The English label Biddulph Recordings ( was founded in 1989 by the violin dealer Peter Biddulph and the violinist and writer Eric Wen, the former editor of The Musical Times and The Strad. It specializes in new and historic recordings, especially of string instruments, and three recent issues are welcome reminders of three great 20th-century violin talents.

01 RosandAaron Rosand plays Bruch (LAB 1024 ) features the most recent recordings: the Violin Concerto No.1 in G Minor Op.26 and the Scottish Fantasy Op.46 in 2000 recordings with the NDR Radio-Philharmonie Hannover under Christoph Wyneken and the Violin Concerto No.2 in D Minor Op.44 in a 1970 performance with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Peter Richter Rangenier. They were originally licensed to Vox on two discs by the Rosand estate but since Vox was acquired by Naxos they were recompiled and licensed to Biddulph for their 10CD box set Ten More Great Violinists of the Century (LAB 8102) and for individual release.

Rosand, who died in 2019 at the age of 92, enjoyed an astonishing 77-year performing career. He had a simply lovely tone, with a fairly constant but always tasteful vibrato, and was particularly noted for his performances of the Romantic repertoire, a view clearly supported by his playing here. There’s no hint of any decline in technique in the 30-year gap between recordings, which feature first-class orchestral support in really lovely performances.

02 HubermanThe other two CDs also resulted from the creation of masters for the LAB 8102 set. Bronisław Huberman Columbia and Brunswick Masters (LAB 1025) comprises tracks from two previous issues plus new material featuring the Polish virtuoso who died aged 64 in 1947. There’s nowhere near the amount of portamento that you might expect from someone who was performing in the 1890s, but there is real individuality in his phrasing and style.

Recording years aren’t given, but the only Brunswick master is an American acoustic recording, with piano, of Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy on Bizet’s music; the remaining works – a fiery Kreutzer Sonata and ten short pieces by Bach, Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Bruch, Elgar, Sarasate and Zarzycki – are apparently electrical Columbia performances with piano, although Ignacy Friedman in the Beethoven sonata is the only pianist identified.

Huberman’s mellow tone, described in the booklet notes as far darker in the Columbia recordings than on the Brunswicks, is quite distinctive, and his technical command outstanding, especially the double stops in Sarasate’s Romanza Andaluza and the dazzling playing in Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No.1 in G Minor and Zarzycki’s brilliant Mazurka in G.

03 SeidelThe real revelation in these three CDs, though, is Toscha Seidel the RCA Victor Recordings & Franck Sonata (LAB 138), a straight reissue after 20 years unavailability. The Russian Seidel, who died in California two days before his 63rd birthday in 1962, was in Leopold Auer’s legendary violin class in St. Petersburg with the young Jascha Heifetz. He made his American debut in April 1918, one year after Heifetz’s sensational debut there, and consequently always seemed to be in the latter’s shadow, moving to California in the 1930s and making a career in Hollywood and studio orchestras.

Seidel’s tone is very bright, clear and warm, his vibrato fairly fast and consistent, and his technique absolutely brilliant and effortless. Add his sweeping phrasing and captivating musicality (“Heifetz with heart” say my notes – guaranteed to start an argument somewhere) and you end up wondering why Seidel isn’t remembered as the violinist of the first half of the 20th century.

Six short pieces by Mozart, Wagner, Brahms (the Hungarian Dance No.1 in G Minor again in another terrific performance), Bakaleinikoff and Provost are from December 1938 and February 1941. Korngold’s previously unissued Much Ado About Nothing Suite from July 1941 sees Seidel joined by the composer at the piano in a memorable performance. Three songs from the movie, The Great Waltz, feature Seidel’s obbligato (well, in two of them at least) for soprano Miliza Korjus (“rhymes with gorgeous” – unfortunately, unlike her vocal talents on this showing), and a private studio recording from the early 1950s of the Franck Sonata in A Major, in which Seidel and pianist Harry Kaufmann seem completely unable to agree on tempo or rhythm in the first movement, complete a revelatory disc.

If you don’t know Seidel’s playing, you owe it to yourself to put that right.

