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Recordings Of The Year 2009

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Kirk McElhearn
I'm one of those people who buys lots of music. Whether on CD or by download (from iTunes, eMusic and others), I'm constantly adding to my music collection. But this year, I've been trying to restrain myself, and listen more to what I own. I've been setting aside discs and sets that I've listened to several times in a row, to immerse myself in the music more. While this has been somewhat successful - I've found a number of recordings that were in my "hmm, interesting" category that have moved up a notch - I've also bought a number of new discs and sets this year. I haven't, however, been reviewing much for MusicWeb, so the few recordings I'll mention here are ones that I bought for pleasure, rather than received for review. I should also mention, even though it's not exactly classical music (yet), I bought two box sets of the Grateful Dead's official releases and they were the best purchase I made this year.

Josef HAYDN Complete Piano Trios Haydn Trio Eisenstadt PHOENIX EDITION 161

With the Haydn year, I have been rediscovering this composer who I had often considered to have made "pretty music" but not much more. I discovered his piano trios, works that had not moved me in the past (when listening to the Beaux Arts Trio). I got - by download from Amazon - a budget set by the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt - which, on modern instruments, gives all three voices the attention they deserve. This set has convinced me that these are, indeed, some of Haydn's finest works.

Claude DEBUSSY String Quartet Maurice RAVEL String Quartet Gabriel FAURÉ String Quartet Quatuor Ebène rec. 2008 VIRGIN CLASSICS 5190452 

I don't usually pay attention to awards, but when this year's Gramophone awards came out, I bought this recording. I was very moved by this music - again, a section of the repertoire that I didn't know well - and by the wonderful playing by this young quartet.

Benjamin BRITTEN The Collector’s Edition EMI CLASSICS 2175262

Rob Barnett's review has incited me to spring for the big box (though I already have the four Britten Conducts Britten boxes) to get a better take on the composer who many consider the finest of the 20th century.

Rob Maynard
Richard STRAUSS Orchestral suites: Der Rosenkavalier, Die Frau ohne Schatten &
Buffalo PO/JoAnn Falletta rec. 2008 NAXOS 8.572041

Strauss’s lushly romantic scores will delight sweet-toothed listeners, especially in such intelligent and captivating interpretations. The very accomplished orchestra and its charismatic conductor are captured in exemplary sound.

Niccolò PAGANINI Violin concerto 1 Camille SAINT-SAËNS Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso Jules MASSENET Meditation Marius Patyra (violin) Sinfonia Varsovia/Johannes Wildner rec. 2004 DUX 0654

While competition in the concerto is fierce, Paganini Competition winner Patyra need fear no comparison. His alert and intelligent performances are further flattered by the state of the art sound provided by Dux’s engineering team.

Antonin DVORÁK Slavonic Dances, Carnival Overture
Czech PO/Václav Talich rec. 1935 NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111331

Talich’s pre-war Czech orchestra was one of the glories of European music making. These intensely idiomatic accounts are as enjoyable – and enlightening – today as when they were first recorded almost 75 years ago.

Gustav MAHLER Symphony 7 Czech RSO/Jirí Stárek rec. 2008 ARCODIVA UP01122131

The performers were evidently inspired by the opportunity to recreate, in the town where Mahler had grown up, the work’s premiere that had taken place exactly a hundred years to the day before. The sense of occasion is palpable and all involved, not least the veteran conductor who had studied under Talich, put everything they have into this glorious tribute.

Léon MINKUS Don Quixote Olesya Novikova, Leonid Sarafanov, Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Theatre O/Pavel Bubelnikov rec. 2006 DECCA 0743235

Carlos Acosta notwithstanding, Leonid Sarafanov is quite simply the most charismatic male dancer performing today. Minkus’s scintillating score and the Mariinsky’s supremely professional production values offer him the perfect showcase to wow both the St Petersburg theatre audience and viewers at home.

The Sleeping Beauty
Viviana Durante, Zoltán Solymosi, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House O/Barry Wordsworth rec. 1994 OPUS ARTE OAR3107D

Maria Björnson’s stunning designs enchant the eye and provide a glorious setting for the action on stage. Viviana Durante and Zoltán Solymosi are charismatic and engaging performers and are well supported by the rest of the Royal Ballet company. This DVD now heads a very competitive field.

