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Classical - Released October 2, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

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We find here two of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ little-known and little-played masterpieces. Up first is Songs of Travel, a cycle of nine melodies based on poems by Robert Louis Stevenson composed in 1904. We are then treated to Job, a work composed between 1927 and 1930. Subtitled “A Masque for Dancing”, it is a sort of ballet organized into nine scenes. The English composer honed his skills on Job, often using a rather economical style. The modern influences are sometimes more noticeable than on others and Job almost foreshadows Bartok’s influence (especially pieces such as Introduction and Job’s Dream) on his Finale from Symphony No.6. At the end of the day, Job is a rather strange score. It’s reminiscent of Stravinsky’s compositional study from the same period with his “white” ballet Apollon musaget, a piece for strings only (1928). And yet it retains all of Vaughan Williams’ contemplative tone. The sound is at times quite resigned, despite the orchestral fullness and belching brass - an idea that Bernard Herrmann uses. In the Dance of the Three Messengers, RVW even sketches a theme that sounds like the stringed theme of his majestic Symphony No. 5. The ballet Job seems like a reservoir of Vaughan Williams’ entire post-1930 period. Sir Mark Elder knows this, detailing everything from the orchestra to the thematic structure of the work.The baritone Neal Davies tackles the Songs of Travel in a rare version completed by Roy Douglas, the composer’s assistant, since Vaughan Williams had only orchestrated the first, third, fifth and eighth “songs”. A wonderful discovery! © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Classical - Released September 18, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

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Classical - Released September 4, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

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Classical - Released August 21, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

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Classical - Released July 3, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
A somewhat unusual interpretation of Debussy – more lyrical than rhythmic. Here, Sir Mark Elder presents a slightly melancholic version of Images pour orchestre, which stands out from his other well-known interpretations on disc, such as of those of Monteux (Philips), Martinon (EMI) and Tilson Thomas (Deutsche Grammaphon), in an extravaganza of rhythms and colours. The British conductor always pays close attention to the balance of textures, as evidenced by his excellent version of Sibelius’ complete symphonies (Hallé Concerts Society). Here, he conducts an orchestra that is small but still mindful of the combinations of timbres (Gigues). The Hallé Orchestra delights in the frequent harmonic friction of the music – one may even wonder whether Debussy was an elder cousin who led the way for the great English symphonists… Rondes de printemps remains one of the composer’s most advanced works, a miniature study of the later ballet Jeux – something which Sir Mark Elder’s tremendous expertise alludes to in this interpretation. It’s a shame that the recording technique for the albums by the Hallé Orchestra Concerts Society is always a little fuzzy and lacks clarity of timbre and depth as it could potentially sound rather dull to the listener rather than providing a true reflection of Elder’s live performances with this orchestra – which he has been doing since 1999! Nevertheless, this is a perfect and sublimely lascivious interpretation of Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, with two arrangements for piano, one of which is from Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut, and one of which is from Book II of Images for piano, an undisputed masterpiece of the French master. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Classical - Released June 26, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

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Classical - Released June 19, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

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Classical - Released June 12, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

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Classical - Released June 5, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

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Symphonic Music - Released February 7, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Thus Sir Mark Elder finishes his Sibelius collection, just as the very young Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali begins his own with Alpha, already distinguishing himself with the surprising weight and recurring hesitations of his second volume. None of that with Elder, who admittedly suffers from a slightly too uniform sound recording but who stands out with the exactness of his tempos and his refined balances. Sir Mark Elder offers versions that are classic and fluid, with a real organic tension and a sense of lyricism, especially in the medium registers (Symphony N°4, III. Il tempo largo). Sir Mark Elder knows how to harness the energy that is unique to this orchestra with this repertoire, which has become something of a favourite ever since Barbirolli permanently established it in 1940 before recording irrevocable versions for His Master’s Voice between 1966 and 1969, a discography that has never been surpassed. Sir Mark Elder is less interested in the (certainly fascinating) flare-up of Sibelius’ modernity than his predecessor, favouring a calmer internal pulse that often draws comparisons with Bruckner and Wagner for example. He doesn’t however dilute the features that make Sibelius so remarkable, like the ostinato patterns that we have not heard so hauntingly in a long time (in the Symphony N°4 again). As for the Symphony N°6... you can practically hear it smiling. The sound is joyous, even playful (III. Poco vivace), never falling into the cold tones that we hear all too often. A magnificent vision, closing a milestone anthology which Sibelius fanatics should ensure they don’t miss. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Classical - Released November 1, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

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The Hallé Orchestra has played Debussy well for a long time, and the group's recent recordings under Sir Mark Elder have attracted critical notice. Those interested would do very well to start with this release, which joins the familiar Nocturnes for orchestra (perhaps a bit less familiar in the 1999 edition by Denis Herlin heard here) with some fascinating lesser-performed works. The latter group includes two unique later works, the highly evocative Les soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon, L. 150 (from a recently discovered piano work orchestrated by Colin Matthews), and the Marche écossaise sur un thème populaire, L. 77. The Marche écossaise was commissioned, and if the idea of Debussy writing a Scottish march sounds odd, well, it's probably odder than it sounds: it sounds for all the world like a folk song setting, except then it doesn't. La Damoiselle elue, L. 62 is a very early piece, written by Debussy in connection with his Prix de Rome award. It's conventional, but the restless spirit that was soon to surface is easy to hear; it features strong, operatic performances by Anna Stéphany and Sophie Bevan. The Première Rapsodie, L. 116, is a difficult clarinet piece written for exams at the Paris Conservatory. As for the Nocturnes themselves, Elder has a precise yet dreamy way with this music, especially in the wordless chorus of Sirènes that rewards multiple hearings. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 2, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

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Classical - Released September 2, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

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Classical - Released September 2, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

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Opera - Released June 7, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

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Opera - Released May 31, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

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Opera - Released May 24, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

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Opera - Released May 17, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

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Symphonic Music - Released March 1, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

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Symphonic Music - Released November 2, 2018 | Halle Concerts Society

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
A possibly unique and certainly unusual feature of Edward Elgar's compositional career is that in old age he raided his teenage notebooks for material, orchestrating, revising, and fleshing out what he found. Thus the Nursery Suite title and "Music to a Child's Play" subtitle do not indicate the presence of children's music, although the beautifully evocative short orchestral pieces here would be ideal for introducing classical music to children. "Music to a Child's Play" refers to the delightful The Wand of Youth; the "child's play" was an imagined but unrealized play by Elgar's siblings, directed at their parents. The pair of suites (there is no larger work from they are extracted, but they have separate moods and would be equally effective played separately or together) includes not only generally described scenes but more abstract titles. Sample the second melody in the Serenade from the first suite for a fine example of Elgar's considerable and underrated melodic gift during his early years. The Nursery Suite, premiered in 1930 and dedicated to the future Queen Elizabeth II, among others, had less specific but similarly youthful origins. The two intermezzi are short pieces from the early part of Elgar's career; the Salut d'Amour, Op. 12, was a love letter of sorts to the composer's wife. Throughout, the Hallé Orchestra, with Elgar bred in the bone, has the precision necessary to get the lightness in this music; you can hear it from the very first notes in the first Wand of Youth suite. This is underrated music, not much played outside Britain, and essential listening for anyone previously avoiding Elgar as too ponderous. © TiVo

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