Recordings Of The Year 2010
on cover image to read the full review.
DELIBES Coppélia Ludwig
MINKUS Don Quixote
Théâtre Ntl l’Opera Paris O/Jean-Baptiste
Mari, Elizabethan Trust Melbourne O/John Lanchberry rec. 1972/7
Jean-Baptiste Mari’s idiomatic reading
of Delibes’s much-loved score, sumptuously recorded,
trumps the competition and sets the feet tapping. The Minkus
highlights are performed with little distinction but the superb
Coppélia alone justifies the purchase of this double
Sylvia, La Source Ludwig
MINKUS Paquita pas de six
Théâtre Ntl l’Opera Paris O/Jean-Baptiste
Mari, Royal Opera House O/Sir Charles Mackerras, Sydney SO/John
Lanchberry (Minkus) rec. 1956-83
EMI CLASSICS 9677162
Audiences at the Royal Opera House, Covent
Garden, have delighted in recent revivals of Sir Frederick
Ashton’s production of Sylvia. Mari demonstrates a mastery
of its darker hues to match his outstanding Coppélia
(see above) while Sir Charles Mackerras offers a convincing
reminder of the quality of Delibes’s contribution to
Symphony 1, Isle of the Dead
Moscow State SO/Pavel Kogan rec. 1990
Part of a superb cycle of Rachmaninoff’s
symphonies, this performance demonstrates Kogan’s skillful
ability to tease out felicitous detail in a superficially
rather dense score. An equally impressive account of Isle
of the Dead gives the Moscow orchestra even more of an opportunity
to demonstrate its musicality and virtuosity. At its highly
attractive price, this is an unmissable bargain.
Thaïs Renée Fleming,
Thomas Hampson, Metropolitan Opera O, Ch & Ballet/Jesus
López Cobos rec. 2008 DECCA 0743355
After a rather slow and dour opening scene,
Massenet’s score gathers pace and it is rapidly apparent
that there is far more to it than just the ubiquitous Méditation.
Fleming and Hampson had already recorded Thaïs on CD
before this New York performance was filmed and, utterly at
home in their roles, more than justify their superstar status.
Cavalleria Rusticana Ruggero
LEONCAVALLO I Pagliacci
José Cura, Paoletta Marrocu, Fiorenza Cedolins, Zurich
Opera House Ch & O/Stefano Ranzani rec. 2009 ARTHAUS
Striking performances of opera’s Siamese
twins, with Cura in superb voice whether as love rat (Cav)
or deluded drunkard (Pag). Both his leading ladies give as
good as they get, both vocally and dramatically, and the supporting
roles are also well filled. These filmed performances more
than hold their own in a very competitive field.
Symphonies 4 & 7 Munich PO/Christian
Thielemann rec. 2006/8 UNITEL CLASSICA/C MAJOR 701908
Filmed live at Baden-Baden, these two performances
demonstrate Thielemann’s intensity and skill at communicating
effectively with his players. On the basis of these filmed
live concerts, one can see why his admirers rate him the leading
Brucknerian of his generation. The interpretation of the fourth
symphony is especially involving, but both it and the seventh
demonstrate the Munich players’ empathy with the music,
technical abilities and sheer artistry.
just six recordings from a good crop is difficult enough,
but when it’s a bumper one it’s well-nigh impossible.
Reluctantly discarded in the final round were: Sibelius’s
complete organ works, played by Kalevi Kiviniemi (Fuga); Between
Life and Death, a compendium of Romantic songs from Christoph
Prégardien (Challenge); Mahler’s First Symphony
from Klaus Tennstedt (BBC Legends); Shostakovich’s Fourth
from Mark Wigglesworth (BIS); Casella’s Second from
Francesco La Vecchia (Naxos); Dmitri Kitaienko’s Manfred
(Oehms); and Marc-André Hamelin’s 12 Études
in all the minor keys (Hyperion). Of special merit was the
24bit/96kHz Chandos download of Casella’s Second Symphony,
with Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic, which finally
opened my eyes – and ears – to the virtues of
high-res downloads. Especially pleasing, though, is the growing
number of SACDs in the catalogue; indeed, they make up five
of my six picks for 2010.
