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Classical - Released November 2, 2018 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released February 2, 2018 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The new Coventry Cathedral was built as an act of reconciliation after the destruction of its mediaeval original during World War II. For its consecration in 1962, a celebratory arts festival was organised, which included the commission of major works from Britten, Tippett, and Arthur Bliss (1891-1975). Of these, Britten’s War Requiem and Bliss’s The Beatitudes were intended for performance in the cathedral. In the event, only Britten’s work was performed in the setting for which it had been conceived. In April 1961 the festival events were outlined in The Times ; Bliss’s The Beatitudes is mentioned as the major new work to be performed in the cathedral. However, « owing to logistical circumstances », the opening concert would be moved to the Belgrade Theatre, of which Bliss was unaware until a few weeks before the premiere. There is no question that Bliss from the outset expected The Beatitudes to be performed in the cathedral, for the instrumentation included a part conceived for the newly installed organ. Doubtless, as Master of the Queen’s Music, Bliss could have dug his heels in and insisted that his work take precedence over Britten’s; but that would have gone against the grain of his values. Without a second thought, Bliss gave way to his younger colleague; moreover, he greatly admired Britten’s genius. Unfortunately the premiere was fraught with difficulties. In his autobiography, As I Remember, Bliss noted that critics hoped that a performance would be given in the Cathedral, its rightful place, on ‘the earliest possible occasion’. It took half a century for this to occur, as part of the cathedral’s Golden Jubilee, in 2012. In The Beatitudes, the texts comprise the nine Beatitudes, an Old Testament passage, poems by three seventeenth-century metaphysical authors, and one poem from the 20th Century. Although he seemed poised on the brink of a brilliant career in Britain, in 1923 Bliss moved to the USA for an unspecified period, accompanying his father who, having lived in England for over thirty years, wished to return to his homeland. Many in Bliss’s position would have hesitated interrupting their career at such a critical juncture; however, so close was the bond between father and son that personal ambition was irrelevant; besides, his half-American ancestry made Bliss curious to see the country the heritage of which he shared. His two-year American sojourn was also significant for his future : with the sounds of the excellent American orchestras ringing in his ears, Bliss composed the Introduction and Allegro in 1926. He dedicated it to Stokowski, who gave the American premiere, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, in 1928. With the Introduction and Allegro, the music of Bliss moves a stride forward to his mature voice, away from the febrile character of his postwar works. Considering that Bliss was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 1953, it is surprising that sixteen years elapsed before he produced an arrangement for chorus and orchestra of the National Anthem. Regal fanfares and ceremonial orchestral links between the stanzas give this version all the flair that made the tenure of Bliss as Master of the Queen’s Music distinctive and successful. It is for Royal Choral Society’s USA tour in 1969 that Bliss made his version of ‘God Save the Queen’, setting the first three stanzas. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released May 6, 2014 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month
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Classical - Released June 29, 2018 | Nonesuch

Booklet Distinctions Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
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Symphonic Music - Released September 4, 2012 | ICA Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released March 2, 2018 | Chandos

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Florent Schmitt made his name in his mid-thirties with such rich, resplendent scores as La Tragédie de Salomé and Psalm 47. Their brilliance, however, should not have overwhelmed so much the rest of his output, for he lived another half century, and, as his Second Symphony demonstrates, retained his creative energy to the end. The initial occasion for the two Suites from Antoine et Cléopâtre recorded on this album was one of the extravaganzas put on in Paris by Ida Rubinstein, a woman whose sheer cold beauty gained an extra lustre from the vast wealth she inherited, and who was ready to display both – the looks and the lucre – majestically in the theatre. Having arrived in the French capital with Diaghilev’s company, she soon went independent. In June 1920 she took over the Paris Opéra for five gala performances of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, with herself as Cleopatra opposite the flamboyant Édouard De Max in a new translation which she had commissioned from André Gide. The titles of the six movements that Schmitt extracted in his two suites generally tell us where to place them within the action. In December 1957, 37 years later, Schmitt completed his Second Symphony, his last major work, at the age of eighty-seven. As lavish as his earlier music and as rhythmically sophisticated, emphatically bounding in fast passages and supple in slow, the symphony has nothing valedictory about it. Happily, the composer was there in Strasbourg in June 1958 for the first performance, conducted by Charles Munch. He died two months later. This was Schmitt’s only symphony in the strict sense, and it is not clear why he called it “No.2”. Of the two possible candidates for the “No.1” spot – his Symphonie concertante for piano and orchestra of 1931 and Janiana, a symphony for strings a decade later – neither is altogether convincing. Maybe the numbering was just an old man’s whim. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released January 1, 1982 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

