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Brian Wigman
Classical Net, October 2014

This is a really interesting disc.

…the Seattle Symphony sounds like it is simply having a good time and Schwarz directs commandingly. © 2014 Classical Net Read complete review

Lee Passarella
Audiophile Audition, August 2012

This is another in Naxos’ series of reissues of discs that originally appeared on the Delos label. It goes way back to 1990 but sounds very well nonetheless, and the performances from the typically reliable Gerard Schwarz are exuberant, highly successful in parsing out the strands of Bach’s complex polyphony as transferred to the orchestra. Recommended—especially to those who think Bach in transcription for modern orchestra should take only the hyphenated form of Bach-Stokowski. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, June 2012

This is a delightful hour of listening, and for those of you who are weary of “historically-informed” Bach, this could be your disc of the year! In the liner-notes Keith Anderson quotes Elgar’s reasoning for his transcription of the Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor: “to show how gorgeous and great and brilliant he [Bach] would have made himself sound if he had had our means.” Surely Respighi’s intent was the same. Whatever their intent, they have created fantastically exuberant and colorful orchestrations of some of Bach’s greatest works.

The CD begins rather gently with the Tre Corali…As in his Ancient Airs and Dances, Respighi remains truthful to the original source material, fashioning timbral combinations that were simply not available to Bach. The Seattle orchestra plays with a warm, plush sound, making Bach’s writing sound positively romantic in origin.

The CD concludes with three splendidly lavish arrangements. Respighi’s transcription of the D Major Prelude and Fugue is for a large orchestra…Here Respighi’s complete mastery of orchestration is readily apparent. Colors shift from one line to the next, sometimes highlighting the fugue subject, at other times drawing our attention to a particularly beautiful counter-subject. I grew up listening to these two pieces on the organ, and I feel sure that such familiarity only adds to my enjoyment of Respighi’s craft. Halfway through the Passacaglia I realized my face was a little sore from grinning for the last several minutes—a sure sign that I was completely taken with both the transcription and performance.

Seattle and Schwarz offer accomplished and enjoyable performances, in very good sound, gathered together on a CD at budget price. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

John Whitmore
MusicWeb International, May 2012

The key question is—do these transcriptions do justice to the original works and are they worth hearing? On the whole the answer is a definite yes. Stylistically the Three Choral Preludes are played with a seamless, legato string tone. Beauty of sound seems to be the essence of Respighi’s writing and of Gerard Schwarz’s direction of the orchestra. The playing is top drawe…The arrangement of the Violin Sonata, expertly delivered by soloist Ilkka Talvi, strikes me as being very successfully crafted and…interesting to listen to. There is…some wonderful legato playing to be found here…

Respighi’s mastery really kicks in when we come to the Prelude and Fugue in D major BWV 532 and the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor BWV 582…there is an air of excitement running through both works. Schwarz really lets rip here and the orchestral recording is sumptuous and detailed. The players clearly enjoy themselves. It’s really stirring stuff.

Now to the highlight of the disc—the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor BWV 537. Trumpets and percussion have a field day. Havergal Brian himself would surely approve of what takes place here!…incredibly compelling and exciting. As a piece of orchestral writing it’s a winner. What stunning playing too.

To conclude, here’s a summary in two words—buy it. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Hurwitz, April 2012

This exciting disc makes a very welcome return to the catalog on Naxos. In the Sonata BWV 1023, Ilkka Talvi proves a sensitive and musicianly soloist as well. However, the real treat is Elgar’s arrangement of the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor BWV 537. It’s insane. In the fugue, next to Elgar’s tambourine, glockenspiel, harp glissandos, and looney trumpet licks, Stokowski’s Bach might as well be the work of a period-instrument specialist. It’s wonderful, and Gerard Schwarz gets his players to blast their way through the piece with total conviction. Buy it and love it. © 2012 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2012

It seems strange to recall that less than a century ago composers were making symphonic arrangements of works by Bach so that his music might live on. Such was his standing in the general musical world at the time, record catalogues of the 1930’s showing that precious little of his vast output had reached disc. It was left to those who came in contact with his music as students, particularly those who studied the organ, who realised his importance, and saw that by dressing it in modern orchestral garb, they might persuade audiences of its worth. Ottorino Respighi had become interested in Baroque music as a young man, transcribing the works of Bach using his gift of orchestral colours gained as a student of Rimsky-Korsakov. Compared with many other transcriptions of the time, he kept as close as possible to the original, the orchestra used to replicate the original sounds in the three organ works included in this new release. They are able to stand on their own feet in such new clothes, but I am less sure of the Sonata for Violin and Continuo where the continuo is replaced by sumptuous organ and strings. Elgar, on the other hand, was an organist by training, yet wanted to appeal to an English audience attuned to the pomp of his now highly popular scores. He certainly didn’t disappoint them timpani and bass drum thundering out as we reach the massive conclusion of the Fugue. The Finnish-born violinist, Ilkka Talvi, is the very nimble soloist in the sonata, the Seattle Orchestra having the warmth and weight to bring these pieces of musical history to life. The 1990’s recordings, once issued on Delos, have the requisite rounded sonority. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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