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Superbudget £5.99 or less Budget £6-7.99 Medium £8-10.99 Full price £11+ Download

Jean ABSIL (1893-1974) Selected Piano Works Daniel Blumenthal (piano) rec. 2009-10 FUGA LIBERA FUG578 [55:21 + 60:30] [RB]

If you like Debussy and early 20C modernism but short of the dodecaphonic divide then I cannot imagine a better choice for exploration. 

Thomas ADČS (b. 1971) Songs and choral works Sarah Bickley (mezzo) Robin Blaze (counter-tenor) Christopher Maltman (baritone) The Composer’s Ens, City of Birmingham SO/Thomas Adčs; Polyphony/Stephen Layton EMI CLASSICS 0272012 [59.38] [GH]

At the end of the CD I felt like shouting out “Will the real Thomas Adés please stand up?”

Franco ALFANO (1875-1954) Violin Sonata, Piano Quintet, Nenia and Scherzino Elmira Darvarova, Mary Ann Mumm (violin) Scott Dunn (piano) Craig Mumm (viola) Samuel Magill (cello) rec. 2011 NAXOS 8.572753 [66:16] [Byz]

Considerable originality, dulcet, optimistic, indelible.

Charles-Valentin ALKAN (1813-1888) Music for Organ or Pedal-Piano Treize Pričres, Petits Préludes sur les 8 gammes du plain-chant, Impromptu sur le Choral de Luther Kevin Bowyer (organ) rec. 1988 NIMBUS NI 5089 [73:48] [Byz]

These masterly performances are sure to live on.

William ALWYN (1905-1985) Prelude and Derrybeg Fair from The Fairy Fiddler see JOUBERT

Richard ARNELL (1917-2009) String Quartets 1-5 Tippett Qt rec. 2010 DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7268 [65:33] [RB]

World premiere recordings - definitive too. An impressive cycle of string quartets in powerfully projected and acted performances and recordings.

Grazyna BACEWICZ (1909-1969) Violin Concertos 2, 4 & 5 Joanna Kurkowicz (violin) Polish Radio SO/Lukasz Borowicz rec. 2010 CHANDOS CHAN10673 [80:51] [DW]

Why these concertos don’t enjoy greater currency is beyond me; concert programmes would be the richer for their inclusion.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) St Matthew Passion, St John Passion, Mass in B minor De Nederlandse Bachvereniging, Amsterdam Baroque Ch & O/Ton Koopman rec. 1992-94 ERATO CLASSICS 2564 67361-6 [7 CDs: 380:51] [GD]

There is plenty to like about Koopman’s performances. 

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Motets Dorothee Mields (soprano) Robin Blaze (counter-tenor) Thomas Hobbs (tenor) Peter Kooij (bass) Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe rec. 2011 PHI LPH002 [62.31] [KM]

If you want a recording of Bach’s motets, this is the one to get.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Orchestral Suite 2, Oboe Concerto, Concerto for oboe & violin, Concerto for 2 violins, Brandenburg Concertos 2, 4 & 5 London Conchord Ensemble Florian Uhlig (piano) rec. 2004-6 CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD014 [63:19 + 56:48] [Byz]

What makes this stand out is the chamber music approach.  

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) A Bach Christmas rec. 1983-2003 BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94103 [10 CDs: 549:14] [JV]

If you want a Christmas with Bach you had better look for something else.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) The Well-Tempered Clavier Book I Abdel Rahman El Bacha (piano) rec. 2010 TRITON OVCT-00077 [54:48 + 56:36] [DC]

Superb: measured and uncontroversial, but how does he do it? 

