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Julius Röntgen Piano Music Vol.1
Julius Röntgen Piano Music Vol.1
Price: £14.60

4.0 out of 5 stars More delights from Nimbus, 17 Feb. 2015
If you like the piano music of Brahms, you'll love this CD. As someone who has been steeped in music for many, many years, it's always interesting to discover a composer not previously known to me, and I was particularly pleased to find this recording, because I'd heard mention of Röntgen on the radio only recently and this gave me the chance to hear more of his work. It may not be the most innovative music composed in the period he lived - 1855-1932 - but it's certainly interesting to listen to the work of someone who was more than successful as a pianist, composer and teacher in the time just between the Romantic and the Atonal periods in musical development.

The performance by Mark Anderson is terrific. Playing the compositions of someone known as a musical prodigy must always be challenging, but he makes it sound as if he's thoroughly enjoying the experience and doesn't find it in the least daunting!

George Chisholm: The Gentleman of Jazz - A Centenary Tribute His 48 Finest
George Chisholm: The Gentleman of Jazz - A Centenary Tribute His 48 Finest
Price: £10.67

5.0 out of 5 stars A true Gentleman Player!, 14 Feb. 2015
In addition to being a very fine trombone player, George Chisholm was a very popular man, largely because he was such a versatile performer. He was also very knowledgeable about jazz. He wrote about it, arranged other people's tunes, wrote some of his own, and delighted audiences wherever he went with the excellence of his own playing and that of his various bands. Household names in jazz from the States acknowledged his excellent playing and sought him out to be in their band or on a recording with them, or just to enjoy listening to on a day off, if they found themselves anywhere near one of the clubs he was playing in

This double CD would be a walk down memory lane for many listeners. And if you're a student of jazz from the '30s onwards, the notes by the English trumpeter Digby Fairweather are, as ever thoroughly informative and interesting. The tracks chosen for this centenary tribute to George Chisholm are from the time when jazz was still music to dance to and make you smile. Try it! There's something for everyone among the 48 tracks on offer.

Geoffrey Bush Small Pieces for Orchestra
Geoffrey Bush Small Pieces for Orchestra
Price: £13.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep, but with a light touch., 20 Nov. 2014
Geoffrey Bush was a name I knew, but whose music was not familiar. This Lyrita CD of small pieces for orchestra, is delightful. Especially beautiful is the Sinfonietta Concertante for cello and small orchestra, composed in 1943, played here by Raphael Wallfisch. Having said that, every track is interesting. As the name implies the pieces are short and not in the least heavy-going.

Bush lived from 1920 to 1998, so he could have written atonal and dissonant music, like some of his contemporaries, but he didn't go down that path. As he said himself, as quoted in the CD booklet: ". . my music is lyrical, rhythmic, economical, clear cut in texture and, as far as I can make it, direct of utterance." Couldn't have put it better myself!

Do not, however, think of Geoffrey Bush as a lightweight composer. He was a deep thinker and a man of faith and conviction, steeped in music from an early age. He went to the Cathedral School at Salisbury and thus started his career as a performer. He went on to become a pianist and organist and developed from there into composing. He's one of those musicians it would have been really interesting to meet. At least we have his music to appreciate and this CD provides a really good introduction.

Anything Goes! The Songs of Cole Porter - His 55 Finest 1927-1961
Anything Goes! The Songs of Cole Porter - His 55 Finest 1927-1961
Price: £9.46

5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Miss This One, 19 Nov. 2014
If you say you don't know the music of Cole Porter I'll reply that you actually do, though you may not know the title of the song that sounds so familiar to you when it's on the radio, or being played as background music in the restaurant. Porter wrote hundreds of songs, actually 862 of them, and for all but five of them he wrote the lyrics too. H didn't need to write for a living as he was born into a rich family and added his own early successes to his inherited wealth. He just couldn't help but write wonderful tune after wonderful tune, often inspired by music from many of the lands he visited on his various world cruises or vacations, and all with clever or touching lyrics.

This double CD of Porter's music has just come out on the Retrospective label, distributed by Nimbus, featuring songs created between 1927 and 1961. Some of them he sings himself in his funny squeaky voice. Others are interpreted by luminaries such as Ella Fitzgerald, Jessie Matthews, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman, Danny Kaye and so on and so on. . . a catalogue of its times. The style is elegant and it makes your reviewer want to put on a long dress, high heels and go dancing.

