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Volume 28 Issue 4 | February - March 2023

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Volume 28 no.4, covering Feb, March and into early April '23! David Olds remembers composer John Beckwith; Andrew Timar reflects on the life and times of artistic polymath Michael Snow; Mezzo Emily Fons, in town for Figaro, on trouser roles, the life of a mezzo-soprano on the road and more; Colin Story on the Soft-Seat beat; tracks from 22 new recordings added to our Listening Room. All this and more.

Old Wine, New Bottles

Old Wine, New Bottles Fine Old Recordings Re-Released BRUCE SURTEES At the beginning of 2022, Supraphon released a 15CD box set of Karel Ančerl Live Recordings with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra ( Unearthed from the Czech radio archives, this collection includes some previously unpublished recordings making this set a must-have for collectors of one the 20th century’s greatest conductors. All will recognize the orchestra’s signature sound and be thrilled with this collection of music from well-known names and many little-known Czech composers. Ančerl was born into a prosperous family in Czechoslovakia in 1908. Very well educated, after graduating from the Prague Conservatory he pursued conducting under the tutelage of Hermann Scherchen and Václav Talich. His career was halted for World War II. He and his family were sent to a concentration camp in 1942, and ultimately to Auschwitz. Tragically his wife and young son did not survive. After the war he became artistic director of the Czech Philharmonic where he stayed for 18 illustrious years. While there, he established the orchestra as one of the world’s premier ensembles and won them international fame with frequent extensive concert tours abroad and numerous recordings on the Czech Supraphon label. He is still credited with establishing the distinctive Czech sound. He was well known as a great champion of the music of his homeland as well as for his broad repertoire of modern music. The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 resulted in his emigration to Toronto. He had been a guest conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra the year before, in 1967. He was immediately appointed permanent music director of the TSO and remained there until his death at age 65 in 1973. His death was attributed to illnesses resulting from his time in prison camps in WWII. Now to the music! Many of you will already be familiar with some of his many studio recordings but this collection of concert recordings, wonderfully remastered, offers us music, from a wide range of composers including the conductor’s contemporaries, that was never recorded in the studio. There is one exception, Ma Vlast which Ančerl did record in studio. These concerts were recorded between 1949 and 1968 including the Prague Spring Festival concert in May 1968 just prior to his departure to Toronto. I’ve been happily making my way through these discs and have found that there were many outstanding performances. I particularly enjoyed Vítězslav Novák’s (1870-1949) Pan (Symphonic Poem), Op.43. It’s a very exciting and dramatic piece of music written in 1910. His Autumn Symphony for chorus and orchestra is also included. Both pieces I have not had the pleasure to enjoy until now. This new collection manages to fill gaps left in Ančerl’s studio recordings. Dvořák Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8 as well as world-renowned repertoire of the 20th century, notably Debussy, Ravel, Strauss and Prokofiev. One is left wondering if there was anything that Ančerl couldn’t do, conducting such diverse composers all with a profound understanding of the music. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra is joined by the orchestra’s choir as well as numerous admired soloists. This box set comes with very richly detailed annotations, much thanks to Petr Kadlec. Although the sound quality varies, this is to be expected of detailed mono concert and radio recordings. I cannot remember my first encounter with the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams but through the years his music has never failed to speak to me. SOMM Recordings has issued Volume 1 of a proposed series of Vaughan Williams Live, commemorating the 150th anniversary of his birth ( with performances conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. This first volume contains Symphony No.6 in E Minor, played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1964) and a brilliant Symphony No.9 in E Minor played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded What we're listening to this month: New to the Listening Room 47 Multiple Voices for One David Greenberg 47 Conjuring: Viola Music of David Jaeger Elizabeth Reid, Alison Bruce Cerutti, David Jaeger 48 Vagues et ombres collectif9 51 Portrait: Alex Baranowski Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà 51 Nagamo Andrew Balfour & musica intima 52 Tu me voyais Christina Haldane 53 Jules Massenet Intégrale des mélodies pour voix et piano Various Artists 54 Pachelbel Magnificat Fugues Space Time Continuo 56 Time Klaudia Kudelko 57 Children's Corner - Music for Solo Piano Melody Chan 58 Kaleidoscope ~ Music for Mallet Instruments Bill Brennan 59 ILTA Stefanie Abderhalden & Kyle Flens 59 After Kate Read 61 Poul Ruders: Clarinete Quintet Rudersdal Chamber Players 61 Album for Astor Bjarke Mogensen 61 Suite Tango Denis Plante & Stéphane Tétreault 62 Featuring Caity Gyorgy 65 Lush Life Heather Ferguson 65 Funk Poems for 'Bird' Timuçin Şahin's Flow State 66 Songwriter Alex Bird & Ewan Farncombe 67 Hooked Dizzy & Fay 69 Within Die Hochstapler Read the reviews here, then visit 70 | February & March, 2023

