Record Review Podcast



An edited version of the regular Building a Library slot where guest experts review available recordings of a work from the classical music repertoire and give a recommendation.


  • Walton's First Symphony

    11/07/2022 Duração: 51min

    Tom Service chooses his favourite recording of William Walton's Symphony No 1 in B flat minor. In 1932, with the spectacular success of Belshazzar's Feast behind him, Walton began his Symphony No 1. But, always a slow worker, the symphony took him two painful years to complete – painful because what lay behind most of the Symphony was the emotional upheaval that came with the end of a relationship. The result was the greatest English symphony of its time, its darkly menacing first movement bursting with seemingly elemental power, is followed by a bitter scherzo marked Presto 'con malizia' ('with malice'), a melancholic slow movement and a joyful major key finale.

  • Beethoven's Missa solemnis

    04/07/2022 Duração: 47min

    Elin Manahan Thomas compares recordings of Beethoven's Missa solemnis and chooses her favourite. Beethoven's setting of the Solemn Mass is one of the monuments of choral music. Written between 1819 and 1823, it is widely thought of as one of Beethoven's towering achievements. It was dedicated to Archduke Rudolf of Austria, one of Beethoven's most generous patrons as well as pupil and friend. The copy given to Rudolf was inscribed with the phrase: "From the heart – may it return to the heart!"

  • Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony

    27/06/2022 Duração: 42min

    Edward Seckerson compares recordings of Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony in E minor and chooses his favourite. Today, Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony is one of the composer's most popular works. Rachmaninov composed it in Dresden, during a period of retirement from concert activities, and conducted its premiere in Saint Petersburg in January 1908, to great critical acclaim. In his 2nd symphony, Rachmaninov introduces a single motto at the beginning that appears and evolves in each of the four movements, a compositional idea that can also be seen in Tchaikovsky, who was a great early influence on him. The symphony is a large-scale work lasting an hour that begins with dark, brooding melodic lines and ends in a triumphant scherzo finale.

  • Haydn opera survey

    20/06/2022 Duração: 49min

    Roger Parker chooses his favourite recordings of Haydn's operas. Joseph Haydn is possibly one of the greatest composers who wrote operas which are hardly known. He wrote 17 of them, and opera occupied a great deal of his composing life. During the 1770s and 1780s, Haydn ran an opera company for his employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. They put on up to 150 performances per year. Haydn's operas are not often performed today, but they contain some great music, which Roger explores.

  • Debussy's La mer

    13/06/2022 Duração: 49min

    Flora Willson chooses her favourite recording of Debussy's La mer. Debussy composed La mer between 1903 and 1905. It is a brilliant and exciting orchestral showpiece that conjures up the many moods of the sea. Debussy corrected proofs of the score while on holiday at the Grand Hotel, Eastbourne on the English Channel coast. He described Eastbourne to his publisher, Durand, as "a charming peaceful spot: the sea unfurls itself with an utterly British correctness".

  • Britten's Four Sea Interludes

    06/06/2022 Duração: 50min

    Anna Lapwood compares recordings of Benjamin Britten's Four Sea Interludes and picks a favourite. When Peter Grimes premiered in 1945 it immediately put Britten, uniquely among his compatriots, in the first rank of the world's opera composers. As well as the consummate solo vocal and choral writing, the orchestra, too, plays a vital role in Britten's dark drama of alienation and hypocrisy in a small Suffolk fishing community. Several purely orchestral episodes sometimes punctuate, sometimes push forward the narrative and four of these were published separately as the Sea Interludes. Much performed and recorded, Britten's dazzling orchestration vividly conjures up Dawn, Sunday Morning, Moonlight and a Storm.

  • Stravinsky's Symphony in 3 Movements

    30/05/2022 Duração: 51min

    Jonathan Cross compares recordings of Igor Stravinsky's Symphony in 3 Movements and picks a favourite. The first movement of Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements began life as a piano concerto. And in a failed bid to join the ranks of well-paid movie composers in Hollywood where Stravinsky now lived, the second movement, with its prominent harp part, was originally conceived to accompany a vision of the Virgin Mary in the 1943 film Song of Bernadette. Stravinsky's genius was to add a third movement, related to the first, and so create a cohesive, satisfying and brilliant whole despite the disparate origins of its first two parts. He completed the Symphony in 1945 and, despite a deeply felt sense of exile, loss and nostalgia, it's perhaps some of the most American-sounding of Stravinsky's music, capped by a resplendent final chord, straight out of Hollywood.

  • Janacek's Jenufa

    23/05/2022 Duração: 45min

    Nigel Simeone joins Hannah to discuss a wide variety of recorded performances of Janacek's opera Jenufa. Completed in 1902 Jenufa was Janacek's first great masterpiece. It is a tragic tale of small-minded village attitudes, infanticide and redemption. But as with all Janacek, the music is totally life-enhancing without being in the least sentimental. At the heart of the story is the strong but complicated relationship between Jenufa and her mother: they share some of the most heart-breaking music in the opera.

  • Vaughan Williams' 4th Symphony

    16/05/2022 Duração: 48min

    Mark Lowther joins Andrew to discuss a huge range of recorded performances of the Fourth Symphony of Ralph Vaughan Williams, who was born 150 years ago this autumn. First performed in 1935, its austerity and directness seem to presage the looming horror of World War II.