04 Kodaly LigetiGerman cellist Gabriel Schwabe is in simply superb form on a new Naxos CD of solo sonatas by Zoltán Kodály and György Ligeti, with the equally fine violinist Hellen Weiß joining him in the Kodály Duo for Violin and Cello (8.574202

Kodály’s Sonata for Solo Cello Op.8 dates from 1915, and has been recognised as the most significant work for solo cello since the Bach Suites. It’s a monumental work, given a thrilling performance here that explores every inch of its depth.

Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Cello is a relatively brief piece of two short movements that were written in 1948 and 1953 respectively but not heard in public until 1979 thanks to the political restrictions of the Hungarian Composers’ Union. The first movement shows a folk music influence, with the second movement inspired by the Paganini solo violin Caprices.

Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello Op.7 from 1914 opens the disc. It’s a work that combines classical forms with the folk music in which Kodály was immersed at the time.

Weiß’ violin is a Matteo Goffriller from 1698, Schwabe’s cello a G. Guarneri, Cremona from 1695-97. The sound they produce is quite superb.

05 HopeatHomeRestricted to his Berlin apartment by the cultural and social lockdowns earlier this year, violinist Daniel Hope wondered if he could find a way to perform from home but with top-quality sound. With the support of the TV broadcaster ARTE he turned his living room into a high-tech television studio and scheduled a six-week series of online chamber concerts with specially invited guests.

The result was the Hope@Home livestream project, a series of recitals that was broadcast live on ARTE and on the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel, and from which the label has now released highlights as an album (483 9482 The pianist and composer Christoph Israel was involved from the start; he accompanies Hope on most of the tracks and also contributed several of the terrific arrangements. 

Every track is a live, single-take performance, with no editing. What strikes you first is the stunning sound quality. What strikes you second is Hope’s sumptuous playing – I’ve never heard him sound better. The 21 tracks include classical favourites like Schubert’s An die Musik, Fauré’s Après un rêve and Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and popular standards like Moon River, Summertime, Autumn Leaves, La vie en rose and Over the Rainbow.

It’s an absolute joy from start to finish.

06 City LightsYou may well have heard the opening track of City Lights, violinist Lisa Batiashvili’s new CD with conductor/pianist Nikoloz Rachveli on the classical radio channels, City memories – Chaplin offering sumptuous arrangements of two themes from Chaplin’s Limelight together with two from Modern Times, plus José Padilla Sánchez’s simply gorgeous La Violetera from City Lights. Batiashvili’s ravishing tone makes a captivating start to the disc, followed by a series of 11 special arrangements that offer multi-layered musical portraits of cities that are important to Batiashvili (Deutsche Grammophon 00289 483 8586 

Nothing else quite reaches the heights of that first track, but short pieces representing Munich, Paris (Michel Legrand’s Paris Violon), Berlin, Helsinki, Vienna (the Strauss Furioso Galopp), Rome (Morricone’s Theme from Cinema Paradiso), Buenos Aires, New York, London, Bucharest and Tbilisi offer plenty to enjoy. Guest artists include guitarist Miloš Karadaglić on the Buenos Aires track. Orchestral accompaniments are shared by the Rudfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and the Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Batiashvili says that “for more than two years we put all our energy, love and dedication into this project. It became my most personal journey.” Her commitment and involvement shine through on every track.

07 VivaldiYou can always count on violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja to come up with something different and interesting, and so it proves with her latest release What’s Next Vivaldi? with Il Giardino Armonico under Giovanni Antonini (ALPHA624 The CD interweaves ultra-virtuosic concertos by Vivaldi with short pieces by current composers mostly commissioned specifically for this program.

The five Vivaldi concertos are the Violin Concerto in E-flat Major “La tempesta di mare” Op.8 No.5 RV253 (complete with storm effects), the Violin Concerto in C Major RV191, the Concerto in E Minor for Four Violins and Strings from “L’estro armonico” Op.3 No.4 RV550, the extremely brief Concerto in G Minor for Strings RV157 and the Violin Concerto in D Major “Il Grosso Mogul” RV208, featuring some Kopatchinskaja improvisation in the slow movement and one of the very few extant cadenzas by Vivaldi in the finale – a long, unabridged and dazzling episode.

