CPE BACH: Symphonies 1- 4; Cello Concerto in A – Alison McGillivray, cello /The English Concert conducted by Andrew Manze – Harmonia mundi

by | Dec 7, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

CPE BACH: Symphonies 1- 4; Cello Concerto in A – Alison McGillivray, cello /The English Concert conducted by Andrew Manze – Harmonia mundi Multichannel SACD HMU 807405, 63:34 *****:

For the record, since the numbering system for CPE Bach’s symphonies has not yet attained the familiarity of other major symphonic composers, the four symphonies are Wotquenne numbers 183, 1 through 4. Also for the record, this may be the best recording made by Andrew Manze the conductor (as opposed to Manze the virtuoso violinist) since one of his earliest Harmonia mundi discs (made in 1998) Handel’s 12 Opus 6 concertos.

The outstanding performances bubble and bustle along as CPE does, the contrasts of energy and quiet having their usual entertaining impact, with the occasional outbursts of exceptional lyrical beauty, like the gorgeous slow movement of 183/3, as stunning as they can be. In the relatively well-known A major Cello Concerto, which the symphonies bookend, the young Scottish virtuoso Alison McGillivray (also principal cellist of the English Concert) does not match what still remains the standard bearer for this marvelous work, Robert Bex’s bipolar modern instrument reading with Pierre Boulez conducting (coupled with Jean-Pierre Rampal’s incandescent reading of the D minor Flute Concerto, and which pops up from time to time somewhere in Harmonia mundi’s budget line). McGillivray excels in the lovely slow movement (one of the composer’s most perfect inspirations) and overall fits well within the context of Manze’s passionate conducting.

As good as the conventional CD was, with its gleaming timbres and razor edge dynamics, the SACD version adds a striking bloom of warmth and a dimensional aspect of greater detail – particularly noticeable, for example, when the horns emphasize dramatic conclusions.  Manze’s historically absorbing liner notes lay out the facts in a moderately engaging if somewhat dry manner.

– Laurence Vittes
 

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