  • Beethoven's String Quartet in F, Op. 18 No. 1

    09/05/2022 Duração: 48min

    Laura Tunbridge recommends her favourite recording of Beethoven's String Quartet in F, Op 18 No 1. In Vienna at the end of the 18th century, Beethoven was in his late 20s, the supreme keyboard composer-improviser of his day. With dogged determination and a degree of circumspection he began picking off various genres over which the shadows of the late Mozart and the very much alive Haydn loomed large. With piano sonatas, piano trios and string trios under his belt, it took two laborious years to complete the Op 18 set of six string quartets. The first of the set was intended to make a big impression. Its imposing scale and wide expressive range are typical of the young Beethoven, including a restless dynamic energy and a tragic slow movement inspired, he said, by the tomb scene of Romeo and Juliet.

  • Chopin's Piano Sonata No 3 in B Minor

    02/05/2022 Duração: 43min

    Allyson Devenish compares recordings of Chopin's Piano Sonata No 3 in B minor and chooses her favourite. Chopin's final piano sonata was composed in 1844 and dedicated to Countess Émilie de Perthuis. It is a work of immense complexity, both technically and musically, and comprises four movements. The sonata opens with heavy chords in B minor, but journeys through a Scherzo and dream-like Nocturne, before ending in a dazzling Finale, which starts in B minor but ends triumphantly in a B major Coda.

  • Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony

    25/04/2022 Duração: 45min

    Composer, prominent conductor and influential composition teacher, Zemlinsky was at the centre of turn-of the century Viennese musical life. Among his distinguished pupils were Arnold Schoenberg (who also happened to be his brother-in-law), Berg, Webern and Korngold. He also taught and was romantically involved with Alma Schindler until she decided to marry a certain Gustav Mahler. And it's Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde which provided the model for Zemlinsky's best-known work, his1923 Lyric Symphony. Mahler had chosen Chinese poetry for his song-symphony and Zemlinsky, too, looked east, setting poems by the then fashionable 1913 Nobel Prize-winning Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore. The seven texts, an exploration of love, are sung alternately by baritone and soprano, accompanied in lush late-Romantic style by a large orchestra.

  • Handel's Messiah

    20/04/2022 Duração: 47min

    Messiah is Handel's best-known work and one of the most frequently performed choral works in western music. It was composed in 1741 with a text compiled from the King James Bible. It is full of show stoppers such as "For unto us a child is born", "The trumpet shall sound" and the ever-rousing "Hallelujah" chorus.

  • Mahler's 9th Symphony

    11/04/2022 Duração: 46min

    Gillian Moore compares recordings of Mahler's Ninth Symphony and chooses her favourite. Mahler's final completed symphony is a monumental achievement ranging in emotion from wild passion to deep despair and finally resignation. He wrote it in 1908 and 1909 but did not live to see it performed. Leonard Bernstein said of the last movement: "It is terrifying, and paralyzing, as the strands of sound disintegrate. In ceasing, we lose it all. But in letting go, we have gained everything."

  • Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro

    04/04/2022 Duração: 50min

    Inspired by the tumult of the impending French Revolution, Mozart's intricate and sublime opera Le nozze di Figaro proved explosive yet rapidly became one of the true masterpieces of the genre. Nicholas Kenyon discusses a wide range of interpretations with Andrew, before settling for what he believes to be the ultimate recording to buy, download or stream.

  • Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major

    28/03/2022 Duração: 50min

    Perhaps the deepest-felt of Beethoven's piano concertos, the G major poses both interpretative and technical challenges of the highest order. Joanna MacGregor has been listening to a wide range of different interpretations and discusses with Andrew her ultimate recommendation to buy, download or stream.

  • Bruckner's Symphony No.9 in D minor

    21/03/2022 Duração: 53min

    Dedicated to 'dem lieben Gott' (the beloved God), Bruckner's monumental Ninth Symphony in D minor was intended to be the culmination of his life's work. Bruckner began working on the Ninth Symphony in the summer of 1887, immediately after finishing his Eighth, but he died in 1896 before finishing the fourth and final movement. Nonetheless, Bruckner's Ninth Symphony is often performed as a mighty, visionary large-scale three-movement work. Shimmering strings and low brass start the opening movement, Feierlich, misterioso, followed by the Scherzo and an achingly expansive Adagio.

  • Schubert's String Quintet in C major

    14/03/2022 Duração: 46min

    Franz Schubert's last chamber piece, the String Quintet in C major (D. 956), is one of the most sublime pieces in the repertoire. It is scored for a standard string quartet plus an extra cello. The work remained unpublished at the time of Schubert's death in November 1828 and after it was belatedly premiered and published in the 1850s, it gradually gained recognition as a masterpiece. Knowing that Schubert died so soon after composing the work, makes many people hear a valedictory quality in the music.

  • Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings

    07/03/2022 Duração: 49min

    The Serenade's status as a darkly dazzling 20th-century classic is founded on Britten's unerring ear for finding and setting English poetry, coupled with his instinctive sense of instrumental and vocal virtuosity. Its six texts, from Ben Johnson to Tennyson, deal with night and the corruption of innocence, themes which preoccupied Britten throughout his career. Both the solo writing and the interplay between voice and horn are based on the strengths of the two musicians for which it was written, Britten's long-time partner, Peter Pears and the horn player Dennis Brain. They made the first recording in 1944, a year after the premiere, and since then many subsequent recordings, most often featuring British tenors, have followed.

  • Bach's Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV1043

    01/03/2022 Duração: 40min

    Bach's Concerto for two violins in D minor, BWV1043, affectionately known as the 'Double Concerto', is one of the most popular works of the Baroque repertoire. The two solo parts of this concerto have survived in Bach’s own handwriting, in an autograph that dates from around 1730, when Bach was living in Köthen. The outer movements illustrate the influence of the Italian Baroque style on Bach in their brisk rhythms, fugal imitations and much of the intricate passage work, while the central movement is deeply expressive as the melodic lines weave between the two violins.

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