Signum Releases October 2008
Signum Classics is an enterprising smaller label with an approach which takes in by-ways in the 'classical' music spectrum. Details of this stimulating batch of releases received can be found at http://www.signumrecords.com/index.php; click on these cover pictures there.
Jamie Walton's studio recordings of the Britten & Shostakovich concertos (Britten's is appropriately named Cello Symphony, Shostakovich's is his less known 2nd) are to my mind far more desirable than his earlier coupling of Elgar and Myaskowsky.
The two composers were friends and mutual admirers, making this new one a coupling of "the most likely of bedfellows" [M.Ross], both composed for Rostropovich and premiered by him in Moscow. Neither is played that often, and the Britten is amongst my favourites of his orchestral works. Both are given commanding performances, but they are essentially studio accounts for home listening; no way could the solo cello live sound as loud as here and on his earlier studio recording. But times change, and my earlier benchmark of truthfully simulated concert hall balance is maybe becoming anachronistic? The composers might well have been satisfied with the parity of soloist and orchestra here, and the sound as recorded in London's Henry Wood Hall in March this year is undeniably compelling.
Signum's collection of Beethoven "Lieder und Gesänge" by Ann Murray, Roderick Williams, Iain Burnside (not including the An die ferne Geliebte cycle Op. 98) is useful and well produced, with good clear commentary and parallel texts in original languages & English translation. it is highly recommendable for Roderick Williams' contribution, but there are reservations about Ann Murray's. A favourite opera star and recitalist, she is no longer in as good voice as in her prime. Priced at one and a half Signum's usual, it is a good buy.
Cadence Ensemble's new record of Tangos and Fantasies (Piazolla etc) is a splendid sequel to their Amenian Metamorphoses. Once again, a five day recording schedule at Abbey Road Studio testifies to the high production values. Irresistible !
I did not get on with Bob Chilcott's choral music, but readers should know that its track 'Making Waves' for two youth choirs to sing simultaneously on either side of the Atlantic, linked only by a telephone line, was specially selected for high praise in The Observer.
Powerplant's Electric Counterpoint has a new take on Reich's original for guitar and tape; Joby Burgess on xylosynth gives it new life, with layers of lines up to fifteen parts heard simultaneously. Tracks by Kraftwerk originated in the world of modern dance; Burgess, on an array of percussion instruments, is supported by the Elysian String Quartet. This very up-to-the-minute disc has the cooperation of composer Matthew Fairclough (laptop and keyboard) and there is a bonus video of Alvarez's Temazcal for maracas, which you may be able to access as a "temazcal.mp4" file on your computer's desktop and view by double-clicking there.
Peter Grahame Woolf