he’s just embarked on a 100-date tour which will see him performing the programme in a range of remote and unconventional venues including a cave and a lighthouse! (Do watch the short video-trailer if you’ve a spare five minutes - I saw it before sampling the disc, and found that just imagining hearing the music in some of these locations enriched my listening no end!)

The disc was recorded late at night in Canterbury Cathedral, where Barley’s grandfather was once Dean: he writes touchingly of his empathy with the building, and of his almost uncanny recent discovery that his grandfather had requested that the Kontakion be used at his funeral in the cathedral! If a disc based on a funeral chant sounds rather elegiac, well - I suppose it is, rather, but it’s suffused with a rapt, meditative quality that makes for wonderful late-night listening and there’s a splendidly boisterous arrangement of ‘Oliver Cromwell’ to round things off! (The disc includes several of Barley’s arrangements of Britten’s best-known folk-song settings, multi-tracked by the cellist in his home studio). I’ll be doing my best to catch Barley in one of the live performances, and urge any UK readers to do the same!

Choir of New College Oxford
Choir of New College Oxford

I’ve also been exploring Britten's sacred choral music, courtesy of Edward Higginbottom and New College Oxford. Though Britten’s career never centred around church music, his sacred choral output spans three decades (1930-1962) and fills two discs. There are fresh, incisive accounts of the oft-recorded Ceremony of Carols and Rejoice in the Lamb here, plus some shorter pieces which weren’t published or performed during the composer’s lifetime: try the 1961 Venite exultemus, only discovered several years after Britten’s death and not otherwise available on disc.

Comparisons are of course odious, but I found it fascinating to hear the New College boys in this repertoire shortly after listening in on a rehearsal of Britten at King’s Cambridge: whereas the King’s trebles sound rounded and impeccably polished, their counterparts at New have a vital, pleasingly rough-round-the-edges quality that put me very much in mind of the sound which Britten conjured from the children’s choirs on his own recordings. And whilst it sounds like a back-handed compliment to recommend a disc for its documentation, I must mention that Prof. Higginbottom and New College alumnus James Bowman discuss Britten’s conflicted relationship with Anglican liturgy with real insight and affection in booklet-essays that truly enhanced my appreciation of the music.

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Around Britten: Matthew Barley

Matthew Barley (cello)

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Britten: The Sacred Choral Music

New College Choir Oxford, Edward Higginbottom

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Katherine Cooper - katherine@prestoclassical.co.uk

New Releases

14th January 2013

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.

Britten: The Rape of Lucretia

Angelika Kirchschlager (Lucretia), Peter Coleman-Wright (Tarquinius), Ian Bostridge (Male Chorus), Susan Gritton (Female Chorus), Christopher Purves (Collatinus), Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble, Oliver Knussen

Recorded live in 2011 at the Aldeburgh Festival, which Benjamin Britten founded in 1948, this performance of his dark, intense chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia stars Angelika Kirchschlager, Peter Coleman-Wright and Ian Bostridge, with Oliver Knussen conducting. “Everything, without exception, was right on the money,” said The Guardian,” ... a dazzling success.”

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Barber: Cello Concerto & Sonata

Christian Poltéra (cello), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Litton

Poltéra opens his programme with the Cello Concerto – one of only three concertos by Barber – which balances the natural lyric expressiveness of his earlier music with a more urgent, rhythmic and intense style.

Poltéra and regular chamber-music partner Stott then perform the Sonata for Cello and Piano, composed while Barber was still a student.

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Mozart, Copland & Kats-Chernin: Works for Clarinet & Orchestra

Michael Collins (clarinet, basset clarinet & conductor), Swedish Chamber Orchestra

Michael Collins combines the roles of clarinet soloist and conductor as he leads the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in three works that chart the journey of the clarinet from Mozart’s late eighteenth-century Europe, via Aaron Copland’s 1940s America, to today’s classical scene with a piece written, for Michael Collins, in 2007 by the Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin.

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Dohnányi: The Complete Solo Piano Music, Vol. 2

Martin Roscoe (piano)

This second volume of Dohnányi’s piano music focuses on early works from the period 1897 to 1907, when Dohnányi was still establishing himself within the great lineage of composer–pianists. Martin Roscoe is the ideal performer: the acknowledged master of this deeply appealing and unfairly neglected repertoire.

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Petrassi: Magnificat & Psalm IX

Sabina Cvilak (soprano), Orchestra and Chorus, Teatro Regio, Torino, Gianandrea Noseda

Noseda and his Italian forces here turn to the choral works of Goffredo Petrassi, an Italian composer who, despite being a relatively late bloomer, developed into one of Italy’s most significant composers of the mid- to late twentieth century.

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Szymanowski: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4 & Concert Overture

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Edward Gardner

This recording of orchestral works by Karol Szymanowski form part of the Polish Music series on Chandos, and is performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Edward Gardner. These performers have impressed in their Lutosławski survey, which is part of the same series; in a review of volume 1, Gramophone described them as a veritable ‘dream team’.

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Dvorak Symphony No. 6 & Janáček Idyll

Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz

Dvořák’s was a strong voice in the re-establishment of Czech musical identity, and the noble themes, open landscapes and dancing Scherzo of the Symphony No. 6 bear the stamp of a genius at his height. The work can also be heard as a tribute to Brahms, who had helped him earlier in his career.

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Vivaldi: Bassoon Concertos Volume 3

Sergio Azzolini (bassoon), L'Aura Soave Cremona

This 48th release in the Vivaldi Edition features a selection of the finest works for bassoon ever composed. Azzolini is like a magician with his instrument and with each CD Azzolini proves himself to be an artist of endless immagination and virtuosity and surpasses the one before.

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Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 CD Review

Saturday 12th January 2013

Building a Library - Dowland Recordings

First Choice (Dowland Songs)

Mark Padmore (tenor) & Elizabeth Kenny (lute)

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Disc of the Week

Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3

Erinn Morley (soprano) & Joshua Hopkins (baritone), New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Alan Gilbert

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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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