Kopatchinskaja describes this recording as inviting Vivaldi into a time laboratory and engaging him in a dialogue with today’s creative voices from Italy, the five younger Italian composers having been asked to react to Vivaldi’s music in miniatures. The short contemporary works are by Aureliano Cattaneo, Luca Francesconi, Simone Movio, Marco Stroppa and Giovanni Sollima. It’s an intriguing disc full of top-drawer playing.

08 Elgar StenhammarThe Estonian violinist Triin Ruubel is the soloist on Elgar Violin Concerto / Stenhammar Two Sentimental Romances with Neeme Järvi conducting the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (Sorel Classics SCCD016

There’s a rather unsettling sound to the Elgar at times, with the orchestra tending to sound a bit too distant and with the soloist sometimes seeming to be buried in the general orchestral texture. Still, Ruubel is clearly a fine player and Järvi a hugely experienced and highly respected conductor, and there are many really lovely and finely crafted moments in an excellent performance of a notoriously long and difficult work.

Stenhammar’s Two Sentimental Romances Op.28 – No.1 in A Major and No.2 in F Minor – are attractive and absolutely delightful pieces, with Ruubel clearly in her element with the Romantic nature of the music. It’s really lovely playing.

09 MobiliViolist Georgina Isabel Rossi, who was born and raised in Chile, and pianist Silvie Cheng are the duo on MOBILI: Music for Viola and Piano from Chile, a CD featuring world-premiere recordings of works by the Chilean composers Rafael Diaz, Carlos Botto, Federico Heinlein and David Cortés (New Focus Recordings FCR268 The only work previously recorded is the four-movement title track, Mobili Op.63 by Juan Orrego-Salas, who passed away at 100 just a few weeks before the CD was recorded, and to whose memory the album is dedicated.

The Diaz works are Will There Be Someone Whose Hands Can Sustain This Falling for amplified viola, and In the Depths of My Distance Your House Emerges for viola and piano. Botto’s Fantasia Op.15 from 1962 and Heinlein’s Duo “Do not go gentle” from 1985 are followed by Cortés’ Tololo, written in 2011 for viola and string orchestra and heard here in an arrangement for viola and piano by Miguel Farras. Carlos Guastavino’s really lovely El Sampedrino from 1968 is an extra track, not included in the booklet notes.

Fine playing of introspective and quite atmospheric music that really exploits the viola’s sonority to the full, results in an excellent CD.

Listen to 'MOBILI: Music for Viola and Piano from Chile' Now in the Listening Room

01 archlute theorboThe Filippo Dalla Casa Collection
Pablo Zapico; Daniel Zapico (archlute/theorbo duet)
Winter and Winter 910 258-2 (

Convention tells us that the theorbo and archlute were rivals of the newly emerging harpsichord before conceding defeat and disappearing. Enter Filippo Dalla Casa to dispel this illusion, for he compiled a two-volume collection of music for these two instruments dated 1759 and 1760 – several years after their supposed demise. (Even then it was not until 1811 that Dalla Casa donated his manuscript to a musical conservatory in Bologna.)

Full credit to Pablo and Daniel Zapico for playing 17 pieces from Dalla Casa’s manuscript plus an anonymous sinfonia. Their enthusiasm and skill show themselves in the very first Sonata, which has come down to us anonymously. This is a lively composition of the quality associated with the archlute’s earlier (and supposedly greater) days; it is followed by similarly demanding movements scored Allegro.

The anonymous composer of track 13 who composed the Largo, with its dignified cascading entrance, certainly deserves to be known to us. Contrast it with the spritely quality of Giuseppe Vaccari’s two Allegro movements. Dalla Casa only lists an author for seven of the tracks on this CD; even then they are almost unknown writers – but surely one more reason why this recording is important.  

This CD breaks down misconceptions. First, that the theorbo and archlute died out earlier than they did with the rise of the harpsichord. Secondly, that they were doomed to monotonous continuo parts. This CD proves otherwise.