A true chameleon capable of changing colours and styles according to the works he directs, Leonard Bernstein recorded this album in London in 1982 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, which he directed for the first and last time on this occasion. All during troubled times with Margaret Thatcher’s military response against Argentina following the events in the Falkland Islands. In this context, Bernstein, who hadn’t often come back to Great Britain since 1948, conducted the most patriotic music of all: the work of Sir Edward Elgar, first in concert, then for this recording released by Deutsche Grammophon. The collaboration with the BBC Symphony Orchestra didn’t start off so well… After arriving late because he had underestimated his travel time, Bernstein started the repetition with no apologies whatsoever, imposing on disgruntled musicians excessively slow or fast tempos, although always in connection with Elgar’s indications. Today the most striking aspect of this recording is the finesse of interpretation, which takes into account Elgar’s numerous German and French influences that appear through extreme nuances and subtle sound layers. The famous variation Nimrod, approached very gently with a slowness that renders it almost unrecognisable, all of a sudden takes on a metaphysical dimension. For good measure, Bernstein added two of the famous marches from Pomp and Circumstance, the first one being more or less a secondary British national anthem. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released February 16, 2018 | SOMM Recordings

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Of course it’s not easy to be both a British composer and a contemporary of Britain, whose imposing stature overshadowed many of his peers; it was the case for Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986). Especially as the career of this very dignified man started quite far from music, as he worked in turns in a shoe factory (at the young age of 14) and at a train station while learning counterpoint, harmony, piano – and stenography, just in case. During World War II he joined the army − and it’s in fact wearing a combat uniform that he directed his own Fourth Symphony in 1941, whose first recording is featured in this album. Never full of himself, he did nothing to promote his music, even after numerous institutions placed orders for his music: the BBC, the prestigious Three Choirs Festival and many more: it might in fact explain the relative obscurity, in which his fantastic music has remained so far. Rubbra started writing symphonies late in his life, the First dating back to 1937, even if the following ones were created shortly after; he pursued his symphonic quest until the end and was working on his twelfth – unfinished – when he died. This album features the recording from the creation of his Fourth Symphony in 1941, conducted at the London Proms by the military man in person, as well as the Second from 1937, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult in 1954. The matrices, in mono, were lovingly remastered to give the best possible sound to these magnificent historical testimonies. As for the music, it is just like everything else Rubbra wrote: it cannot be categorised nor dated, but it remains unforgettable in its ineffable beauty. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released June 1, 2018 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet
Although the 1911 Second Symphony is without a doubt – alongside the slightly later Cello Concerto – the greatest work by the mature Elgar, the Serenade for Strings, finished in 1892 but based on even older material, is clearly the masterpiece of his youth. The Symphony, the last one that the composer finished (a Third was left under construction), is not short of typically English pomp, but the most salient feature of the work is definitely the vast contrast from one movement to the next, or indeed within a given movement, where spontaneous outbursts of feeling mix with regal bursts and doleful chants that speak of a kind of underlying mourning. The Serenade speaks happily of the pleasant English countryside, a kind of song without words: a profoundly British sort of Mendelssohnian inheritance. the BBC Symphony Orchestra swims like a fish in the water of this ineffable, fine music that's bursting with hidden meanings. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released September 2, 2016 | Chandos

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Classical - Released February 2, 2018 | Chandos

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Classical - Released February 16, 2018 | Warner Classics

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Classical - Released January 1, 2000 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

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Classical - Released October 5, 2018 | ICA Classics

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Classical - Released October 1, 2006 | Dutton Epoch

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Classical - Released October 5, 2018 | ICA Classics

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Classical - Released January 1, 1999 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

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Classical - Released November 19, 2013 | ICA Classics

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Classical - Released June 23, 2016 | Digital Gramophone

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