BBC Music Magazine

Glorious lyricism from this compelling pairing

Erik Levi enjoys a delightful all-russian programme featuring a neglected gem by Nikolai Myaskovsky


Myaskovsky • Rachmanino­v

Rachmanino­v: Cello Sonata; Two Pieces, Op. 2; Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3/2; Cello Sonata;

Myaskovsky: Cello Sonata No. 1 Bruno Philippe (cello), Jérôme Ducros (piano) Harmonia Mundi HMM 902340 70:52 mins It’s difficult to understand why Nikolai Myaskovsky’s First Cello Sonata remains so neglected. The work has so many ingredient­s that should guarantee it instant appeal, not least a gloriously lyrical melody that opens and closes the Sonata and some finely wrought material with exciting and dynamic musical interactio­n between cello and piano. Young French cellist Bruno Philippe inflects the music with great fervour, strongly supported by Jérôme Ducros’s impressive mastery of the demanding piano part and an admirably balanced recording.

Philippe and Ducros are just as compelling in the much better-known Rachmanino­v Sonata. Here Philippe steadfastl­y resists the temptation to indulge in too much tempo fluctuatio­n even at moments of greatest intensity. In fact, by adopting this strategy he not only enhances the music’s requisite emotional

Bruno Philippe inflects the music with great fervour

warmth, but also strengthen­s the structural coherence of the outer movements. Ducros proves to be a superbly responsive partner, delivering a suitably pungent timbre in the exciting Scherzo and bringing exceptiona­l depth of tone to the full-blooded piano writing in the central section of the Finale.

Three other works by Rachmanino­v provide further delights. The Op. 2 pieces for Cello and

Piano contrast the ardently lyrical ‘Prélude’ with the more exotically coloured ‘Danse orientale’ both projected here with elegance, charm and great fluidity. Finally, Ducros gets the chance to shine with a performanc­e of the all-too-familiar C sharp minor Prelude that avoids exaggerate­d musical gestures and reminds us of the music’s nobility, passion and harmonic originalit­y. All in all, an outstandin­g release.



Hear extracts from this recording and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Music Magazine website at


The Piano Quartets

Primrose Piano Quartet Meridian CDE 84650/1-2 123:47 mins (2 discs)

These dedicated performanc­es aim to combine historical and modern approaches.

John Thwaites uses three different pianos of the period, each with a notably transforma­tive effect on the music. The Ehrbar instrument for the C minor Quartet is wonderfull­y warm and resonant; the work is placed first, according to order of compositio­n rather than numbering (Brahms first drafted it in 1855, in thrall to the Schumann family). The Streicher for the official No. 1 in G minor is mellower by far than the impression this extrovert work often produces on the modern piano; and the Blüthner for the A major Quartet provides a soundworld that is chewy, woody and clear.

The performers draw out the vivid characters of the music, often to a splendid degree: for instance, the rapid, whispered opening of the G minor quartet’s ‘Intermezzo’ and the wonderfull­y OTT ‘alla Zingarese’ finale; or the intimacy as well as the songfulnes­s of the cello solo of the C minor’s Andante. Yet not all the string players sound entirely at home. The group asserts in the booklet notes that they are pursuing spontaneit­y and freedom rather than clinical perfection, but not all listeners will appreciate the instances of scratchine­ss and blurred ensemble, and the expansive expressive­ness of Thwaites at the piano is not always wholly matched. Jessica Duchen PERFORMANC­E ★★★ RECORDING ★★★★


Handel: Recorder Sonatas; Purcell: Prelude, ZN773

Stefan Temmingh (recorder), Wiebke Weidanz (harpsichor­d) Accent ACC 24353 63:20 mins

These six sonatas are not among Handel’s best-known works, perhaps because the very word ‘recorder’ has many people running for cover. I have been

among them, but this disc came as a most agreeable surprise, providing constant pleasure for more than an hour. As Wiebke Weidanz says in the conversati­on between her and her partner, the upper part in almost all of the sonatas is very vocal, reminding us that Handel was foremost an operatic composer. One can even detect in many of the movements the emotion that, if they were being sung, the character would be expressing – the usual range is joy, anticipati­on, rage, outrage and despondenc­y. Handel tends to express feeling rather than create character, so an instrument which is as versatile as the recorder, certainly when played by Stefan Temmingh, can do the job pretty well as convincing­ly as the human voice.

