Warwick Arnold

Warwick Arnold

Articles by Warwick Arnold

July 25, 2013
CD and Other Review

Review: Dvořák, Smetana: String Quartets (Tokyo String Quartet)

  After 45 years of service, performing up to 100 concerts a year and amassing an extensive discography, the senior members of this renowned group have decided to call it a day and retire. While this valedictory release (it was recorded in 2006) seems a predictable choice with two much- loved if well-worn warhorses, it is a warm, hearted farewell that encapsulates all the virtues that have led to the group’s legendary status: unanimity of ensemble and articulation, perfect intonation and a sumptuous tonal blend second to none thanks to their four Stradivarius instruments (“The Paganini Quartet”). To expect great revelations here would be to miss the point; these performances are wise and profound, finding exactly the right tempo for every movement, rubato applied so naturally as to seem inevitable, the phrasing idiomatic and unexaggerated. They achieve that elusive goal of a great performance – the sense that it couldn’t be played any other way. Listen to the first movement of the Dvorák and marvel at the control of sonority and balance as they relax into the second subject, the tonal change registering as a warm glow of autumnal colour, or to the unforced impetus of the finale as the…

May 23, 2013
CD and Other Review

Review: Hildegard: Vespers for St Hildegard (Sinfonye)

Academic and composer Stevie Wishart has edited and recorded the complete works of the recently beatified 12th-century mystic and composer Abbess Hildegard of Bingen over the last 20 years. She collaborates here with electronica producer Guy Sigsworth on a “creative re-imagining of a choral evensong”. Released with an eye on the crossover/new age audience, the disc may make purists recoil in horror but Wishart has never been afraid to allow some creative license in her interpretation of the melismatic neumes. Most of the content of this album features unadorned monodic chant performed by the six pure but characterful voices of Sinfonye, interspersed with Wishart’s tasteful reworkings “alio modo” (another way). One of Wishart’s original compositions, a particularly impressive polyphonic setting of the Magnificat, turns out to be the highlight of the disc, showing off the expressive range of the ensemble to better effect than the restrained chanting nun material surrounding it – indeed, I wished for more of this sort of polyphonic elaboration throughout. Some of the instrumental contributions come perilously close to 1970s folk/rock doodlings. And beware of two tracks where the producer has been allowed his head; Azeruz and ZuuenZ – generic ambient electronic soundscapes more appropriate for…