Recent listening

Stunning Beethoven symphonies (Nos. 1-8) from Rudolf Barshai, Russian Melodiya recordings from the 1970s. Measured tempos, ‘dovetailed’ phrasing, strong though never brutal emphases, all first movement exposition repeats observed, fairly good stereo sound. And such STRONG interpretations! I’d recommend them to anyone

A whole range of fascinating Melo Classic CDs, none of the material previously released on CD, probably not in any form. The pianist Marian Filar, whose life story is virtually as tragic as Szpilman’s (of ‘The Pianist’ fame). Eloquent Chopin with no excessive rubato (a sequence of Op. 28 Preludes is especially good). Exhaustive booklet notes. Friedrich Wuhrer and Elly Ney (both Nazis), Wuhrer worth hearing for a magnificent Hammerklavier, Ney for a fairly sensitive Schumann Quintet (with the Hoffman Quartet, the second movement being incredibly slow). Plenty more in the catalogue – do check out their website.

I’d never heard of the violinist Patrice Fontanarosa but a 12-cd set on French Decca has, in some respects, proved a revelation. A superb Schumann Fantasy plus the Violin Concerto, the Schubert trios with his brother and sister, Ravel and Fauré too.

What have you heard?

15 thoughts on “Recent listening

  1. Robert Roy

    Good to Have this page open again!

    I’ve been mega impressed with a new recording featuring the violinist Augustine Dumay on Onyx. He conducts Beethoven’s 8th Symphony with the Kansai Philharmonic. (A very good band!) He then plays first violin in Brahms’ first string sextet (a very, imho, under-rated work), and then gived a superb performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. A really lovely performance.

    Well worth hearing.

    Looking forward to writing more but better get back to work for a bit.


  2. Thanks Robert. I’ve been listening to that too. Found the first movement of the Beethoven a little too free … and a don’t like trills that slowly accelerate. The slow movement though is wonderfully pure in tone and I thought the Brahms Sextet quite superb. I hope Dumay and his mates go on to do the Second Sextet, which I love even more than the First. Thanks for responding so promptly Robert. Best. R


  3. Eddie Williamson

    I have a few CD’s by Fontanarosa. He was the concertmaster of Orchestre National de France for a decade in the seventies and eighties, in addition to his trio duties with his brother and sister. Worth checking out. Thanks for the tip on the French Decca box.

    Now listening to Poulenc’s Sept chansons, Mass in G major (1937), Four motets for the season of Lent, and Four motets for the season of Christmas. Sung by the Elora Festival Singers with direction by Noel Edison. Recorded in St. John’s Church, Elora, Ontario (October 2012) and issued on Naxos a few months back. Can’t think of a much better way to push through a off-day morning than with some a cappella singing as accomplished as this.


  4. Steven Swalbe.

    Hello Rob.
    All I can remember of RB’s LvB Ss is Op.21.Have several recs of MCO (KV201 etc.) ++ also he and DO in JSB BWV 1043 and of course with LK, DO and MS in Kammermusik. There was a prog abt Ney (LvB) She was a Nazi member. Friedrich Wührer was a Nazi sympathiser who was famous as a FS interpreter. I remember D575 and D959.


  5. Robert Roy

    Hi Rob. Here’s an odd coincidence. I picked up a Pearl cd (for a pound!) this morning of a Chopin recital by Raoul Koczalski, a name I was unfamiliar with. Determined to find out more, I put his name in The Gramophone’s search engine which took me to your review of Celibidach’s Berlin Recordings from 1945 – 1957 which features a recording of Chopin’s second piano concerto. (November 2013).

    Well, I was listening to this set last night (which I picked up in a church sale a couple of years ago) and listened to Celi’s Prokofiev ‘Classical’ symphony and numbers from ‘Romeo & Juliet’ which I thought were exceptionally well played and recorded bearing in mind they were recorded in Berlin in 1946.

    Anyway, thought I’d tell someone who would understand!

    Best, Robert.


  6. Robert Roy

    Thanks, Rob.

    Now listening to the late, great Mr. Claudio Abbado conducting Schubert’s ‘Great’ (and long!) C Major symphony.

    Sounds pretty good to me.

    Best, Robert


  7. Interesting that Robert – an old friend of mine, a long-term player with the major orchestras (violinist) much prefers repeats to be honoured even if they’re a bit of a chore to play! He asked me about this very recording.


  8. Robert Roy

    I seem to remember that a big fuss was made of The Halle/Loughran recording since it was the first, I believe, to include all the repeats. Of course it was a studio recording so the players could have a break.

    I read somewhere that a long time principal viola of the LSO had a viola he used specially for this one piece since his usual instrument was just too heavy!

    I’m wondering if this Abbado will supplant my beloved Boult/LPO ‘Studio’ disc. I wore out my public library’s tape of it.

    Happy days.

    Best, R.


  9. BertieRussell

    I heard Shostakovich’s Leningrad symphony, for the first time in my life, in the concert hall a few days ago. Before the experience, I hadn’t even been exposed to an excerpt from one of the movements. My virgin ears registered strong appreciation, all through the adagio (3rd movement). Especially when the violas repeated the theme given to the flutes at the beginning of movement, I was quite moved. A significant number of people from the audience, left at the interval, after they heard the other item on the programme Mozart’s 24th PC. They missed a great experience. I’d be interested to know if other listeners, were attracted to a different part of the symphony when first exposed to it?
    Thank you.


    1. Well Bertie when I first heard Shostakovich 7 what most impressed me was the obvious ‘biggie’, ie that great, gruelling crescendo in the first movement. I don’t recall that the rest of it made that much of an impression, something that wasn’t true – either in total or on part – of my six favourites among the Shostakovich canon, Nos. 1, 4, 8, 10, 14 and 15. As to walking out, I recall leaving the Royal Albert Hall after Shostakovich 14 before Rachmaninov 1 – a work I usually enjoy – broke the darkening spell. Best. Rob.



    Hello !

    I would truly appreciate your advice on where to start with the music of Arnold Schoenberg. I adore Mahler’s song cycles, whose soundscape, (from what I’ve read) is similar(?) to that of the early works of Schoenberg. I heard a wonderful performance of Das Lied von der Erde, conducted by Mark Elder at the 2016 Proms. The soprano’s (Alice Coote) interpretation is riveting, as though she could personally attest to the wisdom of every single word in the Chinese poems. I have often wondered about the astonishing concentration of musical masterpieces in the period 1900-1914. Firebird, La Mer, Das Lied, El Amor Brujo, Daphnes, Sibelius symphonies etc. Has any period since 1914 (of comparable length) been as rich in masterpieces ? Was genius channeled into different musical genres after WW1? I suppose the supremacy of commercial considerations, and the insistent and ever-present ‘forest of media’, must have inhibited the gestation process that to some extent, must precede the birth of a masterpiece. Eric Hobsbawm’s book Fractured Times, contains stimulating thoughts on these questions. Thank you in advance for your contributions.


    1. Well for a start you’re prompting me to buy Hobsbawm’s book which is being remaindered at Waterstones! Where to start with Schoenberg? The tone poems Pelleas and Melisande and Transfigured Night pick up where Mahler left off, roughly speaking, and so do the first two string quartets. The Five Orchestral Pieces are gnomic but extraordinarily vivid, truly dramas condensed onto small canvases. The Orchestral Variations are also great, but not easy as a first port of call. The Piano Concerto is like discombobulated Brahms, until you get to know it; the violin concerto, intensely lyrical, though its surface is tough. But my first port of call for a convinced Mahlerian would definitely be Pelleas. Barbirolli did a fine recording of it, and so did Karajan. Do let me know how you get on. With best wishes and thanks for writing. Rob.


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