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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 qualityThe 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
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Symphonic Music - Released April 5, 2011 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année - Hi-Res Audio
This release offers a pair of fairly early Delius works; they may not be instantly appealing to those making a start with this idiosyncratic English impressionist, but confirmed fans will love them. The roots of Frederick Delius' Appalachia lay in his experiences as an orange plantation manager in Florida in the late 1880s, where he heard the singing of African-American laborers and, according to his own testimony, first began to think about becoming a composer. The work is subtitled "Variations on an Old Slave Song with Final Chorus for baritone, chorus, and orchestra," and everything about it is intriguingly confused. Florida is not part of Appalachia. Nor is the Mississippi River delta, which Delius claimed was the inspiration for the work, but which he apparently never saw. To top it off, the "old slave song" is obscure; Delius, who had firsthand experience of African-American music, may indeed have heard it somewhere, but the text doesn't appear anywhere in databases of spiritual texts, and apparently no one has discovered the source. The melody, uncharacteristically simple for a spiritual, is stated plainly after a two-part introduction, and then follows a set of variations of all possible shapes and sizes, culminating in a choral finale. The finale gives the advertised baritone soloist precious little to do; he gets to sing just a few bars after cooling his heels on-stage for half an hour. And it introduces the text of the song, which with its "sold down the river" images sounds a bit out of place in the mouths of a substantial English chorus. The BBC Symphony Chorus under Andrew Davis does its best with this, and in general the level of orchestral detail, the heart and soul of a Delius performance, is impressive here. The Song of the High Hills expands on the wordless chorus idea that is introduced in Appalachia, and technically it's perhaps a more accomplished work. Appalachia, however, truly announced Delius as an original, and it's the kind of piece you'll either love or hate depending on your attitude toward the composer's output in general. In any case, it's not a terribly common work on CD, and Davis deserves thanks for its resurrection here. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 1, 2019 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 étoiles de Classica
Bliss composed The Enchantress in 1951, the year of his sixtieth birthday, for Kathleen Ferrier. The text is a free adaptation of the Second Idyll of Theocritus, made by Henry Reed, and well suited to Bliss’s love of classical Greek authors. Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, from 1955, was written for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), the first in a number of commissions from the John Feeney Trust. Inspired by John Blow’s Coronation Anthems, the work is a set of variations on a Sinfonia from that collection, each variation reflecting the text of a verse from Psalm XXIII. Described as a sacred cantata, Mary of Magdala was Bliss’s second Feeney Trust Commission, composed during 1962 and 1963. For a libretto, Bliss turned to Christopher Hassall, his collaborator on three previous works, including The Beatitudes. Bliss conducted the premiere at the Three Choirs Festival in 1963, and wrote in his programme note: ‘One of the loveliest stories in the New Testament is that in the 20th chapter of St John’s Gospel, telling of how Mary Magdalene, lingering at the sepulchre, was the first to see the risen Christ. She, supposing him to be the gardener.’ The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus give of their best under their former chief conductor Sir Andrew Davis, and the contributions from the soloists, Dame Sarah Connolly and James Platt, are outstanding. © Chandos
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Symphonic Music - Released February 5, 2013 | Chandos

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For brilliant tone colors, innovative instrumental combinations, and startling effects, the music of Hector Berlioz has seldom been surpassed, and students of this arch-Romantic composer know that this is where the art of modern orchestration begins. The seven overtures on this 2013 Chandos disc epitomize Berlioz's fiery imagination and technical skill with each instrument and section of the orchestra, and the originality of Le Corsaire, Béatrice et Bénédict, Les Francs-juges, Le Carnaval romain, Waverley, Le roi Lear, and Benvenuto Cellini have kept them alive and vital in the concert repertoire to the present day. In fact, if this fine SACD by Andrew Davis and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra is a measure of excellence, they have never sounded better. This CD truly is a showcase of virtuosic orchestral writing and playing, and every track dazzles with electricity and drama. Newcomers to Berlioz would do well to make this their introductory album, because the surprising qualities that are found in his larger orchestral and operatic masterpieces are on display in these digestible pieces. Chandos provides extraordinary reproduction that captures every note, and audiophiles will relish the vibrant sonorities. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 3, 2003 | Angel Records