GOLIJOV La Pasión según San Marcos
Cantorum de Venezuela, Orquesta La Pasión, Simón
Bolívar Youth O Venezuela/María Guinand, Robert
Spano rec. 2007/8
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4777461
This is a work of great originality and power,
the Passion relived through the rhythms of South America and
retold with the authentic accents of its streets. Behind the
carnival mask is a profoundly moving narrative, superbly sung,
played, acted and recorded. Even more compelling is DG’s
bonus DVD of a live performance from the 2008 Holland Festival.
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony 11 Netherlands Radio
PO/Mark Wigglesworth rec. 2006 BIS
Mark Wigglesworth’s Shostakovich cycle
just gets better and better. After a searing Fourth comes
this equally intense Eleventh. Spacious, insightful and ultimately
overwhelming, this performance is also very well recorded.
MAHLER Symphony 2
Bayerische Symphoniker Ch, Bamberger Symphoniker & Bayerische
Staatsphilharmonie/Jonathan Nott rec. 2008
This first of two centenary years has produced
a mix roster of Mahler recordings, but Jonathan Nott’s
Bamberg ‘Resurrection’ is the pick of the bunch.
It’s taut, well-shaped and superbly recorded. A must-have
for all Mahlerians.
Works by Britten, Patterson, Byrnes, Yun & Takemitsu
Meijer (harp) rec. 2009
Lavinia Meijer is a prodigious talent, yet
her virtuosity is never paraded at the expense of the music.
This well-chosen programme, which demonstrates the harp’s
astonishing range and versatility, is a joy from start to
finish. The recording is rather special too, setting new standards
for this repertoire.
NØRGÅRD Der göttliche Tivoli
(The Divine Circus)
Hoptiquaxes/Dorian Keilhack rec. 2008
Schizoid fantasies don’t come weirder
or more whimsical than this. A celebration of ‘outsider
art’, The Divine Circus dips into the double world of
Swiss artist and asylum inmate Adolf Wolfli. It’s a
richly rewarding work, presented by a small band of singer/dancers
and percussionists. Oddly life-affirming; top-notch performance
STRAUSS Eine Alpensinfonie
London SO/Bernard Haitink rec. 2008
I nominated Kent Nagano’s DVD of this
symphony as one of my picks for 2007. That’s a virtuoso
performance, headstrong and fraught with risk; Haitink is
altogether loftier and more considered, but no less thrilling.
He scales this peak with an ease born of long experience,
the LSO hurdling each obstacle with equal aplomb. One of this
label’s most sumptuous SACDs, and a fine tribute to
a distinguished Straussian.
This was the year where I
went for the mezzos, after giving my favourite list of CDs
a lot of thought. Initially, I had also included Renée
Fleming's "Verismo" and Jonas Kaufmann's "Verismo
Arias" but, in the end, I dropped both for Joyce DiDonato's
award winning Rossini recital and Elina Garanca in the role
of Carmen. To be honest, I am not a great fan of Verismo and
excellent though Fleming's and Kaufmann's offers are, personally,
the performances of these two outstanding mezzos, listed below,
really tower above the rest.
ROSSINI Colbran the Muse
(mezzo) Ch & O Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome/Edoardo
Müller rec. 2009
VIRGIN CLASSICS 6945790
For me, the record of the year! A superb
recital of arias from operas that Rossini composed specifically
for Isabella Colbran, his first wife. It is one of those rare
CDs where everything is exactly right. DiDonato's singing
is as beautiful as it is accomplished. From the sparkling
coloratura to the delicate legato lines, she makes us think
that Rossini wrote the pieces for her and not Colbran. Glorious
from beginning to end! A CD to listen to over and over and
Elina Garanca (mezzo) Roberto Alagna (tenor) Teddy Tahu Rhodes
(bass-baritone) Metropolitan Opera Ch, O & Ballet/Yannick
Nézet-Séguin rec. 2010
Superb production from the Met and personally,
the best Carmen I have ever seen. Garanca is supreme in the
title role: Seductive, sexy, moving, dark and with a fabulous
voice. What an incredible mezzo! What a splendid performance!
