Presto News - 6th October 2014
Cole Porter in Hollywood
A new disc from John Wilson and his Orchestra always appears when I feel most in need of perking up – just as the nights begin to draw in, the stage-and-screen maestro par excellence and his virtuoso pick-up band are on hand with their latest instalment of joyous, nostalgic music-making that never fails to put a smile on my face after the first track. Following hugely successful tributes to Rodgers & Hammerstein and the MGM Musicals, JWO devote themselves to the music of Cole Porter this time round: their sell-out performance of Kiss me Kate at this year’s Proms gave a foretaste of Wilson’s way with the sophisticated, witty and often bittersweet world of the Paris-educated honorary New Yorker who turned out words and music for stage and screen at a dizzying rate in the 1930s, 40s and 50s (his output numbers almost a thousand songs all told!).
The orchestral performances here display all of the virtues that have come to be associated with Wilson and his band: plenty of ‘front’ on the brass-playing, liberal vibrato from the strings and just enough swooning portamento (sliding between pitches) to replicate that old-school Hollywood shimmer and sheen. Unsurprisingly, given the pedigree of Wilson’s hand-picked players from some of the world’s top orchestras and bands, there’s some ravishing solo playing, notably from leader Andrew Haveron (former leader of the Brodsky Quartet) and John Anderson, whose cor anglais solo is a particular highlight. My only reservation is that the orchestra appears to be much more closely miked than on earlier recordings, despite the engineer and recording-venues being the same – which can throw the balance off in one or two of the more lyrical numbers.
Most of the solo singers are long-term collaborators with Wilson, and will be familiar to anyone who’s heard any of the previous discs or attended one of the live performances. Powerhouse alto Anna-Jane Casey kicks things off with a delightfully sassy account of ‘Stereophonic Sound’ in an arrangement by André Previn, nipped and tucked by Wilson, and delivers an insouciant ‘Always true to you in my fashion’ (one of a generous selection of songs from Kiss me Kate). Veteran Broadway diva Kim Criswell also turns in a bravura performance, not least in an unabashedly sleazy ‘My heart belongs to Daddy’ (made famous by Marilyn Monroe) and ‘Josephine’, a ribald paean to the charms of Napoleon’s mistress from Silk Stockings). And by way of contrast with the two Broadway ‘belters’ it’s great to hear Sarah Fox’s opulent lyric soprano in the soaring lines of the cod-Viennese ‘Wunderbar!’ from Kiss me Kate. I hear on the grapevine that Fox has an entire Cole Porter disc of her own in the pipeline for the spring, and on this evidence it’s definitely one to keep an eye out for!
But the most affecting singing of all comes from Matthew Ford, Wilson’s go-to man for the ‘crooner’ numbers; he takes on Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby roles here, and has been known to do a good ‘Frank Sinatra’ in the live shows! His sincere, understated ‘It’s alright with me’ from Can-Can is the most beautiful track on the disc, and a lovely oasis amid all the razzmatazz of the larger-scale numbers.
It almost goes without saying that everyone’s diction and delivery of the text is consistently crisp and pointed, so that Porter’s witty, wry and at times almost Wildean quips (many of them really rather risqué for the time of composition – how on earth did certain phrases in ‘Josephine’ get past the beady eyes of the censors?!) all hit home from the first hearing. A delight from start to finish.
Cole Porter in Hollywood
Anna-Jane Casey, Kim Criswell, Matthew Ford, Sarah Fox, Richard Morrison, John Wilson Orchestra, John Wilson
Music Industries Association Awards 2014
We’re delighted that our independently-owned shop in Leamington Spa has been nominated for three categories in this year’s MIA Awards – Best Classical Music Instrument Shop, Best Presented Retailer and Best Retailer (Small). They’re the fifth, sixth and seventh entries on this page – and you can vote in all three categories. We very much hope that you will consider supporting us by voting for us!
Presto Recommends – Claude Debussy
David listens to some of the finest recordings, past and present, of the French master of colour and Impressionistic suggestion: Claude Debussy. Known today primarily for his orchestral and piano works – his fame resting largely on the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Clair de lune, a single movement from his Suite bergamasque – Debussy was an accomplished composer of songs and chamber music as well, not to mention a uniquely mysterious and enchanting opera, Pélleas et Mélisande.