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Classical - Released March 3, 2003 | Warner Classics (Parlophone)

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Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Warner Classics (Parlophone)

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Symphonies - Released February 1, 2011 | Chandos

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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released November 2, 2018 | Chandos

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Of the big choral works by Edward Elgar, The Music Makers (1912) is the most personal one. It is a setting of the poem "Ode," by English (not Irish) poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy, beginning "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams," and coining the phrase "movers and shakers" along the way. The poem has had unusually deep resonances, having been quoted and even set by popular musicians. Elgar came up with an appropriately starry-sounding setting, underscoring his affection for the work (which he labored at for nine years) by quoting several pieces of his own earlier music in the score. Sir Andrew Davis at the baton and especially the BBC Symphony Chorus have the right creamy sound for this, and a major attraction is the presence of Dame Sarah Connolly in the mezzo-soprano part. Listen to her and the chorus dig into "Therefore today is thrilling." The album is rounded out by The Spirit of England, a wartime composition that is anything but personal. The chief virtue of the present performance is that it is apparently the only one in which the solo part is sung entirely by a tenor, although Elgar specifically named this as a possible interpretation. Perhaps both of these works are for Elgar lovers, but anyone should be able to enjoy The Music Makers and discover the poem's enduring appeal. © TiVo
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released September 29, 2017 | Chandos

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Vaughan Williams’ seventh symphony (1951), Sinfonia Antartica, reuses numerous materials from the stunning piece the composer wrote in 1948 for the film Scott of the Antarctic. Therefore none will be surprised by the extraordinarily visual orchestration and theme, which any listener – even ignoring the title or cinematographic influence – will immediately associate with vast windy flatlands, scintillating icy lights, Antarctica in all its splendour – and dangers, as Scott’s expedition ended tragically, that’s the least one can say. As a complement to the programme, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (where they are used to the great cold!) and Andrew Davis provide us with Vaughan Williams’s Concerto For Two Pianos: initially created in 1933 for a single piano, the work was adapted to two pianos in 1946 in light of the tremendous difficult piano part, and the composer also took the opportunity to change a few sections. Here it is performed by two Canadians, Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier. And finally you’ll discover the Four Last Songs sung by Roderick Williams, a kind of Vaughanwilliamsian equivalent to Strauss’ own Four Last Songs, even though Vaughan Williams’ four songs were first orchestrated after his death, by Anthony Payne in 2013 – scrupulously following the composer’s orchestral habits. A beautiful musical testament, created during the last few months of his life. © SM/Qobuz
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Concertos - Released March 1, 2014 | Chandos

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Opera - Released June 5, 2020 | Chandos

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This new recording of Massenet’s opera was recorded by Chandos during rehearsals and two concerts at Toronto’s Thomson Hall in November 2019, making the work feel like a great oratorio bathed in the sensuality of orchestral music. Known around the world for his Méditation with solo violin, which was used in the heyday of bandstands and orchestras in large hotels and fashionable spas, Thaïs is rarely played today. There are no arias "à l'italienne" in this opera, but instead it’s full of long dramatic passages that would inspire Debussy to compose Pelléas eight years later. The protagonists of this new recording are without a doubt the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, whose conductor Sir Andrew Davis makes use of all their sonic and expressive resources, leaving the soloists somewhat sidelined in terms of sound balance. A special mention goes to the beautiful sound and intense expression that avoids any mawkishness of the concertmaster Jonathan Crow in the famous Méditation, which is in fact a simple interlude at the heart of the Act I.. This orientalising story about the conflict between paganism and Christianity in Alexandria in the fourth century is told by the baritone Joshua Hopkins with his powerful timbre in the role of Athanael, battling with the soprano Erin Wall as an exemplary Thai, and the tenor Andrew Staples, beautifully playing the role of Nicias, Athanael’s rich friend. The rest of the cast is of the same calibre. Sir Andrew Davis knows this work very well having directed it on several occasions, notably at the Edinburgh and Melbourne Festivals with the same Erin Wall in Thaïs, who he calls "the Thaïs of one’s dreams". © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Symphonies - Released October 5, 2018 | Chandos