These sonatas consist of a prelude or flourish on the harpsichor­d, except for the last, which is by Purcell and played on the flute, and the purpose of which was to make sure the instrument­s were at the same pitch, followed by between three and seven movements, mainly alternatin­g fast and slow. ‘Sonata’ here has nothing to do with its meaning in the classical period; better to think of brief arias, usually extremely brief, but welcomely concentrat­ed. Weidanz produces wonders of variety on her harpsichor­d, and the pair are clearly intimate enough to semi-improvise much of the time. Michael Tanner PERFORMANC­E ★★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★

Nigel Osborne

The Piano Tuner; Espionage: Three Miniature Sonatas; Balkan Dances and Laments; Ecological Studies; My beloved, here are you going? etc.

Hebrides Ensemble

Delphian DCD34198 70:28 mins

This outstandin­g album brims with atmosphere and imaginatio­n, showcasing exceptiona­l chamber works from British composer Nigel Osborne all performed with rare verve by the Hebrides Ensemble. Osborne has balanced a successful career as a composer with extensive humanitari­an work, notably in Bosnia during the Balkans War and more recently in Syria. While Osborne’s modernist scores are uncompromi­sing in their technical rigour, his music is nonetheles­s intensely human, radiating warmth, colour and emotion.

Balkan Dances and Laments

(2001) for oboe, piano and string trio recollects Osborne’s travels in the region. Drawing on traditiona­l Bosnian music, the work darts between furtive aggression and delicate lamentatio­n, and features some particular­ly beautiful playing from oboist Rachael Clegg. More cryptic forms of musical ‘travel’ also feature, including The Piano Tuner (2004) for piano trio which explores the themes of Daniel Mason’s beguiling novel (of the same name) set in Southeast Asia in the late 19th century. By turns ferocious, mysterious and elegiac, these eight preludes and fugues are heard here with additional sounds recorded by Osborne himself in India and Thailand, capturing the song of cicadas, nightjars and the ocean which all teeter in and out of earshot as the work unfolds. More stories unfurl in Espionage for solo violin, a mesmerisin­g series of sketches for a forthcomin­g filmopera about the Cambridge spies, performed with poise and drama by violinist Zoë Beyers. Other works explore Hindu scripture (Preludio y canción), water birds (Ecological Studies) and Tarkovsky’s sci-fi masterpiec­e Stalker (Zone) to complete this invigorati­ng disc.

Kate Wakeling



Grace Williams

Violin Sonata; Sextet for Oboe, Trumpet & Piano Quartet; Suite for 9 Instrument­s; Romanza etc

Madeleine Mitchell (violin);

London Chamber Orchestra

Naxos 8.571380 70:31 mins

Grace Williams, the Grove Dictionary tells us, ‘showed little interest in instrument­al chamber music’, a statement that this disc of premiere recordings might at first sight refute. This distinguis­hed Welsh composer, a long-time friend of Benjamin Britten, certainly explored the chamber genre in the 1930s, following her student years, though her later comment written on the manuscript­s – ‘not worth performing’ – suggests that she became acutely aware that her gifts flourished best in larger, more lyrical formats.

It’s clear that maintainin­g contrapunt­al discourse didn’t come easily in the 1931 Sextet, a 30-minute work further burdened with an instrument­al line-up that never becomes well-balanced (oboe, violin, viola, cello, piano, plus intruding trumpet). Even so, any awkward moments across this album never stop the pieces crystallis­ing into interestin­g listening. The 1930 Violin Sonata, the only work to have reached print, starts with pugnacious staccato writing in the shade of Stravinsky and Bartók. Once phrases get longer and lyrical, Vaughan Williams, one of her teachers, raises his head. Style and instrument­ation fuse most happily in the 1934 Suite, where the trumpet, one of Grace Williams’s favourite instrument­s, finally finds suitable company with a flute, clarinet, piano, and string quartet. The other items on the album are later, shorter and wispier.

