Beecham had an exquisite ear for detail, and his Peer Gynt has more fantasy — more subtlety, too — than anyone else's: Ase s Death and Anitra 's Dance are simply magical. So is the Symphonic Dance, and if In Autumn and the variations occasionally seem a litde thin musically, Beecham makes amends with keenness of attack and eloquent phrasing. The orchestra is superb and the transfers (which give us the variations in stereo for the first time), excellent.
This Collector's Edition presents a challenge to reviewers. There's so much of it. I could never do it any sort of justice if I approached this as if reviewing a smaller set. This, after all, comprises 37 CDs. As it is all I have been able to do is to sample, reminisce about known recordings and write around the subject. With this caveat stated, let's make a start.
There are three principal strands of Britten recordings. These are broadly tied into and defined by record companies, artists and eras. First we have Britten recording Britten for Decca.
Following the long & rocky road to the 1st Symphony, on which, due to his teaching duties at the Moscow Conservatory, Tchaikovsky had been forced to work at night, the 2nd Symphony was composed mainly in the summer of 1872, hot on the heels of his 2nd opera, The Oprichnik. At this time, Tchaikovsky was once again taking a holiday on the country estate of his sister Aleksandra, located near the Ukrainian town of Kamianka, in the Kiev Governerate. Numerous anecdotes report Tchaikovsky’s touching assertion that he was not the true creator of the work, but rather, that it actually had been composed by a Pyotr Gerasimovich, 1 of the older servants in the household of his sister & her husband, Lev Davydov, for it was Pyotr Gerasimovich who had sung the folksong, The Crane, to him, which provided the basis for the work’s finale.
At 1st sight, they appear to have nothing in common – but disregarding the stylistic elements & a difference of 2 centuries, you soon recognize that both are in a sense, musical architects, who as piano virtuosos were equally interested in miniature forms & inspired by folk music. On the 1 hand you have Scarlatti, who, after moving to Spain in 1729 composed almost exclusively for harpsichord & integrated elements of Spanish folklore into his compositions in an experimental way; on the other hand Bartk, who boosted the recognition of the rich native Hungarian peasant songs to an independent folk art, & was also influenced by Arabic folk music.
The penultimate volume in Hyperion’s four-part survey of the complete solo piano music of Ernő Dohnányi focuses on music from the period when the composer’s pre-eminent position was being assured. The titles of the largest works here, Ruralia hungarica and the Variations on a Hungarian Folksong, mask in their nationalistic ostentation the skill of a true master of piano composition. Martin Roscoe inhabits the world of Dohnányi’s music like no other—appraisals of the earlier volumes attest to this—and this new recording is a joy.
Grainger’s mastery of choral textures shines out of this wide-ranging collection of folk-song arrangements, each highly individual and memorable. Plus his friend Grieg’s finely scored religious settings. Superior performances by Stephen Layton and Polyphony.
English Delight is a tribute to the viola and English composers from across different eras and styles. From John Dowland to Jonathan Harvey, Adrien La Marca takes us on a journey through four centuries. Each composer influences the next, but each speaks their own different and sublime language.