I wouldn’t want to
claim that any of the recordings I have chosen constitute
landmarks in the history of recorded music. What I would claim
– from experience – is that they are all of them
recordings that enticed and stimulated at first hearing and
have gone on to reward repeated listenings way beyond the
professional necessities of reviewing. I am confident that
I shall still be listening to all of them come the end of
GUERAU & José
Laberintos Ingeniosos rec. 2007
ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT090301
Songs and guitar music full of the pains
and ecstasies of seventeenth century Spain, equally full of
the weight of experience and of the lightness of musical invention.
Wolfgang Koch (baritone) Frankfurter Museums O/Sebastian Weigle
OEHMS CLASSICS OC921
That rare thing – an operatic version
of one of Shakespeare’s tragedies that doesn’t
sound reductive or trivial. As fierce and challenging as Shakespeare’s
play, Reimann’s music is just as ‘uncomfortable’
(i.e. devoid of easy or illusory comfort) as Shakespeare’s
text is. Wolfgang Koch is outstanding as Lear (and escapes
from the shadow of Fischer-Dieskau’s original interpretation
of the role), Martin Wölfel indelibly memorable as Edgar.
Ainho Arteta (soprano)
Ch & O Deutsche Oper Berlin/Miguel Angel Gómez
A live recording of the 2006 premiere of
a work its composer describes as a ‘Cantata-Fantasy
for a Knight in Love’; it is based on poems by Carlos
Murciano derived – of course – from Don Quixote.
Ainhoa Arteta is an entrancing Dulcinea and Arutjun Kotchinian
an heroically bewildered Don Quixote. Humorous, profound and
beautiful by turns (and frequently more than one of these
at any one moment).
& Giulio CACCINI
O vive rose and other songs
Shannon Mercer (soprano) Luc Beauséjour (hpsd, org)
Sylvain Bergeron (gtr, theorbo), Amanda Keesmaat (cello) rec.
The Canadian soprano Shannon Mercer proves
an outstanding interpreter of the songs of Francesca Caccini,
attentive to musical and textual aspects alike, without ever
becoming bogged down in mere detail. The instrumental support
she gets from her colleagues complements her work perfectly
and the whole is a consistent delight.
- Italian baroque arias
Petibon (soprano) Venice Baroque O/Andrea Marcon rec. 2009
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8763
Singing arias by Sartorio, Stradela, Handel,
Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Porpora & Marcello, Patricia Petibon
dazzles and delights; the voice has enormous range and the
control of tone is impeccable. The coloratura runs are mesmerising.
But all is in the service, it seems, of a psychological and
dramatic imagination, a power of emotional empathy, that makes
the listener ‘believe’ immediately (and lastingly).
There have been more than a few good recital discs of baroque
arias in recent years; I am not sure that I have heard one
to top this.
This has been an extraordinarily
rich year with many fine recordings either coming my way for
review or receiving appraisals from colleagues that have tempted
me into buying. With some difficulty I whittled down what
I regarded as the best recordings to a short list of twelve.
Further culling then accounted for The Prince Consort in songs
by Ned Rorem; Haitink’s Chicago recording of Ein Heldenleben;
James MacMillan’s The Sacrifice; and, most regretfully
of all, Sir Mark Elder’s recent very fine account of
Elgar’s The Kingdom.