Porter wrote many great musicals, including the wonderful 'Kiss Me Kate' in 1948 and 'Anything Goes from 1934 - both still fresh as daisies, very popular and often revived. Many of Cole Porter's songs had blatant double meanings. One - 'Love for Sale' - was banned for years by broadcasting companies. Some were just clever patter songs. All had memorable melodies. They just poured out of him!

His personal life was anything but straightforward. In addition to being a somewhat promiscuous homosexual, he married, for form's sake, a rather racy and very rich woman. Porter loved horse-riding and, tragically, had a serious accident in 1937 when he was 46. His wife then devoted herself to making Cole's life as comfortable as it could be, considering he was in constant pain. After 34 operations on his shattered right leg, he finally had it amputated in 1958. He lived on until he was 73, though his last years were spent as something of a recluse and he hadn't written a song for many years. Nevertheless we have the amazing legacy of all his songs, 55 of which are on these two CDs, which I recommend to you unreservedly. What a perfect gift, for young or old, either as a reminder of past times or as an object lesson of how wonderful this kind of music can be, whether its a sentimental song like 'Every time we say goodbye', or a funny one like 'Let's not talk about love'. The man was a master!

Franz Reizenstein Piano Music
Franz Reizenstein Piano Music
Price: £26.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FRESH PIANO WORKS, 19 Oct. 2014
Nimbus will never let you down, if you want something unusual and fresh to listen to. Among the new releases this month is a 3CD set of piano music by Franz Reizenstein, played by the wonderful Martin Jones.

Reizenstein's dates are 1911-1958, so his life was quite short, though action-packed. He was born in Nüremberg, and was forced to leave in 1934 when the Nazis took over Germany. He spent the next years studying in London, till he was interned as an enemy alien in 1939. Luckily the authorities let him out of his camp on the Isle of Man not too long after his incarceration and he spent the rest of the war working as a railway clerk.

Once the war ended he was able to pursue his career as a pianist and sought-after composer, with appointments as Professor of Piano in both London's Royal Academy of Music and Manchester's Royal College of Music, although to his regret never as Professor of Composition in either. He tended towards interpreting the more modern composers of his day, when not performing his own works on the concert platform; compositions which, however, were always tonal in structure.

He didn't only write for the piano, but this Lyrita release only deals with that one aspect of Reizenstein's output. It did, though, give your astonished reviewer a chance to hear his Variations on 'The Lambeth Walk'. I thought I was imagining things at first. We go through the styles of many of the great composers - from Chopin and Beethoven to Wagner and Liszt in the 7 variations. Pure joy! I can only imagine the smiles on the faces of both pianist and engineer as the recording proceeded.

The third CD is equally full of treasures, including Five Modern Pieces written for the Associated Board's Grade exams, though it does not specify in the CD booklet for which grade of expertise the piano student is being examined. A late sonata follows, full of complexity. The CD ends with the reduction of Malcolm Arnold's English Dances, sets one and two, into piano duet form, requiring the added hands of Adrian Farmer, he, too, an excellent pianist.

Hear this box-set for yourself. It deserves your attention.

British Piano Concertos
British Piano Concertos
Price: £20.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Veritable Feast of Piano Concertos., 14 Oct. 2014
This review is from: British Piano Concertos (Audio CD)
This is one of those CD sets that can change your mind about no fewer than thirteen British composers, although one of them was born in Dublin, Charles Villiers Stanford. The excellent and comprehensive notes in the booklet are provided by Paul Conway.

The first work is by Stanford. It was easy to class him as a master of choral music and perhaps ignore his other works, but his brush was far broader than that. In the piano concerto No 2 in C minor the Romantic feeling pours out of his score, particularly during the first two movements. The third has more Victorian backbone! It's the longest work on this 4-CD set and well worth getting to know - as are all of them, indeed.

Gerald Finzi is known for his wonderful songs. Listen instead to this Eclogue for piano and string orchestra. It was intended to be the slow movement of a full concerto, but in the end Finzi was happy to let it stand alone. Sadly, he never heard it performed. It's première came in the year after he died.

John Foulds lived from 1880 till 1939, so his rather pessimistic and often angry-sounding Dynamic Triptych for Piano and Orchestra is more than understandable, his life-span having covered the first world war and the rumblings leading up to an inevitable second world war. This work was premièred in 1933 and written while Foulds lived in Paris.

