CLAUDIO SANTORO – SYMPHONIES Nos 11 & 12
GOIAS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, NEIL THOMSON, conductor
NAXOS 8.574406 69’15
I am enjoying getting to know some of this music in ‘The Music of Brazil’ series from Naxos. Santoro’s works have already featured and here we have a further pairing of two of his later symphonies (of a total of 14). They are complemented here by Concerto grosso for string quartet and Three fragments on BACH. Three of the four works here are world premiere recordings. Some of the music features some beautifully percussive ‘Latin’ orchestration and rhythm whilst there is also much that is reminiscent of Soviet traditions of the early/ mid twentieth century. The whole CD makes for enjoyable, interesting listening.
JOSEF BOHUSLAV FOERSTER – SYMPHONY No 1 – FROM SHAKESPEARE
JANACEK PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, MAREK STILEC, conductor
NAXOS 8.574336 64’09
This disc collects three works from Czech composer Joef Foerster, all dating from the end of the 19th to early 20th centuries. Opening with the Festive Overture and ending with From Shakespeare, the centrepiece of this CD is the Symphony No 1 in D minor. This is romantic music with nationalistic elements, strong in melody and with wide ranging orchestral timbres.
NIKOLAI KAPUSTIN / A BU – NEW MEMORIES
A BU, piano
WERGO WER 7405 2 55’52
Kapustin’s jazz-inspired piano music is always exciting and engaging. Here pianist A Bu combines thrilling performances of Kapustin’s Variations for piano and Concert Etudes with his own Piano Sonata No 1 and Sleeping in a dream, to produce a lovely CD of contrasting contemporary piano.
POLISH ACCORDION CONCERTOS
KLAUIUSZ BARAN, accordion
POLISH RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, MICHAL KLAUZA, conductor
NAXOS 8.574431 64’19
Highlighting the range of emotion and the complexity capable from an instrument that is often wrongly regarded as a vehicle simply for light music this is an excellent release. Three contemporary composers are each represented by a concerto. Marcin Blacewicz’s Accordion Concerto dates from 2012, Bronislaw Kazimierz Przybylski’s Concerto Polacco from 1973 and Concerto Classico by Mikolaj Majkusiak from 2001.
WORKS FOR PIANOS & ORCHESTRA
ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, DMITRY YABLONSKY, conductor
NAXOS 8.573802 60’47
I have always been drawn to the sound of more hands than 2 playing a piano. The ability to achieve more rapid coverage, faster repetition and denser chords makes for an exciting and, at times, slightly un-nerving sound. Here we have a collection of wonderful music in thrilling performances of works by Frank Martin, Poulenc, Shostakovich and Aryeh Levanon. Three of the recordings are premieres.
DELIUS – SMYTH STRING QUARTETS
NAXOS 8.574376 65’31
This release allows us to stop off around the transition from the 19th to 20th Centuries in the refined sound world of the string quartet. Ethel Smyth is regarded as something of an innovator in her life and work and so it is good to have her String Quartet in E minor coupled with Delius’ C minor String Quartet. The latter is a recent reconstruction by Daniel M Grimley, made possible after two long missing movements appeared at auction in 2018. A very interesting CD.
WORKS FOR VIOLIN AND PERCUSSION ORCHESTRA
NICHOLAS KITCHEN, violin
NEW ENGLAND CONSERVATORY PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE, FRANK EPSTEIN, conductor
NAXOS 8.574212 61’41
An entirely different sound is to be found on this CD. West meets East in this programme which fuses solo violin with sounds reminiscent of, but not restricted to, traditional gamelan. The centrepiece of the CD is Lou Harrison’s Concerto for violin and percussion orchestra, a ground-breaking work from the mid 20th Century. Inspired by this two other composers have created the pieces which bookend it here – Robert Xavier Rodriguez’ Xochiquetzal (2014) which paints a picture of Mayan spirituality, and Kati Agocs’ own Concerto for violin and percussion orchestra from 2018. These are premiere recordings for the new pieces.
BRITISH LIGHT MUSIC 12 – ANTHONY HEDGES
RTE SINFONIETTA, ANTHONY HEDGES, conductor
NAXOS 8.574324 61’00
This series which I love to champion continues with a more recent composer. Anthony Hedges only died in 2019 and continued the grand tradition of British Light Music with much melody, rhythm and evocative writing, often strongly rooted in a particular landscape. I had only heard a couple of these pieces before and really welcome this latest CD. Alongside other pieces we have here Kingston Sketches, Scenes from the Humber, Heigham Sound and Four Breton Sketches.
THOMAS ADES – MARCHENTANZE
PEKKA KUUSISTO, violin TOMAS NUNEZ, cello
FINNISH RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, NICHOLAS COLLON, conductor
ONDINE ODE 1411-2 57’33
It has been quite a while since I have heard any new music from Thomas Ades so it is great to have this release of new music (2016-21). Beginning in an early 20th Century jazz style the Hotel Suite from the opera Powder her Face gets this CD off in grand swinging style. As would be expected from Ades there are many other different sounds to be found here both rhythmic and more expansive. These are all world premiere recordings, the other pieces being Lieux retrouves, Marchentanze and Dawn.
HELENE DE MONTGEROULT – ETUDES
CLARE HAMMOND, piano
BIS BIS-2603 70’32
This new-to-me music is around 200 years old. Beautifully crafted, delicate performances bring this lovely piano music to life in a CD that is most enjoyable. Music that should be more widely known and appreciated.
KHACHATURIAN – PIANO CONCERTO; CONCERTO-RHAPSODY
IYAD SUGHAYER, piano
BBC NATIONAL ORCHESTRA OF WALES, ANDREW LITTON, conductor
BIS BIS-2586 75’35
Exciting sounds from this composer of flamboyant music are to be found on this CD. As well as the two title works there is also a suite from Masquerade which begins with the well-known frenzied Waltz. Brilliant performances of substantial music. Oh yes, the second movement of the Piano Concerto also includes some haunting moments from musical saw!
HUGO ALFVEN – COMPLETE SYMPHONIES
ROYAL SCOTTISH NATIONAL ORCHESTRA
NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA OF IRELAND
ICELAND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
NORRKOPING SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
HELSINGBORG SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
NIKLAS WILLEN & OKKO KAMU, conductors
NAXOS 8.507015 (7 CDs)
I have really been enjoying exploring this set which sensibly presents each of Alfven’s 6 symphonies, 1 per disc, complemented by smaller and often lighter works including Rhapsodies and Suites. A significant Swedish composer, who died in 1960, most of this music was new to me. Much of the music is evocative of the natural world often with a light and playful manner, contrasted by a number of symphonic movements which often have a denser more austere presence.
The fourth symphony includes the added timbre of vocalise, of it’s time, but highly effective when not overused.
This beautifully presented box set includes a 7th disc of “Swedish orchestral favourites” which help to place Alfven’s music in his local context. It is towards the end of this CD that I finally got to hear the only piece of Alfven I previously knew. Here in it’s original form the main theme from Swedish Rhapsody No 1 will probably be very familiar. Before this is another piece I have come to love in recent years, Dag Wiren’s Marcia from Serenade for Strings.
There is much to explore and enjoy here.