Listen to these
For baroque fans Magdalena Kozena’s Vivaldi recital with the Venice Baroque Orchestra directed by Andrea Marcon is a wonderful listen. At nearly 80 minutes it is a generous selection of arias from a variety of the red-haired priest’s operas, and they are surprisingly varied: the third and fourth (of fifteen) tracks express two – of several – extremes. ‘Gelido in ogni vena’ is modelled on the famous Winter concerto. ‘Solo quella guancia bella’, however, is unlike any Vivaldi I have heard before, a lively ‘folksy’ tune with an unusual swing! Kozena is unfailingly engaging and there is much to enjoy in the dramatic and enthusiastic playing of the orchestra. (Archiv 477 8096)
The appropriately named, an Italian label, is another splendid rendition of the perfect music of Johann Sebastian. Two discs of two-part inventions, sinfonias and other works (including the second partita) showcase Bacchetti’s controlled playing, which allows the melodies to sing out with all the more feeling because of the clarity of the counterpoint. This recital will be listened to again and again. (Dynamic CDS 629/1-2)
Another great ‘B’ whose works have a religious muse is Anton Bruckner. Fabio Luisi is a maestro just getting recognition on this side of the channel: like his compatriot Carlo Maria Giulini did with the Vienna Philharmonic, he has recorded a stunning version of Bruckner’s ninth symphony, with his ‘own’ orchestra, the Dresden Staatskapelle. This is a wonderfully recorded version that allows the music to speak for itself with no obtrusive ‘interpretation’ by the performers. As so many CDs are now, this is a live recording – from the accuracy of the playing this is not immediately apparent, but the power generated by the occasion is a great boon. (Sony 88697299642)
On to Brahms: not everyone’s favourite composer, but two symphony cycles by British conductors are on the market, taken like the Bruckner from concert performances. Simon Rattle’s set of the four (with no extras) is both lush and exciting. For many critics Rattle can be ‘hit or miss’ but he is an intriguing guide to these pieces supported by opulent recording and playing (by the Berlin Philharmonic), and everything about the performances seems right. Not perhaps the definitive edition but nonetheless – especially at the modest cost – well worth acquiring. (EMI 2 67254 2)
The second cycle is ongoing: I have not yet heard John Eliot Gardiner’s period rethinking of Brahms’s third symphony with the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique but I can hardly wait! The second symphony was a little disappointing but the first really tickled the ears with enormous portamenti and a variety of other purportedly authentic gestures. Initial reviews of the third rate the CD very highly indeed: one that must be heard! (Soli Dei Gloria SDG 704). These discs include delightful songs and choral arrangements by Brahms, Schubert and Mendelssohn.
Something different: piquant playing from the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet on a Chandos CD of Brazilian music. Most of the composers on this are still around and they provide a vivid picture of Brazilian dance music in particular. Villa-Lobos represents the past in a couple of famous pieces, transcribed for guitar quartet, but the rest of the disc is fascinating too, and very well recorded and performed. (Spirit of Brazil: Chandos 10512)