Dan Morgan
Lakeuden Ristin urut Kalevi Kiviniemi (organ) rec. 2008/9 FUGA 9285

The little-known Finnish label Fuga has teamed up with organist Kalevi Kiviniemi to produce some of the finest organ recordings around. I have reviewed several of them, but this is far and away the best yet. Good programming, virtuosic playing and superb engineering make this my undisputed Recording of the Year.

Amy BEACH Piano Music Vol. 2: The Turn of the Century Kirsten Johnson (piano) rec. 2007/8 GUILD GMCD7329

It's always rewarding to discover little-known music of real quality, even more so when it's as beautifully played as this. There are two sharp intellects at work here, that of the composer and the pianist Kirsten Johnson, and together they produce music of astonishing range and subtlety. Guild's recording is warm, detailed and entirely natural, which makes this a must for all pianophiles.

Leonard BERNSTEIN Mass Randall Scarlata (baritone) Tonkünstler O Niederösterreich/ Kristjan Järvi rec. 2006 CHANDOS CHSA5070

At last, a modern take on Mass that eclipses the composer's own and sets new standards in this work. Conductor, bands and singers delve deep into this score, finding music of real strength and quality. But the palm really belongs to Randall Scarlata, who brings an operatic intensity to the role of The Celebrant. The Chandos recording is exemplary throughout.

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH The Nose Vladislav Sulimsky (baritone) Tatiana Kravtsova (soprano) Sergei Semishkur (tenor) Mariinsky Theatre Ch & O/Valery Gergiev rec. 2008 MARIINSKY MAR0501

It's been a good 12 months for SACDs - there are four on my list this year - with more and more labels opting for the high-res format. The Mariinsky Theatre is no exception, kicking off their new Shostakovich series with a riotous performance of The Nose. The highly variable Gergiev is on top form here, drawing fine singing and playing from his forces. A worthy companion to Rozhdestvensky's classic account and first-rate recording to boot.

Richard STRAUSS Four Last Songs & other orchestral songs Heather Harper (soprano) London SO/Richard Hickox rec. 1986/7 CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2283742

What a revelation this was, a Strauss collection from CfP that rivals the very best around. Heather Harper is wonderfully accomplished in these songs, encompassing their every mood and nuance. Even more impressive is the intuitive support of the late Richard Hickox and the LSO, who find so much nobility and radiance in these scores. Fine recording too, much better than many of EMI's more recent efforts.

American Spectrum Michael DAUGHERTY Sunset Strip John WILLIAMS Escapades Ned ROREM Lions Christopher ROUSE Friandises Branford Marsalis (saxophones) North Carolina SO/Grant Llewellyn rec. 2008 BIS BISSACD1644

An unexpected pleasure, this foot-tapping collection showcases the talents of both the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and sax supremo Branford Marsalis. BIS, already well-known for their innovative programming, have outdone themselves here; this is inspirational music-making, atmospherically recorded. Nice one, BIS!
Margarida Mota-Bull
Johann Sebastian BACH Cantatas 51, 82a & 199 Natalie Dessay (soprano) Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haïm rec. 2008 VIRGIN CLASSICS 5193142

Bach's beautiful music and Natalie Dessay’s fresh, crystalline singing: Perhaps an unlikely combination but this disc is a wonderful gem and a joy to discover! An accomplished work from a mature artist, wonderfully supported by conductor Haïm and Le Concert d'Astrée.

George Frideric HANDEL Alcina Joyce DiDonato (soprano) Maite Beaumont (soprano) Karina Gauvin (soprano) Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis rec. 2007 ARCHIV PRODUKTION 477 7374

A superb performance from American mezzo-soprano, Joyce DiDonato. She delivers the soprano title role as it if had been written especially for her, demonstrating an amazing range and a rich palette of colours; her interpretation is simultaneously bewitching and infuriating, gentle and vindictive but above all, her voice is simply luminous in its clarity, full of generosity and wamrth. This full length recording of Handel's opera is one to enjoy over and over again.

Guilhermina Suggia: Cellist Anita Mercier publ. 2008 ASHGATE 978-0-7546-6169-6

This is a beautifully written, lovingly compiled biography about one of the most fascinating female musicians of the first half of the 20th Century. Guilhermina Suggia was a Portuguese cellist of great artistry, a virtuoso of the instrument, a woman far ahead of her time and one of the most remarkable soloists of her generation. Any book about such an artist is welcome but Anita Mercier gives us more than just a book; this is a magnificent portrait of an unusual woman and a respectful tribute to a great artist.
Glyn Pursglove
Thomas TALLIS The Complete Works Chapelle du Roi/Alistair Dixon rec. 1996-2004 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 93612

This ten CD set offers an irresistible invitation (an invitation I have accepted repeatedly!) to explore the magnificent music of Tallis; the choral works are sublimely sung by the Chapelle du Roi and there are 2 CDs of instrumental music and songs. The whole is a delight!

John DOWLAND The Complete Solo Lute Music Jakob Lindberg (lute) rec. 1994 BIS BISSACD1724

Lovers of Dowland’s lute works (far more varied in mood and manner than the familiar tag of semper Dowland semper dolens – the composer’s own motto – might lead one to believe) have been very well served of late, with Nigel North’s fine series on Naxos and this reissue of Lindberg’s immaculate performances, which articulate both the playful and the melancholy in the music. Note that it is a true SACD disc, and as such, not playable on normal CD players.

Robert de VISÉE Pièces de théorbe Fred Jacobs (French theorbo) rec. 2007 METRONOME METCD1072

An exemplary selection of works, both original and arranged (from Lully) by the great French master of Louis XIV’s court. Fred Jacobs’ playing is masterly and his sense of the appropriate idiom thoroughly internalised; the theorbo on which he plays (made by Michael Lowe in 2004 and equipped with gut strings) has a gorgeous, and thoroughly appropriate, weight of sound, especially at the bottom end; the recorded sound is exemplary.

Dreams of Andalusia Joglaresa rec. 2000 METRONOME METCD1062

The voices of Naziha Azzouz and Belinda Sykes, supported by an instrumental ensemble which plays with both exactness and a quasi-improvisatory freedom, make for a thoroughly exhilarating fusion of Arabic, Hebrew and Christian musics (and texts) from medieval Spain.

Franz SCHUBERT Die Winterreise Mark Padmore (tenor) Paul Lewis (piano) rec. 2008 HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907484

Padmore responds with poetic sensitivity to both Wilhelm Müller’s words and Schubert’s exquisitely painful melodies, while Paul Lewis brings real pianistic imagination to his accompaniment. The two performers dovetail perfectly in a memorable performance which will surely join the select ranks of the finest recordings of the cycle.

Girolamo FRESCOBALDI Keyboard Music Martha Folts (harpsichord) rec. 2007 NAXOS 8.570717

A striking collection of work not published during Frescobaldi’s lifetime, played with well-judged freedom by Martha Folts; player and instrument alike (the latter made by Jerome de Zentis in Rome in 1658 and restored by Keith Hill) do justice to Frescobaldi’s brilliant and expressive work.
John Quinn
The recording industry seems to have defied the economic recession to give us during 2009 a stream of excellent new recordings and some wonderful archive issues also. Choosing a mere six recordings has been a challenge and at least three other candidates have missed the cut by the narrowest of margins. I’ve heard a lot of very fine singing on disc this year, some of it recognised below, but I’m particularly pleased that choirs composed of young singers feature in two of my choices, entirely on merit.

James MacMILLAN St. John Passion Christopher Maltman (baritone) London SCh & O/Sir Colin Davis rec. 2008 LSO LIVE LSO0671

Stunningly performed by Christopher Maltman, the LSO and its chorus and conducted masterfully by Sir Colin Davis, MacMillan’s new Passion setting is a formidable achievement. It may drain the listener but it also uplifts. This recording, which is my personal Recording of the Year, demands to be heard.

Johannes BRAHMS Eight Songs Robert SCHUMANN Four Lieder, Frauenliebe und –leben Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (mezzo) Julius Drake (piano) rec. live, 1999 WIGMORE HALL LIVE WHLIVE0024

A live 1999 recital provides another marvellous addition to the discography of the late lamented Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Her singing is superb and very communicative throughout the entire recital, culminating in a reading of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und –leben that is more than touched by greatness. An unforgettable disc.

Franz SCHUBERT Winterreise Mark Padmore (tenor); Paul Lewis (piano) rec. 2008 HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907484

This is a version of Winterreise that deserves to be ranked alongside the very best. Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis form a deeply satisfying partnership. Padmore’s singing and his understanding of the songs give consistent pleasure while Lewis’s playing is empathetic and insightful.