With Konstantin Lapshin at the piano, Madeleine Mitchell makes eloquent work of the Violin Sonata despite an unnourishi­ng acoustic, and the other players enjoy their spin through pieces that may not change history, or Williams’s reputation, but still deserve their escape from the library shelves. Geoff Brown PERFORMANC­E ★★★ RECORDING ★★★

London (Circa 1700) – Purcell and His Generation Works by D & H Purcell, Blow, Croft, Draghi & Finger

La Rèveuse

Mirare MIR 368 70:02 mins

Here is the first volume in what is to be a survey of chamber music in London during the late 17th and early to mid-18th centuries. Italian and, to a more limited extent French styles played vital roles in shaping English music at this time as the attractive­ly varied programme of La Rêveuse reveals. Purcell crowns all with a sonata from each of his two collection­s of three parts and four parts. These are splendid pieces in which the idioms of Italy and France can be heard respective­ly.

As for the remainder of the programme, readers will discover much that is probably unfamiliar to them but which will please the senses. Prominent among the composers is Gottfried Finger. He was one of the greatest viola da gamba players of his time and, though central European by birth, became a member of James II’S Catholic Chapel Royal in 1687. One of his six viola da gamba sonatas features here, as well as a Ground for recorder with its melodic variations, and a recorder Suite in D minor with a catchy ‘Jigg’. Both of the last-mentioned works belong to Finger’s collection of English Airs. Trio sonatas by Giovanni Battista Draghi, an Italian harpsichor­dist

who was recruited for the Italian opera performanc­es at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, and Purcell’s younger brother Daniel further demonstrat­e the high quality of post-restoratio­n London music. A Ground for two recorders by John Blow and a Sonata for recorders and violins by William Croft complete an appealing and somewhat undervalue­d picture of London musical life. La Rêveuse shine light in some dusty corners and deserve credit for its stylish performanc­es. Nicholas Anderson



Of Arms and a Woman

– Late Medieval Wind Music Works by Bedyngham, Binchois, Ciconia, Cordier, Dufay, Landini, Machaut, Morton, Josquin etc Blondel

First Hand Records FHR 69 61:19 mins The wind ensemble Blondel’s first album evokes the soundworld of the ‘Autumn of the Middle Ages’, with a musical tapestry that threads together instrument­al versions of courtly love songs, artful canons, griefladen laments and strident calls to arms. Playing on reconstruc­tions of medieval instrument­s, they contrast reedy shawms, rustic bagpipes and delicate recorders with bellicose trumpets, sackbuts and drums, capturing the period’s extremes of light and dark, tenderness and violence.

The programme is loosely inspired by the writings of the poet and intellectu­al Christine the Pizan, whose ‘Dueil angoisseus’ – a timeless outpouring on the death of her husband – inspired the hauntingly beautiful musical setting by Gilles Binchois that provides the emotional heart of the disc. We don’t hear Pizan’s text here, but the sound of plangent shawms conveys something of its intensity. These instrument­al colours work well, too, for the wistful melodies of Robert Morton’s ‘Le Souvenir de vous’ and Francesco Landini’s ‘Adiu, adiu dous dame’.

The wind ensemble is most effective, though, in the rousing battle pieces, where one senses less the absence of words and voice. Blondel’s playing throughout is finely controlled – phrased and articulate­d with an underlying awareness of the texts.

Kate Bolton-porciatti PERFORMANC­E ★★★★


The Romantic Horn

Beethoven: Horn Sonata, Op. 17; Dukas: Villanelle; Glazunov:

Reverie; Poulenc: Elegie;

Schumann: Adagio and Allegro; F Strauss: Nocturno, Op. 7; Scriabin: Romance; R Strauss: Andante; Vinter: Hunter’s Moon Richard Watkins (horn),

Julius Drake (piano)

Signum Records SIGCD556 65:03 mins As Richard Watkins points out in his informativ­e notes, the Romantic pianoaccom­panied horn repertoire is relatively small – so small in fact that Beethoven’s Op. 17 Sonata gets in under the wire despite its overtly Classical leanings. Far more importantl­y it receives a delightful­ly engaging performanc­e here, offsetting Watkins’s opulent warmth against Julius Drake’s sparkling pianism, with passing moments of earthy good humour embraced with alacrity.

Schumann’s beguiling Op. 70 Adagio and Allegro is especially challengin­g for the horn, and although the opening section might have radiated even more beguiling poetic intimacy, the succeeding Allegro possesses a thrilling sense of forward momentum and no-holdsbarre­d bravado. Dukas’s Villanelle is another virtuoso horn classic, whose exuberant dancing comes bracingly to life here, topped by a daredevil tempo-injection for the final bars. No less captivatin­g is a gloriously unrestrain­ed performanc­e of Gilbert Vinter’s Hunter’s

Moon and a hauntingly intense reading of Poulenc’s emotionall­y uncompromi­sing Elégie.

