09 August 2011

What's on my CD Player - 2

There are visitors in the house today and, rather than sit in like a gooseberry as one of the uglier Chinese dialects (Hakka) is spoken at full volume, I have sought refuge in the office where I am pretending to work.  So I get the chance to listen to three CDs taken at random from my shelves.

By an unfortunate accident – not unconnected with my three-year-old daughter let loose in my office – the cable to my right hand speaker has become dislodged and I listened to the first track of this CD in mono.  It was horrible.  Dense, one-dimensional and very overwhelming.  Once opened up into full stereo, the sound became gloriously all-enveloping and while the recording location – St Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London - can never pretend to sound like the Sistine Chapel, Harry Christophers works magic with his choir to bring into sharp focus some of the musical wonders of 16th century Rome.

This brought to my - and, I think, much of the world's - attention the dynamic violinist Leonidas Kavakos.  This is a superb account of the Sibelius, full of vivid imagery and with superb orchestral support from the Lahti Symphony.  Its Unique Selling Point was the presentation for the first time of the original version of the Concerto.  It's fascinating to hear them side by side, even if it soon becomes obvious why Sibelius decided to withdraw the original.  It still sounds outstanding in terms of playing and recording 20 years on.

My daughter came in – escaping the oohs and aahs of adoring relatives - and chose this one for me.  What a hideous sound!.  The organ in the PrĂ©lude sur l'introit de l'Epiphanie makes a truly foul noise with the most ghastly trumpet stop known to man, Martin Ford's playing of the Fugue on a theme by Henri Rabaud is utterly and completely uninspired and, worst of all this once fine choir sounds ragged, out of tune, unsubtle and completely unattuned to the spirit of this music.  Mark Chaundry makes a dreadful noise in the tenor solo of the Messe Cum Jubilo and generally the men all sound like sixth form adolescents pushed beyond their means.  I wondered how I had ever got hold of such a dire disc, but then when the brass burst in with completely the wrong notes during the Requiem I remembered.  I had reviewed this disc and given it a pretty thorough thumbs down back in 2008.  As usual the editor sent a pre-publication copy of my review to the company in case they wanted to use a quote in their release material, but they got straight back and complained that I was wrong and that the brass wrong notes were actually what DuruflĂ© had written.  Of course they aren't and only a half-deaf lunatic would think otherwise; and I think I may have asked the editor to pass that message on.  I never did see my review in print!

1 comment:

  1. A most interesting read, Marc. You have very successfully whetted my appetite for all three CDs, but for differing reasons. Harry Christophers and The Sixteen invariably produce extremely fine performances and the Sibelius I just lurve. The Harmonia Mundi disc of Durufle sounds so bad as to be well worth listening to!! Can't wait to loot - sorry buy - them!! Pete