Monday, December 7, 2009

This week I listened to

Ravel: Songs
Gerald Finley; Julius Drake

Another area of repertoire I'm not familiar enough with - French song generally, I mean. So this was all new to me (apart from, er, Ye Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon), and highly enjoyable. Gerald Finley it seems can do no wrong these days. Expect to see this one in the Nereffid's Guide Awards.

Bowen: Piano concertos nos.3 & 4
Danny Driver; BBC Scottish SO/Martyn Brabbins

There's something of a York Bowen revival going on in recordings at the moment, although such things are relative I suppose: I note from ArkivMusic that his most-recorded work is the Toccata for piano, op.155, which has 4 available recordings (including one from Bowen himself). These concertos are wonderful late Romantic works - premiered in 1908 and 1937. The opening of the 4th in particular makes me think we're in for some Rachmaninov. Kaikhosru Sorabji called this one the greatest work for piano and orchestra ever written by an Englishman. But had he ever heard the Warsaw Concerto? (Or "the bloody awful Warsaw Concerto" as Spike Milligan was wont to call it). Working from a tiny knowledge base, I shall agree with Sorabji.

Purcell: Fantazias
Harmonia Mundi

Fantasies for viols were something of an anachronism when Purcell wrote these in 1680, aged 21. It would be like... I don't know... modern rock bands making music that sounds like it's from the 1980s. How crazy would that be?! Someone should try it. But back to Purcell: I'm a little ambivalent towards viol consorts. The homogeneity of sound can at times veer into boring, and it's easy to imagine 17th-century English listeners cheering at the introduction of some continental-style violins and a harpsichord. On the other hand, that homogeneity also has an admirable purity to it, and it's not as if there's nothing going on in the music. What I'm trying to say is, I like this; sometimes I like it a lot, sometimes not so much.

Mahler: Symphony no.4
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Ivan Fischer
Channel Classics

Next year is the 150th anniversary of Mahler's birth; the year after that is the 100th anniversary of his death. I don't know if the "official" plan is for a 2-year "Mahler year" or whether "they" are going to pick one or the other. Well, in Laboratoires Nereffid we are going for the 2 years. There will be a lot of Mahler listening, and hopefully a blog series to go with it. Right now, it's been so long since I heard any other recording of the 4th that I can't compare this one to anything else, but I can say it's excellent in its own right, and Miah Persson's voice seems spot-on for the finale.

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