Mstation Classical Reviews
pre Dec 04 reviews are here
Tue, 05 Jul 2005
Vaughan Williams, Mass in G Minor Judith Bingham, Mass Westminster Cathedral Choir Robert Quinney Martin Baker LP, Hyperion
Ah no, you're probably thinking of the Abbey. Westminster Cathedral is a fifteen or so minute stroll down towards Victoria station from the Abbey. The Abbey was once Roman Catholic but is now, of course, Anglican. Westminster Cathedral is the main Catholic church in London and it is there that Cardinal Cormack O'Connor officiates. The Early Byzantine-styled cathedral is quite recent as far as these things go, having been completed in 1903.
The Masses on these CD's are also recent. Vaughan Williams dates from the 1920's and Judith Bingham's from even more recently. And it gets more interesting. Williams was at best a "cheerful agnostic" and certainly not in any way devout while it seems Judith Bingham more conventionally fits into the job.
I don't suppose these attitudes are very telling in the music. Both have rich polyphony. Both have a modern bombast about their construction and statements. Both are very well crafted. Whether you actually like them or not will depend on a number of attitudes you might have. I suspect that people who are more interested in vocal music than in the music of the Church will find these pieces more appealing. (Count K)
Mon, 04 Jul 2005
Carl Maria von Weber, Piano Quartet Trio for flute, cello and piano Quintet for clarinet and strings The Gaudier Ensemble
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) lived in exciting times, both musically and otherwise -- Beethoven ... the French Revolution, Napoleon. Of his three hundred and eight compositions recognised by FW Jahns only three were chamber music (and none were string quartets) and it is these three pieces that are on this CD.
This is music of the Romantic era to its core and von Weber was very interested in the Romantic explorations of timbre and harmony as well as with virtuoso playing. Remember that, technically, a virtuoso is not a once in a lifetime genius, but rather an extremely good player.
For those that don't particularly like the huge orchestral pomposities that the Romantics so loved, chamber music is a way of appreciating the musical points of the movement in a slimmed-down, more intimate way.
Tallis, Spem in Alium plus bonus CD Monteverdi, Josquin, Palestrina, etc Oxford Camerata Jeremy Summerly 2 CDs, Naxos
Naxos are having their 18th birthday this year and recently celebrated with a do in London. Apparently they are also including a bonus CD with a few releases to share this birthday, or something like that.
In this case, it makes quite a good way for people who think they might like to get interested in early sacred music, to sample the fare at a reasonable price. Tallis's Spem in Alium is a beautiful piece, lovingly performed here, and the bonus CD includes a nice cross section of early masterpieces.
Beethoven – Complete Music for Piano Trio, Vol 4 The Florestan Trio Piano Trio in c minor Op 1 No 3 Variations in E flat Op 44 Piano Trio in B flat Op 11 Recorded in Henry wood Hall, London, on 7-9 September 2003 HYPERION CDA67466 Anthony Marwood – violin; Richard Lester – cello; Susan Tomes - Piano
Early Beethoven features on this disc, opening with a spirited performance of the sublime Op 1 No 3 trio. There are few groups around today that match the Florestan Trio for sheer polish of sound and integrity of intention in the classical repertoire. This writer has long been a particular fan of Susan Tomes and this disc is further good proof of why. She has an instantly recognisable sound, exemplified by warmth of touch but almost crystalline bell-like quality of timbre. Famous, of course, for her work with Domus before forming the Floristan Trio Tomes is so steeped in classical Chamber music that she appears to breathe the style with as much ease as Beethoven did. Her sound is simply absolutely right for this music. There is often in early Beethoven, as in Mozart, the combination of virtuosity together with melodic and harmonic subtlety. Susan Tomes brings this combination very much to the fore in her performances. The balance between hands, the shape of the melodic phrase, the direction of the line; all of this is so well judged and aided by the beauty of Anthony Marwood’s violin playing. The cello has a lesser role in the Op 1 trios, but comes to the fore in the variation slow movement, being especially enjoyable in the languid fourth variation solo.
The Variations in E Flat are based on a popular operatic tune by Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. A fairly long delay in publication caused the misleadingly high opus number. These variations are another early work, dating from just before Beethoven left Bonn for Vienna. Cast firmly in the Rococo style, with the theme always recognisable, this is Beethoven in urban salon mood. The variations are largely delicate ornamentations of the theme and the Florestan Trio perform them with such delicacy and lightness that they make a most effective interlude in the disc, even if they are not Beethoven’s greatest outpouring in the variation genre.
Variations are also prominent in the B Flat Op 11 trio, this time on an operatic tune from Joseph Weigl’s 1797 work L’amor marinaro (‘Love at Sea’). This variation finale, a frothy and witty confection, Beethoven did consider replacing, possibly thinking it too lightweight, and allowing it to stand alone. A further unusual feature of the work is that it was originally scored for clarinet, cello and piano. Beethoven re-scored it for standard piano trio to maximise sales, making few adjustments to the clarinet part to fit it on the violin. There is typically dramatic Beethovenian modulation throughout the substantial opening movement but the Florestans never loose sight of the architectural sweep of the music. In typical Hyperion style the disc is superbly recorded and accompanied by excellent booklet notes by Richard Wigmore. All of the Florestan Trio’s recordings on Hyperion have been lauded and received numerous awards. With playing of such precision, humour and integrity this comes as no surprise and this Beethoven series will long have a place as a flag bearer of chamber music quality. Altogether this is a highly enjoyable Beethoven disc and is easily recommendable.
JS Bach, The Keyboard Concertos - 1 BWV1052, BWV1058, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 Triple Concerto and The Keyboard Concertos - 2 BWV1053, BWV1054, BWV1055, BWV1056, BWV1057 Angela Hewitt Australian Chamber Orchestra 2 CD's, Hyperion
A virtuoso Canadian piano player who lives in London, the Sydney, Australia, Symphony Orchestra, and a fine Italian piano in an Australian town hall, are the ingredients for this very fine recording of Bach's keyboard concertos. Originally, they were not, of course, performed on a piano, but on a harpsichord, and there might be Early Music fans that lament this, but this is a very tasteful rendering and the egoistic highjinks that are sometimes part of the piano player's reperiore are missing.
The interesting program notes are by Angella Hewitt herself, which is a nice touch. Hewitt is actually an accomplished Bach scholar in her own right, so this is entirely justified. One thing she mentions is that if you were to copy all J.S. Bach's works, it would take you a lifetime! (Count K)