Sir Andrew Davis
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Symphonic Music - Released November 3, 2017 | Chandos
Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Qobuzissime - 5 étoiles de Classica
Aside from Elgar’s fascinating and obligatory Falstaff composed in 1913 (a Symphonic Study according to the partition, but in reality a symphonic poem in the grand tradition of Strauss— about whom Elgar probably thought when he wrote his masterpiece, and the rather present solo cello cannot help but remind us of Strauss’ Don Quixote, composed sixteen years earlier), the album distinguishes itself by a few melodies with orchestra from the same Elgar, a repertoire unfortunately too often neglected and yet of breathtaking beauty (we hear, in a pinch, the Sea Pictures performed from time to time, but that’s all folks). And when you know that it’s the now very famous baritone Roderick Williams on the mic, we can only applaud the initiative of Andrew Davis and the BBC Philharmonic to feature these splendors once again. Elgar proves to us here that, far from just being a great master of large symphonic-vocal soundscapes in the form of oratorio (we obviously think about The Dream of Gerontius, The Apostles and The Music Makers), he handles the miniature with genius. Roderick Williams, one of the most beautiful voices of today’s British scene, grasps these rarities with a joy that is as rare as these pieces. The album closes on a hilarious wink, the Smoking Cantata, a cantata with a ginormous orchestration but that lasts… only 49 seconds, and whose text is limited to: “Kindly, Kindly, kindly do not SMOKE in the hall or staircase”. It’s the best British humor! Qobuz technical commentary on sound quality The sound quality for this wonderful orchestration is refined; the level ratios are well-judged; and the distances between the consoles are just right, in this airy piece of mixing that renders the lines exceptionally clear. Clear and enveloping reverberation never hides the discourse: the result is a rare evenness between the different families within the orchestra. The tutti certainly aren’t lacking any liveliness, thanks to the remarkably assured dynamic, and when the percussion gets going we discover a beautifully-proportioned hall, which gives the sound room to develop without constraints. Without falling into the very (too?) popular trap of ultra-proximity, and because the acoustics allow it, Chandos has produced a mix which really respects the score, the performance, and the sound scene... what a relief! © SM/Qobuz
Classical - Released January 1, 1987 | Angel Records
Among traditional, large ensemble versions of George Frederick Handel's Messiah, this 1986 recording by Andrew Davis and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra has held up rather well over the years and has become a favorite for many listeners. While not pretending to be an authentic Baroque performance -- Davis conducts the large Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, rather than a smaller-sized choral group, and the orchestra plays modern instruments and is fully staffed -- there are nonetheless crisp rhythms, clean lines, and evenly blended harmonies that make the choruses feel light and limber and not at all stodgy. In terms of articulation and ornamentation, this rendition has few embellishments or period touches and is generally straightforward in execution, so no one could mistake it for any of the historically informed recordings of, say, William Christie, Trevor Pinnock, or Christopher Hogwood. Apart from matters of interpretation and style, many listeners will want to hear this Messiah for the outstanding vocal soloists, soprano Kathleen Battle, mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar, tenor John Aler, and bass Samuel Ramey, who all deliver exceptional performances, though Aler and Ramey give their turns extra measures of virtuosity and emotional coloration. This may not be the recording of choice for Handel scholars or early music purists, but it has found a warm spot in the hearts of amateurs and aficionados alike, and its expressive strengths and technical assuredness, as well as its warm recorded sound, should keep it in the catalog for years to come.
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