RACHMANINOV Symphonic Dances, The Isle of the Dead,
The Rock Royal
Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2008/9
Several excellent recordings of Russian music
by this team have come my way during the year but this superb
Avie disc is head and shoulders above them all. The recording
itself is in the demonstration class and reports idiomatic
and highly impressive readings of these thrilling scores.
The RLPO’s playing is out of the top drawer and their
gifted conductor directs them with passion but always maintains
firm control. An exceptional disc in every way.
Van BEETHOVEN The Complete Piano Concertos
Paul Lewis (piano) BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jirí
Belohlávek rec. 2009
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 902053.55
Paul Lewis follows up his widely admired
cycle of the Beethoven piano sonatas with a notable set of
the piano concertos. Throughout all five works Lewis offers
playing that’s at the very highest level of accomplishment
and he’s fully in tune with Beethoven’s idiom
and style. Some critics felt that when he played the cycle
with a variety of orchestras and conductors at the 2010 Henry
Wood Promenade Concerts he got better support than Jirí
Belohlávek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra provide on
these discs but I found their contribution to be fully satisfactory.
This is a notable set from a distinguished Beethoven pianist.
by Schubert, Faure, Ravel & Poulenc
Simon Keenlyside (baritone) Malcolm Martineau (piano)
WIGMORE HALL LIVE WHLIVE0031
This disc perpetuates a magnificent 2008
live recital from the Wigmore Hall. Keenlyside is hugely impressive
in groups by Schubert and Wolf. He then proves himself to
be equally accomplished in mélodies by Fauré
and Ravel, finishing with a memorable Poulenc encore. Malcolm
Martineau’s pianism is a delight. No lover of fine singing
should miss this exceptional recital disc.
MAHLER Symphony 2
Yvonne Kenny (soprano) Jard van Nes (mezzo) London
PO & Ch/Klaus Tennstedt rec. 1989
LPO LIVE LPO0044
This 1989 live performance of Mahler’s
‘Resurrection’ Symphony shows Klaus Tennstedt
at his visionary best. His inspired conducting draws a performance
of shattering intensity from the LPO and the singers. Some
of the tempi are very broad but this is a great interpretation
caught, unrepeatably, on the wing. During this immense performance
we find Tennstedt working in a white-hot interpretative crucible.
This isn’t a safe library choice but it’s a great
BEDNALL Requiem and other choral works
Chamber Choir of St, Mary’s, Calne/Edward Whiting
David Bednall (organ) Philip Dukes (viola) rec. 2009
This is my Discovery of the Year. I described
this 55-minute Requiem by the young British composer, David
Bednall as “one of the most beautiful, imaginative and
moving pieces of modern choral music that I have heard for
quite some time.” I haven’t changed my mind. It’s
beautifully performed by the Chamber Choir of St, Mary’s
School, Calne. Bednall’s imaginative use of a solo viola
works really well and he himself plays the organ part magnificently.
This is a very significant addition to the choral repertoire
and its first recording is a notable event.
natus est - Tudor Music for Advent and Christmas
Antico rec. 2010
Right at the end of the year I encountered
this luminous disc of Tudor polyphony for Advent and Christmas.
This 12-strong group of young British singers perform without
a conductor but their performances are superbly disciplined.
The disc includes wonderful performances of music by Byrd,
Tallis and Sheppard and all the singing is deeply impressive.
Since the music itself is of the highest possible quality
this superb disc should give great pleasure this Christmas
– and throughout the year.
Metropolis Ens/Andrew Cyr
Is it hyperbole to call this my favorite
disc of music by a living composer? No, because I play it
more often, and enjoy it more happily, than any other. Avner
Dorman's concertos are a winning combination of modern, "neo-baroque,"
jazz, and folk idioms which never sounds forced or weird,
and they are written with those rarest of compositional gifts:
grace and wit. I particularly love the piccolo concerto and
the homage-to-Ravel slow movement of the piano concerto. In
a decidedly humorless new-music climate, Dorman is a breath
of fresh air. Outstanding performances, too.
