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Bargain Vernon Handley set

Currently Amazon are offering Tod Handley’s Champion of British Music box set for only £11.87. This Warner Classics release offers nearly six and a half hours of beautifully perforned music in good sound. The first three discs contain works by English composers, whereas the last two celebrate Handley conducting two great concertos from the standard repertoire.

Highlights of the set include:

  • Elgar’s Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61 with a young, Nigel Kennedy as soloist
  • Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending with David Nolan providing the solo violin
  • Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 2 ‘A London Symphony’ with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • the only available recording of Bliss’ Edinburgh Overture with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orcherstra
  • Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 with Tasmin Litle
  • Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 again with Tasmin Little as soloist.

Take this opportunity to snap up a bargain!

Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata – No. 3 in our collection

One of Beethoven’s most popular piano sonatas is his Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 ‘Moonlight’. There are many fine performances of this sonata on the market but we are going to recommend this bargain double CD from Warner Classics performed by Stephen Kovacevich (formerly Bishop).

This piece of solo music was premiered by the composer himself in 1802 at a time when his hearing was still adequate (but already deteriorating). Beethoven did not name the work; the nickname ‘Moonlight’ was apparently first adopted during the 1830s. This followed a review of the work in which the author compared the dreamy opening movement to a boat floating in the moonlight on Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne. Listen for yourself … and see what you think.

View the other works in our collection.

Tragic Death of Dmitri Kogan

Yesterday the death was announced of the violinist, Dmitri Kogan at the age of 38; a life cut tragically short by cancer. Dmitri was the grandson of the legendary violinist Leonid Kogan and his grandmother was the sister of the equally legendary pianist, Emil Gilels. Thus music was clearly in the family genes. Our thoughts are with Pavel Kogan, himself a conductor, and the rest of the family at this sad time.

Dmitri Kogan made a number of recordings and performed around the world. Two recordings on Delos are worth pursuing. His performance of the two Shostakovich violin concertos can be heard on Spotify.

A fine recording of violin duos, with Marianna Vassilieva, can be purchased from Amazon.

Last week at the BBC Proms

The week began with a superb concert from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

On Wednesday evening there was another Proms first – ‘Beyond the Score’. This multimedia presentation entertaingly illuminated the following performance of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 ‘From the New World’ from the Hallé conducted by Sir Mark Elder. I suspect that all who listened to the riveting presentation had their experience of listening to this popular symphony changed forever. If you missed it, you really should experience it on catch-up.

Friday evening saw the inaugral appearance of the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan together with their director Riccardo Chailly (who has, of course, appeared at the Proms before).

The evening started about 15 minutes late; apparently the orchestra’s instruments were held up by customs at Stansted followed by a slow journey into London. Perhaps the lack of rehearsal time explains why the concert failed to live up to expectations. I’ve heard many finer performances of Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 and of Respighi’s Rome pieces.

Saturday night’s Prom was cleverly devised around the Hussite war song that opened the concert. The melody of the opening song reappeared in works by Smetana, Martinů and Dvořák. The BBC Symphony Orchestra rounded off a daringly programmed all Czech evening with Suk’s Prague, which gave the Royal Albert Hall organ another appearance! A great evening ably led by Jakub Hrůša in a lively manner that reminded one of his late, lamented teacher Jiří Bělohlávek. Congratulations to all involved in the delivery of this interesting and enjoyable Prom.

Last night saw yet another Proms debut: this time the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra who were conducted by their music director, Louis Langrée. In the first half we enjoyed an all American programme; Bernstein’s symphonic suite from On the Waterfront and Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. The evening was rounded off by another statement of musical nationalism in a fine performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.