ARNOLD:Suite from Homage to the Queen, Op. 42. Rinaldo
and Armida, Op.
49. Concert Suite from Sweeney Todd, Op. 68a. Electra, Op.70.
MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 "Scottish." Opening
Sketch of Scottish Symphony. Piano Concerto No. 3 in E minor. The
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47. Symphony No. 9 in E
flat, Op. 70.
WOLF-FERRARI: Suite from The Jewels of the Madonna. Prelude
and Intermezzo from The Four Seasons. Suite Concertino in F,
Op. 16 for Bassoon and Orchestra. Overture and Intermezzo from The
Secret of Suzanna. Overture and Intermezzo
from Doctor Cupid. Intermezzo and Ritornello from Il campiello. Overture
to The Stupid Lady.
Sir Malcolm Arnold composed his ballet Welcome to the Queen for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in June 1953. The ballet is about four elements (Earth, Water, Fire and Air), each having its own Queen. Choreography was by Frederick Ashton and Margo Fonteyn was featured as Queen of the Air. Although well received, the ballet was neglected until a revival in 2006 to celebrate the Queen's eightieth birthday, although a recording was made in 1953 of the composer's concert suite, with Robert Irving and the Philharmonia Orchestra (once available on an EMI CD (66120) in their British Composers series. Now we have this welcome new recording of Arnold's sprightly score. A year after Welcome to the Queen, Arnold wrote his one-act "dance-drama" Rinaldo and Armida and conducted the premiere at the Royal Opera House January 6, 1956. The 21-minute ballet is about the deadly enchantress Armida whose lovers are killed until she falls in love with the mortal warrior Rinaldo, and the score is appropriately somber although we do have several vivid dances. Arnold's score for Sweeney Todd was premiered in 1959, and is primarily a series of manic dances of the type often associated with the composer. Sterner stuff is heard in his 1963 one-act ballet Electra. Here we have a score of wide contrasts, atonal at times, focused on heavy percussion, a small taste of the barbaric despair Arnold displayed in his last three symphonies. Performances are magnificent, as is audio. A wonderful CD!
Decca calls their new disk of music of Mendelssohn "Mendelssohn Discoveries," and it is just that—and more. The Symphony No. 3 has more than 70 recordings currently, but none like what is heard here. This "London version" contains 39 new bars of music in the first movement and 19 new bars of music in the fourth, as well as different orchestrations of 49 bars in the first and last movements. Also included is a brief sketch of this opening 16 bars of the symphony written in 1829/1830 and orchestrated by Christian Voss. We know Mendelssohn wrote two piano concertos, but he also began work on a third which existed only in manuscript. Only two movements existed, some incomplete, and these have been reconstructed by Marcello Bufalini. As a concerto needs a final movement and none existed, Bufaire wrote one "in the style of Mendelssohn". He did his task well, and what is heard here sounds very much like the Mendelssohn we know. Mendelssohn specialist, pianist Roberto Prosseda, who has to his credit two Decca recordings of rare piano works by the composer, is soloist. Another feature is the earlier Rome version of The Hebrides overture, which contains 43 bars not in the usual version as well as other minor changes. All performances are vivid, and recorded sound could not be bettered. An intriguing CD!
Vasily Petrenko continues his Shostakovich series on Naxos with this coupling of the Fifth and Ninth symphonies. This site recently mentioned his superb issue of Symphony No. 11 (REVIEW). The new disk is not quite as successful. Symphony No. 5 was recorded July 7 and 8, 2008 in Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall, Symphony No. 9, July 29 and 30 of the same year. Producer and editor for both was Andrew Walton, and Phil Rowlands was engineer for both. In spite of this, audio quality is different for the two symphonies, the Fifth closer and less resonant. The finale of Symphony No. 5 is taken quite deliberately which could be impressive interpretively but doesn't work here. Strings are hard, and audio buffs will be disappointed by the final pages of the last movement. The eight resounding loud bass drum smashes are a test of speakers, but here are so closely miked it is impossible to hear the tuned timpani notes that accompany the bass drum—one hears only eight impactful bass drum notes without the timpani support. Symphony No. 9 is an improvement sonically.
Chandos has a delightful CD of orchestral works of Ermano Wolf-Ferrari. Overtures and excerpts from six of his operas are here, including selections from the rarely heard L'amore medico, La dama boba and Il campiello. The disk gets off to a scintillating start with a four-movement suite from I gioielli della Madonna, which opens and ends with a vivacious dance. A plus is inclusion of the Suite-Concertante, Op. 16, a four-movement bassoon concerto beautifully played by Karen Georghegan. A delightful CD in every way!
R.E.B. (November 2009)