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Great introduction to Glinka’s sound world

This is the first of our posts in which we share with you an album that we have discovered lurking on our shelves and we believe is worthy of your attention.

Glinka: Orchestral Works

BBC Philharmonic, Vassily Sinaisky
Release Date: November 2000

Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (01.06.1804 – 15.02.1857) was the first Russian composer to gain an international reputation, and he is considered to be the founder of the Russian nationalist school.

Outside Russia several of Glinka’s orchestral works remain fairly popular in concerts and recordings. This well played collection of orchestral pieces, captured in good sound by the Chandos engineers, is an excellent starting point if you are unfamiliar with this music.

The CD includes Glinka’s two Spanish OverturesKamarinskaya and the overture and suite from Ruslan and Lyudmila, Op. 5 among other works in a programme lasting some 75 minutes.

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Juanjo Mena completes his highly acclaimed Ginastera series

Ginastera: Orchestral Works, Vol. 3

Xiayin Wang (piano), BBC Philharmonic, Juanjo Mena (conductor)

In this final instalment of Ginastera’s orchestral works Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic are, once again, joined by the Chinese pianist Xiayin Wang – this time she is the soloist in two of the three works.

Alberto Ginastera (11.04.1916 – 25.06.1983) was one of the most successful south American composers of the twentieth century but few of his works are represented widely in the current catalogue. Hopefully, this splendid series will give rise to an upsurge of interest in this composer.

The CD opens with the four movement Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 28. This is a stark work; it is full of detail and dissonance and requires a muscular performance. Xiayan Wang brings this off very well and is equally at home with the deft touches required in the ‘Scherzo allucinante’. She is clearly in tune with Mena and the BBC Philharmonic and we are treated to the best currently available performance of this concerto.

Why the second work  Variaciones concertantes has not yet entered the common repertoire is something of a mystery. In this piece each of the principal instruments, either singly or in pairs, has an opportunity to shine. It alternates between slower and faster tempi and the piece is a major discovery for this reviewer.

The final work is the youthful Concierto argentino that was rapidly withdrawn by the composer, following a successful launch, pending revisions that never came to pass. On the basis of this performance it certainly deserves to be given full recognition.

Like the two previous issues, it has been expertly recorded and on our systems the 24bit 96kHz download sounded excellent and allowed us to fully appreciate the quality of not only the orchestral musicians but also the talented soloist, Xiayin Wang who clearly has a great deal of empathy with these piano pieces. Well written and informative notes in the booklet complete a thoroughly recommended release.

iClassical rating: 

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Volume 8 of Bach’s Organ Works from David Goode

This is the eighth volume of Bach’s organ works played on the organ of Trinity College Chapel (built by the Swiss firm Metzler Söhne in 1976) and played by David Goode, the Eton College organist. These recordings come from a series of performances as part of  Bach at Trinity, which took place in 2016-17 and was a year-long celebration of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach and of the 40th anniversary of the aforesaid organ.

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The recording, available only as a download¹, begins with the Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV538 ‘Dorian’ with its Vivaldi like Toccata and the Fugue.There follow two miniatures, one of doubtful provenance, that rarely appear on CD. Goode then plays the more familiar Trio Sonata No. 4 in E minor, BWV528 with its first movement which is a re-working of the Sinfonia from Cantata BWV76, its most moving Andante and lively final movement. After a couple more short pieces, Goode gives an excellent performance of the Concerto after Vivaldi Op. 3 No. 8, BWV593. The recording concludes, as it began, with another well-known Prelude and Fugue this time the Prelude and Fugue, “Wedge”, BWV548 which rounds things off very nicely.

Organ enthusiasts who are collecting the complete set will no doubt wish to acquire this latest release. If you are just wishing to dip your toes in the water and sample some Bach organ works played with great flair and in fine sound you will not be disappointed by this varied collection.

iClassical rating: 

Stream on Spotify or purchase download from Qobuz or buy on CD from Presto Classical.

¹ For CD lovers I can announce that Presto Classical have made this series available on licensed CDs.

Rautavaara’s Symphony No. 7 ‘Angel of Light’ – No. 45 in our collection

Einojuhani Rautavaara (09.10.1928 – 27.07.2016) was one of the greatest Finnish composers of classical music since Jean Sibelius. His published output of works includes  include eight symphonies, nine operas and twelve concertos, as well as numerous vocal and works for chamber ensembles.  Rautavaara’s later music is best described as neo-romantic and mystical.

Rautavaara’s Symphony No. 7, subtitled Angel of Light, was commissioned by the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, who gave the first performance of the work in 1995. The work is in four movements. In the caim first movement long surges are constructed which, however, as yet fail to lead to strong musical statements. Hence the boisterous, even wild nature of the quick second movement. At the end there is an aggressive dialogue in which the vibraphone and harp suggest a variation of the hymn motif, answered angrily by the trumpets and the whole orchestra. The situation seems to remain unresolved, and then we proceed without a break to the slow movement, a dream-like vision which ends with a songful violin solo in the upper register. The finale gets under way with brass chords, like columns, which gradually rise up higher and higher towards the light until, finally, the hymn theme resounds like a broad current flowing from the entire orchestra.

We have selected a performance, on the BIS label, performed by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vänskä. The CD, dating from 1999, comes state-of-the-art sound and it also includes an excellent performance of the Cantus Arcticus, Op. 61 (Concerto for Birds & Orchestra).

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View the other works in our collection.