in Royal Festival Hall in 1958. As expected of Sargent, this is a scintillating and definitive performance. This is the premiere of the Ninth Symphony written not long before Williams’ death in 1958. The cover photograph is of Sargent and the composer discussing the performance during rehearsal. It gives me chills knowing that Vaughan Williams was so intimately involved in this recording. The opening work on this disc is a wonderful performance of a very exciting The Wasps Overture, recorded live in Royal Albert Hall by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1957. Once again kudos to Lani Spahr the American musician and award-winning audio engineer whose astonishing true-to-life restorations really capture the sounds of the dynamic original audio. Many years ago, when Decca completed The Golden Ring, Wagner’s mammoth Ring of the Nibelungen with the Wiener Philharmoniker under the direction of Sir Georg Solti, there was some concern about just how many copies they would sell. The story goes that the Americans’ first order saved the day. Decca need not have worried as The Golden Ring was ultimately “the big hit” and has been selling well for them ever since. The original analogue master tapes were remastered in 2022 with engineers using all the technological advancements to extract more information from the original tapes and using the latest noise reduction software they have been able to achieve the truest possible sound. For this we are eternally grateful. If this single disc is any indication of the anticipated complete Ring Cycle we are in for some incredible listening. Decca has produced a beautifully packaged single disc of Great Scenes from Der Ring des Nibelungen ( with choice pieces from each of Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. The complete Wagner Ring Cycle is being released as individual operas on SACD and vinyl as well as in complete sets on both platforms. The cast really is golden, with too many names to list. I would single out Birgit Nilsson as Brünnhilde, James King as Siegmund, Christa Ludwig as Fricka and Wolfgang Windgassen as Siegfried. Don’t come after me if I have failed to mention your favourite. The entire cast of all four operas is really first class. Listening to these well-chosen excerpts has whetted my appetite for the complete set! [Editor’s note: At time of publication both Das Rheingold and Die Walküre are available from with Siegfried and Götterdämmerung to be released in the coming months.] A new set of live performances recorded between 1953 and 1972 of Christian Ferras has been issued on four CDs by SWR Recordings (SWR 19114 classical/products/9329040--the-swrrecordings-christian-ferras-plays-violinconcertos-and-chamber-music). Ferras was renowned as the finest violinist of his day. He was an artist who seemed deeply in touch with the composer and profoundly felt the music beyond just the score. I remember seeing a video of a live performance and as he played the tears rolled down his face. These discs are all recordings of Ferras with the SWR Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg. Whether with orchestra or in chamber music his playing reflects his wonderful musical sensibilities. Ferras plays with beauty and harmony. I admit to being very moved listening to Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op.61, however, all pieces are played with incomparable musicality and thoughtfulness. The set includes Beethoven, Debussy, Ravel, Enescu, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Berg. The chamber music for violin and piano is with Pierre Barbizet. Again, the remastering has been done from the original tapes and sounds as if it were recorded yesterday. February & March, 2023 | 71

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