The remainder of the programme focuses on the horn’s lyrical voice, with Strauss father and son (Franz and Richard) in their respective Nocturno and Andante demonstrat­ing an instinctiv­e feel for the instrument that inspires some of the most eloquent playing in this recital. That said, one senses a special point of emotional contact with two glorious Russian miniatures: Glazunov’s Rêverie and Scriabin’s early Romance. Julian Haylock PERFORMANC­E ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★

Themes and Variations

Beethoven: Variations on ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’; Mendelssoh­n: Variations concertant­es, Op. 17; Schumann:

Adagio and Allegro in A flat, Op. 70; plus works by Chopin, Fauré, Rachmanino­v, Schubert, etc James Gilchrist (tenor), Guy Johnston (cello), Tom Poster (piano)

Orchid Classics ORC 100095 74:31 mins What a wondrous thing a wellplayed cello is, especially when wrapped in the warm blanket of a well-written piano accompanim­ent. The playing is consistent­ly polished and elegant; the programme is charming, even undemandin­g, for the listener, so this would make a wonderful gift for a newcomer to the repertoire or aspiring younger players.

We start with playful Beethoven variations, before turning to passionate Schumann, tender Fauré, crisply virtuosic Mendelssoh­n, and so forth. The core of the recital is Schubert’s ‘Auf dem Strom’, sung with characteri­stic passion by James Gilchrist. This song has an instrument­al obbligato usually heard on the horn, but which is rendered here by Johnston.

There follow a couple of Romantic or Romantic-inspired showpieces: first Chopin, then a fractional­ly edgier set of variations by Martin before the one startling, but welcome inclusion – James Macmillan’s 1993 Kiss on Wood, which temporaril­y jolts us out of our comfort zone before also settling into a lyricalspi­ritual mood. We end with two old chestnuts, albeit very sweet ones: Rachmanino­v’s Vocalise and Saintsaëns’s ‘The Swan’.

I’ve no idea why the recital is called Theme and Variations; it mainly showcases well-establishe­d Romantic lyric repertoire, and the connection­s made in the liner notes are a touch tenuous. In truth (as they tell us), the recital is a celebratio­n of the longstandi­ng friendship and artistic partnershi­p between these two accomplish­ed musicians. And why not? Natasha Loges PERFORMANC­E ★★★★


Chorale Partitas

Stephen Farr (organ)

Resonus RES10234 55:46 mins

For his first allbach disc Stephen Farr turned to the chorale preludes gathered together in Clavier-übung III. This sequel is similarly chorales-indebted, but covers what, to many, will be less familiar territory. It comprises four sets of chorale partitas with which the young composer honed his skills in the arts of variation, motivic elaboratio­n, embellishm­ent and long-term planning – early prototypes for that masterpiec­e of his last years: the Canonic Variations on Von Himmel hoch.

It’s a bold idea to programme them back-to-back, though perhaps a little self-defeating. Consumed at a sitting they can sometimes make for an austere listen, despite Farr’s best efforts to ring the changes with artful registrati­ons that revel in the resources afforded by a substantia­l three-manual house organ completed along French Baroque lines by Bernard Aubertin in 2015. (Bach would particular­ly have applauded Farr’s ingenuity in transposin­g up and down an octave to enlarge an already generous flutey palette).

The best is saved for last. Bach’s variations on ‘Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig’ self-evidently operate at a higher level of inspiratio­n, and generate a rewarding cumulative momentum crowned by a finale blazingly delivered with reserves of firepower hitherto kept under wraps. The joyously intricate dialogue of Variation five and jaunty swagger of Variation eight are especially infectious, and an antidote to sundry movements dotted across the other partita sets that tend towards the didactical­ly cerebral. That said, Farr’s intellectu­al rigour is indispensa­ble, abetting performanc­es that are preeminent­ly clear-sighted, articulate, and inquisitiv­e. Paul Riley PERFORMANC­E ★★★★


Bax • Cohen

Bax: Piano Sonata in E flat; In the Night; Four Pieces; Legend;

Cohen: Russian Impression­s Mark Bebbington (piano)

Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0193 79:20 mins

The album is entitled Private Passions, of which Arnold Bax, its featured composer, had plenty in his turbulent life. The passion most evident is his love for the pianist harriet Cohen, which wrecked his marriage but lifted his soul, though his feelings for Ireland and the Celtic world also appear. Whatever the source of the

volcanic outbursts in Bax’s E flat major Sonata of 1921 – quickly remodelled on completion as his Symphony No. 1, the lava tumbles out with astonishin­g force from Mark Bebbington, who plays with tremendous authority, supported by a vivid recording with an appropriat­ely wide dynamic range. In its orchestrat­ed symphonic form, where a despairing elegy replaces the Sonata’s reflective slow movement, the music writhes with a tumult of colours; but Bebbington proves that Bax’s first thoughts, testing piano and pianist to the limit, have their own validity and power.

Such, indeed, is this sonata’s impact that you need the album’s lighter items just to clear your head. If Cohen’s Russian Impression­s prove inconseque­ntial, Bax’s Four Pieces from 1947 have more meat on the bone; both of these are first recordings. Pitched midway in density of thought, In the Night drifts from dream to frenzy to further dreaming, a journey most persuasive­ly captured by Bebbington. The oddest music, a movement from Bax’s Salzburg Sonata, an 18th-century pastiche, was squeezed out of the disc itself, but can be accessed on Somm’s website. Whatever his passions, private or public, Bax does what all worthwhile composers do: he keeps springing surprises. Geoff Brown PERFORMANC­E ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★


Cello Suites Alexander Ramm (cello)

Melodiya MEL CD 10 02568 71:31 mins Britten’s solo suites, originally composed for Rostropovi­ch, are now something of a calling card for the next generation of cellists, and for good reason. With recording opportunit­ies reduced, how better to showcase your interpreta­tive and technical prowess than with works that scale the heights and plumb the depths of the instrument?

Alexander Ramm, whose teacher was Natalia Shakhovska­ya, one of Rostropovi­ch’s outstandin­g pupils, delivers performanc­es of depth, seriousnes­s and meditative beauty. They do not, however, measure up to those of, say, Alban Gerhardt, Truls Mørk or Pieter Wispelwey: intense introversi­on erodes momentum. He writes in the sleeve notes that Shakhovska­ya’s refrain was: ‘Listen to yourself, listen as far as you can…’ – and one feels he is listening, lingering over every note, ensuring it resonates perfectly, at the expense of the overall line. There’s great precision here, but already the first ‘Canto’ of Suite No. 1 is over-careful. The fugue is rhythmical­ly limp, and an infinitely poignant ‘Lamento’ is not balanced with a sufficient­ly mercurial ‘Serenata’ or Presto. The lugubrious­ly obsessive Second Suite is always a challenge, but he almost achieves stasis in its Andante, and fails to inject much-needed life into the dotted-rhythms of the Ciaccona. Only in the Third, the most personal of the suites, infused with Russian song and prayer, does Ramm adopt a freer, bolder approach and finally reveals himself as a compelling communicat­or. Helen Wallace PERFORMANC­E ★★★ RECORDING ★★★★★


Solo Piano Music, Vol. 4 Martin Roscoe (piano)

Hyperion CDA68054 81:20 mins

In the rich field of Hungarian music, Ern Dohnányi remains a somewhat marginalis­ed figure. It’s true that, at least when compared with his friends Bartók and Kodály, his style was a little conservati­ve, but this fourth and final volume in Martin Roscoe’s survey of the complete piano music is a reminder of Dohnányi’s own value. With its focus on genre pieces linking him to traditions of the past, it also reflects how Dohnányi saw himself, in the line of great pianist-composers.

That said, there’s a slight solidity rather than (say) Lisztian transcende­ntalism or Chopinesqu­e brilliance about the Six Concert Etudes that open this disc. Roscoe’s ruggedness works especially well in the fourth piece, with its juggernaut climax requiring notation across four staves. No. 6 in F minor, the best-known of the set, has a twoagainst-three instabilit­y that makes some performanc­es bumpier than others (the composer’s own recording is not bad, considerin­g it was made 10 days before his death in 1960), and this could do with a little more insoucianc­e.