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Piano Transcriptions - Volume 10 by Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) & Isidore PHILIPP (1863-1958) Nadejda Vlaeva (piano) rec. 2010 HYPERION CDA67873 [77:09] [JW]

Driven through with panache, rounded tone, strikingly intimate gestures and intense, but never tone-forced, splendour.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Magnificat, Brandenburg Concerto 5 Los Angeles PO, Budapest RSO/Otto Klemperer rec. 1945-50 GUILD GHCD 2360 [60:38] [CH]

The first movement of the Brandenburg Concerto is a miracle. Rather more caution is needed elsewhere.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) András Schiff Plays Bach French Suites Nos. 1-6, BWV 812-817 Overture (Partita) in the French Style in B minor, BWV 831 Concerto in the Italian Style in F major, BWV 971, "Italian Concerto" Bonus: András Schiff Explains Bach András Schiff, piano Rec: 2010. EUROARTS Blu-ray 2058134 [134 min. + 34 min.] [KM]

An intimate concert, filmed in a subtle manner, excellent sound, and a master performing Bach’s French Suites.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Concerto in A major BWV 1055 [13:38] Concerto in G minor BWV 1058 [13:36] Concerto in D major BWV 1054 (1740) [16:42] Concerto in E major BWV 1053 [19:19] Concerto in F minor BWV 1056 (1742) [10:07] Nick van Bloss (piano) English Chamber Orchestra/David Parry rec. 2008, NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI 6141 [73:22] [DC]

Brilliant stuff, but some strings are more equal than others.

Johan Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Goldberg Variations BWV 988 (1742) [49:22] Fourteen Canons BWV 1087 [4:40] Bist du bei mier [2:37] Daniel-Ben Pienaar (piano) rec.2010 AVIE AV2235 [56:39] [DC]

Expressive, atmospheric, intelligent performance.

Samuel BARBER (1940-1981) Piano Sonata, Excursions see Ives

RECORDING OF THE MONTH  Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945) Violin Concertos 1 & 2, Viola Concerto James Ehnes (violin/viola) BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda rec. 2009-11 CHANDOS CHAN 10690 [77:45] [DC]

Tremendous achievement.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945) Duke Bluebeard’s Castle Laszló Polgár (bass) Ildikó Komlósi (mezzo) Budapest Fest O/Iván Fischer rec. 2002 CHANNEL CLASSICS CCSSA90311 [55:27]

A magnificent performance of Bartók’s masterpiece from all-Hungarian forces … not to be missed.

Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945) Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm, Out of Doors see Ives

Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphonies Nos. 1-10 Alison Hargan (soprano); Della Jones (alto); David Rendell (tenor); Gwynne Howell (bass); London ymphony Chorus; London Symphony Orchestra/Wyn Morris rec. 1988-89 MUSICAL CONCEPTS MC 199 [5 CDs: 78:23 + 77:27 + 75:14 + 78:16 + 71:41] [RB]

Old fashioned values, an intemperate freshness - be prepared to rediscover Beethoven.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) The Complete Symphonies + Coriolan and Egmont overtures Discovering Beethoven: a documentary about each symphony Wiener Philharmoniker/Christian Thielemann rec. 2010 Full details listed at end of review UNITEL/C MAJOR 705308 [9 DVDs: Music: 446:00; Documentaries: 510:00] [ST]

A bold attempt to recapture and redefine Beethoven for the 21st century.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano Sonatas 30-32 Penelope Crawford (fortepiano) rec. 2010 MUSICA OMNIA MO0308 [64:25] [BR]

Probably the top choice for Beethoven’s last sonatas on a period instrument: a magical choice of piano and artistry which can stand up to the greats. 

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) The Symphonies Eiddwen Harrhy (soprano); Jean Bailey (contralto); Andrew Murgatroyd (tenor); Michael George (bass) Oslo Cathedral Choir/Terje Kvam The Hanover Band/Roy Goodman, Monica Huggett rec. 1982-83, NIMBUS NI 5144/8 [5 CDs: 62.28 + 79.06 + 76.00 + 65.38 + 65.46] [DC]

Still makes a splash and at a bargain price.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony 3 Vienna PO/Wilhelm Furtwängler rec. 1944 TAHRA FURT2008 [53:09] [JW]

Splendid. Great immediacy and intensity which perfectly reflects the tumultuous nature of the performance.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano Sonatas 3 & 21, Andante favori, Rondo a capriccio Alice Sara Ott (piano) rec. 2010 DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 9291 [65:40] [DC]