02 Sainte ColombeMonsieur de Sainte-Colombe et ses filles
Lucile Boulanger; Rolf Lislevand; Myriam Rignol; Philippe Pierlot
Mirare MIR336 ( 

Other than being slightly aware that there had been a brief renaissance of the music of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe (Jean de Sainte- Colombe 1640-1700) during the 1990s, I knew little about the French composer and celebrated violist, prior to picking up this fine recording. I am glad that I did, however. Recorded beautifully in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in Nantes, the church’s gorgeous acoustics become a welcome fifth member of the consort of Philippe Pierlot, Lucile Boulanger and Myriam Rignol, all on viola de gamba, along with theorbist Rolf Lislevand, to faithfully recreate and capture the nuance and intimacy of this still-popular musical form. 

Listening to the 17th-century music of Sainte-Colombe, along with complementary pieces by Louis Couperin, Jacques Champion de Chambonnières and Robert de Visée during Lockdown 2020 can, I suppose, feel somewhat anachronistic, if not downright discordant from the realities that we are all dealing with on a daily basis. But if it is possible for you to do so, the opportunity to disconnect and to immerse yourself in the listening pleasure of this straight-forward, well-played and conversational music is there for you here. Perhaps most meaningfully, the realities of COVID-19 have forced many of us to potentially re-evaluate friendships, reconnect (or make amends), realizing that life is valuable and, sadly, short. Always, perhaps, but seeming to be particularly so during this time of widespread illness and loss. Accordingly, Sainte-Colombe’s Tombeau Les Regrets, performed beautifully here, offers an opportunity for listeners to contemplate and “meditate upon death,” allowing the Stoic edict Memento Mori (“remember that you will die”), to be not a morbid reality check, but rather to remind us all to love, live and listen, fully and completely. A valuable lesson to be sure, and one, perhaps, that the beauty of early music can teach us today.

03 Beethoven HewittBeethoven – Variations
Angela Hewitt
Hyperion CDA68346 (

2020 has certainly been a year like no other. And while social media informs me that many of us, while hibernating in lockdown, have turned to amateur immunology, sourdough baking and mask creation as a way of passing the time, the Canadian-born, beloved and highly fêted pianist, Angela Hewitt, turned her keen musical gaze during lockdown towards Beethoven’s colossal “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Op. 106, which she learned, thus completing her cycle of the composer’s 32 sonatas. Hewitt, renowned for her interpretations of the major keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach, for which she was, earlier this year, awarded the City of Leipzig Bach Medal – the first time in its history the award was bestowed upon a woman – continues her focus on LvB here, on this great new Hyperion recording, Beethoven Variations

Approaching the repertoire with the creative insight, scholarly rigour and wholly unique interpretative lens for which she is known, Hewitt once again reveals her singular ability to not only bridge, but illuminate Beethoven’s challenging musical passages (which she seems to traverse with effortless virtuosic ease) with the baked-in humour and sense of fun that perhaps few see, but which Hewitt neatly brings to the fore. As she writes about the album’s penultimate track, “God save the King” in her own terrifically penned liner notes that offer invaluable informative pedagogical insight into her artistic and pianistic process, “if ever you needed proof of humour in his music, here it is,” before launching into its deft contrapuntal workout. 

04 Schubert OctetSchubert – Octet
Quatuor Modigliani; Bruno Schneider; Sabine Meyer; Dag Jensen; Knut Erik Sundquist
Mirare MIR4438 (

When Schubert took on a commission request in 1824 to compose a piece similar to Beethoven’s Septet, he was in a vulnerable place in his life – his physical health was poor, he was experiencing bouts of depression and his music was not getting the recognition he was hoping for. Yet he wrote the largest-scale chamber music work of his opus and it did not reflect the intensity of his life at the time. The Octet is pure Schubert magic – full of abundant solo lines for each of the eight instruments, beautiful, elegant and uplifting. Although this piece has a similar instrumentation and basic structure to Beethoven’s Septet, perhaps Schubert’s biggest nod to Beethoven comes through the achievement of great creativity and layers of expression in the midst of suffering.