You can read through David’s choices here.
Presto Interview – Sandrine Piau's Desperate Heroines
French soprano Sandrine Piau is one of today’s foremost Baroque and Classical singers, with a clear, bright voice that is instantly recognisable. Her latest disc, Desperate Heroines, explores the tragic leading ladies of Mozart’s operas, from Le nozze di Figaro to Don Giovanni and beyond.
Katherine caught up with Sandrine to talk about the album and the selection of numbers included on it.
You can read the full interview here.
Katherine Cooper - firstname.lastname@example.org
6th October 2014
Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Sea Pictures
Stuart Skelton (tenor), Sarah Connolly (mezzo), David Soar (bass), BBC Symphony Chorus & Orchestra, Andrew Davis
Chandos presents this new recording of Elgar’s choral masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius and the enduringly popular song cycle Sea Pictures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. In Gerontius the soloists are Stuart Skelton, David Soar, and Sarah Connolly, who also sings in Sea Pictures.
Mahler: Symphony No. 7
Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo Dudamel resumes his survey of the Mahler symphonies with this recording of the mysterious Seventh Symphony. The Seventh is a “symphony of everything”, says Dudamel, “from chaos to glory, sarcasm to tenderness, from a funeral march to a seductive tango. It is a cosmic symphony of perfect construction and galactic emotional scope”.
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 8
Orchestre Révolutionnaire Et Romantique, John Eliot Gardiner
October 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Twenty years after their acclaimed Beethoven Symphonies recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the orchestra revisit this repertoire with these performances recorded live at Cadogan Hall.
The Romantic Violin Concerto 17 - Bruch
Jack Liebeck (violin), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins
Award-winning violinist Jack Liebeck brings his impassioned tones and formidable technique to the first of three albums of music by Max Bruch. This disc presents one of Bruch’s most popular pieces for violin and orchestra, the Scottish Fantasy, alongside one of his least known, the Violin Concerto No 3 in D minor, Op 58.
Bach, J S: The Art of Fugue, BWV1080
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Angela Hewitt’s recording of The Art of Fugue is destined to be the crowning achievement of her Bach cycle for Hyperion - a revelatory recording project. With decades of experience behind her, she breathes fresh air into the most complex keyboard-writing of Bach, bringing it to life with crystalline clarity and thoughtful sincerity.
The Spy’s Choirbook
Alamire & English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, David Skinner
Among the treasures in the British Library is a sumptuous choirbook prepared for Henry VIII and his first queen Catherine of Aragon. It was produced by Petrus Alamire, who acted as a spy for Henry against Richard de la Pole, a Plantagenet claimant to the throne. The choirbook, gifted to the royal couple in around 1516, contains 34 motets, including masterworks by Josquin Desprez, Jean Mouton, Heinrich Isaac, Antoine de Févin, and Pierre de la Rue.
Maria Callas – Remastered
Maria Callas (soprano)
Although Maria Callas died as long ago as September 1977, she remains an icon. This 69-CD deluxe set contains all the studio recordings that she made for both EMI/Columbia and the Italian label Cetra between 1949 and 1969, comprising 26 complete opera recordings and 13 recital albums. Each recording has been painstakingly remastered in 24-bit/96kHz sound at Abbey Road Studios, using the original tapes.
Mozart Operas Boxed Set (DVD)
Colin Davis, Antonio Pappano, Charles Mackerras (conductors)
This 5-disc set features outstanding Royal Opera House productions of Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, and Le nozze di Figaro. Between them, the productions feature a stunning line-up of soloists, including Joyce DiDonato, Simon Keenlyside, Erwin Schrott, Gerald Finley, Miah Persson, Diana Damrau, and many others.
Blu-ray version also available here.
BBC Radio 3 CD Review
Saturday 4th October 2014
Disc of the Week
Brahms: The Complete Songs Volume 5 (Christopher Maltman)
Christopher Maltman (baritone) & Graham Johnson (piano)
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