Coates and Rattle/Kozena CD reviews

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE ENJOYS JOHN WILSON'S NEW ERIC COATES CD AND AN EVENING AT HOME WITH SIR SIMON AND LADY RATTLE


ERIC COATES ORCHESTRAL WORKS VOL. 1: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra / Wilson (Chandos CHAN 20036) ★★★★

There's more to Eric Coates than By the Sleepy Lagoon, famous as the theme for the BBC's long-running Desert Island Discs. Try, for examples, The Jester at the Wedding Suite. With John Wilson's persuasive shaping of the music and the orchestra's zestful playing these skilfully crafted character pieces recall Tchaikovsky's ballet music in their tunefulness and easy grace. The Two Symphonic Rhapsodies show Coates' ability to capture mood and atmosphere with economy of gesture – like vintage film music. Wilson began recording Coates in the 1990s, for the now defunct ASV label, and knows how to get the best from this charming, tuneful and skilfully crafted repertoire, from the dreamy Ballad for String Orchestra to the perky London Suite with its catchy Knightsbridge march. Competition comes from Chandos itself; their 2002 Coates compilation (same orchestra under Rumon Gamba) offers the London Suite, the Dambusters march etc., perhaps enough for all but completists?

Norman Stinchcombe




SOIRÉE: Magdalena Kožená / Sir Simon Rattle et al (Pentatone CD / SACD PTC5186 671) ★★★★



Such is the lifelike sound of Pentatone's high resolution recording that the listener feels as if they are in a comfy chair, glass of wine in hand, enjoying an intimate evening of music at the Rattles' house. Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená performs a wide range of songs – Dvořák, Janáček, Brahms, Ravel, Stravinsky, Chausson and Strauss – in arrangements for permutations of string quartet, flute, clarinet and piano. The pianist is her husband who proves a relaxed and assured accompanist. Unsurprisingly Kožená is right at home in the seven songs by Dvořák and in the four Gypsy Songs, with their snappy rhythms, her word pointing is so effective one hardly needs the text translations. Brahms' songs for Shakespeare's Ophelia find Kožená effectively communicating their pensive melancholy. In Chausson's Chanson perpétuelle, a fascinating rarely-heard work, Kožená sings beautifully but with generalized emotion. The 73-minute programme ends with Janáček's funny, sharp-edged, occasionally raucous, Nursery Rhymes.



Norman Stinchcombe

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