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Sir Andrew Davis returns to his exploration of Holst’s orchestral works with the brilliant BBC Philharmonic, a series initiated almost ten years ago by the late Richard Hickox, then taken over by another expert in British repertoire. This selection of orchestral works by Holst provides a remarkable overview of his career, ranging from such early works as A Winder Idyll – composed in 1897 when he was still studying at the Royal College of Music – to the Scherzo of a symphony on which he was working towards the end of his life. None of the music recorded here was published in his lifetime, and the Scherzo – rarely heard though it is – is the only work to have entered the repertoire. A Moorside Suite, originally written for brass band, is featured here in the composer's rarely heard arrangement for strings. The young British cellist Guy Johnston is the soloist in Invocation, one of Holst’s most significant works, calling for a subtle balance of virtuosity and expressive qualities. © Chandos
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Concertos - Released August 31, 2018 | Chandos

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Best known as a choral composer, Gerald Finzi wrote few large-scale instrumental works, and this audiophile recording from Chandos presents a handful of the most important. The Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 40, along with Finzi's Clarinet Concerto, is among his most frequently played pieces, and its popularity has only increased with the growing number of recordings made since the millennium. For this 2018 release by Sir Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the solo part of the Cello Concerto is vividly rendered by Paul Watkins, who brings a dramatic presence and soaring lyricism to its brooding, pastoral music. Because the work is skillfully orchestrated, with widely-spaced passages of transparent accompaniment that allow the cello to shine through, Watkins is always easy to hear, even in the cello's less assertive middle range. To balance the Cello Concerto on the program, the Eclogue in F major, Op. 10 for piano and strings and the Grand Fantasia and Toccata in D minor, Op. 38 for piano and orchestra are offered, with the peripatetic Louis Lortie as the soloist. These pieces are combined into a kind of piano concerto, in lieu of an official Finzi work by that designation, and the somber, purely orchestral Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 7 (also known by the title New Year Music), has been inserted as a slow movement. On the whole, this is an appealing disc that burnishes Finzi's reputation, and listeners who are curious about his music would do well to start with these approachable post-Romantic pieces. © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released April 1, 2012 | Chandos

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Symphonies - Released January 3, 2020 | Chandos

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Symphonies - Released July 5, 2019 | Chandos

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Sir Andrew Davis was the music director of the Toronto Symphony from 1975 to 1988, and he has maintained strong ties with the group displayed here, even though the players in the main are not the ones he conducted back then. You might not think the world needs another reading of the Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14, but Davis' ease with the orchestra enables him to pull off a number of unusual orchestral effects. The real find here is the Fantaisie sur La Tempète de Shakespeare (Fantasy on Shakespeare's The Tempest), which is a symphonic poem movement, not incidental music. It is the last movement of Lélio, which was the immediate successor to the Symphonie Fantastique but is much less often performed. It is a charming collection of delicate orchestral displays complete with a choir singing words from The Tempest, or something like them, in Italian (Berlioz, who had just won the Prix de Rome, was in an Italian phase). The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, which has worked often with both Davis and the Toronto Symphony, achieves special grace here, and this little performance is worth the price of admission. The Symphonie Fantastique itself is more straightforward but has distinctive touches, including bell strokes in the "Dies irae" that will make you sit up and take notice, if not severely stress your expensive speakers. The Torontonians generally play well throughout, although the return of the idée fixe in the waltz movement (sample this) comes off more as an intrusion than as the desired fleeting thought. A fine product of Sir Andrew's old age. © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released November 1, 2013 | Chandos

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Symphonic Music - Released October 19, 2000 | LucasRecords

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Classical - Released January 1, 2000 | Angel Records