Classical: The Compact Collection

Rob Cowan on the Week's CD Releases

IT IS amazing to think that Camille Saint-Saens was born seven years before Mendelssohn wrote his Scottish Symphony, and died six years after Berg completed his Three Orchestral Pieces. Talk about spanning the generations. Saint-Saens was a consummate stylist whose charm, tunefulness and aristocratic invention enriched a large and varied output. Take the First Cello Concerto of 1872, the second movement, in which a long-breathed melody floats across a delicately pointed strings accompaniment, and lyrical ideas sing from virtually every line. Cellists love it, but of recent recordings, none that I have heard quite matches the finesse and tonal lustre of Mischa Maisky with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Maisky's affectionate yet brilliant rendition sits happily among other Saint-Saens cello works: the dashing First Cello Sonata, the rarely heard Suite, Op 16, and three miniatures: Romance in F major, Allegro appassionato and, of course, The Swan. Maisky has surely never made a better record. Beethoven was a major influence on Saint-Saens, and Beethoven's Op 9 String Trios are infused with an abundance of wit and memorable melody. They are also easy to listen to, especially when granted the sort of artful gentility that the Leopold String Trio brings to them. The blend of voices is exquisite, the faster music is played with unassuming virtuosity and the Trio's mastery of rubato seems wholly natural. A companion CD couples the Op 3 and Op 8 trios. Between them, they offer the most sensitive reportage that these works have enjoyed since the advent of digital recording.

As to recorded opera, there is no real substitute for the bustle of live stage action, the thud of boots on boards, lightning vocal exchanges, dares, risks, even occasional misfires. Naxos have been trawling the New York Met's archive, and Austrian Radio's vast storehouse of past operatic productions has already yielded major treasures to Koch, Orfeo, Deutsche Grammophon and EMI. Now RCA are muscling in on the act with their new "Wiener Staatsoper Live" series. Perhaps the most interesting release so far is a 1969 stereo recording of Smetana's Dalibor, in which theatrical echoes of Fidelio (jailed hero, dungeon scene, heroine disguised as a man) and musical reminiscences of Wagner, Liszt and Schumann seem stronger for being paraded in German. There's also a chance to hear sisters Leonie and Lotte Rysanek vie for vocal supremacy (Act 1, scene 6) as well as some impressive acting from Ludovico Spiess (Dalibor) and Eberhard Wachter (King of Bohemia). Josef Krips presides over a score that sings, dances and proudly protests, pressing forwards only as the drama intensifies.

Saint-Saens/Maisky: DG 457 599-2 (full price)

Beethoven/Leopold String Trio: Hyperion CDA67254 (full price)

Smetana/Krips: RCA 74321 57735 2 (2 discs, mid price)

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering