Artists: Roderick Williams (baritone) / Benjamin Hulett (tenor) / Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano) / Claire Booth (soprano) / Lucy Crowe (soprano)
The Early Opera Company, Christian Curnyn
Christian Curnyn, whose reputation continues to grow in the world of Baroque opera, here conducts the world premiere recording of Judgment of Paris performed by the award-winning Early Opera Company, along with a stellar cast of soloists.
One of the earliest all-sung English operas, this one-act opera by John Eccles was composed in 1700 for a competition advertised in the London Gazette. Created by the ‘Persons of Quality’, a group of noblemen headed by Lord Halifax, the purpose of the competition was an ambitious and worthy one, namely the development of all-sung opera in English.
The text came from William Congreve, widely accepted as one of England’s leading playwrights. Four composers took up the challenge and to the surprise of many, Eccles, the pre-competition favourite did not win, being beaten by John Weldon. However, of all the settings, Eccles’s best captures the atmosphere of the London stage of the time and as a composer has since come to be recognised as one of Purcell’s most gifted London contemporaries.
Works: Overture and Entr’acte to “Hamlet” / Overture to “Athalie” / Symphony in G / Overture to “Erwin and Elmire” / Symphony in D minor / Komische Ballette am Churpfälzischen Hofe – Ballett Suites I and II
Artists: London Mozart Players, Matthias Bamert
The celebrated Contemporaries of Mozart series continues apace with the compositions of German composer George Joseph Vogler
Also known as Abbé Vogler, Vogler was idealized in Robert Browning’s poem ‘Abt Vogler’, with its subtitle ‘After he has been extemporizing upon the musical instrument of his invention.’ In his own day, Vogler was indeed famous for his improvisations. He was also a celebrated teacher, whose pupils included Weber and Meyerbeer.
The scope of Vogler’s musical accomplishment, encompassing sacred vocal works, operas, instrumental ensemble pieces and solo keyboard music, challenges generalization. The surviving symphonies and concertos by Vogler reveal polished craftsmanship and a flair for orchestral colour. He was fond of highlighting wind instruments, and the use of two pairs of horns in complementary keys is a trademark. All the works which here receive their first recording reflect this approach.
Although relatively few of Vogler’s works achieved wide public recognition, various works were performed in concerts well into the 19th century, and Robert Schumann praised Vogler’s music as late as 1838.
HOWARD SHELLEY Piano Concertos by Schumann Grieg Saint-Saens
Works: Robert Schumann (1810-1856) Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 (1868, rev. 1907) Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 22 (1868)
Artists: Howard Shelley (piano and conductor)
Orchestra of Opera North
In this latest recording Howard Shelley turns his attention to three popular works of the piano repertoire: Robert Schumann’s only completed Piano Concerto, Grieg’s single Piano Concerto and Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor. This authorative disc sheds new light on these well-loved works and is the first time all three piano concertos have been made available on one disc.
Shelley explains the reasons behind the new elucidations. ‘Ever since I first fell in love with the Schumann Piano Concerto in my early teens, I have been intrigued and slightly puzzled by the tradition of slowing the fourth bar of the Allegro affettuoso first movement to what is effectively no more than an Andante, even though there is no indication of any tempo shift in the score. A metronome marking of 84 to the minim, taken from Schumann’s manuscript, is given in almost all editions of this work, reducing only to 72 to the dotted minim for the central Andante expressivo section. These are extraordinarily fast basic tempos. There are similar issues in the second movement of the Schumann – a surprisingly fast metronome mark, suggesting perhaps a lighter lyricism than we are sometimes used to, especially in the big cello melody - and also in the first movement of the Saint-Seans Second Conceto, which is often taken at about half its marked speed. As for the Grieg Concerto, we are fortunate to have Percy Grainger’s very informative and detailed notes on this piece as he discussed it with the composer. Elsewhere he points out that Grieg’s tempos were generally faster than when others played the piece. These are some of the considerations which have led to the interpretations on this recording. Directing a highly responsive orchestra from the keyboard has also allowed me great freedom in realising my ideas.’
from The Marriage of Figaro
'Hear my prayer, I humbly beg you'
'That's amazing! How did he react?' -
with Judith Howarth soprano
'Where am I?'
from Peter Grimes 'Embroidery in childhood was a luxury of idleness'
from Fidelio 'Vile murderer! Sadistic swine!' -
'Come hope, you faint and distant star'
from Rodelinda 'If my pain, my bitter sighing'
from Alceste 'Great Gods! Cruel fortune has cursed me'
from Lohengrin 'When all my hopes departed'
from The Consul 'To this we've come' Korngold
from Die tote Stadt (The Dead City) 'My joy lives in you'
with Timothy Robinson tenor
'Songs my mother taught me'
from The Land of Smiles 'Love, what has given you this magic pow'r?'
with Timothy Robinson tenor
'Climb ev'ry mountain' Philharmonia Orchestra
Artists: Christine Brewer (soprano) / Judith Howarth (soprano) / Timothy Robinson (tenor)
London Philharmonic Orchestra, David Parry
‘Hats off, gentlemen. A diva. The real, rare, wondrous thing. Her name is Christine Brewer.’ So wrote the London Evening Standard on Christine Brewer’s first volume of arias on Opera in English.
We were delighted when the internationally renowned soprano Christine Brewer agreed to record some of her favourite repertoire pieces on her first recital disc for Chandos in 2005. No surprise that it was a huge success – so we were even more delighted when she returned to record this second volume – capturing Brewer’s glorious range, wonderfully supported by Judith Howarth, Timothy Robinson and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by David Parry.
Christine Brewer’s earlier recital (CHAN 3127) introduced into this series the dramatic soprano voice and included in its programme, as does its successor, arias from Gluck’s Alceste and Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Christine Brewer now adds one of the most formidable challenges in the repertoire, Leonore’s solo in Act I of Beethoven’s Fidelio. Otherwise, the two significant extensions are in time, backward to Handel and forward to Britten and Menotti.
Works: Phantasy Concerto for Piano and Orhcestra / Symphony No 1
Artists: Howard Shelley (piano), Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox
Chandos Featured release for February will be the final recording made by Richard Hickox which was intended as the first in a cycle of orchestral works by Goossens.
Though principally remembered as a conductor, during the 1920s British composer Eugene Goossens was a prolific composer, regarded as one of the foremost British composers alongside Bax, Bridge and Walton. Sadly his music has been all but forgotten for the colourful, expressive nature of his music fell out of fashion on the 1950s and 1960s. A recent reviewer of Goossen’s music wrote, ‘If you have ever gleaned the idea that Goossens is inclined to grey modernism or to windy rhetoric, prepare to have your preconceptions well and truly shattered.’ His music is suggestive of fellow composers of the era, namely Holst and Bliss.
Having grown up in Britain, Goossens accepted an invitation to come to the United States as
The rewarding Phantasy Concerto, Op. 60 for Piano and Orchestra was written for the celebrated Spanish pianist José Iturbi who gave its first performance in 1944. ‘The work, particularly the slow movement was influenced by my re-reading at that time of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Devil in the Belfry, and might be said to reflect something of the fantastic and sinister character of that story, though in no way being a literal depiction of it,’ wrote Goossens. The concerto was the outcome of a discussion between Iturbi and the composer over the lack of new piano concertos and especially on a smaller scale. The result is a four movement piano concerto in compressed sonata form. The solo part is more of a concertante than a display concerto, with a tendency to make the solo part an integral part of the orchestral texture. Goossens used the word ‘conversational’ to describe this relationship between soloist and orchestra. This premiere recording is coupled with the melodic and imaginative Symphony No.1.
Works: The Morning of the Year / The Lure / The Golden Goose / The Ballet from ‘The Perfect Fool’
Artists: Joyful Company of Singers, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Richard Hickox
Richard Hickox, was one of the foremost exponents of British music, and this is the first release in what would have been his survey of orchestral works by Holst with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Volume 1 offers three rarely recorded works, the ballets The Lure (its first time to CD), The Golden Goose and The Morning of the Year, alongside the more familiar Ballet from the one-act opera The Perfect Fool, long recognised as one of Holst’s most successful small-scale works.
The Golden Goose and The Morning of the Year are known as ‘choral ballets’. The Golden Goose was composed for Morley College, where Holst had been Director of Music since 1907, and was intended for amateurs. The ballet is based on the Grimms’ fairy tale of the Princess who had never been able to laugh. The Morning of the Year was the first work to be commissioned by the BBC Music Department, and so is an altogether more serious affair and dedicated to the English Folk Dance Society. This is one of Holst’s most impressive fusions of folk music with his own style, and has no need of the stage to make its full impact.
The Lure shares some of the same origins with the Perfect Fool ballet. The music was written in 1918 as incidental music for a play called The Sneezing Charm by Clifford Bax but at the time it was performed neither as a ballet nor as an orchestral piece. Frustrated by the lack of performance, Holst eventually withdrew the work from his list of compositions. Based on a Northumbrian folk tune, it is lively and powerful, and typical of the composer.
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