Johannes BRAHMS Alto Rhapsody, Symphony 2 & choral works Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto) Monteverdi Ch, O Révolutionnaire et Romantique/Sir John Eliot Gardiner rec. live, 2007 SOLI DEO GLORIA SDG703

The second instalment of Gardiner’s Brahms symphony cycle offers a provocative, perceptive and exciting reading of my own favourite among the four. The enjoyment is enhanced by the inclusion of some complementary choral music, including the Alto Rhapsody, in which Nathalie Stutzmann excels.

Sanctum est Verum Lumen - Multi-part Music for Choir National Youth Choir of Great Britain/Mike Brewer rec. 2006-8 DELPHIAN DCD34045

Issued to mark the National Youth Choir’s twenty-fifth anniversary, this sumptuous CD includes some wonderful multi-part choral pieces. Much of the music is quite remarkable and the singing is consistently superb. A magnificent CD that ravishes and stimulates the ear in equal measure.

Rodion SHCHEDRIN The Sealed Angel Ch Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge/ Geoffrey Webber, Ch King’s College, London/David Trendall, Clare Wills (oboe) rec. 2008 DELPHIAN DCD34067

This piece is my discovery of the year. The Sealed Angel is a work of great beauty and profundity. The music is firmly rooted in the Russian Orthodox tradition but Shchedrin adds a contemporary twist. These two student choirs give a committed and excellent performance and I found listening to this excellent recording a very moving experience.
Brian Reinhart
Leonard BERNSTEIN Mass Jubilant Sykes (baritone) Morgan State University Ch, Peabody Children’s Ch, Baltimore SO/Marin Alsop rec. 2008 NAXOS 8.559622-23

Without question my recording of the year; this is the kind of album we will be calling 'legendary' decades from now. The part of the Celebrant was destined for Jubilant Sykes, and Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony single-handedly rewrite our view of this controversial masterwork. Beyond spectacular.

Aram Il’yich KHACHATURIAN Cello Concerto, Concerto-Rhapsody Dmitry Yablonsky (cello) Russian PO/Maxim Fedotov rec. 2007 NAXOS DIGITAL 8.570463

The Khachaturian Cello Concerto kept me company over a long road trip this summer, and Yablonsky's is the best performance currently available. Digital download only; physical release will be in 2010.

Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY Symphonies 1 & 6 London PO/Vladimir Jurowski rec. 2008 LPO 0039

This set of live performances confirms Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic are a force of nature. The best Tchaikovsky First I've ever heard, and a great Sixth, in spectacular sound.

Christopher Thomas
The History of Brass Band Music Vol. 6: New Adventures Richard Marshall (trumpet) Grimethorpe Colliery Band/Elgar Howarth rec. 1977/2005 DOYEN DOYCD165

Since the loss of vinyl, Birtwistle’s iconic Grimethorpe Aria has remained unavailable on disc and at long last Decca’s original Headline recording is re-mastered and back in the catalogue, along with Hans Werner Henze’s wonderfully quirky Ragtimes and Habaneras. Throw in a brilliant new recording of the Derek Bourgeois Concerto No.1 and Chris Sansom’s eclectic Trumpet Concerto and the result is a vitally important disc, both historically and for the fact that these are amongst the most neglected works in the brass band catalogue. I can’t entirely agree with Rob Barnett that the disc is “beautifully recorded”. The re-mastering leaves something to be desired and the mix of vibrant new recordings against old is not entirely comfortable, but don’t let that prove off putting. There is terrific stuff on offer here.

William MATHIAS Choral Music Jonathan Vaughn (organ) Wells Cathedral Ch/ Matthew Owens rec. 2008 HYPERION CDA67740

William Mathias would have celebrated his 75th birthday in 2009, had his life not been cruelly cut short in 1992. This beautiful disc was a deserved Recording of the Month in July. There are other recordings of Mathias’s choral music around but in partnership with Hyperion, Matthew Owens and the Choir of Wells Cathedral here give sumptuous performances, ranging from the ethereal mystery of Ave Verum Corpus written shortly before the composer’s death, to the more substantial fare of the 1973 Missa Brevis.

Kenneth LEIGHTON Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Symphony 2, Te deum Laudamus Sarah Fox (soprano) BBC Ntl O & Ch Wales/Richard Hickox rec. 2007 CHANDOS CHAN10495

At long last, Kenneth Leighton’s powerful and emotional wrought Second Symphony “Sinfonia Mistica” enters the catalogue thanks to Chandos and the late Richard Hickox; how we shall miss him. The huge forces are handled with brilliance by Chandos and this is a towering performance from all concerned. The coupling of the Te Deum Laudamus is no less worthy of exploration.

