Monthly CD releases
Our readers may not appreciate what a high proportion of releases fail to achieve reviews, to the huge frustration of many musicians.
Some of the larger distributors promote as many as 100 recorded releases of discs and boxed sets each month !
Codaex and Select are, understandably, only able to fulfil limited numbers of requests; which discs you get is something of a lottery... (Their publicists sometimes press particular ones...)
With wide ranging eclectic interests, slanted towards contemporary, early music and chamber music and, for our readers, cheap re-releases, Musical Pointers may request a dozen or so items a month to consider for review from those two providers; see this month's list of Codaex requests [L].
These 3 received from Codaex have all proved to my taste to be winners; one of them predictably so, the other two quite uncertainly.
One can only hope that all the 100 July others do at least get reviews elsewhere, otherwise the musicians may be dependent on sales at gigs...
Etcetera KTC1435 - [8 CDs + one DVD]
Diepenbrok (1862-1921) is credited with reviving Dutch music after an arid period since Sweelinck three centuries earlier ! [C.f. England Das Land Ohne Musik Schmitz 1904*].
Being self-taught, he relied largely upon well-chosen texts to set, and wrote but little astract music. I was quickly captivated by this definitely original composer, who tends towards the 'serious', with many substantial song- and chorus- settings predominantly slow. Taken one or two at a time they are greatly rewarding and their leisurely progress is compelling.
This large box, graced with excellent notes and full texts with English translations in a 170-page lavishly illustrated booklet, is a perfect century-and-a-half tribute, with fine playing and recording, and superb singing by international artists such as Janet Baker, Arleen Auger and Robert Holl, and the fine Eva-Maria Westbroek in a soaring Hymn to Rembrandt, all well balanced with the Concertgebouw and Hague orchestras.
There are some captivating choral songs and the DVD has a really important Missa in die festo for male chorus & organ, which ought to be in the international repertoire, lovingly performed, recorded and filmed in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw - enjoy its Agnus Dei on YouTube.
This box is recommended warmly, and is a bargain at c. £26.
Morton Feldman: Violin & Piano
Spring of Chosroes;
Vertical Thoughts 2
MDG 613 1524-2
* The link above is to an article by our own Boris Johnson, Mayor of London !
Morton Feldman's calm, rarified music is not for everyone, but it can cast a spell, and this double-CD did so for me. He did not write much for violin+piano (intimidated by the weight of tradition ?).
Feldman's near-repeated patterns look similar, but are never identical; the music is mostly quiet and makes for a special experience for those who are eceptive. This production is well up to the high standard of MDG's others with SteffanSchleiermacher which we have reviewed enthusiastically.
The first disc has nine pieces, the last "for four pianos" [R] was recorded seperately sequentially and then mixed.
Jean Francaix Chamber Music
Indesens: INDE043 [3 CDs]
How to descrbe Jean Francaix (1912-1997) and his prolific life-affirming "serious music without gravity" ? The notes speak of his precocity; at 10 Nadia Boulanger found he "was born knowing what harmony is". He was never seduced by the 'isms" of his time, "experimental meanders", and suffered from jealousies and being ignored by the French musical world, which he accepted with some irony "My dodecaphonic friends tell me I am an extinct volcano and I will not contradict them - the most beautiful theories are the last thing on my mind when I compose".
Each of these pieces of a 60-year span sparkles and should delight everyone; they are far more subtle than his detractors supposed. There is even a totally successful Nonet after Mozart's quintet Kv. 452, with the piano part transcrbed for string quintet, which Mozart had thought to do but never got round to it. It should be popular in music colleges, and there is a treasure trove amongst his 200 works still to be explored.
He was championed by Charles Munch and had to be cleared of collaboration after his housemaid thought a photo of the great conductor was one of Hitler!
Three marvellous discs, the first two recorded 1996 with the composer at the piano and conducting his devoted collaborators Octuor de France; the last of them posthumously by the Octuor alone, 2012.
A box of music for everyone to enjoy, which I recommend as an ideal present for any family as a change from Christmas Carols...
Peter Grahame Woolf