Easily recommendable to all-comers.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano Sonatas Vol. 9 Garrick Ohlsson (piano) BRIDGE 9274A/B [69:16 + 68:21] [WH]

Outstanding performances and beautifully recorded

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano Concertos 1 & 5 Walter Gieseking (piano) Philharmonia O/Rafael Kubelík, Berlin Radio O/Artur Rother rec. 1945/48 MUSIC & ARTS CD1145 [67:38] [JW]

This is certainly the best yet restoration of the stereo Emperor, and its disc mate makes an appropriate and equally distinguished pairing.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphonies 4 & 6 Philharmonia O/Otto Klemperer rec. 1960 IDIS 6619 [77:54] [JS]

Poor recording but can be a very exhilarating experience.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Piano concerto 5 see Arrau

Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869) Les Troyens Daniella Barcelona Lance Ryan, Valencia Regional Government Ch, Valencian Community O/Valery Gergiev rec. 2009 UNITEL CLASSICS 706104 [261:00] [KM]

Wonderful music; horrendous staging.

Dick BLACKFORD (b.1936) Concerto for recorder and string quartet see Pipings and Blowings

Maurice BLOWER (1894-1982) Horn concerto, Eclogue see British Composers Premiere Collections

Sergei BORTKIEWICZ (1877-1952) Piano Works - Vols 1 & 2 Jouni Somero (piano) rec. 2005-8 FINNCONCERT FCRCD 9714/19 [76:58 + 69:53] [Byz]

This promises to be a marvellous series.

Sergei BORTKIEWICZ (1877-1952) Piano Works - volume 4 Piano Sonata no.2, op.60 (1942) [25:57] Aus Meiner Kindheit, op.14 (1911) [18:39] Ten Preludes, op.15 (1911) [30:06] Jouni Somero (piano) rec. 2008. DDD FINNCONCERT FCRCD 9730 [74:47] [Byz]

Another quality disc. No pianophile should be without Bortkiewicz's Piano Sonatas or his sets of Etudes.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphonies 1-4 Tonhalle O Zurich/David Zinman rec. 2010 SONY/RCA RED SEAL 88697 933492 [3 CDs: 166:00] [ST]

Traditional Brahms … excellent, rich and bloomy. 

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphonies 1-4 London Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra/Antal Doráti (No.2) rec. 1957, 1959, 1963 ADD NEWTON CLASSICS 8802079 [75:48 + 76:30] [RB]

Impatient, intemperate, invincible. Stand back from the blast furnace door!

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77* (1878) [41:14] 21 Hungarian Dances WoO 1 (1868 and 1880) (arr. Joseph JOACHIM)** [52:58] Baiba Skride (violin); Lauma Skride (piano) ** Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo* rec. 2009/2010, ORFEO C 829 112 A [41:14 + 52:58] [JQ]

This winningly lyrical account of the Brahms Violin Concerto is worth serious consideration by collectors.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Songs Ring out to the Heavens – Brahms Choral Works Dave Everson and Steve Multer (Horns); Erik C. Nielsen(Harp); Cynthia Siebert (piano) The Kansas City Chorale/Charles Bruffy (piano) rec.1996 NIMBUS NI5524 [65:16] [NB]

A disc to savour for its serenely grave beauty and profound musicality.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Violin sonatas, Cello sonatas rec. 2009 Yuzuko Horigome (violin) Viviane Spanoghe (cello) André de Groote (piano) TALENT DOM3811 14-15 [66:46 + 79:47] [JW]

Some of the most intimate performances of Brahms’s string sonatas that I’ve heard in a long time.

Johannes BRAHMS (1840-1893) Violin Sonatas 1-3 Albert Spalding (violin) Erno Dohnányi (piano) rec. 1951 PRISTINE AUDIO PACM 078 [67:21] [JW]

Patrician, aristocratic, and gently aloof.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphony 1 Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Enigma Variations BBC SO/Sir Adrian Boult rec. 1971-6 ICA CLASSICS ICAC5019 [78:21] [JQ]

Fine, wise performances, which act as welcome supplements to Boult’s studio versions of these works.