The Water Goblin,
The Noon Witch,
The Golden Spinning Wheel,
The Wild Dove
Czech PO/Sir Charles Mackerras
These are outstanding, maybe definitive
recordings of Dvorak's late fantasies, "The Golden Spinning-Wheel"
getting especially exciting treatment. At the end of my review,
I wrote that Charles Mackerras was "an 85-year-old conductor
who shows no sign of ceasing to be one of the greatest classical
artists of our era." Sadly, MusicWeb had to publish his
obituary only a few weeks later. This disc (along with the
Mozart symphonies album which also came out in 2010) is a
fitting tribute to the long, insightful career of one of the
best musicians of our time.
by Grofé: Symphonic Jazz
Rhapsody in Blue, I Got Rhythm Variations
& other works
Lincoln Mayorga (piano) Al Gallodoro (clarinet/bass
Harmonie Ens/Steven Richman
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU907492
I am afraid my full review exhibited the
kind of naked enthusiasm that a colleague calls "tail-wagging."
What can I say? This was hands-down my favorite CD of 2010,
an utter joy of an album with stomping rhythms and dazzling
solos, a pristine Rhapsody in Blue, the atmosphere of Saturday
night in the local jazz club, and great contributions by Al
Gallodoro, a 93-year-old clarinetist and saxophonist who first
played the Rhapsody clarinet slide in Gershwin's lifetime.
If you like Gershwin, or if you have ever heard of Gershwin,
or if you have ever even had fun, this disc is for you.
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony 10
Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2009
Just released, and an instant classic. The
deep, rich, vibrant, clear sound quality is enough to make
this reading a must-have, but Vasily Petrenko's ingenious
direction and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic's world-class
playing forced me to make this Tenth a last-second addition
to my Recordings of the Year. Listen for special moments like
the swooping violin portamenti at 00:26 in the scherzo, the
spunkily klezmer-influenced clarinet solo at the start of
the allegretto, or Petrenko's superb balancing of orchestral
sections in the last four bars. Perfect!
of Beyond - Late and last piano works by Liszt, Brahms,
Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Debussy & Schumann
Edward Rosser (piano) rec. 2007
CONNOISSEUR SOCIETY CD4260
Sadly this intelligently programmed and
played recital is already becoming hard to find. But try to
seek it out: Edward Rosser's tone and light touch make for
beautiful renderings of Schubert, Debussy, and others, and
his knowledge of the repertoire guarantees that the recital
bypasses all the usual "romantic piano" hits. His
liner notes are an unusually fascinating companion, as well,
explaining the thesis behind his selections from famous composers'
last works. Piano recitals like this simply do not come along
very often, and this does not deserve the obscurity to which
it seems fated.
MAHLER Complete symphonies
Royal Concertgebouw O, New York PO, Vienna PO/ Leonard
Bernstein rec. 1974-88
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4778668
It’s a reissue, but it’s a glorious
one and one of the most important Mahler sets of all time.
Blistering performances at a budget price, whatever your view
of Mahler Bernstein demands to be heard.
Amadeus MOZART Symphonies 29, 31, 32, 35 & 36
Charles Mackerras rec. 2009
Mackerras’ final recording with the
SCO is one of their best, following up on his equally fantastic
recording of Mozart’s final symphonies. Bursting with
life and rigour, it sets the seal on an excellent legacy from
a much missed conductor.
Jennifer Wilson, Lance Ryan, O de la Comunitat Valenciana/Zubin
Mehta rec. 2008
UNITEL CLASSICA 701108
I choose this as a symbol for the whole of
the Valencia Ring, the best DVD cycle to come our way since
Copenhagen. It’s a production that skilfully combines
21st Century video technology with the ancient myths that
inspired the composer. With first rate singing and outstanding
orchestral playing, it’s a Ring to treasure, marred
only by some infuriatingly fragmented camera work at times.
Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Harteros, Ch & O Bayerische Staatsoper/Kent
Nagano rec. 2009
The second great Wagner DVD of 2010 was,
if anything, even more successful, though it’s a much
more radical production. Not everyone loves it, but I was
utterly convinced, and Kaufmann and Harteros are absolutely
Jess Thomas, Elisabeth Grümmer, Christa Ludwig, Dietrich
Fischer-Dieskau. Vienna PO/Rudolf Kempe rec. 1962-3
EMI CLASSICS 4564652
The reappearance of Kempe’s classic
Lohengrin is a good complement to Kaufmann’s DVD. Excellent
singing, fabulous conducting and an orchestral performance
that has never been beaten. Good to have it cheaper and in
less packaging too.
Anna Netrebko, Joyce DiDonato, Ch & O Accademia Nazionale
di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano rec. 2010
EMI CLASSICS 6405292
A full-blooded, take-no-prisoners approach
to Rossini's sacred masterwork that burns with Italian passion
from beginning to exhilarating end. A top-notch quartet of
soloists seals the deal.
It isn't that easy to pick
and choose the records of the year. At first I thought there
weren't enough to choose, but when I looked into the reviews
I have written myself I ended up with about 10 discs which
could become record of the year. Some were then excluded for
various reasons, for instance because the booklet didn't contain
English translations of the Italian lyrics (Cantate Contarini
- Enchiriadis EN2027). No musical reason, but this really
spoils the enjoyment for listeners who don't understand Italian
- and I assume most readers of this site don't. Zelenka's
Missa Votiva (Carus 83223) was recording of the month in October,
but I dropped it for the yearly list because of the less than
ideal contributions of the bass soloist. So here is my list
of discs which passed the test.
Nele Gramß, Johanna Winkel, Kölner Kammerchor,
Collegium Cartusianum/Peter Neumann rec. 2009
Not one of Handel's best-known compositions;
there are very few recordings, and that makes the Carus recording
all the more worthwhile. It is a performance which sets a
standard that will be difficult to surpass. There is an impressive
coherence between soloists, choir and orchestra - it is a
performance without a weak link. A highly important addition
to the catalogue of Passion music.
Gott ihr Christen allzugleich - Baroque bass cantatas
by Kegel, Wolff, Roemhildt, Hoffmann, Donati &
Klaus Mertens (bass-baritone) Accademia Daniel/Shalev Ad-El
Seven cantatas by composers from the German
baroque; none of them has been recorded before. With one exception,
the composers don't even appear in music encyclopedias. But
the music is really good, and is given immaculate performances
by Klaus Mertens and the Accademia Daniel. A disc for curious
Voce di Orfeo
Furio Zanasi (baritone) Giulio Casati (narrator)
La Chimera/Eduardo Egüez rec. 2009
This is definitely one of the best discs
with early 17th-century Italian music I have ever heard. The
ideal of the time - 'recitar cantando' or speech-like singing
- is practised here to the full. Furio Zanasi is simply brilliant
in his exploration of the 'affetti' of the various pieces
by Monteverdi and his contemporaries. Not to be missed by
anyone who likes this kind of music and a model to follow
for Zanasi's colleagues.
Mystery of Sign. Mouthon
Concerti à 5
Ars Antiqua Austria/Gunar Letzbor rec. 2009
CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72336
The mystery in the title of this disc refers
to the identity of the composer. It can hardly be the French
composer of lute music. It is probably some Austrian composer
we have never heard of before. These Concerti are very good
stuff and an important addition to the catalogue. Ars Antiqua
Austria delivers brilliant performances, technically and stylistically.
A disc to treasure.
GRAUPNER Orchestral Works - Vol. 3
Nova Stravaganza/Siegbert Rampe rec. 2004/9
There is a growing interest in the music
of Christoph Graupner, one of the greatest composers of Germany
in Bach's time. He is very much a man of his own, whose style
is hardly comparable to anything which was written in his
time. This disc contains a canon, two sonatas with flute and
an overture with recorder. It is all highly original music,
beautifully played by Nova Stravaganza. This disc offers an
excellent opportunity to get acquainted with Graupner's music.
