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The Critic's Chair series ended in March 2015.

The Critic's Chair for 11 August 2013

This week on The Critic’s Chair, Dianne James delves into 17th-century English Royal funeral music, sung by Vox Luminis. Also, Danny Driver’s second volume of CPE Bach keyboard sonatas is reviewed, along with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra’s latest invigorating instalment of Schubert symphonies with conductor David Zinman.

Vox LuminisEnglish Royal Funeral Music
Music by Purcell, Morley and Tomkins
Vox Luminis/Lionel Meunier
(Ricercar RIC 332)

Listening to a disc of funeral music might not seem the most pleasurable way to spend one’s time, but I’ve spent many a happy hour engrossed in this new disc. This is an imaginative and well-crafted programme of 17th-century English music, composed either expressly for royal funeral services or in memory of dearly departed sovereigns. The singing throughout is outstanding, and the instrumental contributions are equally fine. If you’re up for something a little different and off the beaten track, you’ll want to set aside some money for this very beautiful and moving new release.

Danny DriverCPE BACH: Keyboard Sonatas in F# minor, E, C minor and A; Fantasie in F# minor; Rondo in D minor
Danny Driver (pno)
(Hyperion CDA 67908)

Danny Driver’s new recording of keyboard works by CPE Bach is definitely worth your consideration. As always, Hyperion’s production standards are excellent, the piano sound is exceptionally beautiful, and the booklet note by Leta Miller is a model of its kind with just the right balance between detailed scholarship and musical description. This is a wonderful recording of some extremely fine music and I urge you to get hold it if you can – we’ll be hearing a lot more of CPE Bach next year as his 300th anniversary approaches, so this new CD is an excellent place to start an acquaintance with his music.

SchubertSCHUBERT: Symphonies 5 & 6
Zurich Tonhalle Orch/David Zinman
(RCA 88725 46336)

Zinman’s latest instalment of Schubert Symphonies is well worth investigating. These are lively, invigorating performances that compare well when measured against the highly acclaimed Abbado accounts with The Chamber Orchestra of Europe of the late 1980s. Zinman’s new recording of the Fifth Symphony is every bit as good as Abbado’s, but I prefer Zinman’s livelier version of the Sixth which sparkles enthusiastically from start to finish. By contrast, Abbado’s is just too pedestrian, and it’s hard to return to after experiencing the greater energy and excitement that Zinman’s much faster speed engenders.