Although he is fondly remembered for his many exemplary film scores composed during the Second World War, Korngold's more "serious" concerto works – particularly those written after the war – are becoming increasingly well-respected and widely performed. Chief among those works gaining tremendous popularity is his violin concerto. Hints of the sweep and grandeur of the film genre can still be heard in the concerto, but never to the point where Korngold's music sounds trite or unpolished. Rather, Korngold casts the violin in a decidedly Romantic style while still managing to include snippets of previous film scores, making for an easily accessible listening experience. Contrasting sharply with Korngold's increasing popularity is Lithuanian composer Balys Dvarionas.
This is Reger at his most accessible. In both pieces there is plenty of atmosphere and colour. The Hiller Variations is possibly his greatest and most satisfying orchestral work and is indispensable. Reger was a prolific composer, and it has to be said not all that came from his pen was necessarily memorable. However, the two works on this disc are vintage Reger. He lived his short life as fast as he composed his music. His is a special and unique sound-world which offers great rewards to those who take the time to explore it. Radiant playing from the Concertgebouw under Jarvi and sound to match.
Neeme Järvi and the OSR continue their exploration of French orchestral music with this fourth album: a merry collection from the best of the vigorously ebullient music of Jacques Ibert. Among the numerous winners of the famous Prix de Rome between its institution by Napoleon in 1803 and its abandonment in 1968, the twentieth century provides us with repertoire works from only one composer: Jacques Ibert, whose characteristically clear orchestration is emphasised by strong melodic lines and supported by lively ostinato patterns in the bass. At the same time, the album reveals what an eclectic composer Ibert was. The contrast between his two best-known pieces is a perfect example: Divertissement, for small orchestra, is light-hearted, even frivolous; Escales…, on the other hand, is a ripely romantic work for large orchestra.
The two Serenades ‘sung’ by the more rapturously Oistrakh-like Kang are sentimental and are recorded with rich immediacy. The Six Humoresques also arrive courtesy of Kang. These are magical bonbons - each weighted and balanced to perfection even though I favour the rawer vintage set glowingly recorded by Rosand and still available on Vox. True Sibelians must not miss these works and Kang and his orchestra do catch these silvery spells and confident little drinking songs - pride and eloquence, seduction and midnight poetry haunt these pages and it's all one especially well.
The essence of Camille Saint-Saëns' music comes through perhaps most clearly in his music for solo instrument and orchestra, which exemplifies his elegant combination of melody and conservatory-generated virtuosity. The two cello concertos are here, plus a pair of crowd-pleasing short works for piano and orchestra, and the evergreen Carnival of the Animals, with pianists Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier joining forces along with a collection of instruments that includes the often-omitted glass harmonica. There are all kinds of attractions here: the gently humorous and not over-broad Carnival, the songful cello playing of Truls Mørk, and the little-known piano-and-orchestra scene Africa, Op. 89, with its lightly Tunisian flavor (sample this final track). But really, the central thread connecting them all is the conducting of Neeme Järvi and the light, graceful work of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; French music is the nearly 80-year-old Järvi's most congenial environment, and in this recording, perhaps his last devoted to Saint-Saëns, he has never been better.
Mark Padmore and fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout combine here to perform two of Schumann’s major cycles to words by Heine. They also throw in a selection of five Heine settings by the largely forgotten Franz Lachner (1803-90) from his Sängerfahrt (Singer’s Journey), which include the same text – ‘Im wunderschönen Monat Mai’ – with which Schumann’s Dichterliebe begins.
Although his music is rarely performed nowadays, Eugen Suchon was the most influential and respected Slovak composer of the twentieth century. Three of his greatest symphonic works are performed here by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and its artistic director, Neeme Järvi. The works were composed during the years which Suchon spent in Bratislava, where he turned his interest to the origins of Slovak folk music and to extended tonality.
Paavo Järvi’s remarkably fresh-sounding Tchaikovsky Pathétique emphasizes the music’s lyricism and singing line, with flowing tempos and unforced, natural phrasing throughout. Accordingly the strings predominate in this performance, and the Cincinnati players make beautiful sounds, especially in the outer movements. Järvi treats the first movement’s “big tune” as a love song that grows more impassioned with each appearance. On the other hand he leads a quite angry development section, with biting brass ratcheting up the tension. The second movement goes at a lively, dancing pace, while Järvi’s quick-stepping third-movement march generates real excitement in its second-half, with brilliant playing by the Cincinnati brass.