GIUSTINI Sonate da Cimbalo di
piano e forte
Wolfgang Brunner (fortepiano) rec. 2009
This disc is interesting in every respect.
Wolfgang Brunner plays the copy of a Cristofori, one of the
earliest fortepianos ever built, and performs sonatas which
were specifically written for it. Instrument, music and performer
fit like a glove. This disc is a musical and historical document,
and a worthy tribute to a man who with his invention of the
'gravicembalo col piano e forte' changed the course of music
BYRD Infelix ego: The Byrd Edition - Vol. 13
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood rec.
More than half of what I review is of downloads
and it’s one of these that I choose first this year:
the final volume of a distinguished set, which I reviewed
in my February 2010 Download Roundup. Michael Greenhalgh also
made it a Recording of the Month (and Year). Don’t overlook
the earlier volumes, including those made by ASV before Hyperion
took over: Volume 6, Music for Holy Week and Easter (CDGAU214)
was my Download of the Month for November 2010.
MAHLER Symphony 8
City Birmingham SO/Simon Rattle rec. 2004
Simon Rattle’s Mahler has not been
without controversy, but the second reissue in such a short
time of his recording of the Eighth Symphony, made while he
was still with the CBSO is a winner, running neck and neck
with Solti on Decca. Fine though the ADD Decca still sounds,
EMI’s digital recording copes even better with the large-scale
Music in the Renaissance Vol. I
Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips rec. 1980-89
More early music and another reissue, celebrating
the 30th anniversary of Gimell’s recordings of the Tallis
Scholars, four bargain discs, reviewed in my November 2010
Download Roundup. John Quinn was equally enthusiastic about
the CDs. Volumes 2 and 3 (GIMBX302 and 303) feature in my
December Roundup. Hyperion have also offered us some fine
reissues of late medieval and renaissance music this year,
but the Gimell box must have the honour.
Amadeus MOZART Symphonies 29, 31, 32, 35 & 36
Charles Mackerras rec. 2009
Linn have given us a superb follow-up to
their earlier Mackerras set of Mozart’s last symphonies,
from 2009. Sadly, he won’t now fill some of the remaining
gaps, but his new Supraphon recording of Dvorák Tone
Poems (SU4012-2) is some compensation. I reviewed the Mozart
in CD-quality download in April 2010: 24-bit versions are
also on offer. This just ousts another fine Linn recording,
of Handel’s Concerti Grossi, performed by the Avison
Ensemble under Pavlo Beznosiuk (CKD362, 3 CDs).
BIZET Symphony, Jeux d'enfants, La jolie fille
Suisse Romande O/Ernest Ansermet rec. 1960
HIGH DEFINITION TAPE TRANSFERS HDCD185
24-bit sound also brings to vibrant new life
an elderly Decca recording which bowled over Dan Morgan and
myself in the November 2010 Download Roundup. HDTT and Beulah
have both reissued some surprisingly good vintage recordings
this year – not least Beulah’s Clifford Curzon/Vienna
Octet Trout Quintet – but none sounds more miraculously
renovated than the Bizet.
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie rec. 2009
Of the opera recordings that I’ve reviewed
on DVD and Blu-ray, many have been marred by directorial nonsense.
Though I forgive Ivor Bolton’s Cavalli Ercole Amante
for the overall quality of the performance and the spectacle,
my choice must rest with William Christie’s Monteverdi:
take your pick between this Dynamic version and the older,
plainer production on Virgin Classics (4906129).