Gustav HOLST Orchestral Works Vol. 1 - The Perfect Fool, The Golden Goose, The Lure, The Morning of the Year Joyful Company of Singers/Peter Broadbent, BBC Ntl O Wales/Richard Hickox rec. 2008 CHANDOS CHSA5069

The fact that this was the first in a projected series of discs of Holst’s orchestral music directed by Richard Hickox lends it an added poignancy, but that matter aside, the familiar Ballet Music from The Perfect Fool and the less familiar but equally engaging The Lure are accompanied by further Holst rarities in the form of the choral ballet’s The Morning of the Year and The Golden Goose; all to totally absorbing effect. Chandos is once again responsible for a glorious recording captured in Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Joyful Company of Singers in splendid form.
Simon Thompson
Johann Sebastian BACH Partitas Andras Schiff (piano) ECM 2001/2

Schiff’s second word on the Partitas carries them into an entirely different plane. This is Bach playing of the very highest order and should be on everyone’s desert island.

Giuseppe VERDI La Forza del Destino Violetta Urmana (soprano) Marcello Giordani (tenor) Ch & O Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta rec. live 2007 TDK DVWW-OPFORZA

Not everyone agrees with me, but I though this splendidly sung performance one of the finest Verdi performances of modern times. The production is solidly traditional but nothing gets in the way of the fantastic singing.

George Frideric HANDEL Alcina Joyce DiDonato (soprano) Maite Beaumont (soprano) Karina Gauvin (soprano) Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis rec. 2007 ARCHIV PRODUKTION 477 7374

For me by far the most satisfying release of the Handel anniversary year. Beautifully sung, compellingly conducted, it jumps immediately to the top of the recommendable list for this opera.
Johan van Veen
Pietro Antonio LOCATELLI Concerti grossi La Follia Barocca rec. 2006 VELUT LUNA RECORDS CVLD169

The many features of the performances by La Follia Barocca, like a logical choice of tempi, a clear articulation, a wide variety in the dynamic contrasts and a great clarity in sound, are all means to the end of revealing the many qualities of Locatelli's concertos.

Manuscrit Bauyn - Keyboard works by Couperin, Rossi, Froberger & Frescobaldi
Benjamin Alard (harpsichord) rec. 2008 HORTUS 065

The programme has been well put together: there is a clear coherence despite the variety in genres and styles. The playing by Benjamin Alard is most impressive, both technically and in regard to interpretation. He uses a splendid harpsichord and the programme has been well recorded.

Charles LEVENS Te Deum, Deus noster refugium l'Ensemble baroque Orfeo, Groupe Vocal Arpège, Les Passions/Michel Laplénie rec. 2007 ÉDITIONS HORTUS 060

The music of this hardly-known composer is highly original and in no way inferior to the music of more famous contemporaries. Despite some flaws in the interpretation this is a very interesting and captivating addition to the catalogue of French music.

Tomaso ALBINONI Sinfonie a cinque Ensemble 415/Chiara Banchini rec. 2008 ZIGZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT090202

These Sinfonie show Albinoni's great melodic invention; the slow movements are full of expression. Their qualities are underlined in the performances by the Ensemble 415 which are nothing less than brilliant. The players produce a warm and full sound and pay attention to every detail in the score.

Georg Philipp TELEMANN Kapitänsmusik 1724 & 1744 Telemannisches Collegium Michaelstein/Ludger Rémy, Weser-Renaissance Bremen/Manfred Cordes rec. 2005/8 CPO 777176-2 & 777390-2

Perhaps I'm slightly overstepping the bounds of six selections by combining these two recordings but there is nothing to choose here: both show Telemann at his very best and most inspired, with many splendid arias. Ludger Rémy and Manfred Cordes and their respective ensembles clearly were inspired too while performing and recording this music.

William RUSSELL Complete Organ Voluntaries John Kitchen (organ) rec. 2008 DELPHIAN DCD34062

Russell's organ music is historically very interesting and musically captivating. John Kitchen delivers excellent performances on a beautiful organ and the booklet is of the highest standard. In short: an exemplary production.
Raymond Walker
Edward GERMAN Tom Jones Marianne Hellgren Staykov, Richard Morrison, National Festival Ch & O/David Russell Hulme rec. 2008 NAXOS 8.660270-71

A brisk and bright reading of a work that should have been in the catalogue decades ago.

