There are certain pieces that are programmed and broadcast far too often, indiscriminately (bums on seats/ratings), such as Mahler 1, 2 & 5, Shostakovich 5 & Violin Concerto 1, Bruch’s ‘Violin Concerto’ (as the first of his three such works is often reduced to), Sibelius 2, the ‘New World’ Symphony, Rachmaninov’s Second (Piano Concerto or Symphony), Ravel’s La valse, and that’s not all, yet how often does a Honegger Symphony, of which there are five, get a look in (not often or enough), with each of the above familiars, and others, done no favours by such unrelenting repetition. Of course, one doesn’t have to attend a concert or listen to the radio, yet there may be, amongst the routine, a performance that sheds new light on a hackneyed opus.
However, leading the field in terms of mundane restatement is Elgar’s Cello Concerto, which anyway, in my opinion, does not stand up well to too many appearances (whereas his Violin Concerto does). My chosen recordings of it are two: Starker/Slatkin (RCA) and Isserlis/Paavo Järvi (Hyperion) for the occasional airing; and, among recent concert performances, this was a standout, http://www.colinscolumn.com/bbc-symphony-orchestra-senja-rummukainen-plays-elgars-cell/. But I welcome a change of aural scene for the Elgar, so Lionel Tertis’s Viola version does the job nicely, not that it’s unknown (Rivka Golani with Vernon Handley recorded it some years ago), but this new release is well-timed. And excellent it is too. Timothy Ridout plays with passion, the first movement more elegiac than usual, persuasively, and there is plenty of agility, soul and liveliness later, the lighter sound of the viola no barrier to fully expressing the music’s resigned emotions.
Of equal worth is Ernest Bloch’s four-movement, half-hour Suite (1936), intensely musing, dancing energetically and colourfully – lyrical, spiky, exotic – which is well-worth discovering or returning to, especially in such a convincing and engaging account as this.
Ridout is fortunate, as are we, to have Martyn Brabbins (always one for the new, different, and the rare) by his side for a detailed and sympathetic commentary from the BBC Symphony Orchestra; and the pleasure is completed by Dave Rowell’s superb engineering and Andrew Keener’s spotless production, April last year, BBC Maida Vale Studio One. Harmonia Mundi HMM 902618.
Honegger postscript: I understand John Storgårds is a fan of the Symphonies (championed by such as Ansermet, Karajan and Mravinsky, and others, Blomstedt today); so if Chandos and the BBC Philharmonic (without the twenty-percent reduction in personnel please: http://www.colinscolumn.com/new-strategy-for-classical-music-prioritises-quality-agility-and-impact-therefore-the-bbc-has-made-the-difficult-decision-to-close-the-bbc-singers-20-posts-and-invest-resources-in-a-wider-po/) can get together then a new set of these terrific pieces would be keenly anticipated.
As a postscript to the Editor’s plea for more Honegger Symphonies on disc, may I direct readers to Shostakovich’s transcription of Honegger’s Third (‘Liturgique’) Symphony for two pianos, recorded on Guild? Shostakovich particularly admired this work, and did this transcription for his students to get to know it – his two-piano version is really good and well worth investigating by duo-piano teams (and, of course, by admirers of both composers).
Does Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto funebre ever get programmed. It is a wonderful, heart-felt, impassioned piece, written in 1939. I have a cd with Schneiderhan, conducted Kubelik, on Orfeo.
Rarely, Monica, rarely!
I can never hear the Elgar Cello Concerto too often, unless it’s played sloppily by the likes of Raphael Wallfisch, whose ‘interpretation’ I had to suffer at a Bach Choir concert a few years ago. I should also point out that the première of the Cello Concerto was not a fiasco, as is often alleged on the basis of one review by Ernest Newman – who was privy to the information about Albert Coates having hogged the rehearsal time. All the other reviews I garnered for an article in the Elgar Society Journal were positive. The Concerto was no more under-rehearsed than, say, Walton’s Viola Concerto, about which no one complains.