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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.

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11:48:35 PM, 6 May 2015
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