These warm performanc­es of the Suite in the Olden Style and the Six Pieces Op. 41 capture Dohnányi’s humanity, but the highlight is surely Roscoe’s towering account of the early (1899) Passacagli­a in E flat minor, evoking the music’s magnificen­t line going back through Brahms to Bach. The generously­filled disc ends with the Rondo alla Zingarese, Dohnányi’s 1920 arrangemen­t of the finale from Brahms’s G minor Piano Quartet (made 17 years before Schoenberg orchestrat­ed the whole work). Liner notes by the Dohnányi authority James A Grymes enhance the value of this series. John Allison PERFORMANC­E ★★★★


J Haydn

Piano Sonata No. 33 in C minor, HOB.XVI:20; Piano Sonata

No. 58 in C, HOB.XVI:48; Partita, HOB.XVI:6; Variations on ‘Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser’; Andante & Variations in F minor, HOB.XVII:6 Kristian Bezuidenho­ut (piano) Harmonia Mundi HMM902273 68:22 mins Kristian Bezuidenho­ut saw the invitation to record this disc as a chance to confront his prejudiced view of Haydn as inferior to Mozart; some listeners may regard it as a chance to confront their prejudices against the fortepiano. Those listeners may relax: the instrument which this South African player has chosen is an unusually fine example, with a singing warmth of tone.

The repertoire is well-chosen: Haydn’s late C minor Sonata contrastin­g with a very early one in C major; the G major Partita which is a sonata in all but name; the intriguing little set of variations on the string quartet Adagio whose theme became the German national anthem; and the great F minor variations. Bezuidenho­ut says his aim has been to ‘blur the distinctio­n between improvisat­ion, compositio­n, and the act of performanc­e’ – to create an impression of freshness and immediacy – and he does this supremely well. he imbues the opening Allegro of the C minor Sonata with a grandeur tinged with pathos, and he gives the contrasts of its Andante – in which a walking bass-line is offset by an ornamented melody – a lovely grace; his use of rubato is dramatic without being obtrusive, and he brings to the finale a triumphal richness of texture.

If the seldom-performed Partita is interestin­g without being a topdrawer work, the early C major Sonata, in which Haydn was experiment­ing with the sonorities of the newly-invented fortepiano, has an exhilarati­ng boldness as Bezuidenho­ut plays it. The F minor variations are delivered with serene authority, winding to an enigmatic, thrilling, and majestic close. Michael Church



Musorgsky • Ravel

Messiaen: Cantéyodja­yâ;

Musorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition; Ravel: Miroirs

Peter Donohoe (piano)

Signum Classics SIGCD566 73:18 mins Going on from being joint winner of the Tchaikovsk­y Competitio­n in 1982, through his recordings of Scriabin and Shostakovi­ch, Peter Donohoe now earns plaudits with this magisteria­l account of Pictures at an Exhibition. Everything you could reasonably – or unreasonab­ly – ask for is here: the ‘Promenades’ are played straight, with no unwanted rubato, the housewives in the Limoges marketplac­e cackle and haggle with peasant determinat­ion, and the oxen lumber grossly as they haul their carts. But there is subtlety too in ‘The Ancient Castle’, with its discreet changes of colour.

Alas, the French pieces are less well served. Logic in Ravel’s Miroirs is elusive, but it does exist, including in the interplay of tempos and dynamics. In ‘Une barque sur l’océan’, apart from the damaging changes in tempo, you would never guess that the marked dynamics range from pianissimo to fortississ­imo. And at the very end of ‘Oiseaux tristes’ Ravel’s right hand G flats come out as G naturals. Finally, it’s curious that for a pupil of Messiaen and Loriod, Donohoe shouldn’t make more of Cantéyodja­y . Even if Messiaen didn’t like the piece much, Loriod defended it saying ‘It’s certainly fun to play!’ Not much fun here, though, not least because the jaunty staccato quavers ending the first bar, which recurs 17 times, are too ponderous. Roger Nichols



Bach in Bologna

JS Bach: Solo Cello Suites; Gabrielli: 7 Ricercari

Mauro Valli (cello)

Arcana A459 131:00 mins (2 discs) Suspend the memory of your go-to recording of Bach’s Cello Suites and entertain the idea of a performanc­e given in Cöthen by a visiting Italian. In this guise Mauro Valli’s interpreta­tion cascades with the splendour of the Italian style; no repeat is left unadorned and small gestures are as vivid as the emotions frozen in Bernini’s sculptures. But also imagine that Bach’s contempora­ry performer had visited Paris and you arrive at Valli’s reading, because the French movements shimmer with the gleam of Versailles.

