This volume of Chandos' series of Walton's Music from the Olivier films includes Richard III: A Shakespearean Scenario and Major Barbara: a Shavian Sequence, concert arrangements by Christopher Palmer, as well an excerpt of incidental music from John Gielgud's 1941 stage production of Macbeth. These particular excerpts don't reveal Walton at his most consistent or his most profound, but they do illustrate his skill at writing colorful, evocative music with a strong sense of drama. Richard III is such a dark play and, heard out of context, Walton's music doesn't seem to have the gravitas to match its malignant tone.
The concept behind the work called Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario is to take as much as possible of William Walton's score for Laurence Olivier's 1943 film and interpolate suitable excerpts from Shakespeare's play to make an hour-long concert work for speaker, chorus, and orchestra. Though it demands all your attention, the high quality of the result thoroughly rewards it, clearly and intelligently combining the two mediums in a single, arresting form.
After the success of the first volume of Walton's film music, producer Christopher Palmer switches focus from Shakespeare to the theme of war. Of course, the justifiably famous "Spitfire Prelude and Fugue" is an obligatory inclusion. Assembled from Walton's music for First of the Few (1942), a biopic about aircraft designer R. J. Mitchell, "Spitfire" was an immediate concert hall success and is presented here in a grand performance. The enterprising Palmer also assembled "A Wartime Sketchbook," a world premiere compendium of selections from The Foreman Went to France (1941) and Next of Kin (1942).
Where Walton's scores for Henry V and Richard III have had extensive recordings, the one he did for Hamlet, the second of the three Shakespeare films directed by Olivier, has been rather left on one side, with the magnificent "Funeral March" and the `poem for orchestra', "Hamlet and Ophelia", the only major items to be recorded commercially. Here, thanks to the work of Christopher Palmer, a full suite of nearly 40 minutes has been assembled at last, to fill the gap.
Marriner treats these superb examples of English baroque to exhilarating performances, with the rhythmic subtleties in both fast and slow guaranteed to enchant …the recording has plenty of ambience
Violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis are joined by two acclaimed musical forces - pianist Jeremy Denk and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, of which Bell is Music Director – in a landmark joint recording, For the Love of Brahms (Sony Classical). Available September 30, 2016, the new album is a unique project that features works of Brahms and Schumann that Bell calls “music about love and friendship.” Bell, Isserlis and Denk unite here in Brahms’s first published chamber work, the Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8 in its rarely performed original 1854 version. Isserlis also joins Bell – as violin soloist and director – and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in Brahms’s last orchestral work, the celebrated Double Concerto (for Violin and Cello) in A Minor, Op. 102. Bell, Isserlis and members of the Academy also offer the first recording of an unusual coupling: the slow movement of Schumann’s rarely heard Violin Concerto, in a version for string orchestra made by Benjamin Britten, who also added a short coda.
There are many anthologies of late nineteenth and early twentieth century English music available but this collection from Decca is one of the finest. Neville Marriner directs the Academy of St Martins-in-the-Fields in a programme of popular favourites and lesser known works collected from a number of LP's recorded between 1968 and 1981. The late analogue Decca sound is superb and the orchestra and conductor are totally in tune with the music.
There are many apocryphal stories in the classical-music world, but the one in which Frederick the Great challenged Bach to improvise a six-part fugue on a theme of the king's own invention is true, and The Musical Offering was, after a period of further reflection, the result. As with all the works of Bach's later years, the work is both great art and a "teaching piece," which shows everything that he thought could be done with the king's theme. The Trio Sonata based on the theme is the only major piece of chamber music from Bach's last decades in Leipzig, and that makes the work and essential cornerstone of any Bach collection. This performance, led by Neville Marriner, is both polished and lively, and very well recorded. At a "twofer" price, coupled with The Art of Fugue, it's the preferred version of the work on modern instruments.