Goldberg Centenary Edition: Vol. 1: Non Commercial Recordings
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1223
is an 8 CD set of almost all non-commercial recordings. From
Bach to Babin via Haydn, Dvorák and Stravinsky, and
many others, the box presents a starry collection of mostly
previously unreleased material. True, some of the recordings
are a little murky and duplicate his existing studio discography,
but this must be my ‘Historic’ choice, amongst
so many this year, for the sheer communicative spirit that
animates these live performances. Goldberg’s unshowy
artistry is for all times.
William Carter (guitar) rec. 2009
In these captivating recordings of Sor’s
early guitar works, Willam Carter, superbly recorded into
the bargain, displays exceptional imagination and dexterity.
He brings this music to life through the use of his finger
tip, not nail, the complexities of which playing make fascinating
reading in the booklet. I guarantee you an aural feast.
WEISS Lute Sonatas Vol. 10
Robert Barto (Baroque lute) rec. 2008
I’ve been following lutenist Robert
Barto throughout his Naxos campaign on behalf of Weiss’s
sonatas. Each volume is full of marvels; the music and the
playing. My admiration therefore for Volume 10 stands for
the series as a whole, but Barto’s ability to suspend
time, phrasally speaking, reaches heights here in the C major.
This is indeed distinguished music making.
When confronted with having
to select up to six discs that I reviewed for inclusion into
this year’s Records of the Year, I thought I would be
choosing no more than four based on my memory of what I had
reviewed during the past twelve months. Now when looking over
my list of reviews, I find it again difficult to limit myself
to six. Among those I did not include, but might have, are
Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony with Slatkin and the Detroit
Symphony (Naxos), Roussel’s Symphony No. 1, etc with
Denève (Naxos), and Dalbavie’s Janácek
Variations (Ame SON). The six chosen are in the order I wrote
and submitted them:
NIELSEN Music for Wind and Piano
New London Chamber Ens rec. 2005/8
Wonderfully idiomatic performances, well
recorded, of Nielsen’s music for winds and piano and
also his solo Piano Pieces, Op. 59. The Wind Quintet is in
the new critical edition and the disc includes three additional
quintet extracts from Nielsen’s manuscript.
SHOSTAKOVICH Symphonies 5 & 9
Royal Liverpool PO/Vasily Petrenko rec. 2008
Petrenko’s Shostakovich series continues
with stunning accounts of these two popular symphonies and
at bargain price, too. The Ninth is especially fine and for
me goes to the very top of the preferred versions.
LIGETI String Quartets 1 & 2, Andante and Allegretto
Qt rec. 2007
This young quartet has nothing to fear from
the competition in these works, either in the Bartókian
first quartet or the more radical second. The early Andante
and Allegro is a balm to the ears after the quartets and a
good way to conclude this bargain.
ROUSSEL Symphony 4, Rapsodie flammande, Petite
Suite, Concert pour petit orchestre, Sinfonietta
Royal Scottish Ntl O/Stéphane Denève
This conclusion to Denève’s
Roussel symphony series may well be the best of all, as it
contains five works from the composer’s maturity in
outstanding performances at a low cost to the consumer. I
can think of no better introduction to the composer.
ADÈS Tevot, Violin Concerto, Three
Studies from Couperin, Overture, Waltz and Finale
Anthony Marwood (violin) CO Europe/Thomas Adès,
Berlin PO/Sir Simon Rattle, Ntl Youth O Great Britain/Paul
Daniel rec. 2007/9
EMI CLASSICS 4578132
Quite possibly the highlight of my reviewing
year. This important release contains some remarkable music.
Both the colorful Tevot and the Violin Concerto are deserving
of the greatest exposure, and the other works make for fine
fillers. All the performances are superb.
MAHLER Symphony 4
Miah Persson (soprano) Budapest Festival O/Iván
Fischer rec. 2008
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA26109
Among the plethora of recordings of this
symphony, Fischer’s stands out for its utter naturalness
and warmth. Of the many versions I have heard over the years,
this belongs at or near the top of the list. Miah Persson
is the perfect soloist, too - childlike, but not affected.