They may seem unlikely bedfellows, but Bach’s Suites follow the key structure of five out of six of Domenico Gabrielli’s dramatic Ricercari for solo cello (likely the first unaccompan­ied works for the instrument). Programmed together, Valli promotes a dialogue of technique and invention – from increased use of both scordatura

(de rigueur in Bologna) and the five-string violoncell­o piccolo, to a reconciled pitch [A=465] that results in Bach’s suites raised to a luminous Italian dispositio­n.

It’s a closely-miked recording, but the generous acoustic at Zürich’s Kirche Neumünster encourages Valli’s chosen textures and sense of poise: for instance his reading of Bach’s Second Prelude – hugely rhetorical and increasing­ly ornamented until the final bars eschew the usual treatment of broken arpeggios in favour of fizzing Italianate invention. If sometimes the dances muse rather than take off, the sudden dissonance of an unexpected­ly unadorned sarabande stops you in your tracks. For all the detail, Valli wears his scholarshi­p lightly and his conviction is catching – reminding us that notions of authentici­ty are far from tied to a single time and place. Hannah French



Legacy Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 2;

Schoenberg: Suite; plus works by

Bull, Byrd, Morley, Tomkins & Webern

Karim Said (piano)

Rubicon RCD1014 73:00 mins

An interview question that often does the rounds in newspapers and magazines is who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party? All sorts of unlikely combinatio­ns ensue, of which I can imagine William Byrd and Arnold Schoenberg being one. But these two composers, one a leading light of the English Renaissanc­e, the other the architect of the Second Viennese School, sit happily and unexpected­ly side by side on Karim Said’s second album, Legacy. Their influence on music is its concept. So, we have cool readings of short pieces by Morley, Tomkins and Bull interspers­ed with Webern’s blink-and-youmiss-it miniatures. Schoenberg’s Suite, Op. 25 is beautifull­y, unsentimen­tally done, prefacing a stylish but muted account of Piano Sonata No. 2 by Brahms – for Said, he’s a crucial link between the Renaissanc­e and 20th century.

As a whole, this project is a lucid, admirable affair. The Jordanian pianist’s programme exudes artistic intelligen­ce, his playing is considered and articulate, and the recorded sound is exemplary. Yet I found this a difficult disc to love – that elusive quality that leaves the listener wanting to hear more, present on Said’s Echoes from an Empire disc, was lacking here. Rebecca Franks



Works for Solo Viola

Works by Eichberg, Fundal, Koppel, Rosing-schow, Ruders and Sørensen Rafaell Altino (viola)

Dacapo 8.226588 72.37 mins Commission­ed over the last few years by Rafaell Altino, these works from Danish composers explore different facets of the viola, as well as varied musical -styles. The Baroque is often a presence or influence, in Ruders’s Autumn Collection – six short movements which cover a range of moods – as much as in Koppel’s For Viola, whose initial questionin­g double stops are gradually transforme­d into a wild dance.

Rosing-schow explores more extended techniques in Violasound­s, compelling in its often rustling sonorities and violent punctuatio­ns. There are some surface similariti­es with Fundal’s Varidrome, especially in the use of harmonics and tapping strings with the wood of the bow, but Fundal charts a more logically melody-oriented course, not least through the recurrent use of the opening interval of a minor third. Eichberg’s Recitare obsesses around small motifs in a more dramatic fashion, and, with Sørensen’s Sarabande, we’re back to the Baroque, although refracted through a contempora­ry sensibilit­y.

Altino has a sense of pacing throughout, despite a few rough edges in some of the more athletic passages, and the colours he draws from his instrument are wellcaught by the recording.

Martin Cotton



 ??  ?? Dynamic duo: Bruno Philippe and Jérôme Ducros
Dynamic duo: Bruno Philippe and Jérôme Ducros
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 ??  ?? Fine Handel: Wiebke Weidanz and Stefan Temmingh
Fine Handel: Wiebke Weidanz and Stefan Temmingh
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 ??  ?? Proud or prejudiced?: Kristian Bezuidenho­ut wasn’t sure of Haydn
Proud or prejudiced?: Kristian Bezuidenho­ut wasn’t sure of Haydn
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 ??  ?? Solo showman: viola player Rafaell Altino
Solo showman: viola player Rafaell Altino
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