IT’S not too late to get a CD Christmas present for a music lover, so here are highlights from this year’s releases that have come my way.
A Christmas Celebration. Hallé Choirs and Orchestra conducted by Stephen Bell (Hallé HLL 7545)
Stephen Bell has put his own stamp on the Hallé’s Christmas concerts now, and here’s the ideal way to take them home with you and hear the Hallé Choir, Hallé Youth Choir and Hallé Children’s Choir plus great orchestral playing – including the unique Hallé rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride.
Handel’s Messiah. Hallé Choir, Sheffield Philharmonic Choir, Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir John Barbirolli (The Barbirolli Society (SJB 1086-7)
One for nostalgia. There are many recorded versions of Messiah, but if you want to recall the atmosphere of those Belle Vue performances with massed choral voices under Barbirolli, here’s how it sounded in 1964 – complete with the penultimate ‘Hallelujah!’ simply shouted.
Sibelius: Symphonies 5 and 7, En Saga. Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder (Hallé HLL 7543)
Sir Mark’s account of the hugely popular fifth symphony is bracing and magnificent, and his approach to the single-movement seventh captures its mix of depression and gigantic optimism.
Donizetti: Le Duc D’Albe. Soloists, Opera Rara Chorus, Hallé Orchestra, conducted by Sir Mark Elder (Opera Rara ORC54)
This is an opera Donizetti never completed, so it’s virtually impossible to stage it. But Sir Mark – with the Hallé as his pit band – has captured the magic of what might have been, and his solo team are magnificent.
Rêve D’Enfant. Sophie Rosa, violin, Benjamin Powell, piano (Champs Hill Records CHRCD123)
Cheshire violin soloist Sophie brings her lovely sound to bear on music by César Franck, Ravel and Eugène Ysaÿe, including the A major Sonata by Franck (you’ve heard it on Classic FM without a doubt).
Ginastera: Orchestral Works vol. 1. BBC Philharmonic conducted by Juanjo Mena (Chandos CHAN 10884)
This is the music of Argentina’s major classical composer of the 20th century, and though a mixed bag is well worth investigating. I liked his atmospheric Pampeana no. 3 particularly.
Summer. Jonathan Scott at the organ of the Bridgewater Hall (Scott Brothers SBDRCD008)
Jonathan Scott’s recitals at the Bridgewater Hall, with their inventive programming, have become very popular, and here’s a great souvenir with a typically eclectic round-up of music from Vivaldi to Philip Glass.