The ensemble London Winds, praised by BBC Music for its 'technical accomplishment, expressive commitment and warmth of timbre', presents in this recording great twentieth-century works for winds. It features music by Hindemith, Nielsen, and Janáček, and, from the next generation, Barber and Ligeti. Although not equally prolific (Kleine Kammermusik is Hindemith's single contribution to that genre while winds are generally more prominence in Nielsen's music), all these composers brought the wind repertoire back to prominence, after a quiet period of more than a century. The music is full of playfulness and European folk colours.
Hindemith composed more than 30 sonatas for the most diverse instruments – all of which he was capable of playing himself! This fascinating selection of works written between 1935 (when he became persona non grata in Nazi Germany) and 1948 (the brilliant Cello Sonata for Piatigorsky) is played by some of today’s finest soloists, with the guiding spirit of Alexander Melnikov at the piano. How often does one hear a sonata for Althorn? Especially one published along with a poem by the composer?
An all-too-rare new recording from Polyphony and Stephen Layton presents highlights from the choral repertoire by four twentieth-century American giants: Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson. Framed by Thompson’s understated favourites Alleluia and Fare Well, the programme includes Bernstein’s Missa brevis, Copland’s early set of four motets, and—of course—Barber’s inimitable Agnus Dei.
This programme features concert music by composers who also wrote film scores for Hollywood. While this was just one string to the considerable bows of Gershwin and Copland, Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman are best known for their music for Hitchcock films (Vertigo, North by Northwest, Marnie and Psycho for Herrmann; and Rebecca and The Paradine Case for Waxman). Centre stage is Gershwin’s Song-book, arranged by the composer for solo piano in order to present the songs ‘as George Gershwin plays them himself’.
"…If this imaginative mix of tenor/bass sonatas, rather than an all-cello recital, at first seems curious it works well in practice. Those already in possession of the rival accounts listed above may not want to duplicate these works further, though I would rate the present offering most highly; for those coming new to these works, start here." ~Grammophone
…The Grand Canyon Suite by Grofe has that same cozy nostalgic feel further enhanced by some UNusual instrument placement and editing. A serious recording technician would probably laugh at the approach used by this orchestra and Living Stereo, but to me it's a silly but highly enjoyable masterpiece. The SACD Stereo sound is fantastic, and this is one of my SACD Top Picks!