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Positive Feedback ISSUE 61
may/june 2012


Music Reviews of Releases by: LSO Live, Linn, Marinsky, Oehms, Altissimo and CPO
by Karl Lozier


Britten: War Requiem

Britten, War Requiem. Orchestra: London Symphony. Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda. Chorus: London Symphony and Eitham College Choir, LSO Live 2SACD LSO0719

This is very serious music making of the highest order. Religious in nature, compositions such as this are expected to follow traditional guide lines. Here are the sections or settings in order starting with Requiem aernam. This is followed by Dies irae, Offertorium, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Libera me. I believe that LSO Live went all out to produce a great recording of a truly great composition. The conductor, Gianandrea Noseda has been conducting with the LSO for some time now with concerts in New York and London while receiving great acclaim. Three outstanding solo vocalists are needed for this composition and they are here and a joy to hear though my vocal love is more often with a great chorus and that seems to be here also. First performed fifty years ago as a result of a commission to write a work for the rededication of the Coventry Cathedral destroyed in bombing raids during World War II. Interspersed within the Latin mass of the dead are texts by the poet Wilfred Owen. Britten had been calling the futility of war while creating a monument to the mourning of the dead. This War Requiem not only was a huge success, it is regarded as one of the truly great cultural works of the 20th Century!

I must believe that all involved here realized that this recording would try to be the standard by which other efforts might be judged for many years to come, much as has been true for so many years with the recording done with the LSO many years ago that featured the composer conducting part of the performance. I can not fault any of the soloists' performances and orchestral performances seldom are superior to what I hear on this recording. The placement or perspective of any of the vocalists or the choir can simply be a personal preference. I ultimately preferred the audible results gained by very slightly turning the gain/volume control higher (1 to 2 dB) for my greatest listening enjoyment. Of course this two disc SACD hybrid release is highly recommended though remember it is very serious music and at times a bit complicated needing repeat listening sessions eventually for many listeners to appreciate.


Calme: Fernando Sor Late Works

Fernando Sor, Late Works ( Le Calme). Guitar: William Carter. Linn Hybrid SACD CKD 38

This is quite a change from the preceding very large scale recording though very possibly just as thoroughly enjoyed by guitar aficionados. First I want to mention an audio characteristic that here is almost the opposite of what I mentioned above. The above reviewed Britten War Requiem sounded best on my reference system when played slightly louder (1 to 2dB) than my usual preamp setting.

Here on this solo acoustic guitar recording, also a SACD recording, at my usual preamp setting, it sounds a bit bloated and as if I was in the St Martin's Church and surrounded by the ambiance of that location. Turning the volume down about (2 to 3dB) results in sounding as if the guitar playing was in my listening (living) room. This is going to call for some serious thinking on my part. The quite beautiful playing reveals Sor's late works to be very similar to each other, a logical revelation. They are relatively quiet or introspective sounding. The effect seems to on the relaxing side of careful listening with relatively simple works. This is not a showpiece type of selections and would perhaps be a bit boring to some listeners whether new to classical guitar music or long time lovers. That in no way detracts from a recommendation for what it is, a fine well played and recorded collection of guitar music written by Fernando Sor.


Shostakovich/Shchedrin: Piano Concertos

Shostakovich, Piano Concertos Nos. 1&2. Shchedrin. Piano Concerto No. 5. Orchestra: Marinsky. Conductor: Valery Gergiev. Marinsky SACD Mar 0509

There is a great deal of music for piano and orchestra on this new release and probably few of our readers are familiar with all three. There is a great amount of time passage between Shostakovich's first and second concertos. It is easy to kind of dismiss his first piano concerto though it was preceded by his first opera. After listening to his first concerto, listen again soon after and really check it or your self out.

What orchestral instrument or instruments do you not hear? In other words, what is missing; is it deliberate and is it actually more than just one or two usually heard orchestral instruments? You are being tested—I shall definitely give you the answer somewhere near the end of these reviews, just in case.

His much more mature and attractive second concerto has an almost dream like passage in the andante movement and I usually fall for those, and the third and final movement is suitably brilliant and appropriate for an outstanding Russian composer. I forgot to mention that his above mentioned first concerto has the rather rare four movements instead of the traditional three. The playing and the orchestral accompaniment are just fine and seemingly without fault. The excellent SACD recording seems to reveal all details clearly and without added emphasis. It should be easy to add this work to your list of favorite romantic piano concertos as there are many passages that hint at other composers.

The fifth piano concerto by Shchedrin (he composed six) though starting rather quietly definitely begins to lead toward contemporary music and has a bold and quite brilliant ending movement. The recorded quality here does full justice to every fine detail and to the almost palpable presence of the piano and orchestra. It is worth repeating to become familiar with this deserving composition. Even though all the works presented with this recording may not be equally appreciated, overall this recording has to be well recommended and that probably should include classical newcomers as well.


Tschaikowsky: Symphony No. 5

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No.5. Pique Dame Overture. Orchestra: Gurzenich Koln. Conductor: Dmitrij Kitajenko. Oehms SACD OC667

It might be wise to take care when ordering this very deserving recording as the spellings on the disc are as follows: Tschaikowsky, Symphonie Nr.5 and Pique Dame Ouverture, Koln is known well as Cologne.