The second CD starts with a rhapsody for piano & orchestra in 4 movements by Frank Bridge - challenging, but worth the effort - then comes the piano concerto by Vaughan Williams. It's all a matter of taste if one enjoys the works of British composers. You probably wouldn't even be looking at this review if you didn't, so I hardly need to say that the elegiac slow movement of the Vaughan Williams piano concerto is evocative of a peaceful rural scene in Autumn! Then the finale gets very much darker in character.

Alan Rawsthorne comes next. His concerto starts very restlessly, and the whole work needs more than one listen, to get to grips with it, but when you see that it was first performed in 1939 and revised in 1942 that makes sense. Having so many of these works together in a set provides a perfect chance to guage the mood of the age.

CD 3 starts with the late romantic composer, Cyril Scott's, Poem for Piano and Orchestra, based on the melody 'Early One Morning', written in the early thirties and revised 30 years later. This is pure impressionism and restful after the spiky-ness of the preceding Rawsthorne.

John Ireland studied composition with Stanford. His Legend for piano and orchestra was composed in 1933. It's another very descriptive work - this time of an area of the West Sussex Downs, which had been the site of a lepers' colony - hardly a cheerful basis for a work - but the mood lightens in the second movement, describing when Ireland saw a group of dancing children. But when he looked back, they had vanished. . .

Next on the CD is the piano concerto by William Busch, a pupil of John Ireland's. He was obviously an accomplished pianist, as can be judged by the challenges of his concerto. Sadly, he died when he was only 44 and at the height of his creative powers.

Ernest John Moeran, although down as an English composer, was the son of an Irish clergyman. He was another student of Stanford's at the Royal College of Music. After a spell teaching at his old school, Uppingham, he went back to the Royal College to study with John Ireland. He spent most of WW1 as a despatch rider, until he was wounded in 1917. Born in 1894, he only lived until 1950, having married in 1945, so quite late in life. He was a hard drinker, it seems, and may have died from a cerebral haemorrhage, not of drowning as had been assumed, since his body was found in the water. The rhapsody on this recording is always a favourite with audiences, described in the booklet as "unashamedly popular in style".

The last CD in the box begins with Lennox Berkeley's Piano Concerto in B flat, written in middle age and intended for Colin Horsley to première at the Proms in 1948. He missed being the 8th Earl of Berkeley by being born "on the wrong side of the blanket", but instead of being Lord of the Manor, it meant we all gained a wonderful composer. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Ravel in Paris. Later he became Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music between 1946 and 1968. He was knighted in 1974 and, curiously, his composer son, Michael, succeeded to the title Baron Berkeley of Knighton after all. Ironic, really.

Alun Hoddinott was an eminent Welsh composer who lived from 1929 to 2008. He wrote 3 piano concertos, of which we have the first here, composed in 1960. Exceptionally, there are no strings in the orchestra - only woodwind, brass, percussion and celeste. This work takes a bit of careful listening, but it is truly worth the effort of getting to know it.

The last work is by Malcolm Williamson - yes, he was an Australian by birth, but if he was considered good enough to be elected the Master of the Queen's Music from 1975 until his death in 2003, and since he chose to live in Britain for 53 years, it would be nothing short of treasonable to question his entitlement to be on this CD of British composers! His 3rd concerto begins with what sounds like a peal of bells on the piano and it goes on its energetic way from there for four movements.

This box set is a real education in the evolution of piano style and it is most sincerely recommended.

Ravel, Tchaikovsky & Rachmaninov Works for String Quartet
Ravel, Tchaikovsky & Rachmaninov Works for String Quartet
Price: £14.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful music of the Romantic School., 19 July 2014
Two married couples, living on opposite sides of the world, met up five years ago and decided to establish themselves as a string quartet. How it works so well is their secret, but it certainly does work well, as witness their playing on this CD of three compositions for string quartet.

They start with the Ravel String Quartet in F major. It's a familiar work, but it never loses its freshness for me. The Puertas Quartet obviously enjoys playing this repertoire and each movement of the Ravel is beautifully thought through.

The next work on the CD is the Tchaikovsky String Quartet in D. I thought I didn't know this when the first movement came on, but as soon as the second movement started, I realised it was one of the tunes I often associated with Tchaikovsky. It could be based on a folk tune, of course, but anyway it's lovely, as is the rest of the work. Again, the great understanding between the players is evident.

Lastly, there's the slow movement from the first (incomplete) string quartet by Rachmaninov. I wasn't familiar with this work, though I ought to have been! Composed when he was 16, all the promise of the sumptuous themes to come in later life is more than evident.