The Modigliani Quartet and their respective colleagues, Sabine Meyer (clarinet), Bruno Schneider (horn), Dag Jensen (bassoon) and Knut Erik Sundquist (double bass), take on this magical piece with an understated gusto. Almost an hour long and consisting of six movements, Schubert’s Octet requires unrelenting drive and imagination, both of which came through in the fabulous artistry of the ensemble. Their performance has a wonderful combination of intensity and lightness that kept me both relaxed and at the edge of my seat. This ensemble has enjoyable synergy that is most obvious in a unity and refinement of their interpretative ideas and sound.

05 MatanPorat CarnavalCarnaval – A recital around Schumann’s Carnaval Op.9
Matan Porat
Mirare MIR502D (

These are challenging times and what better way to help lift the pervading dark mood than a musical carnival – specifically Schumann’s Carnaval Op.9? The piece, completed in 1835, remains among the most beloved from the Romantic repertoire and, seemingly, would never warrant any degree of modification. Yet the Israeli-born pianist Matan Porat had other ideas, and the result is this splendid recording on the Mirare label, his third disc to date.

Porat acknowledged that while Carnaval is a quintessential document of Romanticism, he wanted to take a closer look at Schumann’s musical mind and expand upon the original score through the insertion of 23 additional short pieces by 18 composers as diverse as Heitor Villa-Lobos, François Couperin and György Kurtág. In so doing, Porat hoped it would not only shed light on music by other composers, but also inspire a greater appreciation for the original score.

And it works! Delivering a polished and elegant performance, Porat has clearly taken considerable care with the placement of the musical selections.  As an example, Schumann’s Pierrot is followed by Villa-Lobos’ A manha da Pierrette, written in the same coquettish mood. On the other hand, Kurtág’s Ostinato in A-flat, with its repeated bass notes, forms a fine introduction to Schumann’s Reconnaissance in the same key, which is followed by the  Prelude in C Minor from Bach’s first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier, and in turn, Pantolon and Columbine, all demonstrating the same frenetic energy.

Finally, after 43 tracks, what could be a better ending than the rousing Davidsbündler March, bringing the set to a most satisfying conclusion? Kudos to Porat, not only for an exemplary performance, but for his skillful reconfiguration of a much-loved piece – recommended.

06 Reawakened ClarinetReawakened – Clarinet Concertos
Robert Plane; BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Martyn Brabbins
Champs Hill Records CHRCD160 (

Three long-overlooked British clarinet concertos here receive their first-ever recordings, “reawakened” by Robert Plane, principal clarinet of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

For unspecified reasons, Richard H. Walthew (1872-1951) left his Concerto for Clarinet (1902) in manuscript, unorchestrated until recently completed by Alfie Pugh. Its opening movement resembles Richard Strauss’ “Mozartian” style; the Andante and Vivace partake, respectively, of Edwardian nobility and jollity. It’s a charming, cheerful work, well worth a listen.

Ruth Gipps (1921-1999) composed her Clarinet Concerto in G Minor, Op.9 in 1940, the year she began studying with Ralph Vaughan Williams. His influence pervades throughout: in the first movement, the clarinet seemingly extemporizes over an outdoorsy walking bass; the bucolic mood is sustained in the pastoral slow movement and the folk-dancy finale. It’s another attractive audience-pleaser.

What should have been recognized by now as a major contribution to the clarinet repertoire is the CD’s longest, most colourfully scored, most modern-sounding work – the 28-minute Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op.7 (1950) by Iain Hamilton (1922-2000). Propulsive, irregular, even jazzy rhythms contrast with long-lined, darkly melancholic lyricism, all calling for extreme virtuosity from the soloist, amply provided by Plane.

Another first recording ends the CD – Graham Parlett’s arrangement for clarinet and string orchestra of the warmly lyrical Fantasy Sonata (1943), originally for clarinet and piano, by John Ireland (1879-1962), a minor master deserving much greater exposure in North America.

Four fine works, exuberantly performed, making one truly pleasurable CD.

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