Julius BENEDICT Piano Concertos Walter MACFARREN Concertstück Tasmanian SO/Howard Shelley rec. 2008 HYPERION CDA67720

Another landmark in the Hyperion Piano Concerto series that gives us fresh face to neglected British music of the romantic era. Enjoyable listening coupled with delightfully playing.

Ermanno WOLF-FERRARI Orchestral Works Karen Geoghegan (bassoon) BBC PO/ Gianandrea Noseda rec. 2008 CHANDOS CHAN10511

A kaleidoscope of lovely pieces from a little known composer who is mainly remembered for his 'Jewels of the Madonna' theme. Played with feeling and emotion by a world-class orchestra under a knowledgeable conductor.
Patrick Waller
The NMC Songbook rec. 2008 NMC D150

An easy first choice, this set contains more than 100 songs specially commissioned to celebrate NMC’s 20th anniversary. Endless variety, endless pleasure!

Muriel HERBERT Songs Ailish Tynan (soprano) James Gilchrist (tenor) David Owen Norris (piano) rec. 2008 LINN CKD335

As John France said in his review, this music is a major discovery. I downloaded the recording as mp3 files and streamed across a wireless network to my Naim Uniti it sounds quite stunning. Full marks to all three performers, and to Linn.

Franz SCHUBERT Piano sonatas 16, 17 & 20, Klavierstucke Imogen Cooper (piano) AVIE AV2156

Imogen Cooper has recorded the late Schubert sonatas before but these new readings, atmospherically captured live by Avie, are more personal and very special indeed. Volume 2 has just been issued.

Joseph HAYDN The Complete Symphonies Austro-Hungarian Haydn O/Adam Fischer rec. 1989-2001 NIMBUS NI1722 (MP3 Edition)

These likeable Nimbus recordings, made at Esterhazy, are not new. What is innovative though is the approach of issuing such a large amount of music on CDs containing mp3 files. Furthermore they are encoded at the highest bit rate and offered at a very low price. I’ve played them in various ways and invariably the sound is excellent. These discs have been in my car for much of Haydn’s anniversary year and will be staying where they are come 2010.
Brian Wilson
The Golden Age of English Polyphony The Sixteen/Harry Christophers rec. 1982-1992 HYPERION CDS44401/10

This has to be the bargain of bargains – 10 CDs of wonderful music in superb performances and recordings, all at budget price. It beats even The Tallis Scholars’ wonderful Gimell reissue of the music of Flemish masters.

William BYRD Hodie Simon Petrus: Vol. 11 - The Cardinall’s Musick Byrd Edition The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood rec. 2007 HYPERION CDA67653

This recommendation also stands for Volume 10, which I reviewed concurrently with Volume 11, and for Volume 12 which I reviewed in download form in my October 2009 Download Roundup. I’m told there’s even better to come.

John DOWLAND Lute Music Vol. 4: The Queen’s Galliard Nigel North (lute) rec. 2007 NAXOS 8.570284

The recommendation is for the whole series, of which this forms the splendid conclusion.

George Frideric HANDEL Parnasso in Festa Diana Moore (mezzo) Carolyn Sampson (soprano) King’s Consort and Ch/Matthew Halls rec. 2008 HYPERION CDA67701/2

This premiere recording of an unjustly neglected work got Handel year off to a flying start; it joins a number of distinguished Handel oratorio and opera recordings which I’m currently featuring in my Download Roundups. It just pips the excellent new Linn recording of Acis and Galatea which I reviewed in the same month.

Howard FERGUSON Overture for an Occasion, Partita, Two Ballads, The Dream of the Rood Anne Dawson (soprano) Brian Rayner Cook (baritone) London SO & Ch/Richard Hickox rec. 1992 CHANDOS CHAN9082

Howard Ferguson has been my discovery of the year and this recording of Dream of the Rood led me to him. Though deleted on CD, it’s available as a good quality download.

Dance of the Three Legged Elephants Matthew Barley (cello) Julian Joseph (piano) rec. 2009 SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD171

This is my fun recording of the year – a wonderful collaboration between a classical cellist with an interest in jazz and a jazz pianist whose music I rate alongside Duke Ellington’s.