This is the Puertas Quartet's second CD. Their first spent six weeks at number one in the classical charts of Radio New Zealand. Let's hope this one follows the same successful pattern.

Incidentally, I totally agree with the first reviewer's criticisms of the lack of pertinent information in the CD booklet and its unfortunate choice of print colours. That said, the music-making shines through the gloom!

Sounds of Military Band - Spirit of England
Sounds of Military Band - Spirit of England
Price: £14.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SOUNDS OF MILITARY BAND Volume 1, 19 July 2014
You don't have to be a brass band afficionado to appreciate this excellent CD on Cameo Classics, of a selection of music played by the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals, in their series 'Spirit of England'. The ten tracks provide a mixture of familiar and less-well-known pieces, under the direction of Major Keith Boulding. Two of the pieces chosen are settings of songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams and John Ireland, beautifully sung by the baritone Michael Birchill, arranged by Major Boulding.

Among the really familiar pieces played are a rousing version of Walton's Spitfire Prelude and Fugue from the 1941 film, 'The First of the Few' and his March, 'Orb and Sceptre', composed for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Among works less often played, on the radio, anyway, are Holst's 'Moorside March', with which the CD opens and Gordon Jacob's 'March and Finale' from 'An Original Suite'.

This is a refreshing and very enjoyable re-issue from 1972, which I recommend wholeheartedly to those among you, who either love this music already, or are looking for a really professional example of the genre.

Shostakovich Symphony No.7 - Leningrad
Shostakovich Symphony No.7 - Leningrad
Price: £11.97

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another flawless perfomance from the Hallé., 15 Jun. 2014
Anything that comes from the Hallé Orchestra's 'Live' series is bound to be worth listening to. This recording of Shostakovich's 7th symphony, conducted by Sir Mark Elder, is no exception. Like him or not, it must be said that symphonies by Shostakovich are powerful works that evoke the times in which they were composed. This one, which is called 'The Leningrad' is something of a puzzle, though. Although it was given that title and premièred there, it seems the music was in great part carried in the composer's head before the infamous Nazi blockade that began in September 1941, which gave it its name and instant popularity when performed all over the free world in 1942. We now know that Shostakovich was not an admirer of Stalin, any more than he was of Hitler, but of course he had to hide that for fear of ending up in one of Stalin's purges at the time. This work, however, met with 'Uncle Joe's' approval and Shostakovich had for a time to endure the limelight he so hated.

Difficult to get out of ones head is the knowledge that the musicians performing the work for the first time in Leningrad itself in March 1943 were weak from hunger and cold and that fifteen of the orchestral musicians had died during the siege. It seems that the audience was so moved by the work, they stood for the last movement and applauded at the end for the best part of an hour. Such defiance in the face of the tyranny besetting them, both from within and outside the city, is hard to imagine.

Movingly, this recording is dedicated to the memory of Ron Marlowe, piccolo player with the Hallé for the 40 years from 1974 to 2014, when the CD was published.

British Composers Premiere Collections Vol.8 - Havergal Brian the Complete Music for Piano
British Composers Premiere Collections Vol.8 - Havergal Brian the Complete Music for Piano
Price: £14.34

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A REVELATION, 15 Jun. 2014
It was a couple of years ago now that 'The Gothic', one of Havergal Brian's 32 or 33 symphonies, (depending on who you believe), was performed at the Proms by the National Orchestra of Wales. I remember thinking then that it would be interesting to hear if he was able to compose on a smaller scale, as his work was unfamiliar. This CD, issued as No. 8 of the British Composers Première Collections series on Cameo Classics, gave me the answer. It's a recording by Peter Hill of Brian's complete piano works. Much of the music on this CD is actually connected with orchestral or vocal compositions Brian was working on. Harold Truscott, who wrote the CD booklet, gives really helpful notes about each of the pieces to be heard on the recording, originally published in 1981. It's music that needs listening to more than once, to begin to appreciate the skill of this under-rated composer. Particularly interesting is his work 'Three Illuminations', composed in 1916, with a narrator as well as the pianist performing. This work coincided with Brian's work on his opera 'The Tigers'. Maybe it was also influenced by the on-going world war. . .

It's tempting to wonder just how many other interesting works languish in obscurity due to their composers not having fitted in with the climate of the times they lived in. We shall never know. But thanks to Cameo Classics, at least we have the chance to get to know Havergal Brian's works for piano.

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