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Nimbus November 2008

Several interesting releases.

Richard Lester's monumental Scarlatti series is set to become a benchmark achievement in the history of recorded music. Nimbus has now followed it up with a single disc of closely related Iberian composers of lesser reputation.

In 2004 Lester committed to digital storage well chosen selections of Seixas and Soler, pupils of Scarlatti and both of them characterful composers, important in their times. I think that owners of his complete Scarlatti will find these fascinating in putting Scarlatti into context. Seixas wrote some seven-hundred sonatas, "exceedingly adventurous" for their time - most of them lost in a Lisbon earthquake.

No argument with Lester, who finds that they have "charm, individuality and virtuosity", as too did his younger and longer lived contemporary, Soler who wasorganist at the Escorial and as a monk devoted himself to composing and teaching. His sonatas here have a strong Spanish dance flavour and Lester ends with a stunning account of the extraordinary extended Fandango, once popularised by Rafael Puyana, his recording available to hear on line with Goya pictures [http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=pAT1cY1X5kw]. [Nimbus NI5836]

Rawsthorne/Stevens piano music

I was delighted to have Alan Rawsthorne's piano music brought back to attention in the Lyrita reissues series after many years. I had long loved his characteristic Bagatelles, which I used to play. Indeed, Rawsthorne is a composer who leaves his unique fingerprint on every bar and to my ears his musioc retains its freshness and doesn't date. So James Gibb's mono recording is welcome and perfectly adequate; no information is to be found of the date of the original recording or release, which is regrettable, nor whether the cover photo is of the pianist, which I assume?

Bernard Stevens used to be represented regularly on radio programmes but never became one whose music I remembered. And on revisiting it, my reaction is the same; a competent composer but one without the unique quality which is necessary for long term survival or welcome rediscovery. So this disc is recommendable for half an hour of special music; not enough for most purchasers, I would assume. [Lyrita REAM 1107]


Kirsten Flagstad lent her presence as Dido in 1951 for the launch of the Mermaid Theatre in London, waiving her fee as I recall. It is a lovely theatre, which never caught on, Londoners are fickle about where they will go (the rejuvinated Wilton's Music Hall, where we often review, is a similar case)...

I remember it well as an exciting event, dominated by Flagstad in impeccable English. It is good to have the same cast (with Schwarzkopf, Hemsley and Mandikian - all leading singers of the time) in a 1952 studio recording made the following year. It is a noble record and stands up well despite how Purcell performance has moved on under the influence of HIP [q.v. Connolly with OAE].

For purchasers, the balance my be tipped by the inclusion of the famous 1948 recording of Brunnhilde's Immolation with the Philharmonia and Furtwangler in magnificent sound. [Nimbus NI 7956]

Peter Grahame Woolf