James Jolly's weekly playlist includes Rachmaninov from Jansons, Stravinsky from Melnikov, Rautavaara from Tetzlaff, Gounod from Niquet and Respighi from Neschling
What an extraordinary thing an orchestra is – this week’s Listening Room playlist celebrates the variety and range of the modern symphony in the hands of some its most virtuoso exponents. Few 20th-century composers could colour with the orchestral palette like Ottorino Respighi and a stunning new recording of his Trittico botticellinano from Liège is a real ear-opener. It may lack the flashiness of his Roman tone-poems but with its more economical scoring it certainly glitters in the light. Sergei Rachmaninov’s skill with the orchestra tends to be overshadowed by his virtuosity at (and for) the piano, but he could extract colours from an orchestra that still amaze, and Mariss Jansons’s new recording of the Symphonic Dances – a work that perfectly illustrates what a truly great conductor he is – is a total winner (and the playing of the Bavarian Radio orchestra is magnificent). Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka would certainly be up there as one of the great orchestral showpieces of the early 20th century, but the Three Movements he drew from the score for Arthur Rubinstein manage to transfer the colour and power of the original to the piano magnificently – and Alexander Melnikov plays them terrifically well on a Steinway Model D (from a stunning album which combines ‘Four Pianos, Four Pieces’ – do check out the other three).
Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony (his Third) was premiered on March 3, 1842, and (writing this on March 2), it seemed a good excuse to include a classic Decca recording from 1957 by the London Symphony Orchestra under Peter Maag (and still sounding very fine). The LSO has a long Mendelssohn heritage (that went on to include Claudio Abbado and John Eliot Gardiner), and this performance stands the test of time very well.
Other milestones along the way include a choral hymn by Charles Gounod (born 200 years ago this year), Dmitri Kabalevsky’s fascinating (and often quirky – that side drum!) orchestration of Schubert’s four-hand Fantasy, a couple of modern takes on Shakespeare songs from Poland, Rautavaara’s haunting Cello Sonata No 1 and Brahms’s Begräbnisgesang (a distinct pre-echo of the German Requiem). And from very new or pre-release albums, Bartók from Renaud Capuçon and François-Xavier Roth, Haydn from Harry Christophers and Prokofiev from Stéphane Denève.
Respighi Trittico botticelliano
Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège / John Neschling (BIS)
Gounod Hymne sacré
Flemish Radio Choir; Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra / Hervé Niquet (Editiones Singulares)
Mendelssohn Symphony No 3, 'Scottish'
London Symphony Orchestra / Peter Maag (Decca)
Pawlik Sonnet 33, 'Full Many a Glorious Morning'
proMODERN (Warner Classics)
Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Mariss Jansons (BR-Klassik)
Stravinsky Three Movements from Petrushka
Alexander Melnikov (Harmonia Mundi)
Lukaszewski Sonnet 60, 'Like As the Waves'
proMODERN (Warner Classics)
Rautavaara Cello Sonata No 1
Tanja Tetzlaff; Gunilla Süssmann (Ondine)
Eric Ericson Chamber Choir; Gävle Symphony Orchestra / Jaime Martin (Ondine)
Kabalevsky Fantasy in F minor (after Schubert's Fantasy, D940)
Claire Huangci; Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra / Cornelius Meister (Capriccio)
Bartók Violin Concerto No 1 – 1. Andante sostenuto
Renaud Capuçon; London Symphony Orchestra / François-Xavier Roth (Erato)
Haydn Symphony No 26, 'Lamentatione' - 1. Allegro assai con spirito
Handel and Haydn Society / Harry Christophers (Coro)
Prokofiev Cinderella – Cinderella's Arrival at the Ball & Grand Waltz
Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra / Stéphane Denève (DG)