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Piano Concerto 2 Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849) Scherzo 1, Polonaise 6 Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Funérailles Garrick Ohlsson (piano) BBC SO/James Loughran rec. 1974/1978 ICA CLASSICS ICAD5013 [77:55] [TP]

For Ohlsson fans and anyone who would see this young lion in his pomp.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Havergal BRIAN (1876-1972) Symphony 1 The Gothic Susan Gritton (soprano) Bach Choir, Brighton Festival Ch, CBSO Youth Chorus, Huddersfield Choral Soc, London Symphony Ch, BBC National Ch & O of Wales; BBC Concert O/Martyn Brabbins rec. live, 2011 HYPERION CDA67971/2 [54:07 + 60:41] [RB]

A momentous and remarkable work receiving its finest performance and recording to date.

Havergal BRIAN (1876-1972) Symphonies 10 & 30, English Suite 3, Concerto for Orchestra Royal Scottish Ntl O/Martyn Brabbins rec. 2010 DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7267 [64:49] [RB] Dr Merryheart, Symphonies 9 & 11 London SO/Harry Newstone, Norman Del Mar rec. 1959 DUTTON CDBP 9798 [76:21] [RB]

Two contrasting Dutton CDs of the orchestral music of Havergal Brian; one archive-historical the other with modern perceptive studio recordings.

Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) Phantasie see CLARKE

Chris BRUBECK (b.1952) Danza del Soul Michael GANDOLFI (b.1956) Line Drawings Lukas FOSS (1922-2009) Central Park Reel Concord Chamber Music Society rec. 2010 REFERENCE RECORDINGS RR-122 [63:30] [Byz]

Certainly worth further investigation by the general listener.

Max BRUCH (1838-1920) Kol Nidrei, Canzone, Adagio, Romanze, Ave Maria, Suite on Russian folk melodies Friedrich Kleinhapl (cello) Czech RSO/Jan Kučera rec. 2010 ARS PRODUKTION ARS 38 090 [63:48] [GA]

Bruch’s pieces for cello and orchestra are not all on the level of the Kol Nidrei, but they make pleasant listening, and they are very well played and recorded.

Max BRUCH (1838-1920) Romance see SCHUBERT

Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Mass 3; Psalm 150 Juliet Booth, Jean Rigby, John Mark Ainsley, Gwynne Howell, Corydon Singers, Corydon Orchestra/Matthew Best rec. 1992 HYPERION HELIOS CDH55332 [68:01] [LW]

Best’s Bruckner earns a strong endorsement.

RECORDING OF THE MONTH Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896) Symphonies 4 & 7 Basle SO/Mario Venzago rec. 2010 CPO 777 615-2 [61:15 + 64:21] [CH]

Venzago’s Bruckner may be for the 2020s as iconic as Wand’s was for the 1990s. 

Peter BRUUN (b. 1968) Breve til havet, Drukne ét Hav i et Andet, En klokke af sřlv, der kimer alt levende sammen Frode Andersen (accordion) Helene Gjerris (mezzo) Esbjerg Ens/Petter Sundkvist rec. 2010 DACAPO 8.226553 [55:02] [DM]

A well-balanced and varied ‘taster’ that’s whetted my appetite for more.

Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924) Piano Concerto Roberto Cappello (piano) Corale Luca Marenzio, Roma SO/Francesco La Vecchia rec. 2009 NAXOS 8.572523 [79:50] [DM]

A more unlovely performance of this concerto it would be hard to imagine.

Dieterich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707) Complete organ Works - Volume 4 Christopher Herrick (organ) rec. 2011 HYPERION CDA67876 [71:06] [Byz]

Christopher Herrick clocks up another memorable recording - terrifically nimble-fingered and fleet-footed.

Dieterich BUXTEHUDE (c.1638-1707) Opera Omnia XII - Chamber Music I Catherine Manson, David Rabinovich (violins) Jonathan Manson (viola da gamba) Ton Koopman (harpsichord and organ); Mike Fentross (lute) Christine Sticher (violone) rec. 2010 CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72251 [58.50] [EM]

A performance that has a zest of life, freshness and vigour.

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