For the final instalment of his survey of Beethoven’s works for piano and orchestra, Ronald Brautigam has saved ‘the final crowning glory of his concerto output’, as Beethoven specialist Barry Cooper describes the Fifth Piano Concerto in his liner notes. It is coupled on this disc with the Choral Fantasia – an intriguing work scored for piano, orchestra and chorus with vocal soloists.
For all of those who look for early works of Pärt this is a precious recording. I believe there are a lot of people who don't find much appeal in Pärt's late repetitive, mystic works for the very same reasons others prefer them. So what's up here is that Pärt has a few lesser known works before, say, his third symphony which are the "opposite" of the mentioned above. Those who are found of Schnittke will surely appreciate this. The most remarkable composition in this record is maybe the "Credo" for piano mixed choir and orchestra. It consists of 13 minutes of duel between the forces of the past (represented by Bach's well known motifs) and the eruptive resources of modernist aleatoric clusters of sound. So, pools of beautiful passages are interrupted by (or combined with) destructive (or desconstructive) interventions of the orchestra till the whole, peaking sometimes the frenetic, becomes yet a powerful block of distinctive sound.
Some composers really deserve their reputation as artists whose fame rests on a single work, but with Holst the popularity of The Planets really has obscured the large quantity of good music he wrote in other forms. Part of the problem also stemmed from his daughter, Imogene, who was severely critical of her father's work and whose baleful influence persists to this day. These three choral ballets contain a large measure of delightful and wholly characteristic music. It's crime that we have had to wait until now for a complete recording of them, and fortunately these performances make a strong case for many more.
This collection of short choral pieces by Johannes Brahms is an unusual one in present times, partly because many of the choral parts are quite demanding. For a choral club in the 19th century, however, it wouldn't have been so novel, and there are great beauties on offer here. After the fetching Ave Maria, Op. 12, the rest of the program is dense, metaphysical, and, with the partial exception of the Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53, concerned with death. There are two funeral songs, and two more about fate, and this is not the warm, humanistic Brahms of the German Requiem, Op. 45. The performances are profound and dignified, and the overall effect uncanny. The Warsaw Philharmonic Choir under choirmaster Henryk Wojnarowski has a gorgeous rich tone that is undiminished by the long lines of the music, and the Alto Rhapsody achieves real grandeur in the hands of contralto Ewa Wolak. But the real credit goes to the Warsaw Philharmonic and conductor Antoni Wit, who keep a consistent level of tension and momentum in difficult, dark material like the somber Nänie, Op. 82 (Funeral Song), a rarely performed late Brahms masterwork.
Chandos Records is delighted to present this new recording of Elgar’s choral masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius and the enduringly popular song cycle Sea Pictures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, a peerless Elgarian who this year was awarded the prestigious Elgar Society Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the composer’s music. In Gerontius the soloists are Stuart Skelton, David Soar and Sarah Connolly, who also sings in Sea Pictures. This recording was made in the days leading up to their triumphant live performance of Gerontius in April of this year in which Skelton was praised as ‘the ideal tenor for the role of Gerontius’, Soar described as ‘an implacable, dark sounding Priest’ and Connolly, ‘a consummately polished Angel’ (The Guardian).