Home listening: Dvořák, Bach and sons, and at home with John Tomlinson

In our new column rounding up classical music on CD and online: Jerusalem Quartet and friends, three Magnificats from Arcangelo... and the Lancastrian bass on Radio 3

Jersusalem Quartet Dvorak String Quintet, String Sextet

• On the CD player as soon it arrived, this album of irresistible, larger scale chamber music – Dvořák’s String Quintet No 3, Op 97 and String Sextet, Op 48 – by the Jerusalem Quartet with Veronika Hagen (viola) and Gary Hoffman (cello) on Harmonia Mundi doesn’t disappoint. Each work bursts with wistful, catchy folk melodies and that subtle abundance of sound of, essentially, an enlarged string quartet. Dvořák composed Op 97 in 1893 in Spillville, Iowa, that small outpost of Bohemia where he also wrote the “American” Quartet.

The earlier Sextet, Op 48, with stylised “dumka” and “furiant”, is altogether more Slavonic in mood. Tender, melancholy yet jaunty, with a hint of Brahms, it deserves to be more widely known. The high-octane Jerusalem Quartet, Hagen and Hoffman keep textures clear and deliver fresh, sparkling performances.

Arcangelo: Bach Magnificats

• The title of Bach Magnificats by Arcangelo, conducted by Jonathan Cohen (Hyperion), puzzles until you realise that three examples of the text often known as the “canticle of Mary” are on offer: the famous version by JS Bach, and one each by his sons: in concise, early “Mozartian” style by JC Bach, and at exuberant, fizzing length by CPE Bach. Cohen drives uplifting, beautifully phrased performances, with crisp playing and, a few strained top notes aside, fine singing from Arcangelo. Even if you already have JS Bach’s Magnificat on disc, you’ll discover you need this too.

• The London Sinfonietta, founded in 1968 to “make new music”, has commissioned more than 400 works. It’s still ahead of the game as one of the world’s leading contemporary music ensembles. Its 50th anniversary concert, including Stravinsky and Ligeti, plus premieres by Deborah Pritchard, Samantha Fernando and more, will be broadcast live at 7.30pm on Wednesday from the Royal Festival Hall, presented by Sara Mohr-Pietsch. Radio 3/iPlayer.

• Ten days left to catch Sean Rafferty at Home (Radio 3 iPlayer) with the great bass John Tomlinson, Lancashire-born but resident in Sussex since his early days in the Glyndebourne chorus. He talks Handel, Wagner, Gilbert and Sullivan, maths, weak tea, cars, finding high notes, walking in the South Downs, woodwork, and making willow baskets with his wife. Endless pleasure.

John Tomlinson
At home, and on iPlayer… John Tomlinson. Photograph: Alamy

Contributor

Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

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