Champs Hill Records
This newly launched record label (with connections to Signum) has sent a batch of CDs for review. Their base is a concert hall/studio in West Sussex which was inaugurated by Dame Felicity Lott, who lives thereabout.
They are all well recorded and adequately packaged and presented, with texts in English only. Some are "light" and unlikely to appeal to Musical Pointers readers, viz. David Bowerman's Fantasy Idyll, and ‘Call me Flott' - light-hearted songs by Felicity Lott & Graham Johnson - stick instead with her DVD which takes you into Champs Hill itself [DVD-Video KUL D4487].
Amongst this first batch, however, are several which demand attention. First a curiosity, two CDs "in a smart cardboard sleeve" (and very hard to prise out of it !) of chamber music by Ludwig Thuille (1861-1907); no innovator, undemandingly conservative, but well crafted and likely to be enjoyed as easy-listening novelties by music club audiences who enjoy something the same but different...[CHRCD001&002]
Thuille's three-quarter hour long Piano Quintet Op 20 would make a change from the Brahms, but will never challenge it - or Franck's Piano Quintet, which needs careful management, and finds perfect advocacy from the Schubert Ensemble [CHRCD004]. That has a fine, not over-hectic account of the Violin Sonata, a rare opportunity to hear the ensemble's excellent first violinist, Simon Blendis, on his own. It competes with the recent recommended Naxos release (Ortiz/Fine Arts, with the String Quartet). Buy them both !
Marvellous young string quartets are two a penny these days and to seek "the best" in Haydn performance these days becomes invidious. The Sacconi Quartet is well up with their competitors, and their recorded account of the marvellous "Tost" Op. 54 set, with extended flights of fancy weaved for the eponymous commissioning merchant/violinist, has all the feeling of live music-making that cannot be taken for granted in studio recordings [SACC101]. Hearing three short samples on their website should convince you.
Purchase the Haydn and Franck discs, and keep an eye on Champs Hill releases.
Peter Grahame Woolf
P.S. See also London International String Quartet Competition "My vote at the Final went to the Sacconi Quartet for a riveting account of Britten's still challenging 2nd Quartet" [Editor]