Continuing his impressive series of Anton Bruckner's symphonies on CPO, Mario Venzago leads the Bern Symphony Orchestra in period style performances of the Symphony No. 3 in D minor (1889 version) and the Symphony No. 6 in A major (1881 version), using scores edited by Leopold Nowak. Venzago strives for historically informed performances that give varying perspectives on Bruckner's development, employing different orchestras with each release to reveal important differences in the composer's orchestral conceptions and to show that there wasn't one prescription of how the symphonies should sound. Instead, Venzago rejects the massive and heavy-handed interpretations of the early 20th century and tries to re-create the 19th century sound world in all its variety and intimacy. The glistening, vibrato-less string tone, pungent woodwinds, and crisp brass and timpani are easily distinguished from the more homogenized tone colors of a modern symphony orchestra, and Venzago ensures that these distinctive timbres aren't obscured by keeping the orchestral sections lean and discrete.
The symphonies of Georges Onslow (1784-1853), rather than following the path blazed by countryman Hector Berlioz, instead adopt the German romantic style epitomized by Schumann and Mendelssohn. For example, the high-spirited Symphony No. 2, a smart and finely crafted work continuously self-propelled by busy string writing, presents a very Schumannesque profile (explicitly so in the scherzo), while the orchestration, with its bucolic woodwind writing, owes much to Mendelssohn. Symphony No. 4 immediately announces its weightier countenance with a powerfully portentous introduction reminiscent of Schubert. Onslow enlivens both the first movement and finale with skillful pacing and an unerring sense of dramatic timing, but it's the spiritually elevated adagio–the emotional center of the work–that remains most in the memory.
The Hanover Band is a period instrument chamber orchestra based in Sussex, England. It attracted much attention early on for its individual performance style, which often puzzled critics and created controversy. Certain recordings, the Beethoven nine symphonies in particular, have managed to generate both awards and sharp criticism.
In this superb audiophile package of the four symphonies of Robert Schumann, Simon Gaudenz, and the Odense Symphony Orchestra give clear and focused performances that serve to clarify the often-criticized orchestration and to create a nearly chamber-like atmosphere in many passages. By avoiding the conventional homogenous orchestral blend, reducing vibrato in the strings, and emphasizing the distinctive timbres of the woodwinds and brass, Gaudenz brightens Schumann's timbral palette considerably and balances dynamics to make textures more transparent. Beyond this, Gaudenz keeps the tempos fleet and the rhythms spry, and opens up the music to let it breathe.
Heitor Villa-Lobos is without a doubt Brazil's most famous composer and one of the great creative personalities of the twentieth century. His oeuvre is gigantic in its dimensions and perhaps can be compared only to that of Darius Milhaud, who, by the way, was a close friend of his. In any case, Villa-Lobos was the first to introduce the music of Latin America to the world's concert halls, and influences from this music do indeed abound in his oeuvre. cpo is now presenting the first complete recording of his colossal symphonic work complex in a boxed set of seven CDs at a special low price! The SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra under the American star conductor Carl St. Clair has taken on this enormous task, and the result can only be described as a bravura achievement. You can look forward to an orchestral tour de force operating on the highest level!
Kurt Atterberg's richly romantic, colorful orchestral vistas require excellent recorded sound and a no-holds-barred performance to make their best effect, and both of these symphonies previously have been well served in this regard, the Third by Sixten Ehrling on Caprice, and the Sixth by Jun'Ichi Hirokami on BIS (earlier versions of this latter work by Beecham and Toscanini remain mere historical curiosities).
New Chamber Music by Louise Farrenc
Following the release of her symphonies, our ambitious Louis Farrenc Edition continues with more chamber music by this French composer. Shortly after her first symphony (1841) she composed her first piano trio and performed it herself as the pianist together with two fellow musicians in Paris.