That is out of the way as minor details that I would hate to see preventing obtaining this outstanding release. I am a lover of much of Tchaikovsky's works and was rather quickly taken by a combination of the conductor's efforts and interpretation. Also helping immensely is the particularly rock solid strength of the recording's presentation of the orchestra. I have heard many people say that only a Russian conductor can present Tchaikovsky's major works properly. I only believe that to a certain extent. Here it does not matter as Kitajenko was born in Russia. The members of the orchestra perform as if of one mind and execution with the conductor. Solid, exacting and musical keep entering my mind. In the audio recording department, it sounds as if the orchestra is being kept together and not being stretched out and the same feeling about limiting the amount of depth rather than emphasizing it. Somehow it all fits as someone planned. Faultless playing by the performers seems to fit right in. I am deliberately going to wait to pull out competing recordings though not till after letting this review stand as is. It deserves what I have said and in particular what is forged here in the last movement, particularly up to that famous cadence change that fools newcomers into believing it is ending; I have never heard it done so well. Cheers and what a delightful change of pace for an encore with the Pique Dame Overture. No one needs to ask about my recommendation; it could not be greater.


Meditation on John Kebles's Rogationtide Hymn

John Ireland, Complete Organ Works. Organist: Stefan Kagl. Organ: Herforder Munster. CPO SACD 777 481-2

After reading all the liner notes I was thinking that composing for and playing the organ was pretty much everything for John Ireland. Reading in one of my reference books it seemed as though a variety of chamber music with a remarkable and famous violin sonata and music for film and a famous Holy Boy (A Carol of the Nativity) was basically 'it' for Ireland! No mention of organ compositions was found; strange things once again in this old world. The music is very melodic and mostly almost immediately appealing. Best known is the Elegiac Romance as well as the Holy Boy (A carol of the Nativity). The organist, Stefan Kagl, is definitely extremely good and really commands this fine instrument. The audio quality is about as good as it gets for even SACD. Thanks for making it available for our listening pleasure in SACD multi-channel. With a good system the church can come to your home musically. The musical qualities are not to be denied here and are simply enhanced by the full range recording with audio quality good enough to attract audiophiles that might like to hear really good music while being seduced by the audio quality. Definitely recommended to any and all lovers of good music played on a fine pipe organ and with very high audio quality.


From Fife and Drum. . . Celebrating the 190th Anniversary of 'The President's Own' United States Marine Band

From Fife And Drum, Marine Band Recordings. 1890-1988. Band: U.S. Marine Corps. Directors: John Philip Sousa – John R. Bourgeois. Altissimo ALT60902

 Please pay close attention here to my beginning sentences. The recordings on this CD do start with one recording from 1890 that was directed by the famous John Philip Sousa! That fact, together with the resulting poor audio quality on the first tracks, may quickly end your interest here, but you may know someone who would embrace this effort dearly if they knew it existed; at least let them know or possibly consider it as a gift. There are a total of seventeen tracks on this unique release. The last ten tracks have good or better audio quality and all done by "The President's Own" United States Marine Band, celebrating their 190th anniversary. Probably of greatest interest to those thousands of former marching band members of high schools, colleges and our military forces, here is a bit of a retrospective of the U.S. Marine Band. This recommendation does not include PFO's usual inclusion of audio quality. As a matter of personal interest, look again at the recording's title. Do you know what a fife is?


Canadian Brass Takes Flight

Canadian Brass, Takes Flight. Steinway&Sons CD30008

This release includes a subheading; It's not about the destination… it's about the journey.

Canadian Brass began in 1970 and now forty years later they claim this recording is a kind of "state of the union address". They mention that if they were a string quintet they would have centuries to back them up. As a brass quintet they did not have much to fall back on. They started by commissioning new works and arrangements of familiar classics. Here they liftoff with Flight of the Bumblebee, under tuba power and then the suave strains of Killer Tango to salute their relationship with Sonny Kompanek. They say that baroque music, particularly Bach is at the core of their playlists. Their usual concert presentations range from classical to music plus lively dialogue and various theatrical effects. They have commissioned more than two hundred works. As usual their playing is as first rank professionals as would be expected and they seem to still enjoy their continuing journey. Audio quality is very good and consistent as also would be expected. Their instruments are finished with their trademark 24K gold-plate. Listed "equipment" includes Trumpets: Bb, C, Eb, and Piccolo types, plus Cornet, Flugelhorn, Horn and Trombone. If you enjoyed any of their previous albums this one should satisfy and includes Fantasia & Fugue in D minor, Turkish Rondo, Lament, Air on the G string, Carnival of Venice, Tuba Tiger Rag, Just a Closer Walk with Thee and eleven more.


Wind Concertos 7

Telemann, Wind Concertos Vol.7. Orchestra: La Stagione Frankfurt. Conductor: Michael Schneider. CPO CD999 907-2

What a stroke of luck, for me and possibly you. Telemann is my favorite baroque period composer. About three hundred years ago he was the most popular composer, no matter what you may have assumed. His wind concertos often seem to be his most popular compositions for today's listeners. In addition this is a larger than usual baroque specialty orchestra that somehow tends to sound a bit more like a traditional classical period group. This may make baroque music making slightly more appealing to some listeners. Why this is true I am not certain though the first suspect in my mind would be the instruments themselves.

Addendum; You Are Being Tested From Shostakovich Concerto No.1:

Answer: The orchestral score is composed of strings, piano and trumpet solos.

Therefore missing: are other brass and percussion instruments and all woodwinds such as oboe, bassoon, clarinet; the entire section is missing.

Continuing PentaTone's special anniversary ten disc box set with PentaTone's statement, "PentaTone is here to stay". Let us hope that those listeners that claim to want the highest quality recordings will support them and other companies that continue to support the highest quality releases, SA-CD. All in this special box set are SA-CDs. The special set is: "PentaTone The First Ten Years".

Disc 2006: Joseph Schmitt early symphonies and chamber music. Seemingly this composer is best known for his vocal and operetta compositions before WWII. He deserves to be heard more often with music such as well presented here. Excellent audio quality and performances are presented here.

Disc 2007: Mozart Piano Concertos, Nos. 13 & 24. A beautiful recording of a powerful performance of No. 24 and a satisfying one of the lesser known No.13 making for a fine release.