Angela Hewitt presents a fourth volume in her acclaimed series of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, which has delighted her fans worldwide. The little-known Sonata in B flat major, Op 22, the last of Beethoven’s ‘early’ sonatas, is recorded alongside Op 31 No 3 (sometimes known as ‘La chasse’, or ‘The Hunt’, because of its tumultuous Presto con fuoco finale). The album is concluded with Op 101, of which the journalist for the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung in Leipzig wrote: ‘Truly, here in his 101st composition admiration and renewed respect take hold of us, when we wander along strange, never trodden paths with the great painter of the soul’, going on to enthuse about the most beautiful colours and pictures in Beethoven’s new Piano Sonata.
This two-disc set of Handel's Suites performed by Andrei Gavrilov and Sviatoslav Richter is just as good as their other two-disc set of Handel's Suites but with one big advantage. Here as there, Handel's Suites are models of wit, sensitivity, affection and virtuosity. Here as there, Gavrilov's performances are fluent, muscular, and persuasive and Richter's performances are supremely expressive, wonderfully supple, and overwhelmingly commanding.
The Prague Philharmonic choir join over a dozen others who have recorded Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, a work once thought the special property of the Russian choirs who are, of course, prominent in the lists. The Czechs sing it without a cantor, and more as a concert work than some of the others do. Though they take the famous scale in the Nunc dimittis, descending to a profound B flat, in their stride, they are not as sonorous as some others, and their particular contribution is to sing the music lightly and flexibly, with a lively response to the words. They have excellent sopranos, safe in intonation when attacking the exposed high entries in thirds which are a feature of the music, and a good tenor for the three numbers that involve him as a soloist. The Magnificat, with all its tempo changes and shifts of register, is expressively done, as are the light rhythms of ‘Blessed art Thou, O Lord’.
Wranitzky’s ‘Peace’ Symphony, ‘La Grande Sinfonie caractéristique pour la paix avec la Republique Française’ Op. 31 features a lavish spread of tone colours, battle painting and recurring march citations, creating an atmosphere of high suspense. The Symphony Op. 52, in contrast, has more of a bright and carefree character and a much more tightly woven motivic fabric.