Jonathan Woolf

The Dawn of Recording: The Julius Block Cylinders MARSTON 53011-12

The Block cylinders were semi-legandary artefacts, that tantalised. Now they are an audio reality. The sequence begins in 1890 and includes performances by Arensky, Taneyev, Paul Juon and Leo Conus who play their own compositions. We also have examples of the playing of Paul Pabst and cellist Joseph Press as well as the Tchaikovsky trio played by Taneyev, Hrímalý and Brandukov, and performances by the boy Heifetz. Have I mentioned the snippet of Tchaikovsky talking? And I haven't even mentioned the singers!

York Bowen – The Complete Solo 78 rpm Recordings York Bowen (piano) rec. 1914-27 APR 6007

Another reclamation to have proved captivating is this double set of the recordings of York Bowen. He's been undergoing a Renaissance for quite a while but his playing, other than the Brahms Horn Trio which he recorded for NGS, has proved elusive. Here it is; the complete solo piano recordings and also the Beethoven G minor Concerto. It may be disappointing that he was never encouraged to record his own 'big stuff' but the range of other composers' works covered is happily broad. And terrific playing too.

Shura Cherkassky – The Complete HMV Stereo Recordings rec. 1956/8 FIRST HAND RECORDS FHR04

Seemingly out of nowhere First Hand Records digs out Cherkassky's HMV recordings, made in London in 1956 and '58. Added to this bounty we also have the experimental stereo tapes that were made at the time, but have never been released before. These scintillating performances show Cherkassky at his most vital and full of Golden Age charm and allure.
Leslie Wright
Encore, My Good Sir Lin Jiang (horn) Benjamin Martin (piano) rec. 2007 MELBA MR 301116

This impressive CD documents the outstanding talent of the young Australian horn player. The program is varied and demonstrates well the hornist’s versatility and virtuosity. Every French horn player, as well as fans of horn music, should hear it.

Jean SIBELIUS Night Ride and Sunrise, Pan and Echo, Belshazzar’s Feast Suite, Two Pieces for Orchestra, Kuolema New Zealand SO/Pietari Inkinen rec. 2007 NAXOS 8.570763

This superbly played and recorded disc of Sibelius orchestral music is a real bargain. The young conductor is a natural Sibelian and the selection is as varied as it is unusual. The Night Ride and Sunrise is especially fine, but the whole disc is terrific!

Shadows of Silence Witold LUTOSLAWSKI Piano Concerto György KURTÁG Játékok Marc-André DALBAVIE Piano Concerto Bent SØRENSEN The Shadows of Silence Leif Ove Andsnes (piano) Bayerischen RSO/Franz Welser-Möst rec. 2007 EMI CLASSICS 2641822

This disc is a wonderful way to showcase Leif Ove Andsnes’ pianistic talents in contemporary music. It is much more than just an exercise in virtuosity, though it takes a real virtuoso to make these at times knotty works sound as spontaneous as they do here. Perhaps not all of the works here are masterpieces, but the disc is worth the price alone for the Lutoslawski and the Kurtág.

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Violin Concertos 1 & 3, Sinfonia Concertante Renaud Capuçon (violin) Scottish CO/Louis Langrée rec. 2007 VIRGIN CLASSICS 5021122

Joyous performances of these Mozart Concertos and the great Sinfonia Concertante that draw attention to the composer’s genius rather than the soloists’ technical abilities. That is not to say the performances are not impressive in themselves. It is to be hoped that a second volume of Mozart concertos is in the offing.

Bohuslav MARTINŮ Cello concertos 1 & 2, Concertino Raphael Wallfisch (cello) Czech PO/Jirí Belohlávek rec. 1991 CHANDOS CHAN10547X

A most welcome mid-price reissue of what is arguably the best performances committed to disc of these works. The concertos and concertino do not deserve the neglect they have received, for they belong up there with greatest of their genre the twentieth-century had to offer.

Leonard BERNSTEIN Mass Jubilant Sykes (baritone) Morgan State University Ch, Peabody Children’s Ch, Baltimore SO/Marin Alsop rec. 2008 NAXOS 8.559622-23

The revival of Bernstein’s Mass in recent years is heartening, as the work was disparaged for a long time after its premiere. The work seems more timely than ever and this new recording may be the most exciting since the original one conducted by the composer. Jubilant Sykes as the Celebrant is particularly outstanding.
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Reviews from previous months
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