CLASS ACTS

2006 saw a del­uge of de­lights on disc, writes Michael Der­van

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC2006 -

SHARP­ENED jour­nal­is­tic knives have been flash­ing at Si­mon Rat­tle’s back in Ger­many over his mu­si­cal stew­ard­ship of the Ber­lin Phil­har­monic. But Rat­tle has had a good year on disc, bring­ing fresh perspectives to Richard Strauss (Ein Helden­leben and Le Bour­geois Gen­til­homme on EMI Clas­sics 339 3392), adding newly com­mis­sioned outer-space pieces to Holst’s The Plan­ets (EMI Clas­sics 369 0962), and cre­at­ing a pow­er­house part­ner­ship with the stu­dio-shy Krys­tian Zimer­man in Brahms’s First Pi­ano Con­certo (Deut- sche Gram­mophon 477 6021). He’s also been back with the City of Birm­ing­ham Sym­phony Orches­tra for an­other se­lec­tion of Szy­manowski, both folksy and ex­ot­i­cally ori­en­tal, with fab­u­lously gor­geous singing from the Pol­ish so­prano Iwona Sobotka (EMI Clas­sics 364 4352).

There have been dis­tin­guished string quar­tet record­ings from the Takács Quar­tet, in an aus­pi­cious début on Hype­r­ion in Schu­bert’s Death and the Maiden Quar­tet (CDA 67585), the Ha­gen Quar­tet in Shostakovich’s Third, Sev­enth and Eighth Quar­tets (Deutsche Gram­mophon 477 6146), and Spain’s Cuar­teto Casals in early Mozart (Har­mo­nia Mundi HMI 987080.82, a three-disc set). The Artemis Quar­tet were il­lu­mi­nat­ing in a disc of sex­tets by Schoen­berg, Strauss and Berg (Vir­gin Clas­sics 335 1302), and Ensem­ble Ex­plo­rations added to the list of cher­ish­able Boc­cherini string quin­tet record­ings (Har­mo­nia Mundi HMC 901894).

RTÉ lyric fm’s la­bel brought awelcome and rugged CD de­but for the Ir­ish Baroque Orches­tra, doc­u­ment­ing the dy­namic lead­er­ship of Mon­ica Huggett in works by the Bach fam­ily (RTÉ lyric fm CD 110). Pi­anist Una Hunt use­fully es­poused some more ne­glected Ir­ish mu­sic of the 19th-cen­tury (RTÉ lyric fm CD 109). The Dublin Gui­tar Quar­tet made its CD de­but in typ­i­cally sharp-edged style (Greyslate Records GREYCD014). And the Callino Quar­tet’s cel­list, Sarah McMa­hon, turned up in a Vi­valdi dou­ble con­certo, part­ner- ing Jonathan Co­hen in a fine­ly­gauged col­lec­tion of cello con­cer­tos by the red priest with the King’s Con­sort un­der Robert King (Hype­r­ion CDA 67553). An­drea Mar­con and the Venice Baroque Orches­tra of­fered a highly at­trac­tive se­lec­tion of Vi­valdi con­cer­tos and sin­fo­nias for strings on Archiv Pro­duk­tion (474 5092).

Nigel North launched a new sur­vey of the rich ar­chive of John Dow­land’s lute mu­sic on Naxos (8.557586); while Robert Barto con­tin­ued his first-rate ex­plo­ration of the lute sonatas of the pro­lific but still lit­tle-known 18th-cen­tury mas­ter, Sil­vius Leopold Weiss (Naxos 8.557806 is the sev­enth disc in the se­ries). The mer­cu­rial Andrew Manze proved a per­fect match for four sym­phonies by the flighty CPE Bach with the English Con­cert (Har­mo­nia MundiHMU807403), and an ex­panded Phan­tasm pro­vided sen­sual, ful­fill­ing ac­counts of six-part viol con­certs by John Jenk­ins (Avie AV2099).

Light­ning struck twice for that en­ter­pris­ing in­de­pen­dent la­bel, with a sec­ond fas­ci­nat­ing disc of the pi­ano mu­sic of Ge­orge Enescu from Luiza Bo­rac (Avie AV2081). And the­much­vaunted Gus­tavo Du­damel (Si­mon Rat­tle is a big fan) made an aus­pi­cious de­but with his Simón Bo­li­var Youth Orches­tra of Venezuela, in Beethoven’s Fifth and Sev­enth Sym­phonies (Deutsche Gram­mophon 477 6228).

Record com­pa­nies con­tinue to pro­vide a flow of fas­ci­nat­ing reis­sues. Deutsche Gram­mophon in­cluded some very rare ma­te­rial in a valu­able sur­vey of Czech con­duc­tor Rafael Kube­lik (477 5838, 8 CDs); is­sued two discs of bon-bons from the 20th­cen­tury’s great­est vi­o­lin­ist, Jascha Heifetz, recorded in the 1940s (477 6269); and fi­nally gave the world Yevgeny Mravin­sky’s elec­tri­fy­ing 1960 ac­counts of Tchaikovsky’s last three sym­phonies on CD at less than full price (477 5911).

Decca’s se­lec­tion of French con­duc­tor Pierre Mon­teux of­fers the notto-be-missed op­por­tu­nity to hear per­for­mances of Stravin­sky’s Rite of Spring and Petrushka from the man who con­ducted the pre­mieres (Decca 475 7798, 7 CDs). And Naxos’s on­go­ing his­tor­i­cal se­ries of pi­anists Al­fred Cor­tot and Benno Moi­sei­witsch, and singers Elis­a­beth Schu­mann and John McCor­mack are well worth fol­low­ing.

A wel­come and rugged CD de­but for the Ir­ish Baroque Orches­tra, un­der the dy­namic lead­er­ship of Mon­ica Huggett

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