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Stephen Estep
American Record Guide, January 2011

…9th[’s] brass and percussion crackle, the strings are full-bodied, and the winds are elegant. Great sonics…

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.



Gramophone, November 2010

BACH, J.S.: Great Choral Music (Munchinger) NC8802001
DVOŘÁK, A.: Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9 / In Nature’s Realm / The Noonday Witch (Vienna Philharmonic, Ozawa) NC8802003
HAYDN, F.J.: Symphonies Nos. 6-8 (Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Marriner) NC8802006
Oboe Concertos (Baroque) – BACH, J.S. / TELEMANN, G.P. / MARCELLO, A. / SAMMARTINI, G. / ALBINONI, T.G. / LOTTI, A. / BENJAMIN, A. (Holliger) NC8802005
Vocal Recital: Souzay, Gerard – FAURE, G. / POULENC, F. / RAVEL, M. / LEGUERNEY, J. / HAHN, R. / DUPARC, H. / GOUNOD, C.-F. (Melodies Francaises) NC8802007

Newton Classics is an attractively produced budget-price label that has been drawing musically worthwhile and technically well engineered material from the archives of Universal Music. I’ve already mentioned Karl Münchinger’s Bach B minor Mass which has appeared on Newton as part of a nine-disc collection of great Bach choral works (previously on Decca). The collection also includes the St John and St Matthew Passions, the Christmas Oratorio and the Cantata BWV10. Aside from Müncinger’s dependably solid and often musically sensitive conducting of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, there’s the singing, much of it of exceptional quality, especially in the St Matthew Passion whre Peter Pears is the Evangelist and Hermann Prey is Christus, with Elly Ameling, Marga Höffgen, Fritz Wunderlich and Tom Krause. Ameling is a welcome presence throughout the set which, for the most part, wears its years lightly.

Two symphonic reissues are well worth troubling over: Seiji Ozawa’s early-’90s set of late Dvořák with the Vienna Philharmonic especially, the Eight Symphony combining tonal warmth and impressive vitality, the New World well balanced and affectionately played. Also programmed are The Noon Witch, which is given memorably dramatic performance, and the concert overture In Nature’s Realm. I often feel that catalogue ubiquity has in the past rather worked against Ozawa, whose recorded output includes many gems, and the same might be said of Sir Neville Marriner. Take Marriner’s early digital CD of Haydn’s Morning, Noon, and Night symphonies, which is alert, refined, unostentatiously characterful and superbly played. Likewise, a collection of Baroque oboe concertos with Heinz Holliger as soloist, many again with the Academy taking part (also with I Musici): Bach, Telemann, Marcello, Sammartini, Albinoni and Cimarosa arranged into a concerto by Arthur Benjamin.

As to Gerard Souzay singing “Mélodies Françaises”, what praise can I offer that hasn’t already been more eloquently expressed elsewhere? Here is the finest French baritone post-Bernare and Panzéra in the song-cycles la bonne chanson (Fauré), Histoires naturelles (Ravel) and various “mini-cycles” by Poulenc. Souzay invariably sings most beautifully and his engagement with the various texts is a great source of joy while Dalton Baldwin provides near-ideal accompaniments.



Bill
The WSCL Blog, September 2010

These live, concert recordings were first released on two different CDs on the Philips label in 1992; they’re back in print now on a new label that specializes in special reissues—Newton Classics.



Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, September 2010

What ever happened to Seiji Ozawa? Since taking over the Vienna State Opera in 2002 (a job which ends this year), Ozawa has nearly fallen off the map of new recordings. Over the last eight years, I can find only a handful of new Ozawa albums, most of them collaborations with young pianists like Yundi Li (Prokofiev and Ravel concertos), as well as a Takemitsu disc and a small collection of concert DVDs. A quick search of MusicWeb International finds little trace of the conductor over the last few years. Ozawa, who turns 75 at the beginning of September, is still featured in many reissues, but his patience for, or marketability in, the recording process appears to have faded.

Thus the fact that these recordings of Dvořák’s last two symphonies, featuring the Vienna Philharmonic, are in fact live tapings from 1991 and 1992. The Eighth, from April of the latter year, is given a good performance, full of pastoral ambience and terrific wind playing. Ozawa does not really emphasize the sharp rhythms of the symphony, or go out of his way to make them seem quirky. Quirky, sharp rhythms do not have to be fast, by the way: a few years ago, I would have listened to this recording of the scherzo and wished it were faster, but now I wish it were slower.

What Ozawa does, by contrast, is to make the music very attractive. The Vienna Philharmonic are natural allies; the first movement is gorgeous and bucolic, the second highlighted by a very subtly pretty flute-clarinet duet, and the finale is fast from start to finish (occasionally too much so) with excellent playing by all. There are about fifteen seconds of applause.

The first disc also includes a brisk performance of the superb symphonic poem The Noon-Day Witch. The music is performed with great energy and clarity (always a winning combination), and the Viennese orchestra shines as usual. At 4:21 one can hear a motif played on cellos which will reappear prominently in The Wild Dove. What is missing is the element of grotesquerie or sheer storytelling panache brought to this music by a conductor like Charles Mackerras. The superb orchestration is rendered beautifully, but not indulgently; the entrance of the witch is eerily done by the violins, but at a tempo which seems curt. The recorded sound, on the other hand, is terrific, giving prominence to the percussion which becomes thrilling at the coda. This time there is no applause.

The Ninth Symphony continues the trend from the first disc: Ozawa makes no obvious mistakes but creates no singular insights either, and the Vienna Philharmonic play wonderfully. I should single out for praise the scherzo, given with special fervor, and for criticism the opening, on which there are a few seconds of applause while Ozawa walks onstage. Why were these preserved for us?

In Nature’s Realm gets the best performance of the set; the beauty of the Vienna Philharmonic and the swifter-than-usual tempi from Ozawa making the piece sound fresh, breezy, and bright. I can hear highlighted all sorts of orchestral detail which I had not heard before (from Kubelík, Ančerl, Gunzenhauser, or Netopil), like the violin pizzicatos in the fifth minute, or the excited trumpets at 9:15.

I am left with the conclusion that this is a set recorded very well, played very well, and conducted without error...Ozawa’s readings, though, are respectable and enjoyable, with admirable dedication to presenting the orchestration with clarity, and this is certainly better than...After reading David Gutman’s excellent essay, I feel like a much better-informed listener to this music.






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